Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is that a flashlight in your pocket...?

I think I may have started a riot in my house last week when I pulled out my cell phone to see the keyhole of the front door (after repeated "please leave the light on" requests went ignored). I used my cell phone for light. Now, I use it all the time. The kids have known this secret of cell phones for some time. They thought I'd lost my mind when I was so excited...

Those of you who've known me for a while are familiar with my goofy fall-down-the-stairs incident in March of '07. I broke my foot. I got home late on a Sunday and came up the stairs at our temporary resident (the in-between house so the kids could finish out the school year) and my daughter yelled for a glass of water. OK, she was 14 at the time and very capable of getting her own damn water, but I'm still that kind of mom and I like time with her, so I turned around, left the light off and walked down the stairs. Almost all 13 of them. It was a stair snake that got me, I believe. The next few hours and weeks were painful and horribly embarrassing (the old "I've fallen and I can't get up" ads run through my head when I think of this time in my life.)

If I'd only used my cell phone to light my way, it would have turned out differently.

Now, at the current house, I have a very dark, oddly shadowed stairway. I never go down it in the dark. Ever. To the chagrin of my kids (my office is downstairs, after all, so midnight writing/crying/whiskey drinking jags are spent down here). I always turn the light on. But lately, it's been easier to just flip open the razr and illuminate the steps enough that I can see when I'm on solid ground again.

Remember when we were little, and there was something you always wanted, were totally devastated when it wasn't under the Christmas tree, knew there wasn't a Santa because he wouldn't have let you down? My big wish was for a flashlight. For the steps. Because I was always worried I'd fall down them in the night, since my room was in the attic. Those stairs were steep. But we did have streetlights that illuminated a bit so I did ok. But I never got my flashlight. What a lame kid I must have been...

Last year, I got my flashlight. The police-officer-please-don't-beat-me-with-that kind. It's blue and weighs about 10 pounds. I can adjust the beam. People can see me when I walk Ez and carry it at night. If I can carry it. The thing weighs a ton.

Plus, I have my cell phone to light my way. I have two!! Little things make me happy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

10 things I know about you

Hello. Have you ever received one of those silly email quizzes that asks you these supposed personal questions (favorite color? movie? ice cream?) and actually answered them? As I've had more time on my hands of late, I've answered a couple. The funniest one was a simple ten questions but you had to push random shuffle on your iPod to find the answer. I did it, it was silly and I moved on to other things. (By the way: Red, Princess Bride, Vanilla)

But something really interesting happened later that afternoon. I started thinking of the stages of my life as the songs I loved at the time.

As a young kid, I loved this album my music teacher used to play "Free to be You and Me" (ok 80s geeks, name that male vocalist and you win a Starbucks ;-) We sang it all the time. It was about diversity. But I loved it that the lead female sang alto, like me, and I didn't feel inferior when I sang along. It began a lifelong love affair with singing.

My tastes varied and changed so frequently, it's hard to pin this one down. I might just have to allow myself two. First, it was The Beatles - specifically "When I'm 64". Even at 12, the idea of a love that lasts a lifetime was really cool. Later, my tastes swung toward the punk and wave bands. But a special favorite - that I still listen to today when I'm feeling gloomy - is The Ramones "I Want to Be Sedated". Gotta love that Joey.

It started out pretty quiet. I was into more mature music - KINK instead of Z100. I listened to a lot of Bowie. But it was "Psycho Killer" - that uniquely Talking Heads ballad about all things twisted - that I loved. I got to see David Byrne perform it live. It was good.

Wedding Day 1992
How can you beat the song they play when you marry your hearts desire? "Moments in Love" by Art of Noise.

Late 20s
The musical playlist changed when Sara came along and I was 25. The most memorable song was the musical theme song to a tv show from Canada called Kitty Cats. Barely 20 seconds long, I'd play it and she'd whip around, start to bob in place (almost always chewing on the remote control. Oh, the drool) and be mesmerized. With Sean, a couple years later, it was Itsy Bitsy Spider. I have the most vivid picture in my mind of him, sitting on a toddler bed, trying to figure out how to mimic my finger movements. Wearing yellow footie pajamas and smelling like Johnson's Baby Shampoo. Tugs at my heartstrings.

