Just A Girl

‘…Cause I’m just a girl, oh, little old me
Don’t let me out of your sight
Oh, I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights
Oh, I’ve had it up to here

The moment that I step outside
So many reasons for me to run and hide
I can’t do the little things I love so dear
‘Cause it’s all those little things that I fear

‘Cause I’m just a girl, I’d rather not be
‘Cause they won’t let me drive late at night
I’m just a girl, guess I’m some kind of freak
‘Cause they all sit and stare with their eyes
Oh, I’m just a girl take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype, oh, I’ve had it up to here

Oh, am I making myself clear?

I’m just a girl, I’m just a girl in the world
That’s all that you’ll let me be
Oh, I’m just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb make me worry so
Oh, I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb…

…Oh, I’ve had it up to
Oh, I’ve had it up to
Oh, I’ve had it up to here

~Just A Girl~ by No Doubt

If you’ve been following this blog since it’s inception, or at least as far back as last October, you might have gleaned that I have no tolerance for gender specification, and for a world that consistently sends out proverbial and subtle to downright rude, judgmental messages that we need to be put in our places regarding which gender we are. Specifically, I have no patience for the backwards thinking regarding females, as in “that is a boys’ thing — you can’t like it/do it/wear it/own it/think about it.”

A prime example of this occurs every year right around this time, which is how I remember writing about it before. Halloween costumes. Manufacturer’s of the fun disguises that our children choose to slip into and become for a short while are repeat offenders of this issue. A male character from an animated film will be labeled “boys size 5” versus “kids size 5,” as I strongly feel it should be classified.

But thank god that money reigns supreme, as nothing, not even the sexism disguised as dress up can stop my daughter and I from plunking our cash down at the counter and purchasing any item we want, boys-only be damned!

Our recent run-in with this pre-1950s, closed-minded, uneducated thought happened just this past Thursday at our local park while we were there with our two new friends, Andrea and her son, Sean. Odd though, for the pair of instances that materialized it took me until Saturday morning to truly process the bigger of the two moments, and see it for what it was. I regret this as there are reaffirming words I should have offered to my daughter, had I not been blinded by other factors.

My Batman sneaker-wearing, soccer ball-carrying daughter and I were enjoying the company of Andrea and Sean, whom we met a week previous at the same park, when on the swings another boy comes along and says to my kiddo, “I like your sneakers.” “Thanks!” (Always polite, my girl.) Then he speaks this sentence: “But those are boys shoes; why are you wearing them?” Before she could answer, both Andrea and myself replied in similar unhesitating terms that anyone can wear the sneaks my daughter had on, that they weren’t just for boys.

I suppose this boy suddenly didn’t even care as he tottered off. Good. Fair enough. On with you.

Simultaneously in my thoughts, I’m liking Andrea even more for obviously having a perspective on this “girls can’t” nonsense much like mine. I turn to her and say, “My husband and I don’t buy into the gender specific stuff. We teach her that she can do all the same thing as boys.” She shakes her head in agreement, her facial expression appearing to seriously match what my own felt like at that moment.

Not long after that, our children met and made the acquaintance of two boys, brothers, whom they got on well with. The four of them realized that a high school football team was in one of the fields practicing, and that all of the kicker’s balls kept ending well outside of the gate, right in the grass where they were playing. They made a game of it, running for the footballs, meeting the kicker at the gate — who was sweet and polite to them each and every time, renewing my positivity in teenagers for the day — handing the balls off to the young man, then running back into the grass to wait for more arrivals. (“I love it when an activity comes along organically,” I grinned to Andrea, who was enjoying just hanging out, as I was.)

When this fun faded off, the four decided to play soccer with my daughter’s soccer ball in the field designated for that activity. The mother of the two brothers came along, too, and though she seemed nice enough, she never actually attempted to be social with either myself or Andrea.

In any case, the children played in the bleachers for a stretch, but didn’t fully approach playing soccer, even after another boy — 6.5 years old, he told me and Andrea, on a soccer team, sweet kid — joined them.

When the mother and her two sons went to leave, my daughter and Andrea’s son were playing race together on the soccer field, and our little soccer ball was just at the gate where I could see it and retrieve it when we were ready to move on.

Barely a blink later, the soccer ball was no longer in the spot where we had left it. Andrea and I looked around for it. I searched my other belongings. I looked under the bleachers. In the bleachers. We scanned the field.

After our children saw us searching for something, we asked them if they put it farther up field. They hadn’t.

A few minutes of this caused my daughter to grow upset, and me to become upset along with her, for her. And a bit annoyed that I’d have to purchase another soccer ball, as it was clear someone had walked off with the perfectly fine one belonging to us.

The four of us walked back to the playground area, where my go-getter girl (a characteristic of hers that I did not see completely and clearly until this month, but am proud of her for being strong in this way) began approaching parents, asking if they saw a silver soccer ball. One mom piped up, saying she saw another mom and her boys — the trio we encountered — carrying a ball and indicated which direction they had gone in.

I thanked her for telling us that, as we had nothing to go on until then.

We turned around, headed back in the direction we had come from, and soon came upon the mom with her two boys. I don’t remember which words I used to ask her if she had it, but she seemed to realize quickly that the soccer ball was ours and that we were searching for it.

She told us, as she pointed to the next field over, that she thought it belonged to the 6.5 year-old boy that had hung out for a few minutes, and that she threw it in this other field, thinking that someone would find it there.

I thanked her for letting us know where it was, smiled, did the polite thing.

In my head, I’m annoyed that they picked it up at all. But relief over its return to us held over me more than anything else.

Which is why it took me 48 hours to see what really happened here: this soccer ball couldn’t possibly belong to that little girl…because she is a little girl. Little girls can’t play soccer.

Shame on you, fellow mom, woman, female, GIRL! It’s 2014, for crying out loud! Oh, and such things as girls’ soccer teams exist. Get your head out of the sand!

I’m a little angry with myself for not noticing this component. Sure, an old part of me would have loved to tell this other mom off for her passive sexist actions. But I know that wouldn’t have mattered too much to do. It would have only made me look bad. Rather, I wish I hadn’t missed that moment to point out to my daughter how some people are unfortunately stuck in an old way of thought. How sad. We should feel sorry for them. In the meantime, you keep doing what you love, and don’t let anyone ever tell you who to be.

I can still reaffirm this message to her, but a perfect moment to do so passed. I feel like I failed lifting her up, all because I was focused on what looked like loss and new expense.

I’ve had it up to here.

Am I making myself clear?

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The Good and The Bad of Library Borrowing

Two direct results of being an Anne Rice fan since middle school: I read plenty of vampire fiction during my adolescence; and I’ve often and sporadically pontificated the idea of immortality. For the years that have passed, and the changes that have been made, my best personal answer remains the same. Immortality would be most useful for reading. For reading everything I’ve ever wanted. For reading everything that existed before I existed. For reading everything that came out last Tuesday. For reading everything printed since I’ve existed. For reading everything that will exist, but does yet not.

I’m reminded of this fantasy-opinion of mine each time I walk into my local library.

Think of it: an entire subset of people that, as long as there are words down in black and white in some form, could never die. We (because I would be one of them) would be called Readers. We would pose no harm or threat to anyone else, and walk among all other beings — both mortal and immortal — without experiencing any degree of assault ourselves.

Also, I just really like my public library, how I feel good-lost when I am there, inspired as a writer, reader, and artist all at once. Like there is adventure waiting in every stack. Because there is.

Truly you can find pretty much anything that you’re looking for, especially if you have a really decent, well-funded library, like we are fortunate to have.

Over the summer, I found myself drawn to the ‘New’ section that my library has set up in the front, not far from the check-out area. That magnetism developed into a habit. As my husband accompanied our daughter to Monday evening storytime, I would bee-line to those shelves, soaking in each title, and even snapping shots of front covers with my phone for easy borrowing reference later.

A decent library is a guarantee that you’ll discover writers and books that you might not have otherwise. Even if you still haven’t begun to check out any of the titles you took cover pictures of during the last four months.

I’ve realized, too, even while missing the particular experience that is browsing and buying in a bookstore, that not only am I saving money, but I’m beginning to acquire more space. Libraries allow you to be an aunt (or uncle) of reading, as in, you visit with the books, and/or various media for awhile, but then they go back home where they belong.

Clearly, I have fallen in love — or at least have a healthy and active crush — with my library all over again. In spite of this, the downsides have occurred to me, as well.

Because I am a former teller, sometimes the sharing of books with invisible strangers makes me think of money changing hands, often also with invisible strangers: dirty, dirty, dirty. I am not a germophobe, but what *did* the last person do that left a stain on page 11 of this book? Is it from food? Was it…*gag* was it in the bathroom with them? I try not to think on this for too long, or for too often.

Just as I try to not read the same books as everyone else, at the same time especially. That doesn’t mean that other people adhere to the same modus operandi. When this applies, a numbers game begins. I can’t stand numbers games. Upon the initial act of borrowing, you are also graciously issued two renewals. Either one or both are revoked if another patron or several are suddenly or already were waiting in an electronic queue to read the same book/watch the same DVD/listen to the same CD. This switcharoo of allotted borrowing time is anxiety-inducing for me, as I feel rushed straight off, knowing that there is a possibility that I won’t have as long as I need in order to get all the way through and fully enjoy any given item.

However much I wish for more time, the realization occurs over and over again that there isn’t a chance in hell that I will ever become immortal in order to read all those books. All those interesting, eye-opening, educational, fun, diverse, beautiful, wonderful books upon books upon books.

 

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Versatile Blogger Award/One Lovely Blog Award

Anyone who writes and does so with serious intent, with the purpose of processing life, expressing themselves, using words as an art form, and so forth whether ubiquitous or unknown could probably agree with me when I say this: it’s a wonderful feeling to know — because they have told you in their own various ways previously — that your friends, both the ones that are fellow writers as well as the ones that have trouble putting their thoughts down, enjoy your writing, look forward to reading your newest piece, gain insight about you as a person (whether they know you in actual life or you met online), and just plain think you’re a good writer.

When they tell others publicly on the Internet that you’re worthy, that can put a smile on your face so broad that you swear you must be giving the sun and the moon some serious competition.

Imagine my surprise when bookending the same week — one where pick-me-ups have proven helpful and necessary due to some definite shifts in mood —  two (not one, but TWO!) of my blogging buddies included me in their nominations for these lovely fake writers awards, that because they are not only sweet as sugar, but also a great way to network and foster community among other word nerds, make them the best pretend thing ever!

The first bestowal of vindicated humility came from one of my college friends, Joe Johnson of Big Joe’s Soap Box at http://bigjoessoapbox.com, who because he posts every Monday, nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award last Monday, September 1, 2014. That gave me just enough giddy headiness to decide immediately to say “yes, please” and “thank you” to a friend handing me a blog topic.

Knowing that you should never expect lighting to strike the same spot twice, the second bestowal of vindicated humility provided by Kat Carpita of Dandelion Fuzz at http://katcarpita.wordpress.com — who nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award in her post this past Saturday — equally caught me off guard. Even though I am not lucky enough to know Kat in real life, I do feel fortunate in having connected with her through the wonderfulness that is MondayBlogs, a writers/bloggers community on Twitter that Kat, Joe, and I all participate in (and that I might not have ever found myself a part of if it wasn’t for Joe kindly telling me about it. Thank you again just for that, Joe!)

Since I didn’t know much about these automatic awards until recently, including how many there are (actually, I still don’t know this), what they are called, and how they are meant to be carried out, I am going to assume that someone reading this might not have this knowledge either.

