Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
I am from ancient quilts reeking of mothballs, from lemony furniture polish and well-tuned pianos.
I am from suburban bricks on a cul-de-sac, from spaces filled with books and inherited furniture, from darkened rooms with flickering Super8 family movies on Friday night.
I am from the redbud, the azalea, the tall oak and maple - the riotous daffodils, the drifts of cherry blossom.
I am from Friday's meal of potato and beans and from the Family of Righteous Indignation, from Joan and Jack and generations of Klooster.
I am from the corner of Stubborn and Devoted - the two intersect in many places.
From a house where rowdy boys riled a peace-loving sister; where quiet quirkiness was venerated.
I am from a remnant church, a community in the world but not of the world. I am equally from the wider world that then found me. I am from faith, I am from love, and I am from a life that offers grace at every turn.
I'm from Malaysia, from England, from Veja-Links and cucumber sandwiches.
From the steel-grey and ever-elegant piano teacher who guided a crowd with laughter and poise through war, heartbreaks and car crashes, always taking the higher road. From the gifted and also-elegant elementary teacher who is everything and nothing like her mother, who has a heart forty three times her size.
I am from no place - I am from Family, located on eight hearths before I was eighteen. I am the books, the photos, the film reels, the stories: the memories of a host of genetics. At the core is Family.
This post is linked as part of The Red Writing Hood, over at The Red Dress Club. The assignment this week asked us to participate in a long-running writing exercise in which we were all invited to complete the same basic form, delineating our perceived roots: where we are from. You can read more about the exercise here. I'd encourage you to try it, even if (especially if!) you don't see yourself as a writer.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
It was weight that had hung around since Kid #1: nothing dramatic, and I certainly wouldn't have made it onto the opening lineup for The Biggest Loser. But it was a fair chunk of flesh that had over-stayed its welcome.
Without any real plan for Losing Weight (I am extremely anti-diet), I started running more. Working out more often. June and July were spent at the pool, and snacks were watermelon chunks, roasted almonds, and fresh raspberries. All of the sudden, my clothes started to fit differently. In fact, most of my wardrobe started to get really too big: as a running joke I would tally the number of shorts and skirts that I could pull off without unbuttoning or unzipping.
But here's the funny thing. I lost weight, and it didn't change my life, making me happy, successful, or, well, perfect. (I know. I was devastated to make this discovery. But there you are.) The goal weight that I'd fixated on for so long was nodded at on the way down the scale, and passing it didn't change my life one iota: my husband didn't love me more, my kids didn't find me a better mother, my writing didn't improve commensurately with the dropping numbers on the scale.
In one of those rare insights that Oprah calls an "a-ha! moment" and I call an instance of "well, duh" - I realized - so freaking late in life! - that the lifelong pursuit of the beautiful body, of the elusive 'perfect' body was so much emptiness. That having once been spectacularly fit, then not so fit, then outright chubby, and finally kinda-sorta-fit all means.... not much.
So what next? Do I just stop running? Do I give up, sit down with a bottle of wine, a slab of cheese and a half-kilo of good dark chocolate? Because, after all, what we're saying is that being fit doesn't change your life, right?
Au contraire. This fitness, the weight loss? It DID change my life. What changed my life was this: The outrageous sense of achievement when running five fast miles. Lifting weights whilst standing on one foot, knowing that my core was supporting me. Hoisting my 30 pound toddler up and down behind my head in a sneaky attempt at a triceps workout. Swimming laps for an hour and loving it.
Losing weight did not make me more interesting, more intelligent, or more loveable. But the path towards losing weight has changed my perspective entirely. What has changed is that once again I know I am strong. I am taking care of myself. I'm not giving up and rolling over and getting old. I'm taking time for me - even if that has to be at 5.30 in the morning.
When I came across this video on Facebook this week, my heart sank. Because what the speaker - Jean Kilbourne - is talking about here is the opposite of all the things I learned the hard way this summer. She's discussing the insidious idea that our girls continue to be sold: the idea that if pretty enough, if thin enough, they will BE enough.
It would be disingenuous for me to pretend that I never dress my girls in pretty clothes, or marvel at the way my 8 year old looks in skinny jeans (the girl's built like a grasshopper: she was meant to wear this particular trend, even if she hates 'em.) But daily I pray that I am doing enough to let them know how valuable - how significant they are, regardless of outfit, regardless of accessories, regardless of body type.
It may be the biggest gift I will ever give these girls.
Or indeed, myself.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Here's the picture this week:
Now, you faithful readers who've been around for a bit may remember that I'm a little obsessed with air mail letters. You could go back and read my post on bloggers as the new pen pal, and the art of the long-distance letter, and my little ode to the aerogramme.
But today, I'm writing about the anti-letter. Otherwise known as Skype.
There was a little conversation on FB yesterday about Skype - how everyone loves it so much for when their husbands are out of town on business, how the kids are fascinated with talking to daddy on screen.
I have blogger friends who Skyped each other loads before ever meeting in real life, and I'm sure its an incredible way to be friends. In fact, my friend Jamie tells me he's up for a Skype convo, seeing as email isn't really his thang.
Here's the thing: Skype STRESSES ME OUT. I'm not great on the phone anyway. I feel fragmented, inarticulate, and anxious to get the conversation over with. Yes, even conversations with my husband or my mother.
Skype, in my view, makes all this worse. Not only am I twitchy and unfocused, but the person I'm Skyping with has a full view of me in all my ADD glory. They see me yawn, they see me staring at the ceiling.... I feel the pressure to put on a show.
My kids are obsessed right now with a tv show called Liberty's Kids - a cartoon about various stories from the Revolutionary War: in one episode, we find out that Abigail Adams got exactly TWO letters from John Adams in his 18 months in Paris. TWO. Not two phone calls. Two letters. From the man who fathered your 6 kids, who is some big shot in the new American government, and who has swanned off to Paris for almost two years. So to be 'limited' to "just a phone call" all of the sudden started sounding not-so-tragic.
I'll tell you: I love my husband, and he is an incredible partner and father when he's here. Participates in pretty much everything. But when he's away on business, it doesn't help me to chat face to face. No matter how off-the-wall the kids have been, a little face time isn't going to change it. I know he misses us when he's away, I know he understands all the challenges of parenting on one's own. He knows he's missed in a big way. But honestly, to survive the long days & nights on my own, I just have to get stuck in, get on with it, and not spend a lot of time on how I wish I had some help around here.
Is this cold hearted? Am I on a tragic path towards living in separate homes as old people, because we get along better that way? I hope not. Skype is a miracle. A lifesaver for some. For me, it is yet another technology I just don't get.
Anyway. I know I'm a Luddite. I know I need to get with the times. I'll figure it out, just like I found my own little way on Twitter. But I'm just sayin': nobody wants to see the faces I make when I'm on the phone.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Suburban Drama #6,793: In Which I Mortify Myself Entirely
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Say you're the kind of person who loves to know what's happening today, tomorrow, and the next day. The kind of person who tries not to cringe when an acquaintance casually says, "Oh, we'll just figure it out when we get there." What? No plan? Ack ack ack ack ack.
You may be the kind of person who is mortified by these tendencies. You may wish daily that you were a fly-by-the-seat-of-yer-pants kinda gal. You may wish that it didn't give you an ulcer to be lost in a strange city, or to rushing for a flight, unsure if you'll make it in time. You may watch people who operate without a wristwatch with envy, wondering if it EVER bothers them not to know what time it is, or if they're late, or how many minutes it is until the next appointment.
It's funny how life works. Because say you're that kind of person, and you fall in love with a person who approaches life in exactly the opposite way: someone who always flies by the seat of their pants, someone who never knows where their watch/wallet/keys are, but lives in faith that these items will turn up eventually. Someone who hates to brush their teeth the same way twice, much less drive the same road, run the same course, or wear the same shoes two days in a row.
These two opposites might get married, might delight in this particular element of opposite-ness, and might make a darn good life from it.
And then might come a cosmic event where the kids had a day off from school, the Farmor would be in town from Norway, and the forecast for the beach would be sunny sunny sunny.
Then the Seat of Pants Man may come up with the bright idea of taking off for the ocean - driving into the night, and then spending tomorrow at the beach. Mrs OCD might struggle mightily with ditching her schedule, with leaving all of her routines at home, with just "throwing sleeping bags into the car" and driving off towards the coast.
But she will do it.
Because man oh man does she love the adventures that Mr Seat of the Pants comes up with. She loves that he has passion for possibilities as-yet-undiscovered, and loves that he ignores (in the nicest way possible) her protestations of practicality.
So we're off, dear readers. Off on our next adventure. Look for photos of the Not-Plan soon.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
We found out we were both into Oingo Boingo and Talking Heads when many of our peers were embracing Bon Jovi and Richard Marx. And thus began a music geek friendship that would take us to concerts around the world - from outdoor festivals to huge stadium events to tiny grotty clubs in London. My parents trusted him implicitly, and as soon as I assured them I'd be with Jamie!, I was allowed to go pretty much anywhere.
We commiserated over crushes as well as breakups through the years. He was best friends with my high school sweetheart, and yet he said nothing unkind when we broke up; he found a way to stay friends with both of us.
|J and K, circa 1993? 1994?|
He went off to England for college, and I missed him. I'd get the infrequent letter scrawled on pale blue aerogrammes, apologizing for not writing more often. The next year when I was utterly lost at the University of Maryland, his letter came: Kir - You sound really unhappy. Get on a plane and come to England already. I'll look after you!
Five weeks later I stepped off the plane at Heathrow and was met by his friend (thanks again, Brian!). Jamie had arranged it all for me ahead of time. We adventured all over Europe - rode silly bikes in Belgium, slept in parks in Paris, stayed out all night in a club in Berlin. Again, my parents were happy with only the occasional collect call because they knew - I was with Jamie.
We've seen each other at our our happiest, our saddest, our most inebriated. I attended his eighth grade graduation, his high school graduation, his college graduation. He once changed a tire for me, I cooked a fair few dinners for him. We've watched each other get into dustups with friends and partners, but I can't think of a single time we've fought. (Of course, sarcasm and snide remarks don't count in that tally.)
I sat in the car with him the day he decided to leave America for good. We knew it meant he'd miss my wedding two weeks later. We also knew we wouldn't see each other for such a long time.
I've only seen him once since then. And every minute of that visit was like having all of our teenage years back again, only better. That visit he brought with him the beautiful Justine, who was (and is) perfect for him. The day it was time to take them to Heathrow, my heart broke all over again - knowing it would again be years before we would hang out.
Jamie has taught me much, but most important is this: he taught me that family can be many things beyond shared genes, the same blood. Jamie is my family, just as surely as my brothers are, and he owns his very own place in my heart.
Miss you, my friend. Miss you so very much.