Friday, December 30, 2016

To Loosen a Button or To Not Loosen a Button….Top Posts of 2016

To loosen the button or to rip off the whole damn shirt, this is the dilemma when I write. Many blogs I follow are informational. How to save and make money in super random ways (Thank you, Penny Hoarder. You rock!). What is the latest news on the vegan scene (love you, VegNews)? Where can I find great recipes when I’m stuck for something new? Oh, She Glows. The answer is Oh, She Glows. These blogs are bullet-pointed, tip-filled gems. Even the blogs I follow for entertainment only, though, are somewhat removed from the writer’s personal life. The articles wax philosophical or crack a joke here and there but they draw the line at airing any sort of personal stuff. Keep it funny, keep it entertaining, but don’t talk about that afternoon I walked around with my dress stuck inside my underpants, ass cheeks hanging out for all to see.

And, yet, this is what you read. I’ve learned from the years I’ve maintained this site that if I give you a glimpse of a bit of cleavage or let you into my head when I’m falling down drunk, you cheer, applaud, and share with your friends. I try writing that philosophical crap. I try removing the words from my life. I try, and you ignore me. But when I parade myself in front of you shooting a seductive look, mussing my hair til it’s bedroom sexy, you offer me a drink and invite me in for a sit.

Cue The Bloggess. She is my superhero in blogging. She tells it like it is, never apologizes for being real, and flings around swear words like a freaking, curler-haired sailor. And she’s crazy hilarious. When I grow up I want to be Jenny, the Bloggess. Only I would be Tammie, the Bloggess. Only I can’t be the Bloggess because that’s Jenny. I would be Tammie, the super-funny blogger that writes about real life and flits around the stage flinging eff words and glitter.

Until then, proof that if I let you in, you will read. These are the top Pixie Dust blog posts of 2016. You seemed to enjoy them the first time around. I hope you enjoy them again.

Tammie Does Divorce

A Come to Jesus with My Soul

Do You Come Here Often?

Lost and Found

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

If Wherever I Go There I Am, Then Where the Hell Am I?

At this point I would welcome a fork in the road. That idyllic picture Robert Frost so eloquently painted of this choice or that. Oh, I don’t know, I’ll go down this and maybe save the other for some later time. Or not. But I know it’s there for me if I choose. Cue Doris Day singing Que Sera, Sera. Instead, I find myself standing in the middle of the Jersey turnpike. I feel lost with so many cars, so many lanes. Where do I go? Which path do I take? I’m too slow. I can’t do this. I'm getting run over. It’s all so fast. Everybody seems to know where they are going, how to keep up. Everybody except for me.

I’m talking about career here. I’m in transition. Transition is a pretty word for not there and not quite here. Like when Wile E. Coyote jumped from cliff to cliff, running with all his might, little legs spinning, trying to catch that crafty Roadrunner. He suddenly finds himself, between the two cliffs, standing in midair. Freeze. Face to the camera. Gulp. Fall into the endless abyss. I am Wile E. Coyote.

I am not alone in this. I know, because you have shared your stories. Some of us are a little late coming to the midlife crisis table. Whether we are feeling burned out on our current careers or are trying to find ourselves after a lifetime of giving to our children, we have reached a point where we look around and ask, okay, what next? Who am I? Is this all there is? Why have I not accomplished more with my life? How do I move forward? Where can I find help or advice? Will there be cupcakes?

You know that feeling when you get in line at the grocery store? You’re standing there with your bag of organic veggie chips behind the mom with a cart packed full, babies hanging off the sides of the cart, another in the sling. No other lines are open. You stay where you are and wait.
That’s just the thing to do. Then another cashier turns his light on and says he can help who’s next. Some suit and heels chick in a hurry with her prepared salad and mocha lattĂ© sprints to the register. Chastising yourself for your slow reflexes, flashbacks to those C’s you got in seventh grade gym and how you hated running in front of people because of flappy leg skin, you get behind her. The mom in front of you, after all, is debating a price on the Goldfish crackers. They were on sale. That’s what the sign said. You jump in line behind the business exec on her lunch break. As she moves through and you step up for your turn, there seems to be a problem with the register. No worries. You just get back behind Goldfish Mom who, at this point, has a growing line behind her. More lanes open. Rinse and repeat. You know how this goes.

I just want to put my bag of chips on the counter. I want to play the game.

I feel like I'm blindfolded during my turn at Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I keep spinning and spinning, but I never quite get to the point where, in my dizziness, I make my way to the wall and make everybody laugh by giving the donkey a tail-shaped penis. I never get there.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” This is what I was told. I’d like to find comfort in that but I’m not sure I do. Instead, I pull up a memory of my undergrad days, standing in a darkened frat house, half smashed and drinking somebody else’s beer.
This is my home, these Phi Tau brothers, these sisters of the Laurel. This is my place. Arms around shoulders, we sway and savor the love as the music blares. "The road is long with many a winding turn." We don't know where it leads, but it's okay because we're strong and whatever the next lyrics are. We can carry each other, be there for each other. We know this. And, in our drunkenness, we assure each other that "he ain't heavy, he's my brother." And, get this, "If I'm laden at all, I'm laden with sadness that everyone's heart isn't filled with the gladness of love for one another.” Oh, my God. That's some deep shit.

