Thursday, November 30, 2006

a hat is a wonderment of flirtation

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Last weekend, I saw some of my (former? future?) colleagues. I loved how they asked about the baby, just to give themselves a forum to go on about their own experiences. I should be used to that inevitable first question by now, but there it was. I was relieved to be interrupted before having to answer it. It can be done in a word, but if the word happens to be no, you’re obliged to follow up. I know I’m sensitive, but it’s not all in my head: there is a whole world of guilt out there, a thousand reminders, that your baby may be fine, but still, you failed.

I could write more, but I’m still not at the point of being able to write about it. I am at the point of being able to look beyond it, a little. The buka is a joy. I’ve always known that, but I was too resentful or exhausted or overwhelmed by the whole experience to appreciate it much. I didn’t disagree with the shrink’s diagnosis of depression; I just didn’t know what to do with it. I still wonder how things might be different if I had taken the meds, or if I decide to pursue therapy with some other, nicer counselor. It was a wake-up call for me. Maybe that was enough.

One of those colleagues drove me home, and I invited her in to meet the buka. Greeks don’t like to come in someone’s house for the first time empty-handed, so she hemmed and hawed a little, but finally, I convinced her. When I first met this person, I admired her instantly for what I call her “fuck you” attitude. She’s an imposing woman: she dominates any room, any conversation, any man, woman, child, or group in proximity. She’s large, loud, and completely unabashed. These characteristics, which are exactly the opposite of my own, can get tiring in a hurry. It’s been a long time since I considered her a friend.

But for all her drama and self-absorption, I have to say her reaction to the buka struck me as really genuine. She took one look at her, and cried.

She has a daughter of her own. She says she just really loves babies. I’ve seen people react to the buka in so many different ways, from the women in the supermarket who insist that she’s cold and tell me not to spend too long in the refrigerated aisles, to open-mouthed little kids who seem to find it fascinating that there are people even smaller and cuter than them. Once a stranger crossed the city center with me, practically hip to hip, smiling at the buka the whole way. Men are especially funny. Babies bring out all kinds of emotions in people. I think that’s what’s been happening to me. She doesn’t have to flirt to melt my heart or get a good meal, but she’s so good at it.

(Title of post stolen from here.)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

clothes make the man

I bought this sweater in London, at the Kensington Market, in 1993. It's so thick and rough and warm that it feels like wearing a camel. Love it!

London again. Imperial College, to be precise. This is the geekiest T-shirt ever, not least because of the guy wearing it. I actually traded another T-shirt for it, I really don't remember what it was. Let's see if we have any readers fluent in Hex/Ascii...

And these are my favorite socks. Really warm, perfect for skiing or walking in them in the house. But you really don't want to be seen in them, do you?...


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Levis. Everybody has them. Everybody loves them. I’m especially fond of mine these days: not only do I have the chance to wear them a lot more often than I would if I was working, but they’re also one of the few items of clothing that actually look better on me now than they did before I had this pleasant… post-pregnancy… fullness. (I had to summon all the gods of euphemism I could for that one.)

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Purple sweater. It’s light, but it's warmish when it’s coldish. It goes with everything.

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Love shoes. I posted them once before, and then thought better of it and took them down. But if we’re talking about clothes as an outer expression of an internal geekiness, these shoes say it all. I was crazy in love when I bought them, as you’d have to be. My whole life was full of hearts and flowers, little x’s, little o’s. Campers are great shoes: “They are twins. Not equal but complementary. The pair concept never made more sense.”

That heart is split right down the middle. (And sheesh -- anybody wanna buy me some new tights?)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

how the tiger got its stripes

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I made friends with the downstairs neighbor yesterday. He told me the buka looked like “a brave fellow” (that’s the Oxford Greek translation) and said we never bother him, that he never hears a thing. In fact, he repeated that several times, even after it was no longer appropriate, even after I had said “good afternoon” and walked away. I’ve been told he may be slightly retarded. I think it’s either that, or he’s just old. He’s got a chubby brown dog named Maria. They get on his scooter and drive away every morning at 7.

Also yesterday, a couple came to look at the flat upstairs. The woman clicked around in her high heels and took pictures of the building before leaving. I know what that means, because I did it myself.

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In other news, I’ve been experiencing some unexpected and very unpleasant complications from having my uterus cut in half. Or rather, from the birth of my beautiful buka. (Nobody has to remind me to accentuate the positive.) I tried to play it tough, but finally, after feeling really sorry for myself for two days and reading a bunch of web forums that scared me half to death, I decided to call the doctor. He prescribed bedrest and told me not to worry. He doesn’t know how funny he is. I had work to do, and a more practical idea. I made a big pot of lentil soup, an excellent comfort food, especially good for someone in my condition, which also saved me cooking for most of the week.

Today I met Maria (not the dog), sans buka, for some talk therapy, which always works well. It works even better when combined with shopping therapy, so I bought a pair of slippers.

