Sunday, July 27, 2008

If You Saw Me Walking, by Gerald Stern (1925-)

If you saw me walking one more time on the island
you would know how much the end of August meant to me;

and if you saw me singing as I slid over the wet stones
you would know I was carrying the secret of life in my hip pocket.

If my lips moved too much
you would cover me in light catalpa or dry willow.

Oh if I wore a brace you would help me, if I stuttered
you would hold my arm, if my heart beat with fear

you would throw a board across the channel, you would put
out a hand to catch me, you would carry me on your back.

If you saw me swim back and forth through the algae
you would know how much I love the trees floating under me;

and if you saw me hold my leaf up to the sun
you would know I was still looking for my roots;

and if you saw me burning wood
you would know I was still trying to remember the smell of maple.

If I rushed down the road buttoning my blue shirt-
if I leaft without coffee-if I forgot my chewed-up pen-

you would know there was one more day of happiness
before the water rose again for another year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jeans By, Myself (7-23-08)

The winds of change were blowing about me and I had no choice but to embrace them. On three separate occasions, in a one week period, I was told how great Nordstrom department store was for jeans. “I never knew what size I truly was. This sales person really helped me, down to the right style of jean for my body type, “my size 4 friend Alannah gushed after I complimented her on the fit of her jeans. “I took my 16 year-old daughter in to be fitted and they did wonders with me as well, “my size 14 friend Heather said. I next heard two moms discussing the merits of Norstrom jeans fitting at the school bus pick-up. “You don’t even need a personal shopper, same great service.” “My jeans never fit so well,” the pear shaped woman smiled as she showed off a great ass fit.

It’s now or never, I thought to myself. None of my jeans fit well and most of them would be better off in the Goodwill basket. I have a long, convoluted history with jeans. It can be summed up in one sentence. Whatever is in style at the time will not fit my body. This has always been true. It was true when I was a size 4 (my thighs were too big and my waist too narrow). It was true when I was a size 8 (my butt was too flat and my hips too large). Then at a size 10 (no more waist after having children and the addition of love handles). Now I am a size ? It could be an 8, maybe and 10 or a 12, and maybe even a 14. It all depends on the style and brand of pants. I can say one thing though, the pants will always stretch, in the butt and only at my flattest part. Then the pants will bag and sag in that area with the effect of making my butt look like the continent of North America. My butt also looks this size when the jeans pockets are too small, spaced too widely, or too high up on the back of the pants. I will be the first to admit that I have a tummy-waist bump right at the navel. I would love for stylish pants to have a bit of stretch in that area. Mostly so I could save having to spend $10,000.00 on a tummy tuck operation. It doesn’t matter what brand or what size of pants (especially jeans) never do they stretch in area that I need it most.

It is a number of weeks before I am able to enter my local Nordstom store kid free and duly laden with my emotional jeans buying baggage and ready to spend 2, 4, or even 6 hours doing something that I detest. This something would be standing in front of a three-way distorted mirror, my flaccid body accentuated and highlighted by unflattering dressing room lighting. I would like to take a moment to contrast this with how I feel when I am working out. When I am at the gym, completing the regime prescribed to me by my personal killer, I mean trainer, I feel good. Somehow I look good in the mirrors and compared to some of the other people in the work-out area. Why is this? Why is the gym so nice to and for my body and the dressing rooms at any giver retailer so hateful? Maybe it is a conspiracy to make women hate their bodies, but that will have to wait for another story. For now let’s get back to the history of jeans buying emotional baggage.

This being Nordstrom, I am quickly asked if I need any help. I explain that I am in the store to buy jeans and jeans only and would like to talk to a fitter who can help me find jeans-the best jeans for my body type. Minutes later I am introduced to my “jeans fitter, “a petite young thing just out of diapers, I mean just out of high school. She bubbles and gushes about the merits of different jeans. She even suggests that we go over to TBD (a very trendy department in Nordstrom) after I tell her that I do have a pair of Seven for Mankind jeans that does kind of fit. She ignores the fact that this style of Sevens is not longer made and that I got my pair, deeply discounted, at Nordstrom Rack, not Nordstrom proper because they probably wouldn’t fit anyone else but me. She also ignores me when I tell her that I am not crazy about the fit, but keep the damn jeans around because they are high fashion and may prove useful when I need to “look the part.” Sally (I have forgotten her real name, she seems like a “Sally” to me) piles her already full arms with Seven for Mankind, True Religion, Joe’s Jeans, and other designer jeans clearly not intended for my body type. She reluctantly puts some of the more stylish pairs back after I tell her my price limit.

Before I know it, I am in front of the dreaded three-way mirror, complete with the kind of lighting one might find in the bathroom of a rent-by-the-hour motel and ready to try on my twenty-four pairs of jeans. After stripping down to my underwear, I eagerly pull on my first pair of jeans. This size is too tight in the waist. I can’t even button them. This is too bad because they are an excellent fit everywhere else. I quickly grab the next size up in this same style, hoping that this will do the trick and I can be on my way to do something fun with my afternoon. But, alas the jeans are so large in the waist I can just about pull them off without undoing the button and zipper. I try on several more pairs. The waist is either tiny and tight or the waist of the pants sticks out so far from my lower back that one could fit a baby in there.

The hysterical laughter started when I tried on a pair of jeans that were literally three feet too long. Seriously, I could pull these suckers over my feet and use them as flippers! Sally checks in and wants to know how I am doing, she looks at the flipper pants and comments, “Oh, you do have short legs. Normally we would hem those for free, but there would be a charge because they are so long.” Of course, I had told Sally that I am tall through the torso, not the legs. My legs are short. I eyed the rest of the jeans hanging on the wall with suspicion. “If she had missed that bit of valuable and necessary information, none of these jeans is probably going to fit,” I said under my breath. I tried on the back-gap jeans and Sally told me that they would cost about $75.00 to alter. This would be on top of the $165.00 for the jeans. “Why can’t they just make them right in the first place? I mean who really carries enough weight in their lower back to fill these out?” Sally shrugs and laughs. The seemingly endless dressing room session goes on with me hopelessly trying on the rest of the jeans, the first size so tight and tiny that they wouldn’t fit a Polly Pocket, the next size up, huge in all of the wrong places and likely to stretch out more in these wrong places.

Just as I am about to put my trusty Target specials back on and trudge, defeated, out of the store, Sally returns, claiming to have the perfect pair of jeans for me. “They are from the Narrative department. I will go and grab you a pair.” Let me see, I thought, maybe this will be lucky number twenty-five. Then I paused…the Narrative department…hmm…I seem to recall my 70-year-old mother telling me that she had shopped there and thought the clothes were “too old” for her. My suspicions were aroused. However, I do hate to give up after investing all of this time. I decided to give it a shot. Sally returned with a name brand-Not Your Daughter’s Jeans- and a smile on her face. This is good I thought, jeans that won’t fit my daughters, ages 8 and 6. It’s a good, positive step for designers when they acknowledge that grown women are not shaped like little girls. I anxiously tried on said jean, hoping that I would be fulfilled. I pulled the jeans on and attempted to button them just below my navel. Like most women under age 60, I have gotten used to a slight low-rise in pants. Anything else no longer feels right and has a distinct “mom jean” look.

Sally returns asking a little less brightly how these jeans are working out. I show her the problem. She pauses for a moment before informing me that the jeans should be buttoned at the waist. So I do this, they are actually meant to be buttoned more at the level of the rib cage-making me feel corseted. I have subsequent difficulty with breathing and am tempted to ask if Nordstrom supplies supplemental oxygen to customers trying on these jeans. I look in the mirror and note that my while my tummy does look flatter, my thighs look huge. This is because the fabric is so stretchy. The high waist-geek-type buttoning raises the tiny pockets to the level of my lower back. This has the effect of…making my butt look the size of the continent of North America. “Why would I pay this price for a fit that could be obtained at any local Walmart?” I ask Sally. Sally is laughing now. She is clearly relived to no longer have me as a customer, but she is also enjoying the moment. Only as I am leaving the store (empty handed of course) does it dawn on me-Not Your Daughter’s Jeans-must refer to mothers who are 60-70 and daughters who are 35-50. This thought makes me want to cry. “My only option is to dress like an old woman!” I say aloud.

Many weeks later I am in another department store, in the juniors section (everyone knows that the prices in juniors are much lower than any other women’s department) looking for a cheap wife-beater tank top for a costume party when I find the perfect pair of jeans. They are junior sized (funny, I thought that I had outgrown this after I finished the 12th grade), I try on a size in between my too small and too big women’s sizes and they fit perfectly. They cost $40.00-no alterations necessary. Maybe there is some truth to the adage “young at heart” after all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ageism and the 21st Century

I try to be a positive person, but this truly is one of my rants. Don't get me wrong, I love the younger generations and "yes" they probably do have more spunk and bounce than I do these days, but please cut the negativity. It really got me going when I was cruising You-Tube (a pointless waste of my spare time) and I read "Mick Jagger, not the songbird he used to be." Probably posted by a twenty-something who foresees themselves sitting in a rocker and slurping mushy food when they turn sixty. So, Mick may not be the "songbird" that he once was, but he sure as hell can command the stage better. The clothes have improved since the sixties too. Back then he had one thinking gay or straight? gay or straight? does he really know?

At any rate, when I am sixty and sixty plus I sure hope that I am still skiing, hiking, going to musical events, drinking wine with my friends, and writing the next great American novel. I am sorry that the younger generation doesn't seem to feel this way. Maybe they just think that they will never get old. Ha, ha, ha that's where we are all headed baby, so you had better learn to love yourself and do what you do until the day you're outta here!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Summer Fun

We just got back from our annual camping trip to Lake Wenatchee in Eastern Washington. We have been camping with this group since our kids were wee tiny. My family cheated this year and semi-camped as we didn't get our reservation in soon enough and everything was full. Fortunately, we have some very generous friends who own a vacation home down the street from Lake Wenatchee State Park and we were able to sleep there. December was the month that we last visited this beautiful area so I put in a photo for comparison. The kids are standing in front of Lake Wenatchee almost in the exact same spot that we parked our beach chairs this trip. No nordic skiing this trip, just lots of sunning, swimming, and playing with a really great group of friends.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why Oh Why???

A friend of mine and I were talking tonight and we just can't figure it out, why oh why does Roger Daltry feel the need to wear "mom jeans." The man has a killer body, never mind his age, from the waist up and presumably from the waist down as well. But alas! who can tell when he chooses to robe himself in the most grotesque attire on the planet, the hated "mom jean." He does wear them I can tell in the pictures. My friend, Fan Girl, and her husband were quite close to Roger at a performance in Seattle and she can attest that the man looked awesome except for the jean. Is there anyone that can help him? Are Stacy and Clinton from TLC's "What Not to Wear" available to the stars? If they are, I think that they should be duly nominated to help poor Roger out!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Televison, by Karen, Monica, Maryam, and Megan

This piece was a joint effort by my creative writing group. We were each given a line from a novel and asked to start a story about it. Then we passed it on to the next person (kind of like a progressive writing dinner). Here is one of our efforts.

I went into the faded yellow bedroom and looked at the small bed in the center of the drab room. Under the thin polyester bedspread, dingy and matted with age lay my mother. She had summoned me for the third time that morning. First she wanted hot tea, then the curtains opened, and now she summed me again to close them.
“The bright sun, it hurts my eyes.” She squinted and turned her face from the window. I shut the curtains and leaned over the bed. Slowly I brushed my lips across the paper thinness of her flaky forehead.
“I will come back on my lunch hour to see that you get some hot food. Nurse Lucinda will be here in about ten minutes.”
“Not that witch!” my mother hissed through tiny discolored teeth. “She steals from me!” “There, there mother, if Lucinda doesn’t work out we can always call the agency and see if they will send someone else.”
“You see that you do. I can’t have a thief in my house.”
“I will mother, I will. I have to go not. I need to get to work.”
“When will you be back?”
“I will come back at lunch time to see that you get some hot food.”
“See that you do, that bitch of a nurse may try to poison me.”
“Bye mother.”
I passed Lucinda coming in as I was leaving the house. She waved and smiled. Such a pretty young girl, I thought. She really wants to help. I waved back. More than likely my mother would have changed her mind about Lucinda by lunch. I made a mental note to hold off calling the agency for a replacement
My mother wasn’t always like this. She used to be so warm and vibrant that it was contagious. In one of my earliest memories, my mother and I are on the front porch of our rented Carter Avenue house watching two delivery men carry our brand new television set up the steps. It was our first house alone together after dad left. This was soon after my mother made it clear that the bottle and her philandering would always come before her relationship with him.
I loved that television set. It was the first new thing that my mother ever bought in our new life together. I can’t remember when we lost it. Was it move number fifteen? or twenty? Somewhere in all of the moves the television, along with most of our possessions, was sold or left behind when my mother was unable to pay the rent and we had to move out in the dead of night. I don’t remember how the television left us, but I do remember crying sad, bitter tears when I realized that it was gone.
It was over fifteen years before I had my own television again, now isolated and lonely in my own little apartment, work and caring for my mother kept me from having the time to enjoy it. It wasn’t like the brand new one that I used to sit in front of and try to wish my life into something different when I was young.
Korsakoff’s Syndrome was taking my mother’s mind. Daily I watched her deteriorate into a skeleton of her former self, becoming isolated and violent in the confines of her rotting mind. I didn’t want to put her in a nursing home. If we lost Lucinda, I don’t think that the agency would send us another home health aid. My mother was becoming more dangerous and unpredictable with in-home help.
After work, I stopped at my mother’s house to feed her dinner. The savory smells wafting up from the stew did not disguise the putrefying odor emanating from mother’s body.
“Are you listening to me?” her shrill voice startled me. “I said you can leave me now. I can ladle this swill myself.”
“Sorry mother. I just lost myself. It was a long day at work.”
“Sorry? I don’t need your sympathy.”
In spite of her, I smiled gently and lifted another spoonful of broth to her pale, thin lips. Lucinda came in to take the tray away. A few minutes later she came back to give my mother her bath. I left the room in a daze and found myself at the hall closet. It was filled with a variety of useless things, not looked upon since my mother was bedridden, and probably some time before.
I poked around, looking for anything familiar. I found a tattered shoebox on the shelf and brought it down. Inside was on old Instamatic camera and few handfuls of snapshots I had taken with it. Why my unsentimental mother would keep such a thing, a box of precious memories, was beyond me. She probably thought it was really a pair of sexy pumps, some vestige of her whoring days.
Lucinda approached me in the hallway where I sat on the floor. Her purse was hanging from her shoulder and her car keys were in hand.
“Your mother is asleep now. I will see you in the morning.”
I pulled myself together and off of the floor. “Oh, maybe I might swing by on the way to work, definitely at lunchtime.”
Lucinda lingered there as I got my sweater on and my own purse on my own shoulder. I tucked the shoebox under my arm and ushered the nurse out the front door.
“You know, she does appreciate all the help you are giving. We appreciate it. My mother’s not good at showing it, but she’s happier when there’s someone around.”
“Oh, I’ve been with worse patients. No worries.”
I found that hard to believe. We smiled at each other and that was that.
Once I was at my empty apartment, I scattered the photos from the shoebox across the kitchen table. I pushed them around attempting to create a story from them. A story I knew by heart, but had never told anyone, not even myself.
And there it was. The television set peeked out from behind my mother’s skirt as she posed with one of her many suitors. She used to be so beautiful. But the TV is what held my attention. I scoured the whole batch of photos, setting aside every one that captured even a glimpse of the cabinet. I arranged them neatly in the center of the table, pushing the rest of the photos back into the box.
I warmed up some leftover Chinese food in the microwave. I sat at the table eating, staring at the photos of the TV. I was exhausted, and I went to bed.
I looked less and less forward to my weekly overnight stay at mothers.
“Where the hell is she? She took my earrings.”
I woke up, startled, hearing my mother’s voice yelling. I jumped out of the bed and ran to her bedroom.
“What is it mother?” I asked, feeling disoriented. Although I was awoken with her scream, I still felt sleepy.
“I told you she steals from me. My gold earrings are gone,” my mother screamed.
“Where did you put them last?” I said yawning.
“In my jewelry box, where else do you think I would put them?”
My mother was standing beside her bureau, looking angry, yet fragile. The first drawer was half open and she was holding her small jewelry box in her hands that shook subtly. I got closer to her. The clock that sat on the bureau read 5:12.
“Mother, do you know what time it is? It is 5 o’clock in the morning.”
“I don’t care. I want my earrings back. I told you that bitch is a thief.”
“Can I see the box please?”
“Bruce gave me those earrings. It doesn’t matter that they are small. They are real gold and my favorite earrings. You and everyone else keep telling me that they are small,” she said, her voice had become calmer.
I took the box slowly from her weak hands and searched through it. I couldn’t find the gold earrings. I knew exactly which ones she was talking about. They were two tiny four petal gold flowers with a little emerald in the middle. I raised my head to ask her where else she thought that she might have left them when I noticed that she was wearing them. By then I was completely awake.
“Mother, could you please look in the mirror,” I said.
“As she looked in the mirror, I pulled her short silver hairs aside and carefully placed them behind her ears.
“Look mother, you are wearing your beautiful gold earrings,” I told her gently.
“Yes they are beautiful and they are not small. You know who gave them to me?” her voice was soft.
“Yes mother, Bruce gave them to you.”
“You remember Bruce?”
“Of course mother.”
“He was so generous and beautiful wasn’t he?” my mother said smiling, as she still stared at her image in the mirror, adjusting the earring on her left ear with her fingers.
I remembered Bruce very well. I think he was the only man that my mother ever loved. She met him in her early 30’s. I must have been about eight years old. Whenever he visited, he brought me something, a lollipop, cookies, a pack of gum, and a little red plastic ball. Once he even brought me a little Barbie doll, my first and last Barbie doll ever. It was so beautiful with its long blonde hair and big blue eyes. Bruce had blue eyes too.
I lead my mother back to her bed.
“It is too early mother. You need to get back to bed.”
“Where are you going?’
“I will be in the other room.”
I tucked her in and went to the kitchen. I knew I couldn’t fall asleep again. I put a kettle on to make a cup of coffee, when I saw the old shoebox that I had brought along. I made myself a cup of coffee and sat at the kitchen table to go through the pictures again. There was a picture of me sitting right in front of the TV, holding my Barbie doll. I couldn’t remember who took the picture. I was staring at the TV and looked mesmerized by it. I didn’t even notice the picture was taken.
My pale blue fitted sheet never stayed on the bed, and was twisted like a tornado under my naked body. The mattress felt rough where the sheet should have been. I scrolled down through the list of big, old TV’s being auctioned on ebay, and found one whose woody grain and honey tones matched my childhood TV. I made a bid - $12.50, and mouse-cruised back onto Facebook , and the photo of my second-to-last ex, which I was attempting to enlarge in order to see him better. He had a goatee now, which looked a bit silly, I thought. I stretched across the bed, reaching for my Cooper’s Dark Ale, and took a swig. No soothing, thick liquid oozed into my mouth just a faint taste of beer around the rim of an empty mug. “Bugger it,” I said. ‘There’s no point in trying to enjoy myself.” I dragged my tired body into a leopard skin mini-skirt which had once been my mother’s and a velvet top I’d made from a cushion. It didn’t fit right, and reflected my frustration, hanging in ripples which never had and never would unwrinkle.
The light from the hallway illuminated the shaggy lime green mohair rug next to mother’s bed, making it look like scenery in a cheap sci-fi movie I remember watching on our TV when I was small. I stepped onto it, and poked my toes into the soft fibers. Mother’s body on the shadowy bed looked like a mountain range or a pile of coats, but not like a person. I turned on the light to make sure she was still alive. Her chest was still, and I felt a familiar tight feeling in my lungs. Her chest moved, slowly, silently, air and life and breathe still energizing her crumpled brain. I touched her cold hand, feeling a thick, snaking vein near her wrist. “Hi mother, it’s me,” I whispered. She didn’t awaken. “I’m getting our TV back.” She exhaled. I touched her arm. “Remember the time we watched that funny show together, the one with the lady who had a saucepan on her head?” Mother turned over, pulling her arm away from me. I reached out and touched her knobby spine. “You laughed and laughed, and I was leaning on you and your laughing and wobbling made me wobble too.” She was silent, and I waited for her to breathe. Her spine moved under my fingers. I leant gently against her chest as she exhaled again. Her heartbeat sounded loud and constant in my left ear. Her chest slowly rose, and I rose with her. Momentarily I felt supported by her, held, remembered. She pushed me off her and spoke, her voice soft and husky. “Get the fuck away from me. You’re not having my earrings, you hear? They’re from Brucey.”
“Mother, it’s me, Miranda.”
“I’m your daughter.”
“I don’t care whether you’re the cat’s bloody mother, you’re not taking my earrings.”
I swallowed hard and tried to speak again, and couldn’t. I turned out the bedroom light, stepped onto the soft rug and walked out into the bright hallway.
“Don’t you come back here again, bitch.”
I pushed the yellow switch on the yellow stucco wall and felt the soothing darkness caress me.
“Turn the light back on fucking witch.”
I pulled her heavy door closed behind me. I could hear her yelling something indiscernible. I whispered an answer. “Gotta go mother and see if we got our TV on ebay. Maybe we could watch that show again together.”
I walked onto the cracked pavement and turned my face towards the pale, silvery-gray sky.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Multnomah Falls

