Sunday, December 19, 2010

Writing is my boyfriend

So here's the thing: I am pretty much a hoot, and sometimes even a holler. Not only am I wildly entertaining--yes, this is going somewhere--but I am riveting with my words. And... you guessed it, a wildly entertaining hoot and holler in my writing as well. Yeah, I said it.
I am a writer, dammit!
I paid upwards of a new Lexus for my collegiate education, only to now be sinking in a vat of quicksand-like debt from said college institution and am I getting paid to be Carrie Bradshaw for all that hassle? For sitting in my room in the the third grade penning love stories and using my imagination instead of rotting my brain with television? For dramatically proclaiming in the fourth grade that one day I would be a novelist, knowing even then that there was a strong possibility of living in a box while trying to accomplish this feat?
Well this blog makes about seven cents every three weeks (and that's rounding up) and I haven't actually gotten a fat check in the mail to date... so the answer is no. I am not getting paid for my awesome writing ability. And quite frankly, it's a smidge irksome. Okay, to be more accurate, I'd say the Grand Canyon is about the right size in comparison to my level of annoyance... so, not really a smidge so much as freaking enormously irked.
I am putting my foot down, America. And I'll throw Europe in there too for good measure because I'd gladly take a writing job overseas. Someone in the writing/publishing/editing/novelist realm had better hire me! And soon.
I know there are millions of other quality writers trying to get published and paid too, but here's the thing:
I have had a love affair with words since I left the comfort and complacency of my mother's womb. I am certain before I can even recall I was transfixed with taking some aspect of my life and weaving it into a tale so engrossing that teachers wanted to pat me on the head with admiration while boys ran for the hills in fear of my vocabulary.
In fact my adoration for writing is so strong, I would say it is my relationship. And my strongest one to date. I spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over it, wondering why I don't get the recognition I so richly deserve for all the work and love I put in, while still managing to give all of myself even when I'm tired or not in the mood.
I don't even want a boyfriend to pour all this love and passion into. I want a writing job!
So guess what piss-poor economy, flailing newspapers, pretentious publishing houses, I am sick of the charade. You may act all aloof and oh "can't help you, there," but no, I am over it. You will get a grip and give me a job, because this hard-to-get game is so last week.

Sincerely yours,

Unpaid Novelist Extraordinaire
Cassandra Lee Sturos

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Give Thanks

With the day of giving thanks upon us, it's no surprise that I've started to consider all that I appreciate about this glorious holiday: overeating an abundance of calorie-laden pies, much needed time with the Sturos Bunch, raptly watching the Macy's day parade with my siblings...
I would hardly be a good American if I didn't contemplate what the pilgrims and natives first initiated: lovingly joining around a table of lushly prepared cuisine and then bickering over who overcooked the bird.
In all seriousness though I have a lot to be thankful for and have been giving it considerable thought in the past few weeks. So I have compiled a list. Here goes:

I am incredibly thankful for these things:

-Fetching gray vests that only cost $1.00 and never cease to make me look anything other than incredibly hip
-Bluegrass bands that are so wholesome and talented it brings a tear to my eye, but shh, if anyone asks I never cried
-Believing that humanity will come through for you... and then by golly they do
-Sharing shoes, nail polish, jewelry, pizza, cookies, beer, and laughter with a new roommate
-Receiving really good advice
-Hearing church hymns that I forgot I knew the words to
-Finding a drawing from my 5-year-old sister stating she loves me more than the whole universe. If that isn't unconditional love, I don't know what is
-Learning to play poker with pears as players
-Adeste Fideles
-Watching When Harry Met Sally over and over again
-Old-fashioned Christmas lights
-Pioneers... oh you know who you are
-Discovering a whole slew of wonderfulness in Wisconsin that I was not at all prepared for
-New Vocabulary words
-Friends with accents
-Paid vacation
-Coming to the conclusion that even without makeup, spanx, or a boyfriend to tell me so, I can still believe in my own beauty
-Seeing a grown man look adoringly at his wife and children, then tell me with perfect sincere clarity that he is very lucky
-Knowing that no matter what else life happens to bring me, I have thus far been truly blessed in my endeavors

-Oh and did I mention an overabundance of pie... particularly of the chocolate variety

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mr. Right better read.

I have always been a lover of books. I can recount the days of my youth spent with my nose between two worn pages of a Nancy Drew novel, where I ached to be a genius child detective who'd solve neighborhood capers.
Then I grew bolder and decided horror was the way to go. Goosebumps of course. Getting lost in the possibility of werewolves in my backyard or haunted carnivals was almost too much for my already over-wrought imagination.
I moved swiftly, from genre to genre; fantasy, romance, comedy, thrillers... I grew up, went to college, discovered whole new arenas of books unexplored and unappreciated up until that point. I started reading the classics, poetry, non-fiction, memoirs, short stories and sonnets. I yearned to soak up literature like a wet sponge. The words, the turn-of-phrase, analogies and imagery fascinated and enthralled me like Charlie entering the chocolate factory.
To a girl like me, spending five years in college with the written word was like going on an extended honeymoon with my greatest love: books of course.
Hearing professors wax poetic about the most talented writers of all time from Poe to Hemingway instilled an awe in me that still trails me today, into my bedroom, onto my bookshelf, even at work where I brush up on the thesaurus just for the pleasure of discovering new words.
And for being a lover and advocate of words, I can't quite describe to you how important and vital it is to me that the man I settle down with/tie the knot, all that hoo-ha, be semi if not over-the-moon in love with reading as well.
I am not trying to hold up too high a bar here. I understand there are deal-breakers for every girl, but this one is rather simple as I have lost far too much patience with men who respond that their favorite reading is Maxim. Or tell me they recently checked out a car magazine in a gas station.
No. Sorry. You have just insulted my very being. To say your favorite piece of reading is Maxim is like telling me that dead possum you just ran over on the highway is fine cuisine.
You clearly wouldn't know fine cuisine if it ran you over so don't waste my time. And by fine cuisine, I obviously mean literature. If you haven't spent time between the pages of any book, sports memoir to Charles Dickens; then you haven't experienced the joy of using your imagination. And I am sorry my friend. I see no future with you.
The thing is, I don't have to have a man who literally finds a new unused word in the dictionary and gets no small amount of glee at the prospect of adding it to his vocabulary. I don't expect mountains here, but I do expect some semblance of an appreciation for something that is as vital to me as breathing.
After all, my mother got my very name from a romance novel. The moment I left the womb I already had the etchings of prose pumping through my core.
So to save any would-be suitors the trouble, I'll give you this tip: If you haven't picked up a book in the last 24+ years of your life or tell me that you think Playboy is an excellent source of reading because they have fine articles. Well, just keep on walking, my good man.
I'll take my books over you any day.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My ship is lost

I came home from work today feeling rather snappy. I had spent some time adding up the funds in my New York Account, watching it slowly grow. Then while driving home I lazily daydreamed about the day I get to move into my NYC apartment and fall asleep to the sounds of sirens and big city life instead of crickets and lawn mowers.
I walk in the house with my ten dollars worth of groceries ready to make a delectable BLT on garlic Parmesan bread accompanied by homemade potato crisps, followed by trashy reality TV and a leisurely walk. Some nasty shit is about to hit the fan, however... not sure if you could smell it coming.
I carry in my pile of bills along with my groceries and start opening one piece of mail as I pre-heat the oven and dig for a saucepan. As I scan the words, I stop what I am doing and march to the table to locate my phone. I furiously dial the number on the slip of paper I am holding, while deep, dark fury churns like home-made butter in my gut.
"Hi, I can't pay this entire $1200. That's why I was on a payment plan, of $100 a month, so I will continue paying that thank you very much."
"Okay, that's fine," the man says, "we can continue the payment plan, but if you don't pay the entire $1200 in 45 days this will affect your credit score."
"45 days?! If I had $1200 in 45 days don't you think I'd give it to you! I work two jobs! I have other bills, medical, student loans, a car payment, insurance, credit cards. I would LOVE to give you $1200 but I will not have that in 45 days."
"Okay, well we can set up the payment plan for you then."
"And it won't affect my credit score if I am still on the plan?"
"No, unless the balance is paid in 45 days it still will."
Fucking fantastic. I hang up the phone feeling sick and no longer hungry. I shut off the oven, put the saucepan away and start feverishly opening the rest of my bills only to start feeling worse and worse about my financial situation.
Once I look everything over, plot, stew and ruminate, I call my mother twice. She always answers but isn't picking up this time. So I do the only thing I can think of in such an abysmal situation: curl up in my bed in the fetal position and whimper until my mom calls me back.
I contemplate the ways to fix this problem and they are as follows:
-Cash out NYC Savings Fund altogether to pay heinous bills and admit defeat that I will ever achieve my dreams
-Get a job at some early morning fishery to earn extra income--they're always doing that in the movies and it seems to make things better
-Jump off the nearest bridge... until I realize I won't be able to afford the medical/psychiatric bill (joke!)
None of these options sound particularly enticing, so I continue to wallow until I hear my phone ring. Mom.
I barely make out the words, "Are you busy right now?" before I am sobbing that I will always be a pauper who can't even afford to shop at Goodwill anymore.
Being my mother, she immediately puts the band-aid on my festering financial wounds. She then tells me I better not touch my New York Account because things will get better.
I believe her, because I always believe my mom.
As I get out my last sniffles of self-pity, I ask her when my ship is going to come in?
"Oh, I know your ship is coming, Kiddo. It may be slow, but I have no doubts about your ship... I may have given up on mine, but I am certain yours is coming."
I come to the conclusion that she is right. My ship is clearly lost in a dense fog somewhere near the Adriatic Sea, but it is well equipped with compasses and sexy sailors who can read the stars, that's what I've decided; so they'll be here eventually.
So guess what you nasty, rude bill collectors? J.K. Rowling was in the pits of poverty before she unleashed Harry Potter on the world. So just you wait until my book gets published! You will rue the day! Or something like that.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One Way Ticket, Please

One of my biggest fears is being mediocre. Considering a life where I never sell a novel, see the Eiffel tower, lose this god-forsaken weight, stay seeped in mountains of debt--well it's just plain unacceptable to me.
I was looking at pictures from all over the world yesterday on Yahoo News, CNN, somewhere, when I saw photos of "Tomatina" a tomato fight in a small town near Valencia, Spain. I have seen pictures of this epic red tomato bath numerous times and to some this might not seem like something to get all achy over, but I desperately want to participate in this world-renowned tomato fight before I die. It seems so bizarre and unlike anything in America that I actually had dreams about selling all my worldly possessions just to get there.
Some of you may be snickering thinking, okay you weirdo, why don't you just throw tomatoes in your backyard or something? No, that's not the point. This is huge. It's a festival in Spain. Spain, people. Who cares why the hell they are creaming each other with tomatoes? Every picture I've seen over the years, people are laughing and screaming and it looks more decadent to me then a massage at a luxury spa in Aspen--though okay, I'd gladly take that too.
I don't know if it's something in my DNA, but I have always had some of the most grand and lavish dreams imaginable. Besides getting mad as a child at Amelia Earhart for beating me to the punch on the whole flying across the Atlantic bit, I would fancy myself marrying Prince William and graduating with honors from Harvard. Yeah, so neither of those exactly panned out, but even then I couldn't see myself living an ordinary life.
I want to trek through uncharted territory in foreign lands and meet people who's languages I couldn't possibly decipher. I don't want to just see the Seven Wonders of the World, I want to see the ones that aren't even mentioned in National Geographic.
I want to skydive, and learn to fly fish, go sailing and learn the ropes, sleep in a real tree-house, walk a red carpet, attend a ball, take a sauna in Finland, learn Italian, paddle through white water rapids, live in a dingy apartment in New York City that's mine all mine, and quite frankly, maybe never live in the burbs or attend my high school reunion.
Maybe that makes me a tad unconventional, but heck this is something I have always accepted about myself.
In fact today at my job--in the banking world--while searching out information for a member that was particularly hard to find, I pretended I was Sherlock Holmes and my co-worker was Watson. I got an immense amount of pleasure and glee from turning mere numbers and lines into a puzzle that only a detective could solve. It made it seem less like a tedious task and more like I was living in the late 19th century in some studio piled high with books in a cellar in Bath.
Yeah, I guess maybe I am just crazy. But, I think it might be just the ticket for escape.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Romantic Comedies. No, no, romatic crap.

Some of you may be wondering if I have gone cynical on you. No, that's not it. I just feel I have been around the block and can finally understand some real grown-up things about love and not fairy tale fancies that have been flitting about my brain all hopped up on dreams my whole life.
I recently watched Leap Year with my mother. I didn't have very high expectations as I never actually wanted to see it, the preview pretty much said it all, but it was recommended to me nonetheless and my mom was desperate to see it. I was severely disappointed. No, I'll even go one further, I was severely pissed off to boot. It was such a bunch of hokie bullshit! It is so like romantic comedies to throw two attractive people together, against all odds and bam! It's love! Who could've seen it coming?! The girl is always one of two stock characters--the neurotic planner type who has had some sort of childhood trauma to explain why she's so uptight, or the free spirit/klutzy darling who knows about poetry and is oh-so-lovable and endearing. Amy Adams played the first one in this flick.
She and her would-be romantic interest, the Irish Rogue taking her to propose to her boyfriend, are so clearly disgusted with each other (spoiler, it's actually love brewing beneath all that animosity. It's stark-raving passion people! Don't you see?) but somehow in a mere matter of days, love blossoms! Love, I say! Another spoiler, so quit reading if you actually want to see this colossal waste of time, but after she arrives safely into her boyfriend's arms and gets what she always wanted, she realizes, what she wants is back in Ireland. Off she goes to make a bold statement, flying across the country (because movie heroines always have endless pools of money to take multiple trips to Ireland in a few weeks time) and declares her love for said Irish Rogue in front of gads of people in a soul-wrenching way. Oh and it gets better... he proposes! Fate, I say!
I literally could almost feel bile rising in my throat after finishing this particular "romance." It's so outlandish that it actually now just makes me livid. I don't think, aw shucks, sometimes love just works that way. Or maybe I too will meet some delicious yet saucy foreigner who spars with me in the most affectionate way and then flies to America to win me back after I've gotten on a plane. He'll waltz into my place of employ and trumpet in front of coworkers and members alike that he has fallen deeply in love with me and had to (just had to) fly across country to tell me. I shall simper and cry and run into his arms. Naturally my boss will let me leave, because such a grandiose declaration doesn't happen like that every day. And then fast forward to us driving in a convertible in Prague with a scarf tied in my hair, head tipped back in laughter with my dishy beau behind the wheel looking longingly at me, with both parts desire and adoration gleaming in his sparkling aqua eyes.
Hmm. Sounds legit. Could happen to anyone. Okay, before you all get your panties knotted for me pissing on your romantic comedy parade, well I'm sorry, but I've just had it and if you had a blog you could retaliate.
But I will say this. Because I have always been a die hard lover of love and still do appreciate romance, let me paint you a picture of what I still do believe constitutes a good melt your heart kinda love.

When my grandpa used to tell my grandma she was his best girl and then wink at her.
When my best friends boyfriend stays up with a certain friend of hers while she pukes her guts out and frantically brings her Gatorade and holds it to her mouth like a bottle so she can rehydrate.
When you do something really embarrassing in front of your boyfriend that should make him cringe and instead your eyes meet and you both become hysterical, because he knows you and you know him, and really, who cares?
When you see your dad kiss your mom with that twinkle in his eye, because even though they've been married for twenty-five years, have oodles of kids and stress, you can see that it's still love when he looks at her.
When before you've even gotten on the train to leave him your boyfriend texts you he misses you already and your heart does an achy beat.

That is a kind of love I can appreciate. I just don't have tolerance for that fakey nonsense depicted in movies anymore, but something raw and real and desperately hard-won is the kind of love I look up to and respect. So sorry Hollywood, your sad attempts at portraying worthwhile love are now lost on this girl. We had a good run, but it's over. I bid you a not so sad adieu.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hey Jude

I know this is a question that has been plaguing the minds of my readers since I first began blogging, so I have graciously decided to address it. My first kiss. Yes, a romantic like me, it's got to be good right? Quite right, quite right. Twas good, for such a long ago affair. Let me bring you back.
The year was... around, wait let me do some mental math. Okay, I used a calculator. The year was 1994. I was stationed along with the rest of the Sturos brood, not being such a big brood at that time, but no matter, at the quaint old palace on Railroad Street. Er. Duplex if you must know. We had the bottom half, and our neighbors with a whole slew of boys lived above us. Naturally from the moment they had moved in--as families were always moving in and moving out, while we stayed put below--I had had my eye on a certain fella in the family. Let's call him Jude as his older brother never stopped singing off-key we all live in a yellow submarine, producing a hatred of the Beatles for me and most of my childhood.
But, Jude, he was everything I wanted in a boy. He was tall (taller than me at least) dark and handsome--as far as fourth grade boys go. He was akin to someone I would have dreamed up while sitting in the trees lining my driveway concocting imaginary boyfriends and what qualities I most admired. Okay, if truth be told I sometimes also pretended the trees were my boyfriends, but I think that's a mere testament to how darn imaginative I was and not at all a creepy thing that would require my parents investing in a shrink. Alright moving on.
The day Jude moved in I remember pulling up the driveway with my dad and getting out of the car to hear that we had new neighbors! My eyes shot straight to the the second story window that I knew to be a bedroom from playing upstairs with previous neighbors and there he was, looking back at me. I smiled and waved. He grinned and then disappeared from the window. Sure enough he came outside to introduce himself. It was enough, I knew before I had even seen him in person that he would be my first love. I just knew, like girls know.
We became instant friends, but I was aware even at a young age that boys weren't meant for mere friendship, holding your jump rope and gabbing about Barbies. No, no they were meant for much more: holding hands, kissing and one day marrying, and this girl was not going to slack on snagging a man. I'd had many a conversation with my tree boyfriends and. wait ahem my other girl friends and I knew the rules of the game.
Speaking of other girl friends. I did have them. One girl, we'll call her Libby (my supposed best friend) knew I was playing basketball with Jude that day and basically following him around every second like a magnet. She had the audacity to tell me she was going to ask him to be her boyfriend! Some nerve! She even said it with a powerful glint in her eye, as if the fact that she had long blonde hair and an evil streak meant she could get any guy she wanted (I would later learn this does indeed get you guys).
Well I was having none of that. I marched home not without stopping and wishing on a dried up dandelion first that Jude would see I was the only girl for him. Lucky for me all the seeds blew off the stem and floated into the air. I pounded on Judes door not seconds later with purpose. He opened it with a wry smile most likely sensing my urgency and the seeds of fate working their way into his mind as I began to speak.
I got straight to the point.
So you're my friend right?
, he nodded casually still smiling.
And you're a boy, I stated.
Yes, he was starting to look at me funny now. Wasn't that much obvious?
So... technically that makes you my boyfriend...?
His eyes got large like he had just been duped. But as he pondered it, I could see that he too saw my logic and it made sense.
Yeah, sure, he shrugged.
Locked in, Libby! Who's boyfriend is he now?
Great! See you later!
I bolted for Libby's to break the news. I mean she had to know he was off the market right?

A few days later Jude and I sat on the railing of our shared back porch talking and playing Dare. I brazenly stated that no dare was out of my league. You couldn't scare me off. He nodded and pondered. And as he mused I stared at his sweet smiling face and wished for him to kiss me.
I dare you to kiss me he blurted out with sudden inspiration. My jaw dropped. If I had known wishes were this easy I would've been wishing for a horse a lot sooner!
Before I leapt into his arms I considered a lesson from my life coach, my aunt Lacey. I remembered her telling me to play hard to get. No man wants an Easy Edith. I couldn't just act excited about kissing him, it'd make him take me for granted or run into Libby's arms for heaven's sake!
So I pretended to mull it over like it was a matter of the state. I hemmed. I hawwed. I tapped my fingers to my lips like it was just so delicate a thing. And then I calmly said, yes I suppose I could kiss you. But not here where people can see. Let's go behind the shed.
We scurried to the far reaches of the yard and stopped once behind the safety of the rusted white metal.
I told him he had to close his eyes and he agreed because that's just how kisses were done right and proper. I leaned in and placed my small pink lips against his. I didn't do much of anything other than lean in, press, and then pull back while promptly getting a rosey flush. When he opened his eyes, he let out a sigh and said, that was great!
My heart did funny things like an Irish jig and a two-step and then maybe a rousing tango for good measure.
So, I said nonchalantly. Since you dared me to kiss you it's only fair that well, you have to kiss me now.
He agreed with no hesitation. I think he was onto my little game.
As soon as my eyelids fluttered down, awaiting his kiss, I desperately thought that life couldn't be any sweeter than my dear Jude approaching with his lips about to touch mine. And when they did, for just an instant, like my kiss to him, just lips touching lips, I felt pink. And giddy. Just as light and buoyant as a lost balloon drifting up, up and away. My eyes opened and he was smiling at me.
Later after swooning in my bed, he would knock on my window and ask me to go to the carnival with him and feeling cocky, I retorted, oh you just want to kiss me again, to which he smiled and ran off to get in the car with his waiting parents.
What ultimately brought this story into my head was confidence. What an alluring and golden thing it is. How back in the fourth grade, nothing could've steered me away from getting Jude. And now, the slightest breeze knocks me off kilter and has me questioning all my dreams, wishes and wants. I doubt that I've got it and when I make wishes now, I wonder achingly if they'll ever come true.
Something about youth and thinking dandelion seeds will come through for you is really the cusp of it all. If back then I could have faith in seeds flying in the wind to make boys turn into boyfriends, then what's stopping me when I have all the resources for making it on my own, right here at my fingertips? What's stopping me is somewhere along the line I lost that sureness in myself and have been struggling to find it ever since.
But all it took was the memory of my first kiss and how I was really the one who made it happen, to make me wonder if there's something to what I've got after all.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Every year I struggle in vain to find a card for my mother which will put into words what I find so difficult to say or even write myself, but this year I wanted to try and articulate what my mom means to me.
This past week I have been sick: a sore throat, it sounds measly, but it's been pretty grotesque and hideously painful. Naturally the eight-year-old in me comes out when I feel even the slightest bit unwell and I call my mom crying at four a.m. that I can't swallow or sleep and she patiently and lovingly tells me what to do. As if, I, a grown woman, can't figure it out on my own. It doesn't matter. I can figure it out on my own, but there's something about my mother's calm support and words of sympathy that are like a sweet cherry cough drop to my throbbing throat.
But that's a given you say, any good mother worth her salt takes care of her sick children. True. So I shall press on. This memory came into my head the other day while driving. Somewhere in time around the fifth grade, I had woken up in the night certain there was an intruder in my bedroom trying to kidnap me. It was probably my overactive imagination combined with a nightmare, but it was enough to send me peeling for my parents bedroom. In a fit of hysteria I shook my mom up telling her about my frightful encounter. She nodded bleary-eyed and patted the middle of the bed in between her and my dad. In I climbed, tucked safely between them. Sure I slept with my arms crossed tightly to my chest just to be safe, but I knew with certainty that if there actually had been an intruder trying to get to me, that no-gooder would've had to deal with a very protective mama bear who doesn't take kindly to anyone messing with her little cubs!
So your mom let you sleep in her bed when you were scared too? Fine, I can see that. But wait. Does your mom ask you simple little favors every once in awhile, like would you be willing to help me write this paragraph for a contest I'm entering? or if you wouldn't mind looking up this piece of information and getting back to me? And being a scatty daughter you put it on a mental list with the likes of: you really outta back up your computer files and get an oil change sometime in the next six months. And what does my fine mother do when you never get to that paragraph or keep forgetting to find the information she needed? She doesn't scold or get annoyed or say that she's done hundreds of thousands of beautiful, thoughtful things for you over the years. Or even bring up the not so beautiful things like how she tirelessly cleaned up your vomit when you were four, five, six, eight and would knock on her door, tell her somberly that you puked but somehow missed the toilet and then trudge back to bed, knowing full well she'd take care of it. Or how about listening to you sob hysterically over a break-up and although she might not have known what to do with you, she held you anyway and told you you'd be okay. And what about the times she'd take you to get your fillings when you didn't listen and floss your teeth like the dentist said, or she'd watch white knuckled in the passenger seat while you attempted your first parallel park. And still, she doesn't hoard that over you and say, "All I asked you to do was write that one little paragraph!" Nope. She forgives your thoughtlessness and still is there for you when you cry or hurt or don't really listen to her problems because you're overwhelmed with your own. But does she ever give you a taste of your own medicine? No of course not. Never.
Maybe your mom too has done all these things and is also an exceptional woman. I can believe it. There are lots of great mothers out there, but hey maybe I'm partial, but I don't think they can hold a candle to my mom. My mom who has recently been told on numerous occasions how homesick I am (maybe because I wail about it every time I call her) sent me this video on Mother's Day. Her day. The day honoring all she does for every single one of her children, 365 days a year, for going on twenty-four years now.

Wishing You Were Home

I am not sure if you can see now, why I find I fall short every year in thanking my mother for all she does for me, in telling her I love her so much more than, me, a writer could ever put into the most exquisite of words, because she is just too mesmerizing and astounding for me to come close to knowing what to say. But I tried, mom. Even though you deserve more than one day of recognition for all that you do, and I've spent countless days not showing you the appreciation you so richly deserve, I still want to attempt to say thank you. And Happy Mother's Day Mom. I would be nothing without you.

Friday, May 7, 2010


So, a friend of mine suggested I write something about desperation and despair. Me?! Desperation and despair? That's like asking Lady Gaga to be seen in a pair of simple slacks and a sweater. It ain't gonna happen. This is not to say I don't feel these emotions. Every human being has felt their share of these two dastardly diddies, however, I have made it good practice to show as little of it as possible, and if I'm going to show it, it's only to the people I feel won't judge my imperfections or failures.
In fact sometimes I get so adept at holding in my feelings of fear or inadequacy that I find myself in a state of hiding. Pushing everything so far inside that no one can know, and if I must break down, well maybe quietly under the covers at night when I'm pretty sure no one will know my secrets. That I am sad, or lonely, or sick of the mere sight of myself, or the fact that people tell me I'm strong but I feel so weak.
These maybe are a couple things I have been feeling this past week and would rather not carry on about, because it just doesn't jive with my glass is half full approach to life. I have to press on in the mindset that this is a mere bump in the road and things will right themselves soon enough, otherwise I really might have a meltdown.
As I have always been prone to dramatic flair, anytime life doesn't go my way my immediate idea is: run away. Those of you who aren't familiar with my attempt at running away as a child, well I'll retell that sordid tale.
The particulars are fuzzy now as I was a wee lil thing. Okay like fourteen, but still. As I remember it, I was feeling the pressures of being the oldest in an extensive family and felt neglected. I know my mom wasn't home that day because, honestly if I ran away when my mom was home, not only would she notice, but become royally pissed for such shennanigans like wasting a good Saturday of cleaning on crass theatrics like attempted runaway.
So I pulled this little stunt when my dad was home. Thinking the outcome was two-fold. He'd miss me terribly and grovel with tears in his eyes when I returned, saying how worried he'd been and that I could never be overlooked again. And that I'd get the respect I rightly deserved. In all reality I am certain I knew neither of these outcomes would be the case, as I could've probably burst into the house with a gouging blood-wound on my head and my dad would say, "Well honestly, why'd you go and do that? Go lay down until your mom gets home, I'm sure she'll want to take you to the E.R. or some nonsense for that piddly scrape," (haha just teasing dad).
Anyway, I digress. But well, I love to digress, but seriously, anyway. I hopped on my two speed Huffy, appropriately named for the only times when I'd get on that damn thing. In a huff. As I did that day, spitting gravel down the driveway and promptly heading for the trail running parallel to the railroad tracks near our house. Yes, you can't have a proper runaway tale without railroad tracks, so kudos to me. I pedaled furiously until I reached the next street down (um like a quarter of a mile away). As soon as I came to a stop to potentially cross, I thought, what are you doing you loon? This is lame, you're already exhausted and where are you even going with no food or money? It'd probably been a mere half an hour since I last ate and the prospect of holding out near a swamp for hours without food was worse a fate than admitting defeat on my bold statement to my parents. So I turned around hoping that it had been sufficient time for my dad to come to his senses. As I cruised back to the house prepared for my dad to ask where have you been, I saw upon my return that all was as I'd left it. Some youngin's playing in the yard, someone (let's just say Jordan) avoiding his chores, and my dad watching sports. I came in heaving and indignant and looked pointedly waiting. Waiting. Waiting..... "Dad!"
"Did you finish your chores yet?"
"Forget it!" I most likely squealed with tears ready on the brink of my lashes.
This was my first and last attempt at running away. However, when the going gets tough it is never far from my mind, as a viable option to solving all of life's problems. But, alas it doesn't take much to bring me back to that day and the futility of my efforts. Running away doesn't solve any of your problems. It pretty much just makes you feel stupid and leaves you breathless with exhaustion.
So I guess I'm staying put.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

When boy meets girl

So I have a bone to pick with some fellas! Okay, it's not really something I'm mad about, more like something I can't understand because it's never happened to me.
The first culprit is Hulzy. Ohhh, don't even pretend like you don't know what I'm going to say. Buying your girlfriend designer bags and sunglasses! How many boyfriends actually do that?! Well, only the really exceptional ones, obviously. Naturally, I am not mad about this, just had to get your attention... okay, maybe a smidge envious, but mostly really happy.
Because I do recall a certain ex-boyfriend of mine telling a sales girl in the mall who politely suggested he purchase a particular knock-off designer bag for me (that I was oggling) that he would never waste the money. I am pretty sure he snickered with an evil smile after uttering the nasty statement as well. And if he'd had a handlebar mustache, the sod would have been twirling it, while I huffed in indignation over his complete disdain for one of my greatest loves--the designer bag. He was a sweetheart, I know. Can't really figure out why I let that one slip through my fingers.
Anyway, I digress, we were talking about someone actually upstanding and I got off topic. James. A.K.A Hulzy. My best friend's boyfriend.
I don't come across many men in my life that really wow me with their character and do things like tell their girlfriend's best friend that she is beautiful even when she does nasty things like talk about how much she hates shaving her legs or that she's feeling quite bitchy because the period's on its way.
Yes, I can really let it all hang out around men who are akin to adopted brothers. Jordan puts up with it. Why shouldn't Hulzy?
And really he doesn't have to. He could do the easy thing and just wow my best friend. He could buy her designer bags and treat her well, and make witty banter about her need to stop in wal-mart and socialize with people named Ellie-Mae. But no, I'd say he goes the extra mile in caring not only about her, but caring about what she cares about, including her family and friends. Indeed it isn't very often that I meet men that impress me this much and it really is no surprise, because Hulzy is one in a million. As is my dear Emily. And she deserves someone who treats her like the rarest and most beautiful of all diamonds to ever be discovered on planet earth. That is how dear Emily is to my heart and how dear James is to me, for taking care of her long after I very begrudgingly handed over the reins.
Another man, who is doing a damn fine job of impressing me, and this is a very tall order, is a certain Mr. Iowa. Not many of you will know who this is, but suffice it so say, he waltzed in sweeping my other best friend off her feet at a time when she couldn't have needed it more.
It is no easy thing for me to watch some man come in with his sweet words and kind gestures and take over what I think is my job, caring and loving my best friends. Holding their hands when they get sad, threatening warfare on anyone who harms them, telling them they are beautiful, amazing, two of the most perfect girls in God's creation, and then in walks a man who really means it and he gets a lot more props for doing a job I've been doing for years. But that's okay. When it comes to my beautiful friends finding the man who makes their heart pitter-patter and causes their steps to be a little more jaunty, well I can't help but thank God for searching the world over with a fine-tooth comb for men who are bold enough to prove themselves to not only my girls, but to me. And so far fellas, you are making me proud.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wanted: A Good Friend

