Wednesday, July 26, 2006

While I'm in Farmers-Market Lala Land, Life Goes On

I had my first real and honest lesson that parenting is about controlling- protecting-guiding-hovering-teaching-controlling-informing (not stifling, God, not stifling) AND THEN gracefully letting out the control line at very exact and all-knowing moments so they remain or become thoughtful, independent and well-adjusted people. And we parents are just supposed to know how to do this perfectly.

Maya is in Las Vegas for the rest of the summer. And from a distance she pressed the issue to shave her legs with me. We've had the discussion before, a few times, which ended with me deciding she was too young (she's 11), explaining it's a pain in the ass to do, it's a commitment and she is too young to have this matter. But if you haven't noticed, young kids are the new older kids. She accepted the decision at the time -and not begrudgingly -- but she made the pitch to her sweetheart stepmom, Sanne, after Maya arrived in Vegas. Sanne probably didn't realize all the discussions that Maya and I have already had on the subject. She told Maya she would help her shave her legs for the first time, but only if BD and I said it was ok. So, Maya pitched me on the phone, in front of other people. It came across as jokey and lame, undermining all our previous conversations.

We are a hairy people. Our hair is not light or inconspicuous and one of my big embarrassments as a preteen was my hairy legs which my mother did not let me shave until I was about 14. If anyone understands Maya desire right now, it's me. She's at the age where it bothers not necessarily her, but those around her. Of her friends, she is one of the only ones that doesn't shave her legs. I asked her if this was solely about what her friends were doing. She said no, but she was distracted, focusing only on the inflection of my voice that was swaying her way. I said, I've been telling you since you were three years old to always use your own mind and not blindly follow others. She said, Yea, yea, yea (can I shave 'em?).

And I realized that this was the precise time to let out some of the control line. I realized I had to save my strength for more important battles to come with her. I said, You can shave your legs, and have Sanne help you. I told Maya that if she realizes that it's a total pain that she can admit it without any I Told Yous, and we can take a break from shaving in the winter. Maya was stoked, not hearing anything after Yes.

I'll tell you, it was really hard to let go and make a decision against what I wanted for her. I want her not to care about her hairy legs right now. I want her to stay a carefree kid for as long as she can. I want her to be less concerned about her looks than the average woman. But I know these might be unrealistic wants. It's ok to want and push for these things, I know, but I also understand that it's not ok to keep her in my box of wants. She's growing up. Shaving her legs is really not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. I guess I was mainly tripping on how parenting is always hard. It never lets up. I don't know if I always make the right call, but my calls will be full of thought.

Our apartment butts against and overlooks an alley. It's great because of the occasional alley drama. And it's bad because of occasional alley drama. Two nights ago, around 10pm, I heard a loud, drunken confrontation. "FUCK YOU!" And then all-out, loud male sobbing. Peeking from the balcony, I realized the scene was between a teenage boy and his father. The boy was resisting getting out of the passenger side of the car. "I HATE YOU," he yelled. Sobbing. More slurred insults. I think his mother was in the driver's seat. I saw the dad remove the man-sized kid from the car as the kid jellied about, flopping and crying and yelling. The dad was quiet and sort of calm and he half-dragged the boy into the alley-entrance of an apartment building. I said a lot of good thoughts for that family as I stood on my dark balcony, invading their tough night.

All I'm saying is parenting is hard. And Maya can shave her legs -- though I don't want her to --because there’s probably harder battles down the road. And I'm thinking easing up on some control and not fighting her on everything may show her how to give in on some things too.


In other news, I commute three days a week to work now. The trip takes an hour and twenty minutes each way whether I drive or take a train. Today I took the train for the first time. I loved every minute of the ride. I loved not sitting behind a wheel in congestion and contributing to the destruction of the planet. I loved the chill time to read or write, and I loved the scenery. There is something about the industrial backside of East Los Angeles, where the train tracks rein, that is visually breathtaking to me. I'm not saying I want to walk around in the yards and the factory lots alone, but as an invisible observer in a comfortable train seat, I think the scene is gorgeous: Large shacks made of wavy, grey metal with bright-orange rust lining the door frames. Massive electrical sculptures in a power-grid yard corralled like huge, sleeping cranes. Concrete walls/trains/buildings embellished with angular and hard graffiti made soft by their range of color. High, jalopied cylinder structures laced with rickety, zigzag stairs that lopsidedly still serve a function for a factory. Small, old houses that back the tracks and where clothes are strung up on a line in the yard, like prayer flags (Wind, bring them good fortune). All these things are artistically honest to me. They move me. Behind all the tagging and the broken-down structures and the wash on the line there are people trying to make it through. Just like anywhere. There are lives -- soft, fleshy, feeling lives -- behind the entire area that looks abandoned as a morning train passes.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Routine Senses

The hardest part to a move -- other than the revelation that we are severely attached to useless material possessions, and tons of them -- is reestablishing a Rhythm of a Routine. For the last three weeks I've been distracted by setting up and getting settled, decorating and getting reacquainted with the area. But now, I'm feeling a little limboesqe wondering, How did I used to spend my days?

This move has been a complete uprootment from a Grand Facade and a plopping back to Home. But I haven't lived in SM as a smarter, more stable grown up. I lived here as a broke and lost kid and teen. I find myself thinking a lot, What should I do now? So much to do. Should I do this particular thing regularly . . . Establishing the new routine makes me feel a little spun. Even regarding myself in the new mirrors -- this apartment for some reason has a lot of mirrors -- makes me wonder, Have I always looked this way? How should I dress now? What exactly IS my style? It's the oddest of identity crisises. I feel so close to becoming Me. But I feel caught in the last part of the maze, like I'm only one rung away from the labyrinth's exit.

I have clawed away at facades for years. I've built up new ones, and stripped those down too. Or left partial up. It's all part of a personal evolution. And this move has been the most drastic self evaluation I've done in years. Who am I, again? I'm close to knowing, I think.

I am a girl that thrives in routine. Often I think abstractly, but a routine is my life line, the grounding, so I don't go so far out that I can't come back. The fact that no routine is set yet makes me nervous, makes me a little lost in my mind, but I'm also excited at the prospect of a clean slate. I get to schedule in things that seemed impossible to squeeze into my old schedule. Things that are an important part of who I am. Things that may seem impractical in a well-flowing and productive routine. But I'll sneak them in, set them in stone, and then no one can touch them. Not even me.

I walked to the farmer's market yesterday morning. It was a good walk, a couple miles I think. I had my canvas bag and a straw hat. I passed a ton of people because my immediate neighborhood is proudly pedestrian. I have reestablished a habit that I didn't do as much in The OC years; I smell everyone that walks by me. I breathe in the waft that remains as we pass each other and I spend the next two minutes telling myself stories on how they live, who they are. I think I remember Marigoldie listing this habit as one of the one hundred things about her too. When I smell someone and the initial impression reveals itself, I then wonder if Marigoldie would come to the same conclusions as I did about the person. I laugh sometimes, like she and I are having a conversation.

At the farmer's market, I bought vegan bread still warm from baking and lemons, tangelos, avocados, romaine & butter lettuce. I bought Japanese spinach and strawberries and black plums. I saw a homeless guy that I used to see when I was in junior high. He looked exactly the same. I think, in my mind, I had named him Jocelyn way back when because he used to hang around the Jocelyn Building. He allegedly stole this kid Carter Armstrong's backpack once too, but I found that hard to believe. You never know though. Jocelyn was wily and erratic, much more energetic than some of the other homeless people in the area. I almost went up to him to say hello, but he was involved in a conversation with someone I couldn't see; he was wagging his finger and tapping his foot to a personal rhythm. I said Hi from afar. A few months ago, I saw another homeless guy that I used to see frequently when I was a kid. We called him Bird Man because he used to ride this rusted beach cruiser with high, chopper handlebars and he would caw like a loud raven. "CAW! CAW! CAW!" Back in the day, Betsy and I would yell, "Bird Man!" And he'd say, "CAW!" When Husband and I were first driving around SM, when the call to move back was just beckoning, I saw Bird Man. I couldn't believe it. He was still riding the same bike, or one very similar. I rolled down my window and yelled, "Bird Man!" He looked around startled like maybe he hadn't been called that in years. When we were about a block away, I heard a faint, "Caw."

At the last booth of the farmer's market, I bought a bunch of white roses that had small and tightly wound buds. They were so lovely, but when the flower guy wrapped the bunch in a sheet of newspaper, the contrast of everyday and elegant set my heart soaring. There was nothing more beautiful to me than a big canvas bag of produce and newspaper-bound roses tucked under my arm. I walked home in a thousand-degree weather almost embarrassed by my giddiness that I wanted to shout, again, to you guys and maybe to a couple of the people that I smelled walking along the way. The Saturday Morning Farmer's Market Trip will certainly be the first activity that I etch in stone for my new and improved Routine.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

self portrait tuesday

When it comes down to it
--down, chips down, black belt down, her expectations down --
She's still my baby
And whatever she's able is alright with me.
It's all Up, to me.

She asked to take the summer off which is fine by all of us. Maybe we pushed her too hard. The line is so fine. I dunno. Maybe we're all a little burnt. I want to teach her to not give up without hating the sport, hating a thing. That's hard to do when I'm not sure I've done that myself in my life. I don't give up easily, I suppose. I just know how hard it is to keep going sometimes.

But I tell her it's all ok. The present is bright even if we need a rest. It's all Up, to me.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Still No Home Internet . . .

Since I'm on vacation still, my days consists of walking to Peet's for morning americanos, working on the house, art projects with the girls, walking the Sisters Pug until they achive a perfect blissful state. This is not good for me, this schedule. It is dangerous because I don't want to go back. My heart aches at the thought of Monday.

Yesterday the girls and I traveled to the Farmers Market; they scootered and I biked the 20 blocks. Going there, as we traveled west on Washington, the ocean's clevage peaked out between the streets. She blew in our faces. At the open-air market, we checked out every single booth, sampled anything offered. We bought avocados and long-stemmed strawberries, a bunch of sunflowers and Japanese spinach. Later in the afternoon, we went to Olvera Street, which is considered a Mexican marketplace, but historically it is the foundation of Los Angeles. It's the first street created by the founders of L.A. The girls and I ate chips & guacamole and pepitas brittle and we wandered the cobblestone street vowing to start a skeleton folk art collection.

Today we went to the Salvation Army to look for patio furniture (nada) and later we made the most bad-ass mosaic planter out of most of my tea set collection. I kept my favorite pieces, but the rest we smashed to bits and used for our project. Can't wait to post a picture.

A few days before that, we went to the local college pool for Free Swim and nearly burnt our retinas off with the clorine levels. And then we went to the neighborhood Co-Op and became members. I have nearly met every produce guy in Santa Monica. Maya has befriended nearly every cashier. She'll say, "Do you know a lot of people that come into the market?" And they'll say, "Yeah." And Maya will say, "Well, you need to put me on your list." It cracks me up everytime. Then Mina pops up and says, "And I'm Mina!"

Every morning, I walk by this Frank Gehry house, which is one of his earlier works. In junior high, I used to walk by it on my way to school. Once when I was a kid, I looked in the front window and nearly fell of the planter because, at the time, there was a mannequin near the front door that I was thought was real. As an adult, I have a greater appreciation for the house. It's gorgeous live, like a structure was placed over an old craftsman.

Anyway, my point is . . .this hasn't been good because it's all been too good. I don't want to go back. I don't want to leave the bubble I've created for myself in the last 2 weeks. I want mull around and crank up this creative gush that's dying to erupt outta me. I feel it coming. I do.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sloping Pinnacles & I Like Good Manners

The pinnacle of our trip to Atlanta was when Maya came to me just after she was beaten in her sparring match. I walked up the steps of stadium, she walked down. She wasn't looking at me, but to the side. Her head was cocked and her face flushed. Once I got my arms around her she cried so hard and said, "Mami, I couldn't breath. I couldn't breath."

Of course we knew that. We could see it clearly from where we sat. By the time her sparring match came, yesterday around 5 o'clock in the early evening, she was exhausted. The traveling, the time change, her little body still trying to fight the tail end of the flu all caught up to her. She couldn't even get her kicks up high enough to hit her opponent's pads squarely. The match was even stopped once until her coughing fit subsided. All of our hearts busted for her.

Her forms earlier in the day had been better, though not a spectacular showing. There were 25 participants in her category, the largest group of the entire Junior Olympics. We asked why there were so many in this group and why did it fall off so significantly after that age. We were told that this is the age when girls are most into the sport and once they hit puberty, once they get a little boy crazy, the majority quit the sport. Many of the girls in Maya's group were very good. They had different styles, different strengths. It's always hard to tell what particular judges are looking for. Out of 25, Maya placed 11th. Not terrible for how she felt. But the sparring was heartbreaking. After she cried and after we rallied around her, I asked, "How do you feel about Taekwondo?" She said, "I'm mad at it right now." We walked and then she said, "Actually, I'm just mad at what happened." I said, "Don't give up on the sport, Maya. You're really good, and I'm really proud of you."

And that was it. We didn't talk about it much more. We're all just going to rest for a while now.

I really enjoyed Altanta. Nicest people ever. I couldn't get over how manners are pushed so much more in other parts of the country. And let me tell you, manners work. Once I got over my suspicion of their niceness, I was really digging the politeness of conversation, the civility, the yes ma'am and the no sir. During the tournament, a woman was mopping the floor of the bathroom and Mina came skipping in and promptly slipped to her kness on the wet floor. The lady with the mop clenched her fist by her head and looked to the sky. She said, "Lord have mercy! Are you alright, baby? Please be careful! Oh Lord, I'm sorry, baby." And I wanted to hug her for the decency and concern. Where I'm from, the lady would've pretended she didn't see a thing. Most everyone I encountered was this genuienly nice, and it made me giddy, gushy even.

The other highlight was hanging out with the fantastic Andrea and wonderful Ward. They are exactly as they seem on their blogs; warm and beautiful and smart. Andrea and I hung like we were cousins that loved each other, like we've clicheingly known each other forever. Our kids hit it off immediately and our husbands dug each other too. It's like we slipped into old friendships in a foreign place. On Saturday, we topped the night off with a great dinner also attended by Maya's BD and his wife and their gorgeous baby. It was a perfect dinner party where we laughed by candlelight and toasted the city and Maya and new friends. Andrea also brought Ava to support Maya on Sunday the day of the tournament, and that actually touched me a lot. Firstly because the tournaments can be mind-numbingly long and secondly because I wanted as much support for Maya as possible. Though I still feel so badly that she felt so crummy.

I'm tired. We landed in LA a couple hours ago, but I wanted to update. I'm at the library again and the DSL situation at my house seems very distant on the horizon. I'll holla.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The ATL Gives Me Internet

We arrived in Atlanta today. The weather is forgiving; a non-murderous 77 degrees. I was expecting one billion degrees more than that. And Maya? Maya is much better. About 87%. She is spunky and funny again, showing signs of her regular non-stop energy but a deep cough persists. And she tires easily. It took the last two full days for her to find some focus again. Our moods - Husband & mine -- are on egg shells, however. We can't seem to fully squash the disappointment at how this flu has set her back. It seems so unfair that after all this work we have to make up for 10 days with a frustrated child athlete that doesn't completely understand why her body doesn't respond like it did. It's unfair that she now has to work even harder, mentally especially. We're worried most about her sparring. Two minutes a round doesn't seem like a lot, but with the adrenaline and a catalog of strategy scrolling through the mind and an entire professional football stadium watching, a fighter loses their breath quickly even without the flu stuck in their chest. We told Maya that maybe she should change her whole strategy to Crazy Kid, and just come out screaming, swinging haymakers and cough on them, get her opponent genuinely scared. Maybe the word would spread around The Dome about the Crazy Girl from California. Worth a shot.

Even though she competes Sunday, we went by the Georgia Dome today to pick up her credentials and to weigh her in. Walking into the stadium was exhilarating. It was thick with Junior Olympic fever. The fourteen through seventeen year olds were competing today, and I love how child athletes size each other up, especially the younger ones. They conspicuously stare and wonder. Then they awkwardly say hi or pretend like they didn't see each other.

We were worried about the weigh in . . . During Maya's qualifier, she was only one pound away from the top of her weight class. Had she gone over during these last six weeks, she wouldn't have been able to compete. This was a dilemma that Husband and I wanted to handle with the most gentle of gloves. Our goal was to keep her at a certain weight, even during growth spurts, without making a big deal of it, without her knowing even so this would not become a real concern for her. Working out more for training helped. The fact that she doesn't eat a lot of junk really helped. And, well, thanks to this flu, today she weighed in two pounds less than her qualifier. Which, you know, worked out well (I guess), but doesn't really help with her strength. When you weigh in the 70's, two pounds is significant. More TKD updates Sunday.

The other reason I'm really excited about being in Atlanta is that tomorrow my family is hanging out with Andrea of hula seventy and her family! How perfect is that?

In unpacking news, I'm missing some vital stuff. I'm down to the last boxes and I haven't found some things that are important enough for me to notice. Like, the box that contained the rice cooker and the blender. My precious blender -- WWWAAAAA! How am I supposed to make my drinkable dressing or my chocolate greens shake? This upsets me. The other box missing is the one with my tweezers, all of my just-in-case-I-need-to-dress-in-drag make up and uh, my boxes of disposable contact lenses. Whoops. The make up? Feh, I can live without neon royal blue shadow -- for now -- but the tweezers and the lenses? Kind of important. Ok, I splurged for some tweezers yesterday and to be honest, I like how I look in glasses. I just don't like the way I feel in them. I get headaches easily while wearing them and I feel like my world is only three-feet deep. I feel like a box has encapsulated my head. Which is why I almost never wear them, but this weekend in Atlanta I will be bespectacled in a prescription so old that not only will I not hear well, but I'll be tapping Husband every 2 minutes to have him tell me what just happened in the sparring ring. *SIGH*.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

self portrait challenge & holy shit balls for the moving . . .

Look! I'm at the library (with latex gloves on [thanks Melinda]) and I still got my SP/C up. Because I know magic. Or at least these photos are magical, to me. This is Mina and I horsing around on the Xerox machine about a week ago, and the photos touch my heart in ways I can't explain. They say more about me than most photos do.
(For moving updates, see below photos.)

According to the library computer, I have 31 minutes left to tell you how everything went. That is not enough time. Forgive me now for any unchecked typos and dingdong grammatical & spelling errors.

Yo, moving is a nightmare. Why do I have so much shit? Why do I wait so long to clean out a refridgerator? This should be done every 3 months, I recently learned. To my disgust. Spring cleaning was invented for GOOD REASONS. And I've been scrubbing the new place with disinfectant for 5 days straight because I agreed to take the place "as is" (collective groan) because they moved out Friday and we moved in Saturday . . .what's a girl to do. It wasn't filthy. Not at all. They were clean people. It just had . . .life splatters; just regular stuff that everybody, clean or not, overlooks in everyday living. But other people's life splatters turns my stomach to a near faint, and I've been the weird lady with latex gloves scrubbing and contact papering every single inch. I'm almost done.

Other than that . . .the apartment is perfection. It is more than I could have possibly dreamed. It is the most perfect place I have ever lived in my life. I can't post pictures of the place yet because I'm not that magic, but just take my word on it for now. Other than the apartment itself, I've driven my car maybe once in five days. Everything I ever need is within six blocks. Local health food store, coffee . . .even a killer little indie film house that plays different old & some new movies every day. Tonight they are showing A Fish Called Wanda. One detail I will share for now about my apartment: Off of the master bathroom, there is a door that leads to a small, private sun deck. I've never seen such a thing. We never close the door and it feels like we are showering outside. We leave it open at night and before we go to sleep and when we awake we see two, old SM palm trees waving in the ocean breeze and wishing us well. Husband and I are beside ourselves with this heart-swelling detail.

Ok, now for some bad news. We leave for Atlanta on Friday -- in two days -- and Maya has had a viral infection for the past 7 days. Only yesterday was I able to control the fever. I have cried my eyes out over the bad luck. Husband and I came to the conclusion that however weak she may feel or if she is not at her best this weekend, we're going to make the most of the experience. I've seen her do miraculous things in the heat of Taekwondo battle before so I am not entirely counting her out. But god . . . I drove all the way back to Orange County yesterday to see her doctor because I don't know any here yet so that they could tell me: "Hmm, yeah, that's a bad cough." I am not an advocate of antibiotics but I was really hoping she would prescribe something. Nothing. "Let's see how it goes in the next couple days." And, here's the kicker: "Maybe we should xray for pnemonia." WHAT? "Did you hear fluid in her lungs?" I asked. "No, but just in case." What in the hell? I've been angry at Western Medicine ever since. I put her on probiotics instead, and her fever finally caved.

Ok, time's up. Talk to you later.