Category Archives: family

A Lotus Grows in the Mud by Goldie Hawn

I can’t remember where exactly, but Goldie Hawn’s book, A Lotus Grows in the Mud was recommended to me while I was reading some respectable piece of literature, and so I ordered it and set it aside for a month or so. I finally got the chance to read it over spring break, and it was surprisingly delightful–thanks in no small part, I’m sure, to “co-author” Wendy Holden.

Lotus Grows In The Mud

image from powells.com

Hawn has led a fascinating life, and her book really tries to get at some of the wisdom she’s gained in this life. And, you know what? Some of that wisdom was pretty darn inspiring and insightful.

Here’s what impressed me–Hawn follows her purpose, even when it is not obvious, even when she has doubt, even when others criticize her and roadblocks threaten her faith.

When I think about my purpose in life, I often have doubt and uncertainty. However, the predominant narrative one hears about one’s path is that it is easy and clear. But, that hasn’t been the case for me. I was an English major because I liked reading, but that seemed incidental. Now, I’ve made an entire career out this. I love practicing yoga because it is good for me, but a lot of times I phone it in, or have to talk myself into going, and sometimes I don’t go at all. I’m never the most flexible, most enlightened, or coolest person in the class. Still, I trained to teach yoga, and I’ve been teaching it since 2008. Most days when I enter into that classroom to teach, it feels really, really *right*. Same goes for the garden, for writing, for my friendships, for My Love.

So, I loved the message of her book. She was brave. She did hard things. It made me feel like I could be brave. I could do hard things–all while making a living and having Kurt Russell unexpectedly waltz in and save me in the final hour and then stay for the remainder of my decades. Yeah, I’ll have what she’s having.

In perfect timing, just as I finish this book, I see that Hawn is teaming up with Amy Schumer in a new film called Snatched. It looks lovely and hilarious, and I can’t wait to see it. I love seeing mother/daughter duos (that’s in the book too).

August: Osage County by John Wells

Let me start by quoting Cam from Modern Family, who astutely observed the following: “Excuse me, Meryl Streep could play Batman and be the right choice.” And I agree.

I watched this during a movie night with my mom. She was working on her art, and I was knitting, and we made the mistake of watching it after Terms of Endearment, which is perfection and nothing else can be said about it.

image from amazon.com

Netflix then suggested we watch August: Osage County directed by John Wells. This film has good acting all over the place. Each member of the stunning ensemble cast absolutely shines–as you would expect. Except there are so many other problems with the film that I started to marvel that the actors could pull off these impossible scenes.

So, first: melodrama. This film is melodrama. Midway through the film, Meryl Streep is running wildly through a hay field, chased by her reticent daughter (Julia Roberts), and the audience is just sort of embarrassed, and tired, and no longer buying in (even though we wanted to! even though we love Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts!). The scene where they’re running through the field and the very long, après funeral dinner scene are so over the top that there’s no recovering. The melodrama might go over better on stage.

That said, the film does deal with compelling emotional content and succeeds at pairing emotional content to characters, but struggles with putting those emotions to plot and story. The film deals with powerful stuff: struggles with addiction, unhealthy boundaries, and loving and withholding. With more subtlety, this film could have been spectacular.

 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a very Sundance-y Sundance movie, but it’s good! Sundance loves some great films, and this is one of them. First, this is indeed a movie about a dying girl. Because the title is so straightforward, I somehow thought it wouldn’t be so dark, but it was.

image from imdb.com

image from imdb.com

I also rewatched Mad Max: Fury Road this week (stay with me, it’s relevant!) and have continued to find meaning in the war boys’ concept of a “witness”—this idea of being witnessed in our acts of bravery, our acts of love, our acts of dying—all of it. It’s meaningful to me because I’ve always been so independent and only in the last few years have begun to understand the value of an invested witness.

I mention it because an important aspect of M&E&DG is that a very young man is witness to a dying girl. It’s something they stumble into, they resist, but, of course, it becomes meaningful in ways they couldn’t’ve anticipated or even previously comprehended. That kind of character growth and insight was lovely to watch, but it was also sophisticated enough that I think most audience members come away with deeper insights about what it means to connect more to “their people,” moving beyond assumptions and into really knowing another person.

One of the best moments in the film is when the cool history professor talks about how he lost his father at a young age. He said that even after his father’s death, he’s continues to learn about him. His father’s life continues to reveal itself. It started when his dad’s friends started sharing stories after his death. It continues all the time, in unimaginable ways, even decades later. I think the point here is that learning about our dead loved ones is part of what it means to be alive and self-aware.

As for me, I continue to learn about my own grandmothers. Both my great grandmother and her daughter (my mom’s mom) were a huge part of my early childhood. My great grandma even lived with us sometimes during the winter. She just stayed. She was Swedish. She was very quiet, and she loved me.  My grandma and great grandma died within two years of each other. They were a big part of my childhood, and then, in a relatively short period of time, they were both gone.

For awhile, it was sad, but okay, and this is the natural cycle of life. And then, I got really curious about them and asked my mom and aunties lots of questions about who my grandmothers were. I began to piece together my memories with their stories.  Over time, I can see how much the course of my life has been shaped by their influence. Decades later, I’ll remember idioms and wisdom about how to grow a garden, how to love one man. They suffered and loved for decades, and don’t we all? I am a witness to it all. There is meaning where meaninglessness wants to creep in. It reminds me that I am part of something bigger, family, culture, blood, brains. They are with me in memory and in my story, and that’s what I took away from M&E&DG.

we haven’t winterkilled yet

Tonight my grandfather asked if Z was with us for Christmas. After a weekend of cold, when a piece of metal bound the auger in the pellet stove, and then an emotional phone conversation where it was decided that no, not right now, not Portland, and then my dear mother, and then a windstorm that banged against the walls and woke us before 4am and knocked out the power, and the resulting cold and dark day, we concluded that it had indeed been the worst weekend.

The company couldn’t’ve been better, though. There were lots of hugs and kisses with my nephew, as much to keep warm as for assurance (the only child I can hold like this because he is mine), and violin/piano duets, while Mom and I pick away at our favorite (easiest?) Christmas carols. There are also mice, who usually have the courtesy to die quietly in traps. But one made contact, chewing on something in my bedroom until I awoke, flipped on the light, and saw it on the floor making aggressive eye contact.

The next night it lost a small amount of blood as it died instantly in a snap trap. This is the country, and we haven’t winterkilled yet. We don’t plan to start now.

cold sky

evening sky

on holiday shopping-inspired humiliations

I like to do my Christmas shopping before heading home for the holidays. The selection is pretty limited where I’m from, so I try to get things that are a little different than whatever the local Wal-Mart might have. I also really like to have everything wrapped and ready to go because I love seeing the excitement on my nephew’s face as we unload the presents and put them under the tree. I hope it’s at least a fraction of the thrill I felt each year when Grandma brought out her presents.

This year, I’m not decorating my own home for Christmas. I might just eat some of those Hershey’s candy cane kisses and call it a day. In general, I’m not much of a homemaker. I think that’s mostly because I’ve never had much of a home. In the past two years, I found that I really loved putting up Christmas lights, threading popcorn on a string, and decorating a little tree, but that was because I was sharing it with someone. As it turns out, ritual is better when you have someone to share it with.

Which brings me to my point, which is that for me, sharing rituals is the most intimate and humiliating part of relationships. Nothing feels better than reaching a point where participating in ritual with someone feels safe. But later, when the relationship is over, I always feel deep humiliation about the whole thing.

I think it’s because my rituals are sacred to me. My family home, and returning there throughout the year, is sacred to me. There is land and space and wonderful people who listen when you talk. There is peace and quiet to read books and have long conversations that last all morning. It’s a privilege to be able to spend time there, and it’s something I hold sacred and private. And, it’s all very humiliating when someone sees the ritual and experiences it for a little while, and then chooses something else. Oh, God. Nothing’s worse.

one year ago

one year ago

i do rush home

I rush home to play the piano. (Well, keyboard.) I listen to songs on the radio and try to figure them out while driving. I fill out all of the exercises in my lesson book just for the joy of it.

My mom’s pretty competent at the piano, but has always wanted to play the violin. She started taking lessons this summer and absolutely loved it. I, on the other hand, have always wanted to play the piano. I took lessons when I was very young, but they were short-lived.

This summer, my mom inspired me with her violin lessons. She kept saying things like, “I just love it,” and “It’s so great.” It’s probably the English major in me, but I’m always prompting her to explain what she means. “What’s great about it?” She couldn’t quite explain. Now, neither can I.

I found a teacher who lives nearby and signed up for lessons this fall. I immediately loved it and, like my mom, find myself sort of inarticulate about it: “It’s the best thing ever,” and “It’s just so great.” At first I really loved the forced meditation. Music requires your entire brain, and when I’m concentrating, there is no room for chatter. There is no room for anything else, and it is divine.

One of the things I miss from my last relationship is music. I miss singing (though I am shy!) and I miss hearing the new song and the song that’s dedicated to me. So, I’ve tried to create that for myself. I’ve been surprised by how quickly I’ve been able to move through the lesson book and how satisfying it is to play.

I’ve always felt drawn the to piano. I have always wanted to be able to play. I love the sound of the piano. I’m also really fast at typing (and I think that actually helps.)

I don’t know what else to say. See how rambling and incoherent I am about it? Other than just “YES! I am doing it! And it is so great!”

morning scene

morning scene

thank you, thank you, I love

I was going to do an “I love” post because I love. Now it’s the month for giving thanks. The other day, a yoga teacher sang a very lovely, open-throated, thank you song in savasana. She massaged our feet between poses. She sang, “Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you body. Thank you mind. Thank you spirit. Thank you yoga. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” And so on. Tears streamed down my cheeks, but I’ve had tears in yoga a lot these days. Thank you yoga.

And so here is my list of loves:

My day job. My students. The people I work with. The way I feel on my way to work. My cozy office. The scholarship I do there. I just wrote this lovely, difficult, and very good proposal for a thing, and felt like I was doing something difficult and good in this world.

My home. The way I feel when I wake up in the morning. The new incense and the new candle and the back patio and the zucchini plant, all of the indoor plants. They are living, and I keep them that way. The fresh bouquet of lilies and the warm mug in my hands as I pad around in my slippers.

My piano lessons. My keyboard. Reading notes. The difficulty. The ease. The meditation. Losing time to it.

Conversations on the phone. My parents. Their (accidentally?) brilliant advice. Texting with friends. Putting my hands up as I jump to live music, and the people who will go there with me.

Weirdly accurate intuition. The snake that rode down the trail on the shoulder of its owner. The elaborate tattoo on the little boy’s arm. The keen matchmaking.

Yoga. Teaching yoga. My yoga students. Allowing myself to take the energy that they offer me when needed.

Doula work. Doula people. There is some kind of secret magic with these people that is unfolding before me. The laying on of hands.

My love. The love.

round 3: knitting a baby blanket (with pattern!)

In the summer months, it’s harder to knit. It’s hot, and I don’t quite crave the cozy warmth of knitting by lamplight, my legs covered with whatever I happen to be knitting. However, there is still travel and downtime and conversations that stretch on through the long, light evenings that are conducive to good knitting.

My last blanket was intended for my cousin’s new baby boy. When I began his baby blanket, I did not realize that every other woman in my family also intended to make a baby blanket for him. Over the last few months, I’ve seen pictures posted via social media of the various baby blankets that have been sent for this little guy. I almost decided not to send mine because mine was such a mess. (I sent it anyway.)

front of the blanket

here you can see the unintended bunching around the border

I used smaller thread than I had ever used before and really enjoyed working with the finer material. Although it took a lot longer to knit up, it was actually more pleasant to work with than the chunky, bulky stuff that I’ve been learning on.

I used Loops & Threads Impeccable Big in Seaside Ombre. This was a big skein of yarn that stretched 582 yards. I was hoping to do the entire baby blanket in one skein, but it wasn’t quite enough, so I bought another small skein at the end (from a different lot number, no less!)

 

front of the blanket

front of the blanket (smooth surface)

I cast on 125 stitches.

After casting on, I knitted 16 more rows.

Then, I marked off the sides for a border, knitting 12 stitches. Then I purled for 101 stitches across the body of the blanket. I marked it there and knitted the remaining 12 stitches to complete the border on the other side.  For the entire body of the baby blanket, I did a regular knit stitch for the border and then alternated knitting and purling to create a smoother surface.

back of blanket

back of blanket (notice the difference in texture and border)

The blanket turned out to be stretchy and bouncy. As I was knitting, it was difficult to tell if the blanket was long enough because the borders were really bunched up. As a result, it is a little too wide and a little too short—more square-ish than the true rectangle I wanted it to be.

The yarn was a mix of dark blue, light blue, greens, grey, and cream. Using the variegated yarn created a more interesting visual texture to the blanket. The stripes, varied in color, looked thick on one side and thin on the other. Also, the small yarn, which calls for US 8 knitting needles, makes the border stand out much more prominently than it did with the bulkier yarn I’d been using on previous projects.

If I had to do it over again, I’d add another five inches or so. I end up needing to buy another skein of yarn to finish it. The new skein was only about 100 yards long, and I didn’t use it all because it was hard to tell if the blanket was long enough. In hindsight, I should’ve used it all. Now, I’m left with a blanket that’s just a little too short and a half a skein of yarn that I don’t know what to do with. I’d also use a different pattern for the border–one that doesn’t scrunch up the ends so much. In the end, I think the blanket will be durable, and because of it’s strange shape, will work well for a floor blanket for tummy time.

on being replenished

I have a strong sense of home, which, I think, helps me face the world, move to new cities alone, earn degrees, travel, take (measured) risks, etc. The last few months have been emotionally grueling for me, but I am home now and finally feel like I can really take a deep breath. Suddenly, my priorities come into focus.

Photo: vetch

vetch growing wild in the hay fields

Here there is gathering eggs, checking the under ripe fruit, sitting in the yard under a shade tree reading a Laura Ingalls Wilder book I found, Ginger, Jackson, and the cat, the mock orange, wild roses and yellow and joseph’s coat homestead roses in bloom, the new kind of yellow bird that’s made a nest in the front yard, pelicans, baby cones at Little Bear (C-zers soon to follow), the Subaru loaded down with bailing twine, everyone going 5 miles per hour under the speed limit, long walks down gravel roads, long conversations that last all morning and then go late into the night, fresh lettuce out of the garden, eating raspberries off the bush, running to Food Town for junk food I wouldn’t normally eat, having real dirt come off my hands when I wash them, kiddie pools, popsicles, sheep grazing in pastures, one late calf bawling for its mother, gardens growing so fast you can almost see it, knitting up skeins and skeins of yarn, planning the next batch of soap with Mom, making raspberry jam, knowing everyone I see, trading stories of new babies, divorces, car wrecks, illness, and wedding engagements, people dusting off their saddles for rodeo, the linear pattern of cut hay, geometric bales, the breeze, the sun, the temperature—everything I know so well.

on dogs, and babes, and boyfriends

Though I would like to keep this to myself, I need to write about this weekend because it was…emotional. The catalyst was the home check with the greyhound adoption group. As much as I want to separate the dog from the family from the partner from the question of ever having a child of my own from the art, I just can’t. The visit set off a paroxysm of emotions, revelation, and reevaluation.

There are lots of reasons why I want a dog (reasons that don’t have to do with family/relationship stuff) and a few really good reasons not to get a dog (not least of which is the fact that I am mildly allergic).

Emotionally, this has all been unexpectedly risky territory. Z was supposed to come straight from work to catch the last half of the greyhound interview, but instead, he decided to stop at a store. He ended up being really late, and would’ve missed the interview entirely if I hadn’t called to remind him about it mid-interview. It seemed that he had either forgotten about the interview, which is worrisome because, while the dog would be “mine,” there’s no getting around the fact that it involves him too. It was that, or he thought he didn’t need to be there, which communicated to me that, well, he doesn’t really need to be here, in this relationship.

We worked through the misunderstanding/forgetting. However, it left me feeling, once again, that I’m a little too alone in this relationship. Not entirely. But, when it comes to change, change that involves me, and change that involves the relationship, he’s not always a participant. I’m very independent, and it’s hard for me to suss out how much I need my partner to care and what he needs to care about. I can’t tell if what happened is, like, totally acceptable, or, like, totally unacceptable. I know that something doesn’t feel quite right about it, and that’s all I’ve got so far.

On one hand, he is a great match for me. He lets me be me. He’s encouraging, supportive, loving. We both value not getting caught up in our identities as a couple. We’re able to have separate interests and time apart. On the other hand, I worry that it’s all a bit of a guise we use to push each other safely away to avoid real intimacy and real risk.

As it turns out, a simple conversation about whether or not to get a dog brings all of that up.