Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On Letting Your Freak Flag Fly

I've had a Goodreads account for a while. I love the idea of telling people what I'm reading, talking about reading, sharing good books. 

You may have noticed that I said I love the idea.

My account has sat, untouched and unused, pretty much since the day I set it up.

Because there's this thing about my reading, and that thing is this:

It's not... Exactly ... Normal.

I don't recall learning to read. I don't remember learning to walk, either, though, and of the two skills? I'm much better at the former, though I suspect that the latter would be improved if I didn't so often attempt it with my nose in a book.

The reality is this: I taught myself, somehow, and I did it before preschool. There has always been reading in my life. It is like air, water, and food, and just as necessary as other items on this list.

That is, perhaps, weird,  but it's not the WEIRD weird bit.

No, the WEIRD weird bit is the pace at which I read.

That's the part that makes me a freak.

It's human nature to try to impose reason on things we don't understand. 

It's not super enjoyable when you are that which is not understood.


"I don't think you're really reading. I think you're skimming." (Nope, I only do that with cookbooks. And math texts.)

"Did you take a speed reading course? You must have." (No.)

"Is this your thing? Like Rainman? Do you have Asperger's?" (I guess that's possible. It might explain some other things about me as well.)

"Could you NOT read ahead?" (spoken by every teacher ever and... I'm sorry, I had too much time and got bored so I kept going)

"You're a freak." 

"That's so weird."

"You're a freak."


When someone says, " I wish I could do that," I think, no, you don't. Unless you like feeling like a freak. Unless you like being called one.


How fast DO I read, is the question. I don't exactly know, so here's an anecdote:

I got home at 11:18 this morning.

At about noonish I decided to read Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking. I stopped at one point and took a bath. I also called my mom and worked on a puzzle, so... Not nonstop reading.

It's 336 pages long.

I finished it about an hour ago.


I'm obviously a little angsty about all of this. Which is why I never used Goodreads. I get enough grief about the reading thing from people who know me well and love me. I didn't want any more. I have enough wackiness in my life without inviting extra wackiness.

But The Fella uses it,  and I know I like to see what people are reading.

And. Speaking of The Fella? He appreciates that I love to read because he loves to read too, and makes me feel ... Not so weird about it. 

Like it's okay.

And if I devour books? He just says, "did you eat all of the words with your eyes?" And we laugh.

So maybe?  I can fly this freak flag. And if you're on Goodreads?  You should find me.

I can probably recommend a book or two.

To read at whatever pace you wish.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sometimes, You Just Have To Realize

I was working on a difficult project that kept getting more daunting when it dawned on me: I was trying to reinvent the automobile? But what I needed was a boat. 

I stopped trying to perfect the car and changed the way I was thinking about the whole thing. I took the parts I could use and began rebuilding what I wanted and actually needed, instead of what I thought I was supposed to have.

You can accomplish amazing things if you are only able to let go of your preconceived notions. Embrace possibility and you can do what you thought was impossible.

If you need a boat? Don't build a car.

Trust me on this.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Something There Is That Loves A Wall

I recently had the experience of someone telling me that I was thought of as mean, and not very approachable.

As you can probably imagine, this bothered me. It bothered me a lot. So of course, I did what I do: texted people for a second (and third, and fourth) opinion (which, by the way, resulted in a beloved friend sending me a cheese care package -- yes, Jess, cheese DOES make everything better!) and then went to Facebook to do some grousing and get some reassurance.

My friends -- who love me, and who are the best people in the world -- immediately let me know that the person who said this to me was off his rocker. Of course they did. They're my friends. At that moment, though, that was what I most needed to hear. I needed an affirmation that I am what I believe myself to be: a person who is kind. A person who is approachable.

They made me feel one hundred times better.

Still,  it's been on my mind.


On Friday,  I had lunch with the person who said that I was being unkind and difficult. I should say now, to be perfectly clear, that this is a person who I really like and respect; this is probably a major reason as to why his words bothered me so much.

I was not prepared for the turn the conversation took.

"We have been through some difficult situations," he said. "You were frequently put in an impossible position. I think it has impacted you. I think that you sometimes react in ways that don't reflect who I know you are as a result. You're quicker to snap. You're slower to help."

The first time he said it to me, there was no framing. It was an offhand, and somewhat hurtful, comment. Framed like this, though? I had two realizations.

Realization one was this: this man is not trying to cut me down. He is concerned and is trying to help me. And he is right -- we have been through some situations that can best be described as scarring. I have also personally -- outside of his experience with me  -- been through some other, equally scarring things. 

Realization two was a bit more sobering, and that was this: it ws the truth. 

And that? Will have to change.

I know some fundamental truths about myself. I know that I have literally given someone the shirt off my back. I know that I will not ever ignore someone in distress, whether it is a stranger or a friend. I have stopped to help at the scenes of accidents. I have held a stranger's hand while we waited for help. I have -- again, literally-- given up my home to assist someone else. I know that, fundamentally, I am kind. I know that, at the heart of things, I want to help others.

I also know that that has caused me some grief, and that as result, I may have put up some walls. I didn't realize I was doing it, necessarily -- I'm self aware,  but not THAT self aware -- but I can see them now. They're not super high, but they are indeed present.

They're also not working. They're not keeping other people out as much as they're isolating me. 

That's not protection from mistakes. 

That's punishment for having made them.

Tearing down walls is painstaking, careful business. It turns out, though, that if you're lucky -- if you're really, really lucky -- people will be there to help you. One brick at a time. 

Until you're fully back in the sunlight, which is where you always belonged.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Be: A Challenge

Consider your legacy.

What will it be?


Be amazing.

Be inspired and inspiring.

Be generous: with your time. With your love. With your kindness.

Be the kind of person other people look up to. Be the kind of friend you want to have.

Be brave. 

Be daring. 

Be open hearted and kind.

Be honest. 

Be careful with other people's feelings.

Be willing to do what's right instead of what's easy.

Be aware that mistakes are powerful tools for learning. Be willing to learn; be open to sharing what you have learned.

Be a dreamer. Be a person who chases your dreams. Be aware that the chase is sometimes more important than the catch.

Be courageous enough to love yourself. Be willing to look yourself in the eye and love every inch of you: your flaws, your faults, your blemishes as well as your virtues, your strengths, and your beauty.

Be able to say "I am stunning" and mean it.

Be aware that we are all here together, and that we need to love each other.

Be respectful. Even -- especially -- with those with whom you do not agree. 

Be understanding. 

Be one who listens with her mind wide open. 

Be bold enough to stand up for others. 

Be bold enough to stand up for yourself.

Be loving. 

Be yourself. Acknowledge that you are special.

Be able to see what's special about other people.

Be willing to challenge the status quo. Be a leader.

Be a light in the dark.


Consider your legacy.

What will it be?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Randoms


"Of course I could tell which responses in the anonymous survey were yours. Do you think anyone else around here knows how to use a semicolon?"


"It's the Hair Fairy."


"The Hair Fairy. She's a miserable wretch. She sees you thinking you look good, points her wand at you, and Boof! A six inch hair spouts out of your neck."

"That bitch!"

"I know, and her favorite time to attack is when you are nowhere near tweezers."


"Are you hugging someone? I'm getting my camera."

"I'm not an asshole! I hug other people! I just don't, you know, want them to hug ME, per say."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine's Day

A friend of mine who, like me, was all "whatever, I don't need to get married" recently got engaged.

His reasons -- and they're good ones, I am sure -- are his own and have a lot to do with his love for his (exceptionally fabulous) significant other and, I think, the fact that he's never been married before.

Because of his newly pro-marriage platform, mutual friends want to know if I've changed my mind about marrying again.

I suppose it's a valid question. 


I have come to realize that people who ask me about getting married again (and the ones who are actively rooting for that) aren't doing it to be super annoying or pesky. They're doing it because they love me and envision being married as a safe, happy, loved state of being.

I have also come to realize that the fact that I don't think of marriage as safe, or happy, or loving is about me and my experience. I know that my experience is not universal, and I am okay with it, but I also know that this is not something I want to explain to people who are pushing for me to marry again.

I've begun just smiling and nodding when people ask if I'll get married. "We'll see," I say with my mouth, while my brain says, "No, never, don't wanna don't make me!"

"We'll see."

It's an answer that makes people feel more secure. I'm willing to do that for them.


I used to hate Valentine's Day, but I am changing my perspective. I think that love should be celebrated every day -- I feel strongly about that -- but I also think that doing it up on Valentine's Day is just sort of like putting a perfectly cut gemstone in a really nice setting. It doesn't change the quality of the stone. It just shows it off.

And maybe -- for some people -- marriage does the same thing. It doesn't change the quality of committment or love -- it just highlights it. It cradles it, somehow. It shows it off a bit.

I don't need to get married for my relationship to have that? But I get that some people need it and want it.

I might even eventually stop thinking about marriage as the most terrifying thing that  I could ever be persuaded to do. Maybe. I mean, hey, I changed my mind about Valentine's Day.

We'll see.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Arguing With Logic and Reason

I don’t understand people.

I don’t understand people who think that things should be free because something went wrong. Like, if you bought a pair of shoes, and returned the shoes to where you bought them and exchanged them for a new pair of shoes, would you then ALSO demand that they give you your money back so that you have brand new shoes and your money?

You probably wouldn’t. But I can guarantee that there are a whooooole bunch of people who do, and I talk to them everrrrrryyy day.

It’s confounding to me. It makes no sense. I’m a person who buys things, and who likes them to be just the way I want them. I’m particular. I’m also reasonable and fair and … what’s the word … NOT INSANE. So if I buy a car and then two weeks later it starts making a noise? I take it in and have the noise fixed and I don’t expect to have to pay for the repair because – new car.

I DON’T take the car to be fixed, get it fixed, and then demand a brand new stereo system for free or that they give me 10% off my car or call the bank and cancel my financing because that’s not reasonable. The repair is reasonable. The idea that I am owed a bunch of additional items is not, at that point, reasonable in any way.

I think about this every time I see reports of political figures acting like spoiled children. Infighting, being ridiculous, demanding things that are not rational or logical. I think, what is up with this? They’re elected officials!

And then I think: they act just like the public they represent.

It makes me sad and frustrates me. I want logical, reasonable discourse to be the rule rather than the exception. I want to see problems and solve problems without additional, ridiculous demands tacked on. I want people to operate from a sense of fairness and justice.

That’s all. Why is it so hard?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road

When I was teaching, I was close to many of the people with whom I worked. We were friends. We were family.

Then I stopped teaching.

We stopped being friends.

I am now friends with approximately five people I used to work with. Nearly all of the others -- people I was close to, people I travelled with, people who were in my wedding -- do not speak with me.

I tried. I sent friend requests. I emailed. I texted.

Nada. Zero. Zip.


It was hard to transition from teacher to civillian. I felt like I had lost a huge chunk of how I identified myself, and wasn't sure how to negotiate my way through my new identity of "not a teacher." How would that even work?

I didn't know.

I also had no idea that losing that part of who I was would also mean that I would lose my friends.


I was able to reconcile myself as a person who wasn't a teacher much more quickly than I was able to adjust to the fact that many of the people who had been a huge part of my daily life wanted no part of my new life. I couldn't figure out why, or process the notion that these people were, for me, simply gone.

The worst part was the social media aspect. We had friends -- the few people who did stay in contact with me  -- in common. I could see them, commenting on posts that I had commented on, liking things that I had liked. I could see things they'd posted to my friends, while they continued to ignore me.

It shouldn't have bothered me so much, probably. But it did, because all I'd done was leave my job. I hadn't stabbed anyone or backed over a beloved pet -- I'd just changed careers.


I ran into someone I used to work with the other day, and she was lovely and genuinely concerned about how I was doing. "Really, how ARE you?" she asked.

It was then that I realized  that the people I had worked with were as wrapped up in their job as the main focus of who they were as I had been. The idea that I would leave that -- that ANYONE could do that -- was scary and transgressive. How do you simply choose to stop being who you are? Why would you make that choice?

How hard would it be to associate with someone who recklessly shows you that you can leave and become someone else?

I realized that it was rather like when I had been divorced and married friends were not wanting to do things together -- it was scary to see how temporary a marriage could be. It was unsettling. It disturbed them.

This was different, but it wasn't that different.


I finally gave myself permission to let it go. I blocked my former friends on social media, silently thanking them for the time in my life when we were close, and then saying goodbye.

I was a schoolteacher, once. I loved it. It was who I was.

But now? I am many, many more things.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Try Walking In My Shoes

A friend on Facebook posted something about a person who is on government assistance that ... well. It made me cranky. You've seen the posts (or, perhaps made one) -- about someone who is using an EBT card but has a cell phone and a designer purse or is driving a car that seems luxurious or has nice shoes or who has well manicured nails and -- you know -- has SOME NERVE being on assistance and having things. 

Because if you're struggling financially, you have to LOOK like it in order for people to think that you deserve help? You should wear rags. You should probably be dirty. That would help. You shouldn't have a cell phone -- you don't deserve one. Your nails and hair should be a mess -- split ends, chipped polish, the whole thing. If you have a car, it should be dented and rusted.



Whenever I hear (or see) people freaking out about what they think poverty should look like, I get mad. I think, how lovely to be sitting on your throne of judgement. How delightful that you get to choose what someone who is struggling should have or not have. How glorious that you have never struggled. Let's hope you never do... but if you do? Let's hope you encounter people who are kinder than you are. 

Because you don't know the story of the person you are judging.

You don't know that she just lost her job, and that she's on the verge of losing her house. You don't know that the purse and phone that you are condemning her for having are things that she had before, and they're things that she can't get rid of now -- that phone? Is her ONLY phone. It's also her only computer/internet. She can't afford to cancel it because she's in a contract, and she needs it to keep track of her kids and to try to find a job. But please -- tell her she doesn't deserve it. Take it away from her. 

You don't know that the car you think should be crappier? Was part of a divorce settlement and, since she's now trying to pay the rent alone and take care of the kids alone? She can't afford payments on a new car. 

You don't know that she does her own nails. You don't know that her friend bought her a gift certificate for a manicure for her birthday. You don't know that her sister is a hairdresser and cuts her hair in her kitchen.

You know what else you don't know? That an EBT card is hardly a financial boon. It covers very little -- but it's enough to help, and keep children from going hungry. 

And you don't know how humiliating it can be to get assistance.

As I've written about before, in 2013 I was functionally homeless as a result of a series of unfortunate occurrences. I had no place to live, and no money for a security deposit. If you looked at me -- if you saw me at the store, say -- you would have seen nails done, and a fancy purse, and a cell phone. Things I had before my life went a little (or you know, a lot) sideways. 

I didn't receive government assistance. But I did receive assistance. My family helped me. A beloved and well meaning friend put together a crowdfunding site to help me. Another friend generously opened her home to me so I had somewhere to live while I looked for affordable housing. Yet another friend graciously gave up time and effort to help me to move, and gave me a place to stay and a meal when I most needed one. It was wonderful. And it was embarrassing. Everyone was as gentle and kind as possible, but I was still horrified by the fact that this had happened to me, and that I had to accept financial assistance from people I love. 

And mind you -- these people DO love me. How different -- how more impersonal and awful it is -- to go before strangers, fill out forms and paperwork and undergo the bureaucracy and rigamarole required to get financial help in the form of an EBT card, KNOWING that people are going to look at you and judge you. They're going to decide if you "really" need help or not based on your shoes.

They're going to decide if you're "worthy" of assistance.

They're going to talk about you so that you can hear them.

And then they're going to rant about you on Facebook.

You don't know the story of every person who receives government assistance. You don't know thing one about them other than that they have an EBT card. 

But if you make snarky, judging comments about someone you don't know who is receiving assistance? Then I know something about you. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday Randoms

"I have a curious question."

"I am curious about your curiosity!"

"Curiouser and curiouser!"


"No, really, what's your question."


"That guy has the SADIM touch."

"What's that?"

"Everything Midas touches turns to gold. Everything that guy touches turns to shit."


"Are you drinking water out of your wine glass?"


"...It hurts me to see you like this."


"I love that Weight Watchers bases your plan on the notion that you're NEVER gonna work out."

"Because you won't."

"I know! It's like they totally get me."


"So I went out to get gas and the thinger was frozen shut. I had to pry it open with keys and then wrestle with the whatzit to put the gas in."

"It bothers me that I totally understood that."

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Paws and Reflect

Lizzie B is a bit of a chowhound for a tiny little tabby. She loves her noms. Since she can only eat wet cat food (gag), I don’t love feeding her. It’s gross. SOOOOO GROSS.

Especially now, because – due to her food allergies – I’ve invested in prescription food for her. It comes in two flavours: Vension and Duck.

People. I’ve eaten a bit of venison in my day. I think it’s delicious.

The cat food version is, apparently, NOT delicious.

Also – and I can’t stress this enough – IT. REEKS. It smells like … old socks and the bottom of a compost heap and a mangy bear. It’s … pungent.

Lizzie B goes all Miss Elizabeth Bennett when confronted with it and won’t eat it. I can’t say that I blame her, really, due to the highly offensive stank that rolls off of it in waves, but since a) She’s a CAT, and licks herself on the regular and b) a case of this stuff is about $60, I’m being sort of insistent about the “YOU WILL EAT THIS, YOU TEENSY BALL OF ADORABLE AND CLAWS.”

I am determined to win the battle of wills. I AM. I am ALSO determined to break her of her “I will wake my mom up in the middle of the night by poking her in the face with my paws until she stumbles into the kitchen to make me stop by appeasing me with alternate food selections, some of which I might find acceptable.”

This is a tougher battle, and frankly, one that is less than awesome. Because she is, after all, a cat, and doesn’t understand logic or reason or “Mummy needs her beauty sleep” and I think that, in her brain, she observes my sleeping form and thinks “Silly Mummy. Get up! Get up now and bring me something to eat, because you clearly are failing to grasp that I don’t LIKE the food there and need more noms. NOW. I WILL POKE YOU AGAIN AND AGAIN UNTIL YOU GET UP. I MAY APPLY CLAWS IF NECESSARY.”

Here’s the thing, though, about her full frontal facial assault – she purrs the entire time, and rubs her face against mine and is ridiculously cute about it.

She also, I might mention, saves this JUST FOR ME. The Fella can be in bed, fully awake and alert, sitting up and reading, and she will walk over him so she can peer in my face and poke me awake. He will shoo her away and she comes back, a fuzzy boomerang, so she can resume jabbing me in the chin with a paw, purring and drooling the whole time, happy as a cat can be.

On the one hand, I want to shoot her across the room. Leave me alone! Go eat your stinky food and let me sleep!

On the other – do I want to teach her that it’s not okay to snuggle with me and be all loveable and awesome?

No. I kind of don’t.

So I don’t get up. But I don’t give her a short and sudden flying lesson, either. I lay there, paws on my face, cat on my chest, and listen to her purring joyfully, if hungrily. I sometimes scritch her ears. She sometimes scritches mine.

I guess we’re still figuring each other out.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Putting it to Bed

I'm going to be forty on my next birthday.

FORTY. Four oh. 

That's like, a grownup and stuff.

It's funny because I often don't feel like an "adult", whatever that even means. I feel the same way I've always felt: frequently puzzled, and in the ongoing process of trying to learn how to best be who I am. Adults, in my head anyway, understand things that I just don't, like valid reasons to buy a new car and how to save for retirement and career planning. Adults have it all together.

I kind of bumble through life.

And to be honest? I rather enjoy the bumbling. Oh sure, it has brought me the occasional bout of abject misery, but it has also caused me to find real joy. So, whatever. I'm a bumbler.

Not a grown-up.

But you know, FORTY. That's a grown-up age. I can't deny it. It's a serious, solid, oh man I'm actually NOT getting younger, you're halfway there kind of age.


I'm a little obsessed with it. Not in an "I'm so depressed" way, but in a "oh wow, how did I GET here" way. I never thought I'd get here. To be completely honest, I never thought I'd live to thirty-five. There was no real reasoning behind that, mind you, I was just always convinced that I wouldn't live to see thirty. 

But I did.

And here I am.

So. Obsessed.

Primarily, I am taken with the notion that this year-- the year up to The Milestone Birthday -- is a chance for a change. A really cool chance to do make some good changes. The opportunity to put some habits behind me once and for all. 

I'm happy, you see. I've got the Fellas and a place I love living and great friends and all kinds of awesomeness going on. I want to take all of those into forty with me. I also want to leave doubt and insecurity and weariness behind. Those can stay in the first half of my life. They don't have to come with into the second part. They don't add anything, and I'm so bored with them. 

There's no reason I can think of to carry the same crappy baggage into the second half of my life. I want to put it down, one piece at a time. That's my plan for this year-- to trade in my baggage. To finally break these bad habits. To allow the next forty years to be more joyful and less fraught.

Maybe I am an adult after all.

Snow, Sickness, and Shenanigans

Hello blogland. I didn't fall off the earth (despite all evidence to the contrary) or forget that you're out there or decide "Hell, no, I won't type!" (which, since it doesn't rhyme, is a shitty slogan).

I got sick a few weeks ago. Like, really super sick. The Fella said, "What can I do for you?" and I said, "Shoot me."

Which, obviously, wasn't an option that he WENT with. But still. I was super sick and felt terrible all over. I had a respiratory infection and a sinus infection and as a result, everything was a painful proposition. Including reading and typing. So ... no go with the blogging.

And then when I finally started to get better -- BLIZZARD SNOW OMG.

So that was a digging out kind of a project and I was behind with work because I missed a bunch of days and then we had snow days and then it snowed AGAIN.

So. Yeah.

I'm still here! And hopefully moving forward I'll also be here here. (If that makes sense to you, it's possible that you've been following this blog for too long.)

Thanks for being patient!