Spile (a poem)

Spile (a poem)


Silence

your reward and punishment

for my kindness, for my love

Your silence

spreads, acid creeping through my veins

quells the muse

binds my tongue

turns my words to ash



Your spile dug deep into my wood

honeyed spirit drained in great golden drops

spilled to the cold ground

wasted

like the blood of a too-young soldier

branches pale, leeched of life

Silence

grows like vines

webbing around me, a metal tomb

and I trapped within

my love for you

the melody

that plays on and on

drowning out your

silence

Advertisements

Walmartians, Meet Targetians (aka: Subculture Expectations)

Marco!

*Tries again*

MARCO!

Now if my hunch is correct, every single one of you who grew up here in the United States just mentally responded to that call with one unified voice. POLO! The rest of you are scratching your heads, wondering why the heck we’re going on about an explorer.

Okay now, let’s play a game of hide-and-seek. Ready? One-two-three…

NOT IT!

Most of you fellow Americans, if I were to ask you to describe a 4th of July picnic, you’d probably spit back a list that included foods like watermelon, potato salad, barbecue chicken, and hot dogs. And a scoop or two of Aunt Millie’s homemade strawberry ice cream, for the hard core folk. We all know the words to the Happy Birthday Song. We know that we place a right hand over our hearts to salute the flag. And we know that if a group of 4ft. tall monsters knock on our door and say the magic words, “Trick or Treat!” We’d better drop a piece of candy in their bags. This is our shared culture.

Every nation has its own sets of standards and nuances shared by pretty much everyone else within that mainstream culture. They recite the lines and lyrics from their own pop media, observe holidays and traditions, and share group ideals and values that mark them as a people. In that way, we belong to our fellow citizens, streaks of gold running along the same vein.

But somewhere along the way, that straight track of homogeneity starts to branch off in multiple directions. These subculture tracks can be due to a lot of common factors — ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, region. In fact, just yesterday, I took a little day trip to the beach, which is what most Californians do when they want to get away, or relax, or think, or seek inspiration, or chase seagulls for a few hours. And afterwards, I ate the most Californian dinner possible — spicy fish tacos. With mangos. Not quite mainstream American culture, but as common here as opioid addiction is in the middle states. (Too much?)

Being immersed in a subculture that is not your own can be a very uncomfortable thing. You can be the most skilled classical ballet dancer in your studio. But when you venture into the world of hip hop dancers, your pointe shoes and pirouettes won’t help you to fit in.

The other day, I locked my comfort zone in the car and boldly entered a place that is like another planet to me. Walmart. Yes, the good-ol’ All-American retail store. I was in search of some inexpensive household items, and that is the store to save money on such things. However, it was with great trepidation that I wandered inside. Before you count me out as a middle-class snob, let me share a little history. Once, years ago, when I was minding my own business in a Walmart, I happened to catch a fellow shopper glaring at me. I mean, throwing sharp daggers with her eyes. I was taken aback. Clearly, I had committed some unknown faux-pas while strolling behind my shopping cart. I gave the woman an uncomfortable half-smile, then quickly got out of there.

Now, if that had been an isolated incident, I could have tolerated it just fine. A misinterpretation. Or maybe she was having a bad day. Who knows? But a few months later, the same thing occurred. A couple of women in a different Walmart gave me the stink eye. I was mystified. Was I pushing my cart too fast or slow? Had I inadvertently snagged the last box of Cheerios before they could get it? Were they somehow offended by my mom jeans and plain t-shirt? Clearly, there must be some rules or customs, some unspoken alien language shared among the Walmartian people which I don’t know. I felt like Elle Woods, dressed as a Playboy bunny at a conservative non-costume party. Or maybe it was the other way around.

So now, whenever I must mingle among the Walmartians, I am very, very careful. I make no eye contact. If an aisle is crowded, I go around the long way. I make my purchase quickly and get out of there. Now maybe that isn’t quite the right way to handle it. Maybe the best way to understand a subculture group is to spend some time among them. Study their ways. Learn their rules. Maybe I could learn the correct expression to wear on my face to ward off the stink-eye of the Walmartian women. Maybe I could invite a Walmartian into my Targetian world as a cultural exchange. We could browse the latest in home decor and kitchen accessories while sipping pumpkin spice chai lattes from the Target Starbucks.

Or maybe the answer doesn’t neccessarily lie in either immersing oneself in the subcultures of others, or by expecting others to adapt to our own. Maybe the thing that merges the tracks is to focus on our similarities. When we all show up at the same 4th of July picnic together, no one is thinking about whether you’re wearing Walmart jeans or a Target sundress. We just show up, and eat watermelon and ice cream. We come from different regions. We may have different accents, or different religious customs, or different cultural expectations for behavior. But if someone calls out, “MARCO!” We’re all going to answer back in the same voice.

POLO!

Moolah (aka: A Love Letter from your Lord and Master)

MONEY.

That got your attention, right?

After all, most people love money. Worship it. Are loyal slaves to the Almighty Dollar. You love it so much, you even give it cutesy nicknames. Cash. Bucks. Dough. Dead Presidents (Okay, that one’s not so cute). You are cr-razy about money! And why? Because you’ve got to have:

Big houses, fast cars

luxurious treasures

Jewelry and fame

and all of life’s pleasures

That about sums it up. You humans are like a bunch of Sims. As your material collections grow, your happiness points increase, too. At least, until you begin to crave even more. The problem is, wanting more stuff means you need more and more and more cash. So many people are willing to do just about anything for cash. Don’t believe me? Just look at what you’ve done for money.

Poured coffee, shoveled snow

Asked, “Do you want that order to go?”

Mopped floors, cleaned up waste

Chased the cheese in the same rat race

You certainly didn’t do those things for the fun of it. You did it to pay the rent. You did it to buy that 52-inch smart TV with a voice-activated remote control. You did it to pay off the credit cards you maxed out when you traveled to Ireland last year. You still do it. Every morning, you drag your carcass out of bed before the sun is even awake, gulp down some of that expensive dark roast coffee you’re addicted to, then head off to work in your cubicle jungles, your retail stores, your banks and and booths and stations. To make the world a better place? Nope. You do it because Little Ethan needs to play on the best competitive youth soccer team. Because Little Sarah needs that expensive algebra tutor. Because you simply must own a home on the expensive side of town, so that Little Jack and Little Ava can attend the best schools.

And why do you spend money on sports, and tutors, and outstanding schools for the kiddos? So they can get into the best, most expensive colleges, of course! And why do you want them to go to the best colleges? So they can get jobs one day, and make lots of — let’s say it unison — MONEY!!

*Rolling my eyes*

You think that it’s going to end. That one day, you’ll look around and be satisfied with everything you acquired. You’ll be King or Queen of your own small kingdom, famous in your own small circle for all you’ve accomplished. Success! Or is it?

Hahaha, no way. It never ends. Because a cushy retirement takes money. Spoiling your grandkids takes money. That trip to Fiji you’ve been dreaming about takes money. Money is your master, and you are a servant for life. Money has owned your soul since the day you met me at the crossroads and signed on the dotted line. Don’t remember? Well, money also has a way of making your memories a little hazy. Pretty effective strategy, right?

So, Servants, go out into the world. Make transactions, place your bets, purchase those lottery tickets. Every quarter you insert into the slot makes you weaker, and me more powerful. Serve me as I deserve to be served, with passion, with devotion, with desperation for more. What, me — the root of all evil? Think again, humans. It’s the lack of money that drives you to commit atrocious acts. So go ahead — earn some more. Amass your fortunes. Quell that endless hunger that burns inside of you. Keep running, little rats.

Cha-ching! (I love that sound)

Sincerely,

Lord Moolah

Wild and Precious…and Lukewarm (aka: Goal-Setting)

One Wild and Precious Life

For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the 5-yr. life plan I wrote several years ago. Because you know, sometimes it’s good to give your life a check-up, to see how you’re doing on achieving your goals, and to adjust them as needed. Three years into my (very sparse) plan, here’s what I’ve managed to accomplish:

Career: I graduated from college, adding two very useful Computer Information Science Degrees to my useless B.A. degree. Check! I obtained a great job doing something I actually love, which has a great salary and benefits. Check!

Future career goals: I just happen to be really good at my job, and continuing to climb the ladder is inevitable, as long as I keep learning, staying ahead of the curve, and adding value to the agency I work for. Within five years, I hope to still be doing what I love, but perhaps in the private sector, where I can make more money, travel for work, and work remotely. I’d also like to see at least one of my novels published.

Financial: I like to keep these goals private. But my plans are positive and practical.

Social: Still nada. With the exception of the wonderful man I dated just over a year ago, I have been without any friends for more than seven years.

Future social goals: I’ve given up on the idea of my anemic social life changing, and decided to just embrace the “only” life. It can be lonely, having no one to call and chat with, or invite out places, or share joys or sorrows. But this has been my life for so long now, that I figure I can survive it indefinitely. Once in a great while, I go out to a Meetup with groups of strangers, to chat in a restaurant or go for a hike, just to pretend like I have some sort of social life. Sometimes, this is even fun.

Family: Five years from now, I will officially be a single empty nester. One kid is already a young adult, with his own life. One is a high school senior, on her way to university next fall. And the youngest has begun high school. So I guess my goal is to just keep loving and supporting them until they’re on their way. After that — who knows?

Future family goals: Well, I guess five years from now, I will be my own family. I would like to have a dog, if my lifestyle allows for it then. I would also like to continue supporting my grown children from a distance, as they start their own independent lives. I can totally see myself living somewhere far away from here, too, since I will have nothing left to keep me here. Seattle, maybe? San Francisco? London? Maybe a new location every year, if my work enables that kind of mobility. But these are all desperate ideas, since I’m honestly clueless about how to plan my future family/self goals. I guess I don’t really know what I should want.

Heading somewhere maybe who knows?

Health: I’m still doing what I should. I exercise daily (running a lot, going to the gym, and occasional tennis Meetups). I eat a mostly plant-based flexitarian diet. My weight is still in the ideal range, and my clothes fit well. I sleep regularly, see the doc regularly, my iron levels are finally within normal range, so my hair is growing again. Yay! I focus on self-care. I don’t have any bad habits to break. I feel good, and content, and just happy enough, most of the time.

Future health goals: I guess I just want more of the same.

Relationship: Last year, I had a wonderful, fulfilling, far-too-short relationship with the man who was perfect for me in every possible way. I pictured a future with him. I pictured an amazing future with him.

Future relationship goals: There will never be anyone who can take his place. I have zero interest in even trying. I do not plan to ever be in any kind of romantic relationship or date anyone else ever again, so I can cross this one off for the rest of my life.

Travel: Luckily, my kids and I have been able to do a bit of fun traveling within our state within the past several years. Yosemite, Disneyland, lots of beaches, and plenty of great day trips and camping trips. I also got to travel vicariously when my daughter went to China for ten days.

Future travel goals: I hope to travel out of the country at last within the next five years. I just have to figure out how we’re paying for kids’ colleges first. I’d also like to return to New York City for a visit, hopefully with my kids. I’m also considering doing a RunDisney 1/2 marathon one day with my daughter, mostly because running in costume is more fun than no costume.

Somewhere in between the big goals, I sometimes throw in a small, short-term goal or two. But to be honest, I don’t have any tangible small goals right now. Sometimes, I feel like I’m running out of ideas. I already have plenty of hobbies — reading, hobbies, watching sports and movies, music, handicrafts…What should I do next when nothing else seems particularly interesting or fun or useful? It seems so lukewarm to me, to plan to do something just for the sake of saying, “I’ve done that.” Where is the joy or meaning in that? Is it just to make conversations more interesting for you people who have friends? Is it meaningful because you work toward these goals with people you’re close to?

04ca3a40-f7de-4b16-b50f-426338858658-9126-00000c3a4ee5360b

I guess I could plan to do new things just to have something to blog about, to make my blog posts more meaningful. But shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t I blog about the goal I’ve accomplished which had great meaning to me somehow? I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, etc.

A Bloody Good Topic (aka: A Conversation Stopper We Should All Be Talking About)

I guess I should bloody well dive into this topic.

Well…not literally. Because that’d be gross.

