Partial Disclosure — Or, Airing My Dirty Laundry … List

Thirteen years ago, I had finally reached a place where I no longer thought it was vain or needy, or greedy (or any other thing I didn’t want to be) to make a big deal out of celebrating my birthday.  I adopted a friend’s tradition of “birthday week” — planning large and little celebrations for myself to draw out the specialness of having a birthday.  I threw myself a party … and I didn’t feel guilty about it, I just had fun.  The next year I bought a super-fancy cake to share with some friends.

And then eleven years ago my birthday was eclipsed and I’ve been struggling ever since to find a way to remember that September 11th is also a good day because it’s my birthday, to find a way to celebrate myself without seeming disrespectful, to find a way to just have something be a little normal.  The double significance of the day can sometimes catch me unawares.  Even now.  When I started writing yesterday’s “it’s the day before my birthday” post, I thought I was so clever: I was going to call it: “On the Almost Incendiary Eve,” stealing a line from Dylan Thomas’ “Deaths and Entrances.”  But then I heard myself.  Because not only are there too many incendiary images/memories about today, there is also the fact of the poem being written about dying in a building bombed during the Blitz … not the way to go.

Still struggling to find the balance between observances, still looking for some normalcy.  I’ve succeeded in some years, failed miserably in others.  I think at this point I’m a little reconciled to the reality that this is just what my birthday is going to be from here forward.


So.  I’m 50.  It’s old news already (pun sort of intended — I got my AARP membership invitation in the mail last week!).  Let’s get down to business.

You’ve probably noticed people making lists all over the place.  All those people with their buckets and such.  I make lists, too.  All the time.  I don’t usually pick a specific number of items for the list, I just jump in.  Then I happened on the birthday listers, the people who make an age-numbered list of things they want to do.  And doing all the must-do stuff before you turn 50 seems to be a big goal.  There are about 800,000 blogs and lists online that catalog the many things people want to do before they are instantly too old to think straight, stand and walk, and talk without drooling turn 50.   Here’s a random sampling:

Life Gets in the Way, or SimeyC’s Hub Page,  or Julie Hibbard, or Lori Mole’s 50 Paintings Before I’m 50 (which is actually pretty fabulously ambitious and just plain fabulous), Madeline Perry, or 50 Before I’m 50,  or Carolyn’s 50 … Before 50 … you get the idea.

I’m not sure I do, however.  Why do we feel the need to get everything done before we’re 50?  There may be many things that need to be done earlier in life, but why is 50 the dramatic deadline number?  It is my great hope and sincere expectation that I will still be running around making a fool of myself for another 20 or 30 years.  Do I really need to cross so many things off my list so “early” in the game?

Perhaps more helpful are the lists that tell you things you should be sure to do after you turn 50.  The Telegraph’s 50 must do things for 50-year-olds pleased me for the most part — I love that “come out of the closet” is on the list, but could someone tell me what “a personal MOT” is (#45)? — and the ones that tell you what not to do/eat/hang onto/buy/try after 50 (courtesy of my soon-to-be-new-friends at AARP).

In any case, I decided to make a list of things I want to do this year, and exactly half of it is ready for prime time.  The rest is more personal than I need to be writing about in public.  So here’s a half-serving of my 50-List:

  1. Write every day (no, EVERY DAY)
  2. Take three writing vacations (the first one’s already in the works!)
  3. Apply to four residencies
  4. Become fluent in Spanish (finally!)
  5. Make time to read more
  6. Be as much of a locavore as possible (goodbye to mangoes? … no)
  7. Go dancing (I want to say “more” but need to just say “GO”)
  8. Ride a roller coaster (It’s 10 years since I last rode the Cyclone)
  9. Have knee replacement surgery
  10. Learn canning and jam-making
  11. Do African genealogy test
  12. Take voice lessons
  13. Get new helmet and new tires and learn to ride bike my bike without abject terror
  14. Go on photo walks with my “real” camera
  15. Start making jewelry again
  16. Take glass bead-making class
  17. Save for metal clay tools and kiln
  18. Save for spinning wheel and floor loom
  19. Go to Calabash festival
  20. Pay down my mountain of (in)fertility debt
  21. Interview my mother, StoryCorps-style
  22. Plan trip to Africa
  23. Walk minimum of 15 miles/week
  24. Take a life drawing class
  25. Go back to New Orleans

It’s far from earth-shaking, and some of it’s much more “work” than “walk on the wild side,” but it all moves me forward, and some of it will just be flat-out fun.


