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Musical Musings #3

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It’s time for another Musical Musings, and this month, the subject is songs that remind me of my parents, my sibling(s), and my childhood. This should be fun! Also, I’m guessing it’ll be long. Because music. And family. You’ve been warned.

We’ll start with my dad. When my parents split, there were the weekend visits with my dad, and that meant car rides with the radio tuned to one of three things. Lions football, Tigers baseball, or country music. He’s a big country music fan–but you know, only “real country–not this new horse shit they have nowadays”. (Random thought alert: having spent many of my formative years surrounded by cow shit, I always wondered why he seemed to consider horse shit so much worse. I’m gonna have to ask him one of these days.) 

And while there are a ton of songs that remind me of him the biggest are probably The Gambler by Kenny Rogers and Ring of Fire and I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash. They always make me smile. Oh! And Delta Dawn – the Tanya Tucker version. I bet I can still sing that. Not gonna try, though.

There are so many songs that remind me of my mom, I don’t even know where to start, after all, she’s the reigning queen of Wildly Inappropriate Bedtime Songs. For instance, we got a lot of protest songs as lullabies well as other songs you wouldn’t normally sing kids like Brandy or The Eagles’ Take it Easy, Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, The Beatles’ Lady Madonna and Eleanor Rigby, Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, pretty much all of John Denver, Carole King, and Simon and Garfunkel, but especially Cecelia. My brother, Tim, loooooooooved that song. But the two songs that probably most remind me of my mom are the Peter, Paul, and Mary covers of Where Have All the Flowers Gone and Blowin’ in the Wind and Don Mclean’s American Pie. You know…for those feel good bedtime vibes – lol. But, I think I get my love of sad songs from all of our Wildly Inappropriate Lullabies. And you know what? I’m good with that.

I have four siblings, so buckle up.

My brother, Tim, is closest to me in age, and when we were younger, we fought. A lot. But when we got along, we had some music in common. Like, I bet if pressed, we could both still sing the entire libretto of Jesus Christ Superstar. (Random side note: Probably the best birthday present I ever got [even better than the signed Brian Froud print] was when Tim surprised me with tickets to a really great touring production of JCS in the early 90s.) But without fail, the song(s) that always make me think of Tim, without fail, is the entire Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction album.

When it first came out, I loathed it–probably just to be contrary because he loved it so much. Fast forward to me moving 500 miles away, shortly after getting married. My husband was finishing up his final year of college, and one night, we were at the bar where he was on a pool league. Some bastard started playing Mr. Brownstone on the jukebox, and I was suddenly so homesick and missing my brother so much, I went into the bathroom and cried.

I’m gonna wait here a sec while that sinks in.

I sobbed overfucking Mr. Brownstone. In a super dodgy bar bathroom. In the U.P.

After that, I may have gotten my own copy of Appetite for Destruction. I am nothing if not nostalgic. You guys oughta know that by now.

I’m happy to report that Tim and I still have some music in common–like Hamilton. We went to go see it in Chicago with our kids (and our sister) a couple months ago. And in theory, we’re going to see Les Miz this year, too!

Next up is my brother, Martin. Now, Tim and I are a bit older than our younger siblings, so sometimes, when our mom was teaching night classes, we’d be on deck for singing Wildly Inappropriate Lullabies at bedtime.

I’ve got several songs that remind me of Martin. Puff the Magic Dragon is a big one. One night when mom was singing it to him, he started wailing. Sobbing like he’d lost his best friend. He realized at that point that Puff is a fucking depressing song. He started sobbing for my mom to fix it. So she had to make up a new, happier verse to finish the song with. Poor Cait was in high school before she realized that no one outside our family knew there was fourth verse.  My kids think there’s a fourth verse, too.

All the Mumford and Sons songs remind me of Martin because he’s the one who introduced me to them. (Yay, Martin!) But the song that always makes me smile and think of him is Turn Down for What. The year that song came out, he was constantly in my face shouting, “Turn Down for What!” He’d begin or end phone calls that way. It was constant. And annoying. But like most things, Martin, it made me laugh.

Fast forward to that summer, he and he’s awesome fiancée were getting married and asked me to officiate the ceremony. So, I got my internet minister’s license (like you do when your brother asks you for a favor) and helped plan the wedding. His wife didn’t know what music to pick for the recessional, so I said, “We could always do, Turn Down for What.” Because she’s awesome, she thought it was hysterical, she also wanted to keep it a secret from Martin. So we surprised him with it at the end of the ceremony. The look on his face was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. He recovered nicely, though, and danced his way back up the aisle.

