To the Paris Review Podcast,
I'm exposed to stories
I'd never choose to read
On my own.
It's like being back in Creative Writing,
Classes filled with aspiration
And glowing potential.
My teachers filled
Of my first published work.
Wouldn't they all be
Well, it took me a lot longer to get back to blogging than I expected. There are many reasons for this: I've been experiencing a pretty major case of writer's block, I started working for the library so was distracted elsewhere, and maybe the most mundane of all, my computer got so old and heavy, I avoided using it.
After coming to that last realization, I thought, "If I ever want to write again without it feeling like a chore, maybe I should do something about it."
Who knew I was so cheap, I'd hold onto a piece of equipment that was impeding my creative process? I had my last laptop for more than seven years. It served me well, but as I type on my new machine that weighs all of three pounds, I could kick myself for not doing it sooner. Oh, the impediments to good habits!
My lengthy break means I'm probably not going to blog in the ways I used to. I'm going to share a diverse assortment of things now, including the occasional poem. We've been in our new house for almost three years and there are projects, both big and small, waiting. They just won't be the main focus of this space anymore. As I mentioned, I work at the library now, not just as a Board Member for the Friends of the Library, so occasionally it may find its way in here, too. But my plan is to get back into it -- the blog needs to live and breathe -- so that will be my focus.
It was late, but I had to stay up a little bit longer, just to make sure my video final had uploaded properly to YouTube.
I had shared a post from my video teacher about his class next semester, and my Aunt Jan had liked it right away. Behind that little thumbs up was her anticipation for watching my final, a five minute piece about her mother, my grandma, recounting her experiences coming to California. If you’ve ever read “The Grapes of Wrath,” you know what my grandma’s move to the Golden State was like, but this was her story, her experiences, and Aunt Jan had always felt it was an important story to tell.
So, I was thinking of Aunt Jan as I waited for the video to finish uploading. It was because of her I was staying up late to get it on the internet as soon as I had completed the editing. I knew she’d want to watch it before I presented it to my class. It was a huge mp4, of course. It had music and photos and my interview with my grandma, all interwoven in a way I was hoping would tell a comprehensive story. It was such a large file, I was very late for bed by the time it finished posting, so I turned out the light and told myself I’d notify Aunt Jan about it first thing in the morning. I had just pulled the blanket to my chin and closed my eyes when Charles walked in the bedroom with the phone. My mom was calling. My Aunt Jan was dead.
Sometime, most likely a very short time after she had liked my post on Facebook, Aunt Jan’s heart had stopped. She crumpled to the floor where she was discovered that evening after missing her yoga class. Her friend had found her. The paramedics were called. The phone tree to tell the news began. I was devastated.
She had been my support team, my cheerleader, and my friend in all things creative. I knew when my paintings actually got good because, though supportive, she was honest. When she first bought one of my pieces, I knew I had made it. Aunt Jan was the one I imagined I was talking to when I wrote many of my blog posts. She’d never missed one, and now she’d never read another.
I wrote her obituary because I was asked and because I knew she would have wanted me to do it. Writing it was difficult. It pulled a lot from me to do it. In fact, writing it, and then watching the shit storm that was 2016, pretty much emptied my well. It was one of the last creative things I was able to do for a very long time.
That’s why my blog has been so silent this year. It’s taken a lot longer to refill that creative well than I ever anticipated, but for the last couple of months, I’ve been feeling the urge to create again. Sentences bubble up in my mind when I least expect it, and I’ve been missing my blog. This terrible year is drawing to a close, and I’m hoping to get back to more regular writing soon. We’ve done a few things to the house I want to share, and I’ve had some pretty major changes in my work life I want to write about. According to Bloglovin’, it’s been 307 days since I posted. I’ll, ahem, try much harder to be more active after this. My well isn’t full yet, but it’s beginning to fill back up.
Miss part one of this story? Read it here. Part two is here.
We decided to list the pros and cons of purchasing the manufactured house versus staying at our current home. There were a lot of pros for the manufactured home. We decided to think about it.
A week or two passed. I kept thinking about the land, how quiet it was. Charles was concerned about how shady a lot of the land was and how much money would need to be invested to make the place move-in ready, but maybe it was worth buying? It was over 30K cheaper than everything else we were seeing out there.
