Flirting with disaster

And Now it is the Future Again


The lead-up to Christmas this year was really fun. Nature wasn’t trying to murder us (compared to last year, when we had the Thomas Fire crawling up our butts and then the mud literally killing people), and we had enough money to throw around on superfluous things like fire wood and snacks, so we loaded up. Christmas day itself was a bit pressured. There were some sneaky “Did I spend too much money on you?” feelings and their terrible confederates, “You didn’t spend enough money on me.” So at dinner time Jack and I ended up in one of those stupid bickering whisper fights that isn’t about what it’s really about, and we ate our Christmas dinner fried chicken and waffles with a palpable chill in the air. Jackson didn’t really notice, or maybe he did and knew how to avoid the whole thing by falling asleep on the couch while we were still eating.

The day after Christmas I had to go back to work, which gave me some emotional distance from the previous day while simultaneously allowing my family to wonder if I was going to feel martyred about leaving when they had another day off. So when dinner time rolled around again and Jack was all, Are you done yelling at me? I was all, I don’t know! Maybe! Maybe not!

And then I asked myself, Is this really who you want to be? And I know it sounds really hokey but that’s all it took for me to snap out of it and A Better Me to take over and say she was sorry and grow the fuck up. The holidays trigger some childish reactions to stress in a lot of us, and since I no longer drink my problems away I need to somehow remember to invite my better self to step in when things get ridiculous. Maybe some knuckle tattoos would remind me. G-R-O-W-A S-P-I-N-E would work, if we’re going to use thumbs.


Jackson always says that he won’t wear anything that isn’t comfortable, and he says it with the sort of mystified air you might take on while watching a woman struggle to zip up her jeans after a turkey dinner. Yesterday one of his girl friends came over wearing a head-to-toe sloth onesie so I thought, If all the teens are doing it maybe I’ll try this comfort thing, too. I don’t want to get rid of my pencil skirts yet, but if you’re looking to throw off some unreasonable beauty standards I urge you to read this post by a grown woman who said Fuck it, it’s sneakers from now on.


“I paired my new sneakers with floral mini-dresses, with shorts, with jeans and with slacks, and instead of picking up oxfords or loafers for autumn, I just kept buying sneakers. I'd forgotten how light they were, how comfortable and how I was able to walk around without spending the following days complaining about how sore I was from simply being alive.” 


How to take awesome food photos, a useful set of guidelines by Helen Rosner.

How Peter Jackson Made WWI Footage Seem Astonishingly New. [NY Times] “The clarity was such that these soldiers on the film came alive,” Jackson said in a phone interview describing the restoration process. “Their humanity just jumped out at you. This footage has been around for 100 years and these men had been buried behind a fog of damage, a mask of grain and jerkiness and sped-up film. Once restored, it’s the human aspect that you gain the most.”

Yearcompass, a free tool that helps you look at the last year and make plans for the next one. I’m excited to sit down and give this a try.

Fearless Inaction

I got into my first #BlackLivesMatter argument with a stranger! It was not #superfun.

The organization I work for has a sidewalk sign and we change the message every week. Usually it's a short, inspirational quote, but it's a liberal organization so I'm often on my guard in case someone walks into the office and has a problem with whatever's out there. It's not really my job to defend the organization and its views -- I'm not a member, I just work there -- but often the higher-ups have better things to do than argue with strangers so my job sometimes entails defusing cranks.

Unfortunately, when Mr. All Lives Matter called our office this week, I did not have on my Welcoming Hat of Patience and Respect. Instead my plumage was bright with righteousness and spread wide about me, and soon, as witnesses will attest, I was just talking over the guy and he was talking over me and we were getting nowhere.

And I hate confrontation. You really have to push me hard before I snap. But after a couple of fruitless minutes where I'm sure my heart rate doubled, my many years in customer service finally kicked in and I just shut up and let him rant. Normally that's a good technique to use with angry customers, to let them explain the depth and breadth of their problem unimpeded. And maybe he just wanted to be listened to by someone he perceived as the problem, or the enemy, or just ignorant and in need of educatin'.

The second technique that works with angry customers is to find something neutral to apologize for -- "I'm so sorry this happened to you," is almost guaranteed to get them on your side and to believe you're actually going to fix their problem* -- but since there was no way on God's green earth I was going to apologize for my defense of our beleaguered Black brothers and sisters, Plan C was just to wait until he said something I could reasonably agree with, which he eventually did. 

"Politicians are all crooked, they're not going to fix this!" he said, almost pleadingly, which allowed me to jump back in and say, "I agree, this is not something politicians can fix, the people have to do it." This gave us both the out we were looking for.

"You know, I learned something from you today," he said approvingly, "and I hope you learned something from me, too," though what he taught me was to get to the listening part a lot faster next time, and then tell him to put it all in a letter to my boss.

*Do not try this with me, Blue Shield, I see right through you.

The best thing to counteract all the office drama was the fact that, because I work in a historic landmark building, it's also a Pokemon Gym, so all throughout the week people were standing around the courtyard or sitting on the steps staring at their phones and battling with their Pokemon. I admit, I tried to pit my completely underpowered Rhyhorn against a champion Charmeleon, who immediately handed me my own ass.

My editor.

I am now on what appears to be the final draft of my manuscript, and that is #superfun! I love editing and rewriting, it's the best part of all of this. I would tinker with this book for years, I would polish and touch up until I die but Jack would probably kill me first (I know that makes no sense but believe me, he'd figure out a way).

I still have no health insurance, but I've been assured by my insurer that should anything happen to me while they're untangling the unholy mess they made, I'll be covered retroactively. Jackson would like someone to look at his shoulder but I haven't made the appointment yet because I don't believe either Blue Shield or the state will reimburse me. I know that sounds like I value my money more than my son's health, but his vague discomfort is not pressing enough for me to start writing checks to an escalating cadre of specialists. Please use this post as evidence of my neglect when Jackson's NBA career is cut tragically short by a career-ending rotator cuff injury.

You bitch!

Lastly, I'd like to recommend a few newsletters I subscribe to. Alice Bradley's Weekly Newsletter, of course. The Awl has a great one called "Everything Changes" and it always manages to say just the right thing when I need it. Sean Bonner's "The Crowd" always points me in good directions. And Meaghan O'Connell's "Like This" is a wonderful chronicle of her life as she writes a book and lives with her husband and young child while feeling somewhat adrift in the Cayman Islands.

Leaving so soon?


I just discovered that I have no healthcare coverage, and that I have been completely vulnerable re: healthcare coverage since May 1 thanks to Covered California. They're a badly programmed automated nightmare, if you haven't heard, which may be worse than a bureaucratic wasp's nest of red tape because a badly programmed automated nightmare is just a runaway train of indifference, whereas a bureaucratic wasp's nest of red tape can at least be argued with. But you can't even get an automated nightmare on the phone. Covered California makes me grateful for the wonderful people of the Internal Revenue Service. Think about that for a minute

My husband is covered, thank God, and I think my son is, too, I won't know until I make some phone calls in the morning, fully expecting never to get a human being on the other end of the line. I am honestly too upset to write right now, but I've promised myself I'd do this no matter how I felt, so here we are. Not very satisfying for you to read, I know. If I were to draw a cartoon of myself right at this moment it would be of a woman jabbing herself in the forehead with a fork.

Here's a photo I took on a walk through Ellwood a few weeks back. That bird doesn't have any health insurance, either. Take your vitamins, bird! Stay hydrated! 

There I was, standing in line at Taco Bell

I take Jackson to Taco Bell maybe once or twice a month so that he can have tacos whose shells are made out of giant Doritos. I have eaten one of these amazing creations myself and though it's unclear whose hand I would shake were I to congratulate the inventor of these marvelous things, I don't make a habit of them because they're so delicious it makes me suspicious of what's in them. It seems simple enough, but I know they have some terrible, addictive ingredient in there that I can't help but want more of, despite my better judgment, like lard, or Channing Tatum's tears.

So there we were, waiting for Jackson's tacos, standing next to a white, middle-class, hetero couple who were also waiting for whatever they ordered, when in walked a large, middle-aged white man whose shorts were hanging halfway down his ass. The woman and I looked at each other.

"You can't look away from something like that," she said.

"If I were a different kind of person, it would be all over Instagram right now," I said.

"The People of Taco Bell," she said.

"Mom, sshhh," Jackson said. 

Then her boyfriend piped up and said, "Excuse me, sir! Your shorts are hanging down, you might want to pull them back up!"

"Oh my God," said the woman, "What are you doing?"

"I'm telling him that we noticed --"

"I'm sorry?" said the man with the prodigious butt crack as he pulled up his giant basketball shorts. "I'm hearing impaired!"

"It's okay!" yelled her boyfriend. "You're fine now!"

"I didn't hear what were you trying to tell me," yelled the man.

"I didn't want to embarrass you!" yelled the boyfriend.

"Oh my God," hissed the woman. "Why did you do that?"

"It's a side effect of being brain damaged," said the boyfriend, "I have no filter! It's okay!"

"No, it's not!" she said.

"And now we're the assholes," I said. Terrible, judgmental assholes making light of some man who was simply out living his life and couldn't hear that his shorts were falling down, and it took a brain-damaged man to bring us to our senses. 

She sighed. Her boyfriend picked up their order.

"Have a good night!" he said loudly to everyone in Taco Bell as they walked out the door.

