Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Every Kiss Begins with...A Girl's Best Friend

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I was born without the gene for jewelry.  I'm not saying I'm immune; I love earrings when my ears are willing to cooperate and the funky and the folk art can win my heart.  (I'm more likely to be sentimental over who gave it to me or wore it before me.)

The point being that there's no moral high ground for my complete disinterest in diamonds and rubies and such.  My heart is not going to melt over a diamond ring. Besides I'm careless and would probably lose it.

I do that.

But I really really really hate the love for sale commercials that proliferate around the holidays:  A couple by the fireplace, at dinner in an elegant restaurant, or some other romantic scene, he produces the magic box, she opens it, gasps, looks teary-eyed and then throws herself in his arms.  Voice over: let her how much you love her, what she means to you.  Sometimes the giving happens with an audience--whispers of he's giving her "the ring," children watching in anticipation of mom's ecstasy over her gift and, of course,  the inevitable kiss.

I know I'm hardly the first person to rant about this.  We live in a capitalist society and our economy pretty much depends on creating wants.  But I hate hearing the cynical remarks of see, you CAN buy love, even if some of the comments come from women.  Not only is it disgusting but it's also both sad and destructive.

I used to teach classes for Planned Parenthood around subjects related to reproductive health, sex, relationships.  Boys in the class--because many of the places I taught had a large number of students from poor--would sadly and bitterly remark on their chances of getting one of the fine women.  No fancy car, no well-paying job.  No woman.

A lovely doubleheader.  The girls they could get were quite explicitly NOT fine, the guys were losers without the money and the stuff money can buy.  Hmm, McDonald's at nine bucks an hour or drug dealing...?  And the girls better package their product (themselves) or theirs is a future of loserhood as well.

Of course it all moves up the food chain--the guy with the good job knows that there's a guy up the road who provided a bigger rock and got the more prized spouse.  She knows that the woman across the street has a bigger diamond and is consequently more prized.

Exaggerated?  Oh, Lord, yes and thank god for that.  I think love, attraction, caring are still the reason most of us couple and we know enough from celeb relationships that  great big diamonds may promise forever but surely don't buy it.

And there is a certain evolutionary sense to it.  The diamond (or ruby or gold) may be the equivalent of slapping  an antelope down on the table to let the female know "I can provide" for you and our young.  Of course if she doesn't produce said young and/or doesn't have the skills to contribute to survival he will probably start flinging antelopes at another woman's feet and as for her, if the supply of antelopes starts to get a little thin and infrequent...she'd probably be movin' on, too.  (Unless of course that strange thing called love had shown up.)

Of course the song does make sense "...we all lose our charms in the end, but square cut or pear shaped, these rocks don't lose their shap..."  When you come right down to it the only real uses for a diamond are industrial, scratching class, or the fact they can be resold--an investment that you can wear.  That makes a very practical kind of sense.  Logical.  Men may keep money until they die, but if a woman's salable commodities are looks and (maybe) fertility; well, those fade. Gonna need something too buy those antelopes.

(This leaves aside the horrors of what many diamonds actually cost in terms of human suffering and environmental damage to acquire.  More significant but irrelevent to fancy packages and gifts that end in kisses.)

Nothing profound today.  Just the rant of an old woman who doesn't give a rat's about expensive jewelry, but hates to hear every kiss begins with...he went her you would marry her all over again.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dreams, Spirits, and Talking to the Dead

He was running up the hill like when he was young my aunt tells me.  I woke up crying and told Buck, Stu's dead. I had called to tell her that my dad, her brother, Stu had passed in the night.  I could see my parents, daddy, my mother, my brother Clyde, and Momma was holding the little baby that died when she died--and they were all sitting on this hill and they were smiling. But they weren't looking at me. So I turned to look where they were looking and there was Stu, just running, flying up that hill, like he was a kid again and looking like when he was a kid.  And he was smiling too and his arms were out and so were theirs and I woke up Buck, crying and saying Stu's gone.

I cried then when she told me her dream. I'm tearing up as I type even though it's been over twenty-three years since that phone call.  I still hold that dream close to me, a candle in the dark, a teddy bear, all the icons from every faith I've encountered, along with the special crocheted afghan from my friend that covers me with love.  

