Saturday, August 31, 2013

"My Bucket" by Katie Carleton, Age 7

Katie drew a picture of her bucket today.  It has blue eyes and glasses just like she does.  She kept talking about the book ever since they read it at her school, so I brought home a copy from the public library today.  She's read it twice since I handed it to her not quite two hours ago.  It inspired her to create this drawing of what she thinks her bucket would look like.  I love that it's rainbow colored.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Katie's Brothers and Dog

"Katie's Brothers and Dog: Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Victor, Harry, and Sparky"
by Katie Poter (sic)

Katie drew this picture of her brothers, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Victor from the movie "Frankeneweenie," and Harry Potter.  And their dog Sparky, also from "Frankenweenie".

She did this at home, but she said earlier in the day she wrote a journal entry about Sparky and, "All the kids looked at me when my teacher read it and said, 'You like dead dogs'?"

"Well, did you explain to her you're talking about a movie and not real dead dogs?"

"Well, um, I think I did."

If we don't get a note home from her teacher we can assume she's seen the movie and understands.  If not, it will be interesting to try to explain that no, our daughter is not currently fascinated by real dead dogs, but fake dead dogs on movies and made into stuffed animals she carries around with her everywhere she goes.

CirKis Rant

"Mom, look at the box for my CirKis game.  It says, 'It's so easy, anyone can play...'  But then over here it says for ages 8 and up."  Katie placed her index finger over the 8+ on the box, in case I missed it.  She stood there staring at me like well, what's your answer?

"Oh, that's weird.  I never noticed that," I said.  It has become my stock response to most of our seven-year-old's statements these days.  Katie's hyper-aware of her world and eager to point out its inconsistencies.

"Yeah, so it says it's for anyone over here but it says it's for 8 and up over here," she evidently wanted to make sure I was clear about it.

"Yeah, that's weird, isn't it?" I said nonchalantly.  At 42, I expect the world to not make sense.  Especially the world of marketing.

"Yeah, they should either say it's for anyone or say it's for people ages 8 and up!" she ranted, waiving her arms.

"Yeah, well, one way or the other, you can still play it.  You don't need a box to tell you that," I said.

"I know," she said, walking away, moving on to something else.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Neighborly Cookies

This morning I asked the question, "Do people still bake cakes for new neighbors?"  While walking Katie to school this morning I noticed our new neighbors have a bumper sticker that says, "Well behaved women seldom make history." 
I felt a sudden urge to welcome them to the neighborhood.  It would be nice to have friends so close to home, but that's jumping the gun.  It would be nice to have neighbors that said, "hey" back to us when we say "hey" as I walk Katie to and from school.  Most people spend less than ten seconds outside going from their house to their car door, rushing off to their busy lives. 

I felt shy about baking strangers a cake.  It feels weird to me, having always lived in areas where it's just understood the grownups on the street don't talk to each other.  If you know anything about a family it's through the neighborhood kids' grapevine.  Plus, I'm just not naturally very good at approaching people I don't know and introducing myself.  

My niece had a great idea to bake them cookies instead of a cake.  Somehow cookies are less intrusive than cake.  More like, "Hi, we like your bumper stickers and we want to welcome you to the neighborhood and wave and smile at you from time to time" and less like, "Hi, we're annoying neighbors who are going to show up randomly at your door to pester you with our intense friendliness."

I was going to make what we call in our family Chocolate Chip Cowboy Cookies, which are basically oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but I didn't have quite enough chocolate chips for the whole batch, so I threw in some dried cranberries.  They're delicious.  I saved enough for Will, Katie, and me to enjoy too.

I felt less awkward walking over to their house to deliver the cookies than I initially expected.  Katie and I had actually met them earlier in the day as we were walking home from school as they pulled into their driveway.  We stopped and said hello, introduced ourselves, and I told them I like their bumper stickers and the wife said, "yeah we're kinda hippies" and we all laughed and then smiled and waved.  So I felt less dorky when it was time for us to walk the cookies across the street to them this evening.  

Katie and I held hands as we walked up to the door.  I knocked.  They both answered, smiling, and accepted the cookies graciously.  They seemed really happy that we made the effort.  

But then, just as I was about to say, "See ya later," the husband said, "More cookies!  The neighbors next door brought over some cookies too."

"Really?"  I said.  

I must have sounded shocked.  The wife immediately said, "But that's OK.  I'm a total cookie monster."  

We left them our gift, smiled, said our see-ya-laters and headed back down their driveway toward the sidewalk.

As Katie and I walked hand-in-hand back home, I looked around at all the houses, most of them with their air conditioners whirring, windows and doors shut tight and locked.  I don't know these people and for most of my life that has been perfectly fine with me.  But becoming a mother has changed me.  It has made me want to improve the community in which we are raising our child.  

One of the things that irks me about the suburban neighborhoods where I've lived most of my life is how aloof and distant the people seem.  But I never did anything about it.  I understand people like their privacy.  So do I.  Before Katie I didn't care about neighborliness. Now I do.  Not in the nosy I wonder what's going on over there kind of way, but in a hey let's know we're here for each other kind of way.  Despite my shyness, if I want to live in a place where neighbors care about each other then I must take the initiative.  Gandhi said we must be the change we wish to see in the world.  I'll start closer to home.  I must "be the change" I wish to see in my 'hood.  I must become the neighbor I wish I had.

