Civil Anger Management

So my oldest just moved into a new apartment. The apartment is around the corner from a beautiful new mosque. As a result, there are a large number of Muslims living in the complex. There are also a lot of ducks living at the complex, but i am pretty sure that is unrelated.

Anyway, i went to see her new apartment today. I had brought raspberry muffins that i had made, my daughter made eggs, and her fiance made coffee. We had brunch before we changed into swim clothes and headed for the complex pool. She had mentioned to me that there were usually a handful of women in burkinis there, so i was a little disappointed to see only one. I mean, i had never seen a burkini in real life before, and i was curious as to the practicality of it.

I will also add that my daughter has just been waiting for someone to mouth off to a woman in a burkini so that she could give them the what-for. I think she is almost disappointed that, so far, everyone seems to be getting along fine. Which is pretty cool considering the ones not covered head to toe pretty much are only 2 steps above naked. Today, my weedling was wearing a moderately sexy one piece, and i was wearing boys’ swim trunks and a bikini top. There were other women there in a variety of usual western swimwear (Including one woman wearing a black tank that read “Slay” in gold letters), many of us with tattoos, etc. A big contrast from the Muslim swimwear. In spite of this, there were no issues to be found, which according to my daughter is the norm, even when the mix is more balanced.  No one degrading anyone else.

Well, except for some under-the-breath cussing at the pre-teens who kept jumping in the water next to people who obviously didn’t want to be splashed. But that is likely more a unifying thing amongst the adults than a source of ignition.

It made me feel good to know that not only are there very few issues between the groups in daily life, but also that my daughter was willing and ready to come to the defense of someone so different from herself. Her sisterhood solidarity quotient is incredibly high.

It was the second time in a week that i had been impressed by a behavior like that.

I have a former science teacher (now a friend) who is very much a liberal-minded man and has a lot of issues with the current political administration. A few days ago, he was out to eat with his family at a favorite local place, when he finds himself in close quarters with the Speaker of the House and his family, also enjoying the good food.

Mind you, my teacher-friend is not alone in his views. I come from a very politically liberal area. It is not unfounded to believe that other than the Ryan family, it is likely that nearly everyone else in the restaurant would be Democrat.

And yet, instead of raising Cain, tearing into the politician, disrupting and potentially scaring the wife and children, giving himself heartburn from churning up bile so soon after a meal, or otherwise causing a ruckus; my friend and the community remained polite and allowed the family to eat in peace. My hometown largely disagrees with the Speaker, so i wouldn’t be surprised if he was handed some napkin notes on his way out, but that is unobtrusive compared to some of the behavior that has been given to our government officials as of late. I am proud of my community that they chose to wait for another time and place before letting loose with venom.

There has been instigation on both sides of the political aisle to create disturbance at every corner. Tho i understand the urgency, i feel it takes away from the cause itself. It creates new arguments on decency and common courtesy, instead of focusing all the energy on the initial issue. If enough people contact their representatives within the contexts of emails, meetings, petitions, and respectful statements, the representatives will either listen or be voted out of office. But if we yell and scream at him while he is feeding his child an ice cream cone, we look like the bad guy and our message gets lost.

We are all angry at the current state of affairs. I’ve yet to talk to a single person who is totally satisfied with our government. But being a hothead about it is like yelling at a teenager – All it does is make the teenager yell back. The problem itself never gets solved.

But if we are able to stand in our bikinis and defend the rights of those in burkinis, firmly but civilly, things will be forced to change. If we can come face to face with someone who is our political opposite, and instead of chewing them a new one right then, say, “Enjoy dinner with your family! And i would love a word with you at another time.” If we can show respect – or at least civility and common courtesy – to people we disagree with, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.

Because, lets face it, not calling a duck a duck, or a schmuck a schmuck, takes incredible strength and tenacity. That kind of restraint is a superpower. Enough of those superheroes, and we can fix it all.

 

Putting on Glinda

Be gone!

Be gone, i say!

You have no power here!

you do, but i wish you didn’t

How dare you.

How dare you behave as if you are entitled to all this.

and why do i keep letting you live here rent free?

All this before me is the Queendom i have made.

No leg up.

i forget that i have power of my own

Those who live in the castle are my choosing,

and they have earned their way in.

but i have made far too many exceptions

I care not about the rules of your own kingdom.

These are my rules here.

My laws.

laws of kindness

Be gone you,

The purveyor of my own personal hell

Who leaves the black tar of despair in your wake.

Be gone and leave me.

Come back! Come back!

The pain and sorrow are too much to bear.

The boiling bile beneath the surface waits like lava

in a fissure

beneath a freshly and frequently paved road.

over and over again

I raise my scepter and pound the ground.

Be gone!

Be gone, i say!

Take your oily hot anger and pour it elsewhere.

let my insides stop burning

Be gone!

Be gone, i say!

You have no power here!

but my voice breaks as i say it,

because i know it isn’t true

 

Nadia, Frankie, and Reverend Jim

I am having a love affair with Nadia Bolz-Weber. Not literally, but spiritually.

Like many of us, i have spent much of my life searching for what i believe in. Or rather, refining what i believe in. I often find myself walking that fine line between “I need to work harder to be a better person” and “God/Goddess/ Universe loves me just as i am”. They are not mutually exclusive, but there isn’t a whole lot of crossover. I mean, if i am good enough, then why would i make myself nuts trying to be perfect? But conversely, if the goal is to be someone so far removed from myself that, short of shock-treatment-style exorcism, i don’t stand a chance in hell (literally) of attaining it; i would be a fool not to give up before i started.

