Flying Lessons

When you come to the end of all of the light that you know and step out into the darkness of the Great Unknown… Faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen. Either you will be given something firm to stand on, or you will be taught to fly.

personal-flight-attempt-1

I can’t remember the first time I heard this quote, but I have loved it ever since. It comforts me to be reminded that things always have a way of working out. It may take a while to comprehend what is happening or why, but eventually understanding comes. Hindsight is 20/20, they always say. In the meantime, during those darker times, those murky times, those uncertain times it is important to know that things won’t always stay that way.

Easier said than done. I know.

I personally prefer the first scenario given, that I will be given something firm to stand on. If something I can feel beneath my feet is good, then something solid and immoveable—something firm—is even better. It is the flying part that I have trouble with because it does not come naturally to me. In fact, unless you’re a superhero, it doesn’t come naturally to any of us. But sometimes, flying lessons are the only option we’ll be given. No less. No more. And that can be scary because it not only requires endless patience, but trust as well.

For months now I’ve found myself sulking around in one of those murky places… waiting to see if I’d be graciously given something firm to stand on or shoved headfirst off a cliff and forced to fly. In more specific terms, I was waiting to see if the company I’d been working for (on a contract basis for the last five months) was going to welcome me into the official fold or choose to go in a different direction with another candidate.

I equated getting the job with a great big slab of granite. A vast, strong, solid piece of property to stand on which I could call my very own. I would carve my name in it and decorate it with potted plants and adorable picture frames. Conversely, I equated NOT getting the job with flying… blind… in a hurricane… without a parachute or floatation device. Betcha can’t guess which one I’m doing right now?

Yup. I’m flying. But miraculously, it isn’t the death-defying, teeth-chattering, knee-knocking, goose-bump-inducing terror trip I was expecting. It is so bizarre. Sitting in the conference room, on an ordinary Wednesday, I knew from the look on my boss’s face that I was not about to hear the news I’d been hoping for. And I’ll be honest, I was crushed. Hot, fat tears splashed down the front my favorite periwinkle sweater the entire drive home that afternoon. That evening I cried so hard I gave myself a migraine. In fact, I cried so hard my teeth and gums and eye sockets hurt.

But when the sun came up on Thursday, I was over it. By Friday I was even MORE over it and when I agreed to stay on another week and showed up for work at the very place where my services were no longer desirable, I was completely over it.  No leftover attitude. No residual bitterness. Just peace, calm and contentment. I’m not exactly sure what happened… other than the distinct possibility that although I am flying, it is not without a net. 

You see, while I’ve been wading around in fear and uncertainty, worrying and fretting  about the unknown the last five months — my soon-to-be-husband, family and friends have been weaving a pretty tight mesh beneath me. Making it clear to me that even though there is no giant slab of granite beneath my feet for TOMORROW, being angry or bitter takes too much energy away from the things that I have TODAY.

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What’s That Elf on the Shelf REALLY Up To?

So here we are again. It’s creeping up on Christmas and parents everywhere are creeping around their houses late into the night searching for just the right spot to place their creepy little elf for the kiddies to find come morning. Yes, that wicked ol’ Elf on the Shelf has sprung to life once again and being the hater that I am… I couldn’t help but devote some blog time to the miniature Freak Show.

Some of you may recall that I wrote a post about him and his meteoric rise to fame last Christmas when the tiny demon became a blip on my personal radar. In case you missed it and you’re interested, you can read that one here. I feel I did an adequate job of relaying my fear, disdain and general creeped-out-ed-ness for this convention so I don’t think it’s necessary to expound on that much more.

What I would like to point out is that while I knew I wasn’t the ONLY person who found the Elf on the Shelf to be the very incarnation of evil itself — I had no idea how popular fearing him had actually become. It seems that for every parent out there who adores inflicting him and his “magical powers” upon their child, there is someone else more sensible, someone more enlightened, someone… well… someone more like me.

These enlightened ones know this little guy is up to no good. They understand that beneath that tiny red suit beats a heart of pure darkness. And behind those rosy cheeks and piercing blue eyes lurks a monster waiting to be unleashed… in your home… after you’re all asleep.

