Stick a fork in it

LIfe is full of surprises.

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

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

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

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.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Gone with the wind

by watchsmart via creative commons

An odd day. When I opened the blinds and looked out on my yard, I noticed my prayer flags had disappeared. We had a strong wind rip through here last night. It tore the last of the leaves from the trees, sent limbs earthward, and made a mess of the neat pile of raked leaves at the curb.

Amid all the howling and rustling outdoors, I suppose my flags lost their grip on the wooden fence and sailed away. A brief search of the immediate neighborhood turned up nothing. I decided the grouping of five colorful fabric squares, as faded and frayed as they were, had done their work and needed replacing. Nevertheless, I was a little sad and unsettled.

As the coffee brewed, I opened my laptop to check e-mail and look up some information about prayer flags, I found that I could not get into Yahoo e-mail and Facebook. I’ll spare you the details except to say 12 hours later I’m back on e-mail but Facebook refuses to allow me to use my account. I smell trouble.

Prayer flags gone. Online accounts compromised. Small things, really, but enough to set my day on its side.

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Letter of complaint

Dear Dearest NaBloPoMo,

It’s just not the same the second time around, is it? Is it you? Is it me? Is it just us together, a pot of hot chemistry when we first met and now nothing but a tepid bowl of funk?

I think it’s me, mostly. I was working it to get that quiet, studious guy, NaNoWriMo, (You know, the one who looks a little like Harry Potter on steroids?) to take me on a monthlong odyssey. I mistook a friendly tip of the hat for an overture. When midnight struck, his white carriage was not waiting at my gate.

I felt stood up.

I think it might be you, too, Mr. Rebound Guy. We bumped into each other by the gate. You had room on the bus. I said yes.  We ran through the grass hand-in-hand for days before we looked each other in the face and jumped back in fright.

“Oh, it’s you.”

It’s like this: You keep me up way past my bedtime too many nights to count. My husband is getting steamed. He says that if I’m going to have you on the side for 30 days, I need to do it on my time, out of his sight.

You distract me on a daily basis, forcing me to evaluate every chance encounter, change in wind direction, twitch of a cat’s whisker, as a possible post. I’m forced to carry a big notebook and several pens with me everywhere I go, in the event of a word hemorrhage.

Sure, I knew what I was getting myself into with you. You’re insatiable, demanding and thankless. But you’re also a disciplinarian and you’ve helped me carve bouquets of flowers out of piles of dirt.

You have beaten me senseless, stripped me raw, stolen almost all my ideas and thoughts.

And yet, I can’t — won’t — quit you. We are in this thing together for another 13 days.

Promise me one thing? When this is over? Don’t kiss me. Don’t leave a note. Just go. We’ll pretend it never happened.

Love always,

Me

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

She waits

The woman, easily a decade younger than her aged companion, outpaces him as they navigate the sidewalk home.  Bent against the westerly wind, she grasps in each hand a plastic grocery bag stuffed with provisions. When she gains a half-block lead, she stops to sit on a bench and wait. Her legs are not long enough to reach the ground. She swings them in short, tight bounces, staring ahead with a faraway smile.

He, a weathered and frail man wearing one of those military hats of the Cultural Revolution shuffles along, making footsteps so small it seems he’s only lifting his feet up and down. Each baby step jostles the plastic bags tied to his walker. He stops and stares down, out of the wind. She waits.

Some days the pair slow dances their way to the senior center for a hot lunch, or the library to sit in its quiet warmth. Some days, when the errand demands swift attention, she walks alone, leaving him blocks behind, a man abandoned. He waits.

They are not married, I’m told by a woman at the community center who speaks a smattering of their dialect. They are from southern China. One of them has an adult son living somewhere nearby.

These two are as recognizable and predictable as the church bells sounding the hour and the yellow school buses roaring by.

We call them YeYe and NaiNai, grandfather and grandmother, because they have reached out to Girl from the East over the years, speaking to her in broken English and a dialect we do not know. We pass on the street, wave and shout, “Ni hao. Ni hao.” Sometimes she stops, strokes girl from the East’s cheeks and whispers, “Tā hěn piàoliang.” (She is very pretty.)

Her patience has preserved her youthful beauty of almond eyes, high cheekbones and full lips. Only the hair streaked with gray, the weathered planes of her cheeks, etched with the fine lines of cracked porcelain, suggest her true age.

“Xigua, xigua,” she used to say, offering a slice of watermelon to my baby Girl from the East, who cowered behind me, uncertain of this elderly pair who looked and sounded like a place she knew but could not name.

Each day they go walking. She marches ahead. He plods along.

But always, always, she waits.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

I’ll say it again

 I know this is cheating, particularly during NaBloPoMo, but I am spent today. I am leaning in to what needs to be done now. Part of that is being offline for most of the day and attending to family and household matters.  See you tomorrow for Week Two.

KEYBOARD CONFESSIONAL
(Originally published in November 2008)

I was raised in Religion X.

My whole family, both sides, belong to Religion X.

It is expected that you marry someone who is also a member of Religion X.

Religion X dictates everything: where to worship, where to send your kids to school, and how you are to conduct your life down to the most intimate details. These intimate details are dictated by old men in robes sequestered in ornate buildings far away from the unwashed masses.

Some in the family go so far as to screen caterers and other service people to make sure they are of the proper religious leaning. I mean, you couldn’t trust someone outside of X to prepare and present your food, right?

Call me a wild child. I don’t even ask my dry cleaner where he worships. I take those kinds of risks with my clothing.

As soon as I was old enough, I jumped the fence and left the flock.
Truthfully, I never really was in the fold. Call me a junior wolf in sheep’s clothing. I went along with the herd. Inside, I was asking questions and doubting what I was hearing. Twenty eight years later, there are those still waiting at the gate to let me back in.

They send out messages periodically, veiled attempts to lure me. There is an Armageddon theme in all these trinkets and baubles.

I say any group that thinks they are the most worthy, that those who aren’t with them are automatically against them and somehow destined for hell, damnation, or at least inferior catering services, is not a group to which I want to belong.

As a child, I wondered about all the people in Religion Y or Religion Z. They seemed fine to me. They didn’t look like doomed people. And what about all those people on the other side of the world who have no religion? Well, I was told, if it seems like life is rough for them, we know why don’t we?
But it just didn’t seem right somehow. How could all those people be wrong? Who decided that our thinking is the only correct interpretation? Maybe we are wrong and they are right. Where would that leave us?

The adults would tell me I should feel bad for the Ys and Zs and the no religions. They said that until they found the way, they would not be saved.

Being the bad girl I was, I rejected this. I went on a quest and visited houses of worship all over the alphabet, even a cultish kind of place. Mostly people were the same. I even learned a lot of people don’t like Religion X.

Lately, I’ve kind of invented (or maybe found) my religion. It suits me fine. I won’t be shoving it down your throat anytime soon. Make that ever.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta