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.