Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Introspective (part 1 of thousands)

It’s no accident that the last blog post I wrote was when my dog, Birdie, died. Writing has taken a back seat to many things in the past 4 months, none of them very positive or uplifting. But conveniently, as 2012 wraps up, it appears that there could be some resolution on the horizon to various forms of chaos that have plagued me for some time. I don’t want to jump the gun, of course, so I should assume some of my “issues” will persist into the new year. I guess that’s okay. I’m generally not a huge fan of major changes in life so I wouldn’t want to be entirely free from angst. That could be a little bit too different.

Earlier this year, during a particularly stressful period, someone made the observation that I was feeling a great deal of ambivalence. His observation went something like this: “you’re ambivalent about everything.” Everything? Really? This seemed like a sweeping generalization to me. So I said, meekly, “I wouldn’t say I’m ambivalent about everything.” To which he replied, “Oh, I would.” Well, skipping the defensive, knee-jerk analysis of what exactly his qualifications were in making this proclamation about my feelings about everything, let’s just say I didn’t feel good about this pronouncement. However, upon further examination, I later did, in fact, come to the conclusion that yes, actually, I was ambivalent about a number of things; everything is a bit far-reaching, but maybe, you know, a few things. Several things.

So, in my characteristically obsessive manner, I spent a great deal of time and energy mulling over  what my ambivalence meant. As part of that, I had to also spend a great deal of time and energy mulling over exactly what ambivalence means, in and of itself, unrelated to me or my feelings. In the same way that when you look directly at a faintly twinkling star in the night sky it seems to disappear but when you look beside it, it comes back, I found the definition of ambivalence to be extremely elusive. The entire exercise began to dissolve into something that felt more like apathy, which I was beginning to understand all too well as I drove myself crazy with trying to decide what I felt and why. Apathy, as in "fuck it all, I don't care about any of this anymore, you want me to feel certain or definite about something? Ok, I am certain I just don't care."

Huh... it seemed the obsessiveness was not helping.

Fortunately, or unfortunately sometimes, life gets in the way of being able to incessantly ruminate over all of my thoughts and feelings as they pass through my mind and soon I found myself back to just co-existing with all the good and bad, the fun, the turmoil. And recently, I've begun to detect something in my heart that feels like resignation. For example, I am resigned to the fact that my adorable little Birdie is not coming back and in her place, I have a big lunk of a dog named Mandy who needs me and with whom I have fallen totally in love, despite the stress she causes me at times. And I am, for now, resigned to the fact that I am not going to wake up and don my creative writing outfit and prepare of pot of tea to take out to my charming writing shack in the woods where I will produce stunning works of written art. I might someday, but for now, I have been offered a great job that requires me to adhere to someone else's schedule. I can work my hopes and dreams in around the job and that might be incredibly helpful for me right now.

So is resignation a step up from ambivalence? Resignation, I think, implies that one feels at least a little bit certain, definite, resolved, settled, or sure, does it not? These are the words that I found when I looked up the opposite of ambivalence in an effort to define what it is I should be aiming for in my sentiments. The problem with resignation is that it sounds so grumpy, more like sullen acceptance rather than exhilarating certainty that one is making the right decision. But exhilarating certainty is a lot to ask for when it comes to making life choices. I suppose this is where faith comes in to the picture because if you can't trust that life will turn out okay then it seems like your only other choice is anxiety and paralysis and that is no way to go through life.

2013 is ready to unfold, a new year of growth and adventures, fun and pain. I gave up making resolutions several years back so at least I am not ambivalent about what I hope to change or achieve. I am certain I want to be happy. I definitely want to take care of my loved ones. My employment woes have been conveniently resolved for the time being. I feel settled on what is important, like my daughter and dogs, among other things. And I am sure that I am looking forward to the new and unknown. I could change my mind about that, though. I think I'll hang on to some ambivalence, just to cover my bases.

Wishing you all peace in the new year.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

What we carry

Last night my dog Birdie was hit by a car. The sense of loss I feel over her death is crushing, something so painful it feels as if I can’t bear it for one second longer. I alternate between replaying my memories of her and forcing my mind to turn elsewhere so that I can experience some relief from the sadness. This morning I decided to take a walk around one of the area lakes where I had been taking Birdie to run lately. It seemed like a way to be with her memory but also be distracted at the same time. I hid behind my sunglasses and was surprised by how invisible I felt. I really have no idea if the rest of my face belies my emotions or not, but for the time it takes to walk past another person on the walking path, it felt like I was free to let my feelings go and not pretend that all was okay. And since no one stopped me in horror over my obvious anguish, I’m guessing I looked like any other normal walker at the lake.

And that makes me wonder about all the people you encounter in any given day. What sort of pain do we carry with us when we are out in the world? It seems to me that if you reach age 40 and do not have some emotional scar, some sorrow or trauma hidden inside you, you are either very lucky or you are hiding under a rock.

As I walked, my mind ran through many thoughts, memories of Birdie and when she first came to our house, how light she felt when I would pick her up and how incredibly soft her fur was; how she liked to snuggle up against me in bed and how her tiny legs could run so fast for so long. But I also thought about how my pain felt so obvious and so enormous that it must be apparent to everyone who saw me, as if my sadness was a wall that people would walk into if they passed too close to me. If my feelings are so painful to me, how can they not be causing pain to everyone around me. Yet I’m not so self-centered or naïve to think that other people might be feeling badly, as well. Did that person lose someone they loved? Did something traumatic happen to that person? Did they see something bad happen and are they haunted by what they saw? Everyone has some pain, something for which they grieve. How much do we carry around with us and would it surprise us to bear witness to the sorrows of others’ lives?

