When I had to move earlier this year, I had an opportunity to buy an ideal place up north, where I used to live. I was SO ready and excited. It seemed perfect.
Then in church one Sunday, the announcement came that our dear music director, Todd, was moving to Boston. Everyone gasped and moaned a little. I started to cry, and not a little. I started to cry a lot. After a few minutes, I thought “Maybe this isn’t just about Todd. Maybe this is about you not wanting to leave this church and these people.” I knew then that I had to stay.
I spent last night crying about the suicide of one of our blogging community’s most beautiful members, Anastasia Campbell, Stacy. I didn’t know her well personally, though we followed each other on every platform, seemingly, and often liked and commented on each other’s work. It was the online version of casual friendship.
To tell you the truth, I was intimidated by her. Her physical beauty was just otherworldly. Her talent, both in writing and photography, was considerable. And sometimes I lost track of her because she was a frequent name-changer and shape-shifter online.
Still, her death was like sticking my arm into ice water and keeping it there. Stinging. Painful. Aching.
As with Todd, I realized it wasn’t just about losing her. It was about all those other losses and all that other helplessness over the events that tumble and blast through our lives. I’m old enough now to know too many people who have taken their own lives or who have died far too young.
One of the strangest parts about growing older is knowing so many dead people. It’s peculiar that I have to keep learning the lesson over and over that they’re not coming back, too. Just when I finally know they’re permanently dead, I slip up and again find myself thinking “I can’t wait to show this to them…oh….”
It’s a sad and beautiful world. Sometimes we can’t do anything that will help someone. I think that was the case with Stacy. Sometimes we can, and sometimes people do, which is why I still walk the earth. Help one another. Be kind. Love animals. Do it for Stacy.
Goodnight, Stacy, beautiful soul. I hope it is better for you where you are. You deserve a world made for you.
I found a new Mexican market the other night, Vallarta. I knew as soon as I walked through the doors that I was in the right place. It was like being in Mexico, if Mexico were tidied up with polished floors and no skinny and wary dogs wandering the streets.
An American market has the staples around the edges – bread, vegetables, milk, meat – and all the junk food in the center. Vallarta, like so many Mexican markets has a whole village around the edges and a jumble in the center.
Vallarta had the right edges. A bunch of different sections around the perimeter – hot deli, salsa bar, ice cream, a jewelry store, a cell phone store…it just felt right.
I only went in for one item, hibiscus flowers, to make Jamaica drink. The recipe I use is to pour about 20 oz of boiling water over 3 Tbsp flowers, a stick of cinnamon and a tablespoon of sugar. Or more sugar to taste. Steep until you remember to take the flowers and cinnamon out. Serve over ice.
Of course I had no grocery basket and a bunch of other stuff in my hands when Jim called. I dropped it all on the table of mamey sapotes (Mamey sapotes!) to talk to him.
He said he and his fiancee Leigh were planning their wedding.
“When is it?” I asked.
“Oh, October,” he said, casually.
“October THIS October?” I said, beginning to hyperventilate. He assented.
“But you can’t! I mean, have you sent invitations? Save the dates? How many people will you have? What kind of food are you going to serve? DOES SHE HAVE A DRESS?”
Jim kind of hummdy-herred along.
“NO DUDE, THIS IS SERIOUS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING RIGHT NOW?”
“Driving back from Las Vegas.”
“NO NO NO. You should be planning your wedding RIGHT NOW.”
Then we got cut off. I suspect he may have hung up on me.
When we reconnected, he apologized. He had “forgotten” it was September and that October was only a month away and that there was no real wedding date yet.
I don’t know why I freaked out so badly. I claim not to care about weddings, but it seemed like it was in my bones. Maybe we are born with it.
My house is close to Irene and rageaholic Tim’s.
‘Bout six feet. That’s their back yard from my bed. The bed where Abbie Lynn likes to sleep during the day.
On Friday, I went in and flopped on the bed with her, saying “Who is a pretty girl? Who?”
It turns out Irene was watering the yard RIGHT below the window. She whipped around, thinking that I was some kind of freak, addressing her.
I ducked down, which, come to think of it, probably just made it worse in her mind.
Catcalling her and then hiding when she turned around. Nice, Suebob. Real nice. I’m a 50-something menopausal woman who catcalls – or should I say dogcalls? – my poor innocent neighbor who just wants to water her lawn in peace.
Then this morning, toward the end of a very long, very sweaty walk, some guys catcalled ME.
I know they were making fun of this short-legged, duck-footed, chunky, sweaty lady in mom jeans with her fat dog.
“Fox!” they yelled, zooming by in a white Jetta.
I had to laugh. Fox! Fox? What is this, 1978? Young whippersnappers don’t realize that in 1978, I WAS a Foxy Mama, and I probably had the t-shirt to prove it. With puffy lettering. Mm hmm.
Despite my previous post, all is not misery. After all, there is church.
It’s weird. After all these years, I still don’t feel like a church lady, yet there I am, week after week.
I joined a church when I came to Ventura because I wanted to make friends, nothing more. It certainly wasn’t for spiritual reasons. I eventually switched churches and bam. I find myself immersed in actual honest-to-God-or-whatever-Higher-Power-as-you-understand-Him/Her/It spirituality.
I’m meditating. I’m praying. And I like it.
When I see my fellow church members, I am starting to say “Hello family.” That’s really how it feels.
I don’t know how I got so lucky to find myself in this remarkable community of understanding and love, and yet there I am.
My pastor is goofy. Her email begins with “BeastieGirl@”
We have no dogma. We have no required beliefs. We have classes where we wonder aloud if there is a God.
But somehow it is church, and it is the best place on earth for me. I wish everyone had a place like this. I hope you find yours, because I love mine.
Yes, apparently I have a blog. Who knew? Summer has gone by without a single post.
I moved in late June. My new apartment is a second-floor two-bedroom flat above two garages and a small studio. The living room has giant windows overlooking a busy parking lot on one side and a massive, abundant avocado tree on the other. The floors are grey-painted wood, except for the dining room (untreated wood, very rustic) and the tiled bathroom (I have a bathtub! After 10 years without!) and tiny kitchen.
It is as KonMarie as I can muster. I have almost nothing in my house. No paintings on the walls, no photos, no knick-nacks, no TV. When I moved in, I moved the minimal amount of stuff I needed, and I like it this way. I know other people are questioning my sanity a bit – I can see the look in your eyes – but there are a couple of things going on.
First, I think I’m a little depressed. I don’t know if it’s menopause-related or not, but the fact that I had TWENTY-ONE hot flashes on Saturday (the day I decided to count) surely isn’t helping my mental state. In fact, I’m feeling rattled and weird about my body, like it isn’t my friend anymore. We are just not getting along, my body and I.
I got tendinitis in my Achilles tendons, so I had to stop Zumba (my favorite thing on earth, pretty much) and I gained weight and I’m sweaty all the time and I’ve gotten some arthritis and SHUT UP YOU WHINY OLD LADY GOD NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR STUPID ACHES AND PAINS.
And second, I don’t feel like this is my home. I don’t mean in a “You’re just not settled in yet” way. I mean in a “This is not my home” kind of way. It’s nice in one way because I feel like I’m on vacation, not at home. But on the other hand, there’s the nagging thought “You need to find your home.”
Until then, I’m not unpacking much.
Thank goodness, I just see people. I don’t see race. We’re all humans – red, yellow, black, white, green and purple!
I see unarmed people, some of them children, beaten, tased, shot and killed. I see evidence planted on them as they lay dead. I see no one calling for help when they’re dying.
But I don’t see race.
I see that the worst schools with the least funding just happen to be in areas where black and brown children are the majority.
But I don’t see race.
I see that the average wealth of a white family is $134,000 vs. $11,000 for a black family.
But I don’t see race.
I see that people with a black-sounding name get called for a job interview only half the time that people with white-sounding names do, despite the same qualifications.
But I don’t see race.
But I don’t see race.
I see prisons full of brown and black people. I see a justice system that convicts a black woman for firing a warning shot when she’s being abused, but lets white men go free for shooting black people in “stand your ground” cases.
But guess what? I don’t see race.
I see the news media convict brown and black children of being thugs for listening to rap music or smoking pot, even as those children are killed.
Nothing to see here.
I see major media outlets like Time magazine darkening the skin of people accused of crimes in photographs.
I don’t see race.
But I don’t see race.
I see discrimination in housing and employment.
But I don’t see race. I’m so glad I don’t see race! It makes things so much easier.
Wednesday night church services are the best. There’s an easy camaraderie as people show up in rumpled work clothes, looking a little weary but glad to be there. It’s a break from normal life, a chance to relax and talk and share with one another.
I think about the people in Charleston. Nine people. They came to the Emanuel AME church on Wednesday night like so many do. They came because they wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves, something good, something healing. They came with money troubles, with family issues on their minds, with someone they were praying for – the Big Prayers, the important ones. They came with hurts and joys and ideas of how to help each other.
They came to share in the common ritual of church people everywhere on Wednesday nights.
Someone came early and set up the room. Someone showed up right after that and they had a few quiet moments of conversation before the others arrived. Someone came in late. Someone forgot their Bible and had to share with someone else.
An unusual guest came that night and was greeted lovingly, warmly, like all guests. They were black and he was white. He was younger than all of them.
They wanted to show him who they were, as Christians, as believers, as people on a path of caring for the world. They wanted to show a young white man that they accepted him as their own.
The rest, I don’t want to think about. I already know too much about what the guest brought with him. How he had chosen to roll around in filth and call it clean. How he came to believe that wrong was right and hatred was love.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously commented that the most racially segregated places in the country were churches on Sunday. That remains the same to this day. And the one time this young white man set foot into a black church was to commit a massacre.
I have questions. At church we say we love fellowship. But what do we, my white friends, have to do to develop true fellowship, true care, true acceptance? I’m working on rooting out my racism. I’ll admit that it isn’t pretty to confront, but I’m not going to pretend I “don’t see color” or that it’s racism to acknowledge that race exists. I’m going to keep working. Maybe someday I’ll get it mostly right.
Keeping what is important in the foreground.
So I have to move and I’m looking for a place to live with a dog in an expensive, tight housing market. That is as much fun as it sounds.
And because that isn’t stressful enough, I got a copy of that book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” by a kind-of-crazy-kind-of-wise Japanese woman, Marie Kondo.
Her basic premise is that you need to be surrounded only by things that bring you joy and that everything else needs to go away. To decide what brings you joy, you handle every article you own, in categories (all your clothing, one article at a time, all of your books, one book at a time…) and if you do not feel joy, out it goes. OUT. No exceptions.
In looking at every single thing I own, I have had to face every mis-spent dollar, every ill-conceived hobby, every tacky souvenir that seemed like a good idea at the time. Gulp.
I have handled the self-improvement books that did not help to improve me. The weight loss guides that were read and forgotten within two weeks. The mystery electrical cords, the slightly-functioning electronics, the things I meant to repair or mend or return but never got around to.
Trash day was Friday and the bin is full today, Monday, a fact that is sure not to delight the lady in the front house. I have taken two trips to the thrift store with sacks of donations and another is ready to load in the car.
And after all I have done – about half of what needs to be done, by the way, I find few possessions that bring me joy. My cereal bowl, a few Stangl dishes, the curtains made of fabric I chose, the bookcase my dad made, my laptop.
And my clothing. Eeeh. No joy there. I had to save SOME clothes – otherwise, what would I wear? But in general, what the heck was I thinking?
I have been entirely too practical, and yet not practical enough. I didn’t realize joy was a factor in practicality. I have tried to get along with a simple, thrifty existence.
The idea that all my possessions should bring me joy is stressing me out. Do they have to? Can’t I just have possessions to use and let experiences and ideas bring me joy? The pretty napkin holder I got in Costa Rica never brought me joy, but the memory of ziplining on the world’s dumbest zipline course makes me grin every time.
I do love some of my hand-painted plates, but I’d trade every single one of them for a slice of peach pie at Vic’s Cafe with any one of you.
I like Marie Kondo’s ideas of not surrounding yourself with items you don’t want or use. I just think I have a different relationship with stuff than she does. I’ll bet her home is serene and lovely and organized. Mine will probably always be messy and full of half-done projects. Her way is good for her, and mine is mine, and both are okay.
I have been reading choreographer Twyla Tharp’s book “The Creative Habit.” She is big on habits and rituals, thus the title.
The quote above jumped out at me, so I had to turn it into a graphic immediately. I hadn’t really thought about creativity like that before. Something from nothing. The empty page. The silence before the spoken word. The stage, waiting for actors or dancers to appear. Those are our offices. Those are our fields.
1. I saw two old friends in the past 2 days and took zero selfies. I’m not even sure if the visits even happened now.
2. I have 60k miles on my car and JUST figured out I can plug in my iPhone with Spotify to listen to music as I drive. I have spent the past four years listening to NPR instead.
3. I have Apple TV and I really have no idea on earth what it is for.
4. I skipped Mom 2.0
5. I keep telling people that SharePoint can do things that it absolutely cannot do, then I spend days reading forums trying to figure out how to do them.
6. I still haven’t moved to WordPress.org
7. I have an iPhone 4 and am pretty disinterested in getting anything else yet (I also have a 5, for work).
8. I have one phone for work and another for home. Call me Hillary.
9. I have never promoted a blog post on Pinterest.
10. I can eat whole meals with friends and not look at my phone once.
11. Bonus: I did not put a photo on this post.
Why should you lose your technology license?