And then I remember. It’s not about me. It’s about us. And it’s not about the journey. Or the destination. It’s about the love. There is no fork. There is no turnpike. There is only now, this spot, exactly where we're standing, arms around shoulders, swaying to the song, reveling in the joy of this very moment, knowing that I am here for you and you are here for me. Que Sera, Sera. You knew it all along, Doris Day. You rock, girl. You rock.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Ain't Over 'Til the Fat Lady Sings

Now what? For many of us, Christmas is over. That ungodly Godly season has come to an end. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday. People smiling, being jolly and merry, giving to those they don't even know. Over. Done. December 26.

Now most of us go back to our own self-absorbed, overly busy, penny-pinching, too often curmudgeonly selves, that’s what. Do we forget? Do we forget what it feels like to smile at a stranger? Do we forget the joy in singing out loud and swinging our hips to Jingle Bell Rock in the middle of the produce aisle?
Do we forget what it feels like to bond with community members, even for a brief second, while dropping dollars in a red bucket (shoutout, Salvation Army, for all the good you do!). We spend hours searching for that perfect gift or, for that matter, any gift at all. We spend afternoons baking gingerbread men, snickerdoodles, and frosted sugar cookies with our children. We. Take. Off. Work. And now, it’s back to our regularly scheduled programs.

Hold on a minute.

Do me a favor. Pretend it's still Christmas. How would you act if today were Dec. 1? Sing out loud, smile, give to people you don't know, offer a kind word and warm gesture. So what if people think you're weird. You don't work for those people. You work for those who need the joy you have to share. There are still individuals who are struggling, still people in need, still family members that could benefit from your time. There are still those who could use a little extra love.

The world needs more hugs, y’all! Go be a hug spreader. It might be December 26, but it’s still Christmas in your head. Fa la la the freaking la. Christmas ain't over 'til the fat lady sings. And it's politically incorrect to call people fat anymore, so it's Christmas 'til you die.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

It'll be Okay, Mama

When the kids were little, people thought my husband and I were crazy. Why would we want to have so many kids? Some days I thought they were right. Some days I thought I was crazy. Then when all my friends were stopping at two and moving on to the next stage of their lives, I stayed in the baby stage many more years. Many more. I went to kindergarten orientation and high school orientation on the same night. It was wild at the Ortlieb house as they grew. There were always friends at the house. A lot of friends. All the time. I dealt with crazy shit like naked booty five-year-olds dancing on the basement jukebox as the boys all cheered her on,
a moment where I walked out the front door to find every baseball glove in the neighborhood on my roof, high schoolers who thought it would be a good idea to wheel a giant broken metal step ladder from the mall all the way to my house to use for climbing onto rooftops, boys throwing tomatoes at cars, Works bombs, a summer of teenage dumpster diving behind Krispy Kreme and the consequent kitchen counters packed with boxes and boxes of crullers, donut holes, and original glazed. There was fun stuff like marshmallow gun fights, dancing on the furniture, and winter picnics on the living room floor. It was crazy. When I look back I sometimes wonder how I did it. But after a night like tonight, a night of board games and laughing and dinner out, a night where all four of my children are in one place at the same time, a night where I look over and see the products of all those years, my heart fills so full it seems it might explode.

To all you young mothers out there..It's work. It's so goddamned much work. But it is worth every trip to the doctor to remove the rock from the nose, every maxi pad stuck to the bathroom wall, every giant fart in the middle of the cereal aisle, every minute of panic because you can't get the sliding cabinet door open in which your daughter is stuck behind the wastebasket, every night spent smelling your son's back to see if it smells like soap and telling him to get back in there and really take a bath, every time you find yourself asking what is that and where did you get it. It is worth every bedtime story, every sticky hug. It is so worth it. So, so worth it.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Four for Five

I was paying for spaghetti. The boxes were on sale four for five. I was surprising a friend with dinner and was in a store I almost never frequent. I heard someone behind me calling my name in a questioning way. I turned. I recognized her right off and enveloped her in my signature hug. “I knew it was you because of your foot,” she said.

Before we continue, a little backstory.

It is many years ago. My son is in elementary school and has decided to become a Scout. This is a wonderful experience and keeps him busy in a productive and appropriate way. He builds birdhouses, creates mosaics out of dishes he gets to break, and, thanks to his overzealous mother, earns more badges than any young boy ever truly needs. He goes to camp, discovers a love for archery, and gets super excited about not bathing the entire time he is away from home. He also makes new friends. Among these friends are two little boys who are twins.

