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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Spilling Words

Hey y'all! I have a new blog, and now I'm spilling words instead of blood ;)

I haven't felt very inspired to write lately, but I've really missed all of you.  Hopefully the writing gods will imbue me with some bloggy goodness. Here's the link to my new (and very barren) site.  It's called Spilling Words.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Finding the Next Place

"A mother's body against a child's body makes a place.  It says you are here.  Without this body against your body there is no place.  I envy people who miss their mother.  Or miss a place or know something called home.  The absence of a body against my body created a gap, a hole, a hunger. This hunger determined my life." - Eve Ensler

I took a trip to the East Coast last month. While I was there, I saw my parents for the first time in seven years. My sisters (who live several miles from my parents) were not able to come and see me; spend time with my daughter; meet my wife - even though we were in town for three nights, because according to my mother, "They have to work." 

It was not a surprise visit. I did not just appear overnight like a mysterious crop circle.

I've been trying to write about that trip for weeks, but the Eve Ensler quote is as far as I've gotten, because I don't really know how to form articulate sentences about my family.  How does a person cobble together words that tell that story? How do you breathe life into my peculiar genealogy without some means of self-soothing. . . the consumption of an entire chocolate cake, or a bottle of Jack Daniels? How do you pick up a pen and drag it across white paper leaving a trail of inky blue notes to yourself that say: "I never have to go there again, and that's OK?" How does that not make you a bad person?

There are unspoken rules about family - about what it means to be a daughter. And they require strict compliance, even when the unspoken rules about what it means to be a mother have been broken.

Creating a different legacy with my daughter

Monday, August 12, 2013

Think Outside the Box: Vajazzle

“Can you tell by where my eyes are looking what I’m thinking? Hint: I’m staring directly at your vagina.” - Jarod Kintz

One of the drawbacks of not watching TV and not shopping at grocery stores that carry tabloid magazines, is that - like a Mennonite, or a child who attends Waldorf school - I am often completely clueless about trends in popular culture.  As a result of this cluelessness, I am probably the last adult in the First World to learn about the “vajazzle” phenomenon.

Apparently, vajazzling is so popular that the term has earned a place in the Oxford Dictionary:

Vajazzle: Syllabification (va.jaz.zle).  Verb [with object] (usually as noun vajazzling) informal.
  • Adorn the pubic area (of a woman) with crystals, glitter, or other decoration.
Not me, or anyone that I know

If it wasn’t for a Living Social deal beckoning me to show my *love* with “hearts, stars or another design in Swarovski  crystals just above the you-know-what” for a mere $19, I would have never realized that my genitals had the potential to be even more fabulous than they already are. And I would likely already be one of the female denizens of this country who sports a “sparkly surprise”* in my pants in lieu of what I like to refer to as my mini-Sasquatch.

After I received the Living Social invitation, I posted the “Think Outside the Box: Vajazzle” pun as a Facebook status, and invited my friends to help me think of more. In less than an hour, I received the following (all from my friend Twinkle, aka Tim):

  1. Make your “Y” look real fly.
  2. Put a crown on it, so they’ll go down on it.
  3. Apply some style to your sideways smile.
  4. Want to make them really smitten? Put some glitter on your kitten.
  5. Vajazzling: Glam for your clam.

I met Tim several years ago, when we were both working at a crappy non-profit organization. Our friendship was born after we were trapped in a van with an angry man who took off all of his clothes and tried to smear us with the contents of his adult diaper. Tim’s kindness and sense of humor, combined with my bag of Dorito’s, succeeded in successfully calming the naked man (after two State Troopers had failed), and I knew then that Tim was a great person to call *friend*.  I haven’t seen him since he moved to the other side of the country, and I’m not sure why he started going by the name “Twinkle”, but I suspect the answer may have some connection to the vajazzle industry.

*Phrase coined by actress Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Also, not me or anyone I know, but after seeing this photograph, I am tempted to create a website called "Vajazzle Disaters".

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Moving Forward

"I demolish my bridges behind me. . .then there is no choice but to move forward." - Fridtjof Nansen

I am thankful for change, because it reminds me not to get complacent.  We are in the throes of our great exodus from the vermin infested bird farm, and it looks like a thrift store exploded in our living room, and in my car.  To be fair, the vermin appear to have departed, and judging by the amount of poison our landlord purchased, I'm guessing they are all lolling about in the Bardo - hoping for an auspicious rebirth.

On Monday, we signed the lease and picked up the keys for our new house. It's fitting that that afternoon on the farm, a pack of goats broke free from their pen and stormed my partner while she was loading stuff into her car.  The big Billy goat was particularly aggressive.  I opened the door to see what was going on, and I heard: "Hey Karen, I really need your help! The goats are after me, and one of them has a big ball sack!!" I'm not familiar with the nuances of goat-herding, so I grabbed a couple of cookie sheets and banged them together until Billy and the Kids ran away in fear.  It was pretty funny.

Our new house is much smaller than the huge barn apartment we live in now, so we have to get rid of nearly half of our possessions.  The past two weeks have been filled with sorting and packing, and multiple trips to the Goodwill. Most of our friends and family members can't fathom our decision to downsize.  They understand our need to leave the farm, but not to move to a smaller house, in a smaller town. The most common question I get is, "How can you give up all of your cool stuff?" Oh, we still have cool stuff, and judging by the state of our living room, we can probably stand to downsize even more.  We started with baby steps, by beginning the new year with the intention of slowly embracing minimalism.  We cleaned out our kitchen and our closets in January and February, but we upped the ante in March, when we made the decision to move. I have to say that the rational, intellectual parts of my brain think the purging of possessions is freeing.  However, my subconscious tells a slightly different story.  Last night I dreamed a vicious series of nightmares about waitressing, chainsaw accidents and my partner cheating on me.  Hmmm. . . . perhaps I have a fear of letting go (and also about pissing people off by bringing them the wrong beverages). At least I'm finally sleeping!

I started this post by declaring my gratefulness for change, and although that is true, all of this change is throwing my life into an upheaval.  I am a body constantly in motion - too busy to Box, too busy to check in with friends, too busy to pray. . .without solitude.  I'm not complaining - just noticing. And reminding myself how blessed my life is because all of those things are usually a part of my daily routine - and as soon as we are settled in the new house, they will again be part of my daily routine.  I didn't always have praying and Boxing and solitude.  I had busyness, and more money, and TV, and wine every night. None of those things are inherently bad, but for a compulsive avoider of feelings like me, they were deadly (or at the very least deadening).

So, I find myself once again on the cusp of change - taking small, wobbly steps forward - turning back just long enough to strike a match and lay it down on the dry wood of the bridge that I have just crossed.


This post is from last March, but since we're in the throes of downsizing and moving ONCE AGAIN, it seemed appropriate to link this piece up with the Moonshine Grid.  Mo says: "If we keep this up, you can post that piece EVERY year. We're actually inching our way toward our ultimate goal of purchasing a motor home, and spending a year on the road, so stay tuned!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Anniversaries, Letting Go, and New Beginnings

“No matter how much suffering you went through, you never wanted to let go of those memories.” ― Haruki Murakami 

It's hard to believe that I have been on this journey of transformation for nearly a year.  I threw my first punch on April 2, 2012, and I created this blog on April 3rd - two small things that have changed the trajectory of my life. Because of these things, I am stronger, I am wiser and I am lighter.  I no longer smoke, drink or smoke pot. I have more self confidence.  I follow through with my promises. In short, I'm happy! Sometimes I don't even recognize myself.

Yesterday a guy named Andy and me were the only ones who showed up for Misfit Morning practice.  Coach warned us that we were going to have to spend a lot of time on our own, because there were a bunch of guys there working on a construction project, and he wanted to supervise them.  Five minutes into our warm-up, Andy decided to go home. Thankfully, Coach noticed his attempt to defect and created an atmosphere where leaving was no longer an option.  It's very difficult to say "no" to a 250 pound brick shit-house with a piercing gaze and an iron will.

At the end of practice Andy apologized to me for trying to bail, and he told me that the reason he wanted to leave was that he was embarrassed to work out in front of the construction guys, because he was afraid that he would look "stupid".  I was mildly surprised by Andy's admission, but I was more surprised that those same insecurities hadn't crossed my mind. As recently as three months ago, I was banning my girlfriend from coming to the gym to watch me practice due to similar fears.  Sometimes I still get uncomfortable performing drills and exercises in front of others, but my reasons for the discomfort are no longer about my worth and value as a person or the shame of inhabiting a fat body - they're about my lack of grace and coordination.

As some of you know, I am getting ready to move.  This morning when I was sorting through old papers at my desk, I found an essay I wrote last Fall titled, "Fear of Excess". It was enlightening for me to read my words, because they indicate how ready I was to make some big changes.  Here's an excerpt:

"I used to be an average-sized person.  I could go into any store and find an abundance of clothes that would fit me, and look great.  In fact, I used to be able to find so many clothes that fit me and looked great, that I had a difficult time choosing which ones to purchase.  That Karen, with the problem of too many cute choices and not enough money to get them all could never have imagined the Karen that can’t find a pair of jeans that fits.  She would cringe at the woman in the black “uniform” who wears cowboy boots with her stretchy yoga pants when she wants to “dress up”.  

The transformation from average-sized, stylish me to fat, stretch pants-clad body snatcher was gradual.  I suppose the seed was always there, lying dormant beneath my clammy skin, waiting for the perfect trifecta of oppressive religion, shame and an emotionally abusive parent before germination was possible.  Even though I have insight into the roots of my “body issues”, and I have engaged in enough therapy to curb the neuroses and disturbed eating habits of an army of cheerleaders, I have not reclaimed my former svelte physique.  Maybe the key to weight loss isn't just about consuming less calories than one expends, or “taking the stairs instead of the elevator.” I think there might be a psycho-spiritual component that causes a person to unwittingly hold weight, even if they eat healthy and exercise.  

In 1999, artist Kiki Smith debuted an installation piece called Tale, at the Whitney Museum.  Tale is a wax sculpture of a naked woman crawling and trailing a long, brown tail that resembles feces.  Every time I see a picture of this piece, I am riveted by its raw truth.  I wish I could remain grounded and present in my physical body long enough to crawl through life with my shit trailing behind me for all to see.  Instead, I keep it in.  And apparently, it’s making me fat."  

I still wear an inordinate amount of black clothing, but now I have jeans that fit. And like the artist Kiki Smith, I've created a tail - only mine is crafted out of words and sweat.

Sometimes it's helpful for me to look back and see how far I've come, so I'm linking this old post up with the Moonshine Grid over at Yeah Write.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Ever-Elusive Body

"It's not all bad.  Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing - they are not all bad.  Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me." - Stephen Fry

I have whittled my boxing practices down to twice per week in deference to my broken body.  Now I just go to the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I supplement my workouts by attending a spin class on Tuesday or Thursday.  My back and my right knee seem to approve of this new regimen.  It's strange to spend so much less time with Coach and the Misfits though.  Kerri stopped attending all together over two months ago, Brandy and Drew are fairly constant, and new people are always cycling in and out.  There's Nathan, who wormed his way into my heart the day I met him.  He was feeling blue because he had inadvertently killed a chipmunk that morning.  I am also fond of a young guy named Keenan.  He's built like Olive Oil from the old Popeye cartoons.  When we did "levels" (a warm-up exercise that involves incremental squatting), Keenan's legs wobbled and shook like a newborn deer's.  Coach couldn't stop staring at him and repeatedly inquiring: "Son, have you been drinking?"

Spin class doesn't hold the same compelling love/hate magnetism for me as Boxing does. Stationary bikes; techno music; a bunch of middle class white ladies; and a male leader who frequently implores us to "push, push, push, push" in a breathy whisper.  I feel like I'm in a Lamaze class, not a gym.  I am much more motivated by Coach's approach: "Punch HARD, or GO HOME! Hint: You're NOT going home!"

I continue to receive acupuncture twice per month, and my acupuncturist is pleased with my decision to reduce my time in the boxing gym.  I went for a treatment yesterday, and she asked me if she could add some Chinese herbs to my daily routine, because I have "very little Chi."  I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it seems like "very little Chi" can't be a good thing. I asked her to explain; however, I'm not  really able to  retain that kind of information.  What I heard was: "Blood stasis", blah, blah, blah. "Too much phlegm", blah, blah, blah. "Blocking chi" - and then my brain was probably interrupted by some kind of subconscious plea for clam chowder.  As a result of yesterday's appointment, I now have my very own bottle of "Phlegm-Transforming Formula".  I should be drowning in Chi in no time!

One thing the acupuncturist said about my lack of Chi, did stick with me.  She said: "Some people hang on to things for a long time, and then blockages are formed in the body." "Some things must have happened to cause this." Well, she was definitely on point with that observation.  Some things did happen. I've already tread and retread that path. Old story. It's not a very unique story. In many ways, it's everybody's story.

"Some people hang on to things for a long time." It's really no surprise that I'm one of those people, or more accurately, my body is one of those people.  When Lynn was alive, she used to gently remind me about the importance of living in my body.  "It's here. It's waiting for you. You can't just live in your head." I had a big old cry this morning - missing her wisdom and her friendship - missing how I could make her laugh, REALLY laugh - even when she wanted our work to be serious. She held all of my secrets.  She helped me find tears. Ironic that her body succumbed to disease, and my stubborn, blocked, chi-less frame continues to propel me through this ridiculous world.  I'm sad that I don't get to talk to her about how I am emerging* through boxing, and letting go, and tiny needles, and the phlegm-transforming formula. She was supposed to be here for this part.

*That one's for you Haley.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

If I Had a Hammer

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” - Dalai Lama

Life on the bird farm has become increasingly noisy.  Our poultry hoarder of a landlord has not followed through with his promise to "down size".  Well, that's not entirely true - he did get rid of the silent bunnies and the pigeons who were living in squalor in their own private fowl prison. The son of the hoarder had carrier pigeon dreams that never came to fruition, so the birds were taken to some kind of farm auction.  Unfortunately, our landlord returned from the auction with a couple of adolescent turkeys, and they don't have a private room on the farm - they live in the "aviaries" directly under our bedroom along with some randy peacocks and an army of roosters. Gobble fucking gobble.

Do I sound bitter? That's what a lack of sleep will do to a good-natured human.  

I left out the pièce de résistance! The increase in bird to cage ratio, plus the unfortunate departure of the farm cat, plus our landlord's general lack of farm hygiene has led to an infestation of rats. The disgusting vermin are snacking on the buffet of uncovered feed (and possibly and egg or two) and at least one of them has taken up residence in the wall between our bedroom and the bathroom. Every single night the little bastard gnaws incessantly from dusk til dawn.  In addition to the fact that rats are fucking disgusting, they are also beady-eyed bearers of disease and pestilence.  AND they are keeping me awake.  All.Night.Long. When I am able to sleep, I am plagued (pun intended) by fears of rodents chewing their way into my bedroom, or worse - my kitchen.

The good news here is that we found a new rat-free place to live.  The bad news is, we have to spend three more sleepless weeks here on Hitchcock's farm.  We usually drift off to sleep at around 9:00 and are awakened an hour later by the sounds of gnawing.  When the problem first presented itself (a couple of weeks ago), my partner or I would get up and stomp on the floor or pound on the walls until the chewing sounds stopped.  We had to perform this activity so often that our hands and arms got sore.  Now, my partner sleeps with a hammer on the nightstand, and when the inevitable gnawing commences, she leaps out of bed and performs a curious naked hammering ritual that part of me will really miss after we leave this hell hole.

P.S. I promise that my next post will actually involve boxing!