Monday, November 30, 2015

Post #30 NaBloPoMo: Now What?

30 days of posting every day: that's a lot of writing. It's also hours of time spent on work. The way we view our skills becomes the compass that directs us.

You just wrote for 30 days on your blog, an investment of yourself and sacrificing of time from somewhere else, so where are you pointed toward now? Which path do we work toward and do we continue?

How do we make sure that we don't diminish the work that we do?

We do it by believing that our effort matters, and that our writing counts.

Follow the rest of this post on BlogHer as we close out 30 days of National Blog Posting Month.

" ...  you have to work hard and learn more. You have to read and practice to get good at what you do. Writing is no different from anything else -- you repeat, you study, you learn, you apply [read more]"

And congratulations, on the commitment and the dedication to the work of writing. Happy NaBloPoMo!
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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Is It Possible To Be Beyond Great? The Water Bear

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"If the US had an army of water bears, we would always win." - my 13 year old son.

He prevails. He can live ten years without food or water, and that's just the first of many astounding facts about the water bear.

You don't believe me? Look up the facts.

It can live in hot springs.

It can live on top of Mount Everest.

It can live inside of ice.

It can be found inside a rock. But they prefer moisture.

You can find them in a box, you can find them in a car, you can find them here or there, you can find them anywhere. 

But what else is about them, you ask?

The water bear/tardigrade/moss piglet can live in water, rocks, space, ice, space, in the beginning in the past in the future. Wherever he damn well wants.

When he is dormant, his metabolism is .01 percent and he can withstand 304F and -328F. degrees.


And for a few minutes, water bears can survive close to absolute zero (which is not zero degrees HA!)

Water bears can withstand being in a vacuum (not like a Dyson, HUGE difference, google it) As an example, humans can't exist in a vacuum - if we did we would explode. This is why astronauts wear space suits to keep their insides inside.

Water bears can survive 1,200 atmospheres (WHUT) An atmosphere how much pressure we have on earth from our air. They can be broken into a thousand pieces and rehydrate themselves together again better than the patched up tire on your college bike.

Is this refusal to perish enough to love him? Because there's even more facts. Or you can forget about all that and just look at the pictures!

The water bear is 1.5 mm and that's the biggest one. The smallest one is 0.1 mm. This is very very small, like sand.


Oh the water bear with his teeny tiny hands!! and his elephant trunk nozzle out front!

Water hands, chubby legs like a baby, a little Michelin man Sumo wrestler. Just when you think all that will make you lose your mind, you find out that when he gets cold his body gives him a little coat, complete with his own little hood!

*This post just about rings out NaBloPoMo : 30 days of blogging. It's a perfect example of the freedom one has when you know you have 30 days of blogging in a space that is all yours.  

NaBloPoMo is a celebration, really, of how lucky we are to be online and be able to write whatever we freakin' want. I'm a water bear of blogging, baby.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

In The Quiet

If I would have run downstairs and gone to ask her, would she have been able to tell me?

Would there have been an answer to what would she change, if she could? From my son's bedroom window upstairs, I could see my neighbor sitting in her yard. She had her back to me and could never know that I watched her in the August sun, an ivory blanket across her lap.

I wished I could read her mind. I would not physically intrude and break the peace she was part of that day while she sat, her birdfeeders she was so careful to always have filled, surrounding her.

The sky was a bright, clear blue that morning and I saw her look up to the trees. She was so close to me that I could see the light fringe of her soft brown hair being lifted up by a breeze. We think our mornings are all the same, but I could feel the difference in this one. It was another morning for me, the hours flying by inside with me busy with the routine of a home with three children, but outside in her yard, time seemed to have stopped.

My neighbor would be moving soon. Before meeting her, there was no one I had the easy relationship of running back and forth between houses. She initiated an easy love, beginning with a tray of pizzelles she brought to my door. I sent her platter back to her, this time filling the blue ribbon-edged plate with chocolate cake. A few days later, her daughter was back to our door with extra strawberries left from a trip to a farmer's market.

This is how we did it, sharing from the ordinary days in our lives with what we had plenty of. Some nights I would send the blue platter over filled with the chicken and rice I had made for dinner, other times the platter would come our way with a serving she had set aside for me of the hash brown casserole her family liked so much.

In the two summers that I knew her, the blue platter passed between us more than fifty times. I had stopped thinking about how lonely I was and instead of how lucky I was. Lunch had became a surprise knock on my back patio door with an invitation to share half her sandwich and a small soup. She told me knowing me helped her keep her figure trim. While I enjoyed someone preparing food for me for a change, I could keep an eye on my children while they played in the yard.

I remember thinking that this sharing of food and the ordinariness of our days was what I felt missing from my life.

She was a good neighbor. The kind that made a row of houses feel like a neighborhood. The thing about falling for someone's charm is that you don't imagine a day you'll be without it. Neighbors always stay, don't they? At least until they move away.

Earlier that month, she had been told she had melanoma. She told me she wanted to be close to her family before she started treatment. There were a few things she wanted to stay behind and do herself before she left for another state, but she wanted her girls to move on ahead and make friends before starting school. Today, her house was boxed and packed. Her 9 and 11-year-old daughters gone, her husband already working at his new job. That Friday, he was coming back for her and the movers would do their work over the weekend.

I watched her as my fingers gripped the ledge of the window, pushing it down closed back to where it had been. My throat tight with holding back from impulsively calling out her name, the words thank you, I love you, flying out of my mouth like a child who sees his mother after being away. But we had already said our goodbyes earlier in the week, formally giving our hugs.

This morning, with my heart pulling me to her, I stayed back. I wanted her, my eyes stinging with tears from it, but not more than the cost of robbing her of a single sacred moment of being exactly where she wanted to be -- home.
* * *
My neighbor passed away two years ago on December 8. She was ill from August until December, and I have yet to meet a kinder, more loving person in this neighborhood. On her way out of our city that week, she dropped off her blue platter with pizzelles again. I knew that this time the plate would remain with me, and I wouldn't get the chance to return it filled with something from my home to hers.

Rest and peace to you, my dear friend. I miss you.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Lord of The Flies Called: They Want Their Leader Back

Lord of the Flies Island misses its leader, and they want him back. The eternally arrested adolescent boyman who was governing without adult supervision has left.

"He always had bigger dreams," one of the island's inhabitants said of Donald Trump. Giving his chronological age as 56 but with speech and body mannerisms mimicking those of an 11-year-old, "John" continued, "Most people here want him back. I'm glad he's gone but can't say that. We didn't have any time to play! He always wanted us to be building a hut, and then a bigger hut, and then a high rise hut, and then we'd build that and then he wanted bigger. It never ended."

Left in power for the past twenty years of an island where the balding and paunchy appearance of its inhabitants belies their average age of mid-50s, the moral decay and descent into savagery is a startling quick history with plenty who are able to provide first hand accounts. They miss the weekly sessions where they learned things like human nature is what keeps us King of the Hill and that the myth of the common good was just a story so that those too lazy to contribute could have others work to provide for them. Mornings that began with a circle chant of "Loser loser loser loser" haven't been held in four months.

"We knew what we were doing, at first, it felt wrong" another anonymous citizen of the island volunteered. "But every time we started to feel bad about it, we just reminded ourselves we've got to grab what is ours or someone who doesn't have a right to it will get it. That's what Donald told us. You snooze you lose. You can't fall asleep, you got to stay awake with your hand on that metaphorical trigger. Worry about your own and the ones that belong here, you know? No one else will, that's for sure."

Drawn to chaos and frenzy, Donald had the word 'fairness' stricken and outlawed from use. "It was pretty easy to get used to not using it." confessed "Sam". I mean, every once in awhile it slips out, you catch yourself saying "Heeeeeeeeeeeey, that's not fa--, but then Donald reminds us, fair is not what life is about. Fair is the cry of the weak. No real man says "No Fair." Grab it take it make it yours. THAT'S what a man is about." He says we have too many words in the English language anyway.

