Thursday, December 3, 2009

Born to friends. Made enemies.

There is a little boy inside the man who is my brother... Oh, how I disliked that little boy. And how I loved him too. -Anna Quindlan

Reader, I don't suspect you were aware of it at the time, but I as an 11 year old girl in my Rollerblades and new AM/FM radio Walkman, was quite the cool cat. Unable to do an honest physical inventory of myself, I was generally unaware of the canyon sized gap between my protruding front teeth, nor did I realize that my most striking feature was not my bangs like I hoped, but my cloudy brown bi-focals. I decided to give you that background information just so you realize that I was, in a few words, attractive and trendy.

Please follow along with me...

Coasting along the busy sidewalk at break-neck speeds and probably listening to Genesis, I was feeling quite smug with my rollerblading skills. It was rush hour, so my audience was vast and my tricks were bold. Perhaps it was providence that I glanced behind me and discovered that my 7 year old brother was peddling like fire in his plastic go-kart at full speed directly at me. His eyes were dead. His legs, twiggy and bandaged.

The next time I tuned in, I was sprawled out, face down in a mixture of grass and gravel, Walkman strewn from my bloody fist. My right arm may have been laying 10 feet out in the street, but that wasn't the point. I would find that arm later. I had to catch him and I had to destroy him for ruining my reputation in front of my... audience.

Now on a war path like no other, I found him furiously peddling toward home, sweat beading up on his little brow. My dark soul smiled as I raced up to him and brought him to a screeching, smoking halt. It was the moment of decision. Would I let him live? Could I sell him for profit? Maybe a proper public pummelling would suffice? As I began to breath heavily and with the weight of such a decision looming, I decided that the best move would be pick up the go-kart, with brother sitting in it, and then drop it, bending the front axle and rendering it useless for the rest of its pathetic life. Remember, I was all of 85 lbs of steel and raw emotion then. Just imagine watching the scene unfold as you're driving home from work.

Realizing that these stories only appeal to a very slim majority of familial readers, I do apologize. However, at some primitive level, can't we all understand this sibling-induced rage? If you have any good stories, or not so good stories (see above), do tell.

P.S. I apologize for the picture resolution. I'm working on my scanning prowess.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The case for Sarah

I remember exactly where I first heard about Sarah Palin sashaying onto the national scene. My family and I were visiting my little brother out in Colorado when it was announced that John "I walk with a (Mc)Cain" had chosen his running mate after months of speculation. Had the Republicans finally found their golden ticket into the White House?

Watching her infamous "hockey mom with pit-bull lipstick" speech at the Republican National Convention was riveting to say the least. She was so confident and polished, it made me weep. In a dream sequence I had later, I envisioned myself in a similar situation only I'm tripping as I'm walking across the stage, lunging towards the podium, mumbling something into the microphone about campaigning for more malls in West Virginia before passing out in front of the rolling teleprompter. All that to say, she was inordinately eloquent and poised that night no matter what you thought of her politics.

Once she dipped her toe into the shark infested waters policed by the mainstream press and Keith Olbermann (MSNBC hardly qualifies as "press" of any kind), the slashing and burning of her personal character, family, religious beliefs, and accent began. Attacking her pregnant teenage daughter and the maternity of her mentally retarded son, the media also went after her admirable record as governor and portrayed her solely as a Bush-Lite beauty queen. Her admittedly poor interview performances with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric were played endlessly on cable news as comedic fodder and had even Karl Rove scratching his big shiny bald head...what exactly was the "Bush Doctrine" again?

Feminists rejected her outright because, although a woman, she was not one of them and thus she was outside of their protectionist circle of feminist outrage. To a majority of conservatives, she was a breath of fresh air, to most liberals she was a know-nothing knuckle-dragging pin up. Although much information out on Sarah Palin is schizophrenic in nature: she's bright and dumb as a rock, she's a trail blazer and overly scripted, she's determined and she's a quitter, it seems as if the only person who is sure of Sarah Palins' message is Sarah Palin.

While I would like to report that the press operates as an unbiased platform, to say so would make my previous points moot. She has precious little control over the things they chose to dwell on, but she can still sculpt her own image outside the confines of a system that undermines her every move. It is possible and it is necessary.

If a book tour and a sit down chat with Oprah Winfrey is all that Sarah has in the cards, then I say run that ship into the ground. However, if higher political aspirations are in the works, such displays of celebrity will not initiate a resurgence in base loyalty or lead to a re-evaluation of credentials. Let me propose that instead of shirking responsibilities as governor by dropping out prematurely and instead of talks pertaining to a wardrobe budget, let's discuss relevant solutions regarding the economy, health care, human rights, Afghanistan, etc. As a voter, I'm greedy; I like style but but I demand substance. I want a real contender. Where's the (moose) meat, Sarah?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bad me

I am woefully sorry about not keeping up appearances here. It's a lot of pressure, you know? It's not like I don't have things I would like to talk to you about but most of them seem far too mundane to let wander out of my brain. I would not want to saddle you down with a bunch of snoozer posts in which I totally will if you'll just give me more time.

So, let me share some pictures with you from my private collection as I am biding time with my other works in progress...

Probably taken at a state fair, this here woman was just plain crafty. Quit yer snikern.

I painted this for my good friend, Kate. It's a portrait of her. As a man. Or Maria Shriver. This was an honest work on my part so please stop being smug and thinking that you could have done better because, really, you are hurting my feelings. Picasso wasn't famous until after he was dead so I'm thinking I only have about 45 years to do more of these here strokes of glory before I can get my proper accolades.

This sweet picture was of my old Lab, Ramsey. I believe this needs no further caption.

I'll admit I have weird attachments to my vehicles. But for all you doubters out there, as you can see, it's mutual. I went to take a few pictures of Night Rider before he was sold to a nice old lady who I'm convinced only drove him to and from a Baptist church on Sunday's and well, you can see how upset he was.

I'm just saying...It's a nice picture, right? I'm just saying. Don't judge me.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chocolate sticks

Bentley Eugene Eustice Fullman Brdlik or "chocolate sticks", my 17 year old slow moving Siamese cat, is constantly getting trampled under my feet. When I do accidentally set him on a new trajectory across the room, I feel bad even though me biffing and grinding my face on the floor does not seem like a decent prospect either. Just so he knows we are still on good terms when I whack him on his furry geriatric face, I immediately summon him over to his food dish, apologize to him profusely and pet him while he eats. This is his favorite thing in the world--- to be petted while eating his "Special Kitty" blend. You would think there is a jet engine rattling in his rib cage.

Here is the rub, I'm afraid that Bentley is going to develop a battered cat syndrome were he associates being kicked in his face with pleasure and eating. Maybe that's why his clumsy ways have picked up over the last few months. He's no dummy.

Apparently, this picture has him huffing spray paint. He is seeking treatment.

He looks thrilled that we dressed him up with jewelry. Please note the tube top and bracelet.

He forgot his swim trunks.

This will be my only cat posting. Scouts honor.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Butcher, baker, paint-chip card maker?

For years, I have struggled with the idea of what I want to do when I grow up. Vocational directives have always eluded me, as well as any concrete long term goals. Looking around at what appears to be millions of options, I think to myself, "I could do that... but should I? Could I? Is it fulfilling and would it utilize my gifts, well, gift"? (it's apparently card-making if you must know.)

I came across a New York Times article interviewing the Vice President of Elle magazine. An excerpt of what she said struck a chord in me...

Q. Looking back, do you feel there was a moment or experience that set your career on a different trajectory?

A. I started working at 16. I worked all through college. Work brought me success and money and freedom, and then more success and more money and more freedom. I failed a few times. I failed to get into the college of my choice. I failed to get into law school. And they were big failures for me, but I found the more I worked, the better I did, without ever having a goal. I didn’t have a goal. I wanted to be a lawyer and I didn’t get to be a lawyer, but all of a sudden I woke up one day and I was in publishing, and I knew what I was doing. As I look back, I think that sometimes you can’t have the five-year plan for yourself. If you’re doing something well, you tend to keep doing it. That's how you fall into careers.

Eureka! Could it be that easy? That is exactly how I feel, or how I think I'll feel. Sweet heavens ta-Betsy. I just thought I was being intellectually lazy and under motivated to assume otherwise.

