Monday, April 24, 2017

Caleigh Bird

Hi all! 

Just a quick post to share an amazing artist with you.  It was such a treat for me to work with Caleigh Bird, who is not only incredibly talented, but also professional and courteous. She creates custom pieces (paintings and drawings) based on photographs you provide, and although I hate to sound like a salesman, they're such a unique and special thing to have for yourself or to give someone as a gift. Like, yeah, I'm sure your mom really wants another scented candle for Mother's Day, but then again, no she doesn't.

    Anyway, Caleigh makes the process very simple and keeps you in the loop every step of the way.  I sent her my favorite photos of Aidin and she picked the one with the best lighting/detail. After getting my approval she began, and within a couple of days I had my first in-progress update email.  About a week after that I got to see the finished product and it's currently en route to me!

The photo I provided Caleigh:

The finished product:
                                                                 


I absolutely love this and will treasure it always.  You can find Caleigh Bird on InstagramFacebook, or check out her website here

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Tender Mercy of a Dead Friendship


At first I was flattered, thinking that her desire to get to know me was due to the fact that I was interesting, or funny, or pleasant to be around. Familiarity breeds intimacy and that's what she wanted.  To know me.  And she did, but it wasn't because she cared, I think it was because she was curious. And probably a bit bored.  Entertain her!

Actually, she was the entertaining one. The outgoing one who could make everyone laugh to the point of tears more times than I can remember.  Often at someone else's expense.  But that was her personality!  Just a biting sense of humor.  Chew you up and spit you out kind of humor.

I think there were rare moments of real caring.  Genuine friendship. And those moments made me excuse the many other moments when she made me feel like shit.

She wanted information and secrets and she listened like she loved me but I didn't realize that I had become the subject of her conversations.  That once they left my lips my stories and experiences were hers to share.  Retooled and retold to strangers who dissected my mannerisms and diagnosed my possible disorders and spent time online, deciphering the codes I didn't realize I had embedded in my pictures and posts.  Of all the notifications I received I dreaded hers the most.  Her preternatural ability to deliver backhanded compliments and scathing critiques was unparalleled.  But I can take a joke.  It's just her personality!  She is jealous and spiteful and ecstatic when you look bad, but it's not her.  It's this separate, blameless entity, 'personality'.  The problem with that explanation is that if it's true, it should be universally so. Not applied only to a few, unlucky ones.

And so I was wary.  I guarded my thoughts and hid away from her.  She became a friend in name only.  She accidentally left her phone next to me and it dings dings dings and there's a terrible photo of me that she took without me knowing. It's part of a group text with people who don't know me.  I am the punchline of a joke. I am not as pretty or perfect in real life as I pretend to be online and she's got the proof. She rushed back and grabbed it, flushed with the awful fear of being found out.  I smiled sweetly and pretended I hadn't seen anything.  She hadn't violated any loyalty because there really wasn't any left at that point.   The more I retreated the nicer she became, but it was a saccharine sweet that made my teeth hurt.  I didn't believe anything she said anymore and she knew it.  Our interactions were forced and tense and eventually they stopped altogether.

She was a good friend until she wasn't.  At some point, I think she really, genuinely started to hate me and I wish she had just done the noble thing and ghosted me.  Extricating myself took far too long than it should have. It meant accepting that some people outside of the situation might take sides, might think of me as full of myself or overly sensitive. Might not know my side of the story. That's something you forfeit in exchange for a clean break. And it's something you find you don't really need in the end.






Sunday, January 29, 2017

Somebody Call 911


I have called 911 twice in my life.

The first time I was six or seven and I was dared to by a friend.  My family was visiting hers for the weekend and our parents had gone shopping that afternoon, leaving the kids at home.  My older siblings were watching TV and my friend and I were upstairs, bored out of our minds. I honestly don’t remember how it came up, but at some point she dared me to call 911. Or she mentioned it and I dared her to dare me to call. Regardless,  I did the damn thing. I picked up the powder blue corded phone and dialed those three numbers.  My hands were shaking, and when the operator answered I quickly whispered, “Help me” and hung up.  I hadn’t planned to say anything, but got caught up in the moment and couldn’t help but throw a little drama into it.  What a rush! And no ramifications whatsoever!
Just kidding.  Within ten minutes their house was surrounded by cop cars. And at almost the same moment our parents arrived home.  Everyone was freaking out, trying to figure out what was going on and who had called 911.  *Actually, no, I don’t think anyone was really trying to figure out who called, because they already knew. This was during my “wreak havoc, deny everything” phase of childhood. And deny I did! No, of course I hadn’t called, yes I knew that it was an incredibly serious offense to call 911 as a joke. The flaw in my stubborn assertion of innocence was having a friend who spilled the beans almost immediately.  (Snitches get stitches, Susan!) So I was outed, forced to apologize and promise never to do that again. And as the police filed out I realized that I honestly didn’t want them to leave, because my mom was looking at me with an expression that I can only describe as murdery.  (And she did murder me.  With her disappointment.)

