We are not in Florida at the moment. We cancelled our trip, as I know many have had to do because of the Covid-19 virus pandemic. The uninvited scourge on the world that has led beaches to be closed. Along with restaurants, bars, and a head spinning amount of other events.
We are all adjusting to this new normal, right?
The other evening, I was in a mood. Found myself sitting in front of my computer in our home office, searching for some good news. Something uplifting. And I found this:
I’m going to trust that you took the time (you know, the free time that has increased for every one of us because Covid-19 has got us stuck at home for the forseeable future) to watch this.
Several of Tom’s insights got my attention. Like how it’s beneficial to not dwell on the negative and focus instead on the task at hand. Like how if we are honest about our weaknesses we can take advantage of them. How we are forced to be students when adapting to new situations (we are all students now). Like how we are merely a “blip on the timeline in the universe” and we should “act accordingly”.
A lot of food for thought here, right, people? If ever there was a time to encourage interaction between people (virtually of course at the moment), I think now is it.
So please share in the comments your take-aways on this TED talk. It is filled with “truisms” I think, but which ones resonated most with you?
At the tail end of 2019, I submitted in this post that 2020 ought to be my year of “Clarity”. I won’t presume that any of you fabulous readers will hold me accountable for this declaration, so I will do the deed myself.
I’ve gained much clarity in my work life in this new year. The dynamics are changing (new boss) and the expectations my employer has for me in the coming year have been clarified. I’m feeling enthusiastic about the new changes to come and the support that I’m experiencing.
I’m also feeling more clarity in terms of what I am paying attention to. As well as what I’m not giving my attention to. For instance, I’ve decided that for Lent, I’m giving up on stalking a certain state’s court website for updates on the legal status of a person who has wreaked havoc on the lives of my family (for the last 6 years, give or take), specifically it’s most beloved members. I’ve come to realize that this stalking I’ve been doing is draining my mental and emotional energy. Not to mention it’s completely pointless. What happens, happens. Checking it obsessively is not going to impact the outcome.
A musical “epiphany” I had recently drives this realization home for me. It’s from the momentous song we all know by heart: “Let it Be” by the Beatles. The line after “Let it be” is “there will be an answer”. And all this time I’ve been focusing on the “let it be” part. I have faith that there will be an answer, not only in this wretched aspect of my family’s life, but in all things. It’s about faith; letting go and trusting the answer will come.
My 2020 soundtrack is providing me with clarity in how I approach things these days. “Listen as your day unfolds”. That is a great line; the first in “You Gotta Be” by Des’Ree. I see it as a directive for me to pay attention to my environment in the day to day. To pay attention to the people I encounter. The feelings I’m feeling, both emotional and physical. The media I consume.
Clarity with what my writing process is happening as well. I’m honing in on what works and what doesn’t. A prime example is that, per David Sedaris’ suggestion, I’m jotting down my daily observations. I find it to be a sort of therapy in that after I’ve done it, I feel refreshed. It’s helping me sort out what it is exactly that I have to say and how I want to say it.
Before I sign off here, I have a question for you all: What are you clear about in your writing and/or personal life? Right here and right now-in the current?
Last Friday was my parent’s 62nd wedding anniversary. Remembering this brought on a feeling of sadness that I haven’t felt since they passed on from this life.
My dad, Babe, passed almost two years ago now. My mom, Bonnie, followed suit one year, one week, and one day after that.
None of us can claim with any scientific certainty that heaven exists. But I believe there is another dimension where our souls land once our earthly bodies cease to be.
It gives me comfort to envision my parents together in this dimension.
I like to think that Mom is not in any pain whatsoever. That she can walk and move with ease. That Dad’s mind is all there. That he doesn’t feel angry or confused or frustrated with himself. That in this other dimension he exists as the person he was prior to the fall where he hit his head. The hard hit to his noggin that eventually led to a diagnosis of dementia.
He wouldn’t be holding Mom’s purse, because she doesn’t need one anymore.
That was one of the things about these two, Bonnie and Babe: he accepted her shopaholic tendencies while holding her purse from store to store.
Bonnie and Babe made an impression on people wherever they went. In many ways, they were opposites. In some ways, they were two of a kind.
They were social creatures. They loved to have other people around to “BS” with. To feed. To take care of. To travel with. To celebrate with. I’m grateful for that aspect of marriage they modeled for me and Hubs.
