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.