30 November 2010

What is my life

Don't worry; I said my piece last night. As I told the son, yesterday was a day that got progressively more exasperating the longer it went on. And by the end, having deleted 8,000 emails offering various black and cyber come-ons and finally, getting a call from a telemarketer with an auto-dialer trying to sell me a loan modification that I don't need (only slightly worse than the damn bank that's trying to sell me insurance I don't want), I just blew a gasket.

And I wasn't trying to sound overly sanctimonious--only somewhat sanctimonious. I buy things. I have a fondness for cashmere. I buy copious quantities of music. Vast amounts of music. Way too much music. Music on disc and music live. And books. But trying to sell me a lifestyle? Boys and girls, that is so 1985.

Today, I saw old friends and co-workers, and I sat and talked to them, and it was fun. DHM made a funny comment about low-maintenance friendship: we've been promising to meet for coffee for almost 4 years. But in no time, we were off and running, planning lunch (Zov's, woman! Great Mediterranean and the desserts...!). CL wondered aloud when we'd all pack up and go to another concert ("When it's $10!" LS replied, which was what we paid for Aerosmith). And everyone wanted to know where the son plans to go to college. ("I don't know," I said, waving my hands vaguely. "I'm going to put him on eBay and send him to the highest bidder.")

The son has grown a goatee and the daughter had her first basketball game. I got a photo of her looking radiant and of him looking like...a Viking.

Tomorrow is a new month: I have parties and brunches to attend and stuff to do, and I'm making the most wonderfully evil sounding fudge and toffee trifle for the neighborhood do. And maybe something else. Because I've become the person who brings two desserts.

I have plans to make. I promised the daughter New York, tea at The Plaza, a day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That happens in May during travel week unless I drop dead between now and then. I promised my beloved TD that I would come "home" to DC to visit him solo, and April is looking very promising for that.

I have projects to complete. Okay, so NaNoWriMo went about the same way it does every year, but I've actually got something I like. And then there is: Bathroom. Sledgehammer. NOW.

That is life.

Go listen to some good music: "What is Life" by George Harrison from the album The Best of George Harrison.

29 November 2010

To keep us trapped in greed

So, why exactly am I supposed to want to watch TV on the subway that is not my living room? Not that Southern California has anything that resembles public transportation.

And why do I need hundreds of apps? Endless games? Stuff, stuff and more stuff?

Is it any wonder that zombies--the ultimate consumers--are reigning supreme in the media these days?

I have no intention of being at world's beck and call, ever. So, sorry if my phone doesn't pick up my email. Or if I decline to post via the mobile capabilities. I have a very nice 7-year-old iPod that plays music when I'm walking; I don't really desire an upgrade. "Rule the air," my cell phone provider intones. Um, no, thank you. And honestly? I'm not interested in anyone who thinks s/he should rule the air. Spend 30 seconds on Twitter and it's brutally clear that very few people have much to say. Don't think I exempt myself from that criticism, which is why I don't advertise this little corner of the web.

Over the holiday, a relative tried to sell me on the merits of, variously, the iPad, the iPhone, and one of those book readers. I declined all of them, as did my offspring. I don't want more stuff. Why would I want to be tied to stuff? Stuff does not weed the garden. Stuff does not make me happy. Stuff does not provide the moonrise or the Northern lights. Stuff does not cook dinner. Stuff does not improve my life. And I feel greedy because I'm planning to buy myself another camera lens, something I actually want and will use.

"I don't really want anything material for Christmas," the daughter said recently, her voice slightly fraught. The son agreed.

"I'd rather focus on the experience anyway," I told them. "I'd rather make cookies with you guys and then eat them in front of the fireplace."

What do my children remember about the Christmases of their lives? Not what they got, but what we did. That they get to eat See's candy for breakfast. That I cook them a Victorian feast. That we listen to Patrick Stewart's A Christmas Carol and "that old CD of Christmas songs." That sometimes Grandma and Grandad spend the night, and then it's really crazy fun. That we stick ribbons on the cat and watch him run around. That the cat pulls down the tree. That the dog always knew where her present was.

