Sunday, December 22, 2013
Then in 1986, a family moved across the street with a girl my age and a boy my brother's age. So I ended up with two "sisters." Our parents coordinated Santa: one year we all got dollhouses (which involved at least one bottle of bourbon and a Masters in engineering to construct, according to our fathers); the next year, all of us got bikes, which we would learn to ride in our circular driveway.
I truly know how lucky I am that my parents still live in the same house that I grew up in and that they are still married to each other and that they still like each other and that they are both still healthy. I know that one day they will downsize and move away, and the number that has been in my cell phone as "home" since the day I got a cell phone 15 years ago will go to someone who has not had AT&T long distance for more than three decades.
My parents never once switched during MCI vs. Sprint (the pin drop years). I wonder if, in their future locale, my parents will even be able to sign up for a phone plan that doesn't have call waiting. (Yes. You still get a busy signal if they are busy. As God intended.)
I guess what I'm saying is that I grew up in a place where not much changed. My childhood centered on reading/writing, playing sports, and exploring the world of our yards with my brother and our friends.
Of all these adopted siblings, I was the oldest (by six weeks), which I'm sure I took to mean that I was the one in charge, and I'm sure no one else was really allowed to question that. I also know that I developed a maternal mentality. None of these qualities have particularly waned through the years. What was "bossy" as a girl became "bitchy" as a teenager and became "leadership" as an adult.
That's how I tell it, anyway.
But my maternal instinct remains. I still feel responsible for other people. I want to "fix" them, like I used to "fix" skinned knees or vases broken from rambunctious behavior or a mistake. After years of therapy, I try really, really hard to not credit/blame others for my feelings or be credited/blamed for theirs.
But some people *do* make me happy. One "sister" came over for dinner tonight. We ended up going to different high schools and drifted apart, but she found me on Facebook a few years ago. So tonight she left her husband in charge of her two boys and showed up ready to eat in a home where she had once enjoyed many years of Nintendo. Daddy poured champagne and chopped up meats that had spent most of the day smoking. Three generations ate together. After dinner, we snuck away and spent hours talking about how parenthood has affected us, how our careers have come to be, how our relationships with our parents have evolved, why God matters, how difficult it is to come home again.
Her parents moved from the neighborhood when we were in college, and then they divorced, so returning to our neighborhood was bittersweet at best for her. As she said goodbye, we stood in my parents' (no longer circular) driveway and stared at her old house, pointing out rooms that had been "ours" and wondering where the new owner(s) sleep or watch TV or eat or cry.
It's like that Miranda Lambert song, The House that Built Me. (Go ahead: judge me for liking terrible country music.) And while I can't fix brokenness, I can start healing.
The house that built me
built me full of love and strength
gave me the ability to observe
gave me insight
gave me a sense of values, inquiry, stability
taught me how to treat others.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
subject line (from the drop down menu): Alliance Flight Experience
To whom it may concern:
I understand that United Airlines is not responsible for the weather, for New York City's heavy air/ground traffic, and/or for Newark's single runway for departures/arrivals.
However. The experience I had flying with you yesterday went from dysfunctional to manic. Rapidly.
I was originally scheduled on flight 4212 on 12/8/2013. Blessedly, this flight was canceled well in advance of my trek from Manhattan, and I was automatically rebooked.
I arrived at EWR on 12/9/2013 to take flight 4292, scheduled to depart at 12:30pm. The first of 10 emails to arrive from United over the course of the day informed me of a delay. (I did not receive an email every time the flight was delayed or the gate changed; that would have increased my inbox by at least 15 more emails.)
I arrived at the designated gate (A25). 20 minutes before we were meant to depart, we had a gate change (A22). Zones 1 and 2 boarded, then unboarded. We were told of a necessary aircraft change. Some of the reasons given: it was too small; for our size/load, it would require between 1 and 3 fuel stops en route; it could not handle the wind.
We were told to board at A20. We boarded. Then the pilot announced that there was an engine leak. We waited to see if it could be repaired. Alas, no. WE ALL UNBOARDED THIS SECOND PLANE and were sent to A23 to await an arriving plane we could borrow.
We boarded this final plane (our 3rd) at this final gate (our 4th), five hours after we were scheduled to do so.
This experience was greatly improved by our crew. John B., our flight attendant, maintained a great sense of humor ("Welcome to flight 4292, nonstop, same-day service!") and offered unlimited alcoholic beverages and snacks for the duration of our flight.
The captains, as frustrated as we, kept us informed and made decisions that made us feel safe. Their honesty earned our trust.
Mechanical failures. Customer service success.
(my initials are EWR. curses.)
Friday, November 22, 2013
He has been in Hospice since August. Today begins "final stages." He has days or weeks to live.
I don't think there's anything else to say. You can build an empathetic vision for what that looks and feels like, right?
Besides, it's not my story. His aren't my details to share. Her story is one I hope to never know more closely than from the prayers and emails and texts we've exchanged. It's a story I hope no one ever has to know.
I met a friend for lunch today, after a morning spent crying softly for her, for him, for mortality. My friend ordered me tequila, let me talk for fewer minutes about it than I thought I needed, and then said:
"Did her father make you laugh?"
God, yes! And he made my friend laugh, and he made her mother laugh, and he made all of our friends laugh. He was incredibly good-humored.
I started thinking of weekends in high school spent in her kitchen, her dad reading the newspaper while she and I pretended to know how to make pancakes. I started thinking of all the laughter that kitchen held.
Which, of course, was Ed's point:
Remember the times when you laughed.
Remember when things were good
when you and your friend didn't know how to measure dry vs. wet goods
when we worried about acne and boys instead of wrinkles, acne, and boys
when we felt completely loved and safe and warm
when we knew nothing about prostates.
I have been to a friend's parent's funeral every year since 2008. In 2010, one of my favorite friends was putting off writing his mother's eulogy (because of course), and his other friends and I suggested he write about the times she made him laugh. The jokes, the teasing. No one wanted to cry any more.
His eulogy was perfect. His dry wit echoed throughout a chapel full of people who had loved his mother, who had their own stories of laughter, who wept when he broke down but who laughed honestly when he cracked his gorgeous, crooked smile.
Parents do the best job when they teach us how to laugh and how to love. That is the legacy we remember and for which are most appreciative.
So. Remember the times we laughed, and know that we will again, sometime soon.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Plus, well, I have the time to give.
But there's not much time. They want an outdoor venue in late March or early April 2014 in the greater New Orleans area. I think they are going for a more informal feel, but I need ideas and recommendations for everything: cakes and catering, photographers, flowers, makeup artists, invitations, bands. Applications that will sync lists between my android and her iPhone. Software or books to invest in. Websites or blogs to read.
Please don't simply say "Pinterest." The one time I was on that website, I quickly closed it. I don't think I'm girly enough, and I know that I am not crafty enough. The only do-it-yourself creating I have the talent for is writing haiku and cooking. I don't think they want to say their vows in haiku form, and I have no desire to begin a catering business out of my four-burner stove.
They've done the hard part: they've planned their marriage. Now all I have to do is plan the first day of it, and I'd welcome your help.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Which was something like this:
14 oz rotini
2 finely chopped cucumbers
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
3/4 cup finely chopped olives
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup Italian-style dressing
I needed to multiply the recipe by 10.
And my girlfriend's husband had done all of the math/shopping.
Note: pasta typically comes in 1 pound (16 oz) packages... including the pasta he brought me.
I also think he bought 200 ounces of salad dressing (some of which was accidentally fat free), and I know there were only 18 cucumbers (the only thing I chopped by hand).
The Italian-style dressing's first two ingredients were soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup.
I don't care for raw onion in most of my salads, so I pulverized half of a (red) onion for every pound of pasta I made. Olives are pretty much the only food I cannot eat (because they are vile), so I left them whole, because I know a lot of other like-minded (correct) people who also cannot eat them. I also left the cherry tomatoes whole, because people are weird about raw tomatoes, I worried that the juice would interfere with the taste of dehydrated red bell peppers, and I had absolutely no desire to cut up tiny tomatoes into fourths.
Basically: it was the opposite of the kind of pasta salad I would ever consider making for myself, for people I love, for people I don't love, for strangers. I wouldn't give an enemy high fructose corn syrup... or anything else Monsanto.
So once I could get over that (which, clearly, I'm not), I had to figure out how in the world to boil 10 pounds of pasta in my non-commercial grade kitchen with an urban amount of counterspace. And then how to mix 10 pounds of pasta with soybean oil, pulverized onions, and cucumbers. (Tomatoes and olives stayed on top so people can pick/choose.)
I recycled pasta water and heavily relied on this NYTimes article, in hopes it was true.
I couldn't help myself: I added dried organic basil and oregano to the mix. I added Tony's, as you do.
I ended up using half of my house to accomplish the end result, which was 3 giant aluminum trays.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to clean my kitchen. While I do so, I will pray for a world where children do not have to choose between hunger and genetically modified foods.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
selection. With the question you stated above in mind use the completely random
word and definition that pops up and make associations that help you redefine the
problem. Be creative on this one, we’d love to hear your thought process! (And please make sure to tell us what the 'random article' title was!)
Monday, October 7, 2013
When my last boyfriend and I were doing our dance of death, we went to couple's therapy. The first session informed us that John Gottmann's "love lab" research concludes three types of couples generally "make" it:
- the avoidant couple, who sweep everything under the rug for 100 years and never really discuss whatever problems they have
- the volatile couple, who always seem to be either fighting or making out in front of everyone
- the validating couple, who try to see the other's point of view through an empathetic lens
Then, if I'm close enough with her, I ask, "No, I mean, how is your marriage?"
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
I can't stop thinking: are all darkest secrets about sex?
Abortion vs. adoption.
Sex: what/who/where you desire. what age it began. with how many.
As a habit, I don't write about sex, because I don't tweet, Facebook, or blog anything I wouldn't want my grandmother to read... and I regularly print my blog posts and mail them to her so that she can read what I write without having to learn how to use a computer.
But I'll see my grandmother next week, and I think it's worth asking. For example, did she have as many friends as I do who simply could not get pregnant? Is it because we're all waiting 10 years later or because we're all on hormonal birth control or because we all eat more fast food or, hell, more organic food than our parents and grandparents?
Or did she (or my mother) talk about these sorts of things with her girlfriends? Are we in some kind of post-Sex and the City freedom of speech era? Certainly nothing I could write about would be a surprise to my grandmother. She does, after all, have cable. (Not that you need cable to watch Dr. Phil.) (Not that I've watched Dr. Phil, so I'm conjecturing.)
The highest court in our land allows men to marry men and women to abort. We have clubs devoted to women taking off their clothes for money, men dressing like women for fashion, anonymous group sex for fun.
For better and worse, privacy is one thing that unites us all. Shame, guilt, or the freedom from either. Experimentation and experience, lust and love.
The point is: having secrets makes us human.
I hope that, whatever yours are, you find a way to make them lighter. Or at least to accept them.
Monday, August 19, 2013
Sunday, August 18, 2013
sipping coffee on someone else's front porch
major and minor
shifts and twists
my life would need to take
to buy the antebellum home
for sale (for months)
then use its six bedrooms
as a bed and breakfast.
all the wedding receptions the home has hosted
and could host
the family reunions it could house
the refuge it could offer
to the bereaved
what wines to serve at cocktail hour
who I'd hire to cook (or would I?)
and to clean (I would not)
what room rates would be
how expensive it would be to furnish
my $88 per square foot
cypress and crystal home
built two centuries, a civil war, two world wars, and the advent of electricity ago
with the sweet money of sugarcane
with the hope that all who made the pilgrimage
could find solace and comfort and salve
in major and minor
shifts and twists
without current or tides
Thursday, August 8, 2013
I think one of my primary love languages is food. I love to cook for people (give). I love to share meals with people (give/receive). And I really, really, really love to eat (receive).
My godmother's daughter will deliver some truly well incubated twins tomorrow. My godmother and my mother are in town for the occasion and to help out wherever possible, since Leslie is currently full of almost 13 lbs of baby.
It's a lot of baby.
And since I have the luxury of plenty of free time these days, I decided that I would cook for them. I plan to bring five dishes frozen, a box of produce from Hollygrove Market, my Crockpot/Cuisinart/Microplane, and all of my favorite cookbooks.
I started planning meals on Monday night, making lists which turned into one Google spreadsheet and one Google document. I went to three different grocery stores to get everything I wanted, and I started cooking yesterday afternoon. Pozole turned out much spicier than I intended, and meatloaf turned out much blander than intended. This morning, I made ribollita. My father's braised short ribs will come out of my oven when I finish writing this, and then I will start making his chili. The recipe calls for a (one.) beer, leaving me with five delicious Shiner Bock to partake of.
I've earned it.
For those of you who have houses with insulation or air conditioning that evenly cools your whole house, allow me to explain to you what it's like to be in my kitchen in New Orleans in August. Especially when the oven is on.
It's like Bikram cooking.
Additionally, when I say I'm using my father's recipes, you need to understand:
1. my father is a really excellent cook, and anything I make of his will merely mimic the original;
2. my father's recipes are crazy ridiculous in the amount of effort they take, from grocery shopping for ingredients the store clerks have never heard of to getting stew meat cut especially for you to using twine to hold together bacon, celery, herbs in a "bouquet."
All of these are demotivating factors, but that's how much I love my mother, my godmother, Leslie, Leslie's husband, and these giant twins.
Oh. I forgot to mention Leslie's husband. He doesn't eat produce of any kind, except for iceberg (if that counts) and fried okra (because Alabama). So I'm cooking a lot of meat for him and a lot of vegetables for the rest of his household.
I have frozen or will freeze the soups in one cup portions. That way you don't have to heat up an entire pot of chili when you just want a cup of soup. I made the meatloaf in a muffin tin (that I had to borrow from a friend, because that's how little I bake), so they are also in single servings.
Knowing that the twins' helpers might have allergies or that the twins themselves might develop them, I have labeled each of the ziploc bags I have frozen: name of dish; whether it contains egg, dairy, or gluten; and SPICY across the pozole.
I like to think that food is a love language I speak well, and I hope the twins first days at home are filled with the kind of love they'll live their whole lives knowing.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
- I have to list three persons' name and official business title.
- I have to list three companies' "record of address."
- I have to choose the job title I talked to these people about via a drop down menu that basically doesn't include any titles belonging to anyone in the nonprofit sector.
Monday, August 5, 2013
effort to boycott New Orleans
during the month of August
SO. MUCH. HOT.
I decided that it might be fun to go camping.
Not the kind with a tent or hookups:
the kind with an air-conditioned cabin
and decently appointed kitchen
and maybe a lake breeze
to minimize mosquitoes
and to maximize comfort.
Then I realized
that a room in a charming bed and breakfast
(you know, where breakfast will be provided for me)
was less expensive.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
To most of you, this is probably a matter of putting pairs of earrings/cufflinks back into their compartments or putting a hat back on a shelf. Where things belong.
My best guess is that the top of my chest of drawers has not been cleaned since the summer of 2011, and I only know that date because that is when the mail towards the bottom of the pile was postmarked.
It does not belong here. It belongs in my file folders or in my recycling bin, circa 2011.
It's a collection of bills (long since paid), financial statements (unopened), magazines (now in a pile to be donated to a school for their arts program)... and one thousand other things. Scraps of paper, letters, picture frames with(out) pictures, nail polish, 3 pairs (!) of earphones, one (1) AA battery, the black and gold feather boa wig I'll need for football season, business cards from people I've forgotten... all with clean, folded laundry from months ago (anyone's guess) on top and some really cheap (but sentimental) earrings I was certain I'd lost at the bottom.
The favorite things I found:
- a thank you note from Anne Berry for hosting our annual orphan Thanksgiving dinner, where she thanked me "for making New Orleans feel like home"
- a picture from my senior year of college, snogging my gay best guy friend, due to the effects of (a lot of) fermented beverage
- the invitation to my and Brooke's one-year anniversary party: Champagne at Sunset
- pictures of me and my college roommate, who is now expecting a son, at parties or in our jammies in our dorm room
- pictures of me and my best guy friend from high school, with whom I traveled a great deal in the 5ish years after high school, and who is now expecting twins :)
- books I meant to give as presents or to read or to just have sitting out to look fancy
- a note from one of my dearest friends: "Thank you so much for dropping everything and coming down to Miami for my mother's funeral."
- love notes from my beau, when we were beginning
- a haiku a lobbyist wrote me when I was working in the Texas legislature, on one of our designated "haiku Thursdays"
All of these are messages that I belong
that I have the exact love I want
that my friends have added richly and deeply to
my definitions of kindness, grace, beauty
I belong to this gratitude
and to these memories
and, for now, to a fresh clean surface
where I will lay new words
frame new pictures
place old earrings and bobby pins
and find renewed pieces of myself and others
to belong to.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Monday, July 15, 2013
Friday, July 12, 2013
I mean, your life will change by reading either, but the both of them together--in either order--will haunt you.
You're welcome in advance.
This boy I like asked me last month if he could take me somewhere all I needed was a passport and bikini bottoms. I accepted. Next week, we travel to St. Martin.
Tonight, he announced that his beach read is The History of Love. We've never discussed it. He explained to me, not knowing anything about my history with it (one of the only books I have read thrice): "Yeah, so. I read the reviews, and everyone said that it was this beautifully haunting and intricately woven story with complicated timelines..."
I said, "I know."
He said, "Wait. Have you read it?"
According to interviews, Jonathan Safron Foer and Nicole Krauss were not familiar with the parallels in their stories or storytellings. I don't really care if that's true. They both wrote masterful, honest depictions of super difficult topics.
History of love:
"Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering." --Nicole Krauss
May we all be so blessed.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
He introduced me to his best friend as "the girl who's responsible for me having taken the LSAT."
I can't remember ever talking anyone into going to law school. I try my damndest to prevent anyone from going to law school, for several good reasons:
1. I don't know anyone who enjoyed a minute of law school.
2. I don't know anyone who enjoys being a lawyer.
2. a. Most of the people I know who finished law school and passed bars no longer practice law.
3. It is six figures of debt. To pay this back, you will need to bill about 2200 hours/year, leaving you about 87 hours in your year to live.
Fortunately, Kevin dropped out of law school, Day 2. I guess trying to impress a pretty girl only goes so far.
It made me wonder about all of the other tiny moments or offhanded suggestions I've made throughout my life that have affected others. I often say something like, "take all my good advice, I'm not using it," because it's so much easier to tell someone "don't go to law school, leave the person you no longer want to love, move across the country" than to do it yourself.
Except. Wait. I have done all of those things. Um. Wear sunscreen? Damn. I do that, too. Hmmm. I am not great about brushing my teeth. I am really terrible about flossing. But I'm not sure how important those things are, in the grand scheme, since I was born with great teeth, the way other people are born with a genetic predisposition to low blood pressure.
When I was in 8th grade, I was sitting on the plane next to someone who said, "You're from the South, right? Never lose your accent."
To me, it felt like he was saying "Never forget where you come from: a land full of amazing music, magnolias and live oaks and azaleas, an uncomfortable economic history, and fantastic literature. Never lose the flavor of your life. Love your parents, your brother, and all of the other people who made you into you, meal by meal. Always remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Other advice has been haphazard or sincere: Don't marry the first boy who asks. Become a professor (I get this one all the time, still). Consume 10 fat grams or fewer each day (bless my 14-year-old self's heart). Have babies by the time you're 35. Wear a helmet when you bike. Read. Get __ minutes of exercise __ times a week. Don't kiss and tell. Drink coffee. Don't drink coffee. Drink 1 glass of red wine every day. Drink 8 glasses of water a day.
I guess we can all agree: peeing is good for you.
And law school is bad for you.
Monday, July 8, 2013
And people around me these past few days have been drinking chardonnay.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
while playing with sidewalk chalk
during the time of day when the heat index
hasn't yet reached ninety degrees
I ruminated on childhood
Sidewalk chalk is as fun as I remember it being
although since all of my artistic ability
came in the form of words
I started thinking of poems
and I as remembered
maggie and milly and molly and may
I thought to be grateful for playtime(even in the humidity)
and for you.
maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and
milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and
may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Sunday, June 23, 2013
it was a relief
not to come home to someone
I no longer loved
didn't know how to love again
and wasn't sure I could
moving her out felt right
we packed together
carefully rewrapping fragile wedding gifts
padding boxes with linens
upon which we had once made love
dividing our things
not truly grasping
we were dividing a life.
we were dividing a life
we'd stood in front of our parents friends God
and created. and promised to upkeep.
that's when it got harder
when the immediate relief was over
I realized I was separate
from that life
and the house we'd shared
got very, very quiet
and full of ghosts
she wasn't there to fold the laundry
to turn the washing machine on
to ignore the dryer signal buzz
or laugh at my attempts to cook
to bang pots around
to blend, to chop, to advise
or cry at those dumb commercials meant to make certain women cry
during shows certain women watch
or to yell
up the stairs
"can you bring me my ____?"
the sounds of her movements
the presence of another
opening the door in a rush
to retrieve a forgotten item
reminding me of weather changes
of air filter changes
of our cycles and patterns
the creaky, almost loose stair
and the ghosts of children
I had expected to climb the stairs
got really big
They grew up:
I had expected to scold children for sliding down the banister
and to mend hurt knees
when they did
to carry them upstairs to their bedrooms
when they'd fallen asleep
without these sounds
of the life I had intended
--of our life--
I had to leave.
I spent lots of nights in bars,
where other patrons became like family
and lots more nights working late
(a euphemism for nothing
since trying to find sex
or anything resembling romantic love
has been divided.)
the quiet is tolerable
or I turn on music she wouldn't like
and make monstrous sounds in the kitchen
or turn on the television
or turn on the bath faucet
and watch the water run
watch it fill the tub
I always loved more than she did.
sink my head underwater.
try to drown the guilt
the sense that I betrayed everyone
myself most of all
try to balance the mourning
with this new life
I vowed to never want.
--February 17, 2012