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Thursday, January 29, 2009


For the last six years, Dwayne and I have resisted the urge to get a Costco membership. While our friends have found it doable even helpful in the financial department, and while Dwayne has always liked the kosher hot dogs for a $1.25, we refused to buy into the "$200 club."

The diapers did it. 20 cents a diaper for the Kirkland brand. Outside of clothe diapers, you'll not find a cheaper brand.

The first time I went into Costco with my little blue and white card, I went with my guard up and Dwayne's coaching ringing in my ears. I was there to buy only the cheapest things - diapers and wet wipes. But before long I was moseying down the meat aisle, then the produce aisle, then the diary aisle. I glanced in the refrigerated section and immediately grabbed my phone.

"Dwayne!" I squawked, "They've got two gallons of whole milk for $4.29." Further down I found another outrageous deal on cheese.

I wheeled my cart up to the checkout with my diapers, cheese, and whole milk. Noelle sat in the front of the cart fidgeting and begging to be let down. In front of us, a mother with her two girls fluttered around the conveyor belt. She wore a pink sweatshirt with navy blue jogging pants. Her hair was neatly curled. Both her girls wandered around troubling the groceries and whispering to one another. They were around nine and twelve.

I glanced at all the food the woman was buying. She had a slat of canned beans, a massive package of paper towels. Twelve apples jiggled in their plastic container. A huge bag of prepared salad poked it's head above the mounds of food.

"Two-hundred and seventy-three dollars" the teller said. The mom shooed her girls away and pulled out her purse.

Before having Noelle, I would have looked at her groceries and wondered, "Why the excess? Why do you need so much?" But in that moment, watching the mom push her mountain of food off to the car, I felt total sympathy.

I discovered something that day. Going to Costco soothes a mother's nagging fear - that she won't have enough to care for her family. I never expected this fear. It came lurking and crawling out of the confusion and exhaustion of having a baby.

It never dawned on me that as a mother, feeding my baby would touch a primordial nerve. I've written about this drive to nourish before. Beginning with breastfeeding, I was tortured by the fear that Noelle wasn't getting enough from me.

This fear settled over the last fifteen months, and sunk into the lower levels of my conscience. Now it translates in to all areas of motherhood. Because I work, I'm afraid Noelle doesn't get enough attention, enough intellectual stimulation. Because I live in a new town where I don't know very many mothers, I'm afraid Noelle doesn't get enough socialization. I'm afraid I'm not disciplining her enough, or guiding her enough. You name an area of child development, and there's a nasty demon to match it, sitting on my shoulder.

Enough enough enough. This is the theme of my anxiety.

So when a thing like Costco comes along and offers moms twenty cans of soup that will last two months, or ten pounds of cheese that will last six months, it's no wonder they show up in all their sweat pants glory and pay. You see, when I put those two gallons of milk in my fridge, when I slid the loaf of cheese away, I felt the ease of security ripple down my body.

Somewhere, the tiny anxious mother inside of me wrung her hands a little less and said, "Ah, that's enough."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Memoir in Two Months - Update

It's January 25th, and I have completed 52221 words. I'm short 8,000 words of my goal to reach 60,000 by Jan 26th. While I didn't reach my goal, I'm still very pleased with the work I accomplished. Of course, there is nothing significant about the date Jan 26th, except that I go back to work tomorrow. That is to say, even though I didn't reach my goal, it doesn't mean that I'm going to quit the project. Mostly it was an arbitrary date to help get me motivated, and it worked! In that sense I've been successful.

In actuality, the story will probably take 68,000 words to tell in it's entirety. At the moment I've got 174 pages and 12 completed chapters. According to my draft, the plot will take another three chapters to fully reach it's climax and resolution.

These last two weeks, the pressures of preparing for a new semester with a new syllabus squeezed out my writing time, and in these last few days just flat out swallowed it up. I will of course keep working on the manuscript in the next few weeks to reach completion, but I won't be able to keep the pace of this Christmas break.

My plan was to write the rough draft, then put it on the back burner during the semester. Get some space so that over the summer I can return to it with fresh eyes. I'll edit over the summer and my ultimate goal is to take the manuscript, with proposal, to one book conference by the end of the year.

