Please Join me at Writing Ruth

October 4, 2012 Comments Off

This blog – Mary and Bob’s Journal – has been retired.

All of this content and new work can be found at my new site: Writing Ruth.

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Announcing my New Blog Home

October 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Earlier this year, Ruby (little kitten pinball) knocked down my favorite piece of folk art — a colorful angel I’d picked up in Santa Rosa back in my twenties.

The fall shattered the whole thing — arms off at the elbows, wings severed from the shoulders, waist snapped dividing its torso into two.

Rather than scolding her (because why? the damage was done) I told her quietly, “Mommy can’t talk to you right now, Ruby.” I was so disappointed.

While I gathered the pieces, I slowly reminded myself what the Buddhists say about glasses being already broken. Have you heard that one? I use it as a mental tool to help with shifting my perception when I need to let go of expectations.

So much of what we hold dear is destructible. Seems like the only potentially permanent things are the ones we can’t see, hear, smell or prove.

Still, I get attached. I was so attached to my angel that I’ve kept the broken pieces of her in a bowl on the kitchen counter all these months. It’s my nature to attach. I’m making peace with that.

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After months of consideration, I’ve decided to retire this blog address and name — Mary and Bob’s Journal — and write, instead, at new site.

Having my own domain name, moving from wordpress.com to wordpress.org is sort of like leaving rental property (where the rent is free) to become a home owner. It’s more of an investment. I will now be paying to blog. And when something breaks, I’ll have to fix it myself. And if I don’t know how to fix it, I’ll have to figure it out.

I’ve spent the last month configuring the new site and designing elements for it. I’m learning so much. I must thank Jen Wilson who guided me through the process. If you have any wordpress blogging questions, do yourself a favor and hire her.

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Of course, it’s not without some sadness that I discontinue using the name: Mary and Bob’s Journal.

Just a couple weeks ago, during a rare visit back east, my brother said to me, “I think you should keep the name.” (Commence pantomime heart stabbing).

It’s true that this site has been a way to keep memories of my grandparents active. Even as recently as a few weeks ago, when I was knee deep in designs for the new blog, I got comments from new readers around the world expressing kind thoughts about Mary and Bob all because of what they read here.

This blog started five years ago sometime between the first anniversary of Grandma’s death in August and her birthday in October.

She would be turning 100 this week.

It just seems like a fitting time for transitions. I think she would agree. She used to say, “You’re a good girl, Ruth Elizabeth.”

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I remembered recently — after I had completed the header imagery for my new site  — that Grandma had a collection of angel figurines. I never played with them. Come to think of it, I don’t even remember what they looked like. In fact, when I was around seven, Grandma and Grandpa moved to a smaller home and left the majority of the collection in boxes. Even though most of them weren’t displayed, we all had common knowledge of Grandma’s angels.

I grew up knowing it existed somewhere: the angel collection.

Watch, tomorrow, Mom will call me and say, “Do you want the angels? I’ll send them to you.” Or maybe she’ll tell me that they’ve been divided amongst cousins. I have no idea, really, where the things are. Nor do I care.

I’ve got my angels.

They whisper too quietly to hear,

“What is unseen might be permanent.

What is broken can still transform.

What is your new URL, dammit? This post is over 600 words, already.

Okay okay okay!  From now on, I’ll be working over at WritingRuth.com. I hope you’ll come along.

And thank you for making blogging such a fulfilling process in my life.

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Coming Out Whole – My Birthday Gift to Myself

September 22, 2012 § 20 Comments

Driving through Pennsylvania  #landscape

~It looks like this where my people come from.~

Last weekend, while at a family reunion with people I see only once every three or four years, my mom whipped out her iPad and began pulling up this blog (literally, this one — Mary and Bob’s Journal) to show my aunt and uncle. I felt immediately embarrassed. So much so that I actually said, “Oh Mom, please don’t. I’m really self-conscious about my blogging.”

She got so far as showing them the adorable photo of Ruby The Hairstyling Kitteh and then we changed the subject. It all passed painlessly.

Now, seven days later, as my 43rd birthday looms half a day away, I’m questioning my insecurity.

I’ve written publicly at this site since 2007. At first, it was an anonymous endeavor. I kept a boundary between my day-job self (public – “in real life” – 3D – Ruth) and my soap-box-activist, melodramatic philosophizing artistic self (roolily – Ruth at Mary and Bob’s Journal). My disguise wasn’t absolute — people who knew me well enough to have my roolily email address could find the blog, but the separation was adequate enough for my comfort.