This is not a best buds kind of friendship but is an acquaintance that is both comfortable and strong. I get to know the mother. Our connection is the same as that of the boys. I like her energy. I like her spirit. She is a beautiful soul with a smile that is too big for her face. She is one of those people who smiles with all of her face. As the years go by and those boys grow into men, the mother and I cross paths many times in many ways.

Then one day, the mother posts on Facebook that she has been diagnosed and the prognosis is not good. She sets up a hospital bed in her home. Friends bring dinners. Her husband coordinates surprises and visits from those who care. Her boys prepare for a day when she will no longer be physically a part of their lives. This is too soon, too early, too much for anyone to grasp. Cancer has its own mind and does as it will damn well please.

This woman creates a Facebook page dedicated to her dying and death. Only she could pull off a feat this strange. She refuses to allow this space or the people who read it to become morose. This is her page, a page of love and energy and sunshine and good will. Her dying will be as was her life. I do my best to infect her friends with my positive vibes. She has messaged me to insist I do. Through this page, I am strengthened, I am comforted, I am moved to put both life and death in proper place. Through this page, I also make a friend. We become a close group, the followers of this page. We connect in a way we ordinarily might not. And, so, this new friend and I gel from moment one.

This friend and I exchange many of those conversations all friends know. “You should come down sometime.” “We need to meet for lunch.” “Let’s plan a time to get together.” Of course we never do. We live in different states and have our own busy lives. Two years pass and never once do we meet. Never once do we meet until I am watching, tonight, my baguette and bagged salad being scanned by the clerk. “Tammie?” “Holly!” Of all the stores, of all the places, we are in line next to each other at this point, at this time, sharing a hug that is bigger than hugs, sharing a hug because of a woman who refused to die.

We love you, Kelly, for who you were and for how you lived. Thank you for never being afraid to just be you.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Time to Dance!

I am sitting on the bleachers in the gym at my seventh grade dance. This is my first experience with this kind of thing. Girls are watching the boys. Boys are watching the girls. And I am sitting in contemplation analyzing this thing called dancing. My friend encourages me to get out on the floor. “But I don’t know how,” I tell her. “You just go out there and move your body,” she says as if this should somehow clarify the situation. In the end, I would remain sitting on the bleachers watching and wishing I had the balls to not care how I looked or to worry what people thought.

As it happens, I would remain on those bleachers, metaphorically speaking, for most of my life.

I found the following words on a blog once. The words sat inside my head and grabbed at my heart. I was certain the floodgates were, indeed, bursting and ready to be opened. The author beautifully penned, “Whether you’ll admit it or not, there are dreams you’ve kept since childhood. There are things out there that make you come alive. There is a burden in your soul that feels like it’s been lit on fire, and it makes it difficult to speak, and you fumble for the words, and you ache to quench the thirst. What could it look like if you just opened the flood gates and let the passion pour out?”

What could it look like?

Have you ever struggled with this? You know there is more of you inside than what you have shared with the world thus far. I was going through a difficult period in my life, recently, when a friend sent me the following. I feel the flame is ready now, ready to spread its light and joy. My friend said, “I see you as a dancing flame of an exotic candle. Moving silently, bending and throwing light in blue and white and sparkles. No one blows it out.”

No one blows it out. No one blows it out but me. I may be guilty of having blown out my own light.

I attended my high school reunion last night, my thirty-fifth. We are somewhere between showing up pregnant to these things and showing up with walkers. At one point, I was just inebriated enough to allow a friend to encourage me to dance. For two seconds. I danced for two seconds. I forgot for a minute to care. I danced only because a small group of us joined in a circle and held hands as we swayed back and forth. It was lame, really, as far as dancing goes but I was not alone. That’s what mattered most. I was not alone. I was surrounded by those encouraging me to open the floodgates, to relight my flame. “I want to dance, but I can’t,” I told my friend. “It’s already inside of you,” she assured me. “I’ve seen glimpses. You just have to find it and let it out.”

I just have to find it and let it out. I’ve imprisoned my own spark.

I am transitioning in my life. Transitions are never pretty or easy or always even desired. But they are necessary for growth. Growth is necessary for life. And life, well, life just happens as a matter of breathing. It has been a long winter. It has been a long life of covering and hiding and piling on sweater after sweater. It is time now to shed those many layers and find out what lies beneath. It is time, my friends. It is time to dance.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Lost and Found

I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t not filled with the Holy Spirit. I wasn’t standing in judgment of these people who worshipped very differently than did I. I was just not feeling this particular expression of praise for God’s love and glory. I stood stock-still in the middle of a packed auditorium while others raised hands heavenward, swung hips, clapped and sang along to the concert-like band production on the giant stage in front of them. It was beautiful. It was warming. It just wasn’t me.

