The After I Woke Up and Re-Read My last entry post post: 

I am sorry. I am sorry if you are just now clicking onto this website and discovering me via the post that is below. It was late (or early, depending on your perspective). I was in a mood. 

Obviously, there are things going on in my offline world that are making me discombobulated and giving me the feeling of an intense need to check out. I am trying as hard as I can not to check out. Really, I just needed some sleep. Once I got some sleep (I do believe my body literally grabbed me and said, "That's it. Let's go." and put us to bed), I felt much better.

I am still very, very, very, very angry at sororities though. (Viva l'anger at exclusive clubs!) And sometimes the people who write literary articles in Poets & Writers do make me roll my eyes, I'm sorry fellow literary types but they do. This is Life, not a snotty cocktail party for Ego. And people who snub people because they can't do anything for them, or they only want to be surrounded by people who they deem to be VIP "somebodies." And those with poor bedside manners. And anyone who ostracizes other people. The only people we should be ostracizing right now are people who are members of ISIS or the North Korean government. Maybe some Utah desert religious crazies. And Rush Limbaugh. And Donald Trump. But that's it! Everybody else is just living, learning via mistakes along the way.

I have a happier, funner, 100% less angry entry for next time, I promise. Like, tomorrow. Maybe later tonight. 

Although, wait. I have to go call customer service about my laptop right now, so I may have to post the happier crap tomorrow, not later tonight--give myself another night of sleeping on it so I don't write a rambling entry of anger directed at customer service people (of which I was one, once upon a time, and so I should know better...but honestly, some call center people could seriously drive Ghandi to violence. Right?).

At any rate, here. Please enjoy this lovely, uplifting song by my sweet friend Patresa. It's called Amelia, and (I think) it's about channeling good energy, mirroring role models who teach us who and how we want to be, striving for more. Be safe if you're out celebrating 2014's demise tonight. I don't want to have to write an angry blog entry about drunk drivers.


social snubbage.

Have I ever told you my sorority story? Here's my sorority story:

When I was in college, my mom worked with a girl who attended my university. Let's call her Jessica.

One day, Jessica and I were introduced. When she found out I wasn't in a sorority, Jessica was appalled. How could this be? How was I even coping? How in the world was I making it from day to day through college life? Sororities were everything.

So sorority rush time was just around the corner. I told her I wasn't sure sorority life was really my thing, but she insisted I sign up and do it. She promised she'd tell her sorority sisters about me and say she wanted me to be part of their group, and then my whole life would be better because we could hang out and be bestest friends and I'd make lots of other bestest friends, too. I really wanted some bestest friends, so I reluctantly said okay, but only if I can be in YOUR sorority, Jessica. 

So I just had to, you know, go through the preliminaries because that was protocol. This was supposed to be a low-risk, high-yield investment opportunity.

The process went like this: 

Step 1-100 million young, sorority hopefuls get on buses. The buses take 100 million hopefuls to the 20 sorority houses for meet and greets.

Step 2-You have a meet and greet at each sorority house. You get a tour of the facility, and then you get to sit and hang out with all the sisters of that house. You are not there to have fun or make friends. You are there to impress them. You are to smile and be ecstatic and enthusiastic about whatever they talk to you about including how pink all the rooms are. 

Step 3-After the 100 million hopefuls leave the house, the sisters get together and write down the names of the hopefuls who impressed them the most. These are the girls who'll receive an invitation to come back to that house in Step 5. Steps 1-3 repeat at the 20 different houses. Steps 1-3 (x 20) last from 8:30 AM to, like, midnight or something. It was a long, exhausting day in which you must whore yourself out to strangers. I am not good at whoring myself out to strangers. I am just not good at this.

Step 4-The next day, the 100 million hopefuls find out which sororities asked them to come back.

Step 5-repeat steps 1-4 until you're narrowed down to 2-3 houses and then YOU choose.

And then a whole 'nother step process begins.

So I didn't get past Step 4. Because when I got to Step 4, I only had one sorority (ONE, as in one out of twenty, which is like .05%) ask me to come back. And you are wrong--it was NOT Jessica's sorority. It was a geeky girl sorority that wanted me. Which, with 20/20 hindsight and the wisdom of my tragic 20s and lunatic 30s under my belt, I can now see was probably the perfect fit for me and I would have made lifelong friends had I swallowed the injustice and said sheepishly, losing all sense of self-worth and dignity, "Okay." 

However, this was not my reaction as a painfully shy, insecure, desperate-for-approval 19 year old. My reaction that morning, when we each received the list of callbacks, was to break down in public, uncontrollable, wounded sobs. It's 22 years later, and I can still feel the rejection of it. I went to twenty different houses, talked to countless different girls, and not a single one of them except the house with the Einstein posters in the kitchen wanted me. I was flattered the smart chicks liked me, yet completely despondent in a very unsurprised yet still disappointed way that the snobby Tri Delts had thought me beneath them. And stinkin' Jessica? Traitor. Later when I saw her and told her what happened, she apologized and said she didn't  know what had happened. 

Rejection hurts.

At any rate, I don't like sororities. Not my kind of people. And I don't like adults, grown up people who should know better, who clique up and snub other human beings because they aren't like them. I don't like people who refuse to interact with people because they aren't "on their level" (what does that even mean? and who's level? which level? because unless you're God, someone's always one level above you and so make sure you apologize to all the people you felt superior to as you pass them hanging out in their inferior levels on your way back down and oh, you WILL one day be on your way back down, make no mistake Mr. or Ms. Hubris). And people who refuse to communicate with people because they don't have connections or can do anything for them, or they aren't "the right people" are really yucky humans, I feel. (Can you tell I'm not a good ass-kisser?)

At any rate. People who refuse to be kind to people who admire them, to people who have less than them, or to people who look or act differently than them just feel like frat people to me and I have zero tolerance for it. And I don't like cliques, or people who are abrupt and rude. When I figure out that's who I'm dealing with, I quietly stop interacting or dealing with them. (Here, let me I promise I'm not writing a passive aggressive post about anything or anyone in particular; I'm just on a weird, I-have-no-idea-where-this-is-coming-from-or-why kind of rant-y mood tonight and this has nothing to do with anything I did, said, saw, felt, or thought this week, last week, yesterday, or today...stay with me, and you'll see I'm telling the truth when I get to the end and detail what I did today, which was pretty much a repeat of this week, last week, and yesterday.)

It's also why, when I read Poets & Writers, or I see a famous person on social media refuse to interact with non-famous people, or I talk to someone who name drops or hints they get special treatment about anything, I roll my eyes so hard they almost get stuck in the back of my head. I have a list of people I'd be totally star struck by if I ever meet them...but once the ice breaks? We are all in this crap together. We all sleep, shit, and eat, darlings. Don't let Ego fly the plane--it has no idea how the landing gear works.

I'm being so judgmental, aren't I? I think I said I wanted to stop doing this in 2015. But I've had a bad day, and it's not 2015 just yet, so I'm letting myself really air it all out. 

I had a list of things to do today. I only got one thing done (the dentist, a necessary evil). The rest of the time I sat. Again, just like the other day when I was in my pajamas til 3 PM, I did nothing. Absolutely fucking nothing. I did take a really long drive. And I sat and looked out a window a lot. And I cleaned up one story I can't figure out where to send. Other than that, I just...completely checked out. 

I am feeling completely checked out. Disengaged. Despondent. And really angry at sororities.** In fact, I just decided to take away Miss M's inheritance if she decides to join one.

Tomorrow, I'll grade papers and be angry about that. And I'll take the Christmas decorations down and be angry about my vacation coming to an end. And on New Year's Eve (that's tomorrow, isn't it?) I'll think about 2014 and be angry for no real reason whatsoever. And then I will blame all this anger on sororities and egomaniacs. Okay, thanks. I feel better now.

