Saturday, December 29, 2007

And...she's OFF!

Starting today, the image of a launch is actually a good one. I'm crazy, deranged busy starting this morning. In fact, I shouldn't be sitting here with my coffee -and certainly not in my bathrobe! My new job starts tomorrow. Yes, on a Sunday that is New Year's Eve. And my yarn shop job is today. And I'm back at home, having spend a week with my family (of origin), and I now have nothing but dirty clothes.

Some breezy observations...

My brother talks tough. (It's the military brother that I stayed with over Christmas). You are SO VERY busted, bro. Anyone who chops up carrots to feed Santa's reindeer, because his 10-year-old son desperately still wants to believe in Santa -and then spends way too much time in the middle of the night picking the carrots up out of the yard, so that the child CAN believe... well, "tough" isn't a word that comes to mind. He was very careful with me, teasing but never over the top, keeping me plied with just enough alcohol so that I could sleep, talking sense to me when I was getting sentimental about what might be possible between Dave and me.... Truly, if you've ever hit the psychological wall and need a place to be cared for, call him.

Baby Thomas is seriously the cutest little thing. He's TEENY. He's almost 2, in every possible way, except height. (I'm familiar with the height problem, dude!) So, he says no, he grouses about his nap but still definitely needs his nap, he will only play with the REAL and most expensive cell phone in the house... And he snuggles, and lets you read him books (while he eats the pages), and blows kisses, and draws pictures.... We did good work there. My brother and his wife think they did most of the work, but we were on the case too. And he is seriously one of our better efforts.

I think I may have psychologically turned a corner. I know there will be ups and downs for me, but there seems to be an opening in the clouds. Literally, that's what it feels like. There is now room in my head to think about other things besides my own troubles. The key moment might have been on the plane last night when I thought... "do you suppose all along, HE hasn't been good enough for ME????" Wouldn't it be funny if that were true? So I have to think about what is going to take up the newfound space in my head. Nothing good can come from keeping it empty ;)

But right now, I have to run. No one wants to learn to knit from a crazy lady in a frumpy bathrobe.

Happiest of New Year's, dear ones. We deserve a good one, this time around.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Locking My Door vs. Locking My Heart

When we lived together as a family, we never locked the house or the car. It started out as a social justice statement. We trust our neighbors, and we trust the community. We were willing to risk being hurt rather than deny the neighbors something they might need from the house. Besides, there are no more ditz-brained people when it comes to keys than Dave and I are. So, leaving the house and the car unlocked was just plain easier.

But lately I've been locking the door. In fact, I changed the locks, and I lock the door. I've even been locking the car, and I assure you no one wants to steal my car. I still trust my neighbors. I'm still, on some level, willing to make the social justice statement of leaving my house open.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that my project these days is to learn to protect myself. I don't want to lock my heart as well as my house; that way lies bitterness and a different kind of pain. Yet, part of being the grown-up in my own story is to ensure my own safety. Locking the door is really only a symbol. Every time I leave the house, I have to think to flip the lock and grab my keys -reminding myself that it's my job to keep me safe. Every time I arrive back home and have to fish my keys out of my pocket, it's the same reminder in reverse.

This could absolutely go too far. Some vulnerability is probably a good idea, although that's really a little hard to imagine these days. But, a mistake I without question made was to trust that the people who (used to) love me wouldn't hurt me, at least not on purpose. I settled back and let Dave take care of me way more than was appropriate. When he decided to stop doing that, I lost everything. I haven't lost sight of the fact that I took care of him in some ways, too. (He has lost sight of that, but that's another story.) But I'm trying not to care how he's doing. My job right now is to take care of myself.

Why is there so little joy in discovering that the joking statement I've so often made, "It's all about ME!", is for right now true? Oh well. Be careful what you wish for, I suppose

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oh, forcryingoutloud

Does the man have a sixth sense? Does he know when I'm having a good day and decide to do something to flatten me? Or is it just that he gets that random thought, and the fact that it flattens me is a sign of the residual power that he has in the "relationship"?

I have really good news. It's made me a happy person. If you don't know what it is, call or e-mail me and I'll tell you. Dave and Teresa-the-wonder-lover have been occasionally reading this blog (did you think I wouldn't know?) and I want to be in control of the flow of information there.

But then, I get this business-like letter from Dave all about how he's going to consult with lawyers and bankers and realtors while he's in DeKalb. Well, merry Christmas to you, too, hotshot.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

To Give and Receive

Okay, dear ones, here's what I'm thinking. This year is almost over. It's pretty much going to go down in the books as the year from hell. Realistically, next year isn't going to be wonderful, either. At some point, barring a miracle (and seriously, only God could redeem this mess), the doorbell will ring and it will be the process server serving me with divorce papers. That's going to be a bad day. And others will follow from that.

But for right now.... this minute... I'm riding a little air current of strength and positive thoughts. Knowing that will change doesn't mean that I should fret and stew about what's ahead. I intend to just go with it for as long as it lasts -which could be only another few hours for all I know.

I'm deeply aware that I haven't earned this little up-tick. It's taken the collective care of a whole boatload of people to bring me to this moment. While I'm feeling strong, though, it's time for me to do the thing I do. (The thing I do when I'm fully me, that is) It's time to start thinking about social justice, living an ethical life, making little changes that turn this planet into a better place.

I can't promise to do it every day. I know I won't. And I do think that reflecting on this relationship crisis has the potential to be instructive, anyway -to me, if to no one else. And besides, when I hit the inevitable low points, writing here is the thing that keeps me from ...well, I don't know what.... but from something bad. But it's time for me to give something back and time for me to reclaim a little bit more of who I really am. Being the grownup in my own story is a lot of work, but I think it's going to turn out to be worth it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Hearth Runneth Over!

Last night was my launch party. Oh my lands!

You know the scene in Emma...I think it's the Coles' party. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong. But the basic idea is that everyone arrives early to help, so the party starts early. Well, that's not exactly what happened, but I had so much wonderful help it was stunning.

People willing to vacuum, decorate, and go in a friend's attic without protective gear.... those people are true friends.

People willing -at a party- to traipse out in the snow to fix a sump pump hose... those people are worth their weight in gold.

People willing to see(and pretending to be interested in) my new bed project, those are generous souls.

Internet buddies who travel long distances to come see me, and then making sure my son doesn't sit quietly bored somewhere in a corner... those are sweethearts.

People brought housewarming gifts -to a house that I've lived in for 20 years, but need to make new. I was stunned.

My kids for being willing to come to what could have been for them an awkward enterprise, those are amazing dears!

My heart is bursting from absorbing all the love and good wishes. Pictures are coming, I promise.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ms. Crankypants Returns

I've been trying to be nice. Mostly I've been succeeding, (with a few spectacular lapses). But I've just freaking had it. I was up fretting about this all night and it's DUMB.

Dave's going to be here with the kids at Christmas. I assume they're going to use the house. (He's going to notice that he doesn't have a key to the new locks. I wish I could see that, but alas... I'll be in Alabama.) He has concocted a scheme where he drives me to the airport, uses my car for a week, and then drives himself to the airport on the other end, leaving the car there for me to drive home. This is a total "married person" strategy, and I said yes, weeks ago.

Now I'm thinking "what the freaking hell was on my mind when I said yes to that???". I'm told that every single interaction with me for years (literally, he said every single interaction) has been destructive and non-productive. And he wants to borrow my car? And have me trapped in that car with him for an hour and a half while he goes over that material again? I should do him a favor because....why?

So, do I tell him that the car isn't available after all? Do I just say I'm leaving at...whatever time. Be here 5 minutes before that if you want. Otherwise, I'm fine driving myself in to the airport. And then set rules in my own head about how much I'll take from him? I'm perfectly willing to pull over to the side of the road, and offering him the choice of behaving or walking home -and there would be some serious satisfaction in that. Do I tell him why I'm rethinking this?

On the other hand, if there is ever going to be a reconciliation (whether or not it involves being married to each other) we do have to be in the same room at the same time, I suppose. It doesn't do any good for his hardness of heart to be matched by mine.

Oh hell.... here I go again. Talk about rehashing the same material over and over again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Empowering Women

If I had to pick two words to describe my life mission, those two would be very close to the top of the list. They might not be the very top, but darn close. But see... it was always something I offered to someone else.

