Stick a fork in it

LIfe is full of surprises.

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Sometimes it’s the wadded cash found in a pants pocket on laundry day.

Sometimes it’s the sudden whoop-whoop-WHOOP of a sirenflashing lights in the rear-view mirror, oh-crap-what-did-I-do-now? variety.

And sometimes, like today, it’s the oh-hey-it’s-you type.

It’s no accident that today, Nov. 30, also the last day of National Blog Posting Month, found me without a post idea and a drafts folder scraped bare. What to do? What to do?

Bloggers to the rescue.

A week ago I agreed to attend a child-focused PR event hosted by blogger Melissa of Rock and Drool. After introductions, filling out standard release forms, chatting briefly with the organizers of the event, Girl from the East ran to play with the other children and I with a fresh coffee in hand, sat down to wait. Within moments a woman, who looked vaguely familiar and her children, who also looked familiar, walked in. Clearly, she knew Melissa. She must be one of the other local bloggers. But who?

Then it hit me: our daughters were in gymnastics class together this summer. I looked down at her shoes. Converse. Yep, it’s Cardiogirl. I walked over to reintroduce myself. She recognized me, too, but couldn’t figure out the connection or what I was doing at this event. We eventually connected the lines and dots and had a wide-eyed, oh-my-god moment.

I don’t think we ever said more than “hello” to each other during that whole summer gymnastics session. Maybe once we noted that our daughters had the same style sandals. We were strangers in the real world, but walking the same warm and friendly road on the Internet.

I’m happy to say we had plenty to talk about this time. Blogging is an interesting world of people who may lead very different lives on the outside, but all share the same need to write and interact online.

This happened to me last summer, too, when I finally made the connection between a woman I saw at my temple and a blogger I adore who looked just like her. Turns out it’s the same person. (It’s funny how I never noticed all the Detroit references on her site.) It took me a few weeks to gather the courage to approach her for the secret blogger handshake.

More and more, bloggers are stepping out of the shadows of my life. They’ve been there all along, right next to me, sitting a few rows back, just around the corner.

I’m glad I’m done with this 30-day marathon. I’m glad I didn’t give up on this site, on writing, and on blogging (in spite of really depressing stats). I’ve made some wonderful connections and continue to do so, when I least expect it, and in the most unexpected places.

Carry on.

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Novembers I’ve known

Family matters

In Nov. 2010 I wrote: It is often lonely to be married to an only child of divorced parents who live far away. It is also lonely to be the daughter of one living parent and the sister of an unmarried, childless sibling who almost never comes home for the holidays. It’s a little heartbreaking to be the parent of one child whom I must relinquish each Thanksgiving as dictated by custody agreement. It’s frustrating to be the parent of another child who cannot understand what a custody agreement is and why she can’t see her sister. This past weekend had mental moments reminiscent of Ebenezer Scrooge slurping cold gruel in his drafty apartment.  I longed for a brightly lit room filled with laughing children. I longed for the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Today’s take: The hollow feeling left by that Thanksgiving stayed with me for a long time. This year, as you know if you’ve followed my posts, we took a new approach and  went away, just the three of us, to a hotel and had dinner in a restaurant. It was lovely. As we raised glasses for a toast, my husband said it would be nice to have our closest relatives with us, and I agreed. It was nice to be a part of a lively and festive setting. Some of you have big families with energetic gatherings. This is not possible in our small, spread-apart family. Even though we were surrounded by strangers, the collective happiness and good vibes filled the room. I felt warm and blessed and grateful.

Career matters

In Nov. 2009 I wrote: This week I had a revelatory moment. It struck me as I was walking into a building and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the plate-glass. I saw a smartly dressed woman with a laptop bag slung over her shoulder.

“Where have you been the last three years?” I ask the mirror image as I push the intercom button to announce my arrival.

As the door buzzes open, I consider how it feels to wear a black dress with flowing red scarf tied loosely around my neck, stockings, heels and all-business glasses. Even if I feel a little shaky on the inside, I have all the right props. No one here will have any idea that I haven’t done this full-time in three years.

Today’s take: I’d already forgotten that two years ago I had a fairly thriving freelance business. What happened? Slowly, it all fell apart. Some of it is my fault for not finding adequate child care, which interfered with my ability to interact in a professional and timely manner with clients. Part of it was the still-faltering economy, which made some clients seek cheaper (or free) services elsewhere, and part of it was company politics, even after multiple assurances that I was on board. Now? I need to get up on wobbly legs and start walking again.

NaBloPoMo, Round One

In Nov. 2008 I wrote:  Here’s my take away on the experience:

Discipline: I wrote every day. 

Achievement: I set a goal and reached it.

Insight: Big decisions that impact your future should not be made in Las Vegas. 

Community: While I connected with a few new writers and found some useful groups, NaBloPoMo wasn’t the experience I thought it would be. Mea culpa? Possibly. I’m not sure I worked the community to full advantage. I found that writing every day got in the way of involvement. So many blogs, so little time to read them. 

