Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wanting to Be Laura Ingalls

Yesterday I went on and on about how much I love to read. (And about the Kindle. Which, in hindsight, was a little over the top.)

My mom sent me an email and said that I had two of her favorite books on my reading list: A Tale of Two Cities and The Secret Garden; if I also had Johnny Tremain I would have completed the trifecta. It got me thinking about the books I loved most when I was a little girl.

The answer was easy: Little House on the Prairie. (The entire series, but especially "These Happy Golden Years and Little House in the Big Woods.)

Oh, I wanted to be Laura Ingalls. I wanted CLEARLY to be Pa's favorite and have him call me Half Pint because I was little. (I was NOT my dad's favorite, and no one ever would have described my sturdy frame as little. More like "chunky".) I wanted to be resourceful, clever and brave out in the wilderness. (Instead I was clumsy and accident prone.) Heaven help me, I even wanted to hold my head up high while mean Nellie Olson took cheap shots at me and my family. (Instead of sucking it in and then going into my room and crying, which was my usual m.o. when someone mocked me.)

But alas, I was born too late to be Laura Ingalls. The closest I came to having a farm or homestead was the vegetable garden my dad planted every year (which was fabulous, but we didn't need it for survival, and weren't plagued by crows or grasshoppers or drought). I didn't have to walk to town to go to school -- the bus came to my house. I didn't need to be brave or resourceful -- I just had to try to get along with my sister and play nicely with others.

But such was the power of those stories that I could wish I lived that kind of life. I could dream that I did.

I guess that's why it breaks my heart a little when I hear someone of any age say that they don't like to read, that they don't think that books hold anything of value for them. I always think, silently, but what about the stories? How can you not love a story? How can you not be beside yourself with excitement at the idea that for a little bit you can live right inside another life, where you ARE defending your sister in a one-room schoolhouse instead of being stuck in bed recovering from an appendectomy? Where you can imagine the smell of the snow as that dashing Alonzo Wilder takes you home in a winter sleigh instead of waiting in the dentist's office?

Laura Ingalls was one of the reasons I became a teacher, and she remains one of the reasons that I so love to read.

I guess I owe her one.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Take a Look, It's in a Book

I don't remember learning to read. Maybe most people don't; I don't know. I do know that I could read before I was in kindergarten and possibly before I was in nursery school. No one taught me, per say. My mother tells me that one day we were in the car and I read the signage on a passing truck and she had a moment of: "Okay. The toddler can read. Interesting."

I often say that I love to read, but that doesn't really convey what I mean. Reading is necessary to me the way breathing is necessary. If you told me that reading was incredibly hazardous to my health and could result in death (and I'd like to point out that in some societies, it IS) -- I would be forced to take my chances. If I had to choose between food and books, I would choose books.

I think of libraries as sacred spaces, and still remember my card number from the library in my hometown. (It was 42 ... hey, it was a small town). I remember the way the light would shine through the windows in the back room, and the way the leather bindings would feel, warm in the afternoon sun. Going to the library -- or a bookstore -- still has the capacity to make me incredibly happy.

As a result, I was suspicious of e-readers. Because they weren't, you know, books. I'm already tied to a zillion gadgets -- I certainly didn't think I needed ANOTHER gadget. Ridiculous. Plus, I like the way a book FEELS in my hands. I like the weight of it. I like the act of turning the page, the feel of the paper, the smell of the print. An e-reader would have none of those.

The problem, however, has been this:  I don't go ANYWHERE without a book. Ever. I usually have a paperback tucked into my purse. I have a book in my bathroom at all times, one in my bedroom, one in the living room. There is often a book or two in my trunk. I'm like Pigpen in the old Charlie Brown cartoons, but instead of being surrounded by clouds of dust, I'm followed by a storm of words and bindings.

Also? I read quickly. How quickly? I can finish a novel on a 4 hour flight. So if I'm travelling, I need to bring several books, and will usually need to buy another one (or two) in the airport on the way back. This makes my carry-on super heavy and also, awkwardly stuffed full.

I have a couple of trips coming up -- some shortish flights, and potentially one longish flight. At least two of the trips also involve bus rides to the airport that will be about seventy-five minutes.

Obviously, I will need to read on those trips; also obviously, I needed to reconcile my desire to pack light with my need to shovel the written word down the hungry gullet of my reader's brain.

So I caved and ordered a Kindle. Lightweight. No glare. Big old Kindle store on Amazon. Slides nicely into carry-on. No worries, right?


The Kindle came and I went to the Kindle store to cruise around. I thought, I know, I'll get Middlemarch because I love that book and I haven't read it in a couple of years as my copy got lost in a move.

And that's when I discovered something so miraculous, so GLORIOUS, that I nearly wept with joy:

Amazon offers MANY literary classics for the Kindle FOR FREE.*

FOR FREE!!!!!!!

This discovery? Better than Christmas. Better than winning the lottery. This is a goofy analogy, but it was sort of like coming in from a cold night and finding a blazing fire in the fireplace, a hot toddy, and a warm cozy blanket to snuggle under. I may have heard the angels sing hallelujah.

So what's currently on my Kindle?
Middlemarch George Eliot
Little Women Louisa May Alcott
Anthem Ayn Rand
The Jungle Upton Sinclair
Walden Henry David Thoreau
Moby Dick Herman Melville
The Beautiful and Damned F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tales of the Jazz Age F Scott Fitzgerald
This Side of Paradise F Scott Fitzgerald
A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett
Mansfield Park Jane Austen
Lady Susan Jane Austen
Love and Friendship Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen
Persuasion Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey Jane Austen
Emma Jane Austen

The opportunity to read -- and re-read -- some of these books is so exciting. The fact that Amazon doesn't charge for them? Amazing.

* You probably already know this, but in case you don't?You don't ACTUALLY need a Kindle to access it. You can actually just download a Kindle App to your iphone or laptop or whatnot. And then -- you too can have zillions of hours of reading enjoyment. Whee!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Lots of things in life are frustrating. People who don't know enough to take their laundry out of the washing machine and instead, leave it there to fester when all you really want to do is wash your clothes. People who walk really slowly down the middle of a sidewalk. The fact that you can have 500 channels on tv and still find that there's nothing worth watching on any of them.

They're minor, though. Right? I guess that's what makes things frustrating -- when they're small, when they're just enough to be bothersome, but not significant enough to send you right over the edge. You're not enraged. You're frustrated. 

Right now I am frustrating myself.

I have something that I really need to do, but can't find the capacity to do it. It's ridiculous, because in terms of the size of the task? It's an anthill. But it is an anthill that has taken on the size and challenge level of Everest.

And yet -- I have all the tools I need at my disposal. I just can't find a way to begin. I can't get out of my own way and I KNOW that the person mucking this whole thing up?

