Monday, December 14, 2009

Me, On Death

My last living grandparent, my dad’s dad, has congestive heart failure and is not expected to live much longer. His heart is working at 25 percent its capacity, and is unable to keep his lungs from filling with fluid. My dad flew to Arizona a week ago Saturday with my uncle, and my aunt joined them there. Together, they heard the news that their father was not responding to antibiotics, and that he was being sent home for his last days.
My grandfather is a very proud and stubborn man, who insists that he feels as if he’s dying, but rallied today and surprised the nurses by having improved. He is at once aware of what’s going on and has a great appetite, and weakened and unable to stay awake. While I am always glad to get good news, for his sake and for the sake of the rest of the family, this sickness was not unexpected. My grandfather is 90 years old, has survived two open heart surgeries, buried my grandmother 15 years ago and has been married to his second wife for 14 years. He is nothing if not a fighter, but a part of me is struggling with the idea that this is a fight he cannot win.
We talk about death using words like, “tragedy,” “unexpected,” “sad,” and “unfortunate.” Granted, most of these words are not applied to the death of someone who has lived a long and full life, but we manage to be surprised by death all the same. Our survival instinct, the one that can send us bursts of adrenaline when our life is in danger or allow us to surpass the impossible to survive, makes it impossible for us to be able to expect death when it comes knocking. Lately, I’ve been struck by how absolutely ridiculous this is.
A friend of mine has a quote on her Facebook page that says, “Don’t take life so seriously - no one will make it out alive." It is one of the only things that we can count on in life; one thing that never changes: you will die. Despite the fact that this will happen to each and every person alive, those simple words sound brutal and rude; they sound pessimistic.
Some part of us, I know, is fighting to live. Some part of us wants another day, another sunrise, another smile, another meal. Even people who would not call themselves happy do not necessarily want their lives to end. And yet, despite this innate urge to continue, we will all die. How is that okay? How can we go through life knowing that ultimately none of this will really matter? How can someone that has been diagnosed with something terminal, like cancer, gather the urge to fight with every fiber of their being, knowing that ultimately they are not escaping death per se, simply lengthening the amount of time before they meet it?
Well, we can’t. We cannot actually go through life remembering that we’re going to die. If we did, none of us would be so quick to move away from teetering ledges; none of us would wear seatbelts, or guard ourselves from the cold, the intense heat or the dangers of overindulgence. If we could accept the idea of death, there would be no funerals, no wakes, no need for a belief in the afterlife. We are not programmed to accept death, so we choose to ignore the fact that it is there, like a huge dead elephant in the corner of room, permeating the air with its stench. Instead, we pretend like there is nothing that can end our small existences, and even when we are old, and tired, and have lived a full life, we aren’t necessarily ready for it to end, even if we always knew it was coming. And this, I think, is what makes us human, because although animals fight death like we do, I doubt they have an awareness of its inevitable existence.
You have to die of something. Even when they say that someone died of natural causes, they are dying of something. You cannot always pick your death, and certainly many are better than others, but in the end your death will be mourned because we cannot ever be ready for this inevitability.
Although my grandfather’s death will not be a surprise, that knowledge doesn’t lessen the pain. I don’t remember the grief being more or less intense when my grandmother died unexpectedly after complications of what was considered a low-risk surgery. She had lived through much worse and more taxing surgeries and cancer treatments, only to be taken from us at the last minute by a lung infection contracted in the hospital. However, the expected outcome of my grandfather’s illness at the end of his long life doesn’t make it any easier. If anything, the extra time we’ve been given since he rallied is a kind of torture: will it last, or will he leave us tomorrow? Will he ever be able to get around on his own again? Will he be short of breath for the rest of his life, however long that will be? Does he want to get better?
I find myself not wanting to talk about it, but feeling like I need to share, because deaths are a hard thing to face. I can’t help but feel, however, that they shouldn’t be. That part of me wonders why we are here; what is it all for if it’s all going to end? A bigger part of me, though, cringes every time the phone rings, and hopes it’s not the call I’m expecting.

Love and denial kisses

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Job/Money Conundrum

I was raised in a family that was an oxymoron of sorts when it came to the job/money relationship. My mom hated her job, but makes pretty great money. My dad – at that time – loved his job, but the orchard never did much more than break even. Regardless of these two parallels, both my parents encouraged me to study something that would lead to a job that I loved and would make me happy. I chose journalism.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I am not cut out to be a journalist. There are many reasons for this, but two stand out: 1) I’m am not a “sprinter”, and 2) I prefer to work for myself.
When I say I’m not a sprinter, I mean that I want projects and work I can sink my teeth into: multi-dimensional, thick and meaty, and requiring a long period of time and organization to get all the pieces to fit together. Journalism is about what’s in the news now, and how it relates to today’s world – in 500 words or less. This is also the reason that I am not a good freelance writer at all: I want to write books, not stories.
As for working for myself, my dad told me once (only half joking) that I would work for myself, like him, barely scrimping by and taking on the brunt of the workload alone. This was not an insult, more of an insight into my work personality, which I get from him. My brother, he said, would probably be the CEO of a company, rake in a bunch of money and manage hundreds of people. Chace is the social one, like my mom.
At times, I’ve thought that I could easily accept this idea of what my life would be. I’m sure that those times aren’t over; inevitably I will once again think that I will be perfectly happy living on very little as long as I can work for myself. There’s only one problem: I have things I want to do, and they require money.
As much as I can live on very little, I don’t like to. It’s not necessarily because of what I have to give up, more because of what I can’t have. The items that I want, however, are not the kind you can save up for when you’re living on your savings trying to be a writer. And here’s where the conundrum comes in: I want to work for myself, doing what makes me happy, but what makes me happy doesn’t make me any money. This blogpost by John Scalzi on writers and their financial situations really hit home for me. Even when writers are considered to have “made it,” authors’ incomes are far below most other professions. What constitutes “made it?” Two published books a year by a midlist author.
So, what to do? What kind of job can I get that won’t eat up my time – my most valuable possession – that will allow me to make enough money for the things I want? And just so you’re not guessing at what I want, here’s a short but succinct list: property, maybe even with a house, maybe even in a foreign country, and the ability to spend a lot of time there without having to hurry back to a job after 10 days.
So here’s the revelation, coming years later for me than it probably did for most people: I can’t have it all.
This doesn’t need to be as negative as it sounds. There are plenty of jobs out there that are longer shifts, less days of the week; that have summers off; that give more than average vacation time. There are businesses out there that I could start myself that would take up my time, but it would be my business and my income. There are surely jobs out there that I would love to spring out of bed to get to. The only problem is that I don’t know what they are.
I started off my year of writing in the end of January 2009. I’m less than three months away from that deadline, which doesn’t have to be set in stone. What is set in stone is the fact that I will run out of money unless I get a job. I can float by for awhile on some part-time jobs that help pay the bills, but I can’t do that forever, nor do I want to. Now is the time to think about it, though, not when there’s nothing left for me to use to start over. At least I’m ahead of the game in the thinking department.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Some Weeks Just Suck...But It's OK.

I don’t think it’s possible to do something really great without having to overcome a little bit of opposition. Before I went to Spain the head of the WSU Spanish Department told me I was a fool and that I would fail if I went to Spain the next year.
At the time, I was dating a guy named L. No, this is not a pseudonym; that was what we called him. L and I were very mismatched and I was unhappy most of the time, but there is this one moment that I will always remember and be thankful for when it comes to L. After I left the professor’s office, I was in tears because he told me that I couldn’t go to Spain – that it would be a big mistake. I met up with L and told him what was wrong.
“Well,” he said, shrugging his huge shoulders, “I guess you’re just going to have to prove him wrong, aren’t you?”
It was as simple as that. There was no questioning whether or not the man that headed the department that I wanted a degree in was right. There was no apology, no comforting, just a simple answer. My crying stopped, L and I broke up, I went to Spain, and I lasted through one of the hardest years of my life that has made me into the person I am today. And no, it wouldn’t have been any easier if I had waited another year like the professor told me I had to.
There are little things that all of my boyfriends have given me like this. After my hardest breakup, my friend Mindy told me that everyone is put in your life for a reason – which I had already believed – but that sometimes their time in your life was very limited. She was basically telling me not to discount our relationship because it had only lasted five months, and he had ended it far before I was ready. It took me a long time, but I realized that she was right. From Clint, I learned how great a relationship can be – and what real communication looks like. We were ultimately not made for each other, and my friends thought he lacked a sense of adventure that I need in a partner to be happy, but I learned more from my time with him than I have with anyone else.
My last relationship is what I would call a train wreck. Any time I bring up Josh in conversation, my friends get angry and don’t want to talk about it. Strangely, I’m not near as angry at Josh, I think because I hold myself responsible for what I let him do to me and my emotional state. However, there’s one moment in our relationship that I consider the reason he was there. We were in the middle of a fight – our first of several breakup fights – and he said, “If you want to write, you just need to do it. No more talking about it, working other jobs, complaining. Just write and the rest will take care of itself.”
That should have been the end. If I had let him go then, I would have saved myself a lot of pain and anger; I also would have saved my friends a lot of grief on my behalf. Because of Josh, though, I finally got the guts to do what I needed to do. I wouldn’t be where I am now without that conversation.
Of course, I also consider Josh to be one of the people on the other side of the coin. He is what I refer to when I talk about overcoming adversity to accomplish something great. When I wake up in the middle of the night and find his empty promises still tumbling through my head, I remember how much better my life is without him, regardless of the pain it took to get there. When I have a week like last week, when it seemed the hurdles were insurmountable, I remember all these things I’ve learned, and it helps. I think, “Hell, I lived in Spain for a year, taught toddlers to ski, overcame a broken heart AND am happier and better off without a manipulative bully. How could THIS possibly be worse?” And immediately, I feel better.

Love and hurtling hurtle kisses

Monday, October 26, 2009

Running gives me zits.

I run in a hat to keep my hair out of my face, and this weekend I had a monstrous zit on my head as a result. I showed it to Jennie Simpson, and she said, "Wow, you're right. That thing is HUGE." Trust Jennie not to mince words.

On top of the monstrous zit on my head, my left IT band is screaming discontent. My right foot almost gave out this morning, but that means nothing compared to my left foot: I bruised my heel at some point, and as a result my first 50 or so steps after getting up in the morning are comparable to a pirate hobbling around on a peg leg.

My butt muscles hurt. I had nightmares about running. I'm glad I don't have to do it today, since I did my long run yesterday. I am slow and labored when I run, and two of my toes constantly fall asleep. I have to shake my leg to keep them awake. This makes me look even more like a spastic runner than I actually am, which is already pretty spastic.

When I was ticking off all my ailments to my dad last night, he said, "Well, Morgan, that's what you have to do when you make a goal: go through all the steps to reach it. Once you're done, you can go back to whatever else you want to do instead."

I want to pretend he meant eating ice cream in front of the TV.

But this morning, after a horrible night's sleep where I woke up in pain each time I tried to roll over, I looked down, and there they were: my runner's legs. They look a little longer than a remember them; a little thinner. When I flex, there's no excess flesh on the outside of my thigh. I can even see MUSCLE.

So I will grudgingly admit that running is not ALL bad. However, after this, I think perhaps I should stick to race distances under 10k.

Love and running kisses

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sometimes, it just doesn’t get any better.

It’s the small things that get me. I realize that most people’s best days are the ones that are full of people – weddings, births, engagements, etc., but that’s never really been my style. I realize what that says about me, and I’m okay with it. There are a couple days that I do remember that included my friends and are among my most memorable: the Beyonce video remake in Megan’s living room with too much champagne; sitting and staring into the yawning immenseness of the Grand Canyon with Tara and Amanda, exploring Alaska with Terri, the California road trip with Tara (especially the first night in the hotel in Eugene). The times that stick out most for me, though, with the best feeling attached, are the ones where I am alone.
Right now, for instance. The fire is going out and I can hear the rain on the roof – it’s been coming down all day. I’m not usually a fan of rain, but it’s different in the mountains, when it’s not a normal occurrence. I’ve noticed that the pine needles take on a lighter hue – the color of sage – when they’re covered in raindrops. With the window open I can smell the pines, a faint tinge of smoke, and wet earth. I am not doing anything very important, simply sitting, working on what I want to work on, perusing the internet for information about writing, publishing, cookbooks and my friends. It’s heaven.
There are two other moments like this that have stopped to give me pause. One was on a German mountaintop where I spent the summer. I walked to the summit one early morning from the hut where I worked, and looked down on the clouds that covered the valley floor. The peaks were all snow-capped around me and the sun shone brightly, and I was only one of very few people who could see it, up here among the chamois and above the tree line. I sat, dangling my feet over oblivion, and just stared, a silly grin on my face.
The other time was coming up from a night dive on the Great Barrier Reef. I had snorkeled and dove during the day and the colors were amazing. The night dive was scary and I couldn’t get over the sound of my own breathing in my ears. I ran low on air early, and the dive master sent me to the surface. I should have been disappointed, but as I slowly emerged from the dark, I saw a huge golden orb above me, and found myself staring straight into the moon as it rose above the horizon. There was a sailboat in front of it, its skeletal outline glistening in the moonlight, and the water was warm and comforting around me. I realized that I was the luckiest person in the world, because I was here, and now, and there was no other place or time like this on earth that I would experience in quite this way again.
It’s easy to forget what a wonder life can be. We slog through our daily tasks, worried about our jobs, our friends, our families, our lives, what we don’t have, what we have too much of, and we forget. Sometimes the days run together and we don’t remember what brought us here in the first place, why we made the choices we did, why we haven’t made different plans. But sometimes – and unfortunately it’s just sometimes – all that other crap falls away and we can just sit, stark naked in ourselves, and remember what a wonder life can be. It’s at those moments that we realize that we have it all, and it doesn’t need to get any better.

Love and best kisses

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Life Changes, and I Need to Let It

There are a couple things that I know for certain: life is what you make of it, and nothing in life is certain.

In the rush of weddings, pregnancies, births and deaths that make up life, especially in your late twenties, there are few things that you can take for granted. I consider myself to be a sentimental type, so even the changing of the décor in my favorite restaurant is enough to make me wistful for the good old days. Some of the more major life changes have a deep impact on me, and I can’t seem to stop thinking about them.

Regardless of the fact that I am less sentimental about material things and purge my closet and possession list with every move – and there are many moves in my life – I am nevertheless not a fan of change. I appreciate where I am in my life, and what I am able to do with my friends: girls’ weekends away almost every weekend, drinking until the wee hours of the morning and not having to worry about making it home if there’s no one to drive; generally easy-to-deal-with responsibilities that can wait and don’t need to ever be addressed immediately. When my friends started getting dogs I thought they were crazy; when they started getting married I wondered just what exactly the world was coming to; when they started talking about babies I had an almost uncontrollable urge to leave town and not come back until retirement.

It is not necessarily a fear of commitment that I think I’m facing. It is more a fear of being tied down to a life that will get messy at times and may not always be good. I love where I am in life, and it seems strange to me that others might want to limit these moments of freedom, camping trips and bliss for the sake of dirty diapers, parent-teacher conferences and mortgage payments.

Thankfully, I don’t suffer from the same pressures as other people. Few people ask me when I’m going to settle down, when I’m going to have babies, what exactly I’m doing with my life. The reason for this, I think, is twofold: 1) my parents are not the type to ask for grandbabies when it is obvious nothing is further from my mind, and 2) I have been avoiding that lifestyle for so long it has become ridiculous to ask it of me.

The problem is that, regardless of what I am and what I enjoy, I am not everyone. Others want the companionship that comes with live-in relationships; of expanding love and family, of making a mark in the world that will last longer than themselves. They want children that will fill the house with laughter, who will grow into new people that they can relate to and be a part of them. These are normal wants and needs; regardless, I don’t seem to want or need them, at least not at present. I am perhaps a late bloomer; perhaps in that respect I will not bloom at all.

I don't resent the changes that my friends are making to their lives, but part of me is sensing a branching path. I see them heading in one direction, to their families and homes. Then I see me: on Robert Frost's road less traveled, tromping through the bushes, pushing branches out of my way and wondering if I'm still on the path at all. It's where I want to be, but it's hard making your own path sometimes.
After thinking about this in depth for quite awhile, I began to wonder what it was I was actually worried about. Well, I thought to myself, I am worried that the next step in my life won’t be as gratifying as this one is. Then I started to think about other parts of my life: worrying about the same thing during my last recess of elementary school, the last day of high school, the last summer of college when all my friends had already graduated; the last days of any long-term trip I have ever been on. With each step, I feared the future. With each step, I feared the idea of change, and of not enjoying the next phase. With each step, I moved forward tentatively. When I thought about it, however, I realized that I have enjoyed each step even more than the last one. Each adventure is even better than the last, not the reverse as I have always feared. Each day is its own best day, with all its trials and tribulations, adventures and laughter.

So life will change. It's okay. I can let it. My friends can head toward their dreams and I can head toward mine. Even though we may not be on the same paths, we'll at least be within yelling distance. And even though it won't always be the same, each day will bring more adventure, more to enjoy, and more to love.

Love and life-changing kisses

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

They Say Running Is Good for You

I hate running. I don’t hate it in the way that you hate your least favorite food, or your least favorite person. Instead, I hate running the way you hate things that you know are good for you, like communicating and eating your vegetables. They’re the things that you bring yourself to do with more than a little chiding from your conscience – who sounds strangely like a 1950’s housewife of a mother – that eventually make you feel better about who you are and where you sit in the world.
It’s the second week of half-marathon training. This is the second time I’ve trained for a half-marathon this year; the first time I got to within two weeks of the race and had to admit defeat. My muscles didn’t give out on me, but my organs did. I picked up something in Mexico that made it impossible for me to absorb nutrients, and I wasn’t doing myself any favors by trying to keep exercising. Instead, my running got slower and slower, until I couldn’t even run four miles anymore when I should have been running 12.
I would much rather open my eyes in the morning, look at the clock, then go back to sleep. I would much rather decide to eat cake all day long then be able to say conversationally, “I don’t know why, but no matter what I eat I can’t manage to gain weight.” I would much rather not have a mental catalogue of the fat content of food that I refer to when I look at a menu. I would much rather be able to fly, too.
Instead, I get up in the morning, stick my contacts into eyes still blurry with sleep, sigh, and drag myself into running clothes. I take my time messing around with my iPod, finding the playlist I want, then the stopwatch application. I take another sip of water, then give into the 50’s housewife in my head, “Vegetables and exercise are good for us,” she says, her hands on her hips over her apron. My conscience wears pearl earrings and lipstick, even though I hate the taste of lipstick and only wear earrings at weddings. I imagine her standing at the door as I stumble sleepily outside, wagging her finger at me in her cute little heels. “You’ll feel better after this, I promise!”
I am not a great runner. There’s nothing efficient or awe-inspiring about my running. I am incapable of a lot of speed or any amount of grace. Usually my side hurts, or my IT band, or my feet begin to blister. I doubt there’s anyone who has ever passed me on the road and thought to themselves, “Wow, that’s so great. I should start running.” Instead, their thoughts are probably of whether to come back later and see if I’ve expired on the side of the road.
When I finally get out there and get going, though, some part of me is more than glad that I’m there. That part of me separates from my fumbling body and wanders somewhere else. It helps me forget that I’m running, and reminds me that I’m outside, that the air smells like pine and that sun is out, because where I live it always smells of pine and the sun nearly always shines. Even when I get tired and am puffing away uphill, this part of my mind is thinking, “Wow, isn’t this GREAT?” like that one really annoying friend who always sees the bright side when all you want is for them to admit that their meal was burnt or that the dog shit they stepped in is especially stinky. It’s probably little miss housewife that has come along with me, keeping me from stopping half a mile in and turning around to go home.
When I finish my stint, I do feel better. I have more energy, I can focus better, and I always get more done. I find it amazing that I can feel so much better after exercise yet still have to force myself to do it. I wish it wasn’t this way. When I’m feeling optimistic, I am simply grateful that I have a conscience that is standing next to the bed when I wake up, one eyebrow raised, saying, “Well? What’s your excuse today?”
When I’m not feeling optimistic, I point out that her lipstick is smeared and go back to sleep.

Love and running kisses

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Bookstore Gatekeepers

I love bookstores. The very smell of them makes me happy. I walk into one, breathe deeply, and look for the longest aisle to lose myself in. I love the hush that comes over people as they enter a bookstore; as if it’s a library, as if it’s a monastery where you can lose yourself and meditate for awhile on the meaning of life. Well, either you can meditate on it or you can meditate on what others have decided is the meaning of life. There are millions of printed words, and there are so many of them, under so many different categories and titles, that I can spend hours wandering step by step over the carpeted floors, covering next to no ground and reading the backs of so many books that my vision starts to swim before I’m done.
At least, that’s how my bookstore experiences used to be. Now, when I enter a bookstore, I see hundreds, perhaps thousands of books that are not mine. These are authors that defied the odds, defied the disbelief of their friends and family, and managed to get an agent or a publisher to read their work and think it was worth putting in a bookstore. Each of the books I pick up is a challenge to my ego: I could so write something better than this, or oh my goodness, I am not worthy. Imagine if you were a budding musician who walked into a store to buy a new guitar and Santana was standing there twanging away on the very guitar you wanted to hold. When you started to back away, you realized that all the customers in that music store were big names in the industry, and suddenly you felt like a fool even calling yourself a musician. Heck, even the music that you consider dumb and uninteresting is still represented, and your clumsy attempts at harmony are not.
I go back and forth on this. A part of me despairs at the number of titles, authors, very human beings that are in front of me in the publishing line. Even if you don’t consider those people, there are millions of books already out there – why would someone want to read mine that hasn’t yet been published yet?
However, another part of me takes in these bookstores with a glass-half-full optimism. If this fucktard of an author was published, why shouldn’t I be? Sometimes I pick up books, read the back, read the first page and know, without a doubt, that I can entertain better than this person. Maybe not everyone, but what I have to say is much more interesting to the people that I want to interest. That’s the beauty of reading – there’s something out there for everyone. If you have an interest, there’s a book that will address it, and not just one, many! My book, my point of view, while similar to many others out there, is still my intellectual property. No one else can come up with exactly what I can, and in that I have an advantage. Hell, everyone has an advantage, but I have the additional advantage of having written my book already – the biggest step. I have made it past the point of saying, “I always wanted to write a book.” Write book? Check. Big, mother-fucking CHECK. Now comes the Olympic pole vault through the gatekeepers. They can be mean, ugly creatures, but there’s a good reason for them to be there. They’re there so that bookstores, the places I hold sacred, despite my jealousy, can remain sacrosanct. The gatekeepers are there to ensure that you can walk into one and know that you will find good writing, an interesting subject, and, for the most part, a plot that will stand up to scrutiny and characters who will not blink after they’re supposed to be dead. Yes, I am sitting here jobless because of the gatekeepers, but I consider their role as important as the people who write aptitude tests for any life-threatening job. Because really, who wants a nurse who didn’t pass her boards, or an architect who doesn’t know how to design a building that will stand? No one. Would bookstores be the same places if just anyone were allowed to sell their work there? No. Which will make it even sweeter when I can walk into one and find my book sitting on one of its shelves, full of words and smelling sweetly of success.

Love and bookstore kisses

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'm No Good At This.

Don’t get mad at me. I’m bad at this, at this whole asking for help thing, and admitting when I am not a super human. I hate being sick. I hate that I am sick more than most people I know. I hate that pain attaches itself to me like a sticky sap on your hands as you’re trying to climb a tree for a better view of the world around you.
I am in pain. The doctor said it wasn't gall stones, but they don't know what it is, and the medicines aren't making it better. It hurts so badly that I can’t sleep, I don’t want to eat because it makes it worse, and I can’t find something to do to distract myself, save swallow a narcotic and drift away into oblivion for a couple hours. I can’t seem to find the off switch – the one they tell me I have, that will transform the anxiety that turns itself into physical symptoms into something that I can expel like bad breath into the room and watch its escape toward the sky. I want to try, but nothing seems to free it and after years of looking for the answers, I am out of the questions to ask to lead me there.
I am frustrated. I am angry. I don’t feel like I have the right to behave the way I do. I want to tell everyone how badly I feel, but when the words are sitting on my tongue I swallow them; I am disgusted by their taste and can’t bring myself to spit them out to dismay others. I want to be free of this, this unending assault upon my body. I want my soul to house itself in something less creaky, less susceptible to illness, less relenting, less angry.
I can’t ask for help because I don’t know what help I need. I can’t ask for someone to hold me, because I’m not sure it will take away the pain. I can’t ask for anything…because I don’t know what to ask for. I don’t want your pity, I want your pain, balled up like mine, biting into your hand as you clench your fists so that your nails leave half moon imprints in the fleshy part of your palm.
Instead of trying to be calm I should be screaming. I should be wailing my frustration and anguish into the night, at the stars, at the sounds of the jets passing overhead. I want my emotions to cause turbulence, the sound creating ripples that cannot be explained and causing someone to start awake, the nightmare they can’t remember fading away too quickly to register my face.
I am like a bear that has been baited. I am bleeding and frustrated, unable to reach the objects that are torturing me; they dance out of reach. Each frustrated movement drains me. If I were calmer I would simply sit, slow my breathing, and bend my arm to stop the copper river from spilling from my veins, but I am past that. I am somewhere I have been before, yet I never remember how to get back. I am unable to see what it is that is showing me the way; it is in shadow, far ahead, flitting effortlessly through the air as I lumber along, exhausted, head hung, limping, confused.

Love and painful kisses

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Riverfloat

Thirty-one years ago, my parents, newly married, decided to see if they could get a bunch of their friends together to camp in a cow pasture with no shade and float down the river a couple times that weekend. I don’t know how many people came to that first Riverfloat, but apparently enough, because they decided to do it again the next year.
Over the years more and more people came, bringing friends and tents and roasting in the lack of shade next to a bunch of munching cows on a friend’s property. Steve Creed brought a silk screen, and for a couple bucks you could have the year’s logo screened onto just about anything you owned. My memory of these years is a distinct feeling of abandonment; kids weren’t allowed and I was farmed out to friends so my parents could relax in peace.
On “Lucky 13” kids were finally allowed to come, and suddenly not so many other people showed up. I can’t say I blame them, now. At the time, I was too excited paddling much too ferociously to notice that there were fewer people than normal. The Riverfloat was new to me, and I was determined to be as far away from the rocks as possible.
There was one year when only nine people came to the Riverfloat. That was when I was about 13, I think. I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it was my family, Amanda (Fenton) Zuluaga, Scotty Byquist, Laurie Davidson, and maybe Jerry and Kyle Jaynes. That was the year that the current ebbed, and the next year the tide started coming in again.
This year – tomorrow – I’m expecting about 100 people. It amazes me that it has morphed into something of this size, on some level, but on another level I can’t really be surprised. Most people come to the Riverfloat not knowing what to expect and are flabbergasted when they realize how fun it is. There are a ton of people, all smelling of campfire and river water, all swimming off their hangovers in the river in the morning, all in the 60+ boats beside you as you spend all day in the sun on a raft. There’s cliff-jumping, water fights, rapids, slow spots, drinking, eating, and so many memories that it’s hard to keep track of all of them anymore.
One year, Kyle and I floated on a Friday by ourselves and decided it would be a great idea to steal chairs off someone’s property on the way down. After a puny set of rapids, we realized that the chairs had torn the bottom out of the boat and we were in our own little swimming pool with really deep deep end. We ended up having to hitchhike back to camp. Another year, Casey Lewis was singing about how hot his friend was and skipping to the bathroom when he ran smack into a tree. Yet another time, Jim Simpson rode the entire length of the float on a pirate raft in a lawn chair with his pants around his ankles, while Brandon Peters steered for him.
It’s a little different from when it first started. We’re now at a different location, with shade, a screened in commercial kitchen, and a better swimming hole. There’s now a website, a Facebook group, kegs provided and T-shirts to buy. These things may be different, but the fundamental part of the Riverfloat hasn’t changed.
If there’s anything you can expect at the Riverfloat, it’s to have some fun. The new group of hardcore floaters talk about it all year round, planning their potluck dishes months in advance and starting the countdown the Monday after it ends. The great part is that the build-up is never anti-climatic; since the Riverfloat is always about fun and relaxation, you’re going to get exactly what you came for.

Love and floating kisses,

Thursday, July 23, 2009

When PMS is a Laughing Matter

WARNING: If you only read the first part of this blog, you will never want to go near me again. If you’re going to start it, please just indulge me and read all the way to the end.

She wandered quietly through the forest, humming to herself. Every now and then she skipped merrily with joy and laughed out loud for no good reason at all, just because she could. Little did Little Red Riding Hood know, someone was watching who was not so amused.
An hour later, when she emerged from the woods, her hood in tatters and deep scratches across her face that barely missed her eyes, the poor girl swore she had seen a wolf. Why, asked the kindly pudgy official? Why, because there were fangs, and teeth, and growling, and a very large – water filled, almost like it was bloated – body.
The official – we will call him Mr. Man – looked at the girl for a moment, then glanced at the calendar. [Camera focuses in on the date. It is circled in red and there is a full moon. Suddenly those really cliché three notes present in every horror movie are played: DUM DUM DUUUUUUUM.]
Mr. Man takes the little girl by the hand and leads her to another room, where he dresses her wounds and gives her a lollipop. He assigns one of his deputies to take her to her grandmother’s house, and on their merrily way they go.
Then Mr. Man picks up the phone and calls his own house. The phone rings and rings and rings…until suddenly something picks it up, snarls, and there is the sound of glass breaking as the phone is hurled across the room, through the window with the lace curtains, and out into the street. There is the sound of a truck braking, then a dial tone. Mr. Man replaces the receiver, mops his forehead, swallows numerous times, and tries not to cry. It’s true: PMS is back.
Mr. Man picks up the phone and dials a different number.
“Hello, Chinese takeout? I’d like to order one of all of your combos for delivery…yes, all 20…no, just leave them at the front door…don’t knock.”

Once, in college, I spent an entire walk home from class thinking about how exactly to warn my roommates that I was likely to tear their heads off if they so much as sneezed in my presence. In my note on the white board, I imagined, I would write something like, “Dearest Friends: I am not feeling my best today. Should I rip your head off just to watch the blood spurt from your neck, please just pick it up silently and back away slowly. Sincerely, your loving roommate.”

I had a boyfriend who told me that his ex was capable of tearing bumpers off of cars when she was under the dreaded influence of the PMS Monster. At the time I thought this was very unfair and insensitive of him…until about two weeks later when I, too, found myself ripping the bumpers off of cars in the dead of night just so I could cut my teeth on the metal.

I was at a comedy show in New York where a comic admitted that he knew when his girlfriend was under the influence of PMS because he would find her feeding on a deer carcass in the corner like a Velociraptor.

We can say that this is the stuff of legends, and that women don’t actually suffer from the symptoms of PMS. We can insist that it is a myth, like so many other myths, like the centaur or the biological clock or whatever. Say what you wish, but I am here to tell you that some of us – some women that you know – sometimes want to fucking kill you.

I am not aiming that statement at men, because it is not just men that I want to kill. Sometimes, I want to kill anything that wants to make noise/emit odor, good or bad/exist in my presence. Sometimes an automated email with words of encouragement will set me off; sometimes the absence of correspondence from friends will do it. Sometimes, there’s no actual reason; I just want to tear something apart.

Much like Sirius in Harry Potter (cause hey, who doesn’t have Harry Potter on the brain this week?) I scurry to hide myself somewhere where I can’t hurt anyone when I feel PMS coming on. I wall myself up in a room filled with whatever my heart desires – sappy romance movies, the Terminator films, Scarface and stuffed animals – and take turns laughing maniacally or crying inconsolably over absolutely nothing at all.

I’m going to admit something here: I’m a feminist (as if anyone might have wondered, but there it is). I believe in equal rights for men and women. I believe that we are all created equal, but I do not believe that we are the same beasts as men. Men have their own set of issues that I frequently complain about, make fun of and generally demean. If you need a dose of that side of me, feel free to ask and I’ll come up with something funny and frightening for that subject, too. For now, though, I am going to turn the tables myself and let everyone know that PMS is not a myth, people, and it’s not something to treat lightly, either. At the same time, it’s part of anyone’s life – anyone who has to deal with women on a fairly regular basis, anyway – and therefore it should be made fun of. Contradiction in terms? Of course! Who isn’t? All I’m saying here is that sometimes the only release you can get from anger is laughter. And while I may have started this blog about to tear something apart, I am now reading back over it and chuckling to myself. Such is the power of laughter; it can be as healing as the power of prayer to a true believer.

I know a lot of people that are going through a lot more than I am at the moment. My life is blissfully simple, and exactly as I designed it: I write, I read about writing, I read to write better, I go swimming in a freezing cold river, and I weed the garden in the evenings to unwind. For some reason, even that perfection doesn’t always make me happy. Some days I wake up a little angry, or cranky, or restless. Somehow, though, if I can make myself laugh it makes me feel better. I realize that there are all sorts of scientific reasons for this, but for now I’m going to forgo all those and just say that it’s hard to laugh when you don’t think something’s funny. On the flip side, it’s hard to be angry when you’re laughing.

When I worked for a newspaper in Mexico, I used to send out funny emails to all my friends about all the stuff that was happening to me. At the same time, I sent serious reports where I poured my heart out to the director of the program back in the States. If you had only ever read those mass emails, you never would have known how unhappy I was working at the newspaper, something that the director himself pointed out to me, since he received both. The funny thing was that I never felt near as miserable after I wrote one of those emails, or read one back to myself. I think perhaps that should have been my clue that writing was my release and that I need it to feel better, whether it’s through making others laugh at my expense (or with me, if you prefer I state it that way) or by pouring my feelings into these strange characters laid down on a blank surface. The point is, writing has become a lot more to me than just a means to an end: it is simply the means to survive.

I have been reading a book on writing by one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood. In the introduction, she gives a page and a half of reasons that writers have given for writing, everything from putting shoes on their children’s feet to “showing the bastards,” whoever they may be. The one that holds truest for me, of all these reasons, as ridiculous as it sounds, is “Because I knew I had to keep writing or else I would die.” I’m not sure the writer who thought this meant it in the literal sense (pun intended here, I suppose) but I mean it in more of the symbolic or spiritual sense: without my writing, be it to myself or to someone else, my soul would wither into a crispy leaf that is found half rotten under the melted snow in spring.

Some part of me has to remember not to take life so seriously, and the easiest way for me to do so is to make fun of my most serious emotions. Every stage of life is fleeting; are emotions not the same? If we could simply laugh off all those really serious moments, would they cease to matter so much? I can’t say I’ve proven it yet, but that’s what I’m aiming for. So thank you for indulging me, dear reader, and letting me try to make you laugh as I ease myself off the ledge of self-importance.
And yes, maybe I am saying that the cure to PMS is laughter. Just be sure to deliver the joke from across the room, with an escape route in mind.

Love and PMS kisses

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Aunt, the 83-Year-Old Bride

I went to a wedding last weekend where the bride was 83 and the groom was 87.
The bride is my great-aunt, and she’s always been full of life and easy to laugh. When my dad told me that she was getting married, I assessed the 3-hour drive to Yakima, and decided that if I were to continue to call myself a romantic, I had to go.
Lev and Lorraine knew each other growing up in Cowiche. For anyone who doesn’t know – and that’s going to be nearly everyone -- Cowiche is a small farming community west of Yakima, with only a small grocery store, a high school and a gas station. It’s its own little valley full of orchards and a little bit of wheat, with mostly humble homes and at least two churches. On Saturday was more than 90 degrees and the sagebrush is snarled into the rocks in any area that hasn’t been cultivated for farming. It was dry and dusty, and small enough that I wasn’t sure if it could have been any smaller when my grandparents grew up there.
Despite all this, I was charmed as we drove into town. It could have been because I was recognizing a place where my grandparents grew up and that my grandfather hasn’t been back to for probably more than 20 years. It could have been that I recognized a lifestyle that I’ve come to appreciate more and more, and it could be because it was a beautiful sunny day and two people far past the age that many people live were pledging love to each other for the rest of their lives.
My grandmother and her sister both moved out of Cowiche and made their lives somewhere else. Lorraine has three children, all of whom made it to her third wedding. She became reacquainted with Lev five years ago at a Cowiche High School class reunion, and they’ve been dating ever since.
Lev’s wife had cancer and died in their 53rd year of marriage.ten years prior. Now he can say he’s been married three days. Lev’s children came, and many of his grandchildren made it with their children. I marveled at the idea that his great-grandchildren will have memories of their great-grandfather, and some of the oldest ones would remember being at his wedding.
Many people asked why someone would remarry this late in life, and I didn’t really have an answer until that day. For practical purposes, they married because they were “tired of living in sin,” as my aunt called it. But that isn’t the whole answer. No one whose face lit up as much as hers did could have had sin on the mind as she stood there. She pulled me into a hug when I arrived, then whispered, her eyes twinkling, “I can’t believe I got such a handsome man to marry me.” I knew I would see it and that’s why I went, but the wedding reminded me that it’s never too late for love, for a second or third chance, for the chance of a lifetime to be with someone you love.
Lorraine has made it full-circle: she started her life in a small farm town and had ended up there, 83 years later. She has lived, loved, and laughed. After a lifetime of seeing and doing so many things, she is still not ready to give up and sink into old age.
I think too often it’s easy to think that life ends at a certain point, or that you will figure everything out and live happily ever after. Part of me is glad this isn’t the case, because it would be mean that you just get to put on the cruise control and stop paying so much attention. Lorraine has reminded me that there’s never a reason to rely on the cruise control, and that the view is better with the top down and the wind blowing in your hair, even when that hair is gray.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Maybe It's Time to Face Reality

Maybe it’s time to face reality. Maybe it’s time to take a good, honest look at my life and come to some conclusions about myself. Maybe, based off of these conclusions, I should make some decisions and just go with it.
No, this does not mean that I am going to admit that maybe I’m not cut out to be a writer. It doesn’t mean that I am admitting that I have been irresponsible or wandered around in a bubble of bliss that will pop the minute I run out of money. It does not mean that I am perhaps not entirely human because I prefer ice-cold river water, wrinkled overworn clothes out of a backpack, and prefer a short bout of Monteczuma’s Revenge to having a mortgage. No, ladies and gentlemen, it means that perhaps it’s time for me to admit that I probably will never, ever, truly settle down.
Settling down means different things to do different people, so let me expand on the definition of this strange thing that I will never do. I will never say, “Gee, I haven’t had that much fun for like, 10 years.” I will never say, “I always wanted to go there, but it was never in the cards.” I will never refuse to go on a trip because there’s no running water. I will never refuse to eat something that looks even remotely tasty, even if I have no clue what it is. I will forgo doing something because I would have to do it by myself.
This settling down thing isn’t all bad, and to be honest, there are some things that I may never do on this path that I would kind of like to do. I will probably never own a new car, unless I win one. I will probably never be able to travel first class. I will probably never live more than a couple years in one place without it involving a super long hiatus to a foreign country. I will probably never have kids. I may never be able to find someone who wants to share all of this with me.
The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that my destiny is something I’ve been fighting for a long time. I keep expecting myself to get to the point where I want to live in one house with a mortgage and a job that would pay it; to wake up one day and hear my biological clock ticking; to want to commit myself to something and STAY committed to it. But what if I never do? What if I’m 45 years old and find that I am still single, still without a full-time (as opposed to a borrowed) pet of my own because I don’t know how long I’ll be here, still without children, and still planning long-ass trips all over the world?
As I said last week, I can’t guarantee that someday my feelings will be different. But today, right now, this moment, on 7/8/09, I can look that future straight on and be okay with it.
In the past I’ve tried to shape my future to something normal. I’ve tried to be in jobs that will get me on a career path with two weeks of vacation a year, that make me enough money I could potentially save for a house, looked for people to date in similar situations with similar goals. Where has this sort of searching gotten me? Back at the same place I always find myself: with money, a schedule, a social life, a boyfriend, and most likely completely miserable. One guy I dated said to me, “Well once we got married you would stop traveling, right?” I didn’t even think twice about it. I didn’t think about what he meant to me, how much I loved him, how this might actually be a normal idea. I just opened my mouth and said what my entire being was shouting: NO.
So maybe it’s time I try to shape my future to me. Maybe it’s time to let go of this idea that perhaps one day I’ll finally “grow up” and admit that “settling down” may not be in the cards for me. Maybe I need to be okay with the fact that I may be that cool aunt that brings back trinkets from foreign places; that some people will envy my freedom but would never actually want my solitude, and that maybe, just maybe, I like it that way.

Love and realistic kisses

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lake Chelan, the ex

When I tell people that I grew up in Lake Chelan, nine times out of ten they say, “Oh, really? I didn’t know people actually lived there year round.”
After this response, I am glad that I didn’t lead with “I’m from Manson,” because most of these people don’t know where that is – even if they’ve stayed at Wapato Point or been to the casino.
But it’s okay – these people are not, obviously, from the Chelan Valley. They do not know the best park to swim at with the least amount of people (and I’m not going to tell them), that there are actually houses way out in Manson past the single main street, and they have no idea how fun it is to drive along Rocky Point after Labor Day when you can go the speed limit.
It’s not their fault, any more than it’s my fault that I had to learn how to give directions by street names instead of landmarks. Telling someone to take a left at the house with the chickens just doesn’t seem to get you places in Seattle, strangely enough.
The Valley is very different from when I grew up there. I want to blame it on the tourists; the fully-fledged wine industry that was just hatching when I left; the people who pulled out their orchards to sell their land for more than they could make growing fruit. I want to blame it all on someone else, but I can’t. The truth is that every time I go back to Manson, I don’t quite feel like I fit, and it’s my own fault.
On Memorial Day Weekend I walked into Manson Bay Market and was told by a cashier that I didn’t know that I could buy a container larger than a quart of milk for the same price. I answered without thinking that something bigger than a quart of milk wouldn’t fit in my parents’ motor home refrigerator. I instantly wanted to take it back. I wanted to explain, in ever-growing detail with an ever-growing line of impatient people behind me, that my family had had a timeshare at the Mill Bay trailer park for years, and that we were locals but it had always been our affordable waterfront. I wanted to, but instead I sighed, paid for my quart of milk, and left. Yesterday I went to visit my aunt and uncle, who are staying on the south shore in a rented house for the Fourth of July weekend. The whole time I was there I felt like I had betrayed someone, like I was cheating on the Valley that I knew, hanging out at a tourist rental when I could have been at a public park or on someone’s lawn who lived there year-round. Instead, I have perhaps become a tourist in my hometown, because I no longer feel truly at home there.
Each time I go back to the Valley I feel like you would about an ex-boyfriend. You see him, he looks great, your stomach does a flip, and even though you remember all those great reasons you had for breaking up, you can only seem to focus on why you should have stayed together. The longer you’re in his presence, the better a time you have, the more nostalgic you feel for what you once had. You no longer take each moment for granted like you did when you were together, because you know it is going to end after this one chance encounter. That idea packs the moment with bittersweet memories, feelings, emotions, and you are wistful, because you know you can never have it again. It at once makes you feel like you want to stretch out the moment forever, or end it quickly to get past the pain.
I don’t want to say that I could never live in the Chelan Valley again, because I have learned that things change in ways that are unexpected and there’s no telling where I will be or what I’ll be doing in the future. Emotions pass with the seasons, and eventually Chelan may seem like a whole new person to me, with only traces of the good parts I liked about that first boyfriend. At the moment, however, the breakup is still too fresh for my liking. I can’t imagine making a new life in a place so infused with my past.

Love and nostalgic kisses

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Everyone is Different

Everyone is different.
Yes, thank you, Captain Obvious.
No, really. Everyone is different.

Everyone is different.

It may seem like a strange thing to say over and over again, yet over and over again I have to say it to myself. It isn’t so much a mantra so that I’ll leave others to their own lives that are different from mine; it is more a mantra to remind myself that it is my life to do with what I wish.
I have been pondering this point a lot lately, for a number of reasons. Firstly, many of my friends have started getting invitations to their 10-year high school reunions. Whether we want to admit it or not, we want to make a good impression on people who used to know us. As a result, a life that has seemed satisfactory could suddenly look dull when facing the threat of scrutiny. To some extent, everyone dreads former classmates who look down on you because your measure of success does not meet their standard.
I was joking with a friend today about starting a company that supplied “spouses” for reunions: someone that you could write a back story with, who would make you look like you had a successful life; someone who would help you impress those people that you hardly know anymore.
There’s just one problem with that, and it’s a glaring one: it’s not you.
Making a good impression is great and all, but eventually that great impression fades into the everyday impression you give. This isn’t to say that you can’t constantly give a good impression, but no one is perfect all the time.
I’ve actually given up on trying to be. I’m more likely to speak my mind than I used to be; I’m more likely to say something unpopular if I feel like saying it, instead of holding my tongue for the sake of appearances. I’ve realized that you have to accept people for who they are, every single freaking part of them, not just the good parts. This has kind of run over into the pictures I’m tagged in on Facebook. Even when I look at a picture someone else posts of me and I know I look like absolute crap, or fat, or ugly, I won’t let myself remove the tag. This is because I am not just a person in a picture. If I looked like that in one brief moment that was caught on camera, then I have probably looked like that more than once, or every day for that matter. The people who see those pictures just saw me in an every day moment, when I wasn’t sucking in, when I was concentrating and my tongue was sticking out in a very awkward and unflattering way, when my lips and teeth are tinged red from the wine I’ve been drinking.
As unflattering as it may be, it’s me. I’m not only those moments when I say and do the right thing and impress the right people. I’m also me when I vomit all over myself at a company Christmas party. I’m me when I tell you you’re wrong but you’re right; and, unfortunately, I’m me when I sing horribly, off-pitch and too loudly.
Just as I have come to accept me for being me, bitchy and imperfect as I am, I am also trying to do the same for others around me. Unconditional love is loving someone and their faults, not in spite of them. I think my biggest accomplishment in this area is being able to truly be happy for people who are getting what they want, even if their idea of bliss sounds like hell on earth to me. I can’t do it all the time to everyone – I’m not perfect, remember? – but I no longer feel the streaks of jealousy or condemnation that I used to feel when someone told me that their newest boyfriend is just perfect for them despite the fact that he has never left the state, or that they just booked a trip to Nebraska for their honeymoon. This doesn’t mean that I’m not without my opinion on these matters, but I at least can recognize happiness when I see it and not get in its way. Everyone’s idea of bliss is different. It’s better that way.
Another reason for my new mantra is, of course, that I am not following the normal path, and it’s getting more and more apparent. It kind of made me feel like an outsider when my friends started marrying or holding steady jobs and I didn’t, but I got over it. It feels like a bigger deal now that they’re starting to talk about children; that they have houses; that they’ve been in the same jobs for long enough they’ve been promoted multiple times. Basically, they’re settling down, right when I’m starting from scratch. It’s not that I want their lives, but I do feel the differences between their realities and mine becoming more and more apparent.
But it’s okay. Everyone is different. I have known that for a long time in specific aspects of my life: not everyone loses the same amount of weight on the same diet; not everyone gets spiritual bliss from the same religion; not everyone thinks swimming in ice-cold glacier-fed lakes is the best form of exercise on earth. But really, the beauty of it all is that we are all different in nearly every way. This is why we aren’t all clamoring to marry the same man; why they don’t constantly have a shortage on dark chocolate Lindt truffles (my favorite, so you’re gonna lose if there’s one bag left and it’s you or me) or why you don’t have to book years in advance for flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. Not everyone wants the same thing. We are not all built in the same way. Everyone is different.
I just heard an interview with Woody Allen, and I think he put it best.
“What kind of life would you have if you made your decisions based on the outside world and not what your inner dictates told you?” he asked, before answering his own question, “You would have a very inauthentic life.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Restless Panic

All day I’ve been facing a panic that has been hard to hold down, yet it has paralyzed me. I realized that I began thinking about how easy it could be; how easy life could be if I just let go of this dream and rejoin the rest of the working world. After getting the job – the hard part, nowadays – I would simply step back into the harness and make money for someone else. While I did this, however, I would be promised a paycheck; a chance to grow my savings account instead of depending on it. I could start thinking about vacations, buying property, houses, expensive foods, visiting friends, retirement accounts. All of these ideas are bubbling just below the surface every day. It doesn’t help that my parents have started making small, probably benign comments that plopping into this stew and causing it to bubble more insistently. Did I want to write for the local paper? Have I thought about applying to do this, or that? While I dismiss their questions, I can’t quite get rid of the thought of them. It doesn’t help when I’m having a low day and I can’t control my jealousy toward the cat; he stayed in bed when I got up and only moved to eat and poop all day long.
When people told me that this year would be hard, I nodded my head solemnly without understanding what exactly they were referring to. The truth of the matter is that the hard part is getting up and doing the work day after day. The hard part is not knowing if your plans will ever pay off, but going ahead with them anyway. The hard part is not taking that nap when you want one, and pushing down the thought that you can do it if you really want to, because there’s no one to answer to but yourself. The hard part is believing in yourself. At the same time, the hard part is knowing when you can’t do any more and it’s time to stop for the day, the week, or the month.
Can I do this? Well, I’ve been doing this, so apparently I can. Do I want to do this? The answer is a resounding yes. What’s the real problem then? I am afraid. I am afraid that I will wake up one day and know that I can’t try to write anymore. I am afraid that one day I will realize that this isn’t going to get me anywhere that I would want to be for a long period of time. More than anything, I am afraid that I will throw in the towel before it’s time and forever regret not pushing myself harder to get what I wanted.
Most of the time I believe that life is what you make of it; that positive thinking will fill in the chinks between the concrete blocks of hard work and steady, slow labor of building a future. Today? Today I am afraid that there is nothing that I can do to alter what has already been laid out for me, and that at the end of my life I will repeat the same monotone sentences that I have heard before: “I could have been more, if only I had tried.”
Tomorrow will most likely be different. The sun will shine, the air will smell sweetly of pine, and I will know that I can do whatever I want, if I only put my mind to it. Tomorrow, I will feel better. Today, I am restless while I wait for tomorrow to come.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Creativity's Best Work

Creativity looks up at me and smiles. She moves out of the way, and I sit down in her place and stare at the computer screen. Almost immediately, my eyes start to well up. She moves away, embarrassed to see me cry, but smug nonetheless.
These are the moments when I know just how great she can be. Sometimes her work is funny, sometimes soulful, sometimes downright lewd. When she’s really done it, though, the subject matter doesn’t, well, matter. At those times, something more than tears wells up inside me, and I can see the future as it could be – I can see her talent taking her to the stars and beyond, with me following in her wake. In these visions, I am but a trusting puppy with large feet that I trip over, smiling simple-mindedly while I let her shine in the spotlight. The visions aren’t exactly the truth, however. The truth is that I would be the one in the spotlight, I would be the one taking all the credit, even if in reality I don’t really feel like I deserve it. I prefer to think that I am merely a chaperone until Creativity is old enough to surpass me in her brilliance and shine like the star that she is. Once that point is reached, she won’t need me anymore, much like a daughter gets her drivers license and no longer needs her mother to cart her around. She may still prefer that I drive on the long roadtrips, but for the most part she is self-sufficient and she is simply obliging me by sometimes letting me tag along as she zooms all over existence, honking the horn at people to get out of her way.
As much as I may not agree or think it’s unfair, the truth is that Creativity will always be dependent on me. I am the one who will carry her along; whether she needs me or not I am the face that will represent her work. Sometimes I don’t think I’m up to the task, but then Creativity makes me cry with her inventions, and I vow I won’t be the one who holds her back.

Love and best work kisses


A friend of mine's father is losing a battle with cancer. Reasonably enough, this has gotten me thinking about death more than usual. I wrote the post below after watching a woman with cancer die, and decided to re-post it instead of writing something new. My thoughts are with Katie and her family.

Last night I watched a woman take her last breath and die.

I had met Bonnie once, and it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. She was only 57, a principal who had just started at a new school, she had a newly married son, her husband was closing a deal at work that would have brought them money at home.

A month ago, Bonnie was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer whose carriers number less than 50 worldwide. It grew quickly on the hypatic artery that fed her liver, displacing her inner organs and causing her to lose her appetite. Her mother learned she was terminally ill two days before she died.

Bonnie was the older sister of my mother’s oldest friend; their house was her second home growing up. As we sat in the hospital room with Bonnie, slack-jawed and in a coma, her breath coming suddenly like someone gasping for air, my mother began to tell stories to Brenda, Bonnie’s sister.

“Bonnie saved me once. I spilled nail polish all over the carpet in one of the bedrooms, and she told you mom that she did it. Lucy was so mad.”

Over and over, again and again, little bits of information about this woman leaked into the room. She has a son working in L.A. for a billionaire. She did the yard work at their house, because her husband hated it. She cooked standing on one leg, the other foot resting comfortably on the inside of her knee. She wanted her ashes mixed with the ashes of her cat, Fred the Fat, whose frame had been so large when they got him that her 8-year-old son had to use both arms and carry him like a big stack of firewood.

These memories are what it came down to. Bonnie’s life had been full and she was loved. She had touched many lives as a principal, teacher, sister, mother and wife. In the end, though, what really touched me, sitting at her feet, was that her outreach had been small, infinitely small, and made monumental differences.

I had never watched someone’s last moments before. Bonnie’s breath slowly slackened, her color turned gray, her limbs grew cold, and slowly, slowly, she stopped breathing as regularly. When she stopped, I kept expecting to see her chest rise again, because it’s something you expect but don’t notice: breath. In. Out. In. Out. I realized that I had stopped seeing it, but kept believing it was there, like a mirage of life, a last defense mechanism against the inevitable.

I barely knew this woman, yet I cried the hardest when she died. I cried in fear of what was to come: for the other people whose deathbeds I would see, the friends I would lose too early, the relationships that would be taken away from me before I was ready, because you’re never ready. I cried at the thought that one day it would be me lying there, slowly drifting away, my loved ones wishing me the best but begging me not to go. I cried because I felt death cheats us all, because there is no escape. I cried because this is supposed to be normal, but death has never felt normal to me.

Then, inevitably, I couldn’t focus on death anymore. It is hardwired into our lives to want to live, to go on, to pretend that we will be young and vibrant forever. I didn’t want to fight my new focus, my new train of thought that washed over me like a cleansing wave. Death is to remind us what life is all about; what’s really important; what shouldn’t be taken for granted. I suddenly had a clear picture of what I wanted to accomplish before I made it to this bed, and realized that I was the only one in my way. I woke up the next morning not weighed down by Bonnie’s death, rather invigorated by her life.

Perhaps that is why the sun seems so much brighter today.

Love and mortal kisses

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Top 10 Lessons Learned from Memorial Day in Manson

10) No matter what your plans are, it’s always a good idea to leave an extra car at Cappy’s.

09) The best and most instantaneous hangover cure is to jump in the glacier-fed lake.

08) Recovery from a weekend in Manson will take at least twice as long as it should

07) Your top for the bar should be a similar shape to the swimsuit you got the sunburn in

06) Your top for the bar should be something you don’t mind wearing to breakfast the next morning

05) A paper cut could become a life-threatening emergency if you’ve had so much to drink that your blood won’t clot anymore

04) Always bring a hair tie

03) Multiple days of heavy drinking may turn you into someone you don’t recognize and wouldn’t invite to a party

02) If you can’t remember it, it’s up to you whether you want to admit that it happened

01) If you can’t remember it, maybe it’s just better that way

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Top 10 Things I Will and Won't Miss About Seattle

Top 10 Things I’ll Miss About Seattle/Westside:

10) Being able to get everything I need within 10 minutes of my house
09) Vietnamese food
08) Japanese food
07) Thai food
06) Cheap and expensive versions of all the above foods
05) Happy hours
04) Trader Joe’s
03) Sweeping views of Rainier, the Olympics and the Cascades
02) Weekly barbecues
01) My friends! ☹

Top 10 Things I WON’T Miss About Seattle/Westside:

10) Spending most of my money on Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese food
09) The drive to the weekly barbecues
08) Rolling down my window on a nice day on the freeway and smelling exhaust instead of nature
07) Traffic
06) Rain
05) Mold in windowsills
04) Soggy grass
03) Shopping
02) SUVs that people use to only to drive the 10 minutes to work
01) Bellevue

Love and Top 10 Kisses

Monday, May 11, 2009

Leaving Seattle

I’m having mixed feelings about leaving Seattle.
Okay, granted, I officially left three months ago when I moved to Camano Island. However, Camano is only an hour and a half away from “the city” and in truth it was so close it was easy to head back on a moment’s whim. I really wasn’t gone. (I also realize that, technically, I was living in Bellevue for the past year, not Seattle, but just go with it, people.)
There are a lot of great things about living in or near a city. I’m sure the longer I’m away from it, the more reasons I will remember, but there are some really obvious ones that I’m already missing: finding everything you need within a couple miles of your house; a multitude of ethnic foods at a multitude of prices; tons of friends your own age with similar interests; and plenty to do. These are the things I will miss.
However, the move away from Seattle has been coming for quite awhile. Some people say they need the sun but manage to live in the shadow of the Cascades without needing more than a weekend or two away. They are, as far as I’m concerned, lucky bastards. I am not happy here. It didn’t matter that friends and family and a beautiful place to live surrounded me. There is nothing as amazing as crossing one of the bridges over Lake Washington on a crystal clear sunny day when you can see the Cascades, the Olympics, Mt. Rainier and even Mt. Baker. The friends I have and made here are what kept me in the area longer than I’ve lived anywhere since college. But it wasn’t enough.
Each day that it was sunny and I was working, my spirits were mired in a puddle that never dried up. It didn’t matter that it was sunny, because I couldn’t enjoy it. It wasn’t sunny enough days outside of the workweek for me to feel okay about sitting inside as the birds sang and the boats hummed on the water. It killed a part of me every day to watch this sunshine and not be in it.
It’s possible I may move back to Seattle at some point, but I really hope not. I hope that what I learned about myself and the rain will stick with me so I don’t make the same choice again. I like myself better when I have a sunglass line across my cheeks, when it’s awkward for me to wear dresses that reveal my farmer’s tan, when I feel like it’s okay to write today while it’s sunny, because tomorrow’s going to be sunny too. Because of Seattle, though, I will never take that sunshine for granted again.

Love and Emerald City kisses

Friday, May 1, 2009

I see you.

It’s the peak of an orgasm. It’s the point of zero gravity at the top of a roller coaster. It’s the butterflies you get in your stomach when you think he likes you, but you’re not sure yet. It’s the first shock of freezing water. It’s the time you’re suspended in the air after you’ve leapt off a 40-foot cliff. It’s the extra long minutes once you’ve begun to spin out of control on a snowy pass, when you’ve had time to say ohshitohshitohfuckohshit more than could actually be possible, considering the fact that it only takes .5 seconds to slide to a stop. It’s the moment when you know your relationship is going to end and you have to say it out loud.
What is it? It’s the edge of living life to the fullest. Those moments of raw emotion that are too painful to touch for longer than a couple seconds, yet you strive to find a way to connect with that power and draw strength from it.
I feel most alive on mountain tops, in glacial waterfalls, when every sense is being stretched beyond my comfort level and part of me wants it to go on and another part can’t stand the electrifying jolt of life: of pure, unfiltered existence.
I get glimpses of it, and it’s not enough. It’s like a drug that I have been searching for my entire life, but I only get fleeting tastes of it mixed in with all the everyday flavors. Some days, I feel it stalking me, waiting for the right moment to pounce, and suddenly I get a tightness in my chest and it’s hard to breathe and I am right on the point of letting the animal consume me, but I can’t figure out how to unleash it and it slinks away, to wait until its next chance to be free. It is not my muse, per se, but the rocket ship that carries my muse to me, and I feel the heat as it burns past me with my muse in tow, screaming in thrill and delight, and I never seem to be able to catch the rocket and hold on tight enough to ride it to pure ecstasy.
I am closer to it than ever before. There is a path that is so full of bliss, so charged with energy, that to follow it is to get dragged behind a speedboat and all you can do is try not to lose your swimsuit bottoms in the process. It is the spark inside that can be stoked to wildfire heights, if only there were enough wood.
It is there, and I will find it, whatever it is. I will keep searching until it pounces on me and I scream, consumed.

Love and searching kisses

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wake up, Creativity.

“Come on, Creativity. Up and at ‘em.”
Nothing but a muffled reply reaches me. I pull the covers off to reveal my own little writing style: young, full of passion, and dead asleep.
“Come on Creativity. It’s almost 11 a.m. I let you sleep in, now let’s get going.”
She groans and throws the pillow over her head.
I sigh and leave the room. I get another cup of coffee, a glass of water and turn on the live stream of NPR. I open up my guide on how to write the best f*ing book proposal in the world (not its actual title, just my name for about four books on the subject I’ve been reading lately) and try to concentrate. I jot down notes that will probably be useless to me according to the next book’s bright ideas. I read a chapter and put the book down. I take a glance toward the room where Creativity is blissfully unaware of how much this sucks without her, and I open up the novel.
I scroll back up through the last chapter and read through it again. I check spelling (when she gets going, Creativity doesn’t even make sure to spell her own name correctly) and try to look at the prose from the eyes of an editor, a reader, anyone but the mother of this darling child who is my pride and joy and the bane of my existence all rolled into one.
It’s pretty damn good.
I decide to try to start the next chapter without her. I crack my knuckles, take a deep breath, and dive into the keyboard like it’s a pool of dreams and all I have to do is plunge in.
I hit concrete.
No problem, I think. I must have just tried to jump into the shallow end. I turn the keyboard sideways, so that the Q, A and Z keys are at the top. I think this is really clever and chuckle to myself. Sometimes it’s just about finding a different way of looking at it. I leap into the role of being a writer, something I have just recently claimed myself to be on my tax return.
“What are you DOING????”
I jump and nearly spill my coffee all over the keyboard. My head hits the concrete at the side of the pool and thumps like a melon.
“I was…you weren’t awake and I wanted to start. I was going to try it myself…”
Creativity gives me a look only possible in a teenager. It encompasses pity, loathing, and a little dash of self-satisfied smirk.
“You tried that before, remember? You know you’re no good at this all by yourself.”
I sigh. I want to yell at her but I know she’s right.
“Okay fine. You sit here and I’ll get you something to eat.”
Creativity sits at the table, her long legs curled awkwardly underneath her. They’re longer than she’s used to, and she hasn’t managed to make them very sturdy yet. She looks at me deliberately and turns the keyboard so that it’s facing the right direction. I turn away and begin to make her some eggs. I get caught up in what I’m doing and daydreaming about what it will be like when we get to show Creativity’s work to people. She’s not ready yet, of course, but it won’t be long now…
I turn to give her the plate of food I just made and she’s not there. I look around. The door is open and the sun is shining in through the doorway. I groan inwardly. Creativity loves the sunshine, but not for work. She wants to go play. She’s probably out planning elaborate gardens or making up stories in her head about meeting a tall dark and handsome man walking on the beach.
I sigh and sit down at the computer. I turn the keyboard sideways and take a bite of her eggs. Maybe she’ll be in the mood to help me tomorrow.

Love and adolescent kisses

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The First Day of My Writing Life

I was recently offered a job as a caretaker for an island property in Panama. It was an unpaid position, mind you, but it would have been a place to live in Panama for free in exchange for showing guests around the island and a nearby town.
This may seem like an easy equation for people who have full-time jobs: no pay+work as caretaker+no vacation time=no. And they would be right. The fact that it’s unpaid is only one of many reasons it’s not a good idea. However, I labored long and hard over whether or not I should go. I thought about it for most of the day, then emailed the property owner and told him I wouldn’t be able to make it down there for three weeks. I am a writer, taking time off from “the real world” as some people call it, and it doesn’t really matter where I am when I write. Or that’s what I told myself. I told myself that it was just my kind of opportunity; it wasn’t the first time I would have worked for next to nothing (or nothing) to go abroad.
The more I thought about it, the more I decided it was almost inevitable, and the more and more depressed I got. I felt like it was the straight path I had been following for years: work, hate it, quit, go abroad, spend all your money, come back, get a job, hate it…
And out of nowhere, as I went through the day-to-day activities of my meager but pleasurable existence, I realized that I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to start my cycle again. I enjoyed getting up and knowing that I could do whatever it was I wanted to, and all I wanted to do was write. If I moved to Panama, it would be admitting that my path would never go anywhere but in a circle. I would inevitably not make it where I wanted to go, because being abroad would take precedence over my writing. I didn’t want that spiral into madness. I wanted to write.
It really shouldn’t have been that big of a decision. I should have perhaps been able to come to the conclusion sooner, or earlier in my life. However, when it did come to me it was like a thunderclap. I want to write. I knew it, I told people about it, I worked at it, but until I decided not to go to Panama, I didn’t realize how much I had grown to love my writing. Not as a person in love with themselves and their own prose, but as someone who has given birth to a child and cared for her by necessity for so long that they don’t realize how beautiful she is until one day she comes into the room in a prom dress and spins around.
My writing isn’t very mature yet. She is not grown up, ready to drive or move out or go to college. She doesn’t quite fit into that prom dress yet. In fact, my writing is prone to tantrums and illogical conclusions and PMS and adolescent hormone imbalances. She has pimples and braces. But somehow under the awkwardness I see something to love, someone to lavish with praise and patiently wait for her to stop wobbling and begin to walk with confidence and grace. She may be a late bloomer, but I want to be there to watch her bloom. So I’m going to stay here and let her grow, where I know it’s safe and stable and where we’re happy. There will always be time for Panama when she grows up.

Love and pubescent writing kisses

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The New R(e)lationship

I knew my relationship was over when my boyfriend took me off his Facebook. That was his idea of a clean break. He removed my friends and me at the same time and avoided eye contact when he saw me in person. He broke off all e-ties and hoped that physical contact would follow suit. Of course, no one else noticed because we had never gotten to the point where we said on Facebook that we were dating. That was apparently a bigger step than we were up to. It was almost faux pas when I put a picture of us up on my page.
So, now what? Do I e-flirt with my male friends online? Do I go to all my male friend’s pages and check to see if they’re single and change what I’m looking for to “Whatever I can get,” which I think may be the e-equivalent of “I’m desperate?” How do I meet a new one? What am I looking for on his Facebook page that will tip me off to that sort of behavior in the future? Too many friends? Too many status updates? Too much Facebook activity period? (If that's the case, what, then, does my Facebook activity say about me?)
I have a strange habit of checking out people’s fridges the first time I go into their house. I am convinced that there is a lot you can tell about a person by their refrigerator contents, much like they say you can determine a lot about a woman by the shape of her lipstick or a lot about a man by his car. My point here is that my method is pure madness and not based on anything at all scientific. For example: you open a fridge and there on the top shelf is a cut of expensive steak. This tells me a couple things: 1) fridge owner eats meat (duh) 2) fridge owner had expensive tastes 3) fridge owner can cook. So then I bend down and take a closer look in the contents around the steak: are there makings for a salad? Are there 45 different kinds of barbecue sauce? Are there potatoes? Real butter, margarine, low-fat, non-fat or whole-fat sour cream? Beer, wine, champagne? Is this meal meant for me, or is it apparent that this fridge owner cooks like this on a regular basis?
Slowly but surely, we’re moving away from the physical realm and into the r(e)lationship age. But what will my new e-gadget be to determine the same sort of information? How can I take my fridge test and apply it to a Facebook page? This isn’t as easy a switch as it seems. Facebook organizes the page for you and it’s constantly updating your content as it comes in, so it’s harder to have moldy old cheese on your page, so to speak. Just as with any new piece of technology, the amount of time put into learning how to use it is directly related to how much you get out of it. This could perhaps be the moldy cheese test. Does he have a picture of himself up? Does he change it constantly? Is he changing his status 8-10 times a day? Does he sign into Facebook randomly throughout the day, or just once in awhile? Has he moved more to the digital realm, or is it obvious that he is perhaps still strongly attached to the real world? There are at least a few fridge comparisons that I have come up with to help the hapless Facebook r(e)lationship virgin.
1) He changes his status 8-10 times per day = this man would have ingredients for a number of dishes in his fridge. He would keep enough around that he could cook whatever he fancied at the slightest whim, from nachos to filet mignon.
2) His status is constantly referring to a sports game or some new broken record=beer and leftover dominoes pizza.
3) He writes on other peoples’ walls a lot = cheese, tortillas and hot sauce
4) His status constantly refers to some sort of alcohol = Bloody Mary mix, celery, hot sauce and an array of pickled vegetables
5) He pokes people on Facebook = he’s gay. Move on.
6) He’s constantly sending you requests for new quizzes, like “Which race car are you?” = This man is insecure beyond belief. His fridge holds a lot of food he never cooks but buys in his more well-meaning moments. He mostly eats out…with friends whenever possible.
7) Every time he posts pictures, they’re of his car. = All clear fluids and foods that don’t stain. If you got as far as his fridge, it would be after having taken off your shoes…and maybe your socks if they looked even semi-worn.
8) Every time he posts pictures they’re of him and a bunch of different hot women = he has no refrigerator. He eats all his meals out at nice restaurants with these women, hoping to bed them their house so they don't know he doesn't have a fridge.
9) He’s constantly talking about getting laid = his fridge is actually the most well-stocked, because he still lives with his mom.
10) He posts pictures of his wife/girlfriend = he's as good as gay. Move on.

Love and r(e)lationship kisses

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Recipe for Disaster

I have a problem. I always want to make myself look good. That may sound a trifle ridiculous, because everyone wants to look good, but I tend to avoid asking for help because I think it will make me look bad.

The last year is a perfect example. I had created a perfect recipe for disaster, but I refused to acknowledge the fact and ask for someone to help me by beating me over the head and knock some sense into me.

To make a perfect disaster, follow this tried and true recipe:

1) Live in a place where there is more rain/clouds/moss than you like
2) Get a desk job in such a place, so that when the conditions are the kind that you prefer, all you can do is look outside at them, then go back to work
3) Get a cough. Not a “oh, I’ll be over it soon” kind of cough, a “I would need two weeks off in a sunny place with no stress to get over it” kind of cough
4) Don’t take the time off that you need to get better, convincing yourself that the world wouldn’t carry on just fine without you to convince advertisers to spend more money
5) Start dating a man that gives you the cough, then wants so much of your time that you don’t have time to recover from the cough
6) Stay with this man long after you know it needs to end…and go back to him after it’s already ended.
7) Work with this guy just to make it harder
8) Try to convince yourself over and over again that this is what real life is like, and that you had better just get used to it.
9) Start eating a lot of Thai food and carbs, comfort foods, because you feel shitty about the fact that you can’t exercise because you’re too sick to do so. Every time you do feel good enough to exercise, you overdo it and end up right where you started.
10) Mix all ingredients and let them build. Voila! Forty pounds, a lot of tears and a year later, you’re nothing like the person you used to love to be.

When I think back over the last year, all I can say is, “What was I thinking?” Well, I wasn’t thinking. I was rationalizing. I rationalized away my own happiness. I rationalized away my confidence and my health; I rationalized away me.

I know I’m not the first person to do this. I know this isn’t the last time I will do it, either. But I am afraid, so very afraid, that I will allow my rationalizations to overtake my happiness again. I am trying not to lose confidence in my ability to think first of my own happiness. I am teeter tottering back and forth between “I should just do this alone, then I won’t compromise myself” and “I need to be stronger next time, so I don’t allow myself to be overtaken by someone else’s needs.” Both of these solutions take the wind out of my sails. I have to believe that there are men out there that I don’t have to protect myself from; who will have my best interests at heart, who will insist that I stay home from work and get better, who will do what they can to make me feel better, who will call my boss and tell them that I’m not coming in. I want to believe that there are men out there who will be able to put me first, not because I deserve it more than them, but because I will do the same for them and we will balance each other out.

I see the problem here. I need to be able to do this for myself. I need to be able to say, “No, I’m not going in. No, I need time to myself today.” But without even realizing it, that thought is pushed to the back of my mind before it’s even had a chance to be acknowledged. It’s because I don’t want to let anyone else down. It’s hard to realize that you’re only letting yourself down if you can’t recognize that you’ve given too much. Instead of thinking, “it’s not that bad. I can do this,” I should be thinking, “WHY am I doing this? What will really happen if I don’t go to work today?”

Yet the problem goes much deeper than that. I know very few successful people (women, mostly, but that’s just because I am closer to more women than men) who know when to stop and give themselves a break. They push themselves a little further, knowing they can do it, when they should recognize that they need to stop. The world will not stop turning. The sun will still rise and set. Those incredibly important tasks will still be there when they’ve given themselves a chance to breathe.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more we do, the less there is for others around us to do. We monopolize the chores, jobs and lives, and those around us become so used to it that they stop trying to help and let us run ourselves into the ground. And that’s exactly what I did: ran myself straight into the ground.

It’s only after these situations have ended that it’s clear to see what really happened. I look back and only now can I see how low I was; how unlike me I had become. Somehow, through all of it, I clung to the idea that I could give myself what I wanted if I just hung on a little longer. It ended up being true: I now have the money to give myself the time to write a book. But did I need to do it the way that that I did? Did I need to forsake my health, my confidence, my life, to get here? NO. I have never believed there was any reason to be unhappy. I have never believed it, yet I have let myself be unhappy over and over again anyway. This is not someone else’s job to fix. It’s mine. It is my responsibility to pay enough attention to what is happening to me to know when I need to slow down, or stop the path I’m traveling and get on another one. I am in charge, and I will succeed if I stop getting in my own way. That’s the answer….now I just need to stop with the questioning.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Best Job in the World, aka Morgan's Ideal Job

Anyone who hasn't heard me talking about the Best Job in the World for the last month or so should count themselves lucky. Basically, the job is to live on an island near the Great Barrier Reef for six months and blog about it. That's all. Enjoy yourself...go snorkeling and diving, etc...and write about it. And the pay is $100K for six months. Really. You can check out more about it at After much help from my funny and supportive friends, I have created the video you see here and sent it off today as my application.

Here's what's the qualifications are:

- Excellent interpersonal communication skills
- Good written and verbal English skills
- An adventurous attitude
- Willingness to try new things
- A passion for the outdoors
- Good swimming skills and enthusiasm for snorkelling and/or diving
- Ability to engage with others
- At least one year’s relevant experience


Love and best job kisses

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's Not Even My Cat.

I have arrived. I don’t mean that in the “I’ve made it…I’m rich and famous and people love me.” No, I mean it as in, “I have shown up to my current destination.” Not quite as dramatic, but nevertheless exciting.

Two days ago, I pulled up to a friend’s cabin on Camano Island in the San Juans. I was driving my brother’s car, full to the brim with the essentials required to live on an island for at least four months or so and write a book. On the top of the list and the top of the heap in the passenger seat was Boots, a 17-year-old cat that hates car rides and told me so with every turn of the wheels between Bellevue and our final destination. Also packed around me in the Honda Accord were my bike, my comforter and favorite pillows, an air popcorn popper, a rice cooker, two Costco boxes full of food, a printer, a scanner, a laptop, some books, some recipe books, two garbage bags full of clothes, a cat bed, 30+ pounds of cat food, wet and dry, a litter box and huge bucket of cat litter.

I am here to fulfill a dream I have always had. My dream is not to become famous, or to become the best writer of the century or win a Nobel or Pulitzer prize. My dream is to be able to dedicate myself to writing – as much time as I want to and all the creative energy I have. In each and every job I have held for as long as I can remember, I have been frustrated that I did not have more time to write. Writing can be easy in certain settings, and it can be difficult in a lot of others. It is not something I have ever been able to do after a long day of work, whether it was teaching children to ski or upselling advertisers on new ad units. One day, I will say, “I got to spend a year exactly how I wanted to, and I am where I am now because of it.” Of course, I may be peeling potatoes in a kitchen somewhere, but wherever that place is, I made it there after my year of writing, and I will never regret the time that I took to pursue my dream.

I don’t expect it to be easy, but I do expect a fair amount of adventure. I will be blogging about it at least once a week, more to keep myself on track than to write to an audience. But audience, whoever you are, you are welcome to my thoughts. ☺

Now, without further ado, my first Top 10 from Camano:

Top 10 Reasons You Know You’re Crazy:

10) You quit your job in the worst job market since 1974.
09) You think it’s a great idea to move your entire life in your brother’s beat up Honda Accord.
08) You decide it’s worth it to you to take the cat that hates car rides on a car ride. You are thus subjected to the yowls of a cat that hates car rides telling you exactly that…for the entire car ride.
07) It’s not even your cat.
06) You move to an island that probably has as many people your age as you have fingers on one hand.
05) You move to an island knowing full well that there is no good Thai food within any acceptable distance.
04) You think it’s worth it to save money on heat by lighting fires in a fireplace that is possessed by the devil and always billows smoke out into the house, regardless of how many times/ways you mess with the vents.
03) You’re writing a book about travel when no one can afford to travel.
02) You agree to train for and run a half marathon with your friends. Yes, that means you actually have to run.
01) You’ve done all this and you’re the happiest you’ve been in a long, long time.

Love and Camano Kisses