30 December 2009

My Trip to Wisconsin So Far...

Food Stamps

23 December 2009


Now is the moment, before the parties and the hugs and the reunions and all the things that I know I will be "on" for, when I question if I can do it, when I feel my most fragile and my most sad. 

I realize what I am in a room of people, be it three others that I know when or 50 that I may not, that I attract attention.  I have since I was a child although I've owned it since I was a teenager.  Usually I like the attention, I like the energy, I like that I can feel close to people fairly quickly with little more than a smile and a touch on the arm.

It has been a very busy two months and I have not taken almost any time for myself.  I don't know what this would have meant two years ago but now it means I haven't allowed myself to think too much about how much I miss my brother.  I realized that some nights ago when I found myself on the floor in a ball sobbing for I have no idea how long hoping it wouldn't hurt as much the next day.

So now is the lull; the busy push of our harvest and holiday season is over, and I am days away from being in Wisconsin then New York for a couple weeks, for the purpose of seeing my family, some friends, and having a good time.  Now is the morning when I wake up wondering how I am going to make sure there is a smile on my face for Christmas with my family here, for Christmas with my family there, for the party at my parents house we've turned into an annual event, for dinners, for reunions with friends in New York...  These are all things I've been looking forward to for months, and I know I will get there, but I have to find my way. 

Today I shall be quiet.  Today I will let it be ok for me not to be anything for anybody else.  Today I have no obligation and no pressure.  Today I can cry whenever I want to.  Today I will look forward to Christmas however I am moved to, be it enjoying the ridiculously Jesus-y carols or scowling at people as they cheerfully shop.

16 December 2009


I just realized I have published all of one post in December.

This is mostly due to the fact that we do something ridiculous like 30% of our business between harvest (early November) and Christmas (usually 12/25).  I still can't help but feel a little lax in my blog-writing and like anybody who is interested and kind enough to look over it every once in a while has lost interest by now. 

I promise I'll be back and better than ever.  I am contemplating switching to Tumblr, mostly because they have many more background options for non-code educated people like me, but if I do you'll be the first to know. 

Until next time I'll leave you with this tidbit.  I woke up today to the sound of a lemon juicer (a humming mechanical noise plus a "THUMP" every few seconds), Mexican ranchero Christmas music, and what sounded like about 7 or 8 roosters but was really just the standard two.  This is all in all pretty standard for December on the farm.

After arising to said cacophony of noises, working twelve some hours, realizing Christmas is in less than 10 days, and realized I hadn't published any blogs in weeks, I find myself here now getting ready to do it all again tomorrow, only with what appears to be a much rainier day at hand.

Hopefully roosters will be kind and let it get just a smidgen lighter before their greeting.

11 December 2009

Snow Day

Everybody loves a snow day.

Many of my folks enjoyed a doozy of a snow day yesterday in Madison. 

This is taken from the side of my parents porch before they started shoveling:

This is some time later, taken looking down the block, after quite a bit of shoveling:

 I miss it so much. 

30 November 2009

Give Me My Cookies

While I was made aware of sex and relationships and the potential consequences, physical and otherwise, from an early age, my parents didn't get too far into the "It can feel really good" portion of the discussion.  (They did like to make us squirm with the "It doesn't really get good til you're 40" comments, but I digress  And gag a little.)
Maybe because it was assumed I had already figured that out at some point between getting a time-out for kissing boys on the playground in kindergarten, getting a time-out for sitting on boys laps in 7th grade, or getting grounded at various points during high school for various boy-related violations.

Laundry Girl's mom apparently filled her in on that part too(Please click on that link, especially if you're a straight man.)  Wise, wise, wise words.  It's all about how everyone should get their cookies, and since the encounter usually has a way of winding down after the boy finishes his, that it's only appropriate and polite that he makes sure the girl gets hers first.

This may explain why LG was always one of my few friends who seemed to know the in's and out's (pun  intended) of getting down and dirty, not just the did-you-or-didn't-you technical details.  If I would have prescribed earlier to her Mom's way of thinking maybe I would have put up with much less poor-effort-sex over the last decade, and really, the less of that in the world the better.

21 November 2009

Skinny Idiot

I read something yesterday that quoted Kate Moss as saying "Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels."

At first it made me want to punch her and then force feed her bacon.  Then it kind of made me angry - the woman has a daughter for crying out loud, talk about pre-determined eating disorders.

Now, I think pity is the best way to describe what I feel.  Because I'm not obese, but I'm certainly big enough that I can enjoy some of the delicious things the world has to offer (ribeye!  cheddar!  funnel cakes!) without worrying about having an outline of it show through my abdomen.  

And that, my friends, feels pretty damn good.

18 November 2009


I woke up with my head on his shoulder facing away from him.  I studied his lower arm, the design of his moles and hair, that led to his strong hand that works hard but knows exactly how to touch my hair or hold my own.
The muted early sunlight was on the bed and the veins in his arm built a topographic map of his skin.  I could feel him breathing behind me in the soft gentle pattern that meant he was about to stir.  Although I wanted to hear his voice I wanted more for him to sleep peacefully next to me for just a few moments longer.
I felt sad that I had to say goodbye to him in some hours, but it was ok.  I felt more calm and safe with him than I do at any other place I can think of.  I knew I would see him again soon, I know that because we have applied no rules to each other it won't be a desperate rushed meeting.  Any time we have together is surplus.
I kept wanting to say words to him that would change the rules, so I didn't.  Instead I drew a heart on a piece of paper and put it on his pillow.  When I woke up the day after he left I felt almost euphorically happy, embracing the joy I feel just to know I get to have him in my life.

13 November 2009


My sister did her best at convincing herself and everybody else that the 2-day fever she had at our cousins wedding two months ago was actually swine flu.

These are the texts between us today:
Megan:  I think I have mecury poisoning.
Caitlin:  WTF
   And swine flu?
   And autism?
Megan:  I can be awkward... but i font think its bad enough for a diagnosis.

p.s. I've used her original spelling.  She's in graduate school, by the way. I fully expect her to come at me with a list of supporting reasons for her self-diagnoses of aforementioned diseases.  Except for autism.  Probably.

