Who I AM

I am not an enthusiastic gardener who aims for a bronze tan as a badge of honour that I’ve earned, after spending many hours toiling in the sun planting oleanders and roses. I’m allergic to dirt and mulch. My eyes become reddened after simply planting one Annabelle hydrangea. The truth be told, I only garden as much as I do to keep a respectable appearance that I care with my neighbours. Otherwise, I’m quite happy with grass.

I do not care that my dog’s tongue licks are smears on the glass door of the front hallway closet.  I vacuum as often as I do, only because my adorable beast carries soil on his paws and pollen on his coat into our home. Unknowingly, (as if he cares) he then distributes both across the floors and onto our couch. This pollen distribution in our home will give me sneezing fits, runny nose, and burning eyes. And if I manage to avoid a reaction – the poor shaggy beast himself, will chew at his toes after a couple of days, and will begin scratching at 3 AM due to his own pollen/ragweed sensitivities.  This bothers me for two reasons: 1) I love him so much and therefore I hate to see him suffer (especially because I know this – ALLERGIES SUCK!) and 2) because he wakes me from my already limited sleeping slumber.

Yes, that is right. Let me write it free of restraint, as it is the truth: I do not like to clean or garden.  I know of some people who love to do both. Not necessarily both, although I’m sure it’s possible.  But they may like one or the other.  To those people I have this to say, “I raise my glass of champagne to you, in a toast of celebration!” And that is the truth. Because I know that people are all different and enjoy different interests, hobbies, and things. Let us celebrate our differences.

I rarely wear make-up. My clothes are functional. The reason I exercise and wish to lose weight is not tied to my appearance. (Although, I admit, it is nice to wear pants that are not so tight.) Instead, my objective is simple: not to have sweat-soaked armpits after walking one block on a warm summer’s day; and not to be winded climbing two flights of stairs.

Women who invest time in their appearance, I admire. I know it’s hard. That’s why I don’t do it. Women, who take the time to coordinate clothes that don’t clash, and make a snap decision on the perfect shade of lipstick because they just know, are simply AMAZING to me. And I celebrate them too.

I want to return to sweating for a moment. Under the right conditions, I love to sweat! And for this reason, I love to run.  But at the same time, I lack a competitive streak.  My objectives for running are the following:

  • Get outside and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts
  • Sign up for the odd race and say, “Yeah, I did that!”
  • Endorphins, baby. Endorphins.

I can’t tell you what my split time is. Nor can I explain to you what my race pace will be. It doesn’t meet the requirement of, “have a good time.”  Once again those “speedster” runners who can almost keep up with the Flash when they complete a marathon in under 4 hours (Ahem, I’m much slower) I’ll buy you a drink. How FANTASTICALLY DEDICATED AND BRILLIANT you are!  Because I can tell you this: I’ve run a marathon, slowly. It takes a lot of hard work to just get across the finish line. But those other people, who do it quickly – WOW!

I have other loves, and you can guess another one, with this blog post. But I will not list them all here because that’s not the point. I am not the same person I was twenty years ago, when I devoured two whole large pizzas by myself on the couch. I have changed. Transformed. Become someone different.

Everything you read in this blog post about me might be invalid tomorrow. (Or, twenty years from now.)   As “Dr. Who” regenerates and becomes different, I too change, grow, add likes, revisit things that I thought I didn’t enjoy, and become someone different. After all, eighty years (I hope) is a long time to stay the same person.

I had a chance to see my favourite actor who played “Dr. Who” at Comicon a few weeks.  During the Q&A, he said one thing a few times that stayed with me, and it was this: “keep moving forward.”

Yes. Keep moving forward.    

Ode To My Dog

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You wiggled, grunted, and waddled into our lives,

With four big brown bear paws, and silky fur.

You, the newest addition, bounced along our floor.

We greeted you with enthusiastic delight,

With cheers, and hurrah!

We welcomed the baby, in our sight.

 

With your floppy ears,

You stole, and stole, and stole.

Socks, spoons, and a garbage bag or two.

And other things,

That shall not be named in this blog post.

For fear Momma, will blush the most.

 

There were expensive things; those eyeglasses placed on the ledge,

With one wagging finger at Daddy, he did pledge.

Enthusiastically, he said he would protect his stuff.

Because I warned him: puppies do not know the difference between diamonds, or fluff.

But did he heed my words?

Please, draw your own conclusions: teeth marks are in the lenses that resemble roads.

 

As the years passed we aged together,

Between us, more grey hairs than I care to count.

