Saturday, December 30, 2006


On Thursday I saw the new Almodovar movie Volver. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Almodovar, his films always involve scenarios that seem implausible or crazy, but the characters are treated with an extraordinary development and realness.

My expectations of Volver were high. I almost took the train to New York when it opened there in November and have been watching all the press since September. I was not disappointed.

I often look for movies that create an escape - that take me to a world that is foreign or that teaches me something. I was surprised with Volver to realize that my reactions, as strong as they were, were to the things that I did understand - that mimic something in my own life, in my own past.

My friend Sarah reminded me that Volver in Spanish means to come back. I'm curious about the inspiration for this movie - for I know that the beautiful Penelope Cruz is Almodovar's muse, but I'm wondering what else serves as impetus to develop such a wild script.

I can't help with my super-religious upbringing to think of the parable of the Prodigal Son. The son that goes away and when he returns his father welcomes him back with open arms. I try to use this model with my own life - often with difficulty. It's difficult to let go of anger and resentment and forgive people for leaving, and then welcome them back in.

Well, if Penelope Cruz can do it - I'll keep trying.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Time to think...

With my two weeks off rapidly coming to a close, I'm realizing one thing: I am not to be trusted with time and space to think.

It's been the same scenario as during my recovery - I've become completely obsessed with my body... working out like a madwoman, watching every morsel that I eat and constantly thinking about my skin, my hair, etc, etc and how they could all be better.

Why do I do this to myself?

I really thought I would use this time for good, not evil.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Merry Christmas - Happy Holidays!

Wanna know what I got? Huh, do 'ya, do 'ya?

Wonderful gift certificates, which means I get to go shopping! Also, a great bag from one aunt and some BEAUTIFUL Nicaraguan things from the other: a wallet, a painting, and a piece of textile.

A friend is going to make me a hat, which is great since I never wear them (insert big head jokes here).

Thank you all! Love to you all!

Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth. Goodwill towards men.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Do things always work out?

I sometimes feel plagued by disappointment. I'm not the type to get really angry, but I am often disappointed.

The holidays are no exception. I started over a month ago by asking a great friend to spend the holidays with me. Well, he already had a wonderful trip planned, so I continued on my merry way in arranging other plans.

I was again so excited last week when a different friend and I made plans to go to midnight mass together. When I called to solidify the plans, he explained a misunderstanding that would make it difficult for him to join me. So as I always do, I let him off the hook and again went on my merry way to make different plans.

But I realized today that my disappointment is really minor, since I have multiple days of plans with my very bestest friends - why am I worried? I know that part of it is a fantasy of what the holidays should be like. But it's not like I had these amazingly great holidays as a kid - we always were stuck in church for what seemed like days, our parents were exhausted, our grandparents got us strange presents and were mostly disconnected.

So I guess I'm ready to follow my own advice and enjoy my life for what it is: filled with wonderful, generous friends that are willing to include me in their lives, include me in their family celebrations - and for this I am not only extremely grateful, but right this very moment I'm realizing that reality is better, more supportive, and warmer than continually adjusting my fantasy to try to fit a scenario that just doesn't exist for me yet.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I know nothing.

I've realized this week that I'm rich. An odd thing to say for someone who worries every month about bills, has no 401K, no stocks, and a savings account that gets dipped into more than the vat of fudge at the county fair. Someone that calls on her friends and family more than is comfortable...

But I'm reading What is the What? by Dave Eggers. The story of Valentino Deng, one of the Sudanese Lost Boys. The story is devastating in emotional tenor, simple in its prose, but beautifully difficult in the reading process.

I find myself longing for someone to explain it all to me. Why do we do these things? Why do some people suffer so much? Why do some people live on to tell their stories?

More than the big questions, one small question keeps rearing its head: What can I do?

According to the story, I am the typical person that wants to help: a woman, between 30 and 60, the type that would work at a school or a church. That's me: raised in the church, working at a college - a bleeding heart through and through.

But so what? Who cares if I'm the typical person who wants to help. I DO WANT TO HELP - How many others even notice? So now what? Who do I help and in what way? Who needs it? What do they need? Will they be happy to get it? Or does that even matter?

I guess we are sometimes charged with giving, even if the act of giving is not rewarding. Sometimes, we must truly sacrifice ourselves and do what is uncomfortable - admit that we do not know what is best. And yet, we are still charged with trying to create an action that conveys that we are trying.

So I've signed up for the email prompts at - knowing that Darfur is a different scenario, but one that's escalating quickly. This is just the first drop. I'll be looking for the opportunity to contribute a splash, maybe even a bucket to those that have nothing.

I've always said there are times in your life when all that you can do is continue to breathe - to let your heart keep beating long enough that something changes to make a softer, easier life for you. To all those people who are in that place right now - hang on. Something will change soon.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Home for the Holidays... or at least until Tuesday

I came to my parents house in Georgia on Friday - the same day as their annual holiday party. It was very strange to realize that some of their staff were more comfortable with their house than I am. I've only visited maybe a dozen times since they moved here in 1998.

Now, part of the reason is that I'm allergic to Georgia, or at least to their house. Within 20 minutes I am sneezing my head off and forced to take antihistimines that render me a zombie for the rest of the trip. I think it's a combination of dust and mold. Against my recommendations, when they moved here they bought an enormous split-level. Of the 12 rooms, they use 3, sometimes 4. Which leaves the rest to just sit until someone comes to visit.

Back to their party - no use talking about the house... it's quite beautiful, especially with their new kitchen, maybe I'm just jealous.

So the party was alot of fun. Church people are funny. Some are so glad to have any special time at all with my parents that they treat me with extra special care. Some are very suspicious, perhaps because I don't visit often - and treat me with a coolness. It was nice to have a large party in a large house... like when I got stuck talking to a woman who was complaining endlessly about her life - I could run off with the excuse of being part-hostess.

I guess I'm going to have to consider the fact that I am a social person. My boss always tells me I am, but I think of myself as kind of shy. I guess I've adapted since adolescence. I definitely want to start hosting parties. It was fun. Really quite fun.

One more thing about the party, then I'll go... my parents played this game that they play every year... they ask everyone to bring a tacky gift. I'd often heard of the game, but never played it before. I realized something immediately - tacky is in the eye of the beholder. I started to worry that people would recognize their own taste in things that had been brought by other people. I heard people saying things like "that's tacky?" when fairly mainstream things where opened. The whole thing was hilarious to my parents and a handful in the crowd and somewhat less so to others, which left me uncomfortable.

But the Pope on a Rope soap was funny - a private daily audience with his excellency - that was just too much. It went to a woman who's parents had recently converted to Catholicism! (Yes, Episcopalians think Catholics are funny... I think they secretly think "there's an easier way!")

On that topic, I had a woman come up to me to confess she was born a Baptist. I quickly absolved her... the guilt that people carry with them about little things is tremendous.

I'm definitely rambling. It was quite a night.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Wishes for the Holidays...

Today is my last day in the office for two full weeks. I'm very excited to have a break, to go see my family, and to spend time with friends.

I've been thinking about holiday wishes for the last few days. While I secretly long for comfortable high heels and super slimming pants to find their way to me, I'm realistic with my expectations.

Instead, more than anything, I would like those wonderful friends of mine that send me chain mail emails and cheesy forwards to instead send me a quick note telling me that they miss me and that they would like to get together soon. I can deal with the endless spam... I simply delete it away, but when I actually hear from someone I care about, I don't want to think that I'll be suffering years of bad luck if I don't forward the message on to other unsuspecting souls.

I've been tempted recently to send this wish out to my collective address books, but I know it would unintentionally offend, much like those chain letters. So instead, I'll continue to be the bearer of untold amounts of bad luck.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Waiting for the Barbarians...

I've just finished reading Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee. At the end of the book, and perhaps the best line, reads something to the effect of "That darkest part of ourselves should be turned only on ourselves first."

The line hit me like a ton of bricks. Imagine the self-hatred, the self-deprication, the low-self esteem if we turned all the darkest parts of ourselves on ourselves.

I experienced a bit of that feeling during my recovery, when the isolation of my suburban home began to make me question my role in the world. I began to feel like I would never be a whole and contributing member of society again... and certainly never thin enough, smart enough, rich enough to have the life I want.

But imagine if all the judgements I have about other people were turned on me. You should see the way my face contorts when someone mentions the president - Imagine if that was my reaction to the mirror every morning.

Now I know that Coetzee was thinking about the dehumanization of one's opponents... that there are a different set of standards for the other side. How often does highlighting that difference result in war, genocide, racism, and economic oppression?

The most disturbing part of the conversation for me is: How often do I contribute to it, simply by my indifference? Is my lack of action as bad as an offensive action?

Monday, December 11, 2006

The thing about a blog...

I'm really quite excited to have the opportunity to let everything out in this forum... things I've been marinating with for years are starting to seap out.

I was talking to a friend this weekend about it. The odd part of creating something that is available for anyone, but is somehow private. The idea that we don't mind strangers knowing our inner-most thoughts, but want to prevent our friends and family from seeing it.

So much of life is that way - we fear the judgement of those we care about the most. We hope and pray that they will accept us as we are, but fear that they won't understand if we really let it all hang out.

I try to live my life with integrity. I want the person that I am in my personal life to at least resemble the person I am in my career. I want people who meet me to feel like they know me, without much backstory. I don't want to be afraid to speak up.

So read, or lurk, or comment as you will, but I'll just keep trying to be me... A big, fat, cheeseball.

Friday, December 8, 2006

On Subtlety

For several years I've been wanting to write a discourse on the importance of sublety in one's life. So much emphasis is placed on the big passions, the "Ah-ha" moments, that I think people take the subtle interactions for granted.

Why is finding a soul-mate so important? Isn't it possible that the witty banter with the check-out person is just as important to one's quality of life? Can't a tiny flirtation with a stranger on a train be as passionate as an affair that lasts for years?

Part of the reason I think about subtlety is that I've always struggled with committing to the big things. I have so many interests, how can I decide which one to spend the time and money on to pursue a graduate degree; I love so many people for so many different reasons, how can I limit myself to the life they want to live; I have lived in so many places, how can I settle in one city and in one house for the rest of my life?

Another reason I look to the little things is that in what often felt like a tumultuous childhood, I always held onto subtle images and feelings for comfort. When I was very young, I would close my eyes and imagine the moment when the organ started playing in the church, not in an overtly religious way, but simply to remember how that first chord would reverberate in your mind and in your body, causing chills to run down your spine.

When I was a little older there was a particular day that I was feeling low, so I headed out to our neighbor's property - Sam - somehow making it past the stray dogs he collected without them barking. I settled down by the lake that backed up to his property to practice my oboe. It was late afternoon, so the sun was casting a raking light across the pond, highlighting the ripples, as a gaggle of geese were floating through. I can still picture every detail of that moment, and can feel the peace and contentment flow back into my body when I return to that memory.

Isn't it possible that the memory of that afternoon, as simple as it was, will continue to be the moment that I return to in times of trouble. I just want to remember that an evening like I had last night - coming home after a long, trying day, having a good workout, a decent meal and then settling on the sofa to watch a movie with a handsome actor and enjoying the feeling of the yarn passing between my fingers as I knit a scarf - that those moments of contentment can be enough and maybe a better indicator of my happiness than the big things: the lovers, the wedding, the career, and the births.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Who's job is it to care?

This summer I was out in the city when I walked past someone completely covered in a blanket in a bus shelter. It seemed unusual for the person to be asleep in the middle of rush hour with a dozen or so people around. Buses and cars were whizzing by, and there was absolutely no movement under the blanket.

I started to worry, wondering if I should do something, or call someone.

I dismissed it, saying to myself that someone would check on them. Then I realized... who? The police that badger and barade homeless people in this city? They won't care. The transit employees that make little money and deal with cranky people all day? They won't even notice.

So, who's job is it to care?

This question hit me as odd. It seems there was a time when people cared for one another. When even strangers on the street would stop to ask if you were okay, when people regularly gave up their seats for the elderly, the pregnant, and the disabled.

Are those days gone?

Is it now always someone else's responsibility to care? Have we outsourced our nurturing, our compassion, and our empathy?

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Looking forward to Spring already.

Childish Rhyme... please indulge me..

While the reflection of the trees and flowers,
In their beauty, convey their calming powers.
I yearn for a life beyond the confines of these reeds,
To fulfill and challenge all my needs.

To most of those born on this land,
Contentment can be found where they stand.
They can be happy with what they know,
And think that more will cause fear to grow.

But my wings yearn for a wider girth-
A freedom that has eluded since my birth.
What lies beyond the endless days of practiced preening,
And the narrow focus of collective leaning?

Dare I dream of flying far?
Release my feet from tombs of tar?
A willing partner that would guide me somewhere?
To have my joyful calls heard elsewhere.

For now I will enjoy the moment,
Without depair, chiding or lament.
But I will continue to dream that I might be free,
In the blissful company of one who loves me.