11 November 2009

It's Veterans Day

My Grandpa John was in the Army Air Corps during World War II.  He was shot down over France, smuggled out, came home and married his sweet love Annie, and raised ten children with her, including my mother.

My Grandpa Jim was in the Navy, he worked on radar and was on a submarine in the South Pacific when a torpedo hit it.  It was a dud, he came home and married Virginia and had my father then four more kids.

I was in love with a boy named Ryland when he was in the Marines, and was in Iraq during the start of this war.  Clifton was also there and is still one of my best friends.  I moved to North Carolina because of Justin, who was in the Army for almost ten years and Iraq for one.  Derek has served countless tours and is looking at another one.  Brent is overseas again as his love Liz waits for him in Texas.  Brandon is in Afghanistan right now, with his wife Annie and new baby waiting for him in Alaska.  Melinda served a few tours and just got out so she could get married.  Mike, Teeter, Mark, Boots, Steve, John, Scott, Dylan, Josh, Chris, Rob, so many others...

Thank You.

09 November 2009

Made For Walkin'

In October of 200something I sprained my ankle bad enough that I could barely walk on it for a few weeks, let alone wear high heels.  I love wearing high heels so this cramped my style.  That New Year's I was finally ready, and I bought an adorable low-ish heeled, uncharacteristically girly pink with black adornment pair of heels and built an outfit around those.  They remain some of my favorite pair of shoes I have ever owned.

Fast forward a couple of years and a couple of long distance moves.  I was dating and had fell hard for somebody that was about to relocate, we'll call him T.  We had a brief but intense courtship that was great in some ways for both of us; in the years that followed, up til almost present day, neither of us were really able to let go when we should have.  (For me, the first second and third time he lied to me about having/getting back together with a girlfriend were the big should-have-let-the-hell-go moments, but I guess I've always liked a lesson to be really pounded into me.)

In the months that we were together we rarely spent a night, or moment for that matter, apart if we could avoid it.  Naturally, there were some objects that got mixed up, which isn't normally a problem because as you clean or sort or whatever you say "Hey dollface, you left your blabla here, I'll bring it over later," then you do and life moves on.  However, as this individual was about to be relocated as a member of the armed forces, there was a super swat packing crew that boxed and moved every last item not clearly labeled and separated.

T and I were trying to be realists and didn't have plans on being a couple, or even necessarily seeing each other after we both left town, other than a brief stopover on my way westward across the country.  So it was with much annoyance and a little sadness that I  realized later in the afternoon after all the boxes had been moved out of T's house that my girly pink sprain-recovery-celebratory heels had been packed and relocated to T's next government chosen location.

In the years since we met and swept each other off our respective and proverbial feet, we have stopped talking only to start again, for one reason, excuse, overdue apology or another every few months.  He has been the "What If?" for me, and I always held out just a little hope that we'd find a way to work something out.  He is a nice guy and I think for the most part has meant well, but the failure to disclose when he was with his girlfriend became a regular theme that, admittedly, I should have learned a lesson from earlier.

T was moving again a few months ago, from the house he had lived in (and deployed from a few times) since we parted ways.  (AKA the house that held my shoes.)  Since we were in the midst of another talking streak, and this overdue apology had really been a doozy, it occured to me that this would be the time to get my shoes back.  I knew he'd send them to me when they were uncovered because he was in the process of trying to prove that he was the one for me, to show me he had made a mistake in letting me go, and to prove I could trust him so we could really build something.  (I've paraphrased a little here, but most of those are not my words.)

One of the last times I talked to him, as I was deep in realizing that I needed to cut him off again, he made the sad report to me that nowhere in the house had my shoes been found.  Shoes gone.  Forever.

I talked to him maybe once or twice after that, and I don't exactly know why or how to describe it, but I realized distinctly that this was the last time.  I held him up on a pedestal for more than two years and over and over I was disappointed, yet at least a small part of me had held on, had clung to the awesomeness of the time we had spent together as an example of what should be.

I don't want to over simplify things, but I realized something striking after the last time I hung up the phone with him...
After I found out the shoes were not to be found, it was shockingly easy to let him go. 

06 November 2009

Good Wife

I got this little nugget from my mother in an email a few months back...  (click on image to see it bigger)

Such gems include:
"Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him."  and
"A good wife always knows her place."

I love watching the suppressed rage of Betty Draper on Mad Men as much as the next person, and I got a good laugh out of this.  Then I read it again and I thought, "Holy Shit are my sisters and I lucky that my mothers and hers worked so hard and didn't mind the label of feminism...  Cheers to you women, and cheers to our grandmothers for not losing their intelligent and underused disrespected minds.  We owe you lots."

31 October 2009


It's Harvest Weekend!

Every year my aunt and uncle throw a big party to celebrate harvest and new oil.  I'll write more on that later, but for now, a taste of what's been happening around here this week...


30 October 2009


I have over 1300 emails in my inbox right now.

Ever since Gmail advertised to me that I'd never have to delete a message again, I almost haven't. 

While the sheer number is a little astounding, the breadth of emails have proven quite an interesting exercise in self-awareness and examination over the last few weeks as I've been trying to whittle the total down.  I go to the oldest emails on the last page of the inbox and apply the handy little label and archive most of them.  Some of them I do delete, and it is quite satisfying to delete a bunch at once.

This system has hiccups though when I run across ones that I can't decide how to label, or ones I don't want out of the in-box, from some compulsive fear  I can't really specify.  Namely ones from Brendan - how on earth can I archive those?  They are proof of his existence, mostly brief and sporadic and often funny thoughts passed through the internet that are infinitely more poignant because of his absense.

The other inner conflict I have regarding my filing arises when I come across messages that I don't really want to label and archive because it's not deleting -  which would signify a decision not to delete, which means I've made the decision to keep.  In particular messages between old loves/lovers and me.  (I forgot how filthy and creative I can be when someone makes me feel comfortable enough to take the filter off.)  I've almost convinced myself that keeping these messages is more a way of preserving my past rather than remembering what inspired such straightforward expressions of desire and love.

27 October 2009

Favorite Marriage Proposal So Far...

Nathan:    wanna marry me?
 me:    sure do
 Nathan:    beautiful
 well get out to chicago
  i know a real nice courthouse
 me:    reeeeeeeeeeeal nice
 Nathan:    can we get married to zeppelin IV?
  me:    hell why not
  we're gonna have the tallest most awesome babies ever
 Nathan:    when you walk down the isle we'll play "been a long time been a long time been a long lonely lonely lonely time"
  me:    perfect
  do courthouses have aisles?
  Nathan:    our babies'll probly be midgets
  me:    ha!
  but they will wanna rock
  Nathan:    yes
  just like mom and dad
me:    exacto
 Nathan:    courthouses are perfect
  we can prance around and noone will car
 me:    for our wedding? definitely
  then we can have a party at the farm
 Nathan:    !
 me:    yup
 Nathan:    country courthouse and a bluegrass shakedown
me:    yes
  i'm gonna put a bow on your dog
 Nathan:    my dog is with the ex
 me:    oh NO
 Nathan:    bummed
 me:    honey
  i'm sorry
i'll still marry you
 Nathan:    we'll get our own dog
 me:    i'll just put a bow on you
 Nathan:    a bull mastiff
 me:    ha
  that'll eat our midget children
 Nathan:    yes... we'll name her thor
 me:    of course they could put a saddle on it and they could ride it around
  oh thor
  sweet puppy
Nathan:    thor! stop looking at the children like that and eat yer alpo
 me:    poor thing gets hungry, midget children are like tasty nuggets
tasty nuggets who wanna rock NOT get eaten by thor
  i loved the songs you sent me
Nathan:    thanks
 me:    welcome
 Nathan:    come over and we'll listen to my scratchy copy of stairway
 me:    sweet
  and drink whiskey
 Nathan:    it's really good
 me:    i'll bet it is
 Nathan:    whisky
  but only if we feel irish
 me:    we do
 Nathan:    i always do
 me:    me too
  bye husband
 i have to go play with oil
 Nathan:    i have to go re start stairway
 me:    yeah you do
 Nathan:    have a good afternoon
 me:    you too
 Nathan:    <3
 me:    oh honey
you should write me a song then i can tattoo your lyrics on the inside of my left arm
  i've got the perfect place picked out
  <3 Nathan:    sure

24 October 2009


My ex and I haven't spoken for more than a year, on purpose by my choice, and we have very few mutual friends at this point (he burned a lot of bridges on his way out).  Other than a couple blurbs through the grapevine and one drunken and curious episode where night I looked at his family's photos on facebook, I haven't thought about him much.  However, twice in the last two weeks I have dreamed about him, both dreams them involving him, his wife, and their baby son. 

The most weird scene of both of them was when in one, I was in charge of holding the baby when a whole bunch of family was around (I'm pretty sure it was his, hers, and some weird combination of my family).  I adored this child, thought it was the most cherubic thing ever.

From both dreams, I woke up feeling weirdly neutral.  I've written before about how powerful dreams can be, but not in this case.  I just felt really curious.  If anybody has any theories as to why I would have these dreams or what they mean, I would love to hear it.  Seriously.

18 October 2009


I think the beauty of something tends to lay in its imperfections... 


14 October 2009

Happy Fall-ing

Is this smell of new crisp air, of change, of time moving and getting colder, is this something just I smell?  Is it possible that others feel this intoxicating mix of nostalgia, melancholy, and joy all at once?

I love this season.  Until this year I have always felt torn - What IS my favorite time of year?  June and July always had a lot of clout - my birthday, no school, playing outside (in shorts) til much later, popsicles...  But there was something about fall even though its the beginning of a school year and the gateway to some bitter cold Midwestern months.  It was a tight race between early summer and mid fall , but I'm ready to declare a winner.  Yes, folks, autumn has my heart.  Recent events took June down more than a few notches, but I think it really has more to do with how well I know myself now versus when I was 12 (when I first consciously considered this question), and in that self-awareness, giving my instincts the weight they merit.

In northern California we don't get the brilliant crisp autumn rainbow that is so much part of these months in the Midwest, and this year I realized that it is not from the leaves crunching or the color of the trees that I draw my happiness in this season.  Here we get more fog, cooler temperatures, and rain, and yet I every day I am finding myself happy just to be able to feel this shift, to feel the melancholy AND the joy.  The renewed wetness doesn't bring me down because I have never been bothered by the rain.  I find it peaceful to fall asleep and wake up to the sound of raindrops, and figure it's a good excuse to invest in some galoshes that make me feel like I'm 7 again. 

This autumn brought me a sense of relief, from what I cannot say.  I still have the same questions, doubts, sadnesses, and insecurities I had two months ago.  Today they seem more manageable, and I am happy to see the rain and smell the woodsmoke and put an extra layer on. 

So here's to autumn.  Let's raise a glass (of cider! or hot chocolate! or brandy!) and give thanks.

08 October 2009

Hang On Little Tomato

This  morning I was in a great mood.  Slept in, read a book, went for coffee, and when I came back to the farm to start my work day I searched through a box to look for an Emmylou Harris CD I thought I had in there, because I saw her perform last night and was inspired to dig it out.

Instead I found, almost immediately, a cd my bother Brendan made for me.  I'm pretty sure it was Christmas either 2006 or 2007, because the color theme was as such.  

It is a thin cd case with a red square insert and CAITLIN written out on the top in a slightly darker red.  Inside the blank cd has my name scrawled on it what I'm pretty sure was a well used sharpie in Brendan's distinctive handwriting.  On the inside face of the cover sheet is the track list, as follows...