Of course there will be some gifts. The daughter covets a particular cardigan; the son would like some (real) books. The spouse is demanding Rock Band 3 (hours of fun for the whole family, believe me). I will defer Christmas for myself until I can go off and have an adventure (and possibly a new camera lens). We will do right by others who otherwise wouldn't be celebrating.

So, I won't be buying a lot of cheap Chinese garbage this year to satisfy the demands of my own government. I've never been a profligate spender and I don't intend to start now in order to support some Federal Reserve fantasy. I don't watch much TV anyway, and I'm sure as heck not going to start watching it on my stupid phone. I have a life, and I rather enjoy living it.

There's no app for that.

Go listen to some good music: "Uprising" by Muse from the album The Resistance. Yup, I'm all over the map tonight. Truth is I don't actually care how others spend their time or money; I'm nice like that! Whatever floats your boat. What I object to is that so many people I know and the great gods of advertising are constantly trying to convince me that I should want to spend my time and money the same way. I know exactly what I want, thank you, and it has nothing to do with electronics or badly made clothing or useless gadgets. [holiday rant] end [/holiday rant]

25 November 2010

The world is

First thing, I received an email from my nephew--my late older brother's only child--only to discover he has been deployed to Afghanistan.

It wasn't the news I was looking for.

Another year, another war, another pilot.

I cooked with a vengeance, and I thought about him, about the men and women with whom he would share his day today, so far from home.

My in-laws arrived, and I fed my family everything I'd spent two days cooking. The son was pleased with his mincemeat pie and the rolls I showed him how to make; the daughter smiled over the pumpkin pie she made, along with the rolls she assembled and the green bean casserole she stirred. My MIL said she couldn't eat another bite and then had seconds. My FIL poured gravy all over his plate and ate with gusto. There were toasts and laughter and discussions of other family members, near and far.

Another year, another holiday, another gathering.

And I am grateful: that I had the opportunity to wish the boy, now a man, who looks so much like his father a Happy Thanksgiving though he's half a world away. That I have my own dear little family, and an extended family who sometimes drive me crazy, but who I love nonetheless. I am grateful that I have the means and the wherewithal to put a meal on the table, to feed those I care about (and not poison them. Oh, careful as I am about food safety, I still worry about that!). And I'm grateful to those who write the books I read, the movies I watch, the music I listen to for entertaining me and challenging me. And I'm grateful to my friends, near and far, who entertain me and challenge me and feed my mind and heart.

Not every day is great; some we just endure. But each minute is a bridge to the next, a span to the future, to possibility, to potential, to the hope of something better.

Another moment, another opportunity to cherish, another door to open.

Or window, if the door doesn't present itself.

And I sat there, this afternoon, really too tired to eat, my hands sore with burns from hot pots and the oven, watching the daughter giggle and the son down glass after glass of sparkling apple cider, listening to the spouse talk with his parents and my MIL laugh over the son's Miami Vice stubble, and I was just glad, really happy, that it was all possible.

Go listen to some good music: "Tom Sawyer" by Rush from the album Moving Pictures. And the new stuffing I made was awful, but the son inexplicably loved it. A crystal salt shaker somehow broke, and I brought out the good china. Yeah, the stuff that has to be washed by hand!

24 November 2010


Feeling a little stressed about Thanksgiving? I'm not, much. I'm still cleaning up after the last round of house guests before the next bunch descends.

And I have to cook enough food for an army.

What else is new?

Anyway, if you're feeling overwhelmed by tomorrow's cooking foray, read this Q&A with Butter Queen Paula Deen. I was laughing out loud. (Link via PopCandy.)

(Of course, you know my turkey has been in the refrigerator for a couple of days already...)

And you know, something she didn't talk about, but I'll just add: expect the unexpected guest. I get at least one almost every year. You just add another chair to the table, and set another place. Even if it's the person you most loathe in the world (and I've had him or her, too). It's nothing to get wound up about, though I know people who do (and sometimes, it's been me).

