THINGS I WONDER ABOUT:
1. Are people super rude because they are miserable and they think that making perfect strangers miserable too will gratify or satisfy them momentarily? Specifically, people who are rude to those in the service industry. Does it make them feel better about themselves? Because they certainly aren’t getting better service for themselves, so who are they actually trying to make more miserable?
2. When a pregnant woman has her baby, is it like that feeling of finally prying the strawberry seed from your back teeth in that place your tongue can’t reach? (but multiplied exponentially)
3. Black holes. Worm holes. Parallel universes.
4. Deja vu. What is really happening there?
5. Why did Florida get rid of emissions testing for cars?
6. Why wouldn’t a caged bird sing?
7. Who made baby girls need pink everything and baby boys need baby blue? And who institutionalized it to the point of no return?
8. Why are people more passionate about the Kardashians lives than human rights, or child labor, or polar bears, or human sex trafficking, or their own lives?
9. Did people stop wearing suits and hats because they got lazy, or did people get lazy because they stopped wearing suits and hats?
10. People. Not to be too existential on a Monday, but what are they all doing here?
If you feel like you need things to wonder about….see Interstellar. #mindfuck
Here are 12 women who didn’t. And succeeded because of their convictions.
Sam walked down the long green entryway to her grandmother’s door gazing at the new orchids blooming in the courtyard. Her eyes wandered up into the mango tree and she wondered when the fruit would start to weigh heavy on the branches. The year before they had come in April, unseasonably early, almost two months before they should have. Global warming, Sam thought. The flavor of fresh off the tree mangos danced in her head teasing her tongue. She regretted skipping dinner the night before.
When she reached the front door Sam took a moment to straighten out her shirt and smooth down her dirty hair. She could smell that her grandmother had a fresh coat of paint put on the house since she had been there the week before and remembered hearing something about how old Rose’s handyman was getting.
A woman’s voice drifted smoothly through the afternoon heat when Sam opened the door, “At laaaast, my lo-o-o-ove has come along.” Sam smiled at the sound of her old friend Etta James.
Sam looked toward her grandfather’s office. It was empty. Hi, Grandpa, she thought, her eyes lingering on his study, I miss you. He had always played jazz while he worked. Colonel Sommerset had retired from the military years before, but never actually stopped working a day in his life. Everyone in Sam’s family had their addictions, at least his was profitable.
Sam had spent endless hours of her childhood lying on the yellow shag carpet in front of his desk, sifting through his records, playing them as she pleased. The variations of melodies that the trumpet hummed, the soul searching trills of the saxophone, the attention that keeping time with the symbols had required.
The Colonel would look up from his work and Sam would drop whatever else held her attention to stare up at him, fascinated by everything that he was.
“Where’d you get those eyes, Child?” her Grandpa asked.
“I don’t know,” Sam beamed.
“Come give your Grandpa some sugar,” he said and she was up in his lap in an instant. “There’s something about those eyes, Little Girl,” he said balancing her on his knee.
In a family of southern women with light hair and light eyes Sam’s dark features shone brighter than an orchid in the Everglades. Sam could say exactly what was on her mind with those eyes, without ever opening her mouth. The Colonel told her once that before Sam could speak, her eyes did the talking.
They had truly enjoyed the comfort of each other’s company, and hearing the trumpet softly blow reminded Sam of all the questions she had longed to ask about a time that she had missed, but hadn’t, for fear of disturbing her grandfather’s work. She scratched her stomach and it was like the ugly, old carpet, along with the questions she’d never asked, somehow still itched.
Sam wandered into the kitchen and saw Rose poised over the stove stirring a big pot and moving her shoulders to the melody of the saxophone. The smell of her grandma’s vegetable soup hit Sam’s nostrils and saliva gathered on the sides of her tongue.
The music was so loud that Rose hadn’t heard her granddaughter come in. Watching her, and knowing that she was all alone in that big, old house, hurt Sam’s heart. She knew how much her Grandma must miss him. Sam closed her eyes and Etta sang her into the fantasy of a memory.
She saw her grandparents dancing in an old jazz club. The women’s bright dresses were full. Their skirts swished back and forth, a variety of colors and flowers dancing together to the music. The men wore uniforms and smoked Lucky Strikes.
The tall, curvy woman standing at the old fashioned microphone had on bright red lipstick to match the flowers on her otherwise white dress. The spotlight touched her and her skin was like cocoa with thick cream. Her voice was nothing but soul. She was beautiful.
