Saturday, September 24, 2016

Tag and other Torture

8 minute memoir


I'm way behind on these but what else is new?


Being 8 years old.

eight.  I barely remember it and yet I remember it all.  I remember eight was maybe the first time I felt truly bullied at school.  It's not a fun memory but it happened a lot that year.  It caused me to get in a fight, to slap a girl across the face and to be sent to the principals office.  The principal was actually on my side in the whole thing so I really didn't get in too much trouble.  She gave the other girl a lecture about pushing people too far.  In that scenario I was people.  She had a big ol beehive.  It was 1975 and that was probably kind of out of style by then, but not in my little small town.

My school was a super small country school so our principal was also my teacher that year.  Mrs. McCullough. I thought she was pretty keen.  But one day she made me stay in at recess because I couldn't count the little stack of coins she gave us and get the right answer.  I kept counting the nickels and dimes wrong because I thought the bigger coins should be worth more than the tiny ones.  So I guess that was also my first experience of being dead wrong and someone calling me out on it.  She sat at her desk grading papers.  I felt a slow panic about missing out on lunch.  Missing out on lunch meant I'd probably get left out when I finally got there and probably left out at lunch recess too. The panic did nothing to improve my counting skills.  She kept saying "you'll get it, try again". She seemed to know I really wanted her to just rescue me from the torture and I was being pretty dramatic about the whole thing and she wasn't having it.  I finally got the right answer but it was probably the beginning of a long and worrying relationship with math.

I wore a lot of polyester back then and spandex like material.  Our school had bats in the attic that would occasionally make their way down in the hallways.   We had delicious lunches with fluffy rolls and yummy mashed potatoes and gravy and peanut butter bars that were to die for.  I had a best friend I fought with all the time.  I feel unsettled when I think about most of my elementary school years.  I don't know exactly why.  I just felt a low level of anxiety a lot.  I hated sports and I was terrible at the types of things they're always encouraging 8 year olds to do.  Playing kickball or tag is not very fun when you are a slow runner.  You're always letting down your team or "it" during tag, which gets real old.  That year someone made fun of how I ran and that pretty much put me off running for the rest of my life too.  I mean, not really, but yeah, kinda.  I blamed it on the fact that I was always wearing fancy little black patent leather shoes most of the time.  Then the same kid made fun of me all year for saying that it was because of my shoes.  I was always trying to not get messed up and stay pristine.  I was prissy in the sort of annoying way when kids don't like getting their clothes messed up.  I was more the kind of kid you'd find sitting under a tree reading Little House on the Prairie or Trixie Belden.  That doesn't usually count for much when you're 8.  Other eight year olds don't exactly admire that as a
skill.


I wanted to be a writer when I grew up and I sent away to one of those things in the back of a magazine that tells you if you have promise or not.  They sent back and said I showed a lot of promise and I should sign up for classes.  I'd imagine they were pricey correspondence courses.  I was just pretty thrilled they liked my stuff.  I had written a story about a little girl and Christmas called "Lydia's Christmas". I didn't know anyone named Lydia so I was pretty impressed with my creativity. Imagine my surprise when my mom wasn't too keen on that plan.  WHAT? But they said I had talent mom.


Thursday, September 08, 2016

Cakes are done, people are finished.

8 minute memoir 

Finish 


Would you like to know the definition of deep existential angst?  It is having 433 books on my "to read list".  It is having 140 movies currently on my "movies to see" list.  It is knowing I would like to see Greece, Versailles, Ibiza, and Bali before I die.  And that's just for starters.  It is knowing there are states inside the United States I haven't been to yet.  It is knowing I have secret deep desire to stay in the Chateau Marmont  someday when the minimum of $500 a night isn't going to make my little debit card cry.  I mean, sometimes I stare at Pinterest and just pin and pin and pin places I'd like to go, outfits I would wear if I were thinner, jewelry I would buy if money were no object, couches I would just die to own, and I just create longer and longer lists of things I'll probably never finish.

Will I really make my own lavender vanilla sugar scrub?  Will I really paint pumpkins and arrange flowers inside of them?  Will I ever actually make the peach cobbler in the crock pot?  Would I paint my front door hot pink?

The thing is, I never really can say for sure.

Here is what I do know.  I finished my bachelor's degree at 45 years old.  I've repainted my front door from white to green to black to red. I finished my Master's degree at 48 years old.  I painted some walls in my house black even though there were a lot of naysayers (they were wrong.)  Who knows what I will do?  My unfinished list of books is 433 long but my finished list is 722 and that probably isn't every book I ever read.  I finished all the seasons of Mad Men like I was in a fever dream one summer.  One never knows what one can accomplish when we decide to do it, even if that "it" is finally watching all the Audrey Hepburn movies you missed.  I am kind of likely to take up yoga.  I may take up running (I mean, probably not, but the point is you never know for sure.)

