Movin’ On

Hawleyville will always be the place I discovered my blogging (as opposed to journaling) voice, and where I learned to bring some discipline and structure to my writing and to begin promoting my works.

But times and my perspective have changed somewhat, and I feel like I need a fresh start.

Please visit me here:

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Unsettling Anthology Update

I am still on a blogging moratorium as I work on editing my book, but I could not in good conscious not post an update about this here.

Rather than go into the details, I’ll just say that it seems “The Spirit of Poe Anthology” in which I was published was not what it was cracked up to be. I never received a contributor’s copy and according to the post linked here neither did most of the other writers included in the book. Contributors were not paid. In my contract I had waived my payment as a donation to the Poe House, so I hadn’t caught on to that fact.

According to the comments posted at  the Poe House was in no way a part of this anthology.

Am I glad that the call-out for stories inspired me to write the piece that was included? Absolutely.

But because I touted this book as a charitable anthology in the live-and-learn belief that what I was being told as a contributor was the truth, I want everyone to know that the claims made about what was being done with its proceeds are apparently not true, and that other contributors who expected payment did not in fact receive it according to their commentary on this post.

I am still proud of my story and of the spirit in which I and many other contributors poured our hearts into works for this publication. But I am saddened by end end result.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


Happy first day of spring!

I’ve been on vacation for the last week-and-a-half. I took a short beach trip to my aunt and uncle’s with my mom and a good friend. Other than that, I’ve been editing, reading, resting and generally enjoying living sans alarm clock. I’ve also been doing some reflecting.

As we move into warmer temperatures, I’ve decided to back off of blogging and go back into “check in” mode for a while.

Last time I did this, I was overwhelmed with trying to finish the book.  My reasons are a little different this time. I COULD blog regularly and finish editing the book.  Editing isn’t taking all my creative energy the way that telling the story did. There are blog posts in me. But to write them on top of editing and doing my day job involves too much time sitting on my butt.

The truth is, as the weather gets better, I just want some time to get off my ass more. I work a desk job that involves staring at a computer all day, and my fellow writers know that the first step in editing is gluing yourself to your chair.  While the gettin’ is good weatherwise, I want time to MOVE. I want to garden and get in some outdoor walking and enjoy the season before the pleasant days of spring and early summer give way to the Swampass Season of muggy Maryland summertime.

Exercise and physical fitness have taken a backseat for the last year. Writing a book in the spare moments between long hours at a dayjob will do that. I’m going to give my body some time in the limelight. It has been good to me while I’ve taken on this endeavor. It avoided cold and flu-bugs even when surrounded by sick folks at work. It got a little softer as I ignored its need for activity, but it hung in there.

Time to pay back the favor.

Happy Spring, my friends! I’ll check in from time-to-time, but for now I’ll be splitting my free time between editing the book and moving my butt.  See you soon!

Posted in Creativity, Exercise, Uncategorized, Writing | 2 Comments

Adventures in Editing

Most of my blog’s regular readers fall into two categories. Many are writers who have “been there, done that” when it comes to editing a book. Others are friends and family who are probably as interested in the editing process as I am in best practices in proctology.

In other words, apologies if this post bores you. Bookmark it and come back when you need a cure for insomnia.

I am knee-deep in editing “Wolfman’s Pier,” the working title for what I’ve until now called “Manwhore.” Explaining the transition would give away too much, so I won’t. Although I’ve got miles to go before I finish, I’ve already learned a lot about the editing process and my own writing style.

1.  I am still in love with my characters and storyline. The book moves at a brisk pace, with the right blend of humor, surprising turns of events, and relationship building.

2. Back in college, I remember a lit professor (who resembled the weird old man who keeps all the scary secrets from hapless victims in any number of horror movies) telling me I wrote like a “Hunter S. Thompson wannabe hack.” Meanwhile, my journalism and creative writing profs were praising my writing and saying I had a promising career ahead of me.

After a few semesters of  being swatted like a ping-pong ball between “you rock” and “you suck,” I came to a realization. I am NOT a literary writer. I am a journalistic storyteller. I prefer vivid scenes to metaphor, and gripping dialogue and events to allusions and theory. I can’t write a page comparing a tree bending in the breeze to being resiliant through life’s hard knocks without snoring. I’d rather say the same thing with a ghost who breaks down because women can no longer see his tallywacker.

