Guests and gifts

I seem to be short on status updates lately. My Twitter bird has lost its chirp.

Some of it is due to volunteer commitments. Some of it is because the weather is nice and we only get a few months of nice weather around here. I hate to squander it on the Internets. Some of it is pure mental exhaustion. I’m spread too thin in real life and online.

So, this week I had two guests:

The first, a surprise visitor, knocked on my door. I let her in willingly. All day she led me down different avenues, ones that delivered me right to where I needed to be. There, I found some of the things I’ve been wanting and wishing.  I couldn’t believe my luck.

The second was a familiar pest,  an ugly country cousin who storms my house and refuses to leave without a fight. He is quick to take things away and keep me off the roads leading to answers.

After sharing with someone in my life what I’ve been up to lately, the big, the small, the stuff in between, I found this gift in my e-mail inbox. It is absolutely perfect:

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

– Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

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I've got red on me

Scroll down to the bottom of this post — if you dare — and then come back.

I’ll wait.

OK. Are you still with me? Or did you feel woozy and have to click away? I don’t blame you. Rather than post a picture of my actual eye or pictures I found on the Internet, I opted for a nice illustration. Wasn’t that nice of me to spare your stomach’s contents from an unexpected projectile journey?

So, this is what my left eye has looked like for going on two weeks now. It’s starting to fade.
I’m not sure what happened to it. Either I have high blood pressure and my days are numbered, or it is a delayed reaction to the corner of a hardcover book my eyeball accidentally jumped on two weeks ago. See, I remember the book coming at my head. I remember telling my eyeball to take cover. I remember my eye screaming. I remember putting an ice pack on my eye. What I don’t remember is my eye looking this creepy afterward.

It didn’t.

It seems I may have done something else shortly after that unexpected blow to the unsuspecting eyeball to send it into the freak-show zone. It may have to do with a certain 40-something woman channeling Ahnold at the gym.
Whatever the cause, I’ve been trying to accessorize one white eye and one red eye.

Turquoise goes nicely, I’ve found.

Meanwhile I ‘ve had more social events, networking shindigs and especial occasions this past month than in the last three put together. At each one, I’ve forgotten about “the eye” until someone stared just a bit too long, or came up really close and half-whispered: “You have red on your eye.”

And that got me thinking about  “Shaun of the Dead” and my favorite repeating line:  “You have red on you.”

Sharp stick + eyeball = bloody hell, people!

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My head is floating in a cup of celestial tea

Photo by Mohawk via Creative Commons

I’ve had quite a week.

I accomplished something I’ve been preparing for since last fall. It’s been an intensely personal journey that I’ve shared only with my immediate family and one close friend. Along the way, I tried not to think too deeply about whether I would make my goal, I just followed the steps and listened to my heart.

What I did is follow through on something I’ve wanted to do for quite a long time. Nearly all my life. It doesn’t really matter what it is. It matters only to me. What I do with it is the only thing that matters to anyone else. It’s a first step toward a more authentic life. The life I want for me. Not the life that others have told me I should live in order to please them.

Following the big day I found myself carried on an indescribable wave of peace and happiness and joy. I felt different, but how? Things seemed clearer, but in what way? I wanted to be quiet and introspective and sequester myself from the world. I wanted to hang onto this amazing head-floaty feeling.

But life has a way of elbowing in on those rosy-tinted moments. It did so a few times this week. Once, at a writer’s meeting, when I felt grossly inadequate and realized the speaker’s “sharing” of her knowledge was only a thinly veiled excuse to peddle her moral agenda. Again, a squirmy feeling at an event at which I was easily 25 years older than everyone else in attendance. And yet again, when I gathered with some casual acquaintances and questioned what I had in common with them anymore.

I’m evaluating everything, questioning if some of the things I’m doing (blogging) are good or bad for my well-being. I’m examining my relationships and deciding if hanging on to some is counter-productive to my personal growth. If I have to hide so much of who I am at my core, what value is the friendship? I’m exploring my desires and motives to achieve certain things. To what end?

Every day is going to throw these wild pitches at me. Do I know how to read the signals? Do I have a glove and do I know how to use it?

I’m working on dealing head-on with some long-lasting conflicts. I’m working on anger management and being assertive without being abusive. It’s all a delicate dance and I’m a girl born with two left feet.

I’m working on being who I am and accepting me as I am right now. The me that’s 20 pounds overweight and past her prime and living in Detroit. Not the me I’ll be when I lose 20 pounds or get into grad school or move out west and find my dream home/job/life.

