Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why Milestone?

You may have noticed that I received an invitation to check out a blog about turning 40 in the comments to the post "Feelin' It."

I don't exactly get it. Turning 40 is a milestone, but of what? Why? Because people say it is? Why do they say it is? I'm not seeing any answers on that blog yet. What would "experiencing Turning 40 to the fullest" look like?

At 16 you can legally drive (though I know that recently a lot of conditions have been put on 16 and 17 year old drivers).
At 18 you can vote, and if you're male, you must register for the Selective Service.
At 21, you can legally drink (but a lot of people who will drink after turning 21 started when they were well under 21).
At 50, you get an invitation to join AARP as a full-fledged member.
At 65, you qualify for Social Security payments and Medicare health insurance, and you can withdraw money from your IRA without big penalties.

I'm not seeing 40 in there as a significant marker, unless you count getting mammograms - and only 51% of us have to do that, and a lot of women start getting them before they turn 40. So why is it such a milestone?

Field Trip

The Food Bank Director and I went to the Alameda County Community Food Bank last week. I'd never been there and I wanted to see it. It's a huge place, with a walk-in freezer almost the size of our house (part of which you can see in the upper left corner of the photo below), and a small section set up with shelves where we "shop" that is probably 30 x 40 feet, minuscule in relation to the size of the whole warehouse. There's a desk where you sign in and they give you a cart, Then you walk up and down the aisles until you have everything you can get. The weight of your stuff is recorded for billing purposes and you go out and pack your truck or van and leave.

The difference between our food bank and the ACCFB is kind of like the difference between a mom-and-pop grocery store and a grocery distributor. We get our stuff there and then the clients come to us to get their stuff. We got ten cases of tomato sauce, ten of diced tomatoes, ten of cranberry sauce (for next November), and five of pork and beans. We also got 100 pounds of sweet potatoes, 100 pounds of carrot stubs, and 50 pounds of onions. The ACCFB charges by the pound for the canned goods, and the produce is free. Unlike a grocery distributor, the choices are limited, as are the amounts (sometimes). You get what they have when they have it because you don't know when they will have it again. We have a lot of tomato products because that's pretty much all the ACCFB has had for several months, but come September they may not have any so we should get it now - and do.

All cans, jars, and packaged food like crackers and cereal have codes printed on them which mean various things. The date printed on the can is often a "best by" date (sometimes it is a packing date). After the "best by" date has passed, the food inside the can is generally good for up to 24 months (depending on what's inside the can), though the nutritional content may be compromised (particularly in the case of vitamins). When we get cans and packages donated by the community, we look at each one to see if it's worth putting up on the table for packing. We all throw stuff out if it's more than two years old, and sometimes before that if the packaging looks iffy or (obviously) of the can is bulging or leaking. The oldest can we've received since I've been at the food bank had a "best by" date of June 1995. I think it came from someone who brought us the contents of their parent's kitchen when the parent died or moved into supportive housing. We all wondered at the age of the can and then someone pitched it in the trash.

Carrying all these cans around reinforces my weight training - and my need for weight training!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Feelin' It

I'm turning forty this year and let me tell you, I am feeling it. I don't know why, since I don't generally consider myself vain or one of those people who has some idea about "youth and beauty." I know this is stupid because I have lots of friends who are over forty (and well over 40) and I never think about that unless they say something about it. I didn't know that I was feeling it until I realized that lately I've been giving some friends of mine a hard time about being in their early twenties (21, 23, and 25, respectively), and then I thought, "Where is that coming from?"

I wonder where this 'turning forty = over the hill' thing comes from? At the very least it's out of date; with all these Boomers around, "50 is the new 30," you know. I feel like I'm at the beginning of so many things - and on my third career (or maybe the second round of my first career). Maybe I feel like I should have accomplished "more" by now, but "more" of what? I'm busy being a good member of my community and my family, and that doesn't come with any titles, promotions, or raises, and little recognition in the wider world. But being a good member of my community and my family is something that never slacks off or ends - there is no "hill" here.

I had my first birthday celebration at Knudsen's Ice Creamery last week with about a dozen friends. That afternoon I had walked up to the 99-cent store and got a couple of candles to use all year, and put them on the banana split that KT's aunt and I shared. When it arrived, the Trained Killer started the singing of "Happy Unbirthday to You." Afterwards Miz Jinkins offered that JayBear could be my birthday party mascot.

If it didn't require continuous bleaching, I would keep my hair purple. I don't know if it makes me look younger, but I think it makes me seem younger. Not to mention that I think it makes me look really hip. A cute guy flirted with me last night at a bar while I was with KT, No, Dre, and some other friends, starting off with telling me my purple hair was fabulous and ending with kissing my hand. Vanity, it's all vanity!

Friday, January 25, 2008


I stopped by Boobs, Injuries, and Dr. Pepper and have been not-tagged. She's posted a fairly serious (for her) story about a conversation she had with a client over the phone. She won't tag anyone, but she says:
". . . I'll ask that you do one thing: continue this on your blog or in an email to your friends or on the back of your car with shoe polish, if you have to. Simply begin with those words and let your heart take over.

Renew the dream."

I have a dream that couples of the same sex will be recognized for the quality of their love, not their gender. That when a woman says "I'm her wife" she won't be denied a hospital visit; that when two men want to be fathers they will be allowed to adopt; that when a child talks about his Mom and Mama no one will make fun of him for "having no dad." That when a woman brings her girlfriend home to meet the parents, and then brings the boyfriend, the parents won't "ask" her to only date men because her life will be "so much easier."

I have a dream that someday, people will be judged not by the expression of their love but by the content of their love.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Challenge

Partway through NaBloPoMo, someone created a group of people who would blog every day in 2008. I thought about, but chose not to join. While in some ways I've finding it harder to blog three times a week (like, remembering the third time), writing daily for an audience was pretty challenging and I wanted to beg off.

Most of the blogs I read regularly have entries once a week or every couple of weeks, so I'll check and come back and check and come back until I see something I haven't read yet. It's always fun to see something new but I never know when there will be a new post.

The other day I stopped by the blog of one of the 365ers and read the page. I found myself thinking, "Jeez, this woman writes a lot!" [as in "often"]

Well, duh-uh. I did that, why did it surprise me that she is?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Exuberantly Exploring Other Realms

Shobi-wan just called and told me that she had to put her dog Sophie down today. She's been ill, declining since Christmas, and wasn't going to get better. All the treatment the veterinarians could have given would have prolonged her life, but not the quality of her life. I'm really sad that Sophie is gone.

Soph was a big dog - black-haired, big-hearted, and stubborn, like Shobi-wan herself. Sophie came to live with Shobi-wan shortly after Shobi-wan and I split up, but even so Sophie liked me. I went to visit Shobi-wan in Seattle once and Sophie was so glad to see me she stood on her head and ran in circles. When I got sick later that night, she slept with me on the fold-out couch. Her fur was long and her tail looked as though she spent hours crimping it just so every morning.

Yesterday while reading the paper my eye was caught by an obituary that said about the person, "Her body released her soul to exuberantly explore other realms." Explore, Sophie! Good dog!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Who's The Song About?

Last night Zirpu and I went to see Miz Jinkins sing. It's the first time she's sung in public since before the baby came and since we were invited, we went to support her return to the rock 'n' roll lifestyle (though Zirpu pointed out that it's really more like the folkie lifestyle). The last song she sang was about a time in her life when she was "a shadow of herself" and was resistant to falling in love. In the chorus she tells Love to go away, she "can't play with you." I found myself wondering if the song was about the period during which she was falling in love with her husband, whom I've known much longer than I've known Miz Jinkins.

I've written just one song, though I wrote a lot of poetry, some of it not half-bad, in writing classes in college. The Killer Lady and I were at the Cabin before Cabinstock in 1996 sitting on the rock looking over Lake Creek. I don't remember if we were talking or just reclining in the sun quietly, but I must have gotten teary about Phil not being there with us (this was just four years after he'd died, and that pain still freshens when I'm at the Cabin without him). The Killer Lady went inside and brought us both whiskey and waters in coffee mugs. I don't drink whiskey but somehow it fit the occasion. I sipped, and this came out as a song about people I knew. Later Kid Paully added the music notations.

Whiskey In The Afternoon

Drinkin' whiskey in the afternoon
Sittin' on a rock overlooking the river
Drinkin' whiskey in the afternoon
Watchin' clouds, thinkin' 'bout old lovers

Time moves differently in Colorado
And the all seem to be here at once
There's people I haven't seen before
Maybe they'll be lovers in a few years more

I'm sittin' here thinkin' 'bout a younger me
And all the things I did right and wrong
Together the right length of time and
The times I left early or stayed too long

Drinkin' whiskey in the afternoon
Sittin' on a rock overlooking the river
Drinkin' whiskey in the afternoon
Watchin' clouds, thinkin' 'bout old lovers

The river rushes them somewhere
Prob'ly down to the Colorado River
Carrying them on to other lives and lovers
Columbines and the aspens wave goodbye

But you know they didn't need to hurry
Now I'm out on this rock all alone
I'm drinkin' whiskey in the afternoon
Watchin' clouds, thinkin' 'bout old lovers

Drinkin' whiskey in the afternoon
Sittin' on a rock overlooking the river
Drinkin' whiskey in the afternoon
Watchin' clouds, thinkin' 'bout old lovers

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Real Women Have Curves

I'm finding this harder than writing every day. Harder in the sense that I have to remember to do it; when I had to write every day I never forgot. This week I was going to write on Thursday but I got caught up in vacation planning until it was time for bed. I also feel that I should write more interesting things than what's going on in my head now that I shouldn't be scrambling for a topic every day.

The other night some friends and I were talking about curvy female celebrities. You know I have a thing for funny-looking Englishmen, but when I think about women I think are sexy, I have a hard time finding them in the media. Granted, I kind of suck at pop culture these days because the only TV I watch is Food Network* and SciFi^. I think Queen Latifah is sexy, bouncy, and I love her smile. But after stating that to my friends I couldn't think of anyone else. One friend mentioned America Ferrera, who plays the title character in Ugly Betty and who I've only seen in Real Women Have Curves (an unusual coming-of-age movie in that it was about a woman), and then our suggestions ran out.

Well, hooray for Google because I searched for "celebrities with curves" and found this USA Today article from a year ago talking about how larger-sized women are becoming more acceptable in Hollywood, New York, and fashion. I also found this discussion about celebrities with curves, listing sexy larger ladies. What I noticed was this: Seven of the fifteen women mentioned in the USA Today story are Latina or African-American. I don't know a lot of the women mentioned in the discussion group but of the ones I do know, it seems many of them are people of color. I wonder if the definition of beauty is being affected by racial demographics? Or maybe it is just coming back around: Marilyn Monroe and Debbie Reynolds were size 12s, and probably so were most, if not all, of these women.

Not that I necessarily think these women are sexy:
* Paula Deen, Nigella Lawson, Rachael Ray
^ Whoopi Goldberg, Marina Sirtis

Friday, January 18, 2008

Things That Make Me Happy

Tea wrote a "happiness is" list yesterday and I didn't run with it myself, though I think it's a good idea. In fact, I think it's a particularly good idea since I'm feeling very cranky recently as I'm in the midst of sixth-grade type insecurity, dealing with finding support for the Bi Women's Group, and the fifth week of no heat in the house. I was feeling too cranky to think of anything that makes me happy, let alone twenty-five things that make me happy, but I read the other people's happy things and I'm feeling inspired - and maybe even slightly happier.

Oh, I see that some people just went to ten. Right on! I may add more later but this is the list for now:

Here goes, in no particular order:

Weight training
Dancing the foxtrot
The soundtrack of Singing In The Rain
Being at The Cabin
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band
Bread and butter
Hanging out with my sister-in-law
Laughing (including other people laughing when I'm not)
The first two minutes after getting into bed
The Blues Brothers
KFOG's Ten At Ten radio show
Band-Aids (the new waterproof ones are soooooo cool!)
Talking with friends about things that matter to me

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Oops, I Did It Again

This is a much more raspberry color than last time, and done much more evenly. KT helped me this time, which was fun - apparently she has a hidden desire to be a hair stylist.

People reactions last time around were pretty easy to read. If they liked it, they said so. If they said, "New year, new color!" or "Why did you dye your hair purple?" I could tell by the expressions on their faces that they thought a color that occurs in nature would be better.

Shanelah pointed out that I just don't seem like the kind of person who would dye my hair purple. I'm the wrong age and I'm not Goth.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Talking Heads

One of the things I like about the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary is that the way they turned out might mean that my vote on Super Duper Tuesday might mean something. I'm not sure why in the past those two states (whose combined population is half that of the San Francisco Bay Area) have anointed the nominees, but it doesn't seem that way this year.

My vote may matter in the primary on the 5th, so I've been thinking about all the people running, and talking things over with friends and the volunteers at the food bank. In November it won't really matter because I'll vote for whoever is on the Democratic ticket even if it's Mickey Mouse. Well, maybe I wouldn't vote for Mickey Mouse if John McCain were the Republican candidate, but maybe I would. It's been fun to listen to the pundits complain about being surprised about what happened in Iowa and NH, and expound contradictory stuff: I listened to a woman on NPR yesterday saying, "Well, he has to win in South Carolina" about every single Republican candidate Robert Siegel named. She didn't say what would happen if they didn't win, and most of them won't.

My personal feeling is that the Democrats will win in November because they aren't Republicans. Younger people tend to be more liberal and if nothing else, so far Obama's campaign is getting the twerty-somethings to the polls ('the more you have to conserve, the more conservative you get"). More importantly, I think the economy will continue to slide, and even if the Republicans aren't totally responsible for that, it's like this: If you throw a party and the party sucks, it's your fault, even if you were responsible for bringing only some of the liquor. When times are bad, Americans vote with their wallets.

Note: Five hundred Kenyans have been killed and 250,000 have fled or been forced from their homes due to violence related to the presidential election there three weeks ago.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A hoary night, when lonely men struggled to keep their fires lit and cabins warm.

