June 19th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Full disclosure: I haven't yet read What Do Women Want, this week's book. However, I have read articles, excerpts, reviews, and listened to interviews with the author, Daniel Bergner. It's on my nightstand awaiting its turn. But all that exposure to it has got me thinking. Naturally, my thinking demanded an audience.
The book looks at the basis of female sexual desire and efforts by scientists and drug companies to find some chemical way of turning women on. The theory has always been that women aren't as sexually interested as men. Once we have settled down with our husbands and kids, we lose interest in sex. Men, however, are designed to spread their seed. They are basically an erection in search of relief. Male desire, theory goes, doesn't diminish, at least not like it does in women. So in order to equalize desire, the world needs to fix women. "Let's find a pill!" say the pharmaceutical companies, smelling a Viagra-sized windfall.
Apparently, that's all BS. Women don't lose their desire in general. We lose particular desire; we get bored with our partners. Scientists figured this out by seeing our hormones hit teenage stride again when we meet someone new who turns the key to our old engines. Those hormones stay at younger women levels, too, if our primary relationship is one in which we don't see our partner regularly. Men are fine with the same partner; their desire falls, but not nearly as much.
So much makes sense to me now. I'm a serial monogamist because nature made me that way. I lose interest until the next love of my life comes into view and there's nothing wrong with me because of that. This isn't to say I couldn't work to make a long term relationship successful. It doesn't mean it's all written and it's stupid to try to have a single, life-long partner -- I don't think you can come to that conclusion with any reading of Bergner's book. I'm just saying it makes sense to me.
In a couple of my serious relationships I wondered if something was wrong with me. I lost interest after a period of time. Nice to know it's not about my psyche; I was just born this way.
So do we even need a desire-sparking drug? Or should we just figure out new ways of having relationships that work better with our natural inclinations?And if that happens, does it mean that raising children becomes less the purview of monogamous committed heterosexual couples and more of a communal enterprise? Would that be terrible?
There are communities that seem to make this work -- the polyamorous community (which is big and organized in the Seattle area; I'm sure someone from there will chime in with comments) would argue that you don't have to have drama when you break up with someone, that you can create an environment of extended families that keeps kids on an even keel and works for their parents, too.
I believe we have a choice, and if we love a person and want to stay with him or her forever -- even after all the hormonal wackiness of new love has settled -- then we can find ways to keep the fire burning. Maybe some pill will be part of that answer. But it's nice to know that women in general aren't broken, and that fixing us is something that was made up by mistaken scientists and the pharmaceutical companies that love to make money by equating difference with illness.
What do you think? Are we naturally monogamous and this is just a way of explaining promiscuity?
June 18th, 2013 § 3 Comments
This is my Kindergarten class. Guess which one is me? It was the first full year of operation for Guadalupe Elementary School in San Jose. We were the Trojans then. At some point they changed the name to the Grizzlies.
I look at this picture a lot and wonder what happened to some of the kids in that picture. Google is a wonderful tool as long as the friends have names like Danny and Donny Sunseri (the twins bookending the second tier step). Not so helpful if you are named Debbie Greer (next to Mrs. Long on the first step) or Susan Clark (top row, right).
My best friend that year was Maria LaCorte, in the blue dress, front row, far right. We sat together the first day of school. I tried to find her, but the closest I came was her sister on Facebook, who never answered my query about Maria. I last saw her when I was 15. David Gardner, the blonde on the top row, was my boyfriend. We held hands and sat next to each other at story time. That said, I named my dog, Jiminy, after the boy in front with the mod shirt, Jimmy. I wanted to call the dog Jimmy, but my mom wouldn't let me.
My next-door neighbor, Jeff Jenkins, is top middle. He was always the tallest in the class. We walked to school together. I lived next to him for 11 years and then moved over the hill to Santa Cruz. Mid-junior year, I was called to the office of my high school, and there stood Jeff. He was moving to Santa Cruz, too, and would be attending my school. I have a keen eye for the symbolic, and since Jeff and I walked to our first day of school together, I thought it would be cool to walk together at our high school graduation. But he had already asked his girlfriend to walk with him. Pity. It would have made for a great story arc, right?