Big birthdays are to be avoided, I've decided. Thirty was hard. My father in law, whom I adored, died 4 days before my birthday. We were smack dab in the midst of the chaos of funerals, out of town guests and grief and I wanted no part in any celebration. But my family pulled it off anyway. Our Seattle crew was already here and had never celebrated with me before. They made it such a party. Then, after a few drinks had flowed, a little silliness ensued. The room got quiet. Uncle John and Cousin Brian broke out into song - mimicking a movie I still have not had the heart to watch, knowing it will reduce me to tears (My Best Friend's Wedding). Yes, you poor people, I'm going to have to type the words. "I Say a Little Prayer for You". It was phenomenal. I hope I didn't give you a horrifyingly odd song loop that just won't leave your head.

Now, for the present. I have over 200 songs on my iPod (I'd have more but I have a little one). On any given day, any number of those might seem like my favorite. But with everything that I'm becoming as I move through this life, I have to settle on Dave Matthews Band's "So Much to Say". My hell is a closet I'm stuck inside.... can't see the light. And my heaven is a nice house in the sky - got central heating and I'm alright.

Moving forward, I think I'll try to find myself a nice little happy song. Say a little prayer for me, would you?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Remember, wherever you go, there you are...

I loved the movie Buckaroo Banzai in the 8th Dimension. Total 80s camp, Jeff Goldbloom, and crazy aliens who's names all started with John (I loved John Yaya & John Bigbooty best). Bad love songs, intestine eating slugs and Perfect Tommy rounded out my favorite good/bad movie.

There's a line in it, where the posse of crime-busting, rock and roll scientists is playing at a club and, in all its randomness, the most interesting phrase is interjected. "Always remember...Wherever you go, there you are." Is there anything deeper, more meaningful or more interesting than a coin of phrase that says it all?

Life has been difficult for these past few months. I've made it through the war, past a number of land mines, and am relatively unscathed at this point. Lets hope that continues.

Because, after all, life is not about what you order at Starbucks (triple venti mocha, please) it's about the people who touch our lives and who's lives we touch.
I'm going to try to be in the moment (maybe starting tomorrow, the moments of this day have been too hard) and live like I have what I want and I want what I have.
Last night, someone called me a storyteller. If that's the case, then I guess there's work to be done. Work. Damn, I was hoping for a nice afternoon at the spa...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Saying goodbye

Do you think long, lingering farewells are more painful than brief ones? Is it better to slowly peel off the band-aid or rip it off?

Last night, we said goodbye to Greg.

I've been struggling for weeks with how to help my son as he has been sick, exhausted and dealing with a dog that can't be with our other dog. Along with a couple other minor chaotic messes in my house, but that's another blog, someday. I left it up to him - it was his decision to make, it was his dog, he'd saved up for a long time and spent quite a bit of time researching dogs and breeds. He loves Greg. I love Greg. Greg is adorable and sweet and so much fun to walk and play with. When Sean came to me two weeks ago and said he couldn't do it anymore, it broke my heart. I want to always fix things, make everything ok for everyone, and I knew he was right. I wanted the peace back in my house and getting back to one dog was the only way. And I can't lose Ezmond, he is love itself for me and is showing me every day not to be afraid of love.

So we posted ads online, made flyers, spread the word. We had a couple people that seemed interested but no takers. Then, last Friday, some family issues came to the surface and the issue of Greg finding a new home became immediate. Dire, even. If it wasn't done by Sunday, he was going to have to go to the shelter. Worse yet, the no-kill shelter he came from was full (as are many right now - the economy is wreaking havoc on more than just pocketbooks. People can't feed and care for their pets... donate, people! Give food, give time, foster a dog...) I was going to have to take him where he may never find a home again. How could I do that?

All day Saturday I was anxious. Really anxious. My heart hurt. I went to the Rose Garden and walked through the Shakespeare Gardens, found a place to sit. I sent some wishes off to the universe. Most of them were silly, but I started off with the big one. Greg needs a home. NOW. And how about a good one? Where he can sit at someone's feet, in their lap, love and be loved?

When I got home, I checked email. There was an email from a very nice sounding person who was looking for a companion dog for her grandfather. She'd seen the ad on Greg sounded perfect. I emailed back with some more information (most importantly - no other dogs!!) and within an hour, I had a phone call from a nice guy named Travis. Could they get Greg tonight?

It seems his grandfather was very lonely, his dog had died a while ago and his grand kids wanted him to have a companion. You know, to ride in the car with him (picture big, floppy, beagle ears hanging out a car window) and sleep on his bed. Travis was a great guy. I handed Greg off to him, crate and pillow and food and toys and all, in the parking lot of Lloyd Center. He's going to have such a wonderful life. We made that family happy. I spent the drive home picturing little Greg's face as he meets this lonely guy. A guy and his dog...

