Happy birthday to my brilliant, shining falling star…
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
To My Lara-
Twenty-eight years ago at 1:46 a.m, while the stars were falling out of the endless night sky, I gave birth to you. You came into the world wailing, voicing your extreme displeasure at being thrust unceremoniously out of your safe, warm existence. Still wailing, you were placed into my arms, and as I clutched you to my endorphin drenched body you quieted and gazed at me with slate blue eyes. You studied me intently, and at that moment it dawned on me that you were going to be unique, tough, demanding, beautiful, and charming. I was right.
As a six month old baby you loved music- any music, although I admit to saturating you in 70s and 80s rock. Your sense of rhythm and melody was astonishing. You would bounce your head from side to side, wiggle your tiny body, and go off into the music. You are still that way! As you grew, your questions were not the ordinary ones a mother usually hears from her child. No, My Lara wanted to know if a person could slide down a rainbow, you wanted to know what existed outside of space, you wanted to know what the word “love” meant, which by the way you defined for me at four years of age, “Love is when you love someone so much you don’t want to unlove them.” Pretty profound.
And at four years of age you would howl with laughter every time you heard the word “
because it sounded so similar to the word I had taught you for a part of the
female anatomy. At nine, my sweet curly haired, pig tailed daughter, you could field a
softball with such force that you often knocked other players out of your way.
I can still hear you screaming at the other players, “Get the ball! Slide!
Slide! Who cares if you get dirty!” At twelve you balked at having to wear
braces and proclaimed I was the meanest mom in the world for making you get
them. At thirteen you entered a local beauty pageant, not because you wanted to
win; far from it- you coveted the Miss Congeniality sash. If you had won first
place you would have been devastated. You won Miss Congeniality and walked on
air for weeks afterward. China
When you were fourteen, I was once again “the meanest mom in the world” when I took your bedroom door off the hinges because you refused to clean your room and because your grades were slipping. At sixteen you punched a boy in the nose at school, creating a blood splatter that is, quite possibly, still on the school walls. You took the two day suspension with no arguments.
Then overnight it seemed you were all grown up and gone, the mother of your own daughter, and with your own road map of love and heartbreaks. Like every mother and daughter relationship, the road for us has been rocky at times, but you and I grew and changed with one another, developing a relationship that today I treasure. Forgive me if I sometimes slip into My Mom Mode- I truly try to keep that in check, however, once a mom, always a mom. You’ll find that out one day when your children are adults.
Today, at twenty-eight, My Lara, you are, by far, one of the most interesting people I know. You are still trying to slide down rainbows. And dear Lara, do not ever stop trying to slide down rainbows. Keep looking at the world through your Lara Eyes, keep crying at societal injustices. Stay curious, keep reading, and keep looking for causes to believe in. Refuse to be molded into anything except what and who you are.
Happy birthday to my brilliant, shining falling star…
Happy birthday to my brilliant, shining falling star…
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Lately I have been on a shameful binge of devouring Hulu episodes of the reality television show Hoarders. As a rule I do not find reality shows even the least bit interesting, yet I am drawn to Hoarders for some reason. I am not interested in the shallow lives of the Kardashians but I find myself morbidly fascinated by the poor souls who pull material items close to them as a way of placing physical barriers between themselves and the world. But maybe hoarders and the Kardashians are just two polar opposites of the same problem. They both have the need to constantly acquire material items to feel loved and comforted. The only difference between the pitiful, disastrous, sad hoarders and the Kardashians is that the latter can afford to hire someone to keep all their shit organized and they can acquire their comforts at Versace.
As one episode after another of Hoarders has unfolded before my eyes I am drawn to the never ending jumble of chaotic disasters that are televised for the entire world to see. I am mesmerized by hoarders- how does a person get to the point where they can no longer part with absolutely anything and the items grow into piles of debris that have to be climbed and navigated over and under? Teetering piles of papers, furniture, books, electronics, old bike parts, wadded rotting clothing, broken dishes, expired cans of food, cat litter boxes, fast food drink cups, cast off toys, unopened mail, broken appliances, pens, stuffed animals, paint cans, broken suitcases, and pet carriers. Why do some people feel the need to hang onto these items year after year even when the items have lost their usefulness and their value? Even when they have nowhere to sit and eat a simple meal, and they live amid broken refrigerators and toilets, too ashamed and embarrassed to have anyone enter their house to repair these necessities, they still hoard. Even when they risk losing loved ones or their children over their obsession for drowning their existence in ever increasing mounds of items, they still hoard. But how do items become more important than people? What is the catalysis? Personal tragedy? Each of us experiences personal tragedy if we live long enough. But perhaps the coping tools to live with personal tragedy do not exist for hard core hoarders.
I believe each of us has the potential to be a hoarder in this age of mass consumerism. After all, the ones with the most toys wins, right? So we collect our toys and our toys overtake us and as we collect more and more they eventually control us. We do not own them; they own us. But we can't take them with us, no matter how hard we may try. That's an inescapable fact.
I always try and look at the bright side, so a positive occurrence that has come from my obsession with hoarders is that my house is getting a thorough once over. I have cleaned out dresser drawers, thrown away clothes I haven’t worn in years, cleaned my office desk so I can actually see the surface, emptied the junk drawers of their junk, collected odd photos and put them in one box, thrown away pens that don’t write, and coats that won’t ever be worn.
But I can’t for the life of me bring myself to throw away even one of my many books, one of my hundreds of CDs and movie DVDs, old concert ticket stubs, or old or new love letters. My oldest and youngest sons’ tiny t-shirts that they wore home from the hospital over thirty and twenty years ago are folded and sitting on a closet shelf. Yellowing faded pictures that my children colored in kindergarten are carefully preserved in manila folders and filed away in a metal file cabinet. My dad’s notebooks of song lyrics he wrote so many years ago are within sight of my computer desk where I write. My grandmother's beige woolen sweater she wore when she was living is folded inside a plastic bag and stored with some samples of her embroidery. I still have a mood ring I wore eight years ago, Superman Mardi Gras beads a friend gave me over thirteen years ago, and hard copies of short stories I have written over the years. I won’t pretend that I can even entertain the notion of throwing any of these away, much less actually do it.
I am a collector of memories, memories that won’t mean a damned thing to anyone else once I am gone from this earth. I think most of us are collectors to a certain point. With time the items I am hanging onto might very well end up in the bottom of a trash dump under the memories of other people who have left this world, or else sold in some obscure thrift store. After all, I own fifteen black and white photos of an entire family that I’ve never met. I picked the photos up in a flea market one day because it hurt me to think that those people would be forgotten.
So maybe my obsession with the pitiful hoarders, and so many others’ obsession with them, stems from the fact that we all know that we are within a hair’s breadth of crossing over some invisible line where our possessions overtake our ability to separate our emotional identities from our physical identities. We fear becoming old, we fear becoming irrelevant and not remembered. We don’t want to become black and white photos collecting dust in some country thrift store. And while I am able to espouse on the psychology and existentialism of it all I still cannot bring myself to toss even a badly written book or a scratched CD. There is a secret hoarder in us all. What does your secret hoarder world contain?
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
There are laws and rules in life. We have to have them because human beings can be so stupid. Want proof of this stupidity? Some people dress their dogs in coordinating designer clothes. And the poor dogs look so pathetic. Their sad eyes scream, “My owner is stupid. Help me.” It should be illegal to dress a dog in clothes.
Some laws and rules make sense, like not killing other people and robbing banks. Then there are arcane laws such as the
law that bans sex toys. Yes, this one is STILL on the books. Don’t believe me?
Look it up. This last law means that most of my family and friends are
criminals. They’re happy, but they’re criminals.
Then there are unspoken societal rules that aren’t laws but should be, such as cutting in front of the line at WalMart. I mean there are only like what- two registers open at WalMart even during the height of Christmas season? Cutting in line justifies the death penalty as far as I’m concerned. Another law we need is No Talking on a Cell Phone while standing in a checkout line. This should get a person thrown out of the store, then tarred and feathered. We need to bring back tarring and feathering. I bet that shit hurts, not to mention how ridiculous a person looks covered in feathers like some big dumb chicken.
Another unspoken societal rule that should be law concerns convenience store gas pumps. After a person pumps his/her gasoline they should IMMEDIATELY move their TWO tank 90s era extended cab F150. No strolling into the store to buy four thousand twenty-five lottery tickets while the truck sits at the pumps. Move the damn truck or have your Red Man and Budweiser taken away for life and be forced to listen to The Barber of Seville in its entirely, five times, sung by Lil Wayne. While sitting in a room filled with fire ants.
