Worth more than 1,000 words

I made a great many friends when I was in college the first time. Friends I’ve kept throughout the years – one who I married and unmarried, and many others who I will never ever be without. 
Not many of them live nearby, though. It makes for long gobetweens in visits, calls, talks. I end up keeping tabs on people through Facebook and email.
 
It’s a type of friendship that I don’t really think has been pioneered exactly. It’s a far cry from the world of Beaches, all Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey waiting weeks for responses…I can have indepth conversations, exchange pictures, and gossip just like we were in the dorms again, all with a little bit of wireless internet. 
 
One of those friends is named Addie.
 
You guys, Addie is straight up one of the most wonderful people in the world. From the time I spent with her in 1999, to exchanging emails and watching from afar as each of her children has been born or found, she has always been a constant. Someone who I know won’t judge or sugarcoat. She is a treasure.

 
Addie has a photography business. Like many photographers starting out, she works a full time job and she only really has time for her work on the weekends. We’ve talked for years about getting together and making some pictures, but it’s just never happened. Conflicts and time and whatnot.
 
Until last weekend. We all packed up and squashed into Dan’s truck, drove 45 minutes to an abandoned motel, and prepared to grin and pose.
 
I hate having my picture taken. I hate it because I always feel self-conscious and fat, my chin is too pointy and my teeth are too big.
 
But we did it. Addie was sweet and gracious and put up with our weirdness. She had fantastic ideas and she made us feel so…normal. Which is difficult with a family like ours.
 
When my pictures are tweaked and awesome, I’ll show you. A whole post of pictures.
 
But until then, I just wanted you to know about my friend Addie, because I seriously love her and I don’t feel like I convey it enough. Also, go and like her on Facebook. It’s worth it just to see all the pictures she posts.

Should

Is the autumn a reflective time for anyone but me?

No? That’s stupid? That’s okay. I’m used to that.

So anyway, I have this blogging calendar and it suggests topics for most days, days like the ones when I just sit and stare at empty because I know of nothing to say. Days that I wonder why I do this at all.

THOSE DAYS PASS, OBVIOUSLY.

This calendar – which is meant to have you schedule all your posts and be very on top of things – one of the suggestions was “throw away your shoulds,” which is abstract but not so much that I’m going to ignore it.

I find myself thinking lots of shoulds. Lots of times.

I should be more patient with my kids.
I should run miles.
I should write 1,600 words a day instead of the less than 1,000 I have thus far.
I should floss and shave my legs. Not that I don’t ever – I do. I just should probably do it more.
I should study more.
I should eat broccoli and rice and I should like sushi.

I do have some rice. It’s in a big bowl and Max’s ereader (which he dropped in the toilet) stayed in there for about a month so I’m thinking I should probably throw that out before someone eats it.

I should have a job.
I should be a better wife. Clean house and all that shit. Make the bed.
I should remember birthdays and anniversaries and send sweet heartfelt cards.

There are so many things that I should be doing that I don’t and that I shouldn’t be doing that I do.
Like go back to bed after the kids leave for school or send peanut butter sandwiches every day.

Seriously, I could go on. For days.

But why? I waste so much energy thinking about things I should and shouldn’t do and then suddenly I realize I haven’t done anything except sit and think about how I should be doing things differently.

So, screw all that. I’m not great at living, but DAMMIT I’m really good at being me.

Throwing away my shoulds sounds a lot easier than it is, and I’m really not sure what good this is doing.

Maybe a little.

I’m just glad it’s Friday.

I am woman. Hear me… more?

(Last night was the election, but to spare you political yammering, I’ve asked Lindsey from Campfire Song to grace us with her presence. I found her on Twitter, and I think I love her. Also, if you’re new here, you can follow me using one of the buttons on the right. I love it when people do that.)

When I asked Emily for a topic to write about today, she suggested, among other things, maxi pads.

I really wanted to write about maxi pads, just to see if I could do it.

Annnnd, I couldn’t.

But I thought for a few days about her suggestion, and what maxi pads mean in the world today… or at least who uses them.

Here goes – sort of.

I’ve never really considered myself to be a feminine woman. I know I’m attractive and all that, but somehow I’ve always thought of myself as slightly masculine. It might be the short haircuts I sported during my teen years or the fact that I’m an awful dresser or that I don’t have a cutesy voice or that many of my friends are men – I don’t know.

At face value I can identify myself as a woman in terms of being a wife, mother, sexual being – but what power does being “woman” give me? What makes me special to the world as a female? What do I offer that a male can’t?

Femininity can’t be all about hemlines and boobs and a sultry perfume, right?

Are my best qualities what they are because of my gender, or my personality? What makes me different from my husband, for example, might be

• my sensitivity
• my generous spirit
• my ability to make our house a home
• my desire to take care
• my drive to do what’s right, even facing adversity
• my profound ability to talk (much like every other woman, right?)

Recognizing the benefits of the female gender is difficult for me because both sexes have their strengths and purpose. Many of my best (and worst) traits are also shared by men. An individual’s actions don’t represent the entire gender. And gender transformations lend to the idea that femininity might not be all about biology or looks, either.

Maybe it’s… a feeling?

Some women don’t feel like women unless they’re done up in the mornings. I don’t feel feminine without a great hairstyle. For some it’s clothing, others it’s pampering, yet others it’s attention from their men that makes them feel powerful.

To me it seems to be something that’s in our heads. It’s a desire to embrace who we truly are, without conforming to societal expectations, that allows us to truly be feminine.

Have you ever wondered why you were born the sex you are? Or what your responsibility (if any) is to fulfill that role in your life? I’m still figuring out what my femininity is for.

Because some days (like when I’m 40 weeks pregnant or PMSing) I’m sure it’s a curse.

Lindsey is mom to four kiddos under the age of five. She writes at Campfire Song about life as a military wife and SAHM, growing up, social media and funny stuff. She’s @dashingly on Twitter, and she sometimes haunts Facebook too.

Insert Work Wanted ad here

Yesterday I went to the local job fair.

I really don’t know what I was expecting. I’d called for details and the gal I talked to made it sound like an organized, streamlined process. Resume tweaking, printing, and then pick the businesses you’re interested in and visit them.

I didn’t need resume help, I have a resume that I very much like.

It was very lucky for this girl that I didn’t, because I pulled up in the parking lot and….well, there was this huge bus that said it was an “online lab” and it kind of felt like the windowless van that follows the ice cream truck around.

So I bypassed the molester van and went on in.

First of all, I had on heels and I had to walk down this huge ass flight of stairs, the last five of which were on wheels and it kind of felt like I was tightrope walking. On ice. Over fire.

Once I made it down and I was amongst the blue curtains, I was a little confused.

All the publicity had said to dress as though you were going to an interview. I was surrounded by people in John Deere hats and flip flops with camo shirts. Classy.

The booths were varied. Kind of.

Army and factory and Avon and Mary Kay.

And the worst thing I think was that every booth I might have been interested in simply directed you to their website to search for open positions. Like I couldn’t have stayed home and done that from my chair with Netflix.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Applause when I entered. Commentary on my twisty hairstyle. Compliments on my lovely tree picture on my resume. Something.

Instead, I was in and out in about twenty minutes.

To be fair (job fair), there were a few interesting places there. I spoke with one fellow who worked with the state rehab and he was full of possibilities for me…after I finish my Bachelor’s. I talked to one lady who is my friend on LinkedIn, and she was really helpful and optimistic.

So it wasn’t a total bust, but it wasn’t what I expected. Which I guess nothing ever is. Maybe it did some good. We’ll see.

Apropos of nothing, here’s the sweetest picture ever.

Things I’m embarrassed to say

You may think I don’t get embarrassed by much.

For the most part that’s totally true.

But at random, inopportune times, I get weirdly heady and self conscious and it’s vastly unpleasant.

Yesterday, I went to the doctor. Issues with my ear.

It was an impromptu stop in, and I knew I’d have to wait for a while, so I took one of my textbooks to read.
When I went in to a room and the nurse came in (after weighing me and here’s the first embarrassment – 150 pounds), she naturally saw my book.

“Going back to school?”

It was a simple question, friendly and pretty obvious – but it made me feel like a moron. Like the ash reeking, mall banged, tanning bed woman who used to sit next to me in English Comp I and Hermioned every question until one day she had to quit because her factory job got to be too much.

I don’t know why. I mean, I AM back in school. It’s not a secret.

But I felt stupid. Like I’d gotten caught stuffing my bra.

So that happened.

And then I came home and I started wondering why I get bothered by some of the stupid crap I do.

Like how I can feel great and glammy and then I get among people and feel like a donkey in drag.

I think I’ve said all this before. Now I’m embarrassed.

So, to avoid any further confusion, here are some things that embarrass me.

I drink Diet Coke out of the 2 liter bottle.
I suck at games.
I can eat a whole package of cookies.
Speaking of school, I’m taking all the subjects in this one semester that I never took in all my prior semesters because they were difficult. And now I pretty much know I’m not going to have this fab Dean’s List gpa. I totally won’t fail, but I’m not going to blow the doors off like I thought I should.
I have hairy toes.
I don’t really know how to put on makeup.
I worry I’m not interesting.
I fear my perception of people is sometimes off.

I know everyone has things that embarrass them. It’s my hope that if I put them out there like that, there won’t be anything left to worry about.

So if you see me out and I look like a glammed up chubby ten year old, just know that I already know that. And that’s ok with me.

I’m out. Time for Twizzlers.

This is a better option than homicide.

I’m pissed.

Seriously, so angry.

I know little girls are oversensitive.
Dramatic.
Flighty.

But you know what? I don’t care.

Ava is seven, which I realize is very young. Shallow and fanciful and still clinging to the idea of Cinderella in crystal slippers and a cinched waist ball gown with a willowy neck.

I remember being seven. While I knew I wasn’t stick thin and lanky like so many of the girls I knew, I still saw good when I looked at myself.

I also remember when my uncle mentioned I was getting fat. He told me I was too pretty for that and I needed to be a lady.

Ava came home yesterday like she always does. She was dressed in what happened to be the first Ava outfit of the school year – I’ve mentioned before how she puts together her outfits and damn them all, she looks fantastic.

She was showing me her papers, talking about homework and such. I looked up at her where she was standing beside me, and I reached up like I often do, brushing her hair back and telling her how pretty she was.

Except this time she didn’t smile, give me a kiss and saunter off. She looked at me and burst into tears.

“No, Mom, I’m not. I’m really not. I’m so ugly.”

This is so fucking unacceptable I cannot clearly put it into words.

I don’t know who said what or why my baby girl suddenly has been wrenched into this harsh and pathetic world of flimsy and fake.

But it pisses me off. How dare they? How dare anyone tarnish what was already destined to be a precious few short years where she could be comfortable and confident?

I’ve tried everything I know of to hammer into her head that she’s perfect. Lovely. Absolutely breathtaking. And of course I knew that eventually things would come to this.

But not now. Not yet. She’s just a baby, and look at her, would you? Look at her.

How – why – what the hell? Really? Is it too much to ask that she be allowed a few more years before being submitted to the absolute terror that is the world?

Ava, you are beautiful. Your eyes, your face. The way you smile and make me smile and the way I’m so proud you’re mine.

Everything about you.

I love you so much.

Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you are anything less than amazing.

If they do, I’ll kick their asses. All of them.

Love,

Mom

Sounds like an STD

So, most of you know that I like to…well, craft, for lack of a less corny cheese grandma word.

It soothes me.

I’ve found it’s especially effective at being soothing now that I have so many other things I could stress about.

I’m a selfish crafter, though, for the most part. I make stuff and I really would rather just keep it for myself. Especially the difficult stuff. I mean, sue me, but if I stress over making it I want to wear that shit myself.

So at the risk of boring the pants off all of you, I have to tell you about this project I think I’m going to undertake.

The shawl/scarf/wrap above is called a Clapotis, and if you’ve ever perused the Ravelry discussion groups (knitting message boards, that’s RIGHT), chances are you’ve heard of it since it’s kind of a legend.

It looks fairly simple. Apparently it’s not. Apparently it makes you want to cut a bitch. But then if you survive the whole process of twisting stitches and dropping rows and CUTTING YARN OUT OF YOUR SHIT IN PROGRESS, you have this kickass piece you can wear and be all, “That’s right this is ALL ME.”

It came out as a public pattern in 2004, and I’ve heard tales of it practically the whole time I’ve been a knitter.

I’ve never attempted it because I’m a pansy and it outright scared me. Still does.

But I really want to try to do it. For this fall and winter.

So I’m currently trying to focus and decide on a yarn to use for it (and I know, Dan and Josh are all YOU HAVE SIX THOUSAND POUNDS OF YARN WHY WOULD YOU EVER NEED MORE, but this puppy needs 650 yards at least. I may have lots of yarn but I do NOT have that much of any one kind). When I decide, and once I start, I’m totally telling you about it. I need accountability here. Like a prayer partner to pray to LaQuee the goddess of craft.

So there it is. It’s out there. Now I have to do it.

Looking back. Reflection and stupidity

I was doing some reading earlier – reading of old entries and how things have changed and not.

I found this post, and it made me think about a lot of things.

It’s almost exactly a year later, and things are so much different that they’re kind of startlingly the same.

As far as God and purpose and meaning go, I’m still kind of lost. The hit our faith and confidence took during our time in Jackson was severe, and to be honest I’m not sure we’ll ever fully recover.

We were so sure we were doing the right thing.
We were so happy, and then we were miserable.

But now? Not in a million years did I ever think we’d be where we are now.

Well, not really physically “where we are,” because really all of us living together is pretty much an epic adventure and it’s become second nature to us all.

But where we are in the sense of goals and progress and general good will toward humanity.

I was sure when we left Jackson that we’d never fully be happy and fulfilled ever again.

Dramatic, sure, but cut me some slack I WAS GROWING A PERSON.

If I could do and say anything I wanted, I’d say things to those people we left.

I’d say to Ellie, thank you for hiring me. You were more of the face of good in our months in Jackson than anyone else we met. You meant more to me in those days than I can ever say.

I’d say to Michaele, you are me with red hair and better boobs. I miss you more than anything and I would never have made it without you.

I’d say to Jackson commuters – really? Suck it up and put down that bowl of Cheerios when you’re going 80 down the interstate. Eat a damn granola bar if you’re that hungry.

I’d say to Priest 1 – you were the biggest disappointment. When we met, you were awesome and inspiring. You were hip and down to earth and we both loved you immediately. The confidence we both felt in you – as a person, as a priest, as a friend – was completely cracked and really disheartening. You never seemed like a lap dog…until you were.

I’d say to Priest 2 – I reached out to you. I needed you. And when you ignored that? I have never felt that degree of worthlessness. I trusted too much in what I needed you to be.

And to Priest 3? I could fill a book. The level of hypocrisy and disillusion that I equate with you now is staggering. I don’t know what I believe comes after this life – I don’t know if I believe we just end, or if we go on…

But if we go on? If there are saints and angels and streets of gold? I don’t want to be there if you are. Whatever Paradise is supposed to be, you can’t be a part of it and it still be Paradise.

so there it is.

I suppose I’m still bitter (who am I kidding), but I’m also hopeful. I never thought I’d have that again.

I do. We do. And I think that’s the best revenge.

art shamelessly stolen from Natalie Dee

Terrified

In 1998, I graduated from high school. I went on to the local community college, because that’s just what most of my friends did.

In 2000, when I should have been finished with community college, I had changed my major six point five jillion times and I was considerably behind. Then I got married.

That ended that.

In 2002, I went back to that same school and tried to pick up where I’d left off. I had an infant at home and we had next to no money, so when the semester was over and I got a job opportunity, I took it. Thus ended my education.

A couple of months ago, after talking about it for years, Josh and I decided to try school again. It has been a mess of red tape and confusion, but we got everything in order. Scheduled. Ready and waiting.

Well, today is the day.

All our classes come live online today, and me, who has never taken a single online class, I have 16 hours of classes. While I realize that I’m not expected to suddenly have everything finished and done and I’m going to have to learn to schedule myself, it doesn’t change the fact that having a list of things to do and turn in and know is going to overwhelm me more than a little bit.

I really didn’t think I was going to be so scared. But I am.

I’ve had those dreams where I forgot about a class and never did any of the work.

Where I showed up for an exam and it was a class I was never supposed to have taken.

The good news is that if I make it through this semester I’ll (finally) have my Associate’s Degree, and it will only have taken me thirteen years.

I feel a little (or a lot) silly that this is so important to me. After all, what is an Associate’s anyway? Not much.

Except it’s more than I have.

And it’s that much closer to the PhD I ultimately want.

Yeah, I said it. That’s what I’m going for. Farfetched, right? I’ll be like eighty by the time I’m finished.

But that’s okay with me. I’ll be eighty when I’m eighty whether I have a PhD or not.

So if I die today, it’s because the online classes done kilt me.

In defense of black nails

I’m not one to be trendy, or even fashionable.

I realize this doesn’t come as much of a shock. I don’t imagine I exactly convey an it-girl with-it vibe.

It’s not that I don’t want to be snappy and sassy and on top of things, it’s just not something that comes easily to me. I very much feel all Devil Wears Prada heroine, in a way. You know at the beginning where Andi’s all unconcerned and kind of frumpy? That’s totally me, except at the end she gets made over and gets what she wants while she has perfect hair and designer jeans. That’s not me.

And I’m okay with that.

Except sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I really wish I could wear ruffles and curl my hair and lotion and coif.

I can’t. I’d very much like to put on a belt and a dress and not be concerned that I look like a basset hound in a tutu, but something – I guess it’s just left over high school insecurity? – keeps the squirminess at the forefront.

The thing is, I’m thirty one years old. I realize that’s not old, but…I really feel it’s too old to be still seeking out my style. Or to even care about my “style” in the first place.

I few months ago I started painting my nails. It was the first time in my life I’d been able to paint them and not feel like they looked awkward and inappropriate, and as stupid as it sounds, it made me feel good. Typing with lacquer tipped fingers felt a little more…polished, pardon the pun.

But I didn’t really care for the colors. I tried them all, since lucky for me I have a seven year old girl.

Bright orange. Blech.
Purple, which I was sure I’d like and didn’t.
Deep, maroony red. It was called “Rock Star” or something strange.
Green. It looked a little like my fingers were rotting.
Pink. With all my girlish aspirations, it still didn’t surprise me that it looked ridiculous.

Then for some reason I picked up a bottle of black. Lingerie, or something equally lame.

I had no intention of growing gothic talons or anything, but I’d seen dark manicures. Something about it appealed.

As with everything, I did some quick Googling.

I found this, and remarkably I understood every word. I knew those feelings, those lines of thought.

So I did it. I slathered my nails with the glossy tar, and it was…amazing. I didn’t feel like a rock star but I felt – different. A little edgy. Like just by having the testicles to have black nails I became a little bit of a badass.

I realize this sounds ridiculous. I know they’re just fingernails. I know that to even feel like this about what color they are is petty and asinine.

But it’s a happiness I’ve found.

And it doesn’t hurt anyone, though Josh acts pained every time.

So black they are. And I’ll pretend they make me tough and cutting edge, deep and meaningful, even as I struggle with lace and frills, bangs and belted waistlines.