Is me.

Perhaps tomorrow ...

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Whole Lot of Blah, Blah, Blah

And on the first day of the workweek, Danielle went on a seemingly nonsensical ramble in the form of a list. (Because that's how I roll, y'all).

1. For the second Sunday in a row, I was unable to post. Annoying. I didn't forget, I just couldn't get the post to be all "Hellllllo internets! Here I am!" so -- it looked like I was just blowing it off. Rest assured -- I would not do such a thing, even with the sort of "phone it in, not a lot of thought involved" weekend posts.

2. Last night I was half asleep when I suddenly remembered that my book group is meeting next Sunday. Which is awesome, except that I still haven't read the book. Actually, I don't even have a copy of it in my hot little hands. I was thinking, no big, I'll order it and have Amazon overnight it to me (oh Amazon, how I heart you and your nearly instantaneous next day delivery) and THEN I thought: I keep wanting to order a Kindle, and I'm going on vacation next week and beach weather is coming up and oh hell with it, I'm just going to order one and then when I get it I'll download the book and then -- PRESTO! -- book will be read by book group time and I won't have a carry-on full of books on the plane tra laaa, tra laaa.

I'm not sure about the Kindle because I reallllllllly love books. A lot. I like holding them. I like turning the pages. I like the way they smell. But I also like having a carry on that doesn't weigh a bajillion pounds because it's stuffed full of reading material. So -- we shall see.

3. It's been about three years since I lived through a New England spring, but it seems like it's supposed to be a little, um, WARMER right about now? March has the windy-ness ALL down. But 26 degrees? Going into April? REALLY? Did I incorrectly remember how this spring thing works?

4. There's something really outstanding to be said for fitting into a dress that I haven't worn since 2004. Why do I still HAVE a dress that I wore in 2004 if it hasn't fit me since then, you ask? To be honest? I have no idea. But I do still have it. And now it fits. So -- yay. Sixteen and a half pounds down... um, more to go. (You didn't think I was going to SAY how many pounds I have left, did you? That's crazy talk.)

5. I am going on vacation next week. I leave a week from Friday. I am already packed. Overeager much? Perhaps, but will I be doing the last minute laundry scramble? Oh no, I will not. (I HATE that). I cannot wait to be on vacation. (And yes, I WILL be blogging from there -- be prepared for postings from sunny NC. And cross your fingers that it will indeed be sunny, or I will be one sad sad chiquita).

And with that, I'm going to make a cup of tea, because it's COLD in here, kids!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Photos

Wishin' for wisteria ... or any sign of spring, for that matter!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lessons, Learned

This week has been -- shall we say -- less than festive.

However, it has taught me a few things, both good and not so good.

Lesson One: My friends? Are awesome.

I didn't need to be taught this, per say, but it's always nice to be reminded. A lot of people would have looked at the craziness of this week and said (probably with an eyeroll): It's just a cat. Get over it. Not my friends. My friends are rockstars. So, thank you, rockstars.

Lesson Two: Having excellent intentions is sometimes not enough.

(subpart a): I really thought that I could rescue this adorable little kitten and provide him with everything he needed and make him part of my happy home with Beansie. Clearly this was not the case. Sick sad miserable kitten, sad miserable me, sad miserable Beansie. Intentions: Good. Execution, horrific.

(subpart b): I truly believe that the girl at the shelter when I returned Yeats was trying to help me find a way to keep him. Instead, as I stood there doing the full on ugly cry, she made me feel worse and like an low, pathetic, cruel specimen of humanity. Intentions: Good. Execution: I'll be talking about it in therapy for years.

Lesson Three: Often, the thing that is the hardest to do is the thing that is right.

I don't believe that requires explanation.

Lesson Four: Sometimes, prudence is your friend. And sometimes, it needs to be tossed aside with abandon.

I just chucked my plans for the vacation I'm taking in April to buy plane tickets to go visit my mother. Because after an emotionally draining week, what was more important? Highly structured days in which I spring cleaned my house, went to some museums, and "relaxed"? Or flying down and hanging out with my mom, who is a rockstar in her own right?

Do I even need to answer that question?

Was it smart to buy plane tickets two weeks before I am leaving? Is that the most, er, cost effective way to travel? Was this necessary?

Answers to the above: No. No. Abso-freaking-loutely. The idea of going makes me feel -- lighter. Which seems to me to be what a vacation should do.

So I learned a thing or two, which -- it seems to me -- is part of the purpose of being on this earth; that would mean, then, that it was all a gift. And maybe -- maybe that's the trick. To know that it IS all a gift, and that you can take it into your heart, and loop it around, until you can see the diamond inside the nasty, abrasive, lump of rock coal.

And maybe that's the Fifth Lesson: It is all a gift. All of it. The pretty parts and the ugly ones as well.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Z is for Zero Hour

Yesterday I wrote a long post about Yeats, my kitten, and how determined I was to keep him.

Today, I am writing to explain why, ultimately, I had to give him up.

I didn't know when he was sick when I adopted him -- to be fair to the shelter, I don't think they realized that he was a very sick little guy either -- but I think I would have wanted to adopt him if I had known. I would have WANTED to, but I probably wouldn't have. I probably would have asked them to call me when he was ready to try out a new home, because then that new home (mine) would have been ready for him.

As it was, I wasn't ready.

I was prepared for the things that come with a new animal -- the stuff where your established pets are cranky and feel displaced, where you have to rearrange your schedule for the new guy, where the routines that you follow are reinvented. I was ready for all of those things, and for the good stuff too -- the random snugglies on the couch, the look of complete joy when a belly was rubbed, and the happy purring.

I was ready for all of those things. I just wasn't ready for the "Oh my God, he's so sick, it's 3 AM and the kitten I've had for 14 hours has peed blood in my kitchen sink and then tracking blood through the house and I don't know what to do right now." I wasn't ready for my couch also to be covered with blood and for the kitten to be laying there like a limp orange rag, looking at me with big amber eyes that said "please, you're the human, make this right."

I did what I could. We went to the vet. We got the cone that he already should have had. We got the meds. "He should be better tomorrow," the vet said. "Keep the cone on -- between the infection at the neuter site and the UTI, the antibiotic will make him as good as new."

While we were talking, the cat in the carrier was escaping from the collar -- I didn't realize until I got home. I never was able to get it back on him.

I gave him his drugs and then I had to work -- which was an exercise in futility, as I was really running after him, trying to keep him from peeing on things. ("It's because he's in pain," the vet said, "And he has to go but he doesn't understand that it's not the litter box that's causing the pain.") When I wasn't catching him just before he went, I was catching him just after. Since he was going every 10 minutes or so? It was a lot of running around. Then I had to make sure he didn't lick or bite at the infected incisions since, hi, no cone.

When neither of those things were happening? He would nuzzle up in my lap and go to sleep. Honestly, it broke my heart. It breaks it now to type this. He is the sweetest, sweetest thing, this cat. He's going to be a fabulous addition to someone's home.

It just couldn't be mine. It was when I came out of the office and found him peeing on the couch for LITERALLY the 20th time that I knew it couldn't be my home. I knew because I saw him doing it, and he saw me see him, and I started to cry because we were both so completely miserable. I was making him miserable with the constant "No! No! DON'T PEE ON THAT!" and "No! No! Don't lick there!" and he was making me miserable with the same things.

I realized then I couldn't be a good pet mom to him. It was too much.

I read this now and I think maybe it sounds petty to you if you haven't had this experience, but I seriously felt like I couldn't do it for another moment, and that if I continued to, it wouldn't be beneficial to the little guy. He needed -- he deserved -- a better mom than me. One who wasn't completely stressed out at every moment. One who could devote the time to his sick little self.
So I gave him back. I cried all the way to the shelter, I cried at the shelter, and I cried when I left the shelter. I really hope he gets better. I hope someone with a big big house and lots of kitty treats and who loves to snuggle adopts him and he can run around and play with them.

I also hope that, in time, I'll forgive myself. Because even though it absolutely was the right thing to do, it still felt like one of the most awful things I've ever done. Ever.

(In case you're concerned -- the shelter is NOT going to put him down. Just so you know.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Y is for Yeats

Yeats is my favorite poet:

Yeats is also the name of my new kitten:

I got Yeats the cat yesterday, at a shelter. He is loving and loveable and frisky and funny.
The cat I already have, Rhiannon, is all of those things. She's also nurturing, as in she carries her toys about and gives them baths and talks to them. How great would it be for her to have an ACTUAL playmate?
She does NOT think it's great.
She's acting a bit like a teenager. Not only is it not great, but it's STUPID! The kitten is STUPID. And I'm STUPID for thinking it was a great idea and she hates us both and wishes very bad things in our general directions!
It sounds funny, but it isn't. It's miserable. Rhiannon is hissing and yowling at both the kitten and me. (She did deign to sleep on my bed, but it's just because it was there and I happened to be in it. There was no cuddling, or purring, or acknowledgment of my presence.) I've had her since she was a kitten and frankly, the "I hate you! I hate you!" attitude was a more than a little upsetting.
Especially since, in contrast, Yeats was so zen about the whole thing. "Hey! A new house! Can I sit on your lap? Aren't I CUTE with all the purring? I've known you five seconds and I LOVE you!" He was like a cartoon -- a happy smiling fuzzy cartoon. He also was interested in Rhiannon -- he wants to sleep cuddled up to things that smell like her (but which are not her, as the growling and hissing frightens him a tad).
I brought him home around 1:00 PM. By 5? I was EXHAUSTED.
I did notice Yeats using the litter box a lot, but I wasn't super concerned. And his incision site looked funky, but my friend at the shelter said he was okay and that he would take care of it on his own.
When I got up this morning, he was peeing blood. And it was in the sink. It was on the floor. It was on my couch. He was just laying there with a "I could really use a little help here" face.  So at 5 AM, we were off to the emergency vet.
Long story short: he has an infection. They put a cone on him. He Houdini'd out of it and I can't get him back INTO it. I DID get his antibiotic into him, so that's something. Rhiannon is hiding in the closet and won't come out.
And I am still exhausted.
I'm not sad I brought him home. He needed a home, and I have a home, and he's already Houdini'd his way right into it. Eventually, Rhiannon, aka Bean, aka Beansie Boombaliciousness will come around. We'll all be good. 
My mother reminded me that when I got Rhiannon, she was sick, too. Sicker than Yeats, actually. Sick like "might not make it; try not to get too attached to her" sick. But she's fine (well, grouchy) now. She needed me then, and she got me then.Yeats needs me, so he's got me now. 
I don't know why I thought it would be easy. Is anything that's worthwhile ever easy?
I suppose it isn't.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

X is for Xanthippe (You can't take the Riot out of the Grrrrl)

Xanthippe was the wife of Socrates; it is suggested that he married her because she was smart and argumentative.

History has taken those traits and chosen to portray her as a raging, horrible shrew.

Because "smart' and "argumentative" are negative traits in a woman, right?


I was in Boston over the weekend with two fabulous women. One is a bit older than me. The other, a bit younger. We were walking past Victoria's Secret when a gaggle of 'tweens came out -- the oldest was probably 13. The youngest was probably 11. They were chatting excitedly and all clutching shopping bags emblazoned with the store's label.

My young friend said, "I hope to God those girls were in there buying lip gloss."

So did I, but somehow I doubted it.

Because it's important to be sexy, right? Even if you're eleven.

I was reading a blog the other day; the writer was getting major negative comments about the fact that she allowed her toddler to eat a chocolate chip pancake. Because obviously she'll get fat, right? And then she'll have body issues and OHMYGOD THE HORROR.

Because it's important for a two year old to have food issues dumped all over her, right? It's important to consider body image and the politics of beauty when you see a two year old eating a chocolate chip pancake ONE TIME.

I'm not a Mommy Blogger because, duh, I'm not a Mommy.

I keep hearing the term "Mommy Blogger" used in derisive ways. As though the fact that mothers all over the world are working to network with each other, as though their collective wisdom and experience, is laughable.

Because women don't have valid opinions, right? They don't KNOW anything. They couldn't have anything important to write about or say.

I want the smart girls of the world to unite and take over. When we talk, I want people to listen. When someone is dismissive of me because I have a uterus AND a brain, I want to be able to dress him (or her, for that matter -- there isn't always solidarity among gender lines) down without then being tagged a bitch -- I want to be able to stand up for myself without being thrown aside covered in labels like "strident" "ballbreaking" or "whiny".

I want our girl children not to know what the inside of a Victoria's Secret looks like. I want them to be concerned with so many more things than sexiness. I don't want to see ten year olds wearing eyeliner. I don't want them to be praised for looking twenty by men in their forties.

I want toddlers to be able to eat broccoli AND pancakes. I want there to be no judgement or shame directed at them or their parents when they do (I'd also like it if Dads were ALSO considered as part of the parenting team that makes choices, and if the finger pointing and nasty commenting was NOT always directed at Moms). I want little girls to know that it's more important to be healthy than it is to be skinny.

And I want the characteristics of a Xanthippe -- a smart woman who didn't rest meekly by while her philosopher husband considered the nature of the world, but who considered it with him -- sometimes loudly, sometimes in an argumentative way -- to be considered positives and not negatives, so that more women and girls will raise their voices.

