*scrub* *scrub* *scrub*

 

I wish I were Merriweather at this point. She’s got the right colored dress (BLUE!), and she’s got a magic wand to help her with the cleaning. Unfortunately, this is reality and the only magic I really have to take on the scrubbing I have to do is a good attitude. You’d be surprised how much magic a good attitude has in it. If you have the right mindset, even the most daunting of tasks never seems that bad.

Last time, if you recall, I was really in a lather about being handed a dirty place to live. Well, like most of you have pointed out already, it’s more productive to let the cleaning supplies do the lathering and remember the simple fact that Momma Kitte pointed out:

If you do the cleaning yourself, you know it’s clean and done properly.

(Kitte’s so awesome. Major thanks to her for the reminder and attitude adjustment!)

So, after a frustrating weekend of waiting on the internet company to send out a crew to install my service (they never showed up, btw) I headed out to the store because I had one heck of a list of cleaning supplies to fill. $161 later, I had a cart full of cleaning supplies: mops, brooms, a bucket, a BIG thing of liquid Lysol, a jug of bleach, oven cleaner, toilet cleaner, toilet brush, scouring pads…you get the picture. If it was a cleaning supply that filled a purpose, it went into the cart.

The one thing I got clued in on…this time props go to Rezree…BLEACH PENS! I didn’t even know they existed until she told me about them! As I was shopping, three of them found their way into the cart because the kitchen counters along with kitchen floor and bathroom grout is stained, dirty and in more dire need of bleach than anything I’ve ever seen. (You know it’s bad when I can’t come up with a metaphor to describe something. One look and ‘eww’ and ‘STAPH’ and the phrase ‘CREEPING CRUD’ come to mind. ‘THE FUNK’ is also a good descriptor as whomever lived there before me were definitely dirty people to let the place fall into such disrepair. *Shudder* ‘The Funk’ is a death knell. If I am down to saying something’s got ‘the funk’ you know it’s near on to horrific.)

So with the thought of ‘the funk’ running around my house unchecked, I got everything home and began to put it all away, making time to add the cleaning supplies I already had to the storage area that now houses some major cleaning muscle.

I truly wish I had the words to describe the daunting task in front of me. I am faced with disinfecting the two rooms in any home that should be the cleanest: the kitchen and the bathroom. Now, I want you to take my luck into account, which means that (you guessed it) they are the two filthiest areas of the house.

So after organizing the cleaning supplies, I got the bleach pens out, grabbed an old toothbrush, cleaned off the kitchen counter next to the sink, put on my big rubber gloves and began to work. Never having used a bleach pen before, I found it wonderfully easy to outline each tile with the bleach pen, wait a few minutes, then begin scrubbing the mildew and dirt that had embedded itself in the grout (which seemed to have never been properly cleaned since it was installed years ago).

Just to do a single counter top felt like a major endeavor, but at seeing the grout go from black and grey to white was quite rewarding, making it a gauntlet-thrown challenge to see whether or not I could finish the area before the tendinitis in my elbows forced me to stop.

But happily, I got the one patch done and upon getting up this morning, it was a joy to see clean, white grout instead of thinking I was going to catch something if I put anything on the counter unprotected.

It’s one area at a time, learning the quirks and idiosyncrasies of my new digs. It’s like Kitte said, “If you do it, you know it’s clean.”

Anyone have any thoughts on cleaning grout? I’d love to hear your take on how you make sure your grout stays clean and free of ‘funk’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bramasole West

After almost five years and an abundance of obstacles later, I am finally in my own place again.

I’m grateful and thrilled to have four walls that allow me to fully decompress and recharge. Looking around, I believe this place has the potential to become a very special space.

To give you a proper visualization/idea of this new place, if you have seen Under The Tuscan Sun, it is pretty much how Katherine describes Bramasole at the beginning of the film: “Run down, but redeemable.”

The previous tenants of this condo were, (how does one put this gently?) maliciously careless with almost every square inch of the property. They and their canine companion left behind massive holes in the drywall (sheetrock to you Southern people out there), destroyed carpet, demolished baseboards, broken plumbing, undusted doorframes, beneath the fridge yuck, enough mildew, mold, discolored grout and Drano damaged sink (among other issues) to make Happy Quinn on Scorpion go “Not good.”

Because of time constraints and other issues, I had to move in before the completion of all the repairs which means that, yep, you guessed it, it hasn’t seen the final deep clean you would expect to be done before moving in to a new rental; leaving me with moldy toilet tanks, splatter painted toilet bowls and all kinds of fun smells to tackle on my own until the repairs are completed.

Welcome to Bramasole West. Like it’s namesake in Italy, it just needs some tender, loving care.

But tender, loving care was the very last thing I thought of when I walked in to see the unscrubbed tub, the dirty grout and so forth after an exhausting day of moving. At that point, I sat down on the newly-laid wood floors and cried. Then, before I became completely hysterical, I promptly got a hotel room for the night.

Laying in bed at 2am trying desperately to calm my 20-on-a-10-scale triggered PTSD, I remembered what Frances said about Bramasole upon moving in:

Buyer’s remorse is a very common affliction among new homeowners. Just because you have an acid stomach and a sudden urge to weep, that doesn’t mean you’ve made a mistake.

Everybody knows old houses have their quirks. Especially 300-year-old houses.

I have inherited 10,000 empty wine bottles, one grape, every issue of “La Nazione” printed in 1958, and assorted previous “tenants.”

The trick to overcoming buyer’s remorse is to have a plan.

Pick one room and make it yours.

Go slowly through the house.

Be polite,
introduce yourself,
so it can introduce itself to you.

