Tomorrow it'll be back to running and skiing and climbing and stuff, but for now I'm tucked in beside the dogs, knitting things and laughing at the funny Bluths.
The email went on, "Please don’t consider this in any way a "rejection." Our criteria for broadcast consider many factors beyond subjective notions of quality. We air only a fraction of one percent of those submitted, and we must balance our few selections across themes, perspectives, diversity of sources, and so on."
A fraction of one percent? I'm not sure I believe that, and despite the email's best intentions, I still feel rejected.
Here's the thing, though, about my essay: it's too preachy (they specifically ask for no preaching) and I don't like the ending. I mean, I wrote it in seven minutes, so maybe if I'd tried a little harder, followed the rules and gone through it at least once with a red pen, I might have had more of a chance....
Which brings me to the subject of goals.
Athletic goals almost always end badly for me. I lose interest halfway there, or I get distracted, or I can't take the pain and repeated failure that comes with trying really hard. I'm embarassed to say this, because I live in a world where athletic achievements are paramount and much else falls away unnoticed, but I'm hardpressed to think of a single sports-related goal I've achieved in the past few years. Oh, who am I kidding? I have barely done a damn thing in the past few years - the flux and buck of life proving almost too much for me to bear, having struggled, most mornings, just to get out of bed.
So I think I need something else. While part of me is inclined to say, "My goal is to climb the orange 12a at the gym," I know that as soon as I declare it, I'll lose interest.
Also, I give up when it gets hard. I tend to choose the easy path. I don't see stuff through. This post is beginning to seem like a reverse online dating ad. "Lazy woman with untrained dog looking for..."
Just kidding. We all know that Arnie is very well trained. Not by ME, of course, but trained nonetheless.
But it's easy to make athletic goals, because sports - as much as I love the things I do - aren't what I hold most dear, and if I fail at them, well, hell, "it's just a game."
But to fail at writing or playing the guitar or being a mom to Arnie or finishing the New Yorker in the alloted week (harder than you'd think)....that would hurt. That would mean I've failed at the things that matter most, and that's a whole other kind of disappointment.
That's why I didn't want to post the link to my essay - I'm afraid to open that part of my life to public scrutiny. People can say I'm a lousy skier or climber or runner or whatever (I also totally suck at dodgeball), and sure, it hurts, but none of those sustain me from the inside when all else falls away, and none of those allow me to meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same.
So my goals, to be truly worth something, to be harder to just blow off, need to be real and honest and deal with the things I'll never let go.
You heard it here first, my goals for 2009 are as follows:
1. Play the guitar. PLAY. Not strum and hum along, but really play, really make it sing.
2. Read The New Yorker, The Smithsonian, Nat'l Geo and The Sun by the time the next issues arrive. No more leaning tower of periodicals on my nightstand (aka, an upside down Thai laundry basket).
3. Get writing published. In print, not just online. This involves the bigger goal of facing fear of rejection, potentially again and again and again.
4. Remain motivated at work. I love my new job. I'm excited about work in a way I haven't been for years, and I want to hold on to that.
There's one more, but I'll tell you about that another time. Right now, I'm going to finish reading this article, which references a place near my childhood home, a place I'd love to make my home someday. If they stop mining. And if they grow bigger mountains so Brad would come with me.
And as I thought about it, I had to admit that it is a bit sad to not honor the season with lights and candles and greenery. Nativity scenes and santa bullshit aside, there is beauty to the traditional decoration of the season, and much of it has little to do with the churchy, commercial nonsense I so dislike.
I dreaded winter in Sweden, when the sun appeared only from 11 am to 2 pm, until I learned how Swedes celebrate the season of darkness. In November, when the gray of the world is at a maximum, they light candlabras and lanterns and live in cozy firelight until spring. It is beautiful and heartwarming, and now that I think about it, an ideal way to honor the season, the Solstice, Hannukah and Christmas.
After living there, in the cold, blond North, I made candles an everyday part of my life. The rituals of lighting them and blowing them out became like a prayer, and so even though I claim to eschew all things religious, I have to admit that I do feel a universal greatness when it's dark except for fire (and, honestly, I even little twinkle lights are really pretty).
Sigh. There goes my hard stance on all things Christmas. Full disclosure: earlier this year, I said to Brad, "Maybe we should get a tree. Not for stupid ornaments, just for lights and my pretty fabric garland (see below)." And he looked at me like I was high. I think he loathes the holiday hooplah even more than I.
But we'll see. I love, love, love this festive garland I fashioned from pretty fabric scraps. It's one of the most delightful things I've ever seen - like a tutu in its over-the-topness, but free of red and green and Jesus...just how I like my holiday stuff.
Big Arnie, who turns 5 years old on December 26th, makes a charming model, no?
(For what it's worth, I feel similarly about weddings, though my own ended up being wonderful, mostly because my family and close friends understand and accept me for the grimpy, grinchy cynic that I am.)
That said, while I eschew gifts and church and stories about dear lord baby Jesus, there is one Christmas tradition that I love: the Christmas Tree Star commercial from Eat'n Park.
