Saturday, November 29, 2014

Here Comes Susie Snowflake

It’s Christmastime!

I heard Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas” last week. The season was official for me then. If I had any one of the ponchos that Grandma had crocheted for me when I was a kid, I’d still be wearing it around my waist like a skirt and prancing around the house to Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”! (The ONLY version worth listening to.) 

(Hmmm…I must have something to wear…)

There’s something about Christmastime…  I love it just as much as my Birthdaytime—and I love my Birthdaytime. But my Birthday is a personal thing; I love having it all to myself (except for Gandhi, Groucho Marx and Sting—but two of them are no longer here, and the third did not send me a card. Still not bad company, I think). And it’s fair; keep one holiday to myself, share the other.

There’s magic in Christmas, and I believe in magic. Last year I talked about Christmas with a friend of mine, and wrote about a bit of my perspective after that conversation (Christmas, Like Life is Meaningless). I still feel that way; my slant today comes from the beginning of the season.

For those who want to “Bah Humbug” right away and immediately warm up to the common gripe that Christmas is too commercial, and too much about greed, and has lost its meaning, etc., I won’t disagree with any of you on that totally. But there is still so much more about it, and it’s that other stuff that I focus on.

Is there anything more exciting than that first feeling that Christmas is coming? The happiest music (even the sad stuff), and the lights …

I love the lights (oooooh SPAAAHKLEY!). One of my favorite things to do is lay under the tree, all warm under a blanket, and just stare up into the lights …

The collective mindset around Christmas time is more positive, and it’s palpable. Even the most jaded people can’t deny that—even if they believe it comes from foolishness (I always was a fool). But think about this: who appreciates Christmas the most? The children, right? Whose beliefs are the most pure? Theirs. Every single year there are new children being born, and every single year their parents put on Christmas for them. And they believe. They haven’t learned yet to water down anything, and their collective, unconditional beliefs will always overshadow those of the hardened, fearful, stressed-out adults - no matter who is in the majority. The purest magic is always the strongest. This is true of any day, really, but Christmas brings it all together at once. And even those of you who want to poo-poo anything I’m saying cannot deny that you do get even the tiniest happy tingle when you see a child’s eyes light up in wonder and awe at a special ornament, the lights, Santa … a light that’s magic all by itself. Sometimes it makes us remember when we used to feel like that—and even if the moment is quickly replaced by whatever we feel took that light away, we have remembered it for a moment. For that one moment we believed again, too.

I will say the same thing I said about my birthday this year: I’m not where I wanted to be by this age, I certainly have days where I’m upset that I don’t have what I want, I’m not financially secure, I wish I’d done better, blah blah blah, whine whine whine … and I’ve had my share of disappointments and tragedies (just like everyone else), but even that still never takes away from the excitement, anticipation and hope that I get this time of year. And it’s never stopped me from feeling it every other year (even if some years were a teensy bit more diluted). To be able to continuously feel that hopeful anticipation every single year says something to me; it says that no matter how…disappointed I may feel at any other time (and I’m not talking in terms of material possessions or gifts—at any point throughout this piece of fluff), I still believe … in everything. And the fact that it keeps coming back every year means that I never fully lose it. Which also means that my life can’t be that bad, can it?

Of course, I may have just programmed myself to believe that by listening to Andy too much. But even that’s not a bad thing. Repetition is what helps people learn … or allows them to become brainwashed, desensitized—whatever (even that is a type of learning). Yes, that is a bit of a downsized generalization—but it’s true. We tend to focus on the less positive side most of the time, but it works on the other side as well. That’s how children come to believe what their parents believe, how we learned our ABC (next time won’t you sing with me), the reason affirmations can work, how those of us growing up on Sesame Street learned to count to ten in Spanish, and how we learned Jenny’s phone number (you just sang it, didn’t you?) … if something gets drummed into your head long enough, it becomes a lesson, a belief, a reality, a truth.

Christmas gets drummed into our heads, too. And the first number of beats we hear are positive, over and over and over. This type of repetition is never bad. Wanna talk about affirmations? What words do we see everywhere at Christmas? JOY. HOPE. FAITH. LOVE. BELIEVE. REJOICE. Simple reminders of the good that we may think we skip over with our “Christmas is too commercial” attitude that our subconscious notices still. A type of programming? Maybe. In this case, so what? It counteracts the negative. A good message is a good message, no matter where it comes from.

Many people believe that people are nicer at Christmas (I didn’t say all), and that’s a good thing, too. It encourages more people to notice it when it’s happening, and to be nicer, too. It’s as contagious as a smile is. The more it happens, the more it will happen. Take the smile wherever it comes from.

And I will continue to inundate myself with the lights, the music, and every single variation of “A Christmas Carol” ever made (“Why? Because I like liiiiife!”). It makes me feel good. I treasure being able to feel this way.

Keep hope. Have faith. Be nice. When things seem dark remember that lights shine their brightest in the darkness.

And the lights are SO pretty…

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thank You

Happy Thanksgiving!

I apologize for that picture, but I find it fitting in so many ways, reasons I will not share and instead keep in my head. You may be thankful for that!

I am very fortunate in so many ways. I am thankful for so much, even if I can't seem to be as big a person as I'd like and say that I am thankful for everything. But I'm trying. (Fuck you, Yoda! There is "try"!)

This is an incredible outlet for me. I'm thankful for being alive during this time to have this option.

Thank you to the Universe. I will try to be more grateful (do I have to repeat myself, Yoda?)

I want to thank you. Thank you for stopping by. For wasting moments of your life you will never get back. For being brave enough to stare into the abyss. For thinking I'm ridiculous. For commenting on my ramblings. For agreeing with me. For disagreeing with me. For not complaining that I swear too much (this doesn't apply to you, Mom). For not telling my father I talk about him.

Just, Thank you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On Putting Out

I am changing. These changes I'm going through have begun to alter what I put out in attitude, in appearance, in being…and of course what I write. My writing itself hasn’t changed, but my inner privacy settings have. I have let out more of myself in the past number of months than I ever have before. It’s been scary, I have to admit. The shame I felt regarding full (fuller, at least) acceptance of myself still makes me hesitate before I hit the “publish” button-of-no-return on this blog. And, still, what is the hardest to let go of is what I feel the most necessary to be put out--don’t get any crazy ideas of reminding me what other things I need to “let go” of. I already know. One thing at a time, dammit!

There’s a funny shift that goes along with the type of change I’m experiencing. People that know me a little are getting to know a newer me; people that know me well enough are seeing what appears to be a reinventing of myself—but it’s not: it’s just me being more real—and people that know me really, really well just still continue to put up with me (I LOVE you guys!).

To those in the middle, those that know me and thought they had an idea of who I was, these differences are more noticeable to them.

Let me state for the record that this began a few months before the ‘blip on the screen’ that has happened recently. Not that that hasn’t had any effect on things, but it wasn’t the original stimulus. The original push came when I got the job that I have now, as a copywriter. The one that gave me my first pay check for using my own words. Even if the subject matter is not of my own choosing, I am writing about it and getting paid to do so. A paid writer. The first step. I’m still digesting that. It changed how I was identifying myself. Slowly, yes, but it was making me consider myself differently. I’m working from home, too. Since then there’s been yet another slow evolution of the set-up in my apartment. The first few came from the hokey-pokey residence of my older daughter—sometime she’s been in, sometimes she’s been out, and now she’s in…and shakes it all about. (You know I had to finish that!). The change in my schedule has been extreme, as well. I’m realizing daily how much of a difference there has been and how much there can be. It is still amazing when I really sit back and think about it. Blip notwithstanding, adjusting the sails has been a daily process for me.

Back to the funny shift I mentioned earlier: part of the butterfly effect of my dance along the edge of my own chaos has not only been my perspective of myself, but the reaction it causes.

Which brings me to my subject of putting out.

I’m not trying to show anyone a ‘new’ me, like enforcing an image, nor am I trying to create some type of reaction in anyone; I am letting go of my own limits. I will try to fly. And I will fall (obviously now with a bigger audience, since I’m letting you all in—I hope you have your popcorn ready). And I will try again.

I’d mentioned a ways back about the new treatment I’d been getting; some people treating me with kid gloves as if I were something fragile and some people horrified at things I revealed. I think I find that second reaction the funniest. Because I’d been thinking about that (and talking, too). To some, my change began and is a reaction to the aforementioned blip; that I’m using this as a sort of ‘tool as a woman scorned.’ Nope. That just happened to be the first event since things started changing for me, and therefore, the first that has been revealed. I’m expecting to do many more stupid things--and write about them, if my past is any precedent. Just wait.

But what this got me thinking about is all of the books I’ve read and the songs I’ve listened to that I’ve really connected with—especially the writers of them. The faceless people I don’t know who’ve been able to articulate some emotion that I couldn’t. If you think about it, it does make it easier when you don’t know them, or know too much about them, doesn’t it?

One of the ways I used to communicate with my father most effectively was by writing him letters. I stood the best chance of him ‘hearing’ me through them, because he couldn’t see me ‘get emotional’ and shut me off. Sometimes black and white words on paper eliminate the mental clutter that can get between one person and another, or one person and many others. How much of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech would be really heard if it were delivered by Robin Williams using his “Mork” voice?

Have you ever tried to listen to a live speech and been distracted by an idiosyncrasy of the speaker? I know that if a word that is used over and over again is pronounced wrong or with a funny inflection, I get distracted enough to miss the point of whatever is being said.

So, now, some people are having a tough time with some of the things I’ve been saying, or some of the subject matter. They know me or the people around me that I may be referring to. It can be a little off-putting without distance, can’t it? If one unable to take that step back and be objective, any ‘message’ is essentially killed by the messenger, and instead of the resonance that can be felt in shared emotions, there are opinions made that there’s mud-slinging going on, dirty laundry is being aired or a situation is being set up where people may feel they are attempting to be swayed in a particular direction…either way, any real context is lost. The way I see it, good advice, shared comfort, guidance, a new perspective, etc., can come from anywhere. I don’t care if the person talking to me claims to be Elvis; if he has something that I believes is of quality to say or something that resonates with my soul, I will listen.

Every storyteller, every songwriter, every author and every artist leaks out something of the inner mess that they may be, to varying degrees. And when they were where I am right now, they were probably going through this as well. I talk/write about my own experiences; if I happen to refer to someone in (or out) of my life or a certain situation, the focus is still on me and how I’m feeling about it, reacting to it, or trying to work through it.

