Thursday, December 22, 2005

Countdown goes on:

I'm just gonna keep updating it. 'Cause it's fun.

Things I have to do before my 7AM flight out of Newark Sunday morning:

1) Get my dress coat dry-cleaned. - DONE

2) Get to the post office. - DONE

3) Teeth - DONE

4) Transit Strike - OVER

5) Classes - DONE

6) Job interview - ROCKED IT. This was, I think, the best job interview I have ever had. Everything about this position, this company, and this project that I would be joining, not to mention the awesome team of people I met, is perfect for me. I was blown away, and I think they were too.

Now, I have to let this go. I'll hear what I hear, when I hear it.

7) Student clinic Friday night - DONE

8) Student Clinic Saturday morning. I AM SO fucking tired.

8.5) Shower, wash and dry hair, grab singing clothes, and head into the city.

9) Saturday afternoon, choir rehearsal at my church. Call is at 4PM.

10) Saturday evening, church service. The second wind should kick in about this time.

Certain things I want, in my early thirties, I know will pass away. Certain other things will stay with me forever. Certain people fulfill certain needs. I have a lot to think about.

Next week.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Still Procrastinating

I laughed my ass off at this.


I have to go buy my dad a Christmas present, a shirt or something, and the best place to do that is the Ubermall, which I abhor, and is probably going to be a nightmare today. Yeah, I could shop other places first. I know I'm going to wind up at the Ubermall. I want to spend as little time doing this as possible.

I aced my Kinesiology test. Happy Dance.

I got presents for my Mom, my Mom's best friend, and for Kristin and Lisa, who I might see if they can bop down from Chicago. Happy Dance.

As of yesterday, I'm going to be singing in my church's Christmas Eve service. I'm not doing a solo, I'm simply singing in the choir. I don't even have a choir solo. I'm nothing special. Which is what I'm used to being in that place. Which is a whole blog post in itself, which I might write one of these days. But the point is, this time, the choir is a bunch of good singers who I really liked rehearsing with last night, and we are being directed by someone I know very well and have a lot of respect for. Someone I wish I was closer to. Someone who, when she calls and asks me to be part of something, I can't turn down, regardless of my past hurts and bitterness. This service, this time, will be a positive experience. My Piano Man is accompanying the service. I'm anticipating a nice feeling that I don't have very often: being surrounded by good people, doing something I love, just for an hour, on Christmas Eve.

Happy Dance. I hope I will be posting about that.

Ever since I got my teeth filled, they actually hurt more. One of them is very sensitive to pressure, which the dentist told me was something I need to be alert to. It's a sign that there is a problem. Great. So I have no idea what he's going to do, but I hope I don't have to endure his re-doing those teeth, or god knows what else. Oh, and fuck you very much to the MTA, who decided to have their Transit Strike on the day of my next dental appointment rather than on Friday like they were supposed to. OF ALL THE DAYS THEY COULD DO IT THEY HAVE TO PICK TUESDAY. Like I'm not stressed out enough.

Angry Dance.

Yesterday, I went to G's gym and lifted weights, and worked up a sweat on an elliptical machine. I'm as much of a gym person as he is, but this is not the first time I've done this. I actually find myself loving how it feels to work out, and loving how I feel after a workout. Part of that whole health kick I've been on, I guess. So, yesterday, G made things official and negotiated a three-month limited membership for me. My schedule is so screwy that I'll likely only be able to go on weekends (PLEASE LET ME GET THAT JOB), so the Gym manager gave us a deal. So now I can pump up and lose that ass I've grown and be able to lift things heavier than a remote control and all that cool shit. Happy Dance.

I bought scallion potato bread yesterday. It's delish. Happy Dance.


Now I really have to dance off to the mall.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pre-Holiday Winter Musings...

I suppose it's natural, when the snow falls, and people stay indoors more, and the sun goes down at 5pm, for my head to rattle more loudly than usual with random thoughts of various subjects which normally I would avoid. There's simply less to distract me, in the Wintertime.

School is going very well. I have my second round of exams, starting last night, and I'm pretty sure I aced my Anatomy Test. Tonight is Kinesiology, and I know the material reasonably well. At the end of next week - Christmas Eve morning and the night before - I have to work in the student clinic, which is the most rewarding thing I've done in a long time.

School couldn't be much better, and thank God, since I'm so great about stressing the rest of my life. My classes have become my happy place.

My temp agency informed me yesterday, gently, that because of my inability to work in Westchester county past 4:30, they have been unable to place me in any jobs. My agent is a great gal, and has done all she can for me, but this is just how things are in Corporate Westchester County. Nobody cares that I'm willing to come in at 7AM if need be, and never take a lunch hour. Personally, I think it's because everyone in Westchester wants to show up as late as they can - they'd rather stay late in the evenings than get up earlier. I can relate to that... but I'm in night school. I worked maybe a total of two weeks over the last two months. I can't survive on this. I have to find work in Rockland County, or in North Jersey.

Tomorrow I'm going to approach a Staffing Agency in Rockland County. Wish me luck. Work is very hard to find here, and salaries are as tiny as the deep south. People live here, they don't work here.

That said, I am waiting to hear from a large company in New Jersey. If I were to get that job, I would be able to work very normal, even generous hours. My school is a mere few minutes from the company. The job they are looking to fill seems tailor-made for me, and my old boss from three years ago, who I got along famously with, is now a Vice President there. I should be a shoe-in... But they are balking at setting up an interview. I am trying to hold the "story of my life" feelings at bay, but it's hard.

I am out of money. I have no more savings left. I am still pretty deep in debt, and my unemployment checks are too small for me to meet my bare minimum of monthly expenses. I am completely living off of G right now, and I feel ashamed. I shouldn't feel ashamed, I should feel fortunate and grateful. And I do feel those things as well... but mostly, I'm ashamed. It's humilating, being a 34-year old adult with good education and solid work experience... and being out of work for over a year.

G, on the other hand, has just landed a new job in Manhattan, for a nice raise and some very sweet benefits. His career path is solid and straight.

I admit rather ruefully that I spent a certain amount of time poring over what he has that I don't. Well, for starters, a Master's Degree in Accounting, and a Magna Cum Laude Bachelor's degree. And he's bilingual. He said he hated accounting, and the only reason he got that Master's is that he knew what kind of job he'd like, and that employers were looking for people with Masters in Accounting. So he forked over two years of his life and a pile of cash, and bought himself the career ticket he needed. It worked. Couldn't I have done that as well?

Not really. I despise, loathe, and abhor everything to do with finance, bean-counting, and number-crunching, to the point where I exhibit physical symptoms of stress when I try to bite the bullet and do it anyway. I managed the financial operations of my first professional job in Manhattan, back in 1998. I didn't sleep well for a year. My then-fiancee was worried that I would be in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer. I would stay until eight or nine at night re-doing calculations, getting different answers six or seven times, until I finally got the same answer twice. Math anxiety. And the knowledge that the Vice Presidents would blame me for any discrepancies. I quit that job after a year, to get married.

So. No Master's in Accounting for me. But... what am I good at?

I won't go into details here, but the sad truth is that my skills are not highly valued in today's marketplace. I don't bring in money, I help retain the customers you already have. That's not what companies are investing in. And Admin Assistant work? Admins are expected to do three times the work for half the pay than they were a few years ago. The post-post-911 economy at work again. And I'm willing to do that! But nobody is biting. I've lost track of how many resumes, how many interviews...

As far as my artistic talents go, I went to the auditions when I was young, and took the classes, and yadayadayada. There was always someone better than me, I suppose. I was never snapped up. Oh, my voice gets attention... but nobody wants to work with me, and for the life of me, nobody can tell me why. I always say that I haven't fallen in with the right bunch of fellas. Secretly I think that nowadays, nobody wants to share profits. Bands don't need vocalists to get gigs. I still think that if I played an instrument, I'd have been able to get work. Still could, even today. But right now, between school and job-hunting, I don't have time to learn an instrument. And I couldn't afford to buy one anyway. And now we're getting silly. Am I really talking about this!?

Every since Big Joe's funeral, I've been keenly aware that my parents and I just don't matter to most people in my Mom's side of the family. We just aren't important to them, now that Grandma is gone. People used to invite us places because they wanted to see Grandma and knew that we were a package deal. It's so clear. It kind of hurts... but frankly, I think this reveals more about them than it does about my Mom and I. Mom and I are not awful people. We're not irritating. We're just different, and in my family, they can't handle that. We're not Catholic. We're liberal. We're polite in spite of that, which puzzles them. We're pretty without wearing expensive clothes and big hairdos and fake nails. We don't wear much makeup, and we read. We read books, thick ones, and we don't watch much TV. When we go to the movies, it's never for the comedies. My family is nothing like us. And frankly... I'd rather be me. I didn't used to feel that way, but I do now.

I miss the family I used to have. I miss some friends that I lost touch with.

No real conclusions here, and that's life.

I have to go cram for my Kinesiology test now. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Quiz Time

The Sorcerer / Sorceress: In the middle ages
sorcerers were regarded highly as wise and as a
result they usually found themselves as the
king or queen's most trusted advisor. As a
sorceress you most likely are gifted with
artistic talent and are an exceptionally
perceptive, persuasive, and creative
individual. At your worst however you can be
manipulative, elitist, and have a high and
mighty sort of nature.

Who would you have been in the middle ages?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Never Mind

I deleted my last post because I felt like I was spitting into the wind.

I'll just say: Misogyny sucks. It's just another form of bigotry. Please, think hard about the things you say about women, and about the women in your life, before you post stuff on the internet. Think hard about the kind of person you want to be, and how you are representing yourself.

Whoever you are, wherever you are.

Much more to the point: Sexism. When's the last time you seriously thought about it?

Monday, December 12, 2005

MzOuiser 4, Fear 0

Today, I had four cavities filled on the right side of my mouth, two molars on top and two on the bottom. Three hours later, the novocaine started to wear off. Four hours later, I'm on Advil. The ache is pretty intense.

I felt no pain. The procedure was painless. Really, truly painless.

I feel like I have slain a demon.

My dentist helped to invent this device. There is a needle on the tip of it, but it's teeny, and he uses a topical anaesthetic gel that is freakishly strong. They used the gel on me a couple of weeks ago, when I had my first cleaning in seven years, and I was amazed at it's power. So with the gel knocking out the top layer of sensation, I didn't feel the needle go in. And with the device controlling the Novocaine delivery, a slow drip that takes about 15 seconds, I didn't feel the "pinch" of the fluid entering my gums. The soft tissues of my gum absorbed the Novocaine drop by drop, effortlessly. I felt my jaw go numb, but that's it.

When he started drilling, I actually laughed. It was a tension release. The worst part was the vibration of one of the other tools - the drill I didn't really feel. But he used something else that vibrated strongly, that he didn't seem to enjoy using any more than I enjoyed feeling it. It was LOUD, but again, not at all painful, just annoying. The cavity on the top back molar was pretty deep.

The bottom jaw is apparently difficult to isolate as far as nerve response goes, so the good doctor simply numbed the whole right side of my neck and face! At least, so it seemed. Basically, a nerve block. I have never felt anything quite so weird.

I shook and cried until the initial injections were finished. Nobody was fazed, nobody was irritated. All I heard was more "You're doing great, Ouiser!" And I was given the option to do the bottom jaw at a future date, if I decided that I'd had enough. I chose to do both top and bottom today. I chose to have my lower jaw injected and drilled, right then and there. I chose, and my choice was respected. And I know if I had chosen otherwise, it would have been alright too.

When I was done, I sat down in the waiting area for a few minutes, shaking. I cried a little, but it was from relief. The receptionists were happy to see me doing so well. I know how good it feels to have happy customers; I certainly was one today. Before I left, I made an appointment for next Tuesday to get the right side of my mouth done - two molars on top and bottom there as well.

I cannot describe the feeling of triumph that flooded through me when the dentist removed my paper bib and said I was all done, and shook my hand. I felt so powerful, that I had mastered this fear and regained control of myself and my health. I felt like I was glowing from top to toe. Everyone will be so proud of me, I thought to myself! Mom and Dad, and G, my friends, and somewhere, my grandparents.

Most of all, I'm relieved that it's half over, and that my fear is, for the most part, gone. Right now, what scares me most is how much it all costs. I have help with that, but I wish I had health insurance.

So. Time to step up that job search.

And I love that, four hours after I had my gums injected, that I have already moved on to the next thing in my life.

Blessed be.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Inspiration, Everlasting

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...

Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

John Lennon
10/9/40 - 12/8/80

We're still working on it, John.
I'll never give up.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

New Moon Blessings

This autumn has felt different to me in many ways. Usually autumn depresses me. It’s not warm enough, and I know it’s only going to get colder. The knowledge that the frozen, wet winter is coming casts a shadow over most Autumn festivities, and I’m never happy with what I’m wearing. I feel like a drab, dead leaf, cold, brittle and uninteresting.

But this year, it’s different. I don’t know if it’s because I’m living with G, after so many years of awful roommates. Maybe it’s because I’m not working full time at a job I hate, so I have the time and freedom to appreciate the smaller joys in life, like yoga classes and nice weather. Maybe it’s because, though I never thought I’d say this, my grandmothers have passed on, and I am no longer worried about them, dreading the day I will have to say goodbye. Most likely it’s a combination of all these things, and something inside me has shifted.

After my dentist appointment last week, I went to Kinesiology class. It’s my most difficult class, but I enjoy it. When I got home later that night, G was still up and awake. I gave him the run-down on my dental appointment, and he hugged and kissed me and told me he was proud of me. We stayed up a little later than usual, talking about things.

When he went to bed, I changed into some black clothes, and approached my altar. I had a lot to be thankful for, and a lot to pray for. I turned off all the lights in the apartment except the kitchen, which provided a soft, ambient glow. I lit my candle, started some incense, and refreshed the water in my bowl, which represents the ocean. I placed a stone of clear quartz in the water for clarity, and a yellow stone of unknown identity, for happiness, in the water. I lit my gold candle and held it high over my head, turning to the east, south, west and north, giving thanks to the elemental spirits for blessing the events in my life, and committing myself to further work in all areas. I stood in the center of the circle I had created and held my candle high above my head, praying for continued strength and guidance, and that I could continue to feel my power fully, and be able to tap into and use it when needed. Then I sat on the floor, placed the candle in front of me, and let my mind flow.

I must have sat there, giving thanks, conversing with the goddess, for a half an hour. It was warm, and quiet, and dark. I felt my feet grounding and connecting with the earth, and felt the air drifting through my ears and nose. I sensed the fire flicking in my candles, and felt my blood gently flowing through me with a rhythm not unlike waves at the beach.

I have a small deck of Goddess Cards that G bought me a while back. Every so often, I draw a few, and see what the girls have to say. Whoever I draw sits on my altar until the next divination, so I can be reminded of their messages. It had been a while since my last divination, so at some point during my ritual, I removed the cards from my altar and returned them to their deck. I shuffled them around and drew new cards:

Artemis, Guardian
Sarasvati, the Arts
Coventina, Purification
Ixchel, Medicine Woman
Sedna, Infinite Supply

Their messages, printed on the cards:

“You and your loved ones are safe and spiritually protected.”
“Express yourself through creative activities.”
“It is time for a cleansing detoxification of your body and mind.”
“You are a channel for divine healing power.”
“You are supplied for today and all of your tomorrows.”

I thought about my parents, and how I worry about them, Dad’s blood pressure, and Mom’s loneliness. I smiled, remembering their stories of the many activities they are involved in right now in their community, and how much fun they are having. I thought about my grandparents, and how safe and happy they must be now, together in the otherworld. My heart glowed, knowing I would see them again someday.

I thought of my writing, and this blog. I thought of my play, which I’ve re-worked, and am planning to share with a couple of people. I remembered my box of beads, and that Christmas is coming. I thought of the song I’d written in my sleep and then forgotten. I thought of many, many ways I could express myself creatively.

I thought of my diet, and how I’ve slacked during the last six months, and how awful my allergies were this past summer.

I thought of my very first shift in the student clinic, which I was scheduled the work the very next night.

Infinite supply… I realized this does not mean money, and my focus on money has been blinding me to sources of nourishment and paths to fulfillment.

I went back to my Goddess Deck. I dug through it until I found the card for Aphrodite. She has come up in the last three divinations I have performed, and her image has graced my altar for more months than I can remember. For some reason I just wanted to see her again. In this card’s depiction of her, she has long, wildly flowing red hair, pale skin, and wears elaborate green robes with ropes of pearls around her waist and shoulders. She holds a honeysuckle vine in her right hand (honeysuckles grow in the backyard of my house in Illinois) and a dove flutters around her (my friends from my old tree). This is, of course, a fantasy image of myself. She is shown with her arms extended and her back arched, dancing, eyes closed, with stars sparkling behind her. The caption says Inner Goddess and her message is “Awaken the goddess within you through dance, self-care, and appreciating your own divinity.”

I fastened this card to the wall above my altar before putting the deck away. I’d like Aphrodite to stick around for awhile, even though I’ve clearly gotten quite good at the practices she has taught me. I may not need her right now, but I really like her.

The next day, Friday, I had my first shift in the student clinic at my school. I had three clients, and performed three 60-minute full body massages. My clients were happy with my work, and said so on the evaluation forms they filled out before they left. They tipped me. I thought my heart would burst with love. Love for humanity, love for the generations of women in my family who passed their nurturing spirit onto me, and love for myself, for finally having the courage to do something so directly in line with my ideals for living, for taking the risks associated with pursuing this line of work. Thanks, Ixchel. The few dollars I slipped into my pocket were simply earthly representations of the real payment I received – the knowledge that I had made someone feel better, that I had helped to heal, even in the smallest of ways, and the awareness that this time next year, I would be taking my place in a community of healers whose motto is Do No Harm.

If only that were everyone’s motto.

Yesterday, G and I did some work on my car’s brakes, and we got some domestic work done, groceries and whatnot, just because we had the energy and the time.

This morning, we were rewarded for our hard work with a lovely blanket of snow, and the knowledge that we had no obligations to drive anywhere today. When the snow let up at about 10:15, G readied himself to finish the work on my car, and today, we are doing that together, in front of the building we live in together.

This week I will start a detox diet, and next weekend will do a one-day fast. It feels like a whole-body representation of getting my cavities filled. The December 15th Full Moon will appear right in the middle of all my dental work. Full Moons bring abundance, and signify projects coming to fruition and, well, fullness. I’m thinking a little “mid-term” celebration might be in order. I’ll still have one set of cavities to fill, and who knows what the periodontist might say. But getting that first set of fillings on the 12th is going to be a real accomplishment for me, and I plan to acknowledge it!

