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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dessert Is Not My Life

I'm sure everyone has a story or two about vegetables at the dinner table. Every person on the planet has fallen victim to the eat your vegetables lecture: both as children and parents. And I believe most of us would fall into the childhood category of non-vegetable eaters. And I know all non-vegetable eaters have stories about how they excused themselves to the toilet with a mouthful of peas, slipped it to the dog, spit them out in the napkin and run to the trash, or hide them under some random piece of meat on your plate and hope your mom doesn't notice. And at this moment I'm confident the majority of us have some "no vegetables no dessert" rule: we went through it and now we put our kids through it. It's "the sins of the father passed down unto the third and fourth generations..." Seriously... is there no end to the madness?

Though I never told her, I watched my daughter pull every vegetable dodging trick in the book. Though it was somewhat irritating to see some form of covert disobedience, I also found myself quietly laughing as I remembered doing all of those same things at her age. Keeping that in the back of my mind, we sat down to dinner one night and I said, "You're going to eat your vegetables tonight, for real... no emergency runs to the bathroom, no spitting them in your napkin... yes, I know you've been doing that because I did all of the same things. So, tonight you're eating your vegetables or no dessert."

Her eyes grew big with shocked amazement, and she nodded her head in agreement. She ate everything else on her plate, but for twenty long minutes she just sat there, telling me stories, and stirring the broccoli around on her plate. By this time it was cold and tough so I prompted her to eat them and get it over with. She reluctantly stabbed one with her fork, put it to her lips, looked at me and said, "I guess I don't want dessert."
"What did you say?"
"I don't want dessert. You said no vegetables no dessert and well, I guess I just don't care about dessert. Is that okay?" She put the broccoli down and silently waited for my response.

Long ago my mother said something very wise to me: you have to choose your battles... That was one of those odd adolescent occasions with my mother where all she had to do was say it once and I never forgot. And there I was, pinned by my daughter, faced with choosing a battle. Sure, I could have forced the issue, broken her spirit, and made her tearfully gnaw on some nasty broccoli "because I said so," but I didn't.

How could I not admire, at that moment, my daughter's sense of reasoning? She knows enough about the strength of my will to see that sitting endlessly at the table was futile. But even though I felt I had made a non-negotiable offer (an offer she couldn't refuse), she basically sat there long enough to find a loop-hole in the system -- an opportunity to negotiate, an opportunity to maybe bend her will a little but, none-the-less, an opportunity to exert it. I had to respect that, so we left the table and she went to bed with no dessert.

Some time after that, she came home from a visit with her dad. We were sitting in the living room when she said, "Dad doesn't get it sometimes." I asked what she meant and she said, "He kept trying to make me eat my vegetables. He told me no dessert and I said that was fine with me, but he still made me sit there after that, he still tried to force me to eat them." I asked her if she ate them and she said, "No, I just sat there. I was the last one at the table because everyone ate their vegetables and dessert and I was just sitting there. He finally let me leave the table after a long time. And then, after all of that, he slipped me a cookie when no one else was looking anyway." Surprisingly to me, she looked exasperated by this...definitely not impressed...the cookie meant nothing.

I stayed silent until she asked me why I let her leave the table and her dad didn't. My response to her was, "Well, I said no vegetables no dessert, you said no dessert, and, given the fact that you'd probably spit them out in the toilet anyway, I saw no real problem with that option. Every parent is different, but for me, if I have to argue with you over something, I'd rather save that energy for something more important than vegetables and dessert." She smiled a little and shook her head, "See, you get it. Dessert is NOT my life."

I laughed to myself as she said that, because it was true. Never underestimate the mind of an eight-year-old, apparently some of them value their sense of freedom and self-respect more than the sweetness of sitting up straight for a treat. And for those of you who are appalled that I allow my daughter to choose whether or not to eat the vegetables, know this: more often than not she eats her vegetables because she really wants dessert...

Monday, April 21, 2008


I am vintage. They come to me in twos and threes. They don’t drain me. Neither do they turn me… they need me. They drink, here and there, sustaining themselves, leaving just enough for me to survive. I replenish… they come again, because I am vintage. I am, according to some, an old soul, reincarnated over and over again, due to some damn thing still left to learn.

That woman over there says I am ascending. That woman, in white, over there, says I am moving and leaving this plane. But I beg to differ…

I am vintage, and they come in twos and threes. I am decadent and aged with elms and birch and knotted oaks. I am full of body and flavor and they come to me…they sap the strength from me…They come, seductively clothed in garments that speak of sorrow and loss, seeking a light to guide them--a mere source, a fountain from which they drink from time to time, but not to heal, just enough to sustain their own sorry existence with style.

This is what it means to be vintage… an aired wine, with no tinge or twang, all that any conniving connoisseur would want. I make them look good to themselves and I deceive myself into thinking that I help. But all I am is some thick liquid, confined in some green glass bottle, letting all negativity rise to the ethers, while all that is fine and good is consumed by something other.

She says that I am ascending…
I am still very much on the ground…and this is …most likely…because I… still don’t get it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Have I Ever Told You About My Five?

One night, about a year and a half ago, my best friend from college came to visit. She's one of those friends that despite the time and distance between us we seem to remain as close as we were at the age of eighteen -- two young and naive college freshmen.

Now, at that particular time in my life, she showed up a month or so after I had dumped yet another potential mate. We were sitting in the living room, savoring some wine, catching up on the happenings of our lives when she finally asked about my love-life or, more appropriately, the lack there-of. She listened to me as I went through the story of the latest love gone sour and she listened even further as I reminisced about the pros and cons of each of the four men I had dated since my divorce. Finally she said, "Have you ever considered coming up with a specific criteria of what you're looking for in a man? If you haven't, I think you should, and if you haven't, I think we should come up with one right now." So we did, and here it is:

1. He has to be educated. Why? Because I'm educated.
Two of those four men had nothing beyond a high school diploma. I had reasoned it away believing that they had enough raw intelligence to get by. Unfortunately, the great void between my intellect and theirs became too much to bear. If we are what we eat, I had eventually become convinced that one of those two men ate rocks. He truly was a rockhead, an extremely good-looking rockhead, but a rockhead. When it reaches the point that my man throws a temper tantrum because he's jealous of the time I spend with books, well... we have a problem Houston -- a local rock eating dunderhead is trying to drag my vessel into the mud when I've been commissioned to explore the mysteries of the intellectual universe. That's simply unacceptable.

2. He must be spiritually grounded. Why? Because I am.
Being the daughter of a Baptist Minister, I cannot tell you how many times I've heard my father lecture me about the importance of being equally yoked. I never put much stock in it before, mostly because I was married to a Baptist hypocrite and it was absolute Hell. But since then I have dated a non-practicing Catholic, two agnostics, and a dunderhead who went from Mormonism (what he was raised), to Atheism (rebellion from Mormonism), to Buddhism (where he was when I met him, though I would argue his Buddhist practices were little more than lip service), to Christianity (where he was after dating me for a while, also lip service), and back to Mormonism (where he returned after I dumped him... I try hard not to feel responsible for that one).

Without giving myself any type of Protestant title, I will say that I am a believer in the God of the Bible, I am a follower of Christ. Basically what this means to any of you that might be cringing, I adhere to the following: love and care for the people around you as you would care for yourself, be faithful to your mate, always speak the truth, take care of the Earth because it's the only one God gave you, judge not lest you be judged, develop your talents and use them to the utmost of your ability because they're gifts, and finally do not destroy your mind and body with unhealthy addictions because your body is the temple of God. This, of course, is a very succinct outline of my personal convictions, but ... it is what it is.

3. Black Belt Mentality.
This is one I picked up from my own experience as a martial artist. All forms of martial arts are based on the idea of Yin and Yang, push and pull, or as William Blake would put it, "Without contraries there is no progression."

What does this mean? In practical terms, we all set goals and strive to achieve them but life has a way of throwing curve balls and monkey wrenches. The true Black Belt is a master of self-control and adaptability, he can dodge and deflect, bob and weave his way in and out of any difficult situation with the strength of all that is martial and the beauty of all that is art. In other words, your opponent isn't always a human and your practice is rarely confined to the dojo. You must approach your life with a keen sense of awareness, accept your failures and shortcomings as lessons to be learned, and accept your triumphs with humble honor. Your life isn't perfect all of the time and growth wouldn't happen if your personal trials didn't force you to do so.

4. Financial Stability.
I'm not talking wealth here because I'm not a material girl. What I'm talking about is the ability to manage money properly: successfully living within your means no matter how large or small. Unfortunately for me, I have yet to date a man with "money" so I have no idea what that's like, but I do have plenty of experience dating men that are always in the hole.

