"With the certitude of a true believer, Vellya Paapen had assured the twins that there was no such thing in the world as a black cat. He said that there were only black, cat-shaped holes in the universe."
-- Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Glass is Half-Empty Without a Half-Birthday

Today is April 30th.  Tomorrow is May 1st.  And tonight, at exactly midnight, if I choose to stay up that late, I can celebrate turning 36 1/2 years old.  But I probably won't because it feels fake.  It feels forced.  The truth is that I do not have a half-birthday, and it's time I come to terms with this painful omission in my life.

Believe it or not, some people do not celebrate half-birthdays.  I don't understand stand this.  We all remember how important age was when we were kids, how important SPECIFIC age was.  Just the other night, I asked a friend's son how old he was, and he told me, "Four… AND A HALF!"  The last three words were practically screamed as he looked me right in the eye and dared me to disagree.  I did not.  I could tell he was serious.
When we were kids, a year was a long time to wait for that next incredible number.  Whether it was five, six, or the big double digits, we needed that mid-year marker to tell us we were on our way, headed in the right direction, getting closer to the big day.

So how are we supposed to know we have reached that much-anticipated turning point—the crest of the hill signifying that we are OLDER, that sooner rather than later we will reach that next glorious age—if we don't acknowledge and celebrate the half-birthday?

Half-birthdays were always big in my family.  My dad's is June 6th, my mom's is August 9th, and my brother's is March 17th, St. Patrick's Day.  (Well, isn't HE special?)

I, however, don't have one.

Out of the 366 possible birthdays on the calendar, there are six which do not have half-birthdays (March 31, May 31, August 30, August 31, October 31, and December 31) and one (August 29) which only has a half-birthday once every four years.  We are a small, sad little group. 

Some people just don’t seem to understand our grief.  Plenty before have tried to console me.  

·      "Why don't you just celebrate on April 30th?  Or May 1st?"
o   Because those are someone ESLE's half birthdays.  Not mine.
·      "But April 30th is Willie Nelson's birthday.  Isn't that kind of cool?"           
o   That's really not even relevant, but thanks.  And happy birthday, Willie.
·      "Doesn't having such a cool Halloween birthday make up for not having a half birthday?"
o   It does help, yes. 
·      "How about celebrating your QUARTER birthday instead?"
o   That's just stupid.  And those poor March 31 people don't have one of those either.
·      "Why do you even care?  You're an adult for goodness sake."
o   Shut up.

There is just no substitute for a real half-birthday.

In order to fill this hole in my life and to help others who are afflicted come to terms as well, I have formed a support group.  Today, right now, I am founding the PWAN MYCE.  The PWAN MYCE (People Whining About No Mid-Year Celebratory Event) is an online support system for all those born without half-birthdays, including (because you suffer from a similar pain) people born on February 29.  

Let us all come together to whine collectively about our loss.  When your special day once again fails to arrive, come here.  Air your sorrows.  Share your woes.  Tell us how you cope.  This is a safe space.  The PWAN MYCE are here for you.

And for those of you who DO have a half-birthday, please don’t take it for granted.  Embrace it.  Appreciate it.  And blow out an extra candle for those of us unable to rejoice with you.   

Here are some tips for ways to celebrate your half-birthday:

* Bake half a birthday cake.
* Throw a party, but only invite half of your friends.
* Get spanked on one butt cheek only.
* Ask for gifts that come in pairs (salt & pepper shakers, book ends, earrings) wrapped separately.  Then open only one half of the set.
* Go to a movie and then leave halfway through.
* Put make-up on only half of your face.
* Get just a LITTLE bit drunk.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Open Letter to 1982

In marriage, there is compromise.  Each partner brings certain qualities to the union, as well as certain beloved possessions—pets, furniture, artwork... electronics—and all of those things must find a way to cohabitate together, for better or for worse.

To our marriage, I brought a very old and much-loved VCR, and thirty-six VHS tapes.

My husband, the computer geek, frowned when I lugged these items into our home.  When he opened his mouth, presumably to make some remark about Goodwill or trash day, I told him in no uncertain terms that this VCR was a member of our family and that it would find a place of honor in our living room.  He closed his mouth and hooked it up, grumbling as he made room for this noisy, archaic stepchild amongst his U-Verse and X-Box and Blu-Ray babies.  And, thus, compromise was achieved.

