Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Come see me and my monkey at InterventionCon!

Hello, 2.5 loyal readers! I vanished for a couple of months there, eh? Funny thing happened: I moved. It was not by my choice. No, I was not evicted, but the owners of the condo where I'd lived for 19 (!!) years informed me of their plans to move into their unit as they downsized. Short story: I now live in the unit above my old home - quiet, mellow, hummingbirds checking out the Home Depot plants my bro and bro-in-law got for me. I am closer to the surface of the sun (by one story), so it's hotter up here, even with the A/C.

But all of that is a story for my next post, which has been perking in draft purgatory for a few weeks. It will come.

For now, I want to share with you that the Sasquatch (aka James Quigley, the letterpress craftsman/owner of Model Citizen Press) and I will be in the vendor room at InterventionCon in Rockville, Maryland this coming weekend, selling gorgeous handmade letterpress cards and prints with James' lovely work—little birds that will grab your heartstrings, wonderful inventions and old technology, pop culture, all sorts of cool stuff. Some of the cards even feature art by mezombie sock monkeys, matryoshki of all sorts, angels, mermaids—and if I get my ass in gear and a signing pencil in my hand, some limited edition prints. 

James makes all these good things on a vintage Vandercook Proof Press at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Silver Spring, which is a very cool place to learn how to make art of all sorts.

So, come back soon to read the saga of the 14-step apartment move and the epic quest for my security deposit (all battled one-handed with a torn rotator cuff, huzzah!) For now, if you're in the area, come and see us and buy some Model Citizen Press cards. Once you go letterpress, you're never going back to drug store greeting cards! (And hey—if you can't come to Rockville, you can check out the cards on the Etsy store site.)
Be there, aloha.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Peak Bloom

The cherry blossoms are here. The brick and stone and steel that line our streets are softened by white and pale pink blooms that lure tourists and jam our rush hour roads. I admit I prefer the elegant flowers of our magnolias, painted in bolder pinks, rich lavender, and deep purple petals, but they get less play in a cherry blossom-obsessed town. (It's alright, sweet magnolias. The tourists don't know what they're missing.)

We are at peak bloom for the cherry trees right now, which will come to an end in the blink of an eye. Rain is forecast for tomorrow, so people thronged the Tidal Basin today, wreaking havoc on the evening rush, and rendering me a profane mess behind the wheel. The pastel mania made the drive of a few blocks feel like a panicked apocalyptic escape from the capital.

Ah, yes. Hello, peak bloom. Here and gone.

As soon as the word "peak" was uttered, the cherry blossoms started to come apart and flutter down to the pavement. The city is already awash in white dots that speckle the streets, tossed along at ground level through busy traffic. Tiny silken tumbleweeds, chaotic yet graceful, they stick to your tires and the soles of your shoes. Fragile as porcelain, utterly ephemeral, and soon to be crushed into the cement. They are lovely, and they are fleeting.

For now, the blossoms float in the breeze like confetti, thrown in gracious handfuls by Mother Nature to celebrate the arrival of victorious spring. Every street is a parade route for the conquering hero who has slain grim winter—a season dispatched to memory and soon to be forgotten in a swell of rising heat. For now, summer waits at the window while the parade rolls by. In just a few days, the blush will be gone, and the city will return to brick, and stone, and metal, unadorned by flowering branches. The temperature will start to soar, and we will wonder where winter went.

And the wait begins again.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Seeking New Walls

So, after almost twenty years, I have to move. My landlord wants to occupy the condo unit himself. Heck, it's his property. He can do what he wants. I just wasn't mentally prepared to move right now. Or physically prepared. Bad back, numb leg, insomnia... damn, man, that's a craptacular place to be when you have to box up twenty years of your life and move it somewhere else.

And I have no clue where that will be.

There have been pluses and minuses to living in the spot where I am right now. The biggest plus is that rent in this unit has been consistently $400-500 less than the typical one-bedroom in the neighborhood, and utilities have been included in the rent. Big plus. Big, big plus. Also, it's been convenient for shopping, work, you name it. It is going to be virtually impossible for me to find something else nearby with the price and convenience factor, and that both freaks me out and makes me sad. But change is inevitable, and I know my charmed housing price situation would not last forever.

The truth is, I've known I needed to leave this neighborhood for some time now. I have had a parade of horrible neighbors in two decades, some of whose antics I have catalogued out here:

  • The drunk "Cougaracha" whose sexual exploits, angry phone fights with the ex, unstable 20-something son, and creative holiday decorating brought misery from upstairs
  • "Angry Indian Doctor" who was simply a scary and miserable SOB,  and his wife, who enjoyed vacuuming the apartment at midnight. Bonus: their Thanksgiving "stuffin' o' the bird" that everyone in the building had to listen to one year.
  • The "Genital Shaving Indian Couple" next door. 'Nuff said. No, wait - not 'nuff said. Classic lines came from this experience. I came home one night to hear the couple next door engaging in some razor-riffic activity in the kitchen. IN THE KITCHEN. He apparently wasn't very adept with the shaving. Classic lines: "You have nicked me!" "I do not like it! I do not like it!" "There will be no sex tonight!" All this led to a fight in which shaven, naked, keyless Indian woman was locked out of the apartment. I handed her a towel through a barely opened door. I didn't ask for the towel back.
  • The weird, fringed short-shorts-wearing Israeli hairdresser who set up an illegal hair salon next door. He also enjoyed watching boxing with the TV volume jacked up in the middle of the night. Apparently, you don't mess with the Zohan! His girlfriend showed up about a year after they moved out, asking if I'd let her borrow my storage room key. I declined.
  • The angry dude upstairs who moved a piano into his apartment and simply tapped the same freaking key over and over again late at night and sang, "LA LA LAAAAAA!" again and again. He also sometimes wore a Valkyrie wig down in the laundry room. When he got thrashed drunk once and turned his TV to max volume to watch horse racing, I asked him to turn it down and he told me to "go live in a fucking convent, you bitch."
  • The Hooters girls -- the most vile trio of gutter trash to move into the building. Screaming, physical fights with creepy boyfriends, open trash bags of rotting seafood (mixed with credit card bills!?!) down in the laundry room, vomit in the hallway...
  • Naked rugby player. This might have been okay, had he been more pleasant. He just liked passers-by see his schlong, as he stood by the ground floor windows of his apartment. When I told his wife about that, she was horrified (as this always happened when she was on a business trip.) These are the same people who liked to play some "lady and the highwayman" role-play in bed on Sunday mornings. "Stand and deliver" has never been the same since.
  • Scary, scary mentally-ill man whose family set him up in the unit across the hall from me and would simply come by periodically, put food on his balcony for him and then just drive away. He used to beat on his car, the washers and dryers in our laundry room, and, right after 9/11, he screamed at and threatened the petite Palestinian cancer researcher who lived upstairs (she worked at NIH and was suffering from cancer herself). That's one of the few times I've had to wield the baseball bat I keep next to my front door. He moved out - his family bought him a unit in another building in the neighborhood. Charming.
  • The "Russian Disco Hut Duo" who thought running a Friday night dance party in their unit each week was an AWESOME idea. Their drunk-ass guests got a lot of feedback from me en Russe, as did the occupants themselves. Fun.
  • The couple upstairs who - while quite lovely - are trying to make another baby. How could one object to that? Oh, I know: it's her loud cries for him to "PUT A BABY IN ME!" Eeeek. It's as if Fat Bastard had possessed this tiny Chinese woman.
  • The guy downstairs who chain smokes so much, my apartment smells like I'm the Marlboro Man.
  • The anonymous idiots who left bleach all over the washers, laundered disintegrating foam pillows (and left what looked like a murdered Muppet all over the laundry room), the guys who couldn't be bothered to clean out the lint traps -- which I reminded one guy was his "butt and nut hair" and that I didn't want to touch it.
  • Oh, and dear lord, how could I forget the current holders of the Crappiest Neighbor Title: Drinky McFightster and Petite McScreamy-Shrew. At least we haven't had to call the police for a few weeks. Classic on St. Patrick's Day night, with the building snowed in, was the fight that including this screamed gem: "LOWER YOUR VOICE! THE NEIGHBORS MIGHT HEAR US!" Yes, Drinky McFightster, we might.
God, have I listed them all? I'm not sure anymore. There have been so many. And yet, there were lovely neighbors, too.

The half-Norwegian, half-Brazilian family...

Mia and Tony, who were (and still are) really awesome -- and I thank Facebook for reconnecting me with Mia...

The Moscow family with whom I used to practice my Russian in the hallway...

Ti, the NIH scholar who offered to teach tai-chi to us all...

Sean the Irish dude with whom I exchanged maybe 50 words in 12 years...

But they are all gone now, and soon I will be, too.

I have to think positively about all this. I've had many complaints while I've lived here, and the landscape is changing. Older people in the neighborhood are moving, and many of the condos are rented to young, first-timers who will be here just for a year or so. They don't give a damn about being part of a community. Many of them have no sense of what it means to live outside of a college campus or their parents' homes, and their "youthful exuberance" translates as rudeness that is not kind to people who have kids and real jobs and need to sleep. I realize moving will mean a new set of parameters, but I'm doing my research. I have to remember that change is good. I won't have to listen to people yelling in the street in the middle of the night or hear the screaming of the little dogs from the house next door when they're left out all night in extreme weather or listen to the idling Comcast trucks outside my bedroom window week after week. (Seriously, Comcast - what is wrong with that damn box out there?)

I won't have to deal with the overly well-fed kitchen mice or the giant crickets that crawl out of the tub drain. Side note: one of those little bastards climbed up my pants leg tonight while I was using the facilities. Let me tell you, trying to pee while a cricket decides to see how far up your thigh he can crawl is somewhat unpleasant.

Tomorrow, I start finding boxes to load my belongings and newspapers to cradle the fragile souvenirs of my life. I need to rent a storage locker to empty part of this out to make the next couple of months easier. It's just money, right?

I spent three hours looking at apartment listings tonight. I wanted to hurl when I was done. Day One was an exercise in frustration. Hopefully Day Two will be better. I'll find something, I know. But this is more change that I was ready for this spring. It's a First World Problem, I know. I've lived here for a generation. Weird to think of it that way. I'm afraid life is going to cost me a lot more now, and I will have to adjust to a new sense of community. Despite the crap neighbors, kitchen mice, and kinky crickets, I have been very lucky for a long time.

Here's hoping luck will come again, preferably with thicker walls.

Monday, March 10, 2014

One Thousand Characters

I'm applying for the Amtrak Residency for Writers program. I realize I have a snowball's chance in Hell to succeed, considering that the program will have 24 slots for the thousands of hopeful writer-journeyers. But I am not the only snowball in Hell, and all of us melting lumps are furiously churning out short essays to express our desire to ride the rails and pour out our words and dreams from a sleeper car rolling across America.

Why do you want a residency? 

How would a residency benefit you?

Both answers limited to 1,000 characters, please, including spaces.

Holy crap. I never met a word I didn't like. That much is clear in my general need for an editor. Finding a way to express my desires and needs in pithy blocks of text is challenging. I should acknowledge that my tendency to ramble on paper reflects a general picture of me. Kinder people might call that "limitless." Less kind people would simply call it "undisciplined." I suppose I'm somewhere in between. The rambling also reflects my personal inability to stop. To stop worrying, stop fearing, stop holding myself back, stop comparing my life to others and seeing only a mirror of my perceived failure.  

Stop. Just stop.

I need to edit myself. The words? That will be the easy part. The person? Harder. But I will do it.

Right now, I have 1,171 characters on why I want to board a train and sail the tracks to the West Coast and back. I'm sure there are 171 characters that can go keep my insecurities company in the dark place to which they should be banished.

1,000 characters on why this would benefit me? Oh, a million thoughts are circling. I will drink some tea and consider the 999,000 thoughts to set aside. There is time, and I will consider my answers carefully, but like a locomotive, life moves fast, and I need to maintain my passion, hold onto my rails, and choose a destination before I miss my station.

Friday, March 07, 2014

What Is Remembered and What is Lost

About eight years ago, a strange and disconcerting thing started happening to me. At random moments, I suddenly smelled cigarette smoke all around me. The first time it happened, I was at work, and my head jerked up as the pungent stink of smoke hit my nose. I immediately jumped up  and went to the door to see what idiot had lit up in my vicinity.

But there was no one there.

This happened on and off for months before I finally typed the words "I smell cigarette smoke" into Google and the experiences of dozens and dozens of people popped up on websites all over creation. I'm sure that was the tip of the iceberg. Phantosmia, parosmia... phantom smells, olfactory hallucinations... all ailments and symptoms that can indicate a much more serious condition. Or, in many cases, it means you have a pretty screwed up sinus situation. A lifetime of sinus infections, and now I have the gift of "mystery stink" hitting my schnoz at odd times. While some of the odors can be exotic or comforting, most of the time it remains the harsh and overwhelming smell of cigarettes. It reminds me of a trip I took to the Yucatan with my late sister, where her chain smoking turned our hotel room into a toxic zone of rank, blue haze.

Once in a while this phenomenon presents fairly pleasant offerings, though. Sometimes I smell a plate of chicken and dumplings from Bishop's Buffet, a shopping mall restaurant in my hometown—it's salty, chicken-y,  and I swear I can smell the dough. Other times, it's incense from a Thai temple that reminds me of trips to Bangkok back in the day. It's a powerful thing and most of the time I want my sinuses fixed and the hallucinations to stop. But when it takes me somewhere good, somewhere pleasant, where good memories are formed, I am reluctant to have it end.

A couple of days ago, the smell that hit me was of a coffee shop and the fragrance of freshly roasted beans. This pleased me. See, I've been sick with some sort of sinus ailment since Valentine's Day, when I fled my apartment and whatever "celebrations" might come from the angry, drunken neighbors on the other side of my thin wall. I checked into a nearly empty hotel up the road, looking forward to using the pool and gym and thick-walled silence. It was lovely. A swirling snow storm provided the perfect setting to shelter from the world for a couple of days, and lounging alone in the hotel whirlpool next to a large window reminded me of weekends at the embassy dacha in Moscow—sauna and snow and a bright-starred sky.

It really was lovely.

Until I got sick. 

Feverish sick. Hacking and coughing sick. Lost voice sick. I returned home and found myself taking sick day after sick day, sweating out the fever on my sofa and drinking huge bottles of water to replace my burnt out fluids. And through it all, I was smacked in head with the smell of cigarettes to the point of nausea. 

But now, as I'm getting better, the smell of coffee fills my nose. It is intoxicating and heady. But the scent doesn't take me to a memory of my own. It takes me to a memory I could not have because it happened 20 years before my birth. It is a fragment of a memory from when my family lived in Seattle shortly after World War II ended. My parents had Swedish neighbors there, and Mom used to tell me the same little story about them again and again as she brewed coffee for my father in the morning in an old percolator at the house in Moline. 

The Swedes, she said, had a coffee urn that remained on all day and all night for family and friends who might drop by. The coffee was very strong, and the smell from the simmering urn permeated the whole neighborhood. Mom always said the urn was never cleaned until the coffee remaining had turned into a heavy sludge at the bottom of the pot. My older self wonders if the sludge might have packed the punch of Turkish coffee, like a shot of caffeinated jet fuel.

I know nothing more about the Swedish neighbors beyond their coffee urn. Were they immigrants? Were there a lot of Swedes in Seattle after the war? Before the war? What did the neighbors do? Did my coffee-averse mother ever try a hot cup from the urn?

I have no idea. I only have the urn. A fragment, and I never took the time to ask more questions. So many stories I have of my family are equally fragmented. I'm not entirely sure if all my siblings have the same fragments I do. What scattered pieces are triggered in them when they smell something or hear something? Are their stories, like mine, ones that happened decades before they were born?

I know about the relative who had a sick pony that was horribly bloated after gorging on tall grass. The pony had to be relieved of the gas, and a hollow tube was inserted into its gut to release the gas that had rendered the pony into a shaggy, earthbound balloon. Unfortunately, the relative handling the tube insertion was smoking at the time.

Did you know ponies can explode?

That's the lesson I learned from that vignette. Ponies can explode. It's the awesome power of chemistry, kids. 

But what more do I know about that relative? Do I have a picture of him somewhere in the boxes of photos in my closet? I regret deeply not asking more questions when my parents were alive. I regret all the history I've lost and will never be able to retrieve, except as details in genealogical records. There are likely no exploding ponies there. Nor are there urns of coffee and Swedish neighbors.

The coffee scent has left my head now. The urn is shelved and the Marlboro Man is riding the range in my sinuses again. I sit here and think about what scraps of information and memory I can still gather from my older siblings and stitch together to fill the holes in our story. 

Take time to listen and learn. Record what you can. I actively strive to hear my mother's voice in my head these days, so I don't forget it. I can hear her leaving me voicemail when, yet again, I wasn't home for her call on a Sunday night.

"Hi, Lissa. It's Mom. I'm sure you're out somewhere. Just wanted to call and say hi."

It gets harder to hear her voice in my head, but the Swedish coffee urn remains. Dammit.

Remember, remember. What is lost is lost. What we gain is heartache and memory and the need to create something joyful from what we cobble together through time. I have never been a good cobbler, but in this second half of my life, I'd best learn.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

When we last saw our hero...

...she was doing some navel gazing and kicking of her own butt to get motivated again.

I am a little humbled and very grateful for the response to my most recent blog entry. Supportive feedback came from friends (although one might say it's in their "friend contracts" to be supportive). A very kind mention on DCBlogs described me as "one of the most talented writers around." I will gladly buy a coffee for the individual responsible for that text. I will not lie: it was an invigorating compliment (and yes, wee ego boost) that has encouraged me to continue on the "Back from the Dead" creative path.

I've committed myself to doing at least one creative thing every day. Some are things I just do for myself that may or may not see the light of day beyond my desk, some are in the form of drawings that sometimes show up on Facebook (to torture my friends), and some are words that will either show up here or in short stories I'm going to try to finish. I have a bookshelf of half-finished stories, but I don't know that fiction is my gift. We shall see.

A while back, my friend the Sasquatch fell in love with letterpress after taking classes at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Silver Spring. The end result of this is that the Sasquatch has made some very cool cards on a vintage letterpress and sells them online through his business, Model Citizen Press, on Etsy and at funky art and craft fairs in the DC area. While my style of "art" might best be described as "early onset Grandma Moses primitive" (aka, "you draw like a child"), some of my drawings have translated well into handcrafted cards sold by Model Citizen Press.

 In an homage to my background in Russian culture, I've drawn a series of matryoshki images (the classic Russian nesting dolls) for the Sasquatch, representing families, wedding parties, heck, even a little steampunk action and - the heart of the Internet - cats. Some of the wedding and family cards represent "traditional" straight families, and others celebrate gay and lesbian families like "Ellen and Portia" here.

"Ellen and Portia," the blushing brides gettin' hitched

I considered sending one to the Russian embassy to congratulate their government on being so tolerant and accepting. As I recently made the decision to never return to my erstwhile home, I don't think pissing off the people who process visas to Mother Russia is much of a big deal for me. However, that would have been a waste of a nifty card, lovingly handmade by the Sasquatch himself.

So, I have sketched matryoshki, zombie sock monkeys, zafitg angels and devious devils, and sea-green mermaids, all scratched out in pen and pencil and handed off to the Sasquatch. It's been a blast to see my scrawls translated into things that are sent and exchanged as tokens of love and affection (and, in a few cases, just tokens of utter strangeness). The zombie sock monkey started as a joke, but he has become a bit of a thing for me. I feel great affection for him, and I find myself drawing him in different situations all the time - some of them definitely not ready for prime time and exclusively for the amusement of the Sasquatch and myself. But these little steps, and the appreciative reception from folks who have bought cards with my drawings, have made me want to continue. I am evaluating all sorts of ideas, but while I do that cautiously and with the thoughtfulness of someone with shallow pockets, I keep drawing. I keep making things.

I bought a $5 sketching app for my tablet, and I have been a menace drawing random things in the past couple of weeks. I appreciate the tolerance of my Facebook friends who see all that stuff popping up on my timeline. My thought is this: good, bad, ugly, if I put my stuff out there, I can't hide it. I get feedback, I get criticism, I see my flaws and errors and strive to do better. 

Sakura, one of my little tablet sketches.

It's the same with my words. I think I lost some faith in my writing in recent months after getting a string of rejections over a short story I tried submitting to a number of magazines. One low level reviewer bounced it back to me with the notation that it was utterly juvenile writing. There's part of me that wanted to embrace that at 48 and say, "Awesome, how youthful of me!"

Just kidding. It was a cringeworthy moment. 

But if I don't try, if I don't share my words, how will I improve? How will I know what strikes a chord with people? I am under no illusion that I will become a best-selling author. I realize that is a pipe dream of thousands. But I would like to write things that grab people and make them think or simply resonate somewhere within a reader - their heart, head, or gut.

I have been working on starting a storytelling podcast for a while now. I want to create a community of people who can use the podcast as a hub to share their own work, while also sharing my own. I was ready to embark on this project last summer, but just as I was preparing to push the button, I was hit in another car accident. Yep, Ms. Auto Injury was walloped by a minivan full of teenagers who tried to defy the laws of physics. I lost my whole summer to pain, hammer-to-the-skull headaches, and physical therapy. My car survived - don't ask me how - and it looked pretty spiffy for an old station wagon when I got it back from the body shop. And boy, was I happy to see it, as Enterprise had rented me a vehicle that reeked like a corpse was riding in the trunk.

At least they didn't give me a stinkmobile in September when I was hit again.

Again. Yes, again. 

At least this time, I was hit by a New York Times "Notable Author" and former Clinton West Winger. I have to wonder which of President Bartlett's staff members was based on Mr. Audi A7-I'm-in-a-Hurry. Amusingly, I got rear-ended by him just as the sun was setting on Yom Kippur, and I can only imagine he was in a rush to get home. At least hitting my car gave him something to atone for, right?

More physical therapy, more time lost from work. The depression that had settled on my head after the July accident was pulled down like a hood after September. And the desire to be creative (or much of anything, frankly) vacated me. It's been a series of tentative steps and stumbles since then. The podcast is on hold, but I hope to return to the idea. Storytelling seems to be a hot button concept this year, and I may already be so far behind the curve that I can't catch up. Until I figure out what I want to do, I'll keep taking baby steps, writing here, drawing there. Eventually people on Facebook will get tired of my little tablet sketches and readers will want more than me just yapping about getting my act together. 

That will come. Until then, the Zombie Sock Monkey and I will muddle through, one undead day at a time.
Zombie Sock Monkey is my co-pilot

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Fresh Snow

It smells like snow. I can’t describe it, really. If you’ve grown up in an area that gets a good amount of snow in the winter, you know it. It’s crisp, distinctive. I learned the smell early in life in the Midwest, as it crept in, sometimes hours in advance of a storm. In Moscow, the smell was often masked by the dirty air of the city, but it was still there. I don't smell it very often here in Maryland, so when it happens, it feels so good. If I know snow is coming, I close my eyes and breathe deeply. The familiar scent floods my nose, my head. When I fill my lungs with that air, I feel better. Calm. Peaceful. I can briefly fool myself that the air is cleaner and healthier when snow is the fragrant note. 

Last night, I breathed in, hoping to catch snow on the breeze, but there was none yet. Tonight, it’s here. I have my windows open, as the mild temperature of the day drops and the light rain outside hovers above freezing, on the verge of laying down a sheet of thin ice that will be cloaked in white overnight. I need to close the windows soon, before the snow air I love begins to sting my nose and lungs, still aching from the cold that will not quite leave me. My lungs offer up a quiet rasp only I can hear in my chest and head. It's time to heat some water for tea and turn off the overhead lights that seem too strong now.

I have white twinkle lights in my living room and a red paper star in my kitchen window, never taken down from Christmas. I’ve decided the star isn’t a cheap holiday light, but simply something warm and welcoming for the dark space of my solitary nights. It makes me feel a little less alone. Especially now. So it stays. I don’t know how much life there is in a ten dollar light cord wrapped in a glossy cardboard shell, but I intend to embrace every last lumen it offers. 

Save for someone in their final hour on death row, we don’t know when our last lumen will burn out. I feel l have wasted so much of my own light, as dim as it might be, and I am 48 years into my life now. I have made so many commitments to myself over the years—in creativity, health, a search for love and partnership—that I have let fade away. I need a reason to want to succeed, to thrive, to want something.

When I was a teenager, my father belittled me. It was painful, and I was not mature enough to understand his own bitterness about his life then. Not sure I am mature enough now, honestly. Back then, I had an elaborate set of imaginary worlds in my head where I could retreat from reality while hiding in my corner bedroom, sitting at my drawing table with my pencils and notebooks, and my radio. I am sitting at that same drawing table right now. The pencils and notebooks are here with me, as is a radio. The only difference is the addition of technology and the older, sadder, less agile body. So many years later, the memories of my father’s outbursts are here with me too. “It’s a good thing she’s smart, Jerry,” I can hear him say snidely to my mother. “She doesn’t have a damn thing to offer a man.” I was seventeen, and I was in the next room. My father was a very smart man. He really didn’t like me, but he was a very smart man. And I hate that my life has demonstrated him to be right about me in many ways.  

Hard words to write, but honest words. And I so want to prove him wrong about me in many ways. Sitting here tonight, surrounded by half-finished stories and half-assed drawings, breathing in the smell of coming snow, I realize I have to get my shit together and be whatever I still can be in this life. I need to finish things I start. I need to be stronger for myself and be a little selfish—another thing that’s hard to write, as I was accused of being a selfish person so often as a child. But for many years now, I’ve felt more invested in the success and happiness of other people than in myself because I did not think I was supposed to be successful or happy. I’ve been told I shouldn’t expect more. I am ugly. Unlovable. Unworthy. Instead of my own love or success, I have sought approval. I have been cheerleader, supporter, stage manager behind the curtain, the “I’m so happy for you” girl, and sometimes the person who is used for information and then passed over in favor of others—more vibrant, more interesting, more beautiful, more influential, smarter…

So, what do I do? Where do I start? I’m not even sure which things to try to finish first, or which things to jettison as unrealistic at 48. But if I just continue to spend all my time thinking and not doing, the clock will wind down, and my own bulb will dim and sputter without really throwing any good light.

So, I wait for the snow, now heavier on the air and mixed with the incense of wood fire from the house next door. I wait for the cold to be too much for me to take, sitting by the open window. I wait for my mind to settle on what to do next. 

And then, I have to stop waiting. I need to start being happy. 

I hope to see a field of fresh white when I wake up tomorrow. And I’ll make my own mark in the snow and choose my own path to leave in the fresh white. 

Most probably, that path will initially just be to my car in the parking lot, dragging a shovel and scraper in my wake. 

But it's somewhere. It's a start.