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Archive for October, 2006

le sigh

Last night was, well, the last night of workshop.  It went by rather quickly, but it really was good for me to have a place to take writing and get feedback.  Next session starts in January, and I’m a little afraid that I’ll have trouble keeping up the writing.  It’s just too easy to think about doing it, or worry about piecing something together, but not actually write anything.  I’m hoping the feedback from the essays I took will encourage me to at least rewrite stuff I’ve started.  I’m still pretty unsure of my voice although it’s more developed than when I started out.  I’m hoping I can keep bringing it along on my own and here.

Essays are really rewarding for me to write, but it’s so tough to do anything with them.  Aside from the piece I submitted, I’ve purposefully written less serious things and I’m unsure of their take-away value.  I like to write funny, but it’s not always a natural tone for me and it often doesn’t fit with what I want to write about.  I’m still waiting to hear about the one I submitted, so maybe it will give me more of an idea what I want to do going forward once I do.  In the meantime, I have a Halloween to put the finishing touches on and a houseguest to prepare for.

I’m also hoping that R’s visit will help to inspire me to keep banging stuff out.  We’re planning a sort of writing inspiration visit, with vague plans to hit Algonquin and a few other places, along with an exhibit  at the New York Public Library.  I’m about half done with the writing inspiration notebook, which is kind of cheesy but I’m hoping she likes it.  I’ve cut out quotes and printed out a few essays on writing and some writing prompts (prompts and quotes are stuck onto the tops and bottoms of pages, essays stapled and folded in to the middle.)  I’m not entirely sure if I can find something for every page, but I’m still working on it.    I’ve saved all of the stuff I’ve used, so I might make one for myself as well once I’ve some spare time to throw at it.

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I have to run out and buy more candy.

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‘But Mommy, I just wanted to have beautifully colored hair’ wails my three year old daughter, Lucy. She’s in the bathtub with streaks of chalk dust in her mousy blond hair, and I ‘m instantly transported back to the first tub of Manic Panic I bought; Tulip, 1992, Smash, Washington, DC.
It was Thanksgiving break of my sophomore year at college, and coming back to an actual city from the miniscule town of Fredonia, New York offered me the opportunity to stock up on music, books, and band t-shirts. I drove my blue ‘87 Colt covered with stickers from the Virginia suburbs into Georgetown with my Doc Martens on and a mix tape blaring Violent Femmes, Dead Kennedys, Concrete Blond. Despite months of lot parking, I maneuvered into a street spot; crank the wheel three times to the left, three times to the right, leaning all of my strength to make up for the lack of power steering.
I walked down to M Street and tried to get my bearings, walking first toward Urban Outfitters, rolling my eyes and turning around toward Orpheus, Smash, and the hole-in-the-wall shoe store where I bought my Docs a few years before. The hammer and sickle boots I coveted were gone from window of the shoe store, replaced by Union Jacks. I couldn’t afford new ones anyway. The paycheck from the hardware store where I worked during breaks from school was earmarked for t-shirts and maybe a new record. I dug through the used CDs at Orpheus before moving on to the vinyl, but nothing grabbed my attention.
It was time to look for t-shirts, and I got turned around again outside before making my way to the Bad Brains subway poster that hung at the top of the stairs down to Smash.
It was always a bit of a disappointment to me after yearly trips to New York City in the mid-to-late ‘80s. I still have the first black nail polish I bought at Unique, rifled through silk-screen cast-offs at their Factory Warehouse next door, wandered the tiny Antique Boutique gazing longingly at all of the beautiful things I couldn’t afford. I had found vintage military jackets and skirts at Andy’s Chee-pees and Alice Underground that actually fit my small frame.
Smash was, well, a small display of boots, overpriced, some bins of t-shirts, and the display case of Manic Panic by the register. After small town living, though, it was a veritable emporium of alternative living. I rifled through the t-shirts for a bit, settling on a This is Not a Fugazi T-Shirt large enough to wear as a dress, as was my style in those days. I took it up to pay, and realized that, after years of wanting Crayola hair, I could buy dye and take it up to college. What a revelation! My family would never know that I was running around with colored hair.
I fought with myself over colors for a good half hour. Plum? Pillarbox? Violet? I have no idea why I finally chose Tulip but my hands shook as I handed my money to the ubercool woman behind the counter. I had been dyeing my hair for years, but this was different from the Sun-In I used through high school, or even the Nice n Easy blue-black I had to have stripped out a few months prior. Of course, I couldn’t wait and immediately after my grandparents left our house from Thanksgiving dinner I disappeared into my bathroom. I emerged an hour later with hot pink hair, much to my mother’s shock and, thankfully, amusement. I headed back to college a few days later, stopping at my grandparents’ house along the way with my shock of hair hidden under a bandana and baseball cap. It was a family joke for years that when my grandmother photographed me to show me how terrible I looked, she had no idea that I was protecting her from my hair.
I wasn’t sure of my natural hair color until I got pregnant and had to stop dyeing it. I had plum hair while I worked at the factory sewing men’s pants after I dropped out of college, dark auburn at the children’s department, bleached blond and then shaved at the health food store, blue at the comic book store, and bright red at the adult video store. I even managed to hit upon a lovely purple-red while bookkeeping at the non-profit, although that was supposed to be less purple and more red. For a while, ‘not the color on the box’ was my mantra.
Sometimes I miss those days of dyeing my hair as my mood shifts. I didn’t stop because I had a kid; the upkeep is just too much trouble and now I own the bathroom that will get stained. Sometimes I’m sensitive of how ‘normal’ I look, like when I walked into Trash and Vaudeville in jeans, and sometimes I’m sensitive of how ‘not normal’ I look, like when people ask me if I regret any of my tattoos. I don’t miss club politics and drama, or the amount of time it used to take to do my makeup. I really don’t miss the glop of Manic Panic between my fingers as I try to ooze it onto every strand of hair, or all of the times I walked around with ears to match my hair because I forgot to put Vaseline on them. If I miss anything about my punk-goth days, it’s the pageantry and costuming.
‘I’ll make a deal with you, Lucy,’ I sighed, toweling her off. I got a hexagonal box from my closet and took it into her room. After she was dressed, we opened the box and her face lit up as I pulled out blue, black, white blonde, and pink wigs. ‘You can have these to play with whenever you want different hair, but you already have beautifully colored hair.’ I traded in playing dress-up at the club for playing dress-up with my daughter. I think I traded up.

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Two black thumbs

I’m such a sucker for other people’s stuff that I’ll take just about anything to save it from being tossed out, and this go-round the something was a box of houseplants.  I’d be more specific, but I have no idea what sort of plants these are, aside from an aloe plant, some sort of fern, what I believe to be a mother-in-law plant from perusing photos, and possibly a philodendron.

When we moved into this apartment, I made a concerted effort to purchase and care for multiple types of plants.  I have learned, however, that aside from the heartiest varieties I have absolutely no business having foliage in my home.  And by heartiest varieties, I mean like geraniums and shamrocks.  In my time here, I have killed one ficus tree, several marigolds ( during travel,) two petunias (they smelled horrible anyway,) and a jade plant.  I don’t know how I killed a jade plant, but I did.  I am super talented that way. I don’t reckon these new plants have much of a chance, especially since I couldn’t pick them out of a lineup.  Forget a cleaning service, I need someone to ensure that my plants don’t die a horrible death.

As of right now, they are jammed in wherever I have found space.  Tomorrow, though, they will be atop my new bookcase!  Yes, after what seems like a million years, my happy, new, beautiful, save my ass from clutter bookshelves will be here!  I’m far more excited about this than I should be, although our stacks of homeless books in the living room really do need to get off of the floor.  Now if I could train the damn thing to care for plants, I’d be set.  Hell, while it’s at it, it should tackle my to-be-read pile and brief me as well.

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Fun with Google

For the several folks who have come here looking for information on Ronaldinho’s practice schedule and the names of his parents–I have absolutely no idea.  I’m pretty sure I have the names of his parents somewhere in a magazine, so if I come across those, I’ll post ’em.  As far has how much he practices, I’ll keep an eye out in articles, but my estimation is ‘a whole freaking lot.’   For the person looking for ‘easy mama,’ you’ve come to the wrong place.  Nothing easy about me, in any sense of the word.

Wait–Ronaldinho’s father was named Joao da Silva Moreiro.  Mother is Miguelina.  Don’t say I never gave you nothin’.

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You bit a man! On the football pitch! Oy.

In other news, I have signed on, along with the rest of the world, for NaBloPoMo. Which is ironic since (it’s also ironic that I first typoed ‘since’ to read ‘wince’) I am totally not doing my rewrite for workshop tonight. It wasn’t coming together right, and, well, I didn’t feel like busting my ass to force it. I did scrub my walls and shower instead, so it isn’t like I spent *all* day doing crosswords and watching decorating shows.

I also had the dubious distinction of receiving a photo of my great-aunt’s brown recluse bite, and it’s really gross. I’m a pretty big spider so I’m having a bit of difficulty coming to grips with the whole flesh-eating wound thing. The upside is that none of our arachid friends are brown recluses, even though I almost break my shit running every time Luce tells me she’s found one. We did get to watch a teeny garden spider wrapping up a ladybug behind the toy toolbench today, which was rather cool. Lesson number one: any spider catching food in a web is not a brown recluse. We have another between the tv cabinet and granite tops who is taking care of our ant problem. We’ve named him Donovan and I’d rather like to give him a parade for dealing with the ants. How those fuckers got in is beyond me, but they have some weird tunnel between the foyer and C’s bathroom where they carry crumbs through the caulk and leave them in a tidy little pile. It really freaked me out the first time I went in to clean and tried to figure out why my husband was eating crackers on the john.

See, isn’t that more fun than a rewrite? Really, we’re not slovenly, it’s just Lucy really likes bugs. Plus spiders are totally cool.

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This is what I was drinking last night.  Drinking alone is vastly overrated, and I ended up falling into bed before midnight.   I totally got bored before I ran out of beer.  This morning?  I have a headache.  That sounds sort of sad, don’t it?  Ah well.  I was so looking forward to an evening in front of the computer without having to worry about ignoring anyone, and it was also vastly overrated.  Note to self:  remember this next time you’re bitching to yourself about sharing a comp.  I don’t know when C rolled in since he’s off to some class-related nonsense already this morning and I’m hopeless at talking without coffee.  Hopefully this thing won’t take all day since I want to get started on the writing dealie for R.  I’m sorta excited to tackle a project that isn’t writing.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I have a rewrite to do for Monday and I’m totally dreading it.

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The kid is asleep (thank the goddess) and the husband is in Hoboken for an engagement party and I am drinking a lovely bottle of Blue Moon. Yeah, I try to stay away from Coors products, but since they can’t stock the Hoegaarden in the Queens what can ya do? See, I’ve totally figured out the link deal. I’mveryproud of that.

I got an email the other day telling me that one of my very favorite people in the whole wide world has booked a trip to come visit. Please believe me when I say that I am beside myself with excitement. And, yes, I do have a livejournal as well. I even have a MySpace. Anyhow, the loverly Miss R is coming to my humble abode, and I haven’t seen her in like 6 years, and Nov. 1 cannot come soon enough. I’ve even started cleaning. Ok, so the last part really had to happen but I’m really doing it! Hurrah!

I was totally checking to make sure I didn’t have anything embarassing on my MySpace.

I am going through list-making as usual, and have only ordered one new piece of furniture (oh perfect bookshelf, how I have longed for thee.) Lucy has decided that, since the visit falls between Halloween and R’s birthday, we will have a bat themed birthday party. She has been stenciling gift wrap and earmarking possessions to be given as gifts (it’s soooo cute to hear your three year old state rather winsomely that she has had a stuffed bat since she was a baby and she’s sure that R will give bat a good home until she’s ready for her again. I made a sharer! More importantly, we can maybe donate some toys to charity!) God, I love my kid.

Another friend of mine calls it being ‘houseproud’ and that is exactly what I’m going through now. The last time R saw my living space, I had moved back in with my mom and owned no furniture. This time, it’s a space I’ve decorated, and moderately designed, and it’s a side of myself I haven’t shown to many people before. I want everything to be homey, and finished. I think I can whip it into shape enough to show how pretty I think it is without totally getting caught up in removing every speck of dust.

This is important because one of the things I most want to do for her is create a writing inspiration book. Quotes, images, etc. to remind her in the dark days of wondering if writing is worth it that it is the soul’s calling. HOW THE FUCK DO I DO THIS? Any help is greatly appreciated. Inspirational quotes, things that keep you going, whathaveyou. I’m pulling this out of my ass at this point, and this chica is a great writer and deserves all the inspiration in the world. I have a boxful of scrapbooky papers and enough magazines to wallpaper a small Asian country (ok, mostly Magnet and soccer magazines.) I used to make a point of journaling in a comp book, using the front/right side for original writing and then turning it upside down and flipping it for quote collecting. I want to do something like this for her, only without crapping it up with my original stuff. And with more collaging since I love that shit.

I also desperately want to bleach out my hair and dye it Pillarbox Red. I have the dye in my bathroom cabinet, but have somehow lost the clit to do it. I can do it, right?

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“I’ve never seen a naked man juggle balls before.”

Thank God he’s only shirtless

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Control

I was really pretty surprised when my therapist discussed obsessiveness with me.  I’m not a hand-washer, I don’t lead a particularly ordered life, and I’ve never had to check something multiple times before I leave the house.  Sure I have certain ways that I have to do things, and I do feel better when things are done in a particular order, but really, doesn’t everyone?

The more I started to pay attention to my thoughts and actions, the more I realized that I have some pretty strange rituals.  I could draw you a map of the way the dishwasher has to be loaded, and thank god we have one because when I handwashed, I couldn’t make myself wash things out of order.  I already wrote about the packing thing, which is really a superstition against bad things happening when I travel.  I will wake up in a cold sweat if I have bad dreams after leaving the kitchen messed up the night before.  Then there are things I’ve been doing for years.  When most of my writing was done by hand, I would find myself ‘writing’ the last word of my worries on the back of my teeth with my tongue.  Now I ‘type’ it with my toes.  Whatever I’m worrying about Won’t Happen if I type it properly.

Much like my eating disorder, the OCD symptoms worsen when I feel out of control about something.  The news, writing, an argument with my husband, a frustrating day with Lucy.  It’s actually pretty easy to tell when I’m lost in my head because I have a tic that also gets worse.  The hard part is explaining that I’m lost in my head because I’m working to get my brain reined back in when the bad thoughts start.   I know when I’m obsessing about things, and I know I have to not do it, but sometimes it’s damn near impossible.  And then the anxiety comes, and then everything sort of spirals out from there.  It’s liveable for the most part, and interferes far less with my life than it used to, but I’d love to be able to stick my brain in my husband when it’s starting to spiral just so he’d understand it’s not quite as simple as just calming down.  He’s very tolerant and supportive of my quirks and all, I just wish he could understand how overwhelming it can be–even just the fear of backsliding.

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I Did It!

Before I had my daughter, I had this glorious mental image of myself as, well, Laura Petrie. Laura seemed to have it all together without being totally pandering like June Cleaver. She was sorta hip, and I’m sorta hip, so why not? Then again, it may have had something to do with the Capri pant phase I was going through.
I figured out quickly after having my daughter that it would take a crack team of costumers and set designers and writers to make me into Laura. I’m mostly ok with that, even though some days I’d love to wake up, walk to the living room, and have everything set up for the day with a script laying next to my coffee.
It’s only when we get ready to travel that the inadequacies sneak into my brain. I’m pretty certain I never saw Laura Petrie actually pack anything, but hers is the voice I hear when the suitcases come out and the packing lists begin. Laura Petrie is my inner nag.
Yes, I have talked to a therapist about this.
I suppose the problem is even more insidious than a mere comparison to a television character. My grandmother lovingly constructed a collage of her mother’s papers after her death that hangs in the front hall of the house where I grew up. It is remarkable in its symmetry, and it is comprised almost entirely of lists. My great-grandmother made a list of everything. If you received a package from her, it contained a typewritten manifest. If she loaned you money, she kept a ledger of it. As she traveled extensively after her retirement from the Bureau of the Budget, she made concise yet thorough lists of what she packed. One sweater, navy cable knit. Three pairs stockings. One pair navy shoes. Two blouses, white. This woman went on month long cruises with two outfits. I can barely make it to the grocery store without a change of clothes.
I put great pressure on myself to pack the most efficient suitcase, and it is a long and arduous process. About a week before departure, I begin constructing the list. First page is non-clothing items—toiletries, books, toys for Lucy. Second page is my things, third is Lucy’s things. Packing Sickness does not afflict my husband, so he doesn’t need a page. The list is in a small spiral-bound notebook, the same one I use for grocery lists and take-out orders and is written with a Uniball pen while I am sitting on the couch. It takes me 2 cups of coffee to finish the list, and I take breaks to pace laps from the living room to each of the bedrooms and then back to the couch. When I am satisfied that I have a good start, the notebook and pen go on the corner of a granite top cabinet.
Over the next few days, I pick up the list every morning and read it while I have my second cup of coffee, alternating sips with tapping the pen on my lip. I rarely change it, but looking at it is part of the alchemy. Good trips are two parts company and destination to six parts artful preparation. Three days before we leave, the suitcase comes out. It is well known in my house that once the suitcase makes its appearance, I am not someone to be trifled with. C learned very early in our relationship that I suffer from PPS—Pre-Packing Syndrome. Even our cats give me wide berth, often taking turns sleeping in the suitcase instead of curling up at my feet. Lucy, however, makes her own lists and practices packing her bags. We start ‘em young in my family.
There are four bags for the three of us. I carry a large purse and a canvas shopping bag with toys, crayons and the pink stuffed Bunny for Lucy on the plane. C has a backpack with whatever it is that he takes. The three of us share a rolling suitcase for the rest. This is very important, as PPS involves much gnashing of teeth over whether I can fit everything.
Two days before travel, I begin the process of moving items from the list to the bag. Panties and socks are rolled and placed in one Ziploc freezer baggie, Lucy’s and mine together. Lucy’s pajamas go in another baggie, as well as her shirts. These are stacked in the top of the suitcase, first with the underwear baggie on the bottom, followed by shirts and then pajamas. I reverse the order after everything goes in, with the Laura voice gently chiding me for stacking them in a nonsensical order. ‘Oh Jen, you know you’ll need easy access to these things.’
Once Lucy’s things are in and checked off the list, I circle the suitcase with hands on my hips, carefully assessing how much space is left. It’s never enough, and so I throw my hands in the air, roll my eyes, and declare to C that this trip we’ll have to take a second suitcase. He assures me that this is ok, and I don’t believe him. I then pack my own things, taking up the rest of the luggage. Satisfied, I can go about my day. Well, for a few hours at least.
The thought of taking an extra bag is like a mosquito bite; I know I should ignore it, but I have no willpower. ‘Now Jen calm down,’ says Laura in my head, ‘you’re just being silly. You’ve traveled before with these same bags before and you can do it again.’ Ok, Laura, but I need to focus. Then I repack the whole thing.
The cats retreat to their secret, PPS-free hiding place, C sits in the living room wondering why he ever agreed to go anywhere with me, and Lucy scrambles to cram puzzle pieces and wooden vegetables into a metal pail because they simply all have to fit. I manage, after some jockeying and re-rolling, to fit Lucy’s and my clothes into half of the suitcase and emerge from the bedroom, triumphant. My husband packs his things, as usual, an hour before we leave the house.
My therapist calls it ‘obsessive tendencies,’ my grandmother suggests it’s genetic, and my husband has given up trying to figure it out. I think all of those are apt reactions, but it’s probably more a way to ensure that nothing bad happens on the trip. Before I became a mother, travel was scary and exciting, but my rituals were limited to throwing some stuff in a suitcase and having a drink on the plane to calm myself. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to the toss-in-a-bag method, but in the meantime if our plane crashes, people can marvel at how much I fit into so little luggage.

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