**If you are a sorority alumnus, of course I don't mean YOU. I'm sure YOUR sorority never weeded the chaff from the grain. I'm sure YOUR sorority asked back all 100 million sorority hopefuls. I bet you also gave them water, knowing they'd been talking all afternoon and didn't ask them stupid questions like what stores they preferred to shop in or if they preferred stilettos or pumps. True questions I got in 1991. True stupid, sorority questions.

But I'm fine now. It's fine. Seriously.



Today, I stayed in my pajamas until 3 PM. I strung out on Twitter from 10 AM until 3 PM. Yes, you read that correctly: strung out. On Twitter. Until 3 PM. In my pajamas. I could have been reading or writing, but instead I got on Twitter and fell down a rabbit hole.

Yesterday was better. Yesterday, I got to grocery shop alone so I went to Whole Foods (where you can spend a billion dollars on exactly three items). I listened to a live jazz quartet in the cheese section. I reveled at how nice shopping was without someone tagging along touching everything and begging for treats. Oh! And I made Art. Each year about this time, I make a vision board (some call these treasure maps, others visual prayers)--I just cut out pictures, words, or phrases that seem interesting or pull at me or represent things I'd like to have, do, or be. Then I glue them down onto something--paper or posterboard or into a journal--in collage format. Have you ever done one of these? They do actually work, but (a) you have to look at it and meditate on it quite a lot and (b) be serious. And also leave some spaces between the images and words so God can get in. 

Instead of doing my regular vision board, though, I saw that my writer hero Liz Gilbert likes to do a color board--she finds colors she'd like the new year to feel like. So I grabbed the book I'd intended to use as my 2015 vision journal, a couple of magazines, and started cutting out anything that appealed to me. Then I glued them all into a mish mash collage. Anyone can do this, these color or treasure boards; no artistic ability required. 

M did one with me. Let's compare a grown up's vision of what a new year should feel like to a 6 year old's:

This is how I'd like 2015 to feel: splashes of bold, wild color with some calm, soothing ones.

This is how M wants 2015 to feel: cute like a lion, pretty like Oprah and whoever that other woman is. With a bar code.

Interesting. I asked M: why the barcode? And she shrugged her shoulders and said, "Cause I like them." Later, I posted that picture in the comments section of Liz's color board Facebook post (I'm just going to call her Liz now because we're totally writer BFFs in my head, and she can just go ahead and call me "A" since it's very difficult to shorten "Amy"). Some sweet soul came in afterwards and said she loved what M had created, that she saw strength and courage and felt the bar code symbolizes a certain "can't be bought" attitude, and congratulated my sweet girl on growing up into a strong, courageous, beautiful leader.

I love other human beings like this, and it's one example of why I picked Liz Gilbert to be my ultimate writer hero--she attracts nice people. I am very, very into nice people and people who attract nice people to themselves these days. I would like to be surrounded, in 2015, by nice people who help one another, who are sources of strength and courage and good attitudes. I would like to be one of these people as well. I am no longer interested in being judgmental or mean or closed. 2015 is going to be a doozy for me, for Miss M, for a lot of people I love, and I am desperately seeking Niceness right now. With splashes of wild color here and there.

.....It does occur to me that being strung out on Twitter may be why I'm suddenly into very, very nice people these days. Have you ever spent a day, a week, a month strung out on Twitter? It's full of snarky people--who are very smart and very funny, but many times do it at the expense of other human beings who are having a really hard time. Hey Humanity, can we stop being snarky at other people's expense when they're having a hard time? There is a fine line between poking fun at someone's eccentricities, with the implicit understanding we are ALL a bit wonky and deserving of being poked fun at, and just being mean because you need to feel better about your own eccentricities.

On the flip side, you can find some really compelling, wonderful people to follow on Twitter. I found a really lovely website today called The Bitter Southerner (I identify with the title...except for the fact I'm really more of a bitter Southern Yankee) and a story on it titled "We're All Freaks."  The story is about The Clermont Lounge, specifically the ladies of The Clermont Lounge.

If you aren't from Atlanta, you may not know about this place. When I met C and we started dating, he lived about a mile down the road from The Clermont Lounge. It's an Atlanta icon. C lived in a very upscale apartment complex in a neighborhood/area Atlanta calls Poncey-Highland. Atlanta's very odd in many many ways, and one of these ways is that its neighborhoods class up then class down sporadically, with no rhyme or reason. Like, you'll be driving and driving and going: ooh! Look at all these lovely, posh houses and then BAM! you're locking your doors because there's a crackhead on the corner beating on windows of cars stopped at red lights, drinking from a paper bag, offering blow jobs for $5. I've never seen anything like it--I'd leave C's apartment at 6 AM to go to work, drive past several expensive, nice townhomes until the road dead ended into a grocery store parking lot everyone here calls "Murder Kroger" (called that because once upon a time 1000 years ago, two people got shot in front of it--and also, this is how Atlantans locate one other: "drive past Murder Kroger til you see the Big Chicken. Then take a right at Disco Kroger and that'll take you to Spaghetti Junction. If you find yourself OTP, you've gone too far." It's a language only we speak, and you have to live here for about 10 years before any of it makes any sense). I'd take a right at Murder Kroger, go past the police station, and then turn left on the crackhead corner to get to I-85 and a sense of normalcy.

At any rate. The Clermont Lounge is at the bottom of, and behind, The Clermont Hotel. The hotel was once a swanky place to live, if you were an upper middle class flapper. Ninety years later, it was pretty much bedbug-ridden and a place crackheads on the corner took their $5 clients to (though it's getting a big update now, and let me tell you: people here were freaking their freak because there was a moment when rumors about closing down The Clermont Lounge were flying around--it's safe, in spite of all the failed health inspections).

So The Clermont Lounge is behind the hotel, down a steep hill. It's a dive bar, with strippers, and its claim to fame are its ladies of the night (and sometimes day) with names like Blondie who can do things like crush beer cans between their breasts. Celebrities like to go here, for the sheer freakishness of it all. (I know for a fact Lady Gaga does.) So do non-celebrities. And strippers? Well, this is where strippers go to die. (No, actually, I'm just kidding--quite frankly, The Clermont Lounge welcomes all working ladies, regardless of age, ethnicity, ability, etc. And I read something long ago about the strippers getting to keep all of their earnings, which pretty much makes it stripper nirvana).

I've been to The Clermont Lounge three times. It's not really a place you want to go to every week--I mean, you can. But they'll take all your money, and then you might have to work there. So I've gone twice with friends, once with C. The first time, we didn't stay long--it was a lot to take in but mostly one of the girls in the group got freaked out by bare nipples (as if she didn't have her own? weird). The second time, I think there was a group of rowdy frat boys there and that made one of us nervous (okay, fine. It was me. I was nervous). I'm far more freaked out by rowdy frat boys than bare nipples, let me tell you. The third time I went with C, and that time was when I kind of fell in love with the place. I'm not really sure how I feel about it. I mean, it's a strip club. On principle, I generally disagree with the concept, because I disagree with how we treat women and use their bodies and put them in situations in which they feel using their bodies to make money is their only option. I don't like this, I abhor it. And yet. I think The Clermont Lounge is rather kind to its workers, in terms of these situations and the ones they have found themselves in. And so I sort of give it a pass? I guess? I'm still sorting out my feelings about it. I certainly don't want my daughter working there, and I harbor tremendous feelings of white collar privilege guilt about having landed the Life Lottery with options so I don't have to work there. And yet, I'm okay with it if other women want to work there because that's their choice and what if they have no other options? There are worse jobs they could be doing. This is what my internal conflict looks like about lots of things, by the way.

What I do know is that it is rife with stories. If you need some good characters or character development ideas, you should grab a friend or five (it doesn't seem to be a place one should venture into alone, at least not the first time) and go here.

Have you ever seen the movie WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? with Betty Davis? There's a stripper there who I feel channels Baby Jane very well, and she enchanted me. Later, I found out I had gotten to interact with THE Porsha, who often likes to dress up like Red Riding Hood or Little Bo Peep (which is who she was that night) to dance. I met her in the ladies' room--I was applying more lipstick (you just DO this, when you go to this place) and marveling at the rotting Las Vegas feel of even the restroom, when she came in. She told me I was pretty and asked if I'd come alone. I thought she was another odd bar patron hitting on me, and let her know: nope, I'm taken. She was sweet, and told me to have a good time and to be careful.

About 20 minutes later, she was doing her Little Bo Peep burlesque in front of me.

So here's the set up: you go in, and you need about 5 minutes to breathe it all in, get your bearings. The bar is also where the strippers work--you sit and drink, watching ladies of all shapes and sizes in various forms of undress in front of you--the bar is circular with a catwalk in the middle. This is where Porsha danced for me. She didn't take much of anything off. I figured this was because she was old school and back in the day, strippers didn't necessarily strip--an ankle or a bare shoulder were considered risque. But then? At the end of her dance? Right in front of me she lifted up her dress to reveal: NO UNDERPANTS. It was like looking at the sun, y'all. I mean, seriously: it wasn't anything I haven't seen before...I just wasn't expecting it after a rather tame burlesque show. I'd have been fine had someone clued me in that was her big finale.

(Side story: once, when I was 8, I was lying on the floor at my paternal grandmother's house watching TV. My grandmother bent over me in her nightgown to pick up something from the living room floor and I got an eyeful, and to this day when I think of my grandmother, this is pretty much all I can see. Psychological trauma. The Clermont Lounge with Porsha incident was very, very similar: Unexpected and jarring, though not unfamiliar.)

Afterwards, off stage, she came and asked if I'd enjoyed her show. (I'd given her a $10 bill after the flashing, in a shell-shocked stupor). I said I had and she told me to come back any time; she liked pretty, nice girls. And I have to say, in spite of the shell shock from the unexpected, I was completely bewitched by her at that point because I could tell: this was a genuinely sweet human being who was making Life work for her in the best way she knew how. I was amused and flattered and if I'd had a $20 bill on me, I'd also have given her that. But it was fine since she'd already had gotten all my dollars.

So I get why The Clermont is a draw for all kinds of people. I understand why it's iconic. Down South here, we not only embrace our freaks, we love them up. We stick them on the porch in a rocking chair, put a glass of MeeMaw's best sweet tea in their right hand, give them a hand fan for the other, and talk about them gently behind their backs. We say things like "Bless old Bubba Junior's heart. He done got the head sickness. 'Member when he was a li'l ol' thang and dang near kilt himself jumpin' off Brown Taylor Bridge? But y'all know his mama and granddaddy done the same thang so guess he just gets it honest." Southerners mourn their crazy and accept it, all at once. It's why Faulkner got away with writing A ROSE FOR EMILY and nobody down South even blinks an eye at that tale--everybody here knows a Miss Emily. They either live down the road from her, someone married her into the family, or she's their aunt. And she is what she is, and so be it...while people up North still analyze stories like this to pieces because seriously, William Faulkner, what the fuck?!

So don't make fun of people having a harder time in life than you. If you're laughing with them, it's funny. But I've read things where people just go to laugh at these women, and that's not funny. They don't take themselves seriously, but that doesn't mean they have the kinds of hearts you can break.

I have no idea what this has to do with color vision boards. I do see the connection between getting strung out on Twitter. Don't get strung out on Twitter, kids. It leads to flashing strangers at bars. Make a color board instead. And get some sleep. (O! Sleep! Thou art elusive these days. I'm typing this at almost 3 AM. If I don't start sleeping better, I'm going to get  put in a rocking chair on a porch with a sweet tea while people write crazy stories about me behind my back.)

Here. Go watch Anthony Bourdain be mesmerized by Atlanta's most famous stripper/poet/beer can crusher:


ghost of christmas past.

My house is haunted, Internet. Yes, I can hear you smirking. Listen: don't even make fun of me, this is serious. My house is haunted. I've been shaking off the suspicion for years, telling myself to stop being ridiculous. But I got definitive proof about it on Christmas Eve. And yes, I DO have proof. If it keeps happening, I'm going to have to call the Georgia Ghost Hunters people to come investigate and then won't every single one of you feel very silly for rolling your eyes at me when a bunch of paranormal investigators churn out all kinds of The Others evidence from my property that will make your eyes pop out of your head and your brain do a crazy dance. And so you all can just stop rolling your eyes at me right now because I think we've discussed this here before: GHOSTS ARE REAL.

Before I tell you what happened on Christmas Eve (and share my mind-blowing proof), let me tell you about a couple of things that have happened over the last several years in this house. Weird things. Odd happenings. Questionable incidents. But nothing that would make me go: Yo, this house is haunted. And then run for the hills.

Exhibit A.1: This picture.

This is C (who I've cropped out mostly, because I'm not sure he wants to be in my blog because he's fairly anti-social media for all intents and purposes so I basically just leave him out of it--it's a thing, and too long to go into right now and if I do it'll totally off track us, and I don't even know why I'm explaining any of this to you except that I'm just like this, this is how I am--which is also weird, because in person I can keep 9/10 of my private info private but when writing for some reason I turn into this bizarre oversharer and tell everybody everything and no, I don't understand it either except that I don't think I can help it, sorry, and just know it's a major source of conflict in my marriage, too. And now that I've shared THAT, I'm probably going to get in big trouble if C finds out I told other people about one of our marital sources of conflict but I can't help that either because OMG you guys! I HAD to share this evidence with you!)

Where was I? Right: This is C. He is holding Miss M at our house when she was a mere 2 days old. Do you see the very large pink orb on the right side of C's lower neck? Yes, every ghost hunter person anywhere in the world will tell you that whenever you see orbs in pictures, THOSE ARE THE GHOSTS. Some people will go: nah, that's just dust. But those people are wrong. It is NOT just dust. Dust in pictures looks totally different. First off, dust orbs are white. This one is pink.

But mostly, this picture was taken in broad daylight and no flash, and so there's no way it could be dust. Ghost! (Actually, at the time I took it, I said I hoped it was a guardian angel. It still could be. Fingers crossed it is...otherwise, stay out of my family pictures, you creepy haints.)

Exhibit A.2: These pictures.

There are no orbs in any of these pictures. I just knew I had your attention and needed you to be aware of what a freaking magically gorgeous baby my child was. I mean, look at her in that last one--not even 3 days old and she'd already mastered smiling. That's advanced. And you can see she's clearly destined for greatness as a Mafia Accountant. (No, seriously--she'd actually be crazy good at working for those kinds of people because they'd all be absolutely terrified of upsetting her...life gets complicated when Miss M is unhappy.)

Exhibit B: Strange happenings.

Things sometimes happen in my house that creep me out. I sometimes see strange shadows flying around the garage at night. There are bumps in the night. Literally: bumps in the night. Just weird, I-always-feel-like-somebody's-watching-me creepy feelings in general. I don't mind being alone in the house at night, or even sitting in a dark room by myself at night. But I prefer not to do it. I prefer to have someone with me, even if it's a terrified 6 year old who's convinced the Big Bad Wolf lurks in every corner of our house. There's safety in numbers. I think.

I should tell you here (since I'm an oversharer), for the longest time, I've been so frustrated with M. She hasn't slept alone since she was 2 years old because she's terrified of what lurks in our house's shadows. I've been thinking these weird shadowy things, bumpy sounds, and creepy feelings are just easily explained away by errant bugs or house foundational settlements, or just my overactive imagination. But maybe Miss M knows; maybe M has always known. (When she was very very small, I used to show her photographs of my father and her father's mother--both passed away long before M made her appearance on Earth--and whenever she saw them, she'd point to them and say: "Angel." See? Loved ones stay with us. Babies never tell lies; they are without guile.)