Then, there’s Andrew. When he was little, he looked and acted so much like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes that I bought him a stuffed tiger.  He had asthma and had to have nightly nebulizer treatments–so many, that he burned out a nebulizer. And like all junk in our house, it ended up in the garage where he cracked the casing off it and attached jumper cables to it and a car engine and jump started it.  He was that kid.

I have a couple songs that remind me of him. One is John Denver’s Country Roads. He loved that song and wanted mom to sing it to him every night. Or me. Or Tim. When he got married a few years ago, he surprised my mom by having the DJ play it for their mother-son dance. It was the greatest thing ever–even though I suspect most of the guests were confused. Especially, when the rest of us got up and sang along. Then, he also had the DJ play Carole King’s Tapestry so we could dance to it. If I was putting him to bed, he always asked me to sing that to him. And yes, I cried my eyes out when he wanted to dance with me to that song. Incidentally, I now sing it for his daughter when I babysit her.

That brings us to Cait (of Texts from Cait fame). Trying to narrow Cait down to a song or two is going to be next to impossible, but I’ll give it a go. Meatloaf’s Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad will always remind me of Cait. And Tim. Because when it was his turn to put the kids to bed, he’d rock Cait to sleep, and I’d hear him singing Two Out of Three to her. And it was honestly the cutest thing ever. And it was just as damn cute when he sang it to his own kids.

But there are so many songs that remind me of Cait, like Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid, because she thought the line bright young women, sick of swimming was pregnant women, sick of swimming for years. And sometimes we still sing it that way. And nobody karaokes Janis Joplin like my baby sister. Cait’s Piece of My Heart is amazing.  Then, there’s the entirety of Fleetwood Mac musical catalogue. Not to mention all the 60s girl groups. And literally everything Cher ever sang. Also, Cait does a brilliant Cher impression. Jess Jarman was treated to this phenomenon once upon a road trip. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention her love of Bowie. But I think I have to go with ABBA’s Dancing Queen for Cait. She adores all the ABBA, but Dancing Queen is her go-to song forever. It cheers her up when she’s in a bad mood. It makes her even happier when she’s in a good mood. And whenever I hear it, I think of Cait.

Okay, the last topic is childhood–which is tough since, with the exception of Part of Your World, all of the songs here remind me of my childhood. But…if I had to pick just one, it would be Sonny and Cher’s Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves. I know – wildly inappropriate on so many levels, but when I was little, it was my very favorite song ever. And also, I wanted to be Cher. Never was a little pudgy blonde girl so disappointed.

I realize this was probably far more than you bargained for when you started reading, so…sorry? But anyway, if you’re still with me, what songs remind you of your fam and childhood? Share!

And be sure to check out the other bloggers’ song memories. Deelylah, Kris, Paige, Gwen, oh, and my friend, Amanda, likes to play along with these Musical Musing prompts, so she blogged, too.

Top 10: Lessons I Learned from My Parents

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I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all learned things from our parents–some intended and some…not so much.

10.) If you want a piece of machinery to work better, you need to swear loudly and profusely at it. I’ve seen this demonstrated with boat motors, tractor engines, combines, arc welders, and gas grills. I’ve used this technique myself with cars, computers, and sewing machines. Dad was right. Machines respond better when they know who’s in charge.

9.) Knitting is cheaper than therapy (unless you buy really, really nice yarn, and then you probably still break even). I don’t know that this bit of wisdom was ever verbalized, but it was certainly demonstrated on the regular. Thanks for teaching me the art of therapeutic knitting! (Full disclosure: sometimes I swear loudly and profusely at my knitting, too.)

8.) You can always use a good piece of rope. This is one of those things I remember hearing all the time as a kid. Literally all the time. And my dad always had various lengths of rope or baling twine to fix stuff. And he wasn’t wrong about that advice, either. This is a link to a thing I wrote for his retirement party a few years ago…involving a good piece of rope.

7.) Do what it takes to follow your dreams. This is one of those double whammy kind of lessons that I got from both sides–from both the parent who did and the parent who didn’t. My dad grew up on a working dairy farm and he was a journeyman welder and did maintenance on the kinds of machines you find in metal fabrication factories.

My mom grew up on a small sustenance farm and became am OR nurse. However, she realized really quickly that wasn’t what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. So she went back to school and double majored in psychology and philosophy and graduated at the top of her class. Then, she went on for her master’s in psych and her her doctorate. She ended up becoming a psychology professor and a leading expert in child development.

Just a few years ago, I found out that what my dad really wanted to do was teach history and write westerns. I wish he would have. I think he would have been happier.

6.) Life is too short to stay married to someone who isn’t right for you. This right here was a huge gift. I was sad that my parents divorced, but it was truly the best gift they could have given us kids and themselves. Everyone was happier, and I learned that it’s crucial not to sacrifice your happiness for anyone else and not to allow them to sacrifice theirs for you.

5.) It’s possible to be so tired that you can do some really fucked up stuff when you’re exhausted. That shit will become family legend. My mom once washed a load of clothes with maple syrup. She also once made quiche with spearmint instead of parsley. It was the literal. worst. (My brother Tim still ate about it, but he bitched the entire time.) I shaved a big chunk of hair off the top of my head thinking my razor was a comb.

4.) Wildly inappropriate lullabies are the best lullabies. My mom rarely sang us traditional lullabies. We got a lot of Simon and Garfunkel, Beatles, Carly Simon, Carole King, and John Denver and the occasional Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot. I kept up the tradition with my kids with a lot of Dar Williams, Tori Amos, Kate Rusby, and other fantastically morbid Celtic folk songs.

3.)Once upon a time” are four of the most powerful words in the world. Both my parents were (and are) huge readers. And my mom always read to us. I loved story time, and I loved it even more with my own kids. Some of my favorite memories involve cuddling up with my kids and books.

2.) There’s no such place as “away”. Stuff doesn’t magically disappear when we get rid of it or throw it away. Donate what’s still useful and recycle everything you can. Yeah, mom was/is a bit of a hippie. And I’m okay with that.

1.) Unconditional love is everything. It’s the best thing my parents taught me, and I hope that it’s the best thing I’m teaching my own kids.

What kinds of things did you learn from your parents? I can’t wait to check out the rest of the parental lessons, and you can too by clicking on the bloggers’ names. Jessica, Jess, Kellie, Paige, and Deelylah.

Flash Fiction #56 – Ever the Same

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Okay, so we’ve got to new blogger for the flash fiction posts–please welcome Siobhan Muir! Yay, Siobhan, we’re glad to have you!

This month’s song fic is Ever the Same by Rob Thomas. Here’s the video and here are the lyrics if you’re interested.

Laughter bubbled from her, and she clapped her hand over her mouth–as if she were just as unfamiliar with the sound as he was. Her hazel eyes sparkled with bits of brown and copper and gold mixing with brilliant green as they captured his gaze. He couldn’t look away from her. How had he ever thought she was plain? He  was obviously a fucking idiot.

“Hey, after we clean up here, why don’t we…” he began, but his words died as soon as they hit the air.

Her eyes widened, fixed and unblinking as she stared over his shoulder.  The blood drained from her face almost as fast as her smile faded. Her head dropped and she appeared to stare at the table between them, but he could see she was staring through the curtain of her hair. Glancing behind him, he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, and he turned back to her.

“Are you okay?” he asked, laying a hand on her arm.

She jerked her arm away from him as if she’d touched a live wire. Her gaze flew briefly to  his. Her pupils had blown so wide they’d all but swallowed the irises, and her breath was far too rapid and shallow. Her fingers had turned white from clutching so tightly to her phone. “I have to go. I’ll text your driver. I’m sorry…I can’t–”

Whatever she couldn’t do, he wasn’t going to find out any time soon. She was race-walking toward the bookstore exit, and there wasn’t a goddamn thing he could do about it, he still needed to finish the Q&A portion of the evening. As much as he wanted to chase after her, he couldn’t. These people had waited here all night. He glanced down. Her purse was still under the table.

He texted her, but there was nothing from her, and it seemed to take forever to finish answering questions for the assembled readers. Thankfully, he’d signed the bookstore stock earlier in the evening, so he could just grab his rucksack and Eliza’s purse and go. He continued to text her, but there was no response. He had no idea if she wasn’t getting his messages or was just ignoring him. As soon as he cleared the building, he started calling her. And as he expected, the calls went straight to voicemail.

