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Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

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 can shape 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 had to vie for 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 need not note that not much has changed there—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 want to start off writing about beauty, or, be pigeon-holed to just that one topic at the very least. 
So 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 meaning for you? Or for your character? Or your subject or story? Perhaps your storyline determines your decisions? 
Do you decide on the fate of your subjects 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?

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No surprise, but I’m a daydreamer. It’s not an easy thing to hide. My school reports often cited that I tended to wander off without actually leaving the classroom, and seeing as I’m confessing it all, I may as well admit that I probably still wander off about a hundred and sixteen times a day.

 

But there was a period of time in my life where I was able to focus. You see I used to be this really good housewife. I was even, in fact, once accused of mirroring the likes of June Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver. I admit I didn’t see the resemblance back then, but I will say that I took my daily chores very seriously. They were always completed in a timely, organized fashion and no cupboard or corner was ever left unturned. The kids smelled good, unmentionables were folded, floors gleamed, toilet rolls were always miraculously placed on the holder and there was something fairly edible to eat at all the right times. The least of which is not that I somehow managed to perform all of these things with barely an eyelash bat.

 

So, why not now?

 

Now everything is Everest, its trails littered with obstacles and me, always looking to tunnel through the middle rather than suffering the long way ‘round. You know the drill. The perfectionist holds out—Oh, if I just give this a swipe and that a wipe I can hold off another week until I can do it…properly. These are the tall tales I tell myself. They are the bungees that bounce me up just before hitting the hard bottom of that long dark rabbit hole—It looks fine. It’ll do for now. No one notices anyway. But I notice. And I’m held in a state of unrest.

 

So, why don’t I just buck up?

 

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. And, it’s starting to sink in. There are just too many balls to buck. I can’t focus because I don’t know what my focus is anymore. Now that the kids are older, my plate is piled even higher with outside responsibilities that go beyond vacuuming and changing the bed sheets. Back when I was a young housewife with three small children, my role wasn’t in question. It was simply to serve and protect. And although serving and protecting will always be my heart’s work, the kids are vying for independence and with me on the precipice of 45, it seems only natural that I start to question whether there might be more to the meaning of my existence.

 

So back to my daydream. I was imagining what it would be like to step off the front stoop every morning to follow my fiction. To have nothing on my mind for the first eight hours of every day but fostering what it is I want to achieve. To write without distraction. To have someone running my family and my home, allowing me to work on making a success of myself. To be one of the chosen few who gets to concentrate solely on my goals and aspirations.

 

But daydreams aren’t always realistic. To truly triumph I must achieve whatever it is I want while living the life I’ve already made.

 

That’s victory. That’s genuine success.

 

That’s being a mom.

june-cleaver

 

 

 

 

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Part One, Helena, is HERE

Part Two, Gladys, is HERE

“We got a new girl today.” My blade presses through the taught, red skin. “She’s a bit tragic, I think.”

“And what makes you think that?” Rick asks, sipping his wine, eyes widening over the rim of the glass.

“Well, I’m not sure, really. She just seems so…independent.”

“And independent translates to tragic for you?” His eyes get even bigger.

“Okay, maybe she’s not tragic. Maybe her situation is tragic.”

“So, what’s her situation, exactly?”

Juice mists my fingers as the red pepper splits into halves and falls open on the cutting board.

“God, I don’t really know that either, I guess. Her mother didn’t tell us much.”

“Well, I think one of us is drunk, Steph cuz I don’t get it.” He grins and pours himself another.

Stephanie contemplates the thinning hair and mangle of bracelets, the easy blush and her eagerness to get the usually dreaded classroom antics out of the way.

“Honestly, there isn’t an issue to speak of. I just felt this, I dunno, gap between her and her mother. And Helena, well, she’s…ugh, okay I’m going back to my first thing – tragic.”

“But, is she hip?” Rick asks, swirling his wine.

I begin to answer before I realize he’s taking a stab, slipping in a joke about his once favorite band.

“Ha ha. You’re just hilarious.”

Rick circles the granite island and wraps his arms around her from behind.

“Steph, like you said, this Helena is…what was it? Independent? I’m pretty sure she’d want for you to enjoy your Friday night. Not to be thinking about her. I can guarantee she’s not thinking about you right now. Besides, your man here is gettin’ All Tore Up over the smell of that sauce.” He squeezes her a little tighter.

She pretends not to notice his second ‘Hip’ reference

Helena lies on the floor of her room, the pile of hair growing beside her, and wonders if Mrs. Statton will notice she’s added two new bracelets to her wrist.

Halved Red Pepper

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I rarely sleep through the night. I wake up every few hours and despite my mother living just two blocks away, she’s hardly willing to run over and lull me back to sleep. (She’ll say she is.)

This insomnia of sorts has been weaving its way in gently and gingerly over the past long while. So stealthily in fact, that when a friend asked me if I ever have trouble sleeping, my answer was this; “Oh definitely not! I sleep like a…Oh wait – yes actually, come to think of it, I do have trouble sleeping nowadays.”

Why I wake is hard to say. Too hot? Too cold? A pea under the mattress? Thirsty? Perhaps I’m an unknowing fan of unyielding yawns and lead-laden lids? Or maybe it’s simply the obvious – that cover-stealing, log-sawing, sheet-thrashing fellow sleeping next to me. Nah, that couldn’t be it. A merciful muddlement to those exacerbating eccentrics was gratefully gifted upon me years ago.

Enter, stage left. We’ve face-lifted a dining room, overhauled a bathroom, and are currently primping a parlor. (Okay, I don’t often use the word parlor, but I’ve already said room twice, so to divert the dreary, in this instance it shall be a parlor.)

And all that is very exciting indeed. I love change. I am forever painting a room, swapping the drapes or rearranging furniture on a continuous quest for fresh and foreign.

But lately…

Change means more than glossy paint and a snazzy new rug. Change is bringing growth and ungrasping, independence and fear, wings and unwrapping, freedom and tears.

And, it’s freaky.

Anders New Driver

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My bag drops in a frayed heap by the front door and I walk the squeaky floorboards leading to the kitchen, my boots leaving sloppy prints on the dusty wood.  A pot caked in hardened cheese and bits of pasta, a crumb-covered counter and two crimson stained bottles in the sink show me that today, like most days, time has stood still inside my house.

“Sheila?” I call just loud enough to be able to say I did.

Pulling back a clump of dark wet hair from between my lips, I throw bread down on top of the stale crumbs and snag the peanut butter out of the cupboard.  Searching the fridge for jam, I realize there’s no point, nothing will have changed since this morning.  I smear extra peanut butter on one of the slices before whacking the two together.  We don’t cut crusts in this house.  I try to live by “waste not, want not” but seem to come up short most of the time.

I sit at the cluttered table as Eden leaps up ready to share, sending several unopened bills to the floor.  “No, no, babe.  I can’t.”  The cat rubs her shoddy fur against my sharp wrist bone and meows a feeble yowl.  “Sorry, Shitty Kitty,” I lean in to kiss her forehead, “I’m just too hungry to share today.”

“Shitty Kitty” had become my name for Eden when, years ago, Sheila had stumbled over her.  Angry, she’d booted the cat half way across the room and shrilled; “Get out ya goddamn piece of shit!”  Slurring; “Go da hell,” She’d slumped onto the couch and rubbed at her barely bashed shin.  When Sheila had finally crashed, the cat limped out from under a chair.  I’d picked her up and stroking her chin I’d whispered; “Yeah, but you’re my goddamn shitty kitty.”

I leave the plate for Eden to lick, grab my satchel and head upstairs.  As always, I try not to look as I pass her door but I catch a glimpse of Sheila’s bare leg wilting off the side of the bed.  Her narrow calve is as anemic as the paint on her walls.  It’s stark and still against her dark sheets, a hostage.

