Ye Olde House Wifee – #5

Dearest husband,

June’s heat was aggressive and unrepentant.

July, her twin sister; full of sweltering.

Sticky humidity. Awful, awful chafing.

August would be no different.

 

The walls of this humble home never knew

sweet, sweet relief during the oppressive summers,

warmth always trapped in its bones.

If you laid your hand upon it,

You would search for a heartbeat.

 

I haven’t cooked. Nor cleaned.

The laundry lingers and I with it.

A pile. Soaked with sweat.

 

But then.

 

Then a breeze.

And more.

And more.

 

I go from room to room.

The windows are closed

and yet

a breeze.

 

Witchcraft? No.

HVAC.

 

Yours,

Lauren Veruca Tabitha Wishwhamerschmidt

Cannonball Run

Splashdown was the “big” “fancy” water park when I was growing up. Right off the side of the freeway, you could see the four bright, white slides nestled into the slope of the hill that ran along the south side of town. They called to us from the car.

Come. Cool off. Hang out. Splash down.

Once my brother and I scammed our way into a class trip there. We weren’t even in the class, so I’m not entirely sure why we were allowed to go, but it was glorious. The slides were thrilling. The kid area even had a splash park with a big wide slide and umbrellas with waterfalls coming out of them. There was candy. Junk food. The lines weren’t too bad. It was Kid Heaven.

After we had a taste, we wanted more. In the summers, we would plead with our parents. “Pleeeease can we go to Splashdown? Pleeeease.” The answer was always no.

One hot day, my dad proposed we go for a little adventure. My dad usually didn’t take us on adventures but I think there may have been some parental one-upmanship happening if I recall correctly. We were instructed to get our bathing suits.

The bathing suits weren’t a guarantee that we were going to our holy waterpark, but to go to Splashdown, you had to drive past it, then exit the freeway and double back a bit. So when the slides came into view, my brother and I were sure. We celebrated loudly.

The driveway into the waterpark is a long, straight road. As we drove down it, we passed a municipal pool. A typical rectangular pool, with diving board and lots of people.

And what poor, sad people they were! They were just two short minutes away from SPLASHDOWN. Did they not know that? Did they just see a pool and go, “Oh, this is it!” Did they settle?! Did they say, “Oh no, this is fine, I don’t need waterslides or JOY.” I pondered this out loud. My father said he couldn’t imagine. Well. Moments later we could.

At the front gate, my father checked his wallet. If this was an old-timey cartoon, I’m sure a fly would have flown out of it. He hadn’t taken into account the cost of the waterpark for the three of us. We trudged back to the car.

Driving back down that long road, we eyeballed the pool. It was considerably cheaper. Though we had originally turned up our noses at its 90-degree angles and lack of fun, twisty shapes… it was water. And we didn’t want to go home empty handed. We turned into the parking lot.

The pool was packed. My brother and I hustled into the water and immediately jumped in. Toot toot from the lifeguard’s whistle. They yelled at us to get out of the pool. Our dad gathered us up and explained it was Adult Swim.

WHAT. “No kids right now.” UGH, WHY DID WE EVEN DO THIS. We expressed our displeasure with our dad. We were a bit bratty, complaining about his lack of planning to have the money to go to Splashdown and now here we were, standing next to a pool we couldn’t even GO IN.

Hours passed. Years. I aged a hundred years. My feet melted off on the sidewalk. I had a full beard. Everything was terrible and I was a skeleton ghost and Adult Swim would never end. Until it did a few minutes later.

We got back in the pool. It was nice and refreshing, though we did our best to still be disappointed because it wasn’t SPLASHDOWN, DAD. He would check in. “You guys doing alright?” “Yeah, dad, but it’s no SPLASHDOWN.” “Do you kids want to play Marco Polo?” “No, I want SLIDES, DAD.” Like I said, a bit bratty.

My dad eyeballed the diving board. “Splashdown doesn’t have a diving board.” This was a moot point to us. It’s not like we were going to use it. I mean, no one was using it. Everyone was IN the pool. Besides, the diving board was approximately A MILLION FEET in the air. It was a death wish.

My dad explained to us he was on the swim team as a kid. None of our schools had a swim team so the concept was foreign to us. A POOL AT SCHOOL? SHUT UP. He was pretty good too. But he hadn’t used a diving board in years.

He climbed out of the pool.

“GOODBYE, DAD. NICE KNOWING YOU.” We called to his back. He climbed up the ladder.

At the top, he looked like an impossibly small speck. We gazed up and soon the others in the pool noticed. There’s a man on the diving board. He’s going to jump. He’s going to do it. “That’s my dad,” we beamed.

He took a run at the end of the diving board. Jumped. Sprung off the end. His arms tucked in around his knees. In perfect form, my dad did a textbook cannonball.

The splash was huge. Half the pool splashed out. Everyone was hit by the spray. My father surfaced and everyone clapped and cheered.

My dad smiled and we congratulated him. He had forgotten how much fun it was. He jumped out. He was going again.

The excitement of the cannonball encouraged others. A small line formed. Other kids and adults took turns taking the long climb up and diving off the ledge. But no one was doing a cannonball like my dad.

My dad went up a half dozen times that day. People were happy and I remember him having the biggest smile on his face. We stayed until the sun was setting.

The next day, once the smiles had faded, my father’s lack of planning reared it’s ugly head once more. You see, he had completely forgotten to bring any sunscreen with him. We were all beet red and I was laid out on the bathroom floor with the worst sunstroke I’ve ever had. My dad couldn’t even help us. One thing he’d neglected to take into account was how six cannonballs could take a toll on his bad back. He laid in the bed, sunburned and unable to move.

I can remember laying on the ground of that bathroom. I can see the ceiling in my head. Feel the burning heat trapped in my skin. Aloe couldn’t touch it. I just needed to be still.

“Worth it.” I can remember telling my mother. “It was worth it.”

Wild, Wild Horses

It’s my birthday this weekend so you guys get a sad birthday story from my youth. HERE WE GO. YEAH!

 

“We’re going horseback riding for your birthday, ” my mother announced, out of nowhere.

“What?”

“Horseback riding! Won’t that be fun! You need to invite some friends.”

I didn’t know what to make of it. I was solidly in my pre-teen years at this point and I’d never been into horses. I never lived out the cliche of “I want a pony for my birthday” or anything like that. I’d never even seen a horse in person. (In horse-son?)  It’s not that I was anti-horse… I guess I was horse neutral?

This proposed birthday activity was out of left field and I had no idea why it had been decided upon for said activity.

“Mom, I have no friends to invite. Plus we’re going to be outside, it’s hot, and won’t it be expensive?”

“We’ll figure it out.”

I remember thinking we didn’t have to do this. I tried to get her to reconsider my birthday plans. But it was decided. The horses were booked and after a fight with my mother about her non-refundable deposit, we were on our way!

We drove out of town to a remote, pine tree covered setting. I was meeting up with seven of my closest gal pals!!! …actually, it was one or two girls I was on okay terms with. The rest were girls I invited as a means to try to score social points with them. This was happening, so why not. Maybe I’d get a friend out of this! It’s an opportunity! Be cool, Lauren. Stay positive!

The ride instructor gathered us all around and asked who the birthday girl was. I sheepishly raised my hand and there followed one of the most half-hearted renditions of “Happy Birthday To You” on record. But I ate it up. It was nice to be celebrated. It was My Day.

We mounted our horses, which was no small feat for a short lady such as myself. My horse was white with a dirty white and grey mane. She had grey spots here and there. I can’t recall the horse’s name, so I’ll give you a smattering to pick from. Just choose your favorite! There’s LUCKY, CLOVER, PICNIC, RICKI LAKE, PENCIL LEAD, and HORSE.

