Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Death and the Squealy Fangirl

This has been a rough year for me.

People I know have died.

People I love have died.

People my age have died.

It has taken a toll.

It has been, what Alexander might call, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

Real people - people in my life.  Real tragedy.

And yet...

And yet...

And yet, when I heard that Davy Jones had died - well, ok, I didn't cry.  But I was genuinely sad.

I've often wondered why we do this - actively mourn our heroes and idols - people we've never met.

Facebook sort of answered that for me today.

It's the shared experience.

I never met Davy Jones.

To the best of my knowledge, neither have any of my friends.


Within a half hour of his death being announced my Facebook wall was alive with videos and remembrances and wishes.  People of various ages (although not too various - mostly mid 30's to mid 50's - but that's still a little span) all feeling the same loss.

I turned on the radio instead of a CD when I got into the car, hoping to hear some Monkees.  I was not disappointed.

It's not like losing someone real.

It's nothing like that.

It doesn't compare to it in any way.

But it is definitely a shared moment.

Where were you when John Lennon died?  (I bet you didn't have to think about that too long...)

I can't remember not loving Davy Jones.  Oh, sure, that love ebbed and waned.  There were years, decades, even, when I sort of forgot all about him.  But then he'd show up in the mass consciousness again and I'd say, "Oh, I love him."  Not squealing like a fangirl - just a matter of fact.  You too?  I'm not surprised.  He never bit the hand that fed him by denying his teen idol bubblegum roots - he embraced it.  He was in on it.  I adore him for that.

He was the cute Monkee.  The safest one for a little girl, new to crushes, to dream about.  I went through  stages of my life when I crushed on each Monkee for situationally appropriate reasons - Davy was cute and huggable, Mike was smart and dry, Peter was goofy and sweet (and I always had a feeling that there was more to him under that shallow exterior), and Micky was funny and sharp.

Of course that was all very calculated.

But you know what?

It doesn't matter.

They shouldn't have flown flags at half-mast for Whitney Houston.  They shouldn't do it for Davy either.  But I don't see anything wrong with clogging up the airwaves with a little bubblegum for the next day or two.

RIP, you sweet, sweet daydream believer.

Nothin' Ain't Worth Nothin' But it's Free

I'm as free as a bird now - and this bird you cannot chain. 
~ Lynyrd Skynyrd

I'm free to do what I want, any old time. 
~The Soup Dragons

I'm free!  I'm free!  And freedom tastes of reality. 
~ The Who

I could go on.

Really, ask anyone.

But playing the themed lyric game isn't really what I wanted to do today.

I wanted to talk about freedom.

The other day, in response to something that was posted on Pinterest, someone commented:  I'm all for freedom of speech, as long as it doesn't offend anybody.

I don't think this commenter had a particularly good grasp on the concept of freedom of speech.

Her objection was that someone had posted something that used the f word on Pinterest and she was concerned about the children.  (I don't know that Pinterest holds a whole lot of appeal for the children, but I guess I don't have my finger on the pulse of the wee ones anymore.)

At any rate.

Freedom of speech was exercised and objected to.

I generally fall into the if you don't like it, don't watch/listen to/read/look at it camp.  If you don't want your kids to watch/listen to/read/ or look at it, don't let them.  It's pretty easy.

I recall a time that doesn't seem like all that long ago when our Lea was a baby.  Tom came home from work one day to find her playing with the flimsy cardboard tube from a roll of wrapping paper.  He was angry at me - how could I let her play with that?  He was sure that I had provided her with the means by which to put her eye out.  He was demonstrating first time parent paranoia in a spectacular way - but I respected it and didn't let her play with paper tubes after that.

Don't let the heart shaped basket fool you.  These things are pure evil.

In an effort to keep things fair and balanced, I would be remiss if I didn't give my own parental paranoia equal time.

I asked him not to watch Star Trek until she was in bed because I thought she might find Klingons and other aliens too scary.

Also scary?  What appear to be futuristic Shake Weights.

I'm sharing those two anecdotes for a reason.

They're both silly arguments, of course, from a parenting perspective, but they underline a couple points
  • We respected each other's rules - even when we thought they were silly.
  • We didn't try to impose our silly rules on the world.
Tom didn't start a campaign to eliminate cardboard tubes from wrapping paper, paper towels and toilet paper and I didn't try to get Star Trek taken off the air.  We just kept those things away from our baby, because for whatever misguided reasons, we had decided that they were not good for her.  We did not try to impose our self-inflicted rules on anyone else or on society in general.  Our house - our rules.  

It didn't matter that they made very little sense in the grand scheme of things.

For anyone who might be concerned - she has since developed a healthy appreciation of Star Trek.  Not the obsession level appreciation enjoyed by her father and her sister - but she doesn't seem to have suffered any psychological harm from being deprived of it in her formative years.  She is also able to function in a world of wrapping paper, paper towels and toilet paper.

No harm, no foul.


Set rules and standards for yourself.

Set rules and standards for your kids.

But for Pete's sake - don't impose those rules and standards on everyone else.

And just because it's a free world and I can?

Smiley Face

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Such Beautiful Hair

As I walked through the lobby, I noticed an older gentleman perched on the arm of a chair.  I probably would have walked right past without even registering his presence if it hadn't been for his beautiful snow white hair.  My dad had hair like that.  I literally shook my head, trying to dislodge the notion.  Nothing to be gained by boarding that particular thought train.

A woman walked behind him - she appeared to be around my age.  She stroked his back casually, then tousled his hair as she passed.  My innards clenched into a painful knot.  I wanted to pass behind my dad and touch his back or his hair.  He had such beautiful hair.  Not a huge hug - just a tiny touch.  A passing touch.  Nothing.  Everything.  I missed him so much in that moment that I wasn't sure if I could remember how to walk - how to breathe.

But I breathed.

And I walked.

And I functioned.  My day went on.  Life went on.  I thought about other things.  I pushed the man in the lobby to the back of my mind.

Later, though, alone in my room, I allowed my thoughts to wander back to him.  Not the man in the lobby - the man he conjured up for me.  My dad.

He wasn't  terribly demonstrative with his affections - not physically, at least.  As an adult - I could count on a hug hello and goodbye when I visited with him and not much more.  It didn't matter.  It was who he was.

When he was sick, though - when he had his stroke - I think I touched him more then than I did in my entire adult life combined.  I held his hand and he allowed it - encouraged it, even.  I stroked his hair - something I'd always wanted to do but rarely if ever did because I thought it would have made him uncomfortable.  He offered no protest.  Perhaps it was disrespectful to treat him in sickness in a way that I never would have presumed to in health.  Maybe he knew there would be no more chances.  Maybe... maybe...

I was glad the woman in the lobby had touched that man's hair.  I projected father/daughter roles onto them.  It was a hotel lobby in DC - I could have been wrong - but I like to think I'm right.  

I wish I'd tousled my dad's hair more  - just in passing.  Maybe he wouldn't have minded.

I'm going to go touch my husband's hair now.  He has such beautiful hair.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Holiday Confession

This is how I feel.  This is the attitude I give to the public, certainly.  Valentine's Day - bah! - a holiday that exists solely to sell cards and flowers (for starters).  A holiday that reminds single people that they're single - a fact they are usually pretty good at remembering on their own - right in the middle of the coldest, grayest month of the year.  A holiday that provides a competitive atmosphere for those who ARE in relationships - clearly she who gets the biggest bouquet/sparkliest jewels/priciest dinner out - wins.  The existence of Steak and a BJ Day one month later underlines the whorier aspects of it - the man who buys dinner/flowers/jewelry/cards gets sexual favors.  Nice.


That's how I feel about it.

Just ask me.


This is closer to how I really feel.  I want to be surrounded by hearts and flowers and teddy bears and puppies hugging each other and more pink and red than the average set of eyes can handle.

Ok, that's not entirely true.

Puppy hugs are totally optional.


The truth is - I really like the concept of holidays - little celebrations to break up the routine.  I like the idea of decorating around a theme.  I like special foods and recipes that are only trotted out once a year.

A couple things stand between me and all-out holiday observations.  First, my handsome husband agrees with everything I wrote in that first paragraph.  (Except the part about Steak and  BJ Day being whorish.  He thinks that it should be a meaningful, stand-alone, nationally recognized holiday.)  Second - and this one is far more significant than any objections from my husband - it costs money to redecorate and prepare special food and provide little treats every couple weeks.

I tried - for a while - when I was young and there was still life in my eyes.  Eventually, though, the ridiculousness of spending more than I had to make things festive for a family who didn't really care about it one way or the other began to sink in.  So the cynicism expressed in the first paragraph?  It is real.  But it was learned.

One Valentine's Day - some fifteen years ago - I went all out.  The house was decorated.  Gifts were bought for Tom and Lea - Liv wasn't born yet.  I made elaborate Valentines for the grandparents and aunts with Lea (I made cupid wings for her and a floral wreath for her hair, then took pics and embellished them with hand crocheted lace as well as assorted beads and bobbles.  They were a labor of love -and with all the people we made them for - not a quick one.) She and I did Valentine's Day projects for weeks in advance.  We were expecting company that weekend, so I had a three day cookie baking project filling up all of my kitchen counters - I baked the cookies one day, glazed them the next, and piped borders and the names of everyone who was supposed to visit us that weekend on them the third.  When the frosting was dry, I put each cookie in a cellophane bag and tied it off with a pretty ribbon - then I put all of the cookies in a basket and put it on the table as a centerpiece.  I had really worked myself up into a pretty intense state of anticipation.

And then it snowed.


And one by one, everyone who was supposed to come by over the weekend cancelled.

"No big deal," I said, "another time."

And then I spent the weekend eating those cookies with Lea.  They tasted like sadness and disappointment and loneliness.  And also butter and powdered sugar.  I probably wouldn't have eaten quite as many of them if all they had going for them was sadness and disappointment and loneliness.


I never found a way in my heart to try to make a big deal of it again.

Although I did help my kids make homemade Valentines to take to school as long as Valentines were expected.

 I didn't allow myself to become a COMPLETE heart humbug.


I hope you have a happy Valentine's Day.

My family and I?

I hope we just manage to have a happy Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Girl in the Van Halen T-Shirt

Heading into Valentine's Day - seems like a good time to write about loves gone wrong.  With the new Van Halen release out there and all of the hubbub surrounding it (in certain circles, anyway), this story bobbed up to the surface.

We were heading for the nineties, living in the eighties. (if you want to pick nits, it was already the early 90's.  But the transition from decade to decade is sometimes fuzzy - and I hated to miss the opportunity to reference The Escape Club)

I was teaching job/life skills to high school students with disabilities by day and finishing up my Master's degree by night.  I supplemented my meager income - why is it that the jobs where I felt I was doing the most good were always the jobs where I received the least compensation? - by working in a pizza shop.  Keeping busy helped me to pay less attention to the fact that I was almost 30, living in a dump, and lonely as hell.

It was in that pizza shop that I met him.  He was excessively cute.  His best friend was the brother of one of my co-workers and he was part of a group that hung out in the shop a lot.  He was 24 to my 29 - an age difference which his mother - among other people - found to be scandalous.  When I met him, he was dating a girl who was 19.  Ten years younger than me, but only 5 years younger than him.  Funny - no-one found THAT age difference to be scandalous in the least.  She was cute and young and perky - all of the things I was desperately trying to hang on to, but slowly losing.  She was also as dumb as a box of hair - but because she was indeed cute and young and perky, people tended not to notice that right away.

One night after work, a bunch of us decided to head to a local watering hole for a beer or seven.  Most of them were dressed casually cute. I was wearing a Van Halen T-shirt, converse high tops and a bandana.  It was how I dressed for work.  Making pizzas is messy and I wore clothes that were just this side of the rag bin so that I wouldn't ruin anything I really liked.  I would've changed if we had been going into the city - but since we were staying close to home I really didn't care.

He cozied up to me.

Well THIS was an interesting turn of events.

"Where's your girlfriend tonight?" I yelled, over the jukebox and the quickly escalating voices of the local drinkers.

"I had to break things off.  She's nice and all - but it's hard to date someone who isn't old enough to go to a bar."

Yikes.  I hadn't even THOUGHT of it THAT way before.

"I bet." I said, as I bought the next round - a subtle reminder that *I* was, indeed, old enough to go to a bar.

He drove me home that night and we danced in my apartment.  I won't tell you what song was playing because it was schmaltzy and gross and completely not something I would listen to - even then - and I don't want you thinking of the stupid song and missing the point of how sweetly romantic it was that he was slow dancing with me in my apartment.

In what little free time I had, given the school/two jobs thing, we became inseparable.

I was happy.

I was nearing graduation, I had a boyfriend who was cute and smart, I was living on the outskirts of the greatest city in the world - life was good.  As it so often happens, once I started feeling better, I started dressing better. I still wore the same sort of things to work, but I would change if we were going out - even locally.  It was all connected - feeling better, looking better - it's a reciprocal relationship.

When he started pulling away from me, I didn't understand it.  What had gone wrong?

Of course I asked.

He said - over his shoulder as he walked away - "I miss the girl in the Van Halen T-shirt."

I didn't miss her.  She was sad.  I missed him, though.  For a while.

But that's the beauty of hindsight.

If he hadn't walked out that door - missing a sadder version of me - I would have never ended up where I am now.

So I suppose I should thank him.

For briefly making me feel special, for dancing with me in my apartment, and - most importantly -  for walking away so that I could move on to better things - the things that were meant for me.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pull Yourself Together

"You look very pretty today", said the cashier at the craft store.  I turned around to see who she was talking to.  She laughed as though I was being coy.  "Wow, I'm serious.  You just have that pulled together look that I can never seem to manage myself."  It was my turn to laugh, but I didn't.  I thanked her sincerely for her compliment and left the store, walking a little bit taller than I had been when I'd walked in and grabbed a buggy - not because I had so much to buy, but because I needed something to lean on just to keep myself upright.  

Before you ask, no, I hadn't stopped at Sonic on the way to the store and fortified a limeade from a little hip flask, but the thought had crossed my mind.

I was just having a hard time holding my molecules together.

I left  the house on a quest.  I had decided that the only way I was going to keep my molecules from flying away all willy nilly until I disappeared was with a new lipstick.  Hey, don't judge until your molecules are making noise about leaving you.  Sometimes a new lipstick has magical properties.  Not always - it's not a sure thing - but it's a pretty good bet.

So I went - distraught - to the makeup counter.  "I need a new lipstick."

"Hmmmm", said the woman with the drawn on eyebrows, "Do you have a cleansing regimen?"

"Yes.  I don't need that - I just need a new lipstick."

"Well, if I know what kind of moisturizer you use, I can give you a better recommendation."  She was leading me towards a rack of lotions and potions that did not even remotely resemble lipstick.

"I really just want..."

"As you age, a good skincare regimen is so important."

"Ok.  Thank you for your time." I said, backing towards the door.

"No, no!" she said, following me, "I can help you pick out a new lipstick."

"Changed my mind.  Thanks, though."

I got in my car and she looked crestfallen.  She'd tried to upsell, like a good little sales girl, and had, instead, lost a sale that was almost certain.

The thing is, I'd left the house feeling ugly and worthless.  I wanted a little pick-me-up in the form of a new and provocatively named color with which to stain my lips. I really wasn't asking for the world.   I left her counter questioning the one aspect of my physical self that I don't actually have many complaints about.   I have freak hair, I'm fat, and I'm kind of lop-sided.  But my skin is not bad.   (It's a proven fact.  Fat don't crack.) 

Thank goodness I decided to stop in the craft store before dragging my sorry ass home.  

Thank goodness that someone told me I looked pulled together just as I was certain I was falling apart.

Thank goodness.

I don't know how I'll be able to pay this one forward, but I'm certainly going to try.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Anywhere I Want It, Just the Way I Like It

Weekend mornings are the best.  My husband - without fail - gives it to me wherever I might happen to be, and just the way I like it.  Any room in the house is fair game.  Sometimes he even gives it to me outside.

I'm talking about coffee, of course.

Hot, right?

This morning I was in full on mom-martyr mode.  You know the mindspace - if I don't do it it doesn't get done.  This was to be the first morning since I've been home that I'd be able to sleep past 6 and - in fairness - that did happen.  It was 6:15 when the "Mom, I need"s started.

Before my husband rolled out of bed I'd gotten up and dressed, gone to the grocery store, juiced 4 pounds of oranges and had the juice chilling, did a load of laundry, and sewed elastic in my daughter's leg warmers.  


Martyr mode.

But then.....

But then he brought me my coffee.

Just the way I like it.

And I relaxed.

I stopped huffing and puffing and martyring about and sat down and sipped my coffee.


Because that's the way I like it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Let Your Freak Flag - Er - Hair - Fly

I have freak hair.

Several months back - when I went from long to short -I cited several reasons to anyone who asked.  I was ready for a change, long hair wasn't flattering on me, you reach a certain age, blah blah blah.  None of these reasons were lies - but they were not the real reason I got my hair cut.  The real reason I got my hair cut was that one day - without warning - I woke up with a small shock of hair - right on the top of my head - that was only about an inch long.  It was a section about the size of a nickel.  There had never been a bald spot and no one had cut it - there was just one small super-short section.  It looked ridiculous with the long hair.  Plus, it was a little concerning.  But mostly, I was just concerned with looking ridiculous.

So I got it cut in short layers and the blow drying and styling that ensued , along with the shorter cut, pretty much hid it.  I actually forgot all about it.

Then - when I was at the beach last week - one day I decided to let my hair air dry.  My hair, as I've mentioned before, is very fine and soft and a mostly straight with a little wave at the bottom - when left in its natural state.  On this day, though, that one little nickel-sized tuft - still shorter than the rest of my hair - was completely frizzy.  The sort of thing that happens to folks with different hair than mine when they're at the beach.  It was bizarre.

Yesterday - back in my home climate - I let it air dry again.  Once again - fine, soft, mostly straight hair - with one perfect corkscrew curl.  Guess where.

I tried to get Lea to take a picture of it, but in every picture she took it just looked like a cowlick.  That is not what it looked like in the mirror or what my family assured me it looked like in real life.

I feel like one of those people with dark hair and one small - natural - shock of white.  Except instead of a different color, my isolated shock is a different texture.

When I blow my hair dry, it blends right in - but when I air dry, there it is.

I would appreciate any insight or ideas or hunches or wild guesses as to how this phenomenon occurred.  That's right.  I'm now referring to my freak hair as a phenomenon.  Because my ego is big enough to allow for that.

Until I figure it out, I guess I'll just let my freak hair fly.