The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Thursday, December 27, 2012


After all, in this society, if something isn't for sale, it might as well not exist -- and it's almost impossible to think of anything to do with something of value besides market it.
-Days of War, Nights of Love-

I spent the better part of a week in meetings. Meetings to discuss marketing of a book that I haven't finished yet. Meetings to discuss the possible business options that could be launched from the sucessfull marketing of said unfinished book.

I spoke with some brilliant up-and-coming businesspeople and with some brilliant established businesspeople. All were very excited about what could be if we marketed correctly. All had great advice how to make some serious money off of my ideas.

The problem is that I don't want to write a book that makes serious money (I mean, I'm not opposed to writing a commercially successful book, but that is not the main reason I write). I want to write a book that makes me a serious writer. I want respect from my writing peers. I want my readers to change how they see the world because my writing is that strong. 

Not because I sold a bazillion copies.

I want my name mentioned alongside other great and successful writers because I made something of quality that stands up against other authors of equal quality: "Oh her? She and Neil Gaiman are my favorite authors" or "Did you read that article in the New Yorker about her and Rebeccah Solnit? Aren't they just amazing with how they express sense of place?"

The thing is, just like one businessguy said, I could (with help) manipulate the system and write something that catches attention for a second before quickly falling into the deep well of conscious oblivion.

I could. I know the formula. I now know the people who could push it through.

I just wouldn't be happy. I wouldn't be able to stand behind what I wrote. I would hate my writing because it represented a part of me that I never want to give primacy. That part which is greedy. That part that equates success with money and popularity. That part which thinks fulfillment, joy, and peace can be bought and sold. That part which isn't creative; it is mechanical, rote.

I hate that that part of me even exists. I hate that, no matter how much I protest, the quote I put at the beginning of this post is true for me. I hate that often when I write, I can't think of it as anything but something that is publishable. As if getting published will actually validate anything I do.

I want to re-vision my work. I want a paradigm shift in how I value what I create.

I know from my week of meetings, that society is not about to support such a change in vision.  If I am to see my work differently, I need to see the world differently.

Such a change in perception does not come easily. Nor is it a light matter to value things that the rest of society does not. But if I am to have integrity and peace in my life - if I am to do true good and write truly - I must not falter because others so easily see a way to sell that ultimately twists my work into a deformed - yet commercially viable - monster.

Naïve as it is, I must create true things. Regardless if they are considered valuable by others.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Night Date

Me, eight-year-old, root beer, wine, mac-n-cheese with complimentary peas, kimchee cauliflower, popcorn, and the Duke.

Right about perfect.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Long-Haired Hippie People

Since we've moved back to San Diego, my son has experienced a significant number of people's mistaking him for a girl. Granted, he does have beautiful long blond hair that any girl--nay woman--would kill for, but it seems odd that we've never encountered this
phenomenon before in Monterey. Did his hair hit a critical length that screams feminine despite his Star Wars shirts and dirty jeans? I wonder if people look at him and think what I think about Shiloh Pitt: "that poor little girl whose parents force her to wear boys' clothes."

I will miss this so much when he decides to cut it.
I love my son's long hair. I think it fits his vibrant personality. I think it makes him so much more him. When we cut his hair (and yes, we do cut it), he loses a teeny tiny bit of that devilish spark that I love so much. A small part of the twinkle goes out of his eye.
But despite my obvious bias, he also has another influential adult in his life who is not in love with long hair: his father. And together, my husband and I decided that my son gets to decide how he wants his hair. Sometimes he likes it shaved close like Daddy. Sometimes he gets a little boy cut. Sometimes he grows it out. We always remain open to when he wants to change his hair, saving our "Do What We Want Because We Are Your Parents" card for something a bit more important--like that neck tattoo.

Still, I like to reiterate to my son from time to time that he does have the option to cut his hair. Especially because I am so vocal on loving it long and didn't want him to think he should keep it long even if he was uncomfortable about being thought of as a girl. So, after about the 47th "oh your little girl is so cute" comment, I asked him if he wanted to cut his hair and if he was bothered by people's mistaking him for a little girl.

"No," he said, sounding almost puzzled. "I know that I'm a boy. I don't care what they say."

"Besides," he continued. "I want to grow it out to here," playing his hand on his lower back, "so that I can cut it to celebrate my century."

"Your century?" Had he taken some weird Nazarite vow to never cut his hair until he was 100 years old? Even I was a little put off by hair grown out that long.

"Yeah, you know, when I turn ten."

"Oh, your decade."

"Yes, my decade. I'm going to grow it out until my decade and then it'll be long enough to donate."

And this was the point that I shut my mouth. At my son's age, if I had been mistaken for the opposite sex, I would have been devastated. Here my kid is intentionally growing out his hair so that he can donate it to some other kid who doesn't have any.

