Hemingway and Van Gogh

Two such towering figures.  Two very different men who left the world on their own accord, with words and thick paint remaining in their wake.

I read two books this week, “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain and “The Last Van Gogh” by Alyson Richman.  Both are works of fiction, based on historical fact.  Both broke my heart, even though it’s obvious that there would be no happy ending.  Well, not the ending a romantic like me would typically prefer.  But that’s not how life is, at least when your eyes are too glued to a hardback.

“The Paris Wife” tore at my being in many ways.  I certainly won’t compare myself to Hemingway, but I understood his naivety and spirit during these early stages in his career.  I understood his longing to be something greater and prolific.  Of course, I’ve yet to technically strive toward anything with that much intensity, but I know that what it takes to be substantial is in me.  And his first wife Hadley, comforts and encourages him along the way, so bravely and maybe foolishly, only to be tossed aside.   It was heartbreaking, maybe because the ending was written before the Hemingway’s could touch the Parisian sidewalk.  It was all there, waiting to end this way.

Hadley & Ernest Hemingway

Hadley & Ernest Hemingway

 

“The Last Van Gogh” is no less tragic, but left a similar feeling of longing. Continue reading

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Could I Have Been An Olympian?

As everyone knows, the Olympics are in full swing. Even though I’m a fan of the games, by next week the Olympic theme song that is played throughout the day will likely drive me mad. Two weeks straight of the same ten second piece of orchestrated music at the start, end and every commercial break in between will cause my ear drums to reach for the remote and hit mute. Maybe it’s because I have the games on while I go about my business each day.

Regardless, I love the sense of pride and the dedication from Olympians. There is always a heart wrenching story or significant feat embodied in the spirit of the games.

I grew up as a fish. My parents could not get me out of our pool to eat and my summer attire consisted only of a bathing suit. I dreamed of being a real swimmer with a swim cap and goggles and eventually joined a swim team where I did fairly well. During the summer of ’92, my bathing suit transitioned into a gymnastics leotard and my poor Great-grandmother suffered the “look at me, I’m a gymnast” phase, cartwheels in her rowhome and all, when I stayed at her house during one week of the Olympics that year. Poor Grandmom. She never dared to crush my dreams either, though quite frankly, I don’t remember her appeasing me and saying I’d make it either.

Toddler Mae fashioning summer attire for the rest of her childhood.

I don’t remember really ever trying very hard to be anything I dreamed of. I was the queen of one season sports or clubs. I’m probably not in the memories of any of my teammates or fellow members because I dashed in and out, never leaving behind anything substantial and never hanging in to form real memories. Until recently, I thought it was me. I thought maybe I’m just a flake and like so many things in life, I just never knew was it was to give my all and keep persevering. But it’s not true. I’ve come to only understand recently that my Mom discouraged me. But before a judging finger is pointed her way, I understand and I do not place blame. My Mom had severe anxiety and taking me to events was very trying on her. I don’t believe she held me back from anything that I carried full potential in, but I guess we won’t know. I don’t think I would have been an Olympic swimmer, but I wonder if I had stuck with something now and then, if I could have had a different mindset in life. Maybe I could have fought harder.

Now that I’m an adult, I can’t base the rest of my life on the fact that I played one season of softball or did one year of Girl Scouts. I am in control of my own fate and if I don’t try or stick with things, it’s my fault. It’s time to learn a new mindset.  And maybe because I’m not an athlete, that doesn’t set the baseline for other things. I’ve stuck with the things that really do matter in life; I’m not a complete failure.

I didn’t even mean for this post to go in this direction. It was supposed to be a lighthearted joke about my Gram who used to say constantly, “If my parents had had money to get me singing lessons, I could have been a famous singer”. Gram had not a lick of a voice or an ear for keys, but it was something she dreamed about as she grew up in a family of fourteen children.  I found myself saying to my husband the other night, “If I had been able to stick with swimming, I could have been an Olympic athlete”. We both knew it was wrong, but we laughed anyway.

If you think about it, it is funny how at the still-young age of 29, it is so easy to see dreams that are too late to happen in the faces of young Olympians. I’d like to think that I’ll encourage my future and non-existent children to follow their dreams young and be able to support them along the way, and without trying to make them accomplish mine.

Double Your Dad’s

As a child of divorce and an optimist, I found myself always looking for a reason to be satisfied with my family arrangement. My situation is not exactly ideal. It is however, particularly easy now that I’m an adult with a family of my own; well the start of one anyway, by snagging a great husband and a humanistic pug.

I’ve got two dads. I’ve got my paternal “taught me how to ride a bike” dad and my “see, this is how you drill into concrete” step-dad. I’m lucky because they are both wonderful men who have devoted so much of their lives to me, and I to them. Even luckier, they get along. Step-dad has referenced real dad as his “husband-in-law”, which sounds a bit goofy, but we laugh.

 

The cool thing is that, since no one is identical, I find that I always have the right man to help guide me, no matter what the problem is. Both are handy, but in different trades. They are both wise, but from different backgrounds and perspectives. They both can make me laugh and sometimes roll my eyes, but they both have traits that I found to be absolutely required in the man I’d marry; amongst them, respectful, honest, smart, hardworking and loving. I now have three men in my life that mean the world to me daily. I soon look forward to four, as I watch my little brother mature into a man and learn from three elders that care for him as much as I do.

There’s no one in the world without flaws, but their goodness supersedes any negatives, usually. I know this is true because I got nearly weepy at each Father’s Day card I read at Hallmark. I felt so lucky to have people fit the cheesy sentiment, even if I felt entirely lame taking twenty minutes reading through each card option available. If the hardest part of divorce for me is to choose two cards for two dads, I think I won.

I’ll save the stories of skinned knees from my competitive father trying to beat a five year old on her bike for another day.  Who does that?

 

Kind Deeds Make the World Worth Smiling About

There is proof that doing the honorable thing is still popular; well, at least noteworthy.

I was browsing Yahoo tonight and I found an article that really made me smile; Ohio runner stops in state final to aid fallen opponent. It tells of a high school junior, Meghan Vogel, who stopped to nearly carry a delirious runner over the finish line, instead of bypassing her and finishing the race solo.

Though I’m sure people do the right thing every day, we are hammered with unforgivable stories that leave millions of Americans shaking their heads at the news broadcast. I’m sure we aren’t alone, as this is likely a global consensus. There is a trend where there are a handful of news sources that will end the broadcast with an uplifting story that will give you faith in society again, and for that I’m grateful. This is one of those stories. It’s simple and it’s just plain touching. I’d like to think that things like this happen often, even when cameras aren’t capturing moments like this.

No, Meghan didn’t put aside her chance to win to help a weak Arden McMath, but she knew it was right to help her, than to simply pass her by. She even had Arden cross the line first and took last place for herself.

I don’t think the world is an awful place, but sometimes it’s easy to think so. I don’t want to live in a naive world of puppies and rainbows, but the fact is, if we can’t celebrate the fact that kindness that still exists, how can we really appreciate people and what life is all about?

Please check out the video here if you have a moment.  It’s simple, but it inspired me this evening.

 

I’m Not Having A Cuban Baby; I Don’t Think

I don’t want to rush life but I also don’t want to watch it pass me by either, while I sit there and try to convince myself that “there is always more time”.  There isn’t.

I’m coming up on my 29th birthday.  This will be my last year to add one more notch to the belt of “awesome experiences of my 20’s”.

I always thought I’d have a child by now.  I thought I’d have a baby at a younger age because I liked that my Mom was one of the younger ones in the school parking lot.  I suppose that isn’t a good reason, but we all have reasons we don’t realize until it’s spelled out; and now that I’ve done that, it seems silly.

I met my husband last night at our local pub after work.  Technically we met nine years ago, I’m not a floozy but this was the first time we’d seen each other since we left for work.  He had been there with a friend from work and had asked me to drop by.  His friend is little more than twice our age.  We are both old souls, so we fit in well with this crowd, mostly if they have a sense of humor.  This man is quite intuitive though, which I noticed quickly the first time we met.  He also has awareness for things that most common people lack.  As a recent widower, he talked about how he senses his wife around him and various other experiences he’s encountered over time.

He told me yesterday that I’d be pregnant Continue reading

Mae’s First Concert Rule

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been places I don’t belong.  Usually it’s not so much that I truly don’t belong, as much I don’t appear to belong.  I am sort of an old soul chameleon.  I enjoy having different hobbies and interests that don’t necessarily mix amongst themselves.

When I moved to California and became involved in a few different scenes, whether it was music, surfing, desert camping or antiquing, I found that as long as you play the part and believe that you belong, you can generally avoid standing out.

The first time I met the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I was at a charity event with a friend/date; I’m not sure what he was, honestly.  I bought my way into a small show, but there was a clear segregation between invited celebrities and ticket holders.  My “date” was clearly more interested in mingling with the bartenders while I was interested in making my very first attempt to score a couple minutes with the Peppers; any of them would do.  So while my “date” and I went separate ways, I found myself locking eyes with another fan who did not dress the part.  I mean, I had clearly been prepared in a sparkly pink sequin shirt, leather pants and spiked heels.  He was in a Chili Pepper t-shirt and Dickies.    Still, as I stood alone, as did he, at least we knew we had something in common; Chili Peppers.

After the usual introductions, he quickly asked if I’d been into the forbidden area of the evening; the main house.  I likely replied with something goofy like, “but we aren’t allowed in there”.  Fan Boy had a hint of trouble in his eyes, said “come on” and grabbed my hand.  As we approached a kitchen area, which had a wide open door to the back of the mansion, he stopped me and looked me dead in the eyes and said “if you act like you belong here, no one will question you.  Act like you own the place”.

So in the door we went, amongst buzzing kitchen workers, up the back stairs in stilettos I could barely function in and there we were.  We were in.  This was my first concert rule that I’d keep branded in my mind for all time; act like you belong and no one will question you.  It works because we clearly did not look the part, but we acted like we did…until we approached the band Continue reading

How Do I Become A Girlfriend?

Growing up in a neighborhood of boys, I only played with Barbies in private, unless they were invited to a GI Joe game and they needed a nurse doll present.  I was an only child till I was eight and I was fascinated with so many things.  My parents never led me to understand what was meant for boys or girls because I think they wanted me to experience childhood the way they both had.

I didn’t really have girlfriends until I started grade school.  Still, I played ballerina or Paula Abdul (don’t ask) with the girls and then army or Pogs with the boys.  As I got older, I found girls like me.  My best friends in high school were not girlie.  They could play rough with the boys but dress pretty for prom too.  We were a perfect fit.  We still are, except out of the group of girls I cherish the most, we are scattered amongst four states in separate geographically regions of the United States.

I’ve been hopelessly awkward since I began college.  I left home and found myself having to start from scratch.  Southern California does not give an East Coast girl the same kind of welcome a surfer girl gets, particularly Continue reading

Discovered Postmortem

I’m sure this has happened to you, because it has likely affected every genre one can be a fan of.  Have you ever felt sad that you discovered you are a fan of something or someone that no longer exists?

Probably the first time I really thought about it was the time I bought my first Jeff Buckley cd in 2002.  Damn.  His voice was pristine and emotional.  I’d never get to experience it live.  He died in 1997, young and still so much untapped.

He wasn’t the first artist I’d appreciated after their demise.  I had listened the Beatles early in life and shuffled through Mom’s albums before Kindergarten, but because they were “old” to me, I never expected to see them.  There were also three of them that toured and alive for so much of my life.

Buckley was the first time I felt mournful that I hadn’t experienced something, not because I couldn’t get a concert ticket or I’d be out of town, but it just could never be.  Beyond that, once I’d purchased all his music, which there never seemed to be enough of, that was it.  There would be no more waiting to get the new album at midnight at Tower Records (RIP) or anticipating his release dates in Rolling Stone. Continue reading

What Did You Want to Be When You Were Five?

The beginning of my short ballet career.

Being five was great.  Everything in the world was possible and no one laughed at your dreams, well, maybe a little but hopefully more of a giggle than a snide snicker.  I wanted to be a hairdresser and also a ballerina.  I also wanted six kids, three boys and three girls and have a house like the Brady Bunch.  Oddly enough, we eventually moved into a neighborhood with Brady Bunch style ranch houses that I giggle at whenever I see them.

My poor Mom used to let me play with her hair relentlessly and I did so in a tutu.  My Gram got me a pink tutu for Christmas when I was three and I crammed my skinny but tall figure into that thing for years until the seams finally prevented me from donning the garb.  It might have been life’s way of saying, “give up kid, you’re clearly too clumsy to be a ballerina, time to pack this thing away”.  I was probably ten.  The netting was so incredibly scratchy and nothing about this outfit was soft or comfortable like the ones I see little girls wear today.  I’m not bitter, I’m just saying I might have succeeded in a more comfortable tutu.  No?  Did I stretch the excuse too far?

I did take ballet when I was about seven.  It lasted for a few months or however long a standard class session is.  It was really hard for me because I’m uncoordinated and I had my Dad’s rhythm.  I felt like it would be so easy, after all, I’d already mastered all the dance moves from Dirty Dancing in my living room.  How hard could a few little ballerina moves be?  Apparently hard; for me anyway.  The class was tied in with tap dancing and that seemed like a plausible career too because I’d seen Gregory Hines do it on Sesame Street and it looked easy.  The only place that wasn’t carpeted in our house was our tiny 10×10 kitchen and since you can’t wear your tap shoes on concrete (or so I was told) so I didn’t get much practice time outside either.

I’m not too sure why I never pursued hairstyling except that maybe doing my own hair didn’t turn out too well and that phase just died out.  I did dye my own hair and sometimes chop at it during my teenage years, but that was because I couldn’t afford to get it done anywhere but my bathroom.  My Mom never stopped me from playing with her hair though because she said it felt nice and I still dance in front of the TV to be goofy.  I do more of a high kick strut with a fake cane and top hat as I pass through the living room now.  My husband will usually give me a pity snicker and wait for me to move but my parents really get a kick out of it when I visit.  It seems the living room will always be my grand stage because I’m embarrassed to dance anywhere else; except at weddings after a few Jameson and cranberries.  And no, I don’t want to see the video of it afterwards, even if I look like I have full confidence; that is temporary.

What did you want to be?

The Easter Bunny is Making Me Chubby

I’m also going to blame Santa, St. Patrick, Revolutionary War veterans, ok all veterans, the Pagans that started Halloween and the Pilgrims.

I realize a furry bunny did not force a chocolate one down my throat; or peeps or jelly beans.  So maybe I should blame my metabolism for failing me when it should clearly know that I like to celebrate every holiday with food; it’s the American way.  Continue reading