Friday, December 30, 2011

the babbles; with a side order of salt.

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So here's the thing. I'm sitting here at my kitchen table with a giant bowl of popcorn in my lap with every intention of writing a new post. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to phrase the thing that I want to phrase into any sort of format that would be coherent. There are so many weighted objects floating around in my brain, but none of them are willing to be fully discovered as of yet, so I can only guess as to their whereabouts and contents. Guess I might. Pardon the incoherency.

I guess I've been wondering what the point of being Right is, if the point if being Right is to be right(!). Does a person have more value if they agree with us? Or less if they do not? "Of course not!" you say, "how silly!" But then I ask you this: how many in your closest circle disagree with your core values? Sameness and closeness are not mutually exclusive...are they? Do we trust those that tell us what they really think, or do we trust those that tell us what we want to hear? On the flip side; how gently do we offer our opinion (because it is only that, at the base of it) to those who ask? Or do we even wait for them to ask?

I've also been thinking about wrongness, and who decides it. Surely there are books aplenty that guide us this way and that (some religious, some not). There are millions of people under one umbrella, millions under another, and millions who've claimed no land in the war. I suppose my big question here is this: when did belief in anything (be it a faith system, a cultural norm, a social system) become about the other person's wrongness, and has it always been this way? If we get enough people to salute us to the top of the podium; does that make us more right? Or just closer to the top of the podium?

Then of course, I have wondered about voices. How do we use them, and how do we hear well what the voices of others are saying without our own cloudy heads getting in the way? (are you offended that I called your head 'cloudy'?) Is a voice only as valid as its alignment with popular opinion? Or does a voice have value because it is and it is speaking? What makes popular opinion right, if that is what we call it; is that how we measure our moral code and the brilliance of our speeches? To what do we hold our standards, and to whom to we check ourselves in with?

The pull in culture as of late - as I have seen it - is toward a luminous middle ground; one in which we all agree with the other. I understand this to a certain extent. Those with strong opinions, more money and power, have spent much of history starting wars and killing shamelessly just to prove that they are right (or at least, that they are closer to the top of the podium). Of course we as a people - humans - are weary of the habit. So we make a collective motion in the great court room: if only we could all agree! Then the world would be at peace. So the fight, day in and day out, becomes about making the other person agree, or helping the other person see their wrongness.

But isn't the beauty of humanity that we are all different? That some believe in God and others think it's Hooey! That some hunt and fish for sport while others eat only green things? Some people only pray out loud and in front of other people and some people only pray in their rooms with their mouths shut, and some people pray at specific times of the day in certain rooms of the house, to a different God than their neighbors do. Some people get on hand and knee to tend to their lawns with nail clippers, while others let their lawns grow over and up the sides of the rusty car. Still others don't have homes at all, but wander willingly, living day to day by what they have, not by what they want. Some people think the Bible is literal while others believe it is a beautiful poem. Some people have a different Bible, while others prefer science fiction. Some people think Coke is better than Pepsi. Some are conservative, some are liberal; and some people think they are better than George Bush.

We learned long ago (and unfortunately some are still learning) that skin color and heritage were not dividing lines, but rather, beautiful marks of grace upon humanity. The human rights movement didn't try to make everyone the same; it valued the difference and taught others to do likewise. Martin Luther King Jr didn't kick people out of the room, he walked up to their doorsteps and into their streets and tried for conversation.

The worry as I see it, is that we've lost that humble ability. Our current culture calls for a crack down on difference, instead of a gracious understanding of it. Popular Fights are calling for silence from the other side. Anyone with a different opinion is a total idiot (put nicely) while anyone who agrees is the newest 15-minute hero. I admit it: I am afraid for a culture with no ability to reform or question the new limits (for fear or being kicked out of classrooms, for example).

Be strong enough to silence oppressors, YES, but do not be so weak that you silence opposition.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I have decided what to do in 2012.


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Oh boy.

I just got nervous.

A vision came about: my projects, all “finished” and whatnot, where people can see them; floating around the playground with the big dogs, the winners, the published; with the ones who are the stuff that dreams are made of.

Planning is safe, isn’t it? Dreaming, too. But actualizing the two is something else entirely, because you have to strap them and their realities on and call them things like “done” and “ready” and “this is the best of me; this is all I’ve got.” It means you have to take those web-like constructionisms outside of your head and dangle them in view of the passersby.

Oh my.

Regardless, I am still going to try. I’ve spent this afternoon in a brainstorm; making notes and jotting down specifics; writing lists and drawing empty boxes so I can put checks in them later. There is a little wench in my chest cavity; she dangles on my heart strings all day long and eats Validation for breakfast lunch and dinner. I’ve spent a vast amount of my day shushing her. She giggles in anticipation and refuses to be shushed; she pokes her elbows out and combs lanky hands through unsmoothable hair and watches my every move. She is hungry, after all. She is always hungry.

I suppose it would help if the lines I come from were lines that had silenced the wench. But I know too much of silent artists and repressed expression to know how to quiet her and at this point, I am only guessing. My suppositions imply that I just need to get on with it and not worry so much about the receipt at the other end. Perhaps I create because I feel like it, because I can’t help it, because I need to, and not because I know where me and my little creations will land.
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Monday, December 26, 2011

all the winds and their changing

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found on Pinterest under "wind"

So apparently I have a crush on photographs involving wind. Can't really get enough of them, to be quite frank. Perhaps it's the emotional timing, or the year that's ending and the one that's coming up, or all three. The pictures seem to capture what my insides are hoping for: beautiful, freedom giving change. What a year it's been. Heartache seemed to chase a good number of those in my daily circles throughout the past twelve months; whether it was the death of a loved one or the death of a relationship, a giant leap of faith or an unanticipated fall, 2011 was big for many of us.