The second time I dialed 911 I was nineteen, working at an upscale tanning salon. In addition to my duties at the front desk I  was also a spray tan technician,  frequently dipping into my own product,  resulting in a hideous year-round Trump glow. Of course, at the time I thought I looked amazing, and the contrast really made my teeth pop.

The salon was on campus, right in the middle of everything, and it was close to closing time on a Friday night.  A coworker (I think her name was Brittni or something obnoxiously spelled like that)  stumbled in and asked to tan for ten minutes in a deluxe bed.  The deluxe bed was no joke an enormous bed with a plush mattress.  The tanning bulbs were on the inside of the top, and they were intense, so I would advise people to start with five minutes on each side.  Twenty minutes was the max, but you had to work your way up to that.  Gradually increase your tolerance. One time a very fair skinned girl tried to buy twenty minutes and I was like, “No, you will die.”

 But back to Brittni. The bar she had been drinking at next door was “too crowded and loud” and she wanted a quiet moment, alone with her thoughts and  mutating skin cells.  I set the timer for ten minutes, which came and went, but she didn't emerge from her room.  I knocked, loudly.  Nothing.  I yelled her name “BRITTNI WITH AN I, ARE YOU OKAY?!” but got no response. I started to panic.  I called another coworker who lived nearby and within a few minutes she had joined me, trying in vain to pick the door’s lock, yelling and pounding on it when we failed.  Finally, fearing that something was seriously wrong, I called 911.  "Brittni is unresponsive in the deluxe tanning suite. Please send help." Within minutes a fire truck, sirens roaring, pulled up and three firemen jumped out. They were pumped.  Maybe it had been a slow day at the station, but they were ready to rescue the shit out of someone.   I pointed to the door and they literally broke it down.  With their bodies. I don’t even think they tried the handle first.  They ran into that  tiny room and lifted the top of the tanning bed and Brittni sprang up like a tipsy, topless Jack In The Box screaming, “WHAT THE FUCK?? WHAT THE FUCK!?”

I immediately started laughing and could not stop.  Like, tears streaming down my face. Spray tan streaked to hell. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline or just relief that she wasn’t dead, but I couldn't turn it off. The firemen left the room, dejected, propping the broken door up against the splintered frame to give Brittni privacy to dress.  She did so, sputtering expletives. I was reigning in my hysterics,  apologizing to everyone. The firemen, disappointed by the lack of real emergency, unceremoniously left and soon after Brittni moved the door aside and stomped out into the night without so much as a goodbye.  Oh Brittni.  You tawny Lady Lazarus. I wonder what you're up to now.



Friday, January 27, 2017

Reproductive Rights Are Not a Liberal Conspiracy

Savita Halappanavar knew her baby was dying inside of her even before the doctors confirmed it. She also knew that if they didn't get the baby out soon, she would die too.  Her fever spiked, her back radiated pain and her contractions were excruciating. She begged, brokenhearted, for an abortion, but because Doctors could still find a fetal heartbeat, they refused. For three days Savita writhed in agony in a hospital bed, waiting for her baby to die. Stillborn as expected, her daughter emerged, and four days later Savita died from infection and organ failure.

 I know this sounds like some kind of dark ages cautionary tale, but this was in 2012.

In Northern Ireland, where Savita died, abortion is illegal. It was only after outrage over her death that a new law was enacted, which allows for an exception to the abortion ban in instances when the mother's life is at risk.  Even that caused a lot of debate, with many opponents arguing that it would lead to "widespread abortion."  Like women everywhere are just conspiratorially tapping their fingertips together, waiting for the opportunity to take abortion mainstream.

