Friday, December 14, 2007

Trap doors

My memory has two faces: one, the idealized happy places; two, the grim, desperate places. The haunted side sticks like a broken record in the grimiest corners of my memory, no matter how hard I try to fight it.

Tonight, as I lay awake once again, sleepless, I am actually stuck in a loop of idealized happiness. Tonight, I lay awake yearning for Chicago.

I’m imagining Whole Foods--of all the things in the world to miss—and seeing the bulk bin of Israeli couscous and the diminutive glass jar of Thai red chili paste. I imagine buying henna, even though I’ve never used it before. I visualize the beautiful organic bacon and its thick, apple wood-smoked slices. I see the bulk herbs aisle, smiling at me with its bright lavender and dank burdock root scent, beckoning that I mix teas for sore throats to give as Christmas presents to my friends.

I also see downtown, Michigan Avenue by the Chicago River and north. The lights—beautiful twinkling lights—the red bows, the odd lighted glass globes artistically arranged in cedar branch covered flower beds. So many people, smiling, happy, taking pictures of the lights with point-and-shoot digital cameras set with the flash on (those pictures never come out; you have to set to night mode.). People are shoving and there are armloads of packages jamming sidewalks, but the children smile with glee, and the tourists stop to appreciate the wonder.

I’m thinking of the Chicago River, lighted so green in a summer gleaming blue sky with just the right amount of puffy white clouds in the distance. I see sunlight on art deco buildings, suddenly striking and awe-inspiring as the vision of their masters reveals their ornate, fanciful creations for the rare birds they are. I see the same Chicago at night, when the towering, black, art deco creations seem to loom with sinister intent—or maybe I imagine too much, maybe the Santa Fe building doesn’t glower.

And I lay in bed, thinking, “You chose to leave, Christine. Remember all the reasons you left?” And I think of an acquaintance’s t-shirt that was written in the style of “I heart New York,” but hers read, “I dot Chicago.” I remembered being stunned by it. How could someone who loved to lunch at Fox and Obel’s “dot” Chicago? I asked her about it, and she laughed at her feigned ambivalence toward the city. “You know, it’s the opposite of heart. I don’t love Chicago.” But she was a liar, I know.

But the “dot” t-shirt. Remember Christine? The “dot” was why you left. Christine, you were tired of traffic and public transportation and crowds and indifferent security guards who saw you four times a day for three years but never remembered your face. You were tired of how hard it was to get to Whole Foods. You were tired of even regular grocery shopping at over-crowded, picked-over, under-staffed stores. You were tired of parking. You were tired of your job. You were insanely tired of cold and ice and lingering slush that managed to find its way into your Wellington’s (how did it do that?).

And so, St. Augustine, the anti-Chicago. Little, quaint, tropical, easy-going.

Christine, don’t let Chicago keep you up at night. It’s a chimera. Halcyon. It doesn’t exist; it’s just an ideal you’ve encapsulated into pill form that you accidentally took before bedtime.

A friend once asked me why I didn’t blog about Chicago. She said I had so many interesting things to tell her about Chicago, but I never wrote them. I told her, “I’ve never been able to write a place where I lived. It could only happen after I left. I don’t know when I’ll leave Chicago, but that’s when I’ll tell Chicago stories.”

I feel I’m being trite, but it must be time. It must be Chicago bursting through me at last. But I have to remember the “dot.” It wasn’t all herbal teas and fresh sushi with lucky parking.

Goodnight sweetings. I hope I dream of sushi without regret for loss. I longed for St. Augustine and got it, now I have to keep from losing it to the memory of something that only existed sometimes.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

About feet again

Remember this, "Induction ceremony"?

I was just told I had huge feet. I am still reticent to admit that my feet have spread and grown a little since my lithe sixteen-year-old 7 narrow days, but I'm still only a 7 1/2.

Peculiar woman: "Christine, you look like you have small feet. What size shoe do you wear?"

Me: "7 1/2."

Peculiar woman, laughing hilariously while slapping knee: "That's HUGE! Oh my god you have such big feet!"

Me: "No, I don't."

Peculiar woman: "Yes you do!" still laughing.

Me: "I believe 7 is average."

Peculiar woman: "I wear a 4 1/2," she said with pride.

Well, I got midget feet beat. They don't make many 4 1/2 women's shoes, but there sure are a lot of 7 1/2's! Joke's on you, peculiar woman.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dear Christine, (part one)

I received a Q&A request from a fave reader (shout-out to fellow Kentuckian and librarian! Holla!), but I’ve been too sick to answer. Turns out I had an infection and it was giving me a fever. Not that I’m trying to use the Q&A as a bitch session, but just wanted to update why I’ve felt so crappy and haven’t been blogging. Two rounds of antibiotics later, I’m feeling much better.

From Jason:

i've been following your hair chronicles online. what's the process for getting dreads? i'd always heard, "let it get really nappy. don't wash it. maybe pour some coca-cola on it." i saw your flickr pics, but i still don't understand what the hairdresser does. care to explain (either on the blog or in an email) professionally-done dreads? i'm just curious.

also, tell me about your job.

Well now, for question one, Jason, let’s start with a visual aid:
X-tine's Dreadlocks
Sumner has delicately partitioned my hair into agreed upon segment size and locations. He then used a very fine toothed metal comb and back-combed my hair while occasionally twisting the hair slightly. You’re a boy, do you know what back-combing is? It’s also what girls would call “teasing” the hair, basically. Back-combing is combing the hair in reverse direction toward the scalp to intentionally knot or tangle the hair together. In that picture, Sumner is pushing my hair toward my scalp while hanging on to a foundation piece of hair to give it something to knot to.

After six hours of this tedious process, my neck was exhausted from the constant tension of the pull on my hair. But I was not nearly as exhausted as Sumner, whose hand was numb by the end of the day.

To complete the dreadlock-ification, Sumner used a special beeswax blend to put into my hair and help it take shape. He put a little wax on his palms, which heated it up, then rolled each dread in his hands, just like the way your kids will soon roll Play-Doh into strings.

Dreadlocks are washable. Sumner didn’t recommend a particular brand, but said chemical and conditioner-free shampoos were the way to go. Nothing that would leave deposits on the hair. I first chose Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap in Baby formula for its absence of perfumes and dyes. Plus I knew from experimenting with that soap before that Dr. Bronner’s dried out my hair and made it stick together. I didn’t really dig it though for washing the dreads. Just didn’t feel right.

I turned to for products. I ordered the beeswax balm Sumner used, the leave-in locking spray that encourages knots, and, my new favorite, dreadlock shampoo. I love the shampoo more than I love the other products. I feel so clean after I use it, even better than Dr. Bronner’s. My scalp feels fresh and my dreads smell like nothing but clean hair.

As you know, I’ve been on bed rest for the broken leg for a few weeks now. I got my locks nine days before I broke my leg, and bed rest has not been kind to my locks. They look pretty scraggly. It takes at least three months for the dreadlocks to really lock and not look crazy, but bed rest has set me back by about three months, I think. I have a penumbra of loose hairs all over the place. In a ponytail, I just look scraggly. Hair down, I look homeless and possibly insane.

I’ve never heard the “pour coke on it” urban myth, but in high school when I first wanted to dread my hair, everyone said linseed oil. Can you imagine that? That’s a freakin wood varnish. In college, not knowing what I was doing, I tried to dread someone’s hair. We started out with wee tiny braids and then he didn’t wash his hair at all. He got dandruff from the pressure on his scalp from the braids, and it turned out he had oily hair so the braids kept coming out anyway. We abandoned that after a pretty short time. I don’t know how everyone in the world gets dreads, but so far the only results I have seen have been from back-combing. And Sumner has quite the portfolio of clients.

I would also conjecture—not based on experience or fact at all—that not washing your hair and letting it get nappy wouldn’t work. It seems like oily hair isn’t that good for dreads since it ends up lubricating the hair, thereby relaxing the dread knots. Plus, the dreads would have no rhyme or reason as to size and location and would look mighty silly, in my opinion.

I hope that answers question one enough. As for question two, I’m typed out and I’ll get back to that one. Or that two.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

All apologies

I have a Q&A request to reply to, but I'm not feeling so good. I had a doctor's appointment this past Friday to see if I had a blood clot in the broken leg. I don't, so that's good news. Two bad news though. They put me in a new removable cast and it weighs a ton and it's huge and hard to drag around behind me. I'm supposed to go back to work this Tuesday, but, Dear God, the thought of lugging my leg around the library exhausts me just to think of it. Second bad news: the doctor is afraid I'm not healing right. I get a full CT scan of my ankle region on Tuesday to determine if I need surgery.

I'm just exhausted from all this. Nothing has gone wrong (yet), but just the physical act of going to the doctor's then the ultrasound clinic wore me out for days. Or my body is just catching up from all the nights I stayed up too late reading romance novels, I don't know. Either way, I'll catch up soon.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pace yourself

Matthew gets up every morning, walks the dog and feeds her, feeds me breakfast, then goes to work. On his lunch break, he comes home and lets the dog out and feeds me lunch. In those in between times, we debate what to do with the dog. Crate or let her roam? She can’t get into the bed with me because she’s too heavy and rough to be near my broken leg. If she’s out, though, she really wants to be near someone, so she tries sneak attacks on the bed which result in yelling, or, she walks her route.

When she’s not in her crate, and one of us is gone, she is really lonely for the missing person. On days when we leave the dog out of her crate, she starts in my bedroom, looks at me and begs, then walks down the stairs, sniffs the door, cries for Matthew, then comes back upstairs to cry at me and beg to get in the bed. She repeats this cycle ad infinitum.

She annoys me so much that I’ve basically conscripted her to the crate if Matthew’s not here, no matter how short the time is. Her toenails clacking up and down the stairs and her nose whines are enough to drive me nuts. Today I agreed to leave her out, and she seems to have actually laid down to rest somewhere out of earshot. It’s nice when we get a peaceful family working like this.

Frustration island

My dad asked me tonight if I had been blogging about my experiences having a broken leg. I told him, “There’s not a lot to say. It hurts, I can barely get around, I’m confined to the second floor of our house, and I fall down every time I try to practice walking with crutches.” I think I’ve covered all those topics so far. If not, there you go; you’re up to date.

