A Woman’s Home is Her Fairy Tale Castle

My grandfather made me this castle/dollhouse because "every princess should have a castle." Miss you, Gpa!

My grandfather made me this castle/dollhouse because “every princess should have a castle.” Miss you, Gpa!

A new antique shop just opened a couple of miles from our rental home and I talked my reluctant husband into coming to check it out with me. We are looking to finally purchase a home of our own, and while my husband has been desperately trying to curb my spending (which I think I’m doing pretty darn well with, thankyouverymuch), I keep thinking—merely thinking—of things I want to buy for the house once we get it. Point being, antique stores are dangerous territory right now.

“I want one of these in the worst way,” I said, caressing the antique spinning wheel.

“A spinning wheel? What in the world would you do with that?”

Not knowing the first thing about spinning, I replied, “Put it in our living room once we get a house.”

“Okay,” he said, doing his best to keep the mild exasperation out of his voice. He is far too practical not to have rolled his eyes while my own glittered at the sight of the spinning wheel I haven’t the first clue how to use. “Why do you want to put an antique spinning wheel in our living room?”

I grinned. This was the question I so hoped he’d ask. “So I can tell people it’s the one on which Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger.”

I’m sure he wanted to laugh, but it was a sigh that came out. He’s heard numerous times about how when I was a little girl I wanted four white mice (because “four white mice are easily four white horses”); and he still has the wolfman mask from when I talked him into going as the Big Bad Werewolf for Halloween so I could go as Little Dead Riding Hood.

The Big Bad Werewolf and Little Dead Riding Hood

The Big Bad Werewolf and Little Dead Riding Hood

He rolled his eyes and sweetly said, “When we have a house, sweetie,” and started walking away, presumably to get me as far away from the spinning wheel as possible.

He shook his head as I informed him that the spinning wheel would make a perfectly acceptable birthday or Christmas present, but I detected a hint of an amused smile too.

I think he’s finally come to terms with the fact that he married a wanna-be fairy tale princess.

That Scent

scentDo you ever catch a scent that brings you to someplace other than where you are?

I stepped outside this evening and caught that scent. The grass isn’t freshly mown. It was mowed a couple of days ago. That turned out to be perfect because I caught the faint smell of the wild flowers and of the warm air itself uninhibited by the newly cut grass smell.

Suddenly, I was 12 years old again. I was instantly transported back to my grandmother’s sun porch where my generation congregated during bath time. Then the memory added the faint smell of Dove soap (which I actually could smell because I’d just washed my hands), and Breck shampoo.

All of us cousins got to hang out on the sun porch while we waited for our turns for a bath. The adults probably would have preferred us to just be inside and stay inside after we were washed, but that would hardly be fair when the cousins we saw so rarely were still on the porch laughing and talking and getting to know each other all over again.

I remembered being told to be careful in my bare feet in the yard.  The adults would have preferred me (and all of us) to be shod, but I’d never really liked shoes. The whole point of summer was (and still is) to run around barefoot!

And then someone would get a nasty bee sting on the foot and we would have to endure the “told-ya-so” before we went out barefoot again. Or was that me and my childhood neighbors? Either way, it was the best of times.

It’s rare that I miss my past, but every time I catch that scent, I’m taken to a place in the past that I love and hold dear in my heart.

Attention Brides and Grooms To Be!

I submitted our wedding to Offbeat Bride and they accepted it!  See our post on Offbeat Bride. And don’t miss the links for some great artists at the end of the post.

Look at the sun on our shoulders!

Look at the sun on our shoulders!

We are a blessed couple!  We had such a great time planning and dreaming, but we have a better time as husband and wife. (I promise that this will be the last time I gush about my husband on my blog…but I’ve promised that before).

Visit Offbeat Bride for tips on making the wedding you choose freakin’ fabulous!  I did, and I’ll NEVER regret it.

BTW…I love you, Joseph Alexander Merza!

Is There Such a Thing as Social Media Anxiety Disorder?

We all know that social anxiety disorder is a very real thing. It’s crippling to those who suffer from it, and it’s hard to watch a loved one go through it. And while I hate to bring up social media within the context of a serious disorder, I’m starting to wonder if there is such a thing as social media anxiety disorder. It seemed a ridiculous thought at first, because seriously, just turn the computer off–right? But the more I entertained the thought, the more valid it started seem.

Again, I start with my usual disclaimer. I am not slamming social media. Social media is not the devil. It’s a very useful tool, from marketing to keeping in touch with friends with whom you otherwise might have lost contact, to sharing information.  And let’s not forget the girl who used Facebook to find her birth mother.

I use social media to share my blog posts, and will absolutely use it to market my book. As far as day jobs are concerned, I wouldn’t scoff at getting back into digital and social media marketing. I get it. I understand it. I truly enjoy it.  And as someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy the telephone, I’d rather communicate via the computer (which is a whole other, relatively played out, post entirely).

