Challenge Accepted–Blogging April, A to Z

Well, Dear Readers, this adventure has been so much fun this month, I’ve signed up to do it again. This time, I’ll be blogging every day (except for Sundays) during the month of April as part of the A-to-Z Challenge. Each day the theme starts with a letter of the alphabet, beginning on day 1, or April Fool’s Day, with the letter A and working our way to Z.

Since I start classes on April 8, I best be writing and stockpiling some blogs in the next ten days, so I’ve started making a list of topics. I’ve listed some  possible themes below. If you have anything to add or topics you’d like to see me address (or attempt), leave me a comment. All ideas will receive consideration–

Adoption – I have much to say about this topic, given that my entire family was formed by adoption: mother, brother, children.

Body Image – always something women think about, their bodies. I’m no different though I wish I were. Or Books. Bookmaking. I love making books.

Children – I’ve not given enough blog space to my children. I decree they shall have more, starting now. Or Cats—I rarely write about the cats. I’m sure I can work both into the same blog.

Depression. Been there, done that. Or Drinking. Again, could possibly inhabit the exact same blog without a problem.

Eating – I live with a foodie. Eating to live or living to eat?

Food – because I’m sure I won’t say all there is to say about food in the previous post on eating. Maybe Feminism if I say all there is to say about food in my post about eating.

God – because

Haikus? At only eight days in, that seems a bit premature, so maybe I could write about Heaven, on the heels of God. Nice segue.

Imagination.

J

K

Lesbians – takes one to know one. Maybe some fun facts . . . history of? Coming out? No shortage of material here.

Mother – don’t write enough about dear old Mom, and she’s always asking if I’m writing about her and should she hide . . . so yes to both!

Nancy – The Little Woman, wife, sugar mama, main squeeze.

O? Well, there is this video (NSFW) making the rounds on social media. I might need to address it at some point. Just sayin’.

Psychology – cuz that’s what I’m doing now.

Queers –see L, I’m sure there will be more to say on the subject.

Race. See Adoption, Children. Class on Multicultural Perspectives.

Siblings. I have one brother. I love him dearly. He deserves a blog post.

Technology—I used to have a whole blog devoted to making fun of tech. I can do it again. Or Therapy. Lots to say about that.

Umbilical cords—I will be taking a Family of Origins class Spring quarter. I am sure I will have plenty to say about the ties that bind.

Vaginas? Virginity? When I was in London in 1982, the movie The Last American Virgin was playing everywhere. I got a complex and set out to rectify the situation.

Writing. Of course.

X—reserved for April’s Haiku wrap up. I will write a haiku that begins with the letter X.

Youth. Fleeting. I’m sure there is more to say . . .

Z—on having zip, zero, zilch

I’ve left J and K blank because at this late hour my mind cannot come up with even one reasonable topic or theme that begins with either of those letters. Ideas? Leave me a comment!

Thanks so much for reading along in March as I took on this challenge—join me in April for more.

March Haiku Wrap-Up: In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion

Another month of writing haiku has sped by and here we are on the cusp of Spring—ready to launch a new season. I’ve continued to write a haiku a day for the Haiku room.
Magic happens there—a (virtual) room full of essential strangers share their innermost longings, secrets, feelings. A room full of strangers responds, supports, delights together. We draw strength from one another, courage, encouragement.

Inhale images
***mystical fermentation***
Exhale poetry

I attend haiku church
Words and syllables offered, 
Received. Communion.

The haikus arrive
Droplets of oxytocin
Sacred addiction

The haikus I’ve written this month correspond to the work I’m doing with my therapist, the work I’m doing with my massage therapists (yes, you read that correctly, I have two massage therapists—each does amazing and unique work, each has succeeded in “fixing” me in ways that the traditional medical establishment could not).

She laid hands on me
Channeled a Divine spirit–
Broke through to my Soul

Opaque woman looks
Inward and finds her own light
Source, glows brighter now

My heart beats strong, true
Because of the scars woven
In, around and through

Without shadow I
am only that part of me 
I let others see

Old prisons crumbling–
Bars and chains and rank darkness
Opening to light

Some have to do with my rich (hahahaha) inner life. Some with my love and my wife.