The first three times I went to the Cabin was in the winter when I flew out to Colorado during the break between semesters. The Cabin was not designed for winter use; hand-built by Phil and Marko's parents, it's got lots of single-pane windows and is insulated with tinfoil. A fire in the river rock fireplace, which is large, is the main source of heat, and there was (until about a year ago) a wood stove for additional warmth.

Jujubi, Denver D, Phil, and a good friend of Phil's, Bard, would go up to the Cabin and walked in the snow, played cards, talked, read, and listened to music and ate big country meals (read: artery-clogging) that Bard would cook. We sipped a fair amount of Yukon Jack and peach schnapps, and smoked cigars. Jujubi, Denver D, and I would often get caught up in listening to Bard tell shaggy-dog stories about raising rabbits, slaughtering sheep, driving a forklift at Coors, or building houses with his father. The slow cadence of his speech was mesmerizing even if the stories were not.

One night we were there the temperature fell and fell. The four of them played pinochle while I wrote a really lame short story and watched the fire which Phil and Bard kept burning high. The wood stove was cooking away in the corner and we were still chilled, and finally Phil pulled out the kerosene heater and turned on the baseboards. Jujubi and I, from temperate climates, had never heard of it being "too cold to snow," but the guys, all native Coloradans, told us it was.

It would not have snowed that night anyway. There were no clouds, and the sky was a dark royal blue with a big white moon and bright, bright stars strewn across it. The Milky Way was visible. . . I'd never seen such a sky. The dark blue above was reflected on the snow, which shimmered a light blue back at the stars. Standing outside for minute, I was totally taken in by the color and the silence (the river being muffled under ice and five feet of snow). I wrote a haiku about the snow, the last line of which was "What color is blue!"

When we went to bed, the thermometer indicated that it was five below zero outside. It didn't seem much warmer in the Cabin and we all prepared to sleep in our long johns, sweaters, and wool socks. Bard had his sleeping bag rated to 15 below and Jujubi and Phil took the double bed with the electric blanket cranked high. Denver D and I, both small, piled all the extra blankets onto the daybed and wrapped ourselves around each other.

After the fire died down, and because the kerosene heater was turned off, it got even colder in the Cabin. Denver D started to shiver and could not stop. As much of our bodies were touching as could, and I began to worry that he was getting too cold, not to mention that his shivering was disturbing my comfort. After a few minutes of insisting that Denver D put on a hat, I got up and grabbed a wool beanie and pulled it over his ears. Denver D was really worried himself that he was losing too much heat and was afraid to get out of bed. Eventually he stopped shivering and we were able to sleep.

In the morning there was a skim of ice in the bucket in the kitchen and our toothbrushes were frozen to the counter.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Point

The purple is fading to grey.

I don't like that at all.

Friday, January 4, 2008

New Year's Day

Such an arbitrarily chosen day - even more so than Christmas, which was tacked onto Yule to paper over a pagan celebration. I did a little surfing and learned that Julius Caesar settled New Year's Day as January 1 to get back in sync with the sun after years of tampering with the calendar threw it off. 2050 years later we're still using it. I guess if you rule the Western world, you can start some pretty strong habits.

Zirpu and I went to Park Place and ate good luck food like ham and black eyed peas. Seems like the house was crammed with former Southerners, who were having a great time cooking, eating, and playing Rock Band. The only thing I can imagine harder to deal with than a small child with a noise-making toy is a whole family and their friends with a noise-making toy. On the other hand, spending ten minutes between songs deciding who's going to play what instrument or sing, where you're going to play, and what song you're all going to play probably counts as quality family time.

JR and I hung out in the hot tub. He got an old-school wooden tub with a wood stove to heat the water. Eco-geek that he is, he was burning Java Logs, which are made of coffee grounds. Unfortunately, they do not smell like coffee, but this is a blessedly quiet hot tub.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Family Poem

Yesterday I heard someone talking about her family's visit for the holidays. The way she described it made me think of this:

They arrived, they cried
They laughed, they left.

I have enough friends with, shall we say, "complicated" family relationships that I really am grateful daily that my family is so easy and functional.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Day

Last week one of the food bank volunteers told me this story:

When her youngest son was six, he begged to stay up until midnight and the start of the new year. She stayed up with him watching Dick Clark on TV and when the ball dropped (again) on TV and the neighbors started banging their pots and pans, he ran outside.

"Mama!" he cried, "Nothing happened! Something should happen, right?!"

When I was a kid, I was convinced that a meteor would fly by the earth at the moment the new year began, and that I would be able to see it in the sky over San Francisco. I never did see that light streaking by, but I still expect I will if I look out the window at the right moment.