This was part of a women’s conference a friend had invited me to attend at her church. I’m a sucker for a lecture. And the lectures were great. I appreciate a speaker who can motivate, who can move a crowd, who can invoke action and personal reflection in a single individual among a number of hundreds. That’s an impressive skill. I walked away from the conference with knowledge in my head and love in my heart. I also walked away popping a couple Advil I had stuck in the bottom of my purse.

I followed this two-day experience with a couple hours spent advancing in my Reiki journey. For those who aren’t aware, Reiki is a form of energy work. It is an ancient healing technique that has basis in metaphysical thought. It is, for lack of a better explanation, a sort of laying on of hands. Now before you Christian readers go and get your knickers in a bunch, relax. I am not calling myself Jesus. I am not saying I perform miracles or that I don’t believe in God. I am simply of the belief that everything is energy and that sometimes our energy gets stuck and needs help moving the way it should. So if anything, I consider myself a spiritual enema and believe that others also, if they choose, can be spiritual enemas as well.

I know what you’re thinking. How can someone who says she believes in God do what some would consider very un-Christian-like stuff and where is this story going, what did she do next? Well, first she enjoyed a lovely dinner among friends, some masaman curry at her favorite Thai spot, and conversation and laughs that were as delicious as the meal. Then, she went for drinks with her cousin and her sis.

They dragged her. But she went.

I’m not really a bar kind of gal. I have nothing against a bottle of wine shared between friends or a couple of beers on the back deck, but I was never much into the bar thing even when I was of the age where that was what one did. How can I explain? I’ll reference the church concert, the blaring guitars, the drums, that whole music scene. I feel most at peace, most myself, when I am in a quiet spot. Those who know me may be confused. I love a crowd. I enjoy being among people. I’m crazy for music and joy and swinging the hips. But my music is calm. It’s wily. It creeps itself inside my ear and winds its way to my heart. Before I know it, my head is bobbing and my mouth is singing along. My music doesn’t shout at me. It doesn’t demand to be known. I feel the same with bars. My favorite moment of a drink shared among friends happened not in a loud, crowded, smoke infested establishment but on a beach in front of a campfire with fireworks lighting up the sky. As the evening’s festivities drew to a close, the sky revealed itself to us, a blanket of stars on an ebony ground. That is my drinking scene.

I have spent nearly fifty-three years searching for who I am. I have judged, questioned, wandered, and explored. I have allowed myself to be dragged along to things I’ve known I would not enjoy. I have tried to do that which others thought I should do, tried to be things others felt I should be. Did I have a good weekend this weekend? Yes. Did I enjoy my time? Very much. But I know that some of it was not mine. Yet as I looked around that crowded auditorium and that smoke-filled bar, I saw people with smiles on their faces. I saw laughs and hugs and sharing of love. That made me happy. It filled my heart. I do love a crowd. I do. But I don’t especially want to be in it. I am an observer. I am a leader. I am a mover, a point guy. Even among a group, I will find a way to stand away from it. I will separate myself, stand apart. I will watch, look, study, learn. It’s who I am. It’s who I have always been.

I’ve always thought this made me weird. I am coming to see it makes me me.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

God Bless You, Ma'am. God Bless

He reached out a hand very much like mine, only darker, and said, “I’d like to shake your hand, Miss, but could you tell me what compels you to do this?” I shot him an embarrassed smile, mumbled a lame, not nearly sufficient answer, and left him there as he wished me a God bless.

I have been doing this for a couple months now. It began one day when I was feeling sorry for myself. My life, at the time, seemed unfair and sad and lonely. I felt the universe had dealt me a crap hand and I could neither trade nor fold. As I stood in the middle of my living room, box of tissue in hand, I remembered the note my sisters and I had chosen for the last page of my mother’s funeral pamphlet. The message ended by suggesting that if I found myself feeling low, I should not wallow or complain, but should go do something kind for someone else.

I got my shoes on and headed out the door. That day and once a week since, I stop off at the dollar store for some peanut butter, jelly, and bread. I pack ten bags, adding plastic cutlery, and, in cooler weather, throwing in a couple pairs of socks. Once the bags are packed and my trunk is full, I take them over to a park downtown where the homeless live. I pull up to the curb with the intent of leaving the bags and driving away.

To say that I am the minority is like saying Gandhi was a nice guy. It is true, yes, but comes nowhere near doing the job. As an upper middle class white chick in her bangles and beads and current model Prius, I most frequently find myself among a sea of poverty stricken black dudes whose main modes of transportation are their own two feet. It is not uncommon to be greeted by a guy walking toward me with a, “Yeah, that’s right, baby. Get on outta that car. I got somethin’ for ya.”

I had been warned.

Friends who knew what I was doing told me to be safe, that it was a rough park, to take someone with me, to not go at all. They told me I was risking my safety. And very likely I was. But as I would pull up to the park, circling, assessing the crowdedness, hoping for a good show, I would channel my inner Mother Teresa. Not that I believe I am her but that, as a role model, she freaking rocks. “I am doing God’s work. I am doing God’s work,” I repeated to myself as I pulled up to the curb and slowed to a stop.

