This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Paprika Chicken Macaroni"

Today I took a large chunk out of the unpacking by making sense of the kitchen. Hadj keeps remarking at the sight of the floor and I'm smiling at the rows of grain filled jars. I'm excited and full of ideas. I also keep telling myself that making sense of my home is the first priority. So without further ado or prior segue I present tonight's "what's in the fridge?" recipe

"Paprika Chicken Macaroni"
3 C macaroni - cooked and strained
2 C boiled chicken - shredded and warmed
1 C cheddar cheese - chopped
1/3 C cauliflower - coarsely chopped then steamed to fork tender
5 cloves of garlic - minced
2 TBS paprika
1 1/2 TBS red chili pepper flakes
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large skillet combine ingredients. Stir gently. Cover with a lid to melt cheese.

Spicy delicious cheesy nom nom cooked in a kitchen sans range or oven. I feel bad ass. And sleepy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Young Hearts Run Free

The post I'm about to write has been marinating inside me for weeks and I can't think of any other way to start it than to say, I've never made things easy for myself. In school I was a procrastinator extraordinaire and a bare-minimum study. Prior to doing the only detox diet I've ever done I ate junk food like it was going out of style for days. I use contractions sparingly. I never clip coupons. With this understanding, it's not terribly out of character that I have recently relocated myself to a Seattle-area town to live with someone I've known somewhere between two months, six months, or two years. I am unemployed. I have never lived with a partner before. I can make a meticulously annoying roommate. I fall in love easily. Most of the conventional wisdom does not seem to support what I have done. Luckily, I have come to see more and more that "convention" often means "easy" and that's just not how I roll, even if I sometimes wish I did. A bit more on convention from Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics:
The conventional wisdom is often wrong. Crime didn't keep soaring in the 1990s, money alone doesn't win elections, and--surprise--drinking eight glasses of water a day has never actually been shown to do a thing for your health. Conventional wisdom is often shoddily formed and devilishly difficult to see through, but it can be done.
I know some Chicagoans may have a hard time with his point about money and elections, but that's beside the point. Just like in the story books, or from my mother's mouth, when I met the man I would be with, I knew him at first sight.

I had known Hadj "virtually," online and on the phone, since October 2007, but didn't get to meet him in person until Memorial Day weekend of this year. He was at the beginning of his "Free Now" retirement tour. His twenty years as submariner behind him, he is now learning how to be a civilian adult while I learn how to civilly share a bathroom. His stop in Chicago was one in a string of visits across the country to see friends and family. It lasted twice as long as he had originally intended.

The truth is that Hadj and I have similar behavior patterns. Neither of us seem to allow things to be to easy. People have called both of us "intense" more than a few times. We wear stripes with dots and our hair asymmetrically. We acknowledge the knit brows of our friends and families, who worry about the strength of our hearts, and move on into our horizons anyway. We fall in love like comets, long strings of star dust trailing in the wake of our blaze. The echo, of "burning out," on the collective consciousness's tongue is that only; vapors of fears we do not hold. We cannot tell the future, but we can plant seeds for love.

Within two weeks we had agreed on the mutual desire and need to be together, not across the nation. Eventually we opted for his city, Seattle. It is one of our dreams that we'll have a place in the city and country some day, but for now beautiful little Belfair, with its trees and salt marshes, will most certainly suffice.

I think part of why I frequently wind up on the winding path, instead of the direct one, is that I am an idealist to the nth degree. Ideas take up more of my time that I care to count, and one of my long-standing ideas was of renovating the house I grew up in. Years of watching "This Old House" and HGTV had wormed in to my being. By the time I graduated from college I was itching to do something with the potential locked in that 1920s Masons' cabin on the Fox River. When, on the phone, I mentioned my dreams for the house to Hadj, he was in a jam over something. He was trying to figure out how to satisfy his need to have his dogs accompany him when he came to Chicago for the requisite "meet the parents and family" event. He had had a summer on the run, using his home as a crash pad between epic art works and traveling all over the west in his car. His ten day stay in Black Rock City for Burning Man proved nine point five days too many away from his beloved "doglies" and he couldn't stomach the idea of taking off without them again. He heard my sweeping dreams for my parents' house and took a look around. He could do the things I talked about! He could do them all while meeting my parents, donating his skills, keeping his dogs close, and visiting his family near by! He was practically packing his truck with all the tools he could while I called my mom in a frenzy to pitch the idea to her. She was surprised.

The idea I pitched was this: Hadj and I would live...somewhere while Hadj renovated...whatever needs the most attention and I would do...something... I have not recently asked my mom for her verbatim thoughts on my proposal, but I imagine they were something along the lines of "Who? What? When? Where? How?" My mom though, is nothing if not a good sport. She said, "no," then thought about it, made up her mind, thought about it again, got opinions, made up her mind, got more opinions, asked me what the hell I was talking about once more, thought about it, and eventually said "yes" - we could do something for them, despite her probably more sane inclinations. She wanted the only full bathroom in the house redone, if Hadj was sure he could do it. We didn't have any clear plans, we just knew something would happen and we would do our best.

Hadj arrived in Chicago late the night before a party my mom was throwing. It was originally going to be my "going-away" party, but then--when Hadj couldn't leave his dogs and I couldn't keep my pipe-dreams to myself--it became a "come meet Shana's new man slash belated surprise 50th birthday to you Aunty" party. See what I mean about Mom being a good sport? I still had two weeks left in my apartment in the city and a week left to work at my job. I thought about staying at my job, because that would be the sane, and possibly responsible, thing to do, but I couldn't. I had to get ready for my leap into the unknown. No! I had to leap already! I had to be free! I had to have time!

Really what I had to do was find a way not to collapse into insanity when I looked and realized I had just willingly moved into the craziest situation imaginable to me. My mom and dad. My brand-new boyfriend. My first time living with any partner. My cats. His dogs. A three bedroom house that was described as being a "good starter home" in 1986. No working shower for four weeks and hollow core wooden doors that act as sound enhancers for all the bedrooms, I swear. My sport of a mom rubbed her magic off on all of us though by repeating the phrase "relaxed and easy going" half a dozen times a day. Hadj and I also picked up her habit of covering conversational silences by saying, in the most enthusiastic of tones, "isn't it a beautiful day?"

We did it. My parents now have a bathroom so sleek it could be at luxury hotel. We did it and hit the road stat. We moved on for the eminently more spatial location of Hadj's sister's house where we would prep for our cross country drive.We left on Friday the 13th. It was agreed that Friday the 13th is a good luck day for those of us that were standing in the kitchen that morning. We had been concerned about the weather at first. Then we grew concerned with the vitality of Hadj's truck which was 30%, he estimated, over-loaded with the u-haul trailer tagging behind and all his tools packed in the back.

Over all the eccentricities we've encountered in our baby-aged relationship, we've decided not to fear. We laughingly repeat JFK's famous words and stare whatever is rushing at us with wide open optimism. I knew it would be a beautiful ride. Friday brought little action. Highway 80 in Iowa boasted the World's Largest Truck stop, whereas Nebraska's excitement was found only in the Ho-Ho packages and Doritos I was munching. We found our Best Western for the night, ordered Pizza Hut, and crashed out while the animals snorfled whatever creepy scents that could be found in the motel carpeting.

Day two took us into North Central Colorado. Once my i-pod battery died I was following NPR all the way. I was utterly shocked at how engaging it was, hour after hour on the road. I look back now and guess that the familiar voices helped keep me center as I drove further and further into the unknown. My radio karma was good too. This American Life did a show on New Beginnings and A Prairie Home Companion saved me from too much Garrison by putting on a pre-Thanksgiving medley show. Family and friends had been fretting for us over the weather for weeks and I'm still happy to report that the only weather we saw was in our last hour of driving in Colorado that Saturday night. The snow was doing its special hypnotic vortex thing and I was glad again to have lived and driven through five winters in the U.P.

Days three through six on the road were spent doing some marathon visiting with Hadj's family. Hadj's family seems fantastic to me. I think I really enjoy getting to see new versions of the precious family quirks that each of us holds. We heard stories late into each night and slept surrounded by the scent of his Mom n' Pop's leather shop. The drive through the mountains, days seven, eight, and nine were exhilaration lived. I will happily travel overland, back to Colorado whenever the opportunity comes again. With the exception of an emergency trailer-hitch welding job somewhere in Utah, the drive was perfectly uneventful. Truth be told, my butt is still tingling from all the time in the seat. I'm bringing a donut next time, and not the edible kind.

So that's it! That's the kit and caboodle, up 'til now, story of how the hell I came to be suddenly living in Seattle with a man named Hadj. Simply put, I was ready and so I was provided for. We have determination and patience on our sides. When the conventional wisdom creeps up on me I keep still. Only time will prove our affair long or short, and for now, we're all doing our best with our hearts put forward brightly.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I Started Dancing

My mom plays "Mr. Jones" in the background. While Amy Winehouse croons and curses the dogs wrestle loudly, the cats new collar bells jingle, and Hadj drinks black coffee. We are a family on its way. I will move out of my parents house for the third time today. This time, once the station wagon, pick up, and 5 x 8 u-haul trailer are loaded, I'll be living on the road for a couple weeks. My excitement has me wound such that my urge is to use that energy to push myself to "live better" generally, but I know better right now. I'm excited. All I can do is my best each moment, and so my best is what I am doing right now.

My mom keeps having the family gather to say goodbye to me. On Sunday we had some family over to the house for delivery Chinese. Hadj and I garnered three fortunes from the cookies included. I am unusually enamored with the fortunes we received. Love is all around me and I am home in my body again. Wherever I go from here - I am home - and know that contentedness is mine to have if I ask for it. It's good to remember these things. A couple weeks ago I felt so lost and confused that, to use a euphemism Hadj likes, I didn't know whether to take a shit or wind my watch. And I don't even wear a watch.

Hadj's fortune was this: It doesn't take much to be a success. It takes everything. I heard this fortune and the "do your best" mantra rang in my head. Like some bad tv montage, pages from "The Prophet" and "The Four Agreements" turned in my mind's eye when he read it to me. I guess when you've asked the universe to provide certainty to you, you can find its gifts everywhere. He and I need this reminder when times get dark. We push ourselves too often to give more than we have, which only causes us to misstep and have to start all over again. We can only do our best, whatever that may be at a given moment. Sometimes, my sincere best is to sit down and eat ice cream until I feel better in a given situation. Sometimes, my capacity is monumental. I trust it is the same for all of us.

My cookie-fortune was eye opening in a way that I want to describe as "pixie-ish." Devyn dubbed me "pixie" a couple years ago and I have taken to the idea over time. When I feel most pixie-like is when I am feeling playfully mischievous. Whenever the mischievous feeling turns into action, I am at my most confident. I light upon people's shoulders, engage and charm them, tease them, and flit off. I guess I hope that their eyes, or they - themselves, might follow and play with me, but if not it is all fitting. As a pixie, I don't need a following only my wings and the glint in my eyes.
When I read my fortune to myself, Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this planet, I thought of the work I'd just completed in the bathroom rebuild project, and of my desire to give. My aunt then read it and added the requisite "in bed" suffix. My eyes widened and I began giggling almost uncontrollably. Hadj shared a glance with me and seemed to play the strait-man to my comic. "I agree with that statement completely," he said. Someday I'll write the feelings that live in my pixie-playful space to their full degree, and it won't be in this blog. I do like when the universe tells jokes though...the dirtier the better.

Cyndie Lauper plays on the stereo now, to keep our moving energy up, and she sings of choosing happiness. Just as the broken hearted only notice the sad love songs, I am blessed and notice the blessings available everywhere.

There was an occurrence about two weeks ago. I didn't write about it here then, and it so shook me up, that I spent two days in a trance about it. I received a message from an energy worker I know, who uses spirit guides in her offerings. She sent me an e-mail and told me she'd received a message for me. She wrote that I was seen dancing, and that I had stopped mid-dance because I didn't know what to do next. The message for me was keep trusting, keep loving, keep dancing. In her work, the message doesn't come from her, it comes through her. I hadn't talked to this woman since late winter.
More and more I begin to wonder what my future self is going to look like. I wonder what the people that surround me will be like. We surround ourselves with those who reflect us in some way. As I move toward the light, toward the magic, toward love, I wonder what magnificent creators I will find along my way. Who and what will find me?

Hadj and I shared the last cookie-fortune last night. Spirit guides accompany you.
They're with all of us. Some of us choose to know that and some deny it.

Knowing I am held. Knowing I am alive. Knowing I could be any, infinite, other ways, but I am this one, fills me today. Today, my best is bright. Today, I shine because I am dancing again. I did get scared, I did sit down and hide my face. Fear makes life so dramatic, but love, love seems to make life hilarious.

Ok, Ok. I'm really going on here. There is a lot of energy today, as I mentioned. My mom is now pulling boxes outside for me and I want to get moving myself. One last little anecdote since I'm on a roll though. Hadj and I were driving a few weeks ago and saw a billboard for "God" that said, "If you could ask God one question, what would it be?" I thought for a while and said that I would ask God to tell me a joke.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Character Study: Jade

At the time, I was convinced it was easy for Jade to tell me I was beautiful because her mom had always told her that. And because she was beautiful herself. And because she was trying to make me feel better. Those things are all true, perhaps. I didn't consider that she might also be speaking truth until much later.

Jade ran cross country in high school and said she didn't care if she finished last. She wore chic dresses to the three proms she attended. She always had a boyfriend. She wanted to sing in a band. Jade took drawing classes and became friendly with the instructors. She brought classmates to our room to get high. She listened to Joni Mitchell and spoke of Janis Joplin with reverence. She did impressions, danced, kissed, had intense, all-night conversations with boys she met at parties. I used to study her. I loved her like she were a favorite doll I carried around for comfort.

Jade drew my portrait for her classes many times. She would ask me to sit for her. We laughed about her always saying "just twenty minutes." When I began to complain of wanting to get up we'd take a break, smoke pot, and she'd begin drawing again. I sat in the green camp chair with the cup holder arm rests and she'd sit at her desk with the lamp on. Old rock played in the background. Her picture of Tori Amos in concert was taped up near her bent head. Jade would show me the drawings as they progressed. Sometimes the portraits were for practice only and sometimes they were for assignments. One of them received high praise from her instructor. I admired her drawings and wondered if I really looked like the girl she drew.

Jade had a group of friends back home that she talked about. The were dramatic, they liked to drink, they slept together and traveled together. They had nick-names and alliances. Jade said they called her car the vagina-mobile because she took all her friends to planned parenthood for their birth control. She took me there too. She held her cigarettes in the center of her full lips. She wore Nivea lotion after a shower. She had the perfect body. She never came back to live in the apartment off campus sophomore year, like we talked about. She told me she was moving to San Diego with her boyfriend two weeks before the next year started. I almost didn't go back either.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Winter 2001

College was the magical place where I'd finally get to be the person I wanted to be. By all counts of my opinion, I wasn't making very fast progress by the time I met Jade. I was sick of my roommate who took all early classes and was majoring in business, and of Fred, who seemed to have a crush on my roommate, but was just fucked up enough to attract my attention. Fred was from Menominee. I can't remember how I wound up spending a weekend there with him, but I do remember how dejected I felt when a guy I didn't like very much wouldn't have sex with me. I thought he was an oaf. I think I was sleeping in the top bunk of his nephew's bedroom that weekend.

Near the end of our first month in school I met Jade. As I remember it, I bumped into her in the hallway outside our rooms. She shared the room next to mine with a lithe, thick-blonde haired, dancer named Nikki. Nikki was one of those girls I envied immediately and to such a degree that I couldn't look at her. Around Nikki, I felt like an oaf. The events of the day on which I met Jade, and the week that followed, run together like a dream. Within the week we had convinced our roommates to live with each other. On moving day we got so high, and I laughed so hard, that I said I couldn't move my arms. We sat on her twin bed eating crackers and peanut-butter, our strewn furniture turning our 12 x 12 cinderblock room into an unwinnable maze.

Jade broke up with her boyfriend of two years in the spring. He lived in the dorm across the lawn from us, next to Matt. It seemed like she was immediately hooked up with the lead singer of a popular band in town. When she came home in the morning she told me about their sex, his giant cock, and his soft lips. She stood in front of the crowd at the bar we'd snuck into singing all the words to "Whipping Post" and dancing in her way. He'd lean down to her from stage. I was frozen somewhere, watching. I was trying to pretend I was the only one in the room when I danced. I was trying to look like I was having the time of my life.

My only sex freshman year were the two failed attempts with Matt, and the last fuck with my ex-boyfriend from highschool, at the beginning of Christmas break. After I sent him off that December, I imagined I saw him sitting in his car at the end of my driveway. I imagined he was crying. I called Paul and told him what a bitch or slut I was and told him to come over so we could get high and meet up with the rest of the guys.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Remembering the Ghosts

I'm writing memories from freshman year. I am trying to write them well. I am trying to do myself a service by writing them, but not remembering them. I have heard that your brain does not differentiate memories from the present. When you remember something you may feel the emotions you felt then, unless you decide not to. Freshman year was a gateway. I saw my behaviors without the veil of routine for the first time. I didn't know how much I hated myself until that year. I didn't stop hating myself that year, but at least I saw I needed to. I'm writing these things because I have been inspired to, because I like exploring my behaviors, triggers, and rationale.

What I don't want to do is color the memories with the present, nor do I want to color the present with memories. They are me, and they are not.

I had fun my freshman year, but I was not myself. I would not begin to know myself for at least another year. It was not easy, but distracting myself from the challenge was enjoyable.

Late Autumn 2000 and Early Winter 2001

Nine years ago I was a cat for Halloween. That was my freshman year of college. I had waited too long to pull any of my dozens of costume ideas together so I wound up throwing on some of my clothes, doctoring it with make-up, and calling it good. I tried to fake it 'til I made it and tried not to stare too longingly at Jade while we dressed. She got someone from our dorm to take pictures of us before we went out. We planned to party-hop. We'd drunk something mixed and picked up weirdo Tim, who was dressed like a white-trash ax murderer, on our way out.

Getting dressed to go out was a trying affair most times that year. Jade would spend some energy telling me I was beautiful, to stop belittling myself, to get dressed already. Then we'd smoke and turn up the music. I would spend time doing my best to hike my tits up and hide my "spare-tire." Again I forced a smile and kept up. Halloween wasn't particularly eventful. There was a packed frat house basement where I tried not to feel invisible. There was the walk back to campus drinking as quickly as possible, hoping to loosen up. We found Tim being apprehended by campus security for drawing swastikas in the frost on parked cars. I couldn't wait to go to my room, get high, and watch television.

For Christmas I received some new clothing. I'd lost 15 pounds. In January and February I pursued Matt while he pursued grain alcohol. There are pictures of us. One that I remember shows his red face with its mouth open in a stretched oval. His forty rests in his lap while his hands gesture. My eyes are lined with purple make-up and on him. My shirt is low cut and my smile cool. After a house party one night I kissed him in his truck. We were parked in front of the dormitories. I was in the driver's seat because he was too drunk to drive us there. We never did have sex. The first time ended before it began when he fell off of me, and the bed, on to the floor. He said he thought he heard his roommate coming in. The second time he stopped me after I had taken him deep in my mouth a few times. Told me "he couldn't." He got up from the futon in my dorm and went to get some beer.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ffiery Mmaple

The feldspar windchime tinkled itself and Rain slanted toward muddy green Grass. River swam in the background.
I was trying to describe, "--it's my mind/body disconnect. I don't imagine blood and bones, sinew and guts, inside. I imagine a cave..."
Wind sang a song then and made Sun-yellow Maple Leaves sway while wide hanging Blue Spruce bounced. Not a forest, I decided, then continued thinking outloud,

"...on a black background -- and -- just a cartoon, 'u' shaped, opening where, inside, my little girl waits. By a fire."
Made with three logs, I imagine, red, orange, and yellow colored pencil --

"She's not scared. She just asks, 'why go out there and get criticized?' You know? So she just sits..."
and I stop to feel, thinking, maybe she's down near my upper intestine, or is she to the left in my spleen? My last three spoken words ring down: she just sits, she just sits, she just sits and I know she is not bitter, mad, hurt, or angry. Maple lights fires in my eyes and Blue Spruce dances gaily with Wind.

"What a beautiful day" I say then, seeing that she looks like Shiva, sitting, -- Eyes closed, Hands folded, Third Eye. I am hiding most of my internal updraft then, but inside the black background is lightening. She is coming out of her cave with her benevolent smile. My only gift is a soft laugh at the inside joke, "I'm gonna go inside and get to work."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Need to Express to Communicate

Around ten p.m. last night I entered the kitchen and saw mister eating a spoonful of roasted garlic cloves and a raw hot dog. Such is life in the suburban wiles of NW IL. Five hours earlier he had convinced me to pull myself and my costume together in time to sport ourselves to dinner with Mom, Dad, Aunty, and Uncle. They're our posse now.
Around three that day I had found a large piece of packing styrofoam, some cardboard, netting, duct tape, and the cans of white and metallic gold spray paint I've been waiting to need for over two years, and made myself a the crown for a sun costume. Then I took a nap.
I was crestfallen because my dreams from a few hours earlier seemed much less spectacular once I was off the back of my Dad's motorcycle and back on the couch in the living room. After my nap in the sun I loafed around and became cranky about getting myself together. I said it was because "couldn't figure out what to put on my ass." I realized that I wasn't as comfortable wearing panties over tights as part of a costume in front of my family I as would have been in front of an entire house full of strangers. Go figure. Hadj cajoled me and reminded me of how excited I'd been to be a radiant, happy, joyful sun for halloween. I wanted to do myself a service by overcoming the sloth that beguiles me in this place and be my best self again. I found a skirt to cover my ass and called it a little cloud.
Our posse eats at the early bird hour. In the month we've been living here I've adapted to a high sugar, high meat, high carb diet stretched over at least four meals a day and not supplemented with yoga. The extra meal developed as a result of the early bird special. Second dinner comes about three hours after first. Lyrics to "La Vie Boheme" from "Rent" keep popping into my head.

"...Why Dorothy and Toto when over the rainbow to blow off Auntie Em..."
What I think about when I'm pondering hasn't changed much in my time here. I'm grateful for that because everything around me is foreign yet familiar, an unsettling combination of emotions. My thoughts on food, yoga, energy flow, moods, moons, sex, gratitude, and attitude remain powerful. Despite that I can't seem to compose many sentences about what goes on external to my mental workings in a day or week here. I have felt, several times recently, that I'm being tested - the way devout religious say they're being tested by God (or whomever). The lessons I have learned inside, regarding grounding, health, contentedness, and so on have been put to stress in the last four weeks. I come out feeling proud of myself every time, but sometimes it takes days to get there.

In addition to staying on the "love" side of life's "love/fear" divide I have also memorized about 70% of the dialogue in "Finding Nemo." I am impressed with my ability to watch that movie so many times. I guess the traits possessed by most two to six year olds have never really stopped impressing me. I can still hold my own in an intermediate yoga class after two or three weeks without practice. I now know how to tile like a mofo. I know what bag balm is good for. I know what whole cloves of raw garlic are good for (killing bacteria!). I'm pretty sure I know when my usually irregular period is going to come. I finished knitting my first pair of socks and I went out for Halloween dressed up by choice as The Sun in devices culled from what's been in my suitcase for the last month.

I found one last way to rearrange the furniture in my childhood bedroom. I thought I'd discovered them all by 1998. However, it turns out that putting my double bed against the east facing wall not only creates a bit of a barrier between the two dog beds and the cat food, but also makes a spot just big enough for one person to do yoga in. I did yoga this morning. I get up by 7 a.m. daily without an alarm.

It only took three or four tries for Hadj and I to get good at walking up the stairs with my feet on top of his boots, a la the two year old behavior again. The dogs listen to my commands. It's a wild world.

The root of my feeling is that it's been a really fucking weird four weeks. I miss Chicago and can't wait to get to Belfair. I've lived in this house for most of my life but feel like a stranger in it. I can be in the same room as Hadj and not feel connected to him at all sometimes. All these things...there are so many things going on and they're subterranean, subtle, psychic workings that I love to analyze, but hesitate to write about here.

Let's just say it's been good, over all, post some pictures, and call it a day.

p.s. I also got my fourth tattoo: