Pass the rolls and behave yourselves

Holidays are good for three things, kids, nostalgia, and stuffing your face. Some would argue family, and I’d say that falls somewhere in the realm of nostalgia and kids. An in-between world of sorts where you catch yourself looking back on fondly but don’t always enjoy the experience in the moment (as an adult). You always remember vividly, however, the little faces alight with joy at all the excitement. Kids can do that, I think, and I’m sure I’m stepping on some toes here by saying this, but I think that holidays would be meaningless without children. They would for me, at least.

In many ways, I would not participate in any holiday at all if it weren’t for my children. As much as I enjoy food and drink and getting together with people I like,  the sheer effort of shopping, preparing, cooking, timing, and cleaning up everything is undeniably exhausting, and let’s not forget that I will always choose lazy first. 😉

Would I skip out on cooking this Thanksgiving meal if I could this year? Probably. If we were capable of going back to the snowy tundra for this holiday break, we’d be there, enjoying the fruits of other peoples’ labor. Yeah, I know. I’m shameless :). But, alas, we are here. We know no one well enough to spend this intimate of all holidays with them, and so I am cooking the turkey day meal for only the second time in history.

I had a sort of cheat this year. A precursor to the thing. A what-have-I-gotten-myself-into late night melodramatic turkey cooking and carving session. Basically, I cooked an eighteen-pound bird for my kid’s first grade school feast and wondered where my youth had gone. I did all the things. I thawed it in my bathtub. I pulled out all the organs (without throwing up). I cleaned it out. I massaged it in butter. I rubbed it with seasoning. And I mourned the death of my innocence.

I also, marinating in the mouthwatering smell of roasted bird, was transported back to the years of Thanksgivings spent at my grandparents. Who knew a bird could smell like tryptophan and memories? Who knew it could stir up new perspectives lost on hungry, excited children, awakening respect and awe and admiration?

My grandmother was a damned hero. She cooked like a professional. Hell, she was a professional in terms of experience and skill. She was born at the end of the Great Depression, when women were still expected to have a role, a time and place to speak, weren’t supposed to attend college, weren’t even supposed to drive. She prepared a meal for a hundred for every major holiday just so everyone could take home leftovers. And we did. We all did despite buttons popping off of pants and arteries clogged with butter. Half the time she’d have nothing left of this impressive meal for herself and my grandpa, but she didn’t complain. She simply wanted us to be happy. To come together under one roof. To get along.

Even in childhood, I think I realized what a feat that was. To get everyone talking, existing in the same place, not arguing, not causing conflict. For holidays, for events, for anything she said, did, or requested, she was Switzerland, and everyone respected the Peace Agreement.

This was on my mind as I burned my fingers trying to get this bird onto the carving board at 10:30 p.m.–my grandma and her tenacity. Her ballsiness. Her ridiculous ability to turn every complicated obstacle into a seamless transition. To plan and execute meals. To sew together family members who would have rather been anywhere but in the same room as one another. But they did it for her. They did it for Bonnie because she had that effect. And now, she’s gone. And in the way a small child throws a tantrum, body splayed, feet kicking, I want to scream at the top of my lungs about how unfair that is. How unfair that she left when I was merely twelve, before she had time to teach me things I needed to learn from her. Before I could get to know her as a woman rather than just a maternal figure. Before I graduated high school. Before she met her grand-babies. How unfair it is that the family I knew in childhood is not the family I know today. That I don’t have a great big gathering to attend. That there won’t be fights over football, the family business, or cousins running out of control. The truth is, most of us don’t even talk to each other anymore.

These are thoughts I try not to dwell on anymore. I’ve grown a lot. I’ve let a lot of things go.

I used to mourn for her twice. Once for her passing and then again for the disintegration of her self-built family. But I see now the inevitability. Everything that occurred would have still occurred. The fact that she was able to hold us all together for so long is a miracle in itself. She was a hero for that, too.

Her legacy, her poise, her utter badassery, and the fact that she could contain so much class and so much attitude within her beautiful soul is one of the great mysteries of the world to me. That woman feared nothing, it seemed. She came from an era where she was told what to do, but in time, she gave everyone the figurative middle finger. She told them how she’d dress, how she’d talk, how she’d act, who she’d be.

She was gorgeous and she was adventurous and she was sophisticated. She drank her liquor straight and she wore her hair short and she was undeniably brave. I know if she were here today that she’d be proud of me, of who I am, of the family I’ve made. She might even appreciate the way I carved the turkey.

I miss her.

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And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

 

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As I sit here, sipping on a drink that some with lesser livers would deem too-strong, surrounded by mountains of coupon clippings, and a ledger book detailing when and where to use them that would make even the slightest OCD individual develop an aneurysm, I have realized that I also need to send out yet another e-mail to the parents of my son’s first grade class. This little highlight to my evening comes with a tiny stab of pain. Somewhere in the realm of where my liver is, probably, now that we’re on the subject, or maybe it’s my stomach’s lament over the copious amounts of post-election chocolate I’ve been eating. We all know it’s not hunger pains. Trust.

Another e-mail that I am both happy to send out so that his teacher doesn’t have to, and dreading sending out because it has to adhere to a pre-approved format that makes my heart hurt. The kind of format that your e-mail server scans and sends directly to spam because it’s so robotic. I cheat, by the way. I add in little nuances. An exclamation point here, a smiley face there. The administration would have a coronary if they knew. Shh. But I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? They’ll take away my most revered status of “thing no one else wanted to do?” LUCKILY, I swindled a fellow parent (whom I actually like and enjoy their company) to take on this silly gig with. So, it’s sometimes kind of fun. Sometimes. Okay, not usually, but at least I have a friend.

Hello, my name is Molly and I’m a…Homeroom Parent.

“Hi, Molly.”

This is the sort of thing I have always aimed to avoid, you know. Social functions. Things that make me draw back and hiss. Unfortunately, some people take my snappy sarcasm as a social cue, and, obviously, there’s that other thing we all avoid talking about. The dimples. The shemustbereallyhappyandreallyreallynice dimples.

The thing is, even though I didn’t want to be homeroom parent, although co-homeroom parent isn’t quite as bad, I truly do care about my kid’s classroom. I want his little parties and events and all that crap that makes school so much less…school, to be fun and enjoyable. I want things to be a success. I want him to look back fondly on their holiday parties and gift exchanges and field trips and whatever else is going to be thrown my way. And as a parent, I really think that that’s got to be the number one priority of other parents, too. Right? They want their kid to have a good life and a good school environment, right? And they didn’t want to be homeroom parent or to volunteer for stuff, so you’d think they’d be cool with sending in supplies when they’re needed, or returning e-mails when questions are asked, or agreeing to be in the group text messages that I send out, or, you know, signing up for anything…anything at all.

No.

The answer is no.

I have sent out e-mails. I have downloaded a special little app on my phone to get in touch with parents easier so all they have to do is text. I have created a profile on a sign up website so people don’t even have to freaking talk to me. At all. Just sign up! Quick and easy!

No.

Some do. And when I say some, I mean that there are seventeen children in his class and, like, four people have signed up for things. Four. That’s 23% of the class for those who don’t have a calculator or math skills (you’re hilarious) handy. That is not a majority. That is not even close to half. That is less than a quarter of the entire class. I mean, come on, people. You didn’t want my job. You didn’t want it. You don’t want to be involved like I am having to be involved. I GET that. But, really. Could you at least try? I’m not even getting paid.

But, of course, I cannot say that. That is exactly why there are pre-approved letters we are required to follow. Because, I’m assuming, some poor homeroom parent probably snapped one day when, on Valentine’s day, only one freaking kid sent in a treat and it was a box of uncooked macaroni and cheese. Generic, even. Freaking Wacky Mac. And the homeroom parent probably typed an e-mail all in caps–you know, the really angry format, assuming that nobody would even read it since NOBODY ever returned their e-mails in the first place. And it probably said something like, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, I’M DOING THE JOB YOU DIDN’T WANT TO DO. HELP ME SO I DO NOT SHAKE YOU! And some over-sensitive parent probably complained to the guidance counselor about how rude that homeroom parent is and how they don’t celebrate Valentine’s day because their dentist finds it offensive and last year their kid got a cavity from candy hearts and they never even thought those printed on sayings were all that cute in the first place.

I’m tired. My drink is mostly melted ice now, and that makes me sad.

Sign up for the freaking supplies. I know it sucks. Nobody likes it. But if you don’t sign up for something, myself and my co-homeroom parent are going to have to cook an entire thanksgiving dinner ourselves and foot the bill, too, and my liver just can’t handle that. It can’t. They don’t put coupons for whiskey in the Sunday paper. Maybe they’d do red wine, but I think only churches get deals on that. Ba-dum-dum.

Return a freaking e-mail!

Your child will have the word cirrhosis on their spelling list next week, so help me. Crap, I’m out of ice.

An Ode to My Dwindling Glass.

It’s been nearly a year since I went from employed, Wisconsin mom to stay-at-home sub-tropic mom, and I guess that thought alone can be summed up in one concise and happy line from a most beloved classic, Waiting, that I am “Slowly slipping into senility”. See, even that first sentence is a borderline run-on, bursty with things to say to anyone with adult ears who will listen.

I had a glimpse (a long glimpse) yesterday of my future where a fellow SAHM (sorry, I know. I know.) prattled on and on for ages in some form of crazed, sleepless, caffeinated dialect I couldn’t translate. I should probably add that I’ve never spoken to this woman before. I don’t know her name. I don’t know her kids’ names, what they look like, what their ages are, if they even go to the same school as my kid. I mean, I hope so seeing she was at my kid’s school, but hell, you weren’t there so don’t jump to any rash conclusions. This poor soul glommed onto me so hard with a bunch of nonsense I couldn’t hope to comprehend and English happens to be both of our first languages. I wish I could have told you I exchanged phone numbers with her and offered to be her best friend, but I am not that friendly (sober) nor that crazy (yet), and instead I continued to walk the green mile beside her before pausing to check my phone as she walked, bleary-eyed, the rest of the way to get her child.

I saw this woman yesterday, and though I’ve most likely been her having played the role of sleepless and over-caffeinated for years with my two under two–two boys twenty months apart who didn’t like to sleep at the same time or eat at the same time, but always got sick or hurt at the same time–still, I feared for my future.

I wondered how it was that working two jobs was easier than this? Perhaps I just have the sort of memory recall that stores long term things under the most pleasant of memories? Memories in which I felt like I had a life other than cooking and cleaning and doing homework with kids who’d rather do anything else. How many times can I wash the same load of laundry? How long can it sit before it develops the smell? Why can’t I just learn how to switch the damn load? Why is this my life now?

And as I contemplate all the things I could be doing and want to be doing, it’s so easy to become overwhelmed. The way the world expects superhero status at all times. All the things that you are supposed to be teaching your kid? If you’ve forgotten, don’t worry, someone will remind you. And if they don’t, your kid will. Oh, I’m supposed to teach them how to whistle? How to snap their fingers? How to do common core math (without looking like an imbecile)? How to calm down? How to be confident? How to not talk to strangers? How to not be shy when I tell them to talk to a stranger? How to make good choices? How sometimes what seems like a bad choice is a good choice? And vice versa? How to not get hurt?  How it’s okay to get hurt? How to take risks? How to be safe? How to not make mistakes? How it’s okay to make mistakes?

This is why parents drink. And don’t worry, someone will shame you for that, too.

And what about the footprint you’re leaving? Aren’t you green yet? What are you doing to positively impact the world? Why aren’t you making a difference? Why aren’t you making a change? Is that bottled water? You don’t buy organic? Your kids don’t eat candy? Why doesn’t your kid know how to (insert ridiculous expectation that is dependent solely upon the individuality of the child)?

How does anyone parent? I mean, really. How does anyone get anything done while also being a good parent? I feel so exhausted at the end of the day, and I’m still supposed to exercise, fold all the stupid laundry, take time to read, and write x amount of words. Most of the time I simply fall asleep watching Mulder and Scully pretend that they aren’t falling in love with each other. Sometimes I have nightmares about the Flukeman, and I wake up, in a sweat, terrified of lamprey eels.

This is my life, for now. And if I close my eyes I already know that I’ll be remembering all the hour-long sessions of hide-and-seek, blanket forts, and obstacle courses. I know it. I just hope that when I come out on the other end, someone will still want to be my friend, senility and all. 🙂

 

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Miss-consin, you’re such a cheese.

There’s something strange about moving from a place you’ve grown out of. That’s a direct blow to some of my readers, so I apologize a bit, but not too much. Not so much that I should feel direct remorse, because for some, Wisconsin is it. The perfect fit. And it’s really beautiful. I will give you that. We recently met a Georgian who drove a truck for twenty years, and he said that driving through Wisconsin was the most beautiful place he’d ever been to in his life. I visibly flinched, imagining all of the other places that would make Wisconsin seem insignificant, but then I smiled, and I thought, “I can see that”.

I grew up there, amidst the forests and the lakes and the hills and the deer, but I still can appreciate its beauty. It’s winters are harsh, but there is nothing like a freshly fallen, untouched snow. Apart from Spring, which is generally a mix of mud and ice, Summer is magic, with bonfires at night and gator-free lakes during the day. Autumn is breathtaking, and I’ve been longing for it in a way I can’t describe.

But like all memories past, it’s easy to remember bits and pieces. That’s what memory does. Given enough time, enough space, the bad parts begin to fade and the good stands out so brightly that it seems as though there were never bad times.

Isn’t that strange? The way our brains are capable of such sheer distortion? And yet, it’s almost a nice respite from the daily–to reminisce for a moment, as if there does exist perfection.

I realized that today, as I contacted friends who live back home. Home. Something I’d never thought I’d do–use that reference toward someplace that I don’t currently reside. There’s something, though, about a place in the world that will always be yours, despite how far you move and how long you’re gone. That, no matter what, there will be people who will greet you when you visit and will occupy your heart while you’re away. And that’s what was so apparent today, as I talked with friends, however briefly, from my home state. It isn’t that you just know each others’ stories and hardships, but you understand each others’ roots. You comprehend the disappointment in silly things like not being able to find a decent beer, or how excited you get when you find a Culver’s, or how strange it is for people to have gone their entire lives without seeing snow. Without driving in it. Playing in it. Sledding on it. Eating it.

You also comprehend the deeper things, the ones that are harder to explain. The thrilling sensation of leaves crunching beneath your boots. Or, the sheer exhilaration of standing on the rocks on a windy day along Lake Michigan and being assaulted by a wave. The way strangers talk without it being weird. How even though there’s a bar on every corner, it isn’t trashy, just fun.

I don’t miss it, and yet, I long for it just the same. It’s an absent part of me my body is fighting to get back, and yet, I know it isn’t all I am anymore. Not that it ever was, but sometimes it takes walking away from something to determine your worth. To understand that where you’re from does not define who you are as a person. That small town does not mean small person or small ideas. Even if you are the only person in your neighborhood who knows what an ice scraper is, or kringle, or fried cheese curds.

It’s a strange thing, to leave something behind. It’s even stranger to leave people behind. Whole human beings, so far away they might as well be in another dimension.

And yet, there’s joy in not spending a lifetime wondering what if. And there’s joy in not being disappointed.

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Autumn in Wisconsin

And it’s okay to feel an attachment to a place that was once all you knew.

 

Not everyone gets to choose, so stop saying that.

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Maybe it’s true that you can get addicted to sadness.

Maybe the feeling adds depth to a dull life.

Adds meaning. Reason.

Maybe.

I don’t know that sadness is that for me. I don’t know that I can slough it off as if it’s been put on. If I can fold it up, put it in a box, and gift it to a local clothing drive.

Maybe I can and I haven’t tried hard enough, but I just don’t know if that’s it for me.

Choose happinessYou deserve happiness. Life is too short to be unhappy.

I feel that those who tout banner sayings as if they’re helping rather than hurting–who minimize overcoming despondency to a mere act of choice…well, maybe those people haven’t experienced the depths of despair. Maybe they haven’t known the emptiness of loss, the unbearable weight of absence, and the psychological effects of trying to understand the paradox.

Perhaps, that, too, is cruel. I suppose it could be argued that those who have chosen happiness have experienced intense sadness most of their lives only to have woken up one day in a sweat, determined not to feel that way anymore.

And if that’s the case, then bravo for them. But I don’t think it’s so simple.

The problem with the slogans, typed up in fancy script and placed over a serene sunrise, a white girl, teeth and hair freshly bleached, giddily floating a gauzy scarf behind her, is that they depict sadness as a sickness–one that you can get over like the flu. Or, if it’s really bad, perhaps you can schedule a consultation with a specialist, have it cut out of you in exploratory surgery performed by a team of surgeons well-equipped for the job.

The problem is you, these insta-judgment photos tell you. You’re the one who wants to be unhappy. It’s you.

Again, I say, maybe.

But I have more good days than bad, most times. I know my triggers. I know that there’s a balance of food and water and sleep and exercise and friendship and quiet and loud and group time and family time and me time and nature time and…and…and sometimes I get the formula wrong. And sometimes I have bad days. Miserable days. Heavy, heavy days that cave my chest and hunch my back and leave me ragged, broken by days end.

But the next day the sun comes up. I brush my teeth. I comb my hair. I make breakfast and go about my day and I try to be better. I am determined to be better. And I suppose that’s a sort of choosing in itself. A choosing to not let the sadness consume me, become me, destroy me.

You can’t say this, though, when people, halfheartedly, with pseudo-good-intention, click share on a post about happiness and its ease. Some post about joy as if it’s a light switch to flip. If that doesn’t work you just need to change the bulb. They ignore the problems of wiring. Of circuitry. Of dated fuse boxes from nineteen-forty-two. Of the fact that half the wires are frayed and the other half have been chewed through by something unseen. How the room’s so far gone, electrically, that it was an accident waiting to happen. You’ll need to tear out the drywall, now, to redo the wiring, and once the wall is out you see the support beams are rotting and you have to replace those, too. And then it’s the foundation, cracked from age, too far gone.

“Just level it,” the contractor says, “it’s not worth saving.”

You can’t ever talk about dark times with others. It’s icky. It’s bad. It’s dark, dark, dark. It’s a sign that you’re unhealthy. We only want to hear about good things. Happy times. Positive news. Even though the news is 92% negative, but we aren’t supposed to talk about that either.

And maybe that’s the problem. The true problem. That sadness is real. That loss is real. That the world can feel so gorram heavy and society can be so, so cruel. That we ask people how they are, but we don’t really want to know. Nothing more than a scripted reply. Fine, how are you? Anything else means you’re crazy. A downer. Negative. A quack. A complete and total loon.

And the saddest part about sadness is that it’s so quiet the way it slips in. The way it tiptoes into your space, sneakily, expertly. A shadow of a whisper. So stealthily that you don’t notice it for days, weeks, months, until it has you and you’re lost, a shell of what you were.

Choose happiness.

What a foolish thing to say. A careless thing. A classic example of good intentions gone wrong. And even that’s forgivable, too, but it’s become so knee-jerk. A way of telling someone to close their mouth. I don’t want to hear it. Stop talking. Stop dwelling. Stop. Just stop.

Happiness has become so falsified that the real thing is hard to recognize anymore. Smiles are worn as armor, but what’s more, they’re standard. They’re drawn on like lipstick, firmly planted, expected. Smile, everyone loves to say. Why aren’t you smiling? 

It’s enough. We’ve had enough. We have to start talking about sadness. We have to acknowledge that it’s real. That it’s okay. That it’s something that is a part of us, and sometimes it’s healthy, and sometimes it’s not. That we can’t keep ignoring it  as if it’s going away.

Because it’s not going away.

It’s just not.

 

Maybe we’ll never find it, and maybe that’s not the point.

I’ve spoken before on happiness. I’ve called it a blanket term. A word we use to make small talk of conversations we aren’t willing to have, but it isn’t what we mean. A word that doesn’t mean what it implies, but is tossed around so much it loses its meaning when its so much bigger than that. I’ve called it a journey rather than a destination–something that is not achieved as an end result, but motivates.

Happiness–true happiness in the way it’s presented–is a bit like the holy grail, and no, I don’t mean Monty Python, but I’m proud of you for going there. (Ni! Ahem.) It’s spoken of at great lengths. It’s theorized and imagined and sought after by scholars and laymen alike. Yet, there has always been a question of its validity.

That’s the way I’ve begun to see happiness. True happiness. Not a grinning persona. Not momentary joy. It’s the end-all-be-all contentment of ages. The happily ever after. The rainbow slide of life that’s to meet us one day, pot of gold and all. See? It’s impossible to talk about this without sounding ridiculous, but I am quite serious.

I don’t think happiness is a thing in that sense that the holy grail is a wine goblet or a person. I don’t think that it’s a thing that we are or that we become. And if it is, if I’m wrong, as the biggest marketing tool of mankind promises that I am, (Can you hear it? Can you hear the infomercials? I never knew happiness until I began this program! Buy my book and learn the secret to happiness! Eat these foods and follow this workout routine and know what happiness is!) then I think we at least ought to try and treat it the way enlightenment is treated. As a journey. As a great quest of self-discovery. As a means to find the keys and unlock the door.

And maybe we’ll never find it. And maybe that’s not the point.

Maybe true happiness, as we imagine it, is nothing as it seems. But much like the holy grail and its team of scholars forever searching, it offers us a sense of purpose to be on a quest to find it. A quest. A search. A mission. Whatever you name it, it still resonates throughout the history of mankind.

Some think that its money, but money will only get you so far. Some believe it’s religion, but some of the most religious people I know are still desperately depressed. Maybe it’s helping people, volunteering, building houses, feeding the poor. And maybe that’s the start. Maybe selflessness is the first step in the right direction. And maybe love is there. And acceptance. And tolerance. And lending an ear and closing our mouths. And maybe if we exercise kindness, show everyone that they matter, maybe we will begin to see life for what it was meant to be.

Because I don’t think this is it, what we’re doing.

When looking at the news for twelve seconds forms a dark cloud over our day, when having a conversation, any conversation online, ends in an argument, when a single word out of the lips of any person offends to the point of malevolence, when there is no longer a filter, when we no longer care to implement a filter…

When we were in public school or parochial school or Sunday school, etc., we were taught to be kind. We were taught to include everyone. We were taught to accept others and not talk behind their backs, not point fingers, not throw stones. We were taught to embrace differences. We were taught to listen to different opinions.

Did everyone follow these teachings? Sometimes the teachers didn’t even follow them, but we are better. We have to be better. We are better than we are allowing ourselves to be. And we will never be happy if we keep this up. We will never know happiness or enlightenment or the holy grail or whatever you want to call it until we can learn to be kind. Until we see this earth as sacred. Until we see life as sacred. Until we learn to love and learn to spread love. Until we can look at someone who is different and see the ways that we are the same.

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Mountainscape

 

What To Do In The Wake Of Tragedy

Unless you’ve been perched beneath a rock for the entirety of the weekend, you know some horrible things happened in Florida this weekend. In Orlando, of all places, a rock’s throw from The Happiest Place On Earth and The Most Magical Place For Muggles.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say, the magic seems to be gone now. The happiness, too.

I’m not here to get political. You know me and you know that’s not my style.

What I am here to do, is to, hopefully, spread some of the thing that have been taken from us.

We lost forty-nine people this weekend in one single swoop. Fifty-three were seriously injured. A popular singer was also gunned down in an unrelated event in the same exact city. Right now, it’s okay to feel pretty heartbroken. It’s okay to cry and scream and berate the killers–of whom I wish we’d stop naming, because they DON’T DESERVE THE RECOGNITION. I can’t say that enough. STOP NAMING THE KILLERS. STOP IMMORTALIZING TERRORISTS. STOP IT. If you have any hope for a safe country, stop naming these people who commit terrible acts. They are unstable, enraged, and one of the main motivators for unchecked violence like this is sensationalism from the media. PLEASE STOP SAYING THEIR NAMES.

That being said, I want to talk a little bit about what terror is. We can blame religion. We can blame mental illness. This is not what terror is. Terror is not a cause and effect, but a disease that has manifested itself into the new world war. It’s isolated. It’s random. It’s everything war is not, and yet, this seems to be the new war.

And it’s easy, if you let it, to let the fear in. When we scramble to make phone calls to see if loved ones are alright. When we read every article and watch every news clip. When we break down and cry because forty-nine people are dead. And twenty-seven. And thirty-two. And sixteen. And so on and so forth. And it’s so easy to feel afraid. It’s so easy to feel wretched about the state of the world. To let fear overwhelm you to the point that no place is safe and no one is trustworthy.

This is terrorism. This is what acts of terror do.

They take from us what is most important–the thing we didn’t even realize was sacred until it’s gone.

Hope.

What is wrong with the world? What’s happening to our country? What is wrong with people? How can this happen? What do we do now?

These are all valid questions that we say in the wake of tragedy, when we are aching from hurt and fear and grasping for any sort of reason. And the reason never comes. There is never a justifiable cause because there is never, never a justifiable cause for taking lives. Whether we admit it or not, we are all connected. We all exchange oxygen and water and clothes and ideas. We all contribute through acts, through jobs, through traffic, through life, to the great web of humanity that we live in. There is not a single soul on this earth who is not important in some way.

And any time something like this happens–and yes, I have to use the open-ended any because this is not the first time–there leaves a hole. And it hurts, and I’m hurting, and you’re hurting, and we are hurting because a part of us is gone. And maybe we don’t even know which part. Maybe it’s a hand or a leg or an ear or a lung, but we feel it and it hurts. It leaves us stunted; less.

We ache for people we may or may not have met. We ache for their families. We ache for us, as a whole, as a people. There are no boundary lines in tragedy. There are no gaps in social standing. It’s tragic and it happened and we hurt together.

But in that hurting, when tears mix with anger, when blame wants to leave our lips, in those feelings of terror and tragedy, when we are trying to heal from wounds that never close, we cannot let terrorism win. We cannot let it break us. We have to heal like scars heal–stronger and tougher than before. And we have to be better. Love each other. Help each other. Refuse to let lines and differences separate us. We are a beautiful country because no one is the same. Because we do not lose hope. Because we do not embrace fear.

mr rogers

Mr. Rogers

But Really, What If It Wasn’t About The Money?

 

As I’m sure you’ve gathered if you’ve read any of my previous posts, I’m a huge fan of the late Alan Watts. He was an incredible philosopher who does what every good philosopher should do–forces you to look at life from a different perspective.

What is special about Alan Watts, though, other than his Anthony Hopkins-esque, British voice, is his ability to help you solve your daily problems. Your life problems. Some people have church and religion. I have philosophy, and Alan Watts is my preacher. Okay, it’s not so sanctimonious as all that, but I have really found him to be remarkably enlightening.

One of the most resinous excerpts of his lectures is this one. It speaks on the cancer that is our system of work and reward. The fact that we spend our entire lives working to have things, and if the work we are doing isn’t what we’d like to be doing, then how can we enjoy the things we have?

Some might say that all of Philosophy is one paradox after another, designed to confuse and befuddle. I disagree. Kind of like a right-brain, left-brain isolated exercise, we have to think that way. We need to work those muscles, those abstract thought processes that don’t align with polite society.

What I love about Alan Watts, and yes, he’d be the famous person I’d most likely choose in the living-dead-or otherwise game, is that he seems to speak directly to the little voice inside of you. The one that’s there when we’re paying our bills and buying our groceries and signing on all the dotted lines that life throws at us. The voice that used to be loud when we were children, but quiets over time because we’ve made it quiet. It asks us questions all based on the same idea.

Is this all there is?

Isn’t there more?

Is this our life?

What’s next?

What’s after this?

Why are we slowing down?

Where’s the excitement? I was told there’d be excitement.

And maybe I’m just entertaining multiple personalities. Or maybe I’m the spirit of discontent. Maybe it’s in my chemistry to find a way to be unhappy with things that make others perfectly happy. Maybe that’s my problem–being unable to do what everyone wants me to do, settle down.

I can’t, though. I can’t slow down or settle down or sit still. It’s why we sold our house and trekked a thousand miles. It’s why we explore and go on adventures. It’s why, even at twenty-seven, I can’t figure out which career to have for the rest of my life. Because that seems like such a daunting, depressing, finite task. So many of my friends have chosen something. Former classmates are already in careers. Maybe I’m kidding myself here in thinking that I can take the alternative path, but is it so wrong to want to?

I don’t think so.

Like he says in his lecture, which I really, really hope you’ll listen to, I think it has to be about what you want. Anything less and why live at all? Because living and existing are undeniably different things. It’s just that few choose to see it.

 

An Ode to Joy, like Beethoven

It’s been a weird week.

My son is in his final week of Kindergarten. We were hit with the side end of a tropical storm/hurricane–to be honest, I don’t completely get the differentiation, (don’t worry, we’ve had no damage). I had flash visions of Waterworld, circa 1995, shouting, “Dry land is not a myth!!!”, as I drove through the most legitimate flood waters I’ve ever seen, all of which are now gone and looks as if it hasn’t rained here in a century. I had a major meltdown followed by a major epiphany, and right now I’m just sort of jazzed.

Jazzed by what? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just really good coffee today. Maybe my breakfast was excellent in all the right ways. I feel, as I sometimes do when I handle it right, the sense of hope and excitement I usually find when coming out of my dark place. I will say, I’m getting better at handling it.

I used to slip into depression in such a way that I’d stay there for weeks. It consumed me in such a way that I’d accomplish some of my best writing, and think some of my dreariest thoughts. Maybe it’s that we moved to a place saturated in light, where, apart from a tropical storm, it’s generally sunny during a downpour. It’s really easy to spot a rainbow here, and, unlike the woods of Wisconsin, there is no shortage of vitamin D.

Maybe it’s that I’m eating better and exercising regularly. Not that I have ever been particularly lethargic, but I know the increase is helping.

I think, too, it could be something more closely aligned with the forming of my spine. The way it’s become stronger over the last few months, but I didn’t realize it until now. That the amount of guts it takes to quit a job and sell a house and move a thousand miles with two small children is sometimes inaccessible. Sure, we had a plan. He had a job. We had a house lined up. I’d scoured the map for the “good” schools. It was still terrifying. Leaving everything you’ve ever known for the unknown is an untapped nerve I still can’t believe we harnessed.

We knew no one. We still don’t. Not really.

But that’s okay because unlike the other day, when I was so broken up over knowing nobody, I know that eventually, I will. And in the mean time, I’ve really learned who my true friends were. The ones who have stepped up to the plate sometimes daily to check in and see how I am, how we are, how everyone is fairing. And we’re good. We’ve swam in the sea more times than I ever had in my life. My kids will grow up seeing alligators and naming seabirds. We catch lizards and tree frogs and visit places seemingly untouched by the modern day world. Honestly, there are places here that seem almost Jurassic.

And everything is going to be okay. I know that. I do. I’ve always known, I think, because a lot has happened to us, yet we’re still here. We’re still smiling. We’re still finding trouble to get into where we can, exploring any chance we get.

Happy summer, folks. I hope it’s good to us all. ❤

 

I Put Myself in Time-Out, and No, I’m Still Not Sorry

Every once in a while, I put myself in a sort of time-out. When I find myself spending more time checking Facebook than I do talking to my kids, and more time with my head bowed over my cell phone than looking at my surroundings, I know that it’s time.

Right now, I’m in a social media time-out. I’m also in a junk food time-out, which is ironic seeing my last post was all about food. I suppose it was only a matter of time.

I was a vegetarian for about five years during and post high school. It was during those impressionable years of youth where you hate mirrors and grip onto anything that can possibly tell you who you are. Somewhere, around the time I started dating my would-be husband, I began eating meat again. At the time, it was almost rebellious, as I’m sure is the cringe-heard-around-the-world in the vegan crowd. It was rebellious, on one hand, and also a matter of nutritional necessity. At that age, still a teenager, but legally an adult, I didn’t know how to be a healthy vegetarian. Hell, I didn’t know how to be healthy in general.

I was extraordinarily anemic, as the blood center told me every time I tried to donate blood. They’d give me a long list of foods I deemed “too disgusting to consider” to consume and build my iron back up. I’d eat a handful of raisins, thinking that would do the trick, but I just didn’t get it.

I felt sick all the time. I’d go days without eating only to eat a caveman-sized portion of greasy mac n’ cheese. I thought “thin” was all that was important, and yet, I was wasting away. And not just physically. Emotionally and mentally, I wasn’t as sound. I felt dizzy often, lost my train of thought easily, and existed for ages on caffeine to keep me alert and Pepto Bismol for my self-made ulcer.  Maybe I’d eat a meal, somewhere in there, and by “meal” I mean an apple or handful of Captain Crunch cereal.

I still remember the first bite of meat I took. It was an incredibly odd and poor choice of eatery. IHOP, of all god-awful places. I ordered an omelette with bacon on it. Yes, bacon. Isn’t that the one that gets you in the end? It wasn’t even good, surprise surprise. I actually kind of hated it. It wasn’t until months later when I’d fry bacon in a pan and consume four slices in a row that I truly remembered and experienced all the salty, mouth-watering, melt-in-your-mouth goodness that was bacon.

On one hand, I’m grateful that I switched back into full carnivore mode. If I’d have missed out on In-N-Out burgers while in Cali, or the out-of-this-world burgers at the local legend I spent last summer slinging liquor in, or those tacos we ate in North Carolina, I would have missed out on some truly magical foodie experiences.

The thing is, though, I’m finally old enough, and kitchen-savvy enough, to try this whole thing again. This time, I’m ten years wiser and more experienced. I remember old staples, but I’m also excited to learn new things. Before I became thin-obsessed, I was actually extremely healthy, sound of mind, and a happy weight. To be honest, I don’t know what possessed me at the time to think I needed to lose more weight. I was the healthiest I’d ever been, drank tons of water, and ate more vegetables on a regular basis than most American’s do in a year.

So, along with my Facebook time-out, I decided to put my eating habits on a time-out. A couple people have noticed that I’m not on there, and that’s flattering, but the funny thing is…so many people won’t know for weeks, months even. That’s how social media works. You talk to these people every day, and then, suddenly, you aren’t there and everyone is none the wiser. And that’s okay, too. I’ve got a lot to focus on. Summer is four days away for my kids, I’ve got about a hundred different activities pinned for us to do, and I’m happy that my face won’t be glued to my phone while we do them. 🙂 The amount of free time you earn when you give up an obsession is jaw-dropping.

So, until next time. Cheers, folks. Happy summer.

The Problem with Serving Sizes in America

“Oh, this only has sixty calories! Great!” Wait, does that say in half a slice of bread?

I’m so sick of these ridiculous serving sizes. Sure, some of the companies are coming into sanity with sensible servings, but they’re still ridiculous. No one eats a half a slice of bread as a meal. Do you crumble it up on top of your sandwich innards? Use it as a sort of plate? Or, how about when you want some chips? Oh, you can only eat eight chips? Do you count them out? What kind of life is that? This is why I’ve always felt calorie counting to be so ridiculous.

Write everything down, they say. You’ll eat less, they say.

Why? Why can’t I just eat at leisure? Choose what my stomach craves?

Here’s the little secret:  you can.

And you don’t have to be a workoutaholic to do it, either. No one tells you that, but I’d rather eat a sleeve of girl scout cookies when I’m craving them and be a happy human than count them as an evil source of caloric imbalance. That’s a ready way to an eating disorder, and let’s remember, I still have one. I may not be a scale slave anymore, or weep over a french fry like I once did, but it’s never going away. The foundation has been laid, and it’s my job to ignore the hateful inner dialogue as best I can.

I’ve got about ten pounds to lose, however. Probably (okay, yes) more, but I’m going to be realistic and say ten. And that’s okay, because that puts me right on board with most of America. I don’t own a scale anymore, because as aforementioned, that’s a huge trigger for me, and so I go by how my clothing fits and how I feel. I don’t even do measurements as they recommend when you start a fitness plan, of which I’m sort of on. I know that it would be gratifying in some ways to see the changes faster in the form of inches, but I also know what that would do to me, mentally, and so I’m just going with the flow.

What’s been so frustrating for me, though, is that apart from “healthy” foods being so much more expensive than “unhealthy” foods, the serving sizes on all of them are absolutely asinine. Even in cereal, which I never used to eat, but now eat semi-regularly. 1/2 a cup. Excuse me? Let me get out my measuring cups and make sure I get this right. Also, that’s not enough cereal unless you’re a child. My boys don’t even eat 1/2 a cup of cereal, and they’re six and four. And yes, they’re both right where they should be weight wise.

Let’s move on to everyone’s favorite (unless you have a nut allergy), peanut butter. 2 TBSP. No matter if you buy all natural, processed, unsweetened, crunchy, whatever. TWO TABLESPOONS. Do you know how small that is? Have you ever tried to make something with peanut butter, other than ants on a log, and only used two tablespoons? That’s stupid. Pass.

It isn’t just those things. It’s everything. Very seldom do you find a serving size that actually fits your hunger needs. Sure, most of your diet should be composed of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. I get that. I completely get that. But…how many of you actually succeed in your busy lives at maintaining that sort of diet while also meeting all your nutritional needs? You most likely don’t. You’ll reach for a bag of carrots and forget to account for all the vitamins you’re missing. Or, you’ll do what so many people do, and choose the diet options. Rather than spread peanut butter on toast, you’ll use jam because it has less calories. Never mind the protein you’re missing. You’ll choose sugar free and consume aspartame which has been linked to countless health problems. Low fat means substitutions, like sodium and chemicals like Olestra. None of this is even remotely good for us, but we want to be THINright? Who needs a healthy functioning body when we’re thin? 

I guess this is the rant where I complain about added sugars, fats, and sodium. About how they’re all unnecessary and making America overweight. It’s also the rant where I talk about how those serving sizes, put in place to accommodate for all of the shit pumped into our food, can actually spur eating disorders. They contribute to an unhealthy society. One where the food makes you overweight, unhealthy, uncomfortable, and then the serving sizes tell you that you shouldn’t have ever consumed enough to make you full in the first place. We should all be living in a way that we’re always a little bit hungry, right? Because that’s realistic. Now, eat your baked chips and be happy, dammit.

Food is life, though. It is. Seamed rich into every culture are dishes passed down from generation to generation. In every family there are secret recipes. When we close our eyes and reminisce about holidays and vacations, we recall the flavors we consumed while we were there. My husband and I still talk about a taco shop we visited in North Carolina. STILL. At risk of sounding like too much of a foodie, there really are flavors of life, and those flavors are, actually, in food. It’s not even a metaphor…it just is.

I know I’m not alone in this. I know that I have body dysmorphia, so I will forever see myself in a less than desirable manner. I also know that I’d rather spend my life travelling and tasting rather than starving myself on rice cakes and kale. Here we sit, though, when I really let myself think about it, in a society that contributes to obesity while creating unobtainable beauty standards. The thigh gap? Are you kidding me? How about the nutritional gap? So many things need to change about the way we sell our food, cook our food, and consume our food. I’m sure I’ll receive all kinds of advice on clean eating and vegetarianism (been there, done that), and that’s cool and I appreciate you, but what I’m trying to say is…what about everyone else? What about the people who do not have access to the resources or the knowledge to consume food in the way we should? And when do we hold companies accountable for choosing sales over health? When do we simply stop buying the junk food and forcing it off the shelves?

Rant over. Go eat some peanut butter. 🙂

 

 

 

 

I’m a woman which means you can verbally abuse me.

I just read an article that’s been getting quite a bit of attention, and it should. For once, the thing making the rounds on Facebook isn’t an attention-craving Hollywood spectacle or something one candidate or another said in our ridiculous circus of an election happening in the States.

It was, instead, something that I’m sure some people will frown at, others will scoff at, but most will shed tears of solidarity over as we nod and silently agree with every single word read. This is an article about women, but it’s for both women and men. It’s as lengthy as it is because they probably didn’t have enough virtual print space for it to be longer. There’s too much to say, literally, on the subject. And yet, it’s something we rarely talk about. We are silenced so often that I am actually having an extremely difficult time forming the words.

It’s about women like me, women like you, women like every single woman you’ve ever met. That’s how big this is. That every. single. woman. that you have ever met has experienced a horrible situation and been forced to be silent about it. Every single one. Close your eyes and think back on the first time it happened. The first time you were sexualized and stripped of innocence. I was young because I developed young. I was the juvenile, pony-loving age of nine. This was back when we rode our bikes around the neighborhood until the sun went down, and we played with anyone we could find.

I’m gonna rape you in the alley.

My breathing stopped, caught up in my throat. Sweat prickled my skin and something heavy fell to the pit of my stomach. I felt, for the first time, the terror of vulnerability that would accompany me for the rest of my life simply for being a girl.

This came out of an eleven-year-old boy’s mouth. Where was his mother teaching him how to treat a girl? Where was his father to teach by example? Oh, they were ten feet away, in the house, and his father was the next one to say disgusting things that made me resort to the nervous laugh I still use today.

That’s my youngest memory of verbal assault. What’s yours?

What are you supposed to do at nine-years-old? What am I supposed to do at twenty-seven?

I still don’t know. I’m still surprised every time it happens. I’m still dumbfounded to the point of silence. I still resort to the “I’m meeting my friend. Oh, that’s her over there!” while my fingers search my purse for my pepper spray.

And then there are the ones who say that we don’t live in a culture like this. That Rape Culture is just another attention-getting buzzword. It might seem like that because you don’t realize that it happens. Because it’s become such a normalcy to accept this garbage as a determined part of life.

How can we just sit here and say it’s not happening when it is? When every single one of us has had a “bad boss”, relative, co-worker, friend’s brother or parent, etc. Some of us, myself included, has had several. I’ve been body-blocked from leaving the work office. I’ve had rumors spread about me so hideous I had to report them only to find out that they had stemmed from that boss’s very mouth. Someone I trusted. Hell, someone whom I had considered a friend. But that’s what happens when you are friends with men, right? She’s nice to me so it must mean something.

No. Just, no. Unless it’s spelled out with exact words, then a smile is just a smile. We are not asking for anything no matter how we look, what our attitude is, what we wear. The only time we are ever asking for it is when the question comes directly out of our mouths.

I was not asking for it when I was walking to school at fifteen and became a victim of enticement by the newspaper delivery man. And yet I felt shame as I recited the case to my best friend who urged me to go to my guidance counselor. There, I recited the story several more times for the law enforcement who eventually found the man. He received 90 days in jail for child enticement. Twenty-two years later my hands still shake when I think about what would have happened to me if I hadn’t whipped out my phone and told him I had 911 on speed dial. Why didn’t I call? Because even at that age I knew how quickly I could disappear in comparison to the time it took for the cops to show. This was only a year post a massive multi-employee incident that I was included in at my work. One that resulted in nothing other than shamefulness when the law wasn’t on our side. Because we were just a bunch of teenage girls working for a fast food chain. We weren’t anyone to listen to.

There is something wrong with our society when I start naming things that have happened and I could talk for a year. Or, when I begin to list names of people I know who have been assaulted or raped. There is something even more wrong when I realize that it’s every female I’ve ever met. We all have scars that run deep. We’ve all been harmed in one way or another. We all have found ways to cope with it, somehow, and we’ve all found ways to live half lives to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore.

Don’t go anywhere alone. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t lean into your car. Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t wear your hair up. Don’t wear make-up. Don’t wear fitted clothing. Don’t carry a purse. Keep your cell phone handy. Find a man who can offer protection. Find a way to protect yourself from that man should he turn on you. Don’t smile at strangers. Don’t feel badly when you’re called a bitch for not smiling. Get comfortable with the comments and let them roll off your back. Don’t be surprised when the comments come from men old enough to be your father. Don’t be surprised if they come from family or friends’ family. Never make a scene. Remember it’s how men think. Men are pigs and you have to live with it.

Right? Right?! These are just some of the things that we have to recite like a mantra in order to be safe. Otherwise, we are asking for it. That’s the belief, anyway.

I’m writing this not just for women, but for men. Because there are a few out there who are better. And every single one who isn’t has the potential to be better. And until men start to step up and women continue to speak out, nothing will change. The same patterns will continue from generation to generation. Until people make a concerted effort to be better, there will always be an eleven-year-old kid looking to his dad for ways to talk to girls. And there will always be a nine-year-old girl scared for her life, never able to fully let that moment go.

Please feel free to write about your own experiences in the comments below. I think it will help everyone here to hear them.

 

Alan Watts wasn’t just on acid, but that part’s okay, too.

While listening to Peter Bjorn & John’s Writer’s Block album today, I began to ponder my own bouts of the ailment. If you are like me and haven’t listened to an entire album of something since the dawn of Pandora, you might not know that the first track of this album is a :16 tribute to the silent void that fills the brain when writer’s block hits.

That, quietest of woes that plagues the author.

It got me thinking. On words. On addictions. How some people have addictive personalities, and I never thought of myself in that way. I don’t cling to the typical drugs or alcohol, but everyone has their vice, I believe. For me, that vice is words (and, maybe, coffee). Or, to put it a different way, noise.

Do you know what silence does to a busy mind? It’s torturous. So unbearable that without some form of white noise, it can feel as if you’re losing your mind altogether.

And yet, Alan Watts, my most favorite of philosophers, prescribes that very thing. Prescribed. Past tense. I’m sorry, but for me, he’s still very much alive. I listen to him often; at times, I even listen to him every day.

We crave noise. We crave thoughts. We need to think in order to make sense of anything. In order to feel like we are doing something, being something. We think so fluidly and so loudly that we fail to hear what’s happening around us. We only hear ourselves, and then, when others are talking, or when nature is talking, we cannot comprehend what is being said to us.

If we look at writer’s block, or silence, if you will, as less of a bad, scary, tortuous thing, maybe we could start to see what it truly is. Peaceful. It’s a sense of ease, a chance to be free of noise. A means of listening rather than talking. Not listening to respond, but listening to hear, truly hear what is being said to us. If we can do that, perhaps we’ll begin to understand.

“To look at life without words is not to lose the ability to form words- to think, remember, and plan. To be silent is not to lose your tongue. On the contrary, it is only through silence that one can discover something new to talk about. One who talked incessantly, without stopping to look and listen, would repeat himself ad nauseam.
It is the same with thinking, which is really silent talking. It is not, by itself, open to the discovery of anything new, for its only novelties are simply arrangements of old words and ideas.”

-www.goodreads.com

 

Helicopter Moms Don’t Want to Hover

If someone had described parenting to me as a way to relive your childhood, only from the outside, I never would have comprehended. Honestly, I don’t know if I even said that right. These children are not me, but they are. Does that make any shred of sense?

I see them inspect things, pretend things, imagine things, and I think Oh my gosh, that’s me. You’re me. But they’re these tiny little boys, and I’m a grown woman (sort of). Yet, I can remember feeling the way that they sometimes feel. Or thinking the way they sometimes think. Not always, not nearly enough, but sometimes. When they’re overtired and weepy and feeling every sort of emotion without being able to decipher a single one…or the sense of wonder when something is different or new. When they believe in magic and mysteries. When they tell me they dream about unicorns and want to paint their toenails. And we do paint them. Pink and glittery.

If I could remember what it was like to be a child fluidly and continuously as I age, I would either be the perfect parent or the worst one imaginable. I’m hoping the balancing act I’ve managed up until now is the ideal way to walk the mystical line of childhood and grown-up.

I remember sneaking candy, like I can hear them doing right now. I remember playing all the same games of make believe and pretend. They’re still precious at this age. They still believe in fairies and unicorns and leprechauns and monsters. And as soon as they start to grasp the idea of real and unreal, I dazzle them with lines from the Matrix. Real is just electrical signals interpreted by the brain. A confused look and then they’re back, being strange and perfect and imaginative again.

The difference is, this is their entire world, and I can only recall it. After a certain age, you’re booted out. You’re kicked out of Neverland. You don’t get to place a mirror on the floor and believe, truly believe, that it’s a portal to another universe. You don’t spend weeks in the woods building a tree-fort. You don’t log countless hours digging a hole as large as a swimming pool in hopes you can catch a mountain lion that you’re sure lives in your backyard in southeast, residential Wisconsin. Your friends don’t own walkie talkies, and no one wants to come outside and ride their bikes until you’re lost. No one wants to peer in windows of the abandoned house down the block and speculate about what supernatural event caused it to be vacant because the idea of it simply being sold or foreclosed upon is just too far-fetched. You don’t do anything you can to get out of sunscreen or broccoli or finishing your milk. Now, every move is a safe one. A “risk” is visiting a new restaurant and ordering something out of the ordinary, or talking to a stranger, or driving in a part of town you don’t know.

It’s never the same. The intensity and fervor of play and gripping curiosity is gone from us, but in them, it’s the life force. It’s vital to their upbringing. It’s why we need to guide, but not direct. It’s why structured play is a joke. It’s why a full schedule is ridiculous, and being a helicopter parent is suffocating. It’s why fifteen minutes of recess at five-years-old is wrong, and standardized tests in elementary school is torture. Homework. Reading. Science. Math. All skills that were never standard in Kindergarten are now required because we are so terrified to fall behind in our country, and in turn, we are robbing our kids of the most important parts of youth.

Gone are half-days. Gone is nap time. Gone are the days of letting kids handle their own disputes.

No one learns how to manage conflict anymore because we’re so afraid of getting sued. Yet, bullying is still alive and prevalent because all we’ve taught our children is how to tattle, and even that is frowned upon. We’ve given all of the power to the inherently mean, and tied the hands of the oppressed. And yes, there are both of those in the realm of childhood, or has it been so long that you forgot?

As a parent of this generation, I cringe as people my own age and older shame “kids today” as disrespectful, lazy, technology-dependent, and dumb. Excuse you. All of you. This is not something we have chosen. This is the culmination of so much more, and everyone seems so readily able to write that off.

I do let my children play video games because they are exciting adventures that require skill and complex thinking. I let them play in the dirt and get filthy and skin their knees. They’ve drank out of the stupid hose. Yes, they wear bicycle helmets which is apparently something that is frowned upon by older generations because it’s something that they never had. They didn’t have the internet. They didn’t have tablets. They didn’t have a thousand channels on their televisions. They didn’t have cell phones. They had chores and a wheel with a stick that they hit down the road, right? They were kicked out of the house for the entire day and no one knew where they were. And they survived.

All of this is true. Sort of. And yet, I’m torn between these two worlds in a way no one who isn’t raising children today can possibly understand. We didn’t know that a fall without a helmet can cause irreparable damage. We didn’t know that people prey on children, and so we have to keep them close and know where they are and who they’re with. We try to let them have freedom, but we still need to know, in this terrifying world, where babies are abducted by people you trusted and children are hurt and discarded in the woods, that they are safe. And so they get cell phones when those years of freedom hit because the frontal lobe of judgment is so underdeveloped in all of the years of childhood that we have to do all of the worrying for them. And also because we are just too brokenhearted to tell them that bad people exist in every corner of the world.

People didn’t care about kids until the late ’90’s. They just didn’t. We were little people that were an unfortunate result of sex. That was it, and we were supposed to do our best to stay out of the way and keep the house clean. That was my generation, and that was every generation before me. Sure, there was love there, somewhere, but no one knew any better than to let their kids run wild in the neighborhood. Not until kids started going missing and stories started surfacing–terrible stories of deeds done to children by people who were supposed to be trustworthy. Maybe they said something when it happened, but no one listened to children. Not like today. Nothing like today, where children are gunned down in their schools. Where the media sensationalizes these acts and eggs on the next perpetrator so that the next case is bigger and badder than the last. Where mental illness is ignored or criminalized rather than treated so that so many things could be prevented.

Is there a part of me that wishes my children could ride freely on their bicycles and meet friends in the neighborhood? All of me wishes that. I’d love for them to be able to bike to the convenience store and buy combos and soda with the money they found on the ground. And maybe they’ll get to, but not at the age that I did. Even if they were eleven or twelve and responsible, there would still be people who would call the police for child endangerment. That’s a tragedy on so many levels. Every aspect of childhood has changed. Every single one. You can’t trust your neighbor to look out of them if something goes wrong, as a matter of fact, it’s your neighbor you should worry about. They’re the one most likely to call social services if you let your child walk two blocks to the park at nine years old. Everyone is 911 happy. Everyone wants to be the one to tattle and never the one to help. The problem is, I don’t know how to change it. I don’t think anyone does.

I don’t believe we should go back to the way it was. Some things were better back then, and that’s the honest truth, but since then, we’ve learned to care about our kids. They feel loved and secure. They know they can talk to their parents which is something we never had. We’ve learned to trust what they say once we’ve taught them the importance of honesty. They aren’t disregarded as insignificant anymore. Kids finally have rights, and I truly believe they should. They should have discipline, too, and a work ethic. They should be taught how to stand up for themselves and others, but also not to bully.

From a parent in 2016 to the parents of decades ago who complain that our children are being raised wrong, I implore you to try doing it ‘right’ in today’s age. When school demands are so astronomical, when children aren’t allowed to be children, when fear is a necessary evil, when technology is everything and kids can operate a computer before they can tie their shoes, and when everything else falls to the wayside. We’re doing our best. It’s not perfect, by any means, but no parent ever is. If you see a parent today, out with their children who are playing on cell phones and tablets, please don’t shame them. These kids are smart. They’re the smartest generation yet, and I mean that. What parents really need today is support, not shame. We want to hear your wise words, but we also don’t need to hear that our kids are being raised wrong just because they’re being raised differently. The separation of generations is damaging, to say the least. I suppose that’s something that’s always been there.

What I’m proposing is that we all try a little bit harder to embrace empathy and compassion toward each other, to bridge the gap of differences. Parents today don’t have a village to raise their children. In fact, most of the time, we only have ourselves. It would be nice to have a little bit more than that. To have a set of hands applauding rather than fingers constantly pointed in our faces.

 

 

Pulp Fiction and John Travolta’s Mullet Hair

I woke up this morning thinking about the $5 milkshake from Pulp Fiction. (You know, the one right before they dance in the ‘fifty’s club and win the trophy and then she OD’s on what she thought was coke but really turned out to be heroin and John Travolta, with his horrible mullet hair, has to drive the car into his dealer’s house and heave a mile-long needle into her heart?) Maybe that’s weird. Actually, a genius person who probably also woke up one day thinking about a milkshake from this cult classic movie typed up the recipe for it, here. Thanks, Google. I’m not sure where to find half those ingredients, but I’m sure you could improvise a bit.

Maybe I have a friend to blame for my milkshake thoughts. Yesterday we talked to extent about how milkshakes for breakfast are not synonymous with protein shakes, even if that is a devastating shame. And then I hopped on Pinterest and tried to find “healthy dessert ideas” to counteract my craving, and all that came up were weird fruit concoctions mixed with quinoa–the single grossest rice-substitute to ever grace this planet, and they put it in a dessert. Cool. That totally makes sense. For the record, I am not a small woodland creature, nor do I enjoy eating what is essentially hamster food. The other things I found were skeletal versions of normal recipes. Brownies, yay! Oh, replace the sugar with pollen, replace the flour with soil, replace the eggs with barrel-collected rain water. Mmm, yummy! See, if we must destroy the habitat for honeybees everywhere, we must *become* the honeybee. Eat its food and you, too, can sprout wings and fly.

I don’t know. I know that clean eating is all the rave, and that’s cool. I like fruits and grains and vegetables as much as the next person, but I feel like I should be able to eat ice cream if I want it. Maybe it’s morally incorrect to consume dairy. Maybe. But when you’re craving grass cuttings and laundry starch, who’s to blame here, guys?

Totally kidding. Kind of. I once knew a person who ate starch. It was super fascinating, and made my teeth hurt. And stomach hurt. And I wondered if she had, like, really smooth, unwrinkled skin because of it. Hey, Kim Kardashian, I have a new thing I think you should try!

pulp fiction

photo source:  www.flixist.com

 

 

 

Things are not the same, but that’s a good thing

I grew up in the tundra. The winters were long and dragging and seemed to last for three seasons’ time. When the two-month Summer scorched our pale skin and teased us with momentary light, we were then thrown into the blustery, breezy Autumn. Autumn was my favorite. Leaves bled out their green in the loveliest death imaginable, sweaters felt heavenly when pulled from a months forgotten drawer, and everything breathed nostalgic.

Then, the winter came. That first snow felt like magic in childhood, but as I grew, it meant torment. It meant ice and snow and cabin fever. It meant frozen pipes and back-breaking shoveling. It meant worrying about your loved ones on the road. It meant ages without sunlight to warm your skin, and the result was a dreary, dismal despair.

Spring was the thing we all ached for. A burst of flowers and butterflies. A promise of green grass and ladybugs and a garden abundant. What we got was never what we’d hoped for.

After twenty-six years of that, I wised up and realized that the ice cold Midwest could never be what I wanted it to be. I didn’t want nine months out of twelve to be spent hoping for better. I wanted better without the wait.

My children will grow up in the tropic. Their winter will feel like a Wisconsin fall. Here it holds crisp leaves and sweaters and promises that are genuine, things that actually come true. The Spring here is lovely. There is no mud, no sleet, no slush. Honestly, they don’t even know what that word means down here. Here, they don’t understand words like blizzard or seasonal depression or double-lined coats. The water is warm, the sun is bright, and I will break out of my shell of social awkwardness that felt safe and comfortable and normal in the place I came from.

This is our new home. With the sea all around and the blue sky above. What a different world. What a place to live.

Why I’m Back and Why I Left

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. In fact, I get notifications all the time reminding me just how many days, hours, and minutes it’s been since I’ve posted, as if I’m not more than aware. After much deliberating, I’ve decided to post again. I can’t promise it will be very often. It might be extremely rare, but when I was posting regularly, I felt like I could breathe a little deeper. There’s something about getting the words off of your chest and out into the open air. As a writer, they tend to build up, stacked high in your mind until you find a pen and paper, or a blank computer screen willing and capable of accepting who you are.

I think artists are simply like that, and writers are of the artist breed. If you haven’t felt that tugging sensation to create something, perhaps you haven’t found your medium yet. Pencils have always fit easily into my hand, and I enjoy sketching silly little things, but my true medium is, and always has been, words. It’s why I still narrate my life when I’m having a bad day. Okay, it’s because I’m a total dork, but it makes me laugh, and then I’m cured. 

The thing is, I’m back because I had a voice here, until someone silenced it. I left because I felt bullied. What a role model, right? I was bullied into leaving, and I didn’t feel emotionally capable of dealing with it, so I left. On the outside, as a reader, I’m sure that seems strange, or weak, or childish, or whatever, but I’m here to be honest with you. I’d delete the comments, but not without screen-saving them on my phone first, just in case I needed proof that this was happening. And I still have them, so, if my bully is out there, hiding behind the void, I have no problem posting them on here for the world to see.

The thing about internet bullies is that it’s so much simpler to be cruel now. The person or persons can hide behind technology. They can say things they ordinarily would never say in person. They can delete and rephrase. They can find different avenues of getting in even after you’ve blocked them. And they will. And that’s what is such a shame. That’s where the internet becomes a sorry excuse for social interactions, when a small, timid person can become a terribly cruel, social media giant. Where words aren’t spoken, they’re typed. Where reactions aren’t seen, but read. Where feelings aren’t feelings, and cruel doesn’t seem cruel. It’s so much easier to be mean when you don’t think you’re hurting someone. It’s so much easier to hurt someone when you know you won’t get caught.

I left because I didn’t want to deal with that anymore. I didn’t want to have to delete comment after comment. I didn’t want this person to have access to my very personal thoughts. I didn’t want to risk having my words stolen out from under me, again. Perhaps this could be interpreted by the public as cowardice, but if you knew what this blog was to me, you’d see it as strength. I gave up something I loved to be free. It

 isn’t the first time I’ve had to do something like that, and this isn’t the first time it’s involved this very person. I’m well-versed in sacrificing personal pleasures for basic human rights. What I’ve realized, though, is that if I don’t take this back, they win. I’m twenty-six, almost twenty-seven-years-old now. I’m on the wrong side of twenty, folks, officially. And in addition to aging, that means that I don’t have to surrender anything to anyone. This is my time and my life, and no one is going to take that from me again.

Happiness is a ruse, and so are you.

I’m eating a cookie that looks like an eyeball while drinking coffee out of a mug shaped like a skull. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so metal. I’m thinking on things filled with less-badassery, though, and it’s in response to a comment I made to a friend on here. She was going through something and I wished her happiness. She said something along the lines of she merely hopes for peace, and I responded with a much less poignant version of–who’s to say that isn’t happiness?

Cue neurotic brain pattern. You ever get that? A teensy little thought that implants itself in your brain and sprouts into something that seeds and becomes an elaborate garden of ideas? Suddenly, you realize the pinwheel that’s been placed inside your mental vault and you’re Leo and you’re realizing that none of this was really about that boy and the relationship with his father at all, but about you and your life and the fact that your kids haven’t grown. They haven’t GROWN. They’re shoes changed, but they haven’t GROWN! Is he awake? Dammit, I have to know! DID. HE. WAKE. UP?!

I’m not even sorry about that. It’s the sugar + coffee = fantastical me. You’re welcome.

But the point here is, happiness isn’t this thing that you are. It’s not a thing that you have either. You can’t touch it. You can’t hold it in your hand. You can’t even talk about it because as soon as you say it, it’s not yours anymore.

Seriously, you ever try to explain to someone that you’re really, really happy? The more you talk about it, the less convincing you are and the less it becomes yours. You’re the guy at the party that shouts “WE’RE HAVING SO MUCH FUN!” and suddenly everyone’s miserable and wants to go home.

Happiness isn’t an entity. It isn’t a self. It isn’t anything really, but a mere blanket term for so many other things. So many other attributes. Be it contentment, joy, peace, enthusiasm, aspirations, inventiveness, business, readiness. The more we delve into this, the more linguistically inept we seem.

There’s the beautiful quote from one of the greatest masterpieces of all time:  “A man is not very tired; he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad; use morose.” DPS, folks. Look it up if you have no idea what that stands for and we can still be friends.

Happiness is a blanket term for people who don’t want to truly identify with what they’re feeling. Who want to mask it or camouflage it. Cover it up! Put it away! We can’t admit that what happiness truly is is the raw beauty of embracing our own inevitable inexistence. We can’t admit that because then we will have to admit that we can’t take all of this with us. We can’t admit that what we have will one day not be here. We have no words for these things–these inevitable, future feelings that instill a soul-ripping one at present, but the feelings are there. Instead we use happy when we tear up at the beauty of our children. We use happy when we hold hands. When we laugh. When we hug. We use happy because it’s politically correct. Because it doesn’t make others uncomfortable. Because everybody should just be so. damn. happy all the time.

But it’s so much more–all of it–and I want to ask why. I wanted to ask the man who lost his brother that was sitting at my bar last night what his favorite memory was of him, but I didn’t want to intrude. I didn’t want to impose or overstep or inconvenience.

Maybe we should. Maybe we should ask those questions that are uncomfortable. Because if we don’t, who will? And what will happen to the society of falseness who is only available to please others? Who masks the truth of emotion, of feeling, of existentialism?

I don’t know what I expect us to do, but I hope, somehow, we’ll stop leaning on easy words like “happy” when we can be so much more. When we are so much more. When our feelings are so much deeper, so much rawer, so tragically beautiful that it makes us ache so intensely we have to cover it up for fear that we’ll appear truly human.

And that’s the fear, right? That they’ll know how vulnerable we are.

Backstreet’s Back. Or Molly is, maybe. For now. :)

Despite constant encouragement from friends and the kind and generous folks of the interwebs, I have not been able to bring myself to post anything as of late. For a few reasons. Writer’s block, for one. Is that even a legitimate thing? I like to think of it as something more appropriately named:  stress block. Or, it’s counterpart, sensory and information overload. There are so many things that I’d like to write about that everything just kind of gets overloaded up there, like trying to force a huge amount of sand through a funnel. Everything stops, I shut down, and then I’ve just got this blank screen I have to get up and walk away from.

Another reason is one I have been hesitant to even mention. Kind of like Beetlejuice, mention it and it appears. I refuse to draw the chalk doorway to let my own personal Beetlejuice through, but let’s just say, for theory’s sake, that Beetlejuice is real. And, oh, look, I’ve said it three times now, so I’m sure this person will show their face now. But I’ve done the thing that I swore not to do. I let a commenter keep me away.

I’m back, though. Whether I have history with said commenter or not, I shouldn’t let one single person ruin what I’ve got going on here. Whatever this is. This place was supposed to be for deep thoughts and shallow thoughts and bartender stories and mommy stories, and I wanted so badly to write about the field trip I just chaperoned where this little kid shouted the most obscene thing at the top of his lungs that I burst out laughing in the most inappropriate way. I couldn’t though, because every single time that I tried to write something, it was too personal for me to share with this person lurking in the shadows of the information superhighway. And there are a million places to hide online. And even if you block someone they can still make another profile, another email address, another identity, if you will. And you know what? Fine. I can’t control that. I can’t.

What I can control is me, and what everyone else chooses to perceive that as is up to them. I only hope that to the rest of you, who haven’t irked me to the point of wanting to delete this entire blog altogether, that you can appreciate the good, the bad, the numb, the intense. And you have up until now. And that’s why I’m back. For all eight of you who read this 😉 So, thanks, for making me want to come back. And a special shout out to my new friend Jack who encouraged me to keep writing. You should all go check out his blog, he’s pretty cool. http://jackflacco.com/

Oh, and I’m sorry about the video. I just had to.

A is for Anxiety

I can tell by my horrible handwriting (I wrote this one on paper first) that my insides are freaking out–all the brain parts that control the nerve bits and pump the heart valves and give me this ridiculously shaky feeling. You know, the panic one.

My sister and I talked on this for a while. On overwhelming-ness and underwhelming-ness and how sometimes, the simplest of things, like breathing, become terrifying to the point that you can’t breathe at all. Not now. Maybe not ever. But it isn’t forever. That is the plane ticket out of gripping terror–knowing, remembering, convincing yourself that it is only for right now. And it’s true, but I knew right away this morning when the dream I was having felt realer than real that it was going to be a day.

I sent my tallest boy to Kindergarten this week. It’s precious and it’s scary and he is in love with the whole school business already which is lovely beyond words. And I want to bottle his enthusiasm and make him drink it in later years when I know it will become impossible to get him thrilled about school. For him to rave about getting high fives in gym class, playing a tambourine in music, or receiving a cheesy note from his mom in his lunch box. I know this is a special little glowing moment of childhood where the world is magic and everything is new. But all I can think is how it must be so scary. Everything is just so brand new to him. It’s his first little bite of independence, but, to my surprise, he is gobbling it up.

He’s already reading, but now he’ll learn to spell. To add and subtract. To be social. To speak in front of a room full of people whom his teacher lovingly refers to as “our friends”.

As you age they stop becoming that, I realized. A moment of despairing poignancy struck me as childhood sweetness can sometimes do. The crippling fact that as we age, the magic fades. Everyone stops being your friend–not everyone, but everyone. In a few years they’ll be simply classmates. And then jocks, preps, nerds, geeks. A few years down the road and they’ll be sales people, pharmacists, engineers, police officers, and, unfortunately, some of them will become criminals, too. Now, in adulthood, the people who surround us are mere acquaintances. Somewhere along the way we stop, as a whole, referring to them as friends. And somewhere in there, seemingly light years from the Kindergarten classroom, A no longer represents Alligator and Apple. A is for Adult. A is for Anxiety.

Does it really have to be that way? It’s not so simple anymore as it once was. It’s not as easy as sharing a chocolate pudding and being best friends for life. We have to hope, as parents, that we keep their heads up. That we keep their hopes full. We have to give them the tools to succeed and teach them how to use them. We have to help them grow into the kind of people we would want to know. The kind of people we want call a friend. We need to do these things, yes, absolutely. But we also need to nurture them. We have to help them grow a heart big enough. To love enough. To change what’s happened, what will inevitably happen. To keep the magic even when the magic seems to always, always fade.

And that is no small feat.

This box is too small.

You know. You have to know. Because anyone who comes here is utterly misunderstood. Most of us are trying to just get through the day without being shunned to an island full of fellow misfits…even though it doesn’t sound all that bad. At least they won’t try to impose societal rules upon us. You must wear pants, and all the related cockamamie. Even though, that’s a really ridiculous yet important right for us, as women. Which is insane…that it was ever NOT okay for us to wear pants…and that there are still places, many places, in this world where women cannot wear pants.

I digress.

I’m here as a spokesperson for the misnamed “Weirdos” today. For all the ones who have had ideas or aspirations and were told they were silly or strange or odd. That they were acting like children. That they needed to grow up. Get their bearings about them. Start making grown up decisions.

And for the past few months I’ve really tried. I’ve tried so hard to start a path toward a “proper” career. And that’s all fine and well, but the thing is, nothing pulls me. Nothing makes me feel passionate or thrilled or want to go off on full on tangents about how wonderfully amazing my thing is going to be.

And all the job postings out there are, like, Accountant, or, Data Analyst–which I pronounce all wrong, and apparently that’s inappropriate. And the careers for writers are so god awful if it isn’t what you want to do. Copywriting sounds just so arduous to someone like me. And some people love that. Some people get real into their careers, and that’s fantastic. But nothing does that for me. It’s part of why I’m still slinging liquor on year three at twenty-six-years-old. Because at the end of the day, at least I get to meet new people. At least it doesn’t get boring.

So, I’m stuck, in this troublesome rut that society pushed me into. I’m stuck here because I don’t fit in the little box. I don’t fit in the Stay At Home Mom box. I don’t fit in the Career Woman With A Family box. I don’t fit. I don’t fit. Which has always been my biggest flaw. That no matter where I go, what I do, who I know, I’m always this strange creature with just enough cleverness to not flounder terribly at the bottom of the social hierarchy sea. I’m fooling people into knowing what the hell I want from life, but really, I am utterly lost and confused and my head is filled with stories and odd creatures and odd timelines and if I truly spoke what was on my brain everyone would run away screaming that the dimpled one is a loon.

And then…this thing happened. I don’t know if it was Doctor Who that did it–the fact that Twelve, even though he’s old and wrinkled and gray, is still in there, after all. I don’t know if it was my cousin who patiently listens to me whine, or my Bostonian friend who reassuringly quiets my angst, but I realized, that I’m trying so hard to fit in that I’m losing who I am. “Be enough for you,” someone smart told me. “Try to be enough, just for you.” Something clicked.

I’m trying so damn hard to squeeze myself into this teensy little box of perfection that I have forgotten to do all the things that I love. I’ve forgotten that the only thing I’ve ever truly loved is writing. Pursue a Marketing degree? Sure, that looks spectacular on paper, but it looks a lot less happy when I can physically feel my soul being wrung out to dry. Veterinary Technician? Molly, you literally are still having PTSD flashbacks of the dog fight you had to break up. Not a good idea.

I’m fighting an invisible army, I feel. I love, and I mean love, the fight for women. I love strong women. I think every woman should be allowed to be strong. To be weak, if they want to be weak. To be whatever they want. To simply be. We are people, all of us, and we all deserve the same things. But I felt this push to be more, to do something huge. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel it, but what I’ve realized is that I have to put the work in. I have these big aspirations, but I can’t take a detour or a bypass to get there. I can’t achieve what I want by taking some other, seemingly simpler path. The things I want are extremely difficult to come by. They mean rejection. They mean getting beat up emotionally, which, in a lot of ways, is so much more intense than physically. And that’s something that terrifies me. That after everything, I’m going to learn that it’s all been for nothing. That everything I am and have worked toward is meaningless.

But I’ve got to try, right? Because not trying is so, so, so much worse.

Maybe we’re different, or we’re all about the same.

I have to confess that I haven’t been myself at all lately. Or, in truth, maybe I’ve been more me than I have been in quite some time. I’ve fallen away from a lot of social norms, or things that have strangely become social norms. Like updating the universe on my whereabouts and daily happenings. It use to seem like something essential, somehow. Like waking up and going to sleep or pausing to make myself something to eat. Each time, I’d pick up my phone and take a look through the open window of the world.

What’s everyone doing out there? Sharing their feelings? Their lives? But they aren’t, not really. A few are honest, mostly. But most are not honest at all. They share the sugar, but not the spice. They live their social media lives feasting on whipped cream and perfection. No one ever talks about the meat. Or potatoes, for my vegan friends.

But when they are honest, it’s too much. We get run down. We can’t consume all the angst and the anger. The misery. The sadness. The drama is too much because we have enough we’re trying to stifle in ourselves. They’re soiling our dreamy fantasy world with all of their yucky life stuff.

No one is inherently happy, and yet we act like we’re the happiest people in the universe.

News flash, friends, we can’t all be the best at anything.

There are little blips of joy. There is the pursuit of happiness, which is where most of us reside when we say we’re happy. Or maybe, we had a great day. A great experience. That’s a brief moment of pleasure, but it isn’t our entire life.

And the problem with spreading our falsely joyous selves thin all over the interwebs is that once we put it out there, we have to live up to those expectations.

And the sneaky little secret is that the fall is so much harder when we can’t match up. We can’t be perfect. We can’t be everything. We can’t be everywhere all the time. There is no comparison between us and them, and frankly, there is no us. There is no them. There is simply all of us trying to find our way in this insanely confusing maze of life without getting stepped on or spit on or left on the side of the information highway for dead.

Social media is this brilliantly overused tool that first connects us, nurtures us, holds us, and then breaks us. It’s a phenomenon we don’t realize. It’s one we don’t understand because we are addicted to the knowing. At the click of a button we can know anything we want to know. Where someone was today. What they ate. What they said. We can look at someone’s struggles and think, “Oh, well, at least we’re doing better than they are.”

Tell me you don’t have thoughts like that scamper through your brain.

The worst part of it all is our need to compare. We are incapable of being simply happy for someone. That emotion doesn’t exist, nor is it a state of mind. It is impossible for us to be overjoyed for the sake of someone else without an added hitch. There is always that secondary question. It isn’t always loud. Sometimes it’s so quiet we almost don’t hear it, but it’s there. Always, always there.

I’m so happy for them, but–

And this opens up a slew of tragedies inside of us that further our existential crises.

Why not me?
Why can’t I?
Why didn’t I?
Why don’t I?
Am I not good enough?
Am I not smart enough?
Am I too strange?
Not strange enough?
Did I waste my time?
Do I still have time?

And at the end of the endless downward spiral we find ourselves melted in a puddle of pity that can’t even collect itself enough to get dressed and brush its teeth let alone live up to the false expectations we’ve plastered for the world to see. And so we sink further.

We sink and we sink and we sink until loneliness is the only thing we know.

Loneliness, when we are surrounded by people who love us. And yet, we can’t even see it because we’re so consumed by everything we are not.

That is what happens. And yet, we keep coming back. Because this has become the new society. We can’t get out because this is the only place that anyone will talk to us. The only place where anyone talks at all.

When you think you are a Disney character, but then remember everything originated from the Brothers Grimm…

There is this heavily wooded trail I like to bike on. I turn on some Reggae, pop in my earphones, and ride until my legs start to cramp. It’s a way for me to think, and oftentimes, an escape from thinking at all. A peacefulness in this exceptionally loud and chaotic world.

For an hour or so, depending on how lazy I am that day, I am enveloped in this tiny, modern version of an enchanted forest. I feel like Snow White, minus the hunter trying to carve out my heart and store it in a wooden box. Cardinals and Blue Jays float on the same magical breeze that combs my hair, butterflies flutter next to me for entire stretches of road, bunnies hop along in that way they do, and the entire time I am half expecting woodland fairies to come out and weave me a flower crown.

By the end of it all, I’m covered in glitter–or maybe that’s sweat–and filled with so much fresh air and sunshine I’m deliriously happy. Or maybe just delirious because I usually forget to drink water, or bring water, or apply sunscreen.

It’s this one little thing, though, that is mine. And even though there was this moment today where I was trying to save this baby from this fire and in doing so I hit the front brake instead of the rear brake and I completely flew over the handlebars in a way that I haven’t since I was ten-years-old, it’s still this thing that makes me happy. The baby was fine, by the way, and real or imagined, does it really matter? Everyone was fine in the end.

Where I’ve been and what’s been consuming me.

Statistics and logistics…
Who’s in charge here?
Is this world run by men?
Or are we merely allowed to play pretend?

We’ve created rules and currency,
Unnatural means of dollars and cents.

We place worth on things that belong to no one.

And hatred is a cavern
Where we throw the ordinary man to ferment
Until ready to consume.

This is not our world to break.
This is not the way we found it.
And yet we consider over coffee and tea
Ways to break what isn’t ours.

We try to find a new earth
Not to connect,
Not to feel less alone,
But because we need a new place to destroy.

What more can we ruin?
What other species can we eliminate?
What else awaits us to claim as our own?

But it was never ours.
It was surely never ours.
Like everything else,
We took out the magic and made it something ugly.

Count to three, make a wish.

We play pretend

Act like grown ups

Think like grown ups

Behaving so poorly.

Maybe instead

We should act like kids

Revisit youth

Untainted

Unpainted

Walls without color

Where we are free to create.

Instead we have lines

Borders

Decisions, all wrong

Business propositions

Wars upon wars

All based on the wrong kind of make believe.

Cool weather always does this to me.

It’s hard to not sound hypocritical in saying this when I’m the one always touting about keeping your eyes on the future rather than lingering on the past, but I am often hit with the nostalgia bug. You all know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t, you’re kidding yourselves or selling something. And no, I don’t want to buy it. I have no will power when it comes to that sort of thing. Especially if there’s some terrible sob story to go with it. This was my great-great-great grandmother’s rocking chair where she knitted an afghan that each and every one of the babies in our family were swaddled in post-birth. Okay, that’s kind of a disgusting example. All I can think of now is some scratchy, nineteenth-century, woolen, ratty blanket that’s never been washed placed around babies that have also not yet been washed. Have you seen a baby immediately after birth??

Sorry, I’ve had a lot of coffee today. (But I’m not that sorry, because I refuse to apologize for my one and only vice–caffeinated beverages. And yes, I hear you muttering over there. Let me tell you, Gin is not a vice. It is a relaxation tool that I only utilize on a semi-often basis. Coffee is a daily-practiced religion.)

Anyway.

Nostalgia. It’s this vortex you get sucked into. Social media is the brain, heart, and lungs of that very toxic organism, too, and if I could just stay off of all those platforms then maybe I would be safe. Although, the internet is still there, even if you aren’t a card-carrying member of the I Sit And Stare At My Phone All Day committee. Go ahead and tell me you’ve never Googled someone just to see what they’re up to. And there are so many avenues now. WordPress. Tumblr. Blogger. LinkedIn. Instagram. Reddit. And of course, the social media giants, Twitter and Facebook. It’s a haven for stalkers nostalgia.

And once you start, it’s disgusting. You’re looking through photos. You’re reading through posts. Don’t tell me you don’t do it. You’re full of shit. It’s like that other thing everyone says they don’t do, but really everyone does it. We’re talking about online shopping here, am I right? Everybody’s click happy. Ha.

The worst part, though, is when it’s someone you don’t see anymore. Just someone who has faded from your life due to natural causes, or maybe something else. And you see these photos of them smiling and happy. And their posts are all giggles and fairy-tale stories, and most likely completely boasted and fake, but you still buy into it because you can’t not. And you really, truly do want them to be happy. You do. Deep down, you still care about them, but at the same time, it just grates on you. Because, let’s go ahead and say it–their happiness has nothing to do with you.

They’re happy…without you.

And that is kind of, sort of, devastating. And yet, it’s not. You want what’s best for them, and you don’t want their worlds to crumble just because you aren’t really a part of it anymore, but a tiny part of you selfishly would be thrilled at a message here and there that said something like, “It’s all a ruse. Things suck without you.”

But narcissism doesn’t really fit well. It’s tight. It chafes.

It’s so much better if you can whole-heartedly wish them well, and, somehow, find a way to just let the past remain in the past.

Until then, God Save the Coffee Beans.

A Dream within a Dream.

Something has been on my mind lately. One of those things you can’t quiet, not that you’ve tried too hard. Of life and it’s curveballs. The way you plan for one thing and something else falls in its place.

I had never planned on getting married. Never kids. Never roots. No family. No responsibilities. I didn’t want to be in charge of anything’s life save my own. I was scared I would spoil it for someone else. Fuck it up. Ruin them as I was–turn them into me.

But the world is so ugly when you think you are, too. And so I made plans, real plans. Well, real, imagined plans. Plans without fear. No worry of sickness or death, I would do the things no one dared because I had no reason not to. If I died, no big deal. If I lived, so be it. Onto the next thing. I wouldn’t go looking for death, but I wouldn’t cross the street if it approached me on the sidewalk.

Because when your life means nothing to you, you are careless with it. You don’t watch where you walk. You simply try not to offend. My only goal was to inflict the least amount of hurt onto others. I wanted to leave the lightest footprint on the softest of sands.

I never imagined children or a husband or a life. I never dreamed of the family unit. I never allowed myself to. I didn’t think I deserved it.

And now, I have it. I have all the things I never knew I wanted.

And I realize now that they’re exactly what was missing from me. I just didn’t know it yet.

Fiction Fun: Part Two

As promised, here is the second half of my short story. Thank you to those who have followed this. If you did not catch the first half, please go check it out here:  https://shesgotdimples.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/and-now-a-bit-of-fiction-fun/.

Stained:  Part Two

V.

            He was back the next day, cleaner, more collected. There wasn’t a speck of dirt on him that didn’t belong, and even the stains around his wrists were faded, scrubbed, revealing pale and peachy flesh underneath. It offered a sort of ease, one that you could feel as it blanketed the bar. A collective breath exhaled when they saw his demeanor had returned to that of which we were used to. There would be no more outbursts, no more violence, no more fear.

At least, that was the collective hope. It had yet to be proven true, and this was a lot that, once their trust was broken, it took a mighty groveling to gain it back.

Jame-o and Seven.

It was a question minus the inflection, asked of me in a manner of humility. I stared a moment, being sure that those baby blues saw the look on my face and remembered it for days. I wanted it ingrained in his mind anytime he thought of starting something even the least bit crude. A lowering of his eyes, subtle, but there, and I knew he understood. Finally, I picked up a glass and made his drink, filling it high with ice the way he liked, three shots of Jameson when everyone else got two.

Gonna be any problems? I kept the drink in my hand until he grunted and shook his head, eyes cast down in respect rather than challenge. Good. And then he drank.

The silence that had swarmed us died, giving way to conversation and slaps on the back for dear old Davis Jr.

Glad to see you’re you again. Glad to have you back. We missed you kid. If there’s anything you need…

It went on and on and on until Marie came out and gave him something real to do. Fix the stool he broke, for one. And he did it, graciously, with a smile on his face to boot. All manners and civility today, the other side of Davis buried deep down. Maybe even stamped out for good.

Four days passed and no one seemed to remember that other side at all, the charming nature of the worker accused of all things violent weighing in above all else. He was handsome, is all they thought. Pearly white teeth despite the grease in his hair. A chiseled jawline even with dirt smearing his neck. Rippled muscles when we’d all seen what they could do.

Everyone had forgotten the real Davis Junior. Everyone, that is, except for me.

VI.

            I want to take you out. The words took me off guard, making me flinch and blink and blush, looking around trying to see who he was talking to. I’m talking to you. I want to take you to dinner.

            No way, no how, not on my life. I assured him that that was the worst idea in the history of the imagination. He only laughed and rolled his eyes, telling me that I was being silly. He winked, like I was hiding something. And I laughed like he was crazy.

Tomorrow night. The way he smirked made me shake my head. Not going to happen, Davis. It’s what I wanted to say.

I work. It was true, and I was glad.

Marie will give you off.

And she did. She came out from the back with a guilty grin, and I knew she had been in on the entire thing. She wanted me to go. He wanted to take me. But why?

There was a certain amount of intrigue, I have to admit. Davis Junior was all mystery and obscurity. He’d come off the street and worked for cash. There were no papers, no statements, no records. Really, in truth, he could have been anyone, and here was my chance to find out more about him. I could finally get some answers.

7:00, then. I nodded, and his baby blue eyes pierced me, steeling me to the spot with a look I hadn’t yet seen. He broke into a smile, downed his drink in a single sip, and got up from the barstool with the grace of a gymnast.

I’ll pick you up.

VII.

            He already knew where I lived, and I tried, as I got dressed, not to let that bother me. Marie probably told him was all. Or maybe one of the patrons. Everyone knew me there and everyone knew where I lived, but I’d be lying if I said his not asking for my address didn’t set my teeth on edge.

I was still struggling with the zipper on my dress when the buzzer sounded. I pressed the button to silence the ungodly noise. There were a series of thumps as his feet hit the stairs, and then, I knew he was standing outside my door.

I peeked out the spy hole, timing it right, and just as his knuckles were about to rap against the wood, I opened it. This startled him which made me grin.

Hey.

He handed me lilies. I let him come in, and I put them in water, asking him to zip me up. There was a moment where he looked nervous and then he did it, pulling the zipper up and letting out an exhale when he was through.

You ready?

I slipped on my heels, reaching his chin with the added height, and we walked outside to where he’d parked his old Camaro. The thing was red and rusty, but it had a body without dings. The rust was more patina than ratty, and in the car world that made this a classy car.

He opened the door for me, let me get in, and then shut it once I’d buckled. Expensive manners, is all I could think, but I didn’t complain because no one ever does that stuff anymore. It worked, him trying to wow me as a gentleman, but I still didn’t trust him. I couldn’t. There was something about him I couldn’t put my finger on—maybe the lack of conversation or the way he incessantly scratched at his wrist beneath the cuff of his shirt.

We passed all the good restaurants and I wondered where we were going, but I wasn’t about to open my mouth and spoil the game by being the first one to speak.

How do you do it?

It’s the first thing he said since my apartment and it left me baffled. Do what? I made a face at him until he continued, but he just shook his head and shut his mouth.

VIII.

            Davis, what are we doing here? He stopped the car and was getting out, but we were nowhere. There was nothing but dock in front of us, a lighthouse, and then a forty-foot drop-off into the frigid lake. He didn’t answer, getting out and slamming his door. My door was yanked open a second later and he had me by the arm, pulling me to my feet.

That hurts! Let go!

            You’re going to remember this. He grabbed my hands and pulled me with him.

I couldn’t break free, though I tried. My arms were flailing, elbows jutting into his chest, but he overpowered me as if it was nothing for him to hold me down.

What are you going to do? But he didn’t answer and his rage showed through.

The kinder, gentler Davis was waning, eclipsed by the one everyone had tried so hard to forget. He had made us forget, and now I was a fool for giving in. He pulled me by one arm toward the lighthouse, toward the spiral staircase at its base. Each metal step was edged and sharp and as he jerked me up my shin slammed into the first one, slicing into bare flesh. This didn’t stop him and he forced me to follow him up. We ascended the rickety steps into the narrow room inside that was dark except for the rotating light at the top.

I know you remember. His mouth was hot against my ear, his cryptic words webbing across my skin.

I don’t know what you’re talking about! But he refused to see reason, shoving me higher up the staircase, deeper into the tower, further into the depths of his insanity.

I let out a shriek as I was thrown into the banister that gated the spotlight, my head swinging over into the hundred foot drop below.

You remember it now? He held me by the neck, shoving my face over the railing and my feet flew off the ground.

Screams rattled out of my chest, but he clamped a hand over my mouth to silence me. I bit down into his palm, tasting blood, making him jump back on instinct enough for me to turn on him.

I pulled out the knife I’d tucked inside my top and pointed it toward him, ready to defend myself if he came at me again.

I knew you did it! I knew you killed that girl! The words hit him and birthed confusion across his contorted face.

All we heard then was the racing of our pulses, the panting of our breath. The knife shook, fear betraying what I didn’t want to do.

It wasn’t me. The words came out of his mouth in a plea.

            Of course it was you.

My body wracked, tremors racing up and down my entire being as the adrenaline fled my bloodstream.

You really don’t remember? He looked at me with remorse, pity, as if he was sorry for me when he was the real monster. He was the killer. He was the madman.

It was you, Jules. It was you.

My head pivots, shaking frantically back and forth. No-no-no-no-no. It was him. It was him. He’s messing with my head. He was trying to turn me mad just like him.

It was there, he nodded behind me, to the banister. You pushed her after you attacked me.

No-no-no-no-no. He’s lying. He’s crazy.

You’re sick. You’re deranged! I could taste the fear, the outcome, what would inevitably happen. He was a killer. He’d killed that girl and now he was going to kill me.

Felicity. The words puffed from his parted lips.

No. I shook—my head, my heart, my whole body. Don’t call me that name.

It was you. He spoke, cautious, afraid. Not Jules, but Felicity.

            A blur of color—sticky, crimson filled my head; a scream erupted in my ears; the feel of fingers as they slipped out of my own. A voice begging me to stop. His voice.

I didn’t know!  It came out choked, suffocated. I thought—I thought I had control. She was supposed to be gone.

            Davis Junior closed the gap between us, taking the knife in his agile hand. The metal glinted my throat where he held the hilt, and then his mouth pressed to my ear.

I’m sorry, Jules, but this is what you hired me to do.

He was right. He was absolutely right. I’d just forgotten. She’d made me forget, made me think I had control.

Come out, Felicity. His breath feathered against my cheek. Come on out and play.

Plant the seed anyway. It may surprise you. It may not be so bad.

Time, my friend, is a powerful thing. It can heal wounds, pave ways, grow, age, wane, wean, sculpt.

Time can be both friend and foe. But like many things, it depends on what side of that line you choose to stand on.

And everybody chooses a side.

On my side, there is light. There is love. True love. Nothing convoluted or blamed or controlled or molded into something that resembles love. Genuine love. There is laughter and sunlight. There are holes where people should be, but they are my holes that I have chosen. Someday I will fill them with people fit enough to assume the part. Some of them have been filled already.

The point is that we do not choose the first half of our life, but the second half is ours. We can do with it what we may. We can travel if we wish. We can stand still. We can run. We can even fly if we can’t stand the feeling of our feet on the ground.

We can keep our eyes affixed on the future, or we can replay the stuttering past.

This is the part of my life I choose to concern myself with. The one that is mine. The one that I chose. The one where I am in control and I call the shots and I can be at ease. It is not a world of darkness. It is not a world of shame. It is not a world of close-mouthed conversations and wide-eyes shut.

It is my world, and there is joy in it.

I’ll take the ups and downs. I’ll take the tantrums and the potty-training and the bills and the sleepless days and nights. I’ll take all of that to keep the joy.

It’s mine. It’s ours–my family’s. And I’ll never give it up.

I may tell little pieces of my story. I may. Because it is my story–what has become a part of me. And it may help someone. It may help me. But I will always, always keep my heart here. In this minute. On beat with the second hand, pumping blood to the only place that is deserving.

I am the bad seed and you are the beautiful rose garden.

I know what it is like to be numb. To remain stone inside so that you feel nothing else. To force a smile when you feel every opposite emotion imaginable.

I know what it is like to live in hell, and I knew the sacrifices in leaving it. But I left anyway.

Sometimes, those sacrifices are so heavy. Sometimes, it is just so much.

Siblings and cousins and nephews and nieces and aunts and uncles.

Gone. Just gone.

The untouchable family.

The unspoken, shunned daughter.

The black sheep. The bad seed. The slandered. The misnamed. This is what has been done to me, and yet they want me to come back?

But sometimes, you are so different. So painfully different that you feel as if you are horribly disfigured in comparison to everyone else.

And then, if you are lucky, you take a step. Two. Three. Until you are running a distance away and the feelings of ugliness begin to recede. And so you keep running. You don’t look back. The sun is shining over that hill. If only you can just get over that hill.

It is not you who is ugly, you realize.

Some people just have a way of making you feel so bad. So terrible.

They don’t even know they are doing it. Or, maybe they do and you don’t want to believe it. But to the rest of the world, to the ones who look on, they think it’s all perfect. Even the ones close to you don’t know, because you were forbidden to speak of it.

No one can know the truth. That’s the mantra. Keep smiling. Keep breathing. Don’t let it out. Don’t speak of it. Don’t talk of it.

Nothing is wrong. We are perfect.

Don’t you see how perfect we are?

How many ways did I contemplate the end? How many times did I stop myself out of guilt?

But no, we are perfect.

Maybe pills. Maybe knives. Maybe rope. Maybe…

but no, we are perfect.

Every little thing is my fault. Because I am ugly. Because I had to run away.

I couldn’t be ugly anymore.

I’m sorry. For many things. But I chose life. I chose it. I chose the feeling that I never had over the darkness I was shrouded in for so long.

That’s what I have to live with. Because as much as I’d love to completely let it go, you’re always in my shadow. Your words are always in my head.

Nothing ever quiets them.

And now, a bit of fiction fun.

As promised, I’m going to post a short story I wrote for a competition earlier this year. I’ll post it in two parts between now and next Friday. Feel free to leave thoughts and comments. Cheers 🙂

Stained: Part One

I.

            It wasn’t that we were afraid of him. If fear was the main concern, he’d have been gone by now, toted away by the cops in the time it took to dial the number—flailing the whole way and denying he was a problem, probably. That’s the way it usually went down with these things.

But no, it wasn’t that we were afraid.

It was something else. A dark something, like a deep, washed in stain that couldn’t be soaped out. Lather and rinse, lather and rinse to your heart’s content, but it never seemed to do a damn thing.

Maybe we were wrong to not be afraid. Maybe the greasy allure he emanated with a battered walk was something that should’ve set our hairs on end. Maybe he was a killer—one skilled in trades enough to make a living off cash jobs and thoughtful folk. Or maybe he was simply lonesome:  misunderstood, a quiet sort of menace who’d never felt at ease, and so he tried his best to fit in in all the wrong ways.

To all the people that mattered, though, the ones in the business of deciding things—who chose who went where and who did what—he was welcomed and given a fair set of second chances based on the integrity of his work.

It was in this very manner of decision making that mistakes were made. Vital mistakes that would set into motion a slew of changes. And in the telling of this story, you’re going to make mistakes, too. The biggest one being who you pay attention to. Me and my big mouth? Or Davis Junior? Maybe if I tell it the way it happened, you’ll see why it happened as it did. Maybe then you’ll understand. Or maybe you’ll simply become just another part of the story.

II.

            There’s something to be said for a man who can hold his own. There’s an air of respect that glows around him. He makes people take notice, tip their proverbial hats, and shake their literal hands. He had that—that sort of gait that made a girl stop and look, that sort of smile that curled the corners of your lips without your meaning them to. So, when he showed up for work on that very first day, a box of Bear Claws in his hand, passed around to share, I knew immediately he’d do well here.

Just One More wasn’t just a dingy pub with a clever name. Maybe it was and we all just didn’t know we’d been duped, but it wasn’t the type of place you could buy your way into. We judged people, plain and simple. If you came off the street without looking the right part, we’d find a reason not to hire you, not to treat you well, not to like you. And before you raise your nose, it’s important to know they almost passed up on me. My face wasn’t right is what I hear from everyone now, but of course it’s said in jest to spare my feelings. I know the truth, though, and after three years’ slavery in this liquor slinging dive, I know who is right and who is wrong.

He was both. He had all the charismatic cues of the upper class, as if he’d been raised in manners and wealth, yet he wore coveralls and permanent rings of dirt around his wrists and ankles like shackles to the hard-working man. The first time he tried to shake my hand I snapped it away like he’d burned me, scolding him for lack of hygiene in the bar I kept so clean that that’s what it was known for. He wasn’t offended though, that’s the thing. He never was. You could tell him he was a dirty, grubby, thief and he’d just laugh and ask if he was as handsome and memorable as Jean Valjean.

He wasn’t, for the record, but he wasn’t hideous either. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world to see him bent over a pipe fitting in the bathroom, fabric stretched taut over his behind as he fixed the leaky sink. And it wasn’t terribly uncomfortable to have to work around him as he lied on his back, shirt slipping up over his stomach as he fixed the coolers behind the bar. No, he wasn’t hard on the eyes, and he was kind, polite, even-tempered. Every girl employed at Just One More fell under his spell, and the female patronage began to grow significantly the longer he stayed. It wasn’t long before he had become a sort of permanent fixture in the dimly lit tavern—drinking discounted shots of Jameson and chatting up a different woman every moment that he wasn’t changing light bulbs and fixing faulty plumbing.

Marie loved him. Everyone loved him, but Marie was the boss and what Marie says goes. So, when he didn’t show up to work for three days, without a call, text, or smoke signal, she was more concerned than angry. On day four, he strolled in with a cut down his arm and a limp to his stride, and Marie ran to him like he was the prodigal son.

For days she wouldn’t let him work. For half a week he sat and drank tequila and slurred his complements through steak and French fries he’d been cooked by patrons and employees alike. No one asked him where he’d been, just simply gushed endlessly over how much he’d been missed. No one, that is, except for me.

I timed my question well, in the pregnant pause of his persistent chewing of a steak too well done by a patron incapable of cooking. Five verbal slaps and ten beady eyes scolded me for my rudeness, but their reaction wasn’t the one I was after. No, I was after something much more subtle, and he did not disappoint. He didn’t stop chewing, not until he’d swallowed, and when he finally spoke it was the perfectly orchestrated response. Yet, it wasn’t. He had planned it all flawlessly—sheer perfection—save the tightness of his eyes, the stiffness of his upper lip that only I could see, but it was more than enough.

He kept his gaze on me as he spoke carefully, artfully, of the brutal car accident that left him battered, stranded, and amnesia-stricken. I nodded and sighed, letting out hmm’s and oh dear’s at all the right pauses, and the part was played perfectly. We were two Oscar-worthy actors in a room full of ignorant spectators and no one suspected a thing.

III.

            A week passed before the first questions began to swarm. It was quiet at first—private and respectful. That first detective came in dressed in street clothes and ordering a coke, asking about Davis in a friendly, inquisitive tone.

We used to go to college together, he’d said and winked, making me grimace and raise my eyebrows.

Of course, that was a lie. It was easy to see Davis hadn’t graduated High School let alone gone on to secure an Alma Mater, but still, the girls that overheard gushed over this faux collegiate and begged to know what the handsome handyman was like in his formative years.

He’s just gone out for an errand. Marie came out from the office in the back, sipping coffee and tapping the ceramic mug the way she did when she lied.

It got him away, at least, and it was quiet again for about twenty-four hours.

The next day there were two. Only, this time, they weren’t disguised and phishing—two blue uniforms filled in by skinny-legged, large-bellied men. Davis was sitting at the bar, on a Jameson and seven break, downing the clear liquid like he’d die of thirst before I could make another.

They brought him down for questioning and he went willingly. Someone had died, they’d said. Someone he’d known well.

You would think that Davis Junior himself had died the way those patrons held vigil over that bar.

That poor dear, they all ruminated with feeling and heartache, taking pain that wasn’t theirs and making it their own. The way they all hugged me, each too long and too tightly, made my lungs ache and nerves twitch. But the role I filled seemed a necessary one until I got down to the bottom of whom, or what, this man truly was.

For twenty-four hours the Federal Bureau of Investigation held that grease-ringed man, and I found myself, I must admit, smirking at the idea of him charming them with winking smiles.

How could these baby blues take a life? I could hear the words like they’d come right out of the man’s mouth.

The frightening thing was, it worked, whatever he’d said. And maybe he was innocent, maybe he was not. He had no less than fifty people willing to vouch for him at any given moment, declare him incapable of unspeakable acts such as this, and set him free on good nature alone. Perhaps that’s the way it ought to be. It really made you wonder. Made you think. Made me think, anyway, for everyone else was sure he was as bleached white and holy-spirited as they came, ready to wrap him in robes and call him Christ.

IV.

            It was a while before he came back into the tavern, and I have to say, I flinched when I saw him. At six-foot-four, muscle-bound, two-fifty, he wasn’t a small creature by any means. His looks and spirit, though, made him seem neighborly and approachable—every man’s best friend. That day, though, everyone’s opinion shifted. He was dirty, and I don’t mean he had grease on his hands and dirt under his nails, but he looked as if he’d rolled in filth and skipped his showers for weeks. His baby blues that had looked on in crystal clear glory were now cloudy and troubled, angry eyes with a battered conscience. Suddenly, everyone’s favorite jack of all trades was gone, replaced by this man that stood before us now.

What if he did it? What if he killed that girl? They said there was a skirmish. They said she fought back, scratched him up, tried to get away.

He looked me square in the eyes now when he sat down, ordering drinks through his teeth and sipping on them like he had something to say but couldn’t quite form the thought. No one else saw it, the way his lip twitched when I smiled, the way his eyes hardened when I laughed. The man who’d previously held such a poised and perfect persona in this place now could barely hold his composure, and all that pent up rage and discontent he’d kept buried so long underneath the calm exterior was simmering, just shy of boiling over.

Another drink? I’d cock my head to the side and he’d grunt once for yes, twice for no. Soon, we had ourselves a rudimentary language, birthed in my very bar between two people who wanted nothing to do with the other.

They said she was his lover.

The whisper was too loud. Someone had been careless in their subtlety, or perhaps they’d meant for him to hear. And hear he did. The glass he held tightly in his fist shattered. Superhuman strength surpassed pain and physics. Blood and ice and booze exploded all over the counter, but that wasn’t what most people were looking at. Davis Junior was on his feet, barstool on the floor, fire in his eyes, striding in four seconds to the face of the offender.

I didn’t kill anyone. He growled—low, quiet, hushed. The way a biblical man would depict the voice of the other side—the dark one, where the demons lie in wait.

Break it up! That was me, but no one flinched.

No one moved. This was a stare down, the weaker being determined in the ability to hold the look. Like wolves, this was domination. Alpha versus Beta.

A slam of my baton—the kind for breaking knees and splitting skulls—onto the bar and all eyes were on me, the spell broken.

Get out!

And he did. He didn’t want trouble, not with legal eyes on him. The answer of strength was just given, and I’d won the fight. This was my bar. I was Alpha, and now they all looked at me with wide eyes and a measure of respect. The threat was gone; I had taken care of it.

To be continued…

Drink it in.

If I could bottle a feeling, I’d distill and cork the one that’s carried me since Friday. A day where nothing could get me down, and my cheeks are still aching. Even the dimpled parts, which, if you ever found yourself wondering, are actually undeveloped muscles in my face that create cavernous craters of laziness. I can’t even blame atrophy for their existence since they’ve been there since birth. No, they’re simply so lazy they’ve never even tried to do their job. Somehow, laziness is attractive because people love those suckers. It’s where I hide my evil, so you know. Be warned.

But if I could hang onto that feeling, I would. The one where I feel balanced enough not to weep into a grainy cup of coffee after stepping on an upside down Lego chair. Yeah, you thought regular bricks were bad? Welcome to Duplo, home edition. The feeling where I don’t even feel guilty for shaking dog hair off a shirt and putting it on. You’re probably disgusted, but hey, it’s my home. I don’t even care that it’s fifty degrees on July-freaking-first. Okay, I totally care, but I’m not going to let it get to me.

Today, I feel good. And I’ve felt good for days. Because I finally have a bit of faith restored in my fellow humans. So, thanks for being decent. Thanks for not sucking. Thanks for finally doing what we should have always done, but at least we finally caught up. I may even post a bit of fiction later, something I have NEVER done on this blog. Or any blog. Or ANYWHERE public. So, there. That’s how good I feel.

Or, I may get extremely self-conscious and not. You know what? I’ll just leave you wondering, you beautiful people, you.

Olives and Ice and Everything Nice

Sometimes, the words I’ve already written describe it best.

Dimples

There’s too much tonic in this gin for this kind of day.

Sincerely,

Your Drunk Bartender.

Ordinarily, that may not be true, but today? After this week? I’m wondering just how many manzanilla olives constitutes a meal.

It has become exceedingly hard to convince myself of my job path’s importance. Let’s face it, I make my living off of other people’s intoxication. It’s not exactly Nobel worthy stuff here, folks. I use my mascaraed lashes and uneven dimples as tools for extra tips, and a lot of times, most times, it works.

Bartending isn’t anywhere nearly as important as, say, Brain Surgeon, or Astronaut, or Fireman, or any of those childhood dreams. No child looks at their parents and says, “I want to get people drunk and stupid when I grow up!” Or, maybe they do. If so, I would love to meet that child. They’re probably pretty damn cool.

It isn’t…

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If Death Were A Season

Forgetting is easy. Remembering is hard.

Sometimes that is such a shameful loss of life force.
To recall the things you wish you didn’t,
and long for the things you’d rather keep.

To freeze frame a moment–imagine.

To bottle it up and sip it when needed.
When things become heavy.
When slipping into sleep is so much simpler than living
vividly
and rapidly
and engagingly.

I’ve been called out on this by onlookers.
Those who haven’t grasped quite who I am.
That I’m zany and crazy and fun,

but there’s a price to pay for that energy loss.

The flipside.
The quieter side.
I am two people living in one body.

I am Loud and I am Quiet.
And when Loud has had her fun,
she crawls back into Quiet.

Together they nap and contemplate from afar.

Now, I am Quiet.

There’s still a light on,
so I’m not quite in the dark,
but it’s still.

Each movement requires so much more
than I have to give, and so
I move as little as possible.

Sleep is such a lovely friend.

She wraps me up.
She savors me.
She gives me what no one else can give.

Sometimes she is the only one who understands me at all.

I will always think of you fondly, friend.

I could hear my heart beating.

I’ll remember many things, but what I’ll remember most about that day is my heart. The way it beat frantic, desperate. The way I could hear the rushing of blood. The onslaught of fear and adrenaline as it thrummed through my veins. The way my whole body shook from it.

How I became tragedy incarnate.

I spoke the words and held the ones who needed it. The ones who felt it in their lungs. In the air they breathed. Who woke up with it and went to bed with it and couldn’t seem to escape it. They felt like me, but I couldn’t feel like them. For I only knew him in one light. I was touched briefly by a magnificent soul. And they knew him. He filled their days. Their lives. Their everything.

My eyes blurred. I couldn’t see where I was going, but my feet took me there instead. To my car. To the place that was mine. Where tears didn’t trickle, but poured.

The sky ripped apart and wept, and I dried my own tears on my sleeves. The black buttoned sleeves of my dress coat reserved for special occasions. But nothing felt special about this.

Every single part of this felt wrong.

All of it was wrong.

There are no more words. There are only thoughts. There are only feelings.

And I fear I feel them all.

Thursday is for thinking.

I’m in a rut. Every time I begin typing, I find myself pressing backspace. I’d say that it will pass, but this has been happening all week.

I suppose I could blame Netflix. Or my six-day work week. Or the end of the school year. Doctor’s appointments. Strep throat for my firstborn. The weather.

But really, I’m just not myself.

I want to write what I want to write, and none of it will come out in the poignant pattern that I hope for. All of it sounds pretentious and dreary and like I wrote it from the depths of a bottle of gin.

I scribbled something down this morning. It isn’t very well-phrased, but I received some really unfortunate news yesterday, and it’s in direct response to that. So, without any frills or expectations, this is for a friend…

Some of us cannot understand loss. Loss is something we are never taught to understand. To handle. To know.

There are never the right words. There are no words. Not when there is loss.

Someone you have known to always be in their space, occupying their silhouette in the universe, is suddenly absent. Removed. Gone. Just, gone.

All of their things are still here. Their car and their clothes. Their house with all of it’s rooms. Their shoes no one will ever fill as well as they did.

Their memory is bright, but the source is no longer.

And what are we to do with the space they have left? What words can be spoken? What memories stirred? Do we sidestep out of reverence? What do we do with all of this empty space? The hole?

Loss is such a heavy load.

And when it’s yours, it’s yours. There is no one to carry it but you.

And so, it is carried. And the rest…the rest is learning how to walk with the new weight in your arms.

Once upon a midnight dreary…

I wish someone would have spoken to me on sadness. How it sometimes fades. How it sometimes stays.

On it’s quietness. It’s subtleness. It’s creeping, unobtrusive nature. The way it can snake around you and envelop you whole.

Instead, I began to believe, perhaps by my own devices or the influence of others, that I had to always be “on.” That the drear I suffered was simply the result of hormonal angst and an underdeveloped teenage prefrontal cortex. I filled the void with the melancholy art of Salvador Dali, and the words of Rocky Votolato and Conor Oberst. And I filled any surface I could–napkins, coffee filters, margins in notebooks–with words that attempted to capture it. That attempted to feel something, anything.

I wish someone might have talked about the way it can come on even if we don’t invite it. How sometimes it lingers indefinitely for those of us who can’t help but feel it. Who can’t turn it off as if we’re switching off a fan. Instead it blows ice cold until we’re chilled to the bone and marrow alike. How joy isn’t always legitimate. How happiness is often put on. Zipped up. Worn out and worn through.

How there will be so much more emotion and depth of life when you have known sadness. Wrapped yourself in it. Become embodied by it. How it is melancholy itself that allows you to see people for who and what they are.

How joy is so much more zealous and flavorful because of the places you’ve traveled within yourself.

How you’ve come to know sadness as a friend you shake hands with. Who inspires, appreciates, refines.

Poe had it right.

When will I ever get it right? That seems to be the dying mantra of my twenties. How do I find it? Is it a tangible, grab-able, legitimate thing? One day, once that thing is achieved, will I suddenly wake up delectably happy?

That’s the fear. That no matter what we do, nothing is ever enough. No matter who we befriend or who we help or how much we better ourselves and impress a great big enormous handprint of love into the heart of the universe, it will never amount to anything even remotely joyful.

Isn’t that the draw? Happiness? Some delicatessen fantasy world of rainbows and endless sunsets cascading down over glistening mountain tops that backdrop the glittering ocean where dolphins break the surface and trickle magical water droplets down into the sparkling sea?

Choose happiness. That’s one that really gets me. Like it’s a choice. As if you can simply jump up and say “Oh! That’s mine!” and then coddle it for all of eternity.

It isn’t unhappiness that warps us from feeling that impressive, all-over glee. I think it’s something more like, dissatisfaction. Or, perhaps, the poor choice of sitting still.

Imbalance, maybe?

A favorite friend recently brought the subject up with me. A fellow intro/extrovert. A compassionate, social butterfly. We are the enigmas. We are the deep, the dark, the over-thinkers. We walk with one eye on the future and one on the past. We feel too deeply. We hurt too quickly. We trust too easily. We ache too long.

All of our feelings are tenfold. And we wear them deep in our hearts where no one can see them. Masked with smiles and good intentions, of which are genuine. And that’s the difference. That despite it all, we still hope to please. We still want to be loved.

I think I’d rather the melancholy over the choice to be jaded.

To be honest, I don’t think either of us is capable of the latter at all.

When our telephone was a tin can on a string…

It’s always amazing to me how breezily my son can make friends on the playground. We went to two different parks today, and on both occasions, when a new child arrived he said, “Look! A new friend!” and ran up to the child and introduced himself.

The two of them then ran off in a game only childhood can decipher. Disappearing into a land of giggles and silliness off-limits to adults and all the dullness of their priorities and smart phones.

My five-year-old is the friendliest person I’ve ever met. He can literally talk to any person, and, as of today, he’s even trying to learn Spanish so that he can more easily talk to people. I’ve never known such a social butterfly.

My three-year-old, on the other hand, chooses the solitary games. He likes the swings. The sand. Balancing on beams. He isn’t anti-social. He will play with others if prompted, or if he simply chooses to at that moment, but he very much enjoys his own company.

I think both of my boys have inherited my personality. I am both an introvert and an extrovert. I am social and I am reserved. I want to make friends, but I also like time to myself. And, much like my little guy, lately I have been inclined to spend my free time alone.

It isn’t that I dislike people. It’s that I begin to feel drained. I crave the quietness of my own company. The activity of my own brain. I enjoy solitary walks and bike rides. I appreciate nature and it’s life. The way the silent woods still hum with life and story.

I want my boys to appreciate life in that way. In many ways, I’d like my five-year-old to learn to take pause, and my three-year-old to learn to branch out.

They will both find their own way, I’m sure. My hope is that I do right by them in the balance of today and it’s speed. How do you cultivate a love of nature and books and knowledge, and at the same time keep from depriving them of the necessity of technology and culture?

I think I would rather they learn to catch toads and climb trees in their youth, and let them find comfort in nature the way I always have. The rest will follow, I feel.

“Are you afraid of dinosaurs that will bite your head off?” My son asked a boy today as they swung on the swings, their heads dangling daringly close to the ground. “Or monsters that will get you?”

“Nope. I’m not afraid of nothin’,” he replied with resoluteness.

Oh, to be five.

“They’re spreading blankets on the beach…”

Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to be married to me. To be attached to a deeply philosophical and oftentimes dark person. The kind of person whose mood can be as flippant as the Midwestern weather we know and despise. The kind of person that can fade from the present, their gaze fixed on something unseen, contemplating and entertaining a thought that can’t be released. Not until it’s been tried and dissected and studied long enough to be understood.

What’s it like to be married to someone whose mind is constantly engaged in ideas only she seems to have? Who ruminates for too long on things too far gone? Who fixates and fiddles and nitpicks within herself? Who one moment is there and the next is cascading freely into the world of literacy and fiction? Who has no qualms with nonsense?

Who so readily can recall the details of a dream, but can’t remember the due date of a bill? Who wants so desperately to escape into the wilderness to find new things, but can’t bear the thought of making doctors’ appointments or running load after load of laundry?

What’s it like to be married to such an odd thing? Whose mind can’t seem to be harnessed or contained? Who can’t stand the thought of monotony? Who can’t fathom staying in the same place for too long?

Is that your brain in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?


When I was a tween (yeah, I just shuddered at that verbiage), I remember thinking that the world of adults was one of intellect. I pictured smart conversations and an overall want and desire to help others. I imagined that everyone was excited to learn and share their knowledge with each other.

And then I get here…I finally arrive…and everyone is watching cat videos.

It’s strange. I know that there are different groups of people just like in High School. The jocks and the geeks and the nerds and the stoners and so on and so forth. But for some reason, I just assumed that once I reached the summit where everything happens, that I’d somehow fit in.

I definitely don’t fit in.

There isn’t a place for me in this mosaic world. Not a specific one. I’m always too strange or too normal or too funny or too lame. I drink too much. I don’t drink enough. I don’t go out enough…that probably will not change for some time. I didn’t join the damn PTO. (And I’m not going to, dammit.)

Maybe I’m trapping myself in a bubble? Or am I hanging out in all the wrong places?

I guess, my question is, Where are all the smart people?

I’m not labeling myself as MENSA here, I’m just looking for someone to talk about something other than the Kardashians.

I need stimulation! (Don’t you make that dirty. I see you snickering over there.) Mental stimulation. Conversation. History. KNOWLEDGE.

I want people to care about things. I want them to form their own opinions rather than whatever the hell their parents believe or the mass media blanketing coverage tells them to believe.

But all I see are people twerking. And that just makes me oh so sad.

If (twenty-)Six was (twenty-)Nine

We took the tallest child out for his fifth birthday on Wednesday. There’s this rodeo-esque place in town that he lovingly calls “The Cowboy Westawant.” You can eat peanuts and throw them on the floor and they serve everything in monster portions smothered in bacon and honey-laden calories. He also got to do the thing my husband and I have sworn we will never do to each other on our birthdays, but our son was over the moon for.

They tote this little equestrian lover’s dream of a furniture piece out onto the floor in the eyes of the viewing public. It is literally a standalone saddle on wheels. You are then expected to mount (giggle) the saddle and then the entire Midwestern customer base lets out this rowdy YEE-HAW.

In five-year-old world, that is, as he told us, “THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER” material right there. Take note, ‘rents. (See what I did there? Although, we prefer the term “roommates…”)

My birthday also happens to be very close to our little jockey dude, and as the entire crowd erupted in cheers, I leaned into my husband and made a subtle death threat if he got any wise ideas about me getting on that ******* saddle. I will find something sharp and stab you. Is something along the lines of what I said. Or maybe it was, I’ll take that adorable little steak knife they bring with your prime rib and stuff it into your pretty little heart, as I was clapping and cheering through glittering smile.

Don’t worry, I’m not a psychopath. I’m just old, as I’m quickly realizing. And I have a complex about being stared at while doing stupid things. I feel like if I were pumped full of margaritas prior, then I’d have no problem, but sobriety is a funny thing.

I was reminded just how old I am when I realized that the reason our server looked SO. DAMN. FAMILIAR. was because he was, EXACTLY, Bill S. Preston, Esquire. I mean, I was looking all over the place for Keanu Reeves. And a phone booth. He had the hair. And the accent. And the HAND GESTURES. It was amazing! Until I realized that this guy was, like, seventeen and had no idea who Bill OR Ted were.

And then I sobbed quietly into my hankie that I’m going to start carrying because that’s what old people do.

I don’t even get carded anymore. I explained this to these guys the other day–as I was carding them–and then I quickly said “because, you know, I’m so well-known as a bartender so they all know I’m twenty-one.” They nodded and smiled, and I realized how much of an ass that made me look.

The feeling of old is real. It’s intense. People look to me for things now…like life advice and Tylenol. What do I look like? A freaking pharmacy? Oh, no, I just look old.

And then, today there was this magical girl at a kiosk who walked up to me. And right before I was about to become highly irritated and walk away, she said “Excuse me? Are you at least sixteen or older?”

And for a split second, I wanted to tell her that she could have all my babies.

Moments later, I realized that I still didn’t want to sign up for whatever drawing she was sponsoring no matter how young she thought I looked, and I still walked away. So, yes, I’m grouchy and old, but to that one person…to that one generationally challenged girl who is probably sadly diagnosed with macular degeneration or some other tragic ocular disease, I look sixteen. Heyyy.

The Dirty D Word

I received some bad news today. It was the kind of news that sends you on an impromptu journey of people and places that should have been a part of your life, but are not. And it got to me.

Because of that, I’m writing what I’ve never written. Things I’ve felt for ages, but never put to words for fear of offense or toes stepped on or really just attention I didn’t want to attract. But now, like my post about my eating disorder (https://shesgotdimples.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/the-problem-with-resolutions/), the time has come. I don’t know what this blog is “supposed to be,” really, but it’s served as a placeholder so far for things that ail and delight and everything in between.

So, I’m going to talk about divorce.

What’s the phrase? We divorce spouses not families? Not children?

But that’s not true, is it? Not always. Sometimes. For lucky people who have mature families.

For so many children…for me…the event happened fast. News delivered abruptly as I opened the passenger door to go to school. But it wasn’t a Band-Aid effect. The sting was not temporary as the news was ripped off at what seemed like lightning speed. Your father and I are getting a divorce. Instead of revealing healed skin beneath that bandage, there appeared a scratch that would fester and become infected and probably never truly heal. And it would take years to acknowledge. And the scar would be gnarly and ugly and a constant reminder of loss. Of emptiness. Of relationships that should have existed but would not.

A woman can divorce her husband. But a mother cannot divorce her child’s father. And vice versa.

This is a piece of advice from a child of divorce that I would so whole-heartedly like to impress into the hearts of anyone headed down the difficult road of separation. You are free to leave your spouse.

Allow me to reiterate:  You are free to leave your spouse. No one is forcing you to stay. There are so many times that it is much better off if you do, indeed, divorce and break off the relationship for good. Better for you. The children. Everyone involved.

What you can’t do, however, no matter how badly you would LOVE to never see that person ever again, is remove them from your child’s life. You can’t. You can’t speak ill of them. You can’t poison your child against them. You can’t put thoughts into your child’s head that they mistreated them. You can’t turn what used to be a good relationship into something ugly.

Why? Why can’t you vent to your child about what’s going on? They’re mature for their age, after all. They’re practically an adult. They can handle it. They can handle so much more than most kids.

Yeah. They can.

Should they have to?

Let me explain. Divorce, no matter how squeaky clean it appears to be, is difficult. Even if it is absolutely the best choice (which I’m sure it is,) it is an ordeal. You are taking a family unit and dividing it. You are taking a child’s home–what they’ve known, where their memories are, where everything they’ve grown into and become has happened–and changing the construct. Now, don’t feel guilty. Your child will adapt.

But let them do it on their own. Don’t help them along. Don’t express the dysfunction of your relationship to your child. Even if they ask, and they will. Most likely, they will be confused. Do not talk to them about child support. Do not talk to them about money or back pay. And for the love of everything, do not ever let them think that their other parent doesn’t love them.

Everything will backfire.

Everything you are hoping to achieve…every revenge-driven vendetta directed at your spouse…it’s hurting your child.

What will happen?

Exactly what you want to happen. They will blame the other spouse. The one who didn’t gain full custody. The one who can’t support his/her children without working three jobs and practically killing themselves to do it. Your child will blame them and victimize you. For a while, you’ll be doted on. Canonized by innocence and the inability to see past the angelic image of childhood.

And then, one day not far from now, that child will realize what you’ve done. They’ll blame you. And they’ll have missed out on all the things they should have had. The things every child should have. They missed out on an entire family. On an entire relationship with a loving parent. On a whole heart that loved them.

And they will put that on you.

Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?

There’s this marathon feeling of “it’ll all be better once it’s over” that I like to toss around in my head. I have no right to the idea because I’ve never once even attempted a marathon, but I think it probably feels something like that. In my imagination it does, anyway. Maybe in reality it’s more like “I am loving every bit of this,” but for me I feel like it would most definitely be a constant asthmatic battle of wheezing and heaving and reminding myself I can die once I cross the finish line.

…don’t tease me. I write. I exercise my finger muscles, damn you. And my brain. Sometimes.

I digress.

So, that’s how it’s been, lately. I worked this massive (for me) stretch of days in a row without a day off and it was agonizing to the point of my children thinking that if I changed out of yoga pants that I had to leave for work. That sucked. But I pressed on, and now I get to work a normal schedule again. And I feel sort of like a human again.

Sort of.

What I’ve learned from all of this, if I’m sticking with my what can I take away from this experience mantra, other than a massive amount of respect for the millions of people who work that schedule on the regular, is that it is absolutely disgustingly apparent to me just how much I HAVE to have time to myself. And I also think that, as a parent, that’s the first thing you sacrifice.

Some people might immediately call me selfish for wanting that time. But…it’s not. It can’t be. Because if you don’t make time for yourself, if you don’t take care of yourself, and I mean that in the physical, mental, and emotional sense, then you cannot be a good parent. It’s not possible.

And the awful part of adulthood is that no one is going to take care of you, but you. You’re grown now, damn it. No one’s going to come do your dishes unless you pay them to, and certainly no one is going to come up to you and say “Okay, time for your 60 minutes of reading time! And why don’t you take a nap after?”

But where do you put those much needed moments in a jam-packed schedule? I’m desperate to slow down and just be. I want to be the type of person who is relaxed. Who makes time for herself so that she can be there 100% for her kids while still getting enough sleep at night. I think that’s the real dream.

But…now I feel like I just puked up the parental version of The Breakfast Club all over you. Sorry…

Has anyone seen Judd Nelson lately, by the way? Eek.

Deep Thoughts, with Dimples.

It’s so strange how little we know of each other. Such tiny snippets of each other’s lives. Do we ever know anyone at all? I mean, really know them? Their thoughts? Their hearts? Their fears?

We know the parts that we pay attention to, but only what we’re shown. If someone wants to keep a part of them hidden, we may never know them at all. Not truly. Not wholly.

And sometimes, people remember parts of our lives that we’ve forgotten completely.

Things we’ve said.

Things we’ve done.

And how odd for something so trivial for one person to be so impacting on another. Life-changing. Ground-breaking. Or, maybe something more.

Sometimes, I wonder how much our own stories match with what others remember. How much are they leaving out? How much are we forgetting? And what order of importance do we each place the events in?

If you stir up the past, do you find yourself dwelling on a specific moment? Or, are you steadfast in remaining in the present? Eyes forward, chin tilted toward the sun?

If you make yourself forget something, is it like it never happened?

Or, are we all just kidding ourselves?

I think I know the answer to that one, at least.

You’re the reason that the dinosaurs disappeared.

Ohhh, no way! Your name is Molly? Like the drug?

Yes, stoner ass hole. That is exactly right. Just like the drug.

Really? That’s bad ass, man.

Oh, man, I know. My parents were bad ass. I actually have a sister named Mary Jane and another named Lucy.

What? Get out, that’s the shit.

The. Shit.


True conversation, folks. Nothing but rock solid, absolute golden nuggets of reality here.

You have to remember where I work. What I do. I get people drunk for a living. And the other half of the time, I’m trying to protect the rest of society from blithering idiots by preoccupying them with my undeniable wit and cleverness.

You’re welcome!

Sometimes, I start to feel irritated that this is my job. That I’m forced to deal with people who vary on the scale of annoyances from Pretentious Ass Hat all the way to I Need My Mother to Talk to Women.

Never fear, though. The other day I was at the mall and there was this little kiosk with a man who’s entire job is to throw these little gelatinous globule thingies that go splat on the ground. His. Entire. Job.

So. There’s that.

“I need some meaning I can memorize…”

Conor Oberst still understands my emo heart. Even a decade later.

I didn’t dress the part, but I felt the feelings. And sometimes, when I need to remember, I’ll let him serenade me again. When I need to feel what we all try not to. When the days have become the Doldrums. When this planet seems like the tiniest little planet in the universe, and here I am searching for a fox. Or a rose.

You are forever responsible for what you have tamed.

What an idea. What a mind game.

I just threw in two of my most beloved pre-teen heartthrobs for you there. And no, I’m not talking about Elliot Smith, though he did have some dreamily haunting eyes and a heart-wrenchingly poetic pen.

I fell in love with books. With words. And, I still do. Show me a gorgeous sonnet and I’ll be your friend for life. You should have been there the day I discovered Pablo Neruda.

Fireworks, friends. It was like a sob-worthy grand finale. On a ship. And the ship was the Titanic. And I knew I was going down, but I just didn’t care.

That idea now, though, just doesn’t resonate with me the way it did then. Maybe I’ve lost my childhood sparkle. Maybe I’ve aged out of innocence and magic.

We all know I’m a cynic by now, don’t we? So, maybe that’s just sort of encroached into the gray matter and begun building skyscrapers and rooftop gardens.

Maybe.

You are forever responsible for what you have tamed.

What is it I don’t like about this? It’s beautiful.

But…it is crushing in the way most things are when they touch the innocent child world. When you look back on something you once found lovely and perfect and somehow see all the flaws.

When you visit your grandmother’s house 13 years after she died only to see that everything is half the size you remember it…that all the magic there existed only with her. With her gone it’s faded. Only a pretty memory. A child’s handprint in your aged heart.

Tamed. That’s the word that off puts.

As if, the wildness was wrong. As if, it needed changing. As if it wasn’t good enough the way it was.

What a human thing to do.

photo from:  theguardian.com

photo from:  theguardian.com

Be Confident, Atreyu!

photo from dvdbeaver.com

photo from dvdbeaver.com

Confidence is a funny sort of quality. Demanding. Needy. Constantly requiring reassurance, prodding, encouragement.

If you let it, it can fail to thrive. Fail to grow. Fall terribly behind on the scale of what is essential to life.

And if you let them, other people can rip your confidence to shreds. Little by little. Over time.

It takes a strong person to gain it back. To choose to fight for themselves. Against the ones who want to tear them down.

For me, a person not born with confidence in her blood, I’ve had to learn it like a second language.

Maybe that’s normal. Maybe that’s what everyone undergoes and accumulates with age and all its marvels. Maybe confidence just sort of becomes a part of you like a well-worn hairstyle or a favorite sweater. But it’s a marvel in itself when you get to witness the style grow on you. The way it weaves into your being. The way it changes the way you do things. How it shapes the person you’re becoming.

The thing I find most captivating is what it’s done to my personality. To the amount that I worry and stress. To the heaviness that used to weigh on my shoulders.

Responsibility used to seem so much of a burden. Odious, is the word. But now…now I find myself enjoying where I’m going.

I’m realizing that the very thing I’ve feared all along–standing up for myself and fighting for me–is what is opening doors that otherwise remained shut. Doors I didn’t know existed. Doors that no one ever speaks of.

Once you find your voice, it seems, there is no longer a limit to what you’re capable of.

Maybe you can even ride a damn Luck Dragon.

Write like no one is reading…

The toddler inside of me that wears grown up clothes and remembers to put her shoes on is not fooling anyone. Just yesterday my four-year-old (almost five! as he reminds me constantly) told my husband who was cooking, “You have to make the food, Daddy. Mommy can’t use the stove until she’s growed up.”

I just grinned and enjoyed his ability to see into my soul the way only a child can.

I’m obstinate, though. Put out by things I don’t want to do. Like rules. And taxes. And dishes. And laundry.

I gripe about having to make my own breakfast, like a commoner, when I’m snotty and hungover and being the terrible morning person that I am. And when people urge me to seek out what others have done to achieve success, I whine inside about how I want to do it my way.

I don’t want to be like everybody else.

But there are rules.

And rules are meant to be broken.

Yes, that little snippy sentence weaves it’s way into every part of me.

But not THESE rules. Not the writer ones. Like the way people have to kiss ass to get there. I don’t want to kiss ass. I don’t want people to kiss my ass, either. I want them to be genuinely intrigued by my writing.

But there are also a plethora of writer-types out there who all want the same thing. And who am I to be so special? Why do I get to break rules and do my own thing? I’m just a snarky little bartender who can make people laugh in such a way that they’re not sure if it’s offensive. I’m no one special. Who am I to demand genuine concern?

That’s just it. I should know better by now. But toddler Molly is smug and insistent and wants what she wants.

Perhaps one of these days I should just let her grow up.

But maybe not today.