The only girl on the second step, Jacqui Robinson, was a cool kid with English parents. Her sister was a friend of my brother. I lost track of her for decades after she moved when we were still quite young -- second grade maybe. Allan found the sister on Facebook and we reconnected. She just got married. And aside from the cat-eye blue glasses? She looks the same. Mary Friedman, top right, was in my Kindergarten class, but I don't remember her after that. She was eventually in a class a year behind me and her brother Chris -- a sweet kid -- was in my year. The eldest Friedman brother used to beat up my brother.
Somewhere I have the pressed paper cover for the picture that has my scrawls with each child's name. I don't know where it is now, and there are names I don't recall. Sometimes I remember the first name but not the last -- The kid in the cute blazer on the second step next to Danny/Donny? I think he was named Gil.
Mrs. Long became Mrs. Hendricks a few years later.
It's been almost 45 years since that picture was taken. I wonder most what happened to the girls. I think we were among the first group to enter school with no constraints on what we could become. For the most part, our mothers didn't push us towards teaching or nursing. Our teachers certainly didn't. I don't think I'm unusual in my experience: college and a career were things that I expected for myself and were expected of me.
I look for people from way back when sometimes. I want to test my theory. So I know that my friend Shereen C. is a lawyer (I would have pegged her for a writer). Susan Clark is a singer and actress -- a choice I can believe. Laura G. worked for Apple. Paula L. runs her husband's business. Pam O. works in Hollywood. A surprising number never married or had children.
The guys are of interest, too: Kenny Chow, top row to Jeff's right (Jeff is a chiropractor, by the way) is a Facebook friend and a successful businessman who likes to golf and has adorable kids. Kerry B., whose dad made big headlines by being exposed as a bank robber, ended up in the penitentiary himself -- not surprising to those of us who considered him a bully even in Kindergarten.
My curiosity about these people never dims. Debbie Greer always wore clothes that looked too big and seemed old fashioned. She was very quiet. In later years, I remember seeing her toting her baby brother around. She had startling blue eyes. I don't remember her after about fifth grade. What happened to her?
I have a list in my head of people like that I wonder about. I also wonder: Am I abnormal in my wonder?
What happened to your Kindergarten classmates? Do you keep up with what they did? Were there any surprises among the choices that some of the kids made? And take a guess: where am I?
June 17th, 2013 § 3 Comments
Here it is, less than a week since I turned 49 and I'm already plotting my 50th birthday and attendant parties. And I've figured out a way to pay for whatever I want to do (leaning towards a pizza party, wherein I close my favorite local pizza joint for a private party, or a fancy dinner somewhere nice for a smaller group; a trip to New Zealand or Ireland isn't out of the running).
For several years I have saved $25 a month in an online savings account. I don't check on it very often, and usually have to call the bank to get new log-in information because I forget my username and password in the lengthy intervals between peeks. By not keeping track of how to get into the account or how much it is, I keep it out of mind. Last I checked (a year ago? two years?), I had about $1400 in it. I want to double those funds and figured out that if, every week, I put away a progressively larger amount of money, I could end up with about $3000 to spend on my half century celebrations: this week I save $1, next week $2 and so on until that last week I save $52.
Even $3000 won't get me as much as I want. My dream would be to have a huge weekend party with all the people I love most, preferably at Sleeping Lady where the sheets are soft, the nights dark and quiet, and the food as spectacular as the scenery. Also, other people clean up. I won't be able to cover that with $3,000, though.
Yeah, I know. How much I have and how big a party I throw doesn't matter as much as having the people you love around. Blah blah blah. I want a party (said in the same tone of voice some girls say, "I want a pony!"), and I'm determined to find a way to pay for as big a bash as I can.
What about you? How do you celebrate important birthdays? Do you think I'm silly for making so much out of my 50th circuit around the sun? Would you feel differently if I invited you to my party?
