Monday, October 29, 2007

The Way I Am

I'm totally in love with this song. Check it out at:

(Sorry people, if indeed anyone ever reads this, I haven't figured out how to put in links yet)

But back to the song, I think the lyrics are brilliant (how can you not love a song that references Rogaine and patches?). I wish I'd written them myself. Yes, that's right, Ingrid, I'm jealous. But I love your song more. And your voice is pretty great, too.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Every Stitch, A Wish for Happiness

My mom was one of the greatest knitters of all time.

And while this statement may possibly exaggerate her skills, her talent was truly awesome. It probably came from growing up in England during the war. With everything rationed, my mother and her twin sisters were charged with knitting their own sweaters from an early age. When they grew out of something, she told me how they'd unravel the garment and use the old yarn to make something new for themselves or someone else. Nothing went to waste and their knitting prowess provided them with what they needed for those damp, bone-chilling English winters.

So, growing up, I always had the nicest handmade sweaters. Usually in a favorite color, purple or red were popular, and they featured the lovely, lacy open work patterns that my mother was so good at creating. She knitted tons of baby clothes before my arrival and was well-known for doing the same for friends and neighbors. For at least a couple of years as a youngster, my brother wore navy and white striped sailor sweaters that mom seemed to favor. He also had a little chunky blue overcoat that my mom had knitted and carefully lined. And even once, when I was about ten, she made me a red, white and blue bikini that unfortunately for me didn't hold up well once you got it wet.

I remember distinctly as a little girl grabbing a small skein of yarn out of her knitting bag and a pair of needles and trying to do what she did. Her hands always moved with such amazing speed that it looked to me like she was just stabbing the yarn and the resulting knit work would just magically grow in length from her knitting needles. Of course, when I tried to replicate this, absolutely nothing warm and woolly appeared on my needles.

Mom tried to show me several times how she did it, but she was always too quick. It was as if fast was the only speed she knew when it came to knitting and my second-grade dexterity was no match for this master.

Finally one chilly, Saturday autumn morning at the age of about eight, she had my father drive me to our little town square and drop me off at the local yarn establishment. It was there in a basement shop, next to the Murphy's dime store and the JC Penney, that I began weekly knitting lessons. My teacher was an old and slightly cranky woman whose name I don't remember. But what she lacked in social skills, she made up for with patience. And while I never developed the mastery of mom, to this day I can hold my own when it comes to casting on, knitting, purling. . .I'm a good basic knitter.

And for some reason lately, I feel the need to knit something (winter scarves are a favorite project). It occurred to me this week that I'd knitted two lovely scarves for an old boyfriend, Lee, but never, ever knitted anything for my husband. Both of the boyfriend scarves were fashioned in the basket weave pattern I like to do when I'm showing off. One was gray made from the softest yarn I could find at Wal-mart back in our college days. The second scarf was made years later when Lee unexpectedly reappeared in my life. That one was the same pattern, but made from expensive alpaca yarn in a rich, caramely brown.

In fact, that scarf was the last thing I knitted. And that was over ten years ago.

There's something about knitting that's like meditation. Each stitch a wish for happiness. Every finished row a declaration of care. The final product an act of love, created by and touched over and over again by the same hands that in happy moments could hold yours.

I asked my husband this morning what color scarf he might like. "Burnt orange," was his answer. And so burnt orange it will be. It's high time Craze had a Maggie original of his very own. Something that might warm him in more ways than one during the coming winter.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sushi with a Side of Dread

Today was supposed to be a fun day. I've been busy this week and last weekend on various work projects, but today I had set aside to meet my British friend Ellen for a manicure/pedicure, girlie gossip and a sushi lunch to follow.

I slept in, drank coffee in my PJ's watching The View and then got dressed and joined Ellen at a neighborhood nail salon. After the requisite soaking, scraping and painting, we headed off to the Japanese joint next door for the lunch special.

