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Is It Real or Is It Memorex?

 Today I’m missing Annie Jones.

When we were last in touch over a year ago, she and her kids were on their way to Hawaii – Maui, in fact – to visit her late husband’s family before the twins headed off to their first year of college. I know that Annie was on the verge of getting the shock of her life; the realization that her children had a half brother. The worst part would turn out to be that he was only two years older then they were – born right smack in the middle of her marriage to their father.

Now I knew all this, but I didn’t tell Annie. I thought it was be more interesting to let her find out on her own, don’t you agree? I know a little of what happened next, but today – like I said – I really miss her. And all I’d have to do to spend quality time with my old friend Annie is to click on New Document and start typing.

Of the handful of people who will actually read this post, there will be about three of you who knew from the very first sentence that I wasn’t referring to an actual flesh and blood human. Annie is the protagonist from my derailed effort to write a novel. I was inspired, on task, racing to meet a weekly word total goal and then suddenly one day … I wasn’t.

But whether or not I finish the book isn’t what’s on my mind today. Right now I’m thinking of another idea –

Character Purgatory.

Or maybe a Character Green Room, for the nicer ones.

Point is – I wonder if there’s a place where well-thought out characters go, while they wait to play out their fate? And if there is, do they get a chance to meet the creations of other brain locked writers? Kafka had a string of unfinished manuscripts (though I’m not sure how anyone could tell) and I love the idea of Annie becoming bffs with a Bohemian protagonist. Maybe they’d decide, over a Vienna espresso, that they were in fact real, and we – their creators - were fiction. And if they found Eastern Europe tiring (and they undoubtedly would, in the 1930s), they could switch to Maui. Or borrow one of Salinger’s locales.

This brings me to another question … would those charcters even want to hang out with Annie? Or would she be confined to the Wannabe Authors Purgatory Green Room? Silly, I know.

But still I wonder … is her son still on Maui or did he return to Boston? Is Aunt Rose still trying to “talk God” at her? And now that she’s hit middle age, is Annie dealing with the battle of the bulge, like the rest of us?  And the poor dear - I wandered away before I had a chance to introduce her to an extremely hot man.  For that alone, she should have the right to get on with her life, with or without me.

Funny that I can’t sit down and finish her story, yet I can write a blog about wising I could. All I know is – today I miss Annie Jones.

It's Complicated

 Just a quick question -

While driving home after an exhilarating conversation today, I once again thought of the premise of “When Harry Met Sally.” Throughout the movie the title characters, played by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, debated whether men and women could be platonic friends. Sally said of COURSE they could and had many platonic male friends to prove it. Ever the cynic, Harry said no, it was impossible – someone would inevitably want to have sex with the other.

Which one do you agree with? 

My own position on this is very clear: They’re both right.

From my perspective as a straight female, of course it’s possible to have a close platonic friendship with a man. But does that mean neither party is even remotely attracted to the other? That there is never a “gee, I wonder…“curiosity? Of course that happens. The difference is whether or not those thoughts or feelings are strong enough to catch our attention, strong enough to distract us from the friendship at hand. Generally I think the answer is no – the little momentary attractions are fleeting and not important enough to register beyond a curious blip on our radar. And given no energy, it passes. But nonetheless, they exists. Always.

So who’s right?

Even after watching it for the billionth time, I’m not sure the movie itself ever came to a conclusion. They became each other’s absolute best friend, so Sally is right. Right? No wait – they had a fling, the friendship got very messy and they ended up together as a couple. So was Harry right?


So I suppose like last year’s overused catch phrase, it’s complicated.

What do you think? Would love to read some other opinions on this. Would like to here from both genders, all orientations.
Although I think our ability to instantly communicate anything and everything is often a good thing, I also think it has the potential to lead us down a dangerous road. For example, this fool minister who is threatening to burn a copy of the quran. This man is causing international pilikia when he's actually - in my opinion - just one little angry man who - a generation ago - wouldn't have even been noticed. The problem, as I see it, isn't with him quite as much as in the sensationalized reporting of it.

I'm not talking about limiting free speech or the First Amendment. What I'm concerned about the fact that our media has developed such a complete tabloid journalism mentality that we are no longer able to understand what that even means.

What is "tabloid journalism?" A tabloid is the term used for smaller newspapers, about the size of a Maui News folded in half or smaller. It doesn't describe the content, only the physical paper. But over time, the term tabloid journalism came to mean the gossipy, salacious nature of certain tabloids - the kind we see at newsstands and grocery store checkout lines. Eventually it moved to television via programs like Inside Edition and TMZ because unfortunately, it attracts attention and therefore attracts advertisers. Prior to that, news reporting exercised a degree of discretion and discernment regarding what is solid researched and newsworthy vs, what is simply gossip and innuendo. But over the past decade or so, the line between hard news and tabloid journalism has become blurred to the point of non-existent.

