Ginger Ale and Funeral Plans

Look! I found another blog post I wrote at least a year ago and never published! It’s like Christmas in October, but not on the Hallmark Channel! Cheers!

There is something deeply unsettling about realizing that if you were asked the age-old question about what you would take with you if you knew you were going to be stuck on a desert island, your answer is – immediately and without hesitation – toilet paper and ginger ale. And that if you had to choose just one, you’d be hard-pressed to choose between the two. I used to think that I’d choose a book, or maybe some sort of lip balm, since I’m hopelessly addicted to both.

But when you spend an entire week with your head hanging over a toilet puking up the entire contents of your stomach – including blood (no, I didn’t go to the hospital, and no, it wasn’t really that much blood, and yes, I know it was blood and I know why I’m puking it up) – and then you spend that same amount of time again in the bathroom (I’ll spare you the details) continuing to be sick for no other reason than your DNA structure, you start figuring out what your simplest priorities are.

And mine, sadly, are toilet paper and ginger ale. Those are my needs.

I’d prefer if said ginger ale came in canned form, and while I do have a particular brand I prefer, any made with real ginger would do. I figure with as much of it as I have to drink, I could use the cans structurally once they’re empty, weighing them down with sand so they’re more stable. I have plenty of time to think of these things in weeks and months like this.

For example, I’ve decided that when I die and my funeral is planned, I don’t want flowers on my casket. Everyone does that, and it’s predictable. I want a party, dang it. And everyone knows that at parties, there are balloons. That’s right, balloons. Multi-colored ones. The hubs would tell you my favorite color is Roy G Biv, and I expect my funeral to live up to the occasion (pun completely intended).

Instead of flowers and that weird apparatus they use to lower (drop) the casket into the grave, I want a ginormous bunch of multi-colored balloons tied to each corner of my coffin and then a bunch in the middle on each side – basically every place there would be a pall bearer. I will be weirdly levitated from funeral service to grave (which is quite considerate, I think, as it takes the weight off the pall bearers – my final act of selflessness). When it’s time for the family to “throw their flower,” I want each person at the funeral to take a balloon from alternating locations on the box, so that my remains are slowly and awkwardly lowered into the ground. The beauty of this is that (a) it is irrevocably strange and uncomfortable, and (b) there is guaranteed to be comedy, because eventually, the weight of the casket will overcome the force of the balloons, and I’m bound to drop crookedly and suddenly into the pit that will be my body’s final resting place.

And if you don’t think that’s funny, you’re probably already dead.

Seriously, picture it: a bright but overcast day, a slight drizzle – even a misty fog – shrouding everything in sight. All five of my friends gathered with my husband and family, reliving their favorite moments shared with me: baking chocolate chip cookies, arguing with my brothers who always wanted to be right but never were, the way they would call or text and not receive a response for days because I didn’t check my phone regularly and couldn’t be counted on to watch for social media notifications (true story), and so on. The preacher closes with a prayer, and one by one, the gathering steps up to a gleaming mahogany casket surrounded by a halo of balloons that would put all the birthday parties up to that point to shame. Everyone gets to take one balloon from the bunches, making their way around the perimeter like a twisted game of Duck-Duck-Goose. (And you only get one balloon – if you let yours go and it floats to the sky, well, that will teach you to hang on to the things that matter, won’t it? You never know when they’ll float into the ether.)

Slowly, the casket drops into the grave, completely unbalanced and with a lurching, drunken sway, to be honest. This probably wasn’t a good idea, someone will whisper. I know, someone else will agree, but it’s what she wanted.

Indeed.

Suddenly, the groan and creak of the box accompanied by the hissing, disconcerting sound of its contents (me) shifting to one end. Gravity overtakes helium. I make one final, crash landing into the abyss!

Macabre? Sure.

Hilarious?

YES! And totally worth it.

I’m not 100% sold on everyone taking a single balloon. We could make this far more interesting and turn it into one of those carnival dart games where everyone gets three chances to pop a balloon. We just have to make sure someone is there to officiate – the game, not the funeral – and clear the other side of the casket to avoid injuries. People shouldn’t have to worry about getting hurt at a funeral, you know.

Anyhow, that’s what I’ve decided I want instead of the usual wake. I feel like that’s fair if I have to spend so much time locked in a 3 x 5 room staring at porcelain only to spend all the time after my time in an even smaller space lined with satin. (Whose idea was satin, by the way? Of all the non-breathable, expensive, impractical fabrics out there, we thought the underlining of a 1960s prom dress was classy and appropriate for the afterlife? Really? How ’bout some good old fashioned cotton or linen, like the Egyptians? They figured out mummification pretty well – I can’t see how satin is an improvement.)

Meanwhile, though, I won’t be planning a trip to any desert islands in the near future. I don’t think banana leaves and palm fronds are a good alternative to Cottonelle. I also don’t know how to make my own ginger ale and I honestly don’t know if ginger is native to desert islands – probably not, if I had to guess. Otherwise, why would Canada lay claim to it?

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Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com
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Your Problems Are Stupid

GUESS WHAT!? I just realized this week that I still pay for this domain and that I’ve written a ton of blog posts that I never published. (Yes, that’s silly.) The following is one of them from either last year or the year before, because I have also decided that paying for a domain where I write blog posts I never actually post is ridiculous – almost as ridiculous as a politician with a Twitter account. (Please don’t send me hate mail or post ignorant comments disagreeing with me or mouthing some vitriol about politics, freedom of speech, etc., etc.  – I don’t read them, I don’t care, I do vote, you won’t change my mind, I will almost certainly block you, and it won’t bother me at all. INSTEAD, go use that energy to donate a dollar to the Red Cross or to a clean water initiative for countries who need it and use your powers to make a positive impact instead of no impact at all. *Thanks, Management.) So, here is one of those drafts, and I have decided that October 17th will be my January 1st and that I will purposely be posting far more regularly. Otherwise, why the h-e-double-hocky-sticks am I paying for a blog domain? Enjoy!

I’ve been traveling lately, I’ve been around more people than I would normally interact with in several months’ time, and I’ve been exhausted by it. It’s been draining, frightening, confusing, exciting, interesting, wonderful, and enlightening, to say the least. I’ve come home with some new perspectives on my day-to-day actions and decisions, I’ve started to find new ways of doing things based on what I learned from some of those interactions, and I’ve also thought of some creative solutions to challenges I’ve been facing for a few weeks, all because I traveled.

Granted, it was business travel, so that was kind of the point – to interact with peers and colleagues who could share with me their point of view and open my eyes to see things in a way that isn’t always comfortable for me. I hope I had the chance to do the same for them. I also got to hear some amazing stories of overcoming obstacles that I allowed myself to get temporarily warm and fuzzy over and then swept to the side so I could focus on my productivity. But when I came home, I started thinking back to some of those stories and reflecting on them. I’ve been getting a little (a lot) philosophical about life and how it should be lived, and I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep (I got almost none, mostly because I don’t sleep well in strange places and tend to just lay there and contemplate the universe, but also because I was in a different time zone and worked different hours and it jacked my system all up, let me tell you.) or the creative juices that started flowing, but here’s what I’ve decided:

*wait for it…*

Your problems are stupid.

I know that’s upsetting, but it’s the truth. And what’s even more upsetting is that my problems are equally stupid and when I think about them, not really problems at all compared to other people. I mean, as far as I know, I don’t have any type of cancer I’m fighting while also working while also raising a family while also going to school while also dealing with home repair issues and transportation issues. I do have a job, which I love, I have a family, whom I love and sometimes even like, and who I like to think cares at least a little about me. I have friends, though few, which is by choice and not because I’m a hideous bridge troll who sucks the life out of everything I touch (at least, if I am, no one has told me – and ignorance is bliss, so I’m cool with that). I have a home, and even though it needs some work and if anyone came inside they would think we were hoarders who got robbed but the job didn’t get finished, it’s a roof over my head. I have clothing (far too much of it if you ask anyone else in my family, but what do they know?) and food (including a lot of mac-and-cheese) and clean water. My bills get paid. Our dogs get fed. And my neighbor only mows an indecently crooked line up the side of my yard once per week because she either can’t see straight or hates me and grass.

I have problems, don’t get me wrong. But they’re not horrible. I mean, I could compare myself to my great-grandmother for some perspective. That woman lived through the Great Depression, WWII, buried two husbands and a couple babies before she was 37, raised her other children alone, and lived to be just shy of 100 years old. She was wise, caring, tough, and when I was old enough to understand – hilarious.

So yeah, we all have problems, but when I take some time to consider the problems I don’t have? My problems are stupid. All of this to say, this is a preface to another post where I’ll probably talk about my problems – namely, Crohn’s disease and the issues it causes. What’s awesome about that is that I can totally do that and contradict myself (because it’s my blog – kind of like that whole sales game where “it’s my bat, my ball, my rules”). So stay tuned for a glimpse of what life is really like for people with weird, gross, annoying illnesses for which there is no cure.

But please understand that I, of all people, do know that compared to the majority of the world, my problems – and probably yours, if you’re a citizen of a first-world country – are pretty stupid.

 

 

Under Attack

(I know, I know. It has been forever since I posted. You’re fine. Deep breaths.)

I just waged war against the animal kingdom. I’ll keep you posted on whether I win or not. In the meantime, know that it started with a hard-fought battle in the wee hours of the night and that many, many lives were lost. Countless, even.

I maybe cried a little.

Okay, I totally cried. A lot.

To be fair, I have been ill, in pain, and very tired. Like, I could get on board with a six-months-long-medical-coma tired. I got overwhelmed. Waging war is stressful. I hear it ages a body. I may need to call my hairdresser.

I used well over half a can of Lysol spray, because there is no reason war has to be both messy AND unsanitary. None.

Also, Lysol works almost as well as pyrethrin in a pinch.

Those ants will remember this day. Or they won’t and they will send more troops and I will be ready. (I won’t be ready.)

I will protect.this.house. (I will cry again and make my husband – who works in pest control for pitysakes – get his @$$ out of bed at 11:30 PM on a week night and help. And by help I mean stand there, frustrated with me, and be awake at the same time I am while I haul clothes and garbage out of my bathroom with one hand and wield a deadly can of lemon-scented Lysol with the other. I will wipe up the carcasses later. And when he asks why I woke him up I will tell him it was because I need a hero, gosh dang it, and by hero I mean someone to carry the 4 baskets of laundry to the utility room and to be awake with me. I mean someone who works in freaking pest control who takes care of this BEFORE it happens so it doesn’t actually happen. And I will ask him why in God’s good name we have ANTS when he works in pest control, and he will promise to show up tomorrow and not only pick up the fight where the Lysol spray left off but he will also bring ant gel, more spray treatment, and by God he will crawl under the house and find that trail and he will avenge me!

I will promise to think about trying to remember that my husband, too, has a day job and a part-time night job and that he cannot be my hero if I refuse to get out of his way. My bathroom is only big enough for one person at a time, and even that is a stretch. There is a reason bathrooms are sometimes called “water closets.” This one is more along the lines of an airplane lavatory. But I digress…

He will smite those ants Old Testament style!)

Whew! Longest parenthetical thought EVER. Eat your heart out, Faulkner.

Anyway, I waged war. I am also incapable of not scratching my head, which feels creepy-crawly after all those ants died at my hand. This is psychological only, I know, and yet… so itchy. That is weird, as ants are clearly not lice, so there is no reason for my head to suddenly be itchy. (Stop scratching – you know you are!)

I shall keep you posted. Meanwhile, I shall rest when I can and buy a new toothbrush tomorrow, as mine was gunned down in friendly fire.

It had a good run.

Tomorrow we shall fight another day! (Cue “One Day More” from Les Miserables…)

Ants. Ick.

Goddess of May

In late April a few years ago, I was coming home from work and noticed something. With the windows down, driving over the ridge just past the river, I noticed that the coltish, freshly bloomed youth of Spring in April was giving way to something more mature, something richer. Over the past few nights I saw the same thing happening, remembered a journal entry I made those years ago at the end of April, sensed the change in the breeze and in the way lavender clouds floated in front of an orange sherbet sunset just before a Spring storm. It was like traveling in time.

I watched the sky in the distance as the storm front passed my area of the county in favor of the county to the northwest. Fading blue sky laced with molten orange met misty anvils and the blue-gray cotton candy of a twilight storm. Flashes of light danced behind the gauzy curtain, outlining the thunderheads in bright and pale pinks, lilacs, electric peaches, and blue fire. All behind the ridge – the spinal cord of hills and trees separating our neck of the woods from theirs (the other county). Magnificence.

Just before I turned into our small community of neighborhoods, I was driving straight toward the storm. Had I kept going I might have found myself struggling to share the stage with it, said stage being made of pitted asphalt and painted with the faded yellow of warning. But just after that right turn home, I breathed deeply and caught the essence through my open windows of something I haven’t smelled since the first few months I lived here, the smell of the country – this particular countryside – before it rains. I love that scent.

It’s the hint of refreshing rain mixed with the heavy-sweet flavor of balmy air – air full of the gossip of buzzing insects working in the bulb flowers and of the mingled breaths of newly blossomed, developing trees, musky with youth and dewy with the syrup of honeysuckle, air full of electricity and life, seduction set free to fly without restraint through the atmosphere.

That moment is when spring is real, when life matters. That’s all it takes, just that smell. It is how my ancestors predicted heavy rains before Doppler and before TV.

It is the beginning of a new relationship, a time when we usher out the fresh, shy bloom of April, say goodbye to the chaste whispers that draw the wild things back out into the open and welcome with open arms the more mature, more unabashedly sensuous May.

April is gangly, a bit clumsy as she grows into herself. She is blooming, warm but moody – going from cold to hot to cold again – like a teenager coping with hormones. She is beautiful, but not quite filled out in certain places. But May…

May teases for a while, with a glimpse of bare leg through the back-lit curtain, only to burst through, fully, mere moments later. May is April after she has learned to appreciate her conquests, after she learns to ply her trade of seduction, reveling in every stage from the introduction to the afterglow. Still youthful, still fresh and still sweet – but something more. May is fuller, richer, warmer, calling gently with the first light of morning, softly singeing during the day – just hot enough to burn but then soothing your skin with her sighs – and languorously drawing you in at dusk with her mystery and the promise to reveal it.

May is pleasure incarnate.

