Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reality Check

What is real? I've spent hours, days....sunshine, rain, poetry, painting....months of my life contemplating what is real. Tangible. Is it only what we touch? What touches us? Is the wind real? Are my paintings real? They're dreams....wishes. Are wishes real?

My sister recently told me she was considering deleting her entire facebook profile. She's had a tough year...and the world is filled with people who don't know when to say nothing. Silence can be such a gift. Our relationship grew a great deal the day I told her, "I love you but I have no idea what you're feeling....I can only imagine and I fear I will come up short. I have no advice, only ears. I love you." She started to cry. She thanked me. She's had enough empty husks of brittle comfort that crumble for lack of substance or truth.

About facebook, she said, "It isn't real." And I was shocked. "Did you think it was?" I mean, my sister is an incredibly intelligent woman; to listen to her dismay over this--threw me. Have we come that far in society? That this fabricated wireless world should qualify as real? But wait--I mean, it is....right? You're real...sorta. Somewhere out there, hundreds, thousands of miles away sometimes--there is a person of flesh and blood that is reading these words...thinking about them...emotionally responding to them....but are you real to me? Maybe you're only real when you write back? What if what I write means nothing to you? If the wind blows but there is nothing to move in it.....

Words are real. The joy and the agony they can infuse is palatable. There have been times when the cruelty of another has left an iron tang in my mouth like bile...or blood. Bitter venom that sickened me. I've known a physical surge of sensual pleasure from fevered whispered words. I've know paralyzing fear, soul wrenching sorrow. These are real--I know this to be true....but perhaps there are levels of reality? Is comfort more real when someone softly wipes the tears from your cheek rather than sends a *((hug))* on your screen? Is that white hot surge of anger more real when you find your car window smashed than when you read a vicious attack on your character? Has our new anonymous world lost the sense of reality? Have we begun to unconsciously loose ourselves, our "realness," in atmospheric communication?

My children recently have resisted going to my ex's for his weekend. When questioned, they told me that, as it was Halloween weekend, they wanted to be at our our neighborhood. Further discussion revealed that while he and his new wife have lived in their home for 3 or 4 years, they know no one on their street. No one. I truly do not mean to compare so readily, but we purchased our home and moved in barely 4 months ago and have met, laughed, shared beer and hung out with nearly every family on our block! Our kids play, wander in and out of each other's homes--we've had a ladies potluck lunch that was a blast and in a week are throwing a party they're all coming to! My point on earth do you not know your neighbors?? How is it possible to live for years someplace and still be strangers? When my husband was in the hospital recently, I came home to discover that my neighbor mowed my "could-bale-hay" lawn. I cover her son's four-wheeler with a tarp if I find it's blown off. We live together.....sharing air, and parking spaces, I find it almost incomprehensible that one would live that obscurely. Is that kind of community real?

We have become almost...nameless. Hell, I'm the first to say I love the movies, a great book, my blog life--I joke that I passionately adore my "vicarious enjoyment of others lives." Yet, have we gone too far? Have we reached the point of consuming another's experiences, emotions...their pain or joy, like sushi--and then we have the privilege of just...disengaging? Has our distance, our removal from the genuine intimacy of relationships....have we begun to lose what is truly real?

There was a time when you only personally knew the life stories of your companions, perhaps friends of friends or relations. The death of a child or spouse was felt by the literal absence, the vacancy of their smile. When someone lost their job you noticed their car disappeared...and they got thinner. Now, it's just numbers on a screen. Words that you digest...perhaps respond to "in the moment"...and then click to the next screen, the next news story, your e-mail, your bank account. Life shifts seamlessly from one subject to the next with little real consequences.

There is a novel series called Otherland by Williams . It explores the futuristic world where virtual reality has become the central venue for business, education and entertainment. Can you imagine if you just "plugged in" and were able to literally feel, taste, smell whatever you wanted!? Sex. Pain. Ecstasy. Fear. Friendship. From sailing a pirate ship through a raging storm to giving birth to...committing murder. You could experience anything. Everything. Experiences with no consequence.

Are we close?

Technology is advancing at a terrifying pace. I fully expect to see this in my life. We are taking steps daily toward this...anonymity. What is real? You can create a star or decimate a career with the right words. We can choose to comfort a hurting friend or simply ignore a chat request when we're too tired.

I am challenged. I am slightly frightened. This two dimensional world on my laptop threatens to substitute I will open my door, step outside....connect...touch.

I can feel the wind on my skin. It's real.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Last week we had my 93 year old grandmother come to stay with us. While this was exciting in the "investigate your family roots" kinda way--it also was rather....involved. It began with moving our first floor office which resembled d-day in Hiroshima into my second floor studio. This would be the studio that has paint--everywhere. As I'm shoving book cases and filing cabinets into corners I'm wondering exactly how pissed my husband will get if he discovers yellow ochre on his computer screen one afternoon...I mean there are levels of pissed-offedness, right? From mildly irritated to the afore mentioned Hiroshima. We usually avoid atomic moments--however, we've never messed with his on-line poker nights before....

But to return to grandma. So I paint the room. It's pressed tin--walls and ceiling, which means that it took about 4 extra gallons of paint and tested my supremely lacking patience. Then there was the Shopping. (sigh) I despise shopping. You can always tell a hostile anti-shopper by the dreaded occurrence of...PURSE SHOULDER. You can spot us three stores away in the mall as we shift our purses from the elbow crook to the left shoulder and then the right...and we begin to sigh. And then whine...and then need to sit down; helplessly massaging our aching bodies, we beg total strangers for coffee (or liquor) while making moaning whimpering noises. I cannot take it. My spirit nearly always results in a mad dash for a large bottle of merlot on the way home.

But oh, there was shopping! Shopping for rugs, bed frame, mattresses and dresser. Towels, sheets, pillows...even the doily on the night stand. (gotta have a doily for a grandma, right?) And finally--(after the removal of suspicious lightsabers under the bed....poor grandma has no idea what she's in for)--voila!

And the day we've been waiting for....she arrives!

The first day.

The house smells of roasted chicken and rosemary. I have fresh bread rising in the kitchen. Nina Simone sings so sultry....its lovely, warm, welcome little grandma! (she's 4'8"....I am actually 6 feet tall--genetic mutations run in our family) She laughs, she's happy, dinner is delicious....she breaks her teeth in the sink.

Days 2 through 6 pass in a whirlwind of ham, grits, black-eyed peas and cornbread. (did I mention she's southern?) I shop again; sweaters this time--she's cold. We laugh, we talk....we rip three tiles off the shower wall attempting to install the "mighty suction cup handle" that would help her in and out of the bath. I underestimated it's tenacious hold. Note to self: pick up some liquid nails before husband uses the downstairs bathroom.

She left yesterday. The boys were a little sad--my youngest even offered to let her borrow his lightsaber until next time. (she was very confused) However, she did seem to enjoy herself. We reminisced over the summer my sisters and I spent with her and grandpa in Arizona. (grandpa told me I could catch a rabbit if I put salt on it's tail....and grandma spent hours removing cactus prickles from my bum with tweezers as a result) There was a spanking with a fly swatter that summer too...and I learned to play poker.

Grandma returns in two weeks. My mother needs knee surgery and I've volunteered to keep little grandma while she recovers. Sawyer asked me last night, "will we have to eat cornbread again?" Brennan wants to know where his lightsaber is. Noah said we can put his pumpkin in her room.

I told him that might frighten her. He agreed.

At least the shopping is done.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fairy Ire

My Dearest Brennan,

I'm on my way to Toledo where there was an unfortunate accident involving a soccer ball and a nine year-old's face leading to his immediate need of payment for not one--but THREE teeth. I must say, I skipped your house last night because just when I was about to open your window, I heard you tell your brother that you no longer believed in the Tooth Fairy! You swore that you saw your mother sneaking out of your room last month with the note in her hand. (Remember? When you accidentally swallowed your tooth at lunch with your peanut butter sandwich so you had to write me a letter and draw a picture of it? By the way, smashing picture of a tooth!)

Anyway, I want you to know I skipped you and your tooth last night because you hurt my feelings. (sniff) How on earth could you possibly believe that your mother--who usually has a glass of wine or three by 10pm--could actually make it in and out of your booby-trapped room without waking you up? (yes, I know all about the ropes and nets--do you really think you can catch a fairy?) However, you most certainly would catch your dexterously challenged mother should she venture in to check on you....and then she might have to spend like an hour and a half trying to reset the traps while giggling so hard she brained herself on your dresser, tripped over your skateboard, and landed in your leggo box where the space man made a most interesting bruise on her hiney.....all hypothetically, of course....should she attempt to go in.

Yes, well--you'd better stop all this nonsense about not believing in me. Next time I might not be so forgiving. Your mother called me this morning and told me you were sorry--you owe her big. Like I think you should take out the trash for a week.....and clean your room.

And maybe make her a card.

Much love,
The Tooth Fairy

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

But-less Day

No this is not about my ass. Much to the despair of those of you who had your hopes up--yes, it needs to be firmer. But that's another issue.

So I'm at the post office. Stand in line, shift feet, check out the good lookin' guy in the raincoat, (the first look is free, my father always says; the second one costs you) shift again. Purchase stamps from depressed ancient matron behind the counter that really needed her roots touched up. (yet again another piece of evidence to support my move toward powdered prozac in splenda packets for emergencies...) Anyway, I step over to the grimy, chewing gum studded counter and prepare to stamp the heck out of my postcards....tap, tap. Someone is taping my shoulder. I turn around and it's this extremely well-dressed older gentleman of Indian persuasion. (as in lamb kabob--not beaded moccasin) He says, "I don't mean to be creepy, but your hair is beautiful."

Dude, if you have to say you don't mean to be creepy--you are.

What is with our nationwide need to preface? I have this motto for all of my friendships, "Say what you mean and mean exactly what you say." It's simple really. No innuendos, no implications. I mean, didn't we all have enough of that in junior high? (and then there was high school and then college....) Isn't there some magic age when we all stop the crap? Someone once told me that "but" negates everything you say before it. An interesting thought to ponder. "I love you, but when you do this...." "Those shoes look great, but..." Hmmm....can we lose the "but?" Perhaps I should circulate a petition that we start a new holiday: "But-less Day."

Oooh, I'm liking this new holiday idea. I could make cards! How many people do you really want to just be honest with?

Dear Neighbor, I like your car. Your dog sucks. Love, Lola. (this would be the neighbor several streets away whose dog must be tied outside--and he is NOT happy about it)

Dear Mailman, You are nice. Why the hell can't you close the mailbox? Love, Lola. (which is what my husband calls me, btw)

Dear Sam, You have great taste in music. Your living room smells like leftover perogies. I adore the color of it! Love, Lola.

No "buts." Don't tell me you don't want to be rude BUT....or that you don't mean to hurt my feelings BUT... Well, if you don't--then flippin' don't! Don't interrupt, don't cut me off, don't "not want to bother me, BUT"...own up. Say it just like it is.

But-less Day. Hip hip Hooray!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Angus McGillicutty

I don't remember how my cat got a last name. Not ours, for sure--I've never known a "McGillicutty" in my life, but he was one. Nine years of warmth, wrestling, stalking, pouncing and laughter. Five moves, the birth of my second son, my divorce...Angus was there for it all. When I went days without crying so my boys' world would be secure--Angus curled up next to me while I sobbed in the dark. When my youngest, Brennan, was in the hospital after a post-op hemorrhage, Angus slept on his pillow until he returned home.

And now he's gone.

It was a blockage....and the potassium rose in his blood, slowing his heart--there was nothing the vet could do. So sudden...this afternoon I shooed him out of my lap and he stood watching me paint for a while. And 7 hours later he's gone.

We do have another cat, Bartimaeus. Still a kitten, he's kitty skittish and playful. Angus had almost a...languid maturity that I adored. Every year we throw this huge Soup party....last year, 60+ people in our house, and they marveled how Angus lay stretched out in the middle of the living room floor. He was confident in his domain. He observed, supervising the frivolity of the evening...he was king.

My intellectual mind is lecturing my weeping one. How we war within ourselves at times. I called my sister. She said, "I wish I could take your tears away--but crying is the acknowledgement of having truly loved...and lost." She's right. Perhaps the entire purpose of our pets is to practice this grief. To own a pet, to love--anything at all--is to invest with no guarantee of return. Life is so amazing, so beautiful and so fragile. I cannot fathom how you would even breathe after the death of a spouse or child. I know we find strength for what we face in each day. Sometimes I look back at the sinkholes in my took chains and hooks and ropes to haul myself out of a few of those. The human soul is truly astounding in what it can endure.

Today I'm sad. Tomorrow I have to tell my children. Their sorrow will overshadow mine. But they will grow stronger, more compassionate for their pain. My heart aches....
What a crazy, marvelous, piercingly tender world this is.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Will you please identify yourself?

Have you ever found yourself staring at yourself in the mirror, dead in the eye, talking to her? That person that should just shut up. It's interesting having a conversation with yourself, a real one--especially when you're angry with her. I mean, we look at ourselves as we fix our hair, apply the eye cream, pluck the strays and grays --but those are really just passing glances evaluating the condition of individual surface fragments. When you stop...and truly make eye-contact....who is that?

Did I really just say that to my sister? Smart off to my husband? Snap at my son for something ridiculous? Who told the completely inappropriate joke at the dinner party? Who barked at the "bag-not" at Kuhns for putting my bread in with the fabric softner? At the waitress that spilled blistering coffee down my arm? Who slipped in the glaring sexual innuendo while talking to her husband at work without realizing she was on speaker phone? Was that the hussy in me? The insecure 14 year-old? The bitchy twenty-something that thinks she knows everything? The impatient director who expects everyone to just try harder? The flaky artist? The spoiled brat? Who the hell is in that mirror? Will you please identify yourself?

It's amazing how direct confrontation--especially of ourselves--is intensely difficult. Stop for a minute. Make eye-contact.