Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Jesus used all the toilet paper

My 7-year old created a nativity scene recently, and I was forced to relocate it from one table in the house to another to make room for impending Canadian guests. I wasn't paying too much attention, and I thought it looked nice.

But then I looked more carefully a few hours later while pretending to dust.

Instead of three wise men, I saw one wise man standing next to a freakishly smiling blond, a praying Mary, and some camels. One of them was upside down.

Another wise man stood on the roof with a sheep. They both had their eyes closed.

And beside baby Jesus, Joseph stood dumbly on one side and a palm tree stood on the other.

But if I hadn't looked carefully, I would not have noticed this folks. From afar, it looked like any other toilet paper nativity scene. I felt blasphemous.

And then I was ashamed. Briefly. To place an angel next to a dude with a crown, that seemed like the premise of a porn-o. And her grin, well, let's just say it's not too far off what I would imagine a porn star's smile to look like.

To place a palm tree where Mary should be, well, that just put objectification of women as objects into a whole different realm. Do women matter at all? Or are we just manipulated into looking pretty and standing guard over the young ones?

And. The other wise man beside the tree, two men beside a baby, clearly we aren't in Utah. Don't make me pull out my favourite shirt.

Yet baby Jesus seemed blissfully unaware throughout the whole ordeal. Like he usually does. He sorta looks the same in granite, on canvas, and in toilet paper. That oblivious grin. Or is it? That grin seems so innocent.

Truth: When I was a child, in the images of Jesus I saw a simple smile that said, "All is well, you are safe, there is no monster in your closet." When I was a teen, it was a reassuring smile that said to me, "Don't worry, I still love you, even though you make a lot of bad choices, and are quite reckless." And then, older yet, I saw a smile again: "You will get what you want. Someday. Even though you're such an idiot. Just wait." And a few years later, it was an "I told you so, you idiot," smile. But now. Now as a 40 year old, the smile seems to mock, but in a way that taps my elbow, as in, "I know. I knew you'd be ready to get to know the real me eventually (you idiot), I've been waiting for you to sift through all the BS. Let's start again. This time, put away what you think you need to accomplish, what you think you need to be, look like, have, etc. Let's drill down to what all those desires really tell us about life. And then let's get to the good stuff."

And that's a scary yet lovely smile.

An innocent smile that knows you more than you think.

So I left our Nativity scene. Just like it was. To remind me of what I think Jesus and Christmas is all about. All kinda mixed-up: a mirror to what I've imagined religious and sanctimonious b.s. to represent, and now that the disrespect is out of the way, let's finally say and search for what is real and what we need. Because I think if I don't do it this way, there is no point.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

the perverted mormon who lives in my phone

Do you ever use your house phone to call your cell phone to discover its whereabouts? And then, when you find your cell, relieved, you look at the screen and wonder whose call you missed, only to realize, it was you? I do this often.

Has your phone ever converted a voicemail to text? I received one such from a friend who does adoption advocacy...we were dialoguing about a board meeting and brainstorming ways to make money to support nannies who work in orphanages in China. This is how my phone interpreted her message:

"It's Saturday night it's 6:30 my time I have to run out tonight to my husband fucking party youre in hot key thing but I will be around tomorrow and yea I got some grease and stuff to do actually some video-stuff load so anyway can gimme a shout anytime bye."

Or have you ever been laying in bed and texted yourself a reminder, perhaps because you were too lazy to get out of bed and get an actual pen (while realizing that the chances of looking at a piece of paper were not as likely as looking at your texts)?

Yes, me again. I am not proud.

I was however, rather shocked when I texted myself the other night, and then rolled over to go to sleep. Couldn't sleep (not uncommon) and so checked my phone to see the time (and to check Instagram) to find that I had gotten a text back from myself.

I'm not kidding. Here's the transcript folks. I couldn't make this shit up.

Me text-jotting a writing idea to me at 1 a.m.: "You know youre old when you get 5 scarves for 40 birthday, like cover your wrinkly neck already woman, one from mom was the least fav per style and fabric, she should know I'm allergic to wool, dammit...but ironically, it is the one that had the most time invested she said she thought of me during each stitch I wonder if she thought mean things like I hope this itches the shit out of you... am I thoughtless or her...and there it hangs on the bedroom chair, staring at me like hangover guilt...and someone had to remind me recently that our own parents see us like we see our children and I told Thys that all I want for Christmas is him and he didn't believe me, it's hard to believe a parents love because it seems so obvious and yet so absent at the same time"

Me back at 1:30 a.m.: "I'm sorry you have the wrong number"

Of course hubs was out of town at the time and I wondered if a creeper had snuck into my house and stolen my cell to fuck with my brain. It took me 10 minutes to figure out what the hell was going on...


1:40 a.m. : me back to me: "Oh! I'm so sorry that you received my old phone number in Denver!"

1:42 a.m.: New me back to me: "No problem."

Then... me being 1:45 a.m. generous (delirious? perhaps): "If anyone else is looking for me, you can give them this number. I hope inheriting this number hasn't been too much of a burden."

Hoping for a litany of publishers and long-lost friends and interviewers who have all been desperately trying to reach me... but then...

1:47 a.m. "OK. Thank you. It's not a burden."

1:48 a.m. Lonely me still not sleeping, "Thank you."

1:52 a.m. New me: "You ought to check out the mormon messages on youtube--lots of uplifting and inspiring messages about life and family. Have a good night"

Friday, December 13, 2013

Oh Canada, I'm sorry

Christmas concert tonight.
Little girls picking noses in shiny skirts. Little boys tripping over bleachers and waving.
Moms and Dads pushing ipads in my face to capture aforementioned nose-pickings and waves.
It was all rather, well, nauseating.
My son got on stage. Then. I must admit. I felt this little well of water form in the bottom half of my eyelids. And this does not happen very often. And I have no idea where the fuck it came from. It was this weird pride mixed with this crazy disbelief that this little 7 year old doesn't nod to shenanigans because he wouldn't let me comb his hair and he dressed himself in what he called his "Sunday best" (without having a clue what that means) in jeans and converse and a white shirt untucked with chocolate milk stains all over the front. And next to the shiny girls, he looked mighty awesome.
And he sang his bloody heart out. So loud. So enunciated. All while stifling a smile in a most awkward way (he accused me later of looking at him too much and making him embarrassed).
I am supposed to be writing a paper. But I don't want to the way my sons never want to do, well, anything that does not involve an ipod or a hockey stick.
I want to write here. I miss writing here. Here I can write honestly and I don't have to quote someone every other sentence. Quoting someone else every other sentence is tedious (me, 2013).
Here in Canada, people apologize for everything.
I bumped you. I'm sorry.
I asked you for something. I'm sorry.
I stood on this piece of earth. I'm sorry.
But they're not sorry for things you'd think they should be sorry for.
Like... these remarks: A few people asked me how I was doing with school, etc. and I told them the truth (it's hard, brutal, busy, humbling, etc.) and one responded with, "Oh, you sound so cynical" and the another with, "wow, I won't ask you how you're doing again." And I found myself almost saying, I'm sorry. But I didn't. They asked me. I told the truth. I told my truth.
But Canadians don't seem to like the truth.
They're really "nice" here. So nice that they don't seem to like too much honesty. And by "they" I simply mean the few people I talked to. Yes, I'm generalizing (but I'm not generalizing about the I'm sorry thing. That shit is true.)
I fear that the "niceness" is a bunch of BS for not dealing with tough shit. I detest the heroic, I'm fine, I'm good, I'm doing okay, when you're clearly NOT. What happened in the world to make people think that they have to be so "okay" with crap? My husband has a horrible disease. I'm fine! My mom is dying, I'm good! My kids are out of control! I am A-okay. My neighbor is a racist! No problem.
These heroics are not for me. I'm sorry, Canada. I may start to apologize more than I should. But I will not apologize for being honest. Someone needs to be honest. We're not all "fine" most of the time. Most of the time, I suspect we're all dealing with devils in the closet and demons on the kitchen floor. To deny this and say we're fine smacks of hypocrisy, as if we're so in control that we can handle it all, no problem. Well, I'm sorry, again. I don't think we're meant to handle all of this, no problem, by ourselves. I tend to think that we need help to handle life. Maybe that's "American" of me, but I don't care.
No, but really, right now I am doing well. That was not a twisted cry for help. I'm not asking for sympathy. And I do mean that. Honestly.
Thanks for letting me rant. I hope you find time to snatch silvers of honesty this holiday season... if you can't, you can call me. Maybe I'll even mail you a new t-shirt for Christmas like the one I just got for myself.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Love. Ish.