As soon as he was in his room, he tossed his backpack and her purse on his bed, went to the doors of their adjoining rooms and knocked. No answer. “Eliza?” Nothing. He called her again. She didn’t answer, but he heard the muted sound of her phone ringing. She’d at least been there.

Worry sat like a boulder in his gut and he knocked again. What if she needed help? Crossing the room, he grabbed her purse rifling through it until he found her wallet. Her keycard was inside where he’d hoped it was. She must have gotten another card from the front desk. Heart in his throat, he walked into the hallway and knocked on the outer door. When where was no response, he called out, “Eliza, I’m coming in.”

Sliding the key into the slot, he sighed in relief when the lights flashed green and the lock disengaged. He pushed open the door and felt around for the lightswitch in the darkened room. When the overhead light flickered to life, there was no sign of her. The blackout curtains had been drawn, the bed was neatly made, and the bathroom was empty. He looked around for her phone thinking there might be some clue there as to where she’d gone. When he didn’t see it, he called her again.

He startled slightly as her ringtone sounded right next to him then was silenced. He turned and slowly opened the closet door. Elliza was huddled in the corner on the floor. Clutching her phone so tightly her hands shook, she glanced up at him, eye wide and face tear-stained. Her breath still came too frantic and fast.

His heart ached at the expression on her face. How many times had he seen that same haunted look on his sister’s face? Moving slowly, he stepped into the closet and sank to the floor, squeezing in next to Eliza. He slid the door along the track, closing them away from the light, and pulled her into his arms. She was stiff for an endless moment, then she sank into him, burrowing close, but she continued to tremble and gasp.

He pulled her over his lap to sit between to sit between his thighs and drew his legs up so they bracketed her. Her skin was chilled and clammy against him. Keeping his arms wrapped tightly around her, he pressed a kiss to the back of her head, and murmured, “It’s okay. I’ve got you.”

She took a shuddering breath that nearly broke his heart. “I — I’m sorry.”

“Shh. You’ve nothing to feel sorry for. But you need to slow your breathing before you pass out.” He took a long, slow breath, letting her feel the rise and fall of his chest against her back. “I want you to match your breathing to mine, okay?”

She nodded jerkily, hot tears splashing onto his forearms.

He took another deep measured breath and held it for a few seconds, hopeful as she tried to do the same. “Just focus on my voice and and the sound of my breathing. Those are the only things I want you to think about, now.”

She nodded again, still shivering almost violently.

He continued with his drawn out, exaggerated inhalations, quietly encouraging her as she gradually relaxed into him.

“Do you want to talk?”

She tensed.

“It’s okay. We don’t have to.” He smoothed his hands up and down her arms. “Whatever you need. I’m here.”

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ posts: Kris, Jess, Deelylah, Paige, Siobhan, and Gwen.

Monthly Goals Check-In: January 2017

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I’ll be honest, I’ve been working my ass off, but I don’t feel like I’m really getting anywhere.

I’d planned to have short story finished, a book revised and expanded, and be at least a quarter of the way into a new novella. However, that’s not quite how things worked. An ugly case of anxiety and depression have pretty well immobilized me.

However, I have kicked ass at gutting my house and  getting rid of stuff. I still need to wash out the fridge, and take stock of the freezer, but then I’ll be done with the kitchen. I’m doing this 52 Week Organized Home Challenge. So far, so good. And in some areas, I’m working ahead – like my bedroom.

This is this month’s to-do list from my bullet journal. Things that are half-filled in are started, arrows mean they’re migrating to next month, and filled in means they’re done. Yeah…still hoping to start that yoga program by next Tuesday…

(Apologies for my hideous handwriting.)

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But, I’ve been doing a lot of editing and some writing. Jess and I will have a new newsletter out next week, too. So if you want two new free short stories, sign up for the newsletter – they’re exclusive to newsletter subscribers only.

I’ve also been doing a lot of knitting. I made pussyhats for the Women’s March, and I’m still going. I think I’m on hat number nine. And a bunch made it to the marches in DC, Atlanta and Lansing.

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Another thing I’ve accomplished this month is building a website for The Michigan Highlanders, the Highland Games organization my brother Martin belongs to. And if you want to follow them on Instagram and Tumblr, I’m sure they’d love that. (I would also love that. I’ve worked very hard on this – lol!) In case you’re wondering, my brother is the one who’s ripped the sleeves out of his shirts.

Okay, my goals for February are:

Continue with whatever’s next on the Organized Home Challenge

Finish revising and expanding Mist and Stone.

Progress on DN & EP 

Finish 5 more pussyhats

Progress on the other two websites I’m putting together. 

Oh yeah, and start that damn yoga program.

Be sure you check out the other bloggers check-ins! Jess, Deelylah, and Paige.

The Worst Place I’ve Ever Been Stuck – What Happened

Suggestion: If you’re reading this post and are stressed out by current events, I suggest skipping to the last paragraph where there’s a link to something just weird enough to be distracting and possibly amusing. 

So, this post…I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I’ve been having trouble narrowing my focus. Look…I have a lot of options for an open-ended topic like this. There have been a lot of places I’ve been stuck that have super sucked, and I could blog about them, but honestly, I’m in a shitty place right now, and maybe it just feels so bad because I’m in the middle of it? I don’t even know anymore.

The place I’m stuck right now sucks ass. I’m currently stuck in a near-continual loop of almost paralyzing fear. The months prior to the election, I’d have a political/policy-related nightmare once a week or so. Since the election, I’m having nightmares multiple times a week–sometimes a couple times a night, and well, they’re all variations on a theme. A very orange-y nightmarish, rights stripping, nuclear code having theme.

The fear doesn’t go away when I wake up, either. I think of all of the horrific, soul-crushing scenarios that could possibly happen to the people I love, to the people I don’t know but who are far, far more vulnerable than they were even a month ago. I constantly come up with new and terrifying scenes to torture myself with, and let me tell you, my imagination is fucking vivid. I never used to have panic attacks, but boy howdy, I sure do now.

So, I guess the worst place I’ve ever been stuck is my own mind…and what happened? I don’t know. It probably involves using more inhalers than I should and fighting harder–both my own imagination (which if it’s not going to help me write books needs to sit down and shut the fuck up, already) and the things that are going on in reality.

Okay, so this wasn’t the most cheerful or uplifting post. I apologize. As what will hopefully be a peace offering and distraction, I thought I’d share an older post about the time I was trapped at the tire place with the guy who was telling me his life story and also quizzing me about John Denver, the Rocky Mountains, and the UP. That wasn’t a great place to be stuck, but in retrospect, it’s a fuck of a lot more fun than here. I almost miss that dude.

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ posts: Gwen, Kellie, JessicaDeelylah, and Paige.

Musical Musings #1

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Musical Musings is a new feature this year where we’ll blog about some of our favorites and not-so-favorites. This  month, the topics are: Song that Makes Me Want to Dance, Song that I Love to Sing Along With, and Favorite Soundtrack.

Song that Makes Me Want to Dance – this one is super easy.

Rusted Root’s Send Me On My Way. Every time I hear it, I want to dance and dance–even when I’m driving.

Song that I Love to Sing Along With – This one is much, much harder – mostly because I love to sing. And if I know the words, I’m singing. Sometimes even if I don’t know the words. But I literally love to sing EVERYTHING, and I’m pretty much incapable of resisting singing along. But, I guess if I have to narrow it down to one, I’m going to go with Adele’s Rumour Has It.

Favorite Soundtrack – I’m hoping that a cast album qualifies because (and if you’ve been here before, you all know this is coming) I have to go with Hamilton. I still love this so hard I don’t even have words. It’s just fucking brilliant.

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Also…there’s this.

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Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ faves: Jess, Kris, Paige, Torrance, and Gwen.

Promptly Penned: Bruises and Glitter

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Prompt: S/he showed up at his/her door, soaking wet, bruised and covered in glitter.

Alex stood in line of the grocery store clutching the last bouquet of slightly wilted roses they had and red plastic shopping basket filled to the brim with all of Izzy’s favorites. He set the flowers and everything else on the conveyor and grabbed one of those reusable cloth shopping bags. She was always bitching about plastic bags. She’d probably appreciate the cloth bag. Hopefully.

“What’d you do?” the cashier asked.

“Huh?”

“Fancy wine, three different kinds of chocolate, and flowers.” He nodded knowingly. “You fucked up, bro.”

Alex pulled his debit card out of his wallet and as he finished swiping it, the other guy grabbed his wrist. Alex yanked his arm away. “What the hell?”

“Dude. Look at all that glitter on your arm. You can not go from the strip club straight into apology mode. Chicks hate that. Trust me, on this. Personal experience talking, here.” He nodded sagely as he handed Alex the bag. “Personal experience.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Alex squelched quietly to the car. Well, he tried, anyway. It was hard to be unobtrusive when his clothes were so wet he could probably wring out enough water to fill a kiddie pool. And how was it the cashier noticed the glitter but not the fact Alex had created a puddle in front of the register? Douche. 

