Friday, August 28, 2009

The Human Puzzle

Warning: don’t let this offend you. It’s never about you. It’s always about the Joneses!

I have been collecting these random thoughts for a while now, and I finally find some time and some mood to lay them down on paper … Not really sure why. Not really with a purpose. Just to get them off my chest, and hopefully put some smiles on someone’s face. Maybe.

So, these are several things that I either don’t get, or make me just go … Hhmmm … about us, humans. Well, about “some of us, some humans”, at least.

I hope one day I will understand the mystery of the paper towel print! I hope some day someone will explain to me why and who in the world decided that sure, country style patterns on ALL paper towels look darn pretty in ever household in America! Anywhere from an ultra-modern loft in NYC to a country cottage in Mississippi, those God-awful, faint, tacky, pink and green little flowers on your paper towels are going to match the décor, and add to its pizzazz. Sure it will! Just boggles my mind!

And no, you cannot just put them in the cabinet (and the little grandma who invented them knew it), because then, they’re not functional! You will always have them out, somewhere in the kitchen, so you won’t have to touch your cabinet with your wet or goopy, sticky hands when you need one! So, they have to have some sort of appealing pattern on them. But no chance!

And the truth is: we have no choice! Sure, we can buy plain. But that’s it: plain or tacky-faint-pink-and-print crap! Don’t even try to tell me there are teddy bears on some too, because you know … those are country and tacky as much as the flowers! The only reason why such a person possessed by such a hugely mutant décor gene stayed in business is because there are virtually no other choices out there (that won’t break Bill Gate’s budget!) and we all use them!

Let’s move along: what is the deal with people buying expensive cars that are also very expensive to maintain (especially European, but not only those) and then all you hear about is them constantly whining about how difficult and expensive it is to fix them. And then they wait for sympathy and a hug. And sometimes I wonder if they even want a loan?! How is that my problem?! That I need to sympathize?!

And the worst part: they knew it! Makes no sense to me: unless you are a masochist and love to be hurt all the time, why buy it?! I guess people never learn, or want attention?! If you must have that car: sure, love it with all you got, including your bank account! You must have it - fix it, too! The dog says: I want that! Doesn’t know the consequences. But the human must say, I think: I want that, and I can handle it! There should be thought behind that impulse, wouldn’t you say?!?!

I had a SAAB in one chapter of my life: one mechanic in the whole town, booked for 2 months in advance, and $500 for a headlight! I totaled it and would never touch a SAAB again. I love SAABs, but I love my cash more!

Along the same lines: people having kids, one, two, five … who knows … and then complaining for days … that parenting is hard. Hhmm… what did you think?! Kids are like kittens? Independent and self sufficient? Throw some food in a bowl, some water, pet them once in a while, change them once a week, and you’re done for 18 years?! And why do we have to listen to you complaining about it?! Just remember you were just chasing an orgasm when you conceived Little Johnny next time he throws a tantrum about demanding spaghetti at 2 AM!

I love words! I cherish words! They are precious tools of human emotions! But when they’re used inadequately, oh … they peeve me. Empty words just make me mad! Well, no, not the words themselves, but the people who use them, of course. I have been known to pick up (a very underrated) self-help book, here and there. But self-help headlines just to sell a crappy magazine make me mad! One women’s magazine screams: “You’re stronger than you think!”. Oh, yeah, first off: HOW do YOU know?! And if I am strong and I don’t know it … what good is that to me?!?

Another empty one is banking on one of the buzz words of the day and attaching it to everything, without any attention to context – for instance the word “free”. Economy is bad-bad-bad, everything must be “free”, people pay attention to ”free”! Forget “sales” and “discount”. Everyone wants FREE! So, another magazine promises: “Crowd-free National Parks. Stress-free Disney. Snob-free Designer Hotels”. Whaaa?? OK. MAYBE I believe the first one!!! But c’mon! “STRESS free Disney”??? That’s like saying “tragedy cartoon” – it doesn’t happen! As for the last one – don’t you think it’s a bit of a non-sense?! And even if anything “designer” should, by chance, be non-snobbish … how can one guarantee me there are no snobs there?! What, now, they do an in-depth character check on every guest to make sure they’re not “snobs”. “Sorry, Sir, I know you’re Donald Trump, but you checked positive for snobbery, we can’t host you here!”. Just makes no sense!

And speaking of buzz words – which I hate. Today’s buzzes (besides “fast” and “easy” and “free”, of course) have to be anything in the same lexical family as “natural”, “Eco-friendly”, “organic” and “green”. Everything has to be those things for anyone to be hip anymore. The shopping bags. The cars. The cotton sheets. The milk. The yogurt. The roof of the house and floor. “Green”. “Organic”. That’s all a good thing, surely. Al Gore finally got some recognition! All good.

But have you heard of Rosetta?! Well, Rosetta is everywhere – apparently in my travel magazine as well as the radio – and it promises you “the completely natural way to learn a foreign language”. Now, I have learned a couple of foreign languages (still am!) in my day, I even majored with a teacher degree to teach a foreign language, but I would not be able to tell you how a way of learning a language can be “un-natural”. I honestly have no clue!

I think Americans should just accept that they have no desire and no need to be bilingual and just drop trying! All these people inventing and selling these audio and video and computer systems to make it easier, and faster and “more natural” for Americans to learn a language should give up and go sell thumb drives! Really! Trust me: there is NO (real) need for Americans to KNOW another language. Most everyone knows (some of) theirs. Once they find themselves plane wrecked on a cannibal island, they’ll learn to communicate. And fast, too! No software needed then!

I just can’t figure these things out. And yes, I guess, as a single woman with virtually, in the eyes of busy parents, no life, I guess I’ve got time to think of all this … But no, really: what’s up with the pink flowers on the towels?! Or with the teddy bears?! Why no Dali figurines there? Or better yet: Picasso?! Why not random … squares ?!? Hhmm …

PS: to be followed by some random things I do like! So, for better attitude, stay tuned …

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Rant

My mantra this week: from The Yoga Journal - a sign above the change jar in a coffee shop reads: “Fear change? Leave it here!”.

Oversleeping. Every day and then some. Wanting to call in sick, but no good reason to. Can you call in sick to claim laziness? I always thought that’s a disease!

Too much work. No. An inhumane amount of work. The work for four done by one. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?! No kudos. Just more work. And complaints that perfect-ness was not achieved. No real need for kudos. Just need for less work. Life is never fair when it comes to what we think we deserve, is it?!

Sick of office dramas. Why do adults behave like 4 year olds whose toys have been misplaced? Do we really have time in our adult lives to worry about whose bean count is higher?! Really??

Long lost friends coming back into the picture. Sometimes happily. Sometimes just to reaffirm the disappointment. Life’s cruel, I tell ya. Life’s cruel in telling you you were right when you made the toughest choice.

News about Patrick: first good, more progress; then not so good: the child discovers he can move, and therefore fall, too, so he’s a walking hazard! Tears. Pain. Worry. How will he do in daycare? More fear … And worry … How did nay of us made it to adulthood, I wonder?!

Days too hot and days too long when you can’t exercise because of no stamina whatsoever. I need a new life! Some days more than others!

Rediscovery of “the mat”. So refreshing. Returning back to my oasis and finding all my muscles and my ham strings again! Oh, how they scream!!!

A birth. A new life. And then sickness. Sadness and more. Then, a death of an acquaintance’s family member. More work and sadness. Discovering how insensitive management can be in the face of tragedy. Too bad that they don’t factor in human emotions in the “bottom line” which we’re all (allegedly) striving for. Life goes on. It stops somewhere, and it starts in another spot … always moving. Not asking us for approval …

Vacation plans! How sweet!

Home cooked meals! Discovery of Romano cheese – salty and creamy all at the same time! Garlic! Yum!

Lunch with remote friends, and knowing that one cannot be forgotten. Such a relief to know that there are people who can still make a difference. And more importantly, that there are people who still bother enough to recognize that. The human factor has not died in the world, after all! It might be meager, but not extinct.

Above and beyond all … love. Mutual, deep, passionate and caring, like I have never, ever dreamed of. I have always thought I wanted to live a romance that movies and books have not written about yet … And now, it feels like I am there. Happiness. Joy. And distance. But going to bed with a prayer that it’ll be there tomorrow. And a thank you that it is here today.

Finished books. About passion, death and life. New books. On humor and lighter hearts. A good mix of the ever consistently delivering “written word”.

Being tired, and being sleepy 24/7. Hungry and fed. Loved and cold. And hot outside. Missing people I love, and sharing the proximity and lives of those who are near. All – such a gift! Happy and frustrated. Generous and judgy.

In other words: just a regular week…

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Past, My Present … My Sister …

" You can’t think how I depend on you, and when you’re not there, the color goes out of my life.” (Virginia Woolf)

No matter what she’ll tell you, mind my words: it was NEVER a competition! Not when we were not in school yet, for my parents’ attention; not in school, for who made the best grades, not during high school, for who gets a boyfriend first! It was never like that. For me. But society, friends, and family made her think that it was.

As the younger sister, everyone expected her to deliver “just as her older sister” did. With no regard to her unique personality and skills, with no regard to her rebellious (vs. my please-everyone) nature, they kept expecting her to match me. Or even go higher than me.

"A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost"
- the innocent years, cca 1980

And she will tell you she always tried to learn from me, copy me, deliver just at the level I delivered. Well, all that, until she hit teenage-hood, of course, when she told the world to go scratch, and she will be the opposite of me, because she felt like no matter how hard she tried, she could never “be her sister”. That’s when the spite and the difficult years (for both of us) started.

The truth is, and we only now realize it, we’ve learned from each other. It was never trying to overdo each other as much as trying to complement each other, in everything. Until it was time for me to fly away (literally), we were two perfect halves of the same beautiful whole mom treasured! She’s taught me just as much as I’ve learned from her.

She’s taught me how to make crème brulee, and I introduced her to cheesecake; she’s taught me adventure, and risking it all for the thrill of it, because life is short, I taught her about permanence and her own precious value, that she needs to so carefully hone and guard; I taught her to read, she taught me how to pick books; she taught me about loving animals, and protecting the weakest of creatures; I taught her how to be strong and weather storms; she got me addicted to Sex and The City, and I bought her The SATC Movie. I taught her about honesty; she showed me the life-or-death importance of a white lie! I taught her about pain, and sadness, she showed me how to love – unconditionally, wholly, completely, helplessly.

I showed her how to be a good daughter, she showed me how to be a good mother. I showed her how to smile politely, she showed me how to laugh out loud. I showed her how to travel, she taught me how important it is to have a home to come to. I taught her about jewelry – she’s trying to this day to show me all about fashion. And I fail – every time!

We split the chores: I’d dust, while she’d brush the carpet. We’d split the chicken for dinner: she’d let me have my wings and breast, I’d let her have her leg. Oh, how she hated the breast!

I taught her about the importance of eating healthy, she’s taught me how to viscerally love food, indiscriminately, with the same passion she does everything else! She’s done just that: taught me unbounded passion! My life has the bright colors it has because of her encouragement and daily support!

I look back at our lives, and I see the same two little girls, trying to figure it all out. The quarrels about who gets to wear what sweater today; the yells and fits we threw about who gets to go where with which grandparent; the fights over boyfriends, and who gets to get drunk tonight, and who gets to cover for the other; the love at the end of the day, when we laid in the same bed, hugging, and heard each other’s breath. So calm. And peaceful. So … home.

How I miss it all – although all is right here, available, at hand, inside our hearts and memories. Forever locked away and close, no matter how many continents separate us!

Shared beds and bathrooms … shared friends, schools and loves … Birthdays and name days, and family parties with their gossip about relatives too fat, too skinny, too annoying … Oh, the gossip! The homemade, mom driven, “girly” beauty school: when to dye our hair? When to tweeze our brows (evidently, I was skipping that class!)? When to shave? How often? How we discovered it all – together, side by side. No competition

there …

She’s turned out to be the one person in my life that I admire the most. An accomplished mother and wife, she’s about to celebrate her nine year anniversary this month – married to her high school sweetheart this whole time, after four years of dating. The younger sister who never could keep up with my teachers’ expectations in high school, is now flaunting a law degree(from Romania), an MBA (from Montreal) , and she’s fluent in three languages. She’s put roots twice, in two different countries, and she’s accomplished a family, a successful career, and a home in both. Her beautiful, healthy, smart, one year old son, whom she’s brought up with such tender love and care, and saint-like patience, through all his challenges as a very early preemie indeed, to his beautiful antics of 16 months! Her tenacity, drive and courage amaze me every second! Her love and dedication for everything she’s set out to do puts my existence to shame!

She is the best mother I know to date, and she’s the best sister anyone could hope for, most of all - because she keeps me real, and grounded She makes sure my head stays screwed on, and the right size, and she’s holding that mirror in front of me, relentlessly! She’s helped me realize my own mistakes growing up, and my own faults as a daughter and a failed wife and partner. She’s given me the privilege and trust to be her only son’s godmother and guardian! How can I ever repay her, in a lifetime?!

I am not sure who declared us a competition, at any point in time, but, my dear sorella*, if it is indeed a competition, I am pretty sure you’ve won it!

Happy birthday, my love, and so, so, so many more healthy ones, too!

I love you now, and forever …

Your older sister, who was lost and lone, for the first three years and four months of her life, when you were not there …

*sorella (Italian)= sister

April 2009, Iasi, Romania - on mom's swing

Sunday, August 09, 2009

“Bigger- (Not) Better- (Definitely) Faster- More …“

I think it’s official. NO matter how hard I try (and I have to tell you, not very hard!), I cannot keep up with the kids nowadays! And by “kids” I mean everyone from 18 to 60 year olds that are buying into all this faster by the minute technology and gadgets! I guess you can say I am not hip. – do they even say that anymore?!

I have talked about my technological communication challenges before . I have an old and antiquated phone that does nothing but ring and dial: no pictures, no text, no emails, no internet, no APPs, for God’s sake!!! It does what a phone was intended to do. ‘Cause all those communication devices they have nowadays that do everything from tell you the weather, tell you where you’re going in the car, and maybe cook you dinner are not phones! Are some sort of newly invented, Star Trek – like props, but no phones!

I do not have an ipod – never had one, and not missing one, either; I have never played a video game, wii, or any kind of other extraterrestrial invented game. I JUST got a GPS, but that was a gift, I didn’t seek it out for myself. I will tell you, however, the GPS I like! It’s the second thing after a computer with internet that I find completely useful in this world. Something that can indeed improve my existence!

But I cannot keep up for another reason … You see, I am amongst the very few Americans out there that still send cards. I mean, hard copy, paper, with a stamp on it cards, for all sorts of occasions. Sometimes, for no occasion at all. When someone means that much to me, I think it’s a way of saying just that. But I do email, a lot, too, when I need to get my point across and get it across fast. It’s useful. It’s not personal, but it fulfils a very specific task that stamped mail doesn’t: instant gratification! For me. I know you texters and Twitterers out there are chuckling.

So, as a user of both forms of communicating, I have always thought the opposite of “snail mail” has to be, in our world, the e-mail, right?! Even I, without a fancy communication device (that others call “phone”), can get an email out to Romania, for instance, faster than any hard- copy, paper letter can reach. But the other night, at one of my meetings, I was awakened at how deep I am buried in the past, once again.

I am a member of a certain civic organization in Guilford County. And we have a weekly news brief that lets people know about our happenings and when the meetings are, as well as a monthly newsletter that covers even more news about our organization. Both these are send out electronically, by email. For months, the leaders of this organization have complained (and rightfully so) of low participation to our meetings. We even have a website – that apparently no one reads, because they don’t come to check us out. People just don’t show up!

Well, a new era has apparently begun for our little organization, because this past meeting, we had a fantastic turnout! According to the membership VP, it is all because we just launched a Twitter account.

His rationale was simple, and daunting (paraphrase): “Thank you, all new members and visitors, for coming. We’ve been waiting for you. Apparently, you open a Twitter account, write on there at noon ‘membership meeting at such and such place at 6.30 PM’, and Boom! – you get turnout!”

