Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Back

So, this time last decade, I was planning a ginormous Y2K party. Remember Y2K? Do you feel a little silly now? I was kindasorta worried about it. My girlfriends and I rented out a room over the liquor store on Chicago and Wells and invited the crowds to come. I was engaged and living in Wicker Park and just barely 30 and on the edge of real life in a way that seems kind of adorable to me now.

Politically, globally, nationally, it was SUCH a shitty decade. It was the decade of 9/11 and George Bush and torture as foreign policy. But personally, it was really good. I got married to Don who is, honestly, the best man I know. He's so entirely himself, so full of life, and (mostly) so much fun to be around. (I add the parenthetical 'mostly' because he NEVER gets enough sleep and can be irritable as a result... I'm working on training him to sleep the way I know how to sleep. If sleep were an Olympic sport, I'd gold medal in that fucker every four years).

I got the job I'm in today. A few years ago, I felt like an epic failure working at the same place, not moving ahead, not bringing in the big bucks. But, y'all, these days, I like it a lot. I like having this job that's steady and liberating, that I'm good at. Some of my British colleagues disagree with me about the job. I say they should take a week working for a regular American corporation. Upon their return, they'd go all George Bailey running through the streets of Bedford Falls. No one polices my desktop. I am allowed to install my own software. I can sit at my desk in ripped jeans, a tank top and a snuggie and no one gives the tiniest rat's ass. These things mean something, I tell you.

And, Laney. I got Laney! I will never forget standing upstairs in my bedroom in Logan Square, in the middle of a workout, having just recently steeled myself to head back into the adoption breach after a series of disappointments. And the call came and they said there was a girl for us. And then the Fedex came to me at work the next day with pictures of the loveliest little girl. Oh, what an adventure! And what a (mostly) joy she is. (I add the parenthetical 'mostly' because she's a kid and a lot of times kids are giant pains in the balls).

And in between all these big things, there were small things. I remember standing in the living room at my Aunt Katty's house reciting Terence, This is Stupid Stuff with my father. Seeing the way my brother's eyes go all crinkley like my dad's when he laughs. Long conversations with my mother about just whatever. Evenings over ashtrays and wine bottles with my friends. Laney's arms around my neck. My head on Don's lap when we're watching TV. The color of the sky at twilight. Cold cold cold winter mornings driving to work, watching the mist rise off the lake. The ornaments dancing in the tree in the front of my house. A random, inconsequential, genuine pleasantry exchanged in line at the CVS.

So, here I sit in the kitchen of my first home. Well, sort of our first home. We owe more on it than it's worth. But, we're not going anywhere, so that's cool. There's snow on the ground and the house is mostly clean and I had a nice meal and played Clue with Laney and all seems right enough with the world that I'm prepared to make two resolutions.

1) I will finish my book. I'm almost halfway there and, at the risk of being immodest, I think I'm onto something. I've been talking about this book forever. It's time it was written. I'll write it.

2) I will, as god is my witness, learn to do something with my hair this year. It's time, for crying out loud. Surely someone of my intelligence can figure out how to do a fucking chignon or something.

I hope life is good for both of you. Oh, what the hell, I'm feeling optimistic, all three of you! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Laney Hits the Nail on the Head...

My mother is at the Memphis airport waiting for her flight to take her to me. Laney just got out of the tub. Following is a transcript of our conversation:

Me: I'm going to pick your clothes out for tomorrow
Laney: Why do you always?
Me: I don't always, but Mimi's coming and I want to show you off
Laney: Why do you? It's not like Mimi has any medals to give.

From the mouths of babes, huh? Also, Mimi thinks Laney is the cat's pajamas no matter what she wears.

Monday, December 21, 2009

St. Lucy's Night

So, here it is, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. It was light for 9 hours and 12 minutes in Chicago. In northern England, York, it was light for barely seven.

