Monday, April 30, 2012

When I am old and grey. . .

I hope to take more pictures than I take now, which is saying something because I take a lot of pictures.  Just this week, for example, I've probably taken more than 100.  Some of them are good.  Many of them are very, very bad.  It's okay though, because it's a hobby not a profession.

But all of this is beside the point.  Sometimes I just don't know how to start to get where I want to go and I just end up rambling a bit.  This is one of those times, so I'll just stop rambling and tell you something about myself.

I like to take pictures of things that I think look like other things. I enjoy looking at the world in different ways and trying to see the unexpected.   Like, say, for example, this pistachio that looks like a bird:
Yeah, I totally ate that birdstachio.

Or this superfantastic rocket my daughter made at her Lutheran church preschool a few years back. . .

Sometimes I think teachers send stuff like this home just to test us.
That piece of art spent a year on our fridge and never stopped being funny. Thank GOD they didn't hang it up for family art night.  Big Dipper indeed.

Or this pear. . . that looks unlike a pear:

I did not eat the pear, I showed it to all of my friends, and gave it to the baby .
 I may have even hummed "Baby Got Back".  Maybe. 
Is there no better proof that the Universe has a sense of humor?

Friday, April 27, 2012

For our anniversary:

For our anniversary: A Poem in Want of a Metaphor
Working the garden, the weeds’ roots pop under my spade
and each year, I do my best to destroy them. 

I pull out chunks of them, 
Digging deeper to uncover a web of white tendrils

Spread deep beneath our garden and Midwestern though, 
veins cross the garden and grow into the yard. 

No matter what I do, the green shoots, 
each spring, stretch upward to whisper “I am here.”

***And a revision of the poem I wrote for our 5th Anniversary***

On our Anniversary

Sixty-one years grown into each other, 
chairs six inches apart the last time I saw them
my grandparents fingers intertwined
through the web of the hospital bed.

Sixty-one days at his side and quiet
and I reminded of linguistics – Mundell’s lecture
on context, a chart labeled words
spoken per day versus years married

The downward slope as silence
bloomed and words were replaced
by a glance, a lifted brow,
a throat clearing in the morning.

We’ve wasted words like air these past five years,
averaged sixty-one thousand or so as the context grows.
We’ve one-twelfth the time of my grandparents
As I weave my fingers into yours in silence. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Poodle-Head, redux

This is it, children:  I don't forbid much, but I refuse to allow you to believe your smile is anything less than a reflection of all the beauty, all the joy, all the awesomeness (and I DO mean AWE-someness) of the world. When your small eyes (like mine) wash away in the curve of wrinkles and joy you are nothing short of the best you I could imagine and I've imagined SO many yous over the years.  The answer to the your body is this:  It's not a problem, not an enemy to handle, not misshapen or wrong - but one of the best tools you have to worship the world in bare feet up to the knees splashing in the mud, in working the earth, in walking or jogging or jumping.  In smiling. 

You know how I love ritual and worship - so let's do this.  Let's make our bodies a worship of the world.  Practice the ritual of seeing the good in them each morning. This isn't an enemy to be broken but a thing to be honored in every way. 

In silence
In the music of physical movement
In recognizing its boundaries and limits 
In pushing them (scraped knees ARE an essential worship of this body)
In taking in what's good (food?  ideas?  emotions?) and being willing to let go of what's not

Because I love you, I will stop stopping in front of the mirror or commenting on my weight after I eat chicken wings or whining about yard work or sitting rather than walking or frowning at myself on the scale or any of it. 

Because I love you, I will love me.  I will love me like you love me if you promise to love you like I love you. 

If we do that, this body image problem isn't a problem at all. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Poodle Head and other body image issues. . .

It happened for the first time in the third grade.  I cut my beautiful, stick-straight, blonde hair from below my waistline to a short shag and had it permed. My mother, a hairdresser, completed the task and I don't doubt that it made her cry.

Then I encountered my first image-related bullying.  The boy I liked called me "Poodle Head."  For months, I'd dodge him every chance I could: in the lunch line, at recess, even in the hallways.  But we lived in a small town and I went to a small school, with only about twelve or thirteen other classmates, so avoiding him for too long was impossible.