1     Think I'm in Love - Beck
2     Hang on Little Tomato - Pink Martini
3     Over and Over Again - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
4     Wildcat - Ratatat
5     Ciagarettes and Chocolate Milk - Rufus Wainwright
6     Dois Rios - Skank
7     Nausea - Beck
8     Hail to Whatever You Found in the Sunlight - Rilo Kiley
9     Amando Mio - Pink Martini 
10   The Skin of my Country Yellow Teeth - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
11   Loud Pipes - Ratatat
12   Electrik Boogie - Ursula 1000
13   She Crys Your Name - Beth Orton
14   Crips - Ratatat
15   Le Plus - Carla Bruni
16   Soldier Jane - Beck
17   Superrob - Tosca

I didn't know what to do but really wanted to put the cd back in the box and not to have found it, and not to have to feel the way about it that I do because he's dead.  I think I gasped (in my head I did anyway) and then started crying and sat down where I was, between my bed and my dresser.  I was left there for a while wondering if anything I could wipe my face off was within arms reach and if I was going to dry up and be able to have a good day, or if this one was going to change it.  Luckily it was the former, and eventually I climbed up off the floor and put the cd down on some pads of paper I had also pulled out, wiped off my face and went to work.

At point this afternoon I opened up my personal email along with my work one, and I saw I had a message from Corporate Perks.  I'm not totally sure what Corporate Perks is, but Brendan signed Megan and me up for it when he officially got his job in the spring of '08 and I think it gives you discounts on a bunch of stuff.  I remember him emailing us to let us know it wasn't spam, it was legitimately from him and valid.  I never got around to doing anything with it beyond not deleting the emails.  I get them every once in a while still, but I usually open them briefly so they're not marked as 'new' but don't want to read them and can't delete them.

I opened this one and read: 

Dear Caitlin,

Brendan Scanlon has invited you to have guest access to Corporate Perks, an exclusive benefit for Corporate Perks employees. Your guest account expires in 30 days unless you register, and so please act now. Corporate Perks can help you save money on everything from groceries, cell phone bills, movie tickets, clothes and accessories to electronics, vacations and personal care items.

To access your guest account simply login to Corporate Perks by using the information below:

This thankfully didn't reduce me to a soggy mess but rather made me smile as my gut ached.  "Oh Corporate Perks...", I thought, "If only you knew who you were talking to about expiring..."

 It was a good day today.  It was full of reminders that things Brendan touched are limited - finite.  But I got off the floor and and smiled more than a few times so it was a good day.

02 October 2009

Hello October.

Here you are again.  Just like you are every year, right after September.  Why is it you seemed to arrive so much more quickly this time around?  Are you going to hurry along like the last few months have?

Cold nights and rain beat you by a couple weeks this year.  Will you retaliate with more cold and more rain, or will you give us some last days of warmth and sun that we've become used to and will miss if they don't arrive?

You brought with you good moods and laughter, which might be necessary as you also heralded in closer deadlines and more to do.  If we can laugh and smile as we do what we have to, though, we will be able to thrive in our busy-ness not just get through it.

So, welcome.  Stay a while if you could.  We know the next few months get all the glory but I say let's show them what it's like to enjoy a month just because we want to, not because the calender gives us a few days off.

01 October 2009


I have been so down lately.  But that's not so interesting so I won't write on that until I can figure out what was interesting about it.

I feel happy tonight for the first time in weeks.  What a relief.

My dear cousin (one of many, but one of a kind) Danny is on the farm here in California; he's staying for a couple weeks to do some portraits of people.  He's an artist and has no idea how adorable, or talented, he is.  (Some background:  Danny is the middle child between Mike, who was born two weeks after me and whom I was in the same class with from 4th through 12th grade, and Annie, whom I've written about before.  The three of them and the three of us [Megan, Brendan, and I] were both raised on the East side of Madison and are closer to being siblings than cousins in many ways.)

Tonight Aunt, Uncle, Danny, and I sat around after dinner after having a lively discussion on abortion and health care and somehow got into liquor. I mean for some reason I ended up sitting on the floor rooting through the liquor cabinet and we tasted the difference between a fifty year old whiskey and a much younger scotch, then opened up the encyclopedia to discover the differences between gin and vodka.

As I surrounded myself with dusty and interesting liquor bottles and realized how much fun I was having, even though I have to get up way too early to start the farmers market rotation again, Danny asked me if they were witnessing my downward spiral, and the dog in the meantime had fit three tennis balls in his mouth.  I haven't laughed like this in a hot minute and it feels good to dust it off.

19 September 2009


We are so busy that I am not sure when the next time I'll take a day off. Soon it's harvest, then the holiday season (which in my world translates to shipping department season).

Even though I drank too much, stayed out too late last night, and had to get up much too early to work a farmers market, it was a beautiful day. I think this is what must be Indian Summer. The highlights were driving into town with my auntie to run an errand in the Galaxy convertible, and since the pups hopped in we decided to take them for a ride. Their doggy faces said "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" as they strained to keep their eyes open in the breeze.

After I'd concentrated on as much as I possibly could for the day, I grabbed a blanket, pillow, and the book that I am so close to finishing, and headed for the outdoor bed that's in an ideal spot under the mini birch tree grove that is at the top corner of the lawn, looking out over the pond and rest of the property. I lay there for almost three hours, sleeping, daydreaming, and nodding off. At one point the puppy ran some laps around me and Colleen brought out a pizza she'd just pulled out of the brick oven, to test the new dough recipe she's tweaking. I got up and came inside when I realized the sky was pink and the buzzes around my head were mosquitoes.

This week has been filled with anxious anticipation as we try to embrace the already quite full calender ahead of us, but in spite of that I received quite the glorious treat of this day.

This is Django the puppy...

This is Boswell, older and wiser...

13 September 2009

At Least the Bridge Won't Break

I was shaken awake at at 4-something this morning very confused. I very rarely wake up in the middle of a deep sleep, which it was, and if I do it's because something in my dream or a very loud noise wakes me up. In this case, I didn't hear the noise I just was awake and realized that I had felt shaken from far away.

In my mostly-asleep confused state it dawned on my that I was probably just awoken by an earthquake. I mean why the hell else would one be jostled awake at o-dark-hundred in the morning in Northern California wine country in the middle of September? Certainly not a thunderstorm, right? Wrong. Moments after calmly thinking I was in the middle of an earthquake in the middle of my bed, I saw a flash of light from the lightening that was also happening - part of a larger thunderstorm rolling through. It was a loud earth-shaking thunder roll that woke me from my slumber, and while I'm thrilled to know I'd be so calm waking up to an earthquake, I am disappointed that I missed it. I miss those summer thunderstorms that shake the ground, and here I was in the middle of one considering taking shelter under the doorframe.

I fell right back asleep and woke up at a more reasonable hour to gray skies, raindrop marks on the windshield, and a feeling that autumn (and harvest) is just around the corner.

11 September 2009


Every once in a while, it feels really good to get really drunk and loud and maybe make some bad decisions and wake up with some bruises.
Not all the time, because then you're just a mess. Just enough to work the kinks out and remember what a hangover feels like, and maybe prove to your rapidly aging self that you can still function relatively well on small amounts of alcohol induced sleep.
Now where the f*$& is the aspirin.

10 September 2009


Dear You,

I recorded a voice memo to myself a while ago, the morning you left, telling myself that it was probably for the best we hadn't had sex this time because we probably would have went and fallen in love. It is probably for the best that we've ruled out a relationship because I have a feeling that might be it for both of us.

Everything with you is simple, everything between us is so simple, which is why this is complicated. I don't talk about you with my friends except when they ask, and they usually don't because they've seen us together and yet they know you're not my boyfriend... so they know it couldn't be easy either way.

When I hear love and heartbreak songs on the radio, I think of others, ones who have all hurt. When I hear something that reminds me of home I think of you.

We had our bullshit between us early and I'm glad you got it out of the way. I'm also glad you apologized when we saw each other unexpectedly and I'm so glad I decided to listen. I'm so glad you walked me home that night and walked up the hill for me every night after.

You are a sweet surprise, you are comfort and safety, and you are probably impossible. We will both probably look back in five or ten years and think of one another with a smile, and wonder why or what if for just a moment, or a few if we're feeling nostalgic.

The truth is that's ok because I'd rather have you as a memory than not to have you at all.
The truth really is that I'd rather have you as my present than a part of my past.



09 September 2009


I have spent a couple of months not thinking about my brothers absence.

My group grief counseling ended some months ago and I have not sought out more. The group sessions were a mostly pleasant and vaguely helpful exercise, but I don't know if I could name any lasting effects. (Other than everyone confirming that it must be much harder to lose a brother to murder than an elderly parent to age.)

There are shows happening in Madison, a tribute downtown by other artists and a show in our high school of his own work. Other things are being planned, his dear friends are continuing their work in spreading his legacy with the website, and so it continues.

It's hard to explain what I mean when I say I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about Brendan or his death in the last couple of months... I am always thinking about him in the sense that he, or his memory, is always present somewhere in my mind, just as I don't technically forget that he's dead. But it's almost like I've taken a vacation from grief, and frankly it really hasn't done me any good.

I've found myself thinking of his murderer as I fall asleep, not just at night but when I try and take naps. It's the subject that is most painful and difficult to face so when my guards and consciousness are most relaxed it confronts my mind. I wake up feeling unsettled and tense, like something is wrong and you can't figure out what it is nor can you fix it. In this case I do know what it is, but I certainly can't fix it.

The sadness and anger hits me harder now, and more suddenly. I feel like the best way to describe my state is functionally devastated. More than a year has passed since Brendan died so if there was one, the official period of mourning would be over. I talk to his friends less and less, we've passed all the holidays and birthdays at least once, and it's just not new anymore for most people...
To us, it's Always new.
I wish I could describe it more accurately but I don't know how.
The pain, while duller, is just as painful. The absence is just as large if not larger. The things that remind us how much we miss him are more numerous the more days that pass. As I accept how much I want my own children one day I grow equally angry they won't get to know their Uncle, and that he won't get to know my children. It is devastatingly unfair that he won't get to have children and that I won't get to know my nieces or nephews.

So while my brother is always on my mind, I'm not thinking moment to moment about what I'm missing. These days rather than a steady absence, I will remember suddenly, at the deepest part of a deep breath, that Brendan's not coming back; rather than a constant numbness it's short and brutal.

I am exhausted.

02 September 2009

All The Way Home and Back Again

A lot of things have been happening and I feel like I am having a hard time catching up...

Ted Kennedy died last week. One of my first memories of my father crying had something to do with Robert Kennedy. There are countless Kennedy books on my parents bookshelves, and I've stood at JFK's Eternal Flame with my father more than a couple times to pay our respects and shed our tears for could have been. I didn't read the articles the day Edward Kennedy died nor have I watched the President's eulogy, nor did I spring for the $10 Newsweek Special Commemorative Edition... it's all happened to fast and I want to give it due time and reflect properly but it's been a week and it's getting ahead of me.

I was in Wisconsin for almost 80 hours last weekend, Madison for most of it. I walked through my high school for the first time in almost a decade and was impressed with how clean it was yet how it had only seemed to change in insignificant surface ways. I walked through with my father to see an art show of my brothers work that he did as himself and as Solve, curated in by my mother and cousin in the gallery in the high school that he almost didn't graduate from.

It was unseasonably cold but sunny and beautiful all weekend. Friday night there was an unexpected thunderstorm that I got to feel start standing on my parents front porch with a glass of whiskey in my hand and the arms of a man around me.

I found out one of my oldest and best friends is having a baby, I cried when she told me and when I saw a photo of the sonogram.

I went to the farmers market with my sister and we bought coffee, cheese curds, tomatoes, and pastries full of carbohydrates because she said that was the only thing she really wanted.

I saw my cousin get married on Saturday with almost my whole family and it was a fabulous party, complete with a wardrobe malfunction (mine), a drunk best man that quoted Macbeth and called me a bitch in the same breath (which he was quite proud of), a speech from the father-of-the-groom that brought everyone to tears, first in laughter then not, and a bad ass first dance.
Most of us drank a little too much but as always we had not nearly enough time together, and it made me want to do it all over again next weekend, and not just for the generous open bar. My family is just... well, they are amazing. Everyone thinks so. And now they've started placing bets on who will be the next cousin to get hitched.

Sunday I went to a movie. It was totally unplanned and not a movie I would have seen by myself but I was invited and I went and it actually felt like a proper and wonderful date. It was a perfect Sunday afternoon and then we met my family to eat food from the festival that happens every year in the park across the street from my parents house.

My sister slept off the fever she'd had for a day and a half by Monday morning, and we bought coffee and t-shirts from the closest coffee shop to my parents house, then walked the mile and a half downtown to see the show in honor of my brother downtown. My Dad bought us some of my favorite sandwiches on the way to my airport.

Before I knew it I was back in California. I had a scratchy throat and I cried to my sister on my two hour drive from the airport to home about not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. Then I got home and my aunt and uncle were happy to see me and I felt like I was home, and the dogs wagged their tails.

Yesterday I worked for around ten hours and today my throat's still scratchy. I have not yet blocked off time to read about Ted Kennedy, although I did manage to unpack my over packed carry-on suitcase.

22 August 2009

Girl After My Own Heart

My beautiful young cousin Annie has decided to leave the country and go to China to teach English for (at least) a year since she's got the travel bug bad and she just graduated college and job offers aren't abundant over here. She's the younger sister of two brothers in that family and I would venture to say the favorite child (sorry Mike and Danny, I calls it like I sees it.)

She made a stop in California last weekend on her way out of the country so our family's representatives on the west coast got to see her for a couple days. I especially got to get some quality time in before she left and only teared up a little after dropping her off with our other aunt. (This is not being overemotional as I did practically raise her, after all.)

While everyone is proud of and excited for her, there was also some sadness to see her go and a little nervousness at the remoteness and mystery of her destination. (The city she is assigned has reportedly almost 5 million residents, yet no listing in the Lonely Planet. A few lines on Wikipedia. This seems odd.)

Needless to say I was happy and relieved to see her online the other day and we chatted for a bit and she was safe and sound in the city she was going to be in for about a week before she went on to the mystery city. She had spent the night in a South Korean airport, was sleeping on a bed with no mattress, and still hadn't heard much about her final destination but was all in all excited and comfortable.

A small portion of our conversation:

Annie: im actually trying to decide between staying in xian and going to the mystery city right now
Caitlin: how's that going?
Caitlin: any more on the mystery city?
Annie: just that its "very traditional"
Annie: "NOT modern"
Caitlin: huh
Caitlin: i mean, they've seen whities, right
Annie: i dont know, as compared with shanghai or beijing it sounds like a relatively reasonable alternative
Annie: but xian is small enough that its not terribly polluted but there are a ton of fun options
Caitlin: hmmmmmm
Annie: apaprently jian, despite the size, has a pretty good chance of just having nothing there
Annie: which would be interesting
Caitlin: totally
Caitlin: i don't know annie, you've got a good amount of mountain goat in you
Caitlin: if anyone could dig that it'd be you
Annie: but i really want to learn mandarin, and being a female in such a "traditional" place could mean that i am not allowed to have a social life
Annie: haha, true story
Caitlin: i mean, they've seen whitie before, right?
Annie: apparently at least one
Caitlin: and?
Caitlin: was it male or female
Annie: but i dont get the feeling they are used to them or that they would be ready for a white woman like me
Caitlin: ha
Annie: i feel like in rural, traditional china drunk american girls are frowned upon
Caitlin: LOL
Caitlin: i love you
Caitlin: girl after my own heart

20 August 2009

This Game

One of the themes of my summer has been dating. I couldn't explain why or why now. One of my friends is on a dating website and has multiple dates a week ("shopping for men"), another started a hilarious first-date-story blog, and I find myself actually open to dating again.

And, since I've felt open again, things have sort of been happening. I think for a long time I have said I don't want to be set up and I am not interested because in reality, I have been terrified of letting anyone in to my crazy little mind enough that I could trust them. Dating is after all "scoping out potential for relationships"(thank you Laundry Girl).

I have not done enough scoping - I have a history of taking things too seriously too quickly. Hey, we like each other, we're attracted to each other, let's get together and call it love and you can meet my whole family and maybe we should move across the country for each other and maybe in the same house and maybe let's just crush each others souls while we're at it.
(On a side note - DO NOT bring someone to your family reunion in the first six months of a relationship, or even a year. I will be more specific at a later date but for now just take my word for it and Don't Do It.)

So I'm trying it a little different these days. Yes, I am letting myself be set up with people - what's the worst that can happen? Yes, I might give someone my number at a bar if they ask politely. Yes, I may be trading texts and calls with more than one person at a time. Yes, I am toying with the idea of joining a dating website myself. No, I am not sleeping with anyone. Yet. (This is not my favorite part.)

Inevitably I find myself drawn to the ones that my social work sister can diagnose in an instant as something I'll need to think about ('have similair traumatic experiences' is one example) but, since I'm walking through this, I'm ok with that. My sister has given me one piece of advice more than anything and that is "please don't make any big life-altering decisions based on a 20 hour conversation/good sex/intense connection/etc." She can say that because, as I've mentioned, she's seen me do it. And guess what - the first time is a love story, the second is questioned, and the third is just a sad pattern.

So dating here we go. I'll learn to love you, but I'm not going to rush into it.

18 August 2009

I Just Want You With Me

That is what it all boils down to, isn't it?

I'm planning a little weekend and coordinating some schedules and I wrote that in the middle of an email to a friend about various activities happening in one day. My friend wrote back, "All you have to do is say 'I just want you with me'..."

It may be regardless of our intentions
the sweetest harmless little love letter I have ever received.

15 August 2009


Cheers to doing lovely things with lovely people...

I went to the city a couple nights ago to see some wonderful fellow tall woman, and we drank wine (that was a gift from a beautiful short woman) and chatted about our and the worlds problems, and may have even managed to solve a few...

