Thursday, April 17, 2014

Circular Thinking

Yes, this is my original artwork.
This is why I'm not an artist.  Particularly, a drawer.
Sketcher I guess it'd be called.

I know I'm not the only person who does this.  I call it circular thinking.  When I'm not calling it "Wtf is wrong with me? Noooooooooooo.  Why am I doing this again?"  Which is way too long.  So I simplified it.  Also because I want people to take me seriously.  Kinda.  Sometimes.

Circular thinking is when something happens that really pisses you off.  Let me try to sound professional, like I really know what I'm talking about here and refer to this event as an annoyance.   And it sets your mind off in this crazy swirl of thoughts.  All of which you've had before.  Leaving you to sift and sort through them.  Which are pure emotion?  Are any of them valid?  And what the hell do I do with this crap now?  Until you find a solution.  Yes.  The same exact conclusion you came to the other 100 times this happened.  This, in my experience, usually takes about 3 days.  I don't know why, it just does.

The last time this happened to me was a couple of weeks ago.  I submitted my book for consideration at Bookbub, an on-line discount book retailer.  For them to sell the e-version for a measly 99 cents.  And then I got the rejection letter.  I'm usually quite good at brushing off this book bullshit.  After all, I've had a ton of experience.  Not to brag or anything, but I'm really, really good at being rejected.  I'm still getting rejection letters from agents and publishers from inquiries I sent from several months ago.  But, that day I was just pissed.  It was the last straw in a whole heaping saddle full of bendy, swirly straws that broke the camel's back.  


Now, I know how the system works.  I get it.  They have so many books that they can take and it's not a reflection of my work.  Or some such bullshit.  Not that I feel like my book is War & Peace or anything.  But come on, I firmly believe it is worth at least freakin' 99 cents.  So feeling angsty, I did what I normally try to refrain from, I posted an angry rant on Facebook.  And almost immediately, my phone rang.  

It was my friend and mentor, Leah, who had seen my rant and called to cheer me up.  Immediately, we started to talk about this whole circular thinking thing and learning the same lessons over and over again.  Bringing me back to the conclusion, that I'm going to continue to be authentically me.  And marketing?  Screw marketing?  At the end of the day, the most important thing is that I put out something honest that I'm proud of.  Sure, it's not perfect.  But that's the entire point.   That's when Leah said the most profound thing.  

We relearn the same lessons over and over because we learn them at a deeper level every time.
And every time the stakes are higher. 

Circular thinking spirals our thoughts both reaffirming and elevating them to the next level.  Which I hope to god is getting me somewhere closer to Nirvana. Or Kurt Cobain at least. And this my friends has been a lesson from Leah.

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Voice

As a desperately shy person, I feared my voice. That what I would have to say would offend. Or be stupid. Not well thought out. That I'd stutter. Maybe I'd unintentionally spray a little saliva when I opened my mouth. The list goes on and on. I solved this problem by just not talking. Shutting myself off from the world. And living inside my head. Which isn't really living at all.

My metamorphosis began when I started my blog and then catapulted when I was writing and publishing my book. I could use my voice without even talking, in print. I could be home in my tattered writing sweater (RIP: 3/17/14) all alone and not even have to open my mouth. This is awesome! The more I reveal through my writing, the more people seem to connect with me. Plus, they were seeing similarities in their own lives. And they liked it. I was, and still am, astounded by this. And encouraged to dig deeper. To do the things I really want to do like join a band, which I did last year. And to make idiotic videos because the mood strikes me. So what if I was driving a car at the same time.

Ok, maybe Visible Panty Lines didn't break up because I was a crappy singer. Oh, I'm a crappy singer alright, it's just that Jimmy quit and Joey got married. And that's what broke us up.  Or the real reason, Mama Beast and Baby Spice moved away. Damn them! Our song Hot and Cold with lyrics changed to be about menopause by our own Yoko could've been our breakthrough hit. I'm getting hot flashes just thinking about it.

On the way home from a work dinner with my husband last Friday night,  I was trying to check my phone to see if the kids had called. Nothing. Then I confessed I don't know how to pick up my voicemail.  This is when he told me I have a nice speaking voice. And that if he'd never met me and we'd only just spoken over the phone, he'd figure I was cute and nice.  And now,  a whole 25 long years we've been together, he compliments me on my voice for the first time ever.

But, when I think about it, his timing is perfect. Because I've finally come into my own voice. Alto, sardonic, unique and one that may be relatively pleasant to listen to, but is gritty, raw and doesn't spew bullshit.

Now that I've finally found my voice, I fully intend to keep using it. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Great Balancing Act

One of the themes in my book and its cover is balance.  The struggle to attain it.  And the constant juggling act it requires to maintain it.  Although "maintain" is much too oversimplified a term. Because even though I have made it a priority to be more mindful and in the moment in my life,  in an attempt to live a more harmonious and peaceful life, it is far from zen-like.

On any given day I disappoint myself at least a dozen times.  AT LEAST.  I chastise myself for losing focus.  Losing it with the kids.  Choosing carbs over kale.  Forgetting that orthodontist appointment.  And not having the fortitude to make my kids do chores on a regular basis.  Then losing it with them because I'm pissed off at myself and my lack of follow through.  In short, I lose it and drop the ball.  Or the sword.  A LOT.

When I was in my 20's, I did the least amount of exercise possible.  And I did it for one reason and one reason only.  To look good.  Now, that I'm in my 40's, the biggest reason I'm active is for my mental health.  It just makes me a happier person.  When I'm done doing it though.  Not before.  Or during.  My kids now know not to interrupt mom's workout time.  Cause if they ask me a question during squat lunges, they know the answer will unequivocally be "NO".  Ask me after I've showered and the endorphins are kicking in when I'm a happier mom and might actually ponder their plight or even say "YES".

Food.  Can't live without it.  So each day I try to make good choices.  I aim for unprocessed complex carbs, lots of veggies with lean meats.  And I try to jump start my metabolism by eating breakfast chock full of protein.  Usually eggs with greens.  But that doesn't happen every day.  When I go on vacation, it's even worse.  I can get way off track.  Although I willingly stray, I do so knowing I'll have to work extra hard later.  Because there are no excuses.  I know that if I get myself off track, I can get myself on track.  The earlier I do, the easier it is to get back to good.

I have a secret.  I'm completely disinterested in technology.  In fact, I hate it.  So I have the world's most ridiculous phone (WMRP).  Well, I did, until I upgraded it to the world's second most ridiculous phone when the WMRP finally died.  They actually discontinued the WMRP at Walmart.  That's how bad it was. I choose to have a ridiculous phone without internet access.   Because if I did I'd constantly be thinking about the things I should be doing on it or tweeting.  And I don't want to do that either.   I'm also too damn lazy to figure out my phone and the buttons are so small and my eyes are bad, all of my texts look like I'm day drunk. I use the laptop for e-mailing and social media like it's the 90's.  The 90's I SAID!  (In addition, our family only has one computer we share, which means I generally am not on when the kids are home, so I can be "present" with them while they're on the computer and I'm reading a book.  Yes, I choose to live this way!

When it comes time to wind down at night, I love a glass of red wine.  Or two.  Again,  I try to be mindful and not over indulge.  Which means I just recently broke up with boxed wine. Again.  First of all, it's sub par.  Second, that stupid spigot makes it way too easy to over partake. It's just so dang economical.  And life is too short to drink shitty wine.  So now, I've rebalanced and I drink much better wine, less frequently and I savor it.   On the weekends.  Although, last Thursday, I went out on a date with my husband for lunch and then dinner  with a friend and had a glass of red at both.  Some rules are meant to be broken.

I live my life with fewer delusions or blinders on than I used to. But, because I'm constantly re-evaluating, the down side is I see more flaws and mistakes now than I ever did before.  Which means a large part of this great balancing act is forgiving myself and moving on when I do commit a blunder.  So what if I screw up?  Everyone does.  The important thing is to keep trying to get balanced.  And feeling for even a moment, no matter how fleeting, that you've got it.  That makes it all worth it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Girls Rock

Photo of Pulpit Rock courtesy of
It was a gorgeous Sunday.  We had two choices. Allow the kids to reenact wrestle mania (four kids makes tag teaming incredibly appealing). Or go on a hike and try to exhaust them so they would forget how much they hate one another.  We opted for the latter.  Keeping the former as an option if the latter didn't work.  In my haste to get a husband, 4 kids and 2 dogs out the door, I forgot to bring the camera.  And for a hike that has incredible views of Pike's Peak no less.

The hike was the same as it always is.  Sibling squabbles over who gets to hold the dogs' leashes, who doesn't know quantum physics and who has seen Walking Dead at a friends house and how to prove that they did.  Their arguing reached an apex when we got to the top.  I wondered if one of them was going to start a treacherous game of king of the mountain.  That's when I saw her.

Doing that quiet freak out thing a mom does while trying to pretend she's not freaking out for the sake of her kids.  Who always totally know that feigned calmness is fake.  She had the youngest on her back in one of those backpack things that always dig into your back making that 20 pounds of kid feel like 100.  Even if you traded in your car for it at REI, it's destined to be dreadfully uncomfortable.  This is what prevented her from being able to get to her 5 year old stuck on a steep and pebbled portion of the face of the hill, too scared to descend.  While her 7 year old son tested the boundaries of reascending.

This is how I became friends with Rene.  Helping her boys and her back down the rock, with the baby lulled to sleep by the impending chaos in the backpack.  We slipped and stumbled our way down together.  My thumb was bleeding and my nose was dripping, lacking a tissue, I did the 5 finger salute.  Despite that, she took my hand for stability.  We chatted and found out we have a lot in common.  I'm thinking, I really like her.  And here's the conundrum.  Do we now refer to ourselves as blood sisters or snot sisters?

When we reached the parking lot, I gave her my number.  Later that day, she texted.  Wanting to take me out.
Deja fucking vu.

If you haven't read my book, you may not realize, I've made some really bad choices in fast friendships in the past.  I mean, I think I've learned from them and everything.  But, what if I haven't?  What if she turns out to be a fucking psycho?  I mean I don't think that's gonna happen.  But, of course, I didn't think that before either.  When that's exactly what happened.

Date day rolls around.  I walk in, she's already there.  The menu has totally changed and there's less options for her.  But that's not the biggest change.  She's pregnant.  She found out yesterday.  It was a surprise and right when her husband is set to be deployed.  And we talk.  Really talk about life.  Not bullshit.  Although shit was one of the topics we covered extensively.  But in addition to that, we talked about what it means to be a woman.  The joys and the nagging feeling that other moms are better than you.  Which of course isn't true.  But, it's the common denominator of all good moms.  Assuming that they in fact aren't.  This is why we need girlfriends.  To encourage each other and laugh at ourselves.  And because our husbands just don't understand the way a woman's mind works. 

This is why girls rock!

PostScript:  Thank god Rene didn't turn out to be a psycho.  A bit neurotic maybe, but I like my girls a bit crazy.  Cause god knows I am.  And we've gone with Snot Sisters right now fyi.  Although that's subject to change as the years go by.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Anxiety Queen

From a very early age I was entirely too aware I was painfully shy.  And even though I'm in my forties now and I've put forth tremendous effort over the years to conquer it, I continue to be.  I'm also prone to depression.  But what I didn't realize until fairly recently is that I'm also anxious.  Anxiety, you see, is the paramour of depression.  A villainous tag team.

So, when I saw Scott Stossel in one of the most uncomfortable and anxious ridden interviews on the Colbert Report I have ever seen, I knew I had to read his book.  I started it on the flight to Florida.  Oddly, getting on a airplane doesn't make me anxious at all.  My anxiety is purely social.  Specifically ignited by large groups of people. Where, among them, I will have numerous opportunities to embarrass myself.  Who may or may not be thinking thoughts about me.  If they are, I'm sure they're critical and unflattering.  It's a vicious cycle I can't seem to stop.

I've always been highly intuitive of other people's feelings.  I used to be too attentive to the emotions of others, letting theirs override mine.  In fact, I still have to keep a constant eye that I don't default back to that setting.  What I didn't know until I read the book is this phenomenon is a classic symptom of anxiety.   Over reading other people's signals.   To one's own detriment.  Guilty as charged.

In the grips of anxiety, my mind goes blank.  Totally blank.  I won't be able to think of anything so say.  Let alone anything remotely intelligent.  So naturally, if I am able to utter a word,  it'll be something completely stupid and thoughtless.  Which will only increase my anxiety and make me feel worse about myself.  This I knew.  But, I never made the connection that anxiety is at the core of my inability to remember and perform belly dance choreography.  Dancing on stage means there is an instructor, classmates or worse yet, an audience watching me.  Silently critiquing me.  This is all making sense now.  I don't have amnesia.

The day that's supposed to be the happiest day of your life, was one of my most anxious ones.  It started the night before at my wedding rehearsal.  Everyone's looking at me.  And it's only about 50 people.  The next day the number will grow to be over 200 people. That's 400 eyes.  And a photographer.  And small talk to make.  So I ditched my own rehearsal dinner and spent the night sick with vertigo, my stomach in knots, puking in bed.  The next morning, I didn't feel much better and did what I could to down some saltines trying to calm my stomach.  My girlfriend covertly walked down the aisle concealing a plastic bag "just in case".  Although I've been married nearly 22 years, I didn't realize this whole episode was anxiety until just yesterday.

Then there's the delightful irritable bowl syndrome link.  Again, when I look back, this totally makes sense.  If you've read the book and the blog post on me taking an urgently imminent shit in the Ambassador's toilet while at a party there this is but one of a myriad of examples I could give.  This shit has been happening for years and is mortifying.  Especially when there's no public toilet in sight.

In short, I've spent a lot of my life being desperately uncomfortable and exacerbated by the fact that I could shit my pants in public without warning.  And forcing myself to do things despite that fact. There've been a lot of comments that I don't seem timid my book.  And I'll take that as the highest compliment.  Maybe next time I'll leave some blank pages to symbolize the awkward silences that would occur in real life.  

Writers tend to be introverted listeners who prefer to write the things we cannot say.  That's not to say we all have anxiety.  Even though I'd bet most do.

Although I wasn't one bit anxious to meet my mentor, Leah, for the first time on my trip to Florida.  Cause we're both a bit askew.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Travel Snobs

This is what we wanted for them.  For them to see the world.  We just didn't realize we'd created little monsters.  Little travel snobby monsters who'd constantly insist "we never do anything" or "go anywhere" and that we're "so boring".   And why, why haven't we gone to New Guinea yet?  Yes, this is a real live "complaint" of my kids. Because they are consumed with first world white people problems.  If only they ranked lower on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, they would be happier. If they had to scrounge for grubs to eat for dinner, they'd be fulfilled even. I'm sure of it.

The announcement that we were going to Florida for spring break came on the heels of Ember's grievance that we hadn't gone anywhere in a while.  So for 5 entire seconds after receiving the news she was ecstatic to see grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins, including a brand new nephew.   Then she claimed her luggage.  The rolly bag with the good wheels for easy gliding through the airport.  When we delivered the bad news.  Bags needed to be shared, condensed to be economical.  Unless they wanted to shell out the $50 bag fee.  "WHAT? We never had to do that in Morocco, Paris, London, Portugal, Turkey, South Africa….(the list went on and on)"  "We're in America now and the rules are different. And stupid", I replied.

When we finally get on the plane, the mocking begins.  They know immediately if the plane is new or old based on the safety demonstration.  Does the flight attendant need to stand in the aisle and demonstrate how to use a seat belt?  Or is the ridiculous seat belt demo on a screen above their heads?  Then, why don't they serve food on domestic flights?  And when they come around for beverage service will they give them a cup full of ice with a splash of a soft drink?  Or are they the generous type that will give them the entire can?  If they don't pop the top open, even better.  Then they can secretly stash the can away in their carry on and resurrect it on some completely inappropriate occasion when no other sibling has a soda.  Which is  clearly what winning at sibling rivalry.  Probably childhood entirely.

When we've arrived at our connection they pick up on subtle nuances immediately.  They people watch with intensity bordering on impropriety.  Women in Dallas have big hair and spackle on make-up.  And in fact everything IS bigger in Texas.  Sky is convinced the airport security guard could not chase down a terrorist if the need arose.  And when we arrive at our destination there are even more observations.  River loves the smell of the humid air.  Everyone else wonders if Spanish is the official language of Florida.

It doesn't end there.  They have lots more commentary the entire trip.  Why are the lines at theme parks so long?  That's the common theme isn't it?  Yes, yes it is.  And as great as all these annotations on modern American culture are, they are draining.  Or maybe that was waiting in line at the theme park drenched from that river rafting ride in the cold stinking sulfur water sprinkled air slowly getting trench foot.  Whatever.

That was until the plane ride back home.  When one of the kids, my kids, had the most unusually spun remark of the entire trip.

"I love airplane lavatories.  It's like your own personal surprise party.  When you go in, the light goes on."  ~Sky, 15 years old.

A reminder, it's not the destination, it's the journey. And that my kids are twisted.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Best Of

You know there comes a time in a career when they release the "Best of so and so" and it's usually at the end. A confirmation that the best is in the past. That's so not what I'm doing here.

What I am doing is taking a spring break for a bit. So, I've come up with this clever or cheesy way to keep you entertained in my absence. Consisting of some of my favorite posts that didn't make the book.


Coffee, Donuts and Camels
A reader suggested that this post should go in the Embassy newsletter. When it got submitted to the higher ups for review it was deemed too controversial. That's when I knew I'd arrived. And so did they.

Speed Dating
My first real attempt at trying to make girlfriends and feeling like a total loser while doing it.

Attack of the Twisted Zombie Mannequins
The story I made up about the extremely creepy mannequins used in the medinas throughout Morocco.

The Belly Dance Post
Video of the first time I belly danced and posted it to the blog.

Follaback Girl
The post that I thought would piss off most of my fellow bloggers. With video. In which Ember didn't open her mouth with chewed banana in it like we'd planned. It still pisses me off a little when I watch it. What kid doesn't want to open their mouth with food in it?

This is where I teach you the one Arabic word that can be used sarcastically in any sentence. For any reason.

Where in the World…?
It's a travel game. I give you clues, you guess where in the world we travelled to.


The Shit
Yes, it's a whole blog post about that one time I shit my pants. Ok, those times.

Why I Like My Dogs More Than My Teenagers
I think the title pretty much says it all here.

Party People
The different characters that always seem to show up at a party.

My Codependent Relationship
The first time I ever wrote about my struggles with codependence.

Emergency 911
How my husband almost died last October. No joke. The first in a three part series.

Sexy Nurse
I'm nursing my husband back to health with the help of the doctor's prescription.

Left Brain / Right Brain
How nearly losing my husband led me to self publishing.

I hope these keep you entertained until I return.  At which time I may or may not have some tan lines.  


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