My friends who know I’m a frustrat(ing) novelist all ask, “How is work on your great American masterpiece coming along?” I know how much they mean well, but, honestly, it stings a bit. I am frittering away my bed-ridden hours watching endless movies, back to back. I’m up to at least 20 movies, over the course of exactly 8 days (as of writing this, not as of posting). Does that tell you how uninspiring having a broken leg is for me? I can’t even read, and god knows that has always been my refuge. No, TV is my snuggle blankie now.

I tried to act out the movie Rear Window and spy from the window right by my pillow. All I can tell you is that the three palm trees need their dead branches trimmed and the back fence neighbors do a very poor job of taking care of their yard. I quit looking after two attempts and no changes. Matthew told me he keeps expecting to come home and find me sitting at the window with a pair of binoculars and ask him to come quick and look. Nope. It’s nothing like Chicago here, where I could have seen a million things from my window (if I had one to look out of), but, here, it’s just pretty quiet and slow. No crime to spy on and investigate.

This did just give me a thought, though. Maybe I’ll start a photo project. If I can get the screen up on my rear window, maybe I can document my three palm trees at different times of day and over the course of the season or something. Or maybe that’s mega dull. Do palm trees ever change? Are they evergreen? I’m too new to Florida to understand nature’s intricacies. I always thought I was a good Southern girl, but then I moved really south and discovered how Midwestern I actually was.

I did have one nature surprise two nights ago. Three times, several minutes apart, around three a.m., I thought I heard an owl. But I thought I must be nuts—are there such things as palm tree owls? I thought owls were like an endangered Pacific Northwest anti-logging campaign or something. Today, Matthew confirmed my observation. He came back from the evening dog walk and told me “Two interesting things just happened on our walk.” The first was irrelevant and involved a near-fight with our neighbor’s cat, who smartly retreated rather than take on her majesty, hunter supreme, Blanche DuBois Wy. The second was relevant: “I just heard two hooty-owls,” he said, with his eyes wide in his silly way.

I told him, “You mean there really are owls? I thought I heard one the other night, and I thought I must be going nuts.”

“No, it was real.”

Then I admitted I thought owls were Pacific Northwest etc, etc. He assured me that owls are everywhere.

“So, what are they? Are they Palm Tree Owls?”

He didn’t think so.

In truth, I recognize that there are also an abundance of large, ancient, delightfully crusty live oaks here in St. Augustine. They are probably Delightfully Crusty Live Oak Owls. I also imagine that, like the squirrels here, they have adapted to have smaller bodies because of some sort of heat ratio aspect thing. Thermo-dynamics, you know.

I guess I should turn the blog’s attention to matters of laughing at the injured Ms. Wy. O, if only our heroine’s misadventures were more humorous, instead of calamitous.

Whenever I decide to test walk my crutches for the fifteen feet from my sick bed in the cat’s room to the bathroom, I make sure Matthew is here, and I make sure I’m feeling mightily strong. Without fail, I get exactly half-way between destinations and lose my balance. I fall flat, splat on the floor. Since the crutches actually slow my descent, I have time to swing my right bad leg out of the way, and I generally land on my back, which I assure hurts much less than landing on my front. Matthew comes running up the stairs, poor guy, and I lay like a frier hen laughing hysterically on the floor. “I’m not hurt, Matthew; I just can’t get up.”

The carefully executed maneuver necessary to lift me off the ground is difficult and awkward, you know, whole right-foot-can’t-touch-the-ground thing. I like to push off the floor with my right arm, and have Matthew pull me from the left arm while I push up with my left leg. I swear my left leg has done more in the past eight days than it has since I was in high school and I liked to rock climb.

The other confluence of Special Christine Circumstances is that I have combined forgetfulness with my injury and become more illogical than usual. I can’t walk five feet on crutches, but I promised my boss I’d be back to work at the end of ten days (I reneged on that promise today). I carefully devised an excellent plan to use the night librarian’s designated parking spot as my handicapped spot so that I could be right by the door, then remembered it was my right leg that is broken and I can’t drive anyway (I hatch this plan anew every two days.). I also think how fun it would be to sew since I have all this time off, then I remember that I use my right foot for the machine controller, and I have no ability to press with my right foot (I also think of this one every two days or so.). Then I thought that maybe I could get my library friend who lives in a retirement community to see if any of her neighbors could loan me a wheelchair for a few weeks, then I realized I’m a germaphobe, and I hate touching things other people have touched, and it would take a lot of sani-wipe-downs before I’d be able to touch it without rubber gloves. It’s a difficult, circular logical place to live in Christine’s mind. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had the brilliant plan to drive to get Oreo cookies only to remember half-way off the bed that I can’t drive (or walk).

I actually had a painful stumble today, which was weird because it was absolutely the least dramatic of my broken-leg-fall-downs yet. I was getting off the bed, pulling myself up with my old lady walker. This requires getting the left foot firmly on the floor to push, and all four legs of the walker squared up on the floor and perpendicular to my body. As I push/pull up, I then have to swing my right leg behind me for safety, ballast, protection, what have you. Critical failure achieved at push/pull moment. I didn’t have my left foot down properly and it gave out on me. Since my right foot wasn’t behind me yet, this meant I pitched forward onto the walker and wrenched my right foot. Ouch. How does a person bend her leg out of whack again when it’s already in a cast? Easy answer: That person is Christine Wy There you go, I’ve just written a riddle for you. Feel free to use it at cocktail parties; everyone will love it.

So there I am. Day seven feeling like one day I’ll walk again, despite my continued failure with crutches, day eight feeling like I’ve just re-injured all those sore tendons and muscles. I count my blessings that it doesn’t feel anything like when I first broke my leg, so I’m praying I haven’t done damage to the bone healing process.

I guess there really is more to my story, like Dad thought. I can actually think of a million things more I’d like to say, but I feel like I’ve said enough for now.

Not to end on a downer, but I’m lonely. If you have my number, call me during the day, just for a quick chat. If you don’t have my number, you know how to e-mail me to get it. Of course if you call while I’m taking Tylenol 3, it’s a toss-up whether you’ll get fun, wacky Christine, or whether you’ll get “I’m a zombie let me sleep now” Christine. The choice is yours, if you’re up to the challenge.

Also, let me know in comments or by e-mail if you’re interested in all the movie reviews I’ve been writing. I’ve tried to keep them short and sweet, and I’ll publish them here if anyone cares.

Ta-ta Christine lovers.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Updated on the busted leg

So far I've been called "gimpy," "cripple," and "Hop-Along." I'm keeping "Hop-Along," I like that one.

Having a broken leg sucks for sooo many reasons, where shall I ever begin?

My pain pills have been cut off. They said I should take Ibuprofen. I went from Tylenol 3 to Ibuprofen. Does that seem right to you? Not me. My foot doesn't generally ache like it did before, but now all the twisted muscles and tendons that got injured in the fall are chiming in with their own special chorus. And no Tylenol 3. So I can say the pain has improved somewhat. But definitely not enough.

Also, the rest of my body is killing me. I have to use a walker to get the ten feet from the spare bedroom to the bathroom. This means keeping my balance on one leg while pushing the walker ahead, then using my upper body to pull and my left leg to hop to close the distance. My wrists are killing me and my poor left knee isn't very appreciative either. I have been keeping myself too dehydrated probably, just to avoid the grueling trip to the bathroom.

I'm also missing out on all the action that's happening on the first floor. I could be getting my own cheese crackers, but, no, instead i have to beg for three slices of cheese to be carried up at earliest convenience.

Forget the outside world. Even now, with my window closed, I can hear all the fun of the annual neighborhood street festival. Now come on, that's cruel. I should totally be there. And I'm going on a rampage if they have funnel cakes and I'm not getting one.

I'm also incredibly dirty. I'm actually ashamed to admit this, even though I'm the first person to laugh at how gross I am. It's next to impossible to bathe, and even then I don't feel particularly clean. I'm also in too much pain to go looking for clean clothes every day so so far I'm managing a semi-clean ensemble every two or three days. Now remember that I'm spending 24 hours in these grubby clothes, including meal times, and think about how much this adds to my misery.

The good news is that I'm catching up on all my really questionable movie watching, and my boss dropped off four romance novels from the library to keep me entertained. Bless his heart. I put on a bra in case he wanted to come up and say hi, but he was in a hurry. I was sad because I wanted him to see me suffering.

My current dilemma is unpaid sick leave versus temporary disability. And I can't get in touch with the HR dept. Am I staying out too long and using all my sick and vacation days? Or do I need to stay out longer so I can qualify for temporary disability?

The only happy person in all this is my cat, Loki. Since I'm in his bedroom, he gets to spend 24 hours a day with me, and he couldn't be happier. Right now he's laying on his back, curled up to my bad leg, his feet up in the air, looking at me with one eye--sheer feline bliss, let me tell you. When the dog comes into the room to check out what's going on, the cat takes defensive battle station in preparation that he might need to defend Fort Mommy from canine intruder.

And yep, that's all the excitement. The pain, the gore, the dirt, the dilemmas, the animals--that's my world.

Feelin the love from y'all,

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

which hurts more? broken heart or broken leg?