Eat'n Park is a Denny's-style restaurant chain as ubiquitous in Pittsburgh as Italian-American men in tracksuits. There are A LOT of them. Eat'n Park, while nothing special, gives me fond memories of all the phases of my adult life. As soon as my friends and I turned 16, we borrowed our parent's Jeeps and Honda Accords and drove to the franchise that bordered the next school district. We nursed weak, tepid coffees for hours, vying for the attention of the guys from Latrobe and waving off the waitresses who tried to kick us out. Later, when I was in college and home for the summers, I met my mom at the Eat'n Park near the hospital where she works, and we ate fruit salads and muffins and talked about everything. A few years after that, when my grandma developed Altzheimer's and moved to a care facility, I went once a week with my grandfather to the Eat'n Park near his house, and we ate eggs and toast and drank that same awful coffee. Some days we talked alot - one of us telling stories that sounded fantastic and improbable to the other, two generations apart - and other mornings we ate our breakfasts in a comfortable silence.
There are hints, in the paragraph above, as to the origins of my grinchiness. In case you missed them, here they are: I miss my family 365 days a year, but Christmas is especially hard. I miss my grandparents and my parents and my brother. I miss our dear family friends who are as much a part of the Cavicchio holiday as any blood relative. I miss watching Tucker, the Golden Retriever I grew up with, gaze at the christmas tree, which he typically befriended early in the holiday season and subsequently spent many hours a day admiring. I miss the party we had every Christmas Eve, for family and friends and neighbors. I miss the quirky guests who just wouldn't leave even though the wine was gone and we were doing dishes and it was nearing 1:00 am. I miss good Italian food. I miss Christmas day napping and reading. I miss skiing after Christmas, every day for the whole week, until the New Year. I miss being so close to home.
I know what you're thinking, and yes, I could go home for Christmas. Why don't you, you say? Why are you bitching about something you can change with a click of your mouse and your Visa card, you ask? Because my home is here now. Because I need to give this place a chance to matter to me like that place does. Because I don't want to be away from my husband and dogs for the holidays, even holidays I refuse to acknowledge. Because I owe it to myself and Brad to make our holidays OURS, to develop our own traditions.
And we're working on it. We try to ski every Thanksgiving, even if it's lousy snow. It sort of marks the unofficial end to climbing season and start of ski season, and it's always nice to share our first (or one of our first) ski tours of the winter with each other and our close friends. We've spent Turkey Day skiing with Matt, Ed and Mitchell, all dear friends and current and former housemates (all of whom belong in the housemate hall of fame).
And for Christmas, we're starting to establish similar traditions. We ski on Christmas morning - that much is certain. We've spent Christmas Day with the guys mentioned above, as well as with Chris and Ari and, a rare treat in the Wasatch, our two dogs. I'll never, ever forget hearing Chris, who was a fairly new skier, shout, "Can you please call off the dogs?" as he struggled to stay upright in the White (or was it Pink?) Pine area of Little Cottonwood. Arnie and Red were so excited to ski with him that they were leaping around him and in front of him and bumping into him and trying to chase him. Poor Chris didn't quite have his ski legs on, and at one point, the three of them went down in pile of fur and limbs and skis and poles. Chris emerged smiling, of course. He always did.
We have another Christmas tradition as well: we don't exchange store-bought gifts, opting instead to just spend time with each other - whole entire days together are rare for us in the winter due to Brad's work schedule, so when we get them, we honor them. We sleep in. I drink coffee, which Brad makes for me. We go skiing. We come home and play with the dogs. We (ahem, Brad) build a big fire. We play Scrabble. We hang no lights or decorations, and the closest thing we have to a Christmas tree is the chopped pine lining the house, waiting for its turn in the stove.
It's not what I grew up doing on Christmas. It's not what Brad grew up doing on Christmas. But it's what we know and what makes us happy, so moving forward, while a part of me will always miss the weird Cavicchio family tradition of Christmas lasagna with Grandma's meatballs, it will become the right thing.
While the following aren't necessarily related to writing or advertising, they are the few sites I allow myself to peruse (bonus points if you know the definition of peruse..it may not be what you think...) at work because they are so creative, so lovely, that they put me in the right frame of mind to be creative. (I know, some of them are on the blogroll to the left. That's ok; they're worth double mentions.)
Posie Gets Cozy
Anna Maria Horner
Print & Pattern
They all offer pretty pictures of cozy spaces, self-designed fabrics and crafts and wonderful ideas to filled creative time...finding that time is up to you, and is another story.
As I left work tonight, I was clutching a list in my hand. It said:
Library - return books and pick up holds
Blockbuster - return movie
Playtime with the doggies
Finish fabric-scrap garland
Finish surprise knitting project for _____
Begin surprise knitting project for _____
I got through the laundry, and there's nothing left. I have plans for an early, early run with a friend, am still shaky from a lunchtime workout with another friend and have to fold a mountain of (finally) clean clothes.
Check out those sites, though. They're like tea in a window seat on a cold, rainy afternoon.
We heat with wood, so this is a problem.
After ski touring today, I came home wanting to cuddle the dogs and watch a movie and maybe take a nap, but there is no comfort in doing so next to a cold, dark woodstove.
My poor husband was at a ski demo all day and a clinic this evening, so for him to come home to a cold, dark house would be terribly unfair. I have to figure out why this wood won't catch (it's dry, pitchy pine; it's charring without burning makes no sense) before he comes home.
That said, it's pretty comfortable here on the couch, Arnie on one side, Red on the other. Their warm furry bodies making a dent in the cold. We're watching the Namesake, based on the book of the same name, one of my favorites. It was originally a short story, which the author, the brilliant Jhumpa Lahiri, expanded into her second book. If you haven't read her stuff, I permit you to stop reading my blog for the time it takes you to track it down. Then you have to come back.
That's all I have for you tonight. I'm happy, very content with two fun days in the mountains, and it's hard to write when I'm happy. It's easy to upload videos of singing muppets, but it's hard to write in a voice I like. It sounds, to me, too braggy or inauthentic. I'm going to work on it, but now, I'm going to try to light another fire.
Chances so small you need a microscope to see them, but it makes it exciting to check my email every morning.
I'll post all three here, at some point, but for now, this - an old favorite from Robert Bly:
The Face in the Toyota
Suppose you see a face in a Toyota
One day, and you fall in love with that face,
And it is Her, and the world rushes by
Like dust blown down a Montana street.
And you fall upward into some deep hole
And you can't tell God from some grain of sand.
And your life is changed, except that now you
Overlook even more than you did before;
And these ignored things come to bury you,
And you are crushed, and your parents
Can't help anymore, and the woman in the Toyota
Becomes a part of the world that you don't see.
And now the grain of sand becomes sand again,
And you stand on some mountain road weeping.
And, my all-time favorite, this:
I mean, with the hats and sweaters? Please. What could be funnier?
It's Rilke's birthday, and despite his being a skeevy lothario who preyed on rich old women, he wielded a hell of a quill. We have him to thank for Letters to a Young Poet, which popularized the idea of "the journey is the destination." Here's an excerpt, courtesy of The Writer's Almanac:
"You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now."
Note to self: Never trust a service professional who isn't booked at lease a month out.
The girl who cut my hair had highlights so variegated she looked like a goddamn parrot. Regardless, I was desperate, and I thought (erroniously it turns out), "How hard can it be to trim straight hair?"
Note to self: You are an idiot.
I now have two levels of hair - one to my shoulders, the other to my ears. I look like a topiary. I have a shelf on my head.
I came home raging, in tears, upset about the bad haircut but mostly mad at myself for willingly entering this situation.
I wanted to call up Rainbow Brite and tell her that if I did my job as badly as she had just done hers, people would die. That's not true, but I'd say it anyway. And I wanted to tell her to keep the $16 I'd spent to look like a quaker with a mullet, because she obviously needed it for beauty school.
But then I thought, "oh my god, it was $16 and she stands on her feet all day cutting the hair of people who probably ignore her, and really, I feel sorry for her."
I'm still pissed off about my hair - it's so bad I'm going to have to get it cut again just to undo the damage - but I'm over my anger at the cockatoo. She can't help it, she was probably blinded by chemicals from her striped hair leaching into her scalp.
After the storm of fury (and many, many minutes spent petting the dogs and listening to Brad tell me, "it's reall not that bad"), I started to think about dinner. Being all wound up, I was seeking comfort food, and the thing I've been wanting most lately is the old Italian staple of peppers and eggs.
Thinking of my little Grama, who was always, always cooking, and who made the most delicious peppers and eggs in the world, I passed over the olive oil for butter - her pan grease of choice.
I sauteed the onions the peppers in bubbly, hot butter, then poured in the whisked eggs and stirred. I ate them with toast and more butter (I guess I'm on a kick), and temporarily forgot about how my now head resembles a toadstool.
Jen is right. It's best to use real butter.
We skied a little bit, climbed a little bit, played a ton of Scrabble (I lost 4 games in a row, but my prowess has since returned), watched movies by the fire, ate tomato soup and simple vegetarian food (very satiating when I thought about all the turkeys being slaughtered) and knitted. I rode a motorcycle for the first time (and loved it, though that's another post), caught up on The New Yorker and made a dent in the stack of Suns that have been taunting me for months.
I opened old books of poetry and was reminded how words, strung together in particular ways, can stop my heart. And I think part of the reason I love poetry so much, partly why I will always select a collection of poems over non-fiction or a novel, is that it welcomes emotionial reactions.
The four men who wrote five of my favorite poems seem prone to those dramatics. The Embrace, by Mark Doty; The Face in the Toyota, by Robert Bly; Home Again and On Turning Ten by Billy Collins; and Touch Me, by Stanley Kunitz. Similar in form and tone, similar, even, in subject matter, these five poems affect me the same way every time I read them, no matter how often I read them.
And I think of these four men when I watch my husband, whom I love and adore more every day, react coolly and smoothly to unexpected situations. His ability to deal never fails to leave me awestruck. While I throw myself on our bed, in tears and hysterics, complaining that the world is falling apart and lamenting everything from the condition of the economy to not having enough time to take Arnie for a proper run (and in my mind, those two are given equal weight), he rubs my back and tells me that everything is going to be ok, that everything will work out, that there’s no need to worry.
And in those moments, I'm grateful for the men who write the poems I love, but I'm far, far more grateful for Brad, who is so unlike them and me, who can read a poem and find it nice, but not internalize it, not take it on as his own. It's a skill I'll never, ever have, but it's something I need to be close to, because it helps me make it through each day. He is rock, not river, touchstone, not flame. Without him, I'd be reduced to tears by the sight of the front page, by every report on NPR, by the thought of Arnie growing older, by the uncertainty of the future.
Sometimes I wonder why people suggest I read particular books. What in those pages makes them think of me? And what in me makes a certain character smack familiar?
It happens all the time. More than, “Oh, this was a good book, you should read it,” people seek me out and say, “I thought about you as I read this.” And I’ll smile and accept the recommendation or, sometimes, the book itself, and as I start reading, I'll think, “What? Why?” Because often, I see no connection. Often, I don’t like the book or main character, and I'll feel a bit awkward and confused about the whole thing.
But then, sometimes I read something that I want everyone to read. Something like a Billy Collins poem. Something equal parts light and dark, something that stops me, that sees me there at my desk, shaking my head in amazement that people can write openly, so well. And in those times I don’t stop to wonder why I want to share this thing, I just want to share it. I want everyone I know to feel as jarred into presence as I was by those words. Today was one of those times. I came across the poetry of Maria Mazzioti Gillan, and I couldn't stop reading it.
I couldn't wait to get home and post it here, so you could read it, too. It resonated so strongly for me, was so familiar, was so heartwarming...but then it occurred to me that without a little Italian American grandmother and an upbringing in a city of industry for reference, these poems might mean nothing. And I realized then that even if they fall on deaf ears, even if you look them over and say, "yeah, they're ok," I still needed to share them; I still wanted you to have the opportunity to see them for yourself. I'll start with this one:
AFTER SCHOOL ON ORDINARY DAYS - Maria Mazzioti Gillan
After school on ordinary days we listened
To The Shadow and The Lone Ranger
As we gathered around the tabletop radio
that was always kept on the china cabinet
built into the wall in that tenement kitchen,
a china cabinet that held no china, exceptcups and saucers,
thick and white and utilitarian, poor people’s cups
from the 5&10 cents store.
My mother was always home from Ferraro’s Coat factory
by the time we walked in the door
after school on ordinary days,and she’d give us milk with Bosco in it
and cookies she’d made that weekend.
The three of us would crowd around the radio,
listening to the voices that brought a wider world
into our Paterson apartment. Later
we’d have supper at the kitchen table,
the house loud with our arguments and laughter.
After supper on ordinarydays, our homework finished,
we’d play monopoly or gin rummy, the kitchen
warmed by the huge coal stove, the wind
outside rattling the loose old windows,
we inside, tucked in, warm and together,
on ordinary days that we didn’t know
until we looked back across a distance
of forty years would glow and shimmer
in memory’s flickering light.
sad feelings of failure
avoiding my own thoughts and, thus, blogging
I began a real post today; I'll finish it up tomorrow and have something new for you then.
Sorry for the lapse. Love you all.
Now, hours later, having run four miles through shin-deep powder behind a happy Arnie, I am watching the snow continue to fall. Eight inches now, in the back yard, and I'm quietly amazed. Relieved.
The first snow of the season never fails to drop my shoulders a little, to make me see things more simply, and today was no exception.
Tomorrow morning I'll wake up early and skin up Alta with a couple friends. It'll burn my lungs and my legs will be jelly by the time I'm back in the valley, but it will be worth it.
It's not officially ski season yet - we have several more climbing trips planned before we really embrace winter sports - but this will be a good taste of what's to come.
We're heading south - Vegas and Saint George and Zion - for Turkey Day, and I'm looking into Mexican getaways for Christmas. I don't have real hopes for getting Brad to the beach for Christmas, but it's fun to imagine.
And somehow, while imagining, I'm unspeakably fit and riding an 8-foot board. In reality, I'm not, and the only surf board I ever stood up on was so big I couldn't even carry it by myself.
Still nervous and unhappy about that,
Still unsure about how to make money and what to be when I grow up,
Still tired from staying up too late,
THRILLED by the election results,
PROUD of this nation,
EXCITED by the change that's sure to come,
HAPPY to raise a dog under the new administration - think of the opportunities available to him!
And happy that there are five inches of snow on the ground and it's still dumping!
Here I am watching the election results at Lizzie's house. Note how excited Arnie and Moxie (serving as Arnie's pillow) are. They can hardly contain themselves.
Dress up fancy and
Go to a job interview,
Go climbing with the ladies,
Play with Arnie in the mountains,
Go to yoga,
Clean my house,
Vacuum up the dog hair in my car and
NOT check the internet every five minutes to see what's happening with, well, the donkey in the room, because I VOTED and can only vote once and there's no reason to fret over things I can't change.
So goodbye till tomorrow. Fingers crossed.
And JUST IN CASE you're still undecided (who the hell are you people?) here's something to sway your opinion in the right direction:
I know that listening to live music gives me a sense of community. It takes me back to Sunday nights in State College, to a monthly singer/songwriter series that brought the likes of John Gorka, Dar Williams and Catie Curtis to town. What I loved about those nights - what remains with me even now, as I listen to recorded music on a rainy night in a city far away from State College - was that everyone's hearts were in the same place. Everyone in that beautiful room - all exposed beams and floor to ceiling windows and the Rothrock State Forest beyond - was smiling and warm, and everyone left those shows intending to pour light into the world*.
*The idea of pouring light into the world is something I can't claim but keep close. It came to me from Rumi's One Song, which I've heard and seen on the radio, in yoga class, on a friend's website and in an old birthday card in the past few days. Thank you, universe. I got your message, and now I'm passing it on.
