All Mixed Up at ccMixter

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Not Such a Good Night


Last night I found out that R. committed suicide. He was M.'s boyfriend when we were at UCLA. M. is one of my best friends, and has been for over 30 years. I have not seen R. for many, many years and only heard about him occasionally from M. He moved out of state to teach history at the college level. He was an intellectual bad boy with a lot of charm, charisma and sufficient hipness factor to win us over when we were at university. He rode a motorcycle. He rolled his own cigarettes. He read German history in German. For several years I wore one of his leather jackets until he eventually reclaimed it. I painted his portrait.

* * *

Also at about 10:00 last night, my younger daughter burned her upper lip/nose. She was roasting marshmallows in the fireplace. While holding a particularly seared marshmallow on its long metal skewer, it slipped off the tip of the skewer onto her face. While she was in a lot of pain, the burn itself did not look too bad. As per the first aid instructions I googled, she kept a cold compress on the burn and took some pain relief medication. While she was very uncomfortable, I was confident she would be alright.

At about 11:00 my husband came home after being at the gym, and then the supermarket. He panicked when he saw my daughter's face which during the hour became redder and slightly blistery. We decided to take her to the emergency room. Fortunately, the closest hospital specializes in burn treatment. Because it is a small hospital, we not have to wait to long for treatment. We were reassured by the burn specialist who told us the burn was superficial and she would probably have no scarring.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Roches


The Roches are one of my most significant musical influences. They are my heroes! The trio of sweetly singing sisters has been a part of my life since 1979 when my mother first turned me on to them. Singing along to their intricate harmonies (I always sing Terre's parts) is how I learned to sing and to harmonize. The intelligent, humorous and sometimes whimsical lyrics of their songs became one of the standards I held myself up to as I wrote songs. If you look at item 86 on my list of 100 things, you will see that The Roches are one of my desert island artists. I sang their song, "Hammond," to my children for years as a lullaby. I have covered three of their songs in various bands I have played in ("Pretty and High," "Mary" and "Mr. Sellack"). I have not become bored of their music in any way whatsoever. I do not even know if I have the ability to express what a devout, dedicated, admiring fan I am.

This past week the Roches played locally. They rarely play in my city. Months ago, I saw that they would be playing. I did not buy tickets because the show was advertised as a holiday show and I did not know if I wanted to see even the Roches singing Christmas carols for the evening. My husband, however, knowing the fan I am, surprised me by getting tickets for the show.

I was so glad that he did! The show was fantastic and it was not Christmas carol laden as I was afraid it would be.

At the end of the show, The Roches invited audience members on stage with them to sing (a Christmas carol actually). I rushed the stage, hurrying as fast as my middle aged ass would go, down from the balcony, to the stage door, where I was the last audience member to make it up there before they closed the stage door. They sang "Silver Bells," which I do not really know, but I faked it anyway "ooing" and "aahing" along in harmony. I could not believe there I was on stage with my idols! What a thrill!

Afterward, I had an opportunity to speak with them. First I told Terre what a huge influence their music had on me. After I told her I sang "Hammond" to my kids as a lullaby for years, she said, "Let me give you a hug," as she appeared generally touched by my devotion. I told Suzzy too. She also gave me hug. I also told Maggie. Maggie did not give me a hug, but she looked at me very sweetly and ever so prettily.

Friday, November 24, 2006

My Father's Wife


My mother died on July 2, 1984 after a protracted illness. I graduated from UCLA two days before she died. I turned 23 years old two weeks after she died. My mother was 43 years old when she died.

Within weeks after my mother's death, my father started bringing women home. At the time, I was living in his house, having moved back during the last few months of my mother's life. My father's room was right next to my room. I could hear him having sex with these women while sobbing about my mother. One night, I could not take it any more and I chased the woman out of the house.

In the autumn of 1984, my father met S. in the waiting room of his psychologist's office. She was also a patient. They started dating. She started spending more and more time at our house. She would leave her young children at our house while she went out with my father. I remember seeing her little girl, who was 5 years old at the time, sitting sadly in my father's bed room watching tv and having no idea where her mother was.

She was a born again Christian and would not sleep with my father unless they were married. By May 1985, they planned on getting married. My brother and I were appalled. This woman was nothing like my mother who was intelligent, emotionally sophisticated, Jewish. At the time, all we could think about was what a horrible lack of respect to our mother, to us. We felt betrayed and abandoned by our father. My father just could not tolerate being alone. He needed a woman to take care of him.

I was told I had to move out of the house. I was not emotionally or financially prepared to move, but I had little choice. I felt like the princess in the fairy tale who was forced to leave the castle when the wicked step-mother took up residence.

In July 1985, the same week that my mother's grave was unveiled, my father married S. I did not speak to him for years thereafter.

When I became pregnant with my first daughter, it was important to me to repair my relationship with my father for the sake of my child. My father agreed to go to family counseling together. We had sessions alone, with my husband, my brother, S. and her children. Without getting defensive, he was able to listen to how his actions hurt me. My father's ability to tolerate my anger was tremendously healing. I developed a great respect for him after that experience.

We worked out a plan -- every Sunday, while S. was at church, my father would meet us for brunch. (We did this for many, many years until the kids became older and started having sports and music lessons on Sunday mornings.)

While I did not have any love for S., I endured her at family functions. I could never look her in the eye however, because the sight of her upset me so much.

Several years ago, S. was diagnosed with Huntington's disease. Ironically, my father again found himself in the position of caretaker for his wife. S.'s condition steadily deteriorated. About 18 months ago, she fell and broke her back. She has not been home since as her care requires more than my father can handle on his own.

Throughout her illness, S. has been positive, uncomplaining -- rather inspirational actually. Despite her disability, she attended family functions. She could hardly walk, but she had her hair and nails done regularly. Until she became totally debilitated, my father took her to the beach or to the movies, to church. We all recognized that her belief in Jesus was fundamental to her positive spirit and were grateful that she had religion.

I still did not have any love for her.

My father and S. come to my house every Thanksgiving. I also invite my S.'s children. She has two sons (one of which is married with two babies) and a daughter. This year, her daughter asked if she could bring S. "Of course," I said. So the daughter and her friend brought S. in her wheelchair from the nursing facility.

Everyone who was here for Thanksgiving thought S. looked good. I thought she looked terrible -- frail, bent, her hair grey. Even though I still do not have any love for her, her frailty touched me -- having a sense of my father's hardship saddened me. Seeing S. made me cry.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pre-Thanksgiving



I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner for my family for close to 20 years. My parents used to host Thanksgiving. Our home was open and filled mostly with friends -- their friends, our friends, friends of friends. Food was plentiful, as were various substances with which to imbibe. Music was always playing. People were always laughing. The house was warm, inviting and full of life. I hope I've maintained that tradition.

Many of our friends who regularly join us are unable to come this year due to illness or travel or other familiy commitments. That makes me rather sad. Even so, we will be at least 20 around the table.

This year's menu consists of:

  • Roast turkey
  • Tandoori style turkey breast
  • Simple stuffing with celery and onions
  • Stuffing with carrots, dried cranberries and pecans
  • Sweet potatoes (either roasted or sauteed with mustard seeds and warm spices)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Sauteed Brussels sprouts with fennel, shallots and walnuts
  • Roasted beets
  • Roasted asparagus
  • Pureed cauliflower and carrots
  • Steamed green beans
  • Carrots (not sure yet how I will cook them)
  • Balsamic glazed squash with pine nuts
  • Port glazed onions
  • Green salad
  • Spinach Bhajee
  • Traditional pumpkin pie
  • Coconut pumpkin pie
  • Low-carb, gluten free pumpkin pie
  • Apple pie
  • Pecan pie
  • Pear pie with glazed ginger and figs
  • Chocolate chip pie
  • Mandel Brot


I think that's enough.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I have good intentions, and secrets too secret to mention
gathering dust
because I lost the references.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Lost


I am not a big tv watcher. We have two televisions in our household of four. Up until a year ago, we had only one small television we kept in our bedroom. We do not have cable so we need to use a rabbit-ear antennae to get any reception. Even with the antennae, we do not get channel two. Because my husband and I could no longer stand to have the kids in our room when they wanted to watch their television programs which we could not stand, we finally relented and bought a small television for one of our kids. I watch the morning news on a daily basis to catch the traffic and weather reports. While I sporadically follow a series, I do not do so regularly, except for "Lost."

I love "Lost." On Wednesdays, I organize my day around "Lost." I do not schedule any activity for Wednesday evening, for myself or my children. I make sure dinner is cooked, consumed and cleaned up well before the 9:00 starting time. I prefer to watch "Lost" in bed after changing into my night clothes, brushing my teeth and washing my face.

I do not accept phone calls while watching "Lost." One night when "Lost" was on, the phone rang. My kid, knowing I won't pick up the phone, answered the call which was from one of my dear friends, who apparently was not yet attuned to my devotion to "Lost." My kid said, "You'll have to talk to her later, when "Lost" is over." When I called my friend back, she said "At least you admit it."

"Admit what," I asked.
"Watching Lost."
"Yeah, so what," I replied.
"Well aren't you embarrassed."
"Why should I be embarrassed. It's a really good show -- intelligent, suspenseful with good plot and characters."
"It's not a reality show?" she asked.

I spend an inordinate of time perusing "Lost" blogs. My favorite is darkufo.blogspot.com which is an attractive, comprehensive and accessible blog. I also recently discovered lostopedia.com which summarizes the story of each character, a feature I particularly appreciate.

As far as I'm concerned, "Lost" is the pinnacle of hump day.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

One Of The Stones In My Foundation Of Guilt


When I was about four years old my mother got into a car accident and I thought it was my fault. At that time we lived in Fountain Valley which is in Orange County, south of Los Angeles. In the early 1960's Fountain Valley was a sprawling developing land of contained townhomes and track houses. We lived in a small house that had no living grass that I could recall. There was a metal swing set in the backyard. I hated going into the backyard because the dirt was hard, the grass was dry and there were gopher holes every where. I did not know that a gopher was just a small rodent. To me a gopher was a monster that lived under the ground and made the swing set a dangerous place so I rarely went into the backyard.

I went to nursery school which I don’t really remember too well. My mother told me that I loved nursery school and that the teachers loved me. I was a charming little girl with big round deep brown eyes, an easy smile. I was bright, learning easily and participating readily in any activity that presented itself to me. I was a good girl too. I did not make many demands, I listened to the adults and did what I was told to do. I still have my nursery school diploma pasted in my baby book. I always did well in school – even nursery school, I guess.

The day of the accident, my mother brought me a gift when she picked me up from nursery school. She brought me a porcelain figurine. The figurine had a little booklet attached that explained who she was. We were driving home in my mother’s pale blue station wagon. I was sitting in the front seat next to my mother. I asked her to read to me what the booklet said. She read to me as she drove. We approached a cross-walk where a woman was crossing the street. My mother somehow noticed the woman, even though she was reading to me, and she hit the brakes but there was not enough time for the car to stop before it struck the woman. The woman made it to the sidewalk where she sat on the corner crying, a rag wrapped around her bleeding ankle. My mother was shaking. I was shaking. We later learned the woman was a nurse and she was okay.

For years I thought the accident was my fault because my mother was reading to me as she drove. It was not until I was an adult that I learned that the brakes went out on the car and that it was the car did not stop. By then however, guilt was the foundation upon which my personality was formed and the knowledge didn’t really help to absolve me.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Life's Bottom Line

I'm pretty sure I have body dysmorphic disorder. I have no idea what I really look like. There is a huge disconnect between what I see when I look at myself in the mirror and what I see when I look at myself in photographs. The truth is, I am not particularly photogenic. Even my friends tell me, "Oh, you look much better in real life." I am not ugly. I am just disconnected. Always have been.

I am fortunate that my husband thinks I am an attractive, sexy woman. But I do not really think of myself as a sexy woman. I think I can muster enough style and poise to get away with attractive. . .but sexy? Sexy is the purview of the thin, the bare, the confident. What does it take to feel sexy -- particularly if you are fat? What does it take to be sexy -- I mean really "be" sexy, not just act sexy? As I developed into a woman, being "sexy" was such a mandate. The media, populated with images of "sexy" looking women gave no real direction about what it mean to "be" sexy. And what is so important about being sexy anyway? It all comes down to being loved.

We all just want to be loved. Post 1960's "sexy" = "lovable." What a superficial analysis. But that's it really -- to be connected, to be loved. It's life's bottom line.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Sick

I have been sick all week and will post properly upon recovery.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Liar

I found out, in a surreptitious way, that my teenager is lying to me. Because my method of discovery is surreptitious, I cannot tell her I know that she is lying to me. The thing she lied about is not a major thing in and of itself -- but the fact that she lied to me is very disturbing. Furthermore, when I tried talking to her about the subject about which she lied, she continued to lie to me even though I gave her ample opportunity to tell me the truth.

Most people do not think there is anything unusual about a teenager lying to a parent. While that is not acceptable behavior or expected behavior(especially for certain prize teenagers), it is not unsurprising that a teenager will lie to his or her parent. By temperament, my teenager is reticent, withholding and not terribly articulate. She does not like talking to me when she is eating even though meal time is one of the few times we are together as a family. She does not like talking to me on the phone when I check in with her at the end of the school day. She does not even seem to like talking much to me when I go in her room, sit on her bed, and chat with her. She is a shut-down master. As a result, I have little true knowledge of what is going on in her life.

I do know that my teenager is in a safe school/social environment and believe she is not engaging in dangerous or excessive behaviors (certainly not the kind of behaviors I was engaged in when I was her age). I also recognize her need to individuate and all that entails. Nevertheless, knowing that she lied to my face is an alarm I need to listen to. I'm just not sure how to respond.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cheating

I discovered an entertaining way bloggers can cheat on content development: www.blogthings.com. It gives you all kinds answers to hypotheticals that are meant to describe your character. The past life generator turned me into a diseased belly dancer who lived in New Zealand and died by decapitation. At first blush, I thought this was just random. Then it dawned on me -- I am indeed a belly dancer who longs to go to New Zealand and who is very, very attached to my head. Provocative.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I cannot count how many times my friends and I discuss what we will cook for dinner while we are in the the middle of eating lunch.

I love food. It is not that I just like to eat, which I do, but it is more about loving food -- the idea of food, the preparation of food, the feeding of others, thinking about food, talking about food, reading about food. Food as an art form. Cooking as a challenge.

Considering the obesity rates in the U.S. it looks like food is a weapon of mass destruction in this country.

Contrary to the foregoing, my whole life is not centered around food. While I am a creative home cook, by no means am I a gourmet cook with fancy techniques. I peruse cookbooks, but only rarely make recipes from them, preferring to create my own version of whatever has been tested and published. Because I keep kosher, there are many foods I do not touch. I do not even eat out all the much, and when I do, I tend to go to the same restaurants and order the same dish.

I hate eating out alone. That seems to run in my family as my father hates eating alone too. It makes me so sad to see other people eating alone, especially if the person is fat or cranky looking or old or so tuned into the food that s/he is oblivious to the surroundings.

I do love the social aspect of dining. I so look forward to mealtime when I am with a friend at lunch or hosting 25 people for Thanksgiving dinner. As noted in prior posts, cooking for others is one of my all-time favorite activities. Here are 10 of my favorite foods:

  1. Cutta (sweet and sour beet soup)
  2. Asparagus roasted with olive oil and kosher salt
  3. Chicken roasted with lemon and garlic
  4. Coconut Curry
  5. Cesar Salad
  6. Grilled Salmon
  7. Ice cream
  8. Chai tea
  9. Pureed cauliflower
  10. Pie

You are welcome to let me know what some of your favorite foods are.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Upcoming Reunion


I attended an alternative school during my junior high school years (7th to 9th). The school was a cutting edge experiment in 1973 when it first opened and I was one of the first set of students to attend the school. It had classes for kids from kindergarten to 12th grade. It was based on a humanistic model, where homeroom was called "family" and every week there were group sessions to discuss just about anything. Instead of P.E. we went hiking. The openness and experimental nature of the school fostered creativity in its students.

This year, the school is having its first reunion.

When I first heard about the reunion, I was excited. I had some dear, dear friends back then who I have lost touch with and am interested in knowing more about. What are they like as adults? Are they married? What kind of work do they do? Are they still the type of people I would like to be friends with?

Then I started thinking about my life when I was in junior high. Ages 12 - 14 are not really the best year's in anybody's life, and certainly not mine. I get queasy when I think about the things I did when I was that age -- things that would make me die if my children did them! I put myself in situations where I compromised my integrity, experimented dangerously and acted in ways that were just plain stupid. Now I'm not so sure I want to see the people I did these things with -- first drug experiences, first sexual experiences. The social mechanics of the young teenager are not pretty and certainly were not pretty in the permissive atmosphere of the early 1970's. Some of my most benign memories of that time:

  • Listening to David Bowie's "Space Oddity" with Rachel
  • Dumping a dead snake in a back alley in Hollywood with Jenny Belleu after she stole her mother's car (we were 14 years old and found the snake during one of our school hiking trips)
  • Going to Disneyland with Marina, Kevin, Michael, Dimitri and Gary
  • Being Dorothy in the "Wizard of Oz"
  • Getting mugged in the neighborhood park with Danny and some other kids
  • Seeing a giant potato bug in the "Garden"
  • The smell of school lunch
  • Going to the radio studio to catch a glimpse of Dr. Demento
  • Hanging out at the La Brea Tar Pits when the park was filled with street performers, hippies and LA County Museum entrance was free
  • Window shopping at Sadie
But the painful memories reside like a stone in my heart. Some of it is the normal angst of adolescence that comes with the negotiation of relationships. But I also did things that made me feel anxious and guilty because I knew then that what I was doing was wrong. My parents were permissive. They trusted me because I was smart and nice. But I did things I did not want them to know about, especially things around my sexual discovery. I put myself in situations that were not conducive to developing healthy self-esteem in a young lady. I still feel very sad when I think about it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