I’ve compiled the following images from around the web as proof positive that he is not all he’s cracked up to be. The catchy tune, the cutesy animated commercial and the adorably designed, strategically marketed storybook and package is all a disguise. The plan? Get inside your home and gain your trust. The ultimate goal? Well, take a look for youself…

elf_tree lightself_artistelf_song elf_grandma elf_fluffy

Not to worry though parents—if you’ve been duped by the elf and his cleverly-hatched scheme, and he is, in fact, IN your house this very instance—there is a glimmer of hope. Perhaps your child is also an “enlightened one” like I mentioned earlier. And perhaps he or she will take matters into their own hands… like this one did…

elf_fire

5 Reasons NOT to Watch the “Criminal Minds” Marathon While Completely Alone

Recently, while home alone for the night, I had the brilliant idea of watching a four-hour Criminal Minds marathon. Now, I know what you are thinking… the mind reels that one may actually be capable of sitting on one’s own @$$ for that long a period, however, I can assure you that I DID get up from time to time.

I managed to climb out of the comfort of my recliner for several reasons. I got up for pizza, to use the bathroom, to lock ALL of the doors, to feed the cat, to close ALL of the blinds and windows, to get a diet pop, to check EVERY square inch of the basement and ummmm… to get more pizza.

I should mention here that I am quite familiar with this program about the FBI’s BAU a.k.a. the Behavioral Analysis Unit. (By the way, don’t you just adore using acronyms? I do. It makes me feel so much more intelligent and worldly) Anyhoo… I absolutely LOVE the show (about as much as I like using acronyms). And it doesn’t usually matter whether or not I am alone when I watch it because I know it is purely fiction.

Well, fiction that is based on fact that is. Yes it is fact-based fiction about the psychological profiling of real-live nut-bags who like to stalk, maim, torture or kill otherwise normal citizens like you and me. Which is why, perhaps, that it may NOT have been in my best interest to watch four whole episodes whilst being alone in a big, empty house that is still relatively new to me.

Here are just a FEW of the reasons why watching four hours of this particular program (all by oneself) is probably not the brightest of ideas:

  1. You’re convinced that a stranger has indeed been stalking you for 6 months (even if you’ve only lived at your current address for 4).
  2. You’re certain that the friendly neighbors who love to chat you up everytime you pull into the driveway or push your garbage can to the curb are indeed serial killers who are hiding a secret torture chamber beneath the unassuming, non-descript-yet-mysterious-anyway grey tarp in their back yard.
  3. When the Fedex man arrives on your doorstep the following morning carrying an unexpected package — you refuse to answer the door no matter how interesting or impressive said parcel may look.
  4. You believe it IS entirely possible that while you were away one weekend some creeper or creepers managed to break into your home and hide tiny cameras in every room… leaving absolutely ZERO trace of their ever having been there. And they are watching you at this very moment. And laughing.
  5. You are 100% sure that the single dude on the corner with the perfectly-manicured lawn and glass animal collection in his front window is a sociopath currently working on an entirely different type of “collection” in the garage that he never seems to use.

Anyone Else Hear That Buzzing Sound?

I’ve been a little swamped lately so I hope you’ll forgive me for posting something I wrote a few summers ago when I first moved into my “new-to-me-but-very-old” house and discovered I had roommates… of the buzzing, stinging variety. Yep… yellowjacket wasps. And I am DEATHLY afriad of bees or bugs for that matter… especially ones that fly. And buzz. And sting. So, although I feel too busy to breathe right now—or at least fearful of forgetting HOW to breathe—I’d rather post SOMETHING than nothing… so I reached into the archives for this one. My hope is that you will find it as entertaining as I did horrifying… Enjoy. Oh and maybe grab your fly swatter.

Just so you’re aware, and I hope you NEVER have to find out… here is what it’s like to share your home with yellow jacket wasps…

For almost 2 weeks now, every morning, I do the “Walk of Shame” in my pajamas. At day-break, bra-less and with pillow-marks and wild hair, I scurry over to MY house from my parents’ house. I do everything at my house, except SLEEP there. The thought of one of those “creatures-from-depths-of-hell” (as I have grown fond of calling them) crawling on my pillow in the middle of the night creeps the shit out of me! What if I roll over on it, and it stings my cheek, or worse… I accidentally swallow it!?! I shudder even as I type this. I can only imagine what the neighbors must think though… a 34-year-old woman who has her own home, STILL sleeps at mommy and daddy’s every night?!? Talk about having “issues”…

Once inside the enemy’s territory, I sneak around my OWN house, tip-toeing like a cat burglar, with my WMD’s (a fly-swatter and a can of Mega-Freeze hairspray) close at hand. I enter rooms as though arriving at my own previously-anticipated surprise party… You know, because I want to surprise the surprisers that are hiding and laying in wait.

I compulsively throw open doors, blinds and curtains as if this element of surprise gives ME the upper hand against AN INSECT THAT FLIES!! I thoroughly shake out my clothes before getting dressed, I closely examine shoes and slippers before placing my foot inside—lest I squash one of them and my foot swells and it looks like I have elephantitus or some such disfiguring disease. I gingerly lift towels, rags and laundry with my thumb and fore finger in case one of the demon-spawn is hiding there. I’ve learned to RELY on the mirrors to tell me if one is sneaking up on me from behind. I suspect NOWHERE is safe, and I trust nothing.

However, I AM beginning to wonder if I am going about this ALL wrong. Perhaps the yellowjackets and I should maybe consider a less harsh solution like… couples therapy? I mean, me and the hive, could just sit down in a neutral setting, where there is no judgement or preconceived notions about “good” and “bad” and everyone is equal and we can air our grievances in a calm and cool manner. My sister once talked a raccoon into leaving her garage after several weeks, by simply speaking rationally to him, maintaining eye contact, and then leaving the door up that night when she went to bed. Soooo… anything’s possible.

Maybe I should just open up the phone book and find a family therapist who specializes in “unique” problems. I mean, OK… so MAYBE poisoning them with Aqua Net isn’t the right way to go after all, maybe it is a tad harsh. I’m not perfect. Perhaps we just need to learn to live in harmony with one another. You know, respect each other’s space. Bee considerate… and by all means, COMMUNICATE.

OK, it’s settled, I have the yellow pages, and I’m looking for therapists… I think I’ll start with the B’s…

No Trespassing or “Dueling Banjos”

My dad tells me I watch way too many movies. And maybe he is right about that. Plus, I also have a pretty active imagination… But seriously, it did feel like a scene straight out of “Deliverance” at times. The woods were thick in every direction, the roads narrow and winding and the hillsides were extremely steep. Several of the houses and driveways were completely overgrown with weeds, and even though I was only a few miles from town… it felt remote enough that I was fairly certain no one would ever hear me scream.

<cue “Dueling Banjos”>

At one point I passed a boy driving a 4-wheeler, dressed in so much camouflage I almost didn’t see him. He had at least 2 cross-bows with him and as our paths crossed, he just GLARED at me. Come to think of it, everyone that I passed glared at me. Maybe because they knew I didn’t belong. A girl dressed in church clothes and heels, driving a silver Pontiac with the sunroof open and the radio cranked to Billy Joel, doesn’t exactly BLEND in with camo, ammo, tractors, 4-wheel-drive pick-up trucks and 3-legged dogs with one eye named “Lucky.”

But I was on a mission. There’s probably only one, maybe two weeks left of bright sunshine and glorious, leafy, green trees before everything drops to the ground, surrendering to winter. Full of determination and with the camera in tow, I headed out to the country. I was driving on some back roads to find the most beautiful photo ops. And the whole taking-my-life-into-my-own-hands-thing aside… I did manage to get some beautiful shots!

When I was satisfied that I had gotten all of the best pictures I could without my family having to send out a search party, I headed for home. On my way home I spotted these full, verdant trees along the edge of some water and knew that I HAD to get a shot of this. But I couldn’t just stop on the road because any on-coming traffic would not be able to see me. So I looked around for a place to park the car and walk to the right spot in which to shoot the picture. I noticed a little white house that looked harmless enough, and conveniently there was a place to park at the edge of the property, without blocking the driveway. It was technically on their property, and there was a “NO TRESPASSING” sign posted right beside where I parked… But I really didn’t think they would mind. Plus, I’d be so quick about it that they might never even know I was there.

I took my photos and began walking back to the car and was about to climb in when this dog comes out of nowhere and charges toward me barking wildly. Here we go. This is it. I’m in trouble. Either they’ve called the police, who will be here in no time to arrest me for trespassing, or I’m gonna end up in these people’s freezer. I cringe as the dog gets closer… prepared for the mauling I was sure was imminent. My mind flashing forward to the battery of rabies shots I was going to receive if I survived.

Just as the dog reaches me, I see the owner. It’s an older lady, but not the just-got-back-from-church-and-baking-a-pie kind of older lady. No this lady was dressed in jeans and flannel and I honestly couldn’t get a read on her or her dog right away. Instead of fleeing (I’d never outrun the dog) I decided to face my fate head on. I said hello to her and the dog magically dropped to a seated position at my feet. Whew! Rabies crisis averted. She said hello but was definitely not there to make small talk. She’d come to check out the trespasser who’d had the nerve to park on her property. I could tell by the way she was looking at me that she was sizing me up (probably determining whether or not they had room for me in the fridge). And I also noticed that she walked with a bit of a limp. Oh for crying out loud! This was SO a scene from a movie: Nice, innocent girl slaughtered by old, limping, flannel-clad woman in Backwoods House of Horrors.

I introduced myself and explained what I was doing, figuring it sounded decent enough. I mean it wasn’t as if I was out there mutilating squirrels and other small woodland creatures… I was taking nature pictures. What could be more harmless than that? She asked if the photos were “just for me” and I said that they were. I explained how I grew up near there and had been away for years and was still quite taken with the beauty of this time of year. It was then that she said: “I have some lovely trees in my backyard, if you would like to see them. You’re welcome to photograph those.”

Sure, sure… I thought… this was her ploy to lure to me deeper onto her property, and once I was out of public sight in her “backyard,” the real nightmare would begin. But I knew that the polite thing to do was to follow her. After all, I DID trespass and now she was asking me to see her backyard… the least I could do was indulge her. Although I WAS certain that her husband or son would be waiting for me behind the house with a chainsaw.

As I followed her and her dog, I grew a bit more nervous when I noticed that we would have to walk through a little corridor between the house and the shed. The passageway was draped with a tarp and had only slits in the front and back in order to pass in and out. Oh yeah… I’m definitely a goner. However, when I tentatively pulled back the edge of the tarp and peered inside, I saw that the enclosed space was not full of bloody limbs from previous victims… but fresh, garden-grown produce!! All sizes and colors of zucchini and tomatoes with prices marked on them. She was not a homicidal maniac! This woman was just a produce-peddler! For the second time in 5 minutes relief washed over me. I was not going to meet with some horrible demise in the backyard of this sweet old woman’s home.

The view of the woods from her backyard was gorgeous, and she told me how she’s been sitting at her breakfast table every day watching the leaves transform. Her and her dog… Millie. Harmless little Millie… the sweet attack dog who was now licking my hands while I stroked her fur. I took some photographs of the view AND the fresh veggies and talked with her a little while before getting back in the car and driving away. She told me I was welcome to come back anytime to visit or photograph her property. I could park my car on her land and take as many pictures as I’d like. I waved good-bye to both her and Millie as I drove toward civilization.

Perhaps I do watch too many movies… but real life or fiction… you still never know how the story is going to end. Luckily, this one ended happily-ever-after.

<banjo music fades>

Loving the Questions

For as long as I can remember, I have been an impatient person… and a worrier. Such endearing qualities, I know. Oh… And I am also a ruminator… with a capital “R,” I can chew on a thought like nobody’s business. Seriously. You can ask anyone.

In fact, anyone reading this who knows me very well, is probably at this moment, smiling, laughing or at the very least nodding their heads in enthusiastic agreement. I’m not sure why I am like this. I wish I could blame it on someone or something… like my parents or older sister, a sadistic teacher, a traumatic childhood event, an evil playground bully. But none of that would be accurate. See, I’m fairly certain that I came straight out of the womb, hard-wired to be like this.

I ask a million questions it seems… all the time. What am I doing? Where am I going? How is THIS going to turn out? What is (insert name of just about anyone here) thinking right now? When will that happen? What if this happens? What if that other thing happens? How am I going to pull THIS off? How’s THAT going to work? What if? How come? What for? Why me?

I also rush ahead (in my mind) wondering about the future, rather than living fully in the present. I mean, do I ACTUALLY think that by dwelling on or worrying about the future I am going to miraculously get to any of the answers any sooner? The thing is… I know that this kind of thinking is not only an exercise in futility… but it is harmful. It’s harmful because it robs me of any joy that I am capable of feeling right now… in the present.

So, for all my fellow worriers, ruminators and commiserative comrades out there… I want to share one of my favorite quotes with you. The reason it is one of my all-time favorites, is because it does such an amazing job of bringing into focus exactly how we ought to see our current realities as well as our futures.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms or books that are written in a foreign language. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then, gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

It’s so important to remember that Time will… in time… pull back the curtain and reveal the answers to us one day, but until then we need to enjoy whatever TODAY has to offer because the Present is the Future of the Past.