I just sent this e-mail out to my friends. I'm too lazy (high on pain pills) to write a real story for my blog. The irony is that I wrote to whine about coffee, finished my coffee, then... you'll see.

ok, so you probably know me well enough to know that i'm a fabulous klutz. really, i
like to refine it to an art form, which i will demonstrate to you now.

monday was one of my days off. i was leisurely drinking coffee, finished a novel i was reading, and i was getting ready to take a shower. i decided to finish one last tiny little art project before i got in the shower. just one last thing. i went upstairs to get the accessory i needed, and then i went back downstairs to finish the project.

except i didn't descend the staircase properly.

somewhere around stair two or three, i lost my balance or slipped or something and went careening toward the floor. it all happened so fast, i can't even tell you the cause or how it happened or where i landed. what i can tell you is that i broke my leg.

yep. i told you i'd take clumsiness to a new level, didn't i?

it turns out i broke my tibia, which it turns out is the load bearing bone in the ankle, so i can't put even the wee tiniest pressure on my foot. i was told by the orthopedic (bone doctor guy, however you spell it), that i was quite lucky. the break was millimeters away from requiring extensive reconstructive surgery. so i guess in all my bad luck, i've got some good luck in there somewhere too.

i am manditorily off work for a week. i have been temporarily confined to the second
floor of our house for that week because the bathroom is upstairs and i'm REALLY bad at crutches. plus i just shouldn't move and all that stuff.

so i have my crutches to limp around on, and my health insurance bought me a walker, so all in all i'm doing ok. the only problem is getting back to work. my weekend job isn't very hard, but my weekday job is in a tiny cramped office, and i don't see how i can work on any of my projects there.

i would also really like to shower, but it's going to be a two person thing, involving garbage bags and duct tape.

matthew's being a saint. i feel terrible, like i'm taking advantage of him, but, i just can't move without terrible pain.

oh yeah, you probably want to know if it hurts. yes, it does. i know that there are
worse pains in the world and worse broken bones, but i'm in pain. i don't really know how to describe it, except that it feels like i broke my tibia near the ankle. and that's what it is.

the best part of the story: for some reason they fast-tracked me in the emergency room. i didn't have to sit in my courtesy wheelchair and wait forever while sniffling people went ahead of me. it went fast for emergency room treatment. my actual dr. was a jerk though. he was like "you broke your tibia. we don't put on casts here. you have to make an appointment with one of these doctors to get a cast. good luck." everyone else was super nice though, so he was just balancing them out i guess.

and to conclude, they gave me very few very weak pain pills, so i'm depressed about what i'm gonna do when the pills run out. my leg had better feel less painful by then!

finally, i'm writing this on pain medication, so i hope it makes sense and there aren't too many typos.

send me air hugs and love. and pray that i don't get bedsores since only one position is comfortable!

your injured friend,
christine wy

Monday, October 29, 2007

Coffee, Smithers

I'm so unmotivated today that I can't even make coffee, even though that's the only thing that will cure me.

I had a really bad experience with my new St. Augustine psychiatrist. He basically accused me of being a drug addict in the lobby of his practice. Re-read that sentence and think about how unprofessional that is.

I've been depressed since moving to Florida (please insert no jokes, I really do love it here), so I went to a psychiatrist for psychiatric help. I only sort of got help. Most of what I got was fear and shame, and I'm terrified to go back to him if he's going to keep violating HIPAA laws and yell at me in his lobby about my legally prescribed medication.

I haven't slept well since seeing him. When he decided what medication I should have, I was too afraid to contradict him, even though it was contrary to my current medical regimen. It's just not the right medicine, and now I can't sleep.

I'm miserable from the no sleep and the medication, and I'm miserable from the way he treated me, but I don't see an easy solution. I called him and left him a voice mail where I admitted to being afraid of him and that it was the wrong medication, but what will he say? What will he do? Will he yell at me for being a drug addict again and then make fun of me to his staff?

I'm working on getting a new doctor, but somehow I foresee a commute to Jacksonville in my near future. Supposedly scary unprofessional guy is the best game in town.

As a slightly related aside, I dreamt I was in Chicago this morning as I woke up. I woke thinking, "I'll go to the store and buy some Fred Soll's incense, and that will make me happy." Then it dawned on me that I was in St. Augustine and I'd have to order Fred Soll's off the internet.

It's the weird things like that that make me miss Chicago. Not the beautiful skyscrapers, not the green river, not my wonderful old neighborhood. It's incense and that shop in China Town where you can eat Lotus Cakes. It's Whole Foods house brand soy milk and almond butter. It's walking to my psychiatrist's office after work where I was treated kindly and professionally. They add up, the little odd moments that I took for granted.

St. Augustine may be it's own paradise, but its charm doesn't get me almond butter.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A little cat tale

Loki Cat loves black things and luggage. Black things make perfect sense: he's a black cat, and when he nestles into his black nest, he's pretty much invisible until he deigns to turn and meet your eyes. I'll tell ya, nothing will scare you quite as much as a black cat in a dark corner laying on that black t-shirt you threw on the floor when he turns and gives you the "what now, human?" evil eye gaze. Makes me jump outta my skin every time. Right now, the cat's favorite black thing is a vinyl bookbag/purse I left on the floor accidentlly. He has conquered it as his own.

But the real draw for Loki Cat is luggage. Man that cat loves a good suitcase. You leave your suitcase unattended for five minutes, and he is either in it or on it. You think that suitcase was put away, but it turned out that the cat could get into the closet, and when you withdrew the suitcase, it was covered in fine, black fuzz. The black cat struck again.

Out of some misguided animal (enabling) generosity, I've left the cat a few treats. I didn't put away that black vinyl purse so he could have it to lay on, even though I don't quite see the draw. And I didn't put away my suitcase after the last time I used it so that he could have a nice bed nest to sleep on.

I don't know why I'm such a sucker for that cat, but he just hits me in the right spot in my heart. I don't want my black purse covered in fur, and I don't want to have to vacuum my suitcase the next time I need to use it. But, there you have it, the cat has possession of both.

And there you go, Loki, a little story about you.

Bitter prize

I’ve confessed to loving romance novels in the past. I love to be transported to a place where all the men have handsome, deep eyes like liquid amber pools in which the perfectly manicured heroine finds herself drowning. It’s fun. Good, mindless fun. And besides, having a Masters degree in literature, I’ve read more serious fiction than most would in a lifetime. Not bragging, just saying is all.

Enter the lush promise of the romance novel. I am promised to be transported to a place of perfect imperfection, where quirks are charming, and no one has as many nervous tics as David Sedaris. Women inherit dilapidated country homes from great aunts and their amazingly handsome and strong neighbor turns out to be a talented carpenter, willing to work for free for the promise of just one, perfect, rosebud kiss. Robust business men who always seem to have time to workout but never time to look for love suddenly discover that the woman who volunteers at his pet charity is a blossom waiting to be plucked by his dappled gray eyes.

Until God comes along.

Walking the dog the other morning, I discovered a box of books set out on the curb. “Score! Free books!” I shouted, really hoping no one would notice me in my dog-walking outfit, yelling to myself. I rooted through the books, and they were his and hers. Half the books were Michael Crichton and his ilk, and the other half were florid pink-covered romance novels. Pay dirt.

I picked the pinkest cover to read first, The Healing Season. It promised to be a period piece set in London around 1815, involving a scandalous stage actress and a staid surgeon. Very inviting. I read and read, waiting for the love connection to blossom, but they always missed each other at every turn. As I got near the end of the book I realized two things: 1. I’d gone too far to quit; 2. This was unrequited love. A person—a normal person—does not read a romance novel for unrequited love. I railed against the heavens that I had been so abused.

And then I discovered the real plot. The doctor developed an inoperable brain tumor; the actress entered a brutal arrangement with a man who promised to get her headline roles in London’s respectable theater. Prayer—PRAYER!—saved them both. Through the power of prayer, the brain tumor healed itself, after the protagonist found himself filled with the Holy Spirit. Escaping her torturer, the stage actress was taken in by a religious mission, and she too found redemption in Jesus’ love. Thus, the two were redeemed and made whole by God, suddenly on the last page of the novel, able to wed chastely and wholly in the eyes of the Church.

Boring! No bodice ripping there. In fact, that was the exact opposite of bodice ripping, I’d say.

OK. On to garbage book two. Trouble in Paradise. “Is this a religious title?” I wondered. But the dust jacket assured me it involved a bohemian artist who moved to the country to write fiction who swoons to her cowboy neighbor, ensnared by his limpid brown eyes. Lied to again! Regarding our authoress, on page 21, “For months, she’d felt God calling to her to put her faith into words on paper, to tell stories that would exemplify God’s power over evil.”

Who is this cruel trickster who brought me tantalizing promises of morality abandoned for love, but instead delivered love abandoned for morality? How could they do this to me?

I’m going to offer the books to my sister’s church. After that, back to the trash. At least The Healing Season was well-written, but it left me bitter that no women’s garments were rendered asunder in fits of passion. Ah well. I guess I need to visit the “morally bankrupt” section of the bookstore.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Owning the hair

I know I keep harping on this, but it's been the biggest change on my mind lately. More on the dreads.

I love America's Next Top Model. There's always the bitchy one, there's always the clueless one who's so beautiful she rocks without trying, there's the one that *could* be talented but just isn't, there's the one with the bad attitude, there's the one that has *too* good an attitude. Love it. The drama of these personality clashes--a bunch of girls locked together in a house for weeks--rules. Girls, bring your cattiness, your slumber party, your artificial alliances against your enemies, and, most of all, be ready for bare knuckles boxing.

Then there's the makeover episode. Every girl gets a new look. Some are excited and feel honored to be styled by what's-his-name Pavel, and then there are the girls who think they look fierce just how they are... and then, there's the girls who HATE what happens to their heads and fight it. They never look good and they can't recover from the ego blow because they never learn to live with their hair.

With the response I got from some people who are nameless, I felt like the girl who couldn't learn to live with her hair. I felt like my ego was damaged, and I couldn't help but be disppointed at how ugly I was when I saw the look of disdain in their eyes.

But their eyes aren't my mirror now. I'm not sure how many days it's been since I got the dreads, but, you know, they're my dreads and they're what I wanted. I chose this. Pavel didn't choose this for me, I did.

And now I feel great ownership of my head. This is what I look like. I'm nappy headed. People may not like it as much as I do, but it's my hair and I'm wearing it. I haven't been using scarves to hide it, and I haven't been using rubber bands to tame it. I've been letting them fly, free. And as conflicted as I feel about my self-image and my need to be accepted by others, for now, I feel great being me and letting my hair be itself. We're going to get through our awkward growing in stage together, and we'll make it, I swear.

As Tyra Banks would say, "You need to own your new look."

PS Someone on Team Christine just said my hair looked like "nascent dreadlocks." Perfect description.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hair as interpretation of self

For the past four days, my dreadlocks have made me kinda grumpy. They didn’t hatch as glorious and beautiful as I had imagined. I guess that dreadlocking takes time. I’m not really the queen of beauty patience, which puts my endeavor into a pretty questionable no-man’s land. Buyer’s remorse? Or commit?

Today, the answer is commit. I came to work without a headwrap, looking scraggly and ragamuffinly, and I was proud. I am taking a chance, and, maybe it won’t work, but I’m willing to step out there and see what happens.

Putting myself out there? That’s big. It’s huge. Taking a chance on my already weak self-esteem by road-testing cuteness questionability, it’s a big risk. I’m generally more into risk management, not risk-taking.

Cuteness risk challenges my ability to accept me for me. It challenges me to define myself not by my body, but by my, I don’t know, personality or something. My ethereal self.

I have also turned myself into walking performance art, as my hair evolves and takes new shapes. Each little strand of poking-out stick hair makes the viewer assess, art or folly?

When you see me next, you decide. But don’t tell me, keep it to yourself. I’m tired of the “it’s cute” faction versus the “I hate it” faction. I need to hear my own voice, not theirs.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Herbert Asbury is killing me

I picked up Herbert Asbury's 1927 novel "The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld" through interlibrary loan. I have until Nov. 30 to finish reading this book and return it, as there are no renewals on ILL.

I'm dying. This book is killing me, not like the Bowery B'hoys would have, but, slowly, from boredom and tediousness.

The novel is written in that affected post-Victorian way of bad travellogues. And, really, that's what it is, a travellogue through the underworld of New York.

Books of this period were meant to be read slowly, in the evening, by gas light (if one was lucky, right?), after one's day of terrible toiling. I sympathize with those hoistoric readers, because I am certianly toiling terribly over this novel. I can stomach about ten pages before I become so numb that I have to put it down again to go read fashion slams on Go Fug Yourself.

After having the book for two or three weeks, I've read 68 pages of 373. How am I ever going to get through this thing on time? I'm going to have to buy it online or something, because this is one tome calculated to kill--with tediousness!

Supposedly, Asbury based the book on facts, but claims it is a novel meant for entertainment, and fails to cite any of his source material. He claims it is real crime in one breath, and claims it is fictional in the next. Either way, he's killing me dead.

The novel drags, moving non-linearly from character to character, out of time sequence totally, randomly mentioning at odd times tidbits about the histories of the Fifth and Fourth Wards and Five Points gangs. This could be a good book. Loitering in the musty underground passageway of this book is an actually interesting, entertaining, and informative piece of work. I guess that's what Martin Scorcese tried to do with Asbury's jumble, but I haven't actually seen the movie to know for sure.

No matter the hidden gem in this novel, I don't foresee finishing the book in time for the ILL deadline. See? I'm even blogging rather than read this damn book. Time to go back, back to the Daybreak Boys at Slaughterhouse Point, I guess.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Christine, Christine, so contrary

Contrariness update one.

I’ve been wanting dreadlocks for a while. I decided that when we moved to Florida, I would assess my job situation, then go for professionally upgraded hair. Matthew and I discussed it, and he felt that not only would it enhance my already high cuteness factor, but that I also have the type of job where I get to be eccentric and it’s cute (god bless being the only archivist on campus). I told my library work friend about my plan, and she went a little bananas. “Dreadlocks are disgusting. They’re dirty. You know you can’t wash your hair, right? There’s parasite in Florida that you don’t know about. You could get infected.” She then showed me a picture of her daughter at approximately age 12 with the rattiest looking dreadlocks I’ve seen since my hippie days. “See how bad it looks?”

What happens to Christine when she hears “No”? Her brain turns it into “I’m doing it right NOW, sucka foo!!!”

I like this library chick, and her daughter’s cool, but there are a couple of things working in my favor that didn’t seem to happen for her daughter. I’m having my dreads professionally done. I know that you can wash them and that they don’t have to be dirty. I know that they don’t have to be ratty and that they can be smooth and kinda classy lassy, just like me. I know that one doesn’t need to worry about Florida parasites if one is clean. Eww.

The earliest date I can get my dreadlocks is Saturday night, though. I’ve been waiting a week! How can I stand the burning pressure of the need for defiance? And guess who’s going to be the first person at work to see my dreads… the anti-dread friend. I’m so excited and eager that I actually dreamt about it this morning. I don’t remember the dream, just that there were dreadlocks and I was happy. This is one thing I’m not doing just to be contrary, she just happened to accelerate the plan.

I also just realized that I wasn’t going to tell my family, and if they *actually* read my blog (doubtful), they’ll know my secret… The perk of living so far from home is that it’s easier to keep secrets.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Roach motel

We have roaches. There, I've said it. It's felt like a shameful secret, so I didn't want to admit it to anyone. But, we got roaches.

They came with the house, and we kind of figured they would, considering it' a 90-year-old house in the deep south. But these ain't no palmetto bugs. These are some seriously bad-ass mother fuckers. These are roaches that'll knife you for your apple if you don't leave them the core.

We don't leave food out. We don't try to feed the roaches, but, they're here, they live here. We had a fly swatter always on hand when we lived in Kentucky, because for some reason every time we opened the door a fly would come in with us. now we keep the fly swatter on permanent assignment in the kitchen.

Recently, I found a big old granddad prowling, looking for a fight, and I tried to squish him with the washcloth I had. Matthew heard me screaming "Die mother fucker!" and came running. My little washcloth was useless, and not matter how hard I squished, he just got up and walked away. Matthew grabbed the fly-swatter and said, "Stand back." He squished that thing dead like a pro.

My name is Christine Wy, and I have roaches. But man, Team Wy kills 'em every chance we get.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Well played, Gore

Oh, and by the way, this is how I really feel: kudos to you, Al Gore. You deserve the Peace Prize.

Pundits like to pre-analyze how posterity will view the historicity of political leaders. I won’t gauge George W. Bush. His father may enter the annals as “Father of George W. Bush,” not as a politico in how own right. George W. may come out as “igniter of escalated discord and instability in Middle East,” or, he may surprise us with a full-on “improver of Middle Eastern relations.” Personally, I’m rooting that he’s one of those totally historically forgettable presidents that you just have to memorize because he’s on the list. Only time and Houghton-Mifflin will tell.

Al Gore’s had a hard time getting people to listen to his own new groove after the electoral debacle. He’s talked, and his loyal followers have listened, but, in the U.S. political vacuum, it’s seemed like he was one dog barking into the wind of Republican corporate American flatulence. Gore’s Peace Prize momentarily freed me from the U.S. media bubble, and I realized, with awe, “there’s a whole world out there that pays attention to what smart Americans are doing.”

Thank you, Nobel Committee, for noticing the good in our country. I feel like Miss Kentucky in a beauty pageant where Miss Hawaii is expected to win: surprised and elated that someone noticed--they finally noticed!—that, hey, we’re amazing too, just not in the way you might have expected. I hope history feels that way about Gore, too. I want him recorded in textbooks as "the man the world recognized for changing our minds about the gravity of global warming."

Dealt a bad hand

I wonder what Al Gore has nightmares about. Does he dream of losing control of the electoral process, over and over, ad infinitum? Does he wake, sitting upright in bed, fists clenched, gritting his teeth, thinking “Not again!”? Does he dream that he’s lost his clothing on the way to the Supreme Court where he challenges the legality of George W. Bush’s presidency?

I told my friend last week that I never dream about being inappropriately naked. Apparently, I lied. Last thing this morning, I dreamt over and over, rotating scenarios, that I had appeared somewhere important naked. I don’t recall ever having this dream before, but, in disturbing tableaux, I was forced into situations where I must act as arbiter, mediator, or other authority in front of an audience. In the last scenario, I sat behind a diner table, and I tried to scooch down to hide my nudity. It was useless, though, because my moderation of the debate between two warring political factions was being televised, and CNN commentators seemed to be focusing on my inappropriate attire, not on our important progress toward peaceful negotiations.

I’m feeling more Al Gore right now, though, where this waking nightmare is a shameful daylight truth that one tries to escape like the pall of a rain cloud.

I lose at Uno. Over and over, I lose at Uno. Hand after hand gets dealt, and I lose. I don’t remember ever being a winner at Uno, not even as a kid. As a kid, the competition amongst my cousins provided the fun, not the winning. As an adult, I honed a competitive bitterness that spurs me to win.

But I can’t win at Uno.

I feel like Al Gore, making TV appearances about the importance of my new think tank work, winning Nobel Peace Prizes for my advocacy on global warming, but always followed by the acrid taint of “Hey, he’s that guy that lost to a retard in a presidential election. God he must be stupid to lose to a retard!” And, let’s face it, he’s lost credibility. Yeah, we get that everything he says is true, and we know from Futurama that he’s funny, but, I mean, he’s that guy that lost to the retard, right?

Uno, Al Gore, dreams, retards—how’s all this stupid stuff make sense? Uno is a retarded game that children play, yet it’s my living nightmare that I can never win. I grit my teeth and clench my fists: “Not again!” I give up on you, Uno. I won’t challenge any more popular vote versus Electoral College versus disenfranchisement of voters just to lose another hand. You taunt me like a recurring naked-at-the-high-school reunion dream. I get it. You win, Uno. Now, leave me alone and let me start my think tank to rehabilitate women’s rights in the Middle East.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ego boost with a side of snide

I’ve felt fat and old-looking for the past couple of years. I felt like, once I started gaining weight, I started looking my age. Few of the women in my family actually look their age, so I felt kind of like a family genetics beauty reject. (Many of the women are overweight, so that makes me feel like part of the club.)

Working on a college campus, I’ve been mistaken for a student more than once. Today I went to the campus coffee shop for my ghetto latte (espresso shots with milk added later from the condiments bar). I pulled out my debit card for my $1.85 drink, and I said to the cashier, “I know this is so sad; I have no cash.”

She said, “Don’t you have any money left on your student ID?”

“Oh no, I’m not a student. I work here.”

She pointed to the food court, “Here?”

“No, in the library.”

“You’re not a student?”

“No, I’m staff.”


“Well, yes,” I said, getting nonplussed by her insistence that I couldn’t be old enough to work here.

Really, though, I was deeply flattered and I even blushed. “OK,” I thought, “maybe I don’t look that fat and old.”

Returning to my post at the weekend reference desk, I settled in with a book and my ghetto latte. A student approached. “Are you a student worker? I need help from a librarian.” High hopes for the look of eternal youth dashed, I assured the young man that I had my MS in Library Science and that I was a “real librarian.”

Turned out he was just a little crass, not stupid, so I didn’t end up totally hating him for the mistake, but the same student ID confusion boosted my ego and shamed me. A hackneyed cliché like “double-edged sword” is regrettably appropriate here. I suppose I should take the blessing of youthful appearance as a compliment, no matter how it’s delivered.

Or maybe it’s just my acne that causes the confusion.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Tiny frogs

After all the rain we've had in St. Augustine, and all the standing water that just won't recede, we've had tadpoles swimming around in our little swamps in the middle of streets and teeming in sidewalk sinkholes. Now they've hatched. Riding my scooter today, I chased away throngs of the tiniest little baby frogs, newly emerged from tadpole stage, hopping on their panicked way. I think they're adorable. It almost makes me wish we had a little rain pond in our yard so I could add tiny frogs to our tiny lizard population

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Answer key

I had a professor at the University of Kentucky who studied psychological effects of physical spaces on people. I know that sounds weird, but she had a great example:

In your house, a light-bulb burns out. It’s a special light-bulb that you don’t have in the house, plus it’s in a really weird place and you’d need to get out the ladder to change it, and it has one of those glass shades over it that you’d have to unscrew… So you put off changing the light-bulb. You don’t get around to it because it’s complicated and when you’re at home you want things simple. It makes sense; it’s one of those annoying chores you just don’t want to even remember to do.

But then you walk past the light switch. You know the light-bulb is burned out. But you turn on the light switch anyway. Every time you walk past the light switch, no matter how many times you do it, you turn on the light switch. And each time you say to yourself, “Duh! Why am I so stupid? I know the light-bulb is burned out.”

And that’s a psychological effect of a physical space. Your environment, the light switch you use several times a day every day you’ve lived in that house, has conditioned you to respond in a certain way. In this case, you responded by flipping a switch.

At my old job, I needed a set of keys to get into the restroom, and I always had them in my pocket. I worked there for three years, and several times a day five days a week, I would open the bathroom door with my set of keys.

At my new job, I need a set of keys to get into my office, and I always have them in my pocket. As I walk to the bathroom, I reach back into my pocket and get out the key to my office. I hold the key to bathroom door, and my mind somersaults while my brain remembers, “Duh, you don’t need a key to open this bathroom door.”

I’ve never been caught holding my key to an unlocked bathroom door, but I’m embarrassed by it every time. Each time my brain flip-flops, I go back to the old hallway and see the marble floors and the locked mahogany door, until I remember that now I work in an industrial-carpeted building with large public restrooms. I blush, thinking how silly and impractical it is to imagine these bathroom doors locked.

Culture shock from leaving Chicago strikes in even the smallest ways. Like in the keys that lock and unlock my brain.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Must find this QUICKLY!

Bacon Salt

Old Testament God is speaking to me

I hate mass forward e-mails. One I got required the sender to make a wish and then forward the "special" message to ten people to make it come true. I was a recipient. The addendum to the "special message" said, "Please make sure to forward this to 10 people. I have a VERY special wish I need to come true!" *

What I just received was, "I thought this was cool and I wanted to pass it on." It turned out to be "My Birth Verse," a Bible verse that is supposed to be tailored according to your birthday, as tabulated by a random computer somewhere on the interweb.

And my result....

Genesis 7:5 NIV
And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.

I write about my non-compliance all the damn time. Really? The Bible thinks I should do all someone commands me to do? Hah! I scoff thee, Genesis. I do the OPPOSITE of all I'm COMMANDED to do! Take that, Lord, I'm coveting all over the place!

*Not to be a total bitch, but it turned out she wanted to get pregnant, and she gave birth to an ADD child with severe anger issues beginning at the tender age of three. Was that what she wished for? Yes, I guess i am a total bitch, but, so what, the Lord told me not to be, so that's what I'm going to do ;)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A public comment on a private matter

This is to you two, you know who you are. True sisters of friendship who I count as blessings. Nothing I personally could tell you could ever erase it or fix it or kiss it away. And, frankly, that's your badge. Would you really want to lose that whole part of who you are? I know there are days when I wish with all my heart to wish away the things I can't go back and fix, but, most, days I know they created who I am, and I believe that one day I'll actually be OK with that, with who I am.

Roundabout, I guess. But I do have something to tell you that I hope isn't the pitying, the over-sympathizing, the outcasting, or the different-ing of you.

There wasn't an idyllic childhood. Ever.

My middle school best friend had it all. I mean, she really had it going on, with everything I ever dreamed of using to buy myself into the popular clique. She had the L.L.Bean backpack in green, The Land's End parka in red, Ralph Lauren Polo shirts instead of Catholic uniform shirts, some sort of suede shoes we called "dirty bucks" (though I have no idea anymore why we called them that), and--my god--she had MORE THAN ONE Louis Vuitton bag. Seriously. Was anyone cooler than her? Gretta even rolled her uniform skirt up at the waist to show off more leg. She dyed her hair blonde. She had a perm.

Gretta had everything I believed my parents were preventing me from attaining. I whined and cried all the time, "I need a Liz Claiborne purse! I need a Land's End parka! I need everything Gretta has and I never will!" I thought that if I had the cool things, I'd be cool, and then my world would be perfect instead of perfectly dorky.

But all of Gretta's cool-ness couldn't win her the one thing she actually needed--a family. Does that sound too cliche? It sounds so Lifetime movie, but it really was that way. When Gretta let me into her world of cool, I saw things that devestated me raw. Both of her parents were alcoholics, and her high-school-aged sister had such easy access to the never-ending liquor cabinet that she was already imitating their behavior. Gretta's beautiful world of perfect bikinis became the world of laundry that never got done, no food in the house, a pool that never had the proper chemical treatments, and constant screaming and bikcering. Parents who were never home. Parents who fell into bed passed out with their clothes on. A mother that cared more that she got to play bunko weekly than she cared whether or not her kids passed history class.

Even in middle school, I realized that Gretta was so intellectually stunted that she propbably suffered fetal alcohol syndrome. They were all like that, all three sisters, suviving on cool but absolutely nothing else. After seeing into Gretta's real world, I still wanted in. I can't believe it now, but I wished my parents were so drunk they didn't care where I was. I wished it was OK to fail math. I wished I could get drunk at the age of 12. I wished my parents taught me how to makes shots of rattlesnakes because they were too drunk to do it themselves. I would have changed everything for their lives of BMW's and dirty dishes, just to get the Louis Vuitton purses.

And my life. My family reads my blog on rare occasions, so I don't talk about how I really feel most of the time. But, in honor of the braveness of my two friends, I'll tell my version of events.

I suffered depression from a very early age. If you looked at my life, it was perfect. We had a huge, green yard with swingsets and jungle gyms and flower beds full of irises and roses. We played badminton on the lawn, we set the table for family dinner together, We used the good china every day--just because we could.

But, I wanted to die. Literally, I wanted to die. I even wrote in my mom's calendar, "Things to remember: Christine's death." I told my parents how much I hated them, hated myself, hated my life, but somehow things just continued on the same. No one ever tried to fix what was really wrong. My mom bought me off-season Liz Claiborne purses so I could fit in better at school, but it made no difference in how much I hated myself.

And I hated everyone else for it, too. My anger came out in weird ways. We had a dog for a brief year, and I beat it. I punished my little sister most for my misery. I treated her so badly that I wonder if I abused her. We played tricks on each other, hiding things in each other's beds, but I always took it too far. I hurt her by putting a high heeled shoe pointy end up inside her bed.

Once I even nearly smothered her. If we stayed up late laughing and talking instead of sleeping, our mom would come in and yell at us to be quiet. Part of our joke was that if we laughed too loud, we'd push each other's face into the pillow to be quiet. One night, I got carried away in the moment, and I started getting mean. I made her shout, and I pushed her face-first into the pillow, driving her harder and harder with each shout. She wailed her arms around and struggled, but I held her down. When I finally let her up, she choked out, "I couldn't breathe! I needed you to let me up." I said, "sorry," and went and got in my own bed, remorseless until years after the fact.

I even tried cutting for a while. In middle school, some of Gretta's friends liked to cut their thighs with razor blades then show the scabs off at school to prove how tough they were. I tried carving the name of my "boyfriend" into my thigh, but the letters faded out toward the end when the pain and blood became too real. I showed everyone at school, and it helped my status for a little while at least. Fortunately my cutting left only one slight scar, because I'd look incredibly stupid with the word "BEAU" upside-down on my right thigh. (I swear that was his real name, and I'm not making that up.)

My parents finally got me treatment for depression when I was sixteen. Looking back, sometimes I blame them for waiting so long, considering I first told them I wanted to kill myself when I was ten. I got released from therapy for being "OK." But I wasn't. The depression kept coming back, sometimes worse than others. Sometimes I had panic attacks with the depression, and the smallest things, like getting library books from a floor of the library I'd never been to, would send me into hyperventilation. I got treatement for depression again in college, and, again, I was released from therapy for being "OK."

But I still wasn't. I'm still not. I still get treatment when insurance works in my favor (which it too often doesn't), and I still go through periods of "OK," and defintie periods of not-so-OK. I look back on my picture-perfect childhood, so full of love and hope and family, and I see the sunshine and the puffy white clouds and hear the neighbor whistle as he mows his lawn. And I look back on my tortured childhood, where nothing I ever did or had or felt was right enough. They were both there, the mirror-image childhoods, always, at the same time, facing each other.

Neither wins. Both are me. One gives me no satisfaction and one gives me regret. Dear readers, you can choose which is which. I must keep some secrets to myself.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Battle royale, which makes me think of "Royale with cheese"

My husband and I got into a contest/fight/ruckus over who posts to their respective blogs more. I totally win, hands down, you know I do, because I rule. I don't usually link to other blogs because I know I'm not as awesome as some people are, and I don't want the competition. But I love to laugh at myself, and here's a self I can really laugh at. Matthew blogged about me here.

A few notes

More Southern clichés that ensure Northerners think everyone’s bonkers down here… I am reading a history of St. Augustine. On page two of the preface, the author referred to “The War Between the States.” Now please, this book was written in 1987, not 1887. I’m hoping it was the author’s concession to the private archival collection he pulled his material from, but I am wary that he might really think that the Civil War was “The War Between the States.” He’s considered THE historian of this part of Florida, which means he holds great influence, which means other people think it’s OK to say “The War Between the States.” I guess really it might be OK to say that about the Civil War, but it makes the South seem so much more backward than it really is.

I have a new Florida friend. She’s Cuban, which is kind of ironic, I think, because we’re nowhere near Miami, and she came here legitimately for marriage, not political asylum. But she’s a real doll, and I’m glad she’s in my life. She’s a crafty lady too, like I used to be, and she may be inspiring me to get back into my hobbies instead of ignoring them. I finally found a hula hoop design that I like to make, that has the right weight and the right size and the right texture. I think I want to make her one as a gift. I only have a couple of colors that I really like though, so that makes it harder to show her some mad skills. We’ll see though. It’s OK if we’re hoop twinkies I guess.

I have also conceded to the dog/catnip debacle. I can’t control the dog’s access to common areas, therefore the cat should only have catnip in his bedroom. It makes me kind of sad because I can’t get to watch the cat get all bonkers on ecstasy, but at least he has the fun without being chased off by the dog.

I think that’s all the new news. Nothing out of this world to report from St. Augustine, just the regular new rhythms of life in Florida. No beach time this week, no time, but next week the in-laws come to visit, so I foresee a beach trip or two.

Love you, reader(s).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

“I keep hoping…

…that things will change without any effort on my part,” I shouted to my husband tonight. He was on the couch with the dog, I thought, and the cat and I were upstairs getting ready for bed. As a treat, I bent over to give the cat his special gourmet catnip, and I patted him on the head and left him to his feline cocaine.

When I came back, the dog had seceded to join us upstairs, and she ruined everyone’s party. I can’t figure out why, but whenever she comes across catnip, she licks it all up. The sorry state leaves my poor cat without his wonder drug. And it stymies me. I’ve heard that dogs can like catnip, but to lick it all up and then just walk away? It’s just weird.

I yelled to Matthew, “I thought you had the dog?”

He shouted back, “No, she went upstairs.”

More yelling down the stairs: “But I just gave the cat catnip!”

Then the exasperated shout: “Honey, you know you can’t give the cat catnip anywhere where the dog can get to it. You know this. I don’t understand why you keep doing it.”

And my ultimate come-back: “Because I keep hoping that things will change without any effort on my part!”

Shouting that was actually therapeutic. I really keep expecting deus ex machina magic to swoop from the sky and solve all my problems through no trying on my part. Need to lose that belly fat that TV harps on about? Not my problem, someone else will fix it. Need to get on a regular sleep regimen so I don’t feel so crappy? It’ll work itself out one day. Tonight’s was obviously: need to deliver catnip while the dog’s away? No problem, she’ll just magically stay downstairs.

What gives me the right to assume I don’t need to solve my own problems? What grants me the forbearance that I can sit on the computer and ruminate about my life but not actually take responsible action? Nothing. I come up with snake eyes every time.

I wrote earlier that I can only cheat myself. I come every day to see more and more how bad habits and poor decisions about my life cause me to cheat myself endlessly. The laundry list of my woes would be dull, and probably the two people who read my blog already have heard my whining, but shouting out “Because I keep hoping that things will change without any effort on my part!” made me realize how that one sentiment applies to most areas of my life.

“Compassion.” I’m supposed to be working on the mantra “compassion.” Feeling compassion for others—and myself. Am I being too critical when I judge that I expect to only take the easy choices in life? I don’t think so. I think that in this case, forgiving sloth with the pronouncement of “compassion” only perpetuates the sin. I must have compassion for myself as I learn to take control of the strong decisions that need to be made and adhered to, but while cheating myself, compassion is not what I truly need. What I really need is to out in some effort on my part.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I heart you ocean, rogue waves and all

I have fresh ink, you know, new tattoos, which means I’m not supposed to get them wet to prevent infection. But it had been so long since a Team Wy trip to the Atlantic, I just demanded. “I want to go to the ocean,” I told Matthew.

“But you can’t get your tattoos wet.”

“Just a little ocean, please?”

And he knew what I meant, that I just wanted to wade a bit and kick around in the surf, so he agreed. With one codicil: he had work to do, and wasn’t free to go until three pm. Boo. I like to go earlier in the day so that we risk less sunburn. But, three or nothing, and I accepted three.

We arrived to discover that three pm is high tide. Who knew? I’m used to Lake Michigan where the water is psycho cold but the little wave-lets and nonexistent tides are predictable. High tide meant that instead of the gentle, sloping, sandy beach we were used to in St. Augustine, we were confined to a small strip of broken shell detritus for a shore. The shell grit hurt to walk on, but we got used to it pretty quickly.

We’ve also had four days of non-stop rain that dumped nine inches of water on St. Augustine. Let’s do ocean math: high tide plus four storm days equals rough surf. So much for the easy-breezy ocean romp! We waded up to our feet and got splashed up to our thighs with huge choppy waves. Even at so shallow a wading distance, I actually got knocked down by powerful blasts twice, dragged across the gritty shell-covered shore. Both times, I made Matthew reach down to grip my arm and drag me up to standing before I was swept out to sea. Matthew said, “We won’t go any deeper; this is the kind of surf that people go into and get lost.”

As we stood in the surf, a middle-aged woman wearing a religious t-shirt and carrying a Miller High Life tall boy stumbled our way. I don’t know why she was following her particular trajectory, except that she was drunk and seemed to be following the edge of the wave line, but she made her bumbling way straight toward us. Without my glasses, I didn’t realize how ominous she really looked until she was about five feet from us, and still she kept weaving directly our way, not veering off to give us space. Just as she reached a two foot distance, a large wave blasted in and knocked her unsteady feet. As she fell, she nearly reached out to grab us to stop her stumble. Not wanting to be pulled down by drunk, rambling strangers, we were pretty freaked out by the incident, and gladly watched her regain her balance and stumble along further down the beach. We wondered mostly where she got that t-shirt and if god protected drunk women on the beach.

A young woman watching two small children—we assumed her to be a nanny—played high up from the water, the older child dashing into the bubbly reach of the waves, and putting sand in buckets to dump it out back on the shore. Another large wave crashed in, and I saw the older child’s orange bucket get swept away as the nanny ran to grab him. I said to Matthew, “Oh, that poor kid just lost his bucket.” We both strained to see if we could find it in the waves. I kept telling Matthew, “It’s gone, the waves took it,” and he replied, “The sea giveth, and the sea taketh away.” So biblically appropriate.

Amazingly, after giving up, we saw the orange bucket bob up to the surface and get stuck in a trough where the incoming and outgoing waves met. Matthew declared, “I’m going to get that bucket.” I asked him not to, told him it only cost 99 cents, but he insisted on saving the child’s day. I watched in horror as he waded out into the strong waves, making little forward progress toward the floating bucket. I knew this was the chance for the ocean to knock him down and sweep him away. As he ducked under for each wave, I waited desperately for him to pop back up. Somehow he managed to defeat the Atlantic each time, but he struggled to get to the bucket, merely a few feet away from it, but impossible to reach it in the wave convergence. I kept thinking of what he said: “This is the kind of surf that people go into and get lost.”

Finally he caught the orange pail, and then he began the epic struggle back to shore. I watched, again my stomach in knots, as he fought the waves to make it back to the beach. I thought both concerned and selfish things. “What if he goes down. There’s no lifeguard, no one to save him?” And: “What if I get knocked over by a wave again? Who will pull me back up?” But he magically made it back to the nanny and the two children. I was so worried when he finally got back to me, that I forgot to ask if they thanked him. They didn’t look very thankful, but I was too far away to know for sure.

And thus our strangest ocean adventure yet. When we came out to dry off, we were both covered in tiny fragments of shell. I showered at home, and had to use a loofah to scrub all the little sharp pieces out of my skin they were embedded so stubbornly. Clean and tired, I collapsed on the couch, grateful to have my little ocean, though it turned out to be so big.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Things overheard in St. Augustine

First my disclaimer. I wish I didn't hear these things anywhere, but there are things you can only hear in the south. And some of these things, even out of context, are perfectly clear.

Scene: outside the bodega locally referred to as the "crack shack." People: group of middle-aged African-Americans drinking beer outside the walk-up liquor window. Overheard: "Jim-Crow motha-fucka." And I knew exactly what he was talking about. The bicycle cops trying to keep the local drinkers from lounging on the sidewalks with open bottles. Honestly, I'm not sure exactly whose side I'm on considering the local drunks are awfully friendly.

Scene: my back yard. People: me and an African-American man. Conversation: "I'm just the yard man." And I knew exactly what he was talking about. He was saying, "You're a white woman, and I'm a black man, but don't be freaked out, cause I'm just here to mow the lawn." I hurt for him that a man older than me had to excuse his presence to me. Although at first I was afraid he was a missionary. Thank gaia he was just carrying a weed eater.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Journey of a thousand miles

Begins with a Sisyphean step.

Torrential rains in St. Augustine this week. Really, they’ve been phenomenal. Considering the city is pretty much at sea level already, the streets are all flooded a minimum of six inches. Sidewalks are impassable, grass is boggy to the point of shoe sucking, and the wind blows rain into your newly inside-out umbrella.

Tonight was the night I chose to begin a journey. After the de-press post, I’ve been trying to recover myself, get back into mental shape. Tonight was the first night of yoga class, a step in the right direction, no? Oh, was it ever a step. I told myself the entire time I joggled my yoga mat, dry-off towel, and purse from arm-to-arm, all while fighting off rain and wind with my Van Gogh sunflowers umbrella, that Sisyphus was doomed to never achieve his goal. My goal was just on the other side of a lake of mud.

Fortunately, one can practice hatha yoga sans shoes. And socks. And even sans purse and eyeglasses. Because all those items were soaking wet! Somehow my towel managed to remain dry in the marathon from car to recreational center, so I used it to wipe down as best I could, but the mirror-check revealed a definite “drowned rat” look. I took two seconds to try and Tyra Banks it, but then I decided it was just rec-room yoga, and no one was there to discover America’s next plus-sized model.

The actual yoga was decent. It wasn’t challenging, which was probably for the best since
I am also way off my A-game in the athletics department too. There were also no America’s next plus-sized yoga pro talent scouts either. I like flexing and working the stretch yoga poses, but the instructor had actually tailored her course to working muscle groups used for golfing. It sounds weird, but when you consider the number of golf courses encircling St. Augustine, it makes perfect sense. Now I just need to parlay my namaste into a birdie. I’ll make Sisyphus proud yet.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

“To sleep, perchance to dream”?

I never have identified with Hamlet. Actually, I find it hard to relate to most of Shakespeare’s characters, though I love to read his plays and feel them deeply. The closest I come to identifying with a character’s plight is Lady Macbeth. “Out, damned spot,” she tries to wash her hands clean of guilt. My life sometimes feels like I’m washing off guilt. Guilt for nothing. I plotted no murders, I’ve brought about no one’s demise, but I’ve been cruel in the way teenagers are cruel to one another, and I’ve been judgmental, the way children are judgmental to one another, and I have disobeyed when guardians tried only to help me. I try to find it in my heart to change those tendencies, but I only end up with “out, damned spot,” the guilt of soiled hands.

Monya suggested I needed to write about my constant struggle with my friend, lover, nemesis, sleep. I thought of Hamlet instead, and then Lady Macbeth and her guilty hands.

Sleep and I embrace so tenderly, so lovingly, at all the inappropriate times. I could nap all day, undreaming, resting, peaceful. In our new house, I say I take dog naps or cat naps. The cat has his own bedroom, and in there he has a futon. When I want to really stretch, I take to the futon, and my cat curls around me. I feel such comfort in his presence, he’s one of my dearest friends, and he purrs just to be near me. I can only smile; I’ve never learned to purr back.

A dog nap is a less serious nap because it is on the couch in the living room, the dog’s domain. The couch nap says, “I’m in the living room, not in a bed, and people will come in and out, so really I won’t sleep deeply.” Sometimes the dog sleeps parallel to me, on the floor, and sometimes I make a little nest with my legs and she curls into a space on the couch. The dog is happy to share my space and my time, and I feel the love too, but it’s nothing like the romance of the cat nap. The dog nap admits that I’m probably going to be dog-kicked and dog-wrestled, even though what I really want is the cat nap, though I feel too guilty to take it.

But I try not to surrender to the cat nap. The cat nap admits that I have a serious problem with sleep dysfunction. Every sleep specialist and self-help book gives me the rules of sleeping: no naps, restful bedtime rituals, no activities in the bed but sleep (and, you know, those other activities). These criteria are supposed to create the foundation of normal nighttime sleep. Normal nighttime sleep. I have to write that again. I get normal nighttime sleep maybe a few times a month. And so I give in to the dog naps and the cat naps, even though they’re forbidden.

Every nap I take has the tang of the forbidden. Delicious. Dangerous. A challenge to the rules. And I love to challenge the rules, and I love to taste the forbidden. Tell me “no,” and I hear “I dare you.” Tell me “no,” and I tell you “no” back. I am non-compliant.

I don’t tell my contrarinous lightly, like a rebellious teenager. Always, since a child, I took “no” as a challenge. My childhood best friend’s parents hated me, because no matter how many times they told me not to jump on the bed, not to sleep in the doll bed, not to bring my blankie over to sleep, I did anyway. “Don’t go backward down the slide.” “Don’t run away home without telling anyone.” “Don’t…” oh it’s too hard to explain all the don’ts. And as soon as they turned their backs, I immediately resumed the don’t-ing. I ran upright down the slide, I demanded to play my games and no one else’s, I bent my friend’s hula hoops in half playing too rough with them, I threw the ball on the roof of the garage to watch it roll down and catch it.

“Don’t nap.” Precious, precious nap. Like cookie dough ice cream when you’re on a diet. Hell, like raw cookie dough when you feel fat already. A Blizzard, a Frosty, a regular Coke, syrupy sweet iced tea. Daydreaming at work, skipping the gym, whipped cream on your latte, frozen dinners, chewing ice. All the don’ts, all the so-not-good-for-yous, every forbidden, cheat against yourself.

And that is a nap. A cheat against myself. I can’t cheat a doctor or a self-help book, but I can cheat myself, over and over again. A nap is falling down and skinning my knees when I insist on running down the slide. I dare the don’t, and I’m the one I hurt. It’s my guilt, against myself.

And the nap. Precious, precious nap. It feels like the only time I really sleep, but sleeping in the nap ruins my chance at sleeping during the night before it even began. I stack the deck against myself. Deal my nemesis nighttime sleep all the “draw fours” and “skip a turn.” Nighttime sleep laughs at me as my hand of Uno cards gets as big as a catcher’s mitt, with no hope of winning the game.

But the nap. Precious, precious nap. What better way to be healed from a night of bad sleep than a cat nap or its friend the dog nap? “Just a dog nap,” I say, “nothing serious, no commitment to a bed and pillow, no egregious violation of the rules, right?” Cheating. Don’t. Rebellion. Guilt.

It’s just a dog nap. “Out, damned spot.”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Gray skies are gonna clear up

It’s good. I’m feeling better, spiritually, emotionally. I’ve got ideas, I’m feeling plans, I’ve got some motivation. I’m not perfectly un-depressed yet, but, I gotta tell ya, it’s getting better.

I don’t know what made me get off the couch, but one day I woke up and said, “I’m ready to feel better.” So, I started working on feeling better. I’ve got plans for a new, blue hula hoop, and I’m ready to go to the local gym and see if they have a classroom big enough for me to hoop in (they gotta, right?). I’ve made phone calls, I’ve made appointments, I’ve made inquiries. It’s on the up. “Christine: a lady on the make.” (God bless Nelson Algren.)

Don’t cry for me, friends, lovers, readers. I’m getting better.

–adjective, -pi•er, -pi•est.
1. delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing: to be happy to see a person.
2. characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy: a happy mood; a happy frame of mind.
3. favored by fortune; fortunate or lucky: a happy, fruitful land.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

New photos

Yes, I've finally gotten around to uploading photos from Chicago in June to my Flickr account. To see them, click on the lower left-hand of this screen on the Flickr nav bar. Dad, you've been waiting for this, and here you go ;)

Mind you, these are only the photos from the Chicago Architectural Foundation boat tour so far, but the rest are on their way soon.

And then, even more relevant, St. Augustine pictures! There aren't many of them, believe it or not, but that part of my life is still in the developmental stages, you could say.

Defining characteristics

de•press (d-prs)
tr.v. de•pressed, de•press•ing, de•press•es
1. To lower in spirits; deject.
a. To cause to drop or sink; lower: The drought depressed the water level in the reservoirs.
b. To press down: Depress the space bar on a typewriter.
3. To lessen the activity or force of; weaken: feared that rising inflation would further depress the economy.
4. To lower prices in (a financial market).

Since moving to Florida—though I love it here and I’m having the time of my life—I’ve suffered an ennui of spirits I can’t seem to shake no matter how much xanax I take (just kidding, I only have valium). This word, “depress,” describes my emotional circumstances in every way. Let’s begin.

A transitive verb, depress means by definition 1 “to lower in spirits.” I can’t explain why moving to Florida would lay me low—really, it is the tropical paradise I’ve dreamed of—but somehow it has. I’m going to attribute my “lowness in spirits” to the after-effects of the drama of our move, but, it’s been a month, shouldn’t I feel better now?

A defining characteristic of clinical depression is to be de-pressed. Pressed down. A literal feeling of lack, of low, lack of interest, lowness of self-worth. I consider being depressed analogous to being pressed to the couch, unable to move or function, oversleeping, under-reacting (or over-reacting). Depressed. Like definitions 2 a. and 2 b. “To cause to drop or sink,” and “To press down.”

Did you know that the actual grammatically correct way of saying “press the elevator button” is “Pardon me sir, could you kindly depress the button for the third floor?” I feel like that formal button, “Pardon me, madam, but could you please depress Christine Wy? Good day!” I feel pressed to the couch (or the bed. Or the spare bed. Or the comfy chair.). I feel disinclined to cook, to clean, to unpack. I feel definition 3, “To lessen the activity or force of.” My activity, like the housing market, has indeed been lessened.

And, like the housing market, I look to definition 4 to explain some circumstance. I took a big pay hit to move to Florida. My income cut nearly in half. My price is lowered. The economic depression I feel compounds my lowering of spirits. As a librarian, as a holder of two secondary degrees, I am cheapening my profession by accepting a position below the wage normally associated with my career. Librarians gripe in online forums about the deprofessionalizing of the profession by the flood of recent library school graduates willing to work for depressed pay. It drives down wages for everyone, and it makes the career path look inexpert. Suddenly, librarians are a gaggle of amateurs, not an educated work force holding Masters of Science degrees in Library Science.

Depressed. Four definitions, two sub-definitions, all of which describe me at the moment. I’ll reassure my gentle readers that this cloud of definitions will blow away and I’ll have better words to define me, but for now, I remain, Oxford English Dictionarily yours, Depressed, definition 2.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ocean 6, Christine 1

Friday has become our de facto ocean day in St. Augustine. That is, up until we start our full-timeschedules. I’ll probably still have Fridays off, but I’m not ready to go by myself. I want someone to notice if I go missing, you know?

Our first trip to Vilano Beach was perfect. The waves were calm and we were able to wade out to our shoulders and only get splashed by waves occasionally. The water was bath water warm, there was a gentle cooling breeze, and everything just fit together snuggly. We were in love.

Our second trip to Vilano was not smooth. It turned out to be a big wave day, and all the surfers were out en masse. A guy with a surf board walked by me, and I asked, “How did you know it would be a big wave day?” His answer: “I’ve been doing this forty years.” Hmm, good answer, but not very useful to me.

On the second trip, we (I) only waded up to my knees, technically, but the waves were so huge that even at that depth I got covered up to my shoulders. Usually. Sometimes the waves came in so huge that I really got dunked, even so close to the shore like that. I kept score of the waves, hence this post’s title. Six times the ocean knocked me down, and once I withstood the ocean’s wave attack.

Each time I got knocked down, I’d get pushed to a sitting position and pushed toward the shore. This meant my bottom was being dragged across the sandy bottom, and my swim trunks would fill with sand. The trick here is that since I was wading so shallow, I’d have to go in deeper to try and get the sand out of my trunks. Going deeper exposed me to more waves. Exposure to more waves tended to knock me over, thus the dilemma of the cycle.

