Monday, December 10, 2012

the silly old maid

If we find the thing which makes us content but avoid it because of prejudices deep in our history then we are fools.

This season of football in a tv-less household has sent my love off to watch that enigmatic, crashing game at a dear friend's house. It is good on a deep, solid level to see her choose to enjoy herself and "leave me" behind because that has always been hard for her. I assure her I know she loves me no less...and that I need, need, need this time. It's so good for each of us.

After so many happy and companion-filled years I now have regular periods of solitude. I find that I am drawn to the same activities that delighted me as a young girl. (Except for the cooking, that's clearly an activity connected with adulthood for me.) I read. I listen to someone (okay, it's Garrison Keillor's craggy bass) read poetry to me. I do crossword puzzles. I write. I make things. I think about stuff. I make lists and plans.

It's even the fleeting self-consciousness that surprises me. The occasional awareness that my activities seem the choices of an old maid. First, why would I even care? Second, the charm of these things has been with me all my conscious life. Silly, silly woman/girl.

But it is fleeting and it does not change a thing. Dickinson and Milton and Angier and Gaiman, crossword clues and project drawings. And silence. Such lovely, velvety silence.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

that project of which I whined

Some months back I was kvetching about a project I was working on. Well, this is the project and it's finally complete:

While the music grates on me a bit, I'm immensely proud of the final product both from a data standpoint and a graphic communication standpoint.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

chaos and bliss

I remain in a state of awe about how much I've learned and how much I don't know. My life feels like it's tipping into a maelstrom of activity and emotion...and yet, between the periods of anxiety there are moments of such wonder and bliss I hardly recognize myself.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

parental units

My father's bladder cancer is back. He stopped treatment 5 years ago because...well, because it was painful and he is not logical sometimes. He just didn't want to deal with it. Maybe it would have come back anyway had he completed treatment or maybe it wouldn't have but it seems that ignoring it did not do the trick.

He's depressed and in pain. He's self-medicating and not quite in the present all the time. We're flying into Tampa to visit him this week. Hurricane Isaac and the Republican National Convention are also going to Tampa but that's just a coincidence. A rather shitty coincidence.

My mom seems anxious and stressed. She's normally pretty pragmatic and solid, so it's hard to hear that. She also seems uncharacteristically selfish about my time there. So peculiar. I was such a mama's girl; I would have given anything for her to show that she liked having me around when I was young so it's a bit...unsettling, but warms my heart nevertheless.

I'm concerned...but he is relatively healthy so there is reason to be hopeful.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

cartoon world

Today felt like cartoon world. Where I'm the little line drawing figure at a desk working, while steadily the little line drawing inbox fills up with two-dimensional papers speeding up exponentially as I work faster and faster.

Well, not that bad. It wasn't nihilistic or hopeless just daunting and, at times, oddly satisfying.

Every place is the same. Mostly. You work with people, some difficult, most not. If you're lucky, you will be charmed by your peers and subordinates. If you're really lucky, you will answer to a good and decent boss. And if you're super lucky, you get all this and a job where your efforts promote something you believe in.

Even in my exhaustion, I feel super lucky.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


What is it about having something else to do that makes me want to write so badly? Do I always have to have a pressing project deadline in order to get here? What a crazy formula.

And it's not that I hate the project, I don't. Well, I don't love it right now either...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

birth power round 2

It amuses me to think of my small cadre of blog readers seeing the "birth" title. I like to picture which of you are going to be interested and which of you will roll your eyes and yawn!

BIRTH blog entry, incoming!

My second child. I carried her during a time when my marriage became permanently damaged. We were living in New York, I was 22 years old. My beloved little boy had just morphed into a textbook toddler monster and suddenly, I didn't know if I was going to have to have this second baby alone. The cold, stark reality was that I had virtually no work experience, no degree and I was about to be a mother of two. My assumptions about marriage supporting me were crumbling. My inner feminist voice was furious at me. Deafeningly furious.

A mentor gently suggested that I might want to consider terminating. I appreciated her concern and felt grateful for that option, should I have needed it. But more than anything else, I knew I wanted this baby. More than my marriage, more than an easier life. And I also knew this was going to be my last child.

Once my husband agreed to stay with me through the pregnancy and delivery, I signed up for Queens College for the semester after she was born. Words cannot describe how vulnerable and foolish I felt. How could I have woken up in my mother's life?

That said, I was young and healthy. Three times a week I went into Manhattan for expectant mother's aerobics. There was something empowering about acknowledging disappointment with the way things had turned out but knowing I had only myself to rely on to change all that. And it kicked in. That something. I knew I would be able to handle whatever was ahead. Amazing.

In neither pregnancy did I know the gender of my unborn child. Amnios were not routine and I wouldn't have wanted to know anyway. I LOVE waiting until Christmas morning to open my gifts. I tried to guess but was wrong both times–so much for maternal instincts.

There was a midwifery clinic attached to a hospital on Manhattan's Upper West Side. St Luke's Roosevelt Hospital had a great set up and I was thrilled to have found them. On the afternoon of October 20th, 1981 I woke up from a nap as my water broke.

Important note here: both of my beloved offspring had the good manners to begin their respective uteran exits after I'd had a good night's sleep or afternoon's nap. That's how I knew we were going to get along.

Now back to the story. Water breaking, nap over. My son was being babysat by the super's wife, Graciela. A lovely Colombian woman with six of her own. She loved children and took care of my boy a couple of afternoons a week. So I could catch up on housework nap.

I called my husband and told him to meet me at the hospital. To his, normally unsentimental, credit, he rushed home instead. I called Graciela and asked her to watch my son a little longer that day. Dave and I had no car, so we'd arranged with Louis, Graciela's husband and the building super, to drive me to the hospital. I called the clinic and told them where my labor was at and they told me it was probably too early to come in. I knew better. My short first labor and the fact that this baby was 11 days early was reason enough for me to get going.

We piled into Louis' old station wagon–me in the back on my pile of towels (water breaking is a misnomer, it's more like water leakage) and Dave up front with Louis. After six kids you would have thought the man would be used to this but he.was.a.wreck. Chain smoking and shaky, his passable English deteriorated and Dave's more than adequate Spanish did the same. I had never spoken such fluent Spanish before.

Louis' stationwagon had no shocks. None. Every bump in the road brought on a new contraction. We were in 5:30pm rush hour traffic trying to go crosstown. It took an hour-an-a-half to get from Queens to St Luke's.

And something unexpected happened. I had done the Lamaze classes for my son's birth but didn't feel the need to repeat them for this second labor. I sat in the backseat of that old car, giving directions and focusing on letting my uterus do the work and relaxing the rest of my body. It was transcendental. I am not bullshitting here. I had never practiced meditation or biofeedback but for whatever reason, the pain did not panic me the way it did the first time. I was so incredibly calm. I don't tend to tell this story because most women have such difficult experiences and my bliss just doesn't resonate with them. Still, I cannot express what an amazing 2-1/2 hours it was. Oh, yeah, and that. The entire labor from first pang to birth was 2-1/2 hours. 1-1/2 of those spent in traffic.

When we arrived at the hospital, I walked in and they took one look at me and said "maternity, 3rd floor." Dave ran to the elevator and I'm standing there (in what turns out to be late labor) and said, "Um, I could use a wheelchair about now." Wheelchair procured and rode up the elevator. They set me up in a birthing room and left me, thinking I'd be at least another hour or two. At this point, I am focused but edgy: I tell Dave, "don't talk to me, don't touch me...just sit there." Within 5 minutes Dave takes a peek around the corner and sees the baby's head crowning. He steps into the hallway and stammers that the midwife might want to get in there.

The midwife is surprised to see that I'm ready to start pushing. In the first delivery, pushing was the most blessed relief on the planet. This time, it hurt and I informed her that I didn't want to do that again. She calmly advised me that was not an option. I closed my eyes and focused so intently that she had to call my name loudly to get me to ease up. My second baby was born 35 minutes after I arrived at the hospital, 20 minutes of which was spent pushing. When the baby came out, I asked what it was and she placed the child on my stomach and said, why don't you look for yourself? Infant genitalia is quite swollen and I was almost sure but not completely. I said, "it looks like a girl" which she replied "yes, it is" and then handed Dave the surgical scissors to cut the umbilical cord. Man did he turn green.

She weighed 6lbs, 9oz and was perfect. She nursed right away and we spent an hour or so together before they took her to the nursery to put the silver nitrate ointment in her eyes (mandated at the time to prevent the spread of gonorrhea from mother to infant) and make little footprints and such. I had just spent 2-1/2 hours of what my body probably thought would be an 8-hour workout. I had so much adrenalin running through me I was up and walking the halls with my IV pole. After she'd been gone an hour, I asked the nurse to bring her back. She was annoyed and said, they hadn't had a chance to clean her up yet. To which I replied in my best Dorothy Parker, "Well, how did she get dirty?"

Taking her home, I had the age-old experience of falling in love with your second child...when you thought you'd never have enough room in your heart after loving your first.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

my god, i love this man

This, friends, is my happy place. Almost thirty years after hearing this song for the first time, it still makes me ache and feel glad to be alive. My god, I love this man.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


A fb friend linked to an 2006 NYT article about Roger Federer by David Foster Wallace. I'm not particularly interested in tennis and know very little about Roger Federer. I read it because the late DFW was exponentially brilliant and I couldn't resist, even though I knew I'd end up depressed afterwards because he's gone. He had me enraptured with the description of a single tennis shot. Reminds me why I plod on here in blogland. Just for a whiff of that.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

birth power round 1

Land of Rampant Reproduction
When I lived in Utah, the land of rampant reproduction, I got tired of telling and hearing birthing stories with my female friends. It seemed a substitute for substance. Talking about a book or piece of art or science was like a lust or hunger I couldn't satisfy with anyone locally.

The birthing experience was monumental for me, as it for many women. I mark significant changes in my life from those two one-day events. Rejecting the urge to tell the story because those overly-domesticated young women irritated me is just stupid. It's a story worth telling.

The first significant change was the loss of modesty. I don't mean I ran laboring down the hospital hallway naked. (I was in labor, forchristsake, who could run?)

Here's the story: Married for a whole year, I was feeling pressure to procreate in the Mormon-saturated city of Provo, so we stopped using the frowned-upon birth control. I come from a fecund line of women, so it took less than three months: I was pregnant by 19. I had always wanted children–pious pressure or not–so I was very happy to have conceived.

I was also over 2,200 miles away from family, specifically from my mother. All the prodding and poking that goes on with pregnancy checkups began to chip away at my temple-garment-clad modesty. I had no one there to whine to, which was good, though I missed having anyone to share the joys and indignities of obstetrics. In spite of the normal nausea, it was a great pregnancy. I was one of those obnoxious women who "glowed."

I repeat, it was 1979.
I woke up at 7am on Sunday, February 25th, 1979. As I lay in my waterbed (see 1979 reference) I felt leakage which I was sure was the next stage of pregnancy humiliation: incontinence. Great. My baby had been due three days earlier and I was impatient; the week before I'd shoveled snow and did some light jogging. I got up to pee before I, ironically, flooded the bed and realized that the cervical plug (colloquially: bloody show) had come out. I called my mother on Long Island and told her she was going to become a grandmother that day. I showered, then sat down to a big pancake breakfast, against prevailing medical advice. I was about to do some damned hard work and I thought having some nutrients in me would help. I was right. And I was pretty sure I wouldn't throw up but that wasn't going to be my cleanup problem.

You don't know what to expect, right? I believed I had a high pain tolerance but who knew how much pain I could bear? Still, I was determined to do this naturally. The hospital had a new birthing room. So new that they hadn't established policies and procedures. That becomes significant later. My doctor was an old codger but he'd gone along with my natural childbirth notions, in spite of his skepticism. I was laboring in the birthing room and, yes, I was scared. There was no way for me to have known that what was coming was a relatively short first labor (7-1/2 hours), but most of it hard. I was doing my Lamaze concentrating and breathing but every once in a while, I thrashed from the pain. Dave was completely out of his element, just trying to stay in the room...which was part of the deal: you get to enjoy conception, you get to be there for delivery. End of discussion.

Not knowing I was in transition (almost completely dilated), the birthing room nurse suggested a shot of Demerol and I said yes in a haze of pain. (It hit me after the whole thing was over, sitting on side of the bed, famished, with a chocolate chip cookie in my hand.) Then she checked and said the baby's heart rate was elevated and that I'd need to go to a regular delivery room. They put me in a wheelchair.

Let me repeat that.

They folded up my late-labor, contraction-occupied body and sat me in a wheelchair. 

Holy shit. Policy and procedures would remedy this in the future.

They wheeled me down to labor and delivery and into a standard bed when a more experienced nurse said, "This is normal head compression–do you want to deliver here or go back to the birthing room?" "Birthing room," I managed to say and here's where modesty and I part ways–pretty much forever. As I'm being wheeled on a gurney from one end of the ward to another, there is only a sheet between my splayed legs and the busy hallway. A sheet and my urge to push. So there I am, moving down the hall and I could give a shit less if there was no sheet. I'm getting this baby out of me, propriety be damned.

Back in the birthing room, the now irritated nurse had just finished changing those sheets. Well, that was a waste, wasn't it? Another nurse tells me that I need to stop pushing because the doctor wasn't there yet. Well, you'd better get your catcher's mitt on honey, I thought, because I have no more control over this than I do the tide. The doctor showed up in the nick of time ready to do the episiotomy (an incision in the perineum and vagina to allow for an easier birth and ostensibly less tearing). I reminded him that I wanted to try and do this without the episiotomy because it would mean one less thing to heal up from post-partum. He skeptically agreed to coach me through the pushing and he did. The greatest relief I had ever known was pushing that baby's head out of me (I had nothing but the smallest tear that healed up in less than a week, as a bonus).

I come from a family of all girls. My father's clear and obvious wish was for a son. Somehow I knew I would surely have a daughter. When the baby was born and the doctor said it was a boy, I was surprised and delighted. My parents were over the moon. Recognizing their patriarchal bullshit preference did not reduce my joy one iota. I had a perfect 6-1/2 lb baby boy. My cup overflowed. Figuratively. The real overflow would come in three days when the Niagra Falls of milk came in.

I was allowed to leave the hospital at 10 pm that night. I'd been there for 10 or 11 hours. This is where the policies or procedures would also change. I was happy to go home and especially happy for the incredibly thrifty hospital bill but it would be ages before I got a full night's sleep, I could have used one that night.

In the middle of that first night I tiptoed over to my sleeping newborn. I remember that he was tiny, blue terrycloth-clad and lit by moonlight. I was awed and somewhat mystified by his being. I gently poked him to make sure he was real. I wondered if all mothers looked at their newborn in this surreal light. I had that clichéd but true feeling: How could I ever have another child? My heart would burst from doubling this amount of love.

compatible contradiction

There are no gradients without the gray.
I used blame fanatic Christianity for my fascination with black and white viewpoints but I suspect much of this is connected to my personality as well.

The first 21 years of my life were awash in Righteousness vs. Sinfulness. Everything needed to drop neatly into one of those ballot boxes. The more I learned, the more I needed a place for all the (beautiful) shades of Pantone Gray in between.

The next couple of decades were about learning to gather up the opposites and, if not embrace them, then, live harmoniously with them. For example, learning to equate goodness without Christianity's (or any other belief system's) dictates; learning to accept unanswerable questions (like death) without living in constant anxiety. Maybe it was learning to live happily without the Great and Powerful Wizard of OZ to provide all the answers. I drank, smoked a little weed and discovered whole new facets of my sexuality. All this alongside my very normal-looking life as mother, homeowner, spouse and student. It sounds so easy. So common sensible, doesn't it? But I had to uproot a powerful structure and rebuild it. It was like breaking down one of the rat maze walls and finding freedom. Exhilarating and scary. I questioned everything I'd been taught–gathered up the stuff I wanted to keep and threw the rest away. Even my notions of monogamy.

Ah, something I rarely talk about on this odd little public diary.

Goddammit, wish I'd have thought of this.
It was not initially my idea. After 3 years of marriage and talking about alternative ideas of love and sex, my husband asked me for an open marriage. I was 21 and, at first, it broke my heart. I was pretty sure that this was another way of saying, I want to fuck around but still want to come home to wifey. Well, that may have been true. But I was and am a woman who cannot tolerate theory and action to be too far apart. Intellectually, I agreed. I had married as chaste as anyone I knew. My experience was limited and perhaps there were other issues that I would do well to explore. So I agreed.

I will not share the gory details (your disappointment is palpable...if you know me, you know you can ask me anything in real life) but the whole thing was an exercise in the unexpected. For the most part, I had a field day and he did not. Never expected so many offers. Never expected to enjoy such decadence. It was not, predictably, good for the marriage. But I argue, and strenuously, that the damage done was more about the crumbling foundation than the non-monogamy, which just hastened the inevitable.

So. The experiment with polyamory was not an orgy of evil. It was messy. And fun. And a bit dangerous. And I liked it. It was also pretty clear that living that life for extended periods was exhausting; and had the same potential as any relationship for devolving into the mundane. At the same time, it offered a solution to an age-old problem. When I began my second marriage–a marriage with a strong foundation and a lot more trust–I made it clear that I had seen too many great marriages collapse under monogamy's unnatural tyranny. After 5-10-15 years of connubial contentment, the urge/attraction for someone else was normal. And shouldn't mean you have to lose everything. She agreed. In theory. And then, it turned out, in practice.

This makes folks very uncomfortable. I understand. It's scary and unpredictable. Of course, it was hard at times. Just because you're not cheating (all the cards are on the table) doesn't mean that jealousy and insecurity can't run riot. We talked, we modified, we dabbled. We had tremendous fun and it brought us closer. After the 3-Month Glaze of Stupid passes in each new relationship, you see how great your primary relationship really is.

Can you really be in love with your partner and deeply attracted to someone else without losing that love? Yes, you can. Is acting on it recommended? Most of the time, is as exhausting as it is exhilarating. Regrets? Very few. Moral qualms? None. Is monogamy natural? I don't think so. Is it practical? Yes, it is.

How is that for embracing the contradictions?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

touché, productivity nazi

"It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: 'Busy!' 'So busy.' 'Crazy busy.' It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint."
My wise and well-missed friend, Rich, posted this New York Times article The ‘Busy’ Trap by Tim Kreider to the ubiquitous facebook. Like he was reading my mind (or my blog).
"Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets."
Self imposed and unexamined busyness. The Importance of What I Do. The Meaning Endless Meetings provide.
"The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment." 
This busyness I've recently become immersed in is a mindset that is fundamentally false, a "boast disguised as a complaint." I guess I am not so self-aware that I don't need to be reminded of simple, common-sense things. Thank you.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


What is it that we recall as our best memories? A triumphant moment? Crossing the finish line, erecting the building, reaching the top of the tower? Or lying in bed on a lazy Saturday morning, tangled up in the sheets and sleepy happy? Or having a mundane moment transformed into something magical like when a child takes its first step or reads aloud for the first time?

It's not healthy to devalue the lazy Saturday mornings. As if allowing such unproductive bliss distracts me from the arduous climb to the summit. Arduous being the operative attitude word.

I'm going to take my meandering, unfocused, stopping-to-smell-the-roses-with-a-grimace self to bed now.

Monday, June 25, 2012

trusims are sometimes lies

In the category of "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" I'd like to present exception #398:

Sunday, June 24, 2012


This isn't about sorrow, it's about being emptied.

The workweek began with the sudden resignation of a valued coworker. Then ended with a day full of (mostly good) schmoozing. It left me drained. Friday night I had food poisoning or a stomach flu and, well, that resulted in 24 hours of emptying.

We worked in the garage this morning for two hours (heat index: 102° today) clearing, organizing and discarding. Then, we went to a baseball game–which is not exhausting for me because I don't pay enough attention to get exhausted but it was with St. Barbara's company and there was a bit more "being on." Don't get me wrong, I like the socializing. It's just always more work than it seems.

We ran into an old friend, which was fun. But then found out that her partner had passed away a year ago of Alzheimers and Parkinsons. A traumatic amping up of a traumatic experience. A new and delightful neighbor came by to say her lung cancer had metastasized to her brain, she has 18 months to live. But so full of life and devoid of pity! She is wonderful and inspiring. My daughter and I had an overdue talk. A healing, clarifying talk. Hard work and relief.

Over the past two weeks my father had surgery twice. First, exploratory to find out what was causing pain and blockage in his bladder. I was steadying myself for the bad news: a recurrence of his cancer. But it wasn't. The second (stent) operation was not successful but they're going to try again in two days. He is on pain killers and speaking to him on the phone today was like talking to a half asleep version of my father...hard and disconcerting. But he doesn't have cancer and that is amazing.

And this isn't all of it but you get the gist. So much emotion, so much energy, so much everything. Empty. Not depressed, not elated, just whoosh.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Like many government-supported organizations, the university has buildings dedicated to Students with Disabilities, Student Health Services, etc. Walking past the Affirmative Action building last week I suddenly realized that it was beige.

Monday, June 18, 2012


On the university's fb page our social media person asked the question,
Can you name one book that changed your life?

The comments contained lots of good books (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Sister Carrie, Lord of the Flies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Fahrenheit 451, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, etc.), some lame (Alchemist) and most predictably, many listed The Bible (often capitalized BIBLE, in case we missed their piety).

The Bible changed their lives? Liars! Fucking liars. Most of them wouldn't get through a book as convoluted and boring as the Bible without all the pious pressure. What they understand about the Bible is the predigested, completely bullshit version fed to them from the pulpit and vacation Bible school. The Bible itself is full of begats and incest and murder...which should make it somewhat interesting but in fact, does not. It's a poorly told story, choppy and inconsistent. Not to mention offensive and violent and anti-women and pro-slaves, etc. ad nauseum. The Bible changed your lives? Drone-brains.

language (f)arts

I should make this a regular blog feature: Mangled expressions...quite possibly my favorite serendipitous experience. I posted this on the fb today:

Public service announcement:
You "flesh out" ideas. You "flush out" toxins.
Use it in a sentence? I'd love to!:
"Colonics or Juicing? I'm trying to flesh out a way to flush out my system"
Then, today I heard "Money was not an object."
I thought, well, actually money is an object.
Perhaps you meant to say, "Money was no object."?

Everyone has to figure out how not to go stark-raving mad in meetings, this is my way.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

fallow build-up

Sometimes you just have to loaf around on the weekend until your energies are replenished. But sometimes loafing around just leads to more loafing around. Didn't feel like I got shit done on Friday.

Saturday I went food shopping (truly should get some kind of bonus for facing the grocery store each week) and closed my Chase account. (It was time to put my money where my politics were, so it's the inconvenience of my local credit union for now on. Seriously, I was so glad to get that done.) But I still felt like I was swimming against the current the rest of Saturday.

Then, this morning I got up before 7am, cut my hair and cooked 7 days worth of meals before heading over to a friend's house for dinner.

The best metaphor is either laying fallow or letting the pressure cooker build up steam...I don't know. All I know is that I kicked some middle-aged ass to day and boy am I tired.

Friday, June 15, 2012

cruppers and glue

crup this
A passage from Nightwood by Djuna Barnes. Matthew is sick of his friends and their well-nurtured sorrows. He is sick and contemplating death:
"To all kinds of ends I'll come. Ah, yes, with a crupper of maiden's hair to keep my soul in place and in my vanguard a dove especially feathered to keep to my wind, as I ride that grim horse with ample glue in every hoof to post up my deeds when I'm dropped in and sealed with earth."
(A crupper is a strap attached to a saddle that loops under a horse's tail to keep the saddle in place. It does not look very comfortable from the horse's point of view.)

How I love the metaphor of riding "that grim horse with ample glue in every hoof to post up my deeds..."

reluctant, accidental farming

There are many tricks you can use to "con" yourself into doing things that you know are wise but that you're less than excited about doing. You know, putting the alarm clock across the room so you get to work on time, picturing your arteries full of congealed bacon grease as you reach for an eclair, etc.

It has been long established in my little world that I am happiest indoors. Don't like the extreme heat/cold, bugs or being on my knees in the dirt. Wish I did, I'd be a better Renaissance woman, well-respected lesbian and more smug liberal. I like to say that I was waiting in line for Sarcasm, Hair and Belly-laughs when the Metabolism and Outdoorsy counters ran out of supplies. I have really good hair though.

One trick I use to force myself to be more "earthy" is to tap into my obsession with not wasting anything. Not putting stuff in the landfills that has practical use. So, I compost. No interest in gardening, just want to make great smelling, rich, loamy compost out of all the discards from the kitchen. Eventually, I ended up with lots of compost and no urge to garden.

Exhibit 1
Enter Drought. One of the worst droughts in recorded Houston history. Houston, a name synonymous with dampness. Anyway, the drought killed the long-suffering and sturdy azaleas in our front beds. It was sad but you know, que sera sera and all that shit. We decided to take our Red Flyer wagon-loads of compost and dump them in the now naked beds. We churned and stirred and walked away.

And then, like some time-sped-up, National Geographic miracle movie I went out there today and saw Exhibit 1. Call me crazy but that is some reluctant, accidental gardening right there. Those unnamed plants, my fellow Americans are a mystery to me. I have no idea which meal byproduct(s) over the past year have contributed to the farm but we're going to have more of them, whether I like it or not.

Ron and Mandragora.
Joe is convinced we're going to pull up something mutated and Harry Potteresque. Which is highly possible. What worries me more than anything is the sudden urge to protect the farm. I found myself daydreaming about a sun screen for the tender little things when I know full and damn well I'm going to forget about them. Forget and find their brown, shriveled up bodies next week in a wave of guilt and irritation. If they actually screamed when they were thirsty I'd remember to take care of them. I should cultivate Mandrakes instead.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

magi, musketeers, marx

The sweet one in the middle is St. Barbara.
One of my (and our) best friends moved in with us about 7 months ago. Joe and I went to design school together and he has known me even longer than St. Barbara. It might not be apparent on first blush (just an expression, we are both too..."whorish" is bit overkill...perhaps "experienced" for anything so coy as blushing) but that beautiful man is gayer than a tap-dancer in short-shorts and a hat full of fruit. So, I'm kinda in show-tune hell, people (read: constantly entertained and delighted).

It's so odd to think of the handful of people in this world with whom I could peaceably reside, I am currently living with two of them. We compost, crossword and cook together. We three are so oddly contented.This is how weird, fenced-off compounds get started. I'm building a root cellar and a bomb shelter this weekend.

Monday, June 11, 2012

un-fan devotion

The late Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens' last public appearance was in Houston at the Texas Freethought Convention. I was fortunate enough to see him. Among the brilliant and poignant moments were his comments on how letters from people who had read his books or heard him speak meant so much to him. He encouraged everyone to write letters to those who had made an impression on them. That such an acerbic man was touched by the words of people who liked or respected him surprised me.

The up-very-late Tom Waits
I have thought about this a lot in the past six months since his death. My history of fanatical belief has given me a trigger reaction to fandom. I find most "fan" behavior obnoxious ("too close to 'fanatics,'" she said snootily). I don't worship anyone. I am not in awe of anyone who has not done something...well, awe-inspiring.

Tom Waits is awe-inspiring. Because his lyrics and music are blindingly colorful or painfully desaturated. Because he doesn't get comfortable and predictable. Because he makes me laugh hard. Because he keeps banging shit around and doesn't tour unless he goddamn wants to.

So here is the letter I sent to Tom Waits. One of my all-time favorite famous people.

­­June 2012
Dear Tom Waits,

Your lyrics and music have made me belly-laugh. Have cemented the bond with my children. Have made my happiness and sorrow richer. Your characters have been perfect company when I felt like an outcast. Your love songs have shone a light on the complicated, deep and imperfectly perfect love I have for my partner. I love the graininess of your songs. I love the clarity and cloudiness. I love how the dotted line from crotch to brain, intersecting the heart, is fed by your music.

Thank you, thank you.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

daughter bride

Every other image of love or marriage or weddings seemed kind of boring/traditional.
Six months ago my daughter got engaged. Why so long to report? Partly because I've let Facebook suck away my writing time. Partly because I feel her sense of privacy and my enthusiasm should not sit too close to each other on the bus. To say that I'm thrilled with this match is no exaggeration. She is a-fucking-mazing and funny and complicated. He is worthy of her–I can give no higher compliment.

They have set the date. It's just under 5 months away. They have the location for the wedding (Rothko Chapel...wonderful). One of my wedding gifts to her is to contain myself while she doesn't worry about the details. This gift will get a little less pristine as the date draws near, I'm afraid. But it's not getting opened.

image source

Thursday, June 07, 2012

lethal cake

A cake I made for one of the people I supervise at work. It was ridiculously rich and delicious. Contains three cake recipes (2 layer-15" diam cake pan) and more butter than is good for a person.

Oh, yeah. The honoree's name started with W. Clearly, this has no connection to the former president. He will never get a cake from me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

love and contempt

Have you ever really liked/loved someone for whom, within a short span of time, you feel intense dislike and revulsion for? And those feelings ping-pong back and forth regularly? It's not so hard to imagine academically but in reality, I can't seem to get my head wrapped around the dichotomy.

On another note, I am in the middle of Reading Lolita in Tehran. It's hard to see the rise of religious zealotry in this country and not feel a shiver of deja vu when you read about the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Couldn't happen here, you think? You should read this woman's utter disbelief that this could happen in her country. And watch her slowly accept the morality squads' erosion of civil liberties. Especially for women. Accepted is the wrong word. Resigned is more like it. Because she understands that rebellion could mean death.

With that little pick-me-up, I'm going back to baking a cake for my coworkers...

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

almost forgot

I just realized that I'd forgotten to mention that three months ago I got a job!
It had been 11 months since I'd been laid off, though I'd worked freelance and contract during much of that time. After the bliss of not being permanently employed, I had some trepidation about the whole full-time job re-entry. But it's great. I'm a goddamned Art Director at my alma mater! It's full of challenges and I have to wear business drag but I like the people and the university is something I can get behind. I really love this job.

welcome, whatsyourname

I went to the Welcome Center at the University today to do some research for a project. The woman at the desk was, true to her calling, very welcoming. I asked her a question and she didn't know (it's not called the Answer Center, after all) and she decided to call someone to help me.
She asked my name and let's say I said,

"No, Epiphenita."
"Yes. Alicia."

Monday, June 04, 2012


What triggers anger? Fear? Arrogance? Impotence? My anger is a rich blend of all three and something deeper and more primal. No, it's more about my inner child. My history.

Many smart, capable female friends have been posting on Facebook about getting old. And fat. And not being pretty. I see decades of creativity sucked dry by bullshit. And I got angry.

"Why do you waste your energy puling about aging? All you have is time and you're pissing it away. There's a million more fascinating, enriching and amusing things to do out there than moan than something you can't change. I am 53. I don't give a rat's ass about getting older. Get on with your lives and stop this ridiculous, first-world whiny shit.
You are smart and I love you but you are wasting your precious time. The End."
It probably won't make a bit of difference and I'll offend people and make them defensive. I should just block them so I don't have to read it. 

Who do I think I am, telling people that they're full of shit? 
Who do I think I am, telling them I know better than they do? 

This goes back to power. And balance and imbalance. 

Do I have the right? 
Do I have the obligation? 
Do I see clearly?

Well, I guess I think I do. I think I have the right and obligation to say that the Emperor is stark naked. I am pretty sure, however, that it falls on deaf ears and I want to be okay with exorcising cultural demons even if it seems I'm the only one witnessing the act.

Sunday, June 03, 2012


I've been thinking a lot about leadership.
About the balance between being strong and ruthless.
About the balance between being über egalitarian and ineffectual.
Of course, it doesn't have to be one or the other.
But it is rarely clearly, cleanly one or the other.

As a woman, claiming power is the sound of cymbals crashing in my head.
At once, invigorating and terrifying.
I jump up in excitement and recoil.
Such figurative schizophrenia makes me angry.
But anger is a stupid response because this is about balance.
Which is never simple and never clear.
Even for men. I don't know.
I've been thinking a lot about leadership.

Monday, February 20, 2012

my response to the marriage project

A writer by the name of Jill Malone asked for people to respond to her version of the Marriage Project. This is what she said:

"Would you consider submitting to me your reasons for supporting marriage equality? Your sexuality is beside the point, as is mine, so I welcome support from my queer community and our straight allies. Write why you chose to marry, or why you would marry, or why you believe in marriage, or why you’re not into marriage but think marriage equality is still vital. Write whatever you feel compelled to write."
Here is what I have to say on the subject:

I am a naturalized Texan. A damn Yankee who found her home and heart in the most unlikely of places: Houston, Texas. Nearly 1,700 miles from my Long Island birth and worlds away from the culture(s) I was raised in.

The first time I heard Blanche Dubois' liquid lilt, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," I was sure I would never understand such helplessness. I am decidedly not a southern belle, geographic choice notwithstanding.

But my lack of legal standing does just that--it makes me depend on the kindness of strangers. Something that is only sweet and charming in fiction, if there. I had to depend upon the kindness of strangers when the love of my life had a partial mastectomy and I had no legal standing that would allow me to sit with her in recovery. I touched her face as she came in and out of consciousness, sharply aware of how tenuous that moment was. We have all sorts of legal paperwork "stop-gap" solutions but ultimately, if our relationship is not legally recognized, we are terribly vulnerable to the prejudice or ignorance of the people in power around us.

I can't imagine our world operating on the kindness of strangers, though I believe most strangers are essentially kind. We learned as a nation that it was not enough to think: Well, no one would make small children work in factories! Everyone would agree that it's in society's best interest to protect and educate the children! Just pitch in. Taxes should be paid on the honor system and divorces granted fair and equitably without any legislation! We learned that it was not enough because it didn't work. I'm not interested in arguing libertarian views here. If we were all motivated to help the poor, build new roads and follow a universal code of ethics, we wouldn't have had the disastrous stories that prompted laws governing fairness and equity.

My beloved on the left and me and my snark on the right.
Protesting the idiocy that was/is Prop 8.
So I want to legally marry this woman with whom I have shared 25 years of marriage. Raising children, buying a home, developing careers, paying taxes, and all the other blissful and mundane things that marriage entails. All that and the incredible happiness and occasional grief that weave through most of our lives. But as far as my state and country are concerned, we are just two unrelated people who bought a house together.  If the police come to our door because of a crime or emergency, I must depend on their sense of fairness when it comes to letting us ride together in an ambulance. I must hope that their sensitivity and diversity training had taught them to respect our relationship. But we are not guaranteed anything because our "relationship" doesn't exist within the legal world.

I do not swoon and go limp when people ask me why I think I should have the right to marry...hoping for their kind support. I'm not interested in kindness or generosity or tolerance. I am interested in my rights. I am interested in equality.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

perpetual idiocy rules

Let's face it: facebook sucks the life out of blogging. But here I am because facebook also provides endless fodder for blogging. (If one has time/energy left after logging off.)

A friend posted the tripe above. She, like a million other women, view this as the romantic ideal.

It's not.
It is patronizing, controlling and offensive. Insulting to both men and women.

Let's take it apart (without the stupid title caps and random punctuation crapulence), shall we?:
When she pulls away, pull her back.
Oh dear. How much like "when she says no she really means yes" is this? By all means, pull her back against her will; just hope her left jab isn't better than yours.

When you see her start crying, just hold her and don't say a word.
Because you are an imbecile and couldn't possibly figure out how to ask her what is the matter. And if you speak, you'll just fuck everything up.

When you see her walking, sneak up and hug her waist from behind.
Whatever. If she hates surprises, wear protection.

When she's scared, protect her.
Because everyone knows that women dissolve into little piles of scented hankies when they're scared.

When she steals your favorite hoodie, let her wear it.
She's just a cutesy little klepto-muffin and isn't that adorable?

When she says that she loves you, she really does mean it.
And you couldn't possibly assess that based on your own observation, right?

When she grabs at your hands, hold hers and play with her fingers.
Seriously. Stop that.

When she tells you a secret, keep it safe and untold.
As opposed to what you normally do when someone confides in you.
When she looks at you in your eyes, don't look away until she does.
Nothing more romantic than a staring contest.

When she's mad, hug her tight and don't let go.
Unless she's armed. In which case, really don't let her go.

When she says she's okay, don't believe it.
Sigh. Really? Try to forget middle school.

Treat her like she's all that matters to you.
Every woman's dream guy is the obsessed stalker.

Kiss her in the pouring rain.

When she runs up to you crying, the first thing you say is: "Whose butt am I kicking, baby?"
Even if she's genuinely upset about something of merit, threatening bloodshed will make it all better.
Men and women will not break worn out and limiting patterns until they recognize this as just imbecilic role-playing.