Like most things trendy, I am a few years behind on this one:
The suffix: Ish.
As in, "I'll be there at 9. Ish." Or, "My car is clean. Ish." Oh, and, "Here's the money I owe you. Ish."
It's even better with just the right amount of pause before you pounce on the ish.
And said in the snarkiest way possible, it punches just like I prefer: a lick of control with flippant play.
I boasted of my love of the suffix to my husband tonight. But unbeknownst to me, The Children were still awake in their too-close-to-the-dining-room bunk beds.
"What is Ish?"
"Go to sleep."
"Really. Tellllll meeeee pleeeeeaasssse."
"It just means kind of sort of like shake-your-head-side-to-side medium not sure...ish."
"I need to understand Ish!"
"No. You don't. Goodnight."
"Pleeeeaaassse!!! Ish."
"Good night! I love you. Goodnight."
"I love you too. Ish."
And. Nothing entices me to tell the truth like a bad example.
I tried to explain. But this medium territory may be too abstract for a newly 7-year old. I tried again and again. I did. I gave lots of mediocre examples. To no avail.
So now I'll be stuck with an illogical echo that respects no boundaries...

Yet I realized--in humility--that to turn things like this upside down is much more interesting. And (like kids often do) my son yanked me closer to a truth. If nothing else, it will be Children who will snap us out of our Rational Delusions and point us to the reality that we can't see because we are too busy showing them what we think is truth.
Because, really, this does make more sense than the convenient Ish. And though I was born in convenience, I am slowly warming up to upside down irrational makes no sense kind of love. Ish.
I love. Ish. I mother. Ish. I work. Ish. I am lost. Ish. I know nothing. Ish. I write. Ish. I try. Ish.

Peace. Ish.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

prepositional poetry

Prepositional phrases don't get enough attention.
Allow me to indulge them as I recall where I found myself last night:

On a toilet seat
inside a washroom
with no mirrors
in an arctic arena north
of the border
with my makeup
in hand to check if that big zit that recently emerged
on my chin was still making an appearance
for my new friends-whom-I-haven't-met-yet who stand
in the lobby
with their Tim Horton's coffees and their tall boots that go
up to their kneecaps
with their smiles and their laughter which I am not yet privy
to I don't care
about that yes I do I wish I had people to laugh
with to share
with to be
with to love there I was
on the toilet wishing all
of these things and thinking
about prepositional phrase because well because that's what I do when I'm stuck
in a washroom
on a toilet looking
into a foggy mirror
at my own reflection longing
to impress people I don't know
with my aging non-beauty hoping that they'll see something worth talking
to and maybe just maybe I will want to hear them too.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Blessed Oldness.

Happy Birthday To My Baby. 

(Every year on Thys' birthday, I write a cyber-note to his birth 'rents. Here is Number Seven:)

To the parents of a baby boy born in late September, 2006 and left on the doorstep of an orphange a few days later:

Here I am again telling you all about how wonderful and precious and amazing this little man is. He is a fairly typical little boy: snarky, giggly, crabby, funny, obsessed with Pokemon, Legos, money, and play. But he's unique too: creative and intuitive, surprisingly so at times. He has an impeccable memory and he's a hard and diligent worker. He loves to help me cook, and he can sit at the piano for an hour without complaining. And he's a wicked little ice skater and hockey player, much to everyone who watches him delight. See? We're doing an okay job as his 'rents? Right? Why do I desire your blessing? And why does this partly feel like a big "I told you so letter"?

He can also be a giant pain in the ass: last night while putting him to bed, I bent over the top bunk to pray for him, and he smiled and hugged me and then asked, "Is that your oldness?" To which I replied, "WTF?" And he repeated by pointing out the lines on my neck, the wrinkles, the crevices, and he asked again, "Is that your oldness?" And I cried a little. And then we prayed, like we do each night. And after I thanked God for his innocent, childish (albeit honest and devilish) soul, he shouted out, "Thank you for mommy's oldness! In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost!" Thank you Catholic school.

This year, we decided to finally push the whole Chinese language issue more seriously than we have in the past. Partly because he seems to have a natural aptitude for new languages, and partly because he desperately wants to visit China. So I am sending both of my boys to Catholic AND Chinese School.

It began a few weeks ago. The first Saturday, I didn't think my older son would make it. He's an aggressive, articulate, and (usually) confident young man. But I found him crying at my side as we walked through the hallway of the school to the classroom, big, real tears. I asked him what was wrong, he said he felt "really uncomfortable" with all of the Chinese people (he and I were the only non-Chinese people). I asked him how he thinks his brother feels EVERY DAY at school, at Church, on the playground, etc. He said, "Ya, but he's used to it." He had a point. I vowed to stay until he felt comfortable. But then I spotted Thys, sitting in the front row, hands folded on his desk, back straightened, and a grin that said, I am here. I am ready. Teach me. And the barking, harsh sounds of Mandarin that frighten many white, European kids, fell softly on Thys' delighted countenance.

It was all rather confusing. I'm quite certain that all the parents who came in after us assumed that I was coaxing my nine-year old to stay, but had no clue who the eager young boy in the front row belonged to. Chinese adoption isn't as common here as it was in Denver. There are a small percentage of Chinese children here, but they all have Chinese parents, most of whom don't seem too familiar with the concept of adoption. I get a lot of awkward glances from them when they realize Thys is my son. As if I have upset the balance of the cultural capital and they don't know what my motives are. To make him white? To pretend I am one of them? Who am I to take one of them? Would a Chinese person ever adopt a white, North American kid and bring him to China? Is this about domination?

Here's my point, birth 'rents: I understood my own motives when I/we adopted Thys, and I still do. And I am not afraid to disrupt people's assumptions. I rather enjoy it: You don't think Christians should cuss? Listen to me. You don't think women should be assertive or have strong opinions or drink or fart? Hang out with me for a while. You don't think I can do all these things and still claim an authentic faith that I care about deeply? Talk to me. You know what happens when you put an Asian kid in a white family? Shit. Neither do I. This is where we find ourselves. In the midst of this experiment. What if Thys doesn't want to interrupt people's assumptions? What if he just wants to fit in?

This is the first year I actually wish we knew you. So that you could truly be a part of his life and teach him Chinese things. That we could share him or something, though I have no idea what that would entail.

You did not give me permission to adopt him. But. You left him. Helpless on a cold street in the middle of the night. I know you wanted good things for him because you left a bottle with him... but what did you envision his life would entail? I sometimes feel like I have a responsibility to you. To raise him well. To honor you.

I think of you often. Thys is starting to think more of you too.

Thank you for this life I get to witness. Say a prayer for us as we navigate this unknown territory.
In the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Holy Depravity

A Cynic's Sermon Notes: 1.

Our new Padre recently preached about the Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 1.

Q: What is your only comfort in life and death?
A: That I am not my own, but belong--body and soul--in life and in death--to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.

I had to memorize these lines when I was 14 or so in order to make "Profession of Faith" (a formal way to become a Member at my parent's church, cool-aid drinking rights and all). This was a strange time for me.
I'm not convinced that my motives for doing this were based on
1. fear that I would somehow miss out on a cool retreat, a youth group hike, or heaven
2. shame that as the Pastor's daughter this was expected of me
3. peer-pressure because all of my friends were doing it. I know, I'd likely have jumped off the building too...
I'm not convinced my motives weren't those listed either.

I remember standing in The Holy Council Room in front of the 25-foot wide meeting table one night during the monthly Council Meeting. It was me against 13 old, white men who smiled and nodded as I clumsily and awkwardly recited Q & A Number One. This question and answer, this question that meant nothing to me. I had lived a privileged life. My only comfort in life at that point was that I would get to sit next to Mark Mayson on the bus the next morning. And that my crimping iron was in top shape. I had no knowledge or fear of death, save for my dear Uncle Albert whose death made the adults sad, and prompted in me a reverent silence to disguise my confusion in their midst.

So, my bias in hearing the sermon topic was palpable. I sighed, and I thought, what can you possibly say about this topic that hasn't been said at least 450 times over the past 450 years? I have this same revolt when I hear certain passages from the Bible. I am bored of them. And I am tired of hearing the same old phrases that seem to exist to help people brainwash themselves: "In God's timing," or "God will provide," or "God's comfort," etc. Worn out phrases thrown around as flippantly as greeting cards and carry as much power as "Just Do It," or "I'm lovin it." As if we've made God a capitalistic venture like all of his competition.

But Padre didn't recite those.

Instead he recited a litany of real-world shitty problems, stinky shit and all. He may or may not yet know the despair of a stressed-out, sleep-deprived mother, or have heard the tension spoken and hidden in an almost-broken marriage, or recognize the thought patterns of a lonely and suicidal life. But he told some stories that sounded like he did.

And then he talked about the courage it takes for humans to face and feel and live in... this depravity, this brokenness, this loneliness. And I'm not yet sure what this means, that I am courageous if I "let the loneliness wash over me." It seems like saying I'm courageous if I feel like crap. And I don't find this particularly courageous, and neither does my family. They like it much better when I'm not... feeling the pain. So, perhaps, what he meant to say was that it is courageous when I let the pain wash over me when it doesn't affect all of the humans who depend on me for their daily bread, toilet paper, and hugs.

Then it occurred to me that maybe the adults in The Holy Council Room decades ago smiled when they heard my memorized lines because they knew. They knew I would need that comfort. Some day. Maybe they smiled because they could see that I did not need those words yet. Perhaps they saw my innocence, the kind that can provoke a sort of smiling jealousy that looks like a weird smirk.

Padre ended with this: "We may find these are the stories dreamed in the heart of God--when we see him face to face." And I don't understand why God would dream of depravity. But perhaps by "dreamed" he meant "known" the way we know someone when we look into their eyes for a long time at close range. I dare you to try it. You will walk away a different human.

I am not my own. But I've certainly worked hard for many years to convince myself that I am. I forget most of the time that I belong to someone, something else. And much like all of my household chores, exercise, and being nice to others that I forget to do, I neglect to admire the faithfulness of God. Yet, here I am, almost four decades into this game of life, this dance around objects and ideas, the tangible and the invisible... still listening to the voice of God, spoken through a conduit, wondering if God got my Change Of Address Card, and then quite sure that he did.

(And, because I am immersed in a shockingly secular academic world right now, and longing for the Spiritual, I will attempt to open up comments to hear your thoughts and hopefully offer mutual encouragement. Thanks.)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Did Jesus fart?

I like to attempt satire. But. I suspect that my productions unmask my bitter side (see previous post). And worse, I think my attempts reveal more about my own jealousies and insecurities than they "seek to expose and ridicule the status quo with a desire to reform" as I used to explain it to my high schoolers. Satire is hard to teach. Even harder to write.

Alas, here's an attempt at another genre in which I like to dabble: (hopefully) humorous non-fiction.

Consumption--with life's trials and also of its bounty--often distracts me from gratitude, especially the act of it, i.e. prayer. Setting routines can be helpful, before eating, before sleeping, in hospitals, etc. I have tried to talk to my kids about God and faith and living a life of thanks, but the conversations often end up sounding something like this:

One son asks, "Do you think Jesus farted?"
The other son firmly replies without a doubt that "No. He probably pooped, but he definitely didn't fart."

Recently, my sister visited us (with four boys under the age of five in tow, well, one is technically 32). The chaos that ensued was earplug worthy, a technique that both my nine-year old and I practiced.
The moments of pleasure and relaxed conversation were snatched throughout the day and late into the night (while denying the cost to be paid in the early a.m.)...

So, tired parents, crabby kids, and, well, normal two-year olds sitting around the dinner table on the fourth night of the visit did not feel like an apt time to begin teaching about the importance and value of prayer and thankfulness.

But I do believe in a God that sneaks in despite my best efforts of ignoring him. It was after we sat down to eat when someone started to pray--I don't even remember who--and a few words of blessing and thanks were offered.

And then, perhaps what some may consider irreverence (but what I justify and perpetuate as a welcome departure from legalistic obedience to a seemingly old and crabby God) is our family habit of praying with our eyes open, as if we're having a real conversation...or maybe it was the sense of freedom and comfort we had with each other (my sister and I did sleep in the same bed throughout our entire childhood), or maybe it was the fresh Canadian air... whatever the precipitating reasons, the table erupted: The kids, unprompted, started yelling out random things they were thankful for:

"Waterfalls!" one shouted and giggled...
"Swimming!" ya, ya, lots of agreement...
"Beans!" more giggles...

It went on. And on. And on.

There was a palpable presence of God. I envisioned him smiling at us as we enjoyed him, each other, and the ease of living in a world where we can go on vacations and eat lots and whine about our first-world problems while drinking wine. I believe in a God that gets that too, who knows that regardless of the world in which we've been placed, there's always a barrier...
Until the children remind us and poke holes in it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

School Reflections, A Letter

To the mother of the student with a stick-on mirror on the inside of her locker door:

Hi. I haven't met you yet, but our children are locker neighbors and in the same class. I noticed you and your daughter on the first day of school when you parked your car in the bus lane and the bus couldn't get into the parking lot. We've all done that. Well, I haven't. But everyone who takes their child to school in a convertible Mercedes does that. It looked like your access to your baby's carseat was quite convenient. My son asked me if your mode of transport was a ferrari! Wink, wink.

When we marched (I was behind you, I could tell you work out) with our children into the whitewashed hallway and then stood around awkwardly and teary-eyed while watching them unpack their belongings from their shiny backpacks into their lockers, I noticed your four-inch heels. I was conflicted, as you obviously were, about where my child should put his "outdoor shoes," inside or outside his locker? There were no instructions for the necessity of shoe care. I also watched, as you did, as my son tied his lace shoes, ever-so-carefully (and slowly) and I noticed that your daughter had slip-on ballet shoes (also with heels!). It must be nice to have such an easy shoe option for female children.

I saw you glancing back and forth between me and my son. I get that a lot... I'm white, he's not, etc. You see, he's adopted. From China. If you have any further questions about that, please wait to ask them until I know you well enough to buy you your favorite brand of panties.

I also couldn't help but notice you helping your daughter attach her stick-on mirror to the inside door of her locker. It went on very straight. My son didn't have one. I suppose I could still buy him a mirror. I think I saw one on clearance at the dollar store. Was it on the school supply list? Shit, I should have read it more carefully. I have been trying to teach my son how to wipe his nose after he eats (especially since the hole in the roof of his mouth caused by his cleft lip causes runny food to, well, make a quick and easy exit) and a mirror might help him notice sooner if he has omitted removing an item from his face.

The problem with a mirror of his own is that I would have to teach him to look into it, which he rarely does (I don't even have any at his level in the house, perhaps I should change this). I'm not even sure he knows that Chinese people look any different than us white folk. I'm sure his classmates will educate him about this difference (and all that it implies!) very soon.

And perhaps he can take a few tips from your daughter about how to use a mirror. How did you teach her to use one? Did she watch you looking into it often? Does she check her hair? Or her face? And how did you teach her that looking at herself is so vitally important that she should have easy access to a mirror at all times? And what does she look for in her own reflection? Does she check her teeth? Her skin? Her symmetry? Surely not her blemishes. Not yet. Why did you just choose a mirror for the top of her body? Have you considered a full-length mirror?

I imagine that you carry a mirror with you (I noticed that you wear make-up and that you are very pretty) at all times (I'm not hitting on you by the way, I just notice those things). I don't (I am embarrassed that I wasn't wearing any make-up that morning, I'm sure you think I'm a slob) (I'm not) (Well, maybe compared to you, I am) (I did put on make-up recently. And when my 9-year old saw me, he promptly informed me--kind of rudely--that I "don't look any different with it on"). Maybe if we become friends, you can teach me how to wear make-up like you do, you know, in a way that truly makes a difference. And then we can talk about the things you like to talk about. What do you like to talk about?

Alas, I must tell you: if your daughter forgets to check her mirror and has a booger or stream of snot or random food particle stuck to her cheek or chin, my son will not notice. I promise.

I hope our children have a great year in Grade Two! Looking forward to our future friendship,

(FYI: All identifiable details in the previous story have been changed to protect identities, and a few snippets of actual stories have been strung together to create this fictional narrative.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


I am officially a student again.
Yes, my endeavors have begun.
I am all consumed in re-learning the language of academ-ese. I must now use words like empirical, somatic, heuristic and incommensurable. Don't be afraid. I have plenty of fear for us all.
I am in the midst of an intensive month-long inculcation of my discipline and all that means a Ph and D.
And because I knew it would be intense, I warned my family that I would not be present this month. They braced themselves. They promised to help out. I avowed not to notice.

No less than the following things have occurred in the past two weeks:
-I was in a car accident, I'm fine, but it took out my AC and it is hot, hot here folks. I'm talking Hades in the sauna.
-My six-year old took a dive off a trampoline, causing a long night in the ER.
-Our puppy decided to start eating EVERYTHING and puking it up EVERYWHERE, but especially on the few carpeted areas in the house.
-Our house AC konked (did I mention that it is fucking hot here?)
-My father-in-law took a dive down his stairs and broke his neck. Yes he did. No news on this front just yet, but it looks hopeful thus far (he's moving already).
-one of my new colleagues spilled water on my computer and now it does this ////////////////////////////// for hours on any document I'm typing.

And these all seem rather insignificant in light of a broken neck, don't they? Thanks for the perspective. I like having conversations with people even when they're not around. Sometimes I come back from a long walk and I tell my husband that we had a fight and he won.

I hope to return more after July.
Nice seeing you.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How to stay married for 20 years and one day

Things happen on June 12.

Births, deaths, marriages, and chases.

1912 : My grandmother was born.
2006: My niece was born.
1993: I married Harv. TWENTY years we celebrated yesterday.
1994: OJ Simpson got chased.
2013: My friend's husband died.

But as my six-year old said, "That's okay that he's dead. Now he's in heaven and he can swim."

And then he told his dad that he smells like a zucchini.

And since twenty years of marriage makes me somewhat of an expert, at least according to me, I offer you my unsolicited advice about marriage:

1. Apologize when you mess up. And mean it.
2. Praise and thank and say nice things often.
3. Hug and touch a lot.
4. Say what you want clearly.
5. Be honest.
6. Don't hit.
7. Forgive.

And I'm not claiming that I do these things. I can't claim that because my husband reads this and also because I don't want to break rule #5. But I try to do these things. Or at least I want to try to do them because I know I should. Sometimes I'm too tired, often I'm too selfish, and almost every day I can find something I'd rather do than be nice. And I have piles and stacks of resentment and bitterness about so many of life's unfairness and inadequacies; I can feel quite sorry for myself.

But in the end, I have a husband who loves me. Who has stayed with me for twenty years and one day. And trust me, we've seen the "worse" in the decades more often than I imagined we would on our wedding day.

And we have a lot of "better" too. And more and more to come. In fact, the more we practice all of my aforementioned guidelines, the better it gets. By it I mean us.

You can go along for quite a while as two opposing forces competing for the easier current, especially when there are young children along for the ride. But eventually, you may realize that you can rest sometimes on the back of the other, if you let go...of all fears and pretense and barriers that you felt you needed to erect in order to survive. It takes a long time to learn to trust someone that much. And it's a most difficult release and surrender. But if you can do it and emerge on the other side, watch out, you may end up waking up in Canada with a zucchini-smelling husband.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A lumpy, bumpy preamble

I am a lumpy, bumpy person.

I went to see a doctor about my lumpy, bumpy legs.
She took a quick glance at the pulsing lines that resemble those at-home ant farms you used to put in your bedroom, and she said, "Oh ya. You definitely need surgery. And you really should be wearing these." At which point she pulled up her short skirt to show me her thigh highs. I was at that moment so horribly jealous that some people can wear thigh highs without a pound of pimply flesh spilling over the top and at the same time nonplussed that a professional, a doctor, was lifting up her skirt and showing me her crotch region.

Then there's my face. A lumpy, bumpy landmine.
Of course every dermatologist has a cure. And they all cost at least $200. Each time.

And my teeth. A zigzag disaster. Braces? Sure, they tell me, for only $6000.

And I am not making any income at the moment.
Not exactly a large budget for vanity in my household.

Yet everywhere I turn a professional is telling me how they can fix me.

And I don't want to be fixed. I like my grey hair. I am learning to love me snaggled teeth too. I am tired of hating my horrible skin, and I am sick of being ashamed of my legs.

I say fuck. You. People-who-want-to-fix-me. I'm just fine the way I am. I don't need to be fixed.

At least this is what I want to say. But that's not what comes out. What comes out is envy and shame and fear. And it's ugly.

The real problem is that I don't want to want to be fixed.

But 40 is right around the corner. And as my 9 year old tells me, I am old.

Even my toes look old.

And I'm embracing it. At least I'm trying to. At least I want to want to try.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Closets and cows.

Often I don't write because I suspect and fear (those are not the same thing) that everything has already been said.

But verily I say unto thee: This shit is new and true.

I discovered my six-year old, the Chinese one (whose "stomach had shivers" when he rode his first roller coaster the other day), bawling recently. I walked upstairs to finish cooking dinner and I heard him. I thought he was being scolded by his father (because it was his deeply shameful and remorseful cry I recognized) and I decided not to interfere. But after five minutes with no improvement and imminent vomit, I couldn't resist seeing what the commotion was about (notice my impressive five-minute wait time. This is the result of therapy folks.) He was not with his dad after all. He was in his closet. With the door closed. When I opened it and leaned in he looked up at me with that face. That one. And I asked him what was wrong. But he couldn't talk through his tears (and slobber and drule), so I waited. I asked him to come out of the closet (save the gay jokes here) and he wouldn't. So I had to climb in. I was impatient. It was hot in there. And he was messy. And I was cooking dinner. And the dog needed to pee. Finally, after I asked him 50 times what was wrong, he screamed through his violent throbs: "I don't want to be 30!"

His friend, also six, learned recently about "girl parts" and after teaching him the proper terminology, his mother caught him in the kitchen repeating in slow whispers: "vagina, vagina, vagina." She gently inquired the reason, and he claimed that he "did not want to forget what it is called." Now that, my friends, will be a good husband someday.

My nine-year-old had a few friends over after school recently. They are too young to realize that when they speak outside of an open window, the person inside can hear them. Or maybe they don't care. I wasn't spying. I swear. Just because I was inverted behind the curtain in a fetal position does not make me a spy.

Here's what I caught:

"Duuuude, Frank's mom said that moms get to choose whether babies come out of their stomach or their butt"...."Ooooooohhhhh. Gross."..... "another hole"..... "gross"..... "Nick said that parents...."..... "holes"... "naked"...."Parents have to really be in love and kiss like at least every two minutes....".... "gross!"... "I'm glad I'm not a cow... I think it's mean that people pull on their penises all the time."

The last comment was made while consuming a glass of milk.

And I'm listening to some new great tune (thanks Nate!) Let me practice some prophecy here:
If you have not heard of The Head and The Heart, you will. Soon. Go buy their new album. Now.
Here's a bit of a recent song that has spoken to me the past few days:
"...our friends will be gone away...nothing is as it has been...I miss your face like hell, but I guess it's just as well...My family lives in a different state, if you don't know what to think of it, then we will not relate."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Calm away you submissive bitches

Our new puppy, 11-week-old Juno, recently met our neighbor's half-bear/half-horse (who still somehow classifies as a dog). This giant could have gulped Juno down in two seconds and we wouldn't have had time to flinch. Instead, the 200 pound monster nudged my puppy once with his nose and Juno rolled immediately onto her back.

She chose to become her most vulnerable when she was already clearly not in a position of power.

I, too, feel like it's all I can do sometimes to endear myself to the natives here.

Just nudge, and then lie on my back.

And wait.

And just be. Vulnerable. Really vulnerable.

Juno, were you afraid that the beast would swallow you? You didn't look it. You must have known...that somehow the scary, drueley monster would not take advantage of you. You knew that he would acquiesce to your position of begging for mercy.

I wish I had your trust. You made it look so simple.

It's beyond terrifying to submit to the will and whim of another.

Maybe you are able to submit because you have not yet felt the blows of disappointment--you haven't yet been attacked by a beast.

We humans are much more complex than you canines: we size each other up, we question motives, we speculate a word's intentions and desired meaning, hell, even a gesture's meaning gets the run-down; we offend and get offended and hide and cower and brag and judge and sneer and fear way more than we need to or should. And. We don't sniff out each other's crotches. At least not right away.

Or maybe that's just me.

It takes us humans a long time to find our position of submission. I suspect it may in fact be the last of all of our other postures.

It was your first.

Which made it kind of beautiful. In a sad sort of way.

It's an alignment, a placement, and ultimately, a paradox.

To submit and to be a bitch.

I have carried the "bitch" label proudly much of my adult life (my mother even bought me a bottle of wine with the name, my brother, a beer mug, and others...I have a shrine of bitch relics). To me it signifies my attempt to not let people walk all over me, belittle me, or tell me what to do. My effort to not fit neatly into the "female" label. I speak for myself, I have opinions, and I am assertive (sometimes too much). I challenge assumptions. I question authority. I don't wear a skirt unless I damn well feel like wearing a skirt. I like to play along in the man-game. Usually. Except when I'm trying to make friends. Then I try to be submissive and nice. But then it's awkward. Because it's not normal for me.

I joined a book club here. This past month, it was my turn to choose the book and to host. All present (but me) claimed that the book seemed "very American, but not in the bad way that is usually meant by 'American'." (though no one explained this other meaning to me, I have my suspicions that it involves Kim K, arrogance, flippancy, and way-too-large houses and hair)... I had not seen that one coming.

This "American" book is Gilead, and it is one of my favorite books in the world. I didn't know that it was so "American" but to me it is a book about grace and honesty and a human's fear of submission to another. It is a book about relationships. It is a book about life. And the love we all long for.

And. The book contains a line that makes me cry every time I read it.

One character is speaking of how he longs to connect to this man who is like a son to him...

He recalls:

"I wish I could put my hand on his brow and calm away all the guilt and regret that is exaggerated or misplaced, or beyond rectification in the terms of this world. Then I could see what I'm actually dealing with." -Marilynne Robinson

Perhaps it would be nice if we could all deal with each other in this most honest, vulnerable way.

If we could all become submissive bitches.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Poverty and Summer Camps

My son Thys (the Asian one) got nominated for a special camp this summer. We got a flyer in his take-home folder that told us this news.

"Why did you get nominated, Thys?" I asked at dinner.


End of conversation.

Inquiry ensued:

School secretary? Clueless. Teacher? MIA.

Resource Teacher? "Yes, hmmmm, we nominate kids who can't afford summer camp."


One minute later, WTF?

And the next minute, Shit! All those days I let my children dress to their own whims and this is the consequence? The disheveled hair, the ghetto lunch boxes, and the handmedown backpacks, hell, the handmedown everything, has led them to believe that Thys is impoverished. Holy shit.

I will not reprint the email/inquiry letter that I sent to the Principal.

I will, however, reveal to you my greatest fear--the underlying visceral reaction that I have to such situations.

It all goes back to the comment I have heard since we learned of Thys. It goes something like this:

"You are a saint for adopting him," or "What a great thing you've done," or "He is so lucky."

As if he is a Yahoo headline, and we should have a plaque in our entryway that reads: "People who have adopted and therefore admitted into their lineage a human who was not produced by their own body fluids... live here." Who would volunteer to draw the logo for that copy?

As if we should be commended or applauded any more than anyone else who has chosen to parent.

Because if you choose to believe that logic, and take it to its conclusion, then Thys is a sympathy case.

And if you believe that he is a sympathy case, then you believe that he is in need of sympathy. And if you believe that a young human is in need of sympathy, then you begin to treat him or her differently than you treat everyone else. Everyone else whom you perceive as "normal" and not worthy of your sympathy.

He does not, in fact, need to be treated differently than anyone else. He is smart enough (and has been for quite some time) to know that when you treat him differently, you perceive some kind of inadequacy in him, some hole that others don't have, a deficiency (and even if he were not smart enough to decode this, it would still be unfair. Think of other special needs kids in your life.)

Have you ever had someone else feel sorry for you? Perhaps because you lost a running race? An eating contest? A job you were in the running for? Yes, the sympathy from your friends may be nice... for about five minutes. But as soon as that minute six comes along you want everyone to stop reminding you that you lost. You want everyone to shut up about it. How would you feel if two years later someone came up to you with that hangdog look on their face and told you that they always think of you as "that person who lost the job." Tell me you wouldn't want to smack them.

Nobody likes sympathy for long. Humans need attention for other things.

So please, don't feel sorry for my son. Don't treat him differently than you would if he were born to me. Don't tell him he's "cute" because he's Asian and you haven't seen any Asians under the age of 20 except on TV. Don't tell me that you can't even see the scar from his repaired cleft lip when he's in earshot.

If you do, I may have to... write you a letter too.

My husband and I are neither holy nor saintly nor deserving of any praise--or any sympathy--for adopting Thys. We chose him for the same reason so many others choose to get pregnant (or choose not to abort). We chose to have a child in our lives... to hug, to discipline, to teach how to swim and how to cook, to feed, to have a reason to say: "table for four," to buckle into a car seat, to watch from the sidelines, to hear laughter from, to build lego towers with, to watch kick a ball, to listen to banging piano keys, to capture the pain of tears and relish in the thrill of joys. It is a path we chose consciously.

He is our son. We chose him as much as we chose to conceive our other son. No more, no less. No first, no second choice.

Telling someone they've done a great thing by adopting is like telling them that they've done a great thing by not getting an abortion, or congratulating someone for not cheating on their taxes...it reduces the humanity of the child and minimizes the real issue: He is a child. We are his parents. Please leave it at that.

Please, no sympathy here. We don't need your camps.

And. We are not in poverty, despite the evidence.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Reverse Gap

I know that we've been gone from Denver for a long time now because my memories are fading.

Prior phone numbers are hazy.
Names of acquaintances, all but gone.
What did I used to eat for dinner?
Old routines, disappeared.
What did the sushi used to taste like?

Obscure details are fading like the use of hymnals in a Church--no more wrestling over who gets to hold the side of the hymnal, no more awkward struggle to decide who needs to turn the page.

Public singing is itself, fading.

One of my students asked me where I went to Church on Easter Sunday. I told him I went to a Christian Church. He asked me if we all sang songs together. I said yes. He giggled. As if this ancient practice were as out of date as MySpace.

My memories are reversing just like my thighs. Growing in the wrong direction.

The latest trend is the "gap" between the legs. If you have a young girl in your family, you have likely heard of this. And been very afraid. If you have a young girl in your family, I know that you are on your knees in prayer more than we moms of boys. I wish you the best.

It looks like this:

I looked at myself in the mirror and saw that I have the exact opposite of that. I call it my "reverse gap." When I told my husband, he laughed in a way that sounds like he agrees, but will adamantly protest that I am wrong.

Mine look like this:

And I refer to them as affectionately as I used to refer to my "girls." Now I say things like, "Look. That chocolate Easter Bunny just traveled straight to my reverse gap." And if I'm in public I just say "reverse." I usually say this just to hear that laugh. That one that says he knows, but is pretending he doesn't. As Shakespeare once penned: "I do believe [him] though I know [he] lies."

I never was good at getting into reverse gear in my stick-shift Chevy Cavalier.

It can be a sticky, grinding gear. It isn't natural.

I am that old.

Another student of mine has a screen saver of a sexy supermodel. When I saw it, I gave my best disgusted, gutteral sound, and asked him why he needed to have a picture of me on his computer since he sees me every day. He went with the joke. He thought it was funny too. Too funny. At one point, he went with it as if it was as far fetched as my boys not wanting to play hockey, or as outlandish as Tim Tebow playing in the NFL next year.

Then he went way too far. He said "Look, it's Mrs. R in 1993!"

The assumptions underlying this seeming compliment were wrong on too many levels.

As if there's no return. As if I couldn't possibly recover my smooth skin (okay, I never, ever had smooth skin), or my reverse gap, or my perky girls, or my pimple-free thighs, and who am I kidding, pimple-free everywhere. That they've been gone for at least 20 years.

According to him, I suppose it was a compliment that he recognized that they ever even existed.

We grieve the loss of our young, perky bodies like we grieve many losses.

Things are gone. Things are fading. We are in reverse.

Holy Texting

I'm all for utilitarian texting: "Don't forget eggs,"or "Feed the children."

Or out of laziness like when I text my husband from upstairs: "Goodnight."

But a holy holiday somehow, in my mind, precludes utility.

Someone in Denver texted me on Easter Morning: "Happy Easter."


That was it. It was enough to set me to tears. Days of them.

I thought about it for a long while before I texted back. I carefully and thoughtfully crafted my response: "Thanks. You too."

Because it wasn't what I really wanted to hear on Easter morning.

I mean, c'mon, Jesus rose from the dead, can't we just be honest for a day in honor of that?

And since I can just fantasize with my keyboard here, this is what I really wanted to hear, preferably in person, voice would've sufficed, text would have been the last choice (and really long to type):

"We miss you terribly. Holidays are not the same without you here. We all sit around and cry all day missing you and recollecting memories. Like the time you made us all laugh when you claimed to know something, or the time you beat up your little brother in your favorite game of verbal sparring... The absence of your presence is notable. I wish you well on this day of celebration that our sins are indeed forgiven since our savior conquered death. Happy Easter."

And thank God He did.

I have been demoted to a holiday text message. How quickly we're forgotten.

Yes, I could've called. But impressive and hindering is the weight of sadness.

And lest you worry that I'm just busy feeling sorry for myself here, I have a new companion. She too has recently been displaced, far away from her parents, and her siblings, and her home.

Her name is Juno, after the Roman Goddess, the protector of women.

And though she bites me sometimes, and is still learning to pee outside, we are enduring our sadness together.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Half of Pi

I dreaded that my first-born might be born on The Ides of March. Such an ominous, murderous day.
Perhaps this is why I pushed so hard on the eve of it.
And so, I delivered my Pi baby. Born on 3.14 (04)
You can do the math. If you like math.
Or, I'll just do the meaningful part of it for you here:
We have survived the first nine crying, messy, stinky, clingy, demanding, yet so beautiful years.
They are over. 
Pi has survived them. We have all survived them. Somewhat in tact. At least with all our limbs still attached.

There is a death to be acknowledged here. Those first nine years swallowed his childhood. Never to be repeated. Oh how I wish I could redo moments. So many moments. Some to relive the joy. Some to say things differently, to act differently, to show more patience, or to be more present. 

And so to honor this death, I will bury his blankie that he hasn't used in years (but couldn't sleep without for the first three), the forest of drawings of knights and monsters and two-legged heads, the mementos of cheap bracelets and plastic awards, of derby cars and lego creations, the teeth, the report cards, the first letters, then the first sentences, then the first of the real thoughts... 

I will bury these in a treasure chest. I hope we can sit down together years from now to sift through these random items. 

For pi explains the circle. And the circle implies a non-linear journey, one that recognizes a starting point. It offers a promise to return.


We move on to the second half of his time under our roof. We brace for the next nine years to unfold.
We prepare for the battles.

I am not ready.
To hear the angst of confusion, and smell the stink of hormones.
To listen to doors slamming and witness confused tears.
To endure the horror of middle school and incur the expense of deodorant.
To wonder about the silences and feel the betrayal of loyalty.
To entertain snarky friends and share my child. 
At least during the first nine years, he was mine. No one else claimed his attention or company much.

It's a slow bandaid that tears off when your child ages.

Circle back to me, pi baby. I'm your biggest fan, always.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cheers with a tampon for Int'l Women's Day!

Cheers to all you ladies today!

In honor of International Women's Day, I would like to pause and share with you a story.

I heard an interview with Shin Dong-hyuk this week. This man recently released a book that chronicles his life in and escape from a North Korean Prison Camp: Escape From Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West. The details of his life in the camp sound eerily familiar to the stories we've heard from the Concentration Camps in Europe during WWII.

After describing many horrors he endured, including watching his mother and brother get executed, Shin shared that he has a difficult time existing in North America. He is astounded at the stores here, and said that he gets especially sad when he sees the boxes and boxes of tampons and pads on the shelves. Which caused me pause--what man ever notices feminine products unless their girlfriend or wife won a bet?


Then Shin explained that in the prison camp, 2,000 women worked in one of the many buildings each day. When these women had their period, they had no choice but to bleed through their clothes and drip blood onto the floors.

He sounded like he might cry when he described how he wanted to take all the boxes of tampons off the store shelves and bring them back to these women. He noted that they were lovely women.

As if their beauty makes their suffering even harsher.

And here I live with luxuries and dignity and ambition.


Today I pause to think of so many women who do not.

Then I start to think maybe I'll mail a box of tampons to North Korea, perhaps with a message inside to Kim Jong-un to let him know... well, he's apparently got some nukes, so maybe I won't be so naive.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Settle Down February!

Some things I've learned as of late:

1. Unspoken cultural rules exist here in Canada, and they are escaping me.
I learned early that I need to remove my footwear when I enter someone's home. This only took two embarrassing confrontations (and has saved my footwear budget--no need to buy any here just to surrender them to waste away at someone's door!)
There are certain social customs I fear I have violated. And nobody is telling me. Maybe they're whispering behind my back. Possibly laughing. Perhaps I'm completely delusional--cold months of no Vitamin D may have strange side effects. I'm not sure if I bring up inappropriate things at innoportune times, or if I talk too much or too little. Or if I have bad breath. Or if I'm scary looking because I'm so pale.

2. I do know this: I am tired of being on my best behavior in order to find friends. I just want people to surround me who love me for my bad and inappropriate and ridiculously awkward sides. I want to be crabby in public.

3. There's no such thing as new-old friends.

4. I had to delete this one. Even though it was good. It was, perhaps, a bit too honest. Sometimes even I self-censor.

5. Lately, I write articles for magazines. Then I submit them. Here's the problem: Even though I have been submitting said articles to magazines that I am confident have a demographic I comprehend, I have felt my limitation as a writer: I cannot write for a wide audience. My preferred audience is snarky, vodka-drinking, swearing, Jesus-loving, but Dobson-not-loving-, women who sometimes want to be sexy and smart and not have mom attached to their identity (but deeply love their children). That's a frickin long magazine title. I am about to give up on my limp dream of pleasing a wide audience and start writing here more, where the few of you who read this would buy that magazine, even with its long title. Which is why I love you.

6. I've also learned this: All we really need to survive is one person who really loves us.

7. The person who loves me most is a song-writer. He wrote me (and sang) this: "Hold on to me as we go / As we roll down this unfamiliar road / And although this wave is stringing us along / Just know you're not alone cuz I'm gonna make this place your home / Settle down, it'll all be clear / Don't pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear / Trouble it might drag you down, but if you get lost, you can always be found / Just know you're not alone, cuz I'm gonna make this place your home / oooohhhh, oooooooo, aaaaahhhh, aaaaa-ooooo-aaaaah, aaahhhoohhhaaaahhh, oooooohhh, aaahooooahoahoaohoaoahoaohoahoahoahoah... " And, no, I'm not married to anyone with any Phil in his name, but someone with a Phil somewhere in their name stole this, apparently, from my husband.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Carry. On.

A little tribute to Fun.

Ever since I noticed their little nod to punctuation, I have secretly harbored a little crush.

And their ditty last night at the Grammy Awards?  (I wasn't there, btw, just watched it on TV. YES! I got CABLE! I know. I know. Somehow the hubs convinced me that our boys needed to watch NHL hockey to make them better players. WTF? I was merely looking forward to this Downton Abby show everyone keeps raging about.) Neverthelessly... I watched something live. I haven't done that since The Rodney King riots when I lived in LA.

Now that you appreciate the big deal this was, I can tell you how fun. it was for me to watch this new fun. band: Fun.

Here's a line from the song they sang last night:

"If you're lost and alone or you're sinking like a stone, carry o-o-o-o-on. May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground. Carry o-o-o-o-on-on-on-nnn."

And. Then. I started to think these funky, high-pitched, choir-ish boys may know a thing or two about life. And maybe loss. Any maybe even leaving a past.

The sound of my past is not that sound. Not yet. Mine still rings in my ears and shouts at me. Through the silence. I imagine it beckoning me back. But I know I can't and won't listen to that.

To leave something behind is what I imagine detox to be like. Betty Ford style. I am in one of the rooms at the resort. I am okay. I am sober. I am proud and healthy. But. I remember (the way you remember warm weather) the buzz of close friendship, the entice of appreciation, and the high of being known. And the faces of those who knew me too well for bullshit. Those faces that filled those rooms where I was me. And I loved and I was loved.

There is a palpable wall that I hit at this, the 8-month mark of my absence. I am leaning on it. I think I'm in a corner. If it has a corner. It's a hard wall. I feel sort of stuck against it.

But. I must. Carry. On.

Fun. You're really not that fun. You're more real. than fun.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Crabby February

Dear Friend in Denver:

Thank you for checking in on me. No, I have not written much as of late. Mostly because my fingers are frozen most of the time.

Who was with me for my 39ers gone wild adventures? Well, it was Jennifer Aniston (shhh, she doesn't like me to tell people about her weekend adventures). Just kidding! It was Tina Fey. Hahahaha, why would that be so strange? Truly, it was a friend that is a combination of those two women plus her fabulous self. One who has made me laugh for over 20 years. One who sensed an urgency in my voice last December. She translated the trembling and knew I needed a friend from my past to help me integrate into my present. Or at least take a much-needed break from the strenuous work of trying to ingratiate myself to the natives.

I pray for many things for my children. High up on the list has always been that God will give them good friends. I'm not sure how else I would have been found when I was lost, or how else I would have stared down my demons. Well, except for all my therapists. But still. I pray my boys won't need those.

Am I still recovering from the 39ers weekend? Yes. Still a little sore. Mostly in my facial-laughing muscles.

Who was my gynecologist in Denver? Dr. Snyder. I think her name was Pamela. We weren't on a first-name basis, but we were quite close. She was blunt and quick. I loved her.

How have I been? Well. I hate February.

My neighbors are out of town. And every time I look across the street at their car that hasn't moved in a few weeks, I sneer and mind-curse them hoping they are suffering from sunburns or food poisoning or at least snarky, sleep-deprived children in whatever warm place they are.

Speaking of gynecologists, I had my yearly physical this week. My doctor told me (among other things like "your cervix looks great" to which I replied "Thanks. I've been working it out. Can you just polish it all up a bit while you're down there") that I need to make sure I'm getting enough Vitamin D. I asked him how. But I left out the "how the fuck am I supposed to do that here in this god-awful cold, sunless country?" He just shook his useless head.

How is work? This semester I have six students from Mexico, two from Jamaica, three from the hood, and one from good-ole small town Canada. It's a circus show--mostly prepositional acrobatics. Keeps me out of trouble though.

We received several tons of snow today. Again. I've only stepped out of my house once since February 7. To take a picture. Not of myself.

I never used to wear blush. I have found here that I must or I may be mistaken for a snow drift.

I am as pale as the torturer in Princess Bride.

My skin is cracking like week-old play-dough.

Yet there's a certain beauty in the nature-made ice sculptures that emerge around here:

This is me posing at the end of the pier.

The only thing that has been growing in this climate is my ass.

I hope you have a day that is as lovely as your daughter's dancing.

I love you with all my butt (it's much bigger than my heart).


Your Canadian Friend

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

39-year-olds Gone Wild.

I’d like to blame the following on my 39-year-old gorgeous, hilarious friend who was visiting from Denver last weekend. 

But we all know that I would be lying.

Picture this:

Downtown Toronto. 11 p.m.
Clubs recently open.
Frickin cold streets clambering with joint-carrying hipsters and 21-year-old sex pots.

And. Two 39-year-old women dressed like the cover of a Costo circular, looking to relive a bit of their past after a shared bottle of wine.

These two.
Yes, they did.
They chatted it up with these joint-smoking hipsters. 

And then the ones with the joints tried to lose the two hot 39s.

To no avail.

In-shape 39s can run in chunky heals. Unlike the sexy hipsters who wear the skinny ones. Silly girls.

Line ups at club entrances? No problem.

Free entrance for two retired hotties? Check. For entertainment? Perhaps.

Line-up for inspection of purses? Yabsolutely.

As I opened up my 12-pound arm luggage, the 40-ish year old woman cop (searching for weapons? maybe illicit drugs? nice pencils?) must have been oh-so-disappointed when she discovered the Wagon Wheel that I had stolen from my children earlier that day. 


Bar, two beers please. Dance floor, empty.

Thus began the release of two beautiful 39-year-old souls. The abandonment of every propriety we had forced upon ourselves. Finally, an audience to witness that dance we had been perfecting on our kitchen floors for years.

There were appendages swinging like fly swatters. 
There were hips thrusting as violently as they were while stuck in stirrups during the pangs of childbirth.
There was uninhibited laughter that women only have when they’re knocking on 40.

But. There was no communication over the thump, thump, thump of the club. 
After yelling into each other’s ears failed, we resorted to texting. One of us may or may not have texted to the other: “I keep farting!”

And there were boys wanting piggy back rides. Young boys. Even 19-year-old boys, here in Canada.

And then there were two nervous 39-ers finding walls to protect their weathered and well-seated bottoms. 

Don’t worry. The tired 39-ers all made it home safely. We and our bottoms. 
And our Wagon Wheels for that late-night snack.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Zeligs and 10 year olds

I am a Zelig. 

It looks like this: I can “mirror and match” most humans: body language, topics, facial expressions, tone, pet peeves, and even thoughts, be them shallow or cynical, pathetic or poetic...

The intellectuals: I can lean back, listen and nod. I can ask good questions. And even throw in a good vocabulary word every now and then (a beneficial side-effect of teaching high school English). 
The materialists: I can talk Prada and Nordstrom and fashion with most, but I am best at lamenting my own lack of style. Self-deprecating brings out the sympathy of these types, and they love a challenge (and flattery, don’t we all). 
The athletes: I have just enough knowledge about most sports to be a little dangerous. I can drop one good line and then come up with an excuse to leave the room shortly afterwards. 

I am my best at first impressions. I’m a “wooer” according to some experts.
And I’m dangerous. 
I know a little bit about a lot of stuff. But I don’t know a lot about...anything.
I was bragging about this particular quality of mine to a friend once, and she busted me. 
She asked, “Then who are you, really?”
And that question has bothered me for almost a year now.

Maybe a better question might be, “Who were you?” 

As in, who were you before you started trying to please everyone around you? Before you started bowing down to the most important person in every room? Before you started comparing yourself to everyone else around you and always found that you fell short? Before you signed yourself up for this contest that you have always perceived yourself as losing? 

And this goes back. Way back. This must go back to before I was 10 years old.

Back then I was joyful. I was curious. I was vibrant. And I smiled a lot. I only dressed for utility and ate to sustain. And drank only water or milk. I read for pleasure and played with gusto. I skipped and ran and hunted and dug and swam... and slept in peace.

This world does some horrible things to us women. It tries to strip us not only our clothing, but our self-respect and our worth. Our potential and our self-esteem. It tries to create a gauge in us that always lacks. It tries to convince us that we are a fixer-upper in need of repair.

But I don’t want to be a victim. I will not blame the world for doing this to me. I did this to myself. I chose to believe the messages sent to me from every magazine cover, every whisper from my own brain, every TV show, every comment made to shame me, every criticism... I blame not the world, but my own lack of courage to kill my little self-doubter long ago.

I want to kill it now though.

This voice that reminds me of all of my past foibles and failures. 
This echo of all those things I have done that I should not have done.
This memory of the raised eyebrows and hushed snickers.
This question of whether or not I have the ability or capacity to achieve.
The replaying of all those things I said. Those idiotic things I said.

I want to kill these, but I don’t know how.

Do I line them up like a firing squad? Or do I drown them all with my tears...or in a bottle? Do I stomp them underneath my runners? Or do I lecture them to death and try to reason them away? 

I do not know. But I want them dead. 

I want to be 10 again. I want to move ahead fearlessly without worrying about what every eye (seen and unseen) thinks about my movement. I don’t want to care about those eyes at all. And I want to feel absolutely perfect and beautiful, even when I look like this:

Clearly, I felt beautiful here. And I knew so little of hurt here. In spite of my mother's poor choice of hair dressers and eye glasses.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

bacon tears

Thys sobbed in my arms tonight. He bawled in the way that happens when you release all composure (which six-year olds don't even have yet) and give in to your visceral instinct: his little body shook, tears raced down his cheeks, and his voice tried to contain itself (but I could sense its longing to release).

It all started over bacon.

You see, I was supposed to make bacon for breakfast this morning.

But I forgot to get up early.

And I forgot to thaw it last night.

This did not go over well.

The day truly began with disappointment.

(Don’t all days end up with this sooner of later? Sometimes better to get it out of the way, I say.)

The announcement about the lack of bacon was greeted with vehement protests.

I wanted to yell: “Stop crying! Like you always do! I am so tired of it!” 
I wanted to slam a door. Or kick something.
I wanted to reason the tears out of existence: “Do you have any idea how good you have it in life?”
I wanted to appease: “Fine! I’ll make your fucking bacon!”
I wanted to hurt back. I confess. I did want this. I have little patience for irrationality.
I wanted to squelch the bacon tears with reality: “Really? We’re talking about bacon, for God’s sake, which is about the stupidest thing to cry about. Couldn’t you pick something important, like the Middle East or Kate Middelton’s baby?”

But tonight, when the bacon memories came back and he started crying all over again, all I could do was hold his little head in my arms and kiss his soft cheeks and whisper in his ears while his voice pounded, “uhhhhhh, uhhhhhhhh” in unison with his pulsing body. And. All I could say: “It’s okay baby...you’re okay...you’ll be okay...” 

And when you hold another trembling human, you have no choice but to soak in a bit of the pain, even if you don’t understand it. 

But you wonder about it.

And you wonder where it comes from. And if it’s a community pain. Or a generational pain. If it's a pain of longing. Or one of sadness. God knows it cannot be a pain of shame. Not yet.

But it certainly cannot be all about the bacon. At least I don’t think so.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

true stories

My life today:

1. My boys woke up crabby.
Me: "Here's your breakfast (that I got up earlier than you did to make for you)."
Boy: "I don't want that; I want waffles!"
Me: "Go back to your room until you can come out with a different attitude."
Slamming doors. Grunts. Disgust.
Me: "And all I'm packing in your lunch today are leftover oatmeal and carrots and celery!"
Me again: "And maybe a little ham if you're lucky!"

2. I got home from work 30 minutes early, so I thought I'd grab a quick run before I picked up the crabs. I changed, grabbed my phone and left.
I got home 45 minutes later with the boys:
Hubs: "Where were you?!?! (he works from home)
Me: "Run."
Hubs: "Sheesh, I thought I heard you, but when I looked, you weren't here. And all your stuff was here, I was so confused."
Me: "Sorry."
Hubs: "God, I thought the Rapture had happened!"
Me: "Yikes."
Hubs: "And then I thought, 'why would you be gone instead of me?'"

3. I got mail.
A letter from my mother.
It says: "Happy 40th!"
And my birthday is not until November.
Apparently, telling her that I am celebrating all year connected with the wrong synapsis.

Friday, January 11, 2013

water bottle disaster

At a Pampered Chef party I recently attended I encountered a woman with her two-year old in tow. She immediately struck me as someone who was highly cranked on coffee, or possibly meth, with her loud voice, overly forced facial expressions, and huge arm movements... she brought a lunch box full of tupperware containers of fruit and vegetables for her young daughter to eat. She also struck me as the type of woman who says Happy Anniversary to her husband on Facebook.

She was fascinating. I couldn’t help but watch her and wonder what she would do next:
-She adamantly proclaimed that she needed all her meals “on the go,” since all she does is drive her kids to ballet and ice skating and guitar lessons and karate classes...clearly she had not recently received enough accolades for her extreme parenting measures.
-She also praised her daughter for being so smart because she sorted the pistachio nuts (she put the shells in the shell dish). Genius.
-She also thumped her butt up and down on the couch and yelled repeatedly while trying to answer the hostess’ questions about the product being displayed...

Then, she spotted her two-year old drinking out of a water bottle.

Her response to this event was akin to someone responding to a cancer diagnosis ... If you had simply watched the fear and the anger surging through this woman, you would have sworn her daughter had just been impaled on the paring knife.

“Whose. Water. Bottle. Is. This?” she franticly asked every person in the room. Three times.

For at least five minutes, I watched her. At one point I thought she was going to cry; her body was shaking.

She discovered through her thorough investigation that the only grandmother in the room had broken the seal of a brand new water bottle that the tiny girl had brought to her (because she wrongly assumed that it was hers). The shame. The grandmother was scolded and rebuked by frantic mom for not checking with her first. The grandmother apologized. Then she was then subjected to Parenting Tips. It was like listening to my six-year old give ice-skating advice to Wayne Gretzky.

I must not have disguised my fascination with her all that well because at one point she looked at me and said, “I’m sure you think I’m crazy.”

And all I could think to say was, “Is your daughter not supposed to drink water?” in a nice voice.

And she hunched her shoulders over and said, “That’s not it... it’s just that...this water belongs to someone else.” And then the desperate plea of, “Whose water bottle is this?” began again.

And I was terrified to think how this woman would respond to an actual tragedy. 

I had so many questions I wanted to ask her:

-what is wrong with you?
-are you worried that someone in this house has a horrible disease?
-is this the first time you’ve taken your child out of your home?
-did you forget to take your medication today?
-would you like some vodka?

It wasn’t until after I left that I thought of some nice things I could have said to her. Sometimes I believe that we are too shocked to consider polite gestures. At least I am. Because I do remember those days when you’re doing all that you bloody can to keep your child safe and healthy meanwhile keeping yourself somewhat sane. With no sleep in your system to support those efforts, a tiny mishap can indeed throw you over the edge. I’ve been there. And I should have empathized with her. 

It’s a strange mirror to look into when you find yourself looking back at who you were and see yourself so ridiculous. 

Up next: Why I’m secretly hoping Kate Middleton’s child is born with a Cleft Lip.