Rage and fury unleashed, life felt satisfying on the island. When times of low moral arose due to a twinging conscience, along with questions of what they were doing and if it was the right thing, Donald Trump would hold a rally. "He had this sense of how we were slipping into our old foolish ways of caring about those who are impoverished and struggling and soon enough. Donald would gather up the tribal drums and we'd be whipped into a frenzy, chanting, smacking our chests. We were among our own!! It was exhilarating! I'll tell ya, at first you think he's dumb and stupid, but there's something about how he lets you say everything you were told you couldn't as a kid, how you had to think of the feelings of others and you just let your mouth go, none of that having to think about kindness or empathy, just YOU dammit. You just want to pick up a spear or something and fling it. Like the first time you're left home alone and you don't know what bed to jump on first. You lose your mind like that with a guy like that up there!"

The loss of structure and the loss of the purpose of civilization has almost every resident here speak the words "freeing, powerful, dreamlike" when describing life on this island.

"What we really need, is Donald back, though. It's fun to grab all the candy and keep it to yourself, but after awhile, you miss the glow of the human spirit. With Donald gone, some of us are starting to ask if it would be so bad to go back to a system where we share what we have with those who don't. I mean, I had a good winter last year, but this year, my root crop didn't do so good. I might need a little help and for the first time ever, I'm kinda scared I'll have to wear a black square patch on my chest, a symbol Donald came up with to mean empty, useless, taking up space." "Ted" looked down at his feet, "I didn't think I'd ever be one of the ones having to be marked like that."

"Ted" agreed to meet with us at the far end of the island to show us his dry land. "I'm kind of remembering why people in a system behave the way they do. You never know when you're going to need help and you can't always be one of the lucky ones. And what do you do about your heart when you see someone who needs help? I can't call it off without Donald to remind me how winners act."

He summed it up this way, "We need him back. We're slipping. Just last week, a bunch of us helped Ed from the next small island over build up his fence to keep the wild boars out. The poor guy couldn't do it on his own -- yeah, I know he's not from this island and if Donald were here our fence would be up already to keep out those sand-dwellers from across the way wanting to creep in over here for our richer land, but outta nowhere, Ed got arthritis. Never saw it coming, either. I mean, life is like that -- one minute you're up, next minute, you just never know. That's why Donald's gotta return, our hearts are starting to get too loud to ignore."

You Don't Have To Bust Down Any Doors Today And You Can Make Friday Any Color You Want

Due to financial instabilities of the economy within the world of this household, we are not going to Black-Friday anything.

And also because Black Friday makes people lose their ever-lovin' minds.

McDonald's opens at 2:30 a.m., followed by stores opening at 4:00 a.m. with an invitation to bust down their doors.

I'll tell you a true story. When I worked at a large chain store in Wisconsin, I learned a trick they would do for Black Friday: this big store would only stock five or six of the door-bustin' item that they featured in their Thanksgiving flyer to make you unable to resist busting down their door while it was still pitch black outside and after you spend four hours sleeping outside on a wet bacteria-laden sidewalk they know that if the $29.00 microwave you wanted for your college kid is gone you won't just shrug your shoulders and say "okay." Oh no, you will say, "Welllllllllllll... no way I came down here for nothing. And no way I'm going back home empty handed. So gimme what you got. And two of 'em."

I'm getting up early tomorrow morning, but I'm keeping my Friday, I think, I think yellow. I'll get up and walk around in my worn mismatched pajamas, sipping on some fresh coffee while the cinnamon rolls I'm making for my kids are in the oven.

I'll have my hair up in a double knot and I won't be missing out on a dang thing.

Except getting my face pepper sprayed when going for the last coveted door buster Xbox, being trampled while already lined-up customers duck underneath a lifting store gate. I'll be pouring my second cup of coffee instead of being carried away in a sea of humanity over $2 waffle irons. Just as I'm adding my hazelnut creamer someone else in America is climbing across and into vats of sweet potatoes to get a video game.

There's nothing I'm going to miss.

Later today, after my insides are warm from my favorite morning drink and my kids have some energy from a relaxing morning in, we will watch the holiday madness on TV. We will make our public declaration to reject what the mainstream tells us we are fools not to do. We will rebuke the spirit of consumerism and instead, think of ways we can share from the horn of plenty that we are so insanely fortunate to have.

The kids will go upstairs and find their games and toys they no longer use. We will take them to church on Sunday for the gently-used toy drive for domestic abuse shelters.

Thanksgiving and the holiday season is about doing good in the name of love of our fellow man. That's why we share with those that are struggling.

A holiday season without any thought for those without is the true definition of an impoverished holiday -- not doing without another flat screen TV.

1 in 4 children in America goes to bed hungry because of unemployment, neediness, or the mental and physical health of their caretakers. You know how hard it is to fall asleep when you're sad, hungry, scared, cold, lonely? Imagine it as a child.

If you do head out today, let it be to a grocery store. The food pantry donation barrels will be out.  Fill them. When you see the toy collection bins at stores, drop off a game, a doll, a truck, a book, a deluxe set of crayons.

Go crazy with consumerism that way. Lose your mind and buy every single box of ready-made Kraft mac and cheese and give give give. Climb over each other to get to the coloring books by the dozen. Toss them in the donation barrels for those who have n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Believe it or not, they exist.

Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing to see on the news tonight?

People knocking each other over to fill donation receptacles.

Maybe someday we'll get it right.

Peace Out.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

We Grow Tired, We Grow Weary

Jehovah Shalom, today we feel like giving up.

Our spirits feel weak and filled with despair. We are trying our best to keep pushing and moving forward, to take the next step.

Provide the grace, strength, and faith we need to reach our destination. Let your face guide us that we may walk and not faint.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 – We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

Lift our weary spirits, so we may stand on mountains and walk on the stormy seas.

Make our feet like the feet of deer, and set us on high places.

*Prayer for Times of Despair


Wishing you all, peace, strength, and the belief we need during this time like no other.
* * *

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Directing You To A Post Is An Entry For Today

I have heard people say they don't want to read anything "upsetting" right before Thanksgiving. Who has the privilege of not being affected by words like these here? It's those people who decide that if something will never affect them, they can turn their head away. What world do you live in that you can comfortably not care?? " ... he emptied his 9 mm handgun in 14 to 15 seconds; he was reloading it when another officer told him to hold his fire."

A staggering editorial.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

How To Unblock Writer's Block

Creativity slowing down? Find your well dry when it's time to flow into that next chapter? Times like these (let's call them times versus writer's block) you may feel yourself panicking and worrying, maybe even thinking that you're not made to be a writer after all.

No need to freak out, friend, this is just a phase. Merely mental fatigue, albeit a fog as thick as on the streets of London. You can break through, I promise you. I'm living proof  that you will live to write another day. It only feels like you'll be staring at a blank screen permanently, but not so.

It'll only be semi-permanently.

The struggle for words won't last forever. Don't get discouraged, get busy instead. Release the need to lord over your keyboard and set the struggle free. Here is my tried and true plan for getting you back to dashing down sentences in no time three days max.
1.)  Write down whatever comes in your head. If it's dumb that's what your editor is for.

2.)  Go for a walk, begin singing. Singing is the excellent way to do anything.

3.)  Relax. It will stimulate brain-flowing if you relax. So, relax. I like to relax on my sofa with my feet up and my head on a throw pillow. I take this seriously so I close my eyes.
4.)  Get down and get busy with the other things done first so you have a clear mind. Meditation is a cleared to do list, rid your day of unwanted distractions.
5.)  Calisthenics. Like from those 99 cent stapled booklets they sold in supermarkets with the lady in the leotard.
6.)  Deep breaths. Almost to - but keep a titch away from - hyperventilating.
7.)  Watch Twilight Zone because you will always find a good idea in there.

8.)  Have a drink. Of course, always have a drink. It doesn't have to be alcohol. Just a beverage. Drinking is mulling over and holding a pencil or pen as a cigarette will make you consolidate your ideas. Have a coffee/put on slippers and you'll soon sound smart and writer-ready.

9.) Keep trying even if you feel like a dull pearl in every basket, or the piece of rock in a gold pan, the cracked egg in the carton, you get what I'm getting at.

10.)  Take a break.

11.)  Take another break, this time come back to your vision. Wait, have something to eat first. No, go out to eat and have a nice dinner! You'll be ready to write then. Real ready.

12.)  Watch cat videos. Always an important part of the writing process.

13.)  It's important to have your social networking tabs open in case something important comes up.

14.) Chase Scene. Gotta have a chase scene. Write about it.
15.) First things first, google "Why does the devil always show up when I try to search for a picture for "retro+fitness".
16.)  This is actually a good one: Flesh out the underdeveloped.

17.)  Self help videos. Watch those. How else are you going to know how to do something if you don't watch a self help video. The older the better, usually, 1970s kicks butt with videos. Prime time.

18.)  Tell yourself how good this is going to be, mama.

19.)  And now, you are ready, for the ritual of the final read aloud. (It pays to be polite to yourself during this time)

Good luck, good writing, and remember that writing is about the essence of a piece. As in what this post does here -- in other words, just procrastinate the whole time.
Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ... I'm writinggggggg
* * *

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hello. It's Me. I Was Wondering If I Could Ask You To Keep Adele From Being Happy

Dear Esteemed Adele's Physician:

May I begin by congratulating you on the honor of being chosen as the professional privy to the world’s most beloved performer. You must be so secretly proud. How I have come by this information is of no matter. There is an issue of concern that needs your immediate attention, and I approach you with hopes of a cooperative spirit.

Have you seen Adele’s blog posts of late? Her most recent entry contains complete sentences ending with two and sometimes three exclamation points. Gone are the mournful, longing ellipses fragment of posts from 2011.
I am worried. Alarmed that success may bring Adele happiness. With the recent release of 25set to break all records on earth since time began - Adele may find contentment. 

That's bad. Let me put it plainly:  no sad no music. As if having to worry about Adele becoming happy weren't enough to scare the melancholy loving me, the most current issue of People documents photographic evidence with a capital E of our once forlorn songbird smiling, wide-mouthed and sparkly-eyed as she rides a bicycle, increasing her endorphins through the roof, with a blazing fire red scarf jauntily tossed around her neck in a devil-may-care knot as big as a Costa Rican butterfly.

Not to spark an international panic, but let's panic first and talk later. Happiness may cause us to lose our glass-hearted contralto.

Which is why I, in the world's name, am asking you this, dear Doctor. When our diamond-throated sparrow comes floating on air into your office for her scheduled pre-world celebratory tour physical exam on the wings of the sky rocket success of 25 – did I mention set to break all records on earth? - if she arrives gleefully clad in crimson-rimmed dresses, please keep her teetering on the side of dreams blown into a thousand pieces.

I'll let you collect your breath before I go on.
Please, hear me out, nothing too awful – after all, she is the world’s collective sweetheart – we ask only for a few subtle reminders during conversation of the reality of life and the terribleness of people, enough just to keep her tear-stained pillow from drying.

May I suggest memory triggers of hopes entertained then dashed?
Betrayal by her most trusted?
Life plans not realized, despair in the most unlikely of places - soul crushing events along that line.

As long as I'm asking, would you matter-of-factly state that she has become too famous for any mortal to not feel intimidated by? Perhaps a reminder that "Rumor Has It" was penned with a seed of germination?

We hope you will agree, Dr, a voice like Adele’s is too magical and once in an aeon to risk losing in our world. We can't let her get happy.

You will be doing a service to our planet, after all, when does anyone who is deliriously satisfied spend time in introspection? Consider this a universal plea to de-bow our decked in red girl and ever so gently have her psychologically return to the top to bottom black frock attire, one representative of a reflective state.

No one else can set fire to the rain the way Adele did, and does. And with your help, will continue to do.
Of course, you do what you are bound by oath to do, Dr., but just one more plea, if I may: let it slip to her that it's no secret, we're all running out of time. You may mention that all of us have only so many more years, you know.
I leave the world's happiness that is found in mournful lamenting in your hands, Dr. What will we do, where will we turn, if there were to be no Adele when we seek a catalyst for a cleansing cry? There is a reason that the Urban Dictionary lists Adele as a verb.
You may be wondering at this point, if I can even be at peace with the contents of this letter. Yes, I am, knowing that at least I can say that I've tried. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Friday Night Frozen Pizza Review: Session One

Clinton was president the last time we had frozen cheese pizza in our house.

Our kids were diagnosed with a dairy allergy when they were little and since outside they'd be living with a restricted diet I didn't want them to live that way at home, so as far as they knew, everyone in the house ate the same. This worked, and bonus feature: the adults in the house had low cholesterol low blood pressure good weight control in the process. Win win for everybody. We switched to dairy-free which wasn't so bad BUT it wasn't cheese.

One of our kids, Auggie, was just cleared of a dairy allergy two months ago and we have been heavy into lightly introducing cheese into our house. You can do both extremes, people, despite what the internet tries to tell you about only feeling one thing at one time.

We have joined America with the weekend frozen cheese pizza and a movie! We were already into the movie part because we're couch slugs like that but no more hot bread and tomato sauce composites. Can you hear me shouting from joy over there? Probably not because I'm not the yahoo-ing type. Instead I'm just smiling really big.

Tonight we sampled a new frozen pizza and I spun around mid-chomp, popping my arthritic knees in the process, but I was just so damn excited at my idea I moved quicker than my body could stop me and I shouted HEY LET'S DO A WEEKLY FROZEN PIZZA REVIEW!

Whatever, mom, sure.
Grunt Chew Grunt
Hey - This one's GOOD

And in the same way that all good ideas are born, with the sound of a light bulb going on - or a cracked knee, our weekly cheese pizza review was born.

This weeks' frozen brand was DiGiorno's Original Rising Crust - Four Cheese
Four cheese because see above what I said about the heavy light - we can do it, people.

* * *
Here is Auggie with his Friday Night Frozen Pizza Review:

I picked out this pizza because when we were reading the boxes in the store that self rising part tempted me. I got home and opened the box and preheated the oven but asking my mom first if we could put it at the high temperature it said to. The house smelled awesome! I liked how it was called special rising crust something.

You put it in the oven and the crust got all airy. You could see it rise by itself!

We took it out and it was gushy and you sunk your teeth into it and the cheese got all in your mouth.

THAT made it a lot more delicious.

I liked how it was layered, bread on the bottom and after that and there's a secret hidden tomato layer and you had a pocket of cheese over.

It was pretty easy to cut and didn't go back and forth like when you have to press hard with that pizza we had last week that mostly just cracked like crackers.

It wasn't like some cheeses that leave a pretty bad after taste -- this pizza was good. The box said it was super healthy if you cut it into six pieces: super healthier if you cut it into four pieces like we did for a block of pizza with calcium and protein.

Aftertaste is everything.

I liked it. Really filling, not too salty. Like didn't leave you dying for water.

Rating: I can only give it a 3.5 out of 5 because not 5 because it's like dating. I just started and what if there's better ones out there.

There you have it. Not exactly Friday Night Lights, but it'll do, pig, it'll do.

 **Here's some fun news! Something I wrote about the 'joy' of teens in the house is published over at the amazing Scary Mommy site, "How Living with Teens is Like Losing Your Mind." Click over, and as always, I promise I'll help you feel better about your life. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Just Pass Me The Mashed Potatoes And We'll Be Fine

Auggie was telling me today about Citizenship Formation Class (??), where he heard the tale we all grew up hearing, about that first Thanksgiving when the Pilgrims were saved from starvation by the know-how and kindness of the Native Americans.

There were three days of food.
There were three days of games.
There were three days of guests.

Peace among peoples, sharing and surviving and knowing that we need each other. At times, plenty of times, some need more than the others. And that was the plight of the pilgrims at the start of that winter.

As the two groups sat together and shared the bounty of the earth, no one cared that you called it corn or maize. There was a feast, delicious, and it filled the gnawing emptiness in a belly. They were living history.

Giving of what you have to others usually brings out the warm feel good in our hearts and minds. We are helping, we are in it to win it, and there is love for fellow man. We give thanks at Thanksgiving, and we feel all the euphoria of gratitude.


Except when someone elbow nudges us and asks, “Pass the dressing, please.” As if that's the most normal thing in the world to ask for. The Dressing?? And that person -- saaaay me -- sends a bottle of Wish-bone Green Goddess back their way. Because, you know, they did ask for dressing.

“Excuse me, I asked for the dressing.”

“Right. And so there you go – dressing.”

“No, the dressing. The side dish there, the savory sage croutons drowned in butter. Please.”

“That would be stuffing. You want stuffing.”

“No, it’s dressing. My mother called it dressing. Pass the dressing, please.”

“Dressing is salad dressing. That’s what I gave you. Right there. If you had asked me for stuffing, then I can give you stuffing.”

“Stuffing is stuffed inside the bird. This was made on the side. The side that is OUTside the bird. I’d like that bowl of dressing that was made outside of the turkey. Please.”

“Doesn’t matter if it was made inside the bird, outside the bird. It’s always stuffing, no matter its origin.”

“Your favorite grandmother called it stuffing, or what? My mother called it dressing. And dressing is what it is. And what I’d like. The dressing. Again, please.”

“Dressing? Dressing like you dress a bird with, right? So that makes it dressing for you? Well, this was made outside the bird. And so, pass the stuffing, please, is what you want to say.”

“I never heard anything so stupid. It’s dressing. It’ll always be dressing. You know what? Forget it. I’m not listening to you. Lemme get my phone. I am going to find out just how many people in the US of A think it’s ‘stuffing.’ We’ll see …. we’ll see. Googling right now.”

“Google all you want. It's called StoveTop STUFFING isn't it?"

“Aha! There! I knew it! It says Dressing: when prepared on the side. Stuffing: when made inside the bird. I rest my case. DRESSING, please.”

“There you go. Have at it. And if you don’t mind? I’ll leave the table now, before you turn out to be one of those weirdos that says stuffing should be dry and crispy and not wet and soft.”

“What? It's not dry and crispy?! Everyone knows dressing has to be dry and crispy … ”

* * *
Happy Thanksgiving FoodSharing Day to all!

So That's Why You Write

“Go into the arts. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something” - Kurt Vonnegut

"Is that why you write? I always wondered." - Anybody I know, all the time, about my writing
I don't have any tattoos for the same reason I don't wear hot pink. It would pick up the yellow in my teeth. Not everything looks good on me and it would be the same with permanent ink, just an enhancement of features, like loosey chicken-skin, that's something I don't need.
That said, if I were to say screw it and get a tattoo, it would be the words of Kurt Vonnegut up there. Of course the tattoo artist's first choice would be my backside for its tempting vastness but I would choose a micro-font and have this on my forehead so I wouldn't have to answer for the third time in a month, "Soooooooooooooo, you blog for F-R-E-E? Yah no I don't do anything for free."
Then I wouldn't stand there, my mouth yapping open and closing saying nothing because I don't have energy to say everything and screaming BLOGGING ISN'T FREE FOR ME would embarrass my kids in this small town.
But For Free implies work in return of nothing. 
And writing here in this space, my own publishing realm, is not ever 'no return'.
I am a grown woman who still gets to create.
I get to respond to what is happening in the world.
In exchange for giving up my time, I gain happiness.
I gain pleasure.
When my thoughts keep me awake, I get to come here.  
I get to be a badass.
I get to fall in love with words every day.
I get to take a minute and think about things, every day.
I get to try and capture all of  *this* before it turns to dust.
Because when I tap away, time stands still.
I get closer to who I am and where I'm going.
I come here so I can finish a thought.
There is a power in telling your story.
I write as an act of faith.

My words have a home.

I love hitting publish, seeing the screen blink and flash, and then seeing, that *there* what I've just written.

I feel proud of myself when I write.
I write because the best surprise of all is when something that starts out sad becomes funny.
Darkness lifts when I write.
This blog is a place where I exist.
I write on my blog for free, but I'm not sacrificing myself on an altar.

I hear my children say, "my mom's a writer," and I hear their voices grow robust at "writer."
I am deep into my house when I read, revise, rearrange, take out, plunk back in, find the one sentence that will do what keeps me visible in this world.
I write, and I have created something.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why Old Moms Tell New Moms, "Enjoy Them While You Can!"

In the days when venturing out happened with a bitty one snuggled into a front carrier and two more just as bitty in my double stroller, older moms would pass me and glance with longing. "Ahhh, I miss those days. Enjoy them while you can! They grow up before you know it!," they would sigh a warning as their eyes misted over.

As if I hadn't been hearing that since first becoming a mother.

I knew what the older moms were saying was true, in fact, children do grow up. Of course they do, but it didn't feel like that was something that was going to happen in my life any time soon. When you're drowning in the endless days of motherhood, how do you even digest advice like that?

From the moment my oldest child was born, I was his favorite being. Only I would do. When he was five days old, I walked into his room and just at the sound of my voice, his eyes began searching out. Followed by the cry for me, the wail, actually. He had such an enveloping need for me that my husband would have to lift him up and hold him overhead to see me when I disappeared behind the shower curtain, trying for a shower for the first time in days.

I couldn't take it anymore and my husband's shoulders started breaking down so one day at the discount homegoods store when I saw a see-through shower curtain, I knew I had the answer to our sanity. Now everyone could see me in my full naked glory, just like they all screamed for. My child could not live without me remaining in his sight, I was that essential to his survival.
My son and I lived a co-existence, one rightly filled with highs and lows. It was hard to tell where I left off and he began. At three years old, when I would ask him what he wanted for lunch, he'd answer, “What mama have!” I was submerged in motherhood during those days - loving him so, and at the same time, falling apart with the fear that things would always be this consuming. 
I didn't know about the seasons of parenting. Just as with his finger sucking, that I thought would last forever. And his climbing on chairs and falling off onto the kitchen hardwood floor, his determined screams of refusal when it was time to take a nap and therefore be separated from me ... I thought each one a static condition, and eternal.
But life is fluid, dynamic, and though we see children growing up when they belong to other people, it is impossible for us to imagine that tomorrow comes for us. Will our own children not always be an infant, a toddler, a child in grade school? Nope.

So when that same baby of mine, who once imagined that the oxygen he needed to breathe could only come from me, left for college and found his own air, I couldn't find mine. It turned out he was right, because now I'm the one searching for how to breathe without him here.

The memories I have of holding his small body in my arms are some of the sweetest in my life, but I never thought the moments would end this quickly. When did he grow up? Because I had my eye on him the whole time, and I watched for changes.
The days slipped by because children don't grow up little by little, they do it overnight. You go from leaning down to snap their size 2T onesies to standing in front of them, your arms reaching up as you help them with their tie on graduation day. Like that.

Childhood is temporary, even on the days it feels permanent.

Older moms on the bike path who would pass me with reminders of the whooshing of the days, I would hear them, I would. But how could I tell them Thanks for the reminder I know you mean well but it doesn't feel like the half-second that you remember it as because I am knee deep in the seasons of babyhood.

You have to be at the far end of anything before you can look back. That's the only way it works. How can you see your starting point if you're not at the finish line? In those days of early parenting, when women feel it their duty to tell you, “Enjoy every bit of it!,” I didn't want to reflect on that.

Because I just wanted one freakin' second to myself.
Because those days of early parenting are trial by error/ baptized by the flaming hot fire/flying by the seat of your pants.
No one can tell you what those days are like because you have no point of reference. Loving those minutes so much that every thought is about your children, their well being, what they need, do they have it all? The other half of your body and soul are falling apart while you watch. How do you explain to a parent that both ends of the spectrum are part of life with children? That you can't untangle either one and would they believe you, if you tried? 
That's why “Enjoy them when they're little!” doesn't work. I want to say it myself, to so many new moms, but I catch myself and swallow the words because I know. Just as when it was said to me, the woman with three children hanging from her neck like necklaces, it's impossible to project that far out with little chubby fingers waving in front of your face. When your days are made of four-hour sleep the night before and your lunch is left-over finger food from toddler's plates while you stand at the sink rinsing something out for the twenty-ninth time that day, who's going to believe, "Enjoy it while you can!"
Had you told me that one day this 20-pound baby of mine sitting on my husband's shoulders, red faced from screaming on the other side of the shower curtain for his mama while I for the love of God took just a three-minute shower for the first time in five days for God's sake, would today be half an inch shy of six feet tall and grabbing for the car keys, I'd tell you that happens to someone else's child -- but not mine. Mine will always need me there in front of his vision, won't he?
If I could say anything to new parents, it would be this: Smile when you can, cry when you have to, and know that where you are now, is part of the beautiful seasons of your life.
You don't need me to tell you to enjoy them while you can.

I have no doubt that you already are, and know how -- in your own way.
Just like I did.

Why Must You Be So Hard, You Things That Are Good For Us

The conscience is willing, but the body is lazy.
That's my only explanation because I know how essential good habits are to important things: like staying ALIVE, but when the sun goes down and I'm thiiiiiiiiiiiis close to horizontal in front of Modern Family re-runs, it's pretty dang easy to fall asleep, popcorn slipping out of my mouth as I mumble tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow.

Well, I decided no more tomorrows. Today, WE EXERCISE!

It's not as easy a commitment as I make it sound, so click on over to TueNight as we talk habits and read about the real convincing it took for me to say Yes, I do want to be around as long as I can because I really dig this life thing.

If you're struggling to get moving again, I hope this inspires you to commit to changes.

"Five months. It had been that long since the last time I had moved. I could feel the changes, too, and it scared me. My body missed exercise: I was agitated lately and having trouble falling asleep. During the day, my legs were cramping and I felt tired. Things just didn’t feel right... [read more here ]

Thank you!

* * *

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Foot Flash

The gorgeous lurking beauties. Caged, for now.

I realize the risk I take with this post. I know that with that title here, every foot fetishist in Russia will now make up my night time site analytics as they hope for what's been promised: a flash of foot. But suffering in silence wins no one any medals and this post may not be the right thing to do, but I need to do something, so anyway-
I am coming clean about an issue I refuse to believe I'm alone in.
My night time foot menopause. My feet are hotflashing and could ignite into flame at any given minute when under covers. 
If there's one thing I do well in my life, it's sleeping. Because of this, I plan my nights carefully. I remove my day's socks and give myself a relaxing foot rinse. I dry my feet carefully, and then as I slip into bed, my favorite time of my day, I put on my special night time socks. Because my feet always start out cold.
I turn on my reading lamp, fall headfirst into the pages of a good book (the only kind I read), then the sweet call of sleep leans in, come hither, and I hither. Eyes rolling around like marbles, eyelids heavy heavier heaviest and zzzzzzzzzz. Someone cast a spell on me and it's deep. 
Then I feel the fire from mini-people setting flares between my toes. OFF OFF OFF is all I can think. My eyes are closed but my legs are awake and I'm kicking and pulling my night socks off using one foot against the other and soon I hear, "What the heck is the matter with you?"
"My feet are hot! They're hot! Can't a person have hot feet?! Is there a law, is there???"
That in a nutshell, is life when you live with someone who foot flashes. Strategy and fighting for space, few petty things try a couple as both getting what they feel is their right: their fair share of a good night's sleep. It seems a petty affair, until one is getting what the other isn't. Hence the word choice here of  'fighting'. Foot flashers need support, not disdain.
Can you ignore the socks gathered together like they're talking about you at the bottom of the bed?
Can you hide your shock and incredulity and act like it's the most natural scene in the world to see a Sock Woodstock at the bottom of your bed on Saturday Morning Sheet Changing Time?
You will, if you love us.

There are 17,000 possible signs and symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause, which can begin as young as age 35, but foot hotflashes are not listed as one of them. Though a new study of the general population finds that 0 percent of people experience hot flashes of the foot, today I say, no more shame. I call no more Foot Flashing as a vehicle for jokes about someone who is a Gypsy Rose Lee wannabe who can only strip to their feet.

Foot Flashing is a condition for collaboration of community. A comprehensive response from those who love us forces me to ditch the benign language or skirt an issue, because elements are at stake. Like sleep for all.
Absurd? Not to the foot flashers.

Isolation? Only if we decide to live as shameful recluses come nightfall.

We have to know, are you with us or against us? This post does come on the heels (never sorry for puns, so no apology insert here) of a sheet changing conversation. My kids pulled the sheets off my bed during their required chores and WTH Mom'd all over me.
"What are all those?"
"From how many people??"
They are my children, and only children. I can't reveal my true suspicion for my hot feet. That the physical beauty of my feet is too mind blowing and this is why they edge on bursting into flame in any given second.

Hot night time feet. You can count on it every night. Does this push me to consider alternatives?

Surgery? Radiation? Removal? Not a chance. I need my bipeds.

Night time foot flashing behavior may look like unnecessary flailing to you. Leg slamming, bending at the waist, exasperated cries of OMG FEET SO HOT may make you call drama. But let me promise you, for the love of God if you let us pull of our socks then we'll all get our sleep.

Don't ridicule the morning remnants of our sweaty soled night.
Don't send us WedMD articles on how hot feet are a sign of kidney failure.
Help us, keep us dry and cool and comfortable.
Build us a little gnome tent for our feet out of, I don't know, popsicle sticks and microfiber dry-wick  hand towels.

And hurry up with that Mitchum foot strength invention: night edition.
In a soothing, temperature cooling aloe, if you could, please.

*all ideas stated here are patent pending so don't even try it.
* * *

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Romantic Genius of Children

From when he would give me clumps of grass like they were treasure.

Children are romantic geniuses. We are swept off our feet with wild declarations of love that burst forth from hearts that aren't big enough to contain what we mean to them. When they fix their clear unblinking eyes to ours, grab our cheeks between their pudgy hands and whisper at volume 28 as only little ones can, “I don't care if you are an old lady you are my favorite face,” the air fills with Ravel's Bolero. A child's poetry, words set to flight that are worthy enough to land at Aphrodite's feet. Instead, it is we who are the blushing recipients of diamonds spilling from cupid's bow mouths.

My three children have wet whispered words of love into my ear that would set any college woman's cheeks ablaze. But it was with my firstborn's pleadings to my mother when she tried to kiss his angel feet that, “No! No! My piggy toe is only for mommy to kiss!” that I knew I had to start a notebook reserved for the purity of the unguarded love my kids had for me.

Over the years, I've quickly scrawled the small daily verbal notes of love from my babies. Grabbing any scrap of paper, any broken piece of crayon around, I'll try to catch word for word the magic before it rises and joins with the stars of the universe. All one and two sentence wonders, but the ones I share here are from the moments that their words crashed beautifully into my heart, shattering it into a million glorious pieces.
“Do they sell brown balloons, mom? Because I want some that are the color of your eyes.”

“I don't get it. When I put frosting on my graham cracker it doesn't taste like when you put frosting on my graham cracker.”

“Mom? Stay here until I fall asleep because I want to hold your hand and take you with me to my dreams.”

“I wish it could be OK to marry your mom.”

“Most kids at school don't like it when someone says you look like your mom. But I do.”

“I made a wish on the dandelion, mom, that you could be little again and we could be friends.”

“Stay here, and watch this show with me. It's funnier when you're here.”

“Is there a law that says you have to live away from home? How about one that says you can't live next door?”

“I'm going to build a house with a secret side door so you can sneak in and my wife won't know and you can still live with me.”

“You know how you do a thing? And it makes you not want to do other things? That's what it is when you swing me.”

“When we're old together, mom, do you think we'll still like walking on this path?”
Our children and their romantic genius. Shakespeare could learn more than a thing or two about the seduction of love expressed simply and unbridled, with the intense want for someone who is your world for that short, magical time of childhood.

On the rough patchy days that motherhood can bring, when I doubt that I'm the good mother that my children deserve, I look through my notebook of love and I'm reminded just what a wonder of a mother I must be, to have had these love poems written to only me.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Light, to Push out the Dark - Prayers for Paris

"Tears are the silent language of grief."
"Les larmes sont le langage muet de la douleur."


I came home from errands last night to news of Paris that was devastating. My entire Facebook feed, full of horror. My kids were around me, they know to surround me, and I am grateful for that, because I couldn't stop my tears.

I went to bed, passed out was more like it, with my clothes on, not brushing my teeth. Dishes were piled in the sink, I couldn't get to them, my only thought was how I wanted to be alone and pray for the people of Paris. I spent the night with dreams of a man trying to mail a box and being buried in rubble.

I become overwhelmed with the thought of the loss, and the grief, and the death of each other. All these families. But I believe that light overcomes dark, and that with enough light we can push out the dark. Today, my family is praying, and we are researching ways to bring light.

I share this link here, in hopes of pushing out the dark and filling it with light of our own:

* * *

Thursday, November 12, 2015

17 Easy Steps to De-Owning Your Kid's Things

Did I say 'easy'? Sorry, I lied.

1.  Wait for a sign to start cleaning, like when you're tripping over everything as soon as you enter their room.

2.  No. Wait until the only way you can make it through their room is to take a step, shove stuff aside, take another step, shove more stuff aside.

3.  A good time to start is 11:00 P.M. when you're drop dead dizzy exhausted. This will give your decluttering process a more desperate edge.

4.  Run out of all energy at 11:57 P.M. Take the stairs on your butt and go to the kitchen for a Flintstones vitamin and slam it with your McCafe that's been reheated in the microwave nine times.

5. Clean for three minutes then go back downstairs on your butt and eat a sleeve of crackers for the acid reflux that just started.

6.  Stop now, you won't be able to go further without energy music. If you're at Level 5 depletion range, begin with Britney right away.

7.  Get ready for Step #8. (I mean really get ready for Step #8)

8.  Deep breath. Exhale. Deep breath. Exhale. Extend arms up overhead and call upon the gods and goddesses of detachment and ruthlessness. It's about to get real up in here.

9.  It's real up in here. Pick up an item like you're following Bravehart into battle. Make your mind go blank and see nothing but a half blue face in front of your eyes. Think nothing but seize the item and claim war against it. Keep moving and striking. Physical physical physical.  Not mental mental mental. DO NOT ATTACH.

10.  Too late. You thought, didn't you? Memories, you were supposed to stop them. Now you're seeing a slideshow in your head of what you're holding, when you bought it, where it came from, who it belongs to, what it means to you ...

11. It's all for sh*t now. There's no way around it, only through it. So, go ahead, fall apart. 

12. While you're down on the floor, ponder. Ponder the passing of time. Ponder your years of caring for little ones coming to a close. Ponder the memories contained in this collection of Sesame Street figurines. Take your time, the sh*t's not going anywhere. So, go ahead, feel the ache.

13. It's a good time to start prayer now. Put everything down, hands pressed together. Pray for strength to get this crap out of your house because if you don't hit it before the holiday gifts come you stand a solid gold chance of being the next Hoarders episode.

14.  Your phone rings. Your friend senses something in the air and asks what you're doing. You sob and tell her you're not ready for them to grow up but she can't hear you because you have a Tickle Me Elmo doll stuffed in your mouth. She rushes over to check on you then talks you into a beer to celebrate that you're not having the stroke she thought you were.

15.  Return upstairs, repeat "I will get through this. I will get through this." Start anew, tell your family that's not their alarms they hear, go back to bed. Instruct them to ignore your wailing, and then forge on, with tear-soaked resolve.

16.  Reassure yourself these items are only material. Realize that you can't keep everything you have ever bought for your angel. Respect the need for a clutter free environment. Reattempt to organize. Seven hours later, rearrange the newfound order.

17. Hear angels singing. You have finished. Take all items, now bagged, and deliver them to the local thrift center. Rebound with a few new surprise items at a store you'll be passing anyway. What's the harm with a little early holiday gift giving?

Seems a shame to leave a lovely shelf space empty like that.

* * * 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Listen To Your Mother Show Milwaukee Is Back For its Fourth Season!

The Listen To Your Mother Show Milwaukee is thrilled to announce that it is returning for its FOURTH season!

Our Milwaukee producers, Rochelle Fritsch and Jennifer Gaskell, and me, are honored and excited to be able to celebrate Milwaukee and its unique voices. 2016 marks four years of LTYM Milwaukee helping to spotlight voices in our community that need to be shared and need to be told. The heart of our LTYM project is to build community and join in getting to know your neighbor.

Nationwide, Listen To Your Mother will be hosting a total of 41 cities: 33 returning cities and 8 NEW cities with Canada making LTYM shows international. It's pretty hard to not pull out all the exclamation marks. 

Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee will be announcing auditions in the start of the new year, so follow LTYM along on twitter, facebook, and online . We will be announcing audition dates, our venue for our 2016 show, our amazing sponsors, so visit here often.

Listen To Your Mother shows take place on or around Mother's Day, within a two week timeframe. So Milwaukee, start thinking of your story now -- we look for unique diverse voices that reflect the make up of our special city, Milwaukee.

We know you have a story to tell, whether poignant, bittersweet, reflective, funny, visceral, timeless and universal. What we look for are the real moments that make up what "mothering" means to you.

To tell a story, you don’t have to be a mother, you don't have to be a woman, you just need to feel a story inside you that needs to be heard, on the theme of motherhood.

We encourage you to tell us, about you.

--For a complete list of all 41 cities hosting a Listen To Your Mother Show, click here.

 --Want to know more about the type of  material we’re looking for? See what a Listen To Your Mother Show is like on our LTYM Youtube channel. We have over 1500 videos from past seasons on our Listen To Your Mother Youtube channel.

 --If you’re talking yourself out of doing this because you’ve never done it before, read this encouraging post by LTYM-Spokane Producer/Director Stacey: A word on stage fright and storytelling. (Check back here often for show updates and cast announcements.)

 Listen To Your Mother Shows:  Changing lives, building communities, and giving motherhood a stage. Whether as audience or participant, you don’t miss this chance to be part of something powerful.

*For LTYM updates, remember to like us on Facebook and follow @LTYMshow on Twitter. You may also want to subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.

