Archive for October, 2013

“Conventional lives are the perfect refuge if you are a terrible artist.”
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This is my 50th blog post.  Somehow I have managed, lazy writer that I am, to post something to my blah, I mean blog, for 50 days in a row.  Dorothy Parker said something about how she hated writing but she loved having written.  That about sums it up for me, too.  Sitting here, trying to think, trying to type or write longhand, when I’d much rather be out playing softball or riding my bike, is and has always been, torture.  I am a fidgety person.  I don’t do “still.”  Not very well, anyway.  And I cannot even begin to tell you about all the stories, monologues, stand-up routines and poems I have written in my head which never made it to paper or screen because I was just too freaking lazy to get up or stop what I was doing and write them down.So, okay, maybe it’s not actual torture.  There are things I like about the writing process.  Give me a second and I’m sure I’ll come up with a few.  Or one.  Oh, yeah.  I do enjoy the quiet solitude.  And now there’s this new cat in the family who insists on plastering herself to my side as I sit here at the home of my generous friends, stretched out on the sofa, tap-tapping away.  Little Hazel.  Like me, and like Richard Gere in An Officer And A Gentleman, she had nowhere else to go.  So she sleeps, I write, both of us happy to have a place to call home.I am going to take a short hiatus from How To Overthink Almost Everything.  It’s getting tiresome for me.  Remember, I began blogging only reluctantly, after a lot of arm twisting.  I’ll be back eventually.  For now, it’s time to concentrate on finding a job and a home of my own.  For me and my girls.  And Daisy the dog.  And maybe even Hazel.

Thanks for listening.

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Earth Has Its Boundaries

Posted: October 17, 2013 in Boundaries
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The journal assignment one warm day last April was boundaries.  As in, exploring our own, recognizing the ones before us, honoring them, stopping at them or figuring out how and when to go around.  I know all about boundaries.  I have had impenetrable walls protecting me all my life.  It must be what happens automatically when you lose your dad 16 months after you’re born, you yearn to dress and act as the opposite gender and your mother is married, from when you are 6 to when you are 15, to a violent, mean, condescending sociopath who thinks that feelings and affection are unnecessary.  So damaged was I by him and his rules about what was necessary and what was not that I have nearly banished the “unnecessary” word from my vocabulary when speaking with my girls.  I want them to know that what’s important to them is important to me.  I have indeed told Bea that someday she will grow up and see what a crazy and rather silly time of life middle school can be.  But when we have this discussion I always preface it by letting her know I understand that it’s important to her now – that the issues kids face in their early teens are meaningful when they are dealing with them.  I would never tell her (nor would I tell the twins in a year or two) that her feelings about what she is going through are “unnecessary,” that if a friend said something nasty about her, or to her, it was unnecessary to be mad or sad about it.

My kids, I think, see the truest and most boundary-free version of me that exists.  Georgia and Esther are just on the cusp of being old enough so I have hinted to them that they can ask me anything.  Their questions are still mostly cute and kind of funny.  Bea is right at that age when kids want to know everything there is to know.  I have told her to ask me whatever questions she has and I will give her an honest answer.  She’s asked me about sex.  She’s asked me about love.  She’s asked me about my drug use.  I’ve been frank and admitted that, though not a very adventurous drug-user, I have smoked weed plenty of times and still would on occasion if I had the money and the connections.  Just a few days ago I told her that smoking pot makes orgasms more intense.  She laughed and said she can’t imagine what an orgasm is even like.  I told her it was like a party in your whole body.  That was enough for her.  But she loved how open I was with her.

For other people, though, I do have my walls.  Getting hurt sucks.  Of course, relationships are better when you can be open and vulnerable, but you have to be able to trust to do that.  I try, I sincerely do.  I have come to realize that not everyone is out to hurt me the way my mother’s ex-husband hurt me.  I met him when I was 5 and just finishing kindergarten.  I was the only kid, other than my middle sister, in the entire elementary school who didn’t have a dad.  And I wanted one.  Badly.  So badly I was willing to jump into his arms and hope he’d be the wonderful father I craved.  Which he was, for about 6 months.  Then I think he realized what he had gotten himself into and all hell broke loose.  He was 39 years old, a widower, father of his own 8-year-old motherless girl and suddenly he had a new wife and three other daughters.  And if he didn’t think he could handle it, if he for even an instant doubted his ability to feel love and affection towards the 4 new people in his life he never should have taken up the challenge.  He should have known that he was cold and uncaring, incapable of affection and compassion and just turned around and walked.  Away.

