Saturday, September 12, 2009

my coat of arms; or, pieces of me

My friend V  wrote a post the other day about what would appear on her coat of arms, should she ever have a coat of arms. It was inspired by a site called One Minute Writer. I am going to steal the concept. Sort of. I like the idea of quick writes, I make my students do them all the time; but, alas, I am not quick. So, here is my version of the Coat-of-Arms-One-Minute-Write the long version.

The Cat:

I feel an affinity with cats. I am sure that I was one in a past life--and prolly will be one again. I have always lived with at least one. We are alike. We share a desire to sleep in the sunny spots, we are unable to make decisions ( do I want in? or out?), and we struggle to balance our need to appear independent with an equal desire make sure we get our ears scratched.

 To wit: Kat is Cat.

I was eight years old when I rescued my first cat. He was a little gray fluffy thing with white stockinged feet and no tail.  My family and I were having lunch at the parsonage after church one Sunday afternoon when I walked in on the pastor's four-year-old son using the cat as a basketball. He was tossing the cat repeatedly through a four foot high plastic kid's basketball hoop. By the time I got there the kitten was dazed and bleeding from the nose and one ear. I said nothing, and in a silent fury, I scooped up the kitten and ran out to our car, locked all the doors, and refused to surrender the kitten. Finally, it was agreed that "Smokey" would live at our house.  This was the first of many such acts.

The Apron:

I love the kitchen. I never feel quite as comfortable anywhere else as I do in the kitchen. I consider myself an amateur foodie, I love cooking, and I have the extra pounds to prove it. When I am stressed out, I head to the kitchen to chop, boil, and knead my cares away. My natural role is that of hostess and if I am going to have a party it will include a home cooked meal. If I love you it means I will ask you over to my house and serve you something yummy.

I was seven years old the first time I baked something on my own. It was a cake from scratch (an item I still haven't mastered) and I used salt instead of sugar. Oops. My parents were afraid I would be discouraged, so they did not criticize me (probably the only time in my life they have been supportive). Instead they covered the cake in gobs of supersweet icing and invited the neighbors over for dessert. Everyone was careful to eat their whole slice and to say things like "actually, it is kind of good. I like the whole salty sweet combination."

The Baseball:

I love everything about baseball. The grass. The pace. The symmetry. The sounds.The pants. Everything. When I am angry or upset you can find me at the batting cages bashing the heck out of as many baseballs that I can get my bat on. During baseball season there is almost always a game on at my house. If I had the time and the money I could live in the centerfield bleachers.

When I was a teen when I went to my first MLB game with teams I cared about. It was the Oakland A's and the Kansas City Royals. I grew up watching the Royals and idolizing their stellar Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett. My family still teases me because when I saw the outfield grass for the first time I started cry. My dad asked me what was wrong. I waved my hand towards the field and said, "It's just so beautiful."

The Sea:
I am obsessed with water. I didn't learn to swim until I was almost 9. But once I did it was impossible to get me out of the water. About five years ago, I learned to sail.  It is a passion that I cannot forget.  In recent years I have been land bound.  It is a goal to change that.

When I was applying to PhD programs I visited New England to school shop. I had just discovered sailing and I was taking every chance I could to sail. I was sailing on a tourist boat in Salem Harbor when I met a couple from the area. We talked about nearby schools and she told me she hoped that I would get into the one that I want, because I seemed like a nice woman and that people should get what they want. She said that they were avid sailors and encouraged my burgeoning passion. She said that she and her husband used to sail all the time, but that her husband's Alzheimers was so bad now that they couldn't go out on their own any more. She started to cry a little as her husband, formerly the captain of his own yacht, asked the captain on a cheap tourist boat a question about casting off, an action he used to perform without thought. She said that he couldn't remember much anymore, but that she had promised to continue to take him sailing for as long as she could. As we disembarked she hugged me and slipped some money into my hand--I thought is was five dollars, but later I realized it was a 50--and told me to use it well.

The Pen:
I am a writer. It is a part of who I am. If I don't write about something it isn't real. I tell stories. It is who I am.

When I was in the fourth grade, I won a creative writing contest. I wrote a story about a girl who gets lost in the woods and imagines that everything she sees is something terrible: a tree branch is a hand, an owl is a bogey man, a cat a mountain lion, and so on.  In the end, she goes home and her mother tells her that she needs to get her imagination under control, and the girl, who actually enjoyed being scared, just smiles as she imagines that her mother's shadow is really a ghost.

I am funny. It is a gift. All around me is laughter. I know that I am funny and I enjoy making people laugh. The funny (ha ha) thing is that I don't even control it any more: mostly it is unintentional. I don't really tell jokes per se, usually, it is just the way I see things. Sometimes it is my tone, a gesture, or the way I have put my words together. I am often startled by large outbursts of giggles all around me. I do love the sounds of laughter. It forces people outside of themselves. It gives me a view of their secret self, the one that is a little bit out of their control.

My last year in Reno, while at a BBQ at a friend's house, I was excited to meet the girl that one of my best friends was crushing on. I was talking to her and all around me people were laughing. I was telling her stories about my friend, and trying to make him look good. I could feel that we were not connecting.  I finally understood why, when after one particularly raucous moment she looked at me strangely and said, "Oh, you are one of those people who has to be funny." I instantly hated her.


  1. First off, I like the funny. I love how you put this together. And, oh, I miss your food. Mmm.

  2. I like your "Kat's got a tongue" and "what you can't tell by looking" headings.

    I know what you mean by not feeling as right, I suppose, when I'm not walking. It seems so simple, but then I start to feel down or overly anxious or upset and I give up on exercise and time outdoors. Even though I know these things will make me feel better, reason rarely reigns in my head.

    I hope you soon find time for your walks again, or for whatever other activity makes you feel better. Perhaps with the cooler air of autumn?