The first couple times were unexpected for those in the park. Puzzled looks and a barrage of questions greeted me as I opened my door. Mostly, they wanted to know what I wanted with them and what I had in the bags. I answered their questions quickly and without making eye contact, silently planning my escape should I meet with trouble.

And yet, despite the warnings and self-induced fear, I met with nothing but gratitude and warmth and helping hands.

A middle-aged woman, weathered and strong, started passing the bags, assuming the lead. “Get these to the babies,” she said. “Make sure the babies get some of this.” Her second in command was an older gentleman who looked as if he might blow over with the next strong wind. He wore a Red Sox cap and a jacket that, I’m certain, once belonged to someone much larger than himself. I began to feel a crowd around me. A little guy, very likely just past his second birthday, checked out the car not quite understanding all the fuss. Another young man, white and college-aged with clothes in need of washing and a face in need of a good shave, could have easily been my son or one of his friends. I said a silent prayer that my children’s lives had never come to this.

My hands were ice, my nose was red, and if I hadn’t forgotten to breathe I could have seen my breath. I jumped back in my car, heat blasting, as the recipients of my gift scattered to their various corners of the park. I said another prayer, out loud this time, that I was fortunate to not have to live outside in this frigid Michigan winter. I smiled, heart full, feeling the satisfaction of a deed well done. And then. I found myself overcome with a sense of inadequacy, a sense of smallness, and a sense of gratitude beyond which I can share.

What I told the gentleman when he offered his hand was that there was a time in my life when I was not always certain there would be dinner on the table and that now I am in a position where I can help others put dinner on the table. It is my way of saying thank you to the powers that be. He accepted my answer with a smile and a squeeze of the hand, satisfied somehow with my pathetic response. What I failed to tell him is that I do this, almost entirely, for no other reason than that it fills my heart. It fills my heart, sir. This is what compels me. It fills my heart.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Journal Entry and Some Pretty Flowers

I sat in front of the crowd, raised my right hand, swore to God, and, just like that, ended a thirty-year marriage. Friends asked me afterward if I were going to celebrate, if I felt relieved, free. One friend told me people have divorce parties, that they invite everybody they know, that they whoop it up and drink to new life. Another suggested I buy myself flowers, light some candles, enjoy a bottle of wine. None of this feels appropriate to what is going on in my heart. I have been living on my own now five months. My husband, I mean my ex, and I dated a bit during that time. We’re friendly, enough. We talk, sort of. Am I relieved to be out of a lifetime friendship, a friendship with someone whom I still consider a friend? No. Do I feel freedom to be loose of the marital chains? Not really. Perhaps I am not very good at naming exactly what it is I feel. Numb? Dazed? Saddened, but hopeful?

So, instead of donning my divorcĂ©e crown and toasting with friends, I am in a coffee shop working on an essay. I bought myself a new book and a little something pretty, sticky notes with flowers in a paisley box. After spending a good half hour or so draped across my bed this afternoon with a box of tissue, I straightened my dress, reapplied my mascara, and decided I needed to be out of the house. I got a burrito bowl at QDoba. I’m crazy like that. Looking back, I should have calorie-splurged on the tortilla. I had been advised on celebratory techniques for this day prior to it coming. I had been told I should go out drinking with friends. Do a little karaoke. Let loose my wild side. I was not a bar-going gal when I was of the age where everyone did that. It’s not that I view it as wrong, it’s just not my idea of fun. But then, I’m single now. I need to think about this. I don’t know that I’ll ever meet a guy in the stationery aisle at Barnes and Noble.

Do I even want a guy?

A couple months ago I was on one of the popular dating sites. For two weeks. It was more than I could bear. My first two winks came from SPOILU4EVR and HunkWaiting4U. This was not a good sign. Or maybe it was. How would I know? Whatever happened to the days where you could smell a guy first, breathe in his scent, study how he looks at you when he thinks you’re not looking? Guys with regular names like Todd and Dave. At one point, I was curious and decided to check out my competition. I entered statistics to match the kind of woman I feel myself to be--education, hobbies, religion, astrological sign, perfect first date, and book I have currently on my nightstand. I was expecting cleavage. This is what I had assumed. The women I found, however, were conservatively dressed. No boobs at all. And, interestingly, they lacked the typical slutty facial expressions. I was feeling much better, because I refused to play that game. Then I realized that I had forgotten to enter myself as a man looking for this sort of woman. Let’s just say I know now what the prospects are for a woman like me looking for a woman like me.

Truth is, I am not one of those women who needs a man. I know this sounds weird coming from someone who just ended a thirty plus year relationship. Don’t get me wrong. I like male attention. I like to share my time with someone. But I am not interested in clinging onto any guy just to have a guy. At least not right now. Ask me again in a year or two.