I started making this cross-stitch “calendar” for the buka in June. I got to the month of August in August, and then, not surprisingly, abandoned it for other things. I expected, during this extended leave from work, I’d get so much done. I’d finish the calendar for sure, and I’d blog. I’d write.

I've found I can do a month in three or four days, with a little dedication.

Friday, November 17, 2006

you say potato

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As is so often the case, the more you try to clarify something, the more confusing it gets.

And what you think is one thing may really be something else. In Europe, a sweet potato is an extravagance distinctly American. And in America, a sweet potato is a yam... that looks like an outpost of Europe.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I saw the greatest ever mom with the sweetest ever baby!

Happy birthday Sissy! (+2 days, sorry...)

Saturday, November 11, 2006


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doorless maze entry

The house is still empty: entire rooms unfurnished, huge walls white, bulbs bare. I’ve been joking about feng shui, about which I know nothing. The ascetism I practice is more about impermanence than things
in this house, in this life,
finding their rightful place.

Even the buka sleeps in a stroller.

I knew I wasn’t doing well. I had all the signs of the desperate housewife: waiting for the door to close in the morning so I could burst into tears unseen, feeding the baby with utter indifference, wearing the same sweatsuit for days on end, and nights. A friend told me about a new, free, state-run wellness center where she was about to start counseling. I expressed some interest. She told the counselor about me and my baby blues, and the counselor said I should give her a call. I stalled, replaying in my mind the standard line, “the buka’s okay, and you’re okay, so get over it,” trying to decide whether it really works that way or not… and I called.

I set off with the buka on a rainy morning. I had an appointment at 10:30. Even so, they made me wait an hour, which is an eternity with a baby who is half-awake and ready to scream her head off, in a large, half-constructed room with noisy, smelly painters. Lots of people passed by and said the buka was cold (she wasn’t). They told me to wait in a small room off to the side where I knew nobody would ever find me. Finally, the woman I was waiting for showed up and said she’d been free for some time, but she didn’t know I was there.

She wrote my case history while I bounced the buka in my lap like a maniac. She made me an appointment with the staff psychiatrist, in three weeks’ time, to see if I had depression.

So you have depression, that doctor said. That’s the first I’ve heard of it if I do, I said. Again, I’d been kept waiting for almost an hour in that same big room where nobody monitors who’s coming or going or waiting, surrounded by posters promoting mental health and the services of this new center. They had reaffirming messages like “We don’t avert our eyes.”

The doctor told me to start from the beginning, to tell him why I was there. I told him a few things about the buka, the circumstances of her birth, things I should have forgotten about by now but can’t. He asked if I had support at home during that time. He changed the focus of the session entirely.

I told him several times that’s not why I was there. At home, things are the way they are, and the way they have been, since the beginning. The best I can do, I said, is just try to be happy with what I've got, which is no small thing, and I know that.

His job was not to believe me but to break me, so he did. It was so easy. He provoked me with questions I knew the answers to, but couldn’t speak aloud. He repeated things I said to make sure I was listening. Don’t judge me by my Greek, I said.

Later, he used this as an example of my low self-esteem, one of many symptoms of depression he found examples of in what I said. He opened his book and went down the list. He drew a picture of my life: a room, doorless and cluttered. He labeled all the objects in it, some of which are mine, and some of which belong to others. I trip over them at every turn. I spend all my time trying to accommodate them, or work around them, or find some space among them. Impossible. There are lots of books.

I can’t help thinking that, if he was right,
and I am in that room,
one of the books that's in here now
is his:
a textbook that says I’m depressed, that I should either be medicated or loved. It's just another bulky item that I don’t have room for, or know what to do with.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Run Baby Run

She was born in november 1963
The day Aldous Huxley died
And her mama believed
That every man could be free
So her mama got high, high, high
And her daddy marched on Birmingham
Singing mighty protest songs
And he pictured all the places
Where he knew that she'd belong
But he failed and taught her young
The only thing she'd need to carry on
He taught her how to

Run baby run baby run baby run
Baby run

Past the arms of the familiar
And their talk of better days
To the comfort of the strangers
Slipping out before they say
So long
Baby loves to run

She counts out all her money
In the taxi on the way to meet her plane
Stares hopeful out the window
At the workers fighting
Through the pouring rain
She's searching through the stations
For an unfamiliar song
And she's thinking 'bout the places
Where she knows she still belongs
And she smiles the secret smile
Because she knows exactly how
To carry on

So run baby run baby run baby run
Baby run

From the old familiar faces and
Their old familiar ways
To the comfort of the strangers
Slipping out before they say
So long
Baby loves to run

-- Sheryl Crow, Tuesday Night Music Club (1993)

I want my gills back

Monday, November 06, 2006

It's not happening here, but it's happening now

[Part of an Amnesty International Switzerland ad campaign.]

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rapid rabbit