Monday, April 24, 2006

Orgasms and Ectoplasms

Lying in bed this morning—that sort of cotton encased post sleep, with a slightly increased heart rate—the dream patches through...heavy dream—my white coffee mug in a corner and a cat that is fascinated with what’s inside. Someone pulls out the contents—it’s the decapitated head of another cat.

Lying on side in bed, eyes open: Uh-oh.

Uh-oh.

Like, this one might be more than Dr. Freud can handle.

Then I thought about how you make a pin prick in each side of an egg and blow the contents out through one of the holes and I thought, that is like a metaphor for having your soul sucked out of your system.

Because, really, who doesn’t think of the ectoplasm of the soul as having the opaque gelatinous consistency of an egg white?

Then I thought about intangibles and onomatopoeia and how words like ectoplasm and orgasm end the same way. They start off really strong, with o-r-g-a and then they disrupt and dissolve into a Zen-like chant word—“zum,” as though the word just has to concede that there is no sound to adequately describe the rest of the word. Orga-zummmmmmmm. Ectopla-zummmmmmm.

Then I thought about people who either say or imply that they would never have the time to write one of these websites. Which always amuses me. It’s such an American thing, really, to lord your lack of time over people. As though a person with three kids and a full time job and bla bla bla has random oodles of time to maintain a website.

For me this is a matter of survival—not unlike a man on a desert island sending out messages in a bottle.

C’est moi.

I feel compelled to do this in that same way. For that Ernest Hemingway writerly reason, yeah, like must write every day, yeah yeah yeah. Virginia Woolf and her little writer’s hut out in the back. THAT sort of thing.

But, and I have really analyzed this, I wonder about why so many people, women in particular, feel compelled to record everything, like with the scrapbooking and these websites and stuff.

I think it’s related to 9/11 somehow, even though I don’t like to invoke 9/11 because I believe it’s sacred—the memory of it, since it represents so many lives.

I just wondered about it and about Pompeii and Hiroshima and whole places that have been buried or blown apart and obliterated and what people come back to when they study the detritus from those holocausts is the every day—what people were doing, what they hoped for, who they loved, what kinds of utensils they used.

Write what you know.

I want to know what people know. I want to hear confessions. I want to feel better or uncomfortable or relieved or in collusion with others—it’s good to know there is a common experience going on all the time, in small towns and on farms and in big cities. It’s good to know there are some connections—among strangers, among all of us.

I’m going on a business trip for the next couple of days and I’m a little bit scared, if you want to know the truth. I can’t help it. I am just a little bit scared. To take my ectoplasm out of the thin but secure shell of my family. Just felt a massive surge of love.

I got to spend the past five days with them. I took three days off last week—took Nick on a picnic in sun dappled Rock Creek Park with another mommy and kids from his school. It smelled like Washington. It smelled like high school and decaying leaves and the salt and silt from the creek and the damp undergrowth beneath rocks and fried chicken and sneakers.

By Day Four of my sojourn MZA said, “You seem so much happier.”

I felt like I was feeling things in a primary sense, and not just through the scrim of a church confessional. There wasn’t a filter—the filter of trying to feel life through the bubble of obligation and routine.

I made a compilation CD last night. It was so fun. Except I had a slight feeling that I was making a time capsule of who I was in that instant, much as this website is. The CD started with The Beautiful South singing a cover of the theme song to “Midnight Cowboy,” "Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me” (I can’t hear a word they’re saying) and ends with a song from Billy Bragg and Wilco’s album, “Mermaid Avenue,” that puts Woody Guthrie’s lost songs to music. “Birds and Ships” is the song.

Driving into work this morning I thought about love. All the way in.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

LOVE. IT.

Our far flung correspondent, Nicholas, up on the Cape, alerted us to this fabulousness...

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dada Tuesday

The existential questions for the day are:

Is it possible to actually enjoy what you do for a living?

If you feel like you are “talking yourself” through the process all the time, does that mean you are not having fun?

Is it a problem if you memorize the carpet fibre colors in your office and compare them to weird foods, such as spinach soufflé and cream of mushroom soup, and somehow those weird food comparisons become the driving metaphysical burden of proof that your life is a rote canned walk-through and not an actual pleasure dome of possibility?

I compare this existential struggle to the love paradigm. If I know what it feels like to be in love, and I do, then surely I would know what it feels like to be doing something with my life that I like.

Yeah, we’re back to this again. Sorry.

It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Interrupting cow.

Interrupting co—

MOO!

Have you ever worked with an Undermining Martyr before? Undermining Martyrs are disloyal and often have a vast array of ongoing never-ending symptoms, like a chronic kennel cough, soul sapping fatigue, and a tendency toward self-serving references about “being in the office all the time.”

Personally? I am on a quest, that often feels futile, to do something gratifying and purposeful and meaningful with my life.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I know.

I think I have truly been in love three times in my life.

Maybe those extra love opportunities are what's undermining my chance at career happiness!!!

I would take being happy in love over being happy in my career.

I would take it, because that’s what I’ve got!

And that’s good. So we’re going to be appreciative. And ignore the overly dramatic symptoms of the Undermining Martyr.

KENNEL COUGH!

Jesus H. Christ, the statute of limitations on that fucking cough has P-A-S-S-E-D!

Don’t you hate it when you’re not sympathetic with others?

Have you ever wanted to give someone a Vitamin C intravenous drip and push them out a window?

I FedExed a package last week—a personal one, not for work—and I just went to fedex.com to see if it landed and there is this adorable little tracking trail of my little pak’s pick up, transit, drop off and the initial and last name of the person who signed for my package.

A small piece of my heart is in that package, and so I am glad to know its Peter Pan midnight flight of a journey. The little log reminds me of a birth journal, a little life haiku involving the fairy dust trajectory of my small dream, that I sent out into the world, on its own.

I cast my net for some help with this small dream, and everyone I wrote to responded and helped me. That meant a lot to me. I think, even if it doesn’t happen, it means a lot when people have faith in you.

And that’s what’s going to carry us above the clouds today while we continue talking ourself off the career ledge conundrum.

P.S.--it was raining yesterday morning and as I was leaving the house I said, "Shoot, I left my umbrella at work!"

MZA said, "It doesn't matter, you're just going from here to a garage."

I said, "Yeah, but it's a two block walk from the garage to my office!"

He said, "Oh, sugar melts!"

Because of his slight, adorable British accent, he pronounces "sugar," "shoo-gar."

It was a moment. I laffed.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Talley ho!

Talley Ho! I’ve been saying that a little bit more than I should lately.

Friday night Karen and Eric came to town with their sons Jordy and Ryan. We ordered in Chinese food from our favorite place. (We like to rename every Chinese restaurant that has “East” in the title with “Beast,” because we’re hilarious and clever that way.) So we ordered the food from Hollywood Beast this time and it was GREAT!

Saturday Karen and I were “forced” to go to Target :-( without kids :-( :-( because we needed to get Easter supplies. Karen Target and Me are a marriage made in heaven. We walked in and might as well have taken off our shoes and donned scarves—we were that reverential.

We got supplies.

We were under strict orders from both husbands “not to go overboard.”

Right.

We were standing in the Easter Extravaganza World of Target—do you notice how it’s not just an “aisle” anymore, but a whole %$#@ theme park, abetting the manic need we all seem to have to CELEBRATE every holiday within an inch of its life…

Anyways, we’re standing there with a cart that is GROANING beneath the weight of jelly beans (STARBURST ORIGINAL, PLEASE), malted milk ball eggs, Butterfinger eggs, Peeps (Karen was a “must” on this one, I loathe them), etc. and Karen reaches for the BRACHS Chocolate bunnies and I say, “No.” She says, “Lisa, the basket has to have a FOCAL POINT!” At which point all the other maniacal mommies looked at her and giggled. Mockingly? No, in complete collusion with this Easter Basket Focal Point Logic. As in, HELLO!?!

We came home and sort of did a Red Cross disaster relief bag to bag into the house with all the "supplies" that we didn't go "overboard" on.

That night we had, if I do say so myself, a KICKASS dinner party. Roy drove down from New York; Moira, Sheila, Jon and all the kids came too. WHOO HOO! I marinated chicken in soy sauce and ginger, MZA grilled; I made my mother’s “zany rice,” which is steamed Jasmine rice topped with sautéed onions, pine nuts and raisins. Toldja it was zany! Moira brought one of her trademark fabulous salads with EIGHT colors, including a lovely purple hue from beets.

MZA set about making Cosmos (I know, we’re so 90’s, I hear ya) and people partook. Sheila brought a crab ball and spiced shrimp. She and I are the PROUD Maryland contingency. All Marylanders have to do, in order to lord our fabulousness over everyone, is make things out of crab and shrimp.

Hahahahahaha you boring Virginians! Take your sod! We have the fruit of the sea! Pass the Old Bay Seasoning and crack me a beer! Marylanders are real!

The talk got wild ‘n racy, the kids ran around the house, jumped on the guest bed downstairs, watched DVDs and had a great time.

After everyone left, Karen and I set about making five Easter baskets. Which is kinda fun when you’re a little lubed up, I must say. The menfolk sputtered and huffed and puffed and refused to help with stuffing the plastic eggs with Cheerios and raisins. Yes, Cheerios and raisins, because Karen and I are perfect mothers whose only concern is our children’s health and well being. (Yes, that does mean we ate most of the jelly beans…)

We woke up the next morn, which had threatened all week in the paper to be stormy and bad, to the bright yellow sun and the gorgeous blue sky.

