Thursday, August 31, 2006

Let's Lighten This Mother Up with a Meme

I ripped this meme off, as I do with all memes. This one I saw originally over at Andrea's joint.

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says:
Nearest book? You got it. From the Spanish dictionary: "an-he-lo (m.) yearning, longing."

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can...what do you touch first?
Mina's first grade school picture where she's smiling maniaclly; wearing an orange and pink stiped shirt, ponytail eskew. It's awesome.

3. What is the last thing you watched on TV?
Highlights of the Nadal/Philippoussis tennis match from the U.S. Open.

4. WITHOUT LOOKING, what time is it?

5. Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?
12:00pm - shoot, it's lunchtime and I KNOW WHEN IT'S LUNCHTIME.

6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
Only the LOUDEST SALES GUY to grace the planet who sits 4 cubicles away. If you're wondering, he's trying to register his kindergartener for school. They've lost her birth certificate and they need to prove to the school that she is indeed 5 years old. He also REALLY wants to see the waves in Cabo right now, dude. I know every detail of this guy's life.

7. When did you last step outside?
This morning when I drove Mina to summer camp @ 7:30am.

8. What are you wearing?
A black tshirt that says KYOTO all big in yellow letters, a little black cardigan, jeans, low white pumps and a offwhite organic hemp cotton belt. Holla!

9. When did you last laugh?
This morning, telling stories to Maya on the phone.

10. Seen anything weird lately?
Seeing the Beige Lady was weird. Speaking of which, Mina asked me yesterday, "Remember when that lady jumped?" And I said, "How do you know she jumped?" And she said, "Mama Luz said so." And I said, "We don't really know what happened to her." Mina said, "Did you see blood coming from her head? Did she break any bones?" I said, "No, I actually didn't see any of that." Silence. I swallowed hard and said, "How are you feeling about what happened?" And Mina said, "Well, if her head was bleeding, I'd never go on a tall building again if I saw that." I said, "I hear you, baby."

11. What did you dream last night?
Not a goddamn thing.

12. What's on the walls of the room you're in?
On my cubicle walls are the following: A Basquiat postcard, a bumper sticker that says PEACE, a few Final Four basketball pins that people have sent me over the years, three company purchase orders, this picture of Sebastian Telfair because to get to the NBA (with the entire weight of his family on his shoulders and at only 5'11") he had to relentlessly WORK HIS ASS OFF, two xeroxes of Mina and my hands stuck to the wall with a cocktail umbrella, a drawing by Mina of the family with a caption that reads: "Hi Mami are you haing a good taim becaues I'm haing a goo taim whith you. xoxoxoxoxooxx I (heart) you I (heart) you . Mami Maya Mina and the Dady (heart)." On the wall behind me, there is a painting by my mother that measures 5 feet by 4 feet. On my desk sit a million framed photos of the girls and Husband and a Virgin Mary candle. I also have an area rug. Here at work they call my cubicle Madness' Apartment. Don't hate.

14. What do you think of this survey?
I think it's cool even though the answers never seem as good as the questions.

15. What's the last film you saw?
Invincible which, y'know, I loved.

16. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?
Freedom from my cubicle. I'd be ghost, baby. I'd be so goneski. Hasta la nunca mas, man.

17. Tell me something about you that I don't know.
If I get one hand wet, I have to get the other one wet too. It's this weird thing I have with symmetry. I feel off balance if I don't even things out and it mainly has to do with water. Like, if I step in a puddle, I have to put my other foot in the puddle too. Oookkaaayyy . . . OCD much?

18. If you could change one thing about the world, what would you change?
Let's start with the fundamentals, basic human needs, like abolish hunger.

19. Do you like to dance?

20. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?
If I had another girl, her name would be . . .uh, I may be tapped out in this area. Lala? Naw. Saturday? Saturday Rivera? Hell yah.

21. Boy?
My son's name would be August or Malcolm.

22. Would you ever consider living abroad?
I'd live abroad 4-6 months out of the year, sure. Where would I live you ask? Spain and/or Puerto Rico and/or France.

Ok, this doesn't have to do with the meme, but I just wanna follow up in the category of Maya Wanting to Quit TaeKwonDo Forever: We told her today that she never has to compete in a tournament again if she doesn't want. We also told her we didn't want her to stop though, even if she goes just once a week; that she should still go for the exercise, for the discipline and mainly for the self defense. Husband and I have magnified in our minds Self Defense especially on the heels of the news that a 10 year old girl was raped in the Antelope Valley yesterday. Maya said purely and thoughtfully, without hesitation, OK, sounds good. It helped that she was asked to teach a class to younger kids at the TKD studio where she's been working out in Las Vegas. She wrote out a lesson plan and last night she ran an entire class herself for an hour and fifteen minutes. She told me the tiniest girl in the studio took to it the most and I told Maya that she probably inspired the little girl to get her own black belt. Maya beamed as she told me all about it and she seems to have rediscovered some love for the sport. One stomach ache down . . .

