Thursday, December 10, 2009

Verdict on Radiesse: Uhhhhhh . . . .

OK, so at some point I'm going to rot away like an old pumpkin, facial fillers or no. But before then, how far am I willing to go?

My experience so far with Radiesse is neither glowing nor disastrous. A good deal of what I thought were awesome results from the filler turned out to be swelling from the procedure. Now, if I could just figure out a way to have a permanently swollen face, I'd be forever young! Truth be told, the lines are back. Not like they were; there is more fullness around my mouth, but you have to be me in order to notice it.

That kind of bummed me out, to be honest. I didn't want everyone to know I had something "done," but I also wanted someone to say, "My, you look so refreshed! Did you take a vacation or change your hair?" Well, not a single, solitary soul has noticed anything whatsoever. My family and even my husband see no sign that anything changed on my face. They haven't skipped around proclaiming how young and dewy I look; far from it. As my holiday depression rages on, I suppose I look either the same or older, due to my Grinch-y misery when the sun don't shine.

Also on the down side was the fact that the needles hit some facial nerves, and I freaked out over the patchy numbness that affected parts of my face, especially the tip of my nose, my upper gum and my cheekbones. After much anxious Internet searching, I figured out that the injections triggered the "trigeminal" facial nerve(s), and that it's a "rare" side effect of facial filler injections, but it does happen . . . to a very lucky few. The numbness is pretty much gone now, but again, I don't have spectacular results to show for it.

The other down side is that there is just enough of a difference to make me tempted to continue the process. I know, I'm an idiot. But hear me out. Those lines were more like folds, and I think that I don't see spectacular results because there was a significant amount of correction that needed to be done, more than I anticipated--and I very quickly became accustomed to the new look, however subtle, and so now the rest of my face needs some balance. It's the Stendahl syndrome all over again; the story goes that someone gave the notoriously Spartan Stendahl a rich, elegant red robe for Christmas, and all it did was point out to him how dismal the rest of his possessions were. This created a rabid desire to upgrade his room and his stuff, so he did what he had to do to keep the peace with himself: throw out the luxurious red robe.

If you asked, I would tell you immediately what else I want to do: Coolaser for face and neck, a tad more filler in my cheeks, and maybe just a smidge more around my mouth. That's it, I swear. The lovely Dr. Ourian would agree that my desires are easily realized and very reasonable. But I know that this is the edge of a cliff. First of all, there is no money for such "facial maintenance" and second of all, the worst thing that could happen to me would be unlimited funds for such "touch-ups". I think that I will probably give in at some point in the next couple of years and finish the job that I started. Lord, my face is a job. Well, I guess it is. It's the job of giving oneself the gift of NOT BEING FRICKIN' annoyed every single time I look in the mirror.

I give my Radiesse injections a C+. Not great, could be better, but a solid effort, as teachers like to say when a student has not excelled in any way whatsoever. What's next? Nothing in the short run. Just me and the slightly dingy pink robe. If I could just get the right slippers . . .

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why I Suck as a Friend

OK, so here's an "After" picture, even though it's not a great picture. But that's not the subject of the post.

So, why am I a bad friend? Because I don't like to confront people, not even my husband. If I am hurt, angry, resentful or upset, I just let it fester. I don't let the person know how I really feel. That ball of negative energy grows and becomes infected, so the result is I end up avoiding the person/people in question, evading all contact, creating excuses, simply pretending that nothing is really wrong when in truth, everything is wrong.

Sometimes with a friend there is an elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge. We step around the bloated carcass, try not to look at it, but when it starts to stink, we have to say something, right? No, I just choose to leave the room and ignore the obvious. I have lost so many friendships because I am not honest. I avoid pain, and in the process I become lonely. My loneliness breeds isolation, and my isolation creates anti-social tendencies. When I get to that point, forget it--I will simply lock myself in my cocoon and ruminate.

I'm at that point now, where my lack of courage to confront issues with family and friends has created that huge, bloated dead elephant in the room. What did I do? I left the damn room and slipped out the back door instead of simply saying, "hey, guys, let's drag that horrid dead thing out of the room and go get a pizza!!"

Loneliness, resentment and anger are crappy companions. But they're all mine, until I find the courage and the spiritual insight to guide me along a better path.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A New You!!!!

ABOVE is the AFTER picture! Now I'm wondering if perhaps there was some "over" correction . . . not sure.

My first cosmetic procedure. It wasn't easy. Dr. Simon injected my face with lidocaine while his nurse wiped away the blood. Then, quickly and efficiently, he filled in my smile lines with Radiesse. My face was numb, my hands were sweaty, I was in full-on panic attack mode, but I still asked him if he could fix the scar tissue on my knuckles from years of scratching them raw. "Of course," he said, "but first you have to work on your stress. Meditate. Then I can make your hands like new, like baby skin." Work on my stress??? What a thing to say. Come to think of it, this procedure was my reward for receiving tenure, an odd reward, really. It hurt like hell, it swelled up and bruised, and since instead of resting that day I cleaned the entire house, I was quite ill by Saturday night. I felt hot and tired and dizzy and slightly naseous. All in all, the first couple of days sucked.

Of course, everyone downplays that part. The truth is, Radiesse is painful for awhile, and you won't feel like yourself until you heal, and THAT might take a week or more. So, how do I feel now? It's been three days, and I have to admit that the absence of those folds around my mouth has made me giddy at times. I don't know why I hated my smile lines as much as I did; everyone told me that they were a positive thing, a way of showing the world that I was a happy person. However, every time I looked in the mirror at a certain angle, those lines were all I could see. They were sunken reminders of my weight loss, which happened around the time of my divorce, so perhaps those lines were somehow connected to the pain and loss of that bleak period. I don't know for sure, but I do know that I looked much older because of them, and I wasn't ready.

That's what it came down to. Whatever anyone else thought, the furrows were a sure sign of age, and I wasn't quite prepared to age gracefully. Without those lines, whether or not it's an illusion, I feel that I have taken back the damage of the divorce and the marks it indented me with. Stupid? Maybe. But know I have the face of the woman who had not yet known how painful life could become. It feels like I conquered the past, even if only in a small way. If I could do that for under a $1,000 bucks and the effects last nearly 2 years, then I think perhaps it was a wise investment for me.

But . . . says the evil, critical voice that lives in my head . . . you can't conquer time. At some point, we age, and no amount of filler will change that. Yes, I know. I realize that Radiesse is not the cure for aging and mortality. I don't think that was my real reason. I have accepted the fact that my face will never look 25 again, and actually, I am not really interested in that anymore. Dr. Simon, with a few zaps of the Coolaser and some more filler could actually give me that 25 year old face for a few more years, but I am done now. Yeah, right, says my mother, "it's a slippery slope, you'll be back."

I don't think I'll do much else for the forseeable future. I don't feel the need. I'm also not wealthy--I've maxed out my vanity budget. I guess what this all came down to was this: I accept the reality of aging, but there was something I needed to erase from my past. I was tired of the reminder--the sunken cheeks, the lines--that at one point I lost 30 pounds because I was sad. I wanted to eat, but my life had dissolved into the ether. I was gaunt, frail, underweight and utterly devastated. My cheeks disappeared into hollows and furrows. I was hungry, but I couldn't eat. Now, I look like the woman who was healthy and happy. Maybe no one else will see it--but I do--every day. My face matches my heart: full.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

So You Think You Don't Want Kids?

. . . then take a good look at this creature. He is beautiful. He is perfect.

True, he eats plastic and pulls out chunks of cat hair and then eats them.

But he is still perfect.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'll Be Writing Soon . . . In the Meantime, Here's Kenny!

Just so you all know, all 1 or 2 of you who still check here on occasion, I am still alive and still thinking of posting stuff here. After all, a girl can't be ALL paranormal ALL the time, right?