Relief and freedom, then, are not the words I would use to express the way I feel. Is it exciting to think about the possibility of dating? I guess. Is it nice to be on my own and to know my strength as an independent woman able to make her own decisions and run her own life? Sure. But I also carry a heavy heart. I ended a union today that meant something to me. I have four children from that union, stacks of photos, and a multitude of memories. I put a space between myself and a lifelong friend, a space that will, by design, never be repaired. That’s a big deal. It’s not something I’m going to celebrate. It’s a life transition worthy of my respect and recognition, possibly a journal entry and some pretty flowers, an ending of one phase, the beginning of another.

Friday, March 25, 2016


I have been hoarding my words. Like the two-year-old in the sandbox afraid of sharing his shovels, I have been stingy with my writing. Mine. It’s mine. You can’t have it. I was misread recently and it pissed me off. Again, like the little guy when a friend breaks his toys I threw a tantrum by picking up my pen and walking away. If you can’t play nicely, I thought, I don’t want to play at all.

The trouble with essays is that the words are my life. They represent pieces of me I don’t even share with those I know. So when a reader catches hint of something and infers guilt without asking me to coffee or offering me tea, I get a little miffed.

The problem with this is that when I walk away nobody gets to play. I can’t process my life by poring over the page. Readers can’t escape their troubles or find their muse through my messages. And fellow writers are denied the benefit of a kindred soul. It is a creative lose-lose.

My therapist says it is a bit arrogant of me to believe I am in charge of others’ opinions. She says I need to understand that others will have feelings and thoughts with which I disagree and that that is okay. She says their attitudes toward me are none of my concern, that these people are grown ups and are allowed to have minds of their own. She says these opinions and assessments of my worth have no impact on my actual worth. She says these things and then she hands me a tissue because I am still not able to separate the opinion from the reality. In my world, if someone thinks a thing of me that is just not true and then tells others about this untruth, it is as if my heart is pierced by arrows so strong they rip clear through to my back and on out the other side.

I am a sensitive sort.

When I was a little girl, my mother schooled me on sticks and stones. I thought I knew. I thought people flung words much as they threw fists. But, no, my mother said. Words could never mark my soul the way a fist could. Words could never bloody a nose or blacken an eye. Words were merely letters strung together, punctuated with thought, emphasized with feeling. My adult self will have to disagree, with both my mother and my therapist. Some of my deepest cuts are from words. Some of the greatest gashes in my body are from letters strung together, punctuated with thought, emphasized with feeling.

I used to be a Girl Scout when I was younger. One of my favorite activities was that telephone game where a message is whispered into the ear of your neighbor and passed on down the line. By the time the words get to the last person, the message is blown so out of proportion it resembles nothing of the original thought. This is how I see misread essays, inferred guilt. If you would like to know a thing about me, ask me. I am pretty open like that. I may not give you the details, but I will tell you truth or not truth. I believe much of our disconnect as humans comes from lack of proper communication. By proper I mean communication with the source.

I read a quote once that said misunderstanding is the farthest distance between two souls. I have seen relationships destroyed over misunderstanding. I have seen good friendships torn apart because the two would not speak, would not present their respective sides to the other. I have seen this, and I have been a part of this. I’m taking my toys and going home. Now nobody gets to play.

Every essay has a point. Every thought winds itself back to the top. Last paragraph summarizes the previous six hundred words, reflects back on the first. I want to play. I want to have fun and to dance with my words. I can’t do that if I let you keep me from the page because you decide to not play nicely. If I walk away, that wrecks the fun for everyone. I may not be who you would like me to be. I may not play the games you choose to play. I may not look like you would like me to look, sound like you would like me to sound, or dress like you would like me to dress. But that’s the beauty there, isn’t it? We all bring our own toys and ideas and fun to the sandbox. It makes for a richer day. Join me, would you? It’s time to play.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Let the Spirit-Freak Out to Play

Imagine an academic embracing her metaphysical side. It is challenging to say the least. My left-brain is warring with my right. My need to quantify, cite, and eliminate the adverbs and adjectives is killing the vibe of the airy fairy in boas and pearls, flinging pixie dust and running barefoot through the grass. I am an award winning college professor who truly believes she can speak with the dead. I cannot, for the life of me, do a psychic reading without feeling that I am pulling the information out of my ass. Each half of my brain dons its gloves and readies itself to spar. “I feel your dead grandmother coming through.” “Oh, yeah? Give me twenty studies that show a spirit can even DO that.” “I feel you are soon to meet someone who will become a key figure in your life.” “Anecdotal evidence. Your opinion. Generality.” Can you imagine? I’d like to leave my body, put them each in their corner, and go have a cup of tea.

I quit my job recently as instructor of psychology. I am thinking about starting a business as an intuitive counselor. “A psychic? You want to be a psychic?” “Intuitive counselor. A more accurate term.” “Just a fancy way of saying you have no credentials to be a licensed counselor and, worse, you’re going to botch it all up by combining the psych with stuff that doesn’t even exist.” Do you see my dilemma here? How am I to acknowledge either without relegating the other to death?

