Archive for May, 2010

Well, better late than never, I suppose. And yes, there are spoilers for both the LOST finale and Harry Potter.

I did watch the LOST finale on Sunday night. In retrospect it was quite possibly the worst way to spend one’s 40th birthday–all ruminating about death and loss and The Meaning Of It All. And even worse for me…coming away without a bundle of answers.

What I came away from the LOST finale with was this: Their lives were lived on two tracks at the same time. Picture a vinyl record with multiple songs layered from the outer rim to the center. Each song is its own entity and exists alongside the others. As the different songs get closer to the center of the record they have less of a distance to revolve so they must either widen to take up the same length of song time or the song must be shorter.

Track 1: The Island, The Crash, The Candidates.
Track 2: The “Flash Sideways”
Track 3: This is the shortest track. I believe it begins FOR JACK when the concert is over. At that point a version of Kate is there to take him into the chapel. He’s dead. In the Flash Sideways world perhaps he was in a car crash on the way to the concert. Who knows? It doesn’t matter because his narrative in both worlds ends at that point.

Everyone else is in the chapel but we have no clear idea of what point they left the other two tracks. So it’s entirely probable that Sawyer and Juliet dated, married, had babies and died 40 years later, coming to the chapel with both their versions of Track 1 and 2 were played out. Likewise Hurley and Ben were most likely on the Island for who knows how long. Could be 100 years. Since Track 3 is its own song it exists on its own time frame and doesn’t depend on the notes and lyrics of the first two tracks, even though the singer and the band are the same.

In its six seasons LOST came to remind me of a stoner friend I used to have years ago. Dude is now in a mental hospital (a la Hurley) but before he reached that rocky end he would sit around high on paint thinner or pot or whatever and trip himself out with ‘freaky’ questions. Whenever you were around him you’d hear him say ‘oooh, freeeekeeee, man’ over and over. He’d never follow his thoughts’ trails to a final place, and preferred to just linger on the trippiness of it all.

He was and is the main reason I’ve never been one to go in for drugs or drink as a form of recreation. Because while he was content to hang out at the “Whoa!”, I had to move down the road to the “Why”. And LOST, for all its easter eggs and philosopher names and putting a liberal arts education to the test, was firmly stuck in Whoa! for most of its run.

I knew that and had made my peace with it. So I guess I wasn’t really thinking we’d get too many answers.

But what I wasn’t expecting was for the Big Conclusion to have been pretty much ripped off from the King’s Cross chapter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

And yes, I know that with me you often feel that all roads lead to Harry, perhaps unfairly so. But when Christian Shepherd began to talk to Jack in those last few minutes pretty much everything he said was a Cliff’s Notes Yank version of Dumbledore’s conversation with Harry. I am a bad blogger because I should have sat down with a notepad and my copy of DH to transcribe the commonalities. That would be an excellent blog entry. It would also be something I just don’t have time for. But off the top of my head:

First we start with Dead Father Figures gently breaking the news to their ‘son’s about the younger man’s recent death. In DH it’s Dumbledore talking to Harry, who has recently sacrificed himself to save the world from the unleashing of evil forces. In LOST it’s Christian Shepherd talking to Jack who has…etc.

Christian Shepherd in describing the ecumenical chapelnacle where the two dead men: “This is the place you made together” i.e., it’s been created in their collective minds as a meeting place.

Dumbledore in describing the King’s Cross train station: “This is, dear boy, as they say ‘your party’.” i.e. the choosing of place was in Harry’s mind.

In both cases there is much talk of remaining and going on and the nature of death as something not to be feared but accepted as the next stage of the journey.

Of course I think it was all handled much better by Rowling in DH. I love those books because underneath the ripping yarns, JK Rowling has always been a Why author. I am hardpressed to think of one question raised over the course of the seven-book series that wasn’t answered in the course of the telling. She wove those stories and the philosophy underpinning them painstakingly. What we’re left with in the case of Harry Potter is a shimmering mosaic tale which illuminates the struggle of life and the acceptance of death. There are no cheap thrills in Harry Potter. No four-toed statues or smoke monsters designed to give us chills with no answer. And after all, when you’re ruminating about the nature of death, isn’t that the better course?