Then there were bumps here, and there,

And some of those lumps were removed.

A sigh of relief, spread across the room,

When we were told fear not, they are not a sign, of impending doom.

 

Long walks together were moments to bond,

Together, in wooded trails, just me and you.

Then we gathered with friends,

There was a buddy for me, and one for you too.

And we all walked together,

Two by two.

 

Winds brought change I did not ask for,

And when the phone rang it brought a message:

Time was up for a person I loved.

I sobbed, and wailed, threw my hands in the air!

There you stood between me and Daddy.

Gazing up, you snuggled close, but were not quite sure what else to do.

 

You were there for me,

With your twirling tail, and tightly tucked in ears,

Snuggling close, and forcing me to tend to you.

Your early wake-up calls never ceased,

And when I opened the door,

You seemed to smile, and say, “feed me!”

 

But you are not perfect, our manipulative beast.

As if you could snap your fingers, you command:

Open the door! Let me in! Let me out!

Feed me! Walk me!

I wish to go to Pet Value NOW!

“And please, pass the cheese,” you always demand.

 

You wake me early,

To my dismay.

Even on weekends,

You do not care.

For I am the servant,

To the dog, we love the most.

 

I complain as if I do not like your demanding ways.

Truth be told, I would not change a thing,

For you are the one, that brightens our days.

And without you in our life, we would have little left to say.

For you are funny, smart, cute, and cuddly.

And you will always be: Mommy and Daddy’s little buddy.

***

I know.

I’m no Poet.

Hey, we all have limitations. But for my fury friend, it felt like he deserved something special.

Mind Maze

“It’s not you.” He announces with the sound of annoyance in his voice mixed in with concern for my well-being.

I don’t say anything. I’m pretending I can’t hear him. The hairdryer buzzes in my ear with a high-pitched rumbling sound as heat burns my scalp. The hot air tosses long strands of brown bits in all directions.

When I’m done, I stare at myself in the mirror. My hair is windswept. Of course, windswept summons a romanticized vision of some breathtaking brunette beauty with silky hair. The beauty’s strands of tresses would be swirling around in all directions as if some fairy godmother placed each piece perfectly in the air; it would be the godmother’s final attempt to win over a passerby who may be doubtful of how utterly gorgeous the woman is.

I glance at myself through the mirror. Perhaps hurricane-swept hair is a better combination of words.  Frizzy, dry, and poufy hair tops my head. It stands tall, but also wide, making it nearly impossible to see my ears. I attempt to push some hair back behind my right ear and the rebellious brown strands instantly bounce out as if they are shouting, YOU WILL NOT CONTROL ME!

No kidding.

I huff at myself. Dark circles form underneath my eyes. It’s quite nice. Now I look like a raccoon that’s having a bad hair day.

I mumble, “I miss the days when I could wash my hair and go. No blow drying. No straightening required.  Just wash my hair, tie back with an elastic, and go!”

“Then don’t do it.” He says.

My eyebrows pull together in confusion.

Well – maybe it’s more annoyance.

I don’t want to go down that road – that road we’ve travelled down on so many mornings. Then again, I need to provide some explanation. Otherwise, I’m just a crazy woman with a scent-phobia.

I stumble on my words. As I begin to say them, I know it’s not going to be enough. But I say the words anyways. “I have to blow dry my hair. It gets the smell of shampoo and conditioner out.”

My eyes shift to the large assortment of products that stand at attention on my counter: the Aloe Vera moisturizer is next to the unscented moisturizer; strawberry perfumed deodorant sits beside the odorless one.  I stare down at the Moroccan oil that I slather through my hair on weekends. The hair product makes my locks a little softer, and smooths out the overwhelming waves that I adorn on my head that’s reminiscent of a 1960 bouffant hairstyle that I wear Monday through Friday.

But the Moroccan oil – it’s scented. So, it rests on the counter. Waiting for the weekend, when I can tip the bottle back, drizzle some on my fingertips, and run it through my hair.

Ahhhh….My brain purrs.

Oh my god. I’m a scent addict!   

My husband rolls his eyes at me and says, “There’s no smell of shampoo in your hair.”

Stubbornly, I counter his argument with an intelligent and well thought through statement of: “Yes, there is.” With my well-articulated response that a five-year-old could have said behind me, I reach below my cabinet and pull out my hair straightener, and set it to 440.

He edges over to me and sticks his nose towards my head and announces, “I can’t smell anything.”

I shift. Then I say, “Well, the hair dryer got rid of most of the scent. But the Flat Iron will get the rest out.”

My husband throws his hands up in the air, grabs his shirt, and begins tugging it over his head.

I do believe I won that argument.

Beep, beep, my Flat Iron chants to me. On its command, I reach down with my right hand and wrap my fingers around the hairstyling instrument, and use my left hand to grab big chunks of hair that I quickly run through the plates of the device. Within seconds, my nose twitches at the familiar whiff of singed hair.

Tired of the routine, tired of worrying about everything, I stare down at the woman I see in the mirror. I wish I could shut up the voice in my head. And it’s just in my head. No one has ever said anything to me at work. But I exaggerate everything. One sneeze, over yonder, four floors down from where I sit, and perspiration will gather around the back of my neck instantly as my breathing becomes more shallow and I wonder, oh no…. Is someone having an allergic attack because of some scent I’m wearing?

I worry about smells: fruit scented deodorant, orange perfumed hand cream, or lavender-laced cosmetics.

But it’s not only scented products. Oh no, my mind has had some fun in taking things to a whole new level. Because once you’ve removed all scents from your life, you only have what’s left. And sometimes what remains is that “wet dog” smell because Fido wanted to be affectionate just before I left to go to work, and brushed up against me and it leaves a lingering reminder that yes, I do own a dog!; or a chemical smell will sometimes ooze from new clothes I purchased when they heat up because of the sun. Then there’s also the worry that my fragrance-free deodorant will fail at work, and then my perfume for the day will be Eau de B.O.

I blink at myself.

Hair is slightly flattened. (Still frizzy, but I found my ears!) No makeup. (Oh lord, I can’t even think about it.) Black pants. Grey shirt. Blue circles under my eyes.

I’m ready for work!

I stare down at the Flat Iron. I flip the power button off, and yank the cord out of the wall. Before I walk away, I bounce my head back into the bathroom where my Flat Iron sits on the counter. I pull it away from everything so that it’s not touching my makeup bag, hairbrush…well, anything.

Because you know, I don’t want to burn the house down.

As I start to walk away, there’s a twitching that begins in my fingertips, and before I know it, I’m spinning around again to check the Flat Iron one more time.

I don’t have a problem.

I’m being careful. This is one of those times you can’t make a mistake. My Flat Iron can touch something like the plastic on my hairbrush causing it to heat up, and it could ignite, and because no one’s upstairs right now, no one will know there’s a fire until it’s too late, and our whole house will be engulfed in fiery red flames.

Yeah.

I’m just being careful.

My fingertips begin to twitch. I spin on my heel. I’m standing at the top of the stairs in my home. I have two choices:

 Option 1: I can go and check the Flat Iron again. But I’m certain I turned the power button off, I remember I pulled the cord out of the wall, and I know it had already started to cool down because I placed my hand on the straightener for several seconds and it was warm – but not hot.

Option 2: I can go downstairs, get my bags, walk out the front door, and get on with my day.

I take a deep breath, and turn around as a voice quietly says, Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..

Then, I begin my descent.

Love is…

Part I

Love is when you’ve been particularly neglectful in trimming your eyebrows and plucking them and the gap between the two eyebrows have unified and become one. Wayward hairs arch forward here and there, as if they are reaching to shake a passerby’s hand.

And somehow, your husband or wife, never seems to notice.

***

Love is when you get an unrelenting flu bug that knocks you flat into you bed and you stay there for hours without the ability to so much as raise your head. (In an annoying deal of a bad hand of the cards of fate, you got the one strain that was not contained in the flu shot you got months earlier.)

When the moment arises when you MUST use the washroom you push the pause button and hold it a little longer because it seems the effort will deplete what remains of your energy. Eventually though you rise, and stammer your way into the bathroom and do your business as quickly as possible as your bed is beckoning you to return to it.  In a swirling world of dizziness, you stumble back towards in the direction of your soft duvet, when your husband bursts into the room carrying in one hand a glass of water, and in the other one a bottle of Gatorade. You hear in rushed words that sound that they are said far away, even though he is close by, that he’s going out to get soup for you and crackers.

Back in your bed finally, he hands you the water and you take a few sips of it, and pops the Gatorade open as well. Once you’re safely snuggled in your bed, he rushes out of the room, turning the light off behind him with his cape flying behind him in his quest to locate soup and crackers.

You roll over on your side and mumble, my hero…

Evelyn, Why I Write

Dear Evelyn,

I want you to know that I heard all those things you said to me. You know, the nights I sat with one finger that hovered above the ENTER key as you whispered in my ear, it’s not good enough. You’re out of your league. What are you doing?

I heard you. And then, despite your never-ending taunts I pushed down on that key, and off my submission went to the literary journal.  As my chest tightened, and my breathing became shallow, I turned around to see if maybe you changed your mind after I submitted the story.  Maybe now that I pushed on that key, you thought it was ok, that I tried this “writing thing.”

Instead as I glimpsed over my shoulder, I saw this: your head bent forward while you placed one hand over your face, and shook your head from right to left, with a signal of, no.

It was a look of utter disappointment.

I gulped.

I sweated.

And then, I waited.

You told me not to say a word to anyone when I first began writing. The fictional people and places that I created in my mind would slowly transform and become real to me on my computer screen. But in the beginning, I was the only one that knew about them.

I built worlds. And I created characters.

For three years, no one knew except for my husband.  I want you to know that it was hard to lie to family and friends who asked me, “What are your plans for the weekend?”

I would casually answer, “Oh, maybe I’ll go to Starbucks and read a book.” But quietly in my mind I would scream, AND WORK ON SOME WRITING PROJECTS!

We both know it was important to me that I get published in a literary journal before I revealed my secret ambitions to anyone. Then one late Sunday night, after returning home after visiting family, I perused my email and saw a response from a literary journal. I scowled at the email.  Clicked on the message, and prepared to be rejected again.

In the background, you laughed at me.

But it wasn’t a rejection.  They were ACCEPTING it. My first online publication with a literary journal called Potluck Magazine, and a short story titled, “Do You See Me?” caused me to throw my hands over my mouth as tears gathered in my eyes, and I let out a scream. A reason finally to dance, I started to spin around in circles in my office as I threw my hands up in the air and did my own amended version of the Macarena.

My husband charged up the stairs believing I was facing another catastrophic moment in my life (I guess a happy scream and a sad one, sounds the same coming from me) and he pushed the door open and said, “What happened?”

I yelled, “They accepted my story!” and continued to do some form of an ostrich dance. My husband cautiously approached me with my arms flailing about, beamed at me, and said, “That’s wonderful,” and he wrapped his arms around me.

You were wrong, Evelyn. When I finally, very slowly, began to tell my family and friends, they were happy for me. They patted me on the back proudly, and offered their congratulations.

But we both know the truth, don’t we?

It was never you.

It was me. 

Me: You can’t write. You’re not good enough. Stop wasting your time. It’s impossibly difficult. Why do you even bother? You’ll never be successful at this, “writing thing.” IT’S A LONG SHOT.

I know all these things are true. But I have rebuttals. Everyone starts somewhere. I’ll keep working on it. If I don’t try, I’ll never know. In my head, there’s a constant battle between the two sides.

Just like me, my writing is a work in progress. Just like running, I’m slow at it, and take my time.

There’s a part of me that knows I should stay in the real world. The problem is the imaginary world is so much damn fun. Creating places and people, that are quirky and weird that do odd things; or sometimes I create fictional characters and situations inspired by my life events. Finally, there are the stories based on my life.

The other problem with giving up on writing – I LOVE IT! It’s given me a voice, an imagination, a life that I always felt was impossible.

I won’t lie to you Evelyn, writing is challenging. The creating is difficult, and creating a cohesive story where you don’t accidentally place a character in France, while they are simultaneously living in New York, requires a keen eye and the ability to critique your own work and laugh at your mistakes. It’s exhausting.

Then there’s the grammar portion. Sometimes this part of it is easy and the words flow like a river. Sometimes it’s as if someone has stolen my dictionary and thesaurus, and I’m stumbling around blindly with my mouth stitched closed.

But I work at it. I struggle through the writes, re-writes, the criticism, the bank account that suffers due to the overwhelming amount of paper I go through, printer cartridges, and general stationary.

Because every now and then, maybe I’ll write something that a reader sees and says, yeah, me too! And sometimes, people will just enjoy my stories about a Hero Mouse. If through my writing, there’s just one person who likes a story, or I connect with them on a personal level because of a common experience, it makes the long hours sitting at my computer tapping away – worth it.

Evelyn – that’s why I write.

I want to thank you for always being there. Because you weren’t the one discouraging me, it was me. But even that voice, that self-doubt, allows me to blossom as a writer. By reviewing my work, I’ll look at it critically and wonder: how can I make that sentence better? How will that be interpreted by readers? Am I communicating what I meant to?  

So maybe my lack of self-confidence can be a good thing – as long as it doesn’t stop me from hitting the send button.

Your friend always,

Penny