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Monday, December 31, 2012


Though I’ve done little in the way of blogging – and writing – this year, I felt compelled to do a year-end post. Maybe I’ll do a year-beginning post tomorrow, too! (Stranger things have happened!)

This year, like every year, I guess, was filled with ups and downs… not just for me, but for everyone, it seems. 2012 is ending up (not a moment too soon) on a sad note for much of the nation, with so much violence having taken place just recently, on the heels of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. The economy, the animosity caused by the election, and the state of the world in general has all been so… overwhelming. It’s made the holidays, a time that’s difficult for me anyway, really, really difficult.

But tomorrow begins a new year… 2013. I’ve realized that there is little I can change about any of the things I mentioned above. But I can change the way I see the world… I can change the way I react to what happens in the world… I can. But there are a few things I have to remember in order to make this happen.

So 2013 will be, for me, 'The Year of Remembering.’

I will remember that there are more good people in the world than bad.

I will remember that living in anger and fear is a choice… a choice I will NOT make.

I will remember that what people think of me is none of my business.

I will remember that it’s not my job to try to change anyone’s mind about anything.

I will remember that being kind is more important than being right.

I will remember that when I criticize others, my own shortcomings are shining through.

I will remember that the people who love me are my family, even if they’re not related by blood.

I will remember that nothing worth having comes easily or quickly.

I will remember that my failures are lessons I need to learn in order to succeed.

I will remember that falling down is not nearly so important as getting back up again.

I will remember that what I put into Life is what I will get back.

I will remember that to receive good things, I have to open myself to them.

I will remember to love harder, laugh bigger, create more, connect in the most positive way I can with all the people around me, and to get daily doses of nature and literature and good, whole foods.


 I will remember that this is the only life I’ll get, so I need to make the most of it!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Don't You Dare Jump

Facebook has this feature where it shows you comments your friends have made on their friends’ posts. I don’t know why they feel it’s necessary for you see what people are saying to each other (especially when you probably don’t even know the other person, and when it’s really none of your business), but they do.

Facebook has some boundary issues.

So, anyway, this morning, during my regular slog around, to have a look-see at what happened in Facebookland while I was asleepin’, I happened upon a post, put up by a friend of a friend, on which my friend had commented.

The original post was this:

“Sometimes I wonder... Maybe it would just be easier to blow my brains out, and be done with it... This slow, daily creep towards mortality is a real bore and pain in the ass.

This slow, daily creep towards mortality is a real bore and a pain in the ass.

In the few seconds that passed after I read the post, about ninety-eleven things flashed through my head…

I thought of how sad this person’s life must be… how focused on himself he must be… how he needs to find a hobby… how I’d love to know how to slow my life down to a ‘creep’…

… and I thought of how angry that statement made me.

Now, I don’t know this person, except what I’ve heard from my friend. I know very little about his life or his circumstances or what he’s been through. I’m not passing judgment.

Well, I don’t think I am.

I might be.

I’ll live with it.

But I got mad. I got mad because I’ve lost several friends in the past two years – friends who were my age and younger – too young to leave this world. Some of my favorite people on the planet have been battling debilitating and deadly illnesses, and have prayed for just a few extra years, months, weeks, days, hours of Life to spend with the people they love. I’ve seen people I care about lose children – the most horrific loss I can fathom – and then pull themselves together and do something amazing and productive and positive in their child’s name and memory.

These are and were people who wouldn’t think of Life as being a “bore” or a “pain in the ass.” These are and were people who know just how precious and amazing Life is. These are and were people who would trade lives with Mr. Bored (Boring?) in a split second.

Life is not perfect. Life is painful and rotten sometimes. And yes, at times it’s boring and a pain in the ass. But it is still to be valued. And you owe it to Life – and yourself – to make the most of it.

Do you remember the television program, Welcome Back, Kotter? Though I only recall most shows in bits and pieces, there is one episode that has stuck with me for 30+ years.

It was about a plain girl – a girl no one noticed – named Mary. She felt that life wasn’t worth living; that she had nothing to live for. So she climbed out onto a ledge, intending to jump; to end her painful and boring existence. All the Sweathogs tried to talk her down, but it was Arnold Horshack, the misfit of all misfits, who succeeded.

He asked her what she loved… and each time she thought of something, like the roller coaster at Coney Island, the beach, and books, he said, “Then don’t jump.”

Eventually, she realized she had more than enough reasons not to jump. And she climbed back inside the school.

I was just about 13 when I saw that show and I learned a lesson that day that has stuck with me.

Life is made worth living by finding things you love. By doing things you love. By caring for the people you love. And if you have anything – anything at all – in your life that you love, Life is worth living. Period.

I understand that there are people with serious problems or illnesses (mental and physical), who, for whatever reason, can’t see a way past them and take their own lives. I’ve known those people. My heart aches for those people. This post isn’t about them.

This post is about Mr. Bored, who wrote, “Sometimes I wonder... Maybe it would just be easier to blow my brains out, and be done with it... This slow, daily creep towards mortality is a real bore and pain in the ass,” and people like him; people who simply refuse to open the gift they’ve been given.

Open your eyes, Mr. Bored. Open your heart. Open your mind. Open yourself. Get off your bored ass and do something. Start living. That “slow, daily creep” is going to be over before you know it and you will, as will we all, wind up looking back at the life you created – the life you deserved. Make it something worth looking back at.

And don't you dare jump.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I've Been Around the Block a Few Times...

I read a blog post (Single Dad Laughing… look him up… he’s good!) yesterday that gave me an idea for my own post. SDL wrote about the five things he’s learned in his 30-couple years on the planet. Well, I’ve been here 47 years and I’ve learned a few things, too… things like:

How, even if they call them ‘dried plums’ and infuse them with orange flavoring so they taste like candy, they’re still prunes and you should never, ever eat a whole bag in one sitting.

How I’ll never be so old that I won’t glue my fingers together when I use super glue.

How you should never, ever read the comments after any online news article, political or otherwise. Because they will make you lose all faith in and hope for humanity (and good grammar and spelling), that’s why.

Stuff like that. Good stuff, no?

I’ve learned other stuff, too… important stuff (not that the whole prune thing isn’t important. It is. Trust me on that one, people). I thought I’d share some of those things with you today.

So, as Oprah says, here’s what I know for sure…

This, too, shall pass. Nothing lasts forever. It’s true. Good things don’t, though we wish they could. Bad things don’t, though it feels like they do. Life is moving… even when you feel stuck. It’s still going on around you and it’ll take you along for the ride, whether you want to go or not. And that ride? Will be full of knocks and hills, bumps and thrills. Sometimes you’ll want to get off. Sometimes you’ll want to throw up. Sometimes you’ll scream for joy and wish so hard you could stay in that place – in that rush – forever. But you can’t. It will end. Because nothing lasts forever.

Until you learn the lesson, the lesson will keep popping up. Over and over and over. Until  you learn it.

Over and over.

Until. You. Learn. It.

And I don’t mean the No Child Left Behind sort of ‘learn it,’ where you simply just have to get it right on the test.  I mean ‘learn it,’ where it’s imprinted so deeply on your psyche, you’ll never forget it.

It’s the people around you that make Life worth living. It’s not the accomplishments or the adventures, and it is most certainly not the stuff. And people are great. But they will disappoint you. They will aggravate you, infuriate you, offend you, and make you want to live on a deserted island, far from anyone else on the planet.  And you? Will do the same to others. Because you’re a people, too, that’s why. But when you move past the disappointments, the aggravation, the anger, and the frustration, you’re left with the best – the caring, the humor, the camaraderie, the history, the empathy, the partners-in-crime, and the LOVE. And that? Is some good stuff.

You have to be happy on your own before you will ever be happy with anyone else. If you’re unhappy, and then someone comes along and makes you smile and love Life and think the sun shines out his butt, it will feel like that person is making you happy. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt (it shrank in the wash). But at some point you will realize that the sun? Shines out no one's butt. And eventually, no matter what that other person says or does, unless you’ve fixed what was making you unhappy in the first place, you’ll be back to that place, with or without them. You have to fix it. You’re the only one who can fix it.