I'm in a distinct minority concerning these short days. I love them. I love Chicago in December. At around 4:00ish, looking out over the lake, the water and the sky are an almost indistinguishable, soft green. Right as the sun sets, the sky turns deep royal blue and it is like a gorgeous, lush, blanket.

When I was a girl in Memphis we celebrated Christmas Eve with my mother's family. The ladies would dress up. The men all wore ties. All the women in my mother's family have wonderful taste. Except me. If the party was at my Aunt Eileen's or my Great Aunt Katty's, it was always the same. The inside of the house looked so pretty, and there was good food on the table, the grown ups got a little loose and funny. And then, around midnight, we'd leave. I can still conjure up that magical, special feeling: the cold, crisp night, the privilege of being up so late, feeling secure and loved, blanketed in recent festivity, the quiet, bright lights and dark skies.

Oh, I know it still gets dark in the summer. But it's not the same. Summertime dark lacks the coziness and richness of night in winter.

Every night after this one is a little shorter.

People have celebrated the solstice since people have been people; they've celebrated the return of the light. But, there's room to mourn the coming shortness of the night. At least, that's how I always feel at this time of year.

What do you say to a little Byron? I hope you don't think this poem is shlocky. I mean, sure, pretentious dudes who overestimate their capacity for depth have tried to use it for a few hundred years as a means to getting laid. But, if I'm being fair, Byron probably wrote it to get laid. This doesn't really matter. I think he gets night about right. Remember: read it aloud!

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that 's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Am I Disappointed?

Well, of course I am. I spent some time over at Shakesville today and yesterday and found myself cheerleading for this shitty healthcare reform bill. But that doesn't mean I'm not profoundly disappointed. I maintain, though, that getting this shitty bill through is the only way we're going to any meaningful reform; e.g., it's easier to amend an existing (albeit, shitty) bill than it is to pass a great big old new one. And the current shenanigans going on from the Senate Republicans encourages me that I'm right about this.

That said, it's still a shitty bill.

My title question, though, is more about Barack Obama than this shitty bill. Am I disappointed? Yeah. But, here's the thing: I'm not surprised I'm disappointed. This, after all, ain't my first time at the rodeo. To wit: when I hear "I did not have sex with that woman," all I can think is "god DAMMIT, Bill." Not about the affair, per se. Although a 50 year old boss having sex with a 22 year old subordinate is creepy and shameful. But the godDAMMIT is more about the lie, and the profound disregard that showed for the people who put him in office. Compound this with Clinton's failure to pass healthcare in the 90s, the loathsome don't ask/don't tell policy, the even more loathsome Defense of Marriage Act, let's just say I've learned to manage my expectations.

I hoped Barack Obama would be the agent of change he campaigned as. A lot of people did. But, you know what presidents are best at? Campaigning. He's a hell of a campaigner and knew exactly how to get himself elected.

He's also smart and thoughtful and competent. He's not liberal. I wish he were. But, and granted after eight years of Bush the bar is set just bananas low, he's about as good as I think we can expect. Not exactly high praise, but high enough. In short, and it today's stupid parlance, I'm still on Team Obama.


Will Rogers said "I'm not a member of an organized political party, I'm a democrat." Still true. The right is much more organized, and their base seems to require a lot less from them, which allows them to present a pretty cohesive front. Let me give you an example: in order to prove your pro-life bona fides, it looks to me like all a pro-life president has to do is say he's pro-life. Did you see a lot of fury on the right when George Bush stayed way the hell away from any abortion fights that, as president, he could have successfully agitated on behalf? Nope. He just said "I'm prolife" and the right went, "we win! We have a pro-life president." Eight years later, abortion remains as legal as it was the day he took office. I think, of course, that this is a really good thing. But I'm surprised you don't hear more beefing from passionately pro-life conservatives about it.

On the other hand, Barack Obama campaigned as a "fierce advocate of LGBT rights." And, let's face it, his fierceness had had a seriously tepid quality to it. And lefties are complaining about this. And have been for about 9 months of his 10 month presidency. As we should. Barack, if you're reading this (welcome to my delusions of grandeur): it's time for DADT to go.

All things being equal, though, I'd rather be part of the quarrelsome, loud, disparate, FRUSTRATING left than the lockstepping right. That just feels more American. It also feels more productive. Dozens of time every day you run into something that makes your life better, and you can thank a liberal for agitating to make it happen.

Of course, I'm seeing some signs of the right breaking up their lockstep. Makes me kind of root for the tea party people.

Interesting Things my Kid Says in the Car...

So, this morning Laney was asking me about when we first brought her home, which is a topic I never weary of discussing.

Laney: What doctor did you take me too?
Me: Dr. G, who said you had terrible infection in both your ears, but he gave you medicine to make it better.
Laney: Did it taste bad?
Me: No. Medicine nowadays tastes good. When I was a kid it tasted awful.
Laney: Like frog breath?

And, for just a second, I believed in reincarnation because "frog breath" was strangely evocative of the way medicine tasted when I was a kid. Or am I misremembering?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Something COMPLETELY Different

I may have made this known already, but I really like this band, Phoenix, a lot. I was watching an interview with them yesterday and the interviewer asked them about singing in their second language (these dudes are French). The lead singer said something along the lines of how singing rock and roll in English is like singing opera in Italian: you're just singing it in the language it's meant to be in.

All apologies to Nena (ask your parents), but I think he's right and I think that's a cool way to put it.

If you have a few seconds, check out Phoenix on Letterman. I mainly include this because you have GOT to see the drummer. This dude is bananas. In the best possible way.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Thing I Learned from the Election of Barack Obama

The 24 hour news cycle is unrelenting, unmitigated, dangerous bullshit. Controversy and crisis are manufactured in the most facile way possible in order to encourage viewings and click throughs. I also learned that he who lives by the 24 hours news cycle (hello, Presidential Candidate John McCain) dies by the 24 hour news cycle (goodbye, Senator McCain).

If I had a dime for every breathless blogpost I've read about how lame HCR is going to be, how shitty the senate dems are, how betrayed we've been by Barack Obama, then I'd have enough money to fund my own private insurance for like 2.5 days.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders and Anthony Weiner have both popped up on the Rachel Maddow Show to talk about how encouraged they are by what's happening in the senate. And, dudes, Bernie Sanders and Anthony Weiner have more than a little game in the progressive arena.

Can we all, please, stop panicking about every little leaked detail and just chill the fuck out?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who IS this Guy

Look at this screengrab I took from my Facebook page:

I just now realized that this dude's face had just entered my sphere of awareness a long time ago without my actually acknowledging that it's some random dude with a creepy unabomber beard. I'm sure this is some goofy internet hoax. Or aliens? Or something culty? Or maybe a marketing tool to test the effectiveness of web ads? Or maybe aliens? Anyone?

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Paen to Cousin Honey

When I turned 40, my oldest friend who is also my cousin sent me something she wrote about me. It was so touching and wonderful. But she was wrong. She said she was always a little behind me. But I don't think that's true. She's been ahead of me on so many things.

When we were kids in the 70s, she lived in Houston and I lived in Memphis and we wrote letters to each other. She called me Pedro Ramirez. She was Rose Red and I was Snow White. When she came to visit, she made up these hilarious stories for us to act out. We were southern belles giving birth in inappropriate places and then having to clean up afterbirth. I know! But it was always so funny. I remember sitting on the giant sectional couch of her house in Houston, pouring through an astrology book, trying to figure out if I was really an Aries, if she were really a Sagittarius. I think we were.

And we wrote these letters. I'd about cut off my left arm to have some of those back. We were a HOOT! And she was always the one creating the scenario; she was the funny one. I just traveled in her wake.

And then we grew up and some wonderful person invented email. I email Cousin Honey 4 or 5 times a day every day. And she emails me back. She's had my back whenever I needed someone to have it. She's made me laugh when I needed a laugh. She's told me to straighten up when I needed someone to tell me to straighten up. She's told me to lighten up, when I needed someone to tell me to lighten up. She's been my friend when I needed a friend.

And she's been ahead of me! She married before me. She had kids before me. And when I don't know what I'm doing, she's the one person I can really count on for judgment-free advice. As I've said before, nowadays it feels pretty natural to be a mother, but in the beginning it was hard. And she was always ready to give me a boost, tell me about oatmeal baths and time outs, and reassure me that I was doing just fine, that it was going to be all right.

And she has the most wonderful smile. I might be especially aware of people with really good smiles, since I've never much cared for my own. But, Cousin Honey has one of those big, wide smiles that make you really want to be her friend. And, when she laughs (which she does a lot), forget about it. You're laughing too.

She's a proud, devout, Christian. I'm an atheist. She's suburban. I'm urban. She's Texas, I'm Chicago. She's a stay-at-home Mom, I'm a working Mom. On paper, none of this makes sense. But, when I think of the people in my life that I love, that I'm grateful for, that I don't know how I'd make t through the day without, Cousin Honey is right at the top of my list.

Happy birthday, my cousin, my friend, and one of the most wonderful, hilarious, smart and special people I know. You've been my friend for longer than anyone else. And one day we'll be old ladies together. And we'll be hilarious old ladies together.

I'll meet you in Galveston in 30 years or so. I'll bring the bourbon.

I love you a lot! Even if you are a technological retard.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like War on Christmas

I've had this on my mind a lot lately, so let me see if I can get this blogpost in while I'm waiting for a return to an email.

Let's start with this: Jesus is not the reason for the season. The solstice is. There's a reason why just about every major faith system has a joyous holiday that corresponds with the winter solstice: the days are getting longer and the light is coming back. This is nice enough in our modern world, but imagine how much nicer it was, you know, pre-electricity. In my experience, a mid-December day in the North of England is roughly 12 minutes long.

Solstice holidays existed. As Christianity spread it extrapolated its own holiday on top of existing ones to make the transition into Christianity more inviting. For other examples of this, you might look into the prevalence of bunnies and eggs at the time Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

"But, Meg!" you might say, "It's called CHRISTmas. Not SOLSTICEmas!"

Well, fair enough. The name of the holiday demonstrates the dominance of Christianity in our world. 76% of Americans are Christian. Our president is Christian (despite paranoid conspiracies to the contrary: Barack Obama is not a Muslim communist). Over 90% of our congress are Christian. There are lots of reasons why Christianity is dominant, not the least of which is because it's historically been pretty domineering, but that's for another blog post.

We call this holiday Christmas because that's how it's been incorporated into our society via a dominant religious affiliation.

Of course, Christianity's dominance means other perks for Christians. There are no societal impediments to practicing Christianity in America. Outside, I suspect, from finding parking at some of the bigger megachurches (my Dad used to call the megachurch outside Memphis "Fort God". Hee). At the risk of going all Sue Sylvester, you think it's hard being a Christian? Try being a Muslim. Try being an atheist. Those are some tough labels to wear in America.

This won't stop Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right-wing desperate-for-victimhood-without-the-drag-of-experiencing-victimization crowd from crowing about the War on Christmas; whining about the assault on their faith from the clerk at Home Depot who says "Happy Holidays." I can't wait for Sarah Palin to chime in. I thought about friending her on Facebook just to see her take.

This "it's OURS and you CAN'T have it!" attitude makes me seethe; it so unfair and so contrary to the spirit of the season. And so so so so stupid.

Of course, it's my own damn fault for listening. And so I'm gonna stop. I'll treat it like the leotarded nonsense it is. I'll sing some carols and eat the good food and wrap the presents and trim the trees and have some eggnog and have a Merry Christmas indeed.

Except the eggnog. Eggnog is gross.