I have received praise and validation for both my ability to lecture and convey a thought as well as my gift at guiding through communication with those in other realms. I can feel my former colleagues cringing right now, shaking their heads, readying to burn me at the academic stake. At the same time, as I publicly pronounce my intuitive gifts, I feel my angels and guides shaking their heads, saying it’s about damn time. A girl can’t win for trying.

This is the thing. For fifty-two years I have stuffed the ghost whisperer side of me into the closet and chained the door. Friends will ask, “What is that noise? Is there somebody in there?” “It’s nothing,” I say, and go on about my business as if it is completely normal to have this part of me pounding and screaming and trying to get out while I just smile, cue up my PowerPoints, hand out the syllabus, and announce the first exam. Well, baby. Time to let the Spirit-Freak out to play.

And time to stop calling her names. My academic brain needs to quit trying to legitimize my artsy, creative side. Both are worthy. Both are real. Besides, the world would be rather boring if we had nothing but eggheads walking around, comparing data, honing their skills. We need free spirits, holistic thinkers. We need to throw a little glitter into this world. It just makes life more interesting. More balanced. More real.

So what’s a girl to do? She is to look herself in the eyes, acknowledge who she is, and then own that as much it might scare her to do so. Will people make fun? Will they point and stare? Will they jeer and throw stones and ridicule to no end? Yes. Yes, they will. Will she do the same to herself? Very likely, she will. Regardless, it is to the benefit of all that we each be who we came here to be, that we affirm the plan we laid out for ourselves before we entered this incarnation. I have seen many transform their lives into lives of joy and love when they set aside what they feel others feel is right for them. I have seen them come alive when they run toward that which their heart knows to be true. We must do more of this. We must do more. “Anecdotal. Your opinion. Generality.” “Oh, for the love of God. Put a sock in it.”

Thursday, January 7, 2016

No More Playing Small

Am I running away from myself or running toward myself? I haven’t yet decided. I have begun a list of fun things to try in the coming year. I let others help compile the list, so the items are not exactly what I might have chosen. If I had constructed the list, the challenges would have been less challenge and more baby step left of ratty old comfort zone. As it is, the tasks are nothing extreme but nothing I would have penned on my own.

They are a fun mix of mind, body, and spirit, these challenges of mine. I will learn to read Tarot cards, take a yoga class, and work toward becoming a Reiki master. My metaphysical side has been like the toddler, lately, crying at my side, grabbing my shirtsleeves, begging for a piece of my time. It will be good to let it out to play, to run and have some fun. The physical challenges, however—horseback riding, learning a new sport, taking a spinning class—are more than intimidating and tasks I’d prefer to keep in time out. I am not much one for sweat. Or exertion. Or looking a fool. Perhaps I will save these for last. I will also grow my mind while working my way through this list. I will complete a reading challenge and learn a bit of Italian. Oh, my gosh, the fun! I am all about the mind. I am about the mind, however, often to the exclusion of the rest. My list will help me learn to balance my life.

Maybe I am running toward myself, after all. I am a giver. Through random acts of wildflower planting and helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity, I will have opportunity to be more of the giver I am. I am a free spirit. Fingerpainting, ziplining, throwing a bit of pottery will help me to say hello again to the artsy, creative, fun-natured little girl inside of me. I am spiritual. Walking a labyrinth and experiencing a sensory deprivation tank will help me to quiet my mile-a-minute mind and to center myself in an, otherwise, out-of-my-control world. My challenges are me in super fun form.

Routine and habit become all too easily what is convenient for or appeasing to others. We get comfortable. It is easy to be comfortable. When we are comfortable we stop growing, we stop learning. We go from living and thriving, our roots begging to break free, to staying in the same pot in which we were planted, happy to stay small, content to be little. I don’t want to stay in that same pot. I don't want to be small. I want to be the beautiful, loving, living creature God brought me here to be. Alrighty, then, game on.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Love on the Streets

I have always had a soft spot for a stray. I could attribute this, I guess, to the fact that I know what it’s like to be cold and hungry and to have no idea where I might lay my head at night. I might attribute it, too, to being the product of physical care with very little emotional attention or affection. If my sisters and I were clothed and fed, my parents figured they had done their job. I was never homeless. Or abandoned. But we moved around a lot and lived in houses that, by all means, should have been condemned. But I don’t believe this is the reason for my concern for animals that experience the same.

Don’t we all need a place, a place to know we are safe and warm and loved and fed? I cried when Bambi’s mother died. I was six. I refused to finish the movie. The idea of a child growing without a mother, growing without a home, without love and connection, without a feeling of being special and wanted and welcome, was too much for me to bear. I could not participate in nor entertain the thought of such a sad affair.

