Entries in Light the Corners of My Mind (31)


Tapering Down

I had this great boyfriend named Paul my entire senior year of high school. He played on the water polo team and was a fantastic swimmer; at one time he ranked ninth in the entire nation in the butterfly stroke for his age group. I'm reasonably confident that you'll be reading more about Paul on Soap Opera Sunday, when I give you the highly entertaining and dramatic details of Prom Night 1983.

I had never been particularly athletic myself (outside of dance), so I learned much from Paul about training for competitive sports. One concept he introduced to me was that of tapering down.

When preparing for a big competition, athletes will train intensively for a period of time, then follow a very light regime in the days or weeks immediately preceding the event. This allows the body to recover fully from the hard training it has done, ensuring that it will be capable of peak performance during the competition.

"Why the nostalgic lecture?" I hear you ask in a gentle yet quizzical tone. I answer: merely to explain my recent bloggy reticence. I'm training for both NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo, demanding events that occur simultaneously during the month of November. I have to gather my strength and summon my creative (eagle) powers; Heaven knows, I need to conserve what little I have in both respects.

It is because I am tapering down that I have lately chosen not to inflict upon you posts on such scintillating topics as:

1) The fact that the three black hairs growing from my chin have become my own personal hydra;
2) How amazingly neat and clean our basement is after my tornadic frenzy last weekend;
3) What a better yarn Malabrigo is than Manos del Uruguay;
4) Hilarious things Daniel has said in days past (one tidbit "Red Zeppelin");
5) The success of our story basket in the den;
6) The manner in which my novel-in-eternal-progress, ZF-360, is morphing yet again;

7) My consternation over the as-yet-unripe African jelly melons in a large basket in our kitchen;
8) The current dearth of appealing movies at our local theaters;
9) How excited I am that Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize; and
10) My rant about the evil ninja deer and the havoc they are wreaking in our yard.

See? Don't you feel better about how quiet it's been around here? Brace yourselves; November is right around the corner.

And to answer the question of a cre8buzzer who asked whether we'll be celebrating Novembrance (i.e. me) all month long once Halloween is over:

Yes. Absolutely. Bring on the party, my friends.

Until then, I must focus on my training. Yeah, yeah; that's the ticket.


Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl

My mother was recently doing some sorting and purging of old boxes at her house and came across a box of my mementos. She promptly sent it off to me along with these:And these:Very welcome treats; thanks, Mom! I can get neither Mother's Circus Animal Cookies (the Keebler rip-off version is a cruel travesty) nor See's Candy here in the otherwise perfect Hudson Highlands.

But even better was the box of stuff: old letters, diaries, and photos; programs and awards; every essay I wrote for Senior A/P English; and much, much more. Here are a few choice items:

*Updated* A lurker who prefers to remain anonymous asked for a detailed caption of the above photo. Clockwise (sort of) from noon: Madness concert program; The Police concert program; U2 concert sticker; first and second place ribbons for speech tournaments; visitor pass to NASA's Ames Research Center; essay from Honors History (grade: A); Merrie Miss achievement bracelet; Stanislaus County Essay Contest Scholarship certificate; Sam Gamgee journal; cover from Computer Programming class manual (loved that TRS-80); photos of Charles and Diana's wedding cut out of People magazine; mimeographed and hand colored worksheets on Elizabeth I of England; The Best of Omni, issue #6; a page from the 1980 Tolkien wall calendar, illustrated by the Hildebrandt brothers; and a rugby tournament program. There: I think that's everything.

One of the best (read: most embarrassing) items in the lot is that Sam Gamgee journal. I used that notebook to record what I considered to be my very best excerpts of creative writing between 1980 and 1981. Here are two snippets:

*Updated* Annette couldn't read the journal entries and was good enough to speak up about it, so here are the transcripts:

"Her golden hair sparkled and glistened in the last rays of the sunset, billowed and streamed in the slight breeze which fled through the meadow. It made a halo, transfiguring her into a fire queen, or a goddess of love. Her face took on a joyous expression, as if she were drinking in the last drops of warmth on her face. She spread out her arms in love and gratitude. Then the glorious moment passed, leaving the poor peasant girl to trudge home, sad and alone.

--March 1981"

"The wizard's mind was cold and twisted. Dark columns of evil hung from the caverns of his intellect, ruthlessly sharp and deadly. The expansive knowledge he had eagerly accumulated in his younger, fuller, years, when he was still "white," had gradually darkened and decayed until it was rotten. But in a way, as if it were being fed somehow, the knowledge grew, encompassing all manner of malignant studies and malevolent experiments.

As the years passed, these studies became increasingly cruel, often with people as their victims. Often, when one of those preyed-upon was screaming and writhing in agony unimaginable, he too would scream; but with laughter that chilled bones and curdled blood. He would become hysteric [sic], waves of hate washing over him. His insanity was horrific, and his name became hated passionately; and just as passionately feared. Mothers had only to whisper his name, and children were terrified into obedience. And so the legend was begun.

--April 1981"

Yikes. Talk about agony unimaginable; I was even more addicted to semicolons and adverbs at 14 than I am now. But progress is good, right?

We are talking Good Times, my friends. There is so much blog fodder in this box that I will be set for many a Flashback Friday and Soap Opera Sunday to come. Stay tuned.


Rejoice with me...

...for I have found that which I had lost.

On a search of the basement for our splitting wedges, I found the photo that I wanted to put with this post.

I also found a hashed recording of the song that my pal D. Fletcher and I wrote years ago for the Divine Miss N's arrival; you can listen to it here, if you like (sorry in advance about the ads).

Here are the words (D. wrote the gorgeous music, and Jeff Hardy, Jonathan Austin, and Patrick sang it at N's blessing):

"New Birth"
(For N.)

In the snow, a Lily blooms,
Its warmth belies the frost;
It waits for one to shelter it
Regardless of the cost.
Through the mist, its fragrance swells
And softens winter's air;
Breathe it in, and learn the way
To Heaven's gardens fair.

In the gloom, a candle burns,
Though brightly, all unseen;
It lights the way to happiness
For those with eyes more keen.
Through the storm, that beacon shines
With beams of radiant gold;
Follow it, not looking back,
And haven safe behold.

In the waste, a fountain springs
Though bracken thorns conceal;
The rocky path is worth the pain
The parchèd soul to heal.
Through the drought, this river flows
Its water, living grace;
Come, drink of it, and find anew
Home's compassing embrace.

(Chorus) Hope...Light...Love...
The seeds, yet deep, will bear.
And soon the hour when forth will flow'r
Their gifts, so fine and rare.

(Bridge) Every heart's a broken circle that longs to be complete.

Unfortunately, I haven't yet found the splitting wedges. The search goes on....


Odd's Fish, M'Dear!

When I was in college, some people I knew were publishing an off-campus newspaper called The Student Review. One of my favorite columns in this excellent paper was called "Brushes with Fame," in which people would list 10 celebrity encounters. Some were entertainingly remote; others were what some of us would term "of the third kind."

Once I moved to Manhattan, I had pretty frequent Brushes with Fame of my own, but it wasn't until Patrick's career took off that our Celebrity Sightings kicked into high gear. Patrick specializes in intellectual property; specifically, he works to protect people's copyrights and trademarks. He does quite a bit of work for several Broadway types, which means we are often invited to the openings of shows and the cast parties that follow. Once we even went to the Tony Awards, but that's a subject for another post.

Most of the premieres we attend are in Manhattan, but we've been lucky enough to go to London three times. The first was for the 1994 revival of Oliver!, the second was for The Witches of Eastwick in 2000, and the third was for Mary Poppins in 2004. It is the last with which this edition of Light the Corners of My Mind is concerned.

Mary Poppins was a fun musical, much truer to the book than was the Julie Andrews/Dick Van Dyke movie. The music was fabulous (Patrick's client did the orchestrations), the sets were incredible, and the dark edge to the script made the lightheartedness stand out in lovely relief. As enjoyable as the show was, though, I couldn't help but be distracted by three things: a) we walked into the theater on the red carpet with Sir Richard Attenborough (total coincidence); b) we had better seats than Roger Rees (who, sadly, has not aged well); and c) Anthony Andrews was in attendance.

Still my beating heart. I obsessively watched Brideshead Revisited when I was 15. My friend and fellow anglophile Joanie and I came to an amicable arrangement: she would marry Jeremy Irons and I would marry Anthony Andrews. I snickered secretly whenever I contemplated how much better I'd done in the fantasy wedding department than she. Alas, I did not then know that Anthony had been happily married since 1971 (and still is). Then again, Jeremy Irons has been married almost as long.

When the teleplay The Scarlet Pimpernel came out in 1982, my love for Anthony grew exponentially. Sink me, but that rich voice; those hooded eyes; that valor disguised with masterful foppishness. My mother, sisters, and I watched a bad VHS tape recorded from the television over and over again until the graininess of the picture became unbearable. We have whole scenes memorized.
The movie became a litmus test of sorts for us. Any new boyfriend had to watch it, his every reaction carefully gauged out of the corners of our eyes. Many failed and were discarded as unworthy. No matter; an evening with Sir Percival Blakeney and a pint of Haagen-Dazs was better than most dates anyway.
I read the book after we saw the movie for the first time. This is one of those rare cases in which the movie is light years better than the book. But bless Baroness Orczy's heart for creating the character in the first place. I've also seen the old movie with Leslie Howard. I'm sorry; Leslie makes a perfect Ashley Wilkes, but he is no match for Anthony Andrews in the "demmed elusive" category. The Broadway version of the Pimpernel was horrible. Horrible. Trust me.
So there I sat in the darkened Prince Edward Theater, knowing that Sir Percy's most perfect incarnation was nearby. Would he go to the cast party? It was too much to hope for; I put him firmly out of my mind, held Patrick's hand tightly, and watched Mary and Bert's magical adventures.
The cast party was horrendously crowded; worse, the guests were segregated by floors. As we squeezed past people packed around the buffet tables, Patrick promised me that we'd get a quick plate of food, hook up with his client Bill for a round of hearty congratulations, then head back to our friend Carmen's flat and crash. We found Bill a moment later, who, gracious as always, made introductions to the people seated at his table. We smiled and nodded, shook hands when we could reach.
Bill got to the last couple; I hadn't seen who was sitting there in the half-dark of the night club until that moment. I stopped breathing. I really did, for at least a minute. His name is pronounced "Antony," by the way.
He stood up, bent slightly over my hand, introduced us to his wife Georgina, then offered me his chair. I demurred, but he insisted. I sank down on the blue cushions and made what little small talk I could with my brain having exited the building. Anthony and his kind wife left not long afterward, which was a good thing. I couldn't have taken the proximity of gorgeousness much longer.
Anthony has aged beautifully. He's taller and broader in the shoulder than he looks on screen; his evening clothes were exquisitely tailored. But there are many attractive men who wear a tuxedo well. What set him apart for me was that he really was a gentleman; he didn't just play one on TV. Solicitous, deferential, completely unpretentious...swoon, sigh.
You all know how madly in love I am with Patrick. I loved him all the more when he snuggled contentedly with me in the taxi on the way back to Carmen's, not the slightest bit jealous throughout my latest and greatest Brush with Fame. And when I called my mom and sisters, their screams as I told them the whole story were immensely gratifying.
There wasn't really anyone else to tell about meeting Anthony at that point in my life; I've met few people acquainted with the delicious pleasure that is my Scarlet Pimpernel. But one of the many joys of blogging is discovering far-flung folk with similar interests; Annette and Josi, had I known you back in 2004, I know I could have counted on you for a few more squeals of delight and envy as I regaled you with my tale.


That's me in the corner/That's me in the spotlight

One of my favorite Sesame Street ditties goes:

Three of these things belong together,
Three of these things are kind of the same.
Can you guess which thing just doesn’t belong here?
Now it’s time to play our game!

When I was a kid, contrarian that I was, I liked to find a way in which that fourth thing did belong with the others; it was usually possible, if I got creative enough.

I have a really smart younger brother; he double-majored in Physics and Math in college, and now he’s an engineer. He’s a great dad and husband, an all-around cool guy. If I tell you that he is a Buddhist and a strict vegan, what would you expect his political orientation to be?