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Lovely & Hateful Things, Parts Dos

Things I Hate, continued…

  1. (really #47, but I’m too lazy to figure out how to start back a cleanly numbered list at 47 and not 1) hearing people chew (it’s just gross)
  2. know-it-alls (This is so hard for me, because I am one, and I know this, but I don’t like it when other people are know-it-alls, which is a problem, especially when you read the next item of things I hate, which I beg you to take tongue-in-cheek because I just can’t not write it because it’s a real thing.)
  3. hypocrites (Yes, I’m hanging my head in shame, here. Don’t judge me.)
  4. the ambient sound of the interstate under the buzz of cicadas in my back yard at night (I want to feel like I’m in the middle of nowhere instead of in other people’s laps all the time, and like the lady next door is absolutely not going to mow a GIANT CROOKED LINE down my yard this morning because she’s under the impression that our shared property line is  magical easement where visual aesthetics don’t exist. She is the reincarnation of Mr. Magoo.)
  5. the fact that I have lived in suburbia long enough that I just referred to any part of my yard as having an aesthetic appeal (help)

Things I Love, continued…

  1.  (really #56) Christmas songs (preferably starting around July or August – nowish – and running through January)
  2. old comedies (preferably from the 40s, 50s, and 60s – and if it’s a musical that’s even better!)
  3. cartoons (Fine. I confess. … I kind of secretly love Teen Titans Go.)
  4. walking our dog in the park on a nice day (I want to put that I love walking him on a nice day in winter because there are no bugs in winter, but since it’s currently the middle of summer and the bugs are everywhere I’m probably biased. I know I complain about walking him in winter, too.)
  5. when friends send books in the mail that make them think of me (I should worry that this is what made them think of me, but it’s just the best, funniest gift.)20160801_170312
  6. my morning bowl of coffee
  7. Gilmore Girls (Is it any wonder, considering I drink coffee by the bowl?)

 

And I’m sure these will continue now that I’m into list mode, which is a dangerous and addictive thing for me. But now I must adult (read: work).

Things I Love (because life should be balanced and because I was told I have to write this next)

  1. Starburst jelly beans
  2. cheap wine
  3. expensive wine
  4. the fact that just because I love wine people will think I’m a lush (I’m totally not. I have a glass – maybe two – every other day or less. My doctor told me it’s one of the best things I can do for myself as long as I’m not averaging more than one per day. Plus it feels like something an adult would do, ya know? I sip and enjoy. I don’t overdo it.)
  5. nonfiction essays (especially humorous ones)
  6. Romance novels (not, like, lady porn or anything – just some fluff every now and then… and maybe a good cozy mystery)
  7. Classic novels (for when fluff and reality won’t cut it)
  8. comics
  9. basically, to read stuff
  10. brownies
  11. when little children laugh
  12. dogs
  13. horses
  14. birds
  15. fine, all animals, then
  16. cooking (especially old family recipes when I need comfort food, and also trying brand new ones that are more gourmet)
  17. comedic movies
  18. action movies
  19. my best friend (who told me I had to write this list)
  20. music (pretty much all of it)
  21. family
  22. sunsets (I’m far too lazy to get up early enough for a sunrise, if I can help it.)
  23. trees
  24. climbing trees (I don’t get to indulge in this often enough. I’m told adults don’t climb trees, to which I say, pfffft.)
  25. singing
  26. driving (especially road trips)
  27. traveling! (though I rarely ever get to do so)
  28. writing
  29. my job! (for reals – and how many people do you know who can say that?)
  30. the fact that only about 3 people read this blog but I love the heck out of writing it anyway
  31. people who use proper grammar and spelling (this is a personal problem I’m working through)
  32. people who are willing to do my dishes (see “Things I Hate”)
  33. peanut M&Ms
  34. fishing with my grandfather
  35. inside jokes
  36. laughing at myself
  37. making people smile
  38. quiet time
  39. the beach (pretty much any beach)
  40. almost any natural body of water for that matter
  41. heights (that’s right – I love high places)
  42. bright colors
  43. drawing
  44. baking (not to be confused with cooking)
  45. flowers (except the ones that smell like dead things or funeral homes)
  46. resilient people
  47. doughnuts (I’m starting to wonder how I don’t weigh 400 pounds the longer this list gets.)
  48. Greek salads! (HA! I DO like one healthy thing!)
  49. a clean house, especially if I didn’t have to clean it (*dreeeeeeeeeeam….dream, dream, drea-eam….*)
  50. rain
  51. also, thunderstorms
  52. hugs (but ONLY from a very select few people, because I have a personal bubble of space that tends to be wider than most other people’s and I like it that way)
  53. finding ways to fix things that are broken and make them better (This can also be on the list of things I hate if it’s something I feel like I have to do all the time, but I like the challenge in general. This is not effective or fun when dealing with broken people, who I tend to avoid.)
  54. the fact that I’m much more comfortable now in my majestic awkwardness than I was a decade ago
  55. getting letters the old-fashioned way, via snail mail

 

…and lots of other things I’m sure I’ll add at a later date.

(There! Now I’ve balanced it. Better?)

Things I Hate (or, that make me want to poke my eyes out) Part One

  1. feelings (see previous post)
  2. hamburgers (Okay, so once every three or four months I’ll crave a thickburger from Hardee’s or something, but then I’m done.)
  3. also, meatloaf (only bread should come in a loaf)
  4. pushy people
  5. doing the dishes
  6. having plans made for me without being consulted
  7. being told what to do (see #4)
  8. being ignored (this should go without saying, right?)
  9. licorice flavored jelly beans
  10. fake people
  11. having to be nice to fake people
  12. not saving money
  13. eBay (I just… I don’t know. I’ve never liked it. I don’t know why. It may or may not be related to being forced to attend lots of car auctions in my youth. I’m not an auction person, okay? I just want to pay for something without having an argument or a competition over it.)
  14. mesh clothing (I mean, really, what’s the point?)
  15. baseball caps on the kitchen table
  16. 80s synthesizer music (this should probably be closer to number one, but I’m writing this as they come to me, so keep that in mind)
  17. Axl Rose (but Slash is amazing)
  18. the janky carpet in my house that I want to replace but can’t
  19. flan (yet I love creme brulee, and they’re really similar when you think about it)
  20. Michelob Ultra
  21. Sports Talk Radio
  22. any talk radio
  23. anyone talking on the radio, actually – I just want them to play songs. Is that so much to ask?
  24. ambiguity
  25. Outback’s Bloomin’ Onion (Sadly, I’ll probably get more flack for this than anything else.)
  26. when people misuse apostrophes to make things plural (An apostrophe is meant to show possession and join words into contractions! That is ALL. IT NEVER MAKES THINGS PLURAL. So stop it.)
  27. when people use the wrong form of a word (this one I can let go occasionally – the apostrophe thing I can’t)
  28. small talk
  29. ‘touchers’ (You know – the handsy people who touch everyone or have no concept of personal space so they’re all up in yours? I can’t handle those people. And that’s weird because I’m fairly affectionate with people I love. But if I don’t love you, don’t touch me.)
  30. gratuitously violent movies and TV shows (I’m a comedy person.)
  31. people who aren’t dog people (I don’t trust those people.)
  32. whiny voices
  33. complainers (Yes, I see what I did there.)
  34. hypochondriacs
  35. negative people (This is not the same as complainers. There is, of course, some overlap, but there can be a difference.)
  36. incredibly loud places (or at least for ridiculously long periods of time)
  37. the teacups at Disney (just… no)
  38. Nascar (sorry Dad)
  39. cigarette smoke (I’m allergic to it, so obviously it bothers me.)
  40. poison ivy
  41. mosquitoes (why do they even exist?!)
  42. people who litter
  43. people who don’t say “please” and “thank you” and hold open doors for other people
  44. Chanel No. 5 (I’m pretty sure my grandmother wore this. And I loved her. But I hate this stuff.)
  45. fart jokes (there were far too many of these growing up with brothers)
  46. people who keep their phones in front of their faces all through dinner

 

To Be Continued… (probably)

We Don’t Do That Here

I’ve been exploring and talking a lot about my feelings over the past couple of weeks. I hate doing that. I’m not good at it; it’s incredibly inconvenient because if I talk about them I have to reflect on them and if I reflect on them I have to admit I’m not perfect and that I really do have the feelings even though I don’t do the feelings. Who has time for that? I’m not a starving, mediocre poet writing lines about the trash on the sidewalk. I’ve got bills to pay.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally fine talking with other people about their feelings. I’m quite good at that, actually, and make my living helping other people explore their reactions and why they have them and then overcome them so we can get stuff done. Because after the feelings have been felt, there is still stuff that has to get done in order for the progress to continue. And I am all about progress while I still do care about the feelings of others.

Unless the progress is mine, apparently. That’s what I’ve learned while feeling my feelings over the past few weeks.

I have made very little progress toward my own goals in life. I’ve rah-rahed and fist-bumped my way through team-building exercises and I like to hope I’ve inspired other people to reach their potential, or at least think they can. But if life progress were measured in speed and miles I’d be a flea in a rusted go-cart a couple of inches from the starting line.

“There’s nothing wrong with feeling things,” I’ve been told, usually by people who have their lives together and don’t worry about all of the many possible scenarios that have literally and will likely never happen to them in this life, which is one of the things I catch myself doing. (I legit waste a lot of free time having imaginary arguments in my head that never come to fruition – line by line, action by reaction. I’m told this is one of the trademarks of a true INTP. Of course it is, because I wouldn’t have a useful trademark like making friends easily or being naturally athletic. No. Instead, I’m one of the lucky ones who has a high probability of being recommended for new anti-anxiety drugs and clinical trials to help alleviate ADHD symptoms.) And that’s great for them if they like to get worked up over their emotions and really engage with that mess. I hear there are also some people who love kale smoothies in the morning. I’m happy for them.

I would rather be stripped to the skin, drizzled in honey, and tied face-down to the top of a fire-ant hill (is that a thing? do fire ants have hills?) than talk about or even acknowledge ‘the feels.’ I feel the same about kale breakfast smoothies, to be fair.

Unfortunately, through an ongoing series of events (and we’re talking years here) and because of some of the books I’ve been reading lately to add some ‘tools to the tool-belt’ for work, I’ve been reflecting on my feels and dreams and hopes and wants and expectations and hang-ups and fears and co-dependencies and I’ve realized I’ve got diddly squat compared to what I have the potential to have, and worse, compared to what I expect(ed) to have at this stage of life. I’ve been forced to look in the mirror, stop having imaginary arguments for a minute or two, and tell myself, sternly, what I always hated hearing from grown-ups when I was a child: I am so disappointed in you.  I thought you were better than this.

I don’t know if you’ve ever sternly talked to yourself in a mirror before, and if you have I hope you had the sense not to do so as soon as you rolled out of bed and before you’ve combed your hair, brushed your teeth, or wiped the previous night’s mascara out from under your bloodshot eyes and the flaking-off drool from your chin. Regardless, it ain’t cute.  It’s downright ugly if you do talk to yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning like I did, but at any time it ain’t cute – not if you do it right.

The crux of the issue is that I’m disappointed in myself for being less than what I know I can be because I’ve spent all of my time ignoring my own feelings, needs, goals, and dreams in order to take care of other people’s feelings and apparent needs. Were they real needs for those people? Possibly, but I didn’t have to be the one to provide for them or fix them. The fact that I felt compelled to do so was a disservice to them and to myself. I tied my self-worth to the validation I felt when others needed me, or at least appeared to need me, instead of to what I know is true about me. I believed I could only be worthy of love or friendship or success if I could prove how useful I was. I watched dream after dream after dream of mine fall by the wayside, fiery meteors of death and devastation crashing to the earth around me. I let go of little pieces of myself along the way, minute by minute, dust particle by dust particle, until I lost myself. I lost friends, time I would’ve loved to spend with them and with my family, the balance I felt when I focused on things I loved like art, writing (see? I’m slowly getting some of my own back), the outdoors, and anything I could possibly get my hands on to read. I lost money, and gave up my goals to travel, and at one point my dumb@$$ gave up the chance at a MacArthur Fellowship.  (Yeah. I’m an idiot. I got that.) I gave up everything I loved about me, everything I loved before I decided I needed to be needed.

All of it. Gone.

I tried to replace it with taking care of people and working my tail off and fitting into a mold that I thought my family expected me to fit into. I tried to tell myself that it was worth it and that maybe this was what I was meant for – to be last in order to gain my ultimate reward. Isn’t that in the Bible, too? “The last shall be first and the first shall be last” (Matthew 20:16)? (FYI, it turns out that verse isn’t about being a martyr like I thought. It’s about a landowner being smart with his resources regardless of what others do for him or how much they think they need from him or deserve. Let that sink in a bit.) And while during some of that time I learned some new things about myself, about how strong I am and can be, and about what I can tolerate and withstand before I’m ready to start slamming faces with a baseball bat, I’ve finally realized something deeply, exhaustingly disturbing.

I was wrong.

And I know I said that the crux of the issue is that I’m disappointed in myself but truly the crux of the crux of the issue is that I was wrong, and I really, completely, totally, wholly hate being wrong. (<— And that is the true crux of the issue. I’m petty that way. I know my truth.) It makes me feel stupid, worthless, and embarrassed. And you know what? I don’t like to feel my feelings, at least not those feelings. Those feelings suck like a stoner siphoning helium from a birthday balloon behind the local Chuck-E-Cheese.

Now, the heart of the crux of the ocean of issues is the fact that I have to make a decision to do something about it. And that means I have to confront my feelings and then talk about them with the people I’ve given so much up for, and we don’t do that here. We don’t fight, we don’t disagree, we don’t stay mad at each other, and we don’t talk about how unappreciated I feel because of everything I’ve given and done and everything I haven’t gotten in return.

We don’t do ROI (that’s Return On Investment for you non-business people) discussions and we sure as heck don’t rock this boat we’ve been patching with peanut butter and holding together with frayed bungee chords while we’ve been navigating the stormy seas of the hurricane we’ve been in for a decade. We talk about how we’ll pay the bills and feed the kids and how in another decade we’ll go on an imaginary trip overseas so we can do more things I really couldn’t give a flying flip about but that I support because it’s what I thought I was supposed to do.

And again, let me be clear: I did this. This was me. There is no blame to be laid but at the door of my dilapidated shack of self-efficacy, washed-up dreams like fragments of seashells and plastic can-rings left by the tide as it washes back out to deeper, bluer, livelier places. I’d love to be able to end this by saying I have a brighter outlook (I do, I think, but I’m hesitant to hope) or with a witty turn of humorous phrase. But I can’t, because this is serious stuff I’m addressing.

And we don’t do that here.

