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.