Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rogue Roasts

I knocked back the last swallow of my coffee
the taste of it was the smell of Wrightwood
the first week of November...
cold enough to snow, whether it has or not...
the smell of frigid autumn evening...
still enough light for the walk home,
but no more sun to pierce a crack
in the mountain line...
the pines...
the crisp air on my tongue...
and most of all, the touch of fire from a multitude of hearths,
like sentinels lining my path home...

what a conflation of memory and sense...

and all from a cup of - no...
from the dregs of
a cup of coffee.

- 6/12/13.

A shorty today for a nostalgic weekend with visiting family...  With appreciation to Rogue Valley Roasting Company for providing the path to memories of many a walk to home.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

From "Gopher fur" to "Rock 'n Roll!"

Downtowne Coffee
12oz Coffee (that's right - just mutherfuckin' coffee)
Everything bagel with cream cheese

First, let me give a shout-out to Gene Burnett.  He is the talented singer-songwriter currently serenading us with his guitar.  The main reason I want to take a moment to mention him is because of the little postcard/flyer thingy left around the coffeehouse.  There's a little write-up on the back explaining that he is giving his music away for free.  He doesn't want to be rich and famous, he just wants to make music and be happy.  He says he is making more money now giving his music away online and with a digital tip jar than he made selling his music.  As he puts it on his little postcard, "I only want to do what feels most deeply right and this is it."  So there you go, people:  It's a good ethos and happens to be good music.

I didn't have a particular tie-in in mind when I decided to include that little shout out, but then the cynical thought hit me, "I wonder if he got his postcards done by VistaPrint."  And I remembered that watch too much TV.  And that does tie-in to this article/bloggy thingy: my boys watch too much damn TV.  And that's my fault.  How do I know they watch too much?  Let me relate a little skill little Henry has picked up.

A little while ago, I was walking with the boys, and Henry started pointing at a car and repeating, "Gopher fur!"  He repeated it, deliberately, several times, but I couldn't figure out what he was talking about.  He has come a long way with his speech but it's still often hard to understand him.  I think I said something like, "Yes, honey, it's a car."  I think he repeated back, "Car," and then, "Gopher fur!" again.

Later on at home, at the end of a Ford commercial, Henry deliberately restated the words, "Gopher fur!" to the TV.  The tag line on the Ford commercial - "Go further."  Oh.  Not "gopher fur" - "go further."  I thought it was cute and little advanced that he had recognized the Ford logo on the car and had been able to connect it to the tag line from the commercial.  I think he had just turned three, after all.  I also thought, "too much TV."  But Henry's prowess was not limited to Fords.

Soon, I began to recognize, whenever he saw the car on the street... "Toyota: Let's go places," and, "Su-ba-woo" (Subaru), and my favorite - as voiced by Henry's namesake, Henry Rollins - "Infinity: Inspired performance," which Henry pronounces as, "Spider formance."  He also says, "Akira," for Acura, which I know will make some of my anime-loving friends smile.

So, while all of this is cute and speaks highly of Henry's intellect, it also speaks of my bad habit of leaving the TV on too damn much.

It is amazing what the boys absorb.  They can see something once and be repeating it later that night.  Or they can see or hear something a thousand times and not seem to take it in at all (like, "It's time to put the toys away!").  They seem not to, anyway.  But I'm certain now that everything is sticking - and that really worries me.  I am shocked that I have not yet heard the words, "erectile dysfunction," from either of them.  I am sure they don't understand what it means, because right now all they can associate it with is a lot of slow-motion shots of smiling middle-aged couples playing sports and laughing and dancing slow with their foreheads together.  Not very interesting to them now, but the words are in there, I have no doubt.

The hardest part about this revelation that they're getting too much screen time is that I have done very little to amend that.  In fact, there are a lot of things I do as a parent that I really wish I did not.  It's like trying to lose weight: you know what you ought to be doing (eating your greens, getting some exercise) but you somehow can't seem to get yourself to do it.  And that's depressing.  It is for me, anyway... although, to be fair, depression is kinda what I do.