And it was then that I vowed to only go to drive-through restaurants for the rest of my life in order to spare humanity from having to deal with me. Jackson, unfortunately, is stuck with my faulty example of adulthood full-time.


The reason I skipped last month's monthly post is that I had set a September 30 deadline for myself to finish the second draft of this novel I'm writing, and that deadline made a lovely whooshing sound as it went by. October 30 is likely to go by as well without a completed second draft, and while I am only four chapters away from finishing this beast, I find that a lot of loose ends need tying up and I can't just send it off into the world with a note pinned to it that says, "Please read this, it's pretty much done but I can probably make it better." So I'll be going back to it this afternoon, because that's what keeps me off the streets and away from harassing the hearing impaired.


Every post needs a photo, so here's one I took in the library yesterday. I was busy erasing all the underlining someone did in a book about Mozart's life when I came upon this persnickety little correction, done in pen. In pen. GODDAMNIT, PEOPLE.

According to Grammar Girl, this pen-correcting person is WRONG and I am tempted to go back to work tomorrow and amend his or her work with a little Post-It errata note. The library vigilante within me is currently squaring off with the Joe Orton-style library vandal, so no one's really going to win. (I know, I am full of links today, but if you're only going to click on one, choose the last one, I beg of you.)


Close to Home

I had an unexpected reaction to the shooting that happened a week ago out at UCSB. I spent all last weekend reading all the articles and opinions and tweets that ran past me, and none of it was good news, but the thing that finally got me was when I went to work Tuesday morning and heard that one of our patrons claimed that the shooter had been hanging around the library the last few weeks. "Didn't you recognize his car? It was out in the lot all the time." That was some chilling news. And of course, it was possible to imagine a black BMW parked just about anywhere if you wanted, this is Santa Barbara, black BMWs are as common as frisbees. I don't ever remember seeing the guy's face, but sometimes people sit out in the lot in their cars before we're open and after we're closed, just to use the wifi. It's possible one of them was him.

So I don't know if the patron who claimed the shooter had been that close to us was making up this story just to claim his own piece of the drama, or if he really saw the shooter, or what. I do know that anyone can come to the public library and most of our patrons are interesting and kind and grateful for what we provide. Underneath that, I've learned that some of them are terminally ill, and some of them are mentally ill, and some are homeless and some are the most polite racists I've ever met, and I do my best to treat them all the same.

Of course, this shooter who felt bullied and ignored, me being nice to him wouldn't have helped. A woman my age would have been invisible to him. But so help me God, this is what I ended up clinging to in the wake of all this: Be nice to everyone. Listen. Be present. Say something funny whenever possible. Help them if you can, and if you can't, refer them to someone who can. Of course, that's my job, but I'm taking it more seriously than ever right now.

It's not a philosophy that will bring any of those kids back to life, and I don't know if it will prevent any more from dying, but at least it helps me feel like I've done my best by whoever shows up in front of me. And I refuse to live in fear of any of these gun-obsessed assholes.


On a brighter note, one of my friends from college died this month, and there's nothing like one of your peers taking off for points unknown to make you wonder if you're secretly growing a tumor or two of your own. I was commiserating with another friend who was in the same class, and we began to marvel at how many people from our relatively small circle at college are dead. Like, out of a loose coalition of 12-15 people, six are dead. Five of them went before the age of 40. One in his 20s, thanks to AIDS in the 80s before all the good drugs showed up. So, take care of yourselves, everybody! The darkness is closing in!


The other weird thing is when a library patron dies. I mean, we work with a lot of old people. You get to know everyone, over time, and what they like to read, or what they're willing to try when they can't find anything they like to read. And then the day comes when you ask your coworker, Have you seen Mrs. X lately? And you check her record and see that she hasn't checked out anything in the last seven months and your heart sinks a little. People have strokes and become homebound, or one of their children comes in and hands us their card and asks us to delete their account. I used to marvel at a sprightly 99-year-old who used to come in every few days. He stopped coming in at some point, maybe I was on vacation or I just didn't really notice, it's not like I have a checklist although maybe I should. And then last week, seemingly overnight, another one of our regulars stopped being the guy who always brought us jars of homemade jelly at Christmas and turned into a thank-you note from his wife telling us how much he loved the library.


May is fucking beautiful in Santa Barbara, these jacaranda trees bloom with purple flowers all over town and it's heavenly. Unless you park under one and your car gets covered in smelly, sticky, godawful blossoms that ruin your paint. But apart from that: so beautiful! Here's a picture! Cheer up! Would you look at that!


I hate shopping more than life itself

Here's the latest: if you ask me to draw "an animal," you may end up with a picture based on a picture of Steve Irwin holding a wombat that says, it's a wombat. Because if you put your framed drawing of Steve Irwin holding a wombat someplace people can see it, then you're not going to want to answer the question, "What IS that?" over and over again, are you? Unless you are, in which case I've ruined this drawing's purpose as a conversation piece. wombat

I don't know where his right elbow came from, it's not in the photo. At some point I realized that I'd gotten the proportions all wrong so I started making uncanny adjustments, and now here we are. I'm not apologizing!

Next, a request for a "random landscape" took me no further than my own back yard. Sure, I could have gone to the beach, but then all you'd have would be a drawing of a horizontal line, and if you complained I'd be all, "Haven't you read Harold and the Purple Crayon?" Plus, I've had a terrible cold. Yes, that's supposed to be Peewee. He was added as an afterthought. Clearly.


Anywho. What's been going on? Well, Jack came back from his mother's house with a pile of old photos. We organized as much as we could, they were mostly family photos but we found some modeling proofs and tear sheets. Such as this, which was taken when Barbara was around 18 years old:


No, that's not Jack as a baby, it's a model baby. A baby model, to be more accurate -- I know nothing about that baby's character or achievements so it is incorrect to call it a Model Baby. But mostly: can you conceive of an 18-year-old woman looking like that today? I'm trying to imagine your average high school senior wearing a peignoir and getting excited about doing her baby's laundry and it's just not working.

companion cover

The Ivory Snow ad was on the reverse of the cover of Woman's Home Companion, but Babs had just saved the cover, not the whole magazine. If only she'd been a bigger fan of women posing with Furries, or of MEAL-PLANNING.

What else is new? I bought some blue jeans. I was going to write yet another post about how meaningless size tags are on clothing, because I gained some weight and needed new jeans. Usually I am able to lose my Christmas padding but as of April I still couldn't squeeze into my old size 10 Lucky jeans without bursting my own appendix. So I went to the Levi's outlet and grabbed some Cropped Whatevers off the rack. They fit okay (meaning: I could button them!), so I bought them in what also turned out to be size 10. "Well, that doesn't make a lot of sense," I thought, "but different brands size their jeans differently, so what do I care?"

A few days later I went down to the Lucky Jeans store and saw they had a rack of the same style of jeans, the Cropped Whatever style ("For when you just don't give a shit anymore"). I decided to try them on out of curiosity. Since they were Lucky jeans, same brand as the ones my ass grew out of, I reasoned that I should go a size up, so I took a size 12 into the dressing room.

Now, I don't have much experience with male sales assistants, but when he saw I was serious this buff young fellow assigned himself to me, so I just went with it. What are you going to do? If only I weren't such a flaming hot middle-aged librarian.

"Those are too big," he said, crossing his arms. Lucky Jeans doesn't put mirrors in the dressing room, they insist you come out to assess yourself in their one giant mirror in the middle of the store. "See, it gaps at the waist."

"Weird!" I said, frantically brushing my hair out of my eyes and trying to look like I was comfortable staring at my own ass in a giant mirror while various shoppers and sales assistants looked on.

My sales boy -- let's call him Tyler -- then gave me the same jeans one size down (size 10, the size I thought I no longer was) and sent me back in to change.

I came out of the dressing room, again with the frantic brushing.

"Still too big!" said Tyler. Even though the jeans were in the fitted range, the waist was still gapping? gaping? at the back. We did the size lower thing two more times until I walked out of the dressing room sweating and wearing jeans three sizes smaller than I thought I was.

"Yes!" said Tyler, raising his arms in victory for having squeezed one more unsuspecting woman into denim sausage casing.

And yet, oddly, my appendix was not in danger of emerging whole from my throat. The size six jeans actually felt pretty good.

I could no longer hide my suspicion.

"You've added stretch to these, haven't you?" I said.

"Of course. Are you kidding?" he said.

When he realized I wasn't going to submit to trying on any more jeans (Cigarette? Matchstick? Bongwater?) he tried to sell me two half-price tops that made me look like Janis Joplin's uncooperative roadie. Tyler, who was born in the year I quit film school, grew up in Gilroy, California. He seemed somewhat dazzled that I could identify his hometown as the garlic capital of the world. It's not an impressive fact, anyone who's driven up the 101 using their eyes knows that, but I guess if you're paid to flirt with the customers you feign excitement about all kinds of little things.

My point in posting this is merely to say that Lucky Jeans is full of shit because they're labeling jeans three sizes smaller than they used to, that's all.

10 and 6Size 6 Luckys on top, size 10 Levi's on the bottom

I still like Luckys, and even though they're twice the price of Levi's they seem to last twice as long.

Did I just write a product review? Goddamn it, I did.



But while we're at it: those Fluevog boots on the left are size 10 and the Dansko clogs on the right are size 12. My feet have the same issue as my ass does! What a surprise!