A couple years later, when I began posting blog links at Facebook, it was like a passive coming out to my friends and family. I progressively became more and more open, and now I tweet under my full name with a link to this blog. It’s not an unusual path.

Last month, perhaps as an early birthday gift to myself, I purchased my first domain name (currently under construction). I sit at my computer every morning around 7:00 to read about CSS. I’ve dusted off the Photoshop tool box and am rubber stamping my way to my very own logo — all in preparation to fully integrate my fragmented online presence. Cobbled together with my bookkeeping work and Andy’s support, I am self-employed.

I’m in control of my time and I spend a lot of it writing and blogging. These are good things.

So why, when my mom wants to share my creativity with people who love me, do I clam up and cringe?

I hate that I’m self-conscious about my blogging; It feels immature (not the blogging, the self-consciousness). I want to be confident about my work. No — more accurately — I want to do work worthy of confidence.

When I surf the blogs of my friends, like An Acorn Dreaming, and read the stellar work of writers I learned about at BlogHer ’12 — Citizen of the MonthEdenlandMocha MommaNative BornSchmutzie, (to name only a handful), and especially when I encounter a gem like Susannah Conway, (who a cousin recently recommended) I’m struck by intermittent bouts of inspiration and envy. But mostly I’m grateful, but because it’s so uplifting to see that sharing deeply can be done with professionalism, humor, grace and intelligence.

These writers help me realize that I am not a freak for making the choice of disclosing highly personal thoughts and feelings in this completely public forum.

In the not so distant past (like yesterday) I felt my openness was a mistake that I was somehow getting away with. Have I been a sheep in the pop culture of self-exposure? Has this been a years-long bad habit? Am I too hungry for connection? Desperate for attention? I would ask my shrink these questions, but I know what his answer would be: “What do you think?”

Two years ago, when my personal life got messy (simultaneously wonderful and confusing, and eventually tragic), for better or worse, I used blogging as a healing tool. I still do.

The things I’ve written about here — god, how could I? How many elephants are in this room? Just one? Two? Neither of them are elephants, though. They are human beings I care about.

Blogging about my grief despite its odd circumstance has created even more awkward circumstances. When I’m vague, it’s to protect other people as best as I can while trying to be true to myself. But I don’t know if I’ve succeeded in protecting anyone. Mostly, I’ve just been trying to keep it together.

Sometimes I think it would be easier if I wrote fiction. Damn, though, making stuff up is hard. It’s a craft I intend to develop because I suspect that fiction might be the only way I can be open about my most profound experiences.

Preserving memories with words feels like a reasonable way to mimic sacred moments. While language can only approximate the holiness, it’s better than nothing — especially after relationships transform, after people die.

So I’m conjuring the past? Conjuring lovers? Conjuring myself?

And to conjure with witnesses — a magic blogging affords us — is to receive nods, handshakes, and hugs. An assurance that someone has heard the tree falling.

No shame in that.

Maybe acquiring confidence requires a rehearsing a script. Here’s one:

I’m a writer who blogs. I am learning to tell entertaining stories by practicing publicly.

My readers appreciate it when I write about what’s really going on rather than the first (gag-me) Yahoo headline I see in the morning. Today’s was, “Before and after plastic surgery – Ali Wentworth was tired of looking like this.”

Yeah, I don’t give a fuck about that. Sure, it could be bouncing off point for a post like the one I did recently about covering my gray hair and how I feel about appearance and gender roles.

But when I’m having a hard day, to hell with the safe topics, I write my truth.

Now the blogger in me is saying, edit some more, woman, this thing is too long. And don’t post on a Saturday night, no one will read it.

But I’ve been writing this post since the sun was rising, and now the sun is setting, and my only break all day long was to sit in a three hour French class.

Plus, I turn 43 tomorrow. The candles have been lit, they won’t last forever.

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More Near Tweets (aka Twitter Methadone)

September 18, 2012 § 6 Comments

Title

Too strapped for time to actually write (I know, I know, there’s no such thing), I’m sharing some more of my near-tweets. Remember the idea? As I mentioned last month, rather than tweeting every whim & fancy, I have begun typing my thoughts into the notepad on my phone. Here’s the latest batch.

