Sunday, November 23, 2008
The chasm between not knowing an answer or even exactly what the question is and the stuff (stories, poems, how-tos, information...) that answers questions, raises more questions, transports, passes time, uncovers a path, or opens another door can be unsettling and intimidating. Nothing tears at me more than someone paralyzed by that chasm—someone who feels they have a stupid question or that they are stupid because they don't know where to begin. Nothing satisfies me more than helping someone overcome the paralysis and gain the ability to approach the next unknown with more confidence and daring than before.
I took a gamble a couple years ago at the encouragement of an on-again, off-again mentor that landed me in (brace yourself) management. I had somehow gained a reputation of someone who could set things straight, bring order to chaos, in other words: a cleaner. I don't know that there was any real justification to my reputation. I tend to think, instead, that I was a convenient sucker.
I have not enjoyed management, and have tried to get out. I did the work and earned praise for an unwanted job well done. Recent budget conundrums resulted in cuts that, though uncomfortable and scary, oddly gave me hope (cursed hope!) that I might slip, demote, to a plain old librarian position where I would be in charge of no other messes but my own. But, nope to that hope. The supposed mess that I tidied is going away and a new managerial mess has sprouted elsewhere that I am ideally suited for, given my wealth of experience in such things. And the choice was simple: this job or no job. What a lovely, hard-earned reward.
I've been led to believe that the new year will bring me options, but I've been led to believe many things and am burned out on hope. We all know what hope is, right? That warm, lovely, plush designer rug you've curled up on that gets yanked out from under you.
Somewhere inside me is this silly belief that it is possible to land a position that allows me to at least get close enough to the core of what I think is good about my profession to make the other crap bearable. Battling with that whim is the belief that I'm merely cursed with chronic dissatisfaction that comes with the grass-is-always-greener syndrome.
For the time being, it's best to try as hard as possible to find some green grass where I stand.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
I was forced to shop today for costumes to get me through the next two months. If I'm lucky it will only be two months. I really don't enjoy shopping, and the fruits of my labor are not terribly impressive. I know I'll have to do it again soon. Ugh.
My blood type is B positive.
Goodness, I hope these get better.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
A mom walked in with her 4 year old daughter, and twin, 2 year old boys. She sat down in an open chair on the opposite side of the room. One of her sons, however, made eye contact with me and slowly made his way over. He stopped right in front of me, completely sober faced and still looking me in the eye, and put his hand on my knee. I chatted with him. A smile flickered, but he just stared, completely quiet. His eye lashes were wet, probably from a recent meltdown.
His mother called to him and asked her daughter to bring him over, but he came right back. Eventually his mom picked him up, and put him on her lap. A short while later, he was playing with his brother at the toy table.
I have no idea why he was drawn to me, but maybe somehow he could tell I was having a rough day, too.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
This brought back some unpleasant memories.
I discovered it while researching the pros and cons of fines on library materials—the impact on those in poverty. It showed up in search results because someone had commented that, "[b]eing poor is library fines."
But, you know, what's most important is that people know the rules, be good stewards, be responsible... Never mind the reality of unstable housing/jobs/family life and the fact that a young child has absolutely no control whatsoever over such things. Never mind that fines for an already financially strapped household will more likely result in a parent completeley banning his/her child from checking out any library books (now considered an unnecessary and avoidable cost) than any grandiose lesson of stewardship.
This is long overdue, but here's ma, again. She trekked all the way back from her red state to this blue one to rejoin her peace coalition group (of which she is a founding member) for the 4th of July parade. She was disappointed that I didn't join in (Stud and I showed up to provide vocal support, street side), but she also very much accepted that it would be completely out of character for me to willfully place myself in the center of any attention...much less for the entire length of a parade.
I was a very proud, very hoarse daughter.
I first heard it used by Dr. Phil in one of his tough ultimatums. (Never mind why I was watching Dr. Phil...though this may have been the last straw because I haven't watched it since.) I don't know if it's increased in popularity due to his pseudo psycho clout or if I'm just hypersensitive to it now, but it seems to be cropping up more and more and it really grates on my nerves. Technically, "unless" and "until" are two different concepts, but one or the other is totally &^%(*#@ unnecessary.
There. I got it off my chest. I wouldn't feel better unless or until I accomplished that. (It hurts!)
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I cringe every time I see it, and can't fathom how the image of dumping paint, blood red paint, no less, on the Earth signifies "quality, integrity and service".
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Note my nephew's rendering of Mr.Nut Cup. He told me on the phone once, at the time of this momentous acquisition, that he was "knocking on it right now."
Saturday, July 19, 2008
It has been an exploratory process at my house to find the best way to avoid the funk. The man of the house, I'll call him "stud" (inspired by cool ranch luke's comment), has led the charge. He is, after all, a slightly better house keeper than I. Of course, I would never admit that to him. Instead, I argue the opposite because he regularly points out his superior domestic skills relative to mine. And because, after all, what is life without banter on the minutia?
And so sets the stage for the following conversation in my abode:
stud [yelling from downstairs]: Hey! How come you put egg shells in the garbage can?
erin [long, loud, exasperated groan]: Are you kidding me?
stud: We're trying to prevent the garbage from stinking so you're supposed to put food in that separate bag in the can.
erin: Egg shells don't get stinky, and I don't recall a decree on the Separate Bag.
stud: Yes, they could, and you're the one who put the Bag in there in the first place.
erin: I guess that makes me the Keeper of the Separate Bag, and therefore...
stud: Well you're not doing a very good job.
erin: I make the rules. Egg shells are an exception.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
I am mesmerized by leafed trees in the wind.
We had the most perfect tree gazing weather today. I was lured outside by the breeze sweeping through the house. Decided I should make use of my new picnic table and read my first issue of The Sun (thanks to Leila for the good word). It wasn't long before I was distracted by the show, lying on the bench, magazine on my belly, staring upward, entranced.
Movement and fluidity—like yoga for trees after a long, cold, branch rattling winter. Here warrior. There triangle. Then child's pose. Inhale. Exhale. The wind relents, and a smooth return to mountain.
I wonder if this is more than passive movement. By catching wind and stretching limbs, does tree yoga facilitate circulation? I know about transpiration pulling water and nutrients up. Would motion help move the leaves' products down and about—similar to the lymphatic system or circulation in insects? There are other forces at play, I know, but you'd think it would contribute.
I probably knew the answer to that question at some point in my life.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
There's a whirlwind whipping around me. I'm trying to lay low and dodge the debris.
What occupied my mind for a happy period this evening is the fact that I've upgraded, ladies and gentlemen. I now own a snazzy laptop.
Never mind that I still have dial up. As of about two months ago, the little local greasy spoon cafe changed owners, expanded hours, and added free WiFi. One burger (tomato, onion, and plenty of mustard), chips, pickles, and a soda for $6 and change, PLUS free access...all only about a block and a half away.Yee haw.This may mean you hear more from me.Lord help my waistline.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
…I wouldn’t want people to say of me only “She was a great teacher” or “I loved her writing.” I would like at least one person to come closer, to add, “She was also lonely, she suffered a lot. She was mixed up. She made some big mistakes.” Then tell those mistakes and sum up: “But she was important to me.” Then I would feel really honored, as though someone had seen and known me.Who knows you? Do they give credit for failure? Who do you know?
Sunday, April 20, 2008
sleep with bear
velvety nose, eyes glued askew
and matted hair
devotion true enough to surrender,
in its stead, the new markers
to the thief in dreams
sleep with mother
nesting, rubbing cold feet
tangling prickly legs
mid-night retelling of
of the dream cloud that
enveloped and with a shudder
carried troubles away
sleep with child
claims real estate
secret delight in having
the space and her alone
not to share
sleep with friend
years later when the life
between plants a woeful moan
and perception constrains consolation
armed only with wish to wash it away
sleep with love
and despite fairy tale advice
with mutual and stubborn ire
every turn and tug a slight
interpreted and intended
rogue caress escapes
only when consciousness slips
sleep with love
comfort so visceral
appendages are cursed
for getting in the way
sleep with trouble
crowning as knotted anguish
daunting mass of nothing discernible
pressing weight, wrenching grip
dissipated only by
sleep with love
gentle cloudy-headed nudge
only a dream
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I own two Del Amitri albums: Twisted and Hatful of Rain. The first was purchased in cassette form, the second in CD. I had planned to buy the first in CD to replace the cassette, but discovered the second in the process and opted for the package deal of hits. Sadly, I was not aware before this that they had a large enough body of work from which to create such a culmination.
So, while I'm not one of those been a fan since the dawn of time people, I do love Del Amitri.
I saw Justin Currie perform on Thursday night. I have to say that I was a little taken aback by the age of the crowd. I wasn't expecting to see so many patches of gray hair. This is not at all a negative reaction, but more of a realization that my musical tastes—music that was current in my teens and 20s—plant me within a cohort that...is no longer in its teens and twenties. Alas, I am not a young pup.
The performance was great—just Justin and one accompanist on the keyboard and accordion who reminded me of a petite and slightly hip Dwight Schrute. They had an odd but entertaining dynamic. Justin is amazingly talented as a performer and songwriter. And he's cute. And Scottish. Best of all, though, he—with his skinny tie and pompadour—didn't seem to take himself too seriously.
He performed his new stuff which I loved. It's mellow and, I have to assume, the result of many a heart break given and received. He was also very generous with the number of Del Amitri songs he played. The crowd was happy. The two brothers sharing the table with us were long-time, die hard fans. One had been to eight of their shows in the 90s, and proposed to his wife at one of them. When Justin sang "Tell Her This", that same guy turned around to us and, beaming, said "If I had panties, I'd throw them on the stage!" I had no idea there was such a following.
But then, I've never quite had my finger on the pulse of my generation. I just got my hand on my heart, I know no better location. [again.]
Before leaving, I purchased the new CD. I don't know if that makes me a dinosaur. If it does, I'm at peace with that. I'll be in good company until we die off.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Christie's lines and bold colors remind me of Jacob Lawrence's work, but where Lawrence spreads his attention across the canvas, Christie—at least in the paintings that appeal to me most—homes in on faces. I love his faces: squints, smirks, side cast glances, attitude, wisdom, resolve, and peace.
[There are some really phenomenal artists that illustrate books for children. I also really like Leo and Diane Dillon (regal, clean, surreal), David Diaz (angular, signature eyes and nose), Raul Colon (soft and scratched), and Vera B. Williams (bright and joyful).]
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
- There, in the upper right hand corner: Green. Grass.
- In those sunglasses: Blue sky. Palm trees.
Now I'm back, but a slacker. Looking for my misplaced motivation. Where the hell did I put it?
And I very well know that I'm in no position to make demands of you, my readers, but y'know, I would like to know where you're from.
In the meantime (it is unkind), I'll keep looking. If you have any ideas, any motivation mojo, don't hold back.
And what's with all this alliteration? I need help.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Where I'm fromThere, I've paid up. Now it's your turn.
I am from album covers, RPM, and lyrics learned with skips
from a Hitachi AM/FM cassette tape recorder, and sound collecting expeditions.
I am from long journeys in the station wagon
(pitiless vinyl seats and late night destination disorientation)
I am from blackberry bush, white pine, lilac and live oak,
from shushing, swaying treetop domains.
I am from signature laughter, beer breath,
honey crosses on the forehead,
and sprinkled snippets of languages I'll never know
from Mary, Irene, Vernon, Henry, and Gene.
I am from short fuses, long lectures, and silent indignation
simple joys, splurges, vicarious living and charity
from keep a tight ship and hooka tooka my soda cracker.
I am from a non-denomination sampler, a Christian religious revue,
an abiding Catholic undercurrent, midnight mass, and tucking knees
to make way for the procession we couldn't join.
I am from semi truck, Cutlass Cruiser,
U-Haul, and the bus of many colors,
lefse and crumble-top apple pie,
pierogies, poppy, and garden cucumbers with salt.
From pen pal grandpa's squirrel watching tree
and lessons on igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary
to tales of grandfather unknown and unstable
and the aftermath of his self-removal
to the eh-eh-eh! of my last remaining
who took her hand but didn't assume, just was. True blue.
Most evidence that survived the shuffle
has been dutifully stored, sorted, and finally dispersed
by the oldest and, by order, most responsible.
Packaged with care and meted.
Smaller portions that leave space, after all,
for evidence of where she and he
Here is how it's done, though I fudged a bit.
Here is the source.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
So, here's something...
The book is A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin. The author was interviewed on the radio show Speaking of Faith and it sounded interesting. It is a work of fiction, though the author is largely true to events that happened in the lives of Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing. I'd never heard of Gödel, but I was familiar with Turing (even before his mention in an infamous post by Nacho man).
Both are described in the book as "brilliantly original and outsiders," "loyal to reason and truth," and "besotted with mathematics." Gödel was also a paranoid schizophrenic and a hypochondriac. Turing was gay and possibly a high functioning autistic.
Levin ties Gödel's delicate hold on reality to how he believes he is esteemed by Moritz Schlick, "one of the real ones" who knew to reach out to Gödel through mathematics and had invited Gödel to join the meetings of the Vienna Circle. The struggle depicted for Turing is a tug of war between his materialism and his tentative faith in the soul, the human spirit, God. His love—first love—for a school mate, and the loss of this love, were the basis of and the undoing of his faith.
What Alan feared then, and what he now knows to be true, is that when Chris was gone, he was gone. When Chris died, so began the decline of Alan's faith. And when it was finally gone, it was gone.I really have no firm understanding of Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorems or Alan Turing's machines, but the passages that describe how each thinks and their personal convictions and the conflictions around these beliefs are beautiful.
There are bolts of luminescence in the world. Hard, brilliant candies that crackle like jewels, fanning pointed rays of gold through an otherwise gray landscape. Sometimes Alan can see these splendors unaided... Sometimes he has to distill them.... Sometimes he discovers them with his mind like the inverse trigonometric function that he managed to express as an infinite series of simpler algebraic forms. These are the best, these dazzling gems of his brain's relentless, systematic expeditions.... To Alan, this is the world: luminous boulders, a string of precious stones. He jumps from one to the next just barely able to balance above the murky sea of fakes and phonies.Gödel:
Kurt's thoughts touch upon several themes at once. When he is thinking most clearly he often sees things in big groups and not sequential steps. He can work backward and reconstruct a more linear formal logical argument, proving one step after the other for the purposes of a seminar or an article that is read from left to right one letter at a time staggered by a numbered list of equations. But this is not how the most beautiful ideas come to him. Sometimes they emerge whole without justification, like his theorem, which is not at all linear. It is self-referential, a tangled loop. A serpent swallowing its own tale. He wishes he could present this result to Moritz as it appears to him, that he could just open his mouth and have the fully formed shape stretch out.I could go on, but I'd best return the book. Don't want to break the bank...and there are 22 people waiting for a copy!
[I found a nice write up on this book here. By total coincidence (I swear) she also catches fish.]
Sunday, February 17, 2008
So, I presented my friend's statement (sans name) to a teacher whose counsel I very much trust. I expected a validation of my perception, but instead I got this:
...the explanation is simple: before throwing in the towel you must try! In other words, fight the good fight no matter what the outcomes. If you don't, you can never say it was beyond your grip. In life, what is important is the process and not if you are going to come up as a winner. Growth only resides in the process.This sounded lovely and, of course, I agreed with fighting the good fight, but I couldn't figure out how he'd pulled that out of what my friend had said. He must not have caught the nuances of resignation. And so I dismissed the whole thing.