 

How to Throw a Solid Pity Party

*Note: this is not meant to be serious – mostly.*

I have always loved to make lists. I write them on Post-its daily, on the refrigerator (which I use as a whiteboard), on napkins, and during a brief stint in elementary school, I would even write them on walls. And I haven’t included one here, yet. I don’t know how that happened, but it’s time.

Also, just so you know, I’m doing this backwards. I 110% plan to complain (again) about something on here soon. I’m about due, I think.

But first, so we’re all clear about how this thing works, I’d like to educate you, via itemized list, on the joy that is the throwing of a pity party.  (“Pity? Party of one? Pity! Party of one!”) Also, to be even more accurate, you need to know this is Biblical. I’m not making this up. If you don’t believe me, read 1 Kings 19. You’ll see the theme.

So, without further adieu, here it is. The List:

How to Throw the Best Pity Party Ever

1. Make sure you’re alone. Invite no one else. No one – not your dog, cat, child, spouse, bff, squad, nana, not a single other living creature, not even your houseplant. You cannot properly be pitiful if you’re with someone or something else that is alive. They’ll either try to join you, dividing the pity between you and making you less pitiful, or they’ll comfort you, and you’ll feel less pitiful, which is unacceptable if you’re taking this seriously.

2.Be sure to plan your party food, or lack thereof. Starvation is about as pitiful as you can get, but remember: the angel gave Elijah cake. This is really all about extremes. So if you’re not into that whole starvation chic thing, you’ll need lots of ice cream and chocolate. Cheesecake is also acceptable, but it has to be full-fat. Now is not the time to worry about your health. Healthy people are not pitiful. Also, it needs to be something that might get stuck on your chin or drip onto your shirt. Pitiful people wear stained clothing.

3. Find a pitiful place to be, and go there. (And if you really want Biblical accuracy here, you need to find a pitiful tree to sit under – preferably one that’s well over half dead and makes the Charlie Brown Christmas tree look like a bountiful Douglas Fir.)

4. Bemoan your fate and wallow – deeply – for a while.

5. If you still feel like you could do better, find a darker and more pitiful place. Caves are great for this. No cheating and taking lights. Total darkness is key.

6. Continue to wallow. Even better, claim to be the only person that has ever gone through anything remotely like your situation, and tell God how awful it is. Repeat it to him often until he believes you.

7. Don’t be surprised when he tells you to shut up, suck it up, and get up and get back to work.*

*Now, at this point, you have two choices. You may choose to end the pity party, knowing you have truly given it a valiant effort, and move on with life. On the other hand, you can choose to become offended that God doesn’t believe how pitiful you are, and the downward spiral can continue and/or repeat. You do you. I won’t judge.

(That’s a total lie. I probably will judge. I’m not a saint, after all. But I won’t judge you to your face; I’ll make sure to comfortably judge you behind your back. Cross my heart and hope to spit. I say ‘spit’ because I’m too young to die.)

Good luck!

 

On Horses, Hijinks, and What Happens When I Go Home

So, I was super busy with life and parenting and life and stuff over the weekend, but in case you missed it, here’s what happened:

Saturday: the Kentucky Derby

Sunday: Mother’s Day

Here’s the thing: the Kentucky Derby is one of my favorite days/things (ever) that we do in my home state. We grow up with it; Kentucky children learn “My Old Kentucky Home” when we’re in elementary school.  (Granted, many do forget the words – that song is crazy long – but we all know the tune and they put the words on the TV screens before the derby, so we’re good.) The boutiques on every Main Street in the state carry derby hats almost year-round, but they stock up around Valentine’s Day and keep adding to their stock until the week of the big event. Some women – you know, the ones with lots of local friends – even have “hat parties,” which is really an excuse to drink mint juleps, mimosas, and sangria, buy out the floral/ribbon stock at the local Hobby Lobby, and get crazy with a glue gun for the sake of creating a one-of-a-kind (and usually fallen-apart-in-the-humidity-and-revelry-of-the-actual-day) crowning glory. For three weeks before the race, Louisville is in Kentucky Derby Festival mode, offering more than 70 events that include things like one of the nation’s largest half-marathons, a steamboat race, the Pegasus Parade, a concert series on the waterfront of the Ohio River, and the largest annual fireworks show in North America – Thunder Over Louisville. We bring out the Hot Browns, the burgoo, and Mint Juleps, and we celebrate our heritage and the launch of the US Triple Crown.

All of this is to say that this year, I’ve been reminded of a time a few years ago, around Derby week, when I was visiting my parents’ place with my family and we were out riding the horses. They used to take in retired thoroughbreds and exercise horses alike, and had a couple other quarter horses and one cutting horse (he was my favorite – I won’t lie). Our son was about 5 years old, our daughter was 10, and my 6-year-old niece was there, too. They were all taking turns riding with my mom, my brother, and myself. Everything went well for about an hour, then before we went inside the house, Trenton (our youngest) asked if he could ride by himself.  We negotiated, since that’s his favorite thing to do, and we agreed that he could ride on Classy, our most docile quarter horse, if I had the lead rope and walked him around so the horse wouldn’t go too fast.

Unfortunately, all we had was a training lead rather than a standard lead (training leads are much longer to allow the horse more movement), so we had to wrap it into a coil a bit to shorten its length.  Also unfortunately, when I handed the coiled lead to my brother while I was dealing with the saddle, he set said lead on the ground as I was adjusting the stirrups and getting Trenton settled. Classy was moving only slightly as she grazed and waited for me to finish, but when she moved her front right foot, she got it tangled in the lead rope.

(Note: we probably should have done better at adulting and made better decisions. It happens.)

I don’t know how much you know about horses, but they can shy away from things and panic if they can’t see what’s happening. They’re tall, and it’s not easy for them to just look down at their feet, so when something gets wrapped around their foot – say, a lead rope – they don’t know if it’s a harmless rope or if it’s a copperhead (both wildly prevalent in these here parts). Needless to say, Classy was not pleased.  She did okay, though, just prancing a little bit, chestnut flanks twitching and gleaming in the sun but otherwise calm, and I told Trenton to hold onto his reins and pommel while I took care of her for a minute and talked to her. I had soothed her pretty well after a second or two, but my idiot brother then broke rule number one when working with horses: he rushed up to her in a panic of his own because he wanted to unwrap the rope and keep Trenton safe. (This is still a bit frustrating for me, of course, for two reasons: one, we were raised with horses basically from birth and both of us know better than to do that, and two, my son was on that horse.)

Feeding off his panic, the horse bolted, Trenton seated firmly atop her. My mother and I still had hold of the lead rope and were trying to pull her head down to calm her, but Mom lost her grip and stumbled right as I dug in my heels, and Classy, rearing and screaming, pulled the rope out of my fingers (leaving 2nd degree rope burns in its wake, because I despite multiple college degrees I was not smart enough to wear gloves).

Then everyone else panicked. My brother started running after Classy (idiot, like he could catch her), my sister-in-law grabbed her daughter and mine and pulled them out of harm’s way (obviously smarter than her husband), and I started yelling for Trenton to hang on and not let go no matter what…

…until the remainder of the lead rope that had gotten wrapped around my leg during the struggle pulled taught and dropped me onto my face into the field, cutting off all my air and sound. Classy then proceeded to drag me over a hundred yards across the paddock (think about that for a moment…yeah, it was as gross as you imagine).

I managed to flip onto my back and remove my shoe, on which the rope was stuck, so I got free as the horse continued to gallop across the field. I started sprinting (rapidly hobbling) for the barn that bisects the center of the field while Trenton and the still-panicked Classy took a sharp turn at the far corner of the fence and came barreling across the ground toward the opposite side of the barn. By the time they were halfway across the field, I noticed our other quarter horse, Sage, galloping toward Classy. He’s the Alpha in the group, so my wonderful and clearly-more-intelligent-than-her-eldest-son mother had released him from his stall and slapped his flank to send him running to Classy. He corralled her back to the barn and escorted the panicked mare to her stall, Trenton still hanging onto the reins, his knuckles as white as his sun-bleached blond hair.

I was taking stock of possible injury, gauging everyone else’s reaction so we didn’t scare any of the other horses, and soothing my crying daughter – who couldn’t tell me why she was crying since everyone was fine – when I saw and heard what followed.

Once Classy was settled in her stall and sniffing through the feed in her bucket, Trenton, oblivious to the chaos behind him when his mighty steed (okay, mare) bolted, had thrown his leg over the saddle, slid down to the ground gracefully, and had run out of the stall with bright eyes and a huge grin. He went straight to the barn door to my sweet, calm mother, reaching up to her to be picked up and saying with all the excitement in his little heart, “Mimi! Mimi! Did you see that?! I was on that horse on that saddle and I had the reins and she went so fast and I rode her fast as fast as she could go all the way around without letting go and I did it all by myself!”

To which Mimi (she’s too southern and too young to be called Grandma, she says) replied, “You sure did,” and patted him on the head.  She is and always has been eternally graceful, calm, and collected. (I do not take after her, in case you’re wondering.)

Then Trenton, without bothering to notice anyone else, asked Mimi if he could have a cookie, switching topics as children do, and she walked him and the girls to the house.

And honestly? I’ve never laughed so hard, because what looked to us like impending tragedy was the most brilliant and fun day of his life, and he had no idea what was happening just behind him.  You know how I know that? He looked at me this past Saturday – over 6 years later – while we watched Nyquist, his favorite (his school number is 13, like the thoroughbred), win the Run for the Roses and said, “Hey… do you remember that time we went to Mimi’s and I rode that one horse real, real, real fast all by myself?”

I said of course I remembered. Who could forget?

Then he said, “I bet I could ride in the derby with Nyquist and win all by myself, too. I would ride even faster than I did at Mimi’s!”

So of course I said, “You sure would,” and then I patted him on the head.