Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Real and the Unreal

Four years ago I was someone else.  I had a different name.  A different life. The grief over my divorce was a black sky that loomed over everything.
The new me felt like a fraud at first. A pretender. Now it seems like the married me, the wife, was the illusion--a cardboard cutout with a cardboard husband.  The new reality feels so much brighter.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas for Ken

Ken has been adopted!

Thank you, those of you who inquired about him. Perhaps he has gone to one of you. If not, there are 80-some small dogs at the San Gabriel Humane Society.

God bless us everyone! (Tiny Tim would be a great name for a little dog, wouldn't it?)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice

"How have you been feeling?" the man who loves me asked this morning as we lay in bed. It's hard to give an accurate answer to that question in that setting, in those circumstances.
"I think I'd be feeling fine," I said, "if I could just get The Someone's signature on the last two divorce documents." We talked for a little longer. Got up. Had our toast and coffee and went our separate ways.

Instead of walking Humane Society dogs right after exercising, I went home to pursue the missing pages--(mistake #1.) I'm not sure what mistake #2 or #3 was, but the cold-bloodedness of the whole thing tsunami-ed over me about two minutes after I walked in the door. I don't buy the argument that The Someone is just trying to hang on to me, that he doesn't want to sever those last connections. It's torture he wants. Drawing it out and making me ask, and ask, and ask. Back when I was going to therapy, my therapist told me that I was being treated the same in my divorce as I was treated in my marriage. It explained a lot.

What it doesn't explain is this feeling of sometimes still wanting my family intact. How could I want that given what I have now contrasted with how I was treated then? What warped reasoning possesses me to wonder what we might be doing for Christmas if...? To imagine all of us together in some snowy respite gathered around a fire, or under a beach umbrella in a tropical paradise, or even in the same room of our house for an hour when the likelihood of any of those things actually happening would be approximately zilch.

Still, that thought is the elephant in the room inside my head. The elephant that keeps me from seeing the gifts in front of me. The beast that blocks out the sunlight. And then I crawl into bed for hours because I feel as though I am literally freezing to death, and it's the only way I can get warm.

I think more and more about gender roles these days, and how I was so completely conditioned to wear the apron, how filled up my little head was with princesses and happy endings. How I would have done anything to save the idealized version of my nuclear family dancing like sugar plums inside my head, all the while waiting for happiness to drift down like the perfect snow in a snow globe. What I needed was a hammer to smash it all to bits, crack open the plastic, and let some honesty in.

I know all of that. I'm just having trouble feeling it. So on this the darkest day of the year, I will keep turning, turning, turning toward the light.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Free Kindle BooK! One More Toot of the Horn for "Saying Goodbye"

I posted about this on my other blog yesterday, so pardon the redundancy if you're a regular reader there.

The free download of Saying Goodbye--a book in which I have an essay called, "Holding Him Softly," is available only through the weekend. You can, of course, purchase the book in the e-version or in hardcopy anytime.

Here are a couple snippets of reviews:

Tender perspectives helping readers with their own goodbyes. If you have ever had to deal with loss, read this book. It will make you feel better. -- Christina Johns, Midwest Book Review, Oct. 18, 2010 

The stories are about love, really, not sadness. Despite all the sadness and grief that come with saying goodbye, there is love and joy and comedy on the Other Side. -- Gretchen Little, Squidoo.com Lens, Oct. 29, 2010

This book gets to the heart of what I teach in my class on death and dying - that life is filled with loss of all kinds and we can learn from each one and ultimately experience life more fully. The stories in this book do a wonderful job of showing that out of loss there are new beginnings. I recommend it for any teacher of death and dying classes. I also recommend it for anyone who is struggling with a loss - no matter what kind. -- Professor Jann Adams, Department of Psychology, College of Idaho, Aug. 25, 2011 

And I think it's worth mentioning that the book was the #1 free download in the Death & Grief category, and #2 in the Nonfiction/Literary Criticism & Theory Category. (kind of a weird category, this second one.)
Also it  ranked in Health, Mind & Body as #25 and Advice & How-to as #27.

The book is a solid anthology that includes writers from around the world. A great gift for someone who is retiring, moving, moving on, grieving, graduating, kicking a habit or experiencing any of life's goodbyes.

