dreaminghope: (Zoey)
If you glance in someone's window as you walk by and find someone looking back at you...

If you look up and happen to meet someone's eyes across the gym...

If you are gazing out the bus window and make eye contact with someone in the car in the next lane...

Do you ask yourself: "Were they staring at me?" or "Do they think I was staring at them?"
dreaminghope: (Giggle)
I have a problem with admitting when I don't know something, and I seem to encounter a lot of people who just assume I know the things that they know – I tend to just go along and hope I figure it all out. And I usually do.

I do it at work a lot. I have a lot of regulars, and all my customers know me because I'm the one who answers the phones and answers their emails and calls them back when they need to make last minute changes and I don't have to let them, but I do. When people call me at work, I act like I know who they are until I figure out who they are. When Dave Allen calls, I'm typing in "Allen" in the search box for my customer database as he says hello, and when it doesn't come up with any results, I wonder if it's under "David" or maybe "AllAn" instead of "AllEn", and that's when I realize that he isn't asking about apples or soy milk but is talking about RRSPs, which makes this Dave Allen, my banker, and not a customer at all, and it takes me another 30 seconds or so to shake my head into personal finance mode because I was so ready to talk about fennel recipes and this week's great deal on almond butter.

As far as I can remember, my mother-in-law has never told me what her health issues actually are, but she makes passing references to them. I know she can't eat seeds and that her feet are often cold because her circulation is poor and she's got swollen hands and she's often achy, but I don't know which symptoms are of a disease and which are the results of all the meds she has to take. There's been talk of colitis and lupus and arthritis – tests and theories – but she's never sat down and told me what's officially going on. She probably thinks Russ has told me, but he sometimes seems a little confused too.

My Mom's more of a straight shooter. When she was diagnosed with cancer, there was a full discussion of what that meant. Now, mind you, she didn't tell us about the cancer scare, but only once it was cancer, and I really think we all would have preferred to have been a little scared with her during the cancer scare instead of being thrown straight into the full terror of cancer – especially my poor sister, who found out first through a call from my mother's doctor – but that's my mother. She got her diagnosis and she laid out the plan: surgery – lumpectomy if possible; mastectomy if necessary – and if there's lymph node involvement, then chemotherapy and radiation and this dreadful drug that threw her into menopause and she got these hot flashes that was like an out of control sauna from the inside. And it was all laid out like a check list: cut, poison, burn, drug – check, check, check, check. It works with my Dad's way of being – the engineer in him isn't good with grays and hinting and suggestion. He likes lines and black and white; he ignores vagueness.

My mother-in-law's all vagueness, and it gets to a certain point where it feels really weird – really embarrassing – to straight out ask "What's wrong?" What's really wrong with your hands? What is your diagnosis? This is the disadvantage of faking it; if you don't figure it out, it's really hard to back-track, and say, maybe fifteen minutes into a phone conversation, "I'm sorry, who is this, please?"
dreaminghope: (Starry Starry Night)
I participated in Earth Hour last night. Russ was working at a trade show (selling corsets), so I was on my own. At 8:30, I shut down my computer, turn off the TV, and turn out all my lights. It seems very dark for a moment, and then my eyes adjust and find the light: street lights out front, porch lights from across the alley out back, the neighbour’s bathroom light straight through my bedroom window...

I go for a walk. I pass one house that seems to be participating; candles flicker in their windows and laughter pours out into the night. Other houses are dark, but it feels like no one is home. Most houses are lit as normal for a Saturday night. I thought that in my neighbourhood of young artists, more people would be participating.

I walk to Strathcona Park, one of the darkest places in my area because it's a large city block park with a soccer field and a baseball diamond and no street lamps in the centre. Well, it seems very dark unless you are hoping for – searching for – dark quiet.

I start to walk the perimeter, but no matter which way I go, I'm heading toward lights. On one side, Prior Street is roaring with cars. At the far end of the park, the industrial park is glaringly lit and rattling away.

As I walk to the centre of the park, I pass a bench and someone is sitting there. I don't see them until they move; it's dark enough for that. I can't see if it's a man or a woman, only that they are just sitting there; perhaps a fellow seeker of dark quiet. I nod and walk on.

I love the city. I sleep to the sound of traffic. I love that I can walk to almost anything I want or need. But I do wish that it could've been different for an hour.

I get to the ring of boulders in the middle of the park and sit on one of the rocks. Every time a car pulls up the side street to turn on to Prior, their headlights sweep right through the park and seem to be spotlighting me from a block away.

The clouds are thin and reflect back the light pollution. I can pick out four stars that are just determined enough to be visible, and the crescent moon is watching us bustle in our bright night.

I see one other candle-lit house on my walk home.

Then the hour is over.

Pompeii

Apr. 28th, 2008 09:41 pm
dreaminghope: (Corset)
There was a moment when I could almost see the original inhabitants of Pompeii: fetching water from the fountain, crossing the street by the stepping stones to keep their feet dry, and clearing the street when a chariot would fly by, the wheels grinding deeper ridges into the street.

Colourful clothing rustles as people go about their days. People in the bar debate politics and the qualities of the politicians whose ads are painted on the walls. Servants rush past, preparing for elaborate all-day and all-night dinner parties that required occasional vomiting in order to eat every course, as required by the manners of the time. Everyone gossips about the gladiators, the rock stars of the day.

Like it wasn't almost two millennia ago.

Blink, and it's gone.

I could have spent days in Pompeii, just looking at the ancient buildings and the frescoes that are still brilliant after nearly two millennium. In the doorway of one house, there's a mosaic of a dog on the floor.

They saw it coming. They saw the end coming, and they hid from it in their houses, barring their doors and shuttering their windows. They didn't realize that the gas would seep in through the key hole and the space between the shutters. Our guide described it as "death by ignorance"; there was time to get away, but they didn't know how to save themselves.

That sounds very scary right now.

Where I am

Apr. 2nd, 2008 12:02 pm
dreaminghope: (Dancing Cat)
Where I learn that cookies won't keep you together

Two people who were customers of mine as a couple split up recently. He moved out, and she kept their old apartment and account. He opened a new account from his new apartment across town. They order the same ginger spice cookies in their deliveries every week.

Where I feel bad for the dog

The dog next door has a thick, tightly-wound tail that coils on his back. When he is happy or excited, his tail twitches like a snake dreaming of swallowing a fat mouse.

Where I am pedantic and get a new enemy

Someone called me "caustic" yesterday and told me that I must be a very unhappy person... or maybe it was a very angry person. To be fair, I was rather condescendingly correcting her grammar and spelling in an email at the time. I maintain that I was provoked: she works for a book publisher and she sent me an unsolicited sales pitch wherein she spelled the title of the book wrong, spelled "distributor" wrong, and neglected to use full stops on half her sentences (amongst other problems). In the final email of our correspondence, she told me that "grammer [sic] doesn't matter in emails", which is when I gave up - anyone who believes that good writing doesn't matter when selling a book cannot be saved.

Where I want the unwanted

This week, I keep encountering random cases of black jellybeans being used as a metaphor for something or someone unwanted and left behind. To that I say: Send me your black jellybeans. I always leave them for last because they are my favourites. I always like the underdog.

Where timing oneself by others gets confusing

I know that I am going to be on time for work when I pass Marionette Man at the corner of Hastings and Clark. We pass each other somewhere along Clark every morning. It is a non-encounter; we don't even nod to each other. All too often, I pass him many blocks farther up, as he turns off Clark towards his workplace and I start walking faster towards Hastings because I must be running late.

Today, I got to Hastings and Clark and Marionette Man was nowhere to be seen. He is distinctive: more than six feet tall, lanky and long-limbed, and his is arms only swing forward of his hips and his knees seem to bend too much. This peculiar rise and fall to his step makes him appear to be controlled by invisible strings and a not-entirely-talented puppeteer.

I finally saw him a couple more blocks along, turning on to Hastings from McLean. I wasn't early for work, so he must have been the late one today. I wonder if he knew that by when he saw me. I wonder if he'll notice when I'm not around for the next two weeks.

Where I realize that even if I write this in an email while in my office, it does not count as work, and I have far more tasks to complete than I have time to do them in as it is...
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
Some purchases feel like they should be marked by confetti and trumpet flourishes. Momentous occasions, marking major life changes, happening in front of blissfully unaware store clerks.

Do you remember the first time you bought "feminine hygiene" products?

My Mom kept my sister and I's bathroom stocked through high school, so I was in first year university the first time I needed to buy my own pads. As a budding feminist and environmentalist, I was offended and annoyed that the clerk bagged my pads into a brown paper bag before adding them to the re-usable bag that held all my other purchases. Not offended enough to say anything, of course, but annoyed enough to complain about it later in my Women's Studies class.

Do you remember the first time you bought condoms?

Russ offered to go to the pharmacy, but I insisted that I would buy them. A rite of passage, perhaps, or a test of my ability to do this "adult" thing. It was such a big deal to me - I felt shaky and jumpy - but to the clerk, I was just another student in an on-campus pharmacy full of students getting ready for the weekend. I lost my virginity a couple of days later.

Do you remember the first time you bought a pregnancy test?

I doubt there's ever been anyone who has bought a pregnancy test for themselves or their partner in a neutral emotional state. Considering my emotional turmoil, I was a little surprised that a pregnancy test was just scanned through along with my bread and cheese. Given my state of mind, I expected the transaction to be remarkable, maybe even traumatic.

Standing in this virtual room with a hundred-odd friends, acquaintances, and almost strangers, I have this to say: I am not pregnant.

More than two weeks of nausea, bloating, breakouts, smell sensitivity, breast tenderness, mood swings... despite being a consistent Pill user, I really thought I was in trouble. Even after my period started, I took a pregnancy test this morning, just in case.

One beautiful line. Relief.

I am not pregnant.

"Congratulations" isn't quite right, is it? After all, non-pregnancy isn't really an achievement. Never mind; I will celebrate my non-pregnant status tonight by spending the evening as I spend many Wednesday evenings - crafting - but accompanied by a large glass of wine.

It's been a stressful couple of weeks. Maybe two large glasses of wine.
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
Equality

Privilege Meme )

I think there are problems with this list of privileges; I think I had the most privileged childhood possible, but I cannot answer "yes" to every question. That leads me to believe that either my childhood was not as privileged as I thought, or the list doesn't measure privilege in the way I would. Since the former is impossible, it must be the latter.

I came home from school to the smell of fresh baked cookies and homemade bread. I came home from school to a Mom who chose to be a stay-at-home-mother, and who had the financial support from my Dad to make that comfortable.

We ate dinner around the table every night as a family. At the kitchen table, I learned that whales are mammals and that two cookies for dessert is the right amount.

I had a small allowance to teach me how to save for what I wanted. It took me three weeks to save up for each Fabulous Five and Baby-sitters Club book I wanted.

We camped every summer. We crossed Canada in our motorhome to visit Expo 86 one year and to tour the Maritimes another. My Mom read my sister and I Heidi as Dad drove. Over the course of my childhood, we went to England, Mexico, and Florida. I went on class trips to Quebec and to France.

TV was very limited in our house. There were no Saturday morning cartoons – I thought they only played in hotel rooms. I don't think we had cable until I was about ten years old. I've never had a TV in my bedroom. My sister and I learned to play together. I drew, and read, and learned to knit.

The many benefits I reaped originated mostly in financial and class privilege. Although my parents were not wealthy when I was very young, we were middle-class, and my parents made careful choices about what to do with their resources. They chose a trip to England over a TV in my bedroom. They put me in French immersion in public school and put money aside for my post-secondary education instead of putting me into a private school.

Sometimes when confronted with the vast inequalities that exist even within my comparatively wealthy country, I understand why people want to believe that hard work automatically means success, and that the lack of success clearly means a lack of will and hard work – it's hard to admit that what you have may have come from luck of birth.

I did earn scholarships during university, but maybe only because I didn't have to work a part-time job at all during high school and not much during university. And my parents taught me to love to learn by taking me to the library, by reading to me, by learning themselves.

I have worked hard to save money for home improvements and an upcoming trip to Italy, but my parents gave Russ and I a huge head start by giving us money for our down payment. And my parents taught me how to manage money.

Financial well-being itself is privilege, but more importantly, it can buy other privileges: time and attention, education, travel. And I think that's where the "Privilege Meme" fails: someone whose parents were very wealthy would score very high on the test even if their parents were only wealthy because they worked all the time and couldn't spend any time with their kids. I knew those kids: they had everything a kid would think to want from the best toys to the most desirable clothes, but they never ate dinner with their parents. I was more privileged than that.
dreaminghope: (Starry Starry Night)
One day there will be a religion whose principle tenet is that the whole universe only exists while God is watching it. As an extension of this premise, it will come to be understood that bad things happen because God can be distracted.

Theories will abound as to what might distract God, including anger, love, prayer, large groups of emotional people, invocation of His name, power, and fame. The faithful will attempt to do as little as possible to draw God's attention to themselves, for to do otherwise would risk His focus being turned away from the balance of the universe and the very existence of reality.

True proponents of the faith will live quiet, unassuming lives. Sleep is seen as the ultimate act of devotion.

This religion won't go far. The ideal to do as little as possible extends to spreading the word.

And if God can be diverted by mere humans from His sacred task, He won't even notice the handful fewer distractions amongst the teeming billions.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
The Giving of Thanks

Dear Aunt Judy and Uncle Pete,

Thank you very much for the lovely bear Christmas ornament. It is very beautiful and will look really good on the tree next year.

We had a very nice Christmas. Uncle Tim came and stayed with us on Christmas Eve. We're going to have a skating and sledding party in the back yard for New Year's Eve.

Thank you again for bear. I hope you had a merry Christmas!

Love,
Melissa


My mother believes in thank you notes. When we were kids, Mom would keep a careful list of who sent us what as we opened each gift. Within a week, Mom would force us to sit down at the kitchen table with her list and write the notes by hand on pieces of her stationary. Mom would tuck the notes into cards and address the envelopes; my childish handwriting would have easily filled the front of the envelopes and left no room for a stamp.

Since my mother comes from a large family (six sisters and two brothers) and only one was local to us, there were a lot of notes to write. For Christmas every year until high school graduation, every aunt on my mother's side would mail a tree ornament – often handmade – to each of the cousins. I have enough beautiful ornaments to completely cover a tree with hardly room for lights, and each one represents a thank you note written in careful black pen.

Dear Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Ian,

Thank you very much for the adorable snow angel ornament. It is very cute and will look really good on the tree next year.


"I'm so sorry I'm late making my changes," the customer on the phone says.

"That's OK; I think I can get them done for you."

"That's great!" and then she rattles off three changes and five additions she would like. I carefully note them all down and read them back to her.

"Anything else I can do for you?" I ask.

"Nope. I think that covers it."

"Thank you very much!" I conclude.

I say "thank you" automatically, and as often for when I do something for someone else as when they do something for me. Too much time in customer service.

I also apologize to inanimate objects when I bump into them, but that's normal: I'm Canadian.

I try to remember to mean it when I say it, but words are so easy. Typed thank you notes can be cheats too: copy and paste makes it simple. It is too easy.

Dear Aunt Brenda and Uncle Urs,

Thank you very much for the "Drummers Drumming" ornament. It is very beautiful and really completes the 12 Days of Christmas collection perfectly.


Some of my aunts still remember my annual thank you notes, though I haven't had to write one since my graduation ten years ago. There's something meaningful about ink on paper, written and addressed by hand, and mailed with a real stamp.

Embodied gratitude: saying "thanks" less and giving thanks more.
dreaminghope: (Cave Gargoyle)
Not too hot; not too cold. A pretty perfect Vancouver day, really. But it's a Monday; seeing the sun through an office window or warehouse door does put a damper on its beauty. The mood seems drab even if the weather isn't.

"Do you have any fruit?" comes a call from the gate across the front of our warehouse. It's a pretty routine request. The neighbourhood women know that if they come by in the morning, while the warehouse manager still has all the produce out, they'll get an apple or banana.

There are a number of different women who come by; they are all addict-thin and tottering on heels. They all walk the same way: like a poorly-controlled marionette, with arms and legs that move as if they aren't quite connected to the body.

The woman at the gate holds on by one hand and swings, loose-limbed. She is so thin that she looks pre-pubescent; her hip bones are visible above her skirt's low waist and her ribs are visible below her midriff shirt. Her face ages her.

The warehouse manager, The Brit, grabs an apple and heads to the gate.

"How are you doing?" he asks her.

"Can't complain," she says cheerily, "Thanks!"

He watches her trot away, munching her apple, back to her corner.

"'Can't complain'," he shakes his head.
dreaminghope: (Hot Zoey)
I've started receiving junk mail addressed to Issa Hope. It's either an amusing typo that has made itself onto the source list for the junk mailers, or my sister has started signing me up for things. Though she would never dare do so without the correct punctuation; it should be 'Issa. Note the very important apostrophe.

Microsoft Word offers generous, ignoramus, and gunrooms* as spelling alternatives to ginormous. Firefox offers enormous, which I take as proof that Mozilla is smarter than Microsoft.

Word and Firefox haven't been updated to reflect the new Merriam-Webster-created reality. My Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1998 edition) already contained ginormous, defined as "adj. slang enormous. [from GIANT, ENORMOUS]".

Enormous does its job just fine for me. I also like massive for its sense of weight as well as size. I don't need ginormous.

I do need a word for the feeling of being nostalgic for something that never was.

*Firefox's dictionary does not recognize the last; it offers gun rooms.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
As I'm walking down the sidewalk, two kids are running towards me. Their father, or maybe grandfather, is half a block behind them, ambling, smiling at the kids and at the world.

The older of the two kids is a girl, maybe seven years old. She runs facing forward. She's focused, but not in the way that adult runners are focused. Adult runners are concentrating and pushing themselves; they are working. The little girl is flying. Any destination is arbitrary; the goal is only to feel the wind and to run because she can run and she wants to run.

The little boy who runs beside her is about five years old. He runs fast enough to keep up with his sister's longer stride, and he watches her as often as he looks ahead. He runs to be beside his sister; he runs to not be left behind.

I'm on my way to the Chinatown post office, some Swap-Bot postcards in hand needing US stamps. I'm forcing myself to walk at an unnaturally slow pace; it's my day off, and I'm trying to at least imitate relaxation. I've promised myself some ice cream on the walk home from the post office.

When I was little, we used to camp at Esker Lakes Provincial Park almost all summer, every summer. We'd set up our motor home once at the beginning of the summer, then Dad would drive up to camp with us on the weekend and then back home to work during the week. Mom, my sister, and I would stay at the camp ground, and walk to the beach, or the picnic site, or the hiking trails, or the cabin where they show movies at night. And once in a while, we'd walk to the park store.

The park store was magical. There was ice cream and candy, used books (mostly romances that park patrons would trade in when they were done with them), bug spray and necessities, and, one year, the owner made big stuffed animals that all the regular summer kids ended up buying at $10 each. My sister got a pig wearing a vest and I got a seal that I named Suzi. Suzi the seal lives in my craft room now, with Ogie the bear and Fred the dog.

The park store was a long walk from our regular campsites. Well, it seemed like a long walk to our little legs, anyway. And there was a long winding hill leading up to the store, getting you all hot and ready for your ice cream treat when you arrived. Sometimes I would get bubblegum ice cream. I liked that it was bright blue. Sometimes I would get an individual pack of Twizzlers, because I liked to bite a little off each end, then suck Twizzler-flavoured air through my Twizzler straw. Also, a package of Twizzlers lasted a lot longer than a chocolate bar or even a box of Smarties (the chocolate Canadian Smarties, not the American candy). I don't remember when I last had Twizzlers.

After Mom would do whatever errand she needed to accomplish at the park store and my sister and I would get our treats, we would head back to our camp site. If we'd finished our ice cream, or if we'd chosen something that would last, my sister and I would run down the long winding hill while Mom followed. I ran facing forward; running for the bottom of the hill, and running because I could and because I wanted to.

I haven't been looking ahead this weekend. I’ve been watching Russ instead. Friday night, we went to see The Average White Band - my anniversary present to him. I've never heard them before, except for the covers Russ plays with Leisure Lab. It was an excellent show; I loved watching Russ get so entranced by the music and so inspired by the sax player's solos.

Today, it was Russ' godfather's memorial. His great-uncle Geoff was 91 years old when he passed away suddenly a couple of weeks ago, and today was the service. I had the honour of meeting Geoff several times, and he was a warm and happy man. Still, I was there for Russ, and I watched him just as much as I watched the pastor.

I walk back from the post office. I stop at the corner store and look at the ice cream freezer. There's no bubblegum ice cream, but there's some higher quality ice cream bars. I choose one of those, and walk slowly – as slowly as I can bear – homeward, thinking of the memorial service, of the band, and of kids running. Even though I walk alone, I don't look straight ahead.

Speaking

May. 31st, 2007 11:38 pm
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
You know when you are hanging out with friends, goofing around, making bad jokes, and someone makes a joke that's a little too crude? They just cross that line from what's OK to what's not. Usually you don't know where the line is until someone has crossed it. Some of my friends like to pole vault over the line.

Today, I pulled out my handy copy of On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. Well, I fondled my copy of The Subjection of Women first, but then I pulled down On Liberty:

If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. ... But the particular evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation – those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error.*

After reading lots of random parts of Strikethrough2007, I saw the same thing over and over, especially from the fandom people seeking to have their beloved slash communities restored: "Yes, by all means, get rid of them – those monsters and pedophiles – but leave us innocents alone!"

Freedom of speech means that people can say horrible, weird, and outrageous things. People can say that the world is being run by reptile-alien creatures. People can create art dedicated to fictional incest (the link is not work safe). And they can say that well documented historical events never happened. And, if we want, we can all shake our heads: "Too far, man; too far. You've crossed the line."

And, maybe, once in a while, one of those outrageous things doesn't sound so insane after all. And we won't know unless we let people say anything they want, over and over, so our society can say "no way" or "maybe" or "yes!"

This isn't a tidy or easy process; it's messy and sometimes ugly. We have to hear and condemn hate speech. We have to hear and condemn people who say that it is OK to hurt innocents. The only time we should forbid speech is if we can prove that the words themselves are harmful or show clear intent to harm, such as with instructions on how to harm people and with threats.

Free speech only works if no one is silenced – not even the monsters.

*Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. Penguin Books Ltd., 1974. Page 76.

Every day

May. 18th, 2007 10:18 am
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
Though I have been unable to convince the cats, who were on free-feed until Puck got too fat, that they should come running at meal time and each eat from their own bowls, I still have two bowls out. Twice a day, I jerk open the door – which sticks – to the area where the huge food bag is kept and I carefully add half a scoop of food to the "Zoey" bowl and a full scoop of food to the "Puck" bowl. I always put out the food in that order.

Zoey sits nearby and watches me. She sees the first food bowl get set down, but doesn't go to it. She waits until I put down the second, fuller, bowl before she trots up to eat from it. Always.

She eats a couple of mouthfuls, then walks away, back to whatever nap she was taking or bug she was chasing before food happened.

There is no point or benefit to our mutual routine. I wonder what would happen if I were to fill the bigger bowl first, but I don't do it. I like to have something that happens the same way every time.
dreaminghope: (Labyrinth)
Vancouver's rains are days of misty, drippy weather or days of downpours that never seem to end. Our rain is a drawn-out gray.

Today we had a rare spring cleansing: a sudden shower against a blue sky background. I watched the rain from the bus. When we stopped at a red light, I watched the sunlit rain drops bounce off a line of newspaper stands: "Massacre on campus".

By the time I had reached my destination, the rain had stopped. The air smelled of damp spring green and everything sparkled a little. It was a beautiful evening. I wish rain could fix everything.
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
It is one of those gray and rainy Vancouver days that makes you wonder why you chose to live in a rain forest. At the coffee ship, two women of a similar age were sitting at opposite sides of a long table meant for three or four people. One woman nursed a tiny child; the other gazed vacantly at nothing in particular.

