Friday, October 31, 2008

Facebook, long lines, and various other ramblings

Yesterday I stood in line for over two hours to vote early. I took a book, of course, so it wasn't too bad. A woman behind me held a four month old baby in her arms the whole entire time. I wished so badly that I'd had a sling or something in the car to loan her, but I just had my non-adjustable Hotsling, which would not have fit her. I also felt like I should offer to hold the baby for a bit, but that's always a little weird, isn't it? She and I and two other women in line chatted off and on the whole time, and I think we all wanted to help, but what if she didn't want strangers (as nice and normal as we all may have seemed) holding her baby? Then we'd all have to stand there together feeling awkward for the next hour. Oh well. I did eventually make it to the machines to cast my vote. Woo hoo! I really prefer to vote on election day, but BD is going to be interviewing people at polling places that day, so I figured I'd better go ahead and get it done. Now watch, on Tuesday the big story will be that everyone is in and out in twenty minutes.

Not to delve into a big political discussion, because this is not that blog, but I recently experienced a big boom of people I went to high school with linking up on Facebook. In looking at their profiles, I couldn't help but notice that the vast majority of these people list themselves as "conservative Christian" and Republican. Neither of which, suffice it to say, comes anywhere close to the way I describe myself. I went all the way through elementary and high school with most of these people, so I guess that's why for some reason it surprises me to learn that they are all so different from me. Which is silly, really, because I in fact thought that everyone was Baptist until sixth grade, when I befriended a Jehova's Witness. And then all of us in our little cool girl clique proceeded to tell her that all her beliefs were wrong, that not believing in hell was crazy, and that her religion condoned way more racial mixing than we were led to believe was acceptable. I still want to find that girl and apologize to her. Thinking about her makes me cringe, not only because of our well-meaning bigotry and intolerance, (which were more often than not backed up by our teachers), but because it makes me think "Holy crap, the Jehovah's Witness was the crazy liberal in my world then?" I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt, after all, the city with more churches than gas staions, yada yada yada. I guess I'm just surprised because I grew up that way too, but I'm not that way now, and the path from there to here just seems so natural to me. To realize that the majority of my peers, kids I went to school with for up to ten years, exchanged classroom valentines with, went through puberty with, snuck out and ran around with, turned out so completely other than what I just feels weird, and kind of depressing. It makes me realize how much I float along in my little liberal midtown(ish) bubble, forgetting I'm a blue dot in a sea of red.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Hung One More Year on the Line

Yesterday was my 36th birthday, and it was wonderful. Between BD surprising me with a shiny new bike, SAM writing me a very nice birthday post and bringing me Chicken Tikka Masala and a lovely French Silk pie, and what felt like hundreds of birthday wishes on Facebook, I felt very loved and happy all day. Who cares if I'm now officially closer to 40 than 30? 36 is looking great so far.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Women's Work

I have a rather un-feminist confession to make: I have never liked the idea of having a man in my kitchen. All the husbands I knew who cooked seemed to get embroiled in these very elaborate recipes that involved blowtorches and trips to multiple specialty markets. Dinner seemed to run quite late on a regular basis, and the wives, between keeping the kids out of the way and then cleaning up the man mess, seemed to end up with as much work, if not more, as if they just cooked themselves. Not for me, I proclaimed.

I grew up cooking. By the time I was in high school, I knew how to make most of my mom's recipes and most days I at least got dinner started when I came home from school. I know how to buy groceries at the biggest grocery store I can find, stock the pantry, fridge, and freezer, and make dinner nightly based on whatever I have on hand. I can take a pot roast from deep freeze to table in one hour (thank you, inventor of the pressure cooker) and serve it up with mashed potatoes and gravy, a green veg, and rolls. I cook like a mom.

Before we had kids, I subscribed to Food and Wine and watched fancy cooking shows and went through phases of baking bread from scratch. I was an adventurous and creative cook, and I looked for opportunities to challenge my skills and cook for a group. But you know, when you cook dinner for nine people at least three nights a week, where's the challenge? Sadly, since the kids started coming, cooking has become less a thrill and more a chore. I've been in a rut.

But things have changed around chez Sassy. BD, he cooks! Since selling the shop and becoming a feelance writer based from home, he has gotten himself a cookbook and started making stuff out of it. I'm not sure if it's because he knows my feelings about the male cooking-as-major-project deal, or if it's just because he's very new to the kitchen, but so far he has stuck to basic-but-good dishes. And I must admit, it has been absolutely wonderful.

I'm not ready to give up cooking altogether, but not having to do it four or five nights a week is very relaxing. And surpisingly, I find myself thinking about branching out and trying new recipes instead of just auto-piloting the old staples. In the past week or so, I've made polenta dishes (cooking my own polenta, not using storebought) and tamales from scratch, much as I might have done ten years ago but would not have felt like doing a month ago. It's been fun. Having a man in the kitchen is not so bad after all! Especially if he happens to be wearing jeans and a black tshirt and have a dishtowel hanging from his back pocket.

Monday, October 13, 2008

You Say It's Your Birthday

A very hAPpy birthday to my girl SAM.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

More fun with words

I'm enjoying the feedback from my words post and am still processing. In the meantime, I'm following Rita through the Johari Window. Click on that and follow the directions to help fill in my window, then make your own and link me to it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Sound of Silence

In The Writer on Her Work, Volume 2, Joy Williams talks about feeling suspicious of a reader's praise by saying "Words, you know, they're around. They get used a lot."

Lately I have become suspicious of my own facility with words. It has occured to me that I think in complete sentences, and while this thought made me happy when it first dawned on me, now I'm not so sure.

This isn't just about my notorious talkativeness, because I believe I have reined that in quite a bit and it rarely gets away from me anymore. It's more about the internal thought processes that aren't necessarily tied to speech. I'm starting to wonder if words are holding my thoughts prisoner.

I don't know why this never occured to me before. I intentionally avoided teaching my children to read before kindergarten because of the theory that the process shapes their thinking into more rigid patterns. (This was a very popular idea among the Existentialist crowd, many of whom advocated waiting until kids were 8 or 9 before allowing them to read.) Three of my four children showed themselves to be highly verbal from infancy, and I wanted to give them time to develop their other facilities. I never worried that they would have trouble with words. I wanted them to focus on what came less naturally: being creative, musical, physically adroit. But I never thought about myself in those terms.

Today as I was reading a friend's blog, I came across these quotes from Ekhart Tolle's A New Earth. I'm not a New Agey spiritual kind of person, but the quotes struck me especially hard:

"Words, no matter whether they are vocalized and made into sounds or remain unspoken as thoughts, can cast an almost hypnotic spell upon you. You easily lose yourself in them, become hypnotized into implicitly believing that when you have attached a word to something, you know what it is. You don't know what it is. You have only covered up the mystery with a label. Everything, a bird, a tree, even a simple stone, and certainly a human being, is ultimately unknowable. This is because it has unfathomable depth. All we can perceive, experience, think about, is the surface layer of reality, less than the tip of an iceberg."


"The quicker you are in attaching verbal or mental labels to things, people, or situations, the more shallow and lifeless your reality becomes, and the more deadened you become to reality, the miracle of life that continuously unfolds within and around you."


It's funny how we can never see clearly when it comes to ourselves. Recently a student of mine who is also a very serious art student wrote in an essay about feeling that she is not as creative as she was a year ago. I suggested in my comments that she spark her creativity by doing things she wouldn't normally do and pushing herself out of her comfort zone a little bit. Maybe that's what I should do, too.

It has never been lost on me that I get a little thrill from being moved to tears for unfathomable reasons. I like it when a piece of instrumental music has an emotional effect on me, or when I see or experience something that stirs up feelings that I can't logically connect to the impetus. I guess I've always understood in a vague, peripheral part of my mind why that might be. And now I've noticed that my ever-morphing daydreams about escaping my children for a few days have taken a new form. I dream of a few days alone, without words. No talking, no reading, no writing. It might sound extreme, but I feel like my brain needs retraining, and rest.