Friday, April 24, 2015

rain

Long before I moved to Phoenix, I knew something of the desert because I had seen Hollywood representations of the desert - usually a lone cowboy lurching across a dry expanse after his horse has died - the sun searing overhead. And I had seen Hollywood "Indians" doing rain dances. I knew that rain in the desert was a precious commodity. But "desert" to me meant an endless landscape of scrub brush and cactus.

On that first day that it rained after my move to Phoenix, I came out of my office and noticed three women standing at the huge window looking out over our parking lot. They were standing and staring out. I was curious. Had there been an accident? What was going on? I looked around the huge room of cubicles and saw other employees going about their business. I walked over to the women at the window and asked, "What's going on?" One of them turned to me with dreamy looking eyes and responded, "It's raining!" An Easterner used to rain, I nodded and walked away, wondering how these crazy people came to be employed.

I later learned that those three women were Phoenix natives. To them, rain still had magic. The rest of us took rain for granted.

Alexander McCall Smith writes a mystery series set in Botswana, a landlocked country in Southern Africa. His hero, Precious Ramotswe describes rain in the desert: "First there was that smell, that smell of rain, so unlike anything else, but immediately recognizable and enough to make the heart of a dry person soar; for that, thought Mma Ramotswe, is what we Batswana are: dry people, people who can live with dust and dryness but whose hearts dream of rain and water."

There is dust aplenty here in Phoenix. It creeps in through the smallest of openings. It gets in machinery. It settles on everything. It is different from normal household dust, which is mainly made up of dead skin cells. No, this dust is outdoor dust, which hangs in the air and invades, an imperceptible army until it accumulates. So when the rain comes, it cleans the air in a way that is hard to describe.

Today, when it began to rain, I stood at the window and stared out at it. I've been in Phoenix for about 12 years now and I'm just beginning to understand the magic of rain and water. My heart is soaring a little as I listen to that gorgeous rain. How could I have been so blind?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

sisters

Three sisters. We share the same parents. But we each occupy very unique spaces and have different stories to tell. First, there is my "twin" sister. She's actually 10 months older. But for a few weeks each year, we're the same age, so we call each other "twin". Here we are:












Words and phrases I would use to describe this sister: Tender. Generous of spirit. Tenacious when arguing facts. Easily wounded when attacked on a personal level. Brilliant mind. Singer. Loving. Loyal. Geek. Strives to do the right thing. Cat collector. Muser. Voracious reader. Surprising sense of humor, when she is in the mood! Introvert. Creative problem solver. Justice seeker. Trivia aficionado, though she doesn't always realize something is trivia and is surprised that others don't know! Math brain, but a lover of words --- and Ramen.

My other sister is 8 years older. She left for college when I was not yet 10. We've had a relationship by telephone since then, seeing each other very rarely. Here we are:



Words and phrases I would use to describe this sister: Musical. Rule follower. Natural leader, though she often lets others lead. Nurturing. Brilliant. Witty. Quick. Cozy reader. Has an eye for color like nobody else I know. Survivor. RVer. Sees things, but doesn't feel the need to always say things. Introvert who fakes extroversion quite well. Can capture an idea in very few words. Private. High standards. Delicious laugh.

I love my sisters, but I love them each in a different way.

My "twin" is my lifeline. She is often the very first person I call when I am unable to decide something important. She is a great comfort to me. I know that she will always be honest and straight with me, with her eye on being authentic and gentle in helping me discover my truth. She is my champion. She is my comfort and my refuge.

My older sister has often been someone who seemed out of reach - not in a personal sense, but in the sense that I could never quite measure up. She is a gifted woman with amazing talent. I always looked up to her as someone whose achievements and life choices were beyond my capability. I secretly idolized her, though she probably never realized it. But I was looking at her from a distance. Only within the last year have we really begun to see each other clearly. She has a wonderful soul. And I love laughing with her.

Would I be the same person without these sisters? I don't think so. They are each precious to me. And I am grateful for their presence in my life. Given our genetic history, we should have many years ahead in which to love and laugh together. I hope so!

{My sweetheart read this and asked me, "What about your brother?" This is about SISTERS. I'll devote a separate chapter to my beloved brother.}





Wednesday, April 15, 2015

x is for eXcuse me

A is for Actually, I wasn't even talking to you.
B is for Bite me.
C is for Can you shut up for just ONE MINUTE???
D is for Don't push me, you mouth-breathing idiot.
E is for Every time I have an original idea, you somehow claim ownership!
F is for For God's sake, spare us your melodrama.
G is for Get over it.
H is for Holy Mother of God - what is your problem?
I is for I can not BELIEVE you are bringing that up AGAIN.
J is for Just give me a minute while I try to find words you will actually understand.
K is for Kiss my --- never mind.
L is for Leave the discussion to people who actually know something about this topic.
M is for Make me!
N is for No, I will not.
O is for Oh, HELL no.
P is for Promises, promises.
Q is for Quit assuming that you are the authority on every subject known to humankind!
R is for Research this issue and come back when you know something.
S is for Stop trying to scare everyone with your fake statistics!
T is for Take your assumptions and go jump in the lake.
U is for Until you provide documentation, I'll choose to believe you made that up.
V is for Vilifying what you do not understand simply makes you sound stupid.
W is for What the HECK are you trying to suggest?
X is for eXcuse me, but you are repeating yourself again.
Y is for Yelling does not make your point any more articulate.
Z is for Zip it!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

girl

I dreamed again of a little girl.
This time she was just a flutter,
    that first little sensation of a life growing inside.
But I knew it was her.

She's been coming to me in my dreams,
     reaching through the cosmic ether,
     kissing my soul.

Sometimes she's a toddler, all grins and bustle.
Sometimes she's a small child, full of why and wonder.

I can't decide if this is a child who will come to me in future,
     or the one I lost too early,
     or some version of myself I'm being invited to embrace.

I know it makes me happy to know she's there,
     waiting in my dreams,
     giggling.




Tuesday, March 31, 2015

book addict

I have just this moment narrowly escaped the clutches of Goodreads.com. It is an absolutely wonderful website that allows you to share what you've read, what you're reading right now and what you want to read in the future. You can also look at those lists for any friends with whom you are connected. It also gives recommendations based on the information you provide.

How I got sucked in was it started giving recommendations for books I found I had already read. I felt I had to go ahead and indicate that I HAD read them, whereupon the site asked me for a rating and a review. This became an endless cycle because, let's face it, I have read thousands of books in my lifetime. I've probably forgotten more books than I can remember. I know this because a title would pop up as a recommendation and it would sound familiar. I would open it up and read the short description and confirm that yes, I had read it. I don't remember it though.

Cue my friends who say, read it again! Well, if I already read it and I don't even remember it, why would I want to read it again?

I'm not sure I should go back to this website again. It is delicious, but it delivers waaaaaaay more than I can possibly take. Oh, who am I kidding. I'll be back. I don't want to miss out on a recommendation that might lead to something amazing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

dog

I wish I could be more dog
     more on my back in the grass, sun warming my belly
     more determined buzzing insect hunter
     more devoted to another
     more rolling, jumping and twisting
     more soulful, searching eyes
     more waiting for further information
     more chasing rabbits while I sleep
     more absolute passion towards every morsel I consume
     more standing by, no matter how long it takes
     more unrestrained joy when I see the one I adore
     more sharp curiosity about new faces
     more determination to fight a threat, even before it's fully identified
     more pulling on my leash to see what's around the corner
     more diving in with glee
I wish I could be more dog


Sunday, March 15, 2015

ode to the one to whom I am addicted

You consume me.
I consume you.
Your sweetness calls to me and draws me near.
My token resistance stems from my awareness
       the you do not nourish me.
Nay, you increase my unhealthy ways.
And yet, I want you more and more.

I gaze at you sometimes, as you sit near me, unaware.
And I, longing for you, want to cry.
You're oblivious.
It will have to be my move.
No, I think, I will NOT DO IT.
But sooner or later ... I slink in your direction.

Pecan Pralines from Trader Joe's ...
     you undo me.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

croissant

I lift the pillowy dough onto the cookie sheet while you taste the coffee I made for you. "These should be ready in about 15 minutes." You nod, surveying my croissant operation. You reach out and tuck a strand of hair behind my ear, lingering to caress my cheek. You wouldn't be so impressed if you knew I bought the frozen dough from the grocery store yesterday. Best thing since sliced bread - just leave out overnight to thaw and proof. And delicious!

The oven light goes off, so I scoot the cookie sheet in and set the timer. I bring out butter and cut some into a ramekin, setting it on the stove top to soften. You gather me up, holding your body against mine. Your nose is buried in my hair. I try to remember when I last washed it. Does it smell good, I wonder? "I don't know what I like best," you whisper, "the way you look, the way you smell, or the way you taste."

Months later, after I've left you, I still have to admit that your line, which you may or may not have said to dozens of women before me, is still the best I've ever heard. I smile when I think of it, which is every time I bite into a freshly baked croissant, forever linked to the feel of your beard scratching my cheek and to the scent of coffee on your sweet lips.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

full disclosure

In Wellesley, Massachusetts, our house was built on a hilly lot. The original owner carefully landscaped to create an upper front yard and a lower front yard. Into both sections, Daddy had sunk empty orange juice cans into the dirt to create our own miniature golf course around which we happily played. The back yard was a largely ignored hill of weeds with a narrow stretch of green at the top of the hill next to the back of the house. I remember Daddy standing almost at the top of a very tall ladder, painting our house a brick red color, just prior to selling the house.

But this day was long before that. It was before the sad day I stood on the platform crying, watching my brother board the train that would take him off to college in Virginia and, unbeknownst to me, out of my life pretty much forever, except for occasional family reunions and rare, strained telephone conversations populated by rapid fire questions on my end and monosyllabic responses on his.

It was long before my oldest sister went off to college in North Carolina, leaving me to take over her tiny bedroom with the built-in furniture. Her departure didn't leave me feeling sad because she made it clear that my mere presence made her want to scream, an opinion that lasted throughout our adult lives until very recently, when she seems to have had a change of heart.

And it was long before Dad and Mom divorced, changing the lives of my other sister and me, leaving us bereft and vulnerable. For without Dad's presence, Mom's narcissism blossomed and we were left mostly to fend for ourselves. My sister descended into depression which still plagues her to this day. And I exploded into a million pieces, flying out into the world without a compass or the experience necessary to tell the difference between a friend or a predator. I would pay the price for all of us.

But that was all in the future. On this day, I was an innocent, unaware at 7 years old, of anything awful that might lie in the future. I was finally speaking English fluently, which meant that cruel taunts from other children were a thing of the past. After answering "I forget" a thousand times, they had stopped asking me to "speak some Japan". In fact, I don't think anyone really remembered that I had ever talked funny.

My best friend Joanne and her younger brother Michael were visiting at our house, We were playing together, laughing and enjoying ourselves. Suddenly, Michael proposed a new game. He said he would show me his if I would show him mine. I didn't know what that meant. He explained that we were different. Well, I certainly DID want to see!!! So we gave each other a glimpse. There was no touching or anything sexual. It was just a show and tell. But afterwards, Joanne spoke to Michael. "Now you know we have to tell Father Donovan what we did." Michael answered, "I know."

What? Who was Father Donovan and why did they have to tell him what we did? Joanne explained to me that they went to something called Confession every week and told Father Donovan anything bad that they did during the week. I was mortified. If they were telling an adult what we did, it was only a matter of time before that adult would tell my parents. I was going to be in BIG trouble. I lived in fear for several weeks after that day, just waiting for the day when one or both of my parents would seek me out to have a conversation about what I had done. But it never happened. It was years before I understood why.

I would like to propose a change in the way Catholic children are trained. I believe they should be taught to provide FULL DISCLOSURE prior to participating in sinful behavior with non-Catholic children. In fact, I would suggest documentation, complete with signatures. The non-Catholic child would thus be protected from many weeks of terror and the process might just prevent all of the children from doing anything.

Joanne might have said, "Wait a minute, Michael. We have to go over the disclosure statement with Cathy before we go any further."

I/we JOANNE and MICHAEL do hearby disclose to CATHY that we are Catholic children. Each week, we meet with our priest and tell him all of the naughty things that we did during the week. He listens and metes out certain punishments, usually repetitive prayers. He keeps all information to himself and does not share our information with any other living human being. So there is no way that CATHY'S parents will find out what we did here today.

Maybe I might have still done it. But I don't think so. I think the whole disclosure process would have dampened my enthusiasm for what we had previously discussed. I would probably have suggested a nice game of miniature golf instead.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

janine

She stands at the sink washing her hands, singing the birthday song under her breath. She glances up to find a shocking image. Mismatched pajamas. She looks at her light blue Land's End cotton three quarter sleeve pajama top, which is on inside out. She vaguely remembers throwing it off during the night when she found she was burning up, then rooting for it in the pile of clothes next to her bed when she felt cold again. With it, she's wearing red flannel pajama bottoms that are two sizes too large. Faded penguins wearing scarves and hats decorate the pants. She's had those flannel pajama bottoms for 20 years.

Worse than the mismatched pajamas, she can not remember when she last showered or even washed her hair. She leans in close and studies her skin, not that she can see the dirt and oil that is probably there. She bares her teeth and she CAN see the gunk there. Quickly, she grabs her toothbrush, squirts some Colgate on it and brushes her teeth, followed by a mouthwash blast that makes her shake her head. That will have to do for now. She has Venomhide Ravasaurs to kill.