In the end, I’m somehow a bit better, a little more enriched for having taken this challenge. That’s worth more than a hotel room in Vegas.

Today’s take: Exactly the same.

Random violence

In Nov. 2007 I wrote: Finally we were done and began to work our way through the crowd. Others in line asked us what we’d done to upset this woman. We told them we’d done nothing. One employee piped in that this was “typical stuff.” On my way past her, I stopped and told her there was no good reason for her to push us like that and that we all could be little nicer, couldn’t we? This fueled another tirade. I’m sure I was cursed to endure a thousand snake bites in the fire pit of hell, and whatever else would be appropriate.

Today’s take: This was an excerpt from a returnable bottle and can drive fund-raiser for Girl from the West’s upcoming European tour. We encountered a very aggressive and abusive older woman while waiting in a grocery store line to cash in the bottles. Part of the shock of the experience was how this diminutive woman rammed a shopping cart into my older daughter with force and yelled at us in Chinese. We never understood the origins of her hostility. We also have never participated in another bottle drive. Six months later, I bumped into the same woman outside a coffee shop.  I said, “Ni hao ma” to her just to see how she would react. She stopped and talked to me for a moment in an easy-breezy way. I don’t know what made her so cheery that day and so angry the last time, but I realize we all have our dark days. While I was glad to see her happy, I was not about to cross her. That woman packs a wallop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Perspective

On a good day:

I’m in alignment.

I’m open to all possibilities.

I send out requests for what I want and find pleasant surprises around every corner.

I am a wheel in motion, capturing and reflecting light.

 On a bad day:

Light beams toward me, sinks into the darkness.

I know the way but I am lost.

The wheel turns, inching forward. I crouch to avoid its moving blades.

 

Props to the artist

 

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Running

 

nigel homer via creative commons

I’m trying to run.

Well, I’m actually running but it doesn’t feel like real running because it’s on a treadmill and I’ve got this idea that once I get good on that I’ll move on pavement or grass or dirt.

One of the reasons for running is because I (foolishly) signed up for this. The idea is that I aim for something difficult (to me) and train for six months so I can be so proud of myself and maybe (just maybe) have a better body and health as a result.

Another reason is that The Warrior Dash seemed irreverent and maybe not all that seriously athletic like a marathon or half marathon. A few friends completed it last summer and talked about how fun, crazy and easy it was.

On what can only be called a whim, I signed up, paid the money before it occurred to me that these friends are all marathon runners. Well, OK, half-marathon runners but still, that’s way more than I’ve ever done in my life. We might have different ideas about crazy, fun and easy.

What-the-hell-was-I-thinking?

OK. There’s also this recurring dream I’ve had for months? Years? I don’t really know.

In my dream I am running — for real, on the street –every day. I’m just gliding along with strong lungs and fluid movements. Somewhere in all this the dreams started to nag at my conscience. I’d think about them during the day. Why am I having them? What do they really mean? Am I supposed to be out there running for some reason? It became an overwhelming compulsion to get to the gym and run as often as I could. Even if I fared poorly that day, my conscience eased for having tried.

In my youth, I was a pretty good runner. I was lean and swift. Over the years I’ve dabbled with running on treadmills mostly as a way to shed pounds. The last time I seriously attempted it was three years ago. Between then and now I’ve had pneumonia twice.

Since late summer, I’ve been pushing and pushing to improve my running on the treadmill so that by January I can begin to run outside. How else can I train for this event? In some twisted turn of events, I’m actually doing progressively worse with each session.

I’ve even found myself trying to get out of this thing somehow. What I should be doing is finding a trainer.

Or maybe I just need a dream interpreter.

 

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Name-your-color Friday

Color it white Friday? This year is a tabula rasa for us, a blank slate, because we dared to make our own plans, to sidestep tradition and celebrate our nuclear family.

Paint it a blue, brown and red Friday? On this last day of our little getaway, we visit a nature preserve not far from the hotel. The day unveiled the kind of blue sky only visible  in the cooler months, after the humidity lifts its haze. Cirrus clouds etched the blue, making a stunning backdrop to the blacks, grays and browns of a denuded boreal forest. We hiked miles on leaf-littered trails, through dense brush, small clearings and wetlands. Dog walkers, one or two other families, and chattering chickadees were our only company.

It’s another antidote in the medicine chest of elixirs we’ve self-administered this Thanksgiving. Our family of three (the fourth opted to spend it with her biological father) sought a refuge of sorts in a hotel room on the other side of the state. A pretty area with rolling hills, wide rivers, and thick forests. We played cards on the bed, ate in bed, swam in the pool, sat in the hot tub, ate a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner in a nice restaurant, walked the quiet streets. No cooking. No alarm clocks. No stress.

Color it a rainbow Friday, accented with unicorns and sparkly stars, sprinkled with fairy dust. It’s that fabulous.

