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When I was fifteen, I met a boy at a party I hosted for a girlfriend turning sixteen.  The boy was playing the dutiful role of wingman to his buddy trying to hook up with the birthday girl.  We chatted throughout the night about music among other things.   As we escorted them the two miles to his house in the moonlight after the party, he told of one of his favorite bands, The Smiths.  I’d only heard them through my older sister’s closed bedroom door from the vinyl records she never shared.  But my interest was piqued with the possibility of a new musical taste and in the boy who suggested it.

In an innocent crush sort of way, I followed him to his art class and made conversations while he tried to work on projects.  (Even though it seems super creepy when I’m writing it now, it was very innocent at the time.)  I masqueraded my affection by chumming up next to a favorite girlfriend and seemed overly interested in her stenciled flower project.  At night, I listened to the mixed tape he made of Strangeways, Here We Come and The Queen Is Dead.  It only took one listen for me to fall madly in love with the happy ditty of “Frankly, Mr. Shankly.”  I replayed it a hundred times until the words were recorded to memory to prove my duty to being a true Smiths fan and not a poser. 

With high school a distant memory, the other morning the song came across my iPod.  I’ve listened to it hundreds of more times over the years.  It was my battle cry while I suffered through a job I hated a few years ago.  I belted out the opening line “Frankly Mr. Shankly, this position I’ve held, it pays my way and it corrodes my soul” to comfort myself that I wasn’t the only who’d done it.  I giggled at the thought of telling my boss he was a “flatulent pain in the arse” and even harder at the fact I had no idea what that meant twenty years ago. 

I thought about how the song was completely different as an adult than the catchy tune I took it for in high school.  The words resonate differently now that I understand what it feels like to work a job for a paycheck versus being at the starting line waiting for someone to fire the gun to go.  Regardless of the interpretation, the song always brings back the memory of balancing on an art stool waiting for the boy to share a few words.  I remember he was quiet, shy, and completely uninterested in my affection.

The song does exactly what art is supposed to do.  It evokes an emotion; an ever-changing, evolving, heart-stopping emotion.  Different stages in life will have different interpretations, but the true test of a great piece of art is if it’s something you want to return.   Do you give it the chance to be reviewed with your different frame of mind to see if it holds up to your memory?  Or do you not give it a second thought after done the first time?  Or are you afraid to challenge your deep regard because it meant that much to you?

The boy moved away a couple months after that party and we didn’t have the type of friendship which required the obligatory “KIT.”  (Keep In Touch)  His memory came in passing when “A Rush and A Push” plays and I wondered what became of him.  With Facebook, I was able to see a glimpse after he accepted my friend request.  In the same way of time changing a perception of art, people are not the memory.   But even though he doesn’t know it, he will always be the boy I crushed on when I was fifteen who helped me fall in love with The Smiths.

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An interesting conversation broke behind the scenes of Breaking Books after my last post about Ethan’s battle.  I went back and forth with a friend who is going through a difficult situation.  True, it’s not cancer of a child, but it’s having a significant impact on her life.  The question was posed, “I always tell myself that I am lucky and that things could be worse.  And I always count my blessings.  So then when is it okay to feel something?”  (This feels very much like a Carrie Bradshaw moment of ending the paragraph on a question.)

Everyone has something to feel grateful for in their life if they look hard enough.  Even the family in the previous post has blessings to count.  They have a lovely home with a perfect lawn, two healthy children, and they’ve had the pleasure of their son for nine years no matter what the future brings.  Does this lessen the sadness?  Of course not because it’s emotion and emotions are illogical.  How events and people affect our psyche make us individuals.  These are our character traits that make us different from the next guy.  This topic is nicely touched on in Delirium by Lauren Oliver when love is eradicated.  It gives the perspective of a world that is supposed to be better off because emotions aren’t driving decisions.  It’s also a cold place where a mother doesn’t comfort a child when they are hurt.  Not a good trade off if you ask me.

Having emotions doesn’t make you selfish or spoiled, it’s what makes you human.  Some of us feel them stronger than others and they have an overwhelming impact on our rationalization.  But it’s what we do after the emotions die down that make the person.  Do you gain some perspective or let yourself continue to spiral into a place where you don’t even recognize yourself in the end?  In the past, I’ve allowed the latter to happen.  I’ve worked for years to overcome this adversity in my personality.  But even knowing that, today I had a mini-meltdown when a best friend from years ago friended me on Facebook last night only to BLOCK me today.  I didn’t even get a chance to check out her info since I approved it on my phone.  Where is the fun in that?  I spent an hour trying to figure out what happened which left Hubs staring at me like I’d grown a second head.  I know it’s part of my “crazy,” but it’s what I do with that information that determines the type of person I am.

A problem doesn’t have to be doused in tragedy to make it matter.  It makes it no less of an event because it doesn’t have fatal consequences.  The impact on the person drives its validity.  Feel what you feel.  It’s not up for debate how long it takes you to get past your hurdle.  That’s your choice to make.  Some are bigger than others and may need a running start.  Mine trips me up at unsuspecting times when I think I have a good stride going.  But when I do fall, I try to bounce up in hopes no one was looking, dust the dirt of my ass, and continue down the street like nothing happened at all.

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Pushing through a set back is harder in your mind than on paper.  Emotions bounce around like a ping-pong ball in your head to dizzy yourself from the reality of the situation.  There have been a few set backs lately which I’ve let play havoc with my self-confidence.  I’ve tried to stay busy with making lists, creating story boards, and writing new projects to get past my funk, but it hasn’t made a big impact on my self-pity.  That was until I got a much needed smack in the face with a little perspective.

I curled up on my bed with my tail between  my legs, my ear buds pouring out my favorite songs, and positioned my laptop to plug away at more work to ignore the pity party in full force in my head.  My writing text books and idea journal stacked near to give some reassurance I can do it.  But my heart still hurt, wincing at sensitive areas while my mind berated myself for being so thin-skinned.  Facebook was pulled up as my first stop on my road of writing distractions (to be followed by Twitter, blogs, etc.)  Scanning through “FML”s, updates on television series, and the occasional profile picture changes, I came across the story link of one of my neighbors.  Their nine-year old son was diagnosed with cancer at seven, but was known to have had a clean scan in April.  The boy looked well this t-ball season when he played my son’s team (crushing them, in fact.)  No one could have seen it coming when a routine scan last week showed the cancer had aggressively returned and riddled his body.

Evan’s mother has a blog to update the public about his progress.  Last night, I read through their last seven days where their lives were turned upside down and dragged through the fiery pits of Hell.  My pettiness of not getting something I hoped for was washed away with sobbing tears as I read her gut-wrenching words of a mother trying to save her son.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t fiction.  It’s their family’s reality and it stuck with me all day.

While the goal of writing is to draw the reader in, their story did more than tell me about how they are coping.  It broke my heart by reminding me how helpless feels.  It reminded me about all the beauty in my life and how lucky I am.  Other things can seem important , but they’re not.  It’s just stuff.    Nothing shakes you to the core faster than to hear about people who are fighting for something worthwhile. 

So I will suck up my dented pride, slap myself back to reality, and make sure I’m doing my damnedest every time to make this world a better place for all.  I hope this reminds you to do the same.  If my words aren’t convincing enough, you should read hers.

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The Man In My Life

It may be hard to believe, but this blog is not about Mikel Jollett.  I know, it seems lately I can discuss nothing else, but today I’m going to focus on the other male in my life.  The one who stood behind the camera, gathered the signatures from the other band mates, and of course asked Mikel if they were going to sleep together.  He is my Hubs. 

