WHATEVS…

Sierra's online journal

An open letter to our elves November 27, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 11:04 am
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Day 23: A letter to someone, anyone

Dear Sven and Lars,

Thank. Goodness. You’re. Here.

In true 2020 fashion, Sven and Lars arrived on a mask and brought with them a Grinch ornament.

From March, 2020 has been a complete dumpster fire of a year for my girl. She was six years old at the time and about two thirds finished with first grade. We told her, as the school had told us, that everyone would be home for two weeks and then we’d go right back to school. But those two weeks turned into two more and eventually stretched into finishing the school year at home.

Dance season? Very altered; classes on zoom from the living room, no competitions, no picture day, no recital.

Spring soccer? Didn’t happen.

Her seventh birthday was dashed, too. We’d normally throw a big party and she’d get to invite all the friends she wanted. There would be games and snacks and a cake (courtesy of my sister) worthy of one of those baking competition shows, all in whatever theme she picked. Instead, we ordered a to-go dinner, had a store bought cake that said “happy mother’s day” on top until her dad scraped the lettering off, and picnicked outside with the neighbors. Her friends who’d normally be at the party drove by in a birthday parade instead. But she smiled lots that day because you guys came for the weekend.

The stars of her seventh birthday

She had no field day, unless you count the slapped together one we hosted for a handful of friends and family in June. And we said goodbye to her first grade teacher through a car window and face masks. Her teacher placed a paper bag on my back seat which held all of her personal items from the classroom she’d left three months prior and we were on our way. No hug. No high five. Couldn’t. I cried on the way home.

Summer vacation didn’t feel very vacationy because there was nothing to do. Six Flags was closed. Movie theaters and bowling alleys: closed. The trampoline park? Also closed. Summer felt like more of the same. Waiting and hoping for normalcy.

Soccer started back up in the late summer, at least. As did dance. She didn’t balk about having to have her temperature checked, sometimes multiple times per day. She never complained about having to wear a mask or not hug her grandparents. She understood. She adapted.

When school started again in the fall, it was a “hybrid” schedule, which in our town means only two days per week in person and the rest of the week learning at home via iPad. Time in school means a mask all day. No water fountains. Recess is only with her “cohort” (the same seven kids in her class). No assemblies. No field trips. No Halloween party. No winter concert. Probably no field day again, though I guess we’ll see.

As of this Monday, school is fully remote again “for two weeks.” I’m trying to remain hopeful but frankly, I’ve heard THAT before. I’m bracing for finishing second grade at home and cringing at the thought of spending all winter cooped up at home with nowhere to go, ever.

We couldn’t have the Thanksgiving we normally have, either. We’ve hosted 12+ guests every year since we bought our house in 2008. But there were restrictions to gathering sizes this year and while probably not enforced, we complied. Realizing that Thanksgiving was different, she’s already started asking about Christmas. Will our family be able to gather for dinner on Christmas Eve? Can everyone still come over on Christmas morning for breakfast and opening gifts? Do we still get to go to Grandpa Lou’s and Grandma Sharon’s for Christmas dinner? “I don’t know, my love we’ll see.” I’ve said that to her so many times this year. And I’m sure she realizes by now that it almost always leads to disappointment.

So I’m going to need you guys to finish this year strong for us. She’s endured so much change and instability in her world this year. But you two visiting from the North Pole is one constant that she can count on. So be wacky. Make messes. Do some things that’ll bring a smile to her face when she finds you each morning. Keep the wonder and magic of the season alive, untainted by what’s going on out there in the world beyond our door.

So many of your elf friends spend the season with so many other families. And so many parents complain about having the extra house guest (or two if they’re lucky, like us). I just don’t get it. From Black Friday through Christmas Eve, you bring smiles and laughter to our whole family. How could any family lucky enough to host an elf NOT be excited?! Honestly, if you could stay all year, we’d love to have you.

Signed,

A very drained mom

‘Tis the season
 

Musical Inspiration November 16, 2020

Day 22: Put your music on shuffle and post the first 10 songs.

Mom’s log. Stardate 11.16.2020. Day 215 of semi-quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s a chill in the air in New England. I’m trying to figure out how to host our typical Thanksgiving dinner with gathering restrictions, implemented by the Governor, of 10 people or fewer. (Spoiler alert: It just ain’t happening.) Scrolling Facebook tells me that literally everyone and their mother decorated for Christmas this past weekend. (Not me! Not until after Thanksgiving!) And following school newsletters and announcements from the Superintendent has me bracing for a shift back to full-remote learning, imminently.

I can’t help but feel a sense of dread. The days are getting shorter, colder. Upcoming holidays are sure to feel lonelier than ever, what with the lack of parties and family feasts. I can’t remember the last time I hugged or otherwise touched someone that doesn’t live with me—not even a hand shake. There are fewer and fewer things to do as positive COVID cases rise and restrictions tighten. Curfews are in place again. Travel bans abound; I’m not even sure at this point if I can legally/safely travel outside of my own state. Right now, it’s easy to feel anxious. Alone. Depressed. Scared. So I find ways to combat all those monsters. I reach out to friends to socialize, even if only online. I look within myself and write. I turn on some music and try to forget.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

The music I tend toward these days leans heavily acoustic. Ballads, love songs. I generally choose music for the lyrics, the story a song tells. But sometimes the vibe of the song is more important than the words. Sometimes I need something a bit faster. Something to put a little pep in my step. Make me want to dance in the kitchen and belt out all the lyrics. A soundtrack to help me harness my bad-assery, if you will. Pump me up. Get me ready to face another day of distance learning and picking up toys and washing dishes and folding laundry, ad infinitum.

So here it is. I scoured Spotify for ten songs that get me there. There are more, for sure; I had to cull the list to just these ten, which was tough to do. And that fact—that limiting it to just 10 was difficult—filled me with optimism. There’s something for most everyone; some rock, some reggae, some hip hop, even a show tune! Several are explicit so you may not want to listen at work or around your littles. But press “play” when you can. Dance with me. Sing along. And remember that there’s so much good out there. Some days we just need to work a little harder to find it.

Crazy B*tch (Buckcherry)

Obxessed (Fire Choir)

Shake it Out (Florence + The Machine)

Oye (Mara)

So Hott (Kid Rock)

Sexy Can I (Ray J featuring Yung Berg)

Tambourine (Eve)

Rock DJ (Robbie Williams)

Seasons of Love (the cast of RENT, original motion picture)

Bruck It Down (Mr. Vegas)

There. That’ll do it. I’m feeling happy. Energized. Ready to face whatever else 2020 may throw in my face.

 

Lessons from the Campground September 11, 2020

Day 21: What three lessons do you hope your children learn from you?

Labor Day weekend has come and gone and just like that, summer is over. I spent my holiday weekend camping out with a small group of family and friends in my sister’s back yard. It’s a tradition that began nearly ten years ago. And it’s one that feels so important to us all that we’ve kept it going and have no plans to stop. It’s two nights of “roughing it” in tents. Screen time is virtually non-existent unless you count pulling out a phone to snap a photo or take a video; and we’ve got lots of both, thankfully. Bedtimes (and rules in general, for the most part) don’t matter. Priority is placed on quality time with each other and making memories to last a lifetime.

Every year, inevitably, the adults find themselves huddled together while the kids are off playing or sleeping or chattering until all hours of the night. And we muse over the fact that we hope our children hold the memories created during our camp outs for a lifetime. This year, we went as far as to imagine what the weekend will look like far into the future, when it’s our kids serving us and their kids food from the grill. There’s no doubt that these weekends are important to every last one of us campers. Fun to be had. Lessons to be learned. Here are three of the lessons that I hope my daughter, specifically, will take from these days…

LESSON 1: Your tribe is important. Choose them wisely.

Obligatory breakfast feast photo of the kiddos

The camping crew is a mix of family and friends (which I’ll often refer to as “framily” or my tribe). And, sure, not all of my tribe make the guest list; in fact it’s the same crew year after year with no new additions without passing a group vote. (And there WAS a vote this year so there WILL be new invitees next year!) We come in all colors, ages, sizes. We listen to different music, which often leads to a battle over the Bluetooth speaker that results in a country ballad followed by a reggae beat. We don’t all agree on the definition of a perfect s’more. Our parenting styles vary. But none of that matters because we mesh on things like know how to make each other laugh, de-stress, and have fun. We come together and all do our part to help out from unloading the cars on Saturday morning to packing up tents on Monday afternoon. And by the time we all return home, our stomachs are sore from laughing, our feet are filthy from walking around barefoot, and our hearts are full of memories that are burned into the very fiber of our beings.

LESSON 2: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” is always a crowd favorite during karaoke time.

During daylight hours, you can find us campers making up games with various supplies from my sister’s stash of camping gear. Sometimes we craft together. There’s always swimming and, for the past two years, “bull rides” in the pool that involve the rider climbing or jumping onto a huge inflatable bull while others attempt to knock them down. There’s always a few who pull their air mattress out of their tents and take mid-day naps in the sunshine. (Guilty as charged this year!) By nightfall, the music is blaring as we line dance and sing karaoke. No matter what we choose to do, there’s no judgment. We’re all just there to have fun. Laugh. Forget that summer is ending, school is starting, and the world feels chaotic and scary most days. In that backyard, our campground, cutting loose and enjoying some levity is what it’s about.

LESSON 3: Unplugging is vital to the soul.

The glow of a screen is no match for the glow of a campfire

The connections we make online are important, sure. Social media helps us stay up to date on what the kids are doing and where everyone is vacationing and, yeah, even sometimes what you had for lunch. But the freedom to unplug from all that–from news and streaming TV and a constant barrage of status updates–is freeing. The connections we make around a campfire are so very different. Whether it’s staying up until 2am laughing over newly created inside jokes or sitting around in a lazy silence together watching the flames lick the fire logs, there’s nothing like the connection and togetherness that’s felt around a campfire.

 

Celebrity Hall Pass September 5, 2020

Day 20: Post about three celebrity crushes.

It feels a little wrong on a lot of levels to follow up my last post (about new love and forever love) with this one, in which I discuss the top three reasons I’d stray from my marriage. But a task is a task and I won’t back away. You know, for science….?

1) John Krasinski.

Photo source: https://instagram.com/johnkrasinski?igshid=1vqhgpomrmgck

If you’ve followed my blog at all, I’m sure you’ve heard me mention being in the sweet spot in life where I’m equally attracted to slightly older and slightly younger men. Dads and sons, if you will. Well, John is the dad in the equation, though he’s only got a few years on me. My initial love for him bloomed in The Office days; the man can convey so much with just a look and had me rooting for Pam and Jim all series. Add in the fact that he’s an amazing father to two little girls (with old-timey names!), a doting husband to Emily Blunt (that lucky bitch!), and a goofball through and through (have you seen his lip sync battle with Anna Kendrick?)…. What’s not to love? Finally, I credit him and his Some Good News web series with helping me through the worst of the covid quarantine this past spring.

2. Tommy Martinez.

Photo source: https://instagram.com/tommymartinez?igshid=cck0suca0d2s

If John is the dad in the equation then Tommy is the son, considering he’s almost a decade my junior. But have you seen that smile? I melted for him the first time when watching a video on his Instagram showing when he got the call back about landing the part of Gael on Good Trouble. He’s just a regular ol’ guy. With a megawatt smile and a man-bun and abs for days. (Gimme all of that!) But his role on Good Trouble is what really seals the deal for me. His character oozes sex appeal and his story arc helps bring to life some important themes including bisexuality (him) and gender identity (his sister).

