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5: This is your brain on... [21 Feb 2013|08:44pm]
Many people have split minds: their Everyday Brain and Work Brain. Some find it difficult to divide the two, even with a job where they leave their work at the office and go home.

I have Courthouse Brain.

I started working for the judicial system in late 2008. In the beginning, they set me at the courthouse's front counter full-time, waiting on the public and teaching me a little bit of everything. For six months I learned about filing evictions, civil suits, and divorces; I bonded people out of jail, helped people pay restitution and traffic fines, handing out wage garnishment forms, forms for a public defender, or an expungement form of one's past sins. I listened to people crying as I certified and sealed their dead husbands' orders probating wills and granting them as administrators of estates. Men with teardrop tattoos would call me a bitch under their breath for "stealing" their daughters' Christmas-present money to pay their burglary fine. I helped attorneys, sex offenders, nervous old ladies, your cousin, and anyone in between. Laws and courthouses transcend race, gender, and age. We're all one beer away from jail, as a friend of mine would say.

Then the paternity and child-support clerk got knocked up by an attorney. She was first put on bed-rest and then she left, never to return. She's now happily married to the attorney. And I got her job.

Eventually, I was given many family courts--adoptions, termination of parental rights, and child dependency/neglect/abuse (DNA) court. But child support is my first love, as I call it, and my most significant court.

I delved into the world of child support and paternity with enthusiasm. My own husband battled child-support issues against his former wife, so this way I could better understand the process. I learned about how paternity is established (usually by a DNA test, but it's not nearly as exciting as the Maury Povich show makes it out to be) and how support is set to provide for a child. I learned about the consequences of violating your child-support order. One could have their taxes intercepted if they have an arrearage (support that is past-due). One cannot have a passport when in arrears (which is smart--it stops the deadbeats from running off to other countries). One can face jail time, and, in extreme cases, become criminally indicted for flagrant non-support. I didn't know that child support was such a Big Deal and that even failing to appear for a court date could result in a bench warrant for their arrest.

When I have Courthouse Brain, I rattle off terms that leave people confused, even co-workers who do other courts outside of family court. "Erin, what happened to Mr. Watts in court today?" one might call across the room. "His wife is asking on the phone." I click a few keys, check my docket sheets, and reply, "Pled guilty, 30 days suspended on condition that he pay! C.S. office will do a wage assignment at Pizza Hut!" or "Dude wasn't lucky. Found guilty, serving 5 and 29, can purge paying $5000. No opposition to work release, run concurrent with other charges, credit for time served." Sometimes we sound like cooks in a Waffle House yelling about hash browns and using code words concerning our food. It really is another language, a branch of legalese understood by all the deputy clerks. We might throw out terms like "in forma pauperis" or "nunc pro tunc" but we tend to not speak as much Latin as the attorneys. We don't get paid enough to speak so fancy, even though sometimes we know more than the attorneys do. We're not allowed to give legal advice, but some of us have written our own orders and tell the attorneys the correct procedures. Clerks are the true heroes of the court world. The judge may sign orders, but we direct the orders to him or her. We're the ones who send the orders to where they need to go--a jail to release a prisoner, a sheriff to recall an arrest warrant. I felt like my job wasn't all that important until I accidentally forgot to fax an order releasing a man from a jail. Because of my carelessness, he remained in jail the entire weekend. I am much more careful now! We input everything we receive. We open cases. We appoint counsel. We set things in motion.

Child support court has become a game for me--one game, the less exciting, is "Close Out the Cases." I cannot close a paternity case until that paternity is established or, in a basic child support case, a support or medical order. Sometimes cases sit forever because the child-support office is trying to serve the non-custodial parent and they can't locate them. I created a huge Excel file with multiple sheets and color-coding to track the progress of all my open cases. I feel very triumphant when I can delete a case. It's a quest, exciting to no one but me.

My other game is the Bench Warrant Game. I crafted a Bench Warrant Chart of Awesomeness to track every active warrant in my county under my care. The child-support office was impressed with this chart and offered to let me work for them, but I turned them down, not wanting to deal with bitchy baby mamas and angry single dads (deadbeat moms are common, too!). I handed my chart to their office and to the sheriffs and they've been able to help me get people arrested. Catch the Bad Guys. I send warrants to sheriffs in every Kentucky county. Sometimes I groan when one gets sent to certain backwoods counties because I know they'll just feed the warrant to their pet raccoon and I will never see the warrant again. I feel like I've hit the jackpot when a person with 5 or 6 different cases (all different baby mamas) gets caught. And I roll my eyes when another might live out of state because I cannot send a warrant outside of Kentucky. They might still get arrested on my warrant if they get pulled over while driving in Kentucky, but it's unlikely: family court warrants do not show up on most police systems here because they aren't part of the modernized "e warrants" system. I have to work harder than most to get "my people" arrested. I check my county's inmate list every night at home to see if I see any of them there. I scan traffic and criminal dockets to see if these people have court in other rooms so I can have them arrested there by the bailiffs.

I admit that I let Court Brain rule my life sometimes. I become a sufficient, cool, finger of the hand of the arm of the law. I think about my cases when I am at home and sometimes congratulate myself on being so hard-working and aggressive.

But then I go grocery-shopping with my housemate and somewhere between the frozen foods and the produce aisle at Kroger, I see her.

She's a largely pregnant, plain-faced, big-sad-eyes girl with long, stringy, mousy hair. She wears the same black puffy jacket and shapeless clothing that I saw her wearing earlier that day, in the courtroom. We had talked on the phone the day before. Her child's father had gotten arrested in traffic court on my child-support warrant. "He had just paid off some fines," she had told me, her voice breaking. "We had no idea. What will happen? Will they let him go?" I explained to her that he would spend the night in jail and would be heard in the morning arraignments. Then he would be passed to my court that afternoon. "I'm pregnant right now," she explained. "I'm a mess. I can't do this without him." And she started to sob. "I'm sorry," I tried to say, "Maybe they will let him out if they know the situation. You never know." She kept crying. "He doesn't even owe me money! It's all owed to the state!" I had told her to come to court the next day.

The judge sentenced him to 5 months and 29 days in jail. I wrote this on his docket sheet as the judge sentenced him. I could see the girl from my place next to the judge. She probably had no idea that I was the same person who talked to her that morning.

And she definitely didn't know that I was the one responsible for getting him arrested. I didnt have to give the bailiffs that warrant, saying, "This guy is in traffic court today. Can you nab him?" I could have let the police try to catch him, but they hadn't had any luck. I could have let the warrant sit in its file, impotent and un-served. But I let it loose. It was part of the game.

Now I'm standing in Kroger and everything's in slow motion because I see the defeated girl, the one who the bailiffs had to pull into the galley because she had tried running after him when the jailers took him away. And when she turns, I see the young child at her side, clutching a candy bar. She's got huge coffee-colored eyes and a ponytail on top of her head like a pom-pom. Her child. His child. Their child. I put her daddy in jail, I thought guiltily. Courthouse Brain dissipated and Empathy Brain took over. I grew a little light-headed. They're all alone in this world. She doesn't know what she will do without him. She can't do this. How will she explain to her daughter where Daddy is? Will the baby be born while he is still in jail?

I imagine myself embracing them both, telling them, "I'm sorry. I was just doing my job. I really do apologize. How can I help?"

But they will never know. I continue walking, and I pass mother and daughter with a brief glance. We push our shopping cart laden with food and it all feels sort of pointless.

We do our jobs, and we do them well, we with the Courthouse Brains. And Law Enforcement Brains. And Judge Brains. But I think deep down, we've got hearts and brains like anyone else, hearts that feel sorry. And, after all, we're all just one beer, one missed child-support payment, and one bad decision from jail.
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3: Shenanigans [07 Feb 2013|07:56pm]
When my now-husband visited me for our first Christmas together in 2006, he made this observation about my extended family: "I see that my love's brain damage is heriditary. They have a tradition of gag gift giving that involves elaborate stories filled with personal jabs and zings. It was very entertaining to say the least."

Growing up, I enjoyed Christmas at my Aunt Betty and Uncle Roger's house. They lived next door with their son and two adopted daughters, dear older cousins I considered siblings. Other aunts, uncles, and cousins would gather, too, and we'd eat a large mid-day meal, open presents, and goof off. One year, everyone in the family received a ridiculous hat that we had to wear the entire time. They ranged from large cowboy hats, hats that looked like animals, bright red bowlers, garish cat-in-the-hat styles that reached to the ceiling, it goes on. We rejoiced in giving each other tacky t-shirts found in tourist traps, trying to outdo each other in tastelessness. We had a special Peptol Bismol pink candle shaped like a sailboat that we passed on from year to year. An aunt would open the box, eyes widening, groaning, "Not this ugly thing again!"

The stories my family told were the best part of Christmas. We'd take incidents that had happened to our relatives over the year and incorporate them into our gathering. For instance, Uncle Roger would take our antics and create fake news stories that he would put into what looked like an actual newspaper, and then he'd read it out loud to us. Other stories continued through the years, like the ongoing tale of our neighbor, Mr. Fox. He lived across the road and owned many of the fields surrounding our homes. My father and uncle loved to hunt, but they couldn't trespass on Mr. Fox's land, even if the deer crossed over onto his property. Uncle Roger began donning reindeer antlers and reading "The Field Gestapo Report." He would read it in this faux-Amish accent (our descendents were Gentle Folk) from a deer's perspective, how much they loved the Field Gestapo for protecting them! Once the "deer" gave my dad a big box as a present. Dad opened it and pulled out a life-size fake arm! The deer said ominously that the arm belonged to a hunter who had tried to cross onto the Field Gestapo's land, and warned us of the land mines! We had a good laugh over that.

As the years passed by, our family both dwindled and grew. My cousins, ever fertile, produced several children, wide-eyed wonders and toddling around the house. In 2003, both Uncle Paul and my father died, within 10 days of each other. It really stung to lose two fabulous jokers. Even though Uncle Paul liked to corner whatever unfortunate boyfriend I had that year and give him $5 to find a hooker, he had a good heart and he was greatly missed. Dad's death left an even bigger rift in our happy group. And eventually, Uncle Roger and Aunt Betty sold their house and moved to Florida. That didn't stop us though; we just moved everything to our house next door. Our house wasn't as big, but it brought us closer together--when we weren't trying to elbow each other in the smaller living room.

Those deer antlers showed up other years. Like when Uncle Roger left his wallet at home when driving to the airport, and it messed up his vacation plans. Frequent screw-up indeed!



Aunt Mary decided to show Uncle Roger the proper way to travel--by fastening all of your cash and credit cards to your body with duct tape.



I could never claim that our family was politically correct. Nothing was sacred and no one was safe from the jokes. On Christmas Eve, my brother had proposed to his girlfriend. So the next day, my aunt read their "pre-nup" which consisted of "The Good Wife's Guide" from 1955. It included such gems as "Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it." and "Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him." My future sister-in-law didn't quite agree with this list of things that a good wife needs to do!

My cousin Michael then opened a present to reveal a DVD of Brokeback Mountain, inspired by suspicions of him and his brother who spent large amounts of time "snow plowing" and out in the woods (they own a landscaping/plowing business in the mountains of northern PA).



One year, Mom had knee surgery and couldn't throw the Christmas party at her house. So we all headed to Aunt Mary's home in nearby Butler, PA. Uncle Roger managed to write a touching but hilarious piece called "Super Baby" that implied that my mother, the baby of the family, went to extremes to avoid having Christmas at her house. The nerve, having "Dr. Whack-a-knee" do some surgery on her knee so people could feel sorry for her! We all got a big kick out of it, Mom especially. I was glad that we could still laugh and get together despite the pains of our losses. And very glad that we could include new family members into the fold. My mother had remarried at this point, a pastor named Andy. I wondered how he would handle our goofy family. Of course, they made jabs at him being a pastor, but all good-natured (we're all Christians, just slightly irreverant). They handed him a wrapped gift, which he revealed to be the stupidest welcome mat ever. "Got Jesus?" We thought, isn't it kind of tacky to put that on a mat that people would step on and rub the mud out of their boots?



Andy loved it! He fits in with the family after all!

Our holidays definitely show that laughter IS the best medicine, especially when it's with people who will expose your flaws, show you the absurdity of it, and love you anyway. Isn't that what family should be?
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1: Am I Crazy? [24 Jan 2013|07:51pm]
The judge turns and studies me sitting demurely in the seat next to him. We are waiting for our court hearing to start, judge and his loyal clerk. He smiles.

"Erin, you have sparks flying off you!"

I chuckle shyly. "Wow, news travels fast down the hall!" I absentmindedly rub my back, stopping at the small bandage resting on my waistline. It still smarts; I wince.

One of the social workers chimes in. "Erin, is it true? What were you thinking?" Some of the attorneys start to whisper amongst each other and then they begin laughing. They lovingly berate me: "Are you crazy?" "Why would you do that?" "Did it hurt?" "You did this ten minutes ago?" They shake their heads at me, clucking hens.

"What did you do?" Someone wanders into the courtroom late and catches the tail end of the chatter.

"Erin got tased by the sheriffs!" the judge exclaims matter-of-factly.

"WHAT? WHAT DID YOU DO? ARE YOU CRAZY?" they scoff, taking a seat and staring hard at me in disbelief.

I often ask that myself!

-----

It started with the buzz of the sheriff's office and my co-workers. We work in a small county courthouse of about twenty deputy clerks. We also share space with the sheriff's office. A woman who works for the county attorney wandered in, rubbing her back. Someone asked her what was wrong and she explained that she had just gotten tased. Her answer resulted in people erupting with questions. "Why?" "How did it feel?" She replied, "It hurt like hell!"

Of course, I was intrigued. I gleaned from eavesdropping that the sheriff's office had obtained a fleet of new tasers (small electroshock weapons that law enforcement and worried citizens carry). As part of their training, all of the sheriff's deputies had to personally experience the consequences of tasing. They video-taped each deputy being tased, too, so they could see it afterwards (and make fun of each other). We joked that one man should become a preacher because when he got tased, he yelled, "Jesus, Jesus, Lord oh my God, Jesus!" so much.

I watched two or three people endure it. Many of the men screamed and cried. It made me wonder how much it really hurt. Then one of the public defenders, a young woman who shared my slim build and height, volunteered to try it herself, just like the woman from the other office. People tried to stop her, but she wanted to know how her clients felt when it happened to them! She didn't die, but she let out a yell, almost annoyed, and definitely surprised. I found out later that she had been tased on half-power--one of the two prongs had malfunctioned. But it still hurt her a lot!

And I couldn't stand to watch. I wasn't content with being an amused bystander. I wanted to feel it, too.

During my lunch break, I wandered into the sheriff's office. "Are you all still tasing people?" I chirped.

One man looked me over and laughed. "Really? You want to ride the wave?"

"Yes! It's driving me crazy with curiosity not knowing! I'm so curious. I have to know," I babbled.

"Well, okay. Take these goggles and sign this waiver." He guided me to a desk where I read the waiver (confirming I wasn't pregnant or had a heart condition) and scribbled my signature across the bottom. A small audience of co-workers and sheriff's deputies dotted the large room that joined my office and theirs. I was the only person from my office to volunteer to try it. My heart pounded against my ribcage.

I was placed between two strong deputies, who held onto my arms on each side. I faced my audience much like I faced out from a stage in my many plays. But this had no script. I honestly didn't know what would happen. I set my goggles on my face and wondered why I wore them. Did they prevent my eyeballs from popping out?

Another man stood behind me, holding the taser itself. He had a kind face and wore goggles just like I did. The taser, small and black, crackled in his hand, sounding suspiciously like a bug-zapper. Now I knew how those unfortunate moths felt, hovering towards that glowing light...

"Taser, taser, taser!" the goggled man said, and the taser, crackling ever loudly, touched my lower back.

A thousand angry villagers kicked and punched me furiously from the inside. My feet became lead weights, oh Lord they felt so heavy. Every particle of me sparkled and whizzed feverishly. I started to fly into the air, held back only by the men now gripping my arms. I rolled onto my toes, hovering, lead feet and light as a cloud and buzzing and no sound but my loud shrieking that reached all the corners of the courthouse. My eyeballs might have popped out but those magical goggles held them in place!

The taser graced my back for a mere 7 seconds, but in reality it felt like a year. I floated, suspended in time, with pain rippling through every atom. My screaming and the crackling of the taser.

When the man released the taser, I crumpled, and the men holding me gingerly lowered me to the floor. My co-workers rushed towards me. "Oh God, Erin, are you okay?" All I could do was laugh. Unlike other kinds of pain, this pain immediately vanished the second I was released. It was almost like it had never happened. But now others pushed closer and someone yelled, "She's bleeding! Someone grab a band-aid!" Apparently one of the prongs had pricked me pretty deeply and blood dripped down my back onto my clothes. A co-worker dabbed at me with tissues before applying the band-aid. I didn't feel like craning my head backwards to survey the damage. I let everyone baby me. They lifted me up to walk back to our office. I had to be in court in ten minutes.

But first, the sheriff's deputies clapped me on the shoulders and gave me high-fives. "You're amazing! You handled that better than a lot of us did!" they told me. The sheriff himself said, "This is a side of Erin we've never seen!" What kind of side that was, I don't know, but I assume it's a positive thing. I overheard one say, "Damn, she got tased? That is really sexy! I love that!" I blushed and smiled at that. He didn't know that I heard him. I had won their new-found respect. I may be the smallest person in the courthouse but I am a tough little cookie!

The funniest comment though? "Erin, I'm not surprised. You're one of those theatre people after all..."

Have you ever been so curious about something that you just had to experience it yourself or die with regret not knowing? I asked my co-workers that later. They answered, "Not really." I work with boring people. They all thought I was crazy. Especially since I did it voluntarily. Am I crazy? I don't think that I am. Curiosity can be healthy--as long as it doesn't kill any cats.

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100 Words: Psychosomatic [10 Mar 2010|12:06am]
In my childhood, I’d become so distressed I’d vomit. My mother would hold back my hair, uttering soothing words. "I'm going to die!" I'd sob. "No you're not, sweetie. You're just sick," she'd tell me, and I'd happily believe her.

Yesterday, I crouched on my knees in my bathroom, choking up my innards, the light glaring on my lone figure. I slept on the rug in front of the toilet, my towel a blanket. The cat comforted me with her silent, furry presence. "I'm going to die!" I lament. When I reassured myself that I will not die, I'm disheartened.
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100 words: Heaven [06 Oct 2008|11:43pm]
We engaged in sleepy morning sex followed by a homemade breakfast of eggs and bacon. Coffee simmered in a nearby pot. As we ate, the tornado siren wailed outside despite an azure sky sweeping miles around.

"I wonder why it’s ringing?" I mused, glancing outside and then turning to look at him.

He shrugged and took a sip of coffee.

"It's probably the end of the world."

"Well, this would be a nice day to go to Heaven," I said wistfully.

"Wouldn't any day be a good day to go to Heaven?" he smiled.

Any day? I'm there right now.
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100 Words: Best Friends [19 Dec 2007|11:37pm]
I watched them every day from my back-row desk. Two girls wearing gold necklaces, each carrying half a heart. Best friends.

When they fought, the blonde-haired one snatched the jewelry from her enemy. With great ceremony, she’d clasp the chain around my neck, smiling.

I shivered with joy, feeling love dangling precariously above the pulse of my throat. Best friends!

How crushed when I later saw them embracing in the hallway and she'd ask me to return the necklace.

Years later, I cherish my few friends. Other days, I’m reduced to a child, wishing someone considered me their Best Friend.
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LJ Idol Champion? [19 Jul 2007|03:30pm]
therealljidol: THE LAST TOPIC!

Go Vote!

I blame sdaisyk for the reason I'm here today. On January 24th, she posted a poll about LJ Idol. "LJ Idol?" I asked her. She sent me a link to the community. Twenty million weeks later, I remain as one of three contestants from the original 72. I'm impressed by the determination in my fellow writers, topic after topic. I glow when I witness the friendships forged and strengthened across the pages I read. What an honor to be a part of this group! What a headache, too. As some of you know, most of my entries I have written are fueled by panic. The similarities to college essays tugs at my heart-strings (or not). So, with this ending comes much sadness but much relief, too.

Why Should I Win LJ Idol?

I tell fantastic stories. An LJ-Idol Champion should be able to tell a wide array of stories. And I do. Ben, my brother, put it aptly: "You never forget a thing. Even the things everyone else forgets." My amazing long-term memory has given me blessings and curses throughout my entire life. For LJ Idol, it worked to my advantage. I romanticize the really great parts and over-dramaticize the really bad parts, resulting in stories that swell to larger-than-life proportions. Like a senile old lady, I retell my tales to anyone who will listen to me. In this way, I preserve my history, through speaking and writing. Not only do I spin great yarns, but I offer quite the variety. I gave people the giggles with my Short Dramatic Stint as a Church Secretary and the Time I Almost Went Blind While Constructing a Clone of Myself. I've made people swoon with my stories about the love of my life. And rumor has it that some people have cried when reading about my father.

I can connect to people through my writing. This goes hand-in-hand with telling good stories. LJ-Idol Champions should not sit in some isolated castle spewing obscure rhetorics that no one cares about. I may not always write about common experience, but I have nailed down common feelings. Even if someone hasn't experienced the situations I have, they can understand the sentiments behind them. For instance, country and city mice alike can relate to attachment to one's home. And I'm sure all of us have experienced mental breakdowns. But to lay bare one's soul so publicly and emotionally is quite the feat--especially if one can draw people in instead of driving them away.

Thirdly, I OBTAIN a lot of connections in the form of friends/readers. This could help give LJ Idol a lot of publicity, giving it much exposure in the form of contestants and audience. With numbers come power, and numbers result in an efficient, fun community with lots of participation.

Lastly, well, danged if I ain't cute. The world can never have enough cute. I post a lot of pictures for the more visually stimulated. And what better is a cute woman who can write AND includes darling photos of herself to illustrate her adventures?



Why Should My Opponents Win?

Why shouldn't they win? The remaining opponents are heavy hitters with poignant words and loyal supporters. I consider myself lucky to have gotten the opportunity to learn about these two women through the contest. The three of us share a couple mutual friends, but I didn't learn about them until LJ Idol began. I could see either of these two becoming the LJ Idol Champion.


agirlnamedluna is one contender. She lives in the magical world of Belgium, which makes her a fairy-tale princess or elf maiden of some sort. A damn intelligent one at that. She speaks like 50,000 languages and even if English isn't her first language, she writes better than most Americans I know. Not only is Luna precise with the pen, but she has a degree in Communication Science under her belt. So this lady is for real. Luna has managed to make time for LJ Idol despite the quickly approaching arrival of her first-born child. She's ice rage and sunshine mellow rolled into a beautiful package, chock full of sentimentality and reason.

Here are some highlights of agirlnamedluna's LJ Idol entries.

1) Week 18. Pure poetry. "One day the myth was over. Responsibility was not just a strange noun anymore, but an everyday reality slapping in the face repeatedly. The shadows were now an empty space where the sun didn't shine instead of a mysterious hiding place. The dark was no longer a safe mantle, but a malicious creature dragging down and even more down, everything that had been truth was made out to be nothing but an overactive imagination ... the world was once again stripped from every magic it held hidden in its very core. Depression set in, how could it not?" Wow.

2) Week 19. An anecdote about her irrational fear of natural disasters. As a neurotic child myself, I was chuckling several times throughout this story, thinking, "I totally understand this." I also like that nature decided to bless her with a child. :^)

3) Week 15. In someone else's shoes. Luna touches upon the importance of being true to one's self, that we should learn how to walk in our own shoes. I like reading about other people's families, and Luna's family situation is an interesting case. I really admire Luna for her strength, her beauty, and her matter-of-fact way of writing. Also, this entry included one of my favorite lines ever: "Nothing was going right in my life, I was a scared teenager, with a lot of doom and Nirvana in my head."


bettybaker is our other contender. When I began LJ Idol, I considered myself peerless. And then I met my match. Betty Baker lives in the foreign land of California and she really likes coffee. She's a whirlwind of creativity. She's not afraid to take word bubbles and twist them into balloon animals. Betty also enmeshes herself within the LJ Idol community, buzzing about with a friendly, sociable personality that's difficult to dislike. And boy is she sensuous. A lot of her writing oozes seduction in a subtle, enticing way that makes me wish the love of my life was home. And when she's not crooning siren songs, she's making people laugh. Sometimes, she even combines silly with sexy. Betty is probably the only person in the universe who could write about the Kurds and the Turks in such an entertaining, understandable way. She's also the only person I know who can write eloquently about mother fucking. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Here are some Betty Baker gems:

1) I Can't Believe I Did That! Betty learns in her childhood that it is unwise to throw rocks at windows. "Uh, crash, and also shatter, said the glass window. The glass window that didn't belong to the school. The glass window that belonged instead to the neighboring cathedral. I am a dead window, said the splinters of glass." That slays me every time!

2) Spring is Bustin' Out! While I can't claim to have the spectacular boobage that Betty has, I'm sure many of us women can relate to the changes of clothing that accompany the changes in season. Bring on the warm-weather loving!

3) Survival of the Fittest. Betty ponders strategies for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. "I want to survive. That means I need someone looking out for me. It means that I need someone to keep me in calories and warm clothes. So I'll side with the most shrewd chieftain I can and I'll work hard to stay on his or her friendly list- and I'll never buck the system. Not for moral reasons, and certainly not for greater prestige. I don't need to be 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in command. I just need to be a solid part of the tribe; respected and trusted." Hm, perhaps she is using this strategy in LJ Idol, too? Hehe. She's certainly gained a lot of trust and respect from her fellow LJers, and it shows.

Who will be the LJ Idol Champion?

Honestly, I don't know the answer to this, because I could see any of us winning the title. I wish all three of us could win. Your votes will influence the person who will hold this title! I want to thank everyone who has participated in writing and in participating. This community has really allowed me to step out of my comfort zone on several occasions but I've never felt more free. It's been inspiring to see how many different angles the topics have taken, and it's been entertaining as punch, too. Thanks for letting me be a part of it!
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LJ Idol: My Favorite Book (Week 24, Topic 2) [16 Jul 2007|03:35pm]
therealljidol Topic Two: My Favorite Book

While browsing through the stacks of a small bookstore in Western Pennsylvania during the summer of 2002, my eyes fell upon a bright yellow book. If it had been shelved with children's books, I would have never noticed it among the other vibrant colors. But this book rested in between sterile self-help volumes. Curious, I pulled the book into my hands.

Its was titled Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus. Its hand-drawn illustrations, "groovy" writing style, and black-and-white photograph of the long-haired author gave me clues to its 1973 publication date during the "hippie-peace-love-movement." Oh boy, a typical New-Age piece of junk book, I thought. I was still intrigued by the beautiful simplicity of its structure. Even the words scrawled across the bottom of the cover gave me reason to raise my eyebrows and chuckle.


"a tale--partly about life, partly about revolution and lots about hope for adults and others
(including caterpillars who can read)"


I longed for the book, but I didn't have the money to buy it that day. But six months later, the book came to me when an estranged boyfriend gave it to me for Christmas.

On the surface, Hope for the Flowers is a story starring two caterpillars, Stripe and Yellow, who fall in love. Sounds cutesy, right? Think again.

Read further through the pages and one finds a complex tale involving relationships, growth, love, faith, hope, and finding priorities. Whether we live in 1973 or 2007, we cannot deny the bourgeois society in which we live. The upper class controls the working class by dangling incentives, like carrots, before their faces. Paulus speaks about humanity's struggle with climbing to success, using a literal tower of caterpillars to drive home her point. Stripe, a fuzzy protagonist, is seduced by the "caterpillar pillar" he sees in the distance, and, not knowing anything else, he begins to climb. To survive, one must harden themselves and avoid personal interaction with the other caterpillars, even when stepping on their heads.

But one day, he made the mistake of looking into another caterpillar's eyes--Yellow's--as he stepped on her. "Something in the way Yellow looked at him made him feel just awful about himself. Like: no matter what is up there--it just isn't worth it. [...] Stripe's heart leapt inside. Everything looked different. The pillar made no sense at all. [...] 'I didn't know how badly I felt about this life until then. Now when you look at me so kindly, I know for sure I don't like this life. I just want to do something like crawl with you and nibble grass.'" The two rolled into a ball and slowly rolled down the pillar, abandoning it to live a beautiful, intimate life together.

Unfortunately, Stripe is plagued by "what ifs" about the tower, and he leaves Yellow to rejoin the ruthless climb. Yellow feels devastated, but she refuses to follow him. She knows that the pillar isn't worth the suffering. At the same time, the lady caterpillar knows there must be more to life than hugging and eating grass.

She wanders through a field, meeting a wiser, older caterpillar who is weaving a cocoon. He explains to her about the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. Yellow found it difficult to believe that lowly worms could become something so graceful. But the wise old caterpillar insisted it was true. She decided to risk everything to become a butterfly.





I do not want to spoil the rest of the story, but I will say that it ends on a hopeful note with a tear-jerker of a reunion.