Got one? Awesome.

Our ride instructor informed us that we were heading out on a mostly straight trail. A half hour down and a half hour back. No need to really worry about getting the horses to speed up or using the reins. The instructor would lead us out, everyone would fall in line, and we’d be good. If anything, we could click our tongue and give the horse a bit of a nudge in the side with our heels. But they were trained and this would be an easy ride.

“Have fun!”my mother called.

“You’re not coming?”

“Oh, I don’t want to ride a horse.”

Off we went down the dusty trail. The popular girls paired off ahead and behind me, so I was left mid-pack. They chatted and laughed as we set out.

HORSE decided he was on a slow saunter. I mean, I’m sure horses aren’t meant to blaze these trails… but surely a solid mosey would do. Maybe a trot? Maybe? HORSE’s lag quickly became an issue.

“Can’t you hurry up? God, this is going to take forever.”

“Sorry, he’s kind of doing his thing.”

Some of the girls passed me. I panicked and called to the instructor.

“My horse doesn’t seem to want to go.”

“Oh, HORSE is just fine. Just give him a little nudge!”

I squeezed the beast and clicked my tongue, making a sort of clip-clop noise.

Nothing.

“Come on, dude.” I tried again. Nothing.

On the third attempt, HORSE overreacted a bit. With a loud exhale, he picked up and accelerated much, much faster than I expected. I shrieked and hung on to the nub on the front of the saddle for dear life. The instructor at this point had already moved on ahead and was wholly unaware that this gigantic animal had decided to teach me a lesson.

My freak out seemed to do the trick. He slowed down. I was on the verge of tears, but at least we were back to a slow saunter. Whatever you say, boss.

At the halfway point, the instructor held up the group to get us all back together again. I was ready for this trip to be over, so when they asked if we wanted to stop for a minute, I insisted we press on.

We started out again. This time around, though, HORSE’s speed would not be the issue.

“POOP. Lauren’s horse is POOPING.”

It was true. Now, if you’ve ever been around horses, you’ll know that this just sort of happens sometimes. Horses walk around and just go to the bathroom as they stand there. They’re an animal. It’s just something the body does. It would have been fine if it was a one-time thing. But it kept going.

Cries from the girls as we pressed on, laughing about my horse’s gastrointestinal state, complaining about riding behind me. Soon, I was passed by everyone in the party. Just me and my gassy horse, bringing up the rear.

We trudged back to camp. I arrived nearly 20 minutes later.

“What happened, Lauren?” my mom asked.  I burst into tears. Luckily the other girls had left, so I could have my emotional collapse without further damaging my reputation.

The adventure ended with my mother fighting with the owner who wanted to charge us for the extra time spent riding. Once my mom explained that the horse wouldn’t stop pooping, they dropped it. He was probably slow because he didn’t feel well.

They offered for us to come back another day and ride for free, but I elected to skip it. I didn’t want anything to do with horses ever again.

Busman’s Holiday.

I’m going to be honest. I’ve been slacking. First off, it’s insanely hot. I haven’t been cooking, cleaning, or existing above ground for the last few weeks. My husband reminded me that people have been built to live without air conditioning and have done so for hundreds of years. My reply: “I come from largely inbred European stock. We’re not built to deal with anything.”

Not only that but my writing really dropped off a cliff after I finished at the newspaper. I think part of the problem is the newspaper turned my writing from fun into work. A ton of work. Any non-newspaper writing was a busman’s holiday. If you’re not familiar, it’s an old phrase that basically means when you’re doing something similar to your vocation for fun. Being at work on your day off. Like if a ferris wheel operator went to an amusement park. Like if a bus driver took a vacation trip on a bus. Like if a lady cranking out articles for her college newspaper went back to working on her yet to be started novel. (GOOD JOB, LAUREN.)

I mean, I know writing is work, but at the paper it was kind of a slog. I did get to write a lot of things I enjoyed, truth. My editors supported me and I was fortunate to work with a talented staff. The joy just drained away at some point.