Not everyone is going to like you. And there’s not a damned thing you can do about it. And it doesn’t matter how nice you are, how funny, how pretty, or how well you write or sing or make balloon animals.  Not everyone is going to like you. Period.  And that? Is OK. It really and truly is. So be kind. Be good. Be yourself. Don’t be a dick. And let the chips fall where they may.

Comparing yourself to other people is the most assured way to feel like crap. There will always people who have more than you do; who have accomplished more; who are prettier, thinner, more talented, etc. So stop it. And remember, someone, somewhere, is comparing herself to you… and falling short. Tell her to stop it, too.

Forgiveness is something you do for you, not the person who wronged you. Staying angry and holding onto grudges and hurt only holds you back. It robs you of happiness and peace and personal growth.  Forgive. Move on.

Helping someone in need is the quickest way to take your mind off your own troubles. It’s hard to focus on what you don’t have when you’re focused on someone else who has less. And it reminds you to be grateful for what you do have. And gratitude is absolutely, definitely, no-doubt-about-it, one-hundred-percent necessary for happiness.

When you have time to criticize other people, it means you’re not spending enough time working on your own life. Period. So shut up. And look in a mirror. And take care of you.

Life is short. It’s cliché, I know, but it became a cliché for a reason. Because it’s true, that’s why. Life is short. It’s crazy-short. It’s yesterday-I-was-16-and-now-I’m-middle-aged short. It’s I-thought-there-would-be-another-dance-with-my-dad-but-then-he-was-gone short. It’s how-did-my-baby-girl-turn-into-a-teenager-overnight short. It’s short. There will never be enough time to do what you want to do… or maybe even what you need to do… it’s SHORT. Get it? So you can’t waste time. You can’t wait for Life to get its shit together and be what you want it to be. Life isn’t working on your timetable. Life doesn’t care about your timetable. So you have to make it what you want. You have to do stuff – stuff that’s interesting and fun and makes you feel good. Make sure the people you love know you love them. Find your passions and go after them.  Find the things you believe in and stand up for them. Get a hobby. Find a job you don’t hate (because spending 8+ hours a day doing work that makes you miserable will suck the life out of you faster than anything) and work hard. Read good books. Be out in nature. Create something. Drink wine or tea or Yoo-hoo if it makes you happy. Do good. Help people or animals or the environment (or all of them).

Make sure that when there’s no more Life left, you’re not sitting on the couch wishing you’d done all those things.


Because life is short.


That’s it.

As my friend Mel says, that’s all I know.

So… what have YOU learned in your travels ‘round the block?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Have You Seen My Voice Anywhere?

Since I've come back to Blogland, I'm struggling to find my voice. I know it's there somewhere... I know I have things to write about... I just can't seem to locate them. Or when I do find something to write about, it just doesn't sound right... it doesn't sound like me.


So, for today, I'm borrowing Mary Oliver's voice. I love me some Mary Oliver...

Here's to finding voices... and wings... xo

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Oh, How I Wish It Had Been a Truck

For this week’s Writer’s Workshop at Mama's Losin' It, I chose the prompt:

Tell about a time your child embarrassed you in public.

 As an infant, my daughter Ryan was very chatty (and some things have never changed). She’d sit on my lap and tell long, animated stories, complete with extravagant hand gestures. Of course, at six-months-old, her words were unintelligible (I always say her first language was 'Ryanese'). That changed, however, at eight-months, when she uttered her first completely non-gibberish word. It wasn’t ‘mama’ or ‘dada,’ though… it was Tucker. Tucker was our dog. When she said his name, she was sitting in her high chair, tossing Cheerios at his head. At the sink, I whipped around, certain I was hearing things. Then she looked at me, pointed at him, and said it again, plain as day.


I nearly fell over. It certainly wasn’t the last time she would astonish me with her vocabulary. She has always had an affinity for words – especially big words – and, most often, she gets them right, both in context and pronunciation. Sometimes, though, her gaffes and mispronunciations are cause for giggles.

But not the time I’m going to tell you about.

There was no giggling that day.

Not by me, anyway.

She was about a year old. We were in Barnes and Noble – one of my favorite places on the planet. Because she wasn’t quite walking on her own yet (and because I didn’t want to re-shelve every book on the bottom two shelves of every aisle we were in), I was holding her. As we neared the children’s section, she got excited.

Very excited.

She was doing that baby-bounce thing very little ones do when they can’t contain their glee and pointing excitedly to a wooden cut-out hanging from the ceiling. It was Beatrix Potter’s Jeremy Fisher.

Remember Jeremy Fisher?

Cute little frog.

 Then, as clear as a bell, loud enough to be heard on the other side of the store, my sweet, angel-faced baby yelled,


I stopped short, praying it was a one-time outburst.

No such luck.

More bouncing. More pointing. More yelling.

Louder this time.


Everyone within earshot had stopped by this time as well, and were craning their necks around and over shelves to see my sweet, angel-faced, utterly foul-mouthed baby.

By now, I was dropping the F-bomb, too… in my head. Out loud (and loudly), I said,

“Yes, Ryan, that IS a frog. Frrroooggg!



Mortified, still mumbling clearly useless drivel about frrrrooooogggggs, I bolted out of Barnes and Noble. Without buying a thing.

(Which might have been a first.)

For the record, she got truck right on the first try.

Go figure.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Faulty Memory

Have you ever remembered something from your childhood fondly, but then, when you revisited it as an adult, you wondered ‘what the hell was I thinking?!’

I had a moment like that a couple of weekends ago.

You know this year marks the 50th anniversary of the movie, West Side Story, right? Well, it does. I remember seeing it when I was a kid. I loved it! The music, the dancing, the sweet, sweet story of star-crossed lovers…

I even sang There’s a Place for Us for a high school musical audition. I sang it badly, mind you, but my willingness to be humiliated in front of a room full of 15-18-year-olds is testament to how much I loved that song.

So, naturally, I wanted my daughter, who loves theater and musicals, to see this amazing, wonderful piece of cinema… I wanted to enrich her childhood, as mine had been enriched.

What the hell was I thinking?!

It was terrible. Really, really terrible.

First of all, it was about an hour too long. The acting was atrocious. The make-up, appalling. Some of the singing and dancing was good, but some, not so much. And the story? Good lord. How did I not remember how cheesy and ridiculous it was? And that it took place in 24 hours (which is how long the movie felt)?

I was reminded, however, the first time Tony told Maria he loved her, ten minutes after they met. My nearly-thirteen-year-old hollered at the screen (the first of several times), “You don’t even know each other! Stop it!”

She’s got some sense, that one does.

And I guarantee she won’t be showing West Side Story to her kid on its 80th anniversary.

We'd have rather watched the cats.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Here is Where I Need to Be...

What I know for sure: No matter where you are on your journey, that’s exactly where you need to be. The next road is always ahead. No, I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.” Oprah Winfrey

Those are the last words in June’s edition of O, The Oprah Magazine. I like Oprah. I know a lot of people don’t, but I really do. I like how she seems so willing and able to admit her shortcomings and failures – often publicly – and move on from them to attain (what seems to me to be) a higher level of understanding of herself and what she needs from – and can contribute to – Life. It’s impressive.

Anyway, those words, about Life’s journey, hit me hard when I read them yesterday. I love it when I’m struggling with an issue – some inner turmoil or frustration – and then I see or hear or read something that shines a light on it and makes it a bit clearer.

No matter where you are on your journey, that’s exactly where you need to be.”

I’ve spent a lot of time regretting some things I’ve done in life. I’ve been angry at myself, often, for what I consider to be failures. I berate myself for my shortcomings. I beat myself up for poor decisions I’ve made and holler at myself when I misstep and fall into a hole. I see those things as set-backs to attaining the life I really want. (I'm often quite hideous to myself, really.)

But what if they’re not really set-backs?

What if those failures, shortcomings, poor decisions, and missteps are simply things that are supposed to happen to get me to where I need to be?