I have been thinking a lot about what I would like 2012 to look like, as I'm sure has been the case with many of you. The past few years, for me, have been somewhat restrained, dream-wise. I was distracted and unsettled and hesitant about my ability to withstand failure. I continually tried to pre-plan a lot of the planning for the things I've been wanting to do (if that sounds convoluted; it is). Now though, I have an unmistakable sense of urgency within me to get on with it; partly because it needs to happen, and partly to show 2011 who's boss. To help get the process started, I have already started the processes (!). I've told people about my goals for 2012, even down to the embarassing-if-this-doesnt-pan-out specifics, and I've begun compiling tangible pieces of evidence that I am actually going to do something with my life. If you came to my house right now, for example, you would see my projects. Out. On the table and the living room floor and not in the back of a drawer. My dreams have begun to leak toward the outside of my head. It's quite fascinating to see this all play out.

Related to all of this, of course, is the realization I had today: It is January! Not really of course, but Christmas came so fast after April that January is definitely going to be here soon after December exits from view; and despite my best efforts, I am having a difficult time convincing myself that it's not actually January. I like to think I'm getting a leg up on the competition between me and the steady clock hand by being so ahead of myself. I have paused to see what's coming, after all. I have the blueprints pasted all over the walls; I have the sketches lining the pathway to my bed. I have actual goals. I am actually going to reach them.

Brilliant.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

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I do not have snow
or tradition,
but I have a feeling
that these things
matter less; that 
the heart 
of the season
is still the reason 
we call it 
Christmas.
 
 


May you be warmed by plenty of gravy and hugs,
each in their own way, of course.
~ashley~

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

I will miss you when you go

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as I ponder my sweet little sister & her hubby moving to the other side of the world in 2 very short weeks
(...I will miss you when you go)
love, a.




Dear Time,

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about you and the way you move, and I have to know why it is you move so fast; if you don’t mind my asking. One minute here and one year gone; I am having trouble keeping up. The matter presses closely now as another round of changes begin, marking out their chosen territory for the signposts, cakes and Kleenex boxes that are sure to arrive without delay. I can feel myself searching frantically for breaks, to slow the speeding. Christmas is soon here, like so many Christmases have previously 'soon' been, and the New Year is upon us…but I am quite confident that we just had one of those, too. I feel as if we are duplicating the seasons (and by we, I mean you)…but then I look again at my calendar, and I digress. The year is gone indeed. This Christmas is really this Christmas (not last), and the Year on its way is not old at all; it is, most definitely, new.

Do you know how dizzied we are by your passing? Are you aware of us as you march onward and rush us from morning to night? And do you care that people leave us, receive us, and in the better cases: stay? I wonder if these things register with you, or if there is compassion in the hands of the watch, as we journey through the months that make up the years that make up the wrinkles on our skin (oh, by the way, thank you for the wrinkles). Do you know about the people; do you know that I will miss them? I will miss them when they go.

With care,
Human



Dear Human,

You forget; my marching is just that: a steady and unchanging pace. I have been what I have been since I have been it. You could set your clock by me (…too soon for jokes?). But you, Human, you change. You busy and haste away the hours I give you. Though the hours have much capacity they are better enjoyed (like anything) when you take note of them, when you have them with you. Who, of any of us, likes to be noticed only after departing? I can not give you more than I have, because I have given you much. The rush you feel is the rush you have chosen for yourself. Remember, my march is steady, slow, and unchanging. You might do well to learn to follow my lead. Take note of the hours has you have them, and the people, too. The world will blur less if you do so.

Sincerely,
Time.



Dear Time,

I am still going to miss them when they go.

With sadness,
Human



Dearest Human,

I know.

Faithfully yours,
Time.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

the art of breadmaking

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Well, if Today doesn't call itself productive, then Today gets a swift kick to the larynx. Not only was I super-on-time (read: half an hour early) for my RMT appointment this morning, but I am just finishing up not one, but two bread recipes. The first of my attempts came out of the oven awhile ago, and after some patience on my part, and the distraction of the other bread recipe, I am finally sitting down to sample batch #1; breadly indulgence at its finest.

Batch #1: 8 mini loaves. Specifically: 8 herbs-and-cheese pullapart mini loaves. If that sounds time consuming to make....it is. From start to finish, it took me approximately 3 hours (of course, 2.5 hours of that is "down time", which in my world is Pinterest Time).

So this is pretty much a deviation from my normal blogging habits, and it's likely stemming from the fact that I've been breathing in bread fumes all day long...but I've decided to review the recipes. After all, what good is Google without actual experience? Many people I know are on budgets and make their own bread to save money, or love baking, or like comfort food in the cold of winter - for all of these reasons I am patting myself on the back for the service this must be to you.

Recipe Review #1: Tiny Pull-Apart Breads, from Petite Kitcheness  (follow link for recipe)
This afternoon's sunshine was radiant, and I was filled with soul-joy as I listened to Mozart loudly in my car on the way home from my appointment. Somewhere in the middle of my head-bops and conducting, I was inspired to make bread. When I got home I ran into my house and got all the ingredients out on the counter before I could change my mind.  Then I went to Pinterest, hoping to find a good picture (inevitable), and therefore a good recipe, and stumbled across this beauty:


what my bread would look like if I had a nicer camera...right?


If I've learned anything from the many days I spend perusing Pinterest, it's that real life isn't exactly the same as that website. I hate to bring this up, but I'm sure everyone remembers my cakes. Case in point: perfection is hard. This time, however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my mini loaves not only resemble the original picture, they are edible. Admittedly, I find them too sweet. This bread is loaded with roasted garlic, and the flavor of the garlic somehow turns what you think would be a deep, savory bread to a light, sweet tasting bread. It's throwing me off. But I'm going to eat them anyway, warmed and draped in melting butter.

my final product

I swayed a bit from the original filling recipe, using only a selection of the herbs she did, using what I had on hand, and varying my cheeses too for the same reasons; settling on a mix of parmesan and cheddar. Maybe these variations are why it tastes funny to me. Or, it could be that food made by someone else always tastes better; this theory is usually the strongest, and if you'd like to test it out you can make this recipe and bring some to my house. My tips for when you make it: less herbs (I used almost half the amount specified and the dough was covered), and more cheese. Bread can always use more cheese. The saltiness of the cheese would, in my opinion, balance out the sweetness from the garlic.

me and Man Glass decide if we like this recipe or not.
Final thoughts? This recipe is alright but need some tweaking. At this point, it's not entirely worth the time and effort...maybe I'll revisit this one day and come up with something better. For now, this recipe's gonna drift back into Pinterest's dream world.


Recipe Review #2: Robin's Wheat Bread, from Blissfully Domestic (follow link for recipe)

Batch #2 is a standard whole wheat loaf, for sandwiches and toast (and plain old fashioned eatin'!). I found this standard recipe using the standard Google search. I halved the original recipe (which yeilds 5 full sized loaves) to end up with one full sized loaf and a pan of mini loaves. Can I just say? SO HAPPY I did that. This giant ball of dough needs to be kneaded for TWENTY MINUTES by hand; even halved it was enormous. Tip: the 20 minutes goes much faster if you crank Rihanna and pretend it's a workout.



Immediately after taking this picture, I dropped my phone in the flour.

Either the Fairies have been dancing on my counter again, or I'm making bread.





This bread is, by all counts, delicious; the final product is definitely worth the effort. The recipe uses honey instead of sugar to 'proof' (set) the yeast, and the taste at the end is quite nice; sweet, but only subtly, as bread should be. As a sidenote, I might substitute honey for sugar if I ever try Batch #1 again; my theory is that the sweetness of the dough was part of the problem (the first recipe uses sugar). Batch #2 bread is sturdy enough that it would hold a sandwich together, and it seems to cut well. As another bonus: making the full, 5 loaf recipe would mean you'd have to make it less often; the one shot deal appeals to my laziness.

1) I have a crush on my mini loaf pan...
2) My poor estimation skills show in the different loaf sizes.
But nobody cares about that really, except Martha, and she doesn't read my blog.

*swoon!* Mini bread!

we like this one.
Final thoughts: if you are looking to get a lot of bread for your buck (and time and effort), Batch #2 is the winner. Good luck, bakers!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

it's just a flesh wound

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I have been thinking about bandaids;
I have been thinking of the ways we use them
to cover up; wounds, secrets, hopes deferred.
I have been wondering why we let the heartbeats
fester, in the dark, underneath our chosen flimsical coverings.

I can poorly choose, but this will not help the ache;
it will, instead, keep it stagnant, pulsating
against the soul's pane, shuddering with
the anticipation of being released. But then I wonder:
this pain, when it is free where will it go? And who
will see it? These uncertainties can only be kept at bay
by bandaids. And this, I suppose, is why we use them.


© afterthoughtcomposer

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

The wealthy are faithless

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The wealthy are faithless.
The faithful are wealthy.
...which is it?
From the Church, I cannot find a common answer.

I am a sinner if I do not give 10%;
I am a saint if I give what I can;
I am a sinner if I give 10% with a cold heart;
I am a saint if I’m financially illogical;
Which is it?

If I had more faith, my debts would be erased;
My overabundant faith is an others-sourced money-tree;
God will bless me if I put myself in need; not if I keep myself out of it.
God’s hand is not formulaic.
Which is it?

Those who go without are holier than those that store up to provide for them;
Those who store up provisions are faithless in the matters of tomorrow;
Giving means nothing unless I do not have enough to give;
If I have enough to give, I am not giving enough;
Which is it?

Is it possible to be free from condemnation
by those who pick a different answer?
Or is popular opinion about faith always going to be subject
to the dollar sign and the zero.




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Friday, November 18, 2011

earth from space



ENLARGE this.



Time lapse sequences of photographs taken by the crew of expeditions
28 & 29 onboard the International Space Station from August to October,
2011...click on the "Vimeo" logo to see the original link for more credit information.
This was too beautiful not to share -- I simply can't get over it 
and have watched it every day this week.
This made me miss the Northern Lights like crazy.


fall, fashion, frugality

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This weekend, I am doing what I have intended to do every fall for the past few years, but have never quite got around to: the Fall Wardrobe Overhaul. In a way, I do this regularly, purposing to give stuff away every time I move, get bored, shop, or re-arrange my bedroom (which, if you know me and have been counting, means I've done a LOT of stuff-purging this year). At least, I thought I purged clothing. Recently, I have discovered that I have far too many clothes, most of which I don't wear; that I've been neglecting the closet purge for longer than I realized. I can't remember if I announced it yet, but I moved again. Actually, I can't remember if I announced it the first time, but I moved in spring, too. That one was more traumatic though, which is why I didn't write about it. Here instead is a general summation of what happened on the morning of March twenty-third:

Silly New Roommate: "Hey, I gave notice yesterday"
Me: "Uhhhmmm..." *where is my defibrillator!?*
Silly New Roommate: *skips buoyantly out of house*

...Two point five weeks was the alloted time I now had -- thanks lady!-- to pack up the entire suite and find a place to live. Thanks to some frantic selling of my furniture on craiglist, and the fact that there are people that love me, I landed quite safely for the summer, nestling in to my cousin's extra room. Now, though, I live in a pretty little coach house; a house so pretty that I give myself proverbial pinches on a regular basis. It's not even a basement; it's not even shared. I don't even have a roommate to pull rugs out from under my feet anymore, which is a giant added bonus (as a result, I'll get my damage deposit back after I leave this time, which is also pretty neat; SNR's fabulous timing curtailed that luxury for me). If you're wondering: no, Silly New Roommate didn't make the list. Cousin, most definitely, did.

Where were we? Ah yes; my heartily stocked closet.

The urgency with which I am addressing the coming weekend's wardrobe cleanse can blamed on my new washing machine. The first time I used it, it broke; which I promise was not entirely my fault. After the initial breaking came the waiting: for repairs, for parts, for coordinated meetings with my landlord to install said parts, and so on, until it got fixed. After a couple weeks of patience I finally got to load up the machine. In went all my favorite coloreds, and I waited  while it cycled through. Upon opening the machine at the end, I made a charming discovery...ah yes of course...the hot and cold taps had been swapped. Said goodbye to a few items that weren't meant for heat, and redeemed the rest with a bit of stretching. More waiting. More fixing. I am happy to announce that tonight, after almost a month sans-washing-machine, I can do laundry. Perhaps I should add to that, that I didn't really do laundry during October either, as I spent most of my time packing and moving boxes. So, off the top of my head, I'd say I have about 7 to 10 loads to get through before I can begin sorting. *giddy rush* OOoo!...sorting.

I had a gameplan already, that involved washing everything, folding everything, and laying it all out on my bed and deciding from there what to keep and what to donate. Then today, I read this article, written by the stunning Miranda from LouLouDi Image Consultants - which confirmed my chosen methodology. The great thing is, Miranda goes further, as she provides inspiration in the form helpful tips and insight for those undertaking the Fall Wardrobe Overhaul. Best part? She focuses on the financial benefits to doing this right, and helps us understand how to shop strategically for our fall wardrobes. As a woman who's just implemented a new and tighter budget, I'm very grateful. My aim is to simplify in every aspect; both in how much I own, and in how much I spend. This weekend's activities seem like a fabulously well-suited starting place.

With that, I'm off to daydream about the coming days, when I will not have laundry and boxes piled up all around me. Swoon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

what to do with pain

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The thing about writers is that we are, at our cores, absorbent observationalists. We sit, or stand - or walk - and while we do those things; we watch. Day and Conversation are two areas that transmit worlds of information into our writer's blocks...and then, after we have been handed all of these things (about you...or not), we write. A writer can't see a question mark without trying to fill in the blank space before it. A writer will struggle to stay silent when there are words to be said, ideas to be carved out and displayed, or overtones to be sewn into new or similar fabric. Every seen thing is a thread, and every word is a catalyst toward thought, ink, or the sound of clicking keys.

Jeannie Lynn Paske's Obsolete World
There's a stump here, though, and it comes in the form of the unanswerable. There are paradoxes of the heart that remain elusive and too personal to touch. I came across this stump recently, in the form of Pain. I looked it in the eye, talked about it with my wise older sister (a lengthy discourse on the subject), and at the end, realized I was no further along the road to understanding what we were talking about; or rather, what to do with it. Stubbed toes and paper-cuts can be left for another time - what I'm referring to here is not normally rooted in the external, though it may begin there. I am referring to something that happens to each of us at different times and to different extremes, and is dealt with in a thousand different ways. I am talking about the pain that comes from Mistakes.

I am going to wager that the word 'Mistake' turned quickly from a word you were reading to a memory clear as day. Who of us doesn't know what that feels like to realize how drastically we have altered our course? Or perhaps the awareness comes later, when we see only in hindsight what we've done. Maybe your mistakes weren't big, or maybe by some grace you missed the consequences; in which case I'm not really writing this one for you. This is probably for the others; those who are struggling to stand in the corner they've painted themselves into; those who don't remember what they've done - because to remember is to admit, and to admit is to collapse entirely.

This ties in so wholly with what I have been trying to come to terms with myself; whether there are safe places for the worst parts of who we are. There has to be, and if there aren't, we need to find that safety. The most dangerous thing about error is the innate desire within each of us: to cover it up and keep it to ourselves. Shame is a bigger motivator than we want it to be; solitude, more than any action, is the real soul killer. If only you could tell someone, then perhaps you wouldn't feel so swallowed up. I don't know that pain was meant to be kept a secret.

Jeannie Lynn Paske's Obsolete World
...and this is exactly where my thoughts stop. I really don't know how to go any further on this subject just yet. It's as if there's too much to deal with, or swallow, or sort through. Pain, the keeping of pain, the gravity of feeling it alone...there are so many facets here, and they change from person to person. Beyond "don't hide from it", I have nothing else to say. Maybe this annoys you. Maybe you're mad at me for bringing up your pain in the first place and then leaving it, all dangley and protrudey in front of your face like that. You're right; it isn't fair to leave you here.  Keep reading.

"In stories, characters only change in crisis. Characters never, ever change when the story is going well. And of course the same is true with life. Pain is always an invitation to grow. Sadly, pain also has the opposite affect. If we cover over our pain with coping mechanisms, it’s as though we are going through a workout without gaining muscle. Some people do this for years and never grow...In stories and in life, pain is our friend. It’s an unwelcome friend, but a friend nonetheless. The good news is if we make friends with our pain, it won’t stay long and it will leave us with a gift. But if we avoid pain, it will chase us down until we finally accept the gift it has to offer." - Donald Miller (read the entire article here)

Even though Donald is wise and addresses the issue head on - that we can't avoid pain, though we may try - I still feel the subject warrants a million more conversations. Why do some people cope by forgetting? Why do some refuse to cope? Why is it that some turn to an others-focused self righteousness instead of admitting their own faults, while some stay slumped in the guilt of their own admission (or a heartbreaking mix of both)? And how do you free someone who doesn't see they are living as though their mistakes were it? Or, can you force someone to heal; so they get on with it, so they grow past the decades old decisions that have snared them.


Jeannie Lynn Paske's Obsolete World
I still don't know.
 
What I do know is this. Hiding because of what you've done is the fastest way to drain the purpose out of being alive. We are human, therefore, we err. Your mistakes are yours, yes, but they are not as unique as you think they are. Admitting fault does not make you less human; it makes you moreso. There is no shame-source worth the trade in for an entire life and all your giftings. I may not know how to encourage you to bridge the gap between your mistakes and your moving on from them, but I do know that you need to try. Forgiveness is only powerful when we use it, and it is meant to be used, so use it; on yourself. Grace cannot be properly extended by a person who has not given grace to their own misgivings - if you can't truly forgive yourself, how can we believe that you truly forgive us when we fail? If you hold on to pain, you are not the only one being held captive; we all are. So please, do us all a favor, and forgive yourself. Let those who love you in to the pain you feel; this is one of the reasons we love you.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

cozy

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I can hear my blankets from here.
"...come back, love" they sigh sweetly;
lying helpless
as they reel from my too-early departure.
Their calls tempt me with the knowledge that they
are warmer than my desk chair, softer
than my office walls,
and more welcoming than any of the arms
I'll see today.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

ready yourselves; ready your souls.