  • “Burglar” is such an old fashioned word.
  • I don’t have time for a movie, but I’m tempted to stop by the theatre for some popcorn.
  • All dressing rooms should come equipped with wind machines to simulate traffic effects on outfits. #MuffinTopRevealed
  • This stretch of Pico always reminds me of how you used to complain about the condition of the roads in L.A.. I miss you.
  • Butternut squash soup with carrot apple juice. My whole lunch is ugly orange.
  • New rule: restaurant employees should avoid wearing scented lotions and sprays.
  • I’ve wised up — haven’t talked politics with my brother since 2004.
  • I will no longer be wasting time folding my underwear. Life is too short.
  • Do your cats perform spontaneously synchronized bathing like ours do?
  • Sentences my grandpa wouldn’t understand: I’m blogging my tweets.
  • Note to self: do not read The Economist’s story about rape around the world first thing in the morning.
  • When I wear stretch crop pants, I feel like The Hulk in David Banner’s slacks.

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The Damn White Roots

September 11, 2012 § 16 Comments

Before I opened my eyes this morning, still thrilled from the dream of seeing an approaching tsunami and surviving (awesome!), I spent time shuffling the day’s agenda. I thought:

If I dye my hair this morning, coping with behead tomorrow at 4:00am before the flight is going to be challenging, and my hair will feel awfully gross during the drive to Sam’s college on Thursday.

If I merely shampoo this morning and dye my hair tonight– There’s not time. Yes there is. Don’t put it off, you know you won’t follow through– I will, I will Sigh –

As I was saying, if I dye my hair tonight, I can blow it straight and be slightly more fresh feeling when I hang out with my family tomorrow night.

What if I don’t dye my hair before the trip at all? Go with gray roots? Yes. Live with roots for one more weekend. What will it matter? Who will see?

Relatives. They love me no matter what I look like.

Sam’s classmates. People over the age of 23 are invisible and/or irrelevant to college sophomores.

The flight attendants with a gnarly up-close birds’ eye view of my white roots. Hmmm. I’ll probably get better service if I look my best.

Time out. That’s bogus. I don’t think it is. It’s a fact that better looking, better groomed people are treated more kindly everywhere they go. A fact? Says who? Fact or fallacy: coiffed hair, colored lips—-

It’s too annoying of a question to think about at — what time is it? 6:14am.

I could pretend I’m in Pussy Riot and pull a hot orange ski mask over my head. Roots covered, pimple covered, shiny nose covered. But it’d get awfully itchy and sweaty and I don’t think the NSA would take kindly to it.

Oh, I envy the men whose only primping chore is to get clean and maybe moisturize. I know they have brows and nose hair and acne to contend with. I know many of them do take extra efforts with their hair. Even writing this paragraph feels like nothing but a waste of time, besides I’ve covered this topic before, and I’m already bitter about the 60 minutes I must budget today for the hair dying, so I guess I better get back on track.

But I can’t get it back, the time spent: all the hours I’ve spent standing in the bathroom, coaxing powders on to brushes and tiny sponges and touching them to my face. Am I the only one who finds it all annoying and absurd?

It’s my prerogative not to participate, I know. But then I better get used to hearing what my shrink told me last month, “You look tired today.”

You know what I want to do instead of dying my hair?

I want to plant this basil in soil.
The basil is alive!

I want to hear music in the park.
Untitled
I want to make collages in my sketch book.
244/366

How do you feel about the time spent on primping? Do you really enjoy painting your nails and straightening your hair? Where do you draw the line?

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Mostly Incoherent Notes for a Future Essay

September 6, 2012 § 46 Comments

This week, for the first time since he died almost 20 months ago, I’ve experienced sadness, disappointment and loneliness independent from the mourning.

Usually, all of my moods have been a cocktail of emotions with the primary ingredient being sadness over his death. To put it more specifically (and to continue the awful metaphor — oh god, I’m laughing it’s such a bad metaphor) his absence sits like ice cubes, always, in every single drink: taking up space, dominating, clunking up against my lips, making noise against the sides of the glass, excruciating to swallow, melting into and diluting all the other elements.

But this week was different. I realized I was feeling shitty all on my own. 100% Ruth’s Life Crap. That’s progress, right?

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A part of the ice cubes is that I haven’t noticed myself feeling as much empathy as I did in years past. I see painful things happening, just like we all do, but it’s like my emotional quota is full — like I’ve been maxed out.

Today, this began changing, as well.

A family I’m acquainted with is experiencing events which I’ve read about through Facebook and the dad’s blog. I haven’t asked for permission to link to his site; so, I apologize for being vague. Also, since language is powerful, I’m hesitant to assign labels to what is going on.

What I can say is, reading his words this morning struck me deeply.

For the first time in a long time, my tears are for someone besides myself.

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Sometimes I think: stop. Just stop. Breathe. Something sacred is happening right now. Be quiet. Pay attention. But the autopilot (sheep) in me continues scrolling down the Facebook feed viewing image after image until, before I know it, I’m clicking the “like” button under some photo of a puppy. And so & so’s swim team are season champions—–wait, what happened to stopping? Sacred moments pass (acknowledged or not). The treadmill keeps going.

Sometimes I think in whispers: I don’t know what to do. I don’t know why we die. I don’t know how some people are taken in a flash while others endure long, slow-motion battles for every moment of comfort, for any fraction of hope.

Sometimes I think in aches rather than words.

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The father I mentioned above closed his post today with this, “For now, our mantra is as always: enjoy each other while we can.”

I’m in awe.

Suddenly reminded of how grateful I am for the fun I had with my friend. We did enjoy each other, while we still could.

And here are my ice cubes again. I’m tiny in a giant glass, clinging to a frozen chunk, it’s the only thing keeping my head above the surface. I ignore the freezing burns on my arms and chin, and hold more tightly.

I see the treadmill. I see the people crying. I see the puppies and the swim teams. I hear the speeches. I hear the ice cubes. I hear the prayers and the tweets.

That staircase in the photo, see it? The music before you go up is awfully good. But no one comes down from there. People will tell you they have the inside scoop, they have signs, they have Jesus(!), they have conviction that what’s at the top of those stairs is —–

Sometimes my thoughts come as shouts: STOP. YOU KNOW DON’T KNOW.

So, let’s just breathe for a minute.

Let’s enjoy each other while we can.

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This blog – Mary and Bob’s Journal – has been retired. All of this content and new work can be found at my new site: Writing Ruth.

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Gratitude: August 2012

August 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m proud to announce that on August 19th, Project Gratitude entered its Second Year.

That means I’ve exercised gratitude in writing roughly 2,190 times over the last 12 months. Hmm, I still feel like a crotchety middle-aged woman combating petrification and embitterment at every turn. I guess I need to keep working on this thing called inner peace. But I don’t *feel* like doing yoga. Sigh.

Moving on with the usual intro ~ As many days as possible, I list six distinct things for which I’m grateful. The list is archived monthly. Here’s August 2012.

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A safe flight to JFK. Introduction emails from my BlogHer posse. New York. That the honking van racing with our taxi on 495 wasn’t being driven by a person caught up in the throes of homicidal intentions (like I thought), it was just ordinary NY road rage — which is far more expressive than the Los Angeles variety. Turns out the Sheraton is pretty nice. Heading out for dinner at 11:30pm and finding an open French restaurant right across the street (but of course).

The menu changed at midnight and I got my croque madame under a sidewalk umbrella with dear Andy. My first French lesson (also under the sidewalk umbrella). Walking in Central Park with Andy. Finding Argosy Book Store. My second subway lesson in 10 years (someday I’ll get it). The book at the Guggenheim store that informed us there was a Klimt available for viewing right down the street (consolation prize for the Guggenheim being closed). Imagining the hours when Adele and Gustav were in the same room together. His paintings.

Waking up on time (5:10am) to actually hug (in person) my favorite bloggers: Megan, Genie and Erin. Walking through Central Park shortly after dawn with said bloggers. Seeing the angel statue (too lazy to look up its proper name). Sitting in the front row of a fantastic panel at Blogher Blogging the Fine Line Between Your Identity and the Issues … featuring Mocha Momma, Faiqa, and Deb Rox (a huge & needed antidote to couple of the things Martha Stewart said — even though I loved her shoes, but I hate myself for commenting on her fashion. Would I comment on a man’s fashion? Of course not. Post on the topic forthcoming. Great fashion at the smaller panel too, btw: god-I-need-to-stop #selfdefeating #badfeminist #tweetaddicted). Talking to Ellen about her theatre-groupiness. Making it out of the conference in the late afternoon in time to have a wonderful night dining with Andy.

Waking up in NYC. Interesting panel about why we blog. Encountering some people whose « Read the rest of this entry »