Friday, February 20, 2009

Housekeeping to Homemaking: Chores as Vocation

Friend Marta’s recent thoughts about housekeeping set off a veritable firestorm in my brain this week. This may be the first of many entries; to be honest, I’m a bit afraid to start on this topic, because of all the things it seems to be digging up. Lots of food for thought, not all of which is stuff you need to be subjected to. We’ll see. What seems to be surfacing at present, after a great deal of splashing, are my personal definitions for housekeeping and homemaking. I find somewhat to my surprise that they hold distinct places in my head.

Housekeeping, for example, is what one does with and for roommates. It is a way of showing respect for others and responsibility to a community. It probably focuses on shared spaces first and foremost, though attention must be paid to making sure nothing in one’s private spaces in any way will adversely affect others. It may also be what we do in spaces we think of as temporary, or belonging to someone else: dorm rooms, hotels, rented apartments. It’s a fine discipline, I don’t mean to belittle it, but it doesn’t stray much beyond the practicalities.

Homemaking, on the other hand is done with and for family. It’s a way of showing love, though it may go unappreciated. It often has a much wider scope than housekeeping, and implies a level of intimacy that doesn’t exist between most roommates. It can also imply a commitment to the space itself, perhaps as a result of ownership. I think anytime a task becomes a meditation, or even a prayer, then it has become homemaking. Both housekeeping and homemaking can be service to others or caring for ourselves, but so far I see homemaking as the deeper calling, the point when a chore becomes a vocation.
Both jobs can include cooking, cleaning, and general maintenance (and deciding what tasks are involved is probably a highly personal decision). I’ve found that cooking for others almost always rises to the level of prayer or meditation, but no doubt that is because I have rarely had to do it when I didn’t feel like it. In my life, getting together with others for a meal is a rarity, getting to do it in my apartment doubly so, thus there is usually a sense of occasion about it. This makes me look back on the family meals I had growing up (promptly every night at 6pm) with a new appreciation. Yes, I enjoyed them most of the time then too, but now I have a greater understanding for the work Mom put into them, and the way they built a personal foundation and familial bond. Much has been written about the communion of meals, I don’t think I have anything new to add there, but my own gratitude for it continues to deepen. Just to gloat a bit, I’ve also come to realize that I really lucked out with a mom who is both an exceptional cook and a great nutritionist. I was an adult before realizing that was not everyone’s experience.

Cleaning as vocation, that is a relatively new development in my life. I hasten to add that this doesn’t mean it happens as often as I would like. Like exercise, I know I will enjoy it once I start, and I will be delighted with the end result (including that pleasant sense of exhaustion), but even so I spend a great deal more time thinking about cleaning than I do actually cleaning. With the exception of three years with one boyfriend, and two months living alone, I have spent my adult life living with roommates. This means that most of my cleaning has been housekeeping. In the beginning chores and schedules were carefully defined, but over the last twenty years things got more vague. This is largely due to the fact that I’ve mostly lived with people (most of them guys, which is neither here nor there) who shared my relaxed attitude towards housecleaning. One guy characterized it as the ‘lazy dogs in the sun’ approach. We wouldn’t let things rot, fester or threaten our health; one never needed a tetanus shot to walk barefoot into the bathroom. Mostly it just meant that clutter, even dirty dishes, might be allowed to pile up longer than would be acceptable in other households. Dish washing is an interesting marker of my evolution from rigid rule-keeper to lazy dog in the sun. Early on in my shared living experience (starting in college) dish washing was probably the chore that got most discussed, defined, and debated. Specific expectations would get established, yet there always seemed to be one person who just couldn't swing it, or, weirder still, there would be that pile of stuff that somehow managed to dirty itself without a human agent. I don’t want to think of the number of hours I’ve spent in my life arguing, complaining or simply seething about dirty dishes. In the last few years though, I and more than one roommate managed to find a balance on the subject; things might build up a bit, but then one or the other of us washes ALL the dishes, regardless of who dirtied them. A big picture approach seems to have kicked in; we both assume the other guy will do his share over time, or he'll take out the garbage more often, or buy more of the milk or somehow pull his weight. There are some obvious reasons this approach is even possible. The people involved have to share an opinion of what is an acceptable level of clutter or dirt. I don’t know if this approach would work with kids, especially ones below the age of ten. In my case though, I think one of the reasons this approach works is because my attitude towards cleaning has moved from housekeeping to homemaking.

At some point, cleaning became something a pleasure for me. Perhaps it developed as an antidote to city living. When I needed a sense of control over my space, and greater serenity, cleaning and organizing my home gave me that result. When I need a clean space, I just clean. As a side note, all the career building books and seminars I’ve looked at over the years have stressed the importance of creating a good home when building any kind of freelance career. When pursuing something as unpredictable and ephemeral as acting, say, not only does one need a sense of a safe haven, one also will benefit from having tasks where the goal is clear, defined, and success easily measured. Go to a bazillion auditions, you may or may not ever hear anything. Clean your bathroom, you know when you got the job done. Whatever the cause, I have developed a new sense of satisfaction in cleaning. I seek out eco-friendly cleansers with appealing scents, bringing essential oils of lavender, pine, or lemon into the house whenever possible. I've discovered the exceptional cleaning power of baking soda; it’s the one thing that finally banished the bathroom mold I found living here when I moved in. I’ve fallen in love with my Swiffer. I’ve developed an appreciation for the basics of Feng Shui, noticing an improvement in energy when things are cleaned, dusted, and put away.

I know my loosey-goosey approach to homemaking, housekeeping, whatever I want to call it, is a luxury. No one is dependent on me these days for anything but the most basic of chores; I was tempted to title this essay The Dilettante Housewife, as a way of acknowledging that not everyone gets to choose if and when to do this stuff (I can't imagine my mom always enjoyed cooking dinner). I may also write at a later date about the conflicts I’ve had with roommates over home decor; where I need the serenity of white, blank walls and uncluttered surfaces, more than one guy has needed the stimulation and comfort of loud movie posters and displayed collections. Thinking about all this is clarifying some good stuff for me, though. After years of housekeeping, I’m ready for more homemaking. This seems to be a concrete step closer to the good life I’m always rabbiting on about, and best of all, it’s something I can do right away.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rediscovering an Old Friend

Thanks to Facebook, I recently got back in touch with a friend from college, Marta, who has a wonderful blog called My Goodly Heritage. Most recently she's been writing some great stuff about homemaking and child rearing. You'll find the first one here, but there are at least three others after that, and I'm hoping many more. I'm finding myself thinking all sorts of things in response. A partial list:

Homemaking/childcare as vocation and spiritual practice.
How interior (or mental) landscapes affect exterior (or physical) landscapes.
The different needs people have for their home spaces (serenity or stimulation, for example).
Why do we claim to value parenting, and believe that daycare workers should be trained, licensed and closely supervised, yet don't think either of these jobs deserves a serious salary?
How creating a family demands creating a home in some fashion.

So that is a far from exhaustive list of things I'm fumbling about with. Once I've figured out what, if any, of my thoughts you need to be subjected to, I'll be back. In the meantime though, go check out Marta's blog.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Super Silliness

I just had to join the league of Super Bloggers that has been using a website to create heroes. I was intrigued to notice how many of us chose to have wings. No real insight into that, I just noticed it. Actually it ended up working nicely as a way to get two super-powers; there's a special section just for abilities, but you only get to choose one. The wings, however, fall under 'upper body'.

Maybe I should just speak for myself here (don't you love statements that start that way?), but I wonder if us same-sex lovin' types bring an additional wrinkle to this kind of fantasizing. I look at my superhero above, and can't tell if I constructed someone I want to be, or someone I want to do. And yes, there is a difference. Believe me. I think he's more the latter, really. I wouldn't really mind being built like that I suppose, but I don't mind being on the scrawny side, not really. I see those guns, and I think, god, what a lot of work that would be. Sure, nice to look at and cuddle up with, but I just don't see me putting in the hours at the gym, especially not if I had to give the wings a good work-out too. And you know they'd need it. Snooze-o-rama.

(The red hair, however, is definitely my fantasy, as has been previously established.)

It didn't occur to me until after he was completed that I chose wings and what seems to be a pitch-fork, thus unconsciously going for some kind of devil/angel thing. I just liked the weapon because it was flaming. Plus it went with the hair.

As should be patently clear, I had no say in choosing the name. I'm not even entirely sure what the name is. His head blocks just a bit too much of it for me to be sure. Professor, I like that, cool. But then... what is the rest of it? Damp Angel? Damd Angel? I assumed at first it was Damn Angel (you know, flaming pitchfork/spear thingy, wings) but the N in Angel makes clear that the last letter in his first name is not an N. So I'm perplexed. DAMD, DAMP, DAMB, possibly DAMO... those are all the possibilities I can make sense of, given the font. Any thoughts?

Constructing the Professor was just the beginning for me, though. Once I had built him and seen the results from others, I became curious about how the names got generated. Not everyone with wings was named "angel" but two of the three I saw were. A staff seemed all it took to provide the adjective 'Walking' in someone's name. Not sure why my guy is 'Professor' though; maybe the logo on his chest. (UPDATE: Having seen a few more superheroes, I now suspect the weapon triggers the name 'Professor'. No idea why, but that's my present theory.)

Okay the real reason I had to construct another one was because there was this one thing I had to test. See, among the abilities listed there was a weird squiggly thing. My first guess for what it was seemed way off, because we had finished making choices for the face three categories earlier, but in fact my guess was right. One of the abilities you could choose was... a uni-brow.
I'm not really clear what special power that is supposed to give one, but it was listed there, not with the brow features, and choosing it meant you couldn't choose anything else, like the whip, flaming pitchfork, gun, or (my next favorite) bag of groceries. Yes, basically I designed this second guy around his uni-brow.

I decided not to put any clothing on this second guy for two reasons. One is, if I had done all the work to get that smokin' bod, you can BET I would wear as little as legally possible all the damn time. I had also considered not giving old Professor Damp Angel a shirt (you'll notice he's got no sleeves), but I figured with all the flying he might get a little chilly. One thing I know from too many dance concerts, spandex, even the expensive cotton stuff, makes me sweat like a pig. And you just know super-hero costumes get made out of lycra or absestos or something that doesn't breathe. So, no costume for the Caped Uni-Brow. That said, I will never turn down a chance to wear a cape, so he got one of them. Not sure how he's keeping it on, but looking at his face, I would guess staples.

I also just thought the gauntlets were cool.

My other reason for keeping him half-naked was to see if the addition of a uni-brow suddenly gave him body hair. I think we can all agree that anyone with that facial feature is going to be pretty furry, so I have to assume the Uni-Brow does some serious body-waxing. After that, stapling on his cape is probably nothing.

Once I had finished him, I began to regret the lack of footwear, if only because it creeps me out a bit that he doesn't have toes, but he does have toenails. I know, I know, artistic abstraction, but once I saw it that way, I couldn't see it any other. So, if I were so inclined to go back and make adjustments, I'd give him tights and boots. Just to cover up those creepy feet.

I won't be doing that though. I can't believe I spent this much time on these guys already.

Then again, I might want to try the uni-brow on the female prototype. Seriously, any idea why that is considered a special power?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Resting My Brain

