Netflix is your friend

You can queue up to see all the prequels to this film, and watch them all just in time for the October 6 release. Do it. You'll be fascinated.


On the road, again

For the second time in as many months, I am heading off tomorrow with my two kids, and without my husband, to visit my friend's new vacation home, here. A lovely place for a family vacation, though is it really a family vacation when one of the parents abstains, and it's only for four days, two of which will mostly be spent driving through the Mojave?

The H is staying home to work, without the pleasant and not so pleasant distractions the other three of us provide. He's trying to finish a script before Labor Day, and before our collective heads explode from the stress of the script being unfinished. Meanwhile, despite a long haul to get there, I get to hang out with my kids, one of my closest friends and her kids, who my kids adore....etc. etc. It's all good. I should be completely psyched. But...sometimes I wish I was the one staying home alone, not the one fighting for five hours in the car about why there are no more Goldfish, why I will not stop at McDonald's, why I will not listen to Music Together Bongos one more time...I'd like to think that if I were left home alone, I'd exercise every day, write 30 pages of...something I'm writing, organize our photo albums, paint the entry hall....etc. I wouldn't. I'd do some (small number) of those things and mope around the house and read magazines and eat ice cream, and go to movies by myself. (Ok, that last part sounds beyond awesome.)



Not really. Nice sound, but not mine.

I finished my meditation course on Thursday, completely exhilarated, maybe even a little high about the whole thing--I realized just how high I was when I crashed into grumpy moody meanness all day yesterday....then, I sat down to meditate last night, and--my mood improved. It's a little freaky to me; I am a skeptic by nature, and narcissistic enough to too often believe that whatever works for others cannot possibly have an impact on me. And yet--something is definitely happening.

This course was basically Transcendental Meditation, though as I think I wrote earlier, that term is never used. (It's trademarked by the Maharishi, of Beatles' fame.) But as I (barely) understand TM, the approach is essentially the same. Your teacher (he doesn't use the term "guru", though he understands that others may) sits with you privately, gives you a bija mantra, and then over the course of four days and about seven or eight hours, explains the technique, conducts group meditations and answers questions. Simple. It's all simple. And it is envigorating, relaxing, mystifying, all at once.

I found out about the course from a friend and former writing teacher of mine, but didn't tell her I was going to do it. I felt shy; I don't know her that well, I didn't want her to feel like I was on some creepy "Single White Female" (the movie) trip of trying to be just like her...I don't know. But then I emailed her to tell her what I had done, and received a lovely response,and I'm looking forward to discussing it with her more. Though I loved the teacher, I didn't necessarily feel much of a connection to my fellow students, so it will be nice to be able to talk about the experience with someone I like and respect so much.

And there's not much more to tell about it. It seems to be bringing me some mental calm, a feeling of being more in control as I face the normal stresses and fears of life. And that is worth a lot.


A letter to myself, in disguise

One high school summer (and, telling, I cannot remember which one) I pined for a boyfriend. I went to boarding school, which meant that every June, I left the idyll of my school world for the isolation of my parents' home. I'm an only child, and I went to junior high school in suburbia, a good forty plus miles away from my inner city home (a Chicago neighborhood just a stone's throw from the notorious Cabrini Green projects--"Cooley High", anyone?--then in the early stages of gentrification. It's now utterly affluent, but at the time it was a mix of urban pioneers like my parents and elderly Italian and Polish immigrants. ) This all made for good cheap food, but not much company for me. I didn't have that many friends in junior high to begin with, none of them lived in the city, and true to form, I didn't stay much in touch with them once our collective hell--I mean, eighth grade--ended. So summers in high school were lonely.

That summer, I desperately missed my boyfriend who was off on a bike tour of France. Now that that detail has come pinging back to my brain, I do remember who it was (I didn't have that many boyfriends biking through the Pyrenees) and when it was--the year between high school and college, the summer after my father died. Anyway, he was far away, not phone-able, and his letters (which were lovely) came every couple of weeks. I pined. Since he was on the move, it was hard to get letters to him quickly or regularly. So instead, I wrote one long letter, a journal, really. I remember the book it was in--Japanese handmade paper from a store my mother, then immersed in bookbinding, liked to frequent. This place made Papersoure look like Walgreens. Anyway, the book was beautiful, with a dark blue cover printed with orange and gold, and gorgeous ivory rice paper pages. It was a tiny work of art, and in some way, so were the words I put into it. I was madly in love, my first love, and achingly lonely (my mother was deep into her own grief, and I was so worried about her that I ignored my own) and I channeled it all into that journal. Some of it was minute description of my surroundings. I remember a spider (I have always loved spiders) trapped inside my digital clock. I used to watch him every night, for a span that felt like hours, and I wrote about him. He disappeared, finally, and I never knew if he escaped at long last or died in his plastic prison.

I used my words then to make sense of my own bitter surroundings and to profess love, even though I knew no one was listening. Sometimes that's how blogging is. Sometimes that's how email is. Further to the crush post of the other day, I have this erratic email correspondence with the object of my crush (it's calming down, now, happily) and it's serving kind of the same purpose. I have no idea if he's interested in what I have to say, but he's willing to read it and to respond, and I think that's all I want right now. I suppose the question is why I cannot trust the people who are actively in my life to fill the same function.


Yo ho, yo ho

Today's was Dido's fifth birthday, and most--ok, all--of the day was spent organizing and orchestrating his party. The actual party only lasted three hours, but between the time I spent designing and making the invitations, tracking down pirate-y party favors and decorations, baking the cake which looked like two ships (yellow cake with chocolate frosting) sailing on smooth seas (carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, tinted sea blue), prepping snacks, planning party-time projects (decorate your own pirate hat!) and games (hunt for treasure, aka the goody bags by following clues around the house and yard,) ordering pizza (so sue me--we had almost 70 people)...you get the idea. Lot o' time. Totally worth it. He had so much fun. The best part, says he, was "playing pirate with my friends." As it should be.

I love doing all this stuff, and I am good at it. But it does provoke an inordinate amount of anxiety about, oh, you know, who the hell I am after all. I'm in one of those times where I feel like my whole life could just break free from its moorings and head off in a completely new and unnavigable direction. I find myself having random (and not so random) crushes on men who are not my husband, becoming really nostalgic for my youth in a way I haven't been in years (maybe ever), missing being out in the world of the fully-employed. I know, I know how good I have it. I love my husband; he loves me; mostly, our marriage is good and strong. I adore my children to a point that is nearly painful. I have the luxury of not working full time, and in fact, just got a real pep talk from my husband about how now is the time for me to really, really pursue my writing. He thinks I'm good at it, and that any thoughts I have of going back to the grind of a 9 to 5 (ha! more like 8 to 8, plus 2-3 hours of reading nightly) day job are just covering for my fears of really trying to make a living, or at least an avocation, as a creative --creating--person.

Some of what I am reacting against is the crushing routine of childrearing. I haven't read the controversial article from a few weeks ago about the woman who confessed (to her thousands of readers) that she finds her kids boring. Maybe I'd jump on the bandwagon of those who've tsked tsked her for her callous ways. But I find mothering boring, too. Not the moments--they are delicious, or maddening, or mysterious--but the passage of time, which is relentless in its repetition. Lately, I've been trying to approach that repetition as a kind of Zen, a meditation on the necessary, in the hopes that by not fighting it, I'll feel more myself, more creative, less bogged down.

As a natural extension, maybe, of that impulse, tomorrow I start a three day course in Vedic meditation, which, as I understand it, is meditation in the Indian tradition (hence the name Vedic), using a mantra, focusing your mind instead of clearing it. I'll report in on what I learn.

In the meantime, the post I want to be writing, and the thing I'd love everyone's thoughts on, is extramarital crushes. Do you have them? Do you google them? Do you look between the linds of their emails for hidden meanings? Do you feel like an idiot while you do? I'm not talking about affairs. Affairs (not that I would know, happily) are probably best not talked about. But oh, the romance of the crush. It's one of the few things that makes me sad about my longish marriage, that I am unlikely to ever again have that sweet feeling when you're just discovering whether (or not) chemistry is two sided, and able to sustain from words into something beyond words...

Taking my romanticizing sorry self off to bed...


Sunday, Sunday

My house is quiet. Dido is at a neighbor's, playing with one of his best buddies. The Babe is taking an epic (no doubt soon to be over) nap, after a pretty sleepless night. The H is in his home office, furiously trying to finish a script so that peace is maintained in our little corner of the world. This leaves me in a weird state of limbo. I am so used to filling my time and brain with everyone else's projects, needs, whims and whines that when I have a few moments to myself, I am almost paralyzed. Clean my office? Pay the bills? Work on my writing? Today, I elected to bury myself in the two Sunday papers, and it has been lovely. I especially encourage you to read this interview with one of the founders of Bitch magazine, which I have never read, and which I am going to run right out to find. (Truthfully, the interview has more poorly-aimed snark than it does smart, but it nonetheless made me want to learn more about the lovely and tattoed Andi Zeisler.) And since, as I turned forty this year, I committed to doing a better job of finding my own inner bitch, maybe this will help. Though I'm doing pretty well on my own.


Isolationist policy

Sometimes I feel my whole life is an awkard dance between two poles, one of attraction and sociability, the other of solitude and loneliness. I don't mean this as a pity party, but I do tend to careen between the two extremes--I am either immersed in a large group or happily ensconced in one close associate's metaphorical embrace, or feeling out of touch, alone, unable to connect even if I try.

Lately, it's the latter. I've been preoccupied with stressors that will evaporate over time but which make me less likely to be outgoing. Most of the reaching out I've done has been virtual, and though I am one of the world's most erratic correspondents (just ask any of my dear, treasured high school friends, who are all, to a woman, infinitely better about staying in touch than I am) I have been astonished at just how many of my emails have gone unreturned. These aren't just idle chats to friends; some of them are professional (for lack of a better word) inquiries. It doesn't make me angry, but instead, curious. It makes me wonder if we are all just totally overwhelmed. I know when I don't return a call or an email promptly, that's usually why. (If I don't return it ever, no doubt something larger is going on--but that's another subject.) I feel swamped with too many connections, unable to do them justice, and so I shut down. Do we all feel this way? Do you? Is it an inevitable evil of our instant-access, technology-driven culture?


Late to the technology party

The darling Jefferson, handsome spouse of the lovely Mieke, clued me in to the wonders of RSS the other day, and my life is forever changed. I had an RSS aggregator on my old Salon blog homepage (the control page, not the public page) but I never bothed to use it; most of the feeds I subscribed to there weren't, as it turned out, the things I really wanted to read.

After I emailed a few of my few loyal readers to let them know of my blog's new location, he emailed me to let me know that my feed wasn't working properly. An exchange including a lot of "huh?"s (all from me) ensued. The upshot is that last night, I downloaded Sage, Firefox's add-on feed reader, and now, I know whenever there's a new post on most of my favorite blogs. Those of you who don't have feeds, like Ben and Anna, are bumming me out. I LOVE this technology. Love it. It saves time in a real way--it's kind of like Tivo for my Mac.

I know, I know. I'm behind. But I'm catching up.


Radio UserLand bites my a**

This is why I wanted to leave Salon in the first place. When I got the hostile email from the darling Mieke asking where the f*** I'd been lately, I said, "Didn't you read my last post?" "You mean, the one about the bridge mix?" Um, nooo, the one explaining how f'ing frustrated I was with Salon, and not wanting to have to pay for another year of the shitty software that should be free, and now, without my realizing it, my anni-f'ing-versary with the software has passed (ok, I should have figured that out, but fuck it, I have two children for Christ's sake, I have other things to think about) and now, I cannot publish an update even to redirect without paying $39.95. I am so annoyed. So annoyed. Have I mentioned so annoyed? I guess I'm going to have to email all four of my loyal readers with this blog address to get them to move, but the shitty part is, I'm proud of the old blog. I love it, I truly do. Not frequent enough, often completely stupid, trite, too many recipes, whatever--I like it. And now I have to go through more hoops just to keep what little (pathetic) momentum I may have had going. It just bums me out. But, on the plus side, it's a nice distraction from the irritating problem I wrote about earlier, and for that, I am, actually, grateful. Kisses to all, and to all, a good night.

A startling realization

I realized, lying sleepless in bed tonight, that I need this blog. I need the outlet, need the discipline, need the humor, outrage, pathos and center writing helps me find in the worries, annoyances, oddities and joy that find me.

I was lying there, thinking, as we occasional insomniacs are wont to do, about a worrysome situation entirely (almost) of my own making, one which I must confront, one which will have temporarily unpleasant but (I hope) eventually resolved consequences, and I realized, to my horror, that I wish I could talk to my mother about this problem, but (at least, I feel) I can't. And I also realized that the reason I can't may just be that she never really, in any honest way, talked to me about the worries and traumas (not insubstantial) of her own life. That's not entirely her fault. There have been times between us where she tried to confide in me and, frankly, I didn't want to hear. I may literally have stuck my fingers in my ears and chanted, off-any-key, "lalalalala." And now, because I couldn't or wouldn't hear her, I feel I cannot trust her with my failings. And the kicker is, this is exactly, exactly, the issue I was discussing with (overpriced) (very smart) shrink on Monday.

I just needed to get that down, so I can remember it. Because, of course, writing, or any act of creativity, is also an act of remembering. Don't believe me? Read this fabulous book by Twyla Tharp, the dancer and choreographer. Now that I mention it, I think I need to read it again, along with this, How to Write, by Pulitzer Prize winner and generally erudite fellow Richard Rhodes. He'd hate my writing in this entry, by the way. It's sloppy. But that's ok, I am still learning.