I see you seeing
Me and in that gaze I see
You. Deep reflection.

This heart’s fragile terrain
Has no natural boundaries
Travel gently here

Woman’s voice, but girl’s
Fears: Silence, ache, and longing
After all these years

All of them are gifts—some I work on for hours, others come to me in flashes. Occasionally I will wake up in the middle of the night with an idea or a fully formed poem. Sometimes I exchange haikus with friends and the alchemic interactions produce poetry I could never have made on my own.

Silence spirals up
Rising like the heat of a
Clarifying fire

I am bigger than 
The box you’ve put me in. I
Can’t write on these walls. 

I just meant to tug
that one thread, not to make the
whole thing unravel

Twenty one days to
Break a habit—to forget
You, sweet tendency

A few have to do with the creative process—writing and self doubt, which seem to go hand in hand.

I tamp her down–yet
she rises in me, demands,
aches, pens poetry

Shadow self writes and
I wonder how she wrested
Control of the pen.

Taking a haiku
Holiday–away from psy-
Ku hai-ology

Words fall from my tongue–
Spilt, dance upon this altar
Freely sacrificed

Peel words from my tongue
Thoughts stuck in my throat, silence
Masquerades as truth

We construct our own
Prisons whether by longing,
Desire, inertia

A single pebble
Tossed carelessly can create
Ripples of longing

Fragile, frangible
My heart’s porcelain terrain
Travel gently here

A few just have to do with life in general—living in the neighborhood, running, that sort of thing.

Early morning run
I can do anything for
one hour. Anything.
 

Chainsaws, wood chippers
Shattering this afternoon 
A storm’s noisy toll

I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed writing them.

And Now Silence, My Strict Tutor

Rumi wrote the line that I’ve taken for the title of this blog post: And now silence, my strict tutor.

I’ve been trying to be easy in silence these past couple of days as nothing much has struck me as worthy of a blog post, nothing that hasn’t already been said, so I’m sitting with the silence in my head and trying to learn something from it.

Silence is a strict tutor. In silence we leave ourselves open to so much. It’s easy to fill silence and in doing so shut everything else out, everything that we don’t want to hear or think about. Sitting in the silence makes me squirm–for in the silence I don’t know what you think about me, what I can do to win your approval. In the silence, I have only myself and if I listen to myself the danger is in making stuff up to fill the silence.

The trick is to not try to fill the silence, but to just be in it. When I try too hard to fill it, what comes out is just noise. Already we have too much noise–I don’t need to contribute to it. If I’m going to break the silence, I believe I should break it in a way that moves the conversation forward.

For a guy who wrote a lot, Rumi has much to say about silence:

“Silence is the language of god. All else is poor translation.”

“Be silent, for this tongue of yours is the enemy of the soul.”

“In silence, there is eloquence.”

The temptation to fill the silence seems rooted in a desire to ease discomfort. We assume because we are uncomfortable, others might be as well. We take it upon ourselves to ease their burden, the burden we’ve imagined for them, the burden we want them to have.

“Enough with such questions, let silence take you to the core of life.”

If I can shut up long enough, I might be able to hear something–if I listen to you without commenting, without offering my feedback, my take, my two cents. What can I learn if I just listen and experience what you are saying? So often instead of hearing, we simply anticipate: anticipate what we can say to “help” or to sound smart or to elevate ourselves as experts.

“Keep silent because the world of silence is a vast fullness.  Do not beat the drum of words, the word is only an empty drum.”

I love this–do not beat the drum of words. As a person who lives by language, I want to beat everything to death with words. I want to describe and analyze and report back. I want you to describe and analyze and report back. If I can talk about something or write about it, I can, I believe anyway, understand it. Sometimes though, we just have to feel something to truly understand it.

Instead of worrying about my silence, my current inability to string my thoughts together, I am going to surrender to the silence.

We have to surrender to the silence. This is me. Surrendering.

“Fill me with the wine of your silence
Let it soak my every pore
For the inner splendor it reveals
is a blessing
is a blessing.
” –Rumi

Cher—-Dressed to Kill Tour

I’ve been trying to decide what to write about the Cher concert on Saturday night–I don’t know how to even describe how amazing it was, but then I ran across an article on billboard.com and realized I don’t have to write a damn thing. It’s all here–I completely agree with this assessment. It was wonderful, a little rough in places (it was opening night after all–and she’s not been on tour in 11 years!) but easily forgiven.

Cher is a force of nature–truly, and she also strikes me as a woman who not only knows who she is, but where she came from. She is humble and sincere and honest.  I was particularly struck by something she said in one of the many montages between set changes (the sets were fucking amazing–mind blowing). During a montage about her film career and her Oscar win, she said that she had never felt that she belonged in either the film industry or in the music industry and that winning the Oscar didn’t mean that she was suddenly somebody but that she was most certainly on her way.

It was clear listening to her talk between songs on Saturday night that she still has that sense, that she still, like all of us, is plagued with insecurities and doubts. She wondered out loud that she was surprised anyone was even in the audience. I find it comforting to know that Cher has the same nagging fears as I do, to know that as much as we cast about looking for the magic bullet that will finally allay our insecurities, we aren’t going to find it. We just, again, have to show up and do the work and trust that our audience will come.

And come they did. the place was packed full of people of all ages. I’m so grateful that we were fortunate enough to get tickets, that we have friends in the area who were willing to put up with us for a few days (thanks Paul and Jan!), and that going to the concert came with the added benefit of spending a few days in the sun and warmth.

Life is good–music makes it better. The wigs, outrageous costumes and mind-blowing sets, well they are all merely icing.

 

Looking the Gift Calf in the Mouth

A few days ago, I wrote about running with my Fitbit and Nike app—how I was evaluating what benefit I derived from these tools and if they interfered with my running experience or enhanced it. I got some interesting feedback from a couple of women, both of whom basically said that noticing something doesn’t mean that something is bad and needs to be eradicated. One woman said she used to time her runs and chart them out on graphs—back in the day, you know, before we had Fitbits and Nike apps.

I read an article recently that takes to task the folks who are advocating unplugging and promoting “days without technology.” The upshot of the article was, in a nutshell, “why?” Why would we want to ditch something that makes our lives better? I just spent a good hour looking for that article so I could put a link in, but I cannot find it. I did however discover during my Google search that 1 in 3 Christian adults are giving up technology for Lent. Which makes me wonder, what makes us feel virtuous when we give up something?

Yes, yes, I know that we all need restraint and moderation and that there are things that are undeniably bad for us, but what about seemingly positive things that make us go “no, no, no—I can’t possibly have that, because it makes life too easy, makes me feel too good. If I feel too good or get too much benefit or pleasure from something, I must sacrifice it. Cut it out.”

One friend who has given up martinis for Lent says she gave them up because nothing tastes quite so lovely on Easter morning as that first martini after a 40 day martini drought. So, delayed gratification and the resulting enhanced pleasure is perhaps one reason to give something up, at least temporarily.

I suspect that is not one of the primary reasons to give something up for Lent but it’s not a tradition my brand of christians followed so I’m not much of an authority. My people eschewed most everything that smacked of fun all the time, so giving up something for Lent seemed redundant—if we could give it up for Lent, why not just cut it out of our life for good?

I’ve been thinking lately about a phenomenon that occurred quite regularly when I was a member in good standing of Campus Christian Fellowship back in my not-so-halcyon college days. Whenever a Fellowship member felt like something they were doing was coming between them and their relationship with God, they gave it up.

One of my bible study leaders my freshman year—let’s call her Tina—was a gifted French horn player. A music major on a scholarship, she was a senior when she decided that playing the French horn had become more important to her than her commitment to Christ, so she gave it up and changed her major. Ostensibly, Tina’s decision was based on the second commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Her French horn had become, in her words, an idol, a graven image, the Western Washington University undergraduate equivalent of the golden calf. Like the golden calf, the French horn had to be (metaphorically) melted down, or at least put away.

I remember being horrified by her decision as she shared her logic with us at a bible study meeting—I asked Tina if perhaps she was missing the point . . . that god had given her this amazing talent and wasn’t she just squandering his gift to her by quitting?

She replied by reminding me that god had given Abraham his son Isaac, too, and then asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Evidently god was insecure enough that he required a human sacrifice (well, yeah, eventually he sacrificed his own son, so Isaac was merely a precursor). Tina wanted to be as devoted as Abraham. Privately I suspected Abraham was a crazy old man who heard voices that were not god’s, but I was only the bible study attendee, not the leader, so what did I know? Turned out god was merely testing old Abraham and let him keep Isaac after all, but still. What sort of god requires that kind of sacrifice?

I kept seeing this notion crop up while I was in CCF—students ended relationships with one another because they became “too special.” Students gave up their apartments, their roommates, even their cars if they felt like they were becoming too attached. It all seemed a little crazy to me—why give up a good thing, I wondered. I failed to see the harm in appreciating a great apartment or a favorite car, or, especially, a deep friendship.

I imagined the great white sky-god pulling his long white hair out over all of this foolishness—all of this sacrifice. After all, hadn’t these students prayed to succeed? (Trust me, they had—everything became a prayer in CCF). Prayed to find the right apartments, prayed to find friends? And hadn’t god granted these things? Only to watch these ingrates squander his blessings?

I’m decades removed now from CCF and no longer even try to understand the logic that sect adhered to, and I do try not to have judgments about whatever it is that people want to give up for Lent because I think it is a time that can be like the new year when people can adopt new habits and try new ways of being. Lenten sacrifices may serve as a catalyst for getting healthy or for taking on positive new challenges. But even outside of religion, in the realm of regular folk, I believe we have a tendency to adhere to some spilled over puritanical beliefs that can strip us of small joys (like tracking our fitness) and larger gifts (like music and friendship and art).

We might all benefit from looking a little deeper at what we are giving up and why.

On Failing Better

It’s been a tough week, wrapping up with finals, keeping up with my wifely duties (mostly being door person to the cats), and contemplating a new direction in life in the form of grad school (starting in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Antioch University in April). Yesterday I attended orientation–and I’m excited to get going. That said, I’ve been wrestling with my writing too–what it means, how I do it, what will happen to it once I start school. I’m thinking there will be an intersection for me, a sweet spot between counseling and writing. Not sure yet what it will look like, but I suspect I will find it.

Mostly though I’ve been thinking about what it means to write, to be a writer. How I relate to the world via the written word.  Starting this blog a day commitment almost three weeks ago has reinforced much of what I already know–that nothing works quite so well as putting my butt in the chair–that usually even if I don’t think I have anything to say, if I just sit down and start writing, something will manifest. Not everything will be deep or terribly meaningful, but every now and then I hit on something I can work with, mold into more meaning. I’m turning out some shitty first and final drafts because oftentimes they are one and the same.

The blog isn’t a great format for me for in-depth explorations as I haven’t been devoting enough time to it. I write a piece and then spend the next few hours or days after posting thinking I should take it down, thinking “oh man, I should have said x and done more research so I could have said y” and generally wishing I was smarter or more thoughtful with more time and a deeper commitment. So many times I find blogs and articles on exactly my point that are far more articulate, funnier, and published in actual publications. And I berate myself further.

I started reading Dani Shapiro’s lovely new book Still Writing today on the plane today. I’ve been toting it around with me for several days now, waiting for the right moment to break into it. Today I needed to read what she had written. She writes about the inner censor, the one that sits on the writer’s left shoulder and says things like “that’s stupid” and “how boring” and “you’re wasting your time.”  Anyone who creates anything knows this voice intimately. We know to get any work done we have to ignore her, silence her, wrestle her to the ground and say “look bitch, I’m going to fucking write so just fucking fuck off.” She will sometimes slink away for a bit.

I’ve noticed the Censor doesn’t come around so much when I’m writing haikus. Ironically (is that the right use of this word Kari Neumeyer?), the daily haiku practice, of which I’ve written about  twice now (here and here), has actually been good for my writer’s ego. I get more bang for my syllabic buck with the haiku. For one thing, I have a venue in which I post and in that venue, a closed Facebook group, I’ve found a thriving community full of cheerful support and thoughtful feedback.