Thus be it resolved

My birthday is later this week and I'm having fun imaging that I am still just half-way through my life, that I have a whole other 49 years of mature adulthood in which I do not have to waste time waiting to grow boobs, get a driver's license, or learn to drink without getting a hangover, but am a ready-to-go human being and can do mostly whatever the hell I want. Not included on my mental vision board is the assumption that the years 50-100 may include at least one life-threatening illness, correctable by surgery, during which my heart may be stopped -- which happened to my mother-in-law on the day before Christmas, ho ho ho. Though surviving a one-stop heart or cancer-related dip in the post-menopausal years has happened to so many people I know that I've almost come to expect it as a rite of passage. Program your iPod, pack your bag, and don't forget to ask for a vitamin C drip. Of course, anything can happen, and it frequently does. Like on the day after Christmas, when I was driving home from work on the 101 and all of a sudden it's BANG! SMASH! and I am spinning sideways toward the guard rail. My only question, as I was trundling toward the shoulder of the road, was what to do with my steering wheel, since unexpected forces were clearly in charge of my car now. So I just let go and watched the wheel spin around, and then I got the mildest whiplash ever when my car hit the rail. I'm not sure when my glasses flew off, but I couldn't find them for the life of me, even with a borrowed highway patrol officer's flashlight. I stopped looking under the passenger side front seat when he said, You know, those airbags sometimes go off by themselves after an accident. So, with nothing to do but wait for a tow truck, I squinted at my phone and mashed apps until I found one that would take a photo:


It doesn't look too bad there, but the car was undriveable and had to be towed. The most fun thing about all of this is the fact that five cars were involved and it wasn't immediately clear who was at fault. I finally got the accident report this morning (12 days later), and called the responsible party's insurance company so we can get this resolved, but I have a sad suspicion that the cost of repairing my car will amount to more than the car is worth, and they'll declare it totaled. :-(

On the upside, I've been borrowing a friend's Volkswagen with heated front seats and I can yell, "Toast your buns!" at Jackson as we drive to school in the morning.

And thus ends three weeks of winter vacation, Jesus Christ. I love my man, I love my child, I love my dog, but three weeks of togetherness meant I didn't get a thing done, writing- or drawing-wise, and you know what? That's okay. We baked cookies, we drank wine, we played Gin Rummy, we lost entire days to Netflix.


  1. Draw every day, intuitively and without agenda
  2. Write every day, even if it's just 15 minutes, to keep the neural helipad open and clear for the Muse to touch down
  3. Yoga every day, even if it's just 15 minutes, or you will become dry and crisp and withered as the husk of Indian corn nailed to your mother's front door, which nobody ever rescued until Spring because we all went into the house through the garage
  4. Never, ever beat myself up if 1, 2, or 3 doesn't happen every day



Yes, I blew NaBloPoMo. I failed at my own thing! For the first time in what, five years? I haven't posted every day in November, and you know what? Oh, well. C'est la guerre. This weekend at Camp Mighty was not a time for withdrawing to my room and ruminating on lessons learned, it was a time best spent fetching cocktail napkins for Alice to cry into and drinking margaritas while talking to Heather about the election. And also doing this:

I have never before in my life put on a wig and shiny green pants to go to a party, I don't know what's happening to me. If this is how a mid-life crisis escalates, brace yourselves; it could happen to you, too.

Also, I stopped posting because I stopped drawing every day, and now I'm horribly behind. This next drawing comes at the request of someone who wanted an elephant.

It is so much more than just an elephant, it is a baby elephant hiding in a bush while its mother looks in the other direction, with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. How about them apples? I have no idea if they have bushes like that on the road to Kilimanjaro or if elephants even roam in the area, and frankly I was tempted to pull a Little Prince and draw an elephant inside a snake that looks like a hat, but that would be plagiarism and I'm not interested in being so unoriginal. Awkward, yes. Illogical, of course. But by God at least I'm making my own awkward, illogical drawings.

I also wanted to grow up and be a Playboy Bunny

Sunday morning I was lollygagging in bed with a small but persistent headache and occasional nose bleed, probably due to the fact that I wasn't quite ready to enjoy normal dinner-with-friends wine drinking quite so close to the finale of my very important head cold. It occurred to me that nose bleeds can be symptomatic of all sorts of fun, including (1) change of seasons/dry weather, (2) brain hemorrhage, (3) getting punched in the face, or (4) over-blowing due to frantic amounts of congestion. But these days I'm also having hourly hot flashes and I haven't had my period for a couple of months, and so for a moment I was actually addled enough to think, Is that a menopause thing? You start bleeding out of your nose? My mother never warned me about anything like that. We had a warm but shame-based relationship, though, so who knows? My organs could be migrating all over the place but I wouldn't recognize the symptoms were because there wasn't a Modess pamphlet about placental nose bleeds for my mom to leave on my bed. Anyway. Sunday morning I'm lying in bed trying to will myself into the shower, wondering whether I'd be better off with two Advil or a Heineken, when Jackson comes flying in with his blanket over him like a cape. I love my son with all my heart, but not so much when he's JUMPing UP and DOWN on the BED and then trying to suffocate me. With his love. And his blanket.

I managed to elbow him off me in the most passive, loving, sick-lady way possible, which he adores. We have the world's laziest wrestling matches. We'll be lying there watching TV and slowly trying to push each other onto the floor. So there I was with my headache and my bloody nose (and a very attractive dry cough that makes me sound like Lauren Bacall) trying to stiff-arm 100 pounds of boy, who then reared up with his blanket all dramatically and said, "DAMMINT, PAMELA!" and then covered my head like he was actually trying to suffocate me.

I was trapped under the blanket trying fruitlessly to elbow him in the groin in a way that wouldn't ruin his life, so all he could hear was my muffled, "Oh my God, who is Pamela?"

"I don't know!" he giggled, trying to sit on my head, "She's your alter ego! And she's blonde! . . . And she has a DRINKING PROBLEM!"

I managed to push him off, where he collapsed into a pile of his own hilarity, and I thought, Things are so much more well-defined for Pamela. I'm graying and have a cold-medicine dependency, but she gets to be blonde and call two bottles of champagne a good start.

But also, what in hell does he know to throw around the phrase "drinking problem"? Is he secretly watching Celebrity Rehab? Did I watch Lost Weekend when I was pregnant and Ray Milland crossed the placenta? It's a shock to hear grown-up phrases come out of your child's mouth like they know what they're saying. I mean, kids pick stuff up all over the place, and I know Jackson's fascinated with what it means to be an adult. When I was his age I was sitting in my bedroom memorizing Cheech and Chong routines and pretending to be Liza Minnelli in Cabaret and my parents didn't have a clue.

Not dead yet

My god, I've been sick. I'm so healthy most of the time! I must save up my allotment of not-so-hot feeling days and then have them all at once, once a year, when my immune system's feeling just a little too smug. I could see it coming, days ahead, it was like a slow-rolling tsunami. I had plenty of time to cancel appointments and pack, tell my boss things weren't looking good. It hit in the middle of the night, and all my hatches were battened except the one where I had to take Jackson to school the next morning. There I was hunkered down over the espresso machine, making our usual morning coffees, a double cappuccino for me and a 12-ounce travel mug of milk with a shot of espresso for Jackson. (What, he likes coffee. I put half a packet of stevia in his because otherwise he'd demand four lumps of sugar, which = no.) We got in the car.

"Mom? Are you okay?"

"I don't feel very good."

"You don't look very good."

"Thanks, honey."

I was hanging on pretty well, as well as you can hang on when you feel like absolute death. I really shouldn't have had that sip of coffee, though. Nausea was not a welcome companion on our journey. Neither was Jackson's morning playlist of Eminem's greatest hits, even played at elevator-music level.


"Mom, are you okay?"

"I don't feel very good."

Jackson put his hand on my arm as we drove. He's such a nice kid.


And in my head I'm all, "Help me, God, help me Oprah, help me Tom Cruise, use your witchcraft on me." Except quietly and without punctuation. Helpmegodhelpmeoprah. Tomcruiseuseyourwitchcraft. Prayforusnowandatthehourofourdeath.

It was just comically awful: me feeling like a shit pancake, my son cheerfully programming his playlist of problematic white genius hip hop mayhem, my dog quietly farting in the back seat.

Naturally, I wasn't done. I had to drag my animate carcass to CVS because Alka Seltzer Cold Medicine is the only thing that works, they don't even have to pay me to say that, I will spread the word for free. Buy that shit. When the nice cashier says, "How are you today!" just croak, "I'm so sick" at her and she will give you your change with horrified fingers, it's been proven in laboratory experiments time and again. I'm not even sure what that means.

I guess I must have made it home, and then I woke up and it was 2:00 p.m. And now it's Friday, I think? How are you?

Yes, I was too sick to use a glass.

Fortunately, before all this went down I managed to put up another post at Babble, this one being a review of the latest J.K. Rowling book written in the form of Harry Potter fan fiction. I'm not sure what I'm going to do for an encore, I'm only halfway finished with Gone Girl, but maybe the cast of Twilight will have some opinions on it.

