Thursday, August 30, 2012

the assemblage of treasure and scrap

If there's one thing I truly suck at, it's physical organization. I am egregiously handicapped when it comes to sorting and making decisions about objects. If there is a Special Olympics sort of event, or a government issued card I can stick on my rearview mirror to mitigate my retardation in this area, consider my hand officially raised.

Yesterday I bought two books to help me navigate the chaos and clutter in my immediate midst. One book I gave to my husband (also moderately afflicted with the handicap), and the other, well, as you can see it's sitting under my mug of coffee (I know it looks like wine, but, I pinky-dog swear, it really is coffee). The problem is, I don't know where to start. I get all anxious and paralysis sets in, and then I start to hyperventilate. Sounds like a Hoarders case, yes?

I want to, you know, "space clear." Get rid of the bad, stagnant energy and whatnot. Shred useless, outdated documents. Restore my chi. (Or is it qi--I guess I need to excavate the fucking book and find out.)

For the past few months, when not trotting around Europe, we've been in that semi-homeless limbo known as remodeling hell. Our kitchen, dining room and living room -- the central thoroughfare of our lives -- have been off-limits. I've been brewing coffee next to the toilet. Washing dishes in the laundry slop sink. Chopping tomatoes and buttering toast on the dryer. I don't know about you, but when the food part of my routine goes awry for any length of time, it becomes this systemic hell. It's a Maslow thing, right? Food is pretty essential. Consequently, my chi (or qi) is out of whack.

The remodel is just about finished now, and all this week I've been peeking in the bins and boxes I packed up in early June. I've been trying to sort stuff; move the essentials back into their drawers. Which sounds simple and glorious, right? I get to put my kitchen back together! Use a proper cutting board on a solid surface. Alas, would that it were so. This afternoon I stood in front of two Rubbermaid bins completely paralyzed with options. Should I put that grater in the Goodwill box? Or maybe it should be ferried back upstairs to the kitchen and be placed a drawer that I've yet to earmark for such a tool. Or, perhaps I should toss it into the bin for tomorrow's yard sale? Well, that depends on how many graters we actually have. I mean, is this the grater from Kirk's VW camper? Is it our extra grater? And don't we use a Cusinart for grating these days? You'd think I was a husband from the 50's faced with a dead wife and no history of performing simple kitchen tasks.

The anti-clutter book I gave Kirk had this tagline commanding the reader to throw away 50 things. Would this grater be one of the 50 things? Should it be? Okay, move on to the turkey lacing skewers. Hm. And like that. All day long.

I really wish I was a pot-smoker. I think I could probably blaze this conundrum into the vapors of "whatever."

The darker issue here is this fear that my affliction -- the glacial pace with which I attend these sorts of chores -- is only going to become more pronounced as I age. Perhaps I am staring into my future, when I will one day hold a toothbrush in one hand, toothpaste in the other, and try to recall how they go together, and what to do with them once they're joined.

The problem is, of course, we simply have too much crap, us blended boomers. Crates and barrels and bins of sentimental detritus that we should clearly jettison. Or hire someone to jettison for us, lest we get sucked into the nostalgia of things such as a child's kindergarten masterpiece or a Mother's Day ashtray made sixteen years ago (maybe I will take up pot smoking after all! Let's save it, just in case!)

How about you? Are you as organized as a German engineer, or are you headed for your own starring role Hoarders?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sisi's fancy frocks contest

Want a chance at winning a really cool book by Sangu Mandanna? (She's another Melissa Sarver author --so sort of in my rep family, and her debut book, THE LOST GIRL, is really clever and built on a very cool premise).

You only have until Tuesday, August 28th at 4 pm Pacific Time, so hop on over to the Empress Chronicles and play this fun game! It's a mix-and-match sort of deal.There's fancy court gowns involved. You'll like it. Swear.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

on the street where I live

So this morning started with one of the autistic kids from the group home around the corner frantically ringing the doorbell at 6:45. Kirk opened the door, expecting some sort of emergency, and in dashed this six-year old, making a bee-line for the bathroom where he proceeded to flush the toilet repeatedly.

I threw on some clothes and went off into the bizarre Phoenix-like heat of early morning and soon found the frantic caregiver wandering the street. The boy, he told me, had jumped out the window. "He's obsessed with toilets," he said.

This is the third time the kid has found his way into our house, the little escape artist. WTF? Why us? What's the intrigue? Is our toilet giving off secret signals?

Autism is such an interesting and baffling condition. What goes on in there, in those brains? Neural pathways mapping a discordant world where obsessions and compulsions and savant behaviors become hardwired to the exclusion of social construct. The boy in our house this morning had crapped his pants, probably a connection to the flushing toilet. The brain and the body making its causal circuit.

The day, from that point forward, took on a sort of depressing pallor. I kept revisiting the image of the boy being hoisted over the shoulder of his caregiver as they descended our steps, his body gone limp as a sack of rice. What will become of these kids in that group home? Where will they go once they're too large to be hauled back to base? What sort of therapy are these kids given? Are they the babies of crack moms? Are they simply too much for their parents to handle?

