Archive for February, 2008

Bedbugs (sigh)

I’m creeped out all over.  I have so much good news to post, and a wonderful vacation full of photos to describe, but right now, all I can think about is the infestation we’ve discovered this week.  First I woke up covered in red spots (bites), and this morning the exterminator’s sweet bedbug-sniffing dog (a beagle called Max) barked up a storm as he sniffed out bedbugs all over my room.  It was horrifying.  Lots of barking around my headboard and bed, of course.  {shivers of disgust}

And, what’s worse: I have to keep sleeping in there, or the bedbugs will move to someone else’s room.  I’m like bait for my whole floor. Well, not even “like” bait.  I am bait.



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I have lots of things to post, from the last week, but something has been on my mind; I think I need to act upon it, and I think I shall write before I act.

I live in a community of about twenty people; we share a kitchen, bathroom, and common space.  At the beginning of the year, one girl volunteered to purchase supplies for everyone, when we left money for her.

Oh, this is so small, I can’t believe I’m actually typing about it, but it’s become something too big around here, so here we are.

Basically, it took a very long time for everyone to get her the money.  She wrote a note, posted it, the note annoyed some people, the note stayed up for months and months.  We didn’t have enough supplies, annoyance levels continued to rise.  Finally, I wrote a note.  It was a classic exercise in passive-aggression…I wrote that we needed more soap, and if she had a certain amount of money from all of us, we should have a certain number of bottles of soap…  I realize how petty I sound.  I can only say that we were feeling annoyed, and irritated by the constant notes from her, and like she wasn’t using the money we had given her wisely.

She was hurt by the note.  She wrote in an e-mail to everyone that she was “hurt and stunned.”  I think “stunned” is going a little far–I find it hard to believe that she wasn’t with-it enough to realize how people would feel seeing their name on a wall, day after day, for months.  She explained herself, in great detail, in a very long (annoying) e-mail.  Overall, the floor is on “my side,” finding me to be “in the right,” and her simply annoying.

But I’ve been thinking about it, and I feel bad.  I feel bad that I hurt her, and that she feels that we have all been talking about her behind her back, and complaining about her amongst ourselves.  Sigh.  It feels so high school, and we’re all adults.  But she’s hurt, and isn’t talking to many of us, and rarely comes out of her room, or into the common room.

I think I should apologize to her.  I want to tell her that we don’t really harbor that many hard feelings to her, and it isn’t as terrible as she might be feeling.  Annoyance isn’t the same as dislike.  Minor irritation isn’t the same as antipathy.  Frustration isn’t necessarily distaste.

It’s been a long time since I was conscious of hurting someone’s feelings.  The last time might have been school, and at that time I was too young to care about asking for forgiveness, and too immature to know how to go about asking.

And so now I am composing a possible note in my head.  I’m struggling with the temptation that she is more in the wrong to me, and making too much of it, than I am…and so I should be off the hook.

Well: my inner voice tells me that I will continue to feel bad until I do something.  And so I think I must.  A bit more discomfort, and then hopefully I will feel much better.

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Mmm: truffles



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St. Valentine’s Day

the ValentineI make tiny paper Valentines–I’ve been making them for years.  My first one was a line drawing of a wheelbarrow on white paper, glued to the front of a red cardstock card; on the inside was William Carlos Williams’s famous red wheelbarrow poem.  That’s all.  I love little cards, small sealed envelopes, special greetings.  I wanted to make and give things that weren’t necessarily romantic, but fanciful, and keep-able.

 This year, because I have fallen in love with New York City, the inner poem is from a Frank O’Hara poem, “1951.”  For the outside, I made miniature skylines out of recycled Village Voices.  I used black origami paper to make a sky-swirl, and painted that with golden glitter stars.  For the envelope, I tore out ribbon-width strips a section of AM New York that featured a Jasper Johns painting.  Each envelope had two stripes of newspaper ribbon; I printed the names and addresses between them.

Also, for my love, I made chocolate truffles.  They turned out so well–I’m delighted at how pretty they are.  (So are my twenty-odd floormates…)  I haven’t tasted one yet, but they sure are pretty.

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Everyone has her own anxiety dream, I suppose.  Naked on the first day of school, giving a speech with no preparation, late for an exam…  Mine always involve baton twirling.  I started twirling baton when I was around four, and twirled all through junior high and high school.  In high school, I did parades, local basketball and football games (entire seasons of home games), and competitions.