I don't get them enough exercise, their diet is wanting, I'm not consistent with their daily schedule... but much worse than all that, I yell too much and I've really taken to the swearing.  The other day, as I was hanging up the phone, instead of the usual, "Bye-bye, Daddy," from the backseat, I heard, "Bye-bye, motherfucker."  Yes, I laughed.  And then I tried to explain that that is one of Mommy's mad words (though I think he probably got it from Daddy) and that he shouldn't use it.  Mommy shouldn't use it, either (not all the time, anyway), and she's trying not to.  She's trying to stop talking in the third-person, too.

Henry and I have been talking a lot about our feelings.  When we're mad, especially.  We acknowledge whatever it is we're feeling - like disappointment at having to leave the playground, or frustration when he's shrieking an inch from my ear (I have gone partially deaf for short periods of time) - and we try to take a breath and let those feelings be and redirect ourselves.  Oliver has his moments, too, but Henry is more like me.  He's sensitive and seems to feel everything a little deeper and a little longer.

I've talked before about dealing with mental health stuff.  A few months ago, I began a group therapy class.  I word it that way, specifically, because it wasn't really a "processing" group where you go around and hash out all your baggage.  It was a class and it just finished last week.  We learned about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT.  You may or may not have heard of it before.  The heart of it, as the name implies, was learning how to be aware of what you are really feeling (mindfulness) and how to accept what you are feeling it instead of trying to fight it.  It's the fighting it that makes the feeling more intense.

If you've ever had a panic attack or a public "break-down" then you can probably understand how the fear of the break-down, the fear of the panic, is often what causes the attack.  When you practice recognizing what you're feeling and both disconnecting from it while acknowledging and accepting it, then the intensity will generally die down and pass.  "I'm having the sensation of a rapid heartbeat... I'm having the thought that everyone is looking at me... I'm having the feeling of disappointment..."  Like I'm having a burrito for lunch.  Whatever you're experiencing is there, but it isn't who you are, and it is a passing thing.  That make's it easier to feel the next thing, which you hope is relief and something more positive.

Obviously, there's a lot more to it, but that's what I've been working on.  Instead of getting mad at Henry for his frustrating inconsistencies - like the one time we really have to be somewhere he decides he doesn't know how to put on his own shoes and socks - I'm trying to put myself in his mind (or mood) and acknowledge whatever might be the hold up.

"I know you're disappointed because you wanted to watch Pocoyo - I like Pocoyo, too... And you're probably mad at Mommy for yelling.  I was getting frustrated because I don't want us to miss our appointment.  But I shouldn't have yelled - I'm sorry."  And hopefully that and a hug will get things moving again.  It works sometimes.  I also figured out that his socks were getting too small and he was having trouble doing it on his own.  Sometimes he'll tell me, "too small," and sometimes he just gives up and kinda checks out while I get more frustrated and yell-y, and that just makes it all worse.

Children are the embodiment of all those uncontrollable emotions.  Neither you nor they have the ability to control what they are feeling or how they act because of them.  All you can do is accept what they (or you) are feeling and control the actions you take in response.

Over this last week, there was Father's Day and there was my mother's birthday.  I didn't call either of them (I sent a card and left a Facebook post, respectively).  I meant to, but... well, hey, they raised me.  And neither of them are really bad parents.  They love me and taught me many good and useful things.  They tried to do what they thought was best.  But they couldn't know everything that I was going to need to learn that they never taught me.  Like how to get to bed on time and how to keep my house clean and how to be happy with myself.

But they did teach me how to think for myself instead of just accepting the words or opinions of others.  They gave me good music and wonder for the Universe.  And because of my mom, my purse is prepared for just about any eventuality.

This week, Stephen Colbert said a beautiful and emotional farewell to his mother at the beginning of one of his shows.  I can only hope that I can be a mother like that, who will earn that kind of send off when I, one day, depart.  Even if I do let the boys watch the Comedy Central at this tender age...

Yesterday, when we got into the car, the Sargent Pepper's CD I had been listening to started playing.  From the back seat I heard Henry say in his adorable 3-year-old lisp, "Rock 'n Roll!"  A moment later, this was echoed by Oliver's excited little shriek - "Wock 'n Woll!"

Yes, babies.  This is rock 'n roll.

Maybe I'm not such a bad mom after all.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Making the bed while you're lying in it.

Mix Sweet Shop
12 oz Americano
(surreptitious oatmeal cookie from my purse)

This is supposed to be a short, quick blog since it's late (and Friday!) and I've got to get home before too long.  It will probably go long anyway.  I'm trying to do this a day early this week so that I can stay home tomorrow and try to "deal" with the chaos there.  Why?  In short, I flooded the front room.  Just a bit.

Last week was hot as all heckers, so I maneuvered out the portable a/c unit, stuck the exhaust vent in the window, and stressed over how to keep the door to the room open to get that cool air while keeping boys out of it.  The front room, you see, is the "closet" room.  We moved the beds to the back room and turned the front room into the dumping ground for everything else we didn't want the boys getting in to.  Of course, that meant it became the life-sized junk drawer for everything I wanted to be dealing with but somehow could never get to.  Boxes of mail that just need to be sorted into "shred" piles and "file" piles... stretching back for years now as time pushes on past my intentions, still stuck in the mire. 

I hate that room.  As my thighs are the physical representation of my mistreatment of my health, this room is the physical representation of me not getting my shit together.  The contents of that room loom over me.  Well... "loomed" would be more correct.  By the time I finally entered, noticed the funky smell, and approached the corner of the room with the a/c unit (to finally put the laundry away from several days previous), my foot squelched on a patch of carpet several feet away from the unit.  Crap.  Apparently, in the disorder of the room, the little black stopper that keeps the excess condensation from dripping out the back was dislodged, lost.  It also doesn't help that we haven't cleaned the vent part in, oh, I don't know if we've ever cleaned it in the three years we've had it, leading to an inordinate amount of drippage.

So, despite the impressive absorbancy of several Sham-Wows, we destroyed the chip-board flooring beneath the carpet.  Our friendly neighborhood handy man was literally shoveling it out yesterday morning.  It has since been replaced with new plywood, new padding, and the now dry old carpet has been stretched back into place.  However, it's Friday and we won't be able to get it cleaned until some time next week.

It may have occurred to you that this room sounds like it must be empty now to have done all this work.  It is.  And where has the contents of the junk drawer gone?  Mostly to the kitchen.  Three of the four bookcases and all of the books, and some other goodies.  The boxes of paperwork ended up in the playpen (the toys are under the table) covered by a blanket - partly, to not engender the curiosity of the boys, and partly so I don't have to look at the damn mess.

My typical reaction to all this disorder is to get over-stressed, over-whelmed, and shut down.  I'm trying to be optimistic and look at it as an opportunity to start fresh.  I am mistrustful of my optimism, though.  I do this every time I move, at the start of every school year.  I'm going to be organized, I'm going to keep a routine - I'm going to "get my shit together."  I swear I'm still carting stuff around from two decades ago, just waiting for me to go through it and toss it out.  And this disorder has cost me more than just mental health and storage space - it has cost me real tangible dollars.  Like however much it's going to cost for all this floor repair, because I was too overwhelmed to even enter the room and notice the water beneath my feet... because there was too much disorder to keep the stopper safely in place, or because I am too disordered to keep up with the regular cleaning and maintenance of my home...  I know that might sound a little harsh or excessive.  Let's just say it's representative of some of the other consequences I'd rather not catalog.

The amount of work that needs to be done to fix all this could be achieved in a day...  if I had no babies underfoot and a team from HGTV with a budget to redesign and update for all my storage needs.  As it is, with pittance pay, two toddlers, fibromyalgia, no sleep, and the Daily Show to watch every night... let's just say it's like trying to pay off a credit card making only the minimum payments.  If that.  Maybe the destroyed floor is the analog for your credit finally crashing and having your account sent to a collections agency.

