Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Memories

Everyone always makes comments to me about a "traditional Jewish Christmas," i.e. Chinese food and a movie. I think it's quaint, because, until I was living in DC in my mid-20s and had my first ever Jewish boyfriend, I had no idea what that meant.

My family had a traditional Christmas: stockings, tons of presents, capped off with a giant family celebration. My mother did, however, draw the line at a tree. And Jesus. There was no room for Jesus in our Christmas.

Most of my memories of Christmas revolve around the fireplace in our second house in New Jersey, the big house in the affluent suburb. We always had piles of presents, and the Christmas presents were entirely separate from the Hanukkah presents. (Santa Claus was very careful most of the time to not use the Hanukkah wrapping paper.)

Every year, there was candy and an orange in the stocking, and when I was really good, sometimes something extra special like a bracelet or earrings. Santa was a firm believer that "good things come in small packages." And like my mother, Santa agreed that jewelry was a very good thing.

I had a really good childhood.

Before that house, we lived in a different house, a split-level, without a fireplace. In that house, Santa left the presents by the front door, and we would sit on the stairs and open them. I used to pester my father with all sorts of questions about how Santa got into the house in the absence of a chimney. My dad eventually told me that parents of good boys and girls gave Santa a spare key. Case closed.

The year we moved out of that first house, when my brother was still a baby, I remember my mother taking me into the city to see The Nutcracker. I had just started ballet lessons and was convinced that I was going to be a ballerina. I looked the part: tiny and vaguely Eastern European, particularly in comparison to my larger, blonder siblings and cousins. Unfortunately, despite 11 years of dance lessons, the klutzy gene prevailed. (At least I got the bookish gene to go with it!)

I've written before about the Christmases in Florida. I've told the story of the mutant and pornographic Chrismanukkah cookies. I've also noted that the house in Florida didn't have a fireplace, and so, we'd have Christmas in front of the television.

When I was older, I would wait until everyone else had fallen asleep to sneak out and leave presents from "Santa Claus" for the entire family. It was nice to surprise my mother. The last Christmas I spent with my entire family - in 2006 -- Santa brought us all matching pajamas. Santa was such a dork.

I miss Santa terribly right now. I could use a dose of Christmas magic.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Watches and time

I had just gotten out of the Metro train onto a very crowded platform, when I heard the sound of something hitting the tile. The older woman in front of me had lost her watch.

I stopped to pick it up, to the great annoyance of all of the people behind me, who pushed their way around me, to the escalator. All the time, I was shouting, "Miss! Miss! You lost your watch!"

She didn't hear me.

I ran up to her -- high heels be damned -- still shouting. There was no response until I tapped her on the shoulder. Finally, she acknowledged me, and took the watch. She hasn't heard me because she was wearing earmuffs under her jacket hood.

She thanked me profusely. I meekly said it was no trouble and headed up the escalator.

I have no idea how much the watch was worth; I barely even looked at it. (I do know that it was silver and, by feel, it was somewhat dainty.) Instead, I thought about the watch that I've been wearing day in and day out -- the cheap watch that was once my mother's. I thought about the nicer watches in my jewelry box at home that I don't often wear. I wonder if that watch meant something to her, like my watch means to me. I hope it did.

I wonder why no one else stopped or tried to get her attention. I wonder why everyone just pushed ahead, trying to ignore it. Are those five, ten, maybe fifteen extra seconds really that valuable?

Monday, December 20, 2010


I graduated from law school on December 18, 1998, three weeks after I turned 23 years old. Nineteen months later, after the bar exam and an extra year spent getting my LL.M, I was sitting in my crappy apartment in a complex where one of the Gainesville murders took place, packing up my meager possessions into boxes, and waiting for the movers to come get my stuff to cart it a thousand miles north. Other than continuing education seminars, I was done with school, raring to enter the working world.


Or so I thought.

Which brings us to the beginning of 2010. After the loss of my mom, several painful failed relationships, and interminable work stresses, I found myself looking for something, well, more. That more turned into a graduate degree program at Georgetown. And as of a few minutes ago, I just turned in my final exam for my very first class.

I am proud of myself for finishing that first class, but I have so many more to go if I want to complete the degree program. I have no idea whether I’ll ever make it to the end, with work and responsibilities and (arguably) life. But still, in this moment, I am proud. Exhausted too.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Note for Cate, Emma Claire, and Jack Edwards

Dear Cate, Emma Claire, and Jack,

I am so sorry for your loss.

You are probably going to hear a lot of that over the coming weeks, often from people like me who didn't know your mother at all, except for what they saw of her on television and read of her in newspapers and magazines and, occasionally, on the internet. We all feel like we knew your mother, but we didn't -- you did. Remember that when people say things that aren't so kind.

As someone who also lost her mother way too early -- also at age 61 -- I feel so incredibly sorry for you, and I can't help but give advice.

To begin with, you should probably be aware that the next few weeks, and months, and years are going to be really hard -- and really weird. It's hard to imagine right now, but you will eventually get through this. In the meantime, just try to roll with it as best you can. Feel what you are feeling. Talk about it -- to each other, to your loved ones, to your friends. Don't hold it in.

Birthdays and holidays are hard, but that's expected. But be warned: you're going to find yourself crying when you least expect it. Sometimes I cry when I see people with their children -- because I miss my mother, and because I feel sorry for my future children who will never know their grandmother. In the three years since my mother died, that hasn't subsided, and I don't know that it ever will.

You'll also find yourself laughing at times, also when it's unexpected. For me, it was when I was going through my mother's possessions. I was hysterical when I found the random things that she collected, like hundreds of dollars of quarters she had hidden in her nightstand. And I laughed while searching through her disorganized files to find the paperwork about the extension she was building onto the house, only to find my birth announcement and a newspaper clipping from my kindergarten graduation thrown in the wrong file.

Mostly, try to remember your mother -- not the public version that everyone talks about, but the person. Hold on to the stories and the memories. (I tend to write mine down, but that's just me.)

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Scott Baio is my new Twitter BFF!

On Saturday, I attended our annual Christmanukkah party/gag gift exchange.  I wound up getting a Scott Baio poster and a fart machine.

Of course, I took to Twitter to comment on my good fortune. But then a funny thing happened.  Scott Baio responded to my tweet.  For realz, yo:

Now, you should also know that I grew up watching very little television -- until we moved to Florida when I was almost thirteen, all the television I ever watched was:
  1. Saturday morning cartoons;
  2. Shows on Friday or Saturday nights when we had a babysitter;
  3. Growing Pains (because my mom thought Kirk Cameron looked like my brother);
  4. Nickelodeon;
  5. General Hospital;
  6. reruns of The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island when I was home sick;
  7. various game shows, also when I was home sick;
  8. Romper Room, Sesame Street, and the Electric Company; and
  9. whatever I was able to watch at my friends' houses. 
I was forbidden from MTV, and a whole lot of other stuff.  So, while I know about shows like "Joanie loves Chachi" and "Charles in Charge," I can honestly say that I might not have ever seen an entire episode of either.  Pretty much all of my pop culture comes from books and movies.

So, of all the 80's teen heartthrobs in the world (query:  is Scott Baio an 80's heartthrob?  Do I even have the years right?  Did I miss it because I am too young?), Scott Baio was not even on my radar.

I do, however, think it's pretty great that he responds to stuff on Twitter.  It was funny and awesome and totally made my day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Birthday Memories

On Facebook, one of my friends said that it was a family tradition to tell the story of your best birthday memory.  I, however, don't really have a best birthday memory of my own:  I mostly remember the bad birthdays, the ones involving sickness.  I also remember the canceled 16th birthday, when my mother was angry with me.  And I remember the funny ones, like when my dad bought me mousetraps.

I think my memory deficit is because, growing up, my birthdays were pretty much always the same -- family, Thanksgiving, gifts.  One year, there was the infamous Bert and Ernie cake.  Sometimes, when my birthday fell on Monday through Wednesday, there were cupcakes or munchkins in school.  And then there were the birthday parties, sometimes jointly with my sister, in places like Roy Rogers and Friendly's.  But I can't really distinguish any of them as the best -- they were all pretty much universally good.  I had a pretty good childhood.

As for adult birthdays, I have a particularly fond memory of my eighteenth birthday.  It was my first Florida State-Florida game.  I had a friend buy me tickets to the Nirvana concert (and a bottle of Jack Daniels to pregame with).  Other friends bought me my first lotto ticket, which won me $6.50.  And then there was the engagement ring, but that's a story for another day.

But ultimately, my favorite birthday memory is not from my birthday -- it's from my mother's birthday.  A few years before she died, I surprised her by showing up in Florida unannounced.  I had spent weeks laying the groundwork -- work was really busy and I'd be seeing her for Thanksgiving anyway --  and then worked out the secret details with my father and my grandparents. Nana and Pop took mom out for lunch and I walked into the restaurant.  I got to the table and my mom saw me and did a double take.  She was so extraordinarily happy.

I'll have that memory forever.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ancient History

I live in a city obsessed with history: Washington, DC is, in many ways, entirely focused on preserving it, interpreting it, making it, and sometimes even rewriting it. It's strange, though: The history we focus on here only goes back, at maximum, 400 years. When I was living in London, I was constantly overwhelmed by just how old everything there was. And that was nothing too -- when I was in Jerusalem, everything was even older. All that history makes me feel somewhat comforted as I'm heading into another birthday.

The years that end in zeroes and fives are the most stressful. And this time, I'm about to be in another age bracket -- the victim of an unwarranted demographic shift. All of a sudden, I am less valuable to advertisers. But I feel so young -- except when I look at the gray hairs, or when I hear my back and my knees crack and creak when I get up in the morning, or when I realize that some of the people I knew in high school now have teenage children. How did this happen? And, more importantly, how did it all pass me by? When did I become middle-aged? It seems like I was just having my mid-twenties crisis, but no, I'm far removed from all that and instead, getting closer to a sports car and an inappropriately young lover. (Does that even apply to women?)

I passed by Ford's Theater today -- the place where President Lincoln was shot. All of a sudden, I was brought back to my eighth grade trip, to standing on that very corner, with a cast on my arm and a pink denim jacket. Who was that thirteen year old girl? Where has she gone? What transformation could possibly have turned her into me? How did I possibly get here?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dara vs. the Library

Growing up, my favorite place on earth was the library. Not just because of story time, but because there were piles and piles of books for me to read. I consumed books like others consumed food, or perhaps even air or water. Without books, I wilted.

In college, I would occasionally hide in the library -- it was a quiet place to read and think and sometimes write. This was before computers ruled the world -- they were just there as aids to help you find things. (And also, it was where the Tallahassee Free-Net computers were located.) By the time I got to law school, I could see the evolution. Books were becoming disfavored; computer research was the way of the future. And the library? I couldn't study there -- there was too much talking and gossiping. I had to go to the med school if I wanted undisturbed peace and quiet.

Nowadays, I spend almost no time in libraries. We have a small library in the office where I do a little bit of research, but almost everything I need is available on my computer. At home, I have a large number of books -- not quite a library, but perhaps the beginnings of one -- and when I want something new, I go to the bookstore or order it to be delivered.

This brings me to the fact that, for school, I have to write a research paper, which, as it turns out, requires research. And so, this morning, I headed out to the library. First of all, I had forgotten that Georgetown plays football, so I was surprised to find that there was a game today. I was even more surprised to see how small their football games are. But I digress: I parked and walked up the hill to the library.

The library is no longer the quiet refuge of my childhood. It is a noisy place. People talk, slam their computers shut, type with purpose. I used a public computer to search the catalog for the books and articles I needed, writing notes by hand in a spiral bound notebook. I was the only one doing such things. I am a dinosaur.

I was there for a while, but then, all of a sudden, a woman with short blond hair, looking to be my age, sat down at the computer next to me. She slammed her stuff around. Her cell phone rang at least three or four times, in a loud techno music ringtone that angered me. She typed like she was trying to kill the keyboard. She read things on the screen out loud. She also had this weird thing where she kept smacking herself in the abdominal region, five or six times in a row, then would stop, and then a minute or so later, would do it again.

I had to get out of that fucking weirdness.

I finished what I was doing as best as I could. I emailed myself the articles I found online, and went all the way downstairs to the area of the library where they keep the books on religion. It was a dark and musty smelling basement with no signs of life. I quickly figured out why: that section is only open during regular business hours on Mondays through Fridays.

And so, defeated, I trudged back upstairs, straight to the help desk, and told them of my dilemma. They looked at my list of books -- five -- and told me that they would try to get me any of them that were not designated as "Library Use Only." It would take a few minutes. I decided to go to the coffee shop to grab a drink. I have never seen anything like it before: a coffee shop, noisily playing indie music, in the middle of a library. I then looked around. There were almost no books. They are archaeological relics, hidden in the cavernous subbasements where no one is allowed to go.

I managed to check out two of the five books, and raced home. I am hoping that I don't have to go back anytime soon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

My mom's Thanksgiving insanity

As I just told my Dad, I'm not heading to Florida for any of the upcoming holidays or his birthday. Then again, it's not like he's even thought about coming to DC for Thanksgiving or my birthday.

Secretly, I kind of like being on my own for the holidays since my mom died. There's no disruption to my life. I can do what I want, with whom I want -- and if that involves sitting in bed eating pie, so be it. I am beholden to no one. Plus, there's no sense of urgently trying -- and horribly failing -- to recreate the family feeling that died along with her.

Even if we tried, it would be impossible to recreate my mother's version of the holidays. She loved any holiday that involved her getting to have her entire family around her. She would get super busy with the planning and the cooking -- and, as a result, was more than occasionally crazy -- but she loved it. All of it. I have video evidence to prove it.

She also got super weird around the holidays. One year, shortly after they moved into the current house, I was visiting over Thanksgiving and wanted to go out for breakfast. She agreed, and said that we might go with some of her new neighbors. I got up that morning, and as is my custom, threw my hair in a ponytail and put on a ratty old t-shirt and jeans combo. She saw me and said, "You're going out LIKE THAT?!?", with an incredulity that belied the fact that she had seen me go out LIKE THAT almost every day of my life that did not involve (1) office work or (2) a formal occasion.

I chalked it up to the fact that she either really wanted to impress these new neighbors or was clearly losing her marbles, and promised her that I would at least brush my teeth before we left. (Basic hygeine FTW!) My dad was laughing in the background. I interpreted that as a sign that either he thought I was funny or that he knew that asking me to dress up for breakfast was as ridiculous as asking him if he wanted to go to the mall.

We got to the restaurant, and the neighbors were there -- with their age-appropriate Jewish-y son, who, "coincidentally" also attended one of my alma maters and lived in the metro-DC area. It was a surprise set-up -- FOR BOTH OF US. And, as luck would have it, we were both hungry, tired, and completely disinterested -- and, as a result, spent the entire breakfast focusing almost exclusively on our eggs and bagels while our parents gossiped about the goings-on at the clubhouse and the homeowners' association.