And my son cried. He couldn't even help us gather Greg's stuff, he was overwhelmed with grief. Because even though he knew in his heart that this was what Greg really needed, he was giving away something that he'd made room for in his heart. He is such a sweet, gentle and kind guy and he suffered a really big loss. I want to wrap my arms around him and help him let it out, like I used to when he was little, but he's almost a man now and I have to let him come to me (damn...)

So back to the question. I got the phone call and we were in the car with Greg in less than 10 minutes. Sean didn't have time to process everything. We hardly did. All the way there I just wished that they would be good people, that I would feel confident handing him over. And it worked out that way. So, maybe it was better for Sean to have it hurt like a band-aid being pulled off. Instead of slowly working through things that hurt, he gets a chance, this time at least, to start healing right away.

I miss you, Greg...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The family zoo

In a fun conversation this morning, the subject of pets came up. You know, first pets, favorite pets. And it made me realize that I've had a zooful over the 40 years I've called this earth home.

Pongo the dalmation: We had pongo because my aunt and uncle couldn't or wouldn't keep him - I can't remember. But I do remember that he had the WORST gas - we used to follow him through the house with a spray can. He wasn't long for our family - he kept escaping and traveling the 20 or so blocks to his real home.

Lady: My mom decided when I was in 3rd grade that she wanted a dog, and she wanted a beagle. We did research, she found a breeder and off we trekked to deepest, darkest 185th avenue in Hillsboro. I thought it took 2 hours to drive there. We ended up living further out at one point -perspective is everything! The old Tanasborne Mall was there at the time with those strange things that looked like they belonged on a ship. She was 8 weeks old and completely beautiful, started the love affair with the breed that I've had ever since. Even now, with Greg (who needs a good home - anyone? Cute beagle? Free? I need to get him out of this basement!!)

Tiger: My best cat ever, tiger was an orange striped tabby with attitude. He slept on my pillow and spent way too much time trying to eat my variety of pet rodents (see below) with no luck. He wasn't the brightest bulb in the box - but he was sweet and he kept our yard free from the possums that were taking over the neighborhood at that time in the 70s.

Gerbils, Hamsters, and Rats, oh my!: I loved having creatures in a glass case to keep me company. My therapist would probably tell you I have abandonment issues, so it may come as a surprise that these things die faster than the batteries in my garage door opener. The gerbils ha no names - but I'll always remember my brother Tom stepping on one and squishing it when it had escaped. He was always a little - um - "In his own world". And then there's the slew of hamsters and guinea pigs. The first hamster, and my fondest memory, was Isaac Knowhow Newton Junior. I bought him and his cage with babysitting money. I loved that stupid critter. Taught the dog to let it crawl all over her and she did. She was never aggressive. I have completely blanked out how he died, but I remember being so sad and having a nice little memorial service for him.

Which brings us to Abercrombie the rat. My sophomore year at Madison, we had a pet python in science class. You now, a gigantic snake that eats rodents. They used to order mice and rats to feed it. I couldn't stand to watch it digesting another giant lump in its belly for days. I stole a rat, left a ransom note and kept him hidden in my pocket for 3 days. Did you know you can potty train a rat? I did it. I would let it out for bathroom breaks in the trees outside, where the stoners hung out. They thought I was god-like, hanging on to the rat and not getting caught.

But all good things must come to an end. My dad discovered the rat in my pocket as I was coming through the front door. Thank goodness, I get his animal loving genes and he said I could keep him. He wrote a note to the science teacher and paid for more snake food, which I still opposed, and we had Abercrombie for more than 3 years. He finally died of old age, sleeping in my pocket one afternoon at school. The entire class had a memorial service. We had pie.

So, of course, I've had pets as an adult. Atilla the cat lived to be more than 20. Atticus lived to be 21. Audrey was a lab mix that hated me (the first and last dog with that particular issue) and I think it was because she wanted my husband for her own. Damn dog. I added a puppy to the mix and ended up giving up on the whole zoo because on of them bit Sean and I couldn't deal with the chaos. I seem to be good at making bad choices about pets and other relationships.

Then came Rosie. She was a mess - came home from the pound with fleas, filth and ear infections. She had this beautiful white coat and we thought she was dirty grey. I don't think she ever could hear very well. She was sweet and kind and gentle - I used to have to drag her to go out if it were raining. The kids joked that she had a 5-foot leash and would never leave my side. A rock star of a rescue, if I do say so myself.