Monday, March 21, 2011

W is for Weekend Round-Up

Sorry about the lack of post yesterday -- Blogger was being persnickety and for some reason, I couldn't post. It was mildly annoying.

#1.This past weekend, I had friends in from out of town, so we spent our days wandering around Boston (Saturday) and Portsmouth (Sunday), which means that today I am exhausted.... but it was so much fun that I'm cool with it.

#2. I decided to get a kitten to keep Beansie company. And then I decided NOT to get a kitten because, well, they're a lot of work. And then I decided to get a kitten because I love kittens, and I have the space, and Beansie could use a buddy. And then I decided that an older cat would be better. (This went on for a while.) I was on my way out of my building when one of my neighbors came in with a little tiny cat carrier containing the fuzziest, cutest little black and white kitten ever.

End of debate.

I am SO getting a kitten. (Will keep you posted).

#3. Yesterday was the first day of spring. In honour of the first day of spring I bought festive plastic wineglasses for the first annual Sangria in the Sun gathering (for when I finish turning my balcony into a usable space). Woo hooo! Warmer weather is on its way.

#4. Took some photos in Portsmouth yesterday. Here's one of them:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Photos

Today's photo is brought to you by the fabulous Katie T -- it's a little photo, but a day in Boston with her (and the equally fabulous Tess?) equals large amounts of fun on a Saturday in March.

Friday, March 18, 2011

V is for Vicious

I recently got an email about the entry I posted on Valentine's Day. (If you missed that one, it's right here )

The emailer may have been, shall we say, unhappy.

The emailer may have, shall we say, suggested that I shut my yapper about gay marriage and civil rights and anything else I might be thinking about writing about because I am, in case you didn't know, "an ignorant left wing slut with a viewpoint that no one could share, appreciate, or understand."

Well, that'll show me.

The emailer may ALSO have gone on to point out that I "was a loser in high school, [I] am a loser now, and that no one has ever been interested in anything that [I] would have to say because no one ever has been."  (Which, FUNNY! Dude, I KNOW I was a loser in high school. I was there!)

I suppose, then, that I should humbly pack it in. I mean, really, one hateful email is probably going to be the thing that convinces me to stop blogging and get back to my business of -- well, I'm not sure what my business should BE at that point, but I'm guessing it involves sitting meekly someplace with my hands folded and my mouth shut.

I did not reply to the email, but would like to go on the record -- my bloggy record of trodding through boggy political and moral ground -- as saying the following:

1. I FIRMLY believe that the legality of gay marriage should never have been an issue, and will continue to speak in favour of it in every forum I have at my disposal.

2. I should mention here that: I'm also for reproductive rights and support Planned Parenthood.

3. I am ALL FOR public funding for projects like WIC that help needy people in this country.

4. I think teachers should be more famous and better paid than rock stars. I think reducing their compensation or saying that they make too much money is shameful. I think messing with their retirement is heinous.

5. Finally, I believe that there is no reason to be hateful to someone simply because you don't agree with her, and that the reaction of "I must tear her down" is one that comes from a place of fear and misunderstanding. I'm sorry for the person who wrote me that email because it was so angry, and carrying around those levels of anger must be exhausting.

In the meantime, I'm going to do what we ignorant left wing sluts do -- I'm just going to keep on blogging.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

U is for Underwater

The average credit card debt per household in the United States is $14,750. *

If this was your balance on a single credit card with a 14% APR, paying the minimum monthly payment (and assuming you didn't charge anything else) -- it would take you 188 months to pay off this card. You would also have paid over $9000 in interest. **

188 months, by the way? Is over 15 years.

These kinds of facts kept me up at night.

I got my first credit card -- like so many other people -- when I was a freshman in college. The sales reps were lined up on campus, hawking free things -- t shirts! Water bottles! Pens -- to incoming freshmen, touting the responsibility of establishing a line of credit for when you wanted to get off campus and rent that apartment or buy that car. (In my memory, I can no longer see the campus and the milling students at all when I think of this: I see vultures, sitting on branches, watching a struggling person wander through the desert, just waiting for her to drop so they can descend. But hey, that's just me.)

How many students bought into that? I don't know, but I know that enough must to make sitting there with their swag worthwhile for the credit card companies.

I know that I bought into it. "For emergencies," I told myself. "And, you know, to establish a line of credit."

For a while I was really good with the card -- for a long while, actually. If I charged anything, I paid it off immediately. Carrying a balance, I knew, was a bad idea.

But of course, life happens and there are real emergencies (Stuck in London! Need to go home!) and fake emergencies ("I ABSOLUTELY NEED those shoes! They're on sale! And if I don't buy them, I'll never have this chance again! Emergency!") and the stuff in between that you know is a bad idea but do anyway.

Then I got out of college and became a teacher; I was making a whopping $19K a year and needed to pay student loans and car loans and rent and buy food and gas and classroom supplies, so ... yeah. The credit card was my friend.

Except, of course, that it was the kind of friend who does you a favor -- here, borrow this dress! -- and then holds it over your head for the rest of your life.

My credit card debt was spread out over three credit cards and at one time grossly exceeded $14,750. GROSSLY. I felt like I would never get out from under it. It was like I was drowning and, though I could see the surface of the water, I had this immense weight holding me under. I would literally snap out of a sound sleep and think about it.

Through persistence and some crafty moves on my ex-husband's part, we were able to consolidate it and whittle it down. Above water once again.

I've said plenty about divorce, and I'll probably say more, but here? I will just say this: it doesn't do marvelous things for your finances. The debt started to pile up once again. While this time it was less than the aforementioned average, it was ... enough. I remembered where I'd been, and was somewhat terrified that I would find myself there again.

Until it hit me: the person doing this to me?

WAS me.

Enough with the "emergencies" and the purse shopping and the ridiculousness. ENOUGH.

Do you enjoy feeling like you're drowning? I asked myself, sternly.


Then STOP it.

So, I stopped.

Yesterday, I paid off the last credit card. I keep checking my balance to make sure it REALLY says $0.

It really does.

The view here above the water? Amazing.

*This is according to ; the number may be off slightly due to the way it was calculated.
** Also brought to you by the nice folks at 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

T is for Thirty-Five*

I know people who approach their birthdays with a sense of profound grief; they see birthdays as a marker of how much closer they are to death.

Cheerful, no?

I am not one of those people. There are a few reasons for that. First? I really do think that every moment you have -- even the craptastic ones where you're embroiled in your taxes or you're fighting with someone you love or you're completely miserable and at your lowest -- all of those moments are gifts. Every second you get to rock it on this earth is a precious, invaluable gift. Birthdays, then, are just a chance to appreciate all of the gifts you've been given, and to look forward to the ones you may yet receive.

