Friday, December 18, 2015

A Black Guy, a Hawaiian, and an Iraqi Walk Into a Bar......

So it's actually an office where the previous day's potluck leftovers have been sitting overnight.

Hawaiian: J, you want some potato salad?
Black Guy: No way, man.
Iraqi: There's some chicken.
BG: What are you trying to say? Is there watermelon too??
H: Yeah, there's probably some watermelon in the fruit salad.
BG: I know you didn't just say that. I'm the only person who knows you're Hawaiian.
I: You're Hawaiian?
BG: See? Nobody knows!!
H: Hey, I'm just trying to take care of my people.
BG: Your people? Like you got people?
H: Yeah man, my people.

If I got paid for laughing here, they couldn't afford me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I Might Have a Problem. Just a Little One. Maybe.

I stream Kidd Kraddick in the Morning on my phone when I'm getting ready for and driving to work. I've been listening to them for more than a dozen years now so they're kind of family. Love them.


Today they talked about and showed a video of one of the kids they took on their Kidd's Kids trip to Disney World this year. Memphis developed meningitis and became a quadruple amputee as a result. He gets around quite well, seems well-adjusted, and had a great time on the trip with his dad. In the video Memphis meets Travis, a former army sergeant, who shares the same disability. Only he lost his limbs defending our country. He now works as a motivational speaker and supports veterans with disabilities.

Travis has some pretty cool prosthetics. They have robotic hands and other cool shit. Memphis also has prosthetics but doesn't like wearing them. His dad and doctors have struggled with this. Well, after playing with Travis' removable arm, Memphis declared he now wants an arm for Christmas. It was all very sweet and touching and inspirational.

Halfway through the video, which took place in a gym, I spotted something interesting. Something white and tailless. Something smooshy-faced. Holy-everything-wonderful-in-the-world, there is a fucking bulldog hanging out in that gym!!!!!

Oh my dog, oh my dog, oh my dog, show him again I have to see that wrinkly butt what is he doing does he work there is he there every day where is this gym how do I get a membership there and will this dog be my personal trainer?!?????!!?!???!!!

Yep, inspiration and feel-good messages were all lost on me at that point. I'm happy for Memphis and Travis is motivated to encourage those with disabilities and injuries that aren't only military and war-related. Awesome. But you guys!!!! There is a bulldog in the gym!! I spent the rest of the segment looking for that dog. At the end he was kissing Memphis. Because that's what bulldogs do.

Day. Made.

Monday, December 14, 2015

I Need Humanity to Come Back

This is going to sound weird, especially coming from me, especially to those who know me. Yesterday, as I was watching my dogs pee (I don't know why then, usually I do my best thinking in the shower) the word "service" came to mind. The odd part to me is that I usually equate this word with religious connotations. Church service. Servicing others. And I'm not a church person. I don't spontaneously combust when I enter one, it's just not a place I choose to visit regularly.

So I've been thinking about it and what it means to me.

I got an email at work about how we should all be prepared in today's world. Lock doors, wear badges, park in visible areas, etc. We live in a very scary time. And while I feel relatively safe at work, being out in the boonies a bit, I still have friends and family to worry about. I worry for people I don't know because there are so many uncertainties and the news is bad every day.

Between the events in the world at large and our own political debates and in-fighting at home, I feel lately that we have lost our humanity. There is no compassion for people who are different from us, we're bombarded with messages that we have to protect ourselves at all costs. I don't think this is true, but voicing it results in me being labeled a "bleeding heart."

And it's a struggle for me to remain calm and rational when I hear all the rhetoric being thrown around. My mother and I disagree on one particular presidential candidate who I believe to be one of the worst people to come on the scene for a while. He constantly spews hate and fear-mongering and I think my mother is smarter than that. That's when I realize I'm doing it too. Making judgments. Putting on labels. We have to be better than that.

Working back to service. It is said that you must first help yourself before you can help others. Maybe that's why this is coming up for me now. I've spent the last several years working to be someone I can be someone I like, who I can spend time with. And I do. Some of my favorite evenings are the ones I spend alone, with a cocktail, blogging or listening to music or watching TV with my dogs. I'm a pretty fun date for myself. So maybe I've opened up some room to be able to give back.

The problem is, I don't know how. I don't know what that looks like for me. Many of the consultants in Pure Romance talk about making a difference in the lives of women. And that might be one way. I have a customer whose husband only likes to have sex one way and it's pretty demeaning for her. Her own mother encourages her to submit because "He'll find it elsewhere if you don't." Her mother perpetuates the idea that her body doesn't belong to her, that she must sacrifice her personal boundaries in order to keep a man that doesn't respect them. There wasn't a lot I could tell her, but I hope my suggestions in some small way empowered her to start thinking about standing up for herself. Maybe a tiny seed was planted.

I try to advocate for animals. I celebrate when a dog is rescued and finds a new home. The only problem is, there are 25 more waiting behind him for their own families. I cheer when animal rights become something to fight for, to vote on even. And then I hear that their are only two of a rhino species left in the entire world and poachers are running rampant.

I don't know where to begin. I don't know where I'm needed. Do I start small by being kinder? Is this where a return to humanity is sparked? How does it spread? Do you know you're making a difference or is it like parenthood, where you're just in the trenches day after day and one day when she's able to reflect and sit in your shoes for a minute, your daughter tells you that she appreciates you and understands you've only tried your best?

If you practice being of service, what do you do? Do you give your time, your money, your home? How do you not flash with anger at the injustices in the world? Is there something that lasts longer than giving money to a homeless person or donating to a Gofundme for someone in need or buying a Christmas gift for a needy child at the office? How did you find where you fit to offer the most?

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

How My Job Might Ruin My Dating Life

When I moved to the south from Oregon, I expected that things would be different. There were some things I hoped would be different. Like the way people dress up for weddings. Also sweet tea and pimiento cheese being readily available.

Mostly I hoped for the men to be different. I'm going to generalize and say that men in the Pacific NW (and probably the entire west coast) are very self-involved. They're more concerned with their image and care far more about themselves to spend a modicum of effort on the women around them. The loves of their lives are inanimate - mountain bikes, snowboards, and craft beer. There is very little room left over for women or for doing things that women like. Such as being taken to dinner. Or even being paid a small compliment.

So yes, things are different in the south and I feel particularly so at my present job. I'm in a room with at least a dozen men and only two other women. A lot of the time I'm the only woman. And they treat me like one. They tell dirty jokes but then they apologize (because they don't know me very well). If I voice that I would like something, say an extra monitor on my desk, it's on my desk and hooked up before I finish my sentence. When I got my new docking station, three of them swarmed over to help me set it up. Nobody says anything when I take the last cookie.

The other men in the building are just as accommodating. They go out of their way to hold doors open, hold the elevator, let me off the elevator or through the door first. The guys I think who are too busy to really pay attention to me remember the single conversation we had and refer to the thing I told them. Guys I don't even know notice when I get my hair cut and compliment me. Even the security guys, who I think have the most boring job in the building, cheer me up on cloudy days.

I went to Pittsburgh for training three months after I started here. I mistakenly asked someone at the help desk if he had a power cord I could borrow for the week and he started at me blankly and then told me to go downstairs and find one. What?? You mean you're not going to stop what you're doing and clamber to get one for me???

Do you see the problem? I now can't date a guy who doesn't treat me at least as well as my co-workers. At my age, I've already learned to have higher standards. I am further being spoiled and (mis)led to believe I am some sort of actual lady.

Thus, my wish list has changed a bit. Future boyfriends must use ma'am on occasion. But only in a cute, charming way, not like in an I'm-an-old-lady way. They must open doors and let me through first. They must give up their seat and not just to me, but to pregnant women and the elderly, even when I'm not present. They must anticipate my needs and provide them before I've finished my sentence. As in, "I'd like some hot chocolate right about..... Oh, thank you!" They should probably assume I know nothing about electronics and insist on assembling things. Even if I can figure it out, I don't want to.

And they should always, always give me the last cookie.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Anatomy of a Breakup

You meet a guy. It starts with a smirk directed your way in a training at work. You resist because it's a bad idea to date a co-worker but he makes you laugh. He says it's a free country. You acquiesce.

But you worry, because you are already in a relationship with Depression. You try to tell him this. He assures you that nobody is perfect and if you feel bad, then just feel bad for a bit. It's a risk, you're not sure how jealous of a lover Depression is, but you go with it because it's nice.

You fall in love. He falls in love. It's the way it's supposed to be, glorious and comforting. It's so nice to have a person. There are moments you look at him and imagine a life. That he could be The One.

Early on, Depression pays a visit. It tells you the normal lies, like you're not in love, you have no feelings, you aren't worthy of them. It's scary because you were so sure just the day before. You don't say anything to him because you don't want to worry him. And, sure enough, when Depression leaves and you can breathe again, your heart melts and you're so glad you didn't say something to scare him away.

The two of you talk about The Future. It's nice to think it could happen. You ask each other questions about what it would be like and how compatible are you. The usual things. There are small arguments, like any couple would have, but it's mostly easy. Depression comes and goes, but it never stays long. When it does, you hide it. That way you know how. Because you've had practice.

A year goes by. An anniversary is celebrated.
A week goes by after that.
Depression stops in. It settles in to stay for a while.

One week you are perfectly happy and the next you feel nothing. He notices. You talk about it. I'm feeling sad, you say. He makes jokes but you can't laugh like you usually do. There are more sad days and you fall inside yourself. He asks if you care. Yes. Yes, I care. It isn't you. It isn't us. I just need some time.

More days go by and you are drowning, He is not concerned, he is alarmed. He says he doesn't feel connected anymore and inside you are screaming, I feel that way with everyone. I'm disconnected from the world. I'm alone. You're right here and I'm alone and I can't stop it and I can't get to you and why don't you understand me??

It doesn't stop. You are waiting and he can't wait. You are more alone than ever. He thinks he's alone and you can't say the words that will help him because you can't help yourself. You might be dying inside but he can't see it. He can't see the wounds and the scars. He can't see that you're bleeding out on the inside so he thinks you're making it up.

You give up. You both give up. It's mutual. There is no more anger, only resignation. There are tears on both sides because it's sad. Endings always are. You hold onto each other for a little while knowing it's the last time. You say you're sorry but those aren't the words. They're not enough for what this is.

Depression comes in after he leaves. You are smart enough to know that there were other problems along the way. It's never just one thing because life is complicated and relationships have three sides. Your story, his story, and the truth that is mixed in the middle. Depression, though, is a bitch and mindfucks you when you're down. It was your fault. You are not lovable and you will never be happy with someone because of it. You are doomed and should just stop trying right now.

So you cry. You will cry. You will hide under blankets and miss the good days. You will go through the motions and move so carefully so that you don't break because you are made of glass. People can see into your soul and see you are damaged and broken but they are whole so they keep going by.

You will surrender to Depression for a little while. You hope that you can slip under that dark water and not feel for a while. Not feeling is easier. Numbness is welcome when it doesn't scare you because now you have nothing to lose.

And then one day you will breathe again. One day you will realize that you stopped crying even though you're not sure when it happened. You will reach out to friends and you will do things that comfort you and you will come back to the world. You will be able to give back again and you will mean it when you laugh.

You might even allow yourself to hope again.
Some day.
But not today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What a Difference a Dollar Makes

Last week I went to see one of my very favorite bands, Pink Martini. They were playing with the Nashville Symphony and were more fantastic than any other time I have seen them because of the concert hall. Extraordinary. Really. If you have never seen them, shame on you and change that very soon. But that's not what this is about.

Lately I've been hearing about people being shot and kidnapped downtown. It seems a bit too much for Nashville where everyone is so friendly and nice, but we have to remember it's still a city. I parked in the expensive lot right across from the concert hall.

As I was about to use the pay machine, I heard someone yelling at me and when I turned to look, it was a dirty, old, frightening-looking homeless man. "Hey lady! Girl! Excuse me, lady!!!!" He was gruff and loud and I have to admit I was frightened and tried to ignore him. He walked right up to me and proceeded to tell me that I could save $11 if I parked in the lot a block away. I was quite surprised that someone who appears to not own a car knew the prices of the parking lots in the area. He did quiet down once he had reached me so I thanked him for the advice and hoped he would just move on. He was holding a small handful of pansies and offered me one. "I carry these around to hand out to the ladies." I thanked him and chose the purplest one.

He then asked me if I could help him get a hotel. Excuse me???? "Could you help me get a hot dog?" Oh, a hot dog. Yes, of course. I don't usually carry cash but I knew I had change from earlier in the week so I gave him the $6 I had. You would think I had bought him a house. "Six dollars!!! I can go to Burger King. My sweetie and I are pretty hungry. We can both get a meal there because they're $2.89 so we can each get one. Thank you. Thank you so much."

I waited to use the pay machine while he walked away but then he turned around again. "God bless you. And you know he does. Bless you."

That encounter stayed with me all night and throughout the weekend. Who the fuck gets excited to go to Burger King? That's what I settle for when I'm starving and nothing else is close. Starving. I really don't know what it's like to starve. Not truly. Not like that man. I think he told me his name was Jeff. He had manners and shook my hand. And, stupid me, in my flustered state, I shook his hand while still holding my debit card. I don't think he could have gotten far in his state or at his age, but he didn't even touch it. He was a gentleman.

My depression has been nearly overwhelming lately. The attacks in Paris. Political posturing and daily arguments from both sides. Sex slave trading. Shootings and kidnappings. The complexities of the world are too much for me to bear most days. I cry and moan over these things while I sit inside my dry house, sipping wine and snuggling puppies. Reading books that are easily bought; I can even have them delivered to my home. Under cozy blankets. Those things do fill me with gratitude. I have the love of friends, I have a job. I am thankful for these things.

But I'm also grateful that I had a small glimpse into the life of someone without these things. I'm grateful to know that people who live with so much less have so much to offer. He gave me advice on the price of parking and offered me a cheap flower he probably picked from an empty lot, but it was more than that. It sounds trivial even trying to describe it in words, but I think what he gave me is hope. Hope that even when you have nothing, when your belly is empty and you have let your pride go far enough that you will ask a stranger to buy you a hot dog. That even then, you can be kind to someone who has so much more than you. You can use manners. You can offer help. You can change someone's night or their weekend.

I hope my friend Jeff got to go to Burger King twice that weekend. I hope his flowers were accepted graciously. I hope he had somewhere dry and warm to sleep. I hope someone hugged him and appreciated his presence.

I hope we all have reminders of how lucky we are. How we're not alone. How it's the little things that bind us together. I hope we never lose this humanity.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Some Kind of Woman

George, the security guy at work, likes to ask me what I'm doing for the evening as I'm leaving. This was today's conversation.

George: Is it a salsa night?
Me: No, I'm going to see Pink Martini with the Nashville Symphony.
George: You are a special kind of woman.
Me: ......
George: You're like a woman on TV.
Me: You mean like Cops?
George: No, like those women who drink martinis. Like Sex and the City.
Me: Well, Pink Martini did do the opening credits music, so I guess it fits.

Also, I do drink martinis. But you'll have to guess which Sex and the City broad I am.

Friday, October 23, 2015

An Open Love Letter to Nashville

Dear Nashville,

In case I haven't told you lately how much I love you, I'll tell you now. I can't even be mad at you for turning me into a Basic White Girl and making me fall in love with fall. You give me nights for open windows and 80-degree days. I love your sweet tea and pimiento cheese, your southern drawls and country roads.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1. Endless music opportunities. I've been to at least 10 concerts and that doesn't count the random music I've walked into eating bbq or getting coffee.

2. Four ballets, one opera, one musical, and Cirque du Soleil.

3. Meeting one of my favorite authors and two of my favorite bloggers at book signings.

4. Petting hundreds of dogs at the many dog events held here. Dog Festival, Pittie Day, Barktoberfest, dog costume contests, yappy hours. Wagging tails everywhere.

5. Going to my first hockey game. I'm hoping we'll see a football game this year.

6. Seeing three of the funniest comedians. Including my boyfriend Hal Sparks.

7. Whiskey everywhere. (But please, for the love of bourbon, please teach someone how to make a proper Manhattan.)

8. I will never tire of being the first out of an elevator full of men or having doors held open for me.

9. Ghost tours and "trash" tours.

10. Celebrity sightings at a tiny Christmas parade. (This is the only one and it's been almost a year though, so step it up in that area please.)

11. Going to the Governor's House.

12. A bookstore that rivals Powell's in price, if not sheer selection.

13. I can wear my heels through October without worrying about falling on ice or trudging through snow and freezing my ankles off.

14. You have natural beauty. Shady trees, rolling hills, lakes and rivers.

15. You feed me delicious things like biscuits, grilled cheese, bbq, and fried anything when I want to be bad while still satisfying my sushi cravings or healthy options.

Yes Nashville, I have fallen in love with you.
Here's to more adventures!


Thursday, October 08, 2015

When "This Many" Becomes Too Many

Remember how when you were little you counted every month of your age? Or your kids did when you had them? Five wasn't just five unless it was your birthday. It was five and three quarters because you wanted everyone to know you were "growing up." And then in college you convinced your roommate to "lose" her license so she could go get a new one and give you her "lost" one? (That wasn't me, it was my roommate. And I did do it. And we went to the same place at the same time and nobody ever noticed. But don't try this at home.)

There are also other milestones you pass. Like you get to the age where married men hit on you instead of boys with acne. Or you become to kids what is really old, like 28. Or you become that parent who can't believe your kid was ever as small as whatever baby you pass by.

And that's pretty much when you don't add quarters or halves or anything to your age. And then something really weird happens. At least it has to me. I now notice just how much older I am. Or I remember the movies celebrating 25 years and I think it couldn't have been that long ago because it was just like a couple of years ago and then I remember how old my kid is and that was before she was born or before I was married or before I had any idea of who I would marry because I imagined my life completely differently.

Which brings me to my list. This is a list of things/people younger than me.

1. John Lennon was 40 when he died. Younger than me.
2. Elvis was 42. Still younger than me.
3. I am probably as old as Mrs. Robinson was when she seduced Benjamin Braddock, but I am older than Anne Bancroft was when she played her.
4. I was in high school when Fox (the channel) started. That means that no matter how many more seasons there are of The Simpsons, I'll always be older than Bart.
5. I was born before Picasso died. He was born in 1881.
6. I played video games when they were cool.
7. I wanted my MTV because there was no reality TV.
8. I'm two years older than Kennedy was when he was elected president.
9. Princess Diana was 36 when she died. I watched both her wedding and that of her first son. And cried watching her funeral.
10. The Hackey Sack, post-its, and liposuction were all invented after I was born.

There really isn't a point to any of this. But if you want to make me feel better by telling me you're older than me, I'll take it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Boozy Douche Cruise

A few years ago I went on my first cruise and sailed with Carnival. It was five nights of some of the most fun I've ever had. I got lots of sun on the deck, ate delicious Mexican food, including real fish tacos, drank margaritas on the beach, and unplugged from the rest of the world. I even saw a flying fish outside the window of the cabin. I loved it and couldn't wait to do it again.

So when an opportunity to cruise with my friends in The Little Black Dress Club came up, of course I signed up for it. Cruising with the girls, new destinations, and another vacation with the bestie. It had all of the ingredients for a really good, really fun girl time. Plus, I'd sailed on Carnival before so I knew what to expect.

Only I didn't. Carnival is the "fun ship," which many people have equated to being the party ship. Because that wasn't my experience the first time, that wasn't my expectation this time.

I'm not sure when it started, exactly. I think it might have been during the muster safety review. First of all, nobody would shut up long enough to get it over with so I stood there glaring at people every time the cruise director got on the intercom and asked everyone to be completely silent. But that wasn't the worst. The worst was when one of our girls texted us to say that a guy in their area was "aroused" and rubbing said arousal on people around him. It was later reported that he was drunk and didn't know what he had done. We hadn't even left port yet and already someone was nicknamed Boner Boy.

I did, admittedly, get white girl wasted that first night. I'm going to blame it on the guys we met next door who probably thought they'd get a little lucky if we got a little (or a shit ton) liquored up. Little did they know my tolerance level is a hundred times higher than the bimbos they are probably used to, and that I also prefer hanging out with older men and the one extremely flamboyant gay that I found. They were so unhappy with his presence they were smashed up against the wall on the other side of the room from him. Haters.

Still, the only embarrassing thing I did was to follow my new gay friend to the nightclub in my tank top and boxer shorts with no shoes. I was barely dressed, but the crew members had a problem with my lack of shoe attire and told me I couldn't be on the dance floor. I guess being half naked and without-a-doubt wasted wasn't a problem for them. I had a brief moment of cognizance where I realized how idiotic I probably looked and also that I needed to not leave my best friend in our room with strange, unattractive men.

The next night we became aware of the frat boy bachelor party on board. The groom stumbled past us on the way to his dinner table. We saw him in various states of undress as the night progressed. Shirt untucked. Shirt halfway unbuttoned. Shirt all the way unbuttoned. Finally, he careened past us, alone, with no shirt on close to one in the morning. Honestly, I'm surprised he was upright at all.

On subsequent nights we watched half of this group of boys cougar hunting. Over 40 and married? This was their targeted prey. Huntress becomes the hunted.

The women on the cruise weren't any better. There were all kinds of body parts falling out of articles of clothing. I don't know if there is less gravity at sea or what I have to thank for not seeing anything actually exposed to truly obscene limits.

And the gossip. When have you ever heard of gossip between vacationing strangers? Well, it appears that one of the guys from the frat boy bachelor party hooked up with the bride in one of the bachelorette parties. Maybe that's where I went wrong. I might not be divorced now if I had celebrated my impending nuptials by sleeping with a random douchebag days before the ceremony.

Now, ladies. Listen up and never let me catch you behaving so ferociously to your fellow womankind. We overheard (or, rather were meant to hear) the most hateful remarks directed our way. "I hope you bring your beer goggles" was the first gauntlet thrown. Another favorite? "And I thought we were old!" I saw more women trying to pee on "their" trees in one hour than I've seen my dog do in his lifetime. Not to mention the up-and-down looks, glares, and sneers. Girls, girls. This behavior is unattractive, unappealing, and completely unnecessary. Do you really want to act out against your sisters like this for a guy who won't remember your name the next day because he's too focused on his next conquest? Respect yourselves and each other.

If any of this isn't enough to deter you from booking with Carnival, I can tell you all about how bad the food was. Or how our cabin steward couldn't remember to leave more than one glass for two people. Or how he was too lazy to hang up our towels. Or that there was a ghetto girl fight in the dining room. No punches were thrown, but a dish was broken.

There were times I felt so uncomfortable that I didn't mind it raining half the trip. It gave us an excuse to take naps under our cozy covers and watch movies in peace. Take a vacation from the assholery outside our door.

Oh, yes. Fun ship indeed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Cities List

Somehow I have done more traveling to new places this year than usual. Or ever. These places are all so vastly different from one another I thought I'd make up a little list, ranking them from first to last. First being my favorite, to last being a place I never want to go again. Agree or disagree, but this list is how I feel about my experiences.

1. Savannah
    Of course this is number one. It's charming, it's historic, it's beautiful, and it's romantic. It's easily walkable and there are plenty of things to do or you can just sit on a bench in a park square and watch life go by under a canopy of Spanish moss. I love it and can't wait to go back.

2. Cincinnati
    This one was a surprise, although I didn't really have any expectations. It's a fairly easy drive from Nashville and also easy to get around. I was there with a huge group of women and it was really easy to find each other at the local restaurants, plus the view from the observation deck of our hotel was incredible. Another plus - the downtown area we were in seemed pretty clean and really safe. Also - Tiffany.
    Bonus points for homeless people with a great sense of humor.

3. Pittsburgh
    Pittsburgh was another nice surprise. It wasn't the dirty, sooty, industrial wasteland I had envisioned. On the pros side, there are gorgeous, ornate, historical old homes on every single block. I found one of the best book stores I've ever been to and walked out with an entire armful of new literature. In the neighborhood of my hotel I visited a pretty cool dive bar where I boozed it up to my heart's content for less than $30. And that included the city's best mac n' cheese. The Carnegie Museum needs no explanation. Visiting spots where Flashdance was filmed only needs explanation if you don't know me.

    On the con side of the page, I alternated about every other block between feeling safe and freaking out at every stop sign because I was back in the ghetto. There is no bad side of town, just a bad side of the street. On every street. The streets are narrow and winding and I could never figure what direction I was going in, and the roads are very narrow. Pittsburgh drivers aren't the worst, but they're not the best.

4. Key West
    Key West is suffocatingly hot and miserably humid. Real key lime pie is disgusting. It's deceptively larger than the descriptions I read so it's not really walkable for an afternoon. But I did walk through Ernest Hemingway's house and I pet cats. Lots of cats with lots of toes. Possibly extra limbs. Still, I would never recommend going there hungover.

5. Cozumel
    Oh, Mexico. It's always just as impoverished as you imagine, so there's no disappointment there. I wouldn't want to spend a whole vacation there; an afternoon to evening is plenty and kept me from getting too depressed because people really do have to live like that. These are very nice people and they deserve better from their government. Apart from their hospitality, their food is among the best I've ever had. Even something as repulsive-sounding as frozen avocado pie was mostly pleasant. (Why, oh WHY can't Nashville figure out how to do real Mexican food???)

6. Miami
    I know, I know. Miami Vice. CSI Miami. A hundred movies and Dexter can't be wrong, can they? Oh, but they can. They can be so, so wrong. It's hot as balls there with a humidity index of like a thousand. It's huge and confusing. Really, really spread out. People actually live in giant, high-rise condos. I think most people that live there don't have a backyard and even the ones who do regularly find alligators in them.

    South Beach is supposed to be the end-all, be-all of luxury living. Eh. The buildings are kind of plain and the shopping isn't anything you can't find in the suburbs of any other city. Except for Dash, maybe, and that place just makes me want to declare that butt implants be illegal for everyone in the world. The thing is, you expect it to be all glitz and glamour, but there's no character. And, with the majority of people not knowing English, it's like being in another country without the benefit of another stamp on your passport.

    And guess what? Not even Dexter lives there anymore.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The One We're All Ignoring

Yesterday D and I participated in one of our favorite mother/daughter activities. We went to the ballet and we had a wonderful time. This isn't, however, a review of that or a comment on our relationship. This is about something I wish didn't exist in the world or, at the very least, in this country.

D takes eons in the shower. I am forever telling her to hurry up. Nineteen years of "hurry up." I had plans to go to Pancake Pantry and indulge in some Chocolate Sin before the ballet. We ran out of time so we stopped at Panera instead because it was on the way and fast enough. I despise being late, missing out on a chocolate craving, and having to drive like a maniac so I wasn't in the best mood.

While we were sitting there, by the window, scarfing down our soup and salads, D pointed to a woman sitting on the curb outside. "She's homeless and she has a little girl." Indeed, there sat a woman with a little girl who looked to be about four. I couldn't see her sign from where I sat, but I was disconcerted enough. If you have a stereotype of what a homeless woman and her daughter look like, they didn't fit it. They were neatly dressed, hair combed, talking to each other.

A very sweet man bought them some food from Panera; he took them sandwiches and water. I couldn't hear them, but they looked grateful. The woman took a sandwich out of one of the bags and unwrapped it to hand to her small child. I didn't see her eat so I don't know if she was saving her meal for herself for later or for her daughter.

D and I decided that we would give them something as well. I've been carrying an unused Subway gift card in my car for a time like this. We gathered together the few dollars we had, mine scrounged from the bottom of my purse.

I was able to read her sign when we pulled up in front of them. "PLEASE HELP. I lost my job and I am pregnant." The rest of it said something about needing money for gas, which I'm assuming she needs to both find another job and to get to that job. My heart broke for her.

The little girl got up to come get the money and gift card we offered. She was adorably sweet and absolutely precious. She should have been spending the afternoon playing in the beautiful fall weather rather than accepting money and food from strangers. She thanked us politely and the mother thanked us repeatedly and genuinely.

Entering the freeway, I told Devon that because she was late, we were given that opportunity. She looked at me like I had just insulted her, not realizing that I really meant it. Had she been on time, we would have eaten food that we didn't need, making gluttons of ourselves. Instead, we were given an opportunity to help someone and I was truly grateful for both the opportunity and the gift of gratitude itself.

But secondly, and maybe more importantly, I was so disappointed that I live in a community and in a country where this is allowed to happen. Where a family lives on the verge of poverty on a daily basis and the loss of one paycheck can send them to the street. Where mothers have to swallow their pride to feed their children and their unborn babies. Where their sacrifices are far more than lost sleep or a few stretch marks.

We are heavily into election season and, while I haven't yet paid attention to what is happening on the democrat side, I have been made acutely aware of the opinions of the GOP. I know they are focusing on the rights of gun owners, and immigration reform, spending large amounts of time blaming our current president, and gleefully trying to strip away the rights of women, largely in the form of defunding Planned Parenthood.

If this mother I saw can't afford to buy gas for her car, then I doubt she has money for prenatal care. She is choosing life, she's choosing to give life. Planned Parenthood is probably the best resource for her, but those in power want to take this away from her. Why? When abortions account for only 3% of the services they provide, what about the other 97%? What about this woman sitting on a curb holding a sign so she can hold her family together?

And nowhere in either of the debates did I hear anyone talk about women like her. Or men like her. I know there are plenty of single dads out there working just as hard to make ends meet, but hers is the face I will see when I think of the unfairness in this country. Hers and that of her little girl with the brown curls, dressed in pink.

We give lip service to these issues occasionally. Myself included. I handed a stranger a restaurant gift card and a few dollars. I'm telling you about it. In two days I leave for a vacation where I will have unlimited access to food I can gorge myself on and I will let go of all cares, including this one. I have that luxury.

We all have luxuries. We all have it better than someone else. I don't want to pay lip service. I want to do more. I want us all to do more. The only thing I have hope for right now is that enough people helped that woman yesterday, and maybe in the next week or so, that she can get back on her feet and this will be a great inconvenience to her rather than a new way of life. I really, really hope so. But unless we change as a society, there will be someone different sitting at that corner tomorrow. I might not see her. I  might be on time for my decadent chocolate breakfast. I might be so busy rushing to the next errand or to meet friends or to my job that I don't see her.

So my other hope is that you also miss brunch or you have to stop for gas and your eyes are open. I hope that you see people who need help and that you offer that help. I hope you pay attention at the polls. I hope you choose to elect those who care, even if they are far and few between. I hope you participate in your communities. I hope that you don't pass judgment or turn a blind eye.

I know that I won't continue to be haunted by the faces of this mother and her little girl for long, but I hope I am.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

How I Fell in Love With Savannah

The Texan and I took advantage of a long weekend to road trip down to Savannah, Georgia. Ever since reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil for book club, I'd been dying to go. To the point where I was irrationally jealous of anyone who casually mentioned that they had once been. I mentioned to The Texan that it might be a fun weekend and the next day a hotel reservation confirmation showed up in my inbox.

The drive is nothing to talk about so I won't bore you with that. Just know that there is always traffic in Hotlanta.

We stayed at the Mansion on Forsyth Park  and were immediately greeted by the most adorable valet guy, Matt. One of us was mean and called him Fat Matt. That was not me. I would have baked Matt his favorite cookies and read him a bedtime story.

Since our rooms weren't ready, we went to the bar for a drink. The whole lobby and bar areas were beautifully decorated with chandeliers, artwork, and my favorite fresh lilies. I had a delightful champagne cocktail with an edible hibiscus. One of us was less adventurous and ordered a Jack and Coke. Or two. We had a free drink voucher each but our Southern California bartender didn't charge us for the third drink.

When we made it up to our room, it was all I could do not to jump up and down on the bed. It was so soft and everything was so lovely. The only thing I wouldn't want in my own home was the glass door in front of the toilet. It was like wavy, marbled glass but I still wouldn't come close to calling it private. If you have a shy bladder, this is not the bathroom for you.

Since I was still fighting a cold, we took the free hotel shuttle down to the riverfront for dinner. One of us chose wisely and ordered the delicious, fresh-from-the-sea-hours-ago crab legs and one of us chose badly and ordered the bacon crab mac n' cheese which was really light on the cheese and completely skipped out on the crab. At least the bread with hot cheese dip was good.

We wandered around to a bar or two after dinner. The really cool thing about Savannah is their to-go policy. You can have your drink poured into a plastic cup to go if you're ready to move on. I took my plastic cup back on the shuttle so we could finish the evening in the upstairs bar at the hotel. I think it's in the part that was the original mansion. I finally, finally (!) after a year of being in the south, got a good Manhattan. Or three good Manhattans. We won't talk about how much they cost; they were worth every delicious drop.

The next day we headed out to Hilton Head, SC. It's supposed to be all fancy and beautiful and beachy. It certainly wasn't when we were there. After finding a public beach, we resolved to ignore the rain that was starting to come down and take a look at The Atlantic Ocean. Up until now, I have only seen the Atlantic from Ireland so my impression of it is cold and uninviting. Still, from Ireland it is beautiful. Not so much over here. Hordes of people were making their way back to their cars; we were clearly going against the flow of traffic. As soon as we hit the sand I knew why. Windy, windy, windy. Do you know what sand feels like when gale-force winds are blowing it at your bare legs? It's like being hit with tiny little bee-bees. It fucking hurts. So while one of us wanted to enjoy a stroll along the shoreline, the other one of us thought he was insane and refused. I'm calling it. The Atlantic can't hold a candle to the Pacific. They're not even in the same league. Like no contest. None at all. Even the sun prefers to go to bed with the Pacific.

After that fiasco, we wandered The Head (is that what people call it? That's what I'm going to call it.), looking for a nice place to hide from the wind and enjoy an adult beverage. Oh, but guess what? Every place we tried didn't open until 5:00. What, they don't day-drink on The Head?

Back to Savannah then.

Oh, while we're talking about driving from one to the other, the roads between Glorious Savannah and The Head are a little creepy. It's like going through marsh and woods and trailer parks and questionable side streets. One of the streets was actually called Burnt Church. I don't even want to know how it got that name. That was probably the biggest sign that we were in the deep south and I'm glad the car didn't break down. I'm also glad I'm white. And that's a completely fair thing to say in an area like that.

After arriving back in a normal part of the world, we decided to just go adventuring and walking around. We wandered into a gorgeous church. Meandered through parks. Sauntered through the cemetery. Which I wish was open past 8:00 p.m., but I guess people can't be responsible enough to adult after that time. We zig-zagged through neighborhoods admiring the spectacularly built homes. Most have plaques stating when they were built. Many have other notes of historical significance. There are memorials to soldiers, city founders, governors, and more. Everywhere you look in Savannah there is a piece of history. There is even a 300-year-old tree that has been preserved.

Oh, and the trees. The amount and beauty of trees in Savannah makes Nashville look like a desert. There are ginormous oaks and magnolias, all dripping with Spanish moss. Because it rained most of the time we were there, it felt like we were in this otherworld where branches and leaf canopies protected us from the clouds.

After stopping into a couple of stores and finding a near-perfect copy of Aesop's Fables from 1897, we dined on more crab legs and then continued to wander through the streets. We found City Market, which is next to yet another park, only this one was a bit more open and swarmed by families playing in the water fountain. We got a peach sangria to-go and then found another restaurant on a quiet street with live music where we ducked in for a bit to have another drink.

Wandering the streets at night is different from the daytime. I didn't mention it previously, but Savannah is one of the most haunted cities in the country. Maybe the most haunted. It's been around for nearly 300 years and has been in the center of the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement, not to mention the crimes committed against the Native Americans. There are bound to be restless spirits. Yes, we encountered a couple on the way back to the hotel. I would have liked to have known the stories but this was a spontaneous trip and we didn't do the ghost tour to find out any specifics.

The morning before we left, we again explored more of the neighborhood around the mansion walking in the rain. I insisted on finding the Mercer House, in which the events described in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil occurred. It was as beautiful as I thought it would be. I'd be hard-pressed to choose any house above any of the others though. They're all stunning.

I think every description I had previously heard about Savannah is true. It is charming, romantic, historic, inviting, and imaginative. It's one of those places that I wouldn't even recommend a specific restaurant or activity because I think everyone should just find their own connection with this bewitching little city.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Random Motivating Drunk Calls

I've had a cold this week. The wife said all weekend that she was fighting something and then I woke up with it Monday morning. Yay, my favorite. I'm going out of town this weekend so I've been trying to kick this cold's ass before it packs its bags to go with me. So last night, I dutifully took my Nyquil, snuggled up with the puppies, and prepared for sleep.

Then my phone rang. It was a number from Texas. A number I did not recognize. I swiped left. I assumed it was some random number that dialed mine by mistake and again closed my eyes. A text followed. A text informing me that this was San Diego, from Bend, calling me from Texas.

Backstory #1. Friends do not remember the names of guys that I date. It is much easier to name them based off of a distinguishing characteristic. For example, there was FBI Guy, Airplane Guy, South Africa, and, most recently, The Texan.

Backstory #2. San Diego was a guy I'd met in Bend. We met for drinks a couple of times, he disappeared, then messaged me from San Diego. Hence the name. He invited me to San Diego (the city, not himself) for the weekend a few years ago. It was fun. We laughed over drinks, ate some delicious sushi, went to a Padres game, and then I never heard from  him again. I wasn't sure how much of it wasn't us actually hitting it off versus how much was because I threw up all over the inside of his Porsche. Hey, shit happens. And usually to me.

Now that you're caught up, you can imagine how surprised I was to hear from Mr. San Diego. Except I guess now he's Mr. Austin but I don't change names so he's stuck with San Diego. Anyhoo, I called back out of curiosity. Morbid curiosity? Maybe.

Mostly I had to know why he was calling from a Texas number. Because he lives there now. Something about business, I didn't ask. I think he mostly wanted to compare southern stories but Texas is like its own country. And Austin is like a U.S. state surrounded by that other country. He also wanted to brag about dropping his boat in the lake whenever he wants. And yes, he's seen the bats under the bridge like a stupid tourist but he doesn't need to leave his house to see bats or 11 deer or a bobcat.

The rest of the call was some sort of rambling drunkenness but a lot of it centered around this blog. The one I largely neglect these days. He has somehow deluded himself into thinking I'm a Great Writer. That I should write a book. (About what? Dog slobber? The great shit stains to fashion known as Crocs? My life, which is funny only in moments, not in entirety?) He encouraged me to blog again. Because I'm so fucking great, writing may be my real talent, and some more drunk rambling.

Now, all of this does have a point with some actual, real meaning. Random calls from random dudes who ignore me for years and then just pop up out of the blue are pretty funny and can make good stories. But what San Diego wanted me to know is that he thinks I can Do Something, I am good at this thing I sometimes do. Someone once told him to do something he was good at and he ended up succeeding and making money doing That Thing.

I am not trying to validate that the words I say here are actually entertaining or that my blog should go viral or that I am particularly brilliant at anything. I am simply saying that we, as a society, say some very ugly things to each other. Cyber bullies. Racists. Misogynists. Donald Trump. Celebrities are feuding over their egos and certain colors of people are inciting violence against another color of people. Hell, I can't go to the ladies' room or walk down a grocery aisle without getting sneered at.

We are mean. God, we are so mean.

What I want to suggest is that you take a moment to say something nice to someone. You never know what little snippet of conversation someone will remember for the rest of their lives. What will motivate them to try harder or reach higher. All because someone recognized them and told them so. Tell a severely depressed person that you admire her courage because the fight is a hard one and she does it with grace. She just might live a day or a year or a lifetime longer because you noticed and acknowledged her. Tell the single dad that you appreciate the way he communicates with his daughter. He may always remember that and hold onto it instead of throwing up his hands when she enters her teenage years, the time she'll need him most.

Reach out in whatever way you can. Send a text. Say it with a hug. Randomly call someone in a drunken stupor.

Just, for the love of Nyquil, let them sleep if they need to sleep!

Monday, August 10, 2015

I started my new job last week, but I was in Pittsburgh all week getting set up. Today I was officially in my new location, which isn't as far or as bad of a drive as I thought it would be. In fact, one of my favorite clothing stores is about a 5-minute drive away. Which might turn out to be more of a minus than a place.

Anyway, here is what I discovered about this new place on my first day:

1. My bra sets off the metal detector. Or, as the security dude said, my "support system."
2. It's like a small city. 600 people work in my building but there are others. There is a bank and a cafeteria serving both lunch AND breakfast!!
3. Only people with special access can go to the second floor. I have access, therefore I am special.
4. There is a security code to get into the room I work in, so I'm double special.
5. The cafeteria is where we go during emergencies. Which makes sense, we'll need food to fortify us against danger.
6. Out of the three girls in the room I work in, I'm the only one that talks. Already.
7. My work room has a beautiful view of the warehouse. Actually, it would be beautiful if it were packed with shoes instead of computers.
8. The parking lot is so huge that it continues on the other side of the street but we have our own bridge so we don't have to deal with traffic.
9. Most sections have rooms named with themes. Most of my floor is Shakespeare - Hamlet, Prometheus, Othello. Downstairs there are storybook names - Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book.
10. The coffee's decent.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Pittsburgh List

I happen to be in Pittsburgh for the second time in two weeks. The first was for a job interview, this time for orientation and training for what is now my new job. I saw nothing the first time but my dinner and a crummy hotel room. This time, I'm here for several days so I've been able to see more than a single river view and the gross pube in the hotel's bathroom sink. (Yes, gag!)

Tonight I went adventuring for the first time. Mapquest's GPS whore took me through areas I probably had no business being so I got to see more than I bargained for. The following list is my initial impression of Steel City and contains both facts and opinions. Some of my opinions are actual facts.

1. Pittsburgh has the highest bridge count in the world, even more than Venice, the so-called City of Bridges. I don't know how many I've gone over so far. Some are over the rivers, some are over railroad tracks, others are over nothing.

2. Mr. Rogers lived here. There is a statue of him somewhere in the city but I haven't seen it yet.

3. My favoritest guilty pleasure movie was filmed here. Partly. I might try to find some of the locations tomorrow.

4. Pittsburgh has some of the most gorgeous, beautiful, old homes and it's heartbreaking that many of them are completely neglected and rotting into the ground. I think some of the poorest people in the city live in what were once very glamorous houses.

5. There is an Andy Warhol museum here. I won't see it because it closes as I'm getting off of work. Boo.

6. The smiley emoticon was invented here.

7. The Big Mac was born here. I'm still not going to eat one.

8. It's cleaner here than I thought except for the skeezy neighborhoods. I think they're still covered in coal dust.

9. There is no sales tax here on clothes. But I bought books.

10. They have boroughs here. It's so east-coast.

11. There are things called green belts and blue belts and red belts but I don't know what they are yet.

12. It is very, very difficult to get around here and nearly impossible to get from one side of town to another without going down side streets, often in skeezy areas.

13. The parks are beautiful. So are the cemeteries. And the churches.

14. There is a dinosaur skeleton in the airport.

15. I need to see more.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Empowerment. Education. Entertainment.

I've been trying to figure out how to describe this past weekend without emotionally vomiting all over everyone I meet and Saying ALL the Things. I really want to Say All the Things because I love All the Things but I don't want to come across as some sort of zealot. Mostly. Part of me doesn't care. The other part of me is mostly rational. Or possibly overly concerned with how others view me.

I digress.

In a very large nutshell....

Last Thursday the bestie and I went up to Cincinnati for a little thing called Pure Romance National Training. I had been looking forward to it for months. Actually, for nearly a year and a half. All of the girls who had been before told me repeatedly that it was life-changing and inspirational and the cornerstone of being a consultant. So, naturally, I wanted some of that.

The first 24 hours wasn't life-changing. It was mostly confusing. It was a lot of elevator rides. In a very old hotel with very old elevators. Slow, shaky elevators. Not for the anxiety-ridden. I'm not even going to mention how tiny the hotel room was, except to say that one of us had to sit on the bed if the other one wanted to walk around the room.  There was a lot of searching for the right information. There was a lot of waiting in line. A lot of escalators. A lot of loud women. Really, really loud women. J and I think we're the loud ones. Usually we are. I now think that some people have never heard of an inside voice. I hope they aren't reproducing.

It wasn't all bad. Just confusing. The classes were educational. Pure Romance works with pretty much the best doctors out there. They aren't just cranking out dildos and vibrators, but putting thought into why women use what and how and why relationships last and the ways in which all of that can be enhanced. We heard from some doctors who are well-researched in sexual behavior. As a former psych major, I found most of it pretty fascinating. It's always interesting to break behaviors down into components and cause and effect and will definitely help me in my business.

Okay, so education. Cool. But I was 24 hours in and hadn't had my socks knocked off.

Friday night was the opening session with the awards ceremony. Rookie of the year, top consultants, and recruits in each division. Clapping, cheering, yay. I was happy for these women, they accomplished something real, but I was really craving pajamas and a pillow at that point. Until. We get to the smaller section of women who have worked the hardest and the longest. Sixty-one women walked that stage because they made $1 million in the previous year. 61. Sixty. One. One Million Dollars. One of those women had a team who did $7 million in sales in six months. What? Holy shit!!! The cheering was real for them, but it still didn't really touch me. Like, that's great, but what does that  have to do with me? Good for them, they're like Super Women.

Towards the end, Patty Brisben (founder of Pure Romance) walked out to give her little mini-speech and my ears perked up when she told us, "Life doesn't get better by chance, it gets better by change." And then she asked what we're waiting for. Patty herself is pretty inspiring. She's tiny and adorable and built this incredible company that she believes in and it shows. What am I waiting for? What am I putting off?

Patty's son and Pink-Tie Pure Romance CEO Chris Cicchinelli spoke next. He spoke about those 61 women. He talked about how one of them didn't wait for her cancer to go into remission. Another one didn't wait for her addiction to rehabilitate itself. Another didn't wait for her kids to grow up but saved her family from losing their home when her husband was laid off. Story after story of women who have been through more than I have, who didn't give excuses. Who didn't wait to change their lives but went out there and Did It. In spite of what life threw at them. It wasn't easy, it never is, but they did it because the opportunity was there. 

And that sparked something. The leaders in this business are constantly reminding us to remember our "why." Why we do this business. Why we keep at it. Why it's important to us. I still haven't narrowed down the definition of my Why, but that night I remembered why I got into this business to start with. My usual story is something about how I love the products, I love the parties but my friends wouldn't let me do it every month so I said "Screw you guys" and started doing my own parties. Blah, blah, blah. It's so funny. It's also true, but it isn't the whole truth. 

The whole truth is that I wanted to do it but I didn't think I could. Fear said I couldn't. And then D became suicidal. When you are afraid 24 hours-a-day that the person you love most in the world is going to disappear, it shifts your perspective. A fucking lot. When you're afraid to go into her room in the morning because you're terrified she went away while you slept, there isn't that much to be afraid of. When the worst thing you can imagine becomes a near-reality, everything else is so much less scary. So I said, literally, because I'm a potty-mouth, "Fuck it! Let's do this!" And I fell in love with it. 

And then I moved across the country and I got distracted and D was better and everything seemed like such a long time ago that the fear crept back in. So when Patty and Chris asked, "What are you waiting for?" my answer was simple. I'm waiting for the fear to go away. But fear is a bastard. It doesn't leave quietly or of its own accord. 

I sat in that audience listening to them and thinking how brave D had been. How she held onto her life. If she had waited to ask for help, she might not be here. Her depression might have made that decision for her. She didn't wait. That is the worst example I can think of for what can happen if you wait. 

And those 61 women and that $7 million dollars didn't wait either.

Saturday came with exhaustion and sore feet. Not to mention bloated bellies from Not Enough Water. There were also moments of irritability with some of the more obnoxious among the groups. We decided to play hooky from a class to take a long lunch and breathe a bit. I was disappointed that lots of girls played hooky because I thought I was being naughty but it turns out I wasn't so naughty after all. 

And then another magic moment happened. You know it's always when you least expect it, right? You can't plan for it, you can't force it, you can't make it up. 

We saw a homeless man with his sad, dirty little homeless sign. J loves to give money to people who appear to need it. I win brownie points from her when I show compassion in that way. But she wasn't loving it enough to give him $10 that day when she didn't have a smaller bill. And then we saw another man, also homeless, near the first one. This man had a bright, colorful sign that absolutely delighted me and I giggled as I approached him. This man's sign stated, "I like Whipped Rainbow Sherbet." Whipped is the creamy lubricant that comes in delicious flavors. Clearly his favorite is rainbow sherbet. I asked if I could take his picture and he said it would cost me a hundred dollars but he agreed to the $10 that I offered him. 

We talked to him for a minute or two. He used to live near Nashville with his military wife until they got divorced; he's struggling to start over. But, like he said, you have to be creative sometimes. He was wonderful and I won't soon forget him, if ever. Because the picture of and the dichotomy between these two men was so great. Life sucks, it gets hard, and you do what you can to get by. But you can give in and do the bare minimum to get by or you can go out there with your head held high, a smile on your face, and do it differently. With a sense of humor. With courage and creativity. And in a way that makes other people happy. 

Saturday's classes started to resonate with me. I began to hear them through the veil of "what are you waiting for?" Some of my struggle has come from hearing other women talk up their accomplishments and it sounds so easy for them. I get frustrated with where I am in my business when it feels so far from where I want to be. It was invaluable to hear others talk about how long their journeys took. To hear they struggled too. To be reminded that I'm an individual with my own goals and my own quirks and I can't compare those to anyone else. 

Sunday brought the Piece de Resistance. Board. Breaking Ceremony. Whaaaat? Oh, I'll tell you. I will tell you All the Things about this one. 

The whole weekend had been building up to this moment. It sounded important but I felt like breaking a board being a life-changing event was a bit of hyperbole. I mean, really? 

J and I were late. As usual. Four days of sleep required copious amounts of coffee and 3,000 women operating on the same amount (or less!) of sleep makes for long lines at the coffee counter. When we walked in, the guest speaker was telling the story of Teddy Stallard. I've given you the version of this story to tell you that this isn't even a true story, it's a fabrication designed to pull at your heart strings. Plus it's one I've heard before. I knew the whole thing and how it was going to end. And yet, I cried. J cried. Every now and then, through tears, I'd remark something like, "what the fuck?" or "Seriously?" or "Damn it!" What was going on??? Neither one of us had taken our meds that morning so it was a recipe for wads of Kleenex. 

He then talked to us about purpose. About how his purpose is his wife and his two daughters. He showed us their pictures. He asked us what color a yield sign is. Yellow!!! No, red and white. 1100 women were wrong, he probably loved that. He talked about how he saw his daughter differently when she came home from college, how she wasn't the yellow yield sign he'd seen her as her whole life and wondered what else he'd been missing. Fuck if the tears weren't streaming by then. 

He had us do some visualization exercises. A lot of this sounds hokey and it was and it felt hokey at the time and it sounds hokey to me now, but that's all part of it. You do dumb things to get over feeling dumb doing smart things. 

When it came time to break our boards, we gathered in groups of ten. Momma C threatened to kick our asses if we didn't find her so she could be our board-holders so we pushed our way across the room, through a thousand women, until we found her. Besides, we wouldn't have wanted to do it with anyone else. 

We were instructed to write, on one side, the thing we wanted to break through. It could be anything, but only one thing. I chose fear. Because it seems to be the overriding theme of my life. I've been afraid of so many things. Being alone. Speaking up. Being a single parent. Letting go. And yet, when I do the things I'm afraid of, the rewards are so much greater than any feeling of fear. I know this. I know this, but I still let it get in the way. The tattoo I got in Ireland was supposed to be a reminder. It says, in Latin, "Without fear." It's my constant reminder, but a lot of the time it's just ink. 

On the other side of the board, we wrote what we would gain and what we could have if we broke through that one thing. My words were things like success, love, leadership, freedom. And then we wrote the people we wanted to bring along on that journey. I chose only three names. I know a lot of people, but my real circle, my important circle, is very small. 

J and I stood in the circle cheering for the women who went before us. It was exhilarating, there was a powerful sense of support, and a growing feeling of panic and fear. We both said, "What if we don't break it? What if we're the only ones?" Because, the first five or six women to go broke those boards like they were nothing. They made it look so easy. Which meant they were all stronger/better/more successful than I would be. Did I say fear is a bastard? 

The first time someone didn't break her board, my heart broke for her. Because we all knew, simultaneously, what this meant. It may have been for different reasons, we all have our own whys, but it was equally monumental for each of us. That damn board broke on her fourth try. I don't know for sure because it was pretty damn loud in there, but I think I screamed the loudest and hardest for her. Our success was all the same in that moment. 

When it was my turn, I got goofy. I prepared myself for the attempts that wouldn't break the board, for which I would have to laugh it off so I didn't break down. We were told to look at our board-holder's eyes. If you look at the board, you only go that far and you have to look past it to make it to the other side. Momma C moved one of my arms, adjusted the other. She looked right into my eyes, I locked in on hers, seeing all of the trust and support and encouragement I needed. I don't know what happened after that. I didn't feel it. It was just that a second later, she was holding my board in two pieces and I jumped up and down like a crazed kangaroo. I fucking did it!!!!!

Then it was time for J to go. Last. Symbolically. Sadly symbolically. And she didn't break it the first time. I thought if I screamed loudly enough my sheer willpower would break it for her. I wanted it so badly for her. Far more than I wanted it for me. It just didn't happen that first time. She told me afterward that Momma C told her it was okay, that she had more to break through than a lot of people. When it broke on her second attempt, I thought I would lose my mind with joy. I was even past the point of sappy crying. 

She showed me her two pieces and where they broke. On one side it said, "good enough." It couldn't have been more perfect or more appropriate. Her One Thing was "Not feeling like I'm good enough." I don't believe, beyond any shadow of doubt, that this was a coincidence. She is good enough. I've always known it, but I can't believe it for her. She had to make her own breakthrough to literally, physically, see the words telling her that she's good enough. She's more than good enough. 

The piece where my board split is almost as impressive. Yes, I only wrote three names, but I also wrote my team name. Right now that team is a tiny team of two. And I'm okay with that today, but I'm ready to stop waiting and start multiplying it. My team name is two words. My board broke with one name on each side. I looked at J and told her that it's because I need the two of us to accomplish what I want. I don't want to do it without her. 

Sometimes life makes sense. Sometimes it really doesn't. It seemed like life got in the way last year. I moved the weekend before training so I wasn't able to go and I was pretty disappointed. I know now that I was meant to go this year. I was meant to share All the Things with J. That epiphany hit me just before she hit that board the second time. Powerful? A little bit. 

So, inspirational? Yeah. Life-changing? Hell yeah. I broke a damn board. That's not to say that the next morning I loved and accepted my bloated belly or I rushed home to quit the day job that pays the rent. I'm not going to solve the climate change problem. I don't have the money to hop the next plane to Greece. It's more like the flutter of a butterfly wing. My direction has shifted. The things I wanted before I want more now because I know that they're possible. I have this experience, this memory, I have All the Things to hold in my heart. 

Which is where it all starts anyway, right? 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On Being My Offspring

I have a couple of “flaws” to confess to. First of all, it can’t be easy to be my kid. I don’t hide my feelings or my opinions or my disappointments. I’m not the mom who says, “You can do ANYthing you want to in life” because it’s not true and it’s bullshit to lie to your kids. D wanted to be a nurse for a couple of months. I told her that was a ridiculous idea because I know her limits. I know her study habits and I know her personality. Sure enough, just watching two episodes of Grey’s Anatomy episodes took care of that.

Secondly, I’m sort of an education snob. I went to college right after high school (really because my parents made me) and I always imagined sending D off the same way. Shopping for her dorm, hearing about her crazy professors (because there are always at least a couple), welcoming her home during break. A few years ago I went back to school for an MBA. I like education. I like educated people.

So imagine my disappointment when D didn't want to go to school. She applied to one college, didn't get in, and basically gave up. She started working at a pizza place. I consoled myself by saying, “High school was hard for her. Maybe she just needs a year off. Working at a pizza place has to be motivation to do something better.” Imagine also that, being the person I am, she knew my level of disappointment. I’m not the best person.

In high school she brought up beauty school a couple of times. I pompously dismissed that idea. No. No. No. One must be properly educated and beauty school is the path that dropouts choose. And, before you send me a bunch of hate mail, I've already admitted to my flaws. My parents also had flaws that they passed down to me, so there's that.

A couple of month ago she started looking into the Aveda Institute. She talked about it; she talked about one of her friends who was in the program and loving it. I groaned. I rolled my eyes. She set up an interview with the admissions director and asked me to go with her. Begrudgingly, I went. Sincerely, she thanked me. Knowing I wasn’t 100% or even 40% supportive, it meant a lot to her that I was there.

Aveda put on a fashion show as a benefit for clean water, but it was also a contest for incoming students for a chance to win a full scholarship. Each student had to design an outfit and do hair and makeup for their model. It was all outside of D’s comfort zone and yet she embraced the opportunity. She showed me her ideas but she did it on her own – bought her own supplies, material, and put it all together.

The night of the show she was glowing. Beaming. She didn't win the full scholarship (she did win a partial) and she knew that other people did a little better job than she did. But it wasn't about that. It was about starting something and completing it well and doing it on her own. She was proud of working hard and proud of that achievement. And I was too.

Somehow I managed to raise a child who needs my approval. She requires it and she tells me as much. And, selfishly, I like it that way. I knowingly offer my negative opinions in order to “redirect” her. I do it under the guise of wanting what’s best for her. Which is actually true. In my heart of hearts, I want what’s best for her. I want her to be happy. Of course I do, more than anything. I want this exceptional being, this literal piece of me, to be happy.

The thing is, I don’t know what that is anymore. I don’t get to decide that for her at this age. I really don’t know what is best for her. It’s her turn to decide that. Her mistakes are hers now, she has her own journey and her own dreams. And if those aren't the same dreams I have, then I have to let go of that and learn to trust her.

The whole point of this is to say that there is this really extraordinary person in my life. She saw something that she wanted. She wanted my approval but didn't wait for it, she went after that goal anyway. She’s been through some pretty big shit in the last few years (as most of you know) so I see this as another sign of her strength. I’m still not letting go 100%. It will be inch-by-caterpillar-inch, but I’m learning to trust her. I’m learning to see her and know her as a whole person. A person with goals and dreams who isn't settling for the easy path, no matter, or in spite of, what I think. A person that, no matter what I say or how hard I roll my eyes, I honestly support. I think there’s a part of her that always believed that anyway. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Elevator Talk

She held the door open for me. Twice. She was on the short side, casually dressed. We were headed to the same floor. We smiled politely.

She looked down at my shoes. Red patent-leather heels that I continue to covet even though I own them, even though they reside in my own closet. She stared. I mistook this stare for admiration. Because I would admire them. I still do. Finally she said, "Aren't your feet going to hurt by the end of the day?"

What I wanted to say, but didn't, was, "Do you know how long I've waited for a day like this? Do you know how sad I am that their box has been collecting dust on my closet shelf for months??" What I wanted to say was, "What is the point of nice weather if I can't wear cheerful shoes that make me happy?" What I didn't say was, "These are exactly the kind of shoes that every woman should own and wear at least once a season no matter the occasion." What I wanted to tell her is that any small amount of pain is totally worth the ego boost they provide me with all day.

What I did say, with a shrug, was, "Eh. I'll be sitting most of the day anyway."

Because, clearly, the fact that she even had to ask that question shows that she doesn't get it. She doesn't get me. She doesn't respect The Shoe.

This is why people shouldn't talk on elevators.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

My Friend Is Gone

I've been trying to organize my thoughts and feelings but I think I need to just get them out instead so forgive what is sure to be very disjointed.

I lost my friend Dawnelle this week. It was sudden and unexpected and I can't get over how unfair it is. One minute she was here, the next she was gone. She was 43 and had a teenage daughter. She was finally happy after years of being in an unhappy marriage. She found love. She found happiness within herself. She lived life like it could end at any moment without ever knowing that it would. End. Just like that.

She was a good friend in the way you know that people are really good friends because you can go months with being so busy in your own life but when you need them or just want to see them, they are there. They make the time and they listen and it's like you just saw them the day before. She was the friend that I knew I would see again, even after moving across the country. I knew that she would visit or I would visit, that our paths would cross and that our last "goodbye" was just "see you later."

Except it wasn't.

And I can't wrap my brain around the fact that she's gone. I feel guilty for feeling happy in my own life. Because how could this beautiful life be extinguished, leaving a young girl behind without the person who loved her most in the world while mine continues? How is that I get to complain about not losing enough weight or sighing over the dogs peeing on the floor yet again or whine that my back hurts because I worked out? This wonderful human being is gone and her young daughter's life will never be the same. It won't be what it was supposed to be. That doesn't mean it can't be good and she's strong enough to make it because she is her mother's daughter but it shouldn't be that way.

People say, "She would want you to be happy." And of course she would. I know that. I would tell someone else the same thing. My guilt and my sadness don't change the fact that she's gone. Still. I wish I could do something.

In the end, I think, that all we have is the love in our lives. I am lucky to have known her and I am grateful for her friendship. I got to hear her story and witness her courage. I got to be a part of her journey. I got that privilege. And really, isn't that what life is? It's a privilege. To be loved, to care for others, to laugh and cry and feel joy and pain. If there has to be a lesson from something that makes no sense, I will have to satisfy myself with that.

It's not fair and life is cruel but I have to choose to take heart in the knowledge that my friend was loved and she knew joy and she knew strength and she loved with the fierceness that I know and feel as a mother.

It's the only thing I can do.

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