Tuesday, May 30, 2017


I've been taking an online writing course. It's about creative writing, which I have always considered a weakness of mine. In the past I always prided myself on my academic writing because it seemed more serious and worthy of respect. But, when I began to try and write a book, I realized how much I really loved writing creatively. And how HARD it is. It is seriously difficult. So because of this (and the fact that I've stalled out on my book), and many other reasons, I decided to take this class.

It has been a game changer for me. In writing these small assignments, I remember a part of me that I had long forgotten--the part that loves to be a student. The part that loves to get feedback and craft pieces of writing. I have remembered my love for language! It is really freeing to become reacquainted with a part of yourself that you feared was lost or too dusty to be worth anything.

So. That said, I thought I'd start to share some of the things I write for my class here on my blog. I am fairly certain no one checks this much anymore. But if you see this, I'm glad you're here, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy. Maybe it will inspire you to get out your pencil and paper. It's been really cathartic and fun for me.

The first assignment was as following: Choose a color to write about. Use the thesaurus function on your software or a printed thesaurus at least ten times during this exercise. Work to focus your writing and write tight. Make the assignment no more than 250 words. 

You may want to write out the exercise in longhand so that you have a feeling of the paper as you write. This could be a tactile thrill needed to inspire your work. After you've finished the first draft, go back and discover new words to exchange for the more mundane ones.

Be creative with the color you use. Sure you could choose yellow, but you could also choose farm-fresh egg yolk yellow. You could select brown, but you could also write about the color of rusty corn or wheat fields in the fall.

To help you visualize a color, select a flower, a book, an article of clothing, or a food, such as an apple, and put it next to you during this exercise. Set your timer or pour on the chair glue for a minimum of five minutes. Now write about the color in the first person, that is in the I way, as if YOU were the color.

Here is what I wrote. See if you can figure out the color. :)
You misunderstand me so often. You pick me as your power tie color, hoping to hide your queasiness during the interview.
And I know that at first glance all you can see me as is blood spilt, rage, a comic book hero's cape. I wound you, I flash and wail all sirens and road rage. Taken for violence, surprise, energy, fire. I sigh, and must own my dark side. The molten fires of a volcano, I regret I must burn a crimson path before I am satiated.
But since I am me, I must resist as well. I would rather tempt you with dreams of ripe apples, warming innocently in the sun. Juicy, jewels of strawberries winking through swathes of green. I triumph as the gilded-scarlet chinese dragon's scales serpentine down the street under a navy sky. I am glowing garnet paper lanterns strung between you and the stars.
You want me fiery, explosive, angry. Flushing, blushing. But I also rest like a roseate prayer on your child's cheeks--feverish and lonely. And, tomorrow when the fever breaks and she comes in from the snow, I gleam her exultant spark--rosy cheeks on a blustery day, scarlet mittens your mother made.
Kiss my lips, lover, they are ruby. They are cherries.They are the wine-stained tellers of truths and lies. Sweet, sad, passionate, and (please don't resist, Darling), your bittersweet home.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Unrequited love

I have this new theory. 

It goes a little something like this: I think we go through this life moving from unrequited love to unrequited love. 

We're all the time seeking equal amounts of devotion and love in other people until we find someone that we believe we can trust enough to stick with us through enough moments of uncertainty. It sort of makes the act of marriage very vulnerable and brave when I look at it through that lens. We lay our fears on that altar of marriage and all we can do is hope that the other person means it when they say they will see us through the days that they may not particularly feel like requiting that love. It's brave, that beautiful act.

And, we don't often talk of unrequited love in friendships, but I'm pretty sure it is the same. We try to get on the same wavelength as other people. When our seasons of life and social needs and personalities and sense's of humor and kids' sleeping schedules all line up magically with someone else's it seems almost karmic. And it's almost as terrible a cosmic joke when all of those things line up but we find the other person terribly boring. The older you get, the more complicated finding that beautiful friend love balance is. The advent of texting has hastened the death knell of friendships as well. How easy it is for us to cancel with just a few typed words as we lay in our beds finishing binge watching some netflix show. 

