Post 504: ‘Go outside’

I called Nick because I’d had a frustrating afternoon.

The morning started out fine – I decided to work from home when I noticed I didn’t have any in-person meetings. I chugged along, answering emails, swapping the laundry and folding mounds of clothing. 

He spent the morning washing his bikes, checking his email, and stretching before going in for a later shift. 

After a quick visit to the local bike shop together in the name of work/life balance, I returned to my email. Because that’s sometimes all I do: answer email. 

I never made it up to my spare-bedroom office after folding all the laundry and stacking it in neat piles around the living room. I sat, holed up on the couch, scrunched, answering email. And, to be honest, I got totally lost in it. Absorbed, even. Touched by the urgency of each notification, I barely ate, drank water, or looked away from the screen. 

I fired off responses one by one, accepting some new assignments as they came in and skirting around others in politically savvy ways. 

Then there was one that made me want to throw my computer across the room. Then, shortly afterward, another. 

I often receive compliments on my work/life balance philosophy and the way I approach high-pressure situations. So it’s a good thing nobody could see my face beam like a stoplight and feel my pulse quicken, knuckles cracking in-between audible expletives. 

I called Nick because I’d had a frustrating afternoon.

He listened patiently and said the two words I needed to hear: “go outside.”

“Get on your bike,” he said, “and go for a ride, even if it’s just around town. You’ve been scrunched up on the couch all day and need to get away.”

I knew he was right. 

I shut my computer down at around 5:45 and prepped my gravel bike, Winifred, for a quick adventure. 

Down the hill and up another, the seasonal gravel road I chose for a 2.5-mile climb enveloped me in its tree-lined magical healing powers. I traversed puddle-ridden pathways and areas with more stream than road. I stopped thinking about work with each pedal rotation, splashing through puddles and picking lines to avoid large rocks.

After the first climb, I faced another – this one more daunting at 12.7% grade than I remember it being last year. 

But I did it. And I forgot about everything I was pissed about by the time I reached the epic downhill back to town.

My brain had switched channels to far more important things, like ice cream and what I wanted for dinner, instead.

There’s a massive hill hiding behind those trees, I swear.

Post 503: How to buy a house

A stream-of-consciousness account of our most recent emotional roller coaster.

You’re comfortable.

You wake up each day in a cozy, three-floor townhouse that you pay minimal monthly rent for, especially since you split it with your boyfriend.

You have clothes on your back, food in the fridge, and a job to report to each day.

You’re comfortable.

You don’t want for anything, especially since you recently upgraded big-ticket items like your laptop, mountain bike, car, and mattress.

Becoming more of an adult is something you’ve scoffed at, and if buying a house and having children moves you further into that zone, you are good. For right now, at least.

“Ha!” You normally say. “Homeownership. Sounds like that blows.”

And you go off on your merry way, gloating as your friends replace their driveways, install yard drainage, and upgrade failing HVAC systems.

You ride around on your mountain bike, loving life and its simplicity. When you bought your new vehicle, you thought, “Hmm… this will probably have a car seat or two in it someday. BUT NOT TODAY!”

You’re comfortable.

Until that one special house comes on the market and turns your world upside-down for an entire week.

Your boyfriend tells you, “It’s back!” 

You say, “I WANT THAT HOUSE.”

You both have driven by it on several occasions — together and apart — to admire its woodsiness. You were devastated when it left Zillow a month before, though you’d never even bothered to set up a viewing.

So when your boyfriend tells you “It’s back!” you both spring into action.

A message gets sent through Zillow to a random buyer’s agent, who you assume is the listing agent because this is new territory and you have no idea what you’re doing.

You see the house with the buyer’s agent, who you still believe is the listing agent. 

It’s iffy. 

There’s a lot of wood (it’s a log cabin for crying out loud!). 

The heating system leaves a lot to be desired (have you ever seen a coal/wood/oil combo?).

But the land. And the scenery. 

And when your boyfriend’s father, who toured the place with you, mentions it feels like you’re living in the Adirondacks, you practically drool all over the floor.

But your boyfriend is still on the fence. He yearns for continued simplicity, not a matchbox full of things to fix.

You give him space. (Especially after he snaps at you because you’re getting overly emotional about the whole thing and driving him bonkers.)

The next day you leave him alone for a full five hours while he’s at work. And when he comes home, you look at him nervously, hoping he’ll tell you the news you want to hear.

And he DOES.

He wants the house and the land and the weirdly arranged living room and the stupidly complicated heating system and the three-car garage space and the ugly kitchen countertops and the creaky hardwood floors. 

He wants to build mountain bike trails and start woodworking projects and ask the seller if the two of you can keep the seller’s chickens and a rooster who seems to cock-a-doodle-doo at any time of the day.

It’s idyllic. A paradise.

And then you leave town, because you have weekend plans, and drive 5+ hours through urban wastelands and smog-filled thruways. While you’re driving, he calls everyone in his family. He dials up his real-estate-agent aunt, who is fantastic at what she does. She’s on board to help, no question.

The two of you daydream about all the wonderful things you could do together.

Fast forward to the next day. You have to attend your brother’s 30th birthday party, but your prospective log home looms heavily in the air. Your goal is to submit an offer and force the seller to cancel his open house.

Your boyfriend accepts phone call after phone call during the birthday party while you help with the food and watch your 3-year-old niece. You crash in your brother’s bedroom, tap into his wifi, and submit an online offer to the agent. You’ve given the seller a deadline of 9 a.m. the next day. You float through the rest of the evening with a pep in your step and a smile on your face. You’ve told your family about the offer and they (most of them) are pulling for you.

The next day you hear nothing until after 10 a.m. They’re reviewing your offer, they say.

Then, crickets.

For hours and hours and hours.

You’re driving home, back through those 5+ hours of urban wastelands and smog-filled thruways when your agent calls. 

The seller has verbally accepted your offer, but they have a few contingencies. 

You are on cloud nine but you also feel like you’re going to puke. You accept — oh boy do you accept. And you ask them to send the paperwork through so all parties can sign.

Then, crickets.

For hours and hours and hours. You go to bed realizing you might not actually get the house, but you’re hopeful. (Perhaps naively so.)

The next morning you’re told there’s another offer on the table that the seller is considering. You put your head in your hands and start whining like a little girl.

Your boyfriend shushes you and tells you to stop getting emotional.

You get up and clean the house, which is something you do when you’re nervous and need a distraction.

You both realize you need to submit a counter offer, so you pool your money, run the numbers, and go as far in as it makes sense. 

Then you wait.

For hours and hours and hours.

You go for a hike, you take the car through the wash, you make an early dinner and get some work done.

You’re still exchanging ideas for that house, but they’re more fleeting and stated with much less vigor.

You have plans with friends that evening, so you head over there, realizing you will hear the news and either celebrate or drown your sorrows with them. 

Hours pass.

Then, a text from your boyfriend’s aunt, who ran herself ragged helping you go after that house.

You didn’t get it.

Another offer came in, all cash, no inspection.

Crestfallen.

You go home, to your cozy, three-floor townhouse that you pay minimal monthly rent for, especially since you split it with your boyfriend.

You’re comfortable.

And life resumes.

Indefinitely growing up

Burning the “Boyfriend Box.”

Finding handwritten notes shaped like a triangle or artfully folded into a square and throwing them away without even reading them.

Not getting upset when your dad paints over the height measurements you –– at 13 –– and your ex boyfriend had recorded in brown Sharpie on your closet’s wooden frame.

Putting that sweater in the donate bin –– even though it still fits you –– because you’ve had it since eighth grade.

Realizing the book “How To Get Over the Nerd You Used To Call Your Boyfriend” your mom gave you when you’d been dumped at 13 isn’t relevant anymore because you can now just buy wine. And get drunk.

Reminiscing for two seconds when you find handwritten essays from your favorite high school English classes (and narcissistically admiring your own cursive)…then adding them to the burn pile.

