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June 08 2010

Ursula
2355 5233 500
Reposted fromgregreg gregreg viaisis isis
Ursula
I loved this. Thank you so much for posting it! I shared it on Facebook with all my friends. Some day I hope I can do something nice for you, too.
Ursula
Die folgende Geschichte ist zwar "lang" aber wunderschön. und ich hab mir etwas ganz Ähnliches auch schon einmal überlegt.. Nimm dir Zeit und lies es :)


You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident.  Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless.  You left behind a wife and two children.  It was a painless death.  The EMT tried their best to save you, but to no avail.  Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that's when you met me.

"What... what happened?" You asked.  "Where am I?"

"You died," I said, matter-of-factly.  No point in mincing words.

"There was a... a truck and it was skidding..."

"Yup."  I said.

"I... I died?"

Yup.  But don't feel bad about it.  Everyone dies."  I said.

You looked around.  There was nothingness.  Just you and me.  "What is this place?"  You asked.  "Is this the afterlife?"

"More or less." I said.

"Are you god?"  You asked.

"Yup."  I replied.  "I'm God."

"My kids.. My wife,"  you said.

"What about them?"

"Will they be all right?"

"That's what I like to see." I said.  "You just died and your main concern is for your family.  That's good stuff right there."

You looked at me with fascination.  To you, I didn't look like God.  I just looked like some man.  Or possibly a woman.  Some vague authority figure, maybe.  More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

"Don't worry," I said.  "They'll be fine.  Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way.  They didn't have time to grow contempt for you.  Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved.  To be fair, your marriage was falling apart.  If it's any consolation, she'll feel very guilty for feeling relieved."

"Oh," you said.  "So what happens now?  Do I go to heaven or hell or something?"

"Neither," I said.  "You'll be reincarnated."

"Ah," you said.  "So the Hindus were right."

"All religions are right in their own way," I said.  "Walk with me."

You followed along as we strode through the void.  "Where are we going?"

"Nowhere in particular," I said.  "It's just nice to walk while we talk."

"So what's the point, then?" You asked.  "When I get reborn, I'll just be a blank slate, right?  A baby.  So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won't matter."

"Not so!" I said.  "You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives.  You just don't remember them right now."

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders.  "Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly image.  A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are.  It's like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it's hot or cold.  You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you've gained all the experience it had."

"You've been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven't stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness.  If we hung out here for long enough, you'd start remembering everything.  But there's no point to doing that between each life."

"How many times have I been reincarnated, then?"

"Oh, lots.  Lots and lots.  And in to lots of different lives," I said.  "This time around, you'll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD."

"Wait, what?" You stammered.  "You're sending me back in time?"

"Well, I guess technically.  Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe.  Things are different where I came from."

"Where you come from?" You said.

"Oh sure," I explained.  "I come from somewhere.  Somewhere else.  And there are others like me.  I know you'll want to know what it's like there, but honestly, you wouldn't understand."

"Oh," you said, a little let down.  "But wait.  If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point."

"Sure.  Happens all the time.  And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan, you don't even know it's happening."

"So what's the point of it all?"

"Seriously?" I asked.  "Seriously?  You're asking me for the meaning of life?  Isn't that a little stereotypical?"

"Well, it's a reasonable question," you persisted.

I looked you in the eye.  "The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature."

"You mean mankind?  You want us to mature?"

"No, just you.  I made this whole universe for you.  With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect."

"Just me?  What about everyone else?"

"There is no one else," I said.  "In this universe, there's just you and me."

You stared blankly at me.  "But all the people on earth..."

"All you.  Different incarnations of you."

"Wait, I'm everyone!?"

"Now you're getting it," I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

"I'm every human being who ever lived?"

"Or who will ever live, yes."

"I'm Abraham Lincoln?"

"And you're John Wilkes Booth, too," I added.

"I'm Hitler?" You said, appalled.

"And you're the millions he killed."

"I'm Jesus?"

"And you're everyone who followed him."

You fell silent.

"Every time you victimized someone," I said, "you were victimizing yourself.  Every act of kindness you've done, you've done to yourself.  Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you."

You thought for a long time.

"Why?" You asked me.  "Why do you do all this?"

"Because someday, you will become like me.  Because that's what you are.  You're one of my kind.  You're my child."

"Whoa," you said, incredulous.  "You mean I'm a god?"

"No, not yet.  You're a fetus.  You're still growing.  Once you've lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born."

"So the whole universe," you said, "it's just..."

"An egg." I answered.  "Now it's time for you to move on to your next life."

And I sent you on your way.
— You
Reposted frommaharaja maharaja viaisis isis
Ursula
Reposted fromfriedochre friedochre viaisis isis

February 01 2010

Of Financial Aid, Name-Change Documents, Dog Licenses and a Bench Warrant

I had a bench warrant that I didn’t know about. It prevented me from getting my name-change documents, which prevented me from getting my financial aid, which prevented me from continuing with my next class in graduate school.

Let me back up a little. Back in 2005, I was working at an outdoor collection center for a well-known charity thrift store. Lousy job, but it’s what I was doing at the time. Part of that job involved interacting with the homeless people who hung out in the area. I made friends with some of them, and occasionally gave them rides to places they needed to go or did other things with them that necessitated a car or other of the amenities people with homes take for granted.

For instance, one beautiful spring day, a particular homeless friend and I decided to go relax in the park. My friend had not slept well the night before. Sleeping anywhere is very complicated and dangerous when you’re homeless; sometimes taking naps in the park on warm days can make up for the lack of safe, uninterrupted sleep at night.

So that’s what we did. We spread out a blanket, lay down, and fell asleep. We were so sound asleep, in fact, that we slept until about half an hour before the park’s closing time of 8 p.m.

We woke up with cops shining flashlights in our faces. We were ready to gather up our stuff and move on, but for some reason, probably because my friend was known by local cops to be homeless, therefore unable and unwilling to fight back, they decided to put handcuffs on us, separate us out of earshot of each other, and question us for an hour, until the park was no longer open.

They searched my car. Some of my tools and my friend’s knife were missing afterward, and they left a horrible mess of the rest of the stuff I had in my trunk, spilling the bottles of oil and coolant I had been keeping there. They gave me a ticket for staying in the park after hours, and then let us go.

I paid the ticket. I knew perfectly well that we hadn’t done anything wrong, but I didn’t want any more trouble. I sent a check to the address on the back of the ticket.

I kept looking at my bank account, waiting to see that the check had cleared, but I figured that since they work for the government, they are going to be as slow as they can, and eventually, life went on, and I forgot to keep checking.

I guess it never cleared.

About 4 years later, I decided to go back to school to become a Marriage, Family and Child Therapist. I’m getting my Master’s degree in counseling. Having been out of work for some time, I applied for financial aid, expecting no problems.

I should know better by now. I thought everything was going smoothly, but a couple days before classes started, the financial aid department saw fit to inform me that my financial aid was denied, because I couldn’t prove that I am who I am.

About 20 years ago, for reasons of mental and emotional health, I decided to change my name. There are a couple of ways to do that, legally.

One way costs about $500 and takes a couple of months. You have to go to court and file a lot of documents, change your driver’s license and social security card and tell all your creditors, et cetera. You have to publish your intentions, along with the old name and the new name, for four consecutive weeks in a court-approved newspaper. Then it’s done.

The other way, you make all the changes, and consistently respond to the new name and not the old. It helps if you type up a paper with your intentions, your old name and new name, have it notarized, then send it to all your creditors. Social Security and the DMV don’t have the right to tell you what name to put on your documents, as long as you aren’t trying to defraud anybody.

So, not being independently wealthy, or of a mind to spend any more time in court than I have to, I opted for the second method, little knowing that it wouldn’t work for the financial aid people.

We struggled for weeks with the problem. I faxed and mailed and emailed every identifying document I had: my old social security cards, my old driver’s licenses, my marriage and divorce papers, my new license and social security cards, the notarized statement; I sent more than enough stuff to prove that I am who I am. But they didn’t accept it. They wanted Legal Documents. Something that a judge had signed and stamped.

So, after a lot of wrangling on the phone, I agreed to go to court and “legally” change my name, which, by the way, had already been legally changed for years, just so they could have another piece of paper to add to their collection. They gave me until a certain date to have it all done. Not enough time, as it turns out, which is part of the reason I’m sitting at home, writing blogs instead of papers and presentations.

So. I go to name-change court. I have everything ready. My husband took a day off to go with me and celebrate the end of all this mess. We joked about all the hassle and expense and congratulated each other on having made it through this far.

The judge calls my (old, never-used) name, I go through the little gate and face him. He tells me I have a bench warrant to clear up before he can honor my request and that I should go take care of it and come back in a month.

My husband tells me that the backs of my arms went bright red at that moment. I know that my jaw dropped.

I went to the bailiff, who had written down the case number, the court where the bench warrant came from and the amount of money it was supposed to cost to make it go away.

Of course, I was stunned. At that time, I didn’t even know what a bench warrant was. I looked for an online presence for the court I was supposed to go to, and they had a website, but I couldn’t find anything about either the case number, my name, either the old one or the new one, or my driver’s license number. So I looked up bench warrants and discovered that I could show up at the court house and get a court date and maybe pay the fine, OR they could just take me into custody. Without telling me what it was all about.

I am a pretty good researcher, and I have friends who are pretty good researchers, too. So we tried—hard—to find out what this bench warrant was for. There seems to be no way to find out without engaging a lawyer. I think not knowing what you’ve been accused of is explicitly unconstitutional, but apparently it’s the way we do things nowadays.

Finally, my dear, smart husband, who has an excellent phone manner and people skills from many years of dealing with the public, weaseled some information out of a court clerk. The court clerk told him, after much fooling around, that it was probably something about a dog license, and that we should just come in, and they would see me in court on the same day. We could pay the fine and be done with it.

It was reassuring, but turned out not to be true. Believing that it was a big load of nothing, my husband took another day off, and we went to the courthouse. We lined up at the window for “Criminal Court” and hoped we didn’t see anybody we knew. I suppose by now we should have known better, but we laughed and joked while we were in line about ending up in court for some dog license complication.

When we finally arrived at the Criminal window, the woman on the other side of the security glass took the case number and looked it up. She came back looking nervous. She had a file with a long police report and a ticket in it. She said it was about a failure to appear on a ticket for vagrancy. Apparently, the cops said that we were living in the park, sleeping in sleeping bags. I don’t know what else the police report said, but it appears that my check for the ticket never made it to the appropriate agency. 

Fortunately, the woman sent us on to court, where our case would be heard that same day, and be taken care of, one way or another, at that time. It was still possible that they would be cuffing me and taking me to jail. It was a dangerous place, where we were going. I was very glad to have my husband there, in case I needed somebody to take care of business on the outside, if they took me away.

We went to the court and sat down. The bailiff in that courtroom treated everyone with contempt and disgust. When I came up to sign in, he looked me over and changed his tune, slightly. I didn’t look like I belonged there. Just about everybody else was dressed very casually, and was much younger. I know that when you go to court, it’s best to dress like a lawyer, not in cut-offs and flip-flops, so that’s what I did. My husband did, too, though he dresses pretty well in general, because of his work as a piano tuner.

In any case, I didn’t look like anybody who slept in parks. The bailiff made me fill out a form, telling me my Miranda rights and all about waiving them. I had to sign it and check some check-boxes. This was not just a ticket—it was an arraignment! I didn’t know what that was, but it sounded serious. The judge put it on the bottom of his pile of files, so we had to wait till everybody else was dealt with.

The people waiting with me in the courtroom ranged from drugs and weapons charges to shoplifters to drunk drivers who had resisted arrest. There was another arraignment for a man who had drugs, weapons AND violating probation and resisting arrest. He had a lawyer, as had most everybody else. I was getting more and more scared.

We had come prepared to just pay the fine and go. We had thought that it was about a dog license for a dog we no longer have. Then we found out it was about a ticket I had paid 5 years ago. Now I was beginning to think I’d never see the end of this. What was going to happen to me next? Graduate school might be over for me. My husband might have to bring me clean underwear and socks and make arrangements to pay for the classes I’d already taken. My life could be completely turned upside down. Because I had fallen asleep in a public park, 5 years ago.