 

 

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Thankful 30

Since I am on a quest to write 30 posts in 30 days and today is Thanksgiving, I thought it fitting to list 30 things for which I am thankful:

1. My amazing, almost-adult daughter who has challenged me (and made me a better person) ever since I felt that first pre-birth kick.
2. My fabulous, almost six-year-old who is just brilliant. Her love and light are the perfect complement to my darker side.
3. My husband, who has stuck with me through many trials.
4. My home: It’s old and in need of work. It almost slipped away from us a few years ago. Through it all it has faithfully kept us warm, dry and safe. My heart is safely contained within its walls.
5. My community and all the great people in it. If I have to live in Detroit, I’m glad it’s here.
6. My health: It’s not the best right now, but I know it could be so much worse. I’m grateful I can see, hear, smell, touch, breathe, walk at a brisk pace, run on a treadmill, ride my bike through the woods, think (somewhat) clearly, remember (most of the time), dance to the music, laugh with my children.
7. Coffee: oh, dear sweet caffeinated goodness
8. Drive-through coffee shops
9. Bubblemint gum in those little plastic buckets. Seriously
10. Cats, particularly big, lazy ones who love to curl up on my belly and purr.
11. My car. The ads are true. I love, love, love my Sue B. Roo.
12.Good books, of the paper variety
13. Good music, of the loud and wild variety
14. Sunny days, because in Michigan we only get 100 or so of them a year if we are lucky.
15. Tina Fey, David Sedaris, Amy Poehler, and all the other humorists who make me laugh until my sides ache.
16. Good days, because they make life such a joy.
17. Bad days,  because they make me appreciate the good days.
18. My neighborhood babysitting co-op
19. Forty-seven years of life. Enough said.
20. Our community garden
21. Snowy days
22. Fleece anything — except underwear – because that’s just weird.
23. Fingerless gloves
24. Forests, mountains, deserts, prairies, or any area of virtually untouched nature
25. Aurora borealis
26. Beautiful art in all its forms
27. Good writing
28. The kindness of strangers
29. My sangha
30. My readers: to the handful of real ones and all the evil robots, I thank you.

Just say it

There is nothing subtle about this. The cat knows we are leaving and he wants to come along.
Cats don’t mess around. Give them what they want and they are pleased. Mess up in the delivery of water and kibble or forget to scoop the litter box clean and you’re bound to step in a warm surprise on the staircase.

It’s the same with children. Slip some water wings on Girl from the East, let her splash in a hotel pool until her fingers and toes turn to prunes, feed her a plate of macaroni and cheese, let her have a sugary dessert and all is right in her world.

Children let us know what they want. They ask. We answer. Sometimes there are tantrums. Unpleasant as those outbursts are, we know how they feel and they know where we stand on an issue.

Then we grow up and become vague adults. We assume things. We talk in riddles. We hold grudges and pile on the baggage. We don’t say what we mean or ask for what we want. We allow ourselves to be manipulated or attempt and fail to micro-manage the lives of everyone around us.

Then, one morning, someone stands up and shouts: Enough!

The morning after that someone else wakes up alone, with no plans for the day and asks: Why? What did I do?

 

Wordless Wednesday
(on Tuesday): country road

Every so often I just need to escape.

Holiday tradition is nice as long as it doesn’t feel like a leash.

I’ve felt a tightness around the neck lately.

So, we’ve taken to the road with idea of visiting the shore, hiking through woods, and maybe we’ll even have tacos for Thanksgiving.

 

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Hey, doll

Part of a second-hand store's street display during a festival

Right away I want to say I am not a doll person in the sense of a doll collector.

I do not own dolls.

The ones I kept from childhood I passed on to my daughters: a rag doll, a few odd Barbie dolls, and Fisher-Price Little People figures. Dolls are for children as far as I am concerned.

The voodoo doll. Now, that’s the exception. That is always a possibility.

I do not collect dolls. I collect pictures of dolls because I’m fascinated with how people repurpose cast-off toys.  Are you familiar with the work of artist Tyree Guyton? The baby doll nailed to the side of an abandoned house on Heidelberg Street in Detroit, in an area known as the The Heidelberg Project, is an evocative image, is it not? If you are familiar with the problems of Detroit, this doll will break your heart. Even if you are not, it’s still a powerful image.

Not all doll depictions are so gut-wrenching. I have a few in rotation on Facebook that generate laughs and questions from friends and looks of resignation from my husband. He uses Facebook as part of a suite of online portfolios and networking tools. He does not always appreciate being married to a doll head with blood dripping from the eyelids.

Most of the dolls I find in my travels.  The one above, Dementina of the zombie apocalypse, reclined on a mod ’60s living room display in a fairly upscale vintage furniture and fixtures store. A little unsettling but also kind of funny. Would I want that in my house? No.

Not actual size of bald, body-less doll head

I have a wooden doll head that a friend who “gets me” gave to me a year ago. I like the look of this bald, body-less wooden head. The wide, wistful eyes, raised brows and lips pursed in perpetual state of surprise make me think of Cindy Lou Who when she finds the Grinch stealing her Christmas tree.   Truth? I don’t know where this head is anymore.

I could go on but you get the point.

Speaking of dolls, here are links to two other posts I wrote about dolls:

Awkward holiday moments
Doll face

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