Stop the Train I want to get off.

on 28 September 2007

I have this very intense love-hate relationship with the South.

(sneering with a French accent) You see, I was booorn heeere. In the pretty part of East Tennessee. And then my parents moved to Seattle and my real life began. Okay, there is real life in the South too. And there are things that I love beyond all reason about the South. And while I'm on a positive note, I'll just tell you one.

The Husband and I got married in May of 2004. We did the wedding and the honeymoon and it was lovely. After we got back from the honeymoon he decided we would join some friends for tubing down the Chatahoochee river in N. Georgia. I had never been tubing before because I am (or was, I'm not so sure anymore) a cultivated human being.

We got suited up and rented tubes and headed out to the head of the tubing section of the river. The Husband plopped down into his tube like the trained professional that he is and I hesitated like the wise-beyond-my-years woman that I am. The Husband is sweet and so so playful so he was dragging his left hand on the river bottom to slow up so that I could catch up to him. I gradually descended my elegant behind into the inflated tube and as I was inelegantly paddling to catch up to him and our group I see his face drop. He holds up his hand. The hand that was now missing the new and very dear wedding band. My face drops. We both hop out and he returns to the entry point where he is rapidly joined by three of our friends. They sift the bottom of the river looking for the missing band. I'm sitting on a rock trying not to obsess about what a bad omen this is and also trying not to cry. The four boys are quickly joined by two more. And then two more. And then two more. Strangers were stopping to help the dear Husband search for the missing band. And as they searched many more were looking at me and hearing the story of what had happened and shouting back, "Don't worry, little Lady he still loves you!"

We didn't find it. The poor Husband searched for a good 45 minutes...maybe an hour, but the titanium band was the same color as the bottom of the riverbed so how was he supposed to find it? People up and down the river tried to be encouraging. It was one of those days where everything that could go wrong did. The water was cold and the air not warm enough yet to compensate, the ring was lost, the Husband entered a new dimension of foulness and I was obsessing obsessing obsessing about the lost band and how to replace it. And yet. Those dear Southerners reminded me that the things that matter most can't be lost on the bottom of a river and that the lasting part of our marriage was in the inter-tube next to me. As I watched the group of people searching get bigger, I shook my head repeatedly and thought, "Only in the South." And I believe that I'm right. Only in the South would total strangers stop to help a young Husband search for his missing wedding band. Only in the South would a total stranger take you in and feed you (this is another story for another time). Only in the South do people speak like rednecks, but act more graciously than most human beings.

I had intended this entry to be comical. I was going to tell the story of my dear Mama-in-law and her protestations at some of the choices of her Son. But I think that this story is better. The Mama-in-law story is funny, very funny, and I will tell it. But for now, for this one moment right here, I love the South.

Melancholy Morning

on 26 September 2007

Hi. I am the Wife. This is my blog. I am boring lately because of all of the aforementioned wonkiness. I have decided to wallow for a moment.

Please indulge me in the Wallow. Why am I wallowing? I will make you a list. I will try not to bore you.

Things that I miss and that are making me Sad lately:

1) The Husband. Lo. He has been sucked into the Black hole of Husbands: Graduate School. I know. I have no right to complain. I lived in the Black hole for 3 years and he didn't complain. much. Still. He's one of my few friends here. And he's my best friend. And I hardly see him now. And when I do see him our conversation consists of: "Hi." "How was your day?" "Studying? Okay." "Coming to bed anytime soon?" "Okay. Goodnight."

2) Sarah. She always knows when I'm wonky, how does she do that? And also she's very funny. She makes fun of her husband and she calls her kids "crackheads." we love her.

3) M'AmyLynn. She's with child and I feel dumb being so far away from her right now. She has always been dearer to me than a sister and I feel like I should be with her while her life is changing.

