Friday, April 29, 2011

Mama Bear

When my sister was little, we called her Jodie Bear. I'm not entirely certain why. She had a lot of Winnie the Pooh stuff, which was highly cute. Whenever I hear a Winnie the Pooh song, I have flashbacks to her childhood bedroom.

When I got older and loved Garfield comics, I started calling her Pookie, like Garfield's teddy bear. Now I just call her Pooks. I don't think she likes it, but I figure Pooks is actually not a terrible nickname. Especially when you consider that she has called me all of the following at one point or another:

Princess Yellie von Poopiepants (this was written on my Christmas gifts one year)

The worst part is that I will answer at any given time to ANY of these -- but only when uttered by my sister (which is a warning to you, out there -- if I see you in public and you call me Princess Yellie von Poopiepants? Yer askin' for it, buddy). True story: I went to visit her in college and we were sitting around with a bunch of her friends when she said, "Dink, pass me the chips."

I passed her the chips.

Her friend Johnny said, startled, "Did you just call her DINK?"

"Yes," Pooks said, "but you don't get to."

My sister and I don't always get along -- there have been epic arguments and battles -- but I can tell you this: I love her to pieces. I love that she has a big, open heart. I love that she takes zero shit from anyone. I love that she's funny and brave and willing to stand up forwhatever she believes is the right thing to do and I love that no matter where we go in life, we are tied together with the silken threads of shared history.

At some point in the next week, my sassypants Pooks is going to be a Mama Bear. A ferocious, gentle, awesome, rockstar Mama Bear.

I couldn't be more excited or proud of you, Pooks.

Just do me a favour, if you will.

Don't teach the baby to call me Auntie Pooperella. I'm begging.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Benefits of Being Broken

This Sunday will be May 1st. If my life is a journey (and of course it is -- every life is), then the landscape on the map has changed dramatically on that date. Twice.

On May 1st, 1997, I was 21. Legally, an adult. However, right up until then? Emotionally, mentally, not so much an adult. In college, working, doing my thing. Dipping a toe into the pool of grown-up-ness, but not really swimming in it. Fate apparently got tired of watching me dilly-dally there and decided to give me a hearty shove with the death of my grandfather. To say that it was unexpected would be a gross understatement. However, then as always, I had a choice: Swim or drown.

I chose to swim.  I will say this though: the world looked different to me after that, because I was different. I hadn't known before that I could wake up one day as one person, and go to bed a completely different one. One who was a little bit broken. Not a lot broken, but a little. A cracked teacup, carefully mended and turned to the side on the shelf so that the glued together seams don't show.

I knew the date was marked in my emotional calendar. So when I had to go to court on May 1st, 2007 -- 10 years later, to the day -- to finalize my divorce, I was a little bitter with fate.

Because -- well, to be honest, I thought, "DUDE. There are 364 other days in the freaking year. WHAT. THE. HELL."

 This time, I literally started the day one way -- as a wife -- and ended it in another -- as, well, not a wife. And a lot broken. Off the shelf, in little pieces on the floor, no longer recognizable as the vessel it once was. Not able to be put back together as it used to be.

The thing about being broken, though, is this: it forces reformation. Debris on the floor is something that must be dealt with. So do you sweep it aside and toss the whole lot? If you do, what are you left with? Do you take some of the pieces and form them into something new? If that's what you've chosen, what will it look like? Where will it go? What will you learn and what will you leave -- those are the questions you get to ask. That is the benefit to being broken, because a night -- or many nights -- spent slogging through the pain and the grief and fear -- well, all nights end in the same way, don't they?

They end in a new day.

So this year, on May 1st, I will raise a glass to the girl I was in 1997 and the woman I have allowed myself to be since 2007 -- I like who she is, I understand where she's been, and I have no fear about where she might go next.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Sadim Touch

You may be wondering where I was yesterday (and even if you weren't, I'm going to pretend that you were because it will make me feel a little better about my role in the universe).

I was in my office.

With THREE -- count them, 1,2,3 --computers. None of which would f*&^ing work. (Look, I self censored... because I think I used up a month's quota of cursing in a single day.) It was possibly the most epic technology fail I've ever had the displeasure to experience.

It was the exact opposite of the Midas touch. Instead of everything I put my hands on turning to gold, my magical fingers made everything I put them on turn directly into nonfunctioning pieces of shit. (okay, I MOSTLY self censored. Sue me.)

It's all fixed now. I think.

 I hope.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tales from an Accident Prone Life, Episode 3: Burn, Baby, Burn

Standard Curseword Disclaimer Applies. You've been warned.

In 2000, I lived alone for the first time. I had a quirky apartment that was essentially the entire second floor of a 200 year old farmhouse. By quirky, I mean: crazy wallpaper. An odd number of rooms that sort of tumbled into each other.

I loved that apartment, weird wallpaper, sagging ceilings, horsehair plaster, mice and all. It was cozy and comforting and MINE. (Also? It was really inexpensive due to the previously mentioned quirky-ness.)

One afternoon in early May, I came home from a walk and it started to rain. It was a warm, lovely Saturday and the sound of the rain on the roof was completely soothing and perfect. I cracked open the windows so I could both smell and hear it, and then I thought to myself, "You know what would be perfect right now? Curling up with a good book and a delicious cup of coffee, just enjoying the afternoon and the sound of the rain. That, my friend, would be wonderful."

So I grabbed my book of the moment and put it on the couch, and then went to the kitchen to get the coffee a-brewing.

A word about the kitchen.

I mentioned that I loved my apartment. I did NOT love the "kitchen". The kitchen had a huge eating area (my friend Mike called it "the ballroom" because, well, it looked like one), but a very tiny workspace. How tiny, you ask? It looked rather like someone had taken the doors off of a walk in closet or pantry and converted it, shelves and all, into a "Kitchen". The shelves were as close as I would get to cupboards and had no doors. There was a old, cast iron sink tucked into the back corner and a naked lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, which you could turn on by tugging on a long, yellowed string (and which would then swing and flicker in a horror movie fashion).