Back at the beginning of the year, friend Jeff sent me the link to an article he knew I'd find interesting. He may not have realized it might also make me want to skip town, but I can't really hold that against him. I've been threatening to skip town for years now. I say a lot of things. The article, appearing in the Boston Globe, is titled How the City Hurts Your Brain, and it confirms many things I've suspected for a while now. Okay yes, partly that's because some of the findings are in the category of "somebody got paid to study That?" Nonetheless I have found it interesting, vindicating and oddly comforting.
The problem is pretty straight-forward. Navigating city life requires a great deal of what is called 'controlled perception'. In other words we are constantly telling our brain what of the overwhelming stimuli around us is unimportant (street sign, lady's weird hat, some body's stupid stupid cell phone conversation) and what is important (traffic, directions to destination, guy over there with a knife and grumpy expression). Our brains are wary in general, so we see dangers easily, and something like a backfiring car panics us, just for a second, to no great purpose. Navigating the average cityscape demands a lot of this controlled perception. Unfortunately this process is not one of our brain's strongest abilities, according to the study, so having to do a lot of it wears us out more quickly. Since this part of the brain is also responsible for self-control, after day of city living we have depleted our ability to concentrate, retain memory, resist temptation and keep our tempers. That's right, after a day spent in the cement jungle, we're less able to focus and more likely to buy that expensive suit we don't need, gorge on cookies instead of salad, and fight with our partner.

Studies done in Ann Arbor showed that students who had walked around in city streets were in a worse mood, and scored lower on memory tests, than did students who spent the same time walking in an arboretum. Patients with views of trees from their hospital rooms heal more quickly than patients who only have a parking lot to look at. In a study of women in a housing project, people living in apartments with views of trees and plantings scored higher on tests of focus and "ability to handle life challenges" than did people living in apartments with views of parking lots and basketball courts. People in the latter category also experienced more domestic violence. Children with ADHD exhibit fewer symptoms when they're in natural settings. The numbers of children with ADHD has been rising for years. Some believe this just indicates fewer kids are falling through the cracks than used to. Others believe it merely shows that the medical industry has gotten more clever at getting people to buy more pills. Another possibility, however, is the number has risen as more people move to cities. For the first time in history, more people are living in urban settings than are not. If this other research is accurate, then I think it's safe to wonder if there's a correlation with a rise in ADHD. But that's just my own little hobby horse.

For a time the Savannah Hypothesis - the theory that we'll prefer wide open spaces like the ones we evolved from in Africa - led to many parks and civic spaces being designed basically as big lawns, but research now indicates that we're actually more helped by places with a wide variety of trees, plants, and fauna. According to the Attention Restoration Theory (ART), formulated by Dr. Steven Kaplan at the University of Michigan, our brains do notice all the things around us in beautiful natural settings (birds, animals, flowers) but doing so actually rests and restores our brains. We take it all in, but not only do we not feel threatened by it, we're actually the better for it. I assume we'll be appropriately worried at the sight of a grizzly bear or similar threat, but a simple walk in the woods will rejuvenate us in ways that a city street just won't.

This article goes a long way to explaining why I will feel tense, angry and exhausted after a twenty minute walk in Times Square, and upbeat after a walk in a park, woods or mountain-side. I had assumed the level and quality of noise was responsible, and presumably it's part of the picture, but apparently the difference in visual stimuli is not to be ignored either.
I've even noticed a difference in the kind of tiredness I experience. There's what I call a 'good tired' which results from good exercise or rewarding mental challenges (and to be fair, such urban activities as dancing in a club can cause it), then there's the 'bad tired' which results from things like sitting on a plane forever, waiting for a subway, or running one too many errands in Midtown. I'll be exhausted in either case, but mood and the quality of sleep is just much better in the former case. There is usually a better sense of accomplishment as well; even if a dance or gymnastics class has left me aching, it will be a good ache. Bad tired leaves me feeling cranky, worn down, and depleted. With any luck, I will use this information the next time I feel tempted to reward myself for a hard day by planting myself in front of the TV with a vat of sesame chicken. Even just looking at a photo of green space has a beneficial effect.

