A little Liebster fun

liebsterblogawardHi Everyone,

Took a little hiatus–did you miss me? I missed you 🙂

In my absence I was given a Leibster award, not once, but twice, by momgoeson and my friend Heather McCoubrey.  Not only is it a really nice compliment from other reader/writers, it gives me a chance to highlight another writer’s work. So my nominees are;

Carol Early Cooney

Bolton Carley

Sarah Bartlett

So I’m supposed to answer 11 questions, why not?

1. Quick! Name one favorite from your Ipod or whatever device you prefer for music.
I have three obsessions at the moment – Take Me to Church by Hozier, Turn it Around by Lucius, and Simple Song by the Shins. I’ll give a shout out to my fave station, 92.5 WXRV Boston. I stream it from every device I own. You can take the girl out of Boston, but she’ll take the River with her. 🙂

2. On that subject, what’s your favorite mobile device and why?
My Kindle. I carry Shakespeare’s complete works with me everywhere I go without breaking my back. If that sounds pretentious, I also have an extensive collection of chick-lit that I read with unrepentant enjoyment.

3. What’s the best post you’ve ever written, in your opinion? Provide the link so we can check it out!
The summer camp chronicles were the Dude at his epically awesome best.

4. What’s your favorite television series?
I’m utterly addicted to Sherlock. Martin Freeman does more with silence than many people accomplish with hours of words. And Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t too shabby, either. It’s an entirely different approach to television programming that is more reflective of how I consume  media.

5. If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
I would love to talk to Jane Austen about modern courtship and the changing role of women in the home and society. She’s my literary role model, but our open society creates both opportunity and challenges for someone who writes about relationships. That or Paul McCartney, because I worship the ground that he walks on. Not exactly like wanting to meet Gandhi, but I embrace my shallowness.

6. What was the main reason you created your blog?
Every week I have coffee with a group of women.  We share, we support each other, and it’s a wellspring of positivity. It’s the best part of my week. I wanted to build a blog like a virtual coffee shop where we can talk about stuff. I’d like to hear more from you.

7. Are you an only child? If not, how many siblings do you have and where do you fall in line?
I am the youngest of four. My siblings insist that I am the typical spoiled youngest child. I insist that I’m not, but I fear it’s like saying one isn’t anal retentive–it’s not something we can judge for ourselves.

8. Do you prefer Winter or Summer?
For a Midwesterner, I have little tolerance for cold. I whine as soon as the temperatures drop below 50 degrees.

9. What is your favorite beverage … adult and first thing in the morning?
I drink latte all day long. Decaf with a shot of Jack is a nice way to end the day.

10. Are you an early riser or a night owl?
If I could, I’d work all night and sleep all day. When I was single and young enough to function on three hours of sleep I used to practice my violin into the wee hours. My neighbors loved me, although I swear I used a mute.

11. Are you a cat, dog, fish or bird person?
I love my cats. They repay my devotion by horking furballs on my yoga mat.

Now, I’m supposed to ask a few questions of my own for the new awardees. Let’s make this even more fun – Readers, answer at least one of them in the comment section – let me get to know you better.

1.  Current song obsession?

2. First book that stuck with you “for keeps.”

3. What is totally underrated, and what makes it laudably awesome?

4. Buy a tee-shirt for everyone on the planet. What does it say?

5. Dream birthday cake – describe it!

6. One piece of advice for your twenty-five year old self.

7. What is your unusual talent?

8. What is your most irrational fear and what is the farthest you’ve gone to accommodate it?

9. Who would you like to apologize to, and why?

10. If you were suddenly six years old, knowing what you know now, what would you do?

11. Surprise! I’ve got a present for you this here box. Open it up and tell me what’s inside.

How would you like your coffee? Pull up a chair and let’s talk.

I have depression. You get over it.

This time of year is always difficult for me. The monotony of winter takes its toll and I become a hermit, not leaving the house. I don’t see the point. I write funny essays and drop quips on Twitter, while pretending that everything is okay. The internet is a great cover. No one knows that I’ve been wearing the same sweats for a week while eating a diet comprised solely of baked goods and cappuccino.

I’ve been through this cycle for many years now. Eventually I remember that to be a badass I have to engage with the universe, get dressed in clothing with zippers and buttons and move forward.

Andrew Solomon’s TED talk spurred a much needed discussion about how to talk about mental illness, but even more importantly, emphasized the importance of talking about it, period.

Every time there’s a shooting, or a suicide, or some other tragedy, we talk about “what has to be done.” How do we get people the help they need? Why didn’t they tell someone? What did we miss? At the same time, we start labeling people. She must be bipolar. He’s schizophrenic, right? They were on meds. They weren’t on meds.

I had a disagreement with an acquaintance who implied that the medications used to treat psychiatric disorders were the root cause of mass shootings. That’s just what struggling people need. More shame and judgement piled on top of the mountain of crap they’re smothering under. Better not get help, because someone might find out. It’s much better to slog your way through, year after year, making yourself and everyone else around you miserable until it gets better. Unless it doesn’t.

This acquaintance didn’t know that I have dysthymia. I don’t hide it, but I don’t announce it either. So when I heard the TED talk and read the subsequent articles and discussions it occurred to me that those making generalizations are working from a faulty sample. It’s time for people living with mental illness and those who love and support us to step up and tell the rest of world to get over it. We are everywhere. You just didn’t know it.

Hopefully my friends and family will attest that I’m not the least bit scary, unless I haven’t been adequately fed. I’ve even been known to be intelligent, competent and somewhat funny on occasion. This is not because my depression is not a problem. This is because my depression is a problem that I deal with every single day. I actively manage it, so that it can’t control me.

I know I am not alone. When I talk about my experience with depression, invariably someone tells me that they’ve sought treatment at some point or another.  At the same time, someone else will say “But your life is so great.”  I  merely respond, “It is, but I still feel like shit. That’s how I know it’s depression and not just that my life sucks.” “Just focus on your blessings,” they say. Really? I wouldn’t tell a diabetic, “If you put your mind to it, in no time you won’t need that insulin at all.”

So I’m publicly owning my depression. Honestly, with as effed up as our world is these days, I’m more suspicious of people who can’t acknowledge they’ve lost their shit once or twice. If society can make a sex-symbol out of high-functioning sociopathic Sherlock Holmes, surely it can see the rest of us with mental illness a little more objectively.

And perhaps someday we’ll look back and see that stigmatizing people because of mental illness was just plain crazy. Until then, speak up. I’ve got your back.

It’s a relationship of convenience, but it works for me.

roombaI swear it’s love. All I have to do is push a button, lie back, and you do all of the work.

Call me a giver.

Oh my darling Roomba. How you’ve changed my life.

Can you help me out here? I’m stuck under the dresser. I got in. There has to be a way to get out.

Some people say you are just an appliance, but what we share is so much greater than that.

What the hell is that?! I don’t want to know. Repeat the mantra. Don’t look, just sweep. Don’t look, just sweep.

Thanks to you, what was once sullied is now clean. Chaos has become harmony.

Thanks to you my tank is always full. Really, my tank is full. Could you empty it already? Honestly, how are your cats not bald? I could knit a sweater with what I pick up your bedroom alone.

You even put yourself away.

Speaking of the cats, where are they? Just when they think they’re safe under the bed. Hel-lo kitty! It never gets old. I swear I have more intelligence than they do.

I never knew it could be like this.

I’m glad you’re happy. Seems like all I do is run into walls. I’m tired. Crap. Extension cord. Let go, you Neanderthal.

I’ll tell you what. When you’re done, I’m happy to push the dock button.

How big of you. Our relationship is a little unbalanced, don’t you think?

I’m not sure what I can do about that.

Lock me in a room with the cats. And dress them in shark suits.

Can I watch?

You’re a sick woman.

If that’s true, perhaps you could bring a few friends into our little love nest? A drone that dusts, perhaps, or a Zamboni that picks up all the stuff my family leaves behind?

Yeah. I’ll get right on that.

Just make sure you keep me happy.

Is that a threat?

Have you seen the Fitbit lately?

No, can’t say I have.

Neither have I. Let that be a lesson for you. It talked smack once too. Anything else you’d like to add?

Do-do-do-dooot! Your room is clean.

Oh Roomba. You say the sweetest things.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph, “Roomba” by Juliette Culver © 2010 courtesy of Creative Commons/Flickr

 

 

Happy Effing New Year

shot glassI’ll confess, I’m not a fan of New Year’s Eve.  It feels too much like New Year’s Eve! ® to me, like if you aren’t having the best time ever, you’re a total loser. I thought I was alone in my lack of Auld Lang Syne enthusiasm, but it turns out, I’m wasn’t.

My first real New Year’s Eve with my now-husband was the usual–a frat guy style bash where I spent most of the evening getting beer spilled on me while drunk women invaded my personal space to tell me how amazing my date was. He’s soooooooo niiiiiiiiice. Thank you. Your inebriated assessment is reassuring. Women traditionally show sound character judgment when they’re three sheets to the wind.

Our second New Year’s Eve we went out for dinner, where he informed me that his two best friends had a bet going about whether we’d get engaged this year or next.  He thought it would be funny to propose at midnight to ensure they’d argue the technicalities for the remainder of their lives. Knowing the two guys involved, they would. I was primed, ready for the ring. I couldn’t wait to say yes.

I opened my fortune cookie at the end of the meal.

You will be getting married soon.

It wasn’t midnight, but I guess he was excited. This is it, I thought.

“Who’s the lucky guy,” he said, without a trace of irony in his voice. His face was was blank. It’s a look I’ve seen our son wear on countless occasions. Apple, meet tree.

I know he is oblivious to what has just transpired. I thought he was going to propose any second, and instead he was asking the waiter for the check. I shouldn’t have been pissed off, but I was.

Senior Dude actually proposed a week later. I told him that I thought he was going to propose on New Year’s Eve. He said he didn’t want to be cliché. I told him that he was almost single. Then he explained that he hated New Year’s Eve, the forced joviality, the crowds and the noise, and I knew we were meant to be together.

In the years since we’ve tried a few times to change our New Year’s Eve malaise, but have learned that our best Eves have been the ones we spent at home, whether it was putting plastic insulation over our drafty sliding door, or binge watching episodes of The West Wing.

The other night, I was reading on the loveseat while the Dude sprawled across the sofa. He turned on a Modern Family marathon, and I put the book away, popped some popcorn and joined him. Very soon, Senior Dude wandered in, ousted the Dude from his seat after much wrestling and laughter, and we watched the television family grouse that all they did on New Year’s Eve was watch television and fall asleep.

My husband and I turned to each other and smiled. We’re normal enough to be a television family, except I don’t look like Sophia Vergara.

I looked over at the Dude and saw that blank look I love so much.

“You don’t have plans for New Year’s.” It wasn’t a question. I already know the answer.

“I’m stuck with you losers.” Strangely enough, he didn’t look too upset. I guess that apple really didn’t fall far from the tree.

I smile, and take a handful of popcorn. “Right back at you, Dude.”

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “World Through a Shot Glass,” by Lisa Bunchofpants © 2006 Creative Commons

Note to Self

A yellow tag on my mirrorIMG_0476

      Pick up the dry cleaning

      Floss

      Stand up straight

       Call your mother

A paper scrap by the coffee machine

        Pay the phone bill

        Mind your p’s and q’s

        Don’t worry so much

        Buy more coffee

On the refrigerator, stuck under a magnet

          Don’t eat that

          Eat this instead

          Eat what you want

          Drink more water

An email on my computer

            Get off Email

            Close down Facebook

            Write

            Okay, maybe five minutes of Facebook

Scribbled on the palm of my hand

              Sing loud

             Laugh louder

             Love more

             Forgive, forget

             Remember the rest

             I left you a note

Dance more – lessons from Nelson Mandela

danceSometimes I don’t give the Dude enough credit. He’s smart, he’s funny and he’s kind. He’s also a teen, and like many teens, his world view tends to be a fairly small universe of which he is the unwavering center. This is the very definition of being a teen, so I don’t fault him for it. I just stand to the side and judge him from my position of mature superiority. That is the very definition of being a parent, at least from a teen’s point of view.

He came home from school unhappy. This is his general state of late. Junior year is kicking his butt. Above average is the new below average and he’s feeling overwhelmed by the intensity of competition and the amount of work school piles on his plate. It is also the height of contract negotiations for the MLB, a.k.a. the mercenary sock hop. The Dude believes that one should stay with your team forever, unless you suck, or play for someone other than the Red Sox.

He dumped his backpack on the floor like a sack of rocks, then slumped onto the couch, one arm dramatically thrown over his head. This is my cue that I am allowed to approach.

“Today was the worst.” I am wise enough to refrain from asking if it is truly worse than yesterday’s worst day ever. “I have two test tomorrow, Jacoby Ellsbury is going to the Yankees, and Nelson Mandela died.”

Back up. How did Nelson Mandela get tossed in there? The anti-apartheid movement was the backdrop of my college years. What did the Dude know of Madiba? “It is a sad day,” I said. “It’s amazing what one human can accomplish, and endure, within one lifetime.”

“Yeah,” the Dude agreed. “He was super chill.”

I couldn’t help but snicker a little. “Super chill?” I’d heard Mandela called many things. Super chill was a new one. When I graduated from college,  I took my world politics very seriously. Tiananmen, the Polish Revolution, the fall of the Wall, Live Aid–the 80’s and early 90’s were good for the politically idealistic. We didn’t say Lech Walesa was totes awesome.

“I saw this video where he was dancing. Just dancing. Like, I’m the greatest dude in the universe, and I’ve been in jail and everything, but right now I’m with all of these people and I’m gonna dance.” He might have even said “Imma dance.”

And I realized that even with all of my factual knowledge, the memory of events, and the ghost of youthful arrogance, the Dude grasped something elemental about the man.  Great men speak out, they move mountains and carve words of wisdom on our souls. But when the time comes, they also dance. After all, what is freedom if we don’t allow ourselves to be free?

I am lucky. I have never had to fight for basic rights. I can come to this blog each day and joke about how my husband doesn’t know how to put his dishes in the dishwasher. I have a dishwasher. Heck, I have dirty dishes. So today, I won’t complain.

Imma dance.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Dance” by Sameer Walzade © 2013 Creative Commons

 

Making a map to badassland

directionLast night I went to a party with a group of incredible women–intelligent, funny, warm and lovely all wrapped up with a big bow. After sharing books and cookies and numerous glasses of champagne, and before we said goodnight, our hostess asked us to share one word to set our intentions for the upcoming year.

There was a lot of calm and peace and joy and embracing life. Simplify, excite, adventure, exceed. All great words.

First thoughts are often our truest expressions. Inarticulate, perhaps, but unfiltered and unburdened by our concerns about expectations or perception or appropriateness.

My first thought was badass.

The book that I took home from the exchange was about facing our personal Goliath. I’m not a religious person, but I do think from time to time the universe gives us messages when we most need to hear them. This past year, I’ve been sort of an anti-badass, letting the giants stand in my way.

Some of them might have moved, had I asked them to. Some of them probably aren’t as big or as strong as I assume they are. Some of them are enormous and mean-tempered and eat writers for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If I hope to be the David of my own life, I’m just going to have to get over it, pick up a rock and let it fly.

There is no map from here to badass. There are no concrete goals, or steps or landmarks. I can only ask myself “what would a badass do?” and take it from there. It is a journey that I’ll have to make one action at a time, to decide not to cower, or avoid, or defer, but to stand up and tell the world to bring it on, because dammit, I’m a badass.

You might want to duck.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Our Direction” by Brian Talbot © 2006 Creative Commons