Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I'm not sure when I first started wearing rings.

I wore a class ring in high school, with my name engraved on one side and a music note on the other. After that, I can remember a college neighbor teasing me about the spoon ring I wore. We had a on-going fake-antagonistic debate over who was correct. His theory was spoon rings were for children. My counter was, just because a girl in his third grade class happened to wear a spoon ring, didn't make them the exclusive realm of child-wear. Didn't children also wear shirts and belts? I don't think we ever came to a consensus, mostly because everyone we tried to have side with us simply didn't care. I don't remember when I stopped wearing the spoon ring; I probably lost it.

I may have mentioned I have a history of losing things...

Anyway. While still in college, I bought myself an opal ring (my birthstone) with money my parents gave me for my twenty-first birthday. It was a beautiful, modest ring I picked out specifically at Service Merchandise because of the two stripes of blueish purple in one of the two stones. I loved this ring. When my friend Jen told me soaking the stone in olive oil would keep the stone from drying out, it became one of our rituals when I went to visit she and her husband up in Cleveland. I'd walk in the door, she'd pour a small amount into a dish and I'd drop my ring in, retrieving it before I left on Sunday.

When I turned thirty, my Aunt Jo gave me one of my grandmother's rings. This ring and the 21st birthday ring were the only "sentimental" rings I've ever owned. When I lost both of them for several weeks, it upset me so much, that I once I found them, I placed them in my jewelry box until I could get over the stress of having lost them. This hasn't happened yet.

Which lead me to purchasing cheap, over-sized silver rings, usually from Kohl's or Target, sometimes from a street vendor at an art fair or while on vacation. It often takes several weeks for me to discover if one doesn't fit properly, or snags on things, or simply doesn't look right. Then I simply abandon the ring and eat the ten dollars.

Sometimes I worry that I wear too many rings, that I'm in danger of becoming "crazy ring lady." But I've decided if I keep it down to five, that seems reasonable. At least to me. Why does this concern me? Because I hate to admit I allowed a piece of men's jewelry to heavy influence my feelings about someone I dated. It wasn't the only factor that lead to my ending the relationship, but I would be lying if I said I could see myself easily getting past it.

One morning in church, a neighbor came with her grandson, who cuddled up next to me. I instinctively outstretched my palm toward him. He put his hand in mine and I gave it a playful little jaunty squeeze. The service had started so he leaned in and whispered, "Your rings are kinda hurting me a lot."

I went about removing them one by one and offered my hand again, which accepted. "How's that?" I asked.

"Good," he replied, and went about fishing my rings up up off the pew, one by one with a pencil and spinning them around.

Friday, January 22, 2010

One Year of Blogging

From the first few blogs I'd ever read, I figured it to be a good medium for me.

Still, I resisted.

I couldn't really decide what I wanted the blog to be, I only knew what I didn't want it to be. I didn't want to have a rant blog. Like an episode of Surreal Life or Lawrence Welk, if I came across one I got sucked in and then chastise myself for blowing the whole hour I could have been doing anything, anything but watching Surreal Life or Lawrence Welk. I am embarrassed to admit I have, more than once, copy-and-pasted the body of a long rant and word-counted it. One thousand words on getting cut off in traffic, I think. Seriously, what can be sadder than that? Perhaps word-counting a blog post...

I also didn't want to get caught up in being too heavily pop-culture-y either. While it is true that I am more than a bit of a pop culture geek, I could foresee a forced obligation to spiral deeper and deeper into subjects I might only have a passing interest in. I didn't want to, say, start gathering more and more obscure information on the Oscars, because I happened to mention that I know all of the Best Picture Oscar winners from the year I was born (which happens to be true, but has limitations of how interesting that can be...)

So I waited a couple years, and pressed my friend Dougie into starting his blog (the very popular I was able to gain a particular amount of pleasure from that.

Then I realized my underlying desire to write a blog was not going to go away. I deliberately did not link my name to it so that I might have an "out," while still leaving the door open for a professional website or blog if this one failed.

I've had 77 posts so far, an average of one every 4.7 days. One advantage is that it pushes me to write on a deadline, which ups my general productivity level. It also allows me an outlet to explore little nuggets of ideas that I can sometimes build up in my head to proportions undeserving of the actual idea. It allows me to tell the difference, almost right away, between those ideas that deserve some headspace, and those that should just fade away.

But I've enjoyed it and look forward to seeing what this next round brings.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"Thanks... You Always Know What I Like"

Today is my brother's birthday. It is the third one since his passing; he would have been forty-three. The sting is significantly less than the previous years, for which makes me feel equally grateful and guilty.

One of the things I miss most (after being with him, of course), is picking out his present. For years, it has always been a book, movie, or CD. The CDs became more difficult, as he had everything, and didn't tend to like much new music (if there was a 24 hour Sinatra station, he would have tuned in and never changed the channel, except maybe to listen to Sting.)

In an effort to re-calibrate my gift-giving instincts, I would occasionally ask Kip to give a sort of status on what I already knew he liked. This is how I found out he'd over-saturated himself in Civil War titles and was backing off. In the last few years of his life, he's developed an interest in WWI, because there was not a lot of written. He never tired of Watergate, the topic of his undergraduate thesis, and there was little of this out there too.

Kip wasn't just interested in history. Of course there was contemporary politics, which I could never get my head around because, beyond the radical big-mouths (the Rush's, the Ann Coulter's, and he had all of those...) he had the books of the people I not only didn't recognize, I couldn't even identify their general job titles, and it made me feel dumb.

The pop culture books were always an option. Kip loved biographies and the hefty coffeetable-esque books of photography. Books on the history of the Oscars, vintage movie star bios, or heady tomes on the affects of a particular generation thrilled him.

On his fortieth birthday, I told Kip I would throw him any kind of party he wished. He opted for a quiet, small group of family and friends. He came over early and I was so proud of my find, I made him open it before anyone got there. It was a book that I cannot readily access (I just spent more time than I would care to admit trying to track it down...) but it was about the year 1973. More specifically, it was an exploration of popular culture during the Watergate era. I didn't even mind that he did not help get ready for his party because he was engrossed.

My brother died nineteen days after that party. His death was a shock and yet he had been very ill for a number of years leading up it. I was grateful that he was in the midst of lingering birthday celebratory events during those weeks.

A week before he died, he sent me a thank you card. "Thanks for hosting my birthday party. I had a great time. And thanks for my book, you always know what I like."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Everyday Pleasures #3 - Making Lists

I love lists.

Having an ongoing list like having access to a constant supply of supreme satisfaction, doled out in teeny tiny doses throughout your whole life.

I suppose I've always made some sort of list as an adult - grocery, Saturday tasks, Christmas gifts to buy - but they were little more than torn pieces of paper shoved into a pocket and discarded. But it was at COSI, where the concept of multi-tasking took on a whole other dimension, where I was turned on to a whole new way of looking at list-making. I give credit to my friend Allen, who refuses to accept that credit because he picked it up from someone else.

The system is little more than adding a little box at the beginning of an item. When the item is completed, the box gets checked. If the task no longer exists, it gets crossed off. If the item is moved to another list, it gets shaded in. Even describing the act gives me a twinge of pleasure.

There are somethings I resist putting on the list - things I'm not sure I'm committed to doing, things that are difficult, things that cannot be easily reduced into a simple, note-worthy item. Sometimes, the only way to know how I feel about something is to jump in and add it, understanding the desire to add that check mark might just be the thing to put it over the edge.

This weekend, I had a deadline that I was resisting and, instead, went about "clearing out" the items on a lingering list. I used the fumes of that buzz to push through my resistance and got it done.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Ahead, and Other Cliches'

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for all those end of the year retrospective special editions of all the magazines I read. They are the issues I toss into the ever-growing crate of “keepsake magazines.” I see the collection as a sort of personal pop-culture time capsule. When I’m living in the nursing home, I expect to quite enjoy flipping through my vintage 1997s in search of an over-looked cinematic gem that will knock ‘em dead on movie night…

This year, we have added edition of looking back over the whole decade, which is both interesting and terrifying in a holy-shit-ten-more-years-have-zoomed-by kind of way, but amusing nonetheless.

Which got me to thinking about my own Year/Decade In Review.

Moments after I thought of this blog topic, I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, who, like all the other news outlets, had compiled their own end-of-the-year commentary. This one, like, perhaps some of the others, although I haven’t seen them, was terrifically depressing.


It went through the whole inauguration of W, to 9/11, the Iraq War, the decent of the economy, through the burst housing bubble and rampant unemployment.

Which got me to thinking about my own decade, admittedly, influenced by the dark despair of the CBS coverage. What I came up was this – I was in a car accident on the eve of the new millennium, and spent the balance of the following year having physical therapy, a second surgery, and engaging in a three-year-long lawsuit. I held some of the most low-level jobs (often simultaneously) and spent several months unemployed. I watched my brother get sick, suffer, and ultimately die. I witnessed mother go into the hospital for a “routine hip replacement” and come out facing a lengthy recovery from a broken leg. Just before Thanksgiving, I saw the final collapse of a significant, decade-long, on-again-off-again-turned-fully-defined relationship I had a lot, emotionally, riding on.

This flash of immediate reflection, understandably, depressed the hell out of me. Until I realized I had been unduly influenced. Not that these things did not happen to me in the past decade, but so did these – I bought a house, earned my MFA, went to Paris and Barcelona (as well as many cool domestic cities), maintained my weight, deepened my already deep friendships with the arrival of their children, got published, engaged in some personally-enriching relationships with men, significantly deepened my relationships with my family, and started the first permanent/appropriate job I’ve had in many, many years.

As for the future, who’s to say. I do know that I am profoundly more aware of my own path than I ever was at thirty. Perhaps that is a function of aging, but I hope not. I am looking forward to doing more of the same, at least the good, positive stuff, but with more purpose.

As any good resolution-type statement would put it.