I think I mentioned last Spring, when I rediscovered the river walk near my place, that it had taken me a while to learn that I need regular infusions of sky and long vistas. I have a very slight case of claustrophobia, extended periods surrounded by skyscrapers will trigger it, and I assumed that was the whole story. Perhaps having grown up in the Mid-West means I'm just a bit more 'Savannah' focused than some. Certainly I experience rejuvenation from a sight many might find ugly or even depressing, that of a harvested field lying fallow in Winter. The many shades of brown, rust, sepia, the rustling stalks, the broken earth, I love it. I know my mother enjoys visiting places with hills and mountains, but after two weeks she definitely starts to feel claustrophobic. Her childhood on an Iowa farm means she now needs regular access to a 360 degree horizon. My claustrophobia isn't that strong; I love living in or near mountains, they just don't oppress me the way skyscrapers can. (I do acknowledge that being up high in a skyscraper can be thrilling, it's just not something I experience very often here.) Maybe I just find it much easier to find long vistas when I'm in woods or mountains.
Recently I noticed an additional nuance to this experience (appropriately enough during a walk on Epiphany). I don't like it if enormous things sneak up on me, or take me by surprise, and seriously, that happens to me in cities more than you might think. I'm talking about turning a corner and suddenly being confronted by an enormous building reaching to the heavens. No, it doesn't happen every time I walk around town, New York actually does pretty well with wide enough streets and a grid that gives me fair warning of encroaching behemoths. Nonetheless I will occasionally come across some huge construction (often coming up from underground, which worsens the effect) and feel like I should have had more warning.
See, in the country, even places with mountains, you will see enormous things from some distance away, and you can watch them slowly get bigger as you approach. You get some warning. You're prepared. Apparently I need that process more than most. This might also explain why I was so often disconcerted (though ultimately thrilled) by seeing Mt. Rainier in Seattle. For those of you who've never had the experience, Rainier is a two hour drive away from Seattle, and for about two hundred days out of the year, you can't see it from the city at all because of cloud cover. Even on days where it is sunny in the city, you won't be able to see the volcano (with spectacular iceberg) because it will be shrouded in clouds, you just can't tell. When the mountain does become visible though, it is ENORMOUS. HUGE. It looks like it's right smack dab in the city, like you should be able to walk to it on your lunch break. It looks like a freakin' movie backdrop, because nothing that huge should just SHOW UP like that. This is why Seattleites will talk about the mountain 'being out' as a noteworthy event. It is.
On a related note, I think this makes me understand my sister's objections to blimps a bit better. She hates, I mean HATES them with a passion that, to be honest, I used to think was a bit on the crazy side. One of the things she has said though is "nothing that big should move so quietly, and just SHOW UP." Maybe I'm way off here, but I think I get it now.
I'm not really sure where this all leaves me, but I understand my recent walks in a new light. Obviously I've enjoyed them for their own sakes, but it's nice to have confirmed that they were also doing my brain some good. Over the last few years I have felt like my concentration has gotten worse, and my ability to remember things had deteriorated. Names, for example, used to be something I got down without any effort at all. I could walk into a classroom with twenty students and have every one's names after a single go-around. Nowadays I have to concentrate on memorizing names, and often won't get them all in one try. I was attributing that to getting older, and I suppose I can't completely discount that influence, but the fact is my dad is similarly good with names (though he'll pretend otherwise when it suits him), and his ability doesn't seem to have lessened, despite being thirty-two years older than me. No, for the time being I may be blaming the city for a lot. And claiming scientific validation for it.
The article (which really is very interesting, and I'm not doing it justice) does acknowledge that city life has its own benefits, but I don't think it's just my prejudices that make me feel it's the weakest part of the essay. The assertion seems to be that dealing with strangers constantly may wear us out, but it also makes us good at innovation. So learning lots of ways not to rip each other's throats out makes us more flexible in our thinking.
I may be interpreting the data wee bit loosely.
Bottom line, I'm seeing that my need for trees is not a weakness, as I've occasionally thought in the past. Silly to think so, and even sillier to need scientific validation for it, I know, but there we are. I don't know that I'm any closer to skipping town than I was, but at least now I know that when I'm feeling burned-out, heading out to a park may do more for me than I think. And maybe I'm not a wimp if I consolidate my errands in Midtown a bit.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Random Biographic Snapshots.

