Friday, October 1, 2010


Dear Wren,

I still miss you.  I think about you daily.  Your sons are doing okay.  They're keeping it together and trying to move forward in their lives.  You'd be damn proud of them.  They send me recent photos of themselves standing tall with set jaws and square shoulders.  They try to act like it hurts less..and maybe on some level it does, but in quiet moments on the phone their voices crack.  Your boys miss their mama. 

I would give anything to be able to wrap my arms around them for just one moment, but they're fighting a war no one understands in a land very far away.  We pretend it's only for a brief moment.  We pretend it's not so far away.  We pretend we aren't scared that they'll die in some horrible way in that desert.  But we all know we are lying. 

You're going to have a namesake, Wren.  This is beautiful and precious and perplexingly painful.  It hurts that there will be a baby with your name who will never be cradled in your arms.  It hurts that the only reason she's being named after you is because you died agonizingly.  I try to pretend it doesn't hurt.  After all, a baby is a wonderful addition and she is already so wanted and so cherished.  I love her very much myself, and she isn't even born yet.  Very soon, though, there will be a beautiful baby girl with your name.  For some reason I cannot explain, it makes me ache for you so much more. 

I stifle the tears, push them away, save for a few I permit to fall in the solitude of the shower.  I still miss you so freaking much, how can it still hurt this much?  It's been over three years.  I blame my hormones, PMS, my stressful job, but that's total bullshit. 

Further compounding the hurt is the knowledge that your wee namesake is not going to be the only new babe.  There's a 9th baby due in our family.  Sadie is not going to be an only child for much longer.  I wait with baited breath, hoping with everything I have that the new addition will be our ninth niece and not our first nephew.  For the sake of all of the children, I hope we don't have any boys in this generation.  Doing so will limit our girls. This is a family of unequal valuation and I cannot bear the idea that the birth of a boy will change what the elders tell our bright, darling, precious nieces about their futures.  The sky is the limit for them...but if a boy is born they'll forever play second fiddle to him and he'll have more pressure on him than any human being should.  Give us another little girl so that all my clever, funny little girlies will still feel as special and cherished as they should.  They are EVERYTHING.  Where are you, Wren?  You would have fought for them.  It's hard fighting for them by myself..  I won't give up, but for God's sake, keeping the lions at bay alone is no easy task. 

So anyway, I love you.  I wish so much you could have seen the girlies this summer with me.  Gawd, they're so big.  There is so much you would have laughed at, so much that would have pleased you in that quiet, soft, full of gratitude way of yours.  Gemma still has her attitude.  Sadie has also developed a bit of one, but she is quickly straightened out and very, very funny.  Gemma and Camille are so awesomely gentle and generous with's very sweet. 

Come to think of it...this time last year I was mourning that my youngest niece, my Sadie-Girl was no longer a proper babe, and lamenting that no more infants were likely to be born in our family til the girlies have their own.  Truth be told, I'm terribly excited that there will be more tiny people to rock to sleep on the porch swing of the family cabin.  I just wish you were here to rock them with me, Wren.  There's no denying that you were the baby whisperer. 

It's late and I have to grab a few hours of sleep before getting up for work.  I miss you, dammit.  I hate closing my letters to you..which is so're already dead.  "Goodbye" should only hurt once.  So goodnight, Wren.  If you were here, you'd tell me to have sweet dreams, you'd call me the pet name you had for me and you'd insist that I rest, not to worry so much, and to get my ass into bed.  So I'm going, but I miss you.  I hate that you died the way you did.  I hate that the idea of crawling into bed without having you to stroke my head makes my eyes fill with tears.  Yet I'll go..because I have to be responsible, I have to get up early, I have so much to take care of.  So g'night, sis.  I'm sending you all my love.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When Taking Initiative is a Bad Thing

One of my earliest memories is of being at church in a nursery room while my parents were off elsewhere.  The teen girl who was keeping an eye on me was the only other person there and I played while she sat nearby at one of the kiddie tables.  I have very little recollection of what happened before or after this, but I do know that I somehow got ahold of a pair of scissors and cut off the huge majority of the girl's waist-length ponytail.  I was utterly shocked and horrified when the hair actually came off of her head.  On some level I knew I was cutting her hair, but didn't really understand that it couldn't be reattached until the deed was done.  Honestly, I'm not sure which of us was more stunned.  Ingrained in my memory are the the metallic taste that filled my mouth and the way my stomach dropped to my toes.

I remember seeing that dismembered ponytail in my hand and then opening my fingers, dropping the evidence as she realized what had happened and spun around.  Obviously, she was extremely upset, but she was benevolent enough not to kill me.  I curled into a ball under a different table and cried hard the remainder of the time.  My parents returned to find me that way.  Startled expressions hung on their faces as they looked wide-eyed from me to the shrieking teenager and back again.  That's all I remember...I probably repressed the rest of the memory ;)

Growing up, I'd sometimes run into that girl around town.  She was always incredibly nice and neither of us ever mentioned the day I gave my first haircut.  Even so, I always wanted the earth to open up and swallow me when our paths crossed.  I'm still completely mortified.  The world's youngest barber and I didn't even get a tip. ;)

No wonder my requests for younger siblings were always met with terrified refusals...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cut, Cut!: When Auditions Crash and Burn

I have a love/hate relationship with auditions.  On one level, they are a necessary evil; neither the kids nor their parents enjoy them at all, but they're the only way to decide who to cast in which role.  I can sympathize, as I've tried out many times for various shows, choirs, etc. during my life.  Being on the judging side of the audition is more fun and less nerve-wracking, but it can also be an exhausting, overwhelming challenge.  It is also exciting: actors' enthusiasm is contagious and seeing the kids onstage fuels an addictive anticipation of how incredible the show is going to be when it all comes together.

I love seeing kids nail their auditions, the grins on their faces make my day.  Any seasoned performer will tell you that not every try-out goes as planned, however.  There are occasional rough patches..and then there are things that give directors nightmares.

Here is some advice for parents and kids based on the crazy things I've seen in auditions:
  • A fourth grader who has refused to wear anything but a bathing suit and red, sequined heels for the last 2 months and whose preferred method of verbal communication is barking like a dog probably needs some relaxation and maybe a therapist, not a rigorous rehearsal schedule.
  • Do NOT corner any directors in the parking lot or follow them home after a long day of try-outs to convince them your child is the star they are looking for.  Such behavior will likely result in a restraining order rather than a lead role.
  • Make sure your child learns the lyrics to his vocal piece.  The judges WILL notice if he sings "watermelon, watermelon, watermelon..."
  • If you can't cry on command, don't pick a monologue that requires it.  DEFINITELY don't swipe the cinnamon breath spray from your mom's purse and spray it into your eyes right before you perform.
  • A note from the pediatrician giving "permission" for your child to perform in a highly choreographed show does not change the fact that her broken leg will be in that cast for most of the rehearsals.  When the director points this out, "But she has crutches!" is not an answer.
  • Being cute is great, but being able to carry a tune is mandatory.  Sorry, this is a musical.
  • Adult content in monologues and vocal pieces is unacceptable. graphic dancing is disturbing and wrong.  This is even more true if the child auditioning is FIVE.  The same goes for portfolio photos.
  • Be careful when explaining characters to kids or your first grader may tell the directors that she wants "to be the stoned cat" in Alice in Wonderland.
  • Resumes and portfolios are no place for nicknames, especially if your moniker is "Poopy Pants."
  • Parents: Under no circumstance does the explantion "I forgot to take my anti-psychotics this morning" excuse your erratic or insane behavior.  EVER.
Any questions?  Remember, the audition should be memorable..but not in a way that makes me shudder.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Holy Sexual Harassment, Batman!

Dear Nurse:

I regret having to discuss such a sensitive matter with you, but you've left me little choice.  When asking a patient to disrobe ENTIRELY for an exam, it is uncouth to follow the request with "Let's see if the curtains match the drapes, eh?" 

Furthermore, staring at the discussed area of my body after I undress was unnecessary and kind of disturbing.  Your "I guess we'll never know," was even more inappropriate and added an extra dose of humiliation to what was already an unforgettable fiasco.  Look lady, it's SUMMER TIME.  That which has been removed has zero chance of making a surprise appearance when I'm wearing a swim suit.  Not that it's any of your farking business, thank you very much. 

I may have survived the appointment, but my pride was not so lucky.  By the way, how exactly did removing my pants facilitate the examination of my armpit?

Still mortified,
The beet red patient who officially hates Mondays..and now, maybe nurses

Friday, June 18, 2010

Let's Rephrase the Question

When I was younger I taught at a preschool for a number of years.  This is one of my all-time favorite memories from that time...

The head teacher in the four year old room was a big fan of performing random individual assessments of the kids' learning.  This particular day she had chosen a sweet, wide-eyed boy as her focus.  As this unfolded, I forgot all about the daily reports I was writing nearby and just enjoyed the show.  I'm so glad I did. :D

"Liam," Mrs. Dunne said, placing several felt pieces on the table before him.  "I want you to point to each shape and tell me its name."  He glanced at the the colorful cut-outs before looking back at her with uncertain eyes.  "Can you tell me what this one is called?" she asked, tapping the triangle.  He blinked at her a few times.  "It's okay if you aren't sure, do you have any guesses?" Mrs. Dunne asked patiently.  Brow furrowed, the kid rested his chin on his palm and scrutinized the triangle, square, and circle with intense concentration.  "What are their names?" my coworker repeated softly. 