Okay, I'm off to make pies. And mashed potatoes. And cranberry sauce. And to cut up vegetables. And clean up the mincemeat that leaked all over the refrigerator last night...

You know the drill.

Go listen to some good music: "Under Pressure" by Queen & David Bowie from the album Best of Bowie. I canNOT seem to type straight today...

23 November 2010

Oranges and lemons (2010)

Mincemeat is simmering on the back of the cook top and it smells like the holidays. It makes me very explicably happy. The son and I made it together this year; I had him washing and coring and slicing the apples while I zested citrus and processed fruit and added stuff. Then he stirred the resultant brew. Now it is just cooking. And smelling delicious.

(There is a photo here at When All This Actual Life Played Out. If you wondered what homemade mincemeat looks like.)

It's a bit amusing to see that I posted the recipe for this stuff a year ago today. I don't know why things like that amuse me. Congruence.

And today, the window man came and measured and gave me an estimate and I ordered. Another step in the right direction, I hope. I have the bathroom designer and I'm looking for the contractor and I'm choosing fixtures.

Would that I had a magic wand or could just snap my fingers.

But I'm happy nonetheless.

Go sing a nursery rhyme: "Oranges and Lemons" is a traditional English nursery rhyme.

20 November 2010

Hedwig's theme

(Caution: possible spoilers)

I don't think I've missed taking the kids to an opening weekend showing of any of the Harry Potter movies (and I think we got most of the books day of release...and I read most of them aloud to the assembled company because that's the kind of mother I am and that's the kind of family I have). The new Potter movie was no exception; we saw it this morning.

Although I generally enjoyed the books, the movies have been less compelling. The last one was so awful that I came close to chewing my fingers off out of sheer boredom (the daughter was also bored, but the son liked it). I don't think I liked the one previous, either, and honestly, the books are so rich in detail I don't think it would be possible to completely do them justice.

It has been interesting to watch the growth of the young actors to adulthood. Whereas chubby-faced Daniel Radcliffe had exactly one expression in the first film (mouth hanging open), he's added a few more in the intervening years, and has evolved through teenage awkwardness to a more accomplished young man. Watching him grow up physically on screen has been a bit instructive for me: amusingly, my own son looked so much like a blonde Harry Potter that children would stop in the street to stare at him, tugging on their parents' clothes and whispering, "It's Harry Potter!" In much the same fashion, I've watched him grow from a chubby-faced, bespectacled child through awkward adolescence and into a truly handsome and funny young adult.

Deathly Hallows, Part 1 was certainly better than the last two films. The dissolution of the magical world was evident in the physical destruction that was everywhere, as well as the more personal degradation of the Malfoy family and others. But I'm always distressed by the cavalier treatment of death: poof! Bye, Hedwig! Poof! Bye, Mad Eye! Poof! Bye, Dobby! The film's treatment of Hedwig's death--really, the death of Harry's childhood--surprised me the most because of the complete lack of response to it. The death of a truly minor character evoked more emotion in the film. This doesn't bode particularly well for Part 2, where a large chunk of the cast will get offed.

Oh well, I suppose I should review Red, which the kids and I saw last week and which had us laughing out loud. Oh, for the good old days.

Go listen to some good music: "Hedwig's Theme" from the album Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by John Williams. I've become increasingly resistant to going to the movie theater, but I was astonished that the theater today was less than 25% full.

19 November 2010

You can only cover so much territory, of course

But I don't do such a bad job.

There are days when it doesn't take much for my mood to do a 180. This morning was just such an example, and I felt a great deal more cheerful embarking on a multi-mile hike, and even managed to get the gutters cleaned out before this weekend's Weather Armageddon (aka STORMWATCH!). A friend of mine saw me charging up the hill and called me later, wondering aloud if "that grin on your face means something."

Naturally it does.

It means I will get through the weekend (and STORMWATCH!), as well as next week (lists upon lists of groceries notwithstanding), and probably the quasi dead zone that is the early part of the year (the son in NOLA notwithstanding. My quest to encourage them to devote some of their time to service to others has him off to build houses there, my nervousness about it notwithstanding). I had vague plans regarding the first quarter of 2011, and I'm seeing things maybe firming up a bit.

My need to shake things up notwithstanding.

I will get through the weekend, and Thursday, and December. It stands to reason that the next few months may be massive, particularly if the cycle of three years ago is an indication.

I can't stop thinking big.

Go listen to some good music: "Your Hands (Together)" from the album Together by The New P*rnographers. I wasn't kidding about the tired part last night. After the gutters, I showered and fed my mother lunch and collapsed on the couch and slept for at least an hour. Unheard of for me.

18 November 2010

...so don't give me more

At present, I have a houseguest. So I'm being entertaining.

I am at one of those points where everyone and everything is extraordinarily demanding. I am very tired. So much so that I'm just sort of sitting here staring at the screen.

And I have little to say beyond that at the moment.

Go listen to some good music: "Whatever's Left" from the album Final Straw by Snow Patrol. I haven't seen my mother in 2.5 years, and she's become old. I'm seeing early signs of senility, which is weird and sad and scary. We have little common ground, it seems, and I'm finding conversation is frequently awkward.

15 November 2010

Pinball wizard

I am not the wizard. I am the pinball.

Take what you know of my life, and it's not tough to figure that things haven't exactly been peachy.

Go listen to some good music: "Pinball Wizard" from the album Tommy by The Who. Personally, I've always preferred Elton John's version.

11 November 2010

Shining face to face

11 November 2010

I know. There's a reason why I have a photo blog, but when I was looking at the images I took tonight, I was thinking about my fascination with taking photos of the moon. Look at the edge where the light fades into darkness. Look at the craters. Look inside the craters. You are seeing shadows that are hundreds of thousands of miles away, courtesy of the small magic of a wonderful lens, and the strange, pixelated wonder of a photo on this even stranger electronic communication.

So very simple. So very complicated.

It's excruciatingly clear tonight, thanks to those gruesome winds that have been blowing all day. But the clarity is the payoff. And while I stood out in the black dark, wind whipping my hair around my head, under the brilliant light of a slice of moon, I thought about the craters and the shadows, and the other people who might stop for a moment to look at them, maybe even at the same moment I was standing there looking at them. Of the other people who might see them here.

So very simple. So very complicated.

Go listen to some great music: "Between Sun & Moon" from the album Counterparts by Rush. Hmm. There's a new label in there...

10 November 2010

You got me running, going out of my mind

Really, it was one of those days.

You know, drama, and random endless stupidity.

The spouse sort of capped things off by dumping hot wings sauce all over and inside my purse. I'm still trying to get it out of my cell phone.

And if I get one more phone call asking me to upgrade some service, or another email that uses a term like "talking points" or "on message"...

What did I say a few days ago? I sleep now, and when I wake it's tomorrow? Sounds like good advice.

Go listen to some music: "Don't Bring Me Down" from the album Greatest Hits by Electric Light Orchestra. Don't even get me started on needing to replace the refrigerator and trying to find a replacement light bulb for my washing machine.

09 November 2010

For a few dollars more (or not)

A quick note for those of you who read via the feed: I'm having trouble with content scrapers, so the feed posts will be temporarily shortened. To read the entire post, you'll need to click through to the blog. I'm sorry for the inconvenience; I do expect it to be temporary. This is an ongoing problem; I'm just feeling particularly ornery tonight.

AT was teasing me this morning about getting co-opted into cooking Thanksgiving dinner and I said a little sourly that while she was enjoying her planned vacation with her children, she could think about me slaving away in the kitchen preparing to entertain my in-laws. She laughed.

"So," she said. "How many days will it take you to prepare? Two? Three?"

I considered.

