Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Goodbye, Yellie-Brick Road

I wrote a bunch of posts for the end of the year that went into minute detail and described all that went wrong in 2013 and why I was glad -- soooo very glad -- to put it away.

And then I reconsidered. Not because I'm interested in protecting the not-so-innocent, but because in the end, stories about where things went wrong serve no one. Well, maybe that's not true. Sometimes they can be guideposts (and it's nice when that happens) but more often? They're like rolling around in the carcass of your mistakes until you are covered in the stink and rot of them. That's an ugly image that suits an ugly practice, and I refuse to go there, even if it would be momentarily satisfying, because if the ultimate purpose is to learn and grow? Then maybe I should, you know, do that learning and growing thing, and put the stories that amount to the online version of another somebody done somebody wrong song aside and tell the good ones, the positive ones. 

I should tell the story of Vanessa, who took me in when I had no place else to go and treated me like family. No, that's not true; she made me family. I had nowhere to live and she just ... Made me a key. Y'all. If I live to be 112, I will not be able to repay that kindness.

I should tell the story of Shilo, who let me weep in her living room in grief and mortification and thought while I was still trying to get it together, I can do something about this -- and started an online campaign to do just that. I could tell the story of the people who pitched in to fix some of what had gone so very sideways. 

I could tell you about Neha, who stepped in and made sure that I remembered that biology is not the only thing that makes family... And that family, biological or not, will show its teeth when one of their relatives is threatened.

I could tell you about Matt, who dropped everything more than once, because I needed help (and who grills a mean steak when it becomes very clear that you need a meal, and who makes a mean drink when it becomes very clear that you need some whiskey, and who just might give the world's best hug).
 
I could tell you about the staff at Central Park Vet, who was unbelievably kind to me when I lost my beloved Bean. I could never tell you about the last moments with my girl, because apparently I have boundaries (I know, I'm surprised too) and it still hurts far too much. But everyone there was the definition of grace; I appreciated it then and I still appreciate it now.

I could tell you about Flinkie who, as usual, was awesome. I could tell you that she arranged for us to have a date with Bon Jovi... And that, when it turned out that I wouldn't be able to go because I needed to move? Didn't bat an eye and just helped me out. Someday, Flinkie, we WILL rock out with Bon Jovi! I swear!

I could tell you about my mom and dad, who keep assuring me that I'm awesome despite the fact that I continue to fuck up on a fairly regular basis. 

And about Dan, who makes sure there's a light in the dark; about Jessica and Linda, who provide cocoa and giggles and doggie photos; about Dot, who makes me laugh; about Jamison, who's "hi, Auntie" makes my day; about Amber, my fake twin who I couldn't do without; about Liz, Kelly, and Wendy, who don't all know each other but who each made sure that I know I would have a place with them if I needed it; about the people I've never actually met but who have been super cool (among them Rob and Heather). 

I could tell you all of these stories and I probably will in the next year because the good stories? We should tell those. We should celebrate those. 

The terrible stories? We should learn from  those, but we should not ... I don't know ... Give them more importance than they deserve. I will not give the people who hurt me this year the honour of discussing them -- to be honest, I have resolved no longer to give anyone who has impacted my life so negatively the benefit of discussion.

 Live, learn, and let go.

The title of this post is an autocorrect quirk -- I wanted it to be "goodbye, yellow brick road" as in "stop looking behind you all of the time! Look ahead!"

But. Autocorrect wanted it to be a Yellie Brick road. And on a Yellie Brick road? I'm carrying what I love with me, what makes me better, even while I look ahead. 

So there's that.

And that? Doesn't suck.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey Day Part Four: the Reckoning

I

After all of the advice and instruction, I went with... Well, I still don't know for sure. I have roasting bags (in case I go for that) and tinfoil (for tenting, in case I don't) and a baster (which I do or don't need depending on who you ask). I have lemons and onions and rosemary to put in the cavity. I have herbed butter to put under the skin (the idea of which makes me whisper "it puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again").

I have four cookbooks, two magazines, and a printout from the Butterball website on my counter.

I woke up at 6:30 thinking about stock. Two recipes (and a friend) said I need it. But I don't have any. 

I've also realized I don't have any dessert-type noms and if you think my brain can cope with the notion of making anything else right now, you are crazy. But then, so am I, because apparently I  am going to the grocery store.

II

Everything seems more doable when the wine rack is fully stocked. Everytime I walk past it, I swear it winks at me. "Relaxxxx. I can toooootaaallly help you with this." (It sounds like the surfer dude turtles in Finding Nemo.)

Anyway.

I don't feel good about my trip to the grocery store. I mean, the nice people shouldn't have to be at work. That's crappy. But then again, they looked bored, so ... I don't know.

Maybe after I finish my coffee I'll start tackling this beast.

III

Or I could just order Chinese food.

IV 

No, I'm going to cook it. 

V

Everyone who told me that turkey is easy is a lying asshole.

Here's what happened: I took the turkey out of its shrink wrap and discovered this mystifying bit of hard plastic holding the feet together.

No one had mentioned this, ever. In all of my turkey talk, not one person ever said, "oh and it will be wearing plastic shoes. Like Barbie. Only, you know, not."

However. Everyone and some of their uncles was all "get the neck and gizzards out! That's yucky! Can't cook with those in!" so I thought -- rationally -- that Barbie needed to lose her footwear and got out the scissors. 

Yeaaaaah that didn't work. I don't know how that's attached but, even though the feet were released, the plastic was firmly anchored in.

So -- cursing to myself -- I filled the sink with cold water thinking, I'll thaw it out.

Nope.

Oh, and everyone who was all "the gizzards and such are in a bag?" YOU LIE. There was no bag. There was what looked like the leavings of a serial killer stuffed into my turkey. I didn't know if I should keep wrestling with that plastic bit or call in CSI. It was nightmareish.

So I did what any rational Yellie would do: I called my mom.

"This? Is a fucking nightmare!" I said, not at all dramatically.

"What?"

I explained the shoes and the icky. She said, "oh. You just ... Leave the shoes on."

I looked at my turkey. "What? I needed to take the Ickers out because they were in a bag but plastic shoe tie things are okay? I don't understand this and, fuck it, I'm not doing it."

"Yes you are."

"Might as well. Can't suck less."

So I cut off what I could see of the plastic, grimly reached in and yanked out the Ick, and went to work. Quartered lemons, stuffed 'em in the cavity. Chopped up an onion and stuffed that in too. Rosemary sprigs -- in you go. Pulled the skin away from the breasts and slid my hand in. I thought, "It's like a glove!" And then thought "I am going to be in therapy forever."

Under the skin: butter. More lemon. On the skin: olive oil. Rosemary. Salt and pepper.

Poured stock in the roasting pan, added lemon and onion and rosemary to THAT, and picked it up to put in the (preheated) oven.

And that was when my roasting pan broke.

"Fuuuuuuuuuucccckkkkk!" I said to the cat, who was keeping a curious but safely distant eye on the whole thing. And then I just got MAD. "Cook a turkey, they said! It's easy they said!" 

The handle on the roasting pan listed uselessly to the side. Mocking me.

"I was in O.M., pan. Screw you." I got a cookie sheet out and put it underneath. It barely fit but no matter.

TurkeyZilla is in the oven.

And I need a drink.

VI

Note: if you're gonna baste, even though your mom told you not to bother, try not to melt one of your silicone potholders when sliding the oven rack out. 

But if you DO happen to do that? It would be a good time to open that wine.

VII

Second basting. Managed not to fill the house with the acrid smell of melted silicone. Have no idea if the meat thermometer is touching the thigh bone or not (it's not supposed to. I don't think) so I'm hoping the pop up timer is a thing that works? Or something?

I'm also hoping I can get that thing out of the oven without spilling molten lava cooking liquids over myself, what with the "broken roasting pan" issue. That will NOT make for a festive holiday, and I don't want to have to explain my folly in the ER. Next year? I'll buy a real roasting pan.

Maybe.

More wine, anyone?

VII

After four hours in the oven, the juices in the pan seemed like they needed to be siphoned off a bit. Which wouldn't be a problem because I have a baster, but which was a problem due to clumsiness.

That's okay. My entire kitchen needed to be scrubbed down anyway. Probably.

On the other hand? The pan juices smell so amazing that I'm almost sorry that I'm not making gravy. ALMOST.

VII

Is it done?

VIII

I think it's done. Maybe?

IX

I'm taking it out.

X

I hope it's done. 

I hope it's not TOO done.

XI

Holy shit. It's delicious.

I have no idea how this happened, and I have no idea what I'm doing with all of this turkey. 

But.

I do have a notion that I need to thank some people for their advice. So, in no particular order, thanks and big hugs to:

Charlene Hayes, Jodie Coward, Jessica Brodeur, Julie Rowe, Linda Campbell, Kristen Flink, Tricia Finch, Dot Winchell, Helene Harriman, Kelly Tipping, Neha Vanscoy, Shilo Fiel, John Perham, Matt Bemis and anyone and everyone else who offered advice and encouragement along the way (or invited me to eat with them and avoid the horror). 

You guys are awesome. 

And Martha Stewart can kiss my ass.

Omnomnom.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Turkey Day, Part Three

I

I don't know if you know this, but there are apparently 5,597 ways to cook a turkey. However -- and this is a weird scientific anomaly -- any person you ask will tell you that their way is the RIGHT way, and that any other method is not only wrong, it is practically criminal and you should be ashamed (and, potentially, incarcerated) for considering cooking your bird in any other way.

This makes asking for advice, well, problematic.

II

"You know what's awesome? Brining your turkey. Alton Brown taught me to brine on his show and I made the best turkey in the history of Thanksgiving."

"Yeah. I don't have anything to brine it in."

"Your bathtub?"

"This might sound crazy? But I'm using that. FOR BATHING."

III

"Get a roasting bag and just chuck 'er in there. Boom! Done."

IV

"Roasting bags are the devil! The turkey skin won't get crispy."

"I don't think I'm going to eat that anyway."

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

V
 
"Soak cheesecloth in wine and other liquid goodness and cover your turkey with that. It's soooo good."

"Wait. A roasting bag is bad but FABRIC is good? Like, you can cook it in a sweater?"

"Oh like you've ever done this before that you're gonna argue?"

VI

From the Butterball website: "place turkey breast side up in a roasting pan."

"Thank God they cleared THAT up, like it's not obvious. 'Hey, face this one way and it sits nicely. Sit it the other way and it's a fricking Weeble. Guess which one is  right?!?' "

"This is making you crazy."

"I was ALREADY crazy."

VII

The turkey, meanwhile, has been in my fridge. Not only is it not visibly thawing, but items that were sitting too close to it -- grapes, bottled water -- were freezing solid. TurkeyZilla is taking over my fridge and I still don't know how to cook the stupid thing.

I am beginning to think that my sister was right: this was more -- much, much more -- than I can handle.

Guess I'll find out tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Turkey Day, Part Two

I

Last Friday, the office manager walked over to our department and said, "Turkeys are here. Go downstairs and bring your car keys."

It was raining and cold. My friend J and I got our coats and went outside where we were greeted by the sight of the company president and a vp and ... A pickup truck full of frozen turkeys. 

I goggled at it. Let's face it, I grew up in Maine. I've seen trucks full of stuff before. Manure, for example. My brain can accept a truck bed full of poop, apparently, but was freaked out by the vision that was fifty-plus big assed frozen turkeys. 

Mike, one of the truck-bound turkey tossers, apparently saw my awe (and mild fear) of the turkey. He handed it to me. "Happy Thanksgiving!" he said cheerfully.

"Thanks," I said, staggering slightly as I struggled to get a grip on twenty four pounds of slick, frozen bird.

I walked over to my car which, to be honest, didn't seem like the ideal place to store a frozen turkey. I mean, I don't generally keep perishables in my VW Rabbit for any length of time, and it was about 9:30 in the morning. I wouldn't be home until 5:00 ish. This whole thing seemed like a recipe for food poisoning.

I put the turkey down in the trunk. It seemed to speak to me. "I am frozen SOLID," said the turkey. "I don't think you need to worry about me. Go back to work. I'll still be here, all frozen, when you get home."

So I did.

And it was.

II

My apartment is kind of ... well, underground. Not in a "I'm so freaking hip" way, but more, um, literally. It's subterranean ish. My parking space, however, is up a hill.

I may have mentioned before that I am clumsy. Because I am. So there I was, in the dark, wrestling with twenty four pounds of rock solid bird, walking down hill.

Not awesome.

Less awesome was trying to unlock the door and not drop the turkey on my feet. I could just imagine explaining that at the ER. "How did you break your foot?"

"Rogue turkey."

III

Lizzie B is one of those cats that is STUPIDLY happy when her person comes home. Unfortunately for both of us, she displays her joy by being underfoot.

On a good day this is challenging.

On a day when your view of the ground is obscured by a shrink wrapped bird?

Yeah. I stepped on her.

She squawked in a "OHMYGAWDNOYOUDIDNT" way that only a cat can pull off. I immediately felt like a jerk, even though it was an accident. I dropped TurkeyZilla on the floor and scooped her up. After carting around the frozen bird, my hands were numb. Also, Lizzie only weighs six pounds.

I may have nearly flung her over my shoulder.

But I didn't.

She, of course, was happy to be in my arms and was not injured in any way. She purred and stretched and was her normal, hyper-cute self.

I put her back down.

She looked at the turkey.

She hissed at it.

In that moment, she was speaking for both of us. I sighed and put it in the fridge, fully expecting that it would never thaw.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Turkey Day, Part One

I

I learned about the turkeys early on. One of my coworkers mentioned them in passing. "At Thanksgiving," she said, "they give us turkeys."

At the time, I was safely and happily housed in my old apartment, more financially secure, and fully determined to live out my life without ever cooking a turkey. I'd watched my mom on many a Thanksgiving at, like, the crack if freaking dawn, massaging the feeling back into her fingers after reaching inside a (still, despite days of thawing) frozen bird, an act that I found horrifying and totally unnecessary in my life. 

I mean, I've never even roasted a CHICKEN. The closest my kitchen has ever come to roasted poultry has been a rotisserie chicken, purchased fully cooked in its black plastic space capsule and quickly dismantled for soup making purposes on weekends where I really missed my mom and needed to eat something that tasted like home.

"Maybe I'll donate it," I said to my coworker. "I don't really do turkey."

"They're good about getting them to the food bank," she said.

I thought no more about it.

II

Time passed. I was homeless, and then not homeless, but significantly less financially secure -- by which I mean kind of broke. Okay, really broke.

My mom said, "Did you tell me that your office gives people turkeys for Thanksgiving?"

"Yeah."

"You are going to take that turkey. And you are going to cook it. And eat it. Free food, Yellie. Cook the damn turkey."

"Okay.

III

My sister said, "But you've never even roasted a CHICKEN."

"I know."

She sounded worried. "I just think... This might be, kind of, too... Ambitious. You should probably start smaller."

"You're right."

"I mean, there's just so much MEAT on a turkey. There are three of us and last year  I just got a turkey breast and we ate turkey for DAYS. Until I had to chuck it out because we couldn't eat any more turkey. And... There's only you at your house."

"I know."

"I don't know about this. So do a chicken first. Like a trial run!"

"Totally."

IV

I never quite got around to the whole chicken thing.

V

The week before Thankgiving, HR sent out an email. Turkeys would be distributed the Friday before Thanksgiving. "They are between 22-24 pounds each!"

VI

"Mum!"

"What?"

"The turkey is going to weigh between twenty-two and twenty-four pounds."

"Holy. Shit."

"I've never even seen a turkey that big."

"Me either. I've never cooked one that large."

"I've never cooked one EVER and now I'm going to have the Turkey that Ate Tokyo. Turkey-Zilla. I don't know. Maybe I shouldn't."

"But you're gonna. Get freezer bags. You're cooking that beast."

"But."

"Shut it and cook the damn thing. It's not hard!"

"Ok."

...stay tuned ...

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Most Amazing Diet Plan EVER. I’m Not Even Kidding


(Disclaimer-y stuff: I’m not a doctor. Or a nutritionist. I’m a sometimes politically motivated, ranty, sorta humour writer person. Listening to anything I say might be profoundly stupid. I’m just saying.)

Sooooo.

I have a history with dieting. Put mildly, if diets were a person – Diet, if you will – then Diet and I have had a profoundly troubled and disturbing relationship throughout my entire life, an abusive cycle that no matter of money spent or time invested or books read or medical intervention could correct. I tried it all – counting points. Counting calories. Having food delivered. Exercise plans. Medical plans. Shakes. Pills. Eating disorders. Apps. Writing your food down. Fasting. Eating every two hours. No carbs. Only carbs.

All of it.

I’ve learned something about dieting and bodies and weight – FINALLY – and I want to share it with you, here. The Last Diet Plan I Will Ever Follow And The Only One You Will Ever Need.

Step One:  Know Your Body

Assess your body. How is it? How does it feel? Does it move? Is it free of pain? Are your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar in healthy ranges? Can you breathe? RECOGNIZE THAT THE HEALTH OF YOUR BODY IS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SIZE OF YOUR PANTS OR A NUMBER ON A SCALE.  

If your body is a healthy body?

Learn to love it.

Don’t think, “Oh I’ll love myself more when I weigh x,” because you will not. Don’t think “I would love myself if I looked like Gisele” because that’s not going to happen. (I was going to type, “that’s not going to happen, sorry” but I stopped because I’m NOT sorry. I think you should look like you, and you should know that you’re fabulous, and none of that has anything to do with looking like Gisele or anyone else.)

If your body is not healthy, if it has issues? You can take care of those. But know this: You need to take care of them in a way that is beyond measuring yourself and your worth with BMI calipers and a bathroom scale.

Step Two: Eat Things

Eat anything you want, unless you are allergic, or a doctor specifically tells you not to eat something because your body reacts to it badly. Make nothing off limits, but – and this is very important -- Listen to your body. Do not listen to  someone who wants to sell you something. Listen to what your body wants. IT WILL TELL YOU. It will tell you, Hey, I need protein or An orange would be beneficial right now or For the LOVE OF GOD stop with the coffee.

You have to learn to listen to your body and give it what it wants.

That can include cheeseburgers. Or pizza. Or ice cream. Or salads or quinoa or eggs. It can include food that isn’t organic. It can include carbs! It can be whatever. No food that you enjoy eating should be off limits or forbidden. Life – and eating – are things to enjoy.

ENJOY YOUR LIFE. ENJOY YOUR FOOD.

However.

Listening to your body means … listening to your body. This is different from listening to the emotional voices in your head that want you to eat chocolate until you hurl. Your body does not want to eat until you hurl. It doesn’t really want you to eat when you’re not actually hungry. If you’re not hungry? It’s telling you it’s all set right now, thank you. It means stopping when you’re full. “I don’t need any more Ben and Jerry’s right now. Thank you. We can have more later if we want.”

So eat some food. (But only if you’re hungry.)

And go to step three.

Step Three: Feed Your Soul …

… and notice if the way in which you normally feed your soul involves also feeding your face, because they’re really not the same thing. Your soul is not your stomach. If you are trying to feed your soul by filling your stomach, you are probably finding that your stomach is very full but your soul is not sated.

If you’re feeding your soul through forkfuls of cake? Put down the fork and ask yourself what you really want. Do you really need more frosting to be happy in this moment? Because if you don’t? All you’re going to have is a sugar high and an inevitable crash. In other words, if you need a hug, no amount of Ben and Jerry’s will give you one.

To misquote the Spice Girls, figure out what you want, what you really really want – if it actually IS frosting? Have some without guilt or shame. If it’s something else? Find that instead. The important thing here is to make sure that you’re feeding what’s actually hungry and learning to tell the difference.

Step Four: Move

Find something that involves moving and that also makes you smile and try to do it on the regular. It doesn’t have to be hours at the gym or involve specialized clothes or gear.

It does have to be something that gets you going and makes you happy, and you should try to do it whenever you get the chance.

Don’t punish yourself if you hate the gym. I hate the gym. I like to be outside, though, and walk. I like to dance around and sing while I clean. I didn’t think those were exercise because I wasn’t in the gym.

They are.

Find something you like to do – something that requires that you move. Something that makes you sweat a little. And then love the hell out of doing it.

That’s all.

Four steps.

You are WELCOME.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Out and Back

I was in a meeting at work when I lost my temper.

Anyone who has known me for a long time knows this: I rarely lose my temper. I occasionally get riled up, but a full on loss of temper is exceptionally rare. Here's why: when I get angry?

I scare myself. And everyone around me. And people in neighboring counties. As a result? I am careful not to lose my temper.

But.

Dude, it happens.

So there I was. In a conference room. In a meeting. When something happened that I found unacceptable and I ... Well... Lost my shit.

Half of my brain envisioned ripping someone's face off with my fingernails and then feeding it to them (and yes, I know that's gross. And also: did I mention that I have a terrible temper?!).

The other half of my brain was somehow able to grasp that we would hate jail time and forced me to start to cry.

A word about crying in the workplace, if I may. Generally? It's a bad idea. Woooo bad. However, it is a much better idea than physically (or verbally) shredding someone to pieces, especially if that someone is senior to you. To be honest, I'd much rather be thought of as "the girl who cried that one time" than "that girl who went Samurai Samantha and went bowling with the heads of her enemies."

Because, duh.

So I started to cry and then I just got up and walked out of the meeting, leaving my pen, notes, and Diet Coke in there. I walked through the bullpen and into the bathroom, where I locked myself in a stall and cursed. I cursed the coworker who made me so flipping angry, circumstances, tear ducts, overtiredness, tempers, the Patriots losing to the Panthers, a sexist, misogynistic society, manufacturers of uncomfortable shoes, singers of shitty but catchy songs, full moons, Guy Fieri's voice in radio commercials, that annoying chick at Subway who's always a bitch, my bank account, the guy who doesn't empty my trash can at work, people who cut me off in traffic, and Jiffy Lube (which is a story for another day). In short, my temper went GLOBAL, y'all, and there in the bathroom stall I got it all out.

It took... Six minutes.

Here's the other thing about my temper: it passes quickly and then I'm done. Which can be super awkward if there's been some sort of verbal, er, massacre? Because then I'm all "lalala moooving onnnn" and my... Victims?... Are all "You yanked off my arms and beat me with them so now I hate you."

Anyway.

I checked my face (word to the waterproof mascara), and then walked back through the bullpen.

Let me tell you this: if it's awkward and terrible walking out of the middle of a meeting?

Walking back in? Like nothing happened?

Waaaaaaay worse.

But I had to. I had to prove to myself that I could. I had to prove to the person who made me so angry that I could do my job, even though he was ... Ummm... capable of poor word choices, imagery, and "advice." I had to prove to my boss that I could get my head right back in the game.

Plus, my Diet Coke was in there.

So I did. I waltzed back in, sat down, and rejoined the conversation as though I'd never left. 

The women (there were three) all gave me looks like, "Sister, you are a rock star."

The men (two) did this: one (not the one who made me mad) looked at me like, "we can fix this, don't worry." The other one looked at me like, "I have no idea what you'll do next and I am slightly alarmed."

I'm not proud of losing my temper. I'm not proud of crying.

But I am as proud as hell that I walked back into that room, because I belong there. 

And, you know, because I love Diet Coke.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo, Day 1

Oh yeah, if I'm going to do NaNoWriMo, you're going to HEAR about it. Because, duh. Because it's difficult and crazy-making and I'm gonna have to vent.

So.

Today is the first day. The first day of anything, I've noticed, is the easiest AND the hardest. It's when you're fresh -- wooohooo I'm raring to go -- and it's also the day when quitting is the most simple thing under the sun. Like, oh, well, if I don't actually START then I can't fail ... and it would be awesome not to fail ... so when anyone asks me I can tell them that I just changed my mind.

There must be fifty ways to sneak out of writing a novel, as the song says.

But I'm not going to, and not just because my mom has been after me to finish a novel for years (like, since I learned how to write. Also, HI MOM!) and not just because other people (you know who you are) have also been up my bucket about it, but because I owe it to myself to finish something I start. Especially if it's hard.

Today's goal -- in case you're wondering, and I bet you weren't -- is to figure out a schedule for writing and, you know, start writing.

This might be easier said (or, you know, typed) than done? But I'm doing it.

One Novel, coming up.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

That Time I Gave Patrick Stewart A Hug

(first: I'm so sorry about the whole "oh, I keep forgetting to blog" thing... I didn't realize how much having a job that meant leaving the house would impact me. I'm REALLY trying to get better.)

(second: I didn't gave Patrick Stewart a hug. He actually gave me a hug.)

(third: That didn't happen either. Well, it sort of did.)

(fourth: there isn't a fourth, I was just on a roll.)

So last night, I had a dream that I came home from my office job in Boston ...

(fifth: I don't have a job in Boston.)

(sixth: can I just mention here that I looked GOOD? I looked good the way people who work in offices on TV look good. Well, not "The Office" because the people on that tend to look like people who work in an actual office, not fancy Hollywood ideas of offices. I looked Hollywood Office good. This isn't really important, but since I'm currently dressed like a really bad version of actual office? I just want to get a shout out for looking good in my dream.)

... and when I pulled up to my house in my fancy car...

(seventh: I actually have no desire to own a fancy car. Also, I'm so not conversant with fancy cars that the badging on my fancy car just said "Fancy" as though my subconscious was all, "Screw it, I put all of my work into making sure you were wearing Gucci shoes and have nothing left for an automobile.)

...I noticed that there were people in the pool. So I put down my briefcase and the printer I was carrying ...

(eighth: I think the printer was my brain's way of mentioning, casually, "Hey, remember when you used to write that thing on the internet? You should get back to that" before it went for the not so subtle hints.)

... and I went to join them. Only one of the people was in the pool -- the other two were sitting on the deck, drinking beverages.

The one in the pool was Lynda Carter. You know, Wonder Woman? Hanging out on fun noodles in my pool. This was a little weird to me because I didn't know her, but it seemed like she was there with the other two people, who I did clearly know: Patrick Stewart and my friend Stephanie.

(ninth: OMG PATRICK STEWART?!)

And Patrick said, "Have you met Lynda?" as though it was perfectly normal for him to bring people to my house, which maybe in that alternate reality it was, I don't know, and Stephanie just smiled like, "I can't believe you haven't met Lynda yet."

"No," I said, and I extended my hand.

"I love your work," Lynda said.

(tenth: I had no idea what she was talking about, except that I knew that it paid me well enough to drive the Fancy car and look nice. And I carried a printer around.)

"Thanks," I said.

I took off my coat.

(eleventh: despite the fact that it was somehow warm enough to be in the pool, I was wearing a heavy leather coat. Whatever, I LOOKED GOOD.)

I also took off my sunglasses and put on my regular glasses.

(twelveth: EVEN IN MY DREAMS MY CONTACTS SUCK.)

"Great," Patrick said. "Now I can hug you." And he did.

(thirteenth: Patrick Stewart is an excellent hugger. In case you were wondering.)

And he whispered in my ear, "How come you haven't been writing?"

(fourteenth: Patrick Stewart also gives an excellent guilt trip.)

(fifteenth: Um. Yeah. So this one's for Patrick Stewart. And for you, loyal Blog Readers!)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Above. Beyond.

I've been trying to wrap up what I want to say today in a story, but I don't have a story. Sometimes the words come, and sometimes they don't, and that's writing, I guess.

It's life, too. Sometimes things come to you, and sometimes they don't.

And sometimes -- sometimes they come to you and you don't see them for what they are. Blessings enjoy disguises, as it turns out.

I didn't think I'd reach a point where I would be thankful for the shitstorm that this year has been. It was so ridiculous and so painful.

But.

I spent some time over the weekend looking around and considering where I'm at. It's a good place. An excellent place, in fact. A place that makes me happy.

It's also a place I wouldn't have reached without my life going to hell in a handbasket in the way it did, when it did.

So here I am with an eye on the horizon and the knowledge that whatever happens will bring good things. Things that are above and beyond my expectations and outside of what I can see in any given moment.

And maybe that's all the story I need right now.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Side Dish

I wanted to start this post off like this: "MEN!"

But then I realized that is a) sexist and b) the message of this post does not apply only to men.

So.

FELLOW MEMBERS OF THE SPECIES:

Please be aware that the following is in no way flattering. Period:

"I would totally cheat on my significant other with you."

I know that in your head this might SEEM like a compliment. Let me clear this up for you: it is not.

Here's why.

When you tell someone that you would cheat with him/her, what you're actually saying is this: "Whoa, look at me! I have no respect for you OR my partner! I am lightly coated with slime!"

What you're also saying is this: I think you would make a great side dish, but I don't like you QUITE enough to make you the main dish (not that it matters, because I don't have any respect for my main dish)."

I know that you're probably thinking that I'm overthinking it.

I'm not overthinking it.

You're probably ALSO thinking, "Well, how often does this happen?"

I don't know about everyone else, but I can tell you truthfully that it happens to me a lot. This is, perhaps, because I am a whistle only dogs can hear (and it makes me question quite a few aspects of my own personality because, really, what's up with this?) but it happens frequently enough that I am obviously posting about it.

So listen up, humans. If you're actually thinking "I would so cheat with this other person" to the point that the words are coming out of your mouth? End your relationship. Do everyone a favour.

And if the words DO come out of your mouth? Don't be surprised if the person you are saying those words to does not look flattered but, instead, walks away.

Possibly forever.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Not Very Random At All

... I think this speaks for itself.



(if the above doesn't work, please go here. )

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Moving Forward

I'm at one of those places you get to in life where you're not entirely certain as to where you're going. You know you're going somewhere, but you're not precisely sure where that is.

In the wise words of a friend, though, "You're going forward."

Because -- you have to, right? Face forward, keep walking. Even if you're not sure where the road is going to take you. The road may fork -- it nearly always does -- and you may choose one path (or the correct path may choose you, because sometimes that's how it works), but you keep moving forward.

If there's one thing this hellacious year has taught me, that's it. As I've noted before, if you keep looking behind you, the only thing you'll ever do is trip and fall. Sometimes, even looking forward, you'll fall down (which is another thing I've learned this year) but you're much more likely to land on your ass if you don't even look in front of you and keep your eyes is coming rather than what was. You have to let the past BE the past. You can use it as the legend on your personal map, but you keep moving forward.

Just keep moving forward.

So I don't know which direction I'll end up going. The path has forked. The good thing about this is that I have options and opportunities and either way? I keep walking.

I'm going somewhere.

And so, dear reader, are you. So are you.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Midnight Muse

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with these fabulous ideas for blog posts. This is a great thing. Unfortunately, I frequently fail to jot them down, which is a less great thing as it results in a morning spent staring blankly at the screen, waiting for that great idea to come back and smack me in the head so I know what I'm doing here.

You can probably guess which one happened today.

But it leads me to two important questions:

1) Why, WHY WHY WHHHHHHYYYYY do the greatest, most inspired ideas strike in the middle of the night? Are they even really great ideas or do they just seem that way because you're only partially conscious and so everything that your brain presents to you seems brilliant? What's up with that? When I come out of a deep sleep in the wee hours, I am convinced that I could cure all of the world's ills and then make sure that the entire planet is fabulously accessorized and looks amazing.

I probably can't do that. But I have no guarantee of it, because I can't remember all of my ideas -- just the fact that they were completely brilliant and outstanding.

Which, of course, brings us to ...

2) Why don't I write any of this down? I mean, the likelihood of me being able to jot a legible note when I am only 15% awake and don't have my glasses on is not very high, it's true, but I should be able to read enough of my scribbles to know what I was trying to say.

Or, maybe not. Because I have to confess that I frequently find work related notes on my work desk and have no idea what they mean due to the fact that they say things like this:

"swingset
Pennsylvania
squirrels."

"OMG GIANT BEES. Ramp."

"Customer service yell yell angry."

As a result I think that anything I wrote down in the middle of the night would look like this:

"Camp? Moooo cow moooooo. With cookies."

"Garfield hahahahahahahaha not with balloons."

"Government sillies. With clowns. But not horses."

I'm just saying. I don't think it's going to work.

But maybe I'll try it anyway.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Randoms

I

"When I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up and marry Hawkeye Pierce from MASH."

"Dude. That show was like, totally old when you were a little girl. Alan Alda is waaaaay older than you."

"So? It could still work out. It's important not to give up the dream, I say."

II

"When I got divorced, I didn't get custody of the tent."

"Me either."

"But I DID get custody of the air mattress."

"OH MY GOD ME TOO!"

(in unison): "Have fun sleeping on the ground, asshat!"

III

"Lizzie, want some food?"

"mrow."

"Lizzie, want to play?"

"mrow"

"Lizzie, want to be my sidekick as I try to take out Inspector Gadget and Pesky Penny and her little dog, Brain?"

"MROW!"

"That's what I thought. Bwah hahahahahaha."

IV

"You know how, when you get older, all of the days go by super fast except for the ones you want to go by fast, like when you have a doctor's appointment or something?"

"Yeah."

"This afternoon has been about 100 years long."

"But for someone who's over 100 years old? YOU LOOK MARVELOUS."

"I knew I kept you around for a reason."

V

"That's when I asked myself, when did the 'it's perfectly acceptable to scream at other people' memo go out? I did not get that memo."

"Me either."

"I mean, if you need to yell at me go for it. But realize that within 2 minutes my brain's gonna shut off and I'm not going to actually hear you."

"That makes people even more angry."

"I know. That's one of the reasons I do it."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Operating Systems

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I had upgraded to the new operating system for my phone. I said I had.

"Do you like it?"

"It's okay."

"How is it?"

"It's like the old operating system. But different. Not wicked different? But you notice."

*****

After I lost Beansie, I wanted to get another cat, but I was worried that I wasn't ready. I was worried that I wouldn't love another cat enough, that I would unfairly expect some poor, unsuspecting kitty to be Beansie 2.0, when I knew that wasn't possible.

Lizzie B, the new kitty, is not Beansie 2.0. She is Lizzie 1.0.

And yet. While I don't expect or even want her to be Bean, there are obvious similarities. Lizzie is smarter than Bean was, but she remains adorably silly. Unlike Bean, Lizzie is not interested in being in the shower when it's running, but she does want to snuggle up with me when I sleep. She likes the exact same kind of toy that Bean liked and ignores other ones. And, like Bean, she will stretch her head back so she can look into my face and make sure I'm still where I'm supposed to be.

She is very like Beansie, but wholly different.

"Do you miss Bean?"

I will always miss my sweet girl. But Lizzie makes my life better.

Different. But better.

*****

This year has been difficult. Like, knock me down and kick me around difficult. As a result, I am not the same person I was on December 31of 2012.

And that's okay.

Because the truth is that 2012 Danielle -- even June of 2013 Danielle -- had a propensity to be selfish. She wasn't generous with her love or her time. She thought she was; if you had asked me if I was a good person then, I would have said yes, of course I'm a good person. But I was a fearful person. I held a lot of things close to the chest that were better shared. Friendship, and honesty, and tenderness. I wasn't as open as I am now. I didn't trust other people because I didn't trust myself.

I didn't know how to ask for help. I didn't know how to receive it.

These are flaws in the system. When you can't tell people when or where you're at, you are alone all of the time; alone is not ideal. We're not meant to be entirely solitary, I don't think. We're meant to live in a community, functioning within it, not separate from it.

I am more uncertain of life than ever, but I'm not afraid of it now. I'm feeling my way through the center of it rather than clinging to the walls and doors.

I'm the same in many ways. I didn't lose or forget the fundamentals of who I am. That would be wrong.

I'm different. I'm running on a different system.

Not wicked different. But you'd notice.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Rescued

Beansie Boo wasn't technically a rescue in that I didn't get her at a shelter. However, since she was near death at the time I got her, I consider her to have been rescued. And, like all rescued animals, she saved me every bit as much as I saved her -- she made me smile when I didn't really feel like smiling, she made me laugh when I was crying, and she made every day of my life better. When I was at my lowest points, she gave me someone to focus on and care for so I had a reason to drag myself out of bed in the morning.

When I lost Bean, I pretty much decided I wouldn't get another cat because I would want a new cat to be Bean 2.0, and that wasn't fair to anyone.

No more cats.

Okay then.

It was very quiet in the house. My pants were free from cat hair for the first time in years. I didn't have to clean a litter box, or smell stinky food, or step on squeaky toys in the middle of the night.

It sucked out loud.

Because I didn't have all of those other things? But I also didn't have someone joyfully greeting me at the door when I came home. I didn't have a warm, purring, fuzzy bunny curled up with me in the night. I didn't hear any curious chirping noises when something new and previously unexperienced was discovered in the house. I didn't have someone curling up by my shoulder to fall asleep while I sat in my favorite chair and read a book.

Cat hair on my pants, as it turns out, isn't nearly enough to make not having a cat worth it.

So over the weekend I went to Another Chance Animal Rescue in North Berwick, Maine (and you should go there, or donate, because they're amazing) and ended up with Miss Elizabeth Bennett (or, as I like to call her, Lizzie B). She's a tiny little kitty with extra toes, tiger stripes, and my heart in her fuzzy paws.

The thing about rescuing an animal? Is that they rescue you right back. I will always miss my Beansie Boo, but Lizzie made me remember that love is not a finite resource. I've got more to share, and now I have someone furry to share it with.

If you've been thinking about rescuing an animal? Please do. It won't be only the animal that will be blessed and thankful -- it will also be you.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Not So Random

"I feel like everything in my life is negative. I can't find the positive."

"Create it."

"What?"

"Look, I've had a kind of shitty year. But I learned something and that is this: people and circumstances sometimes suck. We've all been down in the hole. But when you're down there, you need to decide how much power you're willing to give people and circumstances. You need to decide if the person who is determined to eff up your life is ALLOWED to do that. Usually? They're not... But if you give them permission, if you give them the password to your psyche, they're going to do whatever they want. So stop doing it. Take your life and your joy away from them and hold it in your own hands. You get to own it. They don't."

"But it's hard."

"Is it harder to say, 'I am the writer of my own story, you don't get to dictate it' than it is to look around and see nothing but bleak negativity?"

"I guess ... No?"

"I mean, it IS hard. Life can be pretty fucking brutal. But also? It can be beautiful. You have to see the sparkly and the pretty in the middle of the ugliness. Think about it this way: sea glass was once just broken, jagged shards that could cut and wound. It became lovely through time. Life's like that. Just decide: is this broken? Or can I make it something amazing?"

"But. I don't know how."

"You do."

"I don't."

"You will. You just have to try. You have to remind yourself that you own your life. That other people who want to hurt you don't get to tell you how to feel. That circumstances that suck are just a hash mark on your life's timeline and they are surrounded by hashmarks that make you smile and laugh and sing. You have to remind yourself that you deserve to see light and that, when things are dark? You can carry a flashlight and surround yourself with other people who have lights and candles and who believe in you and want to help.

It's not always easy. Life isn't. But it doesn't have to be so damned hard either. Just remember: your story. You write it. No one else."

"I think... I feel better."

"Better is better."

"Better is always better."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Best and Brightest

Sometimes when I'm at work I think, "I wish I had a useful skill."

I mean, I have a ton of useless skills. For example, I can accessorize within an inch of my life. I can tie a scarf about 20 different ways. I have a head that's full of trivia. I can read a text critically and I can write a hell of a paper in which I analyze a text from different critical standpoints.

These are not useful skills.

Fixing things, that's a useful skill.

My ... uselessness, shall we call it ... became readily apparent when I was looking for a job because almost every job listing was for trade related employment. If I was, say, a machinist? I would have had a job in a jiffy. If I had any medical training? I would have been employed instantly. If I knew how to operate a CNC machine? BOOM EMPLOYED. (And, I might add, I'd be making more than I make now.)

But I don't know how to do any of those things.

I've got a bee in my bonnet right now because I've been thinking about two things that happened when I was a teacher. Two solid examples of how we like to overvalue a college education and steer students away from paths that aren't college oriented, and how we are undermining our future as a country and also, the future of our youth.

Example one: I was talking with a guidance counselor during my first year of teaching, and she was telling me that she was frustrated with a mutual student -- a senior -- because she was not planning on going to college. "She wants to go into the MILITARY," said the guidance counselor with a sneer. "It's RIDICULOUS. She's graduating fourth in her class, and she could EASILY get a scholarship."

Two things about that bothered me then and, to be honest, still bother me. First -- why wouldn't we encourage our best and brightest to join the military if that's their dream? Don't we want our military forces to be staffed with intelligent, inspired, driven people? I'm pretty sure that I think I want smart self starters in our military forces. I'm also pretty sure that going into the military is an honourable thing to do, and that shitting on this kid's dream and trying to talk her out of it was NOT an honourable thing to do (especially since the young woman in question came from a military family and she wanted to follow in the footsteps of people she loved and admired).

Second -- her class rank was -- and is -- NOT a guarantee for financial aid. I would know, because I graduated fourth in my class from the same high school, and no one was beating down my door to hand me cash. Well, that's not true. Loan companies were DEFINITELY drooling over the opportunity to hand me money for fancy, expensive schools, and could not wait to make me their bitch.

Example two: I had a very bright student who was interested in vocational courses, because he'd always wanted to be a chef.  Not only was he not encouraged to pursue this, he was actively discouraged, because vocational training wasn't for "smart kids" and he should be thinking about going to college. Basically, we told this young man that vocational training and trades were for "other people" -- not for him.

We undervalue trades and skills in this country. At my current job, I work with people in trades and I have to tell you: not only do they make a hell of a lot more than I do, but they're also more easily employed because they have SKILLS.

I'm not saying that every student in this country shouldn't have educational options before them so that they can go to college if they should choose to -- they should. Everyone should have the chance to go to college -- if that's their dream.

The problem that I have is that we value college educations as the only option, as though that's the golden ring for which everyone should reach, and in doing so, devalue all other options. As though trades and skills are not important. As though a degree in, say, English, trumps all other things.

It doesn't.

I don't know if that young woman joined the military. I hope she did. I don't know if that young man became a chef. If that remained his passion, I hope that he did.

And I hope that we evolve to a place where we value all positions, skills, and ambitions in this country, and don't continue to tell our young people that their dreams are invalid and unimportant because, as long as we do so, we're doing ourselves and our students a tremendous disservice.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Things We Don't Say But Passive Aggressively Blog

Dear ------,

Remember last year, when you asked me what I was looking for and I acted like I didn't understand the question? I knew what you meant. But I also knew that, like the song goes, "it was just that the timing was wrong" and that everything about who I am is the opposite of who you are and what you're actually looking for, sooooo... Yeah.

Love you (even though I know you don't believe it, and it doesn't look like it from afar),

~D.

Dear ---------,

I know that you don't understand why I was -- and sometimes still am -- angry with you. After all, other people have done more horrible things to me, right?

Yes.

But those people? Didn't beg me to trust them. Those people didn't make a point to tell me that they were on my side, that they loved me, that they needed me to count on them.  Those people didn't insist that I let them in.

You did.

So I did.

And then you fucked me over.

I don't know if it was intentional; I think it was not. I think you're careless. Careless, and you think the world owes you something, so you toss aside what you have in pursuit of that elusive "something better" and don't realize the friendships and opportunities you have left in your wake.

I was married to someone an awful lot like you.

(I know you know that's not a compliment.)

I will eventually forgive you. More importantly, I will eventually forgive myself for letting you in.

I will eventually want good things for you.

I'm not there yet.

~dee

Dear ----,

You know that song that goes, "I got the call today that I didn't want to hear but I knew that it would come"?

Yeah.

I get it though. You do you, and when you need to shoot the shit? You know where to find me.

Hugs (so many hugs!),

~Danielle

Dear ------,

Loved you then, love you now. We're both going to be okay, you know. Would I lie to you? (hint: NO I would not!)

Don't forget. You know where I am if you need me.

~ Yellie

Dear -----,

I wish you joy, Journey on the radio, and jam sessions around the campfire. You won't see this, but I wish those for you anyway.

~sweet Caroline aka me

Dear ----,

I'm a mess, but you seem to be okay with it. Not sure what's up with that, but ... Thank you. For your big heart, unwavering belief, patience, and conviction. Me? I'm a sideshow. You? You're amazing and the real deal.

Biggest hugs ever,
Yellie

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11

"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death." 
-- Robert Fulghum

Monday, September 9, 2013

Things We Lost In The War

I was sitting on the back of a motorcycle for the first time in years. The beauty of being on the back of a bike is that for all that you can hear of the world around you -- the bike, the other traffic, the wind and the birds -- your thoughts are also fairly loud. It's not a good place to converse, so you just have yourself and all of the things around you. If you're me, that means you had the smell of the ocean in your nose and the sense that you were finding something you had lost long ago, and the sense of it is so sharp, so real, that it makes you want to cry a little bit but you're not sure if the tears are happy or sad, but you suspect that they might be both.

And that would be okay with you.

*****

I am a bizarre blend of caution and impetuousness. There are areas of my life where I run to the edge of the cliff and jump without ever looking down; there are also areas where I will refuse to acknowledge that the cliff even exists and spend days clinging tightly to a solid rock a good mile off. It's how I roll.

I know it's weird.

Because of this, I have entered a phase in my life where I don't let anyone tell me what to do. I lived in a very structured environment for a time, one where I was -- or wasn't -- allowed to do, say, or be who I want. This? Doesn't fly with me now. You think you're going to tell me who to be, where I can go, what I can wear, who I can see? Feel free to fuck off.

And yet.

There were things I used to do... Things I loved to do ... That I stopped doing after a relationship ended badly. They had too much emotional weight, so I didn't trust them anymore, and I didn't trust myself to do them. There were places I stopped going and things I couldn't bring myself to do anymore. They were surrounded by the sharp barbed wire of memory and I couldn't bear it so I let them go.

I missed them.

*****
I'm the one who dictates my life now.

So... The person who was keeping me from the things I used to love was ...

Me.

The voice in my head telling me what I could do or not do? Was only mine.

And when I told it to shut up?

It did.

*****

I realized this on the back of the motorcycle, as we drove over back roads that I'd travelled many times in the once upon a time but hasn't seen in years. The sunlight danced over the ocean. The trees cast gentle shadows over the road. I sat on the bike and felt the wind in my hair and took back something that had been taken from me, that I had allowed to be taken and had been too frightened to reclaim. I held out my hands and accepted it like a gift, because it is a gift to regain joy in the things you loved, and to find the clippers that will break through the prison of pain and past history.

*****

So.

I rode on the back of a bike, down past the bay and to the ocean. I smelled the salt marshes and the beach roses and exhaust and, maybe, my own tears, and realized that you don't lose what you've loved. You just have to find it again.

You have to find it, and find the strength to hold onto it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday Randoms

I

"Isn't the rat sometimes supposed to get the cheese?"

"All I can think now that you've said that is MMMMMMMMMMMM CHEESE OMNOMNOM."

"..."

"I mean, yes, sometimes the rat is supposed to get the cheese."

II

"Those shoes are super cute."

"Yes, they're sassy little instruments of torture."

III

"... so then I was all, 'Don't make me throw this at you' and he was like, 'Whatever' and I thought, who does that?"

"I can tell you're not from New England."

"What?"

"In New England, we chuck things at people. And then they huck them back at us."

"You guys are weird."

"Don't make me chuck this at you."

IV

"She's crazy. Like, CRAZY. Like when everyone was in line for some crazy dust, she got a big assed helping of it."

V

"I am tired of being abused by my job. I mean, don't get me wrong. I like some abuse. Like, tie me up but don't, you know, burn me."

"I feel like that may have been too much information."

"Sorry, my filter's down."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

And We Can't Stop

As I've mentioned, I don't have a television; as a result, I did not see the recent VMAs, but that didn't keep me from hearing ... And hearing ... About Miley Cyrus's performance.

So I YouTubed it.

I wasn't shocked, or horrified. Instead, I felt relieved. Relieved because I remember being twenty-something and doing things that I thought were a GREAT idea and that in retrospect were extremely questionable but which, thank The Lord, were not caught on camera.

Phew.

The buzz and the brouhaha over this performance is problematic to me on multiple levels, but the issue I'm going to focus on is -- as usual -- the conflicting messages we give young girls regarding sexuality in this country. Specifically, our media and popular culture value and promote women who look "sexy". There  is an element of sexuality evident in almost every level of mass marketing. We also value youth; many of the models used in advertising can be seen, scantily and sexily clad, in photos, commercials, and editorials, at the ripe ages of eighteen to about twenty-two.

We're apparently okay with that. 

That's not okay with me. 

Here's why: sexy young models in photo shoots seem to be acceptable because they don't have agency. They are sexy and beautiful because they are motionless, captured for viewing but not active, making this entire debate a literal example of the notion that female sexuality should be seen and not heard. If Miley Cyrus appeared in a sexy photo spread, I would venture to guess that there would have been significantly less condemnation than there was when she was onstage performing in a way that was overtly sexual.

The outcry "Miley Cyrus is a role model, what was she thinking?!" is interesting to me as a result of the above. I'm not sure what the decision making process was that resulted in that performance, and I'm  not certain that celebrities should really be held up as role models. I am certain, however, that women who are assertively, aggressively sexual are judged and pointed at in ways that their male counterparts are not. Do I think that our society puts too much emphasis on sex, especially for young girls? I do. But do I also believe -- and quite firmly -- that if we're going to put that emphasis on female sexuality, we need to make sure that women are not expected to be passive objects who should be viewed and who are not allowed to act and assert who they are?

I really, really do.

I will say that this argument is somewhat problematic because it does deal with a celebrity. How much input Miley Cyrus had in that performance is unclear (which puts the notion of agency in question), and because this was a public performance and intended to be attention getting, it seems likely to me that it was calculatedly over the top.

Problematic or not, however, what I do know for sure is that women should not be viewed and not heard. If we're going to obsess about, market, sell, promote the sexuality of young women, then we should not be surprised or shocked when they behave in a sexual way, and we should not condemn them for it; if we think that the specialization of young women is a problem, we need to actively condemn a media market that continues to sell sexuality.

Until then? Well, I'll keep writing about it.

And I won't stop.

Monday, September 2, 2013

TV or not TV

It's actually not even a question.

When I tell people that I don't have a television, it kind of freaks them out and then they do one of two things: they either give me a withering "you're an intellectual snob who thinks she's too good for television" look OR they give me the side-eye as though I may perhaps be the Unabomber, but with pink hair.

Neither of those is accurate.

I used to have a television. There were some shows I really loved (NCIS, you know I'm talking about you!) but I noticed -- again and again and again -- that I would be sitting on the couch on Sunday afternoons, flipping through one hundred plus channels, and not finding anything that remotely resembled something I wanted to watch. If you want to call that intellectual elitism, go on ahead, but I dare you to tell me that you haven't experienced the exact same thing more than once.

It got me to thinking: why am I paying for cable if I don't actually enjoy watching television? Why shell out cash for something you don't really use or want?

I stopped. Then, because I can watch DVDs on my computer, I just got rid of the tv altogether. It was just easier.

Here's how often I miss it:

Never.

Here's how often people tell me that I should miss it, that I need to buy a tv, that I'm opting out of popular culture: at least four times a week.

It's very odd.

Listen, if you're a person who loves tv, you should totally own a tv. Perhaps a really large, fancy one. Whatever makes you happy. Have at it. Go nuts.

If you would rather NOT use your time and resources on televised entertainment, you don't have to. It doesn't make you weird or freakish. It might be unusual, but there's nothing wrong with doing what works for you.

I don't tell people with televisions to chuck their TVs if having a tv makes them happy, but they keep telling me I need to have one even though having a TV does not make me happy, which makes me wonder if there is something about choosing not to have a TV that is transgressive; if I'm not Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and everyone else is, does that make an active statement about what I think about pop culture and mass entertainment -- does it seem like a rejection and a judgement about what other people enjoy?

I think it must, because people get so weirded out, which in turn weirds ME out.    

But not enough that I'll buy a TV.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Friday Randoms

I

"I heard Journey on the radio and of course it made me think of him. It made me smile."

"Good for you! That's progress!"

"... And then I wanted to punch him in the junk."

"Oh. Um. Well, baby steps are still steps."

"I did smile first! That counts for something!"

II

"The thing I realized is that life is made up of beauty and shit. So you can either mold your shit into a throne and live from there, bitter and angry and negative, proclaiming yourself the Queen of Shit, or you can focus on what's beautiful while still acknowledging that sometimes, yes, you'll step in shit but mostly? You focus on what's positive and awesome."

"That's never gonna go on a Hallmark card."

III

"How's your day going?"

"First thing that happened today: woke up. Alarm went off. And it was playing Livin on a Prayer."

"You. Are going to have. The best day. EVER."

"That's what I thought."

IV

"People who wrote code get emotionally involved with it. It becomes like their child. Telling them it doesn't work is like walking up to someone with a newborn and saying, 'Wow, your baby sure is ugly' -- it just doesn't go over well, you know?"

V

"So then she says to me, 'Well we'll wait and maybe sometime down the road you'll change your mind.' "

"You won't."

"I know."

"So you could have said, 'I am looking into the future and remarkably, just like now, I am saying NO.'"

"Hahaha let me consult my magic 8 ball..."

"... It says SCREW OFF!"

Happy Birthday, Flinkie! Hope it's the best!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

For The Teachers

In case no one else tells you this year:

*The work you do is important. What you do? Changes lives. Makes an impact. Carries on far beyond the academic year and into the futures of the children you work with, and gives them something to hold onto.

*The work you do is hard. It's hard, underappreciated, and undervalued. Anyone who tells you that your job is easy or cushy because you "have summers off" or because "you don't have to work weekends" has no idea what s/he is talking about and deserves to be summarily dismissed.

*You are brilliant. You are creative, clever, and caring. You are amazing.

*What you give out -- the stress, the worry, the love of the kids in your classes, the money you spend, the time you put in, the planning, the thought, the effort? It is worth it. It is all worth it. You already know that, though; you know it every time a student gives you that look of "Oh, YES! I GET IT!"

I hope this year is amazing, and all of the years that follow are as well.

And thank you -- thank you for the work you do, the time you take, the hours you put in.

Thank you.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sayonara, Summer

This is the last week of the summer of 2013.

Thank goodness.

I mean, I learned some important things about myself, which is always good. It would be rather pointless to go through a summer like this last one, struggle, and then not get anything out of it.

But oh man, the struggle. The struggle was intense.

I mean, who expects to be fully employed AND homeless? 

Not this kid.

Despite that -- and also, because of it -- I appreciate the good things in my life so much more now. The friends who love me. My family. The roof over my head and the shoes on my feet. The time we do get to spend with those we love before they're gone. Those are gifts that I didn't fail to acknowledge before, but probably didn't appreciate fully until I made it through this summer.

So that's something.

But oh man, am I looking forward to fall. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Friday Randoms

I

"If I wanted to listen to children scream, I would have stayed HOME."

"That is awesome."

"What? It's true!"

II

"Do you really want a cat? Or do you want Bean back?"

"... I want Bean back."

"She's not coming back. There was only one Bean. She was special. Dumb as a post, but special."

"She really was dumb."

"So dumb. But sweet! In a really dumb way!"

III

"I think you're pleasant."

"I'll have you know that I am a ray of fucking sunshine."

"Riiiiight."

IV

"And now my hairdresser knows I cut my own hair."

"I'm pretty sure she was gonna figure it out."

"What, like it screams 'I did this with kitchen shears'?"

"'Screams' is the wrong word. It more... Whispers... It."

V

"And then I realized I was fresh out of give a shit."

"I hate when that happens."

"I used to, but now--"

"You don't give a shit?"

"You read me like a book, you know that?"

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Square Pegs. Triangular Holes.

When I was in the process of trying to leave my old job, I got a lot of advice from well-meaning friends. Advice like, "Wear pants and scarves so no one can see your tattoos." "Stop dying your hair weird colours like purple and blue." "Take the stud out of your nose before interviews." "Please remove the cell phone case festooned with skulls." And my favorite: "Try to act, you know, kind of normal."

The people who gave me this advice all love me and want me to be happy and successful and I freely confess that I would like to be both of those things. Who doesn't want joy in her life? Who wouldn't, if given the choice, aim her feet down the path of success?

I followed their advice. After all, these were, as I mentioned, people who love and want the best for me. I did what they said. I wore a scarf. I covered my ink. I made sure my hair was a shade found in the "colours human hair generally is" spectrum. I took my nose ring out in the car before going in to meet prospective employers.

I wore real shoes. Not flip flops, not Chuck Taylors. Real, live, "I'm a grown up" shoes. Because I know how to be a professional.

I also wore a suit.

I felt like I was playing dress-up, even though it was my suit, and those were my shoes, and it was me in those clothes, I felt I was pretending to be someone I wasn't, someone who wore suits and didn't prefer to have pink hair and wouldn't dream of getting additional body art.

Fortunately, I got a job at a company where none of those things matter. I discovered on my first day that ink? Was appreciated by nearly everyone there. That my nose ring? Was thought to be cute. That the older ladies especially got a kick out of it when I put teal highlights through my hair, and that being good at what I do was going to be the marker of how successful I would be.

Also, shoes are kind of optional.

So. I am happy, and I am finding success. Good for me, right? It worked out.

The whole experience made me think, though. About success, and how it is defined, but also about how many people have to conceal who they are in an effort to find it. My friends meant the best when they suggested that I make myself over into someone who looked like she was worthy of being hired, but the notion that I was not good enough as I am was painful -- and the idea that I would have to disguise myself in order to get out of an employment situation that was making me miserable was not, shall we say, uplifting.

I recognize that this is very small potatoes when it comes to what people often have to do in order to get ahead and chase the standard notions of success. Some people have to hide their sexuality and their partners. Some people have to practice their religions in secret. Some people conceal their heritage. Some people do their best to deny their racial background. In the face of those? Having to dye my hair a colour that isn't purple is not just minor, it nearly qualifies as whining.

Almost.

But. Although I do realize and confess that this comes from a place of privilege, I also recognize that as a society, we still need to adjust our assumptions about what it means to be successful, and about what a successful person looks like. It looks like people of all colours. It looks like people of different preferences and religions and backgrounds and histories. It can be pierced and tattooed or neither or both. It can wear designer shoes or flip flops.

And, more than anything else, it shouldn't feel like a masquerade. It should feel like your own skin. It should never feel like bring forced to hide who you are -- it should celebrate it. Living a life that allows you to be who you are, the best you can? We need to start recognizing that as success. 

The rest is just accessories.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

And That's What Happened

I'm in a bit of a mood today, partially because a well-meaning friend asked me about someone I don't talk to anymore. I tried to avoid lengthy explanations by simply saying, "oh, well, we've gone our separate ways -- yes, it's quite sad -- no, I don't have his number--" but it got me thinking about the people we let go of because we want to, the ones who are toxic and who need to be eliminated from our lives, and the people we let go of because they demand it. I think both situations are terribly sad because it's difficult to release someone from your life, but I think the latter is infinitely sadder. 

Thus the mood.

I've had to let go of people because they were and are bad for me. I think we all have. It's hard to finally admit that this or that person doesn't have a positive and productive role in your life experience, but we've all done it. It never feels good but it is required on occasion. We've all been there. 

And we've all also been the person who has been eliminated from someone's life. 

It's hard. It's hard to look at yourself in the mirror and understand that someone you have loved has had to let go of their ties to you because they have found you to be destructive and poisonous. It's harder still when you think about the people you have had to let go of because you start to realize: this is what I was to her/him, and it chills you. You don't want to be that person.

But sometimes you are, simply by being who you are. Not all personalities complement. Some, in fact, mesh in highly destructive ways until someone --maybe you, maybe the other person -- calls the game.

You have to learn to be okay with it and let it go.

You have to learn to understand that some relationships are fleeting and some are permanent and that is okay.

You have to learn that love is never wasted, even (perhaps especially) when relationships are fleeting and transient. Having a heart means using it. Otherwise there is no point.

You have to learn to be okay with the fact that the answer, sometimes, is "No, I don't see her/him anymore, but my wish is that s/he has all of the best." You should wish them the best, because you would want them to want that for you -- and then you need to let it go.

I struggle with the letting it go portion of the program, it's true, but I think that if you loved someone? You will always love them, someplace in your heart, and regardless as to whether you let go of them or they let go of you, that loving place should want the best for them, even if you can't have a civil conversation at this point.

The people you have to let go of are not perfect.

Neither, as it turns out, are you.

So you have to try to get past it. Past the trying to explain and to a place where you can understand -- and even if you don't understand? Understand this: sometimes you are not meant to see the answers right now, but they will come.

Eventually, everything is understood. Even loss. Even heartache.

And after that? Well, then you can move on.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Randoms

I
"Did you ever have that moment where you realize you're completely in love with someone but, because you're also a bit of an idiot and an asshole, you've already blown it?"

"You're practically a character out of 16 Candles or some shit."

"Yeah except my movie would be called 'Hi, I'm a Moron'."

"...that's not as inviting."

"Really not."

II

"I'll be your diet buddy."

"You will?!"

"Instead of omnomnom? Our motto will be NONnomnom."

III

"So I've discovered what I don't love about my apartment."

"What's that?"

"First I thought that the thing that bothered me was the level of visibility. Like, through the windows?"

"But that's not it?"

"No. The ghosts bug me more."

"What?!?!"

"Yeah. Ghosts."

"You don't have ghosts."

"I do until we find another explanation for the footsteps in the house that wake me from a sound sleep."

"We could call TAPS! And then you could be on tv! AND then we'll be famous!"

"And tired."

"Tired and famous!"

IV

"What did you do to your ankle?"

"I was sitting in the window when an egret swooped in, and they're scary. Like pterodactyls. So it startled me enough that I almost fell out of the window? But I caught myself and in so doing cracked my ankle wicked hard against the wall."

"Yeah. Maybe you should sit in your CHAIRS."

"But then how would I see the scary egrets?"

V

"I used to want to make a difference. Instead? I make sheds."

"People need those."

"I guess."

"And you still make a difference."

"..."

"I mean, in your own little way. Ish. Okay, I'm shutting up now."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What I Have Learned This Summer

1.  I don't need as much stuff as I think I do.

2. I need to stop making the guilty face when people offer to help me.

3. Ask for help when you need it. It will come. (And your helpers don't love it when you make the sad guilty face.)

4. Sometimes life sucks but it always gets better. Always.

5. Karma is your friend. So do good things. They'll come back to you.

6. You can't carry the weight of the world. You only have two hands.  But a bunch of people working together can carry some of the weight.

7. Life is really better with a cat.

8. Starting over can be pretty awesome.

9. Love is everywhere you look. So look.

10. What you think you want is not always what you actually want, and it's usually not related to what you need.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Welcome Home

My back is killing me. I am covered with bruises and my arms hurt. None of these things register when I open my eyes in the morning, though. The first thing I am conscious of is the sound of water outside.

I have a freaking waterfall outside my window. A literal waterfall. Outside. My window.

My apartment is little. Little, adorable, and awesome. It feels like it is where I SHOULD be living. I belong here... And that makes the rest of it, the moving three times in about seven weeks, the confusion and the stress and (let's face it) the depression... It makes it more understandable. Not worth it, necessarily, but if I hadn't gone through that I wouldn't be here now.

Here is a marvelous place to be.



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Clean Slates

There will not be a post this Friday, because I will be busily moving into my new apartment. This is a good thing.

It's a great thing.

This summer, my life has been kind of like a bad country song. I mean, a REALLY bad country song. It occurs to me that I have two choices: I can cower in the corner, whimpering slightly, or I can come out swinging.

Because I am a stubborn fool, I refuse to give up. I can't help it. Fighting is what I do.

I believe that life is all about choices. Who you'll be, what you'll do, where you'll go. I look at my new place as an opportunity to start over. I'm wiping the slate clean. New habits. New resolves. New opportunities.

But of course, you bring where you've been with you. Even a clean slate holds some chalk dust. For me, the dust is the smattering of lessons I've actually managed to learn, and the love I bring with me. I carry that wherever I go, and it fuels me as I keep on keeping on.

You might be asking, what are you changing? And I'll tell you: I am determined to be healthy. HEALTHY. Healthy relationships. Healthy eating. Heathly finances. Healthy habits. Healthy professional environment. All of these mean that I need to think about myself in a way that I don't normally do: am I treating myself well? Is this good for me? How will this impact me down the road?

This may seem narcissistic, but I think it's necessary. I arrived at this place because I didn't make it a habit to ask myself those questions, and as such, have had a scary and painful summer.

But I'm not giving up, and I'm wiping this slate clean.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Beansie

I don't want to write this post.

What I want is to go upstairs, open the bedroom door, and have Beansie chirp a hello at me. I want to go to bed tonight and, after I turn out the light, feel the soft thump of her jumping onto the bed and then climbing onto the pillow next to my head. I want to be able to feel her nuzzle against my face and hear her purring.

Instead, I walk into the room to the sound of the wind in the curtains. I go to bed and wait in vain. I can only remember how soft her fur was, how happy she would be to see me, the way she would purr with her entire self as she went to sleep next to me.

I had her for ten years.  For ten years she was my shadow, my touchstone, my companion. She loved me unconditionally. When nothing else was even close to okay, she reminded me that everything was okay.

I don't know what to do without her.

I don't want to write this post. I want to scoop her up and dance around the room with her. I want to turn on the shower and see her jump up and do her little kitty dance of joy under the spray. I want to take off my shoes and watch her put her feet in them and then go to sleep.

But instead, I have to write this post.

My parents try to remind me that Beansie wasn't supposed to live this long, and that every moment I had with her was a gift. My brain recognizes this as a true thing.

My heart, though, is broken.

Over the weekend, the vet told me what I knew to be true: my cat, who used to weigh seventeen pounds, now weighed eight. All of her systems were failing. There wasn't anything we could do that would do anything other than prolong the inevitable, and in that prolonging? She would likely suffer.

So I let her go.

I put my face down to her face one last time. She licked my forehead.

And now she's gone.

I keep looking for her. I wake up in the middle of the night and reach my hand out to pat her on her pillow and she's not there. I come home and think I should check on her. I change the sheets on the bed and expect her to jump up and try to bite the hospital corners as I form them. But the pillow is cold and empty. I walk into the house and there is silence. I make the bed with no feline interference.

I know that I did the right thing. I know that she was sick and in pain. I know that.

I know she knew how very, very much I loved her.

I also know that she wouldn't have lived forever. Pets don't. We are gifted with their love for a limited amount of time, which is why it is up to us to make sure they are safe, cared for, and loved. I know all of that.

I know that.

But I still look for her out of the corner of my eye, and there is a Beansie sized hole in my heart.

And I do not want to write this post.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Homeless

I am technically homeless at the moment. I mean, it's not dire. I have a roof over my head, and I move into my new place soon, but for practical purposes? I don't have an address. I don't have most of my stuff -- it's all in storage.

It's very weird.

And if not for the kindness of my friends, I don't know where I would be.

However, I'm lucky because my friends are kind, so instead of being in dire circumstances, I am in a pretty room with a comfy bed, snuggled up with Bean (who, by the way, just looked at me adoringly and then sneezed on me). It's all good.

It might not have been.

But it is.

So I don't feel homeless. I feel blessed. The path that brought me here was twisty and cold, but the one that's bringing me out is warm and sure.

Warm, sure, and occupied by a sneezy Beansie, which makes it a kind of home.

Monday, July 29, 2013

All Good Gifts

Once upon a time, there was a woman who loved to do things for other people, but who didn't know how to let people do things for her. She was stubborn, this one. Stubborn and independent and, to be honest, a little bossy. As a result, she didn't really understand that not letting the people she loved help her was a little insulting to them -- but they continued to love her anyway, in spite of her silliness.

Our heroine fell on some hard times. As usual, she didn't want to ask for help.

Her friends saw that she was in trouble. Big trouble. Bad trouble.

They didn't wait for her to ask for help, because they knew she wouldn't. They also didn't ask her if she needed help, because they knew she'd say no. Instead, they just banded together and helped. They told her: "We are helping you. If you love us? You will let us do this for you, because we love you and want to do it."

So she did. Because she realized that love? Is a two way street, one where you give and accept. She finally understood that reaching out to someone meant that they could reach back to her.

It was hard. It was uncomfortable at times as she learned to accept help and to ask for it when she needed it. It made her feel a little weird.

But it also let her understand that she is loved.

So all of the lessons and all of the hardships? They were good gifts.

****

I owe some people tremendous thanks right now. I can never repay any of you for your kindness and generosity with me of late, but I would like to publicly acknowledge you here, in no particular order:
Matt, Vanessa, Neha, Kristen, Dan, Jesse, the Voses, Heather F, Heather S, Shana, Krista, Jenn, Amber, Dot, Regan, Mr (or Ms) Anonymous, Shilo, Ben, Adam, Annie, Jared, Josh, Jamie, Tess and Katie, Fran, Tom and Kelly, my mom and dad, and everyone else who has gone out of his or her way to offer me support, love, a place to stay, a strong back, a tissue, or a shoulder to cry on. I owe you all so much and I love you.

When the book is finished? It's being dedicated to you.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.