Archive for February, 2010
It was my daughter’s 4th birthday this weekend. Amidst all the celebrating, the husband and I recounted those early days of hope and wonder at the little life making her presence known from the start. When I found out I was pregnant I didn’t dare tell anyone about it. For years I had tried to get pregnant, only to experience miscarriage and shattered dreams. There were also girlfriends of mine, who LOVED pointing out that they had no issue with fertility nor pregnancies, and callously reminded me of how blessed they were while I was pouring my heart out in the grief only known to those who have failed and lost.
Yet here she is. The sunshine that warms my heart. In her four year old glory of intelligence, curiosity, selfishness, and tenacity. With her love of pink, ballerinas, working in the garden with her daddy, and fashions. How beautiful, extraordinarily beautiful she is! I offer up prayers of thanks and pleas for a lifetime of happiness, love and good health to her. May she always be assured of my love and understanding, of my undying loyalty and unwavering support.
As for me, I pray that I will guide her in wisdom, in love and in truth. And that I will be able to afford all those fashions she has her eye on. Happy birthday darling girl! I love you to the end of the universe and back.
Okay, so here’s my biggest pet peeve: people who refer to themselves as over-educated. Excuse me? What?! How is that even possible? I was talking to this person I had just met, a thirty something New York woman waiting tables in one of the restaurants the husband and I frequent, and she referred to herself as, “your typical over-educated New Yorker.” It’s a good thing I have something called manners, well some manners, in any case, because I so wanted to ask her what exactly is she over-educated for, waiting tables?
Instead I smiled a tight little smile and raised my eyebrows to let her know exactly what I thought of her over-education, but I don’t think she got it. I didn’t say anything to the husband about it because he sometimes thinks I’m a tad too mean and judgmental, which by the way, is VERY true. I am.
I LOVE the following quote from Hilary Mandel’s, An Experiment In Love: “Their manner was weary, as if they knew everything and had seen everything, and they paused often, perhaps in the middle of a phrase, to make a snickering sound that must have been laughter. Their remarks reached no conclusion; at a certain point they would become slower, more sporadic, and finally peter out.” Oh my God! I know just who she is talking about!
By the way, this isn’t directed at those who work in jobs beneath their education level, but rather at those with the attitude that they are way above what they do.
ALSO, I have nothing against this profession. In fact, I am often asked if I am a waitress and I can never decide if it’s because of my mostly friendly nature, my sometimes snobby attitude, or because I dress like one.
The ever lovely, super stylish and beautiful Paris residing Susu of #mce_temp_url#was kind enough to award me with this:
Please stop by and say hello after you’re all done gawking at her gorgeous clothing ensembles, storefront windows, desserts, and photos of Paris. Make sure you read her messages which are little jewels themselves.
Now, one of my newest blogging gal pals, Jeanne residing in the UK and blogging from #mce_temp_url# awarded me with this little thing:
And it makes me feel all toasty and such to know that I bring sunshine in the lives of people I didn’t give birth to. Take a moment and visit Jeanne. Her blog is absolutely lovely.
And now because this is my blog and like to make my own rules, I want to share these awards with all of you. So leave a comment, grab an award and visit my gal pals. But first read my list of things I cannot stand.
1. Women who think they fool others when they act as if their life is perfect and their hubbies would die the day after, because they cannot imagine living without them. You know who you are. You aren’t fooling anyone. Get over it. You aren’t all that.
2. Men fixing their genitals in public. This mostly has to do with years of having no choice but to see the pastor at a childhood church I attended do this every single time he stood up. Super gross! For the love of whatever it is you love, leave the boxers at home on Sundays and wear briefs.
3. Men mouth kissing in public. Yes, I know it’s a cultural thing, and again this happened untold times at my childhood church too. There was a visiting pastor once whose dentures fell out in the process and rolled right off the pulpit and onto the floor. The horror of it was audible.
4. Pat Robertson. Joel Osteen. And the vast majority of the TBN crew who exhibit the entitlement mentality status by preaching a gospel not of the Bible, but rather geared to their own private ambitions and spreading fear and hatred. As if there isn’t enough of that in the world and more is needed.
5. People who lick their fingers after they eat. Okay. I like most of these people, but cannot stand the finger licking. It is gross. And if I do not eat anything when I visit you, this is the reason why.
6. One-upmanship. I KNOW that not everything that happens to me has happened to you. Let me tell my story before you interrupt with how yours is soooo much better.
7. Interrupting. Low-class. Bad manners. Of course you have something extremely important to say, and it just so occurred to you in the middle of my story.
8. Cleaning noses in public. Never fails. I drive down the freeway and there’s always a pretty woman or good looking man in some car going at it. If you absolutely must, at least wait until it’s dark out and there are no cars around.
9. Tailgaters. I am forever tempted to slam on my brakes. Back off or you’ll pay!
That’s it. My mood today may or may not have anything to do with hormonal changes, yet it is highly attributed to my friend Corine from #mce_temp_url#whose last post inspired me to tell it like it is. At least once in a while.
I was about thirteen, the first time I had ever attended a bridal shower, when one of the women there announced to those gathered around the room that nothing made her happy. Not even sex with her husband. She said it so loudly that everyone stopped what they were doing, their plastic forks lifted halfway to their open mouths, clearly wanting to hear more, yet not knowing how to solicit the conversation. On the one hand, sex was a taboo subject. On the other, the woman was a loose cannon. Who knew what she would say? Moreover, there was too much propriety amongst them all, and no one wanted to be seen as lacking good manners.
So mouths were quickly stuffed with food, furtive glances sent her way, and everyone got back to their own conversations. A few months later, she was committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Of course back then I didn’t understand. That her outburst had been a cry for help, I only understood in college. I had never heard of depression, nor had I seen it. We were all an emotional bunch, even my mom cried from time to time, but it was short lived and our smiles were so much more brighter.
The church was the most unkind. Calling all that their small minds couldn’t comprehend as the work of the devil, they shunned her and instilled fear in the women, preaching from the pulpit submission onto their husbands as onto Christ, so that such a fate would not befall any of them.
I spoke with a friend battling cancer, earlier last week. And with another one who has a teeny, tiny newborn. And another one who has lost her job after 20 years. Stress in their lives, hormonal changes going on, left and right. Dejected, listless, angry. Yet despite it all, reluctant to admit that they are suffering from something. Reluctant to grasp the outstretched hand. Do they fear shunning? Or perhaps lost friendships? Why is there such a stigma still attached to depression? Why can’t we discuss it? Woman to woman. Friend to friend. Can we give our support without judgement?
When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I was going through miscarriages, very few friends asked how I was holding up. Only the love of my husband and family kept me going. I was an emotional mess. Many pulled away as though my sadness was contagious. Perhaps it was. Yet a kind word would have been so welcome.
Can we be that ear, that shoulder, that word, to another one of us who is suffering?
One Saturday morning when I was 12, my father woke up and decided that that was the day his daughters would learn the feminine art of keeping house. “Marioara,” he said to my mom, “these girls are getting as tall as poplars and all they do is play.” Now I may have been 12, and already taller than my mom, but my sisters were 10 and 7, and petite. However, that’s how things were done in our family. The entire group was involved. Example: if one of us broke a rule, we all paid for it. The reasoning? So we’d learn the consequence and not attempt to break a rule, ever again. Sometimes it worked, most often it didn’t. It created an accomplice sort of bond between the five of us kids, though, and we saw to it that we weren’t found out.
My mom, being the wise woman she is, set about finding age appropriate tasks for us three. The youngest was shown how to fold clothes and organize the closets. The second was soon scrubbing the toilets, polishing the furniture and vacuuming, and I got sent to the kitchen to start on the soup, and peel the potatoes. I was 12, old enough to know better than burn down the house.
All the while cleaning the chicken, I was remembering the ones at my Tanti Marie’s country house, running around the yard without their heads, blood splattering everywhere. Not a pretty sight, nor memory. But I persevered and soon enough I added it to the cold water-filled pot waiting for it. To that I added salt, carrots, onion, celery, and parsley, placed the lid on top and moved on to the potatoes.
I will admit that to this day, I do not enjoy peeling potatoes. There is something about their cold and slimy texture (to me, at least) that raises the hair on my arms. I cut them, cubed them, filled another pot with cold, fresh water, added salt and the potatoes, and set them to boil. After the potatoes were fully cooked, I drained them, added the softened butter that had been sitting on the counter for so long it had practically melted, and then the milk, and stirred like crazy. They turned out delicious.
When the soup was ready, my mom strained it, disposing of the celery, parsley, and onion, saved the meat and carrots on the side for frying them later, and explained the importance of simmering the homemade noodles in the soup broth. Thankfully, I didn’t have to make the noodles. Those remained my mother’s and grandmother’s responsibility.
Over the years I experimented with the addition of herbs, garlic, roasted shallots, heavy cream, sour crème, crème fraiche, and a few other condiments in my mashed potatoes. The soups became more complicated as well. Yet, regardless of the outcome, my most proud moment is when we sat down for lunch on that Saturday, and I served everyone the chicken noodle soup and mashed potatoes I had made.