My own boys, my girl, somehow they grew to normal size and development, in my womb and then in the world. Their chromosomes all correctly numbered. Their neural pathways wired toward function. My youngest boy, sometimes he ticks me off because he leaves his cereal bowl in the family room. His dirty socks on the floor. I have excellent, thriving, productive kids and step-kids and a loving husband. Blessings beyond measure. I should volunteer. I should give my time and heart to those less fortunate. I should learn about autism and lend a hand over at that group home full of kids who crap their pants and flush toilets and jump out windows.

And yet I know I won't.

When confronted with uncomfortable, unfortunate circumstance, do you ever feel guilty because you're not doing more?

Thursday, August 09, 2012


Our poster child for human beingness   
If you've been reading this blog over the past, um, seven years, you know that I'm a little bit of a soccer nut. Even though I, myself, have never played. Yeah, I'm one of those. But, c'mon, I've been a beast of a soccer mom for 20 years, I've written articles about the sport (and its regional fandom), and when it comes to women's soccer, ask my husband, he'll tell you that he NEVER sees me as animated as I am when glued to the Abby-Megan-Alex-Hope show.
Though I felt bad for the Canadians with the semi outcome the other day (they gave just as much as our women did, and if you're from Portland, you gotta love watching UP alum Sinclair), I was salivating for the chance to watch USAvJPN again. The Japanese women are simply the smartest, most disciplined team out there. They don't have our drama or individual personality. Our sheer physical intent. Our bravado. But they use every ounce of ability and focus.They punish every mistake. They are winners in the deepest sense of the word.
Last summer's Japan-USA World Cup final was a heartbreaker for the diehard USWNT fans, but one of those emotional sports capstones that paper towel companies relish. The country had been devastated by the earthquake just months before the World Cup. It was this sort of "Well, if the U.S. had to lose, better to the poor Japanese girls than to, say, the Germans or the French" feelings. Which is bullshit, but where would international advertising-fueled, media-inspired sporting events be without sentimentality?

And speaking of the media, nobody was more soundbite-bite worthy than Wambach when she went on record before the London Games with her, "It doesn't matter who gets the goals - I'm going to leave my whole Human Beingness on that field" statement.

Tears of silver 
Today's match was a tad anti-climactic after that amazing semi-final against our neighbors to the north. I mean, Rapinoe was spent and sore. Wambach, bless her heart, looked run over by a freight train for much of the game. Baby Horse was her usual energetic self, but was outshined at the back of the net by Lloyd today--which, in the end, is why I love watching these women. Pia's team is deep. So deep. And know each other so well, you get the feeling that they make plays based upon this sort of infallible intuition that you just don't see with the boys' teams.

And don't even get me started on that stud, Solo. If the Timbers HAD to trade one of their most popular team members, it should have been Solo, not Ricketts, they acquired. (Though my son tells me she's crap against grounders, and that's why she blows shootouts. Hm.)

So the USA wins gold in Women's Football, and soccer-playing girls all over the country have sparky, genuine, incredible athletes as role models, their stature only outsized by their hearts. Silver, Gold, Bronze or no medal at all, I'm a fan. #USWNTTID.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

happy birthday

He would have been 50 today, my first husband. He's been dead half his life. There should be a milestone for this day, but I'm not sure, exactly, what.

Years ago our kids and I used to mark his birthday by cooking up his favorite meal: veal cutlets. Frank loved a good veal cutlet. Maybe, over time, he would have seen the cruelty in the veal cutlet, the little huts the baby cows are confined to and so forth (though, his name was Vitello, so maybe not). For our short life together (three years of a marriage that produced two children), we'd celebrate August 1st with eggs Benedict and mimosas upon waking. Jesus, talk about your high cholesterol food choices! Ah, but we were young. What did we know of mortality? What did we know about clogged arteries and politically sensitive eating and the raising of children? We were just out of the snorting coke years. The selling pot years. We had menial minimum-wage jobs in food service. We delivered the Sunday paper together, him--flinging the Arizona Republic from the back of a copper-colored pickup at four in the morning, me--pregnant and disheveled at the wheel.

What would Frank Vitello be like as a 50-year old? Would we have stayed married? Would we have churned out more kids? Where would we be living? When he died, we'd just moved back to New York State. That day they pulled his lifeless, smashed up body from a pile of crumpled Mustang, I was, again, big with baby. My daughter, who was technically a fetus when her father was killed, does not eat veal anymore. Or wheat, for that matter.Would her father be giving her shit for her gluten-free ways? Would he raz her about the tattoo on her ankle? Frank liked a good talk radio show. Would he be voting for Romney, then?

And what would he have to say about his son's chosen career as a poker player? "Why, at your age," he might say, "I was holding down four jobs and digging out the septic tank in preparation for my second child." Or maybe he'd be all proud and amazed that his son is living the life, rolling with the big boys. Doing well with the cards. In reality though, all he could say to his son today is, "Why, when I was your age, I was dead."

I remember my first husband's laugh. The way his eyes crinkled when he was amused. He liked a good, stout ale. He'd approve, I think, that I'm now married to a guy who brews his own. Sometimes I imagine us all at the dining table: my dead husband, my alive one, my ex and my children. One big meld of family sitting amid steaming piles of disparate food: tofu, beef, sauerkraut, pizza. If I could only be a fly on the wall while my various husbands discussed global warming, college sports teams, the upcoming presidential election, raising chickens.

The men. The babies. Life. 

Happy birthday, Frankie. If I had a kitchen, I'd cook you a meal.