I have way too many favorite songs, and many that have just echoed through me during my life (even if I didn’t understand the subject matter when I was younger)—so, to keep this from being a novel I won’t mention any of them as examples (because I can’t just choose one or two). William Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood always pops into my head/life at the oddest times, especially the verse made famous in Splendor in the Grass:

                “Though nothing can bring back the hour
                Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
                We will grieve not, rather find
                strength in what remains behind…”

Does it matter what he is talking about specifically? What prompted him to write that? No. What any of us get from any word or song or piece of art is personal to us. Any comfort, feeling of unity or shared emotion comes from our own personal store of experience. And we are grateful for that. Where would we be if the people that put out books, music and art that soothed our souls in some way stayed silent or kept it hidden for fear being looked askance at by ‘those who know them’? I personally don’t know how I would have made it this far if there were no music to comfort me.

I’m not saying I’m here to do any of that for you, either. And I'm certainly not selling anything. The only thing any of us have to offer is ourselves at our most authentic. That is what I’m trying to be. I may fuck up (I bet you thought I’d make it through just one blog without that word, didn’t you?), but I will keep trying. 

And that is what I’m putting out.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Yeah, I Remember.

I came out and admitted I was a writer, and have been enjoying and embracing the little ‘confirmations’ I’ve been getting along the way, even though some of them aren’t as fun as others.

Writers and artists are the record-keepers, the keepers of time. We remember things…things that affect us, that touch us in some way. It’s even hard to explain why they touch us, because sometimes it’s not the obvious black or white feelings that stand out. When I write about the past, my family and friends sometimes wonder how I remember so much—when I’m arguing with someone, they hate that I remember so much. And I’ve been kicked out of many trivia games (especially the family Christmas games at Mom’s house!)

What I remember and why I remember has nothing to do with intention. I don’t try to remember, I just do (when I try, I have to write it down—and pray I find my notes again, later!).

To those I’ve argued with, believe me, what I remember is just as much as a pain in the ass to me as it is to you! The strongest memories always have the most feelings attached to them. Duh. But it really is worse for us. Associations between words, emotions and situations are stronger. They say writers experience life twice. That is true, because in writing we are reliving it all over again. But it’s actually more than that; it’s not just the experience and then the writing of—there are so many fucking revisions involved. And even the smallest things can trigger these moments of remembering; a word, a sound, song, smell, an outfit, the weather…anything. When something triggers a happy moment, life is great. We’ve all had those moments where we’ve been surprised by a memory of something (“What ever made me think of that?”), but it happens to the record-keepers more. And in odd circumstances, the mood can be felt before the memory returns—whether or not this is fortunate depends on the memory. There’s a sensation of feelings and…I don’t know…and the sensory associations of the memory settle on you, and you feel the memory before you even remember it.

I’d been feeling…something these past couple of days.

--I’ve already admitted I have issues, so we don’t have to get into that!

But it’s been sort of nagging at me. It can be hard to explain sometimes. When I have something I want to write about, it is front and center in my head and until I get it out it can interfere with anything else I have to do (actually, everything else). People think I’m extremely scattered at times—I used to think that, too—but I’ve realized that when I seem to be my most scattered, I’m actually at my most focused—but on something else, one thing, whatever that thing that my mind is working on (or out).

I’ve been scattered outwardly the past day or two (more than usual), and I’ve noticed it, but I couldn’t find the point of focus that I knew was there. There were those “on the tip of my tongue” moments, where I could almost figure it out…and then I’d lose it.

My friends and I have been discussing the idea of ‘signs vs. coincidences’ lately because of something that had happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I believe in signs. I do not believe in coincidences. The way I see it, you can’t believe in both; it’s either one or the other. I get signs all of the time—not that I always understand them at the time, mind you. Usually, it’s not until much later that I get a clue. My experience two weeks ago was a short period of many signs at once. Tonight, I realized another a wallop of one that I did not see that day.

Twenty minutes after that, I remembered

--Even if it’s a memory that does not bring a good feeling, there is at least five minutes of elation: that’s why I’ve been feeling like this!

But then you are stuck on the memory.

A year ago yesterday, something was reintroduced and the idea of a promise was planted.

It’s been a year, from the tiny seedlings of intrigue, to possibilities…to nothing. On the plus side, a solid time frame gives it a sense of an end, and sometimes that is a good thing. It helps a little, anyway.

At least now I know why I’ve been feeling this way, and that is also good.

That’s why I’ve been feeling like this!


So my store of useless knowledge may have beat you in a game and my ability to remember statements verbatim may have pissed you off.

But I can also remind you of something you forgot that makes you smile.

I have to hold onto that last thought. Because sometimes, too, I think you got the better end of the deal.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Boobs are Real. It’s the Smile That’s Fake.

I had a General Foods International Coffee Moment, and I’m going to celebrate it: 

I’ve been battling with myself for a while over some recent stupidity. A couple of weeks ago I was noticing that something was wrong with every picture taken of me in the past few months (even on my birthday—and THAT is sacrilege!). I look sad, even though I’m smiling. Whether or not it’s evident to anyone else, I see it and it makes me angry (I should probably be taking pictures then). I hate those pictures. I don’t like the girl in them. And I hate the ones of her before the sadness, too.

--At least I think I do; I can’t look at them anymore.

Recently I wrote about needing to pretend things never happened. Let me qualify that, because I don’t believe suppression ever does anyone any good: I’m not suppressing anything. I just need to ignore a specific period of time temporarily until I can look back on it and not feel…everything. It’s not suppression; it’s shelving. It’s like knowing you have a closet to clean out and that it’s going to be a big job, so you wait until can devote the full day to it. And I don’t have the time right now; I have better things to do (I hear in my head a small, mocking laugh at that).

It’s fun being inside my head (not that I would recommend it to anyone). The things I think about to keep me amused…

Humor has always been my first line of defense, and for a while I was very, very good at it. When I was in my 20’s I had a boyfriend tell me that my humor was a little…biting (I think I mentioned that once before), so I worked at toning it down. I thought I did a pretty good job of it until I found myself on the receiving end of it lately (I guess that I suppressed!). We all are our own worst critics, aren’t we? The things that I’ve said to myself recently have been quite funny…and very sharp. I laugh and wince at the same time when I hear them. Often.

But yesterday in my head, I heard myself make another joke at my expense—and I laughed. With no mockery, no derision or anger. At all. It was just funny. And I just laughed.

And then I took a picture to preserve the moment.

So now I have a new favorite picture.

See her? She’s smiling. And—at that moment—she means it.

Even if it doesn’t last too long, it’s more than what it was. I’ll take it. Maybe try to use it as a starting point. Either way, I'm going to milk it for all it's worth.

(Two steps forward and two steps back is a Cha-Cha, right? I love to dance.)

Monday, November 10, 2014

On Fucking Shaving. (Don't Read This, Mom.)

This is the blog that no one has been waiting for. Seriously. (Don’t read this, Mom.) Consider this a warning. Way too much information.

I’m writing about something that I have been threatening to write about for years – even during the years I wasn’t writing as much.

Today I’m going to talk about… Shaving.

I fucking hate shaving.

I call myself a Breck girl. My hair (when I decide to fix it) is one of my vanities. It is full and thick. Luxurious, even.

There is one problem with having a really good head of hair – especially if your ethnic background is of the European variety – and that is: what you have on top is pretty much all over.

All over.

I’d like to take a moment to thank The Powers That Be in fashion and society for their constant fucking of women in terms of how we are supposed to look. Change everything about you that is natural. And before any of you whiny-assed crybaby men even think about complaining, let me remind you that you have Sean Connery, the man who was allowed to get old, bald and heavier and still deemed “sexy.” Who do we have, other than the women themselves who have stood before everyone and told them they were still sexy? Why isn’t a woman standing in front of a jukebox shaking her ass wearing a short skirt with “scruffy” legs allowed to be sexy?

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been brainwashed like everyone else. I don’t think hairy legs are attractive. But I still resent what some of us have to go through just to get rid of it.

It was society that decided that “unsightly” hair be removed from women when women’s fashion started showing more skin, beginning in 1915 with the advent of sleeveless tops for women, and then when skirts started getting shorter.

My background is Italian and French (a number of years ago when someone asked me that question I used to answer that I was a descendent of apes).

This issue has scarred me for life, literally and figuratively.

My mother would not let me shave until I was 13 because she thought I was too young. Never mind that my legs looked like those of a 40-year-old man. The first two years of middle school I was tormented on the school bus by a boy named Eddie who called me “Hairy Mary”—I suppose I should be grateful that he was not familiar with the word “hirsute,” because then he could have come up with something extremely clever that actually rhymed with my real name. He was a year older than I was, so by the time I was allowed to shave that last year of middle school, he had already moved up to high school and no longer rode the bus with me.

Even finally being allowed to shave brought with it other problems. Because she was afraid I would hurt myself with a real blade, my mother only let me use her Lady Remington electric razor. That introduced me to the word “stubble” because, as everyone knows, there is no such thing as a close shave from an electric razor. (Can you imagine sitting in the car in traffic and seeing the woman in the car next to you whip out her leg and an electric razor and start shaving?)

Do you remember when you were a kid in your early teens, playing in the pool with a mixed group of friends? One of the boys would always sneak up underwater to one of the girls, grab her by the ankles and pull her underwater? Yeah, I remember that well. I came up for air to the sound of him screaming that his hands were bleeding because my legs were so sharp.

Good times, good times…

This meant that I never played any of the pool games that required physical contact. Chicken? Hah! Nobody would want my legs on their shoulders!

My family used to go to Old Orchard Beach, Maine, every summer. My cousin Kim, who was a year older than me, was on hand to teach me many, many things each summer. I couldn’t wait to tell her that I had finally started shaving my legs. She laughed when she found out I was using an electric razor and gave me one of her disposable razors, telling me my legs would be much smoother. (My mother was not there, so I made the executive decision to try it.) But there was one thing Kim did not tell me…

I went into the bathroom, put my right leg up on the sink, put the blade at the bottom of my leg near the top of my foot, and dragged it up to my knee—

--and SCREAMED!—as chunks of skin were removed with the hair. Kim ran into the bathroom when she heard me, and then informed me that I was supposed to have used soap and water. Any of you ever pulled a razor up dry skin? (That was 34 years ago, and I still have the scars up my shin!)

After getting the bleeding under control about an hour later, I shaved the rest of my legs and then headed down to the beach…

Two more things I learned that day the hard way:

·         Ocean water in New England is cold. Cold causes goosebumps. Goosebumps raise the hair follicles—meaning, once you get goosebumps, you’ve wasted your time shaving.
·         SALT WATER STINGS after shaving! Especially, if you have one or two nicks! (Nicks! HAH!) And the burn you get displays itself in lovely red dots around every hair follicle.

There were many other things I learned about the joys of shaving since then. “5 o’clock shadow” does not only apply to men. There are some days when I have to shave twice, if I’m going out in the evening. My activities began to revolve around my shaving schedule. If I were going to go to the beach, knowing that salt water burns and causes a rash, who I was going to the beach with determined when I would shave. Shaving the night before was ideal, because my legs would not be so sensitive to the water; however if I shaved the night before, my legs would not be as smooth when I woke up. It was a double-edged sword (there’s a pun in there somewhere).

Shaving first thing on a cold morning is no picnic either, when you have goosebumps.

Epilady. I still have nightmares.

And then there’s the joy of the rash one can get from shaving. Particularly in sensitive areas. The reason Bikini Zone cream was invented. This attractive rash is not just limited to shaving; it can happen after waxing (another fun experience) and after using lotion hair removers. Once one gets one of those rashes, shaving soon is out of the question. The idea of needing to shave two days in a row causes me stress!

Again, I’m a Breck girl all over. The positions I have to get into to make sure I don’t miss anything…

About five years ago I was in the shower, and had my foot up on the side of the tub to be able to reach the back of my leg. I slipped and almost fell. I don’t know how I caught myself. It was one of those moments similar to when people say their lives flash before their eyes—only in my case, what flashed before my eyes was a newspaper headline:

40-Something-Year-Old Woman Dies in Shower During Freak Shaving Accident.

I don’t stand anymore while shaving, and the positions I need to get into rival those of a contortionist (especially in the 3 x 3 tub I have now!)—and for you sick, twisted people out there, get your minds out of the gutter. I can assure you, it’s NOT attractive. And I’m certainly not enjoying myself. Yoga? Ha! Who needs yoga when you have to shave like this?

Two years ago, when I got my physical exam for work, the doctor asked me if I could touch my toes. I did with no problem, and she got all excited about how “flexible” I was (and she could not have been more than 10 years younger than me). If that’s a feat for a 45-year-old, I have to say I owe it all to shaving-- because I certainly don’t follow any exercise routine.

Shaving while pregnant is fun, too. Especially near the end. We are all told that the doctors don’t care if we’ve shaved or not, but some of us want to know the doctor will be able to find the baby when it’s time.

And for you ladies who only have to shave once a week, or only up to your knees: I hate you. And don’t tell me what “works.” I have tried everything.

A word of caution about lotion hair removers: if you have to use it all the way up, start at the bottom of your leg first. If you start at the top and then start squirming around to get it everywhere, you will get it everywhere…possibly interfering with the landscaping--as well as burning the 'delicate' areas.


I got waxed before my honeymoon to St. Lucia. I still had to shave every day. Thank God it was warm all the time there: no goosebumps. The marriage didn’t last, but I still have fond memories of the smoothest my legs ever were.

The commercials on television for shaving products for men with “sensitive” skin make me laugh. Pussies. You only have to worry about your faces. We have much more area to cover. I won’t listen to you whine until you’ve waxed, burned yourself with hair removal lotion, or experienced one of those shaving rashes right under your testicles.

(The only men I do sympathize with are the men with back hair. They get a lot of shit, too. And that’s not an easy place to reach, either.)

About 12 years ago my friend Maria told me she only had to shave under one arm, because when she was younger she had shaved her underarms and right afterwards used the old Right Guard aerosol deodorant (not sold anymore), and it burned her pretty bad—but the hair never grew back. To this day I wonder if I could find a case of that on eBay and try it out. It would be worth the burn to me…

One of the benefits of being single and not ‘getting any’ with any regularity is not having to shave as often. That’s one small consolation (don’t even think of getting shocked by that—we are allowed to enjoy “it,” too!) There’s nothing worse than a romantic moment ruined by…say…an intimate bath planned in detail with scented candles and bath products—and one of them is a SALT scrub…or when that attractive resulting skin condition makes the other person concerned about the possibility of an STD…

Yes. And yes.

It would be so nice to be able to wear shorts all day, sitting next to a significant other and not worry about whether or not he’s going to reach over and put his hand on your leg…

This is not just limited to legs, either. Eyebrows? Upper lip? Especially when you get older. My upper lip is now resistant to most products. Even after waxing the tweezers still have to be used (that's everywhere, by the way). And I don’t even bother with the lotion products made for the face; they just waste my time.

Another word of caution; When you use Nair for Legs on the face, do not follow it up with an actual face cream that contains salicylic acid. You will end up with a painful pink Fu Manchu ‘stache.

Yes, that too.

I dream about moving to a warmer climate where I would never get cold. Or moving somewhere where hair removal is not required. For now, I will be the one wearing jeans for most of the summer, scheduling activities around shaving.

Unless Cousin It is single.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

I am a Writer

The past few years for me have been quite a rollercoaster; and just when I thought the dust was beginning to settle—WHAM! another vertical loop. Throughout all of it, one…thought/idea/thing/perception has managed to take hold and grow:

I am a writer.

This may not seem important to you, but it is to me. I am finally taking myself seriously. This is HUGE…empowering (even though I hate that word).

I used to write a lot when I was younger. I was always creating something, designing something, writing lyrics, changing song lyrics, choreographing, singing, dancing…for me they were (and are) all tied together; they are all a part of the artist I am.  I have boxes of notebooks and papers of years of thoughts and ideas. No matter how much I ‘downsize’ for a move, I will never get rid of those.

I stopped writing when I was 13. Not totally, but enough so that not many people would see as much anymore, or even be aware that it was a part of me.

Adults talk about children being ‘real’ and ‘open’ and true to themselves. We mourn the death of that carefree enjoyment and innocence. Some people are allowed to hang onto it, others aren’t. The people that knew me up until that point knew me at my most authentic.

I got caught for smoking. Earlier that week, I spent time with my cousins who smoked. They had no cigarettes and I had money and I bought a pack. I had one and they smoked most of them, but I’d be damned if I was going to give up the pack that I bought to them. (Hey, I was thirteen!) Yes, I was paranoid carrying them around, but I bought them. This particular day, I went to the movies with a couple of girlfriends, and three cute boys sat next to us. They asked if we had any cigarettes; I was too happy to give them a few, because I was paranoid and because…well, they were cute boys. Anyway, I had two left at the end of the day. I got home and my stepfather—

--a little backstory: My stepfather was an alcoholic. The marriage wasn’t fun; the family wasn’t fun…I don’t even know what set him off that day--

--had my two sisters lined up on the couch and was lecturing them. When I walked in, he calls me over to sit down next to them saying, “This applies to you, too.” He proceeded to tell us how immature we were, and how we shouldn’t be allowed any ‘adult’ privileges—including the right to wear makeup. Right then and there he decided to take all of our makeup away. He took us each in our rooms with the trash can and has us remove all of it from the tops of our bureaus, then decided to check our purses. It took him three passes through my purse to find the cigarette pack, but he did find it. Because there were two left he called me a ‘chain smoker’ and ended with ‘God knows what else she is doing.’ He then got my mother, and locked me out of my room while he went through all of it, including my calendars and journals.

Did I mention that I used to write? I wrote about EVERYTHING. Everything.


Like the first time I tried smoking pot with Donna…

He came out of my room long enough to call me a drug addict before going back in again.

I ran away that night. I honestly don’t know how long it took them to realize I’d left; they were in my room for a couple of hours. I got a few miles away to Reese’s Variety store and I called Donna; she and her mother came and picked me up and took me home. (Where else was I going to go?) Dad was there, and he took me to his house; I spent most of the night talking to his girlfriend, and then him the next morning.

(To Dad: You know I have many complaints about our relationship, but how you ‘handled’ me that weekend was perfect.)

That was when I stopped writing. It was never encouraged, anyway, and it was a struggle towards the end to believe in myself and believe I had any talent. After my stepfather read everything I felt violated, and that was the tipping point. Later, when I would talk about my writing, it was only to those that I considered close to me, and even then as if it were a secret. I would write a little, and only in code (I took shorthand and Latin in high school; for a while some of my stuff would be half written in shorthand and Latin. Too bad I can’t read shorthand anymore…)

Over the next few years I would occasionally rebel against everything and write. That was exactly what it felt like; a rebellion. I like to write, dammit! Yet even at my most defiant I could never call myself a writer. All I knew was that when I was writing, I was happy. When I was creating something, I was happy. I realized that no matter what job I had, I had to be creative in some way. If I didn’t write or make something for any length of time I would get antsy and restless, feeling like I needed to jump out of my skin. (At least I noticed that much.) If I surprised someone with something I made or wrote or said, I would always say, “I’m SO fucking creative!” That was the only acknowledgment I gave myself; yet even as I said it there was always a mocking tone to it.

When I turned 39 something started bothering me, and I didn’t know what it was. I noticed that I was getting more and more…off the closer I got to my 40th birthday. I couldn’t figure it out. I knew there was no way that I, a self-proclaimed “Birthday Fairy,” was having a problem with getting older, but it did have something to do with turning 40. Then it dawned on me…

I had set a deadline.

I set a deadline, unconsciously. In an effort to appease/console myself for the fact that I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to do, to be who I wanted to be—and to excuse my ‘not doing anything with my writing’ to friends who would question me about it occasionally—I prepared an excuse: “It’s hard to make money writing, so instead of struggling as an artist, I will get a career, make money first and live a life—because you can only write about what you know, right? I don’t know enough now. I’ll know more later and be published when I’m 40.”

(When I started using that excuse, 40 was old.)

That was my story and I stuck to it. And I would write in secret. I hid it as if it were my shame. Only my really close friends new about it.

And then my 40th birthday was coming up. I can’t begin to describe how I felt. I was angry that I allowed myself to not follow who I was. I didn’t blame anyone else; all along I knew that my only block was myself (head up ass is a constant position of mine). All of a sudden, I had to get published. I was in a real panic. It was bad enough that I denied myself the real me, but if I didn’t publish anything before my next birthday I felt that I would hate myself forever. Thank God for the Internet! I found a few websites that allowed people to submit articles and get paid based on reader ‘liking.’ I think I made 39 cents—but that was enough to make it official.

Then I made the commitment to “try” to be truer to myself. 

Fast forward to four years ago when I joined a Haiku writing group on Facebook. All of a sudden I was in my element. I could write whatever I wanted—and I did. I was even a little outrageous, and it was ok. And I was regularly conversing with these other writers—real writers, who made me feel like I was one of them. They are my family (they know who they are).