Thank you, Milwaukee, for inspiring us and being the wind beneath our wings, as we bring LTYM Milwaukee back for its fourth season.

Listen To Your Mother Shows -- Giving Motherhood A Microphone!

Rochelle Fritsch
Jennifer Gaskell 
Alexandra Rosas ~ Listen To Your Mother/Milwaukee

Monday, November 9, 2015

If I Were In Charge, I'd Include This Manual at Birth

I was a little over half way into my walk today, my thoughts 100 percent immersed on ways I could use the left over mashed potatoes from Saturday's dinner, when I heard tapping on glass. There was no doubt that's what it was, it reminded me of my brothers and sisters when we'd rap on our upper flat window as we'd watch my mother walk to the bus stop for work in the morning. "Bye, mama!" we'd shout after her, we were positive if she didn't hear our voices, then she'd hear our knocking for her.
I kept hearing a rhythmic tapping, I surveyed around me, glancing up and down, looking to the second floor bedroom windows of the house on the corner. Absolutely, someone was knocking and it was intentional and insistent. They were not giving up. My eyes caught something moving, on the left. I squinted to see, and it was a small white head, fluffy hair like a dandelion, bobbing up and down from an old brick garage only 25 feet away. I'd see the white shadowy outline come up, and then it would disappear under the window, then it would come into view again. There was a hand waving back and forth, fast and hard, against the window of the garage.
I gasped and sprinted over, because my brain yelled TROUBLE! There was a little old lady locked in a garage, doesn't matter how because details don't matter in an emergency. Help had arrived! "I can get you out!," I shouted to her on the other side of the glass, "hold on!" I peeked in closer to the window to motion to her it would be OK, I was here, then I saw that the sweet little thing was scraping paint off the inside of the window of her garage.
"Oh. Ok. Sorry!" I yelled. "I thought you needed help!" She kept working. I turned and walked away, but instead of just going back to thinking about dinner and the mashed potatoes, my mind did what it usually does after I'm a fool. I chastised myself for always doing things wrong.

"Why do you think that way? You think it's normal to think that way? Of course you thought the worse right away. You are so weird what is wrong with you." My footsteps turned to pavement pounding and I shook my head, my breath now panting.

But, for some incredible reason tonight, I don't know why, I asked myself if I would have just kept walking, given a chance to do things over. In all honesty, no--I wouldn't have kept walking. I would have stopped again and shouted to her again, like a fool, checking to see even if it was so ridiculous to think that someone is locked in their garage waiting for me to walk by.

Maybe I'm this way because I've read 5,000 books in my life. Maybe it's because of years of fierce loyalty to The Twilight Zone and being a weekend movie addict. Maybe my mind does race to worst case scenario first. Maybe there's no maybe about it.

All of these reasons are possible and each one, is me.

Would I have stopped to help this person tapping on the glass to be seen, the way we would hope our mother would turn to see us when we were little? Yes, I would have, because maybe she was trapped. And maybe I was her one hope and answer to prayer arriving. I couldn't chance her not being heard.

I kept walking, slowing down now, no longer beating my feet to the ground. I thought about how pretty much my life has been jumping in without thinking first, making sure someone is there to help when I think no one is. Can we change who we are? Just to not stick out?

I have spent decades wanting to fit in and do what it is that other people seem to know how to do... the ones that get everything right. What is that, that I do? Not not be an oddball? I am an oddball. I was an oddball in kindergarten and I'm an oddball years later in a small town. I think that in this last half of my life, I've decided to be Ok with it.

If we could just get a small manual tucked into our baby blanket with us when we're born. On the first page, I'd say-

:Parents: Please read to your children every day until they are able to do so on their own.
:Children: This is the first thing you need to read and then read it every day after: "You are who you are on purpose. Learn to love that person, because there will never be anyone else like you and that's what makes this world perfect and beautiful. You bring the world to life."

And on page two-
"You do you. And don't worry about looking like a fool when you're doing it."

* * *

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Because Embarrassing Is Less Painful When It's Shared--Just Ask The Bloggess

"And then that one time on twitter we all just became human and I laughed until I gave myself a headache" --Jenny Lawson

A twitter confessional, that's what Jenny Lawson The Bloggess gave us last week when she tweeted out an awkward moment at the airport:

She started an abashment avalanche on twitter, and we were snowed under in the best case of cabin-fever delirium by 452,000 of Jenny's followers telling of their own mortifying moments.

I of course had no shortage of red-faced moments to add to the ones on twitter already. Like the time I called our police station and asked what their hours were and they answered, "Ma'am--we're a police station. We never close."

I tweeted out three or four more, but here's a more complete list of painful cheek burning moments that I would give a pretty penny to, if offered a chance for a do over:

--The time I thought that a red tube top on my 5 foot 5 inch 94 pound thirteen year old body would look good. It looked not just the opposite of good. It made me Olive Oyl's identical twin if she were wrapped in sausage casing.

--When I walked into Victoria's Secret, assuming they'd have a bra in my size and when I asked for 32A (a cup size that truly exists, Victoria) I was told it was 'impossible' to be that size. And yet, I stood before them.
 --A July afternoon when I attempted the community pool with a six-month-old baby and a two-year-old toddler and I thought I could change out of my wet suit but then the toddler took off from the bench I had him on and I had to run out into the pool because topless or not, I'll take pendulous breasts bared in public over a child jumping into a pool any day. Breasts? Life? I'll choose their life.

--When I was 15 years old and positive as anyone could be, that matte red lipstick, black mascara'd eyebrows, gold hoop earrings, and a spiral perm would be my look.

--There was a day in high school, that I wrote a six-page-long hand written letter dotted with my salty fat tears letter to my true love boyfriend, Gary. I told him I understood what happened with Margaret at the party on Saturday night and how I knew it wasn't his fault. Then I mailed it. To Margaret.

--When I called in to a new hair salon that was all the rage in Milwaukee at the time. I was told they staffed a curly hair specialist. This salon was so high end you had a phone consult with your designer before your appointment. On the phone, I told her that I had curly hair but that I didn't want to look like Rosanne Rosannadanna, because I hated those wedge haircuts that turned your head into an arrow. I made my appointment and on the day I went to meet my designer, she looked like an arrow.

--Out on a date with a community theater guy who picked me up and then told me had to stay in character for that weekend's "The Taming of the Shrew" and spoke like Shakespeare-In-The-Park the rest of the night, and I suffered through and didn't ask to go home.

 --When I went to my college boyfriend's house for dinner and his polish grandmother set a platter of cauliflower in the center of the table. Since cauliflower and fresh vegetables were scarce in my college days, I heaped a pile on my dinner plate while everyone stared. I laughed, "I know it looks like I'm taking a lot of these, but I LOVE these!" and then I shoveled gobs of cauliflower rosettes that were actually hand-whipped BUTTER mounds into my mouth.
Gramma Lucy didn't take to the oleo-loving Hispanic.
This is life in the face of flustering circumstances, caused by our own hand. We don't think we'll survive. We want the earth to open up and swallow us whole, take us far away from the scene of our crime, or at the very least, make us disappear. But without these moments, we wouldn't have the fun of sharing these stories of awkward human-ness. Laughing together and soothing the mental unease, it really does make it hurt less.
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Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Struggle to Believe: Not Losing Confidence in Your Writing

You're as good as anyone else!

That's usually the opening to blog posts about how to keep on writing, how not to lose the magic that helps you turn out another page. But read those words often enough ... and they start sounding hollow.

I do believe in the power of what you tell yourself, but affirmation can only go so far. What will carry you through to the other side, is the decision to become a fighter. You can't go down and you can't stop coming back up for yourself.

The first thing you fight is the thought of giving up. Especially if you've sent in your writing to more places than you can remember, submitted over and over until the pages of your notebook that track dates and responses, or no response, fills up. You send your writing in to magazines, short story features, podcasts, publishers, websites, agents, newspapers, journals, contests--whether people ask for them or not.

Every morning you wake up, and start again. You brush your teeth, heat up the coffee and sit and write. And you remind yourself that you're smart, that you have to work hard and learn more. That you have to read and practice to get good at what you do. Writing is no different from anything else--you repeat, you study, you learn, you apply.

It'll be slow going, but that's how you get better at anything.

You have to fight to keep on writing.
You have to fight to keep on learning.
You have to fight to keep on loving your words and the way they sound.
You have to fight to find the time for education, for the time to write, and for the need to do this because you believe that you can. 

You have to fight for what you believe about your writing. That means listening to what comes back from your submissions and from the feedback of editors BUT to keep that critique in balance with what you believe. Think on it all, but use it as a way to improve, not as a reason to stop.

I am not an author. But the only way I know of being one, is this: to never stop fighting for the day that I know I will be.

It's what I believe. 

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Friday, November 6, 2015

I Don't Feel Different--Are You Sure I'm Doing This NaBloPoMo Thing Right?

30 days of posting on your blog every day for the month of November. It's National Blog Posting Month. We're promised radiant glowing skin and brighter eyes, a more engaging wit and faster comebacks by participating in NaBloPoMo. But ... what if it's been a week and you don't feel anything yet? Here's a quick NaBloPoMo Q and A to put your busy blogging mind at ease:

1. What am I supposed to learn from 30 days of blogging?

Why, you will cover the following areas-
a. How to find something to write about when you run out of ideas about something to write about.
b. Mind over matter, in my case, get that mind cracking because the matter of your tired a** wanting to go to bed will not be happening anytime soon unless you post something on your blog tooooo-day.
c. Astronomy. As in star gazing, which is what I keep doing out this window that looks out into the night sky. If I keep my eyes searching upward maybe I'll be struck by the shooting star of inspiration.

2. What do I need to do to think of something?

What you're doing right now, reading thinking wondering pondering, let your brain take itself for a walk around the cerebral block. You'll run into something.

3.  How should I be organizing my writing space, I mean it is just my kitchen table but seems to me that someone who writes every day for 30 days is the definition of writer, so--back to the question, how should I be organized to write?

Sit every day with a notebook, a pencil sharpened to a satisfying fresh point, and set it all down on a firm surface. Which means you can't use your thighs. But, scratch away with the contentment that comes from hearing that wonderful graphite tip flying across paper. This is how the muse visits.

 4. What if I'm absent for one of the NaBloPoMo Days?

Nice try. You can't call in sick to your blog. Write. Type out I AM SICK and then put up a photo of yourself in your bathrobe along with a description of symptoms along with what makes you feel better and the movies you'll be watching and what do you know, you've got yourself a blog post, you nablopomer.

5. How will I be graded for my posts?

Oh, that's easy. For $25 I do that for you.

6. How do I enter a room now that I'm a writer?

Like this:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

NaBloPoMo Day Six and I'm Already Digging Deep

Why do I love NaBloPoMo? Because when we've gone through the easier to write posts, the lists, the reactionary, the rants, the stream of consciousness, we open the mental vault and see what else we can find. In today's post for National Blog Posting Month, I'm remembering sweet childhood moments. One in particular, of afternoons spent at our east side neighborhood Italian grocery store.

* * *

When I was little, I would go grocery shopping with my grandmother. She loved the Italian market in our neighborhood. She didn't know English, aside from saying "Sank you" in thanks for service, and "Yes yes" in response to any question in the world, so I would go where she had to go, and work as her translator.

We were a household of six children, supported by one widowed mother and cared for by one loving, affectionate Colombian grandmother, our abuela. We didn't shop for anything fancy or any specialty items at the Italian market, but my grandmother came from a country where you bought your food fresh daily so we walked there. If it rained or snowed, we took the bus. They had what she wanted at the small grocery store, meat she recognized, tomatoes onions garlic cilantro, the way she remembered them being in South America.

There was a single door that opened to the store, people were always leaving or coming, and someone would have to step aside to let the other person through. When the way was clear, I'd heave on the heavy door and let my grandmother go first. As soon as you walked in, you stood at the deli counter. Slices of Italian beef were next to tubs of dark olives steeped in olive oil. My grandmother would point and a non verbal exchange with hands and smiles transpired between my abuela and the butcher and a few minutes later, he would carefully weigh our purchase, looking up to her for approval then tightly wrap our night's meal in paper, handing it to us with a laugh and a smile.

There was a supermarket that had just opened in our neighborhood, four blocks from our house, but with canned meat and frozen vegetables, boxed pancakes and potatoes made with water, it only convinced my grandmother of witchcraft. I wanted to be at the grand supermarket and was ashamed to be in the small grocery store--it was an Italian market run by immigrants just the same as we were. The American kids at my school went to the big market that was surrounded by a parking lot equal in size to the square footage of the big store. At the front entrance, leading you into the supermarket as proof of its superiority, were automatic doors.

I would plead my case for the supermarket every day that we passed it, "Abuelita! You don't need anyone with you to open the doors! All you have to do is stand in front of them and order Open Sesame! Like this!" And I would jump in front to show her the magic.

"I have you," she said unimpressed."I don't need to worry about not having anyone with me." And with that, we would continue to our Italian market so my grandmother could do her real shopping.

The few times we did go into the supermarket, because of the kindness in my grandmother's heart, we saw aisles of boxes stacked to the ceiling with factory made cookies and cake mix along with ice cream by the gallon tubs. I wanted all of it: the plastic wrapping, the uniform filling of the rows of Nabisco cream wafers. I was drawn to the efficiency and the modern appeal of assembly line food. So perfectly arranged and neat, like Americans.

But no dice, whatever my grandmother bought to feed the mouths in our house had to be recognizable as coming from nature. My grandmother had to see the hands that rolled the pasta, she had to witness the sausage as it was weighed. Hand packed and hand made was the only way she would buy ice cream. From the bologna we'd see linked by the Italian butcher while we watched through the glass counter to the bread that was sold unsliced and whole and then tossed in a paper bag. No Wonder brand white bread from a bag of 24-slice count for us, and we could wish until our eyes crossed for blister packs of ham with dots of cheesespread from the supermarket--it would still never find its way home to us.

We would buy no more than my abuelita and I could carry home, two bags for each of us. My face would burn red as we passed people I knew, our plain brown paper bags instead of plastic that they gave out at the big supermarket. I worried the whole way home that we smelled of salami and olives, which of course we did.

I never hated the small neighborhood grocery store, I just didn't want another reminder of how different we were from the blazing beauty of all things American. The Italian store was dark wood and crowded, the small windows out front barely let enough light in to see to the back of the store. Not more than one person could go down an aisle at the same time. The floor creaked and leaned to the left and when a fresh layer of sawdust was spread in front of the butcher's window, it became slippery. I didn't want to be at the Italian store, but neither did I want to ever give up time being with my grandmother. Being alone with her always won.

In 2010, I read in the newspaper that the original Italian market closed. They moved to a larger, new location. The creaking wooden floors washed down with bleach every night would give way to black and white neat, even tile. The meat counter that was our first stop, right next to the front doors where my grandmother would motion for the best cut of meat for the most affordable price, was now in the back with a modern space of its own, apart from the rest of the store.

And there were automatic doors.

You think I'd be telling myself dreams come true if you wait long enough.

The funny thing is, I cried when I saw the picture of the new market. There were orange awnings with the family name in white swirls of scrolls over large rectangular windows. In between the expanse of windows, were doors, the kind that open by themselves. All you have to do, is stand in front of them.

You don't even need anyone with you.

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