Competitions were always held in big gymnasiums in small towns.  Most of the judges were women, former twirlers; occasionally they were men.  Girls of all ages and their mothers filled the locker rooms, everyone with different combinations of sequined outfits and lots of AquaNet hair spray.  Marching music was piped throughout the gym all day long; you needed marching music for the marching categories, and it was fine for doing solo baton routines along to.  I know more Sousa than most.

You had three basic categories.  Basic and fancy strut: in the former, you march perfectly in a square; they’re looking for precision and control, and tight, perfect corners. High knees, swinging arm, pointed toes and fingers. Modeling: you aren’t in your sequin twirling uniform, you’re in a dress; also, you’re without a baton.  In modeling, you walk in a prescribed series of arcs, turning carefully at each point, pausing occasionally to beam at the judges. Here, they’re looking for grace, poise, consistency of smile.  Finally, a solo baton routine–you’ve practiced and practiced, and there are some basic moves in every routine, that you’re trying to execute impressively.  Smiling the whole time.

I loved baton twirling; I loved it all.  I loved the outfits, the white pom-pons for the tips of my shoes during parades, the sequin sleeves that hooked over my middle finger, being in parades, and the highlight of the half-time shows.  It was in some ways competitive, but also lady-like.

It was also nerve-wracking.  First of all, the sequin suits lend themselves to body angst: they’re cut like swimsuits, and tight.  Through junior high and high school, I was performing in front of my classmates, worried always that I looked fat and awkward.  Early, I worried that my underwear might be showing.  Later, I figured out not to wear underwear, but still worried that I might look awful, or mess up, and that my peers might be laughing at me.

Secondly, good baton moves are tricky.  They always involve flinging the baton (spinning it through the air as it leaves your hand), twirling about beneath it, and then catching it seamlessly, or catching it behind your back, or between your legs as you turn.  For literally decades, dropping a baton was one of my worst fears.  Once you drop a baton, you have to bend over and chase it, to find it as it rolls on the floor, and interrupt your otherwise kicky or graceful or stunning routine.  I didn’t know the term “suspension of disbelief” then, but that’s what it was.  In front of judges, dropping my baton during a routine was terrible–I could see them writing as I raced for the baton, and then back to center, to re-begin the routine and try to recapture what could have been perfect. 

Alternatively, during high school we used hoop batons.   These are batons in the center of large circles–you could decorate the ring with garland (in school colors,) and twirl the baton as usual.  The spinning rings looked impressive from the stands, especially en masse; however, if you flung one of these into the air and didn’t catch it, the ring would hit the ground and roll quickly down the field, away from you. 

Racing to catch one, with the entire high school band playing “Smoke on the Water” behind you, the whole town in the stands–it’s the least graceful feeling in the world.

For many years, my nightmares have involved combinations of the following scenarios.  I’m on my way to a parade or competition, and I can’t remember the routine. I’m in the wrong costume.  I don’t have my baton, and am having to make due with another.  In my dreams, I try to figure out what to do.  Can I make up a routine as I go along?  Will the other girls follow my lead (I always stood in front of the group, along with another girl named Cindy)?  Will the judges know I don’t know what I’m doing?  What if half-time starts before I get there?

Last night, I had another.  I was at a competition, desperately trying to find my uniform, and in my mind working out what the routine was–I had forgotten it as well.  It’s horrible. I woke up, and I was so relieved that it wasn’t real.

What am I actually worried about?  Probably my thesis.  It makes sense: competition, knowing what I’m doing, perfection, being judged.  And, because my subconscious doesn’t have as many thesis-writing, academic details upon which to build dreams, it makes use of the details it does have.  Sequins, tiaras, titles (“Little Miss Fall Fun”), gym floors and drums.  So this is how I dream.

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Am I a Puritan?

One problem (or fruit) that always hangs on me when I do daily prayer: I begin to take account of all of my thoughts and behaviors, throughout the day.  At the end of the day, as I pray, I go over them in my mind, asking for forgiveness and seeking ways to avoid them the next.

I think this is a good way of praying, to be mindful of where my mind and heart lie, and to allow prayer and contact with God to shape who I am.

Last year, though, I was reading about the Puritans, and the way they prayed.  The way they constantly watched themselves, and noted failures. I realized that this is what I do; I also realized that many others don’t encounter and interact with God in this way.

I’ve wondered since then how others pray, and how others consider self-failures and sin.  How can I tell if I’m too hard on myself, or too self-centered (so much self-reflection!)?

Today, after writing down the many things for which I need forgiveness last night, I found myself considering what I should or should not do, with a slight rise of anxiety.  Of course, I don’t think that prayer or relationship with God should make me anxious, but I wonder how much time I should spend on self-reflection, particularly in reflecting on those things “done and left undone.”

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Snow in NYC


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