Sunday, September 25, 2016

Speak Minivan to Me

Creamer was on special today. And I could stock up on it because I have a minivan. You think driving in a navy blue minivan says that I gave up. You don't see what I see, me zipping through our town's roundabouts knowing I'm in a castle on wheels. So, cast your eyes of envy my way because I know what owning a minivan means: room.

Car manufacturers may think they'll fool new parents into showing up at car dealerships with their commercials of rap songs, heavy metal songs, images of hipster couples with their hipster babies on their hipster hips. Or the promise of kids subdued into open mouthed states of sedation with a drop-down DVD player six inches in front of their faces. But I never needed any of that: I fell in love with the minivan with the first time I drove home from the grocery store in it.

I didn't need to be brainwashed into thinking that cranking Alex Clare at barely legal ear-bleeding decibels as I whizzed through cul-de-sacs at carpooling time, that a minivan is the car for me.

And I have no idea who exactly out there thinks they don't need a minivan. Who needs to be convinced? Do the ad teams believe that the words “swagger wagon” will wipe our minds free of the minivan’s other names, like dumpster on wheels, mommy mobile, soccer mom wagon, Eberhard eraser, rummage sale raider? I've heard them all, and they don't touch me.

Why does the minivan need to be cool? Who drives one to be cool? Not me. I know what it’s for and that’s exactly why I have it. No one shows up at the car dealership, and when the salesman one handedly and with a wink, slides away the stow-n-go backseat, thinks, Ooooh, hooo hooo! Saturday night sin bin! No, I think of all the Gatorade that goes on special that I can pack in there!

You could drop in a Shelby V-8 engine, rim the car with Pirelli tires, smoke the windows, apply an alien family decal, clean up the cheerios and juice boxes, you could all of that, and it still wouldn't change why I buy a minivan.

As I said, no one buys it to be cool or to deny the wheels of time grinding closer every day. The truth is that minivans are not cool. They are not. What they are is efficient, contriveable, bottomless, mess forgiving. That's why I've been behind the wheel of one for over 15 years.

If you want cool, think back to high school. The coolest people were the ones that didn’t care what other people thought.

You know I'm right. The one with no effs left to give is the one behind the wheel of a minivan.

I don’t have to rap along to Swagger Wagon to pretend that the steering wheel I'm sitting behind is not that of a minivan.

Because I know that it's not our car that makes us. It's us, that make the car. What’s in the seat, makes it hot. And there is no one more on fire than me flipping back my hair, folding down those stow-n-go seats when Gatorade is two packs for $5.99.
And there's no limit of two per customer.
* * *

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On This Day

More than two decades ago, I was unaware that the man I had been dating for nine months was going to be the man I would marry.

We hadn't yet spoken of marriage, which suited us both fine. It did me, anyway. He had made no promises nor given any hints regarding a possible future together, so I couldn't claim to be misled or disappointed.

He was content with dating, as was I. He was an affable enough fellow that I continued to see him. He was employed, respected the practice of personal hygiene, and had no addictions. Given all that, continued dating with no end in sight would fit into my schedule.

It was my birthday and he had called to ask me out to dinner. At the time, he was traveling internationally, and our times, when together, were spent doing nice things at nice places with nice food.

I knew he would have a special dinner planned since he was home for just a few days. I was anticipating romance, attention, and perhaps a gift from abroad. He was coming to pick me up at 6:30 p.m. As I waited for him, I thought of how I was ready to sit, talk, be wined and dined, celebrated and toasted to.

He arrives, 6:50 p.m., and his face has a look of grief and concern, as if he's lost something. He is also unusually quiet. I ask if everything is all right, he answers yes, that it is, but nothing more. He is twenty minutes late, which is not like the punctual man he has been for over a year. But I don't want to start the night off on the wrong foot, so I say nothing. But, things feel odd and tense and he doesn't smile to see me. We go in his car, and I promise to not bring up being late unless it happens a second time. If there is a second time.

While he is driving, he looks straight ahead and makes no mention of his trip to Germany, though he was gone for ten days. I attempt conversation, but I feel as if I'm in the car with a coyote; all I hear is "yup. yup. yup." to any question I ask.

Well, perhaps he has jet lag, I think to myself. We drive along, but I don't know about this night, which is starting to feel like a duty he's fulfilling since it's my birthday. I'm hungry, I have to go to work the next day, and I've got a new dress that I've bought for tonight on. But he doesn't notice that red is my color, nor how the gold button earrings play up my dark hair. I decide I will enjoy this meal, be just as affable back, and celebrate being with someone on my birthday.

We arrive at the restaurant, he parks, and then asks me to wait--sitting in the car. He always hops over to my side of the car and opens the door. Now I know, this is the farewell wrong place, wrong time speech we're leading up to.

I oblige, count to sixty seconds, then step out of the car. I see him in the vestibule of the restaurant, fingers jostling in his front pockets and well, you don't want to know what this looks like to me.

He then steps toward me and I see him, with his lips pressed tight. He walks as stiff as a robot, and together with the furrowed brow leftover from when he first picked me up, I can't read a thing about him. Is it agitation? Is it avoidance? I let him catch up to me and we walk alongside. I slide my arm into his, and he jumps twenty feet in the air.

I withdraw and drop his arm like an electric wire. I take a deep breath. I do not want to bicker in a parking lot on my birthday with a new dress and a growling stomach. I can make it through this dinner, I'll order something light, like whitefish since anything else will sink like a rock. We enter the restaurant, and the hostess seems to know him. She places her mouth inches from his ear and I imagine her whispering, "Tonight. Dump her. Got it?"

His tone back to her is a nodding rushed yes. They are in deep communion. He turns to me and asks me AGAIN to wait a bit, this time in the front hallway. He and the hostess whisper back and forth again and we're shown to a table. He keeps his hand in his pocket, I attempt to reach for the one he has resting on the table, and he pulls back as if I've extended a lobster claw.

Without warning, he stands from his chair and says he needs to check something in the car. I have now entered "whatever" land. I can no longer enjoy my meal, and think, OK. nice guy and all, but I just can't see what is going on between us... I know I should try and read between the lines but there's a lot of lines to read here.

A few minutes pass and he returns, his hand still in the front pocket. We eat a silent dinner. I say it's time for me to get home early, I have to be at work at 7:30, and I saintly offer him an excuse of how he must have jet lag.

He looks at me, his eyes wide with shock. I think, This can't be good. I can't believe he is HAVING A GOOD TIME??? You're kidding, right? This is SOOOOOO not a good sign. All I can see is red flags. Red flags all over the place.

He tells me he wants to take a drive to the lakefront. I agree, thinking maybe we'll talk and he can come clean about the hostess taking my place. And it's the least I can do, because I already know this is the last time for me too.

We drive there, and I see a white horse and carriage waiting. I am jealous of the couple that will be celebrating their love to the romantic clip clop of horse's hooves, because I know it won't be us. Then, turning his body in an awkward broken movement, he takes my hand and walks toward the carriage. His other hand won't leave the front pants pocket. Now I'm the one with the furrowed brow, but mine is out of confusion. We climb into the white cab, I move to sit closer to him. I make the mistake of having hope and I reach for the dang hand in his pocket. But he's not having any of it and digs it back in deeper.

In one last moment of dreaming out loud, I convince myself his madness is jet lag or traveler's fever. I make up that last one because, how can I explain all that is going on like a poorly written screenplay. No continuity of thought! I want to shout.

But if he was protective of the hidden hand before, he's grown thrice that level now. I mentally steel myself for the coming weekend of me and two quarts of Ben & Jerry's Death by Chocolate. It's not like I haven't had practice with those kinds of weekends before. I know I'll be sad, but as always, like a phoenix I will rise.

We're sitting in a beautiful red velvet interior of a fairy tale carriage, and I can't immerse myself in any of it because he continues with his pocket patting fetish. I am ready to jump out of the horse cab by now, but it's moving too fast. It's also getting cold outside, dark... and I've got new black T-straps that match this new red dress. And so I sit.

I will finish this night, and I will cherish this buggy ride. I close my eyes, and I relish the sound of the horse's hooves on the quiet street.

And this is where it gets strange.

There is a five star hotel up ahead and the driver is pulling the horse to enter the circle drive. My date jerks his hand out of his pocket, I check it to see if he's been hiding a bandaged injury all night but instead of gauze and stay clips I see a small, white box.

My date's face is set like stone, locked and looking straight ahead with a determination for what, I don't know. He licks his lips and I wonder why he feels he needs to give me a goodbye present as he leaves me for the hostess. I take the little white box he offers and snap it open it to see what I'm Sorry jewelry looks like. But there is no consolation gift inside.

In the darkness of the cab, with the streetlight hitting it just right from behind, there is a miniature firework of sparkles sitting inside black velvet. A breathtaking diamond solitaire shoots light from the middle of a gold band. It is an engagement ring, where a pair of modestly priced gold earrings should be.

My mouth crowns open as everything begins to make sense. I begin to laugh, then cry, then I apologize for the way I was never going to see him again but he asks me to wait. I say, "pocket petting, scared, worried." I think of all the perverted pocket padding this poor man did to ensure the ring hadn't fallen out, all the up and down and walking ahead so he could check to be sure the ring was still in the pocket. The poor sweet man.

The rest of the evening splits into a surreal memory. I remember staring at the ring in the moonlight (really ... it was a full moonlit night) and being so very surprised. I marvel at the planning he did from abroad and the secrecy of the night and the chance that he took. We had never discussed marriage, I could have said no.

Later that night, as I finally held his long sought after hand, I asked him to tell me the reason he had decided to propose in that way, with me not suspecting a thing. He answered, "If you knew it was coming, where's the romance in that? I wanted you to remember, always, whether you said yes or no, I wanted you to be remember."

Which I do, in more than just receiving the ring, but in him, and who he was, and how he made this plan of marriage more than a proposal, but a gesture of showing what I meant to him.

And his reason is why the picture above exists, that shows me as a Mrs., when just hours earlier that birthday evening, I thought that he would be returning me home, vowing to stay a Ms.

*I post this annually. Because it's good to remember, and reflect. Happy birthday marriage day proposal to me.
* * *

Monday, September 19, 2016

8 Ways To Get Started on That Online Writing

You know the feeling. I know you do. If you're reading this, it's probably because you read blogs because you also write for blogs. And that means you've had this moment seen here: when you've got to write something and you can no longer ignore what has to be done.

Some writing. 

The deadline looms but instead you get busy dusting the keyboard and watering the plants. You run to the sofa and pound on your forehead, think think think. We know this isn't going to push the minutes away of when you have to hit submit, but we do it anyway. It's time to get serious about the writing that you have DUE.

When it's hard to get the faucet of prose flowing and meet that promise of copy delivered, there is only one road to take: BDIC, get yer butt down in chair. But the butt part isn't enough: we've got to leave our editor swooning over what we've submitted and have them clanging their chime-balls in hope that they reverberate to the writing heavens above and we can provide more than just the basic asked for. 

That's a nice scene, I know, I daydream about it often. But I can’t promise you that. I can tell you how to get a blog post in on time and cleaned up like nobody's business, though.

I offer you a Monday gift (surprise!), because I believe we all find ourselves in the writing trenches. I know we do:

A Guide for the online writer who needs to BDIC and then some:

1.You must tell yourself exactly what to do and how to do it.
 Like this:
 #1.) Sit down, Alexandra
 #2.) Put fingers on keys, Alexandra
 #3.) Type out what you’re saying out loud
#4.)  No bathroom breaks no eating lemon poppy seed cake until you have a rough draft down

2.Get some fresh air from a walk or a drive after you've got the bones down. Stepping inside a computer to live is too much like a Twilight Zone episode. Have a life off the internet so you have something to talk about when you do try to stick your head into that little blue screen again.

3.Keep a notebook, papers, voice recorders, pens, pencils, anything handy so you can write down notes of anything in your day that might make a story. In the grocery store this morning, I saw an adorable older gentleman with the healthiest makings on the conveyor belt for a salad. It was wonderful, but it was just enough for only one, and it broke my heart a little. A story started in my head, and when I got to my car, I wrote down just the beginnings of something I can flesh out later. My notebooks stashed all over the places of my life may be a sight, but you know what it really says: I can use this outline later. (and my notebooks have saved me many a dry well of a time)

4.Commit your own writer’s mantra to memory and begin your day with it. Writers write, is what works for me.

5.Go write. You can't wait for the opportune time, it never comes. Write, if it's 10 minutes, it's 10 minutes. And a start.

6.Sit down and before you start at the keys, breathe. Then nod your head like you’re a conductor ready to direct your orchestra. Look up at the screen, hovering your hands over. Ready? And... now get up and go to the bathroom, have a snack, drink some soda, look out the window, pull out your phone and look at it, go to the bathroom, then come back and sit down for two minutes. Breathe in deep a few times… Repeat until you decide to kick yourself in the ass and start already!

7.Next time you sit and write, don't think of it as work. Feel how you are doing what you've been drawn to do every since you can remember. You like to write, it takes you to your Zen place and time disappears. Get lost in it. Realize you love writing for a reason. Remember we're lucky.

8. Scare the shit out of yourself when you realize that to be a writer, you have to write. Promise--this will make you pound out the fastest blog post in history.

Now get busy and get down with some choice words: it’s what writers do.
"The hardest part, is always the start."
* * *

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

When Movies are Real

Movies? I just don’t watch them, I live them.

Movies are my wine after a long week. My doobie that takes the edge off. My cold mug of microbrew when life has grated against every nerve. You get the picture.

Films are my way of forgetting about life 100 percent, I fall for them and into them harder than any book can rapture me. But two days ago, I was told that I turn into someone else during movies. Apparently, not every facet about me is a sparkling gem. There is something not found to be endearing about me when I sit in front of a Hollywood script, and it is about to drive this person reporting this to me, insane.

To put a not too fine a point in it, I am really bugging the crap out of my domestic partner. I suppose he couldn't keep it to himself any longer, I mean, 20 years with someone is enough to make you lose your mind as it is, but for my spouse, who lives in the other camp that until now I did not recognize as existing, I have a case of 'loud movie watching.'
Seems that there is this division among movie – goers: those who watch quietly and want those co-watching to do the same, and those like me: unable to distinguish between movie reality and real life .

The screen, up there, it's all real, right? Because for 90 minutes of it, they've convinced me it's my body getting chased by Russian agents.

I don't want to get defensive because these sedate movie watchers are important people in my life, but I feel I must go on record with speaking up for my kind: are we full on movie enjoyers that bad? Are we?

I mean, if I do the things reported below, am I still/not/moreorless/ unlovable?

◾So I yell at the girl on the screen to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE already. It's my job to let her know since obviously she can’t “sense” the way that I can that the bad guy coming up to the back door is a bad guy.

◾Is it my fault that calling out for everyone to be safe takes away the thrill for you?

◾If I fall asleep for two seconds (I work hard) at what you consider a crucial moment in the film, I can still catch up to the plot. Trust me, I'm quick, I've seen them all.

◾If you ask me what movie I’d like to see, I will give you an answer and believe you when you present the question as if it’s my choice. Yes, I will insist that we see that movie. Word to the wise: if you don't want me to pick a movie you don't like, don't ask me what movie I'd like.

◾If I choke in gasping, soul-ripping tears as if it's me up on that screen, then God love me if that's the worst thing I do. For the 90 minutes we’re in front of that screen, I am the woman stranded in that back room with only one match left.

◾When something unfathomable occurs, like talking Chihuahuas, I have to call it. “Yeah, right,” is the best way. Let me say it, and I'll be on my way. 

◾We all have to take a stand and make our feelings known on issues that strike at our moral fiber. If I see women portrayed as anything less than equal, I’m going to talk about it. Loud.

I see myself as providing endearing movie companionship to you, you say intolerable and unendurable movie accompaniment.

And painful, excruciating, agonizing, was also mentioned, but whatever. I just need you to sit there and watch along with me, use closed captioning for your understanding and comprehension. I exist, cerebrally, on a higher plain, I've been this way since I can remember. If things become too much again for you this Saturday night, balance out the scales by remembering who brings in the Twizzlers, who's the one who pops the popcorn and sprinkles it just right with butter, who's the one who always manages to have a chilled Gatorade in the fridge for the moment you need it.

You know who that is as well as I do. That would be me, the loud movie viewer that you sometimes forget you love so much.

So, let's strike a deal here, you can call me animated versus loud, and I'll refrain from asking to take your pulse next time we watch Jason Bourne.

We'll make it through this, because I love you.
Even when it's harder on movie nights.
* * *

Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11 : 15 Years Ago, and a Son Who Is 14

On a Tuesday 15 years ago, we had just found out we were going to have our third child. It was a week of good news, the Thursday before, after a months long job search, my husband had found work and now we were ecstatic to know we were adding another to our family of two boys.

Then, that same day, we watched as the whole world did along with us, stunned and knocked to our knees, at what was happening on TV screens across America.

The devastation was certain, we saw it before us everywhere we looked. We heard it on every radio station, a plane had hit the Twin Towers. Then, a second plane followed. What was unfolding as a terrorist attack on America was something that didn't seep through to where it would make sense. We saw flames, black clouds of smoke, we heard of screaming and terror and none of it settled in as news. What we saw was numbing hell. And we stared, unblinking, as a third and fourth plane were reported. What was happening was done in intent, to us.

The videos were everywhere, and the atrocity was nothing that anyone could turn away from. To be sure, I never forgot about this new baby to be that I held inside of me, but the knowledge of his existence will forever be braided with the scenes of 9/11 on that day.

That is so much like life: the devastation of September 11 so quickly responded to and covered in love from the heroes who rushed in, the citizens who came through, agencies that stepped forward, clergy, firefighters, priests, health care workers, America gathered up its people and loved on them in a way that Americans do. That is something else I will never forget, too.

Our son is now 14, he tells me he learns about 9/11 in school. This day is mentioned every year and heads are bowed in remembrance of lives lost. But it's history to him. He has seen pictures, the kind where he can't believe that what he sees in them, is real. I tell them they are, I sat with my hand on my stomach when he was still inside me, and with his two small brothers at my side, unable to move or cry, and I remember it all.

To the survivors of 9/11 and the families of victims, Obama said: "Even as you've mourned, you've summoned the strength to carry on. You've done your best to be a good neighbor, and a good friend, and a good citizen," he added. "You remind us there's nothing that Americans can't overcome."

* * *

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Romance, Mystery, Intrigue

Lean in, and catch my words if you dare. Lean in, and hear about a middle aged woman whose life has been kept hidden from view. Sense her days that are ripe and luscious with romance, mystery, and intrigue.

Can you imagine being swept away by not having to ask someone to unload the dishwasher? Can you handle the imagery of  a moment such as that? Of wondering who it was that left you an almost half cup portion of coffee from that morning, even setting aside a close to teaspoonful of fat-free creamer?

If chills and goosebumps and a bouncing pulse are what arise from an enticing scene of seeing a kitchen counter that shows that the afternoon mail has already been brought in, then this post is for you. You don't have to scour the earth to dare revel in a life that you thought only existed in half off already discounted novels sold in value packs. You can have all this mature sexy marriage stuff and more, just by adjusting your life glasses.