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It's true what you've heard, and if you haven't heard it: it's still true. Mumford & Sons is releasing a new album in February 2012. I am sitting here listening to/watching the debut video of their song "Ghosts (we knew)". Hands on cheeks, heart a-sighing, ears in peaceful gladitude; oh Mumford.

If you want to hear this song, and the others that have been released early online, go here, to Sharelle's blog. She did the work of listing the links all in a row for you. How nice! At the very least, you have got to listen to "Lover of the Light"...wait. It might be best if you listen to all of them.

Hey...remember that time I stood less than 5 feet from Marcus? Me too.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

candy calm

happy halloween - pinterest.com

One year ago today, you may remember that I was jostled (jostled!) while shopping for Candy. My rookie mistake was that I went at 8am. Everyone goes for 50% off candy at 8am. This year, I got smart. I phoned the store in advance to check what time they opened. 6am. I got there 5 minutes early. I waited outside the doors in the dark and cold of fall, eyeing the dozen-and-a-half-or-so patrons that had gathered there before me. I realized upon arrival that this was serious business; if you want to get yourself some 50% off Halloween candy, you've got to treat that candy like a Cabbage Patch Doll or IPod26 and get your butt to the store on time....nay, before time even has a chance to start.

Pleasantly, I did not get jostled at all this year. Nary a glance or limb came my way as each of those present had their eyes on chosen favorites - the old man who seemed to favor chips, for example, or the teenage boys who had cleared the entire ROCKETS shelf into their basket. Personally, I beeline for the mini Caramilks and the Reese Peanut Butter Cups; I even managed to score a 270lb bag of mini Tootsie Rolls - all for the scant price of twelve dollars. There was only one small moment of tension, as an otherwise classy-looking lady stared me in the eye and pushed her cart into the exact spot I was standing (the silent, grocery store aisle version of "move, bitch") - but thankfully, I am swift on my feet and sidestepped her anxiety on time.

Now all I need to do is eat massive amounts of protein, so I don't get diabetes from all the sugar I'll be eating. Don't worry, I share.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

the remarkable thing about being human



'safe' -  www.pinterest.com
The remarkable thing about being human is that the admission of such a state brings the other humans out of the wood work. Get any one person alone and safe, and there you’ll find the truth: they are human too. But out in the bigger world, you’d never know it. We all have shiny hair and friends and are happy-and-you-know-it. In large groups and public forums, our connections are often surface level: humor, agreeable beliefs, similar hobbies and like interests. While these things aren’t bad – in fact they are very good and I would even say they are necessary forms of connection – they aren’t as sticky as the bonds that are formed with honest confessions of failure, of love and genuine friendship. I often find myself gazing quizzically at Happy Façade, wondering why it still has strength to stand when there are so many obvious cracks in the idea. One on one, we’re honest. Why then, can’t we be honest with the world?

The trick as I’ve learned it is that safe venues for truth are limited and scarce. I once belonged to a community that was both welcoming and humble, until I cracked. I realized upon my breaking that I no longer fit the picture – my façade was off in a breeze somewhere, and I was left in the middle of  The (overcrowded) Standard, bare bones and dirty soul a-showing, wondering where my friends went. In short? My safe place was not safe at all, it had only seemed that way. Oh, I could stay in the group if I wanted to, if I cleaned up my act, apologized for disrupting the peace, and practiced my glimmering speeches. To maintain the relationships, to continue receiving the elusive Good Opinion, to keep hearing “Welcome!” at the door, I’d have to dash madly after my façade, and put it sharply back in place. Poetic language aside: to stay there, I would have had to fake it.

And therein begs the question: what do we do with the daily pressure to do what The Group thinks we should? What would they do if they knew the truth; that we not only fell below the norm, but chose to live against it? I was speaking awhile ago with a friend of mine who lives in a beautiful Suburbia with her husband…and no children. The pressure upon the childless to have children is like the pressure on the single to wed, is like the pressure on the unholy to repent: silent, but pressing; subtle, but fully there. She knows and I understand her; that eventually, something’s gotta give. Next was raised a valid and haunting question: if I never fit here, will I have to leave?

Like it or not we are still, at large, afraid of things that are different. More specifically: of people that are not like us. That person does not believe what I do; this person does not have the same lifestyle; their choices are not choices that I would make. We like it when the people we like are like us. The fear of difference may not always exhibit itself as hatred, but rather: an odd mix of incapacitation and haphazardly naive instructions. I do not know what to do with this person’s decisions; therefore, I will keep myself apart from who they are and offer my salacious wisdom instead. One of my best friends, having been married for a good number of years, was given this sharp disapproval from a woman she hardly knew: “You’re waiting too long to have children.” Her response in the moment was a turn of the heel and a quick walk away, but later she confessed to me how much that comment had hurt her. “She doesn’t even know me. What if I can’t even have kids?” Incredible that the woman would blindly storm the gate with her opinion, rather than deal with her own discomfort that my friend had not borne children ‘yet’. It’s much easier, after all, to tell someone what we think of them without paying attention to who they are.

With all my quizzical glances at Happy Façade, there have been just as many if not more at the abuse of unpublic knowledge. The fly in the ointment of confession is that it is right to be afraid of where we’ll land when we come clean. The more honest I have been on afterthoughts, and in my day-to-day conversations, the more I have come to see that I’m not the only one practicing my dance steps. Most everyone I know balks at at least one of the standards: no kids, no husband, no career goals, no religion. Pick whichever one you’d like, and you’ll be doing some mighty fine footwork on the way to sorting yourself out. The goal is not to lie, but rather, to avoid getting burned. Or can we hope for as much? Will it always be important to be a checkmark on someone else’s list? Or will we, at some point, get to dance for the right reasons?

