meirwen_1988: (Default)
So, Ernst gave me seven words. I've addressed the first. Time to move forward.


English, in this regard, is a lazy language. Is love "agape"? "Philia"? "Eros"?

So, briefly, in parts.

"Eros." Not something I'm comfortable talking about, or actually having as part of my life. Not really comfortable having it talked about openly around me (which, given some of my friends, means I'm frequently very uncomfortable). I accept it as a gift that it can be such a delight, but I'm very serious about it, to the point of sacred-ness, and am consistently baffled by those who can separate it into something that seems about as profound as a good meal at a restaurant you're going to visit once in your lifetime, or as meaningful as a baseball game. I'd rather not have it part of my life than as something so trivial.

"Philia" and "Agape"

These, to me, are the ones that matter. Oddly, though, I'm not sure where "romantic" love falls in the three-part spectrum. The short form is I need to have people in my life that I love. But it is even more complex than that. In the film Adaptation, which is, frankly, one of the strangest films I've ever seen, the characters Donald and Charlie (twins, played by Nicholas Cage) are talking:

"Charlie Kaufman: There was this time in high school. I was watching you out the library window. You were talking to Sarah Marsh.
Donald Kaufman: Oh, God. I was so in love with her.
Charlie Kaufman: I know. And you were flirting with her. And she was being really sweet to you.
Donald Kaufman: I remember that.
Charlie Kaufman: Then, when you walked away, she started making fun of you with Kim Canetti. And it was like they were laughing at *me*. You didn't know at all. You seemed so happy.
Donald Kaufman: I knew. I heard them.
Charlie Kaufman: How come you looked so happy?
Donald Kaufman: I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn't have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.
Charlie Kaufman: But she thought you were pathetic.
Donald Kaufman: That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That's what I decided a long time ago."

Yeah--that's pretty much it. I love some people. I love them in different ways, for different reasons. I love God as I understand that word. I love hope, and possibility, and compassion, and work, and sunlight on water, and dark, hopeless nights. I love breath, and rain, and how leaves dance in the wind. I love good wine and butter melting on my tongue. I love the bite of a clear, cold winter day and how water tastes after I've been working in the sun for hours. And when I say "love" I mean it the same way I loved his smile. If I open myself to the world, and draw in a breath, deep into my lungs, and look, really look at the horizon, or the fur on a kitten, or Ping's muscles as he runs after a toy, I am filled. There is an intensity of feeling, of being. Maybe it's just filled with life. I call it love.

And cookies. I love cookies. But that's different. ;-)
meirwen_1988: (Default)
*Comment to this post [and specifically ask for a list] and I will pick seven things I would like you to talk about. They might make sense or be totally random. Then post that list, with your commentary, to your journal. Other people can get lists from you, and the meme merrily perpetuates itself.*

[ profile] baronernst gave me these as my seven words:

Popcorn Books

Taking a page from my friend Ben, I'm going to do them one at a time.

This is tricky. Which kind--physical, mental, emotional, spiritual? Are they really different? That could be a whole series of journal entries all in itself. So, I'll take it in parts.

Physical pain
One of my earliest memories is of laying in my bed, late at night, and my mother rubbing my legs. I was laying on my stomach, my eyes brimmed with tears, wanting the pain to stop, wanting to sleep. The doctors told my mother it was "growing pains" and "dance classes will help." So was born my first love, my first dream--to be a ballerina, because Momma took me to dance classes--and I was good.

And the doctor was right on one score--it did strengthen my legs, which he thought might be part of the problem. But the pain continued. And so did the dancing. Until we moved. It lasted about a year, but soon Daddy got tired of getting up on Saturday mornings to take me to dancing class. Momma got me up, got me dressed, but we just couldn't get him out of bed more than half the time. So, ultimately, the dance teacher told my mother I was no longer a student at the school.

Having legs that hurt became a background noise to every day. I was told I was lazy--if I did more they wouldn't hurt. I was told I was fat (I was not svelte after 3rd grade, though by today's standards I wasn't heavy at all if the children I see in stores is a gauge), and that's why my legs hurt. Whatever. I sucked at gym, but give me a marching band, a show, and I was out there running, and kicking, and whatever it took. Did I mention "kicking"--as in "high kicks," as in Can-Can kicks? Yeah. Those.

When I was 15 we were doing Carnival in our local community theatre. I was a "Card Girl" and part of the chorus, which meant the chorus line. We were rehearsing, I was kicking, and felt something..."click." Not the good kind. Maybe I should have warmed up first, maybe nothing would have changed it. By the next day I was limping because I was having trouble picking my foot up. By that fall I had to walk with a cane. I spent most of the next 10 years with one. And pain. Debilitating, horrible pain. Where sleeping is out of the question. Where sitting is torture. Where pulling open a door brings tears to the eye and causes spots to dance before them, as prelude to falling into unconsciousness from the pain--which I don't know why I ever fought, since it would have meant at least a moment or two of relief.

But I was young, and no one really took it all that seriously. And my parents were a bit distracted, what with my brother being rather the center of attention since he was dying in slow, excruciating stages.

Once I got a job, and health insurance (thank you, Syracuse University), and some gumption, I went to an orthopedist, who sent me to a neurologist. They found out what was wrong, but said (and still say), that the odds of fixing it are not as good as the odds trying to fix it will cause paralysis. So I persevered.

And then there was the "girl pain." The "doubled-up in bed can't move" variety. And when that hit at the same time as the other peaked I, to this day, don't know how I avoided even thinking about blowing my brains out so it would all stop. That "pain tells you you're alive" crap is just that--crap. It tells you you're in pain, that you're broken, and that breathing is the hardest thing you've ever done. And you. keep. on. breathing. You don't let your body control your life, you get the hell out of bed, and go and teach your classes, and take notes in your grad school courses, and get the damn Mid-York Weekly out on time because the boss is on vacation and it's your JOB!

As time went on, by my 30s, I was in brain numbing pain most of the time. And along the way I alienated people, or did things that led them to think I was a whiny little entitled caricature from some novel, because people in pain are often, despite the best of intentions, not very nice to be around. It's not an excuse--it's just a fact.

And then my womb tried to kill me. And we made it GO AWAY.

And my back got better.

It's now no worse than it was in my teens and 20s. Which means it hurts every day. Which means I'm doing a careful balancing act between the pain in my back and the pain in my stomach from the NSAIDS. It means sitting hurts, and bending is a challenge. And walking is a careful piece of stagecraft where I try to give an appearance of normalcy to my locomotion, when in fact I don't walk like other people do since I'm partially paralyzed from the hip down on the right, and have been since 1973. But all the world's a stage, you see, and we are merely players, who strut and fret our hour and are gone, so the acting isn't really all that special.

Pain isn't all that special. I really can't imagine life without it. Perhaps it's a failure of imagination.

(And now you know why I'm only doing one at a time--hell, I've got the other varieties of pain to get through yet!;-))
meirwen_1988: (writing)
I recently returned from a conference in Philadelphia. Our transportation to the conference, where we stayed, all the monies for room and conference fees, were taken care of by the college. We were on our own for gas, parking, food and incidentals, though we can put in reimbursement requests for most of that.

The conference was an innovations in education themed event, with presentations and roundtables, all about innovation in the community college and its classrooms. Predictably, most of the sessions focused on the use of technology to invigorate learning, power better learning techniques, present information, enhance knowledge, make assessment easier (both at the classroom and institution level). In short, it was full of the tech geeks of education. You had people who rely on their Smartphones, iPads, laptops, and access to the wide wonderful wireless world in order to function.

The conference was held at the Marriot Downtown/Convention Center. Which is a "business" hotel--in short, the majority of patrons are placed there by businesses, where the business pays all fees, etc.--like parking and, wait for it....wireless access. In the entire hotel there were two "hotspots"--one in the Starbucks off the lobby, and one in a little raised area that seated about 50 (the conference attendees were upwards of 1400). There was NO access in any of the conference rooms--which made it difficult for many of the presenters since their presentations were designed around links to the web that they couldn't access. The conference did set up a set of laptops so that conference attendees could check their email. Otherwise, it was $12.98 a day to have internet access in your room. Those were your options.

The irony burns.

Then, our happy little band had other problems. There was a communication failure between the funding and the hotel's computer, that meant some of us couldn't check in (that was settled within a couple of hours, but it was very unwelcome after 7 hours in a car and one of us having not eaten in 14). We also hadn't been warned that this hotel, unlike others where I've attended conferences on the college's dime, required each of us to use one of our own debit ($25 hold, per day--there 5 days, $125 hold) or credit cards (ummmm--don't have one!) to have on file for "incidental expenses." Unlike the VP with her AmEx card, that put a serious dent in some of our abilities to, well, eat. Also, unlike most of the conferences I have attended, parking in the hotel's garage was an additional charge-$38 a day in this case, rather than comped for those with rooms in the hotel. And in the past when using a college vehicle the college's fleet gas cards were provided. When we opened the envelope there were no cards, so again, an unplanned expense. While none of these were unreasonable (we'll get reimbursed for the gas and parking), and spread between four fully employed adults, they were unexpected, and at least one of us did not have the resources to adjust.

As I look back on the experience though, I think it would have been helpful, if annoying, to have a debriefing session back at the college where our "Fearless Leader," okay, not him, but the VP under whose auspices we went, had said, "Now you know how students feel."

Let me see if I can explain what I mean.

Showing up at the desk, having done "everything right," and being told, despite our paperwork showing that we'd done "everything right," being told we can't check in because the money isn't showing up is like the student who does all the work for financial aid and goes to register and is told she can't because her "financial aid hasn't come through yet." There she is, with all her life in her car, her classes planned, and she gets deregistered and put through emotional hell, because some piece of paperwork got lost in some office somewhere between her and the college. It isn't her fault, it isn't the college's fault, but her impulse is to take it out on either the person who organized everything or the person who has just given her the bad news.

Then there is the student who doesn't make a pest of themselves to inquire about every little fee, every little possible difference between this new college and the college she last attended. Is wireless included in my dorm fee, or do I have to pay extra? Can I park on campus, and is there an additional college parking fee? She gets there, thinking everything is covered, because at her last college all those things were rolled into her dorm fee, and at her brother's college they are, too, so that must be true here, too. Right? No. So now she either has to come up with parking money on top of everything else, and she can't get wireless in her room because she didn't pay the fee, and she can't until she gets her refund check from her loan. Or she could park on the street--5 blocks away, and hope her car doesn't get stolen, towed, or broken into. And remember to move it so she doesn't get tickets. Joy. So she pays for parking, and that cuts into her food for the next two weeks, because she doesn't have enough to sign up for the meal plan, and she's left with only $50 for two weeks, and all the food on campus is SO expensive and she can't cook in her room--there isn't even a refrigeratior, unless she rents one of those! And now she's mad that the college didn't make information clearer in the literature, and mad at herself for not asking annoying questions, because she hates the tone people use when they answer her.

So she checks in to the dorm, after parking her car, and the room is wonderful. And she likes her professors, but she still has to finish the online work from her summer class, because that semester is still going on, even though she's at her new college because unlike half the people at her new school, she isn't on break--she still has work. But she doesn't have wireless in her room, so she has to either haul her laptop off campus to somewhere like Barnes and Noble or Starbucks, and spend money she doesn't have to drink something so she can work there and not be thrown out, or she has to use one of the open labs on campus, and hope there is a computer free. And there are governors on how much data she can use for free, and if she uses too much, it shuts her down and she has to pay an additional access fee. Or maybe she can find people who have access in their room, and use theirs, but she's not that desperate yet.

But she's stressed, and annoyed, and feels jerked around. Because communication was bad, things didn't work as promised, or things were not as expected.

I see those students every fall, and every spring. And I saw people just like them at the conference--they were my colleagues. They were the face in my mirror. I hope those professors and deans, the next time they see a student dealing with the same issues, remember how it felt to be in a strange place, feeling helpless and a little bit betrayed by those they trusted and a system that seemed designed to defeat them. It's not about fault, it's not about blame, and it's usually not about "fixing" it. It's about empathy. It's about compassion. It's about looking them in the eye, and saying, "I understand," and having that be true.
meirwen_1988: (tired)
(*cue Mamas and Papas Tribute Band filking "Monday, Monday"*)

I should be grading placement tests. But I console myself that I have been virtuous and graded film papers, and EN 101 in-class assignments, and did laundry. I should also be organizing my room, packing for the New England trip, balancing my budget, and working on the solution to the national debt problem.

At the very least I should be reading one of the books I have on loan, or the TV show I taped, or clipping the cat's claws.

Instead I've been tooling around on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

I have lots of thinky-thoughts going on right now--about friends having babies, and friends having cancer, about the thinning of my skin (both the actual [related to the passing years] and the metaphorical), about absent red-headed men, and the spaniel I miss, and the grey cat I long to hold again. About mommy food cooked by Momma, and Daddy's dry humor. About the extremely fertile womb, with no endurance, I was born with. About the sisters and daughters of my heart, and chosen family. And how I miss the time not so long ago when here was a community of many voices, with real things to say, instead of a place where the voices moved to the shallow end of the pool (yes, Mark Zucherberg, I'm talking about you).

But I'm tired, and my eyes hurt right now, so I think I'll just get out the eye drops the ophthalmologist gave me, and head to bed. Tomorrow is time enough to save the world.
meirwen_1988: (Default)
Tomorrow is the first day of the new academic year, at least where I teach. Every year I greet it with equal parts of fear, anxiety, and joy.

Beginnings are always scary--beginning a new semester, beginning a new relationship, beginning a new...anything. New, by its very nature, is "different" and we are hard-wired to be suspicious of the new, to be cautious, to assume it is dangerous until proven otherwise. That instinct has done us a lot of good over the ages. It has helped us become, among other things, the dominant lifeform on the planet. (It is also responsible for some not good things--like bigotry, prejudice, xenophobia, stagnation, and nationalism--but that is another issue, for another post.) So, there's that.

There's also that social anxiety that comes when you are going to meet new people. Tomorrow, based on enrollment counts and my scan of my rosters, I will meet 141 new people, each one of whom I, as their teacher, want to respect and who I want to respect me. It would also be nice if they liked me. Previous experience, both as a student and as a teacher for more than 20 years, tells me that won't happen. About 10% will come to like me, and an equal percentage will come to hate my guts. More than half will respect me, but at least 30% won't have more than casual disdain. So, tomorrow, I'm going to meet roughly 50 people who will never find anything I do "acceptable." So, no surprise there about the anxiety.

But they are anxious, too. About 60 of the people I meet tomorrow will be first time college freshmen. Talk about exciting and scary! Many will be living away from home for the first time, and no matter how liberating that can feel, it also feels lonely and unsafe. They will be trying to learn a new system of education, a new campus, a new life. And they will be surrounded by strangers. At least I have my colleagues, and familiar spaces. The new students have none of that.

But the beginning of a school year is also full of promise and possibilities. When we were children it was marked by new clothes, and new pencils, new folders and notebooks, and, if we were lucky, a new lunchbox with our favorite cartoon character/TV show/rock star on it. There was a new room, a new teacher, old friends in new seats, and the possibility of new friends. A new start. Maybe this year I'll be good at dodge ball. Maybe this year I'll like math. Maybe this year...

For me, the most emblematic signal of a new school year came in a yellow and blue box, labeled "Crayola." Nothing smells so much of possibility as a new box of crayons. And as you take one out of the box--the paper crisp and unblemished, the color clear, the end beautifully pointed (but flat on the end!), nothing holds so much possibility. Will you use the crayon to make a venn diagram? To color neatly in the lines? To create a beautiful image to go beside the poem you've selected to share with the class? To create a daringly individual self-portrait for the art show? To write in anger on the wall? To deface the desk?

Nothing so much in any school year is emblematic of choice, of the individual's ability to make something of their environment, to define themselves, as a box of crayons.

For all the new is dangerous, and requires caution, and good judgement, new is also about beginnings, and we can choose how we begin. And we must, for as we begin, so we go on.

I think I'll start with cerulean.
meirwen_1988: (Inquiring minds)
So this weekend I cut back on media.

I listened to CDs in my car (when I was driving), not the radio, or an audiobook, or podcasts.
I turned my work laptop off on Friday, and didn't use a full computer again until Sunday night.

I couldn't quite give up checking Facebook and email entirely, but I limited myself to 10 minutes, twice a day.

Of course, I've been on the computer since 8 AM this morning, not counting time I was having appointments with students or on the phone doing business. So, 5.5 hours straight, pretty much. No wonder I feel so "wired."

I'm not sure what I learned from this, except that de-teching (as opposed to "unplugging") for the weekend was good. I said I'd be gone, gave people ways to contact me if important, and otherwise just backed away. It really cut away a strange level of "urgency" that I wasn't aware was sitting in the background all the time, like the hum from an old refrigerator.

I think I'm going to try again, and maybe even compartmentalize things a little more. It may make me less "available," but I don't think it will unduly compromise my ability to interact with the people I care about, and it may make me a bit less frayed around the edges. There wasn't anything I missed during those 50+ hours that I needed to see "right then," though perhaps if I'd seen Deborah's posts about sex in space earlier I'd have laughed earlier, but I still laughed. That's what matters, right?

And, I hate to say it, but Google+ may soon be my preferred platform for many things. It has better utility than RSS for reading blogs (assuming the writer makes the right connections to their Google+ profile), and because I can segregate in ways FB doesn't allow, I can quickly check on my "family," then read my "following" circle, where most of the "blog-y" things are that are work related, then if I have time I can check on my "friends," or not.

FWIW, I still don't "get" Twitter, though I'm trying. Really. And given an article I just read, I think I'm going to have to set up a student-accessible Twitter account. *sigh*

So, trying to figure out how to navigate in the electronic stream with all its myriad currents, eddies, and undertows.

Part of me really misses rotary phones, Smith-Corona manual typewriters, and getting up to change the channel. But of course it's also true you'll have to "pry [my iPhone] from my cold, dead hand." So, learning to paddle really is my only choice.

As an aside, the picture above is in honor of the dream last night in which at one point I was walking down the street holding hands with Gil Grissom. I have no idea where that came from. And, in case you're interested, he's much shorter in dreams than he is on television. ;-)
meirwen_1988: (Gibbs-smack)
Lately I've been a bit discontented with various items in the kitchen. I have some stunningly good cookware (some of it inherited from my mother--1950's RevereWare still beats most of what is out there today for quality and durability), that I have either purchased, or inherited, or been gifted. But there are a couple of items I really want. Lately I've been talking myself out of them because "you're gonna die 'soon,' and it's not like you've got children to leave anything to, except the adopted ones who already have their own homes, and some of them have even better stuff already than you do, so really, how can you justify it." Of course, by "soon" I'm thinking in terms of 30 years or so, but over time the cooking part will gradually decrease (age and necessity have their inexorable effect). I mean, really, what do I need with an All-Clad turkey roaster. It's not like I have a family that comes home for Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. Or Easter. And I don't mean that in a "whiney-whiney-poor-me" way. It just happens to be my reality. There's the occasional time when nearly everyone comes over, but it isn't "that kind of thing."

But today I was reading the personal blog of one of my favorite authors, who is 66, and she was talking about how this last year she replaced a number of the pieces of cookware she's been using since she got them for wedding presents more than 30 years ago. And what a good thing it was that she had--how they cook better, save her time, and just give her more pleasure cooking than struggling with substandard performance in her cookware.

She's 66. She just bought 6 pieces of All-Clad and two Le Creusset. It is just her, and her husband, and the occasional visits of friends.

This reminds me of when Deborah wrote about learning to play piano.

So, I think, maybe, I'm going to go and buy myself a piece of good cookware. Even if I am going to die in a few decades. (But not a turkey roaster, I think. That'll be a pain to pack and move.)
meirwen_1988: (Duchess)
One of the Elton John songs I don't immediately throw up upon hearing has the repeated line "sorry seems to be the hardest word." Well, he's wrong, at least sometimes. Sometimes it's "Thank you." This is particularly true when what wants to come blasting from your throat at 90 decibels is "There's been a horrible mistake!"

That was sort of how I felt Saturday. For those of you not familiar with the conventions of the Society for Creative Anachronism, this may come out sounding like some sort of hallucinogenic dream, but bear with me for a moment or two.

Saturday I went to an event, specifically Pax Interuptus in the Barony of Thescorre. I have been to many PIs, and usually am happy to go. This weekend there were multiple reasons why I wasn't looking forward to it, but I went anyway, if for no other reason than to finally meet my god-dog, Charlotte (long story, which I'll save for another time). And there would be chosen family there, and a lovely lady was getting an award and I thought it would be nice to be there to see that. So I bundled up the pugs and went.

The trip out (in glorious weather) was more problematic than I'd hoped, took longer than anticipated, and got me to the site trying to be good humored, but on the verge of grumpy. There was predictable foo with parking, but that got sorted, I had lots of lovely help getting things out of the car and to our little setup, which was quite nicely done (there is more about that if you care to read it at 'dicea's post about the same event). Really, it was no one's fault that the density of persons to the square inch exceeded my tolerance levels by orders of magnitude. And it didn't help that one of our number had gotten exactly 1.5 hours of sleep the night before helping the person in charge of lunch get that ready (though it might have been helpful if that information had been shared so people could have attempted to make life easier--but I digress). And it was hot, and that is never wonderful. But all in all, it was a pleasant time. And then there was court.

Now, I hadn't intended to actually "attend" court. I thought I'd wander over when I saw the lovely lady getting the award get called in. But, then, a half an hour before the scheduled start I was asked to speak in support of her award during the ceremony. I really hadn't brought "court clothes," but sometimes plain tailored attire will suffice, and this was going to have to be one of those times. I went and put on appropriate headgear (see photo above), and my best belt, and that was that. And since I didn't want to be late to speak, I came in partway through court and actually took a seat.

About 5 awards went by, and I was thinking we were close to the peerage awards when I was called into court. Well--first response is panic. Then, well, "maybe it's schtick" because of the letter I sent them [the Crown] about a decision they had made I didn't agree with. So I bowed, came and knelt on the pillow between the thrones, and said "Your Majesties, how may I serve you?" His aside to Her Majesty, "I love when they give Us straight lines like this." And He smiled, shyly, as is His wont, and started talking, but didn't make eye contact. And she was looking at me with that beautiful smile she has (really, she should pose for Medieval portraiture of queens and Madonnas--she's devastating). And he talked about counsel, and advice, and diplomacy, and I really thought he was setting me up for a request of service that I was going to have to find a way to fulfill--some diplomatic envoy, or camp counselor at Pennsic, or something, and I was trying to figure out how to afford it, how to schedule it, how to logistics whatever it was.

And then they called in the Millrinds (the name of our Grant Level service order). I was...poleaxed. And my first impulse was that there was a mistake. To be honest, that is still, on some level, how I feel. I think of the service others did, that earned them a place in the Order, and I don't see how I stand in the same field. I can see how most of them, even with the incredible variety of service, stand together, but I'm having trouble with how I fit there. As I continued kneeling (because of the reaction of surprise now sitting on my heels instead of the posture I had first assumed with the straight thighs, hips, and back I was taught all those years ago in dance classes), I tried to wrap my head around it, but all I could think was "this is wrong, there's been a mistake." To be honest, I don't think I was the only one thinking that based on what I heard behind me. But it was done. And these were a Crowned Pair that I trust absolutely to not do "the wrong thing," and it's a polling order. I couldn't believe they would have gone against the will of the order, which meant at least some of them thought I should stand with them.

And so, I said "thank you" to Their Majesties, and to the order members as they came and embraced me and said kind words. I said totally unambiguous "thank you"s to Sophie and Katie, and later Danny--their work on my behalf was beautiful and I have no hesitancy, no difficulty, in thanking them. But for the rest....

You see, based on the Crown's words, and the scroll I was given, this wasn't primarily for my work as an autocrat, or a Mistress of the Lists, or a class organizer (though I have done all those things). Sometimes. Not often, and not exceedingly well--certainly not at a level appropriate for inclusion in this order. It was for counsel.

Since I am on the faculty at a school where we have degrees in "Counseling," where I have friends who are professional "counselors," I suppose I should be able to wrap my head around this. Perhaps it is too new, both for our organization, and for my brain, to fully come to grips with it. I will try.

What I must do, in the meantime, is treat this as grace, as in something bestowed which comes not necessarily because we deserve it, but because we can deserve it, if we will but put ourselves to the right thinking and conduct.

That, or it's the Crown's sneaky way of getting back at me for that letter by making me go to more order meetings. ;-)
meirwen_1988: (Thoughtful)
Reposted without other comment.
meirwen_1988: (Hope)
Because of the peculiarities of the position of my bedroom windows, looking out them when I woke this morning, it was as though I was looking out into a huge snowglobe. The world was snowy, and soft, huge puffs of flakes falling slowly past the glass.

When I went downstairs, the illusion was shattered. There was only a bit more snow on the ground than when Heidi and the boys left last night, our slightly shabby Victorian was itself, and everything else was just ... banal. Banal isn't bad, but after the magic of those first few moments, it was...disappointing.

I'm trying, you see, to take a little stock, get a little perspective, write out my thinks. But even the little I"ve typed above, in as ergonomically sound position as possible, is already wrecking my hands. So I will abandon the long post I thought I was going to do for now, and instead just sketch some thoughts.

I am blessed by the love and friendship in my life, and I know this--both in my heart, and in my head. That doesn't change the fact that this year has been hard. I am not who I was, and I don't know who I am, including what I want of myself, let alone for myself. I want to be there for my friends, but some days, I just don't have the energy to reach out. Given some of the devastating losses, and heart wounds my friends have suffered, I wish I'd been able to do more. It isn't that I don't care, I'm just weak. I am trying not to see that as a personal failure, while at the same time finding a way to be better about it. A contradiction perhaps, but there you have it.

And in the raw around the edges that I am, I am trying, truly, to grasp the distinctions about when unkindness truly is that, and when it is just the consequence of others trying to learn what they want of themselves, and for themselves. But when just getting through the day without screaming and leaving everything and everyone behind to start new where, in opposition to the Cheers song, "Sometimes I want to go/where nobody knows my name/and none of the faces are the same...." requires supreme acts of will and strength, I don't have much left to try to understand things from someone else's perspective. Not an excuse, but still true.

In a little while I will leave my sweet Birman's side and go down to start another day. The new year began with love and laughter, and I pray that I remember that on the dark days. I pray that I'll find the strength to put on fancy dress and take joy in it and the people I see there. That I'll be a better teacher and a better friend this year than in the last. And that I will be better to myself, because I think if I don't do that, I won't be able to do any of the rest.

Quiet day

Jul. 3rd, 2009 12:56 pm
meirwen_1988: (Default)
After the delightful yesterday of talk and laughter and good food, today is quiet. I am, as usual on Fourth of July weekend, watching Gettysburg. I usually watch part of it on the 2nd, part on the 3rd, and finish on the 4th.* This year, I missed the second (see delightful day above), so I'm getting the a big brain deluge today. I just finished the Battle for Little Round Top and visited John Bell Hood in the field hospital.

I think the reason I watch it every year is that more than any other war film I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot) it makes war itself something heartbreaking. More importantly, Maxwell's Gettysburg re-affirms the basic decency of human beings, even nobility, even while showing that even the best of men can make horrible mistakes with devastating consequences--but that those mistakes do not change the fundamental decency or value of those who make them. It is, ultimately, a movie optimistic about the human spirt and, as Chamberlain would say, the inherent value of every human being, and that I think is why even the heartbreak of Pickett's Charge can't make me turn away from it.

Added a bit later in the afternoon )

The morning began with hearing the NPR voices I know and love read through the document that begins "We hold these truths to be self-evident..."; now I am watching courage and conviction; I will spend my evening with friends from my youth, singing and laughing.

May your day, your holiday, give you as much satisfaction.

And for those of you going to Glenn Linn, where I spent part of last year's holiday weekend--fence, giggle, and drink some rum or Scotch. He would.
meirwen_1988: (girlhawk)
As I was driving in to work this morning I found myself thinking about television. Most specifically, probably because tonight is the six month anniversary of becoming one, I was thinking about widows. More specifically, I was thinking about widowers, because there seem to be an awful lot of them on TV at the moment.

Really--just take one network--CBS. On Tuesday at 8 you have NCIS where the lead is a 50ish, 4 times married, 3 times divorced widower (and the constant implication is that the divorces are what happened because he lost the love of his life). Then, at 9 on Tuesday, you have The Mentalist ("most popular new show"). Here the 30ish "hero" is also a widower, having lost his wife to a serial killer. Then you have Eleventh Hour on Thursdays at 10, where Rupert Sewell's intense, 40ish Dr. Jacob Hood is a widower who lost his wife to cancer. Even Jack Bauer (on FOX) in 24 is a widower, as got thrown in his face just last week.

Why are widower's so appealing on television? Do we blame Ben Cartwright? Did he set the model for the charismatic sexy widower (well, that, and that by the end of the series Adam, Hoss, and Li'l Joe were all widowers, too)? Lucas McCain from The Rifleman was another early model. Is it that by being defined as widowers these hunks hold out a tantalizing "marryin'-kind" aura with the cache of fidelity? Are they simultaneously figures women can want (as we must all want a character for it to be successful in the medium) and men want to be? Certainly there are more of them than there used to be. Is it because so many middleclass widowers were created in Oklahoma City and New York, and are being created (though without much attention, because that would be bad PR) in Iraq and Afghanistan?

And, just for the record, why do the widowers get to be hot and sexy and date? When was the last time you saw a widow on TV being anything other than pathetically noble (that's a description of the characterization usually seen on TV, not a comment about real widows) as a single parent struggling to make ends meet in a guest starring or supporting character-soon-departed way (thinking of Harm's brief love interest on JAG, among others)?

So, anyway, that's what I was wondering about on my way into work.

Just a thinky-thought.
meirwen_1988: (writing)
Every once in a while I treat myself to the Sunday New York Times. Now, mind you, this is not an unalloyed pleasure. Reading it reminds me of how far I am from those things I would choose to have in my life if I could--a bakery around the corner, a bus to hop on to get to fun, and bars, without worrying that I won't be ready to leave before the sun sets, or that I can't have that second glass of wine because I have to drive. A place where if I truly want to go and see Hunger I can, rather than waiting for Netflix, since the chance it will ever appear in a theatre here is beyond slim.

But it is still a pleasure to read of a place where there is so much. To read ideas put out on broadsheets of paper.

So, last week I bought myself a copy. It is a sad commentary on the pace of my life that I was only finally able to read it today, but at least now it is read. And there is a comfort in some of the distance from the first section--a context for the angst, if you will.

And the other sections were well worth the time, on this lazy Sunday filled with little beyond Mass, then a donation breakfast (which is why the somewhat heathenish Duchezz accompanied me to our, in her words, absolutely beautiful little church). The afternoon was largely spent with the television showing truly excrebal films, and me reading first the local Sunday paper, and then the aforementioned copy of the Times.

What prompted this post was the special insert last week, Season Premiere: Men's Fashion Spring 2009. This insert was in keeping with what seemed to be a theme for that week's edition, since the second section had had a huge picture of Dwayne Johnson on the first page. This section's cover was a very sharp, very sexy black and white photo of Eric Dane, who I have found easy on the eyes ever since he was on Charmed. So, having nothing better to do, and being a compulsive finisher, I made my way through all 116 pages.

And came away very thoughtful.

Over the years of being first a self-conscious tween, then a teen, then a Cosmopolitan target and on through Self, and now in More, with the occasional glances at Vogue and Vanity Fair, I've become accustomed to a the advertisements for women's clothing. A certain level of sexual availability, a certain corruption of innocence in a very Lolita-esque way. I've become accustomed to the Balanchine inspired body types, the ennui-infused belligerence that passes for smokey sexuality. And when the feminists, and the social engineers, and the religious conservatives all start going off on the ads and the innuendos therein, the models they role-play for the young, I tend to have an attitude of "get over it."

But there were some fashion shots and layouts in this insert that, frankly, gave me serious...creeps. Perhaps because I am not the target audience and I am viewing them through objective eyes? Or perhaps because as a solidly heterosexual female, males put on display does trigger certain basic responses, and so I can see just what kind of manipulation is going on. Whatever the reason, some of those ads were...disturbing. It wasn't the fact that apparently no male under 40 wearing couture, even in $2000 shoes, has ever considered wearing a sock. It wasn't that there continues to be a lamentable tendency to think that it makes sense to pay $400 for a new pair of jeans that look little better than young Michael's did after his unfortunate encounter with with the truck tailgate.

No, it was three separate spreads. One, entitled "Euro Stars: Old World Style is New Again," purports to be fashion shots touting Hermes, Dries Van Noten, Prada, and some other European designers. Frankly, they look more like shots on the wall of some bordello specializing in young men. Looking at them, all I can see in my head is some fat, balding, closeted man, greasy with sweat in a rumpled Saville row business suit panting over each photograph until he finds the sweet, tortured face (all of the models are heavy lidded and full-lipped, almost like androgene Kate Mosses) of the boy that he will bugger that night. Then there is "Egon Schiele May be the Spring's Most Unexpected Icon," which is a photo spread of model Drew Jenkins in Schiel-inspired shots, with the photo's retouched so they look almost Norman Rockwell-ian, if you can imagine Rockwell's models being chisel-cheeked and provocative, in poses more suited to Hustler than the Saturday Evening Post--the only thing that saved them from total depravity was the fact that he was clothed.

The final entry, "Landed Gent" was, at least, honest, in that it was some modern fashion shots knowingly modeled on the work of George Platt Lynes--an open gay in a time when that wasn't very common--with a reputation even in his lifetime for beautifully photographing beautiful gay boys.

Certainly there are some ads and spreads in this insert that were just gorgeous men wearing gorgeous clothes, gorgeously. But those three pieces, "Euro," "Egon," and "Landed" made me think of a Greece where men and boys spent the quality time together, and women were valued for their biology. Made me think of boys standing on corners tricking, or hanging around in bars in the 80's, painted like the singers in Human League, risking AIDS for enough cash for blow, or film for their school project.

Most of all, though, it made me wonder if next time I hear someone start raging about the effect of fashion advertising on the self-images girls and young women develop, maybe I shouldn't be quite so quick to say "Get over it."

Maybe I just needed to see it all from a different perspective.
meirwen_1988: (morning person)
-Do not read the Fleur list. This was mentioned before.
-Do not read [ profile] much_ado , especially postings about school, or comments that allude to Pelagius, my favorite church-decried theologian, while having breakfast unless one has the entire day to do research, thinking, and thoughtful responding. Makes you late for work. And you don't get any of the previous three done and it hangs over your consciousness all day like the f***ing sword of Damocles.
-Other people's lives are much worse than my own. Moira is much in my thoughts today.
-Pugs need regular, prolonged snuggles. I am not a solo multipug person. One person, one dog, that's my motto.
-Shite happens. Our secretary had a stroke in the office this morning. I really like her. It appears she's doing well now, but, holy crap, Batman!
-Life is infinitely better with a cup of tea, a piece a shortbread, and a purring kitty. So I'm on my way home to all three now.
meirwen_1988: (Thoughtful)
I don't have an answer to this question. That said, I think sometimes what matters is coming up with the question.

Cut for those not interested in questions of spirituality with a Christian spin )
meirwen_1988: (Default)
And the response took even less time than I anticipated. Of course, the Monseigneur is now being vilified. It is the crazy making.

Response from Monseigneur Martin T. Laughlin
AP story for those less clerically inclined

In other observations, for what it's worth, my two favorite columns to read in the paper are really not ... on the same page position-wise. Sort of wondered why I got the same feeling reading each of them, though the "thinks" were so often so different.

Then I got it. I think what they both have in common is the tone implies they genuinely like human beings, and assume that a person deserves respect, dignity, and freedom from fear. They think that can be achieved in sometimes oppositional ways, but they never seem to assume that simply not thinking the same way they do is a reason to devalue a person. Given the string of columnists our paper had before Parker, that is refreshing. And Pitts? Well, he writes beautifully (Parker isn't quite as good yet, but she's getting there), and, well, he has the courage to call out liberals and African-Americans when he believes they are behaving in ways that undermine their causes, their dignity as people, or disrespect either the history of the nation or the value of opposing positions.

Oh, yes, it is before 7 on a Saturday and I am up--thank you for noticing. Actually, that's when most of my heavy mental lifting occurs. The rest of the day is just playing it out.

Have a great Saturday, y'all.


meirwen_1988: (Default)

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