I'll admit I was a little bit bummed.

Despite my big talk of its being his decision, I thought he was growing it long because I liked it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kids Will Out You

*I wrote this blog two months ago and have been meaning to post it; however, between travel and moving and generally being a stressed-out mess, I just don't have any time. Oh, and I still can't get blogger for my iPad to do the font and size I want, so I have to wait until I am on a real computer to do that. And who has real computers these days?*

I have new neighbors.

When they first moved in, I was really excited because they have boys my son's age. I thought it would be awesome for there to be normal boys on the block for my son to play with. I envisioned Saturdays with the boys riding their scooters on the sidewalk as the neighbor parents and I sipped beverages and chatted. Or perhaps a summer Tuesday night where my son goes over to their house to play or vice versa. It seemed like an awesome scenario.

It still does.

IF the neighbor kids had been even remotely human.

It's funny (in a sad desperate way, not actually laughable) how kids can reveal exactly the worst part of you that you never want anyone to see. Kids have no social filters. So if you are an animal who doesn't follow even the simplest conventions of human politeness in your private life, no matter how hard you try to hide it with a public face, your kids will out you.

Which sucks for everyone concerned because a) you don't want anyone to know that you are a beast and are raising wild beasts, b) those who know your kids aren't going to want to have them be around their kids, and c) now we are all faced with the awkward moments where my kid tells your kids that I told him not to play with them and now I look like the asshole.

And that is really the hardest part for me. Not because I can't handle telling my kid that he isn't allowed to play with kids who destroy houses, break toys, are disrespectful to adults, and rummage through every nook and cranny of my house. I am great at setting those boundaries. And in fact, if my son ever behaved that way, I would hope that other parents would tell their children the same exact thing. However, what I can't do is look another parent in the face and tell them their kid is a beast. [and I am not exaggerating about their beastliness: these kids are out of control like feral raccoons or opossums.]

I'm a pleaser. I want people to be happy with me and informing people that their children are not welcome in my house does not make them happy.

It's not that I really care about the neighbor mom. I sensed crazy on her the day I met her and she tried to have a homeschool-off with me (it's okay, you can win--you're more homeschooled than I am). It's that I don't want to seem mean. And because I don't want to seem mean, I am actually mean in a sneaky, underhanded way.

I tell my son to stay away from her kids. I lie to her face when she asks me if I told my son not to play with her kids. When she invites us to do stuff, I feign regretful enthusiasm because of course I would love to get together today for X but sadly we're already busy--let's make plans for another time. Then I conveniently forget to call back with my schedule. I cheerily wave from my yard when she's in hers, all the while thinking about how horrible her kids are.

I don't like this version of me. I don't like that I can't hide this version from the world because my son is still without guile and can't hide a freaking thing. I don't like that my son sees this (and know that with the law of kids, it will bite me in the ass someday). But I am a straight up coward.

It is not my fault that her boys are animals. I didn't raise them. I also know that my personal tolerance for boy behavior is pretty high, so I am not being picky. I am not the one who sends my kid over to their house right at bed time to do homework. I also don't send my child over to their house without dinner so that he asks them for food. Nor does my child borrow scooters from them and then leave them lying in front of the garage door of the other (childless) neighbor (begging to be run over). Nor do I forget that I even borrowed those scooters and fail to apologize when they disappear from my yard.

I am not the one who initially behaved badly. And I shouldn't feel guilty about calling her out for her children's bad behavior. If she wanted to hide her crazy, she shouldn't have had kids.

However, I am the one behaving badly when I resort to passive aggressive behavior instead of direct conversation. I am the one behaving badly when I can write an 800-word blog about her terrible children while she sits two houses down and thinks that we are fine. I am the one behaving badly when I force my child to be sneaky-mean just like I am being.

In many ways, I am also being outed. My not-so nice nature is coming to the front because of my son's interactions with others. All the crazy that I want hidden is on display.

I knew I shouldn't have bred.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Not So Much Like Running As Like

I haven't complained about running as much as I thought I would during my "training" for the HelMarathon (my pet name for the Helsinki Marathon). One of the reasons is that you actually have to consistently blog to be able to complain often. But the bigger part is that I really am like a broken record--I interact with running the same way over and over and over again: this sucks, this sucks, this sucks, this sucks.

Which doesn't really make interesting or varied reading. I've learned--but have yet to put into practice--that when you are thinking the same thing again and again, it is best to just say nothing (except when complaining about how freaking cold it is in Monterey: that never gets old).

As the HelMarathon looms ever closer, I have noticed a new-ish frustration with my training in the past few weeks: I feel like a constant running failure. And leave almost every run with a sense that I accomplished nothing except wussing out of what I really was supposed to do. Which was run. Which I did. But somehow no run is good enough to make me feel as if I actually succeeded.