I dyed a buncha eggs and kept reassuring MZA that it was ALL PAGAN ALL THE TIME. Eggs? P-a-g-a-n! Bunny? P-a-g-a-n! Jelly beans? P-a-g-a-n!

So he asks Nick, “Nick, what is the real significance of Easter?”

And Nick, proud product of a parochial school, cheerfully says, “It’s about the Resurrection of Christ, Daddy!”

MZA turns to me, betrayed, dejected and says, “You said it was PAGAN!”

I said, “It is! All of it! It’s just a pagan celebration of spring! Rebirth! Renewal! And the Resurrection of Jesus Christ the Lord our God, no big deal honey!”

I hid all the eggs, plastic and boiled, in the back yard. Can I tell you what I felt like? I FELT LIKE THE MOST AMAZING PERSON IN THE UNIVERSE! I was nestling freshly dyed eggs in the bountiful greenness of my yard! For small children to partaketh of! Nestling…eggs…colors…pastels…Paaaaaaas vibrant goodness! The kids loved it. We ate biscuits out on the deck and marveled in the splenderatude. Then we kicked into high gear and got ready for:

My Favorite Event of the Entire year: Oatlands.

Because really? What better way to celebrate Easter than at a horse race, gambling, drinking and EATING?

Oatlands is a point-to-point horse race out in the rolling hunt country hills of Ole Virginny. Why, I used to saddle up out there as a teen! Talley Ho!

Oatlands is the most beautiful place ever in the whole entire universe and it seems to fulfill all my Scarlett O’Hara delusions quite well because when I traverse the elegant grounds, I honestly feel like I am having a three dimensional séance. With a place.

I love it more than anything.

And I love the day, and the horsies, and the hats and the elegant “tailgating” fare.


I LOVE OATLANDS.

Moira and I, through weird serendipity, share a pass to the “Patron Lane” at Oatlands, which means we’re right on the rail as the nags come thundering past. It’s all set on the grounds of this former plantation, and so it’s very bucolic and Degas-esque. Lovely!

We bring as many preposterous things as we can think of, silver cups, silver ice buckets, elaborate centerpieces—lots of “bows” to fanciness, with a heartwarming hillbilly aesthetic firmly in place. In the form of Popeye’s fried chicken.

It is a really, really fun day, spent outdoors, beneath old trees, watching the ponies sail elegantly by, while we stand by the table and graze the day away, whetting our whistles with Bloody Marys, champers and beer.

Talley ho!


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Friday, April 14, 2006

SIX SIX SIX

I don't say no to pregnant ladies...Gingajoy tagged me and so here we go on the fascinating odyssey of SIX SIGN OF THE BEAST Things You Needed to Know About ME:

  • I rode an elephant in India when I was seven. I was too scared to ride it the first day, so they brought it around the second day and I rode it. Undulating pachydermic rhythms!
  • I drive barefoot. Well, mostly just the right foot, so I can feel the pedal better.
  • I got married in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. My family was not able to come*, but all 52 Peace Corps volunteers I was stationed with came to the reception. We had a sit down dinner for 100, two live bands, and LOTS of vodka and champagne. The restaurant was named Smile.
  • I don’t like any spread on my sandwiches. No mayonnaise, no mustard, no nothing.
  • I’ve been to the Taj Mahal twice.
  • I did something naughty on the hood of a pickup truck. I was not alone.

Waaaaaaaaaa, I don't know who to tag.......

I'll come back to that part...

*Not for any nefarious fractured family reasons, just logistics, etc.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

THINGS I LOVE THURSDAY (aka TILT)!

I screwed up and thought today was "Cryptic Thursday," when in fact it is: THINGS I LOVE THURSDAY, spurred on by the pop culture, intellectual, cocktail swillin', high priestess, Michelle, over at Weaker Vessel.

Whew! Boy did she save YOU from my morbid meanderings this morning.

Here's what I love:




You see, I went out to lunch with two colleagues yesterday, because that's just the sort of pan-savoir faire kind of gal I am, and we wandered into a party store.

We all seemed to share the same LIMITLESS fascination with items such a plastic rat that was tricked out with "realistic rat-like motion," stretch rubber frogs, feather pens, AND WE LINGERED, nay, LOITERED clumsily in the Hello Kitty section on the pretense of looking for things for our "girls."

I found a simply irresistable little slightly plushy Kitty IN A RED KIMONO. But that wasn't the kicker. The KICKER was that she was wearing those little crazy red ZORIS.

I clutched my little satin sheathed totem, in her traditional Geisha footwear, and I loved her. I thought, "Um, Daisy?"

