Winter is Coming

So, I’ve been thinking. Remembering, really.

During the time when I attended Georgetown, Eastern Europe was in especially active anarchy and turmoil. I remember being in the room while a bunch of foreign relations students argued hotly about whether or not Czechoslovakia would ‘fall’. After hours of analysis including impassioned economic/currency arguments, trade deals, dissecting leadership using psychological models, recounting histories and comparing and contrasting differences and similarities with other recent cases…everyone reached the conclusion that Czechoslovakia could never fall. Self satisfied, they turned to the only non-foreign policy student in the room and assured me that I must agree with them after seeing how they’d reached their conclusion.

I stood up, walked over to the big map they had drawn on the wall and pointed to one region/nation etc. after another that had fallen like dominoes or were certain to fall. “Czechoslovakia will fall, and soon,” I said. “All these hours have proven to me is that most people are mostly content to amuse each other with argument while the people with the most to lose fight alone.”

They laughed. What could I know — I was a plebeian there on scholarship who wasn’t part of their obviously superior world.

The next week, news of the dissolution of Czechoslovakia hit the mainstream media.

Fast forward to now.

Regarding the onslaught of media warnings…or in most cases, threatenings — against voting for a third party candidate for president…. I am tired of reading the so-called arguments and so I’m not going to anymore. Reminds me of that long, long night listening to that discussion about the future of Czechoslovakia.

It’s not that I’m not sharp enough to follow the arguments.  I am.  I have.  I’m just not convinced by them.  Because, ultimately, after every collection of minutes I spend reading why I must choose one of two wildly problematic choices, I always end up here:

Insanity — Doing what we’ve always done and expecting different results.

We are facing some very serious, catastrophic issues and threats.  Are we content with more of the same?  Am I? To me, right now, today, giving into fear and grasping at whomever I feel is the less awful choice for US president is a vote for insanity.

I will tell you that at this very moment, I have no idea what lever I will pull on November 8th.  I have vacillated thousands of times, sometimes hundreds of times during a day, as I watch the spectacle and read and listen to all the noise surrounding the pathetic gladiatorial distraction going on in our modern-day Coliseum.

What I do know is that whoever I vote for, I will vote, and I will vote without fear that my vote is wasted, no matter who I choose.

This is a more nuanced exploration than I am willing or able to pursue at this moment, but I will offer this observation — using instinct and experience –just as I did that day at Georgetown:

Send a bunch of people who are deeply conflicted into a voting booth with the burden of             guilt and fear that they are responsible for the death of the universe if they don’t vote for one of the Big 2 candidates, and 9 out of ten times, I guarantee you no matter what name they give the pollster — they’ll pull the trigger for the candidate that they really think will burn the world to the ground.

Because after all is said and done, human beings will choose utter chaos and unpredictability when they feel threatened because it is here where they instinctively know there is also the most advantage and opportunity for survivors…and in the face of catastrophe, we all imagine we will be among the survivors. You can read thousands of pounds of literature that will claim otherwise, that people act to preserve the status quo when they feel threatened, but I call bullshit on that.

Look around you.  We know the consequences of turning our planet into a trash can and devouring our natural resources as if we are the last generation ever born.  Yet, we continue to behave like suicidal wantons.  We know the consequences of being self-centered to the point where even the pain and struggle of our closest neighbors is ‘not our problem’ — yet we continue to walk on looking neither left, nor right nor slowing down or stopping to lend a hand or even notice when someone needs help.

We see the despicable, truly evil consequences of using actual crises to promote the engorgement of already ridiculous economic interests, and yet we continue to treat climate change as if there is an easy answer that we can solve by driving fewer cars and using less hairspray.  We are going to drown, and it’s not about oil vs. windmills — that’s economic titans manipulating us while they build flood-proof safety zones to wait out the inevitable.  (We should drive fewer cars, use less hairspray, and develop renewable sources of energy, but I regret to say that will not save us from climate change.  Winter is coming.)

I respect those who are afraid for the most vulnerable and have made some very impassioned arguments that those of us with more security owe it to those with less to vote for the one of the Big 2 that we feel can protect and assist the most vulnerable.

Neither of the Big 2 are going to protect or help anyone.  You are.  I am.  And if we don’t, no one will.

So I will vote.  I will vote for the person in whom I have the most faith — could, in a perfect world, do the most good.  Because that’s what I’m fighting for — a perfect world.

Because living in the ‘real world’, accepting the status quo, has brought us into a room where almost everyone is convinced that Czechoslovakia cannot fall.