I like to think things happen for a reason. When Birdie came to me, I was feeling sad. Many areas of my life were fraught with difficulties and Birdie was such a pure, simple little package of love that I felt certain she had come to me for a reason. While parts of life have definitely improved since June, I am, by no means, carefree, and therefore cannot fathom why fate would see fit to remove Birdie from my life at this point. But again, I’m not so naïve as to think this is really how life works. Bad things happen all the time, events much worse, more tragic than the loss of my dog, and rarely is there any clear reason that makes the sadness or pain comprehensible.

So I wonder, what do we carry and how is it we can outwardly appear to carry it with such ease? Sorrow is far too common yet we rarely notice it in the people around us. How does it stay hidden and is that good or bad? Might the world go to pieces if each one of us was honest about what is inside ourselves and let our true emotions show through? It fascinates me to think about it, but maybe it’s a little terrifying, as well. Whatever it is, I hope you find something or someone to help you lighten the load. Be kind. You never know what others carry.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

F*** You, Me First

Are you getting what you deserve in life? I mean, you’re a good person, you work hard, right? You are entitled to a vague, unspecified, completely subjective level of proper treatment from the world. There are certain things you should expect to receive, including, but not limited to, love, respect, hard cash, material goods and convenience. And if you ever perceive, at any time, that your right to these items is being infringed upon then you should complain, loudly and persistently, until the situation has been rectified. Am I right? I know I am. I feel that this is correct, this is The Truth, so therefore, it must be. This is kind of the American Way, I think.

I’ll give you some examples. You recently spent approximately $1,040.20 on a round-trip plane ticket with multiple stops on your travel itinerary. You were willing to spend the extra money because you thought you were purchasing an extra special vacation experience. The day before you are scheduled to leave, one flight is cancelled. On the tail end of the trip, another flight is cancelled. This is an outrage. You paid all that money! You deserve something in return for that money. Do not rest until you achieve a sense of justice, until you feel that the air travel provider has properly compensated you for the inconvenience you’ve just experienced. Don't be deterred by the fact that you will never have any contact with the one person who is directly responsible for your pain and discomfort (if that one person actually exists, which he/she probably does). Take out your anger on the company representative on the telephone. She probably deserves it anyway.

Here’s another example. You are in the market for a new home. You think new construction would be nice but you like the sense of community found in an existing neighborhood filled with all older homes. One such older home is up for sale. It is structurally sound, it has a certain "character," but it is old and the closets are hopelessly small. The price tag is somewhere in the $400,000 range and you are conveniently wealthy. You should buy it, tear it down and build a new, bigger house. Make sure it has a “Master Suite,” complete with a walk-in-sit-down-and-put-your-feet-up-while-you-choose-your-outfit-for-the-day closet and a bathroom with a bathtub and a separate shower and maybe a Jacuzzi and a chandelier. Put a chandelier in the closet, too. You deserve it! You are entitled to live in a manner that provides you with the optimum level of comfort and convenience. Walk down the hall to the bathroom when you want to take a shower or relieve your bladder? Oh my, that is so pedestrian.

On a less material note, don’t forget that you deserve the best treatment from all the people with whom you have relationships in life, be it your spouse, your postal carrier or the lady cashier at the grocery store. You are a good person. Don’t let other people’s unknown personal lives and emotional issues influence your happiness. That is not right. It’s not fair. So what if you are making a personal phone call on your cell phone at the same moment you are paying for your tank of gas. Just because you are on the phone and not making eye contact with or even really paying any attention to the clerk does not mean that they have the right to treat you with any less than the utmost courtesy. Conversely, if you are the teen-aged cashier at a store and you are engaged in a conversation with your co-worker about what you did last night while ringing up a customer’s purchase, just because that customer is smiling politely at you and handing you correct change, don’t let them make you feel guilty for sharing important information with said co-worker. Social interaction is not just important, it is essential to your well-being. Plus, if you don’t tell Kelly about how you twisted your ankle while dancing last night in those platform sandals, she might see that photo on Facebook where you are falling down and then tell all your other friends you were drunk. And that is just not true. You were buzzed, but not wasted. Not at that point in the night, anyway.

Do you see what I’m getting at here? We deserve something in life; something vague and unspecified and completely subjective. It’s called fairness or justice and if it doesn’t really exist it should. I feel that I am entitled to fairness, therefore, it must be right. What about the other guy, you say, or the other side of the issue (or, say, the environment)? Fuck you, me first. That sounds fair to me.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Back to School

I recently returned home from what felt like an epic 2-week vacation. The first week was spent in Long Island visiting my father-in-law (AKA: Grandpa Bob), our standard, annual family vacation. The second week, my daughter and I spent in Maine in a small town on the coast where my niece and nephew spend their annual summer vacation visiting their own Grandpa Bob (my sister’s father-in-law). I knew before I left that it would feel strange to leave town in July, the height of summer, and return home in mid-August as the summer wind-down begins. And I was right.

These last few weeks of August are always jam-packed with breathtakingly poignant reminders that summer is waning and the back-to-school season is nearly upon us. The sound of the cicadas, the ever-so-slight change in the slant of the sun, the way nightfall gently creeps up on you, the obnoxious school supply displays at Target; all of these things are like a deafening clock ticking its way down to the end of the season.

I was talking to my mom on the phone today and she was getting nostalgic about the days when it was her three children returning to school at the end of the summer, ridding the house of our endless yelling, running, asking to be fed, and tv watching. She tells me now, at age 71, that she was always depressed to see summer end because she loved having us home, loved the routine of packing us lunch and heading off to the East Denver YMCA for hours of swimming and sun. She says the house was too quiet come September. This recollection of hers is completely and utterly mystifying to me. Everything about my childhood memories indicates she would have been ecstatic to be rid of us but somehow, this elderly lady my daughter calls Grandma claims it was only with a heavy heart that she wished us all well on the first day of school. Well, I’ll be damned.

My mom’s account just makes me feel guilty because I have never tried to hide the fact that I am beside myself with joy watching my daughter ride away on that bright yellow bus on the first day of school. I start counting down the days til school starts immediately upon arriving home from our New York vacation. My mind races desperately as I review the remaining weeks of the summer break, trying to think of ways to keep Martha busy and create windows of time when I can accomplish something that feels remotely fulfilling. How is it that I have become the evil, wicked mother who can barely tolerate 12 hours of free time with her child whereas my mom is the sweet and benevolent queen of good mothers who adored the sounds and sights of her three children to the point of heartbreak when they returned to their mandatory academic routine?

I’ll tell you how: that woman clearly suffers from some kind of wacky, time-lapse-induced delusion. And I’m pretty sure I am not generally evil or wicked but merely exhausted from my intense, albeit sporadic, efforts to be awesome-super-cool-fun-mom.

And, where I will admit to loving the relaxed pace of the summer and the heat of the sun beating down on my bare skin, I also have to admit that I tire of the song and dance my daughter requires to remain entertained during the summer. That’s part of the heartbreak for me; I do love summer but I also love back-to-school. You gotta take the bad with the good and unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to change with the season.

Monday, June 18, 2012

God and colorful birds

I recently spent a few days "up north" at a friend's lake house. I have always loved this vague directional designation for random vacation locales in Minnesota, simply for the fact of its vagueness and randomness, but that is neither here nor there. My daughter and I had the pleasure of joining some friends and a varied collection of their siblings, children, spouses and parents for two days of "summer camp," as we called it. It was a blast.

My friend's family is made up of some of the most ambitious people I know. Whereas my typical vacation day schedule goes something like "meal, activity, meal, activity, meal, bed time (emphasis on the meals)," their typical vacation day schedule is packed to the hilt with yoga, cooking, crafts, exercise, picnics, games, activities, play time, outings, shopping, eating, singing, storytelling and maybe an occasional nap stolen by some rogue member of the bunch. It's quite a sight. They are also incredibly kind and generous and the physical setting was beautiful and serene, surrounded by the woods and waters of "Lake Country."

I don't often, if ever, speak openly about God or my spiritual beliefs as this sort of talk doesn't always go over well. However, I'm going to go out on a limb here and admit that I feel certain I met with divinity out on the lakes. I actually think it's difficult to deny God's existence when you're out in a natural setting. My own spiritual beliefs tend to be fairly simple in that one of the only reasons I believe in God is because of colorful birds. Maybe this makes no sense, but when I see a bright red cardinal in the dull gray landscape of winter, I think to myself, you see? There goes God. I can't elaborate much more than that.

There is not always a practical function to all of the colorful birds, or for that matter, the colorful flowers, animals and waters of the world. But there are certain creatures, certain moments in time that are just too perfect to be random. And that may be the reason the colorful birds exist. They make you smile, they make you feel happiness and love. It's all I really need to believe.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Yesterday was the last day of school for my Martha. It is officially summer vacation and she is delighted to envision the next 3 months lying on the couch watching endless hours of Sponge Bob and her favorite Food Network shows. Doesn't get any better...

I unpacked her backpack this morning for the last time until September and uncovered 500 more pencils than a household could ever possibly need, a priceless collection of Martha's writing and the little yellow post-it note in the photo above, folded into a tiny packet at the bottom of her pencil box. When I unfolded it and read the message I instantly teared up, for reasons I'm not sure I can pinpoint.

I have no idea who the note came from so I can only guess at the writer's motivation. The first sentence, "Keep eye contact," makes me wonder if it came from one of the special ed staff who works with Martha primarily on social communication, which is her main autism-related difficulty. She generally does okay with eye contact in a conversation, at least looking near a person's face, if not right at them, but there are times she drifts away, vocally and physically.

It's the second sentence that chokes me up, this simple but powerful statement about my dear child that is meant to boost her up high enough to shine for the world to see. I know it is true so it does not surprise me that someone else sees this in her, as well. And I am thrilled that the writer cares enough to tell Martha she is smart, wanting to bestow confidence in my little girl's ability. All children of the world should be so lucky as to have their own cheerleader, reminding them of their strengths.

When Martha was in pre-school I used to get almost minute-by-minute updates of each day at school; I felt like I really knew what she did for the two and half hours of class, what she looked like and what she played and what she said. But since starting kindergarten this kind of vision has been lost to me and I have only the dimmest sense of what Martha really looks like when she is at school. The post-it note feels like a little glimpse into Martha's day. I can see her, talking to someone but looking sideways, correcting herself and standing a little taller as she recalls that she is smart. I can see that Martha is connected to her world and the people of her little elementary school world are connected to her. And for this, I am eternally grateful.