As is the case with moving to any new locale where you know very few people, you have to start the daunting task of re-acquiring a friend base. This was easy in the second grade:
"Will you be my friend, Elizabeth?"
"Sure Cassandra. I really like your backpack."
"Thanks, my mom bought it for me. I really like your tights."
And, a friendship was born. Pure and simple. One that could probably last you at least until the fifth grade. Unfortunately as an adult, simply asking someone to be your friend will most likely not get you said friend, but make them wonder if you have some sort of social dysfunction.
But as true as it was in the second grade, upon meeting someone I can usually tell within a short time whether or not that person is someone I want to be friends with. Well, that's dandy, but it's sort of like dating--something I loathe--you have to put your best foot forward, exchange phone numbers, wonder if the other person actually wants to hang out with you or if they were just being polite when they said, "we should do coffee soon," start planning get-togethers that both parties are fond of, save all the really gory details about your life for a time when you know they're in it for the long haul.... blah. blah. blah.
It's a big headache! And furthermore, what if you really aren't meeting these would-be friends?! Then you're even farther up crap creek without a paddle, because all the legwork seems welcome compared to no prospects whatsoever!
After making very distinct plans with a prospective friend last night and feeling excited about all the ways in which this friendship could blossom, I was a fit to be tied, when said person NEVER CALLED, as the little worm was supposed to. Even after I hinted that I was getting tired and weren't we still doing something.
Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
I woke up just as angry as I had gone to sleep. Since moving to Green Bay I have met one person so far who I feel truly gets me. And he's moving! My darling Mr. Pierce is leaving me for Madison. Wow, that could be a movie title. Okay, anyway, I am very happy for him and the whirlwind of opportunities unfolding for him, because he deeply deserves it, but I am very distressed for me. Who will go adventuring with me, sample chili at cook-offs and take me on dates to Kavarna?! Who, I say?
I had a bit of a spazz-attack on the way to work this morning over this current conundrum and desperately prodded God for solutions. Do I have to put a bloody ad in the paper saying:
Young, hip girl needs friend. If you are adventuresome, witty, like board games and old-fashioned movies, and feasibly can hang out all the time, then you're my gal/guy. Heavy drinkers, druggers, or partiers need not apply.
I mean, that's just a rough sketch... I haven't given it much thought or anything...
Okay, but honestly, what am I to do? I am totally batting zero here!
And yes, I have met some really great people thus far, don't get me wrong, but I mean, it's just these people might be content hanging out with me once a month or so, and really if I go to one more movie or wine tasting by myself...
Bottom-line: I really have grown quite fond of my own company, more fond of it than I ever imagined I would, however, I'd like to share it with someone else before I become a crazy bag lady who starts talking to squirrels for lack of human companionship.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I've failed 100,000 times...

You know what I've never really been able to do that skinny people can do? A cartwheel. And it struck me the other day that I really wish I could do one. Oh, don't get me wrong, I've attempted many a cartwheel, much as I've attempted many a diet, but it just never quite clicks. I flip to the side, I fall before I can complete it. In short, I am way top heavy and gravity just doesn't agree with me there. It says, ehh, try again when you're fifty pounds lighter. But then I somehow end up 50lbs heavier and the years have passed me by and I've just quit trying as I know my limits.
Well maybe Easter, this time of resurrection and rebirth is an important time to start realizing this. Not just that I actually still do long to complete a cartwheel but that I long to do loads of other things that I have sort of given up on because of either my weight holding me back as a physical restriction, or an emotional one.
I was talking about this with a friend of mine the other day and I told him about how I was out with some friends who were playing catch with a football and someone went to throw it to me, and I instinctively said "no way!" and ran to the side of the hastily developing game of 500. At first I was mad I said, no way. What was I thinking? I like playing 500 as much as the next non-sports savvy gal. But the more I watched the girls and guys toss around the football and call to me to play, the more uncomfortable I became. I felt as if I were to go out there and mess up, as I probably might (as everyone was) I would look more stupid because of my weight. Yes, it's a sick mentality, but it was there, holding me back.
And I guess the floodgates have opened, because I vehemently said to me friend that I didn't want to be on the sidelines of life anymore. I really want to be in the game. I don't want to be afraid, and I don't want to give up because it's always been hard and will continue to be hard. I want to do this, not because being thin would somehow make me fit in. No, I have always marched to the beat of a slightly off-beat jazzy drummer, but I simply would love to know what it's all about.
I want to run and do cartwheel after cartwheel. And maybe because of the fact that it's always been a struggle and I've had to fail so many times to actually get there, I won't take it for granted as I'm sure many people do. How can you truly know how magical a cartwheel is if you've never gotten the dizzying chance to experience it from beginning to end?
I guess I am going to have to find out.

Friday, March 26, 2010

up, up, up

I have this weird thing with the number three. I find that more often than not a lot of good things come in threes. I take signs very literally if I've had three of them. And then there's all these big to-do's about the number three. There's the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit; an excellent, yet reassuring power of three. Or how about third time's the charm, or one of my favorite things, baseball-three strikes you're out.
But then I've also found that if three's can come in pleasant packaging, they can also come along dressed like the grim reaper. Those dastardly threes like the Bermuda Triangle. Now that's a triangle not even mathematicians can appreciate. And that's when the number three just plain old roasts my toast, because as I can't help but fear, once one bad thing happens, I start looking over my shoulder for what's inevitably two more doosies of despair.
This mentality may not serve me well if I am always on my toes waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I just can't fight history. And if I know anything about history, it's that it repeats itself. So it came as no surprise to me yesterday morning when I got a rather unwelcome reminder about a certain bill I've been trying to tackle that this wouldn't be where it ended. This put me on edge for the better part of the day and as I was driving home in a slight panic about my finances, I thought, okay, deal with this. It's just one thing. You can handle this one minor mishap. Yes, it started as one, but I had a sinking feeling that it wasn't going to end there.
Sure enough. As I was being a mature and responsible adult and penning a handy bill chart detailing how many different ways I can be broke throughout any given month, I got a phone call from my mother explaining that the very large sum of money she had previously told me I was getting from my taxes, was actually going to be a lot, lot less. Taking note from my mature handling of the previous bad news, I did what I do best in a sticky situation. I began sobbing and spewing claims that I would drown in debt and this was so typical, or oh I'll be fine, I'm just going to HANG myself! Yes, like I said, really mature.
When I finally got a hold of myself yet again, and went through my mental checklist of why being optimistic about my future is really the best route to take, I got yet another phone call from my sister explaining that she might need some of that money back that I had borrowed from her to make a car payment when I didn't have a job. (And yes I was planning on paying her back... when I got that really huge tax refund, that turned into a really paltry pittance)
And that my friends makes three (bits of crappy financial news that is). My mind started spasming with possible solutions, little neurons zinging and pinging around desperately in my brain to figure out where all this magical money was going to come from (surely my measly paycheck can't foot all these bills--no matter how many times I re-do the math).
I briefly considered becoming a phone-sex operator, but my morals got in the way. I thought about hopping the next train out of here and changing my name to Dimitri VanHeuson and working as a waitress in some small town in Alaska, where obviously no debt could find me.
But then reality sunk in and I realized these small, yet simple facts. Believing in yourself will always get you through. And having some really great helping hands once in awhile doesn't hurt either.
I have always had a sense deep down in my core that great things are headed my way and if I just ride out the bad, like this particularly nasty period of destitution, I will come out of it a better and maybe even wiser person.
Yes, I know I will. I will write best-sellers, go on book tours and fly my family to Italy to try the best pizza with my top-notch income. I will most certainly pay off all my bills before I'm dead. And I will help all those who have helped me along the way (like some promised designer bags for a certain best friend). My ship will come in. Why so certain you might wonder?
Because as much as I'd like to believe the number three is a total wang for turning on me every once in awhile, bringing me misfortune instead of fame, like I said before, more often than not I find the good in the number three and all she can do for me. And I think you need to look at life in the exact same way.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dust it off