The kids and I have been staying at my parents house in Oregon the last several days. I took the opportunity to take the kids to see Multnomah Falls. We hiked to the top (about 1 mile) to see where the falls begin and to take in the view of the Columbia River Gorge. These falls are pretty spectacular. It amazes me how close they are to the city of Portland.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

I just got back from spending several days on the Oregon Coast. We stayed on the beach in Lincoln City and from this location we were able to take in the Oregon Aquarium in Newport, Yaquina Head Lighthouse and tidepools, and the fantastic coastline of course. The Oregon Coast really is all that it is "cracked up to be" in every respect. I love Lincoln City because of the fabulous coastline and the cheesey little beach shops that line the main street and sell mostly souveniors and taffy. It is always nostalgic for me to return to this part of the Oregon Coast as I spent quite a bit of time at my grandparents house in Lincoln City when I was a child.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008

Summer Fun

Peace, Love, and Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Cult's

Did ya ever have one of those days when a really great song just played round and round in your head...

Favorite Pictures

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Summer Fun

We spent the last four days camping here, along this lake. The lake is called Diablo Lake and is located in North Cascades National Park. The weather was gorgeous and my children are now old enough to do one short hike per day. The thought of taking a dip in the lake following a hot hike was tempting, but this lake is glacier fed and quite chilly. I did take a short swim in it when we camped here about three years ago. I remember feeling all of the blood shunt to my heart during that dip and it was a little scary. I didn't immerse myself this time.
We hiked down and saw Ross Lake Dam on this trip as well. For more information about this natural paradise visit