And I'm off...


This morning begins this year's Christmas marathon. First, I fly to Portland (by way of a four-hour layover in San Jose, and that's if everything goes well...). Once I get to PDX, I rent a car, drive an hour outside the city to my sister's place, and spent Christmas Eve with her and her family and my (former) stepmother. Then I get up early on Christmas morning and drive three hours to Elkton to do Christmas Day hoopla with my mom's family (grandma and mom's three sisters and their families (18 or so people all together, I think). Next, I have a Christmas night present opening with just my mom, George, and Mitch. Finally, I spend Boxing Day with my dad's extended family (21ish people at that one, if I'm counting correctly). Then, thank God, I'm done.

This parcelling out of myself at Christmas is something I rant about from time to time. It's a rough go, even if it sounds like the presents would make it worth it or some such jazz (they never have, BTW, even when I was a little kid and not expected to reciprocate). Feeling enormous pressure to see everyone and give everyone a piece of yourself doesn't leave you with much holiday cheer of your own. Or much time of your own. Just listing it out there makes me tired, and I haven't even begun yet.

That being said, I'm looking forward to the rest of the week. By Monday night I should be home free as far as family holiday obligations go, and I plan to spend the rest of the week curled up on my parents' couch, reading, and perhaps drinking a lot of Oregon wine. And hopefully hooking up with Scand (if you are reading this, please call me at my parents'--I don't have a number for you in Oregon!). Then I'm driving back up to Portland the morning of the 31st and on a plane back here that afternoon, with the intention (and the dear hope) of being back on Texas soil by 9pm New Year's Eve.

The long and short of this post is that I will likely be blog absent for a week. Try to live without me?

Merry Christmas, y'all. And if Christmas isn't your thing, Happy Hanukkah. And if not Hanukkah, then Happy Kwanzaa. And if none of those work for you, just have a good weekend.


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2005: A Year in Review


Trite as it is to use this time of year to recollect and reconstruct the past 12 months, that's exactly what has been going on in my head these past days. What kind of a year was 2005? What did I learn? What do I need to continue in 2006? What do I need to change?

There are a few things from this past year that are really a source of pride and joy for me. The first and probably the biggest is the strengthening of my relationship with Mark and the strengthening of the family we're building. Losing Chance was the worst kind of trial, obviously, but I am proud of how we've dealt with it, how we've been able to be there for each other, and how is has toughened the fiber of our relationship. The addition of first Leo and then Atticus to our family has also strengthened it, I think. We'll never be able to replace Chance, but it's not about replacement--it is about opening your heart and enjoying the time you have. I really feel like I've internalized that this year, and I am happy about that.

Another big source of accomplishment for the year is having bought the house. Scare tactics about market crashes aside, I feel we did the right thing and we picked the right property. I love our house, and I love being a homeowner, even if it is a constant source of stress. It sustains me on a mental level, feeling like we're being responsible and building equity and all that, and on an emotional level, being able to come home to something that is mine. I also think it was very wise for Mark and I to get ourselves out of the toxic living situation we were in before, and it has decreased our stress levels greatly to have done so.

A third source of pride is my return to school. It would have been really easy to bag the whole program, and it was really tempting to do so, but ultimately I know that finishing is the right thing, and I'm proud I made the decision to do so. I'm also proud that I did so well with balancing work and school this past semester. It was a little more stressful for me than I would have liked, but it turned out well. The classes I took challenged me, which is good, and I actually learned quite a bit, which is an unexpected benefit at this point.

Finally, I'm proud of having taken charge of my health this year in some pretty important ways. The biggest thing is finally having accepted that my allergies are more than an annoyance, they are a major problem, and addressing that problem with both better allergy pills and starting allergy shots. It's a huge hassle, but I have to believe it will be worth it. I've also made positive changes in my diet and exercise, though those changes have largely fallen by the wayside this past month and will need to be reinstated in 2006. And I've come to a better understanding of my mental health as well, I think, though I definitely have more work to do in that area in 2006 as well, including the possible addition of therapy to my drug regieme.

All in all, I am proud of and happy with the things I have accomplished in 2005. I think I've grown up a lot this year, and made some importance advances and changes. This is not to say that there is no more work to do--there is much more, enough that it is a whole seperate post--but I think I am justified in feeling proud of what I've been able to accomplish, and hopeful about the things that have only begun.

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Couple of things

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My thanks to the always amazing Karen for both of these things.

Thing the first: Mosey on over to the Best of Blog (BoB) Awards and nominate me nominate some of your fave blogs, or just check out the nominees that are already there and maybe find some new reading.

Thing the second, a cool meme:

7 Things Yet To Do With My Life

  1. Skydive (but I'm going in January!)
  2. Get a Ph.D.
  3. Visit a country that is not the U.S. and not connected to the U.S. by land
  4. Speak a second language
  5. Be succesfully self-employed
  6. Play a musical instrument
  7. See Klimt's and Kahlo's paintings
7 Things I Can't Do
  1. Sing
  2. Make things grow
  3. Draw
  4. Read Greek
  5. Skateboard
  6. Wiggle my nose
  7. Cry on command
7 Things I Admire About my Spouse Partner
  1. He's so, so smart
  2. He's a great cook
  3. He really loves his family
  4. He can save money like nobody's business
  5. He can play the guitar
  6. He's sure about his (lack of) faith in God
  7. He's a great driver
7 Things I Say Most Often
  1. "Damn!"
  2. "Atticus!"
  3. "I love you."
  4. "...darlin'."
  5. "You think so?"
  6. "Oh my God!"
  7. "Yeah?"
7 Books I Love

  1. The Clown of God by Tomie de Paola
  2. The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America by Ruth Rosen
  3. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  4. Our Bodies, Ourselves by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective
  5. Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs by Caroline Knapp
  6. Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey
  7. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
7 Movies I'd Watch Over and Over Again

  1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  2. Dazed and Confused
  3. The Princess Bride
  4. Edward Scissorhands
  5. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
  6. Goodfellas
  7. Barton Fink
7 Songs I Can't Get Enough Of
  1. "God Will" by Lyle Lovett
  2. "Pancho and Lefty" by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard
  3. "Irresponsible Woman" by Mary Prankster
  4. "Some Girls" by Adam Brodsky
  5. "What If No One's Watching?" by Ani DiFranco
  6. "Man in Black" by Johnny Cash
  7. "Righteously" by Lucinda Williams


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10 Wishes


I got these meme instructions over at Frog's place, and I think this is a really good one. Join me?


Step One
Post to your blog with a list of ten holiday wishes. The wishes can be anything at all, from simple and interest-related ("I'd love a Julie Andrews icon that's just for me") to medium ("I wish for new Playmobil pirates") to really big ("All I want for Christmas is a new car.") The important thing is to make sure these wishes are things you really, truly want.

Make sure you post some version of these guidelines, or link to this post so that the holiday joy will spread.

Step Two
Surf around your blogroll to see who has posted a list. And now here's the important part:

If you see a wish you can grant, and it's in your heart to do so, make someone's wish come true. Sometimes someone's trash is another's treasure, and if you have a leather jacket you don't want or a gift certificate you won't use--or even know where you could get someone's dream purebred Basset Hound for free--do it.

You needn't spend money on these wishes unless you want to. The point isn't to put people out, it's to provide everyone a chance to be someone else's holiday elf--to spread the joy.

There are no guarantees with this project, and no strings attached. Wish and it might come true. Give and you might receive. And you'll have the joy of knowing you made someone's holiday special.

My ten wishes:

  1. I've love to get something homemade. I used to get a lot more homemade presents, when everyone I know had more time and less money, and I miss it.
  2. I'd like some of my favorite Trader Joe's stuff--I miss Trader Joe's, especially the Honey Mango shave gel and the excellent dried fruit.
  3. I really, really want a Superhero necklace.
  4. I'd love for people to donate to their local animal shelters or rescue organizations if and when they are doing their end-of-the-year donating. They really, really need us.
  5. I saw some of this art today, and I'm in love with it. I would adore something from this collection.
  6. This is something I need so badly that I even want it: a calculus tutor.
  7. It would be great to find some new magazines I could look forward to every month. I get and enjoy Bitch and Bust, but there has to be more out there, right?
  8. It would be fantastic if folks made an effort to do their Christmas shopping (assuming they are last minute types) at local and independant businesses. It would be even better if this was the start of a year-long commitment to do more to support local and indie business.
  9. I desperately want some cowboy boots.
  10. I want someone to nominate me for TLC's What Not to Wear. I am all over being humiliated on national TV for the sake of $5,000 in free clothes and a haircut by Nick Arroyo. Carmandy would be a problem, though...
What are your wishes?

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Celebrity gossip round-up

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As is becoming par for the course, I can't sleep. So I'll share with you all the things I learned while in line at the supermarket today:

1. Nick and Jessica are splitting up.
2. Brad is adopting Angelina's kids.
3. Kevin and Britney might be splitting up.
4. Ben and Jen named their baby Violet.
5. Oprah has a new diet.
6. Tom and Katie are having a boy.
7. I can fit into my skinny jeans by January!

To these nuggets of information, I have the following responses:

1. This could be good for Jessica's career. If I were her dadager, I would suggest she try for full-on country cross-over with a cover of "D-I-V-O-R-C-E." And date Johnny Knoxville. Or maybe a Nascar driver.
2. The weird thing about this is the copy of a legal-looking document changing the kids' names to Maddox and Zahara Jolie-Pitt. Jolie-Pitt has to be the worst hyphenated name ever. It sounds like a national monument of some kind. "And on the left, you'll see Jolie Pitt." Seems to me Brad has moved from one woman who was too good for him to another. But at least he's not Billy Bob.
3. I hope so. Poor Britney. At least there's no place to go but up. And hey, Nick's single...
4. By a Hollywood standard, it's not a terrible name. I think it would have been funny if they'd name her Jennifer, though. Wouldn't it make things easier for Ben if all the women in his life just had the same name? I wonder if his mom would be willing to change her name too? How weird and surreal would that be?
5. How can they honestly still be printing this? Leave the poor woman and her diets alone. Jesus Christ.
6. How virile Tom must be, siring a man-child! Maybe they will name him Elron. That would rule.
7. January of what year?

Celebrity culture is so weird. For a long time, I had a free subscription to Us magazine. As I like to read drivel in the bathtub, most weeks I read it, so I was pretty much in the know about the celebrity goings on. This is, for example, why I know the names of the actresses and characters on Sex and the City, even though I've never seen it. However, that subscription has been run out for several months now, and I was realizing in the line today that I am not up to date anymore. It was this strange feeling, like I had been kept out of the loop of my friends or family or something. I felt oddly betrayed. I had no idea Kevin and Britney were even having problems! It's the same feeling I get when I watch an episode of General Hospital. I'm somehow insulted that life in Port Charles went on while I wasn't paying attention, and that things are as weird and fucked up as ever. How strange to feel that way about the lives of real people, though. Or at least mostly real people (my jury is still out on the possibility of the Jessica-bot).

I don't really know where I'm going with this, except to say that it's strange. Strange to find these things out, strange to care. With the exception of my skinny jeans, none of this applies to me. These are stories only removed by fiction by a tiny step, about people manufactured and sold as characters in their own lives, and yet they are part of our cultural fabric, staring at us from supermarket lines and TV screens. What's it for? What is it about their lives that keeps people interested? And what kind of a people are we that we are so alienated from our own lives, and from the real art around us, that we substitute real feelings and real interests for interest in and feelings about manufactured people's manufactured lives?

And what about the manufactured people themselves? Do they have real lives? When they stand in line at the supermarket and look at those magazine covers, do they see themselves?


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Attention writers and artists!


Karen, from Chookooloonks blogging and photography fame, has a new project. It's an online magazine, Indigo Leaf. The idea, as I understand it, is to give as-yet unpublished writers and artists a high-quality online venue for their work. I think it's a fanfuckingtastic idea and want to support the endeavor 100%, and I think you should too.

That being said, I am already having a panic attack about whether or not to submit anything, what to submit, etc. My writing is so fractured and scattered and all over the place these days, I don't know if I have the heart or the discipline to actually write anything publishable. Guess we'll see.

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Book recommendations needed


I am finally seeing the light at the end of the semester tunnel, and I am getting all excited about reading for pleaure again. And reading real books, not the light stuff I've been reading in between school books. So I need recommendations! Specifically, I am interested in:

1. Really good biographies. Doesn't matter who the subject is, I love a good biography.
2. Face-paced non-U.S. history books. In specific, I'd like to read something comprehensive about the Russian Revolution. French and Chinese Revolutions would be interesting as well.
3. Really spectacular fiction. I'm not much for fiction in general these days, so it has to be really excellent fiction for me to be willing to devote much time to it.


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My history of cars


Mark and I have been discussing buying a new car after Christmas, mostly to facilitate the more important goal of getting a second dog (two dogs Leo's size would never fit in our current car). This has me thinking about my car history, so I thought I'd share.

Car #1

Year/make/model: 1988 (I think) Dodge Carvan
Color: silver
Date bought/price: 1988, I think--I have no idea how much
Date sold/price: Again, no idea
Peripherals: Nada

Story: This is the car I learned to drive on, my mom's minivan. My mother has done a lot of incredible things in her life, but I think teaching me to drive has to be among her most brave. I was so, so horrible. I crashed this minivan three times, in my recollection, and they were all amazingly stupid (the first time I ran into our woodshed when all I was supposed to be doing was going out to start the car). It is a wonder I learned to drive at all. In my defense, though, the fucking thing was a beast to drive. First gear was basically non-functional.

Car #2

Year/make/model: 1984 Ford Tempo
Color: beer bottle brown
Date bought/price: Summer 1996, $1,100
Date sold/price: Fall 1998, $300
Peripherals: Betty Boop air freshener, Oregon Country Fair rose garland around the rear view mirror,"Children Should be Seen, Heard, and Believed" bumper sticker, Reed sticker

Story: My first car, bought the summer between my junior and senior years in high school, from a harried mom of four who had just inherited a minivan. It was what I could afford at the time, and was reasonably reliable for the first 18 months or so. I took it with me to my first year at Reed. I was terrified of driving in Portland, though, so I let everyone else drive it and spent most of my time in the passenger seat. I was also one of only a few people with wheels in my dorm, so it got a lot of use. And it got pretty banged up, as well. Spring Break Simon and I took it to Berkeley, which was an unmitigated disaster. It lost 95% of its ability to accelerate about halfway through the trip. We kept going anyway. Frightening. Wasn't ever trustworthy after that. I didn't bring it back my second year of college, and sold it to a neighbor of my parents' soon after.

Car #3

Year/make/model: 1987(ish) Honda Civic
Color: gray
Date bought/price: Fall 1999, $3,000 range, I think
Date sold/price: he's still driving it
Peripherals: many never wiped-up spilled things, Warhammer 40K models, probably nudie magazines

Story: This was not actually my car, but Simon's car. However, Simon bought this car right about the same time we started living together, and I spent a fair amount of time driving it, so I consider it part of my history. If memory serves, he bought it from a Reed political science professor the fall of my junior year. It was quite reliable and I never remember having any problems with it. The crazy thing, however, is that Simon is still fucking driving it, and has put an amazing number of miles on it. The car has to have 250,000+ miles on it. Guess he got his money's worth.

Car #4

Year/make/model: 1991 Dodge Dynasty
Color: maroon
Date bought/price: Received as a gift in Summer 2001
Date sold/price: Summer 2003, $600
Peripherals: fuzzy rainbow striped steering wheel cover, leaking and moldy trunk

Story: This car was a college graduation gift from my stepmother. Her mother had been driving it--I don't know if Nana bought it from her or if she just gave it to her or what. At any rate, it was a wonderful gift at the time, because I was just graduating, had no car, had no job, and was reliant for everything on the Portland bus system. The bus system reliance turned out to be fine with the jobs I ended up getting, but it was still great to have a car. This car, however, was a POS from day 1. It overheated, it was not watertight (leaky trunk, leaky windows...) and I put more money than it was worth into it. Nevertheless, it served its purpose at the time. A guy I dated very briefly between Simon and Mark, William, called this the "preacher car." I never did figure out what that meant. It had really comfortable bench seats, though. It was also the only car I've ever had/driven with any regularity that had an automatic transmission. Ick.

Car #5

Year/make/model: 1999 Mazda Protege
Color: red
Date bought/price: Spring 2003, $6,500
Date sold/price: still driving it
Peripherals: Mark doesn't allow peripherals :(

Story: The car Mark and I bought together before leaving Oregon for Texas. We bought it from a soccer-mom type woman who had taken amazing care of it and only put like 40,000 miles on it. It's a great car and we could not possibly have stumbled on to anything that would better meet our needs. We have had almost no problems with it, spent very little money beyond basic maintenance, and have put about 30,000 miles on it since we bought it. It is easy to drive, if slightly underpowered, and I absolutely love it.I plan to drive it until it is dead, dead, dead. However, it is far too small for two 100+ lb dogs, so it is probably going to have a sibling after Christmas. I'm all for this, because much as I loathe to make a car payment (yep, we're going to go new or near-new), I am psyched about Mark and I each having our own car and my not having to drive him to school before I drive to work every morning.

So what will car #6 be? We are going to have to do some more research and test driving, but the frontrunner right now is the Subaru Outback. The Outback seems to have what we need--more room, more weather capabilities--without being excessively large and without being too high off the ground or too SUV-like. They're safe, they seem to last forever, and Consumer Reports loves them. So we'll see. I know I'll feel very overly grown-up driving one, but hey, that beats a Tempo.


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The heart outside my body


Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.
-Elizabeth Stone

I've heard a lot of people say that having a child is like having your heart walk around outside your body. It's never really been something I've understood. I mean, it's a nice sentiment (although also a very frightening one), but never something I've been able to relate to on a personal level. For a long time, I tried--I thought that's what love was, finding part of yourself outside of you, in someone else. That's why I got so hung up on the Origin of Love song and story from Hedwig, I think. In my newer understanding of love, this splitting up of the self isn't necessary. I can love someone as much as I love Mark and still not see my heart walking around outside my body when I look at him. And so, I thought it must only apply to having a child, and I put the thought away.

Last night, as I was trying to sleep, it occured to me that I do understand. When Chance was dying, when I leaned over him, still mostly unconcious from the last in his string of surgeries, and told him that I loved him forever, no matter what happened, I felt as though I was speaking to my own heart, stuck outside my body, and bleeding. And when we lost him, for some time it was like losing the only thing inside me that breathed, the only thing that lived. I know that's going to sound completely melodramatic to those of you who have never felt that way about a dog, or that some may even take the corrolation between dogs and kids that I am making as a personal affront, but frankly, that's just too bad. This is how it is for me, and whether or not you can understand that is really not my problem. I have loved many people in my life, and I have never felt that any of them embodied my missing heart. But my dog did.

And my dog does. When I look at Leo now, I do see my heart walking around outside my body. It's not the missing-piece-of-me feeling I expected to have--it's something completely different. It's knowing that another beautiful, perfect creature is dependent on you (and whether you know it or not, you are dependant on him). The gentleness, and fragileness, and complete loyalty could only come from one's own heart. Another person isn't capable of that, at least not beyond early childhood. But a dog is.

Maybe a parent-child relationship is like that as well. I don't know, and it's likely I never will. But that doesn't bother me anymore. In my way, I understand. I understand loving someone like they are a part of you, maybe the best part of you. I understand the risk that comes with that, the grief. It's not a decision I made knowingly the first time--I walked into it unaware, as I imagine happens often to parents. But now I do know, and I know that the love is worth the grief, and that whatever time I have with these embodiments of my heart is priceless.


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April 2012

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