That said, who gets stomach butterflies (and not in the good way) upon seeing a Facebook notification? Who signs in to Twitter and immediately signs back out again because the Twitter drama is just a little much that day? Who hears that “ping!” on the mobile device (or whatever sound you have your various social media alerts set to) and immediately wonders, “What now?”

I don’t think I need to point out that people are often much more vicious online than they would ever be in person, which leads me to wonder if people are being more honest, or if they’re just being jerks, trolls, or bullies. This, of course, leads me to wonder (and often judge myself) about why in the heck I even have relationships with these people to begin with.  Is that where the anxiety comes from?  Or, is it that in an effort to not exhibit these traits myself, I second guess every last thing I post?  Unless there’s been wine, which again, is a whole other post entirely.

I’m even agonizing a little over this blog.  Is it a smart career move to speak negatively about social media experiences when I’ve just admitted to possibly wanting to get back into digital and social media marketing down the line?

I think at this point, a lot of us have a love/hate relationship with social media. I have often fantasized about deleting my accounts altogether, which is always a rather short fantasy because, in this world, not having a social media presence means there’s something wrong with you. From employers thinking you have something to hide or aren’t tech savvy enough to figure it out, to commentaries about how James Holmes didn’t have a social media presence.

As it turns out, we have to have a social media presence and it has to be pristine. It can’t show us as we are, but as we want the world to believe we are or else *insert list of crappy things people are going to say/believe about you here*. It seems that social media has become another mask we have to wear. And maybe that’s where the anxiety comes from.

Is anyone else having this feeling, or is it just me?

Update: Apparently it’s not just me.  Check out this great article from Julie Spira: Do You Suffer From Social Media Anxiety Disorder?

Freddy Krueger vs. The Children of the Corn (or Stuff I Think About Instead of the Task At Hand)

It started with an innocent status update on Facebook. “Ya know what horror movie I’d like to see get made? Freddy vs. The Children of the Corn.”

It was really meant to be no more than a humorous status update at the end of a Friday. No more, no less. But my head is a chaotic place at best and there is always something to contemplate besides the task at hand.

For those unaware of who Freddy Krueger is or who The Children of the Corn are (although I don’t know how one could be unaware), a little background first.  Freddy Krueger, of the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, is a murdered burn victim turned dream demon who feeds on fear and kills the teenagers of Elm Street in their dreams (there’s a lot more to the story, but truly, I’m assuming people know who freakin’ Freddy Krueger is, and if not, Google it). The Children of the Corn from the Children of the Corn franchise are a bunch of bat-sh*t crazy kids from the fictitious rural town of Gatlin, Nebraska who kill all the adults for the pleasure of a demon referred to as “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”.  Of course they off each other when they become adults too.  The movie franchise started with Children of the Corn, which is based on a short story by Stephen King. And honestly, anything else you need to know can be Googled.

Of course, there was also the movie Freddy vs. Jason, which sparked this “Freddy vs…” nonsense in my head to begin with.

So anyway, there I was, basking in the “likes” of an innocent status update, when my chaotic head took over, outlining the plot no matter how hard I tried to concentrate on other things, because really, this sh*t writes itself.

So, we’ve established that the adults in Gatlin are gone. The children are now wards of the state of Nebraska.  Of course, everyone in Nebraska knows about what happened in Gatlin by now, so no one in his or her right mind fosters or adopts these kids. Enter the grief-stricken parents of Elm Street, desperate to hear the pitter patter of little feet, or even the hormone driven tantrums of teenagers, in their homes again after Freddy killed their own children.

Zoom in on an idealistic young couple who really just wanted to adopt the adorable six-year-old girl with bouncing curls, but upon finding out she had siblings, had to take them all in.  They’re taking their three adopted children (because there are always three—unless we’re talking about horror movie sequels, in which case there are many more), into their big, wonderful home on Elm Street.

However, the teenage middle child (because it’s always the middle child), hasn’t quite forgotten about his devotion to He Who Walks Behind the Rows, and so he becomes the leader of a whole new corn cult on Elm Street.

The killings start out looking like accidents.  The town drunk falls into an electric fence mysteriously turned up too high.  A bookshelf falls on the librarian.  The man with the notorious road rage runs his car off the bridge.  But soon it becomes obvious that the children of Elm Street are killing the adults.

And, you know, there’s that corn field that grew out of nowhere in a suburban neighborhood.

So, there’s Freddy, hangin’ out, havin’ a beer, watchin’ the game—you know, whatever it is Freddy does in his non-killing hours—when he senses the fear on Elm Street (kind of like a disturbance in the force).  Elated, he throws on his glove and goes to work.

Much to his surprise, it’s not the children of Elm Street emanating all the fear.  It’s the adults!  What a quandary for Freddy! If he does what’s in his nature, he’s a hero, not a villain. But then, well, there are some kids to be killed. I imagine this as some poignant moment with Freddy, head in knife-gloved hand, contemplating his path, accompanied by maudlin violins and dim lighting. But then, as the music reaches a crescendo, his head snaps up in his ah-ha moment.  He is Freddy!  He is a killer of teens! (Because we can’t have him killing small children—audiences couldn’t take that and it would destroy the possibility of the almighty sequel. These kids must become teens.)  He is what he is and there is blood to be spilled!  And if that makes him a hero, so bloody what!

And then there’s lots of blood, and gore, and a final battle between Freddy and He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Toe to Toe. Demon to Demon! Freddy inevitably saves Elm Street, if only to secure some future killing for himself. Job security is important in this economy.

It will be wonderful! You’ll have a tub of popcorn.  You’ll share a giant soda with your date.  You’ll hover over the cinema toilet to take a runny poo before you laugh about the movie in the car the whole way home.

But you won’t freakin’ blog about it because I already did!

Waking Up

It’s been a while.  I have no excuse, but still have the desire to let blog followers know how life in my corner of the Universe has been.

I started a new day job as a technical writer.  I really didn’t like it at first as I wasn’t actually writing a word and, at the time, it didn’t look as though I would be.  Considering that I had been on quite the productive, creative writing roll before starting a new report-here-for-40-hours-a-week-for-money job, I admit that I got more than a little depressed about it.  And for some reason, not getting to write during the day pretty much took the wind out of my sails as far as any writing or blogging I would have decided to do in the evening.  So after my nightly job search was done (because I believed I’d made a horrible mistake in accepting my current job), I put aside the computer and stared dejectedly at the TV; remote in one hand, adult beverage in the other.

Of course, I wasn’t sleeping very well either.  It was the lack of sleep that finally drove me to confront my employers about how in the world they were going to hire a technical writer and not let her write.  I wish I had done this much sooner!  They assured me that I would be writing and possibly even editing soon, and explained why I was not doing so at the time.  Feeling better about everything, I slept like a baby that night (although that probably also had something to do with not sleeping the night before).  A couple of days later, my employers kept their word and I was assigned a real technical writing task.

But even with the problem at hand solved, the pattern of doing nothing with my evenings remained.  If someone had asked me if I was depressed, I’d have said no.  I wasn’t feeling particularly low anymore. In fact, I was feeling something that came close to contentment.  But there was very little difference between depressed me, and what I claimed to be a fully functioning, productive me.

Coming out of the slump felt more like waking up than cheering up. It usually feels this way, whether I “wake up” on my own, or whether I have some metaphorical alarm clock screeching at me.

This time I had the aid of the screeching alarm clock in the form of a submission deadline for a short story contest.  Honestly, part of me expected to go back to sleep after the “final” edits and the submission process were complete.  But I find myself faced with the other stuff I said I was going to accomplish.  I have other submissions to take care of,  a ton of reading to catch up on, a home to clean (because it is–in my opinion–a wreck), not to mention this blog.

Now, if someone could bring me some coffee…

The Death of Monte: A Glimpse Into the American Love Affair with the Automobile

My husband’s 1998 Chevy Monte Carlo, which we less-than-creatively called Monte, died in the noble pursuit of alcohol on Sunday evening.  We wanted wine with dinner, but missed the 5:00pm cutoff to buy in Connecticut on a Sunday, so we crossed the border to Rhode Island.

As short as the trip was, it was further than we should have dared go in Monte, and as we were heading north on I-95, we noticed a funny sound and smell.  This wasn’t new for Monte.  We had known for a long time that she wasn’t going to get through another inspection.  We suspected that if we took her to a garage to get one problem fixed, no mechanic in his (or her) right mind was going to allow us to take her back off the lot until thousands of dollars of other truly necessary work was done—way more work than the car was worth monetarily.  I had often said that I felt bad for even putting the key in the ignition any longer.  If she had been a human, she would have been allowed to retire ages ago.  But Joe, my husband, faithfully did tune-ups, changed brakes, and took care of any vehicular ailment he could.  He assured me that smells and sounds are common to old cars and was confident he could squeeze another 30,000 miles out of her.  But as the noise got louder and the smell got stronger, I saw his confidence wane.  (He later admitted to me that he knew that this was the proverbial “it” on the highway, but didn’t say anything in an effort not to worry me.)

We purchased our libations and came out to start the car.  She coughed a puff of smoke in protest, and wouldn’t start.  It was the one day neither of us brought our cell phones because it was supposed to be a short trip, so Joe disappeared into the pizza shop beside the package store to call AAA.