Truthfully, I'm not even certain where all of my gifts and abilities lie. Some people tell me I'm good at eating and buying stuff on eBay, while others maintain that I'm at my very best when I'm sitting in a chair and breathing in and out. So, I continue to go around dipping my little fingers into any numbers of vocational pies and seeing which one suits my fancy, making sure to spend extra time with the pies that have chocolate in them. What's that? That did not correlate you say? Well, let me introduce you to my little friend, Attention Deficit Disorder. He'll be making his presence known on this blog at every missed punctuation mark or disjointed sentence. Do make him feel welcome today, would you?

But in other news, if I ever do make my own card line, I've got the name down. Friends, I introduce you to "Kissth Productions"...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Protect, border and salute

Whether you or I have suffered losses or authored moments or years of disconnect from the world or know someone who has, is there not something so organic to the human condition that seeks to ease the pain and suffering of another? In the darkest of hours, if there should be any light let through, don't we hope we could be the one to offer it?

In a book written by Parker Palmer, I found some advice that is helpful in understanding grief or depression from the sufferers perspective. Equally so, I was grateful for his insight for those on the "outside looking in".

Read along with me...

"It is odd that some of my most vivid memories of depression involve the people who came to looking in on me, since in the middle of the experience I was barely able to notice who was or was not there. Depression is the ultimate state of disconnection- it deprives one of the relatedness that is the lifeline of every living being.

I do not like to speak ungratefully of my visitors. They all meant well, and there were among the few who did not avoid me altogether. But despite their good intentions, most of them acted like Job's comforters- the friends who came to Job in his misery and offered "sympathy" that led him deeper into despair.

Some visitors, in an effort to cheer me up, would say, "It's a beautiful day. Why don't you go out and soak up some sunshine and look at the flowers? Surely that'll make you feel better."

But that advice only made me more depressed. Intellectually, I knew that the day was beautiful, but I was unable to experience that beauty through my senses, to feel it in my body. Depression is the ultimate state of disconnection, not just between people but between one's mind and one's feelings. To be reminded of that disconnection only deepened my despair.

Then there were the visitors who began by saying, "I know exactly how you feel...." Whatever comfort or counsel these people may have intended to speak, I heard nothing beyond their opening words, because I knew they were peddling a falsehood: no one can fully experience another person's mystery. "

He continues on...

"One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is to be present to another person's pain without trying to "fix" it, to simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person's mystery and misery. Standing there, we feel useless and powerless, which is exactly how a depressed person feels-and our unconscious need as Job's comforters is to reassure ourselves that we are not like the sad soul before us.

Blessedly, there were several people, family and friends,who had the courage to stand with me in a simple and healing way. One of them was a friend named Bill who, having asked my permission to do so, stopped by my home every afternoon, sat me down in a chair, knelt in front of me, removed my socks and shoes, and for half an hour simply massaged my feet.

Bill rarely spoke a word. When he did, he never gave advice but simply mirrored my condition. He would say, "I can sense your struggle today," or, "It feels like you are getting stronger." I could not always respond, but his words were deeply helpful: they reassured me that I could still be seen by someone- life-giving knowledge in the midst of an experience that makes one feel annihilated and invisible.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke says, "love... consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other." That is the kind of love my friend Bill offered. He never tried to invade my awful inwardness with false comfort or advice; he simply stood on its boundaries, modeling the respect for me and my journey-and the courage to let it be-that I myself needed if I were to endure.

This kind of love does not reflect the "functional atheism" we sometimes practice- saying pious words about God's presence in our lives but believing, on the contrary, that nothing good is going to happen unless we make it happen. It is a love in which we represent God's love to a suffering person, a God who does not "fix" us but gives us strength by suffering with us. By standing respectfully and faithfully at the borders of another's solitude, we may mediate the love of God to a person who needs something deeper than any human being can give."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Honored guests

I was an honored guest last night, friend(s? *fingers crossed*). My older lady hostess has issues with mobility and requested that someone be there, her first night home from the hospital, in case she took another spill. I obliged and brought my fold 'em up cot, ready for a night of feline inspired conversations and maybe a rousing game of Uno. After eating 2 microwave dinners, I settled deep into my chair, my head rhythmically bobbing up and down as I listened to stories involving her Peacock named Fanfare and Jennifer, her pet Llama that she took on walks around the block on a leash.

That evening, a friend dropped by to check in. Along with having great sense of humor, Martha was also a very kind soul and a fabulous story teller. I could see how those characteristics would serve her well as a West Virginia public transport engineer for the past-- wait for it folks-- 30 years. 30 years transporting some of West Virginia's finest to their local [insert thought here].

Anyhow, Martha is going to write a book recalling her experiences on the bus and you can bet I will be pre-ordering that fine work of non-fiction when it's time. You should too come to think of it. Hopefully, she'll recount for you the story of an elderly lady who buys 36 gallons of water, 18 rolls of paper towels, and 12 bottles of Dawn dish soap, bi-monthly. This is due to issues involving OCD and basic old age.

My favorite tale was that of a fill-in bus driver by the name of Frank. Legend has it that when Frank drives, the neighboring cities of Lewisburg, Alderson and Ronceverte are hog-tied up for miles behind him. Martha says he pays no mind though. Hands firmly in place at 10 and 2, he is in no rush to please the rush hour masses. He is 84.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Go around

I know where my keys are at all times, I remember appointments and consider myself to be an upstanding citizen (a small tax error in 2004 notwithstanding). All this to say, I can get around in the world with minimal trouble. That is until I do something that makes me question, if ever, the hamster and the wheel had one go around.

Walmart functions as the epi-center in my small town USA, a gathering place, a sacred chapel of goods and services, always with a hint of snuff spittle in the air. One night, I decided to take Night Rider, my black '97 Nissan Altima, out to get some eggs and groceries. Dusk was closing in so I pulled her up as close to the front as possible. Hugging the steering column close to ensure proper parking alignment, I glanced up and just outside my field of vision to my left, I saw my office's "pet" pharm rep getting into his car. We'll call him "Jeremy" and he is a dish, people. A. Dish.

Before you git to judgin', you must know that I work with only God-fearing, lovely and honest ladies; all married, middle-aged and perverts in their own right. If you only knew the schemes they conjure up to zap our sample stock-piles dry, prompting frequent visits from Jeremy...

"You say you have the sniffles? Here, take 30 tablets of this here Magic Pill. You say your dog's lost? You ate chicken last night for dinner? Take as many to induce severe heart-burn and call me in the morning."

These women are bone-chilling in their indiscretions.

Now sitting in my sputtering car feeling a bit nervous and self conscious, like I was somehow back in the 8th grade and homely, I started to doubt if I had even looked at myself since 7:00 am that morning. Had I decomposed as badly throughout the day as I imagined? One check in the mirror and it was confirmed, yes and absolutely.

****Abort mission. Avert eye contact. Run full blast towards the Walmart facility, post haste****

So that's just what I did. Once inside, I was satisfied with my vain impulse to run like the wind. A casual walk past a dressing room mirror had me resembling a Jerry Springer guest, only I was clothed and not a midget. I can't recall what else I bought besides eggs, but I can remember thinking I had just dodged an ugly bullet.

After milling around awhile, I checked out at the register and began to walk back toward my ride. Scouring my bag for the keys, I stopped a few feet from my car. My brow furrowed as I looked at my tail pipe spewing grey fumes against the blacktop. There were only a handful of cars left in the parking lot so immediately it was clear that the wheezing was that of my engine running, in park with the cabin light on, FM radio singing, keys dancing in the ignition. Door unlocked, naturally.

My sister graciously reminded me that although I did everything in my power to get my car stolen that night, with the exception of taping $100 bills on the bumper, no one came calling. "That's the real tragedy" she said. I guess it would have been like holding up a bank for a quarter. Why risk it?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A bloody circus in my socks

Bonesy is a name I came by honestly. It was bequeathed to me by my friend, Megan Montgomery (not her real name, at least not the Montgomery part) as she was thinking of a suitable gang name for me. Because everyone needs a proper gang name.

Assuming you've heard of gold-toe socks, is it a stretch to think that there could be such a thing as red-toe socks? Here's how you do it: Let your talon-like toe nails grow out from your mid summer pedicure, mix in a 4 mile run twice in 2 days, then add ill fitting shoes and then further secure your demise by inheriting your father's hammertoes. It'll look like a suicide bombing in your socks.