Monday, August 31, 2009
Sitting here on my couch with the nearly full moon shining in my window with the closest building's lights nearly all extinguished and the soft beat of Massive Attack playing in my living room, I cannot say I have anything in the form of a concrete explanation as to why I write my inner most thoughts and feelings here for public consumption other than to say I write because I have to.
There are times when words completely consume me and practically burst out of my head begging to be captured on paper, on a computer - anywhere for future reference. If you could see my desk at work, among the post-its scattered to the right of my phone with phone numbers and dates and the usual type of reminders you will see a neon green post-it that reads: "sand = brown sugar", similar post-its have odd fragments such as "yellow coke sweatshirt" and a notebook has a rough outline of future divorce chapters in a loose chronology. And if you could catch a glimpse into my purse you would inevitably stumble upon the small mole-skin notebook I always carry with incomplete thoughts and phrases and feelings and chronologies and quotes and words I love scrawled in my scribbled, slanted writing. Here at home I have notebooks and journals and more post-its and scraps of paper with these words that stream through me and beg to be captured - there are journals and spiral notebooks on my nightstand, notepads in my computer hutch, a plastic crate filled with printed emails and older journals and filled travel diaries.
Are these collections of words in their various forms impressive for anything but their frequent proliferation? That is doubtful. More often than not I cringe at my own naivete, silliness, stubborness, ridiculousness upon re-reading these urgent words that felt important enough at the time to keep - especially those earnest teenage words of angst that are so cringe-worthy in retrospect. And yet, these words are me. Like it or not I can see who I was, what I was, where I come from, what I thought, what I felt, what I liked, what I disliked, who I liked and for better or worse there is no hiding from that perspective when I see it captured there in my own handwriting, my own voice that sometimes sounds foreign after time has changed its timbre.
I write to keep myself honest.
I write to remember.
I write to sort out thoughts.
I write to comb through feelings.
I write from stress.
I write to wallow in pain.
I write to rejoice.
I write out my fears.
I write out my loneliness.
I write out my sorrow.
I write to express what feels inexpressible.
I write to push myself.
I write to learn more about myself.
I write to encourage myself.
I write to laugh.
I write to stretch my own limits.
I write to analyze.
I write to create.
I write to cry.
I write for joy.
I write to worry.
I write to doubt.
I write to calm my doubt.
I write to question.
I write to celebrate.
I write to move forward.
I write to linger in the past.
I write for comfort.
I write for hope.
I blog to share.
I blog to feel connected.
I blog to touch others.
I blog to practice.
I blog for encouragement.
I blog to give my writing purpose.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
But you don't care about that, you want to know who the winners are, right? I decided to try out random.org since that is what the cool bloggers tend to do (rather than asking random passers by to pick a number between 1 and 20 or drawing names out of a hat). If I was one of those gifted bloggers I would insert a screen shot right here of the first number that was generated totally randomly:
But I'm not that talented so here it is in plain old bold type: 16. Which is Jen! Jen, you have won a copy of My Life in France by Julia Child.
The second winner was also chosen at random by that random.org site and seriously, the random number it spit out was 17. Yup, the number directly after the first random number. Go figure. Anyway, the second winner is KamilahNYC! Kamilah, you have won a copy of Julie & Julia.
Both of you, please send me your address at soulfusion10019 @ gmail.com to claim your prize.
And as for the rest of you, thanks for all of your comments. Looks like I have some reading to do, but before I get to what I want to read, let me respond to some of your suggestions.
Alison - I loved Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri - I also really loved The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies. Lahiri is an excellent short story teller and manages to give beautiful and relatable snapshots of her culture that are both intriguingly new and different and yet perfectly relatable at the same time.
One of a dozen - Thanks for de-lurking! When you left your comment I was in the middle of reading The Time Traveler's Wife. It was intriguing and definitely a page turner but by the end I felt it had dragged on a bit for me. I'm pretty romantic but I started to feel it was a bit over the edge for me. But still a fun summer read.
Sorry Lizzie, I won't be reading that any time soon . . . .
Rachel - I see Something Borrowed in the airport bookstores all the time. I'm pretty sure it is only a matter of time before I cave and pick it up. What did you think of it? Do you recommend it?
Suz - would love to join your cooking club if only I was closer! I'm intrigued by Hunger Games, thansk for the suggestion.
Jackie Norris - The Secret Life of Bees is one of my favorite books! Such a riveting story.
Natalie - someone at work was just asking me about The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo last week and then I got your comment! And then I was very close to buying it while I waited for my train Friday afternoon (train stations are apparently similar to airports in making me want to buy new books) but then I remembered I had a brand new book in my bag and a stack of books to read at home. But I think it is only a matter of time before I pick this one up. Thanks for the comment!
KimcheeMandoo - People of the Book looks great, and since I've loved all your recommendations in the past, it is now on my list.
The rest of you, thanks for playing and thank you for all of your great suggestions! I will let you know if (when) I get to them.
Before I go, let me tell you about one more book I just read - Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This was the third book I picked up a week ago when I ran into Border's to pick up one book (I've now completed all three, I'm on a roll!). I was on the phone when I saw it. I had never heard of it before. But the cover grabbed me and I bought it. I bought it even though I only half-skimmed the back cover. You see, my heart is still grieving the loss of my dog so pretty much anything involving dogs tugs at me - dogs being walked past me on the sidewalk, segments for homeless dogs on the Today Show, the photo of Malcolm staring at me on my desk and books about dogs. Or, in this case, by a dog. This book had such a unique perspective because it was written from the dog's point of view. The author took such a clever idea and made it so relatable. The dog's voice was funny and heartbreaking and so - human. Which was part of the premise of the book. Enzo, the dog, learned from a National Geographic documentary that in Mongolia they believed that the dogs where were ready were reborn in their next life as humans. Enzo deemed himself ready and tried his best to act human throughout his life. His perspective on his family and the tragedies that befall his owner are poignant and made me think even more of all of the rough times and good times I went through with Malcolm. Of course, like any book about a dog, the ending is sad. But this one was different and made me smile. The only thing I didn't like about this book is that it was not a good beach book. It was heavier and more engrossing than I anticipated so I ended up staying up late Saturday night reading after everyone went to bed so no one would wonder why I was crying at the beach the next day.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
No big deal, right?
Well. Then someone started explaining how Hannah (the non-Indian bridesmaid) and I didn't need to worry about bowing at the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book that sits at the front of the Gurdwara (Sikh temple) in a type of alter, unless we wanted to. Hannah and I agreed it would be respectful to do so if that is customary but I queried what type of bow we were talking about - head, waist, genuflection or what. Turns out it falls into the or what category - kneel down, then bow with forehead to the floor. Hannah and I were a little concerned about adhering to the proper protocol and not offending anyone but were also a little concerned with the state of our pants. Sure, they were covered by the dress but the pants fit so oddly neither of us could be sure that the wrong type of movement might cause a tearing sound that would not be so respectful. We were reassured it would be fine if we did not bow but ultimately we both agreed it would be better to bow than not.
We all walked into the Gurdwara and I wasn't sure what to expect. Once inside the doors we were in a lobby area with rows of shoes lined up on the tile against the walls. We found a place a little apart from where the other shoes were strewn and Hannah asked me if I could remind her this is where we left them and I took note of the drinking foutain to the right as a landmark, then looked at the somewhat foreign image of myself under a veil gazing back at me from the mirror that lined the wall.
There was a bit of confusion and everyone was lined up and started walking into the temple. The first thing that struck me as I was told to start walking was how soft the light blue carpet was under my bare feet. Then I noticed all of the bright colors and a familiar face taking my photograph as I followed the bridesmaids slowly down the center aisle as one of Ruby's sisters whispered behind me to go faster. No one had mentioned pace and I was following the bridesmaids in front of me and I needed to pay attention to how they bowed and when and where so I didn't do it wrong. I knelt where they knelt and put my forehead almost to the ground. I meant to put it on the carpet but my nerves were kicking in and I didn't want to be slow so I think I rushed through that part. Then I was standing with the bridesmaids wondering where we were supposed to sit on the vast open carpet. We ultimately settled in amidst Ruby's aunts and sisters and I was worried because Ruby and her aunt had asked me to carry Ruby's bouquet as I walked in and there were points in the ceremony when I had been instructed to hand it to her but now I was sitting in a crowd out of reach. I furtively explained the problem to a sister and the bouquet was passed up to someone closer to take over my duties.
The main part of the ceremony is the reading of the Lavans in which the officiant reads the Lavan hymn of Guru Ram Das which is composed of four stanzas. Beforehand, the father of the bride places one end of a scarf or sash worn by the groom over his shoulders in his daughters hand signifying that she is now leaving his care to join her husband. I saw Ruby's father up next to the bride and groom but couldn't really see what was happening. Then the officiant starting singing the first stanza of the Laav. After each stanza, the groom would stand holding one end of the scarf with the other end behind him which was held by the bride. One of Ruby's aunts helped her stand up as she held her end of the scarf along with her bouquet (I think this is when I was meant to hand it to her but they clearly managed just fine with me acting as a simple spectator). When Ruby reached the nearest corner of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, her aunt passed her off to her brother who tenderly put his arm around her and helped her walk behind her almost-husband to the next corner where she was passed to a male cousin. At each corner of the alter she was met by another male family member who assisted her. It was so tender and what I perceived to be the symbolism of the family assisting her as she embarks on this new journey moved me to tears. And I really do not cry at weddings very often. I did not want to be emotional at this one either because at some point I knew I needed to stand up and speak, I just didn't know when.
As Raj and Ruby completed each circuit, the musicians performed haunting melodies. At the end of each round they would bow to the altar - forehead to the floor - before resuming their seated positions for the recitation of the next verse. I felt silly worrying about bowing in my simple outfit given the weight and complexity of Ruby's dress it must have been more than a little nerve-racking to make the journey and bow each time with all eyes on her.
At some point during the ceremony plastic baggies were being passed around filled with confetti that essentially looked like someone emptied out the three-hole punch in their office. Hannah and I shrugged at each other as we each took a handful and assumed we would know when and where and how to use it. As the couple completed their final round, the women started tossing the confetti on the couple and the flower girls threw the rose petals from their little white baskets. We tossed our confetti but were too far away from the couple to shower them.
Suddenly I realized I had no idea when I was to give my speech. I should mention that nothing that had transpired up to this point, or after this point for that matter, had been in English. Everything seemed to flow smoothly with interludes of music followed by chanting from the officiant but I wasn't sure how I would know when I was to get up and recite the words that were scrawled across the notecards spilling out of my clutch that was on the carpet next to me. I whispered something to the bride's sisters and they - along with the other women surrounding me - assured me they would let me know when it was my turn.
I wasn't the only speaker of the day but I couldn't really build off of anyone else's points because I couldn't understand them. A couple of different men stood up before me and there was more music and during the music men and some of the women would walk up to the stand where the musicians were and toss money onto the table. I should note that the men and women sat on different sides of the hall and for whatever reason we were on the men's side - primarily because we were seated behind the bride who was on the men's side.
I should clarify that while the other speeches were in a foreign language there was one thing I understood - my name. It was mentioned a number of times and that was not lost on me. Each time I heard my name I started and looked toward the reassuring faces of Ruby's family who told me "not yet" or "you're after the next guy." Did I mention I was also the only woman to speak? It was getting more and more nerve racking to just sit there and wait for my turn.
And when it finally was my turn to walk up to the front, I willed the sick knots in my stomach to stay down and not rise as high as my throat as they were threatening to do. This was absolutely the most intimidating public speaking engagement I have ever had - much harder than speaking in front of my own church's congregation, more difficult even than making an argument in court. I felt myself babbling a bit in the beginning and then confessed to my nerves and felt them vanish.
I spoke about my friendship with Ruby and how much I was drawn to her warmth and vibrancy. I shared a couple of stories and remember hearing tittering from the crowd when I mentioned Ruby and I sharing hypothetical visions of our then-ficticious weddings as we shared our different cultures with one another. I then shared a poem I love and attempted to parallel its beautiful words with the story Ruby entrusted me to tell of the spiritual journey she and her husband went through to find each other. A journey that inspires hope in my heart.
I did not look around the room as I spoke. I kept my gaze as fixed as possible on the couple. I saw Ruby's bright face beaming at me and I was filled with confidence and I made eye contact with Raj for the first time as I shared the story of his pilgrimage to India. I was relieved to meet a welcoming eye.
Somehow I finished the speech and soon the ceremony was over. But just before it ended, as I was relaxing back on the floor after what I believe was a final prayer (again, not in English, no amens, it is hard to tell), I followed everyone else's lead and held my hands together in front of me in a cupping shape and awaited my portion of the Karah Prashad - a sweet that was blessed by the guru. Prior to the ceremony, during my speech research I had read that this offering and receiving of this food is a vital part of hospitality protocols and that it contains the same amount of semolina, butter and sugar, to emphasise the equality of men and women. It is served by the Sewadar out of the same bowl to everyone. When the Sewadar (a volunteer who works at the temple) came to me, I raised my hands to receive the sweet and was surprised first by the fact that it was warm since it looked just like cookie dough so I guess that is what I was expecting and then by the greasy texture which is due to the high amount of butter. Startled, I rolled the ball from the center of my hands to the left hand as I inspected it and while I was doing so the Sewadar took that motion to mean I wanted more and dropped an extra scoop into my still cupped hands. Everyone around me started laughing and I was a bit horrified. What if I couldn't eat it all? What if it tasted gross? I had no idea what to do.
So I started eating it. And it wasn't bad - how could it be bad when two of the three ingredients are butter and sugar? I don't know what semolina is exactly but it made up the remaining 1/3 portion and it didn't ruin it. So I finished my two globs of it and stood up and started milling about with everyone else.
Before I had a chance to congratulate the couple or search out my friends, I found myself being thanked numerous times for my remarks. Turns out, this was a pretty unusual thing I did and friends and family of both the bride and the groom sought me out to thank me. It was really touching. Especially since the compliment I heard over and over was that it sounded as if I really spoke from the heart because that is all I wanted to do. That is why the speech was so difficult - how do you turn your innermost private feelings into words? And then speak them out loud in front of a room full of strangers - and, even scarier, friends? Sure I can type those types of words onto a screen and shove them out to be judged by the internet but there is a comfortable distance there where I don't have to look into your expectant eyes (although I am sure you all have very kind and welcoming eyes). I really was overwhelmed by the kindness of all the people who spoke to me after the ceremony. Especially the woman I saw the next day who was a cousin of the groom who emphasized how shocking it was that a non-Indian woman was up there speaking. So much so that she ran into the next room where most of her family was eating (because they were apparently either bored with the ceremony or sufficiently hungry to move on to lunch before the ceremony was over) and claims they looked at her like she was nuts for even suggesting I was up there speaking. That's me, breaking barriors or traditions or standards or something.
After the ceremony, the newlyweds remained seated as well-wishers lined up behind them to drop bills and cards into their laps and pose for a photo. This went on for quite a while and I marveled at their ability to sit so still and serenly since I was fidgety throughout the entire ceremony. After I caught up with friends and had met a number of friends and family of the couple, I finally had a minute to officially meet Raj and to congratulate the two of them. They seemed dazed and were unsure of what to do when they were nearly the last ones standing in the prayer hall after everyone had rushed to the vegetarian lunch awaiting them in the next room.
The luncheon was fasinating to me. But for some design differences, the adjacent room could have been a cultural hall in any LDS chapel. Volunteers from the local congregation had prepared a beautiful buffet of Indian food that was welcome now that it was well past 2 pm. Sprite was being poured into paper cups and long folding tables were set up and decorated with colorful paper table cloths and silk flower arrangements. Oh, the Relief Society would have been proud to host this luncheon with the only difference being the potatoes were used in aloo gobi as opposed to funeral potatoes and freshly baked naan replaced Rhodes rolls. It was comforting to note the similarities.
I ate with friends and then waited around during the confusion of when and where and who was to be photographed. The hot, dry sun was out in full force as nerves wore thin and ultimately we said goodbye to the couple as they climbed into the limo and we boarded the bus with the other guests and made the 45 minute drive back to the hotel. I was exhausted but the festivities of the day were not yet over.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I had specifically requested that he follow me to avoid this precise situation: me stranded with the dog and no leash. In 1996, poor college students did not have cell phones. Cell phones and service plans were still expensive enough to be deemed a luxury. I had no other choice but to hope - no, expect that my husband would realize something was wrong when I did not show up at my parent's house immediately and turn around to look for me.
Each plodding side-step up the steep hill, dog in tow, elevated my temperature and my fury. I fumed over his jack-ass reaction of chasing down those teenagers. What did he expect to accomplish with that? Was he going to accost them? Beat them up? Yell at them? Anything was possible and the longer I walked the more I assumed the worst. Why else would he not have come back to look for me? I also spat my anger in the direction of the nameless jogger who yelled at me and threatened to throw a rock at me and/or my dog. I was angry at the dumb dog who never seemed to learn how to just walk by my side but preferred instead to gallop off in the wrong direction just to tease me at all the wrong times. As I dragged Stuart along by the collar, I worked up all the clever lines I would hurl at Mitch when he finally showed up to collect me and allowed the anger to course through my veins to the point that my whole body was throbbing with it.
And when Mitch never showed up, I sank deeper into my ire and blamed each and every step of that half-mile walk squarely on his shoulders because I was fed up with taking all of the blame.
It was his fault I was driving the Mazda.
It was his fault I was stranded.