The microwave caught on fire soon after dinner. My son placed two sugar cookies on a napkin and set the heat on for 45 seconds. I heard him yell fire, fire, fire and I looked up from my book to see grey smoke fill the kitchen. The fire extinguisher was down the hall, but the flour container was handy. I opened it and threw it all over the microwave, causing even more dark smoke. Somehow I yanked the cord out of the outlet, picked up the microwave and ran with it outside. I was afraid it would explode and kill us all, or at least ruin my furniture and books.
I took it to the curb, thinking that in the morning I would call the appliance recycling people to come and pick it up. Yet when I checked a while back, it was gone. Who would want a flour drenched and smoke smelling microwave? Whoever it was, I hope they don’t bring it back. My son was worried they might come and throw it through the window in protest that it doesn’t work. He’s got me worrying now, although I didn’t sell it, nor did I claim it reliable.
Well that’s about all the excitement that occurred this Monday. I’ve been really wanting to stop using a microwave. This could be a blessing in disguise.
They were cuddling on the couch watching the 11 o’clock news. The house was silent, except for the TV, kids tucked in hours ago.
“There’s that woman.” She said straightening up. ”Her husband shot her three times in the head and she played dead. For seven hours she just lay there.”
“What did she do to deserve it?” He asked.
I watched her telling me these things, wondering if today would be the day she would spill her secrets. The morning was bright, the sun streaming in across the table of the breakfast joint we’ve frequented every first Saturday of the month for 12 years now. She slides her cell phone across the table, a brave smile trembling on her lips.
“He’s keeping track of me. Wherever I go, he knows.”
I glance at the text she had received from her carrier, a text telling her that another number is keeping track of her phone’s location. Her eyes glisten and she wiggles her nose to keep the tears away.
“I just want you to know. Just in case. I know you write about these things.”
I know better than to ask what he does. There are things she cannot bring herself to say, even to me, one of her closest friends. And I know better than to ask why she stays. I know the church she is part of. Her family’s reputation within it. The fact that no matter what, she would be found at fault and not he. And then of course, there are the children. It goes without saying.
I had an inkling that things weren’t what they seemed. A certain wince she’d quickly mask with a smile whenever I’d hug too tight. A sad look in her eyes when the subject of husbands came up.
The things that happen behind closed doors. Who can tell? Sometimes the children wake up with nightmares of things real (and imagined, to be sure), in their pretty princess and cowboy bedrooms, their little hearts heavy, their spirits dragging. Wondering if it was something they did. Feigning sleep, and praying for it all to stop. And you go driving down the street of beautiful homes, manicured lawns, luxury cars in the garage, and think how perfect it is, and how you wished you lived right there, in that particular home with the silk Bergere chairs framed by the leaded window, and Savonnerie rugs throughout the house. The lamp left on in the downstairs hall has such a welcoming warm glow. But you don’t know. You have no idea at the horror the pretty things are masking.
I read somewhere that truly beautiful people can obliterate you. I don’t remember if it was Margaret Atwood or Isabel Allende who said it, but the phrase stuck with me. I’m not certain I agree, though. Sure, there are some beautiful people that just leave you speechless. I have a few such friends. When I see them I almost hate them, I’m so envious. But then I have moments when I’m so charming, I even charm myself.
I grew up in a subculture where cosmetic enhancement of any sort was frowned upon, yet beauty was the calling card of any girl lucky enough to claim it. When I was young an uncle told me that if a girl was not beautiful of face, she would do well to be likable, and I truly believed him. I think the French teach their daughters the same. I could be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure. The whole world agrees that French women are utterly charming.
Anyway, a few days ago I was reading a post written by a friend, and she mentioned a project she was going to be a part of, regarding beauty. A project that will explore the concept of beauty from all angles, seeking to find what is the “truth” of it. Because I am so enthralled by the word, let alone the idea, and because Holly never fails to amuse and enchant me with her intelligence, I decided to go and find out if more participants were needed.
Yes, more were needed. And guess what? You can be a part of this too, should you so desire. A Beautiful State of Mind - The Project, is still seeking contestants. Visit #mce_temp_url# to find out more and participate in the discovery of your inner and outer beauty. Rhiannon, the founder of this project, is seeking women of all ages and all cultures to explore this often elusive and misunderstood concept.
Now for the icing on the cake, here is a photo of me taken with my iphone, sans make-up. Notice that it’s in black and white - the better to hide the imperfections. My son thinks the only difference is I look faded. Haha!