Sunday, August 26, 2012


He wants me, but only part of the time. He wants me, if he can keep me in line. Hush hush, voices carry.
-Aimee Mann

I am a Dallas Cowboys fan. I always will be. Being a Cowboys fan is hard for many reasons but mostly because I fear suffocation while wearing the paper bag over my head that being a loyal Cowboys fan requires. Nonetheless, it’s who I am . . . and I like me. I won’t go changin’ for Billy Joel or anyone else.

I don’t have Glamour magazine or Vogue or Cosmo or any other girly girl type magazine delivered to my house. This doesn’t mean I don’t read them, it just means I don’t pay to get them in the mail. Believe me, when they’re plopped down in front of me, I read them, because, you know, they’re chock full of oh so valuable information on how I should live and how I should look. Also, as is readily apparent, I am an internet user which means every time I turn my computer on there is some sort of headline telling me what I need to know about men and what they like, and, again, how I should dress and talk and carry myself. I’m a sucker, I admit it, I’ll read that before I’ll read about the war on drugs, the disappearing middle class in my country, or the latest college football scandal. Let me go on record as saying that I also happen to read Sun Magazine (a non profit magazine for writers) and The Atlantic and The New Yorker, all of which are delivered to my home. But I still read crap too. And sadly, I can tell you way more about the crap I read than I can about the more cerebral things I read.

According to these magazine articles (the crap, not the heady stuff), both hard copy and internet, I fall short in pretty much every area imaginable . . . and according to the world of fashion magazines, so do you, on any given day. It’s ok, just wait until the next day because you will find favor and be approved by the powers that be once again. You can read an article telling you (me) that you should always be dressed in your finest, right down to your underroos, always . . . ALWAYS, do not leave the house if you are even slightly underdressed and you are not wearing make up. You can also read an article, often times within the same publication, telling you (me) that you should be more natural, don’t overdo it, go outside in sweats with dirty hair . . . you’ll be adored! Men love red lipstick! Men hate red lipstick! Men hate needy women! Men love to be needed by women! It can all be so confusing, if one were to take it seriously, and some people really do. Witness the unbelievable amount of eating disorders and anxiety issues in our country. We’re living in an eating disorder and male entrapment learnedness Mecca. God bless America.

When you look down at your cotton Fruit of the Loom granny panties and then read that you’re supposed to be wearing a lace tanga in melon color this season, don’t you go feeling bad about yourself my pet. Now if you want the melon colored lace tanga then get yourself out there and have it . . . but only IF YOU WANT IT. Don’t do it because a Prada wearing devil that you don’t know, and doesn’t know you, said to. And don’t do it because an imagined partner, whom you’ve not met, may or may not come along and have read the same article and get pissy about your not having a melon colored lace tanga. If you’re happy with your cotton wrapped booty, then you just stay that way and be who you are. (I’m starting to regret my decision to go with undergarments here, but I’m too far in to change course now.)Anyway, love your undies.

If we all were to take all the advice we’d been given in our lives, how much of it would be worthwhile? How much of it would be consistent with who we are, on the inside? How much is a crock of crap? I read an article the other day that in one paragraph said “just be natural, be yourself, have fun, it’s all about having fun” and, I shit you not, not two paragraphs later it said “don’t have too much to drink, don’t be too casual, don’t be just the cool fun girl.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry so instead I vomited in my mouth a little. Now see, that was crass and if I was trying to hunt, track, and trap a man that would just be wrong, or would it be? I’m just being me and that’s good, right? Only Glamour magazine knows for sure, or maybe it’s Harpers Bazaar. Who knows? But the bigger question is, who cares? Well I just so happen to have the answer to that question for you; you. You care about who you are and don’t waste your precious time worrying about what others say because someone’s always going to tell you you’re wrong no matter what you’re doing . . . but you can also always find someone who sees what’s right in you.

It’s not just about women and it’s not just about appearances. Got a funny accent? Pronounce a couple of words a little bit goofy? Whatever, it’s who you are. It’s what makes you, you. But people will harass you and tease you about it. That’s fine if it’s good natured. You’re unique! Embrace it! How boring would the world be if we were all so homogenized? What would we talk about? What if I agree with everything you say? What will you know about me then? What will I know about me then? Who will I be? I’d be no one, or more accurately, I’d be everyone . . . and that’s a snore-fest.

I was already writing about being yourself this month and then I read “The Paris Wife”, a novel inspired by Ernest Hemingways first marriage to Hadley Richardson. She was herself. Despite being surrounded by beauties draped in Chanel and sporting the requisite bob haircut of that time, she was herself. She was reportedly plain in her looks, straightforward in her words, and traditional in her ideas of love and marriage. Did I mention she was married to Ernest Hemingway? A guy you may know as being not so traditional in his ideas of social mores and customs. They lived in Paris . . . in the roaring ‘20’s . . . and spent time with the likes of Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Convention was not abundant. But Ernest loved Hadley. You may be thinking “but their marriage failed.” Indeed it did, as did three more for Ernest, well, only two more failed I guess since he committed suicide during his fourth. Hadley went on to have one more marriage that lasted the rest of her life. I am not pissing on Ernest here, though it may seem that way. The point I’m making is Hadley knew who she was. She knew herself to be different than all the other women surrounding her and while it proved difficult at times and she questioned herself at times, in the end she was true to herself and led a happy life. Ernest was always questioning himself, never sure of himself on the inside, always needing external approval. The same holds true for many artists and our world would be so much dimmer without the contributions that their insecurity, their neediness, and their passion gives us. The artists of the world are who they are and Ernest Hemingway has given us astounding literature . . . and also an illuminating life . . . be who you are. You could turn out to be a quadruple married genius . . . but let’s not see you end your life as Ernest ended his, ok? They were both true to themselves.

And if you are an artist of some sort? If you paint, write, draw, sculpt, play music, any creative venture, you can rest assured you will get plenty of unsolicited advice. What one person finds too edgy, another will not find edgy enough. If you are writing a book you will get plenty of rejection letters. If you take pictures you will hear that your subject matter isn’t interesting. If you write music you will be told it’s too sappy. You will be told this by people who matter to you, you will be told this by people you could not care less about, but your art is yours. It’s yours to share with the world should you care to and someone, someone will like it, and even more than that, some will love it, and even more than that . . . you will love it. Express yourself Madonna.

To be yourself in our ever shrinking world is hard. It’s hard to come here to our country and wear the clothes of your native country because, God forbid, you not look like everyone else. It’s hard to come here and have an accent, because you’re supposed to sound like everyone else don’tcha know . . . unless it’s a very chic accent, British or French or something equally high brow sounding, then you get the stamp of approval. We are not taught to celebrate our unique characteristics. Teeth are straightened, noses are shrunk, accents “corrected”, and the crazy artistic side of you needs to be put away and you should just straighten yourself out and fly right little bird. I hope none of y’all do though. I hope none of y’all decide that just the way you are isn’t good enough. There’s always room for learning new things and growing and evolving so please don’t misunderstand me, always grow and learn. But do it because you want to, because it will fulfill you, because it’s your choice in your life for your happiness. Never, ever, ever, sacrifice who you are for someone else. Have some dignity and take pride in who you are, just as you are. When you do, you won’t even think about sacrificing yourself, and no one around you would even dream ask, because they love you as you are.

And with this I say to all my friends, I love you as you are, and I am deeply blessed that you all love me just as I am . . . and will administer CPR to me when I have a paper bag over my head this fall.