I suppose writing is always a busman’s holiday. You’re balancing the work part of writing with the fun part. But I needed to re-establish balance. I was burned out.

I thought back to something a friend asked me a few years ago. Where did I create? Truth was I wrote everywhere. Mostly at my desk, next to my bills and my paperwork and my yawwwwn. Sometimes in the living room. The car. Dinners alone. My office at work. My other creative pursuits, like painting, had already stagnated.

I didn’t have a comfortable spot of my own. He said that was surprising and maybe I’d get more out of it if I could nest a little and make my own space.

It was good enough for the likes of Roald Dahl and Michael Pollan, so why not me?

We have a breezeway with big glass windows that enclose a room that sits between my house and garage. It is mine now. It has greenery and lights and an a/c unit (!) and a big drafting table and I love it.

The only thing it’s missing is a big cozy chair for me to be able to crash in, read, and take naps. I have the chair but the space is small… we’ll see. I also want to fill it with artwork from my friends. It seems that’s a staple of famous creative types, too. 

I need to respect this space and use it. I need to create again. I’ve decided all my blog posts from now on will be written here. I’m going to use the Bob Ross series on Netflix and paint again.

I’m not planning on the next great American novel. But I’m planning to tell stories again. I like telling you stories, reader.

Reviews of Self Help Books I’ve Owned For Several Years But Have Still Never Read

Meditation for Dummies, 2nd Edition by Stephan Bodian

There you were at a Borders going out of business sale. You hadn’t been ripped to shreds. You still had your bonus audio CD included. I bought you with Acrylic Painting for Dummies and got a $10 rebate. Someday I will read you and listen to your CD and find true balance and renewed sense of peace. Or you’ll go out into next year’s garage sale. Good job, Lauren!

 

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here by Paula Begoun

I think I already have all the tools to have the Best Skin of My Life: mild depression and a vitamin D deficiency that makes me really sleepy all the time! But I suppose that someday I’ll crack the cover of your book and probably find out I’ve been doing skin care all wrong. I’ll wake up looking like a forgotten block of cheese in the bottom of a fridge drawer. But I’ll never know I’m wrong if I never open the book! Good job, Lauren!

 

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

First I joined your email list in hopes that I could become motivated with my writing. You talked, much like Stephen King does in On Writing, about just committing to it. Like a job. Like your life depends on it. But here your book sits, untouched and unread. Like 90% of your emails from your mailing list, left to languish in my inbox like a friend you just can’t seem to make lunch plans with. “Ugh, gosh, shoot… Sorry, I just found out I’m working remotely… from Guam. Forever. And they banned lunch there. And reading.” I do like the semi-crumpled paper airplane on the front. I can identify with it. Good job, Lauren?

 

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

A successful artist friend recommended this book to me and I rushed out to buy it, insisting to myself I would read it! I would be motivated! Anything was possible!

Yup. Good job, Lauren.

 

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky

My therapist recommended you. You have zebras on the cover, pictures inside too… one picture has a monkey on it. A monkey! Who can say no to a cute little monkey and a book that discusses the management of stress related diseases THAT YOU KNOW YOU SUFFER FROM in an updated and revised edition of this self help classic?!

I can, apparently. GOOD JOB, LAUREN.

A goddamn time capsule.

“NICK. NICK. WE LIVE IN THE FUTURE.”

“What?”

“They’re opening a goddamn time capsule, Nick.”

“What?”

“A time capsule that was buried 50 years ago is being unearthed.”

I stared at my husband, my eyes wide, my arms gesticulating wildly at my computer monitor. The Facebook event read:

It’s Westland’s 50th Birthday. The City of Westland invites you to attend the Homecoming Celebration at City Hall … Opening Ceremony with a Time Capsule Opening is scheduled for 11 a.m. and Open House is from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.’

Was I a resident of Westland? No. Did I care anyway? Absolutely. This was a time capsule! A goddamn time capsule. This meant so many things! First, this meant, as previously stated, that we lived in the future. Sure, it wasn’t the flying car/robot dog/teleportation future we’d be promised when we were small… But look at the bigger picture! We live in an era where time capsules are coming of age.

When I was a kid, I felt like we were putting a time capsule in the ground every other week. The grounds of the Pacific Northwest are littered with them. Like breweries in Michigan. Walk a block and a half, look down at your feet, see the hopes and dreams of the youth of tomorrow signified by a placard.

What you don’t see is the same youths agonizing over the time capsule. Here, we’ve buried these things for future generations… but then that’s it. No reveal. Just waiting. YEARS of waiting. It’s really, really anticlimactic when you’re seven.

But now one was capsule was being unearthed. The wait was over. The future was now.

A headstone reads: City of Westland Time Capsule, Entombed May 16, 1967 A.D., To Be Opened May 16, 2016 A.D.

As I pulled into the parking lot of Westland City Hall, Alice Cooper’s “Only My Heart Talkin’” (not a good song, in my opinion) popped on my stereo… Somewhat serendipitously, it turns out, as Alice Cooper is a celebrated former Westland resident. Go figure.

I found my way to the general assembly room that held the capsule. Unearthed some time earlier, it sat on a table flanked by white gloves and golden crowbars. I pondered where you picked up golden crowbars. Perhaps the same place you get large ribbon cutting scissors? Golden shovels and hard hats? Giant novelty checks? I would have to ask my questions later. Things were getting started.

Since this was also the town’s 50th anniversary, there was a certain amount of ceremony involved in the proceedings. The presenting of the colors, the thanking of sponsors and past administrations… There was also celebration. Dancing and music and stories. It was actually really nice. You could really get a feel for the community.

But also the feeling that everyone just wanted things to hurry up so we could get to the goddamn time capsule.

The time capsule's container looks like a concrete casket with orange straps attached to help lift off the lid. White glove and golden crowbars sit next to it on a table.

The golden crowbars and white gloves were donned for some photo ops. Soft chuckles from the crowd as they were set to side and replaced by a burly dude and a hammer.

Once the lid was lifted off the casket-like case (donated by a local mortuary, actually) we saw that the capsule itself was a large tube. It was cracked open in short order by the hammer. Two representatives of the local historical society, a husband and wife, were tasked with sifting through the contents (and to their credit were ALMOST as excited as I was.) As they began to pull out objects wrapped in black plastic, I felt myself inch to the front of my seat.

There was infinite possibility in those bags. I couldn’t google, nor ask anyone what was inside. For me these objects were a mystery that I couldn’t solve myself. How long has it been since I felt that way? Sometimes books and movies have twists, but this was going to be a true surprise. I had no idea what to expect.

The first item emerged: A reel of audio tape. The room laughed. Good luck finding a player!

Several other bags revealed their contents. Model cars (Chryslers and Fords, naturally), a Gumby toy (77 cents), a box of Kleenex (2 for 25 cents!), and a Bic pen. Some medical supplies and a Sears catalog. My favorite item was the can of Stroh’s beer that had been sealed away, though not well enough since it was leaking.

There were lots of pictures and paperwork. So much paperwork! Too much for them to review at the time.

And then we were done.

A collection of items from the capsule including an old box of Kleenex, a Gumby dancing toy, a pack of Kent cigarettes, model cars, and a phone book.

People started to get up to leave but I sat for a minute. I don’t know what I expected but I knew this wasn’t quite it. The contents were a disappointment to me. I had pens and I had Kleenex. Here, valuable space in this tube had been taken up by modern comforts. I guess I expected more dramatic items? A demo album by an early Alice Cooper, perhaps?

It was no disrespect to the original time capsule folks. How could they have known that aside from inflation, things were more or less the same? A time capsule represents what is important to your community and in Westland that’s changed very little.

