Sunday, April 14, 2019

Complaints are Not Conversations

Someone very important to me told me recently that a complaint is no way to start a conversation.

And that's true, to a certain extent.  Nobody wants to listen to a Debbie Downer all the time, especially if "Debbie" makes no efforts to change the things she's whining about.

I complain.  A lot.

I complain about people, about the weather, about the stupid choices I make, about the obnoxiously loud people at the bar table next to me, about the general public's inability to use the correct version of a homophone...I even complain about having to park in the "wrong" place in a lot with no assigned spaces.

And it's easy to do.  It might be, now that I think about it, my biggest character flaw, and God knows there are plenty.  I'm critical, and sometimes overly so.  Very few things meet my standards or my expectations.  I'm struggling right now to think of something that I reacted to with a, "Wow, that was more than I hoped it would be!" or "Damn, that was great!"  With the exception of motherhood and my AMAZING kid, The Rest of Everything is pretty much one huge letdown.  Yes, that's my next book title.

I know this about myself, all of you who read this and think, "Oh, so she KNOWS she's being a huge bitch?"  I do.  Trust me.  Trace it on back to elementary school and my former kindergarten teacher who told me one day that I needed to smile more.  Right.  She meant well, and I guess at the time, that was her attempt to acknowledge that I didn't look happy.  Well?

Perfectionism sucks.  No, I'm not claiming to be perfect.  I probably make more mistakes before I drink my coffee in the morning than most people make in a week.  Most days, I'm a mess...a mess working really hard to hide that from everyone else.  A mess with messes piled so high I don't know how to get out of them.  A pile of discarded efforts, unfinished tasks, things that didn't live up to my expectations and so, got tossed away.  I'm working really hard most days to keep those messes from pulling me under and to keep everything neatly in its own pile, its own disorder.

Social media has sensed this weakness in me.  It has stuck a screwdriver right into that wound in my psyche and given it a good ole twist.  No matter which platform we're talking about, they all have their own little way of driving that, "You're fucking stuff up" idea home.  Snapchat terrifies me.  What if I accidentally send that stupid selfie to my story instead of the intended audience? I would be mortified, and my heart pounds hard every time I use it.  Instagram?  Well, it's the least damaging to my soul, I think.  I get to take little pictures of artsy-fartsy things, my cats, and the healthy food I'm trying oh-so-hard to make myself eat, and I get to not really pay much attention to anything or anyone else.  Twitter used to be my complaint central.  I could bitch to the wind, drunk tweet stupidity and self-deprecation, and nobody would know.  But real life found me, so I have to be careful there, too.  On top of that, I've gathered a slew of like-minded individuals in my following/followers, and that's becoming a blessing and also a curse.  Facebook, though...there's nothing for the self-esteem like a good Facebook post, right? When it's your own, that is.  And when it's not...well, it's a nice reminder of all of the things you could be doing, should be doing, won't ever be doing...and if you did do them, they wouldn't be good enough.

I'm an all-or-nothing person.  I paint every day for thirty days, then lose my paint brushes amongst the books I haven't read.  I successfully give up all carbs for two straight weeks, accidentally eat a piece of chocolate, then decide to eat every carb in sight for the next three days.  I gave up on writing, really...a while back.  Why? Because it wasn't good enough.  I started caring about how many views I had more than I should have, and that was never the intent of blogging.  The original purpose of this blog was a journal of life for my son; at some point along the way, it changed from that into something more personal.  Sometimes I've had things to write about, and sometimes I didn't.  Some of the things I did want to write about, I didn't want people to read.  So I quit, because I couldn't make this exactly what I thought it should be.

Complaints can be conversations.  Or at the very least, conversation starters, if they help us find the things nagging at us and dragging us down.  I missed my blog, and I missed the things it helps me figure out.  My posts might start as complaints, but my hope is that they turn into conversations...even if I'm only talking to myself.

Monday, July 23, 2018

When a Dream Becomes a Poem

In a dream,
I visited an old house
Where students stayed like servants
And the scary old lady of the manor controlled all
Including the old man in the antique wheelchair hidden away upstairs
Behind the house was an English garden with gravel paths and hedges
But also full of hidden dangers
Unseen by all, I hid my personal documents in an empty drawer
Of a huge dresser with shallow drawers
A dresser so tall I couldn’t even see the top
I hid a couple of old books, weathered and water-damaged,
Bound with a tie that ran the length of the books.
I soon found out that I was to leave for Paris the next day,
A one-time opportunity.
And I went to retrieve my papers and books, including my passport.
Not only did I need the passport to go to Paris, I needed it to leave the house, to escape.
And it wasn’t there.  Not only were the documents gone, but the entire piece of furniture.
And every stranger I saw who asked what I was doing had no idea of the dresser I spoke of.
I knew I’d have to go upstairs eventually, but I ventured out into the garden
Where I was afraid of the unseen creatures and traps
...I never found the documents, and woke up when I started up the dark wooden stairs…
In a different dream that was somehow connected, there were vines growing on the
Back of the house, stretching across...and there were green grapes growing on them,
And I was plucking the ones I could reach and eating them.
Two tendrils stretched low, diagonally across the house wall, but the others had been
Trimmed from the top corner, a job left unfinished...and
I was informed by the same old lady that I would have to fire my brother because
He was the one who was supposed to trim the vines and he had left it incomplete.

And I never got to Paris.

**I found this in my Google Docs just now. It was written on April 2, 2016. And I like it.

Friday, December 15, 2017

"What Right Have You To Be Merry?"

..Ebenezer Scrooge asks of his pitiable assistant, Bob Cratchit.  What right indeed? It's that time of year when the expectation is there to be joyous and merry, when the pressure is on for Martha Stewart decorations and the gift that wows your loved one.  There's baking...because cookies aren't a thing in January?  And I don't know about you, but a present out of the blue in March might be even cooler than a bunch of stuff I'm expecting or anticipating in December.  But it's also that time of year when a lot of things just suck for some people.  Let's face it, the effects of the time change never really go away, not until the Spring Solstice rolls around.  Old Ebenezer was probably just suffering from a bad case of Seasonal Affective Disorder with a healthy dose of social anxiety. 

I can relate.  This time of year is not a joy for me.  It never has been, not really.  I want it to be, though, and I'm not as "scroogey" as to want to boil every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips with his own pudding and bury him with a stake of holly through his heart.  But it's close.  Ebenezer was scarred by the shitty things that happened to him in Christmases past, and he closed his heart to all of it.  It's easier that way, and I get it.  I said recently that there's something about my brain that only lets me remember the bad stuff and not the good.  It's not that the good memories aren't there, but they aren't the pushy ones that force their way to my amygdala and mess with my emotions.

Christmas carols make me cry. I have to listen to the instrumental versions most of the time, because they evoke strong memories of my grandpop standing on the front porch of this very house in a bathrobe listening to my youth group caroling in the front yard.  That was his last Christmas, and he died the following February.  There was a Christmas in the early 80's on which I wasn't allowed to go home to see my mother, and during which my brother and I sat awkwardly and opened presents with my mom in my dad's living room under his scrutinous and, let's face it, hateful looks.  And the mere fact that people aren't with me when I want them to be is an ever-present thing to bear.  We all have those things; I'm not special in any of that, or in any other way, really.   Charles Dickens himself had a crappy childhood and adult life, truth be known, but managed to put a positive spin on the holidays.  Some of us are able to "Bob Cratchit" the crap in our lives away and still easily put a merry spin on things for those we care about, while others of us tend to want to retreat and shut everything out. 

I'm stuck somewhere in the middle.  My instincts are to both bury my head in the covers and hibernate until it's all over, for myself, but also to try to make everything perfect and wonderful for those I love.  It's the struggle of being a Libra, maybe, in that I'm always divided, always striving for balance, but inevitably ending up falling over in my efforts.  So, I put on my jingle bell earrings and my Ms. Santa sweater and try to be festive.  I make traditional Italian pizzelles and try to put up Christmas trees when I know the cats are just going to destroy them and the ornaments we place carefully.  I try to buy perfect presents on a limited budget for the people I love, and my expectations for a joyful, stress-free holiday for myself somehow manage to rise, even though I try like hell to hold them down.

I'm struggling this year more than others.  It's not a secret to the people who are close to me, and there's no shame in admitting it.  Things this Christmas will be very different for me, and for my family, and it's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is stressful because the unknown always is.  Christmas should be about the kids, and they should be able to enjoy it without all the stressors that we have.  But we adults should cut ourselves some slack, also.  If the Christmas party food is a bag of Food Lion pretzels with some Cheez Whiz, then so be it. Enjoy those.  If the lights hang crookedly, or you never even get them hung at all, what's the real loss? 

So, this is me.  Lowering my expectations for a Christmas in a clean, decorated house in a Victorian postcard.  Lowering my expectations to get all my shopping done online as I swore I would.  Lowering my expectations to provide an exceptional holiday for everyone while pushing myself into a nervous breakdown.  Christmas will happen.  In fact, it will be over really fast, maybe faster than some of us want it to be.  And none of the cookies, the wrapping paper, or even the gifts, really, will matter much past that day.  With any luck, though, I'll get to spend time with the people who are most important to me, and to whom my presence is a gift that's appreciated.  And that's all I want for Christmas. 

