Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Many, The Ridiculous, The Random

I may have said this to you already because I find myself repeating it often, but my daughter recently suggested I check out the 'for dummies' section at the book store. She meant it so sincerely I couldn't even effuse outrage.

The absurdity of an anti-choice ad airing during the Super Bowl, a game where grown men go around simulating war by throwing around a stuffed dead pig and beating the crap out of each other in tight pants and shoulder pads, being labled a 'celebration of life' is apparently not apparent. Really?

On that same subject, I wonder if they'll air those ads for the men and women in uniform watching the game from foreign countries where they are employed killing other people by the hundreds, sometimes thousands, in the name of freedom and justice. Woo hoo. Celebration of life!

CBS is comprised of several tiers of executive morons.

Speaking of morons, is anyone else becoming extremely tired of opposite-party congressmen and women flatly refusing to positively acknowledge the President of the United States when he (or she... someday) says something that everyone agrees is reasonable? It's ignorant, rude, childish, and undignified and that's true whether or not I'm ideologically aligned with the party sitting on its collective rump. I just don't like it, period.

Further, I think clapping like a trained seal after every other sentence the President utters is equally stupid and unnecessary. Is this your most evolved way of expressing support and agreement? Because I'm thinking you could show up to work a few more days out of the year. Maybe be there when some of these issues are being debated and not making the nightly news clip. I hired you to work, not to nod enthusiastically when your head cheerleader shows up. You're embarrassing me. Stop it.

On the issue of embarrassing, am I the only one also embarrased by our national impatience - the fervor of which has begun to mimic the expression of a three year old stomping her feet, sticky fingers clenched, curls matted to a red-faced pout, insisting she wants her snack RIGHT NOW? I say again, and will repeat many times, read a 5th grade social studies book! Read about how long it took for us to establish our freedom, how hard we worked, what we sacrificed, and how we held together - even when we were falling apart. For the love of apple pie, please give everyone a chance to be better and while you're waiting, you be better too. We can solve some of these difficulties, we can use ideas from all points on the circle, and we can agree to disagree without disavowing the other person's patriotism. Grow up, show some patience, and if you can't go sit on your time-out chair and be quiet.

If you ask me how the market's doing you'll get a variety of answers depending on how brain-freezingly-rabid I'm feeling that day. While I'm still rational, I'll tell you the market is really fine. It's just expanded to include a wider array of not-so-traditional sales and transfers. Kind of like how McDonald's now serves burgers and burritos and you can ask for Louisiana hot sauce on the side. You can look at it like it's a problem, or you can have a burrito with some hot sauce and enjoy that for what it is.

Speaking of McDonald's - poignant kid moment: my babies at the counter with their little Christmas gift certificates in their hands looking at the menu in a whole new light - 'what can I afford?' When all was said and done, everybody walked away with an assortment of bad fried food, certificates still in their booklets and big smiles on their faces. If only we could all handle the big decisions that way.

I want everyone to know that I'm making progress, albeit slogging, slow, interrupted progress towards achievement of my resolved goals. This is a vast improvement over years past when I just gave up and ate whatever I wanted and stopped reading, writing or making phone calls in the second week of January. I give it about another 3-5 days. Being awesome is exhausting.

This gal I hardly knew in high school is one of my favorite FB reads because she's got an incredible wit, a warm spirit and a sardonic sense of humor I can totally relate to. A life lesson - get to know as many people as you can - you just never know what you're missing.

Did you say missing? TIME magazine urged me for weeks to renew my subscription and I held off and held off thinking I could renew via my children's school fundraiser (which is how I originated my subscription). Turns out the fundraising catalog didn't have TIME magazine anymore so I finally gave in to the publisher's relentless (and somewhat pining) campaign to make me renew. That was in November. Guess what's missing. So I've been thinking...they should get the 'renew your subscription' team to work on the 'filling your subscription' part. They should pummel me with magazines the way they did with 'CHECK THIS BOX AND GET A DUFFLE BAG!!' offers. I should get a heartfelt letter about how the attached magazine is how I stay connected with the world. And the editor should come hug me and kiss me when he gives me my magazine personally because by the way he was doting on me when he was trying to get me to renew I think we're dating and the separation is killing me.

I've had a bottle of champagne and two gift certificates to a swanky downtown restaurant in my office since Christmastime. A colleague gave them to me as a holiday gift. I just can't seem to think of any reason why I'd take my butt all the way downtown in the freezing cold with bad to poor parking choices and limited menu options (because I can't afford anything there that wouldn't be covered by the gift certificates) as a form of pleasure. This and the twelve million gray hairs in my bangs are the final nails in the coffin where my urban and edgy youth rests quietly. Now if I could just pry those nails open so I could sneak in there and get a nap where no one could find me...

I heard my mother the other day in a way I haven't heard her in a while, not because she hasn't been there, but because I haven't been listening. It was a really sweet moment for me and I'm not sure she got it, but I'm glad I had it. Because two minutes later she had me wanting to run screaming through the streets. Oddly, that feeling was comforting too, in a 'comfy socks' kind of way.

Hope you feel that way when you visit here. It's my great aspiration in life to be someone's comfy sock.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What Should It Be?

In keeping with my Number 1 New Year's resolution, I've begun writing my book. Here's what it's about:

Parenting. I'm an expert on this subject as I've both been parented and parented myself. Except the more I stop to think about this subject the more I realize I don't know doodle about parenting and my mother is nuts. The kids are always arguing with one another, except when they're crying or subdued in front of the t.v. My mother is alternately driving me bananas or not speaking to me. And me? I'm so overwhelmed with the urge to run screaming into the streets that I've literally begun to map out a route where the fewest people I know will see me as I flap madly from the house and away my roles as parent and daughter. Maybe this is the wrong topic.

Maybe marriage. Marriage is good. I know alot about marriage having observed many and been part of one for more than 10 years now. I have plenty to say on this subject, in fact. Marriage is meaningful, spiritual; it serves as a model upon which larger mergers can be based. On some days, it even serves a broader purpose, explaining things like the lack of peace between Israel and Palestine. Because the truth is no matter how much you love someone they can only chew plastic in your ear so many times before you are driven completely mad. So how can we expect countries that already don't get along to sit next to each other on the world's couch and watch t.v. in peace?? We can't. They each need their own space and their own tv's. Except there's no cable in the bedroom! So you see, peace is impossible! On second thought, maybe marriage isn't the subject for me after all.

However, it's given me the idea that maybe global politics is the right thing. I've toyed with this thought before but have always assumed there were people way smarter than me expounding on the topic and I'd have a hard time competing. The last fifteen of my adult years have driven me to the other end of the thought spectrum on this subject. Now I believe only morons are involved in the global political scene, otherwise we would've knocked out a few more deliverables by now. We've shifted pollution from venue to venue without solution, we've allowed millions and millions of people to starve or be sick to death without batting a global lash and we still can't get potable water to the whole world when something like 80% of the world is water? Yeah. Some real sharpies in charge of the ship. What a mess! I swear some days the only way to handle the thing would be to send everyone to their collective rooms and clean the whole damn world by myself. But then they'd just mess it all back up again and make me even more furious. (I've seen this play out before, smaller scale.) I'm getting heated just thinking about it. Can you title a book 'All of You are Idiots'? Mabye not.

I have to think about something that makes me happy so the book can be cheerful and uplifting. Something catchy. With a beat. So you can dance to it.

I know! The book'll be about being a Chicagoan. No, I'm mad at Chicago now because of the Olympics. So I'll write about patriotism. I'm a patriot! No, I'm mad at patriots because the good ones are either dead or too quiet and the false ones are idiots getting paid to be on Fox News. I'll write about dieting. If there's one thing I can make light of it's dieting! Except I'm on one now so that'd make me a hypocrite. And if there's one thing I can't stand it's a hypocrite. Uhhh, cooking? No. That'll make me hungry. What the heck do people write books about? Maybe I'm not meant to write after all. I don't have a damn good thing to say about anything. I'm the author-equivalent to eggplant for crissakes! I just lay there like an oddly-shaped purple mass and don't say a damn thing. How am I supposed to do something I've resolved to do when starting it is so mind-numbingly impossible?
You see, this is the problem. I write all the time. I just don't write about anything. I'm the Seinfeld premise in written form. I write about nothing.

And there it is. I'm going to write a book about nothing.
Wish me luck.

Friday, January 8, 2010

On this day 65 years ago

Ever seen the movie 'Amistad'? There's a scene in that movie where a man headed into a trial before the supreme court explains to another character why he isn't nervous, despite all odds being well stacked against him. He reassures his own attorney, in fact, telling him not to worry because he, the defendant, is 'invoking [his] ancestors'. It's a powerful scene, wherein one man's cultural and spiritual beliefs come face to face with the intellect of the other to teach both men a lesson about what is really valuable in a life.

I'm telling you all that because today is my mother's 65th birthday. And while those two bits of information don't seem connected, they are, inexorably. My mom, you see, is the one person I know who has her culture, her spirit and her intellect very well measured and in tact. I admire that very much and aspire to her long-achieved place in this enlightened stance.

It hasn't always been easy, the travel to this place. But you'll never know another person with a greater patience than my mother. I try, terribly hard to be a compassionate person and hope that my overage in that department makes up for my near complete lack of patience. I often mistake my mother's patience with slowness; I think many people do. Instead, it's more likely true that my mother knows in a bone-deep place that a well-traveled path must be savored and sensed rather than simply traversed briskly with cell phone in one hand and spilling coffee in the other. I still need to learn that.

Where I follow her example as closely I can is in the living of a life where the spirit guides. My mother's spirit is present in all things she does and all she touches. Her spirit is intensely, deeply warm, connected to God on an intuitive level that neither religion nor lack thereof can sour. Her hands are always soft and when they touch you you can feel her humanity and tenderness, but also her strength and self-possession. You can only get that sense from someone whose spirit is sound and hers is and always has been.

With that patient sensibility and solid spiritual center my mother has weathered storms of immeasurable proportion with trips and falls that might have landed another person down for the count. Not she, Victoria the brave. She has climbed mountains of every kind, scaled ignorances, overcome prejudices, triumphed over mediocrity and low expectations. She has learned a foreign language as an adult, often being mistaken for a native speaker. She has received two university degrees - the first in her generation to receive even one. She raised a child on her own and employed two 'villages' to help - among them those who wished to compete rather than cooperate. By her sheer will, they were linked, joined forces and I am the result (a fine one wouldn't you say?). She is a staunch believer in the 'pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again' method of survival. It has served her well, not just for survival but for success in all things she has endeavored to do. She makes me proud and more proud every day.

I'm a terrible, terrible daughter more often than I'd like to admit. I won't give details here lest you think even less of me by the particulars than you might already by the admission. But I hope I compensate for my tantrums and tirades with an abiding, profound and unimpeachable love and devotion to this amazing person who I define in less than adequate terms this way:

- learner and lover of learning for self and for others, so that sins may be forgiven, because truly it is through knowledge that we learn we are all sinners and must all lend in order to receive forgiveness

- keeper of the Italian tradition for all those who came before (the invocation of ancestors not limited in scope), stayer of the Cuban tradition for those who did not remain, and explorer of the traditions that bring joy and excitement to every life around the world

- adventurer insofar as reality is always an adventure for a dreamer, an idealist, a romantic

- traveler, in every sense, a lifelong exerciser away from the ill-exposed beginnings from whence she came

- teacher, whose most valuable lesson to me and to others is that acceptance is possible for everyone and the world is indeed a very big place; all of us have gifts to share

- woman, who some may never understand and others have resolved never to try again (some things are simply better left mysterious)

- mother, who in the simplest of matters is expert (or so she says) and in the most complex, wise; a nurturer born of good nurture herself, whether she knows it or not, and whose completion occurs when the cycle repeats, a mantle I carry most seriously upon my shoulders.

In simplest terms I love my mother because she is the latest in a line of those whose purpose and mission in life was to bring me forward. That, until I brought forward my own children, who now live only because those before her lived and because she gave me life. With no other evidence of her magic and beauty I could say quite honestly there's never been and will never be anyone more important to me than her. I hope she knows. And that on this day and all that follow she is loved not just by me but by all who know her, openly, generously and with great conviction, as she loves.