As we sat there chatting, I started getting that horrible, sinking feeling. You know the one, like your house is on fire. Or you just realized that your mother-in-law's birthday was a week ago and you've completely spaced out on it. In the midst of my miso soup and tuna maki, I really felt like something was terribly wrong.

After lunch, I checked voicemail and called a client. No problems. Called the husband. No worries. House and pets still intact upon arrival home. Hmm. . .

So, after thinking that perhaps I'm just developing some psychotic tendencies, I went on with my day. We met up with our friend, Mindy, for dinner at Hoanh Long in Lincoln Village. It's a Vietnamese place and quite possibly some of the best food I've ever had. Soooo good. Really fresh and delicious. Clearly nothing to dread in a plate of sweet and savory papaya salad with shrimp.

Then we went to the movies. Cue reason for day-long dread. We saw "30 Days of Night" which has got to be one of the scariest movies I've ever seen. My heart was beating like mad for almost a full two hours. The film stars some of the craziest, feral vampires you have ever seen violently laying waste to the light-deprived citizens of Barrow, Alaska, during their annual month-long dark-fest. I was still scared walking to the car and couldn't go to bed until Craze came with me. And I kept waking up all night expecting to see the pale, blood-smeared vampire leader with his '50s Brylcreem hair style looking down on me (though to be truthful, in one scene of the film, we learned it wasn't Brylcreem but blood that gave his hair that special sheen and holding power). Thankfully though, neither he nor his hairdo made an appearance bedside.

And my dread? It finally dissipated with the morning sunlight shining through my window.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

That Far-Away Feeling

Do you ever wonder if the reason you're thinking of someone you haven't thought of in a while is because they're thinking of you?

I had that distinct feeling today while I was driving on the expressway. I have it once in a while but it always seems like a feeling outside of myself. Something that's traveling over miles and miles to come near me, not something that originates within me. I'm sure there's a name for this sort of phenomena (isn't there a name for everything?) but I've no idea what it is.

Conversely, there might be nothing phenomenal about it. It might just be me thinking of someone and a part of me hoping that they sometimes think of me. After all, don't we all like to think that we're remembered, hopefully with fondness, by the people who were once, but no longer are, a part of our lives? Don't you like to imagine that there's someone far-away who smiles whenever your name randomly pops into their head?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Golden Moments

There is something about the light in autumn that is amazing. Right at the end of the day, before dusk or darkness fall, there is this beautiful, golden quality to the sunlight that is unlike any another time of year. It lasts only moments, maybe a half hour at best, but under its spell even the most mundane things, the red of a brick wall, the green-veined leaves of the trees still unturned, a passing car, look magical.

It reminds me of something I read recently at Have you ever checked that out? People send in their innermost secrets on postcards. Some are shocking or sad. But most of all, I find them truly fascinating. There was one I saw recently that I felt I could have written myself. It was a postcard covered in real autumn leaves and it said, "Why do I feel most alive when everything around me is dying?"

Ghost Hunting

A couple of weeks ago, I went back to a small town in Iowa to attend my 20-year college reunion. Twenty years! Remembering the uncertainly I felt when I left that place and how I was so stuck and unclear about how to move forward, it's hard to believe that time has elapsed so quickly.

It was a strange experience. So many of my old haunts just aren't there anymore. They've been torn down for newer on-campus offerings or, oddly, are buildings that look the same on the outside but have been gutted and reconfigured within. The house where I had my first great love affair and lost my virginity is now a parking lot. Lee's cold, dimly-lit basement room with its off-white-painted and poster-covered cinder block walls and green astro-turf-style carpet exist now only in my memory.

The places that are mostly unchanged feel so much smaller than I remember. The brown house where I lived. The library. All seemed diminutive and cloyingly foreign.

And the oddest thing of all is that even though my exact campus, circa '85, isn't there, there were moments when I caught myself expecting to see people I knew. Not as they are now, but as they were then. Lee riding his silver bike down the Mall wearing a tan Member's Only jacket, his shaggy blue/black hair shining in the sun. Noelle carrying her books into the Student Union sporting a red plaid cotton blouse and an au currant hairstyle that is now disparagingly known as a mullet.

In those flickering moments bathed in the light of Indian Summer, my heart hoped so much to see them. But they just weren't there. Those ghosts don't haunt the small-town hang-outs and silent class rooms of Iowa. I guess the only place I'll find them, if the mood strikes, are in the dusty and yellowing photo albums that lay out of sight under my dresser.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Woman Takes Eight Years to Board Train

I actually had an interesting job today. I spent the entire day brainstorming in a big group about airline frequent flier credit card rewards. Sounds a little bit mundane, you say? Well believe me, when you spend most working days brainstorming with yourself, dressed in pajamas, unbathed and talking only to the dog, being out of the house, showered(!) with a group of real creatives was a thrill.

And the biggest achievement of the day? I actually took the El and a CTA bus home from the loop. . .alone! I have lived in the city for eight years and, until today, I've never taken public transportation by myself! I AM SO LAME!!!!! What am I, ten?

My husband always looks at me like I'm crazy for not taking the train downtown more often, but I seriously have some kind of mental block about it. But it turned out ok. The train took a long time to come (as did the bus that followed), was super crowded, but it was fine. Not comfortable or speedy, but I got where I needed to go.

I'm not sure what my issue is/was about the CTA (that's Chicago Transit Authority for anyone who might read this and not hail from Chi-town) besides the afore-mentioned utter lameness. Sad. But I guess it's one short ride for woman, one giant leap for public transportation. Uh. . .right. . .

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Moving Sideways

I guess the job search is going ok. I've had some interest. I've had a few interviews. Most of the opportunities I've been offered are for jobs I KNOW I do not want. Too dry. Too serious. Too corporate.

I've interviewed with a couple of people who seemed to be very impressed by my skills and my long and high-profile track record. "You'll definitely be hearing from us," they've said. But weeks have gone by and I haven't heard a peep.

Part of me thinks I should just go out there and make hay while the sun shines, as my mom used to say. That is, just thrown myself headfirst into the fast-track and make as much big money as I possibly can. But that would mean going back to my old life. Checking the blackberry all the time. Working long, long hours. Not being home frequently. Never feeling that my time was my own. Putting up with a whole lot of BS.

Lately though, there's also a quiet, little voice inside of me that keeps asking the same question, "Isn't it sometimes smarter to move sideways than to move up?"

Wouldn't I be better off in the long run to settle for a calmer, more mundane job? Less high-profile. Less money but one that left me with more of my own life?

The great American work ethic teaches us to climb the ladder and keep on climbing. And that's just what I did until a couple of years ago. But who says that if I get back on, I have to keep going up? Maybe there is wisdom in moving sideways. Maybe up isn't always better.

Purge & Profit

My husband has many interests. He's a fascinating, clever person actually. And he's certainly not perfect. In fact, he has one crazy obsession. Collecting things.

I knew this from our initial meeting when he admitted as much. And it became all too apparent from my first visit to his large yet stacked-to-the-ceilings-with-stuff apartment in Ukrainian Village. Lots of the things he loves, or merely takes a passing interest in, he has to own.

And so when we moved in together, his stuff came with him. Music, movies, toys of his childhood and lots of other random curiosities. The skull of some long-dead bovine. A bottle of ancient "Nasal Oil." More Donald Duck toys than you've ever seen in one place, ever (probably even at Disney!).

And while I had great visions of containing his things in select areas of our home, it's never quite worked out that way. From the beginning, they've spilled beyond the borders of their confinement and slowly but purposefully crept into virtually every room in our home. You cannot do a 180-degree turn anyplace without seeing a box of comic books, a stack of DVD's or some other pile of Craze's junk.

What at first I found fascinating, now periodically enrages me. I would like so much to have more of a normal life and one not filled with these piles of incongruous and frustrating clutter as far as the eye can see. On probably more than a hundred occasions over the years I've made impassioned pleas for Craze to purge. Keep the stuff he really loves and ditch the stuff that's just collecting dust. He always hangs his head sorrowfully and agrees I'm right, but his words just evaporate in the air and are never converted into action. Until recently.

I've begun to see a tiny glimmer of hope. We did, in fact, have a garage sale last weekend. We got rid of a bunch of stuff--some mine, some his, some random stuff that had been dropped at our doorstep by family and friends over the years. And we made over $500. This excited Craze, the idea that overlooked items could be converted into cash. That purging could bring more rewards than just getting your wife off your back. That letting go of stuff could make a buck.

What went out of our garage door with strangers was just the tip of the iceberg. But, I've seen the glimmer in his eye. The wheels are definitely turning. And you can't imagine how much it excites me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Something Wonderful

I haven't written in ages. For some reason, it became too hard. Like a job. I just didn't enjoy it anymore. But so much continues to well up inside me that I need to get out and this seems like the most logical way.

It's been two years and almost four months into my "no real job" existence. What have I learned and where do I find myself now? Those are two really BIG questions. Financially, I need to get a real job again. My consulting has really slowed down and we can't live on just my husband's income. So, it's been off to job interviews and updating the resume. I haven't done that in over nine years! Finding a job is definitely different now. There's the sometimes impenetrable email wall between you and employers. It seems so passive aggressive. I frequently find it quite annoying.

On the personal front, I've made headway in lots of ways. I'm so much happier with myself now. I still don't have all the answers but at least I'm content with the fact that that's ok. I'm imperfect, but I find that there are moments when that's sort of glorious. And I've finally figured out that most of my aches and pains can be banished pretty quickly by just ceasing the consumption of wheat and other gluten-containing grains. That sucks for the bread-lover in me. But I've found some good pasta substitutions and I'm figuring out good swaps that leave me feeling satiated and still don't mess up my system.

My weight, that life-long adversary, continues to be an issue. A part of me has just come to terms with the fact that I'm pretty lazy where exercise is concerned. I hate it. But at my age (42), I'm starting to see that in order to live a healthy, long life I need to find a way to co-exist with it as a daily part of my existence. I don't like it. But I NEED it. The mental game of this is still something I struggle with but I think I've finally come to accept it.

And to make my middle-aged, jobless situation even more crazy, my husband and I have actually decided to try and have a baby. A baby! Good god. My new ob/gyn seems to think that I should actually be able to conceive and have a healthy baby at my age. I was actually quite taken aback while sitting on the examination table, dressed in nothing but a sloppy, ill-fitting blue gown with a piece of paper over my naughty bits, when my doctor didn't just look me in the eye and say, "Are you out of your freaking mind?" when the subject of pregnancy came up.

Hearing her talk about a potential pregnancy, I actually found to be way more emotional than I'd expected. Most of my life I've been really ambivalent about having a kid and my husband seemed quite disinterested. Two years ago when I quit my job would have been, theoretically, the best time to go for procreation. But I was in such a bad place mentally. Exhausted. So unhappy. On the verge of a rare and aggravating medical condition that took a three-day hospital stay, a colonoscopy, trips to numerous specialists, two surgeries and 18 months to diagnose and finally cure. Not a good time to be pregnant or have a little baby to care for.

But my employment status aside, now seems so right. Craze and I are in a good place in our relationship and our lives. The prospect of bringing another individual, taking their first tentative steps into this world, seems thrilling and wondrous. What a blessing it would be.

And I guess when I think back on the last two years or so, that's what I keep coming back to--all the blessings in my life. The simple things that hold so much weight and meaning. I've come to appreciate the beauty in my life. In little moments and quiet spaces. An illness cured. Feeling good. Reconnecting with old, dear friends. The miracle that a new little life might bring. Breathing in the cool air of autumn and knowing that there will always be something wonderful, no matter how small, in the day that lies ahead of me.