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.

26 July 2009

I get to be in Madison for a quick weekend at the end of next month and I am so happy I get to see this...

21 July 2009

I Know

"Those who say do not know and those who know do not say."

This tidbit was shared with me by my new friend who was helping me trying to convince myself that being responsible was a good thing. (In this case being responsible was not shucking everything on my to-do list just to spend an hour or two with him.)
It was apparently written by Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching. I have not idea if that's spelled correctly or even what that is, but boy did it speak to me.

16 July 2009

Thank you, Dear Old Love, for this sums up my longest and least successful relationship perfectly:


One magical night with you somehow turned into two unhappy years. I wish we’d left it as a one-night stand.

15 July 2009

Solve at Overture Center

"Friends of SOLVE Converge on Overture Center"
Oh, Brendan. What would you say if you knew work in honor of You is now hanging in the Overture Center? Surely you'd laugh. And get up all over State Street.
You'd probably scoff at the fact that the reporter got the date of your death wrong, but then again, you'd think it's ridiculous you have one of those already.

Today is our Dad's birthday. For his birthday, they're going to the Overture Center.

14 July 2009

Just Returning Your Message

Dear You Know Who You Are,

When you call me more than two years after we broke up, and almost a year since we last spoke or communicated at all, just to say thank you for advice I gave you years ago - YOU'RE NOT JUST CALLING TO SAY THANK YOU. If you were, you wouldn't be blinded to the fact that the only appropriate way to do that between you and me is to send a letter, maybe a greeting card. Something that leaves distance between us. When you call, leave a voicemail, and then call again - you are calling to talk to me. Which, as has been established, is not a good idea. I wish nothing but the best for you, your wife, and your new son. Your mother has shared pictures via Facebook, and you look like a lovely family. I will continue to send you and your wife and son good wishes from afar. This by no means insinuates that it's a good time or idea for us to strike up a friendship. We were never friends, and never will be. Now let it go. Yes, you screwed up, no, I wasn't perfect either. It's ok. You're now living the life you sort of wanted, and I am so happy for you. There is no need to call me to tell me you appreciate advice I gave you 4 years ago. Too many phone calls from you since we broke up have ended in you angrily wondering "why we couldn't have just worked it out" for me to trust that you're really calling with pure intentions. And if I'm being really honest I would admit that the only reason I would talk to you right now is to feel good about the fact that we broke up and that for you, I'm always going to be the one that got away.
I feel wonderful about you being happy, and even more thrilled that it seems you've found some peace and are good where you've settled. Your son deserves a better father than you had, and you have all the potential in the world to be that better father. So don't fuck it up, especially not by thinking about how good I could have been for you.

Warmest Regards,


13 July 2009

Summer Days

This photo basically summarizes my favorite thing to do in the hot months here at the farm. My aunt and uncle, in addition to having a beautiful guest house (that I live in) have a beautiful pool. It is cool and salty and perfectly luxurious. I feel like I'm living a little bit of a fantasy every time I get to lounge by it.

09 July 2009

Forever My Friend

A Love Story...

I am a strong enough woman to admit I needed help putting myself back together after I had been left in pieces by a destructive relationship. (Actually - really the other person in the relationship was destructive. I just wasn't very good at being tape.) I didn't just need the help of friends, strong women friends, which I was fortunate enough to have been surrounded by at the time. I needed the help of a man, who would love me strong enough to fix some wounds in a short enough time then send me on my way. I was lucky enough to find that. (We kind of f*$&ed up the 'sending me on my way' part, but that's an entirely different story.)

During said destructive, and eventually (thankfully) failed relationship, I was in the strange position of having my pick of many many men, which at some other point I will delve into. (To summarize - I was a never-married childless woman with a bachelor's degree and all her teeth who didn't cheat nor had ever been a stripper, bartending at a not sleazy bar in one of the bigger military towns. I am sadly not exaggerating when I say I was a rare item.) But the point is that I didn't take my pick - I met the man I'm about to tell you about days after I finally broke up with my former.

I was bartending on a weeknight, it was slow and comfortable as usual, and I was in full on I-don't-give-a-shit mode - I had a baseball cap on, dirty hair underneath, and not special jeans and t-shirt. Late-ish in the night a pair of guys walked in who hadn't been there before (which didn't happen all the time on a weeknight - we had a pretty loyal group of regulars), one tall with dark hair and broad shoulders, and an open, happy, and striking face. The other a little shorter, a little bulkier, and a little more roughhouse. That one had a sandwich in his hand which I immediately yelled at him that he couldn't have (we were a restaurant, you couldn't carry food in), to which point he said ok but ate faster. I yelled at him again, he yelled back OK and shoved the rest into his mouth. Classy start for these guys.

These two, we'll call them Tom (tall, dark, happy) and George (sandwich), sat at the bar and I asked to see their ID's. ID's were something we took really seriously at that bar and so when Tom started making a joke about which one did I want to see because he had all these fake ones from work (and remember - I'm in the no-bullshit mood) I told him that wasn't funny and he could either show me his real ID or not get anything to drink, or leave. He said something like geeeeeez, ok, here it is. At which point they both got a beer and the disagreeable part of the relationship came to an end.

I don't remember a lot more about that evening other than I sat and talked to Tom for a lot longer than I probably should have. It dawned on me during the course of the evening that not only was I flirting - but that it was ok. After a year and a half of being painstakingly careful about how my behavior might appear too flirty or too suggestive (it's a weird environment this military town), this was unbelievably liberating.

At the end of the night, Tom paid the tab with a credit card, left me a nice tip, and after a long conversation about the game "Scene It" also left me his phone number saying we should really see who's better.

Now the next part is a little fuzzy, but I tried calling the number at some point in the next week, it turned out to not be the right number, and the next time I saw him was more than a week later at my bar, on a Friday, when I was dressed in a tight black miniskirt, an off the shoulder hot pink t-shirt, and a side ponytail for my friends '80s-themed birthday party. He walked in the bar, again with George, and it was crowded and busy this time, but in my mind he had this light around him - I immediately saw him and felt those telling butterflies.

At some point I told him that I had called, he looked alarmed, we checked the numbers, confirmed I had misread, so, in the middle of the night, busy busy busy, as I was writing on someone else's tab, I wrote my phone number down and slipped it to him discreetly as I was my way around the bar. As discreet as I was, was as indiscreet as he was as he pulled out his phone immediately, was extremely and loudly grateful, and called my number. Thankfully my phone was put away. They left at some point, and I pulled out of the bar at around 3 am to a voicemail saying wonderful things. So, I thought f*$# it, I'll call him. I did, he actually answered, and we stayed on the phone for about an hour. We covered all the basics (family, home, history, kids, education, plans) and said maybe we'd see each other over the weekend.

The next day, a Saturday, I bopped around the house with my roommate all day, dyed my hair, cleaned, drank a beer in the sun, and texted with Tom. At a certain point, I texted him something like "You're waffling. Ask me out." So he said "Sushi at 7:30?" and that was our date. Which will go down in history as one of the best first dates ever start to finish, which was 36 hours later.

Now, obviously, one must sleep in 36 hours. And we did. Just that. Twice. Very innocently and blissfully. Woke up to coffee and breakfast prepared by him - twice. He cooked dinner for me and my roommate the next night, at his house, and we watched the Sopranos. The date officially ended when he had to go check in at work Monday morning. At which point I sat and drank more coffee and watched his Tivo til he came home for lunch.

This went on for almost two months. For almost two months, I didn't spend one more night (when he was in town) at home (well, at my roommates home). If I was working he'd come by, and when I got done I would let myself into his house and slip myself into bed next to his cozy sleeping body. For the first time in my life I was truly and completely taken care of, and I know part of that was me allowing it to happen - for some reason I immediately and completely trusted him. I never doubted in that time that we understood each other, that he wanted to be around me and take me out and then take me home, and he truly desired me. He told me about his kids and talked to me for hours on his drive up north to see them, and I loved it. I wanted to meet them.

He offered to help or not help with my ex and moving me out of the house (I was already living elsewhere, but out of a suitcase.) He helped - just enough, not too much to intrude. His roommate (George) and I had nicknames for each other and I helped him pick out, and pick on, girls at the bar. George and Tom helped clean out most of the heavy and army stuff when my ex finally left town. When I would be ready to go out somewhere, Tom would stare at me in amazement and tell me how beautiful I was, and then at bedtime when I washed all the make up off he'd tell me how beautiful I was, and that he hoped I knew that I really didn't ever need make up.

When we walked into anywhere together people noticed us. More than one friend remarked, "My you are a good looking couple." We could capture everyone's attention with a perfectly shared spotlight. Within the first weekend people were guessing we had been together for months if not years.

We had plans one night that I happened to have a surprisingly upsetting doctor's appointment earlier in the day. Although I offered to drive to meet him at the restaurant (which quickly became 'ours') or his house, because they were minutes away from each other, he came to where I was living (which was around 35 minutes out of the way) to pick me up. Upon arriving at the restaurant he came around to my side of the truck to let me out, but decided to just carry me the whole way instead. They didn't mind that we showed up so late because we were friendly and happy and polite, and left a big tip. He carried me back to his truck and we went home and sat on his porch and drank wine til way past bedtime.

That night, on the way to the restaurant, he finally said out loud what we were both ignoring - that he was leaving. Soon, within months. So was I, but I didn't know when or where yet for sure.
As we were sitting at the table and had just opened a bottle of wine, I don't remember what we were talking about, but I was overwhelmed by something and I found tears in my eyes and I didn't hear what he was saying for a moment because all I could hear were the words in my head saying "I love you."

We had inside jokes. I still remember them all. We had nicknames. I still miss them. He left before I did and I cried for a solid day. I remember thinking, I will never have anything like this again.

He moved one state west so I saw him a few weeks later for a few days on my way to California. He was my first stop with my car all packed up full of my life. We had, as we knew we would, a perfect three days in Tennessee. It was different from before - it was a little sad. We knew there were things we couldn't say, or shouldn't say, so we didn't. I left in the middle of a morning and as I pulled out of that parking lot I couldn't look back.

He told me later that he kept waiting for me to look back, that all he wanted and needed was for me to look back, and I told him the truth about why I didn't. I told him that if I would have looked back, I never would have been able to leave.

Two years later I am still grateful and I still wonder, and I still know I couldn't have looked back.

07 July 2009

Organic Schmorganic

I have been working on an essay on why I think thinking about what you are eating is so important, tying in local and organic issues, but I've been finding it difficult because it is something that I think is SO important. The fact that most of what most of us (people in this country) eat on a regular basis barely counts as food is so huge, yet most of us don't even think about it.

At some point I'll get that essay done and put it up here. In the meantime, I read (and maybe you should) this article in the Washington Post online. It discusses some specific issues with organic labeling and regulations, and just why we need to think deeper about whether or not a label has a stamp.

Some snippets:
"This is really a case of 'justice delayed is justice denied,' " said Alexis Baden-Mayer, national political director for the Organic Consumers Association. "The truly organic dairy farmers, who have their cows out in the pasture all year round, are at a huge competitive disadvantage compared to the big confinement dairies."

""I say, 'Let's find a way to bend that one, because it's not important.' . . . What are we selling? Are we selling health food? No. Consumers, they expect organic food to be growing in a greenhouse on Pluto. Hello? We live in a polluted world. It isn't pure. We are doing the best we can." -Joe Smillie, VP of a certifying firm that does certification for over 65% of the brands you find on the supermarket shelves.

I say, if you can - know your farmer. More than anything else, just try and THINK a little more about what you're eating and where it comes from.

05 July 2009

Dreamsharer/Go With It

I love telling people about my dreams.

I especially love telling people when they played a role it the dream. In fact, I wish I knew more about me showing up in other peoples dreams. I can't remember the last time that anybody told me about one. In fact, I can't remember the last time anybody told me about a dream period.

Is sharing your dreams with people a social faux pas? I know your own dreams are never as interesting to someone else as they are to yourself, but I just find them fascinating. A glimpse into our unconsciousness that's unavailable through any other avenue. Why not share?

I feel like my dreams have gotten closer and closer to my waking thoughts in the last couple of years. I used to have dreams that had characters in them that were ostensibly people I knew in real life but were so ludicrous and physically impossible that they wouldn't really affect me much beyond thinking I had a funny dream.

