Monday, November 17, 2008

A Handmade Christmas

christmas Pictures, Images and Photos
Thanks to my mom, my most prolific source of inspiration, and her insatiable taste for things unique and handmade, I've recently been introduced to the MULTITUDES of handmade/homemade "indie" goodies available for online shopping. Add to that my every autumn urge to paint, piece, sew and render things lovely and my sister-in-law's "never met a project I wouldn't tackle" approach to art and crafting and an idea begins to brew in my mind.

I'm talking about a handmade Christmas. I've had ideas of things to make for my loved ones filed away in the "some Christmas" category of my mind for years, and I think this just might be the year. I think it sounds a little ambitious, but I don't plan on doing it alone. There are suitable, one of a kind gifts for the men, women and children we love at Etsy, and better still there are craft sales and boutiques just about everywhere you turn in your own neighborhood this time of year -- including the one at my house. Last year was the first of what I hope will be an annual boutique I held with a few of my creative friends and family members where we sold jewelry, candles, art, ornaments, gifts, and decor stuff we each made in our own little kitchens and craft rooms. With a little Christmas music, some hot apple cider and my moms snickerdoodles, we sold a few things (some of us sold a LOT of things) and just generally had a really great time. This year friends and neighbors have started to ask us if we're doing it again, and when.... and you know you've got to give the people what they want.

I don't think this will be as easy as the typical year where 75% of my shopping is done at Target the rest at cute little shops and yes, even the mall, but I do think it'll be fun. Now, I don't imagine I'll be able to find homemade equivalents of the bike we intend to buy my son, and the sunglasses my husband visits weekly at No Fear, so I'm not going to be ultra strict about this, but I do plan on altering my mass-produced/thoughtfully rendered ratio.

So as I formulate my plan to make or buy handmade gifts for as many people on my ever-growing list as I can manage, I think I'll keep you updated on my sources. If I find something cool, I'll share it with you. If I make something cool, I'll post it (and I suppose if you see anything you like, you can buy it too, wink wink). And if you have any brilliant ideas or resources to help in my quest, comment or email me, and I'll share your ideas too.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Check out Modish

Does handmade swag from indie designers make you swoon, too? Then check out Modish, a veritable feast of goodies, and all things wonderful. Swing by to enter to win a BIG prize through the end of November... all the lovely items you see here and then some. We're talking about a jackpot here, folks. Spread the word and take advantage of your chance to win. I want those owl cards, though, so feel free to send them my way if you DO. :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Goodnight Kiss

Last night, full to overflowing with love and joy, I was talking to my husband about my favorite time of day. It may not sound all that exciting, but every night when I put our son to bed, there is something to learn, something to smile about and something to move me.

I'm too tired to write a description that will do justice to my nightly motherly bliss, between a day of ambitious organizing, the growing baby in my belly and the growing toddler in the next room... but like his sweet prayer, I have something too precious to keep to myself.

After stories and songs and prayers, after the goodnight kisses and exchanged "I love you's" my little one whispered a secret to me before I made my way to my own bed....

It was three little words I never could have imagined I would hear:

"God kissed me."

I'm sure he did, too. I can't remember the age of my innocence, so I don't really remember what that feels like. Or, I should say, I didn't. Because, through my child yet again, God touched me - and I suppose that feels something like a kiss.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Simple Prayer

Sometimes the simplest words can be the most beautiful. If having a child hasn't taught me that, then I just might be incapable of learning.

Every night I say prayers with my son, who will be three next January, to give you perspective on his age. First we say the prayer I used to say as a child, the one that starts "Now I lay me, down to sleep..." which is followed by asking for blessing for "our Grammies and Papas, Aunties and Uncles, our cousins and our friends." Then we simply thank God for all of our blessings and ask for forgiveness for our sins. After the "amen" we started several months ago to say the Lord's Prayer. My little boy follows along and pronounces words the best he can, and his "Our Fodder" is enough to melt any heart.

But last night, he wanted to say his own prayer. He was adamant that he wanted to do it alone. So I kissed him goodnight and turned out the light and stepped outside his room, reminding him to say his prayer before he went to sleep.

As soon as I was outside the door, this is what I heard:

"Dear 'Word,' Goodnight. Thanks for evewything. I love you. Amen."

I had to go back in there. I told him how happy he made God because he wanted to talk to Him, and because he had said he loved Him, and told him how much God loved him too.

He didn't say anything, just snuggled down into his blankets and closed his eyes, grinning.

I love the rhythm and meaning of the Lord's Prayer, and say it often in addition to my personal, specific prayers. I have always taken comfort in its language and depth.

But last night, I found beauty in the simplicity of a prayer that I wasn't supposed to hear.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bats in the Attic...

and a bun in the oven.

Yes, I'm referring to myself.

Lo, the previously mentioned personal announcement: I am with child. Expecting. Knocked up (can you be knocked up if you're married? I'm not sure about that.)

Or, as one friend refers to it "sick with baby," as seen in a poorly translated foreign film or something.

I've been too "sick with cold" this week for this to completely sink in, but rest assured that my husband and I are delighted and thankful and feeling very blessed.

If you can be just a tiny bit pregnant, then that is what I am. It is very early. In fact, our original intention was to wait a bit longer to share our news with those outside the family. But, as my doting husband is prone to unbridled enthusiasm when he is happy or excited, there was a wee slip-up that resulted in him announcing the pregnancy via his status on Myspace to his 120-odd closest friends, family, musicians and comedians. These of course included probably upwards of 50 mutual friends, many of whom were my best friends and close family members who hadn't yet heard the news. I've decided to find this endearing and innocent, which it certainly was, but I also figured... hey, I have an even bigger audience! With even fewer people I know!

So, there you have it. That's the rationale behind announcing my pregnancy via blog. I promise to share a lot of my joy and none of my ultrasound pictures.

And now you understand why I have bats in my attic, too.

Friday, September 19, 2008

That Fickle Muse Again

No sooner did I decide I was going to add a new blog to house my personal political snarkiness than I completely lost my inspiration, and very nearly my stomach for politics, in one fell swoop. All of the vapid celebrities peddling their Obama hype and Palin-as-the-personification-of-stupidity sound-bytes have finally drained me of my good humour over all of this. I hope my will to overthrow the heights of liberal arrogance with sarcasm and a smile will one day return, but for the time being I have other things on my mind. Look forward to a personal announcement.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

No Cats in America and No Crackheads in Alaska

Ahhh, Diddy. You make this too easy.

Here's a little bit of Sean Diddy, never-ending font of wisdom Combs' take on the Palin nod. If you want to watch the actual video, be forwarned that it is littered with f-bombs and brain-exhausting ignorance.

"You are buggin'. I don't even understand what planet you are on right now"

"This is the job to be the leader of the free world, OK? No disrespect. I love you. I want you to live to be 110. But things happen. What if God forbid, you got a running mate, you become president ... Alaska? Alaska? I don't even know if there's any black people in Alaska."

"Lady's nice, she's cool ... she's a heartbeat away. She's gonna be on the phone with South Korea. I mean, what in the hell ... Alaska? You should've gotten Michelle Obama to be your running mate. Now that would have been something strategic and fly. This one right here, is not respectful of our lives, diverse lives."

"You my man, God bless you. You're a great war hero, but you are bugging the F---out."

"I'm going to bring millions out to the polls November 4 to make sure the young people ... come out and get busy on ya'll asses on November 4th ... Alaska? What is the reality in Alaska. There's not even crackheads in Alaska ... no black people. No crime."
Is that anything like "there are no cats in America?" Yes, the was a Fievel reference. Oh boy.

John McCain. Are you listening? Michelle Obama! Why didn't you think of that?! That would, indeed, have been fly. And also, what if you do not live to be 110, and you die in office and this woman, this lowly governor, is forced to talk on the PHONE with SOUTH Korea? South KOREA?!?

You've been put on notice Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin: the youth of America are going to get busy on your a**es at the polls, per request of Sean Combs, if we're going to use "government names." Consider yourselves warned.

I don't, I can't... I'm just at a loss for words. Diddy, it really takes the wind out of of my sails when you're so ignorant and yet pompous that you effectively mock yourself.

I love election years. And rappers. Oh, the love.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Why Gov. Palin's Daughter's Pregnancy has Nothing to do with Politics

And so it begins.

If you're reading this, you obviously have access to the information super-highway we call the internet, which means that by now you already know that Gov. Palin's 17 year old daughter is five months pregnant. There's a lot of speculation about whether this will hurt the McCain campaign. It's understandable, if unfortunate, that this is up for discussion. No doubt there are people who care. I suppose that makes it news. Or, as it seems to be in the world of news blogging, blood in the water.

The following is a comment from an AOL News blog:

"Bohio65 07:32 PMSep 01 2008

This is just ONE of many cans of worms about that lady.McCain wanted to use her for political gain. She is quickly becoming a political EMBARASSMENT for him. I salute McCain's poor judgment. If she cannot watch over her own 17 y.o. daughter, how can she watch over us as vice president. I have made up my mind: I will vote for Obama /McCain. I will not take any chance with her." (sic)

I'm happy to acknowledge the widely accepted truth that there are lots of idiots who post comments on those blogs. Not on mine. Never on mine. But on posts such as the one in question, this was tame in comparison with the multitudes of other hate-filled, incoherent, profanity-laced responses. I just chose this one because, after activating my brain's hand dandy Stupid-Filter, I could decipher enough to formulate a rebuttal. And I chose to take it on here, rather than in the ever-engaging debate format of the unmoderated blog comments for the same reason I won't argue with my two year old son: You can't argue with someone who is immune to or unaware of reason and logic.

In order to prevent idiocy-brain-freeze, I'm going to take this on in small bites instead of one big scoop of stupid.

My line by line responses: (perhaps the easiest rebuttal ever attempted)

"This is just ONE of many cans of worms about that lady.McCain wanted to use her for political gain."
I'm going to follow that display of ignorance with a question: Should a presidential candidate select a running mate for political loss? By extension, does that means Sen. McCain should have called up Bret Michaels and said, "Dude, do you think you could put Rock of Love: Season XVI on hold for four to eight years and instead come cruise for skanks in D.C. on the taxpayers' dime? I think the public will really hate you. It's a match made in heaven."

And also, sucky grammar. No, I don't think it warrants proper speech or complete sentences.

"She is quickly becoming a political EMBARASSMENT for him. I salute McCain's poor judgment."
Embarrassment and poor judgement can be overcome. For example, statistically, you are probably married.

"If she cannot watch over her own 17 y.o. daughter, how can she watch over us as vice president."
Thank goodness she isn't running for Vice President of Preventing Premarital Sex. We might be in the clear. Seriously, though, Princes William and Harry have some of the highest expectations of any official progeny in the world, along with what must certainly be the most sophisticated security detail, and the most intense scrutiny. And that hasn't prevented them from drinking, landing helicopters at their girlfriends' houses, sporting Nazi uniforms or otherwise "carousing." I daresay the governor of Alaska has significantly fewer resources. Furthermore, let's assume this young lady knew the consequences that having a child out of wedlock would have in her mother's career, in addition to her own life. Let us also assume that she was well aware of the attention she would be destined to draw as the daughter of the governor, even without the added curiosity incurred by a vice presidential hopeful. Given those factors, she could have chosen to have an abortion. Her suffering would have been internal, leaving her mother unscathed and her private mistakes private. But she bravely chose to tell her parents and eventually the world, and have the baby. This reflects not only on her own maturity, but also on her security in her parents' unconditional love and forgiveness. It is a sad but inevitable truth that the ugly secrets of public families that are swept under the rug are virtually without consequences, and the ones that are handled with grace, integrity and transparency are exploited for adversarial sensationalism, but is has nothing to do with the office of Vice President.

"I have made up my mind: I will vote for Obama /McCain. I will not take any chance with her."
You do that. I'm sure the people in the Obama/McCain camp will appreciate your vote.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain Picks Palin: Better than a chick flick

I'm trying not to have a happiness induced stroke. This morning, Sen. McCain announced his running mate in Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. It came as a huge surprise to this campaign watcher, but a most welcome one. I was okay about the Pawlenty speculation, but am over the moon with this unexpected turn. I can't help but be excited to have a woman gracing our presidential ticket, a fact that I hope will not be lost in this already historic election. But mostly, she represents the conservative ideals but also has a history of standing up to the old guard in her own party when it was necessary, which puts her way over the top in the pro-column for me.

I'm holding back on writing a a full-size post on the virtues of the McCain/Palin ticket because political-punditting isn't my strength, but on a personal level, I couldn't be more excited and optimistic about our chances. Oh yeah, and chicks who wear glasses are taking over the world. Finally.

I have to go do cartwheels now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's a Wedding, not a Coronation

I take it back. I take it all back, on behalf of every overly ambitious wedding planner, indulgent mother and brow-beaten bridesmaid, I want to rescind the following statements:

“It’s your wedding; it’s your way or nothing”

“This is the one day in your life for you to be treated like royalty, so make the most of it.”

“It’s your day, yours is the only opinion that matters.”

Sure, if you don’t care about anyone else’s feelings. But first, let us clarify. It is not only your day. A wedding day is not a day devoted to prostrate worship of the bride. It is about a marriage. It is a celebration and public declaration that two people who love each other, intend to spend the rest of their lives together, and are for one another alone.

There is a disconcerting trend, perpetuated, no doubt, by brilliant marketing strategists, popularizing and even glamorizing the “bridezilla.” Certainly it behooves retailers and vendors of all kinds to convince brides (and grooms) to believe they are entitled, perhaps even expected, to have every item, amenity and luxury their hearts never knew they desired for one glorious day of marital reverie. The wedding rituals are so bloated and cumbersome that young couples (and their parents) are spending well beyond their means and deeply indebting themselves in order to finance an illusion. Perhaps “delusion” is a better word. What these people really need is for someone to tell them the truth. Let me be the first. It’s sort of my thing.

To whom it may concern;
Despite what the Bridal magazines and your enabling loved ones have told you, you are not a princess. You Are Not a Princess. You are not the first person ever to be married. You aren’t even the only person to be married that very day within your city or even your neighborhood. You are special to God, your groom and your mother, but your VIP status ends there. Congratulations, someone fell in love with you and wants to marry you. It is truly an honor. But it does not warrant a hero’s welcome. People fall in love every day. And they have been for thousands of years. The day deserves to be filled with beauty, romance, solemnity and joy. However, it is not bestowed upon you alone. Your groom is your equal partner in this occasion. Perhaps he isn’t interested in the plans, or even the execution, but I assure you he is looking forward to showing his loved ones all the wonderful traits he sees in you, that seem to have been swallowed up in tulle and satin as you endeavor to create a “perfect wedding.”

Allow me to simplify that process for you. There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. Not in the sense you seek, anyway. Flowers will wilt, or the DJ will get drunk, your heel might break, the flower girl will get distracted halfway down the aisle and decide it’s the perfect time to sing “boys are rotten, made out of cotton” to the tune of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. But a day filled with genuine emotion, understated elegance without pretension, and a true desire to share your overflowing joy and affection with the people you love and who love you in an inclusive, sincere and civilized way will be remembered with lasting fondness not only by the bride and groom, but by the other participants and the guests as well.

Does that mean you can’t have everything your heart desires? Of course not. You are only restricted by your credit limits and your own wishes, but as you’ve been learning since you were a toddler, actions have consequences. If you put your bridesmaids in sequined shepherdess dresses the color of gangrene, you’re going to face resentment, and possibly mutiny. If you disinvite children, the young families who don’t live nearby won’t come, and their feelings might be hurt. If you get married in Hawaii, your best friend with $30K in student loans won’t be able to spring for the Monique L’Huillier and the four-star hotel, if she can even afford the trip at all. So you might consider some self-imposed limits, taking into consideration propriety, the feelings of the people you love and the possibility that you might one day find a better use of your money (or your parents’ money) than monogrammed toilet paper for the reception hall. I’m just saying.

Your friendly local Wedding Consultant/Realist/Voice of Reason

The reason I can speak with authority on such matters, beside the obvious familiarity with this phenomenon which my occupation affords, is that I have seen this from all sides. I have been a bride, and I have witnessed every kind of bride, from the crazy, selfish harpies to the easy-going and full of grace. There are brides who are so full of love and hope that they light up a room as they are intended to, and there are those that suck the life out of it as they implode under the pressure of their own expectations.

A little perspective does wonders for the complexion, so my heartfelt advice is to focus on the marriage rather than the wedding, keep it simple, remember that this is also celebration for your families and that in a matter of weeks, you won’t remember if the table linens were a shade lighter than your “bridal white” satin gown.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nevertheless, Elizabeth - for realsies

I have a short "letter to my readers" that is less blog than it is a disclaimer. First of all, I have noticed a pattern of a lot of repeat readers checking back on my blog every couple of days, which makes me feel really guilty for not posting more often than I do, because I really appreciate the unlikelihood that perfect strangers (as well as those perfectly acquainted with me) take the time to read my frivolous musings and the occasional ultra-frivolous list.

Anyway, here's the problem. As much as I wish I could post every couple days, I simply don't get inspired that often. For me to write something worth reading, I have to have a unique combination of inspiration, subject matter appropriate for public consumption and time. Time is a big one, because I am the mother of a toddler, and staying up all night either painting or writing was just not doing my skin any favors. Okay, I jest, but seriously, sometimes I do decide to sleep instead of pursuing one of my many creative endeavors. But even more than that, my problem is that when I get excited or worked up enough about a topic to hammer out 500 words in 15 minutes (which is usually how this goes, although, I'll be honest, its more like 1,000) it is usually a somewhat controversial topic, on at least a superficial level, and in some cases not superficial at all.

Its one thing for me to say I don't like Hilary Clinton, but its another for me to write an essay taking her to task as inhumane and unpatriotic. Its one thing for me to jovially harp on bridezillas to my friends, but its another for me to write a 10 paragraph diatribe about selfish brides and ridiculous consumerist bridal customs that is sure to make me sound like a bitter and jaded wedding pro to those who can't see my tongue permanently planted in my cheek. I have drafts and partially written posts about the female body image, abortion, bad parents who think they're great parents, MEN, men and MeN, Christianity, Married People Sex, a couple more pseudo-nouveau-retro-feminist rants and several posts that read more like journal entries than the somewhat detached from my person blogs I usually publish.

Now, I'm finally approaching my point: I realize, this isn't of great consequence, but I do have genuine writing aspirations, which is why all of this matters. The part that mystifies me is that in general, I don't mind making people mad, and I'm not particularly private. I suppose I am pretty selective about the people to whom I disclose personal info, but I'm never one to shy away from expressing my point of view but for some reason this seems like a more public forum than it probably is, hence my hesitation. I've been debating about posting the more personal stuff here or on a separate blog, and the debate lives on, but I think I'm inclined to start posting a little bit more of the stuff that is really super-duper me. Yes, Super. Duper. Me. Case in point. I just think it is a little silly that I have twice as many unpublished blogs and drafts than I do published ones.

So. We'll see if I chicken out, but phase one of my plan is to give some of my older, never-before-seen passages the once over and a healthy dose of editing to serve up like reheated day old bread just for you.

Mmmm.... something smells good.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

On Signature Style and the Artful Outsider

In junior high, I had an entire wardrobe of castoff old men’s blazers and sports jackets. I had a couple that had been my moms in the sixties or seventies, but several came from the thrift store. They had to be tweed to make the cut, but I didn’t care how they fit. On the best days, I’d wear them with jeans or jean skirts (if the skirt was recycled from old jeans, so much the better) and either combat boots or Dr. Martens sandals. You know the ones, clunky, leather and extremely comfortable. Then there was the occasional tartan skirt with the giant safety pins, to be worn with the combat boots, obviously.

In high school, the look evolved into more hippy-prep than preppy-grunge. It was hemp necklaces (which I macraméd myself), crocheted vests, jeans and still the jeans skirts, Dad’s old sweaters (moth holes were a big plus) and floaty dresses when it was hot. The Dr. Marten’s sandals were still in rotation, as were the combat boots, but now there were Birkenstocks too.

Midway through high school, I changed schools. In the neighboring town the kids seemed to have more resources and maybe more exposure. It was definitely more diverse. Which is why I was surprised to find much more homogenized fashions. The groups were very well defined, yet the only ones who really dressed differently were the ones who sat out on the lawn and smoked and played their guitars and stashed their skateboards in the bushes next to the school so they wouldn’t be confiscated. I desperately wanted to belong with them. They had style. It was artful and outsider and unselfconscious, but I was pretty sure there was a secret handshake I didn’t know, so I didn’t try. Everyone else seemed to shop at the same place that I had not yet discovered. I tried to adapt but couldn’t, or perhaps wouldn’t. I never did nail the Abercrombie & Fitch look. In fact, I didn’t even try for long, but the damage it did to my style equilibrium took years to repair.

Now I’ve been out of school and away from the pressures of dressing to fit in for about a decade, and only in the last couple of years have I figured out what my personal fashion philosophy is.
I have a pretty recognizable look. It varies of course, depending on the occasion and the tides of fashion, but there is a common thread that has turned my taste into a signature style. I’ve finally discovered that I already knew what I liked. I know what looks good on me. I know what is comfortable (and what is too comfortable). I know, basically, what makes me feel like me, and not like I’m trying to zip up a Somebody Else Suit 2 sizes too small.

First and foremost is the Black Dress. It is my closest ally. I could -okay, I do- own an entire wardrobe of black dresses: linen for the summer, to be worn with sandals and minimal accessories; cotton and jersey for the cooler months, with leggings and assorted boots, maybe my leopard print cardigan or a gorgeous trench coat. But this is not an homage to the LBD (that’s a little black dress to fashion neophytes and men). Those are for evening. I wear them during the day all the time, which I’m sure would be enough to make a southern belle swoon, but this is California and convention has very little to do with fashion around here.

What I’m talking about is all of the components that add up to a style that’s uniquely mine. Its about the staples of my wardrobe… the pieces that transcend trend and season and ever-evolving fashion logic and lore. This is a tribute to the things that make me feel lovely, comfortable and confident; the outfits that shouldn’t work but do, because they’re all me: my trademark pieces, my signature look. Its what would happen if some Goths got a tan, the country club set was forced to shop at Target and all the world’s pin-up girls gained 30 pounds and found religion, and then they all got together to open a boutique especially for me.

In it you would find lots of black tops and bottoms in addition to the ubiquitous black dress. And a very few pairs of jeans that fit like they were made for me.

But my true love is accesories. My shelves are heavily laden with vintage red clutches, horn-rimmed glasses and giant tortoiseshell shades. There are the pearls. Strands and strands of pearls (real, fake, old or new) and for contrast there’s the chunky jewelry; my favorite pieces manage to marry black metal and chains with feminine ribbons and bows. There are peep-toe pumps and flats -I even had a tattoo on my foot placed specifically to compliment the low cut shapes or the quintessential pin-up girl shoe. And there are black boots in every shape style and height you can imagine. There are trenchcoats and knee-skimming sweaters and of course my trademark leopard print cardigan.

And while not everything I wear falls under these categories or descriptions, there is a sensibility and feeling that is evident in every piece of clothing that I mindfully purchase, and the end result is almost always a style that looks like me.

The beauty of having a signature style (besides making gift-buying easier on your friends and family) is that fashion “rules” get to take a backseat to my personal style. It doesn’t have to be trendy. You might like it, but you probably wouldn’t wear it. And that’s okay, because it’s my look and not yours. What I find now when I venture out into the microcosms that succeed high school and college is that I do belong with those kids with style because I have found my own version of the unselfconscious artful outsider. There never was a secret handshake. The only secret was being comfortable in my own skin. And four inch heels.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I have long lived with the understanding that forgiveness is a choice you make, rather than a feeling you hope for. Maybe that is why I thought it would be easy. You look someone in the eyes and speak the words and all is right with the world. Or maybe it’s because, for most of my life, I’ve had only small matters to forgive. Either way, I thought it would be fairly simple.

So the first time I encountered a real, grown up situation that tested my true aptitude for forgiveness, I had some unrealistic expectations.

A year ago, I said, “I forgive you.” Because you asked me to. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Because not forgiving didn’t seem like an appealing choice. Because I’ve been forgiven. Because it had to be better than the alternative. Because I knew that if I didn’t make a conscious decision, and instead waited for “a forgiving mood” to wash over me, I could be waiting forever.

It didn’t feel all that different from anger or pain. Not at first anyway. I wondered if I had done it right.

Someone told me forgiveness was a choice you had to keep making, an act of discipline, in a matter of speaking. Like exercise. Not easy, not painless, not an overnight cure. But productive and worthwhile. And I was promised I would see results one day. And so I made it my mantra.

Most days.

Six months went by, and I realized I no longer felt like throwing my cell phone at your head every time I saw you. It wasn’t like someone flipped the compassion switch on my heart. I just felt less. Less angry, less sad - less everything. I thought that meant my feelings had caught up to my words, and I was a little disappointed. I thought it would feel prettier, lighter… more like grace.

Now, a full year since I said those words, I find myself trying to define what it is I feel when I see you. I still don’t feel like launching projectiles at your head. I don’t feel angry. I don’t feel sad. But I don’t feel “nothing” either. Somewhere, with subtlety and stealth, a feeling has crept up on me that does feel like compassion and grace. It is light and lovely, and solemn and deep. It turns out, that’s what forgiveness feels like.

It feels like love.

Because it is.

It’s not to say that I couldn’t stir up those old feelings if I wanted to. Like resurrecting an old bad habit, its easier than not. Or picking at a scab. But I like this new feeling too much to give it up. And I really like my new cell phone. And, as you could expect with a year of consistent exercise, I find the discipline of forgiveness to be easier all the time, natural and fulfilling. A new habit. Like muscle memory in my heart.

People say, “I love you” all the time. And we should, undoubtedly. But it was three different words, the ones I said a year ago, almost to the day, that changed my life. In more ways than one.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

My Love/Hate Relationship with Consumerism

Its true. My relationship with consumer products is tenuous at best. The marketing forces that be simultaneously repulse and attract me, so I'm sorting through the rubble of our once productive relationship. (Productive primarily for the GNP) In the process, I felt the need to compile, just for you, a brief catalogue of products I love and pretty much hate. I'll open with LOVE because hating stuff is funnier, so I feel that I should close with that.


1. Method cleaning products. A little trendy, yes. But the packaging is attractive enough to leave it out on the counter, they smell fresh and not at all like cleaning products and they don't irritate my asthma in the least. It is definitely love.

2. Yoga balls, or whatever you'd like to call them. They cost about a third of what they did when they were gaining popularity a few years ago, so its not ridiculous to have one for the kiddo, who will love its relative hugeness, and one to actually work out with. Marketing dream come true that it is, its not hype, its an excellent fitness tool and it really is great to sit on while typing. I'm doing it right now. Okay, I'm not, but I should be.

3. ipods. What did we do before them?

4. The Samsung Instinct. Its a phone, and so much more. Its true, the sound is less than stellar, which is sorta lousy considering its primary purpose is to be a phone, and there's a bit of a learning curve when it comes to the right way to touch the screen without accidentally calling people or hanging up on them, but the browser really is fast, the qwerty keyboard is very convenient and one-touch access to movie schedules, followed immediately by reviews,etc., the voice navigation, the really decent camera, I could go on and on. I'm a fan. A big one.

5. The very cheap hardbound reprintings of classic novels. Sure, its a little like buying the store brand of milk, but who cares? A literary girl needs a library, but reading doesn't pay very well. Five bucks for Crime and Punishment, Anna Karenina, Jane Eyre - that I can do. Bring on the Sunny Meadow Farm Literary Milk.

6. Gazillion Bubbles. Moms, you know what I'm talking about. I don't have to hyperventilate to blow, well, a gazillion bubbles for my guy. If there was such a thing as Toddler Xgames, Gazillion Bubble Chasing would be the marquis event.

7. Maybelline Great Lash Mascara in Blackest Black. And how.

8. Brilliant Brunette Hair Care by John Frieda. A long and sorta inflated name for a drug store shampoo? Indubitably. But oh so worth $4.50 each for the shampoo and conditioner, for the scent alone, not to mention the hair shininess and the brilliant brunettiness.

9. Tiffany's. For all my anti-materialist posturing, I'm still a girl. And I loved Breakfast at Tiffany's, so its a natural extension.

10. Grocery store sushi. Its like sushi for dummies. Its yummy, inexpensive and like most things I really like, convenient. And you don't have to feel like an idiot ordering stuff you don't really know how to order.

1. Words written across the heiny on sweatpants. Whether its PINK or JUICY or the always apropos LOOK AT MY BUTT - its terrible. Admittedly, that last one would require a vast expanse of real estate, but in my experience, that only makes it more likely.

2. Che Guevara t-shirts. Seriously, 18 year old white girl, do you know who he is? I have one word for you: Wikipedia.

3. Attitude t-shirts in general, but especially toddler and small children's sizes. There's a blog in the works for this one, possibly a joint effort with Leaky Jar, so I won't explain further.

4. Bratz Dolls. I already had a few issues with Barbie, but in my effort to not be a feminazi, I tempered that. So some genius developed a doll with lipliner and unfilled lips, glittered hotpants and midriff baring tube tops, faux-lucite platform stilettos and every ghetto scandalous accessory you can think of. The boy dolls wear eyeliner in a very not Good Charlotte way, and, again, midriff baring tops. Basically, they look like a cross between 90's club kids and millennial strippers. I could do a list of the top 100 things I hate about Bratz dolls, but I won't because it is most likely preaching to the choir.

5. Abercrombie & Fitch. Soft porn catalogues filled with 14 year old girls, a fragrance assault just walking past the store, the size "double zero", $100 dollar shredded jeans with double popped-collar pink polo shirts. 'Nuff said.

6. Pink Polo shirts, while I'm at it. I saw Taye Diggs in one on some show, and it looked good. So if you look like him, go for it, otherwise: to Marshalls, please.

7. Oprah's Book Club. Sorry, but I'm sure her majesty would approve of me being "true to myself." There are notable exceptions, certainly, but I probably won't ever read them if they have her sticker on them. On principle.

8. Baby clothes with NFL themes. I don't know why, they're just creepy to me.

9. Women's underwear that looks like men's briefs. Also creepy.

10. The Baby Phat Brand. Everything looks like Bratz doll clothing for grown ups. Only worse.

I could probably go on and on, but I won't promise a continuation. I do that from time to time, ignoring the possibility that anyone might actually read it and then anticipate a second installment, which I am rarely able to provide, because the Blog Muse is a fickle creature. Fickle, but not much of a stickler for grammar, so we forgive her flightiness. Have consumer bipolar disorder too? What do you love and hate? I think I have a roughly 2% comment rate on here and I want to know what the other 98% of you think. Or who you are. Or something.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

On Swashbuckling Toddlers and Angelina Jolie

Much is being made of a recent Angelina Jolie interview where she, probably unwisely, spoke nonchalantly about the fact that her eldest son is "into" war and guns and the like, and that there are lots of war scenarios being played out in her house. I am not into movie star apologetics, and I couldn't say I think the Jolie-Pitt parenting scenario is perfect by any measure, but of all the things to pick on, this one just bugs me. Not because I care about stars getting picked on. I really don't, except for the fact that it is a seriously negative waste of time, and it isn't helping anyone....(I digress) But the issue itself is a little ridiculous.

The fact is, she has little boys, there is a war going on, and also... anybody want to tally how many times Ms. Jolie has played an assassin of some sort? These things are inevitable. One ranting parenting blog kept saying "in light of her humanitarian work" it is so distasteful, "in light of her humanitarian work" she should know better, etc. Because lending her fame, time and money to worthy causes in ailing nations is nullified by allowing her kids to play with toy guns? The woman is no saint, but that is SO not the point.

Boys play with guns. Boys play war. Actually, I played guns and I played war too. I had brothers and neighbor boys and elaborate spy action-heroine fantasies in pretty equal proportions to my fair maiden in distress fantasies. That might not even be true. I have much more significant memories of pelting and being pelted by lemon "grenades" from a neighbor's tree, and that's before I was even ten, based on the neighborhood we lived in when we had a neighbor with a lemon tree.

I don't feel the need to get into a deep biblical, developmental or psychological discussion about why kids, particularly boys, engage in this type of play because its been done, and done far better than I could do in books like Wild at Heart, which I firmly believe all mothers should read, by the way (fathers too, but I think a lot of it men may already know instinctively, even if they wouldn't know how to articulate it). I will say, though, that I think this is much ado about nothing, and that it is practically a universal truth that guns and war are a part of the ever evolving imaginative play of growing children.

My son is not yet two and half, and it is already starting. Not even counting the primal violence and literal chest thumping that he acts out on the grown men in his life in the rough-housing periods of his days. Recently, my brother bought squirt guns for my son and his two cousins, that makes two 2 year olds and a 4 year old, if your keeping track. These things don't even resemble guns, really, more like neon rocket ships, but there's a "trigger" and a barrel, and kids could do far more with much less. I'll admit a little part of my brain, the part that has lingering residue from parenting books and well-intentioned pre-parenthood idealism, turned on for a minute and my knee-jerk reaction was to reign in the play when they started after each other, empty squirt-guns blazing, amidst a cacophony of shouted "boom boom boom." (Clearly, they have rarely, if not never, even seen or heard guns fired in movies yet, since they adorably think guns go "boom") But the reasonable part of my brain won as I realized they were all smiles, with nary a malicious thought in their innocent minds and no real concept of true violence or mortality. What I saw was three happy boys embarking on the first of many big-boy adventures wherein they see themselves as brave, strong, able and true.

And I defy anyone to tell me that these boys will grow up to be violent criminals or lovers of war, because of this. A liberal standard requires that we are constantly inundated with the message that "war is hell" and "violence is never the answer." I'll buy that war is hell. Certainly. But it is also real, and ignoring its existence is preparing our kids for nothing. And sometimes violence is the answer. Unsavory as it may be, when a man is put in certain predicaments, and it has to be someones job to protect his family, his community or his country, and so often it becomes an issue when a male is barely even old enough to be considered a man, but he'll still have to be ready. Let's not forget the young and scrawny David taking down the not young and scrawny Goliath.

As a parent of a preschool age child, I often hear that kids learn through play, and I think it would be short-sighted to pretend that the only things worth learning are the ABC's and animal sounds. All the creative and educational play focuses externally, and is undeniably and exceptionally important in teaching our kids about the world. But the relational, imaginative play, whether its playing house or "cops and robbers" as we used to call it, teaches them what it means to be a human, a participant, and someday a man. Sometime, every little boy is going to have to learn what he's really made of.

I love my sweet and sometimes still baby-like toddler, and I'm much more comfortable when he's playing trains or animals or fisherman, but I'm prepared for the days of spy adventures and good vs. evil gunfights. And if the swashbuckling sword fights going on amongst our scurvy bunch of preschool pirates these days are any indicators, things are going to get ferocious, and I'm actually kind of looking forward to it. And you can quote me on that.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Guy's Guide to Hunting and Fishing Part I

*I'm going to preface this by saying that the people who read my blog, namely, my friends and family, are not exactly the target audience of this particular rant, but its really just me being annoyed so it doesn't matter because my friends will also probably agree with me and be like, "uh-huh, yeah sister, tell it." Actually, none of my friends talk like that. Well, maybe one or two... but you know, its late, I'm tired and that was a trite literary device to expedite the extemporaneous portion of this blog. An effort that has now been nullified by that explanation. Aaaaanyway...

I am cranky and tired of hearing guys whine about women, especially since it was a bunch of guys that really should have been old enough to know better than to believe the relationship myths. I think I can really say this objectively because I am not on the market myself, but name a relationship scenario, and I've been there. Seriously. Like, right there. I'm thinking of writing a manual.

Okay, MEN, here goes: Women are not that hard to understand, and most of the relationship "facts" you know are myths perpetuated by Cosmo, 18 year old girls, women of all ages behaving like 18 year old girls and other men. Whether its getting a woman you want, or keeping the one you have, the principles are the same. Yes, a lot of this is subject to taste, but I'm pretty sure there's an outline that can be followed.

Myth: Girls only want nice guys OR Girls only want bad boys.

Truth: We want neither, and both. Its not that we want someone "bad", but someone who can be a bad-a** when its called for; a guy that could strangle an intruder with his bare hands, or at least shout menacingly and authoritatively so as to convince an intruder that he could strangle them with his bare hands. And we want to be able to imagine those same hands cradling an infant as though it were made of glass. Feel free to put us in our place when we deserve it, and by "our place" I don't mean the kitchen, or even the bedroom, but rather right along side you, equal, shoulder to shoulder. A well timed kiss will shut us up far more effectively that a harsh word, and the pay-off will be much better, but that doesn't mean you should let us off the hook if we're not being fair. You know we wouldn't let you. So be a man. Just be one we can be proud of. By "nice", we mean we want chivalrous, heroic, maybe even polite, but even the cowboys in the white hats get to pull their guns once in awhile, and so much the better. They also hold doors and half-stand-up when we come to the table, but are no less masculine because of it, more in fact.

Myth: Men should look like actors/models/what-have you.

Truth: We want you to look like men... no need to be over-coiffed, over-styled, over-dressed or over-muscled. It doesn't hurt to get a close shave and clean up the look now and then, but fighting for mirror time in the bathroom is a huge turn-off. I've spent years getting my primping routine down to less than an hour for even the most formal event, and on a normal day its 10-15 minutes on the hair, and only because I have a lot of it, and about a minute on the face. If it takes a guy longer than that he's either lying about what he's doing in the bathroom or vain, or both. Hygiene is really the main thing, followed by a decent haircut and a basic wardrobe that shows a little personality. Your own personality, not someone else's, or the one you wish you had. The sexiest thing a guy can put on is a plain t-shirt (black or white) and a great-fitting pair of jeans. Actually, the same goes for girls, in my opinion.

Myth: Women want to change you.

Truth: Some women do. But what most women want is just to get what we paid for, and its not our fault if your advertising methods were unethical and misleading. In other words, when we're getting to know you, you put your best foot forward, and that's fine. But when you don't think your best foot is good enough, and then you pretend to like yoga and wine and that you go to church on Sundays and that you don't wouldn't even know what day of the week football games come on, we're sure as hell gonna protest when you're belching beer while watching the pregame every Sunday. We do it too, I know, my parents joke that all women like to fish until they get married and to some extent there's a willing suspension of disbelief required for a relationship to get off the ground- but wouldn't it be better to just find the person who really knows you and all your dirty laundry and wants you anyway? Chances are if we go in knowing that you're going to sleep in boxers and black socks no matter how much flack we give you, we're not going to mind as long as you are the guy that gives us chills when you play with our hair. Or maybe that's just me.

Myth: Its all about compatibility.

Truth: Its a little about compatibility, but that's not the same thing as "sameness." Some of the most stimulating conversations I've ever had, which usually lead to the best relationships, started out with a little debate. Certainly, if you're going to spend a lifetime with someone, your core beliefs and values need to be a good fit, but must you agree on everything? If one person always gets their way because the other is trying to be agreeable all the time, you're bound to end up with some collateral damage like kids named Petal and Forest and Rainbow or a house decorated in pleather and black lights. The fact is, sometimes you need checks and balances in a relationship too, and that means that when it matters, someone's got to have veto power because cookie cutter couples are usually either mind-numbingly boring or just pretending. A little bit of conflict can be better than romance sometimes, especially when what you really have going for you is excellent chemistry.

The bottom line is that all we really want is a real man who is comfortable in his skin and loves us passionately the way we are. I'm pretty sure that's what men really want in a woman too. If you tickle someone's fancy the rest is fairly simple and if you don't, then none of this matters because there's just no point trying to make someone love you if it doesn't come naturally. This may not be groundbreaking information, but reading it back, I wish someone had spelled this out for me when I was starting to date. Of course, I wouldn't have listened.

**Another little aside. I actually sort of like the names "Petal" and "Forest." Rainbow, not so much. But you see, it proves my point... sometimes I need someone keep my inner tree nymph from escaping at inopportune times.

XO, Elizabeth

Dreamland Revisited

If anyone is interested, this is just a little explanation of the drawing I added to my blog and part of which is my current default photo.

As with all good crazy people, my story involves both my mother and my childhood. When I was little I had a lot of bad dreams. Terrible horrible no good very bad dreams, nearly every night. I still do, just with a mere fraction of the frequency (although the horror and morbidity has certainly matured). But when I was just a wee thing, my sainted mother taught me that more often than not, I could be in control of my dreams, partly by thinking of lovely things as I was falling asleep, in addition to making myself aware I was only dreaming and since it was my own mind, I could make it anything I wanted to. (Did I have a choice but to become an artist with that sort of wide-open creative encouragement, come to think of it?)

Anyway, we would play a little game at bedtime where my mom would say something like, "I'll see you in Dreamland... I'll be wearing a pink dress with white polka-dots and butterfly wings and a lime green tiara. I'll meet you at the gum-drop tree. How will I know you?" And I would describe in great detail my dreamself and her attire. It was never quite the same from one night to the next, but my mom nearly always wore pink with white polka-dots in some form or another, and I was always one for tu-tus. Sometimes I was a mermaid swimming in a purple sea, sometimes some sort of winged creature but it was a delightful little tradition and it did the trick.

From time to time in my adulthood we have talked about it, and once at a family gathering when my nephew was telling us about his bad dream I engaged the whole extended family in a very elaborate Dreamland reunion which sort of unlocked a lot of really wonderful memories for me of whispered fairytales and enchanted dream meetings with my Mommy, the person who taught me what love and beauty and magic were.

So for Mother's day, I did this little drawing for my mom, of our grown-up(ish) idea of how we'd look in dreamland. Of course, in our dreams we're both seven feet tall and weigh about ninety pounds, but what I think its really about is how we'd look if we looked on the outside like we feel on the inside. I guess that means I'm a fairy-CanCan dancer with an affinity for Jane Austen, horn-rimmed glasses, pearls and tattoos (I'm a complicated creature) and my mom is femininity personified, the queen bee and a nurturer of all living things, an angel in an apron with whom I share my sense of whimsy and my love of beauty.

Now the other women in my life want in on this so I'm embarking on another trip to Dreamland to capture a glimpse of how they see themselves... it should be enlightening. Hope you like it, but mostly it was a labor of love and the target audience was my mother who is admittedly easy to please, so if you don't, well, I just don't care. That's what Mom's are for.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Lover, Nurturer, Warrior

I know a woman who has figured out what it means to be a woman.
She isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t matter, because that isn’t the point. The point is that while I don’t always understand her, I see that she has figured out things that I know intellectually but cannot practically apply.
She is a woman, and she inspires her husband to be a man.
She is lovely, but she spends very little time in front of the mirror.
She shows weakness when I wouldn’t, but instead of being turned off by this, people feel compelled to support her, especially her husband. She shows strength when I couldn’t.
She chooses her battles very carefully, so when its time to fight, she has all her resources at her disposal.
She is sensual and gentle, warm and inviting, witty and intelligent. And she is a warrior.
She makes herself, her home, her life beautiful, but the endeavor is not such a high priority that it overshadows the improvement of her soul.
She is comfortable in her skin.
Her harsh words are reserved for the people and occasions that deserve it.
She is strong enough to protect herself, her children, even her husband but her presence does not emasculate, it edifies.
She knows herself, betters herself and feels comfortable alone.
She is not afraid to die.
She is not afraid to live.
She lives in the moment. She knows when to hold back, and when to throw caution to the wind. She is easily delighted and hard to offend. She is fiercely loyal to her family, her friends, herself and her God. She isn’t swayed by what people think of her. She knows what she likes, who she is and what she wants, but not to the exclusion of others’ needs.
If you meet her, you will learn things about yourself and the world. She is worldly but not cynical. She uses discretion, but she is not a prude. She is easy to get to know, but will continue to surprise you because she is always growing and learning.
She is a composite of several women I know, in fact, including a little of myself.
She is the woman I hope to be someday.
She is the antidote to the self inflicted downfall of femininity and chivalry.
She is Fanny Price, Princess Leia and the Proverbs 31 woman.
She is the best parts of my mother, my grandmothers, my friends and me. She is not the cure for every one of the world’s ailments, but she is salve for the wounds.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

10 Reasons Today Was a Good Day Though it Nearly Wasn't

1. I got a new kitchen garbage can, which I’ve needed for, oohh, about 4 years. But really friends, couldn’t you have let it go that I had one ghetto thing in my whole pretty house?
2. I’m on my like, 5th good hair day in a row. Its more than a record... its newsworthy. (God bless you Renee Goodbeer, you have a cool name AND magic scissors)
3. I finally got authorized to get my OWN in-home nebulizer (fancy word for a machine that allows me to survive asthma)! This is a big deal for me.
4. My mom gave me a bouquet of violets from her garden. The kind that look antique and smell like summer. Yummy.
5. I remembered to pay the car payment on time all by myself!!!
6. My son took a 2 hour nap.
7. I had my fifth good hair day in a row. If its newsworthy, it certainly merits two spaces on my top ten list.
8. I finished the Jane Austen biography written in "the King’s English" that I have had the hardest time sinking my teeth into.
9. My son gave me an unsolicited "I love you."
10. He also said a few different words and numbers in Spanish and Chinese and French, in addition to English. Not well, but he just turned two, so I feel like, (a) he might be brilliant and (b) I may not be a failure as a mother after all. (Although I mostly owe it to books in multiple languages and the "diverse" programming of Nick Jr. But still.) :)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Kiss Me, I'm Irish

In my family we embrace our Irish heritage, even though, as closely as we can figure, we're more Swedish than Irish. For that, we can thank my older brother with his mischievous smile, subtly reminiscent of a Leprechaun, his contagious affinity for Guinness, and his convincing affected brogue. He has brought out the Irish in all of us, or pointed it out, at the very least. So on this, the day when everyone reflects a little of the emerald isle, I say, "Happy St. Patrick's Day!" from behind these smiling Irish eyes.

An Old Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Éirinn go Brágh!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Certain Kind of Day

There are some days that are different from all the rest. Days when I just want to snuggle my little boy up in a blanket and pretend he’s still a baby, take him out in the yard to sniff the camellias and lavender and inspect the almost blooming gardenias, and then paint tiny birds nests until my hands and neck are sore and my front is speckled with brown and green and blue acrylics and there’s not a white canvas to be found. Then I want to lay my baby down for a long nap so I can eat chocolate and spicy chicken soup and paint my toenails. I don’t want to think about real life love and romance on those days… unless it’s on screen or written in flowery prose, I’m not interested. And when my boy wakes up, I just want to return to our painting, and the mess of crayons and fingerpaints and stickers until we are forced to stop and eat something yummy and warm and most-likely mushy before bathtime, where he’ll splash for the better part of an hour and I get to think of nothing but my squeaky-clean smelling baby and keeping the water just warm enough. And then, on that kind of day, after dinosaur pajamas and about 10 story books and a nice long cuddle to sleep, I want no TV, no computer (in case they’ll remind me I’m still living in the real world) just a long, almost-too-hot shower to scrub and peel the paint off my hands and arms, and lather it out of my hair (where it unfailingly finds its way). In the solitude of the evening that follows one of those days, I want to step into the yard in my bare feet and wet hair, under the porch light and a little bit of moon to water my plants and smell the wet brick and soil so that I can fall asleep while the scents of my tiny Eden linger in my atmosphere.

Monday, March 10, 2008

This Ain't Elizablog

Being the titular character of this here blog, I thought I’d explain the brief background behind the title, “Nevertheless, Elizabeth…” Of course, in my hands it probably won’t be as brief as it should be. I try to apply brevity and conciseness sparingly, and if I’m speaking that way, it’s never a good sign. Anyway. It’s my Blog and I’ll pontificate if I want to.

First off, I asked around for suggestions because naming things is hard, I harbor a deep-seated phobia of cheesiness, and didn’t want the sole responsibility resting on my shoulders. It was a good idea in theory, but it turns out I’m not the only one suffering from blog-naming-block. Here’s a sampling of the suggestions I received, good, bad and otherwise: “Elizabethan Musings”, “Elizabeth Thinks Deep”, “Elizabeth’s Blog” (yup), “Nest of Shells: Elizabeth” (thank you blog name generator, for that gem), “Elizablog”, “Mother ‘hood”, “XO, Elizabeth” and so on.
None of those really struck a chord with me. I rested briefly on a couple of them, but not long enough for anything to stick. I like to think of myself as an erudite chick, so I wracked my brain for a literary reference that would somehow fit or a represent the spirit of my thoughts and ramblings. I tried to find some arrangement of “Had we but world enough and time” my favorite phrase from both poetry and literature, but couldn’t find a way to make it relevant, but still, nothing. I suppose I was working backwards. Anyway, this was supposed to be just for fun, but the more difficult it became for me to find something I liked, the more invested I seemed to become. *

Eventually, that approach was abandoned for something simpler. There is a method my mom has of inspiring her children in the creative process… a sort of maternal hybrid of brainstorming and telepathy which is rife with the rejection of perfectly valid ideas… and which nearly always bears fruit, as it did in this case. (Someday I’ll write an entry about this phenomenon.) As I expected, after a relatively short exchange in the aforementioned manner, we had some decent rough ideas that just needed a little refining. At long last (that is at least 2 hours since I decided to set up a blog in the first place) I landed on “Nevertheless,” a succinct homage to a Katherine Hepburn one-liner from “African Queen” delivered with conviction, elegance and defiance the way only she could, and not coincidentally, very similar to my own trademark delivery.


I finally decided to expand a little bit upon my idea in order to convey the secondary meaning that really did seem to represent me. In addition to a subtle nod to that character, and the real women whose independent, rebellious and God-fearing natures she embodied, I felt it also implied that whoever the world thinks I am or whatever it is I am supposed to be, I am nevertheless, Elizabeth.

*For those of you who know me well and are prone to hyper-analysis (you know who you are), let me preemptively say that I do recognize how that sentence can be taken as a broad analogy. You needn’t point it out.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

On Starlets, Harlots and Modern Feminism

There was a time I would have scoffed at being called a feminist. I could have considered myself a post-feminist, perhaps, basking in the afterglow of suffrage, the nineteenth amendment, the civil rights movements and the toils of our mothers and grandmothers to continue to shatter the glass ceiling. I rested comfortably in the fact that my generation is the first to face no real opposition in our choices of career, education or even marriage and childbearing. Of course, our families and friends weigh in on these decisions, but those influences are the product of the values of our families, cultures and religion more than societal norms. We face no legal barriers for almost any choice of lifestyle.

We are the daughters and granddaughters of feminism. It's time to once again take up the mantle. I wish there was a new name for it, and I'll see what I can do about finding one, but I have bigger fish to fry. We have a legacy to protect, and that legacy is being threatened. Unfortunately, this threat isn't one we can fight with protests and civil disobedience and the ACLU, because it's an inside job. I believe that elitism, idolatry, materialism, entitlement, promiscuity and political correctness are the true enemies of modern womanhood. By that I mean women judging women, women worshipping the unworthy, women taking for granted the opportunities of our society, underestimating the value of their own virtues, denying the sanctity of anything that isn't "freedom" and living lives that do not fulfill us in the name of current conventions.

To be fair, I must admit that I like fashion magazines. I read Vogue, InStyle, etc. I like to have nice clothes, but don't call me a hypocrite. I do not worship at the feet of Prada, Sephora and La Perla, or the people who can afford to shop there with regularity. Our voyeuristic tendencies have made demigods of do-nothing socialites, and a faux aristocracy of entertainers. This battle of ours is no longer about seeking equality, success and fulfillment on our own terms; its about finding all those things with six pack abs, "juicy" written across our butts and not wearing any panties. God help us, Susan B. Anthony would roll over in her grave if she could see this. I can't blame the starlets and harlots for everything… I presume there have always been women like that, minus the public forum. But, come on, we don't have to watch. And if we do watch, we can treat it as a cautionary tale instead of a rite of passage. It isn't necessary for bat mitzvahs and old fashioned sweet sixteen parties (with slumber parties and nail polish, not dj's and Escalades) to be replaced with DUI's and rehab as the transitional marker for adulthood. And I honestly don't even think that when Gloria Steinem and Betty Freidan (forgive the mentions, they're aren't exactly heroes of mine) preached sexual freedom, they didn't have in mind night vision sex-tapes and bisexual make out sessions at bars to get free drinks. Forty years ago, women were burning bras (which would never happen now, by the way. We dare not burn that which lifts and separates). Forgoing panties with miniskirts, I assure you, is NOT a natural extension of that protest.

What is even worse is the way women turn on other women. It is an expensive world we live in. Some women have to work. Other fortunate women have the opportunity to stay home with their kids. Neither option is without great sacrifice, we are all just doing the best we can, following our hearts and trying to pay the bills and do what's best for our children and finding stolen moments to nurture our marriages, friendships and very occasionally, ourselves. Yet women trade barbs over this like they're in a political debate; even women who are friends. The absurd and sad truth is that after all the fighting to be able to make our own choices about careers and families; we have deteriorated to attacking each other for doing just that. To what end? I'm a stay home mom that takes on creative ventures when I can. I'm one of the lucky ones, to be sure. But I no longer get facials and massages, buy a new wardrobe every season and travel Europe just because I can. I don't even buy hand lotion without balancing my checkbook first. My comforts are the ones I can create, but I wouldn't trade the time with my son for every luxury in the world, and I'll be damned if I will let the Real Housewives of Name Your Pretentious Locale make a bad name for me. And yet there are families who can't make ends meet without two incomes, even with the sacrifices of little luxuries, so we need to lay off the women who kiss their babies goodbye every morning to venture out into the "real world," too. The fact is we all have our convictions about how a household should be run and the role of the woman in that household, but I honestly don't think that is why women can be so venomous and defensive about it. If someone else's approach is different than ours, we take it as an indictment of our own situation, as though the very act of living their life is a judgment of the way we live ours. We need to be each other's advocates, supporters and cheerleaders because there are more than enough hurdles already.

Deep breath. My arthritic hands have given out ahead of my impassioned heart, before I've even touched on the roles of abortion, politics and men in this crisis of feminism, and my little one is awake from his nap. If you're one of the brave souls who made it this far, you'll be rewarded with a continuation of my diatribe very soon. (Lucky you)

A Collection of Chocolate Induced Haiku

(Originally posted 1/17/2008, elsewhere)

on Saturday night
though I may be all alone
I feel like dancing

intelligent girls
with understated beauty
masquerade as nerds

things are what they are
love is never that simple
except when it is

stuff that is purple
is never as serious
as stuff that is not

These works of Haiku genius have been a means to occupy me in my current state of sleeplessness, which was induced by a too-late-at-night workout and one lousy piece of chocolate. I ate some dark chocolate this morning too, because I had to scrub the floors. So I decided to speak only French and eat dark chocolate and pretend I was a dethroned monarch forced into servitude. So much more romantic than cleaning the floor "because it was dirty." It's been a wierd day.

On Marriage, Motherhood and Minding One's Business

(Originally posted 1/27/2008, elsewhere)

Marriage is hard. Living together is not being "practically married," nor is sleeping at one another's house the majority of the days of the week. Shacking up will not prepare you for marriage. Neither will counseling, or having lots of friends who are married, or helping your sister plan her wedding. Reading marriage books does not prepare you for marriage.
Being a parent is hard. Babysitting, teaching Sunday school, having friends or family members with kids and reading parenting books will not prepare you for parenthood. Being a teacher is not like "having 25 kids." You never have to think about what will happen to those children if you die, or get divorced or become incapacitated. Their entire future life, their very survival, does not depend on the thousand little choices you make every day for years and years.

I gave no thought to whether or not I was "prepared" for marriage or parenthood. It sounds irresponsible, but if everyone was waiting to be ready, our marriage and birth rates would plummet. It isn't that it is terrible. Its that it is impossible to be fully equipped for what is to come. So maybe it is better not to know. I got married, not because I was prepared to face the challenge, but because I was in love. I couldn't stand to go to bed in something that wasn't "our bed" for one more night. I felt, on a primal level, a desire to bear this man's children. I couldn't see straight. And he loved me just as much. It was somewhat impulsive, and instinct was certainly helping navigate even if love was in the driver's seat. But so what? What is wrong with having an insatiable hunger for the person you want to marry? Should marriage be something you enter with only practicality in mind? You hire someone based on their resume, you marry somebody because they excite you enough that you plan to spend a lifetime with them, hopefully with minimal boredom. I didn't marry my tax guy. Right or wrong, I know myself, and I know that if I had it to do over again, I would marry a man who could make me feel that way.

I wasn't prepared to be a mom. And that detracts nothing from my love for my child… I just wasn't expecting it. We had a plan, to wait several years and just "be married" before we had a baby. We wanted years of, lets face it, self indulgence and freedom. And that's a decent goal. But then I got pregnant after 6 months of marriage, and, no, I wasn't ready for it. I may have been better off than a lot of people. Financially, although not rich by any means, we could afford for me to stay home. I had a deep longing to be a mother, even if I had penciled it in many years down the road. My wild days were behind me. There were no vices for me to quit because I had none. And I liked babies. But nothing could have prepared me for how hard it can sometimes be, and though many have tried, I don't think anyone can convey just how worth it all the hardship really is, or how much you can love your child. To say you would die for your child is an understatement. I would die for someone else's child. This is different. I would kill for my child, but I would kill to protect someone else's child, too. There's no way to say it. I would go to hell and back, I would walk through fire, I would give up anything. But realistically, if it was to protect the life of an innocent child, I would do that for any of them. But for my child, I would do it happily. I would do it not just to save my child's life, but even just to protect them from pain, to ensure them a happy life. It isn't possible, thank God, to do that, because we all would. You just can't be prepared for the nights you are going to lay awake thinking of contingency plans for potential disasters, of what you could change or give up to give them the best chance at happiness, or what you could have done to prevent the latest illness or injury. And what is even harder to fathom isn't that you wouldn't change it for anything. Of course, I recommend to friends when they get married that they wait a little while to have children, but for me… I am just thankful I went in unprepared and unafraid.

I've never been the type to look before I leap. It isn't always the best policy, but I just have to feel sorry for the friends I have who are waiting to get it all straight before they start their life.

And that says something, because I assure you, my story hasn't always been a happy one. It has, however, been an interesting one, and one worth telling. I have secrets. One or two that are between me and God, and one or two more that a very select few might know. And I love that. I have loved, and been loved. I have been the physical source of a life. I have had loss. I have some romantic tales to tell. At the risk of sounding self important, I'm tired of hearing about the shoulds, coulds and woulds of marriage and motherhood from people who have never been there. I do not know everything about everything. But I know my story so far. My sense of security may never be what it once was, but my faith has been through the ringer, and has come through no worse for the wear. So planners and advisers and readers of how-to-live books: you write your story, but please, do not attempt to edit mine. I'm doing just fine without your help. I already have a Guide.

101 Things you (probably) don't know about me.

(Originally posted 2/13/2008, elsewhere)

1. I love science fiction and fantasy.
2. I love my hair. I’m not one of those girls that are never satisfied. Barring a few bad hair cuts, I think I should be a breck girl.
3. I think girls who say they aren’t satisfied with themselves are mostly lying.
4. I am naturally more blonde than anything else. But I always felt like a brunette on the inside.
5. I am more conservative than I let on.
6. And less.
7. I have a fine collection of glitter. Unusual colors of glitter. Black, bronze, chocolate, copper… in addition to the normal ones.
8. I bite my nails when I’m angry, not nervous.
9. I weigh myself every day, sometimes more than once.
10. I love my son, but I do not worship him.
11. I like to cook; I just don’t like having to cook.
12. I love to bake. As long as I have a good oven.
13. I fancy myself accomplished, in the Austen sense of the word.
14. I have a dirty mouth. Yet I find, lately, it’s cleaner than most of my friends.
15. I like to throw things at the wall.
16. I secretly don’t care that I didn’t finish college. I feel like I should care, but I really don’t.
17. My recall for numbers is unusually accurate.
18. I’m over roses. For heaven’s sake I’m the child of a florist.
19. If you must by me flowers, make them live orchids.
20. I love the sound of breaking glass.
21. I love the smell of dirt.
22. I have always liked to kiss a guy and have it taste like beer and cigarettes.
23. Obviously, my love of bad boys runs deep. I didn’t cultivate it… it just happened.
24. If I wasn’t so concerned with not breaking my mother’s heart, I would have more tattoos.
25. Sometimes I wish it was 1950 and I didn’t have to be a modern woman
26. But I know my spirit would wither without the independence.
27. I often say I have a problem with authority as though I’m joking. I’m not.
28. I always fall in love with the lead singer at a concert. Seriously, do not leave me unattended, if I was caught before the effects wore off, I’d run away with them and have their babies.
29. My current idea of perfect romance is a night alone to take a bath, paint my toenails, reread Pride and Prejudice and drink wine.
30. I have no tolerance for drug use. It is not a rite of passage; it doesn’t make you tragic and vulnerable because you’re addicted. It just makes you a junkie.
31. I do, however, have great respect for people who overcome addiction.
32. The only things I’ve ever been addicted to are love and caffeine.
33. I wish I could be a hippie sometimes.
34. Sometimes, a hipster.
35. I love to watch ballet. It makes me cry.
36. So does good opera.
37. The Reality TV bug never bit me. I like sarcasm and dark humour, but negativity at that concentration makes me fear for the future of civilization.
38. I would not know if there was never another sporting event for all of eternity.
39. Except hockey, because my family would fall to pieces over it.
40. I believe the Bible.
41. I do not like going to Church, though I wish I did.
42. My feet are adorable.
43. I’m sick of weddings, and they’re my job.
44. I’ll feel differently about that come spring.
45. I think hip-hop is disgusting and should be boycotted.
46. But I don’t believe in censorship.
47. I tried for years to like cocktails, but I don’t.
48. I only like 2 kinds of alcohol. Wine and Guinness.
49. And good vodka.
50. I like birds. I got that from my mom.
51. I dream about birds in cages almost every night.
52. I still like to play dress up.
53. I wish there were more occasions to wear pearls.
54. And aprons.
55. And fishnets.
56. But not together. On second thought...
57. I think candles should be lit on a semi-regular basis. I theorize that they are like vehicles, and need to be started to stay in working order.
58. I wish I were brave enough to decorate with bold colors.
59. Yet whenever I do work up the nerve, I end up regretting it.
60. I am constantly reminding myself of Coco Chanel’s philosophy on accessories… look in the mirror once you’ve finished dressing, and remove one item.
61. I also believe it applies to decorating your home.
62. I use green, biodegradable, non toxic, earth friendly cleaning products.
63. And aerosol hairspray. I think they removed all the worst chemicals years ago.
64. I love Hello Kitty.
65. And pink… but I never wear it. Well, unless you count undergarments.
66. 99% of my wardrobe is black.
67. But my shoes are black, red, white, pink, blue and leopard. And so on.
68. I have scores of beautiful vintage costume jewelry, which is probably not worth a dime, but is also among my most prized possessions.
69. I drink a lot of green tea, for the health benefits. I actually don’t enjoy it very much.
70. I don’t think I’m a very good artist, but I have every intention of making a living at it someday.
71. I don’t long to live at the beach, or in the mountains. I like being nestled somewhere in the middle.
72. Men with weak handshakes strike me as pathetic.
73. But I’d rather not shake hands at all… even some of the gentler ones hurt my hands. Damn arthritis.
74. My stationery collection is enviable.
75. I dare not calculate how much money I spend on lip gloss.
76. I’m beginning to collect wedding cake toppers. Why not?
77. I bought a rosary at the Vatican, and although I’m not Catholic, it means a great deal to me that it was blessed by the Pope.
78. I sometimes envy the rituals and ceremonies of other religions, though I don’t like to be tied to too much tradition myself.
79. Although I make lovely cakes, I do not eat them. 7 years of consistently smelling baking cakes satisfied that appetite.
80. If I can’t sleep, or I’m in pain, I imagine myself floating on the waves like a seagull.
81. I’d rather be in the water than on dry land.
82. I have no use for snow.
83. In my mind, I refer to my home as the Lavender House. As in the flower, not the color.
84. I do not wish I was a princess. Or famous. Rich maybe.
85. I’m over diamonds too. I know…the mind reels.
86. I got a terrible nosebleed in the French Alps, that lasted for hours and hours.
87. I know exactly what mascara, lipstick, shampoo, conditioner, lotion and bras I like. That makes me feel like a grown up.
88. I look forward to turning 30.
89. I sometimes fear that I’m a terrible mother because my world doesn’t revolve around my son. But I actually think that makes me a better one.
90. My heart does, however, revolve around him, in a way.
91. I try not to judge, but I am endlessly disappointed with women who do not breast feed their babies.
92. I think selfishness it as the root of all sins.
93. I enjoy scrubbing floors. Not often, but thoroughly.
94. I can’t stand Oprah, Hilary Clinton or Kelly Ripa. What kind of woman am I?
95. I know every single word to every single song on the You’ve Got Mail soundtrack. Including “Never Smile at a Crocodile.”
96. I tried to climb Halfdome but didn’t quite make it to the top, because I lost a toenail. (It’s a lot worse than it sounds!)
97. I smoked for approximately two weeks, while traveling through Italy, and it almost killed me because
98. I have asthma.
99. I think my son is prettier than me.
100. I like plain popcorn with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
101. I don’t know how I survived before my ipod.