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.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Science of Coloring

I love the smell of crayons, and I like to fill in empty spaces, like writing in a new notebook or filling in a chart, or rolling a paint roller over a wall and watching the white spaces disappear.  There's something very satisfying about making sure every spot is covered and complete.  So, of course I like to color!

I colored a lot as a child.  It was one of my favorite things to do.  There were very few things that matched up to a new coloring book and sharp, new crayons--you know, the ones where the edge hasn't been worn off yet.  I was careful with my crayons, tilting them and coloring on the side, then turning at strategic moments to make sure the tip stayed even.  Eventually, I'd have to peel the label off little by little to continue to move up the crayon, but that was always sort of tragic for me, because the names of the colors were very important.  There was a big distinction between burnt sienna and raw sienna, and between peach and apricot, but sometimes that difference disappeared with the shreds of the label, and I didn't like to be surprised by the color when those damn labels weren't there.
Adult coloring has become mainstream and trendy lately.  Suddenly closeted colorers, myself included, have options other than stealing their kids' super hero or Cars coloring books to satisfy the urge.  And thank goodness, too, because the colors just weren't very fun--that Dark Knight IS, after all, DARK!

I have several coloring books that are all mine.  A couple were Christmas gifts from my like-minded sister.  But, just like all things in my life, I find it difficult to finish one before I move on to the next one.  So when I found myself facing a huge rack of intricately-designed "adult" coloring books in a craft store the other night, I knew better than to try to resist.  I'm not the only one, apparently.  While I stood there, trying to decide if I was really going to spend ten bucks on yet another coloring book, a friendly older man approached and struck up a conversation about his favorites among the choices, and before I could remove myself from the awkwardness of seeing "AA Susan" in his phone contacts, he was thumbing through photos of pictures he'd colored and snapped pics of, very proud of his work, indeed.  It occurred to me at the time to wonder why he'd photographed them at all when he has the colored page, but maybe it was just for bragging rights or to troll for chicks in Michaels' on a Friday night.

So, what's the appeal?  Google "adult coloring" and you'll find a plethora of articles speculating about the health benefits (stress relief) and entertainment value of coloring for us grownups.  (You'll also find a bunch of free printable pages, so why the hell am I spending money on these things?)

There's a sense of satisfaction in taking all of the white spaces, the blank spaces, and turning them into something.  I even tend to add my own details when I don't quite like the way it looks (boy, is that ever a metaphor for life!).

It's fairly mindless.  The extent of the mental exercise involved is just in the choosing of the colors (burnt sienna, or raw?).  I like a lot of contrast (again, life), but that's pretty easy to do without actual thought.

It's cheap, it's not too messy, it's easily transportable, and there's little to no embarrassment involved (okay, maybe now that I've outed my coloring habit) if people see what I created.  After all, I just filled in the spaces, right?  I didn't actually DRAW anything!

I get out what I put into it.  I have crayons, colored pencils, and two...no, THREE, different kinds of markers of varying tip widths and scents.  And oddly, the coloring utensil that I use is both directly affected by my mood and serves its own purpose.  When I really need to tune out, to disengage, an intricate design with a fine-point marker does the trick.  I have to concentrate to stay in the lines, and filling up those spaces requires a lot of back and forth in a small space, which is not as dirty as it sounds.  When I'm just taking a small break from life, though, I'm more likely to choose a picture with larger designs; I can use a wider variety of tools and not focus as intently on the task.  The markers fill the designs smoothly and without much resistance...my hand stays steady and I tend to color in one direction only, with ease...like little else in my life.

Crayons, on the other hand, are a different story.  Aside from that SMELL (yes, I did just stick my face in the crayon bucket and inhale deeply), crayons can do so many things.  They create that contrast on their own, if I want, depending on how much pressure I use, being careful not to snap those carefully-created sharp points.  And there is something much more satisfying about the need to scribble back and forth, to create that friction to accomplish the task, that markers just can't accomplish.

I don't think I have a favorite way to color.  That would involve choice.  As usual, though, when I can't make a choice, I just keep all of them.  My favorite way to finish a picture is by using markers, crayons, and colored pencils, to vary the colors and contrast, as well as the textures.  Turns out, burnt sienna and raw sienna feel the same, but markers and crayons do not.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I failed high school chemistry.  No two ways about it.  I just plain failed it.  Those stupid proofs and balancing equations of things I couldn't even really tell existed...well, it just wasn't happening. Heathcliff and Catherine had my rapt attention, but not the test tubes and lab tables, and I got used to seeing the letter "F" on my papers and acknowledging that I might not graduate because of those stupid covalent bonds.  I still, to this day, don't know what the hell those are!