The next New Moon is December 30th, New Year’s Eve. I’ll be spending it in Maine with G and Trip and Slam. I’ll have a mouth full of healthy teeth and a de-toxed body. I’ll have completed two more clinic shifts by then, and another set of exams.

That champagne is going to taste very, very sweet.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Teeth and Bridges

There was a New Moon last Thursday, December 1. New Moons symbolize New Beginnings. If you want to have the heavens on your side, so to speak, start a new venture on the day of the New Moon.

My dentist appointment last week was not fun, and it was not painless. However, it was not excruciating either. I went to the guy my old dentist had recommended several years ago, who specializes in freaked-out phobics like me. The staff was as compassionate and supportive as I had hoped they would be. I learned that in spite of my not having been to a dentist in seven years, and in spite of my lack of flossing, I still have excellent bones, and my teeth are not on the verge of falling out. Everyone was surprised. I smugly mentioned that when I buried my grandmothers last year, in their mid-90’s, they both had full sets of strong, healthy teeth. “You’re very lucky,” the dentist said. “Good genetics,” I agreed.

However, I do have cavities in my molars. Eight of them. One suspicion confirmed. And, yes, my sealants have long worn away. Two suspicions confirmed. So I have to go back there in a week and a half, and have one side of my mouth worked on. I image they’ll want to finish the second side a week or so later, but I haven’t made that appointment yet.

God fucking dammit. Eight fillings. I've never had a cavity in my life until now.

I’m ok with this. I’ll be scared when I get there, but for right now, I’m ok. My new dentist just happens to have helped to invent The Wand. He also uses a rather strong topical anesthetic, which I got to try during my cleaning last Thursday, and it does help. The worst part of anything for me has always been the injections. From everything I’ve read about this new-fangled technology, I won’t feel much, and once I’m past that, I should be fine. I’ll be ok.

Oh, that’s right, did I mention? My dentist appointment was December first, the day of the New Moon.

I’ve been in therapy on and off since I was 14 years old. I had a lot of crappy experiences but I also had a lot of great ones, and I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress. There have been times over the last two years that I’ve felt my face flush with pride, thinking of how I used to be, and how I worked through so much to be where and who I am now. Every now and then I look around me and hug myself, and think “You did it!” I may still want for a lot of things, I have come a long way. The belief in myself that I’ve gained and the knowledge that I’m not alone or accursed in some way… I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

I feel as though this dental enterprise is the last in a series of difficult crossings I’ve had to make in my life, in my overall journey toward wholeness and wellness. There will be other ones in the future, but this is the last of the big ones that have been around since childhood. The fact that I got through the cleaning – and the gum scraping – last Thursday just exhilarated me. The staff made me feel good about myself, congratulating me for coming in at all, and reassuring me that things would be easier from here on out, now that I was committing to regular care. The pain from the cleaning was minimal, and the tears I shed were of fear, not pain or anger. Yes, I cried in the hygienist’s chair. And she told me I was doing great, and if crying made me feel better, I should go ahead and do it.

Emotional responses to dental work can come from a variety of sources. I think mine have more to do with a loss of trust during my childhood. I cry because I am mourning that loss of safety – or, more specifically, the loss of that feeling of safety that children have when they know they are being taken care of. I never really got that feeling back in any reliable sense, until very, very recently. And visiting the dentist reminds me of how that sense was destroyed. So this is my story, and this is my journey. And now, after I’ve taken care of myself in this very frightening but very important way, the story will end.

There is actually more going on than my cavities. I’ve been referred to a specialist for my receding gum problem. I have to see a periodontist, and he will most likely recommend surgery. They will take a small flap of skin from either my palate or a fleshy area of my gums, and graft it onto the receded part of my gumline. A skin graft for my receding gums!

I know, this sounds extreme. I should be panicked! But I’m not because… G has had this done. (Have I ever mentioned I'm living with a dentist's son?) I noticed the spot on his gum line once and asked him about it, and he told me the whole story. Apparently this isn’t the most uncommon procedure in the world. Not only that, G had his done eleven years ago – he pointed out that there have been advances since then, and it might be even easier for me than it was for him. He also made a point of telling me that it wasn’t really all that bad when he had it done.

Well, if he can do it, I can too.

So I have a long road ahead of me. Eight fillings and a likely gum graft lie in my future. G has offered to pay for my fillings, since I have no health insurance. I’m going to take him up on it. To be honest, I don’t have much choice. And he is so proud of me for doing this.

And I’m not really scared. Although I have to laugh about the fact that telling my Temp Agency and my School that I might need a few days off here and there to have this done is actually stressing me more than the thought of the procedure. Typical Virgo.

I couldn’t have picked a better time to have this appointment. I’m not even halfway over the bridge yet, but there’s no turning back at this point. Just knowing I’ll get through it and be fine and healthier and stronger for the effort is it’s own reward. Knowing that I’m in charge this time is the most triumphant part of all.

Love it, Love it, Love it

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Written May 4, 2005

I have a history of being afraid of dental work. I went through a lot of it as a kid, and I never really understood why I needed it until it was all over. All I knew was that this really nice guy (at least he seemed so nice) would torture me about once a month for most of my childhood. I had two sets of braces, a palate expander, and had to wear a headgear for a number of years.

Oddly, the headgear was not the worst part for me. Those things are awful for a lot of kids because they get made fun of for it. But not me. I was already a geek, and the kids had plenty of other things to make fun of me for, so the headgear was pretty much ignored.

The worst part for me was the palate expander. This was a torture device. It's in two pieces, with gears in the middle. It is bonded to your upper molars, and stretches across your upper palate. Every evening, you put a key-like thingy into it, and it pushes the two part device slightly wider in your mouth. You are literally stretching your upper jaws apart day by day, a millimeter or so at a time.

The pain was excruciating. I remember every night I'd get sick stomachs and could barely eat dinner, anticipating it. I'd cry when 9:00 came around, and it was time. My parents would sit on the couch with me and hold me, trying to be supportive, and I'd subject myself to the torture. Often I pushed the key back myself, insisting on at least this measure of control over my fate. It created headaches, which is probably why we did it at bedtime, so I could take Tylenol and sleep them off.

My mother wasn't very good at this. It probably hurt her immensely to see me in such pain, when I was in elementary school, maybe about 9 years old. She wasn't able to calm me down or make the hurt go away, and this probably made her feel inadequate. Maybe she felt ashamed or angry at herself. Maybe that's why sometimes she would get up, disgusted with me, tell me to stop being such a damn baby, scream something like "It's for your own good!" and storm out of the living room, disappearing into the back of the house, where I'd later on hear my parents arguing about me, my mother's voice screaming about "that damn kid acts like we're torturing her."

But Mom, you all were torturing me. At nine, I was incapable of understanding why straight teeth was worth all this. I knew nobody had ever died from an overbite. After years of being picked on in school, my self-esteem was already bad enough that I knew I'd never been or ever would be really pretty anyway. It just hurt so badly, and nobody could give me a good enough reason why I had to endure this. Just to be a little more normal looking? Are they kidding? I'd still have a big runny nose and be socially awkward. This wouldn't make me better at sports or snappy comebacks in the cafeteria. The responsible adults who controlled my life had no idea what I really needed... at least, so I thought... and didn't care to hear me. They dismissed my expressed concerns, and decided this mouth torture was most important. This was more than torture - it was betrayal.

I wore that expander for the better part of a year.

At some point The Device was removed, and I just had plain old braces. Getting them put on wasn't comfortable either. My visits to the orthodontist were relatively minor after that, just random cleanings, which didn't hurt. Sometimes the tartar scrapings got out of hand, but at least they were over quickly. Eventually, one blessed day, the braces came off. I was 17 years old, and I didn't give a damn what I looked like. I just wanted to walk out of that Chamber of Horrors and never, ever come back again.

I was, however, horrified to learn that when the braces came off, the little wire behind my 4 bottom front teeth was left in place... and would never be removed.

How could they do this to me? They didn't understand how psychologically scarred I was, obviously. I needed to have every trace of dental appliances, every last bit of evidence of the years of torture fucking REMOVED from my maligned mouth. I desperately needed to put this behind me... but no. I had to see that wire every day, for the rest of my life, and be reminded. Those sadistic fucks.

Everything dental, in my mind, became associated with people who I am supposed to trust, who claim to care about me, even love me, who get me to relax, let down my guard, and allow myself to be vulnerable, and then proceed to inflict horrific pain on me for hours, showing contempt for me when I cry. It was the ultimate destruction of trust, and it happened when I was a pretty young kid. I would never really trust a medical professional again, and it wasn't so great for my relationship with my parents either. Even the friendly nurses had lied to me, telling me in my most vulnerable early teen years, when I emerged crying into the waiting room, how worth it would be when it was all over, when I had a beautiful smile and all the boys wanted to take me to prom. You don't tell a 13-year-old that. You just don't do it.

I think the most insidious tactic they pulled with me was to tell me that my smile would be so pretty, that I'd get cast in all those Ingenue roles I dreamed of playing in the local community theatre. Boy, they really knew how to push my buttons. They told me I'd never make it to Hollywood to be a star if I didn't submit, because movie stars all have perfect smiles. As a young artsy geek, theatre was all that mattered to me, and I was threatened with the loss of what few dreams I had.

Of course, I never got cast anyway. I was never popular with boys or girls. My life was just as shitty as it had ever been. I don't think I really ever believed that dental work would get me cast, or a boyfriend, but I couldn't stand that those people thought so little of fucking with my head like that.

An even deeper level of cold, hard, black realization came when, as I got older, it became clear that even if I had known everyone was just storying me to buy my compliance, I still wouldn't have had a choice. I was a kid. They would have strapped me to the chair. My consent was meaningless. They fucked with my head not out of concern for me, but because they thought it might make their jobs easier. Their days easier. Their lives easier.

I wonder if I would have been better off strapped to a chair screaming. At least then I would have known who cared about me and who didn't.

Today, I am 33 years old, and haven't been to a dentist in over five years. Likely longer. I've forgotten when I last visited.

I have post-traumatic stress. If I'm watching TV, and there is a scene involving dental issues in any way, my teeth ache. I tried once to go to a dentist in New York City, and simply filling out the intake forms caused such an anxiety storm that I left the office and never went back. They left a message a day later, asking in an irritated tone why I had disappeared. I never called them back. I don't remember what year that was.

During the years I was married, my old dentist back home, who knew me intimately, recommended someone in the city who specialized in people like me. I took me a great deal of courage to call them, and a number of months, but I finally did, and they were wonderful on the phone. They sent me a brochure. I almost made an appointment, but my husband screamed at me not to go, because they weren't in our health insurance plan. Of course I bowed to his will. I may never forgive him for that.

My gums have receeded so much that I can't drink from a cup with ice in it without discomfort. I brush regularly and use antibacterial mouthwash, but flossing has induced nausea on many occasions. I don't know why I get nauseated by flossing, but I do, and my teeth are suffering for it. I've bought every kind of floss on the market. I just can't do it. I watched my Mom floss recently, trying to see how she does it, and I almost threw up. She was disgusted with me. My dad says I need counseling for this. He's right. I've got an emotional blockage that's going to cost me my teeth.

Just a few days ago I noticed that the molar on the lower left side, second from the back, is ultra-sensitive at the gumline. I looked at it, and the gum there has receeded even more. I'm scared.

I'm really scared. I'm crying right now, typing this.

When I was 15, after an overly-enthusiastic dental assistant had given me a tartar-scraping, I told my mother that nothing was worth this, that I didn't care if I never had a date in my life and never got cast onstage ever again. I was willing to sell out every dream a teenaged girl dreams, just to be able to wake up one morning and know that I'd never have to dread seeing the word "Orthodontist" on the calendar again, counting down the days in mounting terror.

Now, at 33... I am sure that I will have to go back.

Goddess, help me. I may as well be nine years old again. I just want someone to hold my hand.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On Bigotry

I grew up in a Midwestern town where there were really only two races - black and white. There were some Asians and Indians, and there were a couple of temples in town, but the overwhelming majojrity of families were African-American or white.

I can only think of one family in my high school with a Spanish name. The Asians mostly went to the High School on the west side, where the rich folks lived, but we had a few in our school. We also had one high profile Indian family, all sons. Those kids, like the Asian students, were very quiet, kept to themselves, usually got the highest grades, and never seemed to get in trouble. After high school, they seemed to disappear. I imagined they went to impressive colleges, and likely never moved back to our little town. But I really don't know.

My high school's student body was almost half African American. Everyone else was plain white. The Jewish kids were white too, and frankly, we couldn't tell who was Jewish and who wasn't. Nobody seemed to care.

I always felt accepted by the black girls in my class. The term African American wasn't in use yet, so we used the term black. Those girls were nice to me. They liked the way I sang and danced in the school plays and in Swing Choir. And, I suspect, they knew that the white girls, for the most part, rejected me. I'm sure they saw how little self-esteem I had. I was far from uppity or proud. I was a geek, and a lonely one. A few of them were rather mother-hennish toward me, literally putting their arms around me and saying "You alright girl. You better than them."

I never wondered what they meant by that. I was simply grateful for the kindness, and the friendship.

In my senior year, when I got my first serious boyfriend, it was my black girlfriends who talked frankly with me about sex, about not losing my head in emotion, about doing the safe thing, and what was best for me. Most of my white girlfriends had visions of a wedding in their heads, and thought it would be so romantic if I were to start a family right away.

And that guy was such an asshole. Ugh.

I have always preferred "black music" to "white music." From the time I played "Sweet Georgia Brown" ad nauseum on a toy player piano at five, to now when I prefer listening to Kanye West rather than Nickelback. I was trying my hand at rapping when I was fifteen, and singing Billie Holliday songs in my spare time. My music teachers, however, far preferred my covers of Barbra Streisand tunes. Yeah, I could belt out Streisand songs with the best of them... but nothing moved me like "God Bless the Child" when I was fifteen, wearing my cousin's hand-me-downs, and knowing the only reason my classmates wanted to sit near me was so they could copy my paper. Yes, Barbra had a big nose like mine... but she was a rich movie star with fancy clothes and expensive hairdos. Like the popular girls at school. I could not relate.

When ya got money, you got lots of friends
prowlin' round your door
But when the money's gone, and the spendin' ends
They don't come round no more

Brains, you see, were my social currency.

You can't grow up in my hometown without coming face-to-face with blantat, old-fashioned, southern white-style racism. The KKK marches there once every few years, and there were riots in the nineteenth century that people still talk about. I was lucky to connect with my black classmates over a shared like – music – and a shared dislike - popular snobby kids, all of whom were white. This seemed to transcend race.

I've always said that racism, homophobia, and misogyny are three forms of hate that fall under the umbrella word of bigotry. I've never felt that one could, by nature, be worse than another. But, as Dantallion mentions, bigotry can be insidious. It slimes itself into efforts toward pride and diversity. It justifies itself by "keepin' it real." It turns appreciation for differences into judgement, and turns self-esteem into self-aggrandizement. It's a leap from Pride to Supremacy... but an easy leap to make, if you've been hurt badly enough.

When I was in college, a Doonesbury cartoon featured a beleaguered Principal being approached by the head of the Student Body Diversity Affairs Council, or some such title. They were congratulating themselves on having created a campus where the minority students felt that they were equal to the white students. Howevever, they were dismayed to notice that the minority students were making a set of demands. They wanted seperate bathrooms from the whites. Segregation by choice. Who would have imagined this would be the end result of all those Awareness & Sensitivity seminars? A lot of well-meaning hearts were broken.

Music, again, was the heartbeat of my college class in 1991. Grunge was white music. Hip-hop was black. If you walked through a group of white students, you'd hear Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden. If you walked past the Alpha Phi Alpha house, you'd hear Naughty by Nature, and Tribe Called Quest. I owned all of Nirvana's albums, but I knew all the lyrics to OPP too. I had also discovered En Vogue, SWV, Salt-n-Pepa, and Queen Latifah. I listened to that so much that one of my floormates in the dorm asked me where I was from, with that funny look on her face.

I've always loved singing with bands in bars and clubs, and have always wanted to get a gig - meet the right bunch of fellas, so to speak. When I was nineteen, someone - a beautiful African American gal who sang with a local club band - told me that I'd never be asked to join a band that played the kind of music I liked to sing, because a black band would never hire a white singer, and I "sang black." This didn't make sense to me. Was she talking about vocal "licks," and messing with the beat, and that sort of thing? Reba McIntyre does that all the time with her voice! This gal told me that if I wanted to sing with a cover band, I should do more Sinead O'Connor and less Mariah Carey. "And nobody wants to hear that old stuff," she scoffed, referring to my love of old jazz standards.

I'm sure a lot of performers have stories like this one. I did feel rejected on a personal level, and I never tried to get a gig with a band after that. I slunk back into musical theatre, and eventually turned to opera - both essentially "white" venues.

But I think, at nineteen, deep down inside myself, I didn't believe what that gal said to me. After all, I had wonderful memories of African American musician friends from my hometown, who loved my singing, who liked working with me musically. It was the fact that she believed it that hurt. This is what she believed, and likely, others did as well. This was the real sadness to me.

Racial Pride became a hot subject while I was in college as well, although to read books written by people who were in college during the sixties, this wasn't a new thing either. College students tend to think they are the first ones to come up with ideas.

Suddenly people were wearing their nationalities on their sleeves, shouting it from the rooftops. I wasn't white anymore, I was a Wild Irish Rose, and I can drink all of you under the table! I'm also Italian, so you better not piss me off! But... I was also laughingly accepting the idea that people might think I'm a borderline alcoholic, and a-moral. It took a short while for that to really sink in. And my fellow students? I saw a group of African American girls swarm a lunch table in the cafeteria, harass the lone white student eating there until she got up and left, and then laughed at mach-Q decibels as she scuttled away, "We scared her good!" They were immensely pleased with themselves, and I was horrified.

For me personally, this meant that the black girls I used to feel so welcomed by were all of a sudden hostile strangers. At first I assumed that, in college, race relations are just that much harder. Over half the students at my college were from Chicago, and I figured their inner-city experiences might have shaped their bitter, angry behaviors.

But then I noticed that even within their own ethnic group, certain girls were excluded. Overweight girls. Girls with bad fashion sense. This didn't seem to be about race anymore. This seemed to be about... popularity. I didn't quite know what to make of that.

