n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Monday, May 28, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

status update

Okay, a little story:

I met my uncle, my father's brother, for the first time when I was nine and had just moved from the country to Bville for a few months before my mother fled the marriage disaster and went to Colorado for another few months. It had been an incredibly hard transition for me: leaving a private school I loved, the farmland I loved, and watching as my mother's heart was broken over and over again by my father's affair with a student. I was a mess, and my uncle's mellifluous voice amazed and soothed me, especially compared to my father's, which was abrasive and frequently scary as hell.

On this trip, my uncle took me out to Silver Lake, which was one of my favorites at the time, even though it had swimmer's itch and you had to take a shower after swimming. We rented a paddleboat--a luxury my parents had never allowed--and paddled around the lake, eating ice cream cones. Or maybe the ice cream cones came later. We went swimming together, and he let me stand on his shoulders in the deep end so it could look like I was actually in the shallow end. He tossed a nerf ball back and forth with me, and when it was time to go home, settled me gently in the front of the car and talked to me the whole way back. It was the best day of that year for me, and stands out with stunning vividness.

I found out later that during that same trip my uncle purposefully arranged for an accidental 'run-in' between my mother and my father's mistress. I think I remember that moment too: the sudden slackness in the room, the inhalation of breath, the flair of anger in my mother's eyes, the hurt in it too. More like a vague shadow in the back of my mind than the bright yellowness of the best day.

Sometimes people are like that. I've realized over the years, that more people are like that then you'd want to admit. I didn't see my uncle again until my high school graduation, where he was very nice and gave me a better present than my dad did. And then, when I returned from Russia, poor as a lamb and excited to explore New York; he gave me a room, took me around, had me join in yoga, and then released me to take the trains in to the city and explore with the money my mother had wired to help me make it through a few more days. And then, the next time we met was in Venice where SS and I were shopping for glass vases and trinkets to take home before heading back from our 9 month journey in Europe. By then, I think the cracks in the facade were starting to show for me; the cynical pretentiousness he and his sharp-tongued wife displayed as they ground every Venetian glasswork to pieces. They were not very much fun, and I thought rather mean... a lasting impression, as I don't believe I've seen them since.

So which person is he: the man who took me to the lake for the best day, or the man who wanted to see the hurt in my mom's face?  The man who calmly stretches his body in physical meditation, or the man who snidely despises small beauties that are not quite great arts?


I don't know really why I'm thinking about such memories these days, but I have been. The confluence of forces that are within people.


NM and I had a bit of a falling out, although we're ostensibly still friends, just taking a breather. I've resisted writing about it here out of (a) a certain irony, (b) a desire to not annoy my grannie by griping, (c) the hope that I will overcome my anger soon and return to a calmer state. I think I have mellowed to a certain degree, by reminding myself that I wouldn't change places with NM for all the money in the world--that her life is not one I would wish for, and that it is often a torment to her. In short, reminding myself that she's trying to put her world in order, and despite this, it is a world that remains a chaos.

I've also reminded myself that spending money is N's primary means of showing affection to friends, and so in her mind she's given me the greatest form of affection by buying me a ticket to Chicago.  She loves me, and she feels a debt to me--a debt I have not recognized nor asked for.

Actually, it pisses me off a bit that she would see my need for certain things from our friendship as a need for 'repayment'. Like I'm the type of person who will be like, "Okay, now that I've seen you through your dire illness, you better give me something back." To a certain extent, there can be a huge build up of resentment if a person feels like they've been giving and giving and giving, and not receiving anything or enough back. I will admit that. But I don't think of it as repayment--rather a degree of balance. Not a checkbook balance, though, not some big friendship bank in the sky that doles out money for money, interest for investments, foreclosures for missed payments; more like the balance between incoming and outgoing tides, or between spring and summer and fall and winter, or between life and death and the comings and goings of passion. The bio-rhythms of friendship.