The dream comforts me.  The dead are so very gone, the body empty of...everything.  And yet we talked to himMy brother took the oxygen tube dad hated out of his nose. We talked to himIt's very uncomplicated with the newly dead--no equivocation, no conflicting emotions: I love you, I will miss you, thank you. 

0h, well, the tears, of course, the stunned this can't be happening disbelief, the gut-wrenching pain that makes you want to howl like a pack of heart-broken wolves in the dark of the moon. They say the first death is the hardest and maybe that's true. Certainly kittens and old dogs don't prepare you.  But all the deaths that come after still tear your heart out, still stun you into a walking mannequin that apparently says and does all the appropriate things--to judge by peoples' faces--but really you don't know or careYou grieve, you cry.

But you aren't surprisedNever again surprised.  You have learned something of what life is capable of.

Are these dreams a way of anticipating loss?  Preparing for what is inevitable. We are born dying.  A cousin dreamed of white things and granddaddy died.  But he had already seen his mother so he know his time had come.  The cousin told my aunt of the white things (had she just done her wash?), he told my aunt, his daughter, about his mother . He died within a few days.

Not all dreams are of death--I've heard of dreams of lovers, babies, and long lost friends.  But my family is dramatic and we dream of death and sorrow.  Sometimes the dead return to say they miss us as well, to offer solace.  But more likely they show up just to let us know we're going to join them soon. Which is usually not really a  a message of solace.

Do I believe in dreams?  Of course I "believe" in dreams. They happen. The brain is sorting out events of the day, new information, deciding whether to file it or discard it.  The mind makes it into story.  Sometimes solutions to problems show up--mathematical and emotional.  Conflicted feelings, buried memories...the psyche plays with all of that.  Of course I believe that dreams are real, they happen, and while dreams themselves are not rational, one can understand them rationally.

Do I believe in dreams? Of course I do.  A dream of white things predicts a death.  My aunt saw my father at the moment of his passing joining his family, young and free of pain.  With all my heart of course I do. Granddaddy's mother--she was half Choctaw--came to him, Mamaw saw angels who carried her away. And in my dreams? Too many things to tell.  So many I will not tell.  But if I dream of death I might tell you but not of your own and not of mine.


I don't think spirits like being called ghosts.   Ghost is too Caspar, too sheet over the head BOO!, really too Scooby Doo.  A spirit is ephemeral, elusive when it chooses to appear, but there is no sense that when it disappears it is gone.

"Do you believe in spirits, in ghosts?" my psychiatrist asks. No. Well, mas o menos. Maybe. I don't know. I had told her of an experience I had had recently.  She prescribes my meds, keeps a watch on my disordered moods.  I thought maybe I was beginning to hallucinate, which is actually never a good sign, unless you've bought the experience from a street corner.

I know I was awake, really awake, not dream within a dream awake. When I saw it, I thought it was a trick of the light, an image conjured by my macular degeneration and non-focusing.  And just like in the books, I closed my eyes, blinked, expecting it to be gone once I opened my eyes.  Funny how writers sometimes get it right. You know?

She --not it--was standing by bed.  A little girl translucent, glowing green. She began to reach for me and I was terrified, though I'm not usually terrified of little girls.  (There have been exceptions.) Her fingers were long and thin, splayed.  She kept reaching, though I demanded, begged, pleaded for her to stop, stop, please stop.

 I knew she wasn't there. I was terrified, turned my back on her, clung to John, and could not not look behind me to see if she was still there.  I couldn't get out of bed, purely panicked, even when I had to pee so badly my back teeth were floating and my eyeballs were yellow.

I mostly only talked to friends who firmly believed in ghosts, spirits, that other world.  Meaning?  All sorts.  Who?  Abundant guesses.  But the fear subsided.  After a few nights I didn't even think about her anymore.

I told my doctor who asked if I didn't believe.  Believe?  She's a scientist, analytical and rational.

She has her own experiences.  "There are things we don't have explanations for. Yet."

Guess I can go with that.  And I never want to see the little girl with the long, thin, splayed fingers ever again.  Dream, spirit, hallucination--I want her to stay away.

Though it would be nice to see my mom and dad and even if they reached for me it would be okay. I think.


He always finds a way to make me laugh.  My aunt--not the one who had the dream--but my dad's baby sister is going through one of those hellish times that validates the Buddha: Life is suffering. My uncle has a rare, very serious very godawful type of cancer. Waiting for a diagnosis, a treatment plan, radiation, chemo, he's sick, she is bone tired, no sleep, and beyond sad.

