Planes and trains and automobiles

Right now, everywhere, writers like me are gearing up to publish their “Auld Lang Syne” chapters in their blogs, their columns, their social media. I have been caught up in reminiscence, contemplating the events that shaped 2017 and culminated in loud pronouncements of “2017 can suckit” and “Goodbye, 2017….don’t let the door hit you in the ass”. There have also been quiet, weary statements like “I am so glad this year is over.”

I used to be one such person, uttering either the former or the latter. I have had some pretty awful years in the 50 I have inhabited this planet. There were the years of struggle and years of poverty. There were years of drama and chaos. There were years of physical exhaustion and mental anguish. “Freight trains”, I called the constant upheavals that barreled through and obliviated anything that seemed normal. My life; indeed, my family’s and quite a few of my friends’, seemed to resemble more of a train depot, where the trains would roar through, dropping bombs that detonated, charged with misfortune and the bad choices that resulted, leaving behind casualties of pain and sorrow. Sometimes, the trains would briefly stop and leave parcels of discontenting scenarios and bad options, and we had no choice but to make the best of what we were left with. There are no returns in this life. You get what you get and you either deal with it or you step onto the tracks as the next train sounds its warning whistle. There were times when it seemed like we had just recovered from a freight train when the ground would begin to shake and the windows would vibrate and you could hear the rumble that signaled that the next one was nearly upon us.

In the past couple of years, I have noticed that the trains have been diverted from this stop. They don’t pass through nearly as much as they used to, and while I am grateful to no longer be “on the line” I also know that the Big Railroad called Life could add a stop at any time. There could be a runaway train. I would love to shut down the depot but I can’t seem to board it up. I keep listening for the whistle and putting my ear to the ground. I stop, frequently, to feel the tracks for that vibrating hum that signifies an arrival coming soon. I have never liked surprises, even happy ones, and freight trains that cause upheaval are never bringers of happiness.

This diversion, while most likely temporary, has given me time to think about things. When I did my “review of 2017” it dawned on me that 2017 was really a continuation of 2016, when the big trains stopped coming. Oh, we had a few smaller ones, but nothing that decimated anything. The thing that I noticed was that these trains, while unexpected, had come through before, dropping off parcels filled with warning signs and preludes to unfortunate events. None of the bad stuff was happenstance; the writing had been on the wall. It seemed that, because I had been armed with the ability to sort of forecast the next arrival of a train, it was no longer as soul-crushing or decimating as it might have been, had I not been paying attention.

That, there, is my philosophical way of saying that bad shit just happens and what you do with the bad shit influences your ability to either deal with more bad shit or to shut the door and say, “None shall pass.” I could have just said that, but I liked weaving the whole “freight train” analogy. It’s more creative and wordy, and I am a goddamned writer, for fuck’s sake.

2017 wasn’t bad. Many wonderful things happened. I left a job I hated so much, walking through a pit of snakes barefoot would have been a preferable option to taking the shit I took daily. Some people can navigate the world of retail and be successful at it. Some people are impermeable to the optimism-crushing business practices of a big box conglomeration of corporate ineptitude and utter bullshit. None of those people work at Wal….errrrrr, Voldemort. Look at their faces. Talk to them a bit. There is blackness, weariness, and utter contempt brewing just underneath the surface of their “Happy to Help” smiles and false brightness in their voices. The job beats you down, and if the job doesn’t beat you down, the corporate selfishness and inexplicable cruelty to its employees will in short order.

I thought I was entering the field I wanted to be in when I took off the blue vest horror and burned it and shot holes in the happy face swag, but my health had other ideas. Instead, I found a job that was made for me, utilizing the skills I possess and combining them with the added bonus of not having to leave my house to do it. For an anxiety-ridden, OCD-laden, depressive disorder-maligned train wreck (*wink*) such as me, this was a Godsend.

Oh yeah, that. 2017 was the year I threw off the cloak of invisibility that allowed me to walk amongst the religious without drawing attention to the fact that I was not one of them. And had never been. Lying to the world I knew had become so normal that it suddenly was abnormal. I couldn’t do it anymore. So I. Just. Stopped.

Okay, let’s call 2017 The Year I Dumped the Koolaid. So much bad koolaid. Grape. I hate grape.

I mean it.

In 2017, I found my happy place, by the ocean. I went to concerts. I also successfully spoke to (and hugged! SQUEEEE!) celebrities I admired. This here was a BIG deal, because the possibility that I would have taken one look at any one of them, made an awkward face, yelped something like “Ghouuuulerrrrpemeritus!” and then run to hide behind the husband was actually a pretty good bet.

I got more tattoos. I shaved the side of my head. I put in all my piercings. I wore what the hell I wanted and made my face up in garish fashion when it suited me. I presented myself to the public as utterly WHO I AM. I refused to capitulate to the idea that 50 is old and it’s time to embrace the old lady hair and start knitting socks. I like socks, but I can’t knit, only crochet. I have little patience for it, and socks are easier to buy. Plus, you can get so many different varieties on Amazon!

Most of that was just embracing my inner and outer self and allowing myself to be unapologetically whatever-the-fuck I feel like being every day. If it needs to be said, I say it. If the day can best be attacked from the comfort of the couch, I allow it. I listen to my body and don’t push it beyond the warnings it gives me. Most of the time. I accept that I am a massively flawed human being and that means that when I am not fun to be around, I should just retreat until I can be. I don’t love that. In fact, I hate it. But I have made an uneasy pact with who I am and my limitations and if it keeps the trains away, then it’s all good.

Bad things happened. This was a very tough year for a lot of people I love and if I could have diverted the trains out of their way, I would have. Those things did not happen to me, but the feelings of helplessness and the frustration of not being able to “fix” things were the emotional burdens I chose to carry. Some days, it was a lot and I had to wonder if this life was just some sort of big “Pnk’d” episode.

I know it’s expected, but I won’t do it. I won’t GO OFF about the shit show that is playing itself out in this country. I will not rant about the DUMPSTER FIRE that is the White House. I will not LOSE MY SHIT over the complete and utter idiot who has taken a MASSIVE CRAP on the Office he holds. Nope. Won’t even say the name. I am not known for my restraint, but this time, I will abstain.

It rhymes with “Dump”, though.

No, it was not a bad year. It was a continuation of this thing called Life. If you’re just humming along, one can bleed into the next. If you aren’t paying attention, or only listening for the freight trains, you might not see the little deliveries of bliss, contentment, and just plain ol’ happiness that make their way to you by truck, by car, by plane, or on foot. What I mean to say is that there aren’t train tracks everywhere. Certainly, you need to look both ways before crossing them. Just don’t be so preoccupied by the possibility that you miss the other deliveries. Those are the stuff.

On to 2018!

Advertisements

Christmas bells are ringing. Can you hear them?

We are entering those last couple of chaotic, frenzied days before Christmas dawns and a new kind of frenzy begins: the tearing of gift wrap. People are racing around, some shopping for the first time, some finishing up, and others just putting finishing touches on their purchases. Meals have been planned, ingredients purchased, people making their lists and checking them twice. Some got started months ago and are looking on smugly at the ones who are still racing about, trying to get everything done. Let me be clear: I am not one of those smuggy McSmuggersons.

It has become exhausting, the whole thing, hasn’t it? The stress of simply making ends meet is hard enough the other 10 or 11 months out of the year, but the pressure that is exerted upon people to outperform, to exceed expectations, to go above and beyond to make it “an unforgettable holiday” is just staggering. Gone are the days when the toys Santa left underneath the tree had manageable price tags. Maybe it was hard, even then, to afford everything, but it certainly wasn’t as overblown and inflated as these days of Ipads, $800 cell phones, and $100 hoodies. Even the “lower end” items aren’t affordable; a parent has to basically pray to the Santa God to be able to find that hot item in the store because if it can’t be found, then it’s off to EBay to bid on one and pay twice or more than the original price because God forbid Junior might be disappointed.

When I was a kid, I was seldom disappointed at Christmas. My wish lists were never grandiose but we were very poor, and I know that it was hard for my mother and grandmother to afford things. I remember festive holidays, although I do not remember what it was like for them underneath the tree. I recall my homemade gifts and gifts crafted at school (every parent in the 70s remembers at least one gift from their child made of oak tag and macaroni, painted and glittered) and maybe a gift for each, store-bought with allowance money or babysitting money. I don’t know who filled their stockings when I was too young to do it. I imagine they went without.

Parents are going without again. Maybe in most cases, they always have. When I was raising my kids, their father and I always made sure there were gifts for each other. Christmas was the one time of year, aside from birthdays, when we went all-out. We spent the rest of the year focusing on the kids. If I wanted new shoes, I knew that Christmas was the time to ask. Or a coat, or a bottle of perfume. There simply wasn’t money for stuff for ourselves at any other time of year.

Nowadays, we are such an instant-gratification society that we fill the needs and wants year-round. We’ve conditioned our kids to expect it, too. Your 14 year-old broke his cell phone? You go get him a new one. Even if you go into debt, you just…..you do it. The alternative is to listen to him bitch. Or for him to be maligned in school. Things are different now; society is technologically driven. If you buy your 4 year-old a stuffed animal, it comes with a specially-coded tag that you can scan with your cell phone and input on a website, and then your 4 year-old can play wonderously adventurous games online, using an accurate representation of her new stuffed animal. And yes, by age 4, of course your 4 year-old can navigate her way around a website. When I was 4, I could read and write, but “computer” wasn’t even a word to me. I could make a mean mudpie, though, filled with sweet pea pods and milkweed, and cajole a 3 year-old into eating it. Those were the sum total of my advanced skills.

Those simpler times are gone. All the yuletide joy found at Christmas seems to be gone, too. My daughter-in-law and I were recently talking about how fun it used to be to go caroling. People used to do that, walking along the sidewalks of their neighborhoods, singing carols and occasionally being invited in for cocoa. Neighbors would bring out cookies. It was beautiful, especially when it snowed and the whole world was a bluish-white and the snowflakes glittered and the Christmas lights twinkled and when you finished a song, the silence in the air was the most perfect “sound” you had ever heard. On perfect, Christmas nights like that, one could be lulled into believing in the story of a child laid in a manger by young, exhausted parents and a star lighting the way. One also believed in the magic of Santa Claus and his reindeer and nothing was more exciting than climbing into bed on Christmas Eve and wondering where the jolly fat man was at that very moment.

Are those days gone, blown aside by technology and innovation; cast off as old-fashioned traditions; or even worse, deigned politically incorrect and out of time with the way things are today? When was the last time you sat, by the light of a Christmas tree, sipping something hot, and listened to some beautiful music? When was the last time you stood outside in the bracing cold and opened your mouth to catch a snowflake on your tongue?

Do you want to build a snowman? Yes, I know I just cursed you by putting that song into your head, but is that such a bad thing, really? How about going out after a new snowfall and making a snow angel, or having a good, old-fashioned snowball fight, followed by hot chocolate while your winter clothes lay in a cold, wet, heap by the door? Can you use your imagination and recall the way wet mittens smell? Do you remember what it was like to step in a wet puddle made my your boots as they dried by the door?

You can, if you try. The magic of Christmas is not found in the latest gadget, or must-have item. It isn’t found by going into debt for months to afford one day. It was never meant to be the retail-driven behemoth it has become. And it makes me very sad to know that plenty of people have never known those simple joys of Christmas. Lots of people dislike A Christmas Story because it has become a sort of tradition, watching it at least once (or in bits and pieces throughout Christmas day) and laughing about the funny parts. The thing about that movie, though, is its simplicity. It manages to convey everything I remember loving about Christmas, even though it took place a good 35 years before I was born. It harkens back to simpler times, when there was wonder on a child’s face at Christmas. Now, we are all, every one of us, jaded.

My wish for you all this Christmas is to find that wonder, reacquainting yourselves with the joy. Hold it within you, if only for a moment. As Tom Hanks’s Santa said, in the wonderful film, The Polar Express, the magic of Christmas lies within your heart.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Of Buckets of lists and of Bucket lists.

I’ve been thinking about my Bucket List a lot lately.

I don’t know if it’s about getting older and hearing the actual beat of your heart in your ears almost all the time. I don’t know if it’s watching your kids marry, have children, and then observing them navigate all those narrow precipices you already edged along when you were young and they were clinging to your back, chattering excitedly in your ear. I don’t know if it’s realizing, with a mixture of surprise and dismay, that pretty much every, single thing you promised yourself that you would accomplish  when you were 20  has evolved into a long list of missed opportunities, forgotten dreams, and unattainable goals. I know that the best motivational speakers in the world would exclaim, “NO GOAL IS UNATTAINABLE!  NO DREAM IS FORGOTTEN! IF YOU CAN SEE IT, YOU CAN DO IT!” 

We all know that this is a load of crap the size of the tallest Egyptian Pyramid. Not everyone can attain lofty goals, realize dreamy dreams, or take advantage of every opportunity. Life simply gets in the way. Responsibilities are something most of us (except you, entire Trump family except Tiffany, and you, Steve Mnuchin and your vile-looking wife who is obviously vying for the part of Cruella Deville in a 101 Dalmations remake) take very seriously, and they just happen to interfere with dreams of traveling the world, eating delicious delicacies, going to Harvard and living the exciting life of a scientist on Antarctica. None of those are really my dreams or goals, by the way. I’d like to visit Antarctica for maybe 48 hours, but practice science there? Nope. I’ll sit back here in my warm house, admiring those who do want to live the life of a frozen, popsicle scientist. I never wanted to go to Harvard; hell, I didn’t want to go to the college I did matriculate at for one awful year but I simply couldn’t afford the school I wanted to go to. See? Boston College = unattainable goal. As for traveling the world, there really are only a handful of places I would like to see. Asia is not one of them, and given that it takes up a large chunk of the planet, I guess you can safely assume that I don’t wish to be a “world” traveler.

See how easily I segued back onto the subject of my bucket list? That was crafty of me. I am a brilliant writer.  Quit laughing. I can hear you.

I think that bucket lists should be firmly anchored in reality. I suppose that there are those who would disagree – motivational speakers at the top of that list – but if you have this desire to do something before you die so much so that it lights a fire under you and pushes you to reach for it, it should be something that isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. That means that those of you pining away for Prince Harry need to discard that objective on your list because he has picked his bride and it is not you. Conversely, if you want to go to one of those places that has the Virgin Mary Statue that cries real blood tears and if you pray at her feet and anoint yourself with the blood you will be cured of whatever chronic malady (**cough cough**stupidity**cough**) you have, maybe you should first consult a doctor (psychiatrist). It’s perfectly fine and probably great for your sanity to “dream a little dream” and entertain daydreams of winning the lottery, but when it comes to a bucket list, I think realism should count. The point of having a bucket list is to actually be able to tick each thing off before you croak, right? Well, marrying someone in the Royal family is probably not going to happen for you. One, you aren’t related to them. Two, you’re not Royalty yourself. And three, even if the first two don’t apply, the fact that you’re sitting here, reading my blog, means you aren’t famous or at least notorious, so that takes you out of the running for Prince Harry or even a footman for the cousin of the nephew of the godfather of a Duke somewhere in that crazy mashup of Windsors and Mountbattens and Cromwells and bears, oh my!

With realism firmly in place, I have considered my bucket list carefully. I don’t have a lot on it. I mean, reality, right? Every, single item on my list is going to involve time, money, and careful coordination. I have none of those. I must first get those. The coordination thing is probably never going to happen for me, especially if I persist in wearing flip flops everywhere I go, including outside during an ice storm. That’s a story for another day. Time and money are relative things; both can be made if one tries hard enough. I think I have a damned spiffy bucket list.

I want to visit Ireland, Scotland, and Great Britain. I would like to see where my ancestors lived, and enjoy all the local attractions, touristy things, as well as go off the beaten path to find some real beauty.

 

ire
I have nothing witty to say. Simple awe.

I want to visit Scandinavia and, in particular, go during the best viewing time of the Northern Lights. I honestly have never seen something quite as beautiful. I also want to stomp around like a Viking and utter mysteriously “If it is the will of the Gods” and see if I can observe some Skarsgaards in their natural habitat. And yes, to walk along the same paths that My Precious, Tobias Forge, has walked along would be super fine, too.

nlights
How beautiful is this?

I want to skydive. Yes, I am afraid of heights. This should not matter. I once told a precious, little, 4 year-old girl that a part of life was “facing your fears” and that if she could sleep through the night in her own bed with only the light of her night-light, she would be facing her greatest fear, which was of course the dark. When she ran into my bedroom the next morning and triumphantly announced that she had conquered her demon, my heart contracted and then exploded with a love and pride so enormous, it is amazing that I don’t have congestive heart failure now. The idea of the earth racing up to meet me as I pull a rip cord and hope it engages just sounds like the scariest, most exhilarating thing I can imagine. I have faced much bigger fears in my life. Playing chicken with the ground doesn’t need to be one of them.

sky
I do not know who this is but he looks like he is having fun. I would keep my mouth shut and just muffle screams because I don’t want my teeth knocked out by some fast-moving bug.

I want to visit Australia and spend time with my best friend, my sister from another mother, Belinda….and I want to hold a flying fox and feed it mashed up banana. Those are actually two separate things, but I can think of no one else who I would like to experience the wonder of meeting a fruit bat with than my soul sister.

bat
I can’t even. Bat burritos.

I want to leave this shitty town I have lived in nearly all my life and never return. Oh, I know, I’ll get flak for this from those who truly love this town, but the thing is, I don’t. I never have. I have felt like an outsider all my life, tethered neither nostalgically or spiritually and wishing for a place that would envelop me in a hug and knock on the door of my heart and say, “I’m here. Let me in.” Last summer, I found it, and it is Virginia, near the beach. I would like to explore the shore of the Eastern seaboard a little and ultimately land somewhere reasonably warm. I have felt similar stirrings near the water in New Jersey and New York, but Virginia fairly shouted “WELCOME TO FANTASY ISLAND!” in a Mr. Rourke voice when I arrived. It is on my bucket list to live there, and if I can do that sooner rather than later, then I would be very content with clicking off the rest after this one goal is accomplished.

vb
That could be me and the husband, if we get our shit together.

I want to visit California and rest upon its Pacific shores. I want to watch a sunset and marvel at the beauty. That’s a pretty simple one.

suns
Who dat?

I want to see Elton John in concert. My love for him is longstanding and well-documented. I cannot believe that I could be in awe of him for so long and never took the opportunity. He’s getting older, and so am I. This one needs to happen fast, before one of us breaks a hip and can’t do concerts anymore!

ej
He doesn’t know it, but I would be his best friend if he’d let me.

I want to publish a novel that is read by more than just my friends and family. No, I don’t want to be Anne Rice or Stephen King famous, and the idea of fame is actually pretty terrifying. I would not do well on a book tour. Another author who I hold in the highest regard, Jenny Lawson, she of The Bloggess fame, has mostly overcome this kind of fear and has shared her struggles with her followers and I so admire her for it.  That struggle? It is so real. Me? I just don’t think I can do it. I would be more of a JD Salinger-type writer, shunning publicity and shying away from cameras. If I received a decent amount of acclaim, I would insist that black-cloaked body doubles be strategically placed to direct the press away from me whenever I needed to go somewhere. The world would question whether or not I truly existed. One might ask, “Well, how would it be a bucket list item if no one knows who the fuck you are?” and the answer to that is that I would fucking know and it’s my bucket list, so fuck off.

clo
Look! It’s that famous author who wrote that thing! Or is it…….Satan?

I suppose it’s a kind of standard bucket list, really. I tend to be more imaginative about the things I know I can never do, rather than the things I really want. Truth be told, I would never place something like “I want to meet this famous person” on a bucket list because they almost always do not live up to your expectations. We forget that famous people are human beings (except for the entire Trump family, who are Orcs, and Steve Mnuchin and his nasty wife, who are shape-shifting demons) and that they are capable of behaving just as humanly as we do. Pathetically so, in some cases. Yes, 3/4 of the male population in Hollywood, I am referring to you.

Now it’s your turn. “Wait!” you’re exclaiming, “Is this an interactive kind of thing? I actually have to do something?  I am used to reading your shit while in my underwear and hiding out in my bed! What in the actual fuck?” 

Yes, you are being asked to engage with me. I’d love to know what’s on your bucket list. Look, this could be lots of fun! Plus, it’ll be in print and I can come back to you later and ask you, “So, did you do it yet?” Accountability! I can actually MOTIVATE you. And I promise to do it in a non-irritating way. Suze Orman or Oprah I am not. Those bitches make my head hurt.

So c’mon. Indulge me. There’s a little reply thingy below. I’m waiting.

 

Dreams and dreams and dreams and no, it wasn’t a sex dream.

I had a very vivid dream last night. It occurred somewhere in between putting my earbuds in to enjoy some music – which is a frequent pleasure that I partake of before sleep – and waking up with those earbuds still firmly implanted in my earholes.

Before we get into any of this, I just want to say that I already know that I had this particular dream because of the music I was listening to, so all you junior dream interpreter experts can calm the fuck down, okay? It was the dream itself that was odd, not because it was vivid and I can remember almost all of it even now, but because of, well, the dream. I am writing about it because I feel compelled to share it. Let’s see if there’s an actual reason, shall we?