Our realtor called, letting us know there was a newer manufactured home for sale that she was representing. Would we be interested in checking it out, maybe tack on a couple other houses to view while we were at it?
The house our realtor was representing was nice. It had a spot for a garden, but it was right on the outskirts of town, so it was in a neighborhood, the neighboring houses in view at all times. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about ourselves, it’s that we need a lot of space between our neighbors. We like our neighbors. We just don’t like seeing into their windows, our views being their walls and roofs and neighboring yards and what they're cooking for dinner. It was a nice house, but it wasn’t what we were looking for.
There was a little cottage built in 1944 that was next on the list. It was on over an acre with a year-round spring on the property. It was also close enough to a creek for natural air conditioning without being so close we’d ever need to worry about flooding. The house was even smaller than where we currently lived, but it had a three-car garage. It was also much closer to work.
Thoughts of all the storage and space in the dated manufactured home came flooding back. It would be hard to compete with almost 2000 square feet of house on a large, quiet lot.
But it wouldn’t hurt to give the little 40s house a look...
What if, what if, what if, what if?
I don’t think there’s a cure for depression. I just think it sometimes goes into remission, and if you’re really lucky and find the right treatment, it can go into remission for years.
Sometimes I find myself wondering what would have happened if I hadn’t moved to my dad’s house, if I hadn’t been emotionally abused by my stepmother. I was finally coming into my own when I moved away from my hometown. Would high school have been a more welcoming place for me? Would I have come out of my shell more, become a drama geek or found success in High 4-H? Maybe I would have been shattered in a different way.
If there are alternative dimensions for every path that could have been taken, a few onion skins away there’s a Mellisa that stood up to her stepmother and didn’t get beaten down. Even more layers beyond is a Mellisa who never moved to her dad’s place and knows the answer to my what if.
But I am not the Mellisa of those other dimensions. I’m the Mellisa of this one. When depression sinks its teeth in, when the what ifs can get really loud, I try to remember that depression lies. If I’m not too far into the dark pit of despair, I think about all of the wonderful things that have happened because of my experiences, because of who I am today. I’m with the most wonderful of men. My Charles also battles the depression demon, so we’re there to support each other when it rears its ugly head. I have a dog and two cats that are always happy to see me. I have friendships that have lasted for most of my life. There’s so much to be grateful for, and I truly am grateful for my life. Depression would do its best to make me forget that.
There have been quite a few suicides in my circle of awareness in the past few months. Some of them have been of famous people, some of them the family of friends. All of them have been a terrible loss.
Please, if you know someone who is battling depression, give them your compassion. Let them know they’re not alone. Support them and help them find help.
If you are fighting those demons, we’re here for you! Reach out, if you can. Call the suicide hotline. All of us who know depression lies can understand your pain. Know that we love you. You are not alone.
The keynotes were all amazing. The people were all really nice. The food was decent for a convention center – nothing to write home about, but nothing to really bitch about, either.
I live in a different world from where most of the corporate sponsors reside. I understand that those sponsors are needed to fund the conference, but it was a bit of a shock to my system to see things that didn’t align with my personal ethics. Working in the co-op world means that products are weighed on multiple levels – how they impact the environment, how their workers are treated, the quality of the ingredients, etc. It was a good reminder that that specific view isn’t necessarily held by everyone. It’s easy to get too insulated.
While my views about supporting net neutrality and protecting small towns’ water rights may not have been represented in the sponsors that were at the conference, that isn’t really what this post is about. Obviously, it bothered me enough to mention it, but at the end of the weekend, that wasn’t what I carried home with me. The most important thing I brought back from BlogHer’14 – what I’m infinitely grateful for – is that it’s not about the money you MIGHT make with your blog. It’s about the writing.
Everyone I spoke with who had started their blogs because they loved something and loved to write about it, and then shifted to a money-making model, were unhappy. They missed the pleasure they had originally gleaned from writing. That concept was solidified for me when I attended a freelancing workshop. The panel was peopled by fellow journalists, and their dedication to the principles that we were taught in college was a breath of fresh air. Actually, it was more like an icy blast that brought me to my senses.
I love writing about wine and beer and food. I love being able to use my palate and my knowledge to help my readers understand the characteristics of well-crafted beverages and how those pieces of liquid art can support and make a meal better – and how that meal can improve the wine or beer, too. That’s what Sapid Cellar Door is. I find so much joy in writing about wine, especially, and getting to continue to learn more and more about it.
And I love sharing who I am with you, be it through my artwork, my ruminations, or my sometimes doomed DIY projects. I’ve been feeling pressure lately, mostly self-initiated, to bring some monetary success to my blogs. That pressure has been detrimental to Book Syrup. I would get inspired, and then I lose it, because I kept thinking that it might be too personal for pixyofwhimsy – which, by the way, has been my online persona for almost twenty years now. How can a moniker I’ve carried for so long not be personal?
I write because I have to. That’s always been the case and always will be the case. The fact that I’m privileged enough to have two blogs to write about things that inspire me, intrigue me, and challenge me – I’m lucky, and I should hold onto that knowledge. That’s what I took away from BlogHer’14.
Write what you love. Forget the rest.
When I was a wee thing, there weren’t a lot of strong women on TV for me to look up to. Sure, Sabrina was pretty cool on Charlie’s Angels, but she still had to answer to some faceless dude who always seem to be sitting next to his phone a la Commissioner Gordon.
But there was Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. She was smart. She was strong. She was a career woman with super powers. She had mad skills in crime fighting, and she had dark hair – like mine – in a sea of sun-bleached blonds.
I loved Wonder Woman. I had a pair of Wonder Woman Underoos that I wore under my regular clothes for YEARS. I wore those suckers until they were full of runs like a pair of stockings, until they could no longer contain my growing body.
While the physical Wonder Woman tank and panties I wore is nothing more than polyester pieces long buried in a landfill, I don’t think I ever really took it off. I think the strength and bad assery that is Wonder Woman kind-of sunk beneath my skin through those years of wearing that secret superhero uniform underneath my everyday duds.
Next week, I’m attending a blog conference where I will be surrounded by 4000 Wonder Women. It’s my first BlogHer conference, and being a newbie can be pretty intimidating. I know I’ll be inspired by all of these amazing women, and when I feel my anxiety beginning to try to take hold, I’ll remember my own special powers, emblazoned on my soul like a soaring, golden eagle – and a pair of starry underwear.
The summer of my seventh year, our babysitter took us to the library. She led us through the high-pitch squeal of the sensor-protected front doors and deposited me in the fairy tale section in the children’s area. I was surrounded by colorful spines, the smell of musty well-worn paper, and magic. That fateful summer afternoon took me on the journey of my lifetime. I had discovered my first love – the stories contained in books – and realized that someday, I wanted to write fanciful tomes of my own. And libraries – well, libraries became my refuge and my home.
In junior high, I volunteered in the school’s library, returning books, freshly checked-in, to their places on the shelves. At the beginning of each shift, I would pull each and every book out to the edge of the shelf, giving the whole room a wondrous uniformity. It was in this library that I first witnessed – and was a part of – the modernization of the catalog world as I meticulously entered each card into a computer database and allowed the librarian’s world to become more mechanized.
In college, I would reaffirm my gratitude to the library by volunteering each week at the Arcata branch of the Humboldt County Library. Under the tutelage of Maggie, the head librarian, I sorted and shelved books, checked them in, stamped due-date cards as I dreamed of my own soon-to-be-written stories – I even helped keep the community room and restrooms sparkling – anything that aided in keeping the library open. Plus, I was given the privilege of being the Children’s Story Time reader when Maggie wasn’t available, introducing new generations to the alchemy of words and developing a handy knack of being able to read pages upside down.
My most recent incarnation of library volunteer is as a board member for the Nevada County Friends of the Library. I’ll be assembling the newsletter and maintaining and growing its social media presence. It’s good to be giving back to this bewitching realm once again.
Libraries started me on the path that I continue on to this day, and I’ll be forever in debt to those book-lined shelves, dedicated librarians, and the pulsing enchantment that resides within each and every place that allows anyone to seek a story for free. All you need is a small card, which much like the TARDIS is bigger on the inside, and is full of the potential of every human mind that has – and will exist.
