Monday, November 23, 2009

Me and my BFF

I got an email from Oprah today (yeah, we email and "LOL" at each other like crazy). She wrote "Fifteen years ago, I wrote in my journal that one day I would create a television network...." Girlfriend, you too? Actually, fifteen years ago, my twins were babies and, if memory serves, I wrote in my journal, "One day I hope to create enough time in my life to watch a television network that doesn't feature a purple dinosaur." Anyway, like Oprah, I have achieved my goal. Why some nights I'm able to watch Law and Order on a couple of different channels! Hmmm.... Note to self, must have better goals to write in my journal.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why I love the internet

Today, because my youngest is home sick (again) with possible mono, I wasted spent more time than usual on the interwebs. And here's what I learned. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," by that famous stoner Samuel Taylor Coleridge, can be sung to the tune of the "Gilligan's Island" theme song! Oh, if only I'd known this in college!

Sooooo try it! You'll be glad you did. (And people say poetry is boring.)

(From "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner")

Water, water, everywhere
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere
Not any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: Oh Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.


Ah! Wel-a-day! What evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the albatross
About my neck was hung.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Elizabeth in Wonderland

I lived in a lot of "exotic" places in my childhood - Laos, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Taiwan. Growing up, water buffaloes routinely wandered into our front yard, poinsettia bushes grew six feet high and pale green luna moths floated through them. It wasn't all ineffable beauty, though. You could find your way to market with your eyes closed by following the smell of dead fish. Birds nested in the venetian blinds. Termites swarmed in through the windows. Wild, and sometimes rabid, dogs roamed the streets in packs. There were coup d'etats every so often and gunfire sometimes at night. And all of it - the beauty, the wildness - was entirely normal to me. It was just the place that I lived, the place that everyone I knew lived. In retrospect my time there seems amazing, but when I was little it was just home.

There was one place I lived, however, that was entirely different and, to me, wildly exotic. It was a place straight out of the storybooks and fairytales I read. It was ... Michigan. We lived there for one year, when I was five, when my father was at the University of Michigan getting a masters degree. We lived in a stone house. Stone! Like castles were made of. We had a stone fireplace - or "chimney corner" as I called it - like the one Cinderella got her cinders from. I used to pose by it and imagine myself as an oppressed heroine of my own fairy tale involving ogerish older brothers. Me at play in Wonderland.
There was a field behind our house where I used to wander, with my four-year-old boyfriend Keithie, and pick wildflowers, and we never once had to run away from rabid dogs. Instead, there were tadpoles and frogs in a pond. In winter, the pond froze and I was thrilled at the prospect of ice skating. I went to that pond, got my wide learner skates on, and posed, one foot on the ice, one leg bent at the knee, like all the pictures that I'd seen of ice skaters. I expected to simply start floating across the ice because I'd never actually seen a person skating so I didn't know you actually had to move your legs to make it work. It was all so thrillingly new and strange.

After my father finished his masters, we moved back to the tropics - to seasons that went from hot and dry to hot and rainy; to mango and tamarind trees in the back yard; to running wild on dirt roads and getting every parasite known to man - to what was home for me.

I've lived in the States for thirty years now. I bitch about the cold, never ice skate because of a bum knee, and grumble when it snows. I've even been back to a place called Michigan. But it wasn't my Michigan - that place between the world that was home but wasn't mine, and the place that was mine but has never really felt like home - that Wonderland.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A bad day

It's been one of those days. First I woke up to the fifth straight day and several consecutive weeks home with a sick child. Not the same sick child all the time. They've been taking turns, bless their pointed little heads. So I began the day at the end of my rope, and I very shortly fell completely off it (the rope, that is). My special-needs daughter, who was the one home this week, lost it in the bathtub, soaking me and the floor. I got angry enough to almost lose it myself. It was all I could do not to yell at her. We never yell at any of our kids, but especially not at her; it's counterproductive. We stay calm and explain consequences clearly. But somehow today I couldn't manage. I sent her to her room and then went downstairs and cried because I felt so awful about it.

The wonderful husband came home early so I could get a break. I decided to get out of the house, so i went to my community-garden plot, which is in a local cemetery. I thought a couple of hours of physical exertion, outside and with no kids anywhere near me, would set me back on my normal roll-with-the-punches track. But when I got there, this is what I found:

My little garden plot, which is fenced and gated to keep out deer, had been vandalized. The gate, which is never locked (because deer don't have opposable thumbs), was broken and knocked over. Fence posts were bent, things were strewn around. I was pretty upset, so I walked around the cemetery to calm myself down, get a little perspective on things. Which I did, but not in the way I had planned because I saw several headstones that had been knocked over. Worse and worse. So I decided to go back home, which was by then, seeming like a better choice because there, at least, I know and love the people who (occasionally) make me cry.

Then on the way home I heard about the second mass shooting in two days...

What sends us over the edge and into irrational, destructive, or violent behavior? For me today, why was this the day I couldn't manage what I normally manage without even thinking about it? What was it (liquor? drugs? hormones?) that made someone decide to destroy my sweet and harmless little garden or knock over somebody's mother's headstone? And what pushes a person who has never shot or killed anyone to suddenly open fire on strangers? I have no answers for any of this, but I do know that I hope tomorrow will be a better day for me, for you, for all of us.

Sunday, November 1, 2009