Since yesterday's post was a little bit of a debbie downer and I've had a day of reflecting on what I wrote and how I felt, I thought I'd backpedal a bit.
To put it simply, I've come back to my senses. Admittedly I was again swept up in the whirlwind of what it feels like to have a guy tell me I'm beautiful and play interested and it was all well and lovely. But all of a sudden all this hard-won independence and self-loving turned to self-loathing the second he lost interest. And, uh, that's not going to fly with me. No longer will this girl deem her beauty or self-worth on when a man says it's so. Fuck that. I say it. I'm beautiful. In and out, curves and cellulite, frizz and freckles, I am beautiful.
And you know what else? I'm happy! I forgot for a teensy-tinsy millisecond how deliciously happy I actually am with the strides I am making in my life. Funny how a man knocks me all off kilter and rules my senses. I get all woe is me, he doesn't like me, my life's a big pile of pond scum. Ummm, no it isn't. I love my new job. I literally didn't want to leave today. The people there make me feel valued and important; the atmosphere is beautiful and I enjoy what I do.
Oh and I'm taking horse-back riding lessons. Yeah, that's right. Something I've wanted to do since childhood, yet get around to doing once every seven years or so. I called and set it up today. One more life-long dream being conquered. Check.
And as many cracks as I make about not being a Wisconsiner, seeing the glory of the packers or ever becoming a party-girl, I really like this town. It has amazing qualities. I went for a drive today and just looked at old Victorian houses and parks where children chased each other, white steeples on old churches, breweries and wineries, theaters and coffeeshops and thought, this town has so much to offer me!
I went to the library today and was on a high filling up my arms with guides to off-beaten trails of Wisconsin and books I've been dying to read (Twenties Girl, by Sophie Kinsella). It felt like what eating really good pizza tastes like after you've been craving if for ages or dipping your feet into the water at the beach for the first time in the summer. And not just today, but my life feels like that; it feels really good right now. Promising is the word I'd use.
I am meeting people that I enjoy being around and make me laugh and rekindling with others I never imagined I'd form such powerful bonds with. I feel at peace with who I am becoming. And who I am becoming isn't someone's ego-booster or fall-back plan.
If a man doesn't see what I'm about, well it's not my job to show him. I'm worth looking into. And that's that, my friends.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

If a tree falls...

You know that old phrase if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? Well I want to apply that same philosophy to something else. If a girl gets all glammed up hoping to impress a guy and he doesn't notice, does she still look good?
It sounds really simple and like the answer should be yes, much like I've always thought about the tree making a sound, but last night this theory was put to the test and I hate to say it, but I doubted it.
All across the board I've met women who do this, get your haircut and your husband doesn't notice so you don't think the haircut was that spectacular after all. Or go to a lot of trouble shaving your legs (which is a lot of trouble guys!) and buying a new dress and your boyfriend does a once over and asks you if you're going to need to put on a coat and you want to deck him, because although you didn't realize it, you were holding your breath in anticipation of the awe he was supposed to have when looking at you.
Why the hell does it matter? It shouldn't, really. I love getting my hair done and as I don't have a husband or boyfriend to put it to the test, I generally always think I look pretty saucy. However, I will admit, I did take some extra time and care shaving my legs last night, and when all was said and done, I couldn't help but wonder, old country twang in mind, did I shave my legs for this? It was severely disappointing, even though before going out, the roommate and I made a pact not to get depressed at the end of the night. Boy is it that obvious what men do to us? And sure enough as the night wore on, I could feel it happening. The little you're not good enough chime in my head every time I went to the bathroom and re-fluffed my hair and adjusted my shirt.
It's easy to promise yourself you won't care and won't be affected and maybe some can pull this off, but when you go into an evening really wanting to be noticed, or that someone saying you're beautiful, and you leave with a little more smudge to your mascara and the bite of defeat in your step, well it's the sucker punch you thought you were prepared to avoid.
The one plus side of this sad little tale is one man (maybe not the man I had in mind, but it's no matter) did indeed compliment me. And in one of the most sincere ways. He told me I had the most piercing eyes he'd ever seen and then told me as he walked away, you have a wonderful evening, sweetheart, without trying anything more.
God bless you, Richard. Maybe the tree makes a sound after all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

road trip

Being the spontaneous, sometimes erratic person that I am, I decided upon waking last Saturday morning, that I would venture out of Green Bay for a few days. I threw some clothes/essentials in a bag and was on my way.
After stopping in Chicago to see a beloved college pal, who introduced me to a slew of documentaries I would most likely never have watched on my own, and also feeding me the most scrumptious home-made meals of ooey macaroni and cheese and breakfast skillets, I was on my way to Fowlerville to see the familia.
There I did the usual catch-up with the rents--explaining why I'd quit my last job and that they needn't worry about my vagabond lifestyle--played countless outdoor games with my siblings, ensuing in some tears, a few bruises, and a lot of sore limbs, (quote from Alexa on the game of Four Corners: "We don't hit people in the face with the ball... we've established that it's rude.") won some money and prizes in a cash booth surrounded by leprechauns, and then to my immense pleasure, received the job offer that I'd been longing for, hopped in my car and prepared to head back.

This is where things got dicey.

As I was cruising back into the Chicago limits, feeling a tad cocky about my ability to navigate the city, I attempted to land myself at another college friend's pad located in Wicker Park. Yes, a lot of my friends live the cool city life, lucky bitches.
Anyway, per my mapquest piece of shit directions I was supposed to get onto I-90, but somehow wasn't finding it with the last turn they had me take. So I whipped out my trusty GPS (or Ashley's trusty GPS that I kidnapped for the excursion) and keyed in Bre's (said college friend) address. I was happily snacking away on a crunch bar, making turns and keeping my eyes peeled for an expressway when I made a turn onto a street that looked less than inviting. I'd say picture an off-beaten trail in Detroit here.
My heart immediately started kicking in my chest as if to say, get US the hell out of here! But, I thought, the trusty GPS wouldn't lead us astray would it? I slowly inched a little further down the road. My pulse was beating a hasty we're doing to die tempo at this point. And I hate to say it but the Crunch bar was not forgotten, I was still eating away, slow but serious bite after bite as my eyes nervously scanned my surroundings, as if the prospect of imminent death in a bad neighborhood couldn't deter me from finishing what could be my last chocolate bar.
I decided after a few more streets, passing a few more ramshackle houses and (I'm sorry) but what I assumed to be gang members (One of the documentaries I watched was the Crips and Bloods: Made in America, so forgive me for instantly thinking the worst!) I agreed with my rapidly beating heart and sweaty palms--now sans-chocolate-- that the GPS was a damn fool if it thought there was an expressway in that neighborhood!
I pulled a U-ey in the middle of the street and started flooring it back the way I came. By the time I managed to make my way back to a well-lit expressway I was in a state of hysteria. My roommate can vouch for the phone-call made to her in which I couldn't finish sentences because of my gasping breath and the assumption that I was being followed.
Now again, I decide to entrust my welfare with the GPS's guidance, and so I dutifully follow it into, yet another not-so-lovely neighborhood. As I got more and more suspicious passing old train cars and boarded up gas stations, I thought, this is it, doomsday. The Crips and the Bloods said they do not take kindly to visitors and I am a visitor. And yes, I know the Crips and the Bloods are located in L.A. but tomato/tomato.
My Michigan plate was a neon sign that I was not from this neighborhood. As I slowed to turn onto what the GPS clearly deemed 1-90, I pulled into a construction site for a new expressway, drove underneath a bumpy underpass and then came to an empty lot where an SUV was idling near some city buses. Again, my insane and overwrought imagination assumed this was a drug deal taking place... though I'm pretty sure the SUV had some sort of city logo on its side, my histrionics didn't acknowledge this.
As I peeled out of there and sped to the nearest stoplight and waited for it to turn green, I panicked wondering if I should backtrack like before or pray the interstate actually was up ahead. I saw the signs for a detour to 1-90 and decided to follow them. As my heart thudded harder and faster with each street that led me further into decrepit kingdom come, I thought only of how I am not nearly as tough as I thought, and that I am not quite as city-savvy as I had previously assumed.
Once I finally, FINALLY reached I-90, I was almost near tears, could hardly take in a steady breath, and was gripping the wheel so tightly that if it were someone's neck, I surely would have killed them by now.
When my dad called to see if I was finding my way and I went into a twenty minute rant about how I would drive all through the night to get home versus venturing off the safety of the expressway again, he told me that he thought I was being a bit paranoid. The conversation went something like this:
Dad: It sounds like you were around Gary, Indiana, maybe outskirts of Chicago, that's a rougher area, sure.
Me: Dad, I was scared for my life! I cannot believe I made it out alive, I am certain I was followed three times, there were people milling about in the streets, and I think one car idled behind me so long that I thought I was about to be gunned-down!
Dad: I think the Bloods and the Crips has gone to your head. You weren't about to be gunned down. And it's not like you were driving a brand new BMW.... maybe then... but I'm sure you had nothing to worry about.
Me: No, you don't know. I've been through an ordeal! I know I saw gangs... I am not a tough girl, I am a big pansy!