I got back to my office and looked at Kitty and imagined Daisy's sweet eyes of wonder. Then I imagined Fancy Red Satin Kitty at the bottom of the toy pile, amid petrified Cheerios and naughty brothers, and I thought, "No. NO!"

Kitty is hanging on the wall in front of me. Eying me enigmatically in her calm Geisha Kitty way.

We're happy together.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

This is a Fun Game

Hi--I'm having:

Pull a Rabbit Out of a Hat I Don't Like That Rabbit Make it a Different Design I Hate Purple Rabbits Be Creative kind of day.

With my kids? Mais non! With my "office kids," oft referred to as "clients." Love them!!! But like zee kids, they can be a leetle, shall we say, demanding! Perhaps a non-purple rhinocerous out of the hat, love? Will THAT make you happy?

Soooooooooo, since I love Belinda, because she is one of the most inclusive, friendly, smart, accessible BlogDames in town, check out her site today. This is a fun game. Also, I've already sent in my guess! So I can NOW share the link with the "masses."

I'm on a roll, kids. First Jon Stewart, next, THE WORLD!

Go here for instructions on how to play. Then go here for her second entry to make a guess as to who she is impersonating. Now. You'll thank me.

But if you beat me, I'll be mad. Be forewarned.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Through the Porcelain Looking Glass

Saturday MZA and I cleaned the house top to bottom in preparation for a big dinner party with four couples from Nick’s school and ten of their children!!!

I made two polenta and black bean casseroles, MZA made an Uzbek spring salad with yogurt, cilantro and radishes, then he made a big traditional green salad, topped with feta and toasted pine nuts. He also made Margaritas.

We had everything ready—psychotically ready—so we wouldn’t be in a pre-dinner flap. With that many people involved, you don’t really want anything left to chance.

Everyone arrived, festive, cheerful, all toting one and two bottles of wine, a beautiful spring candle, and the kids all immediately filed into a chaotic formation—a band—of power energy that scaled all three floors of the house, invaded the rainy back yard, came back in and swarmed about cheerfully. The adults were all so convivial—I think it was the right time to get everyone together after the winter doldrums and before the summer free fall. Everyone stayed until 11:00, there were hugs all around, I felt really happy and proud that we pulled it off. They were all really appreciative too, and that was nice.

Sunday we lazed about and in the afternoon MZA and Nick were about to go on a bike ride when Nick uncharacteriscally was complaining of a stomach ache. His face lost all color and I told him to go upstairs and lie down. The next thing I knew, the mayhem had begun—nonstop vomiting, cold washcloth on forehead, Nick lying on the bathroom floor looking up at me and saying, “Thanks for taking care of me Mommy.” Crrrrrrrrrrrack. Sound of heart breaking.

I threw the shower curtain in the wash, mopped his floor and Cloroxed the toilet. I was on top of it! It was a desperation borne of, please God don’t let the babies get it. God answered my prayers and gave it to: me.

I know. I KNOW I exaggerate and am given to drama and a heightened sense of everything, but I’m giving this to you straight: I have NEVER been so sick in my life. Food poisoning? Been there. I was in PEACE CORPS, for crying out loud. Food Poisoning is practically my middle name. I would have WELCOMED food poisoning on Sunday night. It would have been a balmy relief from what I was going through.

As I clung to the porcelain parapet of my bathtub, staring down into the narrow abyss between the pedestal sink and the tub wall, at the black and white tiles of the floor, I thought: I have reached the n-a-d-i-r. That’s what I thought. N-A-D-I-R.

Then of course I thought about Elvis Presley and how we shouldn’t have all made such fun of him for dying on the bathroom floor, especially since I was also about to die on the bathroom floor.

And the PROBLEM IS, I deal with medical symptoms a lot with my job, and so I had LOTS of medical symptoms going through my head like “renal failure” dyspeptic coma, diasporic convulsive sporazoa, nadiraphobic dysphasia, death pallor virulentia, etc.

The violence with which this thing took me, stunned me. At one point, during the porcelain parapet nadir bathroom floor moment, I thought I might quite honestly die. I thought, that’s it, MZA is going to have to call an ambulance. They are going to have to take me away. But then I got afraid of barfing off the side of a gurney and I felt safer and better in the cold white calming embrace of the mid-century bathroom fixtures.

When I lay back in bed, I felt myself start to lose consciousness—I was going somewhere much deeper than the troubled semi-slumber that had plagued the endless night—was I fainting? No, it felt like a slip into a deeper realm. I told MZA the next morning that I was going to ask him to call me an ambulance and he said, “There’s nothing an ambulance can do about barfing.”

Mmmmm.

My husband is an incredible, loving, sensitive and unselfish person, however he indulges me not at all in any drama. Which is good, in a way, because it keeps me grounded and gives me perspective. At about 11:30 the next morning he came up to the bedroom and said, “How much longer are you going to be in bed?”