What I think I'm saying is: I may be living with the Big Bad Wolf. The ghostly version.

Exhibit C: Even stranger happenings.

On at least two occasions, I've been drifting off into sleep--not asleep, please note, awake and lucid but drifting off--when suddenly I sense I'm not by myself. And everything is set into motion very very fast--I know something not human is standing in the doorway of the bedroom, and as soon as I realize that, it comes toward me. I mean, I can HEAR it walking toward me--footsteps on carpet. And I know it's interested in me, and coming to me. I don't know whether it's there to hurt me or not, and I don't care. I jump out of bed screaming, literally screaming. Which pretty much scares it away.

A lot of people will say: Oh, Amy, that was just a bad dream. And maybe. Except I was awake? In the bedroom?

I don't know, you guys. Brains are weird. Our brains can do some of the weirdest things. So a part of me just says (and I know many of you are thinking this right now): Oh, Amy, this is just your weird brain in overdrive. Maybe you should change your diet. Get some more fresh air. Stop watching PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and CELEBRITY GHOST STORIES at 3 o'clock in the morning. Something. 

And yes, you're right. I know PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and CELEBRITY GHOST STORIES at 3 AM are bad ideas, generally. But I also know what I've felt and seen. And I also want to tell you I've been brushing it off. Really, for many years, seriously brushing it off. There's always such a simple explanation for lots of weird, strange goings on. TAPs people will tell you that--they live to debunk strange happenings...until they just can't, and that's why GHOST HUNTERS and GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL are very scientific and far more exciting than colonies on Mars so I propose there should be a Department of Ghosts in every world government right next door to their Outer Space exploration departments. And if the world governments would stop dicking around and quit arguing with each other about money and acting like a bunch of insecure teenage boys comparing who's warheads are bigger, we could probably find a way to time travel. (I don't know how that's connected to ghosts, except for some reason I feel it should be. And that the world's governments are wasting a lot of quantum time travel time. Which could totally be solved...with...time travel...Sorry. Moving on):

Exhibit D: WTF?!

But then Christmas Eve happened. And Exhibit D, the sprinkles on the cherry on the icing on the top of the cake. Please go listen to this video I took on Christmas Eve and tell me you don't hear a voice in it:

Do you hear it? It happens right before I pan away from the tree over to the shelving unit. It's about a millisecond of voice, fast and soft--you have to turn your volume WAY up and really listen. I can't make out what it's saying--I'm hoping it's saying something like: "I like the lights" and not something like "Goddamned lights!". It sounds like some sort of creepy elfen voice, sort of lower register but after inhaling helium. The kind of voice you'd hear in a movie like The Exorcist or Amityville Horror. Or maybe it's just a nice old lady who smoked too much, passing through. Or a nice old lady who smoked too much....and then axe murdered her family on our property back in the 1800's when she got possessed by the devil! (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Ask me why I was up until 3 AM on Christmas Eve. Because I was being Santa's elf? Or being creeped out by Satan's goblins in my living room? I sat with the lights on, hanging out on social media for a really long time, hoping that someone would at least virtually hold me--the other two people in my house were fast asleep and I felt the need to keep vigil over them for a bit. I have 3 Nativity scenes in my house, which equals 3 Baby Jesuses. And not a single Baby Jesus helped me that night. Duly noted, Baby Jesus. Making a mental note of your lack of concern.

I guess I'm not really that scared. I mean, I'm not packing bags and demanding we move. But it's making my insomnia worse, and I'm really crossing my fingers hard that whatever it is is a friendly thing, and not something from the crypt. The thought has crossed my mind that, because I go on various different ghost tours every now and then, I may be bringing this shit back with me. I've heard some of them like to attach to people and go where they go. And that's way too M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense for me. Stop doing that, ghosts. Go find Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh--they both seem like they could use some spooky friends from the Other Side.

That's it. That's all the evidence I've gathered so far. If I get braver, I know there are EVP apps for smart phones, and I may download one to do some home ghost hunting and if I do, I'll share my results here (of course I will, because sharing is the nicest thing about me). The only problem is, I'd have to do the ghost hunting in the dark, in my house.....ALONE. I'm not opposed to ghost hunting,  but I do need someone to be with me, so I can cling to them and use them as a human shield of protection against all things paranormal and sinister. And also run away and leave them in the lurch when the fear factor gets too outrageous. I can't imagine anything worse than being asked to hang out somewhere creepy, alone, in the pitch dark, inviting ghosts to run their cold fingers down your back and leave you freaky messages on Electronic Voice Phenomenon recordings. I think it's just a good, practical idea to have someone else with you to distract an angry ghost with. Bait, is what I'm saying. I need ghost bait.

And the other big problem is that I don't have anyone in my house to do this with. I live with a total paranormal skeptic and someone who, in broad daylight, refuses to go upstairs alone because that's the Big Bad Wolf's lair. The skeptic would spend the whole night scaring me and freaking me out with calculated malicious intent, and the other one would probably end up psychologically scarred permanently, never able to do anything alone ever again, and she'd also say a bunch of crazy things about me in her therapist's office and then expect ME to pay the bill.

sigh. I'm on my own with this one, Internet. A lone cowgirl. A ghost hunter maverick. A solitary scientist.

Unless...I mean, do you have some time and want to come visit to investigate my house? Oh, what? No--I won't actually be there. HA! No. You'd be on your own with this. I'll be in a hotel down the street. But you'll have a skeptic making fun of you and a 6 year old going ape shit bananas with fear on you the whole time, and that won't be distracting or freak you out at all.


the eve of christmas eve list.

1. I watched AFTER THE FALL last night. Because I'm a parent who can't afford a lot of babysitters and so I can't get to an actual theater, most of my movies for grown ups have to be viewed late at night, fervently, on pay per view or DVR'd or streamed via Netflix. This is no way to live. There's nothing I can really do about it at the moment, but this is no way to live.

At any rate, may I suggest you watch this beautiful movie? It is finely nuanced and thought-provoking, and I wish I had someone to talk with, to argue with, for hours about it. (This is why I need a cinema date with a movie professional. I'll buy dinner.) If you like super exciting scenes with blood and guts and stuff getting blown up, and very defined outcomes to your movies, this will not be for you. (There is, however, a gun shooting scene for all you crazy gun nuts.) However! If you are a cultured and nuanced and very very thoughtful human being who is able to think critically and maintain an open-mind, then go see this! Go see it. It's playing in an indie theater somewhere near you, I bet. (Or it's on pay per view and you can watch late at night when everyone is asleep and then we can compare notes on having to do that, too.)

The only thing I didn't like about this movie is the fact they changed its original title from THINGS PEOPLE DO to AFTER THE FALL. I wish they'd left the original title because there's (I thought) a pivotal scene that sort of just defines the whole movie, in which one of the characters tells the other character (I'm paraphrasing, because it's been 24 hours since seeing it) "There's no virtue and there's no sin, just things people do." 

There's a thing short story writers and novelists sometimes do within their stories that reflect the overarching theme of the whole story and if it has a term I've forgotten it but I know it when I see it: they'll write a sentence or a paragraph, a beautifully crafted and lovely sentence or paragraph, somewhere inside the story that sort of defines the entire piece. It's a sign of an artistic soul, and I've never ever been able to accomplish it in my own writing. 

Philip Roth's THE HUMAN STAIN had a really beautiful passage in it that does this:

“We leave a stain, we leave a trail, we leave our imprint. Impurity, cruelty, abuse, error, excrement, semen - there’s no other way to be here. Nothing to do with disobedience. Nothing to do with grace or salvation or redemption. It’s in everyone. Indwelling. Inherent. Defining. The stain that is there before its mark.” 