My dad laughed. I started to see his point that maybe I was being a tad over-dramatic. In all reality I probably was in some rougher areas of town, but the likelihood that I was about to be shanked and have my vast collection of board games stolen from my backseat was most likely slim to none.
I didn't want to take that chance though and so I drove through the night, back to the safety of the land of cheese. Driving through Milwaukee felt like driving through Candyland and I made it to the comfort of my bed with no other incident.

Ah, the life I lead...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Time Marches On

The other day while driving, I heard the song Time Marches On, by Tracy Lawrence. This song immediately brought two things to mind, my aunt Lacey, and my childhood, which really go hand-in-hand as I cannot imagine most of my childhood without her. Being the youngest of my mother's thirteen siblings meant that only a handful of years separated my aunt and I.
She was the one I would go to for all advice on the ways of the world. If Lacey was wearing it, I had to have it, because obviously it was very hip and trendy, much like my aunt Lacey. This explains my brief love affair with Abercrombie and Fitch, which you wouldn't catch me dead in now. She also introduced me to my years of devotion to Lauren Hill and the Fugees, which at first I just powered through while bobbing my head and pretending to vibe, but then realized they were quite soulful as well as slightly bad-ass, for me anyway. Ah and the good old country classics, one song in particular that pulled on both our heartstrings: What Mattered Most, by Ty Herndon. Remember that Lace? Her eyes were blue, her hair was long, sixty-four she was born in Baton Rouge... Still today, I can recall the lyrics, because of the days spent belting them out (most likely teary-eyed from the angst of it all) in her bedroom.
I've been thinking about my childhood a lot lately, not that it's so far gone, but it sometimes feels that way. Those days of babysitting for my Aunt Rhonda and discovering my love of late night TV. No, not SNL, but I Love Lucy, always a grandma at heart. I mean, my mom told me absolutely NO SNL as there was adult material featured and I listened, even if she wasn't around to catch me.
It became apparent to me in college, that due to me diligent pastime of babysitting/following of the rules in my christian household that I really was out of the loop on a lot of things. While most people in high school were perhaps partying, drinking, making out with their boyfriends, I passed my time reading, playing kick the can with my siblings and having slumber parties with my posse of church-going friends. Sure we played drinking games... okay with water, (booze would have never even entered our minds) the point being: let's see how much water we can chug until one of us pees our pants. It wasn't me, I am proud to say! But the hilarity that ensued when someone beelined for the bathroom hunched over in pain, was well worth the gallons of water we downed for sport.
You could call my adolescence nerdy, sure, but looking back on the fact that I was probably the poster child for D.A.R.E and couldn't fathom any reason why people would want to harm their bodies or their minds with drugs and alcohol, I did what most parents want their children to grow up doing. I watched Nick at Nite religiously, played games like freeze tag with the neighborhood kids, and abstained from sex and drugs.
Some may argue that it's a stretch for most kids in this world to grow to the age of 18 and celebrate New Years Eve with sparkling grape juice and The Princess Bride, but my parents proved it's possible. In fact I think they'd say wonderful.
The other day I got my roommate to watch one of my all-time favorite movies, The Long, Long Trailer, starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. While this dreamy look came over my face bringing me back to all the times I reached ecstasy at seeing it on TV, I told her about how much I adored it as a child. And she responded, "Wow, were our childhoods different!"
Yes, it's true, that some teenagers will push the envelope on what they can get away with, others extent of rebellion (mine) might've been sneaking out to the railroad tracks with their childhood crush, Joel, and smoking one of his dad's cigars only to dash home, snarf down some pretzels to cover the smell of Swisher Sweets and take a long soapy shower to ensure the parentals wouldn't know about such a dastardly deed.
I suppose it might seem weird and maybe not what most parents expect of their teens, but I think they should. What's the harm in dragging out your childhood a little longer, curling up watching G rated programming with your mom, giggling into the night after stuffing your bra into your best friends freezer on a dare and then forgetting it the next day when you leave, only for her dad to find it.
I can't say I regret a moment of the way I was raised, playing Friday Night at 8o'clock (only my family could probably understand the lure and magic of this game) or watching Wee sing in Sillyville, which Lacey and I definitely watched well into our teens, and just being a kid.
We grow up much faster than we expect and one day we miss that innocence, that magic of waiting to hear sleigh bells, and being entertained with climbing trees and pretending to be the Boxcar children. I think every child, young and old, should stretch that time of innocence, because even if you spend 18 years being a child, you'll likely spend 60 or more being an adult. And you'll be wishing you were again so lithe and limber to run endless yards of cool summer grass and oh-so-naive about what sex really entails, pressing your Barbies together making kissy noises. To quote Peter Pan:
Wendy: My parents wanted me to grow up.
Captain Hook: Growing up is such a barbarous business, full of inconvenience... and pimples.
Those of you who still collect Babysitter's Club books because they bring you back to your youth, get immense joy from hide and go seek with five year olds, or perform song and dance routines in your bedroom with hairbrushes as your microphone, well to put it simply, I commend you Peter Pans. And even the Wendy's of the world, who knew eventually they had to grow up, well, who could forget that childhood time of enchantment anyway? It never leaves us. Lucy will always find a place in my heart, much like Peter Pan in Wendy's.

Time marches on indeed...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The battle of the bulge

I really got down and dirty today. Cleaning. Scouring. Distracting.
Over the course of my life, I have fought a long, drawn out, seemingly endless battle. My weight. It's up, it's down, I come to terms with it, I get furious and decide to give up--a sordid love affair if you will, as it's always on my mind, teasing and taunting, the forerunner for my attention.
After a weekend of trying not to acknowledge some powerful feelings of inadequacy, I finally had a face-off. Bulge, yes, you. I want you gone. I mean it this time. We're over. I am sick to death of you and this on again, off again relationship. I mean it! Easier said than done though, right? Ohhh, always right. I woke up this morning after my fervent promises to myself yesterday that I was starting anew. I would wake up and eat only healthy things, slowly. And then I'd go for a run so intense, you'd think an imaginary soldier was behind me with an official order to shoot me if I dared fumble and claim I was out of breath. Maybe I'd do sit-ups until my flab quivered. (No abs on this girl--not yet anyway).
However, promises made to oneself the night before while somberly eating what felt like my last cheesy steak quesadilla, are always easier to work through in the mind.
The moment, and I do mean the moment my eyes opened this morning, it was if I had woken up in rehab. My mind was already regretting the decision for betterment. What have I done, I thought? I have cinnamon rolls in the fridge! I can't start dieting with cinnamon rolls in the fridge. It's too great a sacrifice! I was in an instant panic warring with myself over whether I should even get out of bed. Could I really have a stand-off with the cinnamon rolls and come out the victor? I wasn't sure. I was rather petrified at the prospect.
Lucky for me, before I could even make it to the kitchen, a very wise friend's words came into my head helping arm me for battle. If you don't do this, you must not want it bad enough, otherwise you'll just do it.
It was enough. I didn't even open the fridge and look at the damn things. I instead made my low-fat, whole grain, hardly-any-taste waffles topped with bananas and strawberries. Yeah, yeah, sounds sorta good or something. It wasn't hot, gooey frosting topped cinnamon goodness. But a small battle was won and that was a start.
To say the rest of the day was just as smooth of sailing, well, this wouldn't be the battle of a lifetime without some choppy seas now would it?
I managed to get the oven preheated later and the pan out for the cinnamon rolls, and then quickly came to my senses and bolted for the door for my power run worthy of the Biggest Loser. A.K.A a brisk walk with a few (or one) bursts of jogging, followed by gasps of outrage at how difficult running actually is!
Once I got home, as any good addict would do, I contemplated the food in the house, feeling acute pangs of loss at what I wasn't eating and realized I needed a distraction.
The house didn't particularly need a whole lot of cleaning, but I also have another tool up my sleeve. An eye for the missed mess. This tool has been acquired and honed in part from years of cleaning in a house of 12 with my mother chiming in after a solid clean-athon in which I thought I'd done a helluva job, "You call this clean?! Look again!" The second part would be a small case of OCD, maybe acquired from the first part. Who can really know for sure?
I started on the kitchen and wound my way through, getting a solid beating on the stovetop, the counters, the fridge, the rugs... cleaning in a way that would make my mom more than a little proud of the lessons she imparted on overlooked mini-messes. I stood back admiring my handi-work thinking, you haven't lost your touch Sturos.
And I'd mostly forgotten about the cinnamon rolls. Even as I pushed them aside to scrub shelves. Why didn't I just throw them away, some might ask? Well, it is day one (or day 218936214387246 in a long list of attempts) but still. I'll get there. I need to save something to do tomorrow right? Throw away cinnamon rolls. Noted.
Ohh, this is going to be a brutal attack, but I have prepared my defenses. Don't you worry, those blasted cinnamon rolls have nothing on me!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Mom, she knows best