It's a valuable reminder to us all: stay connected, remember you are strong. Keep eye contact. You are smart!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Free fall

There is a lake here in Minnesota – well, to be honest, there are at least 10,000 of them, probably more – but there is one in particular not far from our house that my daughter loves to swim at. The big attraction for her is the raised dock about 25 yards from the shore. The dock itself is probably 8 feet high, plus there is a high diving board on the dock that allows her to plunge at least twice that distance to the water. That diving board terrifies me, but Martha loves it.

Last summer I decided that I should, at the very least, jump off the edge of the dock with her, simply to demonstrate that I am not entirely old and boring. Admittedly, I have my moments when I much prefer the old and boring behavior I call “relaxing,” but, like I said, I don’t want to get too comfortable in my old-ness and boring-ness. I know 8 feet may not seem like a stomach-turning descent to some folks. And it may be an overstatement to say it turns my stomach, but it’s enough to at least jostle it around a bit. It just makes me uncomfortable to look down at the water from that height and maybe that’s because my head is an additional 5 ½ feet higher than my feet, thus causing my eyes and brain to perceive a potentially 12- to 13-foot drop. I’m rationalizing.

Nevertheless, I was definitely going to jump. The thing I noticed about the act of jumping was how tense and rigid I was; I couldn’t figure out how to position my legs and my arms; my body felt unfamiliar falling through the air. Of course, my outstretched arms slapped painfully against the surface of the water and when I popped up my sister (also there with her children) commented on my “unique” form.

I’ve been thinking about that dock lately and how I really need to work on taking that leap with a different frame of mind. Instead of thinking so much about it, anticipating what it will feel like, how I will look and how my body is positioned, I’d love to be able to just go flying of the edge, let myself fall however I may, effortlessly into the cool water. Arms, legs, hands, feet, all parts can simply go limp and heavy into the air. I don’t have to be afraid and I don’t have to think about it. I should just go. And as soon as I surface, I need to climb back up the dock immediately and jump again. I need to keep jumping, again and again, until it feels completely natural.

It looks like the beach opens for swimming later this week. I hope my daughter is ready to go swimming with me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

This is it; this is winter

Just as the summer season has its own singular flavor to it, so too does winter have a unique feel. And although the dead of winter does not always inspire the same euphoria that a mid-summer evening might, it still merits a few words of tribute. Growing up in Denver, I was somehow under the impression that it snowed a lot there and I found the snow and cold to be somewhat limiting to my ability to enjoy life. I guess I should point out, I was not a skier. So I thought going to college in Los Angeles seemed like a fabulous solution for my snow aversion. Then of course, my mom moved to Minnesota, and eventually I would move here, too. Only then did I discover the true meaning of winter.

The Minnesota winter is like nothing I have ever experienced. Other cities I've called home, like Denver or Boston, get snow and cold weather, it’s true, but nothing arctic like the North Star state. And it’s not just the cold that makes it winter. It’s the duration, the gray, the bitterness of a sub-zero night that really sinks into your heart and reminds you, this is it, this is winter.

This winter has been funny in that it almost seems like it has been completely snow-free up until a few days ago. There have been a few passing storms but it seems they’ve all been followed up by warm weather that actually melts all the snow. That, in itself, is highly unusual. Many winters I’ve spent here seem to start in November with a big snow storm and I swear I can still recognize the same snow in March that I first saw in November. I spray paint a small patch after the first snowfall to be sure I’ll still recognize the same snowflakes 4 months later. But even without the snow this year, I find that many of the same emotional elements of winter persist in spite of the difference in scenery.

Many days pass without any appearance of the sun but defy the simple description of merely “cloudy.” The atmosphere and the landscape seem to meld in a misty nether region between sky and earth that acts as a vacuum for any stray light or color that finds its way outside. It often feels depressing but sometimes you welcome it as an opportunity to stop all activity, as if your mind regenerates during these days in the same way the dormant plant life is storing up new energy for spring.

After an evening out in the middle of winter, the return to one’s car in the cold is like the dark, mind-numbing opposite of a summer night spent outside, enjoying a breeze and a cold drink. In June, when dusk holds off until later, it almost lets you believe you are more alive during the summer. But in the winter, the challenge is to feel alive in spite of the temperature. Even with layers of fleece and thinsulate and your hands, neck and face wrapped up against the wind, you can still feel the cold deep inside you, stiffening your limbs. The car holds no comfort as even the skin on your head seems to be frozen with goosebumps and you huddle in front of the useless heating vents. Midway home, the car’s heat kicks in and you briefly know a little comfort but your windows are frosted over, encasing you in the chill. My favorite is when there is a full moon on a night of sub-zero temperatures and its icy white glow freezes even the light shining down on you. The coldness is absolute.

Last winter, my daughter entertained a brief obsession with The Decembrists’ album The King is Dead. Her favorite song was Dear Avery and she’d ask to play it repeatedly during dinner time. It’s got a fairly melancholy feel to it anyway, but listening to it over and over again while staring at the grayness outside would often threaten to send me over some ambiguous edge, making me want to just lay sprawled on the ground, staring out the window at the sky until some shred of sunshine and color returned to the world.

It’s easy to succumb to this kind of desolation during the winter here, but the weird thing is that spring just wouldn’t be spring unless you endured the cold and darkness. And even though December 21st is the shortest day of the year with the fewest hours of daylight, it seems to me that it’s not until the bone-chilling days of late January that you really start to realize… winter is here. Winter is finally, undeniably here. Once we get some sledding in, the year will be complete.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2011 bubble lights retrospective

You know how when your favorite sitcom passes some big milestone, like the 100th show or some anniversary or something, and they make the 30-minute montage of the show's funnier moments, so instead of getting to watch a new episode of your beloved show you are forced to sit through countless clips that you have already seen because, duh, it's your favorite show and you are a faithful viewer? Well, imagine my blog is your most favorite (and mega-hilarious) sitcom. I'm taking a look back at 2011 and pointing out the highs and the lows, blog-wise.

Let's get this party started...

January blog (January 18, 2011)
It doesn't say a whole lot, just that I decided to start a blog and that I hoped to tell some funny stories along the way. Also, I was under the impression that last January was particularly difficult because we were inundated with snow. However, I'd like to update that now and say that January sucks just as much without snow.

A little intro... (January 19, 2011)
Since it was the early days of the blog, I provide this introductory piece. It's more a brief look at the formative years of my writing career (or lack thereof).

State of the fam (January 26, 2011)
I wasn't crazy about this one after I wrote it but a few people really liked it. It appeared that I was being extremely clever since that was the evening of the State of the Union address (in case you didn't figure that one out). The truth is, I blatantly ripped off this clever idea from another blogger who had been featured on NPR's web page that day. If you want to read something laugh-out-loud funny, read the Suburban Kamikaze. Then come back and read my blog, too. SK, many thanks from this novice blogger.

The f-word ***RATED R*** (February 3, 2011)
This is a favorite of mine, simply because it was so much fucking fun to write. Looking back at it now, I feel I have really let myself down by not swearing more in my blog. One person who would not agree with this is my father who, if you can imagine it, seems to find this language "vulgar." Well, what the fuck is wrong with vulgar? I'm not the fucking Queen of England here.

I used to have a real thing for John Elway (February 6, 2011)
Obviously, this was the Super Bowl edition. I'm not sure how well-liked it was, but I can tell you I was sure highly amused with myself when I wrote this. I find as I compose this retrospective that many posts fall into that category. Oh well, at least I know one person liked it. I'm particularly fond of the photo of myself, sporting my Bronco gear. Good times.

A few words about Autism (February 10, 2011)
Here is the point at which I introduce my daughter and the fact that she is on the Autism spectrum. I have always wanted to write more about my daughter and autism. I think I am afraid that once I get started, though, I won't be able to stop. The topic overwhelms me. But fortunately for us, it is not all trials and tribulations. Mostly my daughter is a source of joy and, without question, the best thing that ever happened to me.

I am the funniest person in the world (February 11, 2011)
This one just kind of came to me all at once. It's probably another one that falls into self-amusement category. My favorite part is the photo of Don Rickles.

Anything goes (February 19, 2011)
This one is fairly random. I wrote it in response to a conversation I had with my brother-in-law. It's sort of for him, although it doesn't really say a whole lot.

I really think I could see Lindsay Lohan see the error of her ways... (February 25, 2011)
This post is really just an excuse to tell you the story of my shoplifting days from high school. And why wouldn't I want to share that story? It was a real highlight of my 15th year. Or thereabouts.

Soap scum abatement (March 6, 2011)
At this point in my blog-writing career I was starting to ponder just how to come up with new and interesting topics. Ok, I am still pondering that. But spending hours scrubbing a bathtub? For better or worse, that qualified as a major activity for the day, so I tried to spin it into a blog post.

How to outsmart your not-very-smart dog (March 9, 2011)
Most definitely, this post was one I found hilarious. Whether or not it is hilarious to anyone else, I cannot say. It doesn't really matter. I do know, however, that my neice was really impressed by this piece of writing. I love that girl.

me me me so dumbfounded by the unadulterated sucky-ness of this song (March 18, 2011)
Um, this is probably the one post I've considered actually deleting. It's pure idiocy. But so is Rebecca Black's song about Friday, so what do you expect?

A trip to the serious side... (March 21, 2011)
I don't really remember what this one actually says and I am avoiding re-reading it. I do know that I was depressed at the time. It was a harsh winter.

But wait, there's more! (April 13, 2011)
Probably the long winter and my unpleasant disposition explain the long break between the last post and this one. I just wanted to let everyone know I wasn't giving up. I should write more about Charles Dickens. I bet he was a fun guy.

Why I hate being an adult (April 14, 2011)
This post is essentially just about the need to call my health insurance company because they wouldn't pay for certain services and I fully expected that my inquiries and pleas for assistance would be met with ignorance and spite. Personally, I really like the way I disclose my regular appointments with a mental health professional.

Lunch from hell (April 15, 2011)
This one is about the Oscar Mayer Lunchable™, plain and simple. My daughter pines for these as a lunch option. I hate them. End of story.

(untitled) (April 17, 2011)
I forgot to name this one. It's chit-chat, stories about my daughter. I was trying to write every day for a week but I just couldn't come up with enough material. The anecdote about Martha's joy over a dandelion she pulled out with the weed popper, however, is priceless. I do love my Martha.

Daughter Words (April 21, 2011)
This post is my very favorite. It is a perfect description of the connection between my daughter and me.

Happy Birthday, Sweet 13 (May 3, 2011)
I wrote this for one of my nieces, whose birthday is May 3rd. I see a lot of myself in her and I hope she doesn't mind that.

Dating Sucks (May 14, 2011)
This title was designed to fool people into thinking I was really going to talk about dating, as in social engagements with a person in whom one is romantically interested. It's not. It's about play dates and how bad I am at arranging them. I hope my daughter's social development is not damaged by my aversion to the play date.

Haiku For a Rainy Day? (May 20, 2011)
Here's a little poetry about me riding my bike in the rain. I didn't say it was good poetry. But it is little.

Post failed-rapture Musings (May 22, 2011)
This one was written very spontaneously. It, too, qualifies for the self-amusement category.

Cyclist or Bike-Rider? (May 31, 2011)
I liked this one. It was just a reflection of what was on my mind as I tried desperately to get comfortable on my new road bike. In retrospect, I'm more of a bike-rider than an avid cyclist.

Benny and the Jets (June 3, 2011)
Purely written for my own amusement, I tell a story about an incident on the Denver city bus when I was 16. I happen to think it's a pretty good story, but maybe you had to be there.

Trying out for the part of Wonder Woman (June 18, 2011)
More self-amusement, written after I moved the piano across the basement by myself.

June 27, 2002 (June 26, 2011)
June 27th is my daughter's birthday so, in honor of that big day, I wrote about the day she was born. What a freaky, mind-blowing, wonderful day!

I probably shouldn't do this but... (June 28, 2011)
This takes the cake for posts that I found highly amusing to write. However, it was not well-received by some family members who worried it was aimed at them. It really blew me away that what felt like pure folly to me was taken so seriously by someone else. It was so interesting to me to realize my words had power.

Corrections, retractions, and expressions of concern (June 29, 2011)
This post is sort of, but not really, an apology for the previous one, but only if you insist on it.

Searching for Zen (July 5, 2011)
On July 9th last year I participated in a triathlon and this post is about my intense desire to sleep in the morning of the race and just skip to the pancake breakfast. I never did figure out the reason for my intense aversion to doing the race, but since I didn't end up skipping it, I guess it's a moot point.

Race Report from a Mere Mortal, part 1 (July 14, 2011)
Sort of self-explanatory, wouldn't you say? I'm not really clamoring to do another triathlon this year, but you never know.

Race Report, part 2 (July 15, 2011)
Post-triathlon, I think I was sort of grappling with my identity as an athlete and a mom and after fantasizing for months about proving I was an athlete, in the end, I felt happier about being a mom. Go figure.

Nothing so satisfying as home-ownership... (July 17, 2011)
Another one for the self-amusement file. This post did not get many "pageviews" but it served it's purpose as an outlet for my frustration while I waited for something to happen with my vast array of home repair issues.

"This is it, this is summer..." (July 28, 2011)
I don't know if this post came out quite as I intended. I really wanted to capture that feeling you get in the middle of the summer when you realize the world is beautiful and your life is beautiful just because the weather is nice and everything is alive and thriving and it's 9:30 at night and you are just watching the sun go down. It's a very illusive sensation. But mostly, I just wanted to say summer is grand, even though most people already know this to be true.

Reflections on language and re-gatherings... (August 19, 2011)
I went to my 25th high school reunion this summer and this was my attempt to capture some of the thoughts I had about going back to Denver and seeing many old faces.

Occupation (August 21, 2011)
This post is essentially about the weird compulsion we have to identify ourselves by what we "do" for employment and how, not having paid employment, I often feel at a loss to describe who I am.

End of summer blues (August 30, 2011)
With this piece I am trying to capture that particular angst that one experiences as summer obviously draws to a close and school and/or "real life" starts back up again. The transition from summer to fall seems to me to be such a poignant reminder that time is passing and we can't hold on to the past even when we want to.

"Mom, sometimes I just think the world is a scary place..." (August 31, 2011)
My daughter has a lot of anxiety and at the time I wrote this she was going through a particularly anxious period, thinking about school starting back up again, but also, more consciously, thinking about dead bugs (which are everywhere at this time of the year). I suspect there is something in here, too, about my own anxieties.

The joys of family fitness (September 5, 2011)
This was written after an agonizing effort to get all three members of our family out to a local lake for some biking and running. Even as you present it as a fun and attractive option you know full well that there is potential for a lot of dischord. And that is the joy of family fitness!

Home organization and mental disorder... same or different? (September 8, 2011)
I love home organization. I love tiny containers. I love categorizing things, any things. I am filing this post, like many others, in the self-amusement file.

September 11th (September 11, 2011)
My father-in-law was in the North tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th. I was feeling torn about re-telling his story and in the end, I don't think this post says a whole lot. I could have skipped this one.

Sammy (September 21, 2011)
I witnessed a dog getting hit by a car this fall and it just about broke my heart. I wanted to share my story with someone, even though it's such a sad story.

A Spontaneous Ode to R.E.M. (September 23, 2011)
Music can be such a powerful source of memories. R.E.M. was one of my favorite bands for a long time and I identify so much of their music with my youth. This post details a few of my favorite R.E.M.-oriented memories.

Buried treasures or how far should I dig before I decide I need to seek help (October 4, 2011)
This was another favorite post of mine, mainly because the whole incident of the dreadful sewer line replacement and the subsequent discovery of the mysterious old bottles was such a fun, unique experience. In the end, I am glad I decided to just fill the hole and get new concrete instead of taking my gardening trowel down into a pit to find some more old trash.

Rule of Life #343: A play date is a fine time to showcase one's skills (October 13, 2011)
Written while Martha enjoyed a rare play date in our basement, I was mostly just so amused and tickled by the interaction between my socially awkward daughter and her friend that I had to try to capture some of that.

Road trip (October 21, 2011)
In October we took a trip to Chicago for a long weekend. I really just wanted to be able to say I was "blogging from the road." The rest of what followed was a little bit of free association.

When good hard drives go bad (October 26, 2011)
The hard drive on my laptop crashed. I was subsequently horrified by my feelings of loss and frustration afteward. I didn't expect anyone else to care, but I wrote about it anyway.

Doing the dirty work (October 29, 2011)
This one is about who does what around our house in the way of chores. I found that a vaguely sexy image of Madonna in lingerie scrubbing the floor will bring more readers to my blog. So clever...

Spooktacular Halloween edition (October 31, 2011)
Admittedly, this post is ridiculous. It's a photo of one of my favorite halloween decorations but, if I do say so myself, I thought the caption was pretty damn good.

Lunch from hell, part II (November 3, 2011)
Here's a littel update on my efforts to get Martha to eat our homemade substitute for the Oscar Mayer Lunchable™. The photos are really the highlight, if you ask me.

When bad parenting comes back to bite you in the ass (November 6, 2011)
This was a complicated post for me, inspired by two stories of abuse and neglect I had read recently, but also about my own anxieties about being a "good" parent. I was able to reach Hillary Adams, the abuse victims from one of the news stories I wrote about and she passed it on via Twitter. I got an overwhelming number of readers and responses from total strangers. (Overwhelming relative to my other posts.) It was a very interesting experience.

Self-expression (November 10, 2011)
In this post I'm just trying to process the response I got to the previous post. I'm not sure this one came out as I intended.

Poetry by Martha... a light interlude (November 12, 2011)
I just wanted to share Martha's work and also lighten things up a bit.

7 Habits of Highly Irritable People (November 16, 2011)
One thing I'd like to work on during year two of the blog is how to move beyond the emotions that are on the very surface of my mind and write something that isn't just a pure reflection of my mood. Yes, I am moody, that is obvious from all these posts, but I'd like to try accessing other thoughts and emotions in spite of my mood. This post is an attempt to be humorous about my own irritability.

Gone to the dogs (December 6, 2011)
And finally, my last post of 2011 is about one of my foster dogs. My experiment with being a foster care home for rescue dogs turned out to be so incredibly consuming that I was unable to keep up with much of anything else in my life. It was a weird month. But Lacey, the dog in this post, was so very sweet and I did love her to pieces. She found a wonderful home and I'm so glad I got to be part of that process.

That was it for 2011. 54 posts seems like a nice collection of writing for my first year of blogging, especially considering I have never felt very certain about the future of this experiment. All in all, I'm quite happy with my effort. Yes, there's a lot of silliness in here, but there's a lot of other stuff, too. Thank you for reading! Let's try another 12 months and see what I can come up with.

Friday, January 20, 2012

To be or not to be...


"stop with the existential angst about your blog"

This is a direct quote from a friend, and just like that, the future of bubble lights the blog will be solidified; time to leave that question and move on to more important issues. Like, does William Shakespeare look like he's wearing an earring in this picture?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Birthday blog

It's not my birthday. It's my blog's birthday. Ok, technically yesterday was the one year anniversary of my first post, but I have been crabby lately. Really crabby. So crabby that many days I think "I hate this stupid blog. I should just delete it and be done with it." Of course, there is no logical connection between my crabby mood and the necessity to delete this blog, my little writing forum that I have, for the most part, really enjoyed over the last year. But I am rarely logical, often moody, and very, very fond of obsessing over what I "should" do. Thus, in the middle of wallowing in my crabbiness I will remember that I "should" write something and then the crabiness intensifies ever so slightly and if I delete the blog then maybe I can remove one source of crabby production and then voilá, instantly I will be less crabby. What would Spock think of my logic? What would Spock think of this whole blog? It's fitting, isn't it, that I should make a Star Trek reference in my one-year commemorative blog post, since my very first post also included a Star Trek reference?

Anyway, when I began writing these posts a year ago, I didn't really have a clear vision of what I wanted it to be all about. The phrase "a mental dumping ground" really seems to sum it up best. I thought I would write more about books I've read, as an occasional "feature," or maybe write more about my garden, which is a huge interest of mine during the warmer months. But books and gardening never seemed to fit with the mental dumping I did in so many other posts. Motherhood and my daughter's quirky autism spectrum-y behaviors could take up a lot of this, too, but there are days when my thoughts don't really converge with that part of my life either. So I've never bothered limiting myself to a specific focus and I have been wondering lately if I should change that. I was thinking about re-naming the blog (again) but wonder if that just gets annoying. And I am quite fond of the little bubbles floating up above. Anyone out there with kids ever watch the Teletubbies? Anyone out there without kids ever watch the Teletubbies? If so, that's kind of strange. The grassy hill in the bubble image above reminds me of Teletubbie land, which always struck me as a really pleasant locale, except for maybe the resident Teletubbies who I could see kind of wearing on you after a while with all that hugging and soft, gentle cooing they do. But Teletubbie land is always sunny, the grass is green, flowers are blooming and cute, little, fuzzy bunnies are hanging around nibbling on the vegetation. It looks very serene. No traffic, no pollution, the noo noo cleans up after you. Nice! Anyway, major digression, but that is another reason I've grown attached to the image of the bubbles floating above a grassy hill. I can always use a little serenity.

This is all just me taking stock in where the bubble lights are at right now. I am open to feedback. I'll even share with you the new name I was entertaining: mad chronicles. My daughter's initials are MAD, and yes, I was aware of that when I chose her name. Mad is also another term for crazy, which I generally characterize myself as, although I am also aware that I am not technically clinically mentally ill. I mean, I'm sure someone somewhere could diagnose me with something, but so, too, could just about anyone else out there be "diagnosable." In which case, we are all nuts, and isn't that nice that we are not alone? And mad, of course, also just means angry, which is not an unusual emotion for me to be feeling. So what do you think? One problem could be that there is already a blog out there in cyberspace called "Mad Chronicles" but don't ask me what it's about because most of it (other than the words "mad chronicles") is in another language, as well as another alphabet, and which one that is I haven't the foggiest idea.

So this is where I find myself and my "online writing" (which sounds better than blog) one year after the snowy, dark winter evening that produced the january blog. More will follow, no doubt. Maybe I will tell you all about my haircut, which makes me look like a child. A child with an oddly aged-looking complexion. Or maybe not.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Crazy lady may require more help than just the adoration of dogs...

You want to love me.
Over the last year I have written a bunch of different stuff for this blog. Normally, I’d sit here trying to compose a slightly more eloquent or sophisticated sentence than that, but in this case, I really think “a bunch of different stuff” is about as descriptive as I can be  about my collection of blog posts. When I started the blog, I didn’t intend to write about dogs but this is where my life has taken me and so it seems appropriate that my writing reflect what is important to me. And this post is about something that has become extremely important to me in an extremely short period of time. Her name is Esme.

My previous post about Lacey tells the brief story about how I found Secondhand Hounds and became enamored with the face of every dog they rescue. My first foster dog, Lacey, was adopted a few weeks ago by an incredibly sweet couple who I feel confident are showering her with love right this very moment, so even though it was a lot of work having Lacey, I’m happy I could help connect the dog to the humans. It will be an amazing relationship for both species, I’m sure!

Two days ago I brought Esme home and I have fallen head over heels in love with her, just like I did with Lacey. Esme is some sort of wire-haired terrier mix, but I haven’t a clue what she is mixed with. She has the cute, scruffy terrier face but a funny long body and furry, curlicue tail. She reminds me of a wild animal the way she slinks down the stairs like she’s getting ready to pounce on something, as opposed to the double-legged gallop that my Jack Russell Terrier employs. Her hair is a sandy mix of tan and rust colors and, as the name indicates of course, is wiry in some spots but smooth and soft underneath. She’s got big pointy ears that she can rotate like little sonar discs, picking up important signals like the sound of food being unwrapped. There are few noises that seem quite so important to a dog.

Esme came to the Twin Cities from Joplin, MO where she had been spending time in an overcrowded shelter. I don’t know a single thing about her past life beyond this. There are two little white marks on her nose that make me wonder if they are scars from some run in with claws or teeth of another critter, which in turn makes me wonder about mistreatment. She seems very frightened of the world but still has an incredibly sweet disposition in spite of her fear. In the past 36 hours, she has discovered one thing that makes her feel better, though, and that thing is me. And that is the whole reason I wanted to try fostering rescue dogs. Is it totally narcissistic and self-centered to crave the love and adoration of a frightened animal? I don’t know. What I do know is that it is so easy to love this dog, as it would be easy to love probably any dog that came into my home.

I can’t keep Esme, as much as I love her, just as I knew I couldn’t keep Lacey. My dog, my family, my life is just not the best fit for this girl. But it is at least adequate to give her a temporary layover between her previous life and the Joplin shelter and a potentially fabulous future home full of love and soft blankies to curl up on. Have you ever thought about owning a dog? Have you ever wanted a furry, four-legged child to love more than life, one who will never learn to talk and argue and beg you for stuff and then get mad and tell you “it’s not fair?” Do you know anyone who does want this? Because if you do, I have the girl for you. She will learn to love you in no time flat, she will put her fuzzy little paws on you and look into your face with more sincerity than any human being could possibly muster. She will learn quickly just what you want from her and she will be happy to perform.

She needs a little work on the potty training front, but shows no signs of not being able to grasp this concept. But mostly all she needs is love and time to get comfortable, time to learn that the world is not so scary, and time to trust you. She is not a yappy dog and seems to like my curmudgeonly pooch Carson despite Carson’s unprovoked sniping. She seems like she has a lot of energy if you are looking for a playful dog, but she is also cool with the relaxing and snuggling. She might even learn to bring you your slippers.

Have I sold you yet? Think about it, because I know she could make the right potential dog-owner a very happy human being. I wouldn’t normally resort to a blog post advertising my foster dog, but I’d like to get back to writing, which has been sparse since my foster care started and I’d like to help out my family (dog, child and husband) who are all a little stressed out by our latest visitor, not because of who Esme is but because of who we are as a family. We’re high maintenance, I admit it, and maybe this is part of the reason I want my foster dog to adore me in spite of my shortcomings. But who wouldn’t like that, right? Like I said before, sometimes we all need a little rescuing and we most definitely need to be loved.

Find Esme and tons of other cute, deserving pups at Secondhand Hounds!