Theologically, this book represents the core of many world religions in its talk of death and resurrection. I like that the book feels spiritual to me in a Christian way, but at the same time I see it as neutral in a comforting way that can appeal to non-Christians. Hope for the Flowers touches upon love--that butterflies are the ones who know how to truly love. It's "better than all the hugging caterpillars can do." I think this might suggest importance in higher forms of love as opposed to pure lust and physical attraction. Also, faith plays a significant role in this book. The old caterpillar asks Yellow to leave everything she's ever known. She didn't seem certain about this, glancing over at the dead-looking caccoon he was spinning. But she decided to gamble her life. Stripe, on the other hand, faced persecution in the pillar. Once he had spotted a butterfly, he wanted to tell everyone he knew that they could ALL be butterflies. The others just scoffed at him. He's just bitter because he didn't reach the top of the pillar, some said. Another even said, "How could you swallow such a story? Our life is earth and climbing. Look at us worms! We couldn't be butterflies inside. Make the best of it and enjoy the caterpillar living!" As a Christian, I have experienced these situations--struggles with faith in my own heart and in regards to others. Neither is easy. Stripe even sighs, "I haven't any proof. Did I only make it up because I needed it so much?" Boy, I've been told that dozens of times throughout my life: that religion is a crutch for weak-minded people. But if it works for some of us, who is to judge?

I've referred to this book many times throughout my adult life when feeling hopeless about my job. As many of you know, I am an underpaid retail clerk/hospitality worker. I have a college degree--boy, a TICKET to the caterpillar pillar!--and yet I spend my days refilling candy trays, giving tours of the facility, and mopping floors. A pillar even existed in my workplace, albeit a tiny one. I was given opportunities to climb the corporate ladder by my boss. He made subtle references to great benefits and raises in pay. However, I was unhappy and stressful working in the upper-level management. My co-workers resented my status and I'd cry driving home. I painfully decided to climb down that pillar. And you know what? I've never been happier. Now that I have no pressure to climb, I can do my job in peace. I can look into the eyes of strangers and love them. And, best of all, no one's stepping on my head anymore.

Emotionally, this book really speaks to me. It's an ideal book for anyone undergoing a life-changing experience. Aren't we all going through life-changing experiences every day? I've got my own Stripe--a college graduate who abandoned his jobs as long-time restaurant managing to pursue truck-driving. We may be a couple of odd birds, working "beneath" what is expected of us, but we're happy and in love. Whether we've reached butterfly-hood is another story, but we have been building a cocoon.

The back cover of Hope for the Flowers says it's "a different sort of book for everyone except those who have given up completely (and even they might secretly enjoy it)." I encourage anyone reading this to find this book and give it a chance. Reading Trina Paulus' book is a great way to release your inner butterfly.

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LJ Idol: Alternative Energy (Week 24, Topic 1) [15 Jul 2007|03:34pm]
therealljidol: Alternative Energy

Diane Werl loved the disco. She would rush home from work every evening to meticulously dress herself. Then she'd head out to the Electic Eel, her favorite dance club.

Diane was naive and undeveloped, but she was so young and charming that no one could help but love her and flock to her. She had an asset to die for--a killer pair of legs, perfect for her killer dance moves. Wanting to exploit these valuable resources, Diane would wear mini-skirts of every color. At one point, she counted over two dozen hanging in her closet. They served her well; the young lady walked home with a different man every night. These men, ranging from prosperous and witty to simple-minded and crass, enjoyed Diane's company very much. However, they never remained with her for very long. Once they had gotten what they wanted from her, the men would move on to other women. Diane didn't let it bother her, though. There would always be an assemblage of men to appease her needs.

Attempts to befriend other women were often thwarted because of their jealousy towards Diane. They wanted precious assets like she did. But eventually the women saw advantages to Diane's friendship. Since Diane wanted so badly for people to love her, she generously accepted any attention. The ladies formed alliances with her and reaped from the benefits. If they walked into the Electric Eel with Diane, the men would notice them right away. Sometimes they would even borrow her mini-skirts for a night or two. Diane liked to share and to open herself up to people, and in this way she grew very powerful.

Many years passed, and Diane aged considerably. The ravages of time had not treated her well--her grey roots spurted so fast from her head that she could barely keep up with the hair-dye. Deep lines etched her face like a tilled garden. She spoke in a raspy voice, a voice destroyed by years inhaling cigarette smoke. These physical transformations had been so gradual that she never noticed it.

However, Diane still insisted on wearing her mini-skirts and fishnet stockings! She wore mini-skirts when working at the office, when shopping at Wal-Mart, when mowing the yard, and even when attending church. Why change her wardrobe when it had helped her win the affection of so many people in the past? Did Diane realize that the mini-skirt, while it had a time and place at another point in her life, could no longer benefit her now?

Diane did not even notice that the friends had stopped visiting her. The women who fawned over her in the past had grown tired of the mini-skirts. They wanted something more efficient, more classy. They traded in their mini-skirts for house-dresses, and traded in their boy-toys for strong husbands who could love them and provide for them. Once the friends had formed families, they no longer desired Diane's companionship.

In addition to the disappearing friendships, the men had stopped calling her house. The Electric Eel had closed long ago when disco fever died out, so Diane found a new hang-out, Tony's Lounge. She sipped margaritas night after night, disappointed that even the very few older men would not give her a second glance. When the men did look at her, it was usually a look of pity, to see this older woman, washed up wearing clothes that did not suit her body.

Diane's only friend, Candace, tried to convince her to go on a shopping trip with her after work. "Capri pants would look great with your body type!" Candace would gush. "And why don't you return to school and get that diploma? Think of the opportunities that would open up! Think of how enriched you would feel!" But Diane refused to trade in her tried and true methods of harnessing men. "As long as I'm getting laid, why does it matter?" she'd laugh. She forgot that it had been years since a man had even touched her. Diane continued to stew in her stubborness and ignorance until even Candace stayed away.

Eventually, Diane died, alone in her sleep, with the final thought, "Where did I go wrong?" Candace bought her friend a beautiful pantsuit. When old friends and lovers gazed into the coffin, they shook their heads at the wasted life laid before them. "She was so gorgeous," one murmured. Sadly, this was the only positive aspect that came to mind. After the funeral, Candace stuffed all two dozen of the mini-skirts into a trash-bag and brought them to a Goodwill shop. As much as she hated those skirts, Candace was a very environment-friendly woman.

What can we learn from our Diane Werl? Diane relied on a resource--physical beauty-- that was rapidly running out. She never took the time to develop alternative skills to attract the opposite sex. As her friends matured, they sought out more sophisticated methods of harnessing the energies of the universe, instead of relying on an archaic one because it was easy. Pursuing love, education, conversational skills, fulfilling hobbies, and intelligence require some work, but they enrich our lives in a positive way. Unfortunately, Diane, resistent to change, didn't think of her future, and didn't consider that the passage of time ebbs and flows. Energy and life require movement and Diane would not budge. Even more alarming is the fact that Diane exists on a larger scale that impacts many of us.

America, when will you trade in your mini-skirt?
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LJ Idol: The Wall (Week 23) [09 Jul 2007|03:02am]
therealljidol Topic: THE WALL

I do not simply cover walls. I saturate them.

To me, blank walls threaten. They challenge me to clothe them with myriads of colors, textures, and images. I drape my walls with frantic, multiple personalities all vying for my attention. Since I tend to personify everything, my pictures sleep together in haphazard rows to avoid loneliness. They sit within whispering distance of each other, telling stories as the night air grows tight around them.

I had chosen country-quilt wallpaper for my bedroom when I was 12 years old. For years I struggled to hide the childish patterns with Smashing Pumpkins and Edward Gorey posters. A framed flier for my older brother's first punk band. Metal advertisements my father gave me from his antique market. They clashed with the fancy cat prints and Footprints in the Sand poem, much like my personality clashed within me, milk and applesauce.

When I graduated from high school, college opened up doors for me--and walls! How thrilling to have an entirely new canvas to decorate! People often admired my dorm-room's walls as their eyes glimmered at the collages arranged lovingly with snags of glossy magazines stitched together with rubber cement clinging. The Mexican movie posters that shout in languages we don't understand, their colors garish and rough. Tapestries reeking of incense bought in shady storefronts. My own artwork, humble and fading at the edges, whispering past glories of raw talent smeared across paper. "I wish my dorm looked like yours," some would remark jealously.



Why did I insist on slathering every square inch of my rooms?

Was it genetic? Our house looked like "an antique store had thrown up" as some would say. However, since my dad was an antique dealer, this behavior was excusable. Dad's adornments were more elaborate than mine: expensive paintings, Native American prints, baskets, and shelves lined with knicknacks of all shapes and sizes. My family shuffled around our dark rooms like moles, surrounded by these serious artifacts. While I loved the beautiful artwork throughout the house, I liked escaping to my more playful room. Dad liked to have fun, too, though--the cafe at the antique market displayed lots of bright, entertaining vintage signs from all over the country, hastily nailed onto corkboard walls. Coupled with my Pap-Pap's polka records warbling over the loud-speaker, it gave Sunday lunches a surreal atmosphere. Dad was an odd man and I was his odd daughter. We shared a love of the bizarre and leaned towards the sentimental and nostalgic. Others would call us pack-rats. I liked inheriting these quirky qualities from him.

Maybe I used my walls as a form of self-expression. While others sear tattoos onto their skin as an expression of their personality, I could dress my walls as an extension of myself. Given my indecisive nature, interior decorating is probably preferable to tattoos. As my interests wax and wane, so do my walls. Once, when I found my faith renewed, I retired a special music poster in favor of a scroll-like print listing all the names of Jesus. Boyfriends' photographs came and went with sometimes-alarming frequency. At my Christian college, I'd push the limits of decency by hanging up a burlap cannibis sack and a nude self-portrait I had sketched. I can still remember the day the Student Affairs Director was drug-searching my dorm. Instead of scolding me, he complimented me on the artwork above his head. He asked me if I was considering a future in art. "No," I replied. "If art was my job, it wouldn't be fun anymore." If anything, my art saved me from an otherwise awkward experience.

Perhaps I filled my walls to avert crisis. I associate bare walls with tragedy. Shortly after my dad died in 2003, I was startled to visit from college and find our living room transformed. Mom had stripped Dad's beloved walls of their fixings, replacing the dark wood with airy wallpaper. A couple modest paintings remained. I collapsed on the floor crying, enraged that Mom would take away the very trappings of Dad's soul. I experienced a similar feeling, albeit a less dramatic reaction, when I returned to Pennsylvania a few weeks ago. Mom had once again removed objects from walls--in MY bedroom! My childhood bedroom! "Mom!" I whined. "How could you?" She explained she was merely washing the walls, but it took a lot of reassurance before I felt better about it.

