Saturday, August 28, 2010

Grandpa's eyes

I spent the evening with my extended family as my gorgeous young cousin married her sweetheart. I almost chose not to go. I am sure I could have found a few other ways to occupy my time, but I needed to see these people again right now. There have been so many moments in my life that I have chosen to be consumed with my own life and have missed out on making real connections with those wacky people who share my gene pool. What a gift the night was to me. "Thanks, Jennette, for getting married!" (The photo is part of my family, just not from tonight).

A bit ago, I read a few books by a local author, Kevin Kling. He writes in a similar but much more Minnesotan style as David Sedaris. Kevin wrote a story in which he traveled to a country from his ancestry, and was shocked to see people walking around with what he told his mother "all had Grandpa's eyes". It brought tears to my eyes while reading, and does again as I think about this experience tonight.

My grandparents have all passed on, and their faces, stories and comments are but memories for me now. As I looked around at my family tonight, I was struck dumb by how so many of us had the same eyes. Slightly hooded (especially with age), light in color, piercing but framed in laughing wrinkles. No matter what I do, I will always look like my father's sisters, and I sound like them too. Tonight I realize that it's a precious gift. I can look into the faces of a whole crowd that look just like home.

My own father was there tonight. I am especially thankful for that, because he recently had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. His prognosis is very good, and the surgery was the only treatment needed. His own father died in his fifties. I don't know if he thinks of it often, but each day he breathes air is another gifted day he has outlived his own father's life. Selfishly, I would like to keep him around forever, of course. But I also understand that he will be out of reach for me at some point, so I cherish every day he's here and every moment I spend with him.

Both my parents have influenced my personality, and my tendency toward sharing my opinions possibly a bit too freely, with my dad having the stronger impact. Like my mother, he can take on a hard-edged, my way or the highway type attitude with those he's "debating" with, but most times I love how open he is to hearing me share my thoughts.

I am thankful for all those patient, kind people in my family who have given me the benefit of the doubt countless times. I am full of self-righteous, aggressively opinionated thoughts and actions that surely push people away. While I work on being more gracious, quiet and caring, I wonder if my personality quirks aren't also, in part, a product of my enormous family. We're all a bit out there (not in the same ways, of course) with what we hold sacred.

And now, as I look at my own body, all it's shortcomings (or overcomings, depending on what you focus on) seem a bit better. My short and wide feet look like my grandpa's. My small hands look just like my mom's. My voluptuous chest is a gift from my maternal grandmother (thanks for that, really I love it). My short stature comes from both sides, but the design of my face comes straight from my father. And that's wonderful. And my eyes must be a gift from the grandfather I never really got the chance to know. My dad's father died when I was very young, and I don't remember him at all. But as I looked out at all those people tonight, I saw his eyes all over the room.

Thanks, Grandpa. And all those other wacky people who just went along with the natural flow of life to help create me and all those people I call family in that room tonight. I do hope that those eyes keep passing along. It sure is nice to look out and see a piece of my family history. And it's a little easier to look out and see all those eyes, because they are all at about the same height as mine.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I am one of those people who find connections between just about everything in life. Most times, it's super annoying and distracting, but sometimes it's a fascinating peak into the similarities we all share.

Take, for instance, spiderwebs. I seem to walk through more than my fair share of them, and no matter what I'm doing, the moment I become entangled in the creepy, wispy, tickley thing, I turn into a spastic fool. Some might wonder what difference that really makes in my normal appearance, and to them I say, "walk through a spider web and TRY not to jump, and flinch, and groan!" (And a big, F U as well).

I don't think you can. I've never known anyone who is able to just step unknowingly into a spiderweb and continue on their way without a spastic reaction. Are you able to? Can you just remove the strands of webbing and continue on with no comment or reaction?

So instead of allowing myself to be completely grossed out or to slide down the slippery slope of paranoia that spiders are ganging up on me to take over my house, I'll relax in the community of fellow spiderweb spastics. We are all in that club, surely worldwide. That feels so good to know that my fellow spiderweb spazzes are walking through webs every few minutes all day long, jumping, flinching, groaning, and screaming, in every nation, tribe and neighborhood.

United through spiderwebs. What a beautiful world we live in. Now someone needs to come over with some more tissues to do some squishing...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

taking a dip into a few crazy pools

I haven't written in awhile, mostly because summer is my busiest time and because this summer has already been a ride of insanity that I can't seem to get off of. Therein lies my theme, or at least the lens that I"ve been looking at the world through lately.

I may have mentioned before that my mother is a little more than wacky. My father is on the more fun side of madness. My in-laws have their own version of what qualifies for reality. My siblings surely have jumped beyond normal, as well as most of my friends (mostly why I love them so). Then my husband and I have our take. Over the last few years, and more and more these last few weeks, I have developed a theory that we are all completely bonkers and only the best ones of us know it (and wear that title proudly).

I've been spending a good deal of time with all these people mentioned above. So as not to call any one person out, I'll just lump you all together. You are nuts. The guilt; whether implied or outright, stinks. The lack of communication between those you love is sad. I am not a phone operator or newspaper columnist. If you want to talk to someone, meet up with them or call them. If you want something, tell me outright. Otherwise, I don't care. (Blog-dumping ends here - sorry about that bit.)

But I do care about what you do. I want to know about it. About how you feel about it. About what you love to do. About what you really think and what you really care about. I love spending time with you, because I love you and you are a fascinating human specimen. Really. Why do you think I got a degree in psychology? Because I love to study people. So don't get mad when I over-analyze and all that. It's what I do everyday of my life. Because I am crazy too.

I just watched Tim Burton's take on the classic "Alice in Wonderland." I LOVED it, by the way, but it connected all these bits in this line of thinking. I love this story, and Tim Burton's telling of it, because it supports that ideal that you can only do what seems impossible if you are a little bit nuts.

I'm also reading "Running with Scissors" by Augusten Burroughs which makes me think that someone who dives too quickly and deeply into the belief that impossible is possible may just mean you need some serious therapy and medication. But then, through all that he went through as a child and young adult, Augusten has persevered and become an acclaimed author and seemingly successful, adjusted adult. Not sure if that gives me hope, or just makes me feel bad for Augusten.

Is it possible that I am more crazy than those that drive me bananas? Is it my problem that I can enjoy 90% of my time with someone and go right off the cliff by that other 10%? Do I always need to be the one to make adjustments or accommodations for the neuroses of others? Is it acceptable for me to allow my irritation to slide into rage and share my frustration with those causing it? Does everyone have these impossible internal dialogues going on all the time?

To all those questions, probably not.

And for the most part, I calmly and caringly accept that we're all doing the best we can with what we've got at our disposal. Man, I hope that's true. But if anyone else wants to share their own version of crazy with me, could you please wait a few weeks? I'm all full of crazy here.