This movie's "things people do" scene does that, and that's quality writing and you know how I am about quality writing. Plus, I love when that happens. I feel like I'm in the hands of someone who's way better at this than I am. (Most everyone who's been published or produced is, I sense.)

So please see it if you have a chance. And if you do, and want to discuss it (the open-ended ending; why's and why not's; the themes of virtue vs. sin, man vs. self, man vs. God,etc and so forth), call or text or tweet or facebook or email me! My six year old is completely disinterested. She just wants to talk Santa right now.

2a-I finished my Christmas shopping today. Oh my god. Sweet Jesus on a parking lot popsicle stick. What a day. What a DAY! The mall was the most relaxing part, because I got there before all the other shopping humans awoke. The cashier at Justice (a diabolical store--not only is it set up to attract my daughter like a fly to honey, it is also set up to make me want to buy all the sparkly things and completely live out the childhood no one born in the 70s ever got to have...we only had polyester. These kids! They have SPANGLES. And freaking cute stuff with their initials on them. With soft feathers. THAT LIGHT UP) agreed with me: it's better to get to the store before all the other shopping humans.

2b-I came THISCLOSE to drop kicking another person in the grocery store parking lot. That's when last minute shopping day shit got real. Literally, there were NO spots. When I finally got one, 20 minutes later, I entered the store (on a tight schedule because I had to pick up Miss M from basketball camp so I was slightly stressed and pressured) and immediately found myself navigating a store full of oblivious people shopping for dinner in groups of 10. All standing in front of the condiments, spending hours debating which type of mustard to get: French's? The store brand? I hear Heinz makes a tasty one. Oh, but what about Dijon? Maybe we should go for a Dijon this year. OH MY FREAKING GOD, JUST EFFING PICK ONE!!!!!!

I had to grit my teeth, breathe in with the good, out with the bad, remind myself what Baby Jesus would want me to do in this situation, and use my nice words.

2c-But not in the parking lot, when leaving! I put my bags in my trunk, got in my car, and answered a text message before driving. Because answering texts while driving is dangerous and illegal. But I wasn't fast enough for a woman who wanted my spot. There were two other spots in the row, but she wanted MINE. And so she repeatedly honked her horn at me. And I could feel my tightly wound rage beginning to unwind. So I casually finished my text message and slowly turned the car on and sloooooooooooowly backed out of the spot (because remember? I'm totally passive aggressive). And then I passed her and she gave me an unfriendly wave. I wiped at the corner of my eye in return. With my middle finger.

I'm not proud of it. I mean, I know it's Christmas and that was the opposite of what Baby Jesus (and Ghandi and Dr. King and Mother Teresa) would do. But I felt that response was a lot better than jumping out of my car and bashing in her passenger window with my bare hands like I actually wanted to. I bet she went inside and stood in the baking goods aisle in front of the cake mixes debating between Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines for an hour. 

3-Phew. Thanks so much for letting me get that out of me! I really needed to rant to someone.

4-I'm not religious. I believe in Something, which I call God for convenience and to not get strange stares and threats from the Bible Belt Christians. But I'm Christian culturally, and so this is one of my favorite holidays. I love all the tacky lights people put up in their yards, particularly the ones that spell out JESUS IS THE REASON. People in the South get so frickin' defensive; they act like everyone's out to get them at this time of year. I disagree--this is clearly the time of year Christians own the entire world. All the marketers bow down to them. Stop being so paranoid. Jesus wasn't, and he totally should have been.

One time I drove by this house that had spelled out SINNERS REPENT on its roof, a very elaborate and lit up Nativity scene in the yard, and there was an entire series of lit up crucifixes outlining the entire place, and one had a crucified Christ on it. It was delightful. In a really creepy, CARRIE by Stephen King kind of way. 

5-But I love the story of the Nativity. I think it's a nice story. I think it's a metaphor for possibilities and rebirth and innocence and hope. I think there may have been a real Mary and a real Joseph and a real Jesus, but I remain skeptical about the magical bits. And this is coming from someone who really, really, really wants there to be magical bits to life. I don't always read The Bible, but when I do, I read it metaphorically. I think a lot of our planet's problems could be solved quickly if everyone read their religious texts metaphorically.

6-My favorite holiday movies of all time go in this order: LOVE ACTUALLY (which feeds all my anglophiliac needs), A CHRISTMAS STORY (because you'll shoot your eye out), A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (because, hello! Charlie Brown). There are no other holiday shows worth watching. Maybe Baryshnikov in THE NUTCRACKER. When he was young and luscious, back in the 70s. 

7-Melissa got her picture taken with Santa. We always go to Bass Pro Shop's Santa. First, he's free. Second and most importantly, he's such an awesome Santa! Full, real beard, really really blue eyes. Very kind. There's a wait--you go in, get a Get In Line ticket, and come back in 2 hours for your picture. And when you get back, there's always a huge line to wait in...you don't get in right away. But this Santa, he doesn't even care about that--if a kid wants to give him a list, he takes it and puts it in his pocket. If a kid wants to sit and talk to him for a bit, he sits and listens. He says to the children things like, "Come on up here, baby." and "Here you go, darlin'" as he hands them a little candy cane.

My grand scheme, for the last 5 years, has been to have M's picture taken with this guy every year so that when she starts doubting Santa's existence, I can whip out all these pictures and show her: See? Same guy. Every year! 

Damn you, Bass Pro Shop 2014. You messed up my entire scheme. Now I have an out of sync Santa.

This year, when we went in, we got our 2 hour ticket. We walked around the mall, had lunch, rode the carousel, yada yada. Then we went back to Santa's Bass Pro Shop. And there was no line (this was the giant red flag something was amiss). One of the elves goes, "Do you guys want to go ahead? There's no line." And I was all, Yes please! And so we went. And my heart fell.

He was a nice Santa. He was kind and sweet. His beard was real. But he was very, very old. He wasn't the youngish-old Santa. And he was too skinny. And he was out of little candy canes, damnit. And now we have an out of sync Santa. Dagnabit.

8-I've been sick. My mom is sick. So no Christmas Eve service tomorrow night. It's the only time I go to church. I like the very end of the whole thing, the part where they turn off all the lights, and we stand around lighting one another's candles, and sing SILENT NIGHT a capella. It's the whole point of Christmas, I feel. That moment completely negates the rude shoppers, the impatient parking lot drivers, the disappointing Santas, the entire craziness of the year before. It's like the moment in a story or a movie where the narrator or a character sums up the entire reason for, the overriding theme to, the story: this is about light, shining through darkness. And redemption. And hope. In spite of what people in parking lots do under duress.

And then the next day? You get to open a crap load of presents! (That's the Three Wise Men part.)

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwaanza (nobody celebrates that), Season's Greetings. May the rest of your 2014 nights be filled with quiet moments of light.


essences of light.

This has been stewing in my brain most of the weekend, so I'm getting it out now:

A few months ago, I found out through a college alumni magazine that one of my old friends who I'd lost touch with over the years had passed away. I wrote a blog post about it called "you will be okay." May I amend that? After recent events, I feel the need to amend that post.

Some people I know of have recently been affected by sudden losses of loved ones or final good-byes after long illnesses. I am not close to any of these people, but I am watching some things play out on social media and my heart is just broken for them. Saying good-bye and letting someone go is the hardest part of being a human being.

And some other people I know have just gotten really sucky news and a rocky journey is beginning for them and their loved ones, and I can tell it's really scary and making them sad. Others I know are dealing with the "first" everything--the first Thanksgiving without their dear person, the first Hanukkah or Christmas, the first birthday, the first whatever. I remember the first Thanksgiving after my dad died, staring at his empty chair at the table. The huge empty feeling that everything looked normal but nothing felt normal. This was not normal. This was not okay. Actually, every holiday is sort of like that--I wonder each year: where are you, Dad? are you okay? are you sad that you're missing all of this? ARE you missing all of this, or are you right here? i hope you're right here and you're not missing any of this.

Some years I just think these questions quickly and quietly and the day goes by all crazy and loud and I end up falling asleep and obladee obladah Life goes on. Sometimes I go to the room that still contains some left over things of his, because I've always felt favorite "things" maintain an essence of us even after we're long gone, and I sit, surrounded by his essence, meditating on these questions.

This is a hard time of year.

So I was thinking about that post I wrote, and I started rolling my eyes at myself. When I wrote all that, was I doing to someone out there what some well-meaning but thoughtless people did to me when my dad died? (Example #1 of what not to do or say to the grieving: do NOT, under any circumstances, go to the viewing of a passed away colleague and suggest to his weeping daughter as she stands by his lifeless body in the coffin that, as soon as everyone leaves the viewing, that she should just go ahead and have the funeral home remove all that fancy suit tie business from her father's dead body because what the hell did he need it for now anyway. .....Do not do this. Do NOT.) (If there really is karmic justice, hopefully the man who said that to me is naked in his coffin at his viewing, and people walk up to his grieving family and say things like "Put some damn clothes on him, for god's sake are you nuts!")

When we lose people we love, of course we are not okay. Nothing will ever be okay, ever again. I think what I meant to say in that other post was: eventually, the pain will dull and you will get used to how that feels. This life will become the new normal. When your beloved friend or family member was here physically, that was Life with them. When they go, you learn to navigate Life after them. And one day, someone else will leave you, and there will be a new normal to get used to. Or you will leave, and you will have a totally new normal to navigate. New everything (hopefully there will be endless buffets of sweets and food and drink and not a single gym or doctor in sight because weight gain and disease don't exist...also, hopefully every day is Saturday and we all live on Bora Bora in one of those over the lagoon huts with the see through floors. But then, that's my heaven).

The pain never really ever goes away. People stay with us for a long, long time. My dad is always in my mind and my heart, somewhere. I think when people leave us for whatever is out there, they take pieces of us with them and they leave holes in our hearts that never fill back in.

If this is you, and you are missing someone right now, I think they're with you in some way or another...and I also think you are with them. Pieces of you. Essences of your souls' light--both of you, and all of those who loved them and they loved. Or energy and force of motion, for all you science-y atheist-y types out there. Whatever. The point is that, I don't know where we go or what happens to us when this part of our experience is over for us. But I do know that I sometimes feel my dad with me, even 14-15 years after his death. When he first left, I couldn't NOT think about him. Now, whole weeks go by without me thinking of him. My life has resumed with high times and low times and stresses and mundane life worries and all that.

But when I do think of him, it is always duly noted that something important is going on and the thought: he should be here, he would love this pops into my head. ....or nothing important is going on, and for no reason I just suddenly I think of him and miss him so viscerally I stop whatever I'm doing and let him know he's missed and that I hope he's okay.

Because I think they visit us, when these things happen. I don't think our loved ones come back all Jacob Marley visiting Scrooge or anything like that; I think the Universe works far more subtly than that. I think dreams and memories and sudden thoughts or just deep longings for someone--those are the visits. And I don't care if you're a party pooper atheist rolling your eyes at that, I just don't care. I think they visit us, because I think they have pieces of us with them and we have pieces of them with us, that once our souls have mingled our Lights are together. Forever. Like cosmic starlight finally reaching us, millenia after the star it came from died. Time and space are fluid like that and so, I think, are we.

However. You won't be okay, yet you will be. Does that make sense? We get used to the new normal. And sometimes, our lost ones visit us. Or we them. The lingering pieces of our light and love, the base notes of the human soul, find each other again because that is their nature.

Hey, do you need some good causes to help for the 2014 holiday season? Here are two I personally know of right now:

Lizzie's Legacy

College for Shelby

Those are both good ways to bring some light and love to the world right now.


flaky advertising.

Sick. Sick has been the word of the week. Also: exhaustion, cookie overload, loud children with few boundaries and no self control, Polar Express, the Santa Dance (21st century style), and strep throat. Or maybe just swollen lymph nodes from a viral infection. Thank god no fever. Others I know weren't as lucky.

I'd like to note that I did not get the flu shot this year, and each year I do not get the flu shot, I am surprisingly lucky...and each year I do get the flu shot, by February I am vomiting out of every bodily crevice, until all that is left inside of me is something shriveled and gaunt and very very broken.(I suspect the flu shot is some type of government conspiracy, but I'm too weak at the moment to care enough to properly investigate. And then I get healthy and decide I'm just overly suspicious and jaded. Which is possibly part of the conspiracy. This is a vicious cycle that has been ongoing for years and years. Don't try to figure it out--just know: they put stuff in the flu shot that makes you get the flu. But first they scare the shit out of you into getting the flu shot. Every! Single! Time! This year I was just too busy and forgot, and so now I'm reaping the benefits. Foiled you this flu season, NSA Flu Division! But well-played on the vile stomach virus that shut down a whole Georgia school district.)

This time I just got really bad swollen lymph nodes, which are slowly unswelling as my sinuses revert to normal levels even as I type this. And while I'm on this topic, who the heck decided to put the ear, nose, and throat systems all together? Huh? Who did that? I'm writing a firmly worded letter to someone about it in the NSA c/o their Flu Division.

Other things: So Serial ended. And basically Adnan didn't do it or maybe he did. Or maybe a sinister serial killer did it. Or Jay. And what about the cell phone? And was Nisha actually called or just butt dialed? And Don finally talked but not really. And so there you go: just what I frickin' feared was going to happen--one big psychological mind bend with no definitive answers. Which I'm not necessarily opposed to under most circumstances, but damnit, Sarah Koenig! I was sick this week. I was SICK. The least you could have done was been more conclusive with some slightly conclusive evidence; my glands would have somewhat rejoiced.

I do agree with Sarah that Adnan should have been acquitted--how the state of Maryland ran that case all the way to a conviction is a good testament to how shoddy this country's criminal justice system can truly be. Finding talented lawyers are important, it seems. Merely having a good attorney doesn't seem to be enough, particularly if you're from a minority group.  I think the Innocence Project is working on trying to get DNA testing now and Adnan is all for it. That's usually how that group gets people acquitted and, from what I've seen, when the Innocence Project decides to help get you out of jail, usually they're feeling pretty confident you were wrongly convicted. So there's that for a sort of conclusive conclusion, I suppose.

At any rate, getting back to this time of year: Christmas is nearing, and I haven't shopped for anyone. Not a single person. No. Wait! No. That's not true--I shopped for me, online. I bought a bunch of books, some patchouli from my favorite patchouli people ever (go HERE I promise they aren't even paying me. They don't even know me--I just found them via friend Patresa) (whose CD + book you should totally get yourself and/or someone you like as a Hanukkah or Christmas present--it rocks, and so does she). I really wanted to get Richard E. Grant's perfume "JACK," because it sounds like it has a lot of smells I'd like combined together. So I started to purchase a bottle for 95 British pounds sterling (or, if you want to sound like a real native, 95 quid. But I think you have to say it real fast and very cockney). But then I did a quick conversion to dollars and holy top notes of lime and marijuana, Jack! One hundred forty-eight dollars? As in 148 American pounds? No can do mon ami. I'm trying to eek a living off teacher money over here. But I do really heart Richard in all the old Posh Nosh episodes now playing on YouTube. They make me laugh up swollen lymph node pus and phlegm and stuff. I think you should watch them too, because they will make you wish you had you an aga too (it's a kind of oven that costs 10 million British pounds, or 100 million billion American dollars) (is it me, or are the British just totally kicking our asses now at everything, including currency value? And their cops don't even need to carry guns, they are THAT bad ass now. Ah, c'est la vie--what goes around comes around).

My point with this (I do have one) is that I am still sick but not sick enough to shirk my holiday duties, which must begin tomorrow ASAP so I can get caught up on all things festive, even if a virus is still festering deep within me. I have 120 hours to do it, minus some for sleep. Which I have not had much of lately due to the virus germs warring with my innermost white blood cells. I am not complaining about my white blood cells blowing up viral invaders; I'm simply saying: this lady general hasn't slept over the last week or so because of it. But insomnia gave me lots of time to pin a crapload of things to do with 2nd graders in January--they better rest up on their holiday break. School's about to get real.

In light of my illness and busyness, I'm going to flake out on you and stop here and let you know I have no clue if or when I'll be back until after Christmas. I also just realized I plugged, shamelessly promoted, and free advertised about 100 different products in this post. But who cares?  Helloooo! It's what happens this time of year: tons of commercials.

To make it up to you, I'm leaving you with an entertaining holiday video (and Happy Hanukkah already, if you celebrate that--lucky ducks! Eight days of presents AND you're already well under way and done well before New Year's so you can actually enjoy the rest of your December). Here is one highly amusing Santa Dance, which is a gigantic hit with all the 5-8 year olds I know (and a certain 42 year old writer gal, who's always on the look out for cool new hip hop moves like "The Pepto").


good and great.

My body has been waging war with a cold virus which has made my brain fuzzier than usual, which has zapped all my creativity sparks. Which is why there has been silence here. 

Earlier today, I saw my writer hero Liz Gilbert, via Rob Bell, post something to Facebook about not giving up the great for the good. Meaning: every day we have to do good things--pay our bills, grocery shop, menu plan, do our laundry, return emails, figure out something to do at 9 AM with a bunch of squirrely kids on Monday, obsessively check Twitter to see if anyone new has followed me and figure out if I need to follow them back, get on Pinterest and pin all the wine things. (Those are my good things.) 

But there are also GREAT things you could be doing with your time. The good things are good; they're important. They keep us sane and together and out of foreclosure. But the GREAT things are what feed your soul, and only you know what your Great Things are. These are the things that make you sing, that make you wake up and go: Hurrah! I get to do (insert your Great Thing here) today!!!" These are the things that make Life rock. 

Here are Great Things I did today:

*Slept in late, snuggled up with my sweet girl.

*Had time to enjoy my first cup of coffee, at my breakfast table while watching squirrels run around my backyard (in the summer, I sit on the back porch and do this).

*Hung out with Miss M (today we drew and colored and grocery shopped, and I took pictures of the naked Barbie she added to her Nativity...I'm certain Jesus would approve, but maybe not his mom)

*I cooked my first risotto (it was too glumpy, but tasted fine...I am not a talented cook, and I lack a tremendous amount of patience so often my creations are barely edible. But I find the act itself to be therapeutic and so I'm sorry if you end up with Salmonella; at least I feel so much better.)

*Had three glasses of cheap Riesling, and didn't even care.

*Found some new jazz music--Kelly Clarkson sings jazz! Who knew?! (Not me--obviously, I don't pay attention to music enough.)

*I wrote. Any day I can find time to write is a day worth living, if you ask me. I didn't work on any stories today, but I am writing this. And I feel so much better now.

*I read something really good. (It was an article shared by my favorite actor (hello and thank you, Jason Isaacs!) on Twitter, and was written by my (new) favorite filmmaker Saar Klein. I love it when I find really lovely gems like THIS, written by someone who is obviously really lovely himself. And funny. And thoughtful. With good advice you can apply to pretty much any profession--be courageous enough to let go of some of your control and see what magic happens to the work. I can think of a few past bosses I wish had that wisdom.) 

So that's it for me. That's all I got for this weekend--I have five days to make it through til Winter Break starts, For the next five days, I'll be doing this:

In the South, we also use the phrase: Herding cats. Same thing
except wiggly.


adventures in extreme people pleasing.

One Christmas when I was not quite a child but not yet a teenager, my mother gave me a little wall plaque that said EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO MY OPINION. I opened it and thought: my mom is soooo weird. I think I must have even said this out loud because I remember her going, "I know you think it's weird now, but one day you'll understand why I gave this to you." 

And my mother still does this kind of crap, all the time: gives weird gifts and then goes, "I know you think it's weird now, but one day you'll understand." And then I do not. I do not understand. And sometimes, I think about one of her gifts and silently ask: Why?? 

But the little plaque about opinions I do actually understand now. I still don't understand why I couldn't have gotten the make up kit with 250 different lipsticks and eye shadows like I asked for, but I now understand the plaque. For the record, that plaque was the only weird gift she's ever given me that I do understand now. Because Mom, I know you're reading this and Christmas is coming so listen to me: that plaque was the ONLY one. This year, just get me some wine glasses.

I don't want to blame anyone for who and how I am, because I am who and how I am because this is who I am and how. I challenge you to say that ten times fast while drinking. Having said that, I will also say in a really not-finger-pointing-at-all-just-sayin' kind of way that my father, raised by people who expected children to be seen and not heard and not even think about getting up from the dinner table until my grandfather said to, could often be a bit...steamroller-like with his own children. What I'm trying to say is: I have a hard time giving my own opinions now. And my mother saw this when I was a young, and gave me a small plaque to hang on my wall so that when I grew up I'd become bold and fierce and jump out of airplanes whilst screaming all of my opinions at the world. Which did not happen, of course. I bring Tylenol PM with me on long plane flights so I can be passed out if the plane crashes into the ocean. There will be no screaming of opinions from this girl, unless it's to scream my opinion about being terrified of death by fiery plane crashes.

I know, I know! I hear you saying: But Amy, you give lots of opinions here; this whole piece you're writing is one big opinion. Yes. However. Here I can be very bold because I know no one really reads any of this except my mom and some very sweet, dedicated friends (hi mom! hi friends!). So I'm not giving out any opinions that could make anyone mad at me (though, knowing my mom, now one of my Christmas presents will be a plaque with something really weird written on it). Or that, if I do, these people will most likely still love me and continue to take my calls after maybe a brief, stony period of silent treatment. 

But strangers don't have to do that. Do they? And strangers can be such a-holes. Seriously. I mean, have you read the Internet lately? 

Last year, during a writing class/writers workshop I was in, one of my writer friends read a piece I wrote and remarked: "Don't be afraid to give your opinion, is what we're saying. It's okay to rock the boat, Amy." I think about that every time I start typing here, every time I tweet something, every post I throw up on Facebook. I can rock the boat. It's okay to rock the boat, Amy. But I'm scared, Internet! I'm always scared I'm going to end up capsizing the whole thing.

I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings; I don't want to offend anyone. I hate getting my feelings hurt and being offended. It sometimes takes several days for my feelings to recover, and whole decades for me to stop being offended. I am working hard to develop thick skin, but I can tell this will be a lifelong process. And I think about that, too, when I give opinions. I don't want anyone nursing emotional wounds I've created or being offended by me for decades because I carelessly took a knife to their thin skin. I try to walk gently on the planet,and I spend hours berating myself and beating me up whenever I know I've hurt someone.

This is a real problem when it comes to creativity, by the way. I'm not hurt or offended if someone criticizes my writing, as long as it's done in a constructive manner. But I am loathe to hurt or offend others. It becomes a problem in that I look for only the most positive, helpful things to say about others' works of art. Which is important, because there is good in every piece of art someone produces; art comes from that Divine spark within, and that is always good. However, if you're truly serious about making art, there's always room for growth and improvement, and you should have someone or several someones around you who aren't afraid to point those areas out to you so you can consider them and then work to make it better. (In my opinion.)

I will share with you that one of the things I often speak with the Universe about is finding a safe tribe of fellow creatives--they don't all have to be writers, just creatives--in which to share our works of (he)Art. And to be able to feel safe enough, in that tribe, to receive feedback but also GIVE feedback openly, knowing I will still be loved.

Side story: A decade ago, when I first started writing seriously, I went to a couple of critique group sessions at a local writers' club. One of the people in it was a man in his mid-fifties who wrote mysteries. In these mysteries, the man would never reveal: who his main character was or even the main character's name...the setting...who the antagonist was, or even the antagonist's name...what the mystery was. You can only imagine my distress after reading and realizing: there is nothing positive I can say about this piece. Horrors! You guys, I can't even tell you how horrific that was for me--not a single, positive thing to say, except something like: Well done, you, with that comma placement! (except no! I think there were a lot of comma splices). Thank god someone in the group didn't worry about being too offensive, and they just said it like it was: Hey, what the hell is going on in this?! I didn't understand your story at all. What was the point? Where was the plot? Who were the characters? What IS this? WHY?!  

Mr. Mystery's feelings were totally hurt and he got all defensive. He was a mystery writer, and this was a mystery (he said). So everything in his story was a mystery; the readers were supposed to figure out the mystery that was in his brain. Put on our Psychic Hats and have at it, mystery readers, go go daddy-o! (Even the plot? asked the person. Especially the plot! said the mystery man all angry-like, It's not my job to tell you my mystery plot. Read Romance if you want plot, is what I think he also said.) And then they had sort of an awkward, passive aggressive argument and after that Mr. Mystery didn't come back to the next group. And I didn't go back to the group either, and not because Mr. Mystery didn't come back, but because I could tell they just weren't my tribe--there was a woman who only wrote children's stories about reindeer in it and when someone suggested she try other animals her next piece was about a deer, and another woman who wrote chaste romantic pieces with lines like She trembled softly as he kissed her smooth brow lovingly and chastely held her womanly hands and then looked in her eyes which shone like an angel's. I don't even know what to do with writing like that. My only suggestion for her would have been to make her characters stop being so chaste, go out! have some fun! enjoy some filthy sex! it'll be good for them! Except I think the characters were supposed to be Puritans in the 1600s. Or 1930s housewives. I can't remember now. (I'm sorry--I'm being ludicrously judgmental and harsh right now, I know. But honestly. He chastely held her womanly hands. What does that even mean?)

So I have a problem with piping up. And when I do, I always wait for moments when I know others will high five me so we can create a formidable army against those who disagree with my/our opinion. And if someone I admire a lot gives an opinion that is different from mine, I'm highly susceptible to changing my own thinking quickly--if I admire you, I want to be like you and I want you to like me, and if you think that, then okay! Me too. Because I'm wishy washy. And a Pisces sun/Cancer moon. And I have a desperate need to be liked. Adventures in extreme people-pleasing, I like to call it. I try to be the antidote to Mean Girl.

I'm telling you all of this because on Thursday, I watched Peter Pan Live. It was not good. But yet it was! Apparently social media has cultivated a phenomenon called hate-watching, in which snarky people tweet or blog pure snark while watching an awards ceremony, a tv show, or a classic children's production which is being aired live. I think NBC is one of the more exciting networks these days, because they seem to be taking risks on all kinds of things: trying to revive the miniseries format, live musicals, and staying with a series until it completes at least one season's story arc. I sense they see television is in a massive upheaval of change, and they're trying mightily to stay relevant and compete but also innovate. I can appreciate innovative. But it's also inviting Opinion (which is okay when constructive) and snark (which is okay too as long as it's not directed at me).

At any rate, I find the hate-watching entertaining to the extreme, and so I was more entertained by that than by the actual show. Besides which, I had to DVR it because it went from like 8:00 PM til 11:00 PM on a school night (what up with that, NBC? This was for kids....or wait! Maybe not...maybe NBC is developing a niche in which they air stuff seemingly for kids, but in reality it's so grown ups can play drinking games while watching TV and participating in real time schadenfreude on social media). After we watched Peter Pan (Live!) last night at a more reasonable time, Melissa announced that she loved it. She would like to dance and sing like them, and also can we get some wires in our house so we can fly around too? (NO.) (Okay, yes. That would actually be delightful fun. But only if we get a bigger house.)

Thursday night, most of Twitter agreed: Christopher Walken's Hook was fairly hilarious, but that's because most of Twitter agreed that Walken is fairly hilarious. Yesterday, Melissa was confused, because the only live Peter Pan/Hook she knows is Jeremy Sumpter as Pan and Jason Isaacs as Hook in the PJ Hogan 2003 version (which I've written about here before--how was that movie not a runaway hit of Harry Potter-like proportions? I think it's magical). Her major concerns from a child's perspective were: Why was Peter Pan a girl? Where was the real Captain Hook, and why is this one is too happy? Other than those two things, she was captivated--as she should be, since this stuff is so much better for her development than Barbie Goes to Princess School. Live hater-watch THAT, Twitter.

At any rate, I desperately wanted to join in on the hater-watching tweets and make new hater-watcher friends, but I was worried about Christopher Walken's or even Peter Pan Live's producers' feelings being hurt if they saw any of my tweets. And I feel like there's a fine line between creating humor and just being hurtful. Plus also, I genuinely like Christopher Walken; his FatBoy Slim dancing is magical, just magical. And his casual, nonchalant mumbling when he couldn't remember all the words on Thursday evening? Delightful! God bless him, I'd have completely frozen in horror at myself (I'm being very open and honest here: once, I played piano in a talent show, messed up three notes and then froze for about an eternity until I was able to find my spot again; then I just rushed through the whole thing all crazy-like so I could get off the stage). 

Walken just plowed through it all. I don't know. He may have been drunk. Really, I think that may be the only way to do these live television show productions. 

Plus, they worked so hard on this. I hate it when someone creative has poured their very all into a production only to watch it be attacked. Is there a way to constructively critique the less-than creations in ways that won't drive anyone to drink away what's left of their careers in a depressed funk? And yet I do appreciate some of funnier snark when it's clearly deserved--I am thinking specifically of people who produce things JUST to make money. Books and songs and movies that are horrible, not a single artsy thing about them, just: give us your money/time/attention. On those, please sarcastically opine away. The makers of those creations won't end up drinking themselves to death, I promise you--they'll take the attention as a sign they're doing something right, and be happy people are talking about them and their egos will soar. 

When that kind of societal snarky ridicule happens, and it's done well, I feel inadequate trying to hang out with people who excel in it--that kind of snark is an Art in and of itself. (Wine. I needed wine, is what I'm saying. Wine always leads me to believe I'm smarter and funnier and cleverer than I actually am. But it also makes the keyboard hard to see after a bit and also I'm less inhibited about what I'll agree to, and so tweeting and blogging drunk may not be for me.)

I think the whole point of this post is that I often have crises in confidence, briefly, after seeing how clever and popular some other people are. I would like 1.9K people to re-tweet some inanity I've put up. And that's because I would like to make lots of friends on and offline, and not have to have passive aggressive pissing contests with strangers in the process. Because I'm an extreme people pleaser, which makes giving my opinion hard sometimes, because I become paralyzed with fear I'm not good enough or someone will dislike me for saying what I think.

Which is why I'm going to end this with an strongly worded opinion. Have you been listening to Serial on NPR? There is now a lot of opinion out there about whether or not podcasts and other programs like Serial are okay--are they undue influences on the justice system? Or are they checks and balances? Do they just appeal to people's raw emotions? Or do they seek justice in ways the current system doesn't? Are they perpetuating bias in America? Or exposing it? 

Here's my strong opinion: who flippin' cares? It's fascinating listening, and also I am certain Adnan is innocent. Arrest Jay for god's sake. And also: this better not end with a "this was just a psychological experiment in podcast torture" or anything. I expect some firm conclusion, Sarah K. (Either way, I will still love you and give Season 2 a chance, so don't be mad at me for giving my opinion about that, okay?)

Oh, and before I go, here's my opinion-slash-philosophy on romance and love:

What Momus said (is that okay?).