And sometimes don't the steps between acquaintance and friend you could call for life emergencies feel like the ascent up some shatteringly tall mountain like Everest or K2? Somewhere up there, past the wall of clouds, they say that mythical, perfectly requited friendship exists. There are many a day I feel like I'm staring up at that sheer wall of mountain with my mouth gaping, 80 pounds of gear strapped to my back, and a beer belly out front. There ain't no way out of this alive for me. If I were to continue that metaphor to completion, you'd see me camped out at the bottom of that mountain eating energy bars and taking naps and selfies, trying to convince myself that the views from the top make all of the climbing and oxygen deprivation worth it.

But is it? I'm getting old enough to realize that I'm getting towards being an old dog, and my tricks are pretty near ingrained. I've been through the ringer with a lot of people. I've had great friends. I've lost and been abused in other relationships to the point that I felt I was near to begging for mercy to just be put out of the misery of this life. So I know I've been shaped by all of these authentic loves and these other relationships that have dared to call me love and backhanded me all in the same breath. And all that I know as I stand here is that I am who I am. The life coach and the sex abuse therapist and my husband have held my hand when waves have threatened to go over my head. It never goes all the way away, even if you've been diligently working at it for years (like I have). The stains, the scars-- they are the experiences that make us both vulnerable and neurotic. Lovable and toxic. These experiences they are like my veins now--like lines beneath my skin that I can see but can't tell how well they're actually working. It's hard to tell where I start and where they end. And so wishing the bad lessons I've learned away, ignoring them, writing about them, railing against them starts to just feel like I'm wishing and ignoring and writing and railing me away. I wish it weren't so. I wish I weren't so.

People who have never been hurt in the name of unrequited, but desperately sought love don't understand why women who are abused stay. I've never been abused by my husband, not even close. But I understand those women because I have seen my own ugly codependence in the mirror and wished to scrape it out with my bare fingernails. These women think they can love enough for two. They've learned somewhere along the way that they can take it. At first, it may even make them feel strong that they survived. But then it happens again. And after a while of feeling like they can take it, they are so beaten down that they think that maybe they have to take it, because they didn't stand up at the very start and say no. And the shame and the self-hatred become these added blows to a broken heart. Until finally, it's not just that they should take it, but that they must actually deserve it. And the change is so gradual and imperceptible (because after all, you are trying to keep your mouth and nostrils above the water, all the while choking with every other wave), that there you are, staring up a wall of water, a tsunami of fear and self-horror, and it seems easier to let it roll over you and hope you come out the other side like you have in the past. Battered, but alive. It seems like it is all you can ask when you know that your love is unrequited and you never demanded more.

It's so easy to make a metaphor about it. I think it might be easy for people to sit in their easy chairs and feel superior and almost angry on our, the wounded's, behalves. It's so damn easy to see how wrong the plot is--it's as plain as anything else in this world. Someone hurts you, you don't go back. You wash your hands of them. Be it a friend or a husband, a family member, or even an institution. Say goodbye and don't spare them a second thought. But why is it that life is never as easy as writing makes it look? Why are the grays so murky? And the black and whites seem to get less and less prevalent the older I get? The bad guys smile and save the day sometimes-- for all the wrong reasons--but it feels right at the time because we just want to be saved some days, don't we? And when it all goes just as wrong as it always did before, we hate ourselves just a bit more for knowing that it was always going to end this way. 

But it's hard. Trying to drag your wagon wheels out of the rut of a life-- the life your mother and your mother's mother lived-- is so scary that most days it seems insane to even try. Because you don't really know how different ends up. There's no guarantee. And though you feel physically sick thinking of what your life is likely to look like after seeing slightly varied versions of the same thing played out in all of the generations before you, at least it's a known. At least it's safe. Is new and different really better if you don't have a guarantee? Mediocrity is so much safer than the possibility of crashing and burning. Especially if they convince you that in doing so, you're probably ruining your life, and your sweetheart's life, to make no mention of your innocent children's lives. They make it so easy to fall back into that deep as dark blue fear that has kept you where you've always been--you're so goddamned scared, and you care so goddamned much about what they think. And it infuriates and shames you. To the dust it shames you.

