Archive for July, 2011

A Story Again

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

I first posted this in 2008, but was thinking about it today. Thinking mainly how it feels I’m losing my memory, and am thankful for details I wrote down three years ago…

 

I often pretended Maura Dominiak’s nooks and crannies house were mine. Big, rustic, rife with wood, and usually empty of parental supervision. Full of antique stoves and stained glass and porcelain knobs. After Fall’s football games, we’d drive up to the detached garage with the warped edges that never shut properly, park behind the Peugeot, and scatter snow on the walk to the side door that opened to an impossibly chubby sectional. To the right of the couch, three rough-hewn driftwood stairs led to a paneled bathroom that was as homey and warm as a bathroom could hope to be, no plastic seat cozy there, not like at my house. Up more stairs behind the couch was a small pocket room with a bar in the corner, bedecked with green-lidded lamps and unmonitored — at least we hoped — bottles of tart alcohol.

 

I’d fallen asleep on that rotund, bouncy couch, more times than I’ll ever recall at this age, usually head to head or toe to toe with any number of other friends who stayed the night. Laura’s brother, a few years older, watched over us girls like a father hawk, her sister was the homecoming queen. When her parents stayed home, they treated us like the silly friend who babbles about nothing, bemusedly and with good-natured maintenance. On warm nights, and on snow nights too, a group of us walked through a thin line of cabin homes and trees to a small lake where we’d drink fizzy cans of beer and skip rocks, or huddle, waiting for one of the guys to offer up his white pleather and brown felt letter jacket.

 

Angst and jealousy, sheepishness, quiet moroseness, arrogance; they all found their way into those nights, hanging on nearby branches, dripping with the ice, blazing in the sun. Often, I’d think we left those things by the lake, but each of us carried them with us, back into the house, and into the nooks and crannies where we’d sit as couples, or trios, or some of us, by ourselves, too fizzy to care.

 

It was on the sleeper’s couch that I found myself, listening to Let’s Hear it for the Boy, remembering how I botched the pom pom tryouts, knowing I’d never be that girl, when Tommy sidled over, brushing my leg with his blue cords. Up to then, I’d only kissed my golden retriever, Nugget, but I knew Sweet Valley High when I saw it. I kept my eyes trained on his tan suede shoes, the ankle-top ones with the big tongue, and I didn’t move, those shoes were my spot in the dance. Talk buzzed the air between us and I tried to swat it. What’s going on? Where’s Laura? What are you doing? Did you have fun at the football game? Are you going to Homecoming? On and on.

 

My eyes stayed to the ground until he cupped me under the chin and told me to look him in the face. I found an eyelash and concentrated on it, avoiding his pupils at all costs. So I guess I didn’t see it coming. In seconds, I tasted wet muscle in my mouth. Flexing, contracting, active. An OCD germophobe in the making, I considered the saliva pooling in the corners of the mouth, but maybe it was supposed to be like this: messy, disturbingly robust, moist. An awful lot like Nugget.

 

Tommy tasted like Dum Dums and sure enough, FD&C Red #40 stained his lips, which made my dried spit tainted mouth twitch. Soon the muscle retracted, and I swiped the back of my palm over my mouth. I saw him kissing Lauretta a half hour later, so I went to my favorite bucolic bathroom and scrubbed the pink off my hand.

 

Bathing Suit Checkpoint: Week Six

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Let’s jump right into this:

 

My boobs look like sad potatoes and I gained weight.

 

I didn’t even put makeup on for this what the hell? photo:

 

 

Here are my mofo measurements:

 

July 27, 2011 Body Stats (the figures at right were my stats from July 7):

Weight: 147.4/146.4

Bust: 36″/36.5″

Waist: 31″/31″

Hips: 36″/36″

Thighs: 23″/23.5″

 

So here’s my official week six bathing suit pic:

 

 

I know. I’m not the most upbeat person on the block, or planet, but REALLY? Must I gain weight when I’m watching what I eat and turbo pit-sweating?

 

In the meantime, here’s the chronology of my not losing any weight:

 



Week One: BOOBS!

Week Two: Boobs.

Week Four: Banana Boobs.

 

Week Six: Deflated Football Boobs

 

The only thing I can say? I still love XTend Barre. I think that’s why my thigh circumference deflated along with my breasts. And once again: If you live close to my neighborhood XTend Barre, they will give you one month unlimited access to all classes for $79/month if you mention “San Diego Momma.” Here’s their Facebook page.

 

This is not a sponsored post.

 

Who in THE hell would sponsor those boobs?

 

Oh wait!

 

I’ll be back. Possibly looking like this*:

 

Fake boob job

 

*The boobs shamelessly displayed in your face above are sponsored by a surreptitious visit to the plastic surgeon’s office across the hall from the lady who does my facials.

 

PROMPTuesday #162: The Truth Helps

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

As usual, I’ve got a lot to say about this one…

 

But time and the cold sting of facing my demons precludes storytelling this morning. So again as usual…I’ll be back to write my soul in a day or two.

 

As for you…

 

Tell me about a time someone told you the truth about yourself and while it hurt, it helped too.

 

It could be your dad told you to grow up (when you were 39), or your friend told you to stop whining so much about everything, or your doctor told you to exercise or your body would be 80 when you are 50. Stuff like that. Or…

 

It could be something even more life-changing.

 

What’s your truth you haven’t wanted to face?

 

First time to PROMPTuesday? Read a bit about it here. Want to see what’s been written in the past? Catch up on the PROMPTuesdays archive here.

 

Hanging Upside Down

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

I heard it when I volunteered in my daughter’s kindergarten class last year.

“Dogs must be colored brown or black,” her teacher told her as Toots reluctantly put down the blue crayon.

 

I rose from the table where I’d been organizing glue sticks and went to my daughter’s desk.

“At home you can color dogs any way you want,” I whispered in her ear.

 

And after that, I made sure she knew I meant it.

“Dogs can be blue,” I told her later. “And suns can be purple, and not even round if you want, and skies can be brown and on the ground and trees can float and draw whatever your heart tells you.”

 

I’ll be damned if anyone is going to tell me or my daughter that dogs have to be brown or black.

 

Because you know what kills creativity?

SHOULD. MUST. HAVE TO.

 

And you know what kills me?

Putting those words into a creative child’s soul to fester and bloom into crazy perfectionism and self-editing and shame when she is old enough to think she should know “better.”

 

****************

 

When I was in my 20s, I noticed that one of my work colleagues wrote strange. His words slanted to the left, were choppy, and nearly illegible. He gripped the pen awkwardly, and seemed to hyper focus on his fingers as he drew letters and words. One day I asked him about it.

 

“My first grade teacher thought I shouldn’t write with my left hand,” he told me. “So she tied my left hand behind my back and made me use my right.”

 

My stomach churned. Even now, I conjure the anger I felt at his explanation.

 

“I still use my right hand, but…” he pointed to the paper in front of him, “improperly.”

 

My friend had gone to a Catholic school as I had, and apparently nuns considered left hand usage “evil.” So rather than allow a child to write as he were born to, the teacher tied his hand behind his back. And now he writes unnaturally.

 

Luckily, my school’s nuns didn’t see the Devil in every child’s soul or hands, but I had my share of hand slaps at wearing a hand painted shirt, flowered hat, and unsanctioned Halloween costumes. Which, in some cases, I get. There are rules in schools that prevent harm, ignorance, and general anarchy. But when it comes to creativity? I think every school should encourage self-expression, even if it means blue dogs.

 

****************

 

My very favorite sorts of people are those that buck the SHOULD, MUST, HAVE TO system. Those that don’t care to please nuns, teachers, the Devil or even God. Those that live to create without thought to living within lines, or drawing using accepted color palettes. Those that don’t fight what comes naturally. Because to deny what bubbles from the soul is like death.

 

I aim to teach my children this, and wish more teachers — and anyone who helps mold our childrens’ brains and hearts — would follow suit.

 

But for now, my friends? May your suns be purple and your dogs any fucking color you want.

 

PROMPTuesday #161: Summer Memories

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

We piled into the ubiquitous Buick Estate Wagon. Glitter cherry red punctuated by plastic wood and bike scratches. I took the back seat facing the disappearing road and threw the finger-peace sign to drivers avoiding my eyes. My parent’s best friends followed with their children a few station wagons behind us and I kept track of them by counting the palm trees that separated us. We’d all clamber out of our cars soon enough, peeing at a rest stop, airing out the sweat that’d collected in creases and folds.

 

I’d known David since we were in utero. My mom and his mom spent nearly every pregnant day together counting down our births. We were supposed to end up best friends like our parents, but I spent most of my early days hitting him across the mouth. I was the oldest child of four, and he was an only son, just recently joined by a little sister adopted from Korea. I liked his sister better, even if David benevolently allowed me to punch him and never struck back; except for that one time at church when his peaceful nature wore thin at the edges. That incident became legend, preserved for all time in Super 8: the two of us in blue satin karate suits, my sucker punch, the retaliation, his dad’s pleased smile, me, red-faced and tear-drenched with my failed fist in my mouth.

 

We were older now, just. I’d grown to seek out his silence because it was rarely quiet in my expressive family. His new baby sister shared his quiet manner, if not his blood. They both provided a bastion of serenity for my whizzing mind. And even so, I continued to peck at David with questions and punches and observations and expressiveness while he patiently endured the onslaught of my more unsettled personality.

 

“Do you see them?” my little brother tried to peek over the back door latch. I continued to search for his car yards and yards behind us. Our family vacation promised to be full of chlorine and hot dogs and neither one of us could wait much longer. We were going to David’s cousin’s house in Los Angeles, a city my dad pronounced “LA,” and which I thought meant “Illay.” It sounded exotic and the palm trees proved it.

 

“They’re right there.” I peace-signed another hapless driver and pointed my chin forward. My brother bounced in anticipation, grabbed his duffle bag and not five minutes later, we pulled into the driveway of a Southern California ranch house, set with stone and brick red shutters, and tumbled from our respective cars, already half into our bathing suits.

 

This is where I forget details. I remember the dads going out that night, and waking up to our Estate Wagon parked crookedly in the driveway and bruised knuckles on the men. I taste the Wonder Bread bologna sandwiches, feel the sun’s sting on my nose, smell charcoal and cigarettes; but I can’t walk my brain back to when David’s little sister ended up in the pool. I do see the sliding glass door, the parents sitting around the table, hear the “Where’s Kimmie?” And still: her wandering away and when always elude me.

 

Here’s where the memory comes back. My dad rushing to the pool, Kimmie’s black hair spreading like ink around her, a prone figure facedown in the water. It’s the hair I remember most of all.

 

I lose the mental image trail again here, but I know there was CPR, adults screaming and crying, and turned over chairs.

 

And Kimmie.

 

Revived and wet and tiny and scared and gasping.

 

I never punched David again.

 

Leave it to me to cast a black pallor over summer’s bright hue. But there it is.

 

As for you: What’s your summer vacation memory?

 

First time to PROMPTuesday? Read a bit about it here. Want to see what’s been written in the past? Catch up on the PROMPTuesdays archive here.

 

Climbing the Steps

Monday, July 11th, 2011

“Do you think of your life?”

 

I couldn’t ask, because we don’t talk that way. But I watched his eyes squint nonetheless.

 

“Do you think of your life, Dad?” The words seeps from my fingers instead. It’s the only way to get them down. They’re not something I say out loud.

 

It used to be we couldn’t talk that way simply because he wasn’t home much. A business trip, a move, a plan of some sort. He felt best in motion; most alive I supposed. Less likely to think about…death? Whatever it was, he couldn’t sit still. I began to imagine that if he sat immobile for any length of time, he’d fade away, slip through life.

 

He sits more now, and I pretend not to notice.

 

He calls weekly with news of a death in the family, a cancer, a sudden illness. My Uncle Smitty choked during lunch, suffered cardiac arrest, and died a week later. He wasn’t much younger than my dad; we send condolences and flowers and wonder:

 

“Do you think of your life?”

 

His best friend heard from the oncologist. The lung cancer howls from a safe distance. Today, he’s OK. I look through mustard yellow photo albums; he and my dad lounge against one of the cars of the day, smoking, laughing, living.

 

I don’t think I want the photos from now; the needles in the arm, the shadows in the eyes.

 

My dad lives with my step-mom in a condo complex filled with old people. He became president of the condo association because everyone kept dying, and they couldn’t keep anyone in office for long. He laughs when he says this; always a joke on his lips, a pretend heart attack for laughs, a brush-off of imminent death.

 

During a recent joke, a darkness flits across his face, a temporary jolt, a pause in the laughter, a realization we both refuse to acknowledge.

 

So we watch TV. His old friends are gone: Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, John Wayne, but there’s a show on PBS about country music.

 

Even his beloved Kenny Rogers looks different.

 

He falls asleep in the recliner, a comforting image from my childhood, when his loud snoring assured me he was home.

 

In between business trips, my dad reluctantly visited the doctors my mom made him see. In the days and hours before his appointments, he yelled and resisted and teased, “If I’m going to die, I don’t want to know it.”

 

But there was the diabetes and the high blood pressure; the ulcers and the dangerous cholesterol. The chicken-fried steak for breakfast and the homemade french fries for dinner, the forgetting to take his pills and the blood sugar blackouts.

 

My healthy mom died before he did.

 

I don’t know if that’s what causes his shadows.

 

Last year, he began sending his children stories. Long-forgotten and unspoken. Our lineage, our hometown in Norway, great-grandma Josie’s predilection for liquor. One email, titled simply “Mom and I” recounted the story of how they met in such vivid detail I read through tears. It began:

 

Hi Guys,

Seeing as I am on a roll, I thought you guys might like to hear how Mom and I met and moved into marriage. This is a tough one…

 

I wonder what it was like for him to write knowing he’s all that’s left of him and her.

 

Last month, my dad returned from his childhood home in Sparta, Wisconsin. My step-mom’s sister-in-law passed away a month earlier and her house needed to be cleared out. No family close by was much alive to complete the job. He and my step-mom spent three weeks sorting and cataloging and dumping. They managed to see some of their high school friends while in town and my dad called me on the way home, melancholy.

 

“Not many of us are healthy anymore” he told me.

 

I knew better than to respond. He doesn’t talk that way too much, and I opened my heart to give his words some space.

 

A beat, not even a minute later, and he began to joke again; but I’d glimpsed the shadow.

 

I thought of all this the other day when I watched a movie that took place in the 70s. The soundtrack evoked that first stingpunch of summer love, the must of the gymnasium during P.E., the cloudiness of marshmallow fluff. My soul alternated between flying and crying. So many days, so many days…turning into…another kind of day. A year, a decade, a mustard yellow photo album.

 

Or the dry bite of bread pudding every day for a year when money grew tight, the dark smudge of newspaper ink smeared on fingers picking up news of World War 11, the phantom ache of a sister plucked by cancer in the middle of the night.

 

A million things like that, singular and collective; each of us alone, each of us the same with the thought, with the letters, with the shadows. My dad’s unmouthed questions are mine now and on it will go. One day my daughter may write them like me and on it will go. On and on and on.

 

But today is today, until it’s tomorrow.

 

Do you think of your life?

 

Education Kills Creativity

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

I feel quite strongly about this subject, and will post about it next week, but for now…

I’m curious what you think…

 

 

(I’d like to thank @stillsoul for tweeting this earlier and reminding me it exists.)

 

Dear Diary…

Friday, July 8th, 2011

The below is inspired by my friend Morgan’s Blog Hop over at Little Hen House

 

 

Back when I was a moony kid, I read this book called “The Popularity Plan” raptly and foolishly, over and over again. In my room. While other girls my age were out seeing a movie or getting Baskin and Robbins with a G.A.S.S.-shoed boy. Unfortunately, the book became my goofy Bible and inspired me to make a complete fool of myself in the name of cheerleadership for most of 1982. The cool thing is (I use that adjective loosely indeed), I still have my carefully constructed popularity “plans,” as detailed in lame lists I penned in my journal almost 30 years ago. It’s a real treat to read. Again, that term is used loosely.

 

(This is reprinted from my eighth grade diary and from something I posted for perpetuity several years ago on this blog):

 

List #2

1) Wear only good clothes

2) Start building up self confidence

3) Importantly, know that you have the right to talk to popular people, and to boys.

 

List #3 — Morning Routine

1) Wake up

2) Take shower

3) Wash hair

4) Put on powder, put on good clothes

5) Dry hair

6) Curl hair

7) Brush teeth

8) Use mouthwash

9) Feel good about yourself and know that God loves you!

p.s. Try to do some exercises.

 

Bill Andre’s Plan

1) Drop pencil

2) Ask him to pick it up

p.s. Don’t show off!

 

I’m just going to let the above speak for itself.

 

Except to say not much has changed.

 

Top o' the morning to ya

 

You might also want to check out this gem.