I dreamed that I was laying on a king-sized bed with a canopy. It was a dark, mahogany monstrosity of a bed. The bedspread, duvet, whatever the hell you want to call it, was a deep, velvety red color. I was laying on my back, sandwiched in between Dave Grohl and Tobias Forge (pronounce his name right or I will stab you with a fork. It is Toe-bee-us For-yay. This is a pet peeve of mine.). We all had on black clothing.

For those of you who don’t know who these two men are, – and SHAME ON YOU IF YOU DON’T, I might add – they are the lead singers of two of my most favorite bands in the world: The Foo Fighters and Ghost.

Dave-Grohl-Lolla-berlin-2017-billboard-1548
Dave Grohl, or as I call him, my Patronus.
be252a58fea822f77cfbf6c0e2e68d9d
Tobias Forge as Papa Emeritus III, his persona in Ghost, and heretofore referred to as My Precious…..
tobias
…..and my favorite out-of-character, unauthorized photo of Tobias because I met him looking just like this 5 days after this was taken and he had that jacket on and Oh-My-Fucking-God he smelled delicious and I HUGGED THIS MAN.

Okay, let’s not jump to any conclusions yet. Yes, a dream about two rock stars who I am enamored of and find physically attractive and think are immensely talented. You’re going there, aren’t you? In your head, you’re going there. “Lori had a sex dream about these two dudes and she was in a delicious sort of sandwichey, gooey, deliriously glorious and orgasmic threesome.” Hell, if I was observing me, I would assume this. It’s no secret that these two are on my laminated list of the 5 men I am allowed to get jiggy with vertically and horizontally and any other way we can come up with. I wish to exchange bodily fluids with them; well, mostly them with the bodily fluids because I am after all a 50 year-old woman with certain mature woman issues and sometimes, you just gotta resort to the KY. The 5 men on my laminated list are no-strings-attached, no regrets, and free of any sort of marital retribution for having been given the opportunity to know them in the biblical sense. The husband is very aware and is permitted a list, too. If I could have had it written into our vows, I probably would have. Imagine that:

“Do you promise to honor the laminated list with no jealousy or retribution as long as you both shall live?”

“I do.”

It’s also very tongue-in-cheek, because these are obviously unattainable goals that I have. Even if I have them on my laminated list, I am positive that I am not on theirs, if they have such a thing. It’s purely fun, purely fantasy, and since it ain’t ever going to happen, I am allowed a few moments of shameless lust. Okay, a few hours.

But back to the dream. You are all sick fuckers. It was NOT a sex dream. At least, I don’t see it as such. In the dream, we were sort of snuggling. But we were just talking. Here’s how it went:

Dave: I need a smoke.

Me: (frowning) Not in bed. What if you drop some ashes? Plus, I hate the smell.

Dave: I’ll be careful. Do you think I would fucking burn the bed down?

Tobias: (chuckles) The Burning Bed.

Me: I read that book. And Farrah Fawcett played her in the movie. It was fucking brutal.

Tobias: I never read it. I saw the movie, though. Americans with their dramas.

Dave: This has nothing to do with that story. She used gasoline, anyway. (reaches beside him to bedside table and gets cigarettes and fires one up)

Me: But I don’t like the smell! You suck. (swats Dave’s stomach-chest area)

Dave: (doubles up a bit) Stop! I’m ticklish. And you wish I was sucking.

Me: Meh. You’re only acceptable at it. (turning to face Tobias and bumping Dave with my ass)

Dave: Bitch. Damn. You’re such a bitch.

Me: I know you are, but what am I?

Tobias: Who’s the youngest right here, right now?

Dave: (bursts out laughing) I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE, MAN!

Me: (rolling my eyes) Assholes, both of you.

(At this point, I lift Tobias’s t-shirt to expose his stomach. There’s a thin line of soft, dark hair running below his navel into the waistband of his jeans. I trace my finger down it lightly.)

Tobias: (Shivers) Hey. I’m ticklish, too.

Me: I want to see if that was really you in the Year Zero video.

Tobias: It was a stunt cock. You think I’m hung like that? (laughs)

Dave: Uhhhh, I am in the room, guys.

Me: We’re discussing science. Don’t you ever like to talk about scientific things?

Dave: Stunt cocks? Like they have anything to do with science. You just want to bang him.

Me: And your point is? Isn’t sex scientific?

Dave: (Grabs his crotch) I got your science right here.

Tobias: Give me a drag of that cigarette.

(They both start laughing.)

Dave: Fuck you, man!

Me: You’re both children. Why do I even love you?

smoke1-300x219

Here is where I woke up, with the Foo Fighter’s The Neverending Sigh blaring in my ears. Look up the song, by the way. It is awesome, and I want to be listening to it when I die. Anyway, I don’t know whether it was the combination of the music, my nightly (legal) drug cocktail, or the introduction of Nyquil to my evening due to a nasty, leaky nose, but that was a really strange dream. Maybe the hair dye that I put on my hair last night seeped into my body somehow and interacted with the Nyquil and produced this perturbing and perplexing spectral sleep anomaly, but still, I must proclaim it strange. It’s strange not only because it would never in a million years happen and not because it was so vivid, but because it was so normal. If I were sandwiched between these two guys and we were just hanging out, I imagine that this is exactly how it would go. We are reminded every day that celebrities are mere people, just like us. They do stupid shit, say stupid things, act like children, and we still place them on pedestals because they speak to us on a creative level. But this was so mundanely average on a scale of average-ness that I didn’t really think about it until I awoke this morning and had a moment where I thought, “You had the strangest dream last night.” Even now, a dozen hours later, I can still hear their voices. I admit, too, I am a little irritated that it was so normal. Given the creativity between these two men, one would expect a dream of Magical Mystery Tour proportions. But alas, no. I had a dream about being normal with two very extraordinary men. It makes me wonder about dreams, and about alternate realities, and about science. Yes! Science! Because this whole bizarre happening has to have some sort of scientific meaning or connotation. Right? Maybe this dream was symbolic, showing me that life is really like smoke drifting into the air, solid-looking at first, but thinning, drifting, and fading. Only the scent of their ideas remain, and eventually, that fades, too. Now, that is some deep thinking shit, right there. Read that in Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s voice. I thought it that way. And yeah, he’s on the laminated list.

jdm

Or maybe it’s my subconscious telling me that I really, truly need to focus on some fictional writing.

Anyway, thanks for indulging me. I know this is just drivel. But even good writers engage in drivel at times.

I don’t want a lot for Christmas…….

Author’s note:

My mama is very much on my mind this year. I don’t really know why, but after 5 years, this year seems much more bittersweet than the previous ones without her. I think it may be simply because my children are so close this year, for the first time in ages. I will celebrate most of Christmas Day with my oldest son and his family, and it’s hard to not notice the similarities between Christmases of the past, when he and his siblings were small and their grandma made the trek to spend the day with her firstborn and family.
21753107_10212915377893510_6057217820646625551_o
Grandchildren. Who could not feel blessed when looking at these faces?
Have I related, lately, just how much I adore my children? They have become such interesting adults, not simply amazing because this mama always felt that they were special, as every mother does; but because they are simply remarkable in so many unique ways. I could write tomes about each child, absolute missives of adoration, joy, and testaments of love to each; indeed, each deserves his/her own novel of love and devotion from a mother who very much expected to lead a sad, lonely, secluded, and quiet life and instead found herself blessed beyond any seed of hope ever planted in childhood fields of dreams.
Another time.
Again this week, I offer up a past writing from the archives.This one is the first, a first Christmas without my mother, and it deserves a place of reminiscence in this blog.  It serves to remind me of how far I have come since that first very dark Christmas as an orphan, and yet, how easily I seem to be able to conjure up those emotions with little or no effort even now.

 

‘Tis the Season to be, well….something.

It’s not yet December but the trees are trimmed, the lights are hung, and thoughts of Christmas are ever-present in my house. It’s hard not to catch the spirit with two young boys jockeying for a spot on Santa’s “Good List”. It’s especially hard to ignore the fact that the holiday season has begun with a 3 year-old who is absolutely enamored of snow falling, trees glittering, and snow globes, which are of course Santa’s spy cameras. He sees EVERYTHING through those things. They are positioned all over the house, giving Santa a great view of every move, so you better be good, for goodness sake! It’s fun to have Aaron involved in the Santa shenanigans, too. At 9, he knows the truth about where the presents come from, but he’s really enjoying having this super-secret knowledge and keeping his brother on his toes. Yesterday, he told Desi all about “the year I was really, really bad and Santa only gave me coal.” He related this to his younger brother with a sly, conspiratorial look on his face as he glanced at me from time to time. Desi was astounded that this could have actually happened. I watched Desi’s face as he sat on the couch last night, his eyes glued to the TV set as the Grinch did his dirty work and then was shown the true meaning of Christmas by Cindy Lou Who. I’ll admit, it really is much easier to believe when you see things through the eyes of a 3 year-old child.

 

I know that I am mostly going through the motions this year. That’s been the case for many years, even though I have essentially had children running around the house at Christmas for over 26 years now. I miss my mom, and Thanksgiving was difficult. It just didn’t feel right somehow. I think it was mostly the pall of the last year’s events hanging over us like some sooty residue, and what we really need is a cleansing, not only in the house, but of our spirits as well. I’m trying. I really am. I need to wash the gloom right out of our lives. The only problem is, I have not yet figured out a way to accomplish that.

 

Here’s what I will not miss this year. I will not miss trying to figure out what to buy for a septuagenarian who has everything. I will not miss buying the requisite new nightgowns, perfumes, and household items she wants but doesn’t really need.  What I WILL miss is seeing her open her gifts and exclaiming over those one or two really special items, like a handmade rosary or a soft, warm sweater. She always enjoyed opening the presents and that gave me a lot of pleasure.

 

I will not miss baking cookies and not being able to load up containers of them for her, because she had diabetes and therefore could not have much in the way of sweets. I hated this every year because I knew damn well she could smell the aromas of freshly-baked sugar cookies and snickerdoodles and pumpkin bread and all the other mouth-watering treats she taught me to make wafting down into her apartment. It had to be absolute torture for someone who used to be able to freely eat as many as she wanted. I hated making up a simple plate of just a couple of cookies at a time for her, because it just seemed like a punishment. What I WILL miss is that, on Christmas Day, all bets were off and she would come upstairs and feast her eyes on everything yummy and pick and choose whatever she wanted. Just for that day. It made me happy to see her eyes light up.

 

I will not miss having to trek downstairs to open our one Christmas Eve gift together, mostly because it was always crowded when we did so and because it just reminded me that in order to have her upstairs for Christmas Day, we had to limit how much she moved around because her back, legs, and hip hurt so much. Yes, she enjoyed coming up and hanging out upstairs, but it was always tempered with the certainty that she would pay for it for days afterward. I am reminded of previous years when my kids were young and she and my brother would come from their house next door to us and we’d have hot chocolate while we opened our one gift each. I can still remember how she used to walk; she always took small, careful steps that seemed just a little bit jaunty. What I WILL miss is the hot cup of coffee that greeted me downstairs when we would go down there these past 7 years and the little gifts of herself that she was so proud of creating for us. She was an incredible knitter and crocheter and I only wish she had been able to make us more treasures to keep always.

des
Great-Grammy holding Desmond, 2010, downstairs, in her apartment.

I will not miss having to hide the Christmas candy we’d buy for my brother’s stocking every Christmas because if we left it in her apartment, she had no self-control and would eat every single piece. This would cause me to 1) be pissed off at her because I’d have to go to the extra expense of buying more candy, and 2) worry that her sugar was going to go through the roof and kill her. I WILL miss buying her the bags of Russell Stover sugar-free caramels she loved for her stocking, although this one is a double-edged sword in that she also had no self control when it came to sugar-free candy either. Guess what happens if you eat too much sugar-free Hersheys bars? You get the trots, which is never fun, but is even worse if you can’t walk very well and sometimes barely make it to your porta-potty let alone when you get yourself sick gorging yourself on candy.

 

I will not miss the inevitable trip to the Emergency Room that has occurred every single year just after Christmas. Sometimes it was breathing problems, but last year, it was spinal stenosis. I DO miss the feelings of relief that always accompanied these trips because, well….she was always okay. She’d usually have to be admitted for a week but I never had the thought that I would lose her. I always knew she’d be fine and she’d come home. It was reassuring. That was how I knew, deep within my heart, that things were not going to be okay on September 22nd, When my brother came upstairs and told me “Mom needs help” and Amanda flew down the stairs while I threw on some clothes. I had this piercing feeling in my gut that somehow this was different. We’d been to the doctor just two weeks prior. She’d had tremendously good news and awesome results of her tests. She was feeling better than she had in years. This was an omen. I know that now. It should have prepared me, but it didn’t. Instead, I had that feeling of comfort, that my mom was going to be with me for a long time, and that we had more time to get to that good place we were seeking. I guess we were there without my ever realizing it. I wish someone would have clued me in, because in the days that have followed, I’ve really beaten myself up.

kitt
Mom’s precious Kitty, watching everyone open their one gift on Christmas Eve.

I will miss preparing her plate at Christmas dinner. I will miss her wishing she could have a beer. I’ll miss sneaking a bit of Irish Cream liqueur into her coffee and how she would gulp it down. I will miss watching her eyes roll back into her head and her sigh of pleasure when she’d take her first bite of fudge. I will miss how she always gave me one gift that said more in that gesture than a thousand words ever could. Hell, I’ll even miss how she would bicker with my brother, especially last year, when he opened a gift and exclaimed “Not another goddamn plush throw!” (I guess he’s accruing quite a collection.)

 

There are plenty of other things I’ll miss, but I am hoping that after this first, awkward year where we are all hyper-conscious of what has been lost and who’s missing – where I will probably try way too hard to seem festive and jolly and to make merry when inside, I’ll probably be as dead as a pile of unlit twigs in the fireplace – we’ll all be able to move on and find joy on coming years. Perhaps we can start to make some new memories that, while not better, are just as good. I may have lost my childish wonder at the magic of Christmas, and I may have lost my mother, but I have not lost the ability to hope.

nat
The sky is a neighborhood.

 

 

The Ghosts of This Writer’s Past…..

Author’s note: I am feeling a bit under the weather today, so I decided to revisit some old writings I made a few years ago, and republish them for you all to read. This one is very important, because I have a friend who has recently experienced this loss and it has been so hard to put into words how I empathize and understand her grief. I am hoping that this might help. Jenn, this is for you.

So this is the day I thought would make all the difference in the world.

This piece of writing began as a letter to my mother. I lost her a year ago on this day. In the beginning, during those raw, new moments of grief, I wrote to her as a way of feeling like there was still a connection. One thing that a lot of people don’t know about our relationship is the fact that we always wrote our feelings to each other, rather than talk about them out in the open. Writing them down on a piece of paper (or two or twelve) was our way of resolving issues and of airing our hurts. Every time I received an envelope with my name written on the front of it, my heart would sink with the knowledge that I had somehow let her down or hurt her. As I would read, each word would wedge itself like a dagger into my heart until I was certain that I could not bear to turn over another page. Then, having finished the letter, I would reach for my own pen and paper and respond. My responses were always emotional and angry and remorseful and I usually ended them begging her to please love me, to not turn me away. As the years passed and email became more convenient, the feelings were still the same even if the delivery was different. I would see an email from her and dread having to click on it, but knowing that I must. In these letters, and later emails, it was no-holds-barred and anything goes. We said what we meant and meant what we said. There was always resolution, always understanding, and although most of the time, she only wrote to me when she was very angry about something I had said or done or some mistake she felt I was making, they were her way of telling me that she did love me. Those weren’t common words in our home when I was growing up, and by the time I was grown and she had mellowed a bit and would say them, I was uncomfortable when she did. I preferred reading them to hearing them.

 

I would give anything, right at this moment, to have a letter from her.

 

In this letter, I imagine that she would take me to task for the way I have behaved since she died. She would be pissed to see me sad, mourning, inexplicably bursting into tears at any given moment on any given day. She would be disappointed in the fact that I have stopped doing the things that I used to enjoy: writing, drawing, cooking, listening to music, reading volume upon volume of any kind of book that I could get my hands on. I do attempt these things, yes, and I do read, but often, I will find myself simply staring at the words in the book before me, wondering what I just read. The other stuff I have mostly set aside for now, because to attempt to do any of it requires the desire, and I have none of that. I have no desire for anything, and most of the time, I feel like I am running this big race from the moment I wake up to the moment I crawl into bed, where getting to the finish line means I can succumb to the oblivion of sleep. All I have to do is act naturally; pretend I am amused at the jokes of others, accept the affections of the ones who love me, make things run right at home, and attempt to do my job competently and with some compassion and caring. I need to respond in the right way at the right times, take my cues from others, and never, ever let on to a single soul that I feel empty. I feel pain and sorrow quite well. It comes in peaks and valleys, but the elusive happiness? I watch for it, wait for it to return, and even fooled myself into thinking that if I could simply make it to the one year mark, and pass through that day with some reverence and grace and as few tears as possible, then happiness would once again come knocking upon my door.

 

My mother would write to me and say, Lori Rose, that’s a load of crap and you know it.

 

She would be so angry with me. She would dash off her disappointment with my sad-ass self on a dozen sheets of stationary paper and I would feel EVERY SINGLE WORD. She would tell me to get off my ass and resume my life, to live well, and to never look back on my mistakes. She would tell me how proud she was of me, and she would list all the things that made her proud. She would thank me for her grandchildren, thank me for always trying my best, and she would tell me that although I always lived with doubt about how she felt about me, she always loved me. I wish I could have that letter. It would make all the pain of this past year worth it.   I don’t know how to be who I should be, even for her sake. I have forgotten that person, and the person I am right now is some sort of impostor in my skin, inhabiting my life, and doing a piss-poor job at it. I am still filled with so many questions, so many things I wanted to ask her, and I can never realize any of it now, because time flies and life is fleeting and all that good bullshit that people quote when they’re feeling philosophical but they can’t know how I have been feeling because they haven’t lost MY mother and they will never know what it feels like to live in this skin. I should have taken better care. I should have noticed how fast time was flying by and I should have stopped to listen.

 

Because I cannot let this day pass without something good coming out of it, I want to remember some little things that, to the casual reader, may seem insignificant. To me, they were very important. The last time I saw my mother, in the hospital room, her face peaceful and her pain over, I was holding her hand.My mother had very feminine hands. They were a little plump because she was never a small woman, but her nails were always manicured and she wore clear polish most of the time, and they glowed a soft pink. She had baby-soft dark hairs on the skin between the knuckles and the first joint of each finger, but only a few.  My hands aren’t plump but they do resemble hers. When I was a little girl, those hands held my own as we walked downtown, to Zippo to see Grandma, to the doctor’s office, to the store. They smoothed away my hair when I was running a fever and slathered Vicks on my chest when I was really congested. They folded my clothes just so – and I fold clothes the same, exact way now – and placed them in neat piles on my bed. They measured out the ingredients for cookies, for chili, for spaghetti and meatballs, and all the things I loved to eat. They rarely, if ever spanked me, leaving that task to Grandma, who was heavy-handed once and who had the Wrath of My Mother rained down upon her for leaving a faint mark on my bottom on an occasion when she was out and Grandma was watching me and I did something I should not have. One of those slightly plump hands delivered a slap across my face when I was 15 and acting uppity. She was immediately apologetic; I was immediately ashamed of myself for making her resort to that. Her hands were soft, caring, and at the very end of her life, I held her hand in mine and whispered to her that it was okay to go if she had to. I waited for her to squeeze mine, letting me know that she understood. That squeeze never came, and that was how I knew that she was already too far away from me to be able to. An hour after her heart had stopped, I still clung to her hand, hoping for a reflex, for anything. In those long, agonizing, exhausted moments, I just could not let go. Those hands held me when I was a baby. They drew pictures for me. They cared for me in every way that a mother cares for her child. They wrote the letters that I dreaded/needed. Just as her face will never fade from my memory, neither will her hands.

 

My mom’s hospital room had one window, and it looked out over Lake Erie. She died at sunset, and what a glorious sunset it was. I stood, looking out the window as the doctor removed the respirator tube, and my daughter remarked, “Look at the sunset Grammy gets to have, Mama.” It was the most vividly pink light, and as I peered out that window over the water, my eyes smeared with makeup and my face saturated tears, a sailboat drifted along in the water, peaceful and calm. I will never forget that sunset and I don’t think I will ever again see one quite as beautiful. I am hoping that tonight there is a sunset, and that I am able to find beauty somewhere within it.

 

Mom, I love you. I miss you in a million little ways and a million big ways and I’m sorry for everything I didn’t do and never got a chance to do and I promise you, I will start putting one foot in front of the other and finding my way BACK to myself by moving forward. You would tell me to QUIT MONKEY-SHITTING AROUND. Okay, Mom. Okay.

zac
Mom with my oldest son. That smile there? That was pure happiness on my mother’s face. She was one year older than I am now.