Monday, December 24, 2007

The cards in the mail

The cards went out Saturday. Calling Jeanette from the Book People parking lot on Wednesday afternoon she said, "Just now? You'd better hurry." Then she gave me an awesome printer reference. For the first time ever, the job was done on time, just right. Later I tell Rebecca I'm working on my cards and she laughs, "Now?!! Aren't you a little late?" And to both of them the answer is "No." Emphatically. It's not too late. The general marker is if I can get them into the mail by xmas eve. So this year I'm ahead of the game.

For several years running I've said to John, "I'm not going to bother this year. The kids are getting old. I don't have a good photo. It's a waste." He knows now not to listen. Because once the few cards start coming in, (a trickle down from the waterfall of years ago), I get inspired. I love seeing my friends' kids grow. Or even without kids, love the energy touch. Because that's what it is. No matter what kind of cards I make, I spend hours looking at the list, removing and adding to keep it at a constant number. I handstamp each one. I write notes on most. It's a project demanding time and attention, and it's come to mean Christmas to me. I know it's totally old fashioned and hokey. It's expensive and time consuming. I assume most people don't care. Even the cards themselves are idiosyncratic and obscure. But it means something to me. It's an energy exchange.

Last year my yoga teacher said it was all about lights and cookies. Yes, lights and cookies and cards. The tree up was the start, then the porch lights (thanks G!), then the cards. And that's it. Keeping the stress quotient totally down.It's a no present occasion this year. For the most part that is.

I still happened out into the crowds yesterday, just wandering around, soaking up the flavor. It's perverted I know. I walk out among those buying, buying virtually nothing - oh sure, replacing my shower curtain and picking up the 4th season of The Wire. But not actually buying Christmas presents. I just like to feel the buzz. Then a lovely intimate dinner. I cooked as I did last year. It now feels like tradition. It feels like the right kind of check in, with the family we've chosen, not the one we came with. Today was mellow, helping Wyatt with the finishing touches on his college applications - his work ethic and sense of pacing unparalleled, as he gets this done, stress free as promised, on time before he heads off skiing. It's a sweet time together. With more to come tomorrow as his sister joins us. Simple. Just us. Just fine.

Friday, December 21, 2007

When is helping, not helping?

"Hi. My name is Janet. And I'm a compulsive helper."

Kidding? Not really. Isn't the whole deal about addiction recognizing when the behavior is interfering with your life? I first used the term earlier this summer. Reading for Andrew Bujalski's about-to-be-shot next film, (where I was cast, and it was a total blast, and I even got paid, but I digress...) I asked, "Is the character pushy or compulsively helpful?" "What are you?" he asked. "Oh definitely, compulsively helpful."

It was the first time I used the term. And in the ensuing months, I've been struggling with the repercussions of my reality. People ask, "what are you doing these days?" And truly, for the most part, I'm helping people. I talk through their problems - whether career, film, or relationships. I help edit their writing. Of course as VP of the Austin Film Society I'm a godsend - totally interested in it all, totally helpful with my experience, inclinations, and connections. I screen for sxsw film. Lately I've been coming up with vital ideas and connections for some growing enterprises: funding sources, board trustees, production personnel, distribution systems. And some of these people I'm talking to, I actually pay for their services - they're teaching something I'm interested in. But when we talk, I'm just 'helping'. And I feel like I can't do it anymore.

But I can't imagine how to live otherwise. In the spring my astrologer laughed, "You're living a life you should have been born into money to lead... you're like a philanthropist with no money! hahahahahaha." She thought it was hilarious. And even wilder, she came up with the concept knowing very little about my current actuality. But it's totally true. And I guess it ties in with words I heard the very first time I got my chart done in the late 70s - something about leading a life of service. At the time it didn't make sense. Only now is the reality dawning on me.

John's the same way. We are by nature generous. By nature, we like to do just what we want. We pursue what we're interested in. We think about the quality of the work, or the person, not what it'll buy us. Somehow we've always found a way to make it work. But right now the balance is out of whack.

Peggy writes, "as a woman, you particularly have to worry about undervaluing yourself." But it's not like I can put a price on the help I give. I can't charge by the hour. It's instinctive, like breathing. But today I realized it's like any art form (right, see where I got this blog title?) or addiction. I'm going to have to find a day job to finance it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A simple gift from my mom

You hear all kinds of stories about mothers. Shocking stories often. Stories of control and intolerance, neglect, unbelievable selfishness, and about mothers who are just plain mean. I've often been surprised and appalled. But it's not like it was all glory days in this maternal lineage either. I've had plenty of frustrations and hostility. The "my mother's my best friend" tales never applied. I didn't want my mother to be my best friend. I needed (still need) boundaries and separation to be who I need(ed) to be. I definitely had (have?) some anger and regrets. But for the most part I was lucky. I didn't necessarily learn some of the "can do" skills, but I did duck the pain from too much perfection or bossiness (hmmm, from my mom that is).

Trying desperately as I age to see the positives instead of the shortcomings. To be grateful for the simple, clear generosity, even if it did come with some difficulties and unhappy baggage. How can you not love and appreciate someone who sends the simple message below:
Looking forward to meeting your friend - I'm thinking of having some
t=shirts made that say "I'm Janet's Mom -- you may applaud now."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Great photo of Mosier at Steelers game

Just love this photo of our good friend Scott Mosier at the Steelers game in Pittsburgh. And it was taken on an iphone! (John's starting to repeat, "Just get the damn thing already".)

Photo by: Milos Milicevic

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The tree is up

The tree is up. And all our noses are already running. The tree is up, the ritual intact. Listening to the new perennial old Sinead O'Connor and last year's addition, Sufjian Steven's Avalanche. John brings down the xmas cds but I'm not in the mood. It's not til I sit down to write this that I realize I've chosen as my musical companions, two Christian rockers. Unconsciously chosen. Two of my favorites.

It matters to me, what's become my private ritual. Communing with my dead dad and all those memories of Christmases past. No drama or bad attitude this year. I've gotten over even the desire of anyone else helping. Although G. beautifully put up the porch lights, and John accompanied me to the tree lot. And I guess Wy gave me moral support. A couple of nights ago I mused to him that this would be the quietest xmas ever - just no presents for anyone. "And no tree?" "Of course a tree, I love having a tree." "Me too," he said. Surprising me. I actually didn't think anyone else cared. And then even tonight, as I've been shifting with my own feelings of it being too small, and how that feels disappointing, then of course thinking of Charlie Brown's little tree, and being grateful for everything that allows this life we have and even this tree, - Wyatt comes home and says, "I like this size. Last year's was too tall." (He's the best.)

I trim the tree and drink some tea from this little cast iron Japanese tea pot. It's a pot I coveted for years, back when I lived alone on Broome Street in Soho, and observed the holidays by window shopping on West Broadway. In particular stopping into the lovely little Japanese gift shop, Five eggs I think it was called? Endlessly desiring one of the iron teapots. It was too dear for me then. I just dreamed about it and coveted it. Probably the same way I felt about having a boyfriend. So funny now to realize, ok, the boyfriend locked in, 25 years and counting... the teapot acquired too, somewhere along the way. I can't exactly remember when. And whether I bought it for myself or received as a gift. I just know that I cherish it as much as I thought I would.

Friday, December 14, 2007

My sweet sister

I've always loved the way she looks. I mean, check this out, even with an eye patch. You can still see the style.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Boys Stay Away - More (un) health tales from an aging gal

So I couldn't find the string. Which is weird. I've had this IUD since Nov 1999 and the string has always been right where it's supposed to be. I don't check every month, but often enough. I'm so grateful to this little device that keeps me free from an unwanted pregnancy. I know it's crazy! I'm 50. I have too many friends in their early 40s struggling and struggling to reproduce but I'm still ovulating and it could happen. My first kids are old - I'm done with that phase. I don't want to return; don't want the possibility made real, a too-old pregnancy, it's inevitable loss.

So the gyn wasn't worried. "I bet the string's just curled up in there. Hmm, your uterus is hard to get to. Hmmm. Well I guess you should have an ultrasound to see if it's still in there. " They take me pretty much right away, right downstairs. The tech is taking all sorts of measurements. "Is it hard to find?" "Oh no," she says. "Pretty easy but as long as were in here I'm doing a full exam."

The gyn calls later. Well, it's still in there but you have some fibroids. I told you you had fibroids, right? Uh no. "Well one is surprisingly big. Like 8, 8 1/2. Big as a grapefruit. I'm surprised it's so big. If it gets to 9 1/2, you're going to have some decisions to make. Oh, and it's pushed the IUD down to a lower position than usual, so that's why you said you thought you could feel your cervix before I even went on in there. The fibroid is exerting pressure. It's like you're 3 & 1/2 months pregnant. If you stopped ovulating in the next year or two, it should shrink. Problem will be if you're still going on @ 55. Or if you start having periods like a gulley waddle."

Uh, what?! "Can you translate from that Texas speak?" (At least I think that's what she said. - something about too much rain and overflowing the gulleys. gullets. I don't know.)

Not life threatening. Not even a sickness. But disturbing and uncomfortable. I can feel the pressure, in a place where sensation usually doesn't exist. And there are repercussions. Again, not life threatening, not even dangerous. Just a surprise and a drag. A mental drain and perhaps some unpleasant decisions and procedures ahead.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ahhhh salsa again

It'd been months. My favorite teacher left town, then I got really busy. And stayed busy. September, October, November, now December rolling by without making it to the studio that had been my regular haunt for over a year. No Sunday nights at Dallas. Missing it for legitimate conflicts but also knowing I'd hit a crossroad. Good enough to be a little impatient in the classroom, not good enough to really hold my own in the world. (And don't even get me started on the foot pain.)

Luckily, a couple of weeks ago an On2 beginner's workshop came round that fit into my schedule. I'd been waiting - it's a different beat count, one that the better dancers seem to enjoy. I'd meant to step up and check it out last winter, but another student's "It's hard!" deterred me. I'd missed the summer series because I thought we were going to Fiji. Then watched those in that series zoom ahead. So I was thrilled when this one came around. Five Saturdays 10:30-noon. Great to be back in class, and surprise! My favorite teacher back around to lead it. Salsa moves to an 8 count like this: 123,567 - emphasis on the 1 and 5, a hold on the 4 and 8. With On2, it's 123,567. Emphasis on the 2 and the 6. Right away, On2 felt way more natural. It's how I hear the music. It's actually what I thought I was looking for in the first place. Funny now to realize that part of my lagging and losing the beat was because while on1 I was hearing on2. So excited. But still perplexed - 90 minutes a week isn't nearly enough. Should I go back to the regular on1 classes? Will I get too confused? My film and family life conflicting while I'm even just thinking about it.

But tonight was the monthly salsa social night. John and I were having a mellow time at home. I finally finished The Abstinence Teacher (which I LOVED!!!!!), and spent some time catching up on Friday Night Lights. I start musing aloud, "Should I go?" "It's so hard to go there. I haven't been in months. Will I even know anyone? Will anyone dance with me?" John says, "You should go." I answer, "Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to walk into that place?" He laughs, "I can't believe you do it at all. You should go! You always have fun."

So I did. It's only $5 and 10 minutes away. Not too many people there but I run into one of my favorites immediately. Then another. Then still another who shows up a little later. These are nice guys who love to dance, who I've been in classes with a long time, guys whose leads are getting better and better. Nice guys who are happy to give me a turn. It's a mellow and empty enough that I dance consistently. And I'm thrilled. Because it's the simplest most wonderful kind of fun. Exhilarating and hard and just joyous. And there's been something about the persistence. I'm not exactly the most dogged individual or disciplined. But this is something that's taken time and commitment and overcoming fear (however petty) and embarrassment and self consciousness. It's challenged me on so many levels so simply, so wonderfully. I've hung in. I've progressed. It's great to be back in the saddle again.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

MBTs have saved my life

I totally prefer these:

But these MBT Kisumu sandals have fucking changed my life!


I've had trouble with my feet all my life. When others were comfy barefoot or in flip flops, I wasn't. Summer sandals gave me blisters. I needed arch supports. I angled in. From the earliest age, fashion was beyond me - because really, it starts with the feet, doesn't it? My dad forced me into saddle shoes. Later I made do with boots and clogs which kind of worked. I could be very happy living in boots. But it's always been a problem and always sucked. I love walking. And what could be more important and necessary?

But often it's been excruciating. Fallen metatarsals. Ball of foot pain. The dancing only made it way, way worse. So I started looking for some new solutions. At Karavel, a guy in the wellness center pointed me towards the MBTs. Masai Barefoot Technology. I'd heard of them, heard they were controversial. Some people loved them, others miserable. I picked the least worst looking, slid them on, and ohmigod, I felt like I was in a pilates session. Seriously. All of a sudden I was standing taller, the back of my legs lengthened, my core kickin' in. I bought them. Watched the "new user" video, laughed that they're classified as exercise equipment in Europe, and became a serious convert. They're fantastic. Instead of debilitating cramping pain 40 minutes into a regular walk, now I feel energized and painfree. Literally regaining a bounce in my step. Realizing how badly I'd been suffering from chronic pain and just living with it.

I'm not happy about the way I look in them. Really not happy about walking around in them with black socks when the weather turned cold. But man oh man, the relief. What a lifesaver.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The flattery of observation

The NYT review smartly says: "the flattery of observation is difficult to resist." This is so true! As a doc subject myself, in 24 hours I went from "I don't really want to be on camera. I'm not a public person. I'm not a performer." to "I can't believe they're not shooting me more. What about what I'm doing over here!?!!"

It's highly seductive to be followed around by a camera crew. Not the camera per se, but the 24/7 interest in your stories, the fact that everything about you becomes interesting. For that moment anyway. It's a crazy sea change to experience.

When I saw the doc Billy the Kid at sxsw last March, I was interested but wary and I couldn't put my finger on exactly why. The immediate and continuing accolades confused me further. What were people seeing that I wasn't? I saw a kid with some kind of obvious mental condition that allowed him to function around the edges, preening for the camera. Is this really the kid we all are /were? Is Billy really the ultimate in "teenager" which many are positing? I don't think so. But it doesn't really matter what I think in this case, and I've not been great about articulating my discomfort. I am however, taking this moment to mention it again because I so appreciate the insight in today's NYT review by Jeanette Catsoulis.

Essential point of the NYT review:

Yet the filmmaker’s decision to eschew other viewpoints underscores the fundamental friction at the heart of the documentary process: the flattery of observation is difficult to resist. When Billy, after persuading a shy waitress to be his girlfriend, is loudly applauded by a clique of town hangabouts, he is pleasantly surprised.

“The years of loneliness have been murder,” he tells them, and the men collapse with laughter. Whether a blurted confession or a line to the gallery, we’ll never know.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Oh this brings back memories

This came up on a google alert today. Oh, the sweet memories. Hilarious ad for IFC.