Life in Progress – Spring has Sprung

March 26, 2009 § 2 Comments

Although I have made dire predictions in the past, I do believe that Spring is here. I know this because I finally looked at my collection of silver trees and snowmen and thought “that’s ridiculous”. I finally got the urge to redo the decor, open the windows and get out the fresh, clean, floral-y candles.

But along with that, Spring brings the return of my “single motherhood” as Brian started rehearsals and performances for his show, Lend Me A Tenor up in Arlington Heights. He was gone every day from 6 pm to 11 pm, and after Charlotte went to bed, I was left to my own devices, finally able to delve into some crafting once again.

Charlotte began complaining that she missed Daddy. It occurred to me that I hadn’t done any straight up scrapbooking in ages, so I followed the lead of Art Junk Girl and decided to alter an old board book into a Daddy and Charlotte book. She has 5,000 books and FOUR copies of Goodnight Moon, three of which are board book versions (which aren’t even the full story). So I took the one that was in the worst shape, applied Gesso to each page and the covers (it sounds so easy, but trying to keep all those pages apart so they don’t become one giant Gesso block is a reeeeal logic puzzle.)

goodnightmoongessobook

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the Gesso dried, I painted over the pages in a white/gray acrylic paint coat just to give it an artsy look, not so screaming white. More updates as this book grows.

charleyinthebox

Charlotte, no doubt taking after her mother, has grown quite fond of setting herself up in boxes. She puts the box where she’d like it to be (in my bedroom while I’m putting on makeup… heretofore referred to as MAYMUK, which is her pronunciation), then she gets inside and asks for someone to bring her a blanket, a binky and some juice. I mean, let’s lay our cards out on the table here…it looks cozy.

I haven’t sewn in a while, but when I saw the super cute, super easy Kid’s Kimono over at Habitual, I knew it would be my first foray. I wasted approximately a yard and a half of fabric making that first kimono, screwing up the binding, the neckline, I tried to put a lining in it for the chilly spring and ended up making a twenty five pound kimono that was so stiff that Charlotte couldn’t put her arms down when she tried it on. I publicly laughed, privately swore, and tried again. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WE DO, RIGHT?T TRY AGAIN. You know my motto kids:

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. But then give up, there’s no point in looking ridiculous.

I trimmed the pattern and made a summer wrap shirt out of it with velcro closure instead of tie closure. I like it, although it’s a bit low cut for a two year old. It’s a bit low cut for a thirty year old, but maybe she’ll grow into it.  I must give credit and laudation to one Ms. Angry Chicken, whose tutorial on attaching bias tape without swearing is what got this shirt made. 

spottyshirt

I have also started working on the world famous Twirly Skirt from House on Hill Road, but from the looks of it so far, I doubt I’ll be posting any pictures. They say practice makes perfect, but really, all I’d like is for practice to make half way decent. I’ve never asked for much.

The Crafty Crow is an awesome website, an aggregate of all the children’s crafts and art projects in the history of the world.  And pal, I’m not talking about macaroni necklaces and paperchains for Christmas.  This stuff is off the hizzy as far as learning, fun, creativity and originality.  Charlotte loves her some bathtub fun, particularly tub crayons and tub paint.  I bought her the Spongebob Squarepants soap paint set for christmas which she used up entirely in about two weeks.  It was 8.00.  So I took a cue from Wee Life, featured on the Crafty Crow and made up some homemade tub paint from cornstarch, clear dish detergent and food coloring. 

tubpaint

I chose the new Palmolive Pure & Clear not only for the color purity, but because it’s gentle and fragrance free and all that.  I was temporarily stumped on how to store the paint.  I had a set of six mini gladware containers in my grocery cart until I got to the beauty needs department (which I never skip.  EVER.  I always find a beauty need I need.  I could shop the cosmetics/bath/hair section of a drug store for three hours).  There I found a travel kit of four three ounce plastic shampoo containers IN A CLEAR PLASTIC ZIPPER POUCH for only 2.00.  Score.  The paint stays nice and neat in the containers and the containers stay nice and neat in the pouch.  Hooray!

Don’t be fooled.  I don’t all of the sudden love spring.  But for some reason, this spring arrived just in time with my creative energies and the bonus of having time to myself is allowng for some fun experimentation.  I think I’ve come up with my first product for Etsy (I’ve been stewing over what sort of shop I’d like to have over there), and i’m in the secret lab prototype stages of that, and the fresh air brought a new burst of writing energy that I’m trying to take advantage of.  I love crafting and cooking and sewing and drawing, but in truth, writing is my truest, deepest passion, and when I was without that drive to do it, I was lost.  So I hope this feeling sticks around.

Happy Spring!

                                

 

 

Things I sent to Meredith: Nests Edition

March 11, 2009 § 1 Comment

My mother turned sixty back on February 27th, and she casually reminded my sister and I back in December that 60 was a big birthday, you know, just in case we wanted to plan anything big.  My mother is very much like me (or I guess, in this chicken/egg scenario, I’m like her) in that she’s always expecting a big surprise.  You can imagine how depressing our lives are, always expecting some gift, visit, vacation, party, trip, prize, revelation.  I’ve had ONE surprise party in my life, and my mom has had about three I think, but this birthday, we surprised her big time, by not showing up on her birthday at all, but sending an adorable little token from etsy, a handmade card and a video from her granddaughter saying happy birthday.

THEN.  We showed up on March 6th.  It was so great.  My mother squealed with delight when her granddaughter greeted her at the door after work.  We had a wonderful time.

 

The real challenge in all of this was finding the “token” gift that would throw my mother off the trail and also bring a tear to her eye with its symbolic-ness.  I set Meredith on the search with me, our parameters set on “ETSY ONLY” and “NOT TOO EXPENSIVE BECAUSE I ALSO BOUGHT TWO ROUND TRIP TRAIN TICKETS AND $50.00 WORTH OF KAYAK RENTAL FOR HER”.

We both ooohed and aahhed at the simplicity of this nest of eggs from Blue Pearls.  I am such a sucker for bird nests, nesting, nestling, I want to fill my home with bird nests.  (Even now I hear Brian pinching the bridge of his nose, ‘oh god, not another collection’)

And of course, the Nest Oil Paintings series over at Drunken Cows  really floats my boat, but they were way out of my price range for a birthday gift, and more MY style than my mom’s style.  This one in particular is calling out to me, begging to be in my living room:

Finally, I settled on an adorable mother and child nest of birds from Fairie Bling  similar to the one pictured here.  

Of course in all my futzing and searching and hemming and hawing, I had like two minutes to get the package to my mother, but big ups to tizib, the creator/artist/muse behind  Fairie Bling for helping me by packaging up the nest beautifully and shipping it priority mail and tracking it for me all week.  THAT’S the kind of service, devotion and emotional investment you get when you shop handmade.  I got news for you, Target doesn’t give a rat’s behind if your mom’s birthday is tomorrow, you’ll get the Giant Framed Clock that’s always in the housewares aisle when they’re good and ready to send it to you.

Of course, I was also enthralled and in love with the li’l wire bird’s nest tutorial over at Just Something I Made.  

Cathe’s blogs (she also does Just Something YOU Made, which is just a blog of tutorials from readers) are quickly becoming my favorites to peek in on each day.  Creative, simple, whimsical, thoughtful and fun.  Stop by!  

And of course in the spirit of families, motherhood and cuteness, someone directed me to the world’s best, cutest blog:  Zooborns the cutest newborn animals from zoos and aquariums around the world.  My head began buzzing and vibrating by the third picture, and when I got to the Fennec Fox, it just exploded in a pinata style rainstorm of glitter and cute animals. 

It was good to see Zooborns this morning, along with a new addition to my Netvibes feed page Picture Is Unrelated, because I was feeling particularly heartbroken and homesick on the last leg of the trip home from Rochester yesterday.  It was such a rejuvenating trip for me.  I hate late Winter so much, so a little punch in the arm is just what I needed.  It felt good to ask Mom “When’s Dinner?” like I always did, or to hear my father’s nightly wish for a ‘small piece of pie’ when there was no dessert forthcoming.  I liked hearing mom and dad say goodnight to me as I read my book in my old double bed. 

We were wiped out when we got on the train at 11:10 at night, and the two of us zonked out within minutes.  When we woke up, somewhere near Elkhart, Indiana and the sky was the color of cigarette smoke, spitting out rain that sent up fog from the ground that sped by.  We watched as farmland turned to trailer park, then to run down homes with boarded up windows and yards that looked like construction sites or junk yards.  We sped towards Gary, through industrial mazes and a junkyard of smashed, gutted cars piled three stories high.  The fog burned off and the trees and yards, what little there were, were replaced by the tangle of expressways and green highway signs signaling our entrance to Chicago.  Graffitti covered every surface, people tramped through the mud and rain, waiting at bus stops, huddled inside their jackets, wondering what it all meant.  I thought about Charlotte taking a walk with my father and finding three little pinecones to put in her pocket, or playing in the front yard with fallen branches from the pine trees by the door.  Charlotte asked to go see Gramma as the train pulled into the station and I smiled at her and gave her a hug  saying,

“Grandma’s not here right now, but we’ll see her in a few weeks.  I promise.”

It made both of us feel better.

Twistin’ Straw

January 12, 2009 § 1 Comment

Of all the Little House books, I’d have to say that The Long Winter is one of my favorites.  It tells the tale of the Ingalls women struggling to make it through a brutal Minnesota winter while Pa is away, getting “the Barrel” from “the city”.  I’m doing all of this from memory, so if my details are sketchy, try to deal with it in an adult manner.  Although it deals with dire conditions of starvation, frostbite and deadly prairie blizzards, it also touches on my favorite subject of shelter, nest and home.  The family is all cooped up inside with NO DIRECTV, no high calorie snacks and no Diet Coke.  As their supplies grow thin, they must take to twisting straw into tight little logs to burn in th wood stove.  All day, all night, one of the girls is always sitting near the hearth, twisting straw.  I was flat out enthralled by this for some reason.  I guess it was mostly by their ability to make do with what they had without whining or pouting or screaming “OMG I’M GOING TO DIE IF I DON’T GET A DECENT PIECE OF BEEF UP IN HERE.”

The point is, Chicago is under a blizzard warning, and while I am fairly terrified of rain storms and tornados, snow storms are when I shine.  For some reason, snow storms bring out my nestiness, my love of ‘living small’, of ‘stocking up’ and ‘hunkering down’.  I went grocery shopping yesterday and made a big roast dinner so we could have left over mashed potatoes and gravy and roasted chicken and stuffing and all that jazz.  But most of all, I went shopping yesterday because I liked the idea of “getting supplies”. I like to pretend that I’m not going to have to get up and leave the house and go to work even if there is a blizzard and that some dream world thing will happen where I get a phone call,

“It’s not a fit day out for man nor beast, stay home Ms. McCartney, stay home and build a fort with your daughter and sew and make cocoa and a warm dinner in a heavy pot.  Don’t come in to the office whatever you do!  Make sure that you’re in front of the window when the sun goes down and the snowy sky turns pink orange with the craggy fingers of trees breaking through it like lightning.  Play a game involving dice!  Snuggle under a blanket!  Take a nap.  And gosh oh golly, you’d better hope the power doesn’t go out, forcing you to use candles all day.”

As the winter started for us, way back in November with a wicked snow, I opined that no one has cozy shelter hunkerdown days anymore.  It’s this damn technology that allows us to blog, that brings movies to our mailbox within a day of asking for them, that shows marathons of Top Chef on Bravo.  When we get snowed in, or rained in or Lazed in, we all separate.  Someone gets the laptop to futz around chat rooms or poker games or keeping up with sporting events, someone watches a t.v. in one room, someone watches t.v. in another, children play with games that talk back to them, that teach them how to read with a robotic voice.  Food is zapped in the microwave, people work from home by ‘dialing in’.  Offices demand to have your cell number, your home number.  There is no escape from the modern world. 

In the midst of my gnashing of teeth for days gone by, I then stumbled into the wormhole of Turkey Feathers and her ‘snowed in day’ where she did everything I dreamed of, right down to the crock pot and the board game.  Well, um, fine, surely she’s an oddity.  Oh no, then Soulemama stabbed me in the heart with her wish for a wintry, cozy weekend. And I sadly realized that people are indeed out there, living the life I have imagined.  It is easy to achieve.  I strongly suspect these families are not settling in with their t.v. trays to catch the Family Guy mini marathon on TBS every Tuesday.  It’s just that simple.  If I want to live small, if i want to feather my nest with handmade quilts and paintings and fill my shelves with scrapbooks and picture frames, I’ve got to unplug.

It won’t be easy.  I am in love with t.v. as if it were my lifeblood.  I love good t.v., I love bad t.v.  I love ‘smart’ t.v., I love the dumbest, dumbed down brainlessest t.v. there is.  I will never be able to shut off completely…but this winter, this 2009 I’m going to try and be cozy to build the home I’ve imagined, to write, to sew, to paint, to sculpt, to read, to snuggle, to twist the proverbial straw.

Who’s with me?

What I meant to say…

November 17, 2008 § 2 Comments

In the months, days, hours and minutes before my sister’s wedding, I was struck by an unusual and uncomfortable feeling of stage fright, having been notified that I would, of course, be giving a speech.  No one thought twice about it, and why should they?  I’m an actress, an improviser, a ham, a goofball, someone who is well practiced in yelling out “HEY LOOK!”, but in hyper emotional situations I tend to turn bright red and nasally, and I cry like a screeching donkeygoose, trying to talk through my outbursts, which results in a gurgling, high pitched stream of consciousness expulsion that sort of resembles letting air out of a balloon while manipulating the stretching opening.  And this was my sister’s wedding.  My only sister, her only wedding, and my only chance to tell 200 or so people at once, how I feel about that gal.

In the end, I decided to just go with my gut, having planned on one story to tell, which is my favorite; the story of Allison coming home from the hospital, her little shock of black Wild Indian Hair erupting from a tightly wrapped blanket.  I wanted to desperately to see her, to hold her, to dress her up in outfits, to play games with her, to feed her. But what I really wanted, was to look good for her.  So I’d chosen carefully, a red, yellow, orange and green striped shirt and green pants.  That’s right everyone:  I went with The Ernie.  This choice would end up being catastrophic and memorable for the rest of my life, because the pants were too small and I ended up pulling them up to cover my underpants all day, while everyone else cooed and ooohed and ahhhed over my new little sister.

Indeed, this is a good story, and the way I wove it in with an expression of love, congratulations,self deprication,nostalgia and weeping, I was told over and over that it was one of the finest wedding toasts ever heard.  Part of this could be the open bar, part could be that I was toasting with a pitcher of coffee creamer since I forgot my glass.

But you know what I really wanted to say?  I wanted to say that looking back over our typical suburban white girls childhood, it’s amazing that Allison even talks to me at this point in our lives.  It’s amazing that she isn’t blogging right now about her completely bizarre and inappropriate big sister who never gave her a single word of advice on boys (because Allison was better at that than me) or on clothes (because Allison was better at that than me) or school (because Allison had too many friends to worry about school, and I was such a massive under achiever it’s amazing I make the effort to breathe every day). 

Allison - A celebration of life and love

Allison - A celebration of life and love

Face it, I was a lonesome nerd, unaware of the standard hierarchy in family relationships, so I was all too happy to spend my days with a girl half my age.  When other thirteen year olds were shoving their little sisters out into the hallway so they could paint their nails and listen to the Top Eight At Eight on WPXY, I was rollerskating with Allison, never ending laps of our unfinished basement, making up stories, listening to A-ha.  One summer we made a conserted effort to bring back the forties.  We tried to learn how to play marbles and jacks and used some old jargon, because we liked the fun that Archie and Pals were having in the comic books.  We consoled each other after playing “too much reality Barbies” with our strange neighbors who watched too many adult television shows.  In the Fall we played Little House On The Prairie in the front yard, and in my one display of big sister jerkiness, I made Allison be Carrie.  Who in the name of God wants to be CARRIE?  THE GIRL WHO WIPES OUT IN THE OPENING CREDITS?  And as Carrie, all she was allowed to do was gather firewood.  We wore our genuine calico bonnets and I sat under the maple trees and pretended to darn socks, make stew, quilt, write a letter to someone in Sleepy Eye, the usual.  And every time Allison toddled up with an armful of tiny sticks, I would take them and say “ok, now go rustle up some firewood for dinner.”  She never complained, never asked for a rewrite, never threw the sticks in my face and said ‘cram it’.   She just wiped her nose on her sleeve and ran off to do my bidding.  She was happy to play along when I told strangers I was training to be a speedskater in the Olympics and Allison was helping me work out.  She let me choreograph the dances and skits that we put on for the family.  She was my poky little puppy when she was little, always wanting to tag along.

And then, it was as if the moment she reached puberty, she surpassed me.  I found myself in college, envious of a fourteen year old and her huge circle of friends, her jam packed social calendar, her prospective gentleman callers lined up around the block.  There was never a day when she wasn’t comfortable with herself, when she wasn’t confident, relaxed. 

She has a sharp and fearless sense of humor.  One of my favorite things she ever did was win an award for creative salesmanship by wearing a coffee filter on her head at the movie theatre where she worked.  Why is that good salesmanship? Because upon seeing the coffee filter, movie goers, unaware that coffee was even available, began to buy it. 

And now here she is today, strong, beautiful, funny, her nose free of yellow crayons and crusted over snots, her hair a long, bronzed ribbon rather than a spiky Indian child from another world.  She’s learned to express her anger with well chosen words rather than digging her fingernails into her opponent’s arm until they cry uncle.  She’s all grown up, she was the world’s most beautiful, calm, put together bride. I love her, I always will.

THAT’S what I wanted to say.

Never Root For Injury – Unless it’s the Packers

May 16, 2008 § 2 Comments

My love of sports comes 100% from my dad.  Not only because he explained the rules and told me the names of the players and convinced me that 10 seconds of basketball can take 25 minutes and that’s perfectly acceptable, but because he taught me unflinching loyalty, the importance of rivalry, the pride in victory and the silent, glaucoma inducing agony of defeat.  He taught me that no matter how angry we get, we must never root for injuries. We can’t be happy when a Minnesota Viking is carted off on a stretcher. This is wrong…they’re just human.
don't start no trouble
Unless it’s the Packers.  When it’s the Packers, it’s not unusual to hear Dad instruct the Bears to “BREAK HIS NECK” or “RIP HIS BALLS OFF” which would, I think almost certainly, draw a penalty.

Imagine then, how exciting it must have been for me at the tender age of 13 to be enmeshed in the 1985 Chicago Bears Superbowl Shuffle Almost Undefeated Season. I had a Bears sweatshirt and t-shirt that I could wear to school, but my dad had a FRIDGE jersey: number 72, with our last name across the back. There were a few Mondays throughout that season that I was allowed to wear it to school in order to show off. It was big enough back then that it hung down to my knees, but was ‘cute’ in its baggy, oversized way, making me look like a petite little flower with a burly attitude. The boys at school that never spoke to me went out of their way to compliment my outfit, to ask if I was REALLY a Bears fan (because we were in Western New York, where the miserable masses had no choice but to follow the BUFFALO BILLLS). I felt proud that I understood the game, knew the good plays, the highlights that had played out the day before. Of course, on Tuesday, I went back to being ‘that creepy nerd in the gray courdoroy blazer and ascot’.

And then, it happened.  The Bears won the Superbowl and our family exploded into joy, my mom and sister and I huddled upstairs watching the game alone because mom was crazy enough to mention that the Patriots “made a nice play”, and we were all banished.  My father took calls from across the country, congratulating him on the win (as if he’d coached the team, or owned it, or even played).  We all went to bed happy, unaware of the battle on the horizon.

I cheerfully announced that I would be wearing my dad’s jersey to school that day and was met with a wall of silence.

“No, J, you’re not.  Your dad wants to wear it to work.”

I was dumbfounded. What sort of an adult wears a football jersey to the workplace?  What sort of a grown up wants to show off to his friends?  I explained in typical teenage hysteria how my life. would. be. over. if I didn’t wear that jersey, that JOHN VIVERITO was EXPECTING me to wear that jersey and if I didn’t well…I’d probably turn into a pillar of salt or something.  My parents never fell for dramatics, and in fact would offer applause and rolled eyes in response to a long winded tantrum.  My father wore the jersey to work and I lived to tell the tale after wearing a dumb old sweatshirt.

What I didn’t realize back then was that the Bears were part of his identity, part of who he was outside of “my dad, the lawn mower”.  He went to work and talked about sports, had friends who knew he’d come in wearing a jersey the Monday after the Superbowl.  That even when you’re forty something you like to draw attention to yourself.  I was trying to take all that away from him and I’m pretty sure I told him it was ‘stupid’ for him to wear it to work, but he did it anyway.
Fido Dido
Throughout highschool I stole his bandanas to wear in my hair, his old sweaters to wear with my old jeans, old t-shirts to sleep in, basically ransacking HIS wardrobe instead of my mothers to put together a ‘look’ that I termed “loose, baggy, and body hiding”. But it was also comfortable. My dad is a big tall guy and wearing his sweaters was like wearing a wonderful old, worn in blanket all day, wrapped up and cuddly.

I pushed him out of the way so I could have his THINGS. If HE wanted to wear his sweater it struck me as mean and selfish. I was in a wonderful world of self centeredness, where I deserved all that could make me happy.

And on the day I left for college, four states away, months until Thanksgiving, I went downstairs to get breakfast and found a gift in the living room. My dad had dressed up my favorite, Full Sized Fido Dido doll (about four feet tall) and had him sitting in the easy chair, ready to go to school with me. He was wearing my dad’s Bears Jersey, two of his bandanas and one of his sweaters. Pinned to his chest was a note that said “Do whatever you want with your life, little chucky (my nickname) but I know, writing is your true passion. Love, Dad”. I didn’t save the piece of paper, but I carry that thought with me everywhere, every day.

Someone asked me the other day if my dad sometimes does things intentionally to make people cry – the way he writes letters and signs cards and gives speeches. I said no, I think he does things intentionally to make people feel important, and to let them know how much they are loved.

Stewed Prunes and Campfires are no cure for Homesickness

April 30, 2008 § 2 Comments

I stood beside my green nylon suitcase, waving to my parents as they rumbled away down the dirt road in the navy blue Chevy citation, my baby sister bouncing around in the ‘way back’ of the hatchback, free from the shackles of today’s carseat laws.  One week at camp.  I was alone with my thoughts and baby blue Zipps, my fears and my denim shorts, my anticipations and my pink t-shirt, just a little too small.  Stretched over my nine year old tummy was an adorable jungle cat iron on, beneath it a heartwrenching political statement in multicolored glitter:

Pumas: Our little endangered friends

Growing up in a Christian household, my sister and I were not brownies or girlscouts – we were Pioneer Girls.  It was the same really , except that in addition to earning badges for “camp cookery” and “map reading”, we got points for “discipleship” and “Bible knowledge”.  With Pioneer Girls came Camp Cherith, an all girls summer camp where I learned how to ride horseback, identify wildflowers on a hike and properly fold an American flag after we said the pledge of allegiance each morning.

It was at Camp Cherith that I had my first encounter with homesickness. 

As I ate my breakfast, picking at the bowl of prunes that my mother instructed them to feed me each morning, I thought about my family, sitting at the kitchen table with a box of donuts from Wegmans.  I pictured them laughing, remarking about how great life was now that I was gone.

“What if we just left her there?  What if we moved back to Chicago, right next door to Grandma and just left her there?”

And they would laugh and grab for another chocolate glazed.

I ate another prune and visualized the camp closing for the winter, all the counselors leaving, asking me one last time:

“Are you sure they’re coming to pick you up?”

They always did.  But homesickness has followed me all my life.

When I got to college, I quickly discovered that going to a STATE school means everyone goes home on the weekend, and I was left alone in a strange town, in a dorm, with no mom to make meatloaf, no dad to watch baseball, no couch to curl up on while reading Garfield Books.  I often called my parents just to hear what they were doing, to try and insert myself into their activities, to visualize life in picturesque Western New York, so far away from the flat, beige, Ohio prairie.

And even now, grown up, a wife, a mother, I get homesick for the orange and brown flowered wallpaper in the old kitchen, the smell of the fireplace, the way the trees looked at twilight when I walked home from the library.  I would love to go back and be ten again, just for a week maybe, to eat dinner and do some homework and lounge on the couch and go to the busstop and get a free cookie from Star Markets and then sit back in a baby blue iron on t-shirt, arms crossed, a smile on my face, and really truly cherish how great I had it.

Longing For Nerddom

April 22, 2008 § 4 Comments

When I was a tween, it was hard for me to wrap my mind around the cold reality that I was, in fact, Western New York’s most hopeless nerd. I was always about 20 minutes behind the times, a lover of Garfield and wearer of clear acrylic glasses that would have made Harry Caray say “dial it back, sister”.

I carried a book with me everywhere. As soon as I sat down on the school bus I opened it, as soon as I got in the car, in the tub, on the toilet, as soon as I was finished opening NEW books for Christmas, as soon as I sat down to lunch, as soon as I washed off the blueberry pie that Jeanette Martin smashed in my face in front of the whole Home Ec class. I was probably the only child in the world whose mother scolded me for reading TOO much, ignoring people at family functions in favor of The Pistachio Prescription. My mother took great pleasure in selecting my outfits for school until I was FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. She begged me to wear blush or a little mascara…anything, lovingly slapping my face and pinching my cheeks to get a little color in the skin, perhaps to offset the blazing silver braces. I listened to WEZO, Rochester’s Easy Listening, Light Favorites from Yesterday and Today station because it ‘calmed me’, as if I were some sort of fast living day trader, riding the ragged edge of the fast lane rather than a twelve year old running down to the basement to check the progress of my rock tumbler every day.

So when I woke up one day and realized that people were making fun of me, that I wasn’t “cool”, that I had three friends total and I was never invited to parties or asked out on dates, it was like a punch in the gut. Because I genuinely believed what my family had always told me; that I was funny, and beautiful, and smart, and creative, and compassionate and just gosh darn it, the greatest thing on two feet. I was a great daughter, grandma’s favorite, the life of the party and so stuffed with potential that it was just assumed that I’d probably singlehandedly save the world by writing a funny poem, making meatloaf and diffusing Middle East tensions with a well placed joke.

I lived that way for a long time. Being around family and the eventual large circle of friends that I fostered was like having group therapy, daily affirmations and huge hugs all at once. I was sought out for advice, I cheered the lonely, made pie for the sick, I received compliments on my body, my acting, my sense of humor, my cooking, I felt great.

As of late, I don’t feel great. It’s as if once again I’m that twelve year old coming to a startling conclusion. I’ve felt the weight of the world on my back for months, a weak and stumbling Atlas, afraid of letting everyone down, determined to remain silently strong. Last night I begged Brian to tell me something good about me. Tell me something you admire. He laughed at the desperate tone of my request, and I mostly said it to make him laugh, because that’s one thing I’m good at.

But as of late, it feels like that’s it. Whenever I talk to friends or family it’s because they want to tell me what I’m doing wrong, how I’ve failed, how I can improve, what’s wrong. I drink too much Diet Coke. Dangerous amounts. I sleep too much, I weigh too much, I’m antisocial. I eat junk. I ‘identify’ with being depressed. These things are all linked. They all go with my back pain, which I’m dealing with wrong. I take pain medication and all anyone wants to know is when I’m going to stop. When can we stop being ashamed of you? When will you stop taking the easy way out? When will you lose weight so you don’t ruin your sister’s wedding? When will you be happy again so we don’t have to feel uncomfortable? Every conversation is an intervention, every observation a criticism. I feel weak, drained. I’m tired of explaining, of begging for time or understanding. Everything that is brought to my attention is something that already consumes me from the moment I wake up until I fall asleep, exhausted.

And when I sleep, I’m not in pain, and I’m not fat, and I’m not confused, or defeated or guilty or scared or sad.

I’m afraid that I’ll never be a nerd again, never thrilled by the finished product off a latch hook rug, never inspired to start a greeting card business with Leah, never excited to go clothes shopping or to put on makeup because a fantastic eyeshadow can’t hide my double chin.

A few years ago, the Chicago Cubs had a great ad campaign, playing off the fact that they were losers, a terrible baseball team, it was public knowledge, there was no use denying it. And all they said was The Cubs: We’re Working On It.

I’d like a t-shirt. A black t-shirt with white letters, bold, simple, speaking for me because I’m tired of saying it. All I ask of anyone who sees me deteriorating is check back with me later:

I’m working on it.

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