Saturday, September 24, 2011

“Home”

a branch from a strong tree   
grafted to another tree   
entwined and interlocked   
growing new   
a child’s mischievous grin   
before he puts a bean up his nose   
a cuddle on the couch   
calling softly   
Love you to eternity   
tasting life in all its flavors   
the spice of banter   
the bitterness of loss   
a sweet ecstasy     
of togetherness   
two hands clasped together   
heads bent over an open book   
laughter at private jokes   
whispering softly   
in golden haloes of light   

Copyright 1994 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, September 23, 2011

“Ampeg to Zildjian”

            After dinner last night, my son and I headed over to Guitar Center to ogle drum kits. Paul’s work on building a recording studio shifts from computers and software to hardware and instruments. On the ride over, our discussion picks apart the differences between analogue recording and digital—flawed and perfect.  Throughout the conversation, my mind grasps the concepts with ease, and I realize how much I’ve learned as my son journeys upon his personal quest.
            I can now carry on conversations about watts and ohms. I understand the difference between a condenser microphone and a dynamic one, which means I can explain the importance of gain. I confidently throw out terms like USB, firewire, and Thunderbolt in discussions. My knowledge about different interfaces has increased tenfold over the last few months, and I really do know the difference between compressors, amplifiers, and mixing boards.
            Our quest last night took us to Guitar Center to study the perfection of DW drum kits. When Paul first began playing drums, he created a monster kit—a hybrid made of two kits, a Pearl and a Yamaha, that took up an entire bedroom. Eventually, Paul stacked the kits into the room’s corner in favor of his Roland. Now, he needs a professional kit to mike up for recording. When we walked into the drum section of the store, a cacophony assailed us as three different drummers played on different kits. Our eyes sought out the DWs along the left wall, and Paul carefully explained the nuances of drum crafting. After lusting over a couple of kits, we shifted into the cymbal room where Paul explained the differences in tone when listening to a Paiste versus a Zildjian.
            Before we left the store, we peeked into the bass section because Paul also needs a bass amp and cabinet. Serendipity stepped into the room with us as Paul discovered a used model of the Ampeg amp he’d researched just that day! I perched upon the corner of a speaker, listening to the flow of jargon rise and fall, amazed and pleased at just how much I have learned.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

“Aches and Pains”

         Recently, exhaustion ties me into bed each morning even after Mom rings. As a matter of fact, I don’t even hear the little bell at all. Even once I pull myself out of slumber, my body aches won’t let me do much more than lie on my back and test my muscles. The process involves wiggling my toes and rotating my ankles. If pain doesn’t accompany these tests, I move up to my legs, anticipating the bone deep tenderness. On good days, I progress to my arms and hands, checking them for tingling and discomfort. By this time, I move to the edge of the bed to put weight on my feet. If the floor feels like gravel, I hobble into the other room with determination. Usually by the time I reach the family room, the floor evens out.
         I haven’t made a doctor’s appointment to begin the process of discovering the reason for my morning soreness. Right now, it presents a little inconvenience in the mornings and dissipates like a mist once I force myself into motion. My sister suffers with Fibromyalgia, and she suspects I have the same problem. If the symptoms persist, I suppose I’ll have to try for a diagnosis. As I spend quite a bit of time taking my mother to her various doctors, I dread having to spend any additional time in waiting rooms!
         Always, in the back of my mind, runs the worry that any changes I note in my body or mind may signal the first symptoms of Huntington’s Disease. I can have genetic tests done, but I decided there’s more hope in not knowing. Without testing, I have a 50% chance of being HD free. With testing, I could learn that the CAG repeats skipped me—that I’m definitely free of HD. Wonderful news, of course. The flip side of the genetic testing would be that I do carry the disease. At this point in my life, I don’t want that particular 100% certainty. Being an optimist, I tend to amble through my days with the belief that I don’t carry the disease. In my case, ignorance is bliss!
         People who know me well probably find my decision not to run the genetic tests puzzling. The motto “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” has guided many of my life decisions in the past. By clinging to the hope of being HD free, my behavior may not reflect preparing for the worst. However, I took out long term care insurance before I turned fifty, locking in at a pretty decent rate. I can, with a clear conscience, put on any insurance applications that I am disease free since I show no symptoms. My siblings have elected to take a wait-and-see approach as well. Maybe we dance with denial, but as long as each of us remains symptom free, this seems the best approach. We focus on the challenges that Mom faces and set aside the possibility of dealing with HD within our own generation.    

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman
       

            

    

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

“Facebook Changes”



         When I clicked onto my Facebook account today, a new feature with short explanations greeted me. Yes, another change! The little box informed me that all of the “Top Stories from the Last Day” would lead, being followed by “Recent Stories.” These tops stories, selected by Facebook, have a little blue corner tab to let your deselect them. Once you’ve done that, you’re given the option of seeing the “Four Top Recent Stories.” I suppose these new features offer something faster for the person with a million friends. Another new feature is the ability to “See what your friends are up to right now,” which offers Peeping Tom a view on just how boring everyone’s life can be. The menu bar, also changed, no longer has a place for clicking onto your Profile.  You accomplish that by selecting your name and Profile picture in the upper left corner. As I progress through the next few days, I’m certain to stumble upon other features that now work differently.
         Of course, all of the “Top Stories from the Last Day” railed against Facebook for once again making changes! You see, our brains get lazy. We love the security of sameness. When rattled by unexpected change, we feel discomfort. The last time Facebook changed, status after status started up for a “Change Facebook Back” bombardment. Of course, nothing happened, and our brains assimilated and accommodated the new until it became comfortable. I know if someone asked me today to describe the previous setup for Facebook (which I loved), I couldn’t. The old is forgotten, the new assimilated. Now that new will become the old.
         In the meantime, Facebook users’ distress at the changes will make them rail against the inevitable. For some of us, there’ll be a mental shoulder shrugging, a shake of the head, and an acceptance of the new. Others will continue to resist, feeling disoriented and disgruntled for days before their brains take in and accept the changes. Then there will be the final group. These patrons will find another social network (like Google+). The irony of making a bigger change in protest of change being totally lost to them.

 Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

“In the Box”

         The two towheads leaned over the drawing, smiling broadly at their cartoon creation. The magical hero bore a resemblance to the boy with his broad toothy smile and spiked halo of hair. The champion’s steed, a winged Pegasus, carried the graceful lines of the girl’s art. The background art, a collage of trees, blossoms and lopsided huts, represented the best efforts of the pair. So similar their styles that even they couldn’t discern whose hand sketched which object.
         “I’m gonna draw when I grow up,” the girl declared with certainty as she colored a petal.
         “No. You can’t. You gotta be a mommy,” the boy challenged as he knocked her hand way.
         “Don’t!” she screamed, anger and frustration painted her face with red splotches.
         He wrestled her crayon from her tight fist, broke it smartly into two chunks, and threw the pieces hotly onto the floor, “You’re going to be nothin’ cuz you’re a gir—el!” he proclaimed in superiority.
         She punched his smug face and ran from the room, slamming the door behind her in a vain attempt to keep him from chasing her down and pounding into her.


         Golden hair fanned out from the teen’s face as she sunned in the sand. The ocean lulled her into a doze, made her slack with relaxation after a grueling final week of school. High school diploma tucked up into her closet, she relished the idea of holding still. She longed for lazy afternoons on the beach and late parties with her friends. She wanted to step away from making decisions about her future, and instead longed to enjoy every moment of “Now.”
         She saw his shadow through her closed eyes, yet she ignored his presence. Impatient for her to open her eyes, he tipped his beer onto her face.
         “You shit!” she bolted upright, wiping at her face with fingers covered in sunscreen, her eyes began to burn and tear. “Why did you do that?” Shifting on her beach towel, she dabbed the corner at her eyes, trying to clear the mix of beer and sunblock.
         “Dad says you need to go to the store to pick up steaks for dinner,” her brother sneered. “Now!” he commanded as he kicked at the sand by her feet.
         “You go,” she insisted. “I just got out here. I spent all morning finishing the wash. You’ve been on the beach all morning.”
         “Not my job, girlie-girl,” he teased. “I took a part-time job for the summer. You made the deal with Dad to take care of the house instead of getting a job. So--,” he dangled car keys in front of her smarting eyes.
         She swung her hand out, snapping up the keys before he decided to play a mean game of keep-away, reached for her t-shirt, and pulled it over her head in a swift movement while her feet slipped into her sandals. “Did Dad give you any money?” She extended her hand to receive a few bills from him.
         “Pick up more beer!” he called after her as she stomped up the beach to the car.
            “All I want this summer is time for my art,” she grumbled as she pulled the car out of its slot and yanked at the wheel to turn it onto the road. “I want to get up at dawn to do photography. I want to capture sunsets on canvas.” She pounded her fists onto the steering wheel, “I want everyone to leave me alone!” She sped down the road, her fury planting her foot on the accelerator. “But, noooooo!” she wailed. “This is the first summer Dad’s ever expected my god’s-gift brother to work. He got three summers to do whatever he wanted. But, noooooo! That’s not for me. Daddy’s little girl’s gotta either ‘earn her keep or find a new place to sleep.’” Hot tears streaked down her face; she let them fall onto her shirt front, mix with her sweat, the beer, and smudges of Coppertone.

            The white veil hid the wild look in her eyes. She ignored her mother’s incessant chatter on the beauty of the gown, on how thankful she should feel that her father paid for such a lovely dress. Her lips pursed into a straight line to hold back the panic that welled in the back of her throat, and that threatened to escape in an unending scream.
            “He’s such a lovely young man,” her mother prattled as she plucked the dress this-way-and-that, “With a wonderful job! You’ll never have to worry a single day!” Her mother stepped back to appraise her work. “Once you have a baby, you’ll settle into marriage, just like I did,” her mother glanced up at their reflection, saw the fear in her daughter’s eyes, and continued, “This is really the best future for you, darling. All that nonsense about being an artist!” she waved her hands in dismissal. “You’re father wasn’t about to support you forever, you know.”
            “Not even through art school,” resentment filled her heart, spilled out in her words. “He paid for college for both of my brothers—,”
            “And not for you, dear, because he knew you’d just end up getting married and raising a family. Just like you are!”
            “I—I can’t go through with it!” she stepped away from the mirror, searching the room for her purse and car keys. “This is a huge mistake. I don’t know how I let everyone pressure me into this. It’s insane! It’s not what I want!
            “Now, dear,” her mother stated with harsh practicality, “It’s never exactly what we want, but it’s what is expected. You just square your shoulders, march down that aisle, and make a commitment to that fantastic fiancĂ© of yours. All of your life, you’ve wanted to do your own thing, be your own person. You wouldn’t even color within the lines as a child! Always drawing your own little world, never staying in the box.” Her mother grabbed her by both hands, her grip surprisingly firm, “You’re a grown woman, so act like one!”
            Realization flooded through her, resignation weighed her shoulders into a slump. That special piece of her that exploded on each canvas or edged into each photograph suddenly folded into itself. Corner-by-corner, she tucked away the hope of the artist until it became a tiny speck. Her spirit, sensing no future now, walked slowly into the box.  

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

             



          

             

Monday, September 19, 2011

"The Ride"

http://www.seattlepi.com/ The World's Steepest Roller Coaster

We stand together, our eyes fixated on the ride ahead   
The interminable line snakes before us, but we enter anyway   
Attracted by the lure of excitement and risk   
Waiting with false patience for our future,   
we sing, tell stories, people watch—   
Pushing aside insecurities and fears with jokes   

One step forward, one step forward, one step forward   
until we stand at the gateway   
We feel the ground tremor, hear the hiss of breaks   
Too late to turn back now, too late for second thoughts   
The harness clamps us into space   
bare feet dangle, trying to find purchase in the sky   
We trust technology,   
shove aside panic; focus upon anticipation and thrill   

Velocity throws us headlong     
We twist, turn—upside down, sideways, backwards   
Screams and laughter bend with the momentum   
Our muscles constrict in tension   
Our stomachs slide into our throats   
Our heads explode with pressure   
But there’s no getting off this ride   
We have to see it through   

Eyes clenched tightly closed while fingers grip the bars   
we survive the first onslaught and prepare for the second   
Uncontrollable laughter bubbles out—   
floats on the manufactured winds of speed   
Peaking eyes open, we see the end is near   
Triumph whoops   
Fists punch air   

Teasing each other over our doubts,   
we regain footing on the platform   
where we dance with victory,    
we celebrate our survival   
Overlooking headaches and nausea,   
we look for the entrance of the next ride   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, September 18, 2011

“Boredom”

Listlessly I walk
from room to room
in search of—
something to do
I ramble
I go to the fridge
scrounge around in the coolness
nothing looks good
I’m not hungry anyway—
just bored
I stand
facing the kitchen wall
I sigh
I shuffle into the bedroom
flicking imagined fluff from my t-shirt
I pick up
This Side of Paradise
I put it back down
no reading for today
The house is a mess
clothes need to be washed
the lawn needs work
Yet—
there’s nothing to do . . .

Copyright 1985 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman