Monthly Archives: November 2011

It Isn’t All in the Packaging

Okay, I admit, I didn’t watch the whole thing. I’ve seen it before. If I was diligent I would have watched the whole production, but about ten minutes was really all I felt I needed to establish that this year was much like the others; please correct me if I am wrong. The Victoria’s Secret runway extravaganza was on last night, complete with wings, glitter, thigh-high stockings and boots, and lots of beautiful young women strutting in various stages of undress and impossibly tall shoes. Fantasies of costuming and flesh took their turns on the runway to the acclaim of the crowd. What are we selling here? I asked myself. Underwear? No. There were times when the VS garments were completely eclipsed by feathers or what have you. The superficial ideal of bodily perfection? Closer. Of course, what they were selling was the BRAND that could, in theory, help ordinary women achieve that type of fantastical perfection. For a price. Results not guaranteed.

Young models exulted backstage,  “This is every girl’s dream!” I guess that makeup and costuming, cheers and applause, lights and music, money and SO much attention is very appealing. I also believe the models work hard and suffer to get a place on the catwalk (the shoes ALONE, I can’t even imagine,) so they deserve some exhilaration on their big night. But I hope it isn’t every girls’ dream  to be a fantasy, an image of allure constructed for the purpose of promoting a product to consumers who are only interested in physicality. I’d want more for my daughters, if I had some. I’d want them to realize there is beauty outside the dimensions sported by the models, and that living for the spotlight leaves you empty, because eventually the spotlight moves on without you. I’d want them to know that if all your assets are physical, then your house is made of cards and doomed to fall. Also, look at those people in the audience, all jazzed to see young women in their nearly bare nakedness. Ladies, these are not your friends.

If it’s just a job, so be it. A job with a lot of fanfare and sacrifices and expectations. Good and bad. Maybe I don’t like what you are selling or how you go about it, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to try. While you are up there, being ogled on the pedestal, just remember to be smart. Make good choices with your friends, your money and your health. With luck, they will all still be there for you when the spotlight moves on. The rest of us (the other 99%?) can use this opportunity to thoughtfully consider what real beauty means to us.

Where They Have To Take You In

Hours in a car with husband and boys, for the most part lost in their own thoughts. Days with loved ones in a place familiar, but different. Hours in a car coming back. Home. Going over the river and through the woods brings such excitement, and leaving brings a pang of loss. But home, despite its flaws: stale bread on the counter, scads of laundry piled up upon arrival, cat throwing up with joy at our return, is a relief. It is little things, like knowing the contents of the refrigerator and how the remotes work, and it is big things, like the bed that has conformed to your body and the neighbors who have let you into their lives. It is the comfort of leaving the salsa bowl on the coffee table indefinitely or slipping your brassiere off at 6:30 and not caring who might notice. Away is hospitality and delicious, excessive eating and conversation. Home is work to be done, temptations to be overcome, and that nagging sense of some impending forgotten oops, but the work, the temptations and even the oops are all mine. Home, sweet home.

A Good Climb

I am not a believer in New Year’s Resolutions. If you have an idea to improve yourself, why wait? If you can’t manage incorporating the idea right now, why set yourself up with an arbitrary date? New Years Day isn’t magic, but wouldn’t it be cool if it was! Think of everything that would really happen! World peace, balanced budgets, kids turning in their homework on time, and the effortlessly kicked habits or dropped pounds. WOW. OK, that was fun, but back to reality. I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions but I do believe in approaching the end of the calendar year with an analytical eye.

It is time to start assessing 2011. What did it mean, and how have we grown? What did we try for the first time, or in a new way, and how did that work out? What activity did we say good-bye to, to make room for other things? What juicy failures brought us hard-won epiphanies? What successes raised our bar for 2012? It isn’t too early to start the review, because even though we still have over five weeks of 2011 to try, desist, fail and succeed, the tendency is to lose the lessons in the noisy, demanding, swirl of  everyday functioning. It can take some time to reflect. This isn’t a test. You don’t get an A+ if you journaled and cross-referenced exhaustively all of the above and are ready with a leather bound retrospective on December 31st. If you do that I will offer you my amazement and a referral to get yourself diagnosed. You also don’t fail if the only thing you can remember is to never, ever again send out emails when you are drunk. That right there puts you ahead of plenty of other people.

For me, 2011 has been a lot about bravery, honesty and mellowing out, but also about frustration and fear (always fear, darn it.) I know I have learned a LOT since I was sixteen years old, but I am bemused to find that I still so often see the world as I did then: as one big learning curve with no end in sight. I  am thankful this November that the curve isn’t always painfully steep, and that there are continuously new things to take in  and familiar things to perceive at a different level. I am thankful for every one of you reading this for sharing the climb, and offering me challenges along the way.

2011: What has it brought you?

Terrible Dirty Secret

I am surfing a toxic cocktail of fatigue, hormones, confusion and chocolate frosting, so let me forewarn you this could come out very badly. First, I have to express how much I admire and enjoy the many writers I follow who are so SMART and FUNNY and TALENTED it makes me sort of break open inside. You rock! And you take up too much of my time, but please don’t slow down on my account.  Now, I wish I was a better person, or at least a more dishonest person, so I didn’t have to admit this terrible, dirty secret: there is a little part of me that resents how wonderful you are. Deeply. You don’t deserve that. Also, I know that I am a perfectly good writer, with moments of excellence and plenty of growth ahead (keep at it, wordtabulous! you can do it!) but there are those days–you know the ones, don’t you?–when it seems like anybody else’s achievement feels like an erosion of your own? When the gasp of appreciation of someone else is followed by a tiny, exhaled, I suck. This is SO petty I can barely live with myself.

I bring it up and out here where anyone can judge me because I don’t think I am alone. And there are things that can help a person get through this. One is time. We are all mentally and emotionally healthier some days than others; give things a day or two and know it will get better. Another is self-care. When your spirit is miserable, don’t forget that your body has needs too; drink water, eat healthy food, get a little exercise. A third is community. We need each other to lean upon and while taking a little quiet time is fine, hiding inside our own dark little hearts, watching crap TV and feeling rotten will only get you more of the same. Better to get out of yourself and find out what is going on with someone else, take a little Copernican Revolution and breathe the fresh air of a world where it isn’t all about you! Or me, as the case certainly was for about twenty minutes earlier today.

Please forgive me friends and colleagues, I respect and thank you for sharing your talent and look forward to reading more. And if you should ever, ever feel a teensy bit jealous of me, I would be so thrilled I cannot tell you.

A Distant Sun













It is November in Minnesota. The sun rises so late and so far to the south that at 7:15 a.m. I can’t even see it from my pillow. All summer the piercing, top-of-the-morning beams had dragged me from my bed to belatedly pull the blinds of my east-facing window. Today, with Saturday slothfulness, I watch the clouds’ golden tint blushing to pink as bare branches and my neighbors’ rooftops are revealed in the growing light. Clouds approach and steal the fire of the day, leaving me under many shades of gray. Tantalizing streaks of blue, gold and rose hint that full, brilliant daytime exists up there, beyond my reach. It is November in Minnesota; time to be thankful for glimpses caught.

Thursday Thoughts

The people of the world can be divided into two categories (humor me): 1) the people who, when asked a question or to do something, responds Why? As in “why do you need to know?” or “why should I do that?” and 2)  those who say Why not? As in “since there is no reason to conceal that information from you, why shouldn’t I explain that?” or “what you ask could conceivably, though not conveniently, be accomplished and you seem to think it will increase your happiness so why would I not do that?” I am a Type 2 living with three Type 1’s and it is exhausting getting information and advocating courses of action while explaining everything I do and trying to  increase happiness. I think the “Why” phenomenon might be related to the “Y” chromosome, but I am not a geneticist, that is just a theory.

I am the NaNoWriMo friend everyone wants on their buddy list this year because my word count makes yours look AWESOME!

Blogging and the accompanying blog-following one does as a blogger is a time eater that puts both facebook and gmail to shame, although since facebook and gmail are in cahoots with the blogging enterprise, they really can’t be separated.

Blog is the kind of word that starts losing itself with excessive repetition.

Some days I think how wonderful it would be to give up all my writing ambitions and stick to knitting. So simple. And then I remember all the disappointing knitting outcomes. Let us never forget the hat fiasco of  ’06. Dreadful.

I love everything about my cat except his cold wet nose which he nudges  against my hands whenever they are doing something other than loving him up the eighteen minutes a day he is awake enough to care. I have yelled at him about it enough that now he just hunches over until his nose is a quarter inch from my hand and hovers there. He’s like the six year old brother who has been warned for the last time to quit touching his sister, so he gets close and says , “See? I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you…”

I don’t much care for it when he drools on my computer, farts or snags my sweater with his kneading pawclaws, either.

Why do I have a cat?

Top 10 Things I Do When I Should Be Noveling

10.  knitting, or crocheting, or some other archaic pastime (living history!)

9.  checking my sons’ grades on the internet (terrifying)

8.  searching my pantry for carbs (chocolate? graham crackers? stale crackers? good enough!)

7.  playing beyond Tetris on my phone; I am not getting any better (so ashamed…)

6.  checking my wordtabulous site stats (am I relevant?)

5.  babytalking to the cat (we both like that)

4.  checking my email; surely someone has sent me some charming forwards (see the silent monks singing the Hallelujah Chorus at

3.  checking out the blogs I follow and trying to give some thoughtful comments to show I care (because I do!)

2.  getting sucked into whatever reality nonsense Mr. Wordtabulous is watching at the time (Marathon Boy-horrifying and fascinating)

1.  blogging my dysfunctional life approach for all to enjoy (Cheers! Now go get something done!)

Noisy Pretty Bandwagons

I have a friend I really enjoy, a guy I knew in college, with whom I now only communicate on facebook. He is one of those people who re-posts a lot, particularly jokes and satire. A considerable percentage of what he posts has to do with religion and mocks conservatives who exaggerate or mislead to gain political advantage or to denigrate other religions or homosexual people. To him, and to a growing group of people like him, “religious” is synonymous with “ignorant” or “bigot.” It is getting to the point that the phrase, “an open-minded religious person” is popularly considered an oxymoron. I blame that on all the really noisy wack-a-doodles who keep promoting grossly hateful views that cause people who aren’t of faith to wonder what in the world “religion” and specifically “Christianity” is all about. These wack-a-doodles would not consider me a person of religion at all because my reading of the scriptures and observation of the world haven’t led me to the same conclusions they have reached, but since I don’t let them (or anyone else) tell me what I am that doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is that I am being painted with the same brush as anybody who claims a faith based on love but gleefully wears hate on his/her sleeve.

I might wince when I see remarks and jokes directed at the religious, but I will neither deny I am religious to the snarks or let the wack-a-doodles claim the whole package. Some might think me stupid for believing  too much, others might think me a “watered-down” Christian for not believing enough. Whatever, I will not change my beliefs to belong to your special club. Nor do I expect you to change yours to join mine. Just, I beg you, think your own beliefs out for yourself, don’t leap on someone else’s noisy, pretty bandwagon because it is labeled either “Smart” or “Righteous.”

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