Not too long after that - I believe it was the same semester - a Latin boy in one of my classes invited me to a movie, so I went along. He was hot as hell, and seemed like a nice guy. He was very quiet, soft-spoken, and very proud of his heritage. He spoke Spanish beautifully and I liked practicing a few words and phrases with him. We went to a Disney film - it might have been Beauty and the Beast.

He was all over me. I was disgusted. I think he honestly thought we'd have sex in the theatre. Call me naive, but I actually thought we'd watch the movie. If he had waited until after the movie, who knows. But the minute the lights went down... eeuccch.

After the movie was over, I walked purposefully in the direction of my dorm. My date took out a pocketknife and started flipping the blade open and closed, open and closed. My blood went cold. I began talking about the class we had together, how awesome I thought the teacher was, how much I loved Moby Dick. He didn't say much. When we got to my dorm, he said he would call me. "Sure," I said, "Thanks for the movie." I went inside without a kiss, and never heard from him again.

Thinking he'd score in the movies - that's a guy thing, not a spanish thing. But latinos, at that time, on my campus, among the provincial white girls, had a stereotype of only wanting one thing. I'd never been treated that brutishly by any other boy - and I'd been out with white guys, black guys, and once an Islamic named Aladdin. All of them had been more respectful. I sat there in my dorm room, after the date, seething. Doesn't he know that he's proving them right, I thought to myself, those people who say those things?

And what the hell was up with the pocketknife?

Both the girls in the cafeteria and my date were clearly enjoying being intimidating. I've heard that this is an effort to reclaim something. Ok, you call me dangerous, fine. I'd rather have you scared of me, because then you'll respect me. Maybe my date was assuming I'd heard what people say, and had agreed to go on the date because I wanted sex? I'll never know, but I always felt that this line of thinking and behaving was playing into the hands of the racists. Yes, it's true that just because you dress like Ludacris does in his videos, that you're not robbing convenience stores in your spare time, or shooting people, or that you have no respect for women. But it's not just the clothes.

It's when four African American guys get on the Metro-North Train, walk through the cars until they find one that’s quiet, and half-full of white yuppies, and then start bragging at the top of their lungs about the escapades of they brutha that jus got out of prison - I mean he JUST got out! Then laughing even louder as he relates the story of the bitch he done fucked in the bushes last night in front of someone’s house, who I imagine they don’t like. “He JUS’ out of prison, you KNOW he (insert euphemism for sex).

I can’t imagine that their deliberation as to which car they should ride in wasn’t at least partially motivated by a desire to irritate the occupants of the car. There were plenty of other African Americans on that train - but not in that car. Those young men on the train were asserting something. It was kind of like those commercials with the Vikings, who have no battle to fight, so they wreak havoc in modern society.

Was I irritated because I’m white and I can’t relate? No. Were they just “keepin’ it real” or “representin’?” No. They were being obnoxious, immature assholes, and you can be any color to pull that off. This is not a race issue – but by embodying this negative stereotype, they are feeding the fires of racism that may be smoldering in anyone near them. So it becomes a race issue.

So much unfocused rage. So much arrogance. So much... bullshit.

My mother proudly wears a T-shirt warning others that she has an Irish temper with an Italian attitude. (I think I might have given it to her!) My father, until it shrank in the wash, wore a sweatshirt that reinforces the stereotype of Germans as overly-indulgent beer drinkers. After it shrank, I had fun wearing it on occasion. The African-American youths on the corner of 82nd and Amsterdam that call each other "mah nigga" were polite to me as I walked by with my enormous bags, moving out of my way and saying "excuse me ma'am," and they did not laugh behind my back. My girlfriends and I sometimes call ourselves bitches. And I've lost track of how many times I've been around a bunch of gay boys referring to themselves as a bunch of faggots.

Some would say this is pride, but I'm not sure. This appears to be the opposite of intimidation posturing - this is a laughing acceptance of negative words and stereotypes in an attempt to demystify them. And this is an equally loaded position.

The current debate surrounding the "n-word" as adopted by popular African American culture is the most visible example. (I myself am so uncomfortable with that word that I won't even type it here.) On Random Noise, Kyle discusses a recent Oprah show that addressed this issue:

Her guests included the cast of the Crash, a movie that deals with racism and social perceptions. While discussing the movie and its contents it brought up an issue about the usage of the word 'nigger'. On one hand, Oprah argues that the term holds too much hurtful history and is still a term filled with negative power. On the other, Don Cheadle believes that the word can have its connotation changed to be a term of endearment and can be embraced with acceptance.

(The rest of his post is a worthy read, as is the rest of his blog.)

Dantallion makes a point in that the assumption of the acceptance of stereotypes reinforces them, and this leads bigots to utter hateful statements such as the ones quoted in his post. But where do positive sterotypes come in? African American men have the biggest penises. There's no lover like a latin lover. Jewish people will get you the biggest tax returns. Nothing is holier than Motherhood.

The real answer to this question is that we wish the world was a different place. I wish that the raising of children was something that everyone valued and took responsibility for, so that women wouldn't feel obliged to choose. I wish that African American and Latin men could, like white men, be taken seriously enough in pursuits of the mind that they wouldn't accept such sexual objectification. I wish that other races could be as well known for their education and brilliance as the Jews, so that the bar would be raised on the professions of law and accounting, and we wouldn't say "He can get you the biggest tax refund because he's Jewish and knows how to cheat the government" - they would say "He can get you the biggest refund because he knows the tax laws like the back of his hand."

The world is the way it is because of the people we are letting make the rules, and because of our willingness to follow them. And yes, it's been this way for millennia, but I believe there is hope. Things really are better than they were years ago. People and societies can and do change.

Just ask Betty Friedan, who I heard speak at my old church in the late '90's. She recounted a time when if a woman pursued an advanced degree, she was called "unfeminine," and a woman who pursued a career in the performing arts was assumed to be a prostitute, or simply a slut. Yes, things are better. But we still have a long way to go.

The "Anti-PC" movement of the 1990's was a backlash against sensitivity efforts. All of a sudden it became fashionable to call a spade a spade - a person isn't "vertically challenged," for pete's sake, they're short! This was basically a call to Americans to stop molly-coddling (there's a misogynist term for you) people with chips on their shoulders. Women shouldn't be insulted by being called hot babes. Black people are black. Bald people are bald.

But what's really going on here? The problem is not that we're using some of these terms, for example, short, bald, black, hot babe. The problem is that these terms are seen as insults. Just because someone is short doesn't mean they're weak. Just because they're bald doesn't mean they can't bring me to multiple orgasm. Just because I'm a hot babe doesn't mean I'm not smart. And just because he's black doesn't mean he's dishonest.

So rather than adjust the thinking surrounding these people, we're going to outlaw the word.

Don't get me wrong - I believe in monitoring your speech. Being cautious in the words you use shouldn't be something you do because you're afraid of being called a bigot. It should be something you do because you care about whether or not you hurt people, on purpose or by accident. You care about showing the world - and God, if you so believe - that you're a good person. You care about making the world a more welcoming place for everyone, yourself, your family, and those you've never met. Don't do the right thing because of peer pressure. Do it simply because it's the right thing.

I was called a racist once, when five Latino boys on the corner of Astoria boulevard and 32nd street surrounded me, making sexual comments and gestures, and I swept though them as fast as I could, without looking at them. This does not make me a racist.

However, all my serious boyfriends have been white. Most have been Jewish. Am I a racist?

I don't want to end this essay with a question, but the truth is, our society doesn't have the answers yet. I'll simply close by saying that I am doing the best I can. I don't believe that the color of a person's skin will tell me anything at all about what kind of person they are on the inside. For every Snoop Dogg, there is a Carlton Banks. For every Paris Hilton, there is a Jane Roe. I believe that the kind of person we are lies in the choices we make, and how we treat people. All people.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Making the Most of This Time...

Well, look at me, just blogging away. I’m not working right now. Most likely I’ll have no work this week. So maybe I’ll blog again before the week is out!

I spent the majority of today re-working the play I wrote in college. It’s not exactly the next American classic, but maybe it doesn’t completely suck. I’m thinking about sending it to a friend of mine back home who’s a director. I’d love to do it myself but I’m really more of an acting coach than a director. And, let’s face it, I’m a little busy these days.

I wrote a song last night at about 4am. I woke up, and words and music were running through my head. I’d been having a dream about a teenage boy falling for a girl I went to high school with, and watching him try, endearingly, to ask her out. It was like something out of “Saved by the Bell.” He spontaneously burst into song, and when I woke up, I remembered it. I finished the song in my head, but I didn’t get out of bed and write it down. I think I was in one of those half-awake states. I really wish I had gotten up and written it down – or better yet, grabbed my little hand-held recorder and sang it. Gee, that would have been fun to listen to later. It wasn’t exactly the next top-40 hit, but it was humorous, and cute. And now, unfortunately, completely gone from my mind.

This has happened to me before, but it was a long time ago. Maybe it will come back to me.

Like several other bloggers I know, I also have a novel in my head, and haven’t been able to get it down on paper. I have a few scenes outlined, but it’s like 7 pages of something that may turn out to have hundreds. It was inspired by a visit to an old farmhouse a few years ago. I made up this whole story about the family who had lived there 100 years ago. If I could just get the shit onto paper. I’m going to try and devote some time to this over the holidays.

I’m expecting a miniscule paycheck tomorrow. Better than nothing. But I think I’m still short my monthly payments. Which sucks.

Wish me luck. I’d really like a hair salon appointment this week. The place I’ve been going recently isn’t picking the phone, and neither is a machine or voicemail. I might wind up trying to score an appointment with my old friend, the expensive-yet-worth-it, booked-a-month-in-advance Peter.

Yeeeaah. Wish me luck.

Addendum: thanks for the well-wishes - I scored an appointment with Peter of the magic brush for tomorrow at 12:30!

Friday, November 18, 2005

How I Blew My Day Off


If you're gonna post a blog quiz AT LEAST get the HTML right.

Never mind. Suffice it to say, I blew most my day off by mindless internet surfing. However this evening shall be spent in the city with my old pal Jules, one of the my Chicago crew. Hopefully I won't freeze my ass off.

I am so exhausted, I can't stand it. I watched the last half of Titanic today because I was too tired to sleep. I have only seen Titanic once before - when it was first in the theatres, opening weekend at the huge moviehouse in Times Square. I saw it with my ex-husband, back when things were still pretty good between us. I remember how we were enthralled with that cheesy-assed film. We held each other and cried.

Christ. And he reads this blog too. Sorry Dimarc. Embarrassing Stories-R-Us.

I've had nothing to eat today but yogurt and a cup of tea, because I'm short on cash in a big way and am saving my twenty bucks for dinner with my friend. I didn't get enough temp work this month, and things are pretty scary right now. I bought some CD's a week or so ago - 8 of them for a little under $70 - and have been feeling crappy about it. I don't spend money on luxuries like that anymore, because I just don't have it, but I think I just got sick of the radio. I'm spending inordinate amounts of time in my car these days. So I did that. I might return one of them.

I'm resisting the urge to Christmas-shop for people, partly because Mercury will be in retrograde until December fourth, and partly because I'm fucking broke. This is the hardest part of being poor for me - not being able to buy holiday gifts for people. Thankfully my list is short, and I'm a fantastic shopper, so I might be able to swing one small thing for my Mom, Dad, Boyfriend, and two best girlfriends. I'm working on that.

Today is one of those days when I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel of debt I've been hacking my way through for the last two years. I just have to have faith.

I guess spending some time with an old friend is a good way to get through that.

Have a great Friday night, everyone.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

the Family We Want, the Family We Get

Thanksgiving is coming up. I’ll be spending it with G and his parents, like last year. He’s coming home to Illinois with me for Christmas this year. This all works for me, since when I was a kid, we spent Thanksgiving with Daddy’s family and Christmas with Mom’s family every year. Maybe it will be the same when I have kids.

I guess my family Christmases in Connecticut are a thing of the past. I can’t imagine anything being better than that. I also used to see a certain branch of my family on the Jersey shore every year, but since all my generation has grown up and married and begun breeding, I guess they have so many in the house that they don’t invite us anymore. But then, my parents told me a couple of years ago that usually, we were never invited to begin with - my parents invited themselves to people's houses! I'm sure my aunts would say "What's wrong with that? We're family, we visit." But it irks me that if my parents had simply vanished one year, nobody would have called us to ask where we were. We don't see people for five years, and then we bump into someone at some family event, and then it's all "why the hell don't we see you anymore?" I even had one of my favorite aunts going on and on to me about how we MUST visit this summer - but what she really meant was, I'm going to have to consistently call her and call her and call her until she finds five minutes to talk to me, and don't expect her to call me back. And don't expect her to write or email. I'm going to have to take all the initiative to insert myself back into her family's life. Gee, I feel so wanted. So loved.

This is the first year I can recall actually dreading the holidays, expecting to be lonely. I have always looked forward to them, all year long. I reveled in buying new red and green and black and gold clothes to wear a-visiting. I glowed when I'd buy that box of fancy chocolates for a hostess gift. This year...

Everyone I was close to growing up, I’m not anymore. I know people’s life paths diverge, but it just feels wrong, and I feel somewhat robbed. I have over 200 people in my family, and last year every Holiday card that showed up in my mailbox was from someone I’m not related to, who I’ve known about five years or less. That just saddens me, knowing this year it will be the same. Not that I'm not glad I have friends. I'm just furious that my family has vanished.

It would be nice to think that some of these friends might still be around five years from now, but it’s unlikely. There are some people in my life who I call friend, right now, who I hope stay forever. But where will we all be next year? I do have that wonderful handful of close friends of 10 years and more, but they ALL live in Chicago, and I only get one week of vacation, and they have family obligations of their own. And yes, I’ve thought about moving to Chicago to feel less lonely many times. Maybe if I hadn’t met G, I would have done that, but that’s life, and I’m awfully glad I met G.

I hear all these stories about friends of mine who move someplace far from their family and old friends, and fall in love with it, and are happy there, and content to make lives for themselves there. My parents did that. For some reason the prospect of that makes me amazingly sad. I guess I love adventure, but I love coming home afterwards too. I love traveling. I love seeing new places, spending lots of time there, and living in different cities for a few years here and there has been awesome. But I'm growing up, I suppose, and I want to nest. I want a home. And I want family around - lots of them. I'm just pissed that I'm going to have to squeeze a whole family out my cooch in order to have that. I have 200 people in my family! 200, dammit! Why the hell can't we have Christmas parties!? Fourth of July? the yearly family reunion? Do we all HATE EACH OTHER OR SOMETHING?

Of course we don't hate each other. Most of my family simply has their heads shoved up their asses. And of course I mean that in a kind way. Their entire world doesn’t extend outside their own front yards. I hear this is what happens when you have kids. Another thing that puts me off motherhood. I don’t want those blinders. I don’t want everything in the universe to center around my kid. I don’t want to stop being involved with my friends and my family. I don’t want to drop off my kids at school one day, hear something on the radio about New Jersey as I’m driving off, and realize that I haven’t seen or spoken to or heard from my cousins in six years.

I remember saying to someone a few years ago that family is all we have. Is this why everyone’s so quick to reproduce? Because "all we have" just dissolves? Am I the only one who thinks this completely sucks wind!? Is this the reason I'm supposed to birth? I guess the propagation of the species is ensured, but this is such a sad reason to have babies.

Alright, let's do it right now. The babies post.

I want to have kids because I want to continue the line of dysfunctional personalities from which I'm descended. All joking aside, my grandparents and great-grandparents were incredible, fantastic people, and I don't want to be the last of them. I could also wax poetic about the joys of motherhood and parental love, but I imagine you've eaten recently and I'm sure you'd like to keep that down. Besides, I kind of already have that for my cat, but I hear a baby is even better.

I'm only sort of joking. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want kids. But I don't want to be... a parent like my cousins are. It's easy to say "Oh, Ouiser, you're not them, you're you." Well, they're my blood. The odds ain't in my favor. You could say "But look at Person X, they are great parents, they have great kids." Yes. And Tia Carerra got a Hollywood movie by wearing the right makeup to the convenience store. Maybe that will happen to me too?

I'm sorry. I shouldn't be so dismissive. Everyone has doubts about their parenting skills. The thing is... I'm not really afraid of being a bad parent, or of screwing up my kid. What I'm afraid of is turning into someone that I don't want to be. I'm afraid of becoming isolated, of having nothing in my life outside my family. Career will help. But I don't want to see the world through this lens that filters out the lives of everyone who doesn't have kids. I don't want blinders. I don't want to get lazy and not leave the house for anyone but the immediate family, errands, or work. I don't want to let my connections to music, to writing, to my pet political issues, and to the people I've met through those things vanish in a flurry of bottles and onesies and the Wiggles. I'm afraid that ME - the person I'm really only just getting to know, the person I fought so hard to be able to let flourish, and the person that I've grown to love, and to understand that God loves too - I'm afraid of losing myself - my Self - in my family. As so many women do. As so many women in my family have done.

Underneath it all, I feel that I wouldn't be so afraid of this if I had my family around me. My family, who would say "WE are like this," or "WE all do these things," with a knowing smile, and a shrug, and a here, have some soup and we'll feel better. My family that I grew up with, that I had such fantastic times with, my huge Italian-Irish family that could always be counted on for big parties and lots of hugs and long talks and side-splitting laughs, is gone. My kids and I just aren't going to have that anymore. I miss them. I miss our parties with the mountains of home-cooked food and the daddies watching football in the living room and the mommies in the kitchen gossiping and laughing and cooking and the kids playing games and talking about school and clothes and dating and pop bands, or playing outside in the snow. All my life I looked forward to being the one who brought the pies, or the salad, or the cookies, and having long talks with my cousins until the wee hours like my Mom and my Aunt did every Christmas Eve. I'm not going to have that. And I hate that. Hate it, hate it, HATE IT.

I used to be part of something huge. Now I feel alone.

You might ask about friends. My friend with kids - singular - is one of the Chicago people. 15 years of friendship is pretty hard to mess up, but I admit that we don't have a lot in common when it comes to child-rearing issues. She raises her kids the way she thinks is best, and they are great kids, at least I assume they are, since I've only been around them for a few hours, and that was years ago. But I can't talk about kids with her without wanting to rip her head off. I know that when I do breed she will not be able to "be there" for me, anymore than I was for her. Even if we do live in the same city. But that doesn't sadden me. That feels appropriate, for many reasons. Our friendship seems to transcend our womb status. Which is one reason why I value it so much. Maybe, I'm actually afraid that even those long-standing friends will be in my kitchen stirring sugar into their tea even less than they are now. Now that, I am not ok with.

