Monday, January 31, 2005

I gotta recommend priceline.com for anyone trying to travel nicely but cheaply.
I got our hotel rooms in New Orleans at this hotel, complete with Chihuly chandeliers in the lobby, for $55 USD a night. Over a weekend. Which would not be so great if we had a car with us, since parking is over $20 USD a day, but we won't.

I am wearing an old, soft, color block shirt in tones of teal, gray and olive; jeans, and no shoes. I cancel lunch with a friend when the headache this morning moves from irritating to nausea-inducing-painful, and curl up on the couch with a heating pad and a dog. The house is completely silent, save for the cats in the room upstairs occasionally using their new claw-scratching device, and the faint noises drifting in from a neighborhood where most people are gone at school and work for the day. After an hour and a half asleep, I take stock of the headache, get up and think about what I can and should do for the remainder of the afternoon. There is a birthday gift to buy before tonight's dinner. A status report due at work. Lodgings to book in New Orleans for our spring break trip. Tax papers to organize and a dog to be walked. Despite the fact that I have done nothing so far today, I think hard about what I can put off doing and whether I can spend unproductive time sorting through my CD collection to find my Afro-Celt volume 2 CD which I want to listen to and has gotten misfiled. I really can't justify this can I?

There are some things you wouldn't know if you never met me, and some I would hide if you did. Procrastination is one of them.

Here are some others. My freezer is jammed full and yet we rarely use anything once frozen. Everything in my pantry is stored in rubber containers not because I'm a veteran Tupperware-party girl, but because it was the only way to conquer an infestation of moths that got into everything packaged in paper or plastic. I have zero will-power for certain things: guacamole, men with crinkly laugh lines around their eyes, tulips and lost animals. I used a lot of colors in painting my house last year, and I still can't decide if the greyish-bluish-green hallway works. Actually, I simply can't decide if I hate it enough to repaint. Other people think it works but I don't. My favorite kind of tea is Stash brand peach flavored black tea, but I hate almost all other artificially peach flavored things. Peach is one of those sacred tastes you shouldn't mess with. My Dad regularly clamors for me to self publish my poems, which is flattering but not something I'd be likely to do for anyone other than my kids when they are grown. I am an excellent driver with no tickets or accidents to speak of, but someday I will likely kill myself because I spotted an interesting bird and tried to identify it while driving. I have a palm-sized stone in slate green on my bedstand that has a symbol that enourages achieving your dreams on it. When I was 12 I was voted most likely to own a pizza parlor.

And now you can see how effectively I procrastinate. It's an hour later and I will now think about buying that birthday gift and walking the dog. Much of the rest can and will probably wait.

Friday, January 28, 2005

He could have been set afloat anywhere
What am I?
Nothing but a little stream
To carry the boat which cradles his soul
Out to the great wide sea.
The current swift, not mine
To stem his run towards the place
Where the river disappears into the horizon.

Row carefully, son, I whisper. The water is so deep.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

"Everything that came between the first thought and the second - two whole days and nights - is represented by a single blank line in the notebook. What happened? Nothing and everything."
-Dave at Via Negativa

Monday, January 24, 2005

I've been divorced a little over six years now.
In the first two years following the divorce, I had a (small) flurry of wildly romantic and ill-fated dating experiences. You could call that my refinement phase I guess, eliminating various scenarios from the "I can live with that compatibly" list. Here's a couple of things I crossed off:

Self-esteem deprivation
Constant reruns of their past
Married but not happy
Controlling with answers for everything
All talk, no listen
All listen, no talk
Lacking capability for physical or emotional intimacy
Angry at the world/victim complex
Mortally wounded and/or dependent on numbing agents
Overly materialistic

I don't think the list is particularly unreasonable. I guess I should add dumber than dirt and bigoted/narrow-minded have always been obvious no-gos.
I would suppose that leaves a whole lot of possible candidates, and given that I am intelligent, emotionally healthy, stable, witty and generous, you'd think that finding a partner would be just a matter of dating enough.

So I'm frustrated. Because it does seem that finding a partner should just be a matter of dating enough, and I've done a lot of dating in the last four years. Enough so that I've gotten my hopes up many times, to find that no matter how good the odds seemed, the outcome is unpredictable. Which comes down to a shift in my thinking over the last year (a question elck posed last week, which I am late to answering.)

I used to think if I did the right thing, I'd find the right person.
Now I have come to think that finding the right person has no rationale, no luck, no formula, no odds associated with it at all. I would bet money that every day when I walk out my door, I have even odds of finding a viable candidate. That tomorrow's odds, whether I change jobs, go to a church, lose weight, join a club, go to a bar, spend time on a hobby I love, take a class, talk to friends, smile at a crossing guard are no different than Friday's odds, when I try out the internet ads, volunteer in the community, dig up my dahlia bulbs, take my dog to the dog park, help coach my son's baseball team, change my hairstyle, dress up, flirt in the produce section. It is just flat out random.
That is different than saying I don't think it can or will happen - I'm not so much cynical about it, as I am cynical that analyzing or trying to control it will make any difference other than making me crazy.

Nonetheless, I feel perfectly reasonable in seeking, wanting a relationship in my life. I suppose my odds are slightly lower if I become reclusive or become desperate, but beyond that, I dare you to tell me which route guarantees success, and I can tell you which route wasn't snow plowed when I got there.

So I have a list of things I'd rather not be told. I know how hopefully intentioned these statements are meant to be, but each of them whispers: "If you do the right thing, it will happen." I guess I sort of relate to the bloggers who are dealing with infertility, who get tired of people recommending prayer. Recommending diets and herbs and postures and they do all that stuff and still, no baby. Recommending adoption, as if some God was trying to push them in that direction (My son is adopted and it is wonderful but I'd never presume it was the way another person was destined to build their family.) Recommending acceptance, which seems to ignore all the heartbreak that goes with the situation of longing for something that just seems to not happen.

My really well meaning co-worker stopped me after a lunch out with a friend last week, hopefully asking if he was a new prospect. Don't I wish! But I tell her he's married, a good friend, and when she asks if there is anyone special right now I tell her no. Her response was "Maybe it's right there in front of you and you just haven't seen it yet". Which is the flip side of the other usual comment I get: "Maybe if you stopped looking." Or if I don't talk about looking, "Maybe you aren't getting out there enough." The thing is, you can't closet-quarterback love when the ball hasn't even entered play yet. One more that makes me crazy: "Maybe you need to love yourself more first." Oh my gosh, so I need to move into full fledged narcissism before someone's going to find me attractive? Nah, I think I'm fine. Enough so that I think I'm worth someone good. I don't think that flies.

This is what I wish people would say if the topic of my latest (insert: bad date, lack of date, nearly right date, excruciating date, let-down date) came up:

"That sucks Susan, it's great you keep trying." Then, if I had a blank check, I'd ask for a hug. The kind of hug that hangs on an extra second or two and says things that are too difficult to say like "I know it is depressing to get into bed alone every night" or "hang in there, odds are even on your chances tomorrow" or "don't worry, I'll be here for the next seven rolls of the dice" or "damn, I'm sure glad I found someone because I'd hate doing what you're doing."

