Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Status Check

The status check.  Before the big day.  The main event.

How are you doing?

I'm here.  In the moment.  And it makes such a difference.  Monday I was ticked because my brand new car had to spend a day in the shop and I lost hours waiting for them to decide how to handle it.  As I sat in that dealership with my little ones, who had been playing for nearly two hours with some broken crayons and a puzzle that was missing a bunch of pieces, I was thinking about all of the things I wasn't able to do in preparation for my company, my Thanksgiving, my to-do list for that day.  In other words, my head was not really there and my anger was building.  And this nice little old lady rounded the corner and snapped me right back.  Right back to the moment.  "My your little girls are being so patient.  This is a long wait for them.  Nice job ladies.  Good work Mom."  Whoa.  Thanks.  You're right.  Here isn't so bad when you see the success of now instead of the potential failures of later. 

So we jumped into our teeny rental and sped off down the road.  The afternoon deteriorated after that.  Destroyed completely by stuff that's really not worth mentioning, I found myself with three girls squished into the back of this wee little vehicle on the way to dancing school.  I cried all the way there because I was rehashing the failed events of the previous 40 minutes.  And then, my absolute favorite Christmas song came onto the radio and snapped me right back.  Right back to the moment.  The girls sang along in their tiny voices and I noticed that traffic lights are very Christmassy and look especially sparkly through wet eyes.  Whoa.  Fun.  It's going to be alright.  Here isn't so bad when you see the success of now instead of the failures of the past hour.

Fast forward a couple of days.  I'm rocking on the to-do list.  The Father and the girls are packed off, headed to the airport to pick up the company, buy some back up gravy at Trader Joe's (just in case), get the knives sharpened.  And I, am going to the salon to get polished for the season, to have some calm before the storm, maybe a glass of pinot at noon and the phone rings.  Canceled.  F*&K!  We'll get you in this weekend.  I'm so sorry.  Things happen.  I get it.  And you know what else I get?  My two hours back that I lost on Monday.  And some time to myself to turn the music up too loud while I play in the kitchen...and that glass of pinot at noon.

It's not supposed to be easy.  And once you get that, really get that, it gets easier.  Events have effects and behaviors have consequences and this is not a lecture about what you are supposed to be doing.  Or thinking.  It's just my status check.

When I spend too much time just trying to get through it, it's gone and I've missed it.  When it's awful, I just want it to be over and when it's good I want it to last forever.  But you don't always get to pick which kind of moment you're in.  You have to commit to being in all of them.  I'm trying to do that.  So I won't miss all the stuff that's here.  The crap stuff I can learn from and try not to repeat...and the patient children and the red and green traffic lights and taking the time to make pie.

Status check?  Good. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm a Dork!

Word for word.  This is how the conversation went.  I could not make this stuff's just this good.  Says the 4 year old this afternoon,

Mom!  Look!  I'm a dork!

What makes you say that Sweetie?

Look at me.  I'm one of Santa's dorks!

Oh, Love.  I think you mean dwarf.  Right?

Yeah!  Dwarf!  I'm one of Santa's dwarfs.

And, Love.  Santa has elves.  Snow White has the dwarfs.

Oh.  Right!  I'm Santa's elk!  Yay!  I'm an elk!, actually...I think you were right the first time.  
You're a dork.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


The utility company called this week and told me they were conducting routine maintenance in my area.  There would be an interruption in my service for approximately 2 hours on Thursday afternoon.  They apologized for any inconvenience this might cause me, but I should plan for a loss of power and make sure I could continue my afternoon's activities with that in mind.  Simple stuff.  Not a big deal.

But what if someone really did call you one day and tell you they were going to turn off your power.  Your own power.  Hm.  It makes you rethink power.

Power doesn't always beam and sparkle.  Sometimes power lets you stay in the dark.  Shields you from knowing.   

Power doesn't always push.  Or pull.  Power doesn't always make things move.  Sometimes power holds you very still.  Sometimes power holds your tongue.

Power doesn't always grip tightly.  Sometimes power lets go.

Power doesn't always heat it up, or keep it cold.  Sometimes power just lets it be.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Real vs. Make Believe ...continued.

Well, shit.  I guess there's more.  But that's just it right...there's always more to the story.  And that's how I got so hung up yesterdayGo there and catch up if you're feeling a little behind.

I started off with a simple comparison.  Real vs. make believe.  I was actually going to be funny and tell you that one of my favorite parts of the whole photo shoot experience was how at the end of the night, after many laughs and expressions of relief; after spending some hours together as friends and a glass of champagne we stood in the foyer to gather bags and put on boots and my girlfriend looked down at my stocking feet and the conversation went just about like this,

"What kind of weird socks are those?" 
"Those aren't socks, they're spanx!"
"What?  They go all the way up like Oprah?"
"Yep, all the way up to my padded bra...this body is a work of fiction baby!"
"No Way!"
"Yep...I used to be big and I have some leftover skin.  And my babies sucked the life out of my sagging boobs.  Nice right?"

And then...the most amazing thing happened.  My other friend whipped her shirt up and showed off hers too.  Like I said, we're all hiding a little something.  I hide my unglamorous bits with shapewear and enhance my deflated bits with engineered undergarments.  And that's the reality.  And it's funny because the relief came from the connection I made with my friend about our little shared secret.

I'm not sure how my thoughts yesterday got so hung up and why I couldn't just write about that revelation and let it go at that.  In the same way that I am certainly more than any picture/essay/evening on the town will show you, I am also less than that.  Certainly there's more to the story...but there's also less.  The parts of me that I fix up show you what I think you need to see.  Or do they show you what I think I need to be?  Ugh...maybe both.

1904's comment gracefully blasted right into the mess I was dealing with as I wrote yesterday.  Thank you sir.  As a writer, I am in the midst of a major struggle with how to capture Truth but still enjoy the art and the crafting of it.  Because that's what I do...whether you choose to see that or not.  He calls it a Problem of Depiction.  Yes.  What to say and what to leave out?  Which stories to tell straight up and which ones to embroider a bit?  Which truths to tell and which truths to leave out?  That's the one that nags at a writer of non-fiction.  It's a blog not a novel, but it's also not my personal journal.  It's a collection of essays.  And it is all true.  I don't make stuff up.  But I do leave stuff out...and that tells a story too.

Or maybe it lets the reader think what they will.  Because as 1904 says, if I know the truth about padded bras and children who refuse to eat exotic foods sometimes and marriages that have just as many defeats as they do victories then somebody else knows the truth too, right?  If a reader chooses to use my broad strokes of content to paint a picture of my reality then there is nothing I can do about that.  We are not what other people think we are...ugh...

But I'm mad at people for that.  There.  I said it.  I'm frustrated that people think I am things that I am not.  But now we're back to where I started.  People think I am these things partly because I want them to.  I am not intending to be fake when I enhance the reality, but the fact that I think I need to makes me question why I feel like it's important to do so in the first place.  I am not intending to be untruthful when I spare some of the details, but the fact that I do shakes my confidence as a writer because there are parts of my life that I fail to mention.

There's probably even more here to say.  And do.  And think about.  But tomorrow is another day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Real vs. Make Believe

I was recently asked to be photographed for the cover of a local women's magazine.  I know right...that tiny statement needs way more explanation...but I'll get to that another day.

They wanted me to get some girlfriends together for a photo shoot.  There was an article about real women and real places and real struggles.  And they needed a picture.  Of real women.  Real friends.

So we gathered, after real stress about outfits and match or not to match?  We smiled and really laughed...just be natural, say something funny, promise you won't get my butt in this shot, don't knock over that tree.  We gave the photographer what she needed and headed home for a glass of real champagne...Congrats, you were awesome!  You're so funny.  That wasn't so bad.  So true, so true.  

And I started thinking about that finished cover shot.  Those real friends.  Those real women.  And what we were making you believe in that picture.

You know for certain that an image of a giraffe with blue spots and a top hat is a charming work of make believe.  The readers of this local magazine are expecting real life on the cover next month.  Who shall we tell them was photographed that day?  That skinny girl in the middle of the holiday scene wearing the designer vest and the knowing smile...she is exactly as real as the be-speckled giraffe.  

We are all hiding something.  Leaving out just enough that our message is still true.  Creating a certain type of make believe to be consumed by the public.  How we look can create a very confusing set of facts.  How would you know what I'm hiding unless I told you?  The short wouldn't.  But most of the time you don't really want to know.  I can't go around displaying the whole reality all of the time.  It's messy.  It's ugly.  It's complicated.  It doesn't need to be all out there all of the time.  And I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that I only show you a tiny slice of the big picture.

So the question is...If I don't give you the real story, if I leave things that make believe?  If the unglamorous stuff gets crafted right out of the picture does that make it imaginary?  The well crafted reality that is my personal style and my writing it make believe?

I honestly don't know.  But it's got me thinking, and that's a good thing.  Thinking about what my outside says about my inside and what my writing says about my living.

Thinking about the real people in my life and what I'm trying to make them believe.

...continued here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Little Help for My Friend

...this essay has been re-posted from its original July 2011 date.

Friends are such a blessing.  My friends are such a blessing to me.  If I pause for just an instant in themiddlebit of a busy moment I can call to mind so many moments...with a friend.  So many events.  So many emotions. So many friends.  Girlish frustration and giggling about being made to eat birthday cake with chopsticks; barefoot tennis and hotel room hijinxs that made me laugh so hard I nearly wet my pants; sitting in a college apartment hearing the news of my mother's breast cancer over the phone; falling in love; garage sales and birthday parties and thrift stores and roller coasters and baby girls.  In my mind I can look to the left and the right and see my friends.  And there I am.  In the middle.

I have celebrated with them.  Cleaned up with them.  Laughed and cried with them.  Climbed mountains and slogged through the mud.  And when they call out, "I need some help."  I jump up and run over.  It's what I do.  It's part of what makes me who I am.

Last February, my dear friend Maria called out, "Help."  She called out to her friends with the news she was in desperate need of us.  Of help.  She called out to tell us that all was not fine.  That she had laundry to do and errands to run and two young daughters to mother and dinner to prepare and a husband who was busy...and in the middle of all of that...she had just been diagnosed with lung cancer.  Lung cancer.  In her 40's.  She called out, "Help."

She needed meals prepared and a few loads of laundry done.  She needed someone to pick her kids up from school and someone else to keep her girls while she spent hours on the phone arranging medication and having x-rays and scans and endless visits with doctors.  And I wanted to be one of the friends that could rush right over and help.

But I live in the Middle.  And she lives 1,500 miles away.  And I was paralyzed.  I wanted to bring her family a meal while she was in the hospital.  And scoop up those girls.  And fold laundry.  And run to the drugstore.  I wanted to jump right into the middle of it all and help.  But I couldn't...or so I thought.

Maria is incredibly blessed by her friends too.  She had people to her left and to her right that could do those things for her.  She was in the middle of the fight of her life, but she had her people all around her.  They came.  They washed and cooked and scooped and hugged and supported and drove and sat quietly with her while she drank tea...and so I thought...

What can I do?  What can I do?  Maria once said to me, "Lady!  You should write a book!  I would totally buy your book!  And then I'd buy a bunch more copies for all of my girlfriends."  And I laughed her off...heh, I could never write a book...or so I thought.  

But that's just what I've done.  I've written a book about all of the things that happen in the middle.  About the distance from healthy to cured.  About the space where accidents happen and recoveries begin.  About the tiny miracles that can be seen in the chaos and the joys that you miss if you're not looking for them.  About the middle bit.

I have collected and revised all of my most favorite essays from the first years of this blog.  And my sister and some of my friends have taken magnificent photographs to accompany my words.  And now you can buy a copy of it for yourself and know that 100% of the profits from the sale of this book will be donated to Maria's fight.

You won't need to rush out and look for it in your local bookstore because I have done this very modern thing called "self publish" which means you can just follow the link below and order yourself a copy.  It takes just over a week and you'll be able to hold it in your hands and make it part of your collection.

Maria is a treasure in my collection of friends.  I am blessed by her.  And this is the thing I could do when she called
To purchase a copy of my book, go here:
or contact me directly and I will hand deliver a signed copy.