I posed this problem to my priest once, decades ago. His response, before hugging me and kissing me on the top of my head,  was, “Why do you do this to me?”

So it seems that even for the clergy, this isn’t an easy issue.

Nor is it solely the issue of any one religion. The contradiction of G/G/U’s love and the striving to live up to the examples of the Holy Books is one that transcends the rivalries between churches. Trying to make a life of doing what is right and knowing you will fail a lot of the time is problematic even for the science-minded, the aesthete, and the apatheist. We all want to be better than we are. And we all know we won’t get to where we want to be. It’s like a supreme, cosmic, existential joke.

If you think about it too much, you will go insane.

But the appearance of people like Bolz-Weber, an improbably coarse but unusually honest Lutheran pastor, make it a little less painful, if only because they assure us that we aren’t alone in our confusion.

There is something comforting in a pastor, particularly a Christian one, admitting that they are in the same quandary that we are. It somehow makes it a bit less lonely and frustrating. After all, if the professionals can’t always make sense of it, then we certainly can’t be expected to!

I am fascinated by the spiritual paths that people take. Christian, Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Pagan, Jedi… Matters little to me… It is the way you set your compass and how you deal with times when the path gets overgrown or flooded that intrigue me. Because regardless of what code you follow, there will be times when it isn’t enough. Or when you aren’t enough. And at that moment, we are all the same. Small fragile creatures looking for forgiveness and/or punishment and reassurance.

Life can be grand and funny and transcendental technicolor. But it can also be hard and frustrating and painful. No one gets through it alive, and no one gets through it alone. And whatever kind of pole you need to help you balance while you walk that tightrope of personal and spiritual expectation, more power to you. As His Musical Holiness, Frank Sinatra once said, “Whatever gets you through the night.”

As for me, i’ll keep writing and questioning. Taking it all in and picking out the common thread that binds us all. That thread is what keeps me motivated. That thread is where i find my personal truth, the balance between my self and my goal. And yes, i will waver and fall on occasion. So will you. But as long as we get back on the rope and keep walking, we’ll be ok. As long as we keep reaching out to help others when we see them wobble, it is going to be alright. As long as we are never so sure of the path that we stop watching where we’re going, we will continue to improve.

And whether you pastor is Billy Graham, the Dalai Lama, or Jim Ignatowski, i like to think that they all would agree.

Aunt Nancy, Please Don’t Put Radish In The Jello Salad

You know that weird jello salad that everybody’s Aunt Betsy brings to each and every gathering? That is my brain right now.

I’ve spent so much of the last 30 years trying to ensure my daughters grew up to be strong, thoughtful, and independent. Ever in fear of breeding another doormat into this already infested world, i wanted my daughters to become paragons of badassery in whatever way suited them. And as you know from previous posts, the efforts were successful. I am inordinately proud of the women my daughters have become. Tho very different from each other, they both are fierce in their passions and principles. They are hard workers, big dreamers, and fair judges. Everything i had asked for.

When you have adult daughters like that, it’s a bit like living in an underground women’s magazine of the 70s. Force them into polyester pantsuits and big sunglasses, and they could be on the cover of “Ms.” (Don’t worry, my awesome weedlings. No polyester pantsuits for you, i promise!) But just like so many of the celebrities of that political era, life is more than a magazine cover.

What good is a life of untamed equity if you have no one to share it with?

But it takes a special man (Or woman) to accept a badass woman as a partner. It isn’t for the weak, or the staunch, or the confidence-less. A warrior woman doesn’t want someone who just lets her take all the sun. Nor does she want someone who is going to constantly battle her for it. It has to be someone who can let that Light flow back and forth like one of those waves-in-a-box that are supposed to help keep you calm at work. The conduit between the two shores must be strong and clear, the water going over and around obstacles, precluding dams and producing energy that feeds the tides as it goes. It is a precious balance. One that some never find.

And yet, both my daughters have found it.

In a few short weeks’ time, both my woman-weedlings have gotten engaged to awesome men. Ones who respect them, support them, and adore them. Ones who are strong enough themselves to share the spotlight… Not just as a mechanism for leadership and recognition, but also as facilitator of growth. These men are amazing, and each also a badass in their own way. And so, on the whole, i am crazy happy for them having found partners who truly see them, get them, and love them.

Which brings us to the jello salad.

Jello salad is one of those things that can be really yummy. I mean, sugar and flavoring and food coloring has that magnetic appeal to the 5-year-old inside us. Throw in some fruit cocktail or pie filling…. Oh, yeah baby!  There is usually some  cream cheese or something thrown in to make it more adult and fancy. Mmm mmm! Love me some sweet and savory together! Toss in some marshmallows because… Well, because marshmallows!!!!! What’s not to like?

But then the devil steps in.

To distinguish it from “dessert”, Aunt Sally always throws in something “salad-y”: celery, pepper, shredded carrots… Crap like that which has no business being in jello.

In the midst of my heartwarmed-happy jello concoction for my daughters, there appears some of Aunt Sheila’s lunacy. (Oh, Aunt Sheila… Is that pickled onions i taste in here?) It took me a while to figure out exactly what it was. I mean, like i said, i am over the moon for my daughters and adore my soon-to-be son-in-laws… So what could those bitter, chewy bits possibly be? And why the hell are they in there?

I answered myself subconsciously but out loud.

“What now?”

I only just figured out parenting adults, but married adults is a whole other level. Especially for me. Lets face it, three past marriages make me the exact opposite of an expert on it. And before you joke that i should just tell them to obviously do the exact opposite of what i recommend, i promise you, that will make me cry.

Like Hermione, i kind of pride myself on being an insufferable know-it-all. But my daughters are about to embark on something i cannot help with. Yes, i realize they don’t really need my help, but that is beside the point. Mothers want to help. It’s what we do. And i can’t. That fact leaves me stumped. It is the carrot in my otherwise delicious jello salad.

The irony of it all… In having raised daughters without so many of my own issues, i have made myself obsolete.

So that’s what those crunchy bits are: self-pitying garbage.

When confronted with jello salad, one has three choices. You can refuse to eat it. While that is an option, it also means you miss out on all the good stuff in it. No marshmallows. No maraschino cherries. That is a big price to pay for a little bit of green pepper. Not an option i would choose because marshmallows!!!!

Or you can just force a smile and pretend you aren’t gagging every time a bit of celery finds itself in the mix. This is, of course, the polite option. And if i were at a once-in-a-lifetime visit with The Queen, i would probably take that option. But this isn’t a one-time gig. This is the rest of my life. And once i get past the celery, there will be grandbabies and other things that i know nothing about and will become the next crunchy bits. So this is probably not the best option.

Then there is the last option. The practical option. Enjoy the jello salad, but surreptitiously pick out the crunchy bits when no one is looking. Make sure there is a lettuce leaf somewhere on your plate to hide the shredded carrots under. Or a rabbit to feed them to, thereby disguising your disappointment as an act of kindness.

That, i can do.

Decades of therapy has made me pretty damned decent at picking out my useless negativity and turning it into energy for other things. So when i find myself thinking about my weedlings and their awesome partners and their limitless lives ahead and starting to wonder what purpose i can possibly serve in it; i will remember that i can and will be whatever they need. If i don’t know how, i will learn, just as i did when they were babies and i knew nothing of raising children. I learned. And if i didn’t always do it right, at least i did it well in the end. And when there are more wee ones, i can read to them like i did to my own. I can help teach them to be independent badasses like their parents. And i can help show them that sometimes you just have to pick out the sour bits and just be happy for all the wonderful things that will come to pass.

My babies are growing up and getting married.

Holy cow.

If i make Aunt Shelly’s jello salad for the celebrations, I’m gonna leave out the celery. Who needs it anyway? Things are so much better without it.

 

Reading Is Fundamental, And Not Just For Nerds

Friday night on the porch. Lemonade with a shot of Hendricks. Feet up in my wicker chair while the rain makes its beautiful music. And a brand new volume of Uncle Walt to annotate and highlight. Curious as to how many of my friends were also spending their Friday night delighting in solitary literary pleasures, i posted the fact on Facebook. I was surprised at how many of my friends enjoyed something similar… And overjoyed that so many obviously knew who Uncle Walt was. (Walt Whitman, for you non-poetry geeks.) But i do have to admit that, before i posted it, i wasn’t sure if the fact made me a geek, or a nerd, or just a dork. I had to look it up. Thankfully, there is a simple Venn diagram to help (This one is courtesy of Laughing Squid).

Screenshot 2018-06-23 at 08.11.14

 

Truthfully, i wasn’t sure if i was more of a geek or a nerd. But yep, nerd it is. Kind of hard to be a geek and NOT be a nerd, really. I mean, social interaction is difficult when people don’t “get” your Klingon vernacular and Chemistry jokes. I have to say, tho, that it is getting easier, and i believe we have filmmakers to thank for that. I mean, millions of people who never read any Tolkien now understand what all the geek-fuss was about. The Star Wars and Star Trek franchises have made it to mainstream action film lovers. And Marvel… Well, come on… Who wouldn’t want to see Robert Downey Jr’s sexy visage on the big screen? Because of these cinematic successes, people who never would have otherwise are actually reading books! Ok, mostly e-books (My hardline feeling on the distinction will be saved for a later post), but none-the-less, people are reading. How glorious is that?

We all know, as it has been repeated for decades, the benefits of reading to children. But more and more, science is proving that reading as adults has a multitude of advantages as well: Improvements in critical thinking, analysis, vocabulary, writing skill… Not to mention mental focus and stress reduction. (Rather than me posting a solitary website to cite, please GTS. There are articles on it from all corners of the scientific community) And You don’t have to be reading Dostoyevsky or Shakespeare. Non-fiction, poetry (Yes, song lyrics count), self-help (Which is often halfway between fiction and non-), religious texts, cheap romance novels, short stories … Even reading children’s classics has a positive effect. Some studies go as far as to say that in-depth magazine articles make a measurable improvement.

I admit, the last makes me happy. Tho i know it is a sin against Mother Earth, i do enjoy a nice, glossy magazine.  Online versions, just like with books, just aren’t the same to me.

Reading makes you smarter. It makes you better able to communicate. It provides entertainment. And it makes you more entertaining at parties because it gives you something to talk about other than TV shows and our volatile Orwellian jello mold of a government. It can also be relatively little cash. I generally buy used books because i prefer hardcover, and those aren’t inexpensive when new. Your local thrift store likely has whole bunches of books on the cheap. And more e-books (Ugh, i just tasted bile) than you’d imagine can be gotten for free on many websites.

If you prefer something more  politically relevant, there is Machiavelli if you want to impress people, and Limbaugh if you don’t. And whether you are religious or not, reading religious texts is a good thing because, on top of the benefits of reading, they help you to understand why other people think how they do. (Reminder: You don’t have to agree to understand.) And if you haven’t read one recently, pick up your weedling’s history or Social Science textbook. Things have changed a lot since we were their age. Hell, the globe doesn’t even have the same countries on it.

Before you say you don’t have enough time…. Writers from Stephen King to Rosamunde Pilcher have short story anthologies. And i personally own quite a few compendiums of short stories by groups of authors. There are short novel writers à la Steinbeck and Bach.  There are observationalists like Robert Fulghum. If you have a spiritual bent, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa both have books to their credit with short affirmations to consume. There are great articles in National Geographic for the naturalists, and in The New Yorker if you are an urbanite. If you love song lyrics, try some poetry. Pick up some Maya Angelou or Dylan Thomas. So many options, so little time.

If you have some brain wiring that makes reading difficult, try a large print edition or one made specifically for dyslexic readers (They use specific fonts and paper color/types that are known to make it easier). From what i found with a little research, there are a lot of resources out there for you. Do not give up!

If you don’t know what to start with, ask your favorite voracious reader. Tell them the kinds of things you like. Those of us who read a lot are usually pretty good at recommendations. Your librarian or bookstore clerks are good to tap. Or, perhaps my favorite option, What should I read next?, a website where you type in a book that you enjoyed, and it makes recommendations.

So make yourself a cup of tea, or a cocktail, or a special soda, put your feet up somewhere pleasant with good light, and dig in. Even if it is just a chapter a day, it will make a difference. And whether you are like me and have a tendency to highlight and annotate as you read, or you are one of those who tries hard to keep the book like new, there is no wrong way. Just like physical exercise, the what and the how are less important than the fact that you do it.

Now, if you will excuse me, Uncle Walt is waiting. I am counting on him to help keep my brain working as i head toward decrepitude. Well, him and his cousins Heinlein, and Poe, and Allende, and Avi, and Thoreau, and Chopra, and Lawrence, and St Paul, and….

 

 

Travelogue – Canuck Edition

My writing has taken a back seat these last couple of weeks while i spent some time gearing up and making a whirlwind round of college tours with my son. My son, just as unusual as his sisters, is intent on a school in Canada. I dealt with the travel, and he made the arrangements for the tours. (I have been surprised at how many people found that “too much” for a kid who just finished his sophomore year of high school. And how many thought it was “too early” to be touring colleges. Both things are done on purpose so that he knows full well what it takes to get what he wants, and he knows he has to make the effort to get there….)  Anyway, with a little help from my middle weedling who has become a budget trip master, and my oldest weedling who graciously took care of Siridog, we set out last weekend for the Atlantic provinces.

In spite of the fact that i have been blessed enough to have traveled a lot of the world, i had never been to our northern neighbors. My son had been to Ottawa, but not east. So we were both excited for the journey. On top of the college tours, we had a few other things we wanted to experience as well. First on the list was a good lobster roll.

We left long before the crack of dawn to get to the airport on time. And to save a good-sized wad of cash, flew into Maine and rented a car to drive the 6 hours to Moncton, New Bunswick. It all went off without a hitch til we set out of the city of Portland.

It appeared to us that Portland is the Newark of Maine.

Trying to get to the interstate, we ended up in a neighborhood where it seemed the entire residency was gathered in the street to shout insults and cusswords at each other. One woman, hair like rusty cotton candy, dirty jeans and tank, boobs at her waist and yet somehow still hanging out, was dead center of the street leading the colorful pack of profane poets. When she saw us waiting for her to move so we could pass, she flipped us the bird and spun around so fast that her boobs were still facing us when she started to walk away – Directly up the middle of the street. Ok, lady, you win. When we finally made it to the highway, we had to pry our fingers out of the grips they had in fear.

Once we were safely outside the mainstream, we googled a lobster roll and found our way to a local joint. Tho it was technically a brewery, to my delight, they also brewed their own root beer. The lobster rolls were spot on. The Maine wild blueberry desserts were outstanding. The rootbeer was perfect. We were in heaven until the bill came.

The menu had listed “Market Price” as the cost of the lobster rolls. I hadn’t thought to ask. I mean, the meal was served on paper plates so we weren’t paying for fancy, and it was important to both my son and i that we start our trip off with a bang (Thankfully, not one on that side street in Portland.) I grew up on Cape Cod, so i know that lobster isn’t cheap, but i was unprepared for the bill. 2 lobster rolls with potato chips, 2 sodas, 2 modest desserts was $74. Seventy-four freaking dollars. My son was apologetic, but i explained to him that it was my own fault for not asking. Besides, it was worth it. The food was good, and it was a yummy start to the trip.

Back on the road – the fast route, not the scenic route – and we arrived in Moncton at what we thought was 2200. We were unaware that they are an hour ahead. The daughter of the owner to our Air B&B was kind and accepted our apology for the late arrival before showing us to our suite. We hit our beds and slept like the dead.