'safe' - www.pinterest.com
In regards to my friends and their children or lack of children, singleness or lack of singleness, faith or confusion, the only consolation I can offer you is that the journey is yours and you have to make it so. Part of figuring out what you want in life involves uncomfortable interactions with people who are self-appointed-sages on all-things-you. But take heart: the other part of the journey involves actually figuring out what you want, and becoming strong enough to be strong and honest about it, even in the tightest of corners. Eventually, something will give. Either you stay and grow, or leave and do the same; I’ve done both and seen benefit and strength come from each. My rule of thumb is that staying is for my human-self, and leaving is for when I’m not allowed to check my Happy Façade at the door. So far, it’s worked out well.

If I’ve learned anything from falling apart in view of the public, or quietly disclosing my humanity to one, or finding hearts that do not need to be the same as mine to welcome me in, it’s that Love is a better place to land than judgment. Let our familiarity as humans not be found in the likeness of our decisions, but in the likeness of our states, as messy, beautiful people. What a comfort it has been to meet and know those who do not require a makeshift shittogetherness for entry. It is my hope that I would be the same kind of place for others.


finally, a new Hyperbole!

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as usual, the girl is right on point; and frickin hilarious to boot. Ladies and gentlemen: the new hyperbole.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

how to break stuff; how to fix it


I'm sitting here trying to think of a first sentence. My midnite snack is a mini bowl of butterscotch chips and a giant mug of Neo Citran; proof that I'm drawn toward opposing forces, even in the small things. It's a weird thing I've done you know - set myself up in a way for a really awkward silence-break. I tried to ease things off with terrible cake, although let's be honest, that cake hardly counted as 'easy'. How can someone announce that they are taking hiatus to fix themselves, and then come back unfixed? The whole-self-fix is not only unlikely, it's kind of silly. I suppose that's what I've realized during this month of stepbackitude: I'm not entirely fixable. Or maybe it's better to say it this way: I'm not fixable in my entirety. Next comes the oddly suprising truth: I'm okay with that.  I'm not totally sure I need to be totally 'fixed'.

The past four days have been largely spent on this same kitchen chair, staring at this same laptop, watching the previously unseen Sex and the City series, from square one. I moved recently (timed perfectly with my bloggy silence, actually), and although I should be unpacking the boxes I find myself staring at them from across the room between episodes. I briefly relocated earlier this afternoon, and organized my bathroom cupboards to the tune of SJP's imitation of neurosis, slowly putting things in my cabinets during the conversational pauses. I've wondered if I have things in common with her, or if I'm just allowed to hate her tendencies. She's a writer, and she stole my habit of narrating life in her head all day as if she were writing a column. Aside from this singular commonality, I have developed over the course of the week a lengthy exegesis on why I think SATC is perhaps the reason for disillusionment among women about relationships and general expectations from life. It isn't real by any stretch; nor is it realistic. But, as it stands, watching these characters interact with and sabotage their own lives has got me thinking about my own approaches and quirks, as if I hadn't been doing that already.

I have not discovered anything new about myself this quiet month, but I have re-discovered some of the old things. A good friend of mine recently described the call she feels in her spirit to head "homeward" - back to who she is instead of who her rushing calendar and peers expect her to be. In this conversation I found comfort, as I too have been trying to figure out how to become unlost in the muss of everyday business, to be purposeful in quiet time; to figure out for the fifty-seventh time how to be me, down to the root. Of course there are distractions - loaned DVD TV series, shopping lists and meal planning. There are good friends, new kitchens, and limited bank accounts. Add to that: monumental thought processes that start at birth and finish...sometime. At the end of it all, whether it be finances or faith that wobbles my course, I'm still left sitting at the table, eyeing the boxes, narrating my life. Not much has changed about me even though much has changed around me, and I feel at peace about it. I'm starting to wonder if I should be as insistent on changing myself as I have been. Or if, like my good friend, I should spend more time here, settled in my heart: home.

Or am I the only one addicted to renewal? What is it about a switch in habit that makes us feel good about ourselves? What is it about the receipt tally that makes us feel like we've accomplished something? We could make all the cakes, buy all the cute teal frying pans and organize a world's worth of living spaces, but this alone won't fill it. Whatever 'it' is; that hole that propels us forward, each in our own way. I know a girl that lives to be complimented, though I'm not sure even she realizes this is true. I know another someone who has good eyes until a mirror comes into view. Whatever the vice, I certainly wish we each - as uniquely as we shape our hesitations - could stop living as if the holes were... it.

I am still learning how and where to set boundaries, and I have (as we all do) a list of experiences to help me draw those lines. But I know something now that I'm not sure I really knew a month ago: I am not my drawn-line slip-ups or busted fences; nor am I my cluttered mind, unpacked boxes, or perpetual list of to-do's. No, I am not each of those things; I am all of them at once, and I'm the good things too. Maybe the world will change, or my house will change, or my certainty of wealth or status-quo-perfectitude will change, but whatever comes I can be sure I'll make it through; because I am me, right down to the root.
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Friday, October 14, 2011

it's just a cake. or two.

this should hardly be my next post. but it is. if you're wondering, I will not be bringing a cake to the company cake walk tomorrow.

the worst part is? I was actually trying.
best part? haven't laughed this hard in a long time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

today is ashley's birthday

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Well actually, last week. My birthday was last week + a few more days before that. So maybe it's odd to point out my own birthday, especially as it is belated, but I have been thinking a lot in my recent bloggy silence, and most of that thought has to do with the dates on the calendar, and the age that I've just become, and the days that made this year up - and at the end of that: who I am because of it.

As I counted the days of 2011, I realized that I could tell you about this year with wholehearted sarcasm, if I wanted to. In fact, just this morning my pillow and I constructed a lengthy blog post about the ironic bitch 2011 has been. But I decided that classy women don't swear in public, and they certainly don't complain at length, so I am biting my tongue and eating my repressed feelings in the form of Cheesies and ice cream cake (though, not together). Oh, I am also not writing. You may have noticed. If you didn't notice, don't tell me; 2011 also deconstructed a lot of things and I will joke about you in public to make myself feel better.

Anyway.

This birthday marks a decade - and in that, a decade of endless decision that I'm going to write books; that my voice will matter and that this world will unfold for me and my pen like a willing oyster filled with open doors. I imagined that I would feel accomplished in my own right by now, or at least have a morsel of my proverbial shit together. Instead what I've encountered is writers block, blank pages, stupid boyfriends, stagnant ideas, and bad advice. I don't know how to stop tripping, or being alarmed by the fact that I trip, or being shocked that the general public are excited to walk on doormats.

I don't know how to write about life when it's inmyface; I don't know how to not write about myself. Poor phrasing, I suppose, as all writers write from their own perspective. But I have left behind the desire to share my thoughts with the world. At least, for now. The reality of the decade is looming, in more ways than one. I am feeling the need to withdraw to a place devoid of public scrutiny. Maybe then I won't get random text messages telling me I talk about ________ (insert topic) too much and must be a desperately sad person, or emails that spell out certain Bible passages at length, or a growing list of advisers giving advice on things they were neither invited nor qualified to give. Maybe people will stop reminding me of all the ways I am not meeting the status quo. My biggest hope, even more than those, is that I will figure out a way to stop caring so much that these people exist at all; that they see what I put out there and define me first, without bothering to know. I need to figure out a way to stop caring.

Luckily for me, New Year's comes in September; when the leaves change, when the air gets crisp, when my life gets a little older. In so many ways, my birthday this year was a needed catapult to changing winds. I am ready to shed this decade and start a new one; I am ready to leave these past few years on the pinboard of "times I pulled the short straw". And until I can write about something good, I won't be writing. I have made myself into someone that cares what people think and the wrong people know it. I accommodate beligerance on my behalf, absorb rudeness, and tie my responsive mouth shut.

I don't want to write because I don't want to give myself out like that anymore; at least until I know where the boundaries are, so I can tell people to fuck off if they're getting too close, because I don't know how.

Oops. There goes my class.


Maybe this is the good thing about the decade mark: it's time to do a little housekeeping, define myself for a change; take my heart off the dartboard. Happy birthday to me.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

what it feels like at sunset

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I got a call today from a member of my past.
He asked too many questions; I asked none.
This conversational imbalance pleased me so;
as if I’ve grown up, or become what he tried
to stop me from becoming: stronger.

I left the house he built for me today; I’ve left before,
but this was my long awaited last look
at the shallow ceilings, upturned floorboards, dusty books.
I don’t miss it here, in silence; I don’t miss
the suffocating grip of wanting something bad for me,
of pleasing someone bad to me, of being held
by the eyes of others that do not care, but care to judge.

The front door and the ring hold no curb appeal;
they were not worth the trade in: my whole self,
for something much less me. The air out here is sticky
with the welcoming heat of evening; the sun makes lines
and points to golden tree branches and floating bits of cotton;
it beckons me home.

I miss home.

When I was young there was a Voice that called me lovingly
from morning time to noon, from afternoon to evening.
I cannot find the Voice, but I am leaving; there is nothing
(no empty space, no chain, no silent direction) that could keep me
living placidly among the weeds, waiting to die, waiting
for a hand to save me. I am leaving by myself to save me.
You can keep your lofty hand; I am looking for one less clean,
less allergic to the soil beneath my feet.

The caving roof creaks; this old place knows that I am breathing.
Perhaps I owe it a word or two before I go, an offering of thanks,
a measure of condolence for the misery in which it could not keep me.
The poison in the walls has purged the poison in me; I can not be mean,
because I know what it feels like. I cannot oppress because it hinders
my own gracious freedom. I have been made grateful for the raindrops
and the chance to dance between them. My voice stands stronger
when I speak or sing than when I keep the words in;
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to this old place I owe at least a small bit of gratitude,
for teaching me who I am,
and for teaching me who I am not.

© afterthoughtcomposer
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on why I've been avoiding you

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Oh, good sweet Lord. You know what I just realized? It’s almost September. You know September marks the beginning of fall right? The last part of the year? Meaning…the year is almost over? Hot damn.


Yah, sure, I should have noticed this earlier – like you think maybe I would have noticed that the year was passing by me when the months did; march, may, august. Gulp. September?

…I didn’t really notice.




When I was little, one of my favourite things to do was roll down the giant slopes of Connaught Hill, and catch grass in my ponytail and pockets. What I didn’t realize back then was that the sensation feels quite differently when the hills are proverbial and seemingly endless and I am an adult – shouldn’t I have stopped rolling down hills by now? 2011 has been a giant stumbletumbletrip to the landing pad I’m hoping shows up soon (say, in September?). End over end, and I can’t quite catch my footing. You’ve probably noticed that for quite some time now I’ve avoided concrete thought. Nearly everything I’ve written could be paraphrased this way “Don’t ask. I don’t want to write about it” or “trala-laaa lalala!”

There are reasons for this; reasons I won’t fully explain now, because quite honestly, they’re still a little too fresh to use as writing material. The thing about being a writer is that personal experience is the perfect material, unless of course, the experiences are a little…too personal. I know that I will write in detail about this year at some point in the future. Maybe next year. For now, perhaps a summary will do.

I just read through many of this year’s posts; reliving the memories of where I was at each point, and feeling twinges of “oh, sweetheart, you have no idea what’s coming.” This year was marked with a decent sized list of bad decisions, some of which I made myself. The most painful ones, though, were made by others in regards to me. It is this second group of inflictions that have left me reeling. I’ve learned to compliment myself for leaving abusive relationships – this means I'm strong, right? yet the tumbling comes as I wonder how not to wear or carry what was left at the ends. I have good days and bad days. I’ve learned much about myself, and I’ve learned who my friends are, which in every way makes this year worth it. Though the sifting was difficult, at least it seems to be over for now. (Dear Jesus, please let it be over).

