Posted in Family, Quirks and Other Weirdness, Starting Over, Uncategorized

Do the Opposite

Today’s life advice:  ALWAYS MAKE THE HARD CHOICE.

About everything.

Remember the episode of Seinfeld, where George decides his life sucks because he always makes bad decisions?  

George CostanzaGeorge: It’s not working, Jerry. It’s just not working.

Jerry: What is it that isn’t working?

George: Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable, I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but … I was perceptive. I always know when someone’s uncomfortable at a party. It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat … It’s all been wrong.

Waitress: Tuna on toast, coleslaw, cup of coffee.

George: Yeah. No, no, no, wait a minute, I always have tuna on toast. Nothing’s ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of tuna on toast! Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted, with a side of potato salad … and a cup of tea!

Elaine: Well, there’s no telling what can happen from this.

Jerry: You know chicken salad is not the opposite of tuna, salmon is the opposite of tuna, ’cause salmon swim against the current, and the tuna swim with it.

Yeah, this is kinda what I’m talking about, only without the coleslaw.

If you don’t want to do it because it’s too hard, that’s exactly what you need to do.  
~ Cook or grab take-out?  Cook.
~ Walk away from the new jeans or buy them on credit?  Walk away.
~ Watch tv or work out?  Work out.
~ Study for an A or wing it for a B?  Study.
~ Coke or water?  Water.
~ Be comfortably introverted or introduce yourself? Come on, make a friend.
~Accept what’s in front of you, or wait for what you know is right?  Wait.
  For heaven’s sake, wait.

I’d love to tell you that’s what I always do, but OBVIOUSLY it’s not.  MUCH TOO OFTEN I take the easy road, sometimes out of laziness, sometimes out of impatience, sometimes out of thinking it won’t matter in the long run.   I can tell you from more years of experience than I care to admit, those are the decisions I have regretted.  But the times I have been intentional… the times I have been disciplined… the times I have thought through the consequences… THOSE are the times I can look back on and see the results and feel good about life.

Do the opposite of what your lazy self wants to do.  Sure, it’s difficult, hence the words “HARD choice”.  But today you’ll have taught yourself a little discipline and tomorrow you will like yourself a little better if you just keep at it.  

bed unmade.jpgExcept, of course, when it comes to making your bed.  (Even though my mom required it be done every day growing up.)  I just don’t get it. Nobody is going to see it except me.  Like Jim Gaffigan said, “It doesn’t make sense.  It’s like tying your shoes AFTER you take them off.”  So even though I won’t likely MAKE the bed today, it’s Monday, which means I WILL wash the sheets today.  

Even though I don’t wanna.

 

Posted in Just Funny, Parenting, Starting Over

the name game

At the age of 46, I became a grandmother. I don’t know how it happened.

I mean, I’m not stupid.  I know HOW it happened, I just don’t know WHAT happened.     To my life, that is. Where’d it go so fast?

The worst part of the grandmother gig was The Name Change.

See, I like my name: Stephanie. Steph to those who are close. I like my identity: Mom. Mommy, even still on occasion, to both my grown children. I’m a natural at the mom thing. It fits me. But this “G” word thing…ohhhhh, not so much. It SOUNDS old. It FEELS old. And I have to live with this stupid grandmother name for the rest of my natural-born life (which may be spent in the state pen for strangling my son with his own tongue if he refers to me as “MeeMahw” one more time.)

I am so not kidding.

As far as I’m concerned, if you insist on calling me any variation of the “G” word, just go ahead and put me in an Alfred Dunner blouse, pull my hair back in a bun, and plant me in a pine box. That’s all she wrote. It’s over and done. The fat lady has sung.

I needed a cool, or at least creative, name.

Not TOO creative, mind you. I’ve run across my fair share of monikers like Granny Grunt, Big Momma, Gunkie, Cookie, Cherry, Sweetums, Cracker, Chicken Nana and Butter Butt. Seriously?!

So I embarked on a 6-month quest to ascertain an alias. As Thomas Edison might have said, “I did not fail. I just found 10,000 names that wouldn’t work.” At least not for me.

Right off the bat, I eliminated the names already in use in my family: Nana, Granny, Grandmama, MaMa, etc.

I also ruled out Grand-MaMa as I don’t have the appropriate jewels to be a Dowager Countess.

MaMaw, MeMaw and GeeMaw all sound too much like HeeHaw. YeeHaw.

Gams – not exactly well-suited for a gal with tree trunk legs.

I thought there might be potential within the international community:
Ya-Ya (Greek) – but I’m not a Sisterhood, nor do I have any Divine Secrets. 

Lola (Philippino) – she was a showgirl, you know, with yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to THERE. But I don’t Merengue or do the ChaCha.

And then there was the Yiddish Bube.  Boobie?

Speaking of boobies (Did I REALLY just use the word “boobies” in my blog?), the cowboy thought I should be ChiChi, which is a Spanish euphemism for breasts. Frankly, I always have cleavage issues, even in a turtleneck, so my g-mother name shouldn’t further the focus.

DeeDee can be a grandmother name, but double D’s brought us back to the boobie thing, so no. 

MPViaI kinda liked the concept of Diva or Goddess, but there’s no way my kids would have EVER let me get away with those. At least not without an ironic tiara.

One of the kids at church always greeted me with “Hello, Gorgeous!” I kinda liked THAT.

And “Hot Granny” was offered as a choice, but who are we kidding here? That is the ultimate oxymoron. If you don’t believe me, google at your own risk.  

Frankly, I just like “Stephie“. It’s what my niece and nephew have always called me, but I was told that using my real name would sound disrespectful out of the mouths of babes.  Ugh. The quest continued.  

As Kacey and I were driving around discussing my dilemma, she said my new name should be cute and cool, but be something that’s NOT my real name.

Fine.

After analyzing all the data, I decided on the perfect grandmother name. It’s cute and cool and NOT my real name…

Veronica.

Posted in Starting Over

50 shades of concrete

It began as a convenience store – a Minit Mart or 7-Eleven maybe… I forget, but you know the building I’m talking about. For several years they were successful selling gas, cigarettes and Big Swigs before they moved closer to the interstate and abandoned this structure.  After a while, a talented burger-flipper thought he could turn the empty building into a lucrative greasy spoon, but he was wrong. The concrete blocks were soon vacant again.  More time passed and an up-and-coming chiropractor painted the exterior a dark shade of gray (“Rain Dance” to be specific), put a couple of topiaries by the front entrance, and opened up her practice.  Eventually, however, she upgraded, leaving the building abandoned once more. For exactly 73 days, a local dude transformed it into a pool hall.  A few months after the pool hall endeavor, the left side opened as a Tanning Salon, while the right side converted to the Second Church of Holiness Prayer Center.  Kind of a “Body & Soul” joint venture, you might say. Eventually a hippie chick came along, painted aliens and spaceships on the ceiling-to-ground window and attempted a consignment store she called “Clothes Encounters of the Second-Hand Kind”, which again turned out to be a mistake, as almost all thrift stores are. It seems like, one summer, the place might have even been a burrito joint.  Who can remember, really? The point is, in-between each ending and the subsequent beginning, the building sat empty and abandoned, looking increasingly world-weary, waiting to either collapse or find its niche.

At this point in the blog, my brain has wandered into some sort of middle-aged commencement speech, and I am thinking how much this Building of Perpetual Beginnings and Endings represents my life, each business undertaking a different phase of life – some successful, some not so much. Always doing my part to be accommodating, generous, 50 shades of concrete (2)compliant.  Always doing my part to suit the needs of whatever came next. Each in-between phase leaving me hollow and lonely, looking for occupation and purpose.  Waiting for things to happen. Hoping for things to work out. Waiting. Hoping. Waiting and hoping.

Wait a minute….WHAT???

DID I JUST COMPARE MYSELF TO A CONCRETE BLOCK BUILDING????  Well…that DOES appear to be the metaphor I was going for 23 minutes ago, but now there’s this alarm going off inside my head. And not one of those twinkle-ding-dong alarms that awakens you gently to a dewy sunrise. This is one of those “TAKE COVER, SHE’S GONNA BLOW!” Emergency Alert System Warnings. Exactly when did this disaster occur??? How did I get here??? When did I decide to allow people to walk all over me, take from me and not give in return, use me as a pawn in their self-esteem games?  When did I become the passive voice in my own story?

50 shadesDarn it, I am SO not as mundane or prosaic as a lifeless rectangle of concrete blocks.  (A colorful Duplo castle, possibly. A mosaic tile window, maybe.)  A gray concrete block convenience store?  Not on your life.

At least, not anymore.

At some point I started settling for less than “me”. Somewhere along the line I allowed generous, helpful, patient and funny to morph into subservient, conforming, peacekeeping and sarcastic.  I became someone who waits and wishes instead of someone who imagines and creates. I allowed myself to become a martyr and a victim. I can’t even put my finger on when this spiral started, but I can certainly pinpoint exactly when I knew I couldn’t survive in Kansas anymore.  And while the ending of “what was” has been devastating, and this new beginning is more than a little terrifying (think “Twister” where Helen Hunt watches her life torn apart by an F4), the reality is there is a fresh start emerging from the aftermath, and – with a great sigh of relief –  it is all mine.

I’m no longer passively wishing and hoping for change…the storms of the last few years have left the concrete building in ruins, and what few gray blocks were left standing I kicked over into the pile of rubble with my own two feet.  This next adventure is my own. I don’t know how long it will last, but I hope the whole time.

 

The End

or rather … The Beginning

Posted in Starting Over

Someday…

I am a writer.

You cannot imagine how it feels to say those words.

My daughter rolled her eyes at me yesterday when I said I had “been working”.  Pretty sure her thought process was, “It’s not really ‘work’ if nobody is paying you, Mom”.  But I spent 18 years working for her and SHE never paid me, so I’d have to disagree.

I am a writer.

alex morgan1And I’ve been waiting my whole life to claim it.

Admittedly, there is this looming fear of claiming to be something no one else is validating. I mean, I can kick a dryer ball across the bathroom floor and call myself Alex Morgan, but that doesn’t really make me a forward on the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, does it?

tiaraAnd I can wear my tiara and call myself a Pretty Pretty Princess, but unless somebody outside my realm of influence holds a coronation ceremony for me, my regality is seriously in question.

So if I type a few paragraphs and call myself a writer, won’t you people just call me a fraud?

I don’t care. I’ve been called worse.

I am a writer.

I don’t care if you read what I write. I don’t care if get published.  I don’t care if I go broke in the process.  Well, I care a little.  I do like to eat.  And buy sparkly things. But truly, not as much as I like to write. NEED to write. Somewhere amidst the busyness of being a responsible adult, that need got buried like a Cheerio in the couch cushions. But after several long years that lone little Cheerio was pulled out of the darkness and thrown onto the compost pile…and it was in that decaying pile it found enough sunlight to germinate.  (Yes, I realize Cheerios can’t sprout. It’s a metaphor. Stay with me.)

So now I find myself with this freedom to put myself out there…and this fear that when I do, you’ll judge me.  Or decide you don’t like me.  Or, as has happened on the most destructive level, decide I’m not worth the trouble.

space-mountain-disney-magic-kingdomWriting, in a weird way, is like riding Space Mountain. I’ve been waiting a long time to get on this ride. And now I’m strapped in.  Completely in the dark. I can’t see what’s beside me or above me or under me. I have no idea where I’m going and it makes my head hurt. Sometimes climbing and sometimes falling. I feel scared and exhilarated and liberated and very vulnerable. All I can see is what’s right in front of my face, but that’s enough for now.

2015-07-05-14-28-05-001I haven’t been this happy since I was a 17-year-old declaring “someday I’m going to be a writer.”

For most people, “what they do” is not “who they are”, but for me, I have planted a flag in the ground and staked a claim on my identity.

I am a writer. 

Posted in Parenting, Starting Over

what if?

We exist in a realm of “what ifs”.  From the abstract to the concrete, we allow our minds to wander into the unknown:  What if I’d turned left back at the light? (Maybe I wouldn’t be stuck in traffic now.) What if I had chosen a different career path? (Maybe I wouldn’t be in debt now.)  What if I had been born into a different family? (Maybe I would be smarter/more self-assured/TAN.) What if I hadn’t been afraid and just gone after what I really wanted? (Maybe I would be happy.)  What if, what if, what if?

oh wellTwenty years later, a series of “what ifs” still haunt me. What if we had put the yard sale off another weekend? (Maybe she wouldn’t have died.)  What if she hadn’t stayed to help me clean up? (Maybe she wouldn’t have died.) What if she hadn’t come back for the ice cream? (Maybe she wouldn’t have died.) What if we hadn’t stayed up so late the night before? (Maybe she wouldn’t have died.)  What if, what if, what if?

Today, I’d love to tell you about my sister’s sweet, gentle, quiet spirit… but since she didn’t have one, I will tell you she was moody and argumentative and rebellious and jealous. She was a “kick butt and take names” kinda gal. And she was passionate and energetic and fun and determined and beautiful and strong-willed and, yes, naturally tall, thin and blonde. Ugh. She wasn’t one to sit and wait.  If she wanted to do something, she did.  Or at the very least, she tried. And above all else, she loved fiercely.

what if“What if” my sister hadn’t died in that crash twenty years ago today?  Who knows.  Life would be different for my entire family.  Much better, no question.  I could write an essay about her passion, or share an unending stream of memories, or bring you to tears with my feelings about the hole her absence has left in our lives, but truth is, you’re only politely interested. And that’s okay.  She was, after all, MY sister, not yours. We all have our own losses and stories and empty places, and it’s enough that we can empathize and rejoice and grieve with each other.

I miss her.  Every stinkin’ day, I miss her.  I miss her fire. I miss her heart for kids. I miss singing with her. I miss all the things I would have learned from her as we transitioned from “big sister & little sister” into “friends & equals”.

What I think I’ve finally been able to take from her life is the ability to mesh rebellion and determination into something worthwhile. What I have learned is:  You cannot live your life asking “what if” retroactively.  Well, you CAN, but nothing productive comes from it.  Sure, maybe you SHOULD have.  Maybe you COULD have. But second-guessing your past will settle you into an unending funk of regret and sadness.  This I understand all too well.

So I’m taking all of those past-tense “what ifs” and replacing them with present-tense ones.  “What if” I stop complaining?  “What if” I stop procrastinating?  “What if” I stop waiting and start doing?  “What if” I stop making excuses and be who I was meant to be?

“If only” I had learned this sooner.

Posted in Starting Over

people watching

Seventy-five yards from my current writing spot, a young woman scouts a place to rest.  Her left forearm is lugging an oversized bag (I’m almost certain it’s the $25 Bubble Bloom tote from “Thirty-One”. You know, the one with enough space to park a Prius.) bubble bloom (2)This makeshift purse / diaper bag / picnic basket is overflowing with the accoutrement required for a Baby’s Day Out.  A squirmy 7-month-old is occupying her right hip. She trudges forward on the walking path, occasionally doing a little hip bump to keep baby from sliding to the ground.  And even though she is donning the obligatory khaki capris and Old Navy summer tee required by her maternal status, she is not carrying herself like a young, happy mommy out for a stroll.

She seems very alone. Her shoulder-length dark blonde hair is unkempt, and she looks drained and wistful as she chooses a grassy spot in the sun, speckled with enough shade to settle her daughter safely without sunscreen. She unfurls a blanket, tosses out a few toys, and appeases the little one with a fruit bar before she collapses onto a nearby picnic table, completely unaware of her surroundings. Or maybe she is aware, but just doesn’t care.

Until she came along, I was thoroughly satisfied with the details of the day – the 72° cloudless sky, the panorama of the slowly-rippling lake, the actue greenness of the surrounding trees, the permeating scent of honeysuckle, Norah Jones in my ear, and a lovely salted caramel dark chocolate bar in my bag, waiting to fulfill its purpose in life.  This is the most content I have felt in months – maybe years – when I’m moved to melancholy for this stranger.  We are here, mere feet from one another, living the same moment in the same space with the same grass under our feet…and yet we are at opposite ends of the same spectrum.

I can’t help but wonder about her story. Is she usually distant and detached? Is she dealing with extended postpartum depression?  Does she still live with her parents and felt the urgency to have her own space for the day?  Has she been abandoned at a nearby 2-star motel while her husband is out fishing on “their” vacation?  Has she loved someone fiercely, only to find herself disposable? Does she feel so buried under responsibility she can’t uncover the joy of her newly-crawling daughter? I keep inventing fictional scenarios, but I can’t seem to compose a single story line that makes me feel happy for her.

She’s a Rorschach inkblot and all I can see is a black spider.

rorschach inkblot (2)Many days I’ve found myself in her Skechers. Days when I couldn’t find enough hope to laugh. Or fight. Or care. Thank God I’ve moved on from those days.  And another day I might have been compelled to approach this woman, but for some reason, today is not another day. Tomorrow is another day.  At least that’s what Scarlett says. Today is this young mom’s day to be introspective, to experience the sorrow, to learn more of who she needs to be, and ultimately, I pray, to find her smile.

Posted in Hippy-Dippy Stuff, Quirks and Other Weirdness, Starting Over

the eyes have it

So…over the course of a single weekend I became legally blind in my right eye.  The toddler and I were playing and being silly, and generally having fun jumping off tables and running with scissors when the fused fontanelle of Charlotte’s cute little cranium crashed into my delicate ocular socket. It was like the infamous iceberg against the hull of the TItanic (which shattered on impact, much like the lens in my eye).  Tears of laughter and excruciating pain ensued.  Mostly the pain thing, though.

tombstone (2)After the collision, I excused myself for the evening with an “I just need to lie down” song and dance.  Then I kept singing and dancing the same routine for several days. “I’ll be fine tomorrow. It will go away soon. It’s merely a flesh wound.”  That’s just how I roll.

I always assume the _______________  (fill in the blank)

  • chronic migraines
  • dirty kitchen
  • broken heart
  • embarrassing gossip
  • North Atlantic iceberg

will just magically go away if I ignore it.

 It almost never does.

 The Titanic took 2 hours and 40 minutes to go down.  Took me several stubborn days.  By the time I signaled SOS and had someone drive me to the optometrist’s office, I could no longer see the enormous at the top of the eye chart.

 Okay, so I could no longer even see the eye chart.

 I was, in the words of Dr. M., “hours away from permanent blindness” in that eye. SCARED ME HALF TO DEATH.  Apparently patience is not always a virtue. Sometimes it’s downright stupid. Next time I will signal for help before the situation becomes critical, as I have no desire to be scared half to death… twice.

Nine ophthalmology appointments, two surgeries, one pirate patch, seven prescriptions, three mascara-less weeks, and a few thousand dollars later and I’m incredibly grateful I don’t have to “see your face” with my hands. Especially those of you with oily T-zones.

So here’s what Aesop and I have learned from this adventure:

  1. Icebergs and toddlers are never as harmless as they appear.
  2. Going down with the ship is pointless when there are plenty of empty seats in the optometrist’s waiting room.
  3. Mom was right, if you have too much fun, somebody’s going to put an eye out.