Friday, November 17, 2006


I have a great friend, Greensunflower, whose blog is all full of holiday cheer, and I feel like a curmudgeonly slug by comparison. I do hope that she will remember to give me some of her peppermint bark this year, as I am sure that is all I need to get me in the holiday spirit.

In the meantime, I am having one of those weird afternoons when the hours move very slowly, but everything I do seems to happen in fast forward. The babysitter has the kids, and I've worked hard to finish two written assignments due Monday. It didn't take me all that long (at least after all these years of the academic slog I've learned to write well and quickly). I've otherwise been feeling a bit odd and lethargic; I spoke with a friend on the phone and got up to date with his life, have been reading poetry, and thinking that I should go for a walk with the dog, but I am having the hardest time shifting myself. I think I need to walk to the cafe in the building next door for a HUGE coffee if I have to remain relatively sharp until the kids go to bed (still three hours to go for that).

I've also been blog hopping, reading about people's families, beliefs, children, food loves, travels. It's fascinating to pop in and out of people's lives. What a wonderful invention the Web is. I feel downright old just in thinking how my kids will never know a world without all this technology, while my granparents (three of whom I never knew) were all born before 1910 and the first successful airplane flight. Weird. At least I was born almost three full months before the first moon landing!

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I am taking an interpersonal communication class as a prerequisite for nursing school. That much is unremarkable, and while the content of the class is mostly common sense and otherwise yawn-inducing, I have been thinking about the idea of "faces" and "saving face" in terms of relationships with others. I always find it interesting, even if sometimes sharply painful, to hear what other people think of me, or how they categorize me. It is all the more interesting to catch fragmented images of myself in my thought processes, and to think of all the bits that make me "me."

While I was out shopping today, for example, I was watching all the perfectly coiffed and manicured and fashioned women walking down the very bourgeois shopping area. I didn't feel ugly, but I did feel a bit out of sorts (that's why I can't live in the keep-up-with-the-Joneses town over the hill from where I live). I realized that I miss my dearest, far-away friend, because no one dares look askew at a woman walking around with a queen (unless the watcher is another queen). I also missed him awfully as I was walking around the Cody's on Fourth Street in Berkeley; the inventory is more shockingly inadequate than ever, the art history books are more ridiculous, if possible, and there was no one with whom to share little sarcastic tidbits from Jessica Mitford's collected letters. There was no one to tell me how splendid my newly waxed eyebrows looked, how I need to get some shirts other than t-shirts, and that it's shameful that the same images get used ad nauseam on books: Friedrich's "The Wanderer," a bust of Julius Caesar, a photograph of the Pantheon's interior, and some dreadful detail from an Impressionist painting that would cue the great line from the film "Clueless" about Monet. In my mind I drew another cliche comparison, between myself and Duerer's "Melancholia."

I thought back to how, at someone's birthday party in England in 1979, a friend named Gavin told me that I had the reputation of being "far too serious." I was ten years old! But there it was. Perhaps that's partially to explain how I ended up on the margins. Some other faults, enumerated by friends at various junctures, include being rude about acknowledging hospitality (age eight); lacking discretion (many times); being unfaithful (mostly from age sixteen onward, and I have severed ties with family members over that one); being a poor listener (age seventeen, and thanks Sisir for that one). I often want to feel perfect, so I try to change, knowing that I can never really be perfect. I am quite sure that there are many more shortcomings I could find with very little effort, and that my friends would be all too happy to tell me. But then there is the defensiveness that accompanies the introspection and the holding up of shortcomings. I suppose that what I'm saying is that I don't really want to know, because I spent so many years living under what turned out to be the burdens of other people's expectations of me rather than who I was. I remember writing one time in a journal that a then-boyfriend thought that I was clumsy and stupid, two things I really am not. I should have left him long before I wrote such a thing, but those ideas became part of me until I shook them off in the last few years. Ah, the tyranny of self-fulfilling prophecies!

As I mentioned in my post from earlier today (it's almost tomorrow, now), I was going to buy a book of Shakespeare's sonnets. Number 29 seems particularly apt for someone at the margins:
"When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate. . ."

Its ending, too, provides a positive light to balance the melancholy:
"Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings."

But rather than think of a single "thou," I see my friends as my most powerful resources and allies.


For as much as I've had my head in the clouds (or in less exalted climes) of late, I have been thinking hard about how I am grateful for what I do have: my adoring husband, my two lively sons, my health, my intellect, and most of all, beloved friends.

It is all too simple to forget the wonderful things when I think about what I don't have, and I, only child that I am, can be incredibly selfish. I am so lucky to have friends who love me and support me despite my self-centeredness, and I salute you all and send you my most steadfast love and admiration. I am forever and adoringly yours. And I want to say that I am most touched that you share what you do with me, and hope that I am more than a little supportive in return.

