Freelance by Jen

Consider me the No More Tangles of your writing needs.

While I have tried very hard in my life not to make too much noise about either politics or religion unless it was thoughtful, open-minded, and sought-after discussion, something that has remained very near and dear to my heart always were the battles that took place to give us the rights that we have today.

I have always had the privilege to exercise my right to vote, as have the majority of both women and people of color currently living.

We did not always have these rights.

We have them because of people who fought – people who died – to give them to us.

I initially felt helpless when I got back from an off-grid float yesterday to find the country the most divided I have seen it since 1992, in the Rodney King aftermath.

But if we’re being honest, this division never went away. It didn’t disappear after the Civil War, or the Civil Rights Act. Segregation didn’t disappear just because the signs were taken down.

So I sat with a silent, angry heart, and felt helpless, as I imagine many of you do. For every destructive rioter with rage in their heart, there are so, so many more people who are peacefully protesting. And those of us who do, who always have, wanted equality regardless of race, creed, orientation, or religious beliefs, would love for that to be achieved peacefully.

For those of you who feel helpless right along with me, please know that there are things that you can do to help.

  1. Ask. I promise there are people who can point you in the right direction. If you don’t have money, maybe you have time because you (like me) are out of work right now.
  2. Give. Whether it is your time, your money, your expertise – you have something to give this world. You matter. Don’t hide that gift when your country needs it the most.
  3. Vote. And if you can’t vote, educate yourself on issues. If you don’t like the way your officials, from local to state to national, are handling the jobs voters granted them, then get involved. Make phone calls. Write letters. Ask questions, and get answers. Be qualified to answer questions that you may be asked. If you are happy with your local or state officials, but worry about other states, I promise those candidates will need your help, too.

Articles (I tried to stay middle-of-the-road and stick with Forbes) with links to worthy donations:

Forbes article on the Minnesota Freedom Fund with donation links and information*

Forbes article’s Covid-19 Giving Guide

And there are so many people offering to pay protestor bail and lawyers giving free legal advice and aid that I couldn’t possibly name them all.

We’re still the United States of America in name. Let’s also be the united states in action.

If you have any questions, and still don’t know who to ask, ask me here. If I don’t know, I will find out. And if you need help, even if it’s just a listening ear, I’m here for that, too.

Take care of yourselves out there.

*photo courtesy of Forbes.com.

As I sit here on Day Two of Unemployment Two of Pandemic Two Oh Two Oh, I’m comforted by one thought: none of us really know what we’re doing.

I mean, there are definitely people that are far, far ahead of others in this broadest of generalizations. People who’ve rolled with the punches, or whose specific set of skills have proven very helpful. People who have saved lives, or at least made lives better.

But honestly, most of us are flying blind in the current global landscape. And for many of us, the things we did know are currently obsolete.

Reading colleague after colleague bid farewell to our company, and effectively our industry, last night was surreal. My co-workers and fellow creatives were easily the most brilliant group of people I’ve ever worked with. I spent many days aspiring to attain even like, a touch of the wisdom they effortlessly exuded.

And now it’s all gone. We’re all laid off, with no guarantee of return. As long as the pandemic rages, so too do we, in our homes, wishing that maybe people could just practice responsible behavior so we could BRING BACK MOVIES OMG.

That’s seriously not even my point, though. But I’m gonna jump back on the track to my point now.

Last night, we had a raccoon in our garage, perched atop the garage door open/shut mechanism. (I don’t KNOW what that thing is called.) Josh discovered it after it had scampered about on what looked like every upper shelf or ledge we had, knocking a glass shower door over onto the kids’ drum set in the process. Much breakage. It was like an Allstate Mayhem commercial in there. And it was super late at night on a night that I’d crashed on the couch at 10pm, so I kind of couldn’t care. (Big shout-out to these Hello Bello Sleep Well gummies.)

ANYWAY, Josh smartly left a trail of roasted deli turkey out the quickly-opened door, and it was gone this morning. The turkey, that is. But also the raccoon.

What was left: the mess. And Josh actually still has a job, so he had to leave early this morning. Before he left, I sleepily proclaimed that I would clean the mess up, because cleaning and spelling are really the only things I can do effectively and this definitely was one of those.

He was happy. I felt useful. All was well.

And it continued to be well for awhile. I picked up everything that wasn’t shards of glass and put those things back in their places. I neatened up as I went, so it would look even better than when I started. It was about 107 degrees in the garage and I had just showered, as any smart person does before going into sweaty and dirty conditions, so everything was going really smoothly.

And then I gloved up, moved the door off the drum set, picked up all the ground glass and put it in a heavy-duty trash bag, moved the drums, rolled up the rug, took it outside far away from foot traffic, shook it, shook it more, shook it a third time, swept out the whole garage, swept the driveway, swept the sidewalk, and then moved the shower door, still half-glassed, outside against a tree.