Hubs is an interesting character I’ve known for twenty years, been “together with” for eighteen, and last month celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary.  He is highlighted in many of my blogs, like here.  Lately people keep telling me how funny he is.  This is a fact I’ve known forever.  But the punch line about his humor, which everyone takes so much pleasure, is the fact it’s only funny when you aren’t the subject.  The minute the conversation turns and you are on the hot seat all of a sudden the “funny guy” turns into a huge asshole.  Now, this is where I find it most amusing.  His innocence in turning most conversations into something horribly uncomfortable is one my simplest pleasures.  Without any effort, he keeps a straight face when making someone else squirm, grimace with confusion, or even walk away in disgust.  It’s hilarious.

Hubs has made such an art out of this, I gave him a Facebook page*.  Some of you know about the place where I post his most unflattering pictures, his quirky habits, and the strangest situations he puts us into.  Yes, I say “us” because most of the time I’m the one standing next to him saying “he didn’t really mean it” or “he’s totally kidding.”  Some of my favorites are:

  • Insistence on not having more than 10 friends of Facebook.  Even though he’s upped it to 20 recently, there have been many battles and hurt feelings when deleting close friends to make room for others.  Don’t worry, he deleted his own father.
  • The time he gave the fake name at Dairy Queen to match the other names before him.  Needless to say, when the orders came out, it was a huge clusterfuck.
  • When a friend said she loved another friend, he called her padded answer by putting her on the spot with the question “What do you love about her?”  After five minutes of uncomfortable hemming and hawing, she said “I just do.”  To which he answered, “Doesn’t sound like it.”

His charm was proven once again this weekend when we went camping.  In the breezy Oregon beach air, we shared gin and tonics with friends around a campfire.  Hubs went to make another round.  He flicked his unmelted ice and lime slice into the next campsite.  An occupant of said spot walked over with the lime slice in hand. 

“It looks like you lost something,” she said.  Hubs looked down to the next lime slice he’d cut for the second round.

“Nope, I’ve got mine right here,” he said. 

With a perplexed look, the woman kept the slice in hand and returned back to her site.  Any other guilty party would have apologized for being careless and promised not to throw any more trash in their site.  Not Hubs.  In fact, later she came over to apologize about being accusatory when it was now obvious one of the annoying crows flying around probably picked it up and dropped it on her after realizing it wasn’t food.  Hubs graciously accepted the apology and agreed he too had been hit by crow debris.

Some may think he does these things to be a jerk.  I can vouch he really doesn’t.  It’s just him.  He’s completely honest almost to a fault.  He’s black and white when it comes to right and wrong.  He’s devoutly loyal and loves his children.  He watches bad television like Ice Road Truckers and makes up the porn name replacements like “Ice Road Fuckers.”  He won’t eat anything “white and creamy” like sour cream or mayonnaise.  He loves his motorcycle, believes in Bigfoot, and can’t wait for the day he can leave society all together for a Unibomber cabin in the woods.  (I think five minutes after my funeral.)

Hubs is the most interesting character I know.  In my writings, you will find pieces him here and there.  We’ve been together too long for him not to have a huge impact on my characters, thought processes, and writing all together.  But hopefully when you do catch that glimpse of him it has the humor everyone loves.  Because they’re right…he is a helluva funny guy.

*If you want the page, let me know.

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Reach Around

This blog thing a day is a little more difficult than I thought it would be.  Even with the subject being around my fave band as I prep to see them in 3 DAYS, I am still short of meaningful things.  Or course, I’ve come up with other topics I could ramble on about, but it wouldn’t be the same.  That’s a blog for another day.  I really appreciate those of you who have participated with suggestions in the contests.  They are hilarious!  And I’m getting some great ideas for Thursday night.    So, here we go to another contest even though the title may have brought you here for another reason, Pervert!

This contest is about getting out the word.  Reach out to your friends and bring them around the blog.  You are entered when you post your favorite blog (Mikel related or not) on your social network, ie Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, anything.  Just leave a comment with the link to your note or if we are friends already on FB, I’ll see it.  If we aren’t friends, send me a request and then I’ll see it.   Remember, if a friend of yours leaves a comment and references your name, you have another chance to win.

It’s as easy as that.  Really, Susan, that’s all?  Yes, that is all.  Even with a little eye candy for dessert.  Oh snap!

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The Long Drive Home

Like 99% of writers, I have a “real” job.  It’s the “day” job, the “fifty-hour per week grind” job also known as the “paying” job.  (Enough quotes for ya?)  I was lucky enough with said job to be flown to Portland as part of a select group working on a company-wide initiative.  Doesn’t that sound important?  Always does when it comes from the author, just read Facebook.  Back to the point…on the way back to the airport, the driver and I had a conversation about the publishing world.

After our bumpy start of being lectured like my father for not waiting in the right place (you know, the one down the street I knew nothing about) and having him ask me about my favorite radio talk shows (of which I have none), he asks a simple, non-threatening conversation starter of “What is your degree in?”

“Creative Writing,” I said.

“Oh, you’re a writer.  What do you write?” said in the Italian accent of the bushy-mustached, salt and pepper-haired man in the driver seat.

“I’m a Young Adult author.” 

I did it.  I put it out there.  I used the title “author.”  If you have read previous posts, I’m hesitant to call myself this with unpublished works under my belt.  But I’m feeling confident after being productive in my two day meeting and I’m ready to take on the writing world, too.

“So you’re published?”  The slow tilt of his head with a sideways glance thrown back deflate my shoulders and I fall back into the cushion of the leather seat.

“Not yet.  I’m working on it.”

“You know, the publishing world is run by five idiots.  They don’t do anything but take the money you deserve.”   

Before I have a chance to change the topic, he rolls into a story about a great essay he once wrote that someone wanted to publish.  After they asked for other things he’d written, he decided he didn’t have enough time and dropped the matter.

“It’s a tough business.  Takes a lot of research I’ve discovered.”

“Those people don’t know what they are doing.  You should publish your own e-book,” he says.

The old “do it yourself” advice.  People act like this is the easiest thing in the world.  More proof they have no idea what they are talking about.  I’m weighing in my mind the benefits of continuing this conversation or pretending I don’t speak English.  I peek up to see he’s driving 56 miles per hour.  Isn’t the speed limit 65?  Is he purposely dragging out this torture?  I fidget with my phone, tweet a line, and send a text to Hubs about the crazy driver.

“I’m going with finding an agent.  It’s a hard road, but it’s a better one for me.”

“Where are these agents?”  (Like they’re in the likes of the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot.)

“The ones I want to work with are in New York.  Others in Colorado and California, too,” I say.

“Probably all the good ones are in California.”

The inside of the car goes silent and I’m begging for the airport to be around the next bend.

“My wife and I wrote a children’s book about having a baby.  It’s from the baby’s view inside the womb and coming out.  We told some kids what we wanted in the pictures and they drew them.  One kid drew a mom with a blanket over her round belly and a big head sticking out the other end of the sheet.”  He takes his eyes off the road to turn around with mouth wide open mimicking the head sticking out of the sheet.  “No one wanted to publish it.  The idiots,” he scowls.

Nothing sounds more terrifying of children drawing the in utero and birthing process except for the text he wrote to go along with it. 

“I’ve been lucky.  The agents I follow have been pretty cool, helpful.  Not idiots.”

He snorts.  He goes on about how he is going to publish e-books and make a ton of money instead of “those idiots” stealing his great idea and the millions that go along with it.  I nod my head in passive agreement since we are entering the Departure ramp. 

He rattles on while pulling out my bag, but I’m able to drone it out with airplane engines.  I thank him for the ride and slide the roller handle from the suitcase.

“Hey, good luck to ya with that agent thing.”  He snorts again and I’m pretty sure I hear the whisper of “you’re gonna need it” under his breath like I’m the fucking idiot.

Then I come home and find this

By the way…if you know “the five idiots,” could you leave their names in the comment section?  I’m pretty curious of their identities.

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Is Anything Really Free?