Case in point: the other day, I was doing "speed" work (very laughable considering my "speed" pace is most people's jog pace). The goal was four miles, alternating a mile at a moderate pace with a mile at my speed pace.

The first mile went fine; the right music, my feet pounding the treadmill at an awkward and heavy thunk thunk thunk. The second mile (the first "speed" mile) was okay; again, perfect music, treadmill satisfyingly shimmying at my increased pace of thunkthunk thunkthunk thunkthunk. The third mile was fine; back to moderate, music tempo slowed, quick suck of water and wipe of towel.

Then that final mile. The final mile that was supposed to be my last speed mile. The thing was, after only three miles, I was tired. My feet dangerously shuffling on the treadmill. Towel shifting precariously close to falling off and being whooshed under my feet.
I just couldn't do it. I managed 0.7 miles at my "speed" pace before having to slow down to moderate and finish that final 0.3 miles. Was I stoked that I pushed myself until I was legitimately tired (the whole point of speed training)? No, instead all I felt was how lame I was that I couldn't do that final 0.3 miles at a fast pace.

I have a few people in my life who are legitimate runners. And they point out that it is important for a runner to set realistic goals--that failing to hit a goal on a run can be super damaging to the runner's training psyche. And I get that. But when you are me, what is a realistic goal? Frankly, it should be to not run at all and then everyday that I do is like a Christmas miracle.

However, that realistic goal of not running is not practical when you want to run a marathon. As I am told over and over again, I have to put feet to pavement and do it often.

Further, while my body agrees that not running is a realistic goal, my mind cannot accept that fact. I know that I am slow. I know that I experience a level of pain from "high" mileage that many runners don't. I know that I do not enjoy this activity. But my mind keeps insisting that since I've been doing it more or less consistently since 2009, all of the things I know should have changed.

My body should have caught up to my perception: it's ONLY four miles. It seems so short to my mind, yet to my body, those four miles can seem like a marathon in themselves.

The first marathon I trained for was rough but I gave my mind various excuses that it seemed to accept. Excuses like, "you haven't run before. Ever." Or "you've just had major surgery where they removed massive amounts of metal from your foot." Or "you regularly experience intense pain from said foot and don't sleep." All valid reasons for sucking at running.

All reasons my mind reminds me that I no longer have.

Well, yes, there is still the pain but it is so much less that I don't even think it is worth mentioning (except that I just did). But I am no longer new to running. My body is relatively used to it. I can knock out four miles (at snail pace) without too much fanfare. My foot is strong. I know my body's limits and likes. But I still suck at running.

So I feel like a failure.

I can't run fast enough or far enough or with enough enjoyment to feel as if I were a true runner. In every run, my body reaches a point where it says to my mind, "Enough you sadist. We are going home to drink beer." And my little sadomasochist mind can't make my body change. If it isn't fudging on distance (such as in the speed training mentioned above), it is fudging on pace where my body gets slower and sloower and sloooower while my mind rails at it.

Really, my mind has it easy. It isn't the one who has to actual put feet to pavement. It gets to listen to NPR podcasts while it rests, nestled in its cerebral fluid. So it really shouldn't get much of a say in how my body acts.

But my mind has the biggest mouth, ever. So when it screams at my body and tells it what a failure I am, my body can't hear anything else.

My body isn't asking much. It really doesn't even care all that much about running. It is just as happy being fit some other way that is less fraught with angst. I'm hoping that after the HelMarathon, my body will finally stand up to my mind and tell that ungrateful and lazy bitch where she can take running and stuff it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This Is How I Feel About the Pierce 2008 Cabernet

A conversation between me and my friend about two years ago when I moved from San Diego to Monterey:

Her (after tearfully hugging me goodbye): When I first met you, I couldn't stand you. You are such a weirdo. You were so superficial and silly and too opinionated about things you didn't know anything about. [This last one could be very successfully argued]

Me: I know you didn't like me.

Her: But I love you now. You've really grown and changed over the past two years.

Me: Do you think that maybe you've grown and changed a bit too?

Her: No. It's just you. I'm exactly the same.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hungry for Change

A group of friends and I decided that the week of May 7-11 (Monday-Friday) we would eat on $2/day in solidarity with hungry of world. We had heard about it from Trade as One's Hungry for Change which sells packets that help you with your challenge. The packets cost $25 and have enough beans, rice, and oatmeal that mimic the caloric intake of someone who was eating at $2/day. That $25 dollars goes to supplying a farmer in an impoverished area with enough beans to grow and sustain him and his family for a year. Further, at the end of the five days, Trade as One encouraged use to calculate exactly how much we would have spent on food this week and to donate it to an organization that helps the poor of the world.