Wondering why it was ever OK for your high school to give out martini glasses and beer mugs as prom favors while noticing you’d never put pictures in the engraved picture frame they gave out two years later when they finally smartened up (THE GLASSWARE PROMOTES UNDERAGE DRINKING, DUH) because, even then in your teenage naïveté, you probably figured you wouldn’t care about that prom date in a few years.

Throwing out bouquets of dried flowers. Bouquets of fake flowers. Bouquets of roses made of feathers. And a giant-ass Valentine’s Day card.

Rearranging your closet –– ridding it of porcelain dolls you find really creepy, making you wonder who got you interested in collecting them in the first place –– and finding just enough room for each article of clothing you own.

Settling in indefinitely
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Going to a job interview.

Getting the job.

Looking for apartments on Craigslist.

Finding the perfect apartment.

Realizing everything you’d done in your childhood bedroom to settle in for the “long haul” has to be done all over again. This time more thoroughly.

Saying goodbye to more clothing that you’ve had since high school that you really don’t need.

Putting more tee shirts sporting your high school’s musical or play or event into the donate pile.

Preparing yourself for the number of complaints sure to come from your parents and brothers when they see just how much stuff you have to move.

Living for a few more days under your parents’ roof, under their care, under their security blanket.

Looking into buying a washer and dryer, a bed and more furniture for your place.

Growing up.

The dreaded questions

“What are you going to do?”

“What are your plans?”

…the dreaded questions people from high school asked me last Wednesday night as I slowly sipped my Labatt Blue Light.

“I’d like to do this.

“I’ve applied to this place.”

“I’ve interviewed at this other place.” 

“I interned there.”

“I’ll live at home, eat my parents’ food, feed my parents’ and brother’s dogs and try not sink into a deep depression come late January when everyone goes back to school and I. Stay. Home. In my raspberry, sky blue, burnt orange and lime green 13-year-old bedroom.”

Finishes first LBL, excuses self (ESCAPES THE AWKWARD QUESTIONS), approaches bar, buys drink, leaves tip and takes a sip.

Rinse and repeat.

Answer more awkward questions, receive hugs from people I haven’t seen in four years and get talked up by my brother’s 27-year-old friends who *GASP* didn’t realize their friend’s little sister would become a full-fledged woman someday.

I don’t think I realized adulthood for me was on the horizon, either.

Finishes second LBL, excuses self (ESCAPES THE AWKWARD PICK-UP LINE-ESQUE CONVERSATIONS), approaches bar, buys drink, leaves tip and takes a sip.

By my fourth drink, I’m ready to leave the small-town bar and sleep in my childhood bedroom. I’ll figure this shit out eventually. Next time I go back there, I hope I have some answers.

Your stereotypical Millennial

This is accurate. Except I’m not a guy. Nor am I bald.

I live in short snippets of language, and not necessarily by choice. To save characters, I shorten “and” to its misunderstood fraternal twin brother, the ampersand: “&” (though their cousin, the pound key – “#” – is like the sexually confused misfit of the family). I take vwls t f wrds, realizing the words “out” & “of” are pretty impossible without them. Eff. The ampersand strikes again.

You following me? Liking me? Linking up with me? Pinning me? (I think you can actually do that at the bottom of this post.)

Because of this 140-characters-or-less lifestyle I live, I have a short attention span… when it comes to focusing on only one thing at a time. You should see how many tabs I have open on Chrome at once, how many things I’m reading, how quickly I change the long link to a short one via bit.ly and post onto Twitter or Facebook in one fell swoop.

Swipe three fingers up on my track pad.

Photo on 9-25-14 at 12.41 AM #3 copy
My face isn’t actually this blotchy.

Tap to find the page I need and tap the URL box.

Command A.

Command C.

Swipe three fingers up on my track pad.

Tap in box I need.

Command V.

Typing those five “sentences” took longer than it takes me to do what I highlighted in them. Because I do things without thinking now and always try to find the answers on my own before looking for a different source and oh my good golly gosh it feels good to not have to limit myself to 140 or 600 characters to write out a good, long and uncalled for run-on sentence.

