Saturday, May 28, 2005


I'm trying to write an entry on this fine Saturday morning here in my office while J pounds away on his brand spankin'-new drum set...cymbals, snare, bass, more...the whole enchilada a mere seven feet away from me. He's been getting lessons from his uncle for several years and only this year did the thing kick in and he started banging on everything in his path, the tables, his desk, his chest, his books. Time to invest, you know?

Writing with this crashing sound behind me is amazingly impactful on my ability to make an ounce of sense. Perhaps, though, it's less the noise than my own simmering anxiety as if something's due and I haven't done it. Last night even I dreamt again about that old boss of mine, that he wanted me to mail a Christmas present to his daughter (a fried egg and a piece of chicken in a take-out box). I took it from him, egg yolk dripping down the side of the box, and went home to make a new egg, which I did and which I put into the box, setting the box aside while I went on with my life, worrying about having to get to the post office. From there a slew of interruptions prevented me from mailing the gift, days of interruptions. Stupid, I know, but the stress was real. I shouldn’t feel this way. I finished everything for school so now I'm off for the summer. Things should be like the open road, no distractions, "smooth sailing."

And yet...

I'm certain it's the stress of changing medications for A who's been really up and down with his moods, lots of crying, unable to sit and do any work for school without total meltdowns, etcetera. We're stopping the antidepressant and moving onto a mood stabilizer, a stronger medication, a different sort. It worries me, it stresses me out. The other day I dreamt about snakes being everywhere...millions of them all over the house.


Good news was hearing that my oldest child is indeed as "smart" as we thought, testing grades higher academically and in the gifted range intellectually (we knew that...don't all parents "know" it?) which of course means that his low grades in school are fixable. I was relieved there. I have no doubts his sister is very similar as she's a lot like him, they talk the same amount (non-stop), they are very social, they're clever and funny.

Perhaps with school out of the way, I've freed myself up to stress over A. Maybe that's it, maybe school was my distraction.

Forgive me for being so self-absorbed these days. On that note, here are some more 100 things. For fun, for distraction reasons.

65. I’m actually very funny. I can write funny, I can tell funny stories…no, really. I’m funny when I’m not stressing. If I’m angry about an issue, or stirred into a passion, I can crack wise like nobody’s business. Ironically, I used to comment to my mother about her lacking a sense of humor. Now I know who I take after because stress used to bring out my father’s sense of humor.

66. I tend to hyper-focus on something I’m doing and “into,” whether it’s writing, reading, watching a program, listening to a program on the radio, conversing with someone. You’ll have to tap me to get me to turn to you if you’re trying to tell me something.

67. I’m not a girly-girl. I go for comfort as opposed to style, choosing jeans and boots/athletic shoes to wear versus fancy anything. Jeans, jeans, jeans.

68. I have pierced ears and I would love, love, love to get my nose pierced but my skin is too sensitive and for sure I’d end up with problems and I’m way too vain to take any chances with something so plain on my face as my nose which is why I’ll never do any kind of plastic surgery, ever.

69. My sister reads my blog and couple of real-life friends, but nobody else I know personally.

70. Bliss isn’t my real name but Adriana is my real middle name and my maiden name begins with B. My first name I don’t like that much but my husband loves it and gave that name to my daughter as a middle name. My son A has my father’s name as a middle name, my first son has my husband’s name as a middle name.

71. My birthday is the same as Hugh Heffner’s.

72. Speaking of which, I used to like reading Playboy’s articles. The funniest thing I ever saw in Playboy, though, was how often these posing naked women would indicate that they wanted to work with children as a career. My sister and I found that so funny that every so often, in an instant of hysteria, we’d grab ourselves, pose, and hiss, “I want to teach nursery school!”

73. I’m a few-friends type of person – I never had more than a few friends at a time, sometimes even less than that. In fact, I’m really quite unsociable. Given the choice of going to a party where there’ll be many, I far prefer to stay home and read (or play with all my friends on the internet). That’s not to say I don’t enjoy spending time with people I consider to be friends – I love to do that. But don’t throw too many people into the mix or else I’ll retreat. This makes my husband crazy because he’s the complete opposite. He loves to socialize, preferring the socializing to not be very intimate.

74. I didn’t smoke marijuana until I was 37. I liked it. A lot.

75. I like to smoke cigarettes…except I don't inhale and if I’ve imbibed more than a few beers or cocktails, I’ll take a cigarette from my sister-in-law (Trouble in a Tank Top) and puff away Clinton-style.

76. I sometimes fantasize about being a famous writer, but I find my fantasy revolves much more on money rather than on “fame” or praise for my work.

77. I’m jealous over other people’s writing successes.

78. I’m happy for other people’s writing successes.

79. I love to dance free-style to all kinds of music – especially cumbias, hip-hop, rock. I love to feel the rhythms and beats and always feel sexy when I dance.

80. I love it when I have polished toe-nails and wear sandals.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Free, Free, Free

It's Wednesday and at last I'm done with the semester for the summer so now I continue my navel-gazing without an ounce of guilt.

51. I am incapable of flirting when I want to – the one time I decided to gaze at someone I desired intensely (in law school, in class), hoping my simmering stare would draw him to me, he thought I was angry at something he did. The times I do flirt, unconsciously, everyone knows and it’s embarrassing because I cannot hide my liking of the person and/or flattered feeling if the person has shown an interest in me. This, in combination with my introverted nature, makes me unapproachable.

52. I feel fat and have always felt fat even when I weighed 90 lbs at 5 foot 4 in junior high school.

53. I no longer weigh 90 lbs.

54. I prefer salty foods to sweets – my favorite snacks are pickled “stuff,” spicy stuff, salt on watermelon or jicama, or potato chips.

55. While I will never be on death row unless our justice system makes a drastic turn, my “last meal” would be barbecue pork ribs, oysters on the half shell, watermelon, plain yogurt and cucumber, Caesar salad (the real stuff with anchovies), and bread pudding or crème brulée.

56. I cannot sit still for any amount of time whatsoever without reading something. The worst situation for me, the unbearable kind of “worst,” is when I have to wait and I’ve forgotten my book at home. This habit started the instant I could read, reading the cereal boxes at breakfast, the shampoo bottles in the shower, and the dream interpretation books my mother stuffed into the blue painted drawer in the tiny downstairs bathroom that was inches away from the toilet, way, way back in the day in Pasadena.

57. I’m deathly afraid of death and dying – sometimes the reality that one day everything around me will be different, that I will die, will hit me in the middle of night, sending me to the edges of a panic attack. Those instances remind me of my father's last days in the hospital when he briefly became lucid and in a fright, breathless, told his wife that, “this is it, I think I’m going.”

58. I would love to play the piano, but I don’t have any musical abilities – I tried the recorder in fourth grade, fifth grade and sixth grade and by this third year still could not learn how the notes interrelated to finger placement, nor could I memorize simple musical pieces. I was better when I had a zither which had paper marked with notes indicating exactly where I had to pluck the strings that slid beneath the strings (sixth grade).

59. To quote Lori, I hate, hate, HATE cleaning, but I do what I have to do in between visits from our housekeeper.

60. I love being served whether it’s at a spa, hotel, or restaurant.

61. To this day, despite my stellar spelling capabilities, the word, “restaurant,” requires me to stop and think about how it’s spelled when write it.

62. I have exposed myself in public – I was at a beach in Rosarito, Baja California, wearing a bikini, wading in the surf, ducking beneath the waves. At one point I was swaying in the wonderful silvery-blue, waist-high water and facing a smiling, American man of about 30. Great view, he said, to which I agreed, responding happily, believing him to be speaking about the Mexican horizon. He kept smiling at me, me with my hands feeling the cool water and keeping my balance. Suddenly, something made me look down and voila! My bikini top’s triangles had shifted…dramatically so. I screamed and ducked into the water, swimming away…hearing the man laughing and saying he was sorry I looked down.

63. I don’t wear a bikini anymore because (1) they don’t make them for natural 40D women (as opposed to unnatural 40D which they do make bikini tops for)…and (2) I wouldn’t wear one anyway because of the c-section scar I bear that runs from an inch below my belly button on down.

63. The only reason I’ve ever been in a hospital is to deliver babies – one the regular way, the other two, c-sections.

64. My breasts have been a character in my life almost as separate from me as my hair – they began sprouting in fifth grade, evoking the taunts of my very flat-chested female classmates at the private school I was attending, evoking the unwanted mockery of a fifth-grade boy when I was in sixth (“hey, big stuff!”), attracting attention from boys in the seventh and eighth grade (“Mira…ooo…chi-chis!”), getting a grab from a drunken relative I adored which I told my mother about to her stone-faced, sad admonition (“Stay away from him when he’s drunk.”), causing heart-breaking attention when I finally got an invitation by a boy I liked in tenth grade to a party which ended up with his fondling me from behind without ever kissing me or holding my hand which killed my liking of him and made me cry for a week, learning how nice they were later when I did begin dating (“You have beautiful breasts, you’re beautiful.”), provoking the most frustrated tears during the days when I began breastfeeding my babies who seemed too small for such engorged breasts, then finally prompting tears of the purest love I’d ever known when me and each of my children fell into that blissful groove of day-in-and-day-out nurturing and admiring and adoring and engaging in the sweetest intimacy of breast-feeding. Today, I watch for cancer, think about a “lift,” think about the right bra, think about how clothes fit or don’t fit, think about whether they’re still liked or admired or perhaps…perhaps…they are at last, thankfully, ignored because I have so much to say and goddamnit I'm making the crowd gathered listen. My breasts…are an ever-changing canvas of pain, power, godliness, victimization, intimidation, and mystery.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Because I'm grading exams today...

...and procrastination is "my thing," here's more "100 Things About Me."

32. I’m very touchy about seeing obvious typographical or grammatical errors in other people’s work, even the error in the message rubbed into dust on the side window of a car which said, “Please washes me.” When I see such things, I’m overcome with a need to edit. The irony is that I cannot see my own typographical errors. It takes many rereads over several hours (and can even stretch into a couple of days) to find them all. What I need is to see my work in a different light, different color and type.

33. I prefer female singers to male singers. Whenever I have that free moment, that time in the car, that empty space in my day that I can fill with music, I will put Norah Jones on, or Alanis Morrisette, or Billie Holiday, or Etta James, or Sarah McLachlan, or ethnic music sung by women. I think it’s the fact that I can sing along – I like the freedom of singing alone in the car.

34. I hate the dentist. This stems from a pediatric dentist I had who kept our young mouths open with a strange device of rubbery-type sheeting and metal clamps. Perhaps my experience explains why I have no particular interest in latex clothing.

35. Scrapbooking is relaxing to me and a drain of financial resources – I have several drawers full of paper stuff, stickers, and empty albums, except I never get around to doing the work. My mother used to scrapbook before it became popular with the stay-at-home mother crowd – she used to cut greeting cards and glue the words/drawings next to her photographs. She stopped doing that when magnetic albums came out. I did the same thing in college, even with magnetic albums, sticking mementos next to the photos. My mother reorganized her pictures and with that, went her early scrapbook.

36. I’ve only had sex with one person (a Finnish man I met on the beach – from afar I thought he was beautiful and gay because of the hugging swimsuit he wore – but then he spoke to me in the water and I heard his accent and I turned to my sister and said, “He’s not gay, he’s Finnish!” From there, something I’d never do ever again, we spent the day, all three of us together on that beach and then I alone with the Finnish law student spent the next week touring Los Angeles among other things. He cut a lock of my black hair – I felt like a trophy, but I sort of liked it. He told me if I went to Finland, men would be crazy about me because of my curly, black hair.). The other seven men I’ve been with were repeated trysts of love-making.

37. I have little to no sense of how much things cost – if I go to the market, I just go to the nearest one to me and buy what I want or need without any thought as to whether the tomatoes are more expensive where I’m at or if I should buy them from the store across town. If I see something I want, I tend to buy it, sometimes even when I shouldn’t.

38. The only kind of exercise I enjoy is bike riding and hiking and swimming.

39. I have a feeling I’m doing this list wrong.

40. I’m afraid that when I finish this list, I’ll have nothing left to write about. Ever.

41. I forget important things unless I’ve made the effort to write the thing down in a calendar or I see notes from my husband reminding me or I’ve repeated the obligation many, many times to myself. My father was the same way – he told me once that on a particular afternoon, he’d been visiting the USC medical campus to take care of some grant business. On this day he stepped into the elevator and was facing a rather large flier posted on the wall. It announced a faculty dinner that very evening with a speaker who was to speak on a specific aspect of genetic research. He told me the name of the speaker, “looked very familiar.” After a moment or two, he realized the speaker was…none other than himself. He’d completely forgotten his obligation. He said in his special way of laughing and talking at the same time, “Had I not seen that poster, had I not gone to the medical campus that afternoon, I’d have completely missed this dinner! How embarrassing!”

42. The one time a boyfriend left me for another woman, I fell apart, wasting nearly a year mourning the relationship and in the worst depression I've ever known. And yet...I have been unfaithful to every single one of my lovers.

43. When I’m past child-raising, I’d like to volunteer my legal services to the Poverty Law Center or the ACLU or a firm that handles death-penalty appeals. With regard to death as punishment, I believe there should be next to no doubt as to guilt.

44. I’ve had a few stories of mine published in online journals, a couple of which have disappeared. I was sad when I could no longer Google them, which I’d do on occasion as a little boost of self-confidence.

45. I’ve never gotten a job without knowing someone on the inside track.

46. I don’t have a green thumb but I constantly plug away at my garden in an effort to turn that thumb green.

47. I have some sort of mental block when it comes to mathematics – I cannot add numbers quickly or subtract or multiply or divide. I never learned my times tables as a child. I managed to just know enough to maintain a “B” in my math classes throughout school, but this strange gray fog settles in when I have to do any math calculation. Forget accounting – the numbers in those columns will not match up. Ever. My sister did the accounting for my mother’s estate in a matter of days when I’d sat for months staring at the check book and the receipts and Excel and absolutely not being able to make the thing work.

48. I loved college and miss it all the time, missing the feeling of infinite possibility that lay in front of me.

49. I lived at home all throughout college and law school.

50. The fact is, I’m lazy.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

More 100 Things About Me

So...I continue my self-analysis with No. 15.

15. I shoplifted once or twice and I was very slick about it - the first time I was 12 or so and I was perusing the bookshelves in our local supermarket, paying particular attention to a Sydney Sheldon book that looked to provide me with additional sex education (which I desperately needed). I had a purse. I bent. I looked at the book, glanced around, saw I was alone for the moment and shoved the thing quickly into my bag. I stayed there. Picked up another book, pretended to read. Put it back...continued to peruse. My mother passed by and motioned to me that it was time to go. Success! The third time was in Sears. I never did it again. Unless the things stolen by my kids count. You know, those things you discover after you get home?

16. I love to make quilts, even though I haven’t done one in a while. There's something wonderfully mathematical about the process that draws me in – cutting the cloth into various shapes, sewing them together into a kaleidoscope-like picture, ultimately piecing the material into something useful and pretty. Quilting is a wonderful blend of practicality, geometry and creativity. M doesn’t have one, but both boys do.

17. I tried throwing pots one summer in college, but my hands were too soft to take it. I gave it up after a week.

18. I can’t speak Spanish worth a damn despite my having grown up around it. I can understand quite a bit – I can even sit and watch Spanish soap opera and follow along. The last one I watched was with my mother in her last weeks of recognition, before I even knew there was anything wrong with her. It was about an unattractive woman who transforms into a beauty and trumps all the people who were mean to her.

19. I play video games – sometimes a shooter, sometimes an RPG (role-playing game), sometimes an adventure where you have to “find things.” I started with Mario Brothers as a distraction from law school, stopping for a very long while in between the end of law school and J turning 8, when I re-discovered it again. One time, while on a walk with the family around our neighborhood, we ran into a neighbor, a parent of a child my kids played with, and the parent said to me, “I hear that you’re super good at PlayStation.” After laughing for the appropriate amount of time to convey sufficient aww shucks to show modesty and denial, I made sure to remember that moment because it meant that one of my boys bragged about me to their friends. That probably won’t happen again until after I’m dead.

20. I wasn’t kissed for the first time until I was 17.

21. I lost my virginity at age 18 - I was wracked with guilt and would swear I'd never do it again each and every time for the duration of our relationship.