I'm bored with all my previous posts, and I've decided to take a new direction. I don't care how old I am, or how young I look, and if I do, I'll not be writing about it here. It's silly. Besides, a teenager hit on me this morning, so I officially quit worrying and fussing over age. I'm lucky to be alive. I may not be in an hour, or by tomorrow. So yay! I'm alive!

Kenny is a fine animal, and I let his eloquent face say everything that needs to be said. Kenny is peaceful. There is no greater gift on this earth.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This Cougar Bites

I object to the whole cultural notion of cougars. What do we call men that hunt younger women? We call them powerful and lucky. Courtney Cox might have made a savvy business decision by staring in the new series "Cougar," but she has set back by several decades a woman's right to equality and fair treatment. The cougar is yet another label to define a woman and to cast her in an unflattering light if she dares to choose a mate not suited to her age. Who makes such decisions? How do such notions become reified and universalized in the collective culture?

I don't understand it. If a woman is hot, she's hot. Why the need for the label? I think I know. Women must be contained and defined in order to mitigate, to make acceptable and safe, their sexuality. Women of "a certain age" are more powerful, and therefore more threatening, to men who seek young things without experience, money, education or clout. Inventing a label for women who refuse to engage in culturally appropriate behavior by pairing off with a man her age or (preferably) older creates a sense of mastery over her: I invent a category for you and define its parameters; therefore, I control you and strip you of your power, your sexuality.

I am willing to bet anyone who cares that this new show will not reveal Cox as a strong, independent and in control woman who makes sexual choices without shame or self criticism. Watch and see--I am sure we will see a woman riven by insecurities and self doubt, questioning her every move in the erotic jungles of contemporary America.

I wish for better for us as women, especially as women who are leaving behind one stage of adulthood for another. As sexual creatures, we continue to evolve and become more and more in tune with our erotic selves (don't laugh or gag, it's true)as we age. Yet, this is viewed by the popular press and by most young adults as vaguely disgusting and unsavory. How sad that we are so terrified of age and mortality that we have to vilify and deride those that are lucky enough to be healthy and active long past youth. We are ALL headed in the same direction; one would think our values and our beliefs would gradually change as the population ages. Even poor Angelina Jolie has started--at the age of 34--to be cast in the 'has-been' hottie light. My God!!! Are we really that shallow?

There is no way to conclude this other than to say I would like to do my part to change the prevailing cultural myths and misconceptions. I just don't know how, other than to fight the good fight in my classroom, in my blogs, and with those I care about. I must thank my husband, finally, for never considering me as anything other than desirable. He doesn't care what the calendar says. He just likes my ripped up jeans and my feline spirit.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Stress Management Coach Says I Need to Journal

Fine. I'm "journaling". Since when did that become a verb? Write it out, says the professional in such things. She also told me to buy a doll with blond hair and pretend that it's me as a child. Then, I'm supposed to 'mother' it with all the care, love and attention I didn't receive when I was wee. My mom did a damn fine job, thank you, so I'm not buying the little blond doll. That's about as ridiculous as beating my ex-husband with a whiffle bat, another gem from couples therapy back in the day. In retrospect, I should have beaten the crap out of him. It was the last chance I had, as it turns out.

So, in the interest of organizing my "journaling", I will divide into categories the things that destabilize my mental health (in no particular order):

1. Discovering that all the comforters and sheets on the beds in my sister's new house are covered in blood and mucous from the meth-fueled contractor they hired, who set himself on fire and ran down the street screaming, recreating a scene in "Apocalypse Now". I threw out those comforters for her, but I almost gagged in the process.

2. Realizing that my amazing and terribly cute nephew will forget me in a few days, since he is in San Francisco and I'm not.

3. Watching my poor kid grieve the loss of her best friend (she didn't die, she moved to Texas . . . although some would say it's kind of the same thing).

4. Realizing that I am essentially trapped in the same routines that sap my energy and my will to do anything important. Thinking that perhaps time speeds up when you wander around in circles, and that there is less and less time the older you get.

5. Lamenting that my husband and I are not always seeing the world the same way; wondering if that means I have to attempt to see the world through his little, round glasses.

6. Facing the fact that when I teach Spanish 3, I am so tense that I wake up at 2:00 AM with the world's most ferocious headache . . . and add to that the most heinous of all indignities . . .

7. Waking up with hot flashes. Yes, I'm effing menopausal. I NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS THOUGHT THIS WOULD HAPPEN TO ME. Yet, it's happening. HRT is not even effective against the tidal wave of weird hormonal demons unleashed upon my body and psyche. I'M TOO YOUNG FOR THIS. TOO YOUNG, damn it.

8. Realizing that I'm not too young for this. My body has decided that it's time to move on to a new stage. No more "maybe babies", fantasy twins, or anything else requiring fertility. I haven't even begun to deal with this. I can't even discuss this anymore.

9. Understanding that things are changing: the kid is really growing up, I'm now a cougar, and my family is in as much turmoil now as we were 20 years ago. The things that needed to change, didn't. The things that should have stayed the same, changed.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Be Free, Little Bird

Gracie flew into our lives in March, 2007. She flew out yesterday, after 2 years and 5 months with us.

Ty found Gracie perched on a branch by the trash can. She stepped onto his finger and into our hearts. For awhile. I remember falling in love with Gracie. Ty was driving us to Idyllwild, and Gracie was cuddled up next to my neck. She was making soft, clicking sounds like she always does when she is sleepy. She was warm and soft and amazing, this little bird falling asleep on my shoulder, pressing into me for warmth and comfort. "I love Gracie," I declared, and I started to cry. I realized that I loved something I had never loved before, a member of a species that I had only watched in the past, never touched. Birds were rather distant before Gracie; members of a foreign country or an alien race. They were cool to look at, but I had no real connection to them. And then, this green-cheeked conure changed all that and made birds intensely personal, connected to me in such an intimate way that I never recovered from the shock of holding a bird in my hand, this warm, feathered soul who communicated in ways no cat or dog ever could.

By the time I had fallen in love, Ty and Imanya were long over their warm feelings for Gracie. She is a difficult bird. She bit every single person who ever met her, except for my friend Grant (Grant has secret bird powers, so his case is an exception to the rule). It wasn't just a nibble either: Gracie bit with conviction. Ty's loving, affectionate relationship with Gracie finally ended the night that she was struggling to snag one of his grapes off the bunch, was thwarted, and bit him on the nipple. Hard. One would think that she was quite aware of her actions, since she had picked the most sensitive part she could to make her point. After that, Gracie was my bird alone. Imanya no longer was willing to hold her after a series of painful bites to her neck. No one could blame them for their decision; indeed, I was the one who received the most criticism for not finding her a new home . . . but I couldn't, because I had fallen in love and wasn't able to understand Gracie with logic or reason.

Gracie has been labelled spoiled, tyrranical, willful and nasty. She is probably all of those things, but those are human categories of understanding. Somehow, I learned Gracie's language. I never fully figured out the reasons behind her biting, but most of the time it was clear: she wanted something she couldn't have, she resented spending too much time in her cage, she was thirsty or hungry or she simply wanted to be left alone. For the last several months, Gracie and I had honored our relationship: I tried to read her needs, and she didn't bite me with conviction. I loved her, and she loved me. It was simple, and I thought it was working.

I didn't want to clip her wings. It was hard enough to see her cling to the bars of her cage, desperate to get out, when I had to leave the house or wanted to take a nap. I thought allowing Gracie to keep her wings was a kind of trade-off: since I have to keep you in a cage, I won't also remove the last vestiges of your wild nature. I should have seen the warning signs. Over the last couple of weeks, Gracie was starting to test her wings. She flew a circuit in the house before landing on the sofa. She flew around the den a couple of times before landing on me again. Last Friday, she had taken off--startled by construction across the street--to our pine tree by the laundry room. It took over an hour to coax her onto her green sleeve (Gracie's bed) and back down to my shoulder. Ty rescued her that day, a testament of his love for me. No matter how damaged his relationship to Gracie, he was bound and determined to get her back for me. But Gracie was anxious. She seemed more and more willing to take off, startling at noises and other birds in a way she hadn't before.

Finally, yesterday, I made the fatal mistake of walking on the deck with her. I was thinking I could fill the finch feeder quickly and get back inside before Gracie had any time to react. A jackhammer shattered the calm, morning air. Gracie took off, panicked, and hit the window. She spun in a circle and landed on the closest eucalyptus. Ty tried the sleeve at the end of the fishing pole trick, but the fishing pole came apart, leaving the sleeve useless on the tree. Gracie tried to fly back to me, but couldn't or wouldn't make the first jump. She could only fly when startled. She leaned in towards me, walking to the nearest branch, slipping, panicking, reversing direction, trying again. This went on for hours. I had to leave. Before I left, though, I asked for divine guidance. Either Divine Guidance was not on my side, or I had misinterpreted the message. I grabbed the hose and sprayed her, hoping to soak her and cause her to fall from the tree. She simply flew off to a more distant tree, angry that I had treated her poorly.

I came back from work multiple times to try to encourage her to fly to me. She leaned in, attempted to reach me, stumbled, backed up. The last time I came home from work, she was high up in yet a more distant eucalyptus, impossible to reach. I enlisted the neighbors' help and even called three fire stations for help. "Let me get this straight," said a firefighter from Calabasas, "you want me to rescue a bird who is stuck in a tree." "Yes, please." "How did she get to the tree?" "Well, she flew there . . . " "So, ma'am, if she flew there, she's not stuck."

I had no answer for that. I tried to explain that she could only fly when startled, that she didn't know how to fly down, only up and across, but the firefighter was not impressed. I apologized for wasting his time. In the effort to rescue my bird, I made yet another fatal mistake. I showed up at my in-laws' for dinner like usual, as if this were an ordinary Thursday. While I was eating, Gracie was preparing for yet another flight. By the time I arrived at the tree where she was last seen, she had taken off. A neighbor informed us that he heard her down another street just an hour ago. Ty and I started our Gracie rounds, hoping to find her and bring her home before night extinguished the last light of dusk. He whistled from the car, and I called out her name from the passenger side. Up on one street, we both heard her. We jumped out and called, but nothing. She had responded, but she didn't continue to respond. She was out there, somewhere.

We had to give up and come home. We put her cage outside, foolishly thinking she would want to return to it. I spend the night crying and calling out to her at odd hours. This morning, it seemed that every bird that flew by was Gracie. None of them were. There was no characteristic Gracie scream from the hills. I drove back to the street where I last heard her, but between the garbage trucks and the gardeners with blowers, there was no way to hear her. I thought I could make out the sound of her call, but by then my mind was playing tricks on me. I think I hear her everywhere, all those little noises she makes--loud and soft--that are her language.

Gracie is not dead. She is out there somewhere in the treetops. I only cry today when I think that she is hungry and thirsty, and can't find her way home. I wonder if she wants to come home; it appears that she doesn't, that she loves me but needs to be free. I understand that. I know how her incarceration hurt both of us. I hated to see her staring out the window from her sleeve, listening to all the birds that never knew a cage. I also knew that when I held her in my hand and petted that tiny, green head, she blinked softly and made those little noises because she loved me. Not in a human way, but in her way. It was amazing. She was a whole lesson in love and understanding. She opened up the world to me.

I don't know how to understand what has happened. Is my little bird alone, hungry, thirsty and tired, unable to come back to me? Or, is my little bird free to follow her nature? Is she a survivor? Does she need me? If she is hungry and tired, I can't feed her or put her to bed. If she needs me, I can't hold her. I want to think that this is simply the next, natural step in our relationship: we had our time together, and now she has to move on. I will never know, not unless she returns to our home. Even then, I may never know.

I suspect that none of us will ever see her again. I may hear her from time to time, calling out from the tree tops. I won't know if she is calling to me, or to the wilds of the Santa Monica Mountains. I can only offer her my hands, so empty now. I can't offer her the trees, the wind, the sky, and the company of other wild things. To be human is to feel alone. I can only wish better for her.

The Affair

This morning, Ty and I had to talk about yesterday. I had walked into the California Pet Center and headed straight for three green-cheeked conures. One was still a baby. I put out my finger, and she delicately climbed aboard. She looked at me and blinked. Uh oh, here we go again . . . my heart burst with incipient love, and my head sounded an emergency alert. I called Ty. I told him to come to the pet store immediately. I was about to bring home Pepita. "No way," he said, and repeated 112 times just in case it didn't sink in the first time. We could not discuss it later. "I will never, EVER, have another bird." I was hurt and beweildered. Pepita was different. She was hand-raised from a chick, and she didn't scream or bite. She could make up for Gracie's bad behavior; she could unite the family, proving that not all conures are bent on destroying marriages.

Fast forward to this morning. After a rough night, Ty and I were sitting outside and I was preparing to upbraid him for losing his cool at Scrabble. "Let's talk about Gracie," he said, voice rising. "You had an affair for two years and five months. Do you have any idea how that feels?" My mouth hung open like I had been struck by idiocy. He made his case for the affair analogy. It made sense. I catered to Gracie's every whim. I lavished affection on her, leaving Ty bereft on the couch. Gracie was my constant companion, and if anyone came near me, especially Ty, she would lunge. I belonged to Gracie; I was her mate. I didn't realize it, but with hindsight I see that it's true. She had effectively pushed Ty aside in order to monopolize my time and my affection. She accomplished her goal without me ever fully understanding it.

"I hated that bird. Imanya hated that bird. She was obnoxious, nasty and divisive." Ty poured out his true feelings for Gracie, and I realized to what extent I had used Gracie to keep some emotional distance in my marriage. Do all bird lovers do this? I wonder. Do pets become an excuse to keep intimacy at bay, because it's easier to love an animal than a human? Perhaps.

My grief is now tempered by the reality of how Gracie's presence affected my husband. Now I'm not so sure what I would do if she flew back. I would take her in, but we'd have to come to a new understanding. I'm not her mate. I need to think about why I was so willing to allow her to believe it.

Kirsten A. Thorne

Rescuing Gracie

The phone call came yesterday. "I don't think this is your bird. She doesn't have tail feathers. The vet I took her to said she's not even a conure." Not a conure? Somehow, this didn't seem right to me. I needed to see this bird. I knew it was Gracie. "You're going to be disappointed," stated a woman's voice with a Romanian accent, or something similar. I told her that I needed to see that bird regardless of what she thought. I wrestled the address from her. This wasn't going to be easy. I grabbed Imanya and off we ran, racing to Campo and Medina, getting lost, backtracking, finally locating the driveway.

This lady had parrots in a cage outside, and she seemed very suspicious and evasive as soon as she saw us. She repeated the "it's not a conure" refrain, but she allowed us into the kitchen. There she was; it was Gracie. She peeped in recognition and clung to the bars of the tiny cage. I let her out, and she immediately cuddled up to my neck and made all of those little noises that form her language. Imanya smiled. "That's definitely Gracie, " she said, and I thought "case closed." But no. It was not going to be that easy. "All those birds cuddle like that. They're famous for that" (all CONURES are famous for that, I thought, but I kept it to myself). She proceeded to show me how much Gracie loved her, and was rewarded by a hard bite to the hand. Gracie proceeded to kiss me. The Bird Lady then grabbed Gracie and attempted to show me that she never had tail feathers, so she was NOT my bird, and not a conure. There was nothing to say except, "I don't know why Gracie lost her tail feathers, but that's our bird." The Bird Lady insisted on showing me a REAL conure, the one she kept in a cage with a huge Amazonian parrot. The "real" conure was another variety, a sun conure, and he was bald from plucking out his own feathers. He looked miserable.

This dance went on for awhile, both of us repeating the same lines. Finally, I started to cry. I don't like crying in front of strangers, but it was becoming clear that this woman was not going to return Gracie to us. Although I was crying, I did manage to bring up the fact that I was the daughter in law of the Valley's biggest lawyer. That seemed to soften her stance somewhat. Finally, I convinced her to relinquish Gracie. I hid her under my Pierce jacket and ran for the car like a madwoman, followed by Imanya. The Bird Lady was still talking to me, handing me bird newsletters and wanting to continue our bizarre interaction, but we took off down the hill with Gracie on my shoulder and safely arrived home. Gracie was returned to her huge cage by the window, and I took off for lunch.

Gracie is not quite the same. Her voice is crackly, and her tail feathers are entirely gone. Ty clipped her wings after a wobbly and dangerous flight around the living room. She looks ridiculous and very small without the glory of those crimson feathers. She loses her balance when she tries to eat toast from her perch, and she almost drowns when taking a bath. Her dignity has taken a huge hit. She's alive, however, and slowly readjusting along with the rest of us. Even Ty, who had made his position clear, seems genuinely relieved to have her home. Perhaps it's because she looks so terribly pathetic, but he almost appears to like her. As for me, I'm still in shock at her return. I had said my goodbyes to her, believing that she was truly gone. I was attempting to make peace with the new reality, but hurting terribly and not sleeping well. I thought I was supposed to accept "the facts," and instead Gracie and I get a second chance. How often does that happen? It seems like a crazy and undeserved present.

I prayed so hard for Gracie's return, crying until I felt like my heart would explode. All the while I never believed she would be found; it seemed too much to ask, a tiny detail that shouldn't matter in such a huge sea of human and animal misery out there. Why should I be allowed to have my bird with me again when other people pray for much more serious matters and feel ignored? I have no answers for that. There are no answers. The entire experience has changed me. While I was searching for her, the family united in the quest, selflessly working for her return even when their feelings for Gracie were either ambivalent or negative. We walked together all over our neighborhood, building up our muscles and noticing the fantastic variety of bird and animal life all around us. I started getting up at 7 AM and walking the streets, calling for Gracie, and noticing how beautiful the world is at that hour. I met so many neighbors on this journey; I felt for the first time a sense of community as I put up fliers and called out to my bird. I was quickly known as the "Gracie lady," and dog walkers would ask about my search.

Gracie's disappearance was the reason that Ty and I sat down and had a true heart-to-heart talk about our marriage and our feelings for each other. As it turns out, we learned that we loved each other more than we ever even suspected. That one conversation created an even more intense intimacy between us and cleared up some false assumptions we had carried around about our mate.

Our little bird's absence created a community in our neighborhood and brought our little family together in a common goal. The challenge now is remember the lessons of Gracie's vacation: we can't give up, ever, when we love someone. We can't forget how important we are to each other, how much we really do love each other in good times and bad. We must strive to connect ourselves to our community and to each other and combat our tendencies to isolate ourselves. As I said in a previous post, Gracie opened up the universe to me. Even in her absence, she continued to do so.

Thank you.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Addictions, Technology, a Moth and a Challenge

Checking email is addictive. There is that little high, that buzz, from seeing the unread message. Of course, more often than not, there is nothing important in the email, no content that requires action or reaction; Facebook and all the other social networking sites offer a similar, minor rush--someone responds to your update, your "what are you doing now" post, and you feel, momentarily, like it matters what you are doing now (which is always, of course, checking Facebook).

I notice that there are multiple, minor addictions that suck the life out of my days. The computer is the biggest culprit; there is the endless Web in which to enmesh yourself, the various photo, blog and review sites some of which are designed for creative output, but many are just excuses to see what virtual 'friends' are doing with their time. I can tell you what they're NOT doing--actually connecting with you, seeing you, experiencing a real friendship.

Writing is already a distancing activity, insofar as there is no way to translate one's soul or spirit into words, especially words even more removed from the writer by virtue of being typed, not hand written. My fingers touch the keyboard, yet no reader will know how it feels to type these words, or the warmth of my hands. The fact that we all collectively spend so much time staring into a screen is yet another distancing reality, and we find multiple ways to keep receding into the background of our lives. All of the pictures that I post to Flickr, for example, seem dead to me in a way that the actual photo never felt. Does anyone remember carefully placing photos into an album? That was a physical, actual experience--the feel of the paper, the arrangement of the pictures in a certain meaningful order, the creation of a life story. Photo sites reduce everything to the same level of importance--it's all equally important or unimportant; there is no personal touch or arrangement of photographs, simply a stream of images.

It's interesting to me that in this age of constant contact with hundreds of friends and strangers via the computer, I have never felt lonelier. I surf all these sites that are supposed to "connect" me, and yet I am utterly disconnected.

Awhile back, I emerged from the depths of the house and the fake glow of the computer to the laundry room, a dusty, cobwebbed outcropping attached to the garage. Our laundry room is a ramshackle place built in the 1920s and probably not intended to last more than a couple of years. I find it, however, utterly charming. We have placed a witch in there from a few Halloweens ago, and she presides over the insects and the dirty clothes strewn about the floor. I saw a moth that night that seemed rather amazing; I fetched Ty to look at her. What I noticed is that moths have faces. I never knew that before. He took several pictures, and later, as I contemplated his pictures, I was stunned to see that the moths in our laundry room and complex, astounding creatures that look like something from a Lord of the Rings movie. They are these small animals that some incredible force in nature created for unknown purposes, and they are shockingly expressive and soulful. Moths have a certain transcendence to them, an animating spirit that humbles me. Never again will I assume that a tiny creature, always overlooked in the past, is a simple pest. That moth changed my perspective on nature, spirit, creation and beauty.

Ty's picture brought that to light. Yes, technology. There was a purpose there, after all. But most of the time, we stare with glazed eyes into a screen, ignoring the amazing life that surrounds us.

The challenge? Go outside and find something astounding that you have never really looked at before. Tell me, show me, teach me something that I didn't know about you before. Use technology as your medium, if you like. Just don't use it as the message.

Find your moth.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lessons in Solitude

When I was in high school, college and grad school, enduring a series of problematic boyfriends, my sister used to tell me that I was fatally flawed: "you can't be alone". I don't know why she thought that. Maybe it was because I used to lock myself up in my room during the summer vacations and write long, anguished love letters to my paramours, who never seemed to suffer with the same level of intensity. Perhaps my sister came to her conclusions watching me cry into the phone, night after night, lamenting my loneliness and inability to function without my addiction, I mean, the love of my life. She hardly maintained the moral high ground, as I caught her poring over the Spanish/English dictionary attempting to translate Joaquin's letters, and more than once I heard her breathing into the phone while I was lamenting my frustrated passion for man on the other end of the line.

Time passed. I married the only decent and straight man in Appleton, Wisconsin and my anguish over lovers was over. Or so I thought. Whatever pain I experienced during those early experiments in intimacy was laughable compared to what came later. I'm not ready to go public with the pain of a divorce, but if you've been there, you know. You know that the silliness of your angst over boyfriends or girlfriends was trivial compared to the searing misery of divorce. Nothing compares. When I found myself alone in my lovely little Craftsman home in Long Beach, I congratulated myself on Being Alone. I surrounded myself with cats and flooded myself with TV and the Internet. So, of course, I wasn't really experiencing the state of Alone. I was, instead, finding ways to numb or postpone the pain. My secret worry is that I am still doing that, shoving vast reserves of emotion into various time wasters or numbing routines. But that's kind of my big wrap-up point, so I'm going to wait on that for now.

My current husband was and is so wonderful that he tricked me into thinking that I had no work left to do, no pain to wade through, no path of spiritual transformation to discover or follow. Love had eradicated the need for such unpleasantness as feeling the weight of the past, with all of its attendant misery, unhappiness, disappointment and hard lessons.

The problem is, my husband leaves once a year to battle miniature warships (this deserves its own blog entry) with big groups of salty Navy types and Republicans (he is not a Republican or a salty Navy type, so I'm not sure where he fits). His departure creates all kinds of upheaval for me, which is entirely inappropriate for an independent woman who makes decent money and has her own interests. When Ty leaves, time rewinds with dizzying speed, and I am, once again, the 19 year old locked in her room, crying over her ambivalent boyfriend. You see, every boyfriend I ever had and even my first husband were ambivalent types: they kept me in a constant state of insecurity over the depth of their commitment or the level of their interest. Ty emphatically does not put me through such torture; however, I don't believe that he could possibly want to spend the rest of his life with me.

Husband #1 ripped out my heart and soul. That's actually an understatement. There are not words for what he did. My therapists advised me to wait a year or two before I started dating. However, I met Ty two weeks after my ex moved out. A few weeks later, our fate was sealed. That's the way it worked out, even though it was not emotionally prudent. Love, the real thing, does not play by the rules. There is a price to pay, however, for the lack of healing time: I depend upon my husband to fill the void that my past has left in me. When he leaves, there is something akin to panic that gnaws at my insides like a starved and insane rodent searching for a way out of my heart.

That's bad. My sister knows that's bad. She'd be the first to tell me. OK. So I have to learn to be Alone. Apparently, the lesson I was supposed to learn in my late teens is still a pending project. It's perversely comforting to think that I'm the same person now that I was then; I'm still young! Pity that's it's such a crappy connection to the past. It seems that my strongest connection to who I was as a young adult is entirely about lack, loss and empty spaces. That scares me a bit, because I have not yet unraveled the root cause of that state of being. I am not sure that I wish to open the Pandora's box of possibilities in search of an Answer. So, instead of delving into layers of unbearable psychic pain (although I could find teddy bears and chocolates and rainbows in my subconscious), I made a list of rules for myself to prevent my tendency to numb or avoid my emotions. It's kind of a short cut to Enlightenment that doesn't require years of hideous therapy (I've done that, it sucks mostly) or brain-altering chemicals (tried that, but I end up feeling like the Zombie who doesn't give a crap). Instead, my rules force me to actually live in the moment and create something.

The Rules to Living Alone:

1. No television during the day. Ever. Only two hours at night, max.
2. No sugary snacks. Menchie's is permitted at night.
3. No mindless Internet surfing or obsessive email checks.
4. Naps are to last no longer than one hour.
5. Practice the piano at least 45 minutes per day.
6. Write something every day that is not work related.
7. Post photos and write blog entries only after 9 PM.
8. Call husband no more than twice per day.
9. Contact a family member at least three times per week.
10. Explore scary places at least once per week.
11. Maintain and nourish friendships.
12. Spend at least 1-2 hours in the sun, although in the Valley in July this could kill you. In that case, wait until 7:30 before you go walking.
13. Do NOT spend more than 2 days a week in the gym. The gym is boring.
14. Deeply enjoy nature.
15. Be a creative and fun parent. Expand Imanya's and Connor's minds and spirits.
16. This one is personal. Sorry.

I hate people who write rules for themselves, all righteous, pretending that they're all spiritually evolved and crap. I'm not evolved. I am attempting to stay sane and leave the sad child behind with her ghosts of boyfriends and husband past. Unfortunately, we never really evolve past the sad child; and the marks that past love inflicts upon us become scars that don't ever heal properly.

The trick to living with these wounds is perhaps to accept that they are there, and stop attempting to discard them or pretend that they will go away. The people I loved are all still with me, forever. They can't hurt me now, but they remind me on a daily basis that I have a long, long road to travel with them. They have something to teach me that I still haven't learned.

I have to be Alone. It won't kill me, but I would like my husband to come home and love me through whatever wakes me up at 3:00 AM, hammering at my heart.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Good Idea, BAD IDEA

These are actual occurrences; nothing has been made up. I swear.

BAD IDEA: Eating a lacquer bracelet.
GOOD IDEA: Sharing spit-covered lacquer bracelet with your Auntie.

BAD IDEA: Contacting your professor on her personal blog account.
GOOD IDEA: Passing the damn final exam, so that you don't have to!

BAD IDEA: Parading around nude on the back deck.
GOOD IDEA: Spying on neighbors who are parading around naked in their yard.

BAD IDEA: Calling a saloon a "salon" to a local in Coulterville.
GOOD IDEA: Leaving said saloon quickly after you've made said linguistic error.

BAD IDEA: Writing about your entire life online.
GOOD IDEA: Keeping some things private.

BAD IDEA: Chasing elephant seals during mating season.
GOOD IDEA: Chasing life partner during mating season.

BAD IDEA: Exploring condemned buildings alone.
GOOD IDEA: Not exploring condemned buildings.

BAD IDEA: Asking your readers to add to this list.
GOOD IDEA: Asking your readers to add to this list?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Writer's Dilemma

Writing is fraught with danger.

I used to think I could write whatever I pleased, and rip out my heart in the process. It wasn't a destructive act, quite the opposite: I felt it to be the most creative expression I was capable of. However, in the course of saying exactly what I think--which involves revealing myself in the most intimate of ways--I have offended, provoked, angered and disappointed members of my family, my friends, and even people with whom I work. Of course, that was not my intention; I was simply finding my way of relating to the world around me, of documenting my reactions to the people who confuse or stagger me. I certainly never anticipated the reactions to some of my posts; sometimes it appears that I have led my (small) audience astray, since they have no context for understanding me; they are ignorant of my history and my peculiar eccentricities.

There are writings of mine that involve others and invade--inadvertently--their privacy. I don't know why I feel no need to protect myself from others, or why it seems OK to me to discuss date rape in a public forum, or any other number of topics that most readers would consider wildly inappropriate. I have always suffered from a total lack of self-editing. Is it a violent reaction to incomprehensible situations? Is it rebellion against having to show self control all day long at work? Is it a way to work through pain and disappointment? Is it an attempt at self-integration, at the kind of introspection that leads to liberation?

It is all of those, and more. I have learned, though, that I hurt people with my analysis of the human condition, with my willingness to expose myself to the public. Others are affected, dragged in when they don't wish to be, and so I have to change how I approach the public forum of the Internet. My (tiny) readership has misinterpreted my intentions, my feelings and my expressions of angst. Not everyone, of course, some people get it immediately and appreciate it for what it is. But I don't want family or friends to feel stung or shocked by what I reveal. I always thought revelation of one's heart and soul was the best way to define and refine who I am; now I realize that all I accomplish is discord and confusion.

So, from this point forward, I will try to do what has been asked of me by those I love: practice a little self-censorship. Stop burrowing under the skin of those who love me, cease and desist the ruthless personal revelations, and try to stick to less controversial topics. This new direction saddens me a bit, but I don't wish to trample on the privacy and anonymity of the people that matter to me.

I don't know how this will look and feel for me, but I will find out. My ex used to tell me that "I had absolutely no mystery" about me. He did not enjoy my transparency. I will attempt to learn the art of self preservation. I hope I have something interesting to say. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


For any of you reading my posts, it probably comes as no surprise that I am depressed. Usually the depression starts with the workweek and ends on Thursday, when the teaching is over. Sometimes it sneaks into the weekend, attempting to ruin my free time. This last weekend was glorious, insofar as the depression was reduced to a small, annoying creature easily vanquished with some fresh air and exercise. At the moment, this depression is monstrous and refuses to go lurk in its corner, where it belongs; better yet, it needs to be outside on a leash. No, let me revise that: I don't need it anywhere near me. There is no need to put it on a leash, which implies that I need it to hang around. I don't. I need it to kill itself, perhaps by throwing itself into a river and drowning, or by jumping off a building.

This semester was unusual, insofar as I did something I never, ever have done in my professional life: I gave up on a class. I stopped caring. There is no justification for that, but that is what happened. The worst offender came in today, looking sheepish. She knows that her incessant talking and refusal to listen to anything I said contributed to the disaster of that class. When our interview was over, she asked, "Is this it?" Yes, this is it. There is no more class. No more fruitless attempts to make you listen. No more constant threats and entreaties. We are done. J., another active participant in the failure of that class, seemed utterly perplexed when I told him exactly how I felt about his behavior. "But," he stammered, "this was my favorite class." Really? Because you were able, day after day, to ignore me and socialize until I was reduced almost to tears? It wasn't, you see, simply J. or the other student. It was a whole gang of them, friends since high school, who decided to cover up their ignorance and insecurity, their frustration and their pain, by banding together and using the class for social purposes. Every day, at least 7 or 8 people were showing blatant disregard for me and the material of the day. To pick only one to throw out seemed illogical; how to ban 8 people from class at once? What happened was I lost myself this semester as a teacher. Not in the other two classes; they thrived. In this one, I came face to face with my own weaknesses and my inability to control the classroom.

From there it was a downward spiral. While some students joked about the "Dangerous Minds" environment, I would simply stand there, watching the majority of the class talk about irrelevant things, ignoring me, absolutely unconcerned that I was about to scream in frustration, walk out, quit. No one cared what was happening to me, or perhaps no one noticed. Only one student did, near the beginning of the semester. P. walked up to me after class one day, extremely concerned, and said that "she had never seen my like this, so stressed out." She was, she confessed, really worried about me. She couldn't even keep the class, since it was so different from the previous class she had taken with me. I don't know what I told her that day. Something about how awful that group of students was, but most assuredly, I didn't take action to stop the class from becoming a joke. I know what the evaluations would have said if I had been required to administer them. "Has no control over the class," "we hardly spoke Spanish," "didn't inspire me," and "I didn't learn anything."

In this job, I am expected to inspire and educate and illuminate four days per week for fifteen weeks. I get a break, and then I have to do it again. Four to five hours per day, I am supposed to make everything "fun" and enlightening. What I learned is that it is possible for someone to utterly, completely, totally, burn out. Not only was I required to make all the students want to learn everything about Spanish language, literature, culture and politics, I was also charged with inspiring the entire faculty to write their Student Learning Outcomes. So, in the morning I wore myself thin as a professor, and in the afternoons, I had to convince an entire faculty to fully engage themselves in the classroom and document it. Not only was I supposed to inspire, I was told that I must somehow "make" all of the other professors on campus become better teachers through SLOs and rubrics. Most don't give a damn about the latest accreditation requirements, and those that do are swallowed up in a sea of passivity on the one hand, and threats from the administration on the other.

At this point, I am not giving the students what they deserve and need, and I am not serving the faculty well, either. I am exhausted spiritually and emotionally, and bankrupt mentally. I feel out of ideas, out of energy, and lost in terms of my career choice. What is so fascinating about all of this is the expression of my anxiety and conflict: I am terrified of death on a daily basis, feeling that at any moment, a heart attack will take me out of this world, or any number of other ailments. Of course, I think it's a good idea to read an entire book on lethal brain tumors, looking for spiritual guidance, but finding sheer, numbing terror instead. So, I look for evidence of life after death as a kind of hope that things will get better in the next go-around. What I don't fully grasp yet is that it isn't MORE life I need, but a better way of living. What does it mean to get more life, another life, if you never really solved the issues in this one? I don't enjoy a huge chunk of my so-called life, a fact that hurts more than I can bear sometimes. I give myself away to people; I sacrifice my time, my energy, and my soul so that others are happy with me. I try to please everyone, to "make" people happy; in this way, I think that I will find my purpose. I suppose I didn't learn the lesson when my ex walked out of our marriage: I couldn't make him happy, no matter what I did. The more I tried to please him, the less he liked me. The less he liked me, the less he loved me. From there, of course, it was all downhill. I desperately looked for ways to be the person he wanted; I never managed to find the magical combination of traits, behaviors and appearances that would have ignited his commitment.

It's the same scenario with my students. I try to be everything, everyone, to all of them. It never works. Someone will always blame me for his lack of motivation, for his crappy grades, for his inability to speak Spanish. I will end the semester with the insidious notion that I failed all of them, even when I know better. In order to cope with my own loss of boundaries, with the fact that anyone can now ignore me with impunity, I invent a myriad of illnesses: there are headaches, stomach problems, breathing issues, imminent heart attacks, lurking cancers, strokes, you name it. Some of these maladies have real, physical manifestations; others are imaginary, but are no less powerful for it. Whether real or imagined, I know that something terrible is about to happen, at any moment. I obsess about my parents' age and health, about my sister's marriage and new son, about my husband, my friends, my pastimes, everything. I try to be a good mom, but lately I see very little of my step kid. I can't believe that she no longer needs to see me. Then my heart hurts. I can't even write about it.

With death stalking me from every corner, it's very hard to concentrate or feel any happiness. Everything I read leads me to believe that death is simply a transition to more life, and lately that has me even more upset and worried than the idea that all of this stupidity and self-imposed misery will end. What if it NEVER ends? What if I have to continue in this state of general unhappiness forever? That seems too terrible, too unthinkable. I realize that the only solution is to CHANGE EVERYTHING.

For years, I believed that I was on the verge of a huge spiritual transformation, that I would find a moment of illumination that would clear away the confusion, the stress, the anxiety of everyday living. Well, I had those moments, but then quickly refused to believe what they were telling me. I've had several epiphanies that could have, should have, changed absolutely everything. Instead, I ignored all of those collective moments and decided that I needed more proof. I would get more proof and then repeat the cycle of ignoring it yet again. I'm afraid to believe what I know to be true, because it's too good, it's too powerful, it's too amazing--and I don't want to be a fool when it turns out to be fantasy or wishful thinking. Reality, for me, is supposed to be depressing and miserable, a study in suffering and sadness. Where did that belief come from? I won't blame my parents, but in them I see a resignation and a panic over time passing, leading them to death, and then to nothingness. I suppose if that's my only model for how to live--in continual, low-level depression over the awfulness of time, decay, and annihilation--it would be very difficult to celebrate the everyday. I've felt terror and despair over time and death since I was a teenager; even when I had my whole life ahead of me, all I could feel was life slipping away and abandoning me.

Now that almost half my life is over, it already feels like I'm on my deathbed. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but I've spent my whole life in fear of disaster, disease and death. I was a sick kid who spent a great deal of time in a hospital, watching adults fall apart around her because she was going to die. I should have died a many times over with all the surgeries and illnesses, but I never did. Maybe I feel like I was supposed to die, that I wasn't really taught how I was supposed to survive. Perhaps that is why I love ghosts so much, because I've always felt like one. I never claimed my life, because I wasn't really expected to live. Well, the problem is, I am still here, 44 years later, 39 years after my parents were told that I might not make it. I don't know what to do with that; disease and catastrophe are so familiar, that I expect them. When they don't happen, I just wait for their arrival. What if I live until 96 and die in my sleep? I will have spent the next 52 years waiting for something that never arrived.

Wanting to please everyone else but myself is a kind of living death. It's a way of denying who I am, and ignoring what I need. I live for other people, and other people generally don't want me to, or appreciate the sacrifice. In fact, those who care about me try to warn me that my self-sacrifice is simply miserable to watch. It serves no one, and only creates a huge emptiness in my life that I fill with ghost books. If I'm not a successful person in the here and now, how will I be a successful ghost? What the hell IS a successful ghost? Why do I care that there is or is not life after death? I am reasonably sure that there is; but that does nothing to solve the problem of my life. I wish I had some kind of answer for all this pondering, some reasonable philosophy that would guide me to peace. The truth is, I don't believe in anything. I have half-beliefs, partial understandings, a little faith. Living in this half-life is sheer unhappiness. It's not sustainable. At some point, we have to choose: we take the evidence we have, we arrive at a conclusion, and we decide to live our lives accordingly. In other words, we decide to have faith that what we cannot conclusively prove is not a reason to abandon our intuition and our deep sense of the way things truly are.

My evidence, which I don't ask anyone to share, is this: there is something like God, although I don't pretend to know exactly what or who God is. This God recycles. We retain our consciousness through several lives. The form we take is much less important that the evolution of our consciousness over time. We are supposed to learn what it means to be happy and how to reconcile the existence of true misery and suffering. We are, I think, supposed to evolve through service to others--tried and true, perhaps too obvious, but the truth is often disarmingly simple. We are not supposed to waste our lives with worry and dread; when we do, all we are doing is masking our lack of faith.

It is the lack of faith that leads one to spend thousands of dollars on books intended to prove something that one will not believe, anyway. Only faith in one's evidence matters; the rest is just fear of existence. One doesn't fear death, really; death is a transition, a doorway; am I terrified of being born again? No; I don't even think about those traumatic possibilities. The fear is only about learning to live. Some people learn early, others late, some never; I figure, there's no time like the present.

Ghost hunters, paradoxically, only hunt ghosts because they don't believe in them. The day that a ghost confronts on of us in some absolute and unequivocal way, we'll pack away our EMF meters, our digital audio and our cameras. Faith would lead us in an entirely different direction; but where?

My stepdaughter's name in Farsi means 'faith'. How interesting that her very name represents all that I seek. For now, I am a faith hunter. One day, I hope to give up that hunt; I think the reward for that will be joy. I just have to believe that I deserve to feel that.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What Does it Mean to be 44?

As anyone who lives anywhere near Los Angeles is painfully aware, you are not allowed to get old here. You must wear the same tight jeans as your daughter, look the same from the back, and if possible, only appear about 10 years older than she (if she's around 13 or 14)from the front. Now of course, that isn't easy, but that's why we have Dr. Ourian at the Beverly Hills Surgical Center, who champions the famous 60 minute facial re-do that will take off all those unwanted years. Get rid of that divorce, that bankruptcy, husbands' infidelities, kids who disappoint you, friends and relatives who die or abandon you; all that leaves traces on your face: those sunken eyes, saggy chin skin, soft jaw line, wrinkles around your eyes, oh the horror . . .

Don't let anyone know that you have lived longer than college, that you have experienced loss and failure, that you have parented a child or children, that you see history repeat itself and then repeat itself again. Here, in this part of the world, we want you new and shiny. We don't like experience in women; that makes them "cougars" and "bitches", and we all know how--in the end--a 44 year old will always lose to a 20-something on reality TV; and reality TV is the driving force that defines our culture, our, well, "reality". Never mind that there is nothing further from real than those canned, cheap shows that pretend to tell us who we are and what we care about.

So it is with a certain obvious bitterness that I start my 44th year (or do I start my 45th?). I don't feel that a particular age "belongs" to me, but everything around me is more than willing to assign me to a category. Is this the year I stop fighting, or do I give in and visit the posh offices of Dr. Ourian? I am not above it all, not able to simply say, "yes, I'm middle aged, and I'm proud!" Middle-aged women are not the object of desire in our culture unless it's a joke or a fetish. I'm just not ready to give up youth and desirability in the name of some nebulous "maturity" that seeks to define me through our twisted lens of what's "appropriate" for our age.

As a culture, we are very leery of a woman my age. We are not old enough to be written off as crones or grandmas, stripped of our sexuality. We are not young enough to be considered "hot" and worthy of pursuit. We inhabit a gray area, too smart and experienced to play the naive little thing that everyone wants to bed, too aware of ourselves and conscious of the gender wars to be the airhead, the starlet, America's sweetheart, or any other role that demands a lack of worldly experience along with a willingness to be the sex toy of any persuasive young man. I am not saying that I desperately want to be the airhead or the starlet, nor am I affirming my interest in young men bedding me; I don't want my sexuality defined by my age, whether I'm 24 or 44. In fact, I don't want the media--who utterly controls our culture in So Cal--to define the parameters for desirability in general. Judy Dench is sexy as "M" in the Bond movies. If people find that funny, uncomfortable or disgusting, then that shows to what extent we have all bought into the myth of youth=desire.

So where do we fit in? We don't. We need to stop asking the question. I don't think L.A. culture knows what to do with the woman of a "certain age"; it tries to convince us to plump up or faces, erase our wrinkles and tone our asses in the hopes that perhaps we can play the 20-something just a little bit longer; then, when we hit 50, it's truly all over and we can start playing the grandma or the bitch; you choose. In any case, the message is: you make us uncomfortable, so either disappear or pretend you're 20 years younger. We'll play along, but at some point, we'll have to dispose of you or ignore you completely.

You understand.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Walking the Line

I know that my posts are following the same theme. Some of my readers are dismayed, wondering if perhaps I'm too obsessed with the afterlife. After all, aren't there plenty of things to write about in this life?

Yes. Of course.

At work, I have a pack of delinquents in one of my classes that have turned it into "The ADHD Class From Hell". I have meetings where I get teary and unprofessional, because my boss makes comments like (upon my request for more release time in order to save the college from collapse and loss of accreditation), "we don't want to throw good money after bad." I AM NOT BAD MONEY, I protest, and he agrees, and we work it out.

At home, Dark Osprey was stood up by a friend, and I now despise that friend's mother. At home, Gracie bites and screams because I don't train her. The cats shed and vomit, and I clean it up.

In the area of love, my husband and I are pretty happy, and when we argue, it's about whether or not I forced him to eat at Boulevard Burgers.

Family: My nephew is awesome. I love him. My sister and brother in law are doing well, but she wishes he had breasts so he could feed the kid more often. My parents are reasonably healthy, and I am freaked out that they will soon turn 70. That makes me think about mortality and death.

And that makes me think about the afterlife.

And that makes me think about ghosts.

See the problem here?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Living in the Afterlife

My interest in the paranormal began in the last year or so of my marriage. My ex was disappointed and confused by my fascination with life after death, with the world of spirit, and anything else that wasn't grounded in materialism and atheism. I didn't blame him; in fact, I was embarrassed for myself. I didn't know why I read book after book on a subject that made so little sense to my husband. Nevertheless, I continued my search for evidence of an afterlife.

I think I understand now. One doesn't just die once, but many, many times. The physical death of the body is still far in the future for me (God willing), but I have died before. When my partner of ten years started looking at me as if he despised the very ground I walked on, or worse, with irritated indifference, my time in that life was running short. I didn't know how short.

His departure happened gradually, although I really didn't see it or understand it then. I had grown accustomed to his long absences from home, his all-consuming life at UCLA. I had resigned myself to his rages, his hot anger at me for all the things I did that angered or disappointed him. In the last year of my marriage, the year I lost all control over myself, I was preparing myself for the afterlife.

The death itself was slow and very painful. I hated dying; as I became invisible to the person I loved the most in the world, I realized that there is no going back to your old world. Once you die in that world, you are a corpse. You do not exist. This lesson is still sinking in, since every now and then I attempt to contact the Other Side, in hopes that the person who once created my universe might conjure me up once more, just to prove to me that I really was real.

And yet, he resists and annihilates my spirit every time. I learn, even if slowly, to avoid any contact with a home that is not home, a place that has disappeared, and memories that refer to nothing. He killed me once, and he will do it again, as many times as it takes for me to stay in the tomb.

The parallel universe is infinitely better than the world from which I was ejected. Heaven really is a place, and although I don't believe in perfection, I know I have found the highest of all earthly realities: I am loved, and I love in return. I understand that I inhabit the light now, and that nothing will drag me back to the darkness of a life that expressed itself in pain and constant yearning.

Yet the other world holds its painful attractions, as a place you wish you could claim as real, where you had some dignity; you know that your wishes represent a fantasy, but one you still need.

Dying was hard; becoming a ghost was even worse. Although I know that I am real, that I am loved into this world, sometimes I look in the mirror, and I am still transparent.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What Does One Write About When One is Feeling Out of Words?

For me, it's odd to have nothing to say. I decided to write anyway. So. Ty is away at Jake's funeral. I didn't know Jake at all; in fact, I don't know any of the family on that side. Hell, I don't even know which side I'm talking about. Ron Supancic's side . . . OK, so I do know that. I didn't go, since I have to work, and also because this isn't the best time to meet all the cousins and such. It's disconcerting to feel disconnected from such raw emotion, to watch everyone depressed and crying and feel nothing but distant sympathy and far away sadness. Ty won't be home until late Wednesday night, and it's lonely without him.

Honestly, I've been feeling really out of it lately. I am really scared about everything, but mostly about my health (as usual). I am dizzy a lot, my head is stuffy, my ears kind of hurt, and I'm exhausted and weak. My heart has been racing for no reason I can discern, and when I turn over on my left side, it skips beats. Just when I am getting better, I relapse and start the whole cycle over again. I feel kind of lightheaded and spacey, just floating along from one fear to the next, from one obligation to the next.

I think this latest round of intense anxiety started when I thought my husband had bone cancer. OK, in my defense, he thought so too. Of course, he didn't have bone cancer. He and I are more alike than I ever thought. It is some relief to me to know that the person I love the most in the whole world is a freak like me. He has some anxieties, too. At least I'm not alone in that.

The weekend, as fun as it was, was overwhelming and not relaxing. Friday, we went out with Ty's old photo buddies. We thought it was to be just four of us, but his old photo buddy invited a ton of people and planned for all of us to watch some friend of his play a show at a run-down club in Reseda. The waiter was rude to Ty, refusing to give him tap water, and I stressed out thinking about the way this was all going to end. We were home by 9:30. This was the same day we found out about Jake's death.

I cleaned house Saturday morning like a fiend. I scrubbed out Gracie's cage, making a monstrous soup of soap and bird crap, and then I scoured the floors, vacuumed the carpets, washed the dishes, and put away clothes. I packed, prepared for my ghost hunting weekend at the Glen Tavern Inn, and when Grant and Layla showed up, I was already exhausted. We had fun in Santa Paula until the hotel started playing games with us about available rooms, the cost of said rooms, and other issues. The general rudeness of their staff cast a pall over the weekend ghost hunt. Layla was miserable, she hated her room, Grant was upset because he couldn't fix the situation, I was willing to leave, and when everything was finally taken care of, the rest of the stay was pretty good. We had a great dinner in Ojai, explored a weird, new Catholic university that I've never heard of (Thomas Aquinas), hunted ghosts in the lobby of the Glen Tavern and room 303, and eventually I slept around 2:00 AM. Grant and Layla slept very little, for their new room--one that miraculously became available when we complained and threatened to leave--was right above the tavern, where the music blared way too late and people smoked like chimneys right below their window.

We were all completely wiped out by the time we met up the next morning. I had dog allergies, since the damn place allows pets, and we had to race back to Woodland Hills since we (Ty, Imanya and me) had a brunch date with Marc and Anette. We enjoyed hanging out with them and baby Mila (so adorable that I can't even begin to describe how much), and we had fun wandering around a hippy estate for sale near their house. They had a dog. I felt even worse. By the time we arrived back home, I was so thoroughly trashed that I did NOTHING for school, even though I am buried in essays. I still have to pay some bills, but I'm out of checks.

There was much drama at school yesterday. My loud, undisciplined group of middle school students (even though they're 20 years old)were particularly unsavory and hysterical, pushing me to the point of tears (although not in front of them). Then there was the big Academic Senate Meeting, where I was so nervous I was shaking since they were about the debate MY resolution about the SLO Coordinator position going full time. They passed it with no debate. WTF??????? I wasn't expecting that at all. I had been living on so much caffeine the last few days that I couldn't sleep AGAIN last night, and as Ty was pulling out of the driveway at 6:15 AM, I realized that if I didn't stay home and sleep today, I'd be really sick by tomorrow.

I stayed home. I feel crappy. My head is congested, and I'm dizzy. I keep thinking something is REALLY WRONG WITH ME, and I AM GOING TO DIE. Of course, I have and ear/sinus infection and I just don't want to take antibiotics, because they make me really, really sick. Sicker than the original infection. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow. Maybe I'll finally get over this. This cold started weeks ago, and just when you think it's gone, it returns with a vengeance. I am very unhappy about this, because I don't get to really have a life when I'm sick.

I had something to write, but it wasn't very interesting, and I suppose it would be better for me to wait until I can actually say something that doesn't sound like a whiny screed.

What I want to know is this: when did life stop being fun, and start being so much damn work?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


This means: this is not a real post, just a reminder to my four readers that I am still alive, just waiting for a moment to breathe before I can ACTUALLY WRITE SOMETHING. I wake up at 6:15. I arrive at school at 7:20. I make photocopies. I run off to class and set up the tea caddy, fill the huge tea boiler thingy with water, plug it in, and then run outside to a bench to do relaxation exercises. Then I walk into class, and proceed to teach three classes over the next 4.5 hours. Then, I either run home and collapse for an hour, or I join Ty for lunch and then run home and collapse for an hour. I get up, run back to school, attend meetings, deal with multitudes of student issues, try to be the SLO COORDINATOR (don't ask) for a couple more hours, and then it's back home. Maybe I get to watch American Idol, or perhaps an episode of "The Haunted," and then I'm on the Internet attempting to work on LAPA, or the Los Angeles Paranormal Association web sites. I answer some email, fantasize about a trip to Madrid in June, and . . .

I clean up bird shit. Cat vomit. Hairballs. I make sure somehow the members of the family are fed. I forgot to mention that above. I make dinner almost every night. I am not complaining. Really. I attempt to keep the floors clean and bring a semblance of order to the huge pile of papers on the kitchen table.

I have dizzy spells, and I'm sick. Again.

I forget to pay the bills. Bad things start happening. I get "notices" and "warnings". I still haven't paid those bills. I don't know when I can write. All I want to do is sleep.

So, good night. You will hear from me again, between the cat vomit and the bird shit and the LA DWP bill that has turned from a nice pink to a fire-engine red.

Tomorrow, as they say, is another day.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Writerly Constipation

Hello, everyone. I have been attempting to come up with something interesting for a post, which led me directly to an issue I have with writing: I try to write what I think I SHOULD write, which constipates me, creatively speaking. I judge every line I write, thinking that a certain word is trite or cliche, or that I could have expressed an idea or observation better than I did, and so on. What results from that is a total lack of posts, much time wasting on various Internet sites designed to ruin one's creative impulses (whoops, I used the word "creative" twice, do I need to correct that?) and a sense that one is a total failure as a "writer," whatever the hell that is. What is a "writer?" Someone who writes occasional posts on a blog? Someone who is published?

The above picture is Connor James, my perfect nephew. I feel that I should mention something about what a miracle he is, now much I love him, how much we all adore him, or something profound about new life. However, even though all of those previous observations are true and would make relevant blog entries, all I can manage to say today is this: when I was contemplating his funny and beautiful face last Sunday, I thought:

He has so much to endure. School. Girlfriends. Stupid boys. Barney. Global warming. Potty training. His weird aunt. He'll have to attend my funeral one day. Will he cry because I was so amazing, and he can't imagine life without me? Damn. That's almost too much life. That was the first thought. The second was: crap, I'll have to start over just like him one day. I felt total exhaustion at the thought of starting over. I wondered if we had a choice in the matter. I rather doubt it. One day, I'll wake up screaming as cold hands pull me out of another stretched-out chi chi. I hope that I won't remember too much of this life . . . otherwise, I'll be yelling for Ty or Imanya. "WHERE ARE YOU GUYS? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? AM I A BABY AGAIN???? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO . . . " but there you go. I'll be on another journey, whether I like or not.

Why do I think I'm destined to go around again? I sure as heck have not achieved anything like Enlightenment. I have not earned the right to expand my consciousness to encompass the Great Chain of Being or whatever. I haven't learned enough. Yes, I have another 50 years or so if I'm lucky, but somehow it just doesn't seem like enough time for me to figure out the Big Questions, much less the Big Answers.

Yes, C.J. is wonderful. I can now identify his wail from those of 1,000 other babies. That makes me heart melt a little. A lot.

So I wrote this today, with only 5 minutes left before Imanya and I are supposed to be at G-Mama's. So I feel like a writer today. It feels good.

(I dedicate this post to C.J. and Mosca)