Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Son of a B*&@#

So there is this article out there:

Mother's diet affects the 'silencing' of her child's genes

First of all, please click on the link... that baby in the picture reminds me of my first doll and of Squink as a "just out of NICU" newborn.

As an anthropologist there is nothing new in this, one has only to look at the effects of radiation of childbearing women to understand that these things have consequences. The thing about this is that you look at feast or famine type scenarios to examine child gene expression.

As a mother who had what one can call a crisis pregnancy, meaning that I was on bed rest... I have to admit to being intensely curious about how emotions prior to  and during pregnancy can affect gene expression.

The undeniable facts on undernutrition
Goodness, people... we have to feed our mommies and our babies!

The thing is, there are a whole set of emotions that accompany feast or famine... while it is possible to be happy during a period of nutritive stress, those associated nutritional deficiencies also manifest themselves in attitudes and behaviors... I mean we already know that there is a spectrum of disorders associated with women who drink, but how many are also related to the problem that the alcohol is masking. Yes, I realize that alcoholism is a disease in an of itself, but alcohol is a depressant and that had to have some behavioral manifestations.

I am just wondering, I guess... if you are an angry bitch to yourself and others what does that to do your future child?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dear Squink

My dear beautiful little boy -

I miss you! I can't even put in to words how much I miss you.

After you left, I couldn't clean your room because it smelled so much like you. Your sheets had sand all over them, and that made me miss you even more.

However, Nana came to visit and I could not let her stay in your room, so I removed and washed your sheets, and finally put your dirty clothes in the laundry. Your room doesn't smell as much like you as it did.

When Nana was here, we went and picked out a ton of new things for your room! You have a new desk and chair, new bed side tables and lamps. We bought you some art about Leonardo DaVinci and you have some new rugs and things in your bathroom.

I am picking out new paint for it too, and you will have such a wonderful space when you come back! I can't wait to show it to you, but I want for you to be surprised... so I will just show you this little bit, which you sorta already saw:

I am so excited about finally getting rid of that wallpaper!

So, I hope you are excited about coming back home! I worry that you won't want to, that you will love living in Austria so much that it will be better than living with us here in the United States.  I wonder if you miss anything here at all. What do you miss, kiddo? What are you excited about coming back to? Do you miss certain foods?

And then to follow up on that, what do you love about Austria? What are you going to miss from there when you come back?

Sweetness, I love you!



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Our Lady of the Grapes and Lent

Lent is over. This was a particularly mindful one.

I gave up alcohol, though really it was wine specifically. I chose this because of many reasons. The main reason is because I am a borderline teetotaler with a tendency to think many of my friends self medicate with wine and I needed to explore my own drinking habits a bit more in order to feel like I understood their place. Another reason is that so many of the folks I know that have tried to give this one up for lent, have failed. I was curious as to what all that meant.

I began by making an appeal to Our Lady of the Grapes.  I have had regular and on-going conversations with Our Lady for most of my life. At the ripe old and wizened years if 7, when I had an occasion to desire a serious consideration for entering the Church, I prayed to her for guidance, asking for stigmata as a symbol that I should join, just like her son. She told me no.

Anyway, I went to her and asked if this plan of mine was coming from the right place. After all it was, in part, based on my own judgement of friends and strangers. I am in the line that judging others is not a bad thing... not when it is used for self reflection, for generating positive behaviour changes. For example, in social situations where you find a group of loud raucous people, it is a chance to point out that while they may all be having a great time, It is hard to hear around their noise, they are being rude to speakers (if applicable), that that behaviour is best for smaller gatherings, and that being polite to everyone time is in the best interest of everyone. I think that this causes havoc when people are either of the belief that all judgement is bad or that we humans intensely dislike being called out on our behavior. Either way, we are all human and we will all continue to judge and do things that cause us to be judged.  The key, for me at least, is to not only accept that I will be judged and will often be found lacking. I am at peace with that, though I wish it were more often fairly done.

So, here I was about to embark on a Lenten ritual where I would pay attention to my own drinking habits, but to those I know as well.

So, the key moment is that I accidentally only drank once, just past the middle of the experience (time wise).  It was at a social gathering and it was just out of habit. I really did not think about it until my friend who knew what I gave up for Lent looked at me across the table and yelled "Blair, what about Lent?".

She told me that she felt terrible, that she saw my face fall when I realized what had happened and was crushed for outing me so publicly. I have to admit that I was pretty blown away by how easy it was for me to slip and order a glass. But, it is precisely in times like this that we are provided with a moment to reflect on something a bit differently. So, I spent that night talking to Our Lady. I realized that I had fared far worse when it came to ordering soft drinks the year I gave those up, and that one drink was not bad.  I remained pretty mindful for the rest of the experience. I realized two things though:

  • A LOT of people in my circles do indeed drink and are very uncomfortable when someone around them doesn't partake.
  • I really have a social relationship to alcohol. 

As for my reflections on others who drink and who were partly in mind when I chose this as my Lenten experience... a few of them are overly social and are weak in the face of peer pressure and a few are most likely alcoholics.

Monday, April 14, 2014

a wicked imagination

I wrote a story over on the other blog that felt like a scene from Fantasia...

Sometimes you meet someone and they are larger than life, sometimes you met someone and they reveal  themselves to be larger than life... I am becoming quite engrossed in the idea of expatriates and how dangerous it can be. Really, our world is full of such stories, and even some that have been lost to obscurity die to the land they have chosen.

So, I was thinking about my friends peninsular grandmother and the revolution she faced and how she went on to become the gracious woman I met and I was thinking of her as she fought against her environment and I was watering my cactus and I could feel the cactus spines flying into my hands as I held the hose and I began to imagine the battles that I would have to fight with these symbols of the land she grew up in.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Embracing My Wild God - 40/40

I am a theistic agnostic.

The Green Man of Winchester Cathedral.

This is not your typical agnostic... this kind of agnostic acknowledges that there is something... we just add that we are too mortal to understand what that might exactly be.

I do have a certain envy for my friends who claim and demonstrate a devotion to "God" (in terms of a global belief in a higher power). And I have the same envy for my friends who shared their path and practice (yet do not proselytize their path, they are just as bad as fundies to me) to atheism.

One atheist friend said "I just let go, and it felt good".

A devoutly Christian friend said "I just gave it to God, and it felt good".

I envy that kind of certainty.

However, I am also an anthropologist and for as much as religion is maligned in our modern western culture... I feel compelled to defend it, staunchly. Pretty much all of them. Yes, there are things that might be horrid and awful too, but that isn't something that is limited to religion... being awful is a human disease, not a religious one.

So, please take a moment to consider what it is like to be an anthropologist who claims to believe that there is something more, and unexplainable. Not an easy feat.

What are things that I think the idea of the divine might be?

  • Quantum mechanics
  • Animism
  • A Divine Spirit

I don't really know, and that doesn't bother me

As my mother says, "Don't quibble about matters of faith, no need to worry about the things that can't be defined (it is, after all, a matter of faith)".

Source for this post

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Sylvia should have taken more baths. - 39/40

Last night I found myself with a disarming amount of time left to myself. It was a heady luxury I am not often given chance to enjoy. I had dishes in the sink, and laundry to be done, work to finish, some writing to do... but I happened across a tub of olive oil hair mud and I decided ti was time to treat myself. Mainly because I had also touched the skin on my face and noticed it felt like sandpaper (ugh).

So, I pulled out the olive oil hair mud, my super expensive shampoo and conditioner samples, my facial scrubs, my facial masks and proceeded to fill up my bath with hot, hot, hot water. 

I set my iPad off to the side and pulled up the Netflix app. 

Now, normally I would get myself a glass of red wine to accompany me through the luxurious journey on which I was about to embark. But, I gave up alcohol for lent, so I prepared a nice BIG cup of hot peppermint tea with cream and honey.

I lit candles, started my show, and got in the water.