We managed to have fun anyway, and Matthew seems to really enjoy body surfing in the big swells, so it was far from a bust. What ended up happening to me, though, was that my knees got really sore from constantly being pushed by the strong water. I had to give up on the ocean dip once I realized I was hurting myself—no, wait, once I realized the ocean was hurting me.

We went to the shore to lay out and dry off. We forgot sunblock. And, so, Team Wy earned their first St. Augustine sunburns. Aww. Matthew’s hurts worse than mine, so I guess I’m lucky that way.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sing just for me

My friend Kathy tells a backstage Duran Duran story that kicks my Simon LeBon pre-teen crush story’s ass, but this isn’t Kathy’s blog, so I’m telling my story instead.

I bought Matthew a karaoke machine as a housewarming gift when we moved to Florida, and since then we’ve been squirreling disks whenever we can, giddy with each new find. One nugget was a song track labeled “Rio” by Duran Duran, but it turned out to be “Hungry like the Wolf.” I didn’t mind; I think I’d sing anything Duran Duran at home karaoke. But singing “smell like I sound” made me remember middle school.

Insert Wayne’s World flashback wavy lines.

Just on the cusp of middle school, my parents moved us to a new neighborhood. It was never like the old place, Reidlonn, instead it was more impersonal and making new friendships was difficult. There were a few kids about my age living on the street behind us, and I tried my best to make friends with them. The problem was that one girl was significantly wealthier than me and had total disdain for me, and another girl was significantly poorer than me and she had total disgust for me. So you see the problem. No one in the middle to be friends with Christine.

I hung out with the rich girl, Raechel, every once in a while. She had an awesome sticker collection, whereas mine anemically contained a few graphic scratch-n-sniff and a few pictures of random objects. But nothing cool, none of the right stickers. Raechel had the most impressive sticker collection of anyone I knew, however. I don’t know where she attended middle school that was so magical, but she talked about her and her friends doing sticker swaps and miraculous sticker book meets. At my school, we kind of took our sticker books to school with us, but no one had anything grade A primo to really worry about swapping.

One sunny afternoon in the summer, Raechel must have been bored because she actually called me over to play. As a bonus, she told me, “I have new stickers.” When I got to her bedroom, she pulled out a 2” by 3” wax sheet of glitter heart stickers that nearly melted my soul with envy. And then Raechel blew my mind. “This is the newest sticker I just traded for,” and she showed me a tiny 1” rendering of Duran Duran—in sticker form. I thought I’d die. Having the Duran Duran sticker would catapult my pedestrian sticker book to stratospheric proportions.

“I’d love it if you could share some of your stickers with me,” I said, trying to figure out how to ingratiate myself to Raechel.

“Mmm, maybe you could have a couple of the glitter hearts.”

I really craved to have Simon LeBon so I could practice kissing his tiny 2 mm visage. “I really like that other one,” I told her, pointing at sticker Duran Duran.

“Welll, I just got it and all…”

Somehow, I persuaded Raechel to blindfold me, and she would do a switcheroo, and then I would point and pick a sticker at random. Like sticker roulette. So, blindfold, swish, swish swish, “Now pick.”

At first I worried that I’d choose wrong and get stuck with glitter hearts instead of my heart’s desire. But then I realized that my disproportionately large nose was causing a huge gap in the blindfold and I could see straight out by just tilting my head back a little. But, was this a sin? If I cheated at sticker roulette, did I have to go to confession? Lying is clearly forbidden by the Catholic church, but, come on, Simon LeBon! Doesn’t Simon LeBon totally trump the Catholic church?

He does. He does indeed.

I tilted back my head, and I could see Raechel’s hands as she moved around the stickers in front of me. On the right, glitter hearts. On the left, clearly a square of Duran Duran. “Okay, now choose,” Raechel said to me, confident her scheme would keep her sticker collection intact.

I extended my left index finger, “That one.”

She gasped. I took off my blindfold and faked surprise like nobody’s business. “Oh my goodness!” I squealed, and picked up the much coveted Duran Duran sticker.

“Um, let’s try again at the sticker game, OK?” Raechel awkwardly asked me. Confident in my ability to cheat her all day if necessary, I was ready for any challenge. Again, sticker roulette, swish, swish, swish on her carpet. “Now choose.” I pointed with my right index finger this time, directly at my future husband’s face, Simon LeBon.

I took off my blindfold: “Oh! I got it again!” I picked up the sticker.

“No, let’s try again,” Raechel told me. “I want to make sure your blindfold is on right.” No problem. She held up two fingers to test if I could see, I said “three?” Lie. She held up four fingers to see if I could tell, and I said, “two?” Lie. She was finally satisfied. And for a third time she played the eggshell game, teasing my obvious future with my boyfriend Simon LeBon.

This time, I acted even harder, and I started to point to the left like I wasn’t sure, and I said, “Ummm,” a lot as my finger wavered. But, at last, my finger settled on the Duran Duran sticker. “This one,” I declared. I took off my blindfold, and Raechel finally conceded defeat.

Knowing when to cut and run, I got out with my precious sticker while I could, so I kept up the lying (sorry God!) and told Raechel I had to be home or my mom would be mad. I bailed so fast I think I left her crying on the white carpet of her perfect princess bedroom, and I didn’t care. She had decorative grass fronds in a vase in the corner of her room; she could get another Duran Duran sticker any time she wanted, right?

I never really saw Raechel again after that, but I didn’t care; I got what I wanted out of the relationship—exclusive access to my husband, Simon LeBon.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

School of hard knocks

I learned something today. Leaving my laptop unattended on the spare bed is probably not a good idea. It's covered in cat puke this morning. Mostly I wish my husband had woken up first so he could deal with it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Curmudgeonly yours

Of all the misguided people I’ve met in my life, hippies are the most self-righteous, self-absorbed, misinformed, opportunistic, greedy jerks I’ve ever met.

Did you hear that? I just turned old. If you’re really quiet, you can hear the death rattle of my youth.

Here’s how else I know I’m old: I don’t understand music videos anymore. Matthew and I were watching Fuse music network, and a video (gasp!) actually came on. Four guys who all looked under the age of 21—much closer to the tender age of 18, I’d guess—were wailing away about how some jerk wad feels like a real man because he hits his girlfriend and they hate him for it. What did I say in response? Was it a, “Wow, it’s really amazing to watch videos for a change since MTV is all Real World/Road Rules/Jackass Challenge these days,” b, “I’m not into this band, but I feel where they’re coming from; violence against women is wrong,” or, did I shout c, “Oh my god! They’re like 18 years old! They don’t know anything about domestic violence!” Yes, it was c. I turned to Matthew and said, “Oh no, I just turned old, didn’t I”

He laughed and asked, “How does it feel?”

“I don’t know yet,” I answered.

And I was stunned. I just turned 31. It felt like a big birthday, because it was a birthday that said, “OK, this is it. This is your life; you’re really an adult now. This is really what’s happening now.” There was no, “tomorrow you skip out on life and go back to grad school!” No, “It’s OK, Mommie and Daddie still cook your meals!” Just, “You look forward to paying bills on time.” It was a pretty un-glamorous birthday, obviously.

So, back to hippies. My neighbor and friend has a sweet but misplaced nurturing streak. She’s letting someone she barely knew before they arrived sleep at her house indefinitely. This person is proud to have been homeless in the past. This person now has a two-year-old son. This person is named Precious. This person is named Precious, brags about being a stay-at-home-mom, and swears like a sailor in front of her gift, the joy of her life, her toddler son. Honey, you’re just unemployed hippie trash. She congratulated me for being “real.” She told me: “It’s great to have someone so real to have a conversation with.” Well, I may have seemed real, but really I was just being polite, and I let her do all the talking or else I was gonna cuss her like a sailor in front of her undeserving two-year-old boy.

Here’s the strange thing about hippies like Precious: all they can talk about is making money. You think hippies are all into free love and stopping the war, but all the people I know who really think they’re “true” hippies only care about finding the next buck. Every time I opened my mouth, Precious turned it into some sort of statement about, “You can make money doing that.” And I’d even respect her need to support herself and her child, but every time she speaks she has another scheme to make a buck: “I could make and sell jewelry at the head shop.” “I could make hula hoops.” “I can be a housekeeper and make $200 a day.” “I can make soap.” She’s so busy with these stream of conscious money scheme updates, that even if I wanted to I couldn’t have an actual conversation with her. So far, the only skill she sticks with is running her mouth.

And there, now I’m old. I don’t understand rock music and hippies make me angry. I’ve turned a corner in life, a crotchety, smaller-minded corner, but I’m not resisting. I feel that although I’m losing touch with so many things that used to motivate me, I’m only getting better with age. I’ve always felt that, every birthday, another year of wisdom and experience gained. It’s just that right now my experience isn’t very precious.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Grrr! I missed ANOTHER year!

Yet again, I have snoozed through the Perseid meteor shower. Every August, I swear I'm going to remember to do one of those NPR night skies things and watch the meteor shower, but I never do.

The only time I've ever seen the Perseids, it was a total fluke. It was high school, and some friends and I had sneaked out of the house to go sit at the local water tower and talk about life the universe and everything. I was laying on the still warm August evening sidewalk, and I said, "Hey, guys, I just saw a shooting star!" No one believed me.

"You're just making it up to get attention," Louis said.

"No, really, I'm not making it up, I swear." Then, it happened again, "Look guys, I swear I saw another shooting star!"

I made them all come lay with me on the ground, our heads touching in a circle, and our feet radiating out like spokes. "Woah, cool!" Louis said, "You really weren't lying."

We laid there for hours, watching the stars fall over and over. We were so touched by the experience, that except for an occasional "ooh" and "aah," we never spoke another word that night.

I don't even think we ever spoke about the meteor shower again. Later, I would learn that it's the Perseids that show up every August, one of the most regular and observable meteorite shows the earth gets. If by some meteoric chance I ran into anyone from that night, I don't think I would mention the Perseids. It's been years, and they've probably all forgotten, but in my mind we are still restless teenagers stopping for a night to watch the sky.