Monday, May 31, 2010

The One in Which I Attempt to Combine Two Seemingly Unlike Things

Hello Slog.

Will you indulge me?

Tonight, I am feeling the weight of the Memorial Day holiday. I've been thinking about men and women who have died in combat, and about soldiers who lived but were never the same, and about those who are currently serving, and hoping to get back home to their families. I want them to come home. Many of them won't, and I'm not sure what, exactly, makes it possible for us to acknowledge this reality and still continue about the business of our lives. But somehow we do. I do.

I also think about each one of those soldiers and the many, many love stories of their lives: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses, sons and daughters. Imagine Arlington, row after row of small white crosses, and that each cross has its own intricate web of love stories spreading out from it. Then it is possible, I guess, on Memorial Day, to honor not only the loss of life, and the sacrifice of so many, but also, to honor love, which absolutely surrounds each sacrifice made.

So, in honor of all the love stories this Memorial Day, and because I like it so, so much:



PS: If you think marionettes are creepy, don't watch the clip. Also, if you think marionettes are creepy, you're wrong. They're beautiful.

Just who do you think you are?

(this is how I cop 'tude. Baditude.)

Yowza. Yowza. Yow. Za. I'll tell you what, Slog. Right now, I don't even recognize myself. Who am I? For the past five days, I've done nothing but surprise myself. I mean, you hit twenty-seven, and you think you've finally got the beginning of a semblance of what makes you tick, and Blammo! You're not who you thought you were. To wit:

I've been in Utah for the past five days. I don't go to Utah. I've never been there in my life. And I went for a blogging conference. What? I don't even blog?!?! I slog once in awhile, but you could hardly count that as qualification for attending a conference. While in Utah, I did all sorts of things that I DO NOT DO.

1. I ate drive thru. And liked it. Oh, I liked it. Hamburgers, french fries, chicken wraps, you name it. If you can order it through a hilariously outdated speaker in a lit up menu-board from the comfort of your car, I will eat it! I had no idea.

2. I counted stake centers. In Utah, you'd be wasting your time playing "Slug Bug" (everyone drives SUVs), but turns out, I've got quite an eye for spotting stake centers (brick meeting places for the LDS church--if you didn't know). (LDS is Mormon for Mormon--if you didn't know). (I know--I know lots of things.)

3. I wore a laminated name tag. It had the name of this slog on it. (The name of the slog is too long, btw. Nobody could read it, and if they read it, they probably didn't remember it. And if they read it and remembered it, then they came up and asked, "Oh, what sort of stuff do you do?" and I had to say, "No, no. The title is ironical. I don't do anything.")

4. I attended panels about niche blogging (my niche is: I've got no niche), turning your blog into publishable writing (fat chance), and blogging about faith (I've got faith in television, and fast food, it turns out--and I'm too scared to contemplate anything further). I took notes that said things like "nepotism is your friend," "write to your ideal reader" (that's you!) and "you must be as a duck." I don't totally get that last one, but I love how it sounds.

5. I karaoked, sober, with a new group of friends who do not, on principle, partake of the fire water. It took about three hours for me to screw up the courage (my new friends were brave enough right out of the gate), and I waited until the bar was virtually empty, but the two people that were left were profoundly moved by our interpretation of Ace of Base. (Because all that she wants is another baby...)

6. I (courageously!) hit on a sizable, ukelele-wielding musician after he finished his set at the Blogger Orientation Party. His set, so we're clear, was played in a half-lit conference room full of about sixty or so women, all of us hopped up on sugar, many of them pregnant, almost all of them married. As a token single woman, I was encouraged (read: hazed) to approach this tall drink of water. I tried to be especially suave, but our exchange went like this:

Him (genuine): Nice to meet you. You should friend me on Facebook. Send me a message.
Me (so, so witty): Nah, I'll just stalk you instead.
Me (back pedal): I mean, like on the internet. You know, through social media.
Him (cool as cucumber): Well, if you decide to really stalk me, I'd prefer you come with an axe or a machete. No chain saws.
Me (lost): Well, maybe a double-bladed axe. Or a calicula.
Him (lost): Caligula?
Me (panicking): Calicula.
[That's a weird axe that they used in Fiji in ancient times, I read it in a book once. FYI.]
Me (again): I just wanted to say you did a good job, and now this got all creepy and violent.
Him: It did. But nice to meet you anyway.
New Blogging Friends: So?!? Did he fall in love with you or what?
Me: Yes. Sparks flew.

And throughout each of these strange new undertakings, there was a voice in my head asking me, "Who are you, Kendall? What on earth are you doing here?" And I said to the voice, "Voice, I've got no flipping idea, but it feels good." Because I was taking a vacation not just from Idaho, but also from myself. And here is the weird turn-about that I took away from all this blogger-blather:

It is unexpected, but sometimes I feel the most like myself, when I am doing things that I've never done, or wouldn't normally do, or have no business doing at all, and I just roll with it. Being open to whatever unlikely opportunity presents itself is something fundamentally authentic (a big word at this ole' conference) about me.

So, if anyone finds themselves with a free ticket to, oh, anything, ask me. I'll probably want to go.



Sunday, May 23, 2010

Oh Irony.

Question: What is the appropriate punishment for a slacker-blogger who has simply abandoned her blog for no good reason?

Answer: Send her to a Blogging Conference where she will have to explain to everyone that she used to have a blog once, but that she is monumentally lazy and preoccupied and her blog fell into radio silence.

This is how my life works: three weeks before I am given the chance to attend a conference about blogging--I stop blogging. When I think of the fact that I'll spend two days being the only person at the conference who doesn't actually have an active blog, I get a little twisty, anxious feeling in my stomach that can only be quelled by wine, or bowls of sugar cereal, or bowls of sugar cereal doused in wine (not really that last bit--or not yet, anyway).

But today I am biting the bullet, re-entering the fray, grabbing the bull by the proverbial horns (can you tell I've been reading Lonesome Dove and having cowboy dreams?). I'm going to SLOG ALL OVER THIS THING. Watch your shoes. You might get slog on them...

Last night, some friends and I played Life, the board game. It had been at least fifteen years since any of us had played, but oh, did we remember it. Libby used to cheat to ensure she got to live in the Tudor house. I used to stare at the board, wishing hard that I might land on every "Baby Girl" or "Baby Boy" square, thus filling my little minivan with adorable babies. Times change. Now, Libby wants the Modern Victorian house and I am happy with my one quiet, well-behaved child.

For the first twenty minutes, we mostly lamented the new, cartoony images on the much-busier game board. Why, we wondered, does everything have to change? Why? Then, we got down to playing. It was way more complicated than any of us remembered. Clearly, as children, we'd only adhered to the rules that interested us. Now there are "Share the Wealth" and "Long Term Investment" opportunities. Now there is the "Spin to Win" gambling feature. And, because we are older, and understand the extended rules, we feel compelled to follow them.

See how much Life is actually like life?

As we played, we tried to understand what Life is meant to teach the young children who play it. There are obvious lessons: you will buy a house; you will have a family; you will have a career; you'll make money and you'll pay money. In the end, you'll retire to a big mansion and count your money, and if you made enough of it, you are the winner. Twisted.

But there are other lessons, too. Lessons that resonated especially powerfully to people in their late twenties. Namely, that Life is Random and Absurd. For instance, of the six of us, only Andrew ever had to pay taxes. Two people found buried treasure and collected 500,000 dollars. Kelsey landed on every tile that said she'd won a television dance/singing/game show contest, and raked in the dough. Jacob lost his job as a veterinarian and became a hair stylist. He made the least money but lived in a mansion. He also had to do the only real work of the game, as our banker, which is--of course--a job he didn't get paid for at all. Libby made the most money but lived in a double-wide. Poor Paul, just because he had the highest salary, got sued by anyone and everyone who landed on a Lawsuit square.

And with each spin of the wheel, we waited helplessly to see what sort of hand fate would deal us next. Half way through, Kelsey suggested we double whatever number we spun, just to move across the board faster. So we did, and soon we were tearing along, jumping all sorts of milestones without looking twice. Babies, car accidents, Nobel prizes. We spun and spun again. We raced one another to retirement. And when we got there, we had piles of money and we were all exhausted.

Life seems to reduce the whole experience of a person in the world to a series of purchases, payments, and required milestones. The game offers a few choices, but eliminates most. It forces your hand. Across the board there are stop signs that demand you to stop, to marry, to pick a house or a career out of a pile of limited options. So, the lesson is that life is random, and absurd, and it is sometimes about choice but it is mostly about chance. But if you think too much about that stuff, it will leave you feeling tired, tired, tired.

Luckily, there are good friends, and there is champagne, and there is plenty to laugh about when--in make believe--your friends discover buried treasure, win Nobel prizes, buy homes they can't afford, become veterinarian-hairstylists, get sued again and again, win game shows, or fall way, way behind because they are physically incapable of spinning anything other than a two.

I've missed you,


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sensitivity Training: Part One

The good news: While I have not yet found a partner to run with me the levels of the great Parking Structure of Life, I have found a companion.

The bad news: The companion looks like this for about twenty hours out of every day. Bo-ring.

The other bad news: she is a rescue cat that came with the name Precious (Based on the novel Push by Sapphire--ha). It is not, to be frank, the name that I would choose. But I can't quite bring myself to change it either--it's been her identity for ten years. Who am I to sweep in and name her Lucinda, or Jo, or any other name I would maybe give a cat? So, when she is being charming and nuzzling me, I call her Cat. And when she is doing things I find less charming, I call her Cat.

The other bad news: she's a cat. Which means fur balls, stinky litter box, and after only one week, my apartment now rests under a thin layer of cat hair. Each day, I become a little more of a cat lady. There was also the digestive incident that I will just call "The Bath Mat Event of 2010."

The good news: I am learning sensitivity. The whole idea is that I give the Cat a nice home, and she gives me a major dose of what my mom calls "responsibility for another living being's happiness." Which I have been told I need. Responsibility, sensitivity, awareness, blah, blah, blah.

Because there is a weird myopia that happens when you're twenty-seven and accustomed to living alone: every other living, breathing creature becomes an imposition on your life. For instance, when birds wake me in the morning, I feel irrational rage at their intrusion upon MY LIFE and MY BEDROOM. I hate them, because they're clearly on earth just trying to keep me from getting a full eight hours.

But now, I've got a cat, and I'm sensitive, so I think, "How nice that the birds have trees to be in, and their trees were here before my apartment, so we'll just have to share the universe. Lah-di-dah." Then I check in with the cat, and see to her needs (cat food) before my own (coffee). This, apparently, is what grown-ups do.

I've been working to adjust to this responsibility--and YES, I do realize that cats are ridiculously independent and need very little and this particular cat would probably attempt to eat my face if I fell asleep for too long and she got hungry enough--but it is still a first step in my life! I am her person. She doesn't eat if I'm not around. That's something!

The cat, this cat that is teaching me "responsibility for another living creature's happiness" is weird. She snores. Like human snores. We take lots of naps together, on the futon. And on more than one occasion, I've woken up, which has woken her up, and I wander into the kitchen for a snack because that is what I always do after a nap, and she wanders into the kitchen to pick at the leftovers in her food bowl, and I'm at the cabinet eating chips, and she's at her food bowl, and she looks up at me, and I look down at her, and we both seem to say: "Hey! This is alright."

And on Saturday morning, while I was in bed working on a short story (congratulatory pat on the back for working on a short story!), she curled up at my side and put her head on my chest, and kept me company while I worked. And I'm not saying I've gone totally soft, over-the-moon, my-cat-is-a-real-person, crazy. I'm just saying it was nice.

With enduring sensitivity and a grown-up sense of responsibility,