So, when things in my life got rocky, I decided to add another dog. Jessie the german shepherd/basenji mix came home at 5 weeks. From one of those stores that should never be selling puppies. Puppy mill. She had issues from day one - was very sick, had to be kept away from other dogs altogether for 8 weeks. Socializing her with dogs was impossible. Once we'd bonded with her, though, she was terribly loyal to us. She never liked new people and would bark and growl at men - especially men with dog fear - and having her was challenging. But she had awesome qualities, too. She kept me company when I was sad, was Sara's support when she was sad and did a bang up job of keeping us sane when Rosie died in 2006. Then she got sick and we very quickly lost the battle with the massive internal bleeding she suffered. She died right after memorial day.

I knew I would never get another dog, losing them just hurt too much. Maybe going through that time helped me with some of the other grief in my life. Struggles - with work, relationships and kids. A feeling of loneliness that came through when I finally had to spend so much time alone. Within a few weeks I realized it had all happened when it did, for a reason.

And I found Ezmond. On a lark, I'd been watching ondemand pet adoption channel (danger! danger!) and I was looking for inspiration. Besides, it was fun to daydream about all these different breeds. I found out about Family Dogs New Life, a no-kill shelter in Portland that is phenomenal. Really, really cool people and a bunch of dogs that couldn't make it at regular shelters. I went by to check the place out, met a couple dogs, and left feeling like it was a place I'd be happy to support. I started looking on their web site.

I was looking for another Rosie. A sweetie with a heart of gold, low maintenance, good company. What I found, instead, was myself going back, again and again, to this picture of a beautiful, slightly goofy looking PIT BULL. I thought I'd lost my mind.

When I finally made it back to the shelter, it was to see another dog. But the other dog just didn't do anything for me, so I was about to leave. I asked about Ezmond, the pit bull, and immediately was introduced to THE most anti-social, food motivated and stressed out mess you've ever seen. Did I tell you I have a therapist for a reason?????..... And I was madly in love. I walked him and he walked like a dream but had a horrible pinch collar that made me sad. I swore that if I did this, I'd teach him to walk without it, make sure he did everything I wanted without food, and I left for the day.

I thought about it for a whole week. Part of me wanted someone else to take him. I went back with Sean and Sara late one afternoon to meet him. Sara made eye contact with him and he actually acknowledged her. Put his head in her lap (she was in the midst of a major anxiety attack) and licked her face. He kind of ignored Sean, but that was alright by him. I walked him again, this time with cheese in my pocket. He did everything I wanted and didn't so much as pull. And he looked so cute - all 70 pounds of him.

So yes, the following Saturday I went to the shelter and they had SAVED HIM FOR ME. Someone had come in to look at him and they'd told them no, that he was already taken. They knew even before I did. Smart people.

So Ezmond is my soul mate in a 4 legged, smelly terrier. I walk him for at east an hour a day (that's for the almost 20 pounds I've lost, Ez!) I nap on the floor with him. I kick him off the bed (he likes to crawl under the covers but is not invited) and I listen to him sigh this big happy, contented sigh.

Now, I look forward to the day when my latest mistake - Greg the Beagle - finds a new home and we can get back to a relaxed and comfortable house, without gates and double walks and a poor Beagle who hardly sees the light of day. Beagle for sale....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

November 4th

For those of you who didn't know, I turned 40 this year. Nursing a husband through colon cancer and chemotherapy did very little for the spirits last January. Things did not improve as the year went on and I find myself at an odd crossroads where what I used to think and what I'm going to think have no common thread. I just think my birthday sucked.

A friend recently told me I need a do-over. I like the idea. I think the only positive outcome of the whole fucking mess was in the shape of a gift from my friend Jen. She bought me an hour with her psychic.

OK, I've never so much as had my palm read as an adult (high school doesn't count - and they never could tell me who the love of my life was going to be - cheaters). I thought it would be a hoot and made an appointment to go in and meet her, talk with her. She said to allow an hour and she told me to bring something very personal to which I have a strong emotional attachment.

I took the ring I wear almost every day that I bought in San Francisco, on my first trip away from the kids, and sat as she asked me a few simple questions. Who am I, kids, marriage, friends, job, what do I want to know.

First, she told me that I was about to go through chaos like Id never seen. Check.
Next, she told me my son would be VERY ill and it would be very difficult for western medicine to diagnose and treat him. Check.
Then, it was about some of the people in my life - my friends. That a lot of them were not healthy and that I needed to revisit who I spend my time with. Again, not a big stretch, but interesting information since I was going through a metamorphosis of sorts.

Now it gets interesting. "You'll write something profound that will change the world." Yeah, I'm sure that last paper on Interactive Voice Response is a page turner. "Really, you have something within you that needs to be released. Go write." Whatever. We'll forget about the hundreds of hours in the dungeon on the book and the screenplay.

"You also have a number of past life experiences I'd like to share."

I lived in Hungary in the 1700s and fed the poor
I was a famous ballerina in the early 1900s that loved deeply, stirred passion in a large number of people for my art, died a tragic death.
I have never been a parent before but always wanted to be one.
There is someone out there, who I already know, that will become infinitely important to me in October.
I should be careful what I wish for. My spirit is owed a powerful wish and it will come true, good or bad.
And then there was November 4th. "You have no idea how deeply affected you will be on this day. Your entire life, perspective and expectations of the world will change in one quick minute."
Of course, after the year I've been through, I dread the fourth. Wish we could skip it. Might just hang out in bed.

Or, I might walk through my day, expecting big things and have nothing but the plain, boring, monotonous daily chores of my existence follow me. No epiphany. No "hallelujah" as the clouds part and my mind clears. But she knew what day my dog would die. Really. The actual day. And she knew I would find, in my new dog, whose name started with E, my soul mate on this earth. A gentle, kind and loving lap dog. And she said he'd be a pit bull.

Of course, she was nuts. She got lucky about Ezmond.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What I hate

I hate mornings. Despise them. Dread them. So much so that night time has taken on a whole new meaning... it's the precursor to doom. Time to self-medicate. A lot.

It all started when my daughter's anxiety blossomed in 6th grade. I blamed a teacher, we blamed life issues - but in the end, it's a little chemical mishap that wreaks havoc on her brain, willy nilly. Only, I can see it, I can FEEL it as it's happening, and it makes me ill. She won't get out of bed. She won't unlock the bathroom door. She flings herself in front of my car while I'm trying to drive away, having left her at school.

I've spent the last 14 months trying to manage this particular chaos again. But how do you manage chaos? I get constant lectures about being too soft on her, how I have to MAKE her go, drag her there, force her back to school. A school at which she does not take single core class (choir, teachers aid, study hall...why do we bother?) and where she's got more failing grades than passing ones. Why are we here?

On top of this lovely morning drama, I now have to find and pay for classes online for her to make up the failing grades. In my copious spare time. Out of my oh-so-expandable budget. And there's paperwork. And cajoling someone to get out of bed, eat, take her pills and get her butt in a pair of jeans. I have to put on my emotional armor just to get up in the morning. I lose a big chunk of myself. I miss me.

As I sit here, she is arguing with me, telling me what a horrible person I am, that I'm mean, that I don't understand. The one thing I really do understand is that most other people don't have to go through this on a daily basis with their kids. They get them up, they yell at them to get dressed, eat toast, brush teeth and off they go. Shit. It's a "why me" moment with a very bad conclusion.


I am not infinitely patient. I am not forever doing the right thing, saying the right thing, being the right thing. I try. It's all I got. I fail more often than not. I still set the old alarm and crawl out of bed the next day to start all over again. And the counselor says parenting isn't supposed to be easy. I'd like to see him react to a 15 year old flinging themselves in front of a moving vehicle. One that he just happens to be driving.

So what constitutes success in a mess like this? She's out of bed. Dressed. Angry and flinging foul remarks and hared at me at every turn. And I just sit here typing on my keyboard. Just like yesterday, when I had her drawing my silhouette while I worked. She was trying to capture something, she said. I have a feeling it was the nice mom she used to know, who seems to be awol at the moment. Not feeling nice.

And yet I'll do it again - tomorrow and the next day and the next day. One thing that would probably be helpful is some actual help, but that is in short supply. It makes me want a cookie and a blanket and a nap that lasts 3 weeks.

Which brings us to the whole point of this exercises... I'm going to Seattle on the 1st. Come hell, high water, plagues of locusts. I'm going to see Jen. I'm not missing this again (4 reschedules, damn it) for everyone else and what they want and need. I'm not just a mom, I'm also a woman and a person and those parts of me are so neglected, it's time to repair some of the hurt. A little love from a gemini that owns a piece of my heart is just what the doctor ordered. There's a Corona and a girlfrid who knows my secrets waiting.

Now, while I wait to see if she locks herself in the bathroom, I'm off to check train schedules, buy myself a ticket north. You'll probably hear the laughter all the way down I5 as I sneak away...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Are we aging... backward?

My best friend and I have discovered something really odd at this stage of our lives. We love all the things we loved when we were kids. She started it ( I'm!!!)

