Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ode to J.D. Salinger

When I was about 10 years old, I read "Catcher in the Rye" cover to cover in one day.

It was summer and I was home alone during the day. We had a book shelf containing a battered set of classic books with shredding gray cloth hard covers. I had read most of the books on that shelf when I got to J.D. Salinger's masterpiece.

I started reading it early in the day in the living room downstairs, then I took it outside, then back to the living room, and finally up to my bedroom when the rest of the family came home. I remember the day turning to night and the night turning to early morning and I was still reading. I couldn't stop. The story touched me. At the time, I didn't know why, just that it was the best book I had ever read in my short little life.

I was never required to read this book at any point in my education so I didn't go back to it for many many years. I just remember that was the first "real" book that I had read in one day.

But one particular passage always stayed with me:
"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be."

In college, I bought a copy and read it again. And again. And again. I still couldn't put my finger on what it was about that book that resonated with me so deeply. It just made me feel...something.

Not too long ago, I was on the train on my way home and I sat down next to a young girl - probably about 18 - who commented on the book I was reading at the time, "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley. She said she had read it for school, I said I was reading it for pleasure, it wasn't my favorite genre but I like to read all kinds of books. She asked what my favorite book was. "Catcher in the Rye" I said without hesitation. She mentioned that she had read it for school also, but couldn't understand why everyone thought it was such a great book. She said it was sad and made her feel depressed.

And that's when it hit me. It wasn't the individual words or the story that was so powerful, but simply the provocation of feelings. That book put my secret deep-down feelings into words. Melancholy, aloneness, aloofness, alienation, strong familial love, wanting to save the ones who hurt before they hurt, self-loathing, anger towards the unfair world around us, desperation, failure, and excitement to be anywhere but here.

J.D. Salinger passed away yesterday - January 27, 2010 - at the age of 91.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lunch Break

I don't have a designated time at which I have to take my lunch, so most days I just end up sitting at my desk and eating. After almost 4 years of this same routine, I've decided to make an effort to go outside at least once a day while I'm at work (weather permitting).

Today I went for a walk by the waterfront.

Here's what I saw.

Morrison steel bridge, tiny sailboat and very cool reflections.

Riverplace Marina (this is the gangway to the marina).

Looking back at the city from the water.

Ominous submarine that is occasionally docked on the other side of the river.

"little" boat

Downtown reflecting in the water.

Green grass in the park reflecting in the water.

I'm glad I made it outside while there was some light.

I love catching the fleeting moment in which a reflection is cast.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Homemade Clothes Haiku

I made a new skirt
It's pretty funny looking
Wore it anyway

Friday, January 15, 2010

Then...I spoke to God.

In December of 2009, I went to visit my brother and his family before they move across the globe to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in February. He and his wife and four boys will be relocating (for work) to Abu Dhabi for an undetermined amount of time, but right now it looks like 2 years, minimum. With four boys under the age of five, one of which was only 2 months old, and an amazingly steadfast wife/mother of his children, my brother leads a life that is much different than mine. Not better, not worse, just different.

During my visit, I had every emotion imaginable and unimaginable. I even had my own little religious moment.

On the last day of my visit, I woke up in the playroom (that's where the spare bed is) to the sound of a man, my brother on the phone speaking very seriously. It was about 5 a.m. and the rest of the house was soundly sleeping. He's making arrangements for a villa, furniture, school, vehicles in Abu Dhabi. That's when everything hit me and I understood everything all at once. I had a little journal with me, so I scribbled my feelings as fast as the tears flowed down my cheeks.

There was a point that I even spoke to God. I don't usually talk to God. I tried a few times when I was younger, but it seemed so contrived and goofy, looking up at the ceiling and trying to imagine that someone/thing out there could hear me, much less help me. Also, when I did try to talk to God, things never seemed to work out as we had "discussed." So I decided to talk to myself, or people that are listening -- hubby, mom, dad, special friends, the dog... and it seems to produce the same results, if not better and more accurate.

But on this particular day, I couldn't help myself. I couldn't STOP myself. I felt that it was the only way that I could express myself was to speak. I was so moved by my realization that I silently cried out unto the Lord in my journal.

Here's what I wrote in my journal during that moment...

As I lay here in the tiny bed from my childhood, in the home of my brother, I cry.

My heart swells because I was starting to think he was a stranger, but really he is just a man I never met before or maybe I met him but didn’t get to know him very well.

He used to be a cowlick, smiley faced little boy that would torment me relentlessly. I always knew he loved me but the ways that he showed it were pretty rigid.

Now he is a father of four beautiful boys that are, in every way, little pieces of him. When I look at them, I see every stage of my brother’s every different version of him that could exist in the world.

I was starting to wonder, “How can I love this guy so much when I feel like we are strangers?” But now I see that we are both different people than we were before, but yet still the same.

I’m his only sister and he is my only brother.

Bonds of blood that cannot be broken by distance or time. I am like a version of him that was never born to him, but with him. Soon he will be like a ghost and gone so far way. But in my heart he will always be the same person that I was reared with.

Him and his family are the only extensions of my childhood that exist. Mom and Dad are here but they will never leave me. In my heart we will always be ONE. This is the family that I came into this world with, and will leave this world with.

It makes me sad that he’ll be so far away soon.

My big brother and his queen, along with his mini-me’s will be going to the Promiseland. May Providence guide and protect them.

The exodus to Abu Dhabi is upon us. Babylon is just around the bend and Zion is on the right.

Then...I spoke to God.

Dear God, I love them so much and wish them the happiest change of life and the safest delivery to that Promiseland. I pledge now, to not judge or question, but to love and try to understand what Providence has in store for them. God, I beg you keep him and his flock safe and allow them all the happiness they deserve because he is an amazing person and has an amazing family. He works so hard and is so many things to so many people. Giving 110% to everyone else doesn’t leave much for you.

I understand now.

Reading back over the scribble, I don't quite understand it myself, but I just know that at the moment I wrote this, I understood everything.

Maybe I WAS God for that moment.

I was inspired to share this intimate and religious moment in my life, by a post that my brother-in-law did about his brother (my husband). It was so honest and loving, that it made me want to share my feelings about my own brother.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Hello 2010!!

Well, I've seen lots of 2009 Review blogs and 2010 Resolution blogs, but I just can't get on board with either of those themes. So I'm going to do a hybrid version...

Lessons from 2009 to remember in 2010 (and beyond):

Let's break this down into 4 quadrants: financial, family, personal, professional and we'll start with the hardest-hitting one.

1. Credit card debt is a monkey-on-your-back-albatross-BITCH!! Yes, I learned this lesson the hard way and will definitely be taking it with me into 2010 (and probably longer based on those balances, yikes!)

2. Finding ways to cut back on spending can be fun. Really. Everything is up for grabs. Now I look at something that I normally would have thrown away as something that I can probably reuse or reappropriate.

3. Living a cash-only lifestyle is harder than you would think, but also way more rewarding than you would think. We cut the cards in January of last year and have been living only on the money that we make, as we make it...what a concept!

4. Making your own clothes will probably cost you more (when you add in labor and material) than just shopping at Target. However, not shopping for clothes AT ALL is free.

5. If you think of every dollar you spend as a dollar that could go towards debt or bills, you will think twice about spending that dollar on lattes at Starbucks.

1. Love your family and know that they love you. Always. Unconditionally.

2. Sometimes in your life your family members will seem like strangers to you. But that's okay because we all change. We just have to focus more on getting to know the new versions of those that we love, without judging or condemning, rather than lamenting over the loss of the old version.

3. Keep talking to each other. And I don't mean through social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. We are all just talking into the ether at each other with those platforms. Too much gets lost in translation and misunderstanding hurts more than not talking at all. Let's trade that crap in for webcams and have some real face time - not Facebook time.

1. Patience. This one is huge. 2009 was a year of learning to just "hold your horses" and be patient. This is a hard one for me, because once I make my mind up to do something I want immediate action. This year of patience has taught me that life is like Chinese handcuffs -- the more you struggle and fight against it, the tighter the hold becomes. You have to relax and ride the wave. This is probably my most despised lesson of 2009, but also probably the most valuable. But "Patience" by Guns and Roses is one of my all-time favorite songs, so at least this lesson comes with a theme song that I like.

2. Follow your heart, always. When your heart tells you to make a change or you're going to suffer -- make the change. Moving to Portland from L.A. was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It's right up there with marrying my wonderful, loving hubby.

3. Don't be so hard on yourself. All my life, I've thought that I have to be perfect or at least produce perfect results. This is such an impossible expectation to have of yourself. With this type of thinking, you are just setting yourself up to fail. We are all human and we all fuck up (see #1 under Financial). But we live, we learn, and we keep living.

4. Your life is your life. When it comes down to it, the only person you have to answer to is yourself. It's funny how I keep learning this lesson over and over, but under a different guise every time.

5. Everywhere you go, there you are. You can't run away from the things that you don't like about yourself. It's up to you to change it or live with it, but running from it is not an option.

1. Your work doesn't have to define you. If you love your job and it fits within your definition of yourself -- good for you! If not -- don't sweat it. It only defines you as much as you allow it to. I've felt like I've been living a double life for the last 4 years because my career is such an extreme juxtaposition to my hopes, dreams, and plans for the future. In terms of "when life gives you lemons, you paint that shit gold" (thanks Atmosphere for the best motivational line ever) I've decided to continue building my skills and gaining experience, then when it's time, extract the best parts of my job and apply it to my dreams and future plans.

2. Your health is more important than your job. I don't mean that you should quit your job if it stresses you out to the point that you have to be talked in off the ledge every other day (been there). I just mean that you have to let some things go sometimes and relax, breathe.

3. You should just be happy you have a job, right? Sorry, that one will never take the sting out for me. I want to love what I do and not just be satiated by a paycheck. However, patience (see #1 under Personal) can bring you through the tough times at work and give you hope that it won't always be that way. But for now, it is. Be patient, young grasshopper, your vision will be actualized with time.

So the moral of this 2009 lesson is:

Keep on keeping on. It's the best you can do!

(Please note that everywhere I say you...I really mean me. Advice is not my agenda here.)

Happy New Year!!