Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Vibram KMD LS Shoe Review: Fucking OW.

I finally caved and bought a pair of Vibram "Five Fingers" shoes.  Specifically, these ones.  I blame my friend Sam.  It was her constant goading about how they are the most comfortable shoes she's ever owned that got me tempted.  I am a big fan of comfortable shoes, but even I wasn't sure I could clear the ugly hurdle on these ones.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Escaping the Virginity Cult

OK, that’s sort of misleading.  I have two kids.  I’ve been married twice.  Obviously, I escaped long ago.

But as a mother of adolescent daughters and an unofficial counselor (however undeserving of the honor) to a handful of young people misguided enough to listen to me, I have to come clean:

I reject the Virginity Cult.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Short Stack

I have big, strong hands.  So does my brother. We get them from Dad, who was always a smallish guy, but had these powerful bear hands.  When I had a pre-employment physical done a year ago.  It included a hand-strength test.  The nurse made me repeat it twice before accepting the results.  “Your hand strength is over twice the average for a woman your age,” he said.  “I’ve never seen anything like this.”  I suppose I should be self-conscious (“Women with big hands make for insecure men,” an ex-lover once told me), but I’m not.  I knit; I garden; I write; I cook.  I cradle my loved ones in my broad palms, twine the world through my long fingers, and squeeze the juice out of life with my freakishly powerful grip.  Above all, I cling.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


I walk into the yoga class.  My head is a whirlwind, full of tumbleweeds and dust-devils: Shopping lists, to-do lists, a vague sense of anxiety about the approaching holidays and my lack of preparedness for same.  A brief but potently self-critical look back at my life.  A moment of self-pity, in which I feel old and spent.  The requisite ensuing moment of guilt, in which I think of all the people who have it worse than I do.  In short: I am a mess.

It probably does not help that I went to yoga via the sauna first.  The sauna is my own personal mini distress tolerance room.  I sit.  I ignore the hypochondriac voice in my head who likes to tell me I'm dying.  I try to forget the episode of The Six Million Dollar Man I saw when I was little in which The Bad Guys try to kill some towel-clad woman by locking her in a sauna. But mostly, I listen to my breathing and try to sweat out the day's crazy.  Today the crazy consists mostly of my unbridled and frustrated libido.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Curbs and Other Treachery

I saw the old lady fall in slow motion, just a step too far away to do her any good.

She was just walking into the Payless, minding her own business, clutching her wallet. I saw her toe catch the edge of the curb, the rest unfolded in quarter time.  The jolt traveled through her body, rolling up from her feet, throwing her torso forward, sending her wallet flying, ending with a look of shock and fear on her face.

She hit the concrete silently save for the whoosh of air from her lungs.  She landed like a flung pillow, in a quiet thud and puff.  I got to her just as time sped back up to normal.

"Oh, ma'am! Are you OK?"

Her eyes took a second to find my face, and then she nodded, insisting, "I'm fine; I'm fine," but I think she was talking more to herself than to me.

"Let me help you up," I said.  She had hit hard on her right hip, and I was more than a little worried she might have fractured it.

"No, go on now, I'm fine, I just...I don't know what on earth happened.  I just tripped over nothing!  How stupid."  She was struggling to right herself from her side, find her wallet, and get up.  I squatted in front of her.

"Do you need me to get help?  Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine," she insisted again, and I started to suspect what hurt most was being stranded like an upturned turtle in the middle of the shopping center.

"Here," I said, offering her my right hand to hers, arm-wrestling style.  "Take my hand." She protested for a second, but then relented.  I grasped her hand firmly.  Then I saw she was scrabbling around with her left hand on the sidewalk, trying to push herself up.  I crossed my left hand over and said, "Here, take my other hand, too."  She obeyed.  I braced myself for her weight and said, "Now you can pull on me as hard as you need to, and I'll help you stand up."

I felt the bones shift beneath the tissue paper skin on her hands and her grip tightened.  For a split second, I worried if I'd be able to hold her weight without losing my balance, but she was light as a child. I imagined I was picking up a bird, hollow-boned and fluttering.

"I'm so sorry," she kept saying once she was on her feet again.  "I feel so stupid.  Wasting your time."

I tried to protest--I mean really, what's so important that I can't spare three minutes to help someone up?--but she cut me off abruptly.  She pointed at the curb.  "I mean look at that!  How did I not see that?" and then, with a venom that surprised me, she said, "I'm an idiot!"

"Hey!" I said, as good bit more sharply than I'm used to talking to grandmotherly women I don't even know. "Don't talk that way about yourself."

Her eyes met mine.  I watched the tears well up as she tried to blink them away.

"We've all tripped over curbs," I said.

Then she was a flurry of apologies, shrugging off my hand and shuffling into the Payless as quickly as possible.  I kept a hand under her elbow just in case, and opened the door for her.

I think I know how she felt.  I wasn't lying--I've tripped over plenty of curbs.  Most of mine had Y-chromosomes.  And I know what it feels like to be lying there on the hard ground, disoriented, hips hurting, ego bruised.  I know what it feels like to look back at that curb you didn't see and realize from this new dirt-high vantage point just how obvious it really was.

I know what it feels like to think I am an idiot!

I turned to resume my jog.  I put my earbuds back in, and this song started:

I also know what it feels like to have friends see you going down in slow motion, stretching their hands out to you, helping you gather up your belongings and pull you back to your feet.  Friends who say Heydon't talk to yourself like that! and We've all been there.

Friday, October 11, 2013

This Is What a Godless Liberal Looks Like

Hi.  Since we cross paths a lot, I thought I’d let you in on a little secret.  

You know how today you were saying, “And then you have those liberals who keep whining ‘Oh, no, we can’t cut programs for children!’?”  Or last week, when you were lamenting the “brainwashed Obama-zombies” who are “ruining this country”?  (You made it clear, of course, that they are aided in that by the “illegals,” “socialists,” and “elite liberal media.”)  Or when you tried to comfort me in the wake of yet another dating fracas by assuring me that “Jesus had saved me from fornicating”?

Well…It’s probably time I came clean.  When you sing along to Rush Limbaugh as he bashes godless liberal feminazis, you’re singing about me, sister.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

OK, Cupid--Shoot Me in the Head

I "met" someone on a dating website today. He introduced himself and said I was beautiful and asked if we could meet.  

I enacted my what has become my standard response protocol: I went to his profile and sorted on the "ethics" questions. I came across one that said, "Someone you like is drunkenly flirting with you. You know that with a sober mind this person would never engage in casual sex, but now it seems that they're willing. What do you do?"

And his answer was: "Take advantage of the situation."

I am not even making that up.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Going up?

I hate elevators.

I am waiting for an elevator in a Sheraton in San Diego.  It will take me to my room, and I’ll get ready to go dancing for the second night in a row on what seems like an impossible dream for a single mother: a long weekend away. 

A tall, gangly boy stands a few feet away, his hands tucked neatly behind his back.  In a split-second, I take this in, along with his tightly cropped blonde hair and the shy way he ducks his head to acknowledge me.  Parade rest.

Nearly fifteen years ago, I met my would-be ex-husband in the airport just across Harbor Drive, not spitting distance from where I stand right now, looking at his doppleganger.

The elevator door opens, and he gestures politely for me to enter the elevator before him.  Stepping in front of the control panel, he asks me, “What floor, ma’am?”  Then he obediently pushes the “4” and stares straight ahead, his hands once again behind his back in parade rest.
I normally find this sort of mannerly deference utterly knee-weakening, but I am old enough to be his mother.  I use the dead space in the elevator and the gap between our ages to study him.

“Are you in the Navy?” I ask.

“Actually the Marine Corps, ma’am.”