It made me wonder: WOW! Could e-mail be obsolete??? No way! But I thought for a minute, in despair (I don’t do well with yet another new invention to encourage your hands to work less, your patience to be even shorter, and your brain to think even shallower!), about the “new” faster than fast future ahead of me:

First off, Twitter “hits” people faster (and shorter?!?) than email: I guess email takes, my Gosh, effort - even precious seconds you can be using to get home and wii?!?, or text your mom about the bloating the beans gave you over lunch - to click and open, and read through all the other crap you’re not interested in, but with a sweet and short (not sure how sweet) message on Twitter (you don’t need anyone’s email address for that – extra effort!! ), you get straight to the point, and if people follow, they act on it right away! It’s amazing how the modern world works nowadays: new thing- faster-less words-less brain power-I’m THERE! I wonder what Pavlov’s dog would do…

So, that begs the question: is email the new snail mail?!? Because, oh my God, if that’s the case, I will be stuck in the “past” forever! There is no digging me out of the email and blogging paradise I am in, comfortably.

How much faster can we move? How much faster can people want to be moving?? We’re already multitasking as a culture, and we’re all developing accelerating A.D.D. from it, now, we’re supposed to move even faster and respond to “life” even in a shorter yet time?!? I am dizzy!

On top of not taking pictures with my “communication device”, I do not text either. I do not have caller ID at home, and I do not Twitter. And I do not update 89 of my friends and acquaintances on Facebook of my every move. Nor do I get their updates on my Facebook page until I get home at night.

And these are things I will not plan to change any time soon. So, if I’ll have something to say, and you’re interested in hearing it, please read my emails. Or my blogs – whichever you think is … faster… ?!?

PS: Thank you, 4 Non Blondes, for the title inspiration… Do people remember them, anymore, or is that too old school, as well?! I can’t keep up!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Patience and Wonder

Note: sorry, people with kids, this is still new to me …

A lot of you who know me well know that I have the amount of patience you can fit in a thimble!! Well, lately, I have watched my nephew discover the world around him, as he grows faster by the minute, but with so much patience, it could put a snail or tortoise to shame! He watches before he does; he counts his steps before he springs up on his feet; he carefully waits before he plans the mischievousness …So, I am learning, also ...

I have, of course, known his antics from my sister’s stories, but I am so thrilled to report that he is coming down to visit at the end of next month – so I am pretty close to seeing it all, first hand! I am just basking in the warmth I feel in the simple thought of having him around. Just so much coziness, and love, and grace, and fragility. So much responsibility, too.

There is something humbling about having kids, or being around them, I think: you feel like they (the kids) or God entrusted you with this huge task of caring for this life … And you can do with it as you please … But then, when you see it respond to your “tweaking”, it gives you chills: that you have such power, and you have such talent, to shape a new life as such … You become mindful and respectful of that power.

And then, they are their own personalities, that now, at 15 months are definitely starting to show, that you’re discovering with them – and you don’t want to interfere with the “budding” process … You just let them be … and flourish … and wonder …It’s like watching those fast shots of a flower budding: so marvelous, and so breathtaking …

A year or so ago, the little man was still trying to catch up with all his “born to term” playmates, in just the weight department … as a preemie … Now, he’s so much more than “weight”: he is walking around the house, and unlocking doors. Dancing on every music he can hear, and prying open every drawer there is to open! Re-arranging things, even, and telling his parents when it’s OK to watch TV and when it’s not. Such a ruler, and such a whole person. Already, at 15 months.

Patrick dancing:


He is a bundle full of not only nerves and sinews, but temper, and personality too … He has emotions, and things he wants to communicate, and understand from us, adult folks … He has habits, even, like brushing his teeth; and crawls into the dishwasher, for curiosity.

I cannot wait to have him under my roof, playing with toys, cats, dishes, my photo albums on the coffee table, and what not … And discovering, with patience, a new world, other than his home.

He is my peek into the living into the moment, just as much as he is my peek into the future, and I cannot help but wonder with him: where to from here, baby?!

Nana* loves you, Patrick, and your room is ready, now. And always.

* Romanian for “godmother”.

Let's get outta here, mommy:


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Almost There. Not Quite.

“Oh, I'm bound to go where there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fall and the wind don't blow


Where they hung the jerk that invented work
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.”

I don’t know about everyone, but to me, the city surely can become claustrophobic at times! Thank God that there is always the country, and the woods, and the nowhere, even, right outside of every city in the world, and you can escape, even for a day.

I have not been to Stone Mountain, NC since 2006. If I think really hard, I could probably give you the exact date. This week, I was looking on the map for a winery (Shelton Vineyards in the Yadkin River Valley), and saw that it was really close to Stone Mountain. I decided to visit both this weekend, just to recharge, refresh and forget about people-hood for a while …

But as you can easily guess, the mountain always wins over the wine in my book. And this morning, I woke up with a definite urge to trail, but not to wine. So, I went straight to The Mountain.

Following this year’s mantra of always trying to see something new, I tried a different trail (more woodsy and trail-like, less dirt road-like and less easy). It was beautiful! It was serene, and so quiet. I almost forgot how lush North Carolina woods get in the summer! The moss was overwhelming, a velvety carpet, with brown and yellow accents from dead leaves and mushrooms. And what mushrooms!

I love mushrooms: to shoot, to eat, to pick, to cook – you name it. The varieties and the abundance were amazing!!

For those of you who have been to Stone Mountain before, you know there are two points of attraction there: the mountain, and the falls. Well, I am here to confess, shamefully, that I did make it to the mountain (closer to the access road), but not to the falls. There were several things that stopped me half way.

You know you need new shoes, and you’ve taken these old ones everywhere when the bottom comes off of them. Yep! I have lost the bottom of my right shoe! They are at least seven years old though, so, they’ve done their job. I was depressed though. I get attached to shoes! I don’t buy them often! Especially running shoes! *sigh*.

After about a mile after passing the mountain, I sprained my left hip in such a manner, I could not walk straight anymore. I tried to move forward, but it hurt more and more as I advanced. Not sure what I did, or how it happened. I stretched. I lunged. Nothing helped.

And the last drop was a band of about 10 loud teens, in bathing suits, heading to the falls! I figured: any photo opps I had were shot (pun unintended) with the riotous group around, and judging by the very low level of the stream, I knew the pictures of the falls would not have been spectacular as it was.

So, the decision was made, to turn around. No regrets, of course!

The woods were magnificent. A true escape from the city, and reality, and life as you know it every boring day. For several hours, I just lost track of time, days, weeks, reason, and just listened to the stream, the very faint wind, the sweltering sun hitting the leaves, looking at tall trees, huge boulders, lush covers of mossy green, and shooting. Always shooting, every shroom, every piece of decayed wood, every dead rhododendron bloom, everything that was still enough to be shot. Except for the stream, of course. The beauty of the stream is in its movement.

The air was thick with lumber smells, and fresh, wet soil. It was the consistency of honey, at times, reminding me I am in North Carolina, after all: you could slice through the humidity with a knife. You can see in some of the pictures that you can look at trees almost like through steam. The mountain was steaming, like a sauna. My sweaty face and wet hair speak for that, as well.

The sky was lazy and still. If it were not for the buzzards flying all over the gorgeous stone wall, you would literally think you’re looking at a painting. There was no movement. Just quiet. And peace. Nature, and life have stood still, to wait for the day (or maybe the season) to pass! The silence and peace were material. Just like the wood, and the leaves, and the water, you could touch it.

I have to tell you, also, it warms up my heart when I see a group of 16 year old or so (all) boys tracking through the woods and singing “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”. As much as I am against pretty much everything that kids are exposed to nowadays, for them to know the lyrics of that song, and sing it all along, with such happiness and gusto, and not be embarrassed to belch it out in the woods, I was grateful to those parents, and grateful to the blue grass and country stations that we still do have nowadays, at least here.

It was a good day. Lost shoe bottoms, sprained hip, no wine, and all – it was refreshing to see mountains, and green, and freshness, happy kids, blue skies, and so much more.

I feel like I am ready for another two weeks of work-bound constraints now. Well, I would not go that far, but … I am happy I made this journey. Mountains never disappoint.

This is exactly what I was looking forward to all week long ... Aaaaahhh ...

For a complete album of this trip, please visit here.