You know what I love about my mom? (besides every single facet of enduring strength and astounding ability?) She is one tough bird. And a supportive bird at that. Now our family has had its share of ups and downs. And in times of despair, uncertainty or challenges, no matter how great, I have always known I can turn to my mother. She is the stitching that holds the fabric of our family together.
That's why when pondering this great question as to what do I do with my future, I naturally turned to her. If anyone's advice I value above all, it's hers. I shouldn't have been surprised by her immediate response of, "I am right there with you, if it's not making you happy, don't do it." But I was a little bit shocked. Wasn't she going to tell me to be practical? That a job's a job, or just stick it out for now and see how you feel later. No. None of that. She simply trusted me. Trusted that when I say I'm unhappy, I mean I'm unhappy. That sure, I may be financially strapped if I quit my job, but which is more important to me? Can and will I bounce back? Yes, she says. You will. In fact, she goes on to say that she never has a doubt in her mind when it comes to my drive, my passion. "I've always known you had it in you, Cassandra. You're going to make it."
As soon as I get my mom's approval I know. And I'm sure you guessed it, I start to cry, because well, I'm a crier and that was just beautiful Mom.
Not only did my mom's faith in me give me the push I needed in the direction I was yearning to go, but this quote I heard today on Oprah helped a little too.
"I believe that if at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime, to make ourselves unhappy is where all crimes start. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances, we must try. I didn't always know this and I am happy that I lived long enough to find it out."
Roger Ebert said this and though I may be 23 and haven't lived quite so long as he, I can firmly attest to this being true.
So my friends, I am quitting my job. Onward and Upward, they say. Let's see what happens.

In the famous words of Nike, Just do it!

Today I am torn. I am also really sick and maybe that's muddling some things in my brain. For those of you who read my last post, you're well aware that I am on the fence with my job. Well, more like holding onto the fence while desperately trying to get the proper footing in order to fling myself onto the other side... but as I've got considerable heft and no agility to speak of, this is proving quite difficult. Okay, long-winded analogy aside, bottom line: I want to quit my job.
I am sure none of you are surprised. Well, maybe some of you are. But here's the thing. I moved to Green Bay to find some semblance of happiness and order in my life. To do something involving writing, and if not that, then something that feeds my soul in even the tiniest of ways as to make not writing for a living, somewhat bearable. And there is nothing, and I do mean absolutely nothing, that feeds my soul about the health insurance industry. And even less soul-feeding are my pathetic paychecks.
It's one thing to do something really interesting and not get paid that well, because at least you're getting one rewarding thing out of the deal; but to have a job that is akin to going to getting a root canal and then to add insult to injury, in comes my meager paycheck.
Alright, I'm off topic. It's this damn cold making my head feel all fuzzy and sinusy. Oh, right, I remember, my doomsday job. So I have always been one for making grandiose declarations that I may or may not follow through on. I like to believe when I make these declarations (This is the year I get really skinny! or.. I'm joining the circus!) that I will actually do them, but ya know sometimes it just doesn't happen quite that way.
I say this because in almost every job I've had at one time or another, I've said, "That's it, I'm never going back. You can't make me and I won't!" And I really meant it. I didn't ever want to make another sub sandwich or deal with some irate customer screaming at me that I overcharged her twenty-five cents for a 99. bracelet. But what did good ol' reliable Cassandra do? She showed up for work the next day, gave her two weeks when it really was quitting time, and so on and so forth.
And really that's good of me. It's the way I was raised. To be reliable and hard-working. However, there is a part of me that has endured oh so many shit jobs, that I just ache to never go back. To just throw in the towel and say, no two weeks, no tomorrow. I am done.
I want to believe I could do that. That I have it in me, to just wash my hands of this whole thing, but I am not sure I do. I have such a deeply grained innate sense of commitment to these jobs--not because they're spectacular by any means, but because I don't like to let people down. And it's so ANNOYING sometimes. Because right now, I am thoroughly fed up. For once I really want to throw caution to the wind, and say ah, to heck with you and find something fabulous. Although knowing me and my luck, I'll do that and just end up having a panic attack over what I've done and settle for working at Burger King because I'm so ashamed of my behavior and nervous over my finances.
Blast. I just don't know. I think I need a nap, all this ruminating has really taken it outta me.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I'm hopeful, Yes I am, hopeful for today

I've always been a bit of a crier. Okay, fine! That's an understatement. When growing up, if my mom raised her voice even one octave higher than usual, I would storm to my room screaming how insensitive she was to my feelings and then fling myself onto my bed in a fit of tears. I have a flair for the dramatic one might say. Not sure, but I think I might've inherited that from a certain Grandmother of mine who dresses like JLo and has a pink vintage truck, just a hunch though.
Anyhow, as I've always been prone to tear-shedding at something as mild as Cottonelle toilet paper commercials involving puppies, I shouldn't have been surprised yesterday when driving home after a particularly harrowing day at work when I burst into tears at a lyric in a country song. I mean really serious, fat rolling tears streaming down my face and theatrical whimpering that I thought the person in the monster truck next to me at the stoplight should've taken note of and given me at least an appropriate nod of sympathy instead of just hitting the gas to pass me.
While the country song had nothing to do with why I was really upset (I despise my job) it hit another chord within me (the I want glamorous driving on the highway thinking of you country song love). And once the ball starts rolling with me, being dramatic and all, it simply isn't enough to just be upset about one thing, I have to find all the other reasons why my life is a giant piece of grody gum stuck to the shoe of life.
The fact of the matter here is this: Working as a customer service rep in the health insurance field is all well and dandy for some. I honestly believe there are people out there who really enjoy, possibly even thrive on this job. I, however am not one of these people waking up in the morning with a smile on my face and a skip in my step to solve issues of the "why in the bloody H aren't you paying my $10,000 doctor's bill, you ass!?" variety.
I sit there getting more and more angry as to why, I (creative lover of books and astounding writing and photography) am stuck in a job which doesn't even begin to pay all my bills, nor make me happy? Wasn't this why I went to college again? To avoid all this pain and existential agony? It is in fact! Not to sound all pouty tantrum here, but I want a writing job! I blessed want to be doing something vaguely in the field of what I love and just shelled out 56,000 dollars to get semi-good at! Is that so much to ask!?
I really don't think it is. Yeah, yeah, I know we are in an economic cul-de-sac of crap, but so what? Ever the optimist, I say that's not good enough for me, America! Your dilemma is no longer my dilema. Some may say oh hush, child, you're lucky to have a job, or in these times take what you can get. Posh on all your faces! I am not going to settle for less, because that's what I do when I'm scared. And to quote Macaulay Culkin, circa his Home Alone days, "Hey, I'm not afraid any more! I said I'm not afraid any more! Do you hear me? I'm not afraid any more!"
That's right. I am not afraid of failure, or losing a job I quite frankly don't give two figs about. I want something better and no one who's ever done great things accomplished them without some daunting