However difficult it is to cope with the reality of having no access to even the microwave and babies (and husband) underfoot, I cannot shut down.  There is no ideal way to deal with this situation so I just have to deal with it as it is.  It will take longer, for sure.  It will not go as planned.  There's a good chance it will not have a great result.  The trick - I have been told - is accepting all that.  As is, however it is.  This is going to be like trying to make the bed while you're lying on top of it.  Or, as one of my favorite memes put it... "Trying to clean with children in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos."

But that's life, isn't it?  We seldom get the chance to step back and reexamine our lives, and we never get to step out of them altogether to fix them.  You are living your life as you try to make it the life you want to live.  You may have a long-term goal but every step you take towards it is also a part of it.

So be it.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Un-fan.

Mix sweet shop
12oz Soy Mocha

I don't get the obsession with celebrity.  I have been trying to think of any famous person that I would just completely lose my shhh-tuff over (ohai, mom).  Name your biggest, sexiest, richest movie star, rock star, whatever, and I would probably not say a word to them if they were right here in front of me.  There are more than a few that would get a smile, or maybe a polite nod - some might even get an eyebrow pop, and an extra long glance of appreciation when they're not looking.  But the truth is, I treat anyone this way just walking down the street.  I am just polite, friendly, and I respect peoples' space.

There are a handful of notable people I might legitimately geek out over, just a bit - Stephen Colbert and Neil DeGrasse Tyson come to mind.  If I had the chance, I'd love to hang out and chat.  But I really cannot picture myself getting all giggly and hyperventilate-y over them.  Or anyone for that matter.  Seriously.  President Obama?  "Leader of the Free World?"  Oh-ho, you better sit down, buddy, 'cause I have words for you, sir.  That would be my greatest stress (outside of the retinue of Secret Service staring me down) - trying to condense my opinion down to the handful of moments allotted under such a meeting.

For most people, though, under most circumstances, I don't think I'd say a word.  I know some celebrities like to be acknowledged for their work, but I don't think a one of them wants to be accosted non-stop by rabid fan-girls and -boys who think they have some right to this person just because they're famous.  I cannot think of anything I have to say that is so important that I would interpose myself into a complete stranger's life at the most inopportune moments.  Especially not for my own gratification.  If I felt truly compelled to speak to someone, I'd apologize for the interruption, offer my appreciation (or whatever) for their work (or whatever), and then I'd leave them the hell alone.  I wouldn't ask for an autograph (that is another thing I do not understand).  I doubt I'd ask for a picture.  It would be pretty close to the level of interrupting someone to compliment their hat.

So what is behind the cult of celebrity in our culture?  Why do people think that these celebrities are something greater than mere human beings?  And, more importantly, why do they feel they have the right to unfettered access?  I understand that these famous people are familiar to us, in a distant sort of way.  I've run into my small share of famous people, and it's jarring at first.  They are the familiar stranger.  There's a weird kind of intimacy.  But you know their faces they way you know national monuments you've never been to but have seen all your life.  They are like the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty.  And you can read all the books you want, look at all the pictures, the movies... but you don't know the place till you're there.

But the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty are things that we are all, on some level, entitled to.  Celebrities are not.  They are just people.  They have their public professions, and they have their private lives.  Paparazzi and the like will argue that celebrities want to be gawked at and photographed and interrogated.  I call bull pucky!  Yes, some people want to be famous for the sake of being famous and popular.  I think even those people have their limits, though.  But whatever the percentage of reluctance for for fame for any given celebrity, it does not change the fact that the rest of us have no inherent right to their life story.

I did not appreciate the level of ferocity of the paparazzi until I was nearly mowed down by three of them in pursuit of Paris Hilton.  At the time, I was working as an assistant manager in a movie theatre in West Los Angeles, so I made a point of informing the other managers on duty that we had a VIP guest, so that we could keep an eye out for any inappropriate behavior from fanboys or paparazzi.  As soon as I announced this, however, one of the other managers bolted for the door.  Apparently, she was a huge fan.  I could only shake my head.