My dad takes care of her.  He was always the tease. always the one who could make everyone laugh, dig up a joke in the deepest shit.  No matter what, she tells me, Hermaw finds a laugh for me somewhere in the day.

I ask my dad to take care of her.  Make her laugh. 

When my dad was dying I asked my grandmother, the grandmother I never met, his mother to comfort him and take care of him in the night when the pain was more intense, the drugs confused him, and if no one could be with him they tied his hands to the bed.
The first time I asked Mamie to be there, the nurses told me he had the best night in the long time.

She did good.

I ask my mother's advice.  To look out for her grandchildren. and great-grandchildren.

Ask her mother , Lula, to take care of her.

The older you get the more dead you have to talk to. Do they listen?  Do they do anything?

I don't know.  I tell my parents I'm sorry--there are so many sorry's to be said.  And thank you's.
Do they hear, do they answer.  Yes, I can feel them.  No, they are dead and dead is dead with or without an afterlife.  They probably aren't swinging from a cloud watching earth and us like a long running reality show.

And dad had the best sleep he'd had in a long time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Beauty and the Beast" with Shoes

I love this movie--the Disney version.  The music, the characters, the animation.  I like the message (as my grand daughter explained--I like the Beast best because he learns how to love and that's the most important thing).

And we were cuddled together on the couch watching the movie which was great for two reasons: most important was the cuddling, but a close second was that it gave me a chance  to rest from running up and down the slope in the backyard without admitting ...well, you know, granma not so good at the whole running up and down thing anymore.

And yet, and yet, Belle misses her whole town as she walks through the morning bustle with her nose in book.  Everything. No freshly baked baguettes, she doesn't see all the little kids clustered around their frazzled mother, sheep nuzzle her while she sits by the fountain and reads and she seems unaware of their soft noses, their lanolin greased wool.... (Though I guess missing out on the sheep aroma might be on the positive side of the ledger.)

Belle is wearing shoes and doesn't touch the ground.  She wants more than her little provincial town; she knows "there must be more than this."

There is, of course, and she finds it: enchanted castle, a prince hidden inside the body of a beast, danger, courage, and true love.

I still tear up at the ending, when all is lost and unexpected grace and the power of love bring that leap of joy, the fairy tale twist that breaks your heart.  The Beast is brought back to life because he has learned to love and because Belle has learned to see beyond appearance (though he does turn into the rather boring handsome prince).

So what?   Why do I (over) analyze this beautifully animated, happy ending Disney movie? I think it's because I've spent so much of my life nose in a book, a head full of dreams, and feet that don't touch the ground.  I love words, the play of them, the sounds, the elusiveness.  Imagination: dragons that ride the wind, Frodo destroying the Ring, glittering unicorns glimpsed in the night.  Remembering.  My babies. The taste of grape Popsicles. My dad carrying me in from the car when I pretended to be asleep.  My mother reading to me, on chapter of the Bible everynight (except of course the "begats."  We skipped those.)

But so much is lost.  I read while nursing my babies.  How many times was I so lost in a book, in writing, that I didn't see anything around me, didn't hear what was said?

And yet--here I am.  Writing about being barefoot on the ground. Imaging this piece finished.  How to end it.

Wondering what you will think.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Small Things that Have No Words

This is the 5th blog I've started since April.  If you're reading it, well, I actually finished it. I hope you're reading it because I'm getting tired of me and my apparent inability to finish anything I start writing.

  I found my raggedy old Golden Book of Prayer's for Children the other day.   It's missing the covers, some of the pages, and is well embellished with my five year old's artwork.  (I loved to draw angels.)

But I found the page with my favorite prayer, which is by that prolific writer anonymous.

Dear Father, hear and bless
Thy beasts and singing birds,
And guard with tenderness
Small things that have no words.

Small things that have no words. Even at five I knew the world overflowed with small things that had no words.  Kittens, especially kittens in the rain, babies like my brother who could only cry which hardly counted as words, the mice no one wanted, stray dogs...the world was full even then.

"Thy beasts and singing birds." Well, there was never a shortage of (ant covered) dead birds lying around and we killed animals for our dinners.  The chickens that came from the store in those days looked like chickens and had eggs inside them.  Pickled pigs feet were a dead giveaway on their origin.

