Tuesday, September 30, 2008

blank stare

Someone recently asked me about being a military spouse. Specifically, they asked "how can you follow him all over the place like that?"

The question came from a young woman who is finishing some sweat equity on a house she and her fiance recently bought. With bright eyes at her own imagined future, she asked me a question she wasn't prepared to hear the answer to.

"He is my home" I responded. "All our stuff is just junk that fills the rooms of whatever home we're living in... it's not necessary; it can all be replaced. All that is superficial -- where we live, what roof we sleep under. What matters to us is us."

She stared at me with a glazed over expression for a moment and then got her wits about her again. It seemed that she wasn't ready to be told that owning a home and putting down roots is superficial.

Then again, not everyone gets married to someone they'd follow anywhere, at whatever geographical cost it is to them. Some people get married to someone they can own the same roof with until they trade it in on a larger roof or divorce or grow old and die.

As she nervously went back to talking about finishing up the paining in her living room and relining the kitchen cabinets, I returned a blank stare.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Youth

Do you remember what it was like to be a kid? I'm talking back before knowing how to drive and sweating begging parents for gas money. I'm talking back before the drama of junior high where today's best friend is tomorrow's arch-enemy. I'm talking about back when you imagined that play grounds were castles that needed storming, and jungle gyms were pirate ships.

Remember what it was like to find entertainment out of a stick and a pile of leaves? How about thinking that paper airplanes were the coolest toys on the planet and wanting nothing more than making a better one than your buddy?

I laid in the grass at a city park today and just listened to the sounds of my son playing with other children, and remembered it all like a surreal dream. I stared up into an evergreen tree and watched the green needles grow out from the brown branches and heard young imaginations in action as an eavesdropper would.

There is no Peter Pan in me now. I can occasionally dredge up enough youthful exuberance to chase my kid and climb on the playground, but it's no longer a castle needing storming. Now it's an organized pile of metal and bolts and ropes and I envy the days when I could traverse it like a monkey in a tree.

Being an adult is depressing. Not so much the responsibilities... bills, time management, savings, balancing a budget, grocery shopping... but the loss of youth. The desperate attempts to reclaim the little girl that played with toy horses and imagined herself riding real ones across the countryside end up as reminiscing old memories and nothing more.

As the blue sky floated overhead, occasionally sending eastward silky threads of what might eventually become a puffy cirrus cloud, I lay there listening to my child play, hoping he does a better job of containing Peter Pan than I did.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shoes

Today I gave 12 pairs of shoes to charity. I threw one pair away. Then I sat down and cried.

A couple of days ago I finally got the orthotic braces I've needed for years. But braced ankles don't wear high heels well... or at all. So all the carefully chosen, pretty-but-still-functional pumps, strappy sandals, peep-toe heels, and leather boots... they all had to go. It wasn't only hundreds of dollars of fashion going into a 13 gallon kitchen trash bag, it was years of memories and some of my identity as well.

One of my favorite pairs in the pile was a sandal variety that was part peep-toe, part ballerina lace-up, part wedge heel. They were satin and hemp and sparkly canvas, if you can imagine that. I bought the pair because they were on sale and in part because I could get away with wearing them to the Army post dining facility back when I did such things, because sandals were not allowed, but apparently peep-toes were. They were neutral enough to go with anything, and worked for casual or dress. They were everyday, they were evening. They fit my personality to a tee. They were....

Another pair was a black pleather pair of knee-high boots with silver buckles that was one part Van Helsing (Kate's character) and one part haute couteure. I loved them. That I found them in a 1 1/2 inch heel was a bonus, since anything over 2 inches destroyed my ability to walk for days. I used to wear them with this pencil skirt that flared into a gourd at the bottom. And jeans. And just about everything else. They made me feel sexy.

Finally, I threw out a pair of shoes that were made of something that resembled leather, cut into fishnets. Yes, fishnet shoes. Peep-toe fishnet heels, to be exact, with 40's era bows in leather on the heels. I picked those up in Korea for 20,000 wan and they were the most comfortable pair of heels I'd ever owned in my life... right up until the very last time I wore them and broke the sole right at the heel. I thought I'd look into getting them fixed, but finally, today, I threw them away.

Even if it's possible to transcend social comparing of ourselves to the Brad Pitt's and Heidi Klum's of the world, going back to the days of the pin up girls of the 1940's, shoes have been a core part of what's "sexy" about a woman. Her shoes complete her ensemble, and heels have always played an important part. Throwing away 12 pairs of heels is like throwing away something about me that is sexy. Strapping on a pair of orthotic braces and shoving the whole mess into Vans is... not sexy.

I also know that I have a wardrobe of dresses to follow the shoes.

So I cried. As I learn to redefine what is sexy for and about me, and how to express myself as such, I have to cast off not only what I've always been, but what society expects me to be. I have to find a new "sexy" and make it believable for me, if no one else. I also know that once I believe in myself, so will others.

In the meantime, I have extra space in my closet. And it takes me less time to figure out which pair of shoes I'm wearing today.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tick Tock

Use a clock.

For the love of all things organized.

It's amazing to me how many people actually think that sun revolves around them. Newsflash folks: even Galileo figured out that the earth -- and all things on it -- revolve around the sun.

Let me go back a bit. Recently I've been exposed to a particular person who thinks that time is something that answers to them, instead of the other way around. So when they asked me to help them out in a pinch, I quickly learned that how that really works is that I am at their whim until they decide to "let me off the hook" as it were. I'd rather not elaborate.

No, I will. I decided to help this person by watching their kid. But they never showed up to reclaim the kid until hours -- 2, 3, 4 -- after they got off work. No phone call, no explanation.. sometimes an excuse or two. Usually I'd call their phone to get the voice mail. Sometimes they'd call back and say "I'm five minutes away" and show up 45 minutes later.

Do I need to tell you how sick I got of it? Forget the fact that it's chaotic for the kid, and not at all an example worthy of setting... but it annihilated my schedule, elevated my stress, and to call a spade a spade -- it pissed me off.

So I said something about it. Blamed it all on me even. Said "I didn't function well being left out on a string like that. Didn't know how to plan for anything, couldn't make any plans of my own, and that I didn't know what to tell the kid when he asked when he could go home. Please start calling me. Just a call. Just let me know what's going on; let me know you're alive at least." So I've almost started getting calls. At least they answer the phone when I call now. "Five minutes" still means 45 minutes. And the 3-4 hours has shrunk to 1/2-2 hours. It's better. It ain't great, but it's better.

I'm thinking of getting them a watch for Christmas so they can better tell time for their next sitter. And maybe a scale model of the universe... with the sun in the center.

Monday, September 01, 2008

music and kids

I'm learning about kids and their attention spans with regards to learning a musical instrument. I'm also learning about how this particular attention span is a bit different than the one they have for sports or watching TV. I chuckle at it all, however.

When I ran across Karla Kuskin's poem "Lewis Has A Trumpet", I just out and out guffawed. Talk about a bit of perspective:

Lewis Has A Trumpet

A trumpet
A trumpet
Lewis has a trumpet
A bright one that's yellow
A loud proud horn.
He blows it in the evening
When the moon is newly rising
He blows it when it's raining
In the cold and misty morn
It honks and it whistles
It roars like a lion
It rumbles like a lion
With a wheezing huffing hum
His parents say it's awful
Oh really simply awful
But
Lewis says he loves it
It's such a handsome trumpet
And when he's through with trumpets
He's going to buy a drum.