I hate being in the financial pit. As a single mother I've had to learn to recognize the difference between what I want and what I need. I've had to break things down into a necessary money pile and a money to burn pile (and at this point the money to burn pile is still a pipe dream). I have a tight budget, every penny has its place, and that includes a small amount for my daughter and I to go out to dinner and a movie once in a while. But when I find myself going on a date with a man who either wants to go dutch or can't pay at all... let's just say I can feel my blood beginning to boil as I write this.

Don't ask me out on a date if you can't pay for it. Furthermore, don't try to have a long-term relationship with me if you can't even pay your rent. I have my own financial difficulties and a daughter to feed and clothe, so spare me your sob stories and don't mooch off the single mom. As my wise father once said to me, "I've counseled a lot of people in marital crisis, and once poverty jumps in love jumps out." This isn't materialism, this is financial prudence. I don't need designer clothes, or the latest mauve-colored tract home, or an oversized gas guzzling SUV. I just need someone who knows how to manage what funds he has and doesn't succumb to the capitalist temptation of keeping up with the proverbial Jones's.

5. This one I'm stating loosely: No young children.
It seems hypocritical, I know, because I have an eight-year-old. And I am not saying that if a man meeting standards 1 through 4 appeared with his own eight-year-old I would blow him off. No, I'm just exercising a bit of caution here as I know blended families can be hell. My ex-husband married a woman with two kids from a prior marriage and... well... lets just say that his life right now is a testament as to why standard number five needs to be considered. I'm not overly keen on hearing, "Oh yeah! Well you're not my mom!" Nor am I excited about sibling rivalry and disciplining a child that isn't mine.

I guess for once I can say I've been spoiled. It's been just my daughter and I since she was fifteen months old. We lead a very quiet and peaceful life over here: no yelling, no fighting over the front seat, no headlocks or twisted arms, no crazy ex-wives calling my house because her children live with me... Things are nice and calm here and I really like it that way. However, if I'm the same woman that expects Black Belt Mentality from my man, then it is only fair to expect it from myself. I am willing to say that a man that meets 1-4 is worthy of the curve ball disclaimer should he show up with a five or ten year old behind him. I will say that it would be a long period of observation, making sure the dynamics between all of us were going well, before any serious life-time decisions would be made.

So... there it is, "my five." I bring it up because, until now, only myself, the friend I mentioned, and two others really knew about this. I guess I'm thinking if it's on my blog it's now as permanent as the stone tablets bearing the ten commandments.

The truth is, these standards have been in place for over a year and I have to say it has been a liberating experience for me. Because I have this criteria, I've been able to recognize the dim-wits and such as soon as they walk my direction. They don't know it, of course, but I can easily endure their flirtatious fawnings and politely turn them down when asked out because I know they aren't what I'm looking for. And for those of you sitting there thinking, "What if he doesn't exist?" I say bah... He exists.

What I'm asking for isn't over the top, and I'm not asking for anything that I don't adhere to myself and I exist, don't I? But if it so happens that one of life's monkey wrenches is that I never get to meet this man, so be it. I've been alone for quite some time now and I'm pretty happy. Sure, it would be nice to have a man here to open that stubborn jar of pickles once in a while, it would be nice to have a man here to help me when my daughter is sick and I have to miss work again, and it would be nice to have a companion to talk with regularly and laugh with regularly, but even so... I'm still content and I can't ask for too much more.

If he doesn't exist, oh well. I refuse to settle for anything less.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lonesome Traveler

I am the lonesome traveler
walking streets of chaos.
I hear the talkers talking,
voices on the wind
cold and passing.
I sometimes stand beside them,
and eat their ripened fruit.
They are blind to what they seek.
And so, I keep on walking.

I am the lonesome traveler
walking the crowded streets,
balking the vain chatter
of this group and that group
that stand beneath the Sun.
I hear the decorous rhetoric,
chiming through with clarity,
the song of harmonious division.
And so, I keep on walking.

I am the lonesome traveler
walking through the flat lands,
speaking my sound mind
and knowing no one will listen.
Not unlike the others,
I walk beneath the Sun
amidst the wheat and tares.
I am waiting for the setting.
And so… I keep on walking.