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Not Old Enough

I turned 45 last Friday.

 

Funny thing just now—my fingers went mysteriously rogue and plunked in 24 the first time ‘round.

 

Strange.

 

It’s not a marker birthday or anything. It’s not like 21 or 40, but it is half way to 90 and I’ll admit that’s been slightly mind-boggling for me. Is that even a possibility? Can you be slightly mind-boggled or is the very word itself a full-on admission of a complete and utter flabbergast?

 

Technically, it’s middle-aged. I’m at mid-point. I’ve officially crossed the line between what was and what will be. This half versus that half. That is, assuming I make it to 90. There’s always a chance I may not. In which case, I am more than half way through my life. How in the world did I get here?

 

And, what happens now?

 

I can remember stretching out on the sun-warmed carpet in my family room sixteen years ago and promising myself I’d publish a book by the time I turned 30. (Who hasn’t promised themselves that? I can hear you asking) I was 29 then. I didn’t make it. But in the sixteen years since, I’ve raised a family, worked and written a book, albeit terrible and unpublishable, it is a book nonetheless.

 

Well, I’ve had a week to unboggle and now that my head is clear, I’ve come to a place where I realize I’m not only content with my age, but overjoyed to arrive at it. This year has taught me that. I am the fortunate one. I got here. I did make it. My goals are still on the table. I get the chance to keep going. I’m lucky to wake with hope beside me. I can continue my journey with possibility.

 

I get to live.

 

And, of course, make my own laundry soap. Because I hear that’s what 45 year-olds do…

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Two years ago today…

As all good things must come to an end, I thought life with Rowan would go on forever. No, you’re not confused. You needn’t read that sentence again. It’ll still say the same thing.

You see, I’ve been known to remark once or thrice that she really must be the World’s Worst Dog. I haven’t hidden my rants or rages. My sputterings and spews have been no secret. I have openly complained and cried in frustration. I’ve fallen and forgiven for all to see. I’ve been a martyr at best.

You understand, right? I mean, she filled my life with insane and unnatural amounts of hair and stained my carpets to the brink of despair. She chewed up precious belongings and sabotaged our prized Wisteria. Her incessant howls cost us neighbors and got her ixnayed from our camping roster. She dragged garbage out over the floors and snatched lavish steaks off the barbie. Walks were harrowing horrors as she pulled and strained with all her might. She vanished when unleashed and ignored our frantic pleas for her return. Yes, without a doubt, she was the world’s worst dog.

But this week, she lay at my feet, panting and whimpering, immobilized and pained. Helpless.

And all I could remember were her ears flapping in the wind, her saucer eyes and her soppy, sweet demeanor. As my family spread out to sleep on the couches and the floor because she could no longer make the trip up to our rooms, I thought of the way she once guarded our house and made us feel safe. While we set our alarm for her 3am meds, I envisioned the way her legs splayed out to the sides as she scrambled to meet us each time we came through the door. While we hand-fed her a homemade turkey and quinoa mix with little sips of water, I wished for the once annoying click of her nails on the wooden floor. And as we changed out the cool packs soothing her collapsing neck, I swore I heard all the laughter she’d brought into our home over the last seven and a half years.

This week, she could do none of that. She simply lay, gasping, blinking, scared and scarred and I realized what I must’ve known all along. She wasn’t the world’s worst dog. She’d be my family’s best memory.

Rowan aka: Ro, Rowey, Rosa and The Ro Show January 23, 2006 ~ August 22, 2013

Rowan aka: Ro, Rowey, Rosa and The Ro Show January 23, 2006 ~ August 22, 2013

Note: Rowan was taken from us by an inoperable case of Intervertebral Disc Disease

Hayley Mills

Hayley Mills

 

I was almost a Heidi. However, some distant cousin, thrice removed, whom I haven’t seen since I was six and was not actually related to at the end of the day anyway, was born mere weeks before me and snagged the name first.

 

Who’da thunk?

 

So my mother figured calling me after her favorite teen actress was a much better idea and I ended up a Hayley instead. And because we are of that befuddled British bunch, that name was never used. I have been called by my middle name my entire life. Yes, right from the get-go. A name my parents thought they’d made up. My dad’s name with an a on the end, Alana. (Rhymes with Savannah, never to be confused with banana) And really, there was not one other Alana to be found in my early years; I’ll give them that. In fact, I didn’t meet another Alana until I was fourteen, which in child years, is an entire lifetime.

