Part of Your World

As a kid, I did musicals. My first taste was a scene in a showcase at theatre summer camp. I had a brief solo and after that, I was sure I had What It Takes. I saw the community theatre in town was casting for the musical “Heidi” and I wanted in. For hours, I nervously practised the only song I knew I could sing for the audition, “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid.

See, the problem was I could sing but I couldn’t read music. I wasn’t a musician. I picked up on things as I listened to them, which is a neat skill to have but it makes it hard to, you know, learn new songs without hearing them. I listened to that part of The Little Mermaid VHS tape over and over until I knew every word and note.

I remember calling the theatre, anxious because I didn’t have the required sheet music for my musical audition. “What are you singing?” “…Part of Your World. From The Little Mermaid?” The manager chuckled and I was assured it would be fine, just as long as I let the pianist know. Maybe he was a big Disney fan?

The audition was packed. A lot of girls had come. 60, probably. Some vied for the lead role, but I was just content to show up and hope for the best. I sat and watched as they called each girl up one by one. They stood under a spotlight, announced who they were and what song they were singing, and then they sang part of the tune.

One girl, fairly early into the process, got up and announced who she was and her song, but I didn’t clue in until she started singing some familiar words.

“Look at this stuff? Isn’t it neat?”

No.

“Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?”

No no no!

I reeled. She was singing my song! It was the version of wearing the same outfit as someone else and I was doing it at My Big Audition! When the girl finished, I hurried up to an adult in the wings.

“That’s my song like the same song I picked the same song oh no I don’t have another song and that’s my song and-”

I was told it was okay. This happened sometimes. Not to worry, I just needed to sit down, things were fine. They shooed me away.

I sat. But a few girls later… the song started again. “You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty.”

Girl after girl proceeded to sing that goddamn song. Enough that I lost track.

My name was called. I begrudgingly sauntered to the stage. Head down, already defeated. I stood in the hot light, raised up my head, and said, “Hello, my name is Lauren and I am singing… Part of Your World.” You could sense a collective groan.

I rushed the lyrics as I sang. Part of being nervous, I guess. Once I got to the “I want moooooore” lyric, the piano cut off. “Thank you!” the director shouted and it was on to the next girl.

I bawled in the car, convinced being cut off was a sign I’d screwed it up and I wouldn’t end up with a part.

After a few days of moping, I got a call from the director offering me a spot in the chorus. I was shocked and elated.

Since then, I’ve heard lots of stories of first auditions being a Disney song. I’ve heard “Part of Your World” a few times, too. What a relief. It wasn’t a faux pas, it was a right of passage! You start in theatre, you tread the boards, you sing some Disney songs. It’s just what you do.

And it’s kind of the perfect song, too, right? You want to be where the people are. You want to see them, see them dancing. You so desperately want to be apart of that world.

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I quit subscription boxes.

A pile of cardboard shipping boxes with the text 'it's not you it's me'.

My first subscription box was at Quarterly. Quarterly gets really neat people and businesses to curate boxes of cool stuff every quarter. You buy in at a set rate (like $50 per box) and select your curator. Their box gets shipped to you and the items within are totally secret to you until they arrive.

It’s a great concept. I jumped in when one of my favorite blogs, Unclutterer, was getting in on the action. It was exciting! Like Christmas! A box with secret items on my door step. And I liked the idea that these were selected by someone whose opinion I valued. The objects within would be worth my money.

But soon the novelty wore off. I had $50 of items to help me organize my home, but they weren’t all things that I would be able to use. Or return. I canceled before my next box came.

This is the problem with these subscription services. If you’re not familiar, they’re showing up hot and heavy on the internet lately. It’s a model very similar to Quarterly (described above), but with different products. There’s clothing, makeup, accessories, toys, pet treats, meals… all kinds of things. Selected for you by the experts at these companies and shipped to your home.

The companies are nice enough. My experience with Stitch Fix and Dia & Co., two services that evaluate your style and send you five clothing items to try, were great from a customer service standpoint. (And each of them shipped me items made in America when I asked if they could!) The folks at Blue Apron were kind, too, when I canceled after my first week. The food wasn’t too shabby, either.

But the clothes are never quite right. One or two items will be okay… or I’d have to settle on one article of clothing so not to lose my styling fee. (The fee is $20 you pay initially, which gets credited to the price of an item you keep.) Blue Apron had meals that weren’t really my style (or had nuts in them, but those are easy enough to omit or avoid) but I tried them anyway.

Here’s my core issue. It’s something that can’t be erased by the fuzzy happy feeling that is “I’m getting a special package in the mail with a surprise inside!” Nor free shipping. Or coupon codes.

These companies employ experts to handpick a package for me. But… they’re not experts on me. How could they be? I am one lady out of thousands. The allure of asking an expert to pick something especially for me is tempting but it’s a hard fantasy to deliver on.

I’m sure there are people out there who are like, “Yes! Nailed it!” and end up with five new clothing items in their closet. I’m sure there are people who thrive in the structure a food delivery service gives them. Who are excited about new makeup. New toys. New stuff. But I can’t seem to find a groove. Usually it’s a hit and miss.

I think I’ll keep to being my own personal shopper. I know what I like to wear and what I can eat. If I see something in a store, I can make a decision about it without having it shipped to my house first. There are a lot of wonderful things on the internet that I’ve enjoyed doing  and buying – this just isn’t one of them.

As for all the subscription services I’ve listed above, just remember – It’s not you. It’s me. Thanks for trying.

Dear Clorox,

Hello marketing team at Clorox! Saaaaaay. I seem to have disrupted your Streamlined Digital Content Synergization Schedule or whatever with the popularity of my suggestion of Pumpkin Spice Bleach.

This message from your representative would seem to indicate that you think this is a bad idea!

This is a picture of the official Clorox Facebook account saying Pumpkin Spice Bleach isn't real.

 

Woah woah woah. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss what is a golden marketing opportunity. One that I have handed right off to you! For free, I might add!

But you see, this is just the tip of the quickly melting iceberg. There are lots of other marketunities here. (see what I did there) (you love it) (seriously I’ll just take a job in middle management now thank you)

For example! At Easter time, lots of families have cleaning up to do after making a big holiday meal. I’m sure there are spills from their adorable offspring, all hopped up (get it) (again I’m a genius) on chocolate bunnies.

I PRESENT TO YOU…

A container of Peep flavored bleach.

Peep bleach! All the marshmallowy sugarness you love, but none of the staleness and regret over not just buying Cadbury Eggs instead.

See, what I’m suggesting is that you’ve got to focus on other chances to get your product into homes! Might I suggest that the ides of March may have something in store for you?

TA DA.

Luck of the Irish Bleach, with a leprechaun puking a rainbow.

Irish eyes won’t be the only ones smiling over your spotless bathroom! Luck o’ the Irish flavor will be able to knock out a mess from even the most rowdy of St. Patrick’s Day parties. What does it smell like? Rainbows and bleach!

And finally, in the last of these dog days of summer, what better to choose than…

Sweet Tea Clorox.

Served up to consumers in a jug, just like real Sweet Tea. Bring some southern comfort to your floors!

I hope my suggestions have sparked your imagination. You’re welcome. I am available for team building exercises, secret shopping, and market research assistance. I await your phone call.

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.