As the days have passed, I’ve gotten to be more okay with this. Sure, it was not the time capsule experience Lauren, Age 7 imagined… But it signified what was important to them and spoke to some core, human truths.

Truth: Paperwork is the same. (Heck, for all I know, that paperwork had a note from the City Clerk circa 1967 saying, “Please fill this form out in triplicate for the 50 year utilities renewal and fill out a form 78-B to pay for the replacement of the capsule. Have a swell day!”)

Truth: Pretty much everyone can appreciate the value of a nice, local beer.

Truth: People are basically the same too. While technology and communication have evolved, we still like toys. We still have hometown pride. We still need to wipe our noses.

And that’s actually really comforting to me. Who knows, in 50 years I might have that flying, teleporting, robot dog. But I’ll probably still have a city hall where I can meet people and connect with my community and fill out forms in triplicate. Honestly, that would be just fine with me.

How is Everyone Not Crippled by Imposter Syndrome?

This week’s been rough on the writing front. I keep vacillating between enjoying writing and wanting to abandon the craft forever. I have a writing conference tomorrow and last week had my critique group, which always seems to drum up feelings of fakery on my part. There’s something about being included among these legit, talented adults that make me want to thank them for their kindness and bolt for the door. But I think the big source of this unpleasant feeling came a little over a month ago.

I won second place for Student Journalist of the Year in the Michigan Community College Press Association awards. They look at everything you’ve done and a letter sent from the newspaper faculty. The biggest honor in my eyes is that I was picked because my peers voted me in. And then I won second place at the actual thing.

I was quick to point out to my husband that this meant I was the second best community college student journalist in the state of Michigan. It diminishes it somehow while still being true. Makes it feel like not as big of a deal. He laughed at me, which is the appropriate response.

I believe this has been the source of most of the trouble.

I walked out of the ceremony that day with a brief feeling of elation and surprise… that was quickly replaced with a lingering, “Now what?”

Now what. What will you do with this momentum? What’s next? You’re done with your year at the paper, your days as second best community college student journalist in the state of Michigan are over almost as quickly as they started. So what’s next?

And the truth is I didn’t know.  Other than feeling like a fraud because they awarded someone who is not a journalist a journalism award.

The other day I was introduced as a writer in casual conversation. I wanted to throw up my palms and say, “Woah woah woah lets not just start throwing words around.” But my friend was quick to point out that I was a published writer. Which, yeah, okay, is true. I guess. And I’ve been paid for my writing. Also true.

It’s hard to accurately explain it. It’s like my default mode is, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll just show myself out.” This is true for friendships, my career, and this writing side hustle of mine. It’s almost like the more I try to legitimize myself as a writer, the more the imposter syndrome rebels.

Surely you’ve heard of imposter syndrome. It’s when your brain rejects all feelings and notions that you belong somewhere or deserve nice things. That even the status quo is undeserved. It instead replaces them with a parrot that screeches, “BRAWK! You’re a fake! Everyone will find out soon enough and you’ll be left with nothing! BRAWK! All of your hard work is meaningless when it isn’t adequate! BRAWK!” It’s that. On repeat. On a loud speaker.

I’ve been trying to drown it out. Remind the bird that, okay, so I’m not going to be on News Bus 7 delivering headlines. I’m no restaurant critic eating the finest of salmon foam with a lemon pesto gastrique. But I like this thing I’ve been doing. I’ve liked it since I was a kid. And I should be able to be imperfect at that something… especially if I enjoy it.

But before I can give myself permission to be human, I need to be dragged through the imposter syndrome with that obnoxious bird first.

“I’m a big dumb bird!”

“Yes, you are.”

“But I’m right.” It whispers. “Brawk.”

I wish I could be comfortable with the idea that I’m getting better at this. That I’m okay.

But it’s so hard to drown out that goddamn squawking.

The Bus Hustle

The year was 1994. I was in third grade.