 

Not to offend all the Heidi’s of the world—it’s a lovely name—but I’m glad I’m not one of them. A name not only states who you are, it shapes who you become and I am who I am because I had to repeat my name several times when meeting someone new, because I had to enunciate it slowly and clearly over and over—painful for a shy young girl, and because I was made fun of by kids who feared all things new and foreign. I’ve evolved and strengthened a certain way because I wasn’t one of the five Lisa’s in the class, just as the Lisa’s are who they are, in part, because they’ve had to vie for their individual identity at every turn.

 

Branding someone is a hefty task. One loaded with potential and possibility. Obviously, we’re given our names at birth, sometimes even before, and rarely do we get to pick them. In combination with many things throughout life, we are kneaded with the experiences and interactions we have because of our names.

 

This is why they often bring me to a halt. I’ll be plodding along; engrossed in creating an opening scene, and…urrrrch…I need a name. It sometimes stops me for hours. I have even been known to write short stories in such a way that I don’t need to name anybody. Not a single character. Sometimes it’s a copout; sometimes it just works well with the tone of what I’m writing.

 

So you can imagine I had an agonizing time creating the name for my blog. Looking back on my “brainstorm list” now is embarrassing. At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to write about—ahem, we don’t need to note that not much has changed—so picking a name for it was, needless to say, challenging. I’m a Make-up Artist by trade and beauty blogs are extremely popular, but I figured out early on that I didn’t really want to start off writing about beauty, or, be pigeon-holed to just that one topic at the very least. In the end, Hazy Shades of Me was born from a combination of my indecisiveness, much play on the metaphorical and cosmetic connotations of shades and shadows, my desire to be as uncommitted to one subject as I possibly could and, of course, my long-lost first name.

 

Maybe you pick names that have a meaning? To you? Or to your character? Or your subject or story? Perhaps your storyline determines your decisions? Do you decide fate before their birth or after? Maybe they tell you who they are, or do they mold to the names you chose for them? Have you ever changed a subject’s name mid-way through?

 

By some miracle, I have never, ever, had one pang of regret for the decisions I’ve made in naming things that cannot be changed—my children, my pets or my blog. Someone clearly has my back in that department, for which I am eternally grateful.

 

As a writer, I know there are many different answers to the questions I’m asking and that they will even vary coming from the same person, depending on which story or topic they’re writing or referencing.

 

I’m curious. How do you name the important things in your world?

This To That

This piece is part of the NYC Flash Fiction 2015 writing challenge I’ve entered. We were given our group assignment, genre, setting/location and an item at the stroke of midnight and then had 48 hours to write a 1000 word story inclusive of this criteria. My criteria turned out to be Romantic Comedy, a recording studio and a Cactus. This is what I came up with: (*warning – profanity)

 

This To That

I smell it as soon as I walk in—creepy incense rolling down the dim halls, bouncing off the photo-filled walls, air punching at my already aching head.

 

“What the fuck?” I reel from the stench that seems to be seeping quickly into my skin and making me contemplate hurling into the big standing plant pot by the door.

 

“Yeah, sorry dude. The chick in 4C is burning some voodoo shit or somethin’. She’s real hot though.” Phil looks at me across the counter guiltily. “I was gonna tell her to stop, but she came out right then and caught me snubbing my butt, so I kept my mouth shut.”

 

My own cigarette dangles from my dry lips and I prop my elbows up, waiting for him to pass me the book. My leather jacket creaks as I move to lower my shades and my hand trembles when I reach for the pen to sign in.

 

“One too many?” Phil asks with a scoff, mostly ‘cause he already knows the answer.

 

“Maybe. Maybe ten too many. I can’t really remember.”

 

“Well, you’re here now. If you’re up for it, you can head on in. 4B is yours.”

 

“Coffee made? The boys’ll be here any minute and I need a brew bad.”

 

“Made it myself.” Phil says all proud. “Miss Spritz there ain’t drinkin’ it though. Brought in her own Jasmine tea or some kinda shit.”

 

I make my way down the hall, grab a coffee and stop at 4B, as close to 4C as you can get. Even 4D is across the way. But 4B and 4C share a glass wall, so as soon as I walk in, a stronger version of the incense I’d smelled outside the room smacks me in the face. I slump into one of the chairs, swivel to face the control board and kick my feet up onto the ledge, taking a deep sip of scalding coffee.

 

The panel comes to life and the big green button flashes.

 

“How’s the java?” Phil was always scrounging for praise, usually while being a smartass. “Made sure it was extra hot.” His voice crackles through the speaker. “A sore tongue’ll stop ya thinkin’ ‘bout yer head.”

 

I lean forward and press the green button down as my boots hit the floor with a thud. “It stinks in here.”

 

“That sucks, Mickey, but I ain’t riskin’ it. She tells Joe I was smokin’ at the front desk and he’ll have my ass. Let her burn her shit. She’s only booked for a few hours.”

 

The button goes red.

 

I close my eyes and swirl around to face the window. 4B looks insane. I slip my aviators down my nose to make sure I’m not seeing things. This chick has actually changed out the regular spotlights for purple and orange bulbs. Amidst hues of eggplant and cantaloupe, I can see plumes of fine smoke drifting through the air. She’s brought in her own rugs and they’re scattered everywhere. Her back is to me. She’s at the mic, moving her arms in time with sounds I can’t hear.

 

Is that a Cactus? I swear that wasn’t

 

Green button. “Dudes aren’t here yet, Mickey. You want me to sit in for a bit?”

 

“Yeah, man. I gotta lay down this track. I don’t know how much longer I can stick.”

 

Phil appears instantly, always eager to be in on things.

 

“Phone’s set to voicemail an’ I’m all yours, sunshine.” His widely spaced teeth create something of a Cheshire grin as all six foot four of his lanky physique folds through the doorway.

 

“I guess I’m up.” I force myself out of the chair, each cell of my body angry at the disturbance.

 

As I open the glass door of the sound booth, she turns as if sensing me. All at once, her chestnut curls, saucer eyes and doll-like skin are caught in shades of maroon and burnt gold and, she’s breathtaking.

 

No, literally, I can’t breathe.

 

She gives a cute little wave. And then again, beckoning me over.

 

Oh God, I think. I am so not up for this.

 

“Hey!” She glows as I come cautiously through the door. “I hope you don’t mind.” She opens her arms and twirls slowly around the room. “It’s not too distracting?”

 

“I, uh, no. No, not at all.” A cold sweat comes over me and with horror, I realize I might actually hurl.

 

“You do not look well.” She notices and I feel sincere concern. “You want to sit?” Gesturing to a plush purple chair I’ve never seen before, she takes my arm and moves me.

 

Again, literally.

 

Before I know it, she has my jacket and boots off and my feet up on some marshmallow-looking thing.

 

“I’m Daphne. Daphne Dane.” She offers her hand but I’m too mesmerized by the flecks of sky in her lavender eyes and the thick black lashes that hit the tops of her cheeks every time she looks down.

 

“Daph,” a voice over the speaker, “I need your okay for that last one.”

 

“Oh, just play it. I’m listening.” She’s curled some kind of beanbag around my neck and is on her way over to the Cactus when a voice unlike anything I’ve ever heard fills the studio. A cappella.

 

She’s humming along, eyes fluttering, clearly taking mental note as she begins to lightly burrow a Cactus needle between my brows.

 

“Umm, hey! What…”

 

“You just never know when these will come in handy,” she explains. “To relieve your headache?”

 

Phil gapes through the window in awe.

 

She skips to her mic. “Josh, another cup of that Ginger tea if you would be so kind?” Heading back to me, “A bit of acupuncture and a touch of Ginger will have you right as rain.”

 

This isn’t how I foresaw my morning, but I cannot believe my luck. Melting into the chair, I let her work her magic while trying to figure where to take her for lunch.

 

I’m thinking organic.

Cactus-006

Like Julie Powell to Julia Child, I am going to ride the coattails of Donna Tartt off into the wordy, smooth posting of a flighty blog entry. After all, when you can’t write yourself, writing about what someone else has written is, well, material. She’ll understand—we’re BFF’s after all.

 

Truth be told, there was no decision on my part to join a Book Club. I was dragged by the neck, warned there would be much wine-drinking and minimal book-talking and that I’d just have to suffer through because I simply had less than no choice in the matter.

 

And I’ll admit that I didn’t decline their multiple demands, err, invitations too loudly, for any more than six months, because, to be honest, I was in need of a reminder that reading is not a device designed to torture me for my failure to produce anything of substance.

 

Or, just anything.

 

At all.

 

And because I’d forgotten that reading can be done for the simple fact that it brings immense pleasure. Because I’d lost sight of the light it spreads and the inspirational notion that anything, whether observing or creating a world of fiction, is possible.

 

Infinite anythings.

 

How could I have forgotten?

 

Not to fret. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt brought it all back.

 

I don’t review books. I have trouble being that presumptuous. But I do like to share things I learn from, things that entice me to reach for more, things that make me entertain possibility—things that make me forget how envious I am, long enough to merely bask in their bewitchment. This book was that. Bound by incredibly long sentences and crisp with incomplete fragments, it proves that just because Word underlines it in red, you don’t have to correct it. Full of undisguised emotion and weighty character, words I had to look up and succinct sentiment. I nearly phoned Ms. Tartt to ask if she has ever actually been a thirteen-year-old boy at any point in her lifetime.

 

It was a truly gratifying read, but my reasons may differ from yours. I was seeking to be both grounded and lifted. Shaken and stirred. Simultaneously tamed and teased. Oh, and I needed something to not discuss at Book Club.

 

It took Donna Tartt eleven years to write The Goldfinch. I’ve got at least that left in me, wouldn’t you say?

Donna Tartt in her Paris hotel room, promoting her book , The Goldfinch (Photo courtesy of theguardian.com)

Donna Tartt in a Paris hotel room, promoting her book, The Goldfinch (Photo courtesy of theguardian.com)

 

 

 

 

You’ll notice this is not a morning post.

 

I am currently trying to drink a cup of boiled water mixed with half a lemon, a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger and a dash of Cayenne. This is supposed to cleanse my system, protect me against bacteria and boost my metabolism. It’s also supposed to taste so refreshingly healthy that I will soon crave this in replace of my morning coffee. While the first three points may happen, I can promise you that the fourth will not. I have in fact not had my morning coffee yet today, but only because I’ve been procrastinating about making and drinking this concoction since I woke up six hours ago.

Eush

Eush

It’s really tough going. I’m not even sure I can describe the taste, but being the stalwart scribe I tell myself I am, I will try.

 

It’s a bit like falling into a hot, dirty pond and trying desperately to get out before any of the sour, stagnant water makes its way into your mouth. But of course you can’t escape it in time and end up with a big gulp singeing your tongue and raking its way roughly down your gullet. And as it does, you feel like you might cease to exist if you have to experience that sickly, searing taste even just one more time.

 

Amazingly, there are people that live like this on a daily basis, people who don’t even think of living any other way, people who ingest only organic, (and I mean that in the rootiest sense of the word) made-from-scratch, sustenance. There are actually people who forgo a morning brew for this kind of torture. It boggles the mind. Well, my mind anyway. I am simply not wired that way. Oh, I believe in healthy choices, but sometimes I don’t…make them, that is. I like moderation. I like fruit…dipped in chocolate. I like my attainable to be sustainable. I like food that doesn’t hurt.

 

A lot.

 

Well, while writing this post has helped me get to the bottom of this pond, I mean mug, and I’m grateful, I do have to leave you. Now that my metabolism is buzzing and the bacteria in my body has most definitely been thwarted, it’s time to go rinse out this nastiness because my coffee pot is finally beeping.

I’m not clinging to dear life by a fraying thread or anything, but I’m pretty sick right now. I have something akin to “Man Flu” and it turns out that that long mythicized illness can actually be a realistic kick in the teeth. I can’t sleep, my tongue is as hard (and I swear the same size) as a brick, my eyes won’t stop watering, my head, hammering and my sinuses think I bought stock in Kleenex tissues complete with lotion and aloe. Lotion and aloe. Really? But hey, my nose is appreciative.

 

So, upon the suggestion of my doting husband, I decided to take it easy yesterday. Get some rest, put my feet up and live the life of a well and truly undomesticated goddess.

 

My morning began at 7, when I got up (notice I didn’t say woke up) to make the kid’s lunches, but because my illness had started skulking its way in the previous night, there were dinner dishes and dirty counters to blast through before I could begin washing and chopping the veggies for my daughter’s daily (!) salad and hauling out the ingredients for my son’s Ciabatta bun, meat, cheese, lettuce, pickles, mustard, mayo Deluxe. (We didn’t have any tomatoes, darn it)

 

Lunches made and order restored, I drove the aforementioned kids to school. Yes, they are high maintenance. Definitely think twice before creating one. And while making the trek to the school, I noticed that that indicator that always seems to plummet much too quickly was below the red line and decided to drive on ahead to the gas station. Because we live ten minutes from the border, we go down to the States to get our gas. It saves us $20 to $25 a tank. When I got back home, I threw in a load of laundry because, why not, and ran the vacuum over the front rug because I’m insane its perpetual coating of pine needles and dirt balls messes with my brain.

 

Later, as he pulled out of our sunny driveway to head in for a hard day’s work, my hubby cheerily waved and told me to add Rice Krispies to the grocery list. You know, in case I was going grocery shopping later…because…you know, why wouldn’t I?

 

I went grocery shopping.

 

This means that by 10am, I had ‘cooked’, cleaned, scrubbed, laundered, taxi’d, shopped and traveled abroad.

 

I think tomorrow, I’ll just go to work.

IMG_8225

 

 

 

 

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