Sunday, May 19, 2013

New URL.

I'm still writing - but at a new url. Follow me here:


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On Needing a "Phone Man."

A friend of mine had to make a really difficult phone call at work the other day. He had to call a grieving mother, who had just lost her daughter in a currently unsolved homicide, and send the condolences of his company.

His intent was all right, and of all people this is the guy who you'd pick to make the call. He is genuinely compassionate and caring and gentle and kind.

He dialed the number, and the mother picked up. He got only a few words out of his mouth before she cut him off - screaming and cursing at him, and then hung up. He was mortified.

I told him that maybe she just needed a "Phone Man."

When I was about 10 years old, my parents were giving me my own phone line for my birthday (cell phones were still the size of brief cases and cost as much as houses). Great gift, and was nearly an incredible surprise. But my father ruined it. The phone guy came early, and he let him in (in front of me, and said "here's your birthday present," a week before my actual birthday). Not such a big deal, but here's what you need to know - I never once saw my parents fight, but since I was seven years old I knew, really knew, they would get a divorce. (They did, when I was fourteen.)

In keeping with tradition and never fighting with my father, my mother lost it - on the poor phone man. She screamed and cursed at him in a way I'd never seen her do to anyone. It was a little scary. But then she kissed me, grabbed my hand and we went out for ice cream.

What I realize now, and probably knew then, was that she yelled at the phone guy to avoid yelling at my father (for my sake, not his). She needed to express her anger, frustration and disappointment, but misaimed and hit the poor phone guy instead of the real target.

I think this grieving mother needed a phone man - she needed to curse and yell and scream and say all the things that she can't (or isn't supposed to) say.

I told my friend that he was actually exactly what she needed. She needed an outlet, and he was some anonymous voice on the other line that made a perfect target.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

On Great Websites.

Here's one! This site blows my mind at least once a week. There are so many incredibly creative, skilled artists out there - I find it really humbling and inspiring to see their work. (The piece above was posted a few days ago - beautiful and thought-provoking! Harmless Weapons Made of Plants by Sonia Rentsch. Definitely worth a look.)

Share your favorite sites below!

On Birthdays.

Why are birthdays hard? Is this all a social construct to remind us (women) of ticking clocks? Of impending wrinkles and worsening vision? Is it nature's little annual jab to the ribs?

Or. Or is it just me? Maybe this is my own way of seeing how I measure up to the person I thought I'd be.

Let's go with that. I'm not where I thought I'd be by 30. (Are you? Are any of us?) I thought I would be three things that I'm not. 1. Somewhere else (not my hometown). 2. A wife. 3. A mother. Those feel like big failings in my own little black book. Now its not impossible that all three of these might still happen, but in my well-planned, reasonable life calendar they would have happened already.

There are other things, however, that I'm pleased to find have happened by 30. 1. I'm in the best relationship I could ever imagine (I don't think I ever imaging that I could actually be this open and honest and true to myself - and still be loved). 2. I'm successful. 3. I'm independent.

In many ways the things I have accomplished are more important, offer more contentment and are more sustainable than the things I've yet to do. So why are birthdays this hard?

Maybe its biology... my eggs are drying up, my skin isn't quite so luminous and my hands have wrinkles (never expected that would happen so soon). It is strange, no, how young we are when aging begins. Maybe that's what is so surprising.

Or maybe, I need to just grow up and get over it. Maybe on my birthday I'm thinking too much about myself. (Always been wary of people with a propensity for that.)

So here's to accepting birthdays like any other day. To accepting age gracefully and to being thankful, every day, for being lucky enough to be happy and loved.

Yeah. Take that birthday. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

On Being Naked in Turkey.

This is one of my favorite stories from the last year.

My boyfriend and I were recently in Istanbul - fantastic city. Huge. Muslim. Old. New. Perfect for an adventure. We like a lot of the same things - art, food, wine, architecture, books, news, politics, blah, blah, blah. I love spas, massages, pedicures, etc. He, well, doesn't. At all. Not interested, never been, never wants to.

But I made him promise to go to a Turkish Bath while we were there. To me it seemed like such a fantastic way to learn a little bit about a new culture. I mean, people have been doing it for ages so shouldn't we?

We found the perfect place. Designed by Sinan, great reviews on every website we could find, easy to locate. Perfect.

Except it wasn't.

It was packed, so packed that a woman coming out looked me right in the eye and, in English, warned, "Don't go in there."

So we didn't. 

I was bummed, he was relieved.

I bounced back quickly and found a new place for us to try the next day. This one was much less touristy, much more authentic. Authenticity sounded good, so we trekked our way up and down the hills until we found it. There were a bunch of drunk guys at the bottom of the hill, and a metal screen door with a well-graffitied sign hanging over it. Clearly if we went in to this place I would be raped/murdered and/or sold into white slavery. 

Not what I was picturing.

Again, I was bummed, and again he was relieved.

I pouted as we walked to the top of the hill, until I saw the front of the building. BEAUTIFUL! Clearly what we had just seen was the employee's entrance. Like a club in NYC, the alley is not where they spend their money.

Now I was relieved and he was bummed!

We went inside, placed our order and he went one way and I went the other...

His story: he was well taken care of--gentle, Turkish men tended to his every need. The showed him to a private room with a bed, chairs, a sink - a perfect place to relax. When he was ready to go to the bath, there were towels galore and men gently ushering him through the process. He was apprehensive, but he loved it. He thought it was relaxing, welcoming and easy.

My story: not like his. Remember that graffiti covered door with the drunk guys outside? That was my entrance. I walked in, alone, to find 3 Turkish women in muumuus screaming at each other. None of them spoke English. I too was ushered into a room where I could get ready. It was a tiny closet with a glass door right off the lobby. The women locked me inside and simply said, "Take it off." "All of it?" "Yes."

When she saw that I was appropriately naked (not hard to see through the glass door) she unlocked it and offered me a towel. Phew.

I left my clothes, money and passport in the glass closet, at her instruction. Then she dragged me into the hammam, and immediately ripped the towel from me - leaving me completely exposed to a room full of beautiful European women.

Talk about feeling exposed. Not only was I literally naked, but I was alone in a room of (also naked) women where no one spoke any English. I look pretty good naked, I'm tiny - but I have very fair skin which always makes me a little self conscious. Standing there, in the buck, totally exposed was a little terrifying, but totally exhilarating. Besides, let's face it, no one in there could care less what I looked like.

The woman who led me in to the bath took a copper bowl, threw water in my face, smacked my butt and instructed me to sit. There was a lot of smacking and pointing. But, to be fair, I certainly understood what it all meant, so I suppose it was rather effective.

I kind of got into it. It was warm, relaxing, and new. The women "working" on us were old, fat, wrinkly and totally in the buck, and very efficient. Lots of smacking, pointing and vigorous scrubbing. Here's the best part: the room is silent, until one of the women working there started to hum a song. This inspired another woman to run out in the lobby and turn on the music - the bath turned into a club! The water was pulsing in the basins and the woman who was humming started to dance. On the giant marble slab in the middle of the room. It was great - all of us started clapping and cheering! So fun. Then it was time to get back to work. Music was off, and the scrubbing resumed.

I paid extra to have my hair washed - since that is basically the best feeling in the world. Except there. It was a little more like waterboarding than I'd hoped... bucket after bucket after bucket of water right in my face. I could barely breath, let alone see. Or relax! This was definitely not relaxing. Luckily it lasted only a minute or two - then I laid back on the hot marble and basked in my own openness in trying something totally new. And totally nude.

After about an hour, I left and changed back into 10 layers of tourist safety and met my boyfriend outside.

My skin had never been so soft, and I had never felt that vulnerable (yet totally safe) in a foreign country.

Thanks Turkey!

Monday, May 6, 2013

On Friendships. Post College.

Making friends was so easy - in college. So easy, and ultimately really rewarding - for a minute. Everyone is desperate to connect, eager to share and maybe even open to learning something new. Alcohol helped, as did house parties, frat parties, bar parties, lawn parties, camping parties, etc. Etc. Etc.

I made a new friend about every ten minutes. I invested, committed, faltered, forgave, forgot, whatever. I was never really terribly worried about losing a friend then because there seemed to be a perfectly good new one around every corner. I learned something from all of them - even though I'm now connected to only very few. College was a great social experiment that allowed me, like many of you I assume, to figure out what it means to be a friend.

So I learned what (I think) I need in a friendship--how to be a good friend and what matters in another person. But now, ten years after graduating, it is exponentially harder to make new friends. Please tell me that's true for you, too.

I was shocked at how difficult it was to make friends, real friends, with people I met after graduating. It was so complicated, and people seemed to settled and committed to their own lives. No more ____ parties?

I have friends. But the friendships seem different, or maybe I'm different. These aren't the friendships I had as a child - where we were completely honest and vulnerable because we knew no other way. Nor are they like the college friendship which, while totally consuming, were rather disposable. Now they are complicated.

Where once I was open and vulnerable, now I'm guarded. I'm me, but maybe a slightly more filtered version of me that I once was.

Now, much to my surprise, the only relationship in my life that I am wholly unfiltered in is my romantic relationship. I'm so me, so open, so vulnerable, so unprotected.

I love my friends, but maybe there isn't enough vulnerability to go around. Or maybe I only have the guts to really expose myself to just one person at a time. Or maybe now that I am a totally exposed adult (in one relationship), I no longer have the need for that kind of intimacy with friends.

I feel whole. Much more so now than I did ten years ago, so certainly none of this is for the worse, but it is surprising. In mostly a really good way.

On Buying Art.

You should.

Buying art is really fun. (Even if you can't afford a Munchs. But wouldn't that be even more fun?) And important. In the last two years my boyfriend and I have begun quite a lovely little collection. Most of the pieces are from local artists (the best ones, in our opinion), and a few are from artists that are making it, or soon will make it, big. We don't spend copious amounts of money here, but we do buy everything together. And we hang it together, and we take joy and pride in our collection together. 

We're art people, so me saying that you should buy art might not mean much. So forget about quality or affinity or knowledge of the work, and let's just talk about this as a thing to do. Like cooking dinner or taking the dog for a walk.

Buying art helps you identify and embrace your own aesthetic - it is one of the best, most fun, most rewarding opportunities for self-expression that I've ever found. It makes our house a home, as trite and improbable as it may sound. Perhaps even more importantly, buying art has connected us to our community. It has opened our eyes to new ideas and perspectives right here in my hometown, and we have met the most incredible, bright, smart, funny people that I could ever imagine. What could be better than that?

Can't wait to get the latest piece back from the framer...

Saturday, May 4, 2013

On Domesticity.

I'm not very domestic. I nest. I have a nice home, with nice things where people feel comfortable hanging out. I'm a reasonably good cook and I can make a table look really beautiful. But I'm not really domestic.

I'm a terrible cleaner. (So I've hired someone to come in twice a month.) There are many times when a visit to my fridge produces less than mouth-watering results - condiments, milk, cooking wine. In the last three weeks, I've had to wear mismatched socks at least three times because I haven't done the laundry. I never iron. 

But, today, I was domestic and it was great. I worked in the yard, cleaned the kitchen, did some grocery shopping and washed and folded all the laundry. I have blisters from the yard work, and a giant bruise on my shin from an errant cart at PetCo, but all in all it was a really productive day.

Growing up, and particularly in college, I judged women who didn't seem to want a career. (To be honest, I basically judged everyone about everything when I was 20.) I thought, how pathetic - why don't these smart, capable women want more out of life? Why even bother with a college education if all you want to do is get married and stay at home? There's got to be a less expensive way to guarantee that future. 

The older I get, I see just how wrong I was. And how right.

I work. Every day. Have since I was 16. I have two master's and a fantastic undergraduate education. I worked hard in school, because I always knew a career would be A) not optional and B) really important. I was right on both counts - it is a huge part of how I define myself, the only way I could support myself, and how I structure my days and weeks and months and years. 

Work, however, is really stressful. I work for an incredible organization with really skilled people, but it's hard. There's never enough money, time or resources to do the work that we really want to be doing.  I tend to, foolishly, bring that stress home. How do you leave it at work? Particularly when work is texting and emailing all weekend long.

But today, I was domestic. I wasn't stressed out. I accomplished all the goals on my list, and I'm happy. Content. Hell, I was so productive that I started this blog. Making our home beautiful is fun and endlessly rewarding for me. My boyfriend loves it - he's never been more proud of his house since I moved in. It's peaceful here. And it's ours. And it reminds me I'm grown-up.

Being domestic makes me feel good, and accomplished and in control. I like feeling all those things. That's where I was wrong.

Here's where I was right. I think I'd become really boring really fast if I was just "domestic" every day. It was so easy! No conflict. No struggle. No conversation. What would I talk about? Aerating? Fertilizer? Ways to fold socks? Ugh.

I think I need a little bit of work-work in my life, but having a few more domestic days wouldn't be so bad either.


On Writing. For the First Time.

So I'm 30. And a woman. And unmarried. And childless. And living in my hometown. Might as well just write me off now. Go ahead, I don't mind. Because I'm 30, and, as it so happens, your opinion isn't really the most important thing to me anymore. (One of the best parts of not being in my 20s.)

I'm starting this blog because I think I might have a terrible memory, and I don't want to forget what thinking and feeling and learning was like at 30 (since I've mostly completely forgotten what it was like at 20). Plus this last birthday hit me pretty hard. Not in that weepy-I'm-so-pathetic-I-can't-get-out-of-bed kind of way. But in that way that some birthdays do where they ask you, beg you, to consider time. 30 seemed to demand a kind of retrospection or introspection that A) 29 didn't and B) I'm not really prone to.

Also, I like sharing stories. I appreciate good ones in any form, and so I thought I'd try my hand at this one. I have some good stories not from this year, but I might share them anyway - just so I can go back and read them later. 
My grandfather was the most incredible storyteller I've ever known. But he never wrote them down, so we all lost those stories when he died. Just in case I have a really really good one, I'd like to save it. For posterity's sake.

I hope you enjoy some of these posts. If not, don't read 'em. There are so many really incredible things to read out there, so if this doesn't work for you I implore you to find something that does.

If you do enjoy them - please share your thoughts and experiences - we're all in it together, right? Except those 20-somethings. They aren't really in it yet, so let's not ruin it for them.