One time, even I turned the tables by ripping things off the walls. My long-time boyfriend had broken up with me, and I was suffering from a mental breakdown. I couldn't breathe, I was choking and the walls were stifling me so I needed some air. Perfectly logical reasoning for a grieving girl. Over a month ago, I experienced grief again. I came home to find that my current boyfriend had removed my posters from the computer-room wall. We were going through a rough spot in our relationship so he had "moved" into that particular room. My pictures lay crumped in the corner like broken-winged birds. I don't even know why he took them down--he never did stay in the other room. We had mended the rift (even though he still thinks I'm a sentimental dork). Maybe I'll forgive him if he agrees to hang them up for me again. :^)
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LJ Idol: Songs of the Rural Ruins (Week 22) [05 Jul 2007|03:33pm]
therealljidol Post of the Week: Welfsylvania

There's some REALLY good entries this week! If you like mine, PLEASE go vote for it. If you like others, vote for those, too! There's only 6 of us now. The link for voting is HERE. It's members-only this time around, so go join if you're not a member already. Do this if you really want to help. Also, I encourage you to all participate in the next season either as contestants or voters! It's been really fun playing.

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I often lament that I have "no friends." This couldn't be further from the truth; I have many friends, online and offline. However, I have no one who I could consider a close friend where I am currently living. It's a harsh wake-up call that, after running around in "packs" throughout high school and college, adult life often does not carry the same societal structures. People grow up, get married, start families, and in doing this form new institutions. Yet my single, child-less friends manage to spend time with others. What was I doing wrong?

One night, my boyfriend Soop hit the nail on the head. He told me, "The problem you have making friends is because of your dichotomy. You have a country girl's heart and a city girl's brain."

I didn't understand. I spent my entire life surrounded by cornfields and the sounds of spring peepers in the pond. Most of my friends counted down the days until we could graduate and leave the "hell-hole" of Western Pennsylvania. I never felt that way. I enjoyed riding the Ferris Wheel at the Lawrence County fair, going on hay-rides, taking long walks in the forest behind my house, and reading under the canopy of green leaves protecting my back yard. When a friend squealed and told me she was moving to Florida, I didn't say "LUCKY!" I furrowed my brow and said, "Why?" I liked my inconvenient life, located so far away from entertainment that I had to create my own. I lived inside my imagination and my large expanse of lawn.

I went to a small private college and longed for the days I could return to my sylvan utopia. I cultivated a few friendships post-college with the ones who remained--friends to whom I still remain close. A waitress and a welder. Despite the love I feel for these friends, I felt that on many levels I couldn't relate to them. This is not to say that I am better than my companions. They complement me where I'm lacking. But I do feel very different from them.

Moving to Frankfort, Kentucky's state capital, didn't change my environment too much. Cornfields made way for horse farms, but I could see the same rolling hills under the hooves. However, I still felt out of place. I couldn't figure out why. When I mentioned Upton Sinclair's The Jungle to someone, they said, "Yeah, that was one of Guns N Roses' better songs." I later learned that I was the only one at my workplace, with the exception of the owner, who had graduated from college. My only friend was a divorced single mother who liked to smoke pot and go partying with her friends when not visiting her boyfriend in jail.

I visited Pennsylvania a couple weeks ago with Soop. During my stay, I saw my beloved waitress and my dear welder, and I left them brimming with happiness. One day, the two of us drove to Pittsburgh to visit my friend Elif for the first time, a Livejournal friend. Despite our different upbringings, I felt very connected to her with our shared love of books, art, and culture. It made me remember my friend Becky in Boston and my friend Melanie in Chicago--other friends who I love dearly who live in metropolitan areas. I remembered several room-mates in college, all English and Psychology majors who spent their time drawing pictures to cover our walls. And it hit me: I do have a city girl's brain. I was the first one to graduate from college on my father's side of the family--a young woman trailblazing my family tree. I like art, books, poetry, and music that stray from the beaten path. This is why I feel so excited when traveling in cities, cities pulsing with culture and information.

At the same time, the idea of visiting large cities makes me ill. I have never taken a bus and I was 21 the first time I rode a subway in Boston. I can still remember saying, "Whooooah!" when the train started, with Becky grinning at me, charmed by how naive I was, how new it was to me. I hate living in such close proximity to other people, especially strangers. How could I ever live in a place with more concrete than grass? More pigeons than songbirds? With the fumes of automobiles but not cow manure? It's not home. The country's my home.

Two similar fictional characters come to mind when I think of myself. There's Squidward, the pretentious clarinetist who, fed up with Spongebob and Patrick, moves to Squidville where everyone has the same interests as he does. They all play musical instruments, do yoga, and make sculptures in their cookie-cutter houses. There's Shaun, protagonist of the movie Orange County, who scribbles novels in notebooks while his wacky friends surf at the beach. Shaun wishes to attend a prestigious college to escape the surfer dude life and make something of himself.

What happens to Squidward and Shaun? Squidward becomes bored with life in Squidville. Since everyone feels the same, they all have the same opinions. He began to miss his neighbors, annoying as they were. So he moves home. Shaun discovers that people at nice colleges aren't much different than his friends in Orange County, so he returns and remains a writer, writing of his experiences as an intellectual living by the beach. They both cling to their roots while allowing their minds to continue growing.

I too will stay in my rural ruins, whether it means going to the church strawberry social when I go to Pennsylvania, or stumbling upon a bluegrass jam session in Kentucky. Adjusting my vocabulary when speaking to a store clerk. Trying to not look too out-of-place when walking down Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh. Reading my waitress' stories and my welder's poetry. Drinking cheap beer with my one friend every now and then. Taking full advantage of my dual citizenship of The Country and The City, finding joy in everything that I encounter.

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LJ Idol: My Favorite Pet (Week 21, Topic 2) [02 Jul 2007|02:49am]
therealljdiol Entry #2: My Favorite Pet

When old friends visited, a shaggy dog hobbled to the door to greet them. He no longer jumped and panted excitedly like he once did. A look of confusion passed over these friends' faces. "Dammit Erin, is this the same dog?" I'd smile and nod. "Yeah. My one and only dog."

I grew up with cats. I loved cats. But at the same time, my mind strayed and I wanted to play with dogs. I read dog books and longed to own one of every breed. I begged for a puppy, and whenever we passed signs on the road listing puppies for sale, my mom or dad obliged to stop and let me play with the puppies until I had outstayed my welcome and had to return home. I had a pet-shaped hole in my heart.

Then, when I was 11 years old, it was discovered that my cousin, Melissa, could no longer keep her 2 year-old cocker spaniel at her new apartment. She had bought him for $550 and could not stand to sell him like an object to someone else. So she gave Max to us.

He was a very dear, sweet dog. He never bit anyone, and he only barked when people were at the door--a very strange bark, if you've ever heard a cocker spaniel bark. He loved children. Something that always broke my heart is that he always looked like he was crying. No amount of cleaning could rid his face from those brown teardrops. Max wasn't quite the same after his best friend, Dad, died in 2003. Dad used to throw his rubber hamburger and take him for walks, and he used to let Max sleep on his lap in the armchair. When Dad was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, Max would spend his nights howling. And when Dad passed away, Max would sit in the doorway watching Dad's empty bed expectantly, as if he was waiting for Dad to return.

I hate how pets age so quickly while we grow old so gradually. In the 13 years my family kept our cocker spaniel, I suffered through puberty and blossomed into a young woman. But my foot has a long journey before it steps in the grave (provided I die of old age). Max was an incontinent old man, knocking over the garbage can and whimpering at the kitchen table. All the while shuffling around the house and gazing at us with his puppy-dog eyes, misted with cataracts. He lost his sense of hearing several years ago; we stomped on floors to let him know we were nearby.

Max was put to sleep in August 2006, much to our sadness. I had moved to Kentucky by this time, and I was devastated that I hadn't gotten to spend one last day with him. But Max wasn't done with my family just yet. Two weeks later, Mom called me.

"You won't believe it, but Max sent us a letter. From Heaven."

I asked her to read the letter to me.

if a dog could write...Collapse )

All dogs go to Heaven after all.

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LJ Idol: I Can't Believe I Did That! (Week 21, Topic 1) [02 Jul 2007|01:30am]
therealljidol Entry #1: "I can't believe I actually did that!"

This topic was taken from Season 3, Round 10.

All of us can remember our first job. Some will reminisce and sigh wistfully. Others would sooner scratch it off their resume, block it from their memory, and move as far away from that first job as possible. I did all of the above.

After I graduated from college, I needed to take the next logical step by finding gainful employment. I fluffed up my pathetic resume and ironed my lady-suit for potential interviews. My life, however, works much like my short attention span; instead of finding a job, I found the man who later became the love of my life. Instead of traveling to future job sites, I was traveling the country in the cab of a big rig. All good things must come to an end; by August, my mother's nagging became quite persistent. I scanned the newspaper and applied to dozens of places, from hotels to hospitals to schools.

Finally, in mid-September, I became the secretary of a small church in my town. I should have known the job would be wrong for me when I violated the ninth commandment during the interview. I had smiled and said I knew Powerpoint. And on that condition, they hired me, the liar who had never used Powerpoint in her entire life. I probably won't go to Hell for my white lie embellishing my skills, but everything else about my job hopped into the handbasket.

I was under the impression that I'd be working with a pastor. But the pastor had left the church along with the secretary and some of their congregation due to some drama. So I worked in solitude typing and folding Sunday bulletins, making and taking phone calls, and reading Christian romance novels I found in the library. I also taught myself Powerpoint and designed weekly presentations for the services.