The mother sounded like she was continuing a conversation out of habit, not desire: "No grapes or peanuts; nothing that may have mold on it. One cup of coffee a day is OK, but no wine or beer; nothing fermented. I can have all the rice I want – lots of brown rice and vegetables – but no cheese; absolutely no cheese."

She paused. Her companion nodded almost imperceptibly. The silence stretched on for a long moment.

"Soy is good. I can have lots of soy milk. But no soy sauce; nothing fermented, you know?" the mother continued.

Not even a nod this time, but she didn't seem to expect one. Her companion looked out at the rain. The mother looked at her baby.

I wonder at the story of these two women and how they came to be having this non-conversation on a Monday afternoon. Perhaps they are friends just having an off-day, or maybe they are sort of new friends who don't know each other well. Maybe they had a fight, or they are old friends trying to reconnect even though they don't seem to have anything in common anymore. Maybe they have known each other so long that they are just bored with each other.

I feel very blessed that I have many friends who would at least pretend to care if I was to start listing the foods I can and cannot eat.
dreaminghope: (Cute but Deranged)
There's a story about me from my university years that has been told over and over in the years since I graduated: the story of a million muffins.

When I was in university, I was a typical student with a typical schedule: too much reading, too much writing, too much studying, too much coffee, too much stress. I did have a somewhat unique coping method when it all became too much: I baked muffins; a lot of muffins.

Depending on who is telling the story, I baked six dozen, ten dozen, or fifteen dozen muffins at a time. I may have made six, twelve, or twenty different kinds: cornmeal, cranberry and chocolate, mushroom soup, lemonade, and more. My freezer is always stuffed full, but only some tellings include the detail that each muffin was individually wrapped and labeled before freezing. Some remember that I looked a little manic as I baked; some remember how I pushed muffins on everyone who walked through my door. Some watched me bake. Some saw the overflowing freezer. Some ate the muffins. Some just heard the stories later and retold them.

The story of a million muffins has been an amusing anecdote, a way to summarize my personality, and a teaching tool. As the latter, it was used as an example of one way someone coped with stress; it may also be serving as a cautionary tale of what happens if you don't create more normal coping mechanisms for yourself.

I don't remember how many muffins I made at any one go, or how many different kinds. I don't know how often I went into muffin-making binges. All the story-versions are mixed together in my head, creating a new memory. The story isn't just mine anymore.
dreaminghope: (Waterbaby)
Disclaimer: I've been away from LJ for about a week and I haven't had a chance to look at my Friends' List yet. Any resemblance to people living or dead, or situations current or past, is purely coincidence. It's all about me, after all.

Context: I'm coming back to LJ after a week away, so I checked out [livejournal.com profile] readers_list* first, because I'm a slut for good writing. I read the new posts, then got to this one and remembered something I've been meaning to write since I first read it in February. This desire was further compounded by an article in Saturday's "Globe and Mail" about Generation Me.

Princess time: I've been away from LJ doing self-indulgent things like getting Russ to make me extra fancy breakfasts, receiving gifts from people, going out for huge rich meals (with dessert), and spending birthday money from Grandma. For a week, I was the birthday princess. Now I'm ready to go back to Real Life...

Real Life is where I am not a princess. I'm important to some people, but I'm not objectively important. Anything I do well, someone else does even better. Anything I am suffering through, someone else has suffered through worse. Any list of adjectives and labels I can use to describe myself could probably also be used to describe someone else in this world. It isn't that I am not a unique and special person, but that everyone else is too. "If everyone's special, no one is."**

I have more than a little self-obsession. Of course my problems seem more important than anyone else's – they are mine. In that, I am perfectly average.

Sometimes when I'm writing a rant for LJ about a stupid or mean or ignorant customer, co-worker, family member, friend, acquaintance, or stranger on the street, I wonder what they would write in their journal about me or about the situation. Sometimes that means that I don't post the rant.

I do feel better when I listen to someone else's problems and can make them feel better, even in just a little way. But sometimes when someone wants to talk about their problems, I want to back away so I can keep thinking just about myself. This is probably perfectly average too.

I have a motto – a kick in my own ass when I get too self-involved – that I try to follow:

Stop whining that no one understands you and try understanding someone else instead.


In the "Globe and Mail" article, the writer uses blogging as an example of self-involvement, and that certainly can be true if each person dwells only on their own life and point of view. But blogging can also be a way of seeing that so many of us are facing the same kinds of problems, and that we are all celebrating and hurting in turn. My pain isn't bigger than yours, nor even that much different. We are both people who are sometimes in pain. And my successes aren't greater than yours, and you want me to cheer you on when you win just like I want to be celebrated when I win.

In the [livejournal.com profile] readers_list post, [livejournal.com profile] cadhla wrote: Because you're amazing. And you deserve to know it. In my opinion, life does have inherent value, and so does every person on this earth. Everyone is a little different from everyone else alive, present, past, and future.*** But being born and having unique DNA and fingerprints isn't an accomplishment.

I am only as special as I make someone else feel.

I am only amazing when I make the world better in some way.

And so is everyone else.

*If you don't read [livejournal.com profile] readers_list, go add it to your Friends' List. Go ahead now; this post will still be here when you get back.

**Wisdom from The Incredibles. If you haven't seen the movie, go see it. Don't worry, this post will still be here when you get back.

***Barring cloning, of course.
dreaminghope: (Confused Zoey)
I have been a vegetarian for about a decade now. Since eating and socializing so often go together, at some point I mention my vegetarianism to most people I see more then once. Unlike my cousin, who is notorious within my extended family for having burst into tears over the Thanksgiving turkey during her brief time as a vegetarian, I try not to make a big deal out of my eating habits. A typical conversation would be:

"You have to try my beef stew! I always bring it to potlucks because everyone loves it."

"Oh, thank you – I'm sure it's great – but I'm a vegetarian."

The normal responses are "Well, more for the rest of us!" or "I also brought this veggie dip... no meat in there."

However, about a quarter of the people have a different reaction:

"I don't really eat much meat. Mostly just chicken and fish. Just a little red meat. I eat a lot of vegetarian meals at home, really."

I know some vegetarians are preachy, so I always assumed that the defensive reactions were trying to head me off lest I begin to lecture on animal rights or health concerns. Fair enough, really.

The other day, something reminded me of a funny commercial I'd seen on TV the night before, so I asked the person I was with if they'd seen the commercial.

"I don't have a TV, so I haven't seen it," she shrugged.

I wanted to say "I don't watch a lot of TV" (a blatant lie), or "I only watch TV while I'm crafting" (closer to true, but she wouldn't care), or "I didn't have a TV during university" (so what?), or "I watch a lot of TV because it makes me think less, and worry less, and then I don't get as worked up and anxious" (too much information).

I don't feel like watching a lot of TV is a healthy thing, but I do it anyway. I have it on in the background while I craft, while I surf the Internet and play on LJ, while I write, and while I nap.

I want to defend myself because part of me thinks that the girl who doesn't have TV is better then I am. She's right, but I don't want her to be. I don't want to have to change.

I said: "Well the commercial goes like this..."
dreaminghope: (Confused Zoey)
"The girl's almost twenty years old, and all she knows how to cook is ramen and mac & cheese," D. said from the front seat of the car.

"So, cheap starch with salt or cheap starch with salt and fake cheese. Delightful. I wonder what nutritional deficiencies she'll have when she moves out of her parents' house," Russ is driving.

Both men are talented in the kitchen – D.'s a professional – so, to give the girl the maximum possible amount of doubt, perhaps they are a little too quick to judge someone's lack of culinary skill. But the story continues:

"She doesn't know how to do her own laundry. I've been doing my own laundry since I was a little kid. And not just washing and drying, but ironing too."

"Well, I'm not good at laundry, but I know how to work the machine. I've only destroyed a few things."

"You've never destroyed anything; sometimes you just haven't gotten all the soap out, that's all," I chime in from the back seat.

"The worst thing is, she's just clueless about how helpless and clueless she is. She doesn't understand that she'll have to learn how to take care of herself. She actually seems proud about what she doesn't know how to do."

Is it too much to expect a nineteen year old to know how to cook a healthy meal and how to do her own laundry? What are the basic skills every person should have?

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February 2014

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