And the balance has been out of whack. I know that NM has been trying, to a certain extent, to address the problems that I brought up last September, things she does that upset me on a regular basis and make it harder to stay her close friend. I know it's hard to look at such things and not feel like someone is telling you you're a failure.

Because I know this, I let her reciprocate and tell me everything that is 'wrong' with me, even though I thought it not appropriate because it's already agonizingly hard to talk to a person about something they are doing that genuinely hurts you. But if telling me my flaws made it easier for N to bear the discussion, then fine: I hold grudges; I brood; I still get pissed off and hurt by several people from grad school even though it's been nearly ten years and I know I should be over it; I am stuck in stasis and don't write enough; I huddle in the stability of my mom's life; I can be cold and judgmental, especially of stupidity; I am hypersensitive in obnoxious ways; I haven't written my god-daughter in nearly a year although I totally adore her and her family; I don't walk my dog enough; I am fat; I whine about my knee and back too much; I have enormous expectations of my friends (I actually think they couldn't get any lower); I don't articulate well when I am uncomfortable; I will always love the person I hate the most; I read trashy novels instead of the excellent pile of good books on my coffee table; blah blah blah. I get it.

But if all you're doing is creating a laundry list of the other person's failures, then what you'll end up with at the end of the day are a bunch of hurt feelings on both sides, and the same problem as before, only now festering.

I don't think I was trying to make NM feel bad -- in fact, I really hoped to avoid it -- but I did need her to (a) stand by her word, what she says she's going to do or not to do; (b) be thoughtful of my basic needs from time to time, like having coffee for the morning or making me a meal when I come to visit; (c) stop bringing DP and EC back into my life by talking about them, or telling me about what they did, and so forth. And I needed these things so I could maintain a close relationship without resenting her. If she wants to be my best friend, as she tells everyone, then can't she just give me a hand from time to time?

Anyhow, our falling out had to do with a, b, and c. And I realized that rather than exert herself to seriously attempt what I asked for, she would rather buy me a ticket with money she should be saving. And then, when conflict arises again, tell me what's wrong with me, so that I think I actually don't deserve a, b, or c -- that it is too much to ask for, too "high of expectations."

So, we haven't talked for about three weeks, and it's been pretty hard.  I'm trying to feel positive about it, that it marks a shift in our friendship that needed to happen one way or the other, and that this gives me more time to invest in my happiness, in my "Year of Repair," and it gives her the opportunity to create her own stability, instead of looking to me to provide it for her. I am trying to steer my mind instead of let myself fall into new thought ruts.  But I admit, it feels a little like breaking up.

And I will add: If I ever hear the phrase "I love you like a sister, but..." or "I love you dearly, but..." again, I will smack somebody upside the head.


I've noticed a recent increase in people from Seattle reading my blog. I have to ask: was that what you were looking for?


So, I also mentioned a status update. I have two projects to report back on:

[1] The Year of Repair. As mentioned before I decided to take this year to focus on repair, dividing it up into three sections: physical health, social health, and mental health. As we are in month five of the year, you may have noted that I've passed through the physical health focus. And am proud as hell of myself for some of the changes I've made.

I have been to several doctors, and found one -- a naturopath - with whom I think I can work.  She is British and has her M.D. from England, and got her N.D. over here. She a bit abrasive - sometimes gives me a bit of gaff - but she listens to what I say and asks important qualifying questions. She's been systematic in her approach, and I've had my blood work tested out, to find that I'm actually quite healthy in that regard! No thyroid problems, no gout, rheumatoid, etc, that might account for either what caused the shingles, or what has been causing the swelling in my knees, now just the one knee. (I have 'moderate' inflammation in my right knee, which makes me look like a total gimp, and has slowed me down tremendously, although I've had no injury that I can speak of. My mom has tried a number of physical therapy-ish things but now has pronounced herself "utterly stumped.").  So, she's referred me to a orthopedic doc (not the butthead I saw last time), and I'll go from there.

