Friday, April 29, 2011

Playground Politics

She would never admit it to anyone, but Elaine got a thrill out of being playground monitor.  She saw herself, in quiet moments, as the overlord of an intricate web of social connections and hierarchies.  She surveyed as children fought for dominance in the sandbox, determined who could ride the swings first, pushed their way ahead in line for the slide.  Every moment another child would make his claim to a piece of playground equipment and have to prove his dominance over the child in charge.  Fierce battles would erupt and she would be the one to determine the victor.

Now, in terms of her job, she should have punished the dominant child- the one who pushed hardest or hit.  The rules led that child to time out and demanded a stern redirection.  But from time to time, she had to reward those who showed signs of leadership capacity.

That’s what most people didn’t understand.  It was less like the African Sahara where male lions would fight over the spoils and more like primitive forms of government.  Some children even showed Machiavellian policies.  They would kidnap dolls and hold them hostage in order to secure their time on the swing set.  They would lie to another child that someone else had called them a name and then steal their spot on line for the slide when they went to tell her.  One child, by sheer intimidation, had scared the other children into making offerings from their lunch bags, just so that they could sit on the bench with him.

She knew enough about the world to know that these kids would grow into leaders, using the same tools and underhanded dealing that all other leaders did.  It was just the way of the world and she wasn’t going to try to change it.

So when Tommy came to her tattling that Jimmy had taken his new toy from him she did what she was supposed to do- she went to talk to Jimmy.  She made him give it back and when Tommy returned to the sandbox to continue his epic dig she asked Jimmy what he did wrong.

“I… I took his toy without asking?” he said, hesitantly.

“No, she said, “you got caught.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

LtLM Vol Five- Enthusiasm

I don’t get apathy.  Not caring, being bored, saying “whatever”- I don’t understand it.  Don’t get me wrong, when I was going through my adolescent rebellion I tried very hard to put on air of detachment, apathy, disdain for those enthusiastic about life.  But I could never keep up the act for long.  No, my natural state is anything but apathetic.

If I like something, chances are I love it.  And if I love it, I will not only happily engage in conversation about how amazingly cool it is but I will probably yell at you if you disagree with me.  If I like something it isn’t “Oh yeah, that’s pretty cool.”  It’s “This is the greatest thing ever!”  You will frequently hear me say “that was the best movie ever!” Or “That’s coolest thing I’ve ever seen!”  I don’t use vague terms to describe the things I like- I’m very direct about it.

On the same token, if I dislike something, I turn in the comic book shop guy from The Simpsons: “Worst.  Movie.  EVER!”  If I don’t like someone I will call them names (I mean actors and other not real-world people.  I don’t call real people names.)  If something is gross it’s “The most disgusting thing ever”.    If something is disturbing I will describe it as having irreparably damaged my soul.  And again, if you disagree with me, I will probably yell at you about it.

No, when it comes to preferences on movies, music or other things pursued in the name of entertainment I don’t do middle ground.  For the most part it’s love it or hate it.  And if I say “Eh” that means hate it, I just don’t care enough to use that language.

The pros of this way of being?  Like I said, it’s hard for me to be bored.  I get energized over stuff I find cool pretty easily and will overindulge if anything.  The cons?  People who don’t get that psyched about stuff don’t get me.  But, as already mentioned, I don’t get them.  So I guess we’re even.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

LtLM Vol Four- The Perfect Horror Movie Companion

This is something that several people will readily back up, so I’m confident in making the claim. Several horror movie aficionados have stated that if you’re going to a horror movie, I’m a good person to bring along. Every girly reaction you can have is an instant reflex for me. I scream at all the cheap thrills- like when the music jolts and the main character’s boyfriend pops out from behind the door because he’s playing a stupid trick on her. The stupid cheap scream gags, you know? Those work on me.

And during the really scary parts I will put my hands over my eyes and then watch from between my fingers. Or bury my head into someone’s shoulder going “No… no… no…” I also, I’ve been told, jump and flail my arms about as if trying to ward off an attack. Once, while watching Psycho for the first time, my father reached out and grabbed my ankle right as Norman bates was about to stab a guy in the forehead. I could swear my head touched the ceiling.

When at home, I will yell at the characters for being stupid. “Don’t go in there! He’s in there, you idiot! Don’t- oh, man- I freakin’ told you!” Or “Seriously? You seriously think going into the abandoned amusement park is a good idea right now? I hope you die, you deserve it!” Or “Really? Now’s the right time to become courageous when you’ve been paranoid your whole life? Moron!” They never listen to me.

And yet, in spite of being scarred out of my wits, I also enjoy the inevitable gore that comes at the hands of the masked killer or monster. I’ve been known to exclaim excitedly when people’s body parts go flying or a weapon is embedded in a limb. I praise the killer’s ingenuity when they kill someone in a new and spectacular way.

And afterwards, no matter how scarred I was at the time, I will talk about how much I thoroughly enjoyed it. And chances are, when the next big movie comes out that everyone saying is “shit your pants scary” I’ll be wanting to see it on opening night.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

LtLM Vol Three- Curiosity

There are very few topics that I am not interested in. And even things that I’m not interested in, I’ll listen to what you have to tell me. I may not understand it, but I’ll listen. And if I’m not into it, I’ll still be psyched that you are. Like accountants with their tax laws, not my thing. But if you’re into it then go you! (Plus you can charge me way too much to do my taxes.) There are so many subjects that are so downright fascinating to me that it sort-of hurts my brain to think about it all.

In fact, when I was a kid, I used to get angry thinking about all the stuff there was in the universe to know about. I used to think that I had to find a way to know everything because there was just so damned much to know. And then when I figured out that one single human being can’t possibly know everything- even if they spent every single second of every single day of their entire lives studying things and learning- I got pissed off. I thought “What the hell’s the point, then?”

Rational people pointed out to me that this is why passion exists. You find something you’re really passionate about- something that really floats your boat- and you study that enough to become a bit of an expert. That way even though you don’t know even a trillionth of what there is to know, you can still be intelligent and educated about at least one thing.

Regardless of how my passion about that one thing may have expanded and faded over the years I have never lost my inquisitiveness. If I could have found a way to financially afford spending the rest of my life in college I would have. Outside in the real world I’m still asking questions- all the time, to everyone. You start talking to me about something and I will start asking you how it works. My favorite thing to do on any given vacation is go to a museum- that’s the number one attraction of any place (which is why I never plan vacations to the beach or on a cruise). My reading list never stops growing and I’m constantly adding to it. I could spend an entire month watching the Discovery channel and not get bored. (Although eventually Mike Rowe narrating every single thing might get a little old.) I’m often getting down on myself for not using my time more efficiently to learn about something.

This trait, I used to think, was nothing special. I mean, with so much to know how could you not want to learn more? But then the more exposure I got to the world, the more people I met who just didn’t give a sh*t. They wouldn’t do a project for school- even when they could choose the topic. They had no interest in reading, going to school, learning more. They’d sit across from me in a training that I was fascinated by and struggle to keep their eyes open. They’d look at me like I was crazy when I got excited and animated talking about what I’d just learned about some random thing.

I didn’t get it at first, I didn’t understand how they could have ready access and the obvious capacity to understand so much more than they did and not want to. Especially when you can use your smart phone to look up something- anything- and retrieve a million articles on in 0.000247 seconds. But some people just genuinely don’t care.

Me? I think I’ll always care. I’ll always want to know more. I’ll always be pissed off that my knowledge on any given topic isn’t deeper, or that all the facts and figures I’ve learned over the years can be immediately recalled and cited. I’ll always be expanding my reading list, looking for another museum, watching the Discovery channel and hoping on Wikipedia because I just have to know what the hell that person it talking about. I’ll never be satisfied and I’ll never be bored. And now, looking at so many people in the world who just don’t and knowing that I do- I appreciate it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