Um forever?

I said, “I don’t know, why?” And he said, “Because I want to clean the sheets and vacuum the room. You can put clean sheets on the bed.”

I said, “When I put on the sheets can I get back in bed?”

He said, “After you take a shower.”

He brought up the vacuum and said, “After you’re finished make sure you sanitize the handle.”

I took off the sheets, duvet, blanket, everything and he took them downstairs, where he was manning a massive laundry initiative. I vacuumed the room, in all my skuzzy fineness, wondering, “How many women have to sanitize their own sick room?”

I unplugged the vacuum and put it back at the top of the stairs. I sanitized the handle. I got in the shower, all shaky, not quite sure I was ready for a soapy sudsy immersion, but it felt like heaven. I got back into bed, in a clean nightshirt, amid clean sheets and I thought, somehow, he’s always right, even when I resist it so completely.

I felt so much better to have the midnight slime removed and to lie in uncontaminated sheets. As I lay there, the sun shone in through the windows, amplified by the pale yellow walls and I looked out at our giant elm (it might be a maple…I’m kind of bad with tree identification) in the front yard, that is just starting to get some feathery leaflets, and I felt at peace.

Then a fully recovered Nick and MZA came upstairs with a smoking tray of white sage and smudged the bedroom, with three ceremonial waves over my formerly possessed body. Nick was loving the “ceremony.” You see, Uzbeks also burn sage to “purify” places, much like the Native Americans do, so we always have a stash of smudging gear on hand, when the spirits become particularly sinister.

I read my friend Nani’s book, The Sea of Tears. Thought, fuck she is an amazing writer. Then I closed the door, turned on my side and slept, quietly, peacefully, uneventfully—without any guilt—I wasn’t shirking any duties kind of thing—until about 6:00 p.m. I woke to the chaotic turmoil known as “Ian” flying through the house, screaming, laughing, crying, yelling: instigating. The bambini were home from daycare. There was a sound of another woman downstairs. I thought: that’s it, I died and MZA has remarried…

I went downstairs and a mommy from the bambini’s daycare was over with her daughter. I descended the stairs looking, I am sure, like Beetlejuice. I sat on the stairs and Nick came up to me and said, “I don’t know how to tell you this Mommy, but you won tickets to go see Jon Stewart’s show in New York!”

I won tickets through a school raffle. I filled out each of my eight raffle tickets so carefully, thinking, you know, as you always do, I will never win this…

But I did.

We’re all healthy so far. And this “near death” experience caused me to have a real and very important epiphany.

More on that later.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

My Life as a Midwestern Industrial Town

Uh oh! Today seems to be, “someone-just-looked-at-me-funny-and-now-I’m-going-to burst-into-tears” day! You know, when you go to someone’s desk, with an unbelievably magnanimous offer of selfless and martyrific proportions, and they look up from their computer huffily—impatient—this person! Who has always been so gracious, so friendly—and says, brusquely “Hold on a minute.” And me, grown up person, aka adult, feels a lump begin to rise in my throat.

Why yes it is raining, and I did oversleep, why do you ask?

Yes it is the 10th straight day our own darling Daisy Belle has woken up at 5:30 a.m. screaming, “I want to sleep in Mommydaddy’s bed!” You must be clairvoyant!

We had to fetch her sweet darling angelic self, breaking ALL of our carefully patented parental rules of No Kids in Bed, as we complacently loaded her under the covers, like the spineless worms that we are. Each of us hugging the farthest parameter of the bed, balanced on sore, overslept-on shoulders, while our little fairy imp-ress slumbered obliviously.

And just exactly when do toddlers lose that angelic sugar breeze baby breath and supplant it with Regular Adult Morning Breath? Whew!

Do I also need to reiterate that the Woman Who Plays Cannibal Beats has the damn thing going this morning? DESPITE the fact that I had to suck it up last week and ask her to turn it down, which I found agonizing, but it had to be done. You know, before the chicken feather altar wanton sacrifice thing happened, or something.

Did you ask if it’s rainy, and gray and dismal?

Did I answer you?

Do you ever have days when listening to someone speak a foreign language suddenly becomes THE MOST IRRITATING THING IN THE WORLD? And you feel like Archie Bunker because all of a sudden you just want to scream SPEAK ENGLISH GODDAMMIT!

You say that never happens to you because you lovingly embrace all cultures and the melodic sounds of other tongues merely reminds you of our own insignificant place in the greater scheme?

Oh.

Do you ever get the feeling that if you have to remember ONE MORE THING, it just won’t be pretty? Like the “wafer thin mint” thing. You know?