My doc has also changed my diet -- no dairy (ug! cheese!) and no sugar (nooooooo!!!), which I've had some luck in following, although not all the way yet.  I've pared the dairy down, successfully shifted to all whole wheat and brown rice, but not been able to give up cheese altogether, or the occasional sweet. But I'm doing pretty well, considering how big a change it is for me. I am also being very good about taking all my new vitamins regularly.

I guess what I'm saying is that although I am still not in great condition, and certainly not repaired, I have been doing everything I can to get there, and that is all I can ask of myself.

So, next section--social health. I've set up a few goals: one is that I'm going to bite the bullet and sign up for online dating. I haven't met a new person in years, and it's about time I have a few awkward and horrible dates to entertain you all with. Another goal is to say "yes" to as many social opportunities as possible. Another goal is to go to the Farmer's Market, and the Folk Festival, and talk to people. And to find other avenues where I can meet folks. And to stop being such a petulant bitch about the local crowd and just accept them for who they are, rather than resent them for not adoring me. Oh, and I have two volunteer goals that I will talk about once I've started to work on them.

It's going to be tough; I feel so anti-social and irritable. I also feel like a goon, most of the time. But it'll be okay; I'm gonna give it a go.

[2] Operation Sexy-Mofo.  Less success in this department.

I will say, I've been a girl with projects. I built a chicken run in a weekend, last weekend, an endeavor that left my body aching for days afterwards.

And I've been taking care of my gals, Mary Russell, Flavia, Octavia, Lolita, Kroshka, and Nadezhda.  They are all still around, not eaten. The older gals are out in their new run, with Mary Russell making sure I stay in the proper place (she's the boss):

While the younger gals are out in a small run during the daytime, and tucked inside my kitchen in a tub at night.  I love the older gals, but am totally smitten with the younger gals, who look just like hawks except with a bustle on their tails. The Orloffs, who CR has dubbed 'The Nabovkovians," are so active and curious. They hop around and take worms from my fingers, and I've found them eating slugs, which of course brings them nearer and dearer to my hearts. Oh God, are they cute... I get so worried about something happening to them.




I've also been working hard in the garden, having planted cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, hubbard squash, zucchini, beans, peas, potatoes, onions, garlic, kale, and chard, as well has having just planted all the nasturtiums and sweet peas in my pots yesterday.  Phew... I'd say I'm about 3/4 done with the planting.

The Newer Garden, May 12:

The Older Garden, May12:

 View from the Chicken Run, before I finished it:

So, I've also been a girl covered in dirt. And I guess I've become even more independent, although I'd say I'm at that teetering-off point where independence starts looking like misanthropy. Also, I still whine, and I'm not writing, and I still read trashy novels (although I started re-reading Six Memos by Calvino) so the bulging brain is not too glorious. Anyhow, I will keep working on the rest.


I have other good news that I'd nearly forgotten about. My brolaw is back in the States, with a new job doing research trolls on boats that 'jet' from B.C. to the Mexico border. He visited for about a week, and it was glorious... truly fun in every regard, and lovely to see him after two years and finally know that he is going to be near-er-ish.  Now we just have to get my sister near-er-ish too.

Speaking of whom, my sister passed her boards... and only has a few more hoops to jump through before she's done. Horsey hoops, which she hates, but nevertheless only a few. Before she comes home, she is going back to the Canary Islands, which has to be one of the most lovely places I've been... four years of animal doctoring, four years of near-hell and she is closer to the next step, which ought to be a sigh of relief for her.

I've started attending a community-college related "salon," which seems to be a bunch of instructors getting together and drinking wine and talking about fun stuff rather than teaching. It was very fun... AND fits my 'socializing' section. I drank a bit too much, admitted I was a shy extrovert, and then slinked out early... with a smile on my face.