LtLM Volume Two- On Cuteness

I’m cute.  I always thought that to be cute you had to be the physical embodiment of cute.  Small things are cute.  Things (be they animals or humans) with angelic faces are cute.  Weak things are cute.  My puppy is the physical embodiment of what it means to be cute.  Tall, big-footed, clumsy oafs like myself are not cute.  And yet, despite these governing laws, I am cute. 
How do I know this, you may wonder, given the lack of evidence to support such a theory?  Well, people have been telling me for years.  And after a while, you start to believe it.  If it were one or two select people- like my mom, who was the first person to say it- I’d be inclined to believe that the opinion was biased and therefore invalid.  But as more people who you think very highly of start to say it you begin to suspect that there may be something to it.  You value their opinion, in general, so you can’t discount their opinion on you.
Looking at it from their perspective, or from what I imagine their perspective to be, I can start to make a case for it.  I make silly little faces, all the time.  When I have a guilty treat that I should so NOT be eating given my dietary restrictions, I make the guiltiest face.  Like the kid that got caught with their hand in the cookie jar, as one friend observed.  I’ve been accused, several times, of perfectly imitating the face of Beaker (the squeaky muppet)- always by accident and NEVER by design.
In the book I’m reading the author said “My face is a transparent transmitter of my every thought.”  That’s me.  If there’s something on my mind, you can tell with one glance.  And if I’m trying to hide the fact that something is on my mind, it’ even more apparent.  My brow furrows the same way that your body automatically adjusts it’s balance to keep you upright.  It’s reflexive, involuntary, uncontrollable.  This makes me a terrible liar, but it also- sometimes- makes me cute.
Also in the appearance section, I love to wear cute things.  You show me a t-shit with a cute little animal on it and I will buy it without even asking the price.  I’m not talking glitter kittens or things you might suspect a crazy cat woman to wear, I’m talking little cartoon creatures or chibi caricatures that are just ridiculously cute.  If I see that t-shirt I will buy it and wear it.  I am sure that at some point it will become ridiculous for someone as old as me to wear such things but I doubt I’ll stop wearing them when that time comes.
In more relevant ways, you will never find another person who will squeal as loudly or as uncontrollably as I do when I see something that it just painfully adorable.  I once believed that my cause of death would be seeing something so cute that it would cause me to squeal at a frequency that would actually explode my voice box, or head.  Despite having seen things that are so unimaginably adorable that it literally caused me physical pain, my head has yet to explode.  But I have hurt a lot of people’s ears. 
My puppy, for example, is the cutest thing in existence.  Seriously, without exaggeration.  And he is sitting here on my lap as I type this.  And sometimes I am so completely overwhelmed by how indescribably adorable he is that I actually can’t breathe.  I will stop whatever I am doing, look at him, and feel this overwhelming urge to squeeze the life out of him because he is just so unimaginably cute that I want to somehow physically ingest the adorableness.
My deep appreciation for all things cute leads me to seek out things that should be reserved for small children.  I will get in line to pet that adorable zoo animal, even if I’m the only adult in line.  I will buy that children’s book that’s clearly written for ten year-old consumption, just because it’s filled with a felt bunny tummy or a finger puppet with a cute face.  I will tote my stuffed monster with me on long trips, and buckle his seat belt as he sits next to me in the passenger’s seat.  (Something which small children would totally do if they could drive.)  When the movie Wall-E came out I purchased a little Wall-E stuffed animal, brought him with me to the movie, perched him on my lap so he could see the screen, and covered his eyes when the Wall-E in the movie was being crushed.  I got some confused looks on the way out of the theater and just told myself that others were jealous they didn’t have their own Wall-E to snuggle, too.
I suppose in the end, the most compelling reason to make the argument that I am cute, is because I am so unabashedly child-like in my behaviors, responses and general quirks.  And although that may prevent me from being tough, pulling off a good misdirection or an air of mystery, or even reacting to something with reserve- it does make me cute.  And I appreciate that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

