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If Wishes Were Fishes

mood: stretched | drinking: extra-strength tea

wishes

There’s no use pretending otherwise. I’m exhausted. I’m overwhelmed. I’m worn too thin.

And I’m mostly out of words–the good ones, anyway. It’s very rare that I run out of words totally and completely. So I’ve got a few left in me, as you can see. But I can’t promise that they’ll be anything worth getting all worked up over.

So I sit here on the eve on my *whispermumble*nth birthday (that would be Tuesday, November 10th, if you’re keeping track) and try to gather my wits and set down a few thoughts that have some semblance of order.

Every year, on my birthday, since as long as I can remember, I have the overwhelming compulsion to get all reflective and write something profound, some gorgeous and overwrought statement about myself and my life and the meaning of it all. This year is, in that respect, no different than all the previous years.

In all other respects, however, this year has been very different. It’s been quite a son of a bitch.

The last few weeks alone have been, well, I don’t have the right word that will adequately define the last few weeks. Insanified? Critchy? Whoppadoozical? I don’t know.

It all started about the time we closed escrow on our new house. Which is good and lovely and amazing and yay and all that. However, we haven’t moved yet b/c we wanted to do some work on said house before unloading all our boxes. Electricians were hired, plumbers were called, I took a week off work and painted for 7 straight days. Etcetera.

In the midst of all that, my mom and dad came out to visit from Illinois, so there was a lot of back-and-forth between my house and my sister’s place, 2 hours away.

My grandmother came out with my parents, and ended up falling ill while she was here, so there was a bit of consternation.

Then my in-laws were in town for a little bit, at the same time as my parents. Then Boy had to go out of town for a bit. And I had to go back to work. And LeeLoo developed a giant hematoma overnight on her ear that required surgery and stitches and the cone of shame. As soon as that one was healed, she grew herself another one on the other ear.

So as you can see, it’s been Whoppadoozical.

Now I’m back at work and trying to pack up the apartment as well, because we move on Saturday. So taking the time to write this post feels like a self-indulgent luxury. But necessary, somehow.

Anyway, as I started to say a few paragraphs ago, it all really started before all the visitors and plumbers and painting. It started right before that with a couple of fairly life-shaking events.

And I don’t mean to be a tease, but I’m not going to tell the world wide web about those events right now. I’m not ready to talk about them yet. I have barely had time to figure out what they mean to me. But I likely will refer back to them at some point in the near future.

It’s just important for me to realize, in the context of my impending birthday, that I have never experienced such a year of change and upheaval and alteration. I guess if I go back all the way, it started just over a year ago, the first week of November 2008 when my Nana died, I got laid off from my job, and attended a funeral on my birthday.

Things just haven’t gone back to normal since then. But I have hopes that they will. It will be a new kind of normal, but still…

So I suppose that is my birthday wish this year. A return to normal. Some semblance of peace. Me and Boy and dog and fog and a little bit of quiet. That’s all I ask for.

And, let’s be honest, a few un-normal things like a new adventure across the sea wouldn’t be out of the question, either. Don’t want to get too boring in my old age, after all…

-Lo, in need of new words and more time to write them.

The Other Side

mood: visionary | drinking: new tea

nightbridge

October has, thus far, been a month of Happenings. I feel like we’re finally coming out the other side of months of upheaval and change. Certainty awaits.

Among the biggest of those happenings is the happy news that we close escrow on our new house next week. I can’t wait to get those keys in hand! Of course, after I get those keys  I’ll need to grab myself a paintbrush, too.

But it will be nice to have something to DO, finally, after all these months of waiting and wondering where we would end up. I’ve happily submitted my change-of-address forms to the P.O. too, because it makes it feel official. (As if signing a mountain-sized pile of loan documents doesn’t.)

Amidst all the good news this month there has been sad news, too. Last week an old friend of mine died. Her name was Heidi, and I have known her since we were 4 years old. We grew up together, carpooled to school together, rode bikes, walked our dogs, attempted to learn Spanish.

In high school, Heidi was in the cool crowd while I hung out in the front row with the other nerds. But she never made me feel slighted, and when we ended up at the same junior college for a year or so after graduation, we went nearly everywhere together.

Heidi married shortly after I graduated from college, and asked me to read a poem at her wedding. After I moved away I only saw her rarely, but kept up with her from a distance as she got her nursing degree and had two children. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago and survived.

But cancer reappeared earlier this year and claimed her life last Sunday. Her funeral was yesterday and I wasn’t able to attend, but my thoughts have been with her and her family these last few days.

I have only lost two friends my age so far in my life. Which is lucky, I know. But it’s still so strange to think of people around me suddenly not being there anymore. Mortality is a mystery to the living.

…I’m at a loss for a segue. I seem to just be rambling along here anyway.

Last weekend Boy and I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin headlands. We had no particular destination in mind, we just wanted to go somewhere, to be moving instead of sitting at home. We ended up high above the fog, in the dark, watching the clouds close in on the bridge down below.

And I thought, for the hundred millionth time, how happy I am to live here. And how lucky.

My parents fly in today from Illinois, so there’s a family reunion in my very near future. They’re bringing my Gramma Ruth with them, her first trip to California and her first time on a plane, I think since 1968.

Boy and I are in charge of bringing pies to the family festivities, so I’d best get off my duff and up in search of flaky crusts.

I’ll be back next week with a set of brand new keys.

-Lo, getting up and at ’em.

Closing Time

Mood: relieved | Drinking: yes

640_2004

Finally, at long last, our former home is good and sold. To someone new. Which means that Boy and I are no longer homeowners.

We put our home of 5 years, a 1911 Edwardian condo just two blocks from Golden Gate Park, on the market at the beginning of June. We had a buyer on the hook within two weeks. But escrow, in the day and age of cautious banks, takes forever. So we officially closed just this past Friday.

Boy and I moved all our stuff (and the LeeLoo) into short term housing while we look for a new home, probably somewhere near the beach, on the west side of San Francisco. It’s the first time since 1999 that I’ve lived in an honest-to-goodness apartment complex. Kind of a weird feeling.

But we’re hoping that we won’t be here for long. We have a feeling that our next happy home is out there somewhere, and we’ll find it very soon. Fingers (and all other available body parts) crossed.

I feel like I’ve had two elephants sitting on my head for about three months now. One elephant down, one to go…

Looking at that picture up there freaks me out a little. That was us back in July of 2004, sitting on the steps of our just-purchased first home. Looking all young and bright eyed, with a lot less grey in our muzzles. And now it belongs to someone new. Weird. But wonderful.

Once all this real estate drama is over, I’m hoping to get back on the stick will all my various projects. Shel and I have already gotten a good start on editing the Homogeneous cinépoem. And writing group carries on, so I have some new words in the works.

So it’s not all quiet on the western front. There are some faint rustlings. Stay tuned.

-Lo, who misses her garage already.

Proceed with caution

Mood: trepidatious | Drinking: the tea

caution

All around me, life is in disarray. It’s a natural consequence of change, I know this. And I’m also aware that change is, quite often, a very good thing.

But all of this upheaval is very unsettling. Uncomfortable. Exhausting.

This is the state in which I have found myself for the past two months, and all signs point to things continuing to be uncomfortable and exhausting for another two. At least.

I’m learning the practice of living from moment to moment. To be okay in this moment, the one that’s happening right now, and to not worry, stress, or even think about the moment that’s going to be happening three minutes from now.

But to be honest, I’m not having much luck with that sort of Zen mindset.

Eighty percent of my possessions (including all my friendly, life-saving books) are currently boxed in a storage locker on the other side of the city. My home is not my own, as half the furniture in it is not even mine anymore, and I’m constantly being displaced so strangers can tramp through my space and drill holes in walls and write things down on clipboards.

I realize this is all part of the real estate package. Escrow and inspections and all of that, but while I’m waiting for our buyer to sign the final dotted line, I’m also trying to find my own home to buy.

Well, to be more accurate, we are trying to find our new home. Boy is in on this too, all the way. And LeeLoo, whether she likes it or not.

(Speaking of the dog, age 11 is showing its teeth in the form of cataracts in her left eye, arthritis in her right rear leg, and a pronounced loss of hearing. Or maybe its selective hearing. Maybe she thinks that since she now has so much distinguished gray in her muzzle hairs, she can sniff at that tree in the park a few minutes longer instead of trotting right over when I say “Come!”)

A facebook friend who’s a realtor in another state chirpily informed me that selling a house is really hard right now, but buying is easy. Yeah, well, I beg to differ. Because, as with most things in San Francisco, the status quo doesn’t float here.

Selling is easy. Buying is a whole ‘nother story.

San Francisco is situated on the very tip of a narrow peninsula. The whole city is only 7 miles by 7 miles, and is surrounded on 3 sides by water. This means that land here is extremely finite. We’re not going to keep expanding ever outward like oh, Phoenix, let’s say.

And since it’s such a gorgeous, magical, lovely city and so many people want to live here, the limited supply of land and high demand equal pricey living space, a la Manhattan.

Even in such a dismal economy, even at the so-called bottom of the housing market, in San Francisco you still have houses that are only on the market for 1 or 2 days before they are snapped up. You still have multiple offers. You still have bidding wars.

One wee little place that Boy and I set our sights on ended up getting 25 offers and selling for $100,000 over asking price.

Although we are prepared, in our own modest way, to wheel and deal, $100,000 over asking price is not in our price range.

So finding a little house to call our own has been a much more daunting task than I expected, and all these bidding wars and people willing to toss out extra tens of thousands of dollars has been disheartening, for both of us.

As a person who thrives on stability and routine (yes, I’m very exciting that way), living in Limboland has been excruciating.

I have a mantra that I repeat to myself whilst banging my head against the wall, “In a few months, this will all be over. In a few months, this will all be worth it. In a few months, in a few months, in a few…” *bang. head explodes.*

But really, no really, it will work out. We’ll sign the papers. We’ll change our address. We’ll move our boxes. In a few months, I’ll be surrounded by packing peanuts and paint chips. I believe this. I know it. I’m fine.

In the meantime, I’ll just be over here setting out orange cones and flashing yellow lights to alert all oncoming traffic that there is a slight detour. We are under construction. Please excuse our mess. We’ll be with you shortly.

-Lo, warning you that there may be falling objects. Hard hats are required.

I am a hunter.

Mood: reluctantly patient | Drinking: the tea from home

empty_house

A fresh poem for you. And yes, this one’s mine. No borrowing today…

Hunter

Remember when we had a home
when every street lamp
and sidewalk crack
was familiar
as the way your palm
fit my face.

On my walk to the park
I would pass oblivious tourists
and think if they knew
they would want to be me.

Once I had a place for everything
here fits my wishbone,
there rests my dance card
and in the corner
always you
in your chair.

Now I am a hunter
ferreting through wreckage
for a piece that will
fit it all back together.

-Lo, who has taken to reading real estate listings like a horoscope.

Even the azaleas are anxious…

Mood: half-anxious, half-resigned | Drinking: dreams

fret_wall

Fear and love sometimes feel the same, like a thousand violent butterflies beating their wings against your stomach, shredding their way out.

Hope, as I’ve said before, is a knife edge. And I am currently quivering with hope and fear. Knives and butterflies.

I think my current state is quite aptly described by the word “anxious”, with a side of “nervous” and a pinch of “fretful” thrown in. But I’m working, oh so hard, to be zen about it. To say, “what will be, will be.” And be ok with that.

It’s just that I don’t know what will be. And in the not-knowing lies the anxiety.

Let me be all cryptic for now. I’ll explain on the other side. Deal?

Until then, a little Kristy Bowen to make us all feel better. Or at least to make me feel better…

fret
by Kristy Bowen

Lets say a woman’s heart
is like a windup bird.
The conservatory filled
with oranges and the cellar
disordered, unstable
with the pull of thieves

gathering outside the windows.
I’ve invented this: the panic,
copper tongued and shaken.
I’m dizzied, dulcet.
A thin layer of graphite
blooming beneath my skin.

And here, my sleight of hand,
my tour de force,
skirts come all undone
and tapping out code beneath
the dressing table. I am
impossibly lovely, impossibly
fixed against the horizon.
Any attempt at flight
ruining all the furniture.

***

-Lo, beating wings and biting nails.

“We’re all mad here.”

Mood: mad like a hatter | Drinking: melty ice cubes

graffito1

Mush.

This is what my brain now consists of. Absolute mush. Like congealed oatmeal sort of mush. Worms in rain puddle mush. Soggy cornflakes mush. You get the picture.

