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I may embarrass myself here, but I’ll go out on a limb and assume I am not the only person in the world who didn’t know squat everything the moment I was set free to roam this earth.

I didn’t know there might not always be enough, that things aren’t always as they seem, that there isn’t a constant pillow, doors won’t always be open, love might mean pain and that you shouldn’t wear a white bra under a white shirt. C’mon, ‘fess up…there was a time when you didn’t know that either.

Christina Aguilera "Back to Basics" After Party at Marquee in New York City

But, as we grow older, we learn.

We discover what it is to be vulnerable, to fight and dig, to be damaged and repaired, to feel lost and found, to eat and be hungry. Things aren’t perfect and life isn’t a plate of endless French fries.

And, we’re learning that it’s okay.

Trials and tribulations are normal. Mistakes and misfits are par for the course. The Smarties aren’t all gonna be pink and we’re not always going to be in the front row .

Slip-ups, snafus and side streets are how we mature and thank goodness for that, or we might be in the picture alongside Christina. Tragic.

But man, that girl can blow.

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You’ve been scrubbing your teeth, swilling the swash and downing the whiskey and water in an attempt to rid the aftertaste of my defeat from the back of your tongue. Like me, one click and you were sunk; immersed in the deep of my abyss.

Swamped.

I feel guilt. I gave no warning. I offered no escape.

Today is a new day. I found a ladder. Grab a rung. We’ll raise a glass at the top.

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I’m afraid I’ve become a sayer rather than a doer. This wasn’t my intent. In fact, it was just the opposite. This blog was, in my eyes, a way for me to write on a regular basis; a stovetop on which to whip up tidy, complete meals and instant satisfaction. But in my forage for nourishment, it may have instead become a fridge full of leftovers; empty calories and unfulfilled dreams. Ironically, a little like my own cooking.

Speaking of mad kitchen skills, my husband and I had a lovely meal the other night, me nowhere near the oven. We cozied up in a wonderful, local restaurant. I sat taking in a view of the glistening ocean, a few glasses of robust vino and, a little later, an off the cuff comment; “You write too much about writing. You should, you know, write a novel (again) or something,” he said.

I won’t lie; it didn’t come as a shock. I have, in the very back crevices of my noggin’, felt a pang of recognition regarding this every time I start a new post.

He’s right, I do write about writing…a lot, but I feel I’m moving forward, albeit in baby steps. Perhaps this is how I’m finding my way, a cookbook of sorts.

I enjoy writing these posts immensely. I take great pleasure in imagining that I’m honing my skill and revving my engine. I cherish the fact that I may be of some slight inspiration to others who are attempting to follow their hearts and fulfill their dreams. I feel like I’m doing something about the direction in which I want my life to head. All good things, yes? Yes.

He’d second-guessed himself the moment it was out; worried he’d smothered the struggling fire of hope only just beginning to catch in my heart.

But I can only see the positive in my husband’s observation. A touch of lighter fluid always fuels a flame.

It means my subject matter has been clear, my blog has a theme (who knew),  and (this is the best part) he’s actually been reading my posts. Hope burns eternal.

Fiery Vintage Stove

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For the second, maybe third time today, I have started out to do one thing and ended up with something else entirely, so this post comes from a divine intervention of sorts.

Spontaneity hasn’t always been in my deck, but I’m learning to let the cards bend as they may, finding tranquility in the unwritten parts of life.

When I was, oh I don’t know, let’s say around seven years old, I was in the garden with a friend.

“Eat it,” she said.  “You’ll see.  It tastes just like honey!”

Being the people pleaser I still am was, I obliged.  I took the soft, pale pink bloom, held it up to the sun and watched as the petals became transparent; their delicate veins lying vivid against the anemic backdrop.

With only a hint of hesitation, I pushed the flower into my mouth and pressed my lips down, crushing it.

“It’s called Honeysuckle,” she jeered. “You’re supposed to suck on it!”

I stood there letting the bud seep a surprisingly sour juice over my tingling tongue.  A feeling set in; one I wasn’t familiar with at the time, but over the years I’ve come to know it as ‘the bad feeling.’  You know the one…the one where your kerosene-soaked heart plunges deep into the pit of your stomach and taunts it with brewing sparks.

“Why aren’t you eating one?” I asked her, hoping I didn’t already know the answer.

“Oh, I had one earlier,” she lied. “You just didn’t see me.”

My heart sunk lower, teasing the pit with its looming flick switch…

I turned and ran through the ivy-covered archway, back to where the adults were lounging on their lawn chairs, enjoying the cloudless afternoon.

Curling up on my *Aunt’s lap, I tucked my head into her shoulder.

“I ate a Honeysuckle,” I barely whispered into her neck.

“Oh dear,” she breathed, her frost-laden lips oddly emitting the scent of the Vaseline-like perfume she rubbed on her wrists every morning.  “Honeysuckle is poisonous!” – the p in poisonous came off sounding like a dry smoke ring being puffed into the air.

Poisonous.  My heart burst, then plummeted down to my toes, incinerating that nasty, old pit, lighting it in a hot, blue blaze.

“Yeah, I know,” I sighed…and lied, unable to say more.

Every night after that, for what seemed like months on end, I sobbed myself to sleep, waiting for the toxic nectar to still my clamoring pulse, praying I’d wake up in the morning, begging that the Honeysuckle wouldn’t be the end of me.

It never occurred to me that my Aunt didn’t seem all that concerned or that she hadn’t told my mother.  Had I been older and wiser, I would’ve realized these were signs that I probably wasn’t in grave danger.

I don’t know why I kept it inside…why I didn’t want to burden anyone…why I felt it was such a deep, dark secret.  I don’t know why my Aunt thought it was okay to tell a seven year old that something she ate was poisonous and leave it at that, but in the end, I drew the conclusion that *there weren’t a lot of steadfast truths in life, merely perceptions and perceptions can be our adversaries, atrophies and afflictions or we can add water, turn them into pulp and use them to write about on.

Thanks for the title, Britney

disclaimers:

*this is an adaptation of a quote by Gustave Flaubert

*in the world of fiction i have many ‘aunts’ – don’t worry; you’re not this one  (see post thirty-five, #3)

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There was a time I was sure my holidays would include twenty-first floor, plush hotel rooms, clinking crystal glasses, Saks and Tiffany’s, white linen, azure water and yachts off the coast.

But, since being a slick, single city chick wasn’t in my cards, another kind of holiday eased into my delusions; cookouts, critters, damp pillows, stained beach chairs and smoke riddled hair.

It’s another world, this roughing it. Electricity vanished, flush toilets a distant memory, don’t even mention showers and forget about cell service. Packing up almost everything you own to go live in the forest could be considered a tad indicative of on setting insanity. It could be perceived as an adventure one could do without. Weak at heart beware. Material girls stay home. Roughing it is, no doubt, rough.

Everything we do here is ten times the work it is at home; the dishes are dirtier after we wash them, we’ve been wearing the same shorts for a week, our legs are coated in a semi-permanent sheath of sunscreen and dust.

But then voices echo in the trees, laughter ascends into the balloon blue sky, fast-moving spokes whir past, an icy beer meets a fiery sunset and that one marshmallow gets toasted to crisp yet gooey perfection.

Friends have bonded, kids have played, the old-fashioned get dirty kinda play, the stars have aligned symbolically and physically and there’s nothing but time to appreciate every little gratuity.

It is another world; a tousled, less embellished one than we’re used to, but one that allows a cider while flipping flapjacks, an all day read and a whole lot of not being perfect and I’ll be honest, it fills you up, like a red Solo cup…so join the party.

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I am overly emotional today, so I feel that a post with an Adele reference is in order.

Don’t worry – we can still get along. I’m sure we can agree that the woman’s got pipes, regardless of how we may feel about her personally.

So, yes…Adele. She’s got pipes, but it doesn’t end there. The girl’s got guts. She has the backbone it takes to write down her deepest, most private thoughts and feelings and send them off into the universe for all to enjoy…and judge. Oh, guts I tell you.

I’ve probably listened to way too much of her and don’t lie; you have too. We’ve all done the Rolling in the Deep” sixty times in one day, thing. I won’t force concordance; I will simply overlook any denial. (If I weren’t such a professional, I might insert a winky face here with a dash of LOL)

I stumbled upon a snippet of her ‘live in concert’ last night as I was heading to the dinner table. Of course I’ve seen it before, but last night, this particular part stopped me in my tracks.

There she was, black dress, sixties hair, lashed to the extreme, (lovely, but extreme) the spotlight drifting down in waves, powdering her with stardust. Either that, or she was about to be hoovered up into the mother ship, although in Adele’s case, I’m pretty sure it was stardust.

However, I digress. This particular part halted me. She was singing Someone Like You. Yes, a torrid, gut-wrenching song at the best of times, but towards the end, she stopped and let the crowd sing. Now, I know she wrote this song out of heartache and heartbreak, so melancholy is an expected response, however, considering she’s sung it a bazillion times, one can only assume the wound has, at the very least, scabbed over.

No…her emotion seemed to stem from the crowd singing her song; more specifically, the crowd knowing her words. Words she probably wrote on soggy, tear-stained scraps at 3am, alone in the bleak of her grotty little flat, while she contemplated quietly slitting her wrists. But there it was; her painful story dripping off the tongues of strangers, emblazoned onto their hearts and now suspended in the rafters of the Royal Albert Hall.

(It all goes down here. Stick around till the end for the good stuff)

And, it made me think. It would be extraordinary to have people know us that way or, at least that version of us. We can give them all or we can give them bits, we can give them realities or we can give them adaptations. Whatever we’re serving, they want it. They wanna sit at our table and watch us eat, stand there as we have coffee in our robes and brush our teeth. They want to walk in our shoes. They crave our pain and desire our joy. It’s ours to give. We can hand it over. It just takes an iron gut.

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Dewy flush adorned our cheeks as we shuffled and bumped in the tiny powder room, vying for equal mirror time. I didn’t stand a chance of course, being at least a foot shorter than her, but that didn’t stop me from trying.

Dead or Alive shrieked from the boom box sitting on the rug just outside the open door while combs, sprays, powders, shadows and glosses riddled the small bathroom countertop, trembling to the beat.

Frankly, I didn’t need the mirror. I’d long since learned to mirrorlessly cake color and coif hair on buses, in backseats and down early morning deserted school hallways. Although it stemmed from faithlessness in my natural façade, it was a skill I was quite proud of and one that had come in handy many a time.

Eventually relenting, I sat on the toilet lid, hot vapors from the curling iron tickling my ear. I paused, cementing the curl with a spritz of Final Net as the spool of chocolate strands melted with heat. Shaking the iron gently, I loosened it from the hair, leaving behind a perfect sausage roll. Prepping the next coil, I tilted my chin to watch Jess, a master at her own ritual.

She used a fascinating, self-taught technique to apply liner, slicking it on as thick as she could get it, creating inch wide circles around her top and bottom lids. Taking a damp Q-tip, she’d swipe away the excess, leaving perfectly precise strokes behind to cocoon her diminutive eyes.

You spin me right round, baby, right round…” Jess’ tall, thin frame bobbed to the music; her off-key crooning making me laugh.

All I know is that to me, you look like you’re lots of fun. Open up your lovin’ arms. Watch out, here I come!” Although I couldn’t resist joining in, I barely finished the last line, giggles overtaking me.

“Quit showing off!” She complained, half serious. “You’re always stealing my songs.”

They’re hardly your songs”, I chided. “Unless you’re holding out on me and jammin’ with Pete Burns behind my back.”

“Do you think he’ll be there?” She asked, squinting at the mirror., fluffing her naturally curly, blonde hair.

Pete Burns? I highly doubt it.” I teased. “Slightly rich taste for a good old North Side dance.”

“You know who I mean!” Her eyes widened, peeps of white speckling the muddy liner.  Do you think he’ll show?”

“Dunno…don’t care.” I sighed, hoping I sounded undoubtable.

The gymnasium was magically murky apart from the twinkle lights. They nodded and dipped as we walked under the archway and into the dance. The ceiling was flocked with pearly white balloons, their inflated heads and dangling strings reminding me of spermatozoa, compliments of elementary Sex-Ed.

Jess!” I turned to smirk about the balloons, but she was gone, running after Sharon who looked ready to burst with the latest breaking news on the dance shenanigans.

I started to follow her, but froze. I could see him, his head swinging back and forth in front of the stage. That was it…I was stuck, breathless.

I watched him through the packs of gyrating teens, spinning girl after girl.

Jess kept coming back, begging me to dance to all our favorites. My legs twitched, knowing I should be out there having fun, but my eyes were cemented, unable to break away from his chestnut hair and tanned skin.

Come on,” Jess whined. “The next song is the last and it’ll be a slow one. At least dance this one with me!”

I looked at her sparkly, ever-happy face and felt terrible. I’d been a total let down; the opposite of a best friend.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” I surrendered. “I don’t know why I’m wasting our night anyway.” Irritated with myself, I chiseled my stare, breaking it free.

Managing to conceal my dismay, I smiled and laughed as we bounced to Quiet Riot, my mind fleeting to the sperm-like balloons once again, as Jess hollered out; “Cum on feel the noise…”

As the song ended, Bradley Buchner hurried over to scoop her for the last number of the night.

“I’ll wait for you outside, Jess. It’s too hot in here,” I turned, but her nose was nuzzled in the crook of Bradley’s neck and Mrs. H was already hurrying over to separate them as I slunk away.

I punched the metal bar on the orange wooden door and my heart plunged into the pit of my stomach when I saw him sitting there on the steps. I wanted to slither back into the school, but he’d already heard me coming.

“Hey,” he said. “Where did you come from?”

“The gym. It was, uh, too hot in there. I needed some air.”

“You were in the gym?” he looked surprised.

“Um, yeah.” I said, looking down at my satin dress and patent pumps. Where did he think I’d been?

“Oh, yeah, I guess,” he looked away quickly. “It’s just that I was kind of keeping an eye out for you. I didn’t see you once.”

I had been hiding in the shadows, watching him all night, sabotaging my own chances of dancing with the boy I’d had a crush on for two years.

We sat silent on the cool concrete steps. Bonnie Tyler‘s echoey billows escaping the gym, drifting through the empty halls and out the door I’d left unguarded. Stars faintly twinkling behind the drooping, greyish white haze in the sky; the scene a ghost of the party inside.

I’d hidden; afraid he’d hurt me, but in the end, I’d taken care of that myself.

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