Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hard-earned wisdom

My caffeine levels are back in whack today, so am feeling less grouchy. These things I hold to be true, if not self-evident:

1. Jello shooters involving Knob Creek bourbon and orange jello are not the panacea I'd hoped they would be. Nor are they suitable for a metabolism that has been in use for more than, say, 22 years.

2. As much as I love libraries, there's a way in which checking out and returning books is like dating someone else's husband. You know they will never be truly yours.

I hope you feel edified.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

You* disappoint me

(* In the generic, impersonal, collective, of course--to "my fellow Americans").

After the giddy excitement of the early days of this presidential campaign, I'm feeling nothing but bitterness. Bitter at the unbridled and mostly unremarked misogyny of the coverage--from all sides--of Hillary Clinton, and of the indifference, apparently, of all but that "mature white feminist" demographic over whom she has an unshakeable sway, who are able to identify with her in recognizing that yes, this is, in fact, misogyny, even when inflected by anti-Clintonism, anti-Hillary-ism, etc., and who therefore understand that misogyny will not be overcome by wearing a t-shirt that says "Boy Toy" or "Look but don't touch."

I'm bitter that Obama's mispronunciation of a historical site--however important--is a "top headline" while we are still at war against...who? While children still go hungry in this country. While we challenge each other's patriotism based on stupid measures like stickers, car art, and jewelry, instead of demanding that patriotism mean something more, like willing to work with and for your fellow citizens to make the country better for everyone, not just yourself. I'm bitter that various pundits can announce without even blinking that white southerners won't vote for a black man, and that somehow that's okay, instead of being a national tragedy. I'm not convinced that racism of that sort is more than superficial, or that a talented speaker with Obama's energy can't go a long way toward getting the electorate to look past the foolish old "red" herring of race--that is, that poor whites and urban blacks have nothing to gain by recognizing their role as road-kill from the juggernaut of American capitalism. I'm not underestimating the visceral reality of racism, but I just don't believe that most people are stupid enough to hang onto hatred against their own self-interest. A few people, on all sides, sure.

And I'm really sad that the optimism was so short-lived, and that the cynics were so eager to attack from all sides.


Perpetually damn crabby

Is it somehow violating the provisions of the fairness in housing act to speed up the inevitable rejection of some prospective tenants based on the facts that:
1. They didn't read the ad
2. They ignored the information in the ad
3. They only communicate by txt msg w/out rl wrds?
4. They didn't read the ad
5. They are incapable of using salutations and indifferent to creating any sort of positive impression in our first communication?
6. They are already asking for adjustments to my policies, special treatment in scheduling, etc.? (I don't mind if people ask, politely--I remember the stone-turning trials of house-hunting).

I am not suggesting that such people don't deserve a nice place to live, or that they are inherently less responsible or fiscally attractive than those who contacted me with detailed, polite, coherent messages. But since I am who I am, and since living in my house means us having to interact with each other multiple times--at least to judge by the most recent tenancy!--then can't I just speed up the inevitable rejection? I don't want to be greeted by a grunt when I call.

And yes, the above does explain part of the problems with my approach to dating.

I realize the world, and the standard of polite communications, are changing rapidly, and that younger folks are used to using more abbreviated forms of contact. Frankly, though, as long as I own the real estate and give the grades, I'm going to insist that those who want something from me take at least a swipe at recognizing and accommodating my weird old capitalist widow preferences for punctuation, salutations, and the like.



Thursday, May 15, 2008

Give 'til/when it hurts

Here's a way to send aid money that will go directly to help the children orphaned, temporarily homeless, or displaced from institutional care by China's massive earthquake. I know the organization, Half the Sky, that is helping with this, and word is that the Ford Motor Company has agreed to match all donations 1:1. God knows for what cynical reason they are doing this--the vast market of auto purchasers in China?--but hell, a good thing is a good thing. And I do think Ford is trying to take the lead in being a more responsible and transformed company.

Many Chinese families will be mourning the loss of their only child, while many children are probably newly orphaned, stranded, and injured. I know things are as bad--likely worse--in Burma; if I find a good link for donations that will actually be delivered there, under any auspices, I will gladly post it, as well.

So much sorrow and devastation. So little I can do but wring my hands.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

All those things I must....

...get out of my head if I am ever to have any hope of going to sleep.

1. Edwards endorses Obama. I haven't read the coverage yet, but I'm interested to see how Edwards, whose too-brief (for me) run focused on economic disparity and poverty, addresses the recent claims that Hillary was the champion of the economic underdog. I've always like John Edwards, and hope he will help Obama with that whole potential "elitism" problem (yeah, don't ask me to explain how Obama is somehow more "elitist" than our current silver-spoon, Yale-legacy, daddy-financed executive. Evidently "elitism" has something to do with a fundamental mastery of the syntax of American English).

2. Suffering all over in Asia. The sheer scope of the devastation and misery is unimaginable, and the intentional thwarting of relief efforts is heartbreaking. My adoption has made me feel perhaps naively connected to the people of China, and I am very upset by the string of anti-China news prompted by the Olympic scrutiny. It doesn't help that my in-laws seem to think it's okay to bash China (well, their granddaughter is "just American," according to them) for its economic policies, exploit its laborers, resent its increasing global presence, and minimize the sheer horror of this disaster ("Well, it's not like they had much to lose..."). And things had been getting so much better since the detente (with my in-laws, not between China and the U.S.). I'm haunted by images of forlorn children, or desperate mothers digging through the rubble.

3. Myanmar: see much of above. I don't understand, however, why if Myanmar's current regime is such a sham, why we don't continue to call it "Burma." It seems to me that one of our simplest methods for identifying an "illegitimate regime" (which this one, unlike some of our recent targets, certainly seems to be) is stubbornly to refuse to adopt the preferred term.

4. In general: how can there be so much more suffering than there is relief for the suffering? How can people bear so much?

5. Frontline's magnificent and dreadful episode on Everest last night. I was entranced, appalled, and exhausted when it was over. I've been something of an armchair afficianado of mountain-climbing since reading Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. (Yes, I know that Krakauer has a wretched habit of writing every story as though it were about Himself. I know that many people have legitimate issues with his depiction of several key players, and that there are varying interpretations of what went wrong on Everest 12 years ago. I still found the story fascinating. And I read Boukreev's equally self-serving version, too, along with some of the later reconstructions.)

I'm the kind of girl who thinks a car-ride of over 20 minutes must involve provisions, so I have no interest in actually testing myself against the elements. Still, the Brashears/Frontline version was harrowing. The re-enactments were excruciating--the dark, the bleakness, the constant wind-noise, the huddled climbers, frequently all-but-unrecognizable as human, rocking and jerking almost involuntarily. I suspect it's hard for any of us to imagine the kind of climate where leaving people to die is not only the wisest but the most obvious choice, or the kind of conditions where a single wrong step is death, or the situation in which one could freeze to death within 20 feet of safety. I was mesmerized, and completely and utterly spooked after watching it. By what, I don't know. But I was too afraid to take the dog out (thank gawd he has a bladder of apparently infinite capacity) and lay shivering in my bed for a long, long time before I drifted into an uneasy sleep and dreamt of primitive ape-like creatures wielding charred sticks.

6. How much I hate the "trading up" type home-improvement shows. I love the ones where they show you how two paper bags, a ball of twine, and a bottle of nail polish can transform a home from a dump to a palace, but I hate the pretentious, snotty, arrogant shoppers who complain about how the kitchen doesn't have granite, or stainless steel appliances, and vow that as soon as they drop 3/4 of a million dollars on this dump, they are going to rip out the perfectly functional appliances and kitchen, send them to the landfill, and put in something gaudy. I don't want to hear the childless couple going on and on about how they must have the "master suite" with double sinks and multiple showers and a jacuzzi. They are simply unwatchable, of course, juxtaposed with the recent news reports. How many children could you help with just the price of those upgraded countertops? The appliances?


Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Happy" Mother's Day

Especially for those to whom this day is as bitter as it is sweet.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I got my tattoo today. A good friend and I had a "memorial" tattoo session. The whole process was impressively quick, efficient, and well-done, unlike my first tattoo, which seemed to take forever. Mine is a small stylized flower design (almost more design than flower) that my husband developed for our wedding invitations. The invitations were the single most expensive aspect of our wedding--letter pressed on beautiful paper--and the thing he was most excited about. The design is very clean and modern, and so now I have a dime-sized tribute to him an inch or so below my collarbone and slightly to my left (my wedding-ring hand).

It wasn't painful in the cathartic way I had been hoping for--not that I am usually a pain buff, but in a way, I think, I wanted the physical pain to remind me of the pain of his loss, which becomes not smaller so much as duller every day. In a way, having gotten the tattoo now feels like just one more way in which he is being left behind. So many changes he has missed out on; so much of my life now lived without him. I got the tattoo to mark his presence, but instead it seems only to make more palpable his absence--and to register the futility of my every attempt to hold on.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Letter to Santa

Okay, not really.

Dear Barack,

Can I call you Barack? I mean, you've been emailing me for months now, and while I am hardly your most generous campaign donor, I do have a sign in my window, which has to create a certain intimacy, right? I mean, technically, you're kind of on the porch, rather than in the house, but all my previous candidates have had to live outside on the lawn, where they were frequently the targets of bored teenagers and, apparently, some sort of low-flying domestic eggs that live around here. So really, I think I've made some strides toward cementing our relationship. I know, I still take Hillary's calls; she's so damned persistent, and even when I don't like what she's saying, I have to say that I have been generally impressed by her during this campaign: her tenacity, her articulateness, her utter indefatigability, her poise...pretty much everything except her husband, her forays into race-baiting and--oh yes--her actual policies. Did I ever tell you than my husband and his dad once won "Most Indefatigable" in a sailing race? According to my husband, his father was mortified by that--it being, of course, far, far better to win or lose than to be honored for not knowing the difference.

I know, I'm off topic. My students tell me that all the time. Deal with it. And by the way, I don't ever write Hillary back; it's just that I feel bad shutting her completely out of my life. I feel bad when I see her being all brave and noble and articulate on TV in places like West Virginia. I feel really bad that she seems to feel she has already earned the nomination, and how she can't seem to let go of where she thought she was--a shoo-in--before you appeared on the scene. Let me be clear: I feel bad for her personally, which is not at all the same as feeling bad that she appears spectacularly unlikely--barring corruption and backdoor-politicking that would make even a Karl Rove blush--to win the nomination. I feel bad that the next time she and Bill fight, he gets to do the "nyah, nyah, nyah--I was president and you're not!"

Anyway, Barack, can I just ask you, now that you appear likely to be the nominee, to please not blow it? I support you because I think you are strong, amazingly articulate, and smart enough not to blow it, but we Democrats, you know, have been burned so much. Everyone wants to concentrate on "the race thing," but I think that's less of a threat, ultimately, than the ease with which the other side is going to paint you as a (gulp) intellectual, an elitist. Now you need to be folksy, without allowing them too easily to dismiss you as "too fake" (Al Gore in his plaid shirt) or "too [black]-folks-y," which is offensive, I know, but sadly true. I think you can do it; you are one of the first genuinely public voices to find even a rhetorical way out of the racial shark tank we have created for ourselves. I hope you are holed up somewhere, even now, trying to find a way to appeal to those "white, blue-collar" voters (does that make them pastel?) Hillary's been gunning for. Figuring out whom you can add to the ticket without playing too readily into the Republican strategy. Someone like John Edwards, who seems to me to be the only candidate (okay, barring Kucinich) who really cares about the effects of our incredible and growing income/opportunity/safety-net/culture gap in this country, and how our alienation could kill democracy. Or some other female politician--sorry I can't name any at the moment--who can affect a drawl or a twang with some sincerity, while drawing out those feminists who so rejoiced in Hillary's successes.

Please, Barack. We're counting on you.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Feast or famine

With the blogging, I mean. Here I've gone months without the urge to type a word, and now, I suddenly find myself having thoughts--random, incoherent, whatever--and not being too overwhelmed even to type a sentence.

I feel like a switch has been flipped this past week, and I feel more human than I have in years. I don't know if it's a grief stage, or that elusive "healing," or the sunlight we have finally gotten, or a serendipitous surge of mood-enhancement, but god do I hope it lasts. I have spent I know not how long feeling like *everything* is too much effort; it's all I can do to drag my ass through the day, and anything aside from sheer survival was overwhelming. Even throwing out rotting food, or boiling water, or flipping the switch on my self-cleaning over was an insurmountable hurdle. Now I have this sense that I want to do stuff. I don't know what has clicked, but I desperately hope it stays. Oddly enough, I have had 2 days where, in the midst of this modest surge of energy, I have missed my husband sharply enough to cry.

On the other hand, the fact that my small cement garden statue of the Virgin Mary fell over and was decapitated seems like a not-so-good omen.

And the barbarity of this story, and the general attitude that this is simply part of doing business in racing, makes me sick, sick, sick. Blaming the jockey, however, seems like the worst approach--unless he deliberately over-ran the horse, my sense is that he is almost as exploited as she was. The thought of all those dressed up people drinking and partying while a horse is dying just down the track makes me ill. Isn't "Eight Bells" what they say at sea for the death of a sailor? Grimly ironic.

Labels: ,

I hate it when They are right

Even though I didn't feel well this morning, and let my daughter sleep in well beyond school starting time, I went to the gym.

Dammit, why must it be that exercising and eating slightly better (and slightly less) really does make me feel better? And if so, why do I know it will be so hard to sustain?

We did several hours of gardening yesterday. I hate gardening. I was diligent about the sunscreen...except for the back of my neck, which is now uncomfortably warm and unattractively red. But the yard does look better, and I feel good for having a) been outside; and b) done something that needed to be done. Plus I "cleaned my oven," an arduous task involving pushing the 'self-clean' button and then waiting to be sure the door is correctly locked and that the bad, bad cats can't get on the stovetop and fry their toesies.

I did reward myself with a nice glass of Knob Creek after my daughter went to bed...I'm not quite ready to take the vows of asceticism.

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Bad, bad Mama

My daughter has a large stuffed penguin she got from her Auntie. The penguin is conveniently transgendered (some days he's a he; other days, he's a she). She loves him/her to distraction. "Penguiny" rides in the car with us (buckled into "hir" own seat, no less), and last week was taken to the local farmer's market in "hir" own pink plastic stroller (impressively, my daughter dealt with the annoyances of the stroller--wheels that jiggle erratically, a tendency to fold without warning and dump its occupant into the street, dirtying "hir" feathers and treacherously tripping "hir" pusher--without a murmur of complaint).

Like her sparkly red shoes, which generated lots of questions about Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, Penguiny attracts the attention of strangers, nearly all of whom ask, "Has she seen 'Happy Feet'?"


Today, on our outing to replace the ballet and tap shoes she outgrew in less than 6 months, I decided to pick up "Happy Feet" for us to watch together. One of our weekend rituals is to make homemade pizza with lots of veggies and to eat it together watching a special show. And my question is this: Had any of those well-intentioned folks ever seen the damn movie?

My sister used to make me laugh by referring to the "therapy journal" she was keeping for her daughter, in which she recorded everything she did that might usefully become fodder for her daughter's future therapist. You know, "And, when I was a child, my mother used to ...." "Mmmm hmmmm....And how did that make you feel?" [My sister still makes me laugh, btw; I just haven't heard about the therapy journal for a while. But I'm off topic again. Such is life.]

Well, the "Happy Feet" experience is one for the therapy journal, big time. First she cried because the egg rolled away from the Papa. Then she cried when the egg was slow to hatch. Then when the baby penguin couldn't find his mama. Again when the flock of evil birds tormented Mumble and threatened to eat him. And when he fell down into an ice cave. And when he was menaced by a huge, saber-toothed seal (is this zoologically accurate?), and kidnapped by the same gang of foul-mouthed fowl and dropped from a great height--at which point, after making sure he was still alive, we turned it off.

WTF?? I was worried that she'd be upset by his ostracism; it hadn't occurred to me that I was unleashing some sort of "National Geographic: Nature Red in Tooth and Claw" upon her. It took two helpings of jello and a Thomas the Tank Engine video to restore her to some semblance of emotional balance.

We'll try watching the film together again....When she's 30.


Saturday, May 3, 2008


More gym time, and biking to campus. Does anyone know if I should trust the machines at the gym that tell me that a less strenuous workout (c'mon, folks, I'm slower than the geriatrics) is actually better for weight loss than the slightly more strenuous "cardio" level? All I know is, it's better than sitting on my butt.

No male eye-candy the rest of the week; instead I was next to one of those profuse sweaters--the ones who spray droplets all over themselves and everyone around. One paragraph of my magazine got so smudged I couldn't read it. Gross.

Why do men generally ignore the warm-up and cool-down? All the men I watched got on the machines and cranked them right up to high, went full out for a few minutes, and then got off. The women, of course, did everything "right" in the recommended sequence and intensity.

I found myself following a tall, handsome firefighter from a neighboring municipality around the supermarket the other day. I'm sure he was thinking, "Why is this frumpy matron stalking me? Did I rescue one of her 87 cats from a tree last week?" I am now plotting to move to said n.m. and set my house on fire, once I make sure he is on duty.

Widowhood is hard on my friendships. When I had my husband to count on, the vagaries of friendship weren't so troublesome. A minor betrayal was...minor. A falling out was unpleasant, but not earth-shattering. Now, however, every conflict makes me feel bereft and unloved.

I am going to get my tattoo. It's the small design that was on our wedding invitation--what my husband called our own personal dingbat. It apparently has to be bigger than I had anticipated (a quarter-sized area, at least), which has me rethinking its location. I want to be able to see it often (my other tattoo is on my left shoulderblade, and I tend to forget I have it), but not have others see it much. I don't want it on a body part I loathe (ankle, stomach) or one that is going to droop, sag, or jiggle (pretty much all of them, at my age). Suggestions?