Does your house feel crowded, or does it feel hot and cozy? Does seeing someone's underwear that's not yours hanging off bathroom doorknobs make you scream? Maybe it won't when you realize it means that someone was naked just five feet away from you. Does the glisten of sticky peach juice trailing across the kitchen sink set your head spinning? Perhaps not when you envision the sweet, dripping chin of the said pitted fruit consumer.

Maybe things aren't so rosy between you and your co-habitants this week and you're getting the cold shoulder for something you said. Being frozen out might hurt a little less if you feel it as a Benedictine monk's searing vow of silence.

Tonight I had a dinner from a frozen box of 20 chicken pot pies my husband picked up from a weekly warehouse shopping expedition. I'm sharing this delight of a meal with sips of Lemoncello that my sophisticated younger sister left behind from her visit here in June. Am I feeling sorry for myself?

No way, man. I've got the romance of a man who helps to make sure we are never without, I've got the mystery of how many diced pieces of chicken will be in my pot pie this time, and I've got the intrigue of a chilled out of budget imbibement that I wouldn't have in my life if it weren't for a visitor to my home.

Romance, Mystery, Intrigue: not for the faint of heart, but don't say I didn't warn you.
* * *

Friday, September 9, 2016

Levels of Self Care Like You Have Never Seen

It's Friday night, and all is well. By that I mean, I finally jumped aboard the self-care wagon. At this moment, with the keyboard before me, I am balancing a buttery flaky crust chicken pot pie just this side of heaven hot in my lap while I take sips whenever I feel like it from a sweating with refreshing coldness beads draft root beer.

I am self caring like you (or rather me) have never seen before.

And I can only ask myself one thing: what in the blazes took me so long? I have seen facebook posts hashtagged #selfcare #selfcaresaturday #selfcaremama #selfcaresacred #selfcarekicksass but scrolled on past because what me? I'm too busy for self care.

But while I lick the light and flaky pie crust crumbs from my lips, I see tonight just how wrong I was.

It really doesn't take much to reward yourself for a week of work. A pot pie, a cold soda, a quiet house and jeans with the top button undone and I'm pretty much cradling my battered soul in the lap of luxury right now. I don't think I can ever go back to living in the poorhouse of  neglect. For tonight, I'm having fun. I feel like I won a $50 lottery. Not all of us need the powerball to feel like a winner.

Though next week Friday seems like a long way to go yet, I've got my self care menu set and ready. Count me in for some more self care fun, this time with extra cheese and pepperoni. And no run out the door to pick up for the $8 pizza special. I'm calling for delivery. And I'll ask for a side order of garlic bread. And I'll be ordering it early enough in the evening, so the important self care can happen, like a nap.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Ira Glass is Always There

I made fried cauliflower and potatoes for dinner. In one pan, because it was for only one person in the house.

My youngest son and my husband were away at a soccer tournament and my two oldest ones, as of five days ago, now go to college together. (dropping off the second child is no easier than dropping off the first. if anything, you feel it more because you now know the ache of their absence. my hope is that in their lonely times -- not saying they're going to have them, but if they do  -- that they remember how I hung on their necks when we said goodbye)

From a household of five two years ago, to one person here, the one typing this.

I ate angel food cake for breakfast and for lunch I scrambled eggs with cheese and cream in the same pan I ate out of.

I lived by myself once, for five years. That time then never felt like this day today.

Because I didn't know. I do now, but I didn't know then what it feels like to have people you've had in your life since the first seconds they were born, living somewhere else.

I look in the mirror and wonder if I would have recognized myself in this reflection 30 years ago.

I've had twenty years of weekends with three boys, but this weekend, I'm taking myself for two walks a day, and catching up on my Ira Glass. Faithful Ira Glass.

If you see me later at the store cradling a family size box of Lucky Charms, assume that all is well, and it's just me missing the days of when 64 oz. of cereal lasted two days.

I miss the full house, but it's not all broken cracking heart pieces.

I miss my children, but space has cleared up to catch up on Ira, because room has been made from not having to clean my children's bathrooms anymore.
* * *


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