My anxiety dreams alwas used to be about calculus. Usually centering around not knowing where a final was or having a final and not having opened the book nor attending a class all semester. (By the way I haven't been in a math class since first semester freshman year in college. So, almost a decade.) These days I dream about things that have concrete connections to my real life. For example, my sister and I spent many hours planning a 40th wedding anniversary party for my parents last month. In the week before I flew home, I had a very vivid dream that I was in my parents house as I realized not only was our entire neighborhood starting to burn, but that our house was on fire. The only thing I could think was that I had to save my parents wedding photo album.

I've found also that my dreams have a weird way of being a reality check for me. That house burning dream forced me to admit, although not out loud, that I was really stressing out about the planning and worried about all the things that could go wrong. I tend to dream about men that I'm attracted to, whether or not there is actual sexual content in the dream, and I wake up having to own up to it to myself. Which is a good thing actually, but can be really frustrating when in the dream I was cuddled up to a man-friend but when I wake it's a teddy bear.

This is not to say that I think my unconscious thoughts are truths that I need to face up to. I had a dream that involved my ex, who in real life just had a baby with his new wife, and his mother and me, and I really wanted to tell him how much I cared about him and was happy for him. In real life, while I wish him no harm, I certainly don't have anything I need to say to him.

I know I've considered more seriously dreams since Brendan died, which from what I understand is pretty standard in grief. Dreams took on a new meaning for me last summer, when things were still so sharp and so very painful, and I had some dreams with and about Brendan. In the dreams I felt him alive, and that of course made it that much more difficult to wake up. The one I remember most vividly was one night before I was traveling home for a weekend. In the dream it was present tense, we were walking around I think Chicago, and I was explaining to Brendan what had happened and why he'd been gone for a few months. I skipped the part about him dying, because he couldn't have, because I was talking to him. At the end of the dream we were just sitting somewhere and I really had to pee. I told him, "I'm not going to go. I'll hold it. I'll stay asleep, so don't go anywhere. I'm staying asleep." That was the hardest dream to wake up from.

One of the better words of advice and comfort I've received from anyone was from one of my grief counselors. I was telling her about this dream and saying how badly, how desperately I wanted it to really be Brendan, how much I felt that this was him somehow but I didn't know if it was or if it felt like it was because I wanted it to be so badly. Her response? "Who cares?" I hadn't thought about it like that. She pointed out that whatever it was, why question it? Why diagnose and analyze it? It felt real, it felt good, so go with it.

It felt real, it felt good, so go with it.

04 July 2009

Red White & Blue

I love this country. It is the best country on the planet and still worth standing up for, as flawed as we are - we are still a true democracy and I'm proud.
I also love the New York Times, who had this simply printed on the back of the front section:
Have you read The Declaration of Independence lately? Or the Constitution? Maybe we all should, and really think about what it meant then, and what it means now. Maybe if we did that we'd stop hollering at each other and be able to have a discussion. That is my wish this 4th of July.

Happy Independence Day!

02 July 2009

Dear Old Love

Through my blog travels I stumbled upon this gem:

I am kind of a sucker for short and simple and powerful quotes anyway (maybe because I seem to be incapable of keeping things that way) so this site is addictive for me. I can see someone I dated in every single entry. Check it out, you'll at least get a smile.

01 July 2009


I think the beginning of something is so exciting.

It's the time when you might know all the other person's nicknames, but not their last name. When you know exactly how much taller (or shorter) than you they are, but don't yet know their shoe size. You know the sound of their laugh but not whether or not they snore. You are familiar with the size of their hand in relation to yours and if they prefer to hold hands with the fingers interlaced or wrapped, but you don't know yet if they are right or left-handed.

You know that the longer you know this person, the secrets and mysteries will eventually dry up and if they do snore it probably won't be as cute as it might be right now. If you stick together long enough you'll eventually know all the sizes and shapes and sounds and preferences.

This is the moment when anything could happen. You might end up not even liking this person much, or maybe you will for just a short time. But whether it burns out tomorrow or lasts sixty years, today you don't know. Today is butterflies and hope, excitement and desire.