Friday, December 30, 2011

The 2011 Farewell Speech

So imagine this: you turn on your tv to see some kind of swanky year-end awards show being hosted by a distinguished announcer. Let’s call him Mark Harmon.

Mark Harmon: And now, to say some words as 2011 draws to a close, I’d like to introduce a fabulous woman, one with style, panache, and who speaks sarcasm fluently. Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in welcoming to the stage – Danielle Hayes Balentine.

(Danielle, who is having a fashion moment in which she manages to look amazing and who, miraculously, has managed not to spill anything on her dress AND doesn’t have anything in her teeth, holds her breath as she walks to the stage. She somehow doesn’t trip as she walks to the podium, which causes the audience to give her a standing ovation.)

Danielle: You all expected me to fall, didn’t you?

(Audience laughs.)

Danielle: I admit, that with my track record of complete klutziness, I would be expected to fall. Plus, I’m wearing these killer heels – you can’t see them, but they’re quite sparkly and wonderful – so I was a little nervous about walking onto the stage.  But then I realized – so what if I fall? You’d all gasp and I would get back up – or maybe Mark Harmon would have to HELP me up, woohoo (audience laughs) and it would make a great story later, right?

Because that’s what I want to talk about. That’s what I think 2011 was about. Falling. And getting back up, either under your own power or with the help of your friends.

This has, for the most part, been an amazing year.  I don’t want to sound like it hasn’t, because it has – a new nephew, who I adore.  Concerts with some of my best friends. An entire glorious summer of weekends spent at the beach. Moments with my family that I treasure, friends I love to see and laugh with… it doesn’t get much better than that.

And yet.

This has also been a very difficult year for me and for many people I know. There’s been grief and loss and sickness and uncertainty. On a personal note, in August my life took a turn that I was truly blindsided by. Without going into the gory details, let’s say this: one moment, my life – my finances, my career, my stability – were going down one path. In an instant, in the time it takes to exhale? All of that was gone and in its place was only uncertainty and a tremendous sense of betrayal.

However  -- at that moment, as now,  I was surrounded by people who were looking at me to speak, to act, to move forward.  I admit that I was frozen with fear – what would I do? How could I make this work?  If I stepped forward, what would happen if I fell?

But then, like now, I realized: falling is a result of forward motion. If you stand still, you don’t fall – but if you stand still, life and all of the opportunities it brings? They will pass you by.  You need to risk falling in order to get anywhere.  This is true in moments of professional crisis, which is what I was facing, but I truly believe that it is also true in moments of personal crisis as well. That we can be paralyzed by the things we face, or so afraid of falling – and failing – that we refuse to move and, in doing so, miss out on the opportunities in front of us because we simply won’t walk forward towards them.

However, as I began taking those small steps that would lead me to whatever happened next, I also realized this: I wasn’t alone. I had the most tremendous group of people who were walking with me.  If one of us stumbled, the others held out hands to catch and steady. Because of that? We have been able to take an event that was crushing and turn it into something that has triumphed, and that will continue to do so.

I think the lessons of 2011, then, are this: That life is, quite simply, beautiful.  It’s beautiful when it’s decked out all fancy-like in sparkly shoes,  and it’s still lovely when it’s wearing more somber, funeral colours. In fact, it may be more lovely at those moments, because it shows you what you have. It lets you see the hands that will hold you up, and it gives you a chance to put your own hands – and heart – to good use while you support others.

My wish for 2012 is this: that when I fall – and I will, because we all stumble now and again – that it will be with grace. Grace and the memory of the gifts this year has given me – though they came with adversity, I hope they will  continue to serve me well in this New Year and all those that come after it.

And I hope, as always, that those falls will continue to make great stories.

Thank you.

(Mark Harmon leads the audience in another standing ovation.  Music swells, and screen goes to commercial.)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tea Time

There is a small green box that sits on my desk, near my computer monitor.

It says, “Keep calm and have a cup of tea.”

It’s good advice, I think.

I come from a long line of tea drinkers. It’s a running joke in my family that my mom firmly believes that a cup of tea will cure any and all ailments. Headache? Have a cup of tea. Stomach virus? Tea (and possibly toast).  PMS? Tea. Overtired? Tea. Car accident? I’ll put the kettle on.  Zombie apocalypse? You brew up some tea, I’ll gas up the chainsaws.

That’s how we roll.

Over time, I became more of a coffee drinker. (By “over time” I mean “when I was in college and sleep was a precious and rare commodity.)  Coffee seems to say to me “Take charge of this day and make it do your bidding” in a way that tea does not. Coffee demands ACTION. Tea suggests coziness and snugglies.

Which is, I think, the point of the box. It was a gift from a friend because, you see, she knows about my mom’s all-purpose tea cure. And also, I think that she wanted to remind me that there should always be a space in your day to relax, to take a breath, and to do something that comforts you.

For me, that’s tea. For you? It might be something else entirely. But whatever it is, I think you – and me, and everyone – need to make room in your day for something that feeds your heart and soul. We spend so much time running and doing and working and making sure this and don’t forget that and I’m going to be late and I have another meeting after this one that we forget to allow ourselves to be. To simply be, now and again.  There isn’t a lot of time or inclination for calm.

But there should be.

And if there’s no space for it out there? Out there in the world as it swirls around you?

Then maybe you need to make it in here, in your heart. Maybe if you start from that calm, centered place, then the hustle and bustle of every day existence won’t stress you out or make you forget how happy you are to be here, how lucky you are to have yet another day in this life.

So, find your calm.

And if it works for you? Have a cup of tea.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Once More With the Birthday Thing

As I mentioned, yesterday was my birthday.

Here’s what I think about getting older: I like it.

I like it for a million reasons, but the main thing, and the thing I want to talk about right now, is this: the more time I spend in my skin, the more comfortable I am in it.

That might sound ridiculous to you. If so, you’re probably one of those lucky few who have always felt pretty much okay, not out of place or awkward or as though you did not fit. (I know a couple of your kind, but only one or two.)

I am not a member of that tribe.

I am the kind of person who wishes that I could travel back in time and comfort my younger self.  And also, maybe, kick her ass a little bit. I’d like to go to ten years ago me and tell her that she should stick up for herself, not let anyone run over her, that having an open and loving heart does not mean letting someone walk all over your heart.

I’d like to go back to twenty years ago me and tell her that she is beautiful. That she is and always will be enough, just the way she is, that she is braver than she knows and stronger than she thinks.

I didn’t know those things then. I didn’t know that the thing that was the most wrong with me was the amount of time that I spent worrying about the things that were “wrong” with me and ignoring the things that were right with me.

I can’t go back in time. None of us can. But what I’m realizing I can do – and should do, in fact need to do – is keep reaching out to other people. Pinky swearing with an 8 year old, promising him that he is awesome, and worthy, and a good kid? That’s pretty amazing. It’s good for him and good for you. Telling people who are struggling that they are worth it? That they are strong, fabulous, wonderful, that you are happier because they are here? That you struggled and survived so they can, too?

That’s the point.

And that’s the beauty of time, stretched out over birthdays. The looking back. The seeing who you are and who you’ve been, and using all of that to help the people around you – and yourself, as well – become who they will be.

Best birthday gift ever.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thirty-Six (or, 29 plus 7 years of AWESOME)

When your birthday is squashed between Christmas and New Year, you sort of learn to make your own festivities, because people are:

1)      Tired.

2)      BROKE.

3)      Busy.

4)      Did I mention tired?

When I was teaching, I would have my birthday off. My mom and her friend Debbie and I used to go to Boston for the day. However, in my current career path, taking my birthday off is not an option, so unless it’s on the weekend, I will be working on my birthday.

Sort of like right now.

However, it’s not so bad. I mean, when you look at previous birthday events, a little work is a good thing.  For example, spending the day working beats the year I had mono on my birthday.

It’s also better than the year I got DUMPED on my birthday. (“You’re a great girl, but I’ve also been seeing someone else – I should have mentioned that – and I like her better. Sorry. Oh, and happy birthday!”)

Of course, when it IS your birthday, people inevitably ask the following questions.

What are you doing?

What do you want?

What I’m doing? Is kind of nothing except for working. I did make myself an “It’s my Birthday!” playlist. I’ll share it, since I’m feeling generous. (Yes, I know they’re a weird mix of songs. But let’s review: MY BIRTHDAY. MY weird playlist.)

Placebo – Running Up That Hill

Billy Idol – Cradle of Love

Florence + The Machine – Shake it Out

30 Seconds to Mars – Hurricane

Chris Isaak – Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing

Depeche Mode – It’s No Good

James Blunt – Stay the Night

Kelly Clarkson – Mr Know It All

The Killers – A Dustland Fairytale

Melissa Etheridge – No Souvenirs

Pentatonix – Love Lockdown

Lady Gaga – You and I

The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter

Sara Bareilles – Let the Rain

Good musical times.

What do I want for my birthday?

Honestly, I pretty much have everything I could want or need. I love and am loved. I have shelter and employment and warm clothes and food.  I’m happy. Every day I am able to find reasons to laugh and smile and sing.

So what else could I want?

To be honest, and completely serious, I want everyone else to have those things that I have. Love. Laughter. Happiness.

So my birthday wish this year? Isn’t for myself, but for others. That everyone I meet is able to find their joy. That I can find ways to help people who aren’t as blessed to be able to say that they have what they need. To give more than I take.

That’s my birthday wish this year. That’s what I want.

(and having a good playlist certainly doesn’t hurt either.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's Christmas Up in Here, Y'all

Dear Readers (dear, dear, wonderful readers),

From everyone here at Gone To Carolina (which, okay, is just me and my cat, but whatever) come the happiest, warmest holiday wishes.  (Well, I’m sending you warm wishes. She’s trying to catch her own tail, which she’s convinced is a stalker with ill-intent.)

I’ll be back after Christmas.

With love,

Danielle (and Beansie too)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Worth Mentioning

"If you don't post about this," he said, "I'll be kind of disappointed."

Here's what happens when you write a blog: People read it (as is evidenced by my recent giveaway). So sometimes, people think that they know you when they don't, actually, know you in real life (which is kind of amazing, except for on a few occasions when it's been a little scary). Or, conversely, people find out you do write a blog and then they freak out. And sometimes? They think it's cool.

For example, a couple of months ago I went on a date with this guy (Hi, if you're reading!) who made sure to ask me NOT to blog about our (only) date. So I didn't. But I kind of wanted to, if only because he asked me not to. (And for the record, it was a perfectly fine lunch date, though not the most inspired afternoon I ever spent.)

Ah, the blog. Reactions have run the gamut from "omg, are you the one who writes that blog?" to "I read your blog and I HATE you" to "I read your blog and I LOVE you" to  the aforementioned "please don't write about this" but recently, I had my first -- the FIRST -- time someone said to me, "I will be disappointed if I don't rate a mention."

Here's the thing: I don't HAVE to write about every aspect of my life, and there are a few (granted, very few) areas that I keep off limits. But the blogging has gradually become an extension of how I define myself. I think we all have those things -- for some of us, it's our job, or our family roles, or our political stands -- and this is one of mine. When people recognize that?

It makes me happy.

Just wanted to say that.

And yes, sir, you rate a mention.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

We Have a Winner!

Over 10,000 blog hits.


And you reader people? You're the best. So thanks for coming over here to play.

Oh yeah, I mentioned some PRIZES. I've got two here, waiting to go out (but to be honest? I probably won't send them until after Christmas because I went to the post office yesterday and OH MAN. UGLY).

Prizes will be going out to:


and Roxanne!

And to all of you -- thank you for reading. From the bottom of my heart.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Make A Difference Monday: It Only Takes A Girl

First? You should watch this (if it's blank, right click on it and choose show video info ... or refresh the screen. That should work for you.):

And now let me tell you how Make A Difference Monday came about.

That video? Was a link on a friend's Facebook wall. I watched it, and I cried.

And I realized that all of the things my friends and I complain about on Mondays? The whole "going back to work, not enough coffee, the weekends aren't long enough bleaaaah" routine?

It's ridiculous. It's elitist. And honestly? It's a whole lot of whining.

First world problems? You betcha.

So -- Make a Difference Monday. To remind you, and me, that to have the job, to have the luxury of a weekend, to have the luxuries that you -- and I -- and the people we know -- take for granted? That's a gift.

We can do better. We should do better.

Which brings me back to the link I asked you to watch.

If it moved you, there are things you can do to support girls in developing countries. One of them is shopping here:;jsessionid=9DDDB5431B497AF9DFC1F7120457D45E?siteId=344&site=&context=fair-trade-gifts

You can also go here:

Or here:

Or, obviously, here:

And if this doesn't move you? That's okay. Make a Difference Monday is all about presenting ways -- big ones, small ones -- to make a difference. Maybe one of them will strike a chord with you.

We can all make a difference -- any time, any day.

Perhaps today you'll make one for a girl.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lost & Found

I was buying Christmas presents online when it happened. Clicked “buy”, clicked “proceed to cart”, filled out the required fields, went to the bottom to fill in my account information, reached into my wallet for my debit card and …

… not there.


Ixnay on the ardcay.

Hasn’t this happened to everyone? And isn’t this what happens next:

Your heart makes that sad, sinking, fluttery feeling but your brain struggles to stay cool. In fact, your brain often refuses to comprehend the missing card and forces your hand and eyes to go back through every part of your wallet. Multiple times. As though the card MUST be in there, but you’re somehow just not spotting it.

The card, of course, isn’t there. You know it’s not there. But you keep looking until, after the 5th cruise through the entire contents of the wallet, you are forced to admit it.

Now there’s a mild sense of sideways-ness, as though your whole situation could slide into complete pandemonium if you let it, so you don’t. You might curse to yourself “THIS IS WHY MY MOM ALWAYS SAID TO PUT THINGS BACK WHERE I FOUND THEM,” as you look in the other likely spots: a pants pocket. That place on the counter where you sometimes toss things (but why would I put my card there? You ask yourself, knowing that there’s NO reason, but looking anyway, just in case). The top drawer of your dresser.

Not there.

Now you start getting random as the sense of panic increases. The bathroom seems like a perfectly natural spot for you to have been conducting financial transactions, so you look in there. You look in your bed. You look UNDER your bed. You check the insides of shoes, under your desk, through the stack of mail. You open the cat’s mouth and peer down her throat. The card! WHERE IS THE CARD?

Purse is dumped out, contents rifled through. Now, of course, you can’t think about anything but CARD I NEED TO FIND THE CARD WHERE IS THE CARD I NEED MY CARD which is kind of funny because 20 minutes ago, when you didn’t realize you were an idiot who couldn’t keep track of important things, you were feeling mellow and happy. Now you feel – and look – like an escaped psychopath.

You pause.

You retrace your steps.

Back to the wallet. Back to the desk. Back to the kitchen. And just when you’re thinking, “I’m such a moron, I already looked here, why am I looking here again” your fingers slip across a familiar piece of plastic. You snatch it up.

Equilibrium is restored.

You go back to your computer. You make your purchases. And you slide your card, not back into your wallet where it belongs, but into your back pocket.

To begin the cycle again.

Hey you guys! I'm THIS close to 10,000 views of my blog! I know, CRAZY! When that happens, though, I'll be giving away prizes! But, in order to get said prizes, you need to be a registered follower ON blogger. So if you're not on there? GET ON THERE! It's free stuff! Sign up!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

My toes are cold. I should put socks on. Or shoes. Or I could turn up the heat. Eh, I don’t want to turn up the heat. Electric heat is not cheap. When did I become a person who thought those thoughts “I’d rather be chilly than turn up the heat?” Where did THAT come from? Seriously, next I’ll be covering my furniture with plastic and crocheted blankets. Actually, a crocheted blanket would be kind of awesome. Good for snuggling into the couch. With a cup of tea. And a Jane Austen novel. And yep, it’s official – I am like 100 years old. Good grief. See, that settles it: WHO SAYS GOOD GRIEF? Me. Me and my cold toes do, that’s who. I should buy some slippers. Slippers would keep my toes warm. Except, would I wear them? Bet I wouldn’t. Because I have socks and I’m not wearing those. I have some cool socks, too. I did not appreciate the land of flip flops, aka North Carolina, when I lived there. Poor cold toesies. Oh man, look at those toes. I need a pedicure. STAT. Or at least I need to find my nailpolish so I can touch those tootsies up. They look sad. Poor, chilly, neglected feet. They miss the warm beach sand of the summer. Me too, toes, me too. Hey, I wonder where my toe ring went. Who even came up with those? “You know what would be awesome? Rings. FOR YOUR FEET.” Yeah, awesome. Except they kind of are awesome. They’re cute. I don’t know WHY they’re cute, but some things are inexplicably fabulous like that. Kind of like some people are attractive for no quantifiable reason. When I was a freshman in college my roomies and I made the Inexplicably Hot list. The only person I can remember who was on that list was Bono, though. Because, hello. Hot. But kind of not really. Maybe an accent makes everyone a little more attractive? Even when it’s being a little (or a whole lot) arrogant? Is someone conducting a study on this? Someone should. These are the things people want to know! Or maybe they’re just the things that I want to know. Right now, the biggest mystery is why I am still writing this post, when I CLEARLY need to put something on my feet. Guess I’ll wrap it up.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mmmmm Mmmmm Good

I'm eating soup.

You may be thinking, "Big deal, whacko. Everyone eats soup."

Well, yes.

But I MADE this soup. From scratch. (And in the interest of full disclosure? I have more simmering on the stove.)

This might not be a big deal to you. But to someone who spent most of her life being really very okay with not knowing how to cook?

It's huge.

So here's the story.


When I was in junior high, I had to take home ec. Everyone had to, actually -- home ec AND shop. I liked shop -- machines! Building things! Fun!

I did not like home ec.

I liked my home ec TEACHER. She was very nice. But my general cluelessness caused her despair because -- well, I was accident prone, clumsy, and hated to bake. HATED IT. And to be honest, was really bad at it. I didn't like measuring things (which, by the way, made learning to sew super fun), I've never really been a person who LOVES cookies and cakes, and I decided that it was okay not to know how to bake and, by extension, cook. In my 13 year old way, I imagined a flashy city life, comprised of reservations and take out. Whatever.

As I got older, I realized that ... um, that wouldn't work. I tried a couple of times to cook and became very proficient at lasagna, which was my "go to, fancy meal" and could make a salad and boil pasta. It wasn't much, I knew, but it would get me by.

Then the Food Network showed up thanks to my local cable provider.

I was mesmerized.

Those people could COOK. They looked like they were having fun. They could cook AND talk! And their food -- it was pretty!

I was jealous. Suddenly, not really knowing how to cook didn't seem like something to be weirdly proud of. It seemed ... sad. But by then, my not-cooking was sort of a thing. Like, "Oh, Danielle doesn't cook."

I would think, when people said things like that, "But I would kind of like to."

One fateful afternoon, I was at my mom's house and she said, "You have to see this new show on the food channel. It's this woman who makes meals in, like, 30 minutes."

Which is how I was introduced to Rachael Ray.

People hate Rachael Ray. She's too perky. She's too chatty. She's not a real chef.

Here's what I loved about her immediately: She looked like a regular person. She talked like a regular person. And at one point, she leaned toward the counter, looked directly at the camera, and said, "EVERYONE can learn how to cook."


Even a hopeless case like me.

I went into the other room, fired up the computer, and printed off the recipe for what she had made. Then I went home to stare down my kitchen.

"Okkkaaaay," I thought. "Everyone can learn how to cook? Let's see."

I cooked.

And it was awesome.


Which brings me to the soup.

It's been some years and miles between the first time I saw 30 Minute Meals and today. I've actually become a pretty good cook, and I cook a lot. However, until a few weeks ago, I'd never made soup.

My MOM made soup. My mother made (and makes) the best soup ever. It's so good. It's so -- Mom. I didn't know how to make it and was kind of afraid to ask. Until last Thanksgiving, when I finally realized that it would be fun to learn, and that learning to make Mom's soup? Didn't make it less special. It made it MORE special.

I have made the two soups she taught me to make abut 3 times each in the past four weeks. I eat a LOT of soup. My recent adventures and successes in soupland have also managed to reaffirm my love for cooking, because nothing tastes better than something you've made yourself.

Unless, of course, your mom makes it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Adventures in Gift Wrap

I love giving gifts. It makes me happy.

I hate wrapping gifts.

I mean, I REALLY hate it.

I appreciate receiving a well wrapped, pretty present, mostly because I know the effort that goes into it. I am not good at many of the skills that go into such a presentation, namely:

Making a bow

Um … yeah… anything else that you might need to do to a gift.
I have a gross tendency to underestimate how much paper I need (or I way overestimate it, and then have a rumpled lumpy mess). The tape. It does not go where I want it to go. The bows. They are problematic.

As such, I give thoughtfully selected gifts that look like they’ve been manhandled by Santa’s more psychotic elves.

I was DETERMINED not to have this be the case this year. I picked out pretty paper, matching bows, nice tags. This was going to be the year. The year of the pretty present.

(Please note the use of the word “was”.)

Because, you see, I failed to factor in one thing. One fourteen pound, incredibly curious, very vexing thing.

Her name is Beansie. And she never met a piece of gift wrap that she didn’t want to pounce on. Or chase. Or ribbon she didn’t think looked tasty. Or a box that wasn’t suitable for : napping on, gnawing on, sharpening her claws on, or shoving maliciously off the table and then staring at, in case it decided to start moving.

She was asleep when I started wrapping presents, so I was able to get a few boxes done. And then …

… then she woke up. Looked at me, yawned, and wandered off. I was amazed. I was going to get away with the wrapping? It was a Christmas miracle!

And it was.

Until I caught her eating paper on the presents I’d already wrapped.

“Noooooo!” I cried. I grabbed her and when I did? She got a piece of tape on her paw. That’s when the real shenanigans began. She gave me a startled look, one that seemed to say this:


That was when the zooming began. Up and down the couch. In and out of rooms. Under and behind the tree. All with me chasing her, trying to catch her so I could remove the offending tape.

I’ll give her this: she’s not smart, but she’s quick.

I finally cornered her in the tub (I turned the water on and the siren song of running water distracted her from the horror of the scotch tape) and got it off of her foot. Then I turned around to turn off the tub and I heard it.

The crinkling that could only come from a cat rolling on wrapping paper.

I’ll be buying gift bags this weekend.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy Holidays

Yes, you read that right. I said “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

So. Are you offended? Do I seem like I’m trying to steal Christmas from you?

Do you know what offends me? When people become outraged that some people – me included – have a tendency to wish a stranger Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. You know why I’d rather wish someone Happy Holidays?

Because there are a lot of holidays in December, y’all.

There’s Christmas. There’s Hanukkah. There’s Kwanzaa. There’s Muharram. There’s New Year.

Just because I don’t celebrate all of those holidays doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t hope that those who do celebrate them are doing so joyously.
And while we’re on the subject, can we talk about the holiday party? “But it should be a Christmas party,” people complain. “Not calling it a Christmas party is WRONG.”

You know what’s more wrong?

Having a party that excludes people.

You know why they don’t have Christmas parties in schools? Because not every kid in the classroom is Christian. Because it wouldn’t be very much fun to be a kid of a different faith who couldn’t attend the classroom Christmas party because your family doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Because it’s not nice to make people – big or little – feel like they don’t belong and aren’t included.

Look, for the record? I was raised Christian. And because of that, it’s important to me to reach out to ALL people, not just people who believe the same way I do. I celebrate Christmas. If you wish me a Merry Christmas, I’ll wish you one right back – and I do hope you have a wonderful
Christmas, and that your holiday season is filled with joy.

But if I don’t know you, I’m not making assumptions about your beliefs, because I don’t want you to make assumptions about mine. So much of what is wrong with society right now is, I think, our willingness to make and act on our assumptions about one another – we let our stereotypes inform our actions and thoughts.

I don’t want to act out of a place of assumption. I want to act out of a place of understanding, and with that comes the realization that I don’t know everything about everyone I meet or see. Because of that?

I say Happy Holidays.

And I wish you, dear reader, the happiest holidays yet.

Friday, December 9, 2011

So Much For Being Subtle

Over Thanksgiving, a well-meaning relative who shall remain nameless decided that, since she didn’t know any nice boys for me to date, perhaps I should consider dating some nice girls.

Plus, she pointed out, I kind of have a butch haircut. So I’d fit right in.

I don’t know if I’m correct about this, but I have the sneaking suspicion that she thinks that I might actually be a lesbian, so she was kindly trying to give me a comfortable space in which to come out. Which, frankly, seems very thoughtful of her. I should thank her for that.

And to be honest, in retrospect, I’m fairly certain that there are a LOT of people who think that I am gay, given my frequent levels of outrage on behalf of the gay community.

So let me say it here: I’m sorry if it disappoints (or startles) anyone, but I do not identify myself as a lesbian.

If I DID, though, it would not be a secret. You’d already know. I’d probably have business cards that say “Hi, I’m Danielle ….. Aaaannnnd I’m a lesbian” because do I seem like the type that would keep that to myself? (And for those among us who are going to respond with “Why would you do that? I don’t announce that I’m straight,” I would say this: You don’t usually HAVE to announce that you’re straight. People make assumptions about heterosexuality and will accept you according to those assumptions. It’s often easy to “pass” as it were – it’s more challenging, and sometimes dangerous, to put yourself out there when you don’t identify as straight, but which is also why I wouldn’t compromise if I did identify as a lesbian.)

If my posts seem … vague … on the topic of sexuality, because I try to use words like “partner” and “significant other” and identify romantic relationships in multi-gender ways? It’s because I am aware that it’s a heterocentric old world, friends and neighbors, and I’d like to make sure that no one reads my blog and feels excluded, as though my ditherings about relationships don’t include them.

And let’s face it: my gay and lesbian (and otherwise identified) friends? They don’t need more exclusion. They already live in a world that, on a large scale, feels very comfortable telling them that they’re marginal and incorrect, that they don’t deserve basic rights, and that it’s okay to treat them poorly.

As I write this, I am uncomfortable with using the pronoun “them” because I don’t feel like this is a “them” issue. I said I don’t identify as a lesbian, which is true, but I do identify as human. As in, we all are. As in, it’s not okay to treat anyone badly, to deny anyone rights, to make anyone feel marginal or incorrect.

So if my language is ambiguous, it’s because I want to make sure that you, dear reader, and your partner – whatever gender y’all might be – feel welcomed in my house, even if it’s just an internet-y house made up of words and ramblings, and I will argue endlessly with anyone who says you’re not welcome, you don’t deserve those rights, and you don’t deserve respect and dignity.

You know what I think? I think it takes courage to love someone. It takes even more courage to love someone when you know that so many people continue to be fueled by hate and ignorance, and will feel justified in making your life miserable as a result.

Which is why I won’t support a political candidate who doesn’t support gay rights – because it’s not about “special” rights, it’s about EQUAL rights. It’s why I also won’t think kindly of someone who thinks homosexuality is a mental illness, a condition that can be cured.

I will, however, say this: Ignorance? Is a mental condition, and it’s EASILY cured.

Maybe we could get on that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Oh, Snap!

I got an email from a client that ended with the memorable and highly professional phrase: "Clearly, you are smoking dope."


And that, my friends, kind of sums up this week.

I'd like to say something clever about this -- something about what non-verbal, non-personal interactions do to communication, but since I spend a goodly chunk of my time communicating in non-verbal, non-personal way(though they often FEEL very personal or, at any rate, more personal than I might be if we were communicating face to face, because I'm pretty sure I wouldn't share a lot of this stuff if we were a couple of people drinking coffee at a cafe), it felt like meandering down that path might be artificial.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


It’s so easy unintentionally to hurt someone. Not because their feelings don’t matter to you, because they do, but because sometimes, your truth is not what they want or need to hear. It’s like we’re all wearing glasses that allow what we need to be in sharp focus, but what other people want or need is a little less clear, so while you reach for that thing – whatever it might be – you can’t necessarily see what it is you’re bumping up against, or who you might be knocking down.

Or, in other words: It’s hard when someone’s dreams and your dreams don’t exactly match up.

It’s harder still when you don’t even have to time to have a dream. Because honestly, if you asked me right now what I dream of? I would tell you that right now, I’m the one-day-at-a-time girl. If I am getting crazy, I might look ahead to the weekend. That’s how my life works right now and I’m finding peace with it, because I know it’s just right now. It’s not forever. It’s just for the next several todays, until I get to the other side of the mountain I’m climbing.

I don’t mind the climb. I do mind that other people mind it, because … I wanted to say there’s nothing I can do, but that’s not true. I could tell myself that it’s just a job, it’s not that important. I could back down or give up but I’m not going to because I don’t quit. I’ve seen other people – people I trusted, people I thought highly of – walk away.

This girl doesn’t walk away from a fight.

There are people counting on me. I’m not going to let them down. That’s the bottom line.

But by having such a narrow focus, I know that I have hurt someone, and I don’t know how to reconcile that.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Good Life

So as you can probably guess from yesterday's post, I'm a little overwhelmed.

But then, of course, I remember this...

... and I feel a little bit better.

I have to make some decisions about my priorities. I've got some choices coming up and always, always, work to do.  However, the thing that I sometimes forget is that I took the steps that brought me to this place, and I am fully capable of taking the steps that will also lead me out of it, and that will bring me to the next destination on this journey.

It is a good life, underneath it all.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Balancing Acts

I am sitting at my desk. The skin on my face feels like it is stretched too tightly. My back already hurts, and I have a headache.

It's 7 AM.

I've been here for an hour.  I already know that I won't be going to trivia tonight. It starts at 8 PM and I know I won't be done with work.

I can't remember the last time I made it to the gym. I can't remember the last time I even went for a walk.

My relationships are suffering. I'm getting emails that say things like "Helllloooo? Are you still alive?"

My nerves are shot.

I'm beyond tired.

I constantly feel like I need to cry.

I think my coworkers are afraid of me at this point. I'm not usually cranky, but now I hear myself snapping at people.

For the first time ever, I'm relieved that I'm alone in my office and that I don't have a family of my own, because I don't know what I would do if I had to feed, clothe, converse with someone else.

Something has to give.

I just don't know what or how.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Oops, I Did It Again!

Hey, guess who got so caught up in her work that she forgot to write a blog post?

Yeah, that would be this kid.

Forgive me? I’ll be back on Monday, I promise!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dear Al Gore

Dear Al Gore,

Some people think you invented the internet. I'm pretty sure that's because at one point, you said something crazy like "I took the initative in creating the internet" and the majority of the American public ran with it. I'm pretty impressed by this, actually, as I FREQUENTLY tell people things that are patently untrue (i.e., "I'm the Queen of the Universe and you must obey me!") and yet somehow, not only do they completely fail to believe me, but often give me odd looks and mutter something about the need to increase my medication.


I'll humour you for a moment and say that, okay, maybe you did invent the internet. Someone has to take credit for it, I suppose, and it may as well be you -- I don't see anyone else stepping up to claim it. I reckon that in your internet inventing head, there was some sort of noble cause, like using our new method of communication to connect people all over the world as a means of stopping global warming or pooling our collective intellect to solve world hunger and oppression.

If that was the case, than LOLspeak probably disappoints you. A lot. (I can haz punctation?)

However, Mr. Gore, I don't think that you should despair, because I truly believe that the internet has done some wonderous things. Vital things. Worthy things. You may not have developed the key to saving the ice caps, sir, but you have done something marvelous, perhaps without even realizing it, and that, sir, is why I am writing. I want to acknowledge what you have done:

You have created a space where dorks and geeks can come to play.

Some people might not think this is amazing.

Those people are not dorks or geeks.

As a card carrying member of the tribe, I can tell you this: at no point in the history of nerddom has it been so incredibly awesome -- and acceptable -- to geek out as it is in the internet age. At no point, ever (with, perhaps the exception of band and/or the AV club) has it been so easy to find a COMMUNITY of geeks in which to hang out.

Oh sure, before the internet, we had a tendency to find each other.  We knew how to read the signs. (I already mentioned band, right?) You know, the "college" sticker on the rear windshield that said "Starfleet Academy" or the vanity plate that says "TMLRD".  The sight of sneaky ducking into the sci-fi section at the public library, while muttering "I know there's a Dragonriders of Pern book I haven't read yet ... where IS it?" We would find each other on trivia teams and in libraries and other dork -specific events ("Going to Comic Con! Who's IN!?").

But the internet -- oh, my goodness. The internet has become the place to let one's geek flag fly. Where the dorktastic can reign in style and relative safety. Where one can proclaim an undying and potentially obsessive adoration for all things Portal, and not only will no one care, but a) other people will join you in your obsession ("The cake! it's a LIE!") and b) the likelihood that you'll get stuffed into a locker or given an atomic wedgie is actually very slim.

There are even special dating sites for us on the internet, Mr Gore. Granted, I kind of suspect that this is to keep us out of the general dating pool and may be for our own good, as being a geek does tend to limit the things one may have in common with the average Joe or Josephine. I mean, an ability to recite pretty much everything that ever happened in the entire Harry Potter series might not win the undying devotion of a non-geek, and because of said geekiness, one might -- kind of -- lack the ability to keep one's enthusiasm for such topics to oneself. However, due to geek-oriented internet dating, geeks don't have to hide anymore! Internet FTW! (That means "For the win" by the way... it occurs to me that invention of the internets doesn't necessarily equal being down with the lingo.)

Sure, we might not have used the internet to solve global warming, but we have used it to create communities and safe places for people to be themselves, dork and non dork alike.  This might not be climate changing, but can be life changing.

Now that is something to geek out over... and you know, we'll probably get to the global warming thing eventually.

Live Long and Prosper,

Your Geek Friends on the Internet

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

OCD Should Mean "Of COURSE, Danielle ..."

... because sometimes, it gets me into weird predicaments and makes me have conversations like this:

Me, all excited: I FINALLY bought new pots and pans! And they're RED!

Person who Shall Remain Nameless: Red? Didn't they come in black? Or stainless steel?

Me, puzzled: Well, yeah. But I got red!

Person who Shall Remain Nameless (and who also doesn't seem to know me very well at all, which is both unfortunate and disappointing): Why would you get red pots and pans?

Me, feeling very Spinal Tap-y: Because. (slowly) They. Came. In. Red.

Yeah, that's right, I bought red pots and pans. To match my red toaster. And my red coffee pot. In fact, when I go into my kitchen I regard the microwave with loathing, because it's white and I've come to realize -- it could have been red.

This all started innocently enough, with the purchase of new slotted spoons. They were red and pretty. Then I bought some red and stainless steel storage cannisters, and THEN there was the cool dishtowel that had a lot of red in it and red is so cheerful and now? I'm zooming gleefully down the OCD highway on my way to "Driving Myself Crazyville".

This is what I do.

You should see my Christmas tree. I think Martha Stewart herself would back away from it, slowly, while calling someone who could offer me professional help. Everything is colour coordinated and carefully chosen. Some people find this off putting and weird.

I think it's awesome.

I also think that, in theory, Christmas trees that are decorated with a hodgepodge of ornaments are cool. I just can't HAVE one like that, because it stresses me out. I know that makes no sense -- how could a tree be stressful? -- but that's how it is. Also? I can only have white lights on my tree, and they're not allowed to blink or twinkle because ...

...well, I don't know why. Just because.

And that's the thing, about the ocd. I couldn't tell you why the non-red microwave is out of place, or why my new and fabulous pots and pans needed to be red (disclosure: I only looked for pots and pans that were AVAILABLE in red, because ... well, you know why), or why the thought of twinkly, multi-coloured Christmas lights makes me feel a little twitchy and panic-stricken. I don't KNOW why my brain is wired this way. It just is. Your brain is probably wired differently, but I bet you still have little quirky things that bug you. I just have more of them, and  I'm very specific about them.

 (I'm not going to tell you what they are, as I'm already certain that you think I'm a lunatic.)

So for me, OCD should mean "OF COURSE, Danielle" as in "Of COURSE, Danielle, you needed red pots and pans."

Which, clearly, I did. But I can't be the only one because they're offered in red. So maybe there are more of us out there than I thought. We're a small, well regimented, very colour coordinated army. With red saute pans, cooking up a storm (and then cleaning up the mess in a mildly obsessive way).

Of course.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

So Much For That

I've never known quite what to do on my ex-iversary. (That would be the anniversary of your marriage to someone you are no longer married to. Yes, I made that word up, but I feel justified in doing so.)

My friends and family, I think, would like me to pretend that it doesn't exist. Like it's another day in a series of days that has no signifcance or import.

Which would probably be fine, I think. Except for the fact that it's the day I got married. Except for the fact that it's the day I trusted my heart in the care of someone else.  Which, yes, ultimately turned out to be an error.

But still.

I don't know what to do with this day. I don't know how to mark it, and yet I feel it should be marked, somehow. I can't mark it with a communication with my ex -- we don't do that anymore. And what would I say? Thank you for loving me enough, at least for one day? Thanks for letting me go when you didn't want me anymore?

Thanks for giving me something that I didn't know enough to want on my own?

Because as it turns out, leaving me was the kindest thing my ex ever could have done. And I would thank him, if we were at a place where we spoke with one another.

I would thank him.

But we're not.

But... if we were? Perhaps I would say this: You hurt me, so much. And yet, despite all of that, I owe you, in some strange and undefinable way, for setting me free from a relationship that, at the end, only caused me pain. I should have been stronger, earlier. You should have been kinder, much much sooner. But I learned many many things, and for that I should thank you, though I think you'll forgive me in the end for my failure to do so.

I want you to be happy.

Because, and this is the most magical thing of all: I am happy.

Today? Would be my wedding anniversary. So I'd like to take this time to wish my ex husband nothing but the best. Because, as it turns out, we were both meant for many things, but sadly, we were not meant for each other.

It seems like so little.

And at the same time? So much.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Having Myself A Merry Little Christmas

Yeah, I know that we just pushed through Thanksgiving, and that some of us are already beyond tired of hearing "Rocking Around The Christmas Tree" on the radio.

Not this kid.

Last year, I was not a happy Christmas elf.

But THIS year?


I bought a tree, y'all, and I put it up and decorated it. Presents are purchased and hanging out. Wrapping paper is colour coordinated, festive, and ready to make the gifts all pretty and stuff when I have my wrapping-fest (which has to be carefully planned because of the cat, who likes to, um "help" which mostly consists of eating bows and pouncing on whatever I'm trying to wrap and laying on the paper and making it mashed and wrinkled).

I put out the rest of my decorations, too -- and realized that I don't have very many. I feel MUCH more festive than the number of decorations I have would indicate. I may need to invest in some more Christmas pretties.

What's different? Nothing, really ... same me, same house, same season. But at the same time, I think everything is different, because I am allowing myself to be wrapped in a blanket of happy.

The thing I love about Christmas -- the thing I always loved about this season -- is that it seems like it's the time of year when people allow themselves to be mirrors for love, where we all kind of wear our love for each other -- our families, our friends, people in general -- outside, on our faces, so we can share it. The more we do? The more it grows.

Last year, I missed it. There are a jillion reasons why, but probably the greatest one is this: I had forgotten that you carry your love with you. How foolish, I know, to let proximity dictate how much love you carry, but so it was and because it was, I also forgot to live in the love I have for the people I AM with, who I adore.

What can I say? I was a little bit of a Grinch.

This year? I know that the love I have for everyone, both near and far, is making me overly filled with Christmas cheer. It's a little over the top, I know, but also? It's kind of awesome.

You know what else? I love all of y'all.  So I hope that this holiday season, from the very beginning to the end, fills you with joy as well.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Getting It Wrong

Maybe everyone has someone in their life that they're constantly at odds with, no matter what they do.  They're like the opposing end of magnets -- always pushing away, never wanting quite to touch properly, and the more you try to get close to them, the stronger the force is that pushes you back and to the side.

Maybe everyone has someone like that.

Someone for whom all of your words are wrong. The small ones and the big ones and the stupid ones and the important ones. You don't get them right -- and even if you're usually good with words, even if words are kind of what you do, when you open your mouth all of your good words abandon you and you're left only with the ones that don't work.

And maybe you think you should quit. But you don't quit because you don't know how. Because you think that it's more important to try than to succeed, even though you keep failing. Because sometimes you get so close and you think this time -- THIS time -- you're not going to screw it up. And then you do and you remember again how painful this is, how much it hurts when you rub up against anger and unhappiness, but you also know that you're still not going to quit. Because underneath it all? There should be something awesome.

There could be.

Maybe you're doing the right thing. Maybe the wrong thing would be to abandon the cause. Maybe in the end it will all be worth it. In the meantime, you're going to keep messing up and having fights and bickering and knowing that, even if you get it wrong all of the time?  You haven't given up.

And maybe that's part of getting it right.

Two Things

Two things:

1. I'm in North Carolina, working and chilling with my fam. So the likelihood of regular blog posts this week? Probably not so much.

2. When I hit 10,000 views on this blog? GIVEAWAY TIME. You know you want to win something! Here's how you become eligible:

Become a follower of this blog on Blogger.

The end.

If you are a follower, you are entered into the giveaway. Easy peasy mac n cheesy!

Have a great Thanksgiving, y'all!

Friday, November 18, 2011

I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke*

Oh internets. I want to hug you.

Here's the thing about social media. Mention on Facebook that you are having a hard time locating chestnuts for your family stuffing recipe, and 17 people will immediately suggest where you might be able to buy them.

Write about being a little down in a blog or on your Facebook wall? The number of hands that reach out to hold you up? Too numerous to mention. Too amazing to even discuss rationally. Too precious to try to value.

I feel so LOVED, y'all.

So on Thanksgiving? When I'm with my family and cuddling my nephew? I'll also be giving thanks for you. For being awesome. And for offering me love when I don't feel very lovable, for making me laugh when I don't feel like laughing, and for reminding me that there's more -- SO much more -- light out there than there is darkness.

You have no idea how much you all rock.

*Except for my friend Ed. I'd have to buy him a Pepsi.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Put On Your Red Shoes and Dance the Blues

I am wearing heels.
Red, patent leather, shiny, spike heels. The kind that are terrible for my feet, but make my legs look AWESOME.

Where am I wearing these heels? In my office. Where there's no one to appreciate them but the cat, and to be honest, she doesn't seem all that impressed.

So why am I wearing these heels? And why am I wearing them with a smartly tailored dress and a suit jacket when I have nowhere to go today, not even the grocery store?

I've been in a funk.  Sometimes, the best way to change your mood is to change your surroundings. Sometimes, that means cleaning out a space and removing clutter.  Sometimes, that means relocating.
And sometimes, it just means changing into something that makes you feel special, sassy, and powerful. Like lipstick red heels. And eyeliner.  Because while I don't mind being funky,being down and in the funk is not my preferred location.

As such, while I may not always feel like I know what I'm doing? Today, I LOOK like I know what I'm doing... and that is enough.

That, and David Bowie on heavy rotation, instructing me to dance in my fabulous red shoes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Someone Needs a Map. Or a Nap. Or Both.

Some days, I feel as though I know what I'm doing. I'm all over it.

Other days, the level of "wooooo, I'm WINGIN' IT!" is simply ridiculous.

I think there's something to be said for winging it on occasion. I'm just not sure if I feel totally comfortable with the amount of "Wheeee! Watch me fake it!" that is occuring in my life right now; I wish I could tell you that it's confined to one area of my life, but this sense of "I don't know what I'm doing right now" has invaded multiple aspects of my existence.


What I'm trying to say is this: Please stand by. I'll be getting my shit together any minute now.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One More Step

Have you ever had one of those days where the stuff you have to do -- the tasks and the chores and the phone calls and the whatnot -- begins looming over you, like a mountain?

Maybe it started out as a hill. But then you get asked to work on a project and someone else needs something right this minute and the thing you shuffled to the back of the list yesterday needs to be at the top of the list today and the phone is ringing and can you approve this and proofread that and look at this for me please and I need you on a conference call five minutes ago and my goodness, but you look tired and before you know it? It's a mountain. It's Everest. And you're not wearing hiking boots, but a very pretty pair of open toed grey suede heels.

And then you want to cry. Maybe just for a second. But you know you can't because that's frowned upon in an office. So is saying you need help. So is telling anyone you're overwhelmed.

So you breathe. In, out, in. You don't cry, though you can feel that burney, back of the eyes and nose feeling that indicates that crying is very near the surface. Breathe some more.

Make a list. Write EVERYTHING down that you need to do. See how much space it takes and realize -- if it can be encapsulated on paper, it's not as big as the universe. It is finite, specific, can be counted.

Choose an item.


When you're climbing the mountain, you can't focus on all of the steps to get to the top, because you can't TAKE all of the steps at once. You can focus on ONE step, this step right now. And ... one more. And one more. Until you have reached the peak, all you have is a series of single steps that get you to where you need to go.

Taking a single step isn't so hard.

Especially if you're wearing fabulous shoes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Vampire Stormtroopers

The people who live above me are nocturnal. I might suggest that they are vampires, except that, from what I understand, vampires are graceful and light on their feet.

The people upstairs are many things.

But they are not light on their feet.

They are stormtroopers. Loudly stomping, vampire stormtroopers.

Apartment living is interesting, isn't it? Because I don't know the people upstairs; I couldn't pick them out of a crowd, but I could tell you QUITE a bit about them. I could tell you that the original boyfriend who moved in with the female stormtrooper was a cheating louse and that he was kicked out after a particularly nasty argument. I could tell you that since then, the female stormtrooper auditioned several replacement boyfriends before settling on the one who currently spends evenings tromping about above my head. (This one also seems smarter than the previous one, and doesn't go out on the balcony  to have "private" conversations.) I could tell you that she likes to vacuum the floors at about 4 in the afternoon (which is when, I suspect, she awakens to start her day.)

I can also tell you that the vampire stormtroopers have a big cat. I've actually seen the cat hanging out on their windowsills, and let me tell you, it's a good thing, because otherwise, the thundering and random running/scrabbling noises that occasionally come down through the ceiling would be QUITE alarming. The stormtrooper cat is NOT a vampire (it's an all hours kitty) and  it is ALSO a zoomer -- one of those cats who will be sound asleep, and then suddenly leap up and tear around an apartment/house/whatever at top speed, before simply collapsing somewhere else.

The cat is also not light on its paws.

I often catch my cat staring at the ceiling in amazement. On especially stomp-y and zoom-y evenings, she'll get on top of the fridge, stand with her front paws braced against the wall, and stare at the ceiling. Occasionally, she'll meow at the stormtroopers and try to paw at the ceiling.

It makes me wonder what the people who live below me think -- am I a stormtrooper?

At least they know I'm not a vampire.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cardigans, Cats, and Miss Jane Austen

My favorite line about love, EVER, is from Pride And Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet describes her delight with Mr Darcy* as follows:

"I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, I laugh."

That's what I think of when I think about the process of online dating, which I'm giving up shortly. Not because it's ineffective (although I do think it is a little bit, and also I find it daunting and  a little overwhelming but not in a fun "the sunset was so beautiful I was overwhelmed" but in an "I have 128 potential matches and I can't keep up and none of them really seem to be well suited to me and I don't want to answer another email and ARGGGH" kind of a way), but because ...

... it doesn't make me laugh.

(Okay, it does occasionally elicit nervous, uncomfortable laughter, but that's not the kind I'm looking for.)

The problem that I'm having -- and let's face it, it's not a REAL problem, it's a "first world, I can't believe I'm even taking the time to kvetch about this, but it's my blog so whatever" problem -- is that people take it SOOOOO seriously that it makes me a smidgen uncomfortable. Apparently, I was/am/whatever supposed to salt my profile and communications with a hint of desperation and perfume it with the notion that this is my last resort.

It's not my last resort.

I don't feel desperate.

And I refuse to act as though I do.

Which is why, I think, I'm not laughing. And if I'm not laughing, why bother?

To be fair, it's not been a total bust. I've made a new friend and enjoy exchanging emails with him. I went on an actual date. (He vanished when I got sick later that week -- apparently, respiratory distress, like poetry,  is quite effective at driving away love* and that (she said, with a hearty sigh) was that.)

To go further on in the "as long as I'm being fair" theme, I should also say this: It's not them. It's me. I know it's me because I know that I'm really quite happy with my life as it is. I don't need or want anyone to complete me, I laugh at my own jokes, I like my own cooking, I'm not sad to spend a Saturday night on the couch, in a ratty old sweater, rereading Pride and Prejudice for the 111th time, with my cat curled up in my lap. Perhaps I should be, but I'm not. 

So. Unless something amazing happens in the next week or two, I'm going to give up the online dating. And the thought of doing that makes me both smile AND laugh.

Elizabeth Bennet would be proud

*Oooooh, that Mr Darcy!

** ANOTHER Pride and Prejudice reference? Really??!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's My Age Again?

All of a sudden, I have decided that I'm 36.

This is weird, because I'm not 36. I won't be 36 until the end of December.

For some reason, however, my brain has decided that I'm no longer 35. I am DEFINITELY 36. If you stopped me on the street and asked me how old I am (which, by the way, would be an odd thing to do -- why are you stopping people on the street and randomly asking them how old they are, you cheeky devil?) I would probably say "36 ... no, wait, 35."

I know that I'm not alone in this phenomenon. I have a friend who has been telling people that she's 40 since before she even turned 39. For the record? She still hasn't turned 40. But she's been thinking 40ish thoughts for a couple of years, so 40 it is.

I don't think there's anything significant about being 36. It's not one of those ages that gets a lot of bells and whistles; no one has a "Big Three-Six" party. (Okay, now I'm thinking that I might have one, because it's kind of fun to say Big Three-Six, and it would be quirky and silly.) There are no specialty balloons or products or drinkie poos for turning 36.

So what's my deal?

I don't know. Maybe it's that my early thirties were really difficult -- the kind of difficult that generally, one spends time discussing on a couch in a therapist's office (but I have a blog, hahaha) and I'm eager to see the back of them, to move towards my late thirties and all of the other things that wait for me.

That could be it. That doesn't feel wrong, but it doesn't precisely feel correct either; I don't think of myself as running from the past, though I do see myself as embracing the future in all of its unknown glory.

Maybe it's more this: I know too many people who are saddened about getting older, who view adding a year to their age as a marker of how much closer they are to the end; I LIKE getting older, because each birthday is a marker of how much time I've been here, and how much I still have to look forward to.

So perhaps, at the end of the day, the actual number doesn't matter. Maybe I don't need to remember -- 35? 36? What difference does it make? What is significant is that every day, I laugh and I love and I am happy -- and I have more laughter and love and happiness to look forward to. No matter how old I am.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Well, That Was Unexpected

I like going to the mailbox, because its contents are invariably interesting. Flyers, mail that is for the previous tenant of my apartment, mail that sometimes should have gone to my dad in North Carolina and which is being forwarded to me for no obvious reason, bills, packages, the occasional letter from a friend (yes, I have friends who still write letters the old fashioned way. We roll like that.), and magazines.

Ah, the magazines.

Can we talk about the magazines?

I opened my mailbox Saturday and saw that I had received a copy of ... Working Mother.

I checked the label. It was CLEARLY to me. "Weird," I thought.

I got another copy yesterday.

I subscribe to several magazines voluntarily. A cooking magazine, Rolling Stone, and Real Simple.

Here are the magazines that I receive that I did NOT voluntarily subscribe to:

Reader's Digest

Taste of Home


Working Mother

For a while it was a mystery -- where were these subscriptions coming from? Why was I getting them? And then I decided that it was sort of fun to get them. My grampa LOVED Reader's Digest, so reading through it is like a connection with him. Taste of Home? It's DEFINITELY home cooking, and more accessible than, say, Food and Wine (Not as schmancy, recipes seem doable). Fitness? HAHAHAHAHA but, still, interesting.

Working Mother.

Yeaaaaaaah. I got nothing.

I SUSPECT that this subscription was a gift with purchase that I didn't notice. This happens frequently when shopping online -- you'll get a magazine subscription gifted to you with your purchase. However, Working Mother seems like an arbitrary choice, and one that could potentially be hurtful. Can you imagine if you were a woman who was trying to get pregnant and having fertility issues and suddenly receiving copies of Working Mother? How painful would that be? Or if you had lost a child, and you go to your mailbox and there it is? It just seems to me that this is a periodical that should not be randomly sent, because the term "mother" could be fraught with pitfalls.

(I have some experience with this. When my eating habits were very disordered, and I was at my most ill, I got an envelope that was hand addressed to me and looked like a letter. It wasn't a letter -- it was junk mail, advertising a new way to lose weight. I was DEVASTATED, because some anonymous person thought I was fat, and I already thought I was fat even though I weighted 109 pounds. It was significantly damaging.)

At any rate, Reader's Digest seems a safer bet for the gift subscription, I think.

However, I did find an excellent use for my newest copy of Working Mother. I put it on the floor beside my desk.

My cat sniffed it, walked in a circle around it, then curled up on it and went to sleep. I guess she wants to be near her working "mother".

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pushing The Envelope (Or, When Adults Act Like Children)

Ever notice that some people hate change? They hate it. So they fight it and push back against it and generally behave with the grace and subtlety of a five year old who has had his favorite toy taken from him.

Personally? I love change. I like the opportunities that change creates. I like working in new and different systems. I like taking things apart and putting them back together and trying to make something wholly new.

I know that routine and structure are comfortable. I also know that there can be great joy in trying something that makes you UNcomfortable -- I think that the moments where you are the farthest from your comfort level can also be the ones where you learn the most about who you are, and what you're capable of.

I know that routine? Can equal rut, as in the one that you're stuck in.

I know that the daily grind can become dull and worn. That the only way to prove yourself is to test yourself.

It's hard.

But having a tantrum when someone asks you to change? Is a waste of energy. Put your efforts in good places. Work with the change; who knows? Maybe the next hand that is pushing the envelope will be yours.

Monday, November 7, 2011

How Novel

As many of you know, I've been writing a novel. For, oh, I don't know, a couple of years.

I took some time to re-read what I've got over the weekend.

And I have something to say about it:

It's not very good.

At first, it was a little disheartening to realize that something I've put a lot of time and effort into is essentially suited only for lining the cat's litter box (which actually might have been too fancy a job for these particular pages, but that's beside the point).

After I got over the, "Oh my, but this is not very good," I realized WHY it's not very good.

It's not good because it tries too hard.

It's not good because it doesn't sound like me.

It's not good because it's not coming from the place that good stories come from.

Listen, I know my strengths -- I'm informal and chatty and I like a good story. The story I wanted to tell was an interesting story and a good idea, but it's not .... how to say it? I didn't own the story.

This should make me sad, but it doesn't. It actually makes me kind of happy. Because it's a chance for me to let go of the thing I was tied to -- this idea of how a novel should work, what it should look like -- and do what I do, what I'm good at, and what I love: sit down with a reader and just tell a story.

I'm starting from scratch -- and I'm thrilled.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Almost (In)Famous

Somebody hates me.

For those of you out there who immediately thought, "Well now, 'hate' is a strong word, isn't it?" let me be clear: this person hates me. She hates the fact that I draw breath, she's sorry she ever met me, she hates my thoughts and how I express them, she hates that I continue to work and play and laugh.

I strongly suspect that she even hates my cat.

How do I know that she hates me?

She blogged about it.

Multiple times.

Apparently, she forgot that, pre-hatred, she had sent me the link to her blog. So, lucky me, I get to see how much I suck at life posted for all of the interwebs to read.

This is what it's like when someone writes entire blog entries about how awful you are:

1. It's sort of like watching bad reality TV. You know you don't want to watch it. You know that by watching it, you're perpetuating it. But you HAVE to watch it, just because you have to see what comes next.

2. I'm not famous, but I think "This is what it's like to be written about in a tabloid" -- because what is being written? Not quite true. However, her readers who don't know me have NO way of knowing that, so their perception is that I'm this completely horrid person who laughs at the misfortune of others, kicks puppies, and generally steals candy from babies. Orphaned babies. Orphaned babies who have cherubic smiles and dispositions.

I could have commented on any number of her blog posts, but I haven't. Why? Because I think she needs her anger. There's something missing in her life, and hating me is filling that void. As such, nothing I could say -- no comment I could make, and honestly, no act I could perform -- will convince her that I'm not who or what she thinks I am. She needs someone to hate. I'm okay with it being me, I think, if doing so in some way makes the rest of her life a little happier (albeit in a kind of weird way).

Also, she's done me a favour and made me realize the kind of person I don't want to be. I don't want to be trashing someone on my blog, or focusing my life and words on how much I hate someone. If there is a place for that -- and perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, there is -- it doesn't have to be THIS place.  This place is for other things.

Maybe someday I can be known for that instead.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

T.G.F.G. (Thank God for Google!)

I remember a time, back in the not-so-distant past, when we didn't have the internet.

(Which, by the way, makes me feel kind of ... old. But that's not the point of this post.)


Back when there wasn't an internet, if you didn't know how to do things, you had some choices:

1. You could take a class in the thing you didn't know how to do, if one was available. I lived in rural Maine, and we had SOME "Hey, you, wanna learn how to do that thing?" classes, but not a ton.

2. You could buy a set of encyclopedias and hope that the thing you wanted to know how to do was covered in the appropriate, alpabetically indexed volume. (We had a huge old set of encyclopedias. They covered a lot but not, you know, everything.)

3. You could go to the library. Again, I'd like to mention that I lived in rural Maine. We had a library, but it was limited because funds were limited... and you had to drive there.

While I still like taking classes and looking things up and going to libraries, I also like that if I want to know something, I can go online and watch and look up and learn (and yes, sometimes take a class) RIGHT THEN. I don't have to wait or hope or drive. I can just do it.

Some people say technology limits actual physical social interactions. This might be true. But it also opens huge possibilities for people to learn beyond what their geography might offer them, and I think that -- and the opportunities that creates -- is a big old deal.

So thank goodness for google, and the internets. Now if you'll excuse me, there are some things I need to learn how to do.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How Dating is Like Buying Jeans

Part One:

If you're a guy, this is how you buy new jeans: you walk into the store. You look for the proper waist size and length. You buy the jeans.

I shouldn't admit this, but this makes me really angry. Possibly more angry than many other examples of gender inequality, which is shallow, but there it is.

This what I (and I suspect, many other women) face when shopping for jeans:

1. Go into store. Face some sort of evil wall of denim.
2. Consider the rise: medium? low? ultra low?
3. Consider the cut: skinny? trouser? bootleg? boyfriend? flare?
4. Consider the length. Sadly, it's not measured in inches, but in descriptive terms: petite, regular, long. You have no way of knowing what these mean in terms of actual length. Guess.
5. Consider the wash: light? dark? regular? distressed? (At this point, I'm usually pretty distressed. I won't lie.)
6. Sizing. Let's talk about sizing. Sizing is different between every designer, brand, and sometimes, cut. This is not awesome, because it means that a size 0* in one style is a size 6 in another style. If you're conscious about what size you are, this can make a visit to a store to buy pants an exercise in self loathing.

Part Two:

The self loathing bit is how dating can be like buying jeans.

Because if you're measuring your self worth by what size your pants are, you are making an error in judgement. If you think that what is important and lovely about you is the number on the tag of the pants that are currently making the junk in your trunk look fabulous, then you have an issue.

Or, more precisely: if you let a pair of pants make you think there is something wrong with you -- well, there IS something wrong with you. But it's not what you think.

And if you're dating and someone doesn't like you, if you assume that it means that there's something wrong with you -- well, again, you do have an issue. But it's not because person x, who is leaning back in the chair across the restaurant table, doesn't enjoy you.

It's because you don't enjoy you.

It's because you never think: wow, these pants don't look good at all. Too bad more designers don't appreciate how fabulous my curvy tush is, and then go find pants that do love your tush, and which make you love your backside even more. It's because you immediately go to a place where you decide that you are wrong and the pants are right.

And when someone you're interested in isn't interested back, you go to a place where you decide that they are a fabulous, worthy human being and you have done something wrong that makes them not like you.

Part Three:

It's not you. It's THEM.

YOU are right. The pants? Are wrong. So you toss them aside and find new pants.

A date that doesn't like you? Is just a person who doesn't get you. I know being rejected is lousy and can make you feel bad. But a bad date is like bad pants. Some fit. Some don't. So you keep looking until you find what fits, what shows off how fabulous you are, what makes you want to be more fabulous.

Because you are fabulous. You rock those jeans just like you're going to rock your life: Joyously, in the most comfortable and wonderful way.

*Using 0 as a clothing size is the equivalent of Spinal Tap having an amp that goes to 11. Why not just make 2 the smallest? Because this one goes to 0. NOT COOL.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I sometimes want to be where I am not.

Lately, I find myself dreaming of North Carolina. Of the morning glories that grow wild in the fall, climbing the cornstalks and fields beside the Hinnant Winery. Of the wisteria that hangs low and fragrant in the springtime. I dream of standing on the banks of the Neuse River, watching a local boy fish, a sprig of grass between his teeth.

I wish for places I can no longer visit. A bungalow on Hicks Street in Portland, Maine, where I drew on the cellar walls with crayon - probably at least one Garfield sketch -- and where my cousins and sister and I invented games and stories, where we were kings and queens of promise, as the song goes. I miss the house I grew up in, the ranch on Quarry Road, where my sister and I learned to ride bikes ( she did it first), and how to parallel park between two sawhorses in the driveway, and where we dreamed of who we would be.

There are days when I feel overwhelmed by geography and the distance between where I am and the places I wish I could be. A bar in Syracuse, New York. A beach in St Lucia. A marina in Clearwater, Florida. A museum in New York.

And yet. If I found myself there, I know that I would long for the places I love now. The pub. The river. Portsmouth and Pirate's Cove. If I was there, I would not be here. I had to lose those places to find this one, and this one is beloved, beautiful, and sweet.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween/Braaaiiinnnss!

It's Halloween. I went out over the weekend and rocked my costume (Yes, I promised photos... and no, I didn't take any. However, I will probably be able to find some. Somewhere.)

And did it snow? Oh yes, it did.

And am I now fairly sick? Oh yes, oh yes I am.

Things I could say that I am today with NO costume or make up:

1. A Cullen. (Okay, this might require glitter. But the pasty pale I've got down.)

2. A zombie (more on this in a bit)

3. Frankenstein's monster (not green, but shuffle-y and prone to monosyllablic mutterings).

So, yay for me. I think.

About the zombies. I've been thinking about them and have some thoughts and questions.

Such as:

If you were a vegetarian, and you became zombie-fied, would your zombie cry be "Asparaaaaguussss!" instead of "braaaaainnsss!"?

I guess I get why the zombies shuffle and shamble along in most zombie mythology (we are assuming that they're mostly about the drive to survive and gross motor skills, right?) but as such -- how do they ever catch ANYONE? Is it this a strength in numbers thing?

Speaking of shuffling and shambling -- how come the zombies in the Thriller video are super smooth and speedy dancers, but again with the inability to run? Is that a commentary that MJ's music is so freaky fabulous that even a ZOMBIE will dance to it? (and would that be a good way to overcome the zombie hoardes in a Pied-Piper fashion?)

Why do people bother shooting zombies in the torso? What are they hoping to accomplish other than irritating him?

Do zombies sleep? What's the lifespan of a zombie that doesn't get her hands on tasty brains? How long before they start to turn on each other?

Much like shooting zombies is ineffective, it seems that lighting them on fire is not a good way to get rid of them. Because --- then you have a zombie that can kill you ANOTHER way. Flamethrower + rampaging zombie mob = catastrophe for the non-reanimated, I think.

This is a goofy post. We'll chalk it up to being sick on Halloween... and I hope yours is both lovely and devoid of any brain-chomping zombie fiends.

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's Halloween in New England, Kids

The first Halloween I spent in North Carolina totally freaked me out, because every trick or treater who came to the house had something in common:

I could TOTALLY tell what their costume was.

If you grew up north of the Mason-Dixon line, you know how crazy and amazing that is.

I may have mentioned it, but here's how costumes tend to work in New England: Put costume on. Admire self in mirror. Then put on poofy down parka, a scarf, and some gloves. Possibly add a hat. Congratulations! You have now eradicated any visible sign of your fabulous costume! Now go out and ask strangers for candy!

It's COLD on Halloween, y'all.

I mention this because I have carefully crafted a costume that I am SUPER excited about. To wear on Saturday night.

And I just got a notice from the weather channel saying we could get, oh I don't know ... six inches of heavy slushy snow. (Favorite part of the advisory was where it said "could continue through the wee hours of Sunday morning." Really? The wee hours? Is that a special meteorology term?)

I'm trying to be positive and optomistic and all of that, but mostly? I'm ANNOYED. First, because Mother Nature has no business mucking about with snow in October. I live in New Hampshire, not the frozen tundra. I demand a recount. I'd like to lodge a formal protest.

Also, I need to point out that my costume involves some serious boots with serious heels. This is footwear that is NOT messing around people. They make me, oh I don't know, 5 inches taller? (Which, by the way, is AWESOME.) I can barely walk on my regular feet, let alone my monster fabulous boots. If it snows? Start making bets about which bones I'm going to break when I land on my ass on the snow covered sidewalk now, and which ER I end up in, because it's probably going to happen.

Ah New England. How you mock me and my Halloween efforts.

I know what has to be done. I've already done it. I'm airing out my down parka. I found my hat and mittens. I'm ready to go. You won't know what I'm dressed as in all of my puffy purple finery.

But at least you'll be able to see my boots.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Once Upon A Time

Let's talk about fairy tales for a minute.

Everytime I hear someone say: "And it was just like a fairy tale" about life/a relationship/ whatever, I have to make a concentrated effort to keep my eyebrows in a neutral position. (This, by the way, is the ONLY reason I would think about getting botox. Lady Gaga may have a p-p-p-poker face, but I most decidedly do NOT. My eyebrows always want to give me away, and I think Botox might be the only way to stun them into submission.)

But ... REALLY? It was a "fairy tale"? So you gave up all of your autonomy and power and let things happen to you while you watched passively until a moment came where someone of "authority" magically rescued you so you could live happily ever after?

That's ... greaaaaat. (And there goes the left eyebrow, raised in disbelief.)

What I think might be worse, though, are the people who say they "want a fairy tale". They want to be swept off of their feet by a handsome prince (or princess, whatevs) and then magically live happily ever after.

The thing about fairy tales, though, is that they are mostly passive. They're about waiting and longing and hoping and wishing. I read somewhere, "You have a wishbone where your backbone oughta be" and that's what I think when I think fairy tales.

This is what I want to say when someone tells me that they are waiting for the fairy tale: The trick is not in hoping for a fairy tale. The trick is to live like you're the hero of the story. Like no one is going to rescue you, so you have to rescue yourself. Like no one is going to sweep you off of your feet, so you have to sweep yourself off of your feet. You have to ride in on the white charger, slay the dragon, defeat the evil wizard. You are the one who pulls the sword from the stone and leads the kingdom. It's just you. And when you get that, when you understand -- you're the star, you're the hero, you're the one this story is about -- that's when the magic really happens. It doesn't happen through hoping and wishing on a star, it happens through doing and fighting your way through it, whatever it might be.

Understand, I'm not talking about living selfishly or inconsiderately. What I'm talking about is taking charge of your life, instead of waiting for it to happen to you. Cinderella needed to hand her stepsisters the broom and dustpan, shake herself off, and march out of the house long before she ever let a fairy godmother -- who took her sweet time showing up, by the way -- jam her foot into a pointy glass shoe. So ask yourself -- do you want to keep sweeping out that hearth, or do you want an adventure?

Want the adventure. Let go of the fairy tale. In the end, the adventure will make for a better story -- and who knows? It will probably still end with "and she still fought some ogres, and had the occasional bad hair day, and sometimes she fought with people she cared about, but you know what? She still lived happily ever after." Which is a much more interesting ending, after all.