That’s where I am. I’m just like, oh, I’m so sorry, but I will be unable to put one more piece of “to-do” data into my sagging and flaccid brain! It is saying, “Uncle!” It is like a vacuum bag that has accommodatingly continued to store dust and crap well beyond the initial red light warning, but now we have reached critical mass.

There’s steam emanating from a roof across the way. I feel like I’m in Gary, Indiana. No, wait, I feel like I AM Gary, Indiana.

And no one likes me anymore. It’s really sad. Everyone is short and impatient and they clearly have moved on to other friends and people. I am alone.

I AM ALONE IN GARY, INDIANA!

And for some reason, everyone is speaking Spanish and all I want to do is sit in a frayed armchair and call people epithets and drink beer out of a yellow generic can and watch TV.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Women

Sweetney and Gingajoy got me to thinking about feminism from their recent posts. I commented on Sweetney’s site that I practice feminism by example and not by dogma, whatever that means.

What it means is, I was brought up by a pretty strong dame. My mother is a true maverick. She was born in Ada, OK and she rode horses, played polo, and, when she was 19, her father bought her a Piper Cub airplane. He told her about a program a woman named Jacqueline Cochran was putting together for women pilots in Texas.

My mother went and tried out for the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) but she didn’t get in. She came back home and told her father and he told her to go back and try again. He told her no daughter of his was going to fail. She went back, tried again, and got in. She became friends with the founders, Jackie Cochran and Nancy Love. Nancy Love was my brother’s godmother.

After the war, the WASP disbanded, my mother met my father at a cocktail party in New York, and six weeks later they were married. My father joined the Foreign Service, they moved to Singapore, then Australia. My mother went on two week riding trips in the Outback. Then they were then stationed to Tokyo, where she took up ceramics, calligraphy, painting and taught English on Japanese TV.

When they came back to the States, she was asked to join the Women’s Advisory Committee on Aviation, where she met a whole new slew of salty kickass dames.
Connie Wolf
, the Lady Balloonist, who always, and I mean a-l-w-a-y-s, wore a black hat with a black mesh veil attached, was a good friend who would come over for cocktails and stories.

She also met Janey, the wife of a senator and an accomplished aviator, who was once considered for the NASA space program. Janey is the first woman I remember cognizantly feeling respect for. Because she was such a ball busting liberal realist. She was also an experienced sailor who learned celestial navigation in her 60’s so she wouldn’t have to rely on temperamental machines. She had eight kids, that she sort of stayed home with, and her own small plane that she used to fly her husband to all of his campaign stops.

My mother’s two best friends were “the two Elizabeths,” both OBGYNs. Elizabeth was the first woman chief of staff of Columbia Hospital for Women, here in DC, and she delivered me. She was like my second mother. I gave one of three eulogies at her funeral and it still chokes me up. The other Elisabeth (for whom I am really named because that’s how I spell it) became a psychiatrist when she was in her 50’s, in addition to her OBGYN specialty. She became one of the foremost experts on post-partum depression and pre-menstrual syndrome because of her unique discipline in both fields.

Sooooooooo, conversation around the hacienda was always pretty stimulating. No one ever talked about working or staying at home. It just wasn’t an issue. My mother went to work in the 60’s for the FAA, as part of Johnson’s initiative to get more women into the government at higher levels. She went in, working on congressional liaison, and worked there for 25 years.

I was born late in my parents’ lives—my brother and sister were 14 and 11, my parents 42 and 54. So my brother and sister got one mother—the adventurous, horseback riding, glamorous hostess and I got the still-wonderful hostess, who also worked full time at a demanding job.

My mother hated housework and, as a Foreign Service wife, she had tons of servants and so when she came back to the States and started working full time, she hired a nanny for me and a housekeeper. My mother never did a load of laundry in my lifetime—honestly, I don’t think she could tell the washer from the dryer. She also never made my lunch or baked a cookie or a cake. Ever. Wait, she did make my lunch for my first day of school in second grade. (We had just moved back from India). She made me—and I kid you not—a CUCUMBER AND MAYONAISE sandwich. That’ll go a long way in establishing you as an eccentric fruitcake on your first day of school, lemme tell ya.

My mother didn’t do lunchroom duty, she didn’t stay home with me when I was sick—ever. She didn’t come to my school performances, until I was in high school and started doing theatre in earnest. My father came to the grade school stuff because, after he retired from the Foreign Service, he worked for VOA and was home during part of the day. It never really bothered me about my mother. It was just The Way Things Were. And it sure as hell didn't bother my father, or he didn't show it, because he loved and respected her endlessly.

So I guess I’ve never really known anything else, except really strong, really outrageous, committed, liberal, women who did interesting things with their lives—whether they worked full time or not.

