Friday, June 16, 2017

To Rowan, Two Days into Life

It’s called acute renal failure, as if we have been particularly blessed.
“This is fatal, but isn’t it darling? It was chosen especially for you.”
As if the Alzheimer’s was merely a dressing gown, worn for twelve years,
exchanged at the last minute for a painful, shimmering evening dress.
Oh Rowan, I'm sorry you've come in the midst of all this.
You’ve just arrived as Nana is leaving.
You, a little dinghy, fresh in the water,
bobbing by a battered frigate
Limping into harbor.
The soldiers have long deserted,
Leaving only the current to push her home.
What are we to do? What am I to do?
I’ve excused myself to cry in private three times today.
Why do tears feel like they can show up without an invitation?
Does it look like I have time to cry, now, in the middle of a conversation about airline tickets?
I want to stare at your sweet face for the rest of my days.
I want the newness of life to erase the pain of loss.
But I am at work and you are in Texas.
Squeaking and grunting and seeing only grey shapes, inches away.
I am glad you are brand new.
I am glad you are too smooth and round and soft for grief
or love
or loss
or joy.
You don’t even know words, only sounds.
The sound of your father’s voice and your mother’s heartbeat,
Sounds to grow on.
“Acute renal failure” means nothing to you.
And now I have to go home and pick up the house
Scrub the bathroom
Place clean sheets on the beds
and take stock of the pantry.
There are faces and voices arriving,
To hover, whisper, reminisce and smile.
And wait.
And I have to pretend to care about their comfort,
their sleep,
their appetite.
When all I care about is Nana.
And you
And the quiver of your bottom lip,

As you sigh in a dream.

Written June 16, 2016, 2 days after the birth of my nephew Rowan, and 2 days before my dear sweet Nana finished her earthly journey

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Things That Aren't Real Problems But Annoy Me Anyway, Part 2

Image via

Back in 2013 (WHERE DOES THE TIME GO), I wrote about minor inconveniences, as I live a full and comfortable life uninterrupted by undue hardship or tragedy and this is all I know. It was not a comprehensive list, as in the intervening years I have come upon more things to whine about, and so here we are.

+ People who slow way down (or heaven forbid, come to a complete stop) on entrance/exit ramps fill me with an incandescent rage so blinding, my eyelid twitches. I am immediately transported to medieval times, in full chain mail atop a horse, screaming, "MERGE OR DIE, SIMPLETON!"

Now to break this down, I am always usually running late, so having to come to a stop in a place where I normally seamlessly transition lanes makes me thirty seconds farther behind schedule than I've already accounted (and forgiven myself) for.

+ Bathroom stall doors that swing inwards, particularly in airports. What is the deal with that, getting in is ok, but when I'm trying to get out, stuffed in there with all my worldly possessions, trying desperately not to touch the toilet or anything else, the last thing I need is the door scraping across my midsection. Were I of a more athletic form, I'd climb atop the toilet (stepping on a paper seat guard of course) and vault over the frame entirely, executing a dismount worthy of Olympic Gold circa 1996.

+ The fact that our toes grow hair on top? I'm sure it once served a biological purpose, but I have no need for individual toe sweaters thankyouverymuch.

+ This new thing on Facebook where you have to watch a 15-second ad in the middle of a 60 second video on how to make lard waffle hamburger paninis or whatever. Too far, Facebook. Is it too much to ask to watch uninterrupted a one minute video of a recipe I'm judging people for sharing? Obviously every minute of my online presence is fair game to targeted advertising but joke's on you, ad algorithms, every company that interrupts my Buzzfeed Food binge-watch gets added to a list of corporations I will never give money to.
Yes. Corporate take-down, one dollar at a time. *cackles*

+ Group text messages. It is too stressful for me to be subjected to seven other people's immediate thoughts and reactions to whatever is the topic du jour. Anyone who has ever wished to have the ability to read minds just needs to join in to a mass text chain trying to make plans, and they will be instantly cured of that desire.

+ When someone makes me feel bad, even though they made the mistake. Example: last week I was short-changed after going through a drive-thru so I went inside to ask for my change and they gave me a hard time about it.  Listen, I'm the type of pacifist who apologizes to inanimate objects for bumping into them, I don't need the added guilt of your poor character weighing on my conscience.  It know it was only $2.75 but it wasn't even my money, I was picking up lunch for someone else.  Rude.

+ How long it takes a pot of water to boil. I'm sorry, but I was raised in the age of instant gratification, so I'm going to need the laws of thermodynamics to adjust to my short attention span. End of discussion.

Well, I'm sure I can think of more, but that's enough for one day. Obviously there are much worse things than these that could cause someone to pout artfully in the sun (re: above photo), but write what you know, etc.

Tell me, what minor thing has been bothering you lately? Let us share in life's little indignities!

Monday, April 24, 2017

On not doing things, and then doing them again

Image via

Hello my darlings. My precious petals. My sweet baby ducklings.

It's been so long since I've done one of these that I don't know how to begin.
I feel like I should practice this in my old bedroom, pacing the floor as a contingent of stuffed animals looks on.

“What’s that you say Eeyore? Yes, I should probably explain myself.
Begin as I mean to go on?
You give good advice for a sad blue donkey.”

*pacing intensifies*

When we last spoke, it was December of 2015. I was a few months into a new job at a travel agency. In a twist no one saw coming, I still work there!! (WHAT? Consistency?) Nothing has really changed in my day-to-day. Same job, same basement apartment, same general lack of forward momentum.

In the last 16 months I have gained a nephew and lost a grandmother (within a week of each other, if ever there was a time of joy and sorrow interwoven).  I have gained some weight and lost some hair. (TMI? Who cares—you can see it in my face and the way I part my hair, it’s not a secret.)  I have gained complacency and lost motivation.  (This worries me the most.)

I have no less than six (6!) posts in draft that were started and then abandoned—ironically enough—on the idea that I have trouble finishing what I start.  Perhaps about twelve months ago I took on a new methodology: don’t start anything at all. Can’t be a quitter if you don’t even participate in the first place. And so I stopped doing all the things that make me interesting as a person – writing, reading, creating, maintaining friendships, even watering my plants (which was particularly cruel, the poor things). I began to simply exist – eat, sleep, work, repeat.  Praying as though it were a ritual, and not an honest-to-goodness conversation.  Interacting with others like a robot playing a human role.  Basically extending as little effort as possible to actively participate in my own life.

I recently turned 29. I have less than 365 days before I enter a new decade—the one where even by today’s lenient standards, I will officially be an adult, firmly established in my habits, good or bad. I’m scared of being thirty years old and still feeling like I have to justify why I’m not a better person.  I’m terrified of being forty years old and still making the same mistakes.

And it’s not about having the perfect job, or body, or relationship, or even about where I am in life relative to others.  It’s about being comfortable in my own skin. It’s about being able to look in the mirror at the end of each day and saying, “I did my best.”

Not, “I AM the best” (impossible) but “I DID my best” (attainable).

Now don’t worry, I’m not going to turn this blog into some chronicle up the mountain of self-actualization, with Pinterest quotes and yoga pants.  With this post, I’m merely speaking out loud to myself the need to TRY and DO. Which means writing more. And putting effort into the things that matter to me.

I’ll be back with stories, because there are quite a few to tell. Despite robot-ing my way through 2016, there are some things worth sharing. For starters, my nephew is just a pudgy little blueberry muffin of love and I have to introduce him to you.  Also, I swallowed not a small amount of anxiety and went to LAS VEGAS for a work conference last August.  I drive a Prius now (??).  And then in March of this year, I went to Iceland (cool thing alert!!).

In the meantime, keep doing your thing friends. Like DOING it though, and not just pretending to.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Oh, December

Illustration by Kelsey Garrity-Riley

I love December and I don’t care who knows.

I love it because winter feels fresh and anyone who complains about snow at this point is just being a whiner.

I love it because that guy who never took down his Christmas lights from last year is patting himself on the back for his cleverness.

I love it because it has the most work holidays of any other month. Well, two. But still. This is America, we didn’t fight off oppression from the monarchy just to sit around twiddling our thumbs. Yes we did but we want to get paid to do it.

Anyway, here’s my December to do list:

a.     Gingerbread house – this is non-negotiable. In fact, this year I’m bringing in the expert help of the dude I hang out with on the weekends. He’s two, so expect great things.

b.      Visit Seattle. My family is heading there for Christmas “just because” and I’m crazy excited for my very first visit to the PNW, land of foggy beaches and pensive bearded hipsters. Bonus: two of my favorite squinkies live there now.

c.     Get up early enough one morning to properly photograph the hoar frost. #instagramgoals

d.     Audit my sweaters. I have almost more sweaters than there are days in a month and that is nonsense. Let’s be real, some of them need to be put out to pasture. Part of me wants to make slipper booties out of old sweater arms but I can’t sew, and also calm down, Pinterest.

e.      Read two books from my unread shelf. Yes, I have an entire shelf of books I own but have never read. What is wrong with me. I’m thinking The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff and Ellis Island by Mark Helprin.

f.      Ice skating. Or rather, the annual attempt to live out my Michelle Kwan dreams until my feet hurt or I fall catastrophically, whichever happens first.

g.      Hot Chocolate Cookies, get in my oven.

h.     Wear plaid flannel everything. I want to feel like I just crawled out of a tent on a frosty morning in a forest and am brewing coffee in an old tin pot over a campfire. 

i.       Update my blog design. I love you blog, but you need a facelift.

j.       Support my mom, brother, and aunt who are running a 10 mile “fun run” on the 19th. And by support I mean stay home and cook them a big post-race breakfast. And by that I mean sleep through my alarm and text them the address of a nearby Cracker Barrel.

What are your plans this month?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Words on Words

Within my imagination, there is a struggle of constantly wanting to write but not knowing what to write about. Am I writing to pass the time or because I have something to say?

How do I add value to the universe with my words and not just take up space better used by something else-- by a conversation, or a news item, or a song?  Why do I feel the need to make words that are music for the eyes and food for the brain and fuel for the imagination?

Words can be tattoos on the mind, more permanent than ink on skin, than an etch in stone. They can be life-changing, life-directing, even life-giving. But what are words if they are not received? A word of wisdom falling on deaf ears is a precious gem dropped on the floor. Where does it go? Does it roll under the dresser, never to be found again? Or if another is nearby and sees it fall, does it still hold the same value if that person picks it up? It’s diamonds to one but coal to another.

Words can be poison, the most insidious kind--a little sting, over and over again until it breaks the skin. It’s the kind of poison that seeps into the marrow quietly, changing the way the blood flows, until one day the uncomfortable ache becomes unbearable agony. Where did this come from? Nobody remembers the origin story. Nobody was paying attention when the first word found its mark.

Words can build, but it’s disheartening how many more words it takes to build than it takes to destroy.  If you must speak hard words, layer them with kind ones.

There’s not necessarily safety in numbers – thousands of untrue words repeated over and over hold a thimbleful of water that leaks out slowly. A man would die of thirst in a lake of insincere words but feed for a week on a single morsel of truth.

Sometimes it’s not the words themselves, it’s the method of delivery.  Are they issued forth from the lips of a loved one, scribbled in the margin next to other words, or overheard in secret? Some words aren’t meant for us but we receive them anyway. Impassioned words incite nations to war. Make people believe your words and they will die for you.

Words mean everything and nothing. Entire conversations occur in silence. In the blink of an eye, the story can be rewritten between an inhale and an exhale.

So what does it come down to?

Say only the words you mean and never be afraid to let the silence speak for itself.

And therein lies the struggle: knowing when to speak and when to keep my peace.  How to not be overwhelmed when the silence is roaring. How to find the right words when someone asks.

Today these are my words. What are yours?