Now off to get my eyebrows waxed and to buy a copy of Shakespeare's sonnets (having just heard a recording of Matthew Macfadyen reading Sonnet 29). I shall lose myself in literature today, rather than DVDs.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


I am a pop culture junkie. There's no way of getting around it, and I am not ashamed to say that I read People, US Weekly, etc., in the line at the grocery store. The only reason I don't subscribe is that if I did get those magazines at home, I'd never read anything remotely good for my brain cells.

Having said that, I am not one of those people who just "runs into" celebrities everywhere, like some friends of mine, or who make it their mission to meet or talk to their favorite celebrities. My two celebrity sightings (until tonight) were having had Sean Connery tell me that I forgot to take my cheeseburger when I was studiously trying to seem indifferent to his presence and walked away from a restaurant's counter without my order, and having seen Leo DiCaprio in a London bookstore.

In tonight's chapter, I was eating at a local fast-food Chinese restaurant with my hooligan children, my parents, and my two friends visiting from Belgium. I was trying to prevent my kids from wreaking havoc, and largely not succeeding. Then one of my friends pointed out a woman in line with a man and two children. He was convinced that she was a famous actress, possibly from a soap opera. I tried not to stare too intently (she was about two feet away from us), and couldn't figure it out at first. She was dressed in thrashed old clothes, was wearing no makeup, and had long, grayish blond hair. I couldn't see her husband's face, but he was dressed in old jeans, a denim jacket, and a trashy polyester trucker-type hat that said "CIA" on it. Then I realized that the woman reminded me a lot of Robin Wright Penn. But there was no way that she'd be in the fast-food restaurant, and no way was that guy Sean Penn. Except they were! I quelched (barely) my desire to tell him how I admire him, and to tell her the same, while Callum dumped an almost full glass of water on my mom's lap. It was a disaster, but at least Sean Penn smiled at me as I attempted to deal with the mess.

So when is Matthew Macfadyen's family going to go to my local Ben and Jerry's?

Not all there

My beloved husband is in India on business, my parents are visiting (thank goodness for their help), the kids are crazy, and I am existing moment to moment. I am certainly to blame in large part for my exhaustion as I stay up extremely late watching DVDs (I am currently mesmerized by the BBC program "MI-5" and instead of watching one episode, end up watching 2 or 3 at a time). I should be studying Microbiology, but I am powerless against the siren call of the screen.

The last few days have been particularly rough on my eldest son, who has a cold and a particularly nasty stomach bug. Sparing the disgusting details, I can say that there has been much cleaning up to do, and much trauma associated with his bed. I was worried that he would refuse to sleep there ever again, but he's tucked in and out for the count, at least for now.

I have also been enjoying the stellar company of one of my oldest friends, who is visiting from Brussels with his partner. I realized today that I have known my friend for 29 years, which is almost unbelievable. We went out tonight for dinner, along with my parents (who have of course also known my friend forever), and it was fun to remember silly things we did at the ages of 8, 9, 10, and 11. I completely adore my friend's partner, who has been a softening influence on him, without doubt. It's wonderfully fun to be silly and to tease my friend (who can be a delightful stick-in-the-mud, but a stick-in-the-mud, nonetheless). We have decided that the next time I need to visit my in-laws in Germany, I will help my beloved get the kids to Oma's house, and then take the next train to Belgium.

What else has my addled brain been up to? I am reading an article in the New Yorker on Charles Darwin, written by Adam Gopnik. I completely abhor Gopnik's tone and mode of thinking, and have been very unimpressed over the years by his supposed skill in art history (I am most disdainful of his biases against certain artists, failure to look closely at works of art). I am also underwhelmed by his ardent Francophilia, shared as it is by too many wannabe French art historians. Before beginning his articles, I bet myself about the number of paragraphs it will be before he manages to share a pearl of wisdom about France or French culture, no matter what the subject. So it is with great surprise and not a little grudging respect, that I have to admit that I am thinking often and positively about what I've learned about Darwin. I particularly enjoyed the comparison of Darwin and Trollope and Eliot; it makes complete sense, and I am intrigued.

I have also been driven to buy Trollope's "The Way We Live Now" following my marathon DVD session of last week, which was spurred on of course by Matthew Macfadyen's gorgeousness and sublime acting skills. Now it sits on my bedside table, where I reckon it will remain, unopened, until the end of the semester. But at least beginning the book can be an admirable goal; maybe I'll even finish it before 10 years go by. I won't hold my breath. Somehow I never have enough time to dedicate to such elevated pursuits as reading things longer than 10 pages.

Before I go to bed, I am thinking about my beloved, and hoping that he's doing all right as he deals with horrible jet lag and culture shock. I miss him and wish I could be there with him in Pune. I wonder if he'll run into Brad and Angelina? Not that he'd even recognize them.