3. Angelina Jolie.

Photo source: https://instagram.com/angelinajolie_offiicial?igshid=1v0bvzukpd59

The year was 1999. I was 16. And my first (but certainly not last) girl crush began when watching “Girl, Interrupted.” From there, I went back and watched “Gia.” And when I moved into my freshman dorm room, posters of her clad in sheer dresses adorned my walls. It wasn’t long until my mom began referring to Angelina as her daughter in law. I’ve not seen all of her movies and I’ve not even loved all the ones I have seen. But, good heavens, that woman can do no wrong in my eyes. She’s got a wild streak to her and a colorful past; we’ve all seen the infamous kiss with her brother and heard about the vial of (then-hubby’s) blood that she wore on a necklace. The beginning of her relationship with Brad was a bit contested, too, but to that I say, “Jennifer who?” Today, though? She’s a mom to a brood of children, biological and adopted. She’s a humanitarian, an activist. And, sure, she’s sometimes a bit too thin but would you leave the poor woman alone? She’s got grace, is beautiful inside and out…. And is single. Now’s my chance!

 

New love, forever love August 30, 2020

Day 19: Discuss “first love.”

 

“I’m having a midlife crisis.” The handful of people I’m closest with have had the distinct privilege of hearing me utter these words, usually amid heavy sobs or in a manic frenzy or while brooding about life in general. But am I really? Maybe, maybe not. There are so many days when I can do nothing but look around me and feel thankful for and proud of the life I’m fortunate enough to call mine. The life that I helped orchestrate through a series of careful choices and maybe a couple of reckless chances. And I’m in no way trying to detract from all the love and light and goodness around me. It’s there. I see it all. But despite all that, there are some days when I’ve got an acute awareness that many of life’s biggest decisions having already been made for/by me. Roots put down. Life cemented in place. More doors closed behind me than open in front of me.

This post has been about two years in the making. I’ve given it a lot of thought. Kicked the idea around in my head at all hours of the day and night. Searched for the right words that don’t make me sound ungrateful. Tried to formulate a coherent string of sentences that may help identify myself to others feeling the way I am. Unfortunately, this is as close as I’ve come. So here goes: On those really tough days, “midlife crisis” feels like the only descriptor adequate enough to define the profound feelings of…loss? Loss of youth. Loss of choices. Loss of opportunities to experience life’s big moments (and all of the feelings that are wrapped up in those experiences) just one more time.

One of those big life experiences is falling in love. And before I go on, it’s important to me to interject here and say a few things, beginning with that I am happily married. There is no doubt in my mind that I married my match and will live the rest of my life loving him. But this post isn’t about him. (If you want to read about him, you can do so here, where I gushed about him for our tenth wedding anniversary in 2018.) This post is about trying to find words to describe the differences between the love we have now versus “new love.” Because they are undeniably different.

The most succinct way I’ve ever seen the differences summed up came in a novel I read last fall, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. After reading, I jotted a quote,  my biggest takeaway from the story. It resonated with me then and it resonates with me even more as time goes on. Here’s the quote:

“She had always thought that exquisitely happy time at the beginning of her relationship…was the ultimate, the feeling they’d always be trying to replicate, to get back, but now she realized that was wrong. That was like comparing sparkling mineral water to French champagne. Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best–well, that sort of a love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”
excerpt from What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

There’s something to be said for new love, absolutely. For me, it starts with a spark of attraction that spreads like wildfire until a kaleidoscope of butterflies is flapping wildly in my gut. There are first dates and first kisses, tentative reaching and finding a comfortable rhythm. There’s giving and taking, yinning and yanging. There’s talking and listening and figuring each other out. An all-encompassing, breathless wanting. An I-can’t-get-enough need. My…sparkling mineral water certainly does quench a thirst, doesn’t it?

But no matter how exciting new love feels, those bubbles, that fizziness, it all eventually dissipates. Tattered, broken, unshiny parts are revealed. True colors poke through as if the harsh house lights have just flicked on after last call. And if you’re lucky, as I’ve been, you find the right tempo and the waltz truly begins. One two three, one two three. Count by count, all that feels good and right is boxed in. Fiercely protected. You lead each other through to the other side where love morphs into something more. A higher form. The French champagne.

And just as there’s much to be said about new love, so, too, is there about the kind of love we’ve got now, over twenty years after our first date. The forever kind. Love with the depth and breadth to encompass two lifetimes in one swooping arch. That kind of love is reliable, safe,  comfortable, even easy after as long as he and I have been together. But when I use these terms to describe it, he turns up his nose at me, somewhat regretful that he’s no longer responsible for the butterflies and fizz. But it’s important to note that you can’t get to here, where we are, without having lived through the newness and beyond. Our love has gone through breakups and fights  and more hard conversations than I can count. We’ve celebrated greatness, endured losses, faced hardships. We’ve created life and navigated parenting. We’ve supported each other in decisions that felt impossible to make, some with consequences that felt impossible to live with. And through it all, we’re still each others’ number one. And there’s no world in which I’d ever dare to replace or dispose of that. Ever.

Instead, I’ll close this with the valediction that he and I end every email, card, or letter to each other with. A phrase ripped from love letters between my paternal grandparents and inscribed on our wedding bands.

Always and all ways.

Me

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

30! August 8, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 2:05 pm
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Day 18: Share 30 facts about yourself

The task seemed easy enough at first glance. But then I numbered thirty lines and am now staring at a blank screen, unsure what’s interesting enough about me to be deemed a fact worthy of sharing. Maybe they’re not all going to be winners. Maybe some of them will be boring or surprising or downright weird. But here goes. All thirty of them.

1) I. Love. Music. No, I can’t sing. Nope, I’ve never played an instrument. I know nothing about the technical aspects behind making it or arranging it or even describing it. I just know what I like. And I like to know what others like, too.