The song ended and the dance partners drifted off the floor. The smoke swirled around itself the way Van Gogh painted the sky.
“There she is,” Rose gushed. Sam opened her eyes out of the smoky night club and saw her Grandma’s pretty eyes twinkling at her. The music had been lowered to a comfortable volume.
“Hi,” Sam wrapped her arms around Rose. “There is no one softer in the world to hug, Grandma.”
“Hello there, Sunshine,” Rose said holding Sam at arms length, “Look at you in black on a Sunday afternoon,” she tisked.
Katherine Rose Tempelton Sommerset only wore black on two occasions: to a funeral or to a black tie affair, and she would wear navy or white to either if she could get away with it.
Sam smiled humbly knowing that Rose had commented on the black clothes she wore because it would have been unkind to comment on the black circles under her eyes. I have to remember to leave some concealer at Jake’s, Sam thought.
“Oh, Samantha!” Rose exclaimed seeing the lilies Sam had placed on the table. She walked to them and stuck her face right into the arrangement and took a deep breath. “How sweet!” she exclaimed and turned to Sam with a smile like cherry preserves. “Honey, they are beautiful. What did I ever do to deserve such a wonderful grandbaby?” She came back for more hugs and kisses.
“Sorry, I’m so late,” Sam said and they sat down at the kitchen table, “Chrissie kidnapped me last night for girl’s night.”
“Oh, you know I don’t mind. I’ve just been bouncing around all morning getting things done here and there.” With this she was up and off to the refrigerator. “I have juice, tea, lemonade, milk, and water,” she paused, “Is it too early to share a beer?”
“Yes,” Sam barked, “I’ll have punch. Please.”
“So, tell me about Chrissie. What’s she up to these days?” Rose asked taking out glass pitchers of orange juice and iced tea. “What was that man’s name that she was seeing?” She placed the pitcher of lemonade on the counter then turned to Sam and put her hand on her hip. “Karma?” she wondered aloud, “Clover? Something like that, right?”
“Dharma,” Sam said laughing, knowing her intentions. “And I liked him, but they broke up.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Rose said. She winked at her granddaughter pleased that Sam had laughed at her joke and then turned back to the punch. Having been married to a republican for more than fifty years; Rose could hardly help making fun of hippies, even if her own daughter had married one.
“Yeah and she dated a jackass after that.”
“Well, that isn’t very nice.”
“Neither was he.”
“Is she still with him?”
“Good,” Rose said firmly. Aside from her joking she was a smart woman who had a heart big enough to defend the basic human rights of any person.
Sam watched her grandma mix the juice, lemonade and iced tea. No matter how many times she had sat right there and watched her grandma make her punch Sam still had never been able to get the portions right when she made it herself.
“What would I do without you, Grandma?” Sam wondered aloud.
Rose turned sharply and looked right at Sam. “You would get along just fine.”
“Maybe,” Sam smiled. Rose set the punch down in front of her, “but no one can make your punch.”
“You know who can?” Rose asked as she returned to the stove to stir the soup.
“It took him a long time, but I think he’s the only one who likes it more than you do.” Rose poured herself a cup of coffee, and sat back down. “So, where did you girls go last night?”
“Monty’s,” Sam said, “I’m still recovering.”
“Well, you just need a bowl of grandma’s vegetable soup!” Rose was up again in an instant gathering bowls, spoons, napkins, stirring the soup, and fishing for crackers. Sam was exhausted just watching her. “Did Annabelle go?”
“Is she still sick?” Rose asked in that grandmotherly way that feigned ignorance.
“She’s not sick, Grandma,” Sam searched for words, “she’s….gone.”
“For some reason she has it in her head that we’re suddenly all out to get her and Chrissie refuses to talk about it like it’s just going to go away. Dee is the only one who Annabelle will even communicate with, but all she tells her are these angry delusions that she has formed. It’s like the Annabelle that we know and love is gone.”
“It sounds like she needs some time to herself.”
“No,” Sam said sharply, “Sorry, but I don’t think that is the case. Mental illness usually manifests in people in their early twenties. I’m afraid leaving her alone is exactly the wrong thing to do, but I’m the only one who seems to feel that way.”
“What do her parents think?”
“Nothing, at all. They’re in denial. They didn’t even meet my eyes when I went to talk to them. They think I’ve turned against their daughter, but I have no reason to! Just like she has no reason to have turned against me,” Sam’s voice trailed off.
“There’s not much you can do to change some peoples minds. You know, I was at the club the other day and this ignorant man…” Rose started on but Sam couldn’t listen.
It infuriated her the casual way people spoke about a person that she loved so much. Sam knew Annabelle inside and out, and knew that this wasn’t her friend. A switch had been flipped inside Annabelle’s head and Sam wanted to flip it back but no one would help her find it. Everyone seemed uncomfortable even looking.
She looked down into her papaya colored punch wishing it were a crystal ball. She wanted to see when she would get her friend back. Or when people would start admitting there was a bigger problem at play, at last.
Jamal slammed his car door shut. He looked down through the tinted window at the resume sitting on the seat and shook his head. He kicked his tire and regretted it as he walked heavily up the stairs to his apartment, the pounding in his head now matched by the throbbing in his toe.
He stopped at the front door to compose himself. Tomorrow will be better, he thought, still the bitterness lingered. He put the key into the lock and tried once again to shake the resentment that had followed him out of the interview and all the way home.
“Hi daddy!” Dee ran to meet him at the door. The four-year-old ball of joy threw herself into his arms.
“Hi sugar!” he said scooping her up and kissing his little girl all the way into the kitchen. “Hi baby.” He set Dee down and wrapped his arms around his wife. She smiled warmly.
“Did you have a good day?” Cassie asked leaning into him. She had one hand flat on his lapel, the other on the stove, both of her eyes right on his, their daughter danced at their feet.
“Yeah,” he said breezily, his eyes communicating that he didn’t get the job, hers saying she was sorry. He sat down at the kitchen table and Dee climbed onto his knee. “So how was your day?” he asked, smiling into his daughters eyes.
“I unna get a baby,” she said proudly.
“You’re going to get a what?”
“I unna get a baby!” she said loudly. She jumped off his knee and ran back into her room to play with her dolls.
“That girl she adores at school, Sandra, her mom is pregnant. They’re all excited about the new baby.” She leaned on the doorframe of the small kitchen watching him. He took off his tie.
“I was so qualified,” he started. He unbuttoned his top two buttons, then rested his hands on his knees and let his head fall. “Cassie, the guy looked at me like I was a day laborer,” he said meeting her eyes.
The term “feminist.”
It does not mean I don’t want a boy or girl to open doors for me.
Please hold my hand.
And walk me home.
It does not mean I won’t do the dishes
and the laundry
And feed us.
Which is why
You should too, occasionally
It does not mean that I won’t shave my arm pits
or wax my hairy bits.
It does mean that I’d like you to earn the privilege to comment
on such things.
Which brings me to:
Put a ring on it.
In feminist terms:
Communicate your intentions.
What you want.
How long you want it for.
What your expectations are.
and this is important,
Listen while she tells you her intentions
And her expectations.
Here is the big one:
If I stand
in a teeny bikini
with every inch
of my god given beauty
I shall not fear
that any person
will lay a finger on me.
Keep your laws to yourself, too.
That I reside in
Divinely and unequivocally.
Not as a man
Not as woman
As a person.
And a writer.
A creative thinker, activist, and problem solver.
A mother, a daughter, a lover.
Above and below
and in between
all of those lines.
Not boxed in by them.
Abused by them.
*These, of course, are only my personal opinions and I don’t claim to speak for all people.
Ali and Heather walked home from cheerleading practice with an aura of sulkiness about them. The trees were just beginning to set fire above the suburban road, but the two fourteen year old girls were so chocked full of self-doubt that they couldn’t see the autumn delight. The yellow and orange leaves mingling with the green in the pleasant afternoon went unnoticed because lately, things had not been going Ali’s way.
When school first started in the fall it didn’t seem to matter that she was the new kid. Despite her original fears, freshman year had started alright. Ali had been chosen for the JV cheerleading squad, she had made some nice friends, and a boy even shared his sandwich with her at lunch. In girl world, things could not have been better. Then one day, out of the periwinkle sky, a shadowy cloud rolled in and settled itself just above Ali’s pretty, red-head. Continue reading My Mother is Not in a Cult
In what world is this
Too pretty to kiss
Too bold to relate
Too pedantic about fate
Too sure to question
Too pure, this breath
Too undying this passion
Too soon this death
Where mediocrity thrives, certainty dies
Petulance cries and devotion tries
For a stronger pull in this way or that
The way strangers stare at a fabulous hat
Like a bird of paradise lures his mate
Ordinary won’t do for an extraordinary fate
In generalities, where some subside
It’s too slippery a slope down which depth will slide
Too much beauty to see
Too much wine to drink
Too fresh is the fruit
The nectar, too sweet
Too tangible to ignore
Too potent the scent
Too intoxicating the joys
Too drenched in wonderment
Too spoiled by lovers who knew all too well
Too sure of the truths that one kiss will tell
Too fickle to stay in one place and wait
Too tempted by the promise in every day break
In what world is this? I ask faithfully
(Wearing a fabulous hat and coat of serenity)
“So,” says the darling person genuinely interested in my life, “what have you been up to?”
“Well,” I start, looking to whatever person or book I happen to be in public with for support, “I just finished editing my novel.”
And in that time, before they process how to answer this statement, I wonder: do they not believe me? does it sound as strange to them as it does to me? do they write best-sellers in their spare time?
I wrote a book, I remind myself. My third, and this one’s good, get it together. But I’m not published yet (and this destroys me).
“Wow,” they say, finally, “that’s great!”
And it is. They say.
But I haven’t sold it.
You haven’t read it.
So what is it, really?
It’s just a leap of faith, on your part.
You believe: 1. that I have actually written said book. 2. that I’ve done it well. and 3. that I’ll become successful enough, that you’ll know someone famous enough, to brag about.
Because that’s what this is, isn’t it?
The proximity to greatness.
I know, because I want it too. That light of genuine feeling that people relate to whole heartedly. The one that is pure. The one that shines so bright that basking in someone else’s is fine. Because it’s honest.
This is why I wince. Why this conversation is so uncomfortable for me, and why I hesitate to answer the question. Because in this scenario I am the one who will have made something great.
Which is why I keep writing.
Because here, being naked isn’t just for show, it’s necessary.
It was dark when we arrived. The lights of the city stretched farther than I had expected. Traffic was bad, but not as bad as it had been in Dublin. John took the first parking spot he saw and we headed into the Pub across the street. There was some sort of meeting going on and we invited hostile looks from people present. One woman glared like we had come to ruin her conspiracy.
“Hey mates,” John said. “Hope we’re not interrupting, just lookin’ for a pint.”
“Oh, Dear,” an Irish mum called getting up, “Come in, come in, excuse my manners. What’ll ya have?” She smiled and in the wrinkles around her hazel eyes I saw years of worry, strength, and laughter. Her hair reached out in tight curls.
“Guinness,” I smiled.
“Of course, dear, and for you?”
“There you are.”
She was endearing and nervous and her strong hands and rosy cheeks were everything I expected from an Irish barmaid. She was going on about some old head and John was paying close attention but I was drifting, taking in the authenticity. It was the Irish pub that I had always wanted to be in. I admired the flags and lace curtains and shamrocks that someone had painted on every spot of empty wall, gaily. At this point such space was hard to come by. There were top to bottom pictures from all sorts of celebrations, weddings, birthdays, football matches, all that looked like St. Patty’s Day and all to which we were at least 20 years too late.
“We’ll join,” John said and I turned back to the conversation I had missed. “Won’t we?”
“Sure,” I said trusting his judgment.
“Hey, Pauly,” she called both excited and more serious than I had heard her sound, “we’ve got two new recruits.”
“Sorry, we’re full,” snapped the vicious woman.
“Oh, bollocks,” the barmaid said ushering us over to the group.
A dark haired man with crystal blue eyes rose from the head of the table, “I’m Paul.”
“Pleased to meet you,” I said trying not to sound too American.
“This is Violet, I’m John, and we’re always up for fighting the good fight.”
I nodded and wondered what he had gotten us into. I felt like we accidentally stumbled into the den of a revolution, and I liked it.
“Do you know anything about the Old Head of Kinsale?” the steaming woman asked still glaring at me. I shook my head. Her hair was long and deep red and poured over her thin shoulders like the fire she seemed ready to spew.
“This is Nora, don’t let her passion frighten you. She grew up outside Kinsale so this matter is very dear to her heart.”
I wanted to ask what the matter at hand actually was but I was not about to say anything, lest she might rip my face off.
“Well, its nice to meet the lot of you. How can we help?” John asked
He wakes. His feet touch the cool stone floor. He ignores his weathered reflection, rinses his hands, and splashes water on his face. The sticky dawn drifts through the seaward window. He sees the fog and the distant orange circle muted above the horizon. He turns back to the looking glass. You will catch a big one today, he says to the old man that he sees.