One-item lists

After I made my big declaration about how Facebook is stealing our souls, I then spent the next two days posting things and chatting on Facebook like nothing had happened. I believe I can find a balance between this and that, but at the same time I'm concerned with the self-sabotaging psychology that kicks in, for example, when as soon as I decide to stop eating sugar, I make a big pan of brownies. I don't even tell myself not to spend money anymore or this will happen:

[via dh]

If that isn't the best video I've seen all summer I'll eat my grandmother's vintage cat's eye glasses. After watching it about six times Saturday night Jackson was all, "Are there any thrift stores around here?" Oh, my son. The golden days of thrifting in Santa Barbara are behind us now, but there still exists a magical town ruled by bikers and street people called . . . Ventura. So Sunday we drove down to the Goodwill in Ventura and bought Jackson a pair of red plaid pajama pants, a green and white striped hooded sweatshirt from the women's rack, a couple of white t-shirts, and we rescued a Build-a-Bear rabbit with floppy ears for .99 that doesn't appear to have lice, fleas, or bed bugs. I bought a pair of ballooning, high-waisted purple wool lady pants that are going to look pretty awesome somehow once I wrap my mind around what to wear on top. If I could find a cropped brown rabbit's fur jacket . . . I wouldn't buy it, but you hear what I'm saying.

Another crush, with free association:

1. Alan Arkin: because of how sexy he is when he's disgusted

Phrase from a comment on an old post that has stayed with me for years:

1. "Away-game pooping situation."

So along with opening back up to the Internet, I'm also trying to be more approachable in real life. I guess I'm an introvert, but I like being around people who are more open than me because they help me connect to that part of myself that doesn't see closeness as a threat. (I once had someone who knows about these things tell me that two lives ago I died by being drowned; as in, someone either held me down or pulled me down or I don't know what, but he was all, "Do you have trouble when people get too close? Because that would explain it." Holy shit, how do I get over that?)

Certainly the thing about working with the public is that every new patron is an opportunity to practice small, non-life-threatening connections. Most people seem to want that, which means at the start of every shift I unpack all of my extrasensory satellite dishes to figure out how best to make that happen. Some people, however, want a larger amount of connection, more connection than I am capable of (or paid to) provide as a public servant. Emotional vampires, in my experience, come off as super-extra friendly at first. Their requests start off normal, but somewhere along the line they try to lure you into the enchanted forest of weirdly-specific things most people don't normally ask others to do for them. "Will you text this 16-line e.e. cummings poem to my friend in Las Vegas?" happened recently, as well as "Will you read the descriptions of forty different children's books to me, both over the phone and in person the next day?" and  "Will you build a web site for me in Wordpress?"

And I think, what is up with you? What is it? Just tell me. Is it that you get off on me touching your stuff? You're lonely and want me to keep you company? You disagree with the concept of outsourced tech support so you'd rather take advantage of my limited skills?

There's a great part of "Words of Advice" by William S. Burroughs that applies:

"If, after having been exposed to someone's presence, you feel as if you've lost a quart of plasma, avoid that presence. You need it like you need pernicious anemia. We don't like to hear the word "vampire" around here; we're trying to improve our public image. Building a kindly, avuncular, benevolent image; "interdependence" is the keyword — "enlightened interdependence." Life in all its rich variety, take a little, leave a little. However, by the inexorable logistics of the vampiric process they always take more than they leave — and why, indeed, should they take any?"

I went into yoga the morning after a particularly lengthy exchange with one of these people and halfway through my practice I was all, "This is crazy, I'm too tired to do any more." And then after sitting there for a minute I realized that my body was strong enough to continue, the problem was that some other, ineffable part of me just didn't have the strength to go on. Once I had that realization, the exhaustion lifted and I kept going, but man. Feeling like you lost a quart of plasma. That's a real thing.

Don't put your finger up your butt to help yourself poop or you'll never be able to stop.

Henry Alford's wonderful essay about his brief stint as a runway model:

"It occurred to me that my lifelong slouchy posture is, in a complicated and wrong way, connected to my hatred of bragging. Somehow in my mind I've learned to equate slouching with modesty."

He then improves his runway walk by imagining he's a former Lufthansa flight attendant who likes vegan baked goods, vintage motorcycles, and Sofia Coppola when she wears aqua in airports. Henry Alford is now my spirit animal.

Look out, this is a long one

The last few years it's been hard to enjoy blogging as much as I used to, and I eventually came to see that my lack of enjoyment was actually a lack of trust. Lack of trust in the ability of the Internet to play nice, but also lack of trust in my own ability to properly assess the impact of what I write as it comes out of me. Back in April, for example, I wrote a post about life coaches in general and Martha Beck more specifically, as I was reading one of her books. The tone of the post was skeptical, to my ear, but I can sort of understand how you might read the post and hear bitchiness or dismissiveness, or any of a thousand other things that I have no control over because your tinfoil hat prevents me from manipulating your thoughts because everyone's tuned to different frequencies. I tend to look for a funny way to talk about things that make me nervous, like feelings and my deeply repressed spiritual nature, and so my writing about these subjects can come off as immature. I'll own that.

Anyway, my post hurt the feelings of some people who took the time to tell me that life coaches had helped them tremendously, as well as the feelings of people who were life coaches and felt kind of bummed that I didn't get it. After which I felt bummed that I didn't get it, because deep down I did get it; I got it very, very much, but I was deeply afraid of admitting how much I wanted such a miraculous person as a life coach to come and fix me. So I made fun of them.

Listen, it's not always fun being a suburban, middle-aged white lady who can't handle her own stupid feelings.

And commenters can be really smart. They can point out your flaws so quickly sometimes, weaknesses you've spent a lifetime carefully papering over can be stunningly obvious to them. They don't always call you on it very nicely, unfortunately, but I think it's the job of anyone who writes online to examine themselves when someone cuts them to the quick, and ask themselves, "Is it true?" It doesn't have to be 100% true, but if it's even 1% true you have to own that 1%. Because if you mindlessly take the road everyone who loves you and wants to protect you tells you to take, the road where you get to say, "don't feed the trolls" or "they're just jealous" or "ignore the haters" or the time-tested "fuck 'em if they can't take a joke," you will add another brick to the wall that will eventually turn into an airless room containing just you and your ego.

Just to make things worse, eventually I got a comment that began, "Hi, Eden, it's Martha!" Martha! didn't seem to like what I'd written about her profession. Actually, I had some doubts that the comment was truly from Martha Beck, because I was pretty sure Martha would know the difference between "Augean Stables" (the ones Hercules had to clean out as part of his many labors) and "Aegean Stables" (stables that are just Aegean in general). I didn't think Martha would really be out there Googling mentions of herself in blog posts, but maybe she had a staff member dedicated to preserving her glorious image online. The e-mail address left with the comment pointed to someone, so who knew! Life coaches are crazy, right? Right? Oh, God, please tell me I'm right.

I knew I was in trouble because I'd violated such a cardinal rule of Internet blogulating that I couldn't even believe it: don't talk shit about people as though they can't hear you, because 9 times out of 10 that person is going to end up on your blog, reading what you said about them, and then chanting for your slow, painful death from stomach cancer.

Over the years I've done a lot of yoga, and one thing I've learned that I can carry into any situation is that your weaknesses often point directly at what you need to work on the most. And one of my most persistent weaknesses as a human being is that I check out emotionally when things get tough. So I alternately hid from, beat myself up for, and tried to ignore the fact that I may have pissed off Martha Beck -- who never did anything but write a book that I found helpful, for fuck's sake -- for two and a half months.

Then, last week, I watched as someone I admire angered and then shot back at a whole lot of people, thought deeply and clearly about why that happened, and then apologized like a pro. And I knew what I had to do.

Hi, [person at], a few months ago I wrote a blog post talking about how I was reading Martha's book "Finding Your Own North Star," and in this post I expressed some skepticism about the profession of life coaching in general. (The link is here: .) On this post, a person left what I felt was an angry-ish comment under the name Martha Beck. I felt terrible, of course, because I was coming to admire Martha's writing tremendously, but at the time I also felt like the comment might have been left by someone just pretending to be Martha so I let it sit.

But since your e-mail address was the one left below their comment, and this has been nagging at me for more than two months now, I felt I ought to put on my big girl panties and apologize, if the comment was indeed left by Martha and she was indeed ticked off by what I wrote. Friends have told me not to worry about it, but friends don't have to live in my skin and walk around feeling like I've offended someone I've come to admire. I haven't even finished reading "North Star" because every time I open it I feel like I don't deserve to have Martha help me. So I thought a good way to get past that would be to apologize and go forth and try not to be such a dick in the future.

If the comment wasn't Martha's, at least I got all this off my chest! Sorry you had to witness it!


A couple of hours later I received this reply:

Hi Eden,

Thank you SO much for your email and for reaching out.  I read the comment and double checked with Martha because it was definitely not something I felt she would ever do or say.  She responded with No no no. We are deeply sorry someone used her name. She also asked that I send you the message below.

Attached was a kind message from Martha Beck herself (I'm pretty sure, unless this is a really elaborate ruse involving a weapons-grade e-mail cloaking device). Not long after that I also heard from the CEO of Martha's company, who was unbelievably nice as well and had no problem with my post whatsoever.

So that pretty much made my day.

This story has a couple of morals, as I see it.

  1. Internet commenters can be lying weirdos with unfathomable agendas, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing
  2. If you hurt someone's feelings and the reason you did it points at a fault within yourself, own it
  3. Thou shalt not commit adultery
  4. Buy the kosher hot dogs
  5. Don't let the pigeon drive the bus