So, that's about it. Although I will add that I've been working up a metaphor, which I enjoy and feel is somehow therapeutic.  Here it is: I've decided that my thoughts are like Scottish Highland Cattle:

Online sources describe them as "rugged" and "hardy," which I think bodes well for my mind. But.... imagine my furry, grubby cattle as consistently being caught in the mires. Poor fellows! Alas, these cattle have settled into a routine that takes them along a sparse, well-worn course along a steep cliff, through a massive bog, past some nuclear devastations, over a desert, and through some very wolfy woods. Though rugged, they are looking very thin and bedraggled and unhappy and perhaps even sickly.

So, some metaphors have been put in place to help my cattle. Namely, two Lamberts, one Briggs, one Herald, two Dickens, a Maggie, a Tope, and an Ocho.  Or, in the same order: two massive pyrenee sentinels, an inspiring runner and protector, a bumbling lovey-head, two playful herders, a slow and adorable lab, a venomous attack cat, and a panther masquerading in the form of a housecat.

The deal is, you can't just tell the Highland Cattle where green land is. (So, sod off those of you who condescendingly ask me if it isn't "Time to let it go...," like I haven't listened to John Lennon albums too, and can't deduce for myself what would be nice to feel.)

Though rugged and intelligent enough, if they are stuck in a nasty routine, then our fluffy horned beasts need some help.  On the metaphorical level, these cattle-herders are not dogs, but representations of what I think I need to overcome my OCD tendencies.  The Lamberts, for instance, are work (teaching) and projects (writing, gardening, chicken-raising)... activities that have long exercised and stabilized my mind. Briggs is the contemplation of all those inspirational and supportive qualities of my friends. Herald is humor and the investment in love.  I'm still filling in the rest... obviously my cattle are not fully shepherded yet, and so I need to figure out how. But I have been analyzing the moments when my mind is productive and healthy, when I have energy and feel good, when I am coming up with actions and following through... and discovering the factors that maintain them.

I am tempted to extend my analogy to include cyclones, or helpless calves that consistently stray into the tar pits. But I won't. Heh.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

it hurts

I guess there's not much else to be said.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Our Sweet Lambert

Two weekends ago, our sweet Lambert passed away.  Partings with our beloved animals are always so difficult... I remember each one, in vivid detail: where I was, how I reacted, whether I dealt well with it or not. First in my memory as a canine member of our family is Briggs, a runner, a protector and playmate for my sister and I, a tester of fragile iced lakes, a dog with an eternal taste for the rubber ball tossed long over a grassy field. Like Lambert, he lived a long, perfectly lovely life, wherein he was adored and respected, an irreplaceable part of who we are.

Unlike our first feller, Lambert was with us from puppyhood. Sometimes to our chagrin. We got him in extreme naivete: I found a listing in the newspaper and looked up the breed, merely to discover that it was a big herding dog. I later learned that the Great Pyrenee breed was developed to spend long months out on the range with flocks of sheep, to blend in and be independent of humans, to look sheeplike only to erupt ferocious under threat and kill all predators dead. After reading the newspaper, I knew only 'big', and thought it a good fit for CR after having lost, some months back, his Maude -- a Newfie-Lab mix like Herald. And so I wrangled and weaseled and got CR to go out to look at this puppy with me.

Lambert's parents lived out in the county, and we drove up a long driveway to get there. Upon arriving, an intensely garrulous white fluffy elephant gamboled out of the greens to greet us. A man, whom I am sure was chewing on either a cigar or a stalk of wheat, met us at the gate and introduced us to the elephant, telling us that this was the father of the pups he had, and that he could only let the mother or father out, one at a time, lest they "play too hard" with the sheep.  Then he took us to a small woodshed at the corner of the field, and there were the puppies--a female already spoken for, and the male, who rolled out upon our shores. It took CR three seconds to write the check and tuck the puppy under his arms, although I do remember some kind of brief two-second "whether or not" pretense.

I named Lambert, by the way, after my favorite Saturday morning cartoon, which only came on every now and then, as a special treat. My favorite hero (next to Wonder Woman and the Incredible Hulk).

And so we had Lambert. The below picture is Lambert with my mother, who likes to pretend she might have gotten rid of him at some point in his adolescence when he was so horrific only Satan himself might have enjoyed his company. He was frequently called 'Badbert', I must admit.

When he was still a small, adorable fluffball, CR liked to to take Lambert on rides in the car with him. One day, the window was rolled down and Lambert jumped out... onto the freeway.  This is one of my most vivid memories, although I wasn't even there.

As CR tells it, Lambert landed on the line in the middle of the two lanes, and all the traffic came to a complete and utter halt. CR pulled over and was able to walk to the middle of the I5 corridor and gather his howling puppy from the asphalt. As he walked back, he saw drivers crying--maybe it's just one driver, and when I feel cynical, I picture her, tears drifting across her sharp cheekbones as our injured, scared, yelping puppy was lifted up and carried to safety.

This is one of those moments that reminds me of humanity.

Yes, he had a broken leg and wore a horrible splint, but he grew out of it. Later, he had arthritis and was weak in the back legs, but it never actually slowed him down much.

The Lambert everyone remembers is masterfully mischievous, perhaps even maniacally mischievous. As a sampler: he loved stealing hats--better if it was off your head; he bit men's 'male-parts' for most of his 2-5 years, nobody quite is willing to admit he knew what he was doing; he liked toys, but better yet if he thought they belonged to another dog; a bowl on the counter was better lickings than a bowl on the floor; escape was an especial treat.

Oh yes, in his youth, Lambert was an escape artist. He waited for the untended gap in the open gate. He slipped through so fast, and was two miles away before you could blink.

During this time, he traumatized my brolaw, who still thinks of him as the 9-11 Dog:  PF was strutting his stuff as son-in-law material by taking care of Lambert for a week--a week that happened to turn into 2.5 due to 9-11.  During this time, Lambert vetted my brolaw thoroughly. In every way. In ways a sister-in-law or mother-in-law would never dare.

Really, when you think about it, Lambert is personally responsible for PF being fully accepted as my brolaw. Good thing Lambert had good people sense.

As I mentioned, a bucking bronco, a monstrous deed. A dog who liked to thieve and tease Herald by (a) dancing around the household with his favorite toys--heretofore ignored--dangling from his maws, (b) burying Herald's toys, up to their necks, only their pitiful heads showing in the weeds.

But Lambert was also a lover. He loved and protected us absolutely. From strangers, from coyotes, hawks, jets, helicopters, from shotguns and fireworks, racing cars and motorcycles, from bicycles and joggers, swallows, friends leaving, tall people, hummingbirds, thunder, from quiet mornings and woodpeckers, from loneliness. He would pile up and jump aboard and cuddle up, his nose between your knees, his muzzle in your hands, his full body protecting yours.

Um, this is me trying to drink booze from the troop pack on his shoulders. Sadly, pathetically, one of the only pictures I could find of me with Lambert.

I like to think of how Lambert always remembered me when I came home.  "Where's my baaaaaaaby?" I would ask, and he would jump in answer. He was always My Baby, no matter what. And when he was sick and unhappy, it was to my house he'd come, and curl up on my couch -- despite angry Herald. I think it was half me, and half the comfort of his old home, the geography that surrounded him during his early years. Regardless, he was a good goddog, and I was a good doggodmother.

And here are a few with his favorite canine peoples.

Little Dickens was one of his favorites, as the four previous pictures depict. In fact, those two loved each other in ways that warm even the bitterest hearts.  But also, Lambert was just always patient with puppies and small dogs, with little humans as well. He was gentle and took treats daintily, with knowledge. He would have been good with babes around, he would have taught them well. He was, after all, quite the person himself.

In his old age, Lambert lost nothing of who he was. He slowed down a bit, I suppose. Unlike in his youth, we didn't need to attach him to an old Volkswagen bumper just to make sure we could catch him at night and bring him in. Granted, he stopped chomping testes and destroying everything and knocking people over, bucking and kicking when resistant; but he was still always sly and cuddly, wicked and clever, darling and brutish.

Goodbye, Ol' Boy. Your spirit will ever be with us.