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My stomach hurts. That usually happens when I'm nervous.

Maya's been at her BD's house for weeks and this is the last leg of her stay. This is when I get antsy. I miss her a lot. Also, it sounds like she's on the eve of some hormonal changes; general attitude coping, being an ingrate, etc. Normal stuff . . . I guess. This Teen Onslaught stuff scares me shitless. And she’s only eleven. I know it'll be fine, but I'm nervous. And if changes are happening to her, I'm sick of being away from her to talk it out face to face, to hold her. I miss her. She also doesn't want to do Tae Kwon Do anymore, which makes my stomach hurt; makes me sad. As a mami, I have to respect her feelings and seriously consider pulling her from the sport. But I also know that disappointment comes from everywhere and sometimes we have to stick it out and work through that.

Over the weekend, I had a nightmare that I've had six or seven times before. In the dream I beat Maya. I don't ever talk about this reoccuring dream because I hate it that much. In it, I get frustrated uncontrollably and then I pound and slap her instead. Like my mother used to do. And then in the dream, I can't stop hitting her. Like my mother. I wake up sick to my stomach so thankful to be awake, and nervous that I'd ever get that frustrated.

My stomach hurts.

I registered Mina for school last week. And there is no more room left in the afterschool care program for second graders. I thought, I'm seriously fucked. "What is a working parent supposed to do when her seven-year old gets out at 2:45 in the afternoon?" I asked. "We can put your daughter on the wait list," they said. I said, "What are her chances?" They said, "She's eleventh on the list." Basically, I'm fucked. I've been wracking my brain since. I have a very good job, but shit like this turns me into a lunatic mama bear; makes me want to tell my bosses that This Is The Way It Is and I'm leaving early every single day to get my baby. But then practicality sets in and I can't mess with my set up right now. I just can't. I'll figure it out. But my stomach hurts. I thought of all the mothers with way fewer options than I, single and broke and taking chances with day care because of no other choice. My stomach hurts for them too.

Yesterday I stood in the New Enrollment line at the junior high that I attended 27 years ago. Maya will attend this same school starting next week. I let a flood of middle-school memories, good and nerve-wracking, crash over me as I waited. Then I spotted some alpha girls roaming the halls in a pack, no more than thirteen wearing daisy dukes and hard-core sassiness. And my stomach hurt. I was intimidated by these girls back when I was a kid and I felt the same yesterday as I tried to absorb some of these feelings that are upcoming for Maya. Middle school is the beginning of female mental warfare and I contemplated home schooling as I inched along the New Enrollment line. Nervous and shrinking in the presence of preteens, I called Maya on the phone. I told her school would be great. And tough. I said, "Man, you just gotta be yourself, ok?" And she said "OK, Mami!" so cheerfully that my heart hurt. Made me close my eyes and wish her home. After registration was done, I went to the bathroom and in the stall I noticed a little pair of pink underwear wadded up and stuffed behind the toilet seat along with a paper-wrapped pad. I looked down and saw no trash can in the stall. And I thought that was cruel. A twelve year old doesn't know that every girl’s stall should have a trash can. She just feels humiliated by having to stuff her still-child's underwear somewhere.

It's all going to be ok, I know. Doesn't mean things won't stress me or things aren't tough. God knows growing up and The Parenting Juggle ain't easy.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Self Portrait Thursday & Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday. I am on the eve of forty now, and sometimes it's hard not to feel enclosed by time, by physical age, but generally my birthday means so much more to me than that. I love my birthday. In my lowest, loneliest times I have always felt -- on my birthday -- a deep and electric sense of hope. It's not just a feeling of renewal really and not just the pact I make with myself to make things better in my eleventh year, my sixteenth, twenty-first, thirtieth, thirty-ninth . . .It's not just that. It's this charged confirmation I feel: I Am. I Am. I am alive and I am hopeful. Nobody confines me to their You Are's. I am free. I am brilliant. (This is what I've told myself since early birthdays) I Am It, the hero of my own world.

Happy birthday to me. And happy birthday to me to you guys too.

Monday, August 21, 2006

It's not that I feel Death is looming. It's more like He's darting dutifully and coincidentally around me. I'm not foolish. I know He is always weaving around, near everyone, but my proximity to some of His work this weekend was a little unsettling.

