Rarely does one have the chance to plunder
In this modern world of rulers and laws.
Nor can one oft sail endlessly under
the black pirate flag with her favorite outlaws!
Sometimes a girl simply must get away.
Sometimes she hides from her work and her school.
Donning hat, grabbing sword, in case of a fray,
She sharpens her mind with a puzzle or two.
Born of escapists' imaginations,
Such is the joy of the Puzzle Pirate nation!
There are many pros to being an avid participant in the Netflix system. Oh, the convenience! This weekend Jon and I watched Top Gun, Born Yesterday and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. All excellent movies! On DVD. And the best part is that, had we not watched them this weekend, had we waited until next weekend or the weekend after... nobody would be calling our house leaving obnoxious messages like:
Hello. This is your neighborhood Blockbuster. We are calling to inform Audrey Pancoast that her most recent rental is overdue.
Blah. Blah. Blah. Who's Audrey Pancoast? Anyway, we enjoy the freedom of Netflix. But beyond that, I get to rate all the movies that I've ever seen. Quite a few. And I have excellent taste in movies (don't bother arguing...). Because I have some time, and because Netflix allows me the luxury of extensive browsing and rating and recommending, I've come up with some Top 10 lists. Hope you have your popcorn ready.
1. Roman Holiday
2. Best Years of Our Lives
3. It's a Wonderful Life
4. The Philadelphia Story
5. Mrs. Miniver
6. The Women
7. Born Yesterday
8. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
9. Breakfast at Tiffany's
10. Adam's Rib
(and there are so many more than this!)
1. Notting Hill
2. When Harry Met Sally
3. Sleepless in Seattle
4. Runaway Bride
5. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
6. Barefoot in the Park
7. Miss Congeniality
8. That Thing You Do!
10. My Best Friend's Wedding
2. Remember the Titans
4. A League of Their Own
6. Pride of the Yankees
7. Field of Dreams
8. The Natural
9. Bend it Like Beckham
10. Pat and Mike
1. A Few Good Men
2. A Beautiful Mind
3. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
4. Erin Brokovich
5. All the President's Men
6. Steel Magnolias
7. Les Miserables
9. To Kill a Mockingbird
10. Runaway Jury
1. The Emporer's Club
2. Anne of Green Gables (and Anne of Avonlea)
3. Dead Poets Society
4. Under the Tuscan Sun
5. Forrest Gump
6. Mona Lisa Smile
7. Finding Neverland
8. The Diary of Anne Frank
9. A River Runs Through It
10. The Miracle Worker
1. Indiana Jones: Lost Arc
2. The Matrix
3. The Right Stuff
4. Jurassic Park I
5. Mission: Impossible
6. The Patriot
7. Air Force One
8. The Recruit
10. Independence Day
1. The Big Chill
2. The Breakfast Club
3. Rain Man
4. Dirty Dancing
5. On Golden Pond
6. The Princess Bride
7. Fried Green Tomatos
8. Little Darlings
10. Crocodile Dundee I
Originals and Almost-as-Good Remakes
1. Father of the Bride (1950 and 1991)
2. Father's Little Dividend (1951)/Father of the Bride Part II (1995)
3. Pride and Prejudice (1940 and 2005)
4. The Lady Vanishes (1938)/Flightplan (2005)
5. The Manchurian Candidate (1962 and 2004)
6. Ocean's Eleven (1960 and 2001) ((Remake is better))
1. Roman Holiday
3. My Fair Lady
4. How to Steal a Million
5. Breakfast at Tiffany's
6. Wait Until Dark
7. Funny Face
8. Two For the Road
9. War and Peace
10. Love in the Afternoon
1. Dial M For Murder (1954)
2. Rear Window (1954)
3. Lifeboat (1944)
4. Saboteur (1942)
5. The Lady Vanishes (1938)
6. North by Northwest (1959)
7. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
8. Rebecca (1940)
9. To Catch a Thief (1955)
10. The Wrong Man (1956)
1. The Ghost Breakers
2. Road to Morocco
3. Road to Singapore
4. Road to Utopia
5. Casanova's Big Night
6. My Favorite Blonde
7. The Princess and the Pirate
8. Seven Little Foys
9. The Big Broadcast of 1938
10. Road to Zanzibar
Anxiety is a tricky business. So much is affected by the smallest choice. And large choices loom ominously around life's every bend. For someone like me, that anxiety rears it's ugliest head every time a paper is due at school. Tuesday, for example, is the deadline for the second paper in my memoir class. On the first paper, as some of you have heard, I earned an A+. I bubbled over, calling everyone, shouting from the housetops. "I'm a good writer! I am justified!"
A week later I had another paper due in a different class... and I had to start from square one all over again. The nail biting and the quivering, the self-doubt, all back. Why doesn't my euphoria after a good paper grade last longer than the term ending when the next paper is due? It really isn't fair.
Today I discovered that in this hellishly chronic writer's limbo, I am not alone. One of my new favorite authors reassured me.
V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad, a small Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela, in 1932. He was a descendent of Indian immigrants who had come to Trinidad as indentured servants and had stayed after their term of service was complete. As a boy, Naipaul knew, vaguely, that he wanted to be a writer. Admittedly these early ambitions resulted from an acute love of fountain pens and clean, lined paper. He had nothing to write about, or so he thought.
Naturally he was very bright, excelling in his early years at school and eventually earning a scholarship to Oxford. But even then, he learned everything by rote memorization. And, because English was his second language, he did not comprehend much of what he read. Imagine! He had read the classics, written essays and given speeches, but the man understood little below the surface, the intricacies that can only be understood with an excellent comprehension of the language itself.
But still Naipaul could not write. Daily he faced the blankness that destroys the ambitions of would-be authors. Not even the prestigious writing department at Oxford could stimulate his talents.
Today, he is the author of more than twenty books, both fiction and non-fiction. And he single-handedly molded the face of historical fiction pertaining to colonialism. As one who grew up without a cultural history, he began by telling the short stories of the people "at ground level". With each well-accepted story, the momentum built for the next. And soon his material, highly original and very much needed by people like him, developed into longer stories, novels.
In 2001, V.S. Naipaul won the Nobel Prize for literature.
I had never heard of Naipaul until his work was assigned in my memoir class at Davis. The most compelling, and the most encouraging, was his Nobel Lecture, "Two Worlds." He shares the heart and the pattern behind his writing, a pattern that he claims he did not even know until he looked back on his own writings decades later.
But best of all, Naipaul honestly shares himself:
"I am near the end of my work now. I am glad to have done what I have done, glad creatively to have pushed myself as far as I could go. Because of the intuitive way in which I have written, and also because of the baffling nature of my material, every book has come as a blessing. Every book has amazed me; up to the moment of writing I never knew it was there. But the greatest miracle for me was getting started. I feel- and the anxiety is still vivid to me- that I might easily have failed before I began."
I am heartened. When a Nobel Prize-winning author admits anxiety... understands the blankness... I can't help but be heartened. Now, I'm not predicting a Nobel Prize in my future. Instead, I will take a last quick lesson from Naipaul. He says that he owes his success, not exclusively to talent, but to "luck, and much labor."
I started to think about love poetry. And then I started to think about how long it had been since I'd really written a poem. And then I was depressed because it's sad that I don't take the time to be poetic. So, to jump start myself I wrote a poem. Not traditional, not structured, not rhyming, not flowing, not amazing. Just a step in the right direction. Besides, I have all the inspiration I need for such things... I married the guy.
i am sitting, legs pulled up in front of me so that my chin can rest on my knees, and i am carelessly admiring the shine of my skin in the late afternoon light, and the pinkness of my toenails, and the dimples on the insides of my ankles. you trace the outline of my feet with your toes, hoping for my giggle, my twitch and my retaliation. there is a bed in the corner that is not yet ours, but yours, and it is unmade. that is your childishness showing, the unmade bed and the Leggos and the fifteen empty glasses that once were full and never quite made their way back downstairs to be washed. today i have used the excuse of summer to bare much of my skin. it is all for you, every pale, elastic, freckled inch. that birth mark in the middle of my back is yours, too, but you haven't seen it yet. soon. i know without looking at you that you are looking at me, at the pink tint of my shoulders and the scooped neckline of my tank top, at my sloping clavicle, my neck, the soft secrets of my earlobes. you are noticing all sorts of little things about me that you've never noticed about anyone else before. my eyes, you note, are many-colored, and my eyelashes are dark and long, and then you are thinking of that game we play when i blink and grace your neck with my eyelashes, a blissful game in which everyone wins. my tongue. this is a game, too, this temptation. i find ways to touch you, rubbing your shoulders and playing with your fingers, everything that is innocent. you are sitting with me, and i am sitting with my legs on either side of you in a playful pose that is more womanly than i am used to, but still all in fun. our deep dip into love hasn't happened, though we are skirting the edges in a sort of blatant way. in just a few days, you will know that you want to marry me, and i will know sooner than that, in the way that girls just know. for now, though, we are sitting on the floor, on the warm white carpet in your bedroom, making a date for dinner, perhaps a movie, or ice cream, or kissing. on second thought, just kissing. and while my kiss is warm and affectionate, and your kiss is tender and a strong hint at our destiny, it is not our kisses that make us love. i tap dance my fingertips up your arm and gently touch your chin, nose, forehead, cheek, chin, cheek, forehead, nose. you allow yourself to be delighted. i am your delight. you are my soul mate. and in that fading pink light of early evening etched with long shadows, we invite the night. you carelessly admire the softness of the skin on my calves, tickling me behind my knee. this is new love.
- Audrey Camp, 2006
Last year, a man published a book that most of us never heard about: The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden. Stanley Kunitz was 100 years old at publication.
Throughout, the book is interspersed with his wisdom and insight about poetry, both writing it and reading it. I won't go into his biography here, but suffice it to say, Kunitz has held his own as an American poet... serving twice as the United States Poet Laureate. And in his book, one finds poetry about everything.
But what is most glorious are his poems about love. Whether or not you are a fan of the Romantics (Coleridge, Wordsworth, Keats), the best poetry is absolutely timeless, because love and grief and awe have not changed much over the centuries; these remain to be the emotions that are most difficult to convey in words. Especially love. And Kunitz knows how to write honestly and naturally about love.
I love a good love poem. And it doesn't have to be a, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..." deal. (Shakespeare had his day, and he simply repeated himself a lot.) The face of love poetry is different every time, because it must be different! Levels of desire, love, ache, lust and fervor change. Societal acceptance of love changes. As generations grow, crush, lust, love, marry, divorce, die, long... so do the love poems that are conceived through it all.
Recently a professor of mine pulled me aside to share the following poem, one that touched his heart.
Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.
It stays with me. In Stanley Kunitz's "Touch Me" there is something for everyone to appreciate. His sentiment is not for me to analyze. I believe that his sincerity, the time he has taken in his later years to marvel at the sounds of insects and the beauty of flowers, speaks for itself. Most of all, I am warmed by the fact that his final lines are spoken to his wife. She is his warm, tangible reminder of youth and vigor, energy and romance. If he ever feels lost, he knows that he will find himself, his true, best self, tucked away in his wife's heart.
That is the best kind of love poetry.
I'm going to attempt entry into the upper division creative writing class at Davis next quarter... and what I have posted today will probably be one of my submissions. The title of my short story is "Yellow", and since I can't preface my story to the panel who will be judging my work for the class at Davis, I won't preface it too much here.
A while ago I was inspired to record a memory. Unfortunately, the memory was dimmed because of the nearly two decades that have passed since it happened. And what happened probably wouldn't qualify as an event if judged by anyone else. But I allowed my imagination some range, and I gave myself the time to really delve into the recesses of my creative brain. What I came back with was a story that I wanted to tell. A glance at innocence when it is vulnerable and defensive, like a sea anenome. "Yellow" is one of my only short stories that I consider to be complete, and still I touch it up each time I read it. What I'd really love is some feedback.
Amanda smelled like paste and oatmeal, and she wore her thick hair in one brown braid that hung down her neck and back to her waist. She was the girl in the corner, the one who no one wanted to sit next to. And because things didn't always quite make sense in her head, and because people laughed at her when she was wrong, she rarely answered questions in class.
But her teacher, Mrs. O'Dell , asked Amanda the questions anyway. The Tuesday before school had begun that fall, an administrator had entered Mrs. O'Dell's fourth grade classroom. He told her that she would have Amanda in her class. He called it 'mainstreaming'. Don't coddle her. Don't favor her. Don't go out of your way to protect her.
After the administrator left, Mrs. O'Dell sat on the floor near her desk, stapler in hand, and she cried a little, because everyone in the school knew Amanda.
At lunch she ate alone at the end of a long, white table in the cafeteria. Every day her father, a large, quiet man with a dark, heavy beard, would pack a sandwich and juice in her My Little Pony lunchbox. No other kid in the fourth grade still carried a lunch box, but both Amanda and her father were oblivious to such things. And this became one more reason for her classmates to pick on her.
Occasionally one of the older boys in the cafeteria would try to bounce a grape or a reject-flavored jellybean off her head, drawing laughter from everyone who saw. More than once she left the lunchroom crying. On sunny days Amanda would take her lunch out to the corner of the elementary school field, near the fence. When she was alone there wasn't anything to explain.
Wednesday dawned bright and beautiful; it was an outside-lunch day. Amanda chewed her bologna sandwich quietly, staring at nothing. Then there was a swarm of little girls running past her, their t-shirts flapping, skinny legs pumping, hair streaming. Amanda flinched, almost dropping her sandwich. But the girls were off to her right, jumping like bright flowers in an almost-circle. Above them fluttered a big yellow butterfly.
Amanda smiled because the moment was pretty.
'What are you looking at?!' yelled one of the girls. The rest of them laughed when Amanda jerked her eyes away, down to the ground.
Back inside the classroom, one of the girls presented Mrs. O'Dell with a gift: the butterfly. It twittered prettily in her hands. Mrs. O'Dell smiled, delighted, and fawned over the gift and the giver while the rest of the class eagerly awaited a chance to see the butterfly, too.
A lesson could be taught here, about metamorphosis or evolution or beauty, and so, as any good teacher would, Mrs. O'Dell began moving slowly between the tables, holding her hands out with the insect on display.
Chaos was breaking out, kids climbed onto their desks, bolted from their chairs. Mrs. O'Dell was much too busy trying to keep the butterfly from escaping to reign them all in. Amanda remained in her corner, but her wide-set brown eyes were big with hope. She sat up straight in her chair, arching her neck, straining to see past the crowds of other children. She was obedient always, mostly because it was the easiest way to keep from talking. But then suddenly she was knocked forward, hitting her forehead on the table.
'I want to see!' yelled the boy who had elbowed Amanda in the back. He surged into the pool of bodies, grunting his way to the front.
Tears sprang into Amanda's eyes, but no one noticed her in their quest for the butterfly. Her long fingers, covered in orange marker, gingerly touched the bruise forming on her forehead. Tapping. Tapping. Wrinkles of confusion crossed her face, and then she was crying harder.
From the center of the kid-whirlpool, Mrs. O'Dell heard the distressed cry. She snapped her head up, cupping the butterfly lightly and protectively between her hands. Amanda was sobbing. Nudging her way through the bedlam, hushing the eager, careless swarm around her, Mrs. O'Dell suddenly appeared in front of Amanda. The rest of the children became quiet, watching to see what would happen to the 'crybaby'.
'What happened, Amanda?' Mrs. O'Dell asked.
The girl flinched at the sound of her teacher's voice. The tears stopped, but she kept her hand up near her face, repetitively and gently touching the wound. She had begun rocking slightly, back and forth, biting her lower lip. Her big, dark eyes darted from her teacher's face to her placidly cupped hands. The fear in those eyes hurt Mrs. O'Dell's heart.
Inside something fluttered.
'Would you like to see the butterfly, Amanda?' Mrs. O'Dell wanted Amanda to feel included, to be included. And when the child nodded, softly, still cradling her hurt, Mrs. O'Dell held out her hands, smiling. Her large turquoise ring gleamed in the fluorescent classroom light. She opened her palms to reveal the perfectly silent, brilliant gold creature.
The butterfly unfolded to receive the fresh air across its broad, bright wings.
Amanda instinctively reached towards the animal, and Mrs. O'Dell just as instinctively pulled it away. But when she saw the hurt look spring back into the child's eyes, Mrs. O'Dell changed her mind.
'Amanda, would you like to hold the butterfly?'
The moment the question was asked, breathing stopped in total. Amanda's classmates gasped in envy, waiting to see how she would respond. And Amanda was hesitant, too. So many times before kindness had been offered to her by people she trusted, and then it had been snatched cruelly away. But never had this happened with Mrs. O'Dell. So, Amanda nodded.
Mrs. O'Dell stood behind Amanda, embracing her, with her own hands still gently cupped. Amanda was completely focused on the prize she was about to hold. She put out her hands, markered fingers, chewed nails and all. As Mrs. O'Dell unveiled the butterfly, it walked gracefully across her palm and into Amanda's hand.
The tiny feet brushed against her skin like eyelashes. A tiny curled tongue slipped out and then back into the butterfly's mouth. Amanda giggled.
'Hello,' she whispered. 'Hello, Yellow.'
For an instant there was perfection. Amanda glowed with pride as she handled the butterfly, and the rest of the children watched in awe. She knew this creature. She understood this silent beauty.
'Do you see, class, how long the butterfly has stayed in her open hand? Amanda,' said Mrs. O'Dell softly, 'It likes you.' The rest of the class nodded along. It must be true.
The little girl's mouth opened in sincere disbelief. Nobody liked her except, now, this beautiful animal, blinking its wings at her playfully.
Someone lunged from the placid sea of young faces, breaking the silence.
'I want a turn!' she demanded.
Before anyone could even think, the butterfly tensed, sensing a change in the air.
'Oh,' cried Mrs. O'Dell. 'Don't let her go!'
Amanda clasped her hands together, and squeezed. She didn't want the butterfly to fly away. But then they were all screaming at her, tugging at her arms.
'Oh my, God!'
That was Mrs. O'Dell. She pried Amanda's hands apart. But the butterfly stayed in the left hand, pressed flat, one wing torn. The silence in the room had turned ominous. Amanda screamed.
'Yellow! Wake up, Yellow!'
All around her children were crying. Amanda sobbed uncontrollably, keeping her murderous hand extended, locked at the elbow. Mrs. O'Dell was shocked, but moved as a woman with a duty to uphold had to move. She pulled the butterfly off of Amanda's sweaty palm, trying to shut out the fresh wave of tears that came when three little black legs stayed stuck to the child's damp, pale skin.
Mrs. O'Dell ordered the children back to their seats, cupping her hands around the body as she moved to her desk.
Fourth graders need closure. Mrs. O'Dell fished around in a drawer for a box of paper clips, dumped out the contents, and placed the dead insect inside. They filed out to the planter box single file. The janitor volunteered a small shovel, and the funeral began.
The class held hands around the grave and sang 'You Are My Sunshine'. Most of the children hummed along because they didn't know the words. But no one would hold Amanda's hand. She stood, mute, dazed, with her arms hanging heavily and mournfully at her sides, ostracized, a ten-year-old criminal.
Later that day, after all the children had gone home, Mrs. O'Dell found a yellow flower on the butterfly's unmarked grave. She pursed her lips, knowing that somewhere there was a little girl feeling more remorse over the death of that insect than anyone could possibly imagine. And the confused, horrified, helpless look on Amanda's face after she had ended the life of the butterfly would haunt Mrs. O'Dell forever.
What had happened that day would never be understood by anyone, least of all the poor silent creature who had done the killing.
- Audrey Camp, 2005
Artwork: Southern Dogface Butterfly by Amie Elizabeth
I remember the first time I spoke directly to him. At Sunday school (how quaint). I was there when he came in, wearing his red Stanford sweatshirt. We'd already maneuvered through the very early stages of flirtation... minor eye contact, indirect teasing. But he was so handsome, I just couldn't help myself.
"Cute sweatshirt," I said.
He stopped. Was the crazy, loud girl with the big brown eyes talking to him? Did she just call his sweatshirt cute? And, most importantly, was that a good thing?
I don't know what I expected. Perhaps I thought I'd make him blush. Instead he locked his blue eyes on mine and smiled. I couldn't just let it go now.
