Tuesday, December 29, 2015

the perfect christmas newsletter

Last year my mom received a "Family Christmas Newsletter" from a distant cousin that she hadn't seen or spoken to in well over a decade.  The newsletter was bursting with familial love and it detailed each family member's favorite Christmas memory as well as their current life successes, achieved dreams, etc.  Last Christmas was a rough one for my mom.  She had cancer and had just finished some pretty rigorous chemotherapy and didn't know what the next year would look like for her.  A super-happy-slap-you-in-the-face-with-our-joy newsletter isn't exactly what my mom wanted to read at that particular time.  She was never even close with this cousin, why would she feel the need to send this to her?  My mom was angry and annoyed that someone would feel the need to gloat to family and friends about gratitude and bliss without even bothering to pretend like they are interested in the lives of the people they're sending the newsletters to -  NEVER MIND YOU, HERE'S HOW HAPPY OUR FAMILY IS.

My biggest qualm with the newsletter was not them rubbing their joy in everyone's face, but how fucking BASIC the family sounded.  Are these people human beings or wooden cutouts plucked from a modern-day nativity scene?  This is some Laura Ingalls Wilder bullshit.

My family would grow plants out of wheat in pots as part of the decoration for the manger setting for the baby Jesus.

I'm sorry, what?  You grew your own wheat specifically to construct a manger scene?  Did a virgin in the family have a baby, too?  Just so that you could have somebody play Jesus?

And every Christmas my Grandmother would buy me a red dress, or a doll with a red dress.  She really liked red!

HAHAHAHAHA she MUST HAVE!  Oh my god, what a unique situation, a human being that likes the color red for Christmas.  I just shit my pants from shock and delight!

For many years we would go with out Aunts, Uncles and cousins on the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree to cut down.  It took us a long time to agree on that perfect tree.

I'm going to overlook the capitalization of aunts and uncles, but a family taking a few extra minutes to find the perfect Christmas tree??  That is fucking unheard of, call the decision police!!  I just figured everybody walks into a Christmas tree lot blindfolded, swinging an ax and taking the first tree they successfully strike.

As our families expand and everyone is so busy with work, church, events and activities we've had to really make time to be together.

As our churches expand and everychurch is so busy with church, church and church, we've had to church time to be togechurch.  Did we mention that we attend church regularly?  God!

As we chased [son] around, and told [dad] to stop throwing apples, we enjoyed being together.  As you can see by the picture, it was a memorable day!

Not the real photograph they enclosed.  Not even a photograph at all, just the work of an asshole spending a lot of time on Microsoft Paint.

And I don't even have the energy to talk about the back of the newsletter which just has a shitty poem written by the daughter on Christmas Eve five years ago.  Basically, if you poured sugar into a sentient robot and then asked it to write a poem about family it would be way more compelling and poignant than the one the human daughter wrote.

I'm sorry if you have one of those families that pumps one of these out every December, but hopefully yours is a little more interesting.  Nobody wants to hear basic bullshit about a family "liking Christmas" and "singing Christmas songs."  You might as well type "water is wet" and "babies cry" and "you should drink plenty of water every day" in Lucinda Calligraphy font, throw a few snowmen on there and put it in the mailbox.

What I would recommend would be for you to spice your newsletter up with some realness. Nobody wants to read about how you used to ice skate in the winter.  But we WOULD want to read it if you went ice skating and didn't tell your brother who texted you later on when he found out you purposefully didn't invite him and said "couldnt call me to see if I wanted to skate, SIS? didn't want to fucking go anyway. Ive got a family to raise I dont need this drama."

Instead of writing about roasting marshmallows why don't you write about how you roasted your aunt for marrying a guy she met two weeks ago on Tinder.  That site's for fuckin', Aunt Sherrie, not for marryin'.

Instead of writing about meeting up with the whole family at the zoo, why not write about how your brother couldn't come to your college graduation because he was in jail?

What I'm trying to say is get creative, guys.  There are plenty of terrible stories and events that happen during the year to type up and share with all of your family and friends, and we'd love to hear all about them!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

precious moments

I was walking to the metro this morning, minding my own business when a tiny, young, smug, uppity businessman pushed past me at a crosswalk.  And this tiny, rude, smug businessman turned back to look at me disapprovingly as if I had been the rude asshole.  But how could I really be mad?  He was 5 feet, 2 inches and 105 pounds of adorable.  A man so wee that I could have discreetly folded him in half and slipped him into my purse like a feminine napkin.

His little legs walked quickly ahead of me, tiny brown shoes with a peak of powder blue socks under pants that I couldn't have pulled past my calves if I tried.  I've got calves that I would call gently beefy, but most pants can accommodate them.  The tiny elves that must have sewed this guy's pants would have cried to see me destroy their months of handiwork.

He had a clever little coat, blonde hair and he carried an oversized umbrella.   You tiny, ceramic Precious Moments figurine of a man.  Why are you in such a hurry?  Come here, sit next to this bear on top of this gift-wrapped box that serves as a piggy bank.  I'm going to put you in my curio cabinet above my Charles Wysocki collector plate of two cats taking a nap in front of a fireplace.  That way you're safe, and we won't have to worry about you being a RUDE ASSHOLE to anyone ever again.

Monday, June 8, 2015


My nephew is 15 years old and full of sass.  There are few things that are as frightening to me as teenagers.  It is because they are ruthless and incredibly powerful.  And a teenager with sass?  Good luck getting a damn thing by them.  They also know every single flaw and secret you've been trying to hide from the world, and even from yourself.  Teenagers say out loud what the evil goblins in my head whisper to me.  My nephew knows exactly what to say to take me right back to my most crippling self conscious years of high school.

These are insults he's said as well as some that I anticipate him saying in the coming years prior to him turning 20.  He's got a good 5 teen years in him, his skill will only improve over time.  I have to give him credit, his execution is dynamite and his observations are pretty accurate.  I only have myself to blame, this is my comeuppance for teasing him so much when he was little.

"Look at that pimple, you didn't do a great job of covering that up, but clearly you tried."

"Nice pants, someone is trying something new and failing."

"Didn't you have braces twice in your life?  Why do your teeth still look bad?"

"Do you even floss?"

"How is your butt so big? Shouldn't you have a better fitting pair of pants?"

"Red is not your color."

"Shouldn't you be wearing more makeup now that you're getting older?"

"Your face really isn't symmetrical."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

recounting details

I am incredibly bad at recounting details from articles and books I enjoy.  I will read something in the morning and, literally, by the afternoon, I will try to describe it to a friend and fail miserably.  Like a zeppelin crashing and exploding, miserably.

Yesterday I read a beautiful article about confronting death.  Last night I tried to describe it to my boyfriend and it went something like this:

So the article talked about how dogs like to rub themselves on corpses.  The author has a dog that he walks on the beach and it's always trying to rub itself on dead things that wash up on the shore.  Anyway, they think dogs do this because of something to do with hunting.  If they have the scent of a dead thing they can sneak up on their prey.  But the author was like, yeah, but you can still see the dog, so I don't know how that would work.

Anyway, then they talked about a lot of squid washing up on the shore one time, squid everywhere.  He had to take the dog home, it was too much.

Then he talked about something Marco Polo said a long time ago.  When you need it, nature will deliver.  Like they were all on a ship somewhere in the middle of the ocean and all the men were on the verge of starving.  Then a big wall of fish just showed up.  So many fish it didn't look like they were in the water, there was just an actual wall of them.  Anyway, that's not super important.  He said that it's some kind of divine occurrence that would bring all these fish to them at that specific time when they needed them most.  Nature gives you what you need when you need it.  Even though this was a dangerous surefire way for the fish to die, they swam toward death anyway because people are more important than animals.  The author didn't really agree with that.  
Then he was walking on the beach with two friends and it was very dark.  There was an incredibly pungent smell that hit them, something was definitely dead.  They saw a big rock-like figure that they guessed was probably a seal but they were afraid to go up to it because, what if it were still alive and just happened to be really stinky and then it came after them, you know?  So they finally grabbed a few rocks and tossed them at the seal.  It was dead.  

After listening to me ramble on for what felt like forever, my boyfriend blinked for a bit and then asked, "what exactly does that have to do with confronting death?"

I replied, "god, I don't really remember."

You can read the article here - http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/coming-to-terms-with-death-through-the-use-of-vague-metaphors-religious-glosses-and-computer-analogies

I highly recommend it, unless you got everything you needed from my description.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

what I know about every woman named Barbara

We all have a few Barbaras in our lives. We know their deal.  There are certain universal truths about women named Barbara.  I'd like to highlight several of them for you.  If you care to argue with any of my observations, please feel free to do so in the comments section.  I invite an open, engaging discussion regarding the behaviors of women named Barbara.

1.)  All Barbaras are 45+ years old.  Nobody has ever met a Barbara under 40.  Nobody after the year 1970 named their baby Barbara.  Babies named Barbara no longer exist.  Can you even imagine a millenial couple throwing Barbara in the ring for their baby's name?

"We could name the baby after one of your grandmothers?"
"But both of them were named Barbara..."
"Oh god, never mind. The last thing we want is a baby coming out of you wearing bifocals and a sweater from Talbots."

2.) All Barbaras have short, curly brown hair that "just never behaves in this humidity!"

3.) All Barbaras drive a beige Toyota Corolla.  What about Chevy Malibus you ask?  Well, fine.  But you better believe they're going to be beige.

4.) All Barbaras wear support stockings with their crocs.  The support stockings are to decrease their chance of getting varicose veins.  The crocs are because they've given up on fucks.

5.)  All Barbaras have a full bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume on their vanity for special occasions.  But for everyday use, they spritz on Jovan Musk that they buy monthly from CVS.

6.) All Barbaras call things "nifty."

7.) All Barbaras own a tiny dog that barks too much.  During neighborhood walks the dog definitely won't stop even though Barbara yells their name over and over again.

"Princess, be quiet!  Princess, nobody wants to hear you bark!  Princess, stop that!  She's usually really sweet, she won't bite you...  PRINCESS!!"

8.) All Barbaras have office enemies named Tammy.  Barbara and Tammy have "never seen eye to eye on policies and procedures and Tammy is constantly late for the bi-weekly manager's meetings."

9.)  All Barbaras give powerpoint presentations at each quarterly meeting.  It takes them 5-10 minutes to figure out how to set up the phone and open and operate the powerpoint.  They always have to call the IT team for backup and IT guy Matt rolls his eyes each time Barbara calls.

10.)  All Barbaras have a desk drawer full of Nutrigrain bars, but every once in a while they like to reward themselves by going to the vending machine for Famous Amos cookies.

Friday, February 20, 2015

platonic conversation

The other night I had to parallel park an enormous 2002 Chevy Silverado in a tight spot in my neighborhood.  I've gotten pretty damn good at doing this over the past few months but that night I was relieved to have a man who happened to be walking by on the sidewalk come over and gesture to let me know I had plenty of room to continue to back up.  He helped me park the truck and I was grateful.

I rolled the window down and thanked him and we started to chat.  He was bundled up, looked to be in his 50s or 60s, (clearly much older than me), and he was telling me a story of a road trip he took to Mississippi many years ago.  He was laughing as he told me he was with his cousin and they were pulled over by the police but got out of it because the officer liked his car.  It was a nice moment and I thought, "so far so good, old man, don't ruin it, don't say it, please don't say it..."  And then, he said it.

"...You know what? You are a beautiful woman."

God damn it.


We were having such a nice, platonic conversation that I was genuinely enjoying.  Come on, old man, you're a stranger.  You're clearly at least 20 years my senior and you are NOT Keanu Reeves.  Why do some men find it necessary to turn a completely normal chat between two adults into an opportunity to let a woman know they find her attractive?

"Just so you know, I have a penis, and when it gets hard later, it may be because of you."
"Just so you know, as a guy, it is my responsibility to let you know whether or not I'd want to bang you." 
"Just so you know, I'm a man and you are a woman and blee--blow--blah--MY ENDORSEMENT OF YOU." 

Whenever this happens I have my own fantasy.  I fantasize about blowing these assholes out of the water, (in a totally platonic way).

Guy - "...you are a beautiful woman."

Me - "Stop right there. Please don't derail this conversation by saying something completely unnecessary to force me to demur and play Female Skunk to your Pepe Le Pew. I could have walked two moons and then circled the earth for 1,000 years without knowing what you think about how I look."

Guy - "But I can't help myself."

Me - "You are not a snow leopard. You're a human man and you're perfectly capable of having a conversation without complimenting another person. I'm sure you're able to do it with your son, or boss, or WIFE-yeah, I see your wedding ring."

I know this might sound severe, he's just giving me a little compliment, right?  What a bitch, I should be grateful when someone finds me attractive!  Fuck that, I don't need some stranger's unsolicited nod of approval.  I shouldn't have to be forced into the role of diminutive, shy-but-grateful, pretty lady. My being attractive has NOTHING to do with you getting pulled over by the police in the 80's, no matter how suave and cocksure you think your delivery was.

So just fucking BE COOL and keep it platonic.  And hell, if you don't mention my appearance and the conversation actually progresses and goes well, (and also you are Keanu Reeves, and I am single), maybe I'll end up complimenting you.

"You know what? You are a beautiful man. I loved you in John Wick, what a triumphant return to action form.  Point Break is the best movie, I fucking love the part where you fire your gun into the air multiple times after Patrick Swayze, who has a president's mask on, jumps ov..."

Friday, February 13, 2015

the angry, flaming dandelion

"Lean over and give mom a big hug and a kiss and tell her I love her."  

This is a text I received from my brother in mid December 2014 while I was sitting in the MRI waiting room at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.  My mom was having yet another MRI done which would determine whether or not the tumor behind her eye had spread even further into her brain.

It was a fucking rough year, 2014.  It was my mother's 8th year in North Carolina, about 7 hours away from Maryland where I grew up and where she had spent most of her life.  This was a year that had hit my mother especially hard.  She had never been an exceptionally healthy or cheery person, but over the past few years she began to seem even less healthy and less cheery than before.  She was sleeping even more than she usually did, which had already been most of each weekend.  She was even angrier and more irritable than usual.  More and more often our phone calls ended in her hanging up on me.  

In the summer of 2014 we found out she had non-Hodgkins intraocular lymphoma.  Cancer had started as a growth behind her eye and had spread to her brain.  She needed to start treatment immediately, and so she did.  

My mother is a blazing, angry woman by nature. I have spent most of my life afraid of her fury.  Nobody has ever been immune to it, not my brother or sister, my father, many of her acquaintances, coworkers over the years, my teachers.  The list goes on.  I was stupid enough to think an already-large fire couldn't get worse.  Clearly I had no idea cancer would be the gasoline that would be doused on the already-raging bonfire that was my mother.  I was unprepared for the coming months and what the weight of cancer would do to her mentally.  

For some families, cancer brings them together.  "Cherish this time with your mother," people told me.  "Tell her you love her, don't take her for granted, hug her, hold her."  Clearly these people had never met my mother.  You don't try and hug a bonfire.  You keep your distance and when it gets too hot, you step back so you don't get burned.  Cancer could either put that fire out or cause it to explode.  Explode it did.

My mom has every right to be angry.  She had trouble with her sight for over a year and had been to multiple doctors before they finally figured out what the problem was.  She was tired all the time and had been for years.  The news of cancer was dropped on her like a ton of bricks in September.  And in a matter of a few months my mom was being driven two and a half hours back and forth countless times from Leland to Durham every week.  She went through intense inpatient chemotherapy.  She had MRIs taken of her whole body in the middle of the night. She had needles inserted into her eyes every other week.  She was forced to quit smoking.  All of her medications changed drastically.  She was taken away from her house, her cats, her bed, her routine.  This is all enough to make anyone angry.

I guess I just never realized how much that anger would be thrown at me and my sister, and to a lesser degree, my brother.  My mother was a hothead but she could at least appreciate my sister driving her back and forth for treatment, buying her groceries, making her food, cutting her grass, right?  She was an angry woman but she would be grateful to me for driving down to take care of her every month when she came home from chemo, right?  I never expected to be the enemy in all of this.  But her fear and anger had to be thrown at someone, and my sister and I just happened to be the only ones brave enough to stand closest to the fire. 

So when I received this text from my brother after over three months of my mother's battle with both cancer and with my sister and I, I was surprised.  Did he know our mother?  Had he even met her before?  Was this not the same woman who had chased him down the driveway, faster than I ever imagined she could be, as he drove away after mouthing off to her as a teenager?  Was this not the same woman who marched onto a softball field in the middle of my sister's game, got into the face of an umpire and screamed at him to stop the game because it was getting too dark?  Was this not the same woman who looked down at our father while he laid in bed one night after a fight with her and said, "you're going to have to sleep sooner or later, Mike?"  

Finally, after having finished the MRI she walked out into the waiting room toward my sister and I.  Dressed in her unofficial uniform; sweatpants and a fancy blouse, her narrowed eyes ablaze with rage as she came toward us.  Her white thinning hair sticking straight up.  My mother, like an angry dandelion, walked toward us and I imagined trying to walk up to her and give her a hug and a kiss for my brother.  I imagined my lips and arms catching fire first before the flames engulfed my entire body while my mom, without stopping, continued out the door, now raging stronger as I burned quickly, like kindling, to the floor of the waiting room.