I’m not a stupid Millennial; I’m a cog in the Net Generation’s clock, and I’m taking advantage of what I grew up learning. I’m earning money doing things I did for fun before. Stupid Millennial? Nah, just a woman on a mission to at least enjoy what she does for a living and find fulfillment in it.

…I’m not sure why I’m getting all defensive. I’ve only ever been swept into the Millennial stereotype by default; nobody’s ever actually called me out based on my generational status.

But I’ll sign off before my brain forces me to spend hours on this one blog post. I’ve only been writing in this box for 15 minutes. Tht’s gotta b a new rcrd 4 – just joshin’; I AVOID using numbers – for @SeeEmilyPlay.

Bye.

An abundance of positives

I don't know why I'm in a bush, but I look pretty happy.
I don’t know why I’m in a bush, but I look pretty happy.

I’m excited.

Because things often don’t come together so smoothly, so readily, so perfectly, so… so… <insert-another-adverb-here>.

But many things have been lately.

Like, uh, my internship. And other things I cannot disclose about said internship. All you need to know is this: everything is pretty friggin’ cool.

Oh! And that road bike I recently bought off a woman on Craig’s List. Sure, I’ve only ridden it two times, but I have plans to ride it more.

I decided I’d buy myself those turquoise pumps I’ve been wanting. And maybe a black pair, too. Another scholarship came in the mail; Emily’s still takin’ care of herself; she’s doin’ fine.

My capstone project has been officially approved. I have to do it in order to graduate, and I came up with a plan I believe to be foolproof. And it will be fun. Call me a nerd, but I’ve been thinking about this project since my freshman year and now it has kind of just fallen into place. Good things come to those who wait, or, if you’re like me, those who get trampled on, screwed over, taken advantage of and abused.

…but those are stories for another day.

Finally, there’s, umm, a boy. Yes. A boy. Those ‘Y’ chromosomes have been trouble for a while now, but this one isn’t. He’s super sweet and fun and makes my stomach flip upside down and backward. We’ve hiked two state parks, hung out in a treehouse, gone to the movies, gone swimming, gone out to dinner, made dinner together and we have a trip to Long Island planned in a few weeks. The company of one another is always enough. Like tonight when we’ll make dinner, eat chocolate-peanut butter ice cream and then fall asleep on the couch while watching Scrubs.

Our relationship is simple. Turns out Emily really likes simple.

I’ve gone through phases where I’ve lacked purpose. Where it seemed as though my bed grew arms that wrapped around me, physically and mentally containing me. I don’t feel like that anymore. Sure, sometimes seeing 6:45 a.m. absolutely sucks ass, but I like what I’m doing. I feel important. I feel needed. For the first time in a long time, I feel positive.

Life, man

Writing is hard.

Writing sucks. A lot (of dick, if we’re going beyond PG here).

Writing takes me forever. 

So that explains my absence. I can’t tell you  how many times I’ve conjured up the “Add New Post” screen, only to look at the clock and realize two hours of writing would cut my sleeping time down immensely.

Writing a post means spending time away from the book I’ve been reading or the people I could get to know. Writing means solitude, a word and thing I’ve been trying to avoid as of late. Writing means having to pay close attention to detail and trying so very hard not to make a mistake I’m sure my “enemies” would call me out on Twitter for.

Three years of college and I’ve made some enemies, apparently. Imagine that.

I’ve spent the last couple days at home, watching my grandparents’ belongings get sold to strangers and Walnut trees fall in all their green-and-brown glory.

Some things are ending, but others are beginning. Like my life. My life, man.

IMG_20140427_114504Seven credits of college classes separate me from what I’m told is actually – this time – the “real world.” They had lied to me before when I graduated from high school. College isn’t the real world. College is the excuse I use for the drunken weekends and the hangover I have on Friday mornings that is too severe to make it through that morning’s class. But the professor understands when I email him. It’s college, after all.

More than 30 credits separated me from life then. Now I’m down to seven. Seven credits. Seven.

I could graduate early. Get a job. Leave my friends. Get an apartment. Save money. Pay back my loans.

Writing is hard, yet I’m trying to make a career out of it.

A career that I can actually see now. A career where an email on Friday morning from a hungover Emily just won’t fly anymore. I’m more mature than most at my age, but I am having difficulty with accepting this.

Life, man.

Worm food

Sometimes I don’t understand the point of life when we ultimately end up in hospitals. In nursing homes. In rehabilitation centers. In assisted-living facilities.  In the ground.

I recall a scene from “Hamlet,” when whatever Shakespearean character says even kings become food for the worms in the end.

Even kings become worm food.

Your parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, acquaintances… worm food.

But I carry my grandparents around with me in a special cremain necklace.

Let it be known I’d like to be cremated when I die. The idea of my entire earthly shell being lowered into the ground gives me the heebie jeebies. Turn me to ash and let me fly into the wind. Please.

I’ve always loved Sylvia Plath’s “I Am Vertical,” but am now thinking I never want to be horizontal.

The experience I wrote about in this post happened three years ago tonight.

Hard to believe.

The last photo we ever took together. He was so sick. :(
The last photo we ever took together. He was so sick. 😦

 

Cardinals and Red Sox

Originally written for my creative nonfiction course last semester.

The St. Louis Cardinals should have won the 2013 World Series. Not just because I loathe the Red Sox, but because I have two cardinals tattooed on my ankle.

_________________________________________

I climbed onto the padded table, settled down on my side and Todd, the tattoo artist and a family friend, fired up the tattoo gun. “Don’t worry,” he said. “You’ll get used to the sensation.”

My mom shot me a look. You’re going to be fine, Em, her expression said.

The needle punctured my skin. I gritted my teeth and stared at the exposed bricks on the wall of the Fredonia tattoo parlor.

“You wouldn’t believe how many women I’ve made orgasm while tattooing them,” Todd said as he drew the outlines of the two cardinals on my right ankle, just above one of my moles.

We had been discussing weird reactions he’d experienced from his clients while tattooing them.

“My ex girlfriend was even there once when it happened,” he continued. “How many guys can say their girlfriends have watched them make another woman orgasm?”

Probably not many, I thought, teeth still mashed together. And they certainly didn’t orgasm while getting their ankle tattooed.

Or, at least, I hoped they hadn’t.

My mother laughed. She really likes Todd. She refers to him as her tattoo artist and isn’t fazed by his tattoo-covered body and rather large, pedophile-esque spectacles.

He had just finished tattooing the same cardinals on her left wrist; her second tattoo. My mom’s pretty darn cool.

My turn had come. She sat behind me and watched Todd draw the outline, then begin coloring the shapes in. She kept admiring her Saran Wrap-covered wrist and then glanced over at me.

“You doing okay, Em?” she asked.

I’m squeamish, you see, and could feel the little bulbs of perspiration forming on my forehead.

“Yeah… I just don’t wanna look at it,” I admitted, secretly thinking, How far along is he? If it looks decent enough I might just ask him to stop…

I squeezed my eyes shut and the fat man with an awful, grizzly beard sitting in the chair next to me getting his oh-so-manly bicep tattoo retouched laughed at me. “He kept staring at your crotch!” my mom told me later on.

I shot a sheepish smile his way while my mom and Todd jabbered away. The needle made its way into my skin again and again while I shut my mouth and clenched my teeth.

Thirty minutes later, Todd got up to clean his equipment. “That’ll do it,” he said.

I sighed, twisted to crack my back and then got up to take a peek.

DSC_0522“They’re beautiful…” I said, craning my neck and angling my leg to see them.

Brilliant shades of crimson color in the male cardinal. The female cardinal next to him has more yellows and oranges.

“Now I can carry Grandma and Papa with me everywhere.”

 

_________________________________________

My family and I believe in rebirth. When we die, we have the opportunity to come back and dwell in something else or some other creature.

A male cardinal has followed my aunt around by her home in Illinois since my papa died in 2011.