It has never occurred to me to feel inferior to a man. Not once. Not in my intelligence or in what I can accomplish. I know I’m lucky for that. Honestly, I don’t ever recall a man making me feel stupid or inferior. (Well, maybe they have tried, but it's never worked). But there have been plenty of times when a woman has.

What I was also trying to say in my comment to Sweetney, echoing another person, was that I think we need to concentrate a lot more on humanism before we get specific with the feminism. I see a lot of divisiveness among women. And I think the whole stay-at-home vs. working mommy “war” is not media generated—well, part of it is exploited by the media—but I believe that division is based on some common American and human bugaboos such as jealousy, hypocrisy, feelings of inadequacy, stereotypes, judgementalism, etc.

We’re not honest on this issue. I’ll be honest. I am jealous of stay-at-home moms. I always have been. And that is saying something because I’ll tell you the truth, I am not a jealous person by nature. I think there are powder kegs of resentment on each side, offset by judgments and accusations—both verbalized and internalized.

I would like to stay home, but I “can’t” financially—oh, I KNOW the argument, I could if I really wanted to. Maybe I could, but I think it’s actually better that I do go to work. I know an acquaintance who says that going to work makes her a better mother. I would, however, like some balance in the equation.

What works for one woman is not going to necessarily work for another women. I think until we are able to stop being snotnoses toward women who have made different decisions—on working, staying at home, having kids, not having kids, getting married, not getting married, then we’re going to be in a thicket of disagreement.

Which is NOT to say I don’t see a huge melding of the chasm, most notably on the Internet. I think that phenomenon has brought together women from every single facet, demographic and mommy war and the reason I think we are listening more to one another is because we’re hearing the real voices and the real stories without any preconceived notions.

Mom-101 touched on that beautifully in a post where she revealed a picture of herself for the first time. She said she hadn’t done it before because she liked being a voice—just a voice—without having to contend with all the assumptions and compartmentalizations we all make, no matter how hard we try not to.

I love the people I’ve “met” so far. Mostly because I KNOW I wouldn’t have met them otherwise.

Now I gotta go be a working momma—and ain’t we all working mommas.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Listophelia

Nihilisticism—adherents are often seen in cars, headed to destinations they look like they don't want to reach, cradling aluminum hot beverage cups, swearing at others and listening to mindless banter on commercial radio.

Amorphocism—general free-floating life malaise, characterized by prolonged bouts of self-doubt and inertia.

Microcosia—an inability to think outside of the box.

Megalomaniacism—often called “Ahab’s Syndrome,” a consuming affliction that leads to misguided, unrealistic, never-ending quests for self-aggrandizement, caused by an inflated sense of one's position in the world. Symptoms are exacerbated by severe swelling of the ego and frontal lobe. Research to date has not identified a cure.

Procrastinacea—creating lists of made-up words. Also incurable.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Namaste Pop Tart

I feel GREAT. I did the Crunch Yoga Pilates Blend DVD this morning. I know! And I am having a Dannon LEMON yogurt and tidy little Fuji apple slices!

Yeah, I want to kick me down the stairs too.

I thought about I Love Lucy as I did the Crunch Yoga Pilates Blend this morning. Specifically, I thought of how much I looked like Fred Mertz as I lumbered through the routine. You remember when he poses for Lucy as a Grecian figure and he throws out his back from standing in a pose too long? You don’t remember that? How come?

So I joyously went through my morning routine. “Hi Kids! Nick, Are you making everyone waffles!” Tralalalalalala. Blue jays perched on our noses and ribbons wafted through the air as angelic choirs hummed in a serenity-filled symphony of unmitigated bliss!

This morning was a lot better than yesterday morning when I was having that Loretta Lynn moment, you know in Coal Miner’s Daughter where she’s on the stage forgetting all the words and she’s having this total breakdown calling plaintively, “Doo…Doo…” and that magnificent stud muffin Tommy Lee Jones comes gallantly swaggering down the aisle and cradles his little bride and carries her off the stage and out of the theatre. Remember that? When the wheels of the bus were just moving and moving and the routine just kept going and she was carried farther and farther away from the hills and the bucolic splendor and the kind crinkled eyes of her father, the gentle stud muffin Levon Helm, forgetting her core and her creativity?

Oh. Yeah. It was THAT kind of morning yesterday.

When I just sit at my desk sort of levitating in a semi-catatonic haze of torpor and disbelief and my hands hover above my paperwork like I am playing with some kind of imaginary Ouija board, trying to divine my purpose and sustenance in life.

YOU KNOW. THAT kind of morning. That then morphs into a whole entire day of puzzled quizzical questioning, vagueness, toppled reason, free floating sadness, a QUAGMIRE, if you will, of mental and emotional directionlessness.

Then the phone rings and I see from the exchange that it’s Manhattan, and so I know it’s my friend Fred who is ONE OF MY FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. Ever.

Fred and I like to make fun of…everything. Take no prisoners. He makes liberal fun of me, and then we try and crack each other up—it becomes this sort of Pillsbury Bake-off of crack ups. Then we snigger and snort and kind of spit a little bit and then I take in these big hee-haw breaths and people in my office lose all respect for me and think I am just a gadfly who chats on the phone and laughs about others’ misfortunes.

Fred must have some kind of inner device that is tuned to my abject despondence because he has this way of ringing at just the right “ledge” moment.

And seriously? Never underestimate the therapy of laughter. Because talking to Fred makes me feel EVEN BETTER than I do as Fred Mertz doing the Crunch Yoga Pilates Blend. And eating browning apple slices washed down with a Diet Coke. The Diet Coke is a way of attaining BALANCE in all of this. The fruit is the yin and the Diet Coke is the YANG.

Take notes.

Now fire up that sitar and let’s all lean in to the connectivity, power and balance of one united world.

I bow to the divine in you.

Pass me a Pop Tart, please.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Lisa Bueller's EXCELLENT Day Off

I took the day off on Friday, the legit way, in advance. I didn’t rely on the worker bee mental health cop out of “calling in well.” Because I am a perfect and dedicated employee.

[beat]

Since I did it the “official” way, I did not have to ride out the day in bed, acting out my Catholic guilt by “doing what I would do if I were actually sick.” That’s what I do when I "call in well." I think it’s more of an excuse to marinate in front of the TV waiting for the afternoon duo-fecta of Dr. Phil and Oprah. With a small side of checking in on All My Children to see if Brooke and Erica still look the same as they did WHEN I WAS A CHILD.

MZA is a man in motion kind of guy, in direct contrast to my lazy and slothful ways. He had a Plan for the Day and that involved jack-knifing out of the house, dropping off the kids at school and daycare and then driving down to the Mall to see the Cherry Blossoms.

Mais oui!

Kids, they peaked on Friday and were exquisite.
We walked down past the Ellipse to the WWII Memorial that I had not seen. Zzzzzzzz. Soviet architecture anyone? I told MZA it looked like an example of “committee-fied” art. Trying too hard to please everyone results in a snore filled pastiche of rightness. Blech. And BOTH of my parents are/were WWII veterans. (My mother was vehemently opposed to the memorial because she said the Mall was getting to crowded.)

We walked. And we talked and we took snaps of each other beneath the fat pale pink petals. Then we walked up to the Freer Gallery and basked in my favorite room of all time, Whistler’s Peacock Room, that has been lovingly restored to its emerald green teak perfection. Then we went to the Sackler Gallery to see the STUPENDOUS Hokusai exhibit, which was truly lovely. At one point I turned to MZA and said, “How does it feel to concentrate?”

I felt almost giddy, to be free of the kids for a spell, to be away from work (!!!) and to just be, as we used to be. We walked back uptown, past the Corcoran
and the White House. By this time we were STARVING. I mean: Code Red. I was almost faint from hunger and MZA just wanted a sandwich.

We walked into a Cosi and I had this instant revulsion at the long “lunch hour” line and all the badge clipped workers standing around in hideous “casual Friday” tragedies.

Blech!

MZA gets kinda grumpy when he’s hungry, which interferes with my restaurant radar (a skill akin to divining water). He walked into one deli and it smelled weird and it wasn’t crowded and I said “no.” We turned a corner and there was a charming little impromptu café set up outside of a Spanish restaurant. Bueno!

Blue canvas umbrellas, large bottles of fancy bubble water and a decidedly Euro clientele. We sat down at a table, surrounded by Lebanese cypresses, and looked at the menu. You know how you look at a menu and there is not one single solitary thing that you want? That’s what happened! But I thought, “F---it. We’re going to just GO WITH IT.” Besides, I would have fainted if we got up again. Things started looking better (mind opening a bit!). MZA ordered a MARAGARITA and I ordered a Heineken. Whoo hooo! Then we ordered fried calamari, seafood croquettes, potatoes with “veins” of blue cheese AND shrimp in garlic and olive oil.

Something light.

Ha!

And it was so damn brilliant. The sun, the muted chatter, the attentive waiter and busboy, the elegantly presented tapas.

MZA looked like a cat in the sun and he said, “I love it.” I said, “What?” He said, “All of it.”

It was the best day of my recent entire life.

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

An Eight Year Old's Worldview

We were sitting around the dining room table this morning, in various stages of Honey Nut Cheerios and orange juice, with a chaotic hamster cage dusting of the Washington Post all over the place, when my son Nick looked up from his section of the paper and said, "It's true! Bush has no self-doubt! I guess that's the best thing about him. I try to look for the good in people, but with him it's hard. Most of the time he just seems like a plane going down."

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Cynicism is another word for reality

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