LtLM Volume One- On Books and How I Read

This is not a societal statement on the fall of literature as we know it or an opinion on the marvelous advances of technology that will help save the planet by reducing the world’s need for paper products.  I have no desire whatsoever to weigh in on either matter.
This is simply a record of why I love how I read.  A couple of years ago my boyfriend asked me if I wanted a Kindle for Christmas.  He knew that I loved books, he helped me move several large, heavy boxes of them into various apartments and, eventually, our house over the years.  Perhaps part of his offer was a desire to save his back from the inevitable injury it will suffer during one of these future moves as I continue to amass my collection.  But part of it was simply the fact that he is a straight male and, as such, gift ideas do not come easily to him.
Not wanting to toss a good gift idea that the poor thing had actually come up with all by himself without good reason I thought about it seriously.  The answer came quickly and decisively: NO.  No, I would not like a Kindle.
When I was in Dublin I visited the campus of Trinity College and I saw the library.  Walking through there was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  It was founded in 1592 and became the resting place of several manuscripts dating back as far as the 12th century.  In other words, it’s old. 
Now, I never realized this before visiting there but old books have a very distinct smell.  I hate to say that it sort-of smells like something’s rotting but in all honesty it does.  When you walk into the long room there is this… it’s really more of a stench than a smell it’s so strong.  And I LOVED that smell.  To me, that smell represented knowledge.  It represented history.  It represented the words of people far smarter than I who lived so long ago that I can’t even imagine what their lives were like.  Not to mention the site of millions of volumes of literature up on shelves stretching 3 stories up.  It was a truly awesome experience, in the original meaning of the word.
Visiting this place did nothing to lessen my fantasy that one day I myself would have my own amazing library, complete with shelves so high you need one of those sliding ladders to get to every book.  (I realize that short of winning the lottery this is never gonna happen, but a girl can dream, can’t she?)
I’ve been to a number of antique book stores over the years and had similar experiences.  The smell of books that are only half a century old is significantly less than the smell of those that are several centuries old, but there’s still a smell.  And there’s still the feeling that the knowledge and ideas contained in these books is a sure-fire transport to life outside of the everyday elements of the 21st century.  And there’s oh so much satisfaction when you purchase one of these old books, take it home, crack the pages open and get a whiff of that- in the comfort of your own home, all for your nostrils.
So needless to say, I like books.  Which is why I would never want a kindle.
The point of this entry, however, was to talk about an element of myself that I loved, thus its place in the LtLM series.  So I will get down to why I love the way that I read.
When I read a book, I don’t just scan my sight across the pages, finish and put it away on the shelf.  To me, that’s not reading.  Cause if I pick the book up later there is no evidence that I’ve ever been there.  Forget about whether or not I remember the story- there is no physical trace of my journey through.  And to me, I might as well have not read it at all.
For me to have a read a book- to be able to say “I’ve read that.”- I have to make it mine.  I highlight- all over the place.  I highlight whether it’s history, school stuff, fiction or even poetry.  I highlight in places where there is no valid reason for there to be highlighting.  Why?  Because I like that line.  Or that event was really cool.  Or that item of information is important.  Or that description is just brilliant.  I highlight for any reason, and I’m making up new ones all the time.
I also take notes.  I’ll write down that I love the author’s tone, or that what that character did was fantastic or just put huge exclamation points when I’m feeling the need.  I’ll also write down words that I don’t know and define them.  There have been several books that I couldn’t get through a single page of without a dictionary (Sideways by Rex Pickett) and by the time I finished there were hundreds of new words neatly defined at the bottom.
And I dog ear.  For those pages when I feel the need to highlight every single line or I want to be able to get to that passage quickly I will fold the paper down marking my path.  Like breadcrumbs, I know where I’ve been.
With all of this, by the time I have finished a book, it has been thoroughly read.
Now, I don’t do this to every single book- like the antique volumes of historic tomes.  I don’t want to ruin the smell.  But there are few enough of those that I remember whether or not I’ve read them.   And they occupy a special place on my bookshelf, anyway.
This habit of mine may be extremely un-green, may prevent me from utilizing the library, and may make me the person that you’d never want to borrow a book from.  But I’m ok with that.  These are my friends, my teachers, my mentors.  I don’t want them going anywhere and I don’t want to share the experience with anyone else.  I want them tucked safely on their shelf as a testament to a tiny little accomplishment in my life.  And when I pick them up however many years from now I want to look in and see my journey.
And seeing as I don’t keep any other collections I think I’m entitled to buy my books, mark them, and love them.  And I do love that about myself.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Learning to Love Myself

It is Tuesday afternoon. Late Tuesday afternoon. Early evening, really. And I am sitting in my living room, laptop sitting on its namesake, listening to the 40’s station. The Andrews Sisters, telling me that the Rhumboogie is a killer. I believe them, they’ve never steered me wrong before.

My heart, or whatever that thing is that lives deep down inside of me which I’ve ignored for so long and am now working desperately hard to nurse back to health, is perfectly happy with this scene. Let the rain fall outside, let the chores get done later- this is right. That part of me is perfectly happy sitting on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket and doesn’t need to be doing productive things to feel good.

My head, loudmouth that it is, is telling me that I should be job searching. It’s week two of being unemployed and I haven’t gotten a job offer yet from any of those places I thought were sure to offer me a job by now. My head reminds me that money will get tight, that my boyfriend will start to resent me, that if I’m not working I should at the very least clean the house or something.

My heart and head are fighting as they have been doing daily since I got back in touch with my heart (or whatever it’s called). So I strike a compromise. I haven’t written in… oh, entirely long too long for it to be good for me. My writing Yoda is probably wondering if I’m just going to nix the whole blog again. I have been berating myself as is my norm. No one, I assume, is happy about the lack of writing around here.

So here I am, writing. It’s not a short story, which part of me thinks it should be. It’s not even fiction which, again, gets higher billing in my mind than journal-type entries like this. It’s more honest than I should be on a blog that could be read by any psycho in the world (that’s my head talking, again). It’s not productive.

But I’ve been finding, since getting back in touch with myself, that productive is not necessarily good. I’ve spent most of my adult life up to this point with the constant need to do something so I can reason why I’m worthwhile. I’ve never- not since I was a kid and didn’t have this densely intellectual, judgmental voice in my head- been able to be content just being. I’ve always, always, always had to do something in order to even have the potential to feel worthwhile.

My heart, it turns out, has always been capable of feeling content by just being. In fact, that it is when it is most content, or at least when I hear its contentness the loudest. But my head cut the mic down there so long ago that it’s been the only internal voice I’ve had any dealings with for longer than I can remember. And my head wants me doing something, all the time. And if I don’t do anything it comes up with a billion reasons why I should feel guilty, and then eventually it blows up into a whole harangue about why I’m a bad person.

Anyway, my point is, my head is an asshole. It intellectualizes, and analyzes and reasons me out of any sense of self worth. And it does it so well that I actually lost the ability to hear anything else. But lately I’ve been forcing my head to shut the hell up which is NOT easy. But when my head stops, I can actually hear my heart. And my heart, amazingly enough, is not only alive and well but has quite a lot of good things to say about me.

My heart is calm. It knows that I will get a job eventually and it sees absolutely no point on freaking out which my head desperately wants to do. My heart is happy with where I am in my life, it trusts that my boyfriend loves me dearly, that my friends are true gifts which I appreciate for all their worth and who also love me dearly, that my life is playing out as it meant to and thinking is not going to do anything to speed up the process. My heart wants me on this couch, with the 40’s station playing in the background, typing the afternoon away.

And my heart, I’ve realized, is desperately in need of same basic TLC. If I could cook up a big, steaming bowl of my dad’s homemade chicken noodle soup (the greatest dinner in existence) and give it to my heart I would. But my heart isn’t a physical thing. I’m not sure what kind of a thing it is. I think it might be a spiritual one but I’m not sure. One way or another, I can’t feed it my dad’s homemade chicken noodle soup even though that would probably be the most nurturing thing I could possibly give it.

But my head learned a long a time ago what my heart needed. It just never did it very well. What my heart needs is some good old fashioned self affirmations. My head hates those, thinks they’re hokey and new-agey and ridiculous marketing ploys for people more pathetic than I and keeps thinking of Stewart Smalley sitting in front of the mirror going “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and gosh-darnit, people like me.” (My head is the most judgmental thing on the planet, in case you couldn’t tell). So in the spirit of compromise I won’t write those.

But I will write about some other stuff. Through the years, in spite of my head, I have learned to not only accept but *gasp* actually like some aspects of myself. (Love is still a bit too strong of a word but I think like is a very good start.) And I think it would be good for my heart to write about them.

I will make the disclaimer that I have not cornered the market on any of these behaviors, quirks, traits, characteristics or whatever they are. I have no doubt that there are many other people on the planet who do these things, have these personality traits, think this way. But I’m coming to understand that the specific combination of all these is part of what make me me. This particular package, with it’s add-ons and wears and tears, is me. Unique, genuine, and- god forbid I say it- special. I spit in the face of Tyler Durden’s wisdom when I say that I am a beautiful and unique snowflake.

And with that in mind, I give you a new mini-series: Learning to Love Myself. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Buddy's Evil Twin

Having a puppy is most similar in practice to having a newborn. Like human babies, puppies are supposed to be relatively confined early on in their lives- babies stay in a crib, puppies stay in a pen. Neither one should be wandering around of said areas without you watching them every second.

So when Buddy started to wander around our living room we were, needless to say, anxious. We had puppy-proofed the area as well as we could but he was constantly surprising us with things that he could still find to chew on. And we were constantly surprised with the number of things that frightened him. Like our entertainment system.

It’s got these nice-looking doors with the glass cover- you know the kind, so you can see the stereo and whatnot inside without having it sitting right out in the open. And those glass panels are, like most glass surfaces, reflective. And so it was that Buddy discovered another version of him looking back at him one day- and freaked out.

We were alerted to the situation when Buddy’s loud bark erupted and echoed through the room. He was standing in that aggressive way dogs do- front shoulders down, lips curled, ears perked up. And he was barking like crazy.

“What’s the matter, Bud?” I asked. He just kept on barking.

We got down on the floor next to him to inspect and that’s when we saw it- his reflection. As we realized what was going on we both burst out looking. Buddy got a terribly injured look on his face- as if we were somehow making light of the terribly mean dog barking at him.

“Oh- is that mean dog scaring you?” we asked in condescending tones (because we’re both sort-of mean like that).

A bark from him confirmed that yes, that mean dog barking at him was very frightening and he would very much like for to go away. We gave him one of his treats to distract him and thankfully, because he has the attention span of a gnat, he forgot all about it.

But every now and again that mean little dog comes back, looks at Buddy, and starts barking at him. I anticipate they will have quite a rivalry over the years.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


“Insert Screw F into piece… D,” she read, squinting at the tiny words on the instruction leaflet.

“Screw F… screw F,” he said, pushing through a small pile of bags containing assorted tiny metal and plastic objects. “Which one is F?”

“Uh… it looks like a big swirly screw-thingy,” she said, looking at the diagram.

“Screw thingy?” he said, raising an eyebrow at her.

She rolled her eyes and handed him the leaflet, her finger on the diagram. He looked at it, returned his search to the bags and let out a triumphant “Ah-hah!” as he selected one which contained what appeared to be extremely swirly-looking screw thingies. He returned the leaflet to her and went about pushing the screws into the four slots on the wood.

“Ok, now what?” he asked.

“Now connect piece D to pieces A and C using G brackets,” she read, and reached out to grab the bag containing the piece drawn on the page.

“Ah, so screws are in the ‘thingy’ category but brackets you can spot, huh? He said mockingly.

She shot him a glare and tossed the bag at his head.

“Hey, hey- careful. You could poke somebody’s eye out!” he said, grabbing the bag on the bounce back. He opened it up and started attaching the brackets, stealing glances at the diagram for placement.

“Ok, then you attach piece B to A and C like you did D,” she said as he finished. He looked again at the diagram she held out and nodded.

“I’m gonna need your help on this one,” he said, sliding around on his knees. “Can you hold up this piece so I can screw it into place? No, not that one- this big one, here.”

“Ok, where do you want it?” she said, getting on her knees next to him.

“No, no, I got it- let me just get it… there! Now, hold it still and- and put your knee behind it so I have something to brace against,” he said, positioning a screw on the other side.

“Are you gonna screw this into my knee?” she asked, eyeing him nervously.

“Sweetie, how big would you say that is?” he asked, holding up a screw.

“I don’t know. It looks big enough to go through this piece of wood and into my leg, though,” she said.

“Really?” he asked, holding the screw against the wood so she could see it would only go halfway through the width of the piece.

“Oh,” she said apologetically. “Just be careful,” she added as he started pushing the screw into the wood.

“Ok… just let me get this last one in and… done!” he said, then straightened himself violently and objected to the pain in his back with a loud grunt and stretch.

“Ok,” she said, looking at the leaflet again. “Now place stickers over exposed screws, and… that’s it!”

“What do you mean, ‘that’s it’?” he asked, reaching out for the leaflet.

“I mean, that’s it. That’s all she wrote. That’s the whole kit ‘n caboodle,” she said, handing him the paper.

He grabbed it, scanned over the front and then flipped it over.

“I mean, unless you want to do the whole thing over again in Spanish,” she said with a grin.

“But-“ he said, flipping back and forth angrily, “what do we do with this?” he asked, holding up a large bag of brackets, screws and assorted pieces of plastic.

“Extra parts?” she asked, taking the bag from him.

“Extra parts, really? The whole thing?” he asked exasperatedly.

“Well, I don’t know what you want to me to tell you. There are no instruction here for what you’re supposed to do with this,” she said, holding up the leaflet and then the bag in turn.

“Well, I’m gonna call the number,” he said, grabbing the leaflet from her. “That’s all she wrote,” he grumbled as he stormed out.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Progress Report

Jacob sat in overwhelming anticipation; his heart beating out of his chest as his mother slowly ripped the envelope open with her index finger. He could feel the sweat pouring out of his forehead and wondered if this might be what adults go through when they have a heart attack.

“Well, your c minus is now a b minus which is definitely better. And your English grade went way up,” his mother said, scanning the letter.

“Did she-“ he began, choking on his words. “Did she say anything about me staying with- uh, in the class?” He hesitated, not wanting to give away the real source of his anxiety. Though in the back of his mind he knew- he just knew that if he couldn’t stay in the class with Charlie he wouldn’t make it to middle school.

“She says ‘Jacob has improved significantly since last semester, showing increases in both math and English,” his mother read aloud. “He still needs to work on his attention in science class.” She stopped reading but kept the letter in front of her.

“And? Can I stay?” he asked desperately, his heart threatening to jump straight out of his throat and hit her square in the face.

“And… that’s all she wrote,” she said, putting the letter down and smiling at him.

His muscles relaxed so suddenly that he nearly slumped off the chair.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Today is my last day at my job. After a year of bemoaning my existence and my victim-hood of being stuck in such a horrible, soul-sucking job I finally did the unthinkable: I resigned. Without another job in place, without any clear idea of what would happen to me after that last paycheck, without any real handhold to grab onto before letting go.

I grew up with the understanding that quitting a job, unless it was to go to another job that you already had a written offer from, was just not something that responsible people do. I thought that people who held jobs outside of offices with the general 9 to 5 schedule were cut from material so different than that of my creation that I couldn’t possibly relate, and shouldn’t try to.

At the risk of taking the analogy too far, I thought that life was like a game of Monopoly. You may make deals and create your own rules for some minor things (like how to distribute the tax money- did anyone else play by the “Free Parking wins it all” rule?), but for the most part the rules are set. They were written before you got there, they haven’t changed all that much over the years, and although you and your particular co-gamers may make some minor changes you’re basically playing the same game as everybody else.

Well, having had my entire understanding of life blow up in my face, and now with a year of life telling me pretty directly that it doesn’t give a rat’s ass what my plans are I can now say that I am finally seeing things ‘outside the box’. Or, at least not picking up the instruction manual anymore when people do things that don’t fit the rules.

How do I know that I’m seeing things differently? Because, as I said, today is my last day of work. Real, paycheck coming in direct deposit, health insurance helping me to afford to see my endocrinologist, rest assured that I can make mortgage work. And I don’t have another job lined up yet.

At this moment I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what’s coming next. And instead of paralyzing fear, or unimaginable despair, or even good old-fashioned panic I am feeling freedom. FREEDOM. Not excitement, not anticipation, not anything that you might feel if you knew there was something coming up the pike and you really believed it was good.

No, I feel freedom. The kind of feeling you get from not knowing- not even being able to formulate a hypothesis or assumption- what’s coming up. Having not experienced this particular feeling very often (I can think of two other occasions in my entire life, in fact), it’s pretty weird. This lightness in my chest is so drastically different from the heavy weight I usually feel.

I hear bad news and I don’t panic, or even startle. I just sit back and go “Ok, then.” There are a million little thoughts and worries and judgments that normally speed through my mind like a tornado that I’m just not thinking right now.

Instead, I listen to the radio and sing along out loud and off key without caring. I laugh- at whatever. Just because. I find my lips twitching in a suspiciously smile-like motion as I think of that silly Youtube video I just watched or that thing my puppy did.

I’m not naive enough to think that this wonderfully freeing sensation will last, and I’m completely prepared for those feelings of fear, panic and dread to return. My only hope is that when they do I won’t judge myself for having them or conclude that they’re back to stay. My only wish is that I can release them instead, and let the light return. Go back to being at peace with not knowing.

And for now? Now I’m just grateful that I have this feeling, for however long it lasts.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Many Adventures of Buddy

I am way too in love with my dog not to write about him. And since I’ve got 211 posts due this year I can certainly use the muse. I fear that this series may be a little self indulgent and not enjoyable to anyone other than avid dog lovers like myself. But I’m hopeful these little anecdotes will be worth a little more.

If nothing else it’ll be an opportunity to hone my descriptive powers as they’re all true, first-person observed events. But they will also hopefully be worth a smile or two.

So, without further ado I present to you a new continuing series here at The Beveled Edge: The Many Adventures of Buddy!