So, starting with Joe’s Versatile Blogger Award, which Joe so neatly described as “a tip of the cap from an established blogger that thinks what you are doing is not only good work, but worthwhile,” the rules, or rather the main one, which is once you’ve been nominated you accept it by in turn nominating several other bloggers that you deem awesome. Apparently, the original instruction of 15 has undergone a whisper-down-the-lane effect, if you will, and the result has been writers nominating less than that. In his post, Joe wrote about just three bloggers, creating (I think) a more meaningful selection. I am going to stick with this magic number, due to the fact that I have another award to accept…remember? (All three are fellow MondayBlogs participants. Partial much? Yes! MondayBlogs peeps are MY peeps.)

Just minutes before finding out that Joe included me in his list, I had finished reading Matt Campbell Nicely’s weekly piece on his blog, Begin Again at http://mattcampbellnicely.com/, which for all that probably makes Matt and I different from each other, I always strongly connect with what he is saying, because he is always saying something that could have come directly from my own thoughts…just put together more eloquently, more intelligently, in a whole other sequence. I attribute this to what I know we have in common: both writers, both parents, both deep thinkers, both humans.

Another gentleman whose writing I love — when I can catch it — is that of Shane Wilson of Virtual Napkins at http://virtualnapkins.com. Shane has this incredible knack for beginning with several threads and expertly weaving each one to the other, marrying possibly various topics into a cohesive and masterful bigger picture, exhibiting deep and extensive thought, as well as solid planning.

Lastly, and ironically, Kat Carpita, whom I fully intended to nominate for this award before learning that she nominated me for the other just ahead, writes in this fully honest, human approach that is simultaneously simple and sophisticated. At times, she shares with readers facets of her life that take bravery and grace to present, and does so in a way that makes you feel like you are reading a letter from a friend, as opposed to someone just trying to sort out the results of existence.

This trio of writers are just a few individuals in which I have set my watermark to because their phenomenal writing makes me want to be better every time I read anything put forth by their unique voices. Don’t just believe me though. The included links are for ease of direct respect.

The One Lovely Blog Award operates a bit differently, which I was excited about as it caused me to think about this post slightly differently for the second half (I haven’t truly measured. I hope you don’t either). I’ll start with rules again. Kat says in her post:

1. Thank and link back to the person who nominated you.
2. List the rules and display the award.
3. Include seven facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers and let them know about the award.
5. Display the award and follow the blogger who nominated you (if not already!)

As I already told Kat in a WordPress comment, I am tickled that she nominated me. She’s been reading my writing for a handful of weeks now. In fact, we sort of trade off it seems, she catches my recent posts; I look out for hers. But because us two ladies are only acquainted via the wonders of technology, I didn’t realize she enjoyed my writing that much. My gratitude, Kat, is immense. And if you’re just now tuning in, I’ve linked Kat above, earlier in the post.

I am not going to display the award because in my photo-happiness of previous posts, I have managed to use 83 percent of my allotted blogging space in just over a year. Corners are being cut wherever possible. This is a graduated-to-big-people-reading, text-only operation until I get a solution sorted.

My seven facts came to me all at once while I was vacuuming after dinner on Saturday. I hope that they are interesting as a unit and on their own:

1. I have a “waste-not” mentality, very directly adapted from my maternal grandfather, who grew up during the Great Depression.

2. I’m a terrible swimmer.

3. I’m left-handed.

4. Sometimes, but not always, a room crowded with people that I don’t know causes me to feel social anxiety.

5. I fantasize about relocating to Portland, Oregon.

6. When I was about 13, I had a spell of being in love with archery.

7. Save for a trip to Canada (just over the border) when I was a year old, and having a sometimes-strong wanderlust, I’ve never been out of the United States.

Once I got started on this line of thought, I couldn’t stop. I could have included more facts about myself. But there might be a likelihood that I find myself penning one of these again. So, I’ll keep the other ones for another version of this.

I noticed that Kat choose ten nominees as opposed to the listed 15. I’m following suit, because frankly, in spite of the community that is MondayBlogs, I wasn’t sure if I actually know enough about that many other bloggers. But once I got looking through Twitter, I realized I have definitely interacted to some degree with a fat lot of fellow writers! Choosing just 10 became the new challenge. If I could, I would nominate every MondayBlogs blogger…in fact, that’s sort of what I just did. Seriously, go check out as many as you can, find who you enjoy.

Also, just like any definition of anything, “lovely” might mean something different to you than it does to me. Some of these other bloggers are indeed lovely; all of them write in a way that I connect to somehow:

http://bigjoessoapbox.com

http://paulareednancarrow.com

http://flyingemeralds.wordpress.com

http://fatherhoodetc.com

http://jewelsfromjordan.wordpress.com

http://rippedjeansandbifocals.com

http://samuelmorningstar.blogspot.com

http://ollicrusoe.net

http://annegoodwin.weebly.com

http://james-writes.com

 

Many thanks to both Joe and Kat for the nominations, and thusly, a topic for the week.

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Everyone Needs An Umbrella: a post honoring my husband and his birthday

“Thank you for loving me/For being my eyes when I couldn’t see/For parting my lips when I couldn’t breathe/Thank you for loving me/You pick me up when I fall down/You ring the bell before they count me out/If I was drowning you would part the sea/And risk your own life to rescue me…” ~Thank You For Loving Me by Bon Jovi.

I’m in a house, but its not ours, or a relative’s, or a friend’s. I simply don’t recognize the rooms, even though they have a familiar feel. I don’t know what’s happening. There’s a nearly tangible murkiness to everything. My daughter is there. My husband is there. My sister and mother, whom live a distance, so I am not normally with them. Nevertheless, I get the odd sense that they are staying with us for reasons unknown for an extended length of time. His parents. His brother. His aunt. I don’t walk into the next room. I just end up there. More family members, all of the extended variety, some I am not even on speaking terms any longer. Suddenly, I can not find my husband or my daughter. I panic about it until I forget they exist, until they never even did.

I come to consciousness, realize that I’ve been dreaming a seemingly meaningless and confusion-inducing dream. Nightmare, really. Life without my husband? Life without my daughter? I can’t and don’t want to imagine.

My husband and I have been together for so much of our lives now, that even in dreams I notice his absence, and am stricken by the oddity of it.

He entered my life during a very lonely period, where either everyone was exiting, or already had. He looked passed everything that he had heard about me, whether it was completely false, a twist on the truth, or the bald reality. He took a chance on me. He loved me from the start, even though I was convinced that no one ever genuinely would, that I was unlovable and thoroughly undeserving of any modicum of that sort of connection.

We were just shy of 18, and embarking on our college journeys at separate institutions, even though our high school alma mater is the same. With all that could happen — and all that did — in college, on top of having grown accustomed to few people remaining in my life, I didn’t expect him to be around for long. After all, the boyfriend before him — whom I barely made it a year with — broke my heart not long after I gave myself to him. So beyond being convinced that I would never experience real love, I didn’t want any part of romantic situations.

They say you always find what you’re looking for or need most in your life in the moment that you least expect it, or have ceased an active search.

Or rather, our hearts found each other, when upon crossing paths, both thought to have come to a reflection, and said, so that’s what I look like. However, both soon realized it was another heart, not a mirror image, and instead said to each other, you and I belong together.

So, not only did he remain, not only was he meant for me, and me for him, but he also rallied me during college, all those countless times that I was ready to quit. All those times that I thought I wasn’t cut out for higher learning, that I couldn’t possibly finish and earn my degree.

My husband ended up being more than I was hoping for. He’s been my eyes. He’s been the logical portion of my brain when my own has been out of service. He ended up being my umbrella. To explain this one, I’ll admit that I stole the concept. On Youtube are several versions of the song “Summertime” by My Chemical Romance. One that I came across is a photo video of frontman, Gerard Way and his wife Lindsey (LynZ when performing as the bassist for Mindless Self Indulgence). The final image is of the following text on a strip of paper: “To my wife, Lindsey, for being my umbrella. Gerard.”

Okay, maybe I don’t need to explain it, other than to say that many times when rain has fallen in our lives, he has done all that he could to shield me, or at least help me through until the storm passed.

Everyone needs an umbrella. We all have inside us the capacity to be that for someone else, to love someone else that deeply and permanently. I can only hope that I have likewise in turn been a vital shield against all that is inclement for my husband. I hope he knows that I at least strive to be, even if I do fall short more often than not.

To thank him for all the various ways he has supported me through the years, for accepting me exactly as I am, for loving me in spite of myself, just doesn’t seem to be enough. Nevertheless, I’ll never stop verbalizing appreciation. I don’t think any couple should. It’s a small, but vital piece to the relationship.

That being said: Thank you for loving me, for being the voice of reason, for helping me to find solutions to life’s challenges. Thank you for being the type of spouse that you are.  And certainly for the sort of father I didn’t have — that our daughter, as well as any child, deserves.

Happy Birthday, dear husband.

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To Ink or Not To Ink: A Long Ponder on Finding A Tattoo Bearing Significance

She had a blue rose forever stained into the top swell of her right breast. I know because she wore tops to choir that just barely fit into the dress code. I thought the tattoo and the blatant display of it was rebellious, and badass, and the sort of free spirit action that I wished I had the feminine ballsyness to carry out.

Of course all these years later, I don’t have quite the same perspective about this passive, yet hardly subtle action or the other then-teenage girl whose name I have forgotten (hell, I stared at that tattoo and the beautiful mammary attached to it so often that that is probably why I can’t recall her face! As bad as a guy, I tell ya).

What did the blue rose mean to our nameless siren? Did it mean anything? Or did she just think it looked cool?

The first inquiry originally occurred to me back then in whichever grade that was, when the she in question walked in to the choral space, donning the floral mark on her chest, as the rest of us ran the scale or were already practicing a particular song for a school-wide performance or whatever we were doing.

Any time this female (again, whoever she was…Miss Whatsherface) and her blue tattoo cross my mind, I am still asking the same question. Now, it isn’t just curiosity. It’s the search for significance that comes with maturity. And with maturity followed the second and third questions.

Why has this nameless, faceless former fellow classmate and singing enthusiast stuck so rigidly and pointedly in the history of my thoughts? Well, aside from obviously being in some sort of awe of her when we were kids, she became the physical embodiment of what I’ve been trying to answer for myself all along, ever since then: should I get a tattoo or not?

I know I’d like to get a tattoo. My step-father was one of those Harley-Davidson biker types. So, he as well as all his friends had enough ink to form their own Hell’s Angels pack, if they wanted to. I’ve also had several friends that have gone through — and enjoyed — the experience. One that comes to mind is Steve, who though we were once close, we haven’t been in each others lives for a few years. In any case, Steve has a handful of ink. I can’t recall how many. But I know he loves getting them. During a conversation we once had, he said to me, “Once you get one, you want another one. They’re like Pringles (or something to that effect).”

What I don’t know is what significance each holds for him. Though, I am certain, that Steve put some thought into them; he was never one for getting ink for the hell of it.

Beyond meaning, here are the other things I’ve been mulling over for most of my existence: Is there an ideal age for first ink? (And as I get older, is there an age where if you haven’t yet, you may as well not? Afterall, I just turned 34 two days ago. Has this ship sailed while I’ve been repeatedly circling back to it?) And tending to be realistic, I know that not everything is for everybody. Just because I want to do it doesn’t mean that I should. Just like people who shouldn’t be parents, but bear children anyhow. Am I actually one of those people when it comes to ink? Am I only meant to admire tattoos (as I do; they are works of art on a smaller scale), but not necessarily fated to express myself in that way?

Then there’s the quality and skill of the tattoo artist. We’ve all heard horror stories of a botched ink. Of needles in need of sterilization. Of misspellings (which I can’t stand — a typo is bad enough; permanent etching in the epidermis is too serious already to have that result!).

I don’t know the first indicator of a terrific or terrible tattoo artist. I could ask around, but I’ve done that before, and it did not alleviate my trepidation.

Of course there is a final element, one that can not be controlled at all, even if you have the best ink artist in the world. The aging process, and the effects that skin in the progressed stages of life has on tattoos.

For all that I haven’t figured out, in spite of thinking about it for 20 years, I do know that I don’t want to do something so important and risky if it really isn’t going to end well, and I fear the onslaught of wrinkles as it is — why exacerbate that situation, if that is all I will succeed in accomplishing? But even more clear, and probably equally obvious to you: whatever the tattoo would be, it would have to have a deep meaning for me. It would have to tell at least a small part of my life story. It would have to be as integral as even one lotus flower in a string of hieroglyphics on an ancient Egyptian’s tomb wall.

And because ancient Egypt is one of many of my interests/hobbies (ever since LeVar Burton presented a book on mummies on Reading Rainbow), at one point, I even considered getting a lotus flower or a scarab, or both on one of my upper arms. But because we change over time, all I can see that saying about my life is: she loved the ancient Egyptians. One more word and we have the six-word story challenge that has been so popular on Twitter lately. But in that case, I may as well not because that tells you as much about my life as no tattoo at all.

Two decades of pondering. From that the conclusion reached is merely: I really want one, even though I’ve no clue what it should be, and it’s a more preferable kind of skin tag.

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The Non-Discriminating Monster

I stared down at the rusty razor blade in my palm — I don’t know for exactly how long as I was in a hypnotic trance — but I couldn’t have been considering what I was for much of a span as I was on recess. I also can’t recall how young I was, other than this low moment in my life predated middle school. So, still very much a baby through the mother’s eyes I have now, but old enough to understand that this filthy tiny slivered rectangle of  jagged metal could do worse than assist me in taking my life. It could assist me in botching taking my life, creating further pain, and possibly implanting disease into my little veins.

Looking back, I am not sure if I was mature enough as a grade-schooler to realize this, and if that is why I was fixed in place. Or, if I was just afraid of my own motivation for picking the discarded blade up from the black tar concrete, and found myself frozen, terrified to act further. I also wonder if I would have followed through at sawing away at my delicate-as-rice-paper little girl wrist, if I would have been able to handle the certain sting that must go along with this sort of self-infliction, if the flesh-fountain of crimson lifeforce would have further immobilized me…had a classmate not observed the object I held and the strange way in which I stood in that spot, and run to tell an aide posted in the school yard.

In spite of my hesitation that day — which I believe was my first instance of experiencing depression so acute that it brought on those suicidal thoughts — it wasn’t enough to deflect me from ever approaching pseudo-attempts again.

Later, in high school, while my mother was out, I found myself paused by the bathtub, contemplating just exactly how the ruby and the water would mix, how the latter would coax out the former, once I severed the very visible vessels in the undersides of where hand and arm meet.

That is the last memory I had of considering suicide then. Somehow, I had found a way to cope with life, with everything, found a way to heal just enough to not go that dark, to want to live enough to not want to die. That is, until the actual last memory.

The year is foggy but because it happened in the house in which I currently reside and have for a decade this month, it couldn’t have been any earlier than 2004. If it was that year, that would have been two years before I got married, and six before I became a mother — two very beautiful events in my life that I might have missed out on had I given in to the feelings that enveloped me in my mid-twenties, causing me to carefully think out how I would hang myself from the once too-high pole in the closet of our middle bedroom — now my daughter’s room — with one of my belts.

Obviously, again something more powerful than my own miserable misery won out. But not before I plunged deeper into despair, leading to an extremely emotional and tear-filled one-person intervention with my then-boyfriend.

That, I do fervently hope, was truly the last time. I don’t want to feel that way ever again. I don’t want to be that version of myself ever again. To go a solid decade without ever getting so down (not that I haven’t gotten depressed since circa 2004 — that would be an absolute lie) that I’ve managed to not entertain taking myself out of the world is amazing. And I don’t know how I achieved it, but I suspect it hasn’t been on my own, and that it has been a delicate mixture of things, beginning with my rock, my husband.

Out of all the ways that any of us can be put in front of discrimination, there are certain things that don’t care about our gender, our upbringing, our socio-economic status, our age. Depression is certainly one of those.

Even though I have never gone to a doctor specializing in the treatment of depression, I have suffered in my own ways with it. And because this has always been something I try to keep distance from, I have never written in any way about this part of myself in a public manner before this post.

When I was 13, after family counseling had failed me — not because family counseling doesn’t work, but for a whole other reason — I joined a group at the same facility for kids with one or both parents having issues with drug and/or substance abuse problems. My father is an alcoholic. My already-deceased step-father had a drug addiction. (Finally, somewhere I belonged!) I don’t recall everything that I got out of the group teen counseling sessions, but overall it was good for me, and the female counselor was of decent repute.

In spite of that, one message that didn’t sit well with me at the time was basically this: as a child of an alcoholic, your chances of becoming one as well are higher (no idea what the percentage was said to be) than someone whose parents do not have this issue.

I know I had already entered and been plenty ensconced in my rebellious period by then. So, adolescent me thought this was pure bullshit.

Now with 20+ years between teenage me receiving that information and adult me pulling it out of the depths, some of my little bad brushes with alcohol (drunk and naked one night in college, sobbing to my then-boyfriend on the phone about my activities that evening, which did not involve sleeping with anyone, thankfully; fast forward just a few short years back having a sad and angry conversation with myself on Facebook following the consumption of an entire bottle of wine at the dining room table, causing much concern for my husband and very, very small daughter) I’m thinking, it’s probably not at all an untruth.