Now, I’m not a believer in fate or a ‘divine plan.’ I don’t even believe in God in the conventional sense (or even some of the unconventional ones). But I refuse to believe that we’re here simply to take up space and use up our Earth’s valuable resources. I want to believe that we each have some sort of purpose. And I do believe there’s something beyond this existence (I’ve seen too many episodes of Ghost Hunters and Long Island Medium not to!) and I often wonder if we simply move on to the next plane to work out some of the stuff we never got around to working out here.

So, as I say, what if those failures, shortcomings, poor decisions, and missteps are actually what’s necessary to lead us toward our purpose?

I don’t know.

I don’t know a lot of stuff.

But I have to admit, I like that idea. I’ve certainly noticed how Life has thrown a few (crappy) things at me over and over and over.  But when I finally figure out the lesson, I move forward. Interesting, no? And when I’m resistant to learning the lesson, Life steps up the game and hits me harder. Does that mean I think Life targets me and throws things at me – or rewards me – deliberately? No. I don’t think Life does anything to us.  As I say, I don’t believe Life has a plan. But I’ve definitely seen patterns and similarities in the obstacles I seem to encounter – in the lessons I need to learn to move forward. And I’ve come to realize that in learning the lessons, I also develop the tools to avoid or overcome the same sorts of hits in the future. So it seems that Life is going easier on me… but it’s me, really, who is handling Life better.

So I really like the idea of those failures, shortcomings, poor decisions, and missteps being stepping stones rather than obstacles. I like the idea that instead of flinging myself down the stairs when I screw up big, I can use the screw up as a step up. I like that instead of getting so frustrated with Life or myself for what happens to me, I can simply accept that I’m where I need to be, learn from my situation, and move forward.

I like it a lot.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a few lessons to learn.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Engagements and Weddings and Babies, Oh My!

So, I’ve spent the week traveling ‘round Blogland, looking for all my old bloggy friends, to see what they’ve been up to during my little sabbatical. It seems that a whole lot of people took a break from blogging around the same time I did… and never came back. That made me a little sad. OK, that made me a lot sad. But I perked up when I saw several familiar faces, like Sometimes Sophia and Hebba and Ladybird World Mother, and a bunch of other wonderful, writerly souls. And I was thrilled to see that a lot of my bloggy friends have experienced (or are currently experiencing) big, happy Life events! There have been engagements and weddings and pregnancies and babies and big trips and getting published!! It’s so exciting and I’m so happy for everyone!!

And it made me think about my life for the past 18 months.

OK, it’s not like nothing happened…


Really.  Stuff happened.


OK, so not a lot of stuff happened. I got a job. I hated it. I mean really hated it. I don’t have it anymore. It’s a relief, really, and I’m looking forward to finding something I actually want to do. I took Ryan on a couple of camping trips. They were fun (and hot). I made a couple of great new friends. I coached my little sinkers last summer, just like the summers before (and I’m getting ready to start this year’s season), and did another breast cancer walk (probably not this year, though)…

To clarify, there were no engagements (or even boyfriends), weddings (or even boyfriends), pregnancies (whew), babies (double whew), big trips (I don’t think Florida counts as ‘big’), or getting published (it’s hard to get published when you don’t, you know, write).

I feel a little behind the curve.

The truth is, the last couple of years have been a bit difficult. At first it was financial… but then, after the money situation got a bit better (with that awful job), it became about something else. Doing something you hate eight hours a day (even if it’s something you know you have to do in order to survive) takes it out of you. And for the past year-and-a-half, I watched, feeling helpless, as my energy, creativity, and good health just drained out of me.

It was kind of awful, really.

I did try to make it better. I did. But I didn’t take control in the way I should have. I was tired and I let the fatigue get the better of me. I’m still tired, truth be told, but I’m in a much better place mentally and emotionally. Mostly. And I have to get to a much better place physically, as I’m dealing with some mysterious, annoying autoimmune thing that no one seems to be able to identify.



It’s glorious and frustrating and wonderful and tedious and exhausting and amazing and sucky all rolled into one, isn’t it?

As it should be, I suppose.

So, I’m looking at the bright side.  And making plans.  And starting over.