The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series that year.

Now a pair of cardinals –– male and female –– has followed my aunt around since my grandma’s death in August.

The St. Louis Cardinals should have won the World Series this year, too.

_________________________________________

It had been a couple months since Grandma died.

My Aunt Bobbe flew in from Illinois in August to help begin cleaning out her childhood home. With my mom and uncle at work, she went in alone, rifling through my packrat Papa’s basement treasures and deciding who in the family would get what of my grandparents’ belongings.

After a full, dusty day, she stepped out into the garage to leave. Then she heard it.

THUD.

THUD.

Aunt Bobbe walked around the cluttered space to find the source of the noise, then sat down on the garage steps and lost her composure.

A bright red male cardinal threw his body up against the window of the garage’s back door, trying to break through. A female cardinal, perched peacefully on the nearby shelving units, waited patiently for him to break through the glass.

THUD.

THUD.

In a panic, Aunt Bobbe climbed up the garage steps and pushed the button to open the garage door.

The songbirds stayed put and Aunt Bobbe watched them for a moment before walking to my parents’ brand-new Chrysler 200, climbing in and driving away.

She picked up my mom from work and, shaking, told her the story.

“It was them –– I know it was!” Aunt Bobbe exclaimed.

She drove back to my grandparents’ house to show my mom, but the cardinals had flown away.

_________________________________________

Mom asked me how my tattoo looked and felt the last time I saw her, just after the Red Sox had won the 2013 World Series.

“Fine,” I said. “But I wish the fucking Red Sox would have lost like they should have.”

She gave me a funny look.

“You know what, Em?” my mom asked. “After the Boston Marathon bombing, I think the Red Sox needed a victory more than we did this year.”

The trigger for tears. Thanks, Mom.

It’s been six months.

Six months and I didn’t even realize it. Logging in to Facebook yesterday morning brought this post made by my mother to my attention:

Screenshot 2014-02-05 00.12.01

…followed by some silent tears because Emily, of course, tries to hold back emotions when she’s in public places. She’d rather be overwhelmed by them late at night when she can pull the flower-shaped capsule containing her grandparents’ ashes up to her mouth to kiss.

I had never seen that photo before, the one on the left where my mother clasped her mother’s worn, battered hands shortly after life escaped her.

Grandma always had messed-up knuckles. She used to scold me for cracking my knuckles as often as I do (who knew her loss of hearing would actually be a blessing in disguise? No more scolding!). “Do you want your hands to look like these?” she’d say, holding up her tired-looking hands to taunt me. If I’m not mistaken, her brother or someone in her family had shut the car door on her hand as a child, creating some funky-looking joints and misshapen fingernails.

Yep. Me. Grandma. Braces. Papa in the background a year before his death.
Yep. Me. Grandma. Braces. Papa in the background a year before his death.

Her sun-spotted hands combed my hair, poured water over my head in the bathtub and kneaded apple pie crust just enough without overworking the dough. She taught me how to do needlepoint, played Go Fish! with me and played the piano for me back when she took lessons in her 70s. Those hands did a lot. She was quite the lady.

We moved what I call my “Big-Girl Bed” into my room over this past winter break from my grandparents’ house. I went into the house ahead of my dad to collect the sheets and prep the mattress and box spring.

Big mistake.

“Emmie?” Dad asked when he walked in through the garage door, but I didn’t answer. My sobs had forced me to sink into myself as a headache crept over my brain from all the scrunching and frowning. He found me, blinked back tears himself and just held me. “I know… this sucks,” he said. That only made me sob harder.

Yeah. Emily got her Big-Girl Bed. But she lost her grandma.

I don’t think about her as often as I did. She’s on my ankle, she’s around my neck, she’s on the walls, she’s everywhere, but I don’t break down as often as I used to. It takes certain triggers to set me off. My mom’s Facebook post did the trick.

____________________________________________

Below is my poem from the 2013 Poetry Slam at St. Bonaventure University. I sat down afterward, put my head between my knees and sobbed. Hope you do the same…?