I’m very convinced that if a person with my certain life fact — alcoholic dad — does not firmly make certain decisions about how to handle adult beverages way ahead of instances when adult beverages might be procured, as well as how they want to live their life, who they want to be concerning all this, the demons all show themselves, all at once. Putting them back into the dark corners where they lurk, dealing with the undiscriminating monster in all of this… I don’t want to know what that is really like.

There is validity in a child of an alcoholic having the probability of becoming one themselves.

It’s been eight days since actor, comedian, husband, father, and human being Robin Williams took his own life. And I still can’t process it, still can’t accept this as true. Even though he struggled at various points in his life with alcohol and depression. Even though it can not be denied that neither of these discriminate. That either of these can and have affected just about anyone.

Initially, I believed that my shock at his passing and the way in which it came about, was my sensitivity, my heart-on-my-sleeve personality allowing me to be the empathetic soul that I am. Upon reflection, upon seeing how this relates to my own life, I know now after mourning this man that I never personally knew that really my shock was at the realization that this battle inside does not end. He was 63. He had had a streak of time where he had been able to keep demons and monsters alike in the hell where they belong. But they escaped somehow again.

At 34, Williams’ death has me gazing hard out into the foggy abyss of my own future, wondering if I have as much a grip on both issues as I have come to believe that I do.

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Namesake

Half of what I say is meaningless
But I say it just to reach you, Julia.

Julia, Julia, oceanchild, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia
Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia.

Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering
In the sun

Julia, Julia, morning moon, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia.

When I cannot sing my heart
I can only speak my mind, Julia.

Julia, sleeping sand, silent cloud, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia.

Hum hum hum hum, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia, Julia, Julia.

“Julia” by The Beatles

The only significant thing that my father ever gave me is also the best thing that my father ever gave me: my name. (“My dad he gave me a name/Then he walked away” ~Father Of Mine by Everclear.) Instead of being the little miss of another female, I am a namesake of a song. That part doesn’t bother me. Sure, it’s a little weird, but also a little cool.

Of course, it took quite a long time for me to have any appreciation for my name at all. In fact, I used to hate it, back when that strong word had too much bearing in my head and heart, and got entirely too much usage vocally, as I threw it around recklessly, the damaged youth that I was…

What did bother me is that in spite of simply siring me but not being a real and constant presence in my life, my father put a permanence on me in being the one to have thought of what to name me. This was a double-fold situation, as I also despised my maiden name (and still do), and even if I had never found real love, (I did, though, thankfully) I might have gotten married just to escape it. I guess I should count my lucky stars I wasn’t born male — would I have had an opportunity to change my surname then? I suppose I would have had it legally changed anyhow. I can only creatively pontificate on what reasons I would have produced for doing so.

In spite of very directly asking my mother the short story behind my name, I never connected to also question directly if she had any girls’ names in mind and what they were. In any case, while pregnant and after finding out that they were having a girl, my mother asked my father about names. He must have been giving it some thought. Although, the surer bet is that she asked him while he was listening to The Beatles, with a possibility that “Julia” was playing from the vinyl recording setup in our dining room.

Julia is one of those names that seems to go through a resurgence every now and again. Plenty of women share my name, a few of them quite well known, whether deceased or living: Julia Child, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles, et cetera. (Then there is a particular fictional Julia, of the film The Wedding Singer, whose creation made high school oh, so much harder to deal with! Thanks for that, writer of said motion picture!)

In the congregation of the last church that I belonged to — not only before heading off to college, but forever since — was a family that looking back I don’t believe I knew very well, but all the same seemed sweet, kind, and loving to each other, as well as to everyone else. My hazy memory swears they were the Timlins. The Timlin family had several children — maybe four — when along came another babe, a girl, whom they named Julia Rose. Rose after her grandmother. Julia after me? Seems arrogant to stand by that as truth, but I think the parents did like my name. Really though, they had probably heard it before, as it seems a good chance that they could have also been Beatles fans at one point or another.

Then there are times that if I threw a stone, I could easily hit another Julia with it. Like last weekend. At our local Wegman’s, our cashier was a Julia. When I pointed this out, it became clear that I cared about it more than she did. Whatever. Was she named after The Beatles track, as well? Probably not. Yes, that is pride you are reading. Because not all Julia’s are Beatles Julia’s.

For any one that doesn’t know, the story behind the song is tragic. John Lennon wrote it about his mother, Julia, who was killed in 1958 after being struck by a car when John was an adolescent. (Wikipedia has what I found to be a very interesting write-up confirming this, which includes further detail about his family. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_(The_Beatles_song). Even so, I find both the song and the reasons it exists very beautiful.

The love he carried to his own grave for his mother — who directly influenced his interest in music with her own —  is apparent when you listen to the track. Heck, I think it’s even quite palpable just reading over the lyrics! But I feel that the tune acquires a haunting quality once you know the inspiration behind its composition.

The Beatles weren’t the only ones to pen a song about some lovely named Julia. I am hyper aware of several because a few years back — when I realized I had stopped despising my name and had transitioned into beginning to like it — I went internet hunting. Two of the best that I had found were “Julia” by The Eurythmics (which still tickles me as I have huge respect and love for Annie Lennox) for the soundtrack to the motion picture 1984, which they did the whole of , and “Julia” by Pavlov’s Dog, a 1970s progressive rock band that, even though I am fairly eclectic at times with my musical tastes, I might not have ever learned of their existence otherwise.

I guess you could say that this is one of those instances where positive has been drawn out of something originating from a bitter place.

can only speak my mind.

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‘BrickFair’ and ‘Incredible’ Both Have Two ‘i’s…

…or BrickFair 2014: Our Second Annual Family Tradition

Virginia is for lovers. Chantilly, VA is for LEGO lovers. The Dulles Expo Center is most certainly. At least, this past weekend it was, as enthusiasts of varying degrees occupied the locale to see and to have seen displayed creations running the gamut from history to pop culture to fantasy to mixed media; wares for sale; and a few cosplay moments, such as the lovely young woman dressed as Wyldstyle from The LEGO Movie.

This was my family’s second year attending – you might remember a similar post from around this time last summer. Jog your memory – or read it for the first time – here. (Also, if you missed last week’s post leading up to the big weekend, it had a similar title to this post.)

Because this was my husband’s first year as an exhibitor with the Baltimore-based LEGO fan group, Charm City LUGS, much more of his time (read: much more of our time) was invested in preparing for BrickFair. He and I spent every conversation, breath, waking moment, slumbering moment living for the event. Officially, as all exhibitors do, he prepared more directly in the expo center for the three days prior to the weekend.

That trio of days before the doors are opened to the public are sacred for pulling the final details together. But because those days are for the exhibitors, I imagine that they also have a bit of fun among themselves.

To say that attending BrickFair is a treat undermines the experience, especially if it is more to you than just something fun to do one weekend each summer. What made our second attendance even more special was the opportunity for my daughter and I to be there for both public days, which wasn’t originally in the plans.

Reading about another person’s experience is never nearly adequate. To properly describe all that the senses take in is a challenge itself as details accumulate faster than they can be accurately recorded in the short-term memory. Factor in personal aspects: opinions, beliefs, et cetera, and already my take on BrickFair can never be a facsimile of yours.

As with all large enclosed spaces filled with people, the volume level shifted throughout the weekend. I had planned to capture this, as well as all other elements on video, but I was so enamored with playing photographer-for-hip-magazine that honestly shooting “live” content went from my thoughts.

If I had remembered, you would have been privy to the Bingo caller and his son announcing the letter-number combos, coffee and snack orders passed along to co-workers via shout, exclamations over the coolness of displays, and children’s joyful screams as they bounded around in the moon bounce and raced LEGO cars of their creation in the Stay & Play area.

You still wouldn’t have been able to smell or taste the delicious sugared nuts or soft and salty pretzels. And you definitely wouldn’t be able to touch anything. But “hands-off” is a general rule at BrickFair anyhow. The only direct tactile experiences happen with Bingo, merchandise, and Stay & Play.

Nevertheless, I believe that images — like body language — are universal. Images often tell a story better than actual words. Art is a prime example. When you look upon a painting, chances are you won’t interpret it exactly as the artist intended, nor will you get from it exactly what your friend standing next to you might. Even so, the painting will speak to you.

In pictures, I can show you the sights, certainly much better than telling you what my eyes saw.

So, without further delay, I present to you in no particular order, the best and largest representation of BrickFair through my eyes, via the power of my camera lens.

054 058 060 070 071 073 075 079 081 082 083 086 087 089 090 091 095 096 103 104 105 106 107 109 111 112 113 115 116 119 121 122 123 124 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 136 137 140 143 147 148 150 151 153 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 165 166 167 170 171 173 174 179 183 187 189 192 194 200 203 206 207 208 209 210 211 214 216 217 218 219 221 223 224 228 230 232 234 235 237 238 239 240 243 244 245 247 248 249 250 251 252 253 254 295 255 257 258 259 262 264 265 266 268 269 270 271 272 273 275 277 278 279 284 285 286 288 289 291 294 334 295 296 297 298 299 301 305 306 307 310 311 312 315 317 318 322 323 324 (2) 326 329 331 332 334 335 (2) 337 (2) 338 (2) 339 340 (2) 340 341 (2) 343 (2) 344 (2) 345 (2) 346 (2) 348 349 350 351 (2) 352 (2) 354 (2) 354 356 (2) 358 (2) 359 361 363 364 366 368 370 371 372 374 376 377 378 379 380 381 384 386 387 388 391 392 395 397 398 400 403 404 405 409 410 412 416 417 419 422 424 425 427 430 432 434 435 437 438 440 441 442 446 447 448 452 454 455 457 461 465 466 467 468 473 474 476 477 478 479 480 481 482 483 484 485 488 491 493 495 498 500 501 503 505 506 509 510 511 512 513 514 516 517 518 521 522 523 525 528 534 540

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‘BrickFair’ and ‘Insanity’ Both Have Two ‘i’s

Insanity is defined as carrying out the same action over and over, with expectation for varying results. No need to cite Merriam Webster. We all know this to be true.

At this moment, I beg to differ with the established meaning. Insanity — to me currently — is the overwhelming craziness that accompanies preparing for a weekend away with your family, all the while still running through your usual to-do list of daily and weekly activities. You know, the list. We all have one. If it were animated in any way, it would laugh demonically at us, while chanting “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft agley.” (Yes, my evil, never ending to-do list is a Robert Burns fan. Just roll with it.) In spite of having the same 24 hours a piece as everyone else, this list sometimes just barely fits into a 7-day stretch on its own.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very much looking forward to our weekend plans — attending BrickFair at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va., where we had a very interesting, albeit fatigued time last summer. As I’ve mentioned previously — maybe starting around this time last year, when we first attended BrickFair — we’re a family that is big on LEGO, which is what BrickFair is all about. (My living room table is half-covered in various bricks and minifigures on a continual basis. As I write this post, it holds as a truth.)

Nevertheless, I see it as a small miracle that this particular post you are reading even exists, as I’ve been so mentally consumed with thinking about BrickFair and assimilating what we’ll need while in Virginia, that I was creatively blocked all last week into the start of this one. This translates to me doing 11th hour writing, so to speak. Yes, created yesterday for today. I don’t like operating this way as it feels unpolished, and I fear it comes across that way. Especially as I couldn’t latch onto an idea or topic that seemed interesting enough. (I hope that I am not being a complete bore with this one!)

Still, I’m grateful that somewhere in that thin transitional line between a.m. and p.m. yesterday I realized that I could share with you that we’ve been readying ourselves for this little trip. After all, it isn’t the first for me to write about my most frequently occurring thoughts.

This year, we’re a little more invested, as my husband is exhibiting with the LEGO group in which he is a member, Charm City LUGS. Participation requires a five-day commitment. I’m not sure how this hits other spouses of BrickFair exhibitors, but I am certainly feeling the full effect of my husband’s involvement. It seems like BrickFair has been our main joint thought for the past few weeks. And because I dread packing for anywhere for any length of time (what if I forget something?), I’ve been mentally hyperventilating.

Oh, right. I have to keep reminding myself. This is going to be a good time. This is something I’m actually looking forward to experiencing again. Once we actually get to our destination. Why am I worrying so much? Because. It is just a natural reaction for me when something that is or feels big comes up. And because I feel like I am meant to worry about it. Supposing that if I don’t allow it to reside somewhere in my thoughts all week long, that somehow I will be neglecting the pending plans in some way, subtracting its importance to us.

Regardless of worries, it will be a blast, in particular for my kiddo, as the new addition this year, a moon bounce, has her more intrigued than she already was, which I didn’t think was even possible. This momma’s opinion is that the new kids’ attraction pairs well with something that was already offered, the Stay & Play area. Filled with LEGO bricks, as well as tables and chairs for ease of building, it is the one spot where the “no touching displays” rule doesn’t exist. Last year while exploring Stay & Play, my little lady and her daddy constructed a race car, then joined other kids and their parents in spontaneous match-ups via a brightly painted wooden ramp, placed there for that purpose.

Personally, I am strongly anticipating the Steampunk displays, which were really cool last year. But then, I found the overall event, the energy, the time, the thought, the creativity, and the apparent effort to be nothing short of impressive. To say that I spent that afternoon in awe would be falling a little short. Just as that very description probably won’t near the mark this go either.

While we are visiting that general section of Virginia, we will be doing other fun family activities apart from BrickFair, such as checking out the Reston Zoo. My daughter is as equally enthused for this, as she is for BrickFair. Really though, she’s stoked just about having a reason to stay in a hotel room. (I’m not sure why, but I also enjoy temporary hotel living.)

So, dear readers, we have a rare situation: I know what I will be writing about for next Tuesday’s post. BrickFair, obviously. I’ll include tons of photos, as I had last year, and possibly some video footage, if I end up lucky in that area.

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The Night We Helped A Very Tiny Caterpillar

Last Tuesday evening, I sat in my basement in the space that I lovingly call my “art studio,” under the effects of a zen-like state from crafting a birthday card. Simultaneously, I listened to my daughter and husband exchange joyful exclamations — a result of the video game that they were playing together — while a surprise visitor crept among our family of three, silently and softly shimmying along the carpet.

It’s ironic that in spite of not having the best or strongest eye sight, when I pivoted backward to put away some materials I spotted some small movement on the carpet. I crouched down, squinting at it, doubtful of what I initially thought that I was seeing. Confirmation! — it was a baby caterpillar, or rather, one so small that it appeared to be infantile.

This isn't the greatest shot, I know, but here is our little visitor.

This isn’t the greatest shot, I know, but here is our little visitor.

 

I observed it for a moment, fully aware of the smile that spread across my face — slow and warm, like butter — from the enjoyment of its presence. Simultaneously,  I wondered how it got into the house. Did it hitch a ride on my husband’s shoe as he entered from work a few hours before? A short span of time for us…but surely a seemingly longer duration for this mini larva. Where was it previous to that 8 o’clock hour that I was just noticing its existence?

I didn’t want to disturb it, but I also couldn’t leave it to scuttle along the length and breadth of our house, with no food source or natural habitat.

“He built a small house around himself, called a cocoon. He stayed inside for more than two weeks.” Except I knew — without having much knowledge on the life of a larva, really — that he couldn’t stay inside our small house for 24 hours, let alone 14 days.

At that moment, my daughter and husband entered the space, as it was her bedtime, and she was headed to implement her nightly routine. I already had myself positioned so that the caterpillar would not get squashed. Motioning with my arm extended back to slow their approach, I stage whispered “We have a guest,” while pointing to its little wiggling form on the floor.

“Awww, how cute!” my daughter exclaimed. The three of us watched this very tiny caterpillar until I broke our reverie by verbalizing my wonder, which was quick becoming concern — “Maybe we should help it get back outside. It might die in our house.” My spouse agreed that providing a friendly escort would be a good idea, especially as it wouldn’t be able to find food within the well-meaning, but stifling confines of our four walls.

He suggested a small, but sturdy box. How kismet that earlier that day I discarded into the recycling bin something exactly fitting from a makeup item. I retrieved it — a tiny, black Avon box — from the bin, and with all my gentleness, coaxed the caterpillar onto the ebony cardboard, explaining to my daughter that their little feet stick to things, which would help me to help our new friend.

Then the three of us walked gingerly up the basement steps — me with the Avon packaging-turned-larva taxi in my grasp — to the front door, opening it into the moist, dark end of the day. I settled the tiny caterpillar as softly as I could onto our welcome mat. “Bye!” the three of us said together, a slightly sad tone to our voices, as we had to part from our friend no sooner after making its acquaintance.

“And after that he felt much better.” At least, I hope it did, as it would have only met illness in our residence.

My memory of this particular evening will always be about this sweet act we did for another living thing, but also, I love the fact that it was even about more than that. In tandem, in giving the caterpillar back its freedom, we set a certain example for our daughter. My hope is that my husband and I are molding her into a person who will always take the time to set something on its way, as opposed to showing disregard by squashing underfoot or simply ignoring.

“He was a beautiful butterfly.” I’m still thinking about him, or her, hoping that s/he is indeed either preparing to spread some dazzlingly beautiful wings sometime soon, or already experiencing the joy of flight and life as a butterfly.

 

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