My neighbor died in her apartment on Friday afternoon. She was old and the cancer had returned to her body with a stubborn agenda. She fell ill again just two months ago, right before we moved in, and since that time her family and friends have flowed in and out in a celebratory and comforting vigil. It's all one could hope for when resting on death's bed. I learned the news of Joyce's death when I passed by her door on Friday evening. A family friend told me. I then entered the house to offer my condolences which was a little awkward because I've not known them long. It seemed the right thing to do. The apartment was dark, lit only by candles, and around the dining table sat six people listening to show tunes somberly. This music had to have been Joyce's favorite. I approached the tearful daughter,who is just younger than I and always superbly stylish in a Sienna Miller kind of way, and in the lighting she possibly thought I was someone else because she stood and hugged me tightly. However, I've had that effect on mourners before; I am a safe and strange vessel to shoulder a moment of their grief.

I am very sensitive -- without wanting to be -- to unseen energy whether dark or light. Joyce's apartment was without turmoil. It was stuffed with warmth, love. These people knew how to mourn. The show tunes only confirmed this. I said my well wishes for Joyce privately in my mind as I walked out of her apartment and no chills or fright trailed behind me.

Sunday was a different story. I went to the mall to pick up my contact lenses. With me was Mina and my mother-in-law; not Grandmtter, but Mama Luz, who is now also visiting from New York. I'll talk about her in another post. We left the mall and as we were about to enter the parking building from the outside, we saw police vehicles. A lot of them. And a forensics van. And a coroner's van. Everyone official was looking towards an alley created by two parking structures. We could see nothing. But there was an odd stillness to the scene. No bustling of officials. A stillness was trapped in that alley way. We took the elevator to the fifth level where my car was. And it turned out that my car was parked facing the alley way. I knew that if we looked over the wall, we could see what had happened.

She was lying on her back, as if sleeping. No contorted limbs. No splattered head, only her face quietly titled. Her feet were splayed to the side, her shoes just slipped off. She had her purse still in the crook of her elbow. Looking over the wall was like dunking my face in a heavy liquid that filled the entire alley way. I looked up and saw two security guards, two more parking levels up, looking down. If that is where she jumped, she jumped out far, I imagine in a calm swan dive and slowly flipped to land perfectly and flatly on her back. She was all beige. Her clothes, her skin, her purse, her shoes, her legs. She was a cream-colored beige against blue-black asphalt. Mina couldn't see anything, but Mama Luz was loud and gregarious enough to tip off anyone in the surrounding area. I talked to Mina as if the lady may have just hurt herself. That maybe she accidentally slipped. I told her to think good thoughts for the lady no matter what had happened. But I think Mina has inherited this ability to feel energy so we talked about it for another fifteen minutes on the ride home. Mama Luz, who is apparently educated by CSI and forensic shows, spewed her theories.

I think mostly of the loneliness that I felt looking over into the alley. It wasn't so much a perilous feeling, but deeply lonely and hopeless. I feel a tremendous sadness for the beige lady. Joyce had show tunes and groups of loving and roving people holding candlelight vigil. And the beige lady had yellow tape situated 100 yards away from her, keeping strangers at bay that coldly speculated and smoked and maybe talked about last night's baseball game. She's in my thoughts. I pray for her every time I unexpectedly conjure the image of her body. These prayers probably do nothing for her now, but they help me deal with this hollowed-out feeling from seeing a dead woman alone and devoid of everything even color.

Friday, August 18, 2006

LA River - Part 1

The Los Angeles River runs through the entire LA basin, from the Valley to Long Beach where it spills into the Pacific Ocean. In the late 1930's, all 51 miles of the river were lined in concrete, by hand, after a huge flood claimed 113 lives and cost the city $40 million in damages which roughly equates to A LOT nowadays, possibly $500 million. During the 40's and 50's a total of six large dams were also built to help control the flooding of the river.

My whole childhood I heard only negative things about the river. That it was gross and dirty (it is) and an eye sore and embarrassment to Los Angeles (it isn't). It is associated most, from what I remember, with traversing through run-down and broken areas of LA. The river is nothing less than a cultural icon. Every LA politian and environmental group have a plan for the river. Many LA artists have been inspired by it. I've recently fallen deeply for the river.

The part of the river that I see regularly now is about a 7-mile colorful stretch east of downtown. It takes my breath away for reasons I'm still exploring. I find it visually exciting and beautiful. It is messy and crazy. The area always seems abandoned. I never see one soul down there or near there, but the art is left to speak saying, We Are Here, We'll Be Heard Somehow. The walls of the river trap a heavy, dark energy that is eased only a bit by the complicated graffiti. The art is bananas. It's written in a language that only taggers understand. Every time I pass the stretch, I read as many words as I can make out, knowing they don't make sense to me, but I just say them anyway like poetry: GOZO DOX. FAULT & LENT. ERIAK BIG. TRIGGAZ ELUDE. SAGE FUME. TRIGALI. TREY-GEE-FAZE. The pieces are huge too; letters over six feet tall to nearly two stories. That's what I love the most. Such big, bursting thoughts. So much to say, and no one understands.

I tried to take some photographs yesterday, but I couldn't capture the exact beauty I see in my mind. I couldn't translate that onto the pictures. It's like the images I see don't trust me yet. The moving train didn't help. The shitty camera didn't help. I hinted about going down there physically and Husband said HELLNO. I'd be afraid to go, to be honest, as much as it lures me. I told you about the wet, weighted energy full of secrets down there which I can feel even from an encapsulated, moving vehicle.

I posted some of the photos anyway. Maybe something will come across in, what I feel, is a flat blandness of these: Something in the gang of bright shopping carts in photo #2. Something in the forefront tag in photo #4, but even more in the tag lurking behind it under the bridge. Something in the last photograph that is alive with frustrated scribbling.

Many photographers capture the river way, way better, but in a way I wouldn't. Many of the professional photos of the river mainly show it as an entity -- with a life of its own -- flowing between monstrous and gentle. Personally, I'm fixated on the secret human interaction that weaves and leans on the river and uses its banks as canvas, as release.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Blathered Chronicle of Today and Days Just Past

Saturday morning the Farmers Market called, of course. This routine is carving deep grooves. I now have one of those stand-up baskets on wheels -- my Old Lady Shopping Basket -- and around 8:30 in the morning I booked it down the couple miles to The Market dragging my flatly folded red basket behind me, jumping it off curbs trying not to clip my achilles in the process. Those who are out and about on the street, whether tourists or locals, appreciate those on the Go (not in a car) and I get seconds-long looks full of nothing but go-girl blessings. I'm learning every detail of this walk; bobbles that regularly catch my eye in store fronts, particular slabs of sidewalk that disconnect and create a pie slice of space in the path, certain tree roots that emerge like sea serpents riding through dirt. I have favorite spots too like the cavernous entrance to our local movie house where the floor sprouts baby octagon tiles, some missing, and the freestanding ticket booth is red and rickety.

Ten minutes in to my walk, I heed a cardboard sign stapled to tree and go towards a garage sale. I do not dig deeply at garage sales anymore. My gross-out factor has risen exponentially over the years even though I KNOW there is treasure buried in the moldy, dusty, grimy, germy, musty pile. Also, my tolerance for clutter has evaporated. But I eye a small, blue desk chair -- we need one for Maya -- and before I look too closely at the fabric I ask, "How much for the chair?" I am one of her first customers. She is still placing things on the lawn; in hand is a crate of clothes where a sleeve has weaseled its way out of a side hole. She looks at the chair and I see her trying to kick start her garage-sale savvy, like she's excited to do the bargain dance. It's early. I do the Broker Dance every single day at my job. I'm losing my patience. She says, gripping her crate and feigning authority, "Uh, $20." And I tip my head back and laugh hard enough to smear a frown across her flushed face.

At the Farmers Market I pinpoint the booths that are now my regulars. My favorite new purchase is organic cucumbers misshapened like little eggplants. They are amazing and snappy and watery. I buy five though I should've bought more because we all love them, especially the pugs.

My basket is full. And I purposefully fluff the kale and flowers out of the top of the basket because there's not much that satisfies me more visually. I puff out my chest and walk to the dance studio only two blocks away. I take a hip hop class from a small, athletic blonde woman named Ladi who is wearing a torn men’s undershirt and baggy grey sweats. Her hair is long and wild and she flips it around. She's great, her class is fun. I pump it and shake it and strut it. I pucker my lips and raise my eyebrows because there's no controlling the Dance Face . . .Between rounds of choreography, I look towards my red wire basket parked near the door looking loyal and refreshing, newspaper wrap and vegetables spilling out, and I almost wave to it.

Mina is in New York. She flew back with Grandmutter after her visit. The girls do this every summer; make the rounds with east-coast family. I love how everyone fights over them. Maya's Vegas trip conflicted with New York this year . . .The point is, they are both gone. And I'm kinda lonely. I appreciate the break, not from them but from the clockwork schedule. Husband and I have taken advantage. For the past two weeks, we've pressed ourselves to live the kid-less life.