2) I’m fairly quick to admit (and apologize) when I’m wrong and find it infuriating when others don’t show me the same kindness.

3) I have tried and tried but cannot whistle.

4) There’s not much that I regret in life, as I’m a big believer in that everything happens for a reason and all experiences shape who we are. The one exception to my “no regrets” is that I didn’t have my dad walk me down the aisle.

5) Someday, I will publish a novel. (If it’s on this list, it’s a fact. And if it’s a fact, it’s got to happen. That’s how that works, right?)

6) Disorganization adds to my anxiety.

7) I used to love driving. Now, I’m much happier as the passenger.

8) I moved out of my parents house (and moved in with my sister) one week after junior prom night. I didn’t move back home for about a year. That time “on my own, with training wheels” was a formative time in my life and I’d not change it for anything.

9) Technically, I graduated high school in the top ten of my class. But in actuality, I was failing math and should’ve been held back. I’m forever grateful for the sympathy C that Mr. Austin gifted me in calculus so I could walk with my class.

10) I loathe being the center of attention. This becomes more true as the years pass.

11) I miss being a student. I don’t think I’d necessarily want to pursue another degree, though who knows? But I hope to someday be in a classroom again.

12) Here’s a list of things that I don’t consider at all when choosing who to surround myself with in life: race, gender identity, sexual preference, political affiliation, religious beliefs, ethnicity, level of education, economic standing…. In fact, it’s easier if I list the thing (singular) that DOES matter. Are you an asshole? Then I don’t like you. Literally everyone else is welcome in my life.

13) I stumble through parenting with this illogical, irrational fear that everything I say or do is somehow damaging my daughter’s psyche.

14) My mom, with whom I was extremely close, passed in 2006 at the age of 48. I was 22 at the time and feel like I was robbed of having an adult friendship with the greatest woman I’ll ever know.

15) I’ve got six years each of French and Spanish under my belt but don’t feel confident enough to speak either. However, I sometimes use one or the other to narrate in my head, just to test myself on how much I remember.

16) During pregnancy, I developed a taste for mint and mustard. (No, not at the same time. I just mean they’re two flavors I didn’t like before.) During the same time, I developed an aversion to most tomato sauces.

17) I feel physically the best when following a keto diet, but man, do I love carbs!

18) I fear stagnancy and change equally. Life is a balancing act and I don’t always have it just right. But I’m working on it.

19) I don’t have a favorite color. Most people don’t like to accept that response so when pressed, I’ll sometimes pick randomly.

20) While I’m a generally happy person in the mornings, I consider myself a night owl.

21) I used to buy nonfiction books with good intentions but rarely actually read them. (This includes The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, which I’m pretty sure makes me a bad feminist.) I’m still, holding out hope that I’ll read Becoming someday.

22) I am ruthless in Scrabble. It took me many years of practice with my mom before I finally won. And since then, I’m pretty much undefeated. Except for that one time when my husband played “djinni” and I challenged. (I’m still not convinced it’s a real word… He cheated!)

23) My first love passed away almost three years ago now. And though we’d not been together since we were practically babies, his loss still hurts me to this day.

24) I’ve always known I have trypophobia. I just didn’t know there was a word for it until I was in my 30s.

25) Trashy reality TV is my guilty pleasure. Love Island, Big Brother, 90 Day Fiance….gimme all of it!

26) My eyes are blue, despite the fact that my husband will try to convince you that they’re grey.

27) I’ve not eaten meat (including seafood and poultry) since I was about 12 years old. But I wish I could bring myself to enjoy chicken.

28) My top five favorite scents are, in no particular order: that moment when the rain first starts on a hot summer afternoon, warm fresh-from-the-dryer laundry, patchouli, anything citrus, and bleach. I said what I said.

29) I prefer my showers at night and hot enough to melt the skin off of me. Even during the summer.

30) My favorite day of the week is Thursday because sometimes the anticipation of Friday is better than the Friday.

 

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

Star Sign August 4, 2020

Disclaimer: I stalled on my 30-day writing challenge because the next assignment is to write about my star sign. And I don’t buy into all that so writing a non-fiction piece about my horoscope seemed like an insurmountable task. Which led me to the decision to mingle some fiction into my blog. So, I present to you a short scene from my someday-book. Who knows? It may be the first of more-to-come fiction pieces here. 

 

Ben – February 2000 – Spring semester, sophomore year

“Is this seat taken?” I asked, a calculated choice. I’d seen her around before. And by “around” I mean here, at the coffee shop. A bit mousy by most peoples’ standards, in appearance and in mannerism, she was not suited to be a barista. Not bubbly enough. Not outspoken enough. Maybe not pretty enough, to some. Instead, she seems to have been hired on to do the background tasks. Mopping the floors. Picking up errant straw wrappers. Refilling the plastic bins of wooden stirrers and cardboard coozies and multi-colored paper packets of sweeteners. Sanitizing tables when patrons had finally folded up their newspapers or paperbacks or notebooks of lecture notes and left. The jobs that nobody thinks of until they’re not done, suddenly a blaring problem in their not doneness. But to me? She’s never been a background player since the first time I saw her.

She glanced up from her laptop, eyebrows raised as if they were solely responsible for her ability to see over the top of her square frames. I pretended not to notice when she cut her eyes to the empty tables on either side of her. I didn’t want those tables. I wanted her. I had played out this scenario in my mind countless times over the past few months and not once had I considered that she may rebuff. Until now, that is, as I hovered, clutching my textbook to my chest and waiting for her to say something. Anything. But she didn’t. Instead, she pushed her glasses up with one finger placed on their bridge and pushed the chair across from her out with her foot, a silent acceptance of my presence.