That’s when I stopped. Because, like, what’s the smart way to remove glass without just, breaking it?

And THAT’S when I flashed back on the past three months. In that time, I’ve been unemployed twice (as I will continue to say because I can’t get over it yet). Josh and I have had to gut our bathroom and rebuild it. We’ve read up on how to replace the radio in my car. Cash has learned to play the mandolin AND the bass. I had a new job requiring a completely different skillset for three weeks. Said job had a whole new flow due to safety precautions and cleaning procedures.

None of us knew what the hell we were doing in any of those instances. But…we didn’t know together. I watched Josh level up like, three times in his handyman skillset. I watched Cash play Beatles songs a week after his birthday, songs he picked up mostly by ear. I watched my whole management team pivot (sorry, I HATE that word, but) and learn a whole new way, only to immediately turn and train new staff on the same new way even though we hadn’t even seen it in practice yet.

The old me would’ve looked at that shower door, asked for help, or said “okay, I did this much, someone else can do the rest.” But the new me was like, nah, I’m gonna surprise Josh, and he’ll be so grateful.

So I pulled the lining thing out as much as I could to dislodge glass without breaking it. I tapped the rest. There was almost no shattering in the whole process. I cleaned everything up. I left the totally glass-free frame against the tree so Josh could see it and be so grateful and frankly impressed that he married someone who could basically have her own HGTV show at this point. I disposed of all glass. I moved the drums back. I moved the shook rug to the hose and hosed it down because honestly it was disgusting anyway. Then I hauled it to our patio so it could dry without birds shitting on it.

Then I came inside, dripping with sweat and remembering how dumb it was to pre-shower, just as Josh got home. He looked at everything for a second, then said “Where did you hose the rug? Where’s the glass that was on it now?”

So that’s a whole other lesson we’ll explore later, called “Don’t attach expectation to outcomes.”

Anyway, the point really is, don’t fret. You may be facing a huge financial hardship, but so are most of us. You may not know if or when you can return to your job or school or life. I don’t know either. Most of us don’t.

What we can do is remember that life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friends. Arguing about masks, or about politics, or about religion, doesn’t change the fact that we’re all scared. And it’s okay to be scared. So I challenge you this week to learn something you didn’t know before. For me, it’s going to be a course I impulsively bought from Stack Skills on Microsoft Excel for Absolute Idiots. It’s time I made myself pick up basic formulas, you know? Also, I’m going to learn about Kuhl’s new Hybrid Water Shorts, because I’m at the age in which bikinis with no clothes on over them are pretty much not working for me.

Song of the Day: Chariots of Fire theme song. We’re all in it for the long haul, guys, so let’s at least get through it with a beautiful backdrop.

So, after a whirlwind three weeks and two days back in the workforce, I’m re-laid off.

This is a bit of a bummer, but definitely not unexpected. People are getting bored, leaving the house, socializing, forgoing masks. Cases are going back up.

And I get it. I understand the desire to return to normalcy. But there are a whole lot of us who won’t have normalcy again until everyone first returns to precautions.

The point is, for now, our “Welcome Back…Now On with the Show” is…”Intermission.”

But that wasn’t the only thing that happened in June. I lost two friends – one to cancer, and one to suicide. Both were with me during another really awful time, five years ago, also in June.

Finally, my dad is downsizing after 40 years, and our family home is being auctioned in July. I spent a day back home recently going through boxes, and it was really…surreal.

June sucked, is the point. I’m really kind of over June. But what luck – it’s July!

In a normal year, a new month can bring new hope, new resolve, new goals. In 2020, though, I fully expect some sort of Black Plague resurgence or something next. Seriously, what the HELL.

Anyway, let’s talk about fun stuff. While new movies aren’t coming out really, or new television, and while our backyard continues to be mosquito-ridden, we do still have small visual wonders. I had plenty of time during my previous foray into unemployment to research eco-friendly product alternatives, and made a couple of small changes.

First, we just got a new soap system from Blueland – glass bottles, soap tabs, water, and boom, you have a ecologically-responsible system. We can burn the packaging safely, and reuse the bottle. And it smells great! And it works!

Secondly, we switched to earth breeze laundry strips instead of pods or liquid or powder. They come in a small package of recycled cardboard (again – burnable!), which is great. And – I like them! The packaging calls the purchaser an “eco-hero” and holy shit, could we use a little flattery right now or what? THANK you!

Finally, our second bathroom (an on-suite? Is that what the hell we’re supposed to call them now?) is coming closer to the day that we might actually get to shower in it. After totally gutting it down to completely removing the subfloor and having a super sharp view of the bare ground, and after telling one of my stepsons that no, he could NOT pee into the now-visible crawl space, we have a finished floor again. We knocked out a partial wall, and the others are getting fixed. We have the tile for the walls purchased, and the (crazy expensive) shower faucet. We have a new sink, vanity, and sink faucet. The end is in SIGHT. Unless, of course, the next killer of 2020 turns out to be new bathroom construction or some shit. Then we’re hosed.

Also, I got borderline addicted to mask fashion. It had more to do with comfort, and that nose strap is EvERyThing, but yeah, I fell right into the mask industry’s trap. Etsy is just, amazing.

Today’s song: Changes, Langhorne Slim & the Law. If that doesn’t one-word deadass sum up this year, then man, I got nothin else for ya.

That’s really all I have. In the meantime, please enjoy these magnets I got, also from Etsy, through the delightful snarkycards shop.

Sometimes, I spend a stupid amount of time on blog titles. They have to be short enough, they should probably allude to what I’m about to write about, and for whatever reason, I have to do the title first before the writing.

Today was one of the easiest.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have two really great parents. They’re very different, but share similar values. They’re both health-conscious and raised us to understand the importance diet and activity can have on mental health (though if you’re depressed, and someone tells you to “just work out” you can absolutely punch them, even if only in your mind).

Today, though, happens to be Father’s Day, so I’m gonna talk about my dad. And I’m going to try to get through this without crying.

Oops.

I’m going to try to get through this without sobbing.

I had two men in my very early life I considered father figures, but if we’re being honest the term was best friends. One, my Little Granddad, died suddenly when I was eight.

The other one, my dad, was the one who gave me that news.

My dad was not equipped to deliver or handle really bad news. I remember once, when I was seven, I cut my thumb open on a cat food lid when I was feeding our pets. I cried out, he ran over to me, said, “JESUS CHRIST,” and turned white as a sheet. I thought I was going to possibly die.

But this day, he was perfect. I woke up late, at 8:14 a.m. That time is burned into my mind, because 1) school had already started and nobody yelled me awake and 2) 8/14 was also my granddad’s birthday.

I ran through the door into my parent’s room to make sure they hadn’t abandoned us in the middle of the night (I had some real abandonment issues then, based on nothing), and found them both asleep, too, which escalated the weirdness exponentially. I shook my dad since I was less scared of him, and he swiftly got up, took me back into my room, sat next to me on the bed, held my hand, and told me.

And then he took me to work with him and let me write, and draw, and use the typewriter, which honestly was everything I ever wanted to do when I was eight.

I tell that story because it really sums up who my dad is. But there’s a whole lot more to him than that, and I’d like to spend a little time talking about it.

He’s gentle, except when coaching or seeing real blood.

He’s introverted, and spends a lot of time in the vast and rich recesses of his own mind, in which there is stored so much (sports and stats and music and songs and albums and band names and band member names and accounting practices and political history and American history and theater history and bodybuilding and basketball and so many stories, to give a quick rundown) that I can’t even imagine the depths.

What’s not in there: carpentry, home decorating, car stuff of any kind, most girl stuff outside of sports.

He never drank, or smoked, or did drugs of any kind, and he, like me, only suffers the vice of sugar addiction.

He’s got a great smile and laugh, and if you can catch either of those you know you did something really great.

The lessons that stay most with me include the following from him (poems first):

  1. Don’t Quit
  2. If
  3. Pick up for yourself, plus one more.
  4. Ain’t got time to bleed.
  5. You’re tough like a hockey player.
  6. Smile. It feels better.
  7. See the concert.
  8. Go to the game.
  9. Always answer with kindness.
  10. If you haven’t got anything nice to say, keep quiet.

He taught us these lessons mostly by following them all himself, no matter what. As I followed him like a puppy everywhere, I learned the importance of keeping a calm mind, using my mental toughness sports techniques (yeah, there was a VHS series and yeah, we watched it) to breathe through times that made me want to throw stuff and scream. I learned that the worst feeling in the world was seeing his startled disappointment when I did something that fell outside of what he’d taught us. I still see it in my mind and use it as an internal compass even now.

Because that look, man. It sucked.

My dad turned 70 this year, and just had elbow surgery this week that left a badass Frankenstein-like scar. He joked all the way through it.

He still works out four or five days a week, and is in incredible shape.

He retired from coaching, and as hard as that was for him, it freed up his time for him to travel. He got to see England and Ireland. He got to walk on Abbey Road. We’ve gotten to see so many concerts together, more than we ever have.

He’s a CPA who has several locations, but also owns a movie theater. I didn’t understand accounting, but thank goodness I went into the other family business, so we can talk numbers and box office reports and screens and all kinds of stuff that brings for some great conversations (maybe not so great to anyone listening, now that I think about it).

He has always been very active politically, something I also got from both parents, so I know we’re always up for a good call when it opens with “Did you see what he did today?” I was always proud to know candidates, from local races to national, and to say that my parents volunteered and stumped in the 70s and 80s.

He has a rational mind, and doesn’t get too riled up. I know that I can take worries to him and he will take them in calmly. I know that when I do something absolutely idiotic, such as the time I got arrested, he will absolutely not show up to bail me out.

He’s not one to call a lot, but will always answer. This used to frustrate me when I wanted him to be a part of my son’s life, but it occurred to me much, much later that this was just as much my fault. I also made zero effort, because I’m just like him.

He’s the smartest person I know. His head for numbers pushed him through the CPA program in 3.5 years, while he also worked. He set the curve in every class with a curve, something that used to really piss his classmates off.

In short (well, medium), he’s my hero to this day.

He and my stepmom are downsizing this summer, and auctioning off our childhood home, where he has lived since I was 6? 7? It’s about 5000 square feet of memories, and the place I wanted to spend all my time until I got my license.

When I saw him recently, he gave me a couple of boxes of stuff he’d carefully labeled with my name.

And I saw.

He saved everything. Every paper. Every note from middle school. Every souvenir from vacation, every school assignment, even coupons.

As I went through each item, I felt him watching me for reactions. When I paused a moment, looking at a letter from a high school friend written when we left for college, he interjected.

“If it makes you smile, you should probably keep it.”

He’s right.

Dad, I want to keep you forever. You’re the best person, the best role model, and the greatest steady presence I’ve ever known. The world is better with you in it, and I know thousands of people who feel the same as I do.

I love you so, so much.

Happy Father’s Day.

Nobody can say that 2020 hasn’t had its share of absolute tragedy, heartbreak, and loss.

So much loss.

And when something is lost on this scale, you can’t get it back.

We’ll never get the lives back that we’ve lost to 2020’s cruelty (yeah, I do feel justified in assigning feelings to a non-feeling entity in this case, because we’re all a big ball of nerve endings together), and there’s no way I’m one of those people who deigns to suggest that 2020 is a lesson and a blessin’ because, I don’t care, I’d much rather we just learn those lessons somehow without pain and terror and fear. I’d much rather that every human is treated as an equal, given the same rights and assumptions across the board to start. If a human then proves themselves to be an absolute piece of shit, sure, I’ll distance, but that human should still have rights.

Never, NEVER, did I want to live in a world in which entire populations are discriminated against based on the way they look, or whom they choose to love, or whether they’re a boy or a girl or neither.

I don’t want to preach, but I do want to bring some things to the forefront for others who might be experiencing that new weird mix of hopefulness and helplessness. I mentioned some of these things in my previous post Sunday, but this goes into a little more depth.

Black lives matter. If you don’t believe that, if you don’t understand that, then we have a fundamental difference of opinion. Our country is undeniably better and richer because of Black contributions. Ideas. Inventions. And love.

While it seems embarrassing that we even have to point this out, that we haven’t always inherently known it and been humbled by it, it is more important that we’re all taking this time to pause. To stand together. And to say, in one voice, fuck YES black lives matter.

This day 101 years ago showed us that a group of dedicated people could overcome great odds to formulate massive change when the 19th amendment was passed.

This day 31 years ago was the Tiananmen Square tragedy.

Each year, the month of June brings us Juneteenth, the commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

But also each year, the month of June also celebrates Pride, because life is hard enough without being silenced about whom we choose to love.

Guys, it’s June. It’s June as hell, and we’re the ones who can make a real, lasting difference. We’re the ones who can do something to help, even if it feels like it’s not enough, even if we want to do more.

If we all do something, we will continue to move in the right direction. The stagnation is tearing us apart. Every relationship takes work. When both parties are actively working on it, though, that relationship will continue to grow and change in the best ways.

If you have time on your hands and availability (AND A MASK):

  1. The Black Lives Matter website allows you to locate protest opportunities (you can also donate)
  2. So does Showing Up for Racial Justice.

If you have money, but not as much time:

  1. Official George Floyd Memorial Fund GoFundMe.
  2. Mutual Aid Networks
  3. NAACP Legal Defense Fund
  4. Dignity and Power Now

If you’re just not sure what you want to do and need a list of possibilities that you can crack into right now to educate yourself:

  1. General ways to help

If you have Sephora Beauty Insider points and never want to use them on a single-use perfume sample:

Sephora is allowing its Beauty Insiders to donate their points to the National Black Justice Organization, a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS. What I don’t like about it: you have to buy something as well, so if anyone knows where I can send some random-ass Sephora stuff to also help out, please email me here.

And, I can’t emphasize this enough, VOTE. Vote for change. Vote in tiny local elections and big national elections. Give your friends a ride to their voting place. Make sure you’re registered here or here. Find local registration rallies and volunteer. If you’re too young to vote, find someone who isn’t and make sure they know that your future is at stake.

But no matter what, let’s please, please keep moving forward. Let’s please, please keep talking about mutual care and respect, and fighting our ugly assumptions, and uniting again.

This country may not have had a pretty beginning, but that doesn’t mean it has to end.

*Photo courtesy of our friends at Ben & Jerry’s.

Guys, I found out the juiciest little tidbit about a certain Mr. William Howard Taft over the weekend, and tried really hard not to immediately tell everyone I knew, but it’s just too good and I had to share.

For those of you just joining my Presidential Hot Goss sidebar, here are Parts I and II to catch you up. Please email me if you need more info about really any president up to 1926, though. I’ve got stories for days.

(At least one day. I’ve never been tested. But I welcome the challenge, believe me.)

Anyway, William Howard Taft had the ultimate honor bestowed upon him – the New York Pie Baker’s Union made him a 50-pound mince pie for Thanksgiving in 1909.*

*interesting to note: mincemeat pie contains no meatanymore. It was originally just a good way of preserving meat (most often mutton, but also beef, rabbit, pork, or game), without having to salt, cure, smoke, or dry it. Meat disappeared from the equation whenever someone first realized there was a meat pie with raisins and shit in it, probably.

What shoots the story deadass past cool to phenomenal are a couple of things: first, the pie was stolen en route to delivery. I can’t decide if it’s better imagining that it was an inside job or just the best day ever for some rando thief. Second, what happened after that.

Not to be deterred, the New York Pie Angels (seriously, they’re called so many things on so many sites: New York bakers, New York bakers association, bakers from New York, but let’s cut to the chase: they’re the most ephemeral, yet substantive, beautiful, now-dead angel people since the guy who made donuts a thing) upped the ante and made a HOLY SHIT ARE YOU SERIOUS 92-pound mince pie for the president for Christmas of that same year.

And Taft, hereafter known as the Don’t-Fuck-With-My-Pie-Twice president, had that gargantuan delight locked in a giant ironclad case and escorted by armed guard straight to his loving arms.

Moral of the story: man, I really wish he was still alive, though he’d be uncomfortably old. While he didn’t realize his dreams of being on the Supreme Court since he couldn’t do that and make his wife happy (“President or GTFO” is what I think she said, paraphrased), he did the best he was willing to do, and that’s okay by me since I wasn’t alive then.

Movie of the day: Ghostbusters, 2016, Amazon Prime. Yeah, I said it. Maybe it’s because I’m thinking of dead presidents so much, or maybe it’s because I finally watched this yesterday after our film club group argued about whether or not it was good, but I loved that the OGs made cameos, I loved that the women cast were the women cast, and I only cringed more than a little at the very end.

Show of the day: Billions, Showtime (Hulu). I just got the add-on for Hulu yesterday, free trial, $4.99 after until the day before it goes up and I cancel it, and we watched about five hours of this last night. I still really like it.

Song of the day: Field of Dreams soundtrack. This is my all-time honorary favorite movie, and it’s neck-and-neck with The Jerk for my definitive favorite movie. NPR played part of the soundtrack today, and I wasn’t expecting it (obviously), and anyway I teared right up. It’s gorgeous. Also, in keeping with the dead stuff theme.

**Photo courtesy of the Online Archive of California

Hey, guys, hi. I hope you had a respectful Memorial Day weekend and spent it in the way that meant the most to you. I spent it listening to my neighbor chainsaw all his trees down. It was very sad.

But we’re not here to be sad, unless you are, in which case I’ll sit with you. Hit me up in the comments.

But I digress. As is the case more often than not, I’m here today to write about movies. So for Sunday night’s Film Club selection (by the way, if I haven’t urged you guys to try out the Netflix Party extension on Chrome, absolutely do it. It’s a great chance to “watch” movies with your bros), we went back to the future.

I’ve recommended this one already, but the trilogy is still on Netflix if you want to see if it holds up. In my opinion, it absolutely does, and watching it as an adult with grown kids was an entirely different experience than watching it for the first time as a 10-year-old on her first date (“date,” in this case, meant that we did not speak, and never saw each other alone at any point).

What I noticed was, well, lots of things. First of all, how the hell old is Marty’s oldest brother, and why does he still live there at the end of the movie and act like he has any say about the family car if he has a job in which he’s allegedly very successful? MOVE OUT, DAVE. Move out, maybe make some friends, stop acting so interested in your sister’s social life. It’s weird.

But before I go down that rabbit hole, I want to talk about Marty’s parents, because I went on a whole journey for this one. Something I noticed (not so much when I was 10), and hell, like anyone noticed even if they were 10 because I’m terrible at noticing things, was that Marty’s parents were pretty awful people.

Let’s look at the evidence. Marty’s dad at first appearance seems to be a guy who has no friends, and gets bullied. That’s awful. But then, we see that he’s 1) a peeping Tom 2) the kind of guy to leave the scene when someone gets hit by a car 3) not in any way interested in people’s lives or anything but his own little world.

Marty’s mom, on the other hand, is portrayed as a woman of very loose morals, who is way down with attacking Marty, a total stranger, sexually before she even officially meets him. She drinks, she smokes, and she’s been around the block.

At the beginning of the movie, Marty’s parents seem to have resigned themselves to a pretty humdrum life, in which they don’t even have the strength to resent each other. Dave works at a fast food joint. Linda, the middle child and sister, can’t get a date to save her life. Marty seems to be the only one who has an active life with interests, though I’ll allow that we’re not given much of a peek into the other kids’ lives other than setting us up to be familiar with the characters.

Anyway, I started thinking, yeah, I get why Marty wants to keep himself from being erased, but honestly his parents are kind of the worst.

And then, almost immediately, I remembered what I was like in high school.

I didn’t drink, but only because I tried wine coolers once, got heartburn, and thought that meant I was allergic to alcohol because I’d never had heartburn. Same with cigarettes – inhaled once, thought my throat was on fire, walked away. No drugs because I grew up in the 80s, surrounded by D.A.R.E.

But I was also a moody little asshole. I had the biggest chip on my shoulder. I was super shy but also super jerky to my parents. I canceled plans routinely because I was too busy being angsty. I quit stuff when I didn’t want to do it anymore. I barely made it to first hour, ever, my senior year. I was even a dick to my favorite teacher, Ms. Holman, and she definitely didn’t do anything to deserve it. I took a bunch of diet pills once and had to have my stomach pumped.

If I’d been watching Back to the Future with me as the mom, I would’ve been like, “JESUS DO NOT LET HER HAVE CHILDREN.” (And also a little bit like, why would anyone want to be around her long enough to try?)

The point, and I did have one, is that very rarely do teenagers remain the same as older adults. They may have some of the same strengths and weaknesses, sure, but they also grow, and, hopefully, learn from their mistakes and experiences.

I still get too defensive too quickly. I still listen to music way too loud and worship the alternative genre. I still want to bang out my feelings on a keyboard, and get my ears way too pierced.

But I’ve also raised a child, and helped raise more. I’ve been married, and divorced, more than once. I’ve seen people that I loved, very, very much, die in front of me. I’ve done the right thing and been punished for it, and done the wrong thing and gotten away with it, more times than I can count. I was really sick for a long time, and wasn’t sure I’d be well. I saw others around me get really sick for a long time, and never recover.

A life is a whole, whole bunch of little parts spinning around each other to make a big picture. And that picture, while it looks pretty good from a distance, has as many ugly parts as it does beautiful.

So Marty, your parents were totally worth fighting for. While I may never know why Dave still lives there, it’s also none of my damn business.

Movie of the Day: Kind of misleading today. I’ve obviously already thrown a nod to Back to the Future, but I really want to recommend I Know This Much is True (HBO, but also Amazon Prime), a miniseries based on the Wally Lamb book of the same name that I found 20 years ago and absolutely loved. Mark Ruffalo plays twins, one of whom is schizophrenic, and he does so remarkably well.

Show of the Day: Run, HBO. (HBO gets all the praise today.) This is a fun little plot-take based on a man and a woman who were in a relationship in college and made a pact that if one should ever message the other with the word “Run” and the other one was able to also run, they would meet each other at a predetermined destination at a predetermined time. Oh, boy. You can guess where this is going.

Song of the Day: The Story, Brandi Carlile. I love this song a whole lot, obviously, but it also fits nicely into today’s blog. We all have our own stories, and those stories make us who we are today. Oh, man. Narrative paradigm is the best, and not just because it’s all I remember from college.

Yesterday was going to be the day I wrote about the events and people who helped me become capable of handling short bursts of social activity. And it was.

It’s just that there are some memories that I’m not sure are ready for prime-time. While I hope they will be soon, I still need to protect them. Plus, the writing itself was pretty ugly and disjointed and emotional and there was just no way that it would make sense to literally anyone else. Even writing this, my words are skewing that same direction.

So I’ll sum it up, for today, like this. After a solid three-plus decades of being shy and not speaking up and just letting life kind of happen, I got sick.

I was sick for awhile, and it was the kind of sick that made me vow that, if I were lucky enough to be healthy again, I would start to say yes in positive ways. Not just in ways to make people like me and to smooth over potential conflict and to keep the peace, but in ways that would make me uncomfortable and force growth and change.

There were very important people on that journey with me who did not have that choice. Who helped me through it but didn’t make it themselves. And so I decided, as my hair grew back in ridiculous corkscrews and my face stayed chemo-puffy and I looked even worse than my eighth-grade school picture and it was absolutely the wrong time to start trying out my voice and learning to make conversation and going back to college and raising my hand in class, to make those choices for them.

Don’t get me wrong. The healing wasn’t super smooth, and every time I thought I was getting better, a new kick happened…relapses and new diagnoses in friends and family, my sweet son graduating and starting his life with his own struggles. I drank a lot. I fought people who tried to help me.

The other part was that, once on the other side, I faced life with none of the ones who had gotten me through the worst of it except those I had pushed away. I credit my parents and stepmom, my brothers and sisters, for holding out their hands after I had slapped them away for so, so long.

But they stayed. And I met my now-husband, Josh, and his parents, who were all so patient and beautiful and kind to me. The kind of people who gave me space but also encouraged me.

So I moved, after an entire lifetime (40 years!) in the same town, to be with Josh and, by a huge stroke of luck, my longest-running non-biological sister, Lori, who lived just a couple of miles away.

And my family stuck with me, even though they kinda questioned the haste of my newfound “yes to adventure” phase.

And my son battled his own demons and came out stronger than ever with his own best friend and life mate, Shelby.

And, most importantly, I quit drinking. There’s no point in saying yes to EVERYTHING risky, you know?

While I am so grateful to everyone who stuck with me, who encouraged me, and who helped me start new adventures, I still struggle every time I leave the house with social anxiety. The way I get through the worst of it now, without alcohol, is in a couple of ways. The first and longest-running, that I first adopted in my days practicing interviews, is to pretend that I’m playing the role of someone confident and social. It helps to lay down that blanket of removal from the situation…I’m just playing a part, man, and it’s only a one-night engagement, so I’ll give it everything I’ve got.

Suffice it to say, this does not work every time. I’m lucky if it works half the time. Because, the other issue with being sober in social situations is that most other people are NOT. So in those cases, I try to do the bare minimum to play the part without anyone noticing me.

I also know my limits. I can make it about an hour, in any social setting, before I shut down completely. Kind of like the coach turning back into the pumpkin. So I try very hard to time things accordingly. And then get the hell out of there.

Finally, never forget the ones who want to help you. Today, I’m thinking of my father-in-law, Bill, the one who helped those tricky early days with Josh’s family become so much easier. His was the hand I could always hold in a room full of loud family who went back generations.

Bill would be 75 today. In his honor, I made a butterscotch meringue pie. I could never master this while he was alive, and I kind of hope there’s some small flaw in it (only small, I’m not a martyr) to keep with tradition.

I love you, dad, and I miss you so much. Happy birthday.

Movie of the day: Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, Amazon. I finally saw this yesterday, and it was amazing. Weird, absolutely, but amazing. It was the first of two Best Picture winners for Michael Keaton, whom I love.

Show of the day: Punky Brewster, Amazon Prime. Call it a holdover from the nostalgia from earlier this week. I don’t recommend purchasing episodes individually, but if you’re home a lot with disposable income, do it. Why not.

Song of the day: I noticed that embedding these frequently gets them removed from the site, but here’s a link to a great little also-nostalgic song, Limahl’s Never Ending Story. Also a great movie, but I already stuck Birdman in there.

Hi. Please forgive me for the appearance of this blog. I’m pretending I know what I’m doing from a graphic-design standpoint, and in starting to dig into website templates, I inadvertently deleted my old design and can’t even find the damn thing now.

Anyway, in looking at things that spoke to me from a hey-that-looks-cool way (aside from pictures of donuts and color palettes that reminded me of frosting and fonts that looked like delicious pastries – if these exist please hit me in the comments), only one header actually grabbed my attention immediately.

It was a picture of an ol’ Smith Corona typewriter. And it took me right back into time. Like, way back to the early 80s.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to type at my dad’s office. The keys were so loud and clacky and important-sounding, and I was an early adopter of Liquid-Paper-scent addiction. I can’t imagine how high I probably got opening countless bottles and breathing, deeply and repeatedly and directly, over the little opening. I just loved that smell, and the association of “writing” so, so much. That and the scent of fresh ink when I couldn’t get typewriter time in were my favorite smells (well, and the smell of my Little Granddad’s garage, and gasoline).

I never liked flowers, but I always loved grass (the kind on the ground. I definitely never cared for the smell of weed). I never liked the scent of Avon perfumes, but I loved the unique bottles they came in and have them all saved, from Mother Goose to the Gingerbread Man to the Frog Sheriff, in my dresser to this day.

I also reallllly loved the scent, and taste, of water from the garden hose.

Basically, if it turned out later to be dangerous, I probably loved sucking the smell right up into my face.

But I digress.

I loved my house (we had a pool and lots of grown-over yard spaces to make little “clubhouses,” plus neighbors that we nightly played hide-and-go-seek and honest-to-God kick the can with), but my dad’s old-fashioned office on the town square was where I preferred to be. I could type there. I could hide in the little space under the desk-behind-his-desk. I could hide in his vault where he kept records (he’s a CPA), though I didn’t much care for THAT smell. Connected to his office on each side were storefronts he also owned, so I got to know Mr. Koester from Koester’s Kut and Klip, got to explore a variety of wares in the series of flea markets that took the larger space next door, got to listen to, and peruse, a whole lot of vinyl when he had his music store in the early-mid 80s, called The Record Rack.

The town was small enough, and our house close enough, that I was allowed to walk back and forth to the square from my house by the time I was nine, which was also when I started free-babysitting my six-year-old brother and new baby sister for short stretches of time, until my sister was three and cut off her own bangs under my care. My mom stayed home with us unless she was working at the office during tax season or volunteering at the church or school or shelter. She put together a lot of puzzles, burned a lot of incense even though neither of my parents drank or smoked anything, and played a lot of Gordon Lightfoot.

I’m not sure if it was having such a rock-solid little world that aided in making me so socially-averse, but at no point in my life did I find it easy to leave my family safety net and make friends.

I remember my eighth birthday in particular, when my dad’s whole family came over to have cake and open my presents in front of them. I was terrified. I remember that Big Granddad (my dad’s dad was Big Granddad; my mom’s, Little Granddad. One was tall, one was short.) gave me a wooden baseball bat. Everyone stared at me for my reaction, and I took it, stood up, and very quietly walked upstairs, stumping it on each step like a cane, feeling their confused eyes boring into me.

And I didn’t come back down.

It was also in third grade that I became the target of a girl gang for the first time. Not knowing how to really assimilate within groups of girls my own age, I would usually go hang out under the huge tree at the back edge of the elementary school playground, or play kickball with the boys because you could line up and pretend like you were running after balls to kick them back, but then not actually do that. There was no talking, it was built-in social distancing, and it was perfect.

So anyway, girls didn’t play kickball. They stood together in groups on the playground and talked, or pushed each other on the swings and talked. I didn’t know the first thing to say to any of them. I didn’t even do my own hair or honestly even pick out my own clothes – my mom did that stuff for me (until middle school, when I turned into a raving bitch who only wanted to wear one giant sweat-outfit because I got really tall and big really fast and learned the pain of the “Husky” clothing label).

Because I didn’t play with them or talk to them, they (logically) assumed I was “stuck up”. (that was the parlance of the early-to-mid-eighties).

Fourth grade and fifth grade were the same. In sixth grade, a new, very quiet, very shy girl moved to town and we glommed together like two people in an ocean of hormones and a single piece of social-pariah driftwood do. (Mary Beth remained my go-to friend all the way through high school and is now a veterinarian. We’re both terrible socially and have gone entire years between conversations. Best friend ever.)

And so I got through high school without ever trying drugs or getting drunk, and then went to a small college. There were campus parties. There was sorority rushing. I hated every bit of it and dropped out after one semester.

While I’ll fill in the blanks a little more tomorrow with the years from 1993 to now (I know! What an exciting prospect!), I will say that I’ve adapted to people a little better in those intervening decades, mostly due to a series of pretty awful events that taught me to appreciate life.

I didn’t say it was interesting.

But for now, I will add that listening to my extroverted stepson in the next room make a series of ever-louder mouth sounds in a quest to get attention almost makes me envious of those who will never know the terror of coming across another person unexpectedly and not knowing what to say. Of being at a party where you don’t know anyone, and can’t leave, and you have no idea what the hell to do.

As I’ve mentioned before, being sequestered at home has been the best thing that could ever happen to the socially awkward. And being sequestered with two twin children dying to be social who just sprayed a pound of Axe body spray on each other can be kind of the worst. Even though I love them.

The point is, is Liquid Paper still sold anywhere?

Movie of the Day: The Paper, Amazon Prime. I wanted to be Glenn Close in this movie so much, and I love Michael Keaton’s entire catalog.

Show of the Day: Ryan Does Places, Amazon Prime. This is like traveling when you can’t travel. And Ryan is the most enthusiastic guide ever. And these are short.

Song of the Day: Pinwheel theme song. Waxing nostalgic will do this to you. When you’re a kid in a time of three channels only, and they’re all adult shows, the advent of a kid’s show that’s not just shown on Saturday mornings, but every weekday, can be a life-changer. Any Pinwheel kids out there? Let’s talk, online only.

*Liquid Paper photo courtesy of The Atlantic.

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