I say "You may YET receive" because the second reason I am not a birthday grinch is this: not only are those moments gifts, but they are not guaranteed. For ANYONE. So rather than fret about the moment when the thread of my life has spun out, I prefer to enjoy the fact that for the moment, its length still appears to stretch forth before me.

Third -- the alternative to aging is to, erm, cease aging. I can only think of one way to pull that off, and usually there's a cemetary involved in that. So -- yeah. I don't mind getting older.

In fact, I LIKE it.

I should confess that I like it partially for vanity reasons, because thanks to a careful avoidance of damaging UV rays and blessed genes, I look younger than my age. So I kind of like the "NO WAY" I often hear when I tell people how old I am. Yes, I know that's really shallow. No, I do not care.

However. It's not all about vanity.

It's ALSO about valuing experience. When I think about where I've been in my years, and what I've seen and done, I am satisfied. I am satisfied with my successes, but I am also satisfied with my failures because I know that a lack of failure indicates a lack of chances taken. I'd rather have crashed and burned than never have tried to fly at all -- and the learning that comes with mistakes is so vital to whatever comes after. After all, everything you do is important -- it forms your character. It makes you who you are. You need to treasure the whole of it.

And on your birthday, you need to celebrate everything you are with people who you love rather than mourning the time you have lost -- because no time is ever lost. It's all written into the song that is your heart. Go ahead and sing it.

*It's not my birthday, obviously, but I have been thinking about this one for a bit. If it's YOUR birthday? Happy Birthday! Go eat cake!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

S is for Sunshine on My Shoulder

I try not to blog about my cat too often because, well, tell too many stories about a cat and you risk becoming crazy cat lady. While the description might ... sort of, a little bit ... be true, this is one situation in which it does not pay to advertise.

However, there is an exception to every rule.

I have a fourteen pound cat who is excessively large. The VET guesstimated her weight at 10 pounds over that because she's monstrous. She's also, as I may have mentioned, not terribly bright, and not terribly graceful.

When I got her, she weighed one pound. ONE. She fit in the palm of my hand -- a little grey and white ball of fluff. A dustball with bright green eyes and little tiny feet. She was incredibly ill -- I picked her up and went straight to the vet, who thought she might not make it. "But I didn't want to tell you," he said later, "because you seemed really attached to her."

For the first six months of her life, we were at the vet every six or seven days, which easily made her the most expensive free cat I've ever had the pleasure to own. She started to thrive. And grow. And grow. And GROW. Until she became the giant fluffy fiend that she is now.

She might not be the most clever pet I've ever owned, but I will say this: she's the sweetest. If I am sad, if I am crying, she nuzzles up to me and purrs. If I leave, she is waiting at the door when I come back. She watches for me when I take the trash out. She sleeps on a chair next to my desk when I work.

Is it a little silly? Yes.

But on one of those days when you don't think you can take one more thing, when you put on your sweaties and curl up on the couch with a book and a cup of tea and a big fuzzy blanket, is there anything better than having your furry sidekick jump up, walk across the back of the sofa, curl up on your shoulder, and gently rest her head against your face?

No, ma'am, there is not.

Monday, March 14, 2011

R is for Regret. (Or, you know, not)

"Do you have any regrets?"

I was having a drink with a friend I'd not seen in some time and we were talking about where we'd been in our lives over the last six years or so. She: married. Had two children. Upwardly mobile and contemplating a career move that would relocate her family in a drastic but potentially fabulous way. Me: Changed careers twice. Moved four times. Got divorced.

She said it with a little bit of concern, and in that moment, I could see that she thought that not only should I have regrets, but that I should have a lot of them. The career thing bothered her, I could tell -- we'd once been coworkers and had both been labeled promising talent, but she had blossomed and I had just burned out. The marriage thing bothered her, since she'd apparently liked my ex-husband. The childlessness bothered her for reasons I couldn't quite fathom.

"Nope," I said. I could tell that it was the wrong answer, but I don't believe in regret. It strikes me as an exercise in futility because  -- well, because time moves forward in a linear fashion, so if you're always looking behind you, you miss what's in front of you, and that's no way to live. (It is an excellent way to make sure that you trip and fall -- a LOT -- if that's your goal.)

"None?" she said, in disbelief. "You don't regret that you don't have children? You don't regret that your marriage ended? You don't regret the job you gave up?"

At this point, something was very obvious to me:  we probably would never be getting together for a drink again. The truth is the most loyal pal you'll ever have in your life. I tried to be gentle, though, I really did.

"Listen," I said. "Here's the deal. You're a teacher. You know that some of the best lessons that happen in your class are the organic ones. The ones that happen when a student discovers something for herself. When the click happens. That's what life is like, isn't it? The best things are sometimes the ones that happen off the grid, outside of the china patterns and the planned vacation and the carefully constructed career ladder. I couldn't be who I am now if I hadn't lived that particular life. And yes, while I sometimes think of how differently it all could have gone, that's not the same thing as regretting how it did go. Because I like where I'm at."

It was when she not-so-subtly shook her head -- again in disbelief -- that I stopped trying to be nice. "Take right now," I said. "I could be regretting the fact that I came here to enjoy a drink with you but find myself having to justify my life and how it's turned out. But instead of regretting it, I'm choosing to enjoy the opportunity to really reflect on how fabulous it actually all is.

"And," I added, looking at my watch, "it looks like it's time for me to be getting on with it. Good luck with the family and the job."


Non, je ne regrette rein.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Grace In Small Things: Sunday, March 13

1. Singing and dancing around a living room with friends.

2. Trust, both given and received.

3. Chocolate orange torte.

4. The sound of a baby laughing.

5. Full sunshine on a late March afternoon.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday Photos

Love. Prayers.

(Yes, I know the kid has a washcloth in his mouth. Teething is a weird thing.)

More Love.

Stay safe.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Q is for Quittin' my Bitchin'

Wasn't it just a few days ago that I was complaining about the winter and the weather? I think it was.

Shame on me.

My cousin lives with his wife and their baby (who I refer to as my nephew, and who they are teaching to say "Auntie Yellie) in Japan. They live in Nagoya, which was not decimated by the earthquake, and they are far enough inland that they were -- fortunately -- not flooded out by the tsunami.

I don't spend a lot of time thinking of what could have been, but in this case I do. I love Jay, his wife Manami, and I especially love their little guy. He's the snuggliest, happiest little man I have ever had the pleasure of singing to sleep. (Also -- and I know that opinions on this differ wildly -- he may be the cutest baby on the face of the earth.)

They're fine.

Many, many families are not fine.

That's the last time I complain about a little snow.

