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Friday, December 24, 2004


Christmas Eve

This is one of those days that is supposed to have a degree of ceremony to it, but until we go to church with my parents later, and then out to dinner, and then drive past the house with all the lights in Silver Spring, with the annual Beatles marathon on 94.7 - until then, it's just another day. I'm returning phone calls and making travel arrangements for a trip we're taking in January, and doing laundry, and these feel decidedly like the wrong things to be doing on Christmas Eve - aren't I supposed to be sipping eggnog by the fire, or watching children scamper, or baking Christmas cookies?

I always feel conflicted at Christmas - on the one hand, I feel like a hypocrite celebrating, since I consider myself someone who was raised Christian rather than someone who is Christian...this is the only day of the year I go to church. And so part of me feels like it's wrong to celebrate at all, and yet, it is truly one of the only ceremonies in my life, one of the only traditions, and that matters to me. Rituals matter.

And this year my extended family changed our ritual a bit - we're each only buying a gift for one other person, instead of everyone buying everyone gifts, since it was feeling kind of gross, the amount of money we were all spending, when we have so much already. We also tried to do a community service project together but could never quite coordinate it; I'm going to try to arrange something for early in the new year. Of course my parents and my husband and I are not reining in the gift-giving, but that feels different to me...I am being completely honest when I say that I could live without the gifts I receive, but I would be sad not to give them gifts, and I would miss our tradition of the morning spent around the tree, opening stockings, taking breaks to nibble on whatever yummy breakfast food my mom has made, etc.

On a completely unrelated note, this morning I noticed that the persimmons are finally gone from the persimmon tree that my dog and I walk by every morning. Yes, persimmons - doesn't that seem like something exotic that you never really encounter in everyday life? But one morning this fall, there they were, these gorgeous, reddish-orange fruits hanging from a tree on our route. They were beautiful. And even after the leaves fell off the tree and every other tree around, there they still were, these gorgeous, glowing orbs... until this week. Now there are little nubs where they used to be and I wonder what happened, because there are no marks on the sidewalk, no remains, and if they'd fallen, or even if the squirrels got them, they would have surely left a trace.

Something I've been wondering about: with the leaves gone from almost every single tree, how is it that on some trees, these dead, brown leaves are still hanging on?

Merry Christmas...

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Eating white beans.

My husband is at the movies tonight so I cooked for one, which means I'm eating white beans, as I often do when he's not here. White beans/spinach/sundried tomatoes, white beans/diced tomatoes/onions...or, what I'm having tonight, white beans/artichoke hearts/black olives. Garlic's a given. So are olive oil and parmesan. I usually have it over pasta, but tonight I had it with toast and butter - which I know is weird, but for the past year I have been on a huge butter kick; I find every opportunity to eat it. (Well, it's actually I Can't Believe It's Not Butter - Light...but it tastes the same to me. Diet ice cream? No thank you. Diet butter? A-ok.)

As I was waiting for the toast to toast I had to laugh, because when I was a kid, and my mom would go out of town on business trips, she'd always leave meals for my dad to give me, and she'd tell him to "put something with it." You know:

Monday - casserole (put something with it)
Tuesday - soup (put something with it)

Etcetera. She meant "something" as in salad or even carrot sticks, but what did my dad serve up instead, every time, without fail? Toast. :) When I was in college my mom gave me a cookbook of family recipes and it included an entry called "Daddy's Toast."

This blog is funny, I think I don't have anything to say and then these stories spill out of me... funny thing when you have an audience. (Sort of.)

What I was going to say when I logged in was this:

My favorite things today
1. Sleeping in an hour late.
2. The smell of pine.
3. Noticing the moon. I love the moon in winter. I remember sitting in Harper's Ferry with my husband eating a Snickers bar and staring at the man in the moon. The other day we noticed you can now buy a Snickers bar on amazon.com. But I digress.

My least favorite things today
1. Over-use of "happy holidays" as a politically correct but meaningless substitute for "Merry Christmas" - at the office, in email, on the radio... it's everywhere! Drives me crazy. I'm actually worked up about the fact that Christmas is a national holiday, too. Not that it's news, but it just hit me this year... what happened to being a secular state?
2. A big project at work that is hanging over my head. Sigh.

Ok, off to finish my white beans, which are now cold. Mmm, cold white beans.

Sunday, December 19, 2004



Ok, so last night over dinner I told some friends of ours that I'd started this blog, and they went home and read it, and called me this morning to say they liked it. The emotion I'm feeling right now is EMBARRASSED. Totally, completely, deep-crimson-red embarrassed. Like they saw me in my underwear and it was the ugly pair you only resort to wearing when you haven't done laundry in 2 weeks. I like the post I started off with but I feel like my posts have gotten increasingly unspectacular. But then I think, if I'm going to post something daily, it can't be spectacular every time. I have to remember my own disclaimer - that the point here is less profound expression than the profundity of expression itself.

I am sounding neurotic and academic and perhaps this whole self-referential thing is going to get old, so I'll move it along. But this is definitely very weird. And now I'm wondering how I'll share the news of this blog with other friends and family members. Do you send a proclamation? "Hear ye, hear ye, I have a blog." That clearly feels strange, but it seems equally strange to keep it a secret. When I think about who I'm trying to reach, I think 'people I don't know'... but is that just shyness? Cowardice? My husband is a singer, and he always says it's easier to sing for a crowd than for me or a small group of people he knows. It's odd, that we want an audience, and yet we want to hide. Makes me think of the allure of New York - story after story of people who go there for the rush, the excitement, and the ability to be anonymous. To be counted, and yet left alone.

Which makes me think of the book How to Be Alone, by Jonathan Franzen, which is all about public versus private....I find his writing very cold, but his ideas are always incredibly interesting to me, and I remember copying a dozen or more sentences from this book into my journal, including this one: "To write sentences of such authenticity that refuge can be taken in them. Isn't this enough? Isn't it a lot?"

I don't know if it's enough, but it's definitely a lot. Anything this scary has to be important.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


Dogs and politics.

Today the dog park was full of little dogs. Not "little" like those rat dogs you see in New York, but Jack Russell terriers, which are too small for my taste, but still believable as members of the canine race. Except for this one Jack Russell that was the runt of her litter and looks like a little piglet. (There was actually a dog named Piglet in our neighborhood, but I haven't seen her in a while, I think she moved away.)

Anyway, I am the classic dog park person in that I know many of the dogs' names and few of the people's. I am also not really a part of the dog park "clique" - we aren't there morning and night, we just kind of drift through on occasion, my dog mostly hanging to the side, watching, like me. (Or eating grass or sniffing stuff - unlike me.) I am fascinated by the notion that dogs are reflections of their owners... if that's true, then my husband and I are incredibly sweet and expressive, obsessed with food, separate from groups, and content to mostly lounge about with sporadic bursts of energetic playfulness. Hmm...that sounds about right. (Though I just realized that sounded incredibly arrogant - to say I'm incredibly sweet - but I think people might say that about me. Maybe I'm completely wrong.)

My husband has the radio on and they're talking about the myth of red state/blue state America - right on. After the election I was on a rampage about that map - almost half the people in almost every state in the country voted for the guy who didn't win that state....meaning half the people in every "red" state are "blue," and vice versa. The map should really be purple (like a big bruise - sorry, couldn't resist)... if you're interested in this, you should check out this site.

Now I'm thinking about the idea of "red state" dogs versus "blue state" dogs......I think it's time for me to sign off. :)

Friday, December 17, 2004


Cold rush

It's Friday morning, but it feels like Monday. I think it's because I have so much to do, at work and after work and over the weekend. It seems the amount of things I have to do is disproportionate to the number of days/hours left in the week. The "holiday season" - as it's so euphemistically called, with Christmas trees everywhere and "Jesus" intoned at least once every few minutes on the classical music station - is like that. Rushing to get things done by the end of the year, rushing to buy presents, rushing from one holiday event to another.

And then - it is a cold morning, very cold, at least by DC standards, and I think of all the people suffering in this city on this cold morning, and I am ashamed. Not to mention the people suffering all over the world. This is a hard subject to write about without sounding hackneyed. I am feeling more, much more, than what I'm saying here, but I'm stll trying to navigate the line between what I say to you and what I save for myself. I want to be real but I don't want to slide into using this space as a my private journal, because it's not private, and there are parts of me I'm not quite ready to share.

So instead, I'll share this quote that I found in a book I'm reading. Yes, I know, I said it was hard for me to find a book I like, but I finished Cruddy two nights ago and now I'm into The Best American Nonrequired Reading, edited by Dave Eggers, and I'm loving it. What can I say. Anyway, the intro's by Viggo Mortensen, the actor, and he ends it with this quote:

"Being a poet is not writing a poem, but finding a new way to live."
-Paul la Cour

Another way of saying your life is your art. And with that, I'm off to walk my dog.

Thursday, December 16, 2004



I just finished a great book called Cruddy, by Lynda Barry. I am strange with books: I either love them and devour them, with intense marathon reading sessions, or they absolutely don't speak to me at all, and sit gathering dust on my bookcase. Or, since my bookcase ran out of room long ago, they sit on my nightstand, or on the shelf of my clothes closet where I store books in the "to-read" queue. This queue is so long, and the likelihood of me finding a book I enjoy has become so slim, that a few years ago I boldly announced to my husband's family - who like to give books more than any other kind of gift - that I did not want any more books, thank you very much. Saying this to this particular group of people was like saying "I have horns coming out of my head," and I think I especially puzzled my father-in-law, who is a voracious reader and can't quite figure out how this woman who called herself an English major has read so few of the classics, and shows such limited interest in books generally. I should explain to him one of these days that what drew me to the English department was less a love of reading than a love of ideas. (If I ever actually tell people about this blog, then I guess I just did explain it to him. I'm still getting the hang of this.) Anyway... the last book I loved was Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson. I loved how true it was to the landscape of inner life. There, proof for my father-in-law: a sentence like that couldn't have come out of anyone but an English major, right?? :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Revenge on a post-it note

Hi. So here I am. With my own blog. I don't read a lot of blogs, but the ones I've seen tend to consist of short, pithy or ironic comments and observations. This makes me critical: if you're going to publish yourself, don't go half-way - let it all hang out. Life is not a sit-com. And yet, the inner critic says, "keep it in check"- no one likes excessive navel gazing. And so we land on one of the central paradoxes of self-expression. Well - and this will be revealing of my personality - I'd rather err on the side of too much than too little... of over-reaching versus holding back. In the improv class I took this fall it was all about honesty - be as real as possible, and the audience will respond. So here I am. I will try to be real.

I have a lot to say. I say most of it in my journal. Sometimes I read my journal entries to my husband, who tells me I should turn them into something I can share with a larger audience. He says – and friends have said – that I have a way of putting feelings into words that is unique, and that resonates. They are, admittedly, biased, and as any of you who are writers or artists of any stripe will know, it is easier to assume you are average, or no good, than it is to think perhaps you have something worth sharing with the world. This blog represents my first attempt at taking that plunge.

Please accept my expressions as just that: my expressions. I do not think I am a remarkable talent, but lately I have come to believe that the simple act of expression is a remarkable act of communion with the world. A long time ago, at the peak of my teenage journal scribbling and poetry writing, I found a post-it note that said, “Expression is not a virtue.” At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, that post-it note nearly ruined my life. I believed it. I believed suddenly and painfully that the writing that had meant so much to me meant nothing, was self-indulgent unremarkable navel-gazing.

In college these feelings intensified as I became more aware of the world and everything that was wrong with it. I read And the Band Played On, I learned about the culture of poverty in the inner city, and I felt useless and small. At the same time I became convinced that I needed to do everything I could to save the world. Nothing small counted. Which is maybe why I never volunteered or did anything other than become increasingly paralyzed and desperate.

At some point I decided that "Schindler’s List" was the model to aspire to – using the power of communication to profoundly change people’s consciousness. (Which in retrospect sounds like a tremendous God complex, but it was how I felt.) Dreams of saving the world mixed with old dreams of being very famous. Watching the Oscars sent me into a deep depression. I thought I was depressed that my life would never be in the spotlight (no Annie Liebowitz photo shoot, no reporter analyzing my every gesture and comment), but really (I think) it was jealousy that these people got to be creative and have fun… and that was off-limits.

I will spare you the complete narration of my journey from that fateful post-in note up to now – it will, I expect, be a central theme of this blog moving forward. This is only to introduce myself. I don’t aspire to fame anymore – the Oscars now strike me as a disappointing marketing machine, and while I’d love to be on the cover of Vanity Fair one day, it’s because I believe that things become interesting when we focus on them, and I would like to see how I’d come out. If you stick with me you will soon discover that I am obsessed with meaning – finding my purpose in the world, exploring the real meaning of things, never skimming the surface. It can be exhausting, yes, but also exhilirating and deeply fulfilling. I hope you’ll take some pleasure in the ride, and, if I’m being honest, I hope you’ll find some inspiration and insight, too.

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