I’ll never be published in a literary journal or please readers who prefer that writing style. I tell a different kind of story for a different audience. But I still must be careful not to overexaggerate and rely on hype in my writing. I’m not a hack, but I can go down that road if left unchecked.  A lot of my editing has been toning things down “just enough.”

3. I have been taking my imaginary machete to “lys.” She moved quietLY. He said gentLY. She ate piggishLY. OK, no one in my book eats piggishly, but you get the picture. Overall, I was good about “showing not telling.” But often I fell into the trap of letting a LY  drive home a point. An occasional LY is OK, but when they crop up like mosquitos on a humid summer night, they gotta go.

4. Dealing with backstory bites. The line between not enough and too much feels almost invisible. This has been the toughest parts of my editing process. But I’m plowing through it.

5. My favorite part of editing has been coming up with subtitles for each mini-chapter. While not necessary, I think they add flair and fun to the book. As I edit each segment, I keep the need for a perfect header in the back of my mind. This hunt for a phrase that captures the essence of the segment helps me analyze the chapter’s flow.

I’d love to hear about the editing experience of others who care to share!

Posted in Creativity, Fiction, The Naked Man-Whore Chronicles, Writing, Writing A Novel | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Man in the Mountains

Wade Ruggles, Preston County Journal

Wade Ruggles, Preston County Journal

One of my heroes looks like a movie-star President. But my love for him has nothing to do with his resemblance to an American icon.

March always makes me think about my great-uncle Weach, one of my paternal grandmother’s four brothers. His name was actually Wade Ruggles, but he got the nickname “Weach” as a child and it stuck.

Uncle Weach was a coal miner in the mountains of Preston County, West Virginia. He had three sons. His oldest, Jimmy, was my father’s age and died of Hodgkin’s Disease as a teenager. His other two boys were born much later. Steve and Dave were teenagers when I was a little girl. They taught me to roller skate and took me swimming in the Cheat River during summer vacations.

Coal mining is hazardous work, and not likely to make the average worker wealthy. But Uncle Weach knew how to spend both time and money on what was most important. His family had a cozy farmhouse on a winding country road with their own small pond nestled behind it. He also had a campsite along the Cheat River, where he built a trailer that a family could live in quite comfortably.

When he retired, he decided the children in his extremely rural mountain community in Tunnelton, West Virginia needed a gathering place. He turned an old building into a roller-skating rink. It was there that Uncle Weach and my older cousins taught me to skate.

I have so many unique and wonderful memories of Uncle Weach, and there’s only room here for a few of my favorites.

– He tamed a raccoon that hung out in his yard, to the point that it would waddle onto his porch and was even allowed in one room of his house.

– He loved sharing his campsite with family. One spring break, my then-fiance’ and I decided to take a trip there. The camper had gone unused most of the winter, and Weach made the mountain drive to air it out for us. We were behind schedule, and didn’t arrive until nearly midnight. When we got there, I found my great-uncle asleep in a recliner with a carton of ice cream melting in his lap. He was snoring and had strawberry goo on his jeans.

– He gave the best bear hugs ever. He wasn’t a tall or big man. By the time I was sixteen, I stood eye-to-eye with him. That year, the daughter of another of my great-uncles got married. I wore heels to the wedding. I saw Uncle Weach and realized that I was looking down at the top of his head. But when he grabbed me up in one of his big, warm hugs, I still felt like a little girl being embraced by a friendly giant.

– He loved children and had a knack for making each and every niece, nephew or skating rink visitor feel like the most special kid in the world.

I was an awkward, clumsy, self-conscious girl who took forever to grow into her body and her sense of self. I hated gym class with a passion. Sports in school are an exercise in humility for clutzy pre-teen girls who stand a head taller than their classmates and have horrible hand-eye coordination. Kids are harsh, especially adolescent girls, and I was the unwilling star of my own freak show. I spent my days trying to disappear into the background.

But Weach could make even a kid with no self-confidence feel talented and special and happy to be alive and out and about in the world. At home, I was the girl who faked injuries to avoid gym class humiliation. On endless summer days with Uncle Weach, I was the girl who swam in a river for hours, rowed a boat, climbed slippery slopes to get to the best fishing spot, and skated like a champ. He made me feel like my uniqueness was a good thing, not something to hide.

