Writers are told to write what you know. I started writing about mercy for the exact opposite reason. I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t understand it. It was a word with a heavy veneer covering the solid wood underneath. While I almost never heard the word outside of a church, I could see the need for giving and receiving it everywhere. It’s as ancient as the air we breathe and as transparent. It’s easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it and life is suffocating without it.
I have a new computer and noticed at the top center is an icon of a little light bulb that reads, “Tell me what you want to do.” Maybe it’s because I had a perpetually messy room as a child and watched too many episodes of “I Dream of Jeannie,” but I’ve been looking for a light bulb like that my entire life.
Haven’t we all? How much simpler life would be if we could just get what we want, what we think we need, what we know will finally fill that persistent ache of our humanity. When I look at my life, the things I wished for as a child, the vows of certainty I made as a teenager, the ambitious plans I made as a young adult, and the middle-age accumulation of decades of yearnings, efforts, achievements, and disappointments, I wonder why I long for anything. It hasn’t been a ‘your wish is my command’ experience, but it has been magical, even if that magic felt black at times. Read more
When I was in college, a friend often wore Birkenstocks, the backless shoes that are the tree-hugging cousin of the flip-flop. The shoes reminded me of crunchy granola and the Hare Krishna food they used to give away on campus at the University of Florida. This was back in the nineties before Nordstrom carried the comfort shoe in an array of pastels. I was poor in college, so a splurge for me was a 2 a.m. run to the border for a nacho bell-grande. In hindsight, I should have opted for the free food passed out by the bald people wearing white sheets and dancing with tambourines. It was probably healthier. But I was afraid if I ate the Hare Krishna food I would end up in a hallucinogenic state and disavow my beachy flip-flops for its chunkier cousin.
A friend of mine confessed on a recent girls’ night that her Christmas tree was still up. It was past mid-March. New Year’s resolutions had already been forgotten, Cupid already shot his arrow, leprechauns already spent their pots of gold, and cumulus clouds were already forming April showers in the skies, so I didn’t really know what to say.
She seemed relatively nonchalant about it, and I told her I didn’t know whether she had become fully liberated or if she had simply gone over the edge. There seems to be a fine line between those things. Read more
During this Lenten season, I lost a dear friend unexpectedly. It was a Tuesday, and I planned to go to the grocery store. Instead, I was in the ER and then the ICU, waiting, hoping, and praying while trying to comfort her two daughters who are the same ages as my boys. I had so many joyful memories with these girls: picking blueberries on a hot summer day, watching them bob in the pool, laughing, and splashing with abandon, and chatting leisurely in their kitchen on carefree topics that meandered like the veining in the marble on their island. We went trick-or-treating with them, hunted Easter eggs, and watched fireworks on the Fourth of July. Read more
“Reunited and it feels so good,” are lyrics from the 1978 song by the vocal duo, Peaches & Herb. But upon returning a stray dog, the lyrics that played to the song’s melody sounded more like, “Reunited, and it feels like crud!”
It was far from peachy.
When I found the elderly dog, he was thin, filled with fleas, and uncharacteristically aloof for his breed. After twenty minutes of convincing him I wasn’t a serial killer, he reluctantly succumbed to my coaxing him into the backyard. Within minutes he escaped and sat stubbornly in middle of the road. I directed cars to drive around us while begging him to follow me. Perhaps, the dog binge-watched Criminal Minds before running away, because he clearly knew the finer points of stranger danger. After getting him into the backyard for the second time, I jammed logs in the passage in the gate he eluded, creating fine fence folk art that I am sure would become the envy of my neighborhood. Then I went back inside to post his picture on lost-dog websites. Read more
I’ve been on a search for the holy grail of vacuums. This isn’t a new thing. I’ve been at it for years. Other people travel the world, I buy (and, often return) vacuums.
I guess I am looking for the perfect vacuum that has among its features a desire to actually use it. So far, all I have had is a longing for clean floors. A friend of mine lent me one of those robot vacuums. I figured even I could muster the motivation to try it since it only required me to push a button.
The dog and I suspiciously watched the wayward machine. It was like a mini R2D2 after a night out at the bars. It swayed in one direction and then the other, continuously running into things. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for it. It was trying so hard. Read more
My son’s school had an 80s-themed fundraiser a-la Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” admittedly one of my favorite songs growing up. But that was four decades ago! Now I am a middle-aged woman who just wants a nap. I mean they’re pretty fun, too, right?
It’s hard to believe that I can count my life in decades now. I still remember the thrill of turning double digits, the big 1-0. It was the following year, 1983, that Lauper released the ultimate slumber party song, “They just wanna, they just wanna, oh girls, Girls just wanna have fun.”
In retrospect, I don’t know how fun the eighties were for me. My parents divorced. I was a latch-key kid living off Stouffer’s frozen fettuccine dinners, ice cream bars, and Cool Whip. It was a coming-of-age decade with all the confusion, angst, and acne that accompanies adolescence.
More than having fun, I think what I wanted was to belong. I felt a little bit like an astronaut floating around in a space suit trying to find my people. More so, trying to find myself.
I like to think that now that I am in my forties, I am more grounded, and certainly my faith is a huge part of that. But there are still days that I wonder what I am supposed to be when I grow up, what I am here for, and how to make the most of the time I have left. While the gravity of those questions should be enough to bring me down, the promise of my faith, of an eternal life with God, keeps me afloat as I search.
I went to the thrift store with two girlfriends to find an outfit befitting the decade with a penchant for legwarmers and leisure suits. There were no dressing rooms, so we had to try poufy, lacy, neon, garish dresses over our clothes in front of mirrors in the middle aisles of the store. We were a spectacle worthy of our own music video.
Okay, it was less Robert Palmer and more middle-aged mayhem. I tried on an orange neon dress with a center slit so high I am pretty sure my son would have been kicked out of school if I wore it, and my friend delighted in finding the absolute ugliest dress I’ve seen in a long time. Our other girlfriend was like a stage mom, accessorizing us, tucking our post-baby parts into cast-off prom dresses and saying things like, “Oh, the reason you can’t find anything is that everything looks good on you.” You have to love a friend that can lie like that!
I didn’t find anything that Thursday at the thrift store, but eventually I found something perfectly hideous to wear to the event. Just like I have faith that I will someday find the answers to the weighty questions I sometimes ask. If nothing else, I was reminded of how fun the search can be. And, after all, girls just wanna have fun!
What do you remember most about the eighties? Are you still searching for the same things you were then? I am pretty sure all I was searching for was a decent boyfriend. In retrospect, I think the meaning of life may just be easier to find!
The transition from summer to fall is always difficult for me. September through December is jam-packed with, you know….everything. It starts to wear on my confidence.
Seriously, if I listed it all out, you would be breathing into a paper bag right now. I know because I just wrote about half of the activities here and had to run to the kitchen to look for a bag. Of course, I could only find plastic bags, which seems like a suffocation hazard. So, I decided it would be better to just delete that paragraph and save you all from hyperventilating and searching in futility for a paper bag. Read more
I got flagged off the other day – not with an actual flag, but with a finger. I don’t know if it was road rage but it was unpleasant.
I didn’t really think people did that anymore. I guess it’s been a long time since anyone showed me their tallest finger.
I was picking up my older son from his first day at a new school and was trying to navigate all the construction and traffic on I-95. I realized I needed to get over one lane and no one would oblige the blinking request of my turn signal. Read more