Yet, so often lately, I'm on the other side of the metaphorical desk. Actually, it's kind of wonderful in its way -to see how generous people are with their knowledge and kind hearts, and to learn new things.

There's Trixie, who co-owns Gordon Hardware who explained to me how to do some repair work in the bathroom. Her calm certainty that I could safely undertake these tasks, and even hold out some hope for their success, overcame my near-hysteria when it comes to using tools that plug in. (Knitting needles are tools, after all, but seriously, how much damage can I really do with those?)

My brothers and sisters, who have not (where I can hear or see) laughed at me for not knowing the insanely basic things that I don't know about home maintenance. We didn't have a truly sexist upbringing. I'm sure our parents would have taught me these skills if I had shown the remotest interest in them. But I didn't, and no one insisted that I learn them in spite of my indifference. So, I'm learning them from my brothers and sisters rather than our parents. My one brother even told me what I so frequently tell new knitters. "Your first effort won't be perfect. What's going to happen? The police won't come!" True enough.

My fitness buddies who encourage me to get off my backside and get back to working out. They know I love it. They know I want to do interesting things in this area of my life and that there's training to be done before that can happen. They know I'll be disappointed in myself if I don't train. But more than that, they know that I can. They're holding onto the confidence that I can do it again, even though (or because) I can't hold it myself right now.

And all my friends whose generous, loving attitude is "his loss", when I start frothing about how I've been done wrong. I can't quite believe that yet, either. I've so often told social work clients and students and children... "my job is to hold onto the certainty that you are an amazing, talented creation. If you can't quite believe that yourself, just come check with me. I'll remind you." And now, people are doing precisely that for me.

I'm almost to the point where I believe all of you. Just hang on a little while. I'll catch up.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sturm und Eis

The ice storm isn't nearly as bad as they were saying it was going to be, but it's plenty bad enough for my Southern-belle sensibilities. Last night the radio report was that we should prepare to be without power for as much as a week, and for driving to be unsafe for about the same length of time. Now how do you prepare for that, for heaven's sake?

I charged my cell phone. I made a big pot of soup and some bread. I made sure there was water in the fridge. I found the flashlight, some books, and a bottle of Scotch. What else can you do? I should have bought sand or salt for the walks, but I didn't think of that in time.

I am finding that my attitude towards some of these home-ownership issues is changing. Again, refer back to the Southern belle sensibilities. I fondly imagine (although aggrieved parties would probably disagree) that I have pulled my weight in the home-making department. But by and large, I have chosen to do that with the tasks that are typical for my gender. I cook. I clean (under duress, but I do it). I do the laundry and make the bread and bake and ... you get the idea. Mowing the grass, shoveling the snow, fixing the leaks, moving the furniture.... those tasks were for someone else.

Even last year, when I was alone, I resented and under-performed on those tasks. I felt like the person whose tasks they were was going to come home and assume responsibility for them again. (Silly me.) So I just had to mark time, get by, and all would be well soon enough.

Now, though, there is really no one else. While it is perfectly acceptable, in my world view, to accept help or to contract out for tasks that I simply can't do (e.g. anything that involves electricity would be a bad idea for me to undertake, I think), there's something empowering about doing some of this stuff. I don't particularly like being out there in the cold, scraping what felt like several tons of ice off the driveway. But I like having done it. I like the fact that my driveway and sidewalks look like a good neighbor lives here. I like tackling something I thought I couldn't do.

Shoveling slush is hardly rocket science. But it's something I thought I couldn't do. It's something I thought I wouldn't do, avoidance being one of my preferred coping strategies. But I am doing it. I have done it. If nothing else happens today, the driveway is shoveled and that feels good.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Burden of Story-Telling

I have always maintained that people (especially extroverts) make sense of disastrous or even wonderful but hugely-life-changing events by telling the story. Sometimes, you have to tell it over and over and over. (Ever listen to a woman who just had a baby? You have to hear about every single labor pain. It's unspeakably boring, but essential to her process, somehow.) I'm discovering, though, that there's another side to this.

I do keep telling the story of this relationship disaster over and over, hoping to find some sense in it. To Dave, it apparently feels like I'm trying to remind him of his "sins", but that's not what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to understand. It still doesn't make sense, and I have a perfectly adequate mind. If there were sense to be found, I think I could have found it by now.

But I never thought about how much pain can be involved in the repetition. This is a small town. I keep running into acquaintances. Friends already know the drama, of course. But what about all those people I've known forever, maybe even been to their house for dinner, but we aren't really close friends? I see them at church, the gym, the grocery store, restaurants.... Naturally, they want to know when Dave's coming home, what our plans for Christmas are.... And it's once more around the block with the sad tale.

How many times do I have to say (using more neutral words, of course) that I've been kicked to the curb? My friend Terri wisely pointed out that it helps just to get out there; fairly soon the rumor mill takes over and does some of my work for me. But there are still people who don't know, and that's starting to weigh on me. But the telling of the story weighs on me, too.

And there's a little bit of aggravation that the burden of this, too, has fallen to me and not to Dave. What price is HE paying, one wonders? (And would it even help if he were suffering, too? Probably not, I suppose.)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Parenting is a Funny Thing

Now doesn't that just beat all in the "amazing insight" department? Insert eyeroll here.

But here's the thing. A few years ago, I realized that my grown-ish children were starting to take care of me. It's a very odd feeling. It started like this.

Back then (a few years ago) Nicholas didn't have a car of his own, so we were sharing mine. Sometimes we had to do complicated things so that we could both get to our obligations. One evening, the deal was something like "I'll drive to my thing. You'll take the car from that parking lot and go to your thing. I'll walk to my second thing and you'll leave the car in the parking lot of that event and walk home." My events were all happening on and around the campus where Nicholas lived, and I was getting confused as to who was going to be where when and where I would find the car. So I just suggested that he drive to his apartment when he was finished. I'd walk up there and retrieve my car.

He said no. He didn't want me walking alone at night in that neighborhood. The words went in, but they didn't compute. I'm the mom. You're the baby. (over 6' tall, but a baby nonetheless). If there's a risk to be taken, I take it. End of story. But somehow, we did it his way. And really, it was a thoughtful, sweet gesture. (But I still insist... if the neighborhood is unsafe for me -which is debatable- then it's unsafe for him.)

Now, to Victoria. Victoria is my extrovert child. She knows everyone. When she was about three, she introduced me to the mailman with his name. She knew the names of the kids and moms in the playgroup way before I did. I remember wondering how a three year old could have a social life I didn't know about. I still haven't figured that out.

So she and I were talking about my upcoming launch party; she asked who was coming. I started to name names.... lots and lots of names. She knows many of the people coming, of course. But, there will be plenty of people she's never met. Knitters, on-line buddies, new friends. Her comment was "How can my mom have a social life I don't know anything about?" Hello???? (Never mind that there's plenty of parental evidence -and not from me- that it's entirely possible to have secret relationships. But I digress.) Can it be that my child is supervising my friendships?

Well, of course she's not. Nor is Nicholas really concerned that I can't walk three blocks to his apartment. The thing they've absorbed and learned in their bones is that you take care of the people you love. We don't always know how to do that well or effectively, but the impulse is sound. More than sound. It's a joyous, life-giving thing. Bless their big old hearts.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Gong Show

No...wait... that's not nice. It's actually called a gong bath. I went to one last night at the local yoga studio.

It was fascinating. The deal is that somebody figured out the frequency with which each of the planets vibrates and then somebody else, presumably, tuned gongs to match those frequencies. That part is cool. The sounds and the intensity and the musical experience were really, really interesting. It sounded like I imagine outer space travel would sound. (Hush... I know there can be no sound where there's no air. Work with me here.) It's even true that there were physical sensations to correspond to the sounds. Warmth, cold, some intensity in the chest/heart area. I can work with that. A bath is a really good metaphor, actually. It did feel as though the sound were washing over me.

Moreover, I noticed variations in intensity and power of the experience as I changed position. Savasana for an hour is a hard thing for me. I'm the most sway-backed person on the planet, I sometimes think, and my back starts to hurt. So I rolled over onto my tummy. Prostrations work as a meditative posture, I figure. And in this position I was more protected from the sound's intensity; there were no more intense feelings in my chest/heart. All interesting factoids.

But it gets weird when you start to talk about vibrational healing. The deal with this gong is that it's tuned to Pluto -alas, no longer even a planet, but still vibrating, apparently. And mythologically speaking, Pluto is all about dying to one thing and being reborn to another. And Pluto is a tough character. He doesn't particularly care if you're ready to deal with the stuff that needs to be moved on from (from which you need to move on... a thousand apologies for the preposition there).

So, I figured... who among us needs to die to one thing and be reborn to another more than me? Who among us has greater abilities to deny that need and repress the information that something is dying? Ummm... that would be me. So a hard-assed little mythological sprite who will churn up the repressed stuff could be just the ticket. Gong away, Pluto.

Alas... nothing. Maybe I'm immune to healing. Maybe I'm immune to new-age-y healing metaphors. Maybe I'm just not ready and haven't healed yet. Or maybe I'm just tougher than Pluto and someone should tune a gong to ME. Wound up as tightly as I am, playing that gong could be quite the experience ;)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Last Year at This Time

I didn't know that my life had already begun to fall apart. I was anxiously awaiting Dave's return home from his fall semester sabbatical. I was waiting to get a tree until he was home and until Nicholas was finished with his semester. We were going to be a family again.

Of course, Dave had already begun another relationship and had (apparently long since, to hear him tell it now) decided that he would be better off without me. I was worn down with home care and trying to survive on my own, but there was an edge of hope and a little bit of joy that we were going to live like a family for a little while.

This year I've done no decorating and we won't be a family at Christmas -in the same way- ever again. I'm going home to Alabama, and Dave will be in Illinois with the kids. I don't know what they plan to do. The kids and I will celebrate our own Christmas later, and I don't know what that's going to look like either. I'm thinking perhaps we should go on a trip together, but I haven't talked to them about that idea.

There is much that is good here. I've realized again and with new intensity how wonderful my siblings how, what fantastic friends I have, and how truly amazing my grown children are. But I want my family. I want the four of us sitting by the Christmas tree. I want the old thing, and my heart is just broken that I can't have it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

She Knits Not

OK, that's not true. I've been knitting a lot. I've got this for my brother and his wife's not-yet-born baby:

And this -for the same baby:

And this (this picture isn't me or mine -mine is in the "almost done" phase):

And several pairs of these -for friends' babies:

But nothing for Christmas. Nothing. I think this year I'm giving myself the pleasure of knitting for other people on my whim. Of course, if I'm not knitting, I ought to be buying presents, which I'm also not doing. But that's another story, and it will be rectified, I promise!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sleeping Like a Princess

Last night was my first night in my brand new/yet antique bed. I felt like a princess. I'm getting a new bedspread, never fear. For right now, that's the only one in the house that fits that size bed.

It doesn't show in the picture, but the bed is really high. I have to kind of launch myself to get into bed. So, I felt all regal and special -like a little girl must feel when she gets a canopy bed with a pink dotted swiss canopy. And the mattress is new and not lumpy and worn, so that part was yummy too. All in all, a good night.

I need to finish this project -flannel sheets, a new comforter, a dust ruffle, girl- pillows. Then I'm going to move on to new bedroom curtains. That could keep me occupied for a month. Dave never wanted curtains. They block the light. But he's not here, and I'm tired of getting dressed in the bathroom so that I don't traumatize the neighbors with a view of me in my undies. I never really resented that compromise, but there's not much point in continuing to make it, now is there?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Am I Invisible?

I feel like I've fallen off the planet. I haven't gotten any mail -NONE- in almost two weeks. Not a Christmas card, a netflix video, a credit card offer, or a Wal-Mart flyer. Nothing. It's kind of surreal.

I called the Post Office, and they expressed some confusion. "OK, you were at the this address. You moved and told us you were staying in Philadelphia for a year, but in 6 weeks you were back in DeKalb -at a different address. You told us you didn't know how long you'd be at that address -possibly until June. And now you're back at the original address? Your mail could be pretty much anywhere."

I wanted to suggest that if she thought the mail bit of this was confusing, she should try living the whole scenario. But I didn't. Basically, I'm just supposed to wait, and my mail will catch up with me. So, if you've sent me something, please know that I'm not ignoring you. I probably don't know yet that you sent it.

Two things can get weird about this situation. First, there's a feeling of isolation. What's going on out there that I don't know about? What bills are coming? Where are my pretty new checks with roses on them? But, my friends are doting on me, in real life and my invisible friends on the internet, so isolation's not a huge issue.

The other problem is the phenomenon that with social work clients I call the "but first" tasks. These are the barriers between you and the thing you know you need to do. I need to apply for jobs. But first, I need to set up my new printer so that I can print my CV. But first, I need to get a new USB cord. But first, my new credit card needs to come in the mail. See?

Of course, there's usually a work-around. I can get in my little car and get money out of the bank and go buy a USB cord. It's not a big deal. Nonetheless, the "but firsts" can become pretty overwhelming when there are too many of them. And right now, there are a lot.

I'm grumpy.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Quasi Compos Mentis

I feel almost competent this morning. Last night, we had a terrible ice storm -which is way worse than a snow storm, for you lucky people who live where the weather is nice. I know exactly where my car scraper is -in a closet in Swarthmore. This isn't the competent part, in case you were wondering. It took me and my friend Joan about an hour to get our two cars into drive-able condition.

Once I finally got home, the power went out with a big bang. The whole town went dark -which is kind of neat and eerie. But I found my phone, a candle, AND A FLASH LIGHT!!! Be impressed. It doesn't sound like much, but there are boxes everywhere and the tenants put things in different places than I would put things. Not bad places... just not where I would instinctively look. I took a warm bath, put on my warmest pajamas, wrote in my journal by flashlight (images of summer camp here), and went to sleep.

I didn't call Dave. Even though I've learned that taking my phone into the bedroom with me at night (which seems to make sense) is a bad idea in that department. So there. Baby steps.

And today -along with probably half the town- I'm going to Target and getting another car scraper. Maybe one of those silly ones that has a hand warmer thingie on it.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Personal Pleasures

Have you read that book by Rose Macauley? Really, you should. In it, she has short little precis about things she loves. And she doesn't shy away from loving mutually exclusive things; "getting up" and "sleeping in" are on facing pages.

There's a connection here. Wait for it. My heart is still broken into a jillion little pieces. Last night was a bad night, in that Dave and I had a destructive, confusing, bitter e-mail exchange. One thing that's slightly better than it was a few weeks ago, though, is that I now realize that there are still good things about my life. I've gone on and on about my amazing friends and family -and I haven't done it enough, even now.

But I also realize that I need to chronicle the small things that are pleasures. Maybe there are even pleasures that were unavailable to me when I was married. (Well, technically, I'm still married, but that just seems to be a matter of time now.)

Sleeping with my socks on.

Yup. I've been doing that and it's lovely. In a probably vain effort to avoid complete frumpiness, I never slept with my socks on when I was sharing a bed with someone else. I just had visions of the middle-aged wife with her hair in curlers, green goo on her face, a flannel nightgown.... a vision of allure and sexuality. NOT! So I didn't want to go there, and socks in bed seemed like a good place to draw the line.

Who cares now? I crawl into my bed, slather green goo on my feet, put on my wool socks, and sleep warm and cozy all night long. Well, until 2 or 3:00, but I don't think there's a pair of socks that will fix that problem. It's amazing how warm I can be, even without a husband to warm up my cold feet. So there you are, a personal pleasure. I'll try to think of more as the weeks go on.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Ten Best Books of 2007

Well, they're the ten best books of 2007, according to the New York Times -and they say all kinds of strange things. The sad thing is that I have read not a single one. That's got to be a first. Here's the list. Should I read any of these, oh wise ones, or just start over in 2008?

  • Man Gone Down; Michael Thomas
  • Out Stealing Horses; Per Petterson
  • The Savage Detectives; Roberto Bolano
  • Then We Came to the End; Joshua Ferris
  • Tree of Smoke; Denis Johnson
  • Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone
  • Little HEathens: Hard TImes and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression; Mildred Armstong Kalish
  • The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the SUpreme Court; Jeffrey Toobin
  • The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History; Linda Colley
  • The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century; Alex Ross

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rounding the Corners

There's a metaphor here. It may be a little painful getting there, but I'm going to give it a shot.

I had coffee with my friend Elizabeth the other day. For four hours, the poor dear listened to me blather on about my sad life. (Note to self... pull it together or drink less coffee. Those are your only two choices.) Anyway, in addition to the monster/classic scary movie stuff that you see when you follow her link, Elizabeth and her husband are arborists and amazing gardeners.

Around here Dave has always done the gardens and, really, they are lovely. But Elizabeth pointed out that they are aggressively rectilinear. There is no curve or soft edge anywhere in the rather large yard. Sometime in the spring, she and her husband are going to come out here, and we're going to take a shovel to the gardens and round the corners. That promises to be a fun and exhausting weekend.

And it got me thinking. Perhaps that's exactly the task -or part of it, anyway- that is before me. I need to/want to "round the corner" in the sense of softening some of the edges that have developed over the years. In the house (which is a classic four-square -again, quite angular), in relationships with people, in my own thinking about the world... maybe I need to stop thinking in boxes and straight lines and start thinking in spirals and swirls. I need to soften.

Of course, the temptation under the circumstances is to harden and be tough and stand my ground. And maybe I'll need some of that as separation and divorce proceed. OK, certainly I will. Boundaries need to exist, but in some ways they are over-rated as defense strategies. For now, I'm going to see where softening the edges takes me.

Of course when I try to get down to specifics I get a bit muddled. We can add curves and height to the garden. I can soften many of the hard edges in the house, over time. Textile-girl that I am, I can probably figure that out. I can call friends who have been boxed out, because Dave isn't crazy about entertaining. I can -oh dare I say it- try to get out of my own head and my own troubles- and see if I can soften someone else's troubles.

More ideas?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I'm Becoming My Mother

If you've ever met my mother, I suppose you know that it was just a matter of time. But here we are.

My mother has a ritual that soothes her. It's a little peculiar, but it certainly doesn't harm anyone and it makes her happy. She is kind of obsessive about her bed. Making the bed is a huge big deal. She irons the sheets (and not just the top edge that shows, thank you very much). There are two dust ruffles. The pillows are just-so. The mattress pad is so tight that this tiny little woman has to kneel in the middle of the bed and tug to get it to go around the corners. Yet, once she's done all that, she sleeps better. (No kidding. She probably wore herself out. But just wait... I'd best not be casting verbal stones.)

So, I moved back into my house over the last few days. I still have stuff strewn across the country, but I'm sleeping in my very own house. I went upstairs to the bedroom and saw the huge king-size bed that we have because Dave is so tall. I stopped dead in my tracks. WAY too many memories there for a good night's sleep! So I slept in my daughter's bed (she doesn't live here... it's not like I kicked her out or anything), which is where I've been for the past few nights. It's been quite comfortable, actually.

But then I remembered that there is an antique bed that I bought at an estate sale several years ago. It's up in the attic; we couldn't use it because Dave wouldn't fit in it. But I can use it now! And I can have a girl-bed. I want to have a girl-bed, complete with all the silly pillows that no one is actually allowed to sleep on. I want to take that king-sized bed out of that room and turn the room into my space.

So yesterday I bought a mattress. It will be delivered on Tuesday. Now I get to go shopping for girl-sheets. But if I start ironing them, you'll know I've crossed a line. Feel free to stop me!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Biggest Mess I Ever Saw

My babies and their cars

I don't know what came over the renters. Heaven knows, I'm no Suzy Homemaker. But I have never seen such a mess. Who knew bugs came in so many varieties? :(

I guess that once they agreed to move out, cleaning became unimportant. And they're young, and I suppose these things are less important when you're young. They certainly were to me.

And I was never so glad to see a mess in my life! Clean would have been better, I suppose. But I spent the day cleaning, and polishing, and rearranging, and undoing... and in a strange way, that made the space mine again. Now I'm almost back to where I was four months ago.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Check #8742

It's a day of tasks required to disentangle my life from Dave's. This morning I wrote check #8742, closing a bank account we've had for 21 years and opening a new account in my name only. A forensic accountant could track a whole adult life with those cancelled checks. Back in the early days of that account, we paid for everything with checks. (Remember those days?) There are checks for the diaper service and baby food, and ballet lessons and hockey sessions and harp lessons and college tuition and family vacations. The next-to-last check was to the divorce lawyer, and the last one was closing out the account. So, that story ends.

But the next story begins, I suppose. I have my big-girl bank account, and a credit card in my own name, and we talked about a home equity loan to buy Dave out of his part of the house and to purchase a new furnace. I could feel almost grown up and independent. That's not the primary feeling, God knows, but there's a little glimmer of strength and pride, way down deep somewhere.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Aggression, Stupidity, or Something Else Entirely?

I would have told you that I took everything of mine from Philadelphia when I left. Of course, I was in a bit of psychic disarray, to put it mildly, and it soon became clear that I had left a few things behind.

More than a few, it turns out: three boxes of things, from the important (bike helmet and swim bag) to the completely unimportant. Dave has mailed them all to me. And of course it's not his place to decide the importance of my things. So if it looked like it was mine, he put it in a box and mailed it -at considerable expense of time and energy, to his credit.

But in the latest box was some of my food from the cupboards. In particular, a box of grits. Now I know that he will not eat grits, so it would have gone to waste there. But it was an OPEN box of grits, which he didn't put into a ZipLoc bag. He just put it in the box -and now there is grits in all of my winter clothes (which of course, in my permanent state of denial about winter, I had left behind.) Grits won't ruin clothes, so there's no harm done.

But really... who does that? There was also a cauliflower in the refrigerator, which I'm sure he didn't use. Why didn't he send that? Or what about the open bag of flour -or is he suddenly going to take up baking? Why choose the grits at all? Why not grab a bag to put it in? What on earth is this about?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Launch Party

Here's the background. Some of you know it, but in broad strokes here's what happened. My husband knew he wanted a divorce, but waited until I had left my job, my friends, rented out our house, and traveled with him to Philadelphia to actually tell me that. So, when I left in despair, I was unemployed and homeless -to say nothing of heart-broken. Try as I might to be charitable (he continues to be the father of my children and they sometimes read this blog), the best thing I can say about that behavior is that it was cowardly and not consistent with his best self.

However, there is some good news. The tenants in our house have agreed to vacate the lease as of December 1. So I can move back into the old homestead. At least one source of fear and frustration will be eliminated from my life. I don't know if I can afford to keep the house forever. Or even, really, if I have the skills to keep it; it's a 100-year-old bundle of needs. I'm considering my options there. But for now, I will have my own space.

Therefore, I'm having a launch party. You know how publishers have launch parties for new books? That's the idea. It's the old house, but we're dedicating it to its new purpose. I'm launching a new life in this cozy, welcoming old space. Please come help me do it.

Friday, December 14.
6:30-ish until we wear ourselves out
If you're coming from out of town and want to spend the night, just let me know.
If you don't know where the house is, send me an e-mail.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

You Find Out Who Your Friends Are

To my mind, it shouldn't have been such a wild and crazy out-on-a-limb assumption that my husband was my friend. But apparently, it was an assumption that couldn't be made.

Nonetheless, I've learned that I have an embarrassment of riches in the friend department. People have opened their hearts, their homes, their ears, their arms... and let me know not only that I'm not alone but that I am loved. The biggest, darkest risk (it seems to me at this moment) of this divorce process is that it makes me feel humiliated and small and unlovable. But stacked against that is the other evidence -that people (some of whom have only "met" me on-line) are unfathomably generous and loving.

It's a little (okay, a lot) hard to be so abjectly on the receiving end of a friendship. It's not a bad lesson however. I could, for example, stop feeling unworthy and start saying thank you. What a thought.

Tom and Terri
Sharon and Richard
Jeff and Jody
Dave and Elizabeth

And I'm sure I've forgotten someone -and as soon as I remember, I'll update the list. But really... how can a person feel totally down when there's a list like that? I love all of you. I am tirelessly grateful to each one of you.

And there's going to be a party December 14. I'll keep you posted, but save the date!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Another Day; Another Dullard

I'm still here, struggling to make sense of my life. Which must get astoundingly boring to read about, so I'll spare you the details. I would have thought I'd have made more progress by now, but there seems to be a steady stream of assaults on my equanimity. But I'm here. I'm coping.

I went to yoga last night and that was wonderful -and probably helpful (along with the steamed milk and honey that I tried) in finally sleeping through the night for the first time in a month. Today I got a major reinvention haircut. I'm a little freaked out about that, but I think I'll like it before long. There's some modest hope that I'll have a job before the end of the week. Please think good thoughts about that. Think them hard, if you don't mind.

So, all in all... I'm putting one foot in front of the other. but not much more than that.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Living As If

I realized today that I'm living as if things mattered. They really don't seem to actually matter, but I'm acting as though they might. Everyone assures me that the important things will matter to me again, but that's hard to imagine. It's sort of like not being able to imagine feeling healthy when you're really sick. There's only an intellectual assertion of the possibility of health, not really a memory of what that felt like.

So, I go to the gym. I swim. I look for a job. I tend to the sad tasks of disentangling my life from my partner of 26 years. And I knit.

Knitting soothes me. I bought some happy blue, green, and yellow self-striping sock yarn and am making a circular baby blanket for my brother and his wife's baby-to-be. (What kind of nut-case makes a baby blanket on size 2 needles??? I'm pleading temporary insanity.) I'm knitting for something. There must be something good happening in the future, and these stitches are marking the passage of time toward that good thing. As long as I'm knitting, hope has a place in my life.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Ring that Doesn't Fit

I don't know what any of this means.

On the last horrible day of living with my husband, I was e-mailing my siblings about every half hour. What do I do about this? What should I do here? Please keep me moving. That kind of thing. One of the questions I had was, "what is the wedding ring protocol in situations such as these?" Leave them on the table in an essentially unproductive fuck-you gesture? Take them with me but take them off? Keep wearing them as a sign of hope and commitment? They came through, the sibs did -as they always do. I was encouraged to keep the rings; they were a gift to me. Take them off, if that felt better. But the rings belong to me.

So, I took them off and got on the road. The strange thing is that I don't feel the rings when I wear them. But I felt their absence, and it was just another in an apparently endless string of painful experiences. Then I remembered that I have a ring of my very own.

When I graduated from college, my mother gave me a ring that had been hers and her mother's -and possibly her mother's. Stories become apocryphal fairly quickly in our family. However many generations, though, the idea is that the oldest daughter inherits this ring. (When Victoria graduated from college, she started lobbying for the ring, thinking that the "rule" was that it was a graduation present. But that can't be right. Not all those women went to college, much less graduated. So I haven't handed it over yet.) It's an amethyst, in a beautiful old-fashioned setting. As a little girl going through my mother's jewelery box, I always loved this ring.

So, to deal with the "phantom-ring pain", I started to wear this ring. Maybe somehow, I reasoned, I could channel the strength of those formidable women. The thing is... it doesn't fit. This is looking like a very bad omen. On my left-hand ring finger, the ring wobbles around and I'm afraid it will slip off. And the setting is fragile and the stone is a little weak, so this is NOT a ring you can wear while you clean the bathroom -as one can with a diamond. If I put the ring on my right hand, it's way too tight. And believe me when I tell you that I have channeled no formidable strength.

So for a few days I put my wedding rings back on. That felt comfortable, physically, but it hurt my heart to see them. I don't want the symbol of being married, for heaven's sake. I want to BE married. So, the amethyst has come back out of the jewelery box.

Not surprisingly, it still doesn't fit. Maybe I'm just not a strong woman in this lineage.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Things I'm Learning

They are not earth-shattering things.

Country music will not help.
Friends will.
It's hard to be so abjectly on the receiving end of a friendship.
I don't have any choice but to be on the receiving end.
Yoga can momentarily heal a broken heart.
It's possible to be psychically bleeding and still move forward.

I'm a wreck, but I'm moving forward. Fear not, dear ones. I will not crumble. Of course, if you want to call me and go out for a beer, just to reassure yourself on that point, I'm good with that!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Finding Courage

It's here somewhere. It must be.

I wish I could be like Crazy Aunt Purl, and be funny in he midst of this pain. As she went through a divorce, we laughed and cried with her. I, on the other hand, can hardly move. I'm up and I'm dressed (in workout clothes, because they're comfortable -not because I have any energy for working out) and that's it.

Oh, and I've made an appointment with a therapist and with an attorney. It's 10:00 in the morning. Where is the old "kicking butt and taking names" Andrea? Has anyone seen her?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lest You Think I've Fallen Off the Edge....

Hello, dear ones. I'm in DeKalb, at a friend's house.

In some ways, I'm doing much better than I was in Swarthmore. THERE I had made no friends yet, didn't have work yet, and had a failing marriage. I was as close to broken as I ever care to be.

Last Monday I drove away and hauled my sorry self to my sister's. She took unbelievably gentle care of me. On Thursday, I drove from her house back to DeKalb. Leaving there was almost as hard as leaving Swarthmore. I was leaving a safe and nurturing place that time. But I was afraid that fear of leaving would overcome me, so I made myself get in the car and start driving.

So now I get to find a new job, find a place to live (there are renters in our house until June), and rebuild my life. But I'm doing it with friends and resources -which I didn't have in Swarthmore.

Dave and I are .... not on the same page, shall we say. The only agreement we've come to so far is that we won't consult lawyers and finalize things legally until the end of the school year. We are going to use the rest of this time to confront our considerable personal issues and see where two comparatively more healthy people are in June. My thinking is that that scenario doesn't rule out reconciliation (and untold hours of marriage counseling) but it doesn't guarantee it either. Doing nothing about our unexamined personal issues guarantees divorce. Dave is pretty sure divorce is inevitable no matter what we choose. I have no predictions as to what I will want in June.

What I know now is that, even though he's done some unimaginable things, this is not like his highest and best self and his is still the voice I want to hear when I'm sad. And I'm very, very sad.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

We interrupt this life...

I've been horribly lax about this blog for a while. My excuses were preparing for the move, getting adjusted to living with my husband again, trying to find my way in a new town....

In truth, it was none of that.

My marriage was falling apart around my head, and I couldn't think about anything else. Subconsciously I apparently thought that if I held very still and got very small, this storm would pass me by. Not so much with that.

About 48 hours ago, I drove away from my marriage. I am currently staying with one of my sisters, who is caring for me very tenderly. Friends in DeKalb are waiting for me and have extended offers of mind-bending generosity. I will regroup, reclaim my life... step up to the plate and be the grown-up in my own story.

It all sucks. I always wondered how people could be blindsided by marital disasters. Now I know.

Please think good thoughts for me.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Make Some Noise - Finding My Voice

It takes no genius to notice that the single thing that defines me is my hope for and my need to work for social change and social justice. Yet, at the moment, what I need to do is relocate my voice. I've been such an unsettled little bundle of existential angst lately, that I haven't been much good to anyone -including myself.

But things are starting to come together. There is much work to be done, even here in my own little nest, to say nothing of the rest of the world. But in the "can-do" spirit that's becoming important to me, here's some music for courage:

  • So She Dances; Josh Groban
  • How to Save a Life; The Fray
  • Some Things Are Meant to Be; Sammy Kershaw
  • Getting Back Up; Tracy Lawrence
  • Gentle Warrior; Lucie Forbes
  • Do What You do; Carolyn Arends
  • I Wanna Do It All; Terri Clark
  • Big Dream; Chyi Yu
  • Something to be Proud of; Montgomery Gentry
  • Powerful Women; elena

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Work-In-Progress Wednesday

It's time to report the weekly knitting, lest anyone think I've forgotten how.

The Something Red cardigan wants only a button and some blocking. There seem to be some button band issues. I do not allow button band issues (she said, sternly). I'll try blocking and if that doesn't work, we'll undertake some corrective surgery. But really, I think blocking will work. Here she is:

Then there are these no-brainer socks:

I spend a lot of time on trains these days, and these are a good train project. I suppose they are close to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's sock recipe, but really, they're just my sock recipe for my particular feet.

Then there is this:
What? You think it doesn't look like much? Sigh. I will explain. The local yarn shop, Finely a Knitting Party, is doing a charity knitting projects: chemo caps/pumpkin hats for the children's oncology unit of the local hospital. So... a proto-pumpkin hat for your viewing pleasure.

That's all I have this week. What do you have to show for yourselves?


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Moat Around the University

I've said this before, I know. The truth of that statement doesn't make what follows any easier.

The First Part of the Argument (Andrea gets on her high horse about PRINCIPLE): Universities are funny places. We separate some people, mostly for a short time in their lives, from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world, give them time and space to think about things, and reward all kinds of behaviors (thought, reason, reflection, as but a few examples) that aren't particularly rewarded in the rest of the world. As for the people who live their professional lives out at university, well ... it's one kind of institution or another, I suppose -and it would be awfully expensive to put all those professors away somewhere else.

I think we foster this separation because, on some level, we both culturally value thought...inquiry.... discovery and simultaneously believe that it's not the work of "everyman". "Brains" are special people and deserve special treatment. So professors lead lives of privilege. Not financial privilege, it must be said, but many other kinds of privilege. In the interest of full disclosure, I have benefited from this privilege for most of my life.

Some universities define a portion of their mission as to the community, but it's only a small part. And frequently, this part of the mission isn't terribly well lived out. Universities maintain the division between town and gown in some subtle and some not-so-subtle ways. Non-university people usually can't park at universities. Public events are frequently only advertised within the university. University buildings sometimes aren't marked with the name of the building, so how can visitors even find the activities that are there? In principle, there are public activities, but university policies don't always support the principle.

And think how much worse it must be for, say, poor or poorly educated people. How would they begin to sort out the intricacies of a university bureaucracy, perhaps to expose their children to the possibility of higher education? There might as well be a moat around the university.

Part the Second -in which Andrea has to get off her high horse and learn what it feels like.

I have said these things, but always ALWAYS with the certainty that I knew how to swim the moat. I wanted the moat to be drained (or whatever one does to get rid of moats), but it was for the benefit of those other people. The university -any university- is my turf. These are my people. Oh brother. I walked right into the swinging baseball bat on this one.

As you know, I suppose, I live within feet of Swarthmore College. It's a beautiful campus with a warm staff, a vibrant faculty, and bright students -a little slice of heaven, if one is inclined toward these things. But I am neither faculty, staff, nor student there. No matter, I figured. I am who I am; it'll work. Since the campus is so close to my house, I figured that I'd join the gym there. Dave and I could swim in the pool. We would go to concerts, art exhibits. The college would be a good way to meet new people.

It is not. It is not my place. I am not welcome there. I'm not pouting, really. There are other places where I am welcome. It's just interesting to note and observe the feelings. Faculty families technically CAN use the facilities, but they don't, apparently. Concerts, lectures, etc... aren't even advertised on the university website; you have to get the campus e-mail to know what's happening. The campus is so small that non-members are noticed even when just walking through the campus to get somewhere else.

Here's the thing. Colleges and universities send hundreds of volunteers and professionals out into the community every year -interns, student teachers, campus ministry volunteers. In part, this is an effort to heal old town-gown wounds. (Of course, that's not ALL it is. The community, the students, and the professionals all benefit from this relationship.) But, if the flow does not -can not- go the other way, if the "town" can't come to the "gown" occasionally, then class, privilege, and even race issues aren't healed at all. University policy suggests that the university has something to offer the community, but not the other way around.

What a loss, for everyone.

And it hurts my feelings, too.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Make Some Noise -Music of Social Change

"It's not my revolution if I can't dance to it."
-Emma Goldman

  • I Saved the World Today; Eurythmics
  • Change the World; Eric Clapton; What Can I Do?;The Corrs
  • Fanfare for the Common Man; Aaron Copland
  • What You Gove Away; Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow
  • I Need to Wake Up; Melissa Etheridge
  • Harriet Tubman; John McCutcheon
  • Where Does the Good Go; Tegan and Sara
  • Study War No More; Sweet Honey in the Rock
  • No Mas!; John McCutcheon
  • Oh Mary Don't You Weep: Holly Near, Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Price, Pete Seeger

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why Aurora Matters

Aurora, Illinois is a big-ish small town -west of Chicago and east of where I used to live. It's substantially more urban than my home town and more diverse ethnically and socio-economically. And Planned Parenthood is trying to open a facility there. Pro-life activists have staged fairly significant (by the standards of the times we live in) protests, and today a judge denied Planned Parenthood's petition for an emergency injunction, which would have allowed it to open.

Nobody's winning any prizes for "excellent reasoning in the face of passion", but the religious right is outdoing itself with absurdity. The fact is, Planned Parenthood did attempt to hide the fact that they were opening in Aurora. Of course they did. They did that to ensure that the law was followed, not to subvert the law. It is well-known that the religious right will mobilize its troops to personally harass construction workers, construction company owners (sometimes even at their homes and businesses), clog the neighborhoods with canvassers and protesters, and generally spread ill will and fear. Which of course is their stock in trade, and does sometimes "work" from their point of view -stopping or postponing construction of facilities that will offer abortion services.

And a prolife city council member wondered why Planned Parenthood would want to build its facility so close to a residential neighborhood. After all, he muses, they build these centers with bullet proof glass and bring in security staff. They must know they're dangerous to the community. Now seriously... can he mean that??? They are in danger FROM the community. It was a priest from Rochelle (not far from Aurora) who drove his car into an abortion facility and then started hacking away at it with an axe. Women have to be escorted into facilities around the country because they experience so much harassment -from community members- as they try to enter to receive fully-legal services. Security threats are routine in Planned Parenthood clinics around the country. I imagine (but don't know) that there were several today. It's hard to argue with any credibility that the community is in danger. It seems, rather, to be the other way around.

Where, one wonders, does a little town (or a big one) lose its right to determine its little-town character? There can be lobbying for more green space. Or less. More development. Or less. Quirky liquor laws or none at all. But, can a community really keep out fully-legal medical services, without bending existing laws completely out of shape? Go a little further. What's going on today in Jena, Lousiana is in part because there is apparently no law against hanging a noose in a tree. Freedom of expression is pretty important, after all. But intimidation -which was surely the intent of that expression- perhaps goes to far. Or not. Of course the Jena situation is bigger than I'm implying here. I do see that.

But the Aurora situation isn't small either. People are being denied legal medical services -most of which have nothing whatever to do with abortion. And the disturbing parallels lead me to believe that small towns reflect quite a lot about our national character.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday Works in Progress

I've been knitting, I promise. The thing I can't seem to wrap my brain around is the digital camera. We used to have a nice simple one, but it got dropped off too many bicycle handlebars. Oddly enough, one day it just didn't wake up from that kind of abuse, and it got replaced with a fancy-dancy one that I can only work when Dave is standing over my shoulder. Which he isn't at the moment, so you have to wait for pictures.

The general idea is this:

It's the Something Red Cardigan from Knit and Tonic. If you like the pattern, it's not wildly different from Mr. Greenjeans from the new Knitty. The story about why I'm knitting this pattern is a little funny.

I'm on this knitalong on Ravelry where we read a Jane Austen novel and knit something that was inspired by the book. We chose Persuasion, which we have all read 40 times -which makes what ensued slightly sad. Someone got the idea to knit something red (not capital letters... just a red thing) because of the militia. I then thought of Something Red, and a bunch of us started knitting. A few chapters into the book we all felt like idiots. This book has the Royal Navy, and their uniforms are blue. There is no militia in Persuasion. Quasi-literate knitters that we are, we kept going. Sigh.

I'm hoping to be finished with this project this weekend, but we'll have to see. I have a date with King Tut on Saturday and we're hanging out with Dave's mom on Sunday. We'll see what happens. If Dave drives, I can knit. But if Dave drives, we may not get there. Tough call.

OK, Dave's home. Here's the reality:

It's a little disheartening at this point.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Make a Joyful Noise

Somebody... anybody.

Dave and I are looking for a parish in our new east coast life. Actually, that's not quite true. I'm looking for a parish. He looked last year when he lived here alone, and quit trying in frustration. So I go off to church on Sundays and report back. So far, the best I've come up with was "it wasn't horrible."

The music in particular has been unrelentingly, laughably bad. My first thought is "they can't be serious". Is this God's people in amazing mediocrity? Or is it that people feel like they aren't entitled to better music? Or the priests and liturgists don't know how to charitably get rid of Matilda, who might have had a lovely voice 40 years ago, but since her hearing loss it's been a little dicey?

I can't believe that music doesn't matter to other people. Seriously, as a recruitment tool (not that that's the first priority of a parish) music is the smartest place a parish can spend its money. If the "celebration" of liturgy becomes instead an excruciating "Oh please God, let it be over soon" experience, what are we teaching people? What are we saying about the God who loves us? What are we saying about our standards?

Sometimes when people rant about the state of music in parishes, what they really want to see/hear is a return to the austere (and beautiful, I grant you) music of another age. Polyphony, perhaps. Maybe Gregorian chant. Or maybe just any pre-Vatican 2 hymn, not that those were uniformly great music. That, it will not surprise you, isn't my agenda.

I want a joyful noise. I want songs sung at a sprightly (but still appropriate) pace. I want accompanists who actually studied piano. Different kinds of instruments would be nice. I prefer choirs to cantors, but I'm flexible on that point. I want music that enriches liturgy. I don't want a performance (which is where polyphony and chant would err); it needs to be participatory.

I guess I have to keep looking. St. Cecilia, where are you when I need you?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stepping Out

It's Wednesday, and Wednesdays are for knitting. Here we go:

The Horcrux socks. This is from the Six Sox Knitalong yahoo group. You have to be a member to get the patterns, but membership is free. You can't really see it from my lame photography, but there is a zig-zag pattern at the top that looks like Harry Potter's scar. Everyone else on the planet (it seems) was knitting these socks in March or April; I'm just now catching up. I tried the tubular cast on for the socks, which I've decided I'm not crazy about. For one thing, now the ribbing at the cuff and the ribbing at the foot don't match. (I know... nobody's going to call the knitting police, but still....) and for another thing, it's too loose. It looks sloppy and they slip down. I'll just be doing regular ribbing from now on, I think.

Then there are the Tulip Socks, designed by Isela Phillips: This pattern was written for loom knitting, but converting it is a no-brainer. It's actually harder to do on a loom. You can get the free pattern here: Loom Knitters Circle.

Now, these socks are just an embarrassment. They are a generic sock, made from Opal yarn. They were tossed in with stash, forgotten for literally years. You know what was unfinished about these socks? It was huge. A really big chore. I had to weave in the ends. Yup. But I can take credit for them this week, right? Two years in the making (insert eyeroll here), here they are: the purple Opal socks:

I've just started a fitted cardigan, raglan, single-button, with elbow-length sleeves from red Cascade 220. I have no pattern. I clearly need to come up with a catchier name than that, too. But it may not even work out anyway, so we'll see. I've also decided to tweak the pink math shawl to make it better. Soon it will be available for public viewing ;) And I am SO VERY wanting to make the Salsa, designed by Kim Hargreaves:
But I don't have the pattern, the yarn, or the time. So it's waiting.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Meditation for Forgiveness

Rabbi Michael Lerner from the Network of Spiritual Progressives wrote this prayer. It merits reflection and repetition today, I think.

A Bedtime Meditation/Prayer of Forgiveness

Building on the writing of my teacher Zalman Schachter Shalomi, I offer a prayer for every night of the year. It is particularly appropriate for 9/11 as we pray that Americans can let go of their desire for revenge and move to a higher level of consciousness, abandoning the fantasy that somehow "homeland security" can be achieved through militarism and dominating others (as the U.S.
Administration and its hired guns in Iraq are trying to do).

Let us pray for the healing of the fear and trauma that guides the policies of the U.S. government and many of its leaders. It is also appropriate for Ramadan and for the Jewish High Holy Days, days when we search our deeds and contemplate how far we have strayed from our highest God place within. We know that each of us is deeply imperfect, and though we have been wronged by others, our spiritual traditions teach us to move beyond whatever anger we've experienced to a place of forgiveness. We must start that process by forgiving ourselves, also, for not being all that we wish we could be, and for losing contact with our holy God place within us.

Our injunction for this period is: "To thine own God self be true"--but this can only happen if we stop incessantly judge ourselves for how we have failed on that path. Ironically, self-transfsormation which is the goal of this period of inner introspection can only work if we forgive ourselves. But then we must move on to forgive others...even others who have not yet asked for that forgiveness. Imagine how blessed our world could be if that path of forgiveness became part of the reality of America's relationship to the world, Israel's and Palestine's relationship to each other, the Muslim world and the West's relationship to each other, the Chinese and Indian and Western relationships with each other. And from that forgiveness we would move lovingly to change economic and political arrangements that are oppressive or hurtful both domestically and internationally. Well, we may not be able to make all this happen in the next few weeks, but
one place we can start is by using this prayer every night of our lives before we go to sleep.

Many blessings to you, and I humbly beg your pardon for any ways that I have hurt, offended or otherwise transgressed in relationship to you!
Rabbi Michael Lerner

Y'hi ratzon mil'fanekha, Adonai Eloheinu velohei avoteinu, shet'hadesh aleinu shana tova um'tuka. (May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our ancestors, that you renew for us a good and sweet year) God's peace on the sixth anniversary of 9/11/01.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Music and Social Change

Right here by Swarthmore, there is I-476, commonly called the Blue Route. It was a planned (and then new) route when my friend Becky was a student here, and she reports that there was discontent about its development. I'm sure it destroyed homes and businesses and beautiful land. "We sang folk songs against the Blue Route," she reports. Well, THAT helped -insert eyeroll here! So, okay, we probably suspected that in social change, music is neither necessary nor sufficient.

But, it can surely make a difference. It can be empowering, even if it's just my (already plenty powerful) mother barreling down the freeway, listening to Helen Reddy singing "I Am Woman". (Mom's tastes got kind of frozen in the 70s. Give her a break.) Or there's the equally ridiculous fact that I would sing my baby son to sleep with "We Shall Overcome". Or, for some slightly less silly examples, there's Farm Aid and Live Earth and Negro spirituals....

So, bearing in mind the twin truths that we have to do a lot more than sing, and that singing can inform a culture, here are some songs for peace:

  • Those Three Are On My Mind; Kim Harris and the Magpies
  • Well May the World Go; Pete Seeger
  • He Was My Brother; Peter, Paul, and Mary
  • Flags of Freedom; Neil Young
  • Direct Action; Ani DiFranco and Utah Phillips
  • What Did You Learn in School Today?; Peter Seeger
  • What Made America Famous?;Harry Chapin
  • My Name is Lisa Kalvelage; Ani DiFranco
  • The Torn Flag; John Trudell
  • Lord Help the Poor and Needy; Kate Campbell

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Poverty of Nations

I didn't develop this quiz; the Friends' Committee on National Legislation did. I give something similar to students occasionally, as a conversation starter. See how you do. If you want more explanation of each answer, try this: Resources.

1. What percent of poor children are in families with at least one working parent?
a) 20%, b) 45%, c) 65%

2. About what portion of U.S. jobs pay too little to keep a family of four out of poverty?
a) one tenth, b) one quarter, c) one third

3. For large metropolitan areas in 1999, the number of poor individuals was split almost evenly between central cities and their suburbs. Since 1999, the number of poor individuals has grown faster in:
a) central cities, b) suburbs

4. If your income is below the poverty line in the U.S., are you most likely to be:
a) White, b) Black, c) Hispanic (of any race), d) Asian, or e) American Indian or Alaskan Native?

5. Which racial or ethnic group has the highest percentage of people living in poverty?
a) White, b) Black, c) Hispanic (of any race), d) Asian, or e) American Indian or Alaskan Native?

6. In 2005, 37 million people were officially considered “poor.” About how many of those people were living in extreme poverty – with incomes below half of the poverty threshold?
a) 15 million, b) 10 million, c) 5 million

7. About what portion of elderly people in the U.S. would be poor if they didn’t receive Social Security benefits?
a) 10 percent, b) 25 percent, c) 50 percent

8. About what portion of elderly people in the U.S. are poor, even though they receive Social Security benefits?
a) 10 percent, b) 25 percent, c) 50 percent

9. At the 350 largest public companies, the average CEO total direct compensation was $11.6 million in 2005. How long does it take the average CEO to earn the annual pay of a full-time minimum wage worker?
a) 2 hours, b) six hours, c) 1 day

See answers below. See more information on the answers to this quiz.

Answers to the poverty quiz:
1) c; 2) b; 3) b; 4) a; 5) e; 6) a; 7) c; 8) a; 9) a

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Shawl Saga

It's Wednesday, and I said I would post about my knitting on Wednesdays. Mostly it's for my DeKalb knitting pals, who no longer see what I'm knitting with any regularity. So here it is: the blue shawl I was working on when we left.

I didn't think to take a picture of it on the day we left. Instead, I packed it away and found a sock to work on in the car. There's always a sock to work on. We arrived in Swarthmore on a Friday. By Saturday, we were pretty grouchy with each other and the situation. So Dave suggested that I go exploring and find the yarn shop. Clever boy. And work on the shawl recommenced.

Here are the stages of getting it ready for delivery to its intended recipient:

First, the unblocked mess. I always despair at this point. This lace, I am sure, will be the one that doesn't respond to blocking. This lace will look like the dog's breakfast for as long as it lives, I just know. I will, finally, be revealed as the knitting fraud I am.

A close-up view, so you can fully appreciate the horror:

Well, I suppose I can't make it worse, so a-blockin'-we-go. Into the bath tub with your sad self. Imagine, if you will, how the bathroom now smells like sheep. Lovely.

I didn't have my blocking wires, so I threaded waste yarn through the border and pinned to that. It worked ok, but that's the purple strand that you can see at the edge of the shawl. That got thrown away, I promise. Here's the more or less finished product, drying in my furniture-free living room (I didn't think Dave would be wildly sympathetic if I pinned it to our bed, and we had to sleep on the floor. Knitters might understand. Mathematicians... not so much):

Apparently, the knitting goddesses smiled on me once more. The knitting rules still apply, and blocking cures all ills. The shawl has been delivered to my sister, with good wishes and hope that it warms her during her upcoming medical travails. Naturally, we forgot to take a picture of her wearing the shawl. I'll see if I can fix that the next time I see her.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Fair Trade on Labor Day

I'm still learning my new town. Truth be told, I'm still learning my new house. Resettling is very confusing, that's for sure.

So, it was with great triumph that I found the Trader Joe's grocery store. It's in Media, the next town over, and there's a sign on the door of the store that says that Media is the first Fair Trade City in the United States. Roughly it means that there is an official commitment to serve fair trade products at official gatherings, that there is a fair trade advisory committee at the city-government level, that fair trade products are readily available at local establishments... You can read about it here: Media.

Here's some stuff that social workers know. Globally, women comprise 70% of the 1.2 billion people making less than $1 a day. They provide for most of the needs of their families with food, health care, education, clothing and a safe place to live. They work an average of 60 to 90 hours a week, mostly as unpaid labor. And when able to generate income, women use a greater portion of their income then men towards the well-being of their family, paying for their children's schooling, better nutrition, and medicine.

Moreover, about 80% of fair-trade artisans are women, and most of them have children. Their income is used primarily for their children's needs, and their participation in a fair trade cooperative improves their lives and their status as family members and community members. Fair Trade is one of few activities that has successfully helped women and their children out of poverty

It's not without trouble and a need for nuance. Fair trade is not without its detractors. The concept, though, is so simple: to create a sustainable and just global economic system through fair trade (Fair Trade Federation). It makes my decision simple, too; it's worth the trouble and expense. The World Fair Trade Day website claims ‘Coffee, cocoa (chocolate), bananas, oranges and sugar are among the food sectors that most exploit child labour.’ Most of these products have a Fair Trade alternative.”

In the past two years of blogging I've talked myself into purchasing fair trade coffee. It's not that much more expensive than regular coffee, and I would know. I drink a boatload of coffee. I was worried that the switch would be a painful one. Seriously, it wasn't. Give it a shot. Now I'm moving on to fair trade chocolate, sugar, bananas, and oranges -starting with sugar and bananas, since that's what we purchase most frequently.

What else should I be doing? I'm open to suggestions.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Kids: They Grow Up and Leave You -the Little Ingrates!

The first year students are here and wandering around in wide-eyed wonder. Their parents are wandering around in a stupor, facing the parenting-music. Their children are taking yet another step toward independence. I wrote this little precis for my yoga buddies who are enduring this gut-wrenching transition, and they encouraged me to put it here. Bless their hearts, it makes for an easy resumption to blogging!

OK... listen up.... here's what you do. (I've taken two kids to college and -by the skin of my teeth- survived the experience.)

On the ride to college - It will just feel like dropping the kid off at camp or something. That part won't be bad.

When you get to the "hauling 18000 pounds of crap/valuable stuff up three flights of stairs (it's a law... they ALL live on at least the third floor, apparently) start distracting yourself. Marvel at how old and unfit all those OTHER parents are. Remark on how clearly gifted and stunning your child is compared to all the other students. Regular parenting stuff ;)

You'll need at least one trip to Target for the things you forgot and the storage things that will make that 18000 pounds of stuff fit into a small room with only one outlet and that's under the bed. That's like a puzzle. Engage with the puzzle. Do NOT think about why you have this puzzle to solve. No good can come from that.... you should have considered this that night 19 years ago when you conceived this child. Just buy power strips.

Now it gets hard and you just have to punt.

Go back to the room. Plug in a few things. Leave. Really. We tried the "let's go to lunch with your new roommate" thing. Don't. The college has things planned for them and they need to go to those things.

NB: They can not see you cry. They know you're crying, but if they see it, it gets them off-step and they're already nervous. "All" you have to do is smile, give hugs, tell them you're proud (don't lose it here) and high-tail it for the stairwell where you can cry all you need to.

And now you get to figure out who you are without daily parenting tasks. That's chapter 2. I haven't written that chapter yet ;)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Honey, I'm Home

Obviously, that's not what it looks like NOW. Now it looks sort of like a rain forest. That tree in the front yard is in full leaf, and it is a thing of grand beauty. I spent quite a lot of time yesterday parked underneath it, hoping to absorb some of its calm and perspective on change and time and ...whatever else it had to offer.

Moving is, well.... let's go with "interesting" as a descriptor. "Pure unrelenting hell" is perhaps an overstatement, but not by much. A temporary move presents special challenges. Every single thing in our large home had to be sorted into one of four piles: essential, take to Pennsylvania; essential, but don't take it -store away from the renters' use (like, say, the wedding china); leave out for the renters to use; why the hell did we have this, anyway???? I would have told you we didn't have a whole lot in that last category. I was appalled to discover the truth. Seriously, you don't need to donate another thing to the Goodwill. We have met the needs of the poor people of the world for the foreseeable future. (Assuming, of course, that they aren't offended by the state of some of our junk. I would be, if I were them.)

Then we packed up our little car like the Beverly Hillbillies and started across the country. Math-Man's driving skills are the stuff of legend. In the interest of my own mental health, I tried to sleep through as much of his turn as possible. I decided that he thinks of the road as a race course. He doesn't drive that fast, although I did see 85 mph at one point. But he does race-driver-like things. He changes lanes in a curve, so the car is driving as close to a straight line as possible. He doesn't bother to signal these turns, because surely that's what everyone does (???). When I ...ummmm...expressed mild concern, he said "I have to have some optimization problem to work on." I thought, but did not say, "You could work on...oh, I don't know...optimizing your life span." He accelerates until he's smack on someone's bumper and then changes lanes. In traffic jams, he'll get insanely close to the car in front of us. Sleep. Really, it's the only solution that allows for marital harmony.

Now our three pieces of furniture are unpacked, and we're discovering all those things we ought to have packed. Honest-to-Pete conversations: (remember that Dave was here for spring semester of the previous school year, so had some supplies and furnishings in storage)

Me: You have a few spices, right? (I knew he wouldn't have many.)
Math-Man: Oh, yeah. Sure.

(I've found salt and pepper and paprika that I think belonged to the previous tenant.)

Me: I don't need to pack our everyday silverware, do I?
Math-Man: No, I took some stuff.

(We have two spoons and two forks.)

But all of this is, in the end, trivial. See.... I did learn some stuff from my wisdom-tree! We're in the same place, at the same time, getting ready to start new adventures. And when I start to freak out (which is approximately every third breath), I'll go sit under my tree some more.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Flooded Hometown

Our neighbor, fellow parishioner, and colleague Dave Changnon (a specialist on climate change, as it happens) took these pictures of our flooded hometown. This is the bridge closest to our house:

This is my beloved bike path:

I don't think this tree is usually submerged:

Holy mackerel.