It was his fault the leash wasn't in the back of the car like it was supposed to be.
It was his fault.
All his fault.
When I was half-way down my parent's street I could see my bright and cheery new Red Raider parked at the curb. Mitch was there. He knew I wasn't and yet he had failed to look for me.
More anger with each step. Everything between us that was constantly shoved down and ignored was bubling up to the surface no longer capable of containment - or so I thought.
Before I reached the house I released Stuart's collar and he beat me to the door, wagging his curled up tail in anticipation. I stomped up the front porch steps after him and flung open the door in a rage. Stuart went tearing in ahead of me to announce our arrival in blissful, ignorant puppy joy, leaving slobber in his wake. I stepped into the dining room and could see through the kitchen into the family room where Mitch was sitting lazily on the couch watching tv in the cool air conditioned house.
I wish I could recall what I did or said at that point. I wish I could tell you that I let him have it and pummeled out a maelstrom of furied words, but my memory is conveniently blank right there. My timeline skips like a scratched record over and over the part where I had to chase my car down the hill, the threatening jogger, the hot walk home hunched over to keep my dog from frolicking away and ends with the shocked realization that my delay went unnoticed only to skip to a silent scene of me sitting dejectedly on the front porch as dusk fell, the air grew cool and me shrinking under the humiliation of waiting for one of my younger siblings to drive me home.
There is a brief flickering image of a confrontation in the kitchen that ended with Mitch leaving in the car I paid for with my student loan money - tearing down the street at a terrifying speed after a slammed door.
I do not personally recall the specifics of my deflation, I just know the rage was gone and all I was left with was defeated humiliation.
The private hell in which I was living had spilled into my parent's house as a spectacle for them to witness. No more speculation as to what type of marriage I was inhabiting, they got a live show. And they did not forget the scene.
I may or may not have started yelling as I had planned on that overheated, blood boiling walk but my anger was never a match for his fierce temper. He got the last word when he called me a "f@!%ing bitch" in front of my mother and left me there. Stranded in my humilation.
Or so I am told. I just don't remember. Or more accurately, I have a memory of the words being spit at me by my husband in my parent's house but there is a dream-like quality to the image. Dream-like in the nightmare category with all the feeling of it being real and not real all at once and surrounded by mist and blur that makes one question whether it happened due to the inability to put it in context.
And the context is this. Maybe in your parent's house these are the type of words that can spill out in the heat of an argument and can be smoothed over with an apology once tempers cool, but not mine. I grew up in a conservative household with strict rules about swearing - you don't do it. And somehow, we never really did. At least not as weapons hurled at each other in violence. None of us were perfect but we knew the boundaries and Mitch crossed over it and used those words like a grenade.
I can only imagine that receiving those words in my parent's home as a grenade. A grenade that exploded and blurred out the scene and erased my anger and forced me to once again retreat back into myself, to hide in the back recesses of my mind where it was safe.
So I sat on the front porch chilled from the salty sweat that had dried on my skin and the shadows that covered me following the setting sun.
Monday, August 17, 2009
It is simple. You tell me the best book you have read this summer and I enter you to win one of mine - My Life in France or Julie & Julia. There will be two winners.
You have until Thursday at 8:00 p.m. EST to enter. I'll announce the winner that night. Anonymous comments don't really count because . . . how will I know where to send the book?
Saturday, August 15, 2009
That is how I like my memoirs - engrossing.
And I just finished two engrossing memoirs that have left me - inspired. The first, My Life in France, by Julia Child and her grand-nephew Alex Prud'homme was fascinating. Like so many of you, I am sure, I grew up watching The French Chef on PBS as a kid laughing at the funny lady with the warbley voice chopping chickens. Hers was one of those first tv cooking shows that, to my mother's dismay, inspired me to pre-measure all of my cookie ingredients and line them up on the kitchen table in front of an audience of dolls and stuffed animals as I explained how to make chocolate chip cookies.
Months and months ago a work colleague told me she was reading My Life in France and recommended it. I asked her to bring it in when she was finished with it. But she never did. In the mean time, I saw a trailer for the movie Julie & Julia with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams and I knew I needed to read the book soon because I have a personal rule about these things. The rule is essentially to always read the book first because I prefer the anticipation in literary form to the cinematic. Sure, that leaves me disappointed in many, many movies that fail with the comparison but that is much better than having the end of a book ruined by a poorly adapted movie.
So, a couple of weeks ago, as I was walking through the airport, I couldn't help but stop in the bookstore to see if they had My Life in France, which, of course, they did due to the movie. Nevermind that my already too-heavy purse had a perfectly good novel tucked away inside for plane reading already, I felt compelled to add another, even if the cover was one of those stupid movie tie-in types. Ugh, those really annoy me for some reason.
Julia Child's book was not what I expected at all. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but certainly not that. I did not think I would be filled with hope and ambition and flat out inspiration from her memoir. She had this charming personality that leapt off the page with ease and seemed to say - your 30s are just the beginning. She didn't get married until she was 34 which - coincidentally - is my current age and in 1946 I am sure 34-year old women were written off as hopeless spinsters. (Much the same way 34-year old Mormon women are, ahem). And she didn't start cooking until she was 37! That means I have at least three more years to figure out what really speaks to me. Who knows, maybe I'm really good at something I've never even tried. Like . . . hmmm, I've tried a lot of things that I'm essentially passable at or not good at all or good enough for my own enjoyment but not necessarily the greatest. I guess I'll need those four years to figure this out a bit more.
Julia was also 6'2" and rambunctious and independent with a craving for adventure. I'm nowhere near 6'2" but I do feel I have a similarly rambunctious and independent spirit that, quite honestly, is difficult for some to take, which I think was probably the same with her. But she pulled me in with her energy and wonder at everything that unfolded before her. I highly recommend the book, despite the - at time - grotesque descriptions of the food she loved. Seriously, there were times I was read to run out and purchase her cookbook just to know her better, until I realized there is no way I will ever manage to cook, let alone, eat much of anything she was so tirelessly attempting to write out in pain staking detail.
Over email yesterday, I told a friend who was also, coincidentally, reading that I had finished My Life in France and was basking in the after-glow of Julia inspiration and she recommended I read Julie & Julia by Julie Powell indicating that it's fun and good to read after Life in France and we both agreed that while Julia Child is fascinating. I then dashed out of work good and early at 530 pm and bee-lined to the bookstore. I had a very minor debate with myself as to whether I should read this second book that basically went like this.
I had read somewhere out in the blogosphere a criticism of the movie that essentially boiled down to an annoyance that the movie wasn't just about Julia Child because her memoir is so riveting and deserved a movie all to itself. Without having seen the movie or read this other book, I was annoyed as well. Why were they wasting Meryl Streep on a half-story? She should be the whole movie, right?
So I should ignore this other book that was only inserted so the movie could put a young starlet on screen in the form of Amy Adams.
I like Amy Adams.
And, I was intrigued by the whole Julie Powell concept - a woman who decided to make all of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (argh! they have even made a tie-in version of the cookbook!!!) in 365 days. And blog about it. Back when blogs were new. Back when the only blog I knew about was my friend Emily's and I don't think I even realized it was called a blog. I just found it fascinating to peek inside her head and feel I was gaining a better understanding of what made her tick. Because words do that.
So I stopped at Border's on my way home and bee-lined for Julie & Julia. But despite the fact that I was on the phone the entire time, I still managed to walk out of the bookstore with not one book (happily I found a copy with a pre-movie cover) but three! Because I am a sucker for books.
I started reading soon after I was home. I was alternatively riveted and slightly annoyed with this second book through the first 100 pages. But now that I have finished, I'm not sure what annoyed me other than the initial start at switching voices and perspective and time while staying on the same topic. I resumed reading today on a beach towel spread out on the lawn on my building's roof. I then moved to couple of chairs at a table after I made a late lunch of cucumber and tomato salad and home made pita chips (very un-French) and continued reading on the roof with one more seating change to a deck chair when one opened up. I took a break to make another very un-French meal of chicken-vegetable stir fry and continued reading on my couch until I was finished.
The book was compelling and interesting and fun. But what was really intriguing was how so many of the New York events she described in the book happened while I was living here. And how she describes the obsession of checking blog comments and feeling bolstered by these faceless strangers out in the internet world. How surreal that is. It made me wish I had been one of her readers to watch the journey.
Because I think the reason I enjoy blogging and reading blogs so much is they are all snipits of memoir thrown out there into the world. The ones that transfix me and keep me reading over and over are the ones that are real. The ones, like how I imagine Julie's was, that put it all out there - the good, the bad and the ugly. Because that is how we relate. I find it hard to relate to a picture perfect life because I don't have one. Yes, sometimes I peek into those lives and admire them but the ones that grab my full attention and really enthrall me are the writers who are putting a piece of themself out there for others to read and relate to.
Not sure where I'm going with all of this except to say, read these two books. You may not be inspired to cook, but you will certainly be inspired to do something and now, if you will excuse me, I need to go figure out what that something is so I can blog about it.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
- this slideshow from the New York Times brought tears to my eyes - it is hard to look at all those owners with their dogs without mourning my recent loss of Malcolm.
- I have lots of stories I want to share about Malcolm but right now I'm thinking about how he always knew when I was upset and he would come nuzzle up to try and comfort me. If I was crying he would go to more extreme measures and attempt to lick my face (something he never did otherwise) or just act in a manner that seemed to say "what can I do to help? do you want to be entertained? I can entertain. Or if you prefer I just cuddle up, I can do that too but please give me a smile because I hate to see you sad."
- Despite the fact that I haven't lived with him in years - or even lived near him in years - there was something comforting about knowing where he was and that I could essentially drop in at any time and he would be happy to see me. How many people can you say that about?
- more and more I think about getting a dog . . . I guess I really want to fill that void. Looking at those photos did not help.
- this was not supposed to be all about dogs but now I have forgotten everything else I wanted to say . . .
- oh, yes. The wedding. I still have lots to share about that but mostly just for me because it was such an amazing experience I need to freeze the memories in more than just photos. If you ever have a chance to go to an Indian wedding - do it!
- Speaking of photos, you won't want to miss the rest - they are pretty unbelievable.
- I also want to tell you about a day trip I went on last weekend to Pennsylvania. I decided to try out an activity group in an effort to meet new people (you know, since all my old people are off getting married).
- in the shower this morning I was thinking about all of the friends I have who have experienced (or are currently experiencing) major life changes this year - and it is only August! I don't know what I will do if one more friend tells me she is pregnant or engaged! And most of them have been pretty unexpected.
- And yes I am happy for you, you and you to have a baby oh and for you and you getting married. It just makes me anxious to get working on my major life change.
- I am one of those crazy people who likes change. I get restless when things stay the same.
- Which is why it is so strange to have lived in the same apartment for over 4 years - a lifetime achievement record for me having the same continuous address (seriously, even as a kid I don't remember having the same address for 4 years because once my parents settled into the same house for over a decade, I started my own nomadic ways).
- My major life change this year is running. I'm shocked how much I love it. Or at least how much I love completing a run (not necessarily the during part - that can be rough).
- I feel - or at least hope - I am on the precipice of a real major life change.
- I tried to sign up for a cooking class for this weekend (another effort to meet new people and just do fun things on my own) but the class I wanted to take was full.
- this summer has had the weirdest weather ever - it felt cool walking to work this morning and I think the temperature was around 70. Sometimes NYC can be 70 but still feel hot and sticky but today it was 70 and felt cooler. So strange. . .
- Is anyone out there still waiting for me to write more of my divorce story? Sorry about the delay but with all of these weddings this summer it was difficult to think about that. Or write about it I guess. But you should know I have something in the works and should get rolling on it shortly. I can't make any promises but I'm hopeful to have the next installment up by Monday (or maybe Tuesday). . . encouraging words might help stimulate the creative juices :)
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
But somehow slept in later than usual;
After snoozing for an hour.
Forced myself to go running,
But forgot the nike plus ipod receiver and only ran one mile;
Discovered accountability is my motivation.
Decided to make breakfast - french toast using leftover cornbread,
But discovered it was inedible and couldn't spit out the first (and last) bite fast enough;
Ate cold cereal with blueberries instead.
How can I be expected to work after a morning like that?
Monday, August 10, 2009
But I needed to print it so I hauled my laptop down to the front desk - decked out in my Punjabi suit and feeling very conspicuous - and a very nice woman directed me to a website where I could upload the document so she could print it for me. After a couple of initial failed attempts that put me closer to the edge (or perhaps a little over it), the printing was a success. Yet I was still distraught.
I returned to the room and rummaged around to make sure I had everything - including the long silken scarf I was clueless as to how it should be worn. My outfit was made in India and ordered by the bride's mother. It consisted of an elaborately beaded and gold threaded sheath dress worn over a pair of silken leggings that were worn like hammer pants. When I first received the outfit I could not cram my (I'll say muscular instead of fat) calves into them. Unlike the leggings worn (by others) in this part of the world that are stretchy, these babies were made for toothpick legs and had no give. I gave it another try and managed to relax my calf enough to pull the pants on but knew I could do nothing but stand in them or risk bursting all of the seams. This was less than two weeks before the wedding. So to the tailor I went - requesting more room in the calves, a closer fit in the dress and wider arm openings to avoid chafing my underarms. Despite my many fears, the tailoring came out very nicely but the pants were still weird and felt tight in some areas and unnecessarily large in others. But I no longer feared an embarrasing ripping noise during the ceremony resulting in my calves bursting free.
I think this speech would have been a challenge regardless but I underestimated how much more difficult it would be to prepare and deliver it in foreign clothing in an unknown and unimagined setting.
I pulled on the collection of Indian gold bangles onto my arm I bought for the occasion and made my way to the breakfast to receive support from my friends with my printed out speech and a stack of half-filled, half-blank notecards stuffed into my bursting gold clutch along with my camera, some lipstick and my phone.
I couldn't eat.
In fact, I couldn't even look at the pastries and fruit lined up on the buffet without my stomach crawling up inside of itself. I chatted nervously with friends until I realized I had no idea when I would manage to eat again and dryly choked down a raspberry pastry with some orange juice.
With a chorus of good lucks trailing behind me I made my way to the bride's suite to see how things were progessing. I walked into a swirl of chaotic - yet surprisingly calm - preparation. Ruby was already dressed in her stunning wedding lehnga and was getting the finishing touches of her makeup added. Her sisters and mother and various "aunties" were scurrying about trying to gather everything that was needed and the two bridesmaids had arrived and were finishing getting ready themselves. I offered a hand here and there as needed and then settled into a chair in the back room to finish writing out my now-printed speech. I was interrupted frequently and questioned myself constantly as to why I insisted on writing this thing out now that I had it on paper but ultimately I felt the re-writing of it calmed me with each completed notecard and forced me to think through each word a bit more carefully. Plus, I felt standing with a stack of small notecards would be better than a couple of sheets of paper.
I had not concept of the time but I knew we were running late. The ceremony was scheduled to start at 10 and the temple was an hour away but no one seemed particularly upset about this. Walking into the lobby accompanying Ruby in her absolutely stunning attire along with her sisters and mother and aunties and the bridesmaids who were also bedecked in silky, bright, festive colors, I felt like I was part of something important and my nerves shrank back a bit more. Of the two bridesmaids, one was Indian and one was a tall blue eyed-blonde. We met previously at the bachelorette party (that she co-sponsored) and the bridal shower (which I co-hosted) but we were immediately drawn to one another that day by our ignorance. We shared many laughs over our ill-fitting pants - which both of us ignorantly had hemmed so that they did not scrunch up at the ankles like all the other women's leggings (oops!) and looked to each other when everyone else seemed to know where to go and we . . . did not.
In the hotel lobby we were greeted by all the guests who had not yet boarded the shuttle buses waiting out front for the ceremony and the photographers we would see almost constantly for the next two days. The photographers set themselves up in front of a nice staircase and posed Ruby in the middle as friends and family members lined themselves up for a photograph with the bride. As we waited for the photo session, Ruby's mother rushed to my side to assist me with my scarf by pinning it to my shoulders with safety pins she pulled from nowhere. She kindly explained how now I wouldn't have to worry about it slipping this way and that and I was free to stop pulling at it and let the long ends wave behind me.
After an astonishing number of photos, I followed Ruby, her sisters and her bridesmaids into the limo. In many ways the limo ride was my favorite part of the day. We laughed and talked and Ruby reassured us over and over that she was not nervous. I guess I was nervous enough for both of us.
In between gulps of water and chatter, I continued writing my speech out on notecards. Ruby had entrusted me to tell a story that was close to her heart and now I had the benefit of having her right next to me to question on the details so I could get it just right.
Once I completed the re-write, I felt better. More prepared. Still nervous and worried that my words would fail me and prove inadequate in comparison with what was in my heart, but less nauseous.
We followed the two buses from the hotel under the gated entrance to the Sri Guru Nanak Sikh Temple and proceeded to wait in the limo . . . for a long while. One thing I learned about Sikh weddings is there are a large number of ceremonies and rituals that must be performed, and very few people are concerned with the timetable in completing them. The groom arrived shortly after us and we thought we would have a great view of the Milni - or meeting of the two families - under cover of the blacked out limo windows. We wouldn't let Ruby see her groom (not just a western tradition) but for most of us in the car (minus the sisters), this was our first glimpse at Raj who was a striking figure in a complimentary outfit to Ruby's and coordinating turban with a scruff of a beard (grown for the ceremony).
Unfortunately, as the families and guests prepared for the ceremony, our view was blocked by a wall of women in colorful saris and Punjabi suits and men in suits with colored kerchiefs (forget the term) covering their heads - the color designating whether they are with the bride or groom.
After the Milni, the families and guests went into the temple for tea served with both savories and sweets. At some point while we waited - in between Ruby wanting to release some tension rocking out to Michael Jackson on the radio and everyone contradicting each other over how the scarves should be worn (shocking the number of ways, really) - Ruby's brother and male cousins thoughtfully came out to the car to offer us some of the food and some drinks. Ruby quickly shooed them away not wanting any food near all of our colorful attire. But as time kept slipping away, and one sister pressed her cause of feeling faint, Ruby relented and a phone call was placed and one of the brides maid's husband brought us a couple of plates to tide us over. It was delicious - some sort of spicy thing and a doughy sweet thing, washed down with cold beverages from the limo bar. Anticipation was building as we waited in the blessedly air conditioned car until I felt we all needed a bathroom break. And when I say "we all", I mean me. Except, I also figured others needed to go as well. We sent a loitering cousin in search of the restroom to see if we could make a discreet entrance and exit and upon confirmation had the limo driver back us up to the closest door. My first glimpse inside the temple was through the back door between the kitchen and the bathroom. Music was playing and the six of us slipped in and the sisters assisted Ruby with the loads of heavy fabric that had to be pulled away. I must say it was comedy to listen to in the next stall. Afterwards, we all felt a bit better and returned to the limo only to be summoned to the front - it was finally time.
RULES: Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Try not to repeat a song title. It's a lot harder than you think! Re-post as "My Life According to (BAND NAME)"
1. Are you a male or female? Girl
2. Describe yourself: No Complaints
3. How do you feel: Guess I'm Doing Fine
4. Describe where you currently live: Where It's At
5. If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Round the Bend
6. Your favorite form of transportation: Rental Car
7. Your best friend: Nobody's Fault But My Own
8. You and your best friend are: Derelict
9. Your favorite color is: Black Tambourine
10. What's the weather like: Sunday Sun
11. Favorite time of day: End of the Day
12. If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: Hell Yes
13. What is life to you: Strange Apparition
14. Your current relationship: Missing
15. Looking for: The Golden Age
16. Wouldn’t mind: Think I'm In Love
17. Your fear: Lost Cause
18. What is the best advice you have to give: True Love Will Find You In the End
19. If you could change your name, you would change it to: Debra
20. Thought for the Day: Pay No Mind
21. How I would like to die: Farewell Ride
22. My soul's present condition: Paper Tiger
23. My motto: Go It Alone
How about you?
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Ruby's wedding was an all around cultural experience in which I felt privileged to be so intimately involved, so forgive me if I ramble on in excessive detail because there were many details I do not want to soon forget. I think I'm going to have to take it all basically one day at a time though.
I arrived in Sacramento around noon last Thurday tired and a bit stressed about a few things I left up in the air at work. And starving. I had to get up at 4 am to take a car at 5 am to the airport to catch a 645 am flight out of JFK. I really hate it when I do that to myself and yet, traffic is so much lighter and the airport is much less crowded at that hour so it makes traveling easier. Plus, I don't have to hassel with hauling luggage to work, risking last minute phone calls and fighting daytime traffic to the airport. So overall, early morning flights are worth the lack of sleep.
Sacramento was pleasantly dry and warm after the soupy humidity alternating with rain in NYC that week. It actually felt like home to me with the warm dry air reminding me that other parts of the country are managing to have a perfectly normal summer filled with sunshine. It took 45 long minutes to collect my checked bag which annoyed my impatient self. While I was waiting I asked the information desk attendant where I could get a cab and he responded "a cab or a taxi?" Ummmmm, I thought they were the same thing. Funny quirk.
I was happy with the hotel we were staying in - the Hyatt Regency but could not overlook the irony of the lobby swarmed with distraught and deflated soon-to-be lawyers who had just finished taking the third day of the California bar exam. It wasn't just the glassy look in their eyes that helped me spot them - several of them were carrying Barbri study books and ziplock bags with the pre-approved items they were allowed to take into the testing center. I later told Ruby about this and we laughed about how we were having a mini-reunion with a handful of lawyers with whom we started our careers and took the bar just as these baby lawyers embarked on the same journey. . . eight surprisingly fast years later. I sent Ruby and her sisters a text message notifying them I had arrived but immediately headed out in search of food.
Sacramento not only felt like dry Salt Lake, there was something about the main street near the hotel - K Street I believe - that reminded me of Main Street in Salt Lake - the store fronts, the type of restaurants and, more obviously, the light rail running down the street. I wandered into an excellent little Mediterranean place to which I later returned with Joo and considered trying a third time. I was fighting off a slight headache as I continued reading a book I picked up at the airport that morning (I have a serious weakness for airport bookstores!) - My Life In France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme (engrossing and fascinating).
After my late lunch I strolled through the mall and tried to recognize the sites from my childhood trips to Sacramento during our brief time living in Chico (a couple of hours north) or from my interview trip to Sacramento eleven years ago. Nothing looked familiar. I had an appointment to meet with a partner I work with in my firm's local office so I made my way there to do a little work and to see how much nicer this office's digs are (much!).
By the time I got back to the hotel again, my headache had subsided but I wasn't really sure what to do. I hadn't heard back from Ruby yet and Joo wasn't arriving until very late. I considered going to the pool but ultimately decided to go get a manicure and pedicure. As I was leaving the hotel, I ran into Vicki, one of the bride's sisters in the lobby. She claimed to have never received my text message and so I changed course and went up to the suite where she was staying with Ruby to be greeted by a room full of Ruby's relatives with names I never managed to remember and Ruby propped up on the couch waiting for her mehndi (henna) to dry. The mehndi was beautiful and it was so fun to just spend some semi-relaxed time with Ruby and her extended family. I worked with Ruby's other sister Lucky to put the slide show together for the reception. There was talk of the other women (including me) getting mehndi applied but I still wanted to get a manicure before hand and so did one of Ruby's aunts. So the two of us set out in search of the nail salon recommended by the hotel concierge. Her aunt was so nice and we really had a great time getting to know each other as we waited. She even introduced me to a manicure that I really like - the "American" as opposed to a "French" manicure in which a more natural looking color is applied to the tips in lieu of the white tips of the French manicure.
Just as we were finishing the drying process, Vicki called about dinner. The family was all meeting in the lobby to go to dinner nearby. Now, I am used to big families, especially large extended families. I did grow up in a Mormon family after all. But I never would have guessed Ruby and I would not only have the similarity of being the oldest of four, but also have such a wide range of aunts and uncles and cousins with varying ages that don't match with the title - cousins who are still in single digits, aunts who are closer to the age of cousins, etc. Of course, her extended family is a bit more inclusive and extends to siblings and parents of in-laws, which means I was meeting a whole range of people in the lobby, on the walk to the restaurant and even more once we sat down. They had traveled from London, Toronto, Kentucky, New York and I believe one couple even came from India. We ate at an Indian place called Gaylords, a name we all found amusing but the food was good and there was plenty of it.
During dinner I added to the conversation with humerous anecdotes about my dear friend that were supplemented and expanded upon by her sisters and her mom. Again, I enjoyed having this less formal, more intimate time with my friend and her family. At one point during dinner she explained in more detail what she hoped I would convey during my speech at the ceremony. I had some of it written at that point but was struggling with how to convey everything that was in my heart and in my head in a cohesive way. Now she was entrusting me to tell the very personal and very spiritual story of how she and her now husband were drawn to one another. I was flattered and scared and took notes.
The original plan that evening was to return to the hotel suite for mehndi but it was long past 11 and everyone was scattering. My roommate was checked in to our shared room and I was fading quickly after my long travel day so I said good night to my friend and returned to my room to catch up with another.
The next morning Joo woke up early which, surprisingly, got me up and moving earlier than I would have expected. After showering and getting ready we had breakfast at the hotel and went to Ruby's room. The day's agenda included a lunch which would bleed into the afternoon and late evening. I had originally agreed to attend the lunch upon Ruby's request but when she told me it would go well into the night, I backed out. With less than 24 hours left to work on my speech I was getting nervous- especially with the added pressure of the importance of what Ruby was asking me to say. Oh, and with the new knowledge I acquired at dinner that this sort of speech was never done at their wedding ceremonies - never! Especially not by a non-Indian, non-Sikh white Mormon girl..... I am not normally nervous about public speaking unless I am woefully unprepared and I was feeling woefully unprepared to open my heart and speak of spiritual things of which I did not feel capable of discussing in this unfamiliar setting. So I declined the invitation to enjoy the afternoon's ceremonies in favor of speech writing.
But Joo and I offered to help where we could and enjoyed watching Ruby get ready. I especially loved watching her mother put Ruby's sari on her. It is such an intricate and intimate process, I couldn't help but take photograph after photograph. It was so beautiful - the sari, Ruby and the connection between mother and daughter.
I also continued a tutorial I started the day before with Lucky on making a slideshow in imovie and putting it onto a cd. The slideshow wasn't needed until the Sunday night reception but there wasn't going to be a lot of free time before hand (as I soon learned) so we had to work quickly to get the imovie slideshow converted to idvd and burned onto a disk for the dj. As you can see, we were quite pleased with ourselves when it came together.
(this is our celebratory pose after we finished just before they had to walk out the door)
Afterwards, Joo and I had lunch and then went to the pool laptop in hand so I could continue my attempts at writing my speech. It came out in fits and starts as my head felt heavier and heavier with concerted pressure squeezing in at my temples. I ignored it and ignored it as we met up with various friends as they arrived at the hotel until I realized I was in danger of giving myself a migraine. I skeptically picked up some migraine Advil and a Coke Zero in the hotel gift shop and returned to my lounge chair, reluctant to seclude myself in the room for some reason. Okay, maybe the reason is I have never been one who wants to miss out on exciting things and catching up with old friends definitely falls into the exciting things category for me. I shut the laptop and excused myself for what I was about to do and essentially sat in the chair in reverse so that my feet were straight up in the air where my head should have been and my head was stretched out in the direction my feet should have been. As the blood returned to my head and the caffeine got the blood pumping faster, the screws loosened and my eyes relaxed and I felt a return to normalcy - crisis of the feared migraine was averted. But my speech still wasn't written.
As the sun faded and the temperature cooled we agreed it was time to find a place for dinner. Five of us met in the lobby a short time later and managed to find an excellent Italian place close by. By the time we returned to the hotel, the temperature had dropped enough that we sought out seats next to the fire on the outside deck of the lobby bar where we were joined by yet another former work colleague. Ruby has drawing power because with just our friends who met up that night there were two of us who flew in from New York, one from Chile, two from Illinois (who had recently completed a year long jaunt around the world) and one from Japan (as well as two others from New York who retired early with their baby). A number of years have passed (and a number of children have been born) since we all started out as baby lawyers in a large law firm in New York City together. All but one of us started immediately after the bar exam working at various non-profit organizations in the City. We easily became a tight knit group that went out once or twice a weekend together - often until the wee, wee hours of the morning - and we often met for lunch together by plan or by happening into the cafeteria at the same time. Ruby is the common thread that keeps most of us together - I am close with three, one of those three stays in touch with one of the others but Ruby manages to keep up with everyone. And she doesn't even use Facebook! That is a skill.
Returning to the room that night, I shook my head at how much people stay the same even as I was surprised by how different each of their lives had become. There was no way for me to predict eight years ago that we would all assemble together from various parts of the world and I would be the only one among us whose life would not been altered by a wedding and/or a child.
I finished the speech before going to bed and prayed I would be able to speak sincerely about such private things in front of this once raucous group of friends.