A tiny cookstove sat just outside the nook. It had an oven, but I had never used it due to the mouse situation. I kind of feared the oven. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I kind of feared the whole "kitchen" area and avoided it by eating at out -- or at my mom's --  a LOT.

At any rate, the coffee pot lived on the stovetop (because I didn't really use that either) -- I had covered the burners and it was just the right shape to sit on one of those. This was super handy, as there was an electrical outlet on the front of the stovetop. Why this should have been I had no idea, but it was there and I had no counters and I didn't cook so that's where Mr Coffee hung out. And that's where I measured the coffee, filled the coffeepot with water, plugged it in, and went back into the living room to get my book, listen to the rain, and anticipate coffee nirvana.

I was re-reading the section of To Kill A Mockingbird where Scout is asleep in her ham costume (which I LOVE ... "Poooooo-rk!" --Read it, people. You'll love it) when I realized that my coffee should have been done. In fact, I should have been able to hear it brewing over the sound of the rain, and I didn't hear ANYTHING. Also, instead of the delicious smell of the rain, I could smell ... something else. Something that was not rain OR coffee. Something kind of bitter and ... acrid.

I put my book down to investigate.

And that's when I discovered the inferno.

I remember what I thought next quite vividly, because it sounded like this:


(I told you there'd be cursing.)

I grabbed the fire extinguisher* off the wall and realized: I don't know how this thing works, but what the hell. I skimmed the directions and then went to town on the fire. I actually went a little overboard in my zeal to make sure that there were no flames of any kind to be found anywhere at all. The fire had been out for at least 5 minutes when I realized that in my panic, I was spraying things that had never been on fire with the fire extinguisher, just to be safe.

My house was now filled with smoke and dust. I had always thought that fire extinguishers worked by spraying something wet on the flames. It turned out that this was NOT the case -- at least, not with the one that I still gripped tightly in my trembling paws. THIS one worked with a fire supressing chemical that resembled the thickest layer of pollen you ever saw in your life. It swirled through the air as I approached the stove to find out what the hell had happened.

What had happened, it turned out, was that my coffeepot had MELTED.

HOW this had happened, however, was a mystery.

And now I had to ask myself, what to do?

I called the fire department. I explained that I did NOT have a fire -- at least, not anymore -- but that I had a melted lump of coffeepot and was afraid to touch it for fear of some sort of random electrocution. The nice man at the other end talked me through what to do -- turn off the breaker, remove the coffee pot, toss, turn the breaker back on. He kept offering to come over, but mostly I think it was because the whole thing amused him and he thought it would be a great story for the other firefighters. Or he was bored. Either way, I followed his instructions and thanked him politely.

And then gazed at the wreckage that had been my pretty afternoon.

Rain, check. Book, check. Melted chunk of coffeepot, slight scorch marks on the wall, everything I owned covered in three inches of yellow firesupressing dust? Check. Prayer of thanks that my landlord, who LIVED DOWNSTAIRS, was out of town? DOUBLE check.

Fear of kitchen area now at 1000% percent.  Check.

From now on, I thought sorrowfully, I am ONLY drinking tea.

*Public service announcement: if you have a kitchen, even a scary, frightening kitchen that your sister refers to as "the Shining" and that you avoid at all costs (perhaps ESPECIALLY then), then you NEED to have a fire extinguisher in your home, within easy reach. The fact that I did have one saved a good chunk of my stuff, and kept me from potentially getting very badly burned. Just as I know that seatbelts and airbags save lives -- they have saved mine -- I know that a fire extinguisher is your friend. So if you don't have one? Go get one. NOW. Today.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hey Baby, Hey

My nephew is due to be born in about two weeks.

Frankly, the idea of parenthood completely boggles my mind. I don't know what I'd do if I was about to have a baby. Well, that's not quite true. I'd eat Ben and Jerry's with impunity and wear sweatpants everywhere I went and threaten with bodily harm anyone who suggested that either of those were poor choices. Also, "Because I'm pregnant" would get tacked onto just about every sentence, in case anyone FORGOT that was the case... and all of those things makes me realize how lucky everyone is that I will never have children. But I digress; what I mean to say is that the responsibility of teaching a little person about the world and his place in it is HUGE.

And since I get to be the auntie, I realize that I share some of the responsibility of that.

So I've been trying to think of things that I really want to teach the little critter. Here's what I've come up with so far:

1. You won't always get everything you want. You won't enjoy this, but it's actually okay. Life would be pretty boring if you got everything you wanted. Sometimes, you get something other than what you thought you wanted, and it's more amazing than what you dreamed of. (You're going to have to take my word for this one, but trust me. I wouldn't lie to you.)

2. Never say you don't like something until you actually try it. (Because you might turn out to LOVE it... but if you didn't try it, you'd totally be missing out.)

3. Never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

4. Never be afraid to help someone else if they need it.

5. Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.

6. All of your life, the world will be telling you what you SHOULD want, what you SHOULD strive for, what you SHOULD have. Listen to what your heart tells you and work towards for what you do want, what you feel passionately about, what you need. You need to form and believe in your own standards.

7. It takes no time and very little effort to be polite and kind to everyone you meet, and it always worth it in the end.

8. You're going to encounter people you don't like in this life. You are not required to like everyone. Not everyone is required to like you. But we all need to get along, so you need to do your best. Remember: you are no better than anyone else.

9. The world is a big, big place. See as much of it as you can.

10. Auntie Yellie always has your back.

It's a work in progress. Hopefully, I'll have a little more added when he finally gets here!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Three Haiku for You

Much to my dismay
Pants fell off outside -- again.

Time to buy new pants
Alas! no time for such tasks
I'll wear skirts instead.

No, weird neighbor guy.
I know you were a witness
But a date? Uh, no.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An Open Letter to Britney Spears

Dear Britney,

Receiving a letter from a 35 year old woman probably surprises you a bit, since I don't exactly represent your fan base... although, after writing that, I'm not sure what your fan base IS, exactly. It used to be little girls and hoardes of middle aged men who didn't even know that you had a singing career, because I'm pretty sure that they watched your videos with the sound turned off, and now that I've said that I'm going to apologize because that mental image actually makes me want to poke out my mind's eye with a stick ...

Let me start over.

Ms Spears,  I have been observing your career for some time now, and I must say that I find you fascinating. Not so much your music, though quite a bit of it is very catchy (I've found that it's excellent to work out to, because it tends to work for me in a bouncy, dance-y "stay on this treadmill for another 20 minutes? No prob!" kind of a way -- so thanks for that), but more as a, shall I say, cultural phenomenon.

This is probably not the most flattering analogy ever, but I tend to think of you as a zoo animal, or a museum piece. Before you get offended (which, actually, it might be too late for -- I'd be pretty upset if someone just told me I reminded them of an animal in a zoo, unless it was a PRETTY one, like a tiger or a giraffe. You're like a tiger. Not an elephant), please let me explain: Your image was so carefully cultivated from day one that it was like no one ever really saw you. They saw what they were supposed to see. Hot, cheeky, innocent (but not really) Youth with a capital Y that was sexually (but not politically or intellectually) empowered. I kind of got a kick out of your people who claimed that they weren't in favour of sexualizing your image or portraying you as Lolita, because part of the package that IS Britney is the sassy "I know this is naughty, but isn't it FUN" expression on your face as you dance about in a school girl outfit. Or red vinyl. Or with a giant, scary snake.

The point is that I pretty much believe that you are kind of the definition of everything that is wrong with American culture as it treats little girls. You ARE the dream of the pageant mom as she teases her 3-year-old's hair and glues on her false eyelashes -- you're who she wants her baby to be. (By the way, are you super glad you have boys? I bet you are.) And like every pageant mom who claims "No, she LIKES it!" I think your "people" -- parents, manager, etc -- saw the potential for what you could become and sold it to themselves, the public, and you as "It's what she LOVES to do. She WANTS to perform."

Can I just say? I'm all for empowering the dreams of little girls, but come on. At some point most little girls want to be a variety of things. Policewomen. Astronauts. Occasionally, they want to be ponies. Most moms don't run with those (and can you imagine? Policewoman? Get her a gun! Astronaut? Get her a space suit! Pony? Build her a barn! Silly, right?) but an enterprising parent with dreams of her own and a good eye for beauty might be willing to whore out her little girl in a socially acceptable way for the right price. (I'm sorry if you object to that term, but you should REALLY rewatch some of your earlier videos or listen to your lyrics. I'm also sorry that it's socially acceptable to sell child sexuality for profit.)

Anyway. Back to my point. (I do hope you're still reading...) Here's what I think: you attained fame at the height of the mainstreaming of the sexualization of female children in America. Totally not your fault, as you were just in the right (or wrong, depending on your standpoint) place at the right time. I can prove it too. As you have gotten older, you've fallen out of favour -- and you did it when you started doing (admittedly, kind of weird) autonomous things. You shaved your head. You put on some weight. You were acting like a person who didn't quite know what to do with herself. You know what surprised me? That people were surprised that a girl who posed half naked and provocatively on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine as a teenager with her mother's blessing kind of had a meltdown.

You know what else surprised me? That people objected that when you started your comeback, you did it with a video where you were a stripper. By the way, I kind of loved that. I know the concept probably wasn't yours, but I liked the in-your-face, I-know-this-is-how-you-view-me-so-let's-all-be-honest-here aspect of it, as though you were saying, "Oh, THIS is how you like me. Fine then."

But of course, people had issues with it -- because, again, it was okay for you to be blatantly sexual (but coquettish) when you were a little girl, but as an adult woman, people found it offputting. Interesting, right? And, you know, disturbing. Because the arc of your career teaches us some really horrific things about girls and women in our culture. It teaches us that it's okay to sexualize children. It teaches us that it's okay if a pretty young girl is used as a pawn in the name of entertainment. It teaches us that, once a woman goes outside of the bounds that have been imposed upon her, it's okay to use her as fodder for ridicule. It teaches us that when someone is clearly melting down in public (as you seemed to be) and struggling, it's okay to treat her with scorn. At least, that is, until she gets half naked and provocative again in a way of which we can approve.

It teaches us that we have NOT come a long way, baby.

Anyway, I see that you've made another comeback. I've read positive reviews of the new cd. Good for you. I hope it all works out for you, in the long run. I really do. Even if in some ways, I feel like you're a representation of everything I hate about the entertainment industry and society as a whole, I also know that you've been a playing piece in a very sad and ugly game. So -- good luck to you, Ms Spears.



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You Can Hear It, If You Know How to Listen

Yesterday, I picked up my glasses and realized that they were dangerously close to falling apart. A screw had worked nearly all of the way out on the right side and it was on its way to becoming a situation. "That's no good," I thought, and I went to my toolbox and pulled out the set of tiny screwdrivers and set about fixing them; it was no easy task when you realize that I'm nearsighted and can't see to fix my glasses without wearing my glasses, which is clearly not possible, but the fact that I had the right tools made it a bit less difficult.

I can hear what you're thinking: You, the current president of the Clumsy Girl Society, have a TOOLBOX? And it has TOOLS in it?

Well, yes. And ... yes.

My father gave it to me.

I've written about my mother, but not as much about my father. Partially because I don't think he'd enjoy it, and partially because I don't ever know exactly what to say. My father really wanted a son and instead found himself with two daughters. He wanted athletic children and got one with asthma and one who was much more interested in dance than she was sports. Despite this, my sister and I both played little league and he coached, because coaching was what dads do. I think he enjoyed coaching. I didn't enjoy playing. When I got old enough to choose something else, I went with music and drama. My sister also did her own thing.

My father is also outdoorsy. He likes to hunt and fish. I liked to fish, but my dad didn't like to take me because in addition to liking to fish, I have a habit of falling down. Or in the water. Or out of a canoe. Not only does this scare fish, but it has a tendency to lead to potential drowning. My dad really wanted to fish for actual fish rather than fishing his silly daughter out of the drink. He didn't think it was fun to go for a walk in the woods when there was a good chance I was going to come out needing crutches. So we didn't go. I learned to stop asking if I could tag along.

When I was a teenager and in my early 20s, my relationship with my father became more strained. We are both strong willed, and our wills often pull us in opposite directions. Neither of us likes to give way. When I was younger, I often said that we didn't get along because my dad is a difficult man. This may be true, but as I look at it now, I am able to see that I am a difficult woman. I also see this: all he ever has wanted was the best for me. All he has ever dreamed of for both my sister and I is that we live in safety and happiness.

So he wasn't good with the words, I think now. So he still does things that drive me completely crazy and his temper is unpredictable and he's ridiculously stubborn. Have I looked in a mirror lately? Isn't it about time that I recognize that I do things that drive him completely crazy and am sometimes a little erratic and "ridiculously stubborn" is an understatement when it comes to me?

He's not good with words, my dad. I think that perhaps this is a result of living in a house with three women who almost seem to share a secret language. My mother and I frequently finish each other's sentences. My sister can say two words to me and it will trigger an entire private joke that only she and I would understand. The three of us talk a lot. Perhaps he never felt like there was anything to say. Perhaps he never had the chance to get a word in edgewise.

It's not a perfect relationship. But it's one that has progressed. And if I don't hear my father say very often that he loves me, I know that he does.

I know because he shows me through doing, rather than saying.  That's who he is. When I was a kid, every time he paid the bills and bought me shoes -- which he did ponderously, thoughtfully, wanting to make sure my feet were protected and supported in something sturdy (even though I still never looked where I was going) -- he was saying that he loved me. The time he sat with me when I was having a terrible asthma attack and talked me through it. When I was getting divorced and he came and helped me move out of my house. All of those things were how he told me, even when he didn't say the words.

And when he made me a tool box and carefully filled it with tools that he thought I might need. A hammer. Wrenches and pliers and tape measures and stud finders and, yes, a set of tiny tiny screwdrivers that I can use for things like -- well, like repairing a set of eyeglasses.

They were all ways to say "I love you".

I have finally learned to listen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Welcome To Monday

5:00 AM: Alarm goes off.

5:00 and 13 seconds AM : Snooze. Muffled cursing.

5:05 AM: Cat begins licking face and frantically purring, as if to say: Treats? Please? MOMMA I LOVE YOU PLEASE GET UP AND GET ME COOKIES! NOW!

5:06 AM: Try to tell cat to get lost. Actual words uttered: "Mmrrpphgump" Cat mistakes swatting motion for patting. Purring and face-licking becomes more enthusiastic.

5:07 AM: Notice that the cat doesn't have the most delightful breath. Consider rolling over. Dismiss it as much too much effort. Briefly acknowledge the pointlessness of the snooze button, sleeping is not occuring.

5:07 and 45 seconds AM: Fall asleep.

5:09 AM: Alarm goes off again. Cat jumps onto nightstand, meows expectantly, and knocks alarm to the floor. Cat makes alarmed noise and runs from the scene in fright.

5:10 AM: Get out of bed. Walk to kitchen. Give cat treats and refill water bowl. Look blankly at the coffee pot in an effort to try to remember how to make coffee. Give up. Get Diet Coke out of the fridge. Drink 1/2 can while brain struggles to engage.

5:12 AM: Make bed. Give self mental high five for setting out clothing the night before. Gather clothing and take it to bathroom.

5:13 AM: Shower. Realize you are mostly just standing there, half asleep. Decide that it's the effort that counts. Nearly step on cat, who thinks she should ALSO take a shower. For several moments, this doesn't seem weird.

5:14 AM: Realize that your cat is very odd. Try to say to cat: "Get out of the shower, you whack job." Actual words uttered:  "Mmrrpphgump"

5:25 AM: Get out of shower. Get dressed. Look at hair in mirror. Acknowledge futility of attempting to style. Put hair in messy bun. Take a moment to be thankful that you work from home.

5:30 AM: Drink remainder of Diet Coke. Decide that now have enough caffiene in system for coffee pot to make sense. Measure coffee. Turn coffee pot on.

5:32 AM: Remember to add water to coffee pot. Start coffee again.

5:33 AM: Open fridge door. Stare at food. Oranges: require peeling. Too much work. Bagels: Require slicing and toasting. Both potentially dangerous. Eggs: Just ... no. Cereal: Is not in the fridge, but then, neither is the milk that would be required to eat cereal. Try to say out loud "I need to buy milk". Actual words uttered: "Mmrrpphgump."

5:35 AM: Have moment of gratitude that live alone and don't have to try to actually communicate with anyone other than the cat, since have become essentially nonverbal.

5:36 AM: Microwave premade breakfast sandwich. Pour coffee. Shoo cat, who is still all wet, out of kitchen sink. Cat jumps on floor and proceeds to chase tail.

5:46 AM: Realize that sandwich has been done for 9 minutes. Eat at counter, while drinking coffee and watching cat continue to chase tail.

5:56 AM: Cat finally catches tail. Takes hearty bite. Squawks in fear and runs to hide behind sofa, all the while looking for the vicious creature that bit her tail.

5:57 AM: Boot up computer. Cat runs into room and curls up on table beside desk. Meows approvingly.

5:58 AM: Log into work site.

6:00 AM: Welcome to Monday.