So that's my long term plan. It's been so nice to have the accountability of posting my progress in this space. Thank you for letting me share this writing journey with you!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More Faithful than a Sunday Morning Prayer Meeting

I pulled onto Colorado Blvd from the freeway, pressing my earpiece closer so I could hear Jeff.
"Where are you?" he asked.
"I just got onto Colorado. I think I'm going into Old Town."
"Oh, you're way faraway!" he said. "You need to turn around."
Noelle cooed and mumbled from the back seat. Adrenaline pumped through my body. I was so close, but I was going to be late.
"I'm sorry I'm late!" I groaned to Jeff.
"I love you darling. If you didn't get lost on your way to lunch with me, you wouldn't be you."

I found Jeff and his boyfriend Sal sitting at a round table, tucked in a sandwhich shop. Jeff half stood and waved from the window when he saw me approaching. I jerked my head up and smiled. Suddenly the stress of getting lost and being late, melted away.
Jeff and I became friends in grad school. We both went to Antioch University of Los Angeles. One afternoon, he approached me in the courtyard of the campus.
"Are you a Christian?" he said, blue eyes clear. We sat together in class after that and have been friends ever since.
Over the four years we've been friends, Jeff has gotten skinnier but he still has that stubbly beard and blue eyes.
"Hello my dear!" he said wrapping me in a hug. "This is Sal, Sal this is Christin."
Sal and I shook hands. Sal was young and Lantino. He had small chiclet teeth, and an easy grin. Noelle immediately began flirting.
We settled in, ordered our food and like two friends who have not talked in a very long time, Jeff and I swam toward one another in a furious current of conversation.
"So tell me how you two met!" I said spooning mashed up baby food into Noelle's pink mouth.
Jeff and Sal grinned at each other. "It's you'r turn," Sal said and dove into his plate of food.
"Well, we met in February. But we didn't get along then," Jeff stopped and then confessed. "I wasn't his type." Quickly with all the main beats, Jeff relayed their story. Finally, after a debacled group date, the two of them ended up alone, had a chance to get to know one another and hit it off. "Technically, we have two anniversaries this year" Jeff went on. "We could celebrate in February or August."
"Let's celebrate both!" Sal offered, shoveling in another bite of food. He and Noelle were the only ones eating.
On the white fleshy part of one forearm, Jeff has a tattoo in Hebrew. The characters string down the skin like a rope in blue ink. On the other forearm, Jeff designed the symbol of a hand which holds in it's palm the sign of all religions.
"Did you go to Agape?" Jeff asked. I nodded. "I love that place!" he said. "What did you think?"
"Oh, I really enjoyed it," I told him honestly. "I see the Rev everywhere now." Just last week, I saw Rev. Micheal Beckwith on Oprah. He's one of her favorite guests.
"He's great, isn't he?"
"Yes, he said some things that really resonated with me."
"Like what."
"Oh, well, half way through the service he stopped for meditation."
"Oh, I love that part," Jeff puntuated. I looked at Sal who was nodding his head.
"He had us breathe and repeat after him. He said, "Say, 'Everything I need has already been provided.' That was really meaningful for me."
"I know! Sal helps me remember that." Jeff said. "Last night Sal and I had an argument and Sal looked over at me and said, 'Just be here now.' I really love that."
He asked me a series of other questions, Did I see the choir? Did I see the paintings of other spiritual leaders all around the room?
"You know what else I really appreciated about that experience?" I told Jeff and Sal. "Well, the Rev told all the new people to stand up and I was thinking, 'Great, here we go!' but then he had everyone raise their hands toward us and say this really lovely greeting: We see you, we know you are made in god's image, we welcome you here."
We traded more stories back and forth. Noelle squirmed happily in her highchair munching on apples and cheese. "I'm going to take Sal there," Jeff concluded and I agreed that he should.
"What are you writing?" Jeff asked, getting down to business. I told him I was writing a memoir in a month.
"I have some questions I want to ask you," I said. Jeff has written screenplays and one novel already. He's working on another. I was so hungry to talk about the writing process.
"I've gote over 40,000 words now but I'm struggling with the larger themes of the book."
"What are they?" Jeff asked.
"Well, my spiritual journey here in LA." I turned to Sal, "Jeff's probably told you that Christianity is my faith-choice." Sal nodded his head, and held up his hands like "no big deal."
"What's the problem?" Jeff pressed.
"I'm just having a hard time figuring out who I'm writing to. I don't want it to be only for Christians, but I'm afraid people who aren't Christians will read what I'm writing and think that I'm just deluding myself."
Both Jeff and Sal erupted.
"Christin, you are writing about a faith that's been demonized, but you're one of the good guys," I flat out blushed. Jeff continued. "People need to know you exist. You're one of those Christians who is so faithful, but who believes her gay friend has a right to get married."
Sal looked at me, "You've got good morals."
I almost laughed outright. My morals are exactly what I've been questioning. Over Christmas we had a small family reunion in Florida. I love my family so much and deeply respect and value what they have to say. But I walked away from Christmas, feeling confused and doubtful.
"Am I missing something that everyone else seems to get?" I asked Dwayne one night, struggling with my heart. I've come home questioning my decisions, and the journey my spiritual life has taken since moving to LA. I'm afraid I've compromised something invaluable.
"Christin," Jeff said, waving his fork in the air. "You're a Christian but you're tolerant." Then he laid the immaculate compliment on me, one that I can not own. "You're actually like Jesus."

This is why I hang out with Jeff. He makes me feel more faithful than a Sunday morning prayer meeting.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Friends in Low Places

Yesterday, Noelle and I got our blood drawn. Yes, Noelle had to have it drawn from the vein like me. Yes, it was traumatic for me and everyone in the waiting room who could hear her screaming. No, I don't know why my doctor chose to do it this way as opposed to the quick pin-prick I've heard that other Pediatricians do.

But the story begins two hours before all the screaming, and wincing when Noelle and I arrived at the Quest Diagnostic Center at 9am. I signed us in on the sheet that said, "Walk-ins" and took a seat in the quiet but already crowded waiting area. I was anxious and uncomfortable for two reasons. First of all, I was anxious about getting Noelle's blood drawn. Second of all, my blood work required that I fast and I was already hungry, having not eaten since dinner time the night before.

I looked around the waiting room and found a seat in the corner, just out of the sun. I plopped my diaper bag down on the floor and Noelle sheltered herself behind my legs, looking out at the crowd of strange faces. A tall skinny young man with black alligator shoes strode across our line of vision and took a seat. He was snappy, carried a Rolling Stone magazine, and obviously didn't belong in this shabby group of people: Moms without make-up, elderly women with canes, elderly men with hearing aids.

By this point, Noelle had ventured out from my legs and was rummaging through the diaper bag. She held a small bottle of moisturizer in one hand, and a tube of blistex in the other.
"She's so cute," came a voice to my right. I looked over to see a short, morbidly obese woman. She was looking at Noelle. "How old is she?"

"15 months," I answered, as the lady took a seat a few chairs down.

"Mine's three years old." I was surprised to hear this, because the woman seemed too old to have a three year old. She had gray streaks across her black hair and she wore very thick glasses. I assumed that her daughter was at home, since I didn't see anyone accompanying her. "She talks alot," the obese mother volunteered. "She talks alot with her hands."

"Maybe she'll be a writer," I offered.

The lady nodded her head. "Well, I had a hard time having her," she continued.

My stomach rumbled and I felt a hunger pain. The man with alligator shoes was texting on his blackberry. The lady kept talking. "With my age and all." I nodded understandingly. "And my body naturally resists insulen." Just at that moment an old lady hobbled over and sat between us, ending the conversation.

Noelle grabbed my hand and pulled me up. I knew it was time to walk a bit, so I followed as she waddled through the room. We passed by the sign-in window and consequently an older gentleman. He was short, bald, with sunglasses.

"Wow, she doesn't miss anything!" he said pointing to Noelle's blue eyes as we passed.

"I know!" I said with a smile.

"Yep, she takes everything in. That's obvious." I concerred and followed Noelle out of the office and into the hallway. A few minutes later, I returned to our corner in the waiting room, holding Noelle on my hip. The man with the alligator shoes was talking.

"They said it was only going to be an hour wait," he wore a big grin with blue eyes. "I'm fasting, so I thought, 'What the heck.' What's another hour?" We bobbed our heads in agreement. Just then a flood of new bodies walked into the office. Now every seat was taken up and people were waiting in the hallway.

"I've never been here when it was so busy," said the obese mother.

"Me neither," piped up the old lady next to her. "And I have an appointment."

I shifted next to the man with the alligator shoes to make room for the surge of new bodies. He was tapping away on his blackberry. "My work is freaking out," he leaned toward me.

"Where do you work?" I asked quickly.

"Azusa," he said. "In the music department." Ah, I should have guessed from the start. "It's the first day back to classes and the department is just freaking out." We chatted a bit more and I fidgeted uncomfortably. My stomach was starting to hurt and Noelle was pulling on my hand for another walk. I left as the alligator man was talking to the obese mom, and followed Noelle back out to the hallway.

We ran into the short bald man again. He rested against the wall with confidence. "There she is!" he chirped as we passed. I followed Noelle down the hall, but worried that we'd miss our call. So I grabbed Noelle and carried her back. She swivelled and screamed. Just as I was approaching the door, the short bald man stepped infront of me and said in a warm voice.

"Listen if anyone scares you, or makes you feel intimidated, you just tell them you have friends in low places." He handed me a small white card. I only had a moment to see a black gun in the middle of it. I grabbed it quickly and put it in my back pocket.

"Thank you," I said.

"I have a ten year old grand daughter just like that," he said pointing to Noelle, who was all limbs, and fits, and wiggles in my arms.

"Bright eyes?" I asked over the commotion.

"Yep, and she's still that way."

I hustled back into the wiating room and took my seat next to the alligator man. We looked at each other wearily. "They said there's three people ahead of me." He told me. "I think you and your daughter are two of them."

"Oh, good. Thank you!" I felt a wave of relief. Sure enough, a few minutes later I heard a faint call from the hallway, "Taylor!"

"That's you," the alligator man said.

"We'll be able to hear her cry," the obese mom said creasing her brow. I looked at her and would have easily hugged her, and the alligator man in that moment.

"You'll hear her cry, then you'll hear me cry." I grabbed our diaper bag and hustled off.

It wasn't until I got home that I took out the little white card and read it. In the center was a black hand gun in silhouette. Along the top were these words: used cars - land - whiskey - manure - nails - fly swatters - racing forms - bongos

Then circling the gun like a horse shoe were these phrases:
Wars Fought

revolutions started

assassinations plotted

governments run

uprisings quelled

tigers tamed

bars emptied

virgins consoled

mexican gold

orgies organized

Nowhere on the card was a phone number, address, e-mail or web address. At the bottom there was one last line that made Dwayne and I laugh so hard we could hardly breathe.

Also preach and lead singing for revival meetings.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Memoir in Two Months

Well, the holidays are past and during that time I was able to reach 25,000 words in my goal of writing a book-length manuscript by January 26th. I'm not as far along as I would like, given that I have only 20 days left; however, I'm fairly pleased with the amount of writing I was able to do over our vacation. While I wasn't able to get consistent blocks of time to dedicate to writing, I was able to squeeze in little blocks of writing in creative ways. I typed in the airport terminals, standing on my head, sitting in the restroom. Seriously, most of the writing happened during Noelle's naps and bedtime.
No more travel, no more guests, no more crazy schedules from here on out, but I do have to start preparing for my classes this Spring which requires lots of reading, writing quizzes, writing assignments, and preparing the syllabus. I'm already feeling the urgency to get this underway and am afraid it's going to interfere with the time I would spend writing.
I've done the math, though and as I figure it, I can reach 60,000 words by Jan. 25th if I churn out 1,800 words a day. That's 3.6 pages single spaced. So here we go! Wish me luck, I'll let you know how it goes. And thank you for letting me share this piece of my writing journey with you!
In the meantime, as a way of channeling the writing muse, I'm afraid this blog won't get very much attention. However, I plan on picking things back up again on January 26th.
Happy New Year!