The smudgeness 

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Last week, my husband and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. The day we were married was, by all accounts, an awful one. The only saving grace was the fact that we got out of it together. A hurricane dumped a ton of water on us the night before and flooded out our wedding venue, mudslides closed roads, and delayed guests were less than pleased with the situation.

My husband’s step father died in a freak medical accident a few weeks beforehand. My family was in a battle royale within themselves, my father wanting to bring his girlfriend while still married to my mom, who threatened to fight the woman at the venue. My youngest brother stopped speaking to my father (literally forever) after the wedding was over and my middle brother managed two DUI’s (one nearly fatal accident from the first one) in the month prior.

My mother and her sister in law got completely shitfaced at the reception, while my father went on hunger strike because his girlfriend was persona non grata. My mother-in-law co-opted the ceremony to supplant her own pastor to give a benediction we didn’t want or agree to at the literal last minute. It was less than ideal.

They say that rain is lucky, but to be honest, I don’t really believe that. Because, what would take place in the years that would follow would be nothing short of an exhaustive attempt to break our spirits. We were left our home to relocate for my husband’s job only for every promise to be rescinded, buying our home at the height of the real estate bubble, only to have it crash when we realized our venture into Delaware wasn’t working out. Left with no way to sell our home for what we paid for it, and few options,

I finally landed my current job, where I’ll soon mark 10 depressing years. It has been its own experiment in psychological torture, but one that pays just enough to make it necessary to tolerate. During that time, my husband’s job has changed twice, but he’s been able to pursue industry designations that will hopefully help him when his current job will be eliminated at the end of the year.

We’ve grown from a twosome to a family, cutting toxic people from our lives, staggering through barely functioning most days from the exhaustion that this 12 years has been (longer if you factor in the time we lived together before getting married – more like 16). Still, there is something we’ve managed to accomplish, which is getting through it together. And surprisingly enough, we’ve managed to outlast Brangelina. So, yeah, you could say I’m a little smug.

Flat circles 

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A few weeks ago, I joked with a few friends about how the lead singer for Modest Mouse’s car accident (where literally no one was hurt and only a few cars damaged when he fell asleep at the wheel) was nothing short of ironic, given how often cars (at least one accident) are mentioned in his music. If you’re a fan of their songs, you’d probably agree with me that their lyrics have the tone of nihilistic sarcasm. There was a bit of joking on the web to about this event and some fans got really upset. I’d like to think that Brock would probably not care and may even find it humorous too. Maybe not, I don’t know him. But I’d like to think that a guy who writes a lyric “gonna take this potted plant to the forest and set it free” might see the humor there.

Anyway, not long after that my own commute was snarled to a crawl by an event that seemed to topple the cosmic humor of the previous event. A truck carrying unminted pennies overturned on the highway, spraying them everywhere and closing the road to the morning commute. What I know about pennies, and their manufacture are relatively limited. However, I do know that pennies are, by economic standards, more expensive to produce than they are worth. I also know that if they were actually still made of copper, the accident on the highway would be more worrisome than it was because you’d have every scrapper and meth head that’s been busted taking stuff like that to be cashed in. So the highway being sprayed with a worthless coin, that hadn’t yet even been minted yet, snarling everyone’s commute to their wage slave job had a bit of cosmic irony that I’m sure Brock would have appreciated.

That said, it slowed traffic in our small state for almost an entire day while clean up efforts took place. All of which would have been prevented if we eliminated pennies as a form of currency like our neighbors to the north. But, nonetheless, I put on some Modest Mouse as I crawled into work that day, and felt that this bit of time suckage was somehow cosmic payback for my earlier smirking at Brock’s accident.

Grief Tourists

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It’s been well over a year since I posted about my friends illness. And, much to everyone’s surprise, she lasted a lot longer than anyone thought, even her doctors. Still, cancer is so often a matter of how much time you have left before it inevitably takes you, which for my friend, happened last week. This post isn’t about her, though, or what an amazingly kind and generous and thoughtful person she was. This isn’t about the light she brought to the world, and how much she will be missed. This post is about the assholes who make her passing all about them.

We got the news that she was in the hospital a few weeks ago. Her cancer was back, and it was bad. She was here until they could procure a place in hospice, having her pain managed as best they could. Immediately after the announcement email went out, my colleagues when running out the door to go over to the private room where this woman and her family were. I imagine them fighting for attention, slapping at each other like Cinderella’s step sisters.

When we got the news that she finally passed, it came the heels of more bad news. The mother of another coworker from the same department had a massive aneurysm and passed away unexpectedly. Not long after, our resident grief tourist announced they’d need the afternoon off to attend this funeral too. A funeral for a woman they’d never met, but who was the mother of a casual work acquaintance, somehow warranted their presence. I marveled at the arrogance that must’ve gone into that rational. I imagine the look of bewilderment on the poor daughter’s face as she had to deal with these relative strangers coopting her family’s fresh grief, choking back tears and confusion to be marginally polite to these people.

Throw it away

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Long before I ever had the idea to put my thoughts into a blog, I used to travel journal. There’s something about being on the road that always gets my creative spirit moving, and I am able to put my inner dialog down onto paper. Often, the worse a vacation is, the better the journalling. There’s something funny about my angry written word, and I’ve always found it to be cathartic in situations where I’ve felt powerless.

When my husband and I embarked on our honeymoon, it was after almost a year’s worth of stress, planning, drama and pain. We entrusted a travel agent friend to find us a suitable hotel within our budget, and boy did we fail there. The island of Aruba had been battered by the same hurricane that ruined our wedding day, and the hotel where we were booked really didn’t give a fuck.

The beach was scattered with broken pieces of coral from the reef, which were the same color as the sand, making the seemingly walkable surface a minefield of razors. The hotel restaurants never opened on time, and the snack shops were overrun by mosquitoes. The room we were given for our honeymoon was two double beds overlooking the parking lot and dumpsters, and at night the party scene that took place outside meant that no rest could be had until about midnight.

We hated every minute of our stay, except for the hobie cat time we could book each day. That one hour we spent tacking up and down the cost of island was probably the best memory we had of our stay there. About halfway through the trip, we looked into adventure elsewhere, booking excursions and trips, which were fun, but by that time, it was too little too late. The island of Aruba is supposed to be one of those iconically beautiful places, but we couldn’t wait to get out of there.

In order to cope with my misery, I wrote sarcastic and angry postcards to my friends at home. I didn’t mail them, because at the time, I found them to be hilarious and thought I might turn them into a travelogue style book in the snarky vein of my heroes like Hunter S. Thompson or Douglas Adams. So I tucked them away to work on them “someday.” I’ve dug them out a few times, and never gotten around to writing them up until today. And as I began to transcribe them, I’ve realized that my writing style from 12 years ago is so very different and outdated from the way I write now that their punch was gone.

I’ve read before that ideas have shelf lives. I think this is true for writing. I found a novel I’d never finished as well and had been working hard to try to revise it in the current voice I write with now. But again, as more than a decade has passed, the glimmer has faded and I’m ready to cut them loose. So, unfortunately, as much as I’d hoped to form these old snarky pieces into something fun, they just don’t hold up over time. I’m okay with letting them go, because it was a warm up exercise to where my writing is now. My voice is so much better defined, and I think it’s best to leave the past where it is.

Recipe – Baked Penne

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I was cleaning out the fridge and pantry over the weekend and figured I had enough stuff to make baked penne. Here’s what I cobbled together for delicious carbo-loading.

For this recipe you’ll need:

  • 1 box (12 oz) pound penne pasta (I used this brand)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 (25-ounce) jar marinara pasta sauce, divided
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

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Preheat oven to 350. Prepare pasta according to box directions. In a separate bowl, mix ricotta cheese and all but 1/2 cup of pasta sauce together. Spoon half of remaining sauce into your baking dish. Add cooked pasta to cheese and sauce mixture and spoon into dish. Spoon remaining sauce and mozzarella cheese over top. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. I put a tray under mine since I was afraid it would bubble over. (Spoiler: it did, but not as bad as I thought.)

You may wish to add black pepper or italian seasoning to this, if your sauce doesn’t already have enough seasoning. It was quite yummy, and I plan on eating this for lunch for the rest of the week. Enjoy!

Change

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If you google quotes about change, the internet will lovingly provide a long list of platitudes about how life is what happens while you’re making plans, how change is the universal constant, and how we’re never given more to handle than our higher power thinks we can do. I could go on, but it’s all out there, and regurgitating it all for this post isn’t going to get me anywhere close to an original thought. What has got me thinking today is that there’s no room for being complacent when your world is shifting around you.

I could rattle off the long list of things that are changing in my life right now, but it might be easier to list the things that aren’t. That list is shorter, but I honestly like it less. As terrifying as some of the upcoming changes are going to be, there’s a few that I’m trying to be very excited about. One slightly unexpected thing in particular is my son’s recent transition into the “why” stage of life.

As exasperating as it is to have to now configure explanations for our 3 1/2 year old’s never-ending dialog, there is something really awesome about a little guy who’s not taking everything we say at face value. To be asked why means that I have to take a minute and make sure I’m actually making the right call. It forces me to consider my stance on whatever it is I’m putting my foot down. Most of the time, I’m solid on whatever I’m saying no about, but admittedly, there’s a few when I’ve taken a step back and conceded to the question and redirected myself.

The other cool part about his “why” phase, is that he’s learning to stand up for himself. This is a kid who’s not a pushover, given his size over his peers, it’s never been an issue. But, I’d like to think that reaching the age where he can question me, and the world around him, is a confidence builder that will help him seek out solutions to problems that he’d previously just pitch a fit over. (Speaking of fits, those have NOT diminished yet, still waiting on that shoe to drop any day now.)

The downside to all this new development is that he needs that much more attention. At a time when time is valuable and patience is thin, I feel terrible that we’ve been too easy to snap on him. This morning, my husband described him as high maintenance. I will concede this too. He is a lot to handle. But there’s a lot of good in being this way. I imagine this phase will pass too, and soon enough he’ll be in that moody teenage phase where we can’t get a word out of him. I’d rather an inquisitive chatterbox over that any day.