I open the door to my own murky room.  It groans at being forced to appear welcoming.  The light from the floor lamp muted with a grey silk scarf, casts moon glow off its dark surroundings.

Smearing the sooty liquid over my walls and ceiling way back when had been calming and the smell of fresh paint had blessed me with a welcome high.  Wiping out the lavender of younger years had felt like I was burying something I never wanted to see again and now the fragrant incense that I smoldered nightly to battle the wafts of Sheila’s stale alcohol smothered even that indulgence.

She never comes in here.  Not any more.  My room affords me numbness but for her, it is the opposite.  For Sheila, it threatens to wrench out the ugly from her booze-blunted brain.  The hurt and the pain toy with the corners of her waxy, Crayola-red lips.  Nightmares of the past curl their wicked fingers at her brow and flicker in her vacant eyes.  No, Sheila never comes close to my door unless she is fraught for something only I can give or get.

I drop onto the bed, bootlaces dangling, tongues drooping; my satchel landing beside me.  Smatterings of Eden’s hair cover my black leggings.  My long, white shirt is damp and my ribs push at the thin cotton.

Sheila is moving now, her bare feet making slow slapping sounds on the worn wood.  She stops at her end of the hall and I wait, ribs rising and falling.

“Liv? You home?”  Her voice is grave and marred by the icepick of a headache that comes with a hangover.  “Olivia! Are, you, home?”

“I called, Ma.  You didn’t answer.  What more d’ya want?”

Sheila is exquisite.  Her auburn hair drips over her pale shoulders and down her back in thick, wispy tendrils; her skin, porcelain without a lick of paint despite her self-sabotage attempts over the past five years.

“Throw the frozen Lasagna in, would’ya?”

We have frozen lasagna three nights a week.  That’s how long one tray of it lasts the two of us.  Sheila eats like a bird.

“Yeah, Ma.  I’ll get to it in a minute.”  I pause, knowing what’s coming next.

“And Liv?  Grab me the Advil and a glass of water.”

“Sure, Ma.  Whatever you want.”

Through the crack in the doorway I see her frail wrist and delicate fingers drifting back into lock-up.

I heave myself up from the bed, grab a dry shirt and throw my hair up in a bun as I saunter back downstairs.

Oven at 450, I open the freezer and take the Lasagna out, leaving it empty.  There will be a shiny new foil tray when Sheila gives me enough money to buy another one next week.

I fill a glass from the tap and bring the ever-present Advil back up the stairs.

Men loved Sheila.  Boyfriends used to come and go.  She was the kind of woman they could look after, protect.  She made them feel strong, in control.  She made them…powerful.

As I reach her door, the pills rattle in my hand and just like that, I’m ten again, carrying medicine to her, back when she only needed it once in a blue moon.  Her sheets were light then and matched my dress.  Lavender was her favorite color and I’d chosen it that morning to please her.  He was lying beside her, both of them face down and much like today, her leg had hung over the side.  I remember admiring her flawless skin and dainty, painted toenails.  White particles hovered all around them making my kid mind dream of snow.  Sun lit them both like gossamer angels.  Even at ten, I’d understood the irony.

Leaving the bottle and the water on her nightstand, I’d quietly backed out of the room not wanting to wake them.

I hadn’t realized my Mother had woken that morning, just as I was disappearing.  She’d lifted her head, about to call out to me, maybe even to ask for a cuddle, but instead, her bleary eyes had met with the three dark red splotches I hadn’t known I’d dripped onto her floor.  It wasn’t until I’d gone to the bathroom later that day that I’d discovered the blood and frantically scrubbed at the stains, ashamed she might see.

There were no more men after that and no more Mommy; just Sheila, me and the bottles; bottles of booze, bottles of pills, bottles of feelings we’d never discussed.  She blames herself.  I know that.  I blame him.  He knows that.

I’d tried my best to smother the lavender for her.  Turns out it’s a hardy vine.  I’d killed the color, but destruction had flourished and I will always blame myself.  No one knows that.

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