So, yes, I have walls to protect myself, but nowhere near as many as I used to.  I have spent a lifetime tearing them down and letting people in.  It’s a work in progress.  It started when I was 15 and my mom finally had the courage to divorce the monster.  How long I live will determine how far I get.

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“Tao is beyond words and beyond understanding. Words may be used to speak of it, but they cannot contain it. Tao existed before words and names, before heaven and earth, before the ten thousand things. It is the unlimited father and mother of all limited things. Therefore, to see beyond boundaries to the subtle heart of things, dispense with names, with concepts, with expectations and ambitions and differences. Tao and its many manifestations arise from the same source: subtle wonder within mysterious darkness. This is the beginning of all understanding.”  Lao Tzu

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The journal prompt one day in August was, What would you change about yourself if you could?  It appeared on the facebook page of the coaching group I attend once a week and we were instructed, by our fearless leader, to answer right there in the thread.  Usually we are instructed to write our response in our journal, which is private, but this time we all got to see everyone’s answer.

I was in the woods at my sister’s cabin when I first saw the prompt.  Standing outside, with my computer on a dry wall close to the neighbor’s house so I could borrow his WiFi, I was getting mercilessly bitten by mosquitoes but enjoying the chirping of the birds and chipmunks all around me.  I don’t have a smart phone, nor do I want one, so I still have to find WiFi to see email and facebook.

My initial response to the prompt was something like this:  Nothing, I’m perfect.  Everything, I’m an idiot.

And because I had just finished reading A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki I added:  Perfect person, idiot.  Same thing.

Which it is, really.  And I don’t know, maybe you need to study Zen Buddhism for years and years to really understand how it’s the same thing but to me, without being able to describe why, in words, I just feel like it makes total sense.  We’re all connected, everything is one, minute pieces of the same giant cloth.  There’s an explanation for it in physics, I guess, but that’s beyond my grasp.  If anyone ever came up with one of those machines you see in sci-fi movies where a person puts what looks like a giant colander on his or her head and then miraculously receives encyclopedic knowledge instantly, I’d want to try it out.  I’d ask to be given the knowledge of fluency in at least 20 different languages so I could truly be a citizen of the world and be able to communicate with, empathize with people all over the planet.  Maybe I’d even make Klingon one of the languages, just in case.  I’d also request an instantaneous understanding of as many different philosophies as I could think of right there on the spot, with the wired up pasta strainer on my head.  Then I’d ask to know every single thing Stephen Hawking knows about physics.  And, at last, perhaps I’d be able to explain how I feel to almost everyone.

 

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Two hikers yesterday found a badly decomposed body believed to be that of Nobel Prize-winning hermit author Kimberly Miller, near a cabin she was believed to have purchased 25 years ago, in 2014.  The body was tentatively identified because of the hearing aids still inserted in its crumbling ears and because the shredded clothing seemed to resemble the outdoorsy and comfortable sportswear preferred by the 81-year-old writer.  An initial report by the county coroner states the probable cause of death as simply falling peacefully asleep in a cedar Adirondack chair in the woods and then lacking the will to ever wake up.

 


 

If the body does indeed prove to be that of Kimberly Miller she will be sorely missed.  Although she lead a primarily reclusive life she was known to come out of hiding twice a year, in the spring to direct the elementary school play and also in the fall to run the middle school book fair, where she always read from her favorite books, some which she had written but mostly those she hadn’t.  She usually gave out Scholastic gift cards to unsuspecting parents who seemed to be unable to purchase all the actual books in which their children showed a true interest.  At last year’s book fair, Ms Miller threatened to start a bonfire with electronic reading devices if one more student came in and asked if there were any for sale there in the school library.

 

 

Kimberly Miller published only three books in her short writing career, which started in her 50s after she could no longer find work as a TV stage manager and her friends told her to give that up and do what she loved best.  The first was a faux-memoir entitled Joke’s On Me about her feeble attempts to live a wholesome and genuine life in a world polluted by greed and posers.  The second was a novel called Searching For Sea Glass, about a nightclub DJ who goes completely deaf at the age of 32 and moves to Cape Cod to find herself.  Her final book was published without her consent, when someone found a stash of her poetry in her paper recycling bin and decided to sneak it to her editor, whom Kimberly promptly fired.