I’ve shared some of my haikus with other folks as well, people I know in real life, offline as it were (email is so luddite, it practically counts as being offline, don’t you think?). My commitment to writing a haiku a day has inspired others to do the same. Some people have shared theirs with me–a haiku exchange. I’ve found kindred spirits–it’s not everyone who understands what it means to distill an experience or a feeling or a sensation down to 17 intentional syllables. Even fewer people get excited about the process. Here it is less about ego and more about connection. There’s something holy there, sacred. A communion:

I attend haiku church
Words and syllables offered,
Received. Communion.

Words live on my tongue
Like communion, and sweet wine
Come closer, receive

(I love that I can use all of that religious imagery from my childhood to illuminate my love of writing and poetry. Finally.)

I love too that poetry is mystery–the making of it is a strange alchemy, and even when words are so intentionally selected, the meanings from person to person vary wildly. Poetry engages the imagination in a way that prose doesn’t. I know this may not be news to most of you, but I’m late to the poetry lovefest. I didn’t ever think I could enjoy poetry, let alone write it until recently someone put it in front of me and said read, this is great, expansive, mind blowing stuff. It is.

Writing is powerful, transformative medicine–for the reader and for the writer. As Dani Shapiro says

“the page is your mirror. What happens inside you is reflected back. You come face to face with your own resistance, lack of balance, self-loathing, and insatiable ego–and also with your singular vision, guts, and attitude . . . life is usually right out there, ready to knock us over when we get too sure of ourselves. Fortunately if we have learned the lessons that years of practice have taught us, when this happens, we endure. We fail better. We sit up and dust ourselves off, and begin again.”

This place, I think, in the failing, the sitting up, the beginning again, is where my career in counseling will intersect with what I know and love about writing.

Lovefest (forewarned–gratitude alert)

Today I spent a lot of time in the car–two and a half hours to Seattle this morning. Only and hour and half (maybe less), to get home this afternoon. Lots of time to think. So, I did.

Tomorrow, The Little Woman and I are leaving for Phoenix (along, apparently, with all of the college kids in the whole universe–I did not realize it was going to be spring break when I booked these tickets back in the fall). We are going to see Cher at her first stop on the Dressed to Kill tour. I have loved Cher as long as I can remember–back to when I got my first record player in 6th grade and somehow go my hands on a “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” 45. Bliss.

I have wanted to see Cher forever. And now, thanks to my mindlessly flipping channels on the night when Dancing with the Stars had her on, we are going. I was minding my own business, just flip- flip- flippin, half an ear on the tv and half an eye on my Facebook feed when I heard Cher. I stopped flipping and watched–there she was,  talking about her music, and then I watched the rest of the show and ALL the couples had to dance to a Cher tune. Further bliss. i watched until the very end. And then I looked up her tour dates and bought tickets to her concert because, jesus, she’s my mother’s age and how much longer could she possibly have?

As I drove this morning, I turned off the Cher CD that has been blasting in my Jeep since before Christmas. When I bought Cher tickets, we got two (not just one, but TWO) CDs of her latest album, Dressed to Kill. I started playing one right away but since this was a surprise for TLW, I couldn’t let her know or give her her copy. (Because she’d be asking me why in god’s name I’d buy it on CD and not iTunes and why TWO copies?).

This morning though, I muted Cher and I turned on the Sirius Radio Spa Jazz channel–lovely new age-ish, flowly, soothing, happy instrumentals mostly that really do a nice job of keeping my road rage in check. Thus soothed, I pondered love. I pondered erotic love. Familial love. Kid love–I don’t think there is a more enevloping love than the love we have for our kids. Agape love–which makes room for those we don’t want to sleep with and to whom we are not related. (Agape has been co-opted by the christians, but really, it means love for our fellow man–like I said, everyone who falls outside of the realm of family and lovers). It’s a pure love (if you can believe Wikipedia).

I love my kids.  I love TLW. I love my parents. I love Cher. I love that Pat Benatar is opening for her! Life is full of love. I love school, I love the personal work I’m doing. I love the path my life is on. I love doing Haikus every morning. I love the writing I’m doing (even though most of it is for school), and the challenge of a blog every day (mostly). I love the written word and books and reading books. I love sharing what I read. Sharing my writing process.

I love that I have a writing community and people who support my work. People whose work I adore and applaud. I love the team of  folks who care for my mind and my body (it takes a village these days, truly), and my spirit (yeah, this last one, it’s new and still a little awkward for me–it will be a blog of it’s own at some point). I love that I have this adventure in grad school ahead of me and and then some.

I feel very fortunate–for all of this because, really, it’s so much. So much. A whole lot of love. Thank you. Sincerely.

Peace.

 

Writing is Writing, Right? Write. On Feminine Psychology and Introverts. A Few Words.

I’ve pondered posting the two papers I’ve written this week for my pscyh classes. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t been writing, I just haven’t been writing anything bloggish. I finished up a final paper on Karen Horney (Horn-EYE people, not horn-ee), widely regarded as the mother of Feminine Psychology. Turns out that about 50 years lapsed between the time she took old Freud to task on his penis envy nonsense and women making any inroads into psychology. I found a fascinating video on women in the field as there just wasn’t much out there on Karen H. herself, but quite a lot about on feminine or feminist psychology.  The Changing Face of Feminist Psychology was an excellent historical document.

At one point in this video, one of the women mentions the publication of Our Bodies, Ourselves, the manual on women’s health published by the Boston Women’s Health Collective in 1974 and how that single publication dramatically changed things for women. I remember my best friend (and first ever girlfriend) in high school had that book and how scandalized and tantalized I was by it at the time. I’ve since given it as a gift to many young women in my life, my daughters included. It’s really hard to believe sometimes how huge the strides are that have been made in my lifetime. And then not. As Jane Yoder points out in this video, she watched as her 22 year old daughter graduated from college and went to work in a world where not much had changed at all for women in the past 30 years. And how the university for which she works still has a bare bones maternity policy. Steps forward. Steps backward. We stand still sometimes.

I finished this paper thankful for women like Karen Horney, women who stuck their necks out and challenged the status quo, spoke up when things seemed weird and one-sided, like penis envy. Really? Was it such a stretch that the good old boys couldn’t figure out that it wasn’t the penis women envied but the power conferred upon those who had one? I mean, really, guys.

I then tackled a shorter assignment on the 5 Personality Traits. The assignment was to do a report on our “favorite trait.” Well, that seemed a little odd, given that we all have these traits, allegedly. Hard to choose a favorite. Not like ice cream or a sports team, exactly. Here are the traits, the five traits that modern personality theorists claim we all have (and upon which we each claim a place on the spectrum, more or less): Extraversion, Neuroticism, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness.

In hindsight, I probably should have chosen Neuroticism (that, along with Feminine Psychology) is the thing Karen Horney is known for, after all (and, you know, it takes one to know one), but instead I decided to focus on Introversion (yeah, it’s not on the list, right?). Because as an introvert I was so insulted by the way the theorists demeaned us introverts–monotonous they said, boring, passive, meek, not open to new experiences. Come on! Just because I don’t like to make small talk at a cocktail party doesn’t mean I don’t value new experiences, don’t like a thrill, don’t like to leave the house fer chrissake.

A few months ago, maybe a year ago, I read Susan Cain’s excellent book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Just Can’t Stop Talking. She also has an excellent TED talk, The Power of Introverts in which she takes our culture to task on the devaluation of quiet, of solitude, and the space and time to dream. She’s so right in her assessment of schools and businesses focusing on the group at the expense of the individual. We are sacrificing the thinkers and the dreamers and turning our future over to the people who talk the loudest.

As Cain points out, there is ZERO correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas. She says that we have given in to a new group think—that all creativity comes from a gregarious place. But, she says, quite correctly, most creative people have a serious streak of introversion because creativity needs long flights of fancy. Kids in school don’t get any time to pursue individual thoughts as they are all involved in group work, even when it comes to creative writing, and if you’ve been in a modern office building lately, you’ll see that the open concept is all the rage. No one gets an office where they can close the door on the noise–now they sit together so they can share ideas. I don’t even know how anything gets accomplished. The Little Woman works in such a space–and frankly I don’t know how she does it. But, she’s an extravert. I’m an introvert.

Hey look–I had a blog post after all. Feminists. Introverts. My people.

Nothing to See Here

I’ve got nothing. I am tapped out. Studying for finals. Getting ready to go on a short vacation. Have orientation for grad school on Wednesday. Running. Working on my shit.

Hopefully I’ll have something useful to say tomorrow, but I figure it’s better not to say much at all than to blather on about nonsense.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day.

xo

P

Sidelined

I was a pretty good baseball player when I was a kid. I could hit and catch and run. For my 9th birthday, I got a genuine leather mitt, one like the big league players used. My dad and I rubbed that mitt with oil and wrapped it up with a ball in the pocket. I sat in my bedroom, in my lime green beanbag chair and spent hours tossing the regulation hardball into the mitt’s pocket. I loved the solid thwap it made when it hit the webbing.

We lived in the boondocks, so there wasn’t really anyone to play catch with, but I threw that ball in the air as high as I could so I could catch it. I tried valiantly and in vain to teach my little brother how to throw. Poor kid—he was only five when he had to endure my berating his terrible arm and aim. Somehow the two of us and the occasional neighbor kid (I use the term neighbor loosely as no one lived within a mile of us) spent hours in the field behind the house playing the best version of the game we could muster amongst ourselves. Mostly our time consisted of shagging overthrown or underthrown balls or wild pitches.

I don’t know where I even learned about the game—we didn’t have television when I was growing up and neither of my parents was much for sports. I have vague recollections of watching the occasional baseball game on tv when I’d visit my grandparents, but the overarching memory there is one of sheer boredom. Nothing seemed to move more slowly than a baseball game on tv. I don’t remember anyone schooling me on the fine points of the game until I was well into my 20s, but somehow I knew the rules.

We played during recess at school. Once our 7th grade teacher let us all out to play on a beautiful spring day. I remember because  I made a miraculous diving catch, snagging a rocketed line drive and my teacher Ms. Allen lavished me with praise, a moment that crystallized in my memory and probably contributed to my lifelong affinity for the game. I adored Ms. Allen and would have gone to the ends of the earth to recreate that moment in time (this proclivity has created all sorts of issues for me, but that’s another blog).

I only tried out once for a baseball team though, in spite of my deep desire to play. Back in the day (way back, people, before Title IX), we had only Little League, and everyone knew that only boys got to play Little League baseball. But I had no alternatives. There were no other places to play, at least not in our little logging town—no girls’ softball through parks and rec and certainly no girls’ sports at the local junior high school I attended.

I didn’t know of any other girls who wanted to try out for Little League, but Billie Jean King had recently defeated Bobby Riggs in The Battle of the Sexes and obviously a seed had been planted in me. Remember try-outs? Remember the days when not everyone who showed up got a ribbon and a place on the team? I showed up for Little League try-outs in Sultan, Washington in 1975. I ran bases with the boys. I fielded grounders and caught fly balls. And I hit line drives out of the infield.

I still remember the ping of the ball flying off the bat the first time I took a swing in the batter’s box, but more than the ping, I remember the collective intake of breath from the onlookers. The shock that a girl could actually hit a pitch, a hard ball, a boys’ baseball, not some looping fat softball pitch (not to disparage my lesbian sisters who played softball). I made it to first.

I made it to first, but I didn’t make the team because an obstacle larger and more unbeatable than Bobby Riggs stood between me and my baseball dreams: Larry Stucker.  Larry Stucker was the stuff of legends in our little town, known to all of the kids anyway as Stucker the Trucker, the Mean Old Fucker.  He drove his own logging truck and his wife was the nicest, meekest woman who taught Sunday school at our church. I was in class with his kid, Shawn, a scrawny, big-nosed, big-eared kid who looked just like his old man and couldn’t play baseball worth a damn. Larry Stucker coached the Little League team I would have been on had he taken me on my merits but Stucker the Trucker wasn’t about to have any girls on his team.

I still have my mitt—and I still use it when I have occasion to play catch or a pick up game of softball. When Taylor was in elementary school, she had a great sense for the game, and we played often in the back yard. I bought her a mitt, and a bat, and a ball, but sports never really interested her the way that they pulled at me when I was that age. Sometimes I wonder if we just always want most the things that we can’t have.

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