Friday, April 15, 2011

When You Only Have Yourself To Blame

I was talking with a friend about a former coworker. "I saw him while I was out last summer," she said, "but I totally pretended I didn't see him, because he used to be so awful to me."

"I understand," I said. "I ran into him at a party and the whole time he was talking, all I could hear was his voice in my head, screaming at me from his desk: 'DANIELLE! I CAN SEE YOU! PICK UP YOUR FUCKING PHONE!' and it made me not want to be there at all."

"It felt kind of rude," she admitted, "but I just couldn't do it."

I don't think it was rude.

I have come to the conclusion that you teach people how to treat you.

This works in a couple of ways. For example -- say you have a "friend" (and I'm putting this in quotation marks because someone who would treat you this way really ISN'T your friend) who thinks that it's great fun to put you down EVERY time you see her. It's always something with this one. She doesn't like your sweater. She thinks your new shoes are ugly. She thinks your hair looks stupid. The only way for her to feel good about herself is to cut you down.

And you wonder -- why does she always target ME?

To which I would say: Honey, it's because you LET her. You've taught her that it's totally fine for her to act like this because you put up with it. You have taught her that her behaviour is completely acceptable.

In a broader sense, think about it like this: everyone knows at least one person who tells very objectionable jokes. He thinks it's funny to tell racist, sexist, homophobic, appalling stories in whatever company he's in. Every time, you probably think: "Why does he do that? How can he think it's okay?" but you probably also don't say anything, right?

Look in the mirror and wonder no more. You (and everyone else around this guy) have taught him that it's okay with you and that his horrific behaviour is completely acceptable every time you didn't call him on it.

I'm not saying that you should be the behaviour police. I AM saying that you teach people how to treat you and how to act around you. It was a hard won lesson for me, which came at the cost of more than one romance and some broken-beyond-repair friendships until I finally realized -- if I don't want to be treated like a doormat, perhaps letting people wipe their feet on me sends a bad signal.


The other way in which this works -- the one where I don't think my friend was at all rude to avoid our former associate -- is this: your actions directly impact the way the people around you think of you. It's not just about standing up for yourself when you're being mistreated, or when you see or hear someone acting in a way that you find objectionable. It's also about using your own behaviour in a way that will allow people to react to you positively. If you're kind, if you're thoughtful, if you're considerate -- people respond well to that. If you're demanding, rude, boorish, and agressive to the point where people actively fear you -- which is the case with our former co-worker -- then it should come as no surprise when someone is uncomfortable in your presence.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tales from an Accident Prone Life, Episode 2: Stairs. So Vicious.

I was recently stunned to find myself speaking with someone who uttered the phrase, "I've never actually fallen down the stairs."

I mean, I suppose that I knew that such people existed, but I didn't think I would ever MEET any of them.

I am an old pro at falling down stairs (and, on occasion, up them). If falling down stairs was an Olympic sport? I would have gold medals. Many, many of them. Schoolchildren across the land would know my name. There would be books written about me. I'm sure I would have been on both Oprah AND Larry King. And possibly the Today Show, where Matt Lauer would have realized that he just couldn't live without my sparkling wit and frequenltly bruised shins.

But alas, falling down stairs is NOT an Olympic event.

It's just something I do. A lot.

You may be asking yourself, "How many times could one person actually take a header down a flight of stairs?" I don't actually know the answer to that question. I used to keep track, but after reaching about, oh I don't know, 25 times, it was just embarassing and nonsensical to keep counting.

It also occured to me that perhaps keeping track of my mishaps was part of the problem. Maybe, I thought, I should stop focusing on the part where I launched through the air and landed in a heap on the ground. Maybe instead I should give myself little pep talks. Something like "Look! Halfway down and we're still on our feet! This is amazing!"

Except that even with the MINDFUL walking, my affirmations often sounded more like this: "Look! Halfway down and we're still --- aaarrrghhh YAAAAAAAAARP OOOOOOOF" thud.

It's a problem.

It's a problem because I can't AVOID stairs. I live on the second floor of a elevator-less building. There are stairs in my mom's house. There are stairs in many of my favorite places. (Museums. Aquariums. Shopping places that I enjoy. Amusement parks.) Sometimes, the stairs ARE my favorite place. (Hello, Musical Stairs at the Boston Museum of Science! You're STAIRS! But I heart you! At least if I fall down YOU, it will sound cool!)

It's also a problem because -- well, because I have an overactive imagination and I've decided that the stairs are out to get me. It's not that I'm clumsy, graceless, and inattentive. OH NO. It's a stair conspiracy. And, unlike clowns, which are RIDICULOUSLY frightening and possibly more lethal than zombies (don't let the makeup fool you, kids), you can't tell someone that you're afraid of stairs because it sounds stupid. Stairs look innocent. They're not actively trying to eat your brains (like zombies) or juggle their way into your good graces so that they can kill you, skin you, and bury you in their backyards (like clowns). They're just hanging out in an architectural way. Looking like an efficient means of travel between floors. "Oh, you need me to go downstairs and get that book for you? No problem. I'll take the stairs."

And the next thing you know ...

Bam. You're on the floor and the stairs have viciously struck again.

That could TOTALLY be it.

Or, you know, I could just pay more attention to what I'm doing. There's that.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Strongly Worded Letters

Sometimes, I wish that there was a way to write a strongly worded letter to every person who deserves one.

Like this:

Dear Guy In My Apartment Complex With the Motorcycle:

I love a motorcycle. I really really do. I've been known to ride on the back of a bike with great joy. So I'm very excited for you that the weather is turning and you can ride yours.

I'm less excited that, in your exuberance, you like to rev your engine two or three times out of sheer joy when you come home. At 11:30 PM. Parked under my bedroom windows.

Don't make me come out there.

Formerly Asleep and Now Wide Awake

Or this:

Dear Fellow Air Traveller:

There is a reason that right now, you are freaking out at the flight attendant and I am not. Would you like to know what it is? I would be MORE than happy to tell you.


So when they said ONE personal item that fits under the seat? That's what I've got.

When they said ONE specifically sized carry on? I realized that MY carry on was too big. I also know that JetBlue will allow me to CHECK an item. For free. So I checked it.

So while you are struggling with your THREE -- yes, three -- bags, NONE of which fit under the seat, and fighting with the  flight attendant as though somehow your inability to comprehend the reality of air travel is HIS fault, I am very valiantly fighting my own personal battle to grab one of your bags, march to the skywalk, and chuck it out of the airplane, because from where I'm sitting? You're holding us ALL up. And that is not acceptable.

The Woman Sitting Next To You Who is Really Trying Not To Tell You Off, But Slowly Losing Her Ability To Filter Her Thoughts

Or, perhaps this:

Dear Boston Red Sox:

What. The. Hell?

Mike Lowell is RETIRED and He Plays Better Than Y'all

Saturday, April 9, 2011


I said I would blog the whole time I was on vacation. Apparently, that was an inadvertent lie because I didn't blog yesterday.  Not even a little. Which I totally could have, but I was having fun with my mother, and I thought saying "Hey, Mum, would you mind holding that thought while I go on the interwebs to tell all the people how much fun I'm having with you?" would be mighty rude.

And my momma didn't raise me to be rude.

I would like to take a moment to say this: I am very, very, blessed to have the relationship I have with my mother, and I know it.

My mom has been my staunchest ally and my perpetual partner in mischief. I love it when I convince her to do something silly or goofy and she tries to make a stern face and pulls a fake frown, shaking her head while the corners of her mouth turn up in supressed mirth. I love it when we're driving anywhere further than two hours and, about forty minutes in, she says "Barry Manilow sing along!" and we bust out the Ultimate Hits and bellow out "Mandy" at seventy miles per hour. I love it when she has to do something she doesn't particularly want to do but says "Whee!" at the end as though that might make it fun. (As in: "I get to clean up a hairball now! Whee!")

I love it that she thinks I'm amazing, even when I'm not (sometimes, especially when I'm not) and thinks that everyone else should think so too, even (and again, especially) when they don't.

I love it that she thinks a cup of tea will fix any problem (she might be right) and that she can recite Pretty Woman from memory ("You shouldn't neglect your gums!") and that she fights with me sometimes, but fights FOR me all of the time.

My mother is a total rock star, and every day that I don't see her, I miss her. I chose to move back to New Hampshire knowing that, on some levels? It was going to be horrible, because it meant that I would see her very infrequently. Some days, I feel like moving was a selfish choice, because it was all about me.

(For the record, she doesn't think that. But there are days when I think it.)

I'm fortunate to have her, and to be able to spend this time with her, and I'll probably cry when I have to go home because I'll have to go back to missing her.

But I'm here now.

And that makes me lucky.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Tomorrow? I am going to North Carolina.

Which is so fabulous I can't even tell you. (Just because I didn't want to live there doesn't mean that VISITING isn't excellent.)

Unfortunately, I will have to get up at about 3:15 AM to get to the airport and get my flight. (But then: warm weather! Quality time with the fam! Yay!) I'm sure I will have some amusing travel stories, because ... well, I have a tendency to attract some of the, er, more lively types on planes and public transportation.

I WILL be blogging during my vacation; however, it could possibly be at odd hours. So I'd like to point out that if you subscribe to my blog, you would never have to worry about the strange times at which I post! (If you don't subscribe to it, you should sign on as a follower ... I'm just saying ... it's nice for me to know who's reading over here!).

It's time for a vacation, y'all!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tales from an Accident Prone Life, Episode I: Don't Step on a Tack

I have always been an accident magnet. I fell down the basement stairs at my childhood home so many times that for a while, I was banned from going down there. (In fact, to this day, if my father sees me on stairs, he bellows out "RAILING!" so as to remind me that the bannister is there for a purpose, and that purpose is SAFETY.)

My accident-prone-ness is a running joke in my family; at one point, my ex-husband told my father that he wanted to teach me to ski.

My dad looked at him steadily and finally said, "You know that she struggles with WALKING, right?"

It's true. If there is a bump on the ground to trip over, I will find it. If there is a single splinter on an entire deck, my hand will run over it. If there is ONE deranged driver on the road, I will make a beeline for him. I'm continually covered with bruises that I can't assign to a specific incident -- but that's primarily because there are so many incidents of crashing into things that, well, how would I choose just one?


Even given my spectacular history of accidents and gracelessness, there are a few that really stand out.

Episode One: The Thumbtack Incident

Shilo and I met when we were in preschool and instantly discovered that we had several things in common. We both were very fond of the colour orange. We both enjoyed giggling. We both REALLY liked to talk.

Needless to say, we were frequently separated. However, for some reason, as we went to kindergarten and then elementary school, we kept ending up in the same classes. I believe it was Mrs Lovejoy, our third grade teacher, who finally decided we were NOT allowed to sit together. EVER. PERIOD. "You two don't exactly misbehave, " she said, "But you're very silly."

And perhaps we were. But by the age of 9, we'd already been friends for five years -- over half of our lives -- and, well, there was just so much to talk and laugh about! And frankly, all of those things were MUCH more interesting than long division!

We were permanently separated.

It was very sad.

So Shilo's mom invited me over for an afternoon to play and have dinner.

To be honest, given my ability to injure myself with regularity, I'm continually surprised that ANY parents allowed me at their houses, EVER. I was the kid who managed to find the ONLY exposed nail in our entire nursery school and kneel on it (the memory of which still makes me feel incredibly queasy and as though I should have a tetanus shot). I was the kid who was always getting hit by the ball in gym. I was an impending disaster with really big feet.

Shilo's mom invited me anyway, bless her.

My mom said I could go.

So off I went.

We were having a grand time, giggling and playing and being goofy little girls when suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in one of my feet. My brain immediately went into research mode: let's see, what was this? Could we relate it to pains we had previously experienced?

Did I bump into something? No.

Did I cut myself? It didn't feel like a cut.

Did I step on something? No, there was nothing on the floor that I could see that I could have stepped on.

I tried another step. NOPE, it was definitely still painful.

I sat on the floor and looked at my foot. And there it was: a Thumbtack.

Well, this is new, I thought.

I'd like to say that I didn't cry. However, I probably did (I'm sure Shilo remembers this better than I do, but I know that my reaction to most injuries was still, at that time, crying. As I have gotten older, if I cry, it's more tears of resignation and weariness, as if to say STILL? Still with the accidents?).

I do remember that Shilo's mom came to see what the deal was and, at that point, I think she realized -- inviting the accident magnet was a bad idea.  Here's how I know: while the rest of the afternoon was a bit of a blur, she had made a carrot cake for dessert. As usual, Shilo and I were talking and giggling all through dinner. When we got to the carrot cake, her mom seemed worried.

"You girls need to be careful," she said, "and not be talking and laughing while you're eating this. It would be very easy to choke on it." She looked at me, seemed to have an internal debate, and then decided to send Shilo to eat her cake in another room.

Separated again.

But at least we had an accident-free dessert.

Note: I would like to report, happily, that I still see Shilo with some regularity. And that while we still laugh and talk as much as ever, it's been a while since there was a mandatory separation.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What is Past, Or Passing, Or To Come*

This time of year makes me antsy.

I think that perhaps everyone (at least, everyone who lives in a place where the winter tends to linger on like a horrid houseguest) gets a bit stir crazy in the early spring, when the world is caught between cold and warm, and you want to go outside and run around and be a little nutty but the ground is still pretty much frozen and there's a good chance that it might actually snow at least one more time. It's only natural to want to raise your face to the sky and feel the warm sun on your skin.

I want that too -- the gamboling about in the warmer air -- but that's not what I mean by antsy. I should have said that this time of year makes me anxious. April into May has not, traditionally, been a very good time for me. Yeats wrote that "things fall apart/ The center cannot hold" and for me, when things finally come as unglued as they can, as finally as they can, this is when they have done it.

Some days -- most days, many days -- I am fine. Other days I feel like McGyver, trying to build a framework of emotional stability out of  a book of matches, a piece of gum, and a bicycle spoke before everything falls completely apart.

And so I feel anxious -- and yet, at the same time, this year I actually feel very healthy, which paradoxically might be making me more anxious, as though I have new legs and I've learned to stand and walk on them, but I'm treading on an unfamiliar surface and so, not wanting to fall, I take every step with exceptional caution; it's an exhausting way to walk, pondering every potential step and constantly checking for hidden dangers. (Which is, in and of itself, an exercise in folly because being hidden means that you WON'T be able to see them, doesn't it?)

I keep reminding myself that, if I should fall down, I have a choice. I can stay down, in the dirt and the grit, or I can get back up. I can try to do it on my own, or I can also ask for some help. I have plenty of people who will offer me a strong, warm hand. (And I also know that I LIKE being upright -- the view is much better from here.)

Still. Antsy.

Perhaps a much needed vacation will help.

*From "Sailing to Byzantium" by WB Yeats. One of my personal favorites. :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bananas (or Adulthood, Fail)

It was the bananas that sent me over the edge.

I'd spent the day with a good friend -- one I dearly love and have been pals with forever -- and feeling just the teensiest bit, well, envious of her life. Like all lives, it has moments of complete "AAAGHHHH STREESSSSS" -- show me one that doesn't -- but overall? This woman has it together. Let's look at the stats.

*Married for 12 years. (I've been divorced for 4 -- hey, a milestone is a milestone, people! Don't judge me while I'm judging myself!)

* Two fabulous children. (I have a deranged cat)

* Lovely, meticulously kept home. (I've lived in four different places in the last five years.)

*She's a stay at home mom with an emerging craft business. (I've changed careers three times and, um, write a blog where I talk about instances of falling down in public.)

I don't know what I would have to be envious of, right? We're EXACTLY alike. Practically twins.

I'm not usually a jealous sort, but now and then it creeps up on me that perhaps I haven't launched into the most successful attempt at adulthood ever. But what of it, I said to myself as I searched the shelves with my friend, looking for a child's bookshelf. I'm happy with where I'm at, even though it isn't quite where I expected to be. It's all good.

And it was.

Until I got home and noticed the bananas.

I don't usually buy bananas because I like them in very small doses (say, half a banana at a time). But in January, in yet another ill-fated attempt at Responsible Adulthood, I went to the doctor. The doctor said my potassium was low and that I should eat more bananas and potatoes. I went with the potatoes because -- well, potatoes are delicious and, frankly, keep for a lot longer than bananas.

Of late, however, there are few to no potatoes in my life for weight loss reasons. So, bananas. The store had a large selection of lovely, firm, yellow bananas. I was judicious in my selection of a bunch, knowing that five bananas was simply too many for one single me. One especially good looking bunch had three bananas on it. I looked at it. I'm pretty sure it winked at me and said, "Hey, pretty lady. Come here often? Wanna take us home?" (Okay, bananas don't have the best pick up lines. But whatever.)

Three bananas it was.

I put them on my kitchen counter where I would have to look at them every day so that, in my Responsible Adult fashion, I would eat them.

I ate one of them.

The other two -- formerly triplets, now just twins -- sat on the counter and waited.

I'll eat them later, I thought every time I looked at them.

Until yesterday, when I got home. There they were, hanging out on the counter. They were no longer the wholesome duo that caught my eye in the produce bin -- they were now two badasses that had clearly been around the block a few times and were up to no good. They were leering at me.

"Hey lady, did you forget about us?"

"DAMMIT!" I said out loud. "I SUCK at being a grown-up!"

I like to think that I am not overly dramatic.

I realize that I am wrong.

Because this is what went through my head next: What is wrong with me? How can I be such a fail at adulthood? Responsible people buy food and then EAT it! They don't leave it on the counter to ROT! And hello, don't kid yourself, those bananas are totally rotting on your counter because you didn't eat them. I. Am. Such. An. Idiot. This is why I'm single, I think. No, it totally is. Because I'm such a spaz that one minute I'm all "ooooh, bananas" and the next I'm all distracted by some other breakfast-y delicousness and all "whatever, bananas" and now look at this. Total waste. I bet my friend isn't so irresponsible that she lets bananas rot on her counter -- "

And then I started to laugh. Out loud. At myself.

Because I AM an idiot, but it isn't because I have two brown bananas on my kitchen counter.

I'm an idiot because, even though I know how silly it is, I still trying to live my life by the rules of "supposed to" and "should have" and then being surprised when I come up short. Of COURSE I come up short. We all come up short -- because no matter how well we're doing, we could be doing better, couldn't we? If we live by the rules of "supposed to" there's always another expectation to meet -- a better job, more money, bigger house, happier relationship, what have you.

But "supposed to" doesn't take circumstance into consideration. Your job -- and what you want out of your job -- can change. Money, while nice to have, won't feed your soul. If I know that I'm not cut out to be a homeowner (and oh, I am not) that doesn't lessen the joy I find in my (perfect for me, rented) space. Relationships come and they go until you find the partner who is meant to stay -- the failed ones are stepping stones on the way to the right one.

And two partially rotten bananas on the counter are JUST bananas that I didn't eat and not signposts of failure.

Or at least they were.

At the end of my tizzy, when I was done laughing at myself and getting a grip, I considered them in their sweet, soft, ripe banana-y goodness... and made banana bread.

That, my friends, is winning.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Grace In Small Things: Sunday, April 3

1. Being able to post on Sunday!

2. Huevos Rancheros at the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth, NH

3. Finding the perfect birthday gift for my favorite soon-to-be three year old.

4. Spending the day with an old friend (but how old? Shush ... we don't talk about that!)

5. Sunny, warm April days.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday Photos

Totally random photo, I know (aren't they all?) -- but I will be so happy when I am looking at grass and flowers instead of snow!

Friday, April 1, 2011

99 Bottles of (ginger) Ale on the Wall ...

For those of you who have never actually seen me in person (and there are a couple of you out there), I should start this post by saying this: I'm an Irish girl.

Some Irish girls are built like the dancers you might see in "Riverdance". They're lanky and graceful and sylphlike.

And some of us are stocky and sturdy and well suited for farming potatoes and peat.

Guess which cateory I belong in. (Hint: it's not the first one.)

So while it's lovely to have the sort of frame that is well built for storing fat and surviving a potato famine, in a non-potato-famine surviving mode, it's a little bit ... I don't want to use the word "annoying", but ... it can be frustrating, because I find myself looking in the mirror and having these sorts of conversations play out in my head:

Me: Aren't my calves supposed to have some definition?

Calves (mortified) We're defined! We're CLEARLY calves! We serve the function of calves -- walking, standing -- just fine.

Me: But I think you are supposed to be slimmer.

Calves: I don't know why you're picking on us. Have you taken a good look at Thighs lately?

Thighs (Gasps): WHY ARE YOU THROWING US UNDER THE BUS? Stupid Calves!

Calves: ...

Me: Okay, maybe we could all -- overall, you know, all together -- maybe we could all stand to be a little ... smaller.

Arms: Us too?

Me (gently) Yes.

DNA: You know you're not really ever going to be "small" right? Potato farming? Fields? Sturdy-ness?

Me, Arms, Thighs, Calves: SHUT UP, Stupid DNA!

So I decided to go on a diet. Not a little diet, either. An expensive, fancy, food delivery diet. The kind I always said I'd never ever go on EVER... but I'm getting older and, you know, I'd like to have calves that are defined (and a little bit more separate from my ankles, because I'm vain like that).

And the diet is working, as I may have mentioned in the past.

There's just one thing.

You can't drink alcohol while on the diet.

Now, I'm not a tremendous drinker or anything, but did I mention? Nice Irish girl. Which means that in addition to the "Peasant Farmer Physique" that is encoded in my genetic material, I also ... on occasion ... now and again ... enjoy a beer. Or a glass of wine. Or maybe two.

Also, hello, dieting is STRESSFUL. You know what makes me less stressed out? An evening with my good friend Pinot Noir, that's what.

So I was like, well, maybe I can cheat and sneak in a drinkie poo here and there. No worries.

Which I did. Except that the other day, when I was like "WINE NIGHT! WOO!" I was pretty sure that I could hear my Calves saying with disappointment: "Seriously, she wants us to be more defined and THIS is how she respects her diet? Whatever. I'm going to slump RIGHT INTO those ankles. And then she'll have to talk to the Cankles. So there. Define THIS."

I was guilt laden. I don't enjoy guilt. I certainly don't enjoy being laden with it. So I was like, Okay, okkkaaaaay, I won't enjoy anymore drinkie poos while I'm on the Diet (which should really be capitalized, I guess, because it's SERIOUS. It's a Diet). Sheeesh. Drama over.

But then I had a very stressful week and found myself standing in the wine aisle at WalMart of all places, dreaming of a big old glass of Merlot and nearly whimpering.

Calves and Thighs: INTERVENTION!

And they marched me over to the soft drinks.

Which is how I came home with two cases of Diet Ginger Ale. Because it's ALE, right? And if you pour it in a wine glass, it's the same colour as pinot grigio. And if you've anthropomorphized your overweight body parts, you can obviously convince yourself that a diet ginger ale is nearly as wonderful as a cold beer on a crazy busy stressful day.

Right? (Takes giant slug of cold, delicious diet ginger ale.)

Well ... maybe.