"About 24 hours all told," I told her, and then confessed, "I can pretty much make Thanksgiving dinner in my sleep."

My in-laws are traditionalists, so I am not allowed to make anything "weird." I'm going out on a limb making cornbread stuffing this year rather than the usual herbed stuff. My family requires that certain things appear: mincemeat pie, pumpkin pie. Well, and turkey.

"Oh, you see?" she said. "You cook every day. Think about all those people who only cook a couple of times a year. They don't even know what they're doing!"

I suppose she has a point.

Besides not being able to find mincemeat (not to worry, I've given up and just make it from scratch now), deals on turkey have been thin on the ground this year. I ended up lugging a 20-lb. frozen turkey about a half mile today (don't ask. Possessed.), but hey! I got it for 50 cents a pound.

I just called it weightlifting. Though my weights aren't usually that cold.

Thanksgiving dinner menu

Brie en Croƻte with Cherries and Pistachios with toasted french bread rounds
Homemade hummus with whole wheat pita
Crudite with dip

Turkey with sage gravy
Cornbread and sausage stuffing
Roasted garlic mashed potatoes
Brussels sprouts
Green bean casserole
Cranberry orange relish
Cloverleaf rolls with butter
Pinot Noir

Pumpkin pie with whipped cream
Mincemeat pie

Now, if I can just find the Riesling that my MIL liked so much a couple of years ago, I'll be good to go.

Go listen to some music: "For a Few Dollars More" by Ennio Morricone from the album 50 Movie Theme Hits: Gold Edition.

08 November 2010

Symphony #25 in G Minor, K 183 - 1. Allegro con brio

"Why, yes. I am sitting in your box. What of it?"

A palate cleanser.

I remember the first time that I used "alcoholic" and a reference to my father in the same sentence. There was no sense of relief at saying the truth, only a dreadful feeling that I was going to be struck by lightning for being an undutiful daughter. Less allegro con brio and more andante with false bravado. I feel much that way now.

Anyway, I think I'm done with that. Hopefully, it's done with me.

Now, off to rejoin my regularly scheduled life, which today included zombie apocalypse at the grocery store.

And I think my life is boring.

Go listen to some good music: "Mozart: Symphony #25 in G Minor, K 183 - 1. Allegro con brio" from the album Mozart Symphonies 21-25 performed by Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

07 November 2010

I will not let you in

Where does one draw the line? It's always the question I face in blogging and in real life.

The story I've been wrestling with is the story of the boy who wouldn't take "no" for an answer and who grew up into the man who wouldn't take "no" for an answer and who finally got scary and weird enough to really frighten me.

Recently, I've been reading Shreve Stockton's account of dealing with a stalker. He found her through her websites and began his campaign of harassment through email. Reading her story has left me in awe of her courage, but it also opened the door to nightmares, to memories I try to keep at bay. And my story is different: he was no stranger, but someone I knew, and his behaviour escalated over the course of 10 years.

He started when I was 15 and it seemed so innocuous.

He was just another kid. Remarkable mostly for his snide and arrogant self-assurance. He was in my freshman English class. I gave him no thought at all.

It wasn't until our sophomore year that I really spoke to him. My friend LS and I spent our afternoons in the school library, finishing our homework, talking. People would come and go, hang out with us for awhile, move on. He came and sat at the table where we were working one afternoon. It turned out that we had similar taste in music and books. Then, he got my phone number from another person, and started calling me. It was all very innocent, friendly even. Eventually, he asked me to go out with him. I declined. While I thought he was interesting to talk to, he was not the sort of person I would have ever considered as boyfriend material, partly because he had a well-defined mean streak, partly because I didn't find him at all attractive.

And initially, all seemed well. We talked about books and music and movies and Monty Python. We talked about teachers and classes. Then he began spinning fantasies that revolved around me. I asked him to stop. The fantasies became uncomfortably suggestive. I stopped taking his calls.

He persisted at school, but carefully. I was polite. He got a girlfriend. I was relieved. Then the girlfriend began calling me at his behest for "advice," which confused me. They broke up and he informed me the girlfriend was a ploy to make me jealous. I was furious and reiterated that I didn't want to date him.

It sounds like a soap opera, doesn't it? Stupid teenage drama. That's what I thought, too. Books, movies, pop songs, the purveyors of fantasy, make it seem that being the object of someone's obsession is somehow alluring, at least until the crazy really manifests. It's not. It's denigrating, aggravating and time consuming. There is nothing nice or desirable about it.

Senior year, I started dating ML, a boy I knew from the school newspaper, and it was the first time that one of my relationships turned a bit more serious. We were a couple.

That's when things started getting ugly.

He found moments to denigrate ML publicly, to ask crude questions about our relationship. I called him out for his bad behaviour.

He told me that it was all my fault that he was behaving badly. But he backed off, and once we finished high school, I didn't hear from him for nearly three years.

My relationship with ML continued for a time after we went off to different colleges, but eventually ended. I'm not sure how he got wind that ML and I were no longer seeing each other, but he showed up at my parents' house the first time I visited after ML and I called it off.

Initially, I was pleased with opportunity to catch up on our friendship, but his behaviour soon became quite off-putting. He began by criticizing my hair (short, after years of hanging nearly to my waist), my weight (the slim side of normal for my height, but a few pounds heavier than the stage weight I'd maintained for dancing), my clothing. College had changed me, he declared. He didn't like what he was seeing, the person I'd become. And then he wanted to know if I'd changed my mind about going out with him.

I told him firmly that I was willing to be friends with him, but that I had nothing else to offer him. Then out of the blue, he asked if I'd consider marrying him in the future, despite the fact he'd had no contact with me for years. I told him it was very unlikely.

When I returned to school, he began to call frequently. He asked me again to marry him. I told him no. He didn't want my friendship, he told me decisively. He could prove his devotion, he was sure of it. But he wanted a relationship with me, or nothing. If I lost him altogether, it was all my fault.

Then it's done, I told him.

And I thought it was. He vanished again.

It was eighteen months later when his behaviour became alarming.

One afternoon, my mother called me to tell me that he'd shown up at her house, looking for me. He got my address and phone number from her and then told her that he was planning to go to California over the weekend to find me. Something about his demeanor, something he said that carried an implicit threat, really distressed her.

"I'm afraid he's going to harm you," she told me. I'm not sure what frightened me more: that she thought he was going to hurt me, or that the same thought had already occurred to me.

I stayed with a friend that weekend, so I never knew if the threatened visit was just that, or if he did show up. Shortly thereafter, I arrived at work one morning after having taken a vacation day, and one of my coworkers told me that a man had come looking for me while I was gone.

"He said that another man had asked him to check up on you," she said. "They're friends of yours from high school?"

The man who'd come to pay me a visit was someone who'd gone to the same high school with us. He'd come at the behest of my stalker, to what end, I was never certain.

Everyone I knew was told not to give my address, phone number or place of business to anyone.

I'll never know how he might have guessed that I'd returned to town for graduate school, but one night when I was working on an assignment in the library, he came up behind me, and announced in a loud voice, "I've been waiting for this moment for three years."

I gasped, a not unusual reaction to someone sneaking up behind one and yelling.

He said angrily, "Don't be melodramatic. You expected me."

Which I very much hadn't, of course. And his behaviour was so bizarre that the woman I was studying with wanted to get campus security. I told her not to worry, and agreed to meet with him at an off-campus watering hole, a very well-known and busy place.

He wanted to talk, and he told me about his life in those intervening years, unsatisfactory jobs, a failed marriage. He bragged about the lengths he'd gone to in order to keep tabs on me. How he'd sent various people after me to keep an eye on my activities. How he planned to drive out to California to try to find me. A grand, romantic adventure.

"I'm getting married," I told him.

His face fell.

"In December," I said with finality.

That was the last time I saw him.