Much of my time as of late has been spent in the recovery of hibernation, and I’ve been ruminating like mad about the point of it all: life, pain, choices; strength. All this thinking has helped me realize that I feel quite lucky: because I was strong enough; because I still have the ability to look forward, I have better friends than I realized, and thankfully, I still have hope in my eye. That’s the funny thing about being treated like someone else; it helps you realize who you are.

So if the first part of this year has been spent wondering where the ground went, I am hopeful that the last part of this year will be spent admiring the soil. It may look different than I was expecting, but I will have never been more thankful for the feel of cool earth on my cheek than I will be when September and the stillness finally hit.

Oh lord, let the stillness hit.
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distance, peace

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to write I'd have to tell you where my heart's at,
how I feel and what I think about the issues;
and the truth is, I don't want to.

I want to keep the walls up
 – at an arm's length  –
so my pretend strength won't be seen for the cracks
that mark its fabled corner of possession.

now the mortar, brick by brick, builds thick
and keeps the dogs out, keeps the monsters at bay;
that space keeps the best away, too.

maybe I'm alone in here, but at least my secrets are safe
in here, no friend could betray in here; no two faces could
lie and say they love me.

I am at peace here.
But I still don't want to write it.


© afterthoughtcomposer
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Friday, August 19, 2011

starty

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At coffee with a long lost friend a few weeks back, I mentioned that - after the chaos of my spring - I wasn't going to do anything too "starty" in the summertime. It took me a few days to realize the following necessary facts:


#1.  Summer is nearly almost over. You just didn't notice it because June was a whiny girl.
#2.  Hello my name is Ashley, and I am addicted to starty-ness.
#3.  I've got so many loose ends on the go, my life could easily be compared to a rootless head of hair. Or some equally as rediculous analogy.


Vis a vis, the following: in an ever increasing attempt to get some ground beneath my feet, I have decided that I should start my finishing here, on the blog. Tie up a few of the open ends (there have been many, you probably just forgot about them). I actually have a running list in my head of all the things I need to update you on, but I forget what those things are right now, so I can't tell you what they are. Oh, wait, there was that one thing.

Remember that time I pulled a novel out of my ass? Over two and a half years ago, for those of you that lost count. Over two and a half years ago, for those of you that are wondering why I'd ever call myself something as made-up as 'starty'.

So anyway. The book's not done yet. But Take Heart! I have done the oh-so-necessary read through and overhaul, and my only task now is to sit down and re-arrange the document on the computer. I need to tweak the sentences that need tweaking (there were a lot of them), put the paragraphs in order, and print it out for the perusal of all interested parties. I feel compelled to say again that it won't be a good book, but it will be a book [insert trumpet fanfare] which totally counts for something.

Okay maybe that wasn't a very finishy announcement, seeing as I'm not actually finished the book yet (potato potato?) -- but in any case, it's an update, which is more than I can say for anything else on the growing list.


image source: http://www.sophieblackall.com/
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

everybody's got a body...but does everybody have a brain?

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doubtful.


...don't take that comment personally. It was directed at me.



Everybody's Got a Body
Created by: Online Nursing Schools



 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

the rights of passage

photo source: http://i-spill-kisses-with-love.tumblr.com/

It's a ridiculous idea I suppose, but I’m thinking about planning a party – a gala event, if you will. For? Me. Like a wedding without the wedding. A friend of mine did something similar a few years back. On her 30th birthday, she had a bridal shower for herself instead of a birthday party – minus, of course, that “bridal” part. She was moving provinces, and instead of bearing the load on her own, she registered at Crate & Barrel. My own party idea is similar – minus, of course, that “bridal” part: I want to wear a gown and don a diamond ring and have everyone I love in the same room, for the sole purpose of celebrating our relationships, and sending me onward into life. Even if “onward” means in the same spot; even if “life” means happy solitude.

When I was younger, I didn’t give much secondary thought to weddings, other than -of course- happy cheer for the couple getting married. Weddings seemed common (they are), normal (still are), inevitable (…oh). I went through each wedding day expecting that I’d follow suit at some point, taking mental notes and admiring details; silently making a list of ideas for my own “one day someday”. Now that I’m older and I’ve become a woman quite at peace with my independence, I have begun to view weddings much differently. I no longer want the wedding – I just want the party. But this begs the question: can you even have the party without the wedding? Or will this bring on a glorious amount of labels and stigma cementers? Could I host this kind of a party for myself without feeling like a giant, self-centered ass?

I attended a marriage celebration last night; the first ceremony and reception I’ve attended since my change of heart about matrimony-as-a-goalset, and I admit the day felt quite different than it has in the past. The wedding was beautiful, the marriage sweet, the day spectacular; but as I admired the dress and the decorations and listened to the speeches, I felt saddened somehow. I felt like I was missing out on something good by desiring the life I currently have, instead of the life I’m supposed to want. If only I wanted to get married, then I might know how much people care, how happy people are for the life I’m leading; I, too, might be cared for in practical ways. I too might understand how deeply I am loved. I vocalized this thought to a friend at my table, and inquired aloud whether or not I would get to have speeches like this made about me if I never get married. Her response was honest and true and I knew it: “Sure you will,” she said. “At your funeral.”

photo source: spottr.hu

I am not complaining about my life or the people in it (I am blessed, and I know it), but rather, I am saying this as a form of observation: the rites of passage are only rights to those making certain passages; for those in the minority, those rites aren’t rights at all.

Obviously, the rite of getting married is reserved for those who get married. But what about the other ‘rites’? The celebration of life, the gifts, and in my mind the most enviable of all: the father-daughter speech. Do you want to know the real reason I get misty-eyed every time a father-daughter speech gets made? I’m jealous. I know my dad loves me, but I still want a speech. And I want it while I’m wearing a beautiful dress, and a ring I did not buy for myself, in a room full of people that are going to compliment me all day.

This is a risky announcement, I admit; that the only reasons I want a wedding have absolutely nothing to do with the actual wedding part; reasons that - based on their admission alone - make me sound rather pretentious. But I still can't help but wonder: do I really have to wait until I’m dead to celebrate my life on a grand scale?

You know, I think I’ll plan that party after all.
...I’ll let you know where I register.