And selfies? God help me. A person’s phone should explode if they take any more than three selfies in a row in an attempt to get just the perfect photo for their Facebook profile. Just BAM! The damn thing blows up. Would be funny as hell too. I’d pay to see that. Every time a phone explodes an automatic text would be sent from the phone to EVERYONE in the contact list two seconds before it explodes. The text? “I went Ka-boom. LOL” followed by an entire row of exploding smiley emoticons.
Other laws should include the following:
- A woman (or man.. hell, I can’t be gender biased here) who plucks his/her eyebrows completely out and then draws in dark boomerang ones will not be allowed to speak under any circumstances.
- A driver who parks two inches from another car in a half empty parking lot should have their driver’s licenses suspended for fifty years. Same punishment goes for drivers who try to apply mascara while they drive. This goes for women and drag queens.
- Any person who sings the word “douche” in place of the word “deuce” in the song Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann will have their thumbs removed.
- A person cannot go to a rock concert wearing a band t-shirt of the band that is performing the concert. That’s lame. The punishment is seventy-two hours of very loud, disco music.
- It shall be unlawful to not inform the gas station attendant or restaurant manager that the restroom is out of toilet paper. A fine of one-hundred fifty dollars and banishment from public restrooms for a period not to exceed two years will be strictly enforced by the formation of The Bureau for the Enforcement of T.P.
I could think of a lot other laws we need, but if more people would just act like their Mamas raised them right we wouldn’t have so many problems. I heard that Jesus don’t like ugly,. so go forth and don't be ugly. And take off that Aersosmith t shirt before you go see Jethro Tull. Thankyouverymuch.
Boom! Second try.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
I have become the great piddler, the great waster of time, the great quiet observer. I used to be busy, busy, busy with my life: nurse my babies, raise my children, cook endless meals, clean house, show up to family functions with a smile, shop for groceries, attend college, study deep into the night, divert energy to a divorce, attend school conferences, travel one hundred and forty miles round trip daily to another college, graduate, find a job teaching, raise the children some more. help them wrestle with their teen years, clean the house some more, wash clothes, fall in and out of love, juggle not enough money for too many bills, work, work, work. Living life meant being too busy to truly ponder it, shifting its weight back and forth in my hands to weigh decisions that I always thought would be available. If not now, then tomorrow. I can always do it tomorrow.
That is what my life was once. Now my life seems to holding its breath, for what I don’t know. No more children to raise, no more teaching high school students, no more buying work clothes, no more feeling useful, productive, needed. I now juggle doctor appointments, fight insurance companies, clench my teeth when someone asks how I’m feeling, endlessly refill my medicine tins, re-read books I have read before, read online news, write when I am able, and wait wait wait for tomorrow when my body will be mine again and I can get back to the business of attending to life. And in the process I have discovered so many kindred spirits who are waiting also. Kindred spirits who have been forced to rearrange the many tiles of their lives. They live in the quiet shadows, attempting to reinvent themselves. asking themselves, “What now?” while watching
all the busy people hurry past. We become accustomed to the predictability of life and when that predictability is taken away before we are prepared, or as prepared as we fool ourselves into thinking we can be, we flounder like gasping fish who find themselves in a suddenly dry riverbed.
The business of reinventing oneself while being fully at the mercy of forces beyond one’s control is daunting and perplexing and liberating and confining, all at once. Waking up each morning to try and fit our now square selves into the round pegs of our former lives. It’s like discovering a secret brotherhood that has its own language, its own timetables, its own tools, its own beliefs, its own rules- all quite different from what we believed would always be enduring and controllable. We step into a new land that on the surface looks the same, but underneath, where we are made to go, down the rabbit hole, the whole of life takes on other hues and other perspectives. We are Alice who drank the potion and became quite, quite small, then tried to rectify that smallness by eating the cake that would make us so much larger than our surroundings. A largeness that consumes us and sets us apart. And even if some day we manage to climb out of the rabbit hole, the experience will have irrevocably changed us, so that we are forever cut off from the person we were before the deep descent.
To all the people who have been pushed down the rabbit hole by cancer, crippling arthritis, severe injury, heart disease, diabetes, depression, the death of a child or spouse, COPD, Alzheimer’s, M.S, persistent Lyme disease, lupus, and any of the other myriad things that life can dream up, there are more of us down the rabbit hole than you realize. I won’t tell you to “fight on” or “be brave” or any of the other clichés that are about as useful as water to a drowning man or legs to a fish. I just want you to know that you aren’t alone. You aren’t alone. I see you.