Oh, by the way, G has virtually no family. Two parents and a sister that he's not overly close to, a niece he adores but hasn't seen in years. So if I want to cook for more than three people on Thanksgiving or Passover, I'm going to have to have babies. Several of them. I swear there are few things more depressing than buying a pound of Turkey breasts because you know you won't have enough people in the house to justify cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner. I don't ever want to cry over my half-empty refrigerator on a holiday EVER AGAIN.

And yes, I know, there's no guarantee that if I have six kids that I'll be cooking for eight. Things happen. But right now it seems like the only way to up the odds.

So this is the post about babies, and family. I know there are no easy answers to these statements. I joke about these things, but they are so heavy on my heart that today I can barely stand upright. And in the forefront of my holiday angst is the idea that I really ought to call G's Mom and ask if she minds if I bring a pie to Thanksgiving. And then the idea that I'll have to find the time to bake it, let it cool, and transport it four hours in the car to Boston. Not to mention the fact that I've been planning to bake a kind of pie that I've never tried before, because it's G's favorite. And his mother is a fantastic cook, and if I don't bake a really GREAT pie, I'll be mortified! Making cream custard from scratch on the stove is something I have only once chance to get right! You know, if we lived closer, I could just go over early in the day and bake it there, and help with dinner overall. I mean, that's how it should be.

Thanksgiving with Daddy's family. Christmas, and Chanukah, with Mommy's. And I'll bring dessert.

Monday, November 14, 2005


I aced all my tests last week. Four exams, aced 'em all.

G's birthday party last Saturday, also known as the Second Annual Cerulian Olympic Games, was da bomb. I'll post pics at some point, maybe Thursday. He's now 35. Mah baby.

Everyone must see this film before it closes. Awesome effort, but I think maybe about a year late. Then again, there's never a bad time for this story to be told. And the soundtrack is incredible.

Hey saxman. This is what I want to sing.

UPDATE: Aced my first practical exam tonight. Clean sweep. Next stop WORLD DOMINATION.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

No, you don't know me... but you will.

I met a saxophone player at Joey's parent's 50th Anniversary Bash last June. I sang with that band, for the fun of it, and my Aunt sang too. It was a lot of fun, and a special day. That sax player and I exchanged cell numbers, and kept in touch over the summer, emailing each other and trying to schedule a time to get together and play and sing. We sent each other song lists, he sent me some MP3's, and we struggled with our calendars.

We've been trying to make this date for five months. He's been busy, I've been busy, and now it's November. But we made it happen, and today, he came over. He arrived at about 11:30. I carried a tote bag full of sheet music, and he carried his music stand and his sax. I was a little nervous, but mostly excited.

I had asked him to bring a copy of "The Nearness of You," and he did. He instructed me to put on my Norah Jones CD, and listen to her sing it, while he went online with G's computer and found the lyrics for me. I hummed along with Norah while he printed me a lyric sheet.

"Ok," he said, "now try this." He handed me a CD. "Track nine." I popped it into the CD player, and out came a rather structured-sounding jazz backing to the same song. Of course, compared to Norah Jones, anything's going to sound structured, but "that's really different," I said.

"This is more of a standard arrangment," he informed me. "This is what you're most likely to hear Out There."

I tried singing along to it, but it was tricky. I had to listen closely to the rhythms, and fit my vocals into the overall song, like a puzzle piece. Not something I'm used to doing - but this is exactly what I need to learn. This arrangement has an odd ending - a key change, and the last few bars repeat. The first time I didn't do much with it. The second time, he played his sax, and I got a better feel for it, got a better idea of what I had to work with. The last time I sang it, I closed my eyes and really listened. I followed the accompaniment, and at the end, improvised something that was completely wrong in terms of how the song is written, but it fit with the music, and felt good in my voice. It felt... like fitting in that last puzzle piece.

"Now that," he said, "was good."

I flipped through a songbook and exclaimed "Moonglow! Somebody told me I needed to learn that song!"

"I think that might have been me," he replied. I laughed. "Maybe it was you!"

"Do you know it?" He asked. "Nope," I sighed.

He went onto Napster and found some clips of the song, sung by various singers. He played a few bars from Carly Simon, Billie Holliday, Mel Torme. He found the lyrics online and printed them out for me.

"Ok, sing this," he commanded.

"But," I protested, "I don't know it!"

"You just heard it three times!" he said, grinning.

"I heard three clips, not the whole song!"

"Yeah, but that's all there is to it," He said. "Try it."

I sang it. He was right. It's a very simple song. And sing it we did. Me with my voice, him on sax, with a CD accompaniment providing rhythm, piano and bass. And it wasn't half bad. It wasn't great, but it didn't suck.

"I know you know this song," he said, advancing the CD. It was "You Don't Know Me," popularized in the 60's by Ray Charles, but written in 1955 by Eddy Arnold. I don't just know that song. I LOVE that song.

I did sing it, but it was the oddest thing... the words completely left my brain. And I didn't launch into song like I often do, coming in strong and clear and present. I slid into it quietly, like sneaking in somewhere I'm not supposed to be, singing a full octave below my comfort zone. My friend fed me the words. The pitch was so low, I was murmuring to myself. I felt the vibrations in my sternum, and felt my stomach knotting slightly, but not in a bad way... I was remembering... something. In the blink of an eye, with just the idea of the song in my head, I was in another place, and another time.

You give your hand to me
and then you say hello
and I can hardly speak
my heart is beating so
and anyone can tell
you think you know me well
but you don't know me...

I can't tell you who I was thinking of... because I don't know who it was. But I know the feeling of this song.

No, you don't know the one
who dreams of you at night
who longs to kiss your lips
who longs to hold you tight
to you, I'm just a friend
that's all I've ever been
No, you don't know me...

Faces appeared in my mind and disappeared. I felt the pressure of a hand in mine. I felt the constriction in my rib cage, the frustration of knowing that someone does not hear me, that someone is not listening.

I never knew the art of making love
though my heart ached with love for you
Afraid and shy, I let my chance go by
The chance that you might have loved me too

I could barely speak, but I could sing. It felt appropriate to sing in a register so low that I had to keep my volume low, or I'd crack the tone. It was frustrating... and right.

You give your hand to me
and then you say goodbye
I watch you walk away
beside that lucky guy
to never, never know
the one who loves you so
No, you don't know me.

I can't think of anyone in my past who I loved, that I didn't tell. I can't think of anyone I wanted that I didn't tell very clearly and directly how I felt. I did have one or two unrequited loves, but they knew perfectly well how I felt about them. This song isn't really me. And yet...

It just felt magical. I don't know who I was, or where I was, or why I felt the way I felt, but it's the way I always want to feel when I'm singing.

My friend had no idea what I was going through. He didn't seem to get it at all. Oh well.

We ran through some other old standards, and I learned some new styles - the latin-bossanova-ish arrangment of "Over the Rainbow" was particularly fun, which surprised me considerably, as most latin styles don't really move me. He asked me to sing one piece higher, give another piece more breath, try syncopating the beat on this one, etc. We drained a bottle of Chianti, and the afternoon slipped by.

We sat down to talk, and he asked me, "What do you want to sing?"

I don't know how to categorize myself. I could say I want to sing jazz, or blues, but my voice has too much "show" for those styles, and frankly, I feel ridiculous, posing as a jazz singer, when I'm really not one. I could say I just want to sing great songs, with great messages, and really reach people... but everyone says that. I could say I want to sing everything, but nobody wants to hear everything. Really, they don't. People like categories. People like to hear a new song by a certain artist and instantly know it's them. Well, I lose patience with this. I don't want to have to define myself by saying "I sing jazz" or "I'm an opera singer." I don't want to have to choose!

I'm 34, but I look very young. My face has this midwestern, farm-girl innocence to it. Some of my mannerisms are childish, and I have such a drive to learn that I tend to look like a fourth grader absorbing her textbook. The problem is that I've lived through a lot more than most people my age, and it shows. I have an incredible life history and have lots of amazing stories to tell. I have so much to say, so many colors to my voice, so many styles and tones and shades... I'm like magic eye wallpaper. It's dizzying. And coming out of this young-looking package...

He said, "I can hear your history... and I don't know what to make of it." Well. That makes sense.

It's really amazing, when I think of all the things I've experienced. The loves I've had, and lost. The many jobs. The apartments, the friends, the schools. My family stories, my friend stories, my church stories. I've been married and divorced. I've wrung every last drop of life out of every experience I've had. My first engagment. The abusive relationship I battled through for close to two years. My struggles with my mother during my troubled adolescence. The time I went on tour with the Nutcracker. My ballet company years. My opera years. My musical theatre years, singing and dancing my heart out on stage in front of thousands of people. My yuppie years. My emergency room visits. The loved ones I've buried. The hearts I've broken. The homes I've left behind.

Hell. I don't know what to make of my history. How can I expect others to? But this gives me something to work with.

If I can figure out how to make my voice express certain things and not others, depending on how I use it, then it becomes a more useful tool. I can express heartbreak in several voices. What do those voices say about me? What kind of person uses a clear strong high note? A sultry low note? A Joplin-esqe scream? What parts of my history are revealed in these voices?

I've got the technique. I've got the pipes, and the lungs. I know how to use them to produce commonly accepted sounds, and achieve certain desired results. But I've never learned to use my equipment to say what I want to say, what I want people to hear. This is the most advanced work I've ever done.

Wish me luck.

Addendum: I've started a journal to keep track of my work on this little self-improvment project. I'm commiting to weekly work, so I should be able to make notes on something every Sunday night.

Monday, October 31, 2005


I wanted to write about my yoga class, and how connected I've been feeling to my past, and making peace with it after all these years. I wanted to write about singing with my old accompianist yesterday, and how it made me feel connected to my future, and to my inner self, and to all those who loved me who have passed on. I wanted to write about the 10 or so ladybugs who are invading my apartment, and despite my fear of bugs, I don't mind so much. I wanted to write about Samhain, and the ritual I'm planning to honor my departed relatives, and how much I miss them.

But my next-door neighbor is watching "But Can They Sing?" on VH1, at a very high volume, and all I can think is NO THEY CAN'T.

Oh Lord. They really CANNOT sing.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

It's Different This Time

I have become seized with ambition, regarding my schooling. I have homework for my kinesiology class, and it’s so much fun. I guess you can put a nerd in Prada, but she’s still a nerd.

All my life I was one of those obnoxious kids who got nearly straight A’s without ever studying, until I found myself in a class that required lots of homework. Then I just didn’t care, and was content to scrape through it with a B, a C, or once, even a D (Trigonometry). I still graduated High School near the top of my class, and coasted through college with only a fraction more effort.

I never really thought about what I might have been capable of – my motivation was to just get through school as quickly and cleanly as possible. Being an A student was a way to get my parents and teachers to leave me the fuck alone. Kids with low grades were always being herded into lame after-school programs which made the parents and teachers feel like they were doing something to help, but which were totally ineffective to the kids. But that’s a rant for another time.

I also don’t think I realized how smart I was. I have always had super-human expectations for myself, and the fact that I didn’t get straight A’s in subjects where I never read the book led me to believe that I was pretty average. I knew I wasn’t dumb, but I didn’t think I was really that exceptional, no matter how much my parents tried to convince me that I was. They tore their hair out, trying to get me to work just that little bit harder, trying to get me to care about my grades, trying to get me to live up to my potential. There’s a phrase I never wanted to hear again: live up to your potential! I was such a failure, because I never lived up to my potential. My Mom and some teachers called me lazy, but I wasn’t lazy. I was depressed and sad and felt there was no point in trying to be anything more than… well, I guess in trying to be anything at all. Stage I of not believing in myself.

In college, I realized that "my potential" may or may not have been the same things as "my parent’s hopes for me." I let go of a lot of frustration regarding my parents and teachers at that time, but my awareness of my own abilities remained subdued. I believed for a while that too much had been expected of me. I just wasn’t as smart as everyone seemed to think I was. This led to a new stage of feeling that I was not only a disappointment, I wasn't anybody special either. Stage II.

In the last few years, a number of things have happened to make me aware of my abilities. I just see myself differently. This might be a result of my many job interviews, and all those cover letters I wrote about myself. My temp agent and the groovy assignments I've been given have certainly helped me to see myself in a new light. I've also had some very validating experiences with G and my friends from my old job. Somehow, over the last couple of years, I became aware of myself – of my intelligence, my creativity, my skills... my true potential. (Ugh, that word.) I realize now how much I have inside me. I feel completely differently about myself. I believe in myself.

I know exactly what I can accomplish at this school, and by God I’m going to blow everyone away. I don’t want to just pass my classes – I want to graduate at the top of the class. I want all the extra credits, I want the highest ratings from my clinic experiences, and I want my professors to love me. I want the clients in the student clinic to request me. And I want the Career Counseling Office to have several job offers for me to choose from when I get my license. I want to be a goddamn legend. For no reason other than the fact that I know I can be.

I’m a little bit scared of myself. Is it wrong to feel this way? Am I trying to make up for my feelings of failure regarding other things I once wanted to do with my life? If so, is there something wrong with that? Is this newfound ambition going to turn me into a bitch? Am I still trying to please my parents, or am I doing this for me?

Well, I know I’m doing it for me. I’m really into this shit. But I don’t completely trust myself, I suppose.

If I want to help clients, I’m going to have to trust myself. So here’s some personal development I can work on. In singing, I was told to relax and trust my training and technique, and let the glory of my voice and my feelings flow through my sounds. It was the best advice I was ever given. I’m wondering if it’s the same with massage. I hope it is. I’ve gotten pretty good at trusting my training. And if I really do live up to my potential (there, I said it!) as a student at this Academy, I’ll have plenty of feedback to validate my feelings, and support my ability to trust myself in my work. And then, then I’ll really be able to help people.

And that will make this all worthwhile.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Autumn or Bust

Today was the semi-annual wardrobe conversion. Many women will know what I mean: I went to my storage cubicle and retrieved my two suitcases of winter clothes and box of shoes, and brought them home. I emptied those containers and refilled them with shorts, tank tops, swimwear, sandals, and all my other summer clothes. I brought the suitcases and shoe box back to my storage cubicle, and now, viola! I have a closet full of cold-weather clothes, and my summer duds are snugly stored until next season.

This is an opportunity for me to look at every piece of clothing I own, assess it’s wearability, and select pieces to donate. I thin my wardrobe every year, and enjoy the clean, organized look and feel to my closet and chest of drawers. This year a hefty bag full of stuff, including shoes and belts, went to the Goodwill. Now it will be my responsibility not to purchase as much or more clothing as I’ve given away. I don’t need a lot of clothes, and the pieces I have are very nice.

I have been, for the last two years, simplifying my wardrobe. I like to think of this as a reflection of my life. I have work clothes, and play clothes. I have a wide variety of looks, but I don’t need to have a new outfit every time I go someplace, like my Mom does and my Grandmother did. My Mom always feels like she looks like shit in everything she already owns. My grandmother had a sense of pride about people seeing her in the same outfit twice. I don’t have either of those problems. My problem is a lack of closet space. So, I thin.

I also have this idea in my mind that life would be so much easier if I owned a very small wardrobe.  Two or three suits, about six shirts, and two pairs of office pumps should be all I need for work. Two pairs of jeans, an assortment of tops, one pair of sneakers, one pair of comfy sandals, a few sweaters, and two or three dresses for casual clothes. One warm jacket, one light jacket, one winter coat. Snow boots, tall dress boots (to wear with skirts) and cowboy boots, just because I love ‘em. Really, isn’t that all a person ever needs?

Why do women have to have such enormous wardrobes? Do we really have to have every single color of shoe, in every style? How did we get so dependent on this crutch?

Like I have any business asking that. But, I’m trying to change this. It’s all part of my Year of Truth. Well, ok, the Year of Truth was 2004, but I liked the way things went, so might as well keep the actions going. Let’s face it, having a million clothes didn’t keep shit from happening to me, so I might as well test out the simplify theory. If I have less decisions to make about clothes, I’ll have more time to dedicate to bigger things, like making sure I get a decent breakfast, or checking a map to wherever I’m headed.

What does that have to do with Truth? Well, it’s true that I look fine, pretty much whatever I wear, wherever I go. It’s true that I don’t need all those clothes. It’s true that I used to spend way too much money on my costumes, and it’s true that I don’t feel the need to costume myself in my daily life anymore. My closet should reflect all those truths.

Tomorrow I attend orientation at Massage Therapy School. It’s only two hours. I’ve already got my books and other basic supplies. For the rest of Sunday, I plan to relax, maybe watch a movie, and enjoy my free time with G. Monday, it begins.

I’m currently temping at a pretty cool company in White Plains. I started last Friday. I work 8:30 to 5pm. I have one hour to make an hour and a half commute to class. This may not work, but I’m going to give it a shot. What I do know is that, starting Monday, I’m up at 7am, out by 8, and I don’t return home until shortly before midnight, four nights a week. I won’t have time to stop home in between work and school. Fridays I work. Friday nights, I’m going to be crashing. Weekends should be quiet for the first few months, but in January I’ll have to start working in the student clinic, and that will mean weekend trips to Englewood. Until November of 2006.

Holy. Shit.

So this would be the point when I remind y’all of that post I wrote a few months back, saying I wouldn’t likely be blogging for awhile, because I’ll be too busy. Yep. Now’s the time.

Thank you to all of you who left comments and emailed me regarding my uncle’s passing last week. It was a very difficult wake and funeral for my family, and it left me feeling very empty. I said goodbye to a lot more than just my uncle last Wednesday. Thankfully, I have a great deal in my future right now, and I’m ready for it.

This is the first time I can truly recall being excited for autumn to arrive. G and I will be spending Thanksgiving with his parents, and Christmas with mine. I have a new job, a new school, and a fresh fall closet. I’ve got a trunk full of sheets and anatomy textbooks. I’ve got enough Bio-Tone Massage Goop to... well, I’ve got tons of it. Oh – and my car has stopped doing that shaking thing. Turns out I was driving in third gear all this time. (It’s a “D” for Drive, how was I supposed to know the D with the circle around it was the regular drive gear?) Anyway, the car’s all set. I’m ready for fall.

Bring it on.