There are lots of things I'll probably never finish.  Things you will probably never finish.  But there are lots and lots of things that you should at least consider finishing, because otherwise, what is the point really?

My Senior English teacher Mrs. Barton used to say all the time "Cakes are done, people are finished." I am neither done, nor finished, just yet.



Saturday, September 03, 2016

Magical Thinking Games

8 minute memoir

Games

It is possible there is no group more predisposed to magical thinking than teenage girls. 

When you hear the song on the radio - you know the one - the special one that makes you think about that cute boy you like - you know the one - the one with the slow smile and the tan muscular arms - or the one who always wears his football jersey and seems kind of shy - or the one with the flashy car and and the deep hazel eyes - or the one who made you laugh that time in science class. 

When the song comes on you have to start driving as fast as you can.  Or as fast as you dare without getting a ticket while you are driving your moms Thunderbird, or your moms Chevrolet.  You start driving as fast as you can to the street where they live, to the house you know so well, you practically know how many bricks tall it is, you know the petunias are slightly wilting in the late summer heat, you know the dad might be out front with his hose and you hope - you really really hope he won't be there because if he is you'll have to drive by so fast that you won't be able to really check out the house, to see if his car might be in the driveway, to see if the window that you are pretty sure is his is possibly offering a glimpse or even just a shadow that might be him. 

The game is this - if you can get to his house before the song ends, if you can drive by his house while it is still playing, it is the best of Omens.  It is the omen that says all those times you stared at his arms during class, all those times you listened for his name on the radio while the game was broadcast, all those times you melted when he smiled at you, all those times you thought for sure you were going to be the future Mrs. Football, the future Mrs. Deep Hazel Eyes, the future Mrs. Electric Guitar Player, the future Mrs. Science Partner, the future Mrs. Yellow Convertible - all those times are destined to come true.  

This was our attempt at a version of punk rock band called "hot rash"
In our more usual state as nice mormon girls

when your parents say you are too young to date so you all go to the 9th grade dance together


when you decide to all be in the "future homemakers of America" club


Saturday, August 27, 2016

8 minute list of happiness

8 minute memoir writing prompt

Little Things:

I'm always saying this and I know it sounds so cliche but it really is the little things that make us happy.  Several years ago I went through a rough patch and it was hard to feel really happy.  I think I did a pretty good job of focusing on the things that would move me forward.  But there were definitely days when I just didn't feel like doing that at all.  And sometimes the smallest things would help pull me out of that.  I began keeping a list of little things that cheered me up on a bad day.  Here's a partial list:

Sea glass I found on a beach

The film Amelie

A poem

Teenager who smiled at me

Fresh cut grass

Fortune cookies

Smell of Coconut

Smell of Cinnamon

Saltwater

A warm breeze

Peonies

My dogs

Quiet afternoons

French pop music

Swimming pool

Mason jar full of water and ice

campfire sparks

Deep indigo skies before a rain storm

Desert plants

Big white fluffy clouds

bright red lipstick

worn out black converse

Andy Warhol

Documentary about Anna Wintour

Bees

Tuna Fish

Diet Coke

Pineapple

Practicing French

Driving with the windows down

Fat Babies

Short Cuts

Mad Men

Charlie Hunnam

laughing

Kate McKinnon

secrets



That's my 8 minute list.  One thing I learned in keeping track of the little things that made me happy in a given day was that there are so many things that do make me happy.  Even on days when everything is terrible.




Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Jade Dragons, Ghosts, Fecund Earth and Mummy Mountain

8 minute memoir writing prompt: Adventures

Adventures

Let me tell you about a few adventures I have had in my life and they all happened in my Prius.   I love my Prius because when you drive you can't hear anything at all.  I feel very stealthy. 

I drove to San Francisco by myself with two of my kids.  I parallel parked in China Town.  I wandered around City Lights bookstore and then I ran up the street to my car again when the meter threatened, past the ducks hanging in the windows, past the little green jade dragons, and past the smells of gingered food.  I fed my meter and walked back down and looked around that bookstore until I found the perfect book.  We drove up down and all around that town.  I found a parking spot right in front of Ben & Jerry's at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury and I parallel parked there like a champ too.

I drove to Tucson and attended a conference and in my off time I drove around the desert roads and found The Mission San Xavier Del Bac.  I was there all alone.  I hiked up to the little hill and sat on a stone and breathed in a wonderful amount of creosote.  Creosote so delicious is almost smelled the tiniest bit like coconut mixed with creosote.  It was heavenly.  Then I started wondering if that was a ghost.  I really did.  Sometimes I smell weird things that shouldn't be there and think about things like that.