With a sigh, he sat on the grungy beach towel he’d found on the floor in the backseat, hoping against hope it would protect his seat from the worst of the water and glitter. Putting the car into gear, he drove the few short miles to Izzy’s and forced himself to march up the steps and ring the bell.

The porchlight switched on, and he squinted in the glare.

“Alex! What happened?” She ushered him into the foyer. “You’re soaking wet! Are you okay.”

“I’m stupid. And I was so, so wrong.”

She brushed at his cheek. “Is that…glitter?”

He sighed. “Yeah.”

She lifted his hair off his forehead. “And a bruise?”

He shoved up his sleeve and showed her his arm. “Bruises.”

“What–”

“I promise, I’ll tell you all about it. But first I owe you a huge apology.”

Izzy’s eyebrow rose. “Oh?”

He shoved the flowers and goodies at her, waiting until she took them before he spoke. “I am so, soso sorry I ever said your job was a piece of cake.”

Her lips twitched. “Actually, I believe you said my job was a cakewalk.”

“Oh, it’s a cakewalk, all right. A cakewalk in the seventh circle of hell filled with tiny, demonic, soul-sucking monsters with voices so shrill I’m pretty sure my eardrums are still bleeding.”

“You don’t say.”

“I’m the worst little brother in the world for not believing you. Please say you’ll forgive me.”

She stared at him for a long, uncomfortable moment, until all at once, an evil smile lit her face. “You got assigned to a preschool room for student teaching, didn’t you?”

He nodded miserably as she laughed so hard, tears slid down her cheeks.

“Help?”

The only answer he got was more laughter.

That’s it for me this, week. Be sure to check out Deelylah, Jess, Gwen, KellieKris, and Paige‘s stories.

Top 10 Things I’m Proud Of

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Okay, I’m gonna be honest here, as relatively easy as top ten posts should be to write, this one is hard mostly because of the same old thing–as women, we’re conditioned not to think too highly of ourselves. Where even saying “thank you” when someone compliments us is seen as bragging.

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So, I’m just gonna go ahead and try to go ahead and write this list without feeling weird about it. Or maybe feel weird about it and write it anyway.

10.) I haven’t missed a single scheduled blog post since January of 2014. That’s 300andsome posts.

9.) I finally learned to knit cables–it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I was afraid it would be. In fact, cables are a lot of fun!

8.)  I’m proud of myself for journaling daily with both a writing journal and a bullet journal. It’s helping me stay focused. And dare I say it? Organized.

7.)  Asking for help isn’t something I’m terribly good at, however, sometimes I really need it. I’m proud of myself when I can bring myself to do it.

6.)  I’m trying to make time for self-care. This is another thing that isn’t a hundred percent, but I’m proud of myself when I manage it.

5.) I’m getting better at standing up for myself. It’s not a hundred percent or anything, but considering I used to be the world’s biggest doormat, this is huge.

4.) I’m proud of myself for taking the plunge into self-publishing. I had become deeply disillusioned and unhappy writing for small presses. It was incredibly scary–even with my wonderful friends and colleagues to offer advice and assistance. But I did it. I wrote the book I desperately wanted to write by pushing past the barriers of negative self talk and the negativity of another person. That book found a home with people who seem to love it as much as I do. I’m proud of myself for jumping off that cliff, because let me tell you, the water’s fine.

3.) I’m proud of the time I spent doing daycare–18 years. Yes, some days, it drove me batshit crazy, but ultimately, I had a hand in raising 3 brilliant, kind, creative, passionate young women. For 12 years per kid, I was the second mama, the other parent for the two single moms, the room-mom for them at school, the homework tutor, and the tooth reaper. Today, I’m still their other mama and also their friend and confidant. They’ve all taken very different paths in life, but I truly couldn’t be prouder of them.

2.) I’m proud that my husband and I are coming up on our 28th wedding anniversary in June. (Remember, people – child bride…) I’m proud because we’ve worked hard at our marriage–some days when neither of us particularly want to–because we love each other and we’re committed to making our relationship work. And I’m proud that

1.) I’m so damn proud of my kids. Again, there were times they drove me batshit crazy (yes, there’s a theme, here) and to be honest, sometimes, they still do. But my god, I’m proud of them. They’re both wildly different people, but they’re both wildly creative, incredibly compassionate, kind and conscientious. They’re hilariously funny, brilliant and they’re both joys and challenges to parent. But I’m incredibly proud that they’re secure enough in our love for them that they’re both comfortable being exactly who they are.

Okay, so that’s it for my top ten list. Be sure to check out Gwen, Torrance, Paige, Kris, Deelylah, and Jess‘ lists, too.

Flash Fiction #49 – Northern Lights

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Annie woke with her face pressed against cold glass. Slowly sitting up straight and peeling her face off the window, she swallowed. Clearly something had crawled into her her mouth and died while she was out. And where the fuck was she, anyway? She rubbed her hand across her crusty eyes and  came away with a smear of glitter and mascara as she blinked, trying to make sense of the landscape outside the car.

She glanced around the car’s interior. Around the car that had a One with Nature BPA-free water bottle in the center console and a peace sign dangling from the mirror.

Lizzie. 

The clock read 2:38 am. Blinking and trying to ignore the brutal throbbing in her head, Annie focused outside the car, at the glowing dome tent. Where the godforsaken hell had her little sister brought her? She unlocked door, pushed it open, and forced herself to her unsteady feet. After finding the little tent empty, she stumbled to the top of the nearest hill and found her sister sitting on a thermal sleeping bag with another wrapped around her shoulders.

“You’re awake. Good. How are you feeling?”

Annie crossed her arms over her chest. “There’s a tent over there.”

“And?”

“We talked about this. My idea of being outdoorsy is having a glass of wine on a screened-in patio.”

Liz lifted a bottle from her open backpack and held it out to Annie. “I have wine.”

Annie wrinkled her nose and took the bottle from her sister. “Screw top? Really, Lizzie?”

She shrugged. “You weren’t complaining on the way up here.”

Sighing, Annie handed the wine back to her sister. “I was drunk. I obviously didn’t realize the difference.”

“Exactly. Which is why I wasn’t about to drop seventy bucks a pop on your usual brand.”

“That’s fair.” Annie sat next to her sister on the sleeping bag and nodded toward the bottle. “No wonder I woke up with a horrible taste in my mouth.”

Her sister laughed, but it sounded a little brittle. “It’s either that or all the puking you did in and out of the bar.”

Heat rose to Annie’s cheeks. “That bad, huh?”

“It wasn’t pretty.”

They sat in silence, and she tried not to shiver as Lizzie dug through her backpack. Eventually, she handed Annie four Motrin and yet another BPA-free water bottle. This one said, Respect your elders. (And your oaks, pines, and maples, too.) 

Annie unscrewed the lid and tossed back the pills and a couple of mouthfuls of water. “Thanks.”

“No prob.”

“So…” Annie ventured. “What are we doing?”

“You’re sobering up. And I’m watching for the northern lights.”

Annie wrapped her arms around her knees. “I don’t even remember you coming to get me.”

Liz snorted. “I’m not surprised.” She looked at Annie. Her confusion must have been clear on her face because her sister’s expression softened. “Chelsea called me. Said the manager was threatening to call the cops on you.”

“Awesome.”

Liz scooted closer to her and draped the sleeping bag around them both. Annie clutched it gratefully.

“It was only seven o’clock when I got there.”

Annie rested her chin on her knees and stared out at the darkened landscape. Jesus. How pathetic was she? Kicked out of a bar on New Year’s Eve? Five hours shy of midnight? That was just sad. Familiar pain welled, but she pushed it down before it could seep through the cracks and bubble up through the surface.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured. “I’m sure babysitting your drunk-ass sister wasn’t how you’d envisioned spending your New Year’s Eve.”

“Not really. But it beats bailing you out of jail.” She took a deep breath. “Or identifying your body at the morgue.”

Annie winced. She’d been there. Done that. She wouldn’t wish that experience on her worst enemy.

“I’m sorry I had to drag you up here,” her sister was saying. “I was just worried about leaving you alone.”

“I get that. And I do appreciate it.” She rested her head on Liz’s shoulder.

Liz laid her head against Annie’s. “I know you do.”

Annie cringed. Her sister sounded so tired. So defeated. Annie had been putting her through this shit for almost as long as she’d been putting herself through it.

“I just miss him so much,” she whispered, and her voice cracked.

“I know, honey,” she said as she slid her arm around Annie’s waist. “But what you’re doing…it’s not going to bring him back. You know that, right? And it’s not going to help you forget. Not permanently, anyway.”

She nodded, her head brushing Lizzie’s, hat-covered temple and her own shoulder. That was for damn sure. A shimmer of purple and green flickered along the horizon, and the sound of diffused static filled the air along with an occasional, quiet pop.

“Is that…?”

“Yeah. It’s starting. I know you hate nature, but I promise, you’ll never see anything more magical than this.”

The sheen of colors spread in waves across the night sky, stealing Annie’s breath.

Liz offered Annie the bottle of wine, but she shook her head, her eyes on the undulating light. It was beginning, and so was she.

That’s it for me, today. Be sure you check out the other bloggers’ stories. Deelylah, Paige, Kris, and Jess.

Nostalgic Notes: Toys

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It’s time for another Nostalgic Notes were we look back at the stuff we’re…you know… nostalgic about. Some of these will be from my childhood and some from my kids’ because nostalgia – I’m rife with it.

Lemme introduce you to my childhood. I feel like the revelation that my mom was a great big hippie will come as no surprise as we look at items one and two on this list.

sunshine-family

In case you’re wondering WTF, this is the Sunshine Family – Stephanie, Steve, and their baby, Sweets. Sadly, there weren’t a lot of clothing options for Stephanie, Steve, and Sweets. They were too small and too normal-bodied for Barbie clothes. But, I liked them. You could also get the grandparents and extra babies. (The extra babies were very important if you were me.) And I did like that they also made a black Sunshine Family. Granted, their features were the same as the white dolls, but I guess, at least, Matel was trying for inclusion in the 70s?

I didn’t have any of these dolls. Only the original family, and this amazing piece of hippiness. That’s right, people, the Sunshine Family had their own fucking  CRAFT STORE! (Side note: I wonder if this is why I’ve been obsessed with all the crafts for as long as I can remember. Probably not. But, I still find this delightfully hilarious. Also, the entire craft store smelled like new baby doll. (I still love that smell.) Because vinyl. Probably not the best material to make a counter culture doll store out of. But, you know, mass production.

sunshine-family-craft-store

Next we come to my original Star Wars figures which I no longer have because life and younger siblings can be cruel. But I had Leia, R2D2, 3PO, and a couple jawas. One of my brothers had Han, Luke, Ben, Chewie, Darth Vader a couple stormtroopers and some sand people. I was always jealous of his Han Solo action figure.

original-star-wars-toys

Now, on to some of my my kids’ toys. I used to do daycare. It was, most days, an awesome job, but I’m one of those weirdos who actually likes other people’s kids in addition to my own. (Unless the kids are like The Young Prince. I’m not having that shit.)  Anyway, this was one of the games we’d often play (after everything else was picked up and the clean up song had been sung – “Put it Away” to the tune of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give it Away”) because no one wants legos embedded in their feet while playing Elefun.

elefun

Captain Kitty and KittyBestFriend were my kids’ favorite stuffed animals. They have oversized, almost hydrocephalic looking heads that are hollow and there’s a ball, or maybe balls, inside that rolls around and makes them sound like they’re purring.

Corwin and Captain Kitty and Killian and KittyBestFriend

Speaking of Captain Kitty, I’m super nostalgic about this Captain Kitty costume I made Corwin so he could match Captain Kitty (we played a lot of dress up, so costumes are toys) and the giant Mega Blok castle that was Corwin and Captain Kitty’s lair.

Corwin Captain Kitty and Castle

Both of my kids were fascinated by pirates, but Corwin was especially so. So, for his birthday, one year, he got the S.S. Argh. The company that made these ships had a thing where you could get whatever you wanted printed on the sail. Their example photos said things like Captain Peter’s Ship or the S.S. Brandon. I like to think they giggled when they got our order.

Next up, in the Toy Nostalgia Parade are these blocks. My kids loved the troll blocks and the tree blocks.

And no nostalgic toy list is complete without my daughters obsessively huge Harry Potter Lego collection. (This is just one set.) Also not pictured are the Star Wars, LOTR, Pirates of the Caribbean, and a zillion other sets.

corwin-and-killian-legos

And her Harry Potter costume. killian-hp

What were some of your favorite toys? Oh, and be sure to check out the other bloggers’ lists! DeelylahGwen, Kellie, and Paige.

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