Oh--and if you read it and like it, it would be so cool if you reviewed it on Amazon!

Thank you kindly. We now return to our regular programming where I write about life, love, divorce, the weather, and other intractable problems and great joys.

photo credit: Androidzoom.com

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ken Wants a Christmas Tree

This is Ken. I like to call him Ken Doll. He currently lives at the The San Gabriel Valley Humane Society. He wants a Christmas Tree. He wants a home.

Kenny is one of the little dogs I walk regularly, and I can tell you he's good on the leash and full of energy. After we make our way down the dirt path next to the shelter and across the street to the park, he rolls onto his back in the grass for a belly rub. While you might not think of a little dog as a means of getting some exercise for yourself, Ken trots along at a brisk pace without tugging or pulling on the leash.

Ken has a beautiful wiry coat that's more red than brown. He's loves people and does great with the other dogs he shares his kennel with. And if that's not enough charm, he has one more distinctive trait--his bark. For whatever reason, Ken has a "cigarettes and whiskey voice"--maybe as a result of a heinous surgical attempt to de-bark him. Or maybe that's just the way he came into this world. Whatever. He sounds adorable.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mother Nature and Rejection

There's severe weather honing in on the San Gabriel Valley again. As I was checking my email only to find that I did not make it into a writers' residency I'd been hoping for, my entire house shook and rolled. That was too loud to be thunder--or simply the shock of rejection--I thought as I saw the flash. I waited for smoke or a fireball thinking that maybe a plane had crashed, and then the rumbling began again. Two more crashes came in rapid succession. Two more flashes. It rained enough to get the pavement wet on my patio, then stopped. It's deathly still now--like Mother Nature is holding her breath. Not one leaf is moving. The birds are mute. But there's a low growl from time to time as if some beast is crouching for an attack. Batteries? Check. Phone charged? Check. Water? Check. Ipad charged? Check. Computers unplugged? Check. Disaster plan? You mean like a plan for my future? Um. Well, no. I don't have one of those.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Things You Think About When You Are Still Trying To Start Your Life at 59

I was raised on baby dolls and kittens--swaddling, cooing, and cuddling. I graduated to Barbie dolls and tried to be one myself. Flouncy skirts and high heels, dating plastic men who couldn't feel what I felt. I killed two kittens by accident, and would say that was the beginning of my ruin, except giving a child away to strangers was far worse. A cold heart turned colder in order to survive.

Or maybe it was money that ruined me. Lack of it at first, then too much. If the pot of gold at the end of the marital rainbow had been earned 50-50, split without fang and talon, maybe by now I would have retraced my steps back to that fork in the road where I missed the sign that said, "Your Life This Way." But I spent years on the path that said, "Wife"--misread, perhaps, as "Life"--an understandable mistake, wouldn't you say?

When he was through with me I hadn't gone back to school, hadn't worked in 25 years. A living breathing anachronism. Step right up and watch my evolution. Or watch me slide back into my primordial slime. Nearly 60 years old and my life's work some future fantasy.

Maybe I was meant to be a wife. Maybe no one is ever meant to be that. Maybe everyone needs someone who is meant to be that. In the deep dark of my history, I was meant to be a killer or a mother or a wife or a whore. No one looked into the crystal ball of my life and said, "You can learn to speak French, write stories, make an audience laugh and cry, you can take care of yourself.

It's not exactly anyone's fault. It's how it happened.

That moment when I stood at the fork in the road, I swear the sky was stuffed with pink and violet clouds. The air smelled like love, smelled like eternity, smelled like peace. Maybe if you had seen me, you would have said, "Those clouds are trouble. Run. It's going to rain like the world is ending, just you wait and see. And when you awake after the deluge bedraggled and bereft in some foreign land, the word, 'wife' will be something no one understands."

But that's not how it looked to me.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christian Louboutin Explains It All

I've been getting caught up on my New Yorkers. Here are some of my favorite snippets from a piece called, "Sole Mate" by Lauren Collins that appeared in the March 28th issue.

"I hate the whole concept of the clog!" Louboutin said. "It's fake, it's ugly, and it's not even comfortable!" He continued, "And I hate the whole concept of  comfort! It's like when people say, 'Well, we're not really in love, but we're in a comfortable relationship.' You're abandoning a lot of ideas when you are too into comfort. 'Comfy'--that's one of the worst words!"

Louboutin knows a couple who met, and married, after the man approached the woman about her red soles. With their erotic connotations, Louboutin's shoes have served as props in many romances, not all of them innocent.

"Men are like bulls," Louboutin said. "They cannot resist the red sole."

So, yeah, I have 3 pairs of clogs. They're comfy. I like comfy. But I prefer to be barefoot if it's warm enough.

Here is my absolutely most favorite pair of shoes.

Not exactly man bait, I suppose. Deliciously comfy though.

How about you, would you rather be comfortable or uncomfortable?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lunar Eclipse

"There's a total eclipse of the moon going on right now," the man who loves me said as he climbed back into bed with his iPad. It was the first I'd heard of the lunar eclipse. The newspapers for the past couple of days sat in a stack on my dining room table. My various electronic devices had delivered only more earthbound news. It was warm under the covers, but after a minute we threw on our clothes and braved the morning chill. There it was in the western sky, a slivery fingernail, edging above an apartment building and some trees. As we watched, the moon disappeared altogether, but just as quickly began to reappear as we discussed whether to establish an observation perch on nearby cement wall or walk for coffee. Walk for coffee, we decided. Unable keep our eyes on the sky while picking our way over the dark uneven sidewalks, we lost sight of the moon--as if it had gone out for coffee, too.

Senior coffee costs 60 cents at McDonald's. But the moon had distracted us from worldly concerns like wallets. The man who loves me had $1.08 cents in his pocket. The girl behind the counter scooped it up, and gave us two coffees, and offered cream and sugar. "Cream," I said. She nodded and gave me at least a half-dozen of the little single-serving containers. The homeless person's breakfast, I thought. I've seen it done. A small cup of plain coffee, a good portion of it dumped out and replaced with half-and-half, then doctored with lots of sugar. I took only one of the little containers and gave her the rest back.

The moon was gone for good when we went back outside. Even though we walked uphill looking for a vantage point, what we saw was a moonless pink and gold sky. The sun was taking over the show. But we'd caught the best part. The entire loss of lunar light; it's breathtaking absence, and then the first glimpse of that cold white light's return. Walking home as the dawn burgeoned, I felt incredibly lucky.

Photo credit: http://www.niharsworld.com

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Buy Local. Buy Handcrafted. Zero Emissions.

These beautiful and useful gifts are available in a "pop-up store" at Bloomingdale's and at the gift shop at the Skirball Center as part of the exhibit Women Hold Up Half the Sky. You can go to these lovely places and shop. Or you can go right to the source by taking the Gold Line train downtown to the Little Tokyo/Arts District station (where else can you see Buddist monks next to a Christmas tree?) have a stroll through the Little Tokyo Plaza, maybe have some lunch, and then angle toward San Pedro Street.

Between 4th and 5th is where you will find The Downtown Women's Center. You'll see a sandwich board on the sidewalk that reads, "MADE," the name of the boutique and coffee shop there. Push through those big historic doors. Marvel. Chat. Have some coffee. Oh--and shop.

Some of my favorite gifts: Handmade soap, decoupaged picture frames and mirrors, journals made from the covers of old recycled library books (the pages of these books are used for the decoupaged items,) hand knit scarves, little felt animals, candles in vintage tea cups and pretty glasses, earrings.

Some of the women you pass on the way in or out just might be the artisan who made the beautiful thing that caught your eye.

Joy to the world. Joy to your wallet and your soul.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trees, Zombies, and Trancendence

It's a start. I spent something like three hours this morning cleaning up after the winds. I'll probably fill another four or five bags with leaves. The grevellia tree is the Halloween costumer of the tree world. When the wind blows it laces its dead brown fern-like leaves into all the other plants, making it seems as if they're half-dead. I released the camellias and the potted plants, the blueberry, and the hibiscus from their zombie shrouds this morning and swept up ankle-deep piles of grevalia leaves as well as leaves from trees that don't grow anywhere near my patio. My next door neighbor has a whole tree on his patio.

This evening after my shift at the DWC I went to a program at the Central Library, "Dark Carols: A Christmas Cycle." It was the world premiere of a series of songs/sung poems accompanied by piano.

Here is my favorite:
This tree would rather be outside,
asleep, and growing thirstily.
Of all the trees, why me?
Why is it I must die here, cozily? 
Dying slowly, drily, and exhibited so piteously,
hung with lights, 
I blaze with anger, pain, and electricity.
How I long to incandesce by accident into transcendence,
rocketing up to the cold starred heavens, with my 
murderers in attendance.

(lyrics byPhilip Littell)

I found this piece particularly dark and funny, as did most of the audience, it seemed, judging by their laughter.

For years my favorite Christmas attraction as been Altadena's Christmas Tree Lane. No dead trees there. Although I do believe at least one was lost in the windstorm.

I'm spending Christmas in St. Paul this year. I won't have a tree--live, dead, or artificial at my house. The streets of St. Paul will be full of un-murdered trees and transcendence.

Stranger in the City/Stranger than Fiction

Coincidences astound me. I live in Los Angeles where the population of the metropolitan area is something like 12 million. Yesterday at LAX I took the Flyaway bus and was on the same bus with a TSA officer who was also taking the bus to Union Station, I presume as part of his after work commute. I had a personal encounter with this officer some months earlier when he had to escort me back to the baggage counter after my bag failed the security check (expensive corkscew/knife combo.) Tonight I'm at the Central Library for a performance. He's here. I ask myself, am I imagining this? I study his rather distinctive earring from across the narrow lobby, and then hear him say to the woman he's with, "When I have five more years with the TSA...."

The day before yesterday I was able to chat with a friend at the Baltimore airport because we both happened to be there flying out to our respective cities on the same airline at approximately the same time.

photo credit: murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com

Monday, December 5, 2011

At My Window With a Broken Wing

There's a Canada goose with a broken wing at the pond in the mobile home park where my brother lives. Some asshole came through in a pick-up truck and tried to hit a flock of them that were blocking the road. They do that, the geese, just take their good ol'time slap-slapping their flat goose feet in the middle of the street. So this guy, Mr. Asshole, missed on his first try, so the story goes as told by the person who saw it happen, and he backed up and made a second run at them and got one. Now there is a goose with a wing that drags on the ground. I saw him when I went out for my walk the other day. He looked happy enough, hanging with the other geese on the side of the pond. There is some discussion as to whether the wounded goose should be sent to a rescue place or just hang out in his usual spot. This flock does not migrate anyway. They have a good thing going at the pond where some domesticated Embden geese live for the enjoyment of the park residents. A couple of Mallards joined the flock some years ago, and last year or the year before, two Chinese geese showed up--perhaps dumped by someone. This morning there was a blue heron literally sticking out of the crowd with its long legs and long neck. Kind of a waterfowl convention.

It must be weird not to be able to fly if you're a goose. Maybe that goose is uncomfortable with the prospect of that, just like I'm uncomfortable right now bouncing through turbulence in a Southwest Airlines jet telling myself that the rough air is bound to smooth out soon. I cope much better when there's wi-fi on the plane. I feel connected to people I know and love when I can read blogs and post to my own blog, and email. Facebook helps too. There they are the faces of my family and friends. I can get pretty tense without that little link to my fellow humans.

There was the gin time not so long ago when I just drank myself unconscious. But the anxiety just rose up to meet the gin, so now I don't drink at all or have just one half-way through. Wi-fi is the best solution I've found so far. If I were that goose with the broken wing, I would want to stay with the geese I know in the pond where I've been.

Title of this post is from a Bob Dylan song. Thanks, Elizabeth, for making the connection.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Sad Day for Trees

Satan's wind roared through out neighborhood last night. The power went out at midnight. This morning we woke to a trickle of water pressure because the power outage took out power at a pumping station.

It was a bad day for cars, too. But C., who loves her old car, took the news like a champ. And then went to work sawing the tree branch to free her car.

She has the shoes for the job. I suppose I might have delivered emergency water by horseback--if I had a horse.

The park was a strange and sad sight; all the vibrant huge trees on the ground while this one stood tall.

But there was joy, too.

If palm fronds were viable building materials, Los Angeles could become the land of palaces.