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It only takes a daily acquaintance to tell you she has a terminal disease to make you snap out of your pity party about writing insecurity and turning 40.  Instantly, you cycle through all the wonderful things you’ve done, places you’ve seen, and people you’ve loved.  You thank everything in the cosmos for giving you the time to do it and you start to beg for even more.

After the shock and sadness wear off, you again give thanks for all you’ve been given.  And then you start to list through all the things you want to do.  Instead of whining and wishing for them to come, you start working on them because you’re the lucky schlep who hasn’t gotten a life time limit…yet.  You don’t want to let an opportunity pass you up because no one knows what’s around the next corner.

A couple weeks ago, a co-worker received a not-too-hopeful prognosis which jump-started me to move out of my stagnant state.  Sure, I’d been filling time with busy-stuff at the 8-5 job, baking things, and riding my new bike.  And these are all worthy things I want to keep doing.  But they aren’t the things that fill my heart with accomplishment.

It really hit me when I watched Walter Mitty for the second time.  (It’s one of those movies that reminds you to stop wishing and start living.)  After Walter lost his job, he sat in a coffee shop to write his resume.  He doesn’t talk about his decades in photograph handling which paid all the bills.  Instead he highlights his recent adventures.  Each line tears me up until I’m a sobbing mess because I feel him.  I am him.  I want to list through incredible things.  And if I do, I better get to work.

For weeks, I’ve been saying how I’m going to have my own one hour radio show for a small town station.  Finally, I made a move.  I learned the equipment, got a show name (shamelessly stolen from The Airborne Toxic Event and thought up by a writer friend), and met up with the station manager to go over rules.

I started producing it.  The first show took more hours than I thought it would.  Thinking up something interesting to say was harder than I anticipated.  The pressure after I hit the record button had me stumbling over words.  Record was followed by delete.  More recording.  More deleting.  When I started to get frustrated I remembered this was for fun.  This was about doing one of those things I always wanted to do.  I was filling a dream I never thought I would.  I repeated the mantra “The journey, not the destination.”

I wish it wasn’t something tragic to kick myself in the ass.  The reality is I hope this is the corner I needed to turn at this year’s half-mark.  I want to do more.  I want to feel alive again by taking my one step at a time in the direction I want to go.  Because “wishing” never gets me anywhere.  “Hoping” only reminds me I’m not moving.  And “doing” is the only thing that truly makes me happy.

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Break the Walls

This past week something happened I never thought would.  I attended a rock show with my kids.  For most parents this might be where they talked about how they don’t understand their kids’ taste in music but they sucked it up to spend some quality time with their little people.  For me, it’s the exact opposite.  I cringe when I read shows are “under 21.”  This is my world.  Something for me.  I like living in my little box.  I never understood why parents took their children to shows.  Until I had to.

I spent weeks filling their ears with Fitz and the Tantrums while whispering subliminal messages about how much fun the concert was going to be.  (This might have been my attempt to convince myself.)  Each time Fitz played on the radio, I pointed to the electronic screen and stopped all conversation.  “That’s who were going to see at the concert,” I said.  “We get to hear this song live.  See how cool they are?  They’re on the radio.”  Most of the time I couldn’t even crack their imagination play in the back seat.

I worried.  What if they didn’t like it?  What if they taxed my gig?  Would I have the same amount of fun caring for two other people?  Could I still enjoy myself if I had to be a responsible parent?  Ugh, responsible parent.  Are those words even allowed at a rock show?

Bored kids

Uh oh, this isn’t starting out well.

This concert represented something bigger, as most things do.  A year ago, there’s no way I would’ve even have thought to take them.  They would’ve spent the night at my mother-in-law’s house and everyone would’ve been happy in their own worlds.  They could watch cartoons and eat ice cream with Grammy and I would wedge myself front and center at the stage.  It would’ve been perfect.  Or so I thought.

It’s been ten months since she died and I still can hardly think about it without tears coming to my eyes.  Death is one thing.  The simplest fact of life.  Suicide is completely different.  Even writing the words for other people to read has me second guessing myself.  I’ve gone back and erased it three times.  This is what the past year has been like.  I doubt.  I worry.  I wonder “what if.”

This concert was another shift in our new family relationship.  At first the kids looked bored even though I paid extra to get us in the secluded front lawn.  They groaned when I danced in my seat to the opening act.  My son refused to move to the front before Fitz and Tantrums took the stage.  My daughter wondered why I wanted to be so close.  Until the music started.

Fitz was the best concert to start them on.  The energy is incredible and they put on a damned good show.  Seriously, one of the best I’ve ever seen.  We jumped for 90 minutes.  Even my son danced, according to Hubs who hung with him a few rows back.  My daughter got a high five from Noelle during the show.   I explained the encore process over the loud cheers.  At the final chord, the band flooded my daughter with awesome gear.  (Note to rock parents: the kid scored a tambourine, a set list, and a pick.  She almost got the drumstick too, but a die hard fan interceded.)

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Don't worry, I'm still a hair disaster.  That hasn't changed.

Don’t worry, I’m still a hair disaster. That hasn’t changed.

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Still able to hang around the tour bus for photos even with the kids in tow.

The kids haven’t stopped talking about it.  They replay their favorite parts and named it “one of the best days eva!”  Daughter runs around the house shaking her tambourine like the musician showed her.  Son talks about how I didn’t embarrass him after all.  When Fitz flashes on the radio, they ask me to turn it up as loud as I will let it go.  They even asked when we’re going to our next show together.

This is one of those pleasant surprises that come with being “the new us.”  The benefit I sometimes forget when remembering all the good we’ve lost.  Because our “normal” changed, I had one of my best concerts with the people I love the most.  The kids figured out the mystery behind when Mommy goes to concerts and why it makes her so happy.  And I broke through one of my mental walls and shared with my children another side of me.

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The whole after-concert clan.

In this year I’ve watched the endless cycle of old friends hitting the monumental age once named “Over The Hill.”  One by one, they crest over the mountain and start walking on the other side of middle age.  There’s a serious shift, while no one wants to admit it, which says goodbye to some of the wandering hopeful youth and replaces it with the fact of a life chosen.

It only felt more real when I saw my Facebook feed fill up with birthday wishes to Mr. Jollett on his big 4-0 accomplishment a couple weeks ago.  Him too?  He’s not immune to the battle I face this year?  His million dollar smile couldn’t be 39 forever?  The charismatic front man who seizes the moment couldn’t fight off the age beast making its way to consume me?

People argue it’s not really that way.  From their over 40 side they promise it isn’t so bad.  Some embrace it whole-heartedly with “I’ve never felt better in my life than I do now.”  Others try to ease my concerns with “What’s the big deal?” and “Look what you have in your life.”  These are all great band-aids to cover the wound.  And in time they will heal over and leave a small scar that is overshadowed by 50, 60, 70…etc (hopefully).

Who likes this shit? And seriously, a tee shirt?

Please don’t confuse my honesty with not appreciating my blessings. If you do, you’re not listening to me at all.  This isn’t about them not being enough.  This insecurity, fear, self-analysis is more about asking what am I making with my time?  Am I the person at 40 that I imagined I would be when I was 18?  And even though that dream may not have been based in reality, am I still paying homage to the innocence of “you can do anything you want” when I wake up each morning?

When I laid in bed on Mr. Jollett’s 40th birthday and started to worry about my own upcoming one, I wondered out loud if Mikel gave two thoughts about his new decade.  Hubs chuckled.

“Of course Mikey does.   He’s going through all the things he hasn’t done and kicking himself for not doing them,” he said.

“Rock stars don’t feel like that.  They travel the world, have people adore them, and can do anything they want,” I said.

“People rarely see themselves as the rock stars they are.”  Hubs rolled over to leave me with the words and start his own stressing game about what kind of party I’m expecting him to throw.

I guess it always comes down to the reality we choose to live in.  What do we make of ourselves when the sun rises and we take our first step out of bed?  Are we walking towards living the life we want to lead or dragging into the prison we create in our minds?  I think I push towards doing all the things I’ve dreamed up.  Each day another opportunity, another experience, another memory to be made.  I need those days even though they bring me closer to the number.  On the day that 40 lights up my cake, (probably one I’ve made), I might give a weary smile and appreciate that I did a helluva lot with the 14,610 days I was given.

And I’m still not wearing that fucking shirt.

#iothedog Gets Picked

If you’ve followed this blog for any time you know I make resolutions every year.  And in the last few, there is at least one which relates to The Airborne Toxic Event.  Since the first time I saw them live in 2009, I’ve been smitten.  A fact I write about often and show with cookie confections.  And this year I resolved to make a cookie a band member would want.

I’ve tried in the past to get their attention with tweets showcasing their picks, instruments, and even their faces.  It wasn’t for “hey look at me, let’s be besties,” though I wouldn’t turn it down if the offer was put out.  Instead it’s more of an homage to showing art inspires art in many different forms.  Kinda like a sugary token of respect.

There was a time Ms. Bulbrook tweeted her cookie portrait and I pretty much thought I was the shit for a couple days.  I followed it up with creating her viola like I had done instruments for Noah and Darren, but her strings didn’t bring the excitement I felt for the other two.  It was only an instrument, not her instrument.  For Mikel and Steven I stuck with pick replications.  I was pretty happy with both because once again they were distinct.  They felt like them.  Looking at Anna’s pick to replicate, I got the same “meh” feelings like when I did her viola.

A fellow TATE fan suggested I recreate her dog.  At first I wasn’t feeling it.  So I waited for a better inspiration to hit.  And waited.  And waited.  All the while I saw her #iothedog Instagram updates with her pooch’s pictures having a life of his own.  He buys party ice, creates music, and wrestles other dogs.  Maybe I was a little envious of his rock star ways.  The more I saw his angular shaped head, the more I realized he was the perfect image for her pick cookie.

First, I pretended like I was a real cookie artist and drew it out:

Please remember I am no artist.  I have no drawing ability at all.  Hear me:  AT. ALL.

Please remember I am no artist. I have no drawing ability at all. Hear me: AT. ALL.

Then it morphed into frosting:

#iothedog

It doesn’t look exactly like her dog, but let’s remember this is a cookie.  I also didn’t consider before I started coloring about the fact I’m going off Instagram photos.  You know, the program where you mess with color to make it artsy.  So Anna’s dog may really be yellow and orange in real life.

It may not be the cookie to fill my New Year’s resolution.  Ms. Bulbrook may not see any resemblance to her party animal and therefore won’t have this set sent her way.  However, I do know this was the pick cookie meant to be made for her.

 

 

Every DayCover me:  The cover is cool.  Edgy.  Artistic.  Different.  It intrigued me from the moment I saw it when fishing around for good e-book deals.  The author’s name also caught my attention because I’ve seen it thrown around Twitter when John Green’s name pops up.  I should’ve figure it out sooner because he’s the co-author of WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON.

The Concept:  The main character, known as A, wakes up every morning in a different body.  He’s learned to accept the isolation of his situation until he wakes up as Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon.  After spending the day with her, he knows he needs more.  In his next bodies he finds his way back to Rhiannon and makes an attempt to have a relationship with her even though his exterior changes every day.

The Peeps:  A makes it easy to slip into his head.  It’s so intriguing because you get a different physical description each day.  It shapes his personality and his indifference.  Seeing the world through the different eyes of his bodies was exciting, then fascinating, and then got a little boring.  To really see his life, I guess you have to see all of it.

The Ending (spoiler alert!):  Rhiannon can’t get past his outside.  They’re doomed before they really begin.  How can you love someone who doesn’t physically exist?  It’s an interesting question.  I hate to break it to you looking for a happy ending.  They don’t end up together.  “A” knows he can’t stay with her but sets her up with a nice boy before he goes.

This book raised interesting questions about the depths of love.  I got a little tired of A chasing after Rhiannon.  Then I got a little bored with Rhiannon’s indifference.  Are you in or are you out?  I guess when you’re dealing with this kind of crazy it takes a while to make a decision.  It was too much back and forth for me at times.

Mr. Levithan is a gifted character writer, similar to Mr. Green.  I found the peeps interesting and worth following.

What I Cooked Up:  People are hard to represent in baked goods.  Different characters being an important theme in this book, I knew it had to be the focal point in the treat.  The more the merrier to showcase how many “every days” are in A’s life.  Here we have cake pops highlighting that even though the outside of the person looks different, the inside could be the same A, represented by chocolate cake pop goodness on the inside.

Every Day by David Levithan

Picking A Ghost

With the recent announcement of The Airborne Toxic Event’s fall tour, and my excitement around grabbing the San Francisco Fillmore shows, it seems the perfect time to unveil the latest in my TATE cookie line.  Sticking with the pick them, I’ve taken on guitarist Steven Chen’s chosen image.

steven pick

Why did he pick this image, I ask?  Not to the actual person who might be able to give me a real answer, of course.  I much prefer to make up my own theories with knowing very little about the guitarist personally.  I plan to continue with my own made up persona created on my few interactions.  Totally scientific, right?  I mean, that’s why people come here.  Only for the facts.

Is there some irony in this Pac-Man like ghost?  Mr. Chen seems like one of the introverted of the group and I wonder if this pays tribute to wanting to disappear.  While he gives everything on stage, he has a small plastic piece between his fingers wishing there weren’t so many eyes on him.

Or maybe it’s a reflection of his inner desire to make music a transparent experience where the listener gets to see right through to the soul.  He sheds all skin to make sure there is nothing between him, his guitar, and you?  That’s giving it for the art.

Or… he really likes Pac-Man?

Any of these things could be the real answer.  While most likely none of them are.  I know there are die hard Chen fans out there that have the real answer and I encourage you to note it in the comments.  You can give this blog a little validity with facts.  Or if no one knows, maybe this could be my Tourette’s like question I seem to throw out at shows.

What do you think?

 

A couple months ago a close friend asked me to walk in a 10K to support The March of Dimes.  Without a second thought, I whole-heartedly answered “no way in Hell.”  Devoting a Saturday to more exercise than I require myself during the week was the last thing I wanted to do for fun.

Fast-forward to two weeks before the event.  My bestie casually drops a couple hints about wanting me to join her when she walks the 6.2 miles.  I laughed them off with “are you kidding?” and “I’d rather do a million other things.”  The inside me screamed there was no way I could do it even if I wanted.  Even though I walk a couple miles three times a week, this race expected over triple that amount with no day breaks in between to recover.  What if I cramped up?  What if I embarrassed myself?  What if I didn’t finish?

Bestie continued to talk about how much fun it would be.  “We can make a girls’ day out of it,” she said.  She encouraged me to bring my daughter and planned for pedicures afterwards.  I held fast with my decline until I could hear subtlety in her voice asking me to join her in doing something she enjoyed.  That invitation I couldn’t decline.

I worried about the walk.  I fretted over the fear I would fall over dead and need to be carried off in an ambulance past the finish line.  I joked about the picture of the day being my corpse plastered over the yellow finish line.  Fear and insecurity whispered failure in my ear.  It isolated me by saying fit people couldn’t understand.  They think it’s so easy to take one more step.  I’d already imagined myself bowing out of the race without ever moving an inch.

The week before I decided to take action.  Instead of two miles on my daily walk, I upped it to three.  I was almost halfway there.  My legs weren’t jelly.  My face didn’t explode red.  I did it with little discomfort.  On the weekend, I did another test run.  I walked 5.5 miles around town to see if I could do it.  Around mile 4 my knees hurt, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  When 4.5 came and the afternoon sun overheated my body, I took slower steps.  It wasn’t the pace I kept in the morning, but it didn’t matter.  I was still moving.  Still making progress towards the end goal.

walk copy

On race day we drove to the starting line and received the map.  The route headed up a gradual hill for the first half which meant downhill on the way back.  I started a cautious pace and committed to putting one step in front of the other.  I pushed all the thoughts about not finishing out of my head.  I wouldn’t stop or beg for help.  No one would need to bring the medical car around to carry me to the end.  I forced myself forward, chin in the air, and finished something I didn’t know I could do.

I could write about the parallels I’m feeling with my fiction writing, but I won’t.  This breakthrough is about a different success.  Sure, the lessons can be shared with the other things clouded by doubt.  Hell, all insecurity does.  Instead, this story is only about this.  I did something I never thought possible, one step at a time.

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