So, here we go. Bramasole West, meet everyone. Everyone meet Bramasole West. I am hoping after the final repairs are done, a cleaning service will come in to attempt the undertaking of cleaning up what is left of what the previous tenants left behind. If not, it’s going to be me and enough cleaning supplies to choke a metaphorical horse, going room by room, introducing myself, so it can introduce itself to me.

I am open to advice (that’s what the comments section is for) and donations so I can hire the proper people and/or buy the mountain of cleaning supplies required before I can even THINK of bringing in my sister in to start the interior design. (If Nan saw the condition of this place right now, she’d have a coronary! So, I am waiting to bring her in AFTER the repairs are finished and it’s been properly cleaned and disinfected.)

This is definitely a case of “Restoration BEFORE Decoration” because the very first time I went to the bathroom, the toilet overflowed as a “welcome home gift,” leaving me scrambling, trying to prevent water from seeping into the cracks above the tile and into the walls. Well, at least I don’t have an owl in the house or have to witness a washing machine being electrocuted by a storm.

With the right attitude, it’s doable. It’s a great cautionary tale of how NOT to treat a rental. Most of all, I am going to treat it as what it is: an obstacle to overcome. And when I leave, I hope this place is infinitely more beautiful than how I found it. That’s what having a restorative strength is all about.

And just in case you feel like donating to this daunting project, here ya go: 

If you want to send a mop or a bucket or grout cleaner, let me know in the comments so I can tell you where to send it!

For song of the day, from the Under The Tuscan Sun  soundtrack, here’s “Buyer’s Remorse.”

 

 

The Death of a Make-Up Bag

A couple of weeks ago, I was in my bathroom in the midst of my morning ablutions when I looked down and noticed my make-up bag.  Now, my make-up bag is similar to any other woman’s make-up bag…it’s filled with lotion, concealer, foundation, powder, eye shadow, blusher, brushes of all shapes and sizes and of course a few liner pencils, a sharpener and what my face is most famous for: my cake of black eyeliner with which I create my signature cat-eye look (that has kept people from asking my age and swearing I’m in my 30’s). But as I looked at that old bag, I realized that it had become time for a new one.

As with anything we carry, eventually our baggage is going to begin to show signs of wear, and my make-up bag was no exception. Years of unintentionally spilled loose powder had colored its once-white interior in a flesh colored hue, eye shadow brushes in-between cleanings had added highlight and shadow on top of the powder stains. While the exterior of the silver Clinique bag showed little signs of wear, the inside had (to say the least) taken quite a beating.  It survived the end of my marriage, my college education, a new relationship, then the death of that relationship, several moves and countless trips to the therapist for after-session touch-ups. There are few places I have been that my old make-up bag hasn’t tagged along for the ride.  And all the while, its exterior never showed signs of wear while the inside most certainly did. It got washed, dried, cleaned out and cleaned up so many times, but alas, some stains just wouldn’t come out.

After years of service, that old bag had finally given out. The silver vinyl exterior finally began to crumble, separate from the fabric and tear apart. The insides were stained and to the point of being unsalvageable. And there I stood, looking at it, denying that it was time for it to be replaced. “Oh, it’ll last one more week.” “Next paycheck, I’ve got to go to the mall for new blusher, so I’ll grab one then,” then “Crap, can’t afford the new blusher, it’ll wait until next paycheck,” and the excuses just kept coming until finally a business trip forced me into the obvious…my old bag wasn’t going to be able to make the trip. While it had held more girly crap than I can ever imagine during its lifetime, that old bag looked at me as if to say, “Sorry boss, I’m afraid this is the end of the line,” as a huge patch of silver vinyl cracked, tore away and drooped sadly off the side.

It was then that something occurred to me, kind of like a lightning bolt out of the blue. I looked at myself in the mirror and said,

“I’ve got to learn how to keep dying.”

Now, before you flip out, the phrase “I’ve got to learn how to keep dying” is a metaphor for the fact that we have to let old parts of ourselves die to embrace the new parts of ourselves.

Maybe Finding Joe can phrase it better:

And there I was in the mirror reminding myself to learn how to keep dying.

I was out of excuses to keep such a stranglehold on the past I have survived.

I realized that, in a way, that torn up old make-up bag was a metaphor for myself, trying desperately to carry things I shouldn’t be carrying; battered, tattered and doing its level best to put up a good front to hide the inside which had seen too many traumas, too many mistakes and too many hurtful things that had caked themselves to my insides, covering it all until none of its original surface was recognizable, even to myself.

So, like Campbell says, we have to learn how to keep dying in order to keep evolving. No death, no life. That metaphorical death, of letting old things go, is just one more way to be reborn, to evolve and to change.

It’s like Doc Cat said to me so many times,

“Change isn’t only possible, it’s probable.”

It was only after I had reminded myself to “die” and let go, did I reach under the sink and bring out a new Clinique make-up bag that had been a gift-with-purchase I had been saving as a replacement after buying new face soap and lotion a few months previous. With a bright orange zipper and cheerful pink and yellow flowers, there was a “changing of the guard” so to speak, heralded by the migration of my MAC compact, brushes, liners, blusher tin and the remainder of the contents of the old bag, into the new one. But what made it more poignant was that as I was going through, I made a conscious decision to let go of even more, ridding myself of a few items that should have taken a hike a while ago, like the emergency Cover Girl concealer I was carrying for those times the circles under my eyes were so black I looked like Jenny in Forrest Gump right before she stepped onto the railing of the balcony but thought twice about jumping.

After I finished the transfer, I looked at the torn up, empty bag, I said, “Thank you for everything you’ve carried for me,” and placed it into my bathroom trash can to go out the next trash day. I then picked up my new make-up bag, placed it on my bathroom shelf, smiled at my reflection, turned out the lights and headed to the kitchen for breakfast.

Like the song by REM goes, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” Yeah, that happens after you end the world as you know it –  to move on to a new one that you create for yourself.