Not my actual tub, but this is how I like to do this, April gets it

That moment when I was all in, when I leaned back against the back of the tub, when I just let go... was fabulous. I looked at the way the candlelight reflected of the water, and my skin and felt beautiful. I sat in the tub for 40 minutes just listening, being quiet, occasionally glimpsing the movie playing off to my side. I was as present for that bath as one can get. I was mindful of the luxury of something like this in my over-watered desert. I considered the molecules and how the fatty acids were reacting with alkali (way too simple of an explanation, but its base is there).

I reached a point when I was content, in the way that contentment can be brief but completely satisfactory.

I reached for the hair and skin accouterments and proceeded to make my skin and hair silky smooth.

I washed and rinsed my hair and put some more hot water in the tub, and sat for another forty-five minutes. 

It was the best two hours I have spent on myself in along time.

“I am sure there are things that can't be cured by a good bath but I can't think of one.”
~ Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

A notebook full of pasta - 38/40

deep breath

I am starting to think of the main writing project I have going as a spaghetti western with a female protagonist.

I spent today talking to people who like magic realisim asking for ideas on how to make a death scene less intense.

One discussion was a fascinating exploration of Han. Lots of interesting ideas there, but how to bring in a Korean concept into a Latin American tale...

I have pushed myself more in terms of writing this 40 days of writing session than I did on the previous.

But I am beat. 

The good
I have started putting down the story I have been wanting to tell, in the way I think that I want it told.

The bad
I have been consumed with self doubt on the worth of even trying to tell the story.

The ugly
The story is rough, and I keep letting the things others have said to me destroy my faith in it.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Sigh - book progress and how to kill off a grandfather without making the heroine look bad - 37/40

I have spent the last week or so trying to figure out how to do this. I am writing around it, hoping that the story manages to do that thing that stories do and open itself up to me. I think it will happen, but it is trying my patience.

I may just be to focused on the story that inspired that part, my own grandfathers death and a death I know I am not responsible for, but have felt spiritually tied to since the actual event.
My grandfather died on a family (extended family) trip to the Galapagos. We were in the middle of nowhere, on a wooden gaff-rigged sailing ketch built in 1901 and called the Sulidae when things started happening.

But the tie I feel to that story begins 24 hours before...

I went to bed. Early.

Those were very unlike me. I was a habitual night owl... even at the tender age of 8.

I slept for 24 hours.

I awoke with a strange feeling in my stomach, which I attributed to hunger. No one from my family was on the boat as they were all visiting an island. The crew was having their early dinner so the cabin would be free for the rest of us to have dinner in upon our return, and when I told them I was hungry they asked me to join them. The crew teased me about sleeping so long as we ate rice with lentils and fried plantains and avocado. I laughed.

As we were finishing up, we heard the boat bringing everyone back and cleaned up. I ran up to the deck to meet them, and they told me tales about the day's adventure.

That night my grandfather passed away.  I was exceptionally clear-headed and well rested as everything happened.

Every time since that event, I have noticed a strange peculiarity.

When I sleep an unusually long amount of time, someone dies.

My grandmother - 18 hours
My great aunt - 14 hours (her husband 12)
My great uncle - 15 hours (his wife 14 hours)

Those are the only times I slept like that, even as a teen where 10 seemed to be m y upper limit for

So, I am wondering if this section is so hard to write because there is something so tied in with my own grandfathers death in a way that makes me feel like I played a role, though I am firm in knowing I was not responsible for his death.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Kitten, the diminutive and other nicknames - 36/40

As a child growing up, I had several extremely unusual nicknames.

As a young woman, I had friends that called me Blaise (modesty was not something one would have necessarily applied to me).

Later, I had a boyfriend that called me "darlin'".  And another that called me "sweetpea".

I love nicknames. I love giving them to people, I love the the way they make me feel when I am given one, I like invoking the diminutive in the names of folks who are dear to me as well.

Of course, the underlying assumption is that they are all nice and don't include words that translate into words that look like: %$#$.

I make up nicknames for many folks, and many seems to be heartily bothered by them... I mean I call one nephew "Mo" and I don't think he appreciates it. My son has told me that he is not overly fond of Squink, though we had a long talk about what the name means and where it came from and now I (AND ONLY I - emphasis his) am allowed to call him that... which is funny because most of my friends have forgotten or don't know his real name. I am puzzled by this whole "don't-call-me-that" thing,because nicknames are an indicator of love.

My mother is the one who comes up with the most awesome nicknames though and she is a tough act to follow. I try, and I think I am getting better.

I have a Goofus (or Gallant, depending on behavior), a Squink, a TanteTia, a Jojoberry, a Squid and an AnnieA.

Each one of those names comes from a place in my heart that melts, just like mine does when I hear myself being called a "nombre de cariño". 

When I go out with the ladies (sic), I don't force them to pronounce my name. I tell them I like to go by the nickname of Kitten.
~ Joaquin Phoenix*  
* Note to "Kitten" - Dude, what is up with using the term "the ladies" - how gruesome!


Friday, April 04, 2014

I never knew what she had witnessed (while she was alive) - 35/40

I met a woman once.

She was Antonio's great-grandmother.

This woman was from a caste that we call the peninsulares.

A Peninsulares family

She was a lovely lady, who could carry a conversation with anyone and she and I had one delightful exchange.  She asked about my fathers bullfighting and my mothers travels and seemed so delighted to have met me. I left thinking I had met a woman with a gentle life and a gentle family.

What I did not know then, and did not know for over twenty-five years is that when she was a young girl in her early teens, she was forced into exile during the Mexican revolution. That idea enough is a hard thing to image, but what I find so much more heart wrenching is that she witnessed her whole family being murdered; strung up by their feet until their temples exploded. Her parents, and brothers.  She had to cross the border in Arizona... and somehow ended up in Phoenix where I would have the pleasure of meeting her forty years later.

When I was told this story about her, my heart hurt. I began to think back on all the dictatorships, riots, rebellions, the fear of the Shining Path, the Colombian Civil war. All these warlike experiences that I had managed to live through I realized that when you are an expatriate there is a huge possibility of this very thing happening. Being an outsider is never easy.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Dear Squinky

You sent me a picture today! I LOVED it!!!!

I hope you know how much hearing from you makes my day seem wonderful!

I miss you though, I miss you very much! I try not to go into your room. Though I really want to. I finally washed all the dirty clothes you left and  can you believe that I almost cried when I smelled your stinky socks? I did!!!

Dad and I are happy, though we talk about you every night. We wonder how much taller you are now? We wonder what your favorite thing that happened that day was? How you are getting along with the other kids. We really do talk about you. every day. more than once.

Dad has been riding his motorcycle a lot and he worked REALLY hard to get the outside of the house fixed a little bit. It looks really nice. Now, if I could only get his to put his dirty coffee cups in the sink and rinse them out!

I am busy with work, and I have only accidentally made the turn to take you to school once since you left. Our regular treat stops have not enticed me... Bosa Donuts misses you!

I want  you to know that I love it when you send me notes and videos. They are wonderful and I read them all the time, over and over again!

What do you want me to send you?

Do you want me to mail you anything?

What have you thought about the blog posts that you have read? Did you think they were funny?

I miss you!

I love you!



Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Pieces of Modesty - 32/40

In high school, one of My Boys, handed me a book and told me I would really like it. And he most certainly was not wrong. The book was The Xanadu Talisman.

If there is a book that was ever life changing for me it was this. I loved it, and I loved it intensely. Modesty Blaise was everything I felt I was not, but could be.

Here, look at some images of how she has been depicted.

She was strong, sexy, independent but not too much so... her best friend was a guy, she was bad and turned good... in short to my teen brain she was fabulous. I began reading every single book. But what had happened after the first one is that I had discovered my alter ego. And I was over the moon. 

I worked on my eccentric skill set - I began to practice all sorts of different things; lock-picking, knife throwing, and different types of sword fighting, I started dressing in black and worked to find ways to wear weapons in my hair. I would not say I was obsessed, but there is that part that when I needed courage to be more outgoing, that I would adapt my version of her personality.

I mean, look at her:

Thankfully, I did not love her enough to try to become her, just head that direction. 

As I get older, I am becoming more aware on the probabilities behind why I may have chosen her as a role model. It is rooted in wanting to have that amount of confidence. 

Maybe I should invoke her a little more often.