Tuesday, July 29, 2008

fashion notes, or, how you know you live in too small a town

I've decided I despise all of my clothes and wouldn't miss a thing if I suddedly discovered my closet raided by gypsies, eaten by crows, or stripped to threads by microscopic weavers from a parallel universe where everything moves backwards. (I'll pause here while you recover from that strange and terrifying image.) ...

You can blame the fashion plate you see in the picture to the left. I know I do.

Nearly three and a half years after the birth of my shining little clothes horse, I have yet to adjust to my new body. It's actually been many bodies since then, really.

When Isaac was first born, I sent Mike out to Goodwill to get me nursing shirts - as in, crappy stuff I could stain or that unbuttoned easily. Half of what he brought didn't fit over my burgeoning boobs. I was confused. This had never come close to happening to me before. I stood in front of the mirror, quizzical. My husband clarified things for me: "They're HUGE!"

Next, I was a breast-feeding, walking machine. I did both activities interminably on a daily basis. Consequently, I ate an embarrassing number of chocolate peanutbutter brownies per week while losing weight right and left. (I don't have a name for this former diet as of yet, but I'll be holding a contest, so send in suggestions. The winner gets to share a chocolate peanutbutter brownie with me. ) This is my personal favorite of the post-partum body phases. However, I was also unbelievably sleep-deprived and hormonally insane and therefore couldn't really work it up to put on anything more than the same pair of filthy jeans and white sweater with chocolate drool on the collar every day.

In addition, there is that inexplicable piece where, although you are below your pre-baby weight, you still don't fit into the clothes you knew and loved as a childless person, since along the way to his graceful entrance from that world to this one, the kid RESHAPED YOUR SKELETON.

No worries. Okay. Next phase: the no longer breast feeding, moved to a less walkable neighborhood, work from home, phase. Oink. Followed quickly by the no longer breast feeding, moved to a less walkable neighborhood, work from home, the kid only wants to go as far as the park in the stroller phase. Oink. Oink.

There is a bag in the bottom of my closet. It is full of clothes I technically fit in but that are not currently comfortable. To confess to having this bag is to confess that I am living my life in a future or past fantasy. It's ugly. The bag is bad news.

When I was in college, I can remember shopping for clothes and having to go back and forth to and from the dressing room a million times because everything I picked out literally fell off me. You could say I had a distorted body image. Times change. Sort of. The distortion has only distorted in a different direction these days.

The motley array of clothes I claim as mine do not make me happy. I've been threatening forever to toss them all and start again and my big chance came just two days ago. I was at a dance performance. Afterwards, I left my crappy pink acrylic sweater with a hole in one sleeve on the chair where I was sitting. I realized it before I left the building.

I made a decision. I was leaving it there. This was the first day of the rest of my fashion life. I would give away one piece of clothing every day until everything I had even the remotest hesitation about was gone, gone, gone. Kind of like the frog in boiling water scenario, I would do it a little at a time, and by the time I noticed, it'd be too late. Perfect. I walked out in the brisk night air sleeveless and determined.

Last night, at dinner, I suddenly realized I'd almost forgotten my promise. "I haven't chosen what piece of clothing to give away today!" I told Mike spiritedly. "Oh," he started, playing with his pasta. "I forgot to bring it home." Huh?

Oh, yes, you see, someone I was sitting next to at the dance performance works with Mike and someone she knows got the sweater from someone she knows, who knew that I was sitting there and that I was Mike's wife and so gave it to Kyra to give it to Mike to give to me... In a complex and disgustingly magic route, called "I live in too small a town," the vile article of clothing found me again. But I'm refusing it entrance to the premises. That kid in the picture may have dumbed me down more than I know, fattened me up more than I'd like to admit, but no crappy pink acrylic sweater is going to keep me there.

return to big sur

Okay, so most of the hiking trails were still closed. Sure, we camped next to a blackened hillside. And no, no one was walking inadvertantly through a spider web as they were all highly visible covered in ash.

Still... we needed to see that this was still there.
24 hours after they re-opened the parks, our tent was up and ready for action. The campground was full - mostly locals who grabbed up the canceled sites which had likely been reserved for months before the fire broke out, folks, like us, who just needed to be there again.

Friday, July 25, 2008

books on the sidebar

New post on "What We're Reading" over to the left. The titles are links if you want to read more about the books.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


And I think I will sleep

when you leave with your dad in the jogging stroller to run the track behind the high school.

It is cold and foggy and July. You will beg to get out and run too. Daddy will let you and he will be surprised at how fast you are.

I'm sure I will curl into bed again as soon as you're gone - it is not yet 8:30 on a Saturday morning - and I will return myself to dreams I was wrested from a short time back, return finally to a peace that though it's eluded me for the last three years is always just around
the next corner and when I catch up with it I will reach my hand out like toward a lover at an airport arrivals terminal realizing all at once how much I took for granted, weeping for joy and our reunion.

But instead, when the door closes and it's quiet, just me and the cat, I reach for poetry, read it aloud to hear my own voice. I open my journal to pen these lines. It's not that I'm not still exhausted, or that I don't miss that state of my life, the one from my dreams from before you arrived wide-eyed and blank with hope. On the contrary, I am desperate, depleted, which somehow explains why I imagine I can hear the gravel rolling under your garage sale sneakers, Daddy letting you pass him, and you, going by like a blur.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

raising a child in california

part I

(5:00 am)



"Where do sea otters poop?"

part II

"Ring around the Rosie,
pocket full of guacamole..."

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fire - hold the works

(I'm afraid this is more of a report than anything else. I don't know what to do with my anxiety about this stuff and I don't have time to weave the perfect writing piece.)

I admit I've never been a fan of fireworks - celebrating with something that represents the heinous idea of exploding bombs? In the part of town where I live, the "backyard" fireworks are legal. Kiosks selling them generate big money for churches and youth organizations.

Let's forget all the other reasons this makes no sense and think for a minute. Let's just imagine that Joe Idiot sets himself or his house or his neighbor's lemon tree on fire and it gets a little out of control. The fire fighters as far as I can see are a little - what should we call it - BUSY. At the very least, have some respect.

We've been surrounded this year. Santa Cruz Mountains, Bonny Doon, and Watsonville to the north, The Indians and Big Sur (officially the "Basin Complex Fire") to the south.

The town of Big Sur has now been completely evacuated. More than 61,000 acres have burned in that fire alone and it is all of 3 % contained. (No, I didn't leave out a number that's three percent.) My gardening tools are still covered in ash from last weekend. This week, the winds have changed and while we get sunny skies, one of the most beautiful places I know is blackened or alight with flames.

Information on the Big Sur fire is here:

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

neighbors and community again – what else

I have a friend who lives within a 10-minute walk of my house whom I have not seen in person for over a year. Clearly, we are not that close, though it's not for lack of effort. The last time I invited her to something she accepted but we were coming from different places at different times and she got lost on the way to the theater and didn't make the show.

To add to the absurdity of our paths not crossing over the less than quarter mile between us, in the last year, she has checked in on my cat numerous times while we were out of town – supplemental visits to our paid cat sitter and garden waterer. After the last time she did it I had phoned her to thank her for hanging out with Emily in addition to expressing some embarrassment and exasperation that she only comes to my house when I'm not in it. “That's okay,” she intoned matter-of-factly, “there's more than one way to get to know a person.”

The comment stopped me. I looked around at the layers of dust covering every flat surface of my abode, the ashes and photo collage of my cat still perched shrine-like atop the tallest bookcase in the living room a year and a half after she passed (certainly where she would have sat had she lived to make the move to our 5th California address in 9 years.); I glanced at what magazines spilled over the edges of the coffee table, at Mike's boyhood teddy bear in a corner of the bedroom, the red felt oval of its mouth faded and coming unglued, and nervously wondered exactly what she meant. Is this just one more weird, modern hiccup? Phantom friends? I'm ready to give up trying to get together. And that makes me sad.


In retrospect, I felt something was wrong right away.

I saw my next door neighbor's friend watering her garden. You might not think this strange, unless you knew my neighbor. At 81, she'd totter out with her hands spattered in paint – just redoing the hallway, she'd explain. Every Monday and Wednesday morning she'd head out to work – caretaking at a mansion in Pebble Beach. Her baked goodies come in a steady stream over the fence to us. We've become her best customers since her husband passed away a year ago.

Like most of us, I set aside my instincts and continued on to wherever I was going. A couple days later, we still hadn't seen Mrs. Johnson. There was no answer at her house, so I left a note in the mailbox.

I got a call the next day from her friend, Rose. Mrs. Johnson was in the hospital – a stroke. She was doing well in physical therapy, but she'd stay there another couple weeks.

Mrs. Johnson has no family here. She is a native of Austria. Her husband has a niece left in Mississippi. They had no children - “unfortunately” as Mr. Johnson once explained to me. (Mrs. Johnson used more bitter language regarding the issue. Apparently, they tried to adopt and were turned down.) I imagine they weren't the most popular couple in 1950, when she, a German-speaker, decided to marry an African-American soldier just after WWII.

When I called, she insisted I not come to visit her at the hospital. (“Oh, Kitty, you never know when they will come and take me for exercises – sometimes 10:00, sometimes 2:00. You'll drive all the way out here and I won't be in my room.”) I was both surprised and glad when she talked about possibly hiring someone to help her with things when she got back home. Those prone to stoicism can often convince those around them of their facade. I took over watering her geraniums from Rose and waited to hear more news.

Many of us live far from our families. And family ties are family ties. But they cannot be all that sustains us. Sometimes they just can't do the job from plane rides away. Phone calls to family become what they must after years of living thousands of miles apart – selective reports or calls of crisis. We don't have each other's everyday. What can we do, but turn to those near us?

The world we live in today is practically vibrating with change. It has proposed to stretch itself so far into globalization that it feels mighty close to snapping back into tiny self-sustaining communities – a post-oil "apocalypse" where neighborhoods grow their own food and share in a balance of trades. Count me in. And this cyber bullshit is just that. Sorry. Mrs. Johnson doesn't own a computer.

I had all these things already swirling in my mind and my journal when I got a call from a social worker at the hospital. Would I be able to check in on Mrs. Johnson regularly for the first couple weeks after she got home tomorrow? Would I follow up with them and let them know if she turns in the applications for emergency medical alerts and door to door pick up on the senior buses?

We live in an era when relationships can have nothing at all to do with geography, unless they have everything to do with it.

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