Sunday, December 21, 2008


Today is a good day to take in the quiet of the snow, forget the aching trials and numbing darkness of the past few weeks, and put it all behind. To hide out, instead, in the shimmer of the fresh snow that has set everything to sparkle, a perfect cloak of white. To dress myself in this enchantment, lose myself in this wintry world, rendered still by the storm, and fall, deep, trusting, into the soundless noise and muffling cold. Today, I am content to follow the birds from tree to feeder and back again, listen to the snow jostling elbows on the roof, the dog’s deep sleep in the corner, the fire coming to in the woodstove. The Solstice is here, the world will once again begin to open to its warming light; bit by bit the darkness that has snuffed my torch will ease, settle into something more manageable, and blaze with shooting stars. Today, that is enough for me.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Self-Vetting Process Part I: Spammer!

With all the appointments that Obama has to make, this second wave of vetting has really begun to build steam, so I've decided to be pro-active and initiate my very own self-vetting process. If there’s one thing that we’ve all learned from the McCain campaign, it’s that you just never know when you might be selected for a job that is totally and absurdly out of your league, one that flies way, way above your head. I want to be ready.

A thorough vetting should include any background information that might be inflammatory, controversial, or downright off-putting. Hmmmm. I might be in trouble.

But I don't have a whole lot to hide. Not anymore. And since I've recently been tagged as a "spammer," no doubt due to all the mass e-mails I've had to send out this year in order to keep friends and family updated about my cancer treatment and new girls, I've come to realize that there really is no such thing as privacy anymore, not on the web, e-mailing or blogging or browsing, not in this little town of mine, walking or meeting a friend or hiding out behind the evergreens, not in my testosterone-filled house, taking a shower, writing, doing my nightly yoga-so-I-can-sleep-without-waking-up-with-sore-hips, not really anywhere. There are spies everywhere, it seems, reading our emails, overseeing our online searches and purchases, sending spy chips home with us in our espionaged merchandise, and making rash judgments about what's okay and what's not. And all in the name of security, to quell the paranoia and anxiety that has justifiably sunk its teeth into the way we think about our identities, whatever they may be.

When I first heard that I had been identified as a "known spammer," (and on some big important all-caps-acronym-infested database, no less), I felt really bad, as in bad-girl bad, as in "Kids, don't expect any presents from Santa this year; your mamma has landed on the naughty list, and he doesn't give presents to children of known spammers." Clearly, I had done something wrong. And I was being punished. But I was confused. I don't send out spam. Why would what I send out be considered spam? Wasn't spam bad? Was I bad? It was the witch thing all over again. Spammer tag in tow, I suddenly felt a little like I had cooties (first, it was cancer cooties, and now spammer cooties, plus I still have those other cooties left over from having impetigo when I was in grade school) and everyone was staying clear of me. Let's isolate her; that'll surely do her in. No communication, no emails out, no emails in: a death sentence for those of us living on the edge of the abyss.

E-mail for me this past year has been a real lifeline, to the bigger world out there, to the notion of possibility, and most importantly, to the friends and family that have seen me through some of the toughest days of my life. I used e-mail to tell those people closest to me that I had cancer, that I was scared, that I was being brave, that I needed their help. I used it to receive that help, encouragement and support and love and good healing juju that I could not have done without. I still need it, still need to know that people are out there, that it's not just all the environmental groups wanting me to sign another petition getting through, because, oddly enough, those emails do get through in an avalanche of obligatory charitable requests, but all those dear friends and family members, too, with a warmth and wisdom that has the capacity to diminish the distance between us, ease the ache of loneliness, and restore my sense of surety in this world. I need them to get through, and I need to get through to them. Snail mail is cool and nostalgic and certainly has its place but is slow and expensive and, let's face it, not the most environmentally friendly option there is when you want to send a message out to the masses.

Without that connection, with Comcast blocking my emails from going out and others from coming in, life has felt uncertain, and I've felt untethered, adrift. I'm isolated as it is: homeschooling leaves little time to get out and about with friends or other adults, and living in this quiet rural area, where there are no sidewalks to take you and connect you to friends and neighbors, where the wind rushing through the hollows of evergreens and rippling across the meadows of dried grasses and corn stalks are often the only outside voices you hear, and where the communities do not always intertwine inclusively, while lovely, has not always been easy. E-mailing, then, being able to easily send a greeting, receive encouragement or news from afar, or share the latest hilarious political banquet of humor, has softened the rough hewn edges by making the complex web of interpersonal networking, that rich, broad, intermingling of lives, instantly accessible. Take that away, and you've stranded me on a deserted island, lost in every sense of the word. It's no wonder that my sense of isolation has grown precipitously sharp over these past months. We all know that the ability to stay connected is directly reflected in our overall sense of well being.