And maybe, when one of my on-sabbatical bloggy friends comes back to Blogland in another 18 months, they’ll think, ‘Wow! Diane’s had a big, happy, eventful year!

Just so that event isn’t a baby.
Just sayin’.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Writer's Workshop: Tales of a Fourth Grade Dictator

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve participated in one of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshops. In fact, I’ve been away from Blogland altogether for far too long. I’m trying to remedy that, so... here goes. I chose the prompt:

Share a story from the fourth grade.

The fourth grade was, for me, H – E – Double Hockey Sticks. It blew up in my face – like a nuclear bomb –and though it was nearly 40 years ago, I still catch myself dealing with the fall-out.

That was the year we moved to a different state – New Jersey to Virginia… after the school year had started.

(A bit of advice:  If you can help it? Never move your kids after the school year has started.)

Honestly, though, I could have survived the move… maybe even thrived in spite of it, regardless of the fact that I’d hit a growth spurt and was simply skin stretched over bony knees and elbows; that it would be years (if ever) before I grew into my nose; that I had dirty dishwater-colored hair (it was actually described that way once); that I was, generally, nondescript (where ‘nondescript’ equals ‘incredibly awkward, bordering on homely’). Yes, I might have thrived in spite of all that… had it not been for…


That girl.

That tiny, waif-like, well-dressed, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pixie of a She-Devil.

We’ll call her Karen, OK? (Mostly because that was her name and she doesn’t read my blog.)

Karen introduced herself to me during recess, on my first day at my new school. I was on the playground, hanging upside-down on the monkey bars with the girl the teacher assigned to be my ‘buddy’ (who is, incidentally, still a buddy), when I came nose to shoulders (the monkey bars weren’t very high) with a skinny little girl, 2/3 my size, in a blue plaid skirt. Following her were most of the other girls from my class. Karen stuck out her bony hip, put her hand on it, and said just four words:

“I’ll be your friend.”

I’ll be your friend? What? Of course you’ll be my friend, you odd little creature. Everyone will be my friend. That’s how things work in the fourth grade. Duh!

That’s what I was thinking, anyway.

What I said was, “Oh. OK.” (I was not nearly so articulate then as I am now.)

And with that, Karen and her posse turned and walked away, leaving me hanging. Literally.

Odd as that exchange was, I didn’t give it too much thought. Not at first, anyway. I mean, I didn’t understand why someone had to declare her friendship in such a formal way, certainly, but I chalked it up to being one of the weird things they do in the south, like eating grits, wearing camouflage, and saying y’all.

I was, however, destined to give that exchange a lot of thought over the coming year… the coming years. Truth be told, as the mother of a pre-teen, I still give it  some thought. And it still bothers me.

You see, what I didn’t understand then was that when Karen declared her friendship, she was declaring nearly every other girl’s in the class as well. And when she took her friendship away, which she did, often, at whim, usually with no good reason, she took everyone else’s with it, leaving you alone… ostracized… miserable.

This was a new world for me. In my old school, we were all friends. We argued, sure, and there were days when you didn’t talk to your best friend because you were mad at her, but you were always mad for a reason (like, you know, she said she meant to spit on the sidewalk but she spit on your new sneaker instead… stuff like that).  In general, I’d always been pretty well-liked. I had friends at my old school – lots of them – and I never much worried about who was mad at whom or if anyone was going to speak to me (or wasn’t). I’d never encountered a girl who decided, simply because she could – simply because it gave her JOY – to choose a victim at random and utter the worst words a fourth grader can hear:

“We’re not your friends anymore.”


Not I.

WE’RE not your friends anymore.”

I’d never met anyone with such POWER.

It was terrifying.

And it changed my life. It made me doubt everything I’d always believed about myself – that I was funny and smart and popular; that I was capable of anything important or was good at things that actually mattered to my friends, like jumping rope and making up silly words to songs and doing cartwheels. And worst of all? It made me doubt that I was worthy of friendship.

And crap like that? It stays with you, people. Little shrapnel-like fragments of self-doubt get lodged in your psyche. You can live with it, sure, but sometimes? Even after 40 years? It still hurts a bit.