When the judge called my name, I went through the little gate and stood, as calmly as I could, waiting to see what he was going to do to me. He asked me about the ticket. I told him I had mailed in a payment and never heard another word about it, so I assumed it was over with.

He read the police report and looked me up and down, much as the bailiff had. I’m a middle-aged, fat, housewifely-looking person with brown and gray hair. That day, I wore a dressy red top, a small silver necklace, black slacks and nice shoes. I have good posture and I make eye-contact. I am clean. I have nice nails and tidy hair. He looked at the ticket and the police report again and asked me to describe what happened that day.

Wisely, I didn’t say anything about the cops cuffing me and holding me until the park was closed. I just told him, “It was a beautiful spring day; my friend and I stretched out a blanket in the park, lay down, and fell asleep. Apparently we overslept, because I woke up with a flashlight in my face.” I paused. The judge repeated what I’d said to the District Attorney, and asked him if he wanted to pursue the matter. I think the D.A. was actually considering it, but the judge started to laugh. As soon as the D.A. said, “No, Your Honor,” the judge said he was going to dismiss it. He made a gesture like an umpire saying, “Safe!—“and let me go. I thanked him and got the hell out of there as fast as I could, while I could still walk. My husband and I were in shock. What a tempest in a teacup!

You’ll be glad to know that we used some of the money we had set aside to pay the fine to take each other out for a lovely lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen. We deserved a treat after all that.

So, unless something ELSE comes up, unless there are MORE hoops through which to jump, I should be going back to class in about a month, financially aided and no longer on the lam from the legal system.

January 19 2010

The 'F' Word

The Roots of Feminist Therapy

 

 

This was supposed to be a presentation I was assigned to perform with a Learning Team during the last class of a six-week course on Counseling Models. Excellent class. Thank you, Dr. Alan Levy, long may you wave. Anyway, the whole thing got bollixed up by time constraints, so I didn't get to do most of this. I thought it was too good to go to waste, so here it is. Enjoy.

Do you remember a time before text messaging, cell phones, Ipods, ATMs, Cable television, TV remote controls and personal computers? I do. I was born in 1953. I was 12 years old in 1965. I remember watching the Viet Nam war on television, Civil Rights demonstrations, protests on college campuses, and Hippies. I was in school when President Kennedy was shot. I even remember the time before we had trade relations with China! I also remember a time before there was feminism.

When I was a freshman in college, in 1971, all the freshmen women were housed in the same dormitory. We had a curfew; the men didn’t. We had to be in the building by 9 p.m. and in our rooms by 10 p.m. Some of us didn’t comply and were severely lectured and punished. Men were not allowed in the women’s dorm rooms at any time or for any reason, even relatives. There was no such rule for the men. This was not a private religious college or any other kind of anomaly; it was a state university.

If a woman was raped in those days, it was perfectly legal to throw her case out of court because of her appearance, her employment, or her presence in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was also legal for a husband to rape his wife, even if the couple had been separated for years. Few raped or battered women ever came forward to report the crimes against them. There were no battered women’s shelters or rape crisis centers of any kind. Women who were in battering relationships were commonly thought to have invited the battering, and marriage counselors blamed them for being the kind of women who looked for abusive men. Divorce was rare when I was growing up; people weren’t any happier, but there was little support in even the most extreme cases for ending a marriage.

I remember the 1960s as a time of great excitement and upheaval. Things were changing rapidly because people were starting to realize that the way things had always been was no longer good enough. Friends, acquaintances, family members and strangers had heated arguments over such issues as appropriate hair length, whether married women should be allowed to work outside the home, and whether ‘separate but equal’ meant what it sounded like. People of color were tired of 2nd class citizenship, being barred from many jobs, schools, and public places. Women began seeking equal rights with men. Gays and lesbians were no longer satisfied to be hidden in the background. Marginalized groups of all kinds were beginning to work for change.

Conditions for gays, people of color and women are not perfect in this new century. There are still areas of discrimination. For instance, we still don’t have an equal rights amendment. But those who choose to discriminate are no longer smugly expecting society to go along with them.

The roots of feminist therapy began when women started to meet in consciousness-raising groups in the 60s and 70s. Formal psychotherapy was invariably hierarchical at that time, with the patient seen as subordinate to the therapist, and was therefore considered to be part of the oppression, so women relied on self-help for their counseling needs. Only when therapists began to join consciousness-raising groups did feminism start to creep into the existing therapeutic approaches.

As therapists began to incorporate feminist principles and beliefs into their practice with clients, such as equality in the counselor/client relationship, and began moving away from the pathological intrapsychic view of client problems, organizations began to perform gender bias studies in the 1970s. The American Psychological Association funded a number of these, such as The Task Force on Sex Bias and Sex Role Stereotyping, and the APA’s Divisions 35 and 17, which described different ways counselors would address gender bias issues with clients. The Association for Women in Psychology was another organization devoted to promulgating feminist principles in psychotherapy.

Research continued in the 1980s as the relational-cultural model led to a feminist theory of personality development. Women’s distinct experience as fundamentally cooperative and relational people began to be honored by therapists. Feminist psychotherapy was directed especially toward its use in family therapy and career counseling for women.

Feminist therapy began to diversify and focus on issues specific to women, such as body image, eating disorders, abusive relationships, incest and sexual abuse. Different feminist philosophies began to develop, according to practitioners’ views on the best way to change society and define the sources of oppression.

Feminist theory began to be divided into four interrelated parts, which later diversified into eight philosophies. The first four were: Liberal, Cultural, Radical and Socialist feminism.

Liberal feminists believe that the focus of therapy needs to be on individual women and their socialization patterns. Women ought to be equal to men because they are equally capable, and when individual women have been empowered and allowed their dignity, equality, and self-fulfillment, gender differences will be less important in social and work settings.

Cultural feminists believe that problems of societal oppression can be solved by incorporating more feminine values into the structure of society. The nurturing, intuitive, cooperative nature of women would transform society into a more welcoming paradigm for all groups.

Radical feminists seek societal transformation through activism.  Identifying and challenging patriarchal oppression in relationships, families, workplaces, and institutions will change society. Giving women self-determinism in sexual and childbearing arenas would be transformative. Radical feminists are primarily political in their outlook.

Socialist feminists are similarly political, though their focus is different from Radical feminists. Multiple oppressions, such as those of class, race, ethnicity, economic health and historical considerations must be addressed in order to transform society; focusing on work, education and family roles point the way to changing institutions and relationships.

More recently, four more feminist classifications have come into being to fill the gaps in the four traditional feminist theories. These are: Post-Modernist, Women of Color, Lesbian, and Global-International feminists.

Post-Modernist feminists disagree with the possibility that there is only one truth and one reality for everyone. They posit that no one can ‘know’ everything, and what may seem to be definite knowledge must be deconstructed. Polarizations such as ‘masculine—feminine’ are rejected and analyzed for their historical basis.

Women of Color feminists believe in making feminism broader and more inclusive. Early feminist theory generalized that oppression for all women was the same, discounting the experiences of different races, ethnicities, and classes. Taking into account multiple oppressions must be included.

Lesbian feminists, similarly, seek greater diversity in feminist theory. Lesbians who think of themselves as feminists also feel excluded by heterosexual feminism, which does not understand the dynamic of sexual orientation discrimination. Lesbian Women of Color also feel excluded on the grounds of their multiplicity of oppressions. Lesbian feminists call for recognition of the diversity of oppression.

Global-International feminists, along the same lines, see the ethnocentricity of Western feminists and feel excluded on the basis that their experience is misconstrued or passed over by Feminist theory. Racism, classism, economics, as well as sexism affect women in different countries, and the cultural differences between feminists need to be addressed.

Clearly, feminist theory is a work in progress. There is no one theory that covers all the bases. We are left with such questions as, “How did it get this way? Why have men traditionally held most of the power and excluded women? What makes research and knowledge nearly an exclusive male domain? Where do we go from here, to solve the problems of gender inequality?” Feminist theorists will continue to work on these problems now and in the future.

 

June 19 2008

...and they lived Happily Ever After...

Getting married in Southern California is fun and easy--probably too easy, but so far, we're okay with it, my new husband and me.

We set off early in the morning on June 5th--two weeks ago today--for the Beverly Hills courthouse, where we had an 11:15 appointment to get married by one of their Deputy Commissioners. We were nervous. We both had new clothes on, me in a lilac ankle-length rayon print dress and shoes with heels, which my then-fiance had never seen on me before, and him in a white linen suit, also heretofore unknown to me or anybody else in California. He had his sneakers on and a very elegant burnt-orange dress shirt and a hat.

We were so nervous that we had made it halfway to Beverly Hills before we realized that we had left the marriage license behind. That's probably why the groom isn't supposed to see the bride till he lifts the veil. We didn't even have a veil, and didn't miss it, except maybe if we had been looking for the license instead of gazing in awe at each other's elegance, we'd have remembered the license.

So, back we went. It was right where we had left it. We hadn't forgotten anything else...yet. But the day was young.

Everything was going well until we hit some big traffic snarl on the 10 freeway, and, thank God for cell phones, I was able to call our dear friend, witness, photographer and general factotum, Michele, and let her know we were on our way but running late. We didn't have the phone number for the courthouse, but we called the one in Norwalk, and were able to get to them that way. Apparently they routinely schedule about 45 minutes of leeway into the arrival times that they assign to marrying couples. And a good thing, too!

We arrived like a couple of cartoon characters, still elegant but a bit frazzled, to find that we were somehow, despite being half an hour late, miraculously right on time. The woman who officiated, whom we had never met before, a Ms. Donna Jones, was very much on top of everything and helped us through every bit of the ceremony, which was very beautifu and touching. Neither of us had expected that; we both assumed that getting married at the courthouse would mostly be a matter of signing forms and raising our right hands. Nope. It was actually very romantic and we were both already walking on air, and that definitely added to the joy and tenderness between us on the day.

Michele was a godsend. She took pictures, witnessed, encouraged, admired, helped with every possible thing, and provided our little mini-reception afterward. The pictures she took will definitely follow at some point, and I will make sure to display them somewhere.

The courthouse has a chapel. It has several neat chairs for family and friends, an artifical flower garland in an arch over the bride and groom, a fake, but beautifully decorated wedding cake on a side table, and a very non-denominational space at the front for the couple (us) to recite our vows after Ms. Jones and exchange rings and share our first married kiss. Who'd have thought?! And I wonder how many other couples have been married in that cute little neat-as-a-pin chapel? It's Beverly Hills--maybe celebrities got married there, who knows? In any case, it did the trick for us.

My husband set down his hat on one of the chairs. I was juggling a huge fake sunflower instead of a bouquet, and somehow we managed to lose all our paperwork. It was in a big brown envelope, so if anybody has seen it, please contact me privately. Maybe that's why other people have guests. We didn't want a lot of fuss, so the only person who came was our dear and much-needed Michele, but if there had been a few hangers-on with nothing else to do, maybe our paperwork would still be with us.

After the ceremony, my darling and I met Michele at the nearest Starbucks for our version of a wedding reception. Michele bought us drinks and a piece of crumb cake for each of us, and Starbucks contributed a sort of grapefruity sorbet sample stuff that was pretty good. Michele took more pictures of us feeding each other our "wedding cake" and we took off shortly after that.

He stopped and wrote "WE ARE GONNA BE BAD TONIGHT WE JUST GOT MARRIED WHOO HOO" on the car windows, and on the back window, he wrote, "WE JUST GOT MARRIED YOU CAN CALL US OLDIEWEDS WHOO HOO", which actually got us a lot of attention, strangers congratulating us and making mildly obscene but celebratory comments and gestures as we drove along. I had no idea it would be such a great thing to do! He had saved that as a surprise for me. I knew he had the markers but had no idea what he was going to do with them. One grumpy old gentleman gave us a disapproving glare, but everybody else that participated at all was happily cheering us on and thrilled to be included in our happiness. I recommend this kind of thing to anybody celebrating something you want to share with the world. It definitely added a lot of fun to our trip. We were a little sad to wash it off at home at the end.

Soon after this, we realized that we had misplaced our brown envelope, and neither of us remembered, even to this day, what was in it, other than some receipts and directions on how to change one's name, and some sort of government pamphlet about, "Now that you're married..." or something like that. So we went back to the courthouse, searched everywhere and questioned everyone. The kind ladies behind the desk gave us a replacement for the name change thing and reassured us that nothing important was lost, so we gave up and left. I would like to have had a chance to read the pamphlet, though.

Next, we headed for home. Our only chance of going on a honeymoon AND staying out of the poorhouse hinged on a check he had been expecting for days, since his work at a piano sale at USC. (BTW, if you are ever thinking of buying a piano, go to a piano sale at any college or university that's having one: the prices are way below retail, and they are NEVER cheaper anywhere else, unless there is some hitch, or something grievously wrong with the piano or its provenance. Just a hint.)

And, by gosh, The Check WAS In The Mail! Whoo hoo indeed! We stuffed a few shirts and underwear and toiletries into our gym bags, and a few other honeymoon necessities, put on our travelin' shoes and took off!

Our plan was to meander pointlessly up the coast on the 101 inland and partly on the Pacific Coast Highway, and wherever else tickled our collective fancy, till we ended up going through Big Sur and finding the Monterey Peninsula. This is about a 6-hour trip, if you really have to be there on time for something, but we took about 4 days. We had some consummating to do, plus there are lots of sights that he'd never seen and a lot I'd never seen or seen in his company. Our whole philosophy for the trip could be summed up by Lao Tzu, who said, " A good traveler has no plans, and is not intent upon arriving," which is just what we did. We were the best of travelers. And there is no better traveling companion than my husband.

We spent our first night outside of Santa Barbara. We had decided ahead of time that we weren't going to spend all our play money on restaurants.

We're very much both Picnic People at heart. Both our cars have permanent picnic baskets in the trunk. Our first stop on the trip was to go to the supermarket and get block ice for our cooler, snacks and sandwich stuff and bottled water for the road.

We wrapped both blocks of ice in a couple plastic bags, and they lasted, like Hannukah lights, for the whole time. We felt very pleased with ourselves, and very blessed.

 And we discovered that Tillamook puts out some cheese slices in reclosable packaging that puts all other camping cheese to shame. It's almost like one of those clamshell things you see on the top of people's cars when they're going camping, only they're clear plastic and cheese-slice-size. My hat is off to Tillamook. Trader Joe's had similar packaging for sliced, cooked roast beef and a few other things. (If you've never been to a Trader Joe's, you haven't lived. I could write a whole blog about the place!)

We stayed every night at the nearest Motel 6. I don't know if they were the cheapest accomodation available, but they sure are standardized. They aren't expensive, but they're clean and organized and have everything you need for the night, and they are usually situated right near places where you can buy mustard and pretzels and stuff. Our experience with them was overall very positive. Even though they're all virtually identical, each has a subtle character of its own, probably due to the personalities of the different managers. And we weren't paying extra to admire fancy curtains in our sleep.

Santa Barbara is a very sweet, pretty little town. We bummed around briefly there, checking it out, but we were determined to make Buellton for the Pea Soup Andersen's and Solvang, before they closed. He had never been to a Pea Soup Anderson's before, and it's a good thing we made it this time. There used to be several of them, but I believe the original Andersen sold out and all but perhaps two of them have closed down. Too bad. Where else can you get All The Pea Soup You Can Eat, even for breakfast, plus other delicious and more standard menu items, and all that Danish decor, as well as the history of the Danish monarchy emblazoned on the outside wall? And, as tourist traps go, why, it's a one-building Tourist Trap deluxe! And an excellent precursor to our Solvang trip.

We had to hurry to get to Solvang at this point. It was probably about 5 p.m. or so. Solvang is apparently on Senior and Toddler time: they start closing around 5:30 until nothing but Wine Tasting Rooms and restaurants are still open after 6 p.m. We went into a wonderful cutlery store and picked up an excellent sheathed bento knife (a fancy little enclosed paring knife) which we found we had forgotten to put into the picnic basket. We found an antique store with lots of interesting stuff, and several badly rebuilt pianos. We admired every toy in a nearby toystore, and looked in a few kitchen stores for a few things we were interested in finding, all while the various proprietors were standing, arms crossed, foot tapping, keys in hand, waiting for us to leave so they could have their cookies and milk, put their teeth in the glass and be in bed by 7 or so.

We liked Solvang anyway, and plan to make an early, early start some day, just to see it before the gas prices drive the whole town out of business. Sadly, we weren't there in time to eat an actual Danish made by a Danish person, but we were still too full from our pea soup binge, so it's probably just as well.

We kept moving on up the coast. We saw Hearst Castle, off in the distance, and pretty much bypassed Cambria, though that's another nice little touristy town we plan to go back to, at least to visit my dear friend May, who restores antique porcelain and gives spiritual lectures there.

We saw Elephant Seals, en masse, on the beach a little further on. Elephant Seal Beach is right off the freeway--it's like a little turnout. You stop, park, get out and are immediately besieged by masses of obese California Begging Squirrels, who come right up to you, and give you a demanding look, like a landlord the day after your rent was due, and wait impatiently for you to produce some sort of snack. We didn't give them anything, but everybody else did. I wonder if maybe California Begging Squirrels are the larval form of Elephant Seals. There sure were a lot of both there, though we found, as we moved on up the coast, that the squirrels are everywhere, obese and aggressive, and Elephant Seals seem to be quite localized and of a much more relaxed frame of mind than the C.B. Squirrel population.

I took a lot of pictures of Elephant Seals, and a few of C.B. Squirrels. They will be up and visible eventually, too. I'm still recovering from the honeymoon, so it may take me a little time to get organized and post them.

We stopped for a while in Pismo Beach to watch the sun go down. It's a wonderful little town, a beautiful little beach, and there were some surfers getting some good rides as the sun sank. We think we may have seen a sea otter, but we're not sure. It was small and seal-like, and swimming along on its back, but it was pretty distant, so we can only assume that that was what we saw.

Many, many times, during our slow progress up the coast, we would just stop somewhere to admire, breathlessly, the beauty of the coast, or the rocks, or the forest, or some individual landmark. At one point, we were so overwhelmed by the beauty and majesty that surrounded us that we had to  stop and doze off for a little half-hour nap. English is the most versatile language in the world, but we ran out of superlatives. We were literally speechless as we viewed with amazement and awe the wonder of this astonishing state we live in. And we only saw a tiny chunk of it.

When we finally found ourselves in Big Sur, we decided that we needed to find the town itself. As far as we could tell, there wasn't one. Just magnificent trees, winding roads and parklands, a nearly inaccessible beach, a post office and general store, and the Henry Miller Memorial Library.

The Henry Miller Memorial Library deserves an entire blog to itself, too, though there isn't much to it. It's a little wooden shack in the middle of the Big Sur area, right off the freeway, which goes by some local street name there. They have a little outdoor auditorium, surrounded by trees and shrubs and various interesting and/or beautiful sculptures. The Library building, the main shack, is both a library, though not the lending kind, a bookstore (and yes, we bought a book!) and a memorial, with pictures, prints, the books that most influenced Miller during his lifetime, leaflets and brochures and other various and quirky objects.

There was at least one outbuilding, which housed the bathroom and a sort of reading room. We used the bathroom and read lots of educational posters and reprinted Miller works and such while we were in there. There was a bust of Henry Miller that stood about 4 feet high, which had the spare toilet paper standing on its head. I'm sure Miller would have been pleased.

The whole time we were there, we had a sense of the hushed sacredness that you find in ancient cathedrals and other places of worship. Also, most of the time we were there, a young woman was playing a guitar on the porch, a couple with a small child were playing ping pong off to the side amongst the sculptures and shrubs, and the guy running the cash register and minding the store was playing a mandolin, only he was playing it as if it was a guitar. Hmmm. We really enjoyed the whole experience, and have determined that at some point in the future, we're both going to read some Henry Miller or Bust.

We moved on, slowly and circuitously, through what must be one of the most beautiful and majestic forests in the natural world today. I don't really remember what came next, except that we found our Motel 6 sometime soon after and felt vaguely disappointed that we had to rejoin civilization, but grateful for a place to crash and watch TV and take baths and consummate some more.

The weather this whole time was bewildering. Not only did it change from day to day, but seemingly from town to town. We were cold at Pismo Beach, hot at Morro Bay, warm in Big Sur, and freezing cold in Monterey. It kept changing back and forth. We were constantly struggling in and out of layers of clothing, and glad we'd thought to toss jackets into the car on the way out the door. We are such spoiled Southern Californians!

We kept chugging on up the coast toward Monterey, stopping whenever a whim took us, seeing loveliness and fun stuff everywhere, and having picnics in little turnouts here and there. So far, we had only eaten at a restaurant once, (pea soup!) and we were really getting a kick out of seeing the various supermarkets, grocery stores and delicatessens that we'd stop at to replenish our cooler and snack supply. We mostly drank water during the day, and stopped at rest stops and gas stations on our generally northward journey.

When we reached the city of Monterey, it wasn't very late, but we were sort of wrung out from traveling so much, so we decided to make an early night of it. We had ended up at Cannery Row and found it to be just not very interesting--no more canneries, and sort of an antiseptic little park by the bay, and we discovered that we had lost our trusty Motel 6 guide somewhere along the way.  So we wandered around looking for it, and finally gave up and called the 800 number on the receipt from the night before. The lady on the phone was very helpful and hooked us up with a perfectly lovely room and gave us very precise directions on how to get there.

We still needed stuff for dinner, so I unpacked while The Man of the House strolled out to find something to eat. He came back with a huge bag of wicked but tasty snack foods which we ate cosily in front of the TV until we fell asleep. The next day we were heading for The Pacific Point, which is the Monterey Peninsula, where you can look both east and west and see the Pacific Ocean.

It was well worth the trip. It was utterly gorgeous. Cold, so we had to put on our jackets, and extremely windy, but we got to see a seal get rescued, and somebody ran over a water fountain which made quite a geyser amongst the beautiful, craggy, huge old Monterey Pines. We looked and looked. And absorbed yet more beauty.

Then went and ate at a silly little restaurant that specialized in breakfasts and decorated with all kinds of bunnies. It was a little strange, and I felt that the waitpeople were a little disgruntled, but the food was excellent and so were our appetites.

We moved on. We reset the trip meter on the car, because this was the downhill side, and we were on our way back home at this point. He had work the next morning, so it was time to head back, and we were determined not only to do it quickly, but to enjoy every minute of it.

Which we did. We drove through more beautiful forestland, with our sweaters on, then came out into  farmland and were promptly much too hot. Off came the sweaters, and out came the water bottles. A day or two before, I had bought a ball cap to keep my hair from blowing in my face while we drove on the freeway with the windows open; it was from Morro Bay and had a picture of a scary, toothy blue fish on it. I like it a lot, but it actually helped us get our lunch. We stopped in a town near Morro Bay to get gas, and we happened to be right across the street from a pizza place that looked inviting. We had almost no cash left, but my husband is a pizza freak of no small dimensions. He was pointedly not saying anything, so I got out my trusty cell phone and called all my credit cards and found a few that would definitely be good for buying pizza.

We were going to find a park or someplace to set up the picnic, but as I said, this man LOVES pizza, and when I suggested it, his eyes lit up. It occurred to me that everybody should have their favorite thing when they're on their honeymoon. So we had pizza, and played pinball, and were very happily enjoying the moment.

When I paid for it, the kid at the counter just took a look at us, took the card, no questions asked. I inquired why he didn't want to see my picture ID or something, and he said, "It was the hat. Obviously, you're local."

We had a white pizza, just because it was something we didn't usually do. It had chicken and mushrooms and I think spinach on it. It was LOADED with toppings. We only got a medium and ended up taking a couple of pieces home in the cooler. So we continued our honeymoon the next day, having leftover pizza.

We were seriously headed for home at that point, and continued on our journey with pedal to the metal, still fielding congratulations and comments and encouragement from the populace at large. Once, outside of L.A. County someplace, a couple driving in the lane next to us got our attention and showed us THEIR new wedding rings. We showed them ours and all of us laughed and had a private moment of public friendliness.

We've been clicking our wedding rings together like Secret Decoder Rings ever since.  We  got home later that same day, collected the mail, in which there were a few small checks to keep us going, and lots of junk.

