Sunday, July 31, 2005

Where I Am Now


As a follow up to yesterday's post, I thought I'd give you a peek at where I am now, which is different from where I belong. Not bad different exactly, just not where I want to be.

No palm trees, no sea gulls, no waves, no sand. Instead, there are leaves and squirrels and chipmunks. A few neighborhood cats, too. It's strange how you never see cats at the beach. The world's largest litter box right there in front of them, and they give it a pass. Go figure.

As neighborhoods go, this is a pretty good one. I've lived here two years now with nary an incident. I think it's because the median age of the residents is about ten years older than me. They don't get up to a lot of mischief on my cove. The flight attendant four houses down rides a Harley, but she drives it at or below the speed limit, so it kind of cancels out the novelty.

My neighbors are a mostly conservative group. There's one couple who are Democrats (boy, were they glad to see me move in!), but the rest are staunch Republicans--the worst kind: they contribute to campaign funds. Ah well, they're fine people otherwise. They welcomed me kindly and enthusiastically to their world, and for that, I'm thankful.

The house itself is nice. Built in 1971, it's solid as a rock. When I was preparingto convert the carport on the back of the house to a garage, the contractor commented on how solid and level everything was. Every time he took a measurement, he'd laugh and shake his head. "Damn, they don't build houses like this now."

The downside of having a house built in 1971 is if it was last decorated in 1971. It would be different if the house had been built in one of the earlier, more interesting, decades. The 70s were all about velvet and mirrors and paneling. Lots of work ahead of me.

So this is where I am. No, it's not where I belong, but for now, I think I can handle the gap by continuing to make pilgrimages to the coast. My family is here, and my work is here. I'm going to try to focus on following Anne Lamott's advice and just be where my butt is.

But you'll understand if I dream a little now and then, won't you?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Where I Belong


Have you ever found yourself in a place other than where you live and realized you were Home, that this one place was where you were meant to be forever? This is it for me: the gulf coast of Alabama. On sunny days, the water sparkles like jewels, alternating between emerald and, farther out, sapphire and onyx. And when the day is overcast, the water turns gray and forbidding, a mysterious keeper of secrets. The beach is wide and white like sugar, soft against the soles of my feet. The vastness of it makes me feel so alone, and yet I feel more connected to the universe than anywhere else I've ever been. It's where I belong.

Where do you belong?



photo e-card courtesy of www.gulfshores.com

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Disorganized Me

You'd think a single woman living alone and without a significant number of obligations could maintain a neat and organized home. No kids to pick up after. No husband leaving bits and pieces of his day scattered around the house. No roommate, no pets, no out-of-town guests--not one single soul to account for the stacks of books, the piles of magazines, the mounds of laundry, and the unmade bed.

I'm beginning to think the problem might be me.

It's not like I don't want to be organized. I just haven't figured out an organized way to get there from here. I bought some books on the subject; they're stacked on the floor by the bookcase. They'd be on the bookcase, but it's too cluttered. They all say the same thing anyway: to get organized, you have to be organized. And I'm just...not.

Another tool I've used is the making of lists. I've made lots of lists. Lots and lots of lists. When I face another Monday and an untouched list...I simply make another list. When pressed for time, I have been known to simply scratch out the date at the top of the previous list and reuse. Hey! That's a time saver right there! ::pats self on back::

Part of me accepts that I'm a cluttery person by nature. I can deal with that. What I can't deal with is the inability to find things when I need them.

My purpose in admitting to the world at large that I'm a messy person is to motivate myself to Be A More Organized Person in 30 Days. Stay tuned for progress reports. Meanwhile, I'll be checking out this website. It looks promising!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

I'm reading David Sedaris's Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (a funny and poignant book, by the way), and I just reached a passage where he talks about who might play him in a movie adaptation of his life. You see where this is headed?

I wanted to suggest Ashely Judd for the role of Me in the movie version of my life, but the only thing we really have in common is that we both like to read. I'm more Wynonna than Ashley, to tell you the truth, and I'm really quite okay with that. Wy's funny. And real. Besides, I'm guessing any movie about me would be of the Made for TV variety.

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure the actress who could most accurately portray me has been discovered yet. She's a combination Delta Burke-Roseanne Barr, I think. Delta would capture my unique Southern charm, and Roseanne could pick up everything else. I never grabbed my crotch while singing the National Anthem, but I am kind of loud and much more attuned to a blue collar world than the one I'm currently living in. I love to laugh, too.

If I ever do anything important and a studio wants to splurge on a big screen adaptation of my life, I'd choose Kathy Bates for the role. She's older than me (only slightly, though) and she's from Memphis. It doesn't matter that our resemblance is mostly physical--Kathy Bates can be anyone she wants to be. (See At Play in the Fields of the Lord, if you don't believe me.)

What about you? Who would you choose to play YOU in the movie of your life? C'mon now, be honest....

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Rest of Us

Some people make it really difficult for me to be a Christian. Other Christians, usually. Not all Christians, of course. Many of us are quite normal.

The source of my most recent irritation is a local news story—now gone national—that tells the sad tale of Zach, a gay teenager whose parents placed him in a Conservative Christian "restoration program" designed to de-gay him. Now, I can understand wanting to get young Zach some counseling, but I'm thinking more along the lines of a trained professional to help him sort out and understand his feelings, someone who will help him discover and accept who he is, not destroy who he is.

This article comes on the heels of my growing fatigue with the whole anti-gay marriage hysteria that has the Christian Right so mesmerized these days. I just don't get it. Why do they care? No one's mandating gay marriage! The desire is to ensure that gay couples receive the same legal protections and are saddled with the same legal responsibilities as straight couples. Unless you're one half of a gay partnership, it really won't affect you. Honest.

It's not just the gay-centric issues that have me out of sorts. Gun control, reproductive rights, prayer in public schools, censorship, the teaching of evolutionary theory, the death penalty—take your pick. I can easily accept that my fellow Believer in the next pew might read the same scripture and develop different understandings. In fact, I think that's pretty healthy. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John didn't see everything the same exact way either.

What I'm having problems with is the politicization of these issues from the pulpit. Being told that Candidate A is "God's Choice" by a guy with a too-perfect smile and a bad toupee doesn't set too well with me. Neither does the implication (or outright assertion!) that taking a certain position on any of the aforementioned issues makes me a lesser Christian, that I'm not helping to fulfill "God's Will."

God's Will. I've been a Christian for 30+ years, and I haven't completely figured out exactly what God's will is. I know I'm supposed to love my neighbor as I love myself. Tricky, as it requires me to first love myself. Then, I'm required to turn the other cheek and do good to those who hate me. (I'm going out on a limb and assuming that those who merely disagree with me should be afforded the same courtesy.) There's also a mention somewhere that God already knows I'm not perfect, so any posturing or pretending on my part won't impress Him. And that pretty much sums up what I do know, which leaves an awful lot I don't know.

For starters, I don't know which candidate God would vote for in an election, although I'm pretty sure He wouldn't have picked David Dukes. Or when He went from "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's"* to endorsing the bombing of federal office buildings. And when did He choose America as His favorite nation, anyway? Or why He would want me to declare His hatred of homosexuals when He told me "Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins."**

The list goes on, as does my disenchantment with this burgeoning breed of Christian bullies and thugs. They're giving the rest of us a bad name.

But I'm not tired of God, nor of trying to understand and live the teachings of Jesus. They are part of me and who I want to be. And I have hope, new hope, because every day I'm seeing other people like me, only more eloquent, gain public voices and Christians everywhere are listening and joining in. I think they're hopeful, too.


*Mark 12:13-17,Matthew 22:15-22 and Luke 20:20-26.
**Proverbs 10:12

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Someone Else's Wisdom

"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of becoming."

- Goethe

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Million Dollar Maybe

Just so you'll know, I'm probably going to be winning the lottery this week. Right now, the Powerball jackpot is about $38 million. After taxes and such, I'd probably wind up with about $10 million. Nothing to sneeze at, but I won't be driving down the street throwing hundred dollar bills out the window either.

I've read stories about lottery winners who were penniless a few years down the road. How does that happen? How can you have $20 million dollars one year and be broke the next? Poor planning, to say the least. That's why I have it all laid out. Here's what I'll do if I wake up $10 million richer on Thursday morning:

  1. Give $2.5 million to charity right off the top. No, I'm not just saying that to get in the good graces of the Higher Powers. It just seems like the right thing to do. I even have the charities all picked out already.
  2. Quit my job. Isn't that what everyone says? I'd still work, but I might look for something part time. It's not that I hate my current job; I'd just like to try different things. Plus, wouldn't it be great to apply for a job and not have to even ask about the salary? Or care whether or not it offers health insurance?
  3. Pay off my mortgage. Ahhhh.
  4. Finish the remodeling projects lined up for my house. All at once, not staggered out over a period of time.
  5. Do some nice things for friends and family. Pay off my sister's mortgage. Buy my parents new cars. Buy my friend in Tampa a new laptop. And help her find a safer apartment. Create a college fund for the children of all my friends and family.
  6. Hire a personal trainer.
  7. Try to build a 'professional' writing career.
  8. Hire a housekeeper.
  9. And a landscaper.
  10. Go on extended road trips.

So I'm down to about $6.5 million now, and I have everything I want. I can conservatively invest the remainder and live a nice, comfortable little life. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

I have to wonder, though, what's next? What would I be moving toward? How would I define accomplishment and achievement? Who would my friends be while my real friends were at work? And would I lose the ability to tell the difference between real friends and pretenders?

Another thing I wonder is why I'm not doing most of the things on my list today. Okay, I don't exactly have $2.5 million on me right now, so I'd have to cut way back on the charitable donation. But I'll bet if I looked things over, I could find more to contribute than I do now.

And, no, I can't quit my job, because I need those benefits, but I'll bet I could keep an eye open for new and different things to do at work.

I can work harder to pay off my mortgage, and if I try, I'll bet I can organize those remodeling projects so that they're completed before the next millennium. I can't do the same things for my friends and family that I could do if I had $10 million, but I can do nice things for them.

Everything else on the list? I could do it today, if I wanted. So why am I making a list and hinging the possibility of having 'everything I want' on a million dollar maybe? I've got the sure thing right in front of me.

Repulsion

I read this the other day on one of my Yahoo groups:

I've never, EVER, thought of kissing someone of the same sex. The idea repulses me.

Huh. Repulse. Such a strong, ugly word.

I don't believe I've ever thought of kissing another woman either, but I don't find the idea repulsive. I haven't even thought about it really, and I don't need to. I can think of a lot more things more repulsive:

Finding out my friend of twenty years will likely be dead by this time next year from pancreatic cancer. Something like 29,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year...and all but 100 of them are expected to die within twelve months. That's repulsive, among other things.

Seeing a pregnant woman come out of the liquor store, laughing and yelling to her friends that, "I got me some peach schnapps." From the way she danced and weaved her way to the car, it didn't appear to be a new thing. That's repulsive to me.

Reading about the horrors that have gone on in Africa while I wasn't paying attention. How many millions died while I worked and played? I'm repulsed by that and more than a little shamed.

Hearing President Bush...say anything. Repulsive, these days. Maybe always.

No, there are a lot of things that repulse me, but two people loving each other--same gender or different-- isn't one of them.

Until next time...

Monday, July 11, 2005

Basic White

This is a short short piece I wrote as an assignment for an online class. The task was to pretend I was a color and write about myself in first person. I didn't think I could do it; in fact, I struggled with the mere concept for several days. During that time, I watched as my classmates posted their pieces. One guy wrote a fabulously wicked short piece in which he was "pink with an attitude." A woman whose writing I loved wrote a beautifully soothing piece entitled "Cool Blue." One by one, all the interesting colors were taken. By the eve of the final submission date, I was frantic.

And then a single thought flitted through my tired mind. I'm just a basic white kind of person. As I explored that idea, I realized there wasn't anything 'basic' about the color white...or me.

Basic White

I am a color that most people don't even see. When they do notice me, people write me off as plain or simple -- basic white. Do they not realize my true power? If even a single drop of my essence touches another color, its power and energy are dissipated. Black becomes gray; red becomes pink; purple becomes lavender.

But I must be careful. If another color invades me, I cease to exist. It is only when I stand alone that I can wield my power. For in my solitary state, I am a color of intricacy and opposition, teeming with contradiction.

I am the taste of bitter, dusty chalk and smooth, velvety cream.

I am icy stinging sleet on a frigid winter day and the gently falling ash of a raging volcano.

I envelop a newborn child when he is pulled from the womb and light the path to eternity as man draws his last breath.

I am the neon moon that gives shadow to the night sky and the blinding noonday sun from which there is no respite.

In theology, I clothe the angels; in reality, I costume the hate-mongering Klansman.

My skin is one man’s privilege and another man’s burden.

In many cultures I stand for innocence, purity and peace; yet I embellish the crosses on the graves of men slain in battle.


I am basic white and rarely as simple as my surface appears.

Walking in Greener Grass

Some Mondays are hard. Rainy Mondays are almost impossible. I lay in bed after the alarm goes off (something I rarely do on other days) and catalog my health, hoping for a sore throat, a muscle outage, a minor infection, or, in my most desperate moments, malaria. So far all I've uncovered during these examinations is a huge guilt complex for trying to avoid going to a job millions of people would gladly sacrifice more than a few hours sleep for. Unfortunately, the guilt doesn't present any physical symptoms, so I eventually give in to the inevitable and get out of bed.

It's not that I don't like my job, because I do. I even like almost all the people I work with. My salary and benefits are good, the office is five minutes from my house, the attire is business casual, and my hours are fairly static. You see now why I feel so guilty.

Sometimes I think I'd like to change careers. I have no strong passion for any one job in particular, just that elusive "something different." Make that "something different that pays a living wage." I don't know what that is yet, but I'm open to suggestions. I do know there are some jobs I'm definitely not cut out for:

Waitress - I think I'd last about...two hours as a waitress. I have this thing about table manners. The first bozo who reached for food from his plate before I'd finished setting it on the table would likely wind up with a lap full of lunch. He probably wouldn't tip so good after that. I also have this thing for earning a decent living without putting up with a bunch of crap. No, waitressing is not for me.

Grocery Store Cashier - One thing I know is groceries, so you'd think this might be a natural fit. I'd be really good at keeping people out of the express lane when they had too many items. I'd also make shoppers declare their method of payment at the beginning of the check out routine and if they were paying by check, I'd require that they get to work on filling it out while I processed their groceries. No last minute diggin' for the checkbook in my line. There'd also be no gum popping, cell phone talking, or leaving your basket unattended for more than fifteen seconds. Okay, so maybe this one has possibilities.

Hotel Housekeeper - I don't think I need to spend a lot of time on this one. People are especially gross when they don't have to do the cleaning up.

Police Officer - Now, this one might seem a bit farfetched, but there are some aspects of police work I'd be pretty good at, I think. While at the police academy, I'd probably get an 'A' in Asking People Intensely Personal Questions, but the firearms and bloody stuff might be a wee bit of a problem. Ditto for the running and driving fast parts. I wonder if you can go straight to detective. I'd probably do better going in after most of the dangerous moments were over.

Lawyer - You're expecting me to make fun of lawyers here, right? Well, I'm not. There are some scummy lawyers out there, to be sure, but there are also some fine upstanding citizens in the profession. Or so I've been told. The problem with lawyers is that they're required to provide a defense for their clients--even the guilty ones. I mean, you can get in Big Trouble if you don't. If I make a mistake in my current job, the most that could happen is someone has to rerun a report.

I think I see a pattern here. For now, maybe I'll luxuriate in running my bare feet in the lush green grass on this side of the fence and leave the tough jobs to the more qualified.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Getting a late start

As usual, I'm the last one to arrive. I'm not sure how long I'll stay, but I plan to have fun while I'm here.