Monday, July 9, 2012

In Valor There Is Hope

If life seems jolly rotten, there's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing
When you're feeling in the dumps, don't be silly, chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle, that's the thing
Always look on the bright side of life – Eric Idle

Sometimes the stars align and everything goes your way. You’ve got “everything’s coming up roses” playing in your head and your heart. Other times, not so much. There really is always a silver lining, but it’s not always your silver lining. For instance, someone else in the world needs a new car, so when they get hit by you, oh happy day for that person, and you? You’re the provider of someone’s new car. Sometimes you have to take one for the team. And that’s ok, be a good sport. I went on a date recently, a bad date. My friend, Kim, noted that it might have made him smile and that was the purpose of our brief, and decidedly singular, encounter. True enough, this mans life is a bad country song and maybe a couple of hours of pasta and non-stop talking about himself, with nary a question about me, was exactly the kind of therapy he needed. I took one for the team. And God bless him, seriously, I wish him all the best.

My life is happy. Lately, a piece of my happiness has come from watching situations in the lives of others and determining “that’s a great idea, I think I’ll try that” or “Yikes. I feel bad wiping my forehead with the back of my hand and saying there but for the grace of God go I, but holy hell, there but for the grace of God go I”. Lesson learned, I’m not doing that . . . ever . . . or in some cases ever again. It’s been said that sometimes your purpose in another persons life is simply to serve as a warning. Perhaps not a goal we wish for, but worthwhile nonetheless. Some people serve as a warning, and I thank you for it.

I have decided on a new course in my life, charted a map, and am machete-ing (it’s my blog, I can make up words if I want) that trail. More on that in the next month or two, can’t disclose until it reaches fruition. But I have a plan and focus and I am working toward the goal because . . . I have hope. It’s hope that can make a less than sunny occurrence have a shiny sun spot buried in it. The hope and the belief that even if this current job, date, relationship, race for first place, or batch of homemade cookies bombed, you can keep going on your path, it’s not over. What may seem like a setback can really just be a piece of the puzzle, a learning piece, a metaphorical walking before running. But you have to have hope. Hope can make you stand up again after a fall. Hope can make you date again after the worst date of your life. Hope can make you continue looking for the right job, going to class after a failed test, and baking yet another batch of cookies. Without the possibility, the belief, and hope, why bother? Before something there is nothing, and before nothing there is EVERYTHING . . . all things are possible.

I knew I wanted to write about hope this month. I got as far as the three paragraphs above and hit a wall. I decided to take a break and watch a movie. I had “An Act of Valor” here at the house, just waiting to be watched and returned to Netflix, so that’s what went in the DVD player. I watched the whole thing, felt joy and sorrow and pride and then, at the end of the movie was the statement . . .


I didn’t imagine this was a line made up for the movie so I looked it up. (I have often said the library is one of my favorite inventions, thank you Ben Franklin. The internet on my computer brings the library right into my home at any time of day, thank you Al Gore.) The statement, in valor there is hope, is attributed to Publius Cornelius Tacitus, a senator and historian of the Roman Empire. This statement is most often seen on the tombstones of fallen policemen, but certainly found in other places where heroes have been felled in the line of duty. Valor is to be strong and courageous, most particularly in battle, but also of strong character. Hope is defined as entertaining a wish for something with expectation, to be confident and trust. Hope is what we have at the very base of our beings. Hope gives us the power, the will, the motivation to forge ahead rather than take a back seat and say “meh, whatever”. And I do mean forge ahead. Have you watched or read “The Secret”? I have. I have heard many people say that what they took from it was that all you have to do is mentally transport yourself to Disneyland and wish upon a star, makes no difference where you are, anything your heart desires will come to you. Well, yeah, but you don’t just sit on your ass eating bon bons while millions of Publishers Clearing House dollars rain down on you like manna from PCH heaven. Actually, PCH may work that way, bad example. If you want something, go f-wording get it, but you have to believe and trust and expect and indeed, HOPE, that you will get it. As Julia Cameron notes in her much loved book “The Artists Way”, if you’re going to be late for the bus you must first believe the bus will come, second believe that you can catch the bus, and then . . . RUN LIKE HELL. You don’t just sit on your fat duff waiting for the bus driver to knock at your door.

Hope is valorous, because it does take a metric f*** ton of strength and valor to hope for something that you have not yet attained. And the valor of others, those of us that will sign up to be a Navy Seal and WILLINGLY throw yourself on a grenade to save the lives of many, that persons valor gives hope to us all. (A side note, of all the navy vets I know not one of them was with me watching this movie to answer questions I had. Boo. But I must reiterate, that’s why Al Gore invented the internet).

Hope can change your world. Hope can make the implausible, plausible. I have been guilty in the past of hoping for all manner of things, both tangible and intangible, and in that hope just sitting around waiting for a miracle. Mostly it doesn’t happen. Here and there it does and, at least for me, it’s not nearly as rewarding. I think of the old quote “Give a man a fish and you feed him once. Teach him to fish and you feed him for life.” Does that fit here? Kinda, I guess. Things easily gained are not as rewarding as those things for which we worked, and we would not have ever even fathomed working for said things without hope. Things that you can feel good about and say “Hell yes, that test was hard but I studied and made mince meat of it. Booyah.”

Whatever it is in your life that you want, work for it. Have a plan. Focus. And above all else, be valorous in your hope and believe that you will get it, don’t give up.

"Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
― Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Donkey and Dragon

If I could be the me you wanted me to be you’d see I’m only scratching at the surface. I’m so much deeper, understand? Like you, an enigma.

I have thought about so many different topics for this month; patience, changing gender roles in society, focusing on goals, living in the moment, or maybe just having an open forum where you all tell me what you would do for a Klondike bar, but in the end I settled on a mish mash of God only knows what,
and came up with . . .

FINDING FLEXIBILITY WITHIN RIGIDITY, I think . . . or maybe maintaining self while also growing and compromising . . . or not compromising, per se, so much as being open while still being yourself and not being a shrinking violet . . . something like that.

At a party several months ago some friends and I were discussing how your name can affect who you become and even how successful you are, or are not, in your chosen field. For instance, if your name is Candy Sugarwalls, you should start pole dancing lessons when you’re about five. When I revealed that my sister wanted my parents to name me Pebbles, it was determined that I would still be the exact same person I am now had she won out. I love being me. So, does that mean I can’t change? Yes and no. Read on for a ridiculous analogy.

If you have known me for any length of time longer than, let’s say, fourteen minutes, you know I love sweets. If you have known me a bit longer, maybe thirty seven minutes, you know that one of my favorites is lemon bars. If you were to say to me “Laura Ellen, I know your true and abiding love for the lemon bar, but I would like you to try a new taste delight that features strawberries and dark chocolate coupled with powdered sugar and love”, by golly I’d do it, that’s just how flexible I can be when necessary. HOWSOMEVER (a word my daddy made up and I love), if you say to me “Laura Ellen, I know your true and abiding love for the lemon bar, but I would like you to try a new taste delight that features coconut”, then you will see the “stop in the name of all that is sacred” palm of my hand and I will adamantly say “OH HELL NO”. You gotta be willing to bend a little and you gotta know your boundaries. I.Hate.Coconut. And yet, things can change. I didn’t like watermelon when I was young, but once I was taught to put salt on it then, KABAM, my life and watermelon’s presence in it completely changed. I was willing to compromise, I learned a little something, and thus my evolution in life continues.

It’s a tough road to hoe sometimes though, knowing when to really stand your ground and knowing when to be chance-y. You don’t want to be rigid, but being a doormat’s no good either.

It’s been said many times by people smarter than me “You can only change you”. So, you can only change your reaction to a situation, you can’t change the other person. This, for me, is one of those things I have heard over and over again in life (along with “Hey, pay attention”) and one day, for whatever reason it finally lit the bulb in my head. I was listening to one friend advise another friend on a spouse spat she was having and she pulled out this time honored bit of wisdom. But then she went on to say how she does this. At some point, she said, you just have to take care of yourself by letting it go, “it” being the situation at hand, not the person. To me this has always been tantamount to being a wimp and accepting, and even encouraging, bad behavior. But I was wrong, oh yeah I was. It’s not accepting another persons bad behavior, it’s just not getting too caught up in it. And it bears pointing out; what constitutes bad behavior to one person may not to another. Our good buddy, Goethe, tells us “if we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming”. It’s an ok theory, but a little didactic, wouldn’t you say? After all, who is Goethe to say what anyone ought to be? Having a disagreement is almost never about one person being completely right and the other being completely wrong. Maybe one person did something dumb, but then if the other one handled it poorly then both people contributed to the unraveling at hand. There’s a big difference in walking away for the moment and walking away for good. You can wash your hands of a situation, but that doesn’t mean you want to wash your hands of the entire relationship.

Life provides us with lots and lots of opportunity for growth. Sometimes growth involves doing things differently than ever before, and it may involve knowing exactly where you have to stop and say “this is it, I am at my limit.” I am reminded of this all the time in my yoga class and it’s a good thing to carry off the mat and into real life. Bump up against your boundary and try something that’s a little hard, but stop when it’s time. In yoga and in life you’ve got to be patient and be able to laugh at yourself. I fall in yoga a lot, and I also do pretty damn well at times, but I always show up, I always try, and if something is beyond me I am completely happy to fall to my knees in childs pose but I never, ever, just quit and walk out. This is a class though. If you are in a bad situation and reading this please do not think I am urging you to stay if you really must leave. Don’t be a push over. Don’t be an asshole. Where’s the middle ground? Only you know yours.

What does it take to find your middle ground happy place? Lots of practice, unfortunately this sometimes comes at the expense of others; lots of mistakes, again, at the expense of others. Lots of successes, lots of positive feedback, lots of peace, lots of love, and all these things can be shared with others – even with the others that had to live through our mistakes. I’ve been focusing on patience in my life, not my strong suit. You know what happens when you focus on a weak point that you would like to strengthen? You get bombarded with situations to flex that muscle. My patience is being put to the test, but I have a plan and that plan helps me to focus and have patience. And patience, I am learning, saves me a lot of headaches and helps me find my middle ground.

In our quest to find who we are as individuals we sometimes dig up the ghost of relationships past and foist these terrors out on others. My dad did this, or my ex-boyfriend did that, or my family sucked at communicating. Oh listen honey, I feel ya, but grow the hell up and take charge of your own life. I’ve done it too, I’m not pointing a finger. It’s pretty horrifying to find yourself doing the exact thing, and I mean exact thing, that you hated having done to you as a kid. And it makes perfect sense, that’s what you know so you think the whole world operates that way and then you move around with other people in the world only to find out you were raised by a clan of well meaning psychos. I get it. I love my Rogers clan of psychos but holy hell, straight up crazy folks. And for better or for worse, I got some of it. We’re good people, just completely impatient and pretty Goddamn sure we’re always right. (Sound familiar? Do you know me?) And I can’t stand it about myself. I have learned to apologize with abandon. Next on deck is learning to calm the f*** down, exercise some patience, and perhaps not say every blessed thing that pops in my head. I think of Dragon in Shrek. She’s so scary, until you get to know her and then she purrs like a kitten, but you still wouldn’t want to threaten Donkey – she will kill you. This is me. Pebbles is me. Laura Ellen is me. And maybe all of too. You’ve got to know who you are, all the who’s that make you who you are, to be able to find your happy ground, to know when to balance on one foot, to be ok with falling, to know when to put your palm up and say “don’t tread on me, respect my limits”, and to know when to give watermelon, or maybe even coconut, another shot.

You can always grow. You can always learn new things. But that’s YOU. And that’s ME. I don’t care what Goethe says, you can’t force it on others. As another wise man, Nigel Tufnel, reminds us “it’s a fine line between clever and stupid”.

Ok, so really, what would you do for a Klondike bar?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


When the rain’s blowing in your face and the whole world is on your case, I would offer you a warm embrace, to make you feel my love
-Bob Dylan

Ah the human touch, it’s nice isn’t it? Nice when it’s appropriate. Nice when it is delivered with good intentions. One good hug, and I do mean a good hug, not one of those “stiff armed pat you on the back” hugs, a good hug, can really make your whole day.

Physical touch is something all animals, including human animals, need. It’s how we bond. And as evidenced by babies who do not receive touch, lack of touch affects the rest of their lives negatively. Conversely babies and children who are massaged and held and hugged regularly score much higher academically along with being well socialized. When we’re sad nothing soothes the soul like a hug, a good one. Think of the last time someone cupped your face in their hand or touched your cheek. It was nice wasn’t it? Sadly, touch can be delivered in such harmful ways. An open hand gently touching your cheek is lovely, but what if that same open hand is delivered with greater velocity? The same action, but with the wrong intention and pressure, can go from loving to hateful and hurtful in no time. An intimate act of love can be turned into a malicious act of ugliness. Some people can hug me, but not all people. Touch is quite particular . . . and powerful. Touch can help immensely, or harm immensely. But I don’t want to talk about ugly stuff, not just yet.

Think of the different ways in which we touch others; with our hands, our hearts, our words, our intentions, our body language, our smiles and frowns, our laughs and our tears. We carry beautiful moments around in our hearts, our minds eye, and sometimes more tangibly in the form of a saved letter or a text or an email or a card. How fun is it to go back and re-read these and recall the way it made our hearts flip? Love love love it. Our muscles also hold memory. Many is the time people have unexpectedly cried on my massage table. Something from long ago is triggered, something forgotten surfaces and can then, gratefully and at long last, be released. In the same way, many is the time I have cried in my yoga class. Stuff comes up, stuff gets released, but also, it’s just nice when someone touches you. Whether it’s a hug, a massage, or a gentle stretch from your yoga instructor, it’s awesome. C’mon, you know it is, you love it.

Let me tell you about how blessed I am in my life and share just a few of the ways I have been touched in my life:

1) I had dental surgery yesterday, jealous? The blessed part is how many of my friends reached out to me. I received so many phone calls, emails, and text messages. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love. And not just a quick “How ya doin’?”, but continual check-ins and endless offers of help. Follow up calls and texts and emails today. I am truly touched, touched by their words and open hearts and generosity. Maura, Mindi, Laura, Kim, Jen, Rachelle, Missy, Therese, and so many others, thank you.

2) A handful of years ago I had a client that I will never, ever forget. She was an elderly German woman who survived World War II and came to America to start fresh. She shared stories of her life with me, and in turn asked me about my life; I shared stories with her. At the end of our time together she asked if she could pray for me. Who wouldn’t say yes to this? But I thought she meant in a more general way, until she took my hands in hers. My client held my hands and prayed for me. I cried as it happened. I cry when I re-tell the story, every time I re-tell the story, I cry now as I remember it and write about it. Clients have generously tipped me, given gifts to me, candles, cards, scarves, candy, all kinds of tangible gifts . . . but this woman held my hands, bowed her head to mine, and prayed out loud for me. Now that, my friends, is a gift. That was some years ago and her prayer for me has not yet been answered, but it will, of this I have no doubt. She touched me in many ways.

3) Lately I felt shattered, snot slinging, shoulder shaking shattered. I called Therese. All she can hear through the phone is the guttural sound of my wailing. She says to me “Oh honey.” Mind you at this point she has no idea what is wrong, only that something is wrong. I continue my epic battle with speech and she softly coos to me “Ok, take your time, I’m right here.” As I continue sputtering she asks “Are you safe”? I know that answering this question is imperative and I, not unlike a moose in heat, bellow out “Yes.” And with that she is satisfied to just listen, as long as it takes, and continues patiently purring into the other end of the phone “Whenever you’re ready, I’m right here, I’ll listen when you’re ready, take your time, I’ll be right here.” Her comforting and mothering tone soothes my broken soul, and touches me.

And there are many more blessings; moments in my life that I can pull out and relive anytime I want. A kiss on top of my head, standing on daddy’s feet and holding his hands while we “danced” around the living room, mama’s proud smile when I won a writing contest in school, the very first time I received flowers (16 roses on my 16th birthday from my brother, Lee), another brother (Eddie) racing out the front door to scoop me up off the street and in to the house after a particularly nasty fall off my bike, the very deep sense of love I felt the first time I saw my niece, watching B.D. look at the river and tell me how to find fish (having someone share their passion with me is touching), sitting on a ski lift with Therese trying to determine what sort of horrific terror would make us leap off the lift to the slope below, hot dogs with Rick on the last day I ever saw him alive. All of these moments with all of these people have touched me, they are woven together to form pieces of me, gifted by others. I am blessed and touched by many.

I can also conjure up painful memories of ugly words and how they made me feel. It hurts, eh? Even some words I know were not meant and only thrown out in a fit of anger or frustration can sting my heart and twist my stomach. We’ve all said things that we know we shouldn’t have, it happens. I recently told someone I hope their relationship turns to crap, oh yes I did. I said it. And now we get to the aforementioned ugly part, as well as the part where I have to humbly admit my own shortcomings. I’d like to be able to say, at this point, that I feel badly about having said it and I didn’t mean it. But here’s the thing; that would be a big fat lie and lying is not a way to touch people kindly. Because I am who I am, I don’t feel badly and I really do mean it. I know, I’m craptacular sometimes. I should have just kept my mouth shut, but I didn’t. I’m human, I lashed out and touched someone harshly. I could roll out about 1000 defenses here, i.e., “but what I meant, but what happened before, but it doesn’t really mean . . .”, what good is that? That just makes me look even smaller than just being a shit heel in the first place. When you make a dick move at least own up to it and don’t point out all the reasons, be they real or imagined, that it’s ok to make a dick move. A dick move is a dick move.

Try your best to make your touch appropriate, whether it’s physical, verbal, written, or furtively sent across a crowded room. And let me just hand out this little nugget of thought; while generosity is beautiful in some arenas, being discreet and ensuring your “special touch” is special to only a small group is, indeed, a prize to be valued. Touch people with love, and while there is always enough love for all and none should be withheld, there is a beauty in giving very particular sorts of love to only a very small and very particular group, if you catch my meaning. Don’t go “spreading your seed” all over the place, that hardly makes it special now, does it? People like to know they are part of an elite group of a fortunate few, to be otherwise is just cheap and tacky and meaningless. Yeah, I said it, I’ll say it again if you make me. You know I will.

The words we use, the intonation with which we speak those words, a look across a sea of people that is meant only for you, a hug, a whisper, a pat on the back, a tearfully shared moment, a joyfully screaming and jumping up and down happy beyond control moment, a toothy (or toothless) grin, these are all ways we touch each other. Our touch holds an enormous amount of power, be responsible, never use your power for evil. Others have entrusted you with the care and feeding of their hearts, know how remarkable that is and take care of this gift; don’t just blithely waltz in and out of people’s lives, don’t spew out pretty words you don’t mean and have no intention of living up to, don’t spit out cruel words; they are worse than a slap on the face. Just as the sun can touch your skin with warmth and love, the rain can cleanse and cool your soul giving you a fresh start, so can the winter ice sting and burn with its cold clampdown.

Touch people in your life, hug your mama, hug your spouse, hug your children, and hug your pets. Use your manners with your words, say ma’am and sir and please and thank you. Words are powerful and with them you can easily gain respect . . . or just as easily lose that respect. And remember, there is always a pretty way to say something ugly (try to avoid being craptacular). Sometimes the truth hurts, but you can deliver it mindfully. Never tell a lie, never back down from the truth, you can say it, don’t run away, just man up and do it, and be kind while doing so. Honor others, and honor yourself, and don’t follow me as an example. We are responsible for our interactions with each other and the affect our words, our touch, and their intention have. We are, indeed, our brothers keeper. Think enough of yourself to do right by others.

All y’all are awesome, love ya, mean it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, for His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
-Civilla D. Martin and Charles H. Gabriel

You know how I usually try to write about positive things? Loving yourself? Being happy? Sometimes that crap just goes straight out the window. Sometimes life hands you a bowl of cherries, and other times it just backhands you. Even when you know the figurative slap in the face is coming and you’ve steeled yourself for it, you see the hand reel back, you watch it move forward and gain momentum, but the moment of contact still stings . . . particularly when it is delivered by someone you love.

There are so many worldly concerns that grab our attention and become the focus of our worry and woe. Concerns about money and work and bills and cars and a myriad of other miserly miseries, but nothing can reach its icy hand down your throat and clench your heart like another person. Nothing can hold you hostage like love . . . or its lack. All types of love; agape, eros, philia, they are all gripping. And they can all feel confusing . . . it’s a thin line between love and hate. I think of Scarlett O’Hara screaming “I hate you Rhett Butler, I can’t think of enough bad things to say about you!” Of course she doesn’t hate him, she loves him . . . and she hates him, a little. She hates how he’s hurt her, she hates how she feels stupid, but mostly she feels scared and abandoned. You don’t hate a rude sales person, you don’t know and love that person, but you can sure as hell hate your dad or your friend or your sibling or your mate. They have the power to affect you. It’s beautiful, it’s horrible.

It’s always darkest before the dawn, we all know that, the problem is one doesn’t follow the other immediately. Guess what, Little Orphan Annie, the sun doesn’t always come out tomorrow so nyah nyah nyah. Sometimes dawn waits a while, leaving you in the dark, floundering and lost. During those times, those times in the deep blue, where all perception is lost, you have to really dig in and find your cajones to make it through until dawn, which can be a painfully long time. I dreamed once that I was suspended in space, but not space as in our solar system, no stars and planets, just utter blackness. I couldn’t tell if I was moving somewhere or just hanging there, I had no way of gauging anything. I was nowhere, surrounded by nothingness. It was frightening, I was so alone with nothing to grasp literally or figuratively. In my dream I called out to God but got no answer. As I became more terrified I screamed out in anger “I KNOW YOU’RE THERE AND I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME! THIS MUST BE SOME SORT OF DUMB TEST BUT I KNOW I’LL PASS IT BECAUSE I KNOW YOU WOULD NEVER REALLY DO THIS TO ME! YOU CAN PUSH ME AS HARD AS YOU WANT BUT I’M NOT GOING TO STOP BELIEVING THAT YOU’RE ALWAYS HERE FOR ME!” Lots of exclamation points, lots of capital letters, I was pissed . . . I was pissed because, like Scarlett, I felt scared and abandoned.