I've tried to make sense of it, reading all about the process of blacklisting and talking to Comcast customer service reps for hours on end, and they've promised me that someone today will call and clear things up, but so far, no one has called. So what to make of all this? I've determined that there are several possibilities: given the fact that the first Comcast rep I spoke with last week said that he had discovered a "fake account number" where my name should have been, there's a possibility that someone is using my address to send spam, real spam, as in that nasty, fake, canned hammish stuff that you truly don't want in your inbox or on your dinner table. A second possibility is that someone no longer wanted to receive my updates, momentarily forgot that zilrendrag is actually a real person named liz gardner and not some online sex shop selling nipples and boobies, and reported me as spam. And finally, and this perhaps makes the most sense, is that all those misguided, overzealous Comcast spies saw suspicious, spammish patterns in my group emailing, to a buying club I'm trying to get off the ground, to Luke's and Dominick's soccer teams, to family members about the inherited traits survey homeschool project the boys and I have been doing, to kith and kin with updates on my treatment and reconstruction, and so shut me down without investigating it properly. Perhaps it was more than just the periodic mass e-mailing, perhaps it was the mysterious, slightly alluring subject lines like "the boobies are coming," or the tantalizing text within, akin to male enhancement claims, "painless, simple and fun: you, too, can get a nipple in less than an hour."

Whatever the reason, there it is: I've been called lots of things in my life--egg head, bone, shameless, crazy legs, iron lungs, Lady Godiva, meanest mom in the whole world, but never spammer. Until now. Your mamma is a spammer!

Ok, enough about the spamming; it's only making me frustrated, and hungry. I'll resume my self-vetting tomorrow. And since there's a potentially toxic full moon out there tonight, and I've been warned to watch my tongue, I'll post this tamale. For now, the ice storm has passed through, the sun appeared to blaze fugaciously in a partly blue sky--something we haven't seen for a long while around here--and all the little icicles that hung like sabers from the eaves of the bird houses have melted. Ever since seeing that Grey's Anatomy episode where Sandra Oh's character takes an icicle in the belly, I've worried for the little birds that flit unaware around the icicles. It's time to try to find the moon.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tattoo Parlor Postponed

Today was the day I was to head into Wellesley for an hour long visit to Dr. Pitts' Tattoo Parlor, but things have worked out differently. Today, I swim in the river, float with the currents that rush downstream, and know that it is, somehow, for the best.

Given all the howlers in this morning's horoscope section, it's probably a good thing I wasn't making the long drive in the rain, and going under the, ah, just what do they use to tattoo the rosy bloom of a nipple and areola onto a freshly constructed girl? A knife? A blow pen? This was to be my first real tattoo. I've worn those little lightning bolt tattoos on my forehead for Harry Potter parties, and I even sported an Obama tattoo for awhile this fall. And about two weeks ago, I went to a henna tattoo party with a good friend; it was a fundraiser, and there were about ten women there, including the henna tattoo artist, a remarkable woman who unraveled gorgeous designs along the backs and palms of hands, arms, and the napes of necks throughout the evening, while the women talked of all the things that women talk about. I picked out a beautiful sun design for my left palm; after countless hand washings, it still shines there today, but has slowly faded, and will soon be gone. I've rescheduled my more-permanent tattoo for January 14th; it'll be a new year's present to myself. And once it's done and healed, I'd like to get my new girl henna-tattooed with something lovely and loving to properly christen her, a new year's wrapping and reveal, a coming out party.

Now that I've registered to walk in the Breast Cancer 3-day next July, I am trying to think of ways to raise enough money to cover not only my $2300 pledge but that of other walkers as well. A series of henna tattoo parties might be in order. And I'm thinking a dance marathon might be a most excellent way for me to burn off some nervous energy, if not raise some money, too. And early, early in the morning last weekend, a thought came to me in the darkness of those pre-dawn hours: that perhaps it is time to recreate and bring back the Tacky 70's Party, a mineshaft of fun and frivolity from college days that would bring together old friends with new in a frothy, bubbling vat of good times, hilarious hair-do's, and only the best in tacky 70's music.

In the meantime, I am most grateful for the donations that have been made on my behalf to the Blue Footed Boobies. It has been moving to hear from old friends, and humbling to receive their generosity. Just this past weekend, my friend Angie registered to walk with me. Thank you, Angie! We are hoping that more of you will join us; the boobie brigade needs as many supporters as it can get.

I can wait for my tattoo; I did not need it today. Things work like this for a reason. There is no point in forcing the issue. And there have been warnings coming in from all over, unpredictable shock waves and surprises, and a void lunar cycle this afternoon magnifying the uncertainty of the times and adding to the topsy-turvy of the energy field. I've already broken two things this morning in my house: the cat's dish and a little ceramic hen (well, the cat broke that when she jumped up on the counter, so we're even). Communications have been wrapped in an opaque shroud of confusion. My computer has been acting up. The weather's been whacked. It was freezing cold at the start of the week, so cold I thought there is no way in hell I'm going to survive another winter living here in the cold northeast, but then this morning broke with a soft, gentle rain that swept in warm, balmy, blustery air, a good 50 degree jump. Throughout the day, the temperature has slowly dropped, the rain now pelts hard and cold, and I've shut the windows again to keep out the chill. It's all there. Better to stay home.

Unfortunately, many of these warnings have been in place for quite a while. The last time I posted on the blog, the settings grew temperamental, and for some reason, the post I imported gave me scads of difficulties, from messing with the font and the point size to changing, temporarily, the muted colors of my blog into something electric and slightly alarming.

But I've been awash in technical difficulties as of late, trying to make sense of and declutter my ever-multi-tasking, overburdened computer and its overstretched memory. A friend (and tech pro) came over last week to help me refurbish my computer, and although it's no longer taking forever to start up, my new sentry, Spy Bot, keeps interrupting with little queries that I have no idea how to answer. Of course, the parallels to my own disorganized mind and burnt memory are too obvious not to deride: perhaps it is time to feng shui my house, open myself up to the possibilities and relax into change.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course. It cannot be ruled by interfering. ~ Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching

The computer, of course, marked its 40th birthday yesterday, this on a day when I was scrambling still to make sense of my recent (and it seems, chronic) e-mail (not to be confused with female) problems, experiencing difficulties even after changing email accounts, and feeling quite ready to ditch my whole desktop in the beaver pond, mark the splash and bubbly descent with a smile, and watch it sink to the slimy depths never to return to annoy, aggravate, or complicate my life again.
Even now, it won't let me switch out of italics. I will not try to force the issue. Swim with the river. No interference. Let it take its course. ARGH!

Since email has become so unreliable for me, I've realized just how over-reliant I have become on using email to communicate every little thing. Sure, it's easy, quick, convenient, a real time-saver, but when you aren't sure whether or not people are actually receiving your e-mail messages, or if you're actually receiving theirs, then it quickly becomes something else indeed: a nightmare. I've been grateful for some of the most recent rising stars in alternative electronic communities, like facebook, which have allowed friends to check in with me, and me to check in with them, even when e-mail was failing. As well, I've revisited some long neglected friends: land lines, snail mail, and that old-fashioned form of communication, face to face conversations. It's been nice to go back. E-mail is wonderful, for all its speed and lofty convenience, but nothing quite gets to the heart of the matter like a good face-to-face chat.

Who am I kidding? I don't think I could live here, anchored in this little sleepy town, without e-mail; after all, it is e-mail that allows me to stay connected to old friends scattered far and wide, a tether that softens the sharp, cold barbs of isolation, and infuses the constant loneliness with a warm ache and wretched, wonderful wanderlust that makes it possible for me to walk through these shadowy days. I can't imagine not being able to be in touch as frequently and easily as e-mail permits with the people who have been my light, my love, my fuel, my fire. Mitch Thrower, in his book, The Attention Deficit Workplace, says that "for many people, receiving messages still symbolizes hope." That has certainly been true for me this past year, when I relied heavily on those messages from friends and family to get me through some of the darkest days. Thrower also goes on to say that "E-mail correspondence is the Whack-the-Mole game for attention-starved times." And that, I suppose, is the flip side: the relentless ebb and flow of in-box clutter and out-box demands that take us away from the real essence of human interaction, the face-to-face, scrunch our moments into small boxes of to-do lists, and crowd out the true treasures of email, those letters, missives, billets, epistles, testimonials, and other communications that pull us in to another's realm, close the distance gap, and enjoy each other's company, regardless of how many miles apart we may be.