I had just started going to a new school. New neighborhood. New life! I had a chance to start over and boy, I was going to seize that chance in my tiny little sticky fists, because GOOD GOD I needed it.

You see, I was never a popular kid. In my previous school, social advancement opportunities were sparse. I was never invited for team sports. Birthday invitations were non-existent. I lived a block away from the school so there wasn’t even the chance of sitting down and making a new friend on the school bus. I was doomed to stagnate. My personal brand of “quirky but a bit of a crybaby” wasn’t a winner.

But all this was going to change.

My new school was further away from home and thus required a school bus ride. 15 minutes. 15 minutes to roll out PHASE ONE: HEARTS AND MINDS.

I tried desperately to make new friends by sitting in any ol’ seat. But I quickly learned that the bus had a specific social dynamic.

The front of the bus: goody-two-shoe types, so eager to arrive at school with their smiling faces and pigtails. This often is where the pretty, popular girls sat, clinging to their seatmate to ensure no new and totally harmless stranger in town could score a seat.

Back of the bus: Generally where the boys sat, all rough and tumble, with their spitting and their yelling of the word “PENIS” loudly because it is not a swear, but generally pretty inappropriate to throw around in public.

This left mid-bus. The misfit and drifter kids sat here. I usually ended up in the emergency exit row, since the driver knew I was too timid to ever mess with the door or any of its latches. Phase one had failed.

My solitude in the exit seat gave me time to reflect and plan PHASE TWO: LEVERAGE AND INCENTIVISE.

What do kids like? Candy. What do I know best? Candy.

In the 90s, fruity, waxy taffy Airheads were where it was at. Caramel Apple Pops probably resulted in a great many dental visits, but we still braved it for the deliciousness of that lollipop. There were tiny juice cartons filled with fruity bubble gum that would lose its flavor in five minutes, but you’d shotgun that whole thing anyway. Warheads were so sour you thought your tongue would never recover. So many wonderful candies, usually available at Albertson’s for about 10 cents.

My plan was simple. I might have been young, but I knew that supply and demand was a capitalism… thing. And while a school bus wasn’t a candy store… it could be.

I went to Albertsons and stocked up on all my 10 cent favorites. I would take advantage of the whole “trapped on a bus” situation and sell my candy for 25 cents. Brilliant. The kids would love me and I’d make a profit. Just brilliant. PHASE TWO was looking great.

That first day I opened up shop I sauntered right to the back of the bus. I knew my demographic. The boys were sure to have cash, as they’d never had a “stupid sack lunch”. And boys loved candy.

“What are you doing back here?”

“I’d like to sell you some candy.”

Eyed with suspicion, the boys looked at my wares before offering up quarters and dollars left and right. PHASE TWO was working! We laughed, I made money! Everything was coming up Lauren! I had a good thing going. The next few days marched on like a montage from a tinier, dorkier version of Wall Street, with all of my cash and prizes going into a coveted Hello Kitty drawstring bag.

Monday, the next week, the tides changed. I boarded the school bus with my candies, ready to make some sales and maybe cement these budding friendships when – shock – I failed to remember the other constant in capitalism: competition.

My brother, specifically.

“Hey man, this is my turf.”

“But we don’t want your candy.”

“What – why?”

“He’s selling it for a dime.”

HURK. Undercut. By my own brother.

And almost as soon as it had begun, PHASE TWO quickly dissolved into PHASE THREE: SADLY EAT CANDY ALONE AT RECESS.

I later asked my brother why he did it. Why sell the candy at cost to run me out of the bus candy business?

His reply? “Just to mess with you. I wanted to stop you.”

 

Ah. Well. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Ask Me Where I’m a Local

A coworker referred to me as a “Southern belle” today. It’s kind of funny to think about, as I’m not really the debutante-in-a-froo-froo-dress type. I suppose I can see it. She’s been in meetings with me where I’m generally pretty demure. My default mode is, “Could you, please? Thank you.” (Probably to a fault.) The last time we spoke, I did use the expression, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” “Y’all” is still a regular part of my vocabulary.

But, you see, I’m not really from Texas. Sure, I lived there for ten very formative years but I’m from Washington State. Well. That’s where I grew up. If you asked where I was born as a means of asking where I’m from, that’s somewhere else entirely. It’s really a misnomer to say I’m from Detroit. And we’ve discussed how I’m from the Internet.

When people ask where I’m from, I have a clunky story. And on top of it, I’ve got this identity that is very hodge podge:

“How do you know the words to ‘Rapper’s Delight’?”

“Did you just use Yiddish? Are you Jewish?” (Not Jewish, no Jewish relatives, just picked it up from my mom who got it from who knows where.)

“You are the oldest young person I know.”

There’s no easy way to talk about who I am.

Sometimes I think back to the bio I wrote for a piece for this comedy blog:

Lauren Church loves to laugh. She enjoys writing but isn’t sure what she’s doing with her life. This is surely the midlife crisis that high cholesterol has promised her. She blogs every Friday at itscasualfriday.com.

At no point do I say where I’m from. Because I can’t pack that into a short couple sentences. I still think it does a good job of describing me (and it makes me laugh).

When I do talk about where I’m from, and stumble all over it, people have a natural question. “Why?” Like I said – no easy way to talk about all this. That’s why I liked this Ted Talk by Taiye Selasi.

To summarize: so many of us have a journey that takes us beyond a single place. Our life experiences are a mosaic and these places where we’ve lived have imprinted on us cultures and customs that cannot be summed up by saying where we’re from. Often it is better to view ourselves as ‘multi-local’.

I love this idea. I know, it’s easier for people to ask where you’re from. They can put you in a category, know what to make of you, what to expect… I’m all for managing expectations! But the reality is that people are way, way more complicated than that. Selasi’s talk concludes by saying that asking where you’re from versus asking where you’re a local gets to the heart of your intentions. If you really want to know someone and get an idea of what makes them who they are, you’re better off asking where they’re a local.

I mean, I’ll take the stereotype that I’m a Southern belle. I’m sure it’s easier to put me in that box and as stereotypes go, it’s pretty cute. But a better way to think about my identity is subscribing to Selasi’s method. My name is Lauren and I am a local of Detroit, Houston, and Spokane. It still may bring up the “why” and maybe I’ll answer that. But it’s better than backtracking and fumbling through these things that don’t quite describe about who I am. And I understand not everyone knows or cares. But we should. We’re all people with a unique path and story. We just need to learn how to tell it.

Great Date Ideas For Married People

Having trouble feeling connected to that special someone you’ve entered into a loving, binding, legal relationship with? Wanting to mix up your routine? Here are some great date ideas that are sure to be fun for you and your honey bun!

 

Watch A Bad Movie Together

Put on a film that will make you feel better about yourself! Fall asleep halfway through and wake up at the end and talk about how awful that thing was. The shared experience of that terrible trauma will only bring you closer together.

 

Putting Away Laundry

Let’s be honest, neither of you have done it. The piles just sit and languish. Treat yourself to a fifteen minute conversation while you fold underwear and pair socks.

 

Sleep In

I wish this was a sexy thing, but it’s all about being asleep and not talking to anyone.

 

Grocery Store Shopping

Everyone has to eat. Everyone needs to bathe themselves. Share in this activity you must do to be a functioning member of adult society!

 

Attend Someone’s Wedding

Enjoy this excellent take on Date Night by sitting next to someone you’ve never met and trying to make small talk with them while giving your spouse pleading glances and trying to blink “can we please go after the cake” in morse code.

 

A Romantic Weekend Away

This is the same thing as ‘Sleep In’ but you do it in a hotel located within an hour of the place you live on a Tuesday night because you have a Groupon.

 

Cemetery Plot Shopping

Too far?