Monday, March 31, 2014

People in glass pyramids - 31/40

When I was growing up my mother had a most marvelous collection of people come through our house. One visit included a devout believer of pyramid power, though I don't think that is how he came to stay with us. What I do recall is that our pet goldfish died and this jolly gentleman explained to us at breakfast that he would build us a pyramid and that it would mummify our goldfish and that we would have a beautifully preserved fish for all. Over the course of the rest of the day I sat in the back yard watching him carefully measure and remeasure the pieces of cardboard that he was using to build this pyramid. He regaled me with tales about how it was the pyramids that helped preserve the famous mummies in Egypt (and not their embalming process I would now assume) and finally he finished this process and we all gathered outside where we had a ceremony of sorts where we placed the fish directly underneath the pyramid.  He told us that it would have to be under the pyramid for at least two weeks to reach its optimal mummified state.

Two weeks later, we checked and I can tell you all that it was not an effective pyramid... which has me deeply concerned for Dodi Fayed's dad intent on burying himself in a glass pyramid... but it would be very interesting to see what happens.

"I'm building a glass pyramid over the Egyptian escalator where my body will be mummified, so my customers can come and see me forever."
~ Mohamed Al-Fayed

More information on the ideas behind pyramid power

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Embracing my natural awkwardness - 29/30

Recently I proclaimed my introversion to someone (Subject A) who promptly informed me that was a seriously erroneous self assessment. Actually they said "I don't think so".

I was really taken back by someone who has never lived in my skin feeling like they could make such an pronouncement. Whatever, it was a stupid thing to tell me in such a thoughtless manner.

The thing is, that on several occasions I have mentioned that I am shy and the people around me that have heard me utter these words told me that they would never consider me to by that way (notice that they just told me the same thing as "Subject A", but in a nicer and more genteel way?).

The things is, I am most probably both.

I had the genius revelation while at a Costco the other day. Actually I had this revelation after I caught myself talking to a stranger. I call this stranger Costco-Man (Subject B*).
Costco-Man looked a little like this
It is not everyday that one will see a handsome man wearing a suit and a fedora. I was so taken by how lovely it was to see someone make the effort that when I happened to walk by him I said;
"Sir, you look very handsome and it is so lovely to see someone as fabulously dapper as you".
I was on the phone talking to my mother at the time, how rude of me. But, thank you Costco-Man!

Anyway, the next day I realized that I had spoken to a complete strange which is not something I think a shy/introvert would do. So, I thought about those supremely definitive personality assessments that some people follow as if they were an astrological forecast and took at a peek at them and "sho'nuff" I scored a 50% on those things that measure introvert/extrovert (defaulted to extrovert, as an interesting aside).

So, I went to the google-sphinx and asked for the meaning of life. It was not 42, but that was not my question... "who can be an introvert and an extrovert?"

Apparently there is something that they are starting to call an ambivert.

Which appeals to me because I am ambidextrous, and navigating the middle of any spectrum appeals to me ever so much.

“I never wish to offend, but I am so foolishly shy, that I often seem negligent, when I am only kept back by my natural awkwardness."
~ Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Andie was awkward and it is only in my dotage that I realize what a poor choice Duckie would have been, but then so was Blane, aka a major appliance. Yes, I realize this photo has NOTHING to do with this post... I am merely giving in to my natural awkwardness.Also, note that there are no Y's in the nicknames.

 * only because I was once told that if you have a first of something like this you need to have a second.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gentle hands made these 26/40

One of the things I am rarely without is a necklace. I never take off the gold chain with the tumi charm. Though I often wear what is apparently called a statement necklace I have added another necklace that has somehow manged to capture my intention in wearing it at all times.

The tumi charm was a gift from some family and friends in Ecuador, when they gave it to me they said that I had shown that I was a native daughter to the land and that as an Incan surgical tool it represented my studies in medicine. It is a treasured gift and I don't take it off unless absolutely necessary.

The new piece that I seem to wear almost constantly is a piece I bought in a monastery gift shop. It was hidden away on a bottom shelf in a basket under which was hidden a small 3x5 card with some terrible pictures of beautiful round-faced African women on one side and some pencil drawings and crude information on the other, It implied that the necklaces contained in the basket were hand made ceramic beads at a woman's cooperative in Africa that used local clays. It gave no mention of where in Africa, but the necklaces were amazing with these tiny round beads with occasional longer beads. As the daughter of a woman that traversed the terrains of Latin America in search of exquisite hand crafts I was intrigued and the necklace was only $5.00. So, I picked through them and found one that seemed a little different from the rest.

The purchase was made (thank you, mom) the necklace slipped into a paper bag and forgotten until the trip was over. Once I opened the bad with the necklace a month or so later I was still struck by how magnificent the small handmade beads were. I twisted open the barrel closure and put the necklace on.  I had no idea what magnificence I was yet to see.

When I woke up the next morning with the necklace still on, I was brushing my teeth when I was stunned by the transformation that necklace had gone through in the 24 hours since I had put it on. The obviously clay beads had picked up a beautiful sheen from the natural oils in my skin and had become this incredibly rich mix of colors, with a patina that was mind-blowing. I set my toothbrush down and touched the beads as I look at them int eh reflection in the mirror. The beads were beautiful and I was struck by the memory of the highly pixelated pictures in my recollections of the 3x5 informational card that was with them in that monastery gift shop.

Several weeks later I had need to take it off for a formal event. And I set it on the tray on the dresser in my bathroom. When I went noticed it the next morning I was struck again by how much it had changed, It had returned to a far less beautiful version of themselves. It was obvious they were meant to be worn, to go through a transformation that spoke to so many layers of humanity. They have become a reminder that we are all beautiful, but something comes out that makes us magical when we are  doing what we need to do with others. They have become about community and have somehow manged to tie me to a landmass that I have not properly visited, and hope to someday.

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Boys - 24

My best friends, when I was 17, were a group of boys.

I called them "My Boys".

We would go to parties and they'd tell everyone I was their step mother. 
No one ever asked how come I had six very different looking step sons or wondered about my fake British accent. I became known as the cool step mom, the extremely young wife who had step sons only a few years younger.

Each one granted me wishes I didn't know I had. 
They were all Boy Scouts, and for one glorious day they made me one too... Then stole my bra while I was strapped down and impersonating a scout and put it up the flagpole the next morning.

One taught me how to dance.

Two taught me how to charm a man.

Three taught me how to rappel a wall.

Four taught me brutal honesty.

Five taught me how to make chain-mail, throw knives, fight with two swords, and how to pick locks.

All of them protect me fiercely and loyally, but in their very own way. I am a very lucky girl.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + ⋯ = −1/12 [day 23]

- 1/12

A magnificent number.

The reason is that there is this;

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + ⋯ = −1/12


If I had life to do over again, I often think that I would be a physicist. I would want to work on the theoretical aspects of string theory. I find it so provocative that that I am almost tempted to take it up late in life.

There is such a gentleness to it, that it is exciting and  attractive to me.

I am not the only one that thinks that.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Chiquitita dime la verdad

Spanish lyrics to ABBA's song, Chiquitita.

Reminds me of the year my parents split, watching Grease two times in a row in a theatre. Seeing my mother become one of the strongest women I know. Experiencing the innocence of childhood drift away, putting away my dolls. Reading books while I was hidden in my closet. Finding my fathers old Playboy magazines and reading all the cartoons.

It still doesn't sound like the right song unless the lyrics are in Spanish.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ancestors - 20/40

I miss my Squink.

While I am not ripping my hair out and crying all the time. I miss his smell, even his stinky feet. In a home with children (or with a love of nieces and nephews and such) there is something that can happen... these reminders of children seem to be everywhere, and I mean everywhere. A bath toy on the tub, pictures on the fridge, their special plates and cups. The other morning I opened my fridge and saw the family line he had drawn as a part of a cub scout project.

To know me is to know that I deeply value my family and can recite my ancestors (on my mothers side) back to 6 or 7 generations.

My mother has this thing she said when I was a teen (and making poor choices (like staying up too late and taking un-necessary risks)  that essentially boiled down to this;

Back to the beginning of time my ancestors made choices to bring up a defenseless infant. Those choices all helped raise that child, through famine, through war, through strife, in times of hunger... and I have the power to destroy that all with just one poor choice.


Anyway, when what she was saying hit me, it was pretty life changing. Not that I was bad, but being buddies with the schools biggest LSD dealer (never did that though, cross my heart mom) was probably not in my best interest and not in the interest of the six children I wanted to have to have a mom like that.

So, it piqued my interest. Most of my maternal side came to Arizona before statehood. They settled this land and if you have every really been in this desert, it really isn't all that friendly to folks that don't get how it works.

So, I learned about the Pennsylvania socialite who married a physician and traveled with a chaperon by stage-coach to visit a young physician that worked with the tribes. 

I learned about that physician who learned the languages of all the tribes he worked with and translated for them and even advocated to US congress on their behalf for water rights after the building of Roosevelt dam.

Dr. Ellis at his farm in Phoenix

I learned how his daughter, Dorajean, became one of the first school teachers in the town I live in now. 

His grandson, my grandfather, would go to work on our Arizona mines, as well as build our bridges and and dam (including being held in the US to work on building Boulder Dam, instead of being sent to WWII - turns out he was colorblind anyway).

His great granddaughter, my mom, would travel the world and raise two children while just being awesome (she learned how to trick ride with the Ecuadorean Army and is an learned welder).

All of that is just so rich to me. 

So it was a delight to see that my son had picked up most of my stories about his Arizona heritage and was able to complete most of this family tree... using their nicknames for the most part. He just couldn't remember where the coctor was  (it is C.H. below).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Painted With Feeling - 18/40

My entire life I felt like the ugly duckling... it probably began in Ecuador as I started hitting growth spurts much faster than my peers and as suck entered an awkward faze much earlier than my fellow classmates... that and my brown hair, freckles and pale skin were not like the warm coffee tones of my Latin classmates and the towheaded that made up of my Germanic classmates. I was somewhere in the middle, and the middle is not a fun place when you are growing up in a culture where women are more objects.

So it was as a huge [insert F expletive here] surprise when I was 17 and I was asked to pose for a series of photographs.

My aunt, Anne Coe, was dating and had been living with a fellow artist, Bill Schenck. I had just finished a stint of living with them as a means to escape the big city high school and be a part of a smaller community. I loved that experience on so many levels. On one side, I got to get closer to my aunt who I don't recall being completely horrified by my raging hormones and lack of any semblance to being a normal human (what teen is though?). She showed a maternal streak for me that can still evoke a choked up feeling when I recall some of her gestures. Her boyfriend was a wild man and taught me many things. Billy had a love for old movies and I was tasked with cataloging his shockingly large collection of VHS tapes (probably to keep me out of his hair). I also had a rather intense conversation with him about life, music and other stuff one night on a long drive from Phoenix to their place in Apache Junction, it was a conversation that profoundly altered my world view.  As I was wrapping up my stint with them, having managed to survive the experience, still somewhat in their good graces, he asked me to go on a photo shoot and pose for some photographs. I was skeptical, and asked my aunt what it was about. She said that he thought I had a great Native American touch to my profile, and a wonderfully Indian nose. So, I thanked my Cherokee and Delaware ancestors and told him that I would and we went up on a nearby hilltop, and he wrapped me and some other folks in blankets and had us pose with some amazing pottery. And it took all afternoon, and it was hot and boring. But, hey, it was an experience.

Up until maybe 15 years ago the whole thing had come up only twice. The first time was maybe a month after the photo shoot and my aunt found out he hadn't paid me for the time. She was pretty livid about it and got him to give me a check for $35. Hey, I was 17 and $35 was good weekend money.

The second was when I was told that Leaning Tree had used one of the paintings for a greeting card.

Then we fast forward to just around the time I met my husband and we were planning to get married (considering that I met him in February and married him in June of the same year it was not a big gap in time) I went on a road trip with my mom and aunt from Missouri to Arizona. We stopped and stayed with Billy for a few days at his fabulous ranch in Santa Fe, It was here that I learned that those photographs had actually been turned in to paintings and even a series of photographs.

So, shortly after we returned Billy had an opening and I finally got to see them up close and personal like. It was for his photographs but totally out of my price range. Then Billy had another opening, a retrospective, and I walked in and there I was huge as life against a wall! I had never seen the paintings in person before. I was blown away. I think I was for sale for a magnificently hefty sum.

I was stunned. After growing up and visiting museums all over the world, I was immortalized in paint. Which meant that I had to be more than the ugly duckling I perceived my self to be.

The painting of me that is my favorite

“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” 
~ Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

What I saw today, it starts on page 73, I am on the lower right of 76

A video about Billy

A little more about Billy, with a few of the paintings I appear in

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ghost stories 17/40

We live in a house that predates statehood. Arizona's statehood, that is. For all the trouble that owning an old home brings, I cannot even begin to describe its joys. I often reflect that I will lay my head on my pillow at night and look up at my ceiling and thank that powers that be that brought me to this home.

My house, in the middle of the street.

We moved here when our son was still an infant, he learned to crawl here, drew on our walls here, laughed, played, sang... all of those precious early memories of him are here. While he is not always a fan on living in an old home, I do what I can. I counter his not being allowed to run in the house with impromptu hallway soccer games (that dad is not privy to).  I challenge his distress that there is no grass to play on with the nearby park that we have. In the end, I am pretty sure it works out for him.

I listen to the walls after having guests over and can hear the imprint of happy times thundering in the horsehair plaster.

I can hear the the times I have loved, laughed, and cried with my husband since we moved in. The house has formed us.

When we moved in, many people asked if we had any ghosts. My reply was that I have not experienced any. Though for the first few years I would hear a little girl cry outdoors, but figured it very well could be the neighbor. and various nooks and crannies that this house has that were letting the sound in.

A friend, who claims to be susceptible to those things verified that the house itself is ghost free (which makes sense since it has only had five families live in it in all its history). He also mentioned that there was a little girl that was outside, but she was not tied to the house and was not a threat. 

We are in the middle of some home repairs and fix-ups. And because of an increased outdoor presence one of our neighbors decided to stop by and introduce herself. It became immediately obvious that what she was more interested in was getting access to our property so she could run her metal detectors over it! 

So, she came over with all of her accouterments and had at it. One of the more interesting finds, to me anyway, was this child's ring. It barely fits on the tip of my pinky, it is downright tiny. 

An itty bitty teeny tiny little girls ring
I have to admit, though, that when I saw this tiny ring nestled among the other findings. I wondered if it was the same little girl that I used to hear cry?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Very foolish and too terrified to be curious - part 4, the conclusion 17/40

Antonio and I lasted into the summer. I attended his confirmation, and would go to some of his soccer games with his family. He had a summer job near my house and I would stop by and visit him. There was a certain innocence to our relationship that I was unaware of due to my inexperience.  Having not had another relationship before, I assumed this is how they went, after all, the model we followed had at its core some sort of sweet innocence reminiscent of the relationships in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. 

We shared a deep love of rain and together rewrote the lyrics to "You Are My Sunshine" to the more applicable (to us) "You Are My Rainstorm".  We talked about his being convinced that he would not survive to age 32 (he did) and how if we reached 40 that we would marry each other (an interesting thing to promise each other in hindsight, though it made perfect sense at the time) He gave me my first stuffed animal gift from a boy, a little bunny rabbit named Timothy (his real name). When he gave Timothy to me he made me promise that I would take good care of him. I made that promise, I even kept that promise.

Timothy, now at 30 years old, shares a room with my son.

We continued to blush whenever we held hands and any kiss we shared seemed held back. By the end of summer, there was a change. To this day, I am not sure what it was. I speculate that it was because our relationship was so innocent that he might have been frustrated, and it had never occurred to me that he would not know that I had given him the power to take it any way he wanted. By the that summers-end, there was some fear on my part that I did not know what was going on. I did not understand the nature of relationships, and I heavily depended on him to guide me. I felt unguided, I suppose. Looking back, I can speculate on what was going on between us.

We were involved in a very innocent intimacy with each other, but in spite of our raging hormones (or perhaps because of them) we never moved any farther than the kiss in the limousine, which was  the most passionate thing we shared. Because he never pushed me any further, as I would have expected a boy friend at that age to do, I became concerned that he was not interested in me in that way, and convinced myself that he had those feelings for someone else. So, one evening in the same business park where we had first spent time as kids interested in each other, I told him it was over. I was setting him free to go where he needed. It broke my heart.

I happened to have done this just before the Arizona rain season started. Every time it rained for the rest of that year, and into the next... he would call me and sing me the song. I would sing along with him. This would actually go on for years, well into college. A storm would hit and my phone would ring, no matter the hour... and I would hear;

You are my rainstorm
My only rainstorm
You make me happy
when skies are grey
You'll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don't take my rainstorm away.

Those calls became less and less frequent as we grew older and moved in our own directions and went on with our lives. But they would still happen. We would talk about the random memories and catch each other up with who was doing what.  At one point, I left home and did not hear from him for a long time. In those years I married a wonderful man that I love and we had a child and have created a very wonderful life.

I ran into Keith Schlecht just after I got married. He told me that I needed to call Antonio and gave me his number. I called, and it was if no time had passed. When he knew that it was me on the other end of the phone, he asked if it was raining... I said it wasn't. He asked if I was happy, and I assured him I was. He shared that he was still single, though involved with a woman he cared for very deeply. We updated each other about our families. He asked if I had married the preppy that I dated after him and I reassured him that I had not. We planned to get together the next time he was in town. When he came, Antonio took my husband and I out to dinner and it was a lovely evening, with laughter, wine,  jokes and a truly wonderful time.

I have gotten to know him better now, in times without the burden of a youthful romance that we had shared.  It is interesting that we found out later that we have so many more things in common. 

My reflections on my young relationship with him calls to mind these words;

Now that lilacs are in bloom 
She has a bowl of lilacs in her room 
And twists one in her fingers while she talks. 
"Ah, my friend, you do not know, you do not know 
What life is, you who hold it in your hands"; 
(Slowly twisting the lilac stalks) 
"You let it flow from you, you let it flow, 
And youth is cruel, and has no remorse 
And smiles at situations which it cannot see." 
I smile, of course, And go on drinking tea. 
"Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall 
My buried life, and Paris in the Spring, 
I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world 
To be wonderful and youthful, after all." 
~ T. S. Eliot
Portrait of a Lady

It is wonderful that I have such a fondness for Antonio. He created, for me, an enviable and innocent affair of the heart.  Something so delightfully innocent that there is no story that can replace the genuine purity of that time in our lives. He treated me gently and delightfully, and showed me a path to love that was not buried in sex and teenage raging hormones. He gave me what was absolutely perfect. An innocent first love story, with a long lasting friendship.

My dear Antonio Vasco, if you happen to read this... please know that I am forever grateful for the experience you gave me. I am so deeply honored by how gentle you were with me thirty years ago, and it is my hope that you recall me with as much fondness as I recall you. I deeply appreciate and value your friendship.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Very foolish and too terrified to be curious - part 3 16/40

That evening he called me. We stayed up talking on the telephone until 4 am. The anonymity provided by not having to see his face providing some sense of courage. This would be the general way we would interact, falling asleep with each other on the telephone, driving our respective family nuts. We would reveal each others desires and talk about nothing but in a way that made us feel as if our lives depended on it.

The Monday after that, Jovanna walks up to me... throws her backpack across the hall and begins to glare at me.

"I decided I have a problem with it." she yelled. "I don't want you to date Antonio."

I was terrified, I am shy and tend to introversion. I felt alone in this deal, I was a part of her friend circle, a circle which included all his buddies that had been with us in the car that day. He was a at a Catholic school and would not be there to help me through this matter.My heart raced. But as I watched her backpack slide into the wall, after she had thrown it as she was yelling at me, I realized that this was ridiculous drama. Drama that reeked of a Mexican telenovela. I knew enough that love never quite worked that way, but I also knew that she was showing a side of herself that was the bat-shit crazy that would eventually reveal itself (thankfully, not as a part of this story).

"Jovanna." I said, "It is too late to tell me this now."

I turned, knowing that our friendship was over. She called me a bitch as I walked away.

It would be an understatement to say that I was terrified. I was risking people I thought were friends. All of Antonio's friends that I went to school with, were friends of hers. 

Antonio and I met up a few times, much as we had that weekend he had come to meet my mother...we would go to the park and hang out with a group of other kids. He would grab for my hand, shyly. We would take walks together around the lake, or sit at the edge while I dangled my toes in and let the fishes nibble on them. There was an intensity and a reserve to our relationship. He and I held hands and would merely kiss each other on the cheek at the end of the day. In hindsight, I am not sure if this was because I was so shy (since I cannot speak for him) or if it was because he still intimidated me. Most likely both.

In the meantime I had to find something to wear. My great-aunt had given me some of her or clothes, and included was an absolutely stunning vintage Taffeta skirt, something from the late 30's. I am amazed it fit as I am convinced she had a 22 inch waist and that would have been on a day she had been binge eating... but I was able to fit in it. My grandmother, who thought Antonio was one of the most stunning young-men she had ever met, decided I needed to wear red. She had bought me a red silk top. and had found me a necklace of pearls with red coral beads. So, I had a lovely and very classic outfit. I remember being very concerned that it was not something that looked like this:

It was the 80's

What was I thinking? Though, in my defense it was 1985. I must have fretted over the clothes. My grandmother, sat me down and said that I was a classic beauty and that the outfit I had would stand the threads of time compared to what the other girls wore... little did I know then that there was a strange foreshadowing in that line!

Now the day arrived of our official first date. The kind where it would include just the two of us, alone. My first official date date! He arrived to pick me up, we stood around for family pictures and I was embarrassed and rushed us out, we went to dinner. Strange how after countless evenings of so much talking on the phone that we, or at least I, became shy and tongue tied. He, thankfully was able to carry the whole conversation. After dinner we went to his house, where his family took pictures and quizzed this new girl in his life. I met his sisters, who all seemed to be teasing him, his parents, and the one I was just delighted by; his grandmother. She seemed delighted with my Spanish and we carried a conversation about how I had come to be, who my family was and other miscellanea from my life. I think this made him nervous, but talking to her really calmed me down. I think she felt like her grandson was making the right kind of choice in the women he was interested (though of course, this is only an educated guess with the benefit of 30 years since the incident... at the time, I just thought she was a very nice woman). He showed me his room, which shocked me. He had a Dio poster on his wall. I think that at the time I was taken aback because it was not the kind of music I listened to, but I wonder now if it was also that I was wondering how a boy that liked music like that (and therefore have access to girls that liked music like that as well ) could choose a girl like me. I wasn't after all, what I then called "a rocker-chick". I don't know, but to this day I have a soft spot for Ronnie James Dio and I can still picture the poster in his room.

A rocker chick from the 80's

A closer version of what I looked like.

His family had arranged for a limousine to take us to his prom, which seemed incredibly extravagant to me. His family walked us to the door and we got in and off we went. By this time I felt that I had entered some fairy tale. Though we certainly were still being shy with each other... or maybe it was just me being shy with him. We arrived at the prom, got in line for the obligatory pictures, we danced a slow song (which was also my first slow dance with a boy). I excused myself to the restroom because I had happened to notice that my beautiful vintage skirt had torn along most of the side seams. So much for standing the threads of time. I was in tears, I stood in front of the full length mirror that was in the sitting area of the women's rest room, wondering if the pictures we had taken would reveal this horrid fact. I calmed myself down, and made a few tucks to prevent an untoward show of my underclothes. Thankfully the skirt was full and I was able to do this without to much awkwardness. But I felt even more ridiculous and was terribly upset with myself. I met Antonio at the table and he asked if I wanted to leave. I only knew him at his school, and many of the girls there were giving me the stink eye (at the time I thought it was because they had noticed my skirt, I realize now, that it was because they were jealous I was with him). We returned to the limo and got in. Shortly after the limo drove off, he turned and looked at me beside him, he turned towards me, and pulled me to him and dipped me across his lap He looked down at me and then kissed me for the very first time since we had met. My mind was running with all sorts of angst, I had never kissed a boy like this before, was there a way to do this wrong, was there a way to do this right. So, I did what I could and followed his lead. We kissed the whole ride around town, until it was time for me to go home. At one point, I remember opening my eyes and looking at him. His eyes were open and he was looking ahead, towards our driver. He saw that I had noticed, and he lead in to whisper; "The driver was staring at us." My eyes must have widened in horror because he added that and he had gestured for him to roll up the divider. I smiled at him and he leaned in for another kiss. That felt like one of the most romantic nights any young girl could ever have. I cannot forget the way the moonlight played on my hand as it was touching his face, that contrast, was just so stunning... his skin like warm coffee against the cool creamy tones of of my hand.

When it was time for me to go home, the limousine rolled up to the front of my house. We kissed for a few minutes more and then he said he did not want to get me into trouble, though he would love to spend the rest of the night like we had been. He helped me out and walked me to the door. At my door, he grabbed my hand and pulled me close and kissed me goodnight. My head started to spin. He took my keys and unlocked the door for me. Watched me step inside and said; "Thank you for such a wonderful evening."

I felt a lump at my throat, I couldn't say a thing.. so I just nodded.

He waited for me to close the door. And I watched him through the window near the door as he walked back to the limo, get in and be driven away. Stunned that I had just had my first date with a boy, and how magical it was.

I felt like I had just had my Jake Ryan moment.


Twenty minutes later, the phone rang. It was Antonio.

... to be continued.

Part 1

Part 2

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Very foolish and too terrified to be curious - part 2 15/40

We drove around, visiting people in that station wagon for the rest of the afternoon. Most of the people we were visiting I barely knew, though most went to my school and were familiar. I am sure that most if not all of them wondered what these four guys were doing with this awkward girl.

At fifteen I was still trying to figure out American culture, and then trying to figure out how I could make that fit the mold of the person I was becoming... not an easy job when you are decidedly awkward and still in a growth spurt.  My walls were not plastered with pictures of John Stamos and Kirk Whatever his name is, but of pictures of Marcello Mastroianni, Mary Quant fashions, and illustrations from the 20's and 30's taken from the Saturday Evening Post (think Erte) and other such ephemera ripped from the pages of old magazines. It did not look like the bedrooms of any of my friends.

A young Omar Sharif,  Antonio had a similar intensity to his eyes
At one point as we drove around in that car, Antonio reached over and grabbed my hand. What struck me about this as there was a timidness about it that surprised me. I stole a glance at him, expecting some form of uber confidence and a direct gaze... what I got instead was a quick blush and a turn to look out the car window as the pressure increased ever so slightly on my hand. Again, I was out of my league. It hit me that the possibility that he actually did like me were starting to sink through my ever so thick skull. However, I was frozen and still intimidated, these were uncharted waters for me. Jovanna was much more "worldly" than I and I really had no idea what teen relationships were supposed to entail. I hadn't even really kissed a boy at that point. I had grown up with movies such as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as guides as to what young love was supposed to be like. At that point I had to allow him to lead me where something like this was supposed to go. I just had no clue as to how this whole thing was done. 

Clearly, young love is nothing like this.

I recall looking at our intertwined hands, nestled between us. My very pale fingers intertwined with his darker skin.  I thought it was so pretty, the way our skin tones seemed to contrast with each other, yet somehow manage to look so much like what half and half does when it is poured into a rich coffee, something I find to be beautiful. Plus, it was much safer to look down and look at his hand holding my hand out of the corner of my eye than it would have been to look at him.

Dusk was weaving its dark cloth into our desert sky, and we all decided to go to a new business park near our homes. There was a man-made lake with ducks and geese, surrounded by an amazing amount of beautiful trees. Everyone sat at the lakes edge, by now there were about ten or so of us crazy teenagers, Jovanna included.  I had taken off my shoes and had my feet in the water, giggling about how it felt to have the fish nibbling at my toes, Antonio was next to me, we had finally moved a tiny bit past being so shy with each other and were talking. He was telling me about his soccer team, and invited me to his Confirmation later that spring. I could look him in the face by now, though not for long, I was too struck by how handsome I thought he was and by wondering what it would be like if we kissed. He stood up, and pulled me up, moved me over to the grass with some others. One of the boys there, I forget who,  asked me if I had ever passed out, and I told them no... they went in to this whole explanation of how they could do it by cutting the circulation off to the brain. I recall being horrified. He seemed taken aback, and reassured me that you don't hold it for long, just until you start to faint. One of the other kids said it was fun and I watched while they did it to another girl, I watched her body go limp and the boy hold her up, only to have her giggling hysterically when she immediately came to. Antonio looked at me, and asked if I wanted to try it. I searched his eyes, looking for something... and said sure, even though I was terrified. Antonio stood behind me and wrapped an arm around my neck, the other held me around my waist. We stood like that for a second while he explained what he was going to to, his mouth whispering close to my ear. I don't recall what he was saying, because I was to taken by how it felt to have his body pressed against me... another first for me. He asked if I was ready and pressed hard against my neck, things went black and I went limp and the next thing I know he had turned me around and was holding me tight, smiling at me as I opened my eyes. I felt completely safe wrapped in his muscular arms with his concerned and gentle smile. At that point, I trusted him completely and just smiled back. As the other kids kept doing this strange thing to each other, he took my hand and said we should walk around the lake, I complied. We didn't say a word to each other, and just held hands as we walked the edge of the lake. By the time we made it back to everyone it was dark, and some kids needed to head home, myself included. We got back in the back seat, and he kept holding my hand as we drove off. 

"Let me know what your mom says" he mentioned as we pulled up to my house. 

"I will. Call me after you get home." I replied.

He got out of the car so that I could get out, and he squeezed my hand. I looked up at him. 

We didn't know what to do. His kissed my cheek and turned to get back in the car. I walked in to my house, feeling high from being sure that he really did like me. I had just had what might be called a date, my very first.

Inside, I asked my mother if it was OK to go to the dance with him. She said of course and mentioned that we would need to find something to wear, and as I walked to my room she called that she thought that he seemed very nice.

The dance was over a month away.

"When you discover first love as a teenager, your whole life revolves around it and you open yourself up to it."
~ Patrick Dempsey be continued
part 1 here

Friday, March 14, 2014

Very foolish and too terrified to be curious - part 1 14/40

This gentle story started me thinking about people in my past that became formative, that altered, I believe, the path  I walk along in life, and many of whom are still a part of my life.

Someone who has a formative role and yet has stayed around is a dear friend by the name of Antonio Vasco*. 

Meeting him was a teenage tale full of teenage drama. He was the boyfriend of my then best friend, Jovanna*, a petite Argentinian with curly hair and really huge breasts. He seemed to adore her and they were indeed what I would have said to her then "cute together". He was unbelievably handsome in a devilishly swarthy way. I don't think he had any idea about what a smile he directed at a girl could do to them, it was disarming, at least in those raging hormone halcyon days. For some reason, and I will assume it was because Jovanna was somewhat batshit crazy (though I didn't know it yet), they broke up and I did not see him as much. A few weeks later, I was walking down the main hall of my high school with Jovanna and she seemed preoccupied. She said, "Antonio wants to take you to his Junior Prom. I am OK with is, here is his number."

I was a sophomore, and felt like and completely believed myself to be an ugly and gangly duckling. I did not believe her, but took the slip of paper with his phone number on it. Hoping that she would save me some embarrassment in feeling like I should call him I turned to her and asked her if she was really OK with it, and she said "Yeah, I am". Disappointed that I did have that as an out, I nodded and put the slip of paper in my green trapper keeper, and we headed off to class.

This is a less swarthy version and less handsome example
 of what Antonio looked like to me then...
This is of a young Ernest Hemingway.
When I got home I pulled out that piece of paper and set it on my dresser... the truth was, I never could believe that a boy as handsome as I found Antonio to be would ever find me, ME, attractive enough to want to take to a prom. And it stayed on my dresser, I did not call him.

A few days later, one of my acquaintances at school, Keith Schlecht* stopped me and asked why I hadn't called Antonio. I was a bit taken back... "You mean that was real?" I asked. He raised an eyebrow and smirked. His friend, and debate partner, Grayson Rigby*, told me to give him my number and said, "Yes, its real".

So, I received a phone-call later that night. It was Antonio. My brother answered, and yelled... "Blair, pick up your phone, it's a boy" and laughed hysterically as he waited for me to pick up my phone (remember when having a phone in your room was a big deal?).
This is the one I had, loved it!

I took a deep breath, more-than-half of me anticipating that this was actually a crank-call. 

"Hello" I said in a voice that I am sure sounded full of dread.

"Uhm, Blair?" said the voice on the other end.

"This is she", I replied using a formal tone my grandmother had instilled in me regarding proper telephone etiquette.

"This is Antonio".

I am sure that my breathing stopped and that I said nothing.


"Yes." I said, completely incapable of uttering anything other than monosyllables.

By now my heart was beating fast... never had a boy, much less a handsome boy, expressed any interest in me. This was uncharted territory.

Antonio is Spanish and Mexican, a magnificent hybrid of a male. He carries both of his ancestries in his build and in his demeanor. In those days he seemed mature, very mature. And as I have mentioned before, he was very handsome. 

"Blair, I was wondering if you would be interested in going to my Junior prom?" he asked, his formal tone somewhat familiar. 

"Uh... When is it?" I managed to squeak out

He gave me the date. and I informed him that I would have to ask my mother.

My mother said she would want to meet him first, but that she thought it might be OK.

So, I got back on the phone and informed him of my mothers reply.

"Of course" He said sounding incredibly gallant 

And he mentioned that he would stop by my home over the weekend.

I said that would be great and I looked forward to seeing him and hung up as quickly as I could.

That Saturday, he came by with Keith, Grayson and their friend, Tommy*. They all came in and met my mother, who can be a bit formidable with her intense intellect. They asked if they could take me with them for the afternoon. These four young men were very straight-laced, Keith was president of the young Republicans club and with Grayson was one of the top debate teams in the state, Tommy was in band. All had the air of being boy scouts, and so my mother let me go with them. 

I sat in back smashed between Grayson and Antonio. Grayson was one of those boys who everyone wanted to cuddle with, he has an engaging smile and a quick wit that complemented his keen mind. And since I knew him from school he was my comfort zone... Antonio made me nervous... all of my prior experience with him had been as a gawky third wheel on his outings with Jovanna... though most of those had always also included Keith, Grayson and Tommy as well as some of Jovanna's, and perhaps mine, other female friends.

This was new territory. I had no clue as to how I should behave... I was not 100% sure his intentions were straightforward... after all, he was handsome and I was a total goofball. My 15 year old self was in between two cute boys in the back seat of a station wagon and I was so out of my comfort zone.  This, it seems, was the start of my very first date.

First love is a little foolish and a lot of curiosity. 
~George Bernard Shaw be continued.
* = not a real name

Thursday, March 13, 2014

He makes for a great uncle! 13/40

That is undoubtedly true...

My father probably should never have had kids. He is not exactly a terrible father, but there are aspects about his fathering choices that are pretty worthless when you are his offspring.

My cousin, the daughter of one of his brothers, always reminds me that he is a great uncle... and if he were my uncle, I am sure I would feel the same... though my cousins father is the most amazing uncle ever, and I can't even claim that my father beats him... compared to my real uncle, my father still kind of leaves something to be desired.

I do have a caveat, while my parents were still married, he was great... he sent me letters as an infant, he participated in school activities (he played Santa one year, which I did not figure out was him until I was in my 30's), he had animated bedtime stories, and then there was his whole thing with Mr. Sunshine  (he would sit in our atrium off of our dining area and call for Mr. Sunshine that was apparently a spot of sunshine that had come to brighten our day (this turned out to be the reflection from his watch which he could manipulate to move around and answer yes or no questions). So my 0 to 7 or 8 memories of him are pretty awesome... up until the day he left. After that most things involving my brother and/or myself seemed burdensome to him. It may have been that our souls had been crushed and he has little tolerance for signs of weakness.

My father left my mother for my brothers kindergarten teacher, a woman that had also befriended my mom (part of that whole publicly indecent PTO post). There was sex involved, and drugs I suspect. My father became a glorious selfish bastard at that point, at least as being his daughter is concerned. For the next many years, I was lucky if I knew where he lived, or how to get ahold of him. He had claimed to his family that he left my mother because she was crazy (which based on my experience is what many selfish men will call their ex-wives). I know because my grandfather told my mother when she called asking for help that "Maybe Jim is right, you are crazy".

Though at the end I can't say he was horrid... I got to spend time visiting him in Guadalajara, Mexico and in Chorley, England (a small town in Lancashire folks, that feared being taken over by Americans when I last visited) and he did help fund part of my stint in Medical School... but those things he did more as the uncle than as the father.

In my mid twenties, I had had enough... I had encountered a time where I had no clue as to where he lived nor did I have a way to get ahold of him. As his child I would figure we should be notified before or after his parents, not the case. I changed my last name. I talked to the father of a friend of mine about it, he was a lawyer. I remember sitting in his office and telling him that I wanted to find out how to do this. We talked and he asked why... I told him that I deeply felt that my father had not fulfilled his paternal obligation to the extent that would warrant my carrying his name.  I continued that my mother and her family had not only made up for his failures but had done so willingly and lovingly and as such I wanted to show my allegiance to her and her family and their sacrifice by taking her name. I may not have done this if during the divorce my using her last name (and remember that in Latin America you use all your parents names so it was not something I was un-used to) had not become an issue for him. My mother had asked to get a copy of the proof of my birth and when he sent it to her, he had underlined his last name several times as if he had some point to make? Anyway, at the point when I was filing for a legal name change, I really did not care. I felt completely estranged by him and his family. My mother kept trying to force me to bear the burden of the greater conscience and approach them, but as an outsider I felt like it was not my place (there are two notable exceptions, my cousins dad I mention before and my aunt, my fathers sister, though even those relationships had waned a bit).

So, I changed my name... as did my brother. And it was the right thing to do. The family that had spent the most time, energy and money in raising us now shared a moniker with us.

It is a decision that I do not regret.

The hardest part about it is not wanting to shove it in the face of my fathers side of the family. It is there though... because when I got married I added my husbands last name to the end of mine.

When my paternal grandmother was still alive, we had a somewhat tense relationship. I think we loved each other, and as much as she was human she was an OK grandmother. And we got much closer before she died in ways that surprised some folks. She ended up being one of the catalysts in helping me make peace with the choices my father made.  I was/am not often invited to family functions on that side of the family (probably because I spent a few years declining wedding invites and the like when I was at my most bitter), so I did not see her often. There was one time, at events surrounding one of the few weddings I did attend when I drove my grandmother back from my uncles ranch to town... we talked a bit and she said one thing that stopped me dead in my tracks and made me very upset with her; she told me that she wishes that she and my grandfather had done better by us (my brother and I). That is a fine sentiment, I am sure... and perhaps I should have drawn comfort that she acknowledged her failings... but at the time I could only think to myself "we were just children and you chose your grown up son over us".   It took her having to get serious surgery for me to even want to speak to her again. I alienated my cousins father because they had sent me a letter asking me to talk to her and I had replied that I couldn't... my father called me angrily and told me that she should not bear the burden of his choices... I told him he wasn't a part of that conversation and that I was allowed be angry with her for failing my brother and me. He hung up on me angry... in his family Grandma was a queen and was not allowed any negativity (which eludes me, she was a very well respected child psychology teacher).

Fifteen or so year later, my grandmother became very ill and required surgery. My aunt called to let me know and I went to the hospital to see how she was. My fathers family had left (to get a bite to eat, I presume) when I arrived... which happened to coincide with when she was moved to the recovery room so the nurses let me in to be with her. I went in, and she seemed very surprised to see it was me and not her daughter. We chatted a bit, and she stopped... looked at me quite intensely and grabbed for my hand. She said that she had never ever been able to control my father, not even as a little boy. That she knew that my mother and his second wife (yes, he married her) had both wanted her to intervene, but he was closed to that. Her gaze intense and telling a part of the tale she couldn't put in to words. So, what I took away from what she told me was that my father had a pathology. My interpretation is that he is unable to connect with others in a lasting and meaningful manner.

So, what made me come here and have to post this tale?

This father's post (with whom I am in a writing group) about seeing the hurt in his sons eyes, and probably even more so because of a comment a friend (in the same group)  made in a thread on his post about how her father gently consoled her at her distress about her parents divorce. I know and remember her father, and here is the tough part for me... I remember being privy to watching him with his daughters over the years (and even him without them and the way his eyes lit up when he talked about them and other such evidence of how much he adored them)  and my being incredibly jealous that they were wanted by their daddy. 

When I asked my father about their split, he just said, "your mom and I can't live together any more" and added "but it doesn't mean we don't love you" almost as an afterthought. No sitting on his lap or even a wiping away of my tears... just a clean, concise conversation.

So, if you are a parent, my advice to you is to let your children know how much and how deeply you want them in your life because at the end of the day, they want to know that you want them, and that you aren't just the cool uncle (or aunt). Show them, make hard choices and have hard conversations with them that they matter. As I always maintain, actions speak louder than words, and this is a place where you can best use that.

I have come to a place where I am generally at peace with my father, we get along and he seems to like my son. I have somewhat settled in to the idea that if I am going to have a relationship with him that I know it has to be by his rules and his rules alone, that I am not allowed to make demands of him that require anything other than what I would request from an uncle. I also have had many good memories with him, some that have even touched on that connection I want with him as my dad... but they are short, and don't often involve tender moments and are all purely on his terms and require my completely giving in to them.

Thankfully, my mother (and her own mother and sister)  filled in those gaps where she/they could and I live knowing that I am deeply loved by her/them in ways that are beyond what I would expect from a mom/aunt/grandmother.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Desperately searching for C.R.A.C.K. 12/40

cts of

(hat tip to my dear Doralice for the inspiration)

To say I feel like I am sinking is an understatement.

I feel pulled in so many directions with some nit-picking thrown in that I am just starting to wallow.

Aside from a very small number of people that I am very, very close to, I don't trust anyone with anything that involves me.

I am to the point where things that would normally have irritated me just don't matter.

I am in a state of ennui, apathy, give-uppedness... whatever.

I mentally tear myself to shreds for being a failure for any sort of random thing that really just isn't.

I would say I was depressed, except I am not... what I feel is tired.
And I miss my son. A lot.

I need to make myself get out, take a walk around the block. Move.

I need to start looking for the one thing that makes me feel gentle (which is what I call how I feel when I am content), that is... noticing small acts of kindness.

People right now, don't seem all that nice...

So, what have I seen that is nice? 

(:: birds chirping ::)

How about this

A smiley face, that is a happy piece of graffiti... right?

Donate to a cheese maker?

and then...

Maybe I should go put googly-eyes on something random in a public space?  

And then I should vote for my cousins band

After which I should volunteer with some of my favorite people?  

Then I should have a chat with an imperial guard?  

Or become a tragic hipster with an ironic mustache?


I could throw all my values out the window and get my lips done?

Then I could pontificate on why this kid looks like this man
(I am not Vulcan nor have I ever mated with one, but really... how?)

But, seriously, I think you should donate to the cheese maker (I did)... 
my-most-favorite-and-someone-whom-I-would-consider-to-be-the-worlds-best-cheese-monger recommends her.

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.

I feel better now! The smiley face worked!