I squeezed my girl's hand tight.  We looked both ways for cars and crossed the street.  It was time for dinner and then, of course, more cookies.

Some Time of One's Own

I needed a day like today.  A day to myself.  Virginia Woolf thinks a woman needs a room of her own to express herself artfully.  It's time I need.  Lots of alone time.

And yet I have duties, obligations.  That I love, that I want to do, don't get me wrong.  But it drains my energy.  I spend much of my time helping and caring for others: my daughter, my husband, our pets, my customers and colleagues at work.  Writing is for me.  I used to feel guilty for taking up so much time with my writing, but I no longer do.  I realize how important it is in my life.  Some days I feel like I could literally crack up.  Break apart.  Get so frazzled I finally zap out.

Get out of the way, Becky's in another one of her moods!  Call the loony bin!  

I've discovered three things that help me steer clear of the Osawatomie State Psychiatric Hospital: walking, talking, and writing.

I walk every day I get a chance, often more than once a day.  Sometimes big long hikes at the dog park, but usually just ten or fifteen minute bursts here and there during breaks at work, a half hour or so after I walk Katie to school, twenty minutes or so while Katie and I take the dogs for a walk around the block, walking slowly so my old furry kids can sniff everything.

I talk to my husband Will every day I get a chance.  We're lucky we have funny work schedules so we have two mornings of alone time, just him and me, each week when Katie's in school.  I savor our conversations.  No one understands me better than Will does.  I am so blessed to have found such a firm foundation in him.

I write every day I get a chance, too.  Some days I don't get much writing done.  The obligations get in the way.  And that's fine.  Then I have days like today where I have seven glorious uninterrupted hours alone to write, to do what I want to do, for me.

I started out the day by making Katie some oatmeal and feeding the pets their dry food.  I walked Katie to school.  Then I walked around the neighborhood by myself and arrived home by 8:30.  I made coffee and did some dishes.  Then I sat down to write.  I wrote.  I listened to Patti Smith's amazing CD "Horses".  I played a few games of Words with Friends.  I tidied the house.  I remembered I'd made coffee and drank it.  I threw in a load of laundry.  I pet the dogs.  I took a picture of one of Katie's stuffed animals and shared it on Facebook.  I checked to see if I have all the ingredients to make some cookies for our new neighbors.  I wrote some more.

And when it's time for me to leave the house and walk back to Katie's school so I can escort her home, and when it's time for Will to return home from work, my energy will be recharged and I can give of myself wholly to them.  And tomorrow, when I return to work after another day of glorious alone time writing and walking and having time to talk to my husband and play with my child, I can give my best self to the customers I serve.  I'm a better employee since I cut back my hours from forty a week to twenty-four.  I can give a whole day of myself to my job if I have six other days to devote to my family and myself.

Never let anyone tell you it is selfish to take some time of your own to do as you please.  I am a more giving person when I take time for my own needs.

CBGB's Elegie

"Farewell CBGBs: 33 years.  It's the same age as Jesus."--Patti Smith

"Love your neighbor as yourself."--Jesus

Some might think it's sacreligious to compare the death of Jesus to the death of a punk rock venue, but I can think of fewer people more neighbor-loverly than this soulful poet who said it.  This miracle of love and beauty brought to you by Patti Smith, who sung the last song at CBGB:

Patti Smith "Elegie"

I just don't know what to do tonight,
My head is aching as I drink and breathe
Memory falls like cream in my bones, moving on my own.

There must be something I can dream tonight,
The air is filled with the moves of you,
All the fire is frozen yet still I have the will, ooh, ah.

Trumpets, violins, I hear them in the distance
And my skin emits a ray, but I think it's sad, it's much too bad
That our friends can't be with us today.

New Neighbors

Kismet?  While walking Katie to school this morning I noticed our new neighbors have a bumper sticker that says, "Well behaved women seldom make history."  They just moved in a couple of days ago, after I shared this status update five days ago with my social network neighbors on Facebook and Twitter: 

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” ― Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

They also have one of those TOLERANCE bumper stickers that has the symbols of the various faiths spelling out the word.  I had a similar COEXIST bumper sticker on my car until recently when I finally pulled off what was left of it since it had been weather-worn so badly you could barely tell what it said anymore.  I need to get a new one.  One that doesn't look like I'm making an ironic statement with my tattered COEXIST sign.  This is what happens when human beings try to coexist.  

I think the universe is telling me I'm going to like our new neighbors. 

Do people still bake cakes for new neighbors?  Or is that etiquette from a bygone era?  We do live in a neighborhood that was built in 1956, back when people still did such things.  Nowadays most of our neighbors avoid each other, so it might seem weird to ring a stranger's doorbell and hand over a cake.  But fuck it!  I can be a rule breaker!  I'm not a well-behaved woman.  Instead of making history, I can go retro and bake our new neighbors a cake.  Kindness never goes out of date.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sparky Has Ampliffy for Katie's Sleeping Bag

Katie showing Sparky the movie"Frankenweenie" for the first time. I think he liked it, but actors always say it's hard to watch yourself on screen. Thanks to my friend Brent for buying Katie the Sparky stuffed dog for her birthday!

While helping her get packed for a sleepover at a friend's house, I noticed Katie's sleeping bag had a tear in it.

"Hey, Sweetie, your sleeping back is torn a little here and some stuffing is coming out of it.  Is that going to embarrass you in front of your friends at the sleepover and you want us to stitch it up, or is it OK the way it is?" I asked, holding it up for her to see the approximately seven inch rip in her hand-me-down from cousins' Princess sleeping bag.

"It's OK the way it is," she said, pushing her bangs off to the side of her face.  They fell back into her eyes immediately but she refuses to wear them any other way most days.  

In this way, Katie reminds me of myself when I was her age.  She just doesn't care about nice and neat.  I remember getting minus signs inside the box next to the words "keeps neat and clean" and "neat with all work" on my elementary school report cards.  I remember an older neighbor kid once asking me if I even had any clothes.  When I asked her what she meant, she said, "You just run around in your swim suit all summer long."  I didn't get it.  So what?  

Katie's perfectly fine running around all day in the same clothes she wore the day before, the same clothes she slept in, not even bothering to brush sand from them when she comes inside from the sandbox.  She slops food all over her face like Leo the Late Bloomer, she reacts to the thought of blowing her nose like a toddler running from a parent holding out one of those things that looks like it's going to suck out your brain.  It takes more nagging than I usually have patience for to get her to clean her bedroom.  She just doesn't get it when I tell her for the four-hundred-thousandth time to GET HER BANGS OUT OF HER EYES.

But I understand her.  I didn't care about how I looked or how my bedroom looked or how my school work looked either.  I didn't care that most of my clothes were hand-me-downs or that I often didn't bother finding two socks that matched.  I wanted to play.  I wanted to think about things.  I wanted to figure things out.  I wanted to get to know my friends.  I wanted to run, and sit and look up at the sky.  I didn't have time to bother with grooming or civility.  

That all changed when I went through a pink phase for about five months in late- sixth grade when my mom gave me this cool marble looking pink plastic bracelet, and I just happened to notice I also had a pink jumper, a pink shirt, and pink tennis shoes, all stuff just randomly given to me and not picked out to wear as an outfit.  When I tried it on one day and looked in the mirror I felt fantastic.  Now, if I saw a girl dressed all matchy-matchy like this today, I'd smile at her and giggle inside at the recognition of someone who was not born with an innate fashion sense but had recently begun diving into it head-on anyway.  But at the time I thought I looked fiiiiiiiiiiine.

I was daydreaming, thinking about all of this, when something Will said broke my concentration.

"I'll stitch it up.  I can do it.  Don't worry about it."

Did he think my standing there staring off into space meant I was worrying about it?  "Aww, that's sweet!  You don't have to do that!" I said, meaning, "I'm not worried if Katie's not worried what her friends think of her tattered sleeping bag."  But I didn't say that because for some reason when you get married sometimes you forget that your spouse cannot read your mind.  It's a bad habit I haven't learned to break yet.

But Will said, "No, I want to.  I'll stitch it up.  I can do it.  It'll be easy."

"Oh.  OK, if you want to.  That's so sweet."  I turned to look at Katie and said, "Isn't your daddy so nice to stitch up your sleeping bag for you?"

Katie nodded and smiled like yeah yeah, tell me something I don't already know, such a lucky child to take for granted how doting her daddy is.  I'll forgive her though.  She's got such a good heart.  Here's what she said, instead of "Thank you, Daddy":

"You know what?  I think Sparky has ampliffy for my sleeping bag."  She stood there, looking at both of us, cradling her Sparky stuffed dog in her arm.

"Ampliffy?"  I asked.  "What do you mean?"

"I think Sparky knows how it feels to be stitched up," she explained.

"Oh, Sparky has empathy for the sleeping bag?" I asked.

"Yes, empathy," Katie said like that's what I said, Mom.

I looked over and smiled at Will, who was smiling, too.  Our daughter's big vocabulary.  Our daughter's big thoughts.  Our daughter's big heart.  We stood there and smiled at each other, proud of this girl of ours.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"It's My Bucket!"

Katie explained to me about bullies and buckets the other day on our walk home from school.  Katie's counselor was teaching her second-grade class social skills through the metaphor of everyone having a bucket.  Let me have Katie explain it to you like she did to me:

"You see," Katie explained, "Everyone has a bucket.  And your bucket gets filled when nice things happen to you."

"You can fill your own bucket by saying nice things to yourself like I am proud of that picture I drew today in art class or I am a really fast runner!  Or other people can fill your bucket too.  Other people can tell you nice things like you're a really nice friend or thanks for helping me get up when I fell down on the playground."