It all looks like it makes perfect easy sense from the outside. And that is why we love a good adventure story, isn't it? When the heroine realizes that she doesn't have to stay shackled. She has actually had her own kind of magic her entire life. She could have set herself free all along. It's galling and thrilling when she realizes it at long last. But of course all of those years she was afraid. She was shamed, she was loved, she was confused by the goodness she saw even while she was chained. The grays were gray, the days were murky. And as we sit in our easy chairs, we love her so so much. We can see her path so clearly, rising up to meet her as we read it into existence, because we never doubt her innate magnificence. It's so clear from back here. And when she finally realizes it for herself, and takes flight oh how we love her. Because she doesn't look back, as the shackles, the unrequited loves and frenemies slip away and fall to the dirt, finally as useless and worthless as they have been all along. And her fear? The fear that once was the unbearable weight that kept her chained in place, suddenly becomes nothing compared to the thought of staying still one more moment. And just like that, she is free. Lightening, rain, a great gusting of wind, a flaring of otherwordly beauty, and then everything on the outside looks as it always has, and yet it will never be the same ever again. She is free.

And do you know what we all know? We know that she will never settle for that fake love of the unrequited farcical variety ever again. She'll walk in beauty, and trail clouds in her wake, water sparkling as it drips off her long skirts. She will climb the mountain, she will breathe the wild air. And you better goddamn believe that she gets out of this thing alive. Alive.

Friday, December 9, 2016

the post in which I write whatever I want, because I am a writer

Each of our personal stories seems so commonplace and average when we view it ourselves. I suppose this is because it is all that we know, and so that is the baseline with which we judge. If you’ve spent your life using indoor plumbing, that is your standard. When wash your hands in the Target bathroom you don’t luxuriate in the cleanliness of the water, the amazing fact that it is streaming out from a faucet with only a twist of the handle, that you have the godlike power to control the temperature. And I apologize for any first worlders that are feeling guilt at this example, but please hold on for a moment longer. I don’t say this to make you hate yourself again, and cringe at your privilege. I only say that a truth so extraordinary to a young woman who travels 3 miles a day to haul her water back to her house, is over in a moment and forgotten before it’s even done for us. Her three extraordinary miles to us? Ordinary, commonplace, hardly thought of to her. We disregard our lives details with impunity, every one of us, most of the day.

I read somewhere that we come to this Earth as blank slates--we are beginning fresh with no experiences, no expectations, no personalities. We are untouched. Vacant and empty. For those that believe in God, they believe we might come with our souls already intact for whatever helpful meaning that gives them. Me? Well, I’m a mother. I’m 36 years old--I think. I’ve had two children, a boy and a girl. Two makes you more of an expert than only having one, but less of an expert to just about anyone else (including the parenting experts who have never had children, but are obviously excellent observers). But it’s two that I’ve got, and I can’t tell you what expertise I’m missing. With the birth, and subsequent intense care of only those two babies, I still think I might get away with speaking for every mother I’ve ever met when I say: Babies are not blank slates at all.

Those babies, they can be deceiving, with their wide eyes and innocently gassy smiles. But there isn’t a mother I’ve met who doesn’t know within a few hours of acquaintance with her baby the truth behind the newness. The truth that their baby came with their own pre-programmed ideas and desires and temperaments. And that you will spend the next however-long-it-takes-them-to-speak-coherently trying to figure out what on god's green earth those adorable not-blank-slates want from you. And I hate to tell any new mothers out there that the answer to what it is that they want from you and the world is summed up aptly in a Tootsie Roll lollipop commercial that was popular some time ago: The world may never know.

So I hope, if you’ve never had a child, you will trust me on just this one little point--you were already something different and new when you got here. Whether you call it your intact soul, or you consider it the result of biology and womb conditions, or maybe for you it comes down to whether your mother placed headphones playing mozart on her belly before you were born, the fact remains that you came here, and you were you. And not just that. You, my friend, were amazing.

Amazing? Amazing you say? I do. I stick to that gun most fiercely.

I know that to the untrained eye babies can seem and are...well catatonic half the time. The eating and sleeping and filling diapers seems pretty mundane. I can admit it. I am GOOD at admitting things about diapers. (For example, I recall with perfect clarity the moment I wished with all of the fervency and wish upon a star desperation in my heart that the Diaper Genie were truly an actual Diaper Genie). Believe me when I say that the babies and their upkeep IS mundane when you are the person helping said baby to accomplish these goals. If I were in charge of the Oxford English Dictionary--and it had pictures, which on my watch it would--and mundane had it’s own picture in the dictionary, it would have been me, changing my millionth diaper without so much as the confetti cannon or military salute that it so richly deserved. Mundane exists. It's real. And I'd even go so far as to say it has value.

But even so, with all of that workaday humdrum that surrounds the baby, it doesn’t come close to negating the fact that you were freaking awe-inspiring. And it comes down to the truth of this most singular fact: that when you and I were new to this planet, we were not only decidedly NOT blank slates, but we were brave and we were true.

You spent hours crying, refusing to be placated, because you needed things that you knew were your right to have. You slept and ate as much as you needed, and you didn’t apologize or feel guilty. Your brain grew at such exponential leapings and boundings--processing and deciphering information at incredible speeds-- and you layered very little judgements on top of all of that new information other than good, bad, or indifferent. (Yes, you were terrible at nuance, but I call that refreshing!)

You were open to the wide world. You were frightened sometimes. You were curious. You were asleep, you were bored. You were thrilled. You were soothed. You were just you. And it is only a mother, or a person looking back, that sees that baby for what it is. A force to be reckoned with. A beautiful, exhausting beginning of an individual who made no other demands on life than to be only themselves. Breathtakingly, brutally (at 3:00 am), intoxicatingly, selfishly yourself. My god, you were something else. And yet, your story remains to you, so very average. That you ignore the magic of your life so blatantly is a very sorry treason to your fierce beginnings.

Wake up, dear baby. Let us see your story, with it’s mundane, but with it’s tears-inspiring, selfish, glorious, good bad and indifferent truths. It’s time to wake up. Because you’re 36 years old, and it’s time. And even the mundane--when the diaper genies miracles don't happen, when the job is lost, when the potatoes are undercooked--some day you might realize that your ordinary will become extraordinary to someone else. You will become the confetti cannon and military salute for someone else's midnight. And I'm starting to think that that is what your story is for.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016



Remember me? Yeah, I hardly do either. It's been so long. Are blogs still a thing that people read? I know I do. I get sick of the two second sound bites on facebook or instagram that don't really tell me anything of substance of people's lives. I miss hearing about you folks out there. How are you? Has your summer been as hot and interesting and boring and frustrating and joyful as mine? Just another season of all the good and complex in life.

So we are moving. That was sudden, right? Ha! Oh well, if you've known me for any space of time, you're more surprised that we've stayed in one place for this long. Honestly though, I'm sort of sick inside every time someone makes a joke about how much we move. It's not fun, I'm not sure why folks think we like moving. Please, please, I pray this is the last one for at least ten years. Let the schools stay wonderful, let the mother in the family stay sane and quiet, let the father have stability in employment. Amen. That's like the St. Suburbanite Mother's prayer ha.

Anyhow, we were going to renovate the kitchen with a special type of loan, but we ended up not having time to get all the bids and plans done because the folks wanted to close so quickly on our home. So we are moving in and then figuring out if we want to get another loan in six months or if it's doable with a smaller budget. It really depends on if we need to do structural changes. I'm waiting for some kitchen designers and contractors to figure out my life for me in the next few weeks--as we also close on this house and move. And then of course comes school starting. It will be a busy few weeks, and yet I find myself with large pockets of time without much to do because there are boxes everywhere and I can't quite pack everything quite yet. Moving. Sigh. Good problems to have, I know I promise I know.