June 16th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I fulfilled a dream of many years yesterday and saw Garrison Keillor and his cohorts perform A Prairie Home Companion for NPR. I've loved Keillor as a writer since I was in college in the 1980s. I didn't get into the show until later. Some of my friends find it too slow and languorous. Maybe that's what I like about it.
I bought five tickets because I had friends who said they'd go. One of my rabbis and her rabbi husband (aside: if the wife of a rabbi is a rebbitzen, what's the husband of a rabbi called? Seriously; I want to know) are fans. The other couple? Their plans changed, and I ended up with a couple spares. So I asked a friend of Mr. Right Now, Emily. She was excited because she and her grandpa had bonded over the show. So she loaded up grandpa and his wheelchair and we were off to Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Redmond on a glorious sunny June day to see a man we all admired.
When I bought the seats, all I cared about was that they were reserved and actual chairs, not festival seating on the lawn. I'm not good on the ground. And Grandpa John might have found it difficult, too. Lucky us: We had chairs. Three rows back. If I yelled my love, Keillor would have heard me. And when Emily opened a can of soda? I bet it was heard nationwide on the radio broadcast.
The musical guests delighted: Seattle-based pianist Fred Kronacher, and Canadian duo Pharis and Jason Romero (from Horsefly, BC, where denizens are called Horseflinians, when we all know they should be called Horseflies) -- I'll probably buy the latter's latest disc. It was fascinating watching the Prairie Home players make the sound effects that punctuate the Guy Noir stories and Ketchup Board commercials. It changed the experience for me. I'm sure I missed out on plot points during the "Fiction is Action!" skit while watching Fred Newman (with Tim Russell and Sue Scott) create the sound of a sperm whale in heat.
Nicest of all was spending time talking to Grandpa John. I'm not usually good with new people -- the the point that I avoid situations where I know I'll have to meet new people. But he was funny, engaging, and had great stories to tell about a life lived in three countries, on two continents. I'll make it a point to hang out with him again.
As for Garrison and his crew? I was happy to learn that he is rethinking his decision to retire after this season. I'll see him again next year if he comes. Maybe Grandpa John will be my date.
Interested in Garrison Keillor the writer? You can't go wrong starting with Lake Woebegone Days, but Leaving Home and We Are Still Married are also great.
Any of his books with the word "Woebegone" in it are good bets. Any of his books are good bets. Pick anything on this page.
June 15th, 2013 § 1 Comment
In my 49 years, I have gained some wisdom. Some, like don't touch fire, came easily, if painfully. Others, such as daring the universe to laugh at you by speaking aloud the Always and Nevers of your belief system, I have learned only slowly and with much pain.
For example, about 12 years ago, I was interviewing the chairman and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation about the new treatments coming on line for Rheumatoid Arthritis, and I had the temerity to say out loud that if you have to get an autoimmune disease, well, that was the one to get. I was speaking from the perspective of knowing my mom's autoimmune history includes two rare diseases -- autoimmune hepatitis and primary biliary cirrhosis -- which have little research funding and few treatment options. Less than a year later, I was diagnosed with RA. Haha, says the universe.
There are other occasions, times I've said, "I will never do" this or "I could handle that better than her" and fate has contrived to test my mettle. It occurs to me that when I said I would consider risking my life for a bone marrow transplant, that I may have inadvertently dared the world to find a reason for me to need one. I've decided I need to change some of the things I say out loud and hope the gods in charge react in the same perverse way as they have in the past.
- I would never date George Clooney.
- If I won the lotto or came into a huge hunk of money, it wouldn't make me crazy.
- I couldn't handle a well-behaved dog.
- I'm glad I have a son who feels comfortable enough to keep his room in its "natural" messy state; if it was clean, I would wonder what was wrong with him.
- I will never gloat on social media if books I write make it to the best sellers lists and are made into hugely successful films.
- I have no idea what I'd write about if I suddenly was cured of RA.
The ball is in your court universe. I await your responses with interest.
What would you tell the universe in hopes that the opposite happened? What has happened when you have dared fate?
June 14th, 2013 § 1 Comment
This is Mia and her brand spankin' new fiance John. It's her birthday today. One of those that ends in a zero. If you see her around, tell her happy birthday. If you see John, tell him he caught a good one. If you see them together, wish them joy. Heck, buy them a drink. they deserve it1
June 13th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I know some of you are probably hurting for ideas of what to get your dad for Father's Day on Sunday. I'm here to help. In case you didn't know, I like to read. So I've culled through the books I've read in the last few months for five that might be good options to get for reading dads.
Hank Greenberg: Hero of Heroes by John Rosengren -- Full disclosure: John is one of my virtual writer friends. But the book is worthy regardless. Hank Greenberg has long been known in baseball circles for his skills with a bat -- his nicknames included Hankus Spankus, Hammerin' Hank, and (as one of the few elite Jewish athletes) the Hebrew Hammer. This book fleshes him out. He's more than the guy who wouldn't play on Yom Kippur. If you're dad is a baseball fan of a certain age, pick up this book.
Canada by Richard Ford -- What happens after the crime? What becomes of children when their parents go to jail? Beautifully written, the tale is told through the eyes of a son, who with his sister are somehow forgotten in the aftermath of an ill-conceived robbery and the subsequent arrest of his parents. Ford tells of the boy's unexpected journey to Canada and his experience of a stark landscape and difficult life, his yearning for family and education, and how he makes sense of the idiocy of those who should have taken care of him. The language is sublime. There's plot, too, which I know some readers crave.
It's not a new book, but my son just read The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon and I was reminded of what a delightful novel it is. Even if you don't know a lot about Jewish life or Yiddish language, it's funny, engaging, and full of the twists and turns you expect from a good mystery. If you have knowledge of those things, you'll probably laugh harder. The premise: what if Israel wasn't the home of the Jews, but Alaska was? This is something actually proposed by Roosevelt at the end of World War II. It was the book that got me started on alternative histories, which led to 11/22/63 by Stephen King. I don't read King, usually, but this imagining of what might happen if you found a way to stop one of the most unforgettable events of the last century caught me from the start. King is a wonderful writer, even if you don't like his usual horror-type genre fiction. I couldn't read fast enough. Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 isn't as fast paced and deals less with alternative history than with a sudden shift in reality. Are there infinite time lines that we live? What if you slipped between them and the world you entered was just slightly different, events skewed at some time in the past by some event that didn't happen in your time line? The story revolves around an unlikely assassin, an escapee from a cult, and a frustrated writer. Not for everyone, but for the literary reader a good choice.
If your dad likes funny, consider David Sedaris' last two books. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk and the newly released Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls are filled with the same charming wit and simple joy that marks most Sedaris essays. If you guffawed through the Santaland Diaries, giggled through Naked, and woke your spouse with Me Talk Pretty One Day, pick up one or both of these for Dad. If he hasn't read any and he was a totally awesome father, buy them all. He totally deserves it.
June 12th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This picture of me and my mom and her hairpiece? I was as close to birth when that was taken as I am now to being 50. And I'm totally cool with getting old because the alternative to aging isn't really something I'm anxious to experience. So happy birthday to me. Go out and have a cupcake.
June 11th, 2013 § 6 Comments
Every year during the Blogathon get to explore the word stylings of writers I've never read. In some lights, this could be a burden: I have limited time and so many good words to read. But in another light -- the one I use to illuminate my life -- there can't be enough good writing in the world, and if I die not having read all of it, well, at least I will have given it a good college try.
So here are five blogs about writing I discovered through this year's blogathon. These are habits in the making.
I read Jennifer Willis blog for the first time a few days ago. She commented on my blog post about RA and what I'm willing to risk to get rid of it. I clicked on her name and came to this post about her writing goals and how they intersect with her health. That's all it took to hook me. I've had fun browsing around her site. She's a fine writer. She should be really famous.
Janine Robinson's Essay Hell hits close to home. Darling Son is 16 in a couple weeks. College applications are fast approaching, and while my son is a good writer -- how gratifying to me! -- he'll need help with his college application essays and he won't take it from me. From Janine? Maybe not. But from a website with a swear word in its title? You bet.
Jean Gogolin's Writer's Clinic blog is engaging. There's always a question asked, a thought to ponder. It's not just opining about writing, but asking for the reader to consider some aspect of the craft -- humor, the merits of outlining for a big project, blood and gore.
For some of us, writing daily requires a prompt. And blogathons, writing challenges like NaNoWriMo, and contests are one way of doing that. Rosanna Rogacion's Writing on the Pages of Life got me interested in her blog through a post that had a list of other writing events. It just takes a good post to get me interested enough in your site to start paging through. Good job, Rosanna! You caught me!
Marial Shea's Marial Writes is a new favorite. Whether she's pointing you to a great site like 750 Words or admitting her own fears about blogging (hey Marial! Look at the post I highlighted on Writing the Pages of Life -- more prompts to making writing a habit.), she writes entertainingly. And you know me, I like a good read.
I still regularly read Michelle Rafter's Wordcount and Jennie Phipps' Freelance Success blog, and there are others I read occasionally when someone points me to a particularly interesting post. But I'm open to reading other writing blogs regularly.
Do you have a suggestion? Leave a comment: I'd rather have too much too read than too little.
June 10th, 2013 § 2 Comments
Ruby is a giant dog. She seems to be smart -- she learns quickly, and loves to work for food. Her trainer Ali at Kinship Dog Training says she's not stupid. But the things this girl is afraid of, even after nearly three years with us, never ceases to amaze me. Consider her top 10 list of things to stay away from (and by stay away I mean drag whoever is on the other end of the leash as far as she can away from the thing, as fast as she can, regardless of whether that means into traffic):
1. Fountains, but only when running. They're fine if they're dry.
2. Our screen door. She'll go out through it, but not in. It's partly come loose from the frame, so she can go out without us opening it. She learned that from Mr. Right Now's dog Claudia. She can't figure out how Claudia gets back in without coming into contact with the scary screen door. So she sits out there and whines.
3. Garbage cans, particularly if they are being rolled up and/or down the driveway by neighbors. She goes ballistic. If she's being walked and one happens to be in her line of sight, she'll drag the leash holder by quickly. Similarly, moving garbage truck arms are frightening, but not the trucks themselves.
4. Those air-powered tubular waving men that businesses use to attract attention. She's rather be hit by a bus than go near one.
5. Sprinklers of any kind. And hoses. Hoses lying on the ground and not hung up are also scary.
6. Big bodies of water. On hot days I take her to the dog park at Luther Burbank Park on Lake Washington. She will play with her doggy friends and get close to the water. She may even get up to her ankles or even knees. But one small little wavelet and she's out of there, ducking behind my legs like a shy toddler.
7. Coughs and sneezes delivered by any person in a bed on which she is sleeping. If she's in a place that's not great for my comfort, a fake sneeze will send her running. It's a convenient fear which I'm happy to cultivate.
8. Rakes and other garden implements when leaning up against a fence or other vertical object. I think she thinks they're very skinny menacing people.
9. Strollers, wagons, tricycles and other vehicles that hold small children. This is an approach avoidance thing. She loves the idea of children. She's not so sure about the things on or in which they ride. Usually, the potential to have a lick at the food residue on a small child wins out.
10. My personal favorite is one that I'm not sure still holds, but I'll add it anyway, because it's just as likely that she'd be scared as not: bags hanging on fences near bus stops. The school puts these up for the teens in hopes that they'll toss stuff in them rather than around them. Ruby has been known to run all the way home upon seeing one of these.
My dog weighs nearly 75 pounds. She's got a bark that will probably lead to early hearing loss for everyone in the household. She's scary. But I guess more than that she's scared. Mostly it's funny. But the not getting in the lake on a hot day? I'm determined to have that fear conquered this summer. We've tossed food in the shallows, and she'll do a lot for food. But not water. Any ideas?