Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tick, Tick, Tick

It's now t-minus one hour and fifteen minutes to November (or, as it's known around the blogsphere, NaBloPoMo). That's right, once again the world is counting down breathlessly to the dawn of National Blog Posting Month -- that mystical, magical month when bloggers large and small vow to post something every single blessed day of the month for strange and unknown reasons that are now lost in the mists of time (but may include prizes or awards of some sort). Last year Ev snuck around and NaBloPoMo'ed without telling anyone, just in case she changed her mind halfway through the month. I didn't even know we had NaBloPoMo'ed until it came up again this year.

We were thinking we might sneak around and do it again, but this year we've been officially challenged by our friend over at Flippy Odegard, so the gauntlet has been flung.

Expect a veritable plethora of random musings about our sometimes less-than-thrilling adventures in Nowhere, Illinois. You asked for it, Nancy!


It's That Time of Year...

Happy ThankHallowNewMas!

Today is the official kickoff of that annual nightmare: the Holiday Season. The Holiday Season now lasts for roughly three months, beginning with Halloween and running through the post-New Year sales. This is the time that Americans traditionally open their wallets and then empty them, then take out their credit cards and max them...all in the name of the peace, love, and Jesus.

Jesus wants you to spend more. Have you considered a home equity line of credit?

I'm sure I'm not the only one who dreads the onset of the Holiday Season. I love Thanksgiving...what's not to love about a holiday devoted entirely to food?...but Christmas just about breaks my spirit every year. It's everything I hate in the world, all draped in twinkly lights and borne in on a sleigh full of electronic gadgets playing Xmas music 24 hours a day for months.

And no, "Jesus is the reason for the season"doesn't help. I'm almost positive that Jesus wouldn't get too choked up about memorializing his birth with a diamond ring from Macy's.

It's just weird. It's weird and wrong and sick to have this 60 day shopping frenzy to commemorate the Prince of Peace. Or the Winter Solstice. Or whatever else drives people to the mall and to Best Buy to fight the crowds for this year's Nintendo Wii to prove they love their children as much as they loved them last year...about $1200 worth each, according to the estimates.

Welcome to Hell. Let the decorating begin.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Princess and the Pea

Lori and I were squabbling yesterday about the things people squabble about in relationships...the distribution of chores, the need to feel valued and respected, and the need, sometimes, to be compassionate instead of right. (This may be my weak spot...a little.)

Anyway...somewhere along the line, the Princess and the Pea story came up, and we figured out where we're fundamentally different. We decided to put the question out there to you, our Friends and HomeSkillets.

The Princess, as you'll recall, was such a delicate flower that she had to sleep on twenty mattresses to avoid being kept awake by a single pea under her bed. At some point in the midst of the squabble, we managed to articulate how our strategies for dealing with discomfort are very different. If I were the Princess, I'd crawl under there and dig out that damn pea that had been making my life so goddamned miserable for so long. Lori, on the other hand, would try adding a 21st mattress...maybe that'll cushion that pesky pea.

So when we argue, it's the same thing. I want to get in there, identify that goddamned pea, and get rid of it. It's a pain in the ass now, but at least that's one problem that's off your plate forever.
Lori wants to see first if maybe it's not really the pea...maybe we just need to go out to dinner and let someone else deal with the dishes. Maybe we'll discover then that it wasn't the pea at all, it was the stress-induced insomnia keeping us awake. Add a little extra cushion to the stress, maybe a couple more mattresses, and maybe it won't be so uncomfortable.

Needless to say, we're coming at this from very different perspectives. What say you, Internet? What's your solution to the Princess and the Pea dilemma?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dem Bones, Dem Bones

I just spent a couple of fascinating hours perusing the website of Skulls Unlimited of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Internationally recognized purveyors of museum quality skulls and skeletons, both articulated and disarticulated, the good folks at Skulls Unlimited have recently built a Museum of Osteology, which will house 5,000 specimens representing over 2,500 vertebrate species, including both fossil humanoids and modern humans, when it opens to the public.

You may have seen their operation showcased on the Discovery Channel's "Young Scientist's Challenge" or a particularly gnarly episode of Mike Rowe's "Dirty Jobs" back in 2005, where Mike was introduced to the tasks of brain demising and carcass flensing.

Cleaning skeletons may, indeed, be a dirty job, but someone's got to do it, and the folks at Skulls Unlimited do a whiz-bang job of it. Founder and President, Jay Villemarette, started out cleaning skulls in his kitchen with the aid of what must be a very understanding wife. Today the company employs masters in the crafts of skeleton cleaning and articulation.

Skulls, Unlimited appeals to me on many levels. I've always been fascinated by anatomy and physiology, and I like to know how things work. I'm a sucker for museums and factory tours. The fact that I'm a living thing and my house is full of other living things, large and small, makes me all the more interested in knowing how we're constructed and how we function. An intimate understanding of the inner workings of living things is sort of the ultimate factory tour.

It's a fascination best summed up by this quote from the website:

"In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught." Baba Dioum

Skulls, Unlimited appeals to me on many levels. I've always been fascinated by anatomy and physiology, and I like to know how things work. I'm a sucker for museums and factory tours. The fact that I'm a living thing and my house is full of other living things, large and small, makes me all the more interested in knowing how we're constructed and how we function. An intimate understanding of the inner workings of living things is sort of the ultimate factory tour.

It's a fascination best summed up by this quote from the website:

"In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught." Baba DioumIf

If I had my life to do over again I'd be a museum curator. Barring that, I'd like to have a private collection of weird scientific gadgets and anatomical artifacts. Skulls Unlimited sells a lovely (and reasonably priced) Economy Skull Bag that includes several specimens from the fur-bearing and feathered species. For a mere $89, plus shipping and handling, they'll send you the skulls of a raccoon, a fox or coyote, a bobcat or lynx, a rabbit, a squirrel or muskrat, a badger or otter, and either a duck, turkey or pheasant -- whatever they have in stock. For about $300 you can purchase a complete, ready-to-assemble cat skeleton, which would make a terrific Christmas gift for people who like puzzles. Hint, hint.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fires, and the People Who Love Them

We're all busy watching the fires in Southern California this week, right? And everywhere I go, I hear people saying things like "We're praying for those poor people."

This is how I know I'm an insensitive asshole, in case I needed another way to prove that to myself. I can't get past the part where I know that all those canyon homes with their beautiful views, snuggled into the forests... they're all fire magnets. And I know all those homeowners made the decision to live in those homes, knowing that fire sweeps through those beautiful canyons every five years or so. Those people are dumb. And even though I applaud their God-given right to be as dumb as they want in a democratic society, I question our obligation to reward them for it with federal money and FEMA trailers .

Wildland firefighters hate those people. They make the job a million times more dangerous, and they shift the focus from trying to contain the fire to trying to protect their million dollar firetraps. It's not that hard to section off a fire and contain it until it burns itself off. It's practically impossible to do it while defending 100,000 indefensible homes.

About a million years ago I was a wildland firefighter with the Forest Service. When a fire crew arrives at a fire at an "urban interface" area, which is an area where humans cohabit with forests, the first thing they do is triage the area. They start at the end of the road and count the mailboxes. If there are 10 mailboxes, there's usually 10 houses to look for, give or take. Next, they drive down that road and see if any of those houses are potentially defensible. If, for instance, they're wood sided houses with cedar shake roofs, tucked back into the woods with a pile of firewood leaning against the house, they just keep driving. They may stop, check to make sure the humans are out of it, release the pets, mark the house in some way to indicate it's been triaged, and move on to the next house, but that's pretty much all the risk 'most firefighters are willing to take for a house like that.

Those houses, in the vernacular, are "losers." No one's going to even bother trying to defend them. how about a whole canyon full of houses like that? Insurance companies balk at insuring those homes, and if they do, they charge obscene premiums and put a million restrictions and clauses into the contract. It's not like the people who build those homes don't know what they're getting into. These fires happen every few years, and then afterwards they all heroically vow to rebuild. For what? So it can burn again in 10 years?

It's like all those people who insist on building their homes on the barrier islands of the Carolinas. Yes, it's your money and you can spend it any way you want. But no...don't expect us to bail you out every time your house gets flattened by a hurricane.

The residents of Orange County for the most part aren't an impoverished bunch. It's not like they don't have housing options. If they choose to continue to build and buy houses in areas that have a predictable pattern of being wiped clean by catastrophic many times should we have to bail them out?

I guess I do feel sorry for them in the moment, but I also have to shake my head in disgust a little. I'm willing to bet that most of them will be back, building new cedar sided homes with shake roofs with a pile of firewood leaning against the house. And they'll be shocked(SHOCKED!) when they burn again. And they'll expect a check, please. And a FEMA trailer.

Plus, they're mostly Republicans, and I hate Republicans. Maybe they can set up their FEMA trailers on the White House lawn.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Why We Are Us

Carrie and I are going to get our eyes check Monday for new glasses. I'm already dreading it.

First of all, I hate any medical interventions having anything to do with my eyes. Ironically, although I'm in an intimate relationship with an Eyeball Professional, I'm completely phobic about the eye doctor; even that little puff of air on the glaucoma test stresses me out.

Secondly, I hate the fact that my vision is crap, and it's getting crappier all the time. My favorite form of recreation is reading, and my livelihood depends on my ability to look into a microscope and actually see something. I totally resent the fact that large print books and 100x diffs on the microscope are soon to going to be a part of my life. However, I'm not too thrilled with the thing I do now...I hold my book at an angle so that me head is tipped back and I am looking through the very bottom of my bifocal lenses. Ever since Carrie told me how much food servers hate looking up the nostrils of old people in bifocals, I've been extra aware of the bad etiquette involved.

So glasses. The last time I got new glasses, the prescription was so much stronger than my old pair that I misjudged the distance when I got into my truck and smacked my forehead on the door frame. I walked around with a massive bruise on my forehead for a week, and had to tell a variety of lies to avoid looking like the moron everyone already knows me to be. But most people try to be polite under those circumstances. You know how it is...lie and the world lies with you.

In general, I like being middle aged. But I wouldn't mind having my 25 year old eyeballs and my 44 year old wisdom. Oh...and maybe the feet I had when I was 6 or 7. Those were some cute tootsies. People used to comment on them, so I know it's true. Now I have feet like Fred Flintstone.

But I know if I had that healthy body and those good eyeballs from my ill-spent youth, I'd abuse them in the same ways I already have that's made them old and decrepit anyway. Except that I'd avoid hitting my head on that softball this time, and maybe I could be a little less blind and crazy. Maybe.

So Monday I'm going to sit in the chair while Lori says "Is 1 better than 2?" And I'll say, "I don't know...they both suck." And I'll feel bad, and she'll feel bad. Then we'll go to her chiropractor appointment and she'll feel bad, and I can feel bad for her. There's some nice poetic justice there, don't you think?

And in the end, I'll see better and she'll feel better, and we'll laugh at how we drag our feet doing the things that actually make our lives better. And then we'll do it again next time.

In sameness, there
is strength.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

We're All About Our Cats

Well, as always, there's good news and bad news.

The first of the bad news is that Katie's Jeep continues to sit patiently in the front yard waiting for attention. I'm just grateful that it's not one of my kids, or it would be out there honking it's horn and flashing it's lights and backfiring, trying to get me to pursue it's agenda quicker, and with more money.

The good news is that, although I completely blew off the needs of my youngest child, the outdoor cat that we inherited from my ex-husband now has a spacious and comfortable home, complete with a shingled roof and vinyl siding. Although the picture is oddly distorted and makes it look sort of cockeyed, I promise it's both square and true. I think she needs a nice flowering perennial in her flowerpot to provide shade for her flamingo, though.

And yes, I AM aware that this is another step down the ladder to crazy cat-ladyhood, but it's not entirely my fault. That nice boy down at Rusty's Home Center threw in the shingles and the siding for free. What was I going to do, say no?

It's not my best pet housing effort, but it's decent and affordable. I'm thinking of mass-producing them as public housing...but maybe with a door. I actually intend to add a front wall with a door eventually, but first I want her to get used to the idea of entering and exiting without feeling trapped.

The bad news is that we took Carrie's latest rehabilitated stray cat to the vet for a checkup before releasing it from the laundry room into the rest of her house with her other pets, and it had both feline leukemia and feline AIDS, so we had to put her down. Even though she'd only been living in the laundry room for a couple of weeks, we'd gotten pretty attached to her. She was a good natured calico; she spent most of her time sleeping on the dryer. but she'd hop right up for some petting. Her previous home had been the trash cans of the across-the-road neighbors, so it was pretty easy for Carrie to entice her over with some vegan cranberry kibble.

So we're sad about that. We try not to name the strays until we know if they're going to live or not, but she was an exceptionally sweet girl, and it was sad. Also I feel sort of guilty because Carrie nursed her from a scraggly half-starved mess into a pretty, bright-eyed pet. She was too pretty to die, even though I know that we couldn't let her come in with the other cats, and if she'd stayed outside she would have infected a bunch more cats before she died an early death from one or the other of her terminal illnesses.

I'm eternally of two minds on the feral cat rescue question. I'm generally aware that it's a good thing (Carrie rounded up a family group of them last week and bullied her friends and coworkers into taking one apiece), but it sure is heartbreaking when you save one, just so you can have it put down later. That doesn't feel very rescue-ish to me.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Random Friday Morning Musings

After last night's sort of intense thinking, I'm back to the pinball-style that usually makes it so much fun to be me. My brain is like the weather in Southern Illinois: if you don't like it, wait a few'll change.

1. So this morning I rolled out of bed at the crack of 10 o'clock because the cats were crashing around in the kitchen. Now they're sitting in a semicircle around the dishwasher, intently peering at the bottom of it. That tells me that either they worship dishwashers as a god in their culture, or there's a mouse under it. I'm hoping for the worshipping, but I'm betting it's the mouse.

2. Remember that guy who was trying to publish a book by getting people to tattoo one letter apiece on themselves? The last time I heard, he had thousands of people willing to do it. I don't have the slightest desire for a tattoo, but I'll admit this one intrigues me.

3. The day before yesterday was cold and rainy. Yesterday was hot and sunny. Today seems to be cold and rainy. I need to put an alternator in Katie's Jeep so I can get back to worrying about her every time she steps out the door, like nature intended, but I hate to do it on one of the cold rainy days. This is why I need a garage. Are you listening, Lori?

4. I love days off. Days off are like travel magazines or spare money in the bank...they're full of potential. I may not ever visit Chile or buy anything from the Sharper Image catalogue, but it's fun to think about.

5. Instead of getting down on the cold wet ground today to fix Katie's Jeep, I'm planning to build a little cat house for the hookers.
Nah...just kidding. I'm going to build a little cat house for the outside cat, who's been getting soaked standing on the porch in the rain every night, waiting for me to get home and feed her canned food. The cardboard box she's currently sleeping in just ain't cuttin' it in this weather.

6. My friend Traci's mother died a couple of days ago, and I worry about her. She looks tougher than she is. Traci, when you get around to reading this in two or three weeks...I'm sorry for your loss. There's no other relationship in the world like mothers and daughters. I know you grieve for her, but I grieve for you. Hang in there.

Happy Blogoversary!

Huh! I went to read C.U.S.S., and she mentioned that it was her 2 year blogging anniversary, and I checked...and it's my one year! Just another coincidence that proves that God has an infinite plan for all of us, and his plan for me is that I waste hundreds of hours with my feet on my desk and a cat on my lap, writing a blog that people may or may not be reading.

However, since this is the anniversary edition, I thought it would be timely to repost the first entry:

I wanted to come up with some clever title for my blog, but I don't feel clever and I have to go to work in a few minutes, so I went with what I know. The name comes from back when my kids were little and we'd make that looooong car trip to Chicago from Southern Illinois through 350 miles of cornfields, punctuated by the occasional truckstop.

They would sort of melt into little puddle-children on the seats, and periodically one of them would say, "Mom? Where are we?" And I'd say, "Nowhere. Go back to sleep."Eventually, they began to say, "Mom? Are we still in Nowhere?"

Nowhere is our family shorthand for the thing that separates us from the thing we want. Miss your cousins? You'll have to do a little time in Nowhere to see them. Nowhere is the Midwestern version of Purgatory.

So...I'm Ev, and this is my brand squeaky new effort at self-expression. I'm not absolutely certain that my self has anything interesting to express, but I suppose that if that's the case, it'll become glaringly obvious in short order and I'll go back to my first love, tooling around on the mower with a beer in my hand.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Good? Evil? Beats Me.

We've been having a discussion, or maybe a discussion-ette, on a message board we host. The topic is sex offenders.

Okay, let's start with the assumption that we're against it, okay? People should only have sexual contact with other people who want it from them, and are old enough to provide informed consent.

However...that is not always the case. So the country is chock full of convicted sex offenders that have been released from prison. In most states, they're on a registry, they're prevented from living near schools and/or playgrounds, and they're universally reviled.

Well, okay. But there's lots and lots of them. And you can register them until hell freezes over, but they still exist. But there's a huge range of offenders, from the most innocuous pornographers and Romeo Rule violators to the most vicious predators. Are they all the same? Should they all be treated the same?

I happen to know a guy who is a convicted sex offender. He was a police officer who raped a teenager in a drunken rage a decade ago. Her life was devastated by the experience, but was his. He lost his livelihood, obviously, and went to prison. Since his release he's spent years in therapy and anger management programs trying to get his demons at arm's length so he could look at them.

I didn't know him then, but I know him now. He's a good guy who struggles to always be honest about his actions and his motivations. I like him a lot. And THAT makes me uncomfortable more than anything. Should I like him? Or trust him? Are there rules of etiquette for this sort of thing?

Sex is a different way to violate people than, say, stealing their car. Stealing a person's relationship with her own body is a small step away from stealing her soul. I know this because, like many of the women I know, I was sexually abused as a child. I was raped one night when I was 9 years old, and was spending the night at a friend's house. Her father came into the room during the night, pulled down my pajama bottoms and raped the same room his daughters slept in. Years later, it occurred to me that their silence that night probably implied that it wasn't the first night they experienced that in their room. But it was my first night, and it changed my relationship with the world forever.

I stayed in that bed until dawn, and then got dressed and went home. I never told my mother, or for that matter anyone, until probably 20 years later when I told Robin on a long car trip full of disclosures.

So now I go back and forth between my own childhood violation and my friend the sex offender. I wonder if my friendship with him has anything to do with my own story. Am I more or less accepting of him than a person without my history would be?

Every time I stop and think about this, that almost every one of those convicted sex offenders have families and friends who struggle to make sense of them, my head reels. Is it bad to care about the people who don't care about the rest of us? If it is...what should you do with them?

It's hard to imagine the degree of anger that would make a person rape, and it's uncomfortable to wonder if everyone has the capacity for that much anger. Maybe they don't know how destructive it is to people's lives? Or maybe they don't care? And how bad must a person's own emotional dissonance be to inflict that much damage on another human being and not care?

And this is always the place where I get hung up. I know how damaged I was by the experience. I'm always curious about how damaged rapists must be to inflict that kind of pain on someone else.

I'm mostly a tabula rasa kind of person. I believe that people are mostly born without malice towards the world. So except for people who are biologically driven towards insanity or evil, most "bad" people were presumably like "good" people at some point. And so, presumably, bad people can make the decision to to good people again. And why wouldn't we encourage that? And is it naive to consider it?

Do you hear my confusion as much as I do? Every single person has things in their past that they're ashamed of. How horrible do those things have to be to not deserve forgiveness?

It would be nice if people would fit neatly into boxes. If bad people were bad, and good people were good, and there was none of the gray parts that happen when bad people do good things and good people do bad things. It would be nice, or at least easier, to be one of those "one strike" people who would be comfortable lining up everyone who does something bad against a wall and shooting them. But does that make that well-intentioned person become a bad person?

I sometimes wish I were a lot smarter than this.

Why I Dread The Shower

I'm the fastest freakin' showerer in the world. My showering needs are few: I wash my stubble of hair, soap up everything that potentially shows dirt or generates odor, and count on the Trickle Down Theory (which works much better for showers than it does for economics) to take care of the rest.

So I spend maybe 2 minutes in the shower each day, which is handy, since we have a water heater about the size of a thimble. And yet, some of the most memorable moments of my life happen when I'm naked, dripping water, and least prepared to deal with them. In lieu of having anything meaningful to talk about, I'll share a few of them.

Several years ago I managed to make it out of the shower, but was still naked and wrapped in a towel, when I heard the mewing of newborn kittens. I found them in the closet. Carrie's moron cat had gotten up onto the top closet shelf to give birth to her kittens. I climbed up on a box to get a look at them and realized that they were conjoined siblings.


While I was peeking up at them on the shelf, several other people crammed themselves into the closet with me and my towel for a look-see. On the bright side, it turned out the kittens weren't really conjoined (or siamese siblings, for the un-PC among us), the mama cat had cleverly manage to tangle all the kittens's umbilical cords together with the placenta and wrap the whole mess around both the babies and herself. The cords were wrapped around her left upper forearm and all three kitten's heads and torsos, and dried into leather. Her forearm was hugely swollen and the tangle of kittens were bound to it and each other so tightly that they couldn't move and I couldn't separate them, and she bit me several times when I tried.

So I kicked everyone out of the closet, put on some clothes, climbed back onto my box and lifted down the whole clump of snarling cat, kittens and placenta and set it on our bed for Lori and I to examine in the light. There were several obvious problems: The cat was beyond pissed off about her sore arm, and me moving her babies, and her painfully swollen nipples caused by her inability to nurse them, due to them being wrapped around her arm like a Walkman. So I took a little pair of scissors and nipped away the strands of cord attaching her arm to the bundle of kittens. She took off like she was shot out of a cannon.

Next, after determining that there were three kittens, or at least three heads, we tried to figure out how to separate them. I had visions of nipping at a piece of cord and accidentally eviscerating one of them, which would have caused me to spend the rest of my life in therapy to heal from the trauma.

The cords were so tight that I couldn't even get a finger between them and the cats, so I started making small cuts in places that, I hoped, were far enough from any vital organs that if I screwed up and cut one of them, we'd both survive.

Eventually, we figured out a strategy, one small cut at a time, and got them separated. However, I firmly believe that these cats, which probably weren't blessed with overly high IQs to begin with, managed to dumb-down even further from oxygen deprivation in those first few hours of life. Unless you're a Republican, in which case their lives began at conception, probably in a ditch behind the Circle K.

So...That's shower story #1.

#2 took place a few nights ago. I was just getting out of the shower. I pulled my towel off the hook and was drying my face when Lori came into the bathroom and said, "Ummm...Ev? Can you come out here? Quick? Sage killed a possum."

I threw on my jammies and indeed, there was a soaking wet grinning Sage, and a soaking wet crumpled ball of dead possum on the deck with his tongue lolling and his glassy eyes staring off into space. This, by the way, was my first view into a possum's mouth. Who knew they had such sharp pointy teeth?

Okay...I'm not good with dead things. In spite of the fact that I'm in the dead-thing business, my dead things normally come in parts, which makes it easier to pretend they're something other than pieces of other humans. This was an entire dead possum. There was no option of pretending it was a standing rib roast or a hunk of Tofurkey.

So I decided that the best course of action was to scoop the possum onto a shovel and throw it onto the burn pile that had conveniently been burning in the yard all day, then go back into the house and watch CSI, drink a lot of beer, and pretend this was someone else's life. Me and my shovelful of dead possum, with his head hanging over the side, walked around the house. I slung him into the middle of the fire, and he bounced against a log and immediately rolled back out. Just as I was getting ready to scoop him back up for another throw he got up and ran off into the woods.

Now I understand the phrase "Playing possum."

We've done a little research, and it turns out that a dead possum isn't really a dead possum until it stays dead for four hours. Until then, cremate at your own risk.

Huh. Who knew?

My third story is the naked job interview, but I'll save that for another time when I have nothing to talk about.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's Raining

"Raining" is actually a misnomer for what's going on here. You know all that rain we didn't get for the past three months? It's pouring out of the sky in a thundering, crashing deluge that started about mid-morning and hasn't let up for about twelve hours. The kind of rain that no windshield wiper known to mankind can keep up with. The kind of rain that turns blacktop into a sponge that soaks up headlights like a black hole in space.

So, of course, I chose tonight after work to run a couple of piddly errands on my way home. I needed to get my awful haircut fixed, and I needed to pick up a couple of items at WalMart. No biggie, right? And yet, I managed to turn my usual half hour drive home into a four hour trip through hell. I pride myself on being pretty independent, especially behind the wheel of a car, and I've driven all over Southern Illinois just for fun, but I may never leave the house again.

My first stop was the mall in Carbondale. It was raining ... hard ... but it was still daylight, so it was merely inconvenient. When I got to the hair salon, the evil incompetent ninny who butchered my hair last weekend was the only haircutter standing around, so instead of confronting her with my weed-whacked noggin, I went shopping and tried to screw up the courage to face her. I finally figured out how to approach the problem diplomatically, but when I went back she was gone. I breathed a sigh of relief and asked the receptionist for someone REALLY GOOD to fix my haircut. She had me talk to a pleasant, competent woman named Julie, who was appropriately appalled, but assured me she could fix it. She had to finish a hair color on someone, so I sat and waited.

When she finally got to me, she looked through the disaster on my head and we discussed what the hell is wrong with the girl who cut it in the first place. Julie said, "She's nervous and doesn't know how to talk to people." Talk about your understatements! I also suspect she lied to get the job and has never seen the inside of a beauty school. I lied about my experience (or lack thereof) to get a bartending job once, but anyone can pour a shot and a beer. It's another thing to attack people with sharp, pointy objects.

As it turned out, Julie has cut Ev's hair before and she remembered what I'm supposed to look like. She also finds us funny and charming, so she hugged me and apologized and admitted that it was, for sure, the worst haircut she'd ever seen. She warned me that the only way to fix it was (as I suspected) to cut just about all my hair off ... which she proceeded to do. Now I don't have odd chunks of variable length hair, but I do have a weird horizontal stripe straight across the back of my head. I asked her what the hell it was and she said (sigh), "uh ... that's a patch of gray hair." I also noted two other large-ish patches below it, and marveled at how distinct they are against my flesh without all that pesky hair covering it. I commented that I looked like a hairless dalmation, which Julie found hilarious. I'm less amused, but at least I don't have to see the back of my head.

She had to charge me for the second haircut (which I assured her was worth it if she could fix it, and I tipped her generously on top of that) but she gave me the corporate phone number and said to call them and give them her name and they should send me coupons for several free haircuts.

When I left the mall I was still thinking about my hairless head, and I took a different parking lot exit than I usually do. I ended up on an unfamiliar street, thinking I was headed for the main street through Carbondale, but it was dark (and rainy) and I got so completely turned around I ended up going in the opposite direction. I kept watching for street signs, but I couldn't see for shit, so I didn't figure out where I was until I realized I was headed for Little Grassy Lake. The road to Little Grassy is a winding, two lane blacktop through the woods, and by now it was way past dark, and the fog was getting heavier by the minute. As I drove slowly through the rain and fog, with leaves and all kinds of shit blowing around, I must have run over a couple of hundred hopping frogs. I had just finished swerving to narrowly avoid smashing a 'possum (who did not lay down and play dead, but ran like hell), when I came around a curve and was blinded by oncoming headlights which prevented me from seeing the HUGE FUCKING DEAD TREE that had fallen and was laying across both lanes until I was already running into it. I drive a low-slung Chrysler Sebring which is great for hugging wet curves but not so great for driving over fallen trees. I couldn't swerve and I couldn't stop, but luckily I crashed into the branchy part and not the trunk, so other than the crunching noises and flying chunks of dead tree limbs, there was no harm done. I fully expected all my tires to go flat, but they didn't ... and the front of my car is miraculously unscathed. Just after the spillyway, I came to the road leading through Giant City ... the deer capital of Southern Illinois. The only thing that hadn't yet happened was hitting a deer, and I seriously considered driving to the Giant City Lodge, calling Ev and telling her I wasn't budging until she came to rescue me, but I pressed on, creeping through Giant City at about 25 mph, dodging oncoming cars careening around the blind curves, and finally made it back to the highway. The rest of the drive home was uneventful, except for the continuation of driving, blinding rain.

I stopped at WalMart for the two items I needed, grateful to be back in familiar territory, and made a mad dash for the door. The rain was pouring so hard it sounded like being in a barrel going over Niagara Falls, so I decided to shop until I could reasonably get back to the car. I bought myself a couple of $5.00 sweatshirts and some cheap yarn from the bargain bin to make us pretty winter scarves and a new broom. I finally made it home at 9:15 ... bald, wet and traumatized.

I can't say I enjoyed my evening, but I'm proud of myself for surviving it and not crying or calling Ev to fetch me home from Giant City Lodge.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Since we're fun party animals, yesterday we went to town to hit the library book sale, Wal-Mart, the mall and the LoneStar for steaks, sans dancing. And also to pick up my truck from where I'd left it the night before when I'd had a seizure at work and Lori had to pick me up and take me home.

The library book sale is one of the mainstays of our year. They sell off roomfuls and roomfuls of books for $1 each for hardcover and $o.50 for paperbacks. Right off the bat, I found about 15 that I wanted. I asked the library ladies, who were stylishly arrayed in powder blue vests that matched their powder blue hair rinses, if there was some place I could stash them while I kept shopping. One of them gave me a box and a "sold" sign to set on my box. Okay...not my box, although that's sold too. But there's no reason the library ladies need to know that.

So I went back to my shopping, and Lori and I gathered up another dozen or so books that we wanted, then went to check out.

My box was gone.

AAAAAHHHH!!!! I said, in my most distraught voice, "What happened to my books?" And the library ladies looked at each other and said, "Oh. We probably gave them to that man. We thought they were his."

"That man" had already stolen my box of books and headed home. Bastard. Book-stealing bastard. I stood there, looking forlorn, and babbling about how excited I was to have found the new John Irving for $1, and how much I'd been looking forward to my new books. The library ladies kept exchanging glances, probably some kind of signal for "She's crazy. Call the police."

Finally, one of them remembered that the book-stealing bastard had paid with a check, and maybe his phone number was on the check. It was. One of them called, and Mrs. Book-Stealing Bastard apparently hemmed and hawed for a few moments on the phone, then agreed to send Mr. BSB back with MY stolen box of books.

The Library Lady closest to me, who was about 300 years old and desperately trying to stave off my near-meltdown, said to me, "If this were a romance novel, that man would bring back your books and you'd laugh about this with him and discover that he was your One True Love."

I shot the bitch where she stood.

No. Not really. Really I said, "That's my One True Love over there.", pointing at Lori. "I just want my books back."

Eventually he came back, with a somewhat depleted box of books. I pawed through them for a minute; there were a few less than I'd put in there, but the John Irving was there and a bunch of mysteries, so I thought it was probably good enough. We paid and left, another book sale crisis averted.

Next we went to the mall for haircuts. Mine is easy: #4 clippers all the way around and a little more than that on the top. I always ask the girl du jour if she's ever cut Asian hair, and she always looks at me warily and says, "yes?"

I'm not Asian, but for some reason, my hair is. It's black, thick, and absolutely, completely straight. It grows out of my skull exactly perpendicularly to the point of attachment, like a KooshBall. So there's always a danger that in the hands of a bad haircutter I'll either LOOK like a KooshBall, or if they cut it too short, like those oranges-studded-with-cloves that little children make in school for their moms every Fall. Either way, I will look like neither a Hot Butch Lesbian nor a Laboratory Professional.

So she did a good job on my hair and laughed at my jokes and I was pleased. But three feet away, unbeknownst to me, Lori was NOT pleased. Her hair girl was busy anxiously hacking the shit out of her hair, which moments before had been girl hair. Now it was gender-ambiguous hair, and in another 30 seconds it was going to become Marine Gunnery Sergeant hair.

Lori finally said, "Stop cutting!" And tried to direct her more specifically towards her hair goals.

Kid wasn't having any of it. She stood with the scissors in her hands and looked like she was headed for a panic attack, until Lori said, "That's good enough. I'll stick with this." and got out of the chair.

Eventually, we bought some undies, ate some meat, and headed home. Without the truck. See why we never go to town? We're not good at it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Late to the Table...But it Sure Was Yummy When I Arrived

I was just writing a comment to Marl about her "7 Things" post, and I realized I actually want to write a whole post about it.

I'm very gay. It's one of the most very basic descriptors I use about myself. I'm 44, I'm gay, I have blue eyes, etc. But I didn't understand the fact of my gayness until I was 30 years old. Not that it didn't exist, but I couldn't recognize it for what it was. So I never really fell in love with men. There were a few that I loved, and I married a great guy, thankfully, who helped me produce these wonderful kids and then didn't hate me later...but I never fell into love with in that devastatingly swoony way where you can't breathe and can't think and can't really do much of anything except be in love. The kind of love in which love is an activity, instead of just a feeling.

So when I was young I just assumed I was emotionally defective from my weird childhood, and that that sort of passionate love was beyond me. I never considered that I might be intimate with the wrong kinds of people, just that that lackluster intimacy was all I was capable of.

When I was finally able to tell myself the truth about my gayness and began meeting women, I found:

A)...There were a lot of them to meet. Once you start looking for dykes, you realize you can't hardly swing a dead cat without hitting one.

B) That's why my skin never fit quite right. And here, finally, I found that kind of ohmygod love that I never thought I was capable of.

Okay...that's the back story. Fast forward to now. I work with a nice young dyke who sometimes says to me, "Why do all you older lesbians all have kids? Didn't you know you were gay??"

And when I cast my mind back, I don't think I didn't know I was gay as much as I didn't know the concept of gayness was an option for me. And looking back...I'm not sure why. I certainly knew lesbians. I remember being fascinated by them. But I don't ever remember thinking, "Oh! That's where I ought to be!" I didn't struggle to keep my gayness under control. My gayness was so completely under control that I never even knew it was there. It's like keeping your appendix under control. It's not a never are even aware it's lurking there. Until the day it makes it's presence known to you so strongly that you don't have an option about whether on not to acknowledge it.

So I try to imagine sometimes how much differently life would have been if I'd come out in high school. Although I might have experienced Great Love sooner, it probably would have been that same angst-filled love that young people have that makes them jaded about love when they're older.

And I never would have had kids, because I never saw myself as a person who would like having kids. And THAT would have been such a tragic loss to my life that thinking about it is like touching a hot stove...I don't want to go there.

So, while it's true that us "older lesbians" often tended to get married and reproduce for a few years before getting down to the business of being true to ourselves, I think most of us would say we're better for having the experience. I envy people with early self-awareness, but I don't regret the circuitous path it took to get to who I really am. I just hope I have enough years left to feel like I got my money's worth out of my tardy self-awareness..

7 Random Facts About Marl

1 - Pat & I have been together for 26 years. We first met when I was 13 - when her sister, Marci (a highschool classmate), my sister & I needed a driver, she was often our designated driver. When I was a freshman in college, Marci came over to our house to make a dramatic announcement - Pat was gay. was I, but nobody knew it then. After college, Marci & my sister decided it would be "cute" to fix us up. We dated for about 6 months, then she broke it off. We got back together in 1981 & have been together since.

2 - I read - a lot. 2 or 3 books a week, mostly fiction. Thank goodness for BJs & Sam's Club have cheap paperbacks.

3 - Of the 3 children in my family, 2 are gay. And it's not my twin. My brother came out to the family about 5 years ago. But we'd all known it since he wasa kid. When he announced he was getting married, we were all shocked. Fortunately, his wife is a total fucking psycho, so it was easy to get rid of her.

4 - I'm sometimes jealous of my sister's life.

5 - I truly love my job. It sucks, though, that my immediate supervisor is of the good guys.

6 - I love hockey...all kinds of hockey - from little kids who skate while holding chairs, to my Monarchs,to the NHL. Football is second.

7 - Favorite foods: steak & mashed potatoes. roastlamb & mashed potatoes. roast pork & mashed potatoes. see a trend here? red meat. potatoes. mostveggies, except any color peppers & brussel sprouts.

Piano Lessons

This post is dedicated to Urban Pedestrian, in response to this comment:

"Kwachie -- now I'm hyperventilating... 12 years of piano and now you can't play a thing? I'm forking over thousands of dollars to get my daughter a musical education so she'll always have a valuable skill to fall back on all her life and you're telling me it's all going to fly out the window? Arrggghhh. Please tell me all these piano lessons were of some use to you somewhere along the line???"

My mom played the piano all her life, but we didn't actually have a piano in our house until my dad bought her a Winter upright for their 14th anniversary. (I know it was their 14th anniversary because, even though they were divorced for the last ten or so years of their lives, I discovered the anniversary card, still in the piano bench, when I inherited it.) At any rate, that was in 1959, and I was five years old.

My mom was taking piano lessons from a man who played piano with a local jazz quartet, and she spent hours practicing, until she could play "Whispering" backward and forward. She also played everything she had sheet music for, and she had a huge collection she'd been amassing since the 1930's. I'd sit next to her on the piano bench and turn the pages, and my dad would sing. He sang like Bing Crosby, but that's another story. By the time I was six, I knew a ton of Big Band and WWII songs. When the piano was vacant, I'd sit down and pick out stuff. I think the first thing I picked out on my own was "Moon River." She decided I was a prodigy and promptly signed me up for lessons with her teacher. He taught Jazz, Swing and Boogie bass, and I mostly played by ear, picking out a tune with my right hand, playing one of his bass rhythms with my left, and figuring out the key signature by whether it sounded good or not. As it turns out, I mostly played in E-flat Minor, because that's my mom's favorite key and the one that sounded "right" to me. She couldn't have been in love with C Major, of course. Actually, the first two pieces of music I learned to play from sheet music were both by Henry Mancini.

I was enjoying playing the piano immensely, and I was a teeny-tiny kid, so I expect I looked pretty damn cute playing the hell out of the theme from "The Pink Panther" and "Baby Elephant Walk" with my blond braids flapping. All that changed a couple of years later, when my mom figured out that I really couldn't read music ... I could just play it ... and she ended my Boogie-Woogie career and signed me up for classical lessons with Janice McCurnin. Mrs. McCurnin was ancient (probably about the age I am now) and she always had bright red lipstick stuck to the tartar on her teeth. She set out to break me of my bad "playing by ear" habit by making sure I never had another piece of music in front of me that I might have heard anywhere. One of my most vivid recollections of Mrs. McCurnin was the way she would take hold of my wrists while I played scales and pull my hands up and down the keyboard so my fingers had to fly to keep up. Oh, and we had to stop whatever we were doing and run to the window whenever a cardinal landed in her yard.

I took lessons from Mrs. McCurnin every Saturday for the next 10 years. Two lessons, actually. I took a one hour theory lesson with half a dozen other miserable children, followed by a one hour private lesson. Then, of course, there were the recitals. I hated piano recitals. I would be playing along, and then it would happen. I'd hit a wrong note and I'd hear my mother clear her throat from the back of the room, and I'd know I was going to be doing a lot of extra practicing for awhile. The other reason I hated recitals was that I couldn't play what I wanted to play. Mrs. McCurnin had very specific ideas about what constituted "girl" pieces and "boy" pieces. Girls played the "Moonlight Sonata" and "Claire de Lune." Boys got to play "The Great Gate at Kiev" from Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" ... a totally bitchin' piece of music with lots of big crashing fortissimo octave chords. I snuck around and learned the thing behind her back and then presented it to her one Saturday, but she nixed it and set me to learning yet another sonatina.

Every year I also sat for the music adjudication at the University of Arizona. We would take the best of the pieces we'd learned that year and play them for one of the music professors, who would give us constructive criticism and a graded certificate. Those are still in the piano bench, too.

When I was a senior in high school I complained bitterly that I couldn't play anything "fun" and I couldn't play by ear anymore, so my mom signed me up for a second lesson each week ... with a lecherous middle-aged jazz pianist by the smarmy name of Don LaVar. (It occurs to me, as I write this, that my mom had a rather suspicious connection to all the middle-aged male nightclub pianists in Tucson.) I learned a little bit about the LaVar Method and a whole lot about dodging Don LaVar.

My mother's greatest hope was that I would become a concert pianist. My greatest fear was growing up to be a piano teacher. My determination to avoid that fate kept me from truly embracing the piano, and it became an arduous task I knew I would have to perform ... like vacuuming the living room and pulling weeds out of the gravel ... until I left home. My mom and I fought bitterly about this. Her position was that I was NOT, NEVER, NO WAY IN HELL going to quit taking piano lessons. My position, which she quoted back to me for the rest of her life, was summed up at the top of my voice one day with the words, "You can make me practice, but you CAN'T MAKE ME LEARN!"

I was well into my thirties before I laid my hands on a piano again. When I finally decided that I wanted to play for myself and my own enjoyment, I bought a beautiful Yamaha piano ... an ebony upright grand ... and I played it all the time. I dragged out all my old piano music, borrowed my mom's sheet music, fell in love with everything I'd ever played all over again and learned everything else I'd ever wanted to learn ... including the formidable "Sonata Pathetique" (another "boy" piece that had been withheld from me). I played everything fortissimo I could find. I discovered that I actually loved playing the piano ... but I could not, by force of will or with hours of practice, play by ear. That gift was totally and completely gone.

I sold that piano to pay for something else I needed more at the time and didn't have another one until 16 years later, when my mom moved into an assisted living facility and passed hers down to me. The last time I really played it was, coincidentally, four years ago today. I had put together a medley of my mom's favorite music ... the songs she'd played while I sat next to her on the piano bench when I was five ... and I'd practiced it harder than I'd ever practiced anything so I could play it at her funeral. Shortly after that, I met Ev, and a year or so later I moved and left my mom's piano with my son in Mesa.

We have a little digital piano now, that Ev gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. I sit down and play it when no one's around. Someday I'd love to have one more "real" piano ... and I'd like it to be a baby grand.

Oh, and if I had it all to do over again? I wish like hell I'd been a piano teacher. Imagine being able to work at home, on your own schedule, and earning a living teaching kids to play music that would stay with them forever. What a gift that would be.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

7 Random Things About Me

We've been tagged by Urban Pedestrian for this meme. As always, I'll expect Lori to do her own when she gets home.

1. I'm a high school dropout with a Master's degree.

2. I hate movie theaters and stage productions with a white-hot passion. The prospect of being trapped in that chair for two hours is only slightly preferable to having my fingernails pulled out with pliers.

3. I've lived in both Arizona and Washington, and never found a reason to go to California. The only other state in the continental U.S. I've never been to is Maine.

4. I'm meticulous at my job, but slovenly at home.

5. I've hiked hundreds of miles of the Appalachian Trail in my lifetime, but rarely walk any farther than the distance to my truck and back.

6. I had a peanut butter and honey sandwich and a can of V-8 for lunch every single day for 5 years when I worked for the Forest Service. I haven't had either in the 10 years since.

7. I still remember the birthdays of every single person I've ever known in my life, including Kerry McDonald, my next door neighbor when I was 4. All except my ex, Carol, who I lived with for 7 years. I think it's sometime in June.

I don't actually know 7 people to tag, so my truncated list is:

Suzanne at C.U.S.S.
Carrie at This Poor Vegan
Cedar at Cedarflame

The people I wish had a blog, so I could know 7 random facts about them:

1. Marl
2. Robin (I know everything about her life up until about 1995, and not much after.)
3. My dad
4. My brother Daniel

The rest of you: start a blog, so I can tag you too. Except my Dad, who still hadn't figured out the Internet the last time I talked to him, 4 years ago, and my brother Daniel, who dropped off the face of the earth right after the Christmas of 1987. I don't hold out much hope for either of them.

Kwachie's Turn:

1. After 12 years of classical piano lessons, 8 years of music theory lessons and 2 years of jazz piano instruction, I completely lost the ability to play by ear. Now I can't sit down at a piano and play a single thing anyone would want to hear at a party.

2. I'm frog-phobic. Two years ago, if there was a frog anywhere in my vicinity I'd scream, cry, or both. Ev has been patiently helping me get over it for the past year and a half by catching tiny frogs and holding them so I can look at them and touch them. Two weeks ago I voluntarily petted a small toad in the front yard unassisted.

3. This will be my 53rd Thanksgiving and, although I've eaten and/or hostessed the traditional turkey and dressing dinner every year, I've never cooked a turkey.

4. I love to go out dancing and I'm secretly disappointed that Ev doesn't dance and envious of people who do.

5. One of my best vacation memories is a trip I took to Oregon about five years ago. I flew to Portland, rented a car and drove to Newport to spend a week at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. It's a funky old hotel dedicated to books and people who love them. Every room is named after a famous author and decorated to represent them. I stayed in the Hemingway room (lots of dead animals on the walls) and read through all the journals compiled by guests over the years. It was a cold, stormy week and I spent it driving up and down the coast sightseeing in the rain, exploring tide pools and walking on the beach, prowling little shops and bookstores, eating clam chowder at Mo's and hardly talking to another living soul. I'd love to take the same vacation again, but with Ev this time. She'd love the Sylvia Beach. This time I want to stay in the Mark Twain room ... it has a fireplace, a clawfoot tub and it's own balcony overlooking the ocean.

6. I've licked my cat.

7. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Another Day, Another Dollar

I got my end-of-the-fiscal-year raise a couple of weeks ago. It was the standard 3% that we apparently get every year, which comes to slightly under $1, or $80 extra in my paycheck. That's not bad...I'm always happy to have more money.

But yesterday I signed up for my 2008 health insurance package, and lo and behold, the same coverage as this year is going to cost me $67 more per paycheck! And for my extra $67, I'll also be getting higher co-pays on prescriptions and doctor visits. That pretty much negates my raise, and THAT pisses me off.

Maybe the only thing that pisses me off more than that, though, is that I got a letter from my employer telling me how lucky I was to be paying back my raise in insurance premiums and co-pays. How the average worker in Illinois is getting gouged WAY worse than we are, and we ought to be thankful that it's only that bad.

Do you think there's ever a point when they're composing those propaganda letters that management is ashamed? Or that insurance executives are ashamed? Is there ever a moment when anyone is ashamed of this mess??

Lori and I have 2 prescriptions apiece. All together between the four of them, we pay $100 a month in co-pays. That's a lot better than full price, but it doesn't console me that much. The seizure med I take costs about $500 a month without insurance, so my crappy ass insurance defrays a lot of that...but I don't feel much better. I think pharmaceutical companies are as evil as insurance companies, and I don't want either of them to have my paycheck. If I could go scrape bark off trees and boil it into seizure meds, I'd be out in the woods doing it. Oh, and I'd scrape some blood pressure meds for Lori while I was there.

I feel bad for the millions of uninsured people in the U.S. I was one of them for about 15 years and I know how scary it is when you have to choose between taking your kid to the doctor or putting gas in your car so you can go to work so you can PAY the doctor.

But the point is not which workers are being screwed worse by the insurance industry, the point is that the system is so fucked up that we're ALL getting screwed while Republicans crow about the advantages of a free market system, and insurance companies pay 3 million people in America just to deny claims of insured people.

Every month I go to the neurologist, and every month my health insurance claim is denied. And every month I have to get on the phone and fight the company that collects almost $400 a month from my paycheck to actually provide the coverage that I'm paying them for.

I think the U.S. insurance industry ought to be abolished today and replaced by a Canadian-style system. And I think every one of those people who's life work is to collect money for a service they don't intend to provide should be told to immediately get a job in which they actually do something to productive for a living, or they'll be denied health insurance under the new system.

Oh...and I think Congess ought to lose their cushy insurance packages and be forced to juggle their health care like the rest of us. Or lined up against a wall and shot. I'm still deciding which.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I Been Thinkin'....

I've barely blogged during the last week. I've been busy, but that's only part of it, because sometimes I blog like mad when I'm busy. Most of it was a combination of PMS and stress-related ennui that made it a lot easier to engage my body in little tasks around the house than to engage my mind and actually consider my current dissatisfaction with life. I'm hoping to bring that to an end soon, except for the PMS. I realize that PMS will continue to be my special friend for another decade or so, stopping by occasionally to bring the gift of angst and turmoil into my life.

I was talking with a coworker yesterday about why she's so obviously unhappy lately. She started off with the usual laundry list of things...she's overwhelmed with work and school and the normals stresses that come with being an adult. I considered that for a while, and decided that that wasn't how it I asked her again.

This time, she let loose in a way that was different than anything I'd ever seen before from her, and probably a lot more than she meant to say. She said that everyone in her life had turned out to be a disappointment and that she'd decided to pull up her psychic drawbridges and not allow herself to be engaged in any emotionally challenging relationships anymore, since sooner or later that would end up hurting her.

I've been mulling that one over ever since, and this is where I've landed with it:

Sooner or later every relationship has a moment in which you feel like you've been smacked on the head with a brick. You wonder how that person could do that thing to you, and it feels like you've been emotionally sandpapered.

I don't believe it's because everyone is an asshole (although certainly everyone is capable of stunning acts of assholery), I believe that at that moment, that person didn't give a second's worth of thought to anyone's needs but their own. That for whatever reason, at that moment they prioritized they needs over ours.

But rarely is it because they've set out to hurt us. We're almost always collateral damage in their own internal wars. In the battle with our eternal inner demons, sometimes onlookers get hit with some misfired angst.

So my coworker, who explained to me that she has an emotional "one strike" policy, is forever disappointed with people. She feels that her life is an endless series of betrayals, and she vows each time more emphatically not to invest any emotional energy in anyone else, since it's only a matter of time until that person breaks her heart too.

And that reminded me of all the times in the last 44 years I've seen friendships ended over a single event of assholery. And every time, the recipient of that assholery stands up self-righteously, takes a stand against their own victimization, and vows not to risk in again.

But today I woke up thinking what a difference the world would be if all of us could look at slights from the perspective of the slighter for a moment, instead of the slightee. Since I'm as guilt as anyone else of making that stupid vow, "I'm not going to put myself in a position to be hurt like that again", I've allowed relationships to end abruptly in a way that hangs out in the deep corners of my heart and pokes me occasionally with pins. In me, it made sense at the time. In my coworker, it seems shockingly short-sighted and self-indulgent.

Everyone we know will one day do something that makes us question the value of the relationship. The value of every relationship remains almost always in exactly that...That the people who love us will still love us after we're assholes. Not just when we're a shining example of goodness, when it's no challenge to have relationships, but when we're weak and whiny and damaged, and do stupid thoughtless things because our emotional focal length is an inch past our own noses.

Lori and I made a vow when we started this relationship never to intentionally hurt each other. We have (and will again) done selfish, hurtful things that cause the other person to say, "How could she do that? Didn't she even think about me?" But it's a lot easier to resolve those things in our hearts if we remember that it wasn't meant to hurt us or the relationship, it was caused by the kind of thrashing and flailing that people do when they're wounded, and then end up wounding someone else.

It's depressingly true. Sometimes people don't think about our needs when they push the relationship off a cliff. And sometimes the last thing in the world any of us want to do is climb down there after it and haul it back up, but it sure beats the hell out of the alternative: looking over the edge and seeing the rusting carcasses of all the relationships we've let slip through our fingers and thinking, "There. I guess I showed them."

I think the real satisfaction comes from the ones that we rescue. When, years down the road, we can laugh with that person we've gone over the cliff with, and say, "Boy, was that ugly!" And realize that our relationships were strengthened by standing united against the demons that try to destroy them.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Last night I stayed up until 3am to finish reading A Thousand Splendid Suns.

The author, Khaled Hosseini, the guy who wrote The Kite Runner, had the oddest, lightest touch I've seen in a long time. He can slip back and forth between stomach-clenching brutality and heartbreaking tenderness in a page without either feeling contrived and make both equally engaging. I think I cried pretty steadily for the last hundred or so pages. But in that good way that you cry when you're plugged into such a mish-mash of emotions that you don't feel emotionally manipulated, you feel lucky to be peeking into this world.

Khaled Hosseini? I love this man. If I weren't a middle-aged midwestern lesbian I'd go to California and sleep on his lawn in a tent and hold up a big sign declaring my undying love for him, until the police hauled me away and charged me with stalking him.

I'm sort of at a loss here. I so much loved this book (and The Kite Runner, too) that I would love to talk about it. But Lori hasn't read it yet. So I'll just yourself a tremendous favor. Buy this book, then come back and tell me about how much you loved it and how much you love me for telling you to read it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

TGIM...or Thank God It's Monday!

I've been a bad blogger this week. The weather's been fantastic and I've been trying to get as much outdoor stuff done as I not much blogging.

However, I've taken down a couple of dead trees and cut them up for firewood, used my new brushcutting weedwhacker to tear up some impenatrable thickets of..somethng, and mowed and raked and trimmed until I can barely lift my arms. Luckily, it's Monday, so I get 4 days to rest up at work before my next day off.

Okay, that part's not true. A bad day in the yard is better than a good day at work under the fluorescent lights. And boy! the yard looks good! I'll try to post some pictures tomorrow.

And I'll be a better blogger when the weather goes bad, I promise.