Oh, come on, now, some will say. They are animals after all. Yes, but do they breathe? Do they love and play and feel with all their heart? How are they different, then, from you and me? We have brains that they do not. This is the argument I always hear. If this is true, tell me then why these creatures are on the streets? Tell me why we refuse to spay or neuter or train or watch, destining them to end their days in shelters or suffering neglect or abuse. I have been in those shelters when dogs are being led to their death. It is not a picture I think many could stomach. “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” Paul McCartney said that. “If kill shelters had glass walls, everyone would be a responsible pet owner.” I said THAT.

The goal of writing is to entertain or educate or move to action of various sort. I am not certain what I wish to come from this particular piece. I can only tell you what is in my heart and the anger that I sometimes feel toward a supposedly intelligent breed. Humans are not as smart as they might think. And animals are not as soulless as you might have formerly believed.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Miss Barbara

She entered the room inquiring “Miss Barbara? Miss Barbara?” in a voice that was most assuredly not her inside voice. It was the nurse’s aide, looking for my mother, my mother who is neither hard of hearing nor deaf. My mother rolled her eyes at me, giving me her signature Make Her Go Away look. Mom is living in a nursing home at this point in her life. She is living, more accurately, between nursing home and hospital.

I have heard the term sticking in one’s craw. I have never used this term nor ever fully appreciated it. I do, however, have something now sticking in my craw. I have noticed over the past few months as my mother’s illness has progressed the prevalence with which the elderly are treated as children, or as stereotypical elderly, instead of as adults and individuals. It is sticking in my craw this misguided notion that as we age we lose our need for uniqueness, dignity, privacy, and respect.

My mother has had health care professionals, for example, try to pull the proverbial wool over her eyes, playing on her supposed lack of mental faculties. While it is true that my mother has suffered difficulties that deny her the freedom of movement and physical independence she once enjoyed, her mind is as sharp as it has always been. Not every older person, as it happens, suffers from dementia. Who knew?

Schools should teach this. They should teach the emotional aspects of aging. All too often, healthcare education focuses on terminology and meds and anatomy to the exclusion of socio-emotional factors such as self-esteem and loneliness and thoughts of death. As we pass through the calendar years, for example, we do not lose our need for privacy. Do not go into my room, which I am sharing with a person I don’t even know, and get my equipment from my personal closet without my permission. Ask before getting into my things. We maintain, too, as we age, our need for dignity and respect. Do not yell at me from the sterile, institutional hallway, inquiring if I need to go pee. Come into my room, lower your voice, and ask if you can help with that. Likewise, we never lose our desire for independence and a sense of being an adult. If I want to choose to not get better, that should be my option. If I don’t feel like participating in physical or occupational therapy, that does not mean that I am noncompliant, that means I am making an adult decision. You are not in control of my body, you are not in control of my mind, and you are not in control of my decision on how I want to live or end my life.

I am a tough old bird, as is my mother. I want to be treated always as the unique individual I am, as a grown up, as a woman in charge of her own life. Do not reduce me, ever, to a slobbering, dementia-ridden, inept two-year-old. If that is what I am, so be it. Otherwise, I will not have it.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Let Them Eat Cupcakes

Dear blog followers, I have begun a new challenge with a writing group. The goal is to pen three hundred words per day for the entire coming year. Psh! This is nothing. Sadly, though, it is not something I have done in the past few months. I am eager to give my writing its proper place in my life. So look forward to more frequent, but perhaps shorter posts. And, please, if you hear nothing from me in a span of time, feel free to give me that nudge I need.

I have become a slacker mom to my writing. I have stopped scheduling, planning, organizing, attending. My words, lately, are free to run and play as they choose. They come inside just before bedtime and ask to sit with me to write a letter to a friend or to create a clever Facebook status. They corner me in some neighborhood coffee shop and plaster me with incessant questions, insisting that I give them time, pulling at my shirtsleeves, refusing to go play until I acknowledge their presence. They snuggle with me in quiet moments wanting nothing more than to pen a line or two of gratitude in a journal I keep. They are free and wild and growing as they will.

Sadly, though, it is all too easy for me to take advantage of those moments when they are quiet and staying out of my hair. I am able, then, to do my chores, to pay some bills, to get some dinner on the stove. I am able to, let’s just be honest, do nothing more than sit my backend in a chair and enjoy a good book and a cup of tea. But ignoring my words while they entertain themselves is not growing them into the novel I had hoped they would be.

And, so, I have donned my apron once again. I’ve pulled the little stool up to the counter and put on some silly music. We’ve got out the flour and sugar and sprinkles and beaters. We’ve got the giant bowl and the wooden spoons, the measuring cups, and those little crinkly papers to line the pan. We’re making cupcakes, my words and I. And when we finish, we will sit and relish the time we spent. With chocolate on our faces and crumbs in our laps, we will smile the hugest of smiles, our hearts filled with sugar and laughter and love.