A couple of months ago I proclaimed “Free fixes everything.”  Still true for that scenario and most, Hubs with his infinite power crushed the theory and then brought a car around to drive over it a few times.  In a mere twenty minutes, free went from a glorious, spirit-uplifting present like a rainbow to stomach-wrenching, three-inch tall embarrassment.  How is this possible?  Because he is Hubs.

We met at our Safeway Cafe for sandwiches on our very short lunch period.  (Yes, the same Safeway where international superstar Patrick Duffy bought his potato salad a few weeks ago.)  I get there early to put in the order while Hubs usually shows up right as I’m finding a table with sandwiches in hand.  The store started a promotion a few weeks ago that if your sandwich isn’t made in three minutes, it’s free.  This is laughable because that deli has never done anything in three minutes, not even selling a paper cup to fill your soda.

Hubs walks in after I have listened to the two female workers bitch for fifteen minutes about being short-staffed.  They go back and forth in a catty snit taking small jabs at each other with “You’re so lucky you have the morning shift because you don’t have to do anything.”  The shorter woman with a hardened face responds with “I have to work Saturdays, so I don’t want to hear it from you.”  My stomach twists in knots from their complaining as the line grows even longer.

“I’ve been here for fifteen minutes.”  I point to my watch and roll my eyes.

“Don’t they have a deal where you get a free sandwich?” says Hubs.

“I don’t want to deal with it.”  Knowing this is gasoline for their bitchfest fire, I want to get as far away from them as possible.

The shorter one pushes the sandwiches across the counter while the tall one says to go to the front counter to pay since it will be faster.  Hub’s eyes dart back and forth between the women.  His weight shifts to the balls of his feet with his head bobbing around trying to get their attention.

“Just let it go.  You can talk to the manager or something.  They’re just going to make it worse.”  I head to the front check out with Hubs on my heels asking me about the free sandwich promotion.  With my blood boiling, I whip around and seethe between my clinched jaw.

“I don’t give a shit about the free sandwiches.”

Hubs gives a calm look, takes the sandwiches from my hands and tells me to go find us some seats while he pays.  It’s his natural reaction when I’ve gone from 0 to 60 in what seems like less than 3 seconds.  I pick the small table in the corner and rest my head against the wall to relax.  I’m irritated I wasted all that time and couldn’t read my new book.  I curse the fact I promised a co-worker I’d pick her up a chicken breast that I waited to purchase so it wouldn’t get cold while I ate.  I can’t stop listening to the table of middle-aged men next to me talking about their disgust because a female co-worker posted on Facebook about her fake boobs.  It takes me a couple minutes to realize Hubs has been gone a long time.

Finally he rounds the corner with paid sandwiches in hand and a triumphant smile across his face.  He holds up two coupons between his fingers and raises his right eyebrow.

“The checkers tried to act like they didn’t know about the promotion, but I finally got these.”  I look at the coupons and they are a new promotion of buy one get one free coming up next week.  A heavy sigh escapes my chest knowing our lunch hour is almost over.

“This is a different coupon,” I say.

He puts down his sandwich and marches back to the deli counter.  I hear the three of them going at it for five minutes.  The two deli women saying he can’t prove when he bought his sandwich and Hubs coming back with if they are going to have a promotion, they need to follow it.  All the while, I sink a little lower in my chair cursing the fact I have to head over there before I leave to pick up my friend’s lunch.

With no minutes left to our lunch time, the woman shouts loud enough it can be heard in the cafe “Is it you just want a free sandwich?”  She pulls out the coupon and scribbles something on the back.  Hubs takes it with a smile and thanks her for her time.  He return like a triumphant hunter and throws the coupon on the table like a carcass.

“I have to go now,” I say.

“Yeah, me too.”

After a quick peck on the lips, I head back to the deli counter and wait in a different hellacious line while Hubs heads out the door to go back to work.  While in line, the sandwich makers bitch to all the customers about the asshole they just had who demanded a free sandwich.

The only redeeming quality of this story is I got to post it here…for free.

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