Just days ago, and over ten years later, I was listening to When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. In the chapter "Hopelessness and Death" she says:
Without giving up hope—that there's somewhere better to be, that there's someone better to be—we will never relax with where we are or who we are....Hopelessness means that we no longer have the spirit for holding our trip together. We may still want to hold our trip together. We long to have some reliable, comfortable ground under our feet, but we've tried a thousand ways to hide and a thousand ways to tie up all the loose ends, and the ground just keeps moving under us. Trying to get lasting security teaches us a lot, because if we never try to do it, we never notice that it can't be done.That last statement stunned me: "Trying to get lasting security teaches us a lot, because if we never try to do it, we never notice that it can't be done."
I honestly can't say whether or not my friend intended this meaning. All I know is that her words and my teacher's interpretation were first things that came to mind...and right now I'm feeling like maybe I'm the one who needed to crunch some foil on my nuance antenna. Or would it be more accurate to say that my antenna was dead on, but—because it's ingrained to believe that we can hold everything together—I just didn't know how to process the information? I think that might be the case.
Who wants to quit hoping? Shit. That's a tough one.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Me: Hey, I really dig your Pumas.
Kid1: My mom got them for me when I was eight.
Me: Really? How old are you now?
Kid1: Four...four and a half. I'm getting big.
Me: You are! You must have grown a foot since the last time I saw you!
Kid1: I eat vegetables.
Me: Ahhh. That'll do it.
Kid2: Do you know my name?
Me: I'm so sorry, I don't! What is your name?
Kid2: Emma. E-m-m-a.
Me: Emma! Hey, my name starts with an 'E' too! See? [pointing to name tag]
Kid2: [toothy grin]
[Later, after choosing books...]
Me: Hi, Emma, wanna sit by me?
Kid2: Do you remember my name now?
Me: I do! It's Emma.
Kid2: [toothy grin]
Kid3: What's your name?
Me: My name is Erin.
Kid3: Erin, I love you.
Makes me wish I never had to deal with grownups.
Monday, February 11, 2008
There is a salad I love to eat that's made at a Neapolitan pizza place. The ingredients seem spare: mixed greens, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and prosciutto in a balsamic vinaigrette. Spare, yes. Delicious? Umami, yes.
Perhaps you've heard about umami. It is a Japanese word meaning "tastiness" or "deliciousness", and is the name that was given to the fifth taste—sweet, sour, bitter, and salty are, of course, the four other long-accepted tastes. Umami has only recently been given due attention, though it was singled out as L- glutamate and named "umami" by Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda, oh, about 100 years ago.
[Umami is a much more intriguing and sensory term than L-glutamate, don't you think? Unless, maybe, you pronounce it with a sassy Spanish accent: el gloot ah mah tay. But, I digest...]
So, I first learned of umami when reading The Zen of Fish by Trevor Carson (mentioned here...an interesting read—more for the historical kitsch and science-y stuff and much less for the over dramatized stories of the students learning to make sushi). Then I heard this, on National Public Radio. And now for some thoughts on umami.
First, it's great to finally have a name (and to be redundant—what an excellent name!) for the taste sensation formerly known as "yummmmmmmm..."
Second, it's disheartening, though not at all surprising, that with this second coming of umami madness, the taste is increasingly being cheapened, commodified, and utilized as a shortcut for the real deal. Sadly, Ikeda helped this along with his Frankenflavoring, MSG. Most, if not all, of those savory processed foods out there are impostors, masquerading as deliciousness. (There are interesting articles on this in the Guardian, the Science Creative Quarterly, and more recently the Wall Street Journal).
I'm teetering on feeling unknowingly seduced by that pizza place. Is this an "umami bomb" devised to lure me in again and again? Should I feel dirty? Should I care? Makes me think of that song: "If loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right." It is a salad, after all, and not some crappy McDonald's gut bomb. Sounds like I'm trying to rationalize an addiction, doesn't it?
