SNOWFLAKES

The Cabbage likes science, which is great and awesome. It makes me feel very good about my life choices, but we don't do any science like stuff when she's at my house. She'll ask me what I did at work that day. I always try to tell her something in simple words. It's just that it is really hard for me to explain something complicated in simple terms. I'm just not good at it. Ideally, I'd like to do silly science related craft projects with her all the time. Like make sugar crystals or swab the house to streak on agar plates to see how many kinds of things will grow. I'd really just like to do that with her hand. Press her whole hand into an LB agar plate and see what kind of grossness grows on the plate. She will never forget to wash her hands again. The reality is that I lack the energy to deal with all the things involved with crafts, particularly the mess. I'm good at keeping my own mess under control, but keeping my mess under control while containing the mess of a seven year old is why people drink.

I came across this craft for making snowflake Christmas ornaments and thought we could give this one a try. It looked relatively easy and the mess is contained in Mason jars. I bought some Borax and pipe cleaners. Then I cut the pipe cleaners into lengths that allow them to fit into the jars without touching the sides. I got the jars all ready by adding the Borax and I put together a couple of snowflakes so I had an example to show the Cabbage, who was excited about the project until she had to twist pipe cleaners together. Then came the complaining and whining and the "ugh! I don't even know what you're doing!", because twisting pipe cleaners together is hard (?). Finally I looked at her and said "This was a bad idea wasn't it." She replied with a "what?" and I said "asking you to do this with me." She shrugged and I said "Why don't I twist together all of the pipe cleaners and then I'll come get you when it's time to add food coloring to the jars." She was happy with this plan and came back to the project to add three drops of food coloring to each Mason jar of boiling water and Borax. 

The snowflakes were the first thing she wanted to see when she woke up the next morning. We all stood in the kitchen oohing over the crystals that had formed on the pipe cleaners and in the bottom of the Mason jars. Now I want to dip everything in Borax solution. I've thought about making enough crystallized crap to make into a new Christmas wreath. Sure, my snowflakes didn't turn out as nice as Martha Stewart's, but I learned enough from this attempt to do better on the next. I'm thinking big bowls of Borax solution for the next go around so I can make larger snowflakes. And what if I make snowflakes out of something other than pipe cleaners? Will crystals form on paper or cardboard? What if I twist red and white pipe cleaners together and make candy canes? The possibilities are endless! 

Who cares about entertaining the seven year old. I'm entertaining myself! 

MANAGMENT

I have mostly stopped posting news articles about the daily atrocious behavior of this administration to my Facebook timeline. Some of you who agree with my views may have the impression that I have given up or I'm not angry. Oh...I'm angry. I'm angry a whole lot of things: gun laws (as in we do not have any and the human population has shown that they're too stupid to own a gun), tax reform that's going to make it even harder for young adults to pay for college and graduate school, the constant threat of so many people losing their health care, outrage at the men accused of sexual harassment and the lack of outrage over a president that sexually harasses and is generally horrible to women, the Russians, the science denial and now...the elephants. All of it makes my belly burn with rage. I think it's the hypocrisy of everything that frustrates me the most, particularly with the sexual harassment cases. One of the worst men notorious for sexual harassment and the general awfulness in how he treats women is currently sitting in the white house as acting president. 

Women voted for that man. I can't see the logic in it and it hurts my brain to try to figure it out.

This country is pretty ugly right now. We were watching Sarah Silverman's I love you America on Hulu recently. She was talking about all the sexual harassment cases to come out and how we need this to happen even though it is painful and ugly. She said it was like excising a tumor. I felt that her words applied to everything happening in America right now. We are in the process of excising so many different kinds of tumors and it is ugly and it is messy. I know from personal experience because one of my research jobs involved removing tumors from mice so we could study them. It was the worst part of that job and that job, in itself, was awful. America has some pretty ugly awful tumors that have been festering for some time like sexual harassment and racism and just general hate for the sake of hate. These tumors are not easy to remove because they have become twisted into the infrastructure of America with filopodia reaching deep. We have to be prepared that excising these kinds of tumors is going to be difficult and painful and we might not even get all of it in this go around.

Through all of it, I have been wondering what roll I play in the ugliness of today's America. The Cabbage loves watching that show called Brain Games and we watch episodes while eating dinner some times. On one episode, a man dressed up in a suit and tie and hung out at a mall with camera man and mic. He told people he was with the National Geographic News and then he would ask a question like "The congress just passed a bill that would limit people in the poverty level to one child. What do you think about this?" None of the people he talked to questioned the source of information or whether or not this was even true information. They went right on in to outrage mode. I looked over at Michael and said "the first thing I would have asked for before answering any of his questions was for sources." This is how rumors and hearsay become 'news', but because the man is wearing a suit and tie and says he's from the National Geographic News, people felt they could trust what he was saying. Then it dawned on me what it was that I could possibly do to help with removing America's tumors.

My job is to question everything and encourage others to question everything. I can post factual news stories, but it doesn't do any good if the people who needs to read them are not reading them. And those people do not trust my news source. So I need to encourage them to question everything they hear or read. Look it up! Do your research! Don't rely on Facebook feeds for your news. Don't take my word for it or your BFF's word for it. YOU do the research. My second job is to be compassionate to others even if that other person makes it so hard to be compassionate to. I think that's the hardest job, but the one that will pay off the most. It is my hope that compassion and kindness becomes more contagious than hating people because of their skin color, religion, or sexual orientation. It is my hope that this compassion and kindness leads to empathy and respect.

Most of all, I want this country to heal.   

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

The other day I was looking for a particular picture in my Instagram feed. I ended up scrolling all the way to very bottom of my feed, all the way back the very first picture I posted on May 5th 2012. Chris had been dead for three months. My hair was long. A few days later in my feed, is a picture of Hooper. Scrolling up from the first picture, you can watch my life unfold as I deal with grief and live a life of a single woman. I lose weight and buy new shorts. I eat salads out of serving bowls. I visit Talaura in New York. I cut off all my hair, back to my normal self. I visit Chad and Jess in Atlanta. I spend my first Christmas with out Chris and with out Hooper because by this time I've had to say goodbye to him too. There's a picture of my luggage all stacked up in the living room with the caption of "home". I came back from Oklahoma that year to a truly empty house. 

As the next year scrolls along, you see me go to Lindsay's wedding and not so much catching the bouquet, as picking it up from the floor. I get my first mammogram. Various friends and family members visit and then I go to Amy's wedding. By this time, I've met Michael but he doesn't show up in my Instagram feed for over a month and then he becomes a regular appearance along with the Cabbage. Eventually Josephine shows up in the feed, so tiny and then Albus. I forgot about how he was such a tiny little kitten when he came to us. There are plenty of pictures of my travels alone, but just as many pictures of our travels together. At some point in there you see a shift in the quality of my images. My Instagram feed starts to look a little nicer. I don't know if that's just me making an effort or a reflection of my life becoming a little nicer. 

The next thing I'm going to tell you might sound a little selfish, but one of the things I love about my Instagram feed is that it does not include Chris. I started the account after Chris died. Sure, there are pictures of places where I have left Chris over the years, but there are not any picture of Chris being silly or looking at me in the way he used to look at me. It does not bring me physical pain to scroll through these images, which is not the case for some of the other places I store images. It's not that I don't want to remember that time. I have pictures of Chris and I up in my (our) house now. I just don't want to drag myself through all of it every time I want to look up an old picture. But also, my Instagram feed is a testimony to my resilience and strength. It tells me that there is life after Chris and I am thankful for this reminder. I am also thankful for all of the good things I see in that feed. 

I have a good life and that's something to be thankful for. I am also thankful for you. 

DOING ALL OF THE THINGS

Robin and Summer were in town over the weekend. They actually came into town Thursday evening. So I took Friday off to run around town with the two of them. We were moving around slowely Friday morning and I opened my email to discover that Margaret and Philip were also in town. They wanted to know if I could meet them for lunch. I told them we'd all meet them for lunch! It was one of those nice surprises where the Universe aligns the planets in a unique way and we were all together again. For those of you who don't know, I worked for Margaret. Robin worked for Philip. Our labs were right next to each other and there was lots of collaborating and scientific shenanigans. These people are my scientific family. We all squeezed into my car and I drove us to the Nelson. We ate lunch in the cafe, which is in a very loud courtyard and we ended up yelling our conversation to each other. Afterward, we all tooled around the museum. Then I got Margaret and Philip tickets to the Picasso exhibit and we parted ways. It was nice.

I then showed Robin and Summer my favorite things at the Nelson. They still have the Dorothea Lange photography exhibit up, which is my most favorite exhibit. It's a display of her (and few other photographers) photographs taken during the Great Depression, when she was a photojournalist for the Farm Security Administration. Her images and the notes she took for each one not only gives us a history of that time, but tells the stories of people displaced by a dust bowl and job loss. Deep personal stories. You can see the stress and hardships etched into the lines of all the faces, even the children. I am fascinated by her images as much as I am fascinated that we had a government who hired photographers to document our history. There was a time we intentionally hired artists to tell our stories. The images she captured of that time are equally beautiful and sorrowful. You can feel the grit of the dirt blowing in the air. Dorothea Lange is the kind of photographer that inspires me. She was the first woman to be awarded a Guggenheim fellowship. 

After dragging the girls around the Nelson, we spent the rest of our time together eating and drinking and talking and laughing. Michael and I introduced them to IKEA. We ate famous Kansas City BBQ. It was a much needed visit and I am so happy they came up to see us. I spent the Sunday after they left, moping around a cemetery with the boys. One of our friends, Tom, is involved with the historic society in some way. He took us all on a tour of two historic cemeteries in Kansas City. The first one we went to was Elmwood Cemetery, which is on the list of National Registry of Historic Places. It was designed by George Kessler, the same architect behind many of our parks and boulevards. Many of Kansas City's founders are buried in this cemetery and it is filled with beautiful headstones and mausoleums. We traipsed around the cemetery while Tom pointed out note worthy graves and told us the history around this person and that. I learned that guys who founded Cheeze-its and Post-it notes are from Kansas City and are buried in this cemetery. 

I took my fancy pants camera with me for the tour partly out of being inspired by the  Dorothea Lange exhibit, but also in hopes of just spending some time with that camera. I didn't really expect much out of the shots I was taking mostly because the day was gray and overcast. I assumed that I would end up turning everything into black and white images. At one point, while switching back and forth between the fancy pants camera and my phone camera, Wilson (I know a guy named Wilson...he's fabulous) asked me what the difference was in using my Nikon vs the phone camera. I looked at him and said "Honestly? Not much." Both cameras have about the same megapixals sensors. Both cameras take similar photos when using automatic settings. The Nikon takes better quality images under ideal lighting situations. I prefer the phone camera for low light situations when I don't want to use a flash. The Nikon takes time. I tend to be more mindful of how I look at my surroundings when I look through the view finder on the Nikon. The pictures from this camera have to be transferred to my computer before I can upload them. The phone is like an Instamatic, meaning your pictures go straight to the internet. 

I did not explain any of this to Wilson when I answered his question. I think I said something about like "it just depends on how I'm feeling as to which camera I'm going to use." That's kind of true. If I'm feeling lazy, I reach for the phone camera because my phone is always on me, but after really thinking about his question, I knew that the answer was more complex. I like using my fancy pants Nikon when I actually get it out and use it because it makes me feel like I'm doing something special. Even if I just end up take a bunch of crap pictures. I've been thinking a lot about photography projects for the next year and how I would like to find a way to sell some prints. I'd like to do another 365 day project that focuses on my body, in hopes that will help me see a better version of myself that I am having a hard time seeing these days. I have also gotten lazy with lighting. I end up doing a lot of editing and filtering that I shouldn't have to do. I tweak here and there is one thing, but I've been doing more than the usual tweak. I've had several people ask me for camera advice lately and I'd like to be a bit more knowledgable in my answers.

Really, my biggest plan for the new year includes more actual doing rather than wanting to do. Yes, I realize that some might think it's to early to be talking about New Year plans. I think it's too early to put up Christmas decorations, so we're even.  

LITTLE BLUE BOXES

I have a thing for Tiffany's. I don't know why or how it happened. It might have had something to do with the 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's, which is still one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies. Maybe I have a secret passion for really expensive jewelry. It's probably both of those things. I have always been drawn to that signature Tiffany's blue. My scooter and my bicycle are close matches to that color, as well as our couch. I remember attending a wedding shower with my mother once and we set our present down on the gift table next to a large Tiffany's gift box. I remember looking at my Mom because she had gasped at the sight of it and then she turned and looked at me and said "Someone has spent a lot of money and the bride is going to get a really nice gift." I was a pre-teen and this was my second hint that there was something special about Tiffany's. The first was hearing Marilyn Monroe singing about diamonds in Gentlemen Prefer Blonds. Tiffany's represented something classical and sophisticated, beautiful and durable. Things from Tiffany's became family heirlooms. 

One of the coolest things I have ever done was to have breakfast at Tiffany's. On my first trip to New York, Talaura picked me up from the airport and asked me what I wanted to do while I was in New York. I said "I want to have breakfast at Tiffany's." Talaura knew exactly what I was talking about. You can't, or at least at the time could not, have breakfast at Tiffany's. I mean that there was not a restaurant at Tiffany's. Breakfast at Tiffany's was standing outside with a cup of coffee and a pastry of some sort while gazing at the beautiful, sparkling window displays. Just as Holly Golightly would do on mean red days. This is what Talaura and I did one morning on that first trip to New York City. We picked up everything bagels with everything cream cheese from the Bagel Boyfriend and two cups of coffee. Then we rode the subway down to 75th and walked the few blocks to Tiffany's. We stood outside drinking our coffee and eating our bagels while people walked by, mostly tourists. Occasionally we would hear someone say in an excited whisper "they're having breakfast at Tiffany's" and Talaura and I would give each other a sly look and a slight nod as if to say "yeah...we know we're the coolest."

I did not go inside the store on that trip. I admired a pair of sunglasses in the window display, but I did not go inside. I was still intimidated by the idea of walking into a store where I knew that I would only be looking. I was still under the impression that I would never be able to buy something from Tiffany's, that it would always remain a representation of the kind of sophistication that I would never be able to attain. Later on, I would and do walk into Tiffany's to look at all the pretty things and I would even purchase something. I bought a very sturdy sterling silver chain that holds mine and Chris's wedding rings. The chain, I feel, was a very practical purchase and worth the price. It has held up well with the weight of those rings. That opening scene of Holly Golightly standing outside of Tiffany's looking at the window displays is so much more than just a girl hoping for a diamond. She's looking at things that for right now, are unattainable, but some day...some day she's going to have all the money and confidence to buy the whole store. Really, in the end, it's not the money she gains, but the confidence to open herself up to another person, to be herself. It's a girl hoping for bigger and better things and we've all been that girl. We are all a little bit Holly Golightly, struggling to find a place in this world where we are accepted, yet still able to maintain a unique quality of self. 

Tiffany's has updated their flagship store in New York City and have released a line of products they call "everyday objects." The everyday collection is beyond ridiculous with a replica of a plain old tin cup, this one made of sterling silver. It is the most expensive tin cup for panhandling or holding pencils you will ever see, costing you about $1000. The everyday object I find most annoying though is the crazy straw. The crazy straw ranges from $250-$350 depending on your choice of metal and I wouldn't call it 'crazy' as much as I would call it 'bendy'. At $250, I'm not even sure if it's meant for drinking or looking. Along with the release of these everyday ridiculous objects, Tiffany's also announced the opening of a new cafe on the fourth floor of the store. For $29, you can now have breakfast at Tiffany's as well as a $39 lunch and a tea for $49. I have to admit that I am slightly tempted by the luxurious menu offerings, but I'm not paying $29 for a cup of coffee, a croissant and a slice of avocado toast, nor will I ever again stand outside drinking my coffee while eating a pastry. The things inside Tiffany's are not so much unattainable to me now as they are unwanted. 

With the exception of that really cute elephant charm they have where the proceeds go to save elephants. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Well...it's happened. It actually started weeks ago. The weather thing. It's cold. Some parts of Kansas City even saw snow on Halloween. Coming from a place where you might, just might, have to wear a jacket over your costume on Halloween, the idea of having to wear a coat and gloves and mittens is boggling. I kept thinking that it was just a fluke, that we'd get some kind of warm front and an Indian Summer would settle in, but it's just gotten colder. Sunday, I helped Michael winterize and cover the camper and then we spent the rest of the day pouting about putting the camper away for the winter. We all know how I feel about winter. 

Here's the upside to the cold weather:

  • The cat, who is not a particularly loving cuddling creature (October was squirrel murder month), will curl up or stretch out in my lap. The dog will either stretch out alongside the cat or sit on the cat. They'll stay this way for as long as I will let them. 
  • Josephine sleeps under the comforter curled up next to my side. In the mornings, she will go outside and do her thing and then run right back in and dive back under the comforter. If I leave the bedroom door open, the cat will follow her and then curl up in the bottom right corner of the bed. 
  • The other night, I was cradling a hot bowl of ramen in my hands and I said "this is all I want to eat all winter long." Many people might be thinking that I'm talking about the ramen noodle packages we all consumed copious amounts of in college and feel a little sad for me. This is not the ramen I am talking about. I still use the dried ramen noodles because Michael doesn't like the fresh ones, but I make my own miso broth. I sauté green onions with shitake mushroom and bok choy and maybe some shrimp or a white fish in a Hoisson/Tamari sauce. Then I cook the noodles in the miso broth and when they're done I pull them out and place them in a bowl. Sometimes I poach a couple of eggs in the miso broth. I top the noodles with my sautéed vegetables and fish and poached egg and then I pour the miso broth on top. It's not as cheap as a ramen noodle pack, but it's cheaper than eating out and it is delicious and easy. 
  • I can touch Michael's bare arm with one finger and make him yelp like he's been hit with a cattle prod because my hands are soooo cold. 
  • I think about (but only think about) starting some sort of knitting/crochet project. I don't even know how to crochet, but I feel like I need a new winter hat and I've been seeing some really cute crocheted stuffed animals. 
  • The sun has shifted so that now when it comes in the window at work in the mornings, it reflects off the glass of my cubicle and makes rainbows on the walls. 

Here's what I am learning about myself. I am a doer and a mover and a shaker. I am usually the first to deny all of that because I don't think I do, move or shake enough. This is why I am never still. The cold weather makes it easier for me to be still. Not mentally easier, but physically easier. It's hard to pry those animals off my lap.  They are also warm. It's like having my own personal furnace. Actually, most of the benefits of the cold weather all have to do with warm things. I am thankful for warm pets and warm bowls of ramen noodles. I probably shouldn't be thankful for the sadistic joy I get out of torturing Michael with my cold hands, but it's something that makes me laugh and therefore worthy of gratitude. I am thankful for inspiration and I am thankful for that shift in the sun. Because..RAINBOWS at WORK. That's pretty special. 

I am thankful for you. 

 

IF WORDS WERE ARROWS

I started it. I pushed and needled. I can never tell if he's just in a mood or he's in a mood because of something I did or said. My tendency to be bluntly honest doesn't work in this relationship and I do a lot of back peddling of "I don't mean to...." and "it wasn't my intention to.." It just means that I don't say a whole lot any more. Better to say nothing at all. As a result annoyances and frustrations go unsaid and they sit and fester. He is the opposite. He says so much that he can't even remember what he's said. He is not careful with his words, at least...not the way I am. Then he said it. "I am never going to make you as happy as Chris made you." He didn't say it in spite or malice. He just told the truth and the truth of those words hit me like a million arrows, piercing every inch of my skin. 

It was like losing Chris all over again and I crumpled. It's not that I had been lying to myself all this time, but... 'never' is such a finite word. I will admit to missing a relationship that I had, wishing at times that this one could be more like that one. I missed the confidence I had in myself. I was more relaxed then, less afraid of stepping on toes. Less worried about keeping Chris entertained, interested, and happy. There was an equality to our support of each other's endeavors. There was an ease to that relationship that I don't think Chris and I truly understood. Other couples would look at us and ask if marriage ever got any easier. Chis and I would look at them like they were crazy. It had never been hard for us. We didn't have to work on our relationship the way other couples tend to. I just expected that was how all relationships were supposed to be and at times I get frustrated and annoyed that I have to work at this one. So yeah, I miss the relationship I had. But that wasn't the worst part about the truth of his statement. The worst was the shame I felt for dragging him into this and how unfair it is for him. Why would he even want to be here if he knows he's never going to make me as happy? What a totally crappy position to be in, knowing that, believing that. I hope it's two sided, that we were both happier with other people and we are now forced to make do. Though, there's something sad about making do with being just happy enough and something selfish about asking for more. 

I remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, this relationship is still new. We're still learning how to navigate. In this case, the path isn't as clear and smooth as normal. There are more rocks, boulders even. We still have the usual growing pains of a new relationship. We are still learning how to share the same space even though we've been working on it for four years. I don't think we're slow learners as much as we are both stubborn and set in a particular way. I've started not trying so hard to make this relationship resemble the one I had. I'm working on being less careful with my words and falling back into my old skin. For someone who doesn't really care what the general public thinks of her, I see the irony in caring too much about what he thinks of me and it's time to put a stop to it. It's time for me to relax into this relationship and stop tiptoeing around. Easier said then done, I know, but just because I miss something I had once doesn't mean I can't be happy in what I have now. 

I've got a list of things forming in my head for the new year. I feel the crunch and rush of the shift from this year to the next more keenly this year then in previous years. Maybe it's because I feel like I haven't been my best self this year, particularly the last few months. If I had to sum up this year in one word that word would be 'struggle'. It's been a struggle for me to look around with a mindful eye, which is something I had always thought just came easily to me. I don't know why this year has been one of such internal fights for me. I would like an extra month between November and December just to get myself organized for the next year. Myself. Not the house or our schedules or the finances. We've actually been working on the finances together once a week, which has made a world of difference. I want that extra month to get ME organized, scrubbing my skin with salt and clearing away the negative goop that has started building up in my joints. 

I want to be more settled and care less in the next year. I want to be selfish and take more rather than just make do. 

747

CBS Sunday Morning had a segment about the 747 airplane being retired from commercial use last week. It's not the first story I've seen or read on the subject. The New York Times ran a nice article about the Early Days on the 747 back in October. The segment on CBS Sunday Morning also talked about the early days of this plane and how no one believed it would be able to get off the ground. It talked about different airlines competing to have the most interesting lounge in the upper deck with bars and even a piano on an American Airlines 747. The 747 was the cruise ship of the skies. 

Way back when I was little and we took that first trip to Hawaii, we flew on a 747 across the Pacific. The memories of that trip are hazy, particularly the actual travel parts, but I do remember being really excited about flying in a 747. I was wearing my nicest church dress. It was one Mom had made for my sister as a Christmas dress and had a layered ruffled skirt. As would be the case with most of my clothes, the dress became mine after my sister out grew it. Mom replaced my sister's dress with a matching dress of the same style, just a different color. Dress clothes were required attire for flying on the stand-by list because you never knew if that open seat was going to be somewhere in coach or up in first class. This was the late 70s, early 80s. People still dressed nice in first class and people still smoked on airplanes. Airlines started phasing out the lounge part of the 747 in the late 70s in order to make room for more seating, but this particular plane still had it's lounge. 

I have fuzzy memories of my sister holding my hand as I followed her down the long isle to the spiral staircase that led up to lounge. The stewardess standing at the bottom of the stairs looked at the wings pinned to our pretty dresses. We always got new wings whenever we flew, even though pins were only meant for first time flights. There was always someone working on the plane who knew Dad, either a pilot, co-pilot or stewardess. Dad knew everyone. There were benefits to that, like wing pins and extra peanut snacks. One time while traveling in first class, my Mom admired the salt and pepper shakers and the stewardess wrapped them up in a napkin and gave them to my Mom. The stewardess on this trip bent down to eye level to talk to us and then pointed up the stairs. She was letting us take a peak. I trailed behind my sister up the spiral stairs and we peaked through the rails. I only remember seeing feet. Shiny loafers. Black dress heels. Fancy cowboy boots. The lounge was dark and filled with cigarette smoke. I remember hearing music and the clink of glass. All of these images where absorbed in seconds before we hurried back down the staircase, giggling, running back to our seats. 

Really, I don't remember a single thing about our flight back home from that trip. I only remember the flight over and I don't think I ever again flew on a 747. The plane Mom and I flew on from Chicago to Heathrow was a big plane, but it was not a 747. It's a shame to see it go. It's a shame they got rid of the lounge. I don't miss the cigarette smoke though, but the whole idea of a lounge on an airplane seemed to make travel a decadent treat. Not the hassle it has become with long lines and very little leg room and the feeling of being squashed into a tin can. The 747 is one of those planes that made the traveling to the destination part of the adventure. I wish I could have ridden on one just one more time. 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

One evening this week, as I was getting ready to wash my face before bed, I noticed something sticking out of the drain in our bathroom sink. I plucked the thing out only to find that it was a pumpkin seed that had sprouted. I can only assume that the seed ended up there when the Cabbage washed her hands after carving our pumpkins. The drain in the bathroom sink is a modern drain and it's easy enough for something the size of a pumpkin seed to rest undetected just under the the drain cover. That's what happened. The seed sat hidden for almost three weeks, getting plenty of water and minimal sunlight, until it finally started to grow. It sounds like a title for a great children's' book. There's a Pumpkin Growing in My sink! I should tuck this idea away to go along with the egg that has four yolks. 

Sometimes, I will be floating along through my days while either feeling not much of anything or the weight of all that is wrong with everything everywhere and I will forget to notice the little things. This week it started with a seed sprouting in my sink. It was as if the seed had been purposefully planted there for me to find, to be reminded of the simple beauty of cell division. This was followed with a simple text from a phone number I did not recognize that read:

"I know this is hard on you. just wanted you to know that im praying for you too. Darwina."

At first, I racked my brain trying to remember if I knew anyone named 'Darwina'. Then I wondered what Darwina knew that I didn't. "I know this is hard on you." What? Life? Breathing? Trying to be happy when half the time I feel nothing? Yeah...Darwina, it is really hard. How did you know? 

Of course I knew that this had to be a text sent to the wrong number. I don't know a Darwina, nor did I have a clue really what she was talking about. I replied politely to her text and we had a brief exchange of pleasantries. So often something like this happens and the person on the other end of the line turns angry and hostile. Just earlier this week, I called a number that had called me three times in a two hours. I didn't answer it because I didn't recognize the number, but after three attempts to contact me, I though maybe I should see what they wanted. I called the number and the man who answered was rude. He said he hadn't called me and asked me how I got his number. I explained that I had just hit the return call button on my phone, that it was this number that was listed in my missed calls list. It was a far different exchange than the one I had with Darwina, that's for sure. Then I thought "why can't all exchanges be as pleasant and polite?" 

This week I am thankful for seeds that sprout even in the non hospitable conditions. I am thankful for this reminder that I am a lot like this seed, sprouting and growing in adversary. I am thankful for unintentional words of support from complete strangers. I am thankful for the reminder how things are just better when we respond to each other with kindness and understanding.

I am thankful for you. 

 

A HOUSE ON FIRE

Last night Michael stepped outside and noticed flames shooting up from the roof of the house across the street. There was a small group of teenagers standing next to a parked car, looking on in awe. Michael yelled at them to ask if any one had called 911. One girl yelled back that she was on the phone with them now. I ran to my room and threw on some shoes and a coat. Michael did the same. We stepped outside and could hear a guy banging on the door to the house yelling the owner's name. Michael ducked back inside, ran to the garage and grabbed our sledge hammer. Then the two of them took turns busting open the door, while yelling for the owner. They finally managed to bust the door open, but had to shove the door because of all the stuff pilled up around it. The house was thick with smoke. It was determined that the owner wasn't home, but no one felt it was safe enough to go inside and check. 

The firetrucks started to arrive (seven in all) and we all stepped back out of the way. Many of us stood on the sidewalk across the street, watching the firefighters work. The owner, thankfully was not home at the time of the fire. Michael said that from what he could see, he suspected the man of being a hoarder. There are five cars parked in his driveway and none of them are in running condition. The roof was still visibly smoldering an hour later. I fell asleep to flashing red and blue lights reflecting through the window and dancing on the ceiling. When I left for work this morning, it was still dark. The house, still over grown and shadowed behind trees, didn't look any different than usual. The street was quiet and all of the cars still lined the driveway. The hint of a charred wood smell was the only indicator that the fire had even taken place. 

When I was a kid, we'd hear the firetrucks and Dad would say "hop in the truck! let's see where they go!" The firetrucks never led us out to a house fire. We always ended up in one of the many rolling fields that filled up the spaces between towns. Grassfires. Someone said to me today "Oklahoma just seems to get all the weather. Ice storms and crazy tornadoes." She forgot to mention the grassfires and the burn bans. I remember the time we were all sent home from high school early because there was a grassfire a field over and the winds had shifted. The high school sits just on the outskirts of town. As you drive east on Highway 20, the first thing you come to is the Collinsville cemetery on the right. As soon as you pass the cemetery, the high school is there on the left. Fields and farm land lead up to it all. Watching the grass burn is as a familiar of a sight as watching the clouds swirl in the sky. 

But a house fire? That was a new sight. I have seen burnt out shells of homes and buildings, but never the actual fire until last night. I felt an urgent need to do something, had even ran across the street prepared to help drag anyone or anything out of the burning building if need be. I was also really worried that once Michael and the neighbor busted down that door, that both of them would head inside the house, searching for life. Just as they got the door open, part of the roof caved and this was what we were seeing from the outside. There was no telling about what was happening inside the house. In the end, all of us came to our senses and backed away from the house, but there was the tiny fraction of a moment where I would consider our actions to be unsafe if you think house fires turn out like they do in the movies. 

This house fire, thankfully did not turn out like a house fire in the movies. 

OUT OF CANDY

I ate four caramel apples over the weekend. Really...it was more like three and a few bites of one. They had them in the cafeteria on Friday and I was super excited about it until I bit into a mushy brown apple. This made me real sad. I scrapped the caramel and peanuts off the outside and then threw my apple part away. Saturday night, we met the gang for pre-party drinks and then all headed over to a party in a fancy old three story house in a really historic Kansas City neighborhood. We all headed straight back to the kitchen (as one does at a party) and there, sitting on the kitchen island was a bowl full of caramel apples. I immediately picked one up and took a bite. It was a perfectly crisp and sweet apple. No mushy brownness. Bradley looked at me and started laughing. He said "look how happy you look with that caramel apple!" And I was happy. It was a great party, but the best thing about it was the caramel apples. I took two on our way out the door, ate one when we got home and the other for a pre-dinner dessert the next day. I have no regrets. Except for that first one.

The hosts of the party we went to had their whole house open (except the basement) and encouraged everyone to go on a tour. Michael and I picked out rooms on our way through the house. On the second floor, there's a room attached to an enclosed porch. It used to be the sleeping porch. They had filled this room with house plants. Michael and I chose this room with the attached room for the Cabbage. The third level held a bed and a small living room. There was a bathroom and small alcove that held a tiny stove like the one I had in the first apartment I shared with Amy and Chris. I declared that this room was mine and started planning out the room to hold a small office and yoga space. Then we went back down stairs to join the rest of our gang and came to our senses. There is no way ever that we need a house that size. Michael has a ten year plan that has us buying a new house in nine years. We will be fifty years old and should be considering downsizing, not upsizing. The new house will really be for income anyway, as we plan to rent my house and the new one while we travel around the country in a RV.

Something really interesting about the house we went to for the party is that it has only had three other owners before this couple purchased it. One of the owners hung himself in the basement. One of the owners had a book of all the house history and the whole story behind the hanging in the basement. Terry spent the evening running from room to room trying capture EVPs on his phone. As Michael and I were saying our goodbyes, Terry popped through basement door. I have no idea what he discovered down there or if had to get special permission, but I did hear someone else say "there's some weird shit happening down there." As you would expect with it being so close to Halloween and there was death in the basement and alcohol consumed and Terry. I spent the whole next day in my pajamas and mostly on the couch. Every time I got up to do something, I had to peel an animal off of me. It was just easier to do nothing. 

So today, even though it's two days later, I feel like an inflated parade float and thinking that I should have skipped a couple of meals if I was going to eat all the caramel apples. It is Halloween. I screamed three times while watching Stranger Things on the exercise bike in the gym. We will probably watch the most recent Walking Dead episode. I do not have any candy for trick-or-treaters. I am not too bothered by this because I have had maybe four trick-or-treaters the entire time I have lived  here. Also I have a wreath with a sign that already tells people I am out of candy. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

I've been fighting a patch of poison ivy on the inside of my left elbow for three weeks. I didn't think it was poison ivy because I hadn't done any actual yard work in ages. I did wrap my arm around a few trees while hanging lights on our camping trip. I assumed they were oak mite bites. This is the Fall time pest that usually attacks me, except the usual remedies that work on oak mites was not working on my elbow. I haven't really slept that well for the last two weeks. I just lay there, scratching. We were in IKEA on Sunday and I walked up to Michael as he was waiting in line at Smaland to retrieve the Cabbage. I pulled up my sleeve and started scratching away and he grabbed my wrist, yanking my arm out and said "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO YOURSELF?" This caught the attention of the woman standing next to us who was also waiting to collect a child. She leaned over my shoulder to get a closer look as Michael said "you need to go the doctor. That woman thinks so too." 

I turned to look at the woman who was making a face at my arm. She told us she was a nurse and that, yeah...I should go to the doctor. I went to the doctor on Monday and got a steroid shot, which is a first. Usually they give me the pill pack. The first thing I noticed was not an ease in the itchiness, but extreme anxiety. I have been anxious about ALL. OF. THE. THINGS. this week. I have just sat at my desk tapping my feet with anxiety. I even started picking at the skin on my thumb, something I haven't done since I stopped playing my cello. I was fretting about how we were going to pay bills and where we were going to live when the sea levels rise and the two bags of donation clothes that I have yet to donate. Speaking of donations, I was also having anxiety about not being able to give enough money to help all of the hurricane people and the refugees in Syria. Because I'm broke. And holy crap, the lights in Suzanne's lantern will not turn off.

Michael and I had a come to Jesus talk about finances where we came up with a plan to fix the debt hole we've slowly been digging. Then I had a really good talk with my therapist and Thursday morning, I woke up to discover that my anxiety had been replaced with a case of hyperactivity. I danced around in my underwear while getting ready for work, listening to an Arcade Fire inspired radio station. I hit my 10,000 steps early in the day and did six miles in way less time than what I usually do on the bicycle. Then, a coworker asked me if I liked Arcade Fire and I rambled on and on about all the songs she should listen to and oh my god, how did she know I had been listening to that station all day!!!? Today, my arm hardly itches at all and my hyperactivity level is down to about that of a squirrel who is fully prepared for winter: still a little edgy, but not panicking. 

One of the things I talked about with my therapist this week was on the list of things that make me anxious. This would be time. In all aspects. I get anxious about being late. I get anxious about not having enough time. And mostly, I get frustrated in not having the time to do the things I want to do in a day. I told her about how I have lost my meditation practice and that I have half finished writing projects that I want to work on but can't seem to get my time managed appropriately to do those things. She knows that I get on my yoga mat every day and she asked me if I take a moment during my practice to be grateful for being on my mat. I told her that I always ended my practice with a moment of gratitude for the time I spent in my practice. She said that little moments of gratitude like that are like little pats on the back. It's like telling yourself 'good job!' What if I applied a moment of gratitude into those moments just when I sit down to work on something? Whatever that something might be. I am thankful to be sitting down for meditation today. I am thankful for this thirty minutes of writing time. That sort of thing, but to not limit gratitude to tasks you are attempting. Be grateful for the things I did accomplish.

I am thankful for the tasks I have accomplished at work this week. I am thankful for small tasks I have accomplished at home this week. I am thankful for a new perspective on my gratitude practice. I am thankful this poison ivy is mostly gone. I am thankful for you.

(This post is so long! Can you tell I'm on drugs!??!)

CREATING TRADITIONS

I cannot carve a pumpkin without thinking of Dad. I know that I have told the story a thousand times about how Dad and I would carve a pumpkin together every year. It was such an ingrained tradition and we never carved anything fancy. This was all before pumpkin carving kits and Pinterest, back in the day when people carved their pumpkins with knives and risked slicing off digits. That's part of the fun. I did not buy us special pumpkin carving kits this year partly for this reason and partly because there are bits of carving kits of past hiding around in the back of a kitchen drawer. We didn't really ever use anything out of those kits but the scraper and even then a spoon turned out to (still) be the best tool for the job.

They got a head start on the Cabbage's pumpkin while I was folding a basket of laundry. So by the time I was elbow deep into my pumpkin, Michael was already carving away at the face the Cabbage had drawn on her pumpkin. I could hear them behind me as Michael sat at the dinning room table with the Cabbage peering over his shoulder, directing Michael's knife. Was it so long ago that this was me doing the exact same thing, peering over Dad's shoulder and directing his carving knife? I smiled as I continued scraping the inside of my pumpkin. One of the tricks of pumpkin carving that Dad taught me, was to not just thoroughly scrap the sides of the pumpkin but to also scrap the bottom of the pumpkin. This way you roll the guts into ball as you go and then all you have to do is dump the pumpkin upside and watch as all the goop falls out. It is a lot of scraping and you should expect a hand cramp somewhere in the middle of the whole process, but it is the cleanest, most efficient way to pull out the insides of a pumpkin. 

I paused to rest my cramping hand and rub my forehead with back of my sleeved arm. I looked over at Michael who was doing the finishing touches on the Cabbage's pumpkin. The Cabbage was now dancing around behind him, no longer directing or even really paying attention. I wondered if he got it, if understood what kind of memory he was building with her. He didn't have the same kind of childhood as I did. He's never talked about carving pumpkins or participating in the same kind of traditional holiday activities as I did. Sure, he went trick-or-treating, but I don't know if he's ever been to the kind of Halloween party where kids bob for apples and jump over broomsticks. Collinsville used to have a Halloween festival at the fair grounds. One activity was to toss a bunch of money into a hay bale and let a group of kids dig around in the hay collecting whatever coins they could find. This was how we learned that I am allergic to hay, but it was my favorite thing. We didn't do this every year, but every year Dad and I carved a pumpkin. Always. Even when I was old enough to do it on my own. 

Michael asked the Cabbage about next year's pumpkin, something about maybe getting a carving kit so she could carve the pumpkin on her own. She told him that she didn't want to carve the pumpkin on her own. The Cabbage told him that she wanted to help him carve the pumpkin like they did this time around. I wonder if she has taken the lead in setting a tradition. I wonder if Michael recognizes that. I wonder if he realizes that maybe one day when the Cabbage is much older, she's going to tell stories about how she and her dad used to carve a pumpkin together every year. 

THE PUMPKIN TRAP

The Cabbage decided that she wanted to carve a pumpkin. I though 'Great! I'll let her pick out a pumpkin at Aldi!" Aldi has the cheapest pumpkins. I got a perfectly round pumpkin for $3 a couple of weeks ago. Then there was talk of going to a pumpkin patch and Michael looked at me and said "Can we do that?" I shrugged and mumbled an 'okay' knowing that if we were actually going to go to a pumpkin patch, I would be the one doing the research into which one and where. This was more work than my previous plan of just picking a pumpkin from the bin at Aldi's. I thought maybe if I didn't mention it again the whole thing would be forgotten. I did spend a few spare moments looking at pumpkin patches in my area and it kind of reminded me of shopping for curtains. They both include spending a lot of money for not a lot of things. 

It seems that pumpkin patches have become this big thing. They all include a corn maze (at an extra cost), a hayride, some inflatable thing to jump on, and a trip out to a pumpkin patch where all of the pumpkins have been already harvested and placed neatly in rows. This is where you choose your pumpkin (which will cost you) and then end up lugging it around along with whatever the child you are with ends up picking up along the way like coloring sheets and balloon animals. All of this without the extra things like the maze and the pumpkin will cost you around $15 a person. We've gone to these things before and every year, I walk away feeling like I've been slammed by a truck. I understand the appeal. Really, I do. Fresh air and an illusion of being on a real life farm. For people who are from the city or the suburbs, this is the idyllic Fall adventure. It is an opportunity for their children to see the country, pet some goats and get lost in a corn maze. It is an opportunity to drag a professional photographer along with you to capture a beautiful family portrait. On paper it all sounds really lovely. All of those places have hot apple cider and some sort of apple pumpkin donut. The reality is that these places are over crowded, the weather is this weird blend of hot/cold and windy and there is no joy in lugging around the giant pumpkin your child picked out while they run screaming from some so-called farm attraction to another attraction. 

Lucky for me, Michael got some sort of food poisoning on Friday. No one mentioned pumpkin patches. I did want some mums for the front porch though, so I dragged the Cabbage out of bed to go get mums and a pumpkin for her to carve. Suburban Lawn and Garden was having their Fall fest which includes hayrides, face painting and popcorn. There's a silly witch that dances and makes balloon animals. And, the best part, it is all free. I still paid an exorbitant amount for a pumpkin, but my mums were cheap and the Cabbage had a good time. Afterward, the two of us had lunch at a nearby Mexican place where we played tic-tac-toe while we waited on our food. Then I made her work on a Christmas list while I finished my lunch. By the time we got home, Michael was almost back to normal and I had plenty of afternoon left to clean up the front porch and plant my mums, as well as clean out my closet. Pumpkins were carved before dinner and I declared the day a success. 

The Cabbage and I don't spend a whole lot of time alone together. The whole point is for her to spend time with her Dad, whom she only sees once a week for an evening and every other weekend. The theory is that the more time she spends with him, the less often she will call him DustinDaddy. Dustin is the ex's boyfriend. Nice enough guy, but you can probably see how all of that would set some teeth on edge. The Cabbage and I alone off on an activity together only happens when Michael is sick. Once, the two of us went to the zoo. Another time, I had to pick her up after school on a Friday. I took her to McDonald's. The pumpkin patch was the third time in the four years since I've known her that we've spent the day just the two of us. And I didn't leave her at the pumpkin patch. So..that's something. These excursions always includes some awkward moment from somebody assuming that I am the Cabbage's mother. This time it was the face painter. When the Cabbage told the girl her name, she turned to me and asked if I was a big fan of Ferris Bueller, assuming that I had named her after one of the characters. 

It's not that I want to be so insistent about NOT being the Cabbage's mother. It's just that I feel like maybe I should just wear a button that reads "Not the Mom!" just so that people don't get any ideas. And when I say 'ideas', I mean I don't want any one to think that I have any sort of parenting skills. I fed the child beans for lunch. Seriously. She ate a refried bean and cheese burrito with a side of refried beans for lunch and I did not recommend she add something green to that plate. We all suffered for it the next day when she continued to fart up the inside of the car on our way back from IKEA. The only thing I will take credit for is the totally awesome t-shirt she picked out to wear that day because I bought the shirt and stuck it in her dresser. She usually picks out a dress, but this time she pulled out that t-shirt that talks about Marie Curie on the back and has science stuff on the front. When people asked her about it, she would tell them "I like science and Cindy's a scientist."

So, yes. I will take credit for that. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

This week, I walked into my therapist's office and immediately flopped down onto her chase lounge just like you see people do in the movies. She looked down at me and asked "are we laying down today?". I nodded my head yes and she went to her chair and sat down with an "okay!". I usually sit. Sometimes I kick my shoes off and tuck my feet into a lotus position, but I never lay down. Usually because I'm pretty sure I'm going to fall asleep. For some reason though, I decided that maybe the possibility of accidentally falling asleep through a session wasn't on the top of my list of some of the worst things I could do. I laid there for a few minutes, not saying anything, just being still. Finally, I took a deep breath and said "sometimes, it is nice to just be still." and my therapist agreed with me and then we sat in stillness for a few minutes before beginning our session. 

I struggle with stillness. While we were on our camping trip a couple of weekends ago, I was constantly up and fiddling about, straightening this, cleaning up that. Michael and Ted had gone to the store, leaving me and Jennifer alone at camp with the girls. They had been gone long enough for Jennifer and I to realize that we had made a terrible mistake in letting the two of them go to the store by themselves. I sat down in my camp chair and said "Okay...I'm going to not move from this chair for fifteen minutes." A second later I was up and doing something around the camp site. This is normal behavior. When Talaura was visiting, I kept us busy running us around the city all day. We would get home and I would still be up and about, messing with laundry or cleaning the kitchen. At one point Talaura even said "Cindy...why don't you sit down and rest?" She knew that I had to be running on fumes and she knew that I probably needed permission from someone else that it was okay to relax.

I know it must sound kind of surprising to hear that someone who practices yoga and writes about mindfulness has a hard time being still. Savasana, or final relaxation pose, still remains the most challenging, yet most important pose in my practice. Some days are better than others of course. This is true of anything, but there are times when I surrender easily into savasana. I get up from my mat after those easy savasanas feeling slightly loopy and then take forever getting my mat folded up and my shoes back on. I know it is possible for me to be still. I just have to work at it. This week, I have been practicing moments of stillness. I've been looking into going back to temple to get my meditation practice under control. I've sat with the dog draped across my lap while reading a book. I have surrendered completely to savasanas.

I am thankful for this practice in stillness.  

GHOST STORIES

Sunday afternoon, Michael and I were driving around running last minute weekend errands. I flipped the radio over to NPR to find the Moth Radio Hour playing stories about being haunted and seeing ghosts. I turned the volume up so we could listen closely and we both sort of leaned into the radio. We listened as a man talked about taking a polaroid picture of a ghost and felt our pulses begin to race. Listening to the story sent goosebumps up my arms and I felt for sure the story was going to cumulate to place where I'd want to scream. We were both lost in the tale and a little bit afraid; it was like sitting around a campfire and telling ghost stories. 

When we reached our destination, Michael turned the ignition off and said "I don't buy it. I don't believe in ghosts." I just shrugged. It would be the logical thing for me to agree with him, expected even. There's no scientific proof of ghosts. But there's no scientific proof that ghosts don't exist either. A concentration of electro magnetic waves can give a perception that there is something in the room with you. Molds and carbon monoxide poisoning can make you hallucinate into thinking you did see something. Low frequency vibration can also disorient a person into thinking they felt something. None of the studies on low frequency vibrations, molds and carbon monoxide, and electro magnetic waves have definitively disproven the existence of ghosts. They have just been explanations for strange disturbances. Really, people just want to believe in ghosts. We want to be scared. 

Not too long ago, we were all sitting around the lunch room talking about scary things and I mentioned the Girl Scout Camp murders. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at me with confusion. They had never heard of the gruesome murders of three girls at Girl Scout camp in Oklahoma in 1977. A few of them had a hard time believing the story after I told it. It just sounds so much like any of the 80s scary movies we watched growing up. By the time I was old enough to attend camps, this story was the horror story shared around the campfire. It had taken on an unreal quality. The fact that the killer was still at large and the case was still open just added to the fictionalization of the tale. I can still picture a camp counselor holding a flashlight under her chin so her face would be more menacing as she said "no one heard them scream." and "they found their mutilated bodies the next morning." Then another counselor would run out form the woods, wearing a mask and holding a fake machete. "Who's next!?!" Everyone would scream and then laugh because it wasn't real for any of us. 

Except it was real. 

It should be of no surprise that Camp Scott, the place of the murders has become a well known haunted camp. The place never re-opened after the murders and after forty years, the forest has grown up around the abandoned remains of the camp. The ghosts at Camp Scott exist because the story exists. The events happened. Energy released from one place transfers to another. And that is why I believe in ghosts. 

ME TOO

There was a man at my church, who whenever he saw me would want to pick me up and carry me around. He'd ask me to kiss his cheek. I was maybe five or six. I remember being small and feeling his large hand tight around my upper thigh, just under the skirt of my church dress. The first time he did this, it made me laugh. Every little kid wants to be picked up and carried around. I was just at that age were I was too big to be carried around by my Dad. So being picked up was a treat. But then this man did this every time he saw me, picking me up and squeezing me tight. He was always begging for kisses even though I pushed away. I didn't want to be picked up. I didn't want to feel his hands on my body. I didn't want to kiss his cheek. But I played along because I didn't want to hurt his feelings and when I couldn't take another encounter with him, I started hiding, ducking behind a bookshelf or into a stairwell. 

I thought for a long time that this is just the way things are. A woman's body is never just her own. In everything I had seen on TV, covers of magazines and the romance novels that piled up next to my mother's bedside table, a woman was always being manhandled. We were told this was normal and that this is what we should want. We should want a man to touch our bodies. We should be flattered by it. We should even use it to our advantage. As a young girl and teen, those moments when a boy tried to touch me were so rare, that when it did happen, I almost felt grateful. I had zero confidence in my body or how I looked and those rare encounters made me believe for a moment that maybe I was attractive. Maybe I wasn't just a chubby pimply faced awkward girl. We were taught that our self worth was measured by how much a man wanted to touch your body, even if his touch makes you feel like throwing up. 

It wasn't until college when I found my voice. I'd hang out with my roommate in the guys dorms. She had a thing for one of the basketball players and we'd sit in his room while they smoked pot and listened to R Kelly. One of the other basketball players was always trying 'get with me'. Those where his words. He was never forceful, just persistent. His persistence made me feel uncomfortable, like there was something wrong with me for not wanting to be with this guy, for not wanting him to touch me. Maybe I was 'frigid'. I had yet to lose my virginity. Was it because I wouldn't just give in, even when I felt nothing for this guy other than annoyance? It seemed like punishment for having standards, for wanting a partner who was my equal. Punishment for wanting a partner who treated my body less like an object and more like a temple. One day, for no reason other than I had finally had enough, I told that guy "NO". I told him that his advances made me feel uncomfortable. It made me not want to be around him. So I wasn't. I walked away and stayed away. 

Then there was Chris, who was that equal partner. He treated my inexperience carefully and gently. He did not persist. He let me make my first skittish moves. He let my body be my own. This in itself made me feel more attractive than any of those previous encounters. Chris was a protective barrier to a point, but Chris's presence didn't stop other men from the occasional touch. There's always that guy who thinks it's just fine to pat you on the ass. After Chris, when I was alone, I found myself in more and more situations where a guy would find excuses to touch me. I would recoil, step back, jump away. Even though there were times I craved human touch, I did not welcome this encroachment on my personal space. I did not encourage it. I was never asking for it. A couple of years ago, I went to get a massage. It was at a spa I'd been to before, with a massage therapist I had been with once before. Near the end he asked me if he could massage my chest. I was just recovering from a chest cold and the muscles in the upper part of my chest were tight. I consented thinking that the massage therapist was going to work on that area, which he did. Then his hands were on my breasts. I remember thinking even then 'this is okay, there's muscles there too that need to be released', reassuring myself. Then his hands moved to my nipples and alarm bells rang in my head. This was not okay. But I laid there and let it happen, too ashamed to say a word. 

So many people wonder why it has taken so long for all of these women to come forward with their confessions of sexual harassment. Those people must be fortunate enough to never have experienced the shame and humiliation that comes from being sexually harassed. I have never told the story about the massage therapist to any one, until today. At the time it was happening, I was too shocked to believe it was really happening. Then, I was ashamed of myself and embarrassed. I had given him permission to massage my chest and when he crossed a line, I did nothing to stop it. I had asked for it, right? Except it does not make his actions right. What about that man from church? I never told him "no". I never asked him verbally to stop. I was six. Just because I didn't say no, does not make his actions right either. Admitting that you were vulnerable and trusted another human to not take advantage of your vulnerability is not an easy thing to do. 

It takes a lot of courage. 

Every woman who steps forward, even if it has been years since the incident, gives another woman courage to speak. It sends the message to every man that we will not stay silent and we will not let you behave this way. Fathers who thought this could never happen to their daughters or brothers who believed they could protect their little sisters from predators, are now aware that, yes this can happen. Because I am positive that there are fathers out there who truly believe that this is not going to happen to his little girl. My own brother is probably going to be completely surprised by my own stories of sexual harassment. For far too long we've let society put the blame on the victim and it has silenced us. It stops now. I'd like to believe that the Cabbage is never going to have to tell a story about being sexually harassed. Though, I am not that naive. I don't want her to feel ashamed. I don't want her to be scared to speak up, to scream "NO!". I want her to know that she owns her own body, and nobody else does. 

That's why I am telling my story. 

AMERICAN

The Huffington Post Bus that is currently touring the country collecting stories, was here on Tuesday. I thought about going, but got too busy with work to really sneak out for an hour. They were asking people what they think it means to be an American. I thought about this question all day. It rolled around like a marble in my head and every time it would land in one spot, I would think that I had an answer. Though, really, I don't know what it means to be an American any more. The Cabbage was reading one of her science readers on the way home from our camping trip. I looked over at it to see she was on a page illustrated with underwater pod systems for living under water. I said "Oh, is that how you think we're going to live when the sea levels rise." The Cabbage replied "I was just reading about rising sea levels on the page before this one!"

This is when I looked at her and said "I am so sorry." I went on to explain that I have done my best, but that I was sorry that it wasn't enough. We're leaving her with a mess of a planet. This conversation all took place before I had read about Pruitt's repeal of a major carbon emissions rule and more tweets from a president encouraging a nuclear war with North Korea. While he's distracting most with outrage over peaceful protests, this president is pushing a tax plan that will hurt the middle and lower class, pushing health care reform that will make it so that employers heath coverage will no longer cover birth control and poking nuclear weapons with a stick. He continues to fuel the fire that divides this country. 

The word 'American' conjures up some pretty unflattering and negative thoughts. This is a country of people who owned other people. This is a country that stole land and resources from native people. This is a country where we have suppressed the rights of others. At the same time the word 'American', for me, also conjures up feelings of perseverance. We are hard workers. We are innovators. We all come from or are immigrants who came to a country for a better life and in the process managed to help build a better nation. We've let ourselves forget about the amazing things we can do in this country when we work together. We salute a flag and say a pledge more out of habit than true devotion. The Pledge of Allegiance is something we learn early. We say it so many times, I wonder if over time the words have just lost value. You know how you can say a word over and over until it no longer sounds right? 'Hot in Topeka' suddenly becomes 'I'm a hot toe picker.' I think that's what's become of our pledge. We've forgotten the part about liberty and justice for all. 

Being an American means truly meaning that part about liberty and justice for ALL and doing what is needed to make that happen. It means having strength and not just sitting around, hoping for a better future for our children, but actually getting my hands dirty to make it a better future. It means calling my senators daily, being truly informed on ballot issues and voting. It means doing what I can to ease the burden we have put on this planet and it's resources. It means using my voice to speak out against injustice and racism. It means setting a good example as a smart and talented woman, showing little girls that they can do anything. ANYTHING! 

Being an American is hard. 

 

OMEN

Yesterday, I pulled up in the driveway on my scooter. The cat was sitting at the top of the drive and as I got closer, I realized he had a snake he was tormenting. The snake turned and headed right towards my foot and I hastily scooted forward out of his way. I am sure he was harmless. He had a square head of a harmless snake, but still. Snakes make me squeamish for some reason. I have been known to easily capture large bugs, lizards and frogs and hold these creatures in my hands, studying them before letting them go, but I have never been comfortable around snakes. They make my heart seize in my chest and my hands shaky. Even the harmless ones. There's something about the way a snake moves and smells that makes me mistrust them. It probably has to do with seeing one too many scary movies involving snake attacks. Some Native American cultures see snakes as symbols of fertility and rebirth. They are harbingers of creativity.

Later that evening, there was an owl in the back yard. We could hear him hooting and could just make out his silhouette as he perched on a branch high up in one of our trees. It is the tree that has me worried because it is the last to grow leaves and first to drop them. I stand at the kitchen window and try to predict how much house it's going to hit when it falls over. That's another story though. One about the pros and cons of home ownership. I sat on the back step, watching and listening to the owl until he finally flew off. I remember hearing some folklore once that seeing an owl in the daytime means that someone is going to die. After J died, I thought about this often. We had seen an owl in the middle of the day after saying goodbye to J and his unit as they were leaving for Iraq. If we hadn't seen that owl that day, J would still be alive. If only it were that simple. Owls are not harbingers of doom or death, but of great wisdom. 

If you are the type to believe in omens, then I have creativity and incite coming my way. If you are my type, you don't believe in omens. The snake just happened to be one of the many of Albus's victims. I am just happy it all was happening in the front yard where Josephine couldn't be involved. She steals Albus's victims for herself. I have walked out into the garage once to see what the animals were up to only to have Josephine look up at me, a small snake dangling from from her mouth like a long skinny mustache. At least this time the cat had some foresight to keep things where Josephine couldn't take it away from him. There have been owl sittings in the neighborhood for weeks now. One guy was even attacked by one while on his morning run through Brookside. I have heard the hoot hoot many time before. It was really not a surprise to finally see the source. My neighborhood is a good one for bird watchers. Just last week I saw the tiniest woodpecker with black and white stripes down his back.

It is just a coincidence they showed up on a day where I had a creative thought and a bit of incite.