Because it’s Tuesday, you can head over to Stacey and Ruth’s to see what the other slice of life writers are up to.

The Writing on the Wall … in my pants

Alejna, our neighbor over at Collecting Tokens is wearing the pants again today … and, because Alejna is a role model for the pants ages, I thought I’d add a few tunes to my list.

These tunes aren’t random, however.  I have recently downloaded some from-my-formative-years music to my iPod.  And I am marveling to find that a) some of that music doesn’t much appeal today, b) some of that music does appeal today, and c) all of that music is about pants!

Cases in point: The Alan Parsons Project and Little River Band.

  1. The Gold Bug in my pants
  2. I Don’t Want to Go Home in my pants
  3. Nothing Left to Lose in my pants
  4. Fall from Paradise in my pants
  5. Cool Change in my pants
  6. Red-headed Wildflower in my pants

All this made me wonder if pantsification would work on my bookshelf …

  1. The Great Deluge in my pants
  2. The Girl Who Played with Fire in my pants
  3. The Omnivore’s Dilemma in my pants
  4. The Seabirds Are Flying in my pants
  5. When and Where I Enter in my pants
  6. The Chaneysville Incident in my pants
  7. Three Cups of Tea in my pants
  8. Team of Rivals in my pants
  9. Ourselves Growing Older in my pants
  10. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded in my pants

Clearly, the magic is never-ending!

Party in My Pants

So the Just Pants … er … Posts are up at Collecting Tokens, and I’m inspired to take a step back from my recent (and ongoing) ire over the NYT‘s intrusion into my First Lady’s personal life and be out and out foolish for a moment.

Alejna, whose long and storied history with pants can only be hinted at here, has tagged me for a decidedly silly and fabulous meme.  (Oh yes, I obviously need to just shut up about the memes, right?  Clearly, I love them … Ok, yes I do, but I’m just as clearly conflicted.  Never mind.)

For the rules of this meme, I’ll quote Alejna:

If you want to join in, the game is played thusly: set your iPod to shuffle, and make a note of the songs that come up. Append the phrase “in my pants.” As many songs as you choose. If you have no iPod, come up with a list of songs of your choosing. If you have no pants, you may want to append instead the phrase “without pants.” Or you can write a 500-word essay discussing your current state of pantslessness.

So, without further ado, here is my Playlist of Pants:

  1. Tramp the Dirt Down in my pants — Elvis Costello
  2. Harry in my pants — Macy Gray
  3. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is in my pants — Chicago
  4. In the Basement in my pants — Etta James and Sugar Pie DeSanto
  5. A Sunday Kind of Love in my pants — Etta James
  6. Out of This World/So in Love in my pants — Nancy Lamott
  7. Come Tomorrow in my pants — Patti Scialfa
  8. Take My Anthem in my pants — Live
  9. Un Día Normal en mis pantalones — Juanes
  10. Stompin’ at the Savoy in my pants — Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
  11. Wake Me Up in my pants — Nora Jones
  12. Little Red Rooster in my pants — Sam Cooke
  13. All Good Things (Come to an End) in my pants — Nelly Furtado
  14. Fat Bottomed Girls in my pants — Queen
  15. Don’t Stop Believin’ in my pants — Journey
  16. French Fries with Pepper in my pants — Morphine
  17. Helpless in my pants — Crosby, Stills and Nash
  18. Just Another Movie in my pants — Timbuk 3
  19. You Got the Look in my pants — Prince
  20. A Foggy Day in my pants — Mel Tormé
  21. Stone Free in my pants — Jimi Hendrix
  22. I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man in my pants — Prince
  23. Dear Little Nightingale in my pants — Michael Franks
  24. Bad Luck in my pants — Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes
  25. He Never Got Enough Love in my pants — Lucinda Williams

It’s quite wonderful to see that my music is so pants-ified.  Prince, for example, turns out to be all about pants (“Erotic City in my pants,” “Raspberry Beret in my pants,” “Little Red Corvette in my pants,” “The Pope in my pants” …).  And all this time I thought he was singing about sex.  Silly me.  But it seems everyone’s singing about pants — from Jill Sobule’s “Little Guy in my pants” to Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier in my pants,” my whole playlist is pants!

You’re thinking this can’t be true.  What about jazz?  “Take Five in my pants,” anyone?  “Round Midnight in my pants,” perhaps?  Oh, what about classical music?  Hmm, “Hungarian Dances in my pants,” could get us started, and then we could move on to “Walking the Dog in my pants” and the numerous iterations of “Prelude in my pants.”

I’m just astounded by all of this.  Quite revelatory.

As for the tagging, Alejna tagged eleven.  I’ll let you tag yourselves.  Don’t have a blog, don’t want to post something so silly on your blog?  You could post your playlists in the comments …

Here we go …

So, while Alejna didn’t tag anyone for this meme, I find myself unable to resist.  Things in bold are the ones I’ve done; things in italics are things I’d like to do; thing in italics with an asterisk are things I really, really want to do … you get the picture.

Have I ever …

1. Started my own blog (um … yeah.)
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (yes, there was high school band and choir, but there was also the chamber choir in college and the chorus I performed with in Paris, complete with crazy conductor, romantic drama and a wacky weekend rehearsal retreat in the country!)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower (on Long Island, stretched out on the beach … and then in Jamaica, stretched out in a beach chair … both times equally amazing)
6. Given more than I can afford to charity (well, not to a charity, but to the scholarship fund at my alma mater and my old summer camp if those count …)
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain (A bunch of them, actually.)
9. Held a praying mantis (And why would this be a thing I’d want to do?)
10. Sung a solo (So many times it kind of surprises me!)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris (lived there briefly)
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child (I’m still trying to figure this one out, still coming to terms with my childlessness, but I think this should be in italics.)
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (three times!)
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (How did I miss this one?  I was in Venice twice.  I rode in the vaporetti, but never got in a gondola … oh, right, too worried about falling into the often scummy-looking water!)
29. Seen a total eclipse (but I was so young, I hardly remember it)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (… and rode the “Maid of the Mists” tour and everything.)
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors*
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (I’m going to assume this means enough money to cover my bills and live without having to worry every five seconds about where the next pay check is coming from.)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (um … fond memory, Fox?)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa***********
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (Not until I read this in Alejna’s post did I remember that I actually never did this the whole time I was in France.  How crazy is that?)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater (A double feature with my whole family: M*A*S*H  and Patton.  There was lots of talk about the drive-ins when I was in high school, but I never went.  Hmm … maybe that’s something I should write about one of these Mondays …)
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China**
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class (I participated in a mini-course that was offered to the ladies in a GED class I taught years ago, but I’m not sure this counts.  I did learn how to use my jacket to swat a knife out of an attacker’s hand and how to smash someone’s instep, though!)
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching***
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a cheque (Gee, how exciting to be able to put this one in bold!)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt (although Mopsy just asked if I’d like to work on one she and her sister are making …)
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades*
75. Been fired from a job (Given the number of times I left for vacation and didn’t return when I was supposed to, it surprises me that I’ve never been fired.)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person (Does seeing it from a plane count?)
80. Published a book (Well, I have a chapter about to come out in a book … and I have my Blurb photo books … so in some ways this is a bold item, but it still feels not quite done.)
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible (Again, hijacking Alejna’s comment: “I have read the words “the entire Bible.” Just now I even typed them.”)
86. Visited the White House* (I’ve stood outside the White House.  That’s not really the same, is it?)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury*
91. Met someone famous (Well, there is that James Baldwin episode …)
92. Joined a book club (two, actually.)
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Rode an elephant*

51% … not bad.  I think that’s the best I’ve ever done on one of these things.  I’m still trying to figure out what the big deal is about holding a Praying Mantis.  And owning a cell phone.  And, I know I’m overly sensitive about this, but it seems unkind to have ‘had a baby’ on the list.  It’s not as though I was slacking or being forgetful, and it’s certainly not for lack of trying.  Anyway.

And to add the last bit of the meme … if you want to know more about any of the items on the list, I’ll take requests for future posts!

Consider yourself tagged if you’d like.  I’d love to see what random items we have in common … and see how different the stories behind those items are!

Half a dozen of the Other.

Hmm … Ladybughugs over at Send Chocolate tagged me for a meme. I haven’t done one of these in about a thousand years. I’m still oddly ambivalent about memes (could I just make up my mind already?), but I’m gong to do this one.  As usual, I’m not going to play by the rules.  I’m not going to tag anyone, I’m not going to post all of the rules, and I’m not going eat my brussel sprouts … oh, wait.  Scratch that.  What I am going to do is list six random things about myself.

So here goes:

  1. My NaNoWriMo novel is a fictionalized (way fictionalized) telling of AC’s life story.   It’s getting kind of interesting, trying to stitch together all the pieces I know with the gap-filler stuff I have to make up.  Very interesting to see how I imagine his interior life … and how much more understanding I am of him on paper than I ever have been in our actual IRL relationship.  (Hmm … gotta think on that one a bit …)
  2. I have Journey’s Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ in the “Guilty Pleasures playlist of my iPod.  I have always loved that song, in all its uber-cheesy glory.  My friend Mrs. B used to be a bar tender.  I’d go hang out with her until closing sometimes and we’d go by snacks at the all night grocery then walk over to the all night pool room to eat yummy sandwiches, shoot pool and crank up the jukebox.  That jukebox was full of all sorts of classically awful-fantastic songs by the likes of Journey and Cher (oh yes, Halfbreed and Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves were on there!).  The place was run by an eternally silent, young-ish Asian man who paid us not the least bit of attention.  Two young women shooting pool at 5am and dancing around the table, sometimes singing at the top of their lungs? Par for the course, apparently.
  3. I have an annoying number of food allergies: apples, pears, plums, nectarines, apricots, peaches, cherries, almonds, carrots, walnuts …  I eat some of these things anyway and suffer the consequences.  How not?  Who can live without apples, without cherries?
  4. I had my first full-body massage two years ago during a trip to Jamaica, and can I just say … what the hell is wrong with me that it took me so long?
  5. When I was 15, I was able to buy alcohol in liquor stores, which made me quite popular when my friends threw parties (um, Ma Chère Mère? Ingore that, k?) … but after I turned 18, I started getting carded.
  6. When I read War and Peace, I discovered that sometimes a famously daunting book will make smarmy men leave you alone.  Some jackass sat next to me on a bus one afternoon and leaned over me asking, “Are you reading a romance?”  I gave him what my 18-year-old self thought might be a withering glance* and showed him the cover of my book.  He changed seats!  After I finished that one, I started carrying Ulysses around with similar effect.

And there you have it.  Uh-oh, now that I’ve started down this slippery meme-slope, there’s no telling what will happen next!


* I have since learned that I have nothing even vaguely resembling a withering glance.  My mother has an excellent one, and Fox has a pretty fabulous one that I like to call ‘the face of beligerence,’ but I can’t quite flex my muscles correctly.  I’m still working on it.