Friday, January 31, 2014

The Dark Side of Dirtiness

Part of being around small children all day is accepting that you will become a filthy stinkbomb by the end of the day. In even the most innocuous conditions, one's clothes and skin will come into contact with the world's most vile germs and textures. Grossness, stickiness, and spittle are just a part of childhood.

However, sometimes the messiness on my person is wholly my fault. I am a fantastic water spiller, as well as the queen of toothpaste shirt-spots. I have a handy excuse most of the time: "Oh, the kids bumped my elbow" or "This never used to happen before I started procreating." In my heart, I know the kids aren't culpable for my icky appearance. That doesn't stop me from throwing them under the bus.

I was in the student leadership class in middle school; I'd aspired to hob nob with the fancy kids and finally got to participate. The class was a Zero Period class, a.k.a. before school officially started. We would meet in a huge room on the second floor of the shop building; I would get there earlier than everyone else because I was so excited.

Most of the kids made me feel nervous, so sometimes I would make a social faux pas or two. One morning, while I was waiting for the adviser to come, a few of the other students got dropped off by their parents. A girl I admired very much named Erin walked up and said hello; we chatted idly when all of a sudden, I mentioned a white spot on her shirt. She laughed and rubbed at it, saying that it was from her face wash. We started talking about other things and the adviser unlocked the classroom door. I hope she doesn't remember this story.

Ever since then, any time I get something on myself, I have wished to be as jovially self-effacing as my friend Erin. Instead of fretting that the world will judge me, I am desperate to be able to laugh and explain that I'd been living my life in the process of wearing my clothes. Life happens, sometimes it is messy, and eventually everyone gets a few white spots.

Today, I am doing the week's laundry. I've been inspecting the stains on my clothes and wondering why I can't get myself together. I should probably forgive myself, but until then, I think I may keep leaning on that Kids Are Grubby thing.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

John Green, Veronica Roth, and Me

In the midst of a melancholy Friday, I decided to begin reading a young adult novel I had downloaded while in California over the holidays. Typically I don't read during the day, since I want to stay focused on the tasks at hand around the house. However, on Friday I read in between talking with the children, eating lunch at McDonald's just to get out of the house, and waiting for Caleb to come home from work.

I finished the entire book in less than 12 hours. Normally, I would be impressed with myself and brag about it to anyone who would listen. At least, that's what happened when I beat Bobby Wilson in a Goosebumps reading challenge in elementary school. 

Once I got to the end of my sad-day book, though, I couldn't push out the thoughts the story churned up in order to let the self-congratulation through. What I'd read was The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green; it's a novel following the lives of several teenagers fighting cancer, but more specifically, it's about two teens who love each other knowing there will be a tragic end. Probably not the best book to read when one's already having a gloomy day.

I decided to distract myself from the lingering feelings by starting up another book I had wanted to read. This time, Divergent by Veronica Roth; hardcore battles and self-discovery were what I thought loomed in front of me. I should have known that there was going to be a love story, but I thought it would take a backseat to all of the political dealings I'd heard populated the story. 

Divergent, Insurgent, and half of Allegiant later, I realized that I was wrong. Reading almost all of a trilogy in 48 hours is not something I have done in a long time, and I had forgotten how emotionally draining it can be. Veronica Roth did a great job of making the world of the books extremely vivid. But, I closed Allegiant midway through because I couldn't watch anymore people die. Even fictional violence sticks on my bones too much.

I tell you all of that to tell you this:

I participated in National Novel Writing Month last November, and I only made it 15,500 words into the 50,000 word challenge. Still, I was pleased with my work and decided to let it rest while I was in California. I read it today for the first time in two months, trying to get the emotions of John Green's and Veronica Roth's characters out of my head. 

I was pleasantly surprised at how well my story and characters stood up. My plot may be loose and have far fewer twists than the Divergent trilogy. My secondary cast doesn't have the zing of John Green's. But for a first time fiction writer, I didn't completely screw things up. 

Slowly but surely, I am beginning to appreciate that I have something to contribute. Maybe I'll actually live up to that something soon.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Mysterious Case of the Ill-Placement

The peephole on my front/back door is easily six inches higher than my tiptoe height. I am 5'5" and my husband Caleb is 5'7"; neither of us, nor obviously the children, can utilize this peephole.

I say "front/back" because the arrangement of our townhome is such that the door that opens into the living room is on the other side of the building from the parking lot; therefore, when visitors drive to our house, they park and then knock on the nearest door that says "17." That door? Our back door.

The door leads immediately into our kitchen. We have clunky white tiles that slope downward from west to east; the color choice was not ideal for masking daily dust or how the kids spill. I am not as much of a clean freak as my husband would prefer, but I wish I were every time I open the front/back door for an unexpected visitor.

When there is a knock at the door, I open it as a show of faith.

This story has no real purpose. I just wanted to point out that our contractor must have been really tall.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Night at the Emotional Opera

A handful of days ago, I ventured down south about an hour to see my cousin Ben in a operatic performance of "Die Fledermaus," one of my favorite operas. I was able to see my aunt and uncle, as well as visit my former college campus; the night away from being a capital-M mom was also quite nice. The opera was lovely and inspired me, once again, to express myself creatively.

Afterwards, the whole Ben fan club (consisting of most of my uncle's brothers, their spouses, and his parents) all hung out in an upper-class after party. We chatted about high-minded topics and someone ate animal-style fries, which decidedly brought the whole thing down a notch (it was me, of course). Being in such a fun group was just what I needed to feel like a real person again.

Ben rode shotgun in my car while we drove around to the various festivities, which gave us a great chance to talk about millennial topics without The Man holding us down. I don't remember which tangent brought us to it, but suddenly Ben uttered one of the bravest things a person can say to another person:

"Your opinion means a lot to me."

How much more baldly can one crack open their heart and invite someone to break it into a million pieces? I would vouch that there isn't much, short of shifting from the metaphorical to the literal.

Since that night, I have been stuck on that phrase. Every angle I analyze it with has presented a new way to view my interpersonal relationships. To whom does my opinion matter, and how careful do I need to be with them? Who can I pinpoint as someone I should encourage more? Where can I find more inspiration to allow myself to be vulnerable to others? And, whose opinion means a lot to me?

I am almost 30 years old, and though it sounds presumptuous, I want to be a mentor. Through my example and my thoughtful study, I want to be a source that others can use to achieve their goals. Ideally, I would have been an Italian patron in another life. You need some money to be artsy? Here you go.

But I don't have money to give.

The only thing I have is a well-seasoned opinion about what I like, as well as a trustworthy reputation for saying when I don't like something. You can count on me to not slash and burn at your heart, though. That's not my intended business.

I told Ben honestly what I thought about his performance and the opera in general. We talked about the highs and lows of the night, as well as the performances of the future. Having such intellectual conversation is a welcome relief from the My Little Pony and Super Hero Squad talk that's typical of my days.

However, what we did not talk about was how impressed I was with Ben's willingness to share his feelings with me. That probably would have been the most important thing I could have said that night, so I am rectifying that now, these handful of days later.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

You Must Attend. Yes, You.

2006 marked the year of my wedding, and I knew exactly how I wanted it to happen.

The proverbial "I dos" were going to be said, my husband and I were going to ride off into the sunset, and we were definitely, absolutely, NOT EVER going to have a wedding reception. Why would I throw a party for everyone else when I wanted to have a party of two? There was not going to be a reception—no way, no how.

When I presented my idea to my dad, he did not seem thrilled.

Usually our great minds thought alike, but that day, his was great at thinking differently. My dad told me, "You need to let other people celebrate you. They want to be happy for you and tell you so in person." Pondering all of the personal hassle and drama, I hadn't thought about how the reception's absence would affect others. My then-fiance-now-husband and I continued on with wedding plans; the reception was the bulk of the planning and a majority of the heartache, but I was able to see it through new eyes.

The other day, I bought a ticket to my 10-year reunion just like I thought I might. Once it was finalized, I breathed a sigh of relief. I eagerly anticipated news of what exciting events might occur and who I might see; I even put some feelers out through social media, though it was potentially embarrassing. It's not cool to seem too spirited about something like a reunion.

But, I was met with radio silence. A few "can't make it" responses came and quietly left. There were fence-sitters galore. My settled-upon gang of my high school BFF, our other BFF, and me seemed to be the only excitement to which I could look forward. I wondered what I could do to change that.

I tell you all of that to tell you, the fence-sitters and naysayers, this:

You need to let other people celebrate you. They want to be happy for you and tell you so in person.

Don't deprive others of your presence—you may never know who has you on their Must See list.  

There are some who stealthily follow you on Facebook, but don't feel comfortable calling you when they're in town. And there are others who wanted to be your friend in high school, but weren't for all the sociopolitical reasons that plague teenagers. Others didn't like you back then and wonder if you've changed for the better.

I bet you have.

I've hit the yearbooks pretty hard, and I know that I wasn't acquainted with everyone in my graduating class. How could I be? There were over 800 of us. I wasn't one of the cool kids, and I wasn't one of the jocks. I was barely one of the Hollys; I was still trying to figure out who I was.

If you still have doubts or wonder if you have anything to add by attending, I quote myself from this blog post:

I doubt you know how much impact you have had on those around you. Someone, somewhere, has seen you be a good person, even if it was only that one time. But don't lie, there has been more than one time. I can be a spiteful, vengeful, caustic individual and even I can admit that there have been a handful of times that I had the chance to show off my better side.

People think well of you. People have written about you in their real-life journals. People admired you but never spoke to you. And people have been inspired by you. Keep trying to inspire.

Come on, guys: just do it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Kwantsu, Dudes" and Other Reasons I Work Hard

As a twelve-year-old girl, I was obsessed with two things: the movie Surf Ninjas and solitaire on my parents' desktop computer. I also thought non-stop about boys, which is pertinent to this story.

Surf Ninjas is a movie about a teenaged surfer who discovers that he has ancient martial arts powers. The two stars of the movie were father and son: Ernie Reyes Sr. and Jr. Rob Schneider and Tone Loc are also featured, if you're into that. Leslie Nielsen melodramatically plays the evil tyrant to great comedic results. The entire movie is on YouTube, but here is a silly taste of what you've been missing.

My thoughts swirled around every inch of that movie. I memorized lines and considered taking up surfing. Our family rented the VHS over and over again, since its lack of popularity made it impossible to find in stores. Being young and adoring a movie is a part of life, right?

For that whole summer, I often sat in my parents' room and played solitaire. The real reason was because I needed a filler between my allotted Internet usage; I didn't want to miss a second of that delicious dial-up. Playing digital cards allowed me to stay close to the computer and to be on my own, which was a rarity in my seven-person household.

Every once in awhile, I would have a reawakening. My pixelated attention would snap back into focus, and I would realize how much time had passed. The futility of my activity would penetrate me and I would think:

"Ernie Reyes Jr. would never want to be with someone who spent all day playing computer solitaire."

While the likelihood of our love connection was asymptotic, I was motivated to make something worthwhile in order to be desirable. Because I was a preteen, I merely slumped in despair and continued playing hand after hand of cards. But the sentiment still rings in my head today.

I have a hard time fully relaxing because I still want to impress Ernie Reyes Jr., or at least his universal equivalent. When I participate in a fruitless activity, such as iPad games, my pressing guilt overwhelms me. I want tangible evidences of my time on Earth and the ability to point to my past as well-spent. It's tough to have that when I watch the same four YouTube videos over and over again. Therein lies my trouble.

You may be asking why I feel so strongly about this topic and yet can list many time wasters under my interests. When I watch TV or cruise the Internet, I utilize those "wastes of time" to initiate later conversations or to analyze human behavior. Music, memory keeping, and making silly movies with my sisters are shaping what's most important to me over and over again. Almost all of my casual pastimes are means to an end—bettering myself. I better myself for myself, but I still feel those twinges of desire.

I want to publicly excel. I think about what I can add to my list of achievements. I concern myself far too much with how I am viewed. And I worry about what I am going to leave this world with more often than is healthy.

As far as I know, there isn't an answer for this. I will try to play more Angry Birds just for fun until I figure it out. There is also still time to take up surfing.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Want to Be My Next Victim? I Thought Not

Especially lately, my limbic system is easy to anticipate.

When I am not tending to the daily minutiae of housewifery, my brain and my heart conspire together to be madly in love with something or someone. If I don't have a particular target in mind, my mission becomes finding one. And heaven help my mark.

The last two months have included rabid interests over:
  • Rap
  • Jesse Dangerously
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Memoirs
  • Boys in general
  • Summertime TV
  • McDonald's Monopoly
  • Expressing myself honestly through creative means

I have taken each of these things to embarrassing limits; the public displays regarding the first three alone have been Mount Rushmore-worthy. And, to be frank, it has all felt so good.

Here is a piece of wisdom that has been ingrained in me: there are people who find a stable, even-keeled life to be unsettling. I wouldn't group myself in with that set, necessarily, but I do miss the emotional rollercoaster that my life is lacking. The grass is always greener, et cetera.

Because of that urge to create those highs and lows, I bury myself in learning rap lyrics and then jump to perform them before I'm ready. The tidal wave of my drool at the concert I attended wiped out tens of nerdcore fans. I seek out the saddest articles and the silliest YouTube videos. I'm desperate to cry until I snot or laugh until I throw up.

What I am saying is, I have turned into Bella riding motorcycles just to see Edward's face.