– He treated his wife, my Aunt Jeannie, like gold. She was a sweet homebody who raised her children and volunteered at her church. She tolerated a raccoon in her house with a good-natured sigh because she loved Weach as much as he loved her. When he passed away, she was lost.

– Uncle Weach was in perfect health most of his life, in spite of a career with a legacy of lung damage. In his late 70’s he woke one night and asked for an ambulance. He told Aunt Jeannie he didn’t think he would be coming home. He didn’t.

– Long before that night, he purchased their grave plot beside Jimmy, the son he and Jeannie had lost. Many family members rest in that cemetery, and my grandmother would walk my cousins and I there to visit.

Shortly after I learned to read, we stopped by Jimmy’s grave. I saw “Wade and Jeanne Ruggles” etched on the next stone over and flipped out. As a child, I didn’t understand preparing to be dead ahead of time. Grandmom tried to explain it to me, but I would not let it go until I saw Weach for myself, so we walked home and called him. He showed up right away, swooped me up  and said “silly girl!”

He has rested in that cemetery almost 20 years now, and I still feel like the wonder of those mountains diminished just a little when he left. He was larger than life in the best way possible, and I still miss his bear hugs.

Some blame a life not lived to the fullest on hardships. But Weach blows their theories away. He had one of the most grueling jobs imaginable. He lost a son. Instead of being bitter, he loved his family, his life and his surroundings all the more. In his retirement years, he extended that love to his community with his skating rink.

Maybe that’s why March makes me think of him so much. It is the time of year when gentle warmth begins to steal over cold barren landscapes. It is a time of hope and happiness.

I miss you, Uncle Weach. You didn’t need to look like Reagan to be an American icon.

Posted in Childhood Memories, Family, Memoirs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Pet Names

Do I look like a mosquito to you??

Do I look like a mosquito to you??

“Whatcha want, Skeeter?” I called across the room the other night, using the voice I reserve for baby-talking to my cat. He’d been meowing at me while I tried to check my email.

Sylvester stretched and looked at me like I’d grown a second head. Then he gave a disgusted flick of his tail and stalked off into the kitchen. The food bowl wasn’t empty, just dangerously low by his standards. I refilled it and said “there you go, Fat Boy.”

He tossed another disgusted look over his shoulder, then stuck his face in the bowl.

I guess I can’t blame him. In less than five minutes, I’d called him both Skeeter and Fat Boy. Those are just a few of the monikers that get tossed his way several times a day. His actual name – Sylvester – is the one I use least of all.

Fat Boy makes sense. All you have to do is look at him or witness his paranoid obsession with his food bowl to understand it. But Skeeter?

That one is a little more roundabout. A long while back, Lee and I discovered “Google Translate.” We are fortysomethings in pre-teen bodies, I guess, because this helpful tool immediately became a source of juvenile entertainment. We spent more time than I care to admit looking up cursewords and vulgar slang in different languages.

One that stuck with us was Muschi. For those who don’t know, this is how you say “pussy” in German, at least according to the almighty Google Translator. I decided it was kind of a cute word. I dislike the p-word, and am even less fond of the good old C-word that rhymes with runt. They’ve got a harsh, icky grossness to them. Muschi, on the other hand, is almost cute-ish. At least the way we say it … “moo-ski.” It sounds like a cartoon cow with a Polish last name. People who actually speak German might pronounce it very differently. But at our Juvenile Google Translate Party For Two, that didn’t matter all.

Poor Sylvester. It was only a matter of time before “pussycat”  became “Mooskicat.” Which became just plain old “Mooski.” And then one day, he was being a royal pain in the arse when I was trying to read, insisting that I pay attention to him by sticking his butt in my face.

“Moo-Ski…Toe!” I admonished. You know, “Mooskito.” “Mosquito.” Because mosquitoes are a pain in the ass, and so are cats who shove that same body part in your face.

Fat Boy. Mooski. Mooskito. It wasn’t much more of a stretch to get to Skeeter.

What is it about our animal companions that makes rational, normal human beings come up with idiotic pet names? For that matter, what makes us do the same with people? If I think about it, I was genetically predestined for this brand of weirdness.

As a kid, I spent several weeks of each summer vacation with my great-aunt and great-uncles in West Virginia. I’d come home anxious to tell my neighborhood friends about my trip.

“Aunt Fuzzy took me to her campsite. We had fires at night and told ghost stories and put whoopie cushions in Uncle Don’s chair so we could say he farted. Then I stayed with Uncle Weach, and we fished in his pond and went roller-skating. When I stayed with Uncle Bunny he had me and my cousins weed all the cornfields and taught me how to milk a cow. And we walked over to Uncle Hop’s and picked blackberries.”

My friends would give me the same “you have an extra head” look I get from Sylvester when I call him Skeeter.  Back then, I figured they thought my cow-milking, corn-weeding vacation paled in comparison to their trip to Disney World, although I wouldn’t have traded with them for anything.

Now, I realize it probably wasn’t my trip itself, but my FuzzyWeachBunnyHop collection of aunts and uncles that caught them off guard. Fuzzy was actually Alma. Weach was Wade. Bunny was Hugh, and Hop was Frank. But they’d gone by their childhood nicknames for so long that they’d been FuzzyWeachBunnyHop for decades before I came along. Why change now?

My Dad called me Thumper when I was a kid. It had nothing to do with the adorable little rabbit from Bambi. It was his way of making fun of the way I stomped around everywhere.  I was not a graceful child. Again, some things never change.

My sister had it worse. My mother called her Toad, and so did I.

I’m thankful that unlike our great-aunt and great-uncles, we let our childhood nicknames drift away. Going through life as Thumper and Toad would have sucked.

What silly (ok, maybe even stupid) nicknames have been bestowed on you, your loved ones, or your pets? Even better, what’s the story behind them?

Posted in Childhood Memories, Family, humor, Memoirs, Pets, Slices O' Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Gettin’ Dirty

pinktulipI’ve been overcome with a desire to play in the dirt. I want to sit in the grass with morning dew soaking my butt.

I want to weed my gardens.

I wasn’t much of a gardener until I hit my mid-thirties. I admired others’ landscaping and colorful flower beds, and always appreciated my mom making her yard a  poolside paradise. But I never caught the gardening bug myself. It was all I could do to keep the grass mowed and weeds and vines from overtaking my yard.

When I met Lee, that all changed. He’d always loved gardening, but had never lived in a place that offered much space for it. He saw my yard the way a painter sees a blank canvas. Even before we moved in together, I let him have at it. Early on it our relationship, I worked days and he worked nights. The only time our schedules meshed was Sundays. Often, he’d come over and spend the whole day playing in my yard, turning it into something beautiful.

It didn’t take long to get me out there planting and weeding with him. To my surprise, I discovered that I loved the whole experience, down to the dirt under my fingernails and the mud-stains on my bum.

Even so, I’m amazed at how psyched I am for gardening season. I’m not a winter-hater. The cold keeps me indoors more, but it also seems to refuel my creative well. I write more in the fall and winter months than I ever do in spring or summer. Knowing that, I rarely wish them away.

I’m blaming my eagerness to put winter behind me on two things. The first is that Maryland’s winter has chomped a hairy butt this year. It hasn’t been brutal, just a constant roller coaster of almost springlike days followed by cold temps and wild winds. Each changeover brings a spattering of rain and some sad, slushy snow. With no lasting snowstorms to turn the landscape into a fresh, clean wonderland (and get me a home-from-work-free-card or two), I’m just done with it. I’m done with slippery roads and the wind making it sound like some serial killing psychopath is banging on my door at 2 a.m.

But even more than that, I think my eagerness for dirt-digging is about relief. At work, I’m in the midst of a project that involves reviewing tons of records and statistics in a painstaking, line-by-line fashion. There are days I dread it so much I want to scream and beat my head against my desk until I am as concussion-dumb as a quarterback who has taken one too many sacks.

I am also  editing my book. I enjoy doing so. But it is work of a similar nature – careful, painstaking reading and attention to the most minute details. Writing is pouring everything out. Editing is reeling it back in.

Editing is … weeding.

But when you weed a garden, the sun warms your back. You yank and pull the things that are choking your flowers from the earth. They come away in your hands, dribbling dirt on your legs. You reach and stretch. You notice weeds you don’t want to pull, because they are rather pretty. You work until you are done, and then sit back and bask in your finished product. Yes, the weeds grow again, but not right away.

For a moment, you can survey your landscape and say “I did this today.”

Weeding a novel is a much lengthier task. You cannot finish in the hour or so it takes to weed a garden. Depending on your other obligations, you may not even finish in a season.

I want to play in the dirt so that I can finish something. I want an immediate, tangible, beautiful end result. I know my book will give me the same thing eventually. But I need some instant gratification.

Last year, I left the gardening all to Lee because all my spare-time energies were going into writing the book. I won’t do that this year, even if it means it takes me longer to finish editing. I am on my own deadline, and if I learned one thing last year it was that a life without play is no life at all.

Will you be playing in the dirt this spring?

Addendum: This post was inspired because I can feel spring in the air. But after writing it, I heard we might get our first major snowstorm of the year on Wednesday. Sigh. Dudes, REALLY?

Posted in Gardening, Slices O' Life, Work, Writing, Writing A Novel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Yahoo!! I Get to Sit in Traffic Now ….

My day job often requires me to tackle complex problem-solving. As an introvert, I do that best if left alone.  With uninterrupted time and peaceful surroundings , I can usually wrap my head around issues and come up with solutions.

My last several bosses have understood that. I don’t telecommute regularly. But if I go to my boss and request a work-at-home day now and then, I usually get it. I know these work-at-home days are a privelege, not a right. I also know I get them because I’ve proven that they help me yield results.

My situation is common these days. Almost everyone I know in jobs that primarily require using a computer have semi-flexible work arrangements.  Yet the buzz all over the  newsfeeds recently is about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer taking telecommuting off the company perk list.

I’m struggling to wrap my head around how a forward-thinking, technology-oriented operation can do this in the name of progress.  To me, it is a giant step backwards.

According to various news articles, the CEO claims being onsite is necessary to promote teamwork and brainstorming.

The need for “face time” in creative and collaborative work relationships is a valid argument. But from what I’ve read, Yahoo’s CEO isn’t just taking away full-time telework options. All telecommuting arrangements are off the table, including hybrids where employees work one or two days a week at home and come to the office the rest of the time.

As much as I love work-at-home days, I wouldn’t want to be completely physically removed from my colleagues. Some of our best innovations come out of being together. But we certainly don’t need to be side-by-side 40 hours a week for that to happen.

I believe the “hybrid telecommute” model is the best of both worlds. These arrangements provide both face-to-face interaction and the flexibility and focus-time that telecommuting offers. Employees get gas savings, less time spent sitting in traffic, and better work-life balance. Managers get employees who are less stressed and therefore more innovative and productive.

When I know I have a work-at-home day scheduled, I’m much more present and interactive when I am in the office. I’m open and involved in meetings and brainstorming sessions and welcome drop-by co-worker conversations, because I know I’ve got solitary focus time scheduled later. It isn’t just my life that it better balanced. It is my work, too.

Some speculate that what Yahoo’s CEO is really doing is cleaning house. She’s hoping those who use telecommuting as a pathway to slackerdom will hit the road.

Isn’t that managing to the lowest common denominator? For every slacker who thinks “telecommute” means watching Jerry Springer and taking naps, there are five more who go above and beyond because they CAN telecommute. On my telecommute days, the time I normally spend prettifying myself and traveling gets tacked on to the hours I actually work. I often lose track of time and work over, because I’m comfortable and not anticipating a crappy commute.

Any employee worth having thinks along similar lines. And a slacker will find ways to slack whether they’re in their living room or their cubicle. I expect managers to recognize and reward independent, productive employees, not yank perks out from under us because someone else sucks.

I feel for Yahoo employees who are impacted by this. I imagine many of them will soon be facing hellish commutes. Proximity to the office wasn’t something they considered when they were offered a job with a telecommuting option. That just isn’t fair.

I’m obviously a staunch supporter of telecommuting. But to my surprise, I found an article by one executive vice president who agrees with Mayer’s decision that made a lot of sense to me.

In my current position, my telecommute days are gold to me because they are my primary key to work-life-balance and the time I need to reflect, think, and learn for my job as well as for myself. If I worked for an organization that honored those needs in other ways like the ones outlined in this article (flexible schedules, 40 hours of professional development leave per quarter that does not come out of your vacation) I’d be much less of a rabid dog if my telecommuting days were threatened.

What do you think? Is Yahoo’s CEO making the right move? Do you think telecommuting helps or hurts productivity and office culture?

A few articles for those interested in more on this:

Posted in Office Life, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Sims 3: A Great Escape

003I am writer, hear me roar! I am a disciple of discipline who has no time for mindless distractions.

At least that’s what I’d have people believe when I put my best foot forward in this blog. The truth is, I crave mindless distractions like a boozer drooling on a frosty cooler of Budweiser. One of my current favorite escapes is The Sims 3.

EA’s first inceptions of The Sims games came out when I was in my 20s. In those early games, you couldn’t control your Sims away from their homes. At home, they wouldn’t do anything on their own. If you weren’t paying enough attention to their needs to notice their “bathroom” bar going up, they pissed their pants.

Today, the game-play and graphics are much more realistic. Back in the old school days, Sims were either thin or had little pooches that looked like beer guts. Today, they come in the same range of shapes and sizes as real people. If you want, you can make a Sim whose booty need its own zip code. Personalities and relationships are much more complex, and they’ll usually pee on their own. Your Sims can visit other Sims and run all over town while under your control. You can even govern how they act at work.

I hadn’t played the Sims in years. The truth is, even though the early games were rudimentary, they sucked me in like a steamy cowpie does a fly. I spent way too much time yelling at little computer people for peeing their pants or trying to get them not to throw hissy fits if their wife hugged a neighbor.  Eventually, the novelty wore off and my games sat unused. When my computer went kaput, I didn’t bother to upload the Sims on its replacement.

This fall, I started fondly remembering how much I used to enjoy The Sims. As a bribe, I promised myself I could check out the Sims 3 when I finished writing my book. When the game arrived, I was in for a surprise. While I’ve been busy becoming a writer, the Sims have been growing up too.

Even with all the advancements, it amazes me how this silly little game is such a fun stress relief tool for me. What is it about making sure these little computer people go to work, earn money, pay their bills, advance in their careers, get enough exercise, eat, and maintain healthy relationships that helps me unwind? I mean, isn’t that the same damn shit that stresses me out in real life?

Hmmm … maybe that’s the whole point.

1. In real life, the higher you advance in your career, the more hours you have to put in. For Sims, things are just the opposite. For example, one of my Sim chicks is a news anchor. She works four days a week from 8am-noon. Only by playing the Sims will my broke ass ever experience a 16 hour workweek that pays all the bills.

2. Sims get paid every day that they work, and they get paid damn well once you move them up the ladder. For example, my anchor girl makes 7oo-and-something dollars an hour. So after her 4-hour shift, a little bubble pops up that says “News Anchor Chickie brought home 2,800-plus today!”

If that ever happened to me in real life, I’d pee my pants so fast that you’d think I was an old-school Sim.

3. Forget all this daily workout crap. A Sim can avoid exercise forever, then do jumping jacks in front of her TV for a little while and suddenly be so fit and strong that local gyms are calling her up to participate in athletic contests.

4. My writer Sim can peck away at her keyboard for one day, and have a finished book. She gets a little cranky, but she can do it. She has currently written 10 books to my one. And the bitch is already collecting royalties.

5. Pregnancy is a 3-day deal in Sim-land. If real-life pregnancy had only required that short of a caffeine hiatus, I might have considered reproducing.

6. Sims who accomplish things that make them happy get “lifetime reward points.” You can cash in these points to buy your Sims “helpers” that will improve their lives. For example, one of my flirty Sims got a bad reputation as a cheatin’ hoseweasel. Cashing in her points for the “clean slate” helper erased her bad rap and now everyone wants to date her again. Let’s face it, we all have friends who could use that kind of help in real life!

Yep, Sims have gotten smarter and more entertaining over the years. But the bottom line for me is that there is nowhere else I can have a mini-me who makes gobs of money working 12 hours a week, writes best-sellers in a day, and every now and then goes “oh damn, I’m getting fat. Let me go run on the treadmill for 2 hours to fix that.”

Oh, and in real life, I’ll probably never be able to afford a maid, either.

Posted in humor, Slices O' Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Dumpster Diving

At work the other day, I saw a heartbreaking bit of bathroom-stall graffiti.