It was the Best Honeymoon Ever, and I have to recommend the Fuss-Free California Wedding Chapel in Beverly Hills.

It was all just perfect.

May 05 2008

The 106 Most-Unread Books

This is a list of the 106 Most-Unread Books from Library Thing. If you've read it, BOLD it. If you've started it but not finished it, underline it. If you have it, but haven't read it yet, italicize it.

1984


A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
Anna Karenina
Beloved
Brave New World
Crime and Punishment
Dracula

Emma
Frankenstein
Great Expectations

Gulliver’s Travels
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
Jane Eyre
Lolita
Love in the Time of Cholera
Mansfield Park
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlemarch
Moby Dick
Mrs. Dalloway
Northanger Abbey
Oliver Twist
On the Road
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Persuasion
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
The Blind Assassin
The Canterbury Tales
The Catcher in the Rye
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The God of Small Things
The Hobbit
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
The Prince
The Silmarillion
The Tale of Two Cities
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
To the Lighthouse
Treasure Island
War and Peace
Watership Down
Wuthering Heights (read it and HATED it!)
Catch-22
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Life of Pi : a novel
The Brothers Karamazov
The Iliad
Ulysses
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
A Clockwork Orange
A Confederacy of Dunces
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
A Short History of Nearly Everything
American Gods
Anansi Boys
Angels & Demons
Atlas Shrugged
Cloud Atlas
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cryptonomicon
David Copperfield
Don Quixote (in English translation AND in Spanish!)
Dubliners
Dune
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
Foucault’s Pendulum
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Gravity’s Rainbow
Inferno
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Les Misérables
Madame Bovary
Middlesex
Neverwhere
Oryx and Crake
Quicksilver
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Slaughterhouse-five
The Aeneid
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Confusion
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Fountainhead
The Grapes of Wrath
The Historian : a novel
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Kite Runner
The Mists of Avalon
The Name of the Rose
The Odyssey

The Once and Future King
The Satanic Verses
The Scarlet Letter
The Sound and the Fury
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Vanity Fair
White Teeth
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West

November 02 2007

Washing My Fruit

 
 

I assume that everyone has heard of the concept of The Hundredth Monkey, but since I have been thinking about it a lot recently, I thought I'd just jot down the outline here for future reference, and as a way to amuse myself while my tea brews.

It's an extended metaphor about how change happens. I don't remember whether I read about it somewhere, or if somebody told me the story, but it made so much sense to me, and it seemed so hopeful, that it stuck firmly in my memory and became my own. Let's see if I can make a good blog out of it.

Once upon a time, there was a troupe of 100 monkeys living on an island. They weren't any special breed or type; just basic fruit-eating monkeys. They didn't live very long, and weren't particularly smart or able monkeys, but they were adequate.

One day, while picking and eating fruit, one of the monkeys, who I'll call Ook, had just managed to pick a particularly nice piece of fruit, had a big, juicy bite of it, and slipped and dropped it in the pond under the fruit tree. Poor Ook was very hungry, as she was pregnant, and it had taken a lot of effort to get to the top of that tree where the ripest, sweetest fruit grew. Damned if she was going to give up her prize to the pond!

So, she laboriously climbed down from the tree and fished around at the edge of the water until she was able to retrieve her breakfast. She was offended by its wetness, but decided to wipe it off and eat it anyway.

And, lo and behold, it was actually pretty good. No sand to hurt her teeth, no bugs or bug eggs to upset her tummy or give her parasites, and the little bit of water left on the fruit was cool and refreshing. There and then, Ook decided to drop her fruit into the water, on purpose, forever after. Which she did.

When her baby was born, she fed him washed fruit, and when he was old enough for solid food, taught him to wash it himself when he began gathering his own. He grew up to be stronger, healthier, bigger and smarter than the rest of the monkeys his age, because of his improved food supply.

Being an altruistic sort of monkey, Ook mentioned to her friends and colleagues on the island that washing fruit was a better way to live. She pointed out the advantages of the process and gave everybody the benefit of her experience. She pointed to her strong, smart, healthy fruit-washing son as an example.

Of course, as with monkeys everywhere, there were scoffers and nay-sayers. Most of the monkeys laughed at her at first, and many scorned her as an iconoclast. What they had always done, they would always do. Change is often considered to be dangerous and unnecessary, even when there are proven benefits. Ook's personal life was brought into question, and everything about her was scrutinized and mostly disapproved.

Some of the monkeys, though, those more adventurous or curious or loyal to their friend Ook, decided to give it a try. Most of them liked the changes in their teeth and tummies right away, and stuck with the program. Some tried it once, then decided it was too much trouble and gave up on the idea. But the ones who began to wash their food regularly and began to reap the benefits, raised the percentage of Monkeys Who Wash Fruit from Ook's one percent to several.

Eventually, though, as the new generation of monkeys was born, learned to wash their fruit, enjoyed the benefits of the change, the idea began to be less strange, more familiar, and while Ook had originally been reviled as some sort of Health Nut or Diet Crazy, she was now given second looks from a lot of the monkeys who had refused even to consider her fruit-washing method at first. The percentage continued to rise.

Soon, most of the monkeys on the island were washing their fruit and living longer, healthier, better lives as a result. Some of the older monkeys, who had known Ook back when she was young and foolish, still refused to go along with the fruit-washing, and bashed the whole idea to each other. But at this point in Monkey Island history, they were now seen as the crazy outsiders.

When I was a kid, nobody ate yogurt or whole grains or recycled. Exercise was for post-partum moms and Jack LaLanne. There were lots of jokes about Health Nuts and other suspicious types.

Now, after the whole scoffing and experimentation process has occurred and run through its cycle, we eat yogurt and granola and give them to our children. We save bottles, cans and newspapers. Jack LaLanne no longer has to do extravagant stunts to get people off the couch. We value the things which formerly were considered too esoteric for normal society. The Hundredth Monkey is alive and well.

Recently, I introduced Goji Berries to my department at work. Just call me Ook.  

 

October 22 2007

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo...

1-2-3-Testing...

 

Just making sure this thing still works; I may be needing it later, depending on how much time I have at my disposal.

Mondays suck. This one sucks particularly fulsomely.

Nam myoho renge kyo.

Nam myoho renge kyo.

Nam myoho renge kyo.

My life is a bewildering set of contrasts right now: so happy in some ways, so miserable in others. If I were a sidewalk, I'd be thanking my lucky stars for the cracks.

Tuesday is just a day away.

September 13 2007

A Small Review for a Little Book

 

 

I just finished reading my first holiday-themed book of the year, and I enjoyed it. It's called, Every Person On The Planet, and it was written by a cartoonist for The New Yorker named Bruce Eric Kaplan. The book is subtitled, "an only somewhat anxiety-filled tale for the holidays".

I have to say that if it hadn't been subtitled, I would not have been able to tell that it was a holiday book, so if the holidays make you miserable, and you feel compelled to read books about them anyway, this would be a good choice. I intend to display it prominently on my coffee table on the stroke of November.

It's a very sweet little book, with lovely, spare, gently humorous illustrations on every page. It's not a knee-slapper, but it is a tongue-in-cheek, wry, droll little nudge. I read it in about an hour, during work breaks, and intend to read it again a few times before the actual annual catastrophe hits.

The story is: A couple decide to throw a party. Neither of them really likes parties, and they don't really want to do it, but for various reasons, they feel like they should. They are so ambivalent, and so indecisive about the whole thing, that they can't make up their minds who to invite and who to leave out, so they invite everybody in the whole world. They figure that not everybody will come. They figure wrong.

I've had parties like this, in the distant past, and every note strikes true. And it becomes believable as it unfolds, despite the preposterous premise. Like all good fiction, it becomes truer than true.

I'm sitting here trying to imagine the person that wouldn't like this book, and, granted, I'm not wide awake yet for the day, and I liked this simple little cartoon story so much that I'm more than a little biased, but really, you'd have to be dull or wildly fussy or extremely uptight not to get some pleasure from this. I recommend it. All possible thumbs are up.

And, no, you can't borrow my copy. Sorry.

June 26 2007

The internet is inherently dehumanizing. We sample each other like treats on a tray. “I’ll have a little of him today, maybe a taste of her… none of those others today, thanks, maybe later…” When, exactly, does that sliding CLICK take place, when a real person meets a real person, and they become friends, sight unseen, no senses involved but the interaction with a computer keyboard, mouse and monitor? What an age we live in…
 
And some of us express ourselves so poorly that our true flavor never comes through to the sampler. I contend that a person can express anything in English, anything at all, and yet, so few of us make the attempt, or craft our words in such a way as to limit ambiguity to a choice that the writer makes.
 
In some cases, our lack of education prevents us from any but the crudest forms of cut-and-paste, or poorly-spelled, ill-punctuated, unclear attempts at communication. Even these manage to “hook up” sometimes.  It’s astonishing sometimes how the barely literate manage to understand each other—anyway.
 
English is the language of growth and change. Text messaging, email and blogging are changing the way we communicate with each other. People who, a few decades ago, would have chewed off a leg rather than write a letter, are talking to friends everywhere by means of the written word, however distorted and changed from standard English.  
 
Dehumanizing it may be, but I think it’s fundamentally a good thing. People are managing to reach past this built-in distance inherent in the medium and make real connections. I certainly have done that. I met my darling Chrysler as a bunch of print and pictures on Yahoo 360 and had no idea of his physical reality until barely over a month ago. It seems miraculous to me. He’s in my life permanently, now, and sometimes we look at each other and realize, “This is the person I was writing to for all those months!” It’s a trip.
 
 I’ve “met” some of my dearest friends via this internet connection. Some, I’ve met in person, some not. There are peculiar inconsistencies even in that; for instance, one very dear friend and his lady shared one of my fruitcakes last December. I make really good fruitcakes, and they happen to like fruitcakes, so I sent them one. We had to correspond via snail-mail in order to make it all come together, but it worked and made another connection between us.
 
Friends I’ve known for years, friends I’ve met briefly, a very small number of family members, co-workers, and former co-workers keep in touch with me through email, for the most part. I’ve been slacking off horribly on keeping in touch  lately, because Chrysler and I are very absorbed in each other. We both work, he during the day, I at night, and every moment we have together face-to-face is so precious that we have trouble sharing with anybody else, and our schedules just don’t work. Plus, he’s learning his way around Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties, for fun and profit, and I’m helping.
 
I truly don’t mean to alienate anybody, but I’m afraid it’s happening, because I’m re-organizing my whole life, and it’s like having a couple of full-time jobs and a houseful of kids and incontinent pets.  I don’t get a lot of time at the computer.
 
Today is a fluke, and there are (as usual) hundreds of tasks I’m neglecting because I’m choosing to sit down and ruminate loonily about the nature of communication in this new century. I think it’s basically a good thing—communicating usually is—but there are drawbacks. Just because there was a lonely time in my life when I spent every spare moment flirting, chatting, blogging, spinning my nonsense on the computer for hours at a time, doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to do that forever, for the rest of my life; I do plan, however, to get a handle on things and start communicating more responsibly in the future. It just can’t be the same as it was before. I don’t know yet how it’s going to be.
 
I would like to say, “I’ll keep you posted,” but I don’t want to commit to anything. That would be unfair and dangerous to my integrity.
 
Thank god for the internet, with all its flaws.

March 16 2007

Nothing much to say, but lots of words bumping around anyway...

I've been spending a lot of time elsewhere lately, and enjoying it immensely. I think I may move in there; elsewhere is stocked with the best imaginable company and the effects it's had on me are amazing. I'm not going to sully my time there by satisfying the curiosity that may exist surrounding the subject, but I have been growing an arch between me and the other half of my soul. It's a very absorbing and delightful process, and is purely the 21st century version of such an enterprise.

But, as I was mentioning to someone ( ! ) earlier today, I don't let go of friends easily, and I know there are people who read this space occasionally. I'd appreciate knowing when you've been there, and what you think, by the way. I'm writing today in order to try to forestall the process of losing all my online buddies. I do care about you folks, but I can't do what I'm doing in my semi-corporeal life and keep up very well with everybody else, so I'm consciously trying to split my addled attention between you all.

Just about everybody who writes likes any kind of feedback. There's a robin in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett who exemplifies my feelings about that; the old gardener on the estate who has become friendly with the bird comments that he'd rather have rocks thrown at him than be ignored. It's a very literary sort of bird, a robin. I can relate.

I've read most of Burnett's works, as a matter of fact, and while she's purportedly a children's author, she's been dead for at least a century, and most kids nowadays would have better luck reading the stock market pages in Dutch.

I only started reading her as an adult. She also wrote Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess and several others, less well-known. There are a lot of 19th century conventions and weirdnesses in these books, but I think they really stay faithful to a certain kind of childhood; not mine, and probably not yours, but these are recognizably real people she's writing about. Some of the adults are fairly well sketched-in as characters in her book, but they are invariably the childlike ones.

It's funny, I had no idea what I was going to write about when I sat down here, and had no idea that the robin would get me started on 19th century children's books. I was just trying to generate comments, actually, to make sure I still exist to some of my quieter and more neglected friends.

Anyway, here's a big "Hello, yes, I'm alive, thanks for waiting for me! I'll tell Chrysler you said Hi!" from me to you. Thanks for reading this. All comments are appreciated.

.

Reposted byVictoriaSturgeon VictoriaSturgeon

February 21 2007

Vacation! The Beach!(Yaaay!)Cell Phone Trouble (aaargh!)

 

 

I've been on vacation this week since Friday. I haven't had a vacation in years, and I didn't really plan on taking one, but it turns out that if I didn't take it pretty soon, I would lose it and end up getting a week's pay instead. And that's no fun.

As it is, I got paid for the week AND I got to go to the beach. I had a great time with my best girlfriend, took 224 pictures, walked and walked, had a healthy picnic, and enjoyed the most perfect weather and the most beautiful day imaginable. And no sunburn!

Somebody else always drove before, too, and now I know how easy it is to just jump on the 10 freeway and go. Of course, I had to complicate things and go on 3 different freeways, but I was tired on the way home and just stuck with the 10. Even the driving was fun. I love to drive.

Since I work nights, sleeping in was not a factor, but just getting to be vague and wander around in my underwear in the evening was relaxing. I'm doing spring cleaning and going to my exercise classes and continuing to lose weight.

But my stupid cell phone died. I have a contract that gives me a free new phone every two years, and I'm supposed to get a new one at the end of March. So guess what: starting yesterday or so, it doesn't ring or show in any way that I'm getting a call. It indicates that there's voice mail, whether there is any or not, but it does accept voice mail, so I'm checking it obsessively, in case I hear from somebody. But the voice mails are showing up late; it's very slow.

And it's odd, I am not by any stretch of the imagination a Phone person. I don't like talking on the phone. I always have my phone with me, and it's always on, because there are a few people in my life who rely on me to be there on a 24-hour call, but mostly, it's a convenience for my friends and family, not for me.

But not having it is making me crazy as a bedbug. It's just as well I'm on vacation, because the phone has to be off when I'm at work, and while that doesn't bother me when it's functional, it ties me in knots right now when I know there's something wrong with it.

So today, after I exercise, I'm going to the phone store and trying to get them to cut me some slack--about a month's worth. They owe it to me. I'm a really, really good customer. I'm putting their kids through college. I pay for 4 cell phone accounts, plus the landline. The red carpet had better be poised for rolling as we speak...

Don't leave a comment telling me to take the battery out or to reset it to the factory settings. I did all that. I called the phone people and spent a very long time doing all sorts of phone tricks yesterday. Today, it's a new day and heads are gonna roll.

Don't call me, I'll call you. Or actually, call me. Leave a voice mail. It would be a relief.

February 14 2007

Short Prayer

Dear Lord,

Bump me, nudge me, push me, guide me, knock me sprawling headlong into the path of your will, because otherwise I probably won't get it.

You must love stupid people, Lord, because you sure made a lot of us.

Amen

February 03 2007

More weirdness

I've been sad and exhausted and alienated from humanity lately, so I'm making this feeble stab at re-connecting.

To begin with, I have to apologize to every dear friend and positive acquaintance for neglecting you. I do think about you all and care what happens to you, but I'm like a kite with a broken string lately, and I'm looking around for the telephone wires. I assume that I'll land somewhere eventually.

That time I wrote about the preset number of weird things about me has been rattling around between the holes in my head lately, and I thought maybe I could add to it. My belief about that is that everybody is about equally weird, depending on context; I just haven't found the context yet where my weirdnessess are the norm. So here are a few minor oddities that are perfectly normal in some places, to be named--and discovered--at a later date.

One of the things I do when I feel stressed and frantic is join book clubs. It's better than substance abuse in some respects, but in other ways, it IS substance abuse. I believe, at this point, that I belong to 10. Yes, I order books from all of them. I have had  to or they get very pissy about it and force unwanted selections on me.

I also go to bookstores and know where they all are within at least a 30-mile radius, and have a "rewards" card for one of the big chain ones. I've been known to travel 30 miles to go to a particular bookstore just because I like it and they make me comfortable there, even though I can get all the same books online or at other stores. I don't care. Vroman's in Pasadena is a meal in itself.

I also go to the library and stagger out with all the books I can legally hold whenever I go. I don't always read all of them, but it relieves my feelings somewhat just to have library books around. I'm not just a bibliophile; I'm a biblioholic. But I'm not even thinking about quitting or cutting back. You are welcome to send me literature about it...

Next weirdness: I'm an extremely good hypnotic subject. If I agree to be hypnotized, I can go under into a deep trance state in less than 30 seconds. There are very good reasons for this, which  I won't go into here. But it's a fact. Sometimes if I can't sleep, I self-hypnotize and trance out for a while, and it's nearly as restful. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis, by the way. The key here is that I have to agree to it, so don't be randomly swinging your pocketwatch in my face or I'll take it away from you.

Lastly, I know how to fly a plane. I have never landed one on my own, but I can get it into the air and keep it there, no problem. I've known how since I was a teenager. I don't have a pilot's license, and I don't really want one. I'm not fond of flying or of airplanes, particularly. I adore driving, but flying is a little too unreal for me to enjoy it much. I'd rather sit in the copilot seat and take pictures.

I had flying lessons for a long time and never landed the thing because the instructor wisely intuited that I didn't give a shit what happened and couldn't care less about him, the plane, or flying in general. I know how to do it in theory, but that's a lot different than actually going into a controlled stall and feeling for the moment you have to grab hold and drop the bird on the ground. It helps if you care.

So, there you have it. More weirdness and a tenuous connection

January 14 2007

Religion and Spirituality

 

That is an intentionally off-putting title. Be warned, that is exactly what this blog is concerned with. Some people, like me, find this kind of thing entertaining. If you do not, don't bother with it. I won't be offended.

Somebody asked me recently if I was religious, and I told her, "No, but I am very spiritual." She was confused and asked me what the difference was, and I was startled and gave her some facile answer. She deserved better than that, but it was the last fifteen minutes before the shift ended, and we were both in a hurry.

Quick and Easy Comparison: Religion is a system by which people regulate their beliefs and spiritual practices. Spirituality is what your spirit or soul does, like your brain does thinking and your body does physical activity. There are practices and beliefs that use and enhance spirituality, such as prayer, meditation, a sense of wonder, a belief in a power greater than oneself, and worship.

With religion, if you follow all the rules of one particular set of practices, you don't really have to have spirituality. Sociopaths often belong to a church, for instance, and become respected members of a congregation, without actually having access to their own spirituality. It furthers their ends to appear to be spiritual by adhering to the local status quo.

I've participated in religions for a large part of my life. I've found over the last few years that religion doesn't work for me, unless I've made myself into a one-person religion.

I was brought up in a family where it was required that every family member go to church every Sunday. My parents were both raised in the Christian religion, though I believe they belonged to different "faiths," growing up. We moved every year or two when I was a kid, but we always joined the local Episcopalian church. They believe in infant baptism, but I was not baptized until I was seven years old. I don't know why.

I was "confirmed" when I was ten or eleven years old. Confirmation, at least in Episcopalianism, involves memorizing a lot of prayers, and knowing the answers to a lot of questions about what the sect believes. I did it, but even then, I didn't believe a lot of it. It was not something I had a choice about.

So, having been required to join and attend the church of my family's choice, I did the only logical thing for me to do: I joined the choir. Even as a child, singing was very important to me, and while most of the Episcopalian hymns really suck, singing just about anything does open up my spiritual sense.

Singing is not always a spiritual practice for me, but sometimes it is. When an activity causes a person to transcend the physical and mental, then it's a safe bet that it's spiritual. I can become very emotional about music. I have to be careful not to get too involved in what the radio is doing when I'm driving, for instance.

When I went to college, I started experimenting around with other faiths, such as the Baptists, the Catholics, the Presbyterians, and with other religions. I fell in love with a Jewish guy and underwent about ninety percent of the process of conversion to Judaism. When we broke up, that ended, and while it's an interesting and beautiful religion, it's not any more for me than Christianity is.

I took a course in comparative religions, and while I was a terrible student in most of my classes and only read the assignments years later in some cases, I followed this one pretty closely.

It occurred to me back then that Christianity, Judaism and Islam are actually the same religion, only with different foci. Jews and Catholics are more similar than Quakers and Catholics, for instance.

I experimented with being a Buddhist, though Buddhism was not originally intended to be a religion. I learned a lot about meditation and yoga as a physical means of reaching the spiritual.

Then, for many years, my spirituality shut down, and I lived as Nothing. Not as a spiritual being, not as an atheist or an agnostic: Nothing. I was spiritually off-balance for a long time, and only began to reconnect with a higher power after I got into some trouble and my daughter was born too early.

And even then, my spirituality was rudimentary at best. I can intellectualize anything, and I do it all the time; it's what comes naturally to me. I'm doing it right now. I was wrapped up in physicality for many years, then lost it, to a certain extent, during my long recovery from abuse issues. Substance abuse shuts down spirituality, and child and spousal abuse abrogate it as well. Incidentally, an old-fashioned term for child abuse is "soul-murder," and I think it's apt.

After dealing with my daughter's early birth, my husband and I decided to join a Lutheran church. He had been brought up in that faith, and we felt that it was the right thing to do, as new parents. After all, we had both been raised as church members, so there must be something in it.

We started going to the Lutheran church. It was a nice church, and the people were kind and friendly. I joined the choir. We went every Sunday, and had my daughter baptized on her first birthday. And then I started paying attention to what they were saying and doing. And didn't want any part of it. And didn't want my daughter contaminated by it.

When people hear the same stuff, over and over, from early childhood through their adult years, they stop hearing the meaning and the nuances of it. I had been away from religion for years, and as a 30-year-old recovering drunk, druggie and abuse survivor, I was noticing all the sexism and threatening talk and evil garbage that comes attached to Christian spiritual practice.

For example, one of the reasons that I am not and never will be a Christian is that I refuse to profit from a death by torture. And I don't believe in Original Sin; what a daft concept! I think the idea of "salvation" is both irrelevant and silly. I do believe in some form of reincarnation, but I think it's also irrelevant. I mean, what possible help or harm could it be, since, really, all we have is this precise exact moment?

Sorry if I'm offending any Christians reading this, but I can only speak for myself and how I see things. I will read your blog with an open mind, if you should choose to rebut mine. I don't think you'll be able to convince me, but I'm willing to let you try.

So, I became a pagan. I suppose in some ways I still am one. A pagan, strictly speaking, is just someone who believes in "country" lore, and I do that. I watch and appreciate the weather, I treat minor ailments with herbs and massage and other non-invasive means, and the deity I talk to is male, female and genderless. I read tarot cards with an extremely high success rate. I believe that there are lots of aspects to life on earth that are unexplained and unquantified by science, and may be unreachable by scientific practice.

But I'm not a Pagan with a capital "P" as that makes it into a religion, where you have to believe certain things and perform certain practices. I have done spells in the past, and they work, just like prayer works. I don't do them any more, though, because I think it's unnecessary, and even a little rude.

I mean, the character who is running things, the one who connects us all and sees the big picture, IS the big picture, already has it covered. Me messing with it doesn't do any harm, but it is a little like a child "helping" Mom make dinner and then leaving a huge mess for her to deal with. Mom can handle it, but it's just so unnecessary. She puts up with it so the child can learn.

For me, anyway, it's better to just wait and see what happens and not be too concerned for the outcome: I try to just go with the flow and find ways to cope with it after the fact. The trick to it is having faith that it's all going to turn out okay in the long run. I know, it's not much of a philosophy, but it works for me.

There's a pretty cool website called, "Beliefnet" that has a test where you can check what religion matches up with your personal beliefs the best. Here's the URL, in case you'd like to play with it: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/76/story_7665_1.html?WT.mc_id=NL54
I am apparently a very good match for the Quakers. But I'm told that in practice, they aren't the pure Freethinkers they're cracked up to be. I only know this by hearsay, though. I've heard that they tend to be very self-righteous and judgmental. I hope I've been misinformed. But any religious faith that has a set meeting time and place isn't going to work for me.

I do my spiritual practice everywhere, at any time. Mostly, I pray and try to stay open to the Universe. Sometimes I get very clear answers. Actually, I suspect that the "answers" are always there, all the time, but that I have to be in a receptive frame of mind, or I have to be holding my mouth right or something. I'm not sure how it works.

But when I connect with it, it's wordless, overwhelming, and all-encompassing. It makes me shake and grin and go all teary. It's hard to describe! There's no mistaking the meaning or the intent, but it's so big, it's like it takes over my whole body and mind and whatever else I have. When I try and think about it later, words get in the way and warp the meaning. But it's all I have to work with.

I know that any verbal interpretation I come up with is going to be missing something—almost everything, actually. So I try to bypass the words and go for that overwhelming Presence as often as I can. I don't think I can get so used to it that it won't knock my socks off every time. I understand why religious texts are so confusing and contradictory and weird. This stuff is not made for words. And that takes a lot for me to admit, as language is my very favorite tool. I've often said that there's nothing you can't say in English. This is the exception.

And it loves us and everything we do is okay. Free will is really real. There is no hell. Whatever there is after death, it isn't punishment. There are no pop quizzes on the catechism. Looking within for the right and wrong of things and making choices based on the response of my best self is the best I can do. And prayer and meditation help me do that.

It really will all work out okay in the end.

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January 11 2007

200 Questions: An Exercise in Procrastination

I filled out a silly survey on MySpace, and it took so much effort, I decided to have it bronzed. 

Enjoy. I'd love to see what other people have to say about themselves in this context. Let me know if you did it too. I already know about you, Katie; you are where I got it. Thank you. 

200. Your middle name:
GERTRUDE

199. You were born on:
DECEMBER 11, EXACTLY 2 WKS. BEFORE XMAS

198. I am a/an:
ECLECTIC

197. My cell phone company:
VERIZON

196. My eye color is:
DARK CHOCOLATE BROWN

195. My shoe size is:
IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE; LOSING WEIGHT MEANS NOTHING EVER FITS RIGHT. CURRENTLY 7 1/2 TO 8 DEPENDING ON BRAND.

194. My ring size is:
SEE ABOVE; WAS 11, IS NOW 7. TIME FOR VEGAS.

193. My height is:
5'6"

192. I am allergic to:
A LOT OF DIFFERENT METALS

191. I was born in:
OHIO, OR SO THEY TELL ME. I DON'T REMEMBER.

190. I live in:
THE BUTTCRACK BETWEEN LOS ANGELES AND SAN BERNARDINO COUNTIES

189. The last book I read:
WINTERSMITH BY TERRY PRATCHETT

188. My bed is:
MADE

187. One thing I know for sure about the opposite sex:
I LOVE THAT DOOHICKEY THEY HAVE. I WANT ONE JUST FOR CAMPING.

186. I am glad I'm my sex because:
OF THE BIG "O" AND "O" AND "O" AND "O" AD INFINITUM...

183. Who is the first person who told you they love you?
PROBABLY SOME HAPLESS VIRGIN IN COLLEGE

182. What is your favorite color?
CHANGEABLE; IT GOES FROM PURPLE TO GREEN TO RED ON DIFFERENT DAYS, NO WAY TO PREDICT IT

181. At this exact moment...what is annoying you?
ALL THE STUFF I SHOULD BE DOING RIGHT NOW...INSTEAD OF THIS

180. What was the last thing you ate?
A WHOLE WHEAT ARTIFICIAL BAGEL SUBSTITUTE.

179. My favorite Holiday is:
IT CHANGES. I LOVE GROUNDHOG DAY, WHICH IS COMING SOON.

178. The perfect kiss is:
LONG, SLOW, PASSIONATE, WITH MOANING, WITH SOMEBODY I CARE ABOUT. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

177. The last three cds I bought are:
FOR XMAS GIFTS FOR FRIENDS.

176. Last song that made me cry was:
SOME WHINY WILLIE NELSON SONG I HEARD FOR THE FIRST TIME YESTERDAY

172. My most treasured possession(s) is(are):
MY BRAIN CELLS

170. What did you do last night:
WORKED LIKE A DOG, CAME HOME AND CHECKED EMAIL, WENT TO BED AND PLAYED WITH MY MOON PHASE TOY, SLEPT SOME

167. My skin's reaction to the sun is (tan/burn):
A CRAPSHOOT. USUALLY I BURN, BUT SOMETIMES, UNACCOUNTABLY, I DON'T. SOMETIMES I TAN, SOMETIMES NOTHING HAPPENS AT ALL. I STAY OUT OF THE SUN MOSTLY

:::::I Do (YES)/Do Not (NO) Believe In:::::

143. Santa?
SURE. WHY NOT?

142. Love at first sight?
IT USED TO BE AN UNQUALIFIED, "NO, OF COURSE NOT!" BUT WITH THE ADVENT OF EMAIL, THE JURY'S STILL OUT ON THAT ONE.

141. Do you believe in luck?
I DO, BUT I'M NOT SURE I UNDERSTAND WHAT RUNS IT.

140. Fate?
I THINK IT EXISTS, BUT I THINK IT'S MORE MUTABLE THAN WE REALIZE. I THINK WE WANT IT TO BE SIMPLE, BUT IT JUST ISN'T. SO, DEPENDING ON YOUR DEFINITION, AND THE NARROWNESS OF THE REQUIRED RESPONSE, YES AND NO.

139. Big Foot?
YES. I WANT SO BADLY FOR THERE TO BE YETI OUT THERE THAT I WOULD MAKE THEM UP IF I HAD TO.

138.. Aliens?
THERE WOULD HAVE TO BE.

137. Heaven?
YES, BUT I THINK IT'S JUST PART OF WHAT THERE IS. I DON'T THINK IT'S THE ONLY RESPONSE TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT REQUIRE IT. SEE 'FATE' ABOVE. THIS SHIT IS NOT FACILE.

136. Hell?
I LIVED THERE ONCE.

135. Ghosts?
YES, BUT IT'S NOT A MATTER OF BELIEF, UNLESS IT'S ABOUT TRUSTING MY SENSES.

133. Soulmates?
YES. BUT I THINK IT'S DIFFERENT THAN WE EXPECT.

:::::Which is Better?:::::

129. Hugs or Kisses?
THAT'S STUPID. BOTH, OF COURSE. IT'S NOT A REASONABLE CHOICE.

127. Phone or Online:
ONLINE.

126.. Red heads or Black hair:
WHO CARES ABOUT THIS KIND OF THING? IT DEPENDS ON WHETHER IT'S STUCK IN THE DRAIN OR ON A FRIEND OR AN ENEMY, DOESN'T IT? IT'S JUST HAIR.

125. blondes or brunettes
SEE ABOVE.

124. Hot or cold
PROBABLY COLD. BECAUSE YOU CAN PUT ON A SWEATER WITHOUT ENDANGERING THE OZONE LAYER.

123. Summer or winter:
WINTER HAS MORE DAYS OFF.

122. Coffee or tea:
TEA! TEA! TEA!

121. Chocolate or vanilla:
Context, man, context! <--excellent response.( NOT ORIGINAL WITH ME, BUT I CONCUR.)

120. Night or Day:
NIGHT.

119. Oranges or Apples
DEPENDING ON THE VARIETY, APPLES, UNLESS WE'RE TALKING MINEOLA TANGELOS OR CUMQUATS. YES, YOU HEARD ME.

118. Curly or Straight hair:
CONTEXTUAL QUESTION AGAIN. WHAT IS IT WITH YOU?

:::::Here's What I Think About:::::

116. Abortion:
IT SUCKS, BUT UNTIL ALL CHILDBIRTH AND CHILD-REARING IS HONORED AND VALUED, IT'S NECESSARY. SAD BUT TRUE.

115. Backstabbers:
NEED GENTLE, FIRM, REPEATED FACE-TO-FACE CONFRONTATION UNTIL THEY LEARN TO GET WHAT THEY WANT BY MORE RESPECTABLE MEANS.

::::Last time I:::

103. Kissed someone:
LAST WEEK, AND IT WAS WONDERFUL

102. Last time I hugged someone:
LAST WEEK, AND IT WAS WONDERFUL

101. Saw someone I haven't seen in a while?
LAST SUNDAY, WHAT A TRIP!

100. Cried in front of someone:
LONG TIME AGO, DON'T REMEMBER THAT KIND OF THING EASILY.

::::MISC::::

90. Who is the ditzest person you know
ME. BUT IT'S VERY ENDEARING.

89. Who makes you laugh the most:
MY SILLY DAUGHTER

87. One thing I'm mad about right now is:
PEOPLE BEING DEHUMANIZED FOR THE SAKE OF A JOB.

83. The last movie I saw in the theater was:
AS GOOD AS IT GETS

82. The thing I don't understand is:
HOW TO NARROW IT DOWN TO ONE THING.

80. The most unsatisfactory answer I've ever received is:
SILENCE

76. This summer I am:
HOPING THE EARTH IS STILL HERE AND I'M STILL ON IT. I CAN'T PLAN THAT FAR AHEAD. I'M CONSTITUTIONALLY INCAPABLE OF IT.

75. Something I will really miss when I leave home is:
HOME? ARE WE TALKING ABOUT MY ROOM? OR POMONA? OR CALIFORNIA? OR THE UNITED STATES? WHAT HOME? IF IT'S MY ROOM I'M LEAVING, I WILL MISS MY CATS.

74. The thing that I'm looking forward to the most:
NOT SOMETHING I CHOOSE TO SHARE AS IT INVOLVES SOMEONE ELSE WHOSE PRIVACY MATTERS TO ME.

73. Tomorrow:
FRIDAY!

72. Tonight:
ESCAPING FROM WORK AGAIN!

67. People call me:
URSULA OR URS, AT LEAST TO MY FACE. ONE PERSON CALLS ME MOMBAT.  

62. The person who knows the most about me is:
ME.

61. The person that can read me the best is:
I DOUBT IF ANYBODY IS THAT INTERESTED. ANY VOLUNTEERS? KNOW ANY BRAILLE?

60. The most difficult/easiest thing to do is:
DIFFICULT: STOPPING MYSELF FROM BEING AN IDIOT AHEAD OF TIME. EASY: NOTICE AND EXTRAPOLATE THINGS ABOUT PEOPLE.

59. I have gotten a speeding ticket:
NOT SO FAR. I'VE BEEN LUCKY.

55. The first person I thought I was really in love with was:
ED SULLIVAN. HE DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT IT, THOUGH.

53. The one person who can't hide things from me:
CHUMLEY

48. I have/will get a job:
MORE ON THAT LATER.

47. I have pets:
LIKE OTHER PEOPLE HAVE COCKROACHES. I'M CURRENTLY IN LEAGUE WITH THE EVIL ONE BECAUSE I RAN THE VACUUM ON THEIR PRIVATE PROPERTY.

46. I hope:
EVERY DAY. IT KEEPS ME GOING.

45. The worst sound in the world:
A CHILD CRYING IN PAIN AND FEAR.

44. The person that makes me cry the most is:
MIKE, BUT THAT PROBABLY WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN BECAUSE I WILL PUNCH HIM IN THE NOSE INSTEAD, FEEL TERRIBLE, MAKE UP AND BE FRIENDS AGAIN.

39. My girlfriend:
WHICH ONE? I HAVE SOME TOTALLY COOL ONES.

35. Florida or Hawaii:
HAWAII, THOUGH I'VE NEVER BEEN TO EITHER, AND I HAVE A BUNCH OF FRIENDS IN FLORIDA. HAWAII JUST SEEMS MORE EXOTIC TO ME.

33. My favorite piece of clothing:
ANYTHING THAT FITS RIGHT AND LOOKS GOOD ON ME. I CAN'T AFFORD TO HAVE FAVORITES RIGHT NOW.

32. My favorite sport is:
IS IT A SPORT WHEN YOU SHOOT POOL? IF NOT, THEN I GUESS PING-PONG.

31. Last time I cried:
DON'T REMEMBER.

28. The school I go to is:
THE SCHOOL OF REAL LIFE. VERY HARD, PASS/FAIL ONLY.

27. Last person I got mad at:
MY ROOMMATE.

26. My worst drinking experience was:
WHEN I DROPPED ACID, DRANK CHEAP WINE AND THOUGHT I WAS DYING BACK WHEN I WAS 22 OR SO. YES, IN THE DAYS OF THE DINOSAURS WE HAD CHEAP WINE AND LSD.

22. The all-time best movie is:
I LOVE MOVIES. THE BEST ONE? HOW COULD ANYBODY IN THEIR RIGHT MIND CHOOSE JUST ONE? IF I LIST ALL THE BEST MOVIES, MYSPACE WILL CHOKE ON IT.

20. The all-time best thing in the world is:
WHO SITS AROUND DREAMING THIS SHIT UP? JUST FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, I'LL SAY, "GOOD SEX," WITH THE PROVISO THAT THAT'S NOT ALL THERE IS OF BEST THINGS IN LIFE. JUST A CURRENT FAVORITE.

19. The most annoying thing ever is:
BEING MISUNDERSTOOD AND NOT GETTING A CHANCE TO EXPLAIN.

HOW YOU FEEL....

18. The most annoying person you know is:
YOU ALL CAN TAKE TURNS.

17. I lose all respect for people who:
LIE, CHEAT, STEAL BLATANTLY, THEN EXPECT ME TO FALL FOR THE COVER STORY AND GO ALONG WITH IT. BE WARNED, I WILL NOT PUT UP WITH THAT SHIT FOREVER.

16. The movies I have cried at are:
I WOULD NORMALLY SAY THAT MOVIES DON'T MAKE ME CRY, BUT I CRY EVERY TIME I WATCH "THE IRON GIANT," WHICH IS ONE OF THOSE BEST EVER CATEGORY ONES. IF YOU'VE SEEN IT, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. IF NOT, COME ON OVER AND I'LL MAKE POPCORN.

13. Favorite web site:
GEEZ, I DON'T KNOW. I MAY NOT HAVE FOUND IT YET.

12. I want to be:
BETTER EVERY DAY.

11. The worst pain I was ever in was:
TOO PRIVATE AND SCARY TO SHARE RANDOMLY LIKE THIS.

10. My favorite phrase is:
WIERDER THAN SNAKE SHOES

9. My room is:
GETTING THERE. A WORK IN PROGRESS

8. My favorite celebrity is:
I DON'T THINK I HAVE ONE. THEY'RE KIND OF IRRELEVANT.

6. My strengths are:
MY COMPASSION, UNDERSTANDING, WILLINGNESS TO FORGIVE, WILLINGNESS TO HELP, ABILITY TO KNOW A LOT ABOUT A PERSON AND NOT BE JUDGEMENTAL ABOUT WHAT I KNOW. PURE PUPPYISH FRIENDLINESS. MY LANGUAGE SKILLS.

5. My weakness is:
I CAN SEE BOTH SIDES TOO EASILY.

4. What turns me off is:
HEARTLESSNESS.

3. Last person who broke your heart:
WILL NEVER GET THE CHANCE AGAIN AND MAY BE SORRY ABOUT IT SOME DAY.

2. I filled out 200 questions because:
KATIE DID. IT'S ALL HER FAULT.

1. What do you regret?
I DON'T WANT TO SHARE THAT. BESIDES, EVERYTHING I DO AND EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO ME MAKES ME A MORE COMPLEX PERSON AND CONTRIBUTES TO WHO I AM AND WHERE I AM TODAY. SO IF I REGRET ANYTHING, I SHOULD PROBABLY TRY TO JUST GET OVER IT AND MOVE ON.


.

December 26 2006

The Story of My Fat

This is going to be a long one, so if you have anything else you have to do, or anywhere you need to go, better go take care of it now.

I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a while. Fat is such an issue, even with people who don’t have a personal problem with excess adipose tissue. Everybody with issues of body weight has a story: how I got that way, why it’s still there, why it’s gone, what the hell happened to the slim girlish figure I’ve kept hidden for so long. So here it is.

I started being fat long before my mom was even pregnant with me. Three of my four grandparents were morbidly obese. Not only is there a pretty potent fat gene in my family, but we love fatty, high-carb foods. My family recipes contain things like suet and butter and cheese, and we always drank whole milk, the whole family.

We’re mostly Welsh, English and Scottish, with a dash of Rom (gypsy) and always from the poor, starving classes. Some of them were on the Mayflower, which means our country of origin was too hot to handle for some reason. People mostly don’t risk lingering death on strange continents if everything is hunky-dory at home. Believe it or not, being from a family which has starved for more than one generation sets up succeeding generations for excess weight gain. Famine encourages the body to clutch at every calorie it can get and never let go without a major struggle. Incidentally, that’s why crash diets don’t work.

So, my family is fat. Their families were fat. I was set up to be fat, and though I didn’t put on weight as a child and a teenager, I started to fulfill the family promise in my late twenties. It escalated when I became pregnant with my daughter.

But I need to back up a little. There’s more to me than heredity. My fat has added dimensions. (yes, that’s a pun.)

Back in the fifties, when Mom was starting her family, doctors were in some ways even worse than they are now. They were Improving on Nature with strict diets for pregnant women, among other things. My mom, silly girl, kept gaining weight, so they put her on speed to kill her appetite and keep her thin and cute and energetic. This was not uncommon. The doctor insisted that she gain no more than 10 pounds during each of her pregnancies. She failed, but she tried very hard to comply.

I remember blowing out the match when she lit a cigarette, while she was pregnant with my younger sister. The doctor had taken her off the diet pills by that time and suggested she deal with the cravings and the shakes by smoking a few cigarettes a day. My guess is that my sensitivity to various aldehydes as well as my overly ample waistline are, in part, due to that doctor’s monkeying with my mom’s metabolism while she was pregnant with me. Plus, smoking seemed like a really good idea to me at a very young age.

Even then, the doctors did not lay off. After Mom had her baby, the doctor told her to put the baby on a strict feeding schedule. None of that primitive breast milk for her babies, either! Of course the doctors could do better than that! Human milk isn’t high enough in protein or fat to grow prize-winning babies as quickly as possible! So, after 4 hours, one or two of which had been spent listening to a hungry baby crying hysterically, my mom was allowed to plug in a bottle of Extra Nutritious Formula and take a little rest in between postpartum exercises and more strict dieting.

The doctor also told her to ignore the baby’s crying so she wouldn’t become “spoiled.” I didn’t know until I was twelve and my little brother was born how agonizing that directive was for my mom. As a baby, all I knew was that the only reliable comfort I could have was a bottle of high-fat, high-sugar formula. I was a formula junkie as an infant.

Eventually the doctor told my mom to take even that away from me, but by then it was too late; we grow all our fat cells very early in life, and I was a seriously obese infant. The combination of starvation and overabundant calories from fat in infancy set me up for a lifetime of weight struggles.

Oddly, though, once I grew from infancy to childhood, I was painfully thin. There were things going on in my life as a child that kept me sick and fearful, and the neglect and abuse I suffered apparently kept me thin as well. I missed a lot of meals as a child. We were not poor. We had plenty of food and money and shelter, but food was used as both a reward and a punishment when I was a kid. Food took on an inflated significance when I was young and knew nothing about any of this.

I gained a little weight when I went to college, but I didn’t automatically know how to eat in a healthy way just because I was suddenly in charge of my own eating habits. I finally gained enough weight to be in the normal range, and no longer looked like a concentration camp survivor.

I started smoking cigarettes to deal with my nerves, and soon escalated my dosage to as many as I could afford or bum throughout the day. They cost fifty cents a day back then, and I had trouble coming up with the dollar or two that I needed. I smoked roughly 2 ½ to 3 packs a day when I could get them. This has a profound effect on a person’s metabolism, but more on that later.

When I met the man I would eventually marry, I was looking pretty good. Crazy as a bedbug, and addicted to various substances, and a cowardly, deceitful addict, still, I was pretty damn cute. The packaging does not always illustrate the wholesomeness of the contents.

When we married, I didn’t know how to cook. I had no idea what constituted a healthy meal. I had an old Woman’s Day cookbook from the 30s from which I learned to make all kinds of bizarre foods.

We had an income of $200 a month at the time, and, coincidentally, the rent for our first apartment was $200, so mostly we ate flat things that fit under our clothes from the supermarket, or we got produce from people with overabundant gardens, or our parents would send us care packages.

We had many meals that consisted of boxed macaroni and cheese and corn on the cob and Kool-Ade. We discovered later on that you could buy a 25-pound bag of flour pretty cheaply and steal enough yeast to make bread, so I learned to make bread and we lived on that and the flattest of steaks for a while. I was slowly gaining weight, but not in any alarming way. I think the smoking and the dope and booze helped keep it in check.

The first years of our marriage were spent in a rural college town in the hills in Pennsylvania. For most of that time, we didn’t have a functioning car, and I had places to go and things to do from one end of town to the other, so I walked and ran for hours every day. I got plenty of exercise without even thinking about it. I had been in a very bad car accident as a teenager, so I was a little phobic about cars anyway, and didn’t have a driver’s license, so I was relying on getting myself around on foot or hitch-hiking, which burns more calories than you’d think. It probably wasn’t safe to be doing that, even back in the 70s, but that was what I did.

Then, in 1978, we fulfilled one of my then-husband’s dreams: we got an MG. It had a convertible top with one of those vinyl back windows in it. He adored that car. He got a job working as a dental technician in a town 15 miles away or so, and he would just burn up the road going to and from it. He hated the job, but having his dear little sports car was some compensation.

Until winter came, of course.

It’s not fun to have to dig your car out of a snowdrift in the early morning before the sun comes up. It’s not really a laugh riot at any time of day, but it’s especially bitter early in the morning on the way to a bad job with an unsympathetic boss. And hurrying this kind of thing can have disastrous consequences.

We were out there one December morning, digging and cussing and freezing, and finally got the car free enough to move, but the windshield and all the windows had frozen snow on them and needed scraping.

We scraped. It was 34 degrees below zero that morning, and the wind-chill factor was making grown men whimper and whine, and we had to be at work within a rapidly decreasing time-frame. All the windows were done except the back one, the vinyl one.

You may not realize that vinyl can freeze. This was frozen solid and was rigid, so you’d think scraping it would be a piece of cake. In this case, several small servings of cake: it shattered. That was the day we decided, “Fuck This, WE’RE MOVING TO CALIFORNIA!”

I don’t know this for sure, and haven’t read anything about it, but I think extremely cold temperatures tend to make people burn more calories. I know that when I sleep with someone, I give off enough heat that we don’t need the heat on, ever, though as I’ve begun losing weight, I’m not such a pot-bellied stove as I was, in more ways than one. Anyway, living in the wilds of Pennsylvania may have had some effect on my relative slimness. I was burning enough calories to keep me and my husband warm, and I was getting a lot of exercise, so I didn’t start to really lay on the avoirdupois till we moved to California.

We moved in December 1979. We sold, gave away, or stored all our stuff, loaded up the Ford Econoline with a few books, a family size mess kit, a few clothes and our three cats, and took off. We had friends who had made the move a year or so previously, and they found us a cheap little upstairs apartment in Silverlake, so we had the advantage of someplace to go when we got there. We had a mattress from an old sleeper sofa and the box we had had on top of the van to carry some of our stuff, and that was it for furniture at first.

I had never lived anywhere but small towns and the country before. I didn’t know you couldn’t walk everywhere. I didn’t know about opening the door to strangers. I was completely clueless about things I needed to know to stay safe and sane in the city. I started working as a temp, taking the bus everywhere, which was also completely new to me. Eventually, so many things happened to me, or almost happened to me, that I stopped going out by myself. It was more like moving to a different planet for me than to a different state. I started getting a great deal less exercise than I had always had.

And then, my dear friend May decided that we were going to quit smoking. We enrolled together in an American Cancer Society quitting smoking class at Hollywood High School. I quit successfully, at least for a while. She did not.

What I didn’t realize until much later was that smoking had been my way of keeping myself grounded. I had some pretty severe emotional issues that I simply couldn’t face at that time, along with everything else I was trying to cope with. My husband had grown up in and around Philadelphia, so he knew how to handle the city. It wasn’t something he could teach me, though, apparently, so I was getting more and more fearful and paranoid and alienated. Quitting smoking was good for a lot of my health, but my mental health had been depending on it, unbeknownst to me.

I had a nervous breakdown in 1981 and was hospitalized for 3 weeks. I hadn’t realized that I was about 20 pounds overweight at that time, so the staff at the hospital put me on a diet and exercise program.

The weight gain had begun, and I hadn’t even been aware of it! Quitting smoking had not only thrown my metabolism for a loop, it also made me desperate to put things into my mouth. Smoking had been one of my very few “comfort habits,” too, and I didn’t have it any more.

And suddenly food started tasting good, and I had a huge appetite, besides the hunger that comes from loneliness, emptiness and fear. I couldn’t seem to control my eating, and I felt doomed to either gain more weight or go completely out of my mind.

I did manage not to smoke for a number of years. I quit drugs and drinking, too, at least temporarily. They frown on all that in mental hospitals, and it was getting in the way of working on my emotional problems. I got some therapy and lost a little weight and started feeling more stable than I had for a long time.

Then, I got pregnant. My hunger up until then had been relatively insignificant. I became utterly voracious. I was bursting with health and hormones, and soon I was bursting out of my clothes. My husband and I weren’t getting along very well, and I lost my job. We lived in Topanga, where there aren’t any sidewalks, in the only apartment house in that whole area. It was a long and complicated drive to anywhere, and I was completely isolated most of the time, except when my husband came home and yelled at me for a few hours, then went to bed. I spent a lot of time making friends with the refrigerator, and since my husband did most of the shopping, and he didn’t like fruits and vegetables, we were back on the homemade bread and steak diet. Fortunately, I was taking some pretty hefty vitamins—probably too many of them, as it turns out, but I think it was overall a good thing.

When I was pregnant and alone all the time is when I started reading about nutrition. My sister-in-law would send us Prevention magazine, and I would actually read it. I’ll read just about anything that’s in reach. I always did, and I still do, though I’ve only recently reconnected with the health-related stuff. I would get my husband to drive me to the library for books on nutrition and raising healthy kids, and I would order them from my book clubs, and I immersed myself in them. I learned a lot, but I didn’t really take it all to heart enough to deal with my continued weight gain.

Mostly, I learned how not to abuse and neglect children, and how to feed kids properly and not install weight issues in their little psyches. It did help in some respects, and it laid the groundwork for my later weight loss efforts.

Everybody told me, doctors, friends, strangers on the street, that when my baby was born, if I breast-fed, all my extra weight gain from my pregnancy would come right off. I’d been doing a lot of reading about infant health and feeding, and I was planning on breast feeding anyway. I was already overdosing myself with vitamins and minerals with that plan in mind. In my case, at least, breast feeding did not have that effect. I didn’t lose any weight, and I continued to gain steadily.

I gained a huge amount of weight during the pregnancy, and kept right on gaining after my daughter was born. She was born about 6 weeks too early, and couldn’t breathe for her first eleven days, so she had to have a machine do it for her. It was stressful for her, for me, for her dad, for the whole family. Stress is always a weight-gain issue, too.

The doctors were never able to determine what caused her to be premature, but I think I figured it out. I had a ferocious kidney infection within a week of her birth, and I think it was caused by overstressing my kidneys with all the damn supplements I was taking. In some ways, they helped make my baby healthy and strong and ready for anything; in other ways, it got her off to a too-early start.

She had a rough time for a little while, but she’s since got over it. She’s very strong and smart and healthy, and doesn’t have any prematurity issues any more. She’s actually quite mature for her age. She’ll be 23 in March. She’s probably the most grown up person in the family, since I decided to re-enter childhood and enjoy it this time.

Almost as soon as she tossed her last bottle on the floor and refused anything but a cup, I started drinking again. The dope was gone forever, but I still didn’t have much in the way of coping mechanisms, and when she was about 10 months old, repressed memories of abuse started arising.

As I was being a stay-at-home mom, my weight continued to rise. I had quit doing all the cocaine and speed and pot and various other drugs when I had been hospitalized for my emotional problems, and I had quit drinking while I was pregnant. My daughter had been too weak and sick at first to nurse, so I pumped breast milk until she was about 8 months old. I’m sure it did her a lot of good, but it was a major annoyance. It kept me sober.

I had been out of therapy for a while, and I didn’t know what to do with the terror and pain and fear, plus I was isolated all the time. My husband was commuting about 2 hours each way, and we were living in houses that belonged to the mortgage company where he worked, and they kept getting sold out from under us. So, with infant in tow, we had to keep moving our whole household. We only spent about 3 weeks in the house where we were living for her first Christmas. It was a pretty nice place, but I never really got familiar with it.

This was all pretty stressful, as you can imagine, along with all the arguments and the inevitable changes associated with becoming a parent. So I was drinking and comforting myself with food as I had done as an infant. We moved about 4 times, if I’m remembering correctly, within the first year of her life. When we finally settled in Pasadena, and my husband had a new job, I was already starting to have trouble finding clothes that fit.

I had insisted on getting my driver’s license while I was pregnant, but I didn’t have a car for a long time. I didn’t want to be like my mom, who had had to depend on my dad or the neighbors when one of us kids had to go get stitches or something. We moved around so much, we never knew anybody, and that pattern continued after I was married. So, when my daughter was born premature, she had to go to the pediatrician’s office once a week for the first few months of her life, and there wasn’t anybody but me to take her, so we rented a car once a week. It wasn’t a perfect solution to the problem, but it was better than nothing.

Because of the childhood trauma fallout I had to deal with, and the stresses of a failing marriage and isolation and then toilet training, I got into therapy and started smoking again. It helped a lot. But I kept gaining weight.

When my daughter was about 4, I quit drinking again, and this time, I managed to stay clean and sober till this very day. My plan is never to drink or smoke or do drugs again, though eventually I will have to go through the withdrawal from my serious tea habit. It’s the last addictive hold-out, as I’ve pretty much quit bingeing on the fat and carbs.

Throughout my daughter’s childhood, the break-up of my marriage, my attendance at various 12-step groups, and several different therapists, no matter what I did or didn’t do, I gained weight. Of all the changes I went through, I didn’t seem to be able to change that. When I was suddenly single again, I did start to lose weight, because I cut sugar out of my diet completely, and became a vegetarian for a number of years. I got down to about 20 pounds over my ideal weight again, and then met and fell in love with another alcoholic in recovery.

We had a pretty good time together, and got a lot of exercise at first, but he was a sugar junkie and there were ice cream and cookies and candy and treats everywhere I looked again. I ate everything.

I had to go back to work to survive, and got a few sitting-down office-type jobs, which was, of course, the ideal situation for continued weight gain. When we ended up having to move again, I had to find a job closer to where I live now, and couldn’t find much of anything, so I ended up working at Goodwill Industries. It was very physical work, and I got very strong, but I wasn’t any thinner. I was stressed and miserable, and my relationship fell apart, and though I was very healthy, I was also approaching 300 pounds. I managed to get myself down from around 270 lbs. to 250 lbs. by pure starvation, but began to think that weight gain was inevitable, and weight loss was impossible for me. I gave up. I ate, I exercised at work, but not in any sustained or meaningful way, got strong and fat, and then found another sitting-down office-type job.

And there I sat, being fat and resigned. I had no hope for weight loss, and started looking around for fat clothes that I could stand to wear. I always liked being a sexy dresser, and for a long time, there wasn’t anything I could find to wear that wasn’t humiliating and depressing. Later, I discovered that if you spend a lot more money on clothes, there are places that cater to sexy fat ladies. But it wasn’t ever enough to make me happy or make me like myself.

Then, one day in February ’06, one of the office ladies came around, saying that for a huge discount, I could join an on-site Weight Watchers meeting. I didn’t want to, and I didn’t believe in it, but the lady said that if they couldn’t get 20 people to sign up, they wouldn’t be able to have it, plus, we’d get paid while we were at the meetings, and the company would pick up most of the cost of the meeting itself. So, to do her a favor, and to indulge my curiosity, because they didn’t have enough signatures, I joined.

Even if you never buy a Weight Watchers brand product, it works. There are a couple of different plans in place that are completely mapped out and are easy to follow. There is never an unanswered question. They have scientists that do nothing but figure out how it all works, and who do all the brain work for you. You can exercise for quicker weight loss, or skip it and just be more careful with the eating. The biggest thing for me is the support. Losing 2/10 of a pound is counted and honored. Every 5 pounds lost is a celebration.

And I met a thin, attractive woman who started at the same weight I was then, who had lost the weight and kept it off. She had been fat all her life, and then lost the weight. I’d never known anybody personally who had done that, so I guess I didn’t really believe in it. If it hadn’t been for Judy, I would not have known it was possible, and probably would have dropped out.

As it is, by following the most basic guidelines, as well as some of the more specific strategies, I’ve lost about 46 lbs. since I started, and I’m still losing. I started exercising intentionally for the first time in my life recently, and that’s helping, too.

My life has started over. I’ve got some weight to lose yet; I’m about halfway to my original goal, but my god, I never thought it would be possible to reverse all that weight gain that took me so long to acquire.

I drink about 3 liters of water a day, and if you do only that and nothing else, you’ll lose weight and your system will start to re-adjust. In addition, I’m very careful to get a lot of fiber into my diet. That’s a big help in a lot of ways. Moreover, I don’t eat much sugar or any kind of sweeteners, and I avoid fat as much as possible. I take a reasonable amount of vitamins and minerals, I mostly eat fruit and vegetables with only complex carbs and lean proteins, and I exercise 3 hours a week, which is about to double, as soon as I can gird my loins and get to it.

Next year at this time, god willing and the creek don’t rise, I will be Thin. I will be 54 and my wrinkles and gray hair will be there, but I will be lean and fit, and I will still be clean and sober.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I make plans. Watch this space for updates.

December 14 2006

Getting Older At Last!

 

I just turned 53 on Monday, and I'm delighted about it. If one more person commiserates with me about my age, I am going to spit in their eye.

I LIKE getting older. I didn't like being a kid, and even when I grew up, every year older I am actually makes me better. I may have fewer brain cells, but dammit, I know how to work them now. The tool may be worn and starting to fall apart, but the craftsperson knows how to use it properly. I keep patching the holes with post-its, which works more or less, most of the time.

I have a lot of fun that would have been impossible when I was young enough to let things bother me. I can put stuff aside for later that I know I'm going to have to deal with eventually, and just have the joy of the moment.

I can give up on a lot of the narcissistic stuff that young people don't even realize that they do; I know for sure now that it's not all about me. I am amazed when anybody remembers me from time to time, and I love it when people read what I've written and hear what I have to say. It's always a shock when that happens, but it's generally not unpleasant.

I can write essays and do research for fun, and not be graded, other than to hear what my friends think about it, and then I get to answer back if I want. All the tools that were so hard to acquire when I was young are now firmly embedded in my psyche and I can use them without thinking.

I have my teachers to thank for that, and sadly, when I was young, I didn't know how much I would appreciate the precious gifts they gave me. I do now, and I don't know where they are, or I'd thank them all. Even the worst ones taught me something. I send you virtual flowers and kudos, every one of you.

I don't have to answer to anybody unless I choose to. Nobody has a right to my business unless I agree for reasons of my own. I can eat candy and pancakes and spinach for dinner if I want. I can kick people out of my life if I want to, and I can make friends with whatever lowlife scum I like. So there.

And, to quote one of my favorite Terry Pratchett characters, Granny Weatherwax, "I aten't dead."

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