Today, I’m thinking about something that’s sometimes thick and oozy, like a milkshake, and sometimes drippy and wet, like a melted ice cream cone. It flows through all of us. And um…vampires love it. Oh, and it’s pretty much always red.

I guess I’m not making these clues very mysterious, am I? Maybe because the moment I started to write about it, my head began to feel all lightweight and spinney. Oof. I think I’ll just put my head down for a moment. That’s better.

That’s what I get for writing about blood.

But seriously, why is blood such a taboo topic? I mean, blood is so cool! Well, technically, it’s warm, but you get my meaning. Blood = life. It carries oxygen and nutrients and hormones and proteins to every part of our bodies. It fights off nasty infections. It’s one of the most important things about our bodies.

And yet, just mention the word, and half the people in a room will squirm with discomfort. Some will grow lightheaded, like me. A couple might even vomit, which is much ickier than blood, if you ask me. Mention how you sliced your arm open on the sharp edge of a barbecue grill and bled like a sacrificial lamb, and everyone in the room will make the same wince-face.

Blood is a conversation-stopper.

Unfortunately, in some cultures, blood is more than just a conversation-stopper. It’s downright verboten. Especially when it’s the blood that comes out of women’s bodies every month. Like lots of American women around my age, I learned all about menstruation from good ol’ Margaret and friends (Thanks, Judy Blume!). Also, from the drop-dead-embarrassing filmstrips they made us watch in school, and the little booklets the nurses handed out to every 10-12 year-old girl, filled with pre-teens who were for some reason super-excited about the idea of “becoming a woman.” Those of us with big sisters knew perfectly well that there was NOTHING exciting about getting monthly visits from Aunt Flo and wearing the equivalent of a diaper to keep from bleeding all over the place. Periods suck. If there was a special pill we could take to make them disappear, believe me, we’d all buy it.

But believe it or not, millions of young girls — you read that number right — millions of young girls around the globe are not taught anything about menstruation. They are not taught the difference between pantyliners for light days and the ultra-super-duper pads with wings for the heavy days. They are not taught how to insert a tampon without dying from pain (some of us still struggle with that part decades later). They are not shown any cutesy period commercials or handed any cutesy informational pamphlets. Basically, these girls are sentenced to a week of shame and humiliation every month, barred from schools and temples, and sometimes from their own homes. Millions of girls are told that their periods make them spiritually unclean. They must remain isolated from the rest of their families and communities and use whatever rags, grass, twigs, or paper they can find until Aunt Flo decides to pack it up and head home.

Now that’s an idea that should make us all squirm in discomfort.

We can all agree that periods suck. But they suck because they are inconvenient and a little messy. Because we might have to skip out on a morning swim, or sex, or wearing those cute white jeans for a few days. Not because society will shun us and treat us like filth because our bodies — our normal, healthy, female bodies, are doing something nature intends for them to do.

Today, I just read about Duchess Meghan Markle (yes, the wife on Prince Harry) and how she has been an outspoken supporter of the Myna Mahila Foundation, an Indian charity whose goal it is to provide the women of India with access to sanitary supplies and education about hygiene, and to end the long-held stigmas surrounding menstruation throughout the country. The more I read about how this charity and others like it are helping to change perceptions and the lives of so many girls and women, the more my eyes were opened. You might say my heart bled a little for the work they’re doing.

Oh, stop squirming. A little blood never killed anyone. Okay, fine, maybe it has. But mostly, blood is pretty good stuff. And no one should feel ashamed to talk about it. Period.

Anne with an E (and Other Imaginary Friends)

Many years ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to a small, charming town in Prince Edward Island, Canada. I met a number of fascinating people, but one who stood out in particular. She was a girl with hair as bright orange as a carrot, a face spattered with freckles, a smile like the sunrise, and an uncanny knack for getting into trouble.

“Call me Anne,” she said. “With an E.”

Okay fine. I didn’t actually travel to Avonlea. Or even Canada. But I felt as though I had, thanks to L.M. Mongomery’s rich and elegant writing. I didn’t just read Anne of Green Gables. I read every single sequel in the series. Twice. And don’t get me started on how many times I watched the 1985 Anne of Green Gables TV miniseries, starring Megan Follows. I was enamored with Anne, and her dramatic flights of ecstasy over the simple pleasures of life.

I recently traveled again to Avonlea, thanks to the new Netflix series, Anne with an E. Last weekend, when my imaginary friends were busy, and I had way too much time on my hands, I binge-watched most of the first two seasons of the show. I’d been hesitant to give it a whirl, thanks to a surprising slew of negative reviews. But I don’t know what the reviewers’ problem is. Anne with an E was marvelous! Enchanting! Stupendous!

Amybeth McNulty is a wonderful young actress, and much more talented than Megan Follows, in my opinion. Her portrayal of Anne is very much how I imagined her character in the storybooks. The bubbly, talkative Anne with an affinity for large words, with an imagination wider and deeper than the sea. The Anne with a heart of gold who only wanted to love and be loved in return, but was met again and again with rejection as people misunderstood her eccentric ways. The Anne who flung herself into living and loving, always with the best of intentions, but not always with positive outcomes. The Anne who was my childhood kindred spirit, who instilled in me a deep, perhaps unattainable hope that even a girl who others see as different can just keep on being herself, loving herself and others, and that eventually, the rest of the world will accept her and love her back.

I love everything about this new Anne series, from the picturesque setting to the period costumes. I especially love the way the story digs into the lives of the supporting characters, sharing snippets of their histories, and helping us to understand them, and by extension, understand Anne more deeply. The acting is superb — much better than the 1985 miniseries, and anyone who has watched that must know what I’m talking about.

Now if you haven’t watched the show yet, I must warn you — it is quite the tearjerker. I found myself in the depths of despair and had to wash my salt-streaked cheeks a few times during my binge-watch session. But I also laughed quite a bit at Anne’s ridiculous antics, and was filled with warmth at the way she responded to life with poetry, with optimism, and with headlong joy.

I look forward to my next visit to Prince Edward Island, even if it is only in my imagination. I will twirl in my dress with puffed sleeves and skip around Green Gables, reunited with my bosom friend, Anne “Princess Cordelia” Shirley Cuthbert.

See the World! (aka: Living Vicariously)

“I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum.” ~George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life)

George Bailey See the World

When I was a teenager, I often fantasized about traveling the world. I had a long list of places to go, languages to learn, foods to try. I begged my dad and stepmother to send me away to a boarding school in some faraway country (okay, this was partially because I hated living with them). They just laughed and mentioned this silly little thing called money.

Ugh. Money.

That has always been the Big Obstacle. Every time I managed to begin stashing some away toward international travel goals, some monster would come along and eat it up. Monsters such as bills. My college expenses. Kids’ extracurricular activities. Home maintenance. Kids’ college expenses.

Those vivid dreams of walking through streets in London and Barcelona, touring Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, sipping coffee at a French cafe in Paris, climbing the ancient stones of  Macchu Picchu, became smaller and more distant as years passed, and life kept sending more monsters to get in the way. I learned to feed my hunger for travel in smaller, more attainable ways, like studying languages, eating foods from around the world, and watching House Hunters International. (Hey, that show can be pretty addictive!).

See the World travel

Recently, I sent my 16yo daughter off on her first big international journey. She traveled with a group of students to Beijing China, then stayed with a host family in Jinan. Each day, she sent me photos and stories about her adventures abroad, which I ate up with relish. Finally! Although I am still stuck here, working hard to provide a good life for my kids, at least my children can live out my dream, and I can share in them.

This week, our family has been hosting a student who traveled here from China. Just as my daughter’s host family showered her with kindness and introduced her to a wealth of Chinese culture, we are attempting to do the same. My kids are getting a chance to improve their Mandarin, while our student improves her English. And I get to practice being uber-organized, to fit everything into our schedule. (Luckily, I’m usually pretty Type-A, so it’s not too big of a jump to be Type A+).

Now my daughter has caught the travel bug, too. She’s already conspiring with friends to backpack Europe and stay in youth hostels after graduating high school next summer. Eek! I am excited about her ambitions, too. The next best thing to traveling and seeing the world is to travel and see the world through the eyes of someone you love.