The plastic bag around my head

"Normal has always felt like a lie to me, a too-tight sweater we force ourselves to wear. Normal has never been too kind to women, to children, or people of color, people mired in poverty, anyone different in any way. Normal is good for no one, really. It is a lie we all decide to believe--after even the most cursory look, no one is actually normal; it is a plastic bag we wrap around our own heads." --Allison Cooper

It's been over a year now since my last post. I won't go into all the whys, but basically it was because I felt like I was failing at normal. My normal has always been strange, but I'm usually lighthearted, fun to be around. This time last year I wasn't much fun to be around anymore. So I went through a period of trying to reclaim normal. Until I realized normal is just not going to happen for me. And it was scary. Kind of like having a plastic bag around my head. I found myself in the most claustrophobic situation I've ever experienced. And I've been in some tight spots: caving in Colorado, shopping on Black Friday, riding a bus in China. I actually enjoy tight spots . . . they initially create a certain level of comfort. Like a big bear hug. But there's a point when your air runs out. When you no longer know the difference between your own clammy arm and the sweaty coolness of whatever or whomever is beside you.

And that's how I felt. Like my air had run out. I didn't know myself anymore.

So I quit. But not right away.

I've never been much of a quitter. My pride just doesn't let me. But pride is an entry in my "things I lost last year" column--it's written in big, bold letters. When I lost that, everything became an option. I thought about fleeing the country, but my passport had expired. ALWAYS keep your passport up to date. Then I thought about joining the circus. But their entry-level positions probably involve lots of dung. I even thought of just disappearing suddenly. All would have made fantastic stories really, but I would have just been running away from my problems.

So I turned in my notice in February and began the process of slowly walking away. And that's how I came home again. I'm certainly not the Marion kind anymore. Nor am I the Eva kind. You might think I'm in limbo. Just waiting for what comes next . . . It seems like my life is paused and I've skipped ahead to add to the appendix of my life, like I'm storing information that may not seem relevant, but might come in handy one day. A few weeks ago I learned the fine art of kraut making from my father. Then I learned how to can that kraut. I'm thinking of learning how to quilt. I'm sewing more, sleeping more, and listening more. But I'm realizing that maybe this is not an appendix to my story after all. All of these experiences that I'm saying "yes" to are now part of my story. They're things that people with "normal" jobs can't find the time to do.

I want more of these stories. And that's why I want to go to this conference:

I want to live a better story . . . definitely one in which the heroine is not suffocating herself with the plastic bag of normalcy.

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.

The Pooloozi at the Blue Lagoon

The plan was good, just not thoroughly thought through. All we knew is that we were hot as hell. And bored to tears. And we needed something to satiate our thirst for some backyard adventure.

We have been talking about a pool for two summers now. First it was a small plastic one filled with ice right in the middle of the "J". But when they finally got around to redecoratuing, we decided that the cerulean gleam would clash too much with the dull russet, velvet barrel chairs (that perfectly match the terrazo triangle) and the auric and mutedly azure, floral, retro sofas. So we decided Susan's backyard would be the perfect environ for a pool--one that we might just be able to sit in if we postitioned ourselves right.

Fresh off our Independence day holiday, we researched our options, and after being put on hold by the Brent Wal-mart, for what seemed an eternity to our one-track minds, we set off in search of a pool. Money was an object, so we didn't get far. Some cosmic energy told me we should stop at Fred's. EUREKA! We bought their cheapest pool, an 8-foot inflatable blue beauty, and went back to the duplex. After abducting a hose and filling the pool with 530 gallons of Marion's finest tap water, we stepped into pure bliss.

O.K. Maybe it wasn't pure bliss. By this time the gloaming had settled over our quaint hamlet. The water was a smidge on the arctic side. And the mosquitos that descended upon us were the size of blue-faced boobies and more numerous than the Persian army at Thermopylae. We three, much like the 300 Spartans, decided we could not keep the skeeters at bay for more than one night.

The next afternoon we left in search of a screened tent. Much to our dismay, there was no tent to be found in Marion. We braved the chance of bomb threat and found our best option at the Selma Wal-mart, along with a floating cooler (which we lovingly call the party barge) and canine repellant (which we decided we would need to keep the dogs from chewing the tent pegs). After erecting all the tent poles and slipping them into their correct slots, we placed the tent over the pool and settled in for an almost mosquito-free evening.

The next afternoon we realized that we should have sprayed the canine repellant over the whole tent.

The utter destruction that ensued has not discouraged our pool-going. The slime that took over shortly after the destruction set us back a few days, but even that is coming under control thanks to the good Dr. Jones.

We sit. We scheme like children, making big plans for parties and tiki-torches and fitting as many people into the Pooloozi as possible. The way I see it, if we scoot really close to the edge and lay over sideways, we could probably fit a whole bunch of people in there.

So come on over. Bring your beverage of choice and join us for an afternoon in the Blue Lagoon.

My Mom's Name in Lights

A local eating establishment in Eva has added my mom's name to a menu item . . . a plump, juicy hotdog. They named the corn dog after the sheriff.

There are just too many words for wordless wednesday . . .

After 2 weeks of trying to get quarters and postcard stamps in this town, only to discover that the bank and the post office both close at 4 and at 12 on Wednesdays (many, many harsh words were said towards the good people of the USPS), I finally made it to the bank. I had just judged Mrs. Whis's yawping contest for her American Lit class and sounded my own barbaric yawp over the rooftops of Judson and thought I'd run some errands before making my way into the office (we had a really late night here at the JC . . . but more of that later).

I pulled up to the drive-through and saw this:

At first I thought she might be out of her own car because she couldn't reach the bin, or maybe her window wouldn't roll down. But when the car ahead of me drove away, this happened:

And I knew just then that I was one step closer to seeing it all. She finished her business at the window and walked back around to her car in the front. Marion . . . of all the cities in the USA . . .

Now for the late-night story . . . I can't say much because I'm bound by the honor of a sisterhood spanning 171 years, but I can tell you that there was a fiery robe and a mad dash around an inner circle (thankfully, Jewett is not set to catch fire for another 40 years). It seems stop, drop, and roll isn't the first thing that pops in your head when you're on fire. AND there was a bit of hurling in the place where men (and women) tell no tales.

And, finally, a little confession of insanity: I believe I might be the reincarnation of Anne Kirtley.

Wordless Wednesday

so I now know that watercolor is not my medium.