This has been the most difficult part. Friends and family snapped pictures of me last weekend at an event. They were candid — as in I didn’t have a fair warning to suck in the gut, stand straight, check my hair or arrange myself in the right angle for the best possible exposure. The images made me sad and dissatisfied. Is this how I look to the world when I don’t realize the world is looking?

I ask myself: If I can admire the crooked oak in my back yard, the misshapen lilacs that line our lot, the goofy markings on my fluffy cat, the exotic beauty of things perfectly imperfect, why can’t I just accept the me that is me right now?

For a few beautiful hours, when the me that is me shined like a thing of beauty inside my head, all was well in the universe.

The tea grows cold. The work begins.

mummytime

Smart phone, smart phone, what do you see?*

I see a 45-year-old technophobe looking at me.

Forty-five-year-old technophobe, 45-year-old technophobe what do you see?

I see a ball of complication bearing down on me.

I see a steep learning curve rushing toward me.

I see freedom from the Internet slipping away from me.

Excuses, excuses, what do you see?

I see that technophobe letting me be.

And that’s just what I did.

I walked away from a semi-smart phone, a touch-screen beauty with all the beginner bells and whistles to take this dumb phone user to the next level. I surprised myself. I’d secretly coveted this phone. But when it was placed in my waiting palms I felt a weight heavier than its mere ounces bearing down on my psyche.

How to explain? Perhaps I’ve taken on quite a bit already this year. I’ve committed to  some life-changing practices. I’ve taken on a literacy tutoring commitment. I’m still trying to balance home/work/family. Somehow making time to learn a new phone/mini computer threw me over the edge.

Blame it on middle age. Blame it on my resistance to gizmos and gadgetry.

While I had this sweet little toy in my hands, I looked up to see someone who wanted it more than I did. So I gave it to that person. It made her happy and the weight lifted. Just like that.

I kind of like my simple phone. It fits so nicely in my pocket, my purse, my car’s console.

I can’t really text all that well. Those of you who send me texts know that already, don’t you?

I send and receive calls. I use it to calculate restaurant bill tips and to program my calendar to remind me of appointments.

That’s it.

Low-tech.

I’m staying on this side of the fence as long as I can.

I’m keeping my commitment to smelling the flowers, looking for patterns in the clouds, reading books made of paper, and claiming some time and space as my own, free of the chains of connectivity.

MomZombie does not do apps.

Yet.

* Profuse apologies to Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

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Please be neat …

Hello! What’s this?

Why it’s a toilet seat cleaner dispenser. Welcome to the bathroom lineup, Ms. Dispenser. Do you like your prominent place between the toilet paper and the commode? Are the customers keeping you busy?

I was surprised to discover you sitting pretty in the ladies room at the  nifty micro-brewery that just so happened to be where we met Bossy for her (No)Book Tour stop in Detroit earlier this week. It was such a nice bathroom: mood lighting, vased flowers, framed mirrors. It’s hard to believe you were on duty there when so many facilities around town scream for your services.

Perhaps the rest room at the BP on the interstate is too offensive for your delicate disposition? Maybe the customers would mistreat you? Take your sanitized goodness and use it for a purpose other than expressly intended? Would they, in their road-weary and/or controlled substance stupor, fail to read your fine print?

Oh, the stories you could tell, if only you were able.

I have a few questions:

  • Are you ignored?
  • Laughed at?
  • Mistaken for hand sanitizer?
  • Do the offenders clean up after their bathroom antics?
  • Is it more likely that bathroom patrons clean someone else’s folly?
  • You’ re not angry with me for taking your picture and plastering it all over the Internet, are you?

I hope you are not the only one of your kind, a visitor here observing our habits to report back to your leader. I hope to find your brothers and sisters in more places. It’s a rough job, no doubt.

Carry on, brave warrior, carry on.

Photo by MZ

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Bossy in Detroit

When Bossy stuck a strategic push pin on Detroit (I felt that!) declaring it part of her six-week, nationwide (No)Book Tour, I just knew I had to be a part of the day somehow, some way.

I’ve adored Bossy’s blog ever since I first stumbled onto it three years ago. She had me at “sister mercy.” As she worked out the details of her (No)Book Tour with her publisher bank account,  I wrote her a poem and begged her to come to Detroit, where she could skate on a real ice rink and not a frozen puddle on the street.