Saturday night we went to our New Couple's house. We are trying to seal the deal on this friendship because we suffer from what seems to be a universal affliction, an inability to find other compatible friends that are couples. It's near impossible, and in the past, I've had to shoulder the blame for it not working out. Husband easily befriends good guys, funny and interesting. He just attracts them. And I really get along with his guy friends too. But the wives, man, the wives, they don't like me so much. Their husbands talk me up a little too much which causes an early wedge between the wife and me. They think I'm This. Or That, but they don't find out much for themselves. Or we find that we don't have much in common. I am super nice though and I try to connect, but sometimes I just go back to talking to their husbands who laugh easily and don't eyeball me and they talk sports. Plans to do more fizzle out. So, Saturday night, I pumped myself up to not blow it with the New Couple. The wife was a little cold at first, but she warmed. We all had things in common. I could tell she's not easily won over, but it dawned on me that I get along best with women that tend not to like a lot of people, with women that are not easily impressed. We all end up going to a tucked-away lounge and we drink and laugh and dance a bit. The wife, Tee, and I are rubbing shoulders and talking a lot. She was the top of her college class. She's smart and a little jaded, protective of her intelligence and she down plays her physical beauty. At the crescendo of a laugh, her husband leaned over and said, "Tee, is this your new best friend?" Which is the type of question that will bust up a budding friendship. She said more seriously than probably intended, "I don't have best friends." A beat of embarrassment went by and I said, "I'm her imaginary best friend." And we laughed again. Maybe I kept us in the running with the New Couple.

I took the train to work this morning. Every tiny detail of this experience is perfect to me. When I walk to the tracks, the blanket of people wave over me. They all look and seem completely different. I am overwhelmed by their collective energy. A homeless guy walks the tunnel past me. He is tall and dirty, but handsome and seems to be sporting these round fashionable eyeglass frames. He is yelling methodically, "ROBBERS. THEIVES. U.S. POSTAL SERVICE. ROBBERS. THEIVES. U.S. POSTAL SERVICE.'' I've mantra'ed it myself a few times today. It's catchy. From my train seat I see things like a building entitled Veterinary Cancer Center and the two cars in the parking lot of this building at 7:45 in the morning make my heart sink. I wink hello to my new muse and crush, the LA River which I'm sure has been written about and photographed a billion times, but very soon I'll profess my love properly in a long post with photos. I saw a conga line of tractors inching along a dirt lot ready to build up yet another vomitously bland track community in Orange County. I smile every single time the conductor yells, "All Aboard!" I didn't know that was real.

I am dressed up today, wearing black slacks that I usually only wear for salsa dancing and a black button down shirt, black heels even. My feet objected at first but these pumps are kind. They have kitten heels and really pointy toes that are scuffed bald. I'm wearing turquoise drop earrings. A huge customer came in today for our dog and pony show. I sat in a two-hour meeting full of bulletin points and action items, cost savings and optimization of our magic show. I blurred out many times, even while smiling reassuringly to Mr. Big Customer. Even when I paid attention 30% of the time, I still knew what they were talking about. I still made "good and valid" points. I left my body a couple times and circled above the conference table and thought, This is funny. It's all so drab and formulaic as long as you can convince someone with your confidence, as long as you can stay organized. Big business is laughable to me sometimes. I ate half a bagel which I never do. And drank another cup of coffee. I had a real fear that my eyes would close as quality and expediting procedures were explained. Then the realization set in that if we do win Mr. Big Customer's crillion dollar business bid I will be so incredibly busy with procuring, data entry and paper-shuffling organizational monkey tap dancing. I stopped chewing my bagel -- a wad stuck in my cheek -- and I wanted to bang my head on the table. For the rest of the meeting, I thought about the tagged LA River and the new painting I am working on and how my shoes look so fierce and how bad it would look if I shoved the rest of my bagel in my ears.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Rambling On About My Lists

About five years ago I wondered how I would I live my life differently if I lived alone, without children, without Husband. I obsessed about it for nearly a month and made a list. This was not an exercise in emotional terror, but an exploration of how I hem myself up. Do I live exactly how I want? The list used to throb in the back of my mind like a neon sign.

1. I would tattoo my entire back, more if I felt like it, with peacocks and the ocean and flowers -- all bright colors.
2. There would be an area in my living space only for painting and visual art projects. And I would have my own desk and a grossly comfortable reading chair with perfect lighting.
3. I would dance a lot again.
4. I would eat up books.
5. I would stay up as late as I felt like.
6. I would be a vegan like I always wanted to be.
7. I would volunteer my time.
8. I would write more . . .
9. I'd ride a bike everywhere.

The list went on and on until it was glaringly obvious that my notion of freedom was ridiculously paired with solitude. I could do all the things on my list if I cleared my excuses, if I didn't falsely accuse my family of being an obstacle. Every item on this list is a nugget of who I am truly. And if anybody loves those nuggets it's Husband and my girls. They don't hold me back. Only I do that.

Over these past years, I've slowly implemented my list. I add as I can. I don't force or rush it. There is a deep satisfaction in thoughtfully and so consciously placing each piece.

A couple years ago, this list transformed into a This Is Me List. It's sort of a life goal list but written as affirmations. Like, I eat 70% raw. Or, I submit my fiction for publication once a quarter. I am charitable. I paint. I dance. I am a good friend. I am grateful, always. The list is really long, sectioned into categories. And I read it a lot and I revise it sometimes. I keep a tiny print-out of it in my wallet. My birthday is coming later this month, and this is when I examine my list the most. Do I live how I want? Do I contribute? How can I soak it all up more? What is necessary and what is not. The mental stuff I work on a lot. The fine tuning of compassion is a worthwhile and never-ending topic for me. I am slower to diligently work on things like writing and painting and dance, things that take serious, physical time. Time is still my grandest excuse no matter how legitimate.

But since moving, I've been dancing a lot. I sought out a major dance studio in the area and just threw myself in a few days a week. The studio is classically weathered with a blotchy wood floor laced with a sweat smell. There’s a wall fully mirrored in front and a wall of all windows in the back that look out to a bumpy, brick courtyard. I dance in the back and when I’m on the floor in full stretch I look out to the trees in the courtyard, large leaves rustling against a marine-layered sky, and I thank god for my life.

I was pretty fearful and madly intimidated to dance at a real studio again, to be in a structured jazz or hip hop class along with more trained dancers. It's an environment that can be stiflingly judgmental and cliquish, but I realized that at 39 years old, I could honestly give a shit. It's so liberating. I dance all out, and I mean Fuck-It All Out. More than I did when I was younger taking class. More than most of the young dancers around me do, so self conscious of coolness and judgment. I dance strictly for the joy of movement to rhythm. My technique is so busted, but I feel music deeply. During a class I am able to hitch my body to my emotions and let them both fly. It’s soul-clearing. The teachers have been ridiculously encouraging and kind, and the other dancers can't figure out my apparent angle so no one has talked to me yet even when I lamely try to connect a little. Eesh.

Dancing again -- a glaring item on my list, a thing I thought might never happen as I grew older -- was the type of decision that made me wonder why I had given up on this side of myself. I had really blocked out how much dance ignites so much in me. I mean, goddamn, how do you let yourself forget that? I often grapple with the practicality of things. Like, what's the point if it's not actively contributing to something or if it doesn’t have solid end result? I’ll never be a professional dancer or a teacher. I may never get to an advanced level, but is feeling good and having joy in an exact moment without one goal attached to it enough? I testify that it is. Inadvertently this ignition, this release overflows into everything else. It also encourages me to keep working on my list no matter how long or wild or impractical or idealistic. Even if I never do the things listed perfectly, I am encouraged that the effort and the motivation and staying true to them are purely enough.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Grandmutter and Mysteriously No Self Portrait *sigh*

My mother-in-law, Husband's blood mother, has been visiting us for the last seven days from New York. It's the best time she and I have ever spent together, which is saying a lot. She is not mean or malicious or overbearing. She's very neurotic, which I tend to like in a person, but it's just that . . .did I mention she’s a Jehovah's Witness?

She requested, starchly, to be called Grandmother at Mina's birth which we've all transformed into "Grandmutter" whether she realizes it or not. For the past ten years I've thought of her as stiff and kind of cold. I've had no idea whether she's liked me or not --I couldn't get a bead on WHAT she was truly feeling -- and I only assumed, by how she acted around me, that she did not feel I was good for her son. Or she thought I was destined to eternal damnation. Frankly, both opinions didn't really bother me much as long as Husband was cool with everything. She being a Jehovah's Witness and me being pagan heathen kinda put this wedge between us for some reason, and it's made for uncomfortable visits in the past.

Grandmutter was not always a Jehovah's Witness. She converted when my husband was only eight years old. This is an incredibly tough age to make such a drastic change which included taking away Christmas and birthdays; JW's don't believe in celebrating these. To a child of that age those holidays feel like a celebration of THEM; stopping that feels personal. Her conversion was a painful time for them both. She had a new husband, also a converted JW, and she wanted her son to blend seamlessly into this transition. She wanted desperately that he too be saved by Jehovah. But my husband was Bronx-reared and an incredibly smart child and by the time he was eight, he was too independent and jaded to convert easily. He decided to move to Long Island with his father instead. From what Husband has told me, this move hurt Grandmutter tremendously. As a mother, I can only imagine how much. But getting out of the Bronx and moving to Long Island saved my husband's life on many levels. At such a young age he made the best decision for his own survival, to better his life in the grand scheme of things. I admire him for that.