Now, I should clarify that I wasn’t always her target. Other girls faced her firing squad, too. In fact, someone faced it almost every single day and the very worst part was that we never knew who it was going to be.  It was like playing Russian Roulette… you didn’t know if you’d be spared or if you were going to see your feelings and self-esteem and bits of your heart splattered all over the playground. You didn’t know if you were going to be the girl sitting on the low end of the see-saw, with no one on the high end, or if you were going to be one of the girls watching that poor girl, feeling miserable about your part in her misery, but ever so grateful it wasn’t you alone on the see-saw that day.

I’ve often thought about that year and wondered why the rest of us didn’t band together against the pint-sized Mussolini; why we didn’t ostracize her and give her a taste of her own medicine.  I’ve often imagined us doing it and, even as an adult (I’m somewhat ashamed to admit), I’ve felt a tiny bit of pleasure at the idea of making her sit alone on the see-saw. But we didn’t do it. We let her have power over us; we let her control our behavior toward one another. In hindsight, it’s hard to imagine feeling so helpless – so utterly powerless – in a situation involving nothing but a mean little girl, but, we were little girls, too, and that is exactly how we felt.

I’ve wondered why our teacher didn’t notice the cruelty going on around her or see how in-over-our-heads we were… or if she did see it, why she didn’t even try to intervene. And for as much as I liked that teacher, there’s a part of me that will always despise her for not stepping in when we really needed her.

I’ve wondered what on earth made Karen think she could behave in that way – what made her think it was even a little bit OK; what was happening in her life at home; what examples were being set for her.

That year most certainly figured into how I would raise my own child. I remember telling my daughter, when she was young and developing clear leadership traits, “You need to use your power for good, not evil. People will follow you either because they like you or because they’re afraid of you. And people who follow you because they’re afraid will never be your friends.  So be a friend. Be a leader, certainly, but be a friend first.”

I was never in her class again, thankfully, and I changed schools after the 6th grade, so Karen was officially out of my life for good. But her tiny little shadow lives in the back of my head always.

I’ve often wondered if she grew up to have a little girl of her own.  And I’ve wondered what lessons she taught her child. 

And I've wondered if her tales of the fourth grade sound anything at all like mine.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Funny Is as Funny Does

When I started this blog, my daughter Ryan was 8-years-old – a little girl. I had a lot of fun telling you her stories; introducing her to all my bloggy friends. Well, my bloggy friends, she’s not a little girl anymore. In a couple of months, she turns 13. Thirteen, people (or is it 31? I'm never quite sure). I do NOT know how or when it happened. Sometimes (where ‘sometimes’ equals ‘all the time’) I look at old pictures and I SO miss that baby/toddler/little girl. Miss her like crazy. But I have to admit, I like the kid I have now (most of the time, anyway). She’s crazy smart… she’s independent… she’s strong-willed... she's so amazingly SURE of herself.

And she is FUN-NY!

I  love to laugh and I think a whole lot of stuff is chuckle-worthy, so it was pretty cool when I realized my kid was developing the same sense of humor I have (especially when I realized she could have wound up with her dad’s). We spend a lot of time laughing… at each other, at ourselves, at other people (but not in a mean way… mostly), at Life. We like the same television programs and comedians and goofy videos on YouTube.  We’re nearly always on the same wavelength (when it comes to humor, anyway).

For example…

A few weeks ago, we were watching television and this commercial for ‘Angie’s List’ came on. The woman touting Angie’s merits had a rather… unfortunate… haircut.  I said, “Dude. What is up with her hair? She looks like that melon-head cat!” I didn’t have to explain (I knew I wouldn’t have to)… Ryan knew exactly what I meant. And we laughed and laughed and laughed.

Then, the next day, she spent ten minutes online, putting this together for me…

And we laughed and laughed and laughed again. Truth be told, I’m still chuckling about it.