 

 

 

 

Less Than an Hour

Ok.  So I have less than an hour to put something down that’s worth me writing and that’s worth anyone, including me, reading.  After years of avoiding writing almost anything not related to a work project or some random social media posts, that seems like an impossible goal, but here I am hitting the keyboard anyway.

I do have a long list of stuff that I’ve been thinking about, for the last ten years or so.  Right now, I can’t think of more than three actually not even one.  In the last ten years, both my parents died, my home was flooded during Superstorm Sandy, I left a long-time position at Rutgers for a medium-term position that I left three weeks ago when they eliminated my position along with dozens of others in advance of a likely fiscal crisis.  I birthed my second son (well ok, that’s almost 11 years ago, but I’m counting it since he’s still winding down his first decade), am still married to my favorite who’s about to enjoy season six of his tv show, and am working with him to launch our own company.

So, a little of this and a little of that.

This might be all I’m capable of at the moment.  Because nothing is happening. Well, not quite true.  My big dog, Cassie, is dreaming.  Laying here beside me, she’s doing a little barking in her sleep. When she wakes up, she’ll come over to me and lay her head on my leg.  I’ll scratch her head and she’ll sigh.  The little dog, Piper, is laying on the hassock, also sleeping. Quiet.  Both her ears are straight up which is funny because when she’s awake, one is up and one flops.  And further in the background, one of the voices that accompanies me throughout the day, softly urging me on.

“Write no matter what.  What makes it to the page isn’t as important as the effort you’re exerting to begin.  Even this jerky, inchoate, thing is better than nothing.”

Is it?  I guess I’m going to find out.  What if nothing happens after this?  What if another ten years passes between this and the next this or that?  I’m trusting that voice but there is another, there are others, but this other is much less optimistic and encouraging.  It’s grumbling and I’m ignoring it for now.

I’ve got about ten more minutes before I have to leave and pick up my guys from school.  Less than three weeks ago, my days weren’t like this.  My days were measured differently when I reported to an office five days a week.  I’m as busy as ever, but there’s a different energy that moves through me and with me.

I know that the next seven minutes are all about writing and so, likely, are the next ten, twenty years — writing and remembering that long list of things of things I’ve been thinking about that I’ve forgotten.  This is exciting and I feel an unexplainable confidence even though I am clearing the path in front of me only one step at a time and I’m in unfamiliar territory. How do I know all will be well?  Maybe it won’t.  Maybe I’ll walk right into quicksand.  Quicksand is real, right?

Oh wow.  Three more minutes. And I’ve gotta take a minute to stretch out my back before it starts to spasm.  So that’s really just two minutes.  The red or the blue wire.  Which one?

I think I’ll ask for help.  Or maybe I’ll use a strategy I used a while ago to pick books I included in my thesis on Boundaries.  Then, I simply went to the library and chose a random ten books and used them to weave a story that connected them all as if they were meant to be chapters in the same story, not separate volumes.  I proved there really are no boundaries, except those we draw around ourselves to “keep ourselves safe”. And I argued that ‘safe’ is overrated as a strategy for either survival or growth.

Awwww.  Shit.

Out of time.

 

 

 

 

Magical Kingdom Loses to Call of Duty

This was the year the Zapcics Version 6.0 (Michael is the youngest of 6…all boys) were supposed to travel to the Magical Kingdom of Disney for our first family adventure to that particular mecca.  Me, at first I was ambivalent about going, as I find touristy throngs, long lines for short rides and constant noise and flashing lights excruciating, but I’ve been assured by many that the experience is truly exceptional and that I will LOVE it.  During research, it does seem to be pretty cool, and so I move from ambivalence to tentative excitement.

Michael’s got a con down in Orlando, March, and we figure it’s a great time to tack on a few extra days and finally plunge into Disney.  Plane rides, fireworks, cosplay — truly a perfect family getaway.

Then, just as we’ve made decisions about most things and are ready  to hit the BUY NOW button for our package deal…Mitch, my almost 11-year old comes through the door from school, fist crammed into his book bag.  Hand emerges, holding a piece of paper…an invitation to serve on the school Safety Patrol.

“Look Mom!”  He hands me the paper.  There’s a long list of requirements such as, always having your homework (written neatly –well, that would have been a deal-breaker for me, anyway), promoting tolerance and appropriate conflict resolution (his days promoting kindergarten cage-fighting are over), etc. all meant to instill and reinforce good citizenship, personal responsibility and a sense of duty to others.

Also on the list…..NO ABSENCES.  NO EXCUSES.

Now, I suppose massive head trauma and plague would be excused, but the point is, as he explained to me with a very, very, very serious face, speaking very, very, very clearly and slowly…the point is,

“We can’t go to Disney until after school is out.”

“But Mitch, we can ONLY take this trip when we’re planning it.  The summer’s no good — Dad’s and my work schedules won’t allow it.  If we don’t take it in March, we won’t be able to go for at least another year.”

“Mom. I’ve made up my mind.  This is the highest honor they give at the school, only a few people ever get picked and they chose ME.  For a REASON.  I HAVE to do this.  I’ll never get another chance.  Disney will be there next year.”

Now, there was no Safety Patrol where I went to school.  ‘Safety Patrol’ was the playground where you learned how to punch or take a punch.  And there was never any proof that it was me who ran the low-stakes card game at my grammar school, and at his age, any month where I was absent fewer than four days would have been a cause for a statue to be erected in the town square.

At first, I laughed.  I thought he was joking.  Then, I saw his face.  Eyes steeled for a real argument — though his face crumpled a bit.

“Honey, really?”

“Yes, Mom.  Really.  This is IMportant.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure Disney will be a lot of fun when we do go, but  it’s not IMportant.  We have fun doing everything together.  Safety Patrol is an honor.  It means everything you and Dad talk to me about helping people and being fair and working hard for what you want really works.  And I get privileges.  I get to walk the halls without a pass because they trust me.”

The older I get, the easier it is for me to see and believe the signs and wonders all around.  To understand what needs to be understood and let the rest go.  Sometimes, I get to witness how the words I speak (or not) and the actions I take (or not) influence and help shape the people and the world around me.  I struggle with balancing living in respect for ‘civilization’ and respect for working against it.

But I’ll tell you, it’s a heady thing to stand with your almost-11 year old son and listen to him argue for the opportunity to take on a commitment to serve, deferring a “trip of a lifetime” that many of his friends have already taken more than once.

M-I-C (C U Next Year, Maybe.)  K-E-Y (Y?  Because my son is just that Awesome.)  M O U S E .

#Sandy Visits Stately Zapcic Manor

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This was #Sandy knock, knock, knocking on our door. (About 2 PM, Monday, the 29th) Right when she began to huff and puff and surge. We don’t know what the house looks like now, almost twenty hours later. After the high winds. After the evening surge and high tide.

As a college junior, I heard a story that is helping save me from sadness and anxiety now. That’s a funny thing about stories, isn’t it? You never know when they’ll help change and/or save you, and you never know which ones you’ll need, so please ladies and gentlemen, listen to them all.

The storyteller was a tall, hunky Irishman, a larger than life enigma who was infatuated with me at that moment. We were doing what we usually did together, hard drinking and listening to Warren Zevon, Pink Floyd, Rush and Zep. Talking. Telling stories.

I don’t now know why he told me the story about the girl who danced as her house burned, but I remember feeling awe, respect and a little envy.

His eyes took on that slightly unfocused, soft and warm look they did when he told stories, and then I was watching a young woman he knew being tapped on the shoulder as she was dancing at a party. Her friend delivered bad news…Word came that her home was on fire, burning down at that very moment. Firefighters were there, but it didn’t look good. Fire was too big and fast for them to do much.

The Irishman paused and looked directly at me, then. “What do you think she did?” he asked me, obviously very interested in my answer.

“Uh, I don’t know,” I faltered, afraid of guessing wrong. He didn’t linger on my indecision, meeting my stuttering with a gleeful grin.

“She walked over to the stereo, put on Burning Down The House by the Talking Heads, and kept dancing. People were pulling at her, trying to get her to stop and run to the fire, but she just kept dancing. ‘Why the hell should I run over there?’ she said. ‘Tears can’t put out the fire, so I’ll dance when are where I can, while I can.'”

I still remember my feelings when he finished. Awe and respect at her reaction and envy…because he obviously saw her as a heroine, and it was the first time his adoration had wavered from me in the two weeks we’d been together.

Now, I sit here in safety, writing these words and have no idea what we’ll find when we get back to our house. The question isn’t IF we got water in the first floor, but only, “How much?” Yesterday, when I saw that picture above and realized the worst was yet to come, I broke down for a few minutes. The smell of cinnamon, cloves and apples coming from a pan of spices simmering on our stovetop — how long before we smelled that in our home again? Where will we live if our downstairs is entirely destroyed? The kids’ school….Michael’s work…my work….how to manage.

Then, I heard the Irishman’s voice rising up like the surge that was likely going to destroy my first floor in minutes once the PM high tide hit — the Irishman’s voice full of compassion, awe, respect, love and gratitude for knowing a woman who would rather dance than cry in the face of devastation. A woman who cranked up The Talking Heads rather than the drama. Once again, telling me her story, a story she lived many many years ago and he retold many many years ago — a story that reached out to me with a heroine’s arms and legs moving to the beat of life in spite of life.

A little while later, I found Kevin Smith’s Facebook post about his own dance with floodwaters and I felt even stronger. A little while after that, I felt a small, strong hand squeeze my arm and looked into the whiskey-brown eyes of my 9-year old son (his father’s eyes) — “Mom, stay positive, OK? It’s not going to be as bad as you think. Everything will be ok.” And when I logged on to my iPad a few minutes later, I saw he’d changed my background scene…to a giant wave rolling and ready to crash down. An act of faith, defiance, heroism…? He’s like that. An old soul.

By the time the tide rose again and the surge sent (so I hear) over four feet of water rushing against my house, I was planning on what to wear on the drive back. I’m going to look FABULOUS.

I bought myself a pair of awesome boots, and a Free People top and leggings to wear to Michael’s appearance at NY Comicon with the Comic Book Men. After a summer of being in pain, bloated and enervated thanks to a rotten appendix (which eventually came out, but for a long time posed a painful mystery that was impersonating a much scarier ailment), I wanted to look like the spunky, cool sidekick Michael deserved on his biggest day so far of being a Comic Book Man.

This is what I’m going to wear as I stride across the threshold of Stately Zapcic Manor. (Well, ok. I may change into my rain boots for the striding part.)

My accompanying theme music for our return? Dunno. I’m thinking on it. Carmina Burana? (sp?) I Can See Clearly Now, the Rain is Gone? We Are the Champions?

Whatever the song, the story is the same — in the face of uncertainty and loss, we can behave any way we choose and think any way we choose. Thank God, The Goddess, The Universe, The Great Spirit and every other manifestation of The Force that Stories of courage and strength have my back. And thank you to the storytellers. I pray that I am a worthy listener.

Hey #Sandy. Let’s dance.

Mike Love’s history of being a dick

At 5 in the morning, after unsuccessfully trying to get back to sleep….I read this. And laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Go read the one about apples, too.

ugh!

Mike Love’s firing of the other surviving members of The Beach Boys for an upcoming tour is another in a long line of questionable moves he has made in his life, others include

*Investing all of The Beach Boys money in Mike Love’s Hats and Such. A failed chain of hat and hat accessory stores.

*Suggesting to Charles Manson that he should give up music and start a murderous cult.

*Replacing the members of The Beach Boys with the entire cast of Full House.

*Replacing the members of The Beach Boys with the entire cast of Barney Miller.

*Temporarily changing the name to The Beach Boyz, in an attempt to cash in with a hipper, urban audience.

*Tried to adopt Brian Wilson, twice.

*Attempted to set up a steel cage death match between Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson.

*Claiming to have written all of Brian Wilson’s…

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thINK

I’ve wanted a tattoo for a long time.  Never gotten one for the same reason I haven’t done a lot of things I’ve really wanted to do…I had committment issues.

Good news for me, is, I seem to be getting over myself and committment.  Take, for instance, the new bathroom.  Michael and I moved into our home eight years ago, and the downstairs bathroom (about 6×6, not including the tub/shower) was in dismal shape, then.  When I get around to uploading some pictures, I’ll share them with you.  You’ll agree, I think. Dismal.

Now, we have money to make some home repairs this year, and so we go for the downstairs bathroom.  Frankly, the whole house could use a facelift, but since the floor is caving and buckling in the bathroom, we pick this first.  Needed to choose a new tub.  Tile or tub surround?  What material for the floor?  Colors?  Textures?  How about the walls?  What color paint?  Fixtures….several thousand to choose from at about a half-dozen retailers within 10 miles of my house….

Oh shit.  Oh shit Oh shit.  For one thing, SHIT!  I’m freaked out that there are over a half-dozen places to purchase this stuff within walking distance of my house.  Another thing…I’m might be living with this bathroom for as long as we live in the house — how am I going to pick the ‘right’ stuff?  What if I make a choice and then find something I like better?  And..

Oh, this is funny.  So I’m looking at the Home Depot website to get some ideas and I click on the “Before and After” section of their bathroom remodeling site.  Looking through the pics, I mean, criminey!  The bathrooms are beautifu! The paint, fixtures, the beautiful floors and the way they’re decorated…just stunning.

I call Michael over to take a look and get a sense of what he likes.  “Yeah, Babe,” he walks over and takes a look down at the screen.  “What do you think?” I ask him, mouse hovering over one particular bathroom I like.  “Ok,” he says, “Now show me the After pic.”

Um.  “Um, what?”

“The After pic, honey.  Click on the remodel.  Let’s see.”

Motherless son of a…

Yeah.  That’s right.  I was drooling over the BEFORE pics.  That will give you an idea, even without me getting up, sending myself the picture of the before and posting it here–oh dammit.  Let me just do that.

   

Ok.  So you see what I mean.  By the way, I think it’s wayyyy cool that when I take pics on my iPhone it automatically uploads them to my iPad.  Now, if I’d just had the good sense to purchase a macbook instead of a windows pc (and a slow-assed one at that…)

But PRAISE and WONDER!  Meditation and prayer work and though it has taken me a LOT of practice, I am now able to make decisions without agonizing over every little ‘maybe’ and ‘what if’.  Well, most of the time.

Instead of the months it would have taken me to make choices that I would have instantly regretted and felt gyped about for the life of the bathroom, I made choices in a matter of hours.  And, now that it’s finished, I am thrilled.

Oh, there are a few little things I could dither about, but instead of dithering, the quirks make me smile.  Life is beautiful, but it’s not perfect…much like my bathroom.  And…since I’m not focusing on how insecure I feel about making choices, but celebrating my ability to get things done and make headway — I’m delighted by all my choices and more interested in the next project and enjoying what’s accomplished and what is, than squandering energy wishing things were different — wishing I was different.

So, these are my ideas for ink.  There’s an absolutely stunning pic on the internet of a gal with this written on her side — “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”  I thINK that’s awesome and I want it.  I also want Michael’s name, with “As you wish.” written underneath.  Toying with getting the same artist to do that one as did his. (He has my name written on a scroll on his left bicep.)  Romantic, I thINK to have the same artist for both our name tattoos.

A black bear, which I am drawn to as a totem for a reason I can’t grasp, yet.  It would be sitting in a stream, looking very cool and content.

One of these days, I’ll make the time to get started on tattoos.  But now, I’m going to go wake up my husband, drink some more coffee, meditate and enjoy things as they are this moment.

     

That last pic? ! Before the renovation, that closet space didn’t have a door — just a cut out in the wall.  We were using a tension rod with a (sad) curtain.  The door’s pretty slick, right?

For Kymberlee

Ok, Kymberlee. I’m doing this so you won’t turn your back on me in mock disgust when I see you next.

You’re right. I’ve got to write.

So, since someone on Twitter got me talking about gambling and baby things, I’ll write about that. Here you go.

My mother was 27 when I was born. My father, 48. When her contractions were five minutes apart, he drove her to the hospital, helped her check in and waited to hear the results…both mother and baby ok? Boy or girl?

She’d managed to get into an OB’s practice who prided himself on the fact that his mothers were skinnier after giving birth than before they got pregnant. His secret? Amphetamines. Lots of of very strong amphetamines. And even though my mother flushed hers down the toilet in the 7th month, according to her, she did, indeed, weigh less after I was born than before she conceived me. I was her first child.

I don’t know how they paid for the hospital bill or the OB care. I guess they spent every last dime that they didn’t have because one of her fondest stories was of our homecoming from the hospital.

“And here I was, holding you in my arms on the drive home and thinking, ‘We don’t even have any diapers, or bottles or a crib, and then we got home and opened the door and the first thing we saw? A bassinet, a crib, diapers, blankets! Everything a new baby needed! There was even a Tiffany pearl and silver teething ring!'”

How? Well, right before they left for the hospital my father (not so successful at earning a living by gambling on horses) gave his friend Frank (much more successful at earning a living by gambling on horses) $50 from previous track winnings and, as the story goes, instructions to win enough money to buy baby things. And he did. Either that, or Frank went home and out of kindness for a child he owed nothing to and would only see a few times in his life, used his own gambling payday saving to buy baby things.

Though all the other baby things have long since found their way to the dump, I still have that teething ring. Right now, it’s tacked up to my vision board where I’ve got inspirational notes, lists of things that will come true for me and my family, various pictures and a doctored cover of Vanity Fair. I’ve pasted my face and Michael’s face over Prince William and Catherine Middleton. It’s the issue published right after they got married. (Also doctored…) The headline reads, “Michael & Julia’s New Life”.

I mean, hell. With all the moving and the running and hiding and the escaping I’ve done in my life, to still have that pearl and silver teething ring, bought, no less, with gambling winnings–either my father’s or Frank’s–why the hell shouldn’t I bet that good things…the best things…are waiting for me, just inside through the door.

So tonight, even though I’m bone tired and a feeling like my “Life is Great” train car is stuck a bit on the rails, I’m writing this. For Kymberlee, Frank and me.