I didn't put it into words exactly, well-raised little Christian girl that I was, but I had the strong sense that  Father was a bit behind in his work.  It was with an aching hope but very little optimism I said my prayer.

Time has passed.  I'm 59 years over the age of five.  I've learned enough to know that if the grass hurts when I walk on it, there's nothing I can do. Kittens die in the rain, at the hands of budding serial killers, and at the pound--and there's nothing I can do about it and I can't adopt them all.  There's always a poet dying down the road and there's always a lovely young body having a pint of pus removed (J.D. Salinger).  Someone's celebrating a victory and someone's child just got blown into a puzzle that can never be put back together again.

There's love of course which puts our broken pieces back together again and again. Which gives us hope in this world which is so notably lacking in tenderness.

But my prayer gave me another gift, one which has never tarnished and has given broken wings to grief and flamed this world with beauty.


The rhythm, the beat: Dear father hear and bless. Ta dum, ta dum, ta dum.

Thy beasts and singing birds.  Not animals, BEASTS.  Beasts and singing birds.

What words can do.

Guard with tenderness small things that have no words.  Small things that have no words....

Small things without words are given a voice.  There may be no tenderness for these small things but the prayer gives them a voice, gives the frail wishes of our hearts a shape and a being.

Words can be powerful

The world lacks tenderness and small things hurt and die.  But with words we can hope, we can imagine, we can be entranced with beauty, seduce and be seduced by.


We may fail words but words do not really fail us.

Small things that have no words.

But we do.

Amen. Amen.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Who Am I?

"Who are you and what have you done with Gwen?"  John was watching me lay out my clothes for the next day before I got into bed.  The things I planned to take to work were by the front door, both lunch (leftovers packed right after dinner) and breakfast yogurt parked neatly on a shelf in the refrigerator waiting to be put in a sack in the morning.  I found myself thinking I really should get one of those insulated lunch bags.

In the morning I would know right where my car keys were, my glasses, and my cell phone.   An Obama style no drama departure for work.

Half joking, half serious I came back with, "No, the question is, what have you done to me?" A reasonable accusation, actually--he's an engineer (which means you can always find a pencil around the house) and ex-military.  Which does not mean he doesn't lose things; it just means that wherever you find--wherever I find them--they will be in formation..

Never, not really of my own free will, never have I been tidy or organized.  Chaos has always been my natural state and you could track me through a house or office by a trail of forgotten coffee cups, misplaced glasses, and lost keys. Fear, pressure, my mom, my ex, the prospect of company, and  a kind of frail optimism have led to the short term wow clean up, but never long haul order.

Please understand, I never did this deliberately and 99% of the time without any intention of pissing anyone off.  It wasn't, I would try to explain, that I thought being organized, tidy, neat was beneath me; it was beyond me.  I didn't just frustrate the people around me--I frustrated myself.

A good survival strategy was cultivating a drifty artist, aging hippie persona.  Not too far off--I'm a writer and I do live in my imagination a lot.  And I was usually the third or fourth to point out my failings.

Now I'm 63. Medicated with a mood stabilizer, an anti-depressant, and more than enough other meds for the various mental and physical issues I am blessed with.  I'm in a good relationship with a funny, cantankerous, loving, nonjudgmental man. I mostly live at his house which isn't haunted like the home I've lived in since 1969.

It isn't cluttered.

My anxiety levels are down.  I've learned that my fear of failing turned my brain into an untuned, static filled radio station.  And, besides, it was easier to screw up and disappointment everybody earlier rather than later.  Saved time for everyone.

So what happened?  An overdetermined result? Medication.  The people in my life--including John but not exclusively him, who keep reminding me that they actually love me no matter what.

Which is a wow all on its own.

It's nice to know where my keys are,

So why, why, why do I sometimes feel like screaming that I've been taken over by aliens?  Possessed?  My mind not my own?

And that I don't know who I am.

The woman who lays out her clothes, remembers the papers, CD, and such that I was asked to bring to LA the other day. Who gets up and plugs in the charger for the cell. Who does these things almost naturally.

Who is she?

The thought processes are alien. It isn't that I haven't done these things before; I have never done them with so little effort.  Never done them before without almost complete confusion, frustration, and a kind of inner resistance.