I work on the college campus that spit me out with a bachelor’s degree almost 20 years ago. On the way back from a meeting, I cut through a building I hadn’t been in for awhile. Years ago, this building housed the weekly student-run newspaper that called me its editor-in-chief. I had to pee, so I stopped in a restroom I’d used a hundred times before on breaks from 2 a.m. editing or story-writing stints.

On the bathroom wall, someone had written “Your Hopes and Dreams” with an arrow pointing down to the garbage can. I found myself longing for the days when graffiti was two names with a big fat heart between them. Like most people, I have up days and down days. But I never get so down that I believe hopes and dreams are destined for the trash can.

I think what got to me is that some 18-22 year-old student using the same toilet I frequented in my own inspiration-filled junior year was already jaded enough to write that.

For me, that dingy building with its puke-green and burnt-orange carpet (which has since  been upgraded to a lovely industrial grey-blue) was a place where hopes and dreams were born, not tossed in the trash. At that time in my life, I believed anything was possible. I was going to take on the world with a keyboard, and I was going to spank the bitch’s ass.

I didn’t know I’d spend the next two decades making ends meet by tying them together with a very frayed rope. I didn’t know how burnt out I’d get on professional attire and meetings and the kind of jobs your mind can’t turn off just because the clock says 5 pm.  I never dreamed Monday mornings would sometimes make me eat Tums for breakfast. Back then, “going to work” meant writing for and running a paper I loved. “Working in my office” looked like this:The Good Old Days

Back then, my friends and I believed we were “girl wonders” who could be whatever we wanted. Long before Facebook spawned the “duck-faced teenage girl” epidemic, we were showing off just how ready we were to rule the world.sherpam

Back then I just lived, and experienced things, and believed wholeheartedly in a bright and shiny future. I thought if I busted my ass I would reel in the dream.

As I stared at the bathroom-stall graffiti, I realized just how long it has been since I was that girl. More than 20 years have passed.

Holy freaking shit.

The girl I was then would have called the graffiti artist a pessimistic asshole. But the 42 year-old woman who was just trying to sneak in a quick pee between meetings? She doesn’t like to admit it, but in her worst moments, she gets why someone would feel that way.

A part of my 40-something self wants to grab the smart-ass girl I was by the shoulders and say “Look, fool. The girl who wrote that has a point. See me? I’m YOU. You don’t know it yet, but you’re about to toss your dreams right in that garbage bin to spend the next twenty years doing safe, secure, ‘responsible adult’ stuff. You are about to put your creativity in a cage to spend your life paying a mortgage on a house you aren’t in much because you’re always at work.”

I wanted to beg her to take more risks. I wanted to tell her it would be OK not to know where her next meal was coming from for a few years after college if that was what it took to make a go at being what she really wanted to be. I wanted to tell her choosing the safe road and busting her ass on it wasn’t even going to earn her the financial security she was trading in her dreams for – she’d still end up living paycheck to paycheck.

But you can’t go back. You can only keep moving forward. If the graffiti artist who thinks hopes and dreams land in the garbage heap is a college student, I really feel for her. If you believe that when you’re just getting started, how do you feel after 20 years of scratching and clawing and bad decisions?

Maybe she’s not a student. Maybe she’s a tired near middle-ager like me, fed up with another day of data entry or cleaning bathrooms.

Whoever she was, my 20-year-old self would have some advice for her.

She would roll her eyes and say “suck it up, bitch. So your hopes and dreams got thrown in the trash. Sounds to me like its time to go dumpster diving.”

Since I can’t go back in time and change the choices she’ll make, I might as well listen to her now. It was her belief that we had all the time in the world that got us here, so I might as well make her partly responsible for fixing it.

That’s what I’ve been trying to do since I started writing again. I’ve been digging through the garbage I let get piled on top of my hopes and dreams. I’ve been wiping off the slop and trying to believe in my dreams again, even though they’re stained and wrinkled now.

Whatever her age, I hope the graffiti artist does the same someday. My fortysomething self has advice for her too, and she’d phrase it a little less harshly than Supergirl College Me. I’d tell her it does get harder as you go, but never impossible. I’d tell her that sometimes dreams go dormant because life is a lot of work and we get sidetracked. But they don’t become trash, unless we let them.

Posted in Personal Development Mumbo-Jumbo Stuff, Slices O' Life, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments