Things You Can Relate to Only if You Are a Woman 

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1. Turning into a ravenous monster for one week a month. (“Have a happy period”? Bite me.)
2. Quadraboob
3. Uniboob
4. Having more than one orifice with the ability to fart
5. Having a closet filled with pants of multiple sizes–even if you haven’t gained or lost any weight
6. Black shoes. Black Shoes. BLACK SHOES. Oh, hell. Just SHOES.
7. The hunt for the perfect bra. (Don’t even talk to me about finding a nude-color one that won’t show through white shirts.)
8. The hunt for the perfect purse
9. The hunt for the perfect color of nail polish
10. “Scoot down a little bit more. More. Keep scooting.” (The last time I was there I asked the doc if anyone had ever scooted themselves right off the table. Alas, no.)
10a. “Relax your knees.” You’re putting THAT in THERE and you want me to RELAX?

The continuing saga, chapter three

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My unnamed story I wrote in 1988 continues. Don’t forget to check out chapter 1 and chapter 2 first.

Chapter Three

When Rado held aloft his golden sphere and the world cracked, a great darkness spread across the sky. As the people of the West came completely under Rado’s power, Galdra withdrew and was never seen again.

Now the land was separated into two domains of good and evil. When Rado had cracked the Earth, the sea had come forth and separated the West from the North, South, and East. Now the countries were apart, but the animosity still lingered between them, even years later . . .

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“C’mon, Cochran, let’s see some sport!” said Gordan, his small size and gnome accent giving him a whimsical appearance.

“Only if Adrienne is up to it,” said Cochran warily.

“You know I’m always up to it,” she said and drew her sword.

Cochran did likewise, and he clashed his sword with hers in customary greeting.

Gordan watched them circle around one another like cats ready to pounce, and he did not like the gleam he saw in Adrienne’s eye. Cochran was much bigger and stronger than Adrienne by far, but they all knew she could beat him with things other than physical strength. Metal rang on metal, and beads of perspiration stood out on the fighters’ faces. To Gordan’s horror, he looked and saw Guad-Shon standing there, observing the match.

Cochran knocked Adrienne’s sword out of her hand with a mighty blow that would have sent anyone untrained reeling to the ground.

“Fall!” yelled Adrienne, and Cochran’s sword dropped to the ground.

Adrienne held up her hands and circled around Cochran in the fighting stance, showing him she wanted to fight hand-to-hand.

“Enough, Adrienne,” said Cochran. “I will not fight you hand-to-hand. I am too much bigger than you.”

“I do not care.”

“Well, I do.”

Guad-Shon approached then and said, “Very formidable. I am impressed.”

Adrienne and Cochran both bowed.

“I need to speak with you, woman-child. Please come with me.”

Cochran held on to her arm, but she looked at him and said, “I will be fine.”

As Cochran watched them walk away, he hoped she was right.

Guad-Shon led Adrienne to where the Nieromen had set up a large tent. He held the flap open for her, and they entered.

“Please sit,” said Guad-Shon.

Adrienne obeyed and then said, “Am I the one?”

Guad-Shon looked deep into her eyes, and he could sense her fear.

“No. You are not. You are undoubtedly the most skilled woman-child the Nieromen have ever seen. Your strength in fighting and sorcery has been told to us–it has been rumored.”

“Then why–”

“I know what you ask. We do not choose you because that is not what the Gods have intended for you. You have a much more important purpose than this.”

Adrienne took at deep breath.

Guad-Shon stood up, and Adrienne followed suit. He took her hand.

“You will not speak of our conversation, Adrienne. I am breaking a custom that has gone on for centuries. I am going to choose someone who is not truly fit.”

“Why do you risk so much for me?”

“Because you must fulfill your destiny, child. You must. Go now.”

Adrienne stood there for a moment and looked at the face of Guad-Shon. Then she kneeled before him and kissed his hand.

“You have my eternal respect,” she said, and then left.

Come back next Thursday for chapter 4!

The continuing saga, chapter two

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My unnamed story I wrote in 1988 continues. Don’t forget to check out chapter 1 first.

Chapter Two

Lorenai paced through her chamber, her gnarled fingers twisting and turning over one another like they so often did when she was in deep thought. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.

“Yes?”

“Lorenai, it is I,” said the voice from behind the door.

“Enter.”

The door opened, and a tall, dark, lovely creature walked in. Her name was Adrienne. She was clad all in black, and it could be told just from the way the girl stood that she was a trained fighter.

Lorenai remembered the first time she had seen Adrienne–a tiny, helpless baby who had no parents. Her mother had been slain by barbarians in a raid, and no one knew who her father was. She had been given to Lorenai by Gordan, a gnome who had found her abandoned in the woods among the dead. Gordan had found a young boy with Adrienne, her brother, and his name was Darien. He had been about five years old at the time, and Gordan still smiled when he remembered how Darien had tried to kill him when he came near.

“What is it, Adrienne?” said Lorenai.

When she saw how empty Adrienne’s eyes were she said, “Speak, child.”

There was a pause, and then Adrienne said slowly, “Can’t you feel it? Danger–danger is drawing near.”

“Yes–I can. I have felt it for days now.”

“Something is going to happen, Lorenai. Something drastic.”

“I know.”

Cochran, a big burly man, stood in the doorway but did not speak.

Adrienne finally looked at Lorenai. “What can we do?”

“All we can do is wait.”

Cochran spoke. “And when the time comes, Adrienne, we shall fight.”

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Adrienne waited out the days like a person in a dream. Then, the day finally came when Cochran heard the thunder of hoof beats approaching.

Darien looked at his sister and squeezed her limp hand. He could feel his fear for her constrict his throat when he said, “Fight well, sister.”

To their surprise, a band of Easterners–called Nieromen–had come. The people of the East were a strange people, and they had come to be feared. After the great war, they had become very religious and were seldom seen.

The man who seemed to be the leader came forward on his horse and held up his hand. “We come in the name of Niero, the eternal. Let me speak with your leader.”

Lorenai, who had kept back, now stepped forward.

“I welcome you, Guad-Shon. What is your business here?”

“We have come on a pilgrimage to receive the woman-child.”

Darien noticed the same fear in both Adrienne and Lorenai’s eyes. What was it?

Lorenai rose her voice so those around her could hear. “Once every one hundred years the Nieromen go to the lands of the North or the lands of the South. They request a woman-child of great strength and skill to come with them and become their sacrifice to Niero. The woman-child must be special and cannot refuse if chosen. It is a special honor.”

“Yes, Lorenai. That is our custom. We shall observe your women-children for the next two days. On the evening of the second day, we shall leave with our choice.”

With that, Guad-Shon moved his band through the street, and the people dispersed to let them by.

Darien could feel his sister’s tension as she stood next to him, and he saw how the Nieroman leader, Guad-Shon, had nodded his head in respect to her. How did she know this man?

When all the people had gone back to their homes, Darien pulled Adrienne aside. “What does this mean, Adrienne? How do you know the Nieroman leader?”

“I do not know him. I believe he just–knows of me.”

“You are the one, aren’t you? Are they going to take you a–”

Suddenly, Lorenai walked up. “Enough. Do not question her, Darien. She has many of her own questions.”

Darien bowed his head in realization, and then moved away.

“Adrienne, look at me,” said Lorenai. Adrienne looked up from the ground.

“I do not want you to be afraid. You and I both know that you are the most likely choice for the Nieromen. You have been trained as a sorceress–you have also been trained as a fighter. I never thought of these implications as I educated you.”

“It is not your fault, Lorenai.”

Lorenai took Adrienne’s hand and said, “If this is what the Gods have planned for you, then so be it.”

“So be it,” repeated Adrienne.

Come back next Thursday for chapter 3!

Stay tuned for the continuing saga . . .

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When I started this blog at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t sure how it would go. Would I like writing, or would it be hard to come up with something to write about every week? Happily, I’ve found it enjoyable to the point that I want to do even more writing. But what? A book? Fiction, nonfiction? I don’t know.

I do know that I like writing in small bites, like the essays I publish here. Embarking on writing a several-hundred-page book sounds overwhelming, but several hundred words? Much more doable. With that in mind, I came up with the idea of using the serial format. I would write a story, but it would be presented a bit at a time each week.

With that decided, I then freaked out. But what am I going to write about? Eeek eeek eeek! But, wait. I have something I wrote a long time ago–in 1988, to be exact–that I can publish here in serial form! Perhaps revisiting something I wrote when I was 17, as a final paper for my Fantasy/Science Fiction class, will get the writing juices flowing. Plus, it will be a hoot.

So here I present to you, in its completely original, unedited glory, my unnamed story. I’ll publish another chapter every week until it’s done (for a total of 13). As you read, remember how young I was and don’t judge too harshly. (However, I did get an A+, so it can’t be that bad, right?) Also, full disclosure: I borrowed some ideas and character names from my favorite fantasy books at the time.

Chapter One

In the beginning, when the Earth was young, there was nothing but desolation. The mother sun and father moon looked down upon all the blackness and decided it was time to bring it to life. So they sent down their four children, Toran, Barak, Niero, and Galdra, to accomplish the task. When they arrived, they found that there were indeed living creatures on the Earth, but they were lost souls with no one to follow, and they aimlessly roamed the Earth.

Each of the four claimed a land of their own, and the people with it, and these people considered them to be their Gods. Toran moved to the North and was lord of the people there. Barak travelled to the South. Niero and his sister Galdra took the Eastern and Western lands respectively, and throughout all the Earth the people revered the four Gods with fear and love.

The Gods began to get older, and since their lands had all prospered and the people were happy, the four Gods decided to go back to their mother and father in the heavens. The four knew that it was time for their “children” to learn to live on their own. Much sadness and sorrow crossed the lands at this time, and the people wept and begged them not to leave. Before they knew it, the Gods were gone.

Many years and generations passed, and soon the people began to learn to live without the Gods. The Gods looked on from their domain in the sky and were pleased to see that their children were happy. Then, one day the Gods looked down upon their lands and found that all was not well within their domain.

One single man had taken over the Western lands and had turned the people living there to evil ways. His name was Rado. He was a tall, dark man who had always opposed the Gods and their leadership over the people of the land. He had always resented them, and now he had made his move against the West, Galdra’s land.

Where before there had always been a feeling of brotherhood between the four lands, now the lands of the North, East, and South joined in alliance against the West, and a great war broke out. Many were slain, and the Gods chose not to interfere.

But then, one day the sky grew dark, and all was silent. The fighting had ceased. Rado had climbed to the top of the highest mountain in all the lands, and he called to the Gods at the top of his voice.

“Listen my ‘Gods,’ and prepare to meet your destruction! Your power may be great, and you may be strong, but I have something in my possession—something that will end your reign forever!”

And with that, Rado held aloft a golden sphere, and it lit up all the lands like the mother sun. Rado seemed to grow to all those who could behold him, and he became more terrifying than he had been before. Lightning shook through the sky, and all hid their faces in terror and despair.

Then, Rado screamed a command, and the Earth shook and cracked. Many were killed, and that evening the sun set on desolation like that of which when the Earth was dead.

Come back next Thursday for chapter 2!

Making a List and Checking It Twice

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I may not be Santa and checking who’s naughty or nice (which would be kind of weird), but I have always had a thing for making lists. I currently have around six or seven lists in progress on my iPad: Daily and long-term to-dos. Bucket list. What’s already in the bucket list. Ideas for this blog. Things to do before vacation. There are others, too, on my desktop computer as well as written the old-fashioned way with pen and paper.

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Most people keep a shopping list for the grocery store, unless you’re fortunate enough to have an eidetic memory. I struggled to find the most logical and effortless way to do this until I discovered that the grocery store chain I frequent has a shopping list app. You plug in your neighborhood store, the items you need, and voila! It puts them on a list that is organized by aisle. Genius.

Apparently, I’m not the only one with a love of lists. News outlets have embraced the list, perhaps due to shortened attention spans of their readers. I read an article a few years ago bemoaning this trend and claiming it was the death of fleshed-out news reporting, but I don’t care. If it’s in list format, there’s a much better chance I’ll read it. However, I despise lists formatted as slide shows, which require you to click to another page to see each item. Just gimme the whole list at once, already!

I get my love of lists from my mom, who has actually made lists of things she wants to talk to me about and then referred to it as we were talking. (Not big-deal things. Small talk stuff.) Now that she has email this phenomenon seems to have gone by the wayside, as she just emails me things as she thinks of them. (I have to admit, I miss the quirky little talking-points list.)

While I haven’t made lists of talking points (oh, wait, I have for business-related phone calls!), the Laine Apple doesn’t fall far from the Mom Tree. My mother and I both have a deep-seated need for order. Clutter and disorganization are verboten, and apparently this also includes the contents of our minds–because what better way to organize the jumble of tasks, thoughts, and all the other miscellany knocking around in there than to put it on a list? It’s like a pensieve but a lot less cool.

Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than crossing completed items off a to-do list. Heck, I’ve been known to add stuff to the list just so I could cross it off.

1. Exercise

2. Write blog post

3. Return phone calls

4. Make appointment

If you are as fond of lists as I am, be sure to check out Things to Bring, S#it to Do, and Other Inventories of Anxiety: My Life in Lists by Karen Rizzo. She very cleverly has written a memoir entirely in list format. If I didn’t love it so much, I’d be pissed that I didn’t think of it first.

Liquid Courage

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They don’t call it liquid courage for nothing. A couple glasses of wine, and I say, so what if it goes beyond my calorie limit? I deserve chocolate, gosh darn it. I will send stupid, annoying, and pointless texts to my best friend, Kate, when she’s just trying to do things like spend quality time with her kids. How dare she when I want to talk about the most recent episode of Gilmore Girls that I watched? I mean, really.

I get loquacious when I drink. I always know when this happens, because Charlie kicks me under the table or makes “tone it down” faces at me. God, how embarrassing. But there’s always something fun or funny, and how in the world do you not react to that? People must think I’m an ass. But part of me doesn’t care.

There’s something about that lack of inhibition. It’s so free. So freeing. For someone who often feels awkward and anxious in social situations, the lack of that shackle is such a relief. But then, of course, inevitably comes the next day, where you agonize over every little thing you said. Were you stupid? Well, of course you were. But just how stupid were you? A little cringeworthy, or enough that you’ll look back on this with self-loathing for years to come?

Seven years ago I had a particularly bad episode of the latter and decided to quit drinking altogether. I kept it up for about four years, and then I tentatively dipped my toe back in the water (or should I say in the wine?). It’s been okay. Moderation has been key, and I’ve been allowing myself to be my anxious and awkward self in social situations. It’s not the worst thing, and it usually gets better with time. I can find many cringeworthy things that I did or said without adding alcohol to the mix, anyway.

If I were a truly responsible human, I’d keep up the teetotalism. My history recommends it. In my biological family, my maternal grandfather was an alcoholic, and my father had a history with drugs. Problematic relationships with alcohol also appear in my adoptive family. Despite my propensity for addiction, I’ll continue to play it by ear. If things get hairy, it’s over.

So, onward. I continue to have this slightly dysfunctional relationship with alcohol, but for now we’re coexisting peaceably. Would you be surprised to hear that I wrote this after two glasses of wine?

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Coffee Talk

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The other day, a friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook of a cup of black coffee and said, “I ordered my coffee light and sweet at Starbucks, and they gave me this.” It made me laugh, because I don’t think such a traditional phrase as “light and sweet” is in the Starbucks lexicon. If you’ve ever been to a Starbucks, you know what I mean. From cup size (venti?) to coffee type (macchiato?), the place has its own language. Don’t even talk to me about shots, half-caff, soy, and whip. I am clueless about all of it.

I’ll drink a cup or two of light-and-sweet coffee at home on the weekend and enjoy it, but I’m more of a tea girl. However, I grew up with two coffee-drinking parents, most notably my father, who could single-handedly put away a pot or more over the course of a day. And it was black. Always black. None of this cream and sugar frippery for him. I doubt he’s ever been in a Starbucks; I can’t help but wonder what he would make of it.

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I have fond memories of my parents setting up the percolator on the weekend and watching the coffee bubble up in the clear window on the top of the pot. This was in the 1970s, when Starbucks was a single store in Seattle and hadn’t yet achieved nationwide domination. (So when you think about it, there were coffee fads even then.) While today little kids are jonesing for their Starbucks fix, I would get a cup of milk with a teaspoon or two of coffee in it after much begging and whining. Back then, coffee was a decidedly grown-up drink (I never really drank it until after I graduated from college, and neither did my roommates), but now a good number of the coffee drinks available are really more like dessert than anything else.

While here in the States we’re carrying around cardboard cups with our names written on them, in Europe coffee is a whole different animal. At a McDonald’s in Germany, my mother was met with blank stares when she tried to order a decaf. (Later, when we told this story to a local, she said, “No caffeine? What’s the point?”) And in Vienna, a city known for its cafes, our guide said that you could always tell who is American by observing who wants coffee in to-go cups. In Vienna, one lingers over coffee, preferably at a sidewalk cafe, instead of cramming a cardboard cup into a car cup holder.

Whether the current fad is a percolator or an iced caffe latte, I’m sure it will eventually move on to the next new and big thing. (Cold brew, right? I don’t have any idea what that means, but it sounds familiar.) I think I’ll keep things simple and just stick with my tea bags.

Who the @#$% Are You?

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When I was a teenager in the ’80s, I listened to a lot of classic rock radio stations. One song that was on the regular rotation was “Who Are You” by The Who:

     Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
     I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
     Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
     ‘Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

It’s catchy, and at the time it was fun to see whether the radio station would play the uncut version with the eff word. (More often than not they did, but as time went on that became more rare. Thanks, Tipper Gore!)

A song about identity is appealing to the young, but it’s really a rather universal theme. Figuring out who we are, what we value, and how to live our lives in a way that best reflects this is a lifelong task. And when we do figure it out, sometimes the people around us don’t like what we’ve concluded. What then? We can choose to live according to others’ expectations, or we can sally forth as our true selves and live authentically, consequences be damned.

People who choose the former option usually find themselves on a therapist’s couch eventually. (Hell, even those who don’t do, too.) No judgment here. It’s hard to weather pressure and judgment, which in this case usually come from the people closest to us. Sometimes not rocking the boat seems so much easier.

As I’ve gotten older and (hopefully) wiser, I’ve come to the realization that living authentically is something that means very much to me, and being able to do so has been a battle hard-won. My mother envisioned very different things for me than what I wanted for myself. She desired a daughter who was a girly-girl cheerleader, one who would date the right (read: wealthy) boys, go to law school, and get married and have babies. What she got was a tomboy who dated boys without giving any thought to their socioeconomic status, who majored in English (Would you like fries with that?) and married her longtime high school sweetheart, a man who to this day describes himself as being “from the wrong side of the tracks.” Oh, and no kids.

This meant a lot of pressure to dress a certain way, act a certain way, and please, dump that boy and date around a little! After I married, it segued into passive-aggressive comments about the lack of grandchildren. (It could have been worse. I had other people in my life call me selfish to my face about my decision not to have children. So in a way the passive aggression was a relief.)

Many teenagers today have it a lot worse than I did. A few weeks ago I read a news story about a transgender teen who was voted his school’s homecoming king. Happy happy, right? Wrong. A few months later he committed suicide. A more recent news story described how a gay boy was adopted by another family when his own disowned him after he came out. Can you imagine? He was rejected and thrown out by his parents for being himself. These are some high stakes.

While we may not be facing homelessness or suicide, the stakes are high for the rest of us, too. No one wants to reach a point where she looks around and wonders how the heck she got there. She married someone because he looked good on paper, but there’s no intimacy there. And she loves her kids, but being a mother has not come easy, and she wonders if she became one because that’s what you’re supposed to do. If she hadn’t, could she have pursued her dream of . . . ?

No. Just say it. If it feels wrong, doesn’t jibe with who you are, say no. Embrace what makes you, you. Some people might not like it and may not even like you. So what?

The Friendship Test

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It’s hard to make friends, especially when you’re an adult. How do you know if your potential new friend is someone you’ll have anything in common with? Is this person even friend material? Give them this quiz and find out.

1. Sammy Hagar or David Lee Roth?
2. Have you seen The Princess Bride?
3. If you answered yes, what did you think of it?
4. How do you feel about fart jokes and scatological humor in general? How about irreverent humor that borders on the blasphemous?
5. “How do you feel about alcoholics?”
6. Name the source of the quote in number 5.
7. Toilet paper: Should the roll be hung with the end folded over the top or coming from underneath?
8. Cats or dogs?
9. “Does Barry Manilow know you raided his wardrobe?”
10. Name the source of the quote in number 9.

Can you think of anything I missed? Let me know.

Regrets

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My last couple of posts have been downers, so I intended today’s to be light and (hopefully) funny. Since I started this blog, I’ve always written based on what moves me, and as I’m often amused about something, I didn’t think keeping today’s post upbeat would be a tall order. However, then I spoke to my mom on the phone, and my heart’s been heavy since. My parents had to put Freddy to sleep on Monday.

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After I heard that Freddy only had a month or so, I wanted to go over to my parents’ so I could see him and give him a snuggle. I suspected that my parents would not tell me when the time came to put him to sleep–and I was right, as I only heard about it a couple of days after the fact–so I wanted to be sure I’d be able to see him at least one more time. Life got in the way, and I didn’t make it over there. Scratch that. No excuses. I didn’t make the time to go over there. And boy, now do I regret it. Freddy’s gone.

I can be angry at my parents for not telling me, but that would just be displacement. I’m really angry at myself. I should have visited him, given him some love. Told him what a good dog he was and how he had brought all of us so much joy over the years.

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Rest well, Freddy. I love you.