With Roe vs. Wade in 1973, abortion became legal in the US, but this right was balanced with the state's interest in protecting the potentiality of human life. As a result, in most states abortion is legal only before the fetus is viable (could possibly survive outside the womb), which is around 24 weeks (6 months).  However, almost all abortions (92%) are performed within the first thirteen weeks, with the majority of those (66%) performed in the first eight weeks.  Because the states are given a lot of latitude when it comes to regulating abortion, many continue to fight Roe v. Wade by cutting funding, requiring parental consent and ultrasounds, enacting waiting periods, etc.  Abortion's existence in the U.S. is tenuously legitimate at best, though that might not be the case in this administration.  Mike Pence has stated publicly that he longs for the day that Roe v. Wade is "sent to the ash heap of history." 

If you're wondering what would happen if Roe v. Wade was overturned, The Center for Reproductive Rights did a thorough, state-by-state report entitled, "What if Roe Fell?"   Check it out.

I recently watched the coverage of Trump reinstating and expanding the global gag rule. He signed it, smiling, surrounded by a bunch of rich old white dudes. (Because really, who is better suited to have dominion over women's reproductive organs than penis-having politicians?)  Essentially, what Trump signed was an executive order banning foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive  American aid from counseling health clients about abortion or advocating for abortion liberalization.   Abortion cannot even be suggested as an option, even if the woman or fetus is at risk.  (And just to throw it out there, in Africa alone there are about 34 million orphans and about 3 million of them have HIV. Under the global gag rule a pregnant woman dying of AIDS could not receive any abortion referral information from a U.S.-funded organization.)

A lot of you will balk at such "extreme" examples.  You will point out that most women in America have access to all kinds of birth control. You will argue that unwanted children should be put up for adoption.  You will point out all of the programs put in place to help single moms. You will say, passionately and with good intent, that abortion is the taking of a life. I can only remind you that as long as women can get pregnant, by rape or accident, there will be abortion.  Before it was legal, there was still abortion.  It is a product of desperation and often times, necessity. 

I am pro-choice because I know that restricting access to abortion hits the poorest, most desperate women the hardest. I am pro-choice because I believe that women are moral beings, capable of making thoughtful decisions about their own bodies.  



P.S.  Abortion rates are the lowest they've been since the Roe v. Wade decision.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Gaslight


Gaslight is a 1944 film about a woman whose husband deliberately attempts to make her think she’s going insane. He moves things around, creates auditory and visual illusions and ensures that she is the only one present to witness them.  He flickers the gaslight lamps to frighten her and makes the benign seem sinister and unfamiliar.  She becomes paranoid and confused, often hysterical when things happen that no one around her acknowledges. 

I suspect that’s how it was for my Mormor, or grandmother.  Alzheimer’s moved things around, erased memories and replaced them with smoke and mirrors.  Of course she was sometimes hysterical.  Of course she became angry and paranoid. Her mind was no longer her own, and as the disease took up more and more space she was quickly lost.  I had always thought of Alzheimer’s as a gradual degradation, but hers was swift and merciless; a horrible end to a most spectacularly beautiful life. 

She leaves behind a legacy of strength and elegance. A fierce love for her family and the most unselfish desire to help others I’ve ever known.  She sacrificed so much in her life to ensure the happiness of people she loved, but did not once complain or draw attention to it. 

One thing I keep coming back to was the way in which she carried herself.   Always with grace and the kind of confidence that comes from knowing exactly who you are.  Her illness robbed her of that self-possession and that quiet dignity.  She became angry and increasingly violent.  She no longer recognized the people she had loved the most in her life, and in the end, her brain stopped functioning.  Her passing is a blessing in that she is finally free of a body that ultimately betrayed her. No more smoke and mirrors.  No more flickering gaslight in the night. Just peace.


Friday, December 12, 2014

How to Drown

I got caught in a rip current once. I was swimming off the coast of Florida and suddenly I looked towards the shore and realized I had drifted dangerously far out. I immediately panicked, but in true form I didn't cry out or attempt to signal anyone on the beach. Even as I was pulled further away I remained quiet, putting real effort into NOT drawing attention to myself. I swallowed copious amounts of salt water, cursing and spitting and furiously willing my limbs to keep working despite their exhaustion.  Miraculously, I made it back to the shore, albeit a good two miles from where I had started out. This is not to say that I’m such a badass that I can conquer the ocean with my bare hands, but should just give you a reference as to the lengths I would go to avoid asking anyone for help, or appearing to be out of control. 

Fast forward eight years to the present day and it's three in the morning and I'm sitting in my bed in the house I recently rented. I just had my first good cry since the boys and I made it back to America from Japan almost two weeks ago. All I wanted to do was take a nice, hot bath, but apparently my old water heater only knows how to maintain hot temperatures for like three seconds, so I stepped into a frigid bath and promptly sat and sobbed for a while.  It happens.  So now I'm lying here wide awake, overthinking like a champ and ready to get it out of my brain space. 

The past two years living in Japan I felt like more of an intangible presence than a real person. This awful wonderful social media culture allowed me to connect with you from across the world, but only on a very superficial scale. What starts off as real, raw emotion is shared through so many filters and edits that by the time it reaches another human it’s high fructose corn syrup, carefully packaged and safe for consumption.  I was able to interact, but on my own meticulously controlled terms.    

That meant that every heartbreaking experience or dark thought was made lighter, prettier, and easier to swallow.  Refined.  I learned how to be honest without divulging details. I learned how to project a certain image of myself without putting in the work to fit that ideal. I learned how to drown gracefully, even as I quietly choked and struggled.  I found that as my persona was fed, my real self starved.  As a result, when I'm separated from this calculated image I've created, I'm not entirely sure how to behave.  Although I perpetuated the disconnect as a form of self preservation, I've found that when a lot of people know of you but no one really knows you, life can start to feel very lonely. 

I didn’t expect moving to be a quick fix, but I guess I also wasn’t prepared to feel so overwhelmed and insecure.  I've questioned myself and my decisions in ways I never have before, which has been a new and terrible sensation. After tonight's polar plunge I let the anxiety build to a fever pitch.  I thought about all the mistakes I've made the past year, all the times I disappointed myself or fucked things up. I thought about every awful what-if and every worst-case scenario. I imagined all the ways I could fail. Then I remembered that time in Florida when I got caught up in a rip current and I fussed and fumbled and still managed to get myself out. I'm not where I want to be yet. I'm not who I want to be yet, but I know what I want and I'm going to get there eventually.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

For Posterity || Hammer Time

Growing up in a large family with lots of girls, the kids were usually split into two factions, based on age.  My two cousins and I made up, “the little girls” while my older sisters and cousins made up, “the big girls.” Now, I’m not one to hold on to bitterness, but the big girls got to do whatever the hell they wanted to and we were never allowed to come. Where are the big girls? At the mall. At the movies.  At the pool.  Getting perms. Probably having the time of their damn lives.  Where were the little girls? In the basement, acting out scenes from Annie and generally not being allowed to do anything.

On one visit to my aunt’s house, while the big girls were probably in Vegas with Jonathan Taylor Thomas, my younger cousins and I sat around listening to music and deciding which Newsie we would most like to make out with.

Me: Spot Conlon. Because slingshot, bad attitude. 
Rachel: Jack Kelly. Because Santa Fe, Christian Bale.
Bethie: Crutchy. Because Bethie has an unhealthy attraction to men with limps.

Perfect as they are, you can only discuss the cast of Newsies for so long and by mid-afternoon we had moved on to choreographing a dance. It was in this innocent act of boredom that we discovered that we possessed an undeniable gift.  Allow me to recount the events that transpired:

"Holy shit, you guys. Are we really good dancers or is the magic I'm seeing some sort of optical illusion?"
"I'm not sure. Let me see your running man again."
"It's glorious. What do you think of this hula hoop miming?"
"Beautiful. We are amazing at dance."
"People are going to be like, 'Oh, where did you train?' and we're going to be like, 'Nowhere this is pure, raw talent.'"
"I feel like this is was we were put on earth to do." 
"I completely agree. How can we profit from this?"
"We could go door to door.  Strangers will definitely want to see this. Maybe $1 per dance?"
"That's a freaking bargain."
"What is our name? Like, the name of our dance troupe?"
"Hammer Girls. Because of our mutual love for MC Hammer but also because we hit the dance floor so damn hard."


 So using the timeless accompaniment of MC Hammer, my cousins and I went door to door through the neighborhood, peddling our wares.  The Hammer Girls and our completely improvised dance routines were not well received and our initial rate of one dollar per dance soon dropped to fifty cents and I believe by the time our mothers found us we were basically in it for the love of the craft.

Nowadays kids have fancy iPads and big screen TVs, but when I was a child we used our imagination, played outside and sometimes danced for money from strangers. 
Those were the days.