Thursday, December 30, 2010

Trains & Comics

I am a huge fan of trains and comic books.  I have been a fan for as long as I can remember and I don't remember what my first experience with trains or comics was.  I have a feeling that it was my father's influence, but I could be wrong of course.

My father would build model railroad towns and landscapes and spend hours running his trains through these towns and landscapes when I was very young.  I believe he used HO scale.  I remember standing in the garage of our house in Vacaville, CA at the age of 3 and staring up at the plywood that the railroad, towns and landscapes were built on.  I'd stand on my tiptoes until he picked me up.  His railroad had everything: a depot, track switches, people, trees, grass, mountains, tunnels.  It was so great!

When I was 4 or 5, my mother and I took the train from Vacaville to Madera to see my Nana and Papa.  I think that was my first train ride.  It wasn't a terribly long ride, although it seemed like a huge journey for me.  I don't really remember much about sitting on the train, but I do remember my mom pointing out my Uncle as we pulled into the station.  Maybe I was younger than 4.  I know I talked about the train ride to whoever would listen for several days after.  I can't remember if my parents ever showed that they were tired of that story.  Sometimes, there's something really magical about the stories children tell, because they experienced something new and exciting.

Well, the love of trains has been with me forever.  Which is the same length of time that I've been in love with comic books.  My father had this huge steamer trunk full of comic books when I was a child and occasionally, he'd open it and pull out comics and I'd sit on the couch and look at them over his shoulder.  I was young enough that I didn't know how to read, I don't even think I was in any kind of school.  So, he'd tell me what was going on and who the characters were.  He was always very patient with me as he explained Batman, Spider-Man, The X-Men and Fantastic Four and others.  In the early 80s, Super Friends was a Saturday morning cartoon that I watched, and on the occasions he was home, he'd watch it with me.

I knew the names of several comic book heroes and villains by the time I was 6.  On a side note, I also knew all about Luke, Leia, Hans Solo, Obi Wan, and Darth Vader by the age of 6, but that's a different story as well.  I wanted super powers just like the heroes I saw on the Super Friends show.  I also watched, as a young child, the Super Woman show and the Batman show.  I loved how Batman had animated words whenever Batman or Robin hit Penguin, Joker or Catwoman.  Pow!  Kaboom!  LOL.

When we moved to Europe, I was able to ride trains again and was so very happy.  We had to leave dad's comics in storage in the US, but I think riding trains in Spain, France and England was a pretty fair trade.  We rode on the Metro a lot when we lived in Spain and one year we took the night train to Paris from Madrid.  That was pretty fun and it was also my sister's first time on a train ride like that.  It was my first overnight train ride too.  When we went to London, we rode the Tube frequently.  I rather like underground railroads, subways, metroes, tubes or whatever they are called in each city they operate in.

When we moved back to the US, I still enjoyed trains and comics and by then there were new cartoons based on comic books on Saturday mornings.  I especially enjoyed watching The X-Men cartoons.  Then, the 90s brought Batman cartoons, Batman movies (Michael Keaton was pretty darn good as Bruce Wayne/Batman), X-Men movies, X-Men cartoons, Justice League cartoons and all of these continued into the new century, 2000 and beyond.

I'm still a huge fan of trains.  I ride a light rail, which is a nice way to commute.  I love watching the cargo trains that go by the light rail station.  I am also a huge fan of comics.  It is pretty much a given that I will go see any movie based on a comic book.  I love Batman and X-Men and Spider-Man and Superman.  I hope they do a Wonder Woman movie, but I have no idea who would make a good Wonder Woman.  Linda Carter was so great as the 1980s Wonder Woman, that I'm having a hard time picturing someone else.

I hope one day, I'll be able to share the joys and excitement of trains (both real and model) and comic books with my own children.  I think that will be a really fun thing to do together.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Review: Reading Women by Stephanie Staal

Review of Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life by Stephanie Staal

I received this pre-release book free through the Goodreads First Reads Program ( on December 2, 2010 and immediately proceeded to the first page.

The plot of this book interested me when I read about it on the Goodreads First Reads page, so I was looking forward to hearing how a fellow thirty-something's life had been changed by the books of feminism.

In her thirties, Stephanie Staal decides to return to her college alma mater, Barnard College, after experiencing what I would call a moment of lost identity. This self-proclaimed feminist, who wanted to be a career woman suddenly found herself as a wife and mother working as a freelance writer on occasion. Staal suddenly felt like a traitor to the feminist movement she had studied and read about as an undergraduate, asking the question that thousands of women ask everyday -- "What the hell is happening to me?"

So, in an attempt to figure out what happened to her own feminist ideals, she audits the year long Feminist Texts course at Barnard College, reading 42 books/texts and 20 selected essays, by numerous writers including Ida B. Wells, Elaine Pagels, Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, Sigmund Freud, Simone de Beauvoir and others.

Rereading these texts gives her the opportunity to examine, and re-examine, how her own reaction to the works has changed since she was an undergraduate as well as remark on an obvious generation gap between her thirty-something self and the 18-22 year old women in the class.

While I found the writing very open, honest and personal, I found the story somewhat bland. Staal has an identity crisis because she feels as if she hasn't stuck to the feminist ideals she was raised with and adopted in her college years. She finds herself, at 30, a wife and mother. She changed aspects of her career (from full-time journalist to freelance writer/journalist) to be able to stay home with her daughter. She has also adopted a more domestic lifestyle, taking care of the house on a full-time basis. These changes lead her to wonder if she has stopped being a feminist and if she has stopped upholding the ideals she once had.

I did feel sympathetic towards Staal as she began to struggle with changes in her life brought on by turning 30, getting married and having a baby. Staal says "The age of thirty, as nineteenth century French novelist Honore de Balzac once noted, is one of the most dangerous periods for a woman, and indeed, it was at this particular juncture in my own life, the turning from one decade to the next, that I -- somewhat predictably, somewhat ashamedly -- started to unravel." (Page 5)

As a thirty-something myself, I have felt that sense of "now what?" as I transitioned from one decade to another. There is something that happens when a person turns 30 and, in my case, I will say Staal was not alone in that sense of lack of accomplishment. That is also where our similarities end.

I myself am not a wife nor am I mother. I have not had to make the decision of many working women who become mothers -- do I stay home or do I go back to work? One day, I will face that question and will have to decide if I can afford to stay home or if I will have to return to the workforce after becoming a mother. I know that is a difficult decision thousands of women make everyday, but does it say something about what kind of feminists they are? At this time in my life, I guess I am upholding the ideals of the feminist movement -- I'm an educated, independent career woman. Does that make me a better feminist than Staal, than other women who choose to stay home with their children? I don't think so, but maybe she would disagree with me.

I admit that I am unfamiliar with about 90% of the feminist texts Staal read, both in the Feminist Texts course she took, as well as the 25 additional books she read at home, so this book was a bit of an introduction for me to feminist literature. My basic understanding of feminism comes from what little I learned in my history classes in junior and senior high school. I knew about the Suffragettes and their fight for the right to vote. I also know that ever since women were given the right to vote, there has been an ongoing fight for equality in all areas of the workforce and respect in all aspects of life.

I know that women have been fighting to be able to work and be mothers without suffering backlash or consequences, and I also know that the corporate world still hasn't quite adjusted itself so that women don't have to choose between being a working mom or a stay at home mom. I hope that one day, a woman will be able to work from both home and office and not have her career negatively impacted because she is a mother and that the same woman will be able to be home as much and as often as she wants with her children without having to step off of the corporate ladder. I hope one day, the demands of the working mom can reconcile with the demands of the stay at home mom, and they both will feel like they are living up to, and fulfilling, the ideals of the feminists who came before them.

I get the impression that Staal feels inadequate on many levels. She isn't like the other neighborhood mommies, who discuss their babies’ nursery themes and carry designer diaper bags. She isn't that "perfect" mother who can get her daughter's breakfast made to her liking, dressed in a "pretty outfit", and out to school on time and happy. The thing is, she's not alone. There are a lot of mothers who want to be that "perfect" mom like June Cleaver or Mrs. Brady was, but find that they aren't quite on the same level as those perfect TV moms. Even while working as a freelance journalist, she feels like she's somehow not being a good mom or a good feminist.

As her studies progress in the Feminist Texts course, she explains what each text is about and how the class reacts to the message of each. Based on her explanation of each text, I do not think these texts changed Staal's life. I do think they gave her the ability to create and develop her own feminism. I do not think Staal is turning her back on the feminist ideals she was raised with, she isn't a traitor. I do think that being able to take this course as a thirty-something, working-stay-at-home-mom (she is a freelance journalist which seems to be a fitting example of working-stay-at-home-mom) gave her some insight into who she was, who she is, and who she will become as a woman, a wife and a mother. She also got to find out what a younger generation thought of feminism and the feminist movement, which was mainly a feeling of disinterest and lack of enthusiasm.

By the end of the book, I felt like I had been given a very quick and interesting introduction to feminist literature and feminist authors but I did not see any type of significant change in Staal based on the ideals presented in the texts. At the end of the book, it was unclear to me how these books actually changed her life. I do think the books showed her how feminism has developed, changed and grown over the century, and how it continues to change with each new generation of women.  I think these texts also showed her how to change and grow as a woman.

On a 5 star rating scale, I give this book 3 stars. This book will be available in bookstores, from Public Affairs Publishing, on February 22, 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pathetic, am I?

Pathetic (adj.) -- (1) causing or evoking pity, sympathetic sadness, sorrow, etc; pitiful; pitiable; (2) affecting or moving the feelings; (3) pertaining to or caused by the feelings; (4) miserably or contemptibly inadequate

I use self deprecating humor a lot.  I put myself down more than I should and I find ways to use myself as the butt of a joke or humorous story that I am telling to others.  I'm not really sure why I do that, but I do.  At least once a day, I state to whomever I'm talking to "Well, I'm fairly pathetic", and then continue with the story I'm telling.  I say that all the time actually, that I'm pathetic.  Deep down that's how I feel about myself, I guess that's a horrible thing to admit but I've been suffering from self-esteem issues most of my life, so there you go.

Looking at the definition, I'm kind of thinking my patheticness (not sure if that's a word) falls into #3 or #4.  Hm, definitely #4 now that I get to thinking about it.  Feelings of miserable inadequacy = pathetic.  Okay, I just changed around the #4 part of the definition, but still that works.  I do feel  fairly inadequate, and I know that is caused by feeling like I am not doing anything with my life.  It's that feeling of not doing what one was born to do.  I, personally, have no idea what I was born to do.  When I was younger, elementary school age, I wanted to be a teacher or a ballerina or an astronaut.  By the time I got to high school, I had settled on lawyer.  In college, I wanted to change from pre-law to education, but for one significant reason (different story for a different time), I did not change and remained pre-law but didn't go to law school.  So, maybe I'm meant to teach.  I volunteer with youth at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver and have been doing that since Fall 2007.  I really enjoy it and always look forward to the beginning of the new school year because then I can return to the Club.

I feel pathetic cause I feel like I am living a purposeless life.  There, I said it.  Out loud even.  Of course, now I feel even more pathetic, so there you go.

I rarely read memoirs, mainly because I am not interested in what that person has to say about his or her life.  Now, there are a handful of memoirs that I thoroughly enjoyed and was glad that I read.  I LOVED The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan!  Part of the reason I loved it was because her particular story was something I could relate to, partially.  She was fighting cancer and her father was also fighting cancer.  I am not a cancer survivor, but my own father fought cancer 3 times.  I could relate to her stories about her relationship with her own father when she was a child, as well as how she related to him as an adult.  I enjoyed Pretty is What Changes by Jessica Queller because I found her very brave to face the BRCA2 gene in the manner she did and thought she was really level-headed with all of the decisions she made.  She was very personable, I thought, and I really liked her.  Then there are memoirs that I do not like, and I think the first word that comes to my mind in regards to those memoirs is PATHETIC.

I was watching a movie today, that was made from a memoir (there are numerous, I know).  It was Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep (whom I love) and Amy Adams (whom I also love).  I read both Julie & Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child before the movie came out but never made it to the theater to see the actual movie.  I found Julie Powell both pathetic and intriguing.  I thought she was intriguing because she strove to make every one of Julia Child's recipes in one year, which is pretty freaking ambitious.  I am developing my cooking skills and I am not at all that ambitious, so I tip my hat to Julie Powell for doing all those recipes.  I found her pathetic because she expresses her own inadequacies and feelings of patheticness in the beginning of her book.  I will say she grew by the end of the book, but there was still part of me that just thought she was a pathetic person.

Which brings me to the movie.  I was, sporadically, watching the movie this morning and thought Amy Adams did a remarkable job of showing Julie's pathetic and inadequate side as well as showing how much she grew by the end of her journey cooking Julia Child's recipes.  Then, I had an epiphany (well, that might be an exaggeration, more like an "aha" moment).  It occurred to me that I was also a bit jealous of Julie Powell: as pathetic as she was, she put herself out there with a goal and she accomplished that goal and ended up growing as a person and people loved her.  People loved reading her blog everyday and seeing how each recipe came out.  People sent her things and supported her and cheered for her as she worked her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  So, here was a woman who felt pathetic and inadequate when she heard about the successes of some of her other friends and ended up becoming a much loved blogger who achieved a great feat -- she mastered the art of French cooking.

So...who's the pathetic person now?  Well, that would still be me.  So, what am I going to do to not be so pathetic?  Hm, that's a damn good question.  The phrase "put on your big girl panties and deal with it" comes to mind.  Well, I honestly don't know how to combat feelings of inadequacy within my own life.  It doesn't matter how much education I pursue, I don't think I'll be any less pathetic with a second Master's or a PhD.  It doesn't matter how many groups, clubs or organizations I join, either.  Those just keep me busy but ultimately, I still end the day feeling unfulfilled and inadequate, pathetic and lowly.  I'll continue to use self deprecating humor because it seems to make other people laugh and makes me appear to be more humble than I really am.  Self deprecating humor is a great way to disguise a lot of things about myself, and I'm pretty damn good at it.

Julie Powell is my hero!  Cheers to you, Ms. Powell, wherever you are.  And I apologize, if you ever read this blog.  I originally found you pathetic, but actually I think you're pretty fabulous.  You felt you were sinking and you saved yourself through a passion you didn't know you had.  I admire that!  I'm sinking, but maybe one day, I too, will find my passion and rise to the surface a better person.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thoughts as we near the end of 2010

I haven't been a fan of Christmas since I graduated from college.  It was just a day to me, really.  When I was in college, Christmas was more fun because I had been away at school, studying for and taking finals and was returning home to a family that actually missed me.  By the time college was over, I had returned (in hindsight, unwisely) back to Colorado and my family no longer missed me.  I liked being missed by them, cause it made me feel important and wanted.  I know that sounds horrible and desperate, but that's how I felt at the time (and, sometimes, do still feel).

As the oldest child of "perfect" parents, I worked very hard to prove myself.  I was a horrible math student.  I was a fantastic English and history student.  By middle school, I had established myself as an A/B student who regularly received a C in math (didn't matter the type of math, I got a C in it).  By the time I graduated from high school, I had a 3.4 GPA, which certainly isn't something to be ashamed of.  At least, I didn't think it was anything to ashamed of.  It was the kind of GPA that would aid me in getting into a good college and it showed that I was, if not a perfect student, at least a dedicated one who worked hard and turned in her homework assignments.  Unfortunately, it's hard to be proud of your accomoplishments, when your parents make them out to be less than acceptible.  My grades in math usually sparked a significant ass-chewing and I was either sent to my room to work on math problems with orders to "do them right or else" OR mathematic video games were purchased for me to play on our Nintendo and that's all I was allowed to play (while my younger sister was able/allowed to play the more fun games).  Problem was, I just didn't get them; I didn't get mathematics.  The point I'm getting at is that it didn't matter if I got As and Bs in history, English, Spanish, and science.  The fact that I wasn't getting anything above a C in math made me a failure, which in turn made me feel like an extremely insignificant and unwanted member of our family.  So, heading off to college, as the firstborn child, was an opportunity for me to feel somewhat important.

I did feel important too.  I went out of state for college, to a small, private liberal arts college in the very green (and very wet compared to Colorado) Pacific Northwest.  I went away for several reasons, that I don't think my parents have ever been able to understand or appreciate.  I went away because I wanted to grow up and become an adult.  If I stayed in-state, like my parents wanted, I would have come home every weekend and never truly experienced all that is COLLEGE.  I went away because I hated my parents (at the time, I no longer hate them, in case anyone is wondering); my parents had ruined my life more than they could ever understand.  They not only took me away from a place where I was immensely happy, but they didn't really care and they never showed any interest in really listening to me and hearing what I was saying.  I think they heard my complaints, but I don't think they heard me, which there is a definite difference and distinction.  I went away because I was used to moving around as a military child and I wanted to go someplace I had never been.  I was hoping to go someplace that would appeal to me enough that I would want to remain there for the rest of my life.  Unfortunately, as beautiful as the Pacific Northwest is and as much as I loved spending time in Seattle, it was not the right place for me to spend the rest of my life.  I'm still searching though.

I do believe that going away was really great for me.  I only saw my family at Christmas, Spring break and summer breaks, with the occasional Thanksgiving.  We talked every Sunday on the phone and it sounded like they missed me.  They actually showed interest in what classes I was taking, what my roommates were like, what the dorm folk were like, and what fun places I was going to and exploring in Tacoma and Seattle.  Also, for the first time, I didn't get yelled at for getting a D one semester.  I took an Economics class and it was a bit difficult for me to understand, even with the help of a fellow classmate and I ended up with a D.  It was the only class I did horribly in; all my other grades during the rest of college were As and Bs (with the typical Pass grade in all of the Physical Education classes I took).  I was more upset about that D than my parents were, which was actually a huge relief!  My father even said not to worry about the D cause it was one class and overall he knew I was a good student and he knew I had great grades in all of my other classes, at least I tried taking a class that challenged me and I could always take it over or take other classes that might balance out the D.  When I graduated from college, the look of pride on my father's face was enough to make me want to cry (but I didn't cause I didn't want to ruin my gown with wet spots or make my makeup run).

Then, I returned to Colorado and the excitement over my accomplishments wore off.  I don't mean to detract from the things my sister did, but the way my parents talked about her, you would have thought they only had one child.  Actually, the women that worked with my mother didn't know she had two children (I know this because when I went into the store she worked at and asked for her, they asked me who I was and I told them I was her daughter and they asked if I was the one attending CSU and I said I was her oldest daughter and they said "Oh, I didn't know C had another daughter".  That's a true story, I'm not making that up).  I just lost interest in spending Christmas with my family because it appeared that none of them were interested in me.  When I would start to talk about things going on at my job or things my friends and I were doing, I was interrupted and talked over by my family so I just stopped talking.  I waited until one of them asked me something, then I answered and that was it.  I even stopped giving detailed answers.  I didn't see the point.  None of them were interested in anything I had to say.

By the time July 2009 rolled around, I was pretty fed up with my family and was ready to make a significant and, possibly dramatic, change.  I wanted to get as far away from them as I could and cut them out of my life completely.  Okay, that's a horrible thing to actually say outloud, but it's how I felt at the time.  So, because I had always wanted to work with children and was disappointed I didn't change from Pre-Law to Education while in college, I decided to find alternative ways to teach.  I started applying for Teaching Fellows Programs back East.  The first program I applied for was the NYC Teaching Fellows Program and had just found out that I was invited for an interview when my maternal grandfather passed away.  It was November 21, 2009.  His memorial service was in early December, and we flew out as a family.  I got to see all of the Aunts, Uncles and cousins I had been missing since we left California in 1992.  I was able to see and spend time with my remaining 3 grandparents and even see/meet second cousins I either hadn't seen since they were under the age of 5 or had never seen except in pictures.

During the reception, I think several of my Aunts and Uncles could detect that I was miserable beyond mourning the passing of Papa.  After speaking with a couple of them, the recommendation that was given to me was to get as far away from my mother and sister as I could because they were "putting out my light"; "they are the kind of people who need to be the center of the universe and can and will completely douse the light that is me".  The opinion was that it was probably a good idea that I was applying for those programs in other states, that way I could go someplace where my light could shine and people would be able to know me as Tara rather than daughter of C and sister of A.  That was, in my opinion, a brilliant recommendation and completely made me feel better.  I had been fairly miserable as the daughter of M and C and the sister of A since I was about 23, so knowing that my Aunts and Uncles were able to sympathize with how I was feeling and could relate to how difficult it was being the daughter of C and sister of A (C and A, according to my extended family, are the exact same person, just different ages) was a really, REALLY great feeling.

My interview in NYC was in mid-December, right before Christmas.  It was an interesting experience, and I learned a lot at my interview (my interview skills were pretty rusty).  NYC is a place I would definitely want to visit again, but cannot see myself living in.  The nightmare was the flight back from NYC to DIA.  Long story that can wait for another blog post, but I got home on December 23, pretty close to Christmas when my original return was supposed to be December 21.  Well, at Christmas dinner, when I tried to tell them about my interview and the hostel I stayed at, I was interrupted and talked over and, essentially, silenced.  No one cared.  So, I just shut down.  Their lack of interest reinforced my desire to move as far away as possible and cut them out of my life.

When I was invited to interview with the DC Teaching Fellows Program in March 2010, I didn't tell my parents until 3 days before leaving.  The only reason I told them was because my grandmother mentioned my trip to my mom.  I had told my grandmother cause she was excited that I was looking for an opportunity to teach; it didn't occur to me that she'd tell my mom and, in hindsight, I wouldn't have told her until after my trip so then I never would have had to tell my parents.  I had a great trip to DC and the interview was really good.  I can easily see myself living in the DC area, it just FELT like the right place!  Unfortunately, I didn't get a position (10,000 applicants, 3,000 interviewees considered, 100 positions; I'm lucky to have gotten an interview).  It wasn't until April 2010, that anyone in my family showed any interest in what I was doing with my life (my job, my church and my interests in the Teaching Fellows Programs) and that interest was shown by my father.  I would like to think that the reason he suddenly started to show interest was because he could tell I was pulling away, and he didn't want me to pull too far away because he knew his time here on Earth was limited.  In actuality, I think he asked because I hadn't shared anything with him in several months and that was not normal for me.

Up until my father's death in July, I was more than ready to apply to other Teaching Fellows Programs and try to get jobs back East.  My plan, before he died, was to get a job out of state, move away and cut my family out of my life.  I felt unwanted and uncared about.  I believed that my family just didn't want me around, that they spent so much time glorifying my sister because they thought I was a failure.  I had never really believed my parents were proud of me or my accomplishments.  I hoped, that if I moved away and stopped speaking to them, it would make them wonder what they did to drive me away.

Then my dad died.  Now, Christmas sucks for a whole different reason.  Even though I have not liked and enjoyed Christmas for awhile now, I REALLY don't see the point this year.  I bought cards that have been sitting on my couch in the shopping bag for about 2 weeks now.  I didn't put up any of my lights or my tree.  I haven't even pulled out my Trans-Siberian Orchestra CDs to listen to and I listen to them every December.  I was trying to figure out what to buy my sister for Christmas this year and that led to me thinking of what to get my dad.  Then I remembered, I can't get him a gift.  As the daughter of an Air Force officer and an airline pilot, I'm used to my father not being home for holidays, but he ALWAYS called from wherever he was to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving or Merry Christmas.  I'm fine with him not being home for Christmas this year, it's the fact that the phone won't be ringing that breaks my heart and really makes this a sucky year.  I'm not going to lie and say I'm not still upset with my family, cause I am, but my hurt feelings are lessened.  Now I wonder if he died because I was angry with him.  Realistically, I know my anger didn't kill him, it was a micro-embolism caused by cancerous liver cells (that's a different, long story), but I did stop talking to him, which I know hurt his feelings.  I did hurt his feelings.

My family isn't perfect, but we are family.  I'd give up all of my holidays if it meant we could all be together this year for Christmas.  It will just be my mother and I.  My sister, who is a flight attendant, will be flying.  My boyfriend (who hurt my feelings by doing this) informed me he didn't want to go to my mother's for Christmas dinner and would rather just stay home alone.  And, my father is in a box at the USAFA cemetary.  So, it will be mom and I, watching TV and eating a nice ham for dinner.  I'll give her the gift I ordered (assuming it's here in time, boy will my heart break if it's not here in time; I ordered it December 8 and it still hasn't arrived; I'm trying very hard NOT to panic) and we'll just hang out.  I'd give away all of my books and my knitting (anyone who knows me, knows that my passions are reading and knitting) if dad could be here for Christmas.  I'd be a better daughter if it meant he could be here.  I would rewind the clock and go to law school like he wanted, if it meant that he could be here this year for Christmas and not dead from cancer.  I guess I'm in the bargaining phase of my grief?  "Dear God, I'll go to law school and become a lawyer if you'll make my dad not dead anymore. Love, Tara".  Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.  I would have been a good daughter, stayed in state and gone to CU for college and then go to law school if it meant that my dad wouldn't get cancer and die.  Yeah, I'm in the bargaining phase.

This year, I just want Christmas to go away.  I admit, I'm a Scrooge this year.

Monday, December 20, 2010


I was lying on the couch, not feeling all that well and found my eyes wandering around my small yet quaint one bedroom apartment, when my eyes fell upon Natalie.  Natalie holds the title of Tara's First Baby Doll.  I got her as a present for my 1st birthday and she's been with me ever since.  For a doll that is 33 years old, she's held up wonderfully.  Natalie has a plastic face and hands with "real" hair.  Her body is a soft material.  She has a sweet smile on her face and big brown eyes.  The vast majority of my childhood memories contain Natalie.  I remember carrying her around the house and having her beside me in bed.  What is it about children and that first toy they latch onto?

I have every intention of keeping Natalie and passing her on to my own daughter.  She's been part of my life for what seems like forever.  Natalie moved everywhere with me, except for college.  I wasn't allowed to take her to college with me, but that was okay because when I came home for holidays and breaks, she was there waiting for me.  I shared all of my secrets with Natalie.  If she were a real person, she'd have tons of dirt on me.  I guess it's a good thing she's not a real person, but rather a doll.

Now, as a 34 year old, I don't really do much with Natalie.  She sits in the lap of my winter bear that I received back in middle school around Christmas; Mr. Winter Bear sits in the rocking chair my Papa made me when I was very small.  They sit together, staring at me.  I think part of me thinks it would be completely odd for me to just sit on the couch with Natalie sitting in my lap.  Of course, I could still tell her my secrets, absolutely, but I don't think I need her now the way I needed her when I was younger.

When I was a small child, we moved around a lot.  My father was in the military and I think, through all of our moves, she was the one thing that remained the same.  Especially as I got older, when the moves became harder for me to adjust to, Natalie was the constant in my life.  I think my parents had a hard time understanding why the moves were difficult for me, which I can understand why.  I was a very shy child and my parents were definitely not shy people.  So, Natalie helped me adjust to those moves.  She helped me feel not so alone.  We always moved during the summers, so I would spend that first summer in the new city alone, without any friends until the school year began.

Natalie helped me through a lot of lonely moments in my life.  There are days when I do wish she were real.  She probably knows me better than anyone, even better than my own family.  Sometimes I wish she would actually respond when I ask her a question.  I could certainly use her advice with a lot of things.  Since she is only a doll, I will just continue to tell her my secrets, knowing that she will always be the only person who truly knows and understands me.