It both LOST and Deathly Hallows the newly dead hero questions the reality of the circumstances only to be told that just because something happens in one’s head doesn’t mean it isn’t real. As a lifelong reader and author who lives largely in her own head, that had special significance for me when I first read it. I felt as though Rowling gave us all a gift of understanding by embracing the nature of thought realms. Any reader knows how real a story becomes as it decorates her mind. But when Christian Shepherd said pretty much the same thing to Jack I felt cheated…not only because it seemed to be so stolen from the Potterverse but also because it seemed to serve as a stopgap, designed to prevent the authors from coming up with better answers.

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Oh my gosh. This might go down in history as one of my weirdest weeks ever.

Even more…what’s so weird about it is that it’s only a quarter-bubble off plumb. It’s not weird like it would be if something (God forbid) blew up or burned down. It’s just weird because the rhythm of my days has shifted, along with the tenor of the household. And I’m soooo bad at dealing with change.

Not as bad as the people working at the new Burger King down the road, but that’s a story for another time.

For months I’ve been feeling a hole in our house. Something wasn’t right. I got worried that it was presaging the death of Quinn, but the husband reassures me that isn’t very likely for awhile yet. From his lips to God’s ears. (here there was gonna be one of my patented religious ravings about the anthropomorphisation of God, but we’ll save that for another day, mmmkay?)

The hole seems filled by Gob. More than filled. This dog is crazy, which of course means he fits right in. He blends in, too. And by that I mean that he is None More Black. You can’t see him if he chooses to slink off into the shadows. We have always kept our home dimly lit, partly out of allegiance to our hippie-green ideals of 20 years ago and partly out of a preference for soft, indirect lighting. This of course means that we are going to be going out this weekend and buying a flourescent dog shirt so that I don’t keep almost stepping on the critter. I did try to live most of late Monday and into early Tuesday with all the overhead lights glaring down, but that made me feel like I was undergoing some sort of PsyOps new-wave alt torture. And if anyone’s gonna suffer it’s gonna be Gob. Bright yellow and green doggie shirts, here we come!

How this will bode for his hunting efforts is another question. Apparently Schipperkes are avid vermin hunters. We, being relatively clean people overall (if we live according to husband’s diktat instead of wife’s lesser nature), haven’t any real rodents to speak of. Yet as I lay reading in bed yesterday I was presented with a tiny Boyd’s Bear, it’s neck turned to “broken” position. Gob laid it carefully on my stomach with a look that said “there. I killed it. It will bother you no more, my lady. Thank me later! I’m off to slay more infidels!!” I promptly made sure all other stuffed tokens of love from spouse, mother-in-law, sister and others were up high enough to escape his whacky dilligence.

The Vanquished Rodent

What I didn’t bother checking was under the bed. Now, in fairness to us, we have a king-size Tempurpedic bed. They’ll tell you it’s made out of space foam, but it’s really made out of some rare heavy metal that can’t be moved without a forklift. So if something goes more than say six or eight inches under the edge it usually just stays there until I start missing an old book I just have to re-read and frustratedly grab the Swiffer from the laundry-room to swoop the book out, along with the usual mateless socks, missing heating pad and random punch card from Sweet Cece’s. While reading today I heard a strange slithering. I decided to ignore it and drifted off to sleep. (Meds.) When I woke up about 20 minutes later there were no fewer than nine old dog toys, three socks, a handtowel and a postcard from Prague all laid out triumphantly. Young Indiana Jones was gnawing on one of the rescued dog toys happily satisfied with his good day’s work.

They say life begins at 40. If so, my life is definitely beginning on one of the oddest notes ever.

The Future...Ready To Spring Into Action

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“Gob” was sort of one of those names that fell in our lap. We first said it as a joke and then realised that it was just the right name. It just…fit.

One of the other names I’d thought of, fleetingly was “LLUA”. We’d pronounce it ‘lew-uh’. I mentally rejected it because it sounds feminine and I didn’t want to have to explain to everyone what a Little Lebowski Urban Achiever was, nor why I gave that name, thoughtlessly, to a black dog. it was just a bit too skeevy. And of course I rejected “Dude” and “Bowski” immediately. Both of those names are way over-used. Besides, they conjure up pictures of pot-addled doofi who long ago smoked away the more creative parts of their brains and now are followed through life by a bedraggled terrier who sometimes gets to drink beer out of his water dish.

One of the greatest things about Gob is his housebrokenness. When you adopt a dog who is young, cute, smart AND already knows ‘outside’….my friend, life has handed you a gimme. No two ways about it. The Kimber’s Kritters woman told me that he wasn’t housebroken but that they say that about all their adoption dogs so that nobody brings it back in frustration when there’s the first accident. So we had no idea he was potty trained until we got home to go through the first steps of the routine and got this “yeah, yeah, I know the drill” look. It was AWESOME.

But I did know this day would come. It’s inevitable with a new dog; a boy dog who has just been neutered. He did, when freaked out by the storm, pee on the rug.

Which makes me think that just for today I want to call him Chinaman. So badly.

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Okay. I was going to leave this alone. But this bears repeating and a bit of explanation on my part. Please be aware that there is foul language which I will not censor in any way. The bolded parts are written by Sharon Cobb. My response is below them. (more…)

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I have a few different posts I want to write, but I can’t settle on any of them.

Should I write about Gob and his mysterious origins, hacking cough and funny personality?

Should I write about the state of the Church in America?

Should I write about how certain people turn up time and again in your life like Herpes?

I really can’t make up my mind. And I’m tired.

One of the good things about taking care of Gob and his many little needs is that I am dead certain I would have been a good human mother and/or a passable nurse. I like to take care of people and animals. So it’s reassuring in its own way. God didn’t pass me by with children because I was a slacker in the momability department at least.

I am tired though. I skipped meds this week so that Gob’s first week here would be less odd for him. I mean, it’s got to be odd enough already when some big fat white guy keeps trying to hump your face. Watching your caretaker sleep all day would just be pushing it. Nevertheless, I’m still tired. He’s got a hacking cough that is either allergies or a cold or kennel cough. What it is doesn’t matter at this point according to the Vet because they’re all treated the same way. So I’ve been sitting in steamy bathrooms with him and forcing warm honey and hydrogen peroxide down his throat in between benedryl dosings. It’s kind of funny in a way because Gob’s first days are very similar to Casey’s last days. They are measured in dosing times and trips to the yard.

But who wants to read about someone else’s dog’s snot? Nobody, I reckon. So why did I spend all this effort on this post? I guess it’s because I’m tired enough from being up all night that I can’t write those other posts with anything even vaguely close to tact. And since I am already being reamed out in one set of comments I don’t feel like opening myself up to that. So instead of poking those pythons I’ll just ramble on about my dog’s cough as though that makes it interesting.

But that’s the thing about this dog that is similar to getting guff in the comments section of your blog. Getting a rescue dog is, essentially, being willing to take on someone else’s junk. Now don’t get me wrong. I love Gob and I know we made the right decision and this is the right dog for us. But I also know that he’s afraid of closed doors and freaks out whenever I emerge from the bathroom. He came to us half starved, more a hair-covered skeleton than a dog. It’s like having a blog with comments. You take the good with the bad and hope you don’t catch something deadly.

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Of all the things I’ve lost over the years, I used to miss my eidetic memory the most. I had a memory that could play back conversations, instructions and classroom lectures as flawlessly as any video camera. I had a memory for text that used to be a parlour trick in literature classes. (“It says in the third paragraph on page 389, halfway down the righthand side of the page…”)

That was one of the first things to go, coming along about the time I started getting those first warning tingles in my littlest toes. For the longest time I didn’t care about it being gone at all, so focused was I on the unremitting pain. But as the pain as gradually been more controlled, I have more and more days where I mutter under my breath as I leave yet another note for myself in my iPhone.

Now, though? Now I’m starting to think that memory is a poisoned cake. It may lure you in with sweet, tangy sponge and icing thick with butter, tiny bits of sugar puckering your teeth. A few bites, though, and the ache cuts so deep within your heart it feels as though your soul swallowed diamond coral.

I watched as Gob sniffed the wet grass looking for all the new things here in his new life. Beside his wirey whippet youngness Quinn looks suddenly ancient, packed under a welter of years. I can’t help but remember ten summers ago–ten!!–when the last new puppy sniffed around our place to get to know its barriers. Casey and Quinn were the wirey whippets dashing merrily around the place and making us laugh with their enthusiasm. We all played games of chase together.

Now I sit, aching and lame, watching one dog now tiptoe across the grass he knows so well, grass that has been his alone in the two years since his brother went on. The other dog has done nothing wrong, other than be young and new and accidentally brush the places in my mind I’d rather not go. It’s not his fault. I’d rather he be here learning our yard than waiting in a concrete cell for a death sentence that was also no fault of his.

But at the same time I wish that there were a way to not have so many of the good memories also hurt so bad.

I was initially going to say that I wish I, like goldfish, had no real memory to speak of. Then I realised all that I would lose. I could say goodbye to the first time I looked at a Richard Scarrey book and realised that I knew what all those black marks meant. I could no longer visit the first time Tommy was old enough to walk at Disney World and was so enchanted by Small World. I’d have to forget the purple pinata at my tenth birthday party and the nine hour, all-night conversation in the 70s-era paneled apartment where I fell in love with my husband.

I don’t want to lose those things. But at the same time I don’t want them to hurt either.

Won’t Heaven be a tremendous place?!? No more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain! What a promise! I know that life will be eternal, but I wouldn’t mind if it lasted only one day. A day without any of those things would be the greatest gift.

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A few months ago my sister-in-law called my husband at work with some good news. They were adopting their fourth child, an African-American girl named Naomi. They’ve already adopted three other children, two of whom are also whatever the correct term for darker-skinned- than- caucasian is today. About a month ago my cousin Matt and his wife Abby (who I’m always confusing with my nine year old niece Abbie when the family tells anecdotes) adopted their second daughter. Olivia joins an older sister Hannah, and both girls are Black/African-American/Babies Of Colour/Someone Help Me Out Here.

So anyway, we decided we didn’t want to be left out. So yesterday my husband and I adopted a black baby of our own.

Meet Gob. For those of you not familiar with Arrested Development, it’s pronounced like the book of the Bible called Job. He’s named this because ‘Bluth’ sounded too goofy after repetition. Besides which, he’s got the patience of the Biblical fellow to put up with his decidedly forcefully homosexual older brother. We also wanted a name that reminded us how humour can get you through suffering. And how there’s always a hopeful ending. And how you should praise God no matter what your circumstance. And also because he’s a sort of escape artist. 🙂

Gob is a one-year-old Schipperke rescue; he was saved from a kill shelter by Kimber’s Kritters. We’ve been talking about getting a second kid for awhile now. Quinn needs a brother. But we’d been all along figuring we’d get another Eskie like Quinn, since we love the breed so much. I’ve been scouring PetFinder and the classifieds for several months and put our names on some Eskie rescue lists.

Then today we decided to go to Burger King and stop at the PetCo adoption event on the way. We were assuming that we’d just play with the little homeless critters for awhile and then go eat. And there he was. A dog that looked like a black little homuncular Quinn! I should say right now that I’ve always wanted a Schipperke, but the spouse was not on board with the idea. But when he saw Gob standing there with that I’m-Smarter-Than-All-Of-You look on his face, a look we know so well from years of Quinn, we knew that our family member had found us.

Proof that God knows better than we do–our main concern was my health. Could I care for a new, young dog who needed broken in? That was one of the reasons we waited until Summer. (I tend to be a bit better in the warmer months, as cold aggravates the rheumatic conditions.) Lo and behold, Gob seems for all the world to be house-trained. He knows “Come” “Up” “Down” “Outside” “Inside” “Go Potty” and has proven to be a quick study for the word ‘treat’. Of course. So God has provided us with a wonderful little boy with the exact temperment we so love–smart, individualistic and loving–who is young enough to be bonded into the family easily yet old enough to be over the hardest stage of puppyhood. What a treat!

Did you say “treat”???!!!

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That’s an accent-mark, not an apostrophe. My Option-E key combo doesn’t work on WordPress title bars, apparently.

I probably shouldn’t write this post. Because it touches on why I snapped over at Aunt B.’s last week. And clearly, once you read this, you’ll see that I’m far from done with the snappishness. Blame the post-traumatic stress, or blame the fact that I can be a real bastard sometimes.

In case you didn’t know we had a flood, and odds are you might not have because a bomb that didn’t explode is far more interesting that a sky full of clouds that did, apparently. Especially when said bomb is less than a mile from your office and the big storm is somewhere out in Fat Rednecks With Bad Teeth territory. Griping about how no one knew about our flood has become one of our favourite pastimes here in Nashville.

But it seems our other favourite pastime, at least the places I frequent, is making a name for ourselves and our charitable ‘brand’ by capitalising on the desire of others to help.

Yes, this is a song I’ve sung here before, perhaps 100 times. The song where I say that it’s better to just give to the needy than to buy a pink ribbon shirt or a [Red] iPod or a funky-looking can of Pepsi. And I know your answers: People like to have a souvenier of their participation; anything that brings notice to the cause is a good thing; this route of fundraising is bringing in far more for the needy than I and my kvetchy whinealong.

You may be right.

But I’m sorry. I can’t get past the place where I find it somewhat distasteful that there are not one but two places you can buy 1 of at least 7 different t-shirt designs. None of which say “Folks died, folks lost their homes, folks lost their livelihoods and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!” or “Been There, Gawked At the Suffering, Got The T-Shirt.” And yes, I know some of the people behind the shirts and I like the shirt designs and doggone it, part of me wants one. Maybe long after the flood, when the stench of raw sewage has left the lawns and whatnot. But it still seems so new, so close to the end. Like selling souveniers of the apocalypse. Why then do I want one?

And it’s not just the t-shirts. I’ve lost count of the number of Facebook groups, websites, neighbourhood newspapers, HOA newsletters, church weekly mailers, etc., where you can offer your services to the needy. Or find something to fill your needs. It’s a good thing in that we’re a gregarious and generally kind-hearted bunch of folks who just want to help.

But I have the creeping suspicion that there are more than a few people who are pretty proud of themselves for being the Face of Nashville Compassion. And that irks me. It bugs me that resumĂ©s (see?! It works in the body copy!) will inevitably list “Organised Blank To Help Victims of The Nashville Flood”.

I suppose that’s the downside to living in this town. Our major businesses are showbusiness and printing. Both of which involve a heck of a lot of marketing. So we’ve got a lot of marketing-savvy people here. But sometimes, just sometimes, I’d like to feel like we’re all making genuine connections and not schmoozing for the next Opportunity. I

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Well, we’ve had Roman Catholicism. Hinduism. Garden Variety Generic Mysticism. Alcoholism. We’ve dabbled in Neuroscience, Quantum Physics, Introduction to Philosophy.

And it all comes down to this….

[Warning: This will exceed my self-imposed limit of 500 words. Because it has to. Read at your own risk. I will try to keep it as brief as possible, but am happy to further discuss in the comments. Of course, watch there be NO comments. It’ll be like those lectures where the prof says “any questions” and some lone dude says, after about 45 seconds, “where’s the bathroom?” ] (more…)

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There is a Mother’s Day Underground, comprised mostly of infertile and uncoupled/childless women, that survives the first couple of weeks in May on courage, hiding at home and sending emails. A few of us also blog.

One of my similarly affected sisters sent a link to writer Anne Lamott’s very prescient piece in Salon. Although she herself is a mother, Lamott gets where we of the untapped wombs are coming from.

Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path. Ha! Every woman’s path is difficult, and many mothers were as equipped to raise children as wire monkey mothers.

That’s an old song, and most people–even those with children–have heard it before. The sour grapishness of that retort is not that new. But later on in the piece Lamott puts into words the raw truth that we childless feel. And it was this that I found very important and worthy of discussion.

We talk about “loving one’s child” as if a child were a mystical unicorn. Ninety-eight percent of American parents secretly feel that if you have not had and raised a child, your capacity for love is somehow diminished. Ninety-eight percent of American parents secretly believe that non-parents cannot possibly know what it is to love unconditionally, to be selfless, to put yourself at risk for the gravest loss.

That’s the coarse prejudice that hits you in the face every time some person smugly retorts “you just don’t understand because you don’t have kids.” As though that fierce, fiery love only comes with offspring. As though God were wholly incapable of giving those not gifted with children other avenues for such love experience.

I realise not everyone shares my worldview, especially my belief in a loving God who presents love as a mystical experience and the ability to Love as part of the essence of Divinity. God is Love.

You needn’t believe as I do, but even so I beg you to see that Love is not a selfish thing. It does not begrudge others. It does not seek to exclude or belittle. There is absolutely no reason to assume that someone else’s love is not as strong, good or worthy as yours simply because it does not conform to your pattern of living.

I do not say this to brag. But I know that I am blessed beyond measure to be part of a marriage of unconditional love. Not many people have that, and every time I read a romance novel or see a movie where the quest is for the type of Love I was blessed to find AT NINETEEN I am reminded again how generous God is with Love. We don’t have that magical unicorn love of mother and child, but we have another taste of magical love.

I don’t wish to stir up more controversy, but the number of childless couples and singletons I know who feel deep and abiding love for their pets, nieces, nephews and other unconventional entities is in the double, if not triple, digits. Pet people without kids hear often that dogs and cats are ‘not the same’ as having a child. I would submit that although the mechanics are different, the love experience is not necessarily different at all.

Because I know this like I know my own skin; If you thirst for love, the God Who Is Love will send it to you. Deep Love is one of the best ways we experience God. God desires to be known. So God sends love to those who wish to know it.

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