This, alone, is troubling enough.

But add to the picture the fact that technology has expanded the ability for us to communicate so instantly and completely, and suddenly "the media" is now, well, ALL of us.

This leads me to what concerns me the absolute most at this moment in our world. Right now I am typing this on a laptop computer in bed, in my own house, in relatively obscurity, if I choose. The fact that I can offer my opinion, or more to the point, pass on the opinions of others so easily takes the away the need for personal editing. I can complain, vent, accuse to my heart's desire. No one is really going to hold me accountable for it. Which brings me back to the minister...

We are human, we have fears. When someone hurts us, there is a part of us that wants to lash out and hurt them back. Can't find the person who hurt us? No problem - just look for the easiest target that symbolizes them and retaliate. This guy is lashing out, the part of us who wants to do the same is egging him on and -- Oh wait - you stopped doing that at age five? Well for some crazy reason this new instant communication has unleashed the inner five year old in us all and if we don't get in front of it, we're headed for some ugly shit.

Yes, we have emotional reactions. I'm just hoping we somehow take a collective deep breath and remember that we also have a mind and a soul,

Two Eight Three Two Five Oh Eight

Some things – often the most mundane and seemingly inconsequential detail – become an indelible part of our existence. For me, such is the case of the numbers “two eight three two five oh eight.” Although I haven’t dialed or pushed that numerical series into a phone for decades, it continues to tumble around the file cabinets of my brain, rolling out into consciousness fairly often.

“Two eight three two five oh eight” was the number of Debbie Frantz, my bff from age seven forward. Our parents, whose friendship predates our existence, insisted we'd known each other from birth. We, however, only remember brief glances of the other from separate home rooms in first grade which set the stage for a Best Friends level friendship that blossomed in Miss Byrd’s second grade and continued through high school graduation, a brief stint as roommates during the college years, crisscrossing the country at different times and will continue until, well, I’m guessing forever.

This is not to say that we have been in continual contact for every one of these 48 years since we bonded in the Bluebirds reading group. On the contrary. Our lives have taken us in different directions, locations, careers and circles. We’ve had marriages, divorces, births, deaths, career successes (and not) – all the stories that create an ongoing life that is richly layered but tend to insulates us from those not in our immediate present. After awhile there are just too many details to explain. Two eight three two five oh eight gives way to other numbers that change often and are called infrequently. The brain file is no longer adequate and the procession of new numbers are now filed in the pages of an impersonal address book, along with those of distant relatives and polite acquaintances.

But Debbie Frantz and Marti Wukelic have been lucky. No matter how long it’s been since we’ve last been in touch or how recent (thank you, Facebook), there is something about the other that triggers our “inner seven year old bff." With each contact, a wonderful sense of playing-with-my-friend is instantly activated and leaps to the surface. It's the same feeling from the days of coming home from school, dropping my stuff on the kitchen table and immediately going for that black corded phone to dial the numerical combination which unlocked a safe filled with the deliciousness of uncontrollable laughter and the sharing of girlhood secrets and dreams.

As a matter of fact, there is only other number that carries such automatic recognition for me and that is a calendar date. June 9th, in fact.

Happy birthday, Debbie Frantz. I have many remarkable friends, but you are my only two eight three two five oh eight.


Tomorrow I Think I'll Vaccuum in Dior

First, a few words in my own defense: 

My assistant and I each take two evening shifts and three day shifts.  So for the past year and a half I’ve worked Monday evening, Tuesday day, Wednesday evening, Thursday day and Friday day.  Easy to remember, easy habit to establish, I’m there.

But this semester I volunteered to swap Mon/Tues shifts so my assistant can continue a program she really likes on Tuesday evenings.  No problem, easy switch.  Except that I can’t quite get into the habit and every day before one of us leaves I have to ask her, “Now I open tomorrow, right?”  So far I’m batting .50.

This morning I woke up early, got completely ready and decided to relax a bit while my kid got his lazy butt up and moving.  There I sat, 7:30 AM on a Tuesday ready to ---wait--Tuesday?  Well,  %$#@ I don't go in until noon.  Oh well.  I laughed at myself, facebooked it and figured what the heck – at least I can get a workout in before going to work.  Took the kid to school, changed clothes and hit the gym.

Now I don’t go to the gym to socialize or make friends.  Everyone’s pretty serious and that’s okay with me.  But today was such a lovely day and I was in a great mood, which seemed to be reflected in those around me.  Strangers smiled, fellow gym rats nodded, it seemed that a lightness, almost a feeling of levity was in the air. 

About twenty minutes into my work out  I hit the part of the gym that I don’t like – you know, the wall with all the mirrors?  Ugh.  I usually avoid the mirrors completely, at least until I get to that goofy ab machine.   Taking a deep breath, I took my position at the machine and looked up to check my form.  Staring back at me was a woman wearing old shorts, a raggedy tank top, a full face of makeup and 2 inch dangly chandelier earrings.

Now I understand the big smiles and barely disguised levity.



To Do or Not to Do?

This week I decided to educate myself on the concept of procrastination, for obvious reasons.  WHY do we put things off, even when we know they have to be done?  I’m not talking about the little stuff; I mean those big, ridiculous stretches of avoidance than border on dysfunctional craziness.  During the course of this little investigation, I came across an interesting word that I never really thought much about.: Ambivalence. 

Ambivalence:  The coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings, such as love and hate, toward a person, object, or idea.

I used to have the mistaken idea that ‘ambivalence’ meant not really caring what direction we take in a specific situation.  Now I am learning it means the opposite – having a very strong opinion, only about two opposite directions.  Damn.  Explains a lot.  I found out it even has a name:

the Hamlet Syndrome.

Remember him? The  Mr. To Be or Not To Be guy?  Heh, heh.  Someone had a sense of humor when they named that one.

At the moment I’m looking at the “towards an idea” aspect of the definition, not at the 'towards the person' part.  Oh hell, I could write about ambivalence towards individuals, but that would take it down a whole other road!  

Today the point is simply this –

Sometimes inaction or procrastination happens NOT because we don’t care, but because we can’t make up our mind what we care about the most.  Or even more significantly, which thing we believe the most.

A common example of dueling beliefs, in my opinion, is: “I really, really want this!”  vs. “I secretly don’t believe I’m worthy of it.”    And that is what let me to this particular tangent.  Not just for myself, but also for what I see happening around me.

But it’s not always so heavy.  Other times ambivalence can be as simple as “Hey, let’s go to the movie” weighed against “Wait, that band that I like is at the bar.”  Both impulses are equally strong so the result is to ‘just hang out’ instead of doing either.  Ahhh…Ambivalence begets procrastination.  I get it now.

Right now I’m ambivalent about lunch.  Do I want those veggie patty things, or do I want to defrost that bag of whatever?  I don’t know, so I’m making a cup of tea instead.  I suspect that pretty soon my stomach is going to override my brain and yell ENOUGH! and make me pick one.

Does this hit home for anyone?  I’d love to hear anyone else’s experience with ambivalence.  Big stuff, little stuff – doesn’t matter.  It’s all the same.

Comments?  Jabs?  Making fun of me?  All are ok, lol. 

"Is This Thing On?"

 (taps imaginary microphone three times)

I miss blogging.

Why haven't I? Well, let's see.  

Marti's top ten reasons for not blogging

10.  I have other stuff that I'm supposed to be writing, have procrastinated, and am now sending myself to bed without supper (i.e. writing "fun stuff")
 9.   Facebook stole me away
 8.   I have blogs on at least six websites and I can't decide where to land
 7.   I actually blog every day.  Really, I do!  I just keep the posts in my head.
 6.   I have a short attention span
 5.  (What was I talking about?)  oh yeah
 4.  Losing all traces of blogging anonymity makes it difficult to write about the stuff closest to my heart
 3. I keep waiting for a flash of brilliance
 2. # 4 is a good enough reason to list it twice

And the number #1 reason I haven't blogged lately is:

 1. Basically, I'm pretty lazy.

You guys still around?  Melissa?  Phil?  Emery?  Anybody?  lol

Lame as this post is, I think it's also my return to blogging.  I'll link it to Facebook and go from there.

This is my declared return so hold me to it, okay?

Yes, I admit it. I watch TV. I probably turn it on everyday and spend some evenings watching it for way longer that I’ll cop to. But now that my favorite programs have each closed up shop for a few months, I’m forced to dig deeper into options for entertaining myself while staring numbly at a screen. (the screen is a good thing; it keeps me from staring numbly at the wall). So knowing that Derek and Meredith didn’t get married, Pam might be preggers, Red John is still out there, Castle will, uh, oh I don’t care; I just have fun smiling back at him every week and I have neither Top Chefs nor Runway Projects to follow, I decided to DVR a few second string things.

So yesterday evening I watched/fast forwarded through:

1. The View - Glenn Beck, Mr Right Wing Drama Queen, was the guest
2. Oprah – part two of her “Live With Less” challenge that had families giving up their I-can’t-live-without-it stuff like cell phones, TV, computers, etc for a week.
3. Brave New Voices – an HBO teenage slam poetry competition

My conclusions IN ORDER are as follows:

1. No matter how much someone irks me, listening a group of shrill women yell at him is only fun for about a minute and a half. Question for future post: I can say “everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion” until the cows come home but the truth is – Some people’s opinions bug the shit out of me.

2. For all her Tom Cruise, Suzanne Somers, The Secret baloney, the girl still occasionally hits one out of the park. Question for future post: Could you? Would you? Live without ‘stuff’ I mean.

3. They were all exceptional but Hawaii kids won! (doing one of those embarrassing woo hoo stirring the pot dances, but luckily, you can’t see me) Question for future post: It appears that we trade passion for wisdom. Why is that? Do we have do? Is there ever a point in time where we can really have both?

But for now…

Just feel free to beat me up for my TV habits.

And All for Under a Hundred Bucks

Okay, so about my previously mentioned teenage son---

He's about to turn 16 and for the last ten years or so, I've forced him to get/buy/make/do something for me for Mothers' Day and Christmas. Not that I want the stuff necessarily (how many $7.95 'diamond' rings from Wal-Mart do I need, really?) but because I want him to become the kind of man who does nice things for his mom. However this year I told him he was financially off the hook because rather than buying stuff, I only wanted him to do things with me. And there were only two, relatively painless specifics:

1. go to Unity (the closest I get to Church stuff) with me
2. go to Sears and have a mother/son portrait done - to capture who 'we' are at this point in our relationship

My only caveat was that he had to be a good sport, or at least pretend he didn't hate it.

Now this a basically good kid, but also one who would rather give me his entire paycheck than to do either of those two things. In fact he even tried to lure me away from the idea with "what if I buy you something really, really nice, something EXPENSIVE?" But I stood firm.

Okay, so we got through Unity just fine with only minimal "oh, you're such a handsome young man" embarrassment from my friends. And Sears was booked, so Portrait Day was postponed until yesterday.

Unfortunately, since Mothers Day had passed, his temporary ability to put me first had also faded and we'd both fallen back into the comfortable groove of Taking Mom for Granted (every)Day. So he whined. And grumbled. And groused about how he HATES to have his picture taken. I did relent on a couple of points - he didn't have to smile and he could use the left side of his face and display the fresh cut below his left eye. He liked that part, but still wasn't happy.

So we arrive at the most middle of Middle American stores, and the little minimum wage photographer lady (and I mean little - barely five feet tall, literally buzzing around all 5''9" of me and 6'1" of my monster kid) whipped up a Seuss-like stack of props and risers and pillows and whatnot and finally - after we again reminded her that the kid didn't have to smile - got us turned and twisted into that fake positioning that is unique to portrait studios whose packages retail for something.99, and we were ready to go. Except that ---

One of us got the giggles.

Which of course, set off the other one.

This was followed by apologies, shaking it off, thinking of sad stuff, taking deep breaths, and swearing we were now ready.

"Okay then, one, two, three and ----"

Fit of giggles.

Over and over and over.

I felt really terrible about it. There must have been three families in the waiting room, not to mention the people who had finally decided on two 5X7s instead of the 10x13, But we just couldn't stop.

The worst round was during the hokey back-to-back pose. The good part was that we couldn't see each other. The bad part was that one could feel it when the other ribcage began to oh-so-slightly shake.

This went on for about 45 minutes and about forty attempted shots (I can still hear that little "pouf!" sound the flash makes) until finally the little photo lady declared the session over.

Surprisingly, we did manage to get a few decent shots. And yes, there's a great solo pic of my kid, looking all serious and quasi-menacing, and it will make people assume that the cut below his eye happened way more interestingly than by grazing the corner of his desk. And omg yes, he is a handsome boy. When did that happen, anyway?

We have a couple traditional 'awww' shots in there. But my favorite is gonna be picture #1; poorly lit with odd facial expressions that happen only when people are trying not to laugh.

Yeah, I bought it. That's exactly the one I was looking for.

February 25th

I've been on a site that limits posts to exactly six sentences - am learning LOTS - and thought I'd share this one:

The worst trouble I’d ever gotten into were the times she thought evil had befallen her only daughter.

The first time I remember was the afternoon I called out to her, through Dad’s winter coat and my snowsuit, to let her know I’d locked myself in the closet and needed her to rescue me and no, I was NOT lying at the bottom of the basement stairs with a broken neck.

Then there was the time, while taking huge steps through the fresh mud with my red rubber boots and brand new white socks, the left boot got stuck in the ooze and I yelled for help because I knew if the perfectly clean white sock came into the house covered with wet brown dirt, there would be hell to pay. And no, I was NOT about to be swallowed up by quick mud (in the middle of Ohio).

By adulthood our roles reversed, as evidenced by the time an ostrich got loose from the petting zoo and barreled down the Fort Steuben mall towards us and she dealt with it by using me – her only offspring and light of her life (allegedly) as a shield, for cryin’ out loud.

She would have been eighty-three today.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado, 1977

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