For all intents and purposes, 2013 was a pretty brutal year. I went through a very bad bout of depression, as did my Charles. According to the parts of the blogosphere in which I hang, this was pretty typical for most of us. I feel it, in my gut, even down to my toes, that 2014 is going to be an excellent year.
While this year was pretty darn rough, there were also a myriad of good things and progress in our little house, and lots of things were a-cookin' in my brain pan.
2013 marked our fourth year of home ownership. My, how much we've learned in that time! Wherever our next house resides, we won't be nearly as intimidated with a bit of DIY. In fact, as long as it has good bones, I think we'll be good to go.
We finally finished the repairs, both on the inside and the outside of the house, due to the original leaky sliding glass doors that became one of the banes of our existence.
In fact, we finally got all of the dry rot dealt with on the outside of the house, and everything is now sealed up, and the rain (if we had any. 2013 was also a very, very dry year.) will no longer have a chance to puddle and snuggle with the house's siding.
My horizons were also broadened when it came to plumbing. Our tub surround, whom I've dubbed Disco Stu, and I still have some things to say to each other. Will Stu get to stay? Find out in 2014.
Not everything was about repairs. I rearranged and updated the look of our bedroom this year, and even after living with it for a few months, I'm still amazed at how much more cozy it is -- and how much more lush it feels.
I did some minor crafts, just to keep things interesting, and realized how much that bright blue color that I chose for the door, and more, makes me smile.
I even made sure to get a good dose of vitamin D and participated in a Pinterest Challenge this spring. The path I made is holding up beautifully, and I've planted some green, crawling leafy things around it that will probably fill-in in about ten years.
While I didn't make a lot of art this year, I did acquire a bit more, especially in the black velvet painting collection. Charles and I even got to host the artist at our house this fall, when Chris came through town on business.
Though I'll never be too keen on driving, I did get an awesome vehicle this year. It's zippy and I love it, and I listen to tons of music during my commute to work. I continue to tweak my play list, and it continues to bring a smile to my face.
2013 also involved a lot of soul searching for me. I realized how much the ocean is a part of who I am and made sure to seek it out a few times this year. And while currently, I only get to visit, I realized it's home, both because of the Pacific's proximity and because of the folks who live there.
Charles and I also got to take a two week vacation, something we hadn't done in quite a few years, and it was wonderful and filled with beauty.
While it may have been difficult, there was still a lot of joy and wonder to be found this year. Our neighborhood may have its unique challenges, but it's a pretty place to live.
So long 2013! We're all really glad you're done, but there were still a lot of lovely things you gave us. Thank you for the gifts, old year. Now bring on 2014!
We'd hide outside of Mom's bedroom, trying to stifle our giggles, so excited it was difficult not to jump up and down.
Mom's alarm would sound. We'd hear her roll out of bed and throw a robe over her nightgown. Holding our breath in order to be as quiet as possible, my little brother, little sister, and I would each coil, ready to spring forward and scream, "Christmas Eve Gift!"
Great-grandma Ruby had crafted the tradition of the Christmas Eve Gift. Whomever was clever and sneaky enough to surprise everyone else with the magic, three-letter phrase would receive an inexpensive, though special, gift. Catching fellow family members was eagerly sought, the prize more coveted than the "real" presents that were doled out on Christmas day.
Christmas Eve Gift then filled the childhoods of my mom and aunts, and as soon as we were all old enough to understand the rules of said tradition, it continued on with my generation, spreading joy and anticipation within the family and confusion from friends or coworkers who were greeted with jubilantly burbled words that echoed through telephone lines or around doorjambs.
Our silly, playful tradition continues, my grandma still the best of us. In fact, as adults we no longer exchange Christmas presents. No, it's all about those Christmas Eve Gifts. They may be but trifles, small packages that show our affection for -- and competition with -- each other, but are they cherished!
So, Christmas Eve Gift to each and every one of you! Here's to continuing on amusing family traditions, and hey, while I'm at it, merry Christmas. It may not be as exciting as catching everyone with a shouted, "Christmas Eve Gift!" but it's a pretty great day, too.
A blog about writing, art, projects, or whatever else tickles my fancy.