Several of my favorite people are doing this survey. I love things like this. I love the "25 Things About Me" survey going around Facebook right now. There's something appealing about these random lists of questions to me, and I like the way they trigger memories I haven't thought about in years. So I'm doing it.

Feel free to steal this, of course. Also feel free to ignore this entry, if stuff like this gives you hives. I'll be rabbiting on about something else very soon, I'm sure.

What Have I Done.

The rules are simple: bold the items you’ve done; don’t bold items you haven’t.

1. Started your own blog. Ummm...

2. Slept under the stars. Many times, though at some point I realized that looking at stars didn't go well with sleeping. But falling asleep looking at stars is nice, as long as you're comfy and chose to be there. I was also reminded this Christmas about the glow-in-the-dark stars in the guest room in my parents place (it was my sister's bedroom first, then my brother's). My former bedroom still has glow-in-the-dark stars as well, but it's now my Dad's office, so sadly I think they're going to waste. Falling asleep, feverish with shingles, I found the stars on the ceiling very comforting. It doesn't get dark enough in my bedroom here, ever, so while I might be tempted to put stars up, it's not worth it.

3. Played in a band. I strongly suspect this questionaire does not mean high school orchestra, or a string quartet. But I'm bolding it anyway. This is my party.

4. Visited Hawaii. Not yet. On the to-do list.

5. Watched a meteor shower. Every August I can. Though I missed it the last two years. Must make a note of that.

6. Given more than you can afford to charity? Occasionally I thought I might have. But no, it never proved to be true.

7. Been to Disney World / Land. To be honest, meh. Which will cause some very dear friends to disown me.

8. Climbed a mountain. In Vermont, Colorado, Washingon State, Maine, Tennessee, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ireland, England, and Scotland. Some of those mountains would be called big hills in this country, but I broke a sweat, saw some gorgeous places, and created great memories. And I'd say many of the North American ones would count as real mountains too.

9. Held a praying mantis. Way cool.

10. Sang a solo. Once, onstage.

11. Bungee jumped. No interest, for some reason.

12. Visited Paris. On the to-do list.

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea. I saw a lightening storm sweep in off the Atlantic onto the west coast of Ireland once. The rain came in sheets, like it was marching. It was spectacular. I think this question is actually asking if I was at sea during a storm, but this memory is so vivid, I decided to include it. Again, my party.

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. I love Jeaux's answer; every artist starts from scratch. But I also have benefitted from great teachers, I'll be the first to admit. And sometimes I've learned good thing about acting from people who were talking about something entirely different. If you love your work, whatever it is, you have a lot to teach me.

15. Adopted a child. No, but I've secretly adopted some of my friends' kids.

16. Had food poisoning. I don't know how I've managed to avoid it, but I have.

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty. I've lived in NYC since '96. Maybe I'll get around to it. What the hell.

18. Grown your own vegetables. I'm counting herbs (basil, sage, marjoram, chives, oregano).

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France. Not the first thing I'd seek out at the Louvre, but I'd definitely want to see it.

20. Slept on an overnight train. As a kid, with my family, heading up to Scotland from London. My younger brother and I had to share a single bunk. I was cranky about it. But waking up in a brand new place was exciting. Never got that sense from overnight flights for some reason. I wonder if sleeping on a boat create the same sense of wonder?

21. Had a pillow fight. Am I the only person who ever went to a sleep-over? Or hell, had a boyfriend?

22. Hitch-hiked. It's legal and somewhat encouraged in Ireland. I found it uneventful.

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill. Please. Give me a break.

24. Built a snow fort. It's been way too long though.

25. Held a lamb. To-do.

26. Gone skinny dipping. And was arrested for it.

27. Run a marathon. I doubt I ever will. I ran cross country as a kid, and made it my secret aversion therapy for being gay. It didn't cure me of homosexuality, but it sure ruined long distance running for good.

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice. To do. I want to spend a lot of time in Italy.

29. Seen a total eclipse. Solar and lunar. The last time I watched a lunar eclipse, I was on the phone with Jeff, learning about his engagement to Megan.

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset. Many times, and this fall I even did both in one day. I've got the photos to prove it.

31. Hit a home run. I'm trying to remember if I ever actually managed to connect with the ball at all. I guess I must have hit some foul balls. But no, no home runs.

32. Been on a cruise. Only day cruises, around Manhattan. One was for a wedding (I was best man, and one of my duties was keeping the groom upright in choppy waters), and once for a birthday party.

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person. It was at night, however. Still magnificent.

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. Like a lot of Americans, I'm basically a mongrel, with a fairly detailed genealogy on my mother's side, and virtually no information on my dad's. So, yeah, probably, but not that we really knew for sure. Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, definitely. If we ever find out what American Indian tribe my great-grandfather belonged to, I'd love to learn more about that. My mom grew up on a farm that had been in her mother's family for over 100 years. We went back to visit every summer when I was a kid. So that sort of feels like family ground.

35. Been to an Amish community. And I spent a lot of my youth explaining to my schoolmates the difference between Amish and Quaker.

36. Taught yourself a new language.First time I tried to learn Irish was as a kid, with a book and records. It didn't go well.

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied. Often. Knock wood.

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.

39. Gone rock climbing.

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David. To do. While I'm in Florence I will want to see the Caravaggios.

41. Sung karaoke. Only twice. Chains of Love (Erasure) at a gay wedding, and Only the Good Die Young (Billy Joel) at a friend's birthday party in a bar. I did not distinguish myself either time, but you know, points for tryin'.

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt. All of Yellowstone is a BIG to-do.

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant. No, but I'm rather enamoured of this idea now, for some reason. Has anyone ever done this?

44. Visited Africa. I'd like to start with Morocco, I think.

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight. Many times. I've also gone skinny dipping alone by moonlight. Hope my mother never reads this.

46. Been transported in an ambulance. Knock wood.

47. Had your portrait painted. Oh so many times. I've lost count. Nor do I presently know the whereabouts of any of those portraits.

48. Gone deep sea fishing. I've no interest in fishing, but would love to take a trip by boat.

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person. Not the first thing I'd do in Italy, but I'd probably stop by.

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Not the first thing I'd do in Paris, but I'd probably stop by.

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling. Well, snorkeling yes, but does that really count? Another to-do.

52. Kissed in the rain. ... Not that I can remember. And I think I would remember. Sigh.

53. Played in the mud. Been way too long for this too.

54. Gone to a drive-in theater. The last one I can remember is Breaking Away.

55. Been in a movie. I'd done background work on Georgia, Taxi, a Beautiful Mind, and a few episodes of the TV show Ed. I've only seen A Beautiful Mind, so I don't know if I'm actually visible in any of the other stuff. My sister says she saw me in one episode of Ed. Someday I hope to have a more interesting answer to this question.

56. Visited the Great Wall of China. To-do.

57. Started a business. Self-employed as an actor, mask-maker, and artist model, so technically yes.

58. Taken a martial arts class. Strictly speaking yes, since Tai Chi is considered a martial art. My dad likes to point out that it would only work if the opponent also agrees to move in slo-mo.

59. Visited Russia. Pretty far down the to-do list, to be honest.

60. Served at a soup kitchen.

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies.

62. Gone whale watching. Once in Provincetown, and once in Jersey.

63. Gotten flowers for no reason. Always a nice surprise.

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma. I'm not actually supposed to, having had sex with at least one man since 1977. We'll see.

65. Gone sky diving. While bungee jumping holds no appeal, I think I'd like to try this at least once. Maybe doing it in tandem with an experienced person will be enough to satisfy my curiosity.

66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp. I wonder if I could handle it? I

67. Bounced a check. Three times in 24 years.

68. Flown in a helicopter. Meh. I wouldn't turn down a chance, but, meh.

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy. Unless we're counting books.

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial. I thought the architect had an amazing sense of theatre. A very specific mood gets conjured.

71. Eaten caviar. But I prefer salmon roe.

72. Pieced a quilt. No, but I did choose the colors and pattern for a quilt that my Mom made, then she and my sister used left-over pieces from that quilt to piece a second one. I have both quilts.

73. Stood in Times Square. I've turned into one of those assholes who gets annoyed at all the tourists blocking my way when I am trying to walk. So yes, I'm sure I've actually come to a complete halt at least once in Times Square.

74. Toured the Everglades. I'd have to go in the winter, because hot humid weather turns me into a lump.

75. Been fired from a job. Wow. I don't think I ever have. And I've had some big fights with bosses. I've quit more than one job after less than six months, but in every case, I was the employee who lasted longest in that position.

76. Seen the changing of the guard in London. First time I remember was at age seven, which is probably just about the perfect age for this.

77. Broken a bone. Knock wood.

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle. I don't think he was observing the speed limit, but I couldn't really tell you.

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person. BIG to-do. MUST Do. Need to get on that.

80. Published a book.

81. Visited the Vatican. I think it's entirely possible I might go to Rome.. and skip this entirely. Never having been Catholic, it doesn't really hold any big magic for me. But then there is the Sistine Chapel, of course. Oh, what the hell. Let's not be snotty. I'd drop by.

82. Bought a brand new car. I've yet to own a car, period.

83. Walked in Jerusalem. The whole middle east fascinates and terrifies me.

84. Had your picture in the newspaper. A few times. And see answer #91

85. Read the entire Bible. Very little of it, actually, so the fact that I seem familiar with it at all tells me how much it saturates my culture. I consider my biblical knowledge the result of a process I call cultural osmosis.

86. Visited the White House.

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating. Someday I will see if I can kill a chicken, and if I can't, then I will give up all meat entirely for a second time. I've been a vegan, a vegetarian, and at this point I only eat seafood and poultry. But oh how I do love them...

88. Had chickenpox. Just got over shingles, in fact. I'm still not clear on how one distinguishes chickenpox from shingles. Several people I know have had chickenpox more than once. So it's not just that we call it chickenpox the first time and shingles ever after. Anyone able to clarify this for me?

89. Saved someone’s life. Not that I know of.

90. Sat on a jury. I've yet to make it past voire dire.

91. Met someone famous. Okay, the name-dropping I most often am tempted to do includes:
Denise Levertov. She asked my dad to be her literary executor because of a chapter he wrote on her in his book, and she ended up becoming a close friend of the family.

Paul Giamatti. He and I worked at the same theatre in Seattle, had many mutual friends, and I did one play with him. I even have a newspaper clipping with photo of the two of us together to prove it. He's a kind, wonderful, rather shy guy whom we all seemed to know was going to be very successful. I can't claim we were ever close.

Andre Gregory. I modeled for him three times when he was taking private lessons in drawing. Charming man.

Tatum O'Neal. I was her dog walker for about a year. In the random department, Kyra Sedgewick once stopped me on the street to ask for some advice regarding her new puppy.

92. Joined a book club.

93. Lost a loved one. I'm 42 years old. Come on.

94. Had a baby.

95. Seen the Alamo in person. Not sure this is on my to-do list.

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake. See above. Though I've driven through Utah, and was struck by the grandeur of the place. I wouldn't mind seeing the buttes again.

97. Been involved in a lawsuit. Knock wood.

98. Owned a cell phone. I fought it for a while, but am happy to have one now.

99. Been stung by a bee. Last time was this past August.

In doing this questionaire, I've noticed some things.

1. I think I want to do some traveling... I need to figure out a way to get someone to pay me to take trips. Other than North America (in patches), Ireland and the UK, I've not seen much of the world. Of course I also want to go back to many of my favorite places as well. So, time to do some traveling.

2. I think that kissing-in-the-rain thing has me more upset than it should. But it's not like I can add it to the to-do list. That one has to happen organically. Sigh.

3. It was just as interesting for me to note which things I haven't done that I have little to no interest in doing.

4. It's also made me wonder what kind of list I might generate myself.