I didn’t know it till I was 14 that Mom and Dad met when my brother was just a toddler. I loved that my Dad had love in his heart for a boy who was not his own. He married Mom in 1958 and legally adopted Craig shortly thereafter. I suspect that he faced judgement about it from my Grandma Pearl, but ironically she grew to love and depend on my Mom more than probably anyone else in our family.
I love that Bonnie and Babe were hard workers. They always had so much energy and together they created so much for the enjoyment of so many.
I love that they were spontaneous. One day, out of the blue from my perspective, they decided to start a business. Despite working full time and then some, Dad agreed to Mom’s proposition that they buy out our small town’s women’s clothing store. It had been a bar years before. They decided to call it “Bonnie’s Clothes Bar”.
With Dad taking care of the books and Mom doing running the store for several years, I was able to attend college without any of us taking on any debt. That is something they were very proud of.
Bonnie and Babe were always very physically affectionate with each other. I remember cringing as a pre-teen while Dad would lovingly call Mom “Mama Buns” (she had an ample ass for much of her adult life). They held hands on the regular.
I remember a story they told about their first trip to Europe. It was an extremely hot and humid day in England (or France? I wasn’t present). They were waiting outside for a ride to take them to a museum or something. Dad spied an ice cream truck and made a bee-line for it. Came back to Mom and sat down on a bench next to her.
Dad was savoring the sweet cold deliciousness and Mom asked for a lick. He obliged. Within two seconds she was asking for another lick. He again obliged. A few more seconds pass and she’s asking again. He said something to the effect of “Why don’t you get your own” to which she responded with “Now Babe, I just wanted one more lick”, then proceeded to berate him for his complaint.
This pushed Dad over the edge. He took the remainder of that ice cream cone and smashed it on her chest, creating a cold, sticky mess all over her top. I wish I could have seen the look on her face. The face she made just before the two of them erupted into laughter.
Recently I changed my primary work password to “GOODJuJu!!”
And I don’t care that you all know it now. What on earth would you do with it anyway? Break into my office, type it in and read my totally uninteresting emails? Go ahead, knock yourself out.
I think this is the best password I’ve ever come up with. Every time I type it in, I remind myself that my daily goal is to spread light in all my interactions with others. Not like I achieve that goal on the regular. But I try nevertheless.
Since I’ve shared my work password, it makes sense to follow the thread of spilling secrets. Tell you about the stuff that I’ve been doing to gain clarity for myself as an ambitious and creative writer.
Don’t get too excited. It’s all really just baby steps. But I think they still count for something.
First secret: I partook in David Sedaris’ Master Class online for Storytelling and Humor. Truth be told, I signed up for this class because of the “storytelling and humor” part-not so much for David Sedaris. I can’t say that I don’t like him, I do; it’s just that I knew of him but hadn’t read anything he has written. Still haven’t, actually.
Signing up for this class was something I did to help me learn in more detail how I can improve my creative writing. My ability to tell humorous stories that people can relate to and appreciate. It was a purely selfish investment that I decided to make in myself. And I have no regrets.
I had have great interest in interacting with the “community” within this online class. I’ve introduced myself, entered a piece of my writing in a contest even. The prize in this contest is David’s feedback on your piece. I think it’s safe for me to assume that I’m not going to win. And this is not me feeling sorry for myself or me being fake humble. My life is too good and blessed for that shit.
I’m not a great writer. I might be, someday. Or not. Either way, the joy writing gives me will not be overtaken by feelings of self-doubt about my ability to grow my readership on this blog or elsewhere.
I would estimate that it took me 3 hours, within the span of 5 days, to decide which piece I should enter for this contest. That’s how I found “Grammerly”, because in order for my piece to be accepted for consideration, it had to be under 600 words.
“Grammerly” also informed me that my piece was at an 11th to 12th grade level. So clearly, there’s room for improvement.
After doing a bit of editing on the piece I chose, I gave it a couple of days, then went back in to see the one comment made on my piece. It was “I feel like there’s too much information in this piece. I’d like to see it pared down to it’s bare bones”. He was spot on. I veer into the rabbit hole of verbosity in both my speech and my writing.
Whether or not I go back in, make some major edits and re-submit is up in the air. I honestly don’t know if that’s even allowed or appropriate. Or maybe it’s expected?