22. I always fall in love with the man who loves me.

23. I didn’t marry the love of my life.

24. I can’t sing at all, but I did have fantasies of being a rock and roll singer when I saw Annie Lennox in concert, and Berlin. I had a boyfriend once who insisted I sing for him. I did. We broke up later. I sang for all my children when they were babies - the best kind of singing - making up songs - J would sometimes hold my cheeks and say, "Don't sing, Mommy."

25. I passed the bar exam the first time I took it.

26. Photography is my other hobby.

27. I need recipes to cook anything other than scrambled or hard-boiled eggs which is very different from my mother who could whip anything from whatever was in the cabinet. I miss her food terribly especially this flank steak dish we called, “Ranchero Steak” in which she browned tortillas next to the heavily seasoned steak. My sister and I cannot duplicate that dish. We plan on trying soon.

28. My mother, my sister and I watched the marriage of Princess Diana to Prince Charles while in my mother’s room, sitting on her bed.

29. My mother, my sister, my friend and her daughter, and I stayed up all night watching the funeral of Princess Diana, sitting on the floor of my mother’s townhouse living room. We never laughed so hard in our lives, we cried as if we knew the Princess personally.

30. When my first son was born, I thought he was the most beautiful child that had ever been born – I truly believed that in the moment I met him. When my second son was born, I didn’t think that. I had to later agree with my husband who had called out from the other side of the operating room (I had a c-section because A was a transverse lie), "He looks just like my dad!" At the time, D's father was 85.

31. Turning 40 was much harder than turning 30. At 41, I’m still waiting for my new-found wisdom to pour over me like rain, the way the rain looked in Indiana (a place I’ve been to, including Chicago and South Bend and some other small towns) one summer when a storm descended and it was hot rain and J, four-years old at the time, stomped in Batman and Robin galoshes under the eaves, getting soaked from the waterfall of water, happy, happy…joyous.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


I'm driving home from my sister's house yesterday afternoon, following a morning at the dentist to replace fillings from my childhood, and M is sitting right behind me in her car seat. I've rolled down the windows because the day is beautiful and letting that beautiful day into the car is a delight, sparking M to yell out the window, "So long sucker trash cans!"

Feeling the need to curb her words which she gets from her brothers, "suck" being something I'd like for them not to use because it sounds so...raw...untoward, I turn my head slightly and say, "M, don't say that. Say silly instead."

She pauses, a curve swishing us to the side and back just as our house looms into view, and then with the confidence of a cheerleader, she yells out the window, "So long silly suckers!"

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Everything...perhaps nothing...100 things about me. I've been really enjoying these lists even though they're probably mocked all across the blogosphere. Thanks Nappy40 for working on your fantastic list as well as RLC who not only did his own version but also recommended yet another variation. I go...starting with no. 1 to get no. 1 out of the way, to remove the pressure of getting to the essential "me." I'm imagining this list will reveal things that are not immediately obvious if you bumped into me in a supermarket with my half-full-of-stuff basket.

1. I am profoundly insecure. Sometimes, compliments sound like a breeze rustling a spring time tree while insults sound as if I'm the Hunchback of Notre Dame in the bell tower.

2. I believe heaven would be incomplete without a library because everything can be found in a book.

3. When I was a child, one of my favorite books to read (hours and hours of reading) was Guiness World Book of Records. I'd buy it each and every year and never failed to be amazed, amused, and horrified at each accomplishment, at each oddity the book presented. I contemplated what sorts of records were in my reach. My oldest son reads it, too, without ever being prompted by me.

4. My sex education began with a Spanish language real-life "comic book" belonging to a childhood live-in Mexican housekeeper named Nadia (whose employment was swiftly terminated the day after she got drunk and declared her love for my father to my mother). The magazines were kept in her room (which eventually became mine) on the shelf and showed pictures of people romancing one another from the first kisses through various stages of undress.

5. I procrastinate way past the point of reason, sometimes even beyond that, on occasion to the point where I've developed a near-phobia for the thing I'm supposed to do.

6. The rest of my technical sex education came from a book called, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask," which my father kept in his study, a smallish room with one large window, a red shag carpet, a massive mahogany desk with drawers I loved to search.

7. I love to watch television.

8. Flying terrifies me and the book, "Fear of Flying" by Erica Jong didn't help me at all...with regard to flying.

9. I've been to England, France, Germany, Austria, Mexico, New York, Hawaii, Washington D.C., Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. I'm not done travelling.

10. The thing I dislike most about being a lawyer is the clientele. Makes me glad I never became a doctor because then for sure I'd have grown to hate sick people and that would just be bad.

11. I wanted to be a doctor up until the day I got a "D" in biochemistry in my junior year at USC which evoked an admonition from my father while sitting in his laboratory office at USC, with me across from him, "You're not going to medical school - choose another career."

12. I decided I wanted to be a doctor when I was 7, swinging on a swing in my best friend's backyard, after she said, "I want to be a doctor," which was said right after she sang out, "I don't like cheese."

13. I didn't eat cheese between age 7 and 8, changing my mind about disliking cheese when McDonalds wouldn't make the cheesburger without cheese.

14. The number 13 doesn't make me nervous in any way - I'm not superstitious.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


This year, Wednesday has been the restful sigh in the marathon jog of my life. The house is always silent, I always have my cup of coffee at my side, it's a day I can read blogs uninterrupted. On Wednesdays, I might even create an entry myself.

On my mind today...

Summer isn't looking quite as blissful as last summer. The children will be in summer school meaning we'll have to fight with them every morning to get up and ready and be on time and every night to get them in bed at a reasonable hour because at 8:00 p.m. the sky is still blue and blue doesn't signify, to them, sleep. I'm not thrilled about the prospect. The summer will be interminably long in that regard. On the other hand, it will fly by freakishly fast because in the fall I'll be teaching three classes which is, well, beginning to freak me out. It's not that I don't like to work (although there's some element of that there), rather it's that the children are so demanding that additional responsibility seems like a mountain's worth. What is that saying, don't make a mountain of a mole-hill? Well in this case, my mole-hill really does become a mountain. So today, at this moment, I'm suddenly dreading summer, fall, winter and spring.

God bless the Trader Joe's employee who called me, "Miss," yesterday. I'm not saying I passed for twenty, I'm saying that someone finally got wise and learned that it's best to hold "m'am" for a woman who's well into her seventies, at least.

The murder of the two girls in the midwest. I'm left once again wondering whether there's a seige against women and girls (or whether it's just the media's focus on such events), diving further into the question of why bad, senseless things happen, whether those bad things are just more proof of Godlessness. I end up sighing heavily, hiding my hide-a-key, locking the doors, watching my kids like the proverbial hawk today's modern parent must be. Funny how when I'm envisioning my own fears, I'm very alone in the picture. I see me, by myself, locking doors, putting extra keys away, closing drapes...but instead of my children and husband being with me, they are nowhere, it's just me.

A six-pack of Corona beer sits in our garage refrigerator. D is a teetotaler having been raised Baptist, having never developed a taste for any kind of alcohol. He buys this beer for me, going against all his instincts, his wishes, etc., so I can have a beer with dinner every two weeks or so. I see the beer in the refrigerator and I'm reminded of every little thing he does around the house just for me. Making coffee in the morning, doing the laundry. I'll be sure to do some little things in return. Just for him.

I really loved The Motorcycle Diaries which I rented the other day. A movie about a road trip which leaves me wanting to take my own road trip. Last week, as D and I were driving home from a dinner with the children, as they were alternating between fighting and laughing hysterically, he asked me if I'd like to drive across the country. Like that. With them. I say, yes. He reminds me this morning to cancel our reservations for a week long trip to San Diego due to summer school. I'm wondering what August will bring us.

Mother's Day was decidedly uneventful, but sweet. Cards in the morning, a special box for cards from everybody. A lovely box with a cream-colored velvety covering, with lots of space and ribbons. Late on Sunday, I noticed two orange fingerprints from Cheetos on the top cover of the box. My son A had been feeling it up. I thought those little marks couldn't be a more appropriate mark of Mother's Day.

Mexican Mother's Day took place on Tuesday and my sister and I celebrated that day by taking our grandmother to lunch at our local Japanese restaurant where the chefs cook in front of you. The kids had a great time. Afterwards, my sister went back home to put her baby, I, to bed and M and I took my grandmother to visit my mother's grave. I told her, "No llores, Mama." Of course, not crying isn't possible. She did. When we got to the spot, a serene spot marked by a boulder next to a pine tree, she laughed because the plant that had taken over the site was a Wandering Jew...she thought of my father.

Wednesday...another day, another week.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Finally...the Reading Meme

At last, I took the time to walk around the house, peruse bookshelves and came to the following...for now. Like religion, my recall of books that are important to me is rather changes...I easily reminded...but for today, right now, these are my answers to RLC's kind request of me.

1. You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?

I’m torn between James Joyce’s Ulysses and the Torah. With the first, Joyce included all sort of different writing styles that I grew to love. His language, use of stream of consciousness, and story enthralled me in college and ever since. I think it’s one of most fascinating books I’ve ever read and would love to have his words at my fingertips at all times. For me, the book endlessly captivates. The Torah on the other hand is about life – doesn’t matter my atheistic tendencies, what’s there is applicable and intriguing and fodder for thought and argument. There is no lack of story there, there is no uselessness there. Oh and now that I'm thinking about it, another possibility would be Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. He outlines all the major philosophies in the world into a very interesting fictional story. I'd love to have handy that information, quotes and ins and outs, as I move along in my day-to-day activities.

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

For those who really and truly know me…LOL! Um, but we’re talking books. I’d probably have to say, no. I’ve loved the writers, though, I developed hard crushes on the authors themselves, eating up their biographies (some of them were positively crazy), becoming hungry for their work. Perhaps the closest fictional crush I came to was on Stephen Dedalus. I loved his torment, his beautiful misery ever since Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man through Ulysses. A note on crushes – I was in love with Houdini and Charles Lindbergh as a teenager. I fell in love with them through their biographies.

3. The last book you bought was...?

The Motorcycle Diaries
by Ernesto Che Guevara, Cintio Vitier, and Aleida Guevara.

4. The last book you read was...?

Observatory Mansions by Edward Carey – an engrossing, twisted, story written in a unique style about twisted characters, people who hadn’t always been so strange. It’s a journey to wholeness, closure, hope, my favorite sort of story.

5. What are you currently reading?

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde; The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keillor, 2005 O’Henry Prize Stories, several literary journals, Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norell by Susanna Clark, The Republic of East L.A. by Luis Rodriquez and Sunday Jews by Hortense Calisher (I read slowly, I drift in an out of many books, one at a time, on any single day or single week).

6. Five books you would take to a desert island...

Impossible to answer, I suppose it would be Ulysses, the Torah, Norton’s Anthology of Poetry, Norton’s Anthology of English Literature and of American Literature, and I’d have to sneak onto the island a really big Dictionary.

7. Who are you passing this stick on to and why?

Well, taking into account the various types of blogs and the kinds of answers we might get…I’d like to pass the stick to Lori because she needs to be distracted from her little Susie, Matzanacho because her interest in books is so very different than mine, Brenda because I'd like to know what a wonderful artist reads, the narrator because although his blog doesn’t really accommodate a meme, I'm still quite intrigued what such a good published author reads, and hokkaidoabbey because if I name any more, I'll just be obnoxious.

One last notation - a book I just picked up off the internet: Mark Twain's Letters from the Earth, a satire about Christian and religion as a whole. I read this back in high school and had been immediately struck by its relevance to my own beliefs. The book is quite funny and quite interesting. I remember coming home and reading bits of it to my mother.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Navel Gazing and Foot Fighting

This post by Tamar, the links there, and the discussion in the comments has been an amazing read. I thought to blog about it a little since I’m meming today (look! I’ve made up my own word), to come out of my own spiritual closet. And what a place the closet is, a place where I spend a lot of time contemplating, considering. The colors, the darkness, the quiet, and the light seeping in from a glittery window above the purple umbrella next to the board games, make a perfect place within which to navel-gaze.

Tamar quoted an e-mail to her that said, "As soon as I see the word ‘God’ in any news report, as in ‘my commitment before God to her was the day I bought that ring and put it on her finger, and I'm not backing down from that, Mason said,’ I go SOUTH!"

I understand the feeling and it’s borne out of recent American politics, from observing a growing desire of some people in these United States to blur the line of separation between state and religion. My problem is…what religion should take over?

This is where I stumble. I have no religion. My spiritual journey has been bumpy to say the least. For all the twists and turns (roller coaster like), the funny thing is that I’ve ended up in the same place I started. My journey has turned into a merry-go-round.

I was raised in a religious smorgasbord of a family. My father had been raised as an Orthodox Jew in Iraq, his family becoming conservative in Israel, eventually settling in the United States where my father abandoned all religious practice in favor of Zionism. "Judaism" to me had been all about Israeli politics, interrupted every so often by Hanukkah and Passover. My mother was raised Methodist, eventually choosing Catholicism as her base religion (the Mexican version, i.e. like my father, her focus was less on dogma and more on cultural practices) with a smattering of Wicca and other such spiritual diversions. My brother, sister and I floated along behind them, our religious beliefs shaped by theirs. On the sidelines, our extended family consisted of Mormons, Muslims, the occasional Buddhist, and a healthy variety of Christians.

My brother tends to atheism, my sister tends towards general spiritualism, and I’m the avowed agnostic, right where I started as a child.

My first major turn was during college when I joined the Hillel at USC, a great place – I made friends, I prayed on Friday nights, I learned songs, I learned about the faith, I hooked up with a boyfriend (well…duh!). I traveled along that route until law school where I turned once again into an agnostic, a questioner with no home.

I reached my second major turn when my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer...turning point isn't quite the word, "cataclysmic break-down of everything spiritual" is more like it. My father was devastated and his true atheism came out - he believed death sent him into a black hole of nothingness. All his science, all his brilliance, shattered with his impending death. It broke my heart in just as many millions of pieces to see the man who held up my world like Atlas…absolutely break. I became a "Christian" to heal him. I had prayer groups going, I read the New Testament, I talked to Christian friends, I prayed and prayed… Then he died. As did my Christianity. In the months following my father’s death, I explored feverishly the “afterlife.” I read every grieving book, every book that suggested there was life after death, in order to prove my father wrong. During that time, my sister and I began to notice that she dreamed what I saw during the day – so specific there was no way it was coincidence.

One evening, for example, I watched a movie called “Fearless” where a young mother lost her child in an airplane crash. The film focused on the mother holding tightly to her child as the plane landed – this was her torment as she thought she let go of her child, the child dying in the crash landing. I watched the film late at night. The next morning my sister called saying she had the strangest dream, so real. She dreamt she was holding onto my toddler (the only one I had at the time, she had none) at the edge a cliff, to prevent him from falling. Her main focus was holding onto him. Countless times followed. Even recently, my grandmother told me a cousin-in-law was ill with an eye condition that if not treated could lead to blindness – the family was worried. When I told my sister about the situation the next day, she told me she’d dreamt several times in the night about being blind. There was no way in our minds this could be coincidence, not at that level of specificity. For a while we “believed.” This was proof.

I slipped back a while later into agnosticism again. When my mother died several years later, I believed for a while in the spirituality of death…that there was definitely “something.” After months…I slipped and here is where I stay. An agnostic…ever questioning, ever disbelieving and believing…and never settling.

I reject fundamentalist Christianity and the like, I resent the shift of my country to the extreme right. I'm more open to Judaism, but I have trouble with the often-lesser role of women. Ultimately, I have trouble with the idea of "God" and the ensuing fantastical concepts that come out of a belief thereof. However, the idea that we live this life only is just as unfathomable to me. How do you explain human relationships? The concept of humor arising out of literal human ashes? The transcendence of the human condition is evident in photographs, their eyes telling you their story, carrying over from the years of the first photograph. What about our amazing ability to survive unbelievable odds...the fact that you drive in your car and glance at someone...and from many feet away, the two of you connect via your eyes, the windows to your's beyond evolution, beyond "survival of the fittest." I agree, “I think, therefore I am.” We people are evidence of the Divine.

But...what IS that? What does it mean? Where do we go? Why am I allowed to sense this? My sister dreams what I see – this is true.

The questions fascinate me. I don’t see an end to the Merry-go-round anytime soon. Or the navel-gazing. Or the foot-fighting.