My Earliest Memory


I was around two or maybe three years old. I was outside with other children who were bigger than I was. I was wearing a new two-piece bathing suit. I was very proud of my new two-piece bathing suit. I felt like a big girl in my new two-piece bathing suit. One of the bigger kids told me that the bottom was on inside-out. Right away, standing outside on the sidewalk, I took of the bottom, turned it right side out and put it back on. The other children laughed at me because my bottom was bare for that moment. I felt a brief sense of shame.
My inner voice is low and not making itself heard.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sukkot

This weeked was Sukkot. Generally, I have to work on Sukkot. While I am able to take time off for Rosh Hoshana, Yom Kippur and Passover, I usually cannot get the time off work for Sukkot. This year, however, since Sukkot fell on the weekend, I was able to be here. This meant I cooked.

And I cooked. And I cooked.

I was so pleased to be home for the holiday that I invited guests on Friday night. I invited guests for Saturday lunch. I invited guests for Sunday lunch. There were at least 12 of us at each meal.

And I was so pleased to cook for all of them.

I made cutta (sweet-sour beet soup), beef curry, lemon garlic chicken, spiced cauliflower, eggplant with basil, green bean bajee, rice, hashua, shufta, green salad, egg salad, baked eggs, cauliflower en croute, salmon with herbs de provence, tuna salad, autumn salad, greek salad. My daughter made lasagna. I served humuus, and challah, seven layer cake, checker board cake, apple pie, medjool dates, cashew crisps, rugalah, cookies, grapes and almonds. We went through several bottles of wine, and Pelligrino, soda, coffee, black tea, mint tea.

Every body ate. We laughed a lot. We had fresh flowers in the sukkah. In the garden there were hummingbirds, and butterflies the size of tea saucers fluttering among the purple sage blossoms.

What a blessing to feed my friends!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Listening to Dreams


In Selene's dream, all the action is slo-mo
She jumps and she's flying out of reach
In Selene's dream

The dreams of other people are usually not that interesting to listen to. Yet people want to share their dreams -- the dream experience sometimes being so real, so profound, so moving that telling the dream can dispel or cement that experience.

When recounting dreams, people tend to tell them in a monotonous, droning voice that makes my mind wander. Not only do my children share their dreams with me, but my friends do so, or at least they used to when we were in school together, in those days when our contact was regular, daily. Now my primary contact with my friends is on the telephone. All of us with our jobs and our families, we're no less committed to each other than I was with my daily school friends, it's just that we are all grown up now with evolving needs for connection. Much of that is satisfied by our families, who naturally, are the relationship priority. Not all my friends are married with families. But even my single friends, at this point in our lives, have jobs and routines that do not facilitate the immediacy of those daily friendship where one conversation is merely picked up the next time you see each other instead of these "catch-up" conversations that start with "So what's been going on?" In the "catch-up" conversations I learn momentous events have effected my dear friends tremendously -- cancer scares, job promotions, a shift in perspective. In my youth, it hurt me to learn of such momentous events anytime other than concurrent with the occurrence itself. I felt betrayed, left out, less loved. Now, the timing of the telling is not significant -- just the telling, and perhaps more importantly, the listening.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hawks


This morning, I took my daughter to her friend's house. Her friend lives on a quiet suburban street. At the intersection of the street, the water had collected into a small hollow. As I turned the corner, a bird was standing in the water. I stopped the car, as the bird took no action to move out of my way.

The bird was a small hawk. I looked it in the eye.

I used to see hawks all the time. In the spring and summer, I saw them every day as I commuted to work. the hawks circled over the freeway, swooping with the air currents in that motionless flight unique to these birds. Why would they circle the freeway? There was no prey -- just the traffic. Why were they there for me to see?

I also saw hawks daily from my office window as my office is in the hills of Southern California. I often saw them in pairs. As the summer became hotter, I stopped seeing them.

Recently, I have not seen too many hawks. When I became aware that I had not seen hawks for a while I became a little anxious. The hawks are messengers that things are alright. To not see the hawks did not bode well. I do find it significant that today's hawk sighting, at such close range too (most unusual), corresponds with Rosh Hoshanna -- although I am not yet sure what it signifies.

I am always grateful when I see them. Their grace. Their flight -- as if they own the wind. I just learned that hawks are a powerful totem. They are messengers and guides to inspiration.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ripe


Oh. Motherhood has left its mark on me
stained my flesh,
rivulets marking my womb.
I don't recognize myself anymore.
I can't see what you may see when you look at me.
I am
warm
torn
ripened.
There is so much more to me.
My flesh sets on my bones.
The trappings of my experience,
life's load.
Even my arms too, are soft,
like my belly,
from yielding.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

100 Things

In no particular order:

1. I am middle aged but essentially feel the same inside as I always have.

2. I went to the same high school my mother went to.

3. I married a man who grew up in the same neighborhood I did.

4. I love my husband.

5. I love to sing.

6. When I was a child, I sang at the top of my lungs while I walked to school, hoping that I would be discovered.

7. When I was in high school, one of my teachers told me that I could not sing.

8. Now, people tell me I have a beautiful voice.

9. I have been in bands and made a record. The record did not sell very many copies.

10. I spent a large part of my adolescence and early adulthood depressed.

11. I was in therapy for 15 years.

12. I am no longer depressed.

13. I studied and trained to be a therapist but could not continue on that path because I had to get a job that paid money.

14. I lost a baby when I was 20 weeks pregnant.

15. I work out regularly with a personal trainer who has made me the strongest middle-aged mother of two in my neighborhood.

16. Lately, my favorite cocktail is gin and sugar-free tonic with a lot of lime, but I hardly have cocktails anymore on the advice of my trainer.

17. I also gave up caffeine, dairy and artificial sweeteners on the advice of my trainer.

18. I love ice cream.

19. I enjoy cooking for other people.

20. I always make Thanksgiving dinner for a lot of people. They insist I make the same dishes every year. Since that is boring for me, I always add a new dish. This means I make about 15 different dishes for Thanksgiving, not including dessert.

21. I contributed and tested recipes for a cookbook.

22. I am a control freak when it comes to throwing a party.

23. When I read, I become so totally immersed in the book that I become unaware of what is going on around me.

24. I do not watch very much tv.

25. I do not have cable.

26. I do tend to get hooked on one show at a time. When my children were little it was "X-Files." They had trouble sleeping and I would panic if they were not asleep by 9:00 p.m. on Sunday night when the "X-Files" aired. Lately it is “Lost.”

27. I hardly believe it when people tell me they love me.

28. I do believe it when my children tell me they love me.

29. I never really enjoyed taking my kids to the park.

30. I never went to PTA meetings.

31. I wish I was a better mother.

32. I grew up celebrating Christmas.

33. Now I keep kosher and observe Shabbat.

34. I like my job.

35. For the first 11 years of my life, my family moved every year or so.

36. I have four cats.

37. I am allergic to cats.

38. I fantasize about living in Hawaii.

39. I have traveled, but only a little bit.

40. I used to speak fluent Italian.

41. I had dreams where I was speaking in only French or Italian.

42. I have sold my artwork to people I don’t know.

43. I am shy.

44. When I am with funny people, I can be funny too.

45. Two of my dearest friends have the same name.

46. Sometimes, I believe I am truly empathic, feeling what my companion is feeling at that moment, although that could also be a narcissistic delusion.

47. I feel separate from most people most of the time.

48. I belly dance.

49. I am overweight.

50. When I was not overweight, I thought I was fat.

51. I used to think I looked prettier when I made a serious face. Now I think I look better when I smile.

52. I sometimes embarrass my children because I love to sing and dance.

53. My mother died the day after I graduated from college. I was 22 years old.

54. I did not speak to my father for many years, but then we reconciled. Now he is an important part of my life.

55. I get along with my in-laws.

56. I love color. I love looking at color displays such as the paint chip racks at Home Depot or bottles of nail polish lining the drug store wall.

57. I do not wear blue clothing.

58. I have to dye my hair every few weeks because I have fast growing grey hair.

59. People tell me I look younger than I am.

60. I love being strong.

61. I don’t know when I will be able to retire.

62. I enjoy being in my garden.

63. I am trustworthy.

64. I do not tell people’s secrets.

65. I am an honest person.

66. I struggle to be revealingly honest in my creative endeavors because I believe honesty is required for good art.

67. I thank God regularly for big and little things in my life.

68. I believe that the natural world communicates to us.

69. My parents taught me to be tolerant of other viewpoints and ways of life.

70. I am a spendthrift.

71. I like when people acknowledge my efforts, but it embarrasses me.

72. I have never won an award for anything.

73. I am very lucky in life, but so unlucky when I gamble. I never win when I gamble.

74. I worry about the world my children are growing into and what the world is going to be like when they are adults.

75. When my nieces were little, before I had children of my own, I used to get pleasure from strangers thinking they were my daughters.

76. People used to think my younger brother and I were twins.

77. I never drink regular soda.

78. I have journaled since I was 12 or 13. Most of my journals contain budgets, complaints about my weight and lists of things I want to do.

79. I once saw a UFO.

80. I surf blogs and try to let people know I have looked at them.

81. I don’t really like my name, but I have no idea what other name would suit me.

82. I am not particularly political which can be challenging because I am surrounded by political people.

83. My life is blessedly full which leaves me with insufficient solitude to make meaningful work.

84. I may be a bit of a dilettante, despite my serious commitment to creativity.

85. I have been a teacher of human development classes, mommy and me, and belly dance.

86. If I could only take five albums with me on a deserted island I would take: Joni Mitchell Hejira, Parliament Greatest Hits, Eno Before and After Science, The Roches The Roches, and John Coltrane Love Supreme.

87. I try to be nice.

88. While I do have opinions, I am not good at debating.

89. My eldest daughter is taller than I am.

90. Since I stopped being depressed, I stopped having dreams in which I fly.

91. My thoughts are auditory, not visual.

92. I learn better when someone teaches me than by reading on my own.

93. I truly appreciate learning new things.

94. I wonder what it is like to be a man, but do not actually want to be a man. I am very happy that I am a woman.

95. I have never been to the mikvah because I am too embarrassed to get naked in front of the mikvah lady.

96. My most significant wish is that my children grow up to be happy, healthy, safe and successful in whatever path they choose.

97. I have feet like a hobbit because I never wore shoes when I was a child.

98. I like having my back massaged more than ANYTHING else in the world.

99. I do not remember enough of my life.

100. I believe we make a choice between life and death everyday.

Monday, September 04, 2006

As The Story Goes. . .

Just like everyone has a mother, everyone has a story. And I think probably most people have some sort of tragedy in their life that becomes their story – some sort of experience that causes a profound reaction and may change the direction of life. Sometimes the tragedy is cruel. For example, one of the many tragedies in my life is that my mother died when she was quite young. Sometimes the tragedy is subtle and not even touched by cruelty; it is the entitled child who can comfortably take, take, take but gives nothing back because everything in his life has been provided to him. These stories must engender compassion. These stories are formative. They are the stories of our humanity and they are all familiar.

There was a period in my life when storytelling emerged as the theme of all of the music, films and books that I was exposed to. As I became more involved in middle-class survival on behalf of my family and myself, concepts like the importance of the story dwindled as existential demands of life forced me to focus more pointedly on doing versus ruminating. In other words, I didn’t think about any of this for years! Now that I am middle aged and my kids are not as dependent on me, I have reached the developmental stage where nostalgia emerges in full force. Story is the repository of memory, containing history and hope. While so many things inform our psyche and form our personality, there are usually some key experiences that are truly formative. They are the experiences that cause new ways of behaving – if not at the time, in the future.

For example, when I was in sixth grade, I had no friends. I started a new school and just did not fit in. When I started the new school, I was excited. My family moved frequently when I was a child, so I learned to adapt early on to new social situations. In fact, every time we moved, I looked forward to starting school because I always made friends easily. But this was different. This was the first time in my life when I did not make any friends. I was devastated. The other girls in the class teased me so badly that it hurt. They teased me about my clothes, my ideas, even my politics. (The politics weren’t actually mine – they were my parents but sixth grade was during an election year and we had a mock election. Mine was one of two votes out of 30 for the democratic party.) I cried all the time. I locked myself in my room and read books about orphans who made their way in the world on their wits, charm and the kindness of rich adults. By seventh grade, my family again moved. I started a new school where I took a school bus to school everyday. There were some ninth grade girls who also rode the bus. For some reason, the ninth grade girls did not like me. I had no idea why. I did not hang out with them or any of their friends at school. I was not even aware that they knew who I was. Nevertheless, everyday on the bus these girls teased mercilessly by calling me bad names, accusing me of saying or doing things I never did, mocking me. It was horrible! I could not understand why they picked on me. I fought back with them. I challenged their reasons for picking on me, and even slung a few nasty insults myself. After being bullied in sixth grade, I had no intention of being a passive victim. Fighting back was a new skill, one that developed out of the tragedy of my cruddy sixth grade experience. It helped to confront these nasty girls; I never had the same feeling of victimization that I had from my sixth grade experience. (I am so grateful to say that since sixth grade, I am blessed in that I have always had good friends around me. More stories. . .)

We go to bed with stories. We teach through stories. We connect through stories. We find resolution through stories. We touch the divine through stories. We kiss the sublime through stories. We waste time through stories. We survive through stories.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Mrs. Joseph's Kitchen


My kitchen is imperfect but I do have a turquoise oven.

The cabinets never stay closed. Drawers stick or slide in crooked. The counter top tile is cracked. Coffee grinds get stuck in the grout. The light on the stove vent does not always work. One of the stove burners is not working. I do not have a proper broiling pan so I have not used the broiler since we moved into our house five years ago. The linoleum is separating at the seams. The cabinet shelves are not high enough to accommodate a box of cereal. The counter space is insufficient to comfortably hold our small appliances (toaster over, coffee maker, microwave) and still have room to slice and dice. It is not easy for all of us to sit together in the breakfast area. No matter how much I clean, the kitchen always becomes dirty again.

I live with these imperfections on a daily basis. I have always lived with imperfections.

I can’t imagine having a spotless kitchen with room for everything. Yet people have that – people I know and love have that. A clean kitchen. They’re not embarrassed to have me rummaging through their cupboards seeking decaffeinated tea. Whereas I am mortified if anybody tries to help me put the food away and is faced with the shelf of storage containers. I have maybe 10 bottoms and 25 tops, very few of which actually match the bottoms.


My kitchen may have always been imperfect, but I did not always notice. When we first moved into our house, after doing all the work that we did, I thought my kitchen was beautiful. I felt like a kid playing house. I carefully organized my pots, china, serving ware, spices. It didn’t last long though. Everyone in my household seems to have a different sense of how stuff should be put away so that things end up never getting put away because no one seems to know where stuff belongs. Or my husband, who is a foot taller than me, starts putting things on top of the refrigerator or other high places because it is convenient for him but completely impractical for the rest of the family.

Unfortunately, this state of imperfection and denial is all too familiar.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mrs. Uribe Put a Curse on Me



When I was in high school, I took a ceramics class taught by Mrs. Uribe. Mrs. Uribe was a heavy set, grey haired lesbian. She chose me to run errands for her during class. I am not sure why she chose me. At the time, I thought she, like all of my teachers before her, liked me. In retrospect, perhaps she chose me to run errands for her because my friend and I were silly, giggly, high school girls who disrupted the class with our chortling. We constantly flirted with a cute senior boy in the class. This may have bothered Mrs. Uribe. In any event, I missed an awful lot of class because I was taking papers to the administration office or leaving the school building to go across the street to the record store to buy a birthday gift for Mrs. Uribe's daughter.

I liked ceramics. All my life, I enjoyed doing anything creative. I drew. I made up songs on the piano. I danced. My friends and I made up plays. To me it was all fun! I hated being passively entertained. I wanted to make things and do things and be appreciated for what I made and did.

I also loved what others made and did. Music was exciting -- English pop, glam rock, punk rock, funk. I never watched TV -- I listened to music and read books. I went to concerts. I went dancing at the underage clubs. I partied. I extracted an image of what was arty and cutting edge from rock stars and authors and used it to inform my own sense of style. I denied being a Jewish American Princess.

I was also basically a good girl, I followed direction. I was filled with compunction. While I was not a ceramics genius, I was always creative and artistic. I enjoyed the process. I was able to practice the techniques. I did my projects, despite missing so much class doing Mrs. Uribe's bidding.

On the last day of class, I thanked Mrs. Uribe and told her I enjoyed her class. Instead of thanking me or telling me it was a pleasure to have me in her class (which all of my teachers had always said to me my entire life), Mrs. Uribe told me I was going to get married, live in a ranch house in the suburbs, drive a station wagon, have a big dog and two children.

I WAS APPALLED!

That was not what I had planned for my life. Being a suburban housewife had nothing to do with staying up all night dancing in nightclubs. Being a suburban housewife was very far removed from traveling to exotic locations where I would be influenced by other cultures so that I thought differently. I didn't have the wardrobe of a suburban housewife!

Already in high school I knew that I was going to travel the world. I would settle in New York where I would first be a journalist, and then a novelist (when I turned 40 because you really need to experience life before you can write about it). I would have experiences that would inform my artistic endeavors. I would be important.

While I laughed at Mrs. Uribe and said, "You don't know anything about me," I think now she may have been a much better judge of character than I was when I was 15.