I knew this was going to be tough on Joe; he loved that car.  He had purchased her while he was in the Navy and he and Monte had done a couple of cross-country trips together.  But what I hadn’t expected, as I sat on a nearby boulder staring at Monte’s hood, was that my own eyes were growing misty.  I had underestimated how much I loved that car.  I got off the boulder, kissed Monte’s hood, and allowed my memories—and yes, even a couple of tears—to flow.

Monte is partially responsible for me falling in love with Joe to begin with.  Back when we had just started dating, I called Joe one night to see if he wanted to hang out.  He said that he would love to, but he had to finish some work on his car first.  In my boredom, I asked if he would mind if I hung out with him until he was finished. I could stand to learn a thing or two about car maintenance anyway. He told me that of course he didn’t mind, and he was out back.  He’d be the legs sticking out from under the black Monte Carlo.

As I came around the corner, I saw the legs.  I announced my arrival and Joe scooted out.  Sweat poured off of him leaving streaks in the grease on his skin as he wielded a wrench, or some such tool, and cursed in frustration.  It was like Cupid had shot me all over again!  Maybe it’s the Pennsylvania redneck in me, but damn if there isn’t something about a man working on his car that just makes me grin all over!  He had me at, “Can’t get this f*cking bolt loose!”

Joe and I satisfied one of my greatest fantasies in that car.  I won’t say what it was because, much like Monte’s final road days, it may have actually been illegal, but we were “dumb kids” of 29 and 30 so give us a break.

I got my second speeding ticket (but the first in over ten years) to Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory” in that car.  But Monte didn’t die in a blaze of glory.  She died with a sad sputter, begging us not to try and start her again.  She didn’t die on the interstate.  She died in a parking lot, telling us that this was as far as she could go.  We were safe.  We were near phones.  What more could we have asked of her?

Monte made trips she shouldn’t have made.  She saved us when newer, shinier cars weren’t up for the job.  She was Miss Kitty with a shotgun and a deadly aim from the second story window, saving the hero during the Old West shoot out, with nothing but a smile, a nod, and a request for more oil—because the oil leaked.

Later, as I sat there sipping my wine with dinner, it felt wrong.  I should have been drinking whiskey.  Monte was a tough old broad and if she had been human, whiskey would have been her drink.  So, we took the little bottle of whiskey from the counter, poured two shots and had a drink to her.  What a car!

How much more proof do you need that we Americans love our cars?

We love freedom and a car is more than just a symbol of that freedom. If we’re willing to make the drive, the car will get us there in comfort, with air conditioning and seats that recline.  The United States of America is a huge country, and that’s why we have famous highways, and humble truck stops that become famous.  It’s part of why we love the freaking cheeseburger!  It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s handheld, and if a fast food restaurant can do it right, a roadside joint can do it better!  The car is a huge part of America the Beautiful in the modern age. And Monte was one of the best.

*Disclaimer: this is not an endorsement of Chevrolet.  Everyone knows I’m a Dodge girl!  But damn…I loved that Chevy!

Rest in Peace, Monte.

Big Blue

I like to cook. Organizing and laying out ingredients in order of use helps me organize my thoughts. It also helps me quiet all the rest of the stuff going on in my brain long enough to reflect on things that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

As I was browning meat for my special lasagna the other day in preparation for a visit from my dear sister-in-law, I started thinking about family, traditions, and meals cooked with love. Then suddenly, as silly as it may seem in comparison, it occurred to me how much I love the pan I was using.

I call the pan Big Blue. It is the only cooking utensil we have that has a name. The big blue frying pan had been a wedding present to my parents and is years older than me. It was passed down to me many moons ago when my parents did a kitchen upgrade and I moved into my first apartment.

Big Blue has certainly seen better days. Its bottom is a little warped. Nearly forty years worth of burn marks and stains mar the outside and make me wonder how bright the blue had been when the pan was new. The lid is missing its handle. Of course, we still use the lid. We just use a fork and an oven mitt to maneuver it.

In spite of all its dings, dents, and aesthetic shortcomings, it’s still often times the best pan for the job. No, I wouldn’t want to make an omelet in it, but it’s perfect for dishes like beef stroganoff, mashed potato pancakes, and—if I’m really flipping off my diet—fried chicken.

Big Blue is deep and weighs a ton. If it’s filled with sauce, I have to use two hands to hold it even remotely steady. And washing it—ugh! I don’t even want to think about that.

What I love to think about is all the meals over the years that had been prepared with love and care in that pan. My mother taught me to make beef stroganoff in it. I use it to make my meat sauce for my special lasagna. The first meal I ever made for my husband (while we were still dating) was made using Big Blue.

That pan made the food that made the memories. “Better”, lighter weight and non-stick coated pans will come and go—and they do. But I’ll never give up Big Blue.