I nearly say, My husband was in the Navy.  But that is not true.  My ex-husband was in the Navy.  And this correction unleashes a torrent of things I almost say but do not, starting with, You look just like him.  Fifteen years collapse into a space the size of an elevator.

The elevator chimes.  Floor four.  In the beat before the door opens, I smile at him and say, ”Your manners are very nice.”  I feel like Bea Arthur.

He blushes so hard his ears must hurt. “Thank you, ma’am.”

I step out; the door closes behind me.  I burst into tears.

By the time I am back at my room, it takes all of my effort not to call my ex right now and say to him:  Just give me one weekend alone together in San Diego again.  Let’s fix this.  Let’s erase the past fifteen years.  Let’s start over.

That’s ridiculous, of course. It's grief talking.  We had plenty of weekends alone during our marriage, plenty of do-overs.  It was never enough.  Our marriage, in the end, was like an elevator stuck between floors; I had a bad case of claustrophobia.

I am willing to bet the Marine I just met is a simple boy.  He wants simple things—fresh on shore leave, a burger, a beer, and a lay are probably at the top of that list.  I picture the next fifteen years telescoping for him, and I hope they will bring him to a good place.

We were simple, too, and young.  We wanted simple things, and saw no reason why we wouldn’t have them.  We stepped in and pushed the button, confident of our destination.  But we had no idea when the doors would open, or where.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

El Paso Retrospective

I have this picture on my nightstand:

Ayla died several years ago, brittle with chronic pain.  But I took this a decade prior, when she was in her open-mouthed panting prime, good natured, what James Herriot called “an obvious grinner.”  I loved her like a child before I knew what it was like to love children. 
When I had children, my older daughter insisted Ayla was her sister.  Once, I happened to mention something about Ayla’s parents.  My daughter looked at me, stunned.

“Ayla’s mom and dad were…dogs?”
She was wonderful to my babies, in a fiercely protective way, but also made it clear she didn’t understand why I had chosen to include such noisy, unpredictable, clumsy beasts in our pack.  On the other hand, they were a constant source of dropped, spilled, and occasionally regurgitated food, and she thought that was at least partial compensation for their obvious liabilities.

This picture was taken on the side of the Franklin Mountains, overlooking the west valley of El Paso, where I lived at the time.  This was a lifetime ago, so long ago that I imagine if you wanted see the timeline of my life, the cartographer would have to telescope it with those little slashes.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

40 Is the New Awesome

I have a younger male friend who has recently (and graciously) been acting you know, maybe just a tad crushy on me.  He just broke up with his 20 year old girlfriend, and I think he’s doing a little compare-and-contrast business and has come to the conclusion that I’m kinda awesome.

(Yes, you can read by the radioactive glow of my ego.)
But honestly? I’d better be.

I’ve been around for literally twice as long as she has.  If I haven’t done something with that time to make myself more interesting, more generally awesome, then shame on me.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Good Relationships Are...

A friend of mine was talking to me today about his relationship, in that way that a person talks about their relationship when they’re not so sure it ought to be their relationship any more, and I wanted to give him some advice.  Not that, you know, he asked for it, but just because, well, I’m older, and I have extensive experience in terminal relationships.
But the truth is, I don’t know much about his relationship, and I don’t know his girlfriend at all, so there wasn’t a lot I could say.
So then I started thinking about the bigger picture, you know, the things that one could say about any relationship, the universal truths, such as they are, about what happens when two people collide.  And I wished I had said this:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Oh good lord, it has been so long since I have blogged that it took me two tries to correctly log in.
But I have a good excuse, or a bad one:  I have been busy getting divorced.
And, for all of you who’ve heard it sucks, let me just say: It does.
It sucks in so, so many ways—the big and the little, the serious and the silly, the transient and the lasting—that the only earthly reason I can ever imagine anyone doing it is that they honestly believe the alternative would be, on balance, worse.