Sunday, October 3, 2010

south of towers and east of kings

Home. After the last post of looking for a new living situation one appeared.
And so now I am in a new apartment, with new furniture, and new roommates, and a new part of the city. It is a good fit. Much like Dundee in Omaha: close enough to busy streets to hear them buzz and people laugh but removed enough to feel tucked in.
During the looking process I realized looking for a home is much like looking for a friend. A good friend. And I entered each space asking: can I laugh here? can I rest here? can I cry here? Much the same with finding the people who matter, the people you invest in and feel safe with. Not that other people don't matter. Certainly there is a significance to each person, but there is resonance with some that just doesn't exist in others. Tangent.
My home has had its inaugural moments after the boxes were in place and the bed was sheeted. First breakfast and coffee. First stubbed toe. First load of laundry. First walk around the block. First run around the park. First cooking attempt. First cry. First time remembering address. First bill finding me. First neighbor encounter.
And finally after a month of consistently sleeping (lightly sensing a geographic change in head position, facing east no longer south) in the same new spot, it feels like home. It took tramping around the blocks a few times. Finding the grocery store, the nearest Walgreens, the Wendy's. Staying put one Saturday. Falling to sleep to distant music from a bar and waking to the birds. Seeing the same faces at the library and the post office.
Yes. Home is where you live.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

red flags include home envy

I don't think of myself as an envious person. I don't think I covet other people's things. Thoughts like I want your _____ (husband, baby, car, sweater set, or salad spinner) don't pop into my head. There are a few instances where I might covet, but this is typically in a restaurant while I am walking by plates of food, and the thought, "I want that" is not really harmful because I fully realize I can have it. And I typically do.
But today I have discovered another instance. Housing. As soon as I located a great neighborhood I started looking beyond my means. Here's the one bedroom studio in my range, oh but look at that old brick bungalow with the glass doorknobs. Or even when trying to stay on task, with the craigslist items do I stray and call the unknown leaser hoping for a surprise. This is just how Anne Shirley in Anne of the Island found her dream living situation. But I am not Anne, there have been no fortuitous surprises, the surprise is that mostly apartments are not priced for me, but rather for someone needing a 3 bedroom home with hardwood floors, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, and a central vac.
David Sedaris wrote something about home envy and Ann Frank's house. "[O]pen the curtains and the first words that come to mind are not "I still believe all people are really good at heart" but "who do I have to knock off in order to get this apartment?" I'm not quite there, but I did feel pangs of why isn't my budget bigger?

Also, while being confronted and grappling with my envious side, I am gathering a list of red flags while hunting that mean: don't do it.
These include:
Seeing water damage in the bedroom and being told that will be cleaned up soon. When the reason for looking for a new situation is...water damage.

Calling a landlord at 10:45 am and hearing
Him: (GROOOOAN) Hello?
Me: Hello, I am standing outside of your rental and I was wondering how many bedrooms it had and the price?
Him: Ummmm Can you call me back after one? uhhhhhh
Me: Oh. Um. I guess so.

An owner returns your call with information, and then the conversation stalls.
Me: I would like to set up a time to look at the apartment. Are you available tomorrow?
Her: I am, but it would have to be after 10am, I'm retired and I live in the building, so I take awhile to get up.
Me: Would 10:30 be far enough after 10am for you?
Her: How about you call me tomorrow and we can set up a time.
Me: Oh....okay.

After being asked about safety in the neighborhood, it took a informative turn.
Well, I think it's pretty safe. Most of the crime is just with the cars on the street. Smash and grabs. Especially Chrysler. Apparently they are easy to break into. It's there turn now. A while back it was GM's turn, and Fords, and now Chrysler. But as far as crimes against individuals....About 70% of the tenants are women and we haven't had any personal attacks. Assailants following them or being inside the apartments. Of course there is probably some domestic abuse going on, but that would be under the radar and I don't know about those. It must happen though. It is everywhere.

But all these make it necessary for a day 3 tomorrow.

Friday, July 30, 2010

newsies tip

New York Times magazine writers:
When writing, keep references more relevant. On more than one occasion you have referenced Peyton Place. I didn't understand the allusion and therefore the point was lost. Now I know it was a TV show that aired in the 60s, because I first asked my parents (who either scoffed at my ignorance or balked at my youth)and then looked it up myself.
Since Nick at Night show sitcoms from the 90s, I suggest keeping things from this decade to present as references to help promote a generation of new dedicated readers.
Since Peyton Place seems to have been an apartment complex where many people lived and shared secrets, more modern day allusions could be: Jersey Shore, Gossip Girl, The Hills, Keeping up with the Kardashians, and even Hannah Montana.
Not that readers should know what your talking about if you cite these shows, but they will.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

turn of the odometer

I am not a car person. I frequently confuse makes and models of cars. I understand nothing of engines. I can drive a stick shift. Also on occasion, when no one is there to see, I can parallel park. And so I would consider my ignorance about cars unacceptable.
Typically, when I was in college and grad school, I would find multiple summer jobs. The criterion for said job was simple: something that was of interest to me and that it wasn't Taco Bell (because I wanted to continue eating there).
So for one summer I applied at Valvoline Instant Oil Change. I thought I would be hired, learn about cars, be able to change my own oil, save money on oil changes in the future, and live a rich and full life as a girl with a grease monkey past. They never called. I might have applied more than once but I don't remember if I did.
All that to say, when I go to get my oil changed, I take notice.

This week I went to my Lube place. Rodney is still there, but he didn't help me this time. It was Paul. I've never met Paul before. And my new car hasn't been there, so we exchanged introductions: me with Paul, Paul with my car, my car with Jiffy Lube, etc.
And very quickly Paul asked what sort of oil I wanted, wanted some particulars on the car engine(which I did not know), and then read off my oil choices.
I was looking at him and the screen not knowing where to look. I like to look at people when they speak to me, but he was avoiding my eyes, so I turned to the screen.
Then Paul inverted the numbers he was reading to me. Switched the second and the first and got the third correct. Then he corrected himself. He seemed a little flustered.

So I said, "Oh I do that too. A lot." It was true. I don't just say things like that.

He labeled himself as severely dyslexic at this point. I took it as fact, though oddly placed in the conversation. I okayed the new oil, told Paul where I was headed, and went back outside to read on the sidewalk.

I waited awhile. My car was done quickly enough and driven out of the building, but neither Rodney or Paul was in a position to check me out. I stood reading at the counter to remind them I was still there. In the course of paying Paul started talking again. This time about a screw in the bottom of one of the waiting room chairs.

"I'm dyslexic and OCD" he said, "run your card through the machine when the screen goes blue." Here was a new fact put forward and not asking for comment.

"Oh." I said.

"Yeah. That screw is driving me crazy. It gets caught on the mop each night. And I have to mop every night. I have to have everything clean. Here and at home."

He then asked Rodney to take out the screw because it was bothering him.

"Well, it's sticking out because there is a missing pad there," I said.
Because it was missing. It was the only chair missing a part. Paul told me it had arrived missing the piece, and still was missing the piece, so he asked Rodney get a screw driver to fix it. And by fix it, he meant take said screw out and call it fixed. He continued to talk about the screw and the orderliness he needed to keep as he had me sign the bill.

Far be it from me to say the screw didn't bother Paul. Nor would I say he doesn't have OCD tendencies or have dyslexia. As he stated, he had both.

But really?

The chairs at Jiffy Lube have been there for about a year, if not longer. I know because I noticed how cushy and pleathery they were on my first visit. It was warm and the backs of my legs had gotten stuck to them. And from what I understand of OCD and it's many expressions, being bothered by a screw day after day as it catches on a mop (as I'm sure it did) doesn't fall into that category. To quote Dan J. Stein, OCD is "characterized by intrusive thoughts or images (obsessions) which increase anxiety and by repetitive or ritualistic actions (compulsions) which decrease anxiety." (The Lancet volume 360 Aug. 2002, Seminar). Paul probably would have removed the screw promptly had he had OCD. I would think he'd have done it himself to ease the anxiety.

I looked up a full description after coming home because it made me wonder about our (Paul's, my, mankind's) tendency to label ourselves with maladies and syndromes. How we bill ourselves and make ourselves known to others.

Certainly over-medication is occurring today. But also we as a people are becoming more medically savvy and, I am beginning to believe, we are over-labeling ourselves and others in medical terms.

Can't finish a thought? Flippantly explain that you have ADD. Feel compelled to do things? Obviously it's OCD.

How often do I write off a behavior using a medical term, when I am under qualified and uninformed? And how does that shape my thoughts and actions? Is it a cop-out, blaming nature and not owning responsibility for my actions and tendencies, when that could just be what it is, and not a disordered thought process.

OCD, ADD, PDD. These are not passive things. They can be crippling. And I'm certainly not calling out Paul on this issue after I rack up another 3,000 miles. But he brought it to mind. Like the protruding screw that bothered him, his matter-of-fact labels for himself, stuck out, drew my attention, and kept it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

now, we see but a blurred image in a mirror

There is a certain peace that comes from being still. Not physically still necessarily, that is hard on the tale-bone and normally ends in a nap, but mental stillness.

It took awhile to discover my quiet thoughts were missing and had been slowly replaced with desires to be out, see things worthy of telling others about, sharing surface level knowledge of many individuals without investing time in truly sustainable relationships.

As Travis says in "Sing" I was "going to hurry."

This is more of a deep seated contentment issue, the ability to have stillness of heart. The ability to dwell on what IS instead of what is NOT. To claim and label things as good because that is absolutely what they are.

Certainly there are many different factors to my hurry. But I find myself more susceptible to an accelerated pace when I set up a standard as attainable when in fact it is not. When I let the speed of technology dictate the pace and believe I can keep up.

I was not made for newsfeed speed, or twitter, or texts, or really for a cell phone. Nor was I built with a mindset to seamlessly, healthily incorporate these changes into my thoughts, into my day. Integrating them is a struggle.

On my computer the best parts of acquaintances lives are before my eyes. Parties, courtships, marriages, babies. All instantaneous. Separated from the process that led to these events they spill from my computer screen to my eyes. These events are Athena-like springing fully formed, picture perfect and creating a direct comparison of what is happening on my side of the screen: laundry, dishes, lesson plans, a bowl of cereal, a neglected book.

Being at my core competitive, I then raise a higher standard for myself. There are no action steps. There is no process. It should (whatever that goal is) be attained. Now. I saw so-and-so do it 30 seconds ago on my computer, so I can too. I must.

It leads to intrinsic pressure. The false belief that desires can be fulfilled instantaneously. This is in no way peaceful.

Space. Time. Process. I had lost sight of their value and my need for them.
To build these back in I need to take longer. Cook from scratch. Look up a word in a dictionary. Walk to a destination. Hand-write a note. Hold onto a thought, forget it, and remember it later. And these tiny changes might end up teaching me greater things. How to be patient with my mind. How to savor a book. How to enjoy a breeze. How to reflect on a day and retell a dream.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I've been thinking about pearls lately. Timely since it's the birthstone of June. It's not a gemstone at all, but I prefer it to a kidney or gallstone...
It's curious to me that mollusks are able to make pearls. A functional way to take care of discomfort, covering the irritant again and again until it is smooth. A marriage of functionality and beauty.
All I seem to make in response to discomfort are callouses, both physical and emotional. Scuffs against my feet; wrenching of a heart. Sure adversity should produce wisdom and perspective later, but do I culture a pearl? Would an oyster be able (if it were a more complex organism) be able to articulate the level of strife it took to produce such a symmetrical iridescent thing? Is the process too far removed from my trivialities to compare? Do I stop the process short?
The image of the pearl is used a few times in the New Testament: the pearl of great price (Matt 13:45)and casting your pearls before swine (Matt 7:6) come to mind. They always are prized, sought after, and protected. My callouses I try to slough, soften, or moisturize, not cherish, not culture, not promote. Do I prevent a pearl being produced, or does the natural metaphor not transcend species?
More questions than substance at present...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

a dove

The vision of a bird- heart has recently crystallized in my mind this past week. A vision of the heart being a dove, specifically, the dove sent out of Noah's ark (Genesis 8:6). I'm not sure what became of the raven who was sent out previous to the dove, but that might be more tangential and complicate making any metaphorical conclusions. True to the story the bird was sent several times. Once returning right away, not finding a resting place, then a second bearing evidence of the journey, and then the third, never returning. It found it's resting place. The place that felt right.
I had always thought of a bird symbolizing "flighty" behavior. Certainly not a symbol of steady and systematic search for what would be right. But now, seeing it as a series of heart felt searches or journeys, it has become my explanation to myself about myself. Finding a resting place, it is an accurate portrayal of how I have thought the heart seeks out a home. When the place was found, it stays. Not longing for before.

Monday, February 15, 2010

mind the gap

Today marks my third MRI. To those who have not been inside an MRI be glad. It by no means is horrible. But the posturing is not those of comfort.

Having your feet velcroed together and other parts sometimes attached to this plank is strange. Then you're issued into a coffin-like tube after having your ears covered with headphones. The technician asks if there is a radio station you'd like to listen to, and even if you don't want one, they encourage it.

Essentially all of your senses are cued up and simultaneously masked: sight,there is a plastic dome around you brushing your arms and three inches from your nose; hearing, the radio songs attempt to drown out the beeps and zaps that are some sort of energy trained at you to form images; touch, nothing can keep you from noticing when the body vibrating ka-chunking begins and last 30 minutes or so.

And though all of that seems less than wonderful, the most oppressive thing in my experience is looking around the waiting room. Here are sick people. Here are people who are hurt. Here are people seeking answers.
It's awkward in the waiting room. I don't know where to look because I've automatically started an me/them perspective of the whole thing. I'm there, so I am one of them, but I've been able to categorize myself differently.

The first waiting room was awkward. But like Dante's inferno there are levels that get progressively worse.

After being divested of your clothes and phones, and money, and anything made of metal you dawn a sheet and get to sit in the second waiting room.
Now, I feel this was an unhelpful set up, but the secondary waiting room had 1 magazine 3 half-smocked women and a fully dressed husband waiting for his wife to get done.

It was like an Arthur Miller play. The proximity, lack of diversion, and finally the husband (fully clothed, male, and not abiding the social rules of the situation)tipped the balance and we started talking. I shouldn't say we; I didn't talk. I listened, stared longingly at a ripped up Vogue magazine which was out of reach, clutched my sheet closed, and almost left.

Because here was confirmation of mortality and hurt. The common denominator was pain. And here I am dealing with pain. But not pancreatic cancer. And not crumbling bones. And not colon cancer. And not Alzheimer's.

So really the tube was a welcome escape because it put a space between me and them.