Lowering myself onto the pine, I observed quietly as she focused her attention back to the screen before her, its bright reflection gleaming in the surface of her glasses. Her hair, the color of burlap and usually pulled into some semblance of bun at the nape of her neck, fell to her shoulders today. I never noticed its wave before. Or the way she gnaws on her lower lip when she reads. Two tiny slashes appeared above her eyebrows, dimples that screamed, “Hush! I’m trying to concentrate.” But I ignored them by talking anyway. “Day off today?” I asked, grasping at anything to strike up a conversation. I had anticipated a much warmer welcome. When she didn’t respond, I repeated myself, a bit louder, which finally got her attention. “Hmm?” she asked, chin raised. “Oh, I was just asking if you had the day off today.” She shook her head and returned her gaze to her screen as she mumbled, “No, I tend not to wear my uniform on days off. Just getting some homework done before I have to clock in.”

Uniform, right. Idiot. “Ah, so the Common Grounds polo shirt isn’t what you wear normally? Outside of work, I mean,” I grinned. She shrugged one shoulder and without looking up from her screen again, replied, “The shirt, yeah. Just not the nametag.” I stretched my spine taller to peer over her laptop to read that aforementioned nametag, pretending like I hadn’t already read it a thousand times before. “Ana,” I pronounced, then asked, “Or is it Ana?” changing the leading sound to a softer A that sounded more like a yawn.

“That’s you,” she said impatiently, glancing up from her screen finally. “I’m sorry?” I asked, leaning forward as though being closer to her would somehow help me understand her better. She motioned over my shoulder to the counter where, when I turned to look, I saw the barista holding a large paper cup and repeating, “Ben?” I turned back to face her, Ana (yawn) or Ana, and took a moment to flash her a cool smile before scrambling up to collect my coffee. On my way back, my toe hit the chair leg and made the seat clatter against the table loudly. She chuckled softly and shook her head but didn’t avert her eyes from her work. “Am I bombing at this? I don’t usually bomb at this,” I laughed good naturedly as I sat myself down again, cradling the cup between my hands, thankful for its warmth.

“It’s neither. It’s Analisa but the manager said that wouldn’t fit on the nametag,” she replied, sidestepping my embarrassing question by reverting to the question before it. (Like a yawn, by the way.) I took the lid off my cup, letting the steam escape, and blew on the surface of the caramel colored liquid. “Well, Ana works, doesn’t it?” I asked, sipping more cautiously than I was speaking. She shook her head, glancing at me briefly to say, “My friends call me Lise. But nobody asked me before printing the nametag.” Setting my cup down on top of my textbook, I pressed on. “That’s shit, isn’t it? Why not say something? Ask them to make you a new one, Lise.” Without skipping a beat or looking up again, she sniped, “You and I are not friends, Ben.” It caught me off-guard. How do I respond to that? “Right. So, please, call me Benjamin,” I smiled back at her.

She reached one hand up, its fingers slender as bone, pale pink polish chipped almost completely off, to close her laptop. Success! I thought. “Well, Benjamin,” she said, emphasizing the last two syllables of my name. “If by ‘this’ you mean interrupting a study session before a girl’s got to go to work, then no. You are very much not bombing at this. You do this often?” She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back in her chair, waiting. It was unnerving. Her watchfulness. Her coldness. None of it was expected. I stared back at her, letting myself break into a wary smile only after she relaxed and set to fastening her hair back with the elastic that had been lying in wait around her wrist. “Look, Analisa,” I began, pausing for a sip of coffee. “I’ve bided my time pretty patiently. So, I’m sorry if you feel I’m interrupting something here. But I didn’t want to let another day slip away without saying hello.” She finished pulling her hair into its signature bun and leaned forward on her elbows. I’ve got her now, I thought, invigorated by what her change in body language conveyed. “Let me take you to dinner Saturday,” I blurted.

“Tomorrow? No can do, Benny boy,” she shrugged. “It’s my birthday tomorrow and I’ve already committed to dinner with my parents.”

“Happy birthday,” I acquiesced before adding, “That explains so much.” She gazed at me somewhat quizzically until I said, “You’re a Pisces.” Her demeanor changed then. She tapped a finger on my textbook and taunted, “Tell me. What’s a boy who carts around a book called The Fundamentals of Political Science know about astrology?” I replaced the lid on my coffee and sipped it through the spout. “Well, Pisces tend to be a little closed-off, preferring to be alone. So, this cat-and-mouse game really couldn’t have been avoided, could it? It’s in your DNA to be cautious,” I asserted.

She scoffed, “I’m closed-off just because I’m busy tomorrow?”

I locked eyes with her, flirting with nothing more than a glance and a smile. “But Pisces are also an empathetic and generous people so really it’s only a matter of time before you appreciate that I’ve put myself out there and give in to letting me take you out.” Her smirk was the only indicator I needed to seal the deal with one final blow. “I’ve also heard that Pisces are mind-blowing lovers. And I intend to find out.” She chuckled softly then, shaking her head with derision. “What about Sunday?” I asked.

“I’ve got plans on Sunday,” she beamed back.

“Yeah? What have you got going on then?” I asked.

Something changed in her face just then and I was almost ready to concede to not having been able to crack her open. But then she went and did it. She lowered her chin and her voice by an octave to said, “I’m working until 5pm and then having dinner with Ben.”

I nodded once, rising from the table and picking up my coffee and my book. “I’ll pick you up here at 5:00, then, Lise.” And I turned to the door before she could change her mind.

 

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

Take Me Back… July 17, 2020

(Day 16: Write about something that you miss.)

Here we are. Mid-July. [When did THAT happen, anyway?!] The United States has been trying like hell to fight against Covid-19 since March. And my home state, Connecticut, which began as a hotbed of infections, has led the charge in flattening the curve and getting transmission rates under control. Our reward? We’re currently on “phase 2” of Governor Lamont’s reopening plan with an eye toward “phase 3.” Great news, right? Well, yes. But there’s still a long list of things that I miss. Things that aren’t back to normal yet. Today, I’d like to talk about the number one item on that list.

Bring it in because I’m only going to admit to this once. Are you ready? I miss working from my office. In mid-March, as I was packing up a box of necessities from my desk, I felt an excitement in my belly. The plan was to work remotely to adhere to local “stay at home” orders. There was no talk of how long the arrangement would last but I think most of us envisioned a few weeks, tops. And when I locked the office for the last time four months ago, I was ready to be remote. Ready to stop incessantly pumping hand sanitizer onto chapped hands in an effort to protect those around me. Ready to let some of my anxiety over the virus fall away finally. No more co-mingling with possible carriers. No more constant worry about whether or not I’ve touched my face.

The beginning of working remotely was an adjustment, but not necessarily in a bad way. I pulled my daughter from daycare, glad to have her home safe with me. I enjoyed a fluid work station, having traded my desktop computer at work for my laptop in bed or at the dining room table or on my couch or lounging in the backyard. It felt freeing. A little fun, even. A girl could get used to this, I thought. But as the weeks became months, I soon realized the folly of my initial excitement.

These past four months have reminded me why I’ve never chosen to be a WAHM (work at home mom). And the main reason is because it’s virtually. fucking. impossible. In the beginning, I told myself it would get easier when the school year ended so I wouldn’t have to play teacher for part of the day during “distance learning.” I was wrong. In the middle, I told myself it would get easier when my daughter was able to get back to the hobbies she loves, soccer and dance. I was wrong about that, too. Lately, I’ve been telling myself that it would get easier if I just re-enrolled her in daycare. But let’s face it. The mom guilt over even contemplating sending her to daycare when I’m “just at home” is rooted too deep to ever actually allow me to do such a thing. So I forge on. Constantly distracted.

My work day begins, as it always has, at 8am. Only instead of settling into my office, firing up my workstation with its two monitors, and focusing on my tasks in a distraction-free space, things are a bit more chaotic these days. The physical space in which I work varies based on whether my laptop needs to be plugged in or whether or not I’ll need to print anything imminently. It varies based on what my daughter is doing at the time; sometimes the TV is too loud for me to answer phone calls, other times I need to be within earshot of her to thwart arguments between her and the neighborhood kids. It varies based on the time of day and what non-work-related thing is in demand at the time; has she had lunch? How many snacks has that been today? She wants to take a bubble bath at 2pm?

Sometimes I have to apologize to clients for the sound of my dog barking in the background. Sometimes I have to barricade myself in the bedroom to get enough privacy to complete a Zoom meeting. Sometimes I need to pretend like I didn’t just step over and around three thousand and twelve toys on the living room floor to get a glass of water. Sometimes I need to be okay with my daughter running the hose all. day. long. because it keeps her happy and lets me work in peace. Sometimes I’ve got to walk away from work briefly to get ice for her scrape or to help her decipher a word she can’t figure out or to let the dog in for the millionth time.

By the time my husband comes home from his office—that lucky bastard!—I’m a ball of nerves. At the end of my patience. Often on the verge of tears. I’ve spent all day being pulled in a dozen directions, trying to please everyone by filling two roles—mom and worker. And feeling like a failure at both. I give all I can, leaving pieces of myself everywhere. And by the time hubby’s home, the task of gathering all those pieces to make myself whole again feels daunting. But wait. There’s more. I remind myself to show him patience. He’s worked all day, too, I remind myself. I feel guilty that his welcome home is so frazzled (emotionally) and messy (physically). I feel guilty at not having picked up all the toys she’s taken out and for not having started to cook dinner yet. I feel guilty about being grumpy. I feel guilty about not having any more grace left in me to help my daughter with the simplest of tasks without snapping at her. And all of this leaves me feeling like a failure at my third role: wife.

I’m confident that my story is not unique. There are millions of other people in my shoes right now. Trying to make the best of juggling working from home and parenthood. Trying to give more of themselves than even exists. Trying not to lose themselves completely in the melee. To them, I say, I see you. I’m with you. And it’ll get easier when we can get back to the office. [Famous last words.]

 

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

A Day in the [Quarantined] Life May 13, 2020

(Day 15: Bullet-point your whole day.)

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THE WORRY MONSTER – Just wait. We’ll get there.

7:15am – Wake up to the sound of my alarm, which is set to play a random song from a Spotify playlist called Wide Awake. Today’s selection? “You’re Too Weird” by the Fruit Bats. Feeling attacked, I turn off the music and lay in bed a bit longer, listening to the birds outside and feeling thankful to see sunshine through the curtains.

 

7:30am – Head to the bathroom to get ready for work, which entails:

  • Brushing my teeth
  • Using my fingers to comb my messy hair into less messy bun
  • Tying a robe around my mismatched pajamas

 

7:45am – Hunt for a shaker cup in the kitchen. Find it in the last cabinet I’d expect to. Silently curse my husband for putting it away someplace weird then silently thank my husband for having put the dishes away at all. Make a protein shake using unsweetened chocolate almond milk (because I bought the wrong kind…I prefer the unsweetened vanilla) and vanilla protein powder (because I bought the wrong kind…I prefer the chocolate).

 

7:58am – Begin my commute to work which entails walking ten steps from the kitchen to the dining room, firing up my laptop, and opening all the websites I need to access for work.

 

8:00am – Cram as much of a regular work day as possible into the three hours my company has authorized me per day. Today’s interruptions were minimal and included:

  • 8:35am – Kissing my girl good morning and supervising her breakfast selection.
  • 9:40am – Discussing with my girl the fact that I don’t want her to go outside to play with Neighbor Child 1 and 2** yet because I want her to do her school work first.
  • 9:55am – Bathroom break.
  • 10:00am – Discussing with my girl the fact that I didn’t like that she snuck out the front door to play with Neighbor Child 1 and 2 while I was in the bathroom. Subsequent to that, accepted her pinkie promise that once I was done working, she’d come in to do school work “straight away.”
  • 10:45am – Diffuse my girl’s emotional upset over an ongoing disagreement between her and Neighbor Child 1.
  • 10:55am – Agree to my girl grabbing a morning snack for her and Neighbor Child 2. She stated that Neighbor Child 1 is home doing school work. I remind her that she’ll be doing school work soon, too. She pretends not to hear and bounces out the front door with two packs of mini Oreos. She’s wearing a bike helmet. She’s always wearing a bike helmet.

 

11:15am – Call out the front door to tell my girl it’s time to get school work done. Endure a brief spurt of grumpiness from her about leaving Neighbor Child 2 to come inside. Begin watching the three required videos for the day and try my best to keep her engaged long enough to write 5 “snap words” and a list of 5 words each for -er, -ir, and -ur words.

 

12:00pm – Grant my girl a bathroom break. With her tablet. Which lasts 30 minutes.

 

12:30pm – Refuse my girl’s third request for lunch. Promise her said lunch when her last assignment is done. Continue to battle over her task of writing a realistic fiction story. Ignore huffing and pouting for as long as possible before snapping and shouting like a lunatic, “Fine! Let’s stop doing school work! You can just repeat the first grade!”

 

1:15pm – Rejoice over the fact that she finished her story AND tackled her art project: creating a “worry monster.” Tell her she’s done a great job when she proudly proclaims, “My worry monster is wearing blue and purple pajamas and he’s surprised because he has a brand new bed.” Serve lunch to my girl and breathe a sigh of relief that she’s chosen to eat at the table on the porch.

 

1:20pm – Make myself a sandwich, which I shovel into my mouth while standing up over the kitchen sink.

 

1:45pm – Sort laundry. Decide it’s time to put on actual [non-pajama] clothes and brush my hair with an actual hair brush.

 

2:00pm – Unload the dishwasher. Immediately reload it with all the dishes that have been piled up in the sink for the past 24 hours.

 

2:05pm – Hear the hose turn on. Run outside to tell my girl, who’s still wearing a bike helmet, to turn off the hose. Listen calmly as she explains that she and Neighbor Child 2 are “watering the flowers” [that we don’t have] out front. I concede and tell her to turn it on just long enough to fill her watering can then turn it immediately off. She complies. Repeatedly.

 

2:20pm – Venture out into the light of day for the sole purpose of telling my girl that the flowers are watered enough. Decide to make an outing of this trip outside by setting up a camp chair and reading a book in the sunshine while my girl and Neighbor Child 1 and 2 play outside. Encounter the following interruptions:

  • 12x – “Mom, watch me…”
  • 1x – “Mom, can I grab a snack for all of us?”
  • 1x – “Mooooom, I’m hurt!”

 

3:30pm – Let the wind get the better of me and finally relocate from the front yard to inside the porch. Continue reading until my girl follows me. Wearing a bike helmet. With her tablet. On full blast. Ask her to turn it down some, which she does. But it’s not enough. Give up. Close my book and resort to playing a game on my phone.

 

4:00pm – The husband returns from work. Breathe a sigh of relief while he takes over parenting. Escape inside to sit in solitude for the first time all day. Except for the dog. Who is whining to get outside again.

 

4:30pm – Heat up dinner for my girl, which she again chooses to eat on the porch. In her bike helmet.

 

5:00pm – Negotiate with my girl about dessert. She proposes she gets two scoops of ice cream tonight and promises to not have dessert for a week. I remind her about our weekly Family Movie Night coming up on Friday and point out that she’ll want dessert then. She insists she won’t. I know she’s lying. I counter her with one scoop of ice cream tonight, dessert on Friday, and no dessert otherwise until next Wednesday. The offer is accepted. She chooses to eat on the porch. Neighbor Child 1 and 2 bring over their dinner to dine with her.

 

5:15pm – Contemplate baking banana muffins, which would require me to get up off the couch and actually do something. But I’m enjoying doing nothing. And eating tortilla chips. In peace.

 

5:45pm – Finally bake the muffins.

 

7:00pm – Wrap up a half dozen muffins to send home with Neighbor Child 1 and 2. Shout the “one more hour” warning to hubby and our girl, who have started hockey practice in the driveway. She is not wearing a helmet. Curl up on the couch to read a little more.

 

7:58pm – Cart the musical instruments out the front door for “Bell Time.” (Every night from 8:00 to 8:02pm, residents in our town are encouraged to ring bells and/or otherwise make noise as a showing of “alone, together” during the pandemic. We participate nightly, as do Neighbor Child 1 and 2.)

 

8:00pm – Shake my tambourine while shooting a pleading look toward my husband that screams, “Is it 8:02 yet?!”

 

8:02pm – Shout good night across the street to Neighbor Child 1 and 2. Cart the instruments back inside and begin the nightly prodding that is getting our girl off to bed. This process includes:

  • Having her brush and floss her teeth, use the bathroom, and put on pajamas.
  • Snuggling with her until doomsday or until she falls asleep, whichever comes first. [Spoiler alert: It’s usually the former.] Thankfully, it was a dad night. WINNING!

 

9:15pm – Watch 3 episodes of Community on Netflix with hubby while eating dinner, which tonight is reheated cheese tortellini.

 

10:20pm – Contemplate baking cookies because why not? Decide against it and proceed to watch 3 episodes of Some Good News on YouTube with hubby while wishing I had cookies and reminding myself how much I effing love John Krasinski. Sob like a hot mess during Zac Brown’s new song.

 

11:30 – Lay on the couch and think about tomorrow. Realize it’ll look a lot like today only with 200% more Zoom calls, thanks to virtual dance class (for my girl) and virtual PTO meeting (for me). Chastise myself for not having made cookies earlier.

 

12:30am – Press “publish” and get ready for a shower and bed. Only to rinse and repeat tomorrow.

 

** Yes, we are supposed to be in quarantine. And we are. However, we do fraternize outdoors with Neighbor Child 1 and 2 (brothers, age 6 and 5 respectively) and their mom. My logic: If my [former] daycare is open and offering care to multiple families right now, surely I can let my girl play with the two boys across the street whose family has the same level of potential exposure as ours does. And that’s to say women and children stay home, dads report to work at staff-only establishments. So, yeah. Playdates for daaaaays.

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

[Not for the] Movie Buff May 11, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 1:23 pm
Tags: , , , ,

(Day 14: Post your favorite movies that you never get tired of watching.)

Some people count down to the release dates for new Blockbusters, purchasing advance tickets and attending midnight screenings. Some people are genre-specific about their movie selections, thereby becoming almost experts in the field. Some people pride themselves on having seen (and being able to quote) all the cult classics. Some people are avid followers of certain actors or certain directors, devouring whatever work they produce. I’m none of those people.

When I’ve got free time, I’m more apt to pick up a book or open my laptop to get some writing done. If I need a distraction that takes a bit less attention, I’ll work in a puzzle book or do some coloring with my daughter. And when it’s time to settle in and zone out in front of a screen, I tend toward 30- to 60-minute television shows, usually of the trashy reality genre. (I have no shame.) So it’s pretty rare that I watch movies at all. And when I do, I virtually never watch the same film more than once.

My lack of movie experience is appalling to some. For example, my husband (who at the time was still just my boyfriend) tried like hell to get me to sit through Star Wars when we were still in high school. Or maybe it was The Lord of the Rings. I’m not sure because to date, I still haven’t seen either. Same goes for Harry Potter. And when my friend Jen discovered about twelve years ago now that I’d never seen the ’80s classics, she set out to introduce me to such obligatory titles as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink.

I haven’t seen a scary movie in the theater since high school (The Blair Witch Project) or opted to watch one on DVD since college (The Amityville Horror). The one time I agreed to go see a horror film (28 Days Later), I walked out of the theater after the opening scene because it was too gory for my taste. I don’t like superhero films, with the exception of Daredevil because, well, Ben Affleck; That and hubby managed to convince me that it was a love story. I did get suckered into seeing the first of the Twilight films with a group of friends but didn’t feel the need to see the others as I’m not big on fantasy.

So what DO I like? Chick flicks for daaaaaaays. If it falls in the rom-com genre or stars Noah Centineo (my guilty pleasure), it’s for me. There should be a love story woven in there somewhere. Bonus points if the story line makes me cry a little bit. Hubby likes to jest that if it’s got subtitles or came from Sundance, it’s also for me. Which is sometimes true. It was extremely difficult for me to devise a list of my favorites because the pickin’s were slim. And I’m sure the ten titles I’ve come up with (out of all the movies in the world!) would make a true movie buff cringe. But I like what I like. So here goes, in no particular order:

Dirty DancingDirty Dancing – This is my obligatory answer when someone asks me what my favorite move is. I’ve seen it countless times and will watch it any time I get the chance. I can quote it. I can sing along to every song on the soundtrack. As a young girl, I was certain I wanted to marry Patrick Swayze.

 

UnfaithfulUnfaithful – I’d repeatedly watch Olivier Martinez do just about anything, really. But I’ve only seen this one twice. The first time was with my mom, who loved it as much as I did but for her it was all about Richard Gere. The second time was with my husband (who was my fiance at the time). He hated it. And we argued over the fact that we could each only see things from our own perspective and were incredulous that the other didn’t agree. Which I believe was the director’s intention so…job well done.

 

MannequinMannequin – This one takes me back to my childhood. Any time it came on television, my sister and I would hunker down and watch. In fact, this may have been my very first love story. The love story that made me fall in love with love stories, I suppose. Plus who doesn’t love Hollywood Montrose?

 

The Motorcycle DiariesThe Motorcycle Diaries – Yes, you’ll have to read subtitles to enjoy this one, unless you know Spanish. It’s a story of adventure, bromance, coming of age. And it humanizes Che Guevara in a way that history books can’t.
 

Romeo + JulietRomeo + Juliet – I’m talking about the 1996 film from director Baz Luhrmann. Mercutio is a drug dealer and Tybalt, portrayed by John Leguizamo, makes being bad look so good. My friends and I saw it several times in theaters and several more times when it came out on DVD. And the soundtrack, featuring such ’90s icons as Everclear, Garbage, and the Butthole Surfers, was the anthem to my middle school years.
Seven PoundsSeven Pounds – Will Smith can do no wrong in my eyes. If you ask film critics, though, perhaps THIS was the “wrong” Smith did. But I loved the mystery of it all and watching it unfold.

 

 

The Color PurpleThe Color Purple – I fell in love with the book in high school and after discussing the novel in class, our teacher wheeled in the A/V department’s cart and popped in the VHS for us. Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Danny Glover. A story of triumph over oppression. Family above all else. There’s lots of dark themes to wade through but it tells such an important story.

 

Girl InterruptedGirl, Interrupted – A motley crew of young women come together in a mental hospital. I remember watching this one repeatedly during high school, mostly because I was (and still am) in love with Angelina Jolie.
 

My Sister's KeeperMy Sister’s Keeper – I felt compelled to head to the theater when this one came out after having read the book by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors. At the risk of spoiling the movie for you if you’ve read the book (or spoiling the book for you if you’ve seen the movie), the book and the movie have wildly different endings. And this is probably the only movie I can say this about but…I liked the movie’s ending better than the book’s ending.

 

40 Year Old Virgin40 Year Old Virgin – Who doesn’t love Steve Carell, am I right? This one is always good for a laugh, no matter how many times I’ve seen him exclaim, “Kelly Clarkson!”

 

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge