Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime

Hey, y'all.

It's the Holidays! It's fabulous! There is lots of stuff going on!

(...and I am TIRED ...)

The Fella and I are going to be Gone to Carolina in just a few days, but before we go, I wanted to take a moment to thank anyone who has ever read and commented on or liked or said something nice about this blog.

You're the best.

In 2015, you should expect frequent and reliable posting. I have a fabulous new laptop, the internet, and the most supportive Fella, Family, and Friends a writergeek could have, and I still have lots and lots to say. Don't you worry -- I'll be back in a big way.

In the meantime -- I hope that the holiday season and the New Year (and every day, really) finds you blessed and happy.

Hugs all around,

Yellie

Monday, December 8, 2014

Eau (de) Christmas Tree

There are about seven trillion reasons that I can't have a "real" Christmas tree. I'm using the quotes deliberately here because I think that any item designated a Christmas tree is a real Christmas tree, but for the purposes of this post, let's specify: I cannot have a once living, now-cut down (or still living and hanging out with a root ball in a plant pot) tree of piney goodness in my house. Allergies, OCD, space issues, and a cat who likes to nom things that aren't actually designated cat food all contribute to my inability to have a real tree.

I'm okay with this. I grew up with an artificial tree, so the Christmas tree made of synthetic pine needles, wire, and plastic has never bothered me in any way. In fact, now that almost all artificial trees come pre-lit means that the fake tree is totally my jam. I don't have to put up strings of lights after I check to make sure that if one goes out, they don't all go out.

Because I've had real trees in the past as well, I also know that the fake tree is my jam because I don't have to water the tree. I don't have to vacuum up pine needles. I don't have to wait for the branches to settle.

I love my tree.

There is, though, a benefit to having a real, once living tree in your house, though.

The SMELLLLLLLLLL. Oh the smell. The piney goodness smell.

I love the smell of Christmas trees. Real trees? Smell awesome.

Fake trees? Or, at least, MY fake tree? Smells like the cardboard box it is stored in and the inside of my storage space. An indeterminate, slightly stale odor that is in no way festive and does not scream holiday cheer.

It doesn't even faintly whisper holiday cheer.

Fortunately, we live in a world that doesn't just make it super easy to get a fake tree -- it ALSO makes it super easy to get "fake smell of real tree."

Sorta.

Because just as we learned from Charlie Brown that not all Christmas trees are created alike -- some are robust, some are less robust, and some are just single branches from which one hangs a bauble -- not all Christmas tree smells are created equally.

This was reinforced for me when I came home happily bearing what CLAIMED to be delicious Christmas tree smell in a jar to plug into my air freshener, mentally checking "make the house smell like joy and dancing" off my to-do list.

Plugged it in.

Hit a button.

My house was filled with ... well, it was a smell of a kind. There may have been a hint of Christmas tree smell in there. I'm not really sure. It was hard to tell as it had been obscured by a smell that can only be described as "a heavily discounted manly deodorant" or, as I quickly began to think of it, Cheap Chemical Funk.

It was perplexing. We live in a world where science has figured out how to land a spacecraft on a COMET but no one who worked in the lab that created this monstrosity had the olfactory skills to determine that their new Christmas-tree fragrance smelled like sightly pine-ish poop.

"That's bad, right?" I asked The Fella.

"Yeaaaaaah," he said. "What's that supposed to be?"

"Christmas tree!"

"Huh," he said. "Weird."

It wasn't just weird. It was infuriating to me. Had the inventors of this abomination never smelled a Christmas tree? Were they sampling mutant trees in radiation saturated forests? WERE THERE ACTUALLY PLACES WHERE CHRISTMAS TREES SMELLED LIKE THIS?

"I can't even," I finally said. "I just can't."

So today, I ventured into another store and smelled EVERYTHING in it that claimed to smell like a Christmas tree. If it had a picture of a tree on it? I applied my sniffer to it and took a hearty whiff. This was not, by the way, the most festive exercise ever because as it turns out? Lots of things that claim to smell like pine smell like feet, Lysol, and desperation.

Not awesome.

Finally, after smelling about twenty things, I found something that actually smelled like glorious, wonderful spruce-y evergreen-y goodness.

I'm not saying that I danced with glee in the store aisles?

But I'm also not saying that I didn't.

So, right now, as I type, the smell of Christmas tree lingers in the air. The tree -- assembled, decorated, and illuminated -- shines gently into the room. There are carols on the radio and there is happiness in my heart.

It might all be man made, it's true.

But it's as real as it comes.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Listen

I work in a construction-based business. This, mostly, is awesome. My job involves a lot of talking on the phone. I'm a talker, so this is also mostly awesome.

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I sound young on the phone.

Young. Girly. On the phone.

This is occasionally problematic to the point that I've developed four or five different tones for work. They have names: Regular Danielle, Southern Belle, Chatty Girl, and the one we simply call The Voice.

The Voice is pitched several tones lower than my usual voice. It's a little bit breathy. My friend Skippy tells me it kind of freaks him out because it's so not me. But I find that I have to use it with certain customers because it's the only way to get them to listen to me.

The issue, I find, is that when people hear my voice? They make assumptions based on it... and those assumptions are usually that I can't possibly have any idea what I'm talking about because I'm a girl. I mean, I probably don't even OWN any tools, and if I DO own any they're probably pink and sparkly, and the few (pink and sparkly) tools I might own probably have never ever been used.

For the record? None of these are correct. I have tools. I have a BOX full of tools. Old, dinged up, NOT PINK OR SPARKLY tools that I love, treat carefully, and use regularly. I know how to fix things. I know how to build things.

I know how to discuss building and fixing things.

But people -- mostly men, to be clear -- hear me and think that I don't. Then they become ... weird. Some of them are patronizing and creepy-avuncular. Some of them become flat-out bullies. Some of them, bless their hearts, try to be helpful and are actually very nice.

It frustrates me every time, though, when someone won't listen to what I'm saying because they're too busy hearing my voice and deciding what I know based on pitch and tone and not content.

So I use The Voice. I hate myself, but I do it, and I do it because it works.

The thing that drives me crazy about this is that I know -- I KNOW -- that the menfolk with whom I work don't have to do this in order for people to listen to them... AND they think it's cute that I do. It amuses them that I have developed multiple job related personalities in order to have customers listen to me and actually hear what I am saying.

To be completely honest, there are moments when it amuses me as well. I sometimes enjoy a little acting while at work -- it means those years of theatre study were good for something! Wheee!

More frequently, however, I am annoyed by it and the perception that it's cute. I am annoyed by the fact that people hear my voice and assume a gender and an age and, based on that, become biased as to what I do or don't know. I am annoyed by the fact that it's acceptable for me to sometimes, despite The Voice, have to pass a call to a male co-worker because the fact that his voice is deeper than mine somehow makes him more credible.

While this bothers me on a so many valid feminist levels, it also makes me think of the 101 ways in which we all judge people every day based on the most trivial of things, as though they're relevant in anything but the most superficial ways. As though it's true that the guy in grubby overalls knows more about engines than the guy in the suit coat. As though it's true that the girl with the glasses knows more about books than the girl in the cocktail dress.

As though it's true that the man on the street is probably better at math than the woman standing next to him.

And as though it's factually accurate that the young-sounding woman on the other end of the phone knows less about building than the men in her office because she is a young-sounding woman.

Maybe we could all do each other a favor and instead of making assumptions about what someone is going to say, we could listen to what s/he is actually saying and make our decisions about what s/he knows based on that.

Stop assuming.

And listen.

And then the only voice I would have to use would be my own.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Greener Grasses, Better Things

I was going to say that today was sprinkled with an extra helping of crazy dust, but then I realized that described both some of the weekend AND today and THEN I realized that not all of the stories belonged to me so ... let's just say that there were shenanigans and I committed some of them and merely witnessed others and leave it at that.

BUT (come on, you saw that coming)...

If there's a something that sticks with me most from the past several days, it's this: I know a person -- or a couple of people -- who suffer from "the grass is greener"-itis. As in, the grass is always greener somewhere else. As in, they can never find joy in the place where they are but are constantly looking for something better, something more, something else. The better job. The better house. The better car. They never find their happy because they're never satisfied. Ever. With anything. They can't see what's around them -- and a lot of it is good, wonderful, valuable stuff -- because they're too busy worrying that there's something better and they're missing it.

They're kind of right. There is something better. They are missing it. That something is RIGHT NOW. This moment. The beauty that exists right here, where they're standing. The sunset in front of them. The kindness of a coworker.

Sure, we all want things. We all see things that could be better in our lives -- and better can mean "more expensive" or "more status-laden" or it can simply mean "easier". I know that there have been times in my life where I knew things could definitely be easier; I also know that there have been times in my life when I wished I could afford things that other people had. I also, however, know this: you can't wish your life away. You can only be where you are, and since you're there? You should try to enjoy it even as you move through to where you're going next.

I'm thinking about all of this because of Thanksgiving, of course. In our little neck of the woods, we had a big old snowstorm the day before Thanksgiving, which meant that the four day, glorious, extended weekend that I'd so been looking forward to was ... well ... a very cold weekend in which The Fella and I found ourselves in our tiny little apartment with no power.

This could have ruined our weekend. We couldn't cook. We didn't have the internet. There was no heat. Plans with The Fella's son (the Lil Fella) were shelved because ... did we mention that we didn't have heat?

It could have ruined our weekend. We could have groused and grumbled and talked about the kind of holiday we wanted, the kind we deserved, the kind we'd planned for and worked towards.

OR, we could do none of those things. Instead, we could relax because there was literally nothing that we could do. We could hang out, cuddle, play games. We could not worry about cooking. We could not run around. We could change our plans and just kind of go with it.

Let me say this as well: relaxing does not come easily to me or to The Fella since we are both prone to the stressies. I like things to WORK. He was really counting on having the Lil Fella over. None of this was what we would choose.

It was one of the best holidays I've ever had, though, because we were able to go with it and live in the day. With extra blanks and the cat on the bed and games and giggling. At one point there may have been a Weird Al sing along as we discussed all of the things that were wrong with the newest Star Wars movies (while hoping that the NEW one would make up for the sins of the previous ones and Yes, I know that doesn't seem like it would lead to singing Weird Al songs but it TOTALLY does) and there were hugs and hot chocolate and ... it made me really happy.

Could it have made me a maniac?

Yes.

But sometimes the grass is green right here. And sometimes the best thing you can do is to notice it, and feel how silky is is beneath your feet, and just be glad to taking it all in.

Oh, and if you're lucky? You can sing Weird Al songs while you do that.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Love You, Mean It

We were standing in the middle of a ski shop. The ex was browsing through the aisles when the clerk came to me. "So, you ski?" he asked.

"Ah, no." I am accident prone and gravitationally challenged and have shit lungs, I thought. I don't ski.

"You board, then," he said.

My ex and I had been talking to this clerk before and it was very clear that we were there for ski stuff for the ex. I was just an accessory, a plus one. The person who held things when the ex passed them to me.

"No," I said. "I don't snow board either."

This irritated the clerk. "Well what do you DO all winter?" he asked, condescendingly, as though I barely qualified as human because I didn't strap anything to my feet and careen down steep mountainsides.

"I read, actually. A lot."

"You READ." He sniffed. "Whatever."

"Yeah," my ex said, finally coming over and standing next to the clerk. They smirked at each other. "I don't get it either."


*****

For the record, a nearly perfect evening in my world involves warm socks, a comfy chair, a glass of wine, and a book.

A completely perfect evening involves all of those things while cuddled up to someone else. Said someone would also be reading.

Please note that in that relationship I had no perfect evenings.

*****

Someone recently asked me if I had forgiven the ex and I realized that I forgave him a long time ago. It took me longer to forgive myself for tolerating a relationship that was so diminishing, where it was okay to mock me and the things that I am passionate about. However, the realization that yes, I forgive him and yes, I finally also forgive me made me think about the nature of love, and what it should look like.

It should look like support and appreciation. It shouldn't look like disdain. It shouldn't be all "let's explore everything you love and say everything I love is stupid."

It should be meeting someone where they are and loving them in that exact spot on the map of their life. It should not be looking at her as though she is a wax figure that you can mold into your idea of perfection.

If you love someone, then you give AND you take. You go to the ski store and then to a book store. You spend a day at the resort and some time in the lodge. It's not one or the other. It's both.

*****

I get it now.  When someone tells you they love you, they need to mean they love you -- the things you are AND the things you're not. The things you've been and the things you'll become. Your hopes, your fears, your successes, your defeats -- they need to love all of those things.

*****

I got lucky, by the way. I met someone who tells me that he loves me, and when he does? He means it.

And now? I have many perfect evenings.

I hope that, however you frame a perfect evening, whatever that would look like for you? You have them as well.

*****

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Spider Convention

Dear Spiders,

You may recall that when I moved into this apartment (to be referred to as "home"), I was on a mission to be a kinder, gentler human being, one who was more willing to appreciate all of the earth's creatures, even the ones that I considered to be madly frightening and in possession of FAR too many legs (to be referred to as "you"). While I have had no love or affection for you, I have many friends who really love spiders. Sincce I consider these to be (otherwise) sensible people, I reconsidered my stance on you and your presence in my home. 

Thus, the Treaty.

You remember the Treaty, right? It involved you, my home, and, well, me. 

Please allow me to refresh your memory regarding the Treaty.

You were allowed to be present in my home -- though you did definitely run the risk of gentle relocation to a friendlier space -- as long as you did not attempt to establish any kind of residency in what I call "The Forbidden Zones." The Forbidden Zones were VERY SPECIFICALLY stated as the following:

My  bed
My  person
The shower

Oh Spiders. We had a good thing going. But then you got adventurous and greedy and, frankly, bold and ridiculous. 

The first time you violated the shower portion of the Forbidden Zones I chalked it up to some sort of rogue agent who needed to be (ahem) squashed in his efforts to void the Treaty. That little guy was BRAZEN, I'll give him that. It was very sneaky to drop down from the shower head when defenseless, blind without her glasses Yellie was rinsing her hair , unable to tell if that was a GIANT HAIRY SPIDER INTERLOPER or, say, a tangle of said hair.  

He blew his cover by MOVING.

Actions were swift, immediate, and punishing but then the Treaty held.

At least, it held until today. Today, when I was once again rinsing my hair and discovered one of you. It wasn't enough that you were in the shower. OH NO, SPIDERS. Instead, you dropped down (again, I suspect from the showerhead area) and landed on my hand.

That's TWO Treaty violations at a single time (and, to be honest, a little impressive in its audacity) and I will simply not stand for this level of disrespect.

The Treaty is now dissolved. THAT'S RIGHT, SPIDERS. All of the zones in the home are now declared spider free. Even as I type, the cat is stalking one of you and, in all probability will not only eat you but will barf you up later for me to clean, allowing me to get rid of you twice. HAHAHAHAHA! 

I tried, you know. I made every effort to get along. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, SPIDERS.

It's ON.

Sincerely,

Yellie

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Unplugged

Eight years ago this month, I pulled the plug on my marriage by finally summoning the courage to move out. It was difficult for me to admit that it was a) past over and b) more abusive to stay by the minute, but eventually, I had to do it. You can only put a doily on the elephant in the room for so long before you're forced to admit that it is, in fact, an elephant and not an end table. 

So. I moved out of the house I loved and into an apartment that I most definitely did not love. Not even a little. I tried to tell myself (and Beansie) that I loved it, that it was great, but between the job I didn't love, the apartment that I didn't love, and the soon to be ex husband who, frankly, scared me, I was a miserable, sobbing, depressed wreck.

It happens.

When my folks were all, "Move to North Carolina and come live with us!" I fought it. I don't know why now, except that -- possibly -- when every day is a fight? You just get used to fighting. "No," I said. "I don't want to," I said.

The Flinkster told me to go. I still fought. "No," I said.

And then one day ... Tired, defeated, anxious ... I called my mom in North Carolina. "Okay," I said. "Okay."

The Flinkster refers to it as "when you put yourself in time out."

When I think about that time, I call it "when I unplugged."

*****

The first week I spent in North Carolina, I slept. Really slept. For the first time in months. With the air conditioning on and Beansie curled up on a pillow beside me, I slept.

The second week, I realized that I could breathe without feeling like someone was standing on my chest. I found myself crying, but it was with relief -- for the realization that I was still alive, that I was still here. I played cribbage with my mom. I drank coffee with my dad. I practiced simple things: breathing in. Breathing out. Tossing things for Bean to chase.

I did that for three years.

***** 

I rarely left the house, except for business trips and shopping excursions with my mom. It was sort of monastic. It was a very quiet life.

It was healing. It let me heal.

*****

I was thinking about this today, because The Fella did something unbelievably thoughtful and got us tickets so we can go home to North Carolina for Christmas. Make no mistake... North Carolina became home in spite of everything (the heat! The politics! The poisonous spiders!). I can't wait. I haven't been in ages, and am excited for my parents to meet my Fella, and to sit on the steps and drink coffee, and to stand in the office Bean and I used to spend our days (and sometimes nights) in and just think.

I am also excited because I want to make sure I thank my parents in person for giving me a place to go and unplug. If they had not urged me -- repeatedly -- to go to them, I wouldn't be where I am now. I might have made it through, but not like I did. I wouldn't have enough trust or love left in me for The Fella. I wouldn't have made it through losing Bean.

When I was on the phone with my mom earlier this evening, she said something about buying a birthday present for me.

I need to make sure that she and my dad both know that I appreciate what they gave me eight years ago, and that I'm thankful every day that they let me unplug then so that I can be plugged in now.

There's not much that's worth more than that.