I have procrastinated on blogging because of said mush brain. What do I have to contribute when I’m a soggy mess? And I have, on general principle, refrained from posting here when I have nothing to contribute…

But sometimes when you sit in front of the blank page (or text box) and just start writing, something satisfying takes shape. Something that needed to be said. You make an appointment with the muse, as the workshop leaders say, and then you wait.

Of course, you probably shouldn’t do this waiting in public. But I shouldn’t have had french fries for lunch, either. And I did. And here we are.

I’m nearly 3 weeks into the new job and less than 1 week away from opening my home for strangers to tramp through. In the last 2 weeks I have spent more time and dollars at Crate and Barrel (votive holders), Cost Plus (vases, curtains, wall decor), Pier One (more vases), SatinBox (mirrored fruit), Target (sheets, silk pillows, curtain rods, and more curtains), Marshall’s (candles, throw rugs, more silk pillows), and Restoration Hardware (real fancy bookends) than I have in my entire previous lifetime.

It feels very adult. And sometimes I have trouble believing that I am a “real” adult. You’d think I’d be getting over that soon.

Anyway, Boy and I decided to save ourselves the thousands required to hire a professional stager and just stage our house ourselves. (I’m hoping that one of the benefits of this decision is that I get to keep all of the aforementioned vases and fancy bits. I will cut anyone who tries to make me return those mirrored apples, I swear.)

I’ve enlisted the eyeballs of my trusty pal Kathy, asking her to critique the results of my shopping and furniture scooting. She’s well qualified for this task due to her own formidable decorating skilz and vast experience with HGTV consumption. My neighbor Roy the Art Director has also pitched in. They both agree that I apparently have excellent taste. Well, duh. *polishes fingernails on lapel*

Meanwhile, in the midst of all this hullaballoo, LeeLoo’s getting stressed out. She’s all, “WTF is my comfy couch?” I have explained that the comfy couch is not gone forever, it was just less visually appealing than the teeny leather couch that now takes its place. The Loo is not pleased. I can’t blame her, but I don’t speak dog well enough to competently explain what’s going on. I’m hoping extra rations of pupperoni will do the trick.

In times like these when your head is up your own ass and all you can think about is the next 15 things on your to-do list that MUST be done yesterday, it’s easy to forget that the rest of the world is carrying on. NPR cures me of this delusion.

Just today on my way to work, I was reminded that a hateful racist murdered someone at the Holocaust Museum, Iran has possibly world-shaking elections tomorrow, Swine Flu (a.k.a. “Hamthrax”) is now classified as a global pandemic, New York is arguing about gay marriage, the FDA is going to regulate tobacco, Detriot is still fucked, 17 ethnic Uighur prisoners from Guatanamo Bay now have refuge in Palau, and the economy continues to give people aneurysms.

So you know, there’s a few things going on out there besides my own small personal hurricane. Good to remember.

Wow, 2009, you’re hardcore.

Clearly the muse has nothing truly profound to deliver today, although I am on draft #2 of two different poems, one about religion and one about dogs that begins with the lines:
“After yelling at my dog,
I decide I will be a terrible mother.”

So there’s that.

Apologies for the continued random nature of my blog posts. It’s gonna be this way for awhile. Perhaps I’ll break it up with some poetry when the dog poem is finished.

Meanwhile, you can enjoy some equally random grafitti apparently crafted by some dude named Kevin Harris, although I have a feeling that all he ever did is sign his name with a blue spray can. Correct me if I’m wrong, mister Harris, wherever you are.

-Lo, who’s becoming a designing woman.

I Miss Dull Moments

Mood: Frazzled | Drinking: Snapple Peach Tea

loo_blanket

Fair warning: Totally random scattershot blog post ahead.

It’s clear to me that the theme of 2009 is CHANGE. Not pocket change or Obama change. I’m talking totally life-altering, plan-upending, out-of-the-blueness change. I assume you need examples. Well, let me lay out this past week for you.

One week ago today, I was in Denver chatting up old friends.
Sunday I was back home, packing up all my bookshelves and other various and sundries.
Tuesday, I was decorating a new office cubicle and meeting lots of fellow co-workers whose names quickly escaped me.
Tonight, I’ll be eating sushi with Eric from Michigan (he of Flashmaster fame), who’s in town for the weekend.
Tomorrow, I’ll be schlepping many of the aforementioned boxes to a storage unit.
And Sunday I’ll be shooting part 2 of the “Homogeneous” cinépoem with Shel and Jimmy. And Kathy and Melissa.
And oh, god, then I shall collapse, get up, and do it all over again.

To say I am busy is to say the sky is blue, the Pope is old, and cheese is awesome.

If you’re saying, “Uh, didn’t you just start a new job in January after getting laid off and whatnot?” Well, first, you are very observant and second, yes. Yes I did. But things happened and headhunters hunted and recruiters recruited and now I am the new girl all over again.

“And about those boxes,” I can hear you muttering, “what’s up with that? Are you reflooring? Repainting? Moving altogether?” Yes, uh-huh, and sweet tasty freeze almighty, yes. To be more specific, we are packing up 90% of our personal and previously totally necessary shit in order to stage our cozy wee home to look all real estate magaziney and then we are sticking a for sale sign on it.

Don’t worry, I’m not leaving San Francisco until they pry this city from my cold dead hands. No, we’re just, you know, taking the next step in home ownership. Also known as getting a 2nd bedroom. Oh, the luxury.

I want to stick a sign on my chest at the new job that says: “Please ignore the crusty eyes and frizzy hairs…I’m trying to do too much at once. Again. Please don’t get used to this version of me. Insanity is only temporary.”

In my defense, I didn’t ask for all of this change. It all plopped into my lap completely unexpectedly and entirely unavoidabley. (Is that last one even a word?)

So I shall continue to go about my days slightly frazzled until all of this simmers down to a slow boil. In the meantime, I guess I will have to find a way to enjoy the bubbles. And the boxes. And the inability to remember all the names at the new place. So. Many. Names.

I’m sure that when “Homogeneous” comes out of the editing suite in the fall, I’ll be bemoaning my total lack of onscreen pizazz. Thank god I’ve got Emanuela and Jimmy to fill in the gaps in this one!

I shall try to keep up a steady patter in this space over the next few weeks, if only to preserve my sanity and step away from the leaning tower of boxes now and then. Speaking of which, when I stopped at the storage unit this a.m. to unload a new carload, I rolled up the door only to find that the previous night’s delivery was toppled all over the floor. I am a terrible box stacker. An inept cardboard wrangler. I have to get Boy on this, STAT.

-Lo, who will totally pilfer any decent-looking cardboard you leave on the curb.

Change without Choice

Mood: Cloudy | Drinking: Yes

empty

We all knew change was coming.

It was the big slogan, after all.

And I’m not necessarily afraid of or opposed to change. Change is necessary. Inevitable. Good, even.

It’s just that I’d rather be prepared for it. I’d rather ask for it. I’d rather be the one who decides when and where and if and how.

Lately, that’s just not happening.

There have been so many changes already in 2009, changes that I did not want, did not ask for, did not sign my name on a dotted line to say, yes, I am on board with all of this upheaval.

But it’s happening anyway.

For me personally, it began with my grandmother’s death followed immediately by the job layoff last November. But with the perfect vision of hindsight, I now see the rumblings that began long before.

Last summer, even while I was cheerfully ignoring any news of impending doom, my friend Michael was reading the New York Times cover to cover and slouching in our living room shaking his head, saying, “We’re all doomed, sweetheart!”

I chose not to believe him.

But change is the kind of force that requires neither your belief nor your permission. It happens, with or without a by-your-leave, and you find yourself getting swept up and carried along whether you like it or not.

Your only choice becomes to surrender to the current or drown.

So I’m surrendering. I am. It’s too exhausting to fight my way upstream, and there’s nothing left back there for me anyway. But I don’t have to be cheerful about it. Not yet.

I continue to wake up crabby that the job I had for four years, the job I picked out all by myself, is gone — washed away. And the job I now have, though I’m grateful for it, is not a job I would have chosen, if given the choice.

I also would not have chosen to wash my favorite wee silver cell phone in the pocket of my grubby jeans after a long day of yard work on Monday. But since I didn’t stop to think about it (or check the pockets), it got sudsed and rinsed and spun and ruined. And now I have a shiny new blue phone and it’s fine and all, but it’s one more change that I did not choose. And therefore I’m slightly disgruntled.

(The phone, in fact, is what made me think about this whole topic.)

But when I bottom line it for myself, I hit the hard and simple truth that this is just life. This is how it goes.

You don’t get to choose everything that changes you. That’s not how it works. So at some point you begin to learn to make the best of it, to accept the new things graciously, to find the good in the midst of it all and to move on.

I’m working on it.

-Lo, making like a chameleon.


A postscript that has nothing to do with change: February 18th is my wedding anniversary. It’s been nine years today since Boy and I stood in a chapel in the middle of a Midwest snowstorm and exchanged vows. Amazing.

Inaugural

Mood: Ebullient | Drinking: Waiting

wash_monument

I shot my mouth off a lot on Tuesday.

Giddy with the dawning of a new era, I got all sassy on facebook and talked smack about inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander.

I really have nothing against the woman herself. I just felt her poem to be middling-to-average, and her delivery of said poem was awful.

Perhaps I took it a bit too personally because I was so excited to have a contemporary poet standing up there on that bright stage, in full view of the entire world. I cheered when she appeared and was all full of goodwill and go get ’em, girl.

And then she spoke, and I was a bit deflated.

Granted, whoever planned the order of the ceremony did her no favors by placing her after all the big hoopla, and so the crowds, whose toes were probably a bit frozen by then, couldn’t be bothered to sit through a poem when the big moment had already transpired.

If she had been placed right after the invocation, she probably would have fared a bit better.

Someone also brought up the point about nerves given the huge crowd, the national stage, etcetera, but let me say this: I have performed in front of tiny rooms and huge auditoriums and outdoor concerts full of raucous teenagers and I would take the hundreds of thousands of faces any day over a small, intimate gathering. Big crowds are cake.

No, I’ve never performed in front of all the living Presidents of the United States, with Oprah in the front row and CNN cameras staring me down, but I’m quite confident I could have pulled out a better reading than Ms. Alexander.

So that’s what I said, more or less, on facebook on Tuesday. And then somebody called me out, challenged me to put my pen where my mouth was and write something myself, since I was so dissatisfied with the poem in question.

And that’s what I’ve spent the last 2 days doing. I’m sure inaugural poets get more than 2 days to craft their work, but I’m not really trying to one-up anyone. Not really. It just became important, sunddenly, to put my finger on what exactly it was I wanted to say about January 20, 2009.

As I started writing, I found that my focus was very simple. It was all about hope. So I wrote about the steadily burning hope I felt on that day, and the hope I’m sure so many others felt as we watched it all unfold.

I borrowed a few words from Nietzsche, from Dr. King, and from President Obama himself. And although I’m sure my chances of being invited to read at such a historical event are quite slim, if I were, this is a poem I would not be embarrassed to read there…

Harbinger

Hope does not automatically spring eternal.
It must first be ignited and after that, fueled.

Constantly it must be sheltered,
lest it be crushed
by the brutal jackboot of prejudice

or wither into obscurity beneath the negligent gaze
of the well-intentioned ignorant.

If hope is indeed the “worst of evils,”
prolonging the torments of the living,
it is also, by necessity, the best of pleasures,
making the work of living worthwhile.

While we breathe, we hope,
for without,
breath blows in vain
heart beats only out of habit
and all of it ceases to mean anything lovely.

It has to begin somewhere, so why not here
this winter morning, under limitless frigid sky,
why not here where we have gathered together
so when the books are written, we can say
we were there.

Why not here where we wait, guardians of the day,
assuring one another by our presence
that this hour has really come.
This moment is really ours.

Take the hope from its hiding place
deep in your chest
and pass this warm light
from hand to hand
quickly
carefully.

Watch as faces
begin to share a telltale glow
and a path appears
where once there loomed an impenetrable wall.

Once, a man had a dream.
Today another man stands
and raises his hand
as evidence of things hoped for,
the embodiment of things not seen.

While there is hope, all is not lost.
While there is hope, courage can be found.
While there is hope, there is momentum,
the sudden possibility of change,
the eternal probability of joy.

Give us a reason to believe and
we will hew from the mountain of despair
a stone of hope.

And with that stone
we will bring down giants.

-Lo, who finds that it always comes back to the knife edge of hope.