Well, he’s not a Democrat, as I found out to my shock in the heated months before the 2000 Presidential Election. I’m sure he was similarly surprised to find out what a huge Al Gore fan I was (and am), since most devout LDS homeschooling-type moms aren’t what you would call liberal. But we both probably should have expected it; incongruity seems to run in our family.

Those who know me are used to my eclectic proclivities. They appreciate that I know all the words to Wire: 154 and Schubert’s "Der Erlkoenig"; that I can watch The Parent Trap (the original) and Fanny & Alexander back to back; that I savor both Marcel Proust and Mary Balogh, both stale Red Vines and ripe Epoisses. But even those closest to me couldn’t figure out what I was doing when I made a certain career choice in February 2004.

It had been a bitter winter, and I was uncomfortably pregnant with young Master Daniel. I was tired, depressed, withdrawn, and heartily sick of being all three. Was it desperation or inspiration that made me call my darling friend Jenna and tell her I wanted to join her Mary Kay team? Definitely the latter: it was the right decision for me at the time.

Jenna and I had a marvelous time together; we both won cars and became Sales Directors pretty quickly. I came out of my shell and formed new friendships. It was satisfying (and lucrative) giving people makeovers and helping them feel attractive. Mary Kay was like a sorority, and I was ‘popular’ for the first time in my life.

In January 2005, I received my National Sales Director’s monthly newsletter, which listed the mid-year leaders for the coveted Queen of Sales position (the MK year runs July to June). There are two Queens of Sales each year in any given National Area: the Consultant Queen and the Director Queen. I was surprised to see that I was in first place--on the Consultant level, since I was debuting as a Director February 1st.

I was also surprised to see that my sales figures were higher than anyone’s on the Director level. Since I’m a tiny bit competitive (stop snickering, Patrick), I decided to see whether I could take the Director’s crown for the year.

Here’s where my inner geek kicked in. I made an Excel spreadsheet listing all of the top Directors and their numbers for the first six months. Every month after that, I painstakingly logged in updates as I got the newsletters, always on the lookout for potential dark horses like myself. For the last month of the year, our NSD (she's the stunning blonde in the photo with me) kept the stats to herself, but by June 30th, I was pretty sure I had it in the bag.

In August we all traveled to the mother ship in Dallas for Seminar, the annual awards ceremony. The minute I checked into my hotel room, I had my confirmation: I had been upgraded to a gorgeous suite containing chocolates, Perrier, and a note of congratulations from my NSD. The limo ride, the banquet, the ceremony, and the sumptuous royalty reception were all part of a great lark. Receiving the 5-carat amethyst ring was a hoot, but the most enjoyable part of that was letting other women try it on and seeing their eyes light up with hope and determination.

My first year as a Sales Director was great, but I gradually realized that it might be time for me to move on. I made sure that that I didn’t neglect my family and my church work despite the fact that I was working pretty much full-time (though from home and with very flexible hours). God, Family, Career: those are the famous MK priorities, and I worked hard to keep them in order.

But that Career thingie left almost no time for me to do anything else. All of the things I write about in this blog got almost none of my time and attention. I only read or knitted when I was on an airplane; the garden languished and I had little time for music or cooking. And after years of not feeling up to writing, I was finally getting that urge again.

It was a painful decision; I worked closely with a group of wonderful women who depended on me for leadership and guidance. But after a lot of pondering and prayer, I called my NSD and told her I was going to retire. I just walked away, Renee. Mary Kay filled a lot of needs for me; I look back on my two years with the Company fondly. But I don’t regret my decision. My life as it is feels just right.

Incongruity: here’s my big ring on my hand with my baking ‘tats,’ as my chef friend Mike calls them, and super short fingernails (necessary when you type as much as I do) a bit stained from gardening. Obviously, I never wear that ring anymore. I’m not really a jewelry girl, wearing only my wedding band and the diamond studs Patrick bought me in The Netherlands ninety-nine percent of the time. I’ve thought about selling the ring and giving the money to Heifer, but I’m afraid my daughters would freak out. Maybe they can figure out some way to timeshare it when they’re grown up, or maybe they'll agree that feeding the poor is more important than a owning a bauble; we’ll see.

So that’s the story behind yesterday’s photo. What incongruities do you have hidden in your closet?