When I realized that she’d be here on a Monday night, my heart sagged a bit. Of all nights, Mondays are the toughest in this household. Mondays are long and taxing affairs. They feature sweat pants, dark glasses and multiple trips through the Tim Horton’s drive-through lane.  There are no meet-ups, nights out, glam or, god forbid, cameras pointed at me on Mondays.

I made an exception this Monday. I’m a little sore from moving the planets, but I got them aligned just in time to meet Bossy and a group of Michigan and Ohio bloggers. We claimed a cozy corner in a wonderful micro-brewery inside a historic building in a Detroit suburb. We drank things like “Clementine Lemon Thyme Wheat Ale” and “Cherry Hard Cider” and ate copious amounts of hummus, fattoush and tzatziki on pita. At one point, we were asked by a group of subdued dudes behind us, “Who are you people?”

We are Bossy’s people, silly men.

Ms. Bossy and MomZombie at the (No)Book signing

Now, for a few questions:

Is Bossy as stunning in real life as on her blog?

Oh, my, yes.

Is Bossy as funny and nice in real life as depicted on her blog?

Even more so. Especially considering her hectic schedule for the last month. Would I look so fresh-faced, stylish and chipper? Would you?

Am I glad I gave up sleep and my Monday night workout for this?

Absolutely.

To Bossy and all the great women bloggers*  I met yesterday: It was a pleasure to eat, drink and be merry with you. Please be kind and Photoshop the parsley out of my teeth before you post pictures. I know it’s there!

Mommy’s Martini

Unmitigated

Just Juli

The Suniverse

@grandemocha — look her up on Twitter

It Is What It is

Table For Five

Mommy's Martini, Suniverse, Unmitigated and Bossy

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A mother's day

Photo by PedroSimoes7 via Creative Commons

I know a young woman who’s about to give birth.

She is not married.

She made the decision early on to keep the baby and raise it with or without the father.

Some of her family members are not in support of her decision.

They have called her silly, misguided and disillusioned. Not to her face, but to one another. Why? She is not married. According to the family’s faith, babies should not be reared outside of wedlock. Period. In fact, the sin began before the point of conception. She should have remained chaste until her wedding night. That’s the order of things. Their words, not mine.

While I agree that entering motherhood as a single woman cannot be the easy route, I admire her decision to take responsibility.

When her family does things like call her foolhardy,when they do things like boycott her baby shower because “the whole thing is inappropriate,” I ask two questions:

1. Why punish an innocent baby because you hold the mother in judgment?

2. Would you approve of the alternatives: adoption or abortion?

There is no choice once an egg is fertilized and implanted in the uterus but to make a choice. You either go forward and commit, go to an adoption agency, or go to an abortion clinic. Well, I guess there is a fourth option, but I won’t go there in this post.

I know that I would not have been ready to be a mother at 20. I was barely able to wrap my mind around the idea at 29. Once I knew I had a beating heart inside my body, I knew I had to make a choice. I chose to keep my baby and raise it.

Was I married at the time? I was. Does it sound odd that I considered alternatives? Being within the bounds of marriage did not guarantee anything to me. I was not concerned about sinning. Maybe the sin, if you want to entertain that idea, was being careless in a marriage that was on unstable ground. What good to a baby  is a bad marriage? What good to a baby is a father who’s more interested in continuing his college-student lifestyle? What good to a baby is a mother in a low-paying job who has no choice but to relinquish her child to strangers for 8 hours a day? What good to a baby is a marriage where the mother and father fight rather than show love?  The way some people think, a bad marriage with a lazy father and an unprepared mother is far superior to a single mother who is ready, willing and able.

Would this young woman’s family be happier if she’d placed the baby for adoption or elected to abort? These choices keep things tidy for the extended family for sure, but not for the baby or the mother.

Adoption is not a closed door. I have my beautiful baby No. 2 thanks to her birth mother and father. Their pain is my gain. Not a day goes by that I don’t acknowledge that my joy has an emotional price tag. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder when my Girl from the East will ask where her Chinese mother is. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her Chinese mother gazing at the horizon outside her rural village, or at the hazy skyline outside her high-rise apartment,  wondering where in the world her baby girl is now.

Abortion ends a pregnancy but it does not negate its existence. While I have not made the choice to end a pregnancy  – nature did that for me — every January 21st I wonder about the baby that got away, the one that would be 9 years old today, the one I am convinced would have been a boy.  I remain pro-choice, but that experience changed my view on the procedure. One day you are pregnant. The next you are not. You do not go back to who you were before that.  A clean uterus is not a clean slate.