My little Prius carried me and my kids all the way to Idaho on familiar roads and byways.   I rolled down the window when I got into the upper valley and it was almost midnight.  I could smell soil.  Rich, earthy, wet dirt, and it did smell just like home.  The air hung with the scent of well watered fields and dank growth and it felt kind of magical.  Summer nights in Idaho are full of stars you can actually see, earth you can smell, and quiet.

Sometimes when I can't go anywhere far my Prius carries me around the back side of Mummy Mountain.  My daughter and I drive up and down the little drives with the windows rolled down and our favorite Spotify lists on repeat.  We sneak up on Javelinas. We dodge cotton tail bunnies. We wonder how people make their multi-million dollars.  We chose the house we would buy if we had a billionaires budget.  We also choose the smaller houses.  The little haciendas.  The house that was built in the 60s.  The house with the lovely brick and stone paths.  The ones probably no one would pick.   We love it when it starts to Monsoon and you can feel the electricity in the air.  My Prius climbs up the side of Camelback Mountain and we feel like we're on top the world.  Or at least on top of this world.













Monday, August 22, 2016

Billboards

8 minute writing prompt: Billboards

Billboards

The Arizona freeways have very few billboards.  I like that. When I travel through Utah I see a lot of billboards for plastic surgery for some reason.  When I travel through Las Vegas I see a lot of women who have already had plastic surgery in very small outfits trying to advertise the casinos and shows.  Women's bodies, when I come to think of it, occupy a lot of space in advertising.

I  have such mixed and complicated feelings about how much space women's bodies should occupy in our collective economy, space, and conversation.  Although I think it has become more complicated to be a male recently, I still think those expectations pale in comparison to being a woman.  Women think about their bodies, food, clothing sizes, desirability, beauty products, and ways they can control all of these things to an astonishing degree.  Wraps, eye creams, Botox, vitamins, vaginoplasty, waxes, steams, tucks, tattoo makeup, and implants.  Weight watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutri-System, Diet Center, LA Weightloss, Curves, Modified Starving Fast, and fricking Slim Fast.  Think about all the ways we keep women occupied.  And broke.

I have dieted, lasered, surgically altered, starved, and binged.  I have purchased expensive creams meant to make me immortal.  I bought the spanx, drank the lemon with cayenne, and did more than one water aerobics class into the night.

And you know what? I still occupy way too much space.  And I still don't occupy the right proportion of space to ever be one of the women on the Billboard.

Sometimes I think maybe that's something to be grateful for.

And sometimes I re-read my copy of intuitive eating again and just try to get it right. 



Friday, August 19, 2016

Packing Babies Away In Cotton

8 minute writing prompt (in case you missed the prior post I'm doing this thing) ~

I don't remember:

I don't remember every day of each one of my children's childhoods.  I sure wish that I did.  I wish there was a way to lock up every memory of every day.  I would have packed them up in little boxes like the ones from Tiffany's.   I would have packed each of those memories in tight with lots of cotton and tissue so that nothing could escape. I'd have closets full of them.  Just so that I could now unpack them and experience each one of them anytime I liked.  

I wish I could go back for a 24 hour period and revisit my children as babies and toddlers.  I would hold them all day long.  I would smell their sweet little baby heads and I would rock them and snuggle and I wouldn't talk to anyone else all day long except them.  I would stare into their eyes and I would know who they were going to be and it would be so gratifying and perfect.  Because in that moment there would be no worries, and no fears.  I would quit being hard on myself for not being a good enough mom, I would believe that everything I was going to do, even though it would be chock full of mistakes and glaring errors, would still be pretty darn good.  For one perfect 24 hour period everything would be bliss.

I suppose I want to do this because so much of what I remember about their babyhoods and childhoods ends up with me thinking about the low level of insecurity I had at the time about not doing it quite as well as I would like.  I wanted to be the mom who baked cakes from scratch, read to them every day, limited tv (or eliminated it altogether), played at the park, and always answered every question with love and thoughtfulness. 

Instead more than likely I was making frozen chicken nuggets, running out of ketchup again, scrubbing magic marker off the baby's belly, and rushing everyone off on a last minute errand and no one can find shoes because I am not organized enough to always know where the dang shoes are at all times.  Probably they are outside underneath the slowly deteriorating trampoline which some people probably think is dangerous for my children to play on because it doesn't even have proper bumper pads anymore and the springs are looking pretty sketchy. 

But now from my present position, I look back on that momma with a lot of compassion, and in fact, admiration for a job well done.  I wish my memories were more of all the things I might have done right.  But more than anything I would just love to remember every little thing about every day all over again.  


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