I am awfully glad I'm in such good company though. I find it terrifically reassuring, if at the same time sad, that Leslee is facing the same thing. She's a catch. Someone's got to figure that out SOON.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Ha! I caught you. You didn't really think I'd have another post up yet, but sure enough here it is. And now you'll see why I don't post as often as some bloggers - call this the little slice of susurra life. (for some odd reason that made me think of Life cereal which then led to "Mikey'll eat anything" and that brings me to the realization that those little cardboard squares sustained me through most of my elementary years, which might explain something about me but I'll leave that up to you.)
Ok here is our evening. But I warn you you'll be begging me to wait a week and only post when there's something meaningful, insightful, deep to say. :)
Chapter one: Arrival
I come home from work and the babysitter's toddler is hacking germs all over my house with a case of croup. No really I feel sorry for them both, especially on learning that the babysitter's toddler also had one of those little diaper accidents which led to poop miraculously appearing on her shoes which then apparently led to a rather messy entry hall although the babysitter had cleaned that up. Unfortunately, noone had noticed that the shoes apparently also contaminated babysitter's pants on the backside... I send her quickly on her way choosing not to imagine exactly where she might have sat in the last half hour. No really, what am I going to do? Toddler angelically waves "bye-bye" in that toothy toddler way that leaves you adoring them, germs, poop and all.
Chapter two: Dinner
We pack up and head over to dinner, which we are eating out because I've gotten home late and can't face the whole cooking/cleaning up thing tonight. So we are sitting at dinner, and my son begins to cough. And cough some more. And we've ordered, and he's soon coughing every 30 seconds or so. I curse the toddler germs. And I keep asking, so very politely, "dear, can you please cover your mouth, we don't want to spread germs here." He refuses. Then again, "sweetheart, it's not just us I'm worried about. There are other people in this place and it's not nice to spread germs on them." And he refuses more vigorously. And I am starting to get angry. Because it's basic manners, not any new rule I've made up on the spot, it's just simple hygiene and manners to cover your mouth when you cough, especially as its now appearing he might have whatever the toddler had. Not on his shoe, in his chest! So as I tell him I'm going to have to remove him from the restaurant and his choice is to cover his mouth or stop coughing, he starts wildly shaking his head. "NO NO NO NO NO NO!" Back and forth his head swings, violently I must add, this boy is intent on defying me. Except that he's no longer coughing. So I turn my head and look the other way ignoring him completely; hurry to finish dinner and get us out of there. I am sure someone is staring at him like he is mentally disabled and I have to wonder if they are right at this moment. We finish and we go back home.
Chapter three: TV
The asthma inhalant seems to help the coughing, and we sit down to watch American Idol. Family tradition. We watched the whole season last year, and this I admit only because it's necessary to explain what happens next. My 12 year-old suddenly develops an amazingly self righteous sense of outrage over the treatment of the bad contestants. She is not just offended, but seriously wounded emotionally by the scenario of some really overconfident egotistical person singing badly and then getting criticized by the judges. She is outraged not just at the judges, but at my son and I for continuing to watch this unconscionable treatment of the wannabee rock stars who I suspect are acting their way through the whole disappointment phase of the theatrics. Like the judges, my son and I find the really terrible singers hysterical but after isolating herself in her room for thirty minutes, the daughter asserts her right to have equal access to the family room without being exposed to such trauma. The solution? She and I will walk the dog, and my son can stay home and watch the end of the show. A Chrysler commercial comes on and she suddenly pays attention, which I learn is because "the driver is cute." The next words from her mouth though: "But I've given up on boys, I'm going to join a nunnery. Boys are all idiots."
Chapter four: Walk