Is there a self? No self? What self?

If I am not Gwen the *charmingly* drifty and disorganized, who am I?

If my mind works in a way that feels completely alien and yet natural am I just a chemical soup modified by other chemicals and my self an illusion?

Who am I?

For that matter--who are you?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dialogue in Several Voices

You don't know everything.

Well, duh. Tell me something I don't know.

You don't know everything.

That's not news.

You think you do.

(Pause.) I've never said that.  I make mistakes.  I know that.  I do things I shouldn't do. I don't think I know everything.

You think you know how things should be.

How things should be?  In a way, doesn't everyone? Peace and love and everyone getting along and being with a person they love and doing jobs they want to do and food and health care, well, all of that, sound trite but aren't they really the answer? To how things should be?

You think you know how to get there. What will make people happy.  How to make people happy

Oh, come on.  I've always been very proud of my humility.

And you love to help.

What's wrong with that?  Isn't helping good?

On the off chance you know what you're doing?

I suppose, but....

Oh, humility.

I'll tell you a story.  Once upon a time, half a lifetime ago to a human, eons to a fruit fly, and nothing to a rock, there was a young girl. Teens her own age described her as *different* and a little weird. For an adult--which you  were supposed to be at the time--she seemed...disconnected.  As though we were alien life forms that she visited, finding us *different* and a little weird. She lived in a Star Trek world, scored by the Beatles, and embraced--one way or another--by Spock.

By the way and somewhat as an aside, speaking to "you" is tiring and a little confusing; remember this is a story and it's about you, but I am telling and it is also then about me. A first person P.O.V is easier. The pronouns become simpler.

Her younger sister was my oldest son's junior high girlfriend at the time.  She encouraged--almost begged me--to ask her sister to sit for my four kids. Which of course I did.

It was easy to bond over the Beatles and Star Trek.  And it became evident very quickly that she was a broken winged bird with a sad sad story.  The details are important, of course, for her life, but beside the point for the story.

I adopted her.  Oh, not legally and she still lived at home with the little sister, the dad, and the alcoholic mother--who happened to be another broken winged bird with a sad sad story. They fed her, clothed her, paid the bills, and took the brunt of her intense mood swings and terrible silences.

She was happy at our house.  Not effervescent happy, but ...happy.  In fact, she liked it so much that I just recently learned she told  her little sister to stay away:  "It's MY place now."

The church ladies (and, yes, I was one of them) took that sister under our wings.

Wait a minute--what was wrong with that?  If anyone needed  love and support, that poor child did.

No question, yep, she needed love and she needed support.  Couldn't get even a late night infomercial attorney to argue against that. .But--well--OK, define love. Start with that.

Caring for someone, delighting in them. Thinking of them before you think of yourself--you know, the whole love thy neighbor as thyself thing.  Caring. Trying to do right by them.  You know, love.

Warm feelings?  Needed?  Helping.

Yeah.  Warm feelings.  Caring.  Trying to help.  You know she didn't wear a bra because no one ever took her shopping for one.  

Poor baby.

Yeah, poor baby.  I know you're being sarcastic, but she was a poor baby, and a poor child, and lonely, broken, confused, angry.  She needed helping.

Did anything you did, collectively, individually, church ladies, you or me--did anything we ever did really help?

She got a bra.  

Now you're being sarcastic. Did she ever get what she needed?  Oh, and by-the-by and just wondering--who ever got the younger sister a bra? Back to the older sister, though.  Did she ever get what she needed? 

I don't know--no, probably not, no.  But we--I--tried . Really. Truly.

(Speaking in a gentler tone.)  I know.  You, they, I, we--all tried very very hard to help, to give her what she needed.  But--what did she need?

(Long silence.)  I...don't...know...I guess.  Love?  

How can you give someone what they need if you don't know what they need?  And, even  if you do know, how do you know you can provide it?  I mean I might know you need a heart transplant but that doesn't mean--

Finish the story.  I don't like the ending--never have--and I don't like the post script either, so you might as well get it over with.

OK, we'll skip all the middle part, the mother dies, the getting married, moving away--all of thatWell and some pretty bizarre behavior.

Skip to the phone call.  I know that's where you're going, so just go.

The phone rings.  After years, that voice, her voice.  From the past, well, once the past, but now in thepresent, the right now.

