Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hey, Sweetie? Did we pack the presents?

The title of this post is what I said to K minutes before we arrived at her family Christmas gathering north of Waterville on Christmas Eve. We were to spend the night and have Christmas morning with K's parents.

And the answer was no.

We had forgotten the presents that were supposed to be from the Big Red Suit Guy because they were hidden in the closet, where they would not be seen by suspicious little eyes. Nor by hurried car-packers, apparently.

After the family party, K and her Dad drove all the way to Portland and back (3 hours) to pick them up. After which we wrapped them (they had not yet been wrapped because S is getting better and better at spotting Santa inconsistencies--like the fact that he sometimes uses the same wrapping paper as mom, so we were going to borrow some paper). Then we got a solid three hours of sleep before little miss sunshine woke up for the gift-unwrapping frenzy.

I'm going to remind her of that when she someday tells us that we never do anything for her.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I'm turning 30 tomorrow.

I didn't think it was bothering me, but then again, all week I've had a presentiment that I'm not going to make it to my birthday.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Beetroot Heart

I went to the doctor a few days ago to see why the heck I'm still sick six weeks later.

They did a chest x-ray to see if I have pneumonia. I don't. It turns out that I originally had a cold, which turned into an ear/sinus infection, and which has aggravated a previously-unnoticed asthma and allergy situation. So I got steroids, an inhaler, nose spray, mucous thinner, and some sudafed. I feel so much better, although a bit like a walking pharmacy. But all this does mean that I have to end the longest relationship of my adult life--which is with cigarettes. Pisser.

I do know how bad smoking is, etc., etc. I mean, I'm a college-educated person in the twenty-first century. And things are kind of in upheaval in my personal life, so it's not an ideal time, because smoking is ironically one of the ways that I deal with stress--ironically because I know it causes more stress in the long term. I mean, what's more stressful than emphysema, really? But it's funny how knowing all of that somehow doesn't make it easier to quit. Looking back, I think I've tried to quit at least four times this year, and probably thirty times during the seventeen years I've been smoking.

The upside of the doctor's visit is that I got to see an x-ray of my chest. Lungs are so big! Mine are apparently "hyper-extended" because of the asthma, which doesn't let all the air out every time I breathe out. I wish I could put a picture of them here.

And my heart, which is, according to the doctor, "small" (and please no comments from any of my exes here. Thanks). It looks like the undeveloped beets that are attached to the beet greens when you pull them up in July. Kind of longer and thinner than I would have expected. Cool.

Friday, December 15, 2006

O Tannenbaum...

We got our tree a few nights ago. I like having a tree up for the
holidays because I feel like it's fairly compatible with my vaguely
pagan belief system: bringing a bit of greenery into the house and
lighting it up seems like a wicked good idea during these dark days.
Also, it smells really good and my daughter likes it.

Because of recent illness and compounded by lack of planning, we
resorted to a parking-lot tree. Wednesday night we stopped by that
place on the corner of Brighton & St. John and picked out our holiday
tree. It was sort of romantic, in an urban way, with the lights
strung up all around us and a damp mist on our faces as we
contemplated the leaning trees and smelled the pine needles under our
feet. At least it was until we saw the prices on the trees and
hurried over to the $20 rack--the cheapest one next to the rack of
mini-trees for people living in tiny apartments.

The $20 rack had two trees on it. One of them was shaped like a
marshmallow on a stick, and the other one was a little taller than I
wanted. K and S lobbied successfully against the marshmallow-shaped
tree, and we hoisted the other one up and lugged it over to the
salesman, who cut the end of the trunk off for us and helped us get it
into the trunk. The whole time he talked to us about how these were
Maine-grown trees, that they were from the western part of the state
and did we know that it takes 8-10 years for each tree to grow? I was
charmed, a little, and glad to finally have our tree.

We got it successfully home and wrestled it up to the third floor.
That's where things started to do wrong.

Did I mention that it was raining outside? Well--a heavy mist,
really, but the tree was soaked and so were we by the time we got it
into its stand. There were pine needles and muddy puddles all over
the floor, and the tree was definitely listing a bit to the right. K
and I readjusted the tree, me lifting it, K trying to get the things
lined up on the stand so that it would work. Both of us swearing a
little, and S in the background doing a little ballerina dance and
humming the Nutcracker.

Once the tree was up I saw that we needed to turn it a little to cover
a bald spot. I turned it. It didn't help. The bald spot was an
internal ring of completely bare branches that went all the way around
the tree. Then I noticed the brown patches.

"This tree is dead," I said. I actually may have yelled, but I'm not sure.

"Of course. It's cut." K said, teeth gritted.

"No, I mean, look." We contemplated the brown branches. What can you
do? Buy a parking-lot tree in the dark, get a half-dead misshapen
parking-lot tree.

"Can we do the lights?" S asked.

I explained that the tree was too wet to put the lights on because of
the rain, and that we'd do it the next day. S cried, mostly because
it was an hour past her bedtime at that point. I may have cried too.

It only has to last two weeks, I figured. We'll water the crap out of
it and see how it goes. The next morning the floor was dusted with
pine needles but the tree had drank almost the whole pan of water. We
decided that the lights will never be left unattended on this thing,
because Christmas fires are never as fun as they seem like they might

Thing seem to be holding steady at this point, but I'm fully expecting
that we'll wake up some morning soon to find only our ornaments and
lights hanging on completely naked branches. Keep your fingers
crossed for us.