Once I had a week of church work under my belt, an interim pastor moved into the manse with his wife. It couldn't have been worse timing--a friend had given me my first drink of moonshine the night before I met the pastor. Holy hangover, Batman! Reverend Toad (name changed) was a spritely, handsome man in his 70s, wearing a corduroy hat and a quick grin. We all liked him immediately. When he found out that I was a Christian and attended a nearby church, he said, "Good, good. Because going to church means nothing if you don't have Jesus here." and he thumped his chest with his fist. Then he prayed over us and said, "It's your turn."

I gulped. "I don't like to pray out loud," I stuttered. But Pastor Toad insisted that it was a requirement. "God is your friend! And you talk to your friends out loud, don't you?" My heart sunk as I grew a bit angry inside. I smiled wanly and returned to my own office with hunched shoulders. Silently, I prayed, "God, you know I love You. I just don't want to pray with this guy. I wish he'd go away." I hastily wished for a new pastor.

The next morning, I found the church dark and the parking lot full of stricken church-goers. "What happened? What are all these people doing here?" I asked a plump lady.

"Pastor Toad had a heart attack last night! He was sent to the hospital!"

Oh.my.God.

In the days following, I barely slept or ate. I composed my tasks in a blur. I visited Pastor Toad in the hospital, hugging his wife and listening to his raspy breath as he lay in a coma. Pastor Toad died a week later. I realize the tragedy was a coincidence, but it didn't stop me from feeling like a jerk of heavenly proportions. The situation has made me very careful what I utter in my prayers! My own pastor, when hearing the news, clapped me on the back and said, "Boy, I'm glad you're not MY secretary! Haha." I laughed, too, but I really hope people don't think I'm wishing for their swift deaths when they make me angry!

With no new pastor, even an interim, for the next several months, I grew bored with the Christian romance novels and organizing the filing cabinets for the 7th time. So one day, with way too much spare time on my hands, I fashioned a fake church bulletin out of my regular template. I decided I'd make it a parody of everything I found amusing in organized religion. After I finished typing it up, I printed it on a single piece of paper and deleted it from the computer to cover my tracks. Even though it took me less than an hour to type it and I had finished my work, I knew I would get in a LOT of trouble if the bulletin was ever found.

It looked like this.Collapse )

Never create a satire/parody of a church bulletin and then accidentally leave it at church at the same time a woman who has no sense of humor is Xeroxing things in the office.

The bulletin vanished, and no amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth would bring it back. It took two months for my extremely passive-aggressive supervisor to mention the scandalous pamphlet. It had been read aloud at the Board of Trustees meeting, and needless to say, everyone was "really unhappy" over it. They cut my already-paltry hours and nothing more was said. I couldn't believe I had done something as blasphemous as mocking my job, and I couldn't believe I had done something so foolish as to get caught. I felt a mixture of shame and outrage, but I couldn't leave my job. I needed the money, and nothing else looked very promising in the newspaper. Besides, I had told myself I'd stay for at least a year.

I lasted 7 months at my job. "God will make a way, when there seems to be no way," a popular worship song goes. God sent me a "way" in the form of a car accident. I walked away from it with a few bumps and bruises and some broken glasses, but I made a decision that day to quit wasting my life with my increasingly unhappy job. The love of my life asked me to move to Kentucky with him where jobs would be more plentiful. After consulting my mother and scores of others, I put in my two weeks' notice and left the last week of April.

Unlike Lot's wife, I never looked back.
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LJ Idol: Happy Place (Week 20) [20 Jun 2007|03:28pm]
therealljidol Topic of the Week: "My Happy Place"

Like my entry? Vote for it here: -----> LINK

http://pics.livejournal.com/welfy/pic/0009pc1a


"Erin, wake up." I could feel my mother nudging me. The morning-birds twittered in the trees outside. I blinked sleepily from my nest of sheets as the rotating fan pushed my hair from my eyes.

"Where are we going?" I whined. At five years old, I didn't enjoy these abrupt jolts from my slumber.

"Virginia Beach!" Mom answered with a cackle. I made a dismayed face, but I was secretly about to explode with happiness.

My mother did this to me every summer. I suffered from "nerves" as my parents called it, and knowing about exciting events in advance would send me into jittery hysterics. Once, I became so sick that I was sent to the hospital. She'd make whispered, hurried hotel reservations over the phone, buy snacks and activity books while I was at Bible School, and would pack my suitcase while I was playing in the yard. Basically, she planned our vacations without telling me. You'd think I would have caught on eventually, since my father and younger brother always knew. Everyone knew. I'm sure my cat Muffin knew, too, and snickered at me behind her whiskers. But I never did wise up. I allowed myself to become startled each time. And before I knew what had hit me, I'd be packed in the car along with our belongings and heading to our destination. Good-bye, woefully land-locked town in Pennsylvania.

My dad, a creature of habit, refused to take his family anywhere else for vacation. Every year, for over 10 years, he chose Virginia Beach. Whenever someone tried to challenge his decision, Dad would simply say, "It's where I want to go. It's quiet. I like to feed the seagulls from the balcony and take walks with you on the beach. That makes me happy." And since my dad was oftentimes a grouchy, impatient man with a bad temper, we fed off these shreds of joy and let it radiate from ouselves. Dad's enthusiam was infectious.

Virginia Beach has always stood out in my mind as a seaside utopia. Except for the occasional trip to the hillbilly mountains of Burnt Cabins, Pennsylvania for family reunions, we didn't travel outside of our rust-belt bubble. Virginia Beach was Kind of a Big Deal. Clean beaches and glistening oceans teeming with pelicans and dolphins. Gift shops boasting shelves of google-eyed crabs and sand-dollars alongside snowglobes and salt-water taffy. Lying on a ratty towel with the sun gently lapping my bare skin. Ice cream at the pier and bicycles on the board-walk. Puppet shows and boomboxes singing serenades in the dark. The museum at Chesapeake Bay where you could pet the horseshoe crabs. The mini-golf courses found at every corner. Mini-golf courses with palm trees! And parrots! You couldn't find PARROTS in Pennsylvania, that's for sure.

Even though many of the sensations of childhood had dulled my wonder for the sand and sea, I continued to love Virginia Beach in my teens. My brother Ben and I would take long walks down the beach, free to ogle other scantily-clad adolescents. We watched movies and browsed the clothing in malls. Dad and Mom continued to take us to our favorite "putt-putt" course, Jungle Golf, and we dined on fancy fishes in restaurants nearby. Did I ever tell my parents how much I appreciated these glimpses into paradise?

Dad never returned to Virginia Beach. In 1998, we abandoned our beloved beach for a cross-country trip to Mexico. God couldn't have granted my family a more beautiful vacation. The sensations that overtook me as a young girl returned full-force as I experienced the West for the first time. Dad, having visited the entire country in his youth, could only smile and chuckle as he watched us swooning over the landscapes. He called it the best month of his entire life. "It's still not the beach though," he'd add with a grin.

A year later, Dad was diagnosed with cancer. He ached to see his seagulls and his waves. But he was too weak. We ached along with him and dreamed of days we could scoop him up without warning, much like he did to me so long ago. He died in 2003.

In June 2005, Mom, Ben and I mustered the courage to return to Virginia Beach. And two miraculous events occurred during our time spent there.

Firstly, we reunited Dad to the beach. Even if it meant scattering his ashes into the night sky as the three of us stood there in the moonlight. We uttered silent prayers for his soul. The next morning, we ate egg sandwiches in his honor at the Belvedere Hotel's cafe.

Secondly, I quite unexpectedly went on my first real date with soopageek. Prior to this surprise visit, we had met a couple brief times in truck-stop diners. When he discovered one of his truck deliveries would take him to Virginia, he rented a car and booked a hotel room across the street from ours. We visited an eclectic furniture store, dined on filet mignon and scallops alongside the boardwalk, and cuddled on the beach as the sun set. I felt intoxicated in a way quite different from the other times I had spent in Virginia, but I wasn't complaining. He had to leave that night, but I will never forget how much it meant to have someone so special step into my happy place and see it for himself.

Even though I'm ever-changing as I age, Virginia Beach will forever remain the quintessential Happy Place. If I never return, I will still be happy because of the memories I have stored from these treasured family vacations. I carry Virginia Beach in my heart wherever I go. And in the Virginia Beach of my heart are the people who I love. A happy place isn't quite the same without them.


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LJ Idol -- Crashing (Week 18) [30 May 2007|08:03am]
therealljidol Topic of the Week: CRASHING

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VOTING HERE

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crash - verb
3. (of moving vehicles, objects, etc.) to collide, esp. violently and noisily.

A crash can depict a sudden stop. For instance, when I reached the Pennsylvania border that fateful winter day in early 2005, my car found itself stopped--with its muzzle lodged into a guard-rail. Was I paying attention to the road? Had I been over-confident in my snow-driving abilities? Had I turned onto the ramp too quickly? I still don't know for certain. I can still remember the crunch of tires and the acrid smell of the air-bag as it smashed into my face. When I opened my eyes, I looked out into the flurries of snow circling my car. "Have I died?" But I could feel my heartbeat; also, a man, not an angel, trudged hurriedly to my window to ask me if I was okay.

I lost my car that day. Little did I know that this significant and frightening event would jump-start my adult life.

Before long, my life spiraled in positive and negative directions. My measly job cut my hours to where I decided quitting was a more viable option than staying. With the convincing of my boyfriend, I made yet another decision, this time to uproot my life in Western Pennsylvania and move to Kentucky with him. I spent my entire childhood and young adulthood in the same yellow house, and in days I had made the choice to leave it behind. When friends discovered I was exiting the keystone state, they couldn't believe me. Everyone expected me to stay here and grow old and soft.

Instead, I moved to Kentucky and got a taste of living on my own. I landed my first real job, and I became financially independent from my mother. I've shared a home with my loving boyfriend, and in the meantime I've cultivated a few friendships. What a great way to launch into grown-up times. How proud of myself I was!

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crash - verb
9. Slang. to experience unpleasant sensations, as sudden exhaustion or depression, when a drug, esp. an amphetamine, wears off.
21. a sudden and violent falling to ruin.


Unfortunately, some of us don't see anything positive about a crash. We mistake crashes with mistakes and avoid them at all costs. The careful drivers will slow down to the point of possibly endangering those around us. And others will focus so closely on the road and their car that they no longer enjoy the scenery surrounding them.

To prevent future crashes in my life, I began to coast.

It wasn't as if I had never coasted through life. I had been coddled as a child; I wasn't spoiled, but my brother and I were never wanting for anything. To avoid choices, I applied to one college that appealed to me, and I attended it the following semester. Instead of finding a major that I could have used in the working world, I stuck to what felt safe--writing. Likewise, I stuck to boyfriends that were familiar and non-challenging. They loved me; I didn't have to fight to earn their affection.

After the quite literal crash that motivated much movement on my behalf, I had found myself coasting once again.

Some could blame my boyfriend. He made my interstate transition an easy one--he paid for my bills until I could find a job. I took the first job that was offered to me, and I have remained in this same job for almost a year. It doesn't pay well, but I'm comfortable there. My truck-driving boyfriend overcompensated for his long absences by giving me the things I wanted and needed. My home-life became comfortable and blissful in addition to the work-place. Someone would always take care of me. I had no worries about taking care of myself or making choices.

Until now.

June will mark one year since I have moved to Frankfort, Kentucky. I have spent my year as high as a kite with all the new sensations of beginning one's life in an unfamiliar place. Unfortunately, the honeymoon has ended, and abruptly so.

A series of events in my life has awakened in me many doubts about myself, my relationships to others, my religion, my mental and physical health, and my job. There's a scene in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where, when someone asks Clementine, the main character, what is wrong, she screams, "I don't know! I DON'T KNOW! I'm lost! I'm scared! I feel like I'm disappearing! MY SKIN IS COMING OFF! I'M GETTING OLD! Nothing makes any sense to me! NOTHING MAKES ANY SENSE!" This is exactly how I feel.

This startling turning-point in my life has forced me to make choices, and make choices soon. Sadly, I am so accustomed to choices made for me--coasting--that I delve far into my mind and overwhelm myself trying to find angles, pros, and cons. I fall into panic. I have forgotten how to eat--and I lost 8 pounds. On the other extreme, I have forgotten how to act as a partner--and because of this, my other half has downgraded us to room-mates and has moved into a room across the hallway. Because of my indecisions, we may cease living together entirely.

He wrote me a long letter about our prickly situation: "...you might be able to figure [out your life] if you conquer this fear you have of self-reliance. If you no longer have that fear, you will have that much more clarity... It would also remove that from my fears, that should you and I return to [where we were], that's it's not because you were unable to take care of yourself. You CAN take care of yourself, Erin... you're just afraid to have to. That's not to say that you won't have to make concessions in the way you've grown accustomed to living lately, but you CAN do it. And when you get mad about the things you won't "like" about having to take care of yourself, it just makes you sound spoiled and petulant and makes me angry because it makes me feel like you're unwilling to do something hard... something hard for yourself... and something hard for us. And I like to believe that you're better than that...It's not that I don't care for you or don't enjoy caring for you, but I don't want to feel like I HAVE to care for you. You should be able to take care of yourself, and you don't."

These truths revealed to me in my emotional crash have hurt worse than the injuries I suffered in the car-crash. Regardless, I need to own up to the reality and make some changes. Make some choices. I wrote this as a confession and for accountability. It's taken a lot of courage to write all of this out. Most people prefer to downplay their faults, especially in public forums and public scrutiny. I've had to blink through tears writing about this. I long for another crash of the good sort.
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LJ Idol -- Adventures of Being a Tour Guide (Week 17, Topic 2) [23 May 2007|12:38pm]
therealljidol Topic of the Week: MY GREATEST ADVENTURE.

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Chills run down my spine when I hear these six simple words:

"We'd like to take a tour!"

I cannot think of many people who must endure this particular phrase on a daily basis. Out of duty and obligation, office workers push papers from the safety of their desks while retail clerks ring up sales from the safety of their cash register. Many of the world's employed can flit from home to work without ever dealing with the public. Sometimes people choose these jobs because they've been trained for a specialized field. Others, quite honestly, would rather stab themselves in the eyeball than face customers or clients.

Every single day, I hear those same six words, give or take a few self-satisfied smirks or stupid remarks. They lumber towards me, their bellies protruding over their fanny-packs, their visors shading beady eyes. They carry crumpled maps and postcards covered with horses. America is teeming with tourists and they cannot be stopped!

"One dollar per person, please," I answer, unscrewing the lid of the plastic jar in front of me. Chills run down the tourists' spines whenever they find out something isn't free.

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I began my job as a candy-factory tour guide in July 2006. I will never understand to this day why I chose such a profession, given two large aspects of my personality--Extreme Shyness and a General Dislike of People. Like a parent hurls an infant into a lake to teach it how to swim, my manager tossed me into groups of people after watching him conduct a few tours himself. Needless to say, I was terrified. I couldn't hide behind mail-bins like my post-office clerk job, and I didn't have the privilege of working solo like in my stint as a church secretary.

I was the center of attention for periods of 15 minutes at a time. I had to take good care of my appearance, and my depression couldn't follow me into the store-front, even when I wanted to cry. The first few weeks, I'd hide in the employee bathroom, trying not to vomit. I'd cringe at the sound of bells jingling at the door whenever a family waltzed in, demanding their candy tour. Sometimes, my co-worker Katie and I laugh and roll our eyes at the people standing outside, photographing themselves in front of the building and gawking at the roadside plaque.

On any given day, I will give one to sixteen tours during my shift. After about ten tours, I turn light-headed and dry-mouthed. Except for a half-hour lunch break, I am on my feet non-stop, rushing from place to place. My customers I can usually handle, even the fussy old women. The tourists are an entirely different story. When conducting a tour of our facilities, I transform into a shepherd, a storyteller, a teacher, an actress, and a historian, all rolled into a 105-pound frame. I deal with children, senior citizens, tour busses, students, mentally handicapped, businesspeople, families, and couples. Outside of our scheduled tours, I never know who to expect to walk into our doors.

I've learned about the predictability of people through my job. Typical tourists exhibit all the same behaviors--they dawdle, they interrupt, they attempt to touch the conveyor belts and chocolate vats, and they ask really prying questions that I am not qualified to answer. Some act rather indignant when our line isn't running, as if we expect our production workers to toil night and day. Others will not respond to my engaging story at all. They stare at me with the blank eyes of sheep, and they leave without so much as a thank-you upon the end of the tour. When my tour is over, I need to act charming, even when my greedy gluttonous tourists gulp down $5 worth of bourbon ball chocolates in front of me.

Luckily, I've never had to deal with severe cases of Bad Tourist Syndrome. One group of mentally retarded people I had to send away because one of their patients had rushed next door, broke into the neighbor man's house, and stole some pop out of the fridge. If these people couldn't even watch one of their own when walking into the building, how was I to expect them to use caution in my factory? Other times, I keep a sharp eye on people with cameras. Photography is not allowed, and I frown on people who break this rule in other places. I've never had to send anyone away. They might scowl at me, but they'll put their camera away.

How does an introverted, misanthropic person handle this line of profession? With a lot of grace, charm, and a sense of humor. I jokingly tell people that I won't let them try candy after the tour if they straggle behind. I always remember the Golden Rule--treat people how I would like to be treated. If someone asks a stupid question, I take it very seriously and try to answer the best I can. When people ask me, "How do you stay so skinny working here?" and poke me, I chirp, "I stay in shape by giving tours!" They love when I banter with them. Sure, most days I need to force myself to act happy. But even forcing myself into a positive emotion can help improve my mood.

I'm not knocking all tourist when I write this--it's hit and miss in the hospitality industry. I love most of my tourists, especially the ones who come in with smiles and interested murmurs. They have a zeal for learning and they love the oral history I share with them. People enjoy hearing about how two teachers quit their jobs and started a candy company in 1919, a year before women could even vote in public elections. They leave satisfied and with bulging shopping bags. I feel accomplished when this happens, and it happens more times than not.

I never knew that a job could be such an adventure. I may only commute ten minutes away to reach my candy factory, but this job has forced me to leave my comfort zone and battle demons that I've always carried inside of me. This job has taught me how to emphasize and act like the model customer. It's been amazing and I look forward to more tours and meeting more fascinating people.
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LJ Idol: Mom (Week 17, Topic 1) [15 May 2007|08:22am]
therealljidol SECOND TOPIC of the Week: "Mother"

"DON'T FORGET MOM"

My eyes shot a glance at the shoddy cardboard sign as Rob and I sped down US-25 in my car. Both Pennsylvania transplants living in Kentucky, neither of us could properly spend time with our mothers. But Rob saw the sign. "Don't forget Mom!" he exclaimed in a sing-song voice, and within seconds he had swerved into a honky-tonk gas-station parking lot to dial his mother's phone number. He chatted pleasantly with her as I toyed with the buttons of my own telephone.

I thought of my own mother, 400 miles away in Edinburg, Pennsylvania. I could see her washing a single, chipped dish in the sink, scrubbing the lipstick off her coffee mug. Staring out the window through the trees to peer at the ducks floating in the pond. And yet I can see her fumbling and dropping the mug onto the kitchen floor, Mom letting out a yelp as it bursts into shards and spirals across the tile. She'll kneel down to gather the pieces, startled at how the silence can rub its back along the corners her shoulders so loudly.

It's been a year since I reluctantly crawled out from under my mother's roof to move 400 miles away to Frankfort, Kentucky. About eight months later, my brother Ben and his fiancee Jolene joined me here. You'd think that having extra family would soothe my lonely heart here, but I miss my mother so much.

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Patricia lost her own mother and became a mother within ten days, a torrid ten days in September 19__, with my birth. With no matriarch to guide her, Mom must have struggled to raise me and my younger brother. Now that Ben and I have grown up, I realize how amazing my mom is and how she and my father worked hard to guide us down a Christian path and give us a comfortable, loving home environment.

http://pics.livejournal.com/welfy/pic/00050pq0 Born the youngest of four sisters on a farm, Mom didn’t receive the luxuries that we take for granted today. She wore hand-me-down clothes and described vacations as spending a day in the mountains with the family, returning home by evening so her father could milk the cows the next morning. I sense that she didn’t garner much respect growing up—while her sisters immediately flew into colleges, marriages, and families, Mom wanted to go to the Art Institute, work as a commercial artist, and sing in a rock band. Her family thought these weren’t aspirations to take seriously. When her father died, she cried that he would never see her get married. One sister laughed and said, “Oh, Patty! You’ll never get married anyway!” Mom followed her dreams no matter what anyone told her, and not only did she reach her goals by attending art school in Pittsburgh, but she eventually met my dad, a divorced father twelve years her senior, when she was singing with her band, Sandalwood, at a Holiday Inn—they married in 1980.

My mother is an incredibly strong woman. Not only did she lose both her parents at a young age, but she became my father’s devoted caregiver when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, standing by his side until he died four years later. We grew closer with Dad’s illness, and I am glad that we can confide in each other and reminisce about my dad, good times and bad. She also has the ability to overcome potential tragedies with grace. In the past few years, she has had two heart procedures, two broken wrists, knee surgery, and pneumonia; when innocently driving one day, a tree fell on her car and destroyed everything but her. Mom is Calamity Jane and Wonder Woman rolled into one.

I consider her my best friend. Mom understands my boundaries and allows me to make my own decisions, but she never fails to help me when I flounder. She is extremely patient with me, which can be rather difficult at times because of my extreme moodiness brought on by physical and mental illnesses, but other times she steps in and gives me a strong push in the right direction. Several summers ago, for instance, when Mom decided that I, her 20-something year-old daughter, had been putting off getting my driver’s license, she bought me a car and signed me up for driving lessons with a professional. Within months, I was chugging along back roads and interstates just like anyone else, thanks to my mother.

Mom exhibits an absurd sense of humor that only few can appreciate. She thinks nothing of busting down Grandma’s door with a rifle, declaring herself the “Food Police” to confiscate a cake. She will buy tacky photographs of people from yard sales for our amusement. Two days after Dad died, Mom declared that she had lost six pounds using the “pain and suffering diet.” I told her to keep up the good work. Our little jokes might put off some people, but laughter is my family’s coping mechanism, and Mom does a good job at cracking a smile on the crabbiest face.

My mother’s relationship with God is very inspirational. She brought me and my brother to church every single Sunday, and Mom would pray with us on a nightly basis. Currently, she sings in the choir and leads the church puppet ministry, Heaven’s Hands. Mom does not need to be preachy or holier-than-thou: the life she leads is example enough that she loves the Lord and wants to live a life for Christ.

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The gravel crunched as my car left the parking lot and we continued through Georgetown. I had left a rambling voice-message to Mom's answering machine. Where could she be on a Sunday evening? I wanted to command Rob to take us to Pennsylvania, but I realize we have our own lives to lead now as adults. I'm going to go to my own home in Frankfort and do all the things that I need to pass the time, to keep from worrying and mulling. Mom would be happy that I spent the day having a nice time, even in her absence. I'll still remember the Christmas after Dad died, how Mom and I went on a massive shopping spree. "This is how he would have wanted it to be," Mom explained. She told me to never take happiness for granted, and I never will. I will seize it and cherish it. And when I can't do this, I'll call and leave some lovely words on the line.

I would not trade my mother for anyone in the world. She’s smart, intelligent, funny, beautiful, and a superb cook. I love her so much and feel that she did a great job raising our family and loving my father. I appreciate all that she has done for me.
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LJ Idol: Attack of the Russian Trolls (Week 16) [11 May 2007|12:53pm]
LJ Idol Topic: TROLLS

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"[Being beautiful] has never been my problem. I was born funny-looking. Not like my friend Marjorie whose father took one look and said, 'Give me a stick. I'll kill it'....I was proud of looking like him. I thought it gave me an exacted position in the family. It wasn't till puberty that I found out I didn't look like other girls...my face was too generous. I had big hair. Saturdays were spent in the photo booth anyway, checking out good angles, hoping to be discovered: 'Oh miss?' the man stops you in the street. 'My God. Could you...I was wondering-would you mind posing for the cover of Life?'"
--from Patricia Volk's Why I'm Glad I Don't Look Like Michelle Pfeiffer

How well I can relate to the above quotation. For every person who tells me I am beautiful, there's a whole slew of trolls who love nothing more than to tell me otherwise. I've heard it all. "Dyke!" "Big-nose!" "HAG!" These comments are usually left in the passive-aggressive manner of an anonymous twerp. As if I wasn't already aware of the generous proboscis sitting in the middle of my face!

I continued ignoring the comments of trolls until one day, when I posted this particular photograph in selfportraits:



No big deal, right? I often wore bandannas to cover my hair during those rushed, stressful college days. I didn't feel particularly glamorous in this picture, but it showed an honest depiction of my daily appearance. I wasn't expecting any comments.

Suddenly, an Albanian had decided to call me "ugly witch." Baba Yaga, to be more specific. Before I knew it, the post had received well over 90 comments, mostly consisting of Albanians and Russians chattering in their foreign tongues. Now, insults I could usually handle, but insults in another language? I didn't know WHAT to think.

So I did what a nerd would do, and I did some research on Baba Yaga, the famous witch of Russian folklore.

"In Russian folklore there are many stories of Baba Yaga, the fearsome witch with iron teeth. She is also known as Baba Yaga Boney Legs, because, in spite of a ferocious appetite, she is as thin as a skeleton. Baba Yaga has an abnormally large nose."

Seeing that all of the above are true of me, I had to shrug. I couldn't really argue with their words!

So instead of getting upset, I took a new tactic. I changed my LJ Name to "Baba Yaga the Beautiful" and laughed at the mockers. When they saw that I easily poked fun at myself, they no longer had any reason to treat me rudely. One of the nicer Russians said "Baba Yaga is a supersignature!" Indeed it is. I took something ugly and made it beautiful. Isn't that what life is all about?
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LJ Idol: My Favorite LJ User and Why (Week 14) [25 Apr 2007|08:09am]
therealljidol Topic of the Week: My Favorite LJ User and Why.

mandy_moon hailed from a Boston ghetto. We had become friends on a strange message board online in 2000, where she existed under the handle "Turpentine." We hadn't originally been friends either; in fact, we had been enemies. She had written something that angered me so much that, in the heat of fury, I replied, "Go to Hell, Turpentine!"

This attitude didn't last long, however, as I am quick to forgive. By Valentine's Day, I had mailed her a Crocodile Hunter card with Steve Irwin on the front, holding a humungous and disgustingly large lizard, proclaiming, "Ain't she a beaut!" This small, square piece of decorative paper was my peace offering, requesting her friendship. Success! Within the week, I received a chipper letter from a Susan Bananahands, the clone of a woman I called Turpy from Massachusetts. This was the elusive Turpentine! Written in crayon, the letter written by the 25 year-old's masterpiece of newspaper and duct tape thanked me profusely for cheering up her often-depressed master. As a token of appreciation, she sent me a cassette tape of a happy-sounding song called "100,000 Fireflies" by a group called The Magnetic Fields. And thus our friendship started to bloom.

When I began my Livejournal in 2000, mandy_moon, or Turpy as I called her, followed me and commented in my journal anonymously until she carved her own niche on this website. She's got quite the following, which comes as no surprise. Turpy reminds me of a cross between Amelie and Ramona Quimby--"She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next." It's hard to keep up with her sometimes! I wonder if she has sewn eagle wings onto her back much like she has attached wings to the taxidermed animals she has concocted.

mandy_moon blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. When reading her entries, one often wonders what actually transpires and what is wool she's pulling over her readers' eyes. However, her poetic license is never ill-intentioned, she'll reply with a gleeful "Got you!" However, her actual life is often as fantastic as any fictional tale. In the two times I have traveled to Boston to visit with her, we have built duct-tape clones of ourselves, picnicked on wintry beaches, played board games to the death, pet kangaroos at the zoo, and set clones on fire in the forest. Only in Turpy's world can she talk to elephants in India, get covered in pig's blood at work, and post pictures of herself wearing a kitten fetus on her head for a personals ad. True or imaginary, Turpy lives a charmed life, and it's always an adventure to read about. Though one can tell she has a very scientific mind when she talks in great detail about medical procedures and philosophies, Turpy exhibits this sense of child-like wonder and magic that is infectious to all that know her.

The two of us have gone through many ups and downs together. We have supported each other through various losses from break-ups to death. I can still remember what she sent to me the day she found out that my father had died. In turn, I have watched my friend in her journey of growth and reinvention. I have read with great joy the stories she tells about her Big Black Dog, Buddy, and her sweet-cute-nerd boyfriend Jon. These accounts are all the more precious to me when I hold them up to memories of our less savory pasts. One cannot appreciate the sunshine unless they have walked through the rain, so to say. And right now, that sun is shining. mandy_moon couldn't be more deserving of it.

mandy_moon is also the person responsible for inadvertantly introducing me to my current boyfriend, and for that I can never thank her enough.


mandy_moon is a beautiful woman inside and out, and anyone who knows her can attest to her utter awesomeness. I love her so very much.
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LJ Idol: Say WHAT?! (Week 13) [18 Apr 2007|03:02pm]
therealljidol Topic of the Week: "I could have sworn I heard them say. . ."

Before my father passed away from a 4-year bout with cancer, my family enlisted the help of hospice care. Nurses buzzed about our house like nurturing bees, tending to Dad's every need.

One of Dad's hospice nurses, a young, beautiful lady named Mary-Ann, was seeing to him one day and happened to be turned away from him, bending down to retrieve something on the dresser. Dad lay peacefully in his hospital bed, propped up on pillows.

Mary-Ann heard Dad mutter something that sounded rude. Turning around quickly, she gawked at him in astonishment and cried, "What did you say?"

But he wasn't even looking at her. His hand pointed silently at the television where a golf game was playing.

"Nice putt," he remarked to no one in particular.
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