Sometimes in life when darkness descends on us we try to reason it out. Why is this happening? We like to think there is some sort of karma working, proverbially reaping what we have proverbially sown. If there is cause and effect then at least we can say “Well, maybe I deserve this” or “This is helping me to grow and be stronger”. Sometimes, though, the darkness is a head scratcher. Why did I lose that job? Why did that person leave my life? Why do I have an issue with food/money/alcohol? Why was this situation put into my life? Why have we intersected, why is it so painful, and why do I see no immediate lesson learned? Why am I suspended in the deep blue with no rhyme or reason? And this brings us back to cajones.

Many times there’s just no immediate answer, that's when you dig in and call on your deepest store of strength. It’s in there, you have it . . . you do, I don’t know if I do right now. Life can be so wearying at times, especially when you are mustering through dark times. Those are the times when it’s so tempting to fall back on old patterns and people that didn’t serve you well, and you know not to, you know it’s not good for you, but . . . but, at least it’s familiar. Even crappy situations can bring some manner of bastardized comfort because they’re familiar, you know how to work within the confines of this particular miniseries of misery. You know where to step because you know where the land mines are buried. But imagine stepping out of this comfort zone of discomfort, imagine showing fear the door and moving into the deepness of empty space because you know that you are supported, even though you can’t see it, hear it, or feel it. It’s always darkest before the dawn. The dawn will come, it will. THE DAWN WILL COME.

It’s the in between time that will scare the bejeezes out of you. It’s also the in between times that can make you act like a straight up moron. I’ve done some dumb things in my life because I was too impatient to wait out the dark and hang on for the dawn. I’ve fouled things up by trying to have total control in my life rather just letting life be life. I’ve messed up a couple of things in my life, a few things, several things, a metric shit ton of things. I’ve made a mess of infinity plus one things in my life, so it is with an infinity plus one amount of experience that I can say, life really does aim to please, sometimes the aim just seems so poor. Seems is the key word. The aim seems poor because on our path to situational nirvana we have Humpty Dumpty size falls. It feels like all the Kings horses and all the Kings men are a bunch of dumb asses who can’t put you back together again. That’s ok though, it’s not really their job . . . or maybe life is showing you to lose that particular set of Kings horses and men for the very fact that they are dumbasses. Seek out some different Kings horses and men. It’s those falls that are the gateways to life’s open doors, to situational nirvana, to finding the dawn on the other side of dark.

There will be days, no matter how happy you normally are and no matter how much you love yourself and no matter how much faith you have in your chosen deity, that the tears will be unstoppable. I am having that day. I cannot stop crying today. I am hurting today. I’m sharing it with you because it’s what I do and because I hope, as always, that my hurt can serve you all in some way. I’m not alone, and neither are you, it just feels like it sometimes. So, Little Orphan Annie, maybe not tomorrow – but at some point the sun will peer its happy head out from behind the clouds and wrap your heart in warmth.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Bite my lip and close my eyes, take me away to paradise – Green Day

I don’t want anybody else, when I think about you, I . . . (yadda yadda yada, you know the rest) - The Divinyls

I’m turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so – The Vapors

Oooooo, she bop, she bop, she bop – Cyndi Lauper

If you don’t stop, you will go blind – Adam Ant

So many lyrical references, and so little space. You know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. That’s right. Self love. Treating yourself with the love and compassion you deserve. You know what you like. You know what you need. Make sure you give it to yourself or no one else will be enticed to give it to you, why should they? If you don’t see your own beauty, then you’re not sending out a message of your own beauty, and no one else will see it either. And thus, we get sprung to Laura Ellen’s pontification for the month of April . . .

If you want to be loved, love yourself. If you want others to think of well of you, think well of yourself. It’s that simple, you draw in whatever you’re putting out there, good or bad. If you’re in need, you’re going to draw in someone needy, what good are two people in need? If you’re sending out a “woe is me” vibe, you’re going to bring in an equally negative Eeyore. Sounds fun, eh? Sometimes you meet someone who is, as they say, “vibrating at a different level” but, if think your life is a shit sandwich and you draw in someone who is happy and content, that’s almost always not going to work out. You just won’t be happy enough for happy pants; happy pants is going to get sick of your bitching and you’ll get sick of his/her sunny attitude. If you keep pulling in people that just don’t seem to mesh in your life, ask yourself what kind of message you’re giving people about you. What are you doing to block happy and healthy people from your life? And why? Why on earth would you block goodness and love from your life? Because you don’t think you deserve it? You’re wrong, you do. Because you don’t think you can take care of it properly? Well you can, unless you tell yourself you can’t. You can. You can do anything because baby, you were born to be incredible. Proverbs 23:7, As a man thinketh, so he is. See? It’s in the bible peeps, and is a basic tenant of Hinduism and Buddhism and all major spiritual ‘ism paths. Try. Try hard. Fail, and try hard again, because you can, maybe not the first time out but, big damn deal. If you give it your best (whatever your “it” may be), you will fail at times and succeed at times, BUT, if you hold back and half ass whatever you’re doing, you will fail 100% of the time. You don’t go to Spanish class because you’re already fluent in Spanish, you go to learn, and fail, and do it again because you will get it.

You know what I recently did? I did a forearm stand in yoga. Oh hell yes I did. I didn’t really even want to, the thought of being upside down was terrifying to me and every time we had to go to the wall for inversions in class I only gave it a half assed effort just to get through it, but then, much to my amazement, I did it. One day I decided to really try and I’ll be goddamned (remember I have an agreement with God and I’m allowed to say this word, don’t get upset, we’ve discussed this), anyway, I’ll be goddamned if my foot didn’t touch the wall. I was so stunned I put myself right back down on the ground, where all is safe, and then I thought to myself, I thought “Self, you f-wording did it. Now do it again, for real”, and I did. I kicked my foot up there, touched the wall, and then put the other one up there, easy peasy lemon squeezy, and I was shocked to find, it wasn’t so scary after all. My world was not completely discombobulated like I thought it would be and, in fact, it felt kind of nice. I even mustered up the physical and mental strength to take my legs away from the wall and really stand there, upside down, on my wee little forearms with no wall to hold me. I did it. I didn’t think I could, I didn’t really even want to, I was scared, but I did it and now I love, love, love it. And now I believe in myself even more. Epictetus is right, “tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes, therefore give yourself fully to your endeavors”. And you know how you can help yourself give fully? That’s right, by seeing your value and loving yourself. Yeah baby, turn yourself Japanese with self love. Be your own dopamine. And remember, everyone likes a little novelty to spice up love here and there, surprise yourself with what you can do; if you fantasize about walking around the house dressed like Princess Leia, who’s to judge? Bring those fantasies of love to life. Sometimes I wear braids that look like breakfast rolls on my head too, whatevs.

You CAN do things that you think are beyond you. You CAN move past your fears into a place of serenity and love yourself. Love yourself. Love yourself. Love yourself. Because you are incredible, just the way you are, and you are capable of remarkable things for no other reason than you are here. You weren’t put here just to pretty up the planet and don’t insult your maker by dumbing down your greatness. Look at you, really. Go look in the mirror and see your beauty. Stop selling yourself short, it’s a lousy excuse and it gets tiring after a while. Nobody wants to hear it so knock it off. Seriously, people have all kinds of excuses why they can’t succeed in work, in relationships, in weight loss, in sports, gardening, whatever. If you have a built in excuse that you lean on for constant failure, then you make that your identity. For instance, “I’m the guy who sucks at relationships because 1) my parents are divorced 2) no woman ever likes my friends 3) I don’t have enough money”; the list goes on and on. The truth is you’re the guy that sucks at relationships because you’ve decided to suck at relationships. Grow the hell up, take charge of your life, and stop boring people with your lame ass excuses. (You can pretty much hear me saying it while you read it, can’t you?) But people are afraid of losing that identity, because it will mean change. “If I eat healthy, exercise, and begin to love how I look and feel, then who will I be? What will change? What if I love myself and others love me? That’s scary! I will bear some responsibility in my own life and not blame others, oh dear God no!” But listen to me, you can put your foot up on that wall and go upside down, and it is nowhere near as scary as it seems, it is empowering. And when you see your beauty, the world is your oyster.

Love yourself and allow others to love you as well, you deserve it. You’re beautiful. Your small paycheck and big butt and imperfect hair and rotten gardening skills and less than stellar sporting achievements are beautiful, because they’re you. None of us are perfect, enjoy it! Love yourself and expect nothing less from others, accept nothing less from others. I cannot emphasize this enough, accept nothing less than what you deserve from others. And believe me, you absolutely deserve the best. You’re not second place, you’re first, and you know who’s in second place? No one, there is no second place. F-word second place. Penultimate blows. There is nothing wrong with a healthy amount of a feeling of entitlement.

It’s challenging sometimes, I know. There are times in life when the way others feel (or don’t feel) about you will try to creep in and diminish your beauty. You think “I’m so loveable, how can that person not love me”? There are infinite possible answers to that question and likely none of them has to do with your worth. Believe in you, believe in your value, even when others pass you by. There’s nothing wrong with you, there’s nothing wrong with them, it’s just how life goes sometimes. In the past couple of weeks I have certainly had occasion to question my value and it can be tough sometimes to muster up self love. Sometimes the will and the drive to stroke your own ego just aren’t there. But the relationship with self is like any other, to an extent; make a commitment to you and no matter how down you get about yourself, no matter how bad your relationship with you seems, make a vow to stay. And stay you must, stay you will, because that’s what happens when you fall in love, with yourself and with others. You stay. You stay with you, you stay with others, and they do the same because you will not settle for less from you or anyone else.

Fall in love with yourself, nurture that relationship, and stay. You’re awesome, holy cow you are so awesome, so stop refusing to see it. Stop blocking all the good the world has for you by refusing and refuting your own worth. Stop hanging on to the luggage and toxicity from relationships of the past. Who cares if your mom said you’d never amount to anything, or your dad said you’re a little soft around the middle, or your high school art teacher said you couldn’t draw, or your “friend” is often quick to remark on your weaker points, it’s time to ignore that crap (and it is crap). Fly and be free. Why continue to let your heart be broken when you can let it break wide open and pour gooey love all over yourself and others?

Love yourself, a lot, you will not go blind.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Biscuits and T.V.

So if I'm inside your head, don't believe what you might have read, you'll see what I might have said,
to hear it. Come waste your time with me, come waste your time with me.

Not so long ago I was asked if I knew what I wanted in life. My answer was an absolute yes. I have since read a book that suggests people say they know what they want, but in fact, they do not really know what they want. People have a fantasy of what a great job or house or relationship may look like, but when they get it, seems that’s not really it; witness Heidi Klum and Seal, who saw that coming? People often think “if I just get that job then everything will fall into place” or “if I could just get that gold band on my left hand then my life will be better”. People so often look outwardly to fill the inner void, and it just doesn’t work. That leads to constant meandering around in life and not committing to anything, more on that later though. I pondered for quite some time, do I really know what I want?

Also, not so long ago in a galaxy close, close at hand, I had dinner at that same friends house. I was surprised to find that my friend was serving me Pillsbury biscuits, you know the kind from your childhood? They come in a tube? It kind of cracked me up a little, but you know what? They were good. They were, in fact, very good. I’m not proud, I’ll say it. They were pretty damn yummy. We watched t.v. while we ate dinner, something I have always deemed as verboten in my life. What next, t.v. trays? I think not. No t.v. while dining. If you had asked me prior to that night, and before reading that we don’t want what we think we want, I would have thought a night of watching t.v. and ingesting biscuits from a tube sounded like the kind of suburban shenanigans I did not want in my life. I have to say though, the book was right and I am wrong. You heard it folks, I said “I AM WRONG”. You may want to earmark this as I am not always willing to say such words. I was wrong. I watched t.v. while dining. I ate biscuits from a tube . . . happily.

The next day I wondered aloud to a different friend what life is really like in relationships. She is in a serious relationship, I am not in a relationship at all, and I wanted her take on biscuits and t.v. Turns out she loves biscuits in a tube. I’ve been unmarried for a good many years and when I was married my spouse worked late quite regularly, leaving me with a lot of alone time. While I have had relationships during these past years, some of which were serious and long term, it has been many years since I have completely shared my life and living space. I am not a “liver-together-er”, if you want to live with me then put a ring on it, otherwise you can wash your own damn socks. (A completely unrelated aside, when you do put a ring on it; ask the dad, and take the knee for the proposal. I have had terrible proposals, which just may be why I didn’t marry any of them). So, what really happens? In my “Yes, I know what I want” world, did I account for the everyday? What happens when it’s just a plain ol’ Tuesday and there are no crucial conversations to be had and life is just, ya know . . . life. It’s not always reading classic books by classic authors and discussing the finer points of said books, or eating decadent foods, or even looking nice. There are times when I pad about my house wearing a robe and a face mask of cinnamon and honey dripping down my chin, this is decidedly not pretty. This is what it takes to stay pretty, but not pretty in the moment. And how about those times you have the stomach flu? People, you know what I’m talking about, those times when your body is just disgusting . . . I won’t elaborate, you get the picture. You can’t just ask your spouse to leave for three days until your stomach lining stays in its place and your sphincter decides to stop tormenting you. Again I must ask, what do I really want? I want cellulite free thighs, emancipation from stomach flu, and several million dollars, but in the real world, I like the idea of biscuits and t.v. and a person who sticks around throughout everything, up to and including stomach flu.

And here’s why, because in a very twisted sense those moments are special. As gross as it is, you don’t share your stomach flu misery with just anybody, you share it with your special somebody. Lucky for that guy, eh? But really, it’s true. When you’re sick, when you’ve done something dumb, when you’ve done something you don’t want to share with the world, when you’re walking around in a robe and a homemade face mask, you share it with your special someone. Remember that movie “Babel”? Brad Pitt is married to Cate Blanchett, she is shot randomly on a bus. While they are waiting for help to arrive he’s holding her hand and she says “I have to pee”. He laughs and tells her to go ahead, who cares, she’s got a bullet in her for cryin’ out loud. Eventually she does, she just pisses herself because, why not, she’s got a bullet in her for cryin’ out loud. They both laugh through tears at the sheer ridiculousness of it and, unless you’ve seen the movie and/or been this close to someone in your life, I can’t really explain what a loving, shared moment it is. She pees herself, he loves her and he kisses her. These are two people who can share the more mundane moments of life, and still feel special, just by not doing these mundane things with anyone else. And thus, the mundane becomes special, sacred even. The everyday nothingness of life is bonding.

It’s relatively easy to have a great time during those initial days of wine and roses, it’s the frailties that build relationships. When you’re first getting to know someone you’re behind the wall of politeness, you dress your best, you don’t burp, you curb the cursing. These rituals are time honored and should continue to be honored. Eventually though, as you let people in on the real you, some less than stellar moments are going to arise. There will come a time when you lose your temper, when you have to pee out in the middle of nowhere, when you have to admit just how many pairs of shoes you really own, when you get a zit, or God forbid
. . . the stomach flu, and you let your special someone in a little closer. When they peer into your life more and more and say “Yeah, that’s ok, I’m not going anywhere”, ah bliss. Then you have someone with whom you can just be yourself, entirely; someone with whom you can lay around on the couch, watching mindless sitcoms and eating pre-packaged foods. There are boundaries of course and you need to know yours. For instance, no matter how sick I get, sweat pants with elastic around the ankles will never find their way into my wardrobe. Ick. Unless of course they become very trendy, then I’ll purchase several pairs of them. But no cellophane wrapped orange cheese slices . . . ever.

So getting that new job, or buying that house, or finding that special someone are all great things, and not at all bad to want them. You should want them, aim high and aspire to personal greatness, but also be mindful that while these things are awesome, if something inside is eating at you, attaining these outside things will not feed it. An inside void cannot be filled with extraneous matter. It’s my plan to write more about this next month, about loving yourself, but I can only solve one mystery at a time peeps. I hope these words are, in some way, relieving to you. Relieving to know that your life is probably pretty damn great right now, without the left hand gold band or the house or the new job and when you do get those things . . . super bonus on the gravy train!

So, do I know what I want? Yes. Yes I do. Oh hell yes I do.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


In the attics of my life, full of cloudy dreams unreal.
Full of tastes no tongue can know, and lights no eyes can see.
When there was no ear to hear, you sang to me.

I have spent my life seeking all that's still unsung.
Bent my ear to hear the tune, and closed my eyes to see.
When there was no strings to play, you played to me.

In the book of love's own dream, where all the print is blood.
Where all the pages are my days, and all the lights grow old.
When I had no wings to fly, you flew to me, you flew to me.

In the secret space of dreams, where I dreaming lay amazed.
When the secrets all are told, and the petals all unfold.
When there was no dream of mine, you dreamed of me.
-Grateful Dead

As you know, my stories are written from personal experience. They strangely brew from a silly occurrence in my life, they reach an apex, I have some sort of epiphany, and I spew it out to you in the belief that we all share experiences and that maybe unfolding the origami of myself to you will, in some way, help you all in your troubled times, or at the very least give you a good laugh from mine.

This story, however, has no beginning. This story has no end. There is no denouement. This story is about my mother, and it is a living, breathing organism of fire and warmth and growth and soothing spring rains and love and the smell of Rose Milk Lotion.

Quite some time ago my friend, Michele, asked me why I hadn’t written about my mother. I told her that I had indeed written about mothers. She said “Yes, I know. I’m talking about your mother . . . your experience.” I believe I went breathless for a second, possibly even a slightly audible gasp before I regained inner composure. Why? Why indeed? Why had I not written about my mother? Because it’s hard. Because it’s not static. Because there is no end. How can I ever say enough? The story is never over. Even in the forty years since she transcended from this life to the next, my story with my mother grows. Every minute that I and my four siblings are alive, she is alive. She created us and in turn, what we create is of her. My great nieces will never know their great grandmother, but she lives in them.

I’ll tell you my story. My mother was not an especially great cook. But I wonder, could she have been? Would she have been someday? Her goal in cooking was to feed five children, a husband, and herself on a meager household budget. Getting fancy and experimental was not something to be embraced in the Texas and Louisiana of my youth. She made this horrible, horrible concoction, Tater Tot Casserole. Awful, just awful. Lord God I hated Tater Tot Casserole night. We had hamburgers, we had black eyed peas with corn bread, we had spaghetti and that spaghetti was festooned with fake parmesan flakes from a green can. Bleck. But I imagine trying to get seven people, five of them under the age of 15, to all eat the same thing without complaining was a bit of a culinary challenge. Did she yearn to try something different? I’ll never know. Did she even know there was the possibility of anything different? I don’t know. My mother was married when she was 18. She never rode in a plane. I imagine the list of things she never did is much longer than the list of things she did do; but not to me. She may never have flown, or eaten oysters on the half shell in a chic restaurant, or worn a scandalous and decidedly expensive dress and shoes and matching handbag in a deep shade of bordeaux, but I’ll tell you what she did do . . .

She hugged me every day of my life. She told me she loved me every day of my life. She ensured that I was able to read before starting school. She instilled the love of reading and learning in a small tribe of five kids. She tried to expand our youthful minds with trips to the library, by volunteering at the museum, by taking us to plays and taking my sister and I to see the ballet. Do you know what the ballet is like in Midland, Texas in the 1960’s? Not what my little girl mind had dreamed at all. Nowhere near as pink and frilly as I had wanted, but we went.

Every year my sister and I got new Easter dresses and shoes. We wore the same gloves every year and we had the same Easter Sunday purses and hats, but new dresses and shoes were de rigueur. Some things, like college and Easter dresses, are budgeted; maybe back off the tater tots for a week to be sure the shoes were also purchased. The dresses were white, duh, and the shoes were white patent, always. White patent, no options, because they were to serve as our GOOD SUNDAY SHOES all summer. Not navy, not yellow, and dear Lord, clutch the pearls, never red. These shoes had to be worn every Sunday, they had to match all the summer dresses we had, which may have amounted to about five for each of us. The Rockefellers we were not. One year, as this particular rite of spring was being practiced, I spotted pink shoes. I had to have them. I begged. I pleaded, I pouted, I cried. None of you is surprised by this, I’m sure. I’ll still employ such tactics if necessary. Pink shoes were at stake people, you can see my cause was just. And lo, as I was beginning to fear my arsenal was empty and I was going to have to go home with white shoes, the clouds parted. I don’t know what happened, I don’t know if my petulance paid off or my final laying down of arms and acceptance of white shoes was just too pathetic, or if my mothers enormous and girlish heart finally won out, but she let me have the pink shoes. I’ll never forget them, as long as I live. I wore them home from the store. I wore them all afternoon at home, I ran to meet daddy in them when he came home from work and leapt up in his arms to show him my beautiful new pink shoes. What could make a little girl happier? What could make a grown woman happier? How did she feel in that moment? I’ll never know. I should let you know here that I tried that whole “throwing a shoe fit” thing again when I wanted red boots, it did NOT work a second time. I got white boots that day. I have red boots now and will never be without red boots in my closet until the day I move from this life to the next.

My mother didn’t go to college. My mother didn’t have a job outside the home. My mother was the Queen of Webster Parish and I believe that may have been her 15 minutes of fame. My mother cooked and cleaned and did laundry and sewed and baked birthday cakes and made sure we went to Sunday school and volunteered at our schools and tried to keep a nice figure and wore house dresses and rose early every day to get breakfast on the table and look pretty at said table. She mended our wounds with band aids and hugs, she cut peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in half, she made pancakes shaped like kittens. My mother was not an exotic woman, but my mother was beautiful, to me, and to my dad. In some circles that is considered to be enough. To be loved by your family ‘til death do you part, is a bounty that I would wish for us all.

As I have grown older I have found that I miss her in ways for which I was not prepared. A teenage girl needs her mother. It’s a confusing and, in moments, painful time. And while I cannot fathom fighting with my mother I suppose, had we reached those years together, there would have been some arguments. (I can be a stinker sometimes. What?!) Still, I would have needed her. I needed her when I was married and I found that I didn’t know what that meant. I needed her the first time I was sick away from home. I needed her the last time I was sick. I need her when I can’t decide whether to wear a wrap to an afternoon wedding or not. I need her for guidance and solace and understanding. I need her every day of my life.

