Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Never Again

I will never again be thirteen at summer camp after my mother battled my way into going a year early because I skipped a grade.  I will never be left out like I was there, some of the counselors taking pity on me and talking to me while all the others flirted and played cards and talked about life back home.  But most of the counselors treated me like I didn’t belong there either. I pretended to be asleep when the boys came into the girls’ room one night and sprayed shaving cream all over our bunks and bathrooms.  I lied incredibly still as a boy duct taped me to my bed, pretending to be asleep.  I didn’t want to give anyone else an excuse to hate me.  Near the end of one of the worst weeks of my life, I attended an assembly where various religious leaders and random people got up and talked about their experience with Jesus Christ.  I chose my seat, trying not to intrude or invite myself to sit next to people that didn’t want me to sit next to them.  I listened to a particularly large girl talk about a dream she had about Jesus.  She said she was lonely and depressed growing up throughout most of high school and college.  According to her, because she was overweight she didn’t go on many dates and never had a boyfriend.  She hated herself.  She couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her.  And then sometime in the middle of college, she said she had a dream where this beautiful man in a tuxedo walked up to her in a crowd of people, leaned in close and whispered in her ear “I’ve been waiting for you.”  And she knew Jesus was the only man she needed to worry about seeking approval from.

I loved this story.  I cherished this story and kept it close and waited for my own personal tapping from a tuxedoed man from beyond.  But it never happened.  

Maybe he is still waiting.

I will never be nineteen again living in England.  I will never go on a date with an amazing man, beautiful and successful and inexplicably interested in me.  I feigned a throat ache to escape one of our dates early to try and catch the other man I’d been seeing before his shift was over at his bar.  Except the first man caught me hiding behind a building, and somehow, we ended up hanging out for longer.  I think I made up some sort of lie that it didn’t seem like he was having fun so I was trying to give him an easy out.  He told me it wasn’t true and he wanted to go have another drink, and if I would join him.  Of course he chose “this great place around the corner” which happened to have been the bar of the other man I was seeing.  I will never be so young and na├»ve again to think it would all turn out ok.  They didn’t throw punches, but they got in each other’s face and words were said, threatening and brutish words from the man behind the bar, and apologetic and sophisticated words from the man I had brought there. I ran to the bathroom with my roommate who was already there and we giggled and were nervous and were too tipsy to be grown up about any of it.   When I came back out, they were standing in front of each other and it was like looking at two archetypes of different classes.  One that goes to a bar, and one that is working behind it.  After the beautiful man took me home in a car far nicer than anything I had ever ridden in, I kissed him goodnight.  For all of his beauty and success and kindness towards me, he wasn’t that good of a kisser.  And it was how I rationalized choosing one over the other.  I texted him later that week and told him I had decided to date someone else.  I didn't think I deserved him.  I thought he would figure out who I was and how much better he was than me.  I will never again believe I deserve only the man behind the bar.  

I had to say I was sorry a lot to the other man, the “someone else,” but he forgave me quickly.  My bringing another date into his bar made him realize how much he actually cared about me, so he told me later.  He was my first love. 

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't lied about my throat.

I will never be twenty-four again and walk out of my professor’s office with the warm and smooth feel of my readers’ handshakes on my own clammy hand, nervous and shaking.  The world will never feel that big.  The triumph I felt after defending my work will never be replicated.  The possibilities of “out there” will never feel so numerous.  But I’ll also never feel so disappointed in myself at the very same time.  After all of their validation and congratulations on the work I had done, I wanted to scream at them that it wasn’t work at all.  I will never again look back with such clarity at the end of those nine years, nineteen semesters and ninety thousand dollars how I had slept through it.  I didn’t try.  I never had to.  I laughed a little bit in my car as I drove myself home, alone, after calling my mom and my dad and texting my boyfriend to see where we should go to celebrate my zombie-walk through my college career.  They let me get away with it.  They handed me a degree and a bill.  (No promises though, the hard part would come later.)  Should I have taken harder classes?  Were there harder classes?  Should I have gone to better school or was I too chicken to have applied? 


I’ll never know. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

To Shirley...




We were the lucky ones.

We were the ones that got our grandmother twice a year for weeks at a time.

We would see her in the summer, leaving behind the heat and the sticky air and the small town gossip and drive up north to where it was just then spring, pink blossoms and her huge yard exploding with color.

We would see her in the winter, for Christmas, for New Years, for snow, for cookies, for presents, for hugs.

And when we didn't see her, we talked to her on the phone, for hours.  She entertained our little stories, believed in our little worlds, told us about her little garden fairies causing mischief again and her little poodle that could never quite catch them.

She taught me to paint, my memories of this as blurry as the water colors on those thirsty pages.  I was never any good, my creativity in the arts leaked out of me and was swallowed up by my mother and sister.  My poppies looked like red upturned umbrellas with a giant black hole in the middle, my grass and sky separated by a thick black line broke the picture up too violently, my people drawn too large or too small to scale with my simple houses.  Her pictures were like pictures out of a book, like the paintings that hung on the walls of the museums she would take us to, showing us Monet, Manet, Renoir and Van Gogh.  But she never let on that mine were not perfect.  She always praised.  She always kept them, framed them, showed them off to all of her other artful friends.

She taught me how to string popcorn and cranberries to hang on the tree.  She taught me how to make deviled eggs.  She showed me how to make cakes and would tell me all the stories about working in a bakery and helping her father and about how pretty her dresses were that she wore to her high school dances.  She was brave and strong enough to pull out our loose teeth and she promised it wouldn't hurt, and it never did.  She told me about the trouble she would get into with her brothers and sister.  She made me feel less badly about fighting with my sister because she said that's what kids do.  She made me feel like a person.  She let me know that I counted.  She filled me up.

When we would drive home, I would cry until almost Kentucky, so sad to be away from the magical woman for another boring six months.  And then our mother would let us stop and talk to her at a payphone along the way, checking in, hearing her soothing words that summer break would be here before we knew it, and oh all of the fun things she already had planned for us.  She was going to take us to Fernwood.  She was going to teach us to draw in nature.  She was going to take us to tea.

She always had short hair, effortlessly stylish.  She wore purple, even though she was so young.  She smoked, but I never remember her smelling like it.  I only remember peppermint and lilacs.  I made her a chart once; a thirty-step guide to quitting in a month.  I allowed her a pack a day, and then eased her off day-by-day, cigarette-by-cigarette.  It was misspelled and the drawings of the come-to-life cigarettes with scowls on their faces surely brought a great deal of laughter from her and her siblings as they all sat around the dining room table in her mother's house, my great-grandmother, for a family reunion.