4) Augch. I never thought that I would say this...oh, EVER. But: Georgia. I guess it's not so much that I miss the state and the place as I miss the people there. I miss those three happy years that I spent there surrounded by wonderful people. I miss how often we laughed and the ways we loved one another. I miss that camaraderie.

5) Seattle. I's flawed! It rains 9 months out of the year! The traffic! The taxes! I know. But it's still its own way. I understood myself in Seattle in a way that I seriously doubt I ever will again. I knew who I was every time I planted my foot on the ground. And also I never got lost there. Well, almost never.

6) Rain. NC has been in a state of SEVERE DROUGHT all summer. Every where you go, you walk on the grass and it sounds like walking on pop corn. It's dry. It's hot. and it's depressing. How do people live in deserts?

7) The lack of junk food in my life. I know! I could control this one! I can go buy junk food! The problem is that when I buy junk food I feel guilty! It's like buying porn! I've done something that I'm not supposed to do! And then! THEN! If I dared to buy and actually EAT said junk food...then I would feel miserable for not being healthier and thinner and la dee da! So what is worse? Be a bit mopey on a Wednesday morning because there isn't any junk food in my pantry (and seriously, people. There's nothing. The most junky thing we have right now is reduced fat corn chips. Although. Since I'm confessing, I must admit that I have butter softening on my counter tops for a new recipe that I'm creating in my head for chocolate chunk cookies. GAH! I am EVIL!)? Or LOATHE myself for indulging in food with no nutritional value whatsoever?

I should leave you nice people alone. Go wallow in my melancholiness. What are you wallowing in lately?

Change is in the air...

on 19 September 2007

Last year in September it was still in the mid-90s outside. Today we're knocking on 80's door and the nights have cooled off dramatically. The leaves will start turning in another week or so, their death throes are the most beautiful, and the days are almost unbearably lovely. Change is coming. Fall is coming. Apples and pumpkins and sweaters and beautiful trees and crisp mornings are coming.

I was never one of those women with a burning desire to be a mother. I've never sought out other people's children, I've never voluntarily worked with them--well, children I'm not related to, my nieces and nephews are exceptions as always. I adore them. But I've never wanted to be responsible for them.

I can't remember when I recognized how much work it takes to have children, to raise them, to teach, and to take care of them. That's just how long it's been since I've known that. I love my cats, I can feed them and cuddle them, and they clean their own bums and when I go on vacation I can leave them in a kennel. I know that children are non-refundable, that it's the hardest job on the planet and the single most thankless, unglamourous and undesirable job known to womankind.

Will someone please explain to me then, why all of a sudden I'm not so revolted by the idea of parenthood?!

I still see how much work it is. I still know how thankless and unglamorous and non-refundable it is. And yet. There is a small part of me that wants a child. A little bit of the Husband and a little bit of the Wife and our whole wide world turned upside down. And yet. I'm still scared to death. Heebie-jeebies does not quite capture my level of terror at the prospect of parenthood.

Change is in the air. I'm fairly certain that I won't get to choose what changes. Life changes to refine us, to force us out of comfort and into growth. Maybe it's just the fall. Maybe it's the cooler weather and the more humane humidity. Maybe it's a Wednesday funk that I'm feeling and nothing is going to change at all. Maybe the change is all in me. Maybe it's in my eyes, the way I look at the world. I don't know. But this time around, I'm not so scared. Things will change. I will change. The Husband will change. And in the end, everything will be okay.

Weekend Update

on 17 September 2007

I had a really lovely weekend.

Wow. Let's just let that soak in for a moment.

I know, I'll tell you what we did and then you'll what? But coming off of a month of non-stop social interaction, it was bliss.

Friday night we went for Indian food with the Lovely Lisa. Then on Saturday I cleaned my apartment. Really cleaned it. Without the Husband to distract me. The weather has finally cooled off so I had all the doors and windows open. I did laundry, and I cooked a real meal and not just nachos.

I watched Daniel Deronda again. I laid around in my pajamas. I baked a hojillion chocolate cupcakes that I will cheerfully dunk in milk and eat with gusto.

I had to teach in church and it went so much better than I had anticipated that I'm still happy. I got to chat with my lovely Sister who had been travelling for quite some time. We had some new friends over, the Lovely Sarah and David and we played games and ate cupcakes and ice cream and talked and laughed until midnight.

I'm a little tired today. (See the aforementioned staying up until midnight.) But it was very worth it. Sarah and David are incredibly cool, and...well...I really love the Husband and we stayed up to talk for a while after they left. A little tired is great after a really amazing conversation.

Your turn what did you do over the weekend?

The Cats: part two

Going back to the whole "window on our world" thing. Please indulge me by reading about Agnes. I promise. You will not be disappointed. The cat, she is hilarious.

I got Agnes from a shelter in Athens in the fall of 2004. She had been born in a litter of 3 to a family pet and the owners couldn't keep the kittens, but also didn't want to have a surrender on their records, so they decided to try to starve the kittens to death and dispose of them that way. Luckily, someone reported them. But not soon enough. One of the kittens was dead and two were so severely malnourished that they needed serious care. One of them didn't survive. The other one, well, she is my Agnes.

The shelter in Athens is in a small, low-lying building with one main room that has kennels all around the walls. It is important for you to imagine this scene. I walked into the room and was immediately greeted with howling. Whoever really believes that cats don't love people, has clearly never been to a shelter before. Cats love people. They want to be part of a family. They just don't display their affection quite as vociferously as dogs do.

I looked around trying to make a decision. The workers always have their favorites and try to push them on you. I looked at some of the howlers, then the grabbers (you know the ones, they stretch their little paws through the cage to try to grab hold of you), then I saw Agnes Grey. (Her name has not always been Agnes Grey--you can't fault shelter workers, they see so many animals that naming them all must be really daunting.) She was tiny. And terribly skinny, you could see the whole length of her spine, her hip bones, shoulders and every single tiny rib. She was curled up in a ball with her back to me. I thought, that's my cat.

(A short digression: there is this wonderful scene in Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov where Ivan Bezdomny has been apprehended by the police for claiming to have met the Devil in Moscow. He's being examined by a psychiatrist and he realizes that he has three choices. He can attack the psychiatrist and attempt escape, he can admit that he's crazy and stay in the institution for the rest of his life, or he can "seek refuge in proud silence." He chooses the third.)

Part of what I loved about Agnes at that moment was that she too sought refuge in proud silence. I opened her cage and gently lifted her out. I took her into the play room and sat down on the floor and set her down next to me. She stood there. She looked at me. She gingerly crawled into my lap and laid down. I began to pet her from head to tail and she just laid there looking sad and tired. We sat like that for a few minutes. Both of us feeling lost in this big place, both of us feeling disconnected from everyone we thought we knew. And I picked her back up and signed the papers.

The shelter told me what had happened to her, and that I could not take her home until she gained some weight. So I left her there. A week later I was back and I I took her home. She wasn't eating for them and I knew. I knew that if I could get her home I could get her to eat. So home we went. That night she ate an entire can of food and howled until I let her into bed with me. She slept on my face. And from then on she began to eat me out of house and home.

Agnes is still tiny. Well, compared to Leike she's tiny. She's slight and dusty grey and hilariously clumsy. She runs circles around Leike and chases her like a dog. Agnes is our cat who can't seem to get loved enough. She is funny and sweet and adores our little family.

She's also maddening.

I had had her for about a year or so when she ate 5 yards of blue embroidery floss in one bite. As in she never chewed through it. And I refuse to violate this blog by telling you how we had to get that out of her. It wasn't pretty. And it didn't smell so good either.

We used to live in a complex in Athens that had "dumpster" cats. People would adopt cats and then couldn't get rid of them so they just left them in the complex, the cats go feral and live out of the dumpster. Being the bleeding-heart that I am, I bought extra food and left out for the dumpster cats. Once Agnes figured out that they were on the outside and she was on the inside, she would taunt them through he sliding glass doors.

Agnes is at her happiest when she is on top of one of us. And she is. A lot. It's sweet and adorable and funny and incredibly annoying when your asleep and you can't move because there's a cat wedge up against your behind. Or worse, when you realize you can't breathe because she's fallen asleep on your face. Agnes is the Husband's favorite. She is very easy to love.

The Cats: part one.

on 14 September 2007

I have decided that the Internet needs to be made aware of The Cats in our lives. I'm not sure why, but when you're awake at 2am and can't go back to sleep, some odd topics become suddenly viable. go figure.

So, for your reading pleasure, and just so that you can fully appreciate the view from this window on our world, I give you The Leike.

I adopted Leike from a shelter early in 1998. She was the runt of her litter and had some health problems when I got her. She and her 5 siblings were crammed into this tiny crate together so when I took her home I just wanted her to be free (and yes, that's my inner-hippy speaking) so I never really confined her. The problem with this is that it means I also never really socialized her.

I adopted her after getting out of a miserable relationship. So miserable that I didn't date anyone for 5 years until I met the man who became The Husband. My parents used to joke that I was one failed relationship short of 32 cats. The Leike had some kind of rough life before she and I took to one another. I don't ask and she doesn't tell, but judging from her behavior at times it wasn't pleasant.

When I brought her home she fit in the palm of my hand. She was tiny. And now she's 16 pounds of chicken. I used to say that she was my bulimic cat because she, occasionally, eats too quickly and then vomits her chewed up food on to whichever surface she happens to be standing on. Yes. It is disgusting, and the fact that I continue to clean it up and not throw her out of the window is a testimony of my sincere affection for this animal.

She slept at my feet on my bed for years. Every night for years. She still does occasionally, but now that she's a bit older she prefers her own space when she sleeps. She hates change and her favorite toy is a tiny foil ball that smells suspiciously of Hersey kisses. She loves flannel and fleece with a love that dare not speak its name.

She's not the kind of cat who panders to people. She's dignified. Refined. I introduce her as my European cat. She doesn't feel the need to stoop to our gregarious and unsavory American ways. She is happiest sitting on the highest part of her post and surveying the world with disdain. She HATES loud noises of any kind, and when there is continuous loud noise, she seeks refuge on top of the refrigerator. Or sometimes the cabinets.

Four years ago, I went to the shelter seeking a companion for The Leike. I was gone all day in classes and such and I felt bad for her in our big brown apartment all alone. So I brought home The Agnes. The Agnes was a very small kitten with issues of her own. I do not think that Leike appreciates the intentions behind this bequest.

She's what most people call a "one-person cat." Meaning, I suppose, that she likes one person and no other. I suppose I had always believed this to be true, and that I was the "one person" she cared for. But then if this is true, then The Husband has quite won her away from me.

They have this very intense (at times) love-hate relationship. When they love each other, nothing is funnier than the two of them mauling one another. But when they hate? there will be squawking and howling and inevitably Leike will end up soaking wet and scowling at the World from on high. Generally, they love each other. Please don't call PETA on our disciplinary techniques.

The Leike is now a dignified and sleepy elderly cat. Well, on the beginning of the elderlies. She's not as bold as she used to be. Instead of on top of the refrigerator, she more often than not hides behind the futon. Or under the dining room table which isn't really hiding because we can all still see her and she can see us and it doesn't shelter her from any noise, light, or action.

I tell you all of this because she is my friend. More than a friend, she is part of our family. And theoretically, this blog is to serve as a window on our world. I find it comical when people blog about the woes that their cats are. But for my part, she's worth the woes.

Anger Management

on 13 September 2007

So aside from general exhaustion and the frazzledness that seems to have taken up permanent residence in Burnstopia. Anger seems to be the pervading mood these days. And for once it's not me!

I acknowledge, I have a temper. Go figure, red hair and a temper--it's so original! That doesn't play into any stereotypes or anything, does it? Having said temper, I have learned to control it. And I do. I still get mad, I just don't let anger govern my actions. For the most part.

The Husband, on the other hand...

There are things that you all should understand about The Husband. He is very loving. He is generous and capable of great kindness. He is freakishly intelligent. He is a great cook and a lot of fun. He also has an unholy temper. And by unholy, I mean Wrath of God.

I will hand it to him, it takes a lot to set him off. But he's been in school for 3 whole weeks and he HATES one of his classes. As in, with the fire of a thousand suns HATES it. In this particular class, he is assigned a group to work with. 3 students, all of them very different, forced to work together for an end goal. It really is becoming redundant, but he HATES one of his group members. She's young. She's just out of her undergrad and still thinks the world is her stage. She got up and left in the middle of their group project planning meeting in order to go chat with her friends. He would cheerfully see her staked in Transylvania.

Of course, it doesn't help things that he really HATES this project anyway.

I wouldn't be whining about all of this except that when The Husband is foul he brings it home with him. And to dinner. And to bed. He gets up and eats breakfast with The Foul first thing in the morning. And by so doing, he makes daily life miserable. It would probably be easier to brush aside if I didn't LOVE him with a love that knows no bounds.

I hate to see him miserable. It makes me want to do the cheerfully staking of the aforementioned hated group member. I've been mulling over just what, exactly, is the hardest part about marriage. And I think it's this: watching someone you love be miserable. watching them struggle. watching them conflicted about their priorities. Living with them and loving them and being invested in them and their happiness, you FEEL all of these things with them. When he is angry like this, I feel it too. The Foul gradually creeps into everything. The carpeting, the walls, the plumbing and the evening meal.

I must admit that for all my fancy book learnin' I can't seem to figure out how to compartmentalize The Foul so that it doesn't effect every living aspect of our lives. I've tried, music, yoga, reading, meditation, long walks, journaling, hot baths and baking. Nothing works. I've tried listening to him, teasing him, cracking jokes, distracting him and nothing. I still lay there at night worried about him and The Foul and brainstorming ideas to try to coax him out of it. What I really want to do is hunker down in my fox hole until it all blows over. At the end of the semester. or year. or program. The flaw with this plan is that it involves up to 2 years of hiding from The Husband. And strange as it may sound, I kind of dig him.

I don't suppose there is a point to all of this whining. You're welcome to send along any suggestions you might have for Foul Eradication, but I remain doubtful of any success. As for me. I will remain in my foxhole until a better alternative rises to the surface. Or The Foul passes over us.

The Breaking of the Age

on 11 September 2007

Yuri Tynianov wrote about the Decembrists, that they were those who had "out-lived" their age, that their time had been broken and they had survived it, and as such they were men outside of time. Their existences became fractured, just as the age had been fractured. I think that he felt this way himself during and after the Russian Revolution, that he was living outside of time and that he no longer belonged in the time in which he lived.

I wrote my thesis on this stuff so I've done quite a bit of thinking about it. I think that there are events in our lives which break the age for everyone, all mankind, history if you will. Events like WW2 and the Holocaust. Or even the Industrial Revolution. They are events from which we can never go back, we can never return to the way things had been before them. We can never unlearn the knowledge that we've gained, or un-see the things that we've seen.

I was in the air on September 11th. It is a strange thing to me, flying. So very unnatural. It seems to me that when we fly we pierce the membrane that holds us tightly to the earth and defines us--so for those few hours we become fluid souls, people without family, nation or race. People undefined by social class, religion or education. I feel as though, on that day 6 years ago, I left behind who had been and became someone else entirely. I feel as though my time, my age was broken, and I am left behind as a witness that once upon a time, we lived in a sort of spoiled peace...well, in our sheltered and naive corner of the world.

Perhaps witness isn't the correct word. Because I don't in fact, witness, to anything. For the most part I remain silent on the subject. I don't talk about my experiences on That Day. I don't talk about how strange it feels to be shut out from your own country. How it cuts the ties of loyalty you may have felt for any patriotic ideal. How you watch events, some heroic and extraordinary, as someone completely removed, as from a great distance.

Perhaps that feeling of distance is what defines the breaking of an age. I have debated the issue often in my mind, as to whether or not 9/11 broke the age for everyone...or just those of us who witnessed it in very intimate ways. It certainly doesn't compare with the Holocaust, or The Purges, so how then do we classify this Thing that we also use as an adjective? How do we go on when we know...we do not belong here. Not only here, in this place, but here in this time?

I know. I'm straying close the edge of whinging. And I'm not unhappy. I'm not (often) troubled by it. It certainly provides a unique perspective on things.

White Bread and other Glories

on 10 September 2007

Alas. There are no mating slugs in NC and so you will have to endure yet another dry post from a very dryyyyy part of the country.

In other news, the Husband and I are contemplating running away from home. Far away. As in another continent. The Husband has a 12-week internship next summer (Coming Soon! Whining Wife Whinges about Where the Husband Went Without Her!) and the internship tends to sway where you land your first job so while we still can, we are dreaming. And we're dreaming in the vicinity of Geneva, Switzerland. The Husband has always wanted to live overseas for a while and The Wife has wanted to leave her country far far behind for quite some time and live a glamorous life in Europe, so this could work out well. Or it could be The Husband working a lot and the Wife whining that she has the same old life she had in the states, but in a more beautiful place. Go figure.

We had dinner with the family yesterday. And blessings rained down from heaven in the form of homemade bread (made by the Mom of the Wife). I love white bread, especially homemade white bread, with a love that cannot be named and even if it could be named it would be beyond the reckoning of mere mortals. Salman Rushdie wrote a truly brilliant essay on white bread, you can read it here. It comes closest to communicating my own love of white bread.

I wonder sometimes what it says about me that I'm listening to Matisyahu's Youth continuously and day-dreaming about white bread toast and the hills being alive in Switzerland.

Hmmm. Maybe it would be better not to over-analyze that too much.

Weekend Update

on 04 September 2007

So, saw how long it's been since I posted last and I'm having terrible blog-neglect-guilt, so here I am with a very boring update of what we did for our Labor Day Weekend.

TA-DA! We worked! On Labor Day! Oh we are ironic fools, are we not?

Actually, we headed down to Savannah on Friday. Had dinner with the lovely In-Laws at the wonderful Bellas (their raviolis with marinara are creamy and delicious) on Friday night. Then breakfast with the indomitable Grandmama on Saturday morning then I worked and The Husband did the homework. Saturday night was sushi at Wasabi with The Best Friend of the Husband (hereafter denoted as The Jeff) and The Sarah Ellen (another lovely friend of The Husband) and The Britain (who defies description). Then lots of conversation and home again home again. Sunday was a rousing round of family catch-up, culminating in a lovely dinner at Chez Sheffields in South Carolina. Monday we lazed around the house for quite a while eating crepes and watching the marathon of No Reservations (The Husband has a secret desire to live like Anthony Bourdain when he grows up). We finally got on the road around 1pm and headed back to Durham. I proudly admit that I napped most of the way home (and through the worst of the traffic). Being diplomatic is very hard work.

We got home and got back into our routine. The Husband doing more homework and me unpacking, laundering, packing lunches and chasing the know, for exercise. Off to bed and up again to start it all over again today. For all that though, and I know, this all sounds incredibly mundane and dull, but it's home and it's ours. And sure, it would be nice to have Anthony Bourdain's life for a week, or even a month. But at the end of the show, I want to come home to my empty answering machine, my cats and bed sweet bed.

Your turn. What did you do for Labor Day weekend?