The beauty though, of mama, is I have her every day of my life. She is my divining rod. At times I have utterly ignored her voice within me and begged her to look away as I do something of which I know she would not approve. Other times I wonder “Is she giggling at my nonsensical behavior because she would have loved to have done the same”? There are so many facets of her I don’t know. A number of years ago I found a diary of hers. My eyes grew big, I was so excited. This is it, I thought, I’m going to open the door of her soul and know her now. But all the pages were empty, except one, and it said only this; “Ironed today . . . again”. It shattered my heart. Not because I hadn’t learned some long unknown detail of her hopes and aspirations, but because it sounded so sad. Was she sad? Did she long to fly to Paris and stay up all night dancing? What did she want? If she were here now could I give it to her? I’ll never know.

I know this story has been rambling and self indulgent and if you’ve made it this far, God love ya. This story has no point. There is no epiphany. There is no beginning, there is no end. This story will never end because Bobbie Sula Boggs Rogers lives in my heart and my soul and in my throwing of fits and in my manners and in my good dinner china and crystal and in my ability to find beauty and grace in the plainest of plain and my ability to tear you limb from limb if you hurt someone I love and my ability to correct your potty mouth with merely a withering glance and my ability to giggle at your potty mouth if you know there is a time and place for everything. My mother is my hero. My mother spent the shortest amount of time in my life and yet, has influenced me more than anyone. If I do anything good I owe it to her, if I fail I know she loves me as I am.

So, how to end a story with no end? No matter where I end, there will always be more. As I struggle to finish this story I think of my dear friend whose mother is in hospice. When her time comes what will I say to him that can be of comfort? There is nothing, but I have found that silence in the worst of times is better by far than some moron blathering on like they know how you feel. This story is meant to be sad. This story is meant to be happy. This story is meant to be real and this story . . . this much too short and yet ever growing story, is meant to be a testament to my mother.

There has never been anyone like her. Being her daughter is my deepest and most profound honor.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Suck It Mayan Calendar, I'm Here To Stay

I'll be here awhile, ain't goin' nowhere

The first hour or so of 2012 was absolutely lovely for me, and then with rapier like speed and precision it sliced me to ribbons. Sometimes people will slam you with something so seemingly out of nowhere, it feels like being hit by a truck and left for dead. Sadly though, you’re not dead. You’re just sitting there filled with truck shrapnel wishing you were dead. And your aggressor? Gone. Happy and free from the weight of the lead they’ve just unloaded on you.

You know what I do when this happens? I call Maura, I call Laura, and I cry. When life diabolically gives me lemons, these pillars of strength give me love, hugs, words of comfort, and margaritas . . . several strong margaritas. They drop what they’re doing, leave their own loved ones, and come to my aid. You know what else I do when receiving one of life’s tart, citrusy blows? I look at my life, I look at myself, and I take stock of all the beauty that surrounds and is, indeed, inside me. My life is a wondrous fractal of imperfection, as am I.

My initial intent for this blog was to write about the Mayan calendar, all the information I have gathered on the phenomenon of Winter Solstice 2012, and what this could symbolically say about the world in which we all live. After my rocky start to this freshly born year, what I really want to say is “SUCK IT 2012” but I’m not going to say that. (See how cleverly I actually did say that)? I really don’t think that though, well . . . I did, but only briefly. On New Years Eve I got zero sleep and on New Years Day I got somewhat greased with tequila; with severe sleep deprivation and mild tequila lubrication comes a glimpse of the hoary netherworld of nasty feelings and negativity. Not a pretty place, and not the place for me because really, I’m a pretty happy girl, despite being filled with truck shrapnel. I won’t condemn the driver, I’ll pick out the shards and move forward.

As I pick out the shards I know I have way more living to do than just a scant twelve months; good thing because we’re probably not all going to perish in a cold nuclear winter. In my research of the Mayans and their calendar ending ways I have learned much. Mostly, folks far more schooled than I, in areas of astrology, astronomy, history, and theology, agree the world is not going to physically end, but the world as we know it will. What a relief, eh? Maybe not quite so grandiose as, say, the final moments of “Fight Club”, but perhaps similar in feeling. I use the 2012 theory to my advantage when I have spent too much money or I’ve done something flat out ignorant. I tell myself, “Oh what the hell, I’ve only got until the end of the year anyway. Yes, I’ll take those boots and for heaven’s sake, charge them!” With any luck the end of the world will be like the end of “Fight Club” and all the credit card companies will get blown to bits, we can all have a level playing field, and just start over. But I digress, whether from a scientific approach or a more celestial approach, a large contingency of smart folk all seem to agree we are currently in one of the darkest ages ever on this centuries old planet of ours, and with the folding of Fall 2012, as it ushers in the Winter of 2012, the world will begin it’s comforting time of renewal, to turn itself back to enlightenment, love, and beauty. It’s a theoretical end of the world and believe me, I’ll take it. No one is saying you’ll wake up on 12-22-12 with a clean slate, a barter system replacing our current economies, and every Miss America’s dream of world peace come true, but a change indeed. Is it so off the mark? The world certainly does seem to be imploding, every country is broke, people are out of work and that’s not getting any better, going to college to better ones self is outrageously expensive, the rich keep getting richer while the poor get poorer and the middle class, along with their middle class dreams of a tract home and a backyard grill, are disappearing (thanks a lot republicans, you can still suck it).

I often find myself thinking in terms of the future only. I think “my life will be so different a year from now”, or “in six months this sub zero temperature and scraping ice off my car nonsense will give way to my blessed heat and sun and the wearing of pretty sundresses”. This past year I did a lot more living in the present and finding the joy in my life in the here and now, otherwise I feel that I’m just chasing an idea of perfection rather than seeing the wonder in my wonderfully flawed and silly life. My life is beautiful NOW, shrapnel and all. My life is full of escapades that I would not change and due to these merry jaunts into frivolity I feel uniquely poised to pass on a few notions of mine. For the year 2012, to which I will not say suck it, I share the following insights . . . I hope you find them useful in your life as well.

1. It is perfectly acceptable to put your head down on a bar IF a) the sun is up AND, b) you are drinking a bloody mary. At no other time and with no other beverage is this acceptable.

2. If this is the last year on the planet make it good; charge up all your credit cards and fall in love.

3. Ok, I’m kidding, don’t charge up all your credit cards. Make wise financial decisions and give yourself treats when you can. Still fall in love though, not kidding about that.

4. Say “I love you” to all living things in your house three times at a day . . . at least.

5. The human body makes a lot of noises. They’re not all pretty but they’re all hilarious if you just decide to let them be.

6. You can get used to almost anything in time so if you sleep with a snorer, try to resist the urge to smother him or her with a pillow. If you’re sharing your bed with this person, chances are you really like this person.

7. When your friend is in the hospital and she asks you to do her a favor DO IT. This may involve humiliating yourself by having to buy her husband a nudie magazine, but still . . . DO IT.

8. If you love something set it free . . . no, wait . . . that’s stupid crap from a 70’s black light poster. If you love something take care of it. When you love someone, care for them and let them be who they are, just as they are. Honor what and whom you love.

9. Everyone deserves a second chance.

10. My friend, Robyn, once asked me (due to my love of yogurt) “If God is love, and God is in everything, and you love yogurt, is God in your yogurt?” The answer is yes, a most emphatic yes.

So, “Suck It 2012” was good to say all day New Years Day as my friends purged at least some of the sad out of me by getting me sauced, and as we shared the various woes in each of our lives we toasted 2012 and decided to move on. We pinky swore to make 2012 a fantastic year. Really, you can’t do much better than a pinky swear with friends and margaritas . . . unless you’re also wearing rockin’ boots, and hey, guess what, I was . . . so SUCK IT MAYAN CALENDAR, MAMA’S GOT FRIENDS AND FRYES AND LOTS MORE LIFE AHEAD!

Happy New Year my friends.
1. I love you.
2. I love you.
3. I love you.