I can hear it in her voice, something is terribly, terribly, horribly wrong.

And she called you.

I'm here.  At a hospital.  They think I'm crazy. My therapist, my husband (she called him by name but I won't).  They're trying to put me in the hospital.  They think I'm crazy.  Am I?  Do you think I'm crazy?  I'm not crazy am I?  Not enough to have to be locked up, am I?  Tell me what I should do, should I...?  I'm scared, but I don't think I'm crazy...?

She really didn't want to be crazy, did she?  And she called you.  When the chips were done and she needed someone--

Shut up.  I know what you're going to say.

Because you said it, which means that--

I said it.  You said it.  We said it.She didn't want to be crazy, which is, you know, a pejorative word for mentally ill   And she did not want to be that.  

So we told her--what? 

That she wasn't.  That of course she had issues and problems and needed help, but of course she wasn't crazy and didn't need to be locked up.

Which amazingly and exactly coincided with what she wanted to hear.  You don't need to be locked up--you don't need, oh, what's that word? Oh, yeah, right--treatment.  I think that's what they call it.

How do you know?  That's what my husband said.  How do you know what she needs? You're not there, you have no idea what's going on.  How can you say anything?  Not your business.

But I love herI love her and I, I want to help.

She didn't go in the hospital.


No.  She didn't. At least not that night, not then.

Nice to be needed, isn't it?  And that used to be the end of the story didn't it?  Well, barring the subsequent phones calls of love, reconciliation, gratitude--oh, and the threats to bring a gun and shoot the entire family.
  That used to be where the story ended.  Kind of sad, but hopeful too because she did have a therapist and she wasn't all that crazy and...well, you could always figure that maybe someday and somehow it got all better.

And the unicorns were dancing on the front lawn, sparkling in the silvery moonlight, gleaming in the sun. 

Hey. That's sarcasm.

Yeah?  We used to wonder, you and me, how it all turned out.   Turns out nobody really knows, not around here anyway.  All the letters come back to the family--

No one here and not at this address.






Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Girl at the Front

At the age of 63, I have been promoted to girlhood again. Or demoted--I'm not sure which. But I am now that girl at the front--the one who answers the phone, forwards calls, take messages, greets visitors and clients, offers the coffee....

I'm not putting down the job.  It's necessary and when we lost our receptionist I took over.  It's an architectural firm; I do marketing.  The work of the architects, project managers, and drafters can't be done at the front desk--at least not easily.  And clients pay for their services, not mine.

And it's been an education.  Just learning to answer the phone--okay that was a no brainer--but answering the phone with multiple calls coming in, needing to check with the callee to see if they could/would take the call, transferring calls; I've always been afraid of tasks like that.  There's a lot of jobs that I don't consider beneath me--I think they're beyond me. The thought of a headset, taking orders at a fast food window, AND filling the orders, or waiting tables, remembering orders, serving food, or check-out clerk, the list is very long. I raised four kids, so you would think that multitasking especially while serving food would be second nature, but not so much.

I'm excited that I can now fax, overnight plans and packages, run letters through the postage meter, scan things on the big confusing copier.  For me these are huge achievements, since I've usually been the type standing there staring helplessly at whatever I'm supposed to be operating, making whining noises, wringing my hands (whatever 'wringing' is) and looking around with pleading eyes and pathetic desperation, hoping for a rescuer..  Inept would have a kind description.

But that's not the education I've gotten sitting up here.  The education is--like most things--about people and, in particular, about the difference between being a function and a person. 

The Girl at the Front is, for many people, a pure function.  You can be rude, impatient, and dismissive to her and (apparently) think nothing of it.  I don't get the abuse of people who work in more lightning rod places--we're not repo folks, bill collectors, customer service for really bad products--and thank whatever gods may be that I'm not a telemarketer, but there's enough.  It's apparently my fault if a someone hasn't returned a call or isn't available right now. Plans haven't been approves, permits not granted, and the new puppy pooped on the carpet.

When people come into the lobby it becomes even more interesting.  Many people are quite nice, especially when they don't know where they're going, or need me to call the person they plan to meet.  Some are even shy. I like making people welcome, offering the coffee and water, chatting if they seem to need to talk. However, dismissive is the polite way of describing the behavior of some.  No eye contact.  No thank you.  No hello, no goodbye.I've interacted more personally ordering a hamburger over the intercom.

I'm guessing that for many reading this it's a big oh, well and so what.  Goes with the territory, if I don't like it quit, and deal with it--it's human nature.  And actually I do.  It isn't personal and it sometimes gives me an excellent gauge of clients.  I've always thought you could learn a lot about people by how they treat their "inferiors." And how often they don't realize the power of these supposed inferiors--how fast and untouched do you want your food, how quickly will you get that warm blanket at the hospital--and what might I say to the managers here?

And therein lies the real lesson here.  The firm is Lauterbach & Associates, Architects,  My last name is Lauterbach--ex-wife of the founder--who still works here--mother of the CFO.  I do what I do because it's needed and you pretty much need to put on the big girl panties and do what's needed these days.

But I find it very interesting if I introduce myself.  The Look crosses the person's face as I suddenly transform from function to person.  Possibly even a Person of Some Importance. Big smile then. Effusive pleased to meet you.

It's been, as I said, an education.

Oh, and by the way, when you come into that irritatingly empty  lobby--remind yourself that even The Girl at the Front has to pee occasionally.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Broken Hallelujah

 Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

It's been used in everything from Shrek to House and sung by everyone except my next door neighbor's niece's cousin-by-marriage's brother-in-law.

At least I don't think he did.

.Overused, cliche, cheap meme to suggest depth and poignancy?  Maybe.  But I think it's love.

When you--when I--fall in love, anything, everything is an excuse to talk about the loved one.  Air?  Did I mention He breathes air?  Milk?  Too easy with a new baby. Shoes?  My grandson takes his shoes off when he comes in the house. "Gotta hand it to you...."  My grand daughter has two. Hands, I mean.  Love is physical, visceral, the longing to taste a name on your lips, to bring them into every moment and space you occupy.

Poetry, music, a voice, the line of a dancer, beauty in all its guises is the same.  The song plays you, the words write you.

Love  You can love a piece of  music with the same yearning to possess and be possessed as any other love..

Jeff Beck's Hallelujah plays my heart, grieves and elates me.  When Cohen sings, I whisper the words with my lips and in my mind: it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah...And even though/It all went wrong/I'll stand before the Lord of Song/With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah.

I hold my lover close, trace the curve of his cheek, the line of his shoulder, play my fingers down his spine, my body bends to his.  Love is not a victory march/It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah. I know this.  I listen to him breathe, listen as I listened to my children, standing by their beds. Breathe, breathing with them, one breath follow another.


All breath stops.  It's a simple bare boned fact. They leave us, we leave them. Fact.

You always disappoint the ones you love.  Not every day, not all the time, but as inevitably as rain will come, you will hurt the ones you love. You can't unring the bell, if you rip your tongue out, the words can't be unsaid, 3:00 AM tears, and a thousand nights of kneeling on broken glass will not change one moment.

And--why should I even bother to say it?--the ones you love will disappoint you, hurt you, rip your heart out and samba on it with a partner.

The world itself will break your heart.

The poem on paper will never be what you wrote in your mind and the music you play will never be what you heard

And yet. And yet...there is the poem, a lover's touch, the baby's diaper may stink, but there is the intoxicating scent of baby, the soft gloriousness of a baby's skin.  The sunrise over Haleakala  flames with colors even if you're shivering in a jacket that isn't as warm as you thought and you the coffee's lukewarm and tastes like bad instant and the rock you're sitting on is cold--and besides rock is, well, hard as rock.

The is-ness of it all. 

Pirouettes and pratfalls.

And so  Hallelujah with every breath.

Imperfect and imperfectly. A song that sings me.

Because There's a blaze of light in every word/It doesn't matter which you heard/The holy or the broken Hallelujah.

I sleep next to my lover, hold a grandchild, my old dog slips away with one breath, then none all at the gift of the veterinarian's needle. I'll stand before the Lord of Song/With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah.

It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.

What else is there?  Hallelujah.

Imperfect. Flawed and failed.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Me and Oral Roberts

Heal!! He laid on hands, this intense, florid man, sweating and teary eyed.  The man, woman, or child kneeling at his feet--if they weren't on a stretcher or in a wheel chair--frequently were crying too.  Their stories had been told, their need for healing proclaimed to the heavens and the congregation--along with us out in television land.
Oral Roberts seemed to wrest miracles from Jesus; the physical effort was evident .  Nothing gentle about this.

And nothing quiet about the healings either.  Rejoicing swept the congregation, the newly healed and Oral Roberts praised Jesus--and cried.  Faith healings take place in in an ocean surge of waves, and spray, and salt.
I was eight and this was the 50's in North Carolina.  We weren't always regular churchgoers but my mother was raised Baptist, Jesus was always watching us, and she read a chapter from the Bible to me every night.
I also lived in a world where grownups never lied and people were to be trusted.
My mother's health was fragile.  She had bronchiectisis (a lung condition somewhat like cystic fibrosis) which regularly put her in the hospital about once a year.She nearly died having me and "was never the same."  When my dad was gone--he was a Marine--I would slip into her room at night to check to be sure she was breathing.
So I wrote to Oral Roberts to ask him to pray for my mother to be healed.  As far as I could tell, he never failed on TV and his prayers had to be just as effective at a distance.  As I mailed the letter, I imagined my family's surprise and joy.  I didn't want thanks--I just wanted my mom to live and figured that the Reverend Robert's prayers seemed to have a power my night time Our father who art's and God blesses didn't.
My theology was weak and so was my critical thinking--but I was eight. Not stupid, just ignorant and a bit naive.
I did get a letter back.  There was a generic  paragraph promising prayers for me and my loved one.  They would lift us up to the Lord or something like that.
The rest of the letter was a two paragraph plea for money.  I don't think it was explicitly said but my eight year old self found it pretty implicit that this money would make the prayers much, much, much more effective.
I was disappointed but not devastated.  More like the dawning of Santa is your mom and dad, that growing awareness of the limitations of sleighs and realities of life.
I wish I'd written to thank him.
Some facts, like chicken pox, are best taught/caught young.

Help! I'm Addicted to K Cups

I like to think I'm a good person and at least a pale shade of green.  My recycling trash container is always much fuller than than the one that contains, well, trash.  I buy recyled, local, organic, advocate for sustainable solutions at the architectural office I work at.  I know what Cradle to Cradle is, unplug electrical things when I can and when they aren't needed....

I really really try to be a good person.

But my partner's daughter gave him a Keurig coffee maker for Christmas.

Now, you first have to understand--we really enjoy coffee and drink it morning, noon, and night.  When we first got together I did have to teach him that grocery store brand ground coffee made into pale brown water is NOT coffee.  I introduced him to the coffee grinder and Trader Joe's Organic, Shade-Grown, Fair Traded Coffee.  (It's the way I salvage my guilt over what I know can be an exploitive, environment destroying, high pesticide product.)
And then the Keurig showed up.  And I mocked it--who know what kind of coffee really was in those little plastic K cups?  I mean--PLASTIC?  And they don't recycle.

Then we had the first cup of dark roast.

"OK," we agreed, "Not bad for when you just want a cup.  Or for company."  Quick, easy, flavorful, and kinda fun--all the buttons, the hissing noise, and the pretty blue lights.

Nice on occasion , we agreed.

The first hit was just experimental.  Why would we abandon our old coffee maker which held so many cups and could be programed to have a full pot ready before we got out of bed?
In the next few days we blew through the samples that had come with the Keurig like a politician grabbing face time on TV.  No limits.

Then--the supply was running low.  Panic set in.  Where do you go to get more--who's your connection?
Turns out Costco carries a big box of 80 of Newman's Own for $33.00.

I brought it home.  John added up the cost and gave me THE LOOK.  "Do you realize how much this costs a cup?"  No.  He told me. I just could not keep the number in mind; it always drifted away.

Besides, while not cheaper that making a pot, well, you know, sometimes we didn't actually drink the whole pot  and then we wastefully poured it out. And the Keurig brew is certainly cheaper than Starbucks and their ilk.

I try not to look at the old coffee maker which seems to be lonely and saddened, asking what did I do wrong?  It doesn't seem to be buying, "It's not you, it's me."

I don't even tell myself I can quit anytime.  Turns out we ALWAYS want only one cup.

We pretend that pile of little plastic cups in the trash does not exist.  And--after all--it is Newman's Own: organic and fair traded.  The Newmans are very environmentally aware you know.

Now I'm wishing we had a Keurig at work.

I know I need help.

Is there a support group out there for me?

We could have coffee.