This morning, I woke up to frost and little birds that did not seem to care. The world looked like a pale Narnia; the snow from the weekend had melted, but as my breath formed a cloud in the air, I felt the cold right down to my smile.
The various animals were fed, coffee was had, and things began. That’s how life goes: the alarm rings like a starting bell, and we amble off into the world. Some days are better than others, but all hold their magic. Frost, even though it has covered what’s left of the garden, is still beautiful. Tiny little ice crystals that danced over the green, frozen like a memory, melting slowly.
That, in a way, is life. A series of crystalline moments, beautiful even when it’s unpleasant. So many people look at frost and merely see winter. (I know I’ve done it.) But there’s a gleam and a sparkle there, a bit of transient, ephemeral diamonds.
It’s no secret that I hate winter. I hate it, unless I’m curled up by a fire with a nice glass of wine and nowhere I need to be. But even winter has its moments, full of sweaters and snowballs. I love the absolute stillness that happens after a big snowstorm, when you step outside and there’s no sound, and nothing but a white world. (And me, looking for a lamppost and Mr. Tumnis.)
My dog, as crazy as he is, thinks snow is magic. He runs out, feet akimbo, happily pouncing around. To him, there is nothing better than snow. Nothing better than the completely awesome fluffy stuff. (No, not marshmallow fluff.)
It is, like all things, a matter of perspective. So much of life is just that, boiling down to the way we examine a choice, a situation, a moment, a kiss, a reason, an excuse, a friendship – and so on, ad nauseaum.
Amidst the insanity of life (and it can be freakin’ crazy), we often fail to really see it, failing to exist in the singular moment, too often rushing through. I’ll never forget when I went to Italy to visit family. Basically, the entire country takes the month of August off. As an American, and a partially type A personality, I cannot imagine doing nothing for a whole month. But it was a matter of perspective. To them, to my relatives, it was the same as having the weekends off.
Right now, here is what I know. I know that we talk too much about appreciating things. I’ve done it, too. I remember reading A Story to Live By when I was in high school. A friend sent me a link to the article. And I wanted to be the somewhat eccentric person who wears perfume to the grocery store and doesn’t save anything for a special occasion.
Sometimes, we all need a reminder that this minute is what we have. This love. This chance. This choice. This [whatever]. Sounds crazy, right? Wrong. Forget what you’ve been told since birth and stop trying to plan EVERY second of your life. Balls to that, I say. Plans are good. Plans are necessary. But plans should be flexible. Life isn’t set in stone, carved with irreversible intent. It’s one notch, one step at a time.
Live it. Love it. Be as wise as you are crazy.
*lyric from Shake It Out by Florence + the Machine, which is playing on a loop.
Growing up, Halloween was a sacred occasion. Every year, I’d decide what I was going to be about six months in advance. Then I’d change my mind fifty times, only to go with the original costume.
My costumes were always awesome. How do I know this? My mom made them, sometimes from scratch, but always with love. I was a lucky kid.
So, in honor of the upcoming holiday, I went through old photos of Halloweens past. It wasn’t just a look at old costumes; it was always a walk through the past. I saw pictures of people I hadn’t thought about it ages. I remembered silly things I’d forgotten. (Not, mind you, the Halloween that wasn’t. Who could forget that?)
Let’s start at the beginning, when I born (sorry, David Copperfield). My nurse dressed me up as Tinkerbell. I think I look like a ballerina, but I was only a couple of weeks old. If my finger had glowed, I would’ve been ET.
Next up, we have me ACTUALLY in a Tinkerbell costume. I also should point out that I wore this outfit, randomly, around the house. I was sad when it broke.
(This is me as a cat. It took my mom FOREVER to paint my face. Or it felt like forever. I was an impatient kid. Also, notice the posing. I was a ham.)
(A Punk Witch! I distinctly remember this Halloween. The glasses made everything look funny, and I didn’t understand why my mom wouldn’t let me carry my cat in the basket. As part of my costume. Because that wouldn’t have been heavy. Noooo.)
(Batgirl!!!! My mom handstitched that costume, utility belt and all. This was the costume I wore to the Halloween in which No One Trick-or-Treated.)
Obviously, this isn’t every Halloween. I’m missing the time I was a movie star (old school, with a fur coat that I borrowed from my grandpa. Where did he get it? I don’t know), my Geisha girl outfit, and the time I was a 1950s housewife. There were pearls.
I love the idea of being someone else for a day. I love the drama of it all. Hell, I even love all the glitter, even though it is still EVERYWHERE six months later, like sparkly beach sand. I don’t know if I have an absolute favorite costume. For different reasons, I love them all.
Of course, I also love the candy. *wink*
When I was a kid, I wasn’t afraid of anything. Well, not anything. At one point, I was convinced that there were vampires living in my closet. The door had to be shut, and my neck had to be covered at all times while going to sleep. I’m not sure I should admit that, but there you have it: I was afraid of Closet Vampires.
But this isn’t about that. This is about what happens to us when we grow up. At some point, in small or large ways, we lose that Thing that lets us jump blindly into anything. In some instances, that’s a good thing. As an adult, we’d look pretty stupid jumping off the shed roof, trying to fly. (Not something that *I* personally did, mind you.) But in other areas, losing that Thing holds us back.
The past few days, I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve realized that certain things terrify me, illogically, and without cause. I don’t say these things out loud, because it’s silly. I know that I can get past them, but now it’s like I have something to prove. To myself, not other people.
As a kid, I was a goofy ham. Put a video camera in front of me, and I turned into a comedian. Hold out a camera, and you’d get a ridiculous big grin. Also goofy. Somewhere along the line, I stopped being so completely silly and hamish. (Not a word, I know. BUT IT SHOULD BE.) Don’t get me wrong, if I have to speak in front of a crowd, I generally do it well. I can do it. But it’s not the same reaction. And I find that puzzling. I can’t figure out when that happened.
I’ve given speeches. I’ve sung in front of crowds. Hell, I’ve sung in hallways. I love doing it, but that fearlessness is missing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally still the first person to leap in and do what needs to be done. I will recite Shakespeare on command (specifically, Puck’s ending speech). I love making people laugh. (See the video of me giving a toast at my best friend’s wedding. It’s on Facebook.) But I’m afraid screwing up or looking silly. I push through it, because that’s what you do. Face the fears. Tell them to bugger off (same goes for writing, and I will ask you to remind me of this while I’m pen-deep in edits, trying to figure out where the commas should go).
I want to get back that small piece of me that didn’t know to be afraid of looking silly. Except, I’m not entirely sure where I left it. But I’m going to figure it out.
What parts of your personality have fallen by the wayside?
It’s not a secret that I love words. I love grammar, too. I am a huge fan of the Oxford comma, and I can recite several monologues from Shakespeare – as well as a few sonnets. In short, I am a geek, though I am not the kind that eats glass or live chickens. Because ouch and ew, respectively.
Here and there, I do some editing work, which always exposes me to some hilarious (read: terrifying) examples of near-English writing and word usage. I suspect, someday, I will be discovered in corner yelling, “NO COMMA SPLICES!!!” like Joan Crawford yelling, “NO WIRE HANGERS!” It will not be pretty, but I am resigned to my fate.
But you know who isn’t? The Grammar Fairy. She is approximately three apples high (aka Smurf Height), with pale skin and sparkly green wings. However, you should not be lulled into thinking she is a benevolent, despite her resemblance to Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell she is not.
The Grammar Fairy has a temper. I think the job is getting to her, sometimes. I’ve seen her sharpening her teeth on more than one occasion. You see, if you rack up a certain number of heinous grammatical errors, she will visit you at night.
She is unforgiving. She will GNAW on your SOUL. Or, failing that, kick you in the shins. Repeatedly. Unless of course you use “whatevs” or “gots” in your everyday speech. For that, she will just haul off and bite you.
Unfortunately, the Grammar Fairy cannot be everywhere at once. Some repeat offenders have yet to meet her wrath. But she’s hiring a few good fairy underlings, and I suspect they will be out en masse VERY SOON. If you want to avoid the Wrath of the Grammar Fairy (cue music), here are a few helpful tips:
- ‘Thats’ is not a word. It is not even the bastard cousin of a word. It is supposed to be a contraction, and you cannot pluralize it. For this offense, the Grammar Fairy will pull out a small snatch of hair.
- Than and then are TWO different words. Sure, they’re homophones, but that doesn’t mean that their usage is the same. Use than for comparisons (cappuccino is better than regular coffee.). Use then in instances of time. Such as a point in time (I’ll see you then), something that happens next (I’ll make this call, then we’ll have coffee), in addition to (there’s reason, and then there’s accountability), or when something is case specific (If you want coffee, then you will have to make it). For this crime, the Grammar Fairy will bite you, perhaps in the kneecap.
- Your and you’re are not the same thing. Your is a possession pronoun that signifies ownership. (Example: This is your dance space.) You’re is a contraction for you are. (Example: You’re smart.) For this grave error, the Grammar Fairy will bludgeon you with a pocket dictionary.
- It’s and its are not interchangeable. Like your vs. you’re, its is a possession pronoun (the morning has lost its chill); it’s is a contraction for IT IS or IT HAS (it’s come to my attention that Alexander Skargard is single. CALL ME.). You cannot say, “Its common sense.” I’m pretty that only works if there’s a killer clown named Pennywise involved. For this egregious mistake, the Grammar Fairy will cut a bitch. Seriously. She has a small pocket knife. *cue music from West Side Story*
- Lastly, I hate to shatter worlds (not really), but the following are not correctly rendered words:
- Alot. You mean a lot. TWO words.
- Unbeknowingly. Unbeknownst is PROBABLY the word you’re looking for.
- Work shop. You mean workshop. One word. ONE.
- Anyways. Why is there an S on the end of that?!!? WHY???????????? *breaks down into sobs*
- Wherease. What is that even supposed to mean? You mean ‘whereas,’ I think. I HOPE.
For the above crimes, the Grammar Fairy will coldcock you with an Oxford Dictionary. (Yes, the ENTIRE set.) Repeatedly.
So, folks, if you’d like to avoid the Grammar Fairy’s ire, pay attention to what you say/write. Otherwise, you are in for a WORLD of PAIN.
(This one’s for Ana — my version of a Shadow-Thought.)
It is raining outside, again. I feel like that is nature’s default, lately: rainstorm apocalypse. It’s so pretty, until I need to venture outside in it. Then, bad things happen. For instance, my dog (on his morning walk) didn’t realize that I might NOT want to chase a bird on a wet grass. I might have slipped. I did not, however, fall. (Small victories!) After coming in from walking the dog, I somehow managed to slip and bang my knee on an open cabinet door. Why was it open? I have no idea. Perhaps there is a ghost. An evil, cabinet door-opening ghost. *looks around* Right. Moving on…
After clutching my bruised knee and wounded pride, I did the only logical thing: brewed coffee and read blogs. And after that, I decided it was a good day for comfort food. I made sour cream and cheese biscuits, with mushroom gravy, from scratch. There was also turkey bacon, but that doesn’t take talent; it merely requires a microwave.
As I was finishing up the gravy, I realized that I have a tendency to cook and bake when I’m in a bad mood. I write, too, but there’s something helpful about keeping your hands busy and being productive. The house smells divine, which is a bonus.
It’s funny how coping mechanisms change over time. Now, when something’s bothering me or I’m in a randomly crappy mood — I need to do something. It doesn’t matter if I can’t change whatever’s wrong; if I am being useful in some way, I feel better. As opposed to what I used to do when I was a teenager, which was blast loud music (Jagged Little Pill, anyone?) or sulk to my very eyeteeth. All and all, I think this is a vast improvement, although I do still turn Alanis up when I’m feeling like someone has peeled back my skin with hot poker and salt. Some habits don’t really die; they fade and flare.
If you are relatively cognizant, you know that bad days happen. Rain happens. Shit happens. A lot of the time, that stuff is equal parts unfair and unavoidable. I know that the crappy things are rarely able to be controlled; most of the time, they can only be managed.
It isn’t always easy to manage the bad things. Sometimes, a rainy day is enough to wrangle all the stresses that come before it. Stress is cumulative, folks, which is why the little things add up to mountains, sometimes. And then you find yourself eating an entire pie, wondering why fork is such a funny word. (Never Been Kissed reference. Otherwise known as The Movie that Made Me Adore Michael Vartan).
…where was I? Right. Stress. It accrues like the world’s most bizarre interest rate, pulled from vast wasteland of What Fresh Hell is This? (Bonus points to anyone who can tell me who said that.) We’re often conditioned to ignore stress. Ignore what’s bothering us. Take a pill. Have a drink. (Or three.) Buy a bigger rug, since the one you’re sweeping things under is no longer serviceable.
It’s not a good way to go. Recognize your stress and your stressors. (Screw you, spellcheck. That IS a word.) Recognize it and figure out how to deal with it, from the smallest things (like a rainy, slooshy miserable day) to the largest ones (personal difficulties).
And if all else fails, stop by my house. I’ll make coffee, and we’ll talk over cake. (What? There’s ALWAYS cake. Or pie. Or brownies.)
When I was a kid, I was sick a lot. There were weeks spent lounging, pathetically, on the couch in the family room. There is pictorial evidence of how pathetic I looked when I was sick. No, that will not make it onto this blog. Suffice to say that once, I had pneumonia, and the medication I was given for it turned my tongue black and fuzzy. This was at Christmas. I resembled a small, brunette Crypt Keeper, whose tongue had turned into a demonic muppet. It wasn’t a good look for me.
Where was I? Right. Sick kid. So, my mom used to rent me a lot of movies to keep me occupied. When she wasn’t looking, of course, I’d sneak off the couch and onto the floor, where the cat (that I was allergic to) would lie on my stomach, purring contentedly. What? Try keeping me away from something cute and flurry. I dare you. *wink*
This was, of course, back before DVDs, during the Dark Ages of VHS and *gasp* VIDEO STORES. There was a local video store about five minutes from our house, run by a couple. Mrs. S was the sweetest woman alive. Mr. S, however, was a bit…off. He ran the register is the store section (it was a combination convenience store and video store). Imagine walking up to pay for your things and spying an adult man with a piece of printer paper TAPED to his shirt. He rarely used scotch tape, mind you, but favored duct or electrical tape (that latter did not stick well). Anyway, scrawled in marker on this homemade sign would be the lotto jackpot total. And the price of a lottery ticket. Without fail, Mr. S would ask, at least three times, if my mother wanted to buy a lottery ticket. Never in my life has my mother ever bought a lottery ticket. But let me tell you, it was really difficult to keep a straight face.
The point? Right. They had a variety of movies I could never rent anywhere else. One was The Magic Pony. Another was my favorite: Unico. Unico was a manga cartoon, before I even knew what that was, about a tiny unicorn. It is also the first appearance of Hello Kitty, which is pretty neat. Anyway, it is about as cheesy awesome as it sounds. Unico is all about being kind and making friends. I know this because I recently got the sequel on DVD. (Don’t look at me like that. I don’t care if I am twenty-nine. You can’t take away my cartoons.)
And I watched it last night. The little unicorn just wanted to be nice to everyone. He wanted to be friends with anyone who crossed his path. He was out to do good and get hugs. After watching it, I realized that between a childhood of that movie and the CareBears, it explains a lot about me. I can be tough when I have to be. I have a spine. I get angry.
But my default is always to be nice. It’s always to hug a lost dog or cat. (Rescued the neighbor’s dog TWICE last week. Poor old thing was tottering toward the road.) It’s silly to think that cartoons influence children in such instrumental ways, but I really think that affected me. Even She-Ra and He-Man had morals at the end of the cartoons.
Which got me to thinking about today’s cartoons. Admittedly, I don’t watch a lot of them, but I wonder if that moral-of-the-story bit has fallen by the wayside. If it has, it strikes me as a bit of a shame. I think kids need that, especially with the rampant lack of parental influence and presence that is so prevalent these days. (Sweeping generalization!)
Watching the sequel to Unico made me a little nostalgic. I kind of have the urge to dye my hair pink, slap on some star earrings, and sing. (Jem, anyone?) But I suppose if I do that, it’ll have to wait until Halloween. Until then, I’ll be over here, watching a tiny magic unicorn and remembering that time I had to walk twelve miles, uphill, in the SNOW, barefoot — just to rent a video. Which then incurred late fees.