Rabbit Nike’s

Photo credit: Fresh to death. Khovd Museum

Photo credit: Fresh to death. Khovd Museum.

Last week there was an article in the news on a 1,500-year-old mummy in what looks like a pair of Adidas running shoes. If you didn’t get to see it, the above photo are what those ‘supposed Adidas’ look like.

When I saw the article, it made me think about my first semester at UNLV. My marriage had just gone belly up and I was trying to readjust to a life on my own. I found myself in Doc T’s Composition II (Argumentative Essay) class, a 37-year-old surrounded by students young enough to be my children. After writing almost every day to chronicle my experiences, I suddenly found myself knee-deep in schoolwork. I had completely slacked off on writing in my blog as I was researching and preparing to fight the battle of creationism versus evolution for my final 10-page paper that I would eventually title “Centerfield.” While I was procrastinating on getting my writing done, I came in here to unwind and air out a few wild theories that I couldn’t really put in an academic paper. The result? A pair of “Rabbit Nikes.” 

As I re-read the post, I laughed out loud a few times. Man, the things I come up with. 

Enjoy.


I like to think of evolution in terms of a pair of “Rabbit Nikes.”  So let’s use our imaginations and think about a caveman for a second, and here’s a visual to help out…

Wait, on second thought, let’s not…because all of the pictures I found on cavemen or Neanderthals…well, the pictures all have everyone’s “whatevers” hanging out and, no, I’m just not gonna go there.  No pictures of some caveman’s willow on my blog!

But that does illustrate my point quite the bit…let’s imagine our very nude caveman walking along.  He steps down and gets a sharp rock in the sole of his foot.  Now in today’s society, we’re liable to hop up and down like a jackrabbit hollering about the pain, but to Mr. Caveman…well, that’s normal.  Sighing at the fact that he’s taken one more sharp rock in the foot, he reaches down and pulls the rock from his foot and keeps going, accepting that it’s always going to be like that. He doesn’t even consider another option.

Now, let’s switch to a different caveman, same situation. He’s walking along, minding his own business when he gets a sharp rock in the bottom of his foot, but this time instead of sighing about it, removing the rock and going about his business, he figures he’s about had enough of his only means of transportation constantly being hurt by things on the ground that he inadvertently steps on (or in).  Just then, a rabbit quickly scampers by. He sees the rabbit…he’s hungry, so he figures, “Hey!  Food!”  (I’ll leave out the quip that the rabbit was probably the first rendition of “Fast Food”…go ahead and groan, it’s ok.) He chases down the rabbit, kills it, skins it and has a really good lunch…BUT then he looks at the leftovers…bones, fur (if he’s not eaten them in the process)…all sorts of stuff…so, he looks at the cut in his foot, looks at the fur, feels how soft it is and figures out that “Hey, that fur could be protecting my foot!”   So he takes the skin, wraps it around his foot, uses the remaining bones to fasten the fur together so it’ll stay on his foot, then gets up and walks on, not worrying about rocks on the ground anymore…our friend the caveman invents the first “shoe” of sorts, a “Rabbit Nike.”

Now, let’s put the shoeless caveman next to the guy with the Rabbit Nike’s on. Is the caveman with the “Rabbit Nike’s” going to be able to go a further distance when he walks?  Odds are he will.  Odds are that he’s got better survival skills than our caveman who just pulled the rock out of his foot and moved on.

Think about it. You’re a caveman. If you hurt your feet, how are you supposed to hunt and gather when you can’t walk?  Now I’ll concede that the caveman foot of prehistoric times probably had the sole of a Doc Marten because their bare feet were their only mode of transportation; the skin of the foot was probably extremely calloused and made to survive a sharp rock or two.  But now we’ve got this guy with the Rabbit Nike’s on…he invented something that he probably put on his girl, then on his children.  What happens to the feet of that family?  Odds are they got softer, because there was not a lot of damage being done to them; the damage being absorbed by the fur and skins that encased their feet.  They got to walk farther in inclement weather, (snow, ice) and generally survived a lot better.  That is a great case of evolution.  The next generations of the family of the Rabbit Nike inventor unwittingly had caused a change in their feet, with less damage being done to the foot and fur-lined insulation cutting down on illness, that means they could hunt and gather more and enjoy a better quality of life, thus leading to the dominance of the Rabbit Nike-wearing caveman.  That singular innovation passes down through the generations, changing the foot over millennia to what we see today when we look down at our feet to get out of bed, all because some caveman was sick and tired of getting a sharp rock in the sole of his foot and was smart enough to use the remains of his lunch to protect them.

Now while I’m using a male pronoun for the caveman, it could have easily been a cavewoman who invented the shoe. Actually, I’ve got odds that a woman invented the shoe because, I mean, come on, girls and shoes? Yeah…that whole thing had to start somewhere.

This, of course, is followed by the evolution of the first shoe salesman:

”You like fur?  You like no rock or thorn in foot?  You like to run fast to catch mammoth for big meal or run away faster when big cat tries to eat you?  Shoe made from rabbit.  Rabbit fast.  You be faster wearing Rabbit Nike.”

Evolution, isn’t it grand?

I’m sorry, I had to do it, it was too funny to pass up.

The Politics of Hummingbirds

So, as I mentioned on Facebook this morning…

This morning welcomed me with something that I have never seen before: Two hummingbirds fighting to the death.

If you remember the description way back in the day of my daily routine, you know that it consists of waking up, taking my thyroid medication and perusing the news of the day. Hey, it’s an ingrained habit from my days at school. Ever since my Global Media class, every day is the same: get up, take my pill, read the news (in that exact order).

This morning, I had walked out onto the back porch with coffee in hand to take in the cool morning breeze along with the morning’s headlines.  I took a sip of coffee, put my cup down, tapped the AP icon on my phone and began scanning headlines. After seeing what the AP had to offer, I swiped my screen to an app called “Flipboard” to find an article on CNN.com about the takeaways from the latest town hall in Wisconsin.

Mid-way through reading about the latest disgraceful antics of childish, bickering politicians, I started hearing this odd cacophony. The sound was distinctly hummingbird, distinctly agitated, but more to the point, it was TWO distinct voices.

I began scanning the trees and plants around the back yard, looking for the source of the sound. To my astonishment, appearing to bounce off the ground, the mason wall and the large shrub next to it, were two male Anna’s Hummingbirds locked in mortal combat, plumage flaring bright red and green on both.

Have you ever seen hummingbirds fight? They’re just NOT nice! No Marquis of Queensbury rules; not an ounce of quarter given. I watched in disbelief as their tiny talons were locked together, the larger of the two males deliberately picking up and slamming his opponent into the rocks on the ground. Lest I remind you, these little guys weigh less than an OUNCE and there the larger one was, repeatedly slamming his opponent to the ground.

My eyes got big as pie plates when I figured out what was going on, aghast at the pure carnage I was witnessing. Whereas most folks these days would immediately whip out their phone to capture it all on video, the thought never even entered my mind. I immediately sprang from my seat, running toward the two aviary combatants yelling, “Oh hell no, not on my watch! You two, break it up!” As I ran toward them, the battle went airborne, the smaller of the two struggling to get away from the onslaught the larger one was unleashing upon him. Just as fast as I spotted it and tried to break up the fight, the two were gone, almost leaving vapor trails from the speed at which they left.

Now what most people don’t know is that hummingbirds are extremely territorial and, to put it plainly, they are not even remotely nice. They are a small package of dynamite just waiting to explode on an unsuspecting foe. Put another way, I think of hummingbirds like a little dog with big dog attitude. It’s like little Zoe (a Fox/Jack Russell Terrier mix) deciding that she’s the same size as her Giant Doberman brother Reese. You and I know that she’s a small dog, but if you ask her, that little dog will just let you have it as if to say, “I’m a big dog. No really, I’m HUGE! And you will obey me because I am The Zoe.”

Jeweled plumage aside, male hummingbirds are really something when hummingbird feeders are placed for them to drink at. Currently, we have three feeders set up in the back yard and they are the site of constant aerial acrobatics of males showing dominance. As to the cast of characters, we have one big hummingbird called “Tweedy” that is the reigning patriarch of the hummingbird clan that lives in the neighborhood; “Arc”, the smaller male (who has an injured wing which, at rest, looks like an arc) and a smattering of indistinguishable smaller females who come to drink quite often.

Arc has been a constant resident of the feeders since he was a baby. Last year, Tweedy would stomach Arc and the females coming to feed, allowing them to take a drink and then chase them off as if to say, “MY FEEDER! Not yours. You’ve had your drink, now move along.” This morning, the fight was ON between Tweedy and Arc because you can tell that Tweedy’s just not into having Arc around anymore. What am I saying? Tweedy hates everyone. They’re his feeders and he’s not sharing.

After breaking up the fight between Tweedy and Arc, I went back to my news, back to the dismal bullyfest of incessant bickering, name calling, manhood-defending, hand-size-judging, wife-insulting, girl-hitting, pile of manure that has become the Republican side of the 2016 election cycle. Upon finishing the articles, I looked up to see Tweedy back on one of the feeders, the proud and apparent victor of the titanic clash.

Here’s where it gets funny.

After watching the hummingbirds battle it out, combined with reading the political headlines of the day, my brain put the two disparate concepts together. Suddenly, I realized that the White House has become one big proverbial hummingbird feeder. Tweedy and Arc? Well, they fit nicely as Drumpf and Cruz treating each other (and the rest of us) like it’s THEIR FEEDER and they’re not sharing! They’ll keep chasing each other off and pecking at each other until the other gives up or dies, because they are the one who wants the sole ability to “wet their beak” in the nectar of power, completely forgetting that it’s the average person (just like you and me) who makes the sucrose suspension and keeps filling the feeder.

Watching Tweedy slam Arc into the ground repeatedly is just another way that Mother Nature shows us the nature of politics. All I see is two little birds squabbling over something that we take down, wash and refill over and over again for a far longer period than the lifespan (or shelf-life) of those two very small, squabbling birds.

And while most people would simply whip out their cameras to take pictures of the carnage, I’m hopping out of my seat chasing them both off yelling, “OH HELL NO! Not on my watch! Break it up you two!”

Ah, the Politics of Hummingbirds.

But then again, that’s just me of course.

 

The Antidote to Numbness.

Today, let’s just say it out, I’ve been feeling awful. My session yesterday had me wake up this morning and feel like I had just taken a quadruple shot of novocaine straight to the chest. Numb. Absolutely wretched. Like some jackass came in and just sucked all the hope out of my body and left me for dead. But PTSD therapy is like that.  What did we say?

I adore my brain's personal trainer.

That said, in the overall, therapy has been going well. No, scratch that, it’s been going just freaking awesome. My therapist says that I’m one of the hardest working clients she has. I never miss an appointment, I’m never late for my appointments, I do my homework, I apply it to my life instantaneously and I refuse to stop, give in or give up until I’m healthy again.

I walk into her office and say, “THIS is what’s bothering me, and I don’t want it to bother me anymore” and we rip off the band-aid, pour alcohol directly into the wound, break out the wire brush and clean out all the crap that’s holding me back. You really don’t get how much I want to feel better. I have things to do, a world to conquer, and I will be damned if I let a set of triggers caused by a bunch of ignorant assholes to get in my way. I’m just done with allowing them, AND MYSELF, to be the biggest obstacles in my own path.

I’m aggressive with my treatment because I want to get better. I’ve squandered too many years on allowing myself to be treated badly and outright treating myself badly because I thought that I didn’t deserve love, that I didn’t deserve good things to happen to me, that I was a discard, that I wasn’t worth the skin that was holding my bones in place. I lived for over 40 years apologizing for breathing because I (wrongly) assumed that everything was my fault because I was so used to being the scapegoat and the target for maliciousness by people with some serious issues.

Well, guess what? That’s a bunch of bullshit. That’s someone else’s shoulder yoke and heavy buckets, their emotional baggage and THEIR issues that I was just oh so happy to run up, pick up and bolt it to my skeleton so I never dropped it. And then I proceeded to carry it. Like a moron, I carried it for YEARS!!! Baggage that wasn’t mine to carry…that didn’t even have anything to do with me, and there I was carrying it.

Ugh. *facepalm*

What a damn waste of time. That’s the thing about being an emotional baggage bellhop, the bags aren’t yours to carry and the tips suck. The person you’re carrying it for isn’t going to say thank you, and newsflash, they don’t even CARE if you’re carrying it! They don’t even KNOW! But there you are, dragging it along like some schmuck that doesn’t know any better! When the ton of bricks hit me that it didn’t matter if I was standing in the vicinity or not, people are going to say what they’re going to say, they’re going to do what they’re going to do, and it doesn’t make a flying fart in space of a difference who’s there, they are going to spew their bullshit anyway. This unique tidbit brought to you by the phrase “Don’t take it personally” because that’s the working definition. Hello. 43 years to learn what that phrase meant. *facepalm*

In college, Doc Cat clued me in that I was carrying stuff I didn’t need to carry. Remember how I struggled with that? Well, guess what, thanks to Ferris and my Aunt Lee, I got on the phone, found a therapist and promptly took KP’s advice and promptly went to work putting the serious hammer to nail to build my bridge to stomp on and get the fuck over it ALL. I got to the point where I said, “Enough already. If I’m supposedly SO brilliant, as smart and talented as everyone says I am, then you know what? I can take this on and win.”

So I got into the therapy room and I went to work. And I’ve working my ass off for two hours every Thursday for the last six months. And a lot of the time, yeah, it’s hard. Some days I get to slack off and laugh. But there have been a LOT of days where I cry inconsolably. But you know what? I’m committed to the process and that’s the WORK. You want easy? Screw you, get back in the corner and wallow in your self-pity. Settle for living with the pain. Be lazy and do NOTHING about it. You wanna feel better? Then DO THE WORK. Believe in something, the very best something that you would never in a million years believe could happen to you. See yourself the way you’ve always wanted to: strong, vibrant, desirable and most of all, loved. Loved for every quirk, idiosyncrasy, genius moment, goofy yet charming chortle and clumsy fall.

I knew walking in and committing to treatment that it was going to be hard, that change only happens when you want it so badly that you can taste it in every breath, that you don’t want the constant anxiety anymore, that you’re tired of getting triggered by some jackass not worthy of your time, much less for you to waste more time dwelling on said jackass.

I didn’t go into the therapy room to start this journey thinking it was going to be easy all the time. Had I assumed it was going to be easy, I’d still be some strung-out doodah letting some guy treat me like dirt. Or allow some jealous herd of cows to pass judgement on me because I just happen to be extremely smart and pretty to boot. By the way ladies, it’s not a crime if boys like me. I’m actually pretty fucking special, so I’m sorry if you have a problem with that, but that’s YOUR problem, not mine. Carry your own fucking luggage for a change because it’s not my fault you have self-esteem issues because boys don’t look at you the way they look at me.

No, that’s not who I am anymore, thank you very much, and I’ll be damned if I ever let anyone make me feel like I’m not worthy of being loved, adored and goddamned *worshipped* for the really awesome person I am ever again. Hey, like my therapist says, “You have to love yourself first and best, only then can someone love you the way you want to be loved.”

So, as I was sitting here at my desk, feeling awful and numb and just wretched, I was listening to the Under the Tuscan Sun Soundtrack and I remembered what Diane Lane’s character said in the middle of the renovations to her villa in Tuscany. There is only so much work you can do on your house, your soul and your PTSD before you just have to GET OUT.

I happen to live in one of the most exciting cities on the planet. It’s Vegas for fuck’s sake! So you know what I’m going to do tonight? I’m going to finish working, I’m going to go to the gym, then I’m going to go home, get ready, and then I’m just going to get out and see the city. Take a walk, go visit the conservatory at the Bellagio, I DON’T GIVE A SHIT where I end up going! I’m going out!

Thank you Christophe Beck! Without hearing “Roma” go off in my headset, I’d still be sitting here feeling horrible.

Now, I have a plan. Thank. The. Maker.

And if a hot guy asks me out, I’m saying YES.

Here, be inspired.

Guardian Down.

A lot of you know why I write with such passion about PTSD: I don’t ever want anyone to go through what I did. It’s the reason I refused to have children. I couldn’t justify exposing a perfectly innocent child to the cruelties of the world.

I will fight against child abuse, neglect and bullying until the last breath goes out of my body. No one should have to live with what I do: nightmares of cruel children doing their best to drive me to suicide.

I rarely write about my childhood in a positive light because, to be honest, there wasn’t much light to be found. Even though I would search high and low for a moment of respite, it didn’t happen often. I got maybe about three hours a day where I wasn’t getting knocked into the dirt and expected to get back up and wear a smile to hide the agonizing pain I was constantly in.

That’s what always amazes me. People come to me now and say, “I remember your beautiful smile.” As the great Robin Williams once said, “The brightest smiles hide the worst pain.”