One thing that stuck, though, as I wrote notes and planned my underage drinking excursions for the weekend, was the spiel about changes.  You know, some substances undergo changes that aren't able to be undone, and some just change into other things that you can switch easily back from.  If I recall correctly (and I will, because I'll google that shit just to be sure), it's the physical changes that can sometimes be reversed and don't really change the makeup of the original substance.  Paper is still paper if you chop it up, and wood is still wood once you hack down the tree.  A broken fingernail will grow back, hair will regrow...and what they ARE never varies, no matter how different they might look on the surface.

The chemical changes, though--there's the rub.  You can't just undo that beautiful mess that gets created.  Just ask Peter Parker.  Some changes, just like a radioactive spider bite, alter the core at the center of the substance, and that is not something that's easily undone.  Photosynthesis, digestion, burning...they all result in some new thing, some important thing, but some different thing that isn't going back to the way it was, no matter what you do to it.

Peter Parker sometimes tries to go back to the ordinary guy he was.  He tries to shed his costume and pretend that things are hunky dory and he's normal.  But he's not, and he never will be again.  He can't change back to what he was.  Most of us don't have a spider to blame (not even that little guy that crawled into my shirt to his death last night), nor are the changes quite so drastic as slinging webs and climbing walls (at least not literally) but it doesn't change the fact that we change.

In the interest of winding this up before I turn into a pumpkin, change is inevitable.  As Jay Asher wrote in the excellent young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why, "You can't stop the future, you can't rewind the past.  The only way to learn the secret...is to press play." And true change never changes back, it just is.  So press PLAY.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Life is a Transition

Life is about transition, or transitions.  From asleep to awake, from horizontal to vertical, from hungry to fulfilled...all transitions, all day long, every day.  Because, guess what?  If those transitions don't happen, you're not alive.  That's literal and figurative, by the way.  Some of those basic biological transitions have to happen in order for our hearts to keep ticking, our lungs to keep filling, or blood to keep pumping.  The figurative ones?They may not be as immediately critical to sustaining life, but they can be just as important in the long run.

It is often the case that things that people say to me get the wheels in my brain turning.  Oh, who are we kidding?  The wheels are always turning.  I'm a charter member of Overthinkers Anonymous, and the alcoholic's glass of scotch is a lot easier to put down than my brain, trust me.  I'm also the self-appointed president of the It's Not Right, Therefore, I Don't Accept It Club. God did NOT grant me any sort of serenity, not one little drop.

The cute little meme gracing this post?  The one I plucked from a friend's Facebook share?  Well, I don't know how I feel about it.  It popped up in my news feed in the middle of me contemplating transitions, and it just seemed apropos, even though I don't really think it's true.  Sometimes the bad things are bullshit that shouldn't have happened to start with.  Sometimes the bad things are decisions that were made FOR us instead of with us, and which put us down on a path we don't want to walk down at all.  Sometimes the path ends without warning--someone throws up a fence, a tree falls, or it just becomes overgrown slowly.  And sometimes the BEST things that ever happen in our lives put us on the path to the worst things to ever happen to us...how's that for optimism?  And just like I don't know how I feel about the statement, how I react to that blocked path changes also.
Shamelessly stolen photo of trees.  

Choice Number One is just to sit down on a rock and let the weeds grow up around me.  It's not an awful thing.  I can sit and look at trees for hours, no matter where I am.  And when the sunlight filters through (my new favorite word, komorebi), that's about as close to God as I get. I'm not going to get anywhere that way, but I also won't get lost or hurt.  It's a safe choice, but also a lonely choice.

Choice Number Two is to grab the nearest machete and start whacking through the shrubbery to make a path that no one has ever walked before.  It's exhilarating!  It's titillating! But it's also exhausting and a little too much like exercise to be pleasant.  Thorns draw blood, there are snakes and creepy-crawlies in the underbrush, and it's not a quick or painless way to get anywhere.

Choice Number Three is to turn around and walk back the other way, back to the starting point.  I know exactly where that path leads and it's already clear and safe.  It doesn't really matter that the starting point is miles and miles away, that I worked hard and suffered through the forging of that path.  It'll be easier on the way back, but that also means that all that work was for nothing.  The scratches and scrapes may be healed, but the scars are still there.

There are other choices.  The wind-up toy choice, the Sheldon-knocking-on-Penny's-door choice, the grin and bear it choice...the list goes on.  The point, which I sort of wandered away from, is that every single one of these things is a transition, a change.  A transition can be a bad thing, but it can also be a very good thing, a permanent one.  Just ask the butterfly.  It snuggled itself inside the cocoon as a slow-moving caterpillar with the idea of emerging as a beautiful, treasured butterfly who could fly anywhere gracefully, over the obstacles in the way, away from harmful things, to land on gentle arms and sweet-smelling flowers.  That's the way it should happen.  And if it does, whether there's a path or not is irrelevant.  The butterfly doesn't change back or decide to be something else.  It's just a butterfly forever, and happy.   And that...is probably way too many mixed metaphors for a Sunday morning.