Later, I found out that this week is also Live Below the Line's $1.50/day (USD) global fast for the world hungry. How exciting it is to think of all those out there who are also (albeit unwittingly) together with me during this time. Live Below the Line nicely has a place where you can raise money in support for your fast as well as direct links to where the money raised goes. They don't have a proscriptive diet (which I actually like better but for others could be super hard), so you are left pretty much on your own to define the rules and ways you will eat on $1.50/day. One couple scavenges from the neighborhood. Another person gets free samples from various stores. People are definitely being creative. And most are limiting themselves to a very set diet with staples that are used around the world because they are filling and inexpensive if not perfectly nutritious.

Further, in my obsession about what I was not eating, I stumbled upon a North County San Diego couple, Kerri Leonard and Christopher Greenslate, who, way back in September 2008, decided to live on $1/day for the entire month of September in order to build awareness of world hunger. Since then, they've published a book and seem to be strong advocates of eating well and also providing out of our richness for those who don't have the ability to eat well.

I love these ideas (and still do). I could totally regale you with my own personal limited-food drama (lack of variety is the hardest thing for me) or how we need to act concretely to ensure that no children starve, that no families suffer hardship and malnutrition; however, all that's being done way way better on those other sites.

My thoughts during this week (besides the obvious) focused more on how this fast was marketed (and yes, I am using that term intentionally) to us. It was promoted as a fulfilling and exciting experience that would be fun, and baring all that, "at least you'll lose some weight." Yes, I suppose that at the end of this week, I will feel fulfilled in that I will be tangibly giving something to others. Yes, I suppose that at the end of the week, I felt a sense of success that I finished something that was difficult. Sort of like finishing a marathon or something, I guess. And yes, I suppose that at the end of the week, I lost some weight (not from the eating so much as the complete lack of alcohol these five days). And I was be stoked to be more svelte--however short-lived that was. But is that why I did this?

Is it about me? What I get out of this?
Or is it about the hungry of the world?
Is it about dying to myself?

Why can't we just do this fast solely because we are doing it for others? What happened to just doing something because it is hard and we need the mindful discipline?

We are a culture of mindless ease. We are inundated constantly with a paradigm that tells us to adamantly seek our personal comfort. We eat out because that is easier than making dinner. We choose the shortest line in the checkout and don't let the old lady behind us go first. We hire people to watch our kids so that we can pursue what is more interesting to us. We pay someone to clean our house. We stream movies instantly wherever we are. We have phones that will post to Twitter for us.

I am not against babysitter or housekeepers or eating out or Twitter. In fact, I love all those things. However, in the midst of all my food "deprivation" that week, I thought about all the times I say, "I gave myself permission to" do something. As if I lead this austere and deprived life of great discipline and that permission is my only treat.

When I say that magic phrase to people, they nod sagely as in "you are so self-sacrificing normally. You work really really hard. It is good for you to indulge." But really I give myself permission to indulge so many time a week, it is no longer an indulgent activity. I could have given myself permission to end this fast. I could have still donated the money and told people that I was just not able to be a good parent or friend or wife or something because I was so calorie deprived (I won't tell them that I chose to drink my calories in the form of wine). And people would nod sagely, telling me that I did the right thing that relationships matter more than an esoteric fast.

And they are right.
Except then it's back to being about me.

We aren't good at dying to ourselves.
I am not good at dying to myself.

If everything lived up to the hype about how awesome and fulfilling an experience it will be for us, then this world would be amazing and a much better place. If life were easier, there'd be fewer of us in therapy. If living a true and considerate and loving life didn't require dying to self, there'd be more successful marriages, friendships with greater longevity, more breastfed babies.

But dying to self isn't easy. And no amount of promotional hype will trick you into feeling it is because eventually there's that long night when it is really hard and you are all alone and sweating blood and all you want to do is just give yourself permission.

What then? Do you think, "This is so fulfilling and exciting. And I bet I've lost some weight"?
Probably not.

I think that if more people were honest about how hard things can be with little to no reward, we wouldn't feel so desperate and convinced that it just doesn't work for us because everyone else is fulfilled, excited, and skinny. I think that we would have more people completing hard things that actually change the world.

Part of dying to self is getting to the courage to say "I don't want to die to self": I don't like my kid most days, I don't want to be married anymore, or I don't really care about hungry people I don't know or see, I want a big mac. With that honesty, you may be received with scorn and appalled stares. Or you may be greeted with recognition and love in someone else's eyes and they say, "Oh me too." That's when real dialog starts. That's when we do get the benefits. That's when we can operate as a community to take our focus off our individual selves and put it on others. That's when we stop giving ourselves permission and simply do. That's when we realize that living a life of hard truth does entail suffering. But it's also when we know it's worth it because in dying to self, you get to live for others.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Seeing Miracles

The other day was one of those rare rare almost-summer days when the sun actually shone, the constant sea wind calmed down, and it was warm enough to not be in long pants and a sweater. So, of course, we went to the beach. While there the quintessential family, mom-dad-little boy-little girl, arrived. It was obvious by the careful way the boy placed his feet and the squeals of delight the little girl breathlessly released when sand filled the holes in her crocs that these children had never been to the beach before.

They took their shoes off and wriggled their hips to work their feet into the warm sand while Mom discussed with Dad where exactly they should lay their blanket (the beach was fairly deserted). "Should we moved closer to the water or is this fine?" She asked; it was clear this decision was important to her. She weighted the pros and cons of being closer to the water that seemed as if she were talking to him but were really her talking to herself. Eventually, Dad shrugged his hoodie-covered shoulders and dropped the motley of brightly-painted buckets with the CVS tags still on them. That seemed to settle it, and Mom turned to the kids. "Now we're going to make a sand castle," She chirped in that high-pitched kid voice that some parents use. "First, we need to put sunscreen on." Mom pulled out a newly-purchased bottle of spray-on sunscreen and attempted to take the label off. She picked at it with her fingers, pulling, until, frustrated with the impossible packaging, began gnawing on it with her teeth, impatiently brushing the strands of brown hair that had escaped from her ponytail away from her mouth. A few bites into it to no avail, she examined the packaging again, "Oh, you just twist this. There's no plastic seal." She declared triumphantly as she eased each of her sensible sneakers off, her white legs flashing in the sun. First she sprayed her legs and wrists (she too was wearing a hoodie) and then sprayed a bit in her hand to wipe over her face. The whole time, the kids hadn't stopped marveling at the shifting capability of the sand and were still moving their feet back and forth and back and forth, making excited high-pitched huffing sounds.

Mom applied sunscreen to the kids while Dad took pictures (he didn't take his sensible sneakers off). Then, "To make a sand castle, we need to get the sand wet," chirp chirp chirp, unmindful of the ten or so other wild, sand-covered, half-naked children nearby who were happily digging a hole and exposing the water table only six inches below the dry sand. Mom's excitement bordered on the frantic. You could tell she really really wanted this to be THE beach experience. The one that they would put in the photo album and show all the people back home, "Yes, we did this. Here we are at the beach. That is the Pacific. We build a castle." She pulled the kids from marveling at the miracle of sand and gave them each a bucket. "Follow me," she gaily called and crab-ran over the loose terrain towards the water. The kids followed for a bit, each wallowing in the unfamiliar shifting ground. As a larger wave crashed on the beach, the little girl gave up and turned back to Dad who was still happily photographing away.

Mom and son fought the wash, so intent on their getting non-silty water in their buckets that they missed the thousand upon thousands sand crabs that scuttle just in the break and the dolphin pod that was moving in and out of the breaking waves. They struggled back across the sand with their buckets, dumping them so close to the towels and shoes that a few got wet. "Here, here," Mom called, pulling even smaller buckets and cups out of a bag, "Let's make a tower." She packed sand in one cup, turning it over quickly. Her release was too slow or the sand wasn't wet enough, so the tower collapsed as soon as she pulled the cup away. The kids didn't mind. They were engrossed in the contrast between the damp sand and the dry. "I'll get more water," Mom cried, desperately shaping this experience into what she thought a beach day should look like as Dad continued snapping and twenty pelicans flew overhead.

This family made me remember that I need to be intentional about seeing. That times I can get so focused on what I think an experience or place should be like that I completely miss the point.

I miss the actual miracle of that place. I can miss things because I am so familiar with them. I find that being from California, I take the beach completely for granted. Both my parents are from SoCal beach towns and made going to the beach a priority since I was very young even though we lived in the Sierras, and since I was 16-years-old, I've never lived in a town that didn't have a coast. While there is an elemental part of me that responds to and knows I need to be near that magic cusp of sand and surf--of silence and susurrate sounds--still I don't really think too much about what a miracle it is to be here. To have the blessing of living on the edge of a continent.

I can also miss out on the new experiences because I already have the photo album laid out in my head and know exactly what pictures I need to take to record this experience. I am so focused on what I think something should be that I miss the miracle of what is.

I forget to bury my feet in the warm sand and instead am rushing, pail in hand, to the wash oblivious to the dolphins surfing through the waves.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crossing the Road

Today, about twenty minutes into my stupid far run, I passed a crow pecking on the head of a baby bird.

At first I thought the bird was dead, but when the crow flew away at my approach, I saw the little one weakly move a wing. My heart was so sad for how much pain it was in, so I looked around for a rock or a heavy stick to smash its skull so that it wouldn't feel any pain. I couldn't find anything and I didn't have the willpower to kill it with my bare hands, so I kept running.

It didn't occur to me until I finished my run two hours later that I could have maybe rescued the bird. Stopped my run, picked it up, taken it somewhere where someone could have attempted to heal it.

When I ran past the place where I saw the bird, only a tiny bloody leg remained.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Train of Thought

There will be a longer post about the following, but I figured who doesn't love lists.

Things I think about when I am running:

Is is possible to drown in your own snot while running?

Why am I so slow?

That house has stupid outdoor space.

Why is that person so much faster?

I hate her (because it is always a woman who is faster. I am a sexist runner and am not bothered by fast men).

I hope she trips and horribly scrapes her knees so that she can't wear a dress for months.

How can my body hurt so much?

I love this song!

Why do my legs hate me?

Oh my gosh, I can't wait to drink beer.

Oh, look, there's that fast bitch again. I hope she gets pregnant and fat.

That house has stupid outdoor space too.

Does anyone in Monterey care about their outdoor space?

The bay is so pretty.

Oh shit, I just tripped on a stone because I was so busy looking at the bay. Stupid water.

Why do I jiggle so much?

How many more miles do I have to run before I burn enough calories to eat truffle fries?

Am I lost (the answer is usually yes)?

Can I stop yet?

Looking at this list, I see that I am a very negative runner (more accurately: yogger). No wonder for me running is not cheaper than therapy. In fact, it makes me go to more therapy. It also makes me want to key the cars of people with the stickers that read "Running: Cheaper than Therapy" or "26.2."

Screw you and your love for running.

How many times is that fast bitch going to lap me?

[Disclaimer: There will most likely be a lot of running posts in the coming months since, regrettably, that is what I am spending most of my time doing (besides drinking, but it's not P.C. to avidly post about drinking). Tolerate me.]

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Two Things

I found two things of note today. One is that I am, in fact, a mom. The other, that I have a ridiculous number of hand-me-down jeans that have or quickly develop holes in the crotch. I will address each in turn.

First, after almost a decade of doing this whole mothering thing, realizing that I am a mom came as no great shock to me. What was a bit surprising was what kind of mom I can be. You see, I pride myself in that I am the anti-mom of moms who still actually cares for and nurtures her child (as opposed to the anti-moms who inspire books like Mommie Dearest). I am the mom who keeps a notebook of my "mommy fails" and delightedly relates them to people at cocktail parties. I am the mom who takes my kid to cocktail parties and art museums and wine tastings and the opera. I am the mom who throws her kid a kegger for his first birthday and stuffs his pinata with brussel sprouts on his eight. I am the mom takes her kid mud puddle splashing in the middle of a freezing rain storm and then "hot tubs" in the bathtub with beverages (of which I insist he calls his "kinderbeer"). I am the mom who rarely does play dates because I don't easily make mommy friends, so my son spends most of his free time with adults (he begs to go to school so that he can be with other kids). But I am also the mom who makes sure my son goes to bed at 8pm pretty much every night. I am the mom who packs cut carrots and "I love you" notes in his lunch box. I am the mom who reads to my son every day. I am the mom who takes him camping and hiking and biking. I am the mom who makes him bathe and brush his teeth. I am the mom who makes sure that when we hot tub in the bathtub, we wear bathing suits because no son needs to remember what his mom looks like naked. I am the mom who has taken him to horrific and germy kid birthday parties because other kids' moms seem to think those kind of parties are fun (hoof and mouth disease, anyone?). I am the mom who has sat up all night with him when he has been sick and struggled with him to learn a particularly hard spelling word. I am the mom who has left her dinner at restaurants because he was done for the night. I am the mom who has gotten him a bounce house for the last four of his birthdays.

These moms apparently war within me. The one who wants to just treat him like a little midget friend (I mean, who doesn't love a midget?) and the other who knows that she needs to let him be a kid. While he did come into my world and I don't have to be suddenly all Thomas the Train and Super Mario Brothers, I do need to respect that he is a little growing human who has interests and needs that are developmentally appropriate (though if he doesn't stop talking about Pokemon soon, I swear . . . ). It's not about sacrificing my person hood for his but about recognizing that I have chosen a pretty big responsibility and that I can chose to either help set him up to be a pretty interesting and functioning adult (albeit with some therapy bills) or a pretty annoying and fucked up individual. I hope and work for the former, but sometimes there are days like today where I think, "Holy shit, what have I become?"

Today, I got a call from a mom of a kid in my son's class. She was panicked and asked if I could watch her kid today (To quote, "I am reaching out to you, hoping . . . " How do you turn that down?). I don't know the mom at all, but I've interacted with the kid a few times, and he seemed pretty chill and my son really likes him. So, I told her to bring the boy over (side note: where my son is a petite little guy, this boy is a giant. They would literally be standing on opposite ends of the line if they organized their class by height). Suddenly, I morphed into June Cleaver. It was raining, so the boys played video games downstairs. I blithely trotted down with fresh-popped popcorn and napkins so they wouldn't get the controllers greasy. I served them beverages (kinderbeers). I made sandwiches with sliced cucumbers and the crusts cut off for lunch and for dinner I made them homemade fried chicken with steamed broccoli. I wore an apron. I mean, who does that? I don't even like chicken (it is a filthy animal) and I've never made fried chicken before in my life. What's next? Another child? Am I about to become a breeder? I can only hope that the beer I drank before noon counters these new developments.

The second is less remarkable really and sort of fits into the whole June Cleaver channelling I was doing. I do indeed have a large number of hand-me-down jeans with awkward holes. What's even weirder is that my jeans don't come from a single source. Every hand-me-down jean I have from every different person (well, except the ones from my 25-inch waisted friend since I can't even get my big toe into those) has these holes. How are they coming into being? I have never encountered this problem before in my own pants. Is it the quality of jeans these days? Is it the fact we are now women and our thighs rub together at a certain place, creating friction wearing? I don't know. But I love used jeans. Hand-me-down jeans are really the best jeans you can ever get (seriously, nothing destroys an already fragile self-image faster than jeans shopping . . .how you can look even more out of shape and pasty with pants on than you do naked, I do not understand). What can I do? I can't just throw them away; they are so amazing. So today, I didn't. As part of my homemaker sickness, I pulled out my sewing machine and darned the crotch on all the jeans I have. I threaded bobbins, used reinforcing materials, and stitched my way into whole jeans. It was an act of renewal second only to childbirth. 

Granted these jeans do have multicolored darns in my nether areas; however, I think June Cleaver would still be proud of me. And if, after a few early beers, she wore jeans and would let you look at her lady-parts area, you might have seen a darn or two there as well.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

That Was Fun. Let's Never Do It Again

About three years ago, I ran my first marathon. I finished it. I didn't walk (that much). And most importantly, I felt good enough after it that I was able to walk, eat, and drink and enjoy the fact that I was in one of my favorite cities (I even ran a few miles the next day). Still, I knew that this marathon was going to my first and last. I couldn't understand why a person would repeatedly expose herself to such painful conditions (and these are not specific to super slow runners like me: I spoke to a friend who consistently does marathons and he admitted that even he experiences the moment of utter pain and death at some point in the marathon). There were plenty of painful things I could do in my life that would make me a stronger person that I didn't have to overtly pay for  on the internet (e.g. raising a child). And while most of these things didn't come with a kicky tee-shirt, I could alway just order one off Zazzle from The Bloggess or even better, buy a beautiful dress or muscle leggings to commemorate the non-marathon rite of passage of my choice.  So I had checked my marathon box. Been there, done that. Halfs for me from now on. I could put that annoying 26.2 sticker on my car, talk knowingly about distance training, etc . . .  

Unfortunately, I didn't fully shut and lock that door on my life. I distinctly remember telling people that I would NEVER run another marathon UNLESS it was somewhere cool and out of the country. My bad. I should have just stopped at the NEVER clause. Because for worse or worse, my lovely friend in Australia managed to get me drunk from half a world away and convince me to sign up for a marathon in Helsinki, Finland. Yes, it is definitely out of the country. And yes, it is also definitely cool--in the very literal sense. She covered both contingencies. And bought me muscle leggings to help me feel strong. 

So, apparently, I am running another marathon. And since I don't want to prolong my pain, my goals have shifted from "just finishing" to "finishing as fast as I can" (hey, there is valuable eating, walking, and drinking to do in Finland in addition to awesome death metal concerts that I must get to quickly). So I am now fully training to cut at least 30 minutes and ideally an hour off my last marathon time. Since the last marathon was super slow (5:34:??), that goal isn't too difficult. But it does require that I run more than I want to and drink less than I want to and just implement more all around discipline than I like in my life. 

At least I have muscle leggings.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I realized last week that come this time next year (if the Mayans are wrong), I don't know what my life will look like. I don't know where I will be living. I don't know what kind of work (if any) I will be doing. I don't know who my friends will be. I don't know where my son will be going to school. January of 2013 is one giant blank.

I do know that I won't be in Monterey anymore. I do know that wherever I will be, I will have been there for a few months by the start of 2013. I know that my son will be in 3rd grade. I know that I will still have all my old friends; they just may not live close enough to come over for dinner on a Tuesday night. I know that I will be doing something with my time and am considering more grad school, adjunct teaching, pouring wine, writing, or all of the above.

Since I know I will be moving this year, I am beginning to implement some measures so that a sort of infrastructure will sort of be in place wherever I may actually (not sort of) end up. This requires a bit of imagination since the world is a wide space with many and diverse places for people like me to reside. I know my son will still need to be educated, so I am applying to various schools all over the nation now. I know that I will want to do something with my time, so I am looking at various low-residency graduate programs and what the job market looks like in places around the world. I am very very busy, trying to chart the course of my life in the distant future without any real idea of where I'll end up in the short term. It's like outlining the sailing route from Hawaii to Guam, but you haven't left San Diego harbor and have no idea how you'll actually get out of the harbor much less to Hawaii.

Long-term planning without any idea of the short-term situation. This is how my adult life has always operated. This is how military life is for spouses. We bounce around from place to place and invent ourselves anew wherever we end up, using whatever happens to be lying around in that new location. There isn't a whole lot of continuity for military families. Change, change, and more change. Life is doled out in 18-month increments with giant blanks at the end of the time. We never know for sure where we'll be until we are there. I think that in "old times" (as my son says), this life wasn't so disruptive. Military families formed community with other military families. There were military supported schools for the kids; spouses served an overt support role for the family without seeking a career outside the military structure. I don't want to go back to those "old times"; I like having a life outside of the military. However, being a spouse now with outside interests and personal goals has its own set of special challenges and frustrations. Especially because you just can't plan or commit to anything that goes beyond that 18-month duty station.

I fantasize that most people don't live in a constant state of flux like this. I imagine that for most people, there is a few upheaval-type events that unexpectedly and forever alter their lives but for the most part, they get to pick and choose how and when their lives change. Intentionally is how I see others doing things. I see them examining the move to the job in Akron that has better pay. Weighing the pros and cons of such a drastic move. Then making it or not making it. The whole time knowing that they have a choice in the matter. They have options that they consider, intentionally. They settle into the neighborhood or don't, intentionally. They find a career path or don't, intentionally. They have children or don't and put them in the good schools or don't, intentionally. They save or don't, intentionally. Then they retire or don't, intentionally. They do their time in life, intentionally.

Intentionally and with some sort of agency. There are plans. Plans that can change, but mostly made with the comfort of knowing that if the plans do change, you--not random outside forces you can't control--are the ones making the changing. My imaginary people are orchestrating their lives. Not the other way around.

The other way around where life orchestrate them. Life orchestrates me. And this is where I realize that there are two sort of connected yet very different things I am addressing in this blog. One is that I move a lot and it's hard to plan life. I wish I could stop there and then end with some sort of happy message that I am going to intentionally be more intentional in my life, intending from now on to find joy and meaning and agency in the moment rather than stressing about the future. With that ending, I get to be the triumphant victim.

But then there's the other topic of this blog. I do move a lot. It is hard to plan life, but honestly, I think I often use these as excuses to just let life happen to me without really engaging in it. It's weird to realized that I have spent more than a decade doing life as it comes rather than designing and implementing a long-term plan with set goals along the way. It's also weird to realize that on the whole, I've been very successful at it. I have lots of little life boxes checked, some more than once, that on paper look as if I've been very intentional about how my life runs. However, that is a lie. If you start to line up the boxes to form a coherent picture of my life's whole, you'd see that nothing really adds up. I don't have any real marketable skills to put on a resume. I'm the overeducated, hipster, yuppie equivalent of a drifter, wandering around, working/living with whatever appears at that moment. Very little (if any) thought goes into things. I just take it as it comes and end up somewhere without a single intentional goal.

Intentionality being the key term here. I assume that when you have the ability to chose the when, the where, the how, and the why of your life's direction a lot of intentionality goes into those choices. I think I've only done one thing in my life on purpose after weighing the pros and cons. Everything else, I just sort of went with whatever life tossed at me and then later realized that I've made some pretty huge choices by accident. I am not a victim at all, triumphant or otherwise: I am someone who has chosen to let life happen to her.

I can't figure out if I should be stoked that my life has been so free. Or horrified by how little agency I've given myself in what I do and where I am.

I do know that this year I'm frustrated with it (I always thought that if I were a true drifter, I would have lived in cooler places than Pensacola, Florida). I know that I'm tired of feeling like Oedipa Maas, cool name aside, frenetically running around chasing a spector of a life with little to no effect.

However, while all these realization are all well and good, certain circumstances in my life are not about to change in the short-term (or maybe they are . . . who knows). I will not be able to make that sudden move to Akron this spring (for one, who wants to leave California for Ohio? and two, I have no job prospects there, well-paying or not). I won't be able to pick the city/state/country where I live this time around. I won't really get all that much of a say where my son goes to school if we don't end up in San Diego. I won't be starting a career this year. I will be saying goodbye (and already am this month) to some amazing friends here in Monterey.

So what can I do? How do I afford myself some agency in all this uncertainty? How do I navigate a short-term future that is devoid of content and can't necessarily be filled in until this summer (or later)?

I don't really know how to answer those questions. And even if I did, I don't think that there would be some drastic difference in the short-term with how my life looks on the outside. In fact, I don't think there would be any noticable outside changes. Rather, my internal geography would shift. I would have agency. I would be purposeful in what I do. Life wouldn't just happen.

I would trust and do good. Not on accident but intentionally.