For now, though, I just want to share what struck me most from being a student of this class. The following is taken directly from the notes I made to myself as I participated in this class and worked through the accompanying workbook.
David’s “work spaces”. Loved the imagery. Made me think that I could write about my ideal work space. Like a “she shed” type deal.
Tuning into your surroundings will open you up to moments that could become stories and the parts of your world that belong in your writing.
“I don’t like to write about people I don’t like”. I concur, David. Neither do I. So I won’t. Period. Hopefully this declaration doesn’t come and bite me in the ass later.
David has a conversation with every person in line at his book signings. He also writes thank you letters. He’s such a nice boy.
Take incidents and stitch them together for a story. I love the creative reference of stitching. Also, following threads. And rabbit holes.
Paint a mental picture in a readers head. Go to readings?? David said he learned a lot from doing this. A lot about what not to do, that is.
Now onto my second secret (or is it my third? That’s subjective, I suppose): During the time I was taking this class, I received an email announcing spring 2020 dates for the Listen to Your Mother shows.
Let me back up for a sec: I first heard about this annual event in 2016 from a local-ish “mommy” blogger named Stephanie. Essentially, LTYM is a franchise that is locally produced in various cities in the U.S. Primarily women get up on a stage and read original pieces on the theme of “Motherhood”. A percentage of the proceeds from ticket sales goes to charity.
I instantly loved this whole concept. The idea of others sharing their personal stories about motherhood, a topic dear to my heart and which I have much to say about, really intrigues me. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, someway, somehow.
So, with David encouraging me to do readings, I started considering applying to be part of the cast. I congratulated myself recently when I realized that I could simply click on the “word cloud” I have featured on my blog’s front page and read all the posts I have written on one particular topic.
But then after reading the few posts I have published that featured “Motherhood” and then proceeded to view video clips of past LTYM speakers, I was overcome with self-doubt. I mean, if this is is all I’ve got to offer and these are examples of my potential “competition” why the hell should I proceed?
Now is the part of this post where you might expect me to say something along the lines of “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” or “What’s the worst that could happen?”. Both of which are 100% true.
However, while I’m not closing the door to auditioning for LTYM, I’m also not necessarily doing it this year. At least not with any of the pieces about motherhood I have published on this blog.
I think it’d be wise to heed David’s advice: attend readings. For me, it’ll be the LTYM show this spring. See what it’s like. Take notes. Make some connections.
I’m just going to jump right in with the “Right Now” part.
Anyone who read my last blog post knows that our youngest kiddo moved in with Hubs and I recently. With their cat in tow. In my almost 53 years (yes, my birthday is just literally around the corner), I have never shared my living space with such a creature.
Despite my initial misgivings (potential allergies, Radar maiming poor little kitty in a clumsy attempt to play with him, the smell), it isn’t so bad having him around.
I haven’t detected any majorly offensive odors yet. Not sneezing my head off or scratching my already dry (thanks Colorado) skin. Radar hasn’t inflicted any injuries on him. Yet anyway.
It’s been entertaining as hell watching Karl the cat and Radar interact with each other. At this point, I’d say they are solid “frenemies”. Like cool with being within a foot of each other. They are establishing their personal boundaries (Karl seems to have a good deal more of them, but apparently that’s cats for you). One of these days, who knows when, I envision there will be long enough a moment to snap a picture of the two of them together. When that happens, I’ll be sure to share it on this here blog.
For now, here’s a sweet pic of Karl I recently took:
As far as our other new roomie goes, things are going well. It’s been nice to have another human around to hang with. One who shares my love of quirky, colorful, fem-positive, musical theater type movies and shows. One who provides me with original art for my blog (featured at the end of this post). One with plenty of new, fresh ideas of things to do and places to go.
Now, kiddo is hard at work searching for gainful employment. Which means that this arrangement is temporary-ish. So I’m going to appreciate their lively presence in my daily life as much as I can between now and the time when they fly out of the coop again and into their own place. Which, if I have my way, will be a less than 10 minute drive from us.
Well, as you can see, I am writing. Feeling squishy about it though. I have three potentially legit blog posts in my draft folder. Just haven’t felt compelled to get back to them to make them publishable. I will, I know. Just not today.
What I’m tempted to write about is a book I recently finished: The Four Agreements. If I did tell you about it, I’d say this: it gives one a lot to think about. Like, a whole lot. About how one moves through the world as a human. How essentially we are programmed to believe stuff about ourselves and the world we inhabit based on what our parental figures told us. And how all of that is a lie. Not sure I am behind that particular concept. Not 100% anyway.
Okay, so I’m going to just get on with it and give into my temptation for a hot second or two.
There are, according to the author (Don Miguel Ruiz), 4 agreements one should live by in order to have a truly happy life. They are ginormous agreements and if you overthink them (which of course I have been doing), your head might explode.
First agreement: Be impeccable with your word. I take this to mean “say what you mean and mean what you say”. That may be a gross simplification of this agreement, to be sure; going deeper it’s also about not gossiping with others about others. That’s a tough one, right?
Not because I intentionally gossip. I’m not a total monster.
It’s just that when someone you know, like, and trust, starts sharing their beefs about another someone you know, but don’t like, and don’t trust, it’s hard to resist joining in. To get sucked into the rabbit hole.
I tell myself that I’m “just venting”, and for a short bit of time I enjoy the camaraderie. I feel that sense of self-satisfaction that comes with the realization that my negative opinion of the one we are bitching about is shared with others. Which I always see in hindsight is not useful or helpful. Certainly not for the target of the gossip session. And not for those of us gossipers. It doesn’t move anything forward in a positive direction in any way.
I guess I just need to figure out how to get myself out of situations where active participation in gossiping is tempting me. That, I believe, is where the challenge lies. Because, ultimately, I don’t want to wind up as the one being gossiped about because I chose not to participate.
That leads me to consider one of the other 4 agreements, which is this: Don’t take things personally. I guess where I could take that in the scenario where I’m the odd one out, turning on my heel and marching away once the gossiping starts, is that what I assume those people have to say about me not engaging in the gossip is on them. Not on me. It has no reflection on me whatsoever.
Sorry for the “psychobabble” folks. That was not my intention when I began writing this post. It’s just where it went. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have more to say about this mind trip of a book. There are, after all, 2 more agreements I didn’t even touch on.
So there you have it. My life is changing and my attitude towards it is evolving. I think all I can really do is just write through it.
A few weeks ago, I joined a new Facebook group. I’m not calling it out by name because many of the things said in this group are quite personal and I want to respect that. I’m even going to avoid giving the basic stats of who is in this group, as a matter of fact.
So in this group, there was a thread I found really interesting. It was prompted by this post. I enjoyed following the thread that ensued and started thinking about the specific things I myself don’t do. It was a challenge for me, as I’ve been so focused these days about what I “do” do (and writing blog posts about that). So I decided to mix things up a bit for today’s post.
Here’s what I came up with:
Things I don’t do (that I’m probably supposed to, according to societal norms of white Gen X ish middle aged females, with a few random “dont’s”mixed in for shits and giggles):
I don’t exercise on purpose.
I don’t get manicures.
I don’t clip coupons.
I don’t sew. That’s Hubs’ forte.
I don’t clean up dog puke. Again, Hubs’ forte.
I don’t have my work email linked to my cell phone.
I don’t have my very own car to drive. Hubs and I share one and I’m cool with that.
I don’t put a strict limit on my daily carb intake.
I don’t scrapbook.
I don’t wear Spanx.
I don’t drink decaf. Fully loaded, dark roasted coffee is my jam.
I don’t cook foods for my loved ones that I don’t like to eat.
I don’t poop in the presence of Hubs.
I don’t (and won’t) throw my family members or friends “under the bus” with my blog posts. They deserve my loyalty and respect.
Now, you may have noticed that there is little explaining on my above list. That’s because I think it’s a shame that we, as women in this world, due to largely manufactured societal pressures which are reinforced in a bajillion ways on the daily (the “perfect” photos of your Facebook friends, commercials on t.v., magazine articles, etc.), feel guilty for not doing the things we’re “supposed” to do. I think we need to cut that shit out. Who’s with me?
For the love of God, people, please add a few of your “dont’s” in the comments!
Like everyone and their brother (and sister, and second cousin twice removed and ex-mother in law and all their old high school friends), I ventured out for a Target run on Saturday morning.
I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I picked up the cutest summer tank top; navy blue with little pineapples sprinkled all over it. It was $9 on the clearance rack. I couldn’t resist.
I waltzed through the aisles, enjoying some “me” time, congratulating myself in my head over the smart purchases I was making.
Then, as I was about to open up the freezer door to procure the Cool Whip needed to make what Hubs refers to as my “Boob Cake” (explanation and recipe will be found at the end of this post), which was to be shared at a BBQ with church members that evening, I was approached by a bespectacled woman with jet black hair in her 60’s who announced that she and her friend were with the “Church of God”. I told her curtly that I had my own church, thankyouverymuch. That shut her up right quick.
In retrospect, I should have retorted that I in fact was a member of the “Church of Satan”. You know, just to see the look on her face.
As I proceeded to gather the rest of the items on my shopping list, I found myself seething about this interaction. I went from ” I ought to notify Target management that these church people are accosting random shoppers” to “this is precisely what turns people off to church/religion”, to “how condescending that this woman would presume that I am not an upstanding church member and Christian”?
So there went my Target shopping buzz.
Once all my items were in my cart, I moseyed over to one of the checkout lines. I’m thinking to myself “it feels so oddly quiet and still. And why are the lines so freaking long?”. I was informed by the woman in front of me that there had just been an announcement that all of the registers were down. Uggh.
So while processing this information and determining what choices I could/should make in this situation, my eye catches a cool looking Led Zeppelin t-shirt worn by a slightly disheveled looking middle aged guy with glasses. He then turns his back to me.
You know how in public sometimes, you happen upon men (and sometimes women, to be fair) who have chosen to wear ill-fitting pants? Like saggy-ass pants hung low enough to see a little crack?
Well, this guy went above and beyond in the saggy-ass category. His entire, bare, mind you-as in Full Commando, skinny ass was on full display. And it appeared to have a rash on it. He didn’t pull up his drawers for a full 3 seconds, so that is how I was able to ascertain that he is in need of some diaper rash ointment. Perhaps that is what he had in his bucket.
Wow. Just wow. Right?
Then a young female Target employee notified all of us that complimentary Starbucks was available for the taking and that they would save our filled shopping carts for up to two days. I opted to abandon my cart and head to the Starbucks inside the store. The line, of course, was far too long to justify a free Chocoloco latte chai frappe cappucino, so I headed out and purchased my grocery items at the Sprouts next door.
Now that the sheer horror of the downed registers has passed, I will be making a quick trip to Target in the next couple of days.
God, I hope that damn pineapple shirt is there waiting for me.
Strawberry Banana Marquise (aka Boob cake):
Quick story about this, my favorite favorite summer dessert: I found the recipe online eons ago and printed it out. First time I made it, I marveled at how pretty it looked, what with the fluffy white Cool Whip covering the mound of angel food cake/vanilla pudding/bananas combo with a whole strawberry perched on top of it. Hubs advised me it looked like a big white boob. Hardy Har har.
Here’s the recipe:
Keep in mind the whole process, start to finish, takes about 4 1/2 hours!
1 12-16 oz. prepared angel food cake
2 cups sliced strawberries (plus 9 whole strawberries for garnish)
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
1 3.4 oz. package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 1/4 cup skim milk
2 ripe bananas
1 12 oz. container Cool Whip
Line a 3 qt. bowl with plastic wrap. Slice the cake into 20 pieces. In a small bowl, combine the sliced strawberries with the strawberry preserves and set aside.
In a medium bowl, prepare the pudding according to package directions-but only use 1 1/4 cup milk, stirring until the pudding thickens. Fold in 2 cups of the Cool Whip; refrigerate the rest.
Slice the bananas into the strawberry mixture and stir well to coat them.
Cover the bottom of the lined bowl with 4-5 cake slices. Cover with half of the strawberry-banana mixture and spread evenly. Cover with half of the pudding mixture and spread that evenly. Add a layer of cake slices (maybe 7), pressing lightly. Repeat layers of strawberry-banana mixture and pudding mixture. Finish with a last layer of about 8 cake slices, pressing lightly. Wrap bowl in plastic and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
Just before serving, remove outer plastic wrap and cover bowl with serving plate and invert. Remove bowl and plastic wrap. Frost with remaining Cool Ship. Slice the remaining strawberries in half lengthwise and space evenly around the bottom of the finished marquise. Slice to serve.