Yup there was a long story there. Involving the sort of middle school horrors that as an adult, you cringe and think "oh no, I remember all that stuff and it was really really stupid." Girl likes boy. Girl tells a few too many people she likes the boy. Someone asks the boy if he likes the girl. Boy tries to be polite, maybe he likes the girl. Someone asks the boy if he would ask the girl out. Boy is in seventh grade, really hasn't figured out what going out means, says maybe. Somebody tells two other boys that girl likes the boy and loud comments are made questioning how anyone could like the girl. Girl hears these and gets mad. Girl confronts mean boys and via threats learns that rumor has leaked that she might get asked out by nice boy. Girl gets hopes up. Girl asks friends to ask boy if this is true. Suddenly confused boy gets asked about girl by at least six more kids. Boy sounds like he is considering it first two or three, but by number six, boy decides it is far more attention than he wants and changes his story. Boy does not like girl. Boy never intended to ask girl out. Kids 5 and 6 relay new info. Now girl is heartbroken. Girl goes up to boy and tells him off. Boy should never have said he was interested if he wasn't. Boy claims he never said he was interested. Girl makes several self-esteem protecting statements about how little she cares and then runs off so boy won't see her cry. Girl considers this the worst day of her life. Girl feels confused, sad, hurt, embarressed. Girl's mom can think of worse things but having been boy crazy in 7th grade realizes nothing she says will help. Girl and mom return to house, having hashed this all out on a brisk circle through the neighborhood. Dog is unleashed, girl and mom go upstairs to start getting girl ready for bed, girl tells mom to hug her and tell her she deserves a much better boy anyhow. Mom complies. Mom looks down. Mom shrieks.
Chapter five: Mess
My daughter apparently stepped in dog shit even though we never left the sidewalk and our dog did not do his business while we were out. Forgive the bluntness but having been unable to say "dog shit" in front of my kids, I find it oddly comforting to say it here. How this (dog shit) happened to get on her shoes is something I yearn to understand, I want it explained, but of course I immediately realize, it is suddenly important because I need to yell about something and I can't exactly yell at her about the accident. To get to where we are standing, we have walked through the entry, up a flight of stairs, down the upstairs hall and into her bedroom. There are footprints behind us, and my son is instantly into trying to figure out what happened also. "Maybe it was on your shoes Mom. Maybe it is really mud. Maybe it is from the babysitter's toddler's shoes. Why didn't you notice?" I don't want to hear this, because anyone knows that if it happens at bedtime, it is obviously dog shit on her shoes, which removal of the shoes quickly proves. I send him directly to bed - who needs another rationalizer around? Normally we take off shoes when we come in. Dale can tell you that we have an absurdly light color of carpet that is a long story of it's own. Normally though, because it is such a light color, and it is winter, we exit the shoes at the entry. I'd like to yell at her about this also, except my shoes are still on. So I can't exactly claim to be the role model. There ought to be something or someone I can blame, but no. Out come the rags and the Formula 409. I am scrubbing away when the son gets up with a problem. There is no place to store the new hotwheels box. I suggest he put in a corner. He adamently claims there is no open corner. This is patently absurd - he is a perfectionist and there is lots of room on the floor of his room, which I point out. He argues this, threatens a tantrum when I don't offer to come move the box. "I'm going to throw them out. Who cares!" I suggest we trade tasks. I'll store the Hotwheels, he can clean the dog poop out of the carpet. Direct hit! He realizes he's lost this battle and sulks his way back to bed. He sighs loudly and repeats "Who cares! I never wanted the Hotwheels." He goes to sleep. The carpet cleanup takes 40 minutes. I redo the area where the toddler had the accident just to be safe. I wipe the shoes with papertowels to remove the sticky portions, and then wash them thoroughly in the sink, then get out the bleach and rinse the sink, my hands, and the rags before throwing them in the washer. By now you're thinking I'm going to examine every place the babysitter might have sat in the house since I'm already cleaning up but no, I'm here to tell you the story of my lovely evening instead.
Chapter six: "Meditation"
Isn't it Lekshe who is asking us use this Mary Oliver phrase "What is that beautiful thing that just happened?" as our practice? I have to tell her, that beautiful thing is dog shit tracked all over the house. Sure sure, it is reminding me how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, healthy (if stinky, coughing, over-sensitive and insensitive) kids, American Idol on TV, a half full bottle of Formula 409 and another bottle of bleach, a dog who is wholly innocent this time of the mess on the carpets. I can fondly remember the time he came in with his backside messed up after some diarrea and sat on my son's quilt. Another beautiful thing. I can remember sticking him in the tub with tomato juice at midnight because he'd been sprayed by a skunk while I was emptying out the wet hedgehog-litter where the water bottle had leaked while we were gone on vacation. Another beautiful thing, that skunk smell at midnight. The dog is good for lots of practice, but this time it's not his beautiful fault. That beautiful thing is a clean dog for once.

So there it is. The kids are asleep. The dog is asleep. American Idol is long since over and contestants (and therefore my daughter's compassion) are safe from humiliation at the hands of Simon for another week. My socks are damp from walking around the cleaned areas but there's no point washing them until I go to bed. And now you know why many nights I don't write a post. See, it's been kinda normal for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

You remember Acorn right? She does this other funny thing when I am sitting at the computer and she wants more attention. She crawls, belly sort of flattened against me, up from my lap up onto one shoulder, then attempts to delicately balance on the narrow back of the dining chair I sit on. Then she decides to pirouette. Doing this, either gracefully or ungracefully, inevitably involves a kitty butt shoved into my ear, with terrible sanitation consequences I'm sure.

Maybe this is written all over my face when I go out on those ridiculous internet dates. "This woman carries disgusting cat germs in the vicinity of her right ear. Cut the date short before you risk contamination."

Now she has misjudged (?) the space on the desk in front of the keyboard, and in attempting to walk this slips off the well polished surface, only to be caught just in time by the keyboardist. Maybe she does this on purpose to get me to hold her rather than fidget around with keys and mouses.

There are times when the purring of a cat still doesn't drown out the silence of an empty room in the wee hours of the night.

Monday, January 17, 2005

A Question of Freedom

If a soldier like Sgt. Kevin Benderman, sent to bring freedom to another country chooses, after seeing the methods of his or her employer, to withdraw from the fight as a conscientious objector, and is degraded, threatened or put in jail, as was Camilo Mejia I must ask, what other employer in the United States can intimidate, harrass or imprison an employee because they choose to resign?

Some links:
Military Families Speak Out
Bring Them Home Now!
United for Peace and Justice
March 19, Global Day of Protest

Today, when we honor the birth of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a good time to think again on how ends may not justify means.
"One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means."

".....the boycotts enabled millions of supporters to participate in the movement on a weekly and daily basis. For King, the calender of justice was not determined by the dates of Presidential and Congressional elections. Civil rights leaders chose their own battlefields according to their own needs and strengths, and they set the deadlines for their adversaries. King did not wait to see how others voted. For King, no deformed franchise can make human subjugation legitimate. -Paul Rockwell

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Precarious Balance

The Christmas lights are gone now
My neighborhood suddenly shadowy, menacing
I found excuses not to walk the dog last night.
The morning dawns charcoal-skied, fearsome
Radio droning echoes of despair.

I lie in bed tormented knowing that the news will snap his picture
When the shovels reach six tiny hands buried in mud.
Tormented knowing that pain repeated,
Multiplied, thousand-fold as the world
Digs out countless tiny buried hands.

Were it my hands digging for the inevitable,
I would next dig my grave in the mud alongside.

We are, as usual, late leaving for school when
He calls me over, this ten year old bolt of lightning
Who stills for nothing,
Yet he is hushed door-side, pointing up
Insisting I stop to look.

I must crouch beside him to see it
Silhouetted sculpture-like against the gray matte,
A great blue heron on the slender upper branch of a spruce
Somehow standing steady, composed
Despite the huge disparity between his size and his perch.

A minute later, gone, and we stream forward
Backpacks, lunches, laptops, in hand for the day.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Took the kids to spend some Christmas gift money, and decided to buy myself new PJs.
I stood looking at all the different options and eventually concluded I had no idea what type of sleepwear person I was this week.
Is this a sign of severe ego displacement? Should I be seeking mental health advice?
The daughter, in her ever wise counsel pointed out that because I wasn't wearing them out in public, I should pick out whatever I wanted for once and not worry about how it looked. This just made it worse.
I stood staring at the racks, paralyzed by indecision... Sexy? Silly? Comfortable? Nostalgic?
and finally turned it over to my son. He picked out a nondescript cream colored floral nightgown and we managed to get home without further incident.

Think I'll go put it on and see if an extra hour of sleep tonight might help me solidify some picture of myself again.

Machholz arrival?
Or a short-term scattering
This mind in fragments

The Place Where Dreams Rest

I imagine
My skin melting away
Layer upon layer of doubt
Dripping away under a velvet warmth
Until all the questions, all the fears
Quiet into absolute silence,
The sound of molecules shifting
Loud in the void that
Once filled with whispers of imperfection.
A gentle voice speaks strong and sure from my heart,
Clear as a flame burns
Calls your true name, hand held out-
And one by one you approach
Reach out to touch my naked self
Fingertip to fingertip
We do not speak,
Only share a moment of mutual faith
Until all the weight of our pasts
All the grieves of our hurts
All the selfish thoughts
Are washed away, forgotten,
Leaving the purity of connection
Till there's no me, no you,
Only spirit and light and joy.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

"Deities and beasts inhabit themselves free from the heartache of coveting a plausible alternative; humans mostly work on their masks. Having finagled our way to the top of the food chain, we find the view from the summit soothing and assume mastery for ourselves of all things seen and unseen. Once in a while, the tent flap falls open. If these glimpses are fraudulent, our spiritual leg pulled by renegade neurons, they're delusions worth cultivating when they point the way, however briefly, past dishes in the sink and beyond all the quotidian fretting that gobbles up so much of our lives."
---Chris Chester from Providence of a Sparrow

Wishing you many moments of unanalyzed joy in the new year.

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