I miss my mom, even if she was insane.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

My dad vs. the time change

I always think about my dad when it's time to set our clocks forwards or backwards. This is because the man refuses to observe this custom. I don't remember whether it's Daylight Savings Time that he ignores, or whether he ignores the reversion to Standard Time, but either way, he refuses to change his clocks.

I think that he's batshit crazy. Funny, but crazy.

We have the same inevitable conversation every year: I will be in his car and I will look at the clock on the dashboard -- or I'll be in the house and look at the clock in the stove -- and I will note that it is an hour off, and I will offer to fix it. Then he tells me to just leave it alone, and it will be right again when the time changes. And then I tell him that it is annoying and confusing for all of the clocks to be wrong for half of the year. And then he tells me to fuck off and mind my own business.

Here is the funniest part of all: His sister does the same thing. They apparently share this particular insanity.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Faith and Comfort

I told my Grandmother that I don't really believe in God anymore, and that maybe I never did. "No evidence either way," I explained. "Mythology. Stories that the ancients told to explain the unexplainable," I rationalized. "Agnostic," I concluded.

She said, "You sound just like your Grandfather."

My Grandmother believes. Maybe not as much as some, but enough. Maybe not as much as she once did, but still. Even in the face of people who tell her that believers only believe because they are scared of reality -- or worse -- that they are merely hedging their bets. She still believes despite all the tragedies that she has faced in her life -- poverty, wars, the loss of a spouse, the loss of a child. Her faith comforts her.

I, in turn, am comforted by that.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The one where I discuss my unmentionables

I am going to break one of my cardinal rules and write about something I promised myself that I would never discuss in public: underwear, specifically my underwear, and even more specifically, bras.

In case you don't know, buying a bra is not as simple as going to the store, grabbing something, and paying for it at the counter. Different brands, styles, and designs all fit you differently -- pretty much like all clothing, actually. There are stores that actually specialize in bra fittings to make sure that you are wearing the right size. (Yes, I've been measured on occasion.)

Yet, despite weight fluctuations, I've been the exact same size since I turned 17 -- and coincidentally, I am also the average size for American women. Like most people, I have certain brands and styles that I like, and it changes from time to time. Right now I'm going through a phase where I love Simone Perele, a French brand.

All of this brings me to the bra in question. A few months ago, I was somehow convinced to buy a very expensive bra from a very well-known high-end label. I think it started as an experiment in trying to figure out why people would spend so much money on a plain old bra. But just like when I try on expensive shoes, the serotonin rush takes over and I fall in love. Regardless of the item being purchased -- shoes, clothes, cosmetics -- it all ends the same: a swipe of the credit card and a brief feeling of elation, followed by regret.

I am still embarrassed to admit how much money I spent, but in my defense, the bra fit great in the store. Once I got it home, however, it turned out to be among the worst bras that I have ever purchased. About halfway through the day, the fabric starts feeling itchy and uncomfortable, the straps start stretching out, and then when I move, one of the cups slips into an awkward position. I bet I could find a bra in Walmart that fits better.

As a result, this insanely overpriced bra is now relegated to the back of my drawer, for emergency use only.

I was wearing it yesterday because I really need to do laundry. Late last night, I was on the phone with my brother (who I hope is not reading this) and I had a weird itch on my shoulder. I touched my shoulder and felt something strange. Apparently, the fabric covering the bra strap had started to disintegrate, leaving random bits and pieces of sheer, glittery, beige fabric stuck to my skin.

So here is the most expensive single piece of lingerie that I own falling apart while I am still wearing it. It is disgusting, not to mention disappointing. Most importantly it is, once again, a reminder that price, reputation, and celebrity endorsements are not necessarily indicative of quality. Be warned.

Friday, October 22, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 30

Day 30: The last day. And I'm supposed to be writing a letter to myself telling myself everything I love about myself.

Me, me, me. Here goes:

Dear Dara,

You somehow managed to blog your way through this exercise. You wrote for 30 consecutive days. You never did that before. You continually surprise me.

Everyone always says how smart you are. But you are so much more than that. You can be kind. You can be generous. You can be compassionate. And you can be hell-on-wheels. Even you don't know which one is coming.

You are either crispy on the outside with a gooey marshmallow center, or a gooey marshmallow exterior with a core of solid steel. No one knows for sure. It's great that you cry when you read newspaper stories about injured and dying children. Or that you laugh at sad news stories when people's names are funny. People will think you're a softie or a jerk. Keep 'em guessing.

You have a standing policy of always rooting for the underdog. You sometimes think of yourself as the patron saint of lost causes. Except without the saint part.

You are a hard worker, except when you are procrastinating. You are precise and well-prepared and very rarely surprised by any unforeseen contingencies. You are a good writer. Even your assistant chief said so. On a post-it. Keep that post-it as a reminder and rub it in his face the next time he wants to make a change to something.

You are even occasionally funny and cute. But don't push your luck.


Yesterday: Day 29 → Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 29

Today's objective is to write about something I hope to change about myself and why.

I said on Day 1 that I hate that I am so closed-off. I hope I become less closed-off. I need to let people in instead of pushing them away.

Yesterday: Day 28 → What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?
Tomorrow: Day 30 → A letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 28

Today's question is what I would do if I got pregnant or if I got someone else pregnant.

Excepting some kind of medical miracle, we can rule out the latter. So the question for me is what I would do if I were to become pregnant. And the answer is quite simple: I would have a kid.

This is not to say that I am pro-life: I most certainly am not. I believe, with every fiber of my being, that having a child is a decision, and it's one that should be made carefully and thoughtfully. If the idea of abortion offends your morals or ethics or values or religious principles, then that affects your calculus. But everyone else's decision should be made based on their own morals and ethics and values and religious principles and anything else that might pertain to the decision, and not what anyone else says or thinks or does. Every situation has its own facts and circumstances.

For me, I've been caught in the trap of thinking that having a child was something that waited until you were in the perfect relationship, in the perfect situation, at the perfect time. I now comprehend just how naïve that is. Relationships are never perfect, and even when things seem that way momentarily, you can't always avoid tragedies, either large or small. People lose jobs, people fall out of love, people get ill, people die. If you wait for the stars to line up perfectly, you'll wind up waiting forever. And, perhaps most importantly, if you are not prepared, at least on some level, to be a single parent due to divorce/death/other misfortune, you are not entirely prepared to be a parent.

So yeah, if I were to find myself pregnant, I would have the baby. I can afford to have one, would like to have one someday, and -- perhaps most importantly -- I'm not getting any younger. This is not to say that I'm out actively trying to have myself a baby: I most certainly am not. I work too much, I have no real support system, and I have other things that I still want to do. But I am also profoundly aware that the universe works in mysterious ways.

Yesterday: Day 27 → What’s the best thing going for you right now?
Tomorrow: Day 29 → Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 27

Today's subject is the best thing I've got going for me right now.

My mind. Without it, I am nothing. With it, I am everything.

Yesterday: Day 26 → Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?
Tomorrow: Day 28 → What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?

Monday, October 18, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 26

Today's question: "Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?"

Man, I wish I could skip this one. This is hard to write about, and even harder to do it without falling back to my normal self-defense mechanisms of sarcasm and snark.

Life is challenging, and even people whose lives may seem great to outside observers struggle with things. Sometimes you're swimming with the current -- but other times you're swimming against the current and doing all you can to just keep your head above the water, and you have these fleeting moments where it seems to hard to just keep going and you want, desperately, to just stop.

So, yeah, my answer is yes, but never in an active "I'm going to kill myself" kind of way. It was more of a passive "my current situation sucks and I think I would rather not be alive to deal with it" way. But I was cognizant enough to recognize that, in that moment, I needed help -- and lucky enough to be able to go out and get help. And, to be honest, for me, that was the hardest part: I'm not one to admit weakness.

Since then, Buddhism has helped: it's made it easier to just let go and stop struggling against the current.

Yesterday: Day 25 → The reason you believe you’re still alive today.
Tomorrow: Day 27 → What’s the best thing going for you right now?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 25

Today I'm supposed to write about the reason that I'm still alive today. This is a poorly crafted question. If I were to read the question in terms of cause-and-effect, well, I'm still alive today because I was born, and, as my luck would have it, I haven't done anything stupid enough or careless enough or reckless enough to be dead.

But I think what this question is really trying to get at is what I view as my purpose -- my raison d'être, as it were. And the truth is, I don't know : I'm constantly searching for a higher purpose, a meaning to all of it. But on some level, I think the search for meaning is the higher purpose.

Yesterday: Day 24 → Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)
Tomorrow: Day 26 → Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 24

Today I'm supposed to make a playlist for someone, and explain why I chose all the songs.

I used to make mix tapes all the time -- later, they evolved into mix CDS. And I still occasionally do it -- just not for other people: I make them for me.

Occasionally, my mixes have a theme. Sometimes they just have a mood. Most often, they are just an attempt to capture a moment in time, musically. Sometimes, then, the moment in time or the mood or the theme intersects with a particular relationship, and later, when listening to the CD, I realize that it's all about that relationship -- good, bad, or indifferent.

This, my dears, is why I liked High Fidelity so much.

Some years ago, I had a boyfriend who made me mix CDs: they were always attempts at a theme, and were, by and large, intended to be funny. I tried to make him a mix once. It had no focus, no unifying theme, no real thought. It was merely a collection of songs that I thought he would like. I wish I could take it back, for many reasons.

Last year, I was dating someone who asked me to make him a CD with a collection of things that he might like or that would expand his musical knowledge. I started working on it, but then I decided it (he?) really wasn't worth the effort. After all, a mix CD is a gesture of love.

So, reconciling all that with the mission at hand, I'm going to post a playlist for all my writer and blogger friends, about the things we love: writing and reading and books and authors. Because you're awesome.

  1. Moxy Fruvous: My Baby Loves A Bunch of Authors (Speaks for itself.)
  2. 10,000 Maniacs: Hey Jack Kerouac (Author, best known for On the Road.)
  3. Ryan Adams: Sylvia Plath (Poet and author of The Bell Jar. Sadly, best known for committing suicide by putting her head in the oven.)
  4. Vampire Weekend: Oxford Comma (A song about punctuation, at least in title.)
  5. Elvis Costello: Every Day I Write The Book (Speaks for itself.)
  6. Bruce Springsteen: Dancing in the Dark ("I'm sick of sitting 'round here trying to write this book.")
  7. The Beatles: Paperback Writer (Speaks for itself.)
  8. U2: Stranger in a Strange Land (Title of a novel by Robert A. Heinlein.)
  9. Jefferson Airplane: White Rabbit (Based on Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.)
  10. Guns 'N Roses: November Rain (Allegedly based on the short story Without You by Del James.)
  11. Metallica: One (Based on Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo.)
  12. Led Zeppelin: Ramble On (Filled with references to J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy.)
  13. The Police: Tea in the Sahara (References to The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles.)
  14. The Cure: Killing an Arab (Based on The Stranger by Albert Camus.)

Yesterday: Day 23 → Something you wish you had done in your life.
Tomorrow: Day 25 → The reason you believe you’re still alive today.

Friday, October 15, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 23

Today, I'm supposed to write about something I wish I had done in my life.

I'm sitting in Los Angeles, where my mom lived when she was in her early 20s, on what would have been her 64th birthday. I often found myself hating her birthdays. I hated having to organize my siblings enough to do something nice for her. I grumbled about how hard it was to figure out what gifts she might have wanted and how I would have to brave the crowded shopping malls to go get it. I used to get annoyed by how she always wanted me to use my vacation time to go down to Florida just to see her.

I wish I could go back in time and take it all back. I wish I had told her that I loved her more often than I did, and not just when I was pushed or prodded. I wish I had thanked her for everything -- for giving me life, feeding me, clothing me, taking care of me, pushing me to be a better person, fighting for me, loving me. I wish I had pushed her to take better care of herself. I wish I had been a better daughter.

Yesterday: Day 22 → Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
Tomorrow: Day 24 → Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 22

Today, I'm supposed to write about something I wish I hadn't done in my life. And, despite the fact that I try to live my life with as few regrets as possible, there are several. I regret not spending more time with my mom before she died. I regret putting my career above my personal life. I regret eating that last Reese's peanut butter cup.

More than anything, though, lately I've been wishing that I hadn't rushed my way through college. If I could go back in time and do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I think I would take my time instead of graduating early. I'd take classes just for the sake of learning and not necessarily for my major or to help me get into law school. I would waste oodles of my father's money just studying art and literature and whatever random impractical thing that piqued my interest. This, ultimately, is why I'm back in school -- only this time, I have to find time to do it while I'm working and pay for it myself.

Yesterday: Day 21 → (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?
Tomorrow: Day 23 → Something you wish you had done in your life.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 21

Today I'm supposed to answer the following question: "Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?"

I used to think that there was no such thing as a dumb question. I was wrong. This is a dumb question.

People bicker. They argue. Sometimes they say mean, hurtful, or spiteful things. It doesn't mean they don't love each other. It just means that they're assholes, same as everyone else.

So, if the person is really your best friend -- which means you're not deluding yourself -- you forget about all of the shit and you are there for them when they need you -- and you stay out of the way when they don't. If you're not sure, ask.

And sometimes, when you're very lucky, you get to go to Chick-fil-A in your pajamas together.

Yesterday: Day 20 → Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Tomorrow: Day 22 → Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 20

Today's topic is my views on drugs and alcohol. Like almost everything else I've written during this exercise, it pretty much boils down to "Don't tell me what to do and I won't tell you what to do" and "moderation."

I occasionally have a drink; when I was younger, I drank more. I've always tried to be careful about not drinking and driving, and not drinking so much that I've done anything that I could regret. I won't say that I've been perfect: back when I was younger, I didn't really control my drinking as much as I could have or should have. Some people might have some really funny stories -- provided, of course, that they were sober enough to remember. But on the other hand, I know plenty of people that really overdo it, and, in comparison, my indiscretions have been small.

Now that I've gotten older, I've figured out that moderation is the key. I like the occasional drink -- although I keep way more alcohol in the house than I will ever drink. (Note to self: throw more parties.) As far as behavioral concerns, my general view is that you need to be able to control your habits so that you don't hurt yourself or others. And you need to be able to stop if necessary: once the habit becomes so all-consuming that it affects your relationships, your career, or your health, you should probably reconsider it. If you can't stop, you should get help.

As for drugs? I generally believe that people are adults and drugs should be legalized and regulated -- and heavily taxed -- much like alcohol and tobacco. People should be allowed to rot whatever brain cells they choose to rot, provided they're not hurting anyone but themselves. This is basic survival-of-the-fittest.

Yesterday: Day 19 → What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?
Tomorrow: Day 21 → (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?

Monday, October 11, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 19

Today I'm supposed to give my views on either religion or politics. But honestly, if you read this blog, you already know. I have beliefs. But more than I believe in any particular religion or political ideology, first and foremost, I believe that no one else should tell me what to believe or not to believe, what I can or cannot say, or what I can or cannot do (as long as I'm not causing harm to anyone else). And I believe that it's reciprocal: it's not my place to tell other people what they should believe, say, or do.

That said, I think the world would be a better place if we would all endeavor to treat each other with kindness, compassion, and respect, no matter what our disagreements on any particular issues of policy or faith.

Yesterday: Day 18 → Your views on gay marriage.
Tomorrow: Day 20 → Your views on drugs and alcohol.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 18

Today I'm supposed to write about my views on gay marriage. But this is really really simple: I have absolutely no problem with it. I have no problem with homosexuality -- many of my favorite people are gay. More significantly, I have no problem with any two consenting adults deciding to form a partnership and pledge their lives to each other. We should all be so lucky.

I can't figure out why people are still so hung up on these types of non-issues. If you don't agree with homosexuality, don't have sex with a same-sex partner. If you don't believe in gay marriage, don't have one. If you don't believe in abortion, don't have one. If you don't believe in Jesus, don't go to church. Your religious values or moral code or ethics or whatever you call it are not the same as everyone else's. Therefore, your ability to do what you want to do -- provided you are not hurting anyone else -- should not be limited by other people's values, and vice-versa. This, my dears, is how freedom and liberty work. If you disagree with that, well, maybe you should remember why the Puritans came here from England back in 1620. (Hint: it had something to do with trying to escape being persecuted for their different beliefs.)

So, yeah, I think people should be allowed to get married to whomever they want, provided that they are of age, able to consent, there are no legal obstacles to the marriage, and -- most importantly -- the other person wants to marry them back. Do I think that various religious institutions have to perform the ceremony? No -- the religious institution is likewise free to make such a choice. But I certainly don't want to be a member of such a biased, prejudiced, closed-minded religious institution.

Yesterday: Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.
Tomorrow: Day 19 → What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 17

Today's topic is a book that I've read that changed my views on something. Again, this is particularly difficult because there are so many to choose from. Not just because I read so much -- which I do -- but because almost everything I read affects me in some way. All good books should affect you like that. And the great ones? They should make you think about things in a new way, make you question your beliefs, and inspire you.

That said, in the past few years, I think the book that has affected me the most is The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. First and foremost, she's become one of my favorite authors -- which is especially wonderful because she's still alive AND relatively prolific -- which means that I keep getting to read new things. (And she's even on Twitter! Bonus!)

Anyway, I read the book in a contemporary literature class during my first year of college, but like a lot of things I read in college, I raced through it, just getting what I needed out of it to get a good grade on the paper or exam -- which, sadly, was pretty much like my approach to college in general. (This, ultimately, is why I'm back in school.)

Lucky for me, someone mentioned something about the book to me sometime around the time of the 2004 presidential election, when there was a strange intersect in this country between what seemed a little like fundamentalist religion and right-wing neo-fascist politics. So I re-read the book. And wow! Imagining what might happen if the country took a few more steps towards a social conservatism led by people who interpret the bible literally? SCARY. But what is most frightening is that the book is not all that far-fetched. I mean, usually, when you read dystopic futuristic books, there is some kind of crazy environmental or scientific catastrophe that launches the entire world into a tailspin. But this book? Completely possible, and completely in the control of human beings. So now, every time I hear about some politically-oriented fundamentalist group trying to use biblical literalism to back up some completely immoderate position (see Westboro Baptist Church), all while laughing in the face of basic human values, a little chill goes down my spine. Because this book shows just what is at the end of the slippery-slope. And it's not pretty.

Oh, and the book? Great read. Well written, interesting, fantastic story.

Yesterday: Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.
Tomorrow: Day 18 → Your views on gay marriage.

Friday, October 08, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 16

Today's topic is someone or something I definitely could live without.

This is hard because everything is so fundamentally intertwined with everything else. Whether it's causal relationships, tangential relationships, or something else, we all are, in large part, a reaction to the other people and things in our environment. Or, to quote Salman Rushdie: "I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’ve gone which would not have happened if I had not come."

That being said, I could definitely do without most of the negativity out there in the world. I'm particularly attuned to it during election season, but with the 24-hour news networks and the pundits out there, it's gone from being a cyclical affliction to a constant sickness. Everywhere you turn, it's always people calling each other names and accusing them of all sorts of heinous things while pretty much refusing to take any responsibility for anything or take any steps to make the world better for anyone. Politicians say whatever it takes to get elected and to stay elected and don't do much of anything at all -- at least where it affects real people and their basic needs. And pundits? What the hell do they do except feed off of others' malaise? I could do without all of that: I would like to replace it with leaders who think and act instead of counting their poll numbers and news that reports instead of antagonizes.

Yesterday: Day 15 → Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.
Tomorrow: Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 15

Today I'm supposed to write about "something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it."

I have two.

1. Caffeine. As early as high school, I pretty much lived on Diet Coke and coffee. By the time I graduated from law school, I was drinking two or three cups of coffee in the morning, and cans of Diet Coke the rest of the day. I couldn't function without it: I was addicted. So, in 2002, I decided to give up all caffeine -- cold turkey.

Giving up coffee was the easy part. But soda, tea, and chocolate? I lasted six weeks. I started back with a little bit of chocolate and the occasional green tea in the afternoon. And then the Diet Coke. But I stayed off coffee for years -- until my nephew was born in 2009. I was getting my sister a Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee, and I couldn't resist the siren call. I still don't need it the way I used to, but I definitely like having it back in my life, in moderation.

2. Red meat. Remember last summer when I had my little project where I gave up all meat and poultry for 30 days? The first few days were relatively easy, so I kept going. Eventually, though, I got really anemic. Plus, I remembered that I really like meat. So, once again, I reverted. I don't eat a lot of it, but I won't ever rule it out either. Again, it turns out that, for me, moderation is the key.

Yesterday: Day 14 → A hero that has let you down. (letter)
Tomorrow: Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 14

Today's topic is a letter to hero that has let me down. The problem? I don't really have any heroes -- never have. Growing up, I didn't put any faith in political or religious figures, and I was never naive enough to believe that actors or athletes or rock stars were any more or any less than just people with a particular talent. I am a skeptic -- and it's hard to truly be let down when you've never truly believed in anything in the first place.

The closest I ever got to heroes were authors. But most of them were already dead by the time I got around to reading their books. And, honestly, I can't remember ever really being let down by them. Just the opposite.

Yesterday: Day 13 → A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)
Tomorrow: Day 15 → Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 13

Today I'm supposed to write a letter to a band or artist that has gotten me through tough times. My letter would be way too goofy. Instead, I'll just make a few comments.

As anyone who knows me already knows, my favorite band is U2. Heck, it was pretty much the soundtrack of my entire adolescence, from The Unforgettable Fire to The Joshua Tree to Rattle and Hum to Achtung Baby. To this day, whenever I need inspiration, I invariably default to The Joshua Tree or The Unforgettable Fire. Right before my mom died, I had gotten the 20th Anniversary deluxe re-release of The Joshua Tree, and I remember listening to it a lot in the hotel room in Newark.

Still, if I had to say that there was one song that helped me get through my mom's death, it wouldn't be a U2 song. It was, of all the random things in the world, a Lifehouse song -- Broken. A silly little pop song that made me pull over to the side of the road and bawl my eyes out.

The broken clock is a comfort
It helps me sleep tonight
Maybe it can stop tomorrow
From stealing all my time
And I am here still waiting
Though I still have my doubts
I am damaged at best
Like you've already figured out

I'm falling apart
I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart
That's still beating
In the pain
There is healing
In your name
I find meaning
So I'm holding on
I'm barely holding on to you

The broken locks were a warning
You got inside my head
I tried my best to be guarded
I'm an open book instead
And I still see your reflection
Inside of my eyes
That are looking for purpose
They're still looking for life

I'm falling apart
I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart
That's still beating
In the pain
Is there healing
In your name
I find meaning
So I'm holding on
I'm barely holding on to you

I'm hanging on another day
Just to see what, you will throw my way
And I'm hanging on, to the words you say
You said that I will, will be okay
The broken light on the freeway
Left me here alone
I may have lost my way now
But I haven't forgotten my way home

I'm falling apart
I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart
That's still beating
In the pain
There is healing
In your name
I find meaning
So I'm holding on
Barely holding on to you
Barely holdin on to you

It still brings me right back to that moment, when I was so lost, and so alone, and I had no idea what I was going to do next. Barely holding on, indeed.

Yesterday: Day 12 → Something you never get compliments on.
Tomorrow: Day 14 → A hero that has let you down. (letter)

Monday, October 04, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 12

Today I'm supposed to write about something I never get compliments on.

My taste in boyfriends.

My close friends and family members NEVER like the people I date. And when it ends, I always get some variation on "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?"

Yesterday: Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on.
Tomorrow: Day 13 → A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 11

Today's topic is something people seem to compliment you the most on. For me, compliments tend to come in two varieties: compliments about my physical appearance or compliments about my mental abilities. People are either telling me that I have pretty eyes or that I'm funny; that I'm cute or I'm smart. I'm not complaining.

Although it was really weird when a lady on Metro told me that I had the most beautiful hands that she had ever seen.

Yesterday: Day 10 → Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.
Tomorrow: Day 12 → Something you never get compliments on.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 10

Today I'm supposed to write about someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know. And, to be honest, this is something I'm working on. As bad as I may be at staying in close contact with people (see yesterday's post), it takes an awful lot for me to completely let people go. I almost never do it, instead leaving the door open just enough.

That never works out well. I need to completely shut out the people that hurt me, take advantage of me, don't have my best interests at heart, don't love me for me -- but instead for what I do for them. I need to decline their invitations to engage, instead of worrying about whether it's rude to ignore them: I need to ignore them. I need to stop picking up the phone when they call and responding to the emails and the texts. I need to let them go.

Yesterday: Day 09 → Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.
Tomorrow: Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on.

Friday, October 01, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 9

Today I'm supposed to write about someone that I didn’t want to let go, but just drifted. And there are a ton of people that this could apply to. Every time I transition to a new city or a new phase of life, I seem to get worse and worse at keeping in touch with my friends from before. And my family? Since my mom died, I barely keep in touch with any of them -- I haven't spoken with my aunt in two years. It doesn't necessarily mean that I don't think about these people, miss them, and, in my own way, love them. What it does mean is that I get busy and life distracts me, and as a result, I am completely horrible at finding time to stay in touch. Facebook and email help, but I know it's not enough.

Still, that's not really what this topic makes me think about. It makes me think about my sister. Growing up, we were so close -- best friends. Once I left for college, though, it seems like the whole dynamic changed and we started drifting apart. Now, all of a sudden, it's like she's a complete stranger. The socio-economic differences in our lifestyles don't help.

As the older sister, I've always been there for her when she needed me. Then it started to seem like the more I do for her, the harder she pushes me away. Other people in the family get angry with her, and up until recently, I always found myself defending her. But now, I find that I can't do it anymore -- I can't defend her, and I can't always run to her rescue when she calls me. So, over the summer, I stopped calling. And she hasn't called me either -- I haven't spoken to her since June. (I have spoken with her husband, as he still calls me on occasion.)

I don't have it in me to maintain a relationship that is a one-way street. So, in my own way, I let go. Either way, it hurts like hell. And I miss her.

Yesterday: Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.
Tomorrow: Day 10 → Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 8

Today's topic is "someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit." I'm going to resist the urge to write about family members here. Because, let's face it, while certain ones drive me crazy, and too many of my relationships are out of balance, that's not really what this is about.

So I'm going to talk about teachers. I did, on occasion have supportive, encouraging teachers, but they were the exception, not the rule. More often that not, however, I wound up with teachers that did not understand me, and wound up trying to discourage me. It was really frustrating for me -- and probably more so for my mother.

As a kid, I was always reading and writing stories. I'd read on the bus, under my desk, during lunch, on the playground during recess -- and my teachers used to actively discourage it! One teacher kept commenting to my grandmother (who worked at the school) that they needed to get me to put down the books and play more, "like all of the other kids." And I got in trouble for reading things that were age-inappropriate -- i.e. too advanced. I was also in a gifted program that took us out of class to do additional work, and we were expected to make up all the regular classwork that we missed.

I always felt that I was being punished for being smart. So I would act up -- I stopped reading what I was assigned, I refused to do my homework. In short, I decided to purposefully stop participating in the system. It took my mother a long time to figure my behavior out, but eventually she understood. It got somewhat better when we started having classes that were tracked for "gifted" or "honors."

Still, in a high school gifted English class, I had a teacher that tried to get me kicked out of the program because I refused to write a five-paragraph essay that just regurgitated the points that she made about the books. I had written a paper with my own ideas, in my own way, and in my own voice -- and rather than encouraging me to think for myself and try to support my own conclusions, she tried to punish me. And again, I was lucky enough to have a mother who encouraged me and fought for me.

Yesterday: Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living for.
Tomorrow: Day 09 → Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 7

Today I'm supposed to write about "someone who has made your life worth living for."

I was born. It was not my choice; it was my parents' choice to have me. (This is particularly timely today, on what would have been my parents' 36th wedding anniversary.) I am grateful for that -- glad to be alive, in the present time, in my present circumstances. I am cognizant of the myriad ways that the stars had to align for everything that I am and everything that I have to even be possible. But yet, I don't live for or because of any of that.

The idea of someone -- just one person -- who made your life worth living? It's trying to reduce your entire existence to one relationship. To me, that seems dangerous, lacking in a solid foundation. Life is more beautiful, more subtle, more complicated than that.

I live for me. Maybe that's selfish.

Yesterday: Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.
Tomorrow: Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 6

Today's topic is "something you hope you never have to do."

This brings me to something I think about a lot: death and loss. I wish I had never had to learn how to lose someone I loved and how to grieve. But ultimately, loss and death and grief are universal -- we all have to go through it at some point. If you're lucky, you don't have to think about it until you're good and old and perhaps ready to let go of things. Personally, I think had to learn the lesson a little too young. In the absence of that lesson, I would say that I hope I never have to go through the loss of anyone that I love, but now I know just how unrealistic that is. Besides, my grandmother is 85 and my dad is almost 70. Ultimately, eventually, I will lose them both -- and perhaps my siblings, other family members, and friends. I now know that life is like that, and all you can do is love the people you love while they're around for you to love them. It sounds so simple, doesn't it?

Every once in a while, my dad and I talk about "what ifs," and things like his health care directives. As far as I know, he hasn't reduced any of it to writing yet, but I know he's going to put me in charge. And I hope that I never have to make any of those decisions. I would be no good at it: I am no good at letting go.

Yesterday: Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.
Tomorrow: Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living for.

Monday, September 27, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 5

Today I'm supposed to write about something I hope to do in my life.

There are a quite a few that come to mind. Many of the first ones were travel related: I would like to see every state, go to a baseball game in every major league park, travel the world. And then there are the accomplishment goals: I would like to write a book, get my Ph.D. But all of these are small goals -- and are all things that I've at least started working on.

Then I realize what the real answer is: I hope to someday have a family. This is something that I didn't really know or understand until a few years ago. If you had asked me if I wanted kids when I was 25, I probably would have looked at you like you were crazy. If you had asked me the same question at 30, I probably would have said maybe, but not any time in the near future. Then I lost my mother -- and as a result, I realize the importance of having a family, of having ties both to the past and to the future. I want to have those ties.

Will it ever happen? I don't know. Everything else seems so much more controllable for me.

Yesterday: Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.
Tomorrow: Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 4

Today I'm supposed to write about something you have to forgive someone for.

This takes me to Buddhism.

Don't worry, I'll explain.

A few months back, I read some Buddhist philosophy that moved me. My biggest take-away is a quote from Pema Chödrön, "stop having expectations of others and just be kind." (There's another quote from another Buddhist nun that I read recently that strikes me in the same way: "We don’t get angry because the glass is broken, we get angry because we thought the glass would never break.")

When I was at the spa a few weeks back, I took a meditation class. One of the instructors had us try to find a mantra to meditate to. Her instruction was to breathe in a gift that we were giving to our self, and breathe out a gift that we were giving to the world. The Pema Chödrön quote was my inspiration -- my inhalation thought is "letting go" and exhalation is "kindness". For the record, this works a lot better than some random Sanskrit word or focusing on various parts of my body.

So what does this have to do with forgiveness? I have to forgive people -- particularly my family and friends, and most specifically, my father -- for not living up to my expectations. I'm working on it, every day, by trying to let go of those expectations. Some days it's easy, other days, not so much.

Yesterday: Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Tomorrow: Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 3

Today's mission is to write "something you have to forgive yourself for."

I have to forgive myself for not being perfect.

I struggle with this, day in, day out. I hold myself to an impossible standard, and I am constantly disappointed when I can't meet those expectations. It also works in tandem with the walls I wrote about on Day 1 -- I don't let anyone close enough to see beyond the facade out of fear that they can see the imperfections. I know this. I understand this. And still, every day, it is a challenge.

Yesterday: Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.
Tomorrow: Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.

Friday, September 24, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 2

For Day 2, I'm supposed to write about something I really love about myself. This, too, presents a challenge, because there are so many things about me which are loveable.

For example:
  • I am cute. I have pretty eyes, and dainty features. My hands are nice, especially when my nails are long. I have small feet, and my toes are not gross.
  • I am very strong for as small as I am.
  • I am a really good person and a really good friend. I am a good listener. I am reliable. I am honorable. I am not purposefully hurtful. And, despite what my brother might tell you, I am very nurturing.
  • I am smart, I am clever, I am witty, I am funny -- and I know that "smart, clever, and witty" and "clever, witty, and funny," while related, are not precisely the same thing.
  • I know the difference between their, there, and they're, and how to use them in correctly-spelled, correctly-punctuated, complex sentences. (Take that, oxford comma!)
  • I am good at my job. I am organized, precise, able to multi-task. I am a good researcher. I am a good student. I am a good reader. I ask thoughtful questions. I am a quick learner, and people generally only have to explain things to me once.
  • I have an exceptionally good memory.
  • I can keep plants alive.
  • Giant t-shirt collection notwithstanding, I have excellent taste in shoes and clothes. I also have an uncanny ability to bargain shop.
  • I am quite decent at fantasy baseball and fantasy football -- and don't have to qualify that with "for a girl."
  • I can make a sock monkey. From, like, actual socks.
  • I can gift wrap presents like no one's business.
  • I make great cookies.

Clearly then, I am awesome. And I love that.

Yesterday: Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself.
Tomorrow: Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 1

So, for Day 1, I'm supposed to write "something you hate about yourself." At first this seems easy -- I have a host of things about myself that I really don't like. I don't like my weight. I don't like my thighs. I don't like how little motivation I have lately. I don't like how easily I give up on things. I don't like how materialistic I can be.

But none of those really advances to the level of hate.

What I do hate are my walls. Almost all of who I present to the world is facade, and my real self is locked away. I don't let people in -- at all -- and as a result, I find myself often feeling that there is no one out there that really knows me. Even my family -- they only see fragments and spectres.

I've gotten close to letting people in -- and there are times when those people probably think I've done so -- but it's never more than just a glimmer, and then I get scared and close back up. I wish I could stop it. I don't know how.

For tomorrow: Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.

30 Days of Truth: The Prologue

Let's face it kids. I haven't exactly been prolific lately. Don't get me wrong: I have tons of ideas of things I want to say -- in my head, in my notebooks, in draft form -- but I haven't really had the inspiration to write anything of significance in weeks, maybe months.

So then I stumbled across this meme -- 30 Days of Truth. GirlVaughn is doing it. Thinking Too Hard is doing it. So now, I'm doing it: 30 days of me trying to write things that are brutally honest.

Here is the schedule:
Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself.
Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.
Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.
Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.
Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.
Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living for.
Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.
Day 09 → Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.
Day 10 → Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.
Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on.
Day 12 → Something you never get compliments on.
Day 13 → A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)
Day 14 → A hero that has let you down. (letter)
Day 15 → Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.
Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.
Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.
Day 18 → Your views on gay marriage.
Day 19 → What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?
Day 20 → Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21 → (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?
Day 22 → Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
Day 23 → Something you wish you had done in your life.
Day 24 → Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)
Day 25 → The reason you believe you’re still alive today.
Day 26 → Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?
Day 27 → What’s the best thing going for you right now?
Day 28 → What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?
Day 29 → Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.
Day 30 → A letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Los Angeles Thoughts

I always relate Los Angeles to my mother. She always told great stories about when she lived out here in the late 60s/early 70s. When I'm out here, I often wonder about her experiences -- what it was like for her to just pick up and leave the east coast at such a young age, with no one but distant family around. Then I realize that I did the same thing at right around the same age. The only difference was that I never went back.

When I checked into the hotel, they put me in room 1015. My mom's birthday. Weird.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bad luck or bad karma?

I almost never write about dating. There are many reasons for that, but they probably all boil down to the same central concept: I am no good at it, and I don't want to give my friends any more ammunition than they already have. Still, sometimes there is a really really good (read: horrible) story that just needs to be told. Today, the merit of the story outweighs my general rule.

A few months back, by happenstance, I met a guy. Right age, right religion, single, liked a lot of the same things, worked in a similar job, similar background, had interests outside of being a lawyer . . . in other words, he was perfect on paper. (Of course, the last time someone was perfect on paper, he wound up dumping me in the IHOP. I should really know better.)

Anyway, the guy and I hit it off almost instantaneously, but because of work, we didn't go out right away. Instead, we spent a few weeks getting to know each other through long email conversations. Eventually, we went on a first date, and a second. I even told my best friend about him, which is something I generally don't do unless I've been seeing someone for a while -- like a month or more.

Anyway, then we went on what was our third or maybe even fourth date. To a relatively early movie, on a random midweek evening.

For those of you who don't know, I like to watch movies. I pay attention. I think about plot twists and acting and cinematography.

I am also not a teenager. This is an important detail.

So, the movie started, and about five minutes in, the guy started pawing at me, like we were sixteen years old and sitting in the back of a theater in a suburban mall -- instead of mid-30s professionals sitting in a downtown art house theater. I politely pushed him away.

He did this on and off for the next two hours, to the same result.

Now, granted, I can occasionally be cute, but I am not that irresistible. And I expect to have my boundaries respected. So by the time the movie was over, I was really annoyed and felt more than a little violated.

He sent me an email that night telling me how nice I was. I ignored his email, and several other attempts at contact over the next several days. I thought about responding and telling him what I was thinking -- and if I were really a grown up, I would have explained and given him a second chance or something -- but ultimately, I am a child, and in that moment, I lacked the desire and motivation to communicate. So, instead, I continued to ignore him and instead concentrated on work -- which, in my defense, was really busy. Not being a total and complete dumbass, the guy eventually got the message and stopped pursuing me.

I thought this was the end, but still, had an inkling that it wasn't. I mean, we don't work with each other, but we run in some of the same circles. I understood that, eventually, my luck would run out, as it always does.

Which brings me to last week, when I was looking for concert tickets on Craigslist and ran across an interesting personal ad. I pretty much never respond to those things. Really. But the ad was interesting and funny and witty and my curiosity got the best of me. So I wrote a quick note in response to the ad.

Of course, it was him. And rather than ignore it (like I would have), he decided to write me back, making a joke about trying to figure out what etiquette dictates. And what would Emily Post or Miss Manners do? Well, they wouldn't have responded to a Craigslist ad in the first place. So now, here I am, completely mortified. FML.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Fifteen Albums

(from Facebook)

The rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Choose fifteen albums you've heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.

15. U2: Achtung Baby
14. Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
13. Pearl Jam: Ten
12. Dave Matthews Band: Crash
11. They Might Be Giants: Flood
10. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours
9. U2: The Unforgettable Fire
8. The Cure: Disintegration
7. Nirvana: Nevermind
6. Guns N Roses: Appetite for Destruction
5. Bon Jovi: New Jersey
4. Madonna: Like A Virgin
3. The Police: Synchronicity
2. Led Zeppelin IV
1. U2: The Joshua Tree

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On Ground Zero, Islamic Centers, and Shopping Malls

I was on the phone with my dad and he asked me what I thought about the controversy surrounding the mosque being built near Ground Zero.  I told him that I am a firm believer in property rights and religious freedom -- and that those two things are some of the core values of American society.  So, under that analysis, if they own the property and have the right zoning then they can build whatever they want there.

I also believe that there's a great deal of room between "what you are legally permitted to do" and "what you ought to do."  Ethics, not to mention good taste and good judgment, is a gray area.  As a society, we've never been particularly effective at legislating morals, and yet, the politicians and pundits keep talking about it.

Now, admittedly, I might not have lived in lower Manhattan on 9/11, but back then, I lived close enough to the Pentagon that my apartment was filled with smoke. And while I'm not reflexively offended by the idea of a mosque being built in the vicinity, I can understand why others might be.  Should that offense be mitigated -- at least somewhat -- by the idea that the project is a religious center for a mainstream sect that disagree with the fundamentalist leanings that led to the attacks, and intends it as a memorial of-sorts?  Maybe, maybe not.  On the other hand, can the decision to build at that spot be viewed as a bit callous and insensitive, and perhaps worse?  Like Shakespeare said, "If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men's cottages princes' palaces."

But then I read that one of the things that they're planning on building at Ground Zero -- not near, but at -- is, essentially, an underground shopping mall.  That offends me at least as much -- probably more -- than any mosque being built in the neighborhood.  The idea of swarms of tourists buying t-shirts and tchochkes on the very site of the attacks makes my skin crawl.  But who's railing against those developers?  Minority religious expression is bad, but offensive and tacky consumerism is the status quo, I suppose.

So, I'm back to where I started. If they own the property and have the right zoning and permits and the city gives them the go-ahead, it's no longer a legal issue.  They can build whatever they want.  What they should build is a matter of judgment, and that's between them and their conscience.  The politicians and pundits need to keep their mouths shut and focus on real issues.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Desert images

The desert is an interesting place. To grow there, the plants adapt. The plants get hard, spiky, spiny, almost like animals themselves. But still, there's a beauty -- a desolate beauty.

First thing in the morning, deep in the canyon, the first light makes the desert seem surreal, almost nightmarish. The Saguaro cacti look like spiny supernatural arms growing out of the ground.

I am enamored of cactus flowers. They bloom for only one day each year, opening their petals at dawn and closing them at dusk. How poetic and sad.

One day! Can you imagine living your entire life for just one day?

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Umbrella Theorem

I'm leaving for vacation in a few hours. I'm on the verge of going computer-free for the entire week. I hope I don't go through withdrawal.

In preparing for the week off, I had to make sure my work was covered. So I had to go from office to office to talk to the coworkers that were covering for me, to explain the status of the various projects that they would be covering. It was during my last conversation, with one of my colleagues that I've known since my first day in the office, I realized that this is an extrapolation of the Umbrella Theorem.

I learned about the Umbrella Theorem almost ten years ago, when I first started working. My coworkers and I would, occasionally, head out to lunch. We'd meet at the elevator bank and head downstairs. On occasion, someone would note the presence or absence of an umbrella. Eventually, I realized what it meant: If you're heading outside and see clouds in the sky, you bring your umbrella -- not to avoid the rain, but to prevent it. And so, the Umbrella Theorem became a part of my life. I always bring my umbrella -- because, more often than not, it seems as if the Universe only enacts its revenge when I'm unprepared.

So, today, as I was making sure that my boss, my coworkers, and my assistant were fully informed about my vacation, the cases, and whatever issues might arise, it was not in real preparation for dealing with anything, but was really a prophylactic measure against anything happening. And at the exact moment I realized what I was doing, my colleague figured it out too. "This is like bringing the umbrella along to lunch," he said. I laughed, "Exactly."

It's the same thing for the BlackBerry -- I could leave it at home and attempt to totally unplug. But, in my mind the Umbrella Theorem prevents it: if I leave the BlackBerry at home, there will, undoubtedly, be an emergency. And so, I'm bringing it with me. As I said to my boss, there's only so much unplugging I'm capable of. Baby steps.

Friday, July 23, 2010


I used to love sitting down with my grandmother, looking at old pictures, listening to her tell stories of the way things were when she was a girl and her mother -- my great-grandmother -- still young. She would also whisper stories of my mother's childhood, perhaps with a wink, helping me to see the girl -- the person -- underneath the parental veneer.

I still love those moments with Nana, although they are more rare now. I try to get her to write things down, and she does it in spurts -- a caption on a photograph here or there. A few years ago, when she was sick, and my littlest cousin was still a toddler, I bought her a book so she could write things down for him, just in case. I'm not sure if she ever used it, and lucky for my cousin, she's beaten the cancer, so far.

I think that Nana's boxes of photos and clippings are why, since childhood, I've always tended to keep my own pictures, mementos, scrapbooks. I also think that, on some level, it's why I keep journals -- so that the stories live on. I'm a collector, an amateur archivist.

A few weeks ago, while cleaning out some things, I stumbled across a small collection of camcorder videos that I had made in law school: some footage of my friend's band playing; one of my brother's plays; a video of my roommate and I dancing around our apartment. And then I found paydirt: several hours of family movies over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in 1997, where we were just sitting around, talking to each other, playing with the dog, eating pancakes. My mother at her best and happiest: surrounded by her college-age children and parents.

Watching the tape was like time travel. All of a sudden, I was sitting there, hearing my mother's voice, my mother's laugh, for the first time in years. And seeing the sights and sounds of a family, together, all under one roof, happy. I had not forgotten those sights and sounds: what I had forgotten was how much I loved being a part of a family, a collective.

I copied the video to my hard drive. I'm going to burn it to DVD and send it to my siblings and my father, so that they can remember too. And, in some way, the video will help my mother live on in some tangible way -- just a little -- for my nephew and, perhaps one day, my children.