One night when we were watching my VHS tape of Clue (awesome movie), my hubby decided he needed some popcorn, so I dutifully paused the tape.  However, when the making of the popcorn took more than five minutes (why? I don't know) the tape came un-paused and I had to rewind and pause again.  Annoyed, I complained aloud:

"I have never understood why VHS tapes un-pause themselves after five minutes.  OBVIOUSLY I'm not ready for it to play again, otherwise I would've hit play."  Then the hubby informed me that staying paused for too long is bad for the tape.  "Oh," I said.  "Well, then they should STOP after five minutes then, not PLAY.  It still doesn't make any sense to PLAY if the viewer is not ready yet.  No one wants to be on the way back from the bathroom and hear their movie start up again without them.  It causes unnecessary stress.  They should just STOP.  Why did they make them this way?!”

There was a long silence from the kitchen.  Then the hubby said, "Yeah… you know, you're right…  You should write a letter to 1982."

And so, ignoring the hubby’s sarcasm, I did.

My Open Letter to 1982


(I was pretty darn cute in 1982...)

 Dear 1982,

So, first of all, what is up with the VCR pause button?  Could you not have come up with a better plan than simply making it play again after five minutes?  How about making it stop?  How about making it start beeping at four minutes and forty-five seconds so that at least we have some warning as we are hurrying out of the bathroom or pouring our popcorn into a bowl?  And while we're on the subject of VCRs, why did you make them so damn hard to PROGRAM?  People are STILL talking about that.  In 2013.  Seriously.

But you know, 1982, you weren't ALL bad.  I mean, you did bring us Poltergeist and E.T. and The Dark Crystal and Tron (what a strange year for movies...) and iconic songs like Thriller and Eye of the Tiger.  Plus, I’m pretty sure that was the year my mom first read Bunnicula to me.  It’s still one of my all-time favorite books.

I was only five years old for most of 1982, but it was a big year in my little life.  I started Kindergarten that year, and got my puppy Lassie, and spent a lot of time playing with my Lite Brite and my brother’s Hoth Imperial Attack Base playset and sitting on a stool in the arcade at Richardson Square Mall to play Pac-Man and Galaga.  And I did ALL of those things in my favorite three-quarter sleeve rainbow shirt, which I would have worn every single day if my mom had let me.  Those are good memories.

Then again, I can’t forget that 1982 was the year that took away my Pappy and, on the day of his funeral, gave me my first stitches.  That was a hard day for many reasons.

I can't believe it's been thirty-one years since I've seen you, 1982... Where has the time gone?  I guess I'll forgive you your faults, since I've made my share of mistakes since we saw each other last; no person, no year, can be perfect.  So let's let bygones be bygones.  Let's put the past behind us and look forward, together, into the future.  Thirty-one years from now, in 2044, what will we have to complain about?  My money's on arthritis, too many freaking movies with Suri Cruise in them, and the fact that my VCR still un-pauses after five minutes.  (Sigh.)

Till I finally get my time machine and we meet again,
Your friend,

P.S.  I really wish I still had that cool rainbow shirt.

P.P.S.  AND the Hoth Imperial Attack Base Playset.  That thing was AWESOME.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My New Journal / Thoughts on Boston

I started a new journal today.  I finished my other one on Friday and, although I love beginning a new journal-- writing on that fresh clean page-- I waited until today to do it. 

I wish I hadn't. 

If I had started my new journal on Saturday, I could have written about the workshops I attended at the Austin International Poetry Festival, or eating dinner on the patio of 400 Rabbits with Mark.  If I'd started it on Sunday, I could have written about watching the "haiku death match" at Kick Butt Coffee or having my picture taken with the Hulk at Austin Books & Comics.  If I'd started it on Monday morning, I could have written about my yoga class or Uno's snoring. 

But instead I waited.  And now I would be a false reporter if I wrote about anything other than the two bombs that exploded yesterday at the end of the Boston marathon, killing three and injuring over a hundred.  Horrible injuries.  Limbs blown off, shrapnel embedded... war wounds.  War wounds in families watching a marathon, celebrating a holiday. 

Yesterday when the events took place, I was at home, cleaning the house and doing laundry, just as I was on December 14, the day of the Sandy Hook tragedy.  (I swear that my life does not consist of me staying home all day and doing laundry.  These are coincidences.  Though if my house-cleaning continues to coincide with horrific acts, I will stop and live in filth.)  I saw the news on Twitter just minutes after it happened and immediately turned on CNN.  And so, once again, I got sucked into the televised news coverage-- the same horrible images and videos, over and over, repeated from different angles and different voices, none of the angles making sense, none of the voices providing answers.  The numbers kept changing at the bottom of the screen, the victims rising and falling, adding and subtracting (though mostly rising and adding) as reporters tried to get the facts straight amid chaos. 

I need to not do that next time (next time) not get stuck in front of the TV, constant and depressing, without even a commercial break to give me a chance to blink and consider looking away.  I never craved a commercial like I did yesterday.  I think thirty seconds of a snuggly bear selling fabric softener could have done wonders for my psyche.  But it never came.  Just more recordings of terrified screams and pictures of sidewalks covered in blood. 

Today I escaped the house, escaped the TV, headed to Pacha to write.  But I cannot escape the events of yesterday.  They are on the radio, on the internet, on the tongues of everyone around me.  As I write this journal entry, the words 'Boston' and 'bombs' and 'victims' and 'terrorism' and 'suspect' bounce around me from table to table. 

There is no why yet, no who.  All we have is the what and the where and the (ever-changing) how many.  And the when that hangs in all of our minds, the subtle nagging wonder about next time.

[I realize that this entry reaches no hopeful conclusion, offers no unique perspective.  I simply post it because it is on my mind, as it is on the minds of so many others.]

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Poetic Mess

There’s really no reason for this.

This mess I’m in, mostly literal, is all my fault.  I know how to be tidy.  When I’m a mess, it’s generally because I choose it.  97% of my time I go around washing things and wiping things and stacking things and straightening things… on bad days I do it over and over.  Right angles.  Line it up.  Must have order.  But then there’s that 3%. 

Once in a while, I make a mess.  A big one.  If you’re going to do something, do it right.  The floors become filthy, the dishes play Jenga in the sink, there is an unplanned haphazardness to the items on the coffee table.  Things lie where they fall.  Objects that seldom move suddenly change rooms.  At first, I am simply ignoring the mess.  And then I am appreciating it.  And then… I am actively contributing to the chaos.

We have entered the 3%.  Point of reference:  I have recently lost my desk.

I would like to point out, in my defense, that the wine glasses have accumulated
over the course of days and one of them actually only contained cranberry juice. 
Though, yes, that one that’s precariously perched on the edge of my desk
by the tape measure, is in fact half full (optimist!) of wine.

Eventually, of course, I will clean.  And it will be glorious.  Cleaning turns into cleaning out.  Straightening bookshelves turns into rearranging furniture.  Sometimes, I emerge from the mess into a brand new house.

But before I become the Goddess of Cleanliness and reclaim the home that is rightfully mine… I have to freak out a little bit.  It’s a natural part of the process.  I see the mess, finally truly see it for what it is, assess how much work it will take to remedy it (and then assess again more rationally) and then have a small panic attack.  What have I done?  How did I let this go on for so long?  Where is the cat?  Then I deal with my panic attack through avoidance.  And I use avoidance to create a bigger mess.

We have now entered the stage of avoidance.  Point of reference:  I just spent the last two hours pulling old college and teaching binders off my shelf and going through them, thus creating large slippery piles of paper on the floor.

Nicely done.

Ok, actually that is the same wine glass from the previous picture. 
Seriously.  It didn’t multiply—it migrated.  Get off my back!  Sheesh.

That larger pile over there by my flip flops consists of poems.  Extra copies of poems that I accumulated in college or during my teaching career.  And they’re good ones too.  And they do not deserve to sit in a dusty binder not being read by a woman who desperately needs to clean her house.

And so, I want to give them to you.  (Really.)

Send me an email at cariejuettner@gmail.com with the subject “I want a poem” and include your name and a mailing address.  Don’t tell me you would prefer to have the poem emailed to you—that’s not the offer.  These are pieces of paper that already physically exist in the universe and which need good homes.  If you give me your address, I will snail-mail you a poem (maybe two) and nothing else.  By agreeing to receive a poem you are not accidentally selling your soul to the Devil, joining a club, or signing up to receive newsletters.  I don’t have a newsletter.  Oh, and there will be cute stickers on the envelope.  And I will pay for the postage.  Even if you live in Antarctica.  What have you got to lose?

My cool friend Stine took this picture many a year ago.

There is no reason why I should have to let my house fall into “condemned” status before giving it a good cleaning, and there is no reason why I should have to give you a reason for wanting to send you some poetry.  But if you need one, April is National Poetry Month.  And let’s face it… you need a little poetry in your life.

Enough said.  If you need me, I’ll be licking envelopes and applying stickers.