By the time I hit high school, I was lucky enough to garner the assistance of who I now call “My guardians.” Rebel elements themselves that didn’t fit into the status quo, but found solace in each other enough to garner the safety in numbers needed to ensure survival in that kind of hostile environment. I don’t kid when I say I grew up with some pretty treacherous animals while carefully traversing poison-filled school hallways. Like one of my friends recently put it, “I remember this incredibly sweet girl that never seemed to get a fair shake.” During that time, I was forced to accept that “a fair shake” was just something that I was never going to find in life, so I did my best to keep my head down, endure the daily mental beatings and spiritual eviscerations, always hoping one day that life would get better.

What I didn’t expect is that this band of brothers would come to my aid, protecting me when they could, and for a brief, sweet year, they treated me with respect and gave me my very first taste of acceptance. It was heavenly and for that brief time, I felt better. That is until they graduated and left me alone once again to fend for myself against individuals I can only describe as putrid souls without a shred of decency or mercy.

One of my guardians, the strongest of all of them, stuck around and still watched over me and became a powerful influence on my life from that time on. Because everyone gets a pseudonym here, I am going to bestow onto him the highest honor I can, and that’s to name him after my favorite book character EVER. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s biggest badass in her Dark Hunter series: Acheron, or “Ash” for short, after the river of woe that runs through Hades.

Now for those of you who read Sherrilyn Kenyon, you know that Ash is just all that and a plate of cookies. Dark hair, swirling silver eyes and “a predator’s lope” that (thanks to his Aunt Epithymia) made everyone who came near him want to touch him. Okay, he melts underwear at 30 paces but gives off such a dangerous vibe that you know not to mess with him. But if you know the character, you know he’s Mr. Severe PTSD because of a lifetime of atrocities that make him unable to even get remotely close to anyone. That’s why I adore the character so much, because I fully understand what years of unending cruelty will do to the soul.

My real-life version of Ash is right on par with the book description. Okay, let’s break it down: his IQ is 30 points higher than mine. That fact alone should tell you to just bow down because a 169 is something you must bow down to. To me, that’s a godlike intellect that I respect without hesitation. I live in 30 point envy because holy gods, he is just off-the-charts brilliant. As we know, the one thing I prize over all else is intellect, and Ash has got it for miles. Talking to him is like paradise on Earth because we move from topic to topic flawlessly, fluidly, and I am able to sample the sweetness of an equal, kindred intellect like sweet wine flowing across my tongue. His presence is so entirely heady that it steals my breath. It always has.

I remember watching him walk into a room when we were kids and feeling my knees absolutely buckle under me because to me he was (and still is) THE most gorgeous man I have ever seen, and trust me, I’ve dated my share of hotties in my day. Ash puts them all to shame without even an effort. As a kid, I remember turning around to see his topaz eyes staring into mine and me instantly melting because, just, just, just WOW. His essence, mind, body and soul, was just overwhelming. 25 years later? Still, just one look and I go from jaw-gape to MELT. “Aunt Epithymia” did her job, that’s all I can say. His unparalleled beauty aside, I remember that he and I would play word association games to challenge each other’s vocabulary: a war of bigger and bigger words would go flying back and forth until I would finally give up because he never failed to beat me every time, but we would always walk away laughing. He NEVER once made me feel dumb or inadequate or anything else except special. If there was a singular moment of joy from my childhood, Ash was it. And we never went on a single date. Ever. But at least I can admit now that from the very first moment I saw him while walking across an asphalt practice field, it was love at first sight, and it would endure, unspoken and unrequited, for decades.

Now, I know you’re going to ask why I’m suddenly going on a dote-fest and out of nowhere telling you about Ash:

Last weekend, I got a text from Ash wishing me happy birthday. It was the first time I had spoken to him in over a year. So, what do you think I did? Like a jerk, I started yelling at him with “Where the hell have you been?” “What the hell is going on?” “You jerk!” “I’ve been worried sick!” Oh, I just absolutely went green rage monster on him, that was until he knocked me over with a ton of bricks. Upon the screen of my phone popped a picture of a wrist with a bright pink scar across it. One look and I knew: Ash has my illness. If that’s not enough to knock the wind out of you, I don’t know what will. The guy who watched over me, protected me, loved me from afar, who always adored me no matter what anyone said or did, has PTSD.

My therapist has been challenging me for weeks to find some way for me to look at myself through the eyes of others so I can understand my importance as a person. But there’s a bigger reason I’m writing about this now. While I now understand what my therapist wanted me to see, this is my way of doing the same for Ash. He needs to see how I see him and how much I believe that he is worthy of being loved. Technically, it is called the inability to receive love and it’s just part and parcel of the illness, borne of inadequate nurturing during development. I have it too. It sucks. Basically you have to learn to raise yourself because some people aren’t equipped with nurturing skills. Oddly enough, when Ash and I interact with the rest of the world? We trust no one. But when we sit down together and talk, all of our trust and intimacy issues vanish and it becomes the most naturally honest and open communication I have ever known. I think that says something pretty friggin’ huge because we light each other up like fireworks and we make each other feel so much better, which is extremely healing and good for our therapy process.

But when that picture flashed onto the screen of my phone and I found out about his illness, my heart shattered into a thousand little bitty pieces. I sat down and began to cry uncontrollably. Of all the people in the universe, why God why would you do that to someone so perfect? I mean when he smiles, he shines like the sun! When he speaks, brilliance flows from him like water! His heart is golden, his soul more precious than anything I could ever describe, and he’s in pain all the time like I am. Why? Damn it, I can understand how and why it happened to me, I get it, I accept it, I’m fine with it, I go into the therapy room and deal with it. But why him? WHY???????? I would endure what I went through a million times over again to save him from this, but here we are and I can’t help but want throats for what was done to him. Damn it! Bring it here! Beat on me! I can take it! But you leave Ash alone!!!!

Come to find out, the pathology of our illness is IDENTICAL. We both suffer from severe childhood onset PTSD. In the 25 years we have been apart, our collective suicide attempts total 13. Four for him, nine for me. Remember, PTSD affects 5.3 million Americans a year and I am convinced that the damage done to Gen X by our selfish, abusive, twisted, absentee Baby Boomer parents is going to reach epidemic proportions by the end of the decade because PTSD and suicide are inextricably linked. Trust me, this much non-stop pain will drive you to some severe lengths to make it stop. It starts at addiction and usually ends up in suicide. The only thing you can really do is get a really good therapist, grab your bootstraps and get into the ring to re-fight all of your battles that gave you the illness in the first place in order to FINALLY learn the proper coping skills you should have in childhood. Only then are we able to finally put the trauma to bed.

In most cases for Gen X’ers with childhood onset PTSD, we were forced to learn to raise ourselves because our parents just didn’t exist. Can’t blame them, it was the 80’s, it was a big party. Millions of parents across the U.S. said, “Screw the kids, they can take care of themselves.”  Well played Boomers, thanks for defining “cruel”, “selfish” and “negligent” for us.

I go into the therapy room this afternoon knowing that one of my beloved guardians is down and I am powerless to help him except to encourage him and support him while he fights for his life. I can’t transfuse the hope that resides in my veins into his, the illness doesn’t work that way. But at least he’s in treatment. While I’m just a machine in the therapy room mercilessly crushing my traumas and progressing by leaps and bounds, he’s just begun. But I will be damned if he does this alone.

Today’s song of the day is from the guys who gave us the Eternal Sophomore theme song, “Marching On”… Just for you Ash, OneRepublic’s “Feel Again.”

 

The Importance of Excellent Spelling Skills

The Eternal Sophomore Tackles Spelling
SHCOOL is painted along the newly paved road leading to Southern Guilford High School on Drake Road Monday, August 9, 2010, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/News & Record, Joseph Rodriguez)

Oscar Wilde in the 1895 play “The Importance of Being Earnest” once said, “To lose one parent, […] may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both seems like carelessness.”

While Wilde uses that quote to illustrate the sometimes ludicrous nature of “high” society, it has a more powerful message when you look at it through the eyes of a writer.

In today’s instant gratification, instant information culture, the amount of time we have to create copy/content has become extremely limited. Writing on deadline is not only a journalistic ideal, but a mandatory part of SEO writing as well. The unrelenting demand for content has come with a terrible side effect, the loss of accurate spelling, punctuation and sentence structure.

Every morning I start my day with a look through multiple digital media outlets. I start with The Wall Street Journal and New York Times; make my way down the coast to Atlanta and CNN; then to the West for The LA Times; across the pond to BBC News from London; then round out my digital globetrotting with the Associated Press and Reuters’ websites to read the breaking news. After that, it’s checking my local news on all three broadcast networks and finally sitting down with a print copy of the local newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal or “RJ.” Yeah, I consume a lot of news before I have finished breakfast.

The one thing that I have repeatedly noticed? Typos everywhere.

In our mad rush to sate audiences with fresh content, we’ve either forgotten to proofread or we have become far too reliant on spell-check. I catch typos with frightening regularity in large publications like The New York Times and USA Today. Every time I spot a typo or a fumbled sentence, I sit back and ask two questions:

Doesn’t the writer realize that typos damage the credibility of their story? Don’t they realize that they are damaging the reputation of their publication each time they don’t thoroughly check their work?

I’d hate to think that most news stories are entered through a smartphone, but odds are that’s closer to the truth than I even realize – because I have caught some errors that could only be attributed to auto-correct.

The argument can be made by those who think the typo is “okay” that people are lazy and don’t read past the headline. To that I ask, what about those who do read past the headline? Should the people actually reading the entire article be forced to put up with atrocious spelling and expect their work to be called “credible”?

My answer? Each time I see a typo, I can’t help but think that writers are dropping the ball and not doing their jobs right.

One of my favorite sayings is:

“Spell well, write well, communicate unforgettably.”

It’s pretty simple, right? It just says that when you spell well, your writing has a fighting chance to reach and impact an audience. But then again, I may be asking too much. After all, as a wise friend of mine once said, “Not everyone speaks Sheri,” meaning that I communicate differently than most everyone else.

I wrote script and cursive and read aloud from National Geographic by the time I was four and then wrote my first lines of computer code by the time I was eight. But it all boiled down to one thing, I have always known the importance of spelling. The reason that I began reading so early is because I was taught to sound out my words, using phonics to make sure I was pronouncing words correctly. When it came time to write, I used the inverse, sounding out the words to ensure their proper spelling on the page. Over my lifetime spelling has become my stock in trade, so when I see a typo or witness the desecration of the English language on social media, I cringe. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we all be cringing when we see a typo? I would think so, but maybe that’s just me.

When you write, you have to make sure that your word usage and spelling are accurate. I’m often told that I own “The Vocabulary of Awesome” because I use words that other people usually don’t. The truth is that really I don’t own “The Vocabulary of Awesome,” I just make sure that when I write that I use the perfect words to convey my thoughts or emotions. I have no fear of saying “I don’t know”, so going to a dictionary to look up a word’s proper spelling or definition doesn’t bother me one bit. At least I know that when I write, I can at least reach the bar of good spelling skills, which in the end, gives me outstanding credibility. (It makes me fun to read, too.)

Right now, in schools all over the world, they are taking handwriting out of the curriculum. To me, that is tantamount carelessly wiping an endangered species off the map. When we take handwriting away, we take away a sensory mechanism for teaching proper spelling. Besides, in our instant information/instant gratification culture, a handwritten letter sent by snail mail has become a treasured artifact.

So, for me, the next time you go on social media, write an article or attempt to communicate with the world, make sure what you write is spelled properly. It will do your credibility a world of good. Think of it this way, when you spell well, people take you seriously and your “street cred” (“cred” being short for the word “CREDIBILITY”) will skyrocket. If that fails to convince you, think of Oscar Wilde:

“One typo may be regarded as a misfortune. Two or more seems like carelessness.”

The Starbucks Fail

We have a new tradition at work: One hour every day spent writing. Some of it will go on the company site, some of it will be kept on side, but regardless, it’s going to be posted here so that my blog at LEAST gets a minor shot in the arm every day.

It’s only Tuesday and it’s already been a bad week. Yesterday began with $500 in car repairs, followed by one of the members of my far-reaching virtual family dying of complications due to breast cancer. I go into work the following day and, as is quickly becoming the norm, my office Internet goes out. It’s then that one of my office cohorts decides that it would be a grand idea to go to the local Starbucks to use the Internet and get some work done.

When we reconvened at the nearby Starbucks, I was already shaken, an emotional mess from the day previous, so I went outside to collect myself, carrying my full Venti Mocha Frappucino and hoping in vain that I could collect myself enough to get some work done. After a few minutes, finally in a mindset to get to work, I walk back in the door of the Starbucks and promptly get stuck, dropping the huge cup of chilled chocolate goodness I was carrying onto the floor. Upon impact, the contents of the cup splatters onto the floor and all over the handsome new graphic artist that just started work with us, promptly making a mess unlike the gods have ever seen.

I sigh heavily as I look down at the mess, realizing that it’s already not been an overwhelmingly great week, and come to find out, it’s only Tuesday.

The fellow writer from my office springs from his seat, the gentle giant of a man quickly cleaning up the sticky mess that is decorating the floor, my shoes and the hem of my comfy jeans. The remnants of my expensive coffee drink quickly become a huge chocolate smear on the floor, getting larger with every napkin taken from the dispenser to clean it up. He sends mischievous quips my way as I am covered in chocolate and embarrassment, trying desperately to hold up the back of my pants and some semblance of my dignity as I bend down to clean up the mess I have clumsily made.

And yeah, it’s only Tuesday.

I sit down and begin to write, looking at the door which caused the mess and now covered in coffee streaks, thinking to myself, “Please God, don’t let anyone slip on that…” Someone slipping on it would have only made my day that much more unbearable to take, knowing that not only is my car on the fritz, my friend is dead and my world seems to be falling apart, it would only make sense that my internal tragedy turns itself into someone else’s injury. After writing about slips, trips and falls for work, it only seems fitting that I would eventually take someone out.

Like I always accurately say about myself, “If I could step in it, trip over it, bump into it or burn myself with it, I usually do.” God gave me a double helping of brains and skipped grace altogether. Over the past 43 years, I have come to learn that having a high IQ does not necessarily translate into physical grace; instead, my intellect manifests itself in a series of awkward, often embarrassing, side-splitting comedic trips, stumbles and inevitable wipeouts. Never in my life have I seen someone clumsier than myself, and that’s saying something. If there is a curb, I can fall off of it and land flat on my face in under two seconds. Trust me, I’ve done it and have witnesses that will say, “Yep, she’s THAT clumsy.”

And yeah, it’s only Tuesday which means that I’ve still got three days left this week to maybe break my neck and write 10 more articles on slips, trips and falls as atonement for hosing the new guy down with a dropped Mocha Frappucino.

I guess that’s why I became a writer. It’s safe. After all, you can’t spill a cup of words onto people, that is, unless you are carrying a steaming hot cup of Alphabet Soup. Okay, bad example, but it’s safe to say that you’re immune from me spilling anything on you. Regardless, being a writer allows me to sit in one place, have liquids strategically placed so they don’t end up on my keyboard, computer screen, (or my office cohorts) and be able to tell stories that are compelling, often funny, and most of all, informative.

Outside of keeping the world-at-large safe from my clumsiness, I became a writer through a very organic process. I grew up surrounded by the oral tradition via the family stories told around my grandmother’s bedside in East Texas where she battled painful rheumatoid arthritis. Even though she was in pain, she always found a way to laugh and the laughter that came out of that room was unforgettable to me. It illustrated to the 4-year-old me that stories could help bridge gaps, they could raise spirits and that they could be used to teach. Even today, I help keep the family stories alive by digitally chronicling them so that they may be passed down to future generations. From the stories of practical jokes being played in the Southern Baptist church they attended to the tales of the hijinks they played on each other in the family’s cotton fields that they worked from pre-dawn until dusk every day of the early 1900’s, it sometimes seems like the stories my family contains are endless. There are even tales of family members coping with having to sit on an inordinately large ice block, barely covered by the thin seats of an old model T to keep cool on the long, hot drive from El Paso to Bryan, Texas.

But, it was in that old, white house at the end of a long gravel road that I learned the value of storytelling. You see, it is through stories that we chronicle the evolution of the human condition: its joys, its sorrows, its triumphs and the lessons to be learned through failures. As a little girl sitting on my father’s lap inside that very humble, worn farmhouse is where I first heard the tales of the invention of the telephone, tragic tales and first-hand accounts of the Great Depression, stories of farming technologies long past and given the gift of an almost first-hand view of a bygone age that is now only the stuff of memory quickly being lost to history.

So, as a writer, I can really only tell you what my sensory experience and vast amounts of research tell me so that I can internalize it, rationalize it, and bring it in written form to you, who has stopped to watch me epically fail at a Starbucks, but spin the experience to show you how and why I chose to construct my world of words.

And it’s only Tuesday. Who knows what the rest of the week may bring?