Monday, May 01, 2017

Goodbye, Verona

I have a person very close to me who tells amazing stories about his childhood.  He has an uncanny knack for details about dates, times, and people that never ceases to amaze me, especially considering he has close to a couple of decades on me.  It often makes me wonder about events from my childhood and why I don't have the recall needed to tell a good story.  After all, I'm the "writer," not him.  But he's the talker, the storyteller, and I'm just the muller-over...or would that be the over-mullerer?  But I took a trip down Memory Lane when I visited my elementary alma mater over the weekend, and the stories came rushing back to me, albeit in bits and pieces.

My elementary school, Verona Elementary, is closing at the end of this school year.  (I'm at the :25 mark in that video, chatting with my kindergarten teacher.) I'm taking it a little hard, maybe a little harder than most people.  Let's face it, I take most things harder than most people, but I'm pretty sure that this one is with good reason.  No only did I attend school there, but my mother taught there for forty years.  Yes, forty.  Holy hell, that's a long time! So it's no wonder that Verona has been such a big part of my life.

My mom and I toured the soon-to-close building on Saturday, along with a small crowd attending the open house commemorating the closing.  I got a bumper sticker and a card-stock print of the school, which is pretty nice, but nothing compared to being able to walk the sidewalks and visit the classrooms one more time.  Mom made a production (or so I felt) out of introducing me to people I didn't know, and proudly telling them I was a teacher at "the middle school," and talking about how much time I spent in her classrooms through the years.  And I got choked up.  You see, not only do I have the typical elementary school memories that all kids have, but I have another whole set of memories connected to that school just from being a teacher's kid, and those are just as powerful. Maybe more so.

I met my best friend Angie in kindergarten.  I don't remember how we met, just that we did, and that our kindergarten teacher bit her to show her how it felt after she bit another student.  I swallowed a dime in kindergarten, too.  It hurt like hell.  I got mad because I already knew how to read and we were learning the alphabet.

In first grade, I got glasses.  I also got sent to second grade for reading class because I was so far above grade level.  Unfortunately, I was also a chickenshit, so I think it lasted about five minutes.  Can you blame me?  I was barely six, and thrust into a classroom full of kids who were probably seven and eight, and they seemed so old!  I think my parents split up around this time, too.

In second grade, I fell in love with Joey Chewning, who I'm pretty sure had failed a grade, or at least I thought he had, which made him even more appealing.  He had buck teeth and skinny legs, and I thought he was a bad boy, which is probably why I loved him.  His best friend tried to hold me still so Joey could kiss me on the hopscotch court one day at recess.  I kicked the friend in the shin and ran away, and that was the end of that.  Joey moved to Virginia Beach later that year, and I never heard another word about him.  We spent recess trying to uncover a "gold" utility cap we found against the second grade classrooms; we'd clean it off, get the gravel dust off of it, and use it for a base in our games of tag.  (I looked for that thing the other day; unfortunately, they covered the playground with topsoil and planted grass, and I didn't have time for the vandalism required to dig the damn thing up.)

In third grade, I read Greek myths and had a boy for a best friend for about ten minutes, but I remember it.  My favorite Greek heroine was Atalanta, which maybe explains my tomboy tendencies that year.  Jeff McWhorter threw a snowball at me on the playground (we actually went to school when there was snow on the ground in those days) and broke my glasses.  He apologized, but I held a grudge and never forgave him.  We wrote love notes and asked the boys we liked to write back.

I don't think I liked fourth grade.  I remember 4-H and being made to write "I will not talk in class" one hundred times for homework.  I remember telling my dad that on the phone, him calling the teacher at home, and me getting out of it.  That's embarrassing.  I probably deserved it.

Fifth grade was a turning point in lots of ways.  My BFF and I weren't in the same class, and we both made new friends.  I was jealous of hers, and mine didn't speak any English.  I spent fifth grade on a mission to teach Sandy English and trying to learn Chinese.  We made each other word books, and I went to visit her family in the motel they owned.  I stopped going to "Bible" as we called it, (Weekday Religious Education, for those of you not fortunate enough to have that bit of weirdness in your lives) that year, too, with some newfound conviction that religion didn't have a place in the school day.  I caught some hell over that from a lot of people, but I stuck to my guns.  I gave handwriting lessons, and I learned that racism was a thing.  Our school play was The Jungle Book, in which I was cast as an elephant, which traumatized me a smidge.  No cute costume for me, nope.  I had to wear baggy grey sweatpants, a baggy grey t-shirt, and a paper grocery bag elephant mask with an accordion trunk over my head.  I remember how that grey spray paint smelled--a little like shame.  I got in a fight with a girl named Michelle during a practice, and we both got in school suspension and kicked out of the dress rehearsal.  It was a strange experience to walk into the cafeteria on Saturday, where choir students were performing, to immediately recognize a song from The Jungle Book, which I performed on that very stage.

I watched General Hospital and Rick Springfield in the afternoons in my mom's classroom(s) while I helped her do teachery-stuff.  I put nametags on desks and graded papers.  I used the opaque projector to draw large characters for the bulletin boards, then I colored them with Mr. Sketch smelly markers before they got laminated.  I changed the monthly calendar and cut out leaves and turkeys to hang up for the dates.  I put a staple through my finger trying to reload a stapler.  I bought Tab from the teachers' lounge of those 1970's machines that sold glass bottles that we slid from one side of the machine down metal slots in the drink chest.  Truth be known, I learned how to be a teacher during those years, both from my mom and the whole slew of awesome teachers I had through the years, more so than I did in any college course I ever took.

Years later, I took my own son to visit his "Grammy" in his preschool years.  I'd pick him up at the sitter or at preschool, and we'd stop by for a visit.  He'd explore her classroom and she'd show him off to her teacher friends before we made the requisite stop to the modern playground equipment that was added long after they took out our beloved merry-go-round.  He'd play, and slide down the "firepole," and my focus was on him, not on the school or the possibility that it might not one day be there just as it always had been during my life.

I understand the need to close the school, in a fiscal sense.  But I'm fighting an urge to try to buy every piece of memorabilia possible from that building.  The tiny pastel chairs in the kindergarten and first grade buildings (which must have been great chairs, because they've lasted all this time). The avocado-green bookcases and rolling coat closets that were in every room.  The low-slung counters in the primary grades.  Even the bathroom stall doors that we used to lock and climb over so the next person couldn't get to the toilet.  The large piece of eternal pipe that we used to play on and hide in from the boys who were chasing us.  I can't do that, of course, but I can take the memories with me and smile a little at the fact that my mom remembers things the way I do.

Goodbye, Verona, and thank you.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

When Turkeys Try to Fly

Last weekend, on a road in rural Maryland, I spotted some strange-looking birds in a small flock beside the road.  Too large to be crows or blackbirds, not quite ugly enough to be vultures, I decided they were some type of strange-looking turkey.  The fact that a couple of them flew a small distance into the air further complicated the discussion in the vehicle because, after all...turkeys can't fly.  Or can they?  I insisted they could...but only when they have to...for example, when it prevents their death or dismemberment by minivans hurtling down the road.

Fast forward a few days to Thanksgiving, and the myriad of races and running events unfortunately titled as a "turkey trot."  (There's something in my middle school brain that wants to snicker at the thought of turkey causing the trots, but this post is not about potty humor.)  I had signed up for one of these trendy 5Ks on a whim.  (I get these ideas sometimes lately in which I either think I'm better equipped for something than I really am, or in which I decide that I don't give a rat's ass what people think about me, both of which are anomalies in my brain.  The trouble happens when both of those moods hit at once, as they did when I saw that a friend had signed up to do this race.  It's a cliche, but it sounded like a good idea at the time.)

Anyway, I was signed up for this race, which was to benefit a great cause, The Valley Children's Advocacy Center.  I thought, somewhat stupidly, that 3.2 miles sounds a lot better than 5K, even though they're equivalent.  And I thought, "Ehhhh, two miles is easy...three shouldn't be that much worse."  But as race day approached, my Negative Nancy inner self kicked in.  The idea of the event itself loomed over me.  For someone with a raging case of social anxiety, showing up alone at any event is a daunting task, much less to an event such as this one, in which I'd be very out of my element.  Combine that with a real fear of being the very last person to finish as everyone else gawked at the fat girl finishing awkwardly...well, I chickened out, apologies to all of the maligned fowl.  My internal struggle was real.  Half of me knew that I'd never forgive myself for not going, and half of me just wanted to avoid it at any cost.  As is par for the course, Ms. Self-Doubt won easily. After all, they had my money, what did it matter?

When the alarm went off, I turned it off.  I was just going to go back to sleep and pretend I wasn't supposed to be somewhere.  But then my phone beeped with a "good luck" text message from someone whose opinion I value highly...who also happens to be a coach.  And I begrudgingly told him I wasn't going to go.  He didn't accept that answer, and guilted me in his own special way into getting out of bed and getting dressed, which I did.  I put my big girl panties and my sports bra on, sucked up my growing fear and social anxiety, and went to the event.  At that point, I thought I had the hard part behind me.

What followed was the absolute hardest physical thing I've ever done in my life, and by the time I reached the 1.5 mile mark of the brutally hilly course, I was ready to quit.  Instead of urging myself on and telling myself I could do it, my survival instincts kicked in and I started threatening to cut across the middle or hitch a ride with the event staff in their golf carts.  I was miserable, physically, and growing more and more anxious by the step, as more and more people passed me and left me in their dust.  Even the moms pushing strollers and the guy on crutches easily left me behind.  Each time I heard cheers from the finish line, I wanted to run...or crawl... in the other direction.  The Fat Girl Finishes Last Phobia was in full swing by this point, which made my labored breathing and racing heartbeat all the more difficult to deal with.  And the farther behind I got, the more I wanted to quit.  Fortunately, I had another "coach," who wouldn't let me quit.  He walked with me the whole time, when he easily could have run all or part of it.  He stopped halfway up the most vicious of hills to give me pep talks when I wanted to quit, and he shook his ass cutely at the top of the hills to encourage me to get there in spite of my pain and quivering legs.  Without him, I'd probably still be sitting somewhere along the 10th or 11th hole.

I finished the "race."  I finished--dead last, what I thought was my worst fear.  204th out of 204.  One hour, 13 minutes, and 37 seconds, according to official chip time.  That's a 23 minute mile, not that anyone is counting.  The guy on crutches finished eons ahead of me, as did all of the Stroller Moms. Behind me, I had my own little embarrassing motorcade of golf carts bringing up the chance of me sneaking stealthily across the line and to my car unnoticed.  But.  I.  Finished.  I finished in spite of my shit hip, and in spite of the fact that in order to make it an even playing field, some of the participants would have to carry each other on their backs.  I finished in spite of the fact that it was an emotional struggle to even get there, and in spite of the fact that I was literally in tears behind my sunglasses through a lot of it.  I finished.  And I made people proud of me in the process...all of my coaches, my tiny little cheering section.

What does this have to do with turkeys?

Well, turkeys don't fly because they think they can't.  They're clumsy, and top-heavy, and nobody has ever told them that they can.  They only get short bursts of energy that they can utilize.  In fact, only the wild ones can and will fly, and the others have been bred not to.  Turkeys fly when they need to, not for fun, and they're awkward and silly looking when they do it.  They'll never catch a falcon or an eagle, and they'll never impress anyone when they fly.  But they'll do it, sometimes, and they might even get better at it if they keep trying.  Until then, they'll trot.

Monday, September 05, 2016

"I'm Just a Girl in the World"

I just joined a fantasy football league.  And by joined, I mean stomped my feet and bitched and moaned until I was begrudgingly allowed to take over an abandoned team.  It only took me about two weeks of whining about it, and all along, I was thinking, "You'll just be kicking my ass every week, isn't that a GOOD thing?"  I mean, I just really improved the odds of winning for every other person in the league!  How can that be bad?

I don't know much about football.  Go ahead, say it.  It's because I'm a girl.  Pfffffft.  I know that I have a team I've rooted for since 1986 that I loyally hold onto, even though they suck.  I know that I like to look at football pants.  I know enough about the rules to get by, and I know team colors and mascots... Hell, I even like watching it!  But what I don't know is the necessary information for competitive play in a fantasy league.  Is that because I'm a girl?  Maybe.  Boys seem to have this innate ability to remember stats and positions and who's injured and who got traded...and I just don't.  I could tell you what I remember, but then I'd get sidetracked talking about Odell Beckham's tattoos, and that's just... not productive right now.  But I'm not sure if it's due to the male/female brain thing, or if it's about the learned skills that society has drilled into our brains.

So, why, then, did I want to play?  Simple.  Because I wasn't asked.  The guy running the thing invited every dude he ran into to play, and treated me like chopped liver.  He said it was because I didn't know anything about football....although he never bothered to ask, and we'd never discussed it. But he didn't ask those guys either...he just assumed they did.  Not because of football knowledge...but because of  Grrrrrrrrrr.

I don't know why I got my panties in a wad over gender inequality for such a trivial topic.  I mean, who really CARES about points in an imaginary league with no real bragging rights for a win?  But it seemed like the more I was denied the opportunity, the more I wanted it.  And the more I was denied that opportunity, the more I wanted to argue about other instances of gender inequality that got me fired up...all of them stupid, and trivial, but somehow really meaningful at the same time.  Like being in a room full of guys and the host asking only the MEN if they'd like a shot of bourbon.  I frigging LOVE bourbon, and I'm RIGHT HERE!  Somehow my skirt, or my boobs, disqualified me.

I was fired up over dress codes last week, too.  Reading articles such as this one and this one and seeing comments from friends who have daughters really made me thankful to have a boy (the responsibility just changes a bit).  I remember being fussed at, shamed, for not wearing a bra in my own house frequently in my adolescent years, and how bad that felt, like it was my fault I had boobs.  Like I was supposed to remember to stop to put a bra on under my pajamas before I went to eat my Fruity Pebbles and watch The Smurfs.  Hell no.  Flagrant all means, I'll address those.  But otherwise, kids are doing the work I assigned and not bothering me or each other, so I don't care.  If the boys are distracted, give them more to do and whack them over the metaphorical head with a good case of "act like you have some sense."  It might seem like it's about spaghetti straps, but it's not.

It's human to look and appreciate.  That's not lost on me, as a mere girl. After all, Odell and his ink, and those football pants...well, golly.  I do a lot of looking and appreciating, but it stops there. Anyone who says "boys can't help it" is risking a fight with me, though, because boys CAN help it.   They can help making girls feel bad because her boobs are bigger than the other girls'.  They can help not choosing girls to play on their teams...or in their leagues...because they "don't know shit about football. "  They can help assuming that girls don't drink bourbon, and that girls are there to sit and be pretty, but not be distracting, mind you!  There's that double effing standard that means that we can NEVER win, no matter what we do.  They CAN help it, and they need to be taught to, and so help me, if anyone ever says about MY son, "He can't help it, he's a boy," I'll teach everyone in the room how to help it.

I actually started this post with the idea of writing about how I prefer the company of men to women.  About how it's easier for me to be comfortable when I only have to worry about witty banter and not the conversation at a "hen party."  About how I'd rather be clueless and at a fantasy draft than on level ground and at a Lularoe party...or Pampered Chef...or any of those other approved "girl" things. About how that comes from being raised with a pack of wolves...I mean, an only girl, and from watching the men in my family retreat to the dining room to discuss important family issues while the women did the dishes.  Clearly, they couldn't be trusted with input, but Saran Wrap?  Yeah, we can let them handle that.  It's all of the above, and more.  And I'm just a girl in the world, giving props to Gwen Stefani for today's soundtrack.  (Just press play and turn up your volume, girls.)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dear Rick Springfield...

Dear Rick,
     I'm a terrible girlfriend.  I have put my own needs ahead of yours for the last time. You see, you have been there for me on oh-so-many occasions. You've never let me down. You've been on time for our dates throughout the years, and the words you've said to me have meant so, so much. You've given me hugs when I needed them, and shared your soul.  But I suck.  At the first sign of inconvenience, I bailed on you.  Stood you up.  Left you hanging.

I blame it on old age.  Years ago, pre-kid, the eight-hour drive to Myrtle Beach on a Friday night for a Saturday night show didn't even cause me to blink twice.  And that one paid off, in spades.  You wrapped your arm around me like an old friend while I tried not to pass out.  And it was a great night.
But I'm sure you understand.  You'd understand that the last couple of weeks have been very trying for me.  You'd understand the need to recharge and just exist for a little while.  You'd probably even understand that it was a really tough choice for me, one that I'm second-guessing even now, knowing there's no way I could jump in the car right now and drive really fast and still make it to the show tonight.  I don't know if you'd understand the tears I stupidly shed (or that I'm shedding now) when I made that final decision, but then again, that wasn't really about you.  It wasn't even about the waste of the money I spent on Gold Circle seats months ago, when it seemed like Myrtle Beach was the closest you'd come to me. That was about being stuck, straddling a decision like an ever-widening gap, then having to make a quick, final attempt to get both legs on solid ground.  And maybe, just maybe, about knowing you'd been closer and I missed those opportunities, too.

But, see...I don't think I can explain it.  My priorities are just different right now.  It's not that I'm forsaking you for another.  That would never happen.  It's just that I need to focus on myself a little, not in a narcissistic kind of way, but in a hold-myself-together kind of way.  Too many changes in too short a time requiring too much of my physical and emotional energy have just left nothing else.  And I couldn't do it.

So, have a great show tonight.  You'll be on my mind.  I'll be wishing I were center stage for "Human Touch."  I'll be jealous of other women getting Rick-sweated upon.  I'll be wondering if we'd have had a chance to talk before the show, and if Andrew would have gotten to talk to you again and tell you how much he loves "If Wishes Were Fishes" because you drop a couple of F-bombs.  But I'll also be braless in my jammies by about ten o'clock, and my feet will be recovering from wearing dressy shoes to school all week.  I'll be snuggled up with the blankets pulled up to my chin and a glass of the red wine we love so much on my nightstand...and if I want, I can YouTube you from the comfort of my air-conditioned room without worrying about drunks pissing me off, or traffic, or anything else.

And I know you'd understand.
Love, Me

Friday, July 29, 2016

And the Nomination Goes to...

This little nugget started out as a Facebook post, but when I went past three paragraphs, I decided that this was a better venue for my ramblings, and also less likely to get my blood pressure elevated as I was forced to deal with comments from the masses.  We all know I can't ignore things very well, so I'm much better off this way.  The root of it is that I'm not trying to get into a political argument with anyone today, but I AM marking the moment in time for my son, in the hopes that he doesn't have to rely solely on his fading memories in later years, as I do.

You see, he watched the DNC with me all week (the RNC last week, too, because we believe in being well-informed and listening to all sides, and checking facts, even when we don't agree with the opinion), and he stayed up with me last night as well.

He humored me while I told him that someday he will be able to tell his kids that he remembers seeing our first black President speak on the soccer field at JMU after freezing to death for hours and then being disappointed when we didn't get into the official speech in the Convo.
Barack Obama at JMU October 28, 2008

He also humored me while I told him to look around and remember what was happening while Hillary made her acceptance speech as the first female presidential nominee--his father asleep and snoring in the chair, the "porch kitties" chasing moths attracted to the light shining through the window behind the couch, and his sentimental old mom, who was moved to tears and applause, first by Mr. Khizr Khan, then by Hillary's speech.  Don't jump to conclusions, this isn't about Hillary, per se, but because it's been too long in the making.  The fact that I even have to celebrate the nomination of a woman as groundbreaking in 2016 should be cause for dismay.

Save your political comments of disgust or whatever...this isn't about whom I've voted for, or for whom I intend to vote.  This is about moments in history, and I want to make sure he can say, "I remember when..."

Sunday, June 26, 2016

On Facing Fears, and Former Students...

Unalome tattoos.  If it matters, mine is most like the far left image.  
We just returned from a week-long family vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  It's important to note that this is the first time we have attempted this as a family since the summer of 2009.  The significance of this is that that last summer trip really was a last summer trip for one of us.  That's not the focus of this post, but it does contribute.

I have this...problem.  Significant dates in my life, usually traumas of some sort, get tagged in my brain and remembered.  I have trouble remembering when the good things happen, but things that rip my guts out pop up in their little anniversary outfits and kick me in the teeth on a pretty consistent basis.  Sometimes the teeth-kicking is based on a calendar date, but other times, it's just the "oh, the last time I was here" thoughts that get me.  So, this was one of those things.  The last time we did this, Edna was still with us.  The last time we did this, things were very different.  The last time we did this, I was a different person than I am now.  But again, not the focus of the post, just the backstory.

Anyway, it was the same week seven years ago that we did this last.  To oversimplify, it's also a time of transition for me professionally and personally, and I also had some other "anniversaries" in my head rolling around, when I happened to come across an image of a tattoo that really called my name.  I've wanted a tattoo for a couple of years.  In fact, it was supposed to be my birthday present in 2014, but I just never got around to it.  No, that's not entirely true--I had plenty of time to get one, but I didn't know HOW.  The same fear, if you will, stops me from going to get a pedicure without backup from my girls.  I don't know how things are done, so I just don't do them.  Easy solution, but also the wussy way out.  So this tattoo yelled my name, and my ever-courageous (and sometimes slightly scary) baby sister made the appointment.

I could have chosen an ankle or a thigh or a shoulder for my first ink...but I rarely do things the easy way, and I chose my sternum instead.  Worrying about the pain a little, I had ONE cocktail before we left, and chose undergarments and a shirt that I thought would provide easy and modest access to the area. I had the distraction of a ceiling fan accident (another story) to distract me just before departure, and I was feeling pretty good, pretty decisive about the whole thing.  A rarity for me, so it had to be acted upon.  Not even learning that I'd have to disrobe before the procedure really slowed me down much--it increased the anxiety level, of course, but after all--these people are professionals!

Turns out, one is required to show ID before a tattoo, even if you're clearly over the age of consent, and when the artist read out my small town name as if he recognized it, warning signs went off in my head.  Nobody knows where this town is unless you've lived here, and if that's true, you've usually tried to forget.  But he knew it, and then elaborated by saying he grew up around here and...Went.  To.  My.  School.  You know, the one where I teach?  Oh, and, "You were my 7th grade English teacher!" And here are those band-aids to satisfy your modesty.  Band-aids.  The little teeny ones.  Which makes them the only little teeny things on my body, if you catch my drift.  I avoid the grocery store at home in order to avoid students and former students, and you're telling me I'm five hours away from home and about to set the girls free...and, eeeek!

If I've ever felt like dashing out of a place of business, that was it.  But I sucked it up.  I was on a mission, the tattoo was calling my name, and I knew if I didn't do it then, I'd never get that one OR any other one.  It had to happen.  So I sucked it up.  I held on to my shirt until the very last possible minute, covered up to the best of my half-naked ability, and counted holes in the ceiling tiles as I anticipated the pain that I hoped would distract me from my psychological discomfort.  And it.  Was a piece.  Of cake.  The pain was minimal, the artist was ultra-professional, even when I threatened to time travel and put him in silent lunch, and I love the tattoo itself.  (Shout-out to AJ at Wicked Parrot Tattoos in Kill Devil Hills, should you be looking for a vacation tattoo.)

Symbolically, it represents the path to enlightenment.  The curves and spirals are the difficulties of life, the challenges, the times we don't know where our paths are headed.  The top, the straight part, is where we figure our proverbial shit out, become "enlightened," if you will.  The dots at the top allegedly represent death, the end of the journey.  As I write that, I realize that it's like punctuation, and you know I LOVE that connection to the grammar queen in me.  I have dots at the bottom, too, which to me, mean that everything comes full circle.  Emotionally, it is even more significant.  It marks a time when I faced not one fear, but SEVERAL, and came out on the other end better for it.  It also marks this time of transition, a connection that I will always make when I look at it.  And it replaces some memories, or signifies them, in a way that I could never have done on my own.  Those are all my "squiggles," and my getting through them and coming out better and stronger on the other end is my straight line, my goal in life...and it's closer all the time.

Friday, May 20, 2016

On Trust Issues and Disbelief

Blind faith is not my strong suit.  The other day, a young lady who was helping me direct our most recent play came up to me and said, "Hold out your hand," and she held her hand above mine as if she were holding something inside.  I panicked a little.  In the span of a second or two, all sorts of things blasted through my brain---things like, "Maybe she's putting a spider in my hand!"  or 'What if it's something gross?"  I had nothing to fear or worry about from this young lady, so I don't know why I expected it to be a fiery hot thumbtack or some sort of weird creature that might bore a hole in my palm.  But I did.  I expected the worst.

Knowing that that's an issue of mine, I went against my better judgment and held out my hand, cringing the whole time.  Every bone in my body screamed at me to pull my hand back in the nick of time, but I didn't, because I KNOW that my instincts and emotional reflexes aren't always the best. Once I held out my hand, she laced her fingers in mine and held my hand and swung back and forth and made some silly comment and laughed.  I should have relaxed at that point, but I didn't.  I laughed it off and flung her hand off of mine and made some smartass comment about being convinced she was putting boogers in my hand.  

I don't trust easily, even when harmless or stupid things are happening.  A trust fall, you know those team-building things that people do on retreats, just before they sing "Kumbaya" and make s'mores? Well, a trust fall for me would be an emotional disaster, even if I didn't end up in a pile on the floor. There is no way that I would ever blindly fall backwards and expect someone else to catch me. Instead, I would expect the opposite, that they would drop me, let me down.

It's become a viral thing lately for people to stand on busy streets or in marketplaces blindfolded with "Hug Me" signs hung around their neck.  I saw a few of those myself the last time I ventured onto the Charlottesville Mall.  I was fascinated and enthralled.  I could have sat and watched approaching huggers and their reactions all day, but it was really the "huggee" that intrigued me more.  I was too squeamish to walk over and give hugs.  I don't readily touch people, not even people I know well---there was no way I was going to hug a random stranger on the street.  (Besides, in typical non-trusting manner, what if it's a trick?  A  candid camera experiment?  The horror!)  So there is no fathomable way I'd ever stand blindfolded anywhere, much less with an invitation for bodily contact hanging around my neck.
I don't think I'm naturally suspicious--I don't automatically assume that people have malicious intent. In fact, I think I do quite the opposite. I give the benefit of the doubt and look for the good in people  perhaps more than I should (and sometimes it bites me in the ass).  So how does that fit?  It comes down to a lack of evidence.  I need evidence to support my trust, to support my patience, to support my energy and effort. And if it's not there…if I'm working on blind trust…well, then my brain does its own thing, my psyche jumps in just for shits and giggles, and all proverbial hell breaks loose.

I don't often quote 80s hair bands as being words that speak from my heart.  But Poison's "Give Me Something to Believe In" has been running through my brain the last few days.  They're singing about faith in a bigger sense, not the day-to-day trust in other people.  But for me, they're the same thing.  I need something to believe in, and I need the evidence.  And if that evidence isn't there, well, I'll keep looking until it is.   

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Words and Actions

When the words and the actions don’t match
When nothing seems to fit
When I feel like the only solution
Is to give up and to quit

Trying to make it work and
Trying to find a reason
Because to keep fighting for this
Love through every season

Is taking every ounce of my
Faith and loyalty
And all I want understood is that
My love doesn’t come for free

In your corner, on your team
Through every bump in the road
But that comes with a serious price
And, eventually, you’ll reap what you sow

Wound me, hurt me, I forgive
And my scars will slowly heal
Ignore me, slight me, brush me off
Eventually, nothing I will feel

Words and actions need to match
It needs to be give and take
Because when there’s nothing left to give
The camel’s back will finally break.

Complaints are Not Conversations

Someone very important to me told me recently that a complaint is no way to start a conversation. And that's true, to a certain exte...