Yeah. I love my kid.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Giving Tree

I take my dog to the park every day. It’s my favorite time of the day, really, no matter when we go. Our little city does a really nice job of providing and maintaining our green spaces and my favorite park is the largest in town. It always has been. When I turned 21, I bought myself a cocker spaniel puppy and I brought her to that park every day until I moved away a few years later. Now, 26 years down the road, my big, fuzzy boy, a 5th birthday present for my girl (though he’s really mine, you know), enjoys the same space. It’s got everything – a running trail, ball fields, playgrounds, picnic shelters, a creek, a pond, ducks, geese, and all manner of small critters (I even saw an otter there once!), and trees… lots and lots of trees.

But this post is about one tree in particular. It’s one of the biggest in the park – about a dozen feet in circumference and probably 7 or 8 stories high. I don’t know how old that makes it, but I’m guessing it’s pretty old. I think it’s some sort of Oak, though I’m not very good at identifying trees (or flowers, or poison ivy… but that’s another story entirely), so I’m not sure. I like to think of it as an Oak, though, as it’s definitely a mighty looking tree. It sits at the edge of the pond and sometimes, when the water is still and the sky is clear, you can see the tree reflected in the water, from one side of the pond all the way to the other.
I love that tree.

I’ve sat under its cool green canopy in the summer heat, reading or writing or just daydreaming. I’ve sat under it in the fall, its leaves blazing in red and orange and yellow autumn garb. I’ve admired it covered in snow, and I’ve watched it go from bare and stark in winter to lush and green in spring. A long time ago, I kissed the first boy I ever truly loved under its branches… and in the very same spot, years later, after my marriage ended, I kissed the first man who made me realize I would indeed be able to love again. When my father died, I sat under its barren winter branches and cried, my heart shattered… and a few years later, in the spring, I picnicked under those same branches, glowing with new life, with my beautiful, happy little girl.
That tree is a part of me.

This morning, I sat in the wet grass with my dog and looked across the pond at that tree – my tree. I thought about everything it’s given me over the years… and I thought about how many other people have kissed and cried, laughed and argued, daydreamed and planned under its branches. I thought about the shelter it’s provided – shelter from the sun and rain, from stress and strife, from heartaches and fatigue. 
And I thought, what a noble, noble life my tree lives.

My tree in winter...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Speedo? What Speedo?

There is a small lake located on the outskirts of Pigsknuckle, and when I lived here 25 years ago, I used to go there to think; to contemplate life and the decisions I had to make (or had messed up); to let my dog swim. It was MY place… quiet and peaceful, surrounded by copses of trees, open fields, and a big red barn. It’s still quiet and peaceful, except that now, in addition to that big red barn, it’s surrounded by big, expensive houses. Sigh. I don’t go there very often now, but I had the occasion to pass by on Friday evening, on the way to my book club, as one of our members lives in one of those lovely homes that borders my little lake. I was a bit early, as usual, so I pulled into the parking lot near the boat launch and I sat, warmed by the sun pouring through my windshield, and just listened to the quiet.

There were a few other people there, too, fishing from the bank. In the distance, a canoe made its slow way toward the other end of the lake – the part I’ve never actually seen (I must remedy that one day). But one person caught my attention… and held it. He was an older man – 70 at least – standing on a paddleboard in the middle of the water… in a Speedo. My first inclination was to cringe and giggle, as one does when ones sees any man (especially one in his 70’s) in a Speedo (that’s not just me, right?). But I resisted the urge.

You see, I’m trying hard to live in a less judgmental way these days; trying not to concern myself with things which, well, don’t concern me. So instead of shaking my head at this man’s questionable fashion sense (because really, as a prime candidate for 'What Not to Wear,' who am I to judge?), I just watched him.

Lean and well-muscled, tanned and white-haired, he stood straight and tall on his board, never faltering – not even once. Upright paddleboarding takes a great deal of balance and core strength, even in still water (I’ve tried it… and failed) and the ease with which he held himself upright spoke to many hours of practice and patience. He switched his paddle from side to side, cutting the dark water with long, even, powerful strokes – strokes that didn’t make a sound or splash. It was mesmerizing – watching him move silently, slowly, almost effortlessly across the water in the glow of the late-day sun. I could clearly see his focus, married to obvious relaxation, and I found myself admiring (and more than a bit jealous of) the look of sheer contentment on his face.

And I forgot all about the Speedo.