(Thank you Mark and all of you at The Haiku Wednesday Fiasco.)

And I started writing more. And I began to be happy, and be excited about it. I felt like the world was finally opening up to me. I started this blog (third time’s a charm). Things started falling into place. I’d begun ‘doodling’ as a type of grief therapy when a friend passed—and people saw them and started asking for them. I was being recognized as a writer and an artist. 

Eleven months ago I was offered a job as a copywriter. I’ll never forget when I got the call from one member of that Haiku family, one who I considered a mentor, offering me the job. She had said, “I was looking for another writer and then I realized, Sue’s a writer!” I will never forget how I felt when I heard those words: “Sue’s a writer!” Those words that I replayed many times in my head since then. My head, my heart, all of me reacted: YES!

(Thank you, Judy.)

I got a job writing! I’m now a ‘paid writer’! Other things started happening, too. A friend of mine sent some of my writings in to a publisher friend of hers in New York and she contacted me about putting a book together! And I got paid for some of my ‘doodles!’ I changed my job title on my Facebook status to ‘writer’ (that felt good).

And, yet, I still couldn’t fully call myself a writer—and I was being paid for it! Even my ‘doodles’ were still just ‘doodles’ and not art of any kind.

I still felt like a fraud. Like I was pretending. Like a child playing dress-up, waiting for my mother to come in and tell me to wash that paint off my face, take off that outfit and stop being ridiculous.

What the fuck was wrong with me?

Last month, I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a number of years (we’ve been in touch on Facebook) and I met her father for the first time. She introduced me to him as a writer. And it blew me away.

(Thank you, Kerri.)

During this last barrel-roll of my life-rollercoaster, I’ve been writing more, feeling more, being more and exposing more. I have had moments of fear before hitting the ‘publish’ button. I began to realize that whatever I had the hardest time publishing was what I had to get out the most. And it finally began to sink in:

I’m a writer.

(Maybe later I can thank one more person...when I no longer feel the effects of the ride…maybe.)


I am a writer.

I still consider myself a beginner, but I know I’m going somewhere with it.

I am a writer.

I know it now.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Unapologetically Yours (Sorry, not Sorry)

In an article titled “Best Way to Apologize? Starbucks,Business Experts on the Art of Saying Sorry” (March 18, 2013), Bruna Martinuzzi opens with:

“Marshall Goldsmith, one of the world’s leading executive coaches, said, “I regard apologizing as the most magical, healing, restorative gesture human beings can make.” In his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall lists the refusal to express regret and to apologize as one of the top 20 transactional flaws performed by one person against another. These apply equally at work and at home. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand how to apologize effectively. To be a great leader, it’s important to understand no just why you should apologize, but how and when to apologize as well.”

She goes on to say:

“More and more today, we’re seeing the value of moving away from the Teflon-type of leader to a leader who can summon the courage to say “I’m sorry.” Leadership is fundamentally a relationship, and an apology, when it’s warranted, is an investment in the future of the relationship—whether it’s with a co-worker or a customer, a superior or a subordinate.”

(Or even just a human being.)

Teflon-type. That has always given me a chuckle.

Goldsmith was right about an apology being "the most magical, healing, restorative gesture human beings can make."

(Operative phrase: human being.)

Imagine that. An apology as a business tactic. I love the throwaway line, “These apply equally at work and at home.”

Ya think?
 “If you view apologizing as the equivalent of swallowing a bitter pill, consider the benefits.”

Consider the benefits? Hmmm…

I understand where this article is coming from, and have no problem with it or its writer in any way. My ‘commentary’ here is more about the fact that so many facets of personal interaction have segued into the “How-tos” of business literature (best-sellers, even). This is not the problem, either; the messenger doesn’t matter if the word gets out. Some ‘suits’ may prefer being seen with a business best-seller rather than something found in the ‘self-help/spirituality’ section—hey, I’ve got a rep to protect. But again, as long as the right message gets out, it doesn’t matter where it comes from. The problem occurs when the elements of personal communication become merely a business tactic used with a specific objective of gain in mind, and never used properly when dealing on a personal level.

At the bottom of the article is even a link to another article entitled, “Do a Cost/Benefit Analysis of an Apology.”  Another chuckle.

In the movie, You’ve Got Mail, the two main characters have a continuing discussion about the phrase, “It’s nothing personal, just business.” (His company put hers out of business.) Their last conversation about it goes like this:

            Joe Fox: It wasn’t…personal.
Kathleen Kelly: What’s that supposed to mean? I’m so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s *personal* to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal anyway?
Joe Fox: Uh, nothing.
Kathleen Kelly: Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

It’s wonderful that the business sector has embraced the idea of ‘personalizing’ business behavior—basically by employing the main elements of ‘effective personal communication.’ Treat the client/customer like a human being and you will ensure repeat business or wonderful referrals.

Like the character Kathleen Kelly said, “Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.”

Again, I have no problem with personal elements being employed by business. In some cases, the end can justify the means—in a perverse way. But if both parties end up being happy (the bottom line), that is a good thing.

What is unfortunate is when the reverse happens; when the elements of personal transaction become solely a business tactic, and the ‘business view’—the cost/benefit factor—becomes part of the personal element.

“I could apologize, but you wouldn’t believe me. If you did, it would only be temporary, and I would continue to apologize until I wasn’t sorry anymore.”

Projection? On a personal apology?

--Are there ‘studies’ somewhere to back this up? What are the statistics? Is this for a first-time apology, or for a second or third? Is this a first time thing or repeated offense? How much does the personality of the receiver affect the outcome?

Treating people with compassion, kindness and fairness is a wonderful thing in general. Yes, it can even help in business—especially if you mean it, without looking for long-term benefits.

Here is a “5-Step Apology Process” from the article:

                1. Say you are sorry.
    2. Clearly state what you did wrong.
                3. Acknowledge how the receiving party must be feeling.
                4. Express your sincere regret.
                5. Promise not to repeat the behavior.

Here is an example of how this might sound: “Bob, I am so sorry I abruptly cut you off at the director’s meeting. This was very rude on my part and I know it angered you. You have every right to be angry with me. I regret this. I assure you that this will not happen again.” Spoken from the heart, this type of apology can go a long way toward repairing a relationship that might otherwise be irretrievably broken.

(Of course, if considerate treatment of others is not a concern of yours, why are you even here?)

If you hurt or harmed another person, apologize. That is your responsibility. If they don’t take it, walk away. If they only take it temporarily, that can be dealt with, too. Either way, accepting an apology or not is part of their responsibility and not yours (projected or otherwise). Openly acknowledging you did another person wrong without apology is as personally hurtful as avoiding talk of it. And—technically speaking—an apology is not ‘used’ for anything. It is a personal act of taking ownership for your actions; any long-term ‘benefit’ should be considered a bonus and never the primary goal.

Then again, if you are not ever sorry, you have just wasted precious moments of your time reading this.

Everything is personal in some way. It “begins by being personal.” Let’s keep the personal in business, but keep the business out of what’s personal.
Treat all people fairly, with kindness and compassion. Your business will do better, yes…
But so will you.

(Sorry if I've offended anyone.)

(Not really.)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Life is a Rock, but the Radio Rolled Me

Music is very important to me. I am always plugged in, and even when I’m not there is always a song in my head. Always. Lately I’ve been in a bit of a funk – pardon the pun – and it’s been hard to find my music. My iPod isn’t my friend right now, in spite of the many, many playlists I have to cover every mood – apparently I am one playlist short. I’m going through something I have not gone through before – at least, not to this degree. Nothing huge, nothing life or death, just… stupid (or different-than-my-usual stupid).

(But I guess that would explain why I don’t have a playlist for it.)

We all have music we associate with certain times in our lives, and over the past eight months or so I’ve been going through so much of my music, to the point where now none of it is any comfort to me because all of those songs both (old and new) have been a part of this particular time period that I’ve been trying to avoid. And then there were two days where I couldn’t listen to anything at all, or even hear anything in my head. That is not only very unusual for me, it’s actually rather painful.

One of my (many) issues is not just how I am feeling, but my anger at myself for feeling this way. I may be an over thinker, but I’m not the type of person to let myself “stew in my own juices” for too long. I know that I don’t have all the answers, and I will always look for outside help (and comfort) when I need it. My friends are invaluable to me. And so is my music.

So I finally decided not to focus on what I am feeling, and instead focus on working to get out of it. When I “lost” my music it became very difficult. I turned on the radio, but even that wasn’t totally safe for me. The new songs that I know have been a part of my past eight months (which I am trying to avoid), and when I listen to music for comfort I do not want to hear songs that I don’t know. But I kept trying, and continued flipping through the channels.

Last night a DJ saved my life.

Heh, not really – at least, not really that dramatic! But I did find something. One of the radio stations was playing recordings of Casey Kasem’s American top 40 countdowns – more specifically the top 100 year-end countdowns for the years 1975, 1978, 1980, and 1981 (at least those were the ones that I heard). And I started to find my music again. It was nice to go back, where every song was familiar. 

Yes, many of them are on my iPod. I don’t know about you, but I can listen to songs over and over (and over and over and over) on my music player, but when I hear it on the radio it’s different. I get excited to hear them as if I haven’t heard them in long while – even to the point that if I’m in my car, I will not shut the radio off until the song is over. I’m not sure why that is; maybe it has to do with those mp3 player-less days when you had less control over what you are listening to. When you held your breath listening to the radio, hoping to hear a favorite song. When you were anxiously hovering your fingers over the button on the tape player, ready to press “record” the very instant you heard the first few notes, praying the DJ didn't talk over it...

They played many of the songs that I have on my iPod (actually, I pretty much have all of them on my iPod – there are just some I listen to more often). But they didn’t hurt – well, not as much. The familiarity of listening to the countdown, Casey Kasem’s voice (and his little tidbits about each artist), that feeling, I guess, of being a kid again helped. And I was able to get some comfort, which was very nice.

The last year’s countdown that I had a chance to listen to was 1978, before the radio station’s “Turn Back the Clock Weekend” ended, and I was able to find something that I was able to make a playlist from that I would be able to listen to now. Even though many of my iPod songs were on the radio, I still had to avoid many of them on my iPod. But I found something. Yay, me!

We want the funk!

Ironic, right? Funk to get out of the funk.

I’m dancing, too. 

(And I’m not thinking.)

It’s a nice break. And I have some of my music back.

Thank you (Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).

– Whew!