I will end with a tangent. After listening to the piece on public radio, I read Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Johah Lehrer. It's gotten mixed reviews, but before I'd read these I read the book and I liked it. It's an ambitious work that takes on the likes of Whitman, Woolf, Eliot, and Cézanne in the context of neuroscience. I can claim ignorance—the umami bit excepted—on most of the content, so my pass lacked the scrutiny a more knowledgeable person might lend. (And again, the panty line that is my lack of knowledge of many things literary and artistic is showing.) Even so, I liked the basic idea that science is not the be all and end all. Artists are not constrained by the scientific process and can sometimes get closer to the ins and outs of perception than conclusions drawn from watching rats in a lab...or fingering skull bumps.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
This was one of the most chaotic and disorganized events I've ever witnessed. I live in a small city, and the turnout wasn't nearly as large as others that made the news, but still. The last presidential caucus yielded about 14 people. This go 'round? 98. That's what, a 600% increase? The folks running the thing were taken completely off guard. The small room in City Hall was crowded and loud--you could hardly hear a word that was said. Not that anyone speaking was particularly helpful.
No one seemed to know what was supposed to happen, or any details about positions that they were requesting volunteers to fill: caucus chair, tellers, secretary, convention delegates and alternates, precinct chair, associate chairs... When I, a born observer green to the process, am driven to direct the caucus chair to put the agenda on track, and to speak, for god's sake,...out loud...in a crowd, you have to know it was a mess. My need for order trumped my wallflower instinct.
But 600%! And I was in a room full of (mostly) like-minded individuals who were there to actively participate in the democratic process. What I also loved--I think even more--was that I had a chance to learn faces and begin to be part of a community that I only recently moved to and where I imagine most residents split their time between commuting to work, work, and sitting in front of one screen or another.
On my short walk home, I passed a woman who had put in a pitch during the caucus to promote her friend and fellow school bus driver who is running to be the district representative to the state house. "Have a good night," I said.
"You, too! What's your name, by the way?"
"Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, too."
That is a beautiful thing.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
But lo! upon entering the house, what did I see but a beautiful brown box addressed to little old me.
Shortly after, I was eating my humble, got-home-late-from-work-throw-something-together meal, contemplating holy toast (which would prove more holy: wheat or white?), thumbing through my Cloudspotter's Guide (the first official publication of The Cloud Appreciation Society...of which I am now a member), and looking forward to my thermochromic Silly Putty (and possible insight to answering Nacho man's question).
As I sipped hot cocoa, the foul faded away with van Gogh's ear.
Thank you, Liz (& Co). Very much. Perfect timing.
[This won't come as a surprise: the above named I hereby claim for myself. The lovely cups and saucers will be shared with my lovley.]
Sunday, January 6, 2008
It appears that Pullman has come to grips with what this Hollywood could do with his work, and is as satisfied as can be expected. Doesn't mean he doesn't wish for what it could have been:
I think if everything that is made explicit in the book or everything that is implied clearly in the book or everything that can be understood by a close reading of the book were present in the film, they’d have the biggest hit they’ve ever had in their lives. If they allowed the religious meaning of the book to be fully explicit, it would be a huge hit. Suddenly, they’d have letters of appreciation from people who felt this but never dared say it. They would be the heroes of liberal thought, of freedom of thought … And it would be the greatest pity if that didn’t happen.
I didn’t put that very well. What I mean is that I want this film to succeed in every possible way. And what I don’t want to do, you see, is talk the other two films out of existence. So I’ll stop there.
The truth is, the movie does heavily dilute the main thrust of Pullman's trilogy. Even so, as I've mentioned, I loved the movie. The excellent cast had a lot to do with it, but it probably had even more to do with the fact that I enjoyed the books so much and I liked what Pullman had to say.
Screenwriter and director Chris Weitz stated, "Those who will understand will understand."
I'm curious to know what those who haven't read the books will take from the movie. How much does the dilution impair the explicit, the implied, and the otherwise understood obtained from reading the books? Will glints of these be completely lost to anyone but the readers and the receptive?