(The Red Cross is preparing for disaster relief for Japan and other impacted areas. If you would like to help, you can go here:

If you need a reason to donate, here's this little face:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

P is for People Want to Know What I Think! (I Know, I'm Shocked Too!)

So yesterday, I was doing my thing, tra la, tra la, when I was contacted by a company -- a company that shall remain unmentioned, at this point, but one I really enjoy -- to be part of their market research team.

I had a moment of, really?

Followed by YES PLEASE!

Because let's face it, peeps, if you have products and want them tested out? I should be your girl (and if I could just find someone who wanted me to test gadgets, I would be in HEAVEN... sadly, I am not currently being asked to spout off about gadgets. But ... hello, Apple? I would LOVE to test run an ipad for you. Or, you know, anything else. I'm selfless like that). Why? Because I'm one of those people who finds something awesome and likes to talk about it. (Or maybe I just like to talk, period. But seriously, if I find a product I love, I'm going to tell you. That's how I roll.)

Anyway, the part about this that I love is this: after all these years of unsolicited opinions? FINALLY, someone is asking me what I think.

It's about time!

I will keep y'all posted as to how this goes (because I'm actually a little worried that I might be TOO opinionated here. So ... yeah. We'll see...)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

O is for One -- Not That Lonely a Number, Actually

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you are a single woman in your mid 30s, people -- friends near and far, family members, strangers in shopping malls ... okay, maybe not strangers in shopping malls -- feel honour bound to ask you the dreaded question.

"Are you dating? Who are you dating? Are you in a relationship? Who are you seeing?"

As though the answer to this question sums up your life. As though your happiness is defined through and by your answer in the affirmative.  So you can imagine how it unhinges people when I say, "Well, no, actually, I'm not dating, or in a relationship, and I'm not particularly seeing anyone."

A few months ago I was discussing this with a very dear friend, and he mentioned that he thinks that single (and divorced) women are judged more harshly than single men. A single man is playing the field -- his friends think he's the man. If he's divorced, he "escaped". A single woman (especially a divorced, childless, single woman) is thought to be somewhat desperate and sad. She did not escape, she is somehow abandoned. If she dates a lot? She's not slapped on the back and congratulated. She's whispered about and called a whore.... or if she doesn't date very much, she's considered to be looking for a man with whom to have children in what is presumably her waning years of fertility.

He's insightful, my friend.

Because I can see that truth in the eyes of the everyone who wants to know what my relationship status is -- and when I say, "I'm single" those eyes reflect pity and I'm frequently patted on the arm, gently, as though I'm a kitten who needs soothing, and I inevitably hear "The right one will come along," or "Have you tried one of those dating sites?" or "Maybe you just need to get out more."

I just smile, because I know something that the arm-patters of the world don't know, and that is this: the right person may show up -- or not -- but I'm not pining my days away. I have tried a dating site, once upon a time, only to have it match me with a slew of married men. I don't have to pay money for that service, thanks. And I get out as often as I wish to.

I also know this: alone does not equal lonely.

It can, I know. But it doesn't always. Sometimes alone means that you can listen to your music as loudly as you want to for no obvious reason. It means there's no compromise on where you want to go out to dinner -- feel like Indian food? Indian it is! Bring it on! (And please, for the love of all that is holy, don't think that it means you can't go out to eat. You CAN go out to dinner. All by yourself. Just bring a book and a whole lot of "I'm so fabulous that I love my own company enough to eat with me in public.") Sometimes alone means you've learned to be fully comfortable in your own, gorgeous, geeky, glamourous skin.

Next time someone asks, I'm going to tell them: I'm a party of one.

Emphasis on the "party."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

N is for Now is the Discontent with Winter

I'm so done with winter.

I try to be positive and not to wish away my days, but seriously? How did I manage to forget that in New Hampshire, winter is 8937432874 months long? And cold? And snowy?

I know that I have perks that others don't have that make winter a bit more tolerable, including the fact that I don't have to drive to work. I know that I do appreciate the beauty of the winter -- the sudden flash of a cardinal on a snowy tree? Awesome -- and that winter is necessary in the grand scheme of things.

I've been cool about it. I've not complained. I mean, I CHOSE to move back up here. This is allll me. No one made me trade North Carolina for New Hampshire (and, for the record? Best trade ever!) -- I just, you know, kind of forgot about the fact that winter is very ... lingering. (Or I blocked it from my memory in what surely was an act of self defense because dear LORD I would like a little warmth outside. Maybe some flowers. Leaves on the trees? Please?)

I know that spring will come.


Won't it?

Monday, March 7, 2011

M is for "Mr. Lipton, I Thought You'd NEVER Ask!" (with disclaimers)

But First! The Disclaimers!

Disclaimer 1 -- if you've never watched "Inside the Actor's Studio" the following post will make NO sense.

Disclaimer 2 -- the following post contains foul langage.

There. You were warned.

James Lipton: I am so pleased that you were willing to come on the show. Even though you're not really an actress, I have long admired your work. The fall in the puddle. The day your pants nearly fell off in the parking lot.  You are TRULY an inspiration.

Danielle: Well, James -- it's okay if I call you James, isn't it?

James Lipton: Frankly, I wish you would.

Danielle: James, here's the story -- I know I'm a tremendous goofball, and a bit of a dork. Oh and a klutz. But I try to just keep on with it.

James Lipton (a little in awe): SO INSPIRING.

Danielle (Blushes): Not really.

James Lipton: But yes, really. I mean, most people wouldn't be so upfront about their obsession with the David Tennant years on "Doctor Who".

Danielle: James, more people SHOULD be obsessed with those episodes. The one with the Ood? It's -- well, it's magical, really. (several people in the audience nod in agreement) Plus, you know ... Tennant is ...

James Lipton: Delicious?

Danielle: Yes, James. He is delicious.

James Lipton: Yet you also are obsessed with Jane Austen.

Danielle: Have you READ Pride and Prejudice, James?

James Lipton: No, I --

Danielle: Then I can't talk to you about it. You MUST read it.

James Lipton: Because you have suggested it, I will do so. Most humbly.

Danielle: Thank you.

James Lipton: Before I turn you over to our students, Danielle, I would like to ask you ten questions from the famous questionannaire developed by the great Bernard Pivot.

Danielle: Oh thank goodness. The point of this entire post was to get us to the questionnaire.

James Lipton: What is your favorite word?

Danielle: A word I enjoy that I use frequently is "festive". I've been called on the fact that I use it so much, but I really think life is kind of a party, you know? A festive occasion. However, that's not my favorite word.

James Lipton: What IS your favorite word.

Danielle (pauses): Possibility.

James Lipton: What is your least favorite word?

Danielle: Diet. (audience laughs)

James Lipton: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Danielle: This is kind of weird, but ... do you ever go outside in the morning, just after dawn when the world is enveloped in that kind of half-light and just ... listen to the world? That's the best. There's NOTHING better than that. You can just breathe in the quiet.

James Lipton: Astonishing.

Danielle: And about as poetic as I'm going to get here, James. (audience laughs again).

James Lipton: What turns you off?

Danielle: The Westboro Baptist Church and their ilk. I am intolerant of intolerance to the point of losing my ability to think clearly. Which is ... not okay, but I can't help it.

James Lipton: What is your favorite curse word?

Danielle: Great googlymoogly.

James Lipton: Really?

Danielle: No, it's "fuck."

James Lipton: What sound or noise do you love?

Danielle: My mother's voice. It just warms my heart.

James Lipton: Your mother must be remarkable.

Danielle: James, you have no idea.

James Lipton: What sound or noise do you hate?

Danielle: I hate shrieking of any kind. I don't even like the word "shriek"... but I hate the word diet more.

James Lipton: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Danielle: I'd like to work for the Red Cross, actually.

James Lipton: What profession would you NOT like to do?

Danielle: I'd prefer not to be a dentist. Or an orthodontist.

James Lipton: And finally, if heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

Danielle: Well, NOW the party's started.

(audience applause. Fade to commercial)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Grace In Small Things: Sunday, March 6th

1. A really good  (and long overdue) haircut.

2. Positive outcomes to stressful situations.

3. Old friends who understand where you're at without the need for explaination or embellishment.

4. Seeing persistence pay off.

5. Sunday afternoon naps.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday Photos

Caught myself daydreaming about going to the beach ...

I either need a tropical vacation, or winter needs to end! (or perhaps it's a blend of both?)

Friday, March 4, 2011

L is for Life, Unscripted

Sometimes blogging is easy. Some posts just come.

Sometimes, they don't. Those days, blogging is an act of will and makes me question my sanity. "Why did I say I'd blog every day?" I ask in despair. "WHY?!?" The computer screen seems to mock me and my worldlessness.

Some posts are good. Some I look back on and think, well, at least I posted. That's something, right? I mean, A for effort.

But everything's kind of like that, isn't it? Some days you cruise through with ease, as though you won the Life Lottery. Everything is perfect. You find the pants that make your ass look good. You get an extra long lunch. You get a letter from a friend. You have glorious plans for the evening and life, my friend, surely does not suck.

Other days you just get by and the amount of effort and grit that are required for the just getting by are epic and you sort of feel like you deserve some kind of kudos just for showing up.

Because that's life.

Because that's how it works. Not every day is rainbows and unicorns. Some are dog poop and thunderclouds. And that's okay. I think the problems come when we convince ourselves that every day should be special and accomplished and so we knock ourselves out every minute, trying to wring all of the magic out of it or to force it into a container of awesome for which it was ill suited.

I once found a friend of mine crying in her kitchen. "I've never taken my son to a museum. I'm a bad mother."

Her son was two.

The three of us had spent the afternoon playing racecars in the living room, where the predominant sound was one of his goofy giggle-y laugh.

I'm not an expert on parenting, but I think that he enjoyed that more than he would have a museum... and I thought she did too. But she had convinced herself that every moment had to have meaning, or she was a bad parent.

There's meaning in every moment, though, isn't there? The great ones and the horrible ones and the ordinary ones. There was something special in the day they would take him to DisneyWorld*, there was meaning in the day she would first have to ground him for something he did, and I would argue that there was something special in an afternoon of cars on the rug. They just don't make knicknacks and postcards and tshirts for the last two, but maybe they should because that's where real life happens. That's the cupcake and the frosting. Everything else is just -- sprinkles. While sprinkles are nice, sprinkles do not a cupcake make.

It all makes me think that I'm thinking of my struggles with the blogging the wrong way. Maybe the easily formed posts are the sprinkles. Maybe the ones I fight with -- the ones that I agonize over, rewrite, mentally crumple up, toss aside, and pick up off the floor to smooth back out -- those are the cupcake.** That's where the magic really happens.

In the fight. In the grit. In the just showing up.

*I'm not a big fan of the House of Mouse, but I get that for parents and kids it's a huge deal.

** Sorry if I seem obsessed with cupcakes... I'm dieting and right now I would sell a kidney for a delicious cupcake.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

K is for Kenneth Branagh (Or, How I Learned to Love Shakespeare)

When my mom was a teenager, Franco Zeffirelli's version of Romeo and Juliet came out in the theatres. My mom tells me she loved it and saw it many times.

And in the next breath she would announce "But I don't like Shakespeare."

To be honest, my first real encounter with Shakespeare didn't go so well. I was in ninth grade, and the official ninth grade Shakespeare play was that same Romeo and Juliet. Not only did I not get what was so great about it, I kind of wanted to smack some sense into both of them, though I did kind of like Mercutio and Tybalt, if only because they seemed a bit less whiny than the title characters. But overall, I was ready to move on to something else when we were done with R & J, because I didn't think "Great love story" as much as "an entire town that needs group therapy".

When I was in 10th grade, the official Shakespeare play was Julius Caesar. I was interested in Caesar because I was taking Latin. Otherwise -- and this is just me talking here -- I'm pretty sure that the best way to get 10th graders to love Shakespeare might not be a history play (though, to be fair, they do understand cliques and backstabbing with the best of them). Once again, I felt as though my mom was right -- Shakespeare was something to be endured but not enjoyed.

We did MacBeth in 11th grade, and I started to kind of get it. I enjoyed it more. I caught myself REALLY reading it rather than forcing myself to read it. I started to pay attention to the language. We went to see it at a theatre in the round and I thought, well, this is kind of good. Maybe there's something to all of this Shakespeare stuff. MAYBE. I wasn't fully sold, but I was ready to admit that there was a possibility that there was something to all of the hype. Shakespeare, I thought, you're going to have to do something pretty major in order to win this chick over.

In 12th grade, the fabulous and wonderful Patricia Hawkes sat us down one day and showed us Kenneth Branagh's film version of Much Ado About Nothing.

I can only describe what happened next like this: my dad doesn't like to fly, so all of our family vacations were road trips. He had a thing about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and would go out of his way to take it -- he enjoyed driving in it. I have a phobia about both bridges AND tunnels, so it was an exercise in torment for me except for the moment when we would approach the exit to one of the tunnels. First there would be a little light, and then more, and then it would look as though the world was just opening up in front of me, all light and sound and fresh ocean air. I LOVED that.

That's what watching Much Ado About Nothing was like. That moment of coming out of the darkness and into the light. (Yes, that's melodramatic. No, I don't care ... it's what it was like for this language geek.)

The movie is visually amazing. I wanted to run away to Italy and live there. Now. Immediately. But it wasn't just that -- it was that I FINALLY got what the big deal was about that Shakespeare guy because the play was so FUN. Bawdy. Naughty. Silly. Nudge nudge wink wink you know what I mean? It didn't take itself too seriously but it WAS serious. And, at the same time, not serious at all. (If you haven't seen the movie, PLEASE. You must. Do whatever you have to in order to get your hands on it. Do it now, because otherwise you're breaking my former English teacher's Shakespeare loving heart.)

To say I loved it would be to grossly understate the case.

To say that moment cemented life-long love affair with the written word would not even come close to accurate.

To say that I then became a little bit obsessed with Shakespeare from them on -- well, that's true. It became my mission to reread the plays I didn't like -- hello, Romeo and Juliet -- and see if I'd missed something. Oh, had I ever. It became my secondary mission to read ALL of the plays. And then, all of the sonnets. Because if Much Ado -- which I had never even HEARD of before Ms Hawkes brought in the movie -- was THIS delicious, who knew what other noshes of gloriousness were lurking in the Shakespeare library?  My literary appetite had been awakened, and it demanded food.

So I fed it.

Would I have gotten there without Kenneth Branagh and Ms Hawkes? I don't know. I honestly don't think so -- she was a masterful teacher, who looked at a roomful of students who looked at Shakespeare and thought, "Meh. Whatever" and knew which key to turn in locked, indifferent hearts.

I don't think I ever thanked her, but I owe her a huge debt for the hours of joy that brought me. Since then, I have seen Much Ado MANY, many times.

And I LOVE Shakespeare.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

J is for Jellyfish

Jellyfish - (song is Come Back When You Can by Barcelona) from Jon Rawlinson on Vimeo. (If the embedded video won't play, click on the title and it will take you to vimeo)

If you watch the above video -- and I think you should, it's lovely -- you should know that the jellyfish exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium, where this was shot, is nothing short of heart stoppingly beautiful in a way that the video doesn't quite capture. I could have stood there for hours.

I love jellyfish.

Jellyfish, as you may or may not know, lack brains. (Literally, as in if there were enough flesh on a jelly to dissect it -- and there mostly isn't -- you would not find a brain in it's -- er, well, it doesn't really have a head either.)

Does the fact that it is a brainless blob of oceanic goo bother the jellies?

Do they look bothered to you? (I know, they don't have faces. Stay with me here.)

The beauty of the jellyfish is this: they're free. They do what they do -- bob about in the currents, moving -- or not -- as it pleases them. If something wanders into the jelly's path, it tries to eat it or defend itself (which for a jelly is the same action, really) but it doesn't go out of its way. It just lives its jelly life. That is its purpose: be a good jellyfish. Don't get eaten. Avoid, if you can, washing up on shore. Eat enough to survive.

It's not complicated when you don't have a brain.

When I watch the jellyfish, I am always struck by how often I make the simple complex. Of course, I possess a brain (usually) but I don't always use it in ways that will enrich my experiences. I use it to mangle them. To worry: where am I going,  what am I doing here, what comes next? While I freely admit that my life isn't -- can't be -- as simple as that of a jellyfish (and I don't think that I would want it to be), I also freely admit that perhaps mirroring their purpose would serve me well.

Be a good person.

Don't get eaten up by the things that are not important.

Avoid, if you can, finding yourself stranded and alone.

Eat enough to survive.

And don't forget the beauty that exists in the most simple of things.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I is for Interstate Love Song

"You know that's a bad idea," he said.

"What's that?"

"Putting your feet up there." He pointed at my bare feet, propped up on the glove box. The polish on my toenails sparkled in the sun. The leather of the dash felt warm and toasty.

"Yeah," I said. I pushed my sunglasses up on the top of my head to keep my hair out of my eyes. "Why is that again?"

"Because if we're in an accident and the airbag goes off, you could lose your legs," he said.

"Right. Because your car's FANCY." My car was too old for passenger side airbags, which was why we never took it anywhere locally, and why we certainly wouldn't be taking it on a 6 hour road trip. Well, that and the fact that the air conditioning didn't really work. And the manual, crank 'em up windows. None of those were what you'd call fun on long summer drive. "Anyway, I think that since you're going ninety miles an hour, I'm going to have more problems than leglessness if we get in an accident. Also, perhaps safety isn't your highest priority."

He smiled. "Wiseass," he said affectionately. He took my hand, held it while he drove. "Anyway, I never want to see you get hurt. Because I loves you."

"Aw. Look at you, Mr Schmoopy."

"Also, I just cleaned that and now I'll be cleaning footprints off it."

"And the truth comes out," I said. It was too late now -- my feet had done their damage -- but I slid them down and sat with my legs crossed. He glanced over.


"No big," I said. It really wasn't. I took a big sip of my iced coffee. It was only eight in the morning, but it was already warm. "It's a great day to drive."

"I know, I feel like I could drive forever."

We were outside of Worcester when the signal on the radio station he preferred started to go. "May I?" I asked. Static drove me crazy.

"Have at it," he said, gesturing expansively at the console. "Please, no country music."

"Would I do that to you?"


"Okay, it was just that ONE time."

"Anything but that. Or there are cd's in the back."

I hit the button to scan through the channels ... techno, no ... something in spanish, no ... npr ... no ... Suddenly we picked up a station that had Garth Brooks coming through clearly. I paused and looked at him, speculatively.  He raised an eyebrow. "Just kidding!" I laughed and hit the button again.

And then there it was.

The opening riffs to the best road trip song ever.

"WOOO HOOOO!" I slid my sunglasses back down and shook my hair out. I turned off the air conditioning and rolled all of the windows down and then cranked the radio. He was already laughing. "I can't believe you do this EVERY time you hear this song."

I was already singing into the coffee as though it was a microphone, belting out the words along with Aerosmith. "Girl, before I met you, I was F I N E Fine!" I was also dancing as much as my seatbelt would allow as though I was a complete 80's rock star. He was laughing. When I got to the chorus, I held the coffee out to him. "You sing!"

"Tell me what it takes to let you go! Tell me how the pain's supposed to go!"

I leaned toward him and we both sang: "Tell me how it is that you can sleep! In the night! Without thinking you lost everything that was good in your life to the toss of the dice!!!!!!!"

"Dramatic finish!" I cried. He was madly drumming on the steering wheel. I was doing my best Tyler-esque scatting.

The song ended. I put my hair back up and put my sunglasses back up on my head, rolled up the windows, put the ac back on, and calmly resumed drinking my coffee as though nothing had happened.

He took my hand again, lifted it to his lips. "You are so completely weird."

"You love it."

"I really do."

I watched the road stretch before us through the windshield. Not a bad way to start a trip, I thought. Not bad at all.