The honest truth is I'm looking forward towards my future few months with a real sense of curiosity and wonder. New house. New town (still close by, but far enough to use different grocery stores and schools and roads and church). And the biggest new of all, both kids in school. I have been thinking about this day quite a lot for the past year. I've seen it looming up in front of me--dreading and craving it all at once. I'll miss my kids. I'll love the quiet. I'll write, I'll sleep, I'll feel guilty and make myself get a job? I'll have time to make cookies and do laundry without feeling responsible for the learning or entertainment of anyone. I'll accidentally fall asleep and it will be ok!My house might stay clean! Will I get bored? Will I wish I had a baby (yes and no)? I'm so intrigued. I'm pretty sure I'll spend the first two weeks sleeping. It's been a long busy summer. I'll deserve it after the move and everything else. I can't wait. Wish John could join me. He deserves it even more than I do by a lot. I'll be sure to give him lots of breaks over weekends and someday soon we'll manage a little getaway maybe.

Life is starting over fresh. I'm happy, I'm still working through some anxiety that has been plaguing me for the past few years--but with help this time. I'm just a strange mixture of blank and full at the moment. Waiting and changing all at once. Isn't life good and hard and strange and welcome all at once? 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

the post in which i reveal that I am a (jaded) transcendentalist

Here we are, in March. It's been long months since I last wrote. I have given up almost entirely on my blog. But sometimes I feel nostalgic and I'll come back and read what we were up to this time last year, or look at pictures of the kids in their younger years. When I do those things, I feel that I probably shouldn't abandon these efforts completely. I'm grateful that the stories and pictures that I used to share so freely and often were saved.

I think the problem sort of is that I've lost my courage. I'm almost 35 years old now, and it seems with each passing year I should be getting more sure of myself, more stable, more everything except for maybe judgmental. But I find that this past year, I have lost my bravery. As the world races towards everything being on display, and then being ridiculed and paraded, and nothing held sacred, I feel myself pulling back. The internet trolls are becoming less a minority and more expected behavior. If you let yourself be seen, be imperfect, then you deserve that sort of thing though, right?

Where has our empathy gone? Our willingness to find our neighbor innocent long before we jump to any sordid or cruel conclusions? When did we decide that our police men, our mothers, and our teachers must never make mistakes--and if they do, they must be punished endlessly and publicly? I find this new way of being worrisome and tireless and tiresome. The Sound and the Fury, signifying nothing. There is so little soft cushioning in this new world. So very few places to rest your heart and your head. To be broken and cared for.

So all of these new technologies have come. And all of this constant access. We have found ourselves unable to resist the acceptance of new "morals" that allow all things equal standing, irregardless of their potential for long-term detriment of societies and children. Each thing is to be heralded in and made welcome at the table. We all want all of our parts to be accepted, without learning to accept all parts of others. And yet if we are being honest, it's not really all of ourselves. We will only put our best on display, and hide the rest oh so carefully. It is all of the excess and none of the responsibility. It is a free fall without wanting to acknowledge that at some point, there is an end to the falling, and it is never truly free.

I find such an atmosphere impossible to be freely myself. I see people that I admire stifled in their beliefs. I find the tyranny of outliers overcoming the majority of normalcy. We don't admire the smallness of individual lives that are normal. We run around, losing the value of the things that used to be what we as humans have valued for thousands of years. We hold a facebook like in the same esteem that we used to hold a card in the mail. How is that possible? My friends, how is that possible?

I have made my life very small and sad this past year. Retreating inside myself, finding fault with everyone and everything, but most especially myself. Because I don't know how to be in this new world. I used to be free in my own mind--I used to feel unfettered. I found pleasures in painting dressers and sending my children to school, and having over the top book clubs. Now I am much encumbered. I struggle with my church. I struggle with my parents. I struggle with everything except, perhaps strangely, my husband and my children (most of the time). I know retreating and retreating is not healthy, but I also feel strongly that what is left outside of these walls is no longer healthy either. I have lost my trust and faith in the goodness of people. I have become suspect of motives--something I hate with profundity.