One Song, written in the mid-13th century, is so appropriate for our time that reading it stops my breath, even though I know it by heart, even though I know what's coming. It's so simple, to praise, without the stigma of Prayer as we see it now, political and inaccessible. But to praise - to honor and thank and recognize...why are we not doing that all the time? Why am I not doing that all the time?
What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured
into a huge basin. All religions, all this singing,
The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight
looks slightly different
on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different
on this other one, but
it is still one light. We have borrowed these clothes, these
from a light, and when we praise, we pour them back in.
Ok, so I've liked him all along. But still - the Boss? Who could vote against the Boss?
Well, maybe the three friends I went to Mexico with shortly after purchasing the Essential Bruce Springsteen collection (two cds plus bonus disc!). I was a little obnoxious interrupting all their important sunbathing to recite the authentic American poetry of the kid from Jersey.
Whatever. They were listening to, like, Shakira.
Of course, if she were eligible to vote, I'm pretty sure she's vote for Obama, too.
* And I know, I know, that I'm the first to mock the pasty bloated frat boys who don grass skirts and get shitcanned for Buffett shows. Of course I do. They're ridiculous. But that doesn't change the fact that "A Pirate Looks at 40" is a beautiful song. Don't hate the Jimmy, hate the fans.
Bouldering in Little Cottonwood Canyon a few days ago with one new friend and two old ones, I felt the peace of Beginner's Mind, or Shoshin.
As I landed on the crash pad one then two then five then eight times, I realized that the climber I was before didn't matter. The climber I'd be later didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was left hand on the sidepull, right hand on the undercling, push off right foot, flag left foot.
Later that day, in a yoga with a teacher I didn't know, I eased into the first downward dog of the practice and at once my body complained and my mind drifted from the mat: Tight hamstrings, achy shoulders, sore wrists, stiff neck, too tired, really hungry, I hate this halter, I wish I had a headband, I wonder if Lululemon is coming out with petite pants anytime soon, I should figure out what I want to do with my life, like, what do I really want to do....
Then the teacher mentioned the Muladhara (root) chakra (signified by the color red, by a square, by grounding and stability) and as soon as I heard those words, I was back on this earth in the room on the mat, and I was present again. The only thing that mattered was that moment that stretch that release. Yogi's mind, beginner's mind.
It's all connected.
Here's to Sarah Tomson Beyer, whose FlowMotion workshop on Sunday reminded me that yoga is everything; like a zoomed-in photograph, yoga magnifies the beautiful, the flawed, the easy and the hard. It sees through the facade to the bones - who you are, why you're there and where you need to go.
Here's to Nicole and Paul for letting me tag along to Hellgate. It was a big group at a small crag and it reminded me why I started climbing in the first place - to spend time with friends and enjoy autumn afternoons and climb a bunch of routes and come home tired and hungry and looking for socks and a sweater and a movie and a glass of wine. It was one of the best days of climbing I've had in a long time.
Here's to Jami Larsen, who opened her yoga class this morning with this quote from the president of India, Pratibha Patil. I'm paraphrasing here, but it was something about how, in these times, when fear and concern are so pervasive, we should look to the great and peaceful leaders - past and present - for guidance. She's a smarty-pants, that Pratibha.
Here's to NederJen for being so kind.
Here's to Cindy, who posted this beautiful passage - from a Buddhist wedding ceremony - on her blog.
And here's to Marit, who gave me the inspiration for this post.
Here's Cindy, beer heiress and would-be (but not gonna be) first lady.
And here's Skeletor, a muscular humanoid with a yellowish bone cranium.
* I'm still working hard to abide by Thumper's Rule. I'm simply repeating what my brother said. So this snarkiness doesn't count. In my mind, at least.
(Reminds me of the classic Chris Farley news anchor skit: "I'm not "hygenic." I don't "smell good." That being second only to the Matt Foley skit - below - in terms of funny.)
But back to my goal-setting dilemma.
In recent years, the only goals I've set have been athletic - running and climbing-related. That's fine, I guess, but what happens with those is that I either achieve them or I don't, and nothing changes about me, about who I am. I've either climbed something or I haven't, and neither result makes me a better (or worse) person (though I always feel like the harder I climb, the better - and more worthy - a person I am, but that's crazy-talk that I'm not going to address).
So now it's time for something real. God knows I have a lot of emotional stuff to work on, and thanks to my darling bloggie friends for their kind words and good ideas on how to get through it.
1. Be nicer, by which I mean, don't be bitchy (even to people who are better looking/more athletic/smarter/more talented than me). Don't do it.
2. Think more. Like, really put some thought into the things I say, do, buy, eat, use. As far as I'm concerned, this is it - one shot, just like Eminem says - so why waste it?
Argh. These are vague and lame. I'm still thinking. In the meantime, and in keeping with our nation's economic concerns, I'll share this important PSA from our friendly fund mangers at the Wu-Tang Clan.
So we've lit a fire (it's been snowing since Friday night) and are taking it easy. The dogs don't seem to mind, as they're also exhausted, dreaming and sighing at my feet.
While in the desert - with no phone or email or distraction - I thought back to my first time there, down that stretch of highway 211 toward Canyonlands, and finally acknowledged what I've been ignoring.
It's been a tough few months. Year. Couple years.
I can't actually calculate how long, but Brad's been around for much of it, and I know it can't be easy on him. I've lost my fire and spark and charm and psyche. I don't have a plan or any goals, and I'm tired of feeling mediocre all the time.
I don't know what to do, what my next steps should be. I feel guilty for being so extravagant - it's not lost on me that it's a fucking luxury to whine about feeling sad and not being skinny when I have friends battling cancer and losing loved ones. But if I could just snap out of this, I would, and I'd drench myself in the vibrance I used to have - the vitality that has seen me through everything good.
But I can't. I've tried switching meds all around and having my thyroid checked and changing my diet and getting more exercise and taking more rest days, and this summer was the worst yet. I looked up the other day and realized that it's the middle of October, again, and nothing has changed. I'm still unsure of myself, I still don't know what I want to do with my life, I still feel unremarkable and lame.
And of course it's not all bad. Certain things - walking Arnie, playing Scrabble with Brad, cooking, yoga, dance - give me joy. An hour ago, Brad and I walked the dogs to a nearby park to let them run amok, and on the way, passed a house with a bunch of those enormous, blow-up halloween lawn decorations (a giant tarantula, a ghost, a Homer Simpson dressed as a skeleton - huh?). Arnie wasn't sure what they were, so he crouched very low and crept up to them. After a few air sniffs, he moved in for closer investigation, accidentally bumping the tarantula's leg with his snoot. The resulting tumult saw Arnie hiding behind my legs, actively avoiding eye contact with the oversized nylon tarantula and his brother, Red Dog, who was almost-but-not-really rolling his eyes in embarrassment.
I need to set more goals and work harder at seeing all the good and funny and kind and joyful things and people around me. I made a promise today - to myself, but I said it out loud to Brad so that he could help hold me accountable - to start abiding by Thumper's Rule.
Without being too self-helpy, I'll say that I believe positive energy begets positive energy, and I've been putting lots of negativity into the universe lately. It's no surprise I'm a mess.
So all day - and I know it's only been one day - I've been censoring the snarky and hateful and nasty. I am sadly surprised at the effort it's taken. I guess I'm mostly snarky and hateful and nasty. Even the sarcastic has been tempered.
And it feels good.
It feels like a start.
More goals tomorrow.
See, I'm really not concerned with your civil liberties if your politics swing right-ward. In fact, I might slash your tires on the morning of the election.
That said, Kate turned me on to a Palin I'd consider voting for. This guy:
I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it's their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.
I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.
But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.
I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.
Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God's plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin's view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, "It was a task from God."
Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist's baby or not.
She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.
Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States. She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.
Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.
Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God's name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.
I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.
If the Polar Bears don't move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, "Drill Drill Drill." I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.
Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?
Well, no. I needed to go. The west was all I could see. It blinded me to opportunities here – to people I should have gotten to know better, to dear friendships I’ve let wane.
If I’d stayed here, I’d lack the perspective I’m sitting with now, the perspective that has me shaking my head in wonder at what I didn’t see – what I couldn’t see – a decade ago.
I remember his house - the bed he made from a pine tree, a velvet quilt the colors of autumn that had warmed his family for generations.
He was the first person I knew who bought produce at a farmer’s market; who made a real effort to shop locally. He had apple cider in his refrigerator and drove an old Volvo station wagon. His dog rode shotgun.
And there he was, interested, available. I remember a night hike in Shingletown Gap, feeling overwhelmed and young, feeling like he saw through me. I knew he was good – a man to get to know, to fall in love with. We walked carefully up the gap, negotiating the tree roots and rocks and making small talk. I was embarrassed to talk about my classes and homework because he was so much older than I; he was done with that. Even so, I could easily imagine what it might look like to be with him – studying on his sofa, making dinner together, walking to Zeno’s, listening to live music.
It’s past midnight, and I’m sitting on the sofa in my parents’ den. The backyard is dark and I’m cringing at my reflection in the French doors, remembering being 19, trying to date someone in his early thirties. I tried to act nonchalant when I called him from my dorm room.
I knew it wasn’t something I could do. It wasn’t fair – he was too kind and too together - but I knew I’d always adore him, because he was so worthy of it.
Recently, exchanging emails with a friend, trying to describe my attachment to this area, I said, “It’s part of me; it’s safe. It curves into hills and valleys; it protects itself.”
And he, who lives in our college town, said, “The mountains in this part of the country are so much older than the western mountains. I think this is why we connect with them much differently. It is kind of like a grandfather or grandmother.”
And suddenly it made sense, why I love this place like I can't love the west. I return to Pennsylvania to visit my family and spend five hours talking over a bottle of homemade wine, and I return because these mountains have known me from the beginning. They’ve seen me grow up and change course a thousand times. They’ve seen me leave, and they’re still here, standing sentinel, at my return.
Apparently withholding condoms and sex-ed from teenagers leads to exactly what everyone wants: marrying off your knocked-up 17-year old as you try to convince the nation that you're mother of the year.
And this Levi fellow, what a Prince Charming! A self-described, "f---ing redneck who loves snowboarding and riding dirt bikes," Levi enjoys "shooting the shit" with his friends.
Here's the thing, though, Obama made a very classy statement about how we should leave families out of this discourse, how it's not really fair to be attacking the choices of a teenager.
As always, a wise and fair and charitable thing to say. It smacks of progress, of kindness, of peace and understanding.
So even though I'm dying to say, "See? My blog was RIGHT! I KNEW there'd be a scandal!" I'm not going to gloat. Because let's face it: when you're 17, it's bad enough to fuck up and get caught by your parents. Imagine if the whole nation was coming down on you.
I mean, what does McCain think? That we'll all say, "Oh, she's just a girl's girl! Look how pretty she is!" And that'll make us overlook the fact that she's basically a Nascar Dad (the scariest voting category) in pumps?
Yes. Yes, I think that's exactly what he's hoping we'll do.
Well no, thank you, you old goat. I'll take the other ticket with pleasure.
This McCain/Lady ticket kind of reminds me of this scenario from the Best Movie Ever.
"We have so much in common; we both love soup and snow peas and talking and not talking."
And seriously, if I hear one more Mormon-Mother-of-Eight say, "Oh, I think she's just great! She seems so relateable!" I'm going to punch her in her heavily made up face. These are the same people who voted for Bubba W Bush because, "I'd like to have him over for BBQ!"
(To whom I say, "Well, you dumbshit, unless you regularly entertain HEADS OF STATE and LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD in your double-wide at the Whispering Winds trailer park, alllow me to suggest that you might be voting for the WRONG REASONS! I don't care if W can stack 16 Pringles in his mouth at one time and then pound a 40 of King Cobra. That's NOT a quality we should look for in the POTUS.")
A month or so ago, at a lovely outdoor wedding for our dear friend Bill (seen above with his pup, Magic, who was in the wedding - note Bill's new wedding Birks!), I dolled up in my vintage Lilly one-shouldered maxi dress (to die for, and I scored it on ebay for $20!!!) and showed off my tan lines (I know, I know tres gauche!).
(See? That's what I'm saying in this photo. I'm saying, "Oh no! Not the tanlines!")Here's another shot of the dress:
Honey loves a camera.
The darling 'Ber and Brett who I don't see enough. Ber, I miss you so.
Anyway, so we're at this wedding, having a great time, when a woman I know only socially runs up to me and shouts, yes, shouts, "I just figured out who you look like!"
"Oh," I say, wondering if I'm going to regret engaging her, "Who's that?"
"The lady from the Mamas and the Papas!"
"Um..." I hedge, waiting for the punchline. It didn't come. "Um, do you mean Mama Cass?" I was horrified. By now a small crowd had gathered and I was really hoping for an earthquake or moose sighting or something - anything - to change the course of conversation.
"No!" She was still shouting. "Michelle Phillips!'
(You can be damn sure that I looked for the prettiest MP image I could find. I'm THAT vain.)
Oh. OH. That was ok. That was really flattering, actually. In fact, even though I can't really see it, I was totally ok with the comparison, and decided to feel good about myself for the rest of the night.
Then, just a few minutes ago, I was surfing around on "The Look 4 Less," a totally delightful blog, and I saw this:
It's called, "The Mamas and The Papas Dress" - THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS DRESS! - and it looks remarkably like everything I've been wearing all summer - including the night of the Mamas and Papas comparison. My guess is that it didn't get its name from the wardrobe choices of Michelle Phillips'.....
* For what it's worth, I'm not a fattist, and I am not judging Mama Cass for her size. In fact, she was a beautiful, talented and successful woman. And the story about her choking to death on a ham sandwich was just a cruel rumor.
That said, its autumn offerings have me sitting here - in running shorts and an old t shirt, trying to work up the motivation to get out there and pound out a few miles - craving cool days and bundling against the wind and layering up and meeting friends for coffee and wearing boots with tall socks and scarves and flouncy skirts.
What can I say? I have a very specific imagination. In fact, the look of Anthro's fall line reminds me of one particular semester in college, when I met my friend, Melissa Mehler (who, ironically, is from Philly, where Anthro is based), and we sat at the coffee shop for hours and hours and ate bagels and told stories and made big plans...).
Anyway, because I swear to god I'm going to try to go running at some point today (since when does it take a crowbar to get me off the couch and into my sneakers? Why have I become so lazy?), here are a few of the pieces I'm adoring right now:
Sweatercoats seem big right now, and I love their hip-and-butt-hiding capability.
This is similar to a cardigan Anthro did last season, but it sold out before it hit the sale rack (sad for cheapo me). Maybe it's a sign....
These are a must...
Love me some burgandy cords...
And I bet these pants would be super flattering...
These photos are from a shoot we did on the White Rim trail (first time Brad and I had been on mountain bikes in years). Chris's son, Wyatt was with us, and he's a badass teenager, so Brad had fun doing jumps and bmx tricks and goofing off while I muttered to myself about controlling my speed and concentrated on keeping the rubber side down. Biking is real damn scary.
Anyway, some photos for Phriday....but wait - I don't know why the color is so weird. Trust me, the real color in the photos is just breathtaking....anyone know why it looks weird here? Hope Chris doesn't see this, but Chris, if you do, please note that I'm stating for the record here that you're a genius with color and the appearance of these photos isn't representative of your style.
This trend makes me nervous, because consistently, while others' updates read 10 minutes ago and 2 hours ago and 1 day ago, mine is more like 10 days ago and a year ago and it's been so long we think she's died.
So, I've been guilted into writing. That's not unusual, though, because it's generally an external force (guilt, deadline, mother, boss) that makes me buckle down and get to work. I'm not a self-starter, though I lie about that in job interviews. I'm not a multi-tasker, either, for what it's worth. And I don’t work well with others, and I don’t “love new challenges.” All lies for the sake of potential new bossman. Hopefully none of you ever want to hire me, because then I’ll have to delete this post.
Anyway, fear (another motivator) of losing my readers has forced me into action (left to my own devices - as you're probably learning - I'm astonishlingly sloth-like).
Also, summer's over, making it time to write. I’ve mentioned before that summer and I aren’t friends, and while that’s mostly because of its oppressive heat and the way I look in shorts (ick), it’s also because summer saps me of motivation. In my mind, I’m still a kid, so summertime is for sleeping late, going to the pool, reading magazines, watching movies and eating ice cream. It’s not – at least, in my confused brain - for working hard, writing thought-provoking blog entries, challenging myself to look hard at my feelings or anything that could/would take effort.
But early dusks and cool evenings are slowly taking over the relentless heat. In the mornings, I pull the quilt around me and sigh, finally comfortable after months of fitful, shallow sleep.
Fall heralds the return of my motivation, my industriousness. Not only do I have energy to make plans, I have the fortitude to follow through, to actually do things.
What am I going to do? I'm going to SEW.
Yep. Sew. Not climb, not hike or run, not train for ski season (though I hope to do a bit of that, too).
I want to make things out of the stacks and stacks of fabric I’m busy collecting. Want to see some of my favorites? (I’m trying to use lots of images because Buttah likes images and, let’s face it, I need to do what I can to retain readers at this point).
The new beautiful things I’m stockpiling:
1. The Yo Yo Elephant pattern, which yields both an adorable and floppy Yo Yo elephant doll as well as a stuffed elephant. All made from scraps and fat quarters.
I love it so and can't wait to make many, many of these for all my friends' new babies (it's like babies are Autumn's hottest accessory or something. Seriously, it's a damn epidemic). I've seen these Yo Yo dolls before, in fair trade catalogs and the like, and part of me feels bad - like by making these myself, I'm neglecting an indigenous woman of a sale of one of her dolls, but the truth is, mine will probably be so funny looking that my friends will buy the originals anyway, so as not to frighten their kids.
2. Alexander Henry's Daybreak fabric.
The beauty of this fabric so overwhelms me that I don't even know what to make out of it. Any suggestions? I think a nightgown could be fun. Or PJ pants. But I'd love to make something more creative, because it's such a unique and captivating print....
3. The lovely Swing Bag from the lovely Amy Butler.
It just seems perfect. Even Arnie thinks so.
4. This Bird Garland or Mobile.
The kind and adorable ladies at Philly's own Spool Sewing (cool name, huh? Their sister store, a knitting boutique, is called Loop) have generously provided this pattern for free on their website; it's so sweet it hurts my teeth, and best of all, you can create the little birds from fabric scraps and fat quarters. Bargain birds.
5. And here's my beautiful and inspirational collection of fabrics. (I hope to someday be a good enough sewer - hmmm, that spelling just doesn't look right... - to do these beautiful pieces justice.)
Brilliant fat quarters:
Pretty toiles and prints (note the Golden Retriever in the first fabric):
Um...more Daybreak in a different colorway (I'm a bit obsessed):
And some elegant embroidered pieces:
I'm so eager for the upcoming three-day weekend - the time of year that marks the end of summer and the return of fall. I'm going to sew, walk the dogs, knit, write, read and watch movies, and I. Cannot. Wait.
How are you celebrating the beginning of autumn? Also, I'd love some suggestions for sewing projects. I'm very much a beginner, but I'd love some ideas....
I saw some wonderful old friends at the show, and got really excited about rock climbing again. I also got pretty psyched about fashion-to-come, thanks to these sheep, who gave me some very cool clothes, via their man, Jason, and Lululemon, which invited me to a design focus group the day before the show. And after OR, I was involved in a photo shoot for Isis, a company that designs clothing for women, so I've been in the mountains for the past two days, wearing next summer's clothes to climb and play and ride my longboard and hop on Tyrolean traverses while my friend, Chris, shot photos. Arnie and Red were with me, too, playing in the water and snuggling into my sleeping bag. It was the easiest money I've ever made, and it was a great way to relax after OR. I'll share photos as I see them.
I'm back at my desk this morning, though, and about to start following up on my OR meetings.
Hope everyone's well, and now that my schedule will be a bit more normal, I'll be around to write more often.
These photos are from the Third Pillar of Dana, which I climbed a few weeks ago with 5 friends. All the photos below were taken by and belong to Kolin Powick, famous (on this blog) for all his beautiful photos of our wedding. You can see more of his stuff on his website. Kolin gets endless props for his photography skills, which he possesses along with climbing skills, guitar skills, snowboarding skills, engineering skills, dog-training skills....he's one of those remarkably capable people that you're always glad to know.
Anyhoo, here are his photographs from our recent day in the Sierra.
On the approach (L to R: Jeff, me and my scar, Brad, Jon, Alex):
Go Honey Go!
This is Jeff, "The King," sending the breathtaking final pitch...
And Alex being a wingnut on same:
And here we are heading back out to the car and dinner. Check out the scenery; it was one of the prettiest approaches I've ever done. I kind of felt like Frodo Baggins, and not only because I was a foot shorter than everyone else....