We went roller skating at Oaks Park last weekend. It was so much fun - I didn't fall down once (thank GOD, how humiliating) and I really loved flirting with the guy playing the organ. I wanted to special request the hokie pokie or something but I'm too chicken.

So, I spent the week thinking about how much fun it had been and looking forward to doing it again. We'd had a busy week and she told me she was going Saturday so I didn't get to join her. But something interesting happened... she bought a hula hoop. Saw it in a store window an impulse bought that dang thing on sight. A hula hoop?

See, all the things we loved when we were kids give us this feeling. For me, it's a bicycle with a banana seat, banana Popsicles... even bananas, as long as they have a butterscotch to go with 'em (thanks, grampa!) I wouldn't exactly compare it to being in love, but it's like being in heavy like (not to be confused with heavy petting - completely different!!)

Rollerskating made me feel giddy. Making new friends all over the place makes me feel giddy, too. Seems the more of a good thing I have, though, the more I want. For the first time in forever, I feel free to taste the adventures that life has in store. Banana Popsicle, anyone?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Where did you come from?

I love the idea that we've been here before. If there were any surprises in this life for me, it would probably be those rare times that someone crossed my path and instantly I felt history, connection, joy. My heart would say hello again, knowing we had somehow reconnected after a very long time.

I have many friends. Few of them know everyting about me (what fun would that be?) and fewer still know a lot of the bad stuff I went through when I was in my teens and twenties. But I came out the other side, became a respectable member of society, despite the bumps in the road that could have stopped a lot of people cold. But it didn't stop me. Because I had those ghosts I so love to talk about to guide me toward more people that share my world, the experiences I would need to become who I'm supposed to be.

I have a best friend that is also a new friend. We'll call her RK. She takes care of me like none of my other friends and better than anyone in my family ever has. If I needed a place to sleep, she'd make a bed. She's offered food while I struggle to find a job, everything you could possibly want or imagine - there is nothing she wouldn't do for me. How could you ever ask for a better friend? Safe harbor is so rare in this big, cold world and I have it with her. I have it other places, too, but with her it feels completely unconditional. She admires my parenting and the love and care of my children - which is not always easy. She makes me laugh with her witty, opinionated spirit. She calls me when I'm in need - almost like she has a second sense about me. All this from someone I haven't even know for a year. She has to have known me before. She has to know that once I'm through this horrible 2008, I will be the person I used to be and it'll be her turn to be pampered, cared for, spoiled. But she doesn't know that and she takes care of me still. Amazing.

I used to be this strong, determined, always "on" person. Nothing would keep me down for long, I could handle anything, always dealt with people strongly and fairly, never let my personal issues interfere with my business life or my friendships. I spoiled my friends with time, attention, surprises. And then that changed. The tough, strong, always put together me went out the window in one very quick second and I've had to rediscover how to get up in the morning, take care of kids and dogs and household, and allow myself the opportunity to be - are you ready..... - NEEDY. And just in time, RK is there.

Yeah, mushy I know, but this RK, the person I adore as a friend, falls into that category. We instantly hit it off (pedicures we love, politics we agree, life we cherish) and I think it's because I knew her before. Who were we to each other? Her amazingly strong sense of self makes me know we were family, not just friends. Sisters, maybe. And I got lucky enough to meander into her office one day and find her again. Thanks, universe. You're always looking out for me.

Friday, October 17, 2008

You don't temper perfect

I'm an intense person. Let's not pretend. I don't believe in pussy footing around, playing games or being anything but 100% Rachel. And that's about 100% more than most people can stomach.

So what do I do? I guess I could temper the passion I feel for life, the world and the people I care about. I could wear a big sign that says "Danger - radiation - keep your distance". Or, maybe I could just become a hermit and live in my hovel, allowing the poor, innocent general public the ability to stay behind the glass.

BUT I REFUSE. I am, as one friend puts it, "the be all, end all, how the hell did I get so lucky to meet you, perfect friend". I'm there at 2am when someone broke your heart. I bring you soup in bed when you're sick. I call when you're down - and I call when I'm blue, too. I give and I take. If I feel something, I tell you. You'll never wonder what's up with me. Heart is openly displayed on sleeve.

I took a major break from this type of behavior for years. I was unhappy, struggling and pulled away from everyone. But I found out quickly that hiding from your problems just makes them bigger. So now, I'm facing them and becoming the old "march through cemeteries, stomp in puddles, love with wild abandon" Rachel.

So when someone says too fast, slow down... can't handle it, I think I'm going to act fast. "Really? Then you'd better stay away" and off with their head. Talk about the ultimate red flag.

Because, damn it, when was the last time that you felt the most important, dynamic and exhilarating feeling - of being alive, toes in the earth, perfectly in tune with the world? - to only be told you're TOO alive and to knock it off? What kind of tool says "I love your intensity, I love your fire" and then immediately wants you to not be that way. Oh, wait - that's a man for you. My bad.

Here's my promise to myself today - people, you take me as I am, all 100% Rachel, or fuck you. You don't temper perfect.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

When everything falls apart

Today has not been a good day. It started out nicely - a massage is a good way to begin things. But it's has quickly spiraled to the point where I'm in that place - you know, from that movie? "The pit of despair". That's the ticket.

When you're friends are all right - and they don't even have the nerve to say "Told you so" because they know you'll shatter into a million pieces

When the best thing you can possibly do for yourself throws everyone else into actual, physical turmoil

When your to do list is so long and so full of bad stuff that it's no longer a list but the line you stand in on the way to the executioner

When the people who are supposed to pick you up when you fall apart are too selfish and worried about their own shit that they ignore your very quiet cries for help as you wash out to sea

At the other side of this, there had better damn well be a fucking golden ticket.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

MISSING: Some stuff and some other stuff

One in a while, it's nice to have your world turned upside down. Life is full of missed opportunities, chance meetings and random chaos. I've become an expert in the first and last of late. But amidst all the craziness, fear and occasional self-loathing, something completely amazing has happened.

I found happy.

I found it in an open space, by a fountain, overlooking some train tracks. I'd love to say I found a million dollars (maybe the car payment people would leave me alone then). Or maybe that I discovered, completely by accident, a cure for some dreaded disease. But this is oh so much better to me, selfish girl that I am. I'm laughing again - a lot. The bad moments are so much more palatable. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel - and it's not even an oncoming train. Bliss surrounds me, and I deserve it. This joy I plan to keep to myself for a while, savoring it and cherishing it as it should be savored and cherished. Because happiness has been so rare.

Happy was lost one summer day a number of year ago. I thought about tacking "Missing" posters around the city, but didn't have a current photo to add. Who would know happy when they saw it? How would people know what to look out for when all I could describe was "random giggles, puddle stomping and dragonflies". People can find all of those things, but the happy was lost to me.

I've taken life WAY too seriously of late. The whole parenthood, responsibility, independence thing has become problematic. I've spent too much time trying to do what I feel I should, too little doing what feels good. So, now that I've rediscovered happy, I'm hoping some of the more recent additions to my life can get lost: gloom; loneliness; disappointment. I figure they'll visit once in a while, but I'm ready to kick them out, make them get their own space, limit their visa to a short visit when necessary. Kind of like a couple of my uncles.

I found happy again. It's giggly and giddy and dragonflies, stomping in puddles, traipsing through cemeteries, saying I love you to all who matter and those who'll listen. Whoever sent it this way, I'm forever in your debt. I don't intend to ever let you go.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wanted: A big, burly, 70 pound pitbull that doesn't shrink from the rain!

Summer's almost over. The weather has started it's change from heat wave to rainy days. My yard looks like I have trees on every square foot (not true - but my next door neighbor does and he's happy to share leaves. Joy.) And my dog refuses to walk in the rain.

Yes, Ezmond has been with me since July. Summer was great - we walked so much he's mostly perfect on a leash, as long as I remind him who is boss. But today, he showed me a different side of himself. Looking up at the rain with eyes narrowed, backpack on but still hunched over. A minute's coaxing got him off the porch and into the drizzle. A minute later, he was standing firmly at the base of the driveway, completely unwilling to move. He had his feet buried in the pavement as I tried to pull him. You know, "once I get him in motion he'll stay in motion"? But not exactly...

So, our walk lasted all of 45 seconds. I brought him in and took off his gear, headed for the coffee. And I laughed at him. He seemed rather indignant and walked quickly to the pillow at the foot of my bed where he sleeps. I think his nose is buried firmly in his butt and I bet he won't come out until spring.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What was the question?

I grew up with a dad that is not very lovey or very nice. He's bipolar and wasn't on medication. He was SO much fun when he was on a manic high - we'd do crazy stuff like load into the car and blow off school to be at the coast for a couple days, camping in the middle of November at the mountains. Or, we'd make frequent trips to Winchell's donuts on 72nd and Sandy at 2am for crullers. Those were fun times. And his name is Tom.

However, with manic behavior, the good comes with the bad. He is never allowed alone with my kids. He scares me enough that I have nightmares about him. As I see him, in his 70s and ailing, I wonder how much longer he'll be here. And how I'll feel - if I feel anything - when he leaves us.

So, when I was little, I thought all dads were like this - basically cool and nutty and crazy. Then, when I was a toddler, I spent most of a summer with my great-grandfather, Jabez Shovel-Babb (born in 1884, died in 1985). Dad called him Jay-who. He had so many stories to tell - his older sister and their mother had tickets to take the titanic to the states, didn't go because my great aunt had the chickenpox. I may not have been born but for that because he wasn't born yet. He talked about his life as a trolly conductor in Portland, watching the city grow from the 20s when he moved here. Remembering neighborhoods like Lents, Sellwood and Madison as stops on his trolley. Forever, I will think of the Portlan transit system as his. It doesn't beling to us, but to those who came before.

He had an affinity for bananas and lived to be 101 - he swore that 2 bananas a day and all the butterscotch candies you could eat lead him to a long and GOOD life. He smiled a lot and had the most infectious laugh when you heard it - which was rare. He was softspoken and demure, slow to talk and slower to raise his voice.

I was smitten with him - he let me crawl on his lap (Dad never so much as hugged me) and told me stories of England and the coal mines and how difficult life was when my great aunt and my grandfather were growing up. He gave me coins from his pocket that were so foreign to the US coins I would find on the street. We were very, very poor (pancakes and jello for dinner, free cheese... food stamps was too embarrassing for mom so we'd go hungry and she wouldn't have to stand in line and be embarrassed.) I adored every minute I spent with him. When we had the ice storms in the 70s, hed sleep on a makeshift bed in our living room, next to the fire, and I would sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag, piled in with brothers and cousins and the odd neighbor. Nothing felt better than those nights, watchig the transformers blow up, having cocoa that mom cooked on a campstove on the front porch. I never wanted it to end, never wanted to go back to a life of grade school where I excellend and felt mired in the mud, all at once.

My beloved Grampa died when I was 12. His funeral was one of the saddest days of my life. First of all, they put all this icky makeup on him - he looked like a clown. He would have hated that! Then, they dressed him in a fancy, satin suit and slicked his hair back. My great aunt asked me to kiss him (eeew - dead man cooties!) The way I remember him was very thin grey hair blowing around his head as he got off Tri-Met #12 on his way to tea with mom. Pale as a ghost - the man had that parchment skin that older people get. He was 101 for goodness sakes!

And his suits were tailored in England (he was born in Cornwall), with a special inner pocket, silk lining, and every detail done to the nines. I loved his style. The man was classier than anyone I could possibly imagine. I wanted his suit coats so bad that, when I got them from my aunt as a rememberance, I wore one EVERY DAY throughout high school. Got a nickname from that. Not repeating it here - it still haunts me in some circles. It was the 80s, after all...

So, my grampa died. But at home that day, after the bad organ music and me asking everyone to sign the guestbook - and all the comments of "You're becoming such a nice young lady" and getting super-hugged by one to many slightly creepy, distant male relative, I found something. I found a half penny from 1902. It was in my room, tucked safely in a shoe where nobody would find it. He hadn't been by in a while - had he left it there and I just didn't wear them? Had my mom or my dad done it to make me feel better? My heart died a little bit that day, it was the last time a man put arms around me and loved me without expectations. And I kept the coin to remember the cool things he'd taught me (how to make your tea, how to eat a scone, what bus gets you where in the city - he never drove, what really makes a man into a man.)

For obvious reason, he stayed dead. Any alternative coould be weird. Only, the coins kept coming. A couple people who are very important to me died one day in 1990, only I didn't know it for a few days. Two coins showed up in my shower - clogging the drain. Had to have the plumber out to fix it. He yelled at me for throwing British money down the drain, like I was nuts. I just smiled - until later, when I realized the exact moment they showed up would have been the exact moment of unfathomable loss.

When both my children were born, I had coins in my hospital room. For every big event in my life, there was a reminder of him. I'd think of what it would feel like to get a soft and getle hug at a sad moment, to have someone pat me on the head and say "No bother, girlie, no bother at all" and I'd wonder where we go when we're not here anymore. And yet, he was there.

Last time, it was when Jessie, my dog, died pretty suddenly in the spring. With all the other chaos in my life, I wasn't sure I could keep up the front of everything being OK. I came home to an 1898 ha'penny and a butterscotch candy on my computer keyboard. Really. A fresh one, not musty and old and smelling like dead guy. Glad there were no bananas, though... that could have been weird.