During these last seven days, Grandmutter and I have talked the most we ever have. It's actually the most time we've spent together mainly because Husband has been working a lot and because he’s only spent as much time as he can handle with Grandmutter, which is just enough before someone notices that it's not quite a lot. He loves her, but she has a deep history of grating on him. Sometimes she can get to him still, beginning with the fact that she still calls him by his childhood nickname. She yells it out in an all-nasal tone -- so nasally she barely moves her lips -- and she lilts the last syllable upward until Husband's eyes shut and his teeth clench. She says my name that way now too which I find partly endearing and partly nails-on-chalkboardish.

She and I have mainly talked about the Road to Health this past week. Recently, she has found herself focusing on the power of good health. She's lost 23 pounds this year. Health is a good common ground for us. It beats the topic of why I'm going to hell. She's asked for my advice on staying fit and for healthier cooking tips. It's the first time she's ever asked what I do for a living. We've walked everywhere – miles and miles -- in Santa Monica and she's taken the bus around here like a pro. We've been good listeners and attentive and kind to each other. To me this is god's plan in action.

That said, seven days is a long time for any house guest. Especially one with a lot of nervous energy and Mother's Guilt. She paces. She asks a lot of nasally questions. “MaaddNESS, do you have a safety pin? I can get it. Just tell me where it is. I just need one little one. Do you have one? Don’t get up.” “MaaddNESS,” (at 10:30 at night right as I’m about to go to sleep, she peaking into our bedroom), “How do I get HGTV on the television?” “MaaaddNESS, do you think that radio is too close to the sink? Because I"m worried about the water, the way it creeps towards the radio.” And if she’s obsessing about something, FORGET IT:

"How far to the Getty Museum? You don't want to go? Can I walk? Can I take the bus? Can you look up the schedule for me? You don't want to go? It's really that far? No, it's ok, we don't have to go. Fine, no, it's ok. Maybe I'll just go. You want me to take your car? Oh no --- really? I'll just take the bus. Over an hour? Really. You don't like the Getty? I just really want to go to the Getty . . ." And on and on and on and on.

I’ve also never met someone that uses so much toilet paper in my life. I mean, I buy the hug-gigantic rolls meant for an entire half-way house. Rolls are gone in a matter of hours, moments? I don’t know what’s going on in there.

And she’s one of those old school women where every plate of food has to be prefaced with, “Oh my dear, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to eat this. This is far too much. I probably won’t eat that whole thing. Ok, just a tiny bit more. Oh, that’s so much food. Oh my dear . . .(repeat several, several times until we've completely tune her out)” and then she cleans her entire plate and is eating something else within the hour saying again how much food it is. I actually found this ritual very entertaining.

Anyway, though it was a pleasant visit, all that stuff and the general Feeling of Being On Call ALL THE TIME for a Neurotic Houseguest has made me feel very enclosed in my own house which is the theme over at Self Portrait Challenge this month.

(Blogger is not allowing me to upload my "portrait". Great. What's funny about the photo is that while Grandmutter was getting ready in the bathroom, I stealthfully walked by and snapped a photo without her knowing. We're both barely in the picture, but we do seem boxed in. I'll try to upload again later. *sigh* [Holy shite - I've tried, like, 500x's and still nothing -- I wonder if it's me . . .naw, I just looked on Blogger's "Known Problems". Uploading is one of them, among other things. So much hype over this dumb photo that isn't even that good.])

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Stealing Memes Across the Land

I stole this from Acumamakiki. I added a couple questions too.

What is your salad dressing of choice?
Why, Madness' Drinkable Dressing, of course. I mean, it's drinkable for god's sake.

What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
El Pollo Loco for a yummy bean, rice & steamed veggie bowl covered in salsa. I will admit that before I was all healthy and shit, I loved me some Jack 'n the Box. When I was a kid and when I was pregnant, there was nothing better to me than that fried-up chicken sandwich with the jack cheese. On the wheat bun? Oh hell yes. I’d sneak those all the time when I was with child, slipping through the drive-thru like a crack addict.

What is your favorite sit down restaurant?
Millennium in San Francisco. I miss it so!

On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant?
20% - I'll round up to not leave change -- and never pennies because I've made up in mind that that's rude.

What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of?
You mean what DO I eat every single day and never change even after 2 weeks is a mere blip on the calendar? Green Juice & fruit every morning, salad w/ avocado and drinkable dressing every lunch, sprouted grain bread w/ Earth Balance with (fill in the blank) dinner every single blessed night. If we're talking besides that routine sickeness then Michelle's Vegan Chocolate Chip cookies or Purely Decadent Mint Chocolate Chip soy ice cream. I've been having a passionate summer love affair with this stuff.

Name three foods you detest above all others.
Hmm, head cheese, liver, dark chicken off a bone. I just air gagged.

What is your favorite dish to order in a Chinese restaurant?
Ma Po Tofu with brown rice or vegetable lo mein. Oh, and spring rolls with the sprouts all snappy inside.

What are your pizza toppings of choice?
Every vegetable offered, no cheese, extra sauce.

What do you like to put on your toast?
Uh, Earth Balance or almond butter & organic jam.

What is your favorite type of gum?
Cinnamon Trident

What do you consider to be your best physical attribute?
My hair.

Are you right handed or left handed?
Righty. I surround myself with a lot of lefties, however.

Do you like your smile?
Hell yea.

Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
Two baby goddesses . . .other than that, I don’t think so. Teeth? You mean like an exorcism?

Would you like to?
Would I like something removed? That’s an odd question.

Which of your five senses do you think is keenest?
Smell since I don’t hear or see too well.

If you were forced to live without one sense, which would it be?
Hearing. I'm a quarter there now.

When was the last time you had a cavity?
If I ever went to the dentist, I might be able to tell you. I’m in grand denial about going to the how-you-say, dentist.

Do you have 20/20 vision?
Hell no. Tres blind without my eyetacts, as Mina calls them.

What is the heaviest item you lift regularly?
Any time I pick Maya up from after-school care, she’ll take a running start from wherever she is – at least 25 yards out – and she’ll barrel at me like a freight train then leap onto me like a monkey, wrapping her legs around my waist. How I haven’t fallen yet is a big mystery. When I see her sprinting, I get ready like a Russian acrobat, semi-squat, slapping my thighs. She weighs 75lbs.

Have you ever been knocked unconscious?

If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die.
Hell no. I’ll live it up until She surprises me.

If you could change your first name, what would you change it to?
Madness? Maybe Glitter. Maya used to name her dolls that when she was little. Glitter and Sparkle. She also suggested that when I was pregnant with Mina that I name her Streetlight. I was like, cool.

What color do you think you look best in?
Hmm, I might not correctly know the answer to this. I’ll say dark pink? Certain hues of green and blue for sure. My friends may say differently.

How long do you think you could last in a medium security prison?
I think I’d adjust a little too well in there. I’d stage protests, get a college education. Demand better food. Learn to sew. Read more. Hang with my homegirls and learn how to give them tattoos.

Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake?
Gum? Seeds? I’ve always wanted to swallow a key to a special box for dramatic effect. But that’d be a bitch to pass.

If we weren't bound by society's conventions, do you have a relative you would make a pass at?
Uh, no. I have like two living relatives and I'm NOT hitting on my mother.

How often do you go to church?
An actual church? Never. The church that is my Body and Life? Every moment. However, lately I’ve had this odd urge to sit in the back of mass and see what it feels like now that I’m grown. I love the symbolism of religions though I don’t always think they have anything to do with spirituality.

Have you ever saved someone's life?
My own a few times.

Has someone ever saved yours?
Emotionally – my grandmother. My husband and children.

Would you walk naked for a half mile down a public street for $100,000?

Would you kiss a member of the same sex for $100?

Would you have sex with a member of the same sex for $10,000?
If I wasn’t married, yes. I’m not cheating for any amount of money. But I’ll whore myself as a single person apparently.

Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000?
Hmm, no.

Would you have all your teeth pulled for $25K?
Yes. Buy me some fake ones and still net a good profit!

Would you have a baby for someone else -- a friend for cost or $50K for a stranger? Eeeerrrrrr, no. Couldn't do it.

Would you never blog again for $50,000?
Eesh, yes. (WHORE!)

Would you pose naked in a magazine for $250,000?
Hell yes. That’s not whoring. That’s a smart financial decision.

Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000?

Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000?
Hell no.

Would you shave your head and get your entire body waxed for $5,000?
$5K? No. I just listed my hair as my best physical attribute. Come on.

Would you give up watching television for a year for $25,000?

What about the Internet?
Let's not get crazy.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

self portrait tuesday

I had taken a break from SPT because of computer issues. I still can't properly download pictures on my new set up at home, but I'll draw from my photo well just to get back in the game. This month's theme over at Self Portrait Challenge is Enclosed Spaces.

This picture was taken in the last fifteen minutes of a five hour tattoo session. I am on my elbows in this picture, but the majority of the time my chest was pressed against my thighs, up until I thought my hip flexors had fused to a permenant 15 degree angle. In this picture, I was ready to punch this guy in the face. I kept telling him that too. During these five hours, I felt trapped in a near-fetal position. I thought I would just day dream about a million things while the artist did his thing, but I could not get a steady fantasy reel going because of the pain. I could only meditate in swirls of color. I had to escape deep in my mind because I felt folded up and put in a box.