The next morning, we set out for Fredericton after hitting Tim Horton’s. My God, what a wonderful thing to have a place that keep hot tea brewed day and night! The drive to the University of New Brunswick is a beautiful one. Lots of farmland and rural communities. And the University itself was smaller, warmer, and better equipped than we expected. The students who showed us around and the faculty advisor that explained their process to us were a delight. We left with a great impression and a good recommendation for lunch.

Can i just say that smoked fish cakes are surely the nectar of the Canadian gods?

Day 2 was Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Dalhousie University. Dal, as they call it, is an upscale school in a surprisingly city-ish city. I guess i expected more of a fishing village city, so the excess of construction, modern office buildings, and traffic took me back a bit. There were some beautiful Historic buildings nestled in between newer business quadrants, especially near campus. And the school was a Canadian version of Ivy League… Imagine a smaller, laid back Yale where everyone has a slight Celtic accent.

Fish & chips and seafood chowder on the Boardwalk were the order of the day. Then we took a different route back to base to see more of the countryside. Unafraid of getting lost, i drove us along the coastline, dipping into coves whenever the road allowed. All of it was so breathtaking that my son barely rolled his eyes when i stopped on the side of the road for the umpteenth time to snap a picture. I was even able to gather some shells for souvenirs.

Oh, and not to be forgotten, we were also, on the way back to Moncton, able to engage one of our trip traditions…. Homemade ice cream. We happened to pass a sign on the highway advertising it, so we took the opportunity and exited. True to Canadian form, the shoppe was not exactly on the exit, but approximately 5 miles down the road. But it was worth it. We find a homemade ice cream shoppe on every trip we take, and it is always worth it. Homemade ice cream is a gift no matter your destination!

Day 3 was Prince Edward Island. Everything the storybooks say about it is true. In full Spring mode, the island was greener than Ireland itself. The landscape is heavily dotted with lupine and cows. The people are friendly and relaxed. We had a bit of a  disappointment when we found that the Confederation house was closed for refurbishing – My son is a history buff and was eager to see it. But we did get to enjoy St Dunstan’s cathedral. And we had an amazing lunch.

The Chip Shack reminded me of one of the many fried clam stands of my youth, except being in PEI, it served Lobster rolls (For much less than $74) and poutine. And Lobster poutine. Seriously. Lobster flipping poutine. A glorious coronary intervention of perfectly seasoned fries, cheese curds, a gravy that the owner makes from seafood broth, and a huge scoop of lobster meat. Could you come up with a meal that screams Atlantic Canadian more?

I think not.

The food was accentuated by the owner. She was energetic and tatted, singing boisterously along with the radio, and if she is not a direct decendent of Anne Bonny, i’ll eat my hat. She is a Pirate Queen in her soul and it exudes from her like perfume. She made our day and had smiles on our faces as we made our way to the University of PEI.

Tho Charlottetown is a city, it is a much smaller one than Halifax and retains a more of that port-town feel. And it extends to the University. There was plenty of diversity at all of the Canadian schools we visited, but the most at UPEI. In true port-town fashion, nearly half the student body is foreign. In fact, the contagiously congenial man who took us on our tour was a student from the Bahamas.  He waved to everyone we came across, and each wave came with a short commentary about where they were from. Tho he admitted that most of the Canadian students were home for break, it was still evident that my son would not be the only international student by a longshot.

Again we took the long way back. I spent an inordinate amount of time pulled off on the side of the road, admiring cows grazing in a pasture at the oceanside. If i had seen it in a movie, i would have sworn it was fake, but there it was in front of me. The ocean, a few feet of sand and rocks, then a grass pasture full of beautiful cows. After a while, the cows noticed me staring and came over to the fence. Not wanting to be rude, i said hello,  fawned over their home, and asked if they minded me taking their picture. My son was not amused and laid his seat back in the car to nap.

He missed out. Those cows sat there and engaged with me as if they knew what i was saying. Or maybe they just knew that i was taking time with them and liked them. Either way, they stood by that fence and regarded me with thoughtful muzzles for nearly half an hour.

My son perked up just before we hit the bridge back (As expensive as a Maine lobster roll, but definitely impressive!), as there is a little mini village at the front sporting the flags of all the provinces. My son is an amateur vexillologist (One who studies flags… I had to look that up), so of course he knew which flag was for what province, could expound on why each flag was decorated as it was, and listed his favorites in order. His enthusiasm made me smile. Only my kid would get so exhilarated by a bunch of flags.

By now the traveling had caught up with us. And by that, i mean that the food had caught up with us. Apparently, Canadians have yet to get on the fiber train, and days of croissants, fish cakes, and poutine had me feeling like the Pikachu float at the Macy’s parade. So we made a dinner stop at a local Moncton place for salads and a hummus plate. Before eating, i said grace to myself that it would work long before i got on the plane.

Early to bed and early to rise for the trip back to Portland. Thankfully, we left in plenty of time, because my idea of taking a smaller back road wasn’t the best i’ve ever had. First off, i have become spoiled in Chattanooga. When there is massive construction, there is someone with a sign standing in the middle of the road telling you when to go. Apparently, in rural New Brunswick, they stand on someone’s lawn…. Where, of course, i never saw him. My son did, but instead of saying anything let me proceed like the Queen of Prussia. I had to pull onto the grass halfway through the cone maze because there was a semi coming in the other direction who apparently didn’t know the Queen has the right of way. Then, to add insult to injury, i realized about 5 miles after that i had gotten turned around and was headed in the wrong direction…. So i had to tuck tail and head back through the same construction zone that i had just ignored the signs for.