They say she has no idea what’s in store for her. I say even the most prepared woman with an amazing partner, financial security and the means to deal with any contingency can be sucker-punched by the arrival of a baby.

All I see is this young woman filled with optimism and joy over the impending birth of her baby. She has, thankfully, some family members and friends committed to helping her in this transitional period.

Happy Mother’s Day to this young woman and to mothers everywhere, no matter what choice you made in this life.

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Gym-nasties

I’ve been fascinated with gym culture ever since my first visit to a Vic Tanny exercise facility in the early 1980s. On that evening I saw women walking around in Jane Fonda inspired leotards, leg warmers and terry cloth head bands. I saw guys with permed ‘dos sidling up to the juice bar to flirt with the aerobic dance instructors.

My boyfriend at the time had a lifetime membership to Vic’s and dragged me along in hopes that I’d sign up, too. That way we could be joined at the hip for yet another activity. While I was naturally svelte at the time, in no way was I in shape. I learned this as quickly as it took my smoker’s lungs to deflate under the unrelenting demands of my Nazi training instructor. I regretted every drag I’d ever taken on my Marlboro Lights as she  kicked my sorry little ass — clad in a club-issued and very pilled navy blue leotard — around the stations. If she was trying to get me to sign up, she was failing miserably. I avoided health clubs for a few years.

Eventually I came around.  I’ve had memberships in just about every type of facility:

  • the women-only places that have monthly food parties (I know, right?)
  • the recreation center aerobics classes
  • a Punk-rock fitness club that meets in bars and encourages you to bring your own hula hoop
  • the co-ed places where the men and women work out on separate days
  • the co-ed places where the men and women work out together but are so hopelessly crowded it’s more like the men and women stand around together waiting for the treadmills.
  • one of those new no-frills 24/7 operations. This is where I go now.

No matter where I crunch and curl and do my cardio thing, I see the same stereotypes:

Hans and Franz: The tag team workout buddies usually show up after their tanning appointment. They wear some variation of the Borat unitard. They show too much nipple and have perfectly waxed brows, backs and chests.  They hold court in the free-weights room, emitting a constant stream of grunts, groans and wet gasps before letting loose 200 pounds of metal, which always drops with a  thunderous crash to the floor. If you close your eyes, they sound just like a porno soundtrack.

The  sidecar: Most often it’s one of Hans’ or Franz’ girlfriends. Sometimes it’s another guy. Either way, the sidecar arrives with his or her bulked-up partner but does not exercise. Sidecars position themselves close enough to hand their partners towels and bottled water. They may get up periodically to have a smoke break, buy a fresh bottle of power juice from the vending machine, or  look outside to monitor weather patterns. Mostly, they cast looks of admiration and approval at the partner’s bulging muscles.

The marathoners: Found running indoors in the colder months when outside running is too treacherous. There is no dilly-dallying with these folks. It’s all business, which is generally an hour or more on the treadmill.  They wear all the right gear, including their commemorative T-shirts from charity runs. They are totally free of jiggly body fat. Sometimes they do crazy things like run backwards — or skip sideways — on the treadmill just to show off. Their cars have 26.2 sitckers on the back window.

The New Year’s resolution newbies: They arrive in droves and in earnest, with super large water bottles and  iPods loaded with motivational tunes. They’ve just chugged a shot of wheatgrass and bought a box of Power Bars in bulk. They carry a fitness journals and make notations after each activity. They have a look of desperate determination in their eyes. They’re all gone by February 1st.

The escapist: This type wanders in looking bored, most likely seeking refuge from the wife/husband/ kids/cats. Their workout attire is as half-hearted as their somnolent pedaling on the recumbent cycle. Their visit usually ends within 30 minutes, 25 of which were spent at the magazine rack. It’s also possible these people are trying to make good on a gift membership.

The clueless: They are at the gym as a guest or on a one-day pass. They show up in totally inappropriate exercise clothes, try to run on the treadmill in Crocs, lift weights in surfer shorts and flip-flops, and screw around with the machines and equipment until something jams or makes a loud noise. Eventually they give up the ruse of exercise and  claim a piece of equipment as their personal props and dominate it for 30 minutes while recapping the latest episode of “Battlestar Galactica.”

Finally, so as not to appear all high and mighty, I’ll throw in my own category:

The middle-aged housewife who fancies herself as some kind of exercise nut but who should really ditch the shorts for a pair of exercise capris because have you seen how her legs look in that flourescent lighting? That’s me, guilty as charged.