"I'll have to borrow it sometime." You're right, hinting at borrowing a guy's clothes could be termed "forward". I'd prefer to call it "gutsy". Anyway, as would soon become a staple in our relationship, Jon and I allowed the situation to escalate... he couldn't let me win.
Without hesitation he began tugging at his shirt sleeves. "Sure," he said, pulling it over his head. "Here you go." He taunted me with it.
You know me. I was sitting in a room full of my closest friends, at church. And, because of fate and Jon's blue eyes and my indomitable spirit of competition, I reached out and took the sweatshirt from his hand. With a sweet smile, I pulled it on. Jon's warmth and goodness were still in the fabric.
That was the beginning.
Beyond that are many love stories. But my favorite, and the one that needs to be told in honor of this day, is our first Valentine's Day together.
In Jon's Jetta, as red as our happiness, we zipped up to Stinson Beach and played Go on a blanket in the sand. He creamed me. I frowned and walked towards the surf. It was a truly beautiful day, bright sun and blue sky, pure ocean. But I'd lost a game, and my brow was furrowed with frusteration.
What happened? I ran over my plays in my mind. Because in the beginning it has looked like I would win. Because I'd captured so many of his stones. Because I was so confident, cocky even. I focused on the blinding horizon, squinting.
Jon came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. He pressed the pink sticky note into my hand. On it he'd written, "I love you." When I looked up, he was smiling. His smile warmed me from deep inside. I focused on his mouth, the tender curve of his smile.
"I love you." It was the first time he'd ever said it.
Simple. I suddenly knew what William Blake meant when he said:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And A Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an Hour.
Jonathan is, to me, all the things that make human love possible. He is my best friend, my companion, my supporter, my sounding board, my guardian angel, my conscience, my lover, my boyfriend, my date, my everything. And it's not easy. That's what's so human about our love. The promise to stay forever, and to forgive and to cherish, that was easy. Actually staying, always forgiving, never ceasing to cherish... all of these are more than difficult. But with daily maintenance, a sense of humor, God, all things are possible.
The boy who let me borrow his favorite sweatshirt (which, incidentally, I kept for many months, long before we even were dating, and still is worn on occasion) is still here with me. Even as he is also the man who provides the strength and determination for our marriage, the man who knelt before me and asked that I accompany him on the proverbial walk through life, he is my boy. My guy. My knight. My prince.
Valentine's Day may well be just a commercialized Tuesday. More than that, though, it is an opportunity that all should take to think about those they love. To jump-start the cherishing of family, friends and lovers alike.
Jon sent me flowers, and a stuffed bear wearing a red sweater. I loved it all. But the biggest reminder of why I love my Jonathan came when he gave me a conspiratory wink, and helped me put the little red sweater on Disney. For all who are ready to jump down my throat with accusations of animal cruelty... don't. Disney liked his new accessory. He didn't want to take it off. And the sight left Jon and I reeling with laughter, a very important element to any happy relationship.
Today I choose to forget about the commercials and the cliches. Instead, I remember all the things I loved and love and will love about my husband. And I'll do my best to do the things he loved and loves and will love about me... as long as we both shall live.
Valentine's Day 2003: Our first picture together.
One joyous byproduct of marriage is the inevitable influx of mail. All kinds of mail. Double the bills. Double the fun! And junk mail, too. Thankfully Jon likes the daily trip the mailbox. He takes the little jaunt down our street, fishes the mail out of our teensy little mailbox, rolls his eyes when he sees that everything has been folded exactly in half, and then he gets down to sorting.
Sorting entails mumbling and tossing. He sits, leafs, mumbles (either, "Cool." or, "Yours."). It's his thing. The cool stuff (i.e. Wired, Rock & Ice, Quizno's coupons) is his. Junk mail makes a nice pile on the floor near his feet... with my stuff (Redbook, The Independent, anything from UC Davis) just to the right of that pile, also on the floor.
I just sit there and smile at him, and when he looks up and catches me... that's okay. He understands. I am amused.
Anyway, a few months ago we noticed that we are receiving two issues of FamilyFun magazine simultaneously. Yes, we couldn't get two copies of Time or the Reader's Digest. Instead we are treated monthly to the exciting contributions of happy Christian families everywhere.
On the upside I can now assemble a playdough ladybug in just eight easy steps!
Not that every article in the magazine is mind-numbing. Also included are kids' birthday party ideas (throw a shindig set is space!), snack recipes (four-leaf clover cookies for St. Patty's Day) and time management tips for stressed-out moms.
But the real treasure was right there on the back page.
"Make a Magic Loop"! proclaimed the festive purple text. "Turn a strip of ordinary paper into a marvel with just some tape - and a twist"!
Let the games begin:
With a sigh of frusteration, I began, "Can you believe it? They've finally run out of fun craft ideas for the kids."
"Who ran out of fun craft ideas..."
"Oh, the FamilyFun people." I really ought to know when to stop, but I never learn. "Honey, isn't this the dumbest thing you've ever seen?"
Jon flipped to the back page of his FamilyFun magazine (as long as we have two, we might as well use 'em). "What? The Mobius Strip?"
"Mobius." Then he gave me the look; that we-really-should-have-discussed-these-kinds-of-things-more-before-we-got-married look. It's the identical look that I send his way when he attempts to tell me a Family Guy joke. "M-O-B-I-U-S."
"How is that even remotely cool?"
"What?" His incredulity overflowed. "It says right here, the 'Mobius band's amazing properties come from the fact that it has only one side!'"
"Honey, paper has two sides."
"No." And then he decided to dumb it down for me. "You see, my darling little wife, the inferior half of this relationship, one so lacking in relevent knowledge that I am ashamed to have to explain this to you... a strip of paper has two sides, of course, and so would a loop made simply by taping the strip end to end. Add a twist, though, and the strip becomes one sided."
There was simply no convincing me.
"Jonathan, paper is two dimensional. Each side is a dimension." I announced victoriously, "Two dimensions means TWO SIDES!"
"Sweetie," he countered. He had taken a blow, but wasn't going down without a fight. "If you can put your finger on something and run it all around and come back to where you started without your finger ever going over an edge, but still touch all the surface, then the object only has one side."
I looked confused.
"That's the definition of a side!" he insisted.
But that was his fatal mistake. You see, I am an English major and, whether Jon likes it or not, I dabble in words and their definitions.
"That is so, so, so, so NOT the definition of the word side."
Sensing he'd gone too far, Jon began to retreat, nonchalantly flipping through the magazine and avoiding eye contact. From the corner of his mouth he gave a stubborn, "Yes, it is."
"So, you're telling me that's the dictionary definition?"
He cringed. I sat up higher on the couch, tucking my legs beneath me to attain a height advantage.
"You're actually telling me that if I went and got the dictionary and flipped to the S section and found the word side, that it would say exactly what you just said?"
"Are you sure it's not... from the Big Book of Silly and Slightly Ridiculous Definitions by Jonathan Camp?"
Ah, the victory.
"No, ladies and gentleman." I gave my best Atticus Finch impression. "Again, I say no. Everything has at least two sides."
Like Neo at the end of the first Matrix movie, riddled with bullets and lying in a pile of smashed concrete, Jon stood up from the couch, inexplicably defying ultimate defeat, and surveyed me with a sneer. He might as well have called me Mr. Anderson.
"Oh yeah?" It was my turn to cringe. "Everything has two sides?"
I grabbed the magazine and held it up in front of me in desperate self-defense. But Jon was quick. He tossed it aside and grabbed me.
"Have you ever had the other side of ham?"
Okay, that wasn't the chilling blow I thought it would be. Again, I was confused.
"No," he continued. "You've only ever had a side of ham! There is only ONE side of ham! And what about sausage? When you're out at breakfast, do you ever ask for sides of sausage? NO! You say, 'May I have A SIDE of sausage, please?!'"
The fact that this degenerated into a tickle fight should hardly surprise anyone. Not the most intelligent conversation we've ever had, but it's the kind of thing that comes from receiving two issues of FamilyFun.
(Now if only we knew why we get the magazine in the first place... even one issue would be a mystery to us. Which of our parents decided to send us the gentle start-a-family hint after only 18 months of marriage? Something fishy there.)
If I begin this blog entry with an apology, you'll probably forgive me. I don't know if I would. To be honest, I already wrote several paragraphs detailing an emotionally traumatic situation I went through today. I kidded myself, made fun of Martinez (the city, I don't know anyone named Martinez), and whined. Then I erased the whole thing.
"Control-A" and it all went away.
February began a week ago, but for me this month is simply a 28-day headache. Between school and work and wifedom and me, I've been running myself ragged. I don't feel healthy. I'm on the brink of tears half the time. Imagine how much fun this must be for Jon.
I'm sick of anxiety about school. I'm sick of the pressures of work. I'm sick of worrying about potentially letting people down. I'm sick of the lack of free time. Sick of writing for class until my eyes are blurry with tired tears... and then missing my shower time for the second day in a row. (Please don't be grossed out. It doesn't happen that often.)
But mostly I'm sick of my own mood that results from all of this. There is a funny, vibrant, creative girl somewhere within me. It's amazing that I've been able to bury her beneath all this heavy guilt and worry in just a week's time. Unfortunately my many vices and bad habits have sprung up in the wake of this rough patch (which ain't over 'til June), and it may take a chisel to get The Girl Behind the Red Door back into the sunshine.
Maybe if I admit my flaws to the world (or to the seven people who read my blog and occasionally get a big kick out of me), I'll be more apt to actually try to make the situation better.
Some things you probably didn't know about me:
I put off papers until three days before they are due, think about them, put off writing until the second to last day, think some more, and then churn them out in the eleventh hour. Every time, this is what I do. And I complain about feeling stressed.
I obsess about my weight (139 lbs. on a good day - oh, good God, the honesty), get frusterated when my favorite jeans don't fit, sigh repeatedly and then say things like, "I would give anything to lose six pounds... except exercise."
Oh, and then I dine at such healthy places like Taco Bell, Carl's Jr., McDonald's, In-N-Out three days a week, minimum!
When night falls I often look at my computer, remember my blog and then, overwhelmed by the number of days I've missed, decide I don't have the energy to make the effort to type up a couple quirky lines.
Today, when I didn't have cash for the bridge toll (Jon took the Audi and I didn't have the FasTrak thingy), and I had to pull off in Martinez and hunt down an ATM, and then the Northbound 680 ramp was closed, and the whole detour took twenty minutes!... I cried.
"Cooking dinner" happens a couple of times a week at best, and more often than not it's Jon who does the microwaving of the pizza, the toasting of the toast or the boiling of the water for the macaroni.
I'm always absolutely certain that everyone else on earth eats healthier, exercises more, enjoys longer amounts of leisure time, has the energy to be funnier, sleeps more and better, gets massages every other week, reads all the right books and sees all the right movies, is the perfect wife. And that makes me resentful and reclusive.
Not a happy picture.
Thankfully I attribute the degree of darkness in my thoughts to the presence of February. In mid-Winter, who can fully anticipate the Spring? I'm exhausted, and I need to shower. After I take Tylenol PM and thank my perfect husband for the back rub, perhaps the 8th day of my 28-day headache won't be so terrible.
Thank God this is not a leap year.
To lighten the mood, here is the conclusion from the essay I turned in today, comparing Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz and Eva Hoffman's Lost In Translation on the basis of the authors' opinions about adaptability in relation to survival:
Leaving home, severing the veins and nerves of all one knew for certain and perhaps expected to know forever, can be traumatizing. Hoffman's journey from home ended with a steep drop into a world she could not understand, and she refused to stand behind the language barrier one second longer than she had to. She did not want to lose herself, her Polish heritage, her vim and her expectations. Levi's migration left him in the throws of death, literally behind barbed wire and beyond the hopeful reaches of the morality of 'free men.' The authors' steps to adaptability follow a similar course, though separately what they endure could not have been more different. Still, within themselves, Levi and Hoffman discover an individual strength that can only come from ultimate self-reliance and a drive to overcome the foreign obstacles put before them. It begins by being willing to change, and ends with the building of a self-contained nest of protection. And when 'one has made oneself a nest, the trauma of the transplantation is over' (Levi, 56).