Tag Archives: writing

25 Days of Giving Days Six and Seven: Get Inked

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I’m a textbook discarder. Anytime my husband brings something into the house, I’m on my way through a different door hauling something out. I’m all about clean lines, order, and lists. Lots and lots of lists.

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The Story of My Life. Literally.

Giving away unnecessary stuff makes me feel good, and a lack of clutter equals a lack of complication in some kind of metaphysical, big life meaning thingy that I haven’t quite figured out.

Ironically though, the only thing I won’t let go of is memories. Not the painful ones that wake you up in the middle of the night with a big, fat “why?” staring down from the ceiling. Those conveniently go out with the trash as soon as I can gather them up. I’m talking about the good ones. The real, sometimes raw, but more often relevant things from the past that have made a big contribution to my present. I have every high school note, my letters from college, cards given back and forth for special events…all of it. It’s a treasure trove of boyfriends, break-ups, and besties that I can’t live without.

2Good 2Be 4Gotten

But thanks to the worldwide web and the ghost of Steve Jobs, collecting memories is harder today than it used to be. We email instead of pulling out paper and pen, and thank you notes have almost become a thing of the past because it’s so much easier to text a quick line or two instead. Just like that, some of our best memories are deleted instead of being filed away for a rainy day.

Life is busy, and even though any kind of connection counts, there’s nothing like opening the mailbox expecting bills and finding a letter from a friend. So the task for Days 6 and 7 is to write a letter, because it’s a foolproof way to make someone you care about smile. Even though it takes more time than an email or a text, the reward is well worth the investment. All the way around.

So who are you going to write this weekend? We’re all writing to Aunt Mid, who at 96 has thrown in the towel for her annual holiday trip from Nebraska to Colorado. She’s an amazing woman, and hopefully our letters will help make her Christmas a little more shiny and bright.

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Aunt Mid at the tender age of 94.

I, Gemini Girl, have interrupted my non-existent programming to bring you the 25 Days of Giving Challenge. Please join me in my quest, over the next 25 days, to make people happy. I’ll share stories of giving escapades that will be sure to wow, delight, or at least not annoy anyone who chooses to participate. Each Day of Giving will be conveniently brought to you via email if you follow this blog. And if you’re already a follower? Pass it onto your friends. If we work together we can change the world, or at least dramatically improve my hit ratio.

How Do You Move Forward When You’re Grinding All Your Gears?

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As humans, we’re constantly in motion. But motion and movement are two very different things. Just because you’re in motion doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going anywhere.

Trust me on this, I know.

If I could catch a ride with Richard Branson on his uber-expensive Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, I’d easily be able to assess the difference between the two. But first I’d hit him up for drink. Specifically? A glass of 1907 Heidsieck. At $275,000 a bottle, it would help defray my ticket price while momentarily absolving me of the guilt associated with blowing the kids’ college tuition just to prove a point. BOGO at its highest and best use.

Space cowboy Richard Branson. Image via cognitivelibertyuk.wordpress.com

Space cowboy Richard Branson. Image via cognitivelibertyuk.wordpress.com

The second thing I’d do is settle in to check out the real estate, because isn’t leveraging my children’s future to see the world from a different point of view all about perspective? I imagine myself staring out the window at an earth below that looks less and less like the picture we all try to paint on a daily basis. Not so much a three-dimensional place anymore, but from way up above? A ginormous chessboard marked with clearly defined grids, gateways, and boundaries, as tiny balls of energy collide, advance, deflect, promote, dodge, gather, seek and recede in an endless effort to check the king.

Image via portwallpaper.com

Image via portwallpaper.com

Fascinated with the sparkly surface patterns of intricate motion that everyone on earth longs to be, and all happy-tingly-woozy from my six-figure, speed of sound buzz, I’d almost miss what I didn’t know I flew so high to see. Something small and seemingly insignificant situated inside the massive advance of energy that everyone else on board paid a lifetime of 401K savings to witness.

I’m talking about inert matter. Those pinpricks of light that mimic motion, but whose movement is an optical illusion: running in circles, dancing in place, and bumping up against imaginary walls. As everyone else on board focuses on the obvious, I’d be able to drill down a little deeper. But only because I’ve been there. Stuck. In motion, but not really going anywhere.

Image via trojantimes.org

Image via trojantimes.org

Looking back at my adult life, it’s easy to categorize it into a series of phases.

Phase 1/1980s: The Sussana Hoffs era of Big Hair and Big Dreams.

Big hair is hot. Image via houston.culturemap.com

Big hair is hot. Image via houston.culturemap.com

Phase 2/1990s: The Yves Saint Laurent era of Big Black Suit and Big Career.

Don't look at my body. Look at my soul. Image via www.girlsguidetoparis.com

Don’t look at my body. Look at my soul. Image via http://www.girlsguidetoparis.com

Phase 3/2000s: The Barbara Billingsley era of Big Belly and Big Bills.

That’s not me. OK it is. On the verge of birthing an alien.

I’ve always considered myself fairly stealth, able to move seamlessly in and out of various roles at-will to the beat of a metronome perfectly synchronized to my tune. But about three years ago, on the cusp of my 40th birthday, everything changed. For someone who’s always been confident enough to chart her own course, I suddenly found myself drifting. I was lost and knee-deep in the weeds without a compass, while a storm of my own design grew larger than it appeared in my peripheral view.

Somewhere between my career and the kids, buried in a pile of laundry or possibly lurking inside a box in the basement that I hadn’t opened for years, I lost my perspective and appreciation for the life I’d so carefully built. I don’t know how it happened, but it felt like I simply woke up one day yearning to be anywhere and anyone but who I was. Confused, I couldn’t seem to recognize the woman looking back at me in the mirror when I washed my face every night.

No matter how enlightened I become, I will always hate matching socks.

It’s easy to get lost in a pile of socks.

I was that person who, although constantly in motion, wasn’t actually moving. Busy with my responsibilities as a parent and a wife, I had somehow forgotten about the inner workings that support the common denominator between the two, and then the kids went off to school, and could tie their own shoes, and make sound decisions without being told how, and I realized that I had unintentionally parked myself on an island and hadn’t taken the time to learn to swim. Even in the middle of paradise, isolation is lonely, and days on end of the most beautiful sunset somehow lose their color. Things that shine on the surface, like the tiny balls of energy you might see from outer space, sometimes look entirely different from the inside out.

Telluride, CO August 2011

When you’re stuck, you’re forced to stop. You don’t have a choice. And then when you’re ready to move forward, you have to look around and figure out where you want to go next rather than simply allowing the tide to sweep you along. That initial inertia and subsequent plotting of a new path has great value, even though in the moment it feels miserable, like treading water in quicksand.

One of the side effects of getting lost is the unexpected places you get to visit on your way to a new destination. Like for me? Writing. This blog is a direct result of a yearlong, step-by-step, rocky hike on a circuitous path. And I’m still going. I’m a constant work in progress, but I’m now comfortable with my ever-changing state of being because I’m doing the work to figure out where I want to end up. Plus I reserve the right to change my mind, which is a great back-up plan when all else fails.

I believe that in life, we all get stuck at some point. Whether it’s due to things like divorce, disease, death, or distraction, almost everyone loses their way. Sometimes we have to move backwards to go forward, or hit a bottom so hard that the force of impact acts like a catapult up to the top, but the a-ha realization at the end, when lessons are learned and intersecting lines actually connect, is priceless. It isn’t easy, but almost everything worth accomplishing in life is born from some type of hardship or loss. So what about you? Are you simply in motion or are you actually moving? It’s a question worth asking, even if the answer isn’t what you want to hear.

Taking the road less traveled and finding my way.

The Truth About Lying

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As a writer, I have a love-hate relationship with the act of lying.

Author’s note: that’s not really true. I actually love to lie when I write, but feel the need to say “love-hate” so you won’t think I’m pathological or anything.

In all honesty, when it comes to my interpretation of lying, I tend to embrace the positive. Life is short, and words have a way of magically working themselves into quotes that you post on Facebook in the form of a haiku when you’re buzzed causing super-embarrassing apology status updates the next day about your drunk attempts at poetry.

Author’s note: when someone says “in all honesty,” or “to be completely honest,” or “I’ve just got to be honest with you,” they’re probably lying. Also, I made that thing up about life being short and Facebook and stuff.

Tara Reid should not post on Facebook or try to write a real book. Image via cracked.com.

Tara Reid should not post on Facebook or try to write a real book. Image via cracked.com.

Yet in just about every modern-day scenario, the word “lie” is associated with villainy. Consider my version of Urban Dictionary’s definition, which is someone else’s interpretation of reality and general take on the word.

Author’s note: did you get that? If you said “yes” you’re a liar because it doesn’t make ay sense.

Lying, adjective: not telling the truth

1. What your wife thinks you’re constantly doing.

Kristen: “How do you like my bathing suit?”

Steve: “It’s one of my favorites.”

Kristen: “You’ve never seen it before. You’re lying!”

2. Getting drunk and kissing your girlfriend’s best friend, then covering it up when your girlfriend asks if you got drunk and kissed her best friend.

Jessica: “Are you sure you didn’t kiss my best friend last night?”

Ryan: “Nope, I didn’t. Honestly. We were just exercising our lips.”

Jessica: “Strong lips are hot! I love you.”

3. The ability to use the least amount of information, distort it, and add something completely absurd while you rip a small tear in the space-time continuum and slowly change the topic.

Me: “Did you clean your room?”

My son: “I did. And it looks beautiful. But not as beautiful as you. There is nothing in the world that can match your beauty. Or your timeless sense of style. Plus you look so young. Can you make me some dinner?”

4. Constantly fabricating things to make someone else look bad.

Ten year-old boy in my son’s class: “Taylor can’t fart on command. He’s lying!”

5. Someone who represents what they are not, especially when being chased down an alley by an undercover cop.

Cop: “Freeze!”

Liar: “No! I’m just a writer researching a crack dealing, money laundering, law breaking, schizoid character for my first novel!”

Author’s note: most people who contribute material to Urbandictionary.com are on some type of hallucinogen. This statement may or may not be somewhat inaccurate.

None of the interpretations above are positive, yet anyone who attempts to tell a meaningful story has to be a liar. Period. And where’s the harm in that?

Author’s note: those quotes above aren’t real. I made them up. Or maybe I didn’t. You decide.

If you want to make what you write memorable, you’ve got to embrace lying as a form of art, and not in a “Hey, it’s Memorial Day and I love face-planting into the pool in front of the whole neighborhood, plus I always win the lubed watermelon race across the deep end when I’m trashed, so I think I’ll just fall off the wagon for the weekend then back on when Tuesday rolls around.” You’ve got to commit.

Author’s note: You aren’t a better swimmer when you’re drunk. You’re not better looking either, and contrary to popular belief, you can’t do the moonwalk on concrete. And don’t even think about trying to write. (These statements are true as far as you know.)

So what am I trying to say? I’m not really sure except lying isn’t all bad. Especially when you’re writing. But not when you’re under oath. Or one of my children trying to get away with something you hope I’ll never find out about.  Or Batman. In those instances, it’s pretty important to stick to the truth, and that’s my honest opinion.

Batman: an iconic superhero whose powers are r...

Batman: an iconic superhero whose powers are not that great. Batman uses his wits and techno gadgets to apprehend his foes in an urban dystopia. Plus he never lies. (Photo via Wikipedia)

My New Dog is Gone

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When I started this blog a few months ago, my intent was simply to build an audience to support the book I’m writing, so an agent could cyber-stalk me and see that people were interested in what I had to say. Or so I hoped. But as I began to post, a beautiful yet unanticipated outcome emerged…the opportunity to not only give you prose to read, but words to feel. I hadn’t expected that.

When someone tells me my work made them laugh, or cry, or change their mind, or think differently about life than they had before, or feel like they’re not alone, it’s a gift that defies value. It’s incomparable, and for me, a much more important result than my original purpose. Whatever feelings I’m able to generate are doubled, squared, and amplified when they come back. Hearing your thoughts and opinions satisfies my soul in a way I’ve never felt before, and I appreciate it. Every day. So thank you for giving me something so rare. It’s incredible to be surprised by life when you’re halfway through the journey.

People create blogs about everything on the spectrum of anything: cooking, sports, disease, motherhood, death, demons, and gods. I write about my life, and if I had to pick a word to tightly wrap the layers of emotion I’m trying to bind together and deliver, it would be a simple one. Real. Whether I aim to be funny one day or serious the next (remember, I’m a Gemini, and was gifted the right to change my mind by Zeus himself, or the rhythm method, or two x chromosomes, or all of the above), I want to be real, because life is as much about pain as pleasure, and to ignore one in pursuit of the other doesn’t work.

When my husband’s grandfather, Jim, died in February, the only world I knew the day before shifted. Not off its axis and out of control, but a critical element in the chain of my life disappeared. Just like that. Most of us swim with a fairly predictable current every day. We ebb and flow with the tide, catch our breath in shallow water, and brace ourselves when the temperature changes, and colors darken and deepen. But when you’re floating along and suddenly slammed against a rock hidden by a breaking surf? There’s no anticipation, and you’re forced into a position of picking up whatever’s left in the aftermath.

The only thing left alive in the wake of Jim’s death was his dog Brandy. We took her in, largely because we felt an obligation to do what we considered to be the right thing out of respect for someone we loved, partially because I’m an eternal optimist, or so I thought at the time, and lastly, because nobody else volunteered.

I’m a fixer by nature. I believe that if I try hard enough, feel strongly enough, and force my will and resolve, I can change the world, or more specifically, you. I often substitute the reality in front of my face for the vision I see in my head, because I draw pretty pictures up there and the sun often shines.

When we adopted Brandy, I conveniently ignored the fact that we had avoided her for the past couple of years because she bit my youngest, Essa, when she was five. In the face. Luckily the bite was sent as a warning on Brandy’s part. She broke the skin but didn’t go deep.

I also ignored Brandy’s temperament. She was testy, unpredictable, and didn’t like anyone or anything, except Jim. He came over one day last summer wearing the remnant scars of bloody claw marks all the way up his inner arm. Brandy had attacked another dog on a walk, and in trying to pull her off, he’d been caught in the crossfire.

Regardless, in the heat of emotion and the cocoon of denial, I was determined to make Brandy one of us. For Jim. For Scot. For me. Out of a painful longing for yesterday and a life that no longer included someone I desperately wanted back.

And I failed.

Brandy never assimilated into our family. She attacked another dog, tried to bite our next door neighbor, actually bit Scot, growled at my children and their friends, and frightened my mother-in-law so much that she was afraid to walk around her in the middle of the night to get a glass of water, in a multitude of occurrences, and over a succession of days and weeks. In one visit where we had to muzzle Brandy to get her out of my truck and through the door, the vet recommended we give her a huge wake, especially the kids, and a house that was filled with grief became one augmented by an undertow of fear.

With Jim gone, we slowly realized that there was no way to replicate the life she had, and we were forced to make a decision about her future. She couldn’t stay with us anymore. The risk of her hurting a child became too loud to ignore. We researched shelters, but found that her quality of life would be no life at all. Due to her temperament, she would be caged, walked once during the day, and left largely alone.

After days of discussion, debate, denial, and tears, we came to the conclusion that the only humane choice was to put Brandy down. Scot was the person who took her to the vet. I couldn’t. I didn’t have the strength. How he did is something I will forever question. Jim was the father my husband never had, and the personal sacrifices Scot had to make in doing so say more about his character than my words ever could.

When they got to the office, Brandy was serene. There was no stress. There was no muzzle. There was no fight. Scot laid out her blanket, Brandy jumped on, and he carried her in. As he describes it, she was at peace, having curled up into herself and fallen asleep as he stroked her back and whispered that everything was going to be alright.

Often, in life, everything isn’t alright. It’s ugly, raw, and real. So I have a new definition of optimism. Optimism isn’t waking up to a bright, sunny day where the birds chirp through an open window. Optimism is facing darkness everywhere you turn, choosing the best of equally shitty paths, and believing that the road you took was somehow the right one.

I Am Not A Farmer (Part I)

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After creating two posts a week since the inception of this blog, I’ve written nothing for the last three. Zero. Nada. Zilch. I’ve been on vacation mode, and I can’t bring myself to do anything that doesn’t involve self-tanning, a cocktail, and my DVR.

For the Type A, sometimes over-achieving, often napping Gemini that I am, this form of being is both thrilling and mortifying, but mostly mortifying since it’s 2:23 a.m. and I’m in a pseudo-manic state when I should be asleep.

Self Portrait taken April 18, 2012 at 2:45 a.m. Image via insanity.

How bloggers like Sweet Mother and A Clown On Fire manage to post brilliant material every day is beyond me. I think they might be bionic, but don’t tell them I said so or they’ll flex their witty, razor-sharp biceps even more often than now, forcing me onto the floor and into Jane Fonda donkey kick mode in a lame attempt to keep up.

Image via filmbug.com

When it comes to blogging, I’ve been in a bit of a stupor lately. Call it writer’s block, spring fever, or general disdain, but anything I’ve considered producing comes out in a blah, blah, blekity blah kind of way in my head. So instead of turning the bleck into something anyone might care to read, I rub on some Jergens Revitalizing Glow Daily Moisturizer, mix a fairly strong Maker’s Mark and ginger ale, flip through back episodes of Jersey Shore, and cry.

Image via nydailynews.com

But all of this, and by this I mean the writing void I’ve existed in for the past few weeks, is about to change because tomorrow I’m headed to The Farm. No, not that farm where they siphon off every last peso you’ve ever earned, commandeer all sharp objects including your mind, and pad you up in a nice white suit for your stay.

I’m gonna visit my seventy year-old dad’s fancy, new, working farm (sort of, whatever that means) in Varnville, SC…population 2,032.

The great thing about this trip is that I’m not a farmer. Not even close. Neither is my dad, which makes the whole thing doubly exciting.

That's not me. Image via wikipedia.com

Even better? I’m going sans-kids, although anyone who has children understands that it’s taken me approximately seventeen days to set up a three-day trip. Yes, I’ve invested 408 hours to get away for 72, which is voodoo math, but after a few drinks, who’s really counting? I’ve set up carpools, babysitters, video surveillance cameras and booby traps to ensure that my offspring get safely from Point A to Point B while I’m gone and don’t kill each other in the process, or eat too many leftover peeps from Easter and orbit the house in Matrix-like fight mode as they…kill each other in the process.

Dead Peeps. Image via flickr.com.

And last? There’s absolutely nothing to do. Check out Varnville on Google Earth. There isn’t anything there. Except my dad’s farm. And a pack of wild dogs. And some dude in a squirrel hat riding up and down the wrong side of the road on an electric scooter. O.K. I made those last two things up, but still.

So I’m going to Varnville to tap my creativity again and get out from under the spell of this evil-brain-witch-slacker-zombie who’s taken over my body. Because I miss writing. And I miss you. And I would like to be asleep right now. So maybe we can all join hands and sing Kumbaya together. Or not. But either way I’m for sure finding that dude on the scooter and catching a ride. I don’t know where we’ll end up, but the real fun is in the journey anyway, right?

An Interview You Will Never Read in the Local Paper

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For reasons I don’t quite understand, a kind friend asked to interview me for the neighborhood paper.  My responses, written at about 11:30 p.m. last night, are listed below.  I realized immediately upon waking that these will never see the light of day in actual print, so I thought I’d share them with you.

What is your background?  

I was raised in Kentucky, which is both the college basketball and weed capital of the world.  Incidentally, the majority of Colorado’s medicinal marijuana is imported from my home state.  Just kidding.  I made that up.  It’s actually grown in your neighbor’s creepy basement.  Those blackout shades were installed for a reason after the house went back to the bank.

creepy basement cat

creepy basement cat (Photo credit: ~!)

I spent twelve years in Chicago post-college (Miami of OHIO. Please don’t confuse my alma mater with that football International Baccalaureate of thugdom in Florida), where I met my husband, popped out three children, taught myself to parallel park one unfortunately placed car at a time, and carried a shiv pretty much 24/7.

peppermint shiv

peppermint shiv (Photo credit: Rakka)

How long have you been in Colorado?

After getting mugged more often than the Cubs scored runs, we packed up the family seven years ago and descended on the sunny suburbs of Colorado, where, until our creditors catch up with us, we’re here to stay.

What are the ages of your kids and what did you do before becoming a parent?

Our children are 11, 9 and 7, and before they came along I did everything in my power to avoid having them.  Just kidding…again!  I was a commercial real estate broker, which totally prepared me to be a stay-at-home mom because I dealt with selfish, immature, whiny little people every day.  Nobody peed in my face when I was changing a diaper though, so that element of motherhood was kind of a surprise.

image by anatanasia_valeria

What made you start writing and why did you start your own blog?

I started writing my novel about a year ago because, with the ankle-biters in school (finally!), I had way too much time on my hands.  When you earn VIP status at Kohl’s and they’re calling you every day for Franzia and queso parties (that you regularly attend), something’s gotta give.  I started my blog this past Christmas so I could avoid working on my novel and feel good about it.

nasty queso Image via flickr

Tell me about the book that you are working on.

My novel is middle grade fiction focused on a friendship triangle that includes mystery, major BFF friction, love gone wrong, and dodgeball Pom girls. I promise there’s nothing like it on the shelves, and if I were honest with myself, I’d acknowledge there’s a reason for that.

What has been the reaction to your blog?  Do you have a lot of followers?

The reaction to my blog has been surprisingly positive, especially from the people who stay awake long enough to get to the bottom of my posts.  It’s completely random, and for me, super-fun.  I’ll never admit how I got my followers, but the word “bribe” is pretty prevalent in my daily lexicon.  Well, that and the phrase “your image has been captured on film.”

CCTV cameras

Image via Wikipedia

I love to write, the most rewarding part being that I’ve finally convinced my therapist I’m not a schizoid.  At the end of the day, I really do believe in a balanced budget, the tooth fairy, and unicorns, and all of the voices I channel are (scary to say) real.