Sunday, July 27, 2014

Of Bones And Buoys


So this happened today. Last visit to my father's grave before we leave Georgia. Dane is portable, which is nice, but my dad is stuck here, surrounded by old money Jews and conservatives, which is pretty much all he every wanted in life. So I guess that's good.

Sicily and I followed this up with some bickering and sushi, and a stroll through an antique store where I bought a glass buoy from England and tried not to think too much about Dane and all of his stories of these buoys, floating in the Bering Sea. Sicily and I talked about scattering his ashes in Alaska (ultimately what he wants), but I don't know if I will ever be able to do it. I don't think it's because I am holding on to Dane; he is not his sizzled bones in a carved box, anymore than my dad exists under the grass.


There is something comforting, and a little shocking I guess, when Sicily and I refer to Dane and his portability (and how we blame everything on him now, usually with expletives, because that's what you do when someone's not around. You blame them for stuff. But I digress), and the whole thing is very unlike me. I am mercilessly unsentimental, and I have cultivated that. The things I miss and pine for are not things, just like I miss smoking in a way that has nothing to do with cigarettes. So it's a bit odd that I haven't already fertilized a bush with my deceased husband.

But I do miss my dad, and think of him often, and I am sad when I realize that no one will leave rocks on his headstone anymore (or shells, or a Maryland flag key chain from this nasty bar in Fells Point called The Greene Turtle, but I wanted to give him something Maryland and that's what we had in the car, plus I didn't think the sproingy Buddha in the car would stick around or go over well in a  Jewish cemetery). I guess the most important parts of him are coming with us, but it is still a bitter pill.

Three more days.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

If The South Woulda Won, Things Would Be Different


I'll be honest: there's not a ton of things I will miss about Georgia, and I am a little bitter about it.

This morning as I read about how to buy, cook, and pick the best Maryland blue crabs, I have also been thinking abut the things I will miss. Sicily and I have been talking about it recently, and we have come up with a very short list:

1. A limited number of people

2. Fried Pickles

3. The Georgia Aquarium

4. Kennesaw Mountain

5. Sacred Garden Yoga

That's about it. In 13 years that we have lived here, I have taught probably 750 kids in this community and have never felt welcome, even as I busted by hind parts and spent 80+ hours away from my own family to teach other peoples' kids.

I have kept my mouth shut mostly and tried to understand where people are coming from and have not been afforded the same courtesy (for the most part. With some notable exceptions.).

I have watched from a distance the exclusionary "community" of various Facebook groups in Marietta, the type that continually says, "If you don't like it, leave," and, "That's the way things have always been" (intimating, of course, that because things have always been that way, they are good. You know, like racism and homophobia. But I digress.).

I have broken up with friends who have casually and continually worked the n-word into conversation. Teachers. Of children of all races. Who are referring to their students in this manner while sugary words drip off their tongues during conference week. Sickening.

Sicily was told at preschool when she was four that brown children are supposed to play with brown children, and white children are supposed to play with white children.

I have actually heard the title of this blog post said, out loud, numerous times since I have lived here, and if I never hear it again it will be too soon. Ditto for seeing Jesus fish on the backs of people's cars and billboards reminding me that Jesus will be back and that a baby has a heartbeat in 18 days (the last two are technically north Florida, which is its own kind of crazy that is kissing cousin to south Georgia).

Five days to go.


Saturday, July 12, 2014



Goodbyes are interesting.

I have been through enough of them that they are not prone to melt me into a puddle, and I have noticed that they all share some similarities. I am thinking about them because we are at the beginning of the last softball tournament that The Child will play with this team that she has been with for four years, and there are some interesting dynamics among the players and parents.

Some commonalities:

1. It's easier to leave mad. That's why in the final weeks/months of togetherness there is so much fighting and nit-picking and general ass-holery. This is, I think, universal, except among very, very close friends for whom distance means nothing. Like my friend Kerry. I am like a tick, except she can't even burn me off with a match. No matter where I go or how far I roam, I know that when I see her, we will pick up where we left off, literally. So she is the exception to the rule.

2. It's hard to know what you are leaving until you are gone. This is the Bullshit Rule of the Universe. Unless you are SUPER AWARE (rare), you really don't truly understand what you have until it's gone. This is also known as the Law of Taking Things For Granted. So how this works is that you think everything is fine and dandy as you are leaving and Fuck These People until you wind up in the new place and then you realize that there were things/people that you miss more than you thought you would, like crippingly more, but guess what? Too bad for you, because if you have done this properly you have well and truly pissed people off (see rule #1) so that's all for you.

(between you, me, and the lamppost, I am POSITIVE this won't happen to me, but this is how #2 works. No one thinks it will happen. So there's that.)

3. Along the same lines of #2, everything in the new place seems rosy and wonderful compared to the place you are leaving. This is not possible. Everything in a place cannot be rosy and wonderful. Some things are actually dull and awful. In the newness of it all, the rosy thing shines more brightly. It's just the way.

But guess what?

4. Change is constant, and change is good, and you cannot do anything about it anyway, so what the hell. Sometimes in order to move forward, you really need to move. Literally. Sometimes the move needs to be drastic, and sometimes you can move down the street or across town.

5. Leaving can be refreshing. A change of place makes you a newcomer again, and a new perspective can be invigorating.  The trick is to look at it with wide-open eyes, like  a newborn, and not be jaded. That makes it an adventure, as opposed to looking at it as One More Thing To Do, which just makes you tired.

6. When everything falls to shit, sometimes the only thing left to do is move. When you have tried it all and exhausted all of your resources, moving is the only thing left to do. This makes it a choice you don't have to make. More like an inevitability. Which can be refreshing if you are sick of making decisions.

There is more to this, I am sure, but it has been a long day and I am four fingers into a cheap bottle of bourbon and an absurd number of gluten-free pretzels, so that will have to wait.




Sunday, July 6, 2014

On Writing And Inspiration


So I recently published an e-book I wrote three years ago. I designed a non-fiction writing challenge for one particular student at HoneyFern; the goal was 40-50,000 words of non-fiction in 30 days, just like its namesake contest held every November (National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo). I called it NaNoFiWriMo and decided to write along with her. We both finished, and, three years later, voila.

It is on sale right now. Go buy it. I have made approximately $50 so far, which fills the tank of the Cube and gets us a couple coffees and a muffin. Or a really nice bottle of bourbon. But I digress.

Writing is a dream for me, or a nightmare, depending on what day it is. I think this is pretty standard for writers, and I feel all of my worst traits come forth in my writing habits: procrastination, arrogance, self-doubt, etc. I am writing this blog right now to avoid writing another long-form article on the difference between osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Which I guess is better than what I have been doing, which is surfing food blogs and pinning recipes to make in the fall. And thinking about a fried egg sandwich and maybe hitting the farmer's market later.

But, again, I digress.

I have written ever since I could hold a writing implement. I love fine ink pens and new pads of paper.

I have discovered that as much as I would like to be a novelist, I am not a good storyteller on paper.

I am a passable poet and a good writer of non-fiction. Thankfully, I enjoy non-fiction and poetry and am happy to leave the novel writing to those people who do it so very well (and I am always looking for suggestions for new authors, so please leave some in the comments).

I am a terrible writing worker. My writing work ethic is awful. I have never missed a deadline, and I never will because my work ethic in general is very strong, but the pressure and stress of waiting until the last minute could be easily eliminated with just a little bit of discipline. I convince myself that I am not really undisciplined because isn't everything part of writing? The reading, the daydreaming?

Yes. But still.

It is time to re-visit one of my favorite artists, Chuck Close, and his words on inspiration. He is such an amazing worker that he lets the proof stand out in his paintings. The grid lines are clearly visible in his portraits as a testimony to his process. So for this Sunday, for after I make breakfast, here are today's guiding principles:

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case.”

Have an inspiring and work-filled day!

Image by Andrew Moore

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lean In


So it has been quite a while since I wrote anything here. A week is a week too long, for sure, and I have no excuse.

Except moving takes up a lot of time and energy, and sometimes it's nice to lay in the hotel bed with a remote in one hand and a drink in the other and watch crappy TV.

That was one night. I have no excuse for the others.

As we make the final push out of Georgia and begin to look north to rearranging our lives in Baltimore, I find myself retreating back to the settee and just staring out the window. Part of this is very much due to the fact that we have been packing and moving and cleaning and selling and rearranging like meth-fueled hamsters on a wheel and I am just exhausted and worn out.

The other part is the need for reflection and a moment of calm in the midst of this change. We spent 13 years in Georgia (probably about seven years too many, but that's neither here nor there. It simply is, and although I wonder what would have happened if we had actually left after my father died in 2006, I cannot let my head go there too long. "What if" is a waste of time and can be crazy-making. But I digress.).  I have written and erased this sentence five times because I don't know what to say about that. It has been a struggle mostly, these 13 years, but there have been some moments of joy. Few and far between, but there.

Georgia is the last place I saw my husband alive, and I am frankly struggling with that. Thankfully, he is neatly packed in a box labeled "Daddy," so I can bring him along wherever, but it is  a little strange to be leaving the first house we bought together and the last house he lived in, just down the street from the tree where he breathed his last breath in the small hours of a cold February morning. I wonder if it will be liberating to be in a city that doesn't have quite so many ghosts. I wonder if it will be sad. I wonder if I will start (continue?) talking to a box filled with ashes.

I also wonder if I might be a teeny, tiny bit crazy these days. #Possible

Pema Chodron talks about fear and uncertainty like this: “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”  She counsels us to lean in to uncertainty, to lean in to fear, to embrace wretchedness as the other half of gloriousness. 

So, in my own way, I am leaning in. I am feeling the fear and am willing to die over and over again. I am trying to be compassionate with myself as I give in to grief on occasion, or laziness, or anger, or impatience. I may not be fabulous at being fully present every moment, but sometimes I get a breath of that in brief snatches, and it is lovely.

And then there is this: “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” 

So maybe the reflection and staring out the window and lack of (written) action is my way of making room for all of these things, mentally. Cleaning out the house is physically making room for the flood. Giving me room to just lean in to it all.

There is no real end to this, so I will leave it at that.

Photo by Michelle Tribe via Flickr