But then she got sick.  And her heart didn't want to work anymore.  And it was terrifying.  And I wasn't allowed in the room.  And I remember my mother crying.  After hearing all of those words and too-big thoughts and so-many-months to live, I was aware of my own heart like I had never been aware of before.  I felt like I could see everyone else's heart, we were all beating and pumping and working like nothing had ever happened, like they all hadn't just been broken, like they hadn't all been pierced with the possibility that there would be one less among us.

I had just learned fractions.  I remember that.  And I remember them telling us, or telling my mom and her sister and then they telling us in words that were softer, were easier, were simpler to swallow, that she had only a third of her heart left working, the rest of it, the upper two-thirds had simply quit.  And because I had just learned fractions, I knew one third was much smaller than two thirds.  And that it wasn't good. They didn't think she had more than six months left with us.

So we moved home, we moved to her home, we moved to the wonderful place that once was but was now just a shell and ticking clock.  She wasn't the woman that once made me feel like anything was possible.  We were there to say goodbye, to pray, to hope they were wrong.

And they were.

That was almost fifteen years ago.  And the approximate 186 days after the doctor had delivered the blow that would change our lives forever, she kept on breathing.  Her heart with only a third of its power and strength and will to live kept on pumping.  She stayed with us.  She woke up smiling.

I believed in magic that year.   I believed in angels and God and miracles.  I believed they were as close to us as we were to her, sitting in her garden, helping her weed and mulch and set up her easel.

She has never stopped being part of my life.  I am a woman now, a grown up that moved far far away.  But we still share secrets.  We still talk and giggle and commiserate over the phone.  She still encourages my creativity, prints out all of my stories and saves them in a file for when "I'm famous."
Well, Gram, this one is for you.  Thank you for everything.  Thank you for staying alive.  Thank you for making me want to live this life creatively.  Thank you for making fairy furniture and reading me books and teaching me to bake.  You left your mark.  You influenced my life.  And I will forever be grateful.

Happy birthday.

All my love,

Lynnie.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Feminism, Memoirs and What Got Me Really Heated Tonight.




What started out as procrastination from completing my words for the NaNoWriMo contest -  scrolling through Facebook and seeing all of my proud friends clicking the button the lets their newsfeed know that they voted today, a few stragglers who are just now uploading photos of their Halloween costumes, and a couple funny Youtube videos, turned into the absolute necessity to write this blog post. 

Lena Dunham released her first book and memoir Not That Kind of Girl  a few weeks ago.  I bought it, proud to support a fellow memoirist and my local bookstore, and eager to read what she had to say about growing up, becoming a writer, and becoming the phenomenon that she is today.  Admittedly, I might have gone into it with the hope that I would be clued in to some small secret of unlocking one's creative potential, or the acceptance of one's body as it is - beautiful - and not the object of public scrutiny and constant demands to be perfect.  And, while I liked it, and read it quickly, it felt more like a longer and more literary (obviously) version of her show "Girls," which I also thoroughly enjoy and often relate to.  I passed the book along to a friend, another "Girls" lover and haven't thought much about it since.

And then I found out, during my non-writing spree on Facebook, that Dunham has been receiving numerous attacks on her book, calling her a "sexual predator," and "child molester."  

The scene that is receiving all of these complaints is as follows:

One day, as I sat in our driveway in Long Island playing with blocks and buckets, my curiosity got the best of me. Grace was sitting up, babbling and smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina. She didn't resist and when I saw what was inside I shrieked.
My mother came running. "Mama, Mama! Grace has something in there!"
My mother didn't bother asking why I had opened Grace's vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did.

This scene gave me no pause.  I barely remember it being in the text, let alone prompt me to wage an all-out tweet and hashtag attack on someone for sharing a memory from when they were seven-years-old. The political and cultural critics complaints are ludicrous.  Jia Tolentino, a contributing writer on Jezebel wrote the article "The Right to a Sexual Narrative"  not only doing an exceptional job of detailing exactly who Lena Dunham is, why she is so popular, and what some of her flaws as a writer and public figure are, it also completely dispels the validity of the complaint with her memoir and it's "encouragement of sexual abuse."  My favorite lines from the article:

"To be an adult woman is to have your body be near-universally read as a sexual object when, on the inside, you often feel very different, like a Pokemon or a hungover bag of meat."

"There is enough real abuse out there. There are enough people who never got that freedom to let their own kid bodies be unburdened. Part of granting people the ability to tell their own sexual narrative is granting them the ability to tell their own sexual narrative, whether it matches your reading or not."

I have now read MULTIPLE articles about this, falling - nay - leaping headfirst into the black hole that is the internet and all connecting links to anything even remotely having to do with this case.  It's insane.  I even ambled into Truthrevolt.org (a terrifyingly propagandist place where all logic and reason and TRUTH go to be twisted and swallowed up in a very minute percentage of the population's agenda) and their article about how the First Amendment protects their accusation of her as a sexual predator and their withdrawal of an apology for stringing together DIFFERENT sections of her books to piece together a case in which she was seventeen and not seven when this episode occurred.  Disgusting.  One of the articles states that "Everything doesn't need to be shared..."  I'm sorry, why the fuck not?  Not only has her sister fully supported her sister through this and given express permission (as all memoirists and writers of non-fiction are contracted to do if they are intending to write about and publish real people without changing names and dates and places - did you know that?) of Dunham's use of her memories of her and her sister's interactions.

It's unfortunate there is such hyper-sensitivity out there, from BOTH sides (some of my favorite feminist writers jumped on this ridiculous bandwagon as well, shaming Dunham for using her platform to encourage the "abuse" of the innocent), and that a work of art or piece of writing or the TELLING OF ONE'S OWN STORY is grounds for an accusation of wrong-doing.  The evisceration of the safe space in which to tell about an innocent childhood memory is abhorrent.  She was seven.  This is a non-issue.  What IS the issue is the constant control being perpetrated on women's sexuality insofar that it creates  falsehoods about a CHILD'S intent and natural curiosity.  By exaggerating, misdiagnosing, overreacting and lying about what Lena Dunham "did" to her sister is yet another example of how the media, cultural critics, politicians and uninformed and knee-jerk reactionary FEMINISTS encourage the damaging discourse over what is "appropriate" for a woman to do with and think about her body.



It is a control mechanism people, and it must be recognized as such.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Oy with the Poodles Already!




They just put Gilmore Girls on Netflix.  Streaming, instant, whatever you want to call it.  It originally aired in 2000 - fourteen years ago.  This show defined my teenage years.  It painted a sort of picture that I thought my life would look like as a teenager, as a high schooler, as a college student.  The one-liners, the untraditional way I was raised, but most importantly, the close and unique and so unlike any other kind of mother-daughter relationship.

My mother and I, we were the Gilmore Girls.  You could try to understand us.  We could try to explain how we were.  But it wouldn't cover it.  It wouldn't even come close.  She is the reason that I made a funny face as I walked across the platform when my name was called to accept my college diploma.  She is the reason that I broke up with my first boyfriend.  She is the voice in my head that I hear when I think about doing anything important or scary or hard.

Now, all of you know that I have a sister and my mother has another daughter.  She is an amazing one, the best one really.  The kind of sister that other people wish they had.  A kind of sister that you consider your best friend, that you hope doesn't think you're pathetic and ridiculous and horrible for knowing every little bit of your deepest and darkest secrets because she's just so damn cool and great and smart and together  But all of that - all of that closeness and maturity and wisdom came later, came after high school and college and many, many mistakes.

But during the Gilmore-formative-college-choosing-years, my sister was in high school and had a life filled with friends and parties and boyfriends whereas I preferred imagining my life turning out like the girl in a show.  My mother and I spent a lot of time with each other, sitting across from each other, silently reading books and flipping through magazines and drinking far, far too much coffee.  We were each other's best friend.  We dreamt of opening an inn together, a restaurant, a cafe, a bookstore.  We had so many dreams.

And now, watching this show again, watching this show that I watched fourteen years ago, I smile and drop a happy nostalgic tear for the way in which I began this little life.  More than ten years ago, I started looking for colleges.  I requested information from every college that I ever dreamed of attending.  I sent away for the glossy brochures from Dartmouth and Brown and Yale and UCLA and Notre Dame.  I would sit on the floor of my tiny bedroom, surrounded by the applications, thinking about what kind of essay I would write, what I would say when asked what famous person, living or dead, I would like to have dinner with.  Where I saw myself in five years.  Who had the biggest influence on me, and why.

Then, one day, a friend of mine told me about Grand Valley State University.  A small school in the southwestern part of Michigan that had a great reputation and was affordable to those that had higher GPA's.  It was only two hours away.  And one Sunday, after weeks of looking at the pictures and classes and extracurricular activities online, my mother and I decided to take a trip and tour the campus.

I remember walking around on a misty cold afternoon in January, the strange time between Michigan winter and Midwestern spring, following along with nervous high school seniors and excited parents.  I remember being enchanted.  I remember looking at the tall buildings and the massive classrooms and the not at all awful cafeteria food with great coffee and movie nights and book stores and dusty and perfect libraries.  And I remember trailing behind the group with my mom, joking around and sharing a coffee and joyously looking forward to what my life would be like once I started college.

We chose to stay the night, get the full effect and feel and experience of living on campus.  It's so strange looking back and remembering the places we walked and ate and drank coffee and slept and then later knowing them as places I walked to class every day and ate lunch every day and drank coffee multiple times a day and never slept again because it was the Honors College that I didn't want to be part of because it came with too many responsibilities.  Anyway.  We stayed on campus. And they put us in this room that for some reason I don't remember having sheets.  It was just this room that was cheaper than a hotel even though we could have driven home but we didn't.   And I remember laughing with her.  I remember the mattresses being squeaky and both of us being too excited about my future in a college to sleep and the unsettled feeling that comes with sleeping away from one's own bed causing us to stay awake.  So we decided to get up.  And we walked down in our pajamas with a bag of Oreo's and bottles of vending machine water and figured out how to turn on the TV in the great room on the bottom floor.  It was winter break.  Campus was empty.   We watched the VH1 show "I Love the 80's: Part Deux." We laid on our sides on the common room couches, giggling and snacking and staying up into the wee hours of the morning, only to wake up late, groggy and guilty for not putting the couches back where we found them,  We were impressed by the omelette bar and drank more than our fair share of coffee and then we got back in the car and drove home, talking incessantly about the pros and cons of the college that we just visited.  That memory, that magic, that laughter and that trip is why I consider my mom my best friend.

This is her birthday month.  And since that college visit over a decade ago, we've taken many trips and spent many hours giggling together up late when we should have been sleeping.  But regardless of the age that she is turning this year, she will always be 38 to me.  That age, that number that means nothing, will always be the time that I remember my amazing mother.  She is great.  She is crazy.  No one will ever understand her like my sister and I understand her.  I miss her every day. I talk to her every day.  I would not be who I am without the influence that she had in my life.  She is my guidepost.

She is my llama.

I love you momma.

Oy with the poodles already!!

The llamas are vacuuming!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2 - "Tick Tock"

Admittedly, I almost didn't do the second part of this challenge.  I did not place in the last one, at all, the stark and shocking 0 next to my name made it difficult for me to be creative in spite of all that rejection and failure.  But, being the stubborn person that I am, I figured why not?  I'd already paid and I wasn't going to lose anything by submitting again.  I put less time into this challenge - much less time.  And it's not at all as polished as I would like it to be.  But I did it.  I am past it.  I have dealt with my very first submission then rejection then resubmission in spite of feeling like a big fat failure.  So, here is the next challenge, the next try, the next jump towards what I want to do.  And it might get a 0 too.  And that will be ok.  Because if nothing else, I wrote something and put it out there to be judged and seen and read by someone other than me.  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Location: A railroad station

Object:  A bag of rice



Tick Tock

Swish, swish, swish went the attendant’s broom, slowly sweeping up bits of trash and dust in front of Adam’s polished black boots.  He had never before cared about the appearance and upkeep of his shoes.  Before the war.  Before Germany.  Before Hitler made a mess of the world.  He had fifty-seven minutes until his train departed.
It was difficult to get comfortable on the hard bench, not designed to hold a sitter longer than the time between trains.  He took several deep breaths and when he closed his eyes, all he could see was her, in a white dress with flowers in her sunset hair.  The guests all standing around, smiling, laughing, a few with tears slowly streaming down their happy faces.  He had sat in the back.  He needed to see it with his own dry eyes. 
He looked down again and looked at the ticket clutched in his hand.  Forty nine minutes.  It had become wrinkled and sweaty with nerves from leaving his home for the first time.  The train would take him to a boat and then to another country.  He was going to fight a war.  He was leaving his family.  He was leaving her. 
He shook his head and tried to shift his thinking from her being his and something he was leaving to just another person that he once knew before the world fell apart.  He looked up at the clock above the ticker reading off the arrivals and destinations.  Forty minutes. 
Beside him sat a bundle of rice.  It was tied with a yellow ribbon.  When the short white-haired lady handed it to him at the entrance to the church, he thought how heavy such a small thing could be.  It felt like it was full of rocks, not rice, and if it had been he might have stayed to throw them.  But it wasn’t.  And he didn’t.  He had heard the words and the promises and the vows and then he couldn’t take it anymore.  He had stood up, crouched and shuffled with quiet apologies to make for the exit.  He didn’t want to see the kiss.  He didn’t want to see the rings.  He didn’t want to hear the applause for the life he was supposed to be living.   Besides, he had a train to catch and a war to fight.   It was clear this one was already over.
Someone had a left yesterday’s copy of the Daily Missourian on the seat next to him.  He picked it up.  Thirty-three minutes.  Over two million men called to serve.  But not him, not her husband.   He bore some condition, something about being legally blind.  He shifted in his seat again, a woman and her screaming infant sat down behind him.  He wondered if she would notice if he switched seats.  Thirty-two minutes.
He got up, and started pacing back and forth slowly in front of the wooden bench.  Again he looked up to the clock and then down at his wristwatch.  It took him twelve seconds to walk slowly from one end of the bench to another.  He did it twenty times.  His shoes were new and made a hollow click-clunk, click-clunk reminding him of the heels his mother wore on Sundays, cooking dinner and washing dishes and setting the table and making sure his father’s glass never emptied.  He couldn’t yell if he was drinking.  Twenty-eight minutes.  He wouldn’t want any of it to spill.
The baby’s wails started getting louder, echoing off the high ceilings and marble floor.  He looked over at the mother, bouncing the red-faced child feverishly on her lap.  He thought about Evelyn’s children.  Twenty-two minutes.  He wondered if they would look like her, if they would have her same auburn hair, her large eyes, her temper.  He wondered if they would be born slightly blind too, if their father would shelter them from anything hard and ugly in the world. 
Fourteen minutes.  He sat back down, smoothed his creased pants, picking a bit of lint from his knee.  Seventeen minutes.  He decided he would become a war hero.  He would go to war, and if he must, he would die trying to protect her and her future children and her blind husband.  He would be honorable. 
The baby continued to cry, louder and louder, its face now turning splotchy and purple. It wasn’t inhaling enough air to compensate for its sobbing. He stared straight ahead thinking it would be better to hear screeching planes and wailing sirens and guns and bombs than her explanations and promises to remain friends.  Maybe he would hear screaming women and children.  Nine minutes.
He heard the low train whistle and everyone around him shuffled towards the platform.  Five minutes.  He got up too, pulling his sack filled with standard clothes and socks and bars of soap and a picture of his mother and a rosary she made him promise to pray.  He checked his ticket again.  He would be on a beach in France in less than twenty-four hours.  Three minutes.  And as he turned to leave, he saw the bag of rice sitting there.  He picked it up, untied it and poured it slowly out as he walked to the train.  The five or six pigeons that had been innocuously milling about the popcorn stand suddenly swarmed the trail following his heavy feet.  One minute. 

He boarded the train, took his seat and stared out the window at the birds pecking and clawing and consuming every last grain.  The train began to move.  Adam would land on the beach the next day, wade in the water, and take only one step on the sand, and at about the same time that a bullet hits him in the stomach, his intestines spilling out into the water, the pigeons’ stomachs would be bursting within them, their cooing turning to squawking and then finally going silent as their bloated bodies fell to edge of the tracks. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Another move.

I have moved again.  I joke, but only out of truth, that I am nomadic.  I go from state to state, city to city and house to apartment to duplex to rooms.  I am getting used to this new space of my own.  My pup is dreaming and twitching and gently moaning as she chases cats in her sleep.  I've had the A/C off for two days now, a blissful cold front having moved in with the rain bringing the high-90's down to some damp and welcome 70's.  To us Texans, it feels like 45.

And as I walk Roxy for the fourth time today, because I don't have a yard anymore, because I have a real neighborhood now with a bakery a block away with the best damn latte I've ever had, I think about where I could have ended up.  I think about Seattle.  I think about how this weather would be much like it would be most of the time there: gray, cool, slightly damp, and muted.  Greener, and saltier for its closeness to the Pacific.  I would have never known these people that I have met since moving here to Austin.  I wouldn't have adopted Roxy, my sweet girl.  I would not have learned so many lessons, made so many mistakes, grown, shrunk, expanded and contracted.  Would I have been happier there?  It isn't too late, you know.  I could go there too.  I could someday live by the sea.  Escape the heat.  Pack up my little life again and drive through the deserts and the mountains and the forests.  I don't know what will happen.  But at the very least, I am here, in a little home, so close to what I dreamt of when I thought of starting a life on my own.  Holding in the cool that is only going to be here fleetingly, the wood floors and wide doors and many windows keeping the air chilled, my thoughts cool, and my feet planted until December, until my short, short lease is up.  That will be a good time to decide, a good moment for new beginnings or a renewed decision to be where I am.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

NYC Flash Fiction Challenge #1: "The Special Ones"

“He said ‘special,’ right?”  Jeremiah was pacing around, chin-to-chest so his head wouldn’t hit the metal ceiling.  He and his bandmates called it their “tour bus,” but really it was just a rusted and hollowed out van they had paid $600 for three years back.  Lily was trying to care, but all she wanted to do was leave and pick up her packages. 

“And then he said ‘talented.’ They want talent.  Well, I’m pretty damn special and I think we all can agree I’m talented.”  He wasn’t really even talking to her. 

“Oh ya, sure.”  He seemed so small-minded, so arrogant.  He had no idea just how un-special he was.  He played in a garage band and he was no closer to leaving his job at Starbucks than when he had started.   Before, Lily had believed he was special.  She had been there at every show, watching and supporting his Midwestern dream of “making it big.”  And the glow of being the lead man’s girlfriend had been enough for a while.  Before, she had felt lucky as she looked out at his small but dedicated fan base made up of screaming tween girls.  Before, she had looked at him like he was the only thing in the universe.  She could have stared 
at him forever.  But not now.  Not anymore. Not after they had arrived.

As Jeremiah rambled on, she thought about them, the Jewels, those who had come down and introduced themselves a few weeks back.  Their representative gave a speech to the nation from the White House.  Lily thought about the look on the President’s face as he stood behind him.  It was a mixture of joy and fear, elation and terror.

Good evening.  It is a pleasure to be here tonight.

She thought about how normal it seemed, like they had just moved into the neighborhood from another city. 

We appreciate your hospitality.  We have traveled a very long way to see how your spectacular race lives and works and participates in its community.  We are impressed. 

He looked human, mostly.  His eyes were larger, and more oval.  He wore a dark blue suit and a red tie.  He stood tall and straight at the podium, looking directly into the camera.  His hands rested gently on the edges, his fingers were thin, longer than human fingers but still human in shape and color and form.  His voice was soft but clear.  He didn’t need the microphone. It was as if he didn’t need to use words.  He was able to be understood without speaking at all. 

We will not be imposing upon you long.

He never looked away from the camera.  Lily got the feeling that he could see her, looking right at her, but after the speech, that’s what everyone said.

We will be seeing some of you soon.

“Lily, hello?” She snapped back to the “tour bus.”  “I mean, come on.  Let’s listen to the last song one more time and tell me what you think.”  Jeremiah crawled in the front seat and restarted the CD.  He looked smaller than she remembered, hunched over the steering wheel, staring at the radio, looking young and hopeful and scared.

She suddenly didn’t feel like wasting any more time with him.  She knew he wouldn’t get picked.  He wasn’t what they were looking for, not that she knew.  She opened the side door to leave, already late for her rounds. 

“I’ve gotta go.  I’ll see you later.”  She stepped out and shut the van door. 

“K.”  He said distractedly. 

And just like that, he was no longer her entire universe.

She circled around the back of restaurants, knocked on the locked doors of closed bakeries, waiting for the managers, chefs, and bakers to hand over the dried up and picked over pastries their customers hadn’t chosen from the day before.  They were just going to throw them away; they might as well let Lily take them off their hands for a neat $20. 

Once back in the kitchen, away from Jeremiah, Lily set to work.  The serrated knife cut the pastries easily, the blade connecting to the wooden prep table with a hollow thunk after making its way through an old cinnamon roll.  The recently purchased pile of rejected rolls and croissants lay waiting to be sliced and repurposed into pudding.  She tried to keep her mind focused on what was in front of her, having cut herself more times than she could remember at that old and beaten prep table.  Her boss walked by, stood across from her, and smiled.

“Your bread pudding does to celiac sufferers what Dr. Atkins’ death-by-heart attack did to his bacon-munching followers.  I swear girl, no one can resist this stuff.”  He walked towards the front, too hot to stay long in the kitchen but happy to see she was getting her job done.

Because the pudding was the only thing he let her cook, Lily had begun to resent his praise.  She wanted to try something else, anything else, and the heat just made her angrier.  The air conditioning was broken again and the fan wasn’t doing much more than blowing around the humidity from the ovens and the boiling stock pots.  The icing from the cinnamon rolls was starting to melt and stick to the knife’s blade and handle.  The sugar and warm dough gummed between her fingers, gluing them together. 

Then surprisingly, she felt a cool breeze.  She thought maybe one of the chefs must have come up behind her and opened the freezer door.  But she didn’t hear the door open or the approach of squeaking shoes.  She turned around to look and in shock dropped the knife.  A Jewel was standing behind her.  He was tall and lean and smiling.

Are you ready to go, Lily?


The knife stood balanced on the blade where it had dropped, the sticky handle unwilling to fall.  And then it did, slowly, but Lily was not there to see it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Don't Forget to Remember





We are not enough.  We cannot hold everything that we do and see and touch and experience and hear and feel.

We are not enough.

These bodies of ours - they are too frail.  They are too small.  They are not enough.

I stare at my face every night before bed, before washing off the day and my makeup and my sweat and my worry.  Before the washing I look at my nose and my chin and my cheeks but never at my eyes because I don't want to see the wrinkles that might someday be there soon because I age everyday we age we get older.  I don't want to see them.  But I don't want to miss them creeping on.  I am between wanting to be warned and the dread of being surprised at their sudden arrival.  The creases between my brows, the feet of crows crackling out of the corners, the etched in parentheses quoting all those things that I said and I laughed and I screamed and I whispered.  All those things leaving their mark on my face.  I don't want to remember that way.

I forgot about a mole on my neck.  Had it always been there?  I don't remember it being there, in that spot.  I remember having it, sharing it and its place on our necks, the Vanderbosch women, moley necks and wrinkled chins and large front teeth.  But it wasn't there, was it?  I have stared at my face for years every night and I forgot it was there.

And then just like that, for no reason at all, I am shot back, back to that night those nights weeks months when he and I were together.  A remembering that I might have forgotten.  A part of us.  A part of my story.  A chapter whose pages had been stuck together and mashed up in between remembering to pay the utility bill and my sister's birthday and the time that I hit my first ball that muggy afternoon at softball practice the clink and connection and joy of metal hitting leather.

I was a baby when I was with him, so young and so naive and so innocent and so sweet. And we didn't want to say goodnight.  We said everything but goodnight because then it would be the end and it couldn't be the end.  And I remember wanting to be as close to his body as I could, that if we separated if we disconnected if we came apart then the whole wide world would fall apart and I would crumble right there in the alley in front of the bar where he lived and slept above it where he was without me and would go up and be alone and I would have to make my way back to my own room and I didn't want that to happen.  I wanted to melt into him. Through our winter coats and past the small melting flakes of snow that he said he hadn't seen in ten years because it didn't really snow there but I brought it with me, all the way from the States and I brought them for him.

And I don't want to forget those things.

Then I remember the cab ride.  That horrible, disastrous, achingly depressing cab ride when you were sitting next to me a thousand feet away.  It was our last trip.  The last time we were going to go somewhere and be something and see something and feel something together.  Our togetherness was ending.  That trip, that moment in the cab, as I stared out at the void of night falling over Lake Michigan with the life and the lights and the noises and the hope for a bright tomorrow of the city on the other side of the cab, the side of you, the side with you, that I could not look at.  I could only look at the dark.  I could only look at the night married to the depths of the lake.  I could only see the sky and water melting together as if they were always meant to be the same and together and joined.  I could not breath in that back seat.  I could not move.  I felt you over there but you were so far.  We had separated.  We had been broken.  The cord between us had been cut and there was nothing that either of us could do to repair it.  We could only sit there.  In that cab.  Alone together.

And I don't want to forget that either.

Because forgetting that thing, forgetting that hurt and that pain and that ache and that void would mean that I forgot how deeply I could feel.  It would mean that we hadn't meant anything at all.  It would mean that I wasn't capable of feeling or caring or wanting to join my life with someone in a way that truly meant something, in a way that was preferable to spending my time with any number of somebodies or alone because you were someONE.

So I remember.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Horses and Denim Skirts




I have made the same joke, probably a thousand times, when I tell people that I was homeschooled.  I never volunteer the information unless it's in some sort of defense for not knowing some strange rite of passage that all other "normal" high schoolers went through.  It usually comes out when people ask what high school I went to, or where I graduated from, or where I grew up.  I went home for high school.  I graduated from my dining room table.  I grew up everywhere.

But the joke, the funny-ha-ha moment comes right after I give the damning information that I did not have a locker or report cards or lunch hour but actually received my education from my parents and myself.  The joke serves to soften the blow that they may not have a point of reference in discussing my upbringing and education.  And it goes something like this:

"I was homeschooled actually.  Yes, for ten years.  Second grade until graduation.  But don't worry, I don't like horses or wear denim skirts."

Inherently, there is nothing wrong with denim skirts or horses.  However, coupled with being homeschooled, you run into a bit of a stereotype.  Most "homeschoolers" or at least the ones that I encountered in Alabama and Indiana, did wear denim skirts and did love horses.  They didn't know how to make and keep friends.  They loved their parents and siblings - a lot.  They were usually religious in some extreme way or another - and I had met them all, from a Wiccan bi-sexual with purple hair dancing naked in the moonlight to the devoutly Catholic friend I made my junior year whose sister (one of nine other siblings - God bless Catholic's opinions on birth control) wanted nothing more than to become a nun and the man who eventually knocked her up wanted to be a priest.  And the horses - I can't quite explain the horses or homeschoolers' fascination and love for them.

But even in spite of the jokes, in spite of my attempts to delay the inevitable judgment about my parents' choice to raise and educate me, I did, once, love that equine species.

I wanted to ride.

I wanted to have one.

I wanted to feed and groom and trot and brush my very own Black Beauty.

But my family was poor.  And horse riding lessons were not cheap, even in the most rural towns in Alabama.  But one day.  One early morning.  One miracle of a chance that my mother gave me, I remember being taken to a ranch, or at least I think it was a ranch.  Deep in the dark of the early morning.  Before the sun thinks about rising.  Right in the middle of everyone else's dreams.  During that hour that you wake up, afraid you've missed your alarm and sink back, relieved that you have another three hours before it will go off, a glaring and red reminder that you have another day week month year lifetime of work ahead of you.  I remember so little about getting there, being driven or setting up this experience that I must have been very young, probably less than ten-years-old.  I doubt I was even homeschooled at that point.  I was probably just another young girl, taken, and in love with those majestic creatures who stood tall above my small frame, all rippling muscle, rapidly moving eyes and knotted coarse tail.

However old I was, however I came to find myself there, I remember sitting on a footstool.  One of those plastic ones you buy at Lowe's to step up a foot or two or to allow a small child to brush and spit and rinse their mouths at the sink after they've learned to brush their own teeth.

I sat there on that plastic stepping stool and I watched a woman riding a horse.  It was Alabama then, it must have been because I didn't live anywhere else except there that I can remember and the places where I lived after, the memories are much more clear, much more concrete, much less filled with joy, and hope, and exhilaration.

And it was cold.  Sometime in December or January because I shivered, the entire time I sat on that stool.  I sat there, outside of the ring, on the other side of the fence, fifty yards or so from the horse and her rider.  And I watched them.  I watched her lead the horse from a slow walk to a trot to a steady gallop.  She worked the horse.  She rode her in a way that I couldn't stop watching.  Her body told the horse where to turn and to move and to go faster or slower.  I remember seeing the horse breath heavily with deep exhalations, the giant clouds of air bursting from its dark nostrils.  She was majestic, this mare.  She was beautiful.  Even in the cold, even as I sat shivering, watching, I could see the sweat on the beast, glistening beneath the light from the barn on the other side of the ring.  I don't know why I was there.  I never took a lesson.  I never got on a horse to ride and learn where to put my feet and how to squeeze my thighs and lean in and to one side or the other to get the horse to go my way.  But I do remember sitting there, feeling the hours go by as this woman rode her horse, and it really was that simple.  A woman riding her horse.  But I couldn't stop watching, I couldn't stop staring as they welcomed the day together, as they breathed in and out at the same time and moved their muscles in the same direction, feeling the cool dirt beneath their warm hooves and feet, panting, trotting in their measured pace in the dew-soaked air, damp and sweating from the birthing of the heated dawn from the chilled and cooler night.


I haven't thought about that early morning, sitting on that uncomfortable stool in the cold predawn air in a long time.  It is one of those memories that I might have lost.  One of those moments that reminds you that you were once young, and didn't care if people thought you were strange because of the school you didn't go to or the ways in which you dressed.  Just a memory.  Just another story.  Just another moment that is nothing more than a small joy and a remembrance of a brief childish wonder.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Dear Veronica...



Dear Veronica,

I am writing this in the third person because I think I am the only one you might listen to.  Open your mind, open your ears, quiet your worry, and listen to me, please.

Be kind to yourself.  Be forgiving and be patient.  You will be fine.  You will not fail.  Like your professor said in that kind email, you will never starve. If your body needs rest, let it sleep.  Do not feel guilt for taking time to adjust to this new schedule, this new job, this new life.

Sweet girl, take care of yourself.  Schedule that cleaning at the dentist.  Drink lots of water. Eat something green today.  But don't hate yourself for wanting to order pizza instead.  Sometimes pizza is good, sometimes pizza is necessary, (just not all the time).  You do not have to go and kill yourself at the gym for two hours every day and if you aren't feeling sore that doesn't mean you aren't working on your body.  Stretch.  Breath deeply.  Sit up straight.

You are only responsible for your own happiness.  You have always known that no one is going to take care of you - you never wanted that.  But remember, it is not your responsibility to take care of anyone else.  They will all figure their own lives out, and if they don't, that's not on you.  Do not regress and change your values and goals and look for a partnership because things are a little harder right now.  That is no partnership.  That is a crutch.  You have taken the steps to lift the heavy weight of your single-income financial burden and changed it so it doesn't feel quite so large, quite so overwhelming.  You can do this.  Like he said, you will never starve.  You are strong.  I will take care of you because I know better than anyone else what you need to be happy.

This is the only chance you get, the only go around.  And just because you aren't doing what you thought you would be doing at this age, just because you aren't using your degree, just because you aren't writing thousands of words and dozens of pages a day, it doesn't mean you are allowed to throw your hands up and give in to self-loathing.  Shaking those tiny fists at the universe will not change anything.  Nothing will be given to you if you pout long and hard.  It will only make YOUR day miserable.  If you want to change your attitude, your circumstances, your productivity and your life, that's on you, kid.  Small changes count.  A smile instead of a worried brow is a start.  This post is another step forward.  The practice, the stretching of those fingers as they strike your laptop keys is progress.  Even it doesn't feel like it, even if this isn't seen by anyone but you, it is enough.  You are doing the work, you are putting in the time.

Write your pages.  Every. Single. Day.  It often takes you less than twenty minutes.  And you have that.  You have more than that even though sometimes it doesn't feel that way.

You have to go to work.  You are in a good place.  You are surrounded by good people.  You have more support than you know.

And finally, my love, be patient.  I know you want great things, I know you dream of wonder and mountains and stars and sailing on oceans.  That time will come.  Those things will happen.  You have been given this life.  You are so lucky.  Be grateful.  Be kind.  Be open.  Look around you for the opportunities that you might have been missing.  It is all going to be just fine.  It is all going to work out.  You are going to live a magnificent life.

Love,
Me


Monday, June 23, 2014

10,000 Hours

Write often.

Write in short fragmentary bursts.

You will never starve.

Read like mad.

I was once chastised by someone I was dating (if you even want to call it that) for not putting enough energy and time and effort into my passion - my writing. He had read somewhere, and I'd heard the theory before, that to be good at something, to make it a career or reach some sort of fulfillment then one must dedicate at least 10,000 hours into whatever it is they want to perfect.

10,000 hours.

That's roughly 5.47 hours per day over the span of five years - if you'd like to be ambitious and a real go-getter.  A little over 2 hours a day if you want to work at that "thing" over the course of ten years.  And so forth and so on.  I was in college for a little over 8 years.  Combining the time spent in class and the time spent studying, you could say I put 10,000 hours into becoming a really good student, a professional you might say.  If you don't believe me, I've got the diploma and the debt to prove it.

I have also worked in the restaurant industry in some shape or form for the past 12 years - ever since I was fifteen-years-old.  And considering it a rarity that I ended up working less than 40 hours a week, the total amount of time, roughly, that I've spent perfecting those skills is somewhere in the neighborhood of 24,000 hours.  Should I be surprised that I am now beginning to manage one?  And yes, I've had some very serious crises about the fact that I am not sitting in some dusty office somewhere with all the time and inspiration and support and resources in the world to allow me to joyfully (or insufferably) toil away with my pen and paper or typewriter or laptop.  I never thought that I would still be doing this for THIS  long.  Never in a million billion jillion years.  But I am.  And it's paying the bills (mostly).  And it is, truly, allowing me enough time to write.

There is no real point to this post except to remind myself how to use my fingers to type words down and through these keys.  To not consider today a total waste.  To keep my mind moving.  And if nothing else, to put in a little bit more time towards those elusive 10,000 hours.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Routine




“Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?”  She kept repeating that word every time she thought about how much more the mechanic said her car repair would be.  She was furious – he had told her it would be quick and simple, a routine oil change.  But when she went to pick her car up after flipping through a few magazines and sipping on her soy chai, his face told her that it hadn’t been so simple, it hadn’t been so routine. 

She planned on using that money to buy her plane ticket to Cabo.  She had always been a saver and the extra refund from her taxes this year gave her the extra bump in her account to feel free to reward herself, get away, relax, and sit on a beach somewhere.  But now, now all those thoughts of a golden tan, strong drinks with tiny umbrellas, and white sand beaches as far as her eye could see went up in the cloud of smoke as thick and depressing as the oil and dirt under the mechanic’s finger nails.  She cringed at the idea and exclaimed another “Seriously!?” when she thought about affording to do no more than sit on her couch and watch TV during her time off of work.  She could try to get her shifts back but that made her even angrier.  She couldn’t drive home to see her parents because they would still be working on her car, squeezing out those hard-earned dollars as the hours of paid labor was made up of smoking cigarettes, bull-shitting over last night’s game, and polishing wrenches.  It was supposed to be a routine oil change, she was being responsible.  She was supposed to be going on vacation in a month. 

*


Should he stand or should he sit?  He didn’t know what he should do while he waited for the news waited for the world to fall apart waited for the verdict that he already knew.  He stared at the framed picture of four happy faces - the doctor and his family, arm-over-shoulder-over arm under some cabana on a white sand beach somewhere.  They were all so happy, with their pink noses and sea-salt-wavy hair.  She wouldn’t smile again.  She wouldn’t feel the ocean again.  She wasn’t supposed to die.  Routine, routine, routine.  That’s what they kept saying.  But she died anyway.  One of the unlucky ones that falls into the slim category where things go wrong. 

His body began to shake, his vision blurring.  He couldn’t be in that room any longer.  He didn’t want to wait for the doctor, see his not-smiling face, hear his kind words.  But he needed to see her.  He needed to know it was real.  So he waited and stared at the tan bodies of the children and wife of the doctor that were still here still alive still smiling. 

After talking and talking and cooing and apologizing, the doctor finally led him to her room.  They had lied.  She looked different than what he had been led to believe about dead people.  She did not look like she was sleeping and she did not look like a monster.  She did not look at all like they all said dead people looked.  Her mouth was rigid and sagged slightly to the right.  The delicate skin beneath her eyes was purple, bruised and sunken.  He couldn’t think of what her skin looked like, he didn’t want to compare it to anything.  He just thought that it wasn’t a skin-color anymore.  It wasn’t right.  It wasn’t her.  He needed to get out, get away, move his body, his breathing still alive body away from her cold and dead one.

He walked through the doors, his legs stiff and moving slowly moving him away.  The tears started then as the air changed from sterile and conditioned to natural and humid.  He heard the automatic doors close behind him he could feel them, collecting, welling, gathering behind his eyes, no longer waiting to burst through and down his face.  He kept his mouth shut, tight and breathed heavily through his nose like a bull like a sleeping dreaming dog like a boar.  He kept walking, away from the hospital, down the street and into a neighborhood.  He walked past house after house, thinking about all the living people inside.  His chest and throat began convulsing, his body racked from the force of his sobs.  He couldn’t hold it in anymore, he didn’t know why he was trying.  He opened his mouth, wide and deep and began to wail, a deep and guttural wail.  His throat began to burn and ache from his screams.  It felt good.  He felt relief that his body could produce a sound that matched what his heart was going through.  And that small, strange-good feeling kept him going kept him from going mad kept him from being consumed and deep inside his own sadness and confusion.  She wanted to schedule the procedure early so that she could go home and watch a marathon of her favorite television show as she came out of her anesthetic haze on the couch.  This memory, this thought of her motives and plans and unfulfilled life renewed the grief and sent him stumbling on, wailing and crying some more.  He kept wailing the length of the sidewalk, and turned and walked another sidewalk and street and past houses and houses, all the while screaming, all the while wailing, all the while thinking that this is the only thing he could manage to do, the only thing he wanted to do.   

He didn’t see the young girl looking out her car windshield at him, slowing down, and stopping.  He didn’t notice her concerned eyes staring in her rearview mirror wondering what had happened – who had hurt him, who he had lost.  She couldn’t know.  She eventually put her car into gear again and drove away.  She was the only one that witnessed his grief.  She was the only one that thought to herself how lucky she was, to be worrying about small things like car repairs.  She wondered what had happened.  She would wonder who he had lost that day.  She kept thinking about him for the rest of the night and had nightmares about the sound that his throat made as he trudged down the street.

He kept walking in the opposite direction.  He kept walking until his shoes were muddy, until his head ached from dehydration and the screaming and the tearing at his temples.  It was supposed to be routine.  It was supposed to be quick and easy.  He was supposed to be home right now, heating up soup on the stove and mocking her terrible taste in television.  

She sat on her couch.  But she did not turn on the TV.  She just stared straight ahead and thought about that man.  She couldn't stop thinking about his mouth, how it looked so big and so wide that it wouldn't have been very surprising if it had opened up enough to consume his body, devour the rest of his head and shoulders and torso.  She sat on her couch and thought about him, her head hazy heart aching breathing short and low and shallow.   She didn't want to turn on the TV.  She wished she had never taken her car in for that oil change.  But she had.  So she sat on her couch and thought about that man.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Yet Another Reason




Everyone who knows me is aware of my aversion to children.  I have never wanted them.  And unless they are the offspring of my friends or relatives (and sometimes not even then), do I think children are particularly cute or interesting at all.  I rarely crack a smile at a tipsy toddler, or a drooling infant, or an adventurous little boy running around their father's feet in a grocery store.  I look at them like I look at any other random object that finds its way into my line of sight.  They are not something I am interested in or find particularly attractive.  As I said, there are exceptions to the children of my friends.  On a recent visit home I was able to spend quite a bit of time with a dear friend and her fourteen-month-old daughter.  And I fell in love with this little girl.  I remember holding her at eight (eight!) weeks and thinking how beautiful and lucky she was to have such an incredible mom.  She's almost two now and still just as beautiful.  But does that give me baby fever?  Maybe.  But a more likely reason for that warm and squishy feeling is that I can see in her and her mom the hope that she'll be one of the good ones.  She'll be someone that I'll want to know when she becomes a real, fully-formed person.  This hope, this glimmer that I can see in a child is rare though and I have only seen it a few other times.  The following account is a much more common occurrence in the state of children today.

I spent about two hours at Barnes and Noble today.  I was given the unexpected luxury of having the full day off from work to nurse a sore throat and thought what better place to spend the afternoon that a building full of books?  I nestled into a corner spot, one close to an outlet and grabbed a tea, a dozen magazines and books or so and prepared to spend a decent amount of time pouring over pages and perhaps do a little writing while I was there.  Unfortunately, I was barely able to make it through half of the first magazine I picked up before being distracted and admittedly disgusted by the spectacle of two children sitting with their mother and her friend just one table over.  The mother was a kind of hippie-geek and completely engrossed in everything that she had to say to her friend about every subject from thrift shopping to the many ways in which her husband should listen to her way of doing things.  All the while she droned on and on, flipping through pictures on her iPhone of renovated second houses and the gallery opening she attended last week, her daughters, who appeared to be ages four and seven, sat next to her in the following ways:

The oldest sat for the entire hour and a half that I observed this group staring at her handheld gaming device. She never spoke.  She never looked at her mother or her sister or her mother's friend or me or the people around her or the books or the cafe.  Her eyes were glassy.  She had bruisy-purple circles under her eyes giving the careful observer the feeling that she might not have gotten a lot of sleep recently.  At one point, her mother didn't like the way she was sitting and commented on this to her friend.  She was being talked about but not talked to, and without looking up from her game, readjusted her legs and continued to play.  She had the capacity to hear her mother talk about mothering but without actually taking the time to connect to her daughter.

The youngest was strapped into a stroller that she seemed to have outgrown several years before.  Her legs dragged on the ground and kicked out and were anywhere but where they should be.  She also had some sort of electronic device but threw it around with such clear calls for attention that her mother eventually just took it away from her.   She made noises, silly noises, grunts and wails and cries and all other annoying moans that resulted from her extreme boredom.  Nearing the end of my patience and willingness to watch this dysfunctional child-rearing, her mother reached down and patted her leg and exclaimed "Oh! She's wet!"  Now, I would have NEVER thought this girl was young enough to still be experiencing accidents. Her mother asked her friend if she could watch the oldest while she took the other to be changed in the bathroom.  I thought to myself as I left my comfortable spot to get away from this madness, that the little girl didn't need to be watched.  I doubt she would dream of leaving her seat and video game even if a circus happened to roll up in the very next moment and clowns began prancing around her on pink ponies.

For this reason, and many other examples of children I have seen cracked out on their iPhones and Gameboys and Xboxes and Facebook I will not bring a child into this world.  This world that I also am guilty of conforming to.  I will not lie and say that I too would have a mild anxiety attack if I realized I had left my phone at home by the time I got to work or out with friends.  I am not at all prepared nor interested in becoming a granola-crunching hippie that rejects all modern technology, climbs a tree, and lives without toilet paper.  But, I am aware of how much our world has changed in the truly short amount of time since I was the age of those little girls.  I consider how incredibly sad it is that the four-year-old's big sister couldn't be bothered to set her game down and entertain her little sister.  I thought how ridiculous it was that just fifty feet or so away sat hundreds of books, filled with pictures and colors and words and stories about far away places that they certainly would not read on that visit to Barnes and Noble and might not ever.

Another example is when I stood in line a few months back waiting for a popular local bake sale.  I watched about half a dozen children, waiting in various points in line with their parents all clutching their iPads and electronic gaming devices (and forgive me for not using the proper names for these things, I just don't care to research what they are or learn the names of what I consider to be paralyzing the next generation of "leaders" in this world).  They completely ignored the other children standing a few feet from them.  It wasn't that long ago that the only option that those children would have to entertain themselves was to actually makes friends with the kids around them and play. No single child broke away from the line.  They simply stood there next to their parents also staring at their phones, waiting to buy some cookies.  It broke my heart.

And for those reasons I will not have children.  I would like to think that I would resist buying such technological babysitters, and I probably could stay strong, insisting MY kids play outside, read books (real books too, not this Nook and Kindle nonsense) and bake mud pies.  But how likely do you think it is that by the time I get around to finding someone I want to blend DNA with to create another human life, raise it to the age of play-dates and park-time, I will be able to find other parents who share the same abhorrence for kid-tested-technology that I have?   I can bet it won't be very likely.

My sister and I were never given a video game system.  We never really had cable.  We played outside.  We played with each other.  We made up stories and we had a childhood.  Kids today have childhoods, but they're different.  They are more technologically advanced and as a result, they are less socially capable.  I have been questioned about the extent of socialization that I received after the decision my parents made to homeschool me from second to twelfth grade.  But I put it to the parents today, whether your children attend private, public or school at home, how much socialization is he or she receiving when you hand them whatever device is currently popular to shut them up, occupy their time, or "encourage their development"?

I will not risk raising a child in world where others their age are unable to talk to them unless it is from behind a screen.  Among other reasons...