"And you can also empty your bucket.  You can empty it yourself by saying mean things to yourself like I'm so stupid or I'm the slowest runner in the class.  Or someone else can empty your bucket.  Like bullies.  Bullies empty your bucket when they bully you!"

When I asked Katie to explain to me what a bully is, this is what she said:

"A bully is someone whose bucket is so empty they try to empty other people's buckets by saying mean things to them like calling them bad names or shoving them around and being mean."

I was so impressed that she remembered the lesson well and could explain it to me.  Then today I was blown away when, at the dinner table, out of nowhere, Katie said to me, "Hey Mom.  Did you know that nobody can empty my bucket?  Because I put a lid on it.  I put straps on it.  And a lock."

I admit, I'd been a tad concerned that this bucket lesson was going to over-emphasize our responsibilities toward other's feelings.  I can try to fill someone's bucket up to the brim but it won't MAKE them feel happy.  Trust me.  I have many exes who will vouch for me on this one.  But I never said anything about that to Katie.

I'm proud to see Katie taking responsibility for her bucket.  But dang, we're social creatures.  We do need each other to some degree.  I asked her what if someone wants to fill her bucket.  How will they get inside?

"I can let them in if I want them to, but it's my bucket."

Hells yeah, Punky!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Health Risk Assessment 2013

As a fat woman who promotes the Health at Every Size® philosophy, just as I enjoy going to the community pool wearing my bikini to show that fat woman can love their bodies and enjoy an active life too, I enjoy attending the Health Risk Assessment at my work to prove to the busybody medical establishment that a fat woman can have healthy numbers, too.

I'm kind of weird that way.  Most people I know dread the day we get our fingers pricked and our cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose measured, our arms pumped to see what our blood pressure measures, our answers taken to questions such as "how many times a week do you exercise at least thirty times a week?" and "how many fruits and vegetables do you consume each day?"

I like to attend these events as living proof to the health insurance industry and the medical establishment that a fat woman can be fit too.  Let's face it.  I put forth an effort to take good care of myself and I like to show off my results.  Yes I do exercise about 280 minutes a week (mostly walking, but some dancing and hiking and vigorous sex thrown in for fun.)  Yes I do eat about five fruits and veggies each day.  And yes, I'm still fat.  Just like my mom and dad are fat.  Just like all four of my grandparents were fat.  Funny that.

Feel free to look away from my Health Numbers Brag if such things make you feel squeamish.  Just because I'm a health nut doesn't mean I think all people should be.  In a way it's another one of my anxieties.  Because really, none of us knows what's going to kill us or when.  We can try to live forever but we flat out won't.  We might as well enjoy life as best we can.  For some of us that means eating a diet of mostly nuts and fruit and flax-seed smoothies because we feel fantastic afterwards.  For others that means diving into the glory of a cupcake because that's what makes them feel fantastic.

One of my fat grandmothers died at age 94.  When my husband and I were going through her things after she passed, we found a freezer full of boxes of Twinkies.  This woman once argued with me that I could not use apple pie as a term for junk food during a game of Scattergories because, come one, it's made with apples!  94 years she lived.  You just never know.

While I was searching for my Health Risk Assessment results from last year, I stumbled upon this blog post I wrote at the time.  I'd like to share it with you again today since it's still so very relevant.  I have to remind myself to not get too caught up in measuring life and to take time to enjoy living it.

But, I am my big fat OCDish self, so here's my annual Health Numbers Brag:

weight                      222          [fuck you]
cholesterol 189 below 200
HDL (good)   49 50 or higher
nonfasting glucose 92* below 140
blood pressure 112/76 below 120/80
cholesterol ratio 3.9 below 4.0
triglycerides 87 below 150
physical activity 280 (150 minutes or more each week)
Framington score 2% (low risk of developing heart disease during the next ten years = <10%)

*This one I'm especially proud of because I have PCOS and I decided to not take the medication for it and instead limit the refined carbs in my diet and get plenty of it seems to be glucose for several years was running a bit high until I made these healthful changes

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

Katie has a new school crossing guard this year.  The guy she had in kindergarten and first grade was nice, but kinda shy.  We'd say, "Hi" or "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" and he'd nod and smile but never say much.  Which was fine with me.  I'm not much of a small talker, especially first thing in the morning.  He did offer all the kids candy each Halloween, and on the last day of school, and he did his job of protecting the kiddos from traffic.  He just wasn't ever a bundle of joy.  

This new crossing guard acts like a kindergarten teacher-in-training.  SHE TALKS WITH A FULL SMILE AND eVeRyThInG cOmEs OuT aLl SiNgSoNgy.

I would not want to spend more than five minutes alone with this person, but she's a wonderful elementary school crossing guard.

Hello again today! she says to each child she greets.

Are you ready for another fantastic day?! she says in the morning.

Did you have a great day at school today?! she says in the afternoon.

This afternoon as we approached the cross walk, she beamed at us like we were long lost best friends.  

"Well hello there!  Did you have a great day at school?" she asked, looking at Katie.

Katie smiled and said, louder than her usual mumble, "Yes!  It was a great day.  And now it's a beautiful day outside.  Enjoy your day!"

I didn't want to put my kid on the spot by staring at her as if she were an alien, but I did wonder what on earth had come over her.  She must really like this new crossing guard.

When we got to the end of the cross walk and continued onto the sidewalk toward our block, Katie lowered her voice, leaned into me, and said, "I just filled her bucket."

I looked around to see if the crossing guard was holding a bucket and I just didn't notice it.  No bucket.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

Katie clued me in.  They had a counselor come into her classroom today to talk about social skills.

"You see," Katie explained, "Everyone has a bucket.  And your bucket gets filled when nice things happen to you."

"I see," I said, wondering where this was going."

"You can fill your own bucket by saying nice things to yourself like I am proud of that picture I drew today in art class or I am a really fast runner!  Or other people can fill your bucket too.  Other people can tell you nice things like you're a really nice friend or thanks for helping me get up when I fell down on the playground."

 I wondered if she was repeating verbatim what the counselor had said to her or if she was using real world examples, because I couldn't imagine she would remember all this word-for-word, but I didn't want to interrupt her obvious enjoyment in telling me what she learned by asking.

"And you can also empty your bucket.  You can empty it yourself by saying mean things to yourself like I'm so stupid or I'm the slowest runner in the class.  Or someone else can empty your bucket.  Like bullies.  Bullies empty your bucket when they bully you!"

She finally caught a breath long enough for me to ask a question.  "So what's a bully?"

"A bully is someone whose bucket is so empty they try to empty other people's buckets by saying mean things to them like calling them bad names or shoving them around and being mean," Katie explained.

"Wow, that is so true.  That is so cool you guys have a counselor that comes to your class and teaches you these things.  It took me years to understand what you're learning now.  So now you're going to go around trying to fill people's buckets?  Like that crossing guard?"  I asked, squeezing her hand a little tighter.

"Yep.  I filled her bucket by being polite to her.  That's another way you can fill someone's bucket if you don't know them very well.  By saying thank you and please and it's so pretty outside and enjoy your day.  You can say that kind of stuff to anyone to fill their bucket."

I wanted to argue that sometimes when I'm in a grumpy mood it actually makes me feel more irritated when someone offers me such fake pleasantries, but I didn't want to poke a hole in my sweet little seven-year-old's bucket quite yet.  She has middle school to figure that out.

"Well thank you for sharing that with me," I smiled.

"See, you just filled my bucket by saying thank you!" Katie let go of my hand and skipped ahead a bit.  I didn't try to catch up.  I wanted to see her, all on her own, courageously pushing forward through life.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Life's Eternal Improv

The troubled marriage that inspired Nora Ephron

After reading the Salon article linked above, I was reminded of how much I miss Nora Ephron.  A strong woman willing to speak openly of her struggles, comforting us, her audience, with her hilarious tales of woe.  Brave and honest and funny, funnier even because of her bravery and her honesty.

Honesty scares me sometimes, but I like it.  It heals me more wholly than denial does.  I hope Ephron felt healed by sharing her stories with us.  I know I feel better when I share my stories.

Friday I had one of the worst panic attacks of my life. I sobbed for two-and-a-half hours at a park, alone, in my car.  I didn't have access to my prescription anti-anxiety medication and I didn't know where to go.  It was horrible.  Mostly because I was isolated.  Everyone I reached out to talk to was either unavailable or unaware of how to help me.   

I'm proud to say I got through it.  Mostly by keeping my sense of humor and riding it through. 

Earlier in the day I'd been experiencing some writer's block, and I was feeling generally crappy about my writing, not too inspired to write about anything. But about half-way through my 2 1/2 hour panic attack I stopped for a moment and thought, "Hey, at least now maybe I can get some writing done.  This will make a great story!" I literally laughed out loud at how driven I am to blend my art and my emotions and my life together. And you know what?  I felt a little calmer.  Not miraculously healed, but a little better.  Like I had a plan.  Something I can control in this uncontrollable world.  Sometimes, just knowing there's a story inside waiting to come out keeps me going.

I feel like my whole life is a practice run for a play I'm a part of but I don't understand what it's about and I have no idea what role I'm in and I can't even figure out who the director is.  But some days I smell popcorn popping in the background and it smells so good, and I see the smiling faces of my husband, my kiddo, my mom, my siblings, my friends, my loves ones out there in the audience looking at me like they're thinking, "You can do it!"  

Some days it works out and I end up telling a story I didn't even know existed until the exact moment it comes out.  As if all at once when I let go of the control I seek, I become unblocked, and all the lines come to me.  Even if they're wrong.  They're right for this moment, life's eternal improv.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yoga Nap

I hauled out Katie's old crib mattress.  Our seven-year-old girl started second grade this week.  I can't believe how big she's getting.  But that's not why I hauled out her bitty crib mattress.  I'm not looking to wax nostalgic over my baby.  I need a comfy place to do some big yoga.

I checked out a book and a DVD from the library, both entitled Big Yoga.  I like the idea that the poses are for bigger bodies.  I checked these out because I need to fucking relax.  I've been tense as fuck lately, irritable, super sensitive, and crabby.  I've upped my walks, which does help calm my nerves, but I still wake up at 4AM sweating and worrying about how everybody is going to get along on our up-coming ten-hour-round-trip-road-trip to my niece's wedding: Will, who doesn't put up with anybody's bullshit, my 86 year old curmudgeonly father, a yeller and also a no-bullshit tolerater, and a bored seven year old with the bladder of a seven day old.  And me, my 42 year old big butt shoved into the back of our tiny Saturn sedan, alternating between sweating and freezing to death as I do nothing but stare out the windows in an effort to keep away the inevitable car sickness.

Sounds fun, doesn't it?

I thought road trips with my dad sucked as a kid when he'd refuse to roll down his windows as he smoked his Pall Malls in the car, not wanting to decrease his fuel mileage.  Now let's see how an 86 year old arthritic, ill-tempered dad and a 42 year old hormonal-roller-coaster daughter get along on this trip.  Whoopee!

So, yeah, I need to do some yoga to chill the fuck out.

So I dragged out Katie's crib mattress.  Will chivalrously stepped all over it to make sure it didn't have any mice or mice nests inside since it was stored in our basement for the last five years.  I flung it down on the floor to start some poses and, instead, took a nap.  No dreams.  No sweat.  Just peaceful sleep.

I must have needed it.  Waking up a sweaty, panicky mess at 4AM wears my body out and frazzles my mind.

By the time I awoke, I had to leave to pick up Katie from school, so although I have yet to try any yoga poses on my new anti-anxiety mat, I still felt refreshed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Jerky Strips

I came home from work to find these on our kitchen counter: jerky strips.  

I thought I was the dog-lover in our relationship?  But no, I did not buy these.  I am too frugal to buy packaged dog treats.  I feed my furry kids scraps off my own plate, carrot sticks that are getting ready to shrivel, an occasional peanut-butter-filled kong toy, but I've never been one to give them store-bought treats.

And yet, I come home from work and these jerky strips are on our counter.  Huh?  Turns out my husband, the man who claims to not like pets, is the one who bought them.  Randomly.  No doggie birthday.  No trying to train them to do something.  Just because he thinks they'd like them.  My husband, the guy who once broke up with me for a summer when I wanted a commitment and he wanted a pet-free life.  Now he's buying my dogs bacon flavored bits of bliss.  Our dogs, I mean.

William, I do so adore you.  You are the kindest, most generous soul I know.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

BookBike Becky

I love this idea that I heard about on NPR: Seattle Public Library is trying out a new program where they deliver books by bike.  A librarian hauls 500 pounds of materials on the back of a bike trailer and heads out to places in the community that attract crowds of people, like farmer's markets.  They hope to reach patrons who might not otherwise come into a library building.

I'd love to try something like this at my public library.  I could be like Chummy on "Call the Midwife", riding my bike around the community.  Only instead of delivering babies I'd deliver ideas.  All unique creations.

Terrified pedestrians would see me coming and cry, "Look out, here comes Becky the Librarian on her BookBike!"  After giving patrons an adrenaline rush by watching me nearly crash the BookBike, I could recommend a good thriller they might like to check out.  Or, if I see their response to my shenanigans is to laugh at me, I might recommend a zany memoir to appease them.

From the post:

"'Sometimes you're answering reference questions in the building and sometimes you're on a bike,' he says. 'I would like to be part of ushering in this new era of librarianship that's just a lot more mobile and agile and really responsive to the community and the needs.'"

Friday, August 9, 2013

Patti Smith, an Artful Life

My first memory of Patti Smith is when I was seven and someone showed me her "Easter" album cover.

"Eww.  Look, she has hairy armpits!" my friend said.  I no longer remember who exactly that friend was, but I agreed with her at the time.

I said, "Eww" too.  I had never seen a woman with hair under her pits.

Two years later, my mom informed me it was time to start shaving my armpits.  Physically I was an early developer.  Socially I was slow.  In fourth grade, I had no interest yet in bathing or grooming or wearing uncomfortable clothes or makeup.  Certainly not dragging a sharp object across my flesh, inevitably nicking myself each time.  But my mom insisted I start shaving my armpits and I complied.  She hardly ever asked me to do anything, so when she did I knew she was serious.

Mom bought me a pink circular-shaped safety razor that you could turn and it would make a click sound when a new blade snapped into place.  I sat in the bathtub for half an hour playing with my razor before I actually used it to shave.  I hated shaving from the first moment on.  I remember sitting there, watching the bar of Ivory soap float around the tub and wishing I were as brave as Patti Smith.

Later, as a teenager, Patti Smith recorded a song with my favorite band at the time, R.E.M.  It's amazing:

A couple of years ago I read Patti Smith's mesmerizing memoir Just Kids about her relationship with the great artist Robert Mapplethorpe.  I recommend it as often as I can to anyone who mentions an interest in artists' lives.

Then today a friend shared this video clip of Patti Smith speaking at the Louisiana Literature Festival on August 24, 2012 at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.  It's exactly what I needed to hear, right now.

Thank you, Patti Smith, for advocating an artful life.  

Patti Smith, from the video above: 

To be an artist, actually, to be a human being in these times, it's all difficult.  You have to go through life, hopefully you know, trying to stay healthy, you know, being as happy as you can.  And pursuing, you know, doing what you want.  If what you want is to have children, if what you want is to be a baker, if what you want is to live out in the woods or try to save the environment.  Or maybe what you want is to write scripts for detective shows.  It doesn't really matter, you know, what matters is to be, is to know what you want, and pursue it, and understand that it's gonna be hard.  Because life is really difficult.  You're gonna lose people you love.  You're gonna suffer heartbreak.  Sometimes you'll be sick.  Sometimes you'll have a really bad toothache.  Sometimes you'll be hungry.  But on the other end, you'll have the most beautiful experiences.  Sometimes just the sky.  Sometimes, you know, a piece of work that you do that feels so wonderful.  Or you find somebody to love.  Or your children.  There's beautiful things in life.  So when you're suffering, just, you know, it's part of the package, you know.  You look at it: we're born and we also have to die.  We know that, so it makes sense that we're going to be really happy and things are going to be really fucked up too.  Just ride with it, you know.  It's like a roller coaster ride.  It's never going to be perfect.  It's gonna have perfect moments and then rough spots, but it's all worth it.  Believe me.  I think it is.  

You know, I'm sure that each generation, you know, could say that their time was the best and the worst of times.  But I think that right now we are at something different that I've never seen.  It's a pioneering time because there's no other time in history like right now.  And that's what makes it unique.  It's not unique because we have, you know, like Renaissance-style artists.  It's unique because the people, it is a time of the people because technology has really, democratised self-expression.  Instead of a handful of people making their own records or writing their own songs, everybody can write them.  Everyone can post a poem on the Internet and have people read it.  Everyone has access, and access that they've never had before...  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dr. Sanjay Gupta Opens His Mind about Weed

My husband knows when to stop.  I, however, do not.  I keep telling myself to stop writing about hot-button issues.  Then Dr. Sanjay Gupta goes and announces his support of weed.  Dude.

Over the course of the last few months I've gotten into arguments that turned into fights with several friends and other loved ones.  It really sucks.  I feel physically sick when I fight with people.  I mope around for days feeling like I'm going to hurl, jonesin' for fast-paced sweaty walks that get the endorphins kicking to alleviate some of my nervous energy.

Yet I can't seem to stop myself from arguing about controversial issues.  And I'm the first to admit I'm a shitty debater.  When someone says something I don't like, I take it too personally.  My husband, my mom, my friends who care the most about me tell me to ignore it.

"Why do you let what other people say bother you so much?  Let it go!" they say.

But it's difficult for me to let things go.  Someone's thoughtless words enter my ear canal and itch their way inside to my brain where they suffocate so many other's thoughtful words.  When things get desperate I play Smiths albums and sing along with Morrissey's melodious melancholy.

In my life, why do I give valuable time
To people who don't care if I live or die?  
--The Smiths, "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now"

Isolating myself with musical genius helps me calm down, but it doesn't right the world's wrongs that get me down in the first place.

I must learn a way to work to right the world's wrongs while maintaining my mental health.  I need some balance.  I need to embrace The Dude's Comeback.

The other day Will and I were talking about one of our favorite films, "The Big Lebowski," and how it contains the greatest comeback ever, from Jeff Bridge's character The Dude.

"Yeah...well...ya know that's just like, uh, your opinion, man."  --The Dude in "The Big Lebowski


I'm going to emulate The Dude.  Instead of avoiding writing about controversial subjects, I'm going to continue to speak out about things that matter to me.  And people will no doubt criticize me for speaking out.  Instead of internalizing their words and becoming consumed with self-doubt, the next time someone criticizes me, instead of draining my precious mental health energy on getting all worked up arguing with them, I'm just going to say, "Yeah...well...ya know that's just like, uh, your opinion, man."

How can anyone argue with that?  Man.

I must work on being more Dude-like in my daily life.  Too bad I don't live in one of the states where a medical marijuana prescription is legal.

I think The Dude is so chill because of his self-medication with cannabis.  Could be the perfectly legal Caucasians he sips too, but I'm more leery of consuming a lot of alcohol, legal or not, after watching my brother drink himself to death a couple of years ago.  My brother suffered with a lot of pain, physical and emotional.  I wonder if medical marijuana were legal in his state if he might have been able to stop drinking the alcohol that consumed his liver?

Many doctors now think marijuana could be a good medical treatment for certain types of pain and mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.  Dr. Weil has been pro-pot for awhile.  I'm happy to see now Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on board.  According to today's post on CNN, Gupta supports medical marijuana and apologizes for his previous anti-pot stance.  He's coming out with a documentary on August 11.  I look forward to seeing it.  Here's a preview:

Knowing When to Stop

Me: "Do you think that's why I've been so hyper-sensitive and irritable lately?  Do you think I should start taking my fish oil pills again?"

Will: "You could at least try it and see if you feel better."

Me: "But I don't want to take them if they're harmful."

Will: "One guy says they're harmful and you stop taking them?  He's just one guy."

Me: "He's not just one guy.  He's one guy who is the head of a big cancer research center or something.  He was interviewed on NPR's Science Friday!"

Will: "He's just one guy."

Me: "I don't know what to do.  I've been feeling so cranky lately, and it does coincide with when I stopped taking my fish oil pills after hearing that interview.  But would I notice a difference so soon?  So dramatically?"

Will shrugs, says nothing.  He looks at me with his sympathetic, "I'm listening and I love you even though you're kinda nutty" face.

Me: "I know.  I'll ask a doctor.  But, I dunno.  What do they know?  I mean, the psychiatrist who recommended fish oil to me eight years ago was a little looney tunes himself."

Katie, not looking up from the tablet, playing Plants Vs. Zombies: "What, did he like to watch 'Tom and Jerry' or something?"

We laugh.

Me: "Looney tunes means kinda crazy.  He made me nervous.  And he was my psychiatrist, supposed to be treating my anxiety."

Will: "And have you felt better since he recommended you take fish oil?"

Me: "Well.  Yeah."

Will looked at me like, so what difference does it make if the crazy doctor suggests something that makes you feel less crazy?  But he said nothing.  He's good at knowing when to stop.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Slamminest Seventies TV Shows

First thing this morning, Katie popped in another disc of The Partridge Family Season One, the DVD set that I'd brought home from the library.  My sister Kit babysat Katie Saturday while Will and I both had to work.  I brought home the DVD set thinking it would give them something fun they could watch together.  I knew it was one of Kit's favorite shows when she was ten.

I don't usually have the patience to sit in front of a TV and watch an entire episode of most shows anymore, but when I was Katie's age I was a TV junkie.  I was an infant when the first season of The Partridge Family aired, so I have no memories of it.  Still, it somehow absorbed into my system.  When I watched a few episodes of the show with my sister and her husband, Will, and Katie Friday night when they slept over, I felt somehow nostalgic even though I was too young to remember much.

Sunday morning first thing, when  Katie pushed play on the DVD player, it warmed my heart that she was still interested in it after Kit had gone home the night before.

"Oh, you still want to watch this?" I asked as she pushed play again to start the episode.

"Yeah!  I like it!" she said, sitting down in her child-sized wooden rocker.

"Yeah, I do too," I said, sitting straight down on the sofa.

I watched the entire episode with Katie.  I didn't even get up to make coffee, which is usually the first thing I do in the morning.

I couldn't believe it.  Is that Richard Pryor?  And Louis Gossett, Jr?  Wow.  Totally righteous, man.

When the episode was over, I got up to make coffee.  While waiting for it to brew, I began thinking of all the great TV shows I loved to watch as a kid in the Seventies.  It's so cool I can check out DVDs from the library now, so Katie can watch them too.  I'm thirty-five years older than my kiddo, but through the magic of digital recordings and public libraries, we get to enjoy the same pop culture treats, both influenced by my groovy sister Kit.

I had a pop culture epiphany standing there in my robe, in my kitchen: the Seventies was the best decade in television history.  Here's my list of The Slamminest Seventies TV Shows:

1.  The Partridge Family (1970-1974):  Yes, that is Richard Pryor appearing in the episode entitled "Soul Club".  It first aired January 29, 1971 when I was two months old.  You can buy it here.  Or be like me and check it our for free at your public library.  The DVD set also features the cartoon "The Partridge Family 2200 A.D." which is a total trip to watch with my seven-year-old in 2013.

2.  All in the Family (1971-1979):  I learned that love is more important than societal expectations by watching stellar episodes such as "Cousin Liz".  Buy it here, or get it free at your local library.

3.  Roots (1977) is the the best miniseries ever produced.  It broadcast when I was six years old.  When I saw that the star, Lavar Burton, and I share the same last name, I wondered if my ancestors owned his ancestors.  I felt creepy.  I later read my family history and discovered that fortunately my kin was too poor to own other people, so if I'm related to Levar Burton it's not through the bonds of slavery.  You can buy the Roots DVD set here, or feel free to check it out at your local library.

4.  Jesus of Nazareth (1977):  When I was six years old I woke up with puffy eyes from crying so much over this righteous miniseries the night before, lying on the sofa with my head in Mom's lap.  I remember looking at my puffy eyes for a long time in the mirror, thinking, aww, it's not so bad.  Jesus had it way worse.  I had no idea up until then.  I didn't pay much attention to Jesus until this story was broadcast in my living room on TV.  Church was boring and I begged to go to the nursery until I was far too old, because there I could play with other kids instead of having to sit still while the preacher droned on.  But this made-for-TV version of Jesus' story made me love him.  Buy it here, or borrow it from the library.

5. Sesame Street (1969-Present):  I also checked out the DVD set Sesame Street Old School, Volume One (1969-1974) and Volume Two (1974-1979) from the library.  What a blast from the past!  It sure is fun to remember what life was like back when I was a kid.  I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today without having grown up watching Sesame Street.  Not only did the show teach me letters and numbers, it taught me that all different kinds of people are fascinating and that I should never clamp down on my curious mind.