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My first time

Now that I have your attention, I’m sorry to say this won’t be about the loss of my virginity.

*ahem*

I’ve been tagged by the eloquent writer and educator known as TeacherMommy who runs things over at Diapers and Dragons.

Her oh-so-easy challenge to me on this sleepy Monday? Cut and paste my first blog post.

This is so appropriate since May is my blogging anniversary month. Three years I’ve been doing this crazy thing called blogging. In light of that, I’ll treat you to the first three blog posts. The first one hardly counts.

HELLO WORLD!

twogirlz2.jpg Welcome to WordPress.com. What the heck am I doing?

Have you recovered from the weight of that post? Here’s the second one:

NEWBIE’S FIRST KEYSTROKES

OK. Here goes. This forty-something quasi-technophobe is starting a blog.

The adventure began one week ago when my husband prodded me to start one. Not so much because the so-called blogosphere needed another, but because he thought this on-hiatus career woman needed an incentive to keep writing and learning about modern technology.

Turns out, he was right! Darn him.This is a perfect example of how our marriage works. I know where everything is in the house, remember that he has a dentist appointment today at 3:35 p.m.; he knows what’s best for my soul.

I’m content to operate in an analog world. He gently nudges me toward the digital domain. I like my paper and pen journaling process. I like to write letters. I enjoy the tactile sensation of leafing though a magazine, the daily newspaper. I like used book stores.

It was he who has delicately suggested over the years that I open an e-mail account, set up a Web page, get a cell phone.

So, a week ago I began a blog in another location, because it looked simple. Wrong.Turns out the whole platform was incompatible with my Mac. Bye-bye first blog, hello current incarnation. Newbie has her wings. Now it’s time for some flying lessons.

And here’s the third:

DO HOMEMAKERS HAVE W-2S?

This is the rhetorical question posed to our accountant, after I quickly thumbed through our late-but-we-bought-time tax returns: “Why the $@#% am I listed as a homemaker for 2006 when I worked the majority of the year??”

There is a form — listing my earnings outside the home — clearly attached to the document. Nowhere on that form from my former employer does it say “homemaker.”
I’ve worked full-time since the late 1980s, with one six-week maternity leave in the early ’90s. I left the workforce in November 2006. Yet, it doesn’t matter to accountants and the IRS. I’m no longer a “wage earner” and “income producer.”
Twenty years of work and nothing to show for it. Not even a final shout-out on the tax form.
That’s sad.
In the seven months that I’ve lived the life of a homemaker, housewife, “housefrau” or domestic goddess, however you spin it, I’ve realized not much has changed in terms of the public’s perception. Like it or not, this is the official label affixed to my backside.
It deeply disturbs me that I am deeply disturbed by the title homemaker next to my name. Why?
It discredits all the women out there who are honored by the title. It belittles our mothers and grandmothers, many of whom didn’t have “the choice” that I had to pursue a career and have a family.
Still, I’m bothered.
I didn’t walk away from a career to be a homemaker, although I did want to be home. It hasn’t been easy, the letting go of the working life, the mindset.
I came home for my daughters.
One, a newly hatched teenager, hit a rough patch this past year. My nights/weekends/holidays shift was adding a lot of potholes to her bumpy road. Simply put, I just wasn’t there for her when she needed me.
My other daughter is a toddler, recently adopted from China, and in need of a lot of love and attention. I made a minimum one-year commitment to dedicate the time and attention I once devoted to my career, to her so that she could get the good start in life she deserves.
I’ve never worked harder in my life than I have in the last few months.
Try fitting all that on a tax form.

Have I changed? Well, we all do in one way or another. Blogging probably has not helped me with my health and fitness goals. But, it has helped me understand the Internet and social networks. I’ve connected with so many wonderful, talented, funny and helpful people online. I’ve even met a few in real life, too.  In ways they may not know (or maybe they do a little bit) some of my online connections have had a great impact on where I am today both in the virtual sphere and in real life. Right off the top, thanks go to MamaMary, Dharma Bum, Teacher Mommy, Melissa of Rock and Drool, JD at I Do Things, and Laurie at Foolery.

Next week I get to meet Ms. Bossy as her (No)Book Tour wends its way eastward and pauses in a suburb of Detroit. Not only that, it will be a live broadcast somewhere on the Internet. Huh. Better get my camera face ready.

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