Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chinese Noodles

"Oh but I love you!" is what you said in explanation of nothing. But over a pile of hot Chinese noodles, with your chopsticks hovering above, tickling the tendrils of steam rising up, it somehow seemed perfectly right. Yes, it seemed the perfect answer to the age-old unasked question. Do you? Yes. I do, too.

If I hadn't known you well before, hadn't known you in that circuitous way you know everyone in a small town, I would have thought you quirky. Maybe even odd. But I knew you as deliberate: I knew those words probably sat on the back of your tongue for weeks while you assessed their flavor.

And now here, over a pile of steaming Chinese noodles I'd doused in soy sauce while you laughed, those words came spilling out, seemingly as haphazard as a girl's giggle on a warm summer day and tasting of your sweet smile.

And it was a great night for $11.75 on a side street in Chinatown. It really was. I knew, too, that we'd never come back again, despite it being our favorite place. I knew we'd let this moment hang forever here, chiming softly through the passing breeze of time going by, undisturbed by the inevitable breaking in of our love, as it was rubbed by the years, by long nights, by arguments, by sorrows and happinesses until it became as soft and familiar as a pair of old flannel pajamas.

No, we would leave this moment here, twining about your chopsticks, curling perpetually into the night with the lazy happiness of new love.

*I made this photo with a few others and a little Photoshop. You can see the originals over on my other blog, Benign Objects.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Gorgeous photo by Annamalin Photography, via here.
But I never fell,
walking the brick ledge with the juniper
pressing daintily over,
smelling sour like bodies,
pricking my legs pointedly.
At seven, there was still a chance
that the umbrella I held could sail me down softly from any height,
that when I called the wind, it would come.
At seven, there was no need for second chances.

*I don't know if that qualifies as a poem or just a tidbit, but there it is either way. I found it in one of the many half-started journals lying around our house. Not sure when I jotted it down. Probably last winter. Not quite sure about the wording of the ending.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Some Things I Remember: Monte Sano Pool

I remember when Monte Sano pool was a forever-sized stretch of frigid blue and the first jump in rocketed fingers of ice straight into my chest. I would bob to the surface with my eyes blinked wide open, having shivered the languid haze of summer break right off my shoulders. I remember the sun-drenched orange tiles that lined the edges of the pool. I would dip my fingers in the water and draw smiley faces on them and watch the sun burn them away. I'd scoop a handful of water on them and rest my cheek right against their warmth, feel the water lapping beneath me and be utterly convinced that there was nothing wrong in the world, not even one tiny drop of wrong. The hours sped by on the heels of games of Categories, Off-Tile and Marco Polo and breath-holding contests. Small, fierce wars were mightily fought over "claiming" the corners at the deep end of the pool where we played our games, and it was in one of those corners that I patented my signature move, the "mermaid swim," and I will be happy to show you in person sometime. The name bestows upon it an elegance that my coordination sadly can't match.

There was a high dive that was 150 stories tall and could almost reduce me to tears with a single glance. The most I ever did on the high dive was stare down at the water below and pull my bathing suit from my crack—a byproduct of the long climb up—before climbing right back down. The low dive was bouncy and forgiving. Its slightly spiky texture tickled the toes underfoot and it seemed a far friendlier place to originate dives and jumps, the likes of which I was convinced had never been seen by human eyes before: behold "Toothpick" (which entailed jumping in with arms at sides and legs as straight as possible), "Mountain" (arms apexed above the head, legs spread, creating the overall semblance of a mountain peak, and also creating a great opportunity for wedgies) and, most daring and dangerous, "Crazy Octopus (in which arms and legs were flailed about wildly mid-jump—and another irresistible opportunity for swimsuit malfunction).

At The Pool, there was only one thing that could stop us in our tracks and make us scuff our heels and huff with exasperation: the long trembling crescendo of the lifeguard's whistle and the shout of "Brrrrrrreeeeeeeaaaaaaaakkkkkkkk!" I swear sometimes those breaks felt like the longest 10 minutes of our lives, and when the whistle blew again, signaling the end of break, you could witness us kids en masse like seals breaking free, flopping gratefully back into the water with abandon, our whoops echoing all around.

I could go on and on, and maybe I will some other time*, but the short of it is: I love you deeply Monte Sano and Monte Sano Pool. You will always be a gentle glow in my heart, forever golden and cherished.

*See, I have not even yet mentioned the penalty box or the big water pipe in the deep end that gushed water straight from Antarctica and tempted us endlessly to hang from it when the lifeguards weren't looking.