I'm a bit stuck, and wanting to go back. And so far all that I can come up with is to dream and plan for a day when we can buy a few acres and be even more apart from the noise and busy-ness of the world. I romanticize that old Thoreau way of living (minus the part without indoor plumbing and a/c), but just of being quiet in a loud world, and doing small, hard work on things that no one would care about except our family. And I hesitate to even hit publish because there is a sort of movement out there now of other folks like me, who have decided that having some breathing room and owning some chickens might help them make better sense of their lives. And it sounds ridiculous and stupid, but I can't help that it also makes ten thousand pounds of sense to me right at this juncture of my life too.

It is probable that this post will seem completely strange and out of no-where and maybe even just plain crazy. And I'm not even sure why I'm going to hit publish. Except sometimes it still feels good to me to write something, send it out, and hope that someone that I know will echo back that they too have felt these pressures, and are searching in their own way. That really helps me to not feel so alone, which is about the only part of this endless access/excess of technology that I find of good report.

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” 
― Henry David ThoreauWalden

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

good things

For posterity's sake, today was a really good day.

Grant had his first day of preschool and pronounced the day awesome. I had mixed feelings about it at the beginning of the day, but seeing his happiness when I picked him up made me feel much better about everything. He is the cutest.

Maddy also had a great day at her new school. She is been thriving at her new school and it does my heart so much good. I was torn up about switching her AGAIN. I felt like the worst mom in the world. But it has been a seamless transition and she is learning so much. Plus, one of her teachers gave me a glowing report about how loved Maddy is, and what a light of goodness and fairness she is to those around her. How could I not be on cloud 9 after that?

Lastly, I began writing on my little book project again. I didn't do a single thing with it for the entire summer, and to tell you the truth I was really scared I wouldn't want to do it again. I was worried I would come back and read what I had worked so hard on and hate it and be too discouraged to start again. But...I wasn't! It felt good!

On tomorrow's agenda is more preschool, more normal school, more picking up and dropping off, more laundry, and maybe even some canning of apples. And this Thursday, the huge clearance J.Crew sale is back in town. And I've been working on lots of homemade Christmas presents. And not least of all, the weather is starting to not feel so suffocatingly hot. Good things on the horizon, I believe it.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Blessing and a Curse

Here's my beef, folks. I'm over the perfection of the internet and the glossy spin people put on their lives. Listen, NO ONE loves a beautiful photo--composed to within its life--better than me. I based my whole blog name, Pretend Fancy, off the the fact that I love things that look fancy but really aren't. I love to put a positive spin on things. I love to laugh. I love to put a red and white checked towel under my pies and pretend I live in a farmhouse. We all know this to be true.
exhibit A
But I don't love when people condemn me for not being this way all of the time. When I am trying to communicate in a way that feels honest and open about some really hard months of my life. I think folks mean well. I actually do think they usually mean well. But...when we really sit there and think about it, do we mean well 100%, or are we just uncomfortable with reading about messy feelings, sadness, loneliness, anger, boredom, depression. We just want to wipe it up. Tell people to go "see someone" about that messiness. Most of us are fixers (even me, especially me) and loose ends in life, in someone else's life, is just one more thing that we don't have the emotional energy to wrap our heads around. But my friends, I didn't want to be fixed. 

I wanted to be heard.

I thought this little corner of the internet was safe, but that was really naive of course. I just *wanted* it to be a safe place. And if I deleted the comment section, I suppose it could be in a way, but only on the surface. And in doing so, I would miss out on all of the wonderful things that 98% of people say.   I'm trying. I am trying hard. But I've always had thin skin. My brother's teased me and got some spectacular responses. My friends talk to me, and I empathize the heck out of their sorrows. So you see, my thin skin, my nerdiness, my heart on my sleeve, my hurt at perceived betrayals, they are all two sides of the same character trait that I possess in spades--thin skin/open heart.

I can wish it away. Wish not to care about everyone. I often have done those very things. And I go in cycles where I harden myself and try not to care. But it all comes shambling down eventually. Because this is the heart that I have. And I love deep and hard. And it hurts deep and hard. I take things too personally and have done for my whole life. But I love just as fiercely and devotedly. Like that old saying goes," It's a blessing...and a curse."