 

 

She leaves behind three amazing daughters; Beatrice, the rock star who gave up fame and fortune in 2025 to form a non-profit group that provides food, clean water and education to children, mostly girls, worldwide; Georgia, the award-winning biochemist who discovered the all-natural combination of herbs and spices that can completely cure any form of cancer, who hid out for a year in her mom’s cabin when she brought about the fall of the USDA and the CDC and the entire pharmaceutical industry and there was a price on her head until the public became aware of the sinister plot and promised to protect her wherever she went; and Esther, the Olympic gold medalist in synchronized swimming and the founder of Tom.Boy.Sport, a clothing line exclusively for young girls who want to dress like young boys.  Miller is also survived by the two perfect husbands and one perfect partner of her children, her 5 grandchildren, three of whom were adopted from Vietnam and by her niece, Mariel, the EMT famous for saving the life of President Tao’s daughter in 2019 and her nephew, Michael, who invented a way for fantasy football computer clicks to pay for athletic shoes for needy children.  The entire family would gather at Kimberly’s cabin every year for Christmas and July 4th celebrations.

 

 

Once the final determination has been made about the identity of the body, almost certainly that of the writer Kimberly Miller, arrangements will be made.  It’s a well known fact that Ms Miller desired to be cremated and have a pinch of her ashes secreted away somewhere in Yankee Stadium and another pinch rubbed into the dirt between first and second base of Softball Field 1 in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.  Her dog and her cat are being fostered until her children arrive.  In lieu of flowers, the family will probably ask for a food or tequila donation to be made to Kim’s New Orleans Jazz-style funeral/remembrance party, but only if you attend and have a great time.

 

Car, Car, C-A-R

Posted: October 14, 2013 in Tomboy Life
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The first time I can remember feeling truly ashamed was when I was about 9 years old and I was caught stealing a Matchbox Car from the toy department at Gimbel’s in the Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall.  I stole it because I was not frequently presented with what would have been considered “boy toys” and so for a while I made it my mission to procure some for myself.  I can remember walking away with Matchbox Cars, GI Joe clothes, even a brown plastic cowboy hat for my Ken doll.  Eventually my mom gave up trying to mold me into a girly-girl but there were a few years there when it was pretty tough to be a tomboy.

As I was stuffing that red Matchbox Car deep into the front pocket of my dungarees I knew right then that it was wrong.  And once I got caught I felt horrible and got into a ton of trouble.  I spent the whole ride home in silence, wondering how my violent, supposed “step-father” would punish me once he found out.  And now I can’t even remember what my punishment was, but I do remember two of my sisters sitting next to me in the car, certain that they were glad they weren’t me right then.  I know I let my mom down that day.  She tried, despite our stressful environment while living with that monster, to teach us right from wrong.

A few years later I started teaching myself about Eastern religions and decided to try to be a person of virtue, a person of honor.  I Ching, Tao Te Ching, Siddhartha, this all started resonating for me by the time I was twelve.  I still, to this day, try to follow a peaceful path, but it’s a pretty difficult thing to do in this crazy, messed up world.

One way I try to stay as calm and peaceful inside as I possibly can is breathing exercises.  I learned some good ones when I was pregnant and preparing for my due date.  Another is visualization.  I close my eyes and imagine pure, bright, white light entering the top of my head from far out in the center of the universe and filling me with serenity and goodness.  I imagine the good light visiting every part of me and cleansing me from the inside as it travels through me.

And then there’s humor.  I have always had a pretty decent sense of it and I love to laugh and make other people laugh.  This trend started pretty early in my life and I can remember being called an imp and a trickster.  I tried to play pranks that were funny but not annoying, as my sense of empathy was also strong and I didn’t want to make people angry, I just wanted to make them laugh.

I recall being about seven years old and attending a big, family-filled dinner party in the middle of winter, snow on the ground when we arrived and accumulating steadily as the party wore on.  Some older kids started stealing everyone’s shoes and hiding them and as people got ready to leave they were pissed because so many of the shoes were missing.  It occurred to me right then that making people mad was not funny at all.  So I tried to stick to getting smiles, not sighs of exasperation.

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In 1969, one big hairstyle for moms was the bouffant look.  My mom had such a high version it made me wonder how she managed to sleep comfortably inside that lacquer helmet.  A lot of my aunts wore their hair this way also.  They would go once a week to the salon and, I swear, walk out toting half a can of hairspray on their teased up, swirling locks.  That first day, their hair was downright springy.  You could press it all the way down to the scalp and it would pop right back up into place once you took your hand away.  This annoyed my mom so we didn’t do it too often.  The bouffant hairstyle also came with empty spaces here and there, where the swirls of hair didn’t necessarily cover completely.  Cracks in the armor, these spaces were to me.  And very inviting.  Too much to resist.  So while my step-sister distracted my mom, I gently placed a tiny, yellow, metal toy car, about a quarter of the size of a Matchbox and weighing almost nothing, into one of those inviting spaces between the swirls in her puffed up hair.  She didn’t feel a thing.  And then she walked around with it there for two whole days.  I eventually had to point it out to her because I knew she was due to go back to the hairdresser and I thought it would be carrying the prank too far to let him discover it there.  She had been to the city the first day and running errands around town the second day.  And she was such a good sport, my mom.  I can still hear the laughter that filled our dysfunctional kitchen that morning when I brought it to her attention.  She was all for anything that caused a break in the tense and violent atmosphere we all called home.  And I bet she’s laughing again now, wherever her soul may be.

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OCd

Posted: October 13, 2013 in Health
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I’m pretty sure I have some form of OCD.  I’ve never been officially diagnosed (can you be officially diagnosed?) but I’m pretty sure I have it.  I don’t wash my hands a hundred times a day or constantly check that the burners on the stove are all turned off, but I do need to turn the radio off in the car before I cut the ignition, I do prefer to wait until the end of a song before I turn off my iPod (which means the new technology that excludes an on/off switch makes me insane) and I do like for all the utensils in the drawer to face the same way. 

I need for towels on racks to hang straight down, not crookedly; I like my jeans folded in a certain way and will re-fold them repeatedly until I get them just right and I bite at unruly cuticles because I can’t stand it when rough pieces of skin on my fingers get caught on anything.  I pick at scabs, need all the books in a pile to face the same direction and can’t put a bill back in my wallet until all the folded corners are opened and pressed flat.  Not pressed with an iron, just pressed open with my hand.  Wow, pressed with an iron….  That would really be scary.  But it would not surprise me to learn that there actually are people who iron their paper money.

I’m not that far gone.  But some days I feel pretty close.  What causes OCD anyway?  Is it a chemical imbalance?  Is it a neurological disorder?  Is it just a weird need to control every little thing?  I don’t even know.  I’m pretty sure I have a mild form of it but I’ve never been interested in finding out for sure.  Because, who cares?  The crazy little things I do don’t hurt anyone.  When I count in my head how many steps there are in Penn Station from the main waiting room to the track level where the trains are, no one hears me.  When I wait one minute to get out of bed because the clock says 5:56 and I dislike the number 6 but I love the number 7, no one notices.  And if there were medicine to cure me of all these little quirks, would I consider taking it?  Hell, no!  Have you seen some of the drug commercials on TV lately?  Yes, this will help with your depression but it may cause insomnia, night sweats, diarrhea, lightheadedness, dizziness, cramps, headaches, dry throat or suicidal thoughts.  Are you kidding me?  I’ll stick with the depression, thank you very much.  Or I’ll just deal with my OCD.  Tomorrow.  If the sun is out.  At 5:57.

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The Journal

Posted: October 12, 2013 in Journals, Travel, Winter Olympics
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Image  About six weeks ago, I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the realm of blogging by the wonderful women in my coaching group.  They told me I had a lot to say that needed to be shared with the world.  Someone even said it would be selfish of me to keep my stories and scraps of memoir writing to myself.  I argued that I didn’t like this new way of “publishing” and that anyone could have a blog.  I wanted to be recognized as a writer, yes, but I wanted to try to do it the old fashioned way.  I wanted some smart New York editor to tell me I was worthy.  I wanted to appear in print.  My friends didn’t care what I wanted.  What they wanted was for me to blog.  I gave in.

I am not normally that much of a pushover and when you consider just how long they had to work on me to get me to agree, I guess I can’t really be considered a pushover at all.  I think I simply got tired of hearing them insist.  When I was in college, a favorite professor told me I could be one of the writers of the 20th century if I would just write every day.  But I was lazy, so I didn’t.  And now it’s too late for that to come true, considering that here we are, well into the second decade of the 21st century.  Another professor, after reading my initial essay assignment out loud to the class and giving me my first A+ as a freshman, tossed me out of English 101 after only three lessons, saying, “You don’t need this class, Kim.  And don’t bother taking English 102, either.  I’ll fix it with the department.”

All of this came just months after being voted Most Literary in my high school yearbook, along with a nice young man named Peter.  So I’m willing to accept that I’m an okay writer.  I’m not the writer that I would like to be, though.  I think I could be someday if I could stop being so lazy and really put some work into it.  If I make posting something on my blog every day look relatively easy it’s only because I have been cheating.  This, what I am writing right now, is being written hours before it will become a blog post tomorrow morning.  But about 75% of what I have posted so far has come directly from the journals I have been keeping for years.  I have been rifling through them for interesting ideas, thoughts, television memories and pieces of the memoir I am trying to conjure.  Whatever I have borrowed from the past I have re-written, of course, but having all that stuff socked away has made it less complicated for me to post something every day.  Eventually, I suppose I will run out.  When that happens, my posts will appear less frequently.

One thing that would help me to continue posting something every day is finding the missing journal.  I don’t keep a journal all the time.  It’s a sporadic activity for me, quite often brought about by travel.  My oldest one is from when I was 14 and in the 9th grade.  I still have it and it’s hilarious to look through but if I told you its title I’d have to kill you.  Okay, okay, I named it Hey, I’m A Teenager.  Now you know.  I promise not to kill you.  Just don’t tease me about it, please.  I was a teenager for crying out loud!

I kept writing after that.  Mostly, through high school and college and beyond, I wrote bad poetry and science fiction short stories.  There are 5 poems of which I am truly proud.  Three have appeared here.  Number four will appear next month.  I’m looking for the fifth, another sonnet.  I don’t care that they’re not good enough for the New Yorker.  I like them.  Five.  Out of more than 300.

There’s also a sci-fi novel I wrote as a sophomore in college, because I was bored in a geology class and needed something interesting to do.  It’s 60,000 words long and obviously written by a 19-year-old young woman who had fun ideas about the future and space travel but not one millimeter of physics knowledge to make the story plausible.  It’s in a box somewhere and I have not peeked at it in decades.

My next foray into journal-keeping came when I was the stage manager of the Morton Downey, Jr. Show and we did weeks, here and there, on the road.    Detroit, Houston, Kansas City.  I wound all of those journals together to form a bad book called A Dyke Does Downey.  The subtitle was going to be Blow Jobs Don’t Count, after how Mort would explain to anyone who would listen just how he managed to remain “faithful” to his wife.  Quite a character, that Mort.

After that I stopped writing for a while.  Then CBS asked me, in 1998, to go to Nagano to cover the Olympic Winter Games.  I was thrilled, both to be covering the Olympics and to be going to Japan.  I knocked two wishes off my bucket list in one glorious month.  Before I left, my friend DML gave me a beautiful journal and encouraged me to write in it every day, reminding me that that’s what writers do.  Oh, yeah, I thought, and happily added it to my carry-on messenger bag.

We lived in Park Slope then.  I filled that Nagano journal to the brim with stories, drawings, pictures and stickers.  The only drawing that pops up in my memory now is one of me, in stick figure form with my winking DJ logo face, seated at a restaurant table with the hugest bottle of beer I had ever seen.  I think it was an Asahi, but I can’t be certain.  The only actual story I can recall is the one about the day KB, Bob and I went to the Bobsleigh venue, up in the mountains, and almost got shot by the police.  I’ll write that one again someday, with whatever details I can remember.  There was another thread in that journal about how Martha Stewart kept staring at me, smiling my way and bringing me small presents of fresh, native-to-Nagano apples and grapes, but those details are gone.

Two years later, with a toddler in tow, we moved from Park Slope to Sunset Park, to a tiny frame house on 33rd and 5th.  I know I packed that Nagano journal so it would make the journey with us.  And ten years ago, when we moved here, I’m pretty sure I packed up everything meaningful and brought it all to this leafy suburb.  For the whole ten years I pictured that journal somewhere in the attic or the basement, tucked away in a box or a crate with other books and papers and when I had to sell my house earlier this year the one thing I looked forward to while going through everything to decide what to keep and what to jettison was coming across that beautiful journal again.  I was filled with anticipation every time I opened a likely box of printed materials, notebooks and papery objects.  I kept thinking, this one, it has to be in this one.  But it wasn’t.  There was no Nagano journal in any of those boxes upon boxes upon boxes that sat idle for 10 years with stuff inside that we didn’t really need but also didn’t want to throw out.  I found all my poetry, all my short stories, all my pictures.  No journal.  And I miss it so.  Sometimes I wake up in a sweat thinking that I’ve misplaced something seriously important, like one of my children.  Or the dog or all my tax returns.  And then I remember that it’s the journal.  And I’m really glad that it’s not a kid, not even the dog, but I’d go through 100 tax audits after losing all my important papers if I could just have that journal back.  I think you would have liked it, too.

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