And we could use a fire extinguisher, if you're wondering about
holiday presents.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I was looking at this link which shows pictures of the food average families all over the world eat in a week. It's in French, but you can still look at the pictures even if you're not multilingal. (And thanks to rebecca for pointing it out).

So I've mentioned before that being in a relationship really brings my *ahem* issues into focus. Living alone (well, with child) for the past five years, I really settled into my own habits and routines, and they did not brush up against anyone else's, mostly. Nor did they seem outrageous, or strange, because there was no point of reference.

What has become clear to me recently is that I have some food issues. I mean, Food Issues.

It works out that K despises grocery shopping, because it seems that I really, REALLY like to do it. I see it as a challenge: OK, we have $50 this week, how can I come up with seven meals and lunches in a healthy, environmentally friendly way? Which usually means buying exactly what we will eat and not a pinch more, bulk food whenever possible, lots of whole grains, and everything else generic.

Which all sounds great, except that I kind of... well... have a hard time with the exceptions to that. For example, it's perfectly logical for me to want the package of Name Brand Organic Brown Rice Lightly Salted Rice Cakes for $3.49 (my not-so-secret and kind-of-boring vice), but if my daughter wants the Froot Loops for $3.49 I veto the choice. Or if K wants the Asian Rice Snacks for the same amount, I will mount a long and difficult argument against it that cannot be won in any satisfactory way for anybody.

Also, this kind of food is not necessarily my family's favorite. Which is a problem. I mean, can I really buy rice-a-roni and not feel like I'm personally responsible for global warming and the dangerous habit of gluttonous consumerism? The answer, folks, is no. No, I can't.

In addition, any kind of waste makes me feel like my world is tilting. If, by chance, we should have to throw away any of the food that I felt was unnecessary in the first place, I am victorious in a kind of twisted way. And if it was food that I chose, well... anyone makes mistakes, right?

And it's all compounded by the panic I feel when we run out of a staple, like milk. Or coffee. It's totally irrational, since there's a convenience store right next door. But there it is.

The long and short of it is that it's a good thing K and S are good sports and like bulgur. Or pretend to. Because the kitchen is mine, and my control issues about it are way to big to fight with right now.

Plus, I'm always right anyway. Mostly.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

One Year Later

So, this Sunday is the one year anniversary of the death of my friend Meg Perry.

This has, of course, and inevitably, led me to a lot of introspection and thought about the nature of life and death.  The past year has been irrevocably changed by Meg's passing--and my life as well.  It's a little strange for me to say, because we weren't that close.  We worked together on organizing and social justice work, sat through hundreds of hours in meetings together, moved in similar social circles, and had a few random encounters outside of those large-group settings.  But I never did hang out for the afternoon, or spend one-on-one time with her at all.  Although I did help with doing PR and fundraising for the trip down to New Orleans, and my best friend was on the bus with her that day.

Nevertheless, Meg's death has prompted some great changes in my life.  I can honestly say that I probably would not be in grad school now, nor would I be taking romantic risks, nor have this excellent job.  Her death prompted that (of course, and again inevitable) consideration of my own life, and what it would mean to me if I should die tomorrow and would I be happy with my life choices in that situation.  I think that I can now say yes, which is pretty incredible. 

I recently read a book called For the Time Being by Annie Dillard.  It helped me a lot in thinking about the overwhelming sense of Life On The Planet--as in, more people have died than have ever lived; my life (and Meg's life, and everything I know) is just a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the amount of human life that has and will existed.  In the face of this, how to go on?  What's the point?  Et cetera.

The quote that I wrote down from Dillard's book is this:

Ours is a planet sown in beings.  Our generations overlap like shingles.  We don't fall in rows like hay, but we fall.  Once we get here, we spend forever on the globe, most of it tucked under.  While we breathe, we open time like a path in the grass.  We open time as a boat's stem slits the crest of the present.

And also, this quote, from the same book, by Rabbi Tarfon:

The work is not yours to finish, but neither are you free to take no part in it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

True Story

As a fan of psychoanalytic critical theory, I firmly believe that
there are things going on in my mind that I can't know. Things below
the surface. The image I get when I think about it is of machinery
working under a smooth surface of water.

An example: one of my professors liked to tell the story of how he was
always losing his keys. He'd find them in weird places, like the
freezer, under the dog bowl, in the linen closet, etc. His theory was
that subconsciously he rejected the responsibility the keys
symbolized, and so his subconscious "made" him "lose" them.

(As a sidebar, have you ever noticed how the number of quotation marks
expands exponentially whenever critical theory is in use?)

Anyway, I think my subconscious pulled one on me last night.

K and I were having one of those emotional conversations that happen
sometimes in relationships. You know what I mean. They start with
angry voices and end with weeping and kissing. (And if you don't know
what I mean--if this is unique to my relationships, I don't really
want to know that, so just keep your comments to yourself.)

Let me set the scene: I was sitting on the edge of the bed, about to
disclose something that is extremely difficult for me to talk about.
Because I was nervous and looking for something to do with my hands, I
leaned over to push in the bureau drawer, about two feet away from
where I was sitting.

But somehow, I managed to lose my balance, fall off the bed, grasp at
the bureau, lose my balance again, and fall down to hit my cheekbone
on the (still) open bureau drawer. It was exquisitely humiliating,
causing me to huff and cry and laugh and grab the side of my head.

I think the deep machinery was trying to keep me from disclosing by
making me lose my balance.

It didn't work, by the way, and the conversation did end up with kissing.

And a nice swelling on my cheekbone that nobody's commented on yet.


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