I still have nightmares about him, worry that he continues to lurk in the shadows. Given his propensity for reappearing after years of absence, I was uneasy for a long time. Given his uncanny ability to find me, to know when I'd gone through changes in my life, I hired a private detective to help me clamp down on my personal information, and I remain vigilant, removing every trace that I can. The Internet makes that so much harder, but fortunately, I started that project before the Internet.

I went back through years of journals, looking for my response to what he was doing at the time this was going on, because of course, what eventually transpired colored my memories of the situation. I hoped that I'd see no evidence that I'd ever treated him as more than a friend, that I'd never given him any reason to hope for something different. And curiously, he shows up in my writings almost not at all until his behaviour got out of hand. While I carefully dissect full conversations with boys I liked over the years, he gets an occasional cursory mention in much the same vein as those mentioning my other friends.

I questioned--and still do--posting this. It's not out of some desire for revenge, for a way to be hurtful toward someone who did a bang up job of hurting himself. My dearest wish is that he finally found someone with whom to share his life, someone who appreciated him in a way that I never did or could.

I suppose that what I hope for myself is some way to understand what seemed an ordinary situation that got extraordinarily out of control. I am not some femme fatale, just a rather painfully ordinary woman who likes nice relationships without drama. I don't understand manipulative behaviour, or someone's need to control someone else. That's not love, not a partnership.

Even now, reading this over, I hear his voice: "It's all your fault." "You've blown this out of proportion." But reading over my journals, the conclusion I came to was that I never took it seriously enough.

Go listen to some good music: "Get Out of My House" from the album The Dreaming by Kate Bush. Read fast. I can't guarantee this one will stay up.

05 November 2010

You can't push it underground

I am wrestling with writing a difficult post at the moment. It concerns a problem, an ongoing incident, that colored my world in an unpleasant way from the ages of 15 to 25. Part of me says don't even bring it up because the post may never see the light of day. Part of me is trying to hold myself accountable to ensure that it does see the light of day. Some stories feel like they should be told, and I've tried to tell this one before. But it makes me very uncomfortable.

Still, there's the possibility that my experience might help someone else.

Please bear with me while I wrestle.

Go listen to some good music: "Time is Running Out" from the album Absolution by Muse. Still happy.

03 November 2010

Turn the page

The daughter recently read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and she asked me to read it, too. I don't generally read YA fiction, but the premise looked sufficiently interesting and I'd just finished a 14-book historical epic, so something a little simpler seemed in order.

I can tell you it's adolescent dystopian literature of the highest order, and I was unsurprised to find that the author is near my own age. Hello, Soylent Green, Westworld, Deathrace 2000, and Logan's Run. Admittedly, I didn't see most of those movies until 20 years after they'd been released, but I certainly got my fair share of dystopian literature, like William Sleator's House of Stairs, William Golding's Lord of the Flies, and John Christopher's Tripod Trilogy.

I've now read all three books in this series--The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay--and I have the usual complaints about the writing and plotting. Too much telling, too little showing. A failure to rely upon the wits of the reader. A heroine who is almost too annoying to endure and whose inconsistent behaviour frequently makes her less than believable. What works, though, is that the story is interesting, and Collins does a smashing job of demonstrating the psychological toll that battle takes on those who live through it.

In our discussions of the books thus far (once I'd finished the first book, the son picked it up--I guess he needed a break from Sartre, Camus and Kafka), the kids are really disturbed by the heroine, Katniss.

"She is such a dork!" the son exploded tonight.

"She is so dumb!" the daughter exclaimed.

And Katniss is a dork. And she is obtuse. But she is also a survivor, and there are things about her character that ring true in ways that my two don't understand, unbelievable and inconsistent emotional detachment notwithstanding. My children have always been, essentially, safe. They don't know what it was like to live through the Cold War. They've never skipped a meal to save money, or walked rather than taken the bus because the fare could be better used for something else. They've never been without adequate clothing. They've never waited in a hospital emergency room, injured and frightened, for the parent who didn't show up. They've never lacked for guidance; they've never lacked for love. They've never had cause to believe that they aren't worthy of what others have offered them.

Near the end of the story, Katniss says that someday she will have to explain to others that on her worst days, it's difficult to take pleasure in anything because she lives in the fear that everything she cherishes will be taken away from her. I know that fear; I've relived it time and again. Most days, most years, I can put it away, lock it up, until something triggers those memories.

There's an upside to that sort of stress, though: I'm good at triage, good at breaking down an emergency into manageable pieces, good at survival. Sometimes, I worry that my children have had it too easy. I'm frustrated that they lack some of the skills I have, that they take their good fortune for granted. But conversely, I would never wish the alternative on them. My gift to my children, I hope, will be the knowledge of how to survive without the fear that survival is all there is.

Go listen to some good music: "Turn the Page" from the album Hold Your Fire by Rush. Still happy.

02 November 2010

I trust I can rely on your vote

Seriously? That's the best slate of candidates you can come up with?

It's an INSULT.

I've been voting since I became eligible to vote in the 1980s. I've missed exactly one election, a minor one, right after the son was born. And I voted today. Except that every single one of the candidates I voted for was a write in. And if you know how California voting machines operate, you know that writing in that many candidates was a labor of love. You have to dial in every single letter. I know some people with extraordinarily long names.

(I voted for myself for Controller. I know what the actual job is, but I did if for the title alone. If the title fits...)

I've let my contempt for particular candidates show in this way in the past: writing in my dead dog for someone particularly egregious, for example. This, however, is the first time that I've come up with my very own ballot. And I crafted it with some care: a successful business woman with loads of accounting experience was my vote for Treasurer. Another friend who is extremely no-nonsense and very well organized was my pick for Superintendent of Schools. She'd do a far better job than the idiots who've been in there, wasting everyone's time and money.

I believe in the process although I've long been quite convinced that it's pretty well broken. I don't believe in political parties, and it makes me mad as hell that two self-serving groups like the Democrats and Republicans have a stranglehold not only on the process but the government.

I know an awful lot of people who aren't voting today out of disgust or apathy. Fine. Whatever floats your boat. But I've been given the right to use my voice, and while mine may be the one no one in government wants to hear, I'm using it anyway:

You may be on the ballot, but I don't have to vote for you.

Go listen to some good music: "Electioneering" from the album Ok Computer, by Radiohead. Am I still happy? Yup.

01 November 2010

You're mine, mine

The problem with an endeavor like this is the danger of repetition. There is plenty in my life that is repetitious: a seemingly endless cycle of taking kids, grocery, exercise bike, cooking, work, bills, gardening, getting kids, their school stuff.

Lather rinse repeat.

And again.

I spend a lot of time out and about, though not as out or about as I'd always like. Hence, I make forays. I run away to places. Unexpected places. Places that look like whim.

But they aren't.

So what do I do here in the moments of silence? I can't always write what wanders through my head. Bits of novel plot (yes, NaNoWriMo. Again.). Bits of outrage. Bits of life plotting. Lots of boring stuff. Lots of stuff that isn't appropriate source material.

So how about a recipe for applesauce cake?

That's what I thought.

I decided not to do NaBloPoMo on this blog this year, but I will be posting daily at The Other Blog. And since I have a finite store of photos at hand, that is going to mean I have to get out (somehow) and take more.


(Stop laughing. Yes, I know it's November. And that my mother will be here in a mere two weeks.)

I had a good summer.

Black holes? Check.

Revelations? Check.

The road is lit only by fire and I am all charged up and ready to go but...

There's always a "but."

The "but" is that I need to practice patience (I am not patient).

There is another caveat, though, another "but." It's rather better. I may have to wait, but if I've learned anything in the last few years, I've learned what I've got.

And it's mine. All mine.

Go listen to some good music: "Your Hands (Together)" from the album Together, by The New P*rnographers. Am I happy? Yup. You should be, too.