As I write this, Moby's "Porcelain" has just started playing overhead.  (I think this is the second time I've mentioned him in a blog, come to think of it).  I guess this would be the one celebrity I would probably introduce myself to were he to wander into this coffeehouse.  Because Moby - I think I do owe a word of thanks to him. 

After all, Henry and Oliver are just a little bit his fault.

There are many things that had to happen for my boys to exist.  First and foremost, Greg and I had to celebrate certain holidays irresponsibly.  But go back farther - our parents had to meet, had to hook up... the Big Bang had to do some banging, too...  All things had to happen as they happened for the world to exist as it does with our boys in it.  We had to make all the decisions we made throughout our lives - including the decisions to get on and sign up for the message boards that were once hosted there.  That's right - Greg and I met online.  On Moby's website.

And before you accuse me of  hypocrisy, you should know that I am not a "fan" - not because I don't like his music.  After more than a decade, I still cannot seem to get "Play" out of my car, no matter how many times I take it out of the CD holder.  But I am clearly not the fangirl type.  He had (has?) an amusing blog, and it was before Facebook.  That's my excuse.

So, while the ending of apartheid in South Africa may still have been necessary for the world to manifest in such a way that Greg and I would meet in time to have our two beautiful boys, Moby would be a more direct catalyst for their existence.  For that, I would take the time to say thank you.  If I thought he'd get it, maybe I'd even send him a little card with a family pic (not the one with the handsy Santa Claus) and the brief tale of our unusual courtship.

Either way, I would still not freak out.  Because I am not a fan.  I equate "fan" with "fanatic."  But I do appreciate his work.  I guess I am the un-fan.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Best of the Best of the Best!!!

Evo's Coffee Lounge
12oz soy mocha
almond pastry thingy

What if we didn't value dominance?

I asked that question, rhetorically, in some other blog that I'm too lazy to look up.  The question came back to me in a roundabout way today because of a dress.  The dress I'm wearing today is very pretty but it's definitely shorter than I typically wear.  My legs almost never see this much daylight, and even my farmer's tan is at risk of being evenly burned.  So, when I found that I was a little anxious getting out of the car to take the short walk to the coffeehouse, I decided to explore where that feeling was coming from.

Answers were not hard to find.  First, I found a fear of attention that was a little too positive, if you know what I mean.  I have received the message that if you dress attractively, and with less fabric obstruction, then you are making yourself a target for attack.  Then the flip side fear revealed itself.  What if I wasn't attractive enough to be wearing a dress that revealed so much of my socially offensive body?  The Group would surely turn against me for my inferior legs and flabby arms...  It's amazing what you find in your head when you look inside it.  And once I saw all these feelings, they lost their power.  Not only are they not reflective of the over-arching reality, but screw those guys, anyway.

There's a great meme going 'round the internet that goes...

How to get a bikini body:

1.  Get a bikini.

2.  Put it on your body.


The truth is, if I saw someone of lesser cheekbones and wider girth wearing this same dress, I wouldn't give a rat's ass about her supposed flaws - they wouldn't even register.  I'd probably stop her to say what a lovely dress it was and how great she looked.  Despite all the messaging from society and all your fears from high school, most people don't care.  They don't have the emotional reserves to judge you because they're too busy worrying what other people will think of them.

This is not to say that there aren't people who judge you and try to condemn you and bully you.  I'm saying that it's just not so many as you think.  And I think that those who do it are acting on that social value I mentioned before: dominance.  Everything about our society is infused with this idea of ranking, and specifically the rank of Number 1.  It used to be about which class you belonged to - peasantry, gentry, royalty.  Unless you were the king, there was always someone better than you (hence, the phrase "your betters").  And when the king was reminded that even he was below Him, suddenly royalty were divinely chosen and referred to with the royal "we" because, if he couldn't be above God, he was going to share the top of the platform with Him.

I can't say I know enough of the subtle evolution of this idea through history - perhaps it was meritocracy itself - but as the class system started to fall away, society kept up this rationale for dominance.  The common man had to at least be the best at something: the smartest, the strongest, the fastest.  Competition for dominance... so you can feel secure, free even...    For women, whose security evolved to mean something provided for her by a husband instead of derived from a solid marital partnership - or from that shocking notion of her own professional efforts - the competition became focused on her rank in beauty.  The prettiest girl gets the richest husband and is, thus, the most secure.  The most happy.  Sure.  We've come a long way, but we are not a lot closer to freeing ourselves from this mentality.

And can we just take a moment to recognize how dumb is the objectification of women?  Reducing women to mere objects is like trying to quench your thirst with diet coke.  It get's your mouth wet, but it doesn't hydrate your body.  It over-stimulates you so that you don't have adequate time to get all the nutrients you need - in this case, the emotional nutrition of a healthy relationship.  Oh, and it's full of aspartame which is so poisonous they advise pregnant women not to drink it... and it actually causes you to crave more sugar because your body recognizes that you've tricked it with empty calories and withheld promised sweetness.

So, yeah... objectification is dumb and poisonous.

The notion of not thinking that The Best is the best is so contrary to everything we've been taught that it's hard to even contemplate.  What would society look like?  What if there was no value in being the richest?  Would the environment be as devastated, workers as exploited?  What if we didn't care who wore it better?  Could we all but eliminate the market for plastic surgery?  And anti-depressants?  What if we didn't care which sports team had gone undefeated?

Who won?

Who cares?

As I listen to the man with the guitar singing outside, I wonder how much happier would we all be if we didn't care who was the best singer and just encouraged everyone to sing?

Even when we try to "value" the non-winners in our society, we still frame it by rank.  It's okay that this kid is too scrawny to be on the football team because he's a whiz at math.  As in, he's smarter than other people - he's better than other people at something.  What if he isn't good at math?  What if this kid really isn't good at anything?  He's not a genius, he's not an athlete, he's not creative.  The kind message is that he's still part of society and we can put up with his existence in a magnanimous sort of way.  But the full message is that he has no real value to society and the rest of us with better scores in whatever are just tolerating him.  In fact, we're sacrificing ourselves in some way - our time or money or whatever - to take care of him.  And that increases our superiority.

What bullshit.

But people are afraid of this specter of mediocrity.  People actually argue against raising minimum wage, for example, because they are afraid that if people have enough to survive then they will become complacent and never strive to better themselves, and we would all be doomed.  Doooomed, people!  This is nonsense.  This is some kind of throwback to a primitive state of the world.  Then, it would be a problem if no one in your tribe felt like putting the work in to farm or hunt.  If they all got fat and lazy they would be easy pickins for that lion or that war-mongering tribe over the hill.  Everyone had to work because it was life or death, not just for the slacker, but for the whole tribe.  But that isn't the world we live in now.

So... the origin of the work ethic is understandable, and even of the value of superiority and dominance, because strength and survival were so intertwined.  And later, the need to justify the rights and privileges being demanded by the lesser members of society would obviously continue the tendency towards proving some type of comparative superiority.  Or at least potential for superiority.  But nowadays, we need to step back and see this supposed value for what it is: Insecurity.


And I am so sick of this notion of American Exceptionalism...  It's just another excuse to justify some kind of dominance or other.  I do believe that the ideas upon which America was founded are exceptional to human history.  That is because the foundational concept of this country is that all human beings are equal to all others, even those who happened to be born in other countries.  There is nothing different in American DNA that would justify our dominance over any other person or country.  We are all the same monsters and all the same angels and we have all the same human rights.

What if, instead of valuing dominance, we valued excellence?  And excellence not because it makes one superior but because it could be the best path to make one happy and fulfilled.  Competing to win leaves you vulnerable to unhappiness if others succeed.  Competing to be excellent leaves you satisfied knowing you have achieved the best you are capable of achieving, no matter which place you finish in.  An excellent human being does not provoke or suppress others.  An excellent human being encourages others to be excellent.  And that is the greatest value for all of us.

So, I charge you now to live by these great and simple words of wisdom given to us by Wyld Stallyns:

"Be excellent to each other."

Oh, and, "party on, dudes."