The next morning I got the treat of accompanying Heidi on her very first trip to Cafe Tartine. She has lived in the city almost four years and never been - this should be a crime. If you've not been you must go. It is ridiculous. Always crowded and always worth it, whether you get a tiny little cookie or a veritable smorgasbord of delicious things, like we did. We waited in the line, drooled on the cases, considered getting one of everything but instead ended up ordering to share a ham croque monsieur (ham, cheese, tomato baked on open french bread) and a bowl of brioche bread pudding with peaches and raspberries. We each got big lattes they serve in bowl cups (and so you have to use both hands and I love that) and then a coconut cream tart to go, for later, because after all that we wouldn't possibly get through it.
After about six minutes this is what our table looked like:

That is the coconut cream tart that we had just put on a plate because we needed to eat it. We finished it. It was all so good.

We finished off the morning by stopping into all the bookstores we could find in my old Mission/Valencia neighborhood that's right down the street. A delightful 18 hours.

14 August 2009

Secret IV

I cheated.

I saw where the line was, surrounded by gray area, and I bounced across it happily. I don't feel guilty about any of it.

13 August 2009

Small Kindnesses

On Monday June 16th of last year I woke up early in my parents house in Madison so my cousin Danny and I could drive back to Chicago to attend a public court appearance of the young man who stands accused of murdering my brother. Although I had just arrived in Madison from Chicago the night before, we thought it was important that one of us attend and I felt I was best suited for the trip. Danny volunteered to come with me and drive and in hindsight I can't imagine how I would have done it without him.

We arrived at the courthouse by 9am and waited in line to get through security. I recognized the security guard from the day before when we had stopped by the courthouse thinking we were supposed to be there for an appearance that day. He seemed a little surprised to see me again and I remember thinking he wanted to help me somehow but was in serious security mode and so simply made sure we knew where we needed to be. I got to the front of the line to find out I couldn't bring in my ipod, which I had at the bottom of my purse. I went back out to the car and came back through again the whole time wondering how soon I would have to step into the courtroom, what it would look like, and what would happen.

At it turned out we had more than an hour to wait before anything happened but didn't want to leave and risk missing things. So we went to the little mini cafeteria/food stand right there on the first floor and got coffee, and Danny got something to eat. I picked up a copy of the Chicago Tribune and remember that there was going to be an article about Brendan's murder in it. We had set ourselves up in a corner by a window and were using the window ledge as a counter to put our things down and I stood and held the paper with both hands.

At this time it for some reason there were a fair amount of people passing by in the large open hallway. As I was standing reading this article about Solve the street artist being murdered, with a quote from my parents that my sister and I had helped prepare the night before, tears started coming down my face. I started to weep and as I got to the end of the article I set the paper down and put my face in my hands and cried. Danny put his arms around me and when I looked up and caught my breath there was a woman who had noticed and was walking towards us. For a moment the thought crossed my mind that she might suggest we go somewhere else, but she didn't. She was much shorter than me, a black woman with short hair, a soft face, large motherly breasts, and a gentle way.

She came up to me, took my arms, looked up at my face and told me that although she didn't know what had happened to me, she felt that God had something good for me. She said she was sorry that something bad had happened to me, but God had something good for my life. Then she hugged me and held on to me for a minute patting and cooing, looked in my face and squeezed my arms again and I think (I hope) I thanked her and she walked away. She said it with such peaceful conviction that I actually believed her.

I don't care why she was in the courthouse that day and I don't care if I was one of many weeping people she told about God's love. I don't care that we probably don't believe in the same God. I just care that she hugged me and I'm glad she believed that better things were coming my way. She didn't make me feel better, nothing could have, but she did make me feel love, and that's everything.

11 August 2009

Better Off

Dear You,

I deserved at least a phone call.

I don't believe you were faking anything with me so that means that either you suddenly lost interest, chose someone else, or decided it was too much.

One way or another you decided to just stop. I understand that when you're not into someone, un-returned calls and messages don't seem nearly as big of a deal to you as they do to the person on the other end. We had an intense connection. I opened up to you quickly in a way that I haven't in a long time. You gave me reason to hope a little and trust a little, and I deserved at least being told "it's just not going to happen" if not an explanation.

I don't care if this note makes me seem crazy. I know what I am and what I am not, and I've seen crazy, and this ain't it.

Eventually we'll run into each other, and it'll be polite and cordial and just fine. And because I probably won't ever tell you in person, I'll tell you just in my own head and here where you'll probably never read it - you hurt my feelings. You were capable of manning up and being honest with me and you failed. Shame on you.

So here's to me finding out now before anything more than just some silly feelings were invested.



10 August 2009

Easy Silence

Anybody who knows me well enough knows I'm a sucker for a sweet simple pop song. I first heard the Dixie Chicks "Easy Silence" when I bought their Taking The Long Way album, the most recent one that was a big deal because it was made in reaction to the anti-Dixie Chicks uproar after the lead singer made her I'm-ashamed-Bush-is-from-Texas comments in March 2003. (Which, by the way, made me want to buy all their albums twice. My mom bought two copies of this cd just on principle.) While I can probably sing along to all the songs on this I hit repeat for track #2 every time I heard it.

At the time I was seeing someone and we were at the point in the relationship where everything is perfect. As it happens we had to end it before it really has a chance to go anywhere, or get into any of the hard stuff, so as a result the song reminds me of a happy moment, a high and loving moment, an example of how good it should be.

The song, while being easy, folky, country, and poppy, does have incredibly and simply sweet lyrics. It speaks to what I think I need in a partner - to give me a sense of calm and peace and ease of being.

There is so much craziness around us, so much noise and activity and commotion. Part of it is out of our control but much of the noise is self-inflicted. We have so many different things happening at once that it's often more effort to really Be Quiet than it is to keep at least a couple balls in the air.

It feels like a gift to me when I realize I can be quiet and comfortable and peaceful with somebody. That sense of shared calm, that quiet connection - that feels so valuable to me.

07 August 2009

Caro Mio Ben

This is happening...

Although I'm not actually using words yet and doing the whole thing in vowels, it's still happening.

Some of these notes are really high and a little intimidating. It may not be the best idea for me to keep listening to Cecilia Bartoli's version.

Blow Away

Does anybody else know this ache of loneliness? This feeling that resonates from my gut through my torso into a weight in my chest and my arms - is it isolated to just me or does somebody else feel this too?

It comes on like a sudden breeze. Or the bigger wave after a series of small ones, the one that gets the bottom of your pants wet, your pants that you were sure were rolled up high enough. It's not totally unexpected, the conditions are there, but it could have not happened without any note of it's absence.

I know I am not the only lonely one, and I know that I am not alone. I have opened up and left myself vulnerable, I haven't been sleeping and I've been thinking about not sleeping alone. Perhaps the ache slips in because I let my defenses down so my body has to remind my heart to button up again.

Perhaps, though, the ache is just a reminder that loneliness can be damned - it will always pass. May it be reminder that whatever sadness and solitude pass through my heart is dwarfed by the shadow of the grief I survive.

The breeze dies down, the wave rolls back. And just like that I breathe deeply and enjoy the quiet.

04 August 2009

Gmail May Know Too Much

I was just emailing someone a "Dear Old Love" link and as I typed an email address into the "To:" section of my gmail, five addresses popped up after the first two letters. Of the five, three were men I dated...

At the bottom, was my first love and the most difficult to get over.
In the middle, was the one that I had the most fun with and drove me the most crazy.
At the top, the one I was sending the link to, is the one I still wonder about.

31 July 2009

Proust & Me

I am copying dear Tommy's idea and answering Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire. I have thought of my own answers every time I've read it in the magazine anyway so I thought they might be interesting to actually write down.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being with my favorite people, with good food, wine, and either a fire or sunshine. Being whole.

2. What is your greatest fear?
Being 90 and wishing I would have done more.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My girlish insecurities (that can be paralyzing.)

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

5. Which living person do you most admire?
My mother.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?
Plane tickets. One day I hope it will be shoes.

7. What is your current state of mind?
Frustrated and disappointed, but hopeful. (Tomorrow it will already be different.)

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

9. On what occasion do you lie?
I don't. I'm incapable of it. Oops that's a lie - once in a while when I say I was going to call someone when I really wasn't. Only if it's insignificant to both me and them.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Bad skin.

11. Which living person do you most despise?
Kurt Tobolski.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"Right?!?" and ".. so ..." as in "I so agree" or "I so wouldn't do that."

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
So far I'm not ready to put this in print.

16. When and where were you happiest?
April - June 2007, mostly in Fayetteville, NC.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to move on from emotional stress after I've paid it enough attention.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wouldn't get my heart tangled up so easily.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being able to feel joy over the last year.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A well cared for cat.

21. Where would you most like to live?
I would most like to want to live wherever I am living at the moment.
Madison, Granada, Galway, San Francisco.

22. What is your most treasured possession?
A CD my brother made me for Christmas one year.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Visiting a morgue to identify a loved body.

24. What is your favorite occupation?
Teacher. (Note - this does not mean I want it to be my occupation.)

25. What is your most marked characteristic?
My height combined with love of high heels and ability to talk to anyone in the room no matter how much they have to tilt up.

26. What do you most value in your friends?
Loyalty, honesty, and patience.

27. Who are your favorite writers?
Pablo Neruda, Dr. Suess, William Shakespeare

28. Who is your hero of fiction?

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I don't identify personally with any historical figure.

30. Who are your heroes in real life?
My mother and my sister.

31. What are your favorite names?
Ava, John, Stella, Leah, Michael, Raul, Eve, Caitlin, Megan, Brendan

32. What is it that you most dislike?
Feeling left behind.

33. What is your greatest regret?
Not keeping better track of the big pastel drawing my brother did for me five years ago.

34. How would you like to die?
Happily, peacefully, quickly but not suddenly, and almost last.

35. What is your motto?
"I'm just livin' the dream..."

27 July 2009


This weekend most of my large Irish/German family (Mom's side) will be gathering at the family farm in Wisconsin for the annual reunion. I won't be going this year which is always a little sad.

My mother is one of ten children that grew up on this dairy farm, which has been in the family since my grandfathers' grandfather bought it. There are more than twenty of us first cousins that grew up visiting and playing on the farm. All of us have collections of memories of our Grandma&Grandpa hosting us when we were children. Most of us were at one point or another taken "camping" by Grandpa, which involved what felt like a cross-country trek on the tractor that ended miraculously upon arrival at Aunt Molly's (his sister) house, which geographically is only some miles from Grandpa's. Some of us would go to church with Grandma, because I know for a lot of us since we didn't go with our parents it felt fun. Grandpa would take us to Doug's Pub in town, where we would get soda and a bag of chips as he drank beer and solved the problems of the world with the other old men.

Only as we've gotten older have we realized how special this place is. My grandfather passed away not suddenly but quite unexpectedly in 1999, and my grandmother followed after a long and debilitating illness in 2002. Since, the ten siblings have formed an LLC that parcels ownership and responsibility equally among them. Part of the reason for the annual reunion is to sort out any family business regarding financial decisions and the farm.

As mortality becomes more a reality the siblings have begun to think more concretely about what will come next for this land that is collectively and individually a part of our history. Eventually, hopefully in many years, my mother and her siblings will die and mine will be the oldest generation. My cousins and I are removed from the farm as only one of us have ever lived there. I think we all feel, some more than others most likely, the importance and significance of the place and most of us would be willing to start inputting more to keep it in the family and maintain it.

The question is how and who more than anything I think. Do some of us want it more than others? Perhaps. Ultimately our parents will decide what they think is best for the place and for us, their children, but as most of my generation has a foothold in what we'd call 'adulthood', and we are of this family - we will no doubt be long on opinions.

My hope is that we can keep this place for my children, and even my children's children. I appreciate that most families don't have this home, this place that holds their history and so many connections. I understand that a physical place isn't necessary to be a close family, and if anything should ever happen to our place I think we would find a way to be as close.