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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Weaving Dreams Can Be Messy

I’m exhausted this morning. I had a good nights sleep, but my exhaustion has nothing to do with lack of sleep and more to do with emotional upheaval. I don’t know if that’s even the right word. But working with the developmentally delayed, although very rewarding, can be intensely challenging at times. I don’t want to write about that though because I live it day to day, and it’s not where I need to go this morning. I don’t know where I need to go. I want to crack open my inner egg and find something “me” inside. Mushy mixed up me.
My life is unconventional if compared with the typical married woman’s life. I live away from my husband at least five days/nights a week, sleeping in a bed I bought at a used furniture store, in a condo the next town over. My husband is currently sleeping with our dog. I get homesick sometimes, and at other times I’m glad for the privacy and the time away. I’m a writer and writers tend to need privacy… Although sometimes things at work can get insane and moments alone can be as rare as a unicorn.
I miss my home life though, and long for the day when I’ll get to live there again, full time, and fuss over window treatments, paint my walls, and clean under the bed.
I mentioned that I was a writer. Well, it wasn’t until I turned fifty that I became brazen enough to call myself a writer. I didn’t think I had the right to “title” myself until I was published. But that’s a bunch of snobbish crap. If you write you’re a writer. If you paint you’re a painter, if you dream you’re a dreamer. I not only called myself a writer but completed a 360 page manuscript and am now shopping editors to help me get it “agent ready.” It’s a wonderful thing to have a completed manuscript. My heart smiles when I think of it, stirring up hope for the future; for my future as a writer.
My dream is to write full time and quit all my other jobs. I am steadily working toward that dream, sloshing through the mucky mire of my life, day after day, and mentally chanting “I know I can, I know I can,” when things seem impossible. I just keep moving forward like a driver in a heavy downpour with the windshield wipers on hyper slap, my hands double gripped, and sweating, on the steering wheel, and my pupils fixed and dilated on the road in front of me. It isn’t pretty at times, but alas, I’m still doing it, making certain that my book has a future. It may take me years, and seem unattainable at times, but I want to give my novel a shelf (in a top notch bookstore) to smile from, a lap to lye open on and fingers to dog-ear the pages at their favorite parts. It’s my way of leaving my voice here on earth after the rest of me moves on to the other side. Writing is my passion and my dream, and I’m so grateful to have a dream at a time in my life when I thought all my dreams had dried up. Yup. That’s my dream, now what’s yours?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Guinea Pig Torments

When we were kids my sister and I had to share a bed. Space was limited so doubling up was essential. Sharing never bothered us because we were about the same age. We would climb into bed at night and make up stories to help us fall asleep.

Huddled under a tent of blankets we would create our nonsensical tales, with twists and turns that were totally ridiculous, leaving us in a fit of uncontrollable laughter until our bladders nearly exploded. These episodes usually ended abruptly when Ma hollered from the kitchen for us to be quiet and go to sleep; after which a long pause of dark buzzing silence would ensue until the sounds from the rest of the house found our ears again. A cigarette ad on Ma’s TV, “I’d rather fight than switch”, the radiator knocking out heat in random rhythms, the refrigerator humming like a happy worker trying to keep our food cold.

It was easy to tell when someone was in the fridge because our Guinea pig, “Snoopy,” squeaked loud enough to be heard three houses down every time that somebody opened the refrigerator door. This was his way of lobbying for a snack. If you were quick enough you could sneak into the fridge, toss him a treat, and get back out before he sounded his high pitched alarm. I swear I was conditioned to his squeals like a Pavlovian dog because whenever I heard them the hunger pains commenced.

My parents didn’t allow eating after bedtime. Money was scarce and meals were planned, so there usually wasn’t much extra stuff in the refrigerator to munch on. I can still see the meager provisions in there; a carton of milk, various condiments, some basic veggies, a few eggs, and sometimes large blocks of surplus cheese. The cabinets were pretty bare as well with a slim assortment of spices, a box of unsweetened cereal (for breakfast only,) peanut butter, sugar, and some random canned goods. If we had peanut butter, we were out of bread, or if there was cereal, there was no milk.

Choices were slim but I was resourceful. I acquired a taste for simple cuisine and was a master at making “poor man” sandwiches. Mustard on white without the crust, which I could vary with mayo or ketchup, and then there was the occasional margarine and sugar sandwich, which doubled as a meal or dessert. The condiment jars were glass and heavy, not like the plastic squirt bottles advertising low fat, or heart healthy choices that we have today. These were thick utilitarian glass jars with metal lids, and if you were unfortunate enough to drop one of them on your foot you were guaranteed a trip to the local ER.

Although we were not allowed to eat after bedtime, this never seemed to stop me. When my growling belly called I had to tame it with food or it would keep me awake all night. I recall one time lying in bed doing a mental inventory of available menu choices for a midnight snack before planning my usual assault. I had decided on a crunchy carrot with some vinegar for dipping and was impatiently listening for the noises in the house to die down, signaling the “all clear.”

Eventually the voices from my parent’s TV became muffled, which meant their bedroom door had finally been closed; this was my cue to tip-toe out into the kitchen and snag a quick snack. Carefully I slid out of bed then sock walked over to my bedroom door and cracked it open. Peeking out into the kitchen I could see the light from the moon shining through the kitchen curtains casting eerie shadows that looked like bears and giants standing guard in the darkness.

“Tic click tic click,” it was my dog “Chips” with her long toenails clicking on the linoleum floor like a secretary at the keyboard. Her head was low, her tail wagging, she knew the routine and was hoping for a handout. I brushed past my dog to collect a small bowl for the vinegar, leaving the cabinet door opened, and then made my way to the refrigerator, grabbing the solid metal handle and pulling it downward like a giant slot machine. I could feel the resistance, like suction, but as I applied more muscle the door quietly opened and a great slice of yellow light washed over me.

I snagged the small jar of vinegar at the back of the fridge and was aiming for the carrots in the produce drawer when I heard Snoopy stirring in his cage. I fumbled, trying to be quick, but I wasn’t quick enough. SQUEAK, SQUEAK, SQUEAK! Snoopy’s squeals pierced through the evening silence like a screaming police siren. Ma’s bedroom door flew open and I froze in the refrigerator’s light, holding firmly onto my carrot like a panic stricken rabbit being spotted by poachers.

Knowing Ma’s temper, Chips slunk away and cleverly found refuge under the kitchen table. I stood in terror. Ma marched headlong toward me, snatched away my midnight snack, and hissed at me through clenched teeth,”I thought I told you to go to bed?” Frantically searching for the right words to evoke sympathy I stuttered out a lame, “I was hungry.” But Ma wasn’t moved. She gave me a good stiff smack off the back of my head, tossed my carrot in with Snoopy, and then sent me back to bed.

It wasn’t the slap in the head that hurt (her smacks were more for show,) or knowing that Ma was mad at me, it was watching Ma toss my carrot to Snoopy that really ticked me off. Stupid Guinea Pig!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sky is Falling!

I just had a day off. All week long I looked forward to this day off like a bride waits for her wedding day. And how was my day off? Awful.

With just one day off, and so much to do around the house, I couldn’t seem to relax. It seems I can’t take one day off without feeling like I should be kick butt busy all day. If I’m watching TV, I think I should be cleaning. If I’m cleaning, I think I should be writing, and if I’m writing I think I should be walking or exercising. I am never satisfied with what I’m doing because my brain doesn’t know how to shut off. With all this mental chatter come the coordinated emotions to go with it.

I tell myself; “I should be cleaning.” Which turns into “Get your life together you slob?” resulting in the emotion of guilt.
“I should be walking.” translates to “Hey fatty you look like crap.” resulting in the emotion of shame.
I should be writing evolves into a loud “You’re never going to get that book done…you loser!” resulting in the emotion of fear.
So, I clean the house, walk the dog, and work on my book, then I settle onto the couch with a bowl of healthy watermelon to watch an episode of my favorite TV show when the negative, and nagging, mental dialog starts up…..again.

An ad for facial cream comes on featuring a flawless faced twenty something, prompting my hand to move to the deep lines around my eyes, and I tell myself, “It’s too late for me. I should have started moisturizing when I was ten. The only thing that might help me now is a face lift, but they cost tons of money, which I don’t have, and besides in this neck of the woods there are no good surgeons so I’d probably end up with a botched facelift anyway. This triggers the emotion of fear. Fear of being ugly and old. Fun huh?

I’m certain that I’m tired because I can usually balance my thinking out. I call this mental maintenance. For every negative thought that I have I replace it with a positive one; which usually results in the good thoughts winning over the evil ones. But if I get tired, or worn down from life, and let go of my mental maintenance program then the negative thoughts subtly build on each other until they are all that I can hear, resulting in panic, anxiety, and a certainty that the end of the world is near. I call it the Chicken Little Syndrome. You know….That little chick that ran around, panic stricken, telling everyone that the sky was falling. O course it wasn’t, she'd just been hit on the head by an acorn. But a bunch of her buddies believed her and followed her into Foxey Loxey’s den where they all become fox food.

Yup, swallowing the lies of negativity may cause one to lose rationality and start running from an imagined disaster straight into the mouth of a very real one. So, forget the cleaning, walking, writing, or whatever is nagging at you, but never EVER forget your mental maintenance program. Nope.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Like The Weather...I Change

We’re under a tropical storm warning today in southwestern Florida, something I seem to have grown used to. It’s funny how I can adjust to the wild climate changes around me but if a driver cuts me off in traffic it totally pisses me off and ruins a perfectly good mood… instantly! Emotions are fickle, and like the weather, they vary daily. A lot of stuff can get thrown at me in a twenty four hour period, so it’s not uncommon for me to experience dozens of “mini moods” in one day. When things are going smoothly I feel sunny and optimistic. When I feel sad about something it’s as though the skies have darkened and the rain is falling. Nature reflects my moods back to me like a mirror, patiently, and sternly teaching me how to be. The sky doesn’t complain because it’s having a rainy day. It accepts it as part of life and submits to the changes… the constant changes.
I tend to beat myself up for having shifting emotions. I don’t like the feelings of being angry, fearful, or anxious. I see those feelings as the enemies of my soul and signs of spiritual weakness. But experiencing intense emotions is not a weakness. It’s very human. My emotions are simply responding to how I happen to be thinking about the things that are going on in my life at the time. Beating myself up for having all these emotions is totally fruitless and only perpetuates my emotional storm. It’s when I recognize my emotions, and I allow them to blow through my soul….in one side and out the other, like a breeze blowing through an open window, that I get release. I needn’t bottle up every breeze that blows and brood over it. Everyone knows you can’t catch the wind; you simply must let it blow. I am old enough to see what triggers my emotions and young enough to know where to run to when I'm feeling undone. I need to find the quiet place within myself where I know my papa God lives, calm my thinking, and rest in His care. This is where I feel safe; safe enough to sleep through a heavy storm.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Waiting in Line for Life

I recently went to a nearby fast food joint for a quick lunch of chili and a diet soda, tenaciously avoiding the delectable, but deadly, cheeseburger and fries. While I was in line waiting to order my skinny girl feast I noticed a man in front of me who looked to be about my age but with a little more wear. His hair was salt and sunshine blond, loosely pulled back into a ponytail, allowing a crop of stray hairs to halo his tanned face. His eyes were friendly, and when he smiled the wrinkles around his eyes joined in, giving him a good natured weathered look, like he could have been the wise captain of a great ship.
We chatted as people do when they are stuck in a line together. He spoke about the headaches of cell phones. His had fallen into his swimming pool and he ended up paying a king's ransom to replace it. He showed me his new phone like an adoring father sharing photos of his first born.
Gathering my food, I found an empty booth by the window and settled in. Soon the captain was at my table asking if I minded if he joined me. Not vibing any “stranger danger” I welcomed his offer. We chatted on about a thousand little random things at once. There was anticipation in his voice when he spoke, and I could tell he enjoyed telling his story, and perhaps hadn't had the opportunity to do so in a very long time. We took turns bantering back and forth in a charged ping pongy sort of way.
After nearly an hour of verbal purging a comfortable silence replaced our electrified chatter. We had both vented and now it was time to move on. It was nice to meet the captain (We never did exchange names) and find out about his world. I knew I would only be with him for this one hour and then he would be gone forever. This created a sense of satisfaction for me. I could enjoy this stranger’s company without any strings attached. I would never have to get to know what his issues were, or give him time to piss me off. I would be oblivious to the date of his birthday or what foods he was allergic too. I was free to explore who he was at that moment and then let him go. However, when I watched him walk away I felt a pinch of sadness too, because in that short hour we had formed a bond. It wasn’t a strong bond, like between best friends, it was more of a common bond between two sojourners on a journey; two souls making there way through a crowded world in search of a listening ear and perhaps a dash of understanding. It was just an ordinary moment that had somehow enriched my life, and I’m so glad that I took the time to enjoy it. Yup.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ordinary Insanity

Life is not a one night grand production where adoring fans applaud us, and the morning news heralds our praises for the entire world to see; thus validating our existence. Life is much more ordinary. But just because the bulk of life is ordinary, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. Some people miss out on life, always waiting for that one big thing to happen, casting away ordinary moments like unwanted ticket stubs. Is it even possible to measure our success by one attained goal?
Well, what if that one great moment never arrives? Or what if it already came and we didn’t recognize it because we were too busy searching the skies for fireworks? Real life exists in the breathe of the moment, it’s the words that we choose to speak and the thoughts that we choose to dwell on that inspire the steps that we take in life.
Most people have many successes in life, yet the bulk of them are very private; like getting over an abusive childhood, raising happy kids, or finding forgiveness for the people who have hurt them. These are great successes. Ordinary, well, if you compare them to writing a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, yes, but their value is immeasurable, and I doubt very much that they were easier to attain.
Many of us fall into the bad habit of measuring ourselves against the images on TV,… or the backs of books. Emaciated models, air brushed movie stars, and edited anchors dominate our media. Unfortunately these role models don’t even exist as we see them. They’ve been created by image consultants and script writers, and inside their heads, and skin, they are just as ordinary as the rest of us. We should only measure ourselves against ourselves, like a child’s grow chart penciled on the doorframe by a loving parent with their name above it. Our personal growth and successes are uniquely our own, like our fingerprints, and even though sometimes it may seem like nothing is happening or even worse, we are going backwards, we must stubbornly stand in faith trusting that the road that we are on is part of the plan, and will eventually lead us to where our destiny calls.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Coffee Calls Me

Today I need to talk about coffee. Ah coffee,…that steamy amber liquid that somehow seems alive in its own coffee way. It has a seductive coffee voice which becomes magnified as it bubbles through the most important appliance in my house…my coffee maker.

Coffee calls me from my bed, alluring me with its aromatic coffee cologne, stirring me from my sleep with a smile on my face, (something that not even the Chippendale dancers could accomplish.) The smell of coffee in the morning evokes confidence and optimism about my day; even when my day is already in the crapper.

The simple act of getting a cup of coffee is an activity in and of itself. I love driving to the coffee shop with the radio blasting, phoning a friend to meet me there, and then drooling and dribbling over the extensive coffee menu before picking out my favorite blend. After a few swigs of high test I proceed to dominate the conversation because I selected the potent Triple Arabian Lady Killer, otherwise known as “TALK,” and my friend went for a half-caf with cream and sugar. Wimp.

I love to top off a delicious meal with a hot cup of coffee and a decadent dessert, or even better… make my coffee the dessert by spiking it with expensive liquor.
I’ve noticed that home coffee brewing has become quite complicated over the years. Some people agonize over the various choices of brewing machines. Do they go espresso or non-espresso, brew by the cup or pot? But the average coffeeholic trots down to Wally World, snags the fifty dollar special, and uses it until it falls apart or becomes to gross to use.

It’s hard to find time to clean my coffee maker because it’s always in use. Oh yeah, sometimes on my way to bed I’ll see it sitting on the counter, covered with brown stains and fingerprints, and I’ll think “gee, I really should clean this thing.” But by then I’m way too tired to bother so I say “screw it” and give it the usual light rinse out before filling it and setting the timer for 7:00 am. If it fails to brew you can bet I would use my last fifty bucks to replace it rather than using that money for such nonessentials as blood pressure medication or food. Yup, I think coffee is my best friend.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vacation Separation

Vacation is over; gone like yesterday’s weather, leaving me as full as a jelly donut with all the pleasures I gorged myself on over the last week. Of course it’s a mellow residual sort of feeling by now, like the after glow following good sex; fragile as a shadow but still oh so satisfying. Monday morning looms over me, bossy and overbearing, ordering me to get in line and report to duty like a loud mouthed drill sergeant on crack. I can feel my sedative little glow slipping away, leaving me dependant on my naked resolve to stay upbeat. I paint my face, throw on some work clothes, and head out the door, telling myself that I can make it through the day by conjuring the next vacation I will get to take… in only 364 days. It doesn't get much more real than this. Seeing the work days stretched out ahead of me is like approaching a vast mountain range that I must cross, alone….and barefooted. But then I remember the old adage “One day at a time.” and the mountain range shrinks down to one solitary mountain. But damn it’s tall, so I search my mental flash drive for a better adage and quote loudly “One minute at a time.” to myself and God and all those who can read lips in the cars around me, thus reducing my mountain to a large speed bump on the road of life. Turning up my car radio, and taking a deep breathe, I let the music drive deep into my soul, inspiring my hands to drum against the steering wheel, while a determined smile spreads across my vulnerable face. Yup.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In My Car

I always wished that I could sing. Having a voice and not being able to hold a note is like having wings and not being able to fly. I open my mouth to sing but the sound falls flat, souring the melody, and embarrassing me. When I was a little kid I used to lip sync to all my favorite songs. But back then my voice was a high pitched child’s voice that warbled with inexperience, which left me with the hope that I would eventually grow up and get my real voice…my pretty voice. I’m still lip syncing. In church I mouth most of the hymns; I’m sure God appreciates the break.

It amazes me how many people think that they can sing. They open their mouths and let their screechy voices fly causing those standing within earshot to move back, block their ears, and roll their eyes with irritation. I’m not saying that you need to have a great voice to sing, I’m only saying that you should have a great voice if you plan on singing loudly.

I often wonder how talents are given out. Does God decide ahead of time to bless certain people with certain skills, or do you stand in the line of the talent of your choice. Does that work with physical attributes too? Or is the whole process of acquiring talent, beauty and brains random, like the lottery, with the lucky ones hitting pay dirt while the rest of us make due?

My mother had a lovely voice and used to sing to me all the time. Now that I mention it I don’t recall my mother encouraging me to join in, and I often wondered what she meant when she said, “don’t quit your day job honey,” when I did sing along with her. I guess singing must skip a generation.

So now the only time I attempt a solo is in my car with the music blasting louder than my vocal range. I sing like a diva in the spot-light on my imaginary stage, dazzling my make-believe fans, and causing all who know me to stand in awe at my amazing talent; except, of course, for the people sitting in the car next to me. They lock their doors and inch forward.