There was a very long silence before Liam sat up in his chair with a jolt.  "I'm ready now!" he announced, beaming at her triumphantly.  She nodded and returned his smile.  With his little face full of sincerity, Liam joyfully jabbed an index finger toward each shape and identified them in turn:  "Connor, Michaela, and Jacob!"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pick-Up Line FAIL, Casanova

To the cute guy I met at the library:

I was impressed when you confidently struck up a conversation with me.  Our little chat was really enjoyable too.  Casually offering to meet me next week for a bite to eat was a good move.  Your suggestion that we go to Hooters for that bite, however, didn't exactly sweep me off my feet. 

Still laughing,
The flat-chested girl in the biography section

Sunday, June 13, 2010

From the Mouths of Babes - Is that Jesus!?

The best thing about three year olds?  They say the first thing that pops into their heads.  This makes them a source of endless amusement.  Here are some gems (old and new) from my favorite three year old..

To the uncle who attempted to distract her from a skinned knee by talking like Mickey Mouse:  "Excuse me, but did you know?  You are weally, weally stwange." 

To relatives watching a t.v. interview of Sarah Palin: "Turn that lady off, dudes.  She makes me get a headache."  This is especially awesome considering that everybody in my family (except me) is incredibly conservative.  I might have high-fived the kid when nobody was looking.

While chasing down the cat who stole the baby from her dollhouse:  "COME BACK!  Don't eat that, you're s'posed to be on a diet!"

Excitedly whispering to her mom as the pastor stepped behind the pulpit:  "Is that Jesus!?"

Happy new week, peeps.  Hang in there. :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Three Secrets to Life

I am extremely lucky to be an aunt to eight little girls. Though we are related, they are not technically my nieces. Yet as far as they've ever known, they are my girls - one hundred percent.  I was instantly smitten when the eldest of them was born and I've never looked back.  It's been an awesome ride.

To say I love them fiercely is a massive understatement. I love them with a raw ferocity that overwhelms and astounds me. It is an unwavering affection coupled with feral protectiveness. It is a love that wants to propel them into healthy, happy futures and to help mold them into strong, confident people. My commitment to them is steadfast and wholehearted; I'd sacrifice anything to help them thrive.

Wren loved me the way that I love my nieces.  Both in childhood and adulthood, I could count on her to be behind me.  She taught me when to fight and when to forgive.  I went to her for advice and a sympathetic ear countless times.  Sometimes I got a pep talk, sometimes I got a kick in the butt.  I always got what I needed.  She didn't just love me and support me, she armed me with knowledge and perspective and hope.  I try really hard to do that for the girls, even though they're awfully young for some of what I preach.

Every few days or so, my thoughts return to a conversation I had with one of the girls.  In hindsight, I'm simultaneously amazed at my own wisdom and worried that a different answer might have been better.  The exchange took place over a year ago, when five year old Maura was determined to keep me from catching my flight home.  Each time I picked up my luggage and made to leave, she'd screech "I forgot something!"  Thus far she had successfully mooched extra hugs, a joke, and an off the cuff limerick out of me while her parents rolled their eyes in the background.  I was half-way out the door when she launched another offensive.  "WAIT!" she hollered in a panic.  "You haven't taught me the secrets to life!"

It worked.  Dropping my bag, I waved off her parents' objections and scooped her into my arms.  "This is important, so you've gotta listen really carefully, okay?" I asked.  She nodded solemnly.  "There are three secrets to life.  Number one, trust your gut.  Listen to your head, listen to your heart and do what's best for you.  If something doesn't feel right, pay attention to that feeling.  Other people can offer insight, but the final decision is yours.  You already have everything you need to make the right choices for you.  Trust that.

"Number two, be kind to others.  Sometimes life is hard, we can help each other.  Remember though, trust your gut first.  You don't have to be nice or helpful to anyone who gives you bad vibes."

 Maura nodded knowingly.  "Yeah, like creepy people,"

"Right.  The third secret to life is just one word: BELIEVE.  Believe in your dreams, believe in everyday magic, believe in yourself, believe in hope, believe, believe, believe.  When you get discouraged and that feels like a bunch of junk, call me.  I'll help you believe again." 

And with that I kissed her forehead, told her I loved her, and her mom drove like a crazy person to get me to the airport.  Believe it or not, I made that flight. *grin*  Barely.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Takes Talent to be this Stupid

My awesomeness astounds me.
Yesterday I..
  • Felt a headache coming on around 4 p.m. and countered it with two Exced.rin migraine pills
  • Left work early because I began to feel worse
  • Got a few blocks away and became remarkably, wretchedly ill
  • Pulled over and waited for it to pass for a while before realizing it was only getting worse
  • Miraculously got home without killing anyone despite the fact that my entire world was spinning like it did when I was 14 and drank half a bottle of vodka
  • Cried because I've never missed a vocal rehearsal before
  • Called Pierre and begged him to run my kids through their songs
  • Laid in bed for hours with the curtains drawn, eyes closed, marveling that everything was STILL spinning
  • Played the "maybe I'll feel better if I puke" game
  • Debated whether or not I was dying
  • Wondered 8,251 times how rehearsal went/was going
  • Remembered the paper that came with the newly prescribed medicine specifically stated that I was not to have aspirin or any NSAIDs, including ibuprofen and acetaminophen
  • Wondered what the freaking fark is wrong with my memory
  • Continued to be agonizingly sick into the night and next morning..still feel awful
  • Realized that being sick for the last however many weeks/months was lovely compared to how bad it's possible to feel if I screw up the med that is supposed to make me feel better
I win the award for "Moron of the Year."  Don't be jealous.  I'm sure y'all have gifts too. 

Friday, June 4, 2010

An Open Letter to the Neighbor Lady

Dear Neighbor Lady,

Congratulations!!  You've out done yourself!  I thought I'd lost all respect for you last autumn, when I discovered that you were raking the fallen leaves in your yard onto a tarp and dumping them in the woods behind our house.  However, I must have been wrong, because after today's stunt, I think even less of you.

I don't advertise this to the neighborhood, but sometimes when it looks like no one's home, I'm actually writing in my little office at the back of the house.  Also, I'm not terribly social, nor do I like to be interrupted, so when you knocked on the door this afternoon, I didn't answer.  I might have, if I'd recognized you, but the new haircut threw me off.  By the way, I liked your old 'do better.  This one doesn't flatter your face nearly as much.

Apparently you figured the unanswered knock meant that you were free to dig up whichever of my large, beautiful plants you wanted and transplant them into that empty soil patch you've been tilling and fertilizing for the last two weeks.  Did you really think I wouldn't notice the plants that had suddenly gone missing from in front of my house had mysteriously relocated to the flowerbed in front of yours?  I guess we'll never know, because although I didn't answer the door, I did peek out the window.  When I saw you plunge your shovel into my hostas, I was on your ass faster than you're on your kid's when he forgets to hook your sprinkler up to your other neighbor's spout so that you don't have to pay to water your own grass. 

Your excuse that the hostas you were going to remove "have a virus that will spread to the others" was creative, but I was less impressed with the patronizing tone you used when saying, "You know, like when we get sick and feel yucky?"  I am not a small child and you would be wise not to speak to me as such.  The hostas look perfectly healthy to me, though I admit I'm not an expert.  I do spend a great deal of time gardening (and have for years) and I'm quite certain these plants are flourishing.  However, just in case, I will have my mother, who is an expert, have a look at the "infected" ones.  What saddens me the most is that I'm planning to spend the weekend dividing most of the larger plants, so I'm going to have a TON of extras I won't need.  I would have happily given them ALL to you, because I really am neighborly and it would have been a pleasure to help you start your flowerbed.  I'd still be glad to give them to you if you'd like them.  I have a feeling that when I offer you will declare the virus cured.

Meanwhile, you should not come into my yard for any reason.  This includes your daily habit of allowing your dogs to empty their bowels on my lawn and the tendency you and your son have to ride across my grass on your bikes.  If your kid did it by himself, I wouldn't mind or blame him, he's a kid and I kinda like him.  I once rode my bike across a neighbor's front lawn as a kid.  Luckily, my father (you know, an adult) took the time to explain to me that such behavior was rude, especially given how much time and effort people put into making their grass look nice.  It's a shame you were never taught that.  If you had been, you might have avoided stepping in your dog's turd when your son fell off his bike in my yard last month.  My ability to differentiate what comes out of your dogs' asses from what comes out of my own dog isn't magic.  I pick up after my dog seconds after he finishes relieving himself, so I know any shit lying on the ground is courtesy of your pets.  Thanks, I appreciate stepping in it when I mow. 

You made a spectacular first impression on all of your neighbors when you went around bitching about the barking dogs shortly after you moved in and threatening to report our dogs to the city officials.  Now that we don't leave our dogs outside unattended anymore, perhaps you've noticed what we already knew:  the barking was coming from YOUR FUCKING DOGS.  They bark incessantly, but perhaps by now you've grown accustomed to the noise and no longer hear it.  I wish I could be so lucky. 

One last thing, dear neighbor.  I know it's hard to move new places and make friends, but going to each neighbor individually and gossiping to us about the others is probably not the way to increase your popularity.  Believe it or not, you're going to have a hard time turning us against each other, seeing as we were all good friends way before you moved onto the block. 

Look, I live here.  I'd rather have peace than the endless drama you seem to have brought with you.  Please settle down and play nicely with your neighbors.  We'll be SO much more friendly to you if you do.  I really want to like you.  You're making it really, really, really hard.

Love, Your south neighbor

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beware the Hula Dancing Kangaroos

 For a number of weeks the kids cast in an upcoming show at the children's theatre have been trying to learn their musical numbers with me.  One particular piece has a rhythm that's proven tricky for the wee actors, and I have tried all sorts of things to get them to grasp the counting.  Repetition is the biggest key, and so we repeat and clap and tap and snap our fingers and rap and even do a little beat boxing to practice the section in question.  We swayed our hips a lot while learning this piece.  I want it to be fun.  If it is fun, they will master it more quickly and won't feel like we are belaboring that musical piece.

I line them up at one end of the room and let them jump forward one jump on count one of each measure while they sing their parts.  This helps them learn the count and find the downbeat and allows them to hear the other vocal parts (soprano, alto, etc.) that move at different times.  It takes them the whole song to make it all the way across the room, then I have them turn around and sing/hop their way back.  It's interesting to stand before them as they do this, because it feels like they're musical kangaroos on the warpath and advancing on me quickly.  I learned to only allow this in the basement after doing it in the lobby caused a number of ceiling tiles to fall down in the lower offices.  Oopsies.  I also learned to keep ice packs in the staff freezer after Wyatt walloped Reagan in the eye while swinging his arms in huge circles as he jumped. 

They seem to have finally gotten it, which thrills me.  I hear them humming and tapping it while being fitted and measured by wardrobe, while waiting backstage for their cues, and while munching away on apple slices in the green room. For a few weeks the problem rhythm has been the pulse of the theatre, I even noticed some of the office workers humming it after they'd heard the children practicing in the parking lot with me.  Yes, we practice in the parking lot. With sidewalk chalk. We draw huge musical staves and use the chalk for all sorts of things that truly pertain to what we're doing. 

Sometimes I wonder if I'm regarded a bit like Maria in the Sound of Music, because my teaching techniques get some weird looks and amused comments.  I often get the kids last, after they've beaten a scene to death upstairs. They spend hours having to be still and watch each other repeat the same lines over and over until the head director is happy with the angles of their bodies, the expression in their voices, and the look on their faces.  They're told to do it again.  And again.  Now do it again.  Don't slouch.  Stop whining.  Do it again.  One more time.  So close, let's try again. 

By the time I get the kids they're hungry, fatigued, and sick of being told to keep still.  I keep water and simple snacks on hand.  I give them wiggle time and an occasional minute or two to chat with their friends.  If everyone looks especially downtrodden that day, we often take a minute to groan as loudly and pathetically as we can.  Eye rolling and foot stomping are optional, but always encouraged.  I'm told by other adults who work for the theatre that the woman who worked with the children before me kept them seated in chairs in the rehearsal room for the entirety of each practice.  I'm told by the children that she "was the meanest ever" and "yelled a lot."  I bet!  I'd yell a lot too if I had to keep them corralled like that.  Initially we're very much tied to the piano, but once they really know most of their parts, we can branch out. 

Last weekend I watched the kids perform the tricky song on stage and I have to say, it was excellent.  They've got the rhythm.  However, some of them bounce a bit on the first count of some measures.  There is also one particular section where the children all sway their hips in unision, just slightly, but it looks as if they're bursting into an impromptu hula dance.  Pierre, who works with the adults on music, grinned when he heard me murmur "Oh dear," under my breath as the unanticipated hula dance began.  He sees more of my teaching antics techniques than anyone else as he's often in the rehearsal room too.  I'm not worried about these little hang ups, we've got more than enough time to right them before opening night.  Until then, beware of the hula dancing kangaroos.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

People in Glass Houses...

Today I was coming down the hall toward the classroom I use for my voice lessons and I could hear a commotion in the outer area where the parents wait.  Normally I'm in the sound-proof practice room and can't hear what's going on in the waiting area, but I'd slipped away quickly to use the restroom between students.  As I approached, it became quite clear that the mother of one of my students was tearing her young daughter up one side and down the other.  I've worked with this eight year old for a little over 4 months and she's just delightful.  I'm not saying kids don't do things they shouldn't or that parenting isn't frustrating (because I think parenting is absolutely BRUTAL), but it'd be obvious to anyone that this mother was completely out of line.  She berated the poor kid incessantly, hardly pausing to take a breath, and when I reached the doorway of the classroom, I could see the little girl huddled miserably in a corner, her face streaked with tears.  It took the woman a moment to notice me standing there speechless, mouth agape. 

I was beyond irate.  I'm not going to go into what she was actually saying to her daughter, but it was unbelievable.  I was so shocked and upset that I didn't trust myself to say ANYTHING to the mother, so instead I asked Tara if she was ready and she quickly nodded and headed into the practice room.  Once we'd left Mommy Dearest in the waiting room, I handed Tara a tissue and got her a glass of water.  She stood next to the piano, in position to sing, trying to get her lower lip to stop trembling, but her eyes looked like they might overflow again, so I slid over and made room for her on the bench.  "It's alright, we can take as much time as you need," I told her.  She nodded and carefully sipped her water, trying to pretend like she wasn't fighting back more tears.  It broke my heart.  Choosing my words veeeerry carefully, I made four or five positive statements about her that directly conflicted with what her mom had been saying to her.  I chose not to say her mom was wrong.  I decided not to even mention her mom, but I shot down the ugly things I'd overheard being said.  Then I talked a bit about other stuff to get her mind on something else, and a few minutes later she met my eyes for the first time that day and said "I can sing now." 

What threw me is that I had such a different opinion of this family before all this.  This mom did not strike me as a stage mom and still doesn't.  I can spot a stage mom (or dad) from a mile away.  I see them in action first-hand on a regular basis and I've had so much experience with them that I have developed a kind of stage parent radar (similar to gay-dar, really!).  Don't get me wrong, not all parents with performing kids are stage parents. There are some awesome people. However, if parents coming to me about voice lessons trip my radar, I generally refer their kids to other voice coaches because I get my fill of stage parents while I'm directing musicals and holding auditions at the local children's theatre. 

After the lesson I asked the mom to talk to me privately in the practice room.  I have a well developed (and often used) speech about the fact that we sometimes get stressed out, it's very common, I often encourage families to take a little break from lessons if I see that happening, we want the kids' experience with music to be positive rather than anxiety-provoking, etc., etc.  It's a speech I give more to the parents who bring kids for piano lessons, though. There seems to be a higher burnout rate with piano students. 

So I brought Mom in with the intention of having that little chat, but to my surprise, it didn't go there at all.  She burst into tears, told me about some very stressful things she's dealing with right now, and seemed so genuinely contrite that I actually ended up comforting her despite the fact I'd been furious earlier.  On a lot of levels, I actually really get where she's coming from right now, though I didn't say so. 

Later, as I made my home, I realized that in a lot of ways, I'm in the same boat as that woman.  I'm not physically healthy right now.  I don't know exactly what's going on, but I hope that tomorrow morning the doctor will have some ideas.  I'm very stressed about my health, I'm still dealing with the unexpected deaths of two friends I grew up with, who three weeks ago decided to drive drunk and ended up wrapping their SUV around a goddamned tree, and with all that, Wren's death anniversary snuck up on me and for some reason, hit me really, really hard last week. 

I suck right now, y'all.  I'm over-emotional, highly reactive, and sleep deprived.  I've snapped at my mother the last 10 times I've had a conversation with her.  I'm randomly pissy with friends I see face to face then I talk to friends online and misread or misunderstand what they're saying and get all touchy because I'm a huge ass.  Later I realize my mistake and feel guilty and awful and ashamed of myself, but the next day I do it again...*sigh*  I'm sorry.  I'm truly, truly sorry.  THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE FOR ME TO BE SNARKY OR BITCHY WITH ANYONE.  It's not okay for me to treat people that way, and I know it.  I am trying to avoid chatty things like FB and twitter when I'm feeling particularly grouchy or tired.  I felt a lot better today, but I'm sure that something is wrong with me physically, hopefully it's just anemia or something easy like that.

 If this keeps up, I'm going to shut down all my blogs and social networking stuff until I feel better, because I'm hurting my friendships with people I care dearly about and I can't stand that.  I have my second meeting with a new therapist later this week and that's going to help too.  Blogging about what's going on is great, but clearly, I need help coping with some of it, so that's going to be good.  The lady seems great, I wish I'd found her months ago, because I've been out of sorts for a while now.  I hate that I'm posting all this on the freaking internet, it should be private, but it isn't.  It stopped being private when I became the world's biggest bitch.  Lately, I've wondered who the hell I've become and what happened to the old me, the nice, sweet me.  I'm done wondering, I'm sending out search parties to find the old me now.  She'll be coming back.  Meanwhile, I'll lay low and if I'm being a fucking bitch, please TELL me and please, please know it isn't about you.  I'm just a mess right now. :(

Monday, May 31, 2010

You're not from around here, are you?

I don't talk like you.  I guarantee it.  It's the first thing people notice about me.  In fact, if I meet someone new and they DON'T mention the way I talk, I want to hug them and bless them and shower them with gifts.  I'm shy, I don't like the attention my dialect/accent gets me.  Once people notice, they stand around together and listen to me talk and then have discussions about it.  It mortifies me.  It's like having people stand around and talk about how strange your outfit is.  Apparently, I don't sound like anyone else.  If there are others with similar accents, I'd like to meet them.  We could go start a colony somewhere new and the first law enacted would be a ban on asking people where they're from or what kind of accent they have. 

It would be better if I'd move to a different part of the country or another country entirely. Then when people ask where I'm from, I could respond honestly and we could move on. I respond honestly now. I tell the inquisitors that I'm from HERE. Same place you are. Then they set about picking apart why I don't talk like everyone else. "Did you grow up here?" Born and raised. "Did you move away at some point?" Only a few hours. I've lived in a few other the SAME state. "Do your parents have an accent too?" Nope, they talk like the rest of you "normal" people. New conversation topic, please?!

I talk like an American Midwesterner except for a tendency to sound incredibly English, mostly at the ends of sentences and phrases.  This excites people.  They start talking with British accents.  It makes me want to find something heavy to clobber them with.  The other oddity is my pronunciation of certain words with R's, basically, if I don't sound British, I sound like a native New Yorker.  This one gets me the most attention, and thus, I'm the most sensitive about it. I've had two cabbies in the last few months INSIST that I must be from the East Coast. One of them refused to believe that I wasn't. The other? Well, let's just say I was having the world's shittiest day and didn't care to explain, so I just played along. That went well until he began to ask me questions I didn't know the answers to.  Oopsies. 

To make matters worse, I've complicated it over the years.  There was the year I was 14 and got so sick of all the comments that I just completely adopted an Irish accent. I thought if people wanted an accent, I'd give them an accent.  This still cracks me up.  The best part?  My parents made no mention of it whatsoever.  To be completely honest, they may not have noticed at all.  They sort of live in their own world.  My vowels are generally a mess.  Spending too many summers up North has made many of my O's sound very Scandinavian.  Think Minnesota, but with that whole "Da Yoopers, eh?" thing.  Everything else is mildly English with a smattering of Midwestern diphthongs.  Night.Mare.  I have relatives in North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and New Orleans, so on occasion, I sound twangy or like I'm mumbling around a mouthful of chewing tobacco.  Awesome, I know, right? 

During the last Presidential elections, my then fiancee and I attended a dinner party with a number of well-known politicians.  I really don't know how we got on the guest list, we were by far the youngest people there and certainly the poorest, but my ex had connections. The day of the dinner, my ex was getting dressed while I did my make-up and moaned about how I hate these kinds of gatherings, because you have to make small talk with people you don't know, and I have to pretend that I'm not an introvert and that I actually like people, and then they talk about my accent and it's embarrassing, etc. and my ex looked at me quizzically for a moment and said, "Oh, that?  I don't even hear it anymore."  And that's why I loved her, y'all.  You know who else didn't mention my accent that night?  Barack Obama.  So politics aside, I love him too. 

So, how do you talk?  And do you wanna trade accents?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Singing Sand

If you read my Impeccable Misfit blog, some of this will sound familiar.  Forgive me, I'm still processing.  Happier posts coming soon. 

This isn't getting easier.  If anything, it just hurts more.  You weren't supposed to die, Wren.  Especially not like that.  It was excrutiating to see you in immense pain, emaciated and weak, lying there limp and helpless as the cancer ravaged your body.  You were our strong one.  You, the stubborn, vibrant, independent, spit-fire.  How could anything have defeated you?  I miss your lion loyalty and rebellious spirit.  I ache for your soft-spoken gentleness; your soothing words when I'm sad or feel alone.  I grew up with you leading the way.  You blazed the paths through the deep snow, I just followed behind and used the footholds you created.  You were so powerful, so sure.  I believed everything you ever told me.  You never told me you were going to die.

Your mother blames the doctors.  Your sisters blame our society's treatment of cancer, modern medicine in general.  I blame...I don't know.  Sometimes God, except that I basically told Him to fuck off after you died.  It's hard to blame something I refuse to believe in.  I blame the gene mutation, the poisonous combination of chromosomes that you and I share.  My risk is higher than yours.  Why did YOU die?  Statistically, the cancer is supposed to hit me.  The genetic counselor couldn't even pretend to think I'd make it through life without getting it.  He kept saying "When you get cancer" instead of "If you get cancer."  I was twenty-two when I sat in that room, frozen, mind reeling, the damning numbers on the page a dizzying blur.  Those numbers were mine.  THEY WERE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE YOURS. 

I never thought you'd have the mutation too.  If you have it, it's possible your sisters do too.  It's possible your nieces do too.  Your sons?  They certainly have it and are unable to prevent passing it on to any daughters they father.  We could do this sickening dance of death again and again and again.  You knew that.  It terrified you.

I never told you I have the gene mutation too.  For a long while, I never told anyone what I learned in the genetics lab building, because it was depressing and there's nothing that can be done about it anyway.  I left the lab and dumped the test results and  pamphlets in a box in the back of my closet, unread.  I vowed that this cancer would NEVER touch my life.  I would simply refuse to permit it to.  I would put it out of my mind.  I did.  A few months later, you got sick.

You didn't tell me you were going away, I wasn't ready. There were things left unsaid. Dammit, I wasn't ready to lose you. The cancer was supposed to be in remission. We talked about the future. We planned your 40th birthday party. It never occurred to me that you weren't going to make it!  Fucking hell, Wren! Do you know how bad this hurts? Surely you must. You were the one who had to tell your children that your cancer was terminal. You were ripped away from your life and loved ones, extirpated. Your sons will get married and have children without you.  You didn't want that anymore than we did. I'm so sorry, love.  Sometimes I forget that you were heart-broken too.

Our nieces are delightful and amazing. They're brilliant, creative, kind, funny little people.  Most of them are stubborn, like us. You'd like that. That would secretly please you. I know, because it pleases me.  Sometimes, I glance at one of the girls and there it is, your grin.  It always takes me by surprise.  Once in a while, I catch a glimpse of you in my own reflection.  I'd never before noticed the similarities in our faces.  The year after you died, your mom, sisters, and I took the girls to your beach.  We taught them how to make the sand sing.  We held their hands and ran with them.  You were supposed to be the one to teach them that.  I wish you could have seen their little faces.  They were awestruck by the magic of your singing sand.

You shared my adoration of the little ones.  Loving them with you is one of the things I miss the most.  I love them extra hard now, trying to love them for both of us..trying to make up for your absence.  It hurts like hell.  The girls are the biggest source of beauty and joy in my life.  They talk about you.  They hurt too.  They don't understand why you died.  I talk to them gently, trace the freckles on their cheeks and stroke their heads.  I cheer them on until I'm hoarse.  I throw myself full-force into loving them.  I try so hard to love them for both of us.  It is both the best and the most painful thing I've ever done.  It is the one thing I am sure I am not fucking up in my life. Even so, all my love isn't enough, Wren.  I know it isn't.  My love doesn't bring you back to them.  I'm unable to give them the memories and experiences with you that they would have cherished.

But when we are sad or weary or crabby, I take them to the water.  I take them to your beach with the singing sand.  And we run, our bare feet kicking up the sand, the way you ran before.

I love you, Wren.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Chin Up

Hey Wren,
I came home from work and wrote about you, worked on a draft that still isn't quite right.  Writing about you thinking about you Trying to make sense of your death is hard.  Realizing how much you're missing out on and how much I still miss you is heart-wrenching.  It is dreadfully painful.  We still need you.  The little girlies are bigger now.  Some of them will have little or no memory of you.  I feel physically ill just typing that.  I wrote about you until I had to leave to run errands that wouldn't get done otherwise. Today I remembered the way you used to say "Chin up, little one," when I was discouraged.  I haven't thought of that in over a decade.  I needed it today.  Thanks. Miss you like hell.

Love you, Celine

PS In keeping with your "chin up" crap I ignored my budget today and bought more postcards for post-crossing and also an outrageously bright nail polish.  I cannot believe I bought such an obnoxious color.  It's all wrong for me; much too flashy for the shy, low-key girl who tries to blend into the woodwork.  I'm definitely painting my toes and maybe even my fingers.  Just for you.  Chin up.

****Edited to add pic****
Yes, i still have paint on my skin, it'll come off in the shower.  Isn't the color attrocious?  I grin like a jack-o-lantern whenever I catch a glimpse of it.  Fingers are painted too.  The last time I painted my toes and fingers was the day of Wren's memorial service.  Wren died 3 years ago today.  I'm not sad.  She's finally free from the pain.  There won't be any new inside jokes, but the old ones still make me smile.  The nail polish joke is one of my favorites, but I'm not explaining it. *grin* Next time, I'm getting a putrid purple.

Thirteen and Killing Me

A while back I had a phone conversation with my 13 year old niece...

"I'm old enough for my own Facebook page!" She informed me.

"You are?" I asked a little too brightly, trying to mask the horror in my voice.

"Yeah! I'm thirteen! I've got boobs and my period and everything! Isn't that great?" she chirped away, cheerfully.

I'm sorry, dear girl.  I'd answer you, but that loud THUD was the sound of Aunt Celine's unconscious body hitting the floor. You unknowingly just rubbed my nose in the one thing I've been desperately hoping to prevent. Having failed to stop it, I was still quite happy to nurse denial, but alas, I can't avoid it. You aren't a little girl anymore.

However, having said that, let's have a little chat about that Facebook page, shall we? I want you to remove your last name, your birth date and age, the name of the small town you live in, and the name of your middle school. I would just as soon you not have that photo of your cherubic, sweet young face up there, but as long as you don't "friend" anyone you don't know VERY WELL, I'll compromise on that. On the other hand, I will NOT compromise on those two "Lover of the Day" applications that randomly assign you a daily sexual partner from your group of friends. Are you trying to kill me? Obviously, you are not allowed to have sex until you are 40 or I am dead, which ever happens second.

Aunt Celine