I don't know when he stopped.  Maybe it was when my hair grew out or when he no longer got a rise out of me.  Maybe it wasn't until we packed up and moved 200 miles away to a larger town.  Honestly, I can't remember. I never thought it had much of an effect on me until my own daughter asked to cut her hair into a cute pixie cut.  I hyperventilated. I said "We'll talk about it."  I put her request off for well over a month.

I wanted better for her.

I didn't want her to go through what I went through, because I don't remember the compliments I got at the time - only the taunts of 'Poodle-head' on the playground. Above all else, though, it is my sincere hope that I never project my experiences onto my children. I want them to learn by doing if that's what they need.  I want their experiences to be uniquely theirs. So I let her cut it.

She got compliments. Gads of them.  It suits her personality.  Her teacher told her it made her look like her hero, Emma Watson.  She loves it.  And she was right - it is beautifully, uniquely her.

Then the neighbor told her she looked like a boy.  He called her 'buck-tooth'.  When she told me this, it took everything inside me not to run across the street and pummel him.  Or threaten him.  Or in some other way bully him back. Instead, I harnessed my rage and talked to her - how does she feel, what will she do with that, where does she apply it in her life.  The answer?  Healthfully.  She's miles ahead of where I was at her age and thank heavens for that. We can set aside damage-control for later and be grateful that she's as self-assured as she is.

But only for now - because coming down the pipe are braces and bikinis and boys and bitches and backstabbing and body image issues (and a whole load of other things that don't start with a 'B').  And what then?

MoveOn.Org is hosting this video about girls and leadership and fashion magazines and all of those mixed signals we send our girls.  In the political arena both parties are screaming "War on Women" and the Mommy Wars have reignited and there's birth control and abortion and I'll be honest - whether I'm reading Glamour or the New York Times, it's hard to feel culturally empowered and supported when I see myself and all of my own frailties in these headlines. THIS is the world I have to prepare her for.

Through all of this I have to raise a girl who feels good about herself .  I ask myself every day how I am going to do that for her.  The bumbling answer is often to be a good role model: to fight, accept, ignore, and change the world when those things are called for.

She is all of nine years old.  Nine.  This stuff is just starting for her and she looks to me and I'm *not* nine. I've lived through this and have the scars to prove it and I'm no role model in the "Feel-Good-About-Yourself-Avoid-Bullies-Everyone-Is-Beautiful-and-Smart" brigade.  All I can do now is love her and show her a mirror and hope like hell that she hangs on to that girl who rocks the shit out of a pixie cut.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Heartbreak and The Descendants. . .

Mr. and I watched The Descendants last weekend.  In many ways, it was kind of what we expected - very much an Alexander Payne movie.  We love Payne, and as a couple of Omaha kids, we like to see what that guy who made all of those movies about Omaha is up to because his films are among my favorites. To be fair to him and to his movie - it's good.  The script is solid, the acting is awesome, and Payne's ability to utilize the environment-as-another-character shines through.

For me, though, the whole of the movie brought back two snapshot moments of my life with such force they broke my heart all over again.  In the first, I am sixteen and it is October and I am having dinner with my father and stepmother in Franklin, NE and he is describing my grandmother's casket because we know she's going to die but she hasn't died and suddenly the whole place smells like corn and mashed potatoes and there are so many goddamned people walking and talking and LIVING that I want to scream at them.  I want a record scratch moment that stops the world and a world that stops and says I'm sorry.  But none of that happens.  We at the table don't even really stop chewing.  We're just eating dinner with the sure knowledge that grandma will be gone in days or weeks and life will plod on.

And in the second, I am sitting on a roll-away bed in my stepfather's NICU room.  And it's almost October. It is late at night and tomorrow he will die, but right now I'm wearing one ear-bud of my iPod.  My younger sister has the other and I'm trying to find "At the Bottom of Everything" by Bright Eyes and we are sitting in the dark listening to beautiful music and we are as close as the earbuds require of us but we are not hugging or crying because we're done hugging and crying for the moment we are just sitting and being one with music because for a moment we need to not be aware that we are waiting for someone to die.

I spent the whole of my viewing of The Descendants in those two memories - gripped by how it feels to be stopped in time while the world moves on around you with and without you and definitely without your loved one.  I don't know if Payne's that good or if I was just that emotional or if I possibly need therapy but it was exhausting and lovely and heart breaking and amazing all at once.

Just like those times were.  Just like those memories are.
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