Some things I remember: Fall on Monte Sano

This is the first time I've opened this blog in ages, so I was quite shocked to see it still getting a few hits each day. I am going to try to breathe some new life into it, or at least update more frequently. Things have come a long way since the last post, Quakes of Faith, but that's a story for a time when my fingers feel like doing a dirge on the keyboard:

For now, here's a thing I remember:

 Collecting Acorns at Monte Sano Elementary:

I remember I loved Monte Sano playground in the fall. There was a fetid, smoky, earthy scent in the air like smoldering wet wood that I can smell even as I type. The oak trees were tall and thick with gnarled roots that become cupboards and hiding places for shiny green acorns. We liked to collect as many acorns as we possible during recess time. We would fold up the hems of our shirts to carry them back to the nooks of the tree roots, where we'd dump them in a big pile.

I'll bet we really made some squirrel's day.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Quakes of Faith

Warning: Totally serious stuff ahead.

I saw the photo of the Japanese house floating in the Pacific Ocean yesterday and it stirred up all sorts of emotions within me but most of all the kinship of being bereft, drifting alone in a wide, deep expanse, unsure of where you're being guided.

Over the past five years I've suffered many quakes of faith, pondering various natural disasters and other horrifying events that shook me to my core and felt like they created fault lines in my soul and tore away at the foundation of my beliefs.

I used to have a slightly easier faith, a half-comfortable, if somewhat tenuous trust in the mystery of existence. I wasn't sure about the nature of Heaven or whether or not there was one, but I felt pretty sure that each one of us and every event was a singular note playing out in the most beautiful symphony ever created and that, as is typical of a symphony, certain notes might be particularly harsh if singled out, but once heard in the context of the whole song there would be the realization that it was exactly the right note at exactly the right moment.

As I've grown older, more skeptical and, yes, even more cynical, I've found that I've lost even that trust and I miss it dearly. I envy people their faith and trust in a God. I am not convinced there is a God (and you probably have no idea how much the idea that there is not one saddens me), and if there is, the events over the past several years make me question what sort of God might exist. Not in a rhetorical way, but a literal way:

What sort of God is it that allows for destruction and pain on such a mass scale? Or is it even something God allows? If God is out there, is he more of a scientist, setting up the environment just so and then letting things run their course? Or is he the watchmaker, setting things in motion and occasionally making small adjustments? Or does he have his hand in every moment, orchestrating and twisting strings like a puppetmaster? All of these Gods have incredibly scary aspects to them and sound quite a bit different from the God I grew up with. It's easy to have faith in things when you're little because everything is SO big. Parents are veritable monoliths, Santa Clause loves cookies and bad men wear dark masks. In my life, age has been the enemy of faith. It's the thing that revealed my parents for the human people they are, complete with faults, showed Santa Clause to be nothing more than a fat guy working at the mall once a year and revealed that more often than not, the bad guys are particularly charming people wearing very beautiful clothing.

I will never forget when I found out that Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy weren't real. My next question was: "How old do I have to be before you tell me that God isn't real?" See I truly believed that at a certain age, my parents would sit me down and tell me that God wasn't real, too. And maybe that is part of the crux of my problem. Somehow, God got lumped in with Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy. But is that really surprising?

I often wonder how the survivors of terrible disasters feel about their faith, whether it crumbled or was built up stronger? What are the percentages? It is hard to look at the image of a woman grasping her dead mother's hand protruding from the mud under which she is buried and not try to place myself in her shoes? If I *am* able to take a step back and wonder if there is a big picture, if we have reached a particularly powerful moment in a symphony not meant for our earthly ears to hear, it is only because I am far removed from Japan, from Haiti, from 9/11. Because if I was there, if that was me kneeling in the mud holding my mom's darkening hand, I don't think I could see beyond the harsh, flat note of cruelty. How could I possibly make sense of that or ever be okay with that if it were my own mother? The grief would be unbearable in the senselessness of it all.

Of all things I could ever hope for, it's the desire for trust and faith in a God that my heart most desires; some strong, unbreakable foundation that I could rely on, that could provide comfort. I have fought for years. Years and years and years and I haven't found an answer that satisfies me. I wish I could. I have read everything I can get my hands on in the spiritual arena. I still do. I have studied the tenets of various religions. I have sought out spiritual leaders multiple times and have listened to what they have to say. I have fought and continue to fight for faith and belief with all my heart. I still pray every night. But the only thing I have found is that I suck at faith and belief, that the only thing faithful about me is my continued search to find faith. In something.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Thoughts on Rompers

Despite my best efforts, this likely will never be me.
 "A romper suit is a one-piece garment worn by children and sometimes women. Somewhat similar to a coverall, it is loose fitting and usually has shorter legs that may be gathered at the end. Puffed pants are particularly associated with rompers. Rompers usually are meant as a combination of shorts and a shirt, though the term can include jumpers, one-piece bathing suits, and clubwear fashions to name a few"


For almost two years now I've had a smoldering fire burning in my loins for the fabric bastion of easy movement and carefree style known as The Romper.

I remember two rompers that my little sister had as a tot. She pretty much exclusively wore them (she had an OCD thing about clothes that warrants its own post at another time). Both had weird poofy cotton legs in a solid color and a patterned top half. At first I thought the Oompa Loompa pants flair was funny and made fun of the romper. Then, the more she wore them, the more I started to think that my 3-year-old sister had nailed some style points that, as a 6-year-old in my soft pink sweatsuit with an envelope design that opened on front (in case someone wanted to tuck a letter in my shirt. Guess what, no one did!), had missed out on.* Friends and family, I am somewhat embarrassed to tell you that I started trying to wear her rompers and my sad attempts at mastering that style were just as awkward then as they are today. After all, there's a reason that rompers are most often seen on children.

When rompers reappeared in stores and on runways a few years ago, they added a certain leggy drama to the emaciated teeny, tiny models wearing them. Then, when (relatively) more normal-sized celebs started wearing them with dabs of red lipstick, the nostalgic fifties flair kicked in and I knew I *must* own a Romper. Preferably one in black silk or with white polka dots.

Unfortunately, like many storied romances, The Romper did not favor me with its flattery and continues to shun my shape to this day, despite my repeated and ardent attempts to win it over. Two years ago, when I first attempted the romper, I was carrying an extra 15 pounds that resulted in an overall impression of two fat holiday turkey drumsticks poking plumply out of their fancy paper frills. I spent an entire summer wandering from store to store, trying on one romper after another until finally my mother and sister actually intervened and told me that rompers just weren't going to happen for me (ye of little faith!). And thus, while I didn't give the romper the cold shoulder altogether, my passion for it cooled and I began to pursue other more age-appropriate fashion trends, like high-waisted mom jeans, whose 12-inch-long zipper (or fupa-paneling, as I call it) gave me a shapely abdomen. Hell, it gave me a shapely torso; the waistline was practically supporting my boobs.

To this day, though, the moment I see a romper in a store, I squeal inside with hope because each romper is fresh opportunity, another chance to set free the romper-wearing Rita Hayworth inside me. Which brings us to today, March 5th in balmy 29 degree Rochester (or, more aptly, Crochester), Minnesota's Apache Mall. Express was apparently oblivious to the fact that Minnesota is in for another 2 to, oh, infinity months of Winter, and had some lovely rompers displayed, aggressively urging us wan and weary eskimos to dream of warmer climes. Once again, I fell prey to the siren song of swishy fabric and a cinched waistline. And once again I got my heart stomped on when I turned to face the mirror and almost mistook myself for Shrek's albino cousin. I realized that all the weight loss in the world would not make my legs longer and leaner or my torso shorter. The addition of being incredibly pale (because I refuse to be orange like many of the tanning-bed loving girls here--have you ever gotten close to one? They smell like chemicals), was the proverbial final nail in the cloth coffin. The sight was ghastly, truly, and I immediately took the romper off in shame. I think I even sulked for a second or two. And then, like a fashionista version of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, I smiled determinedly and decided to completely ignore the obvious. Perhaps the next romper I tried on would have a better cut. Because it's always about the cut.

*This often happens in fashion: repetition until people are brainwashed, which is the only explanation for gauchos (*shudder*)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reason #52 My Husband Might Divorce Me

Meals like this one:

My poor, meat-starved husband had no idea that he'd walk in the front door and instantly be transported back to the childhood horror of seeing waaaaaay too much green on your plate and not enough crispy, brown nuggety things.

Meals like this usually abound after I come back from Alabama, Thanksgiving or Christmas and have to punish myself for detox from all the delicious, rich food, wine and other vices I indulged in while visiting.

Do you know how good I felt after this meal? Flipping awesome! Mentally I was supercharged. Physically I was rather bloated, as you can probably imagine. In fact, I believe there may have been a small spike in atmospheric methane levels in Olmsted County late that night. Check the charts.

Anyhow, weekends are for meat, wine and dessert. Weekdays are for maintaining the illusion of health.

*One final note to really sink this ship, the potatoes are roasted and the veggies are all lightly steamed in order to preserve their vitamins and nutrients. No salt. That's right, folks, Phil doesn't even get the benefit of tender, salty broccoli. I am mean. Mean, mean, mean.