The extra waves of the sign by the guy still standing off in left field let me know he recognized me.

But we made it back to Portland finally, got thru the plane flight without hummus interruptus, and survived my son driving back from Atlanta in his ancient convertible, top down, and thru traffic.

I think that last was when my blood pressure caused the blood vessel in my eye to rupture.

Now that we are home and mostly recovered, i have to say that it was a good trip. My son is a good traveling companion. Tho the whole thing was a lot more driving than i would have liked, he got to see the schools he wanted, and his opinions of each changed with the experience. I am glad we did it.  And i’m glad we’re back. It may be way too hot here in the summer, and i may hate the mosquitos, but i do love the area that i now consider my home. And of course, i love my home itself. I may not have pasture, or lupine, or cows on the ocean, but i have my own bed and my favorite haunts, and my Siridog. The place may change down the road, but the feeling of home when you return… That is the perfect ending to any road trip.

 

To Have My Cake, And Date It Too

I am really starting to doubt myself.

I bought a short-term membership to a dating website. I put a decent picture of myself on there and a positive and realistic short writeup on who i am. I didn’t expect much. I mean, well, it is what it is. So i wasn’t expecting a thousand Prince Charmings waiting to message me. But i expected more than i got. With a couple of exceptions, i got recommended a bunch of the same basic profile:

Men who looked like Gandalf on crack, can’t put three words together lyrically, and swear they are only 40 years old.

The first time i joined an online dating service, i spent an inordinate amount of time filling out my profile and picking out just the right picture.  When i activated it, it took me a full week to get a single match. And i kid you not, that single match was a man who looked like an old tinker from a fairytale, who listed his job as “ghost hunter”… And who lived over 4,000 miles away on another continent.

It wasn’t the first blow to my ego. Nor the last. Online dating sites keep you humble.

I have met a couple very cool people via these websites. Friends that i might not have met otherwise. So it hasn’t all been for nothing. But on the whole, i have to believe that one of two things are true:

A) I am truly so incompatible that my choices will always have the visage and affect of well-chewed dog toys, or

B) People lie so much that no dating service will ever be reliable, so i either need to lie just as much or stop using them altogether.

And i had actually stopped using them. Then i guess my ego needed a smack upside the head, or i forgot about the lying.

And yes, i realize that people lie because they want to up their chances and make themselves look their best. We don’t want to admit our flaws and potentially hurt our chance at someone good. No one is ever going to post a profile that reads, “I’m generally a decent person. I am smart and funny. But i drink milk straight from the carton, and, typical of my engineering background, i often wear socks with my sandals.” It doesn’t paint the best picture. But to be honest, i’d be more inclined to go for that. At least it is real and probably true, and that scores points with me.

And in the name of all that is holy, random dating site members, if you are going to lie, at least make it plausible. If you look like Mel Brooks from last Tuesday, don’t say you just made Blazing Saddles. And conversely, don’t post pictures of you wearing your Don Johnson blazer because you look young in it. We know that blazer hasn’t seen the light of day in at least 25 years. And what the hell is it with you obviously shady-side-of-the-hill men saying you only want women 25-35? You looking for a date, or someone to adopt?

To be fair, i’m sure most women do the same thing. I’ve been told there are far too many of us posting Glamour Shot photos and posting our weight in kilograms instead of pounds. That isn’t cool either.

If, indeed, you are hoping to meet someone in person, it doesn’t make sense to lie about your appearance.

I am what i am. And i try to market myself that way. But perhaps the readers see it as, “If this is the best she can come up with, she must be really bad!” Or maybe they aren’t really looking for a date at all. Maybe they are looking for an escape from reality.

Now there’s an idea. A dating website that isn’t about real dating, but instead, one that is about fantasy dating. You can be whomever you want and have the kind of relationship you want… But only online. You never meet them, so you never know the truth. You never get to wake up to anyone for real, but you also don’t wake up to the mess they left in the bathroom. The idea does have merit. But i am thinking there are easier and cheaper ways to have that.

Anyway, i’m glad i only bought a short-term membership. Perhaps my ego needed a smack, but it doesn’t need more permanent scars. Rather than the online meat market, maybe i just need to get out more. Meet new people. Let serendipity have a chance. But the last three times i went out like that, i was receiving crass comments and photos before i ever left the venue.

Dude, if “I want to see those boobs” is the best line in your arsenal, you need to go back to 7th grade.

I really shouldn’t care about any of this. Truthfully, i have no reason to complain in my life. I have a great one. Awesome weedlings, a home, a job that i enjoy most of the time, good health, loving friends. Why do i need more?

I don’t.

So i’m just going to quit bitching and get on with life. Forcing a connection isn’t going to work, i have no control over what people post, and Liam Neeson isn’t on there anyway. (If i ever saw him on there, i’d assume it was a lie and go right past it!)  Maybe that’s why i join periodically – to remind myself that i don’t need this. I have plenty, and any icing on the cake is just that… Icing on the cake. And my cake is pretty damned good.

But a little frosting wouldn’t hurt every now and then.

The Dao of Water

Sitting on the porch while the storm rolls in.

Exhausted from work overnight

and a very taxing week.

I watch the rain and imagine

She is washing the week away.

The thunder rolls are the Universe

telling the stress and wear to be gone.

The Wind is pushing the weight of the week

out of my Sacred Space

as if the strain were

a guest that has overstayed its welcome.

Be gone and leave me.

Almost before my eyes,

the grass gets greener,

the blossoms shine brighter,

and the birds sing louder.

The houses and cars and trash bins look newer.

The air smells sweeter.

What a gift is this –

That the undesired forecast bring such baptism.

The flow of water without,

a template for the flow within.

The Universe

in all Her Glory

encourages me to follow.

A Quiet Mother’s Day

It’s Mothers’ Day. I’m on the porch with my usual weekend repast of small-batch cheese, sweet baby peppers, and crackers. Beside my plate is a lovely glass of rosé from a bottle my oldest dropped off this morning. It is steamy today, but there is a light breeze that brings in the smell of honeysuckle on occasion. I adore the scent of honeysuckle! I am watching Siridog chase ants and skinks. And directly in the center of my vision is a bird’s nest with four exquisite and shiny blue eggs. I know there are women that like big gatherings, but this is my idea of celebration.

I do wish the weedlings were here. But my youngest is at work, my middle is away at college, and my oldest is a florist (You learn very quickly that the weeks of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, she will be working around the clock. No exaggeration.) All three of them try to show appreciation throughout the year, so this one day a year isn’t something i have to wait for. I am lucky. Rare is the time that i feel unappreciated by my weedlings.

Momma bird just swooped in. She stood on a branch for a while, looking around, as if to make sure she hadn’t been followed, and then hopped into the nest. Not to body shame the poor thing, but she looked like she was about to drop another couple of eggs. I will have to look later.

My own Ma has been gone a long time. But i like to think that she is here with me now, chilling on the porch. If not now, definitely later, when i bring my easel out here. We would talk about things we found beautiful, places we found interesting, and probably plan out our next trip to Atlanta: Ikea, the international market, the flower garden…. We would paint. Hers would be so much better than mine, but she would tell me it was beautiful anyway. We’d try to make tea from the herbs in my garden. We might not succeed, but we would enjoy the effort. What i wouldn’t give for an afternoon like that.

Two squirrels just ran in the yard, obviously playing a game of mating season tag. Siridog is going nuts because they are just out of reach and she wants to chase them so badly! Or maybe she wants to eat them. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.

I wonder about the momma bird, and the other mothers in the animal kingdom. Once their babies are grown, i know some of those children will come to visit their mom. I’m pretty sure orangutans do. Not sure about any others. But regardless, i wonder what they talk about. What is the orangutan equivalent of, “Can i do laundry?” or “Do you want to do brunch?” Does young adult orangutan show up at his ma’s nest and say, “It has been a crappy day. I need a banana. Do we have any bananas?” I wonder.

There is a bee in the yard that must have a broken wing.It is walking up and down the clover. Siridog keeps taking nips at it. I am certain she could catch it easily. But instead she pokes it with her nose, and then backs off like she got stung… Except that her tail is wagging. I think she is playing with it. How odd. Now she is barking at it. Back low to the ground, tail going back and forth so hard, i can’t imagine how she isn’t falling over. She appears to catch it in her teeth and then fling it. As soon as it starts moving where it lands, she goes over and starts the whole process again. She thinks it’s a toy! Poor Mr. Bumblebee. I’m sure he never figured it would end this way.

I wonder, when my weeds start having weedlings of their own, how many of my parenting choices will make their way into how my kids do it. I expect there are a lot of things they will NOT choose to do with their own kids. But i wonder what things they will. Will they ever sit back and think, “What would Ma have done?” And then actually do it? Will they ask advice of me? Or will they want to blaze their own path? I suppose we won’t know til the time comes.

Well, for now at least, “The time has come, ” The walrus said. Momma bird is off again. The squirrels are still playing and reminding me of that scene in The Sword and the Stone. And i’m pretty sure Mr Bumblebee is in Siridog’s belly. I hope you all had a wonderful day.

Now, i am off to paint with my Ma.

 

Straight Talk About Boobs

There was a time in my life when my nickname was Knox – And it wasn’t because i had money. I had boobs. Great boobs. Damned near perfect boobs.

And then life happened.

Most women, when we are young, our boobs are like toy poodles. You are always on the lookout for something to decorate them. Inexpensive bits of material that serve the same purpose as a dress on a dog. They do nothing but look cute. Bits of material that are so small and flimsy, as a woman who sews, i wouldn’t even have kept them for my ragbag. These things are all about show – Lace, sparkles, and the straps (If it has any) are made out of the thinnest, most gossamer unicorn hair. To be honest, i didn’t get to buy those for long. Somewhere around the age of 16, i went from nubbins to too-big-to-shop-for-bras-at-Woolworths. On one hand, i grew great boobs. On the other hand, bras were no longer a commodity… They required at least a JC Penney budget.

Still, it was pretty cool. I could have a bad hair day the likes of which Sideshow Bob hadn’t even seen, but if undid one more button on my blouse, most interesting parties never noticed my hair. I was still a little bummed that i didn’t have a face like a supermodel, or an ass like an aerobics instructor… But at least i had boobs. It was something.

I somehow managed, after my first child, to keep the ducks swimming above water. Probably because i was young. And because i read somewhere that wearing a bra 24/7 would keep them as upright as a the Dalai Lama. If i wasn’t in the shower, those puppies were strapped in like a firstborn in a car seat. So after i was done with my dairy cow stage, tho i was a bit bigger, i was not too much worse for wear and could still get something kind of pretty at Macy’s. Maybe not with unicorn hair straps, but at least with some lace and sparkle.

I waited nearly 10 years to have my second child. And in that time, i had grown to like the rest of me a little bit more. I guess that is why i wasn’t as concerned about keeping Mary and Margaret in their school uniforms every moment of the day. And i don’t know if it was letting them sleep without the straightjacket, or just my age… But 6 years and 2 kids into my 30s, things just weren’t like they used to be. The girls grew up.

Mary got fat, Margaret got tall, and neither of them fit into the pretty little outfits i had bought them before. At least, not without cutting off my circulation and making it look like i had 4 of them. (In spite of what men might think, 4 boobs is not a good thing.) My ego could have really used a boost, as i wasn’t liking the changes my body was going through. Mind you, this was back before we had stores like Soma. There weren’t many bra companies that made cup sizes larger than D – At least ones that didn’t cost more than my weekly grocery budget – and very few of them looked better than your average surgical supply. My poor girls owned very few party dresses.

The downfall began like this:

Remember how i said that bras in your 20s were like dressing a toy poodle? First the poodle becomes a bulldog. New mom boobs are big, but solid. Those things are like anvils. They could crush rebar if you wielded them just right.  But as your hormones morph, and you realize that a bra isn’t really necessary when you are driving your kid to school at 0630 for a field trip to the Moon Pie factory, they go from fit to fat like an aging highschool quarterback. But you ignore it. I mean, your spouse loves you for your inside, right? And he’s a grown man… He knows that his body is starting to suffer just as much.

Ladies, no. No, he doesn’t. Most men are endowed with some kind of mental magical gift where they don’t obsess over their bodies half as much as we do.

Your kids get older. You are the have-it-all-woman now. Weedlings, work, hopefully some kind of social life. And the puppies somehow became wild boars. An abstract sculpture that defies physics and logic – Basically rocks and gravel set into jello with the occasional hair sprouting out of nowhere. God is obviously a man, because no woman would have the prize for surviving motherhood be Mom Tits. You can, with some effort and a large tax refund check, find a pretty bra, but now they are uncomfortable, and you feel like you just put a tutu on a platypus. You find yourself standing naked in front of a mirror saying, “Well this is bullshit.” (You would shout it, but you just don’t have the energy.)

Life goes on. You make the best of it until somewhere in your 40s when you head out to buy bras and realize you are trying to dress billy goats. You can’t find any outfits to fit them right, and those kids are all over the place. Victoria ain’t got no more secret, and you find yourself walking into a higher end department store, finding the “fit specialist” (Who invariably looks like a prison matron from 1950s film noir) and telling her, “I need a bra that makes my boobs look like they do when i’m flat on my back with my arms stuck to my sides.” And because this feeling is universal for women of that age, she knows exactly what you mean.

If you haven’t started taking Prozac yet, now is the time.

This is also when they start talking to you about putting in small implants to take up all that space that used to be your glorious boobs and is now melted jam. Unless you are very large already, and then they tell you – I quote – “Yeah, there’s not much we can do that will work for long except cut them down and tighten them up.”

Sir, You are not an editor, and my tits are not just a magazine article.

(Ok, i am writing this, so maybe they are a magazine article of sorts… But he isn’t my editor!)

I remember reading a quote by Maya Angelou where she said that she felt, in her silver years, like her breasts were in a race to see which could reach her knees first. Woman, as always, you hold the perfect words. That quote was in my mind this morning when the incident that started this whole rant occurred.

I have a thing for man-tailored silk pajamas. Just my sleepwear of choice. But the tops never stay buttoned. I don’t know if it’s because they are silky, if the strain of containing the liquid platypuses is too much for them, or if i dream about Liam Neeson… But i go to bed with them buttoned and wake with them not. I just accept it as life. So this morning i am lying in bed, enjoying the cool sheets and the sounds of the birds coming in the window.  Sundays are awesome. Siridog crawls out from the covers (Chihuahuas burrow when they sleep) and begins her morning stretches. Usually, she plants her bony little front paws on my sternum and begins her doggie yoga. This morning, she was a little off-center.

Bony paws pinching your tits is NOT the kind of boob attention you want to start your day.

I yelped. She winced. I apologized. She licked my face… While standing on the puddle of boob that formed when i rolled to pet her.

I am ashamed to say that i F-bombed as i lifted her paws. Poor Siridog. She had no idea she had done anything wrong. So, of course, she keeps coming in for more kisses… Standing on it over and over again with those blasted bony paws – I swear, they feel like railroad spikes- Inadvertently making it worse and worse. God love her. I ended up just calling bedtime over, since i couldn’t find a way to lay that didn’t have her standing on the tit slick.

To my silver sister friends – At some point we must accept the fact that we are more than our breasts. And tho it is depressing to watch them head south for the winter and become a thin-skinned Stretch Armstrong, it is the price we have to pay for having contributed to the world. (For what it’s worth, i am told that men face the same feeling of tragedy over their testicles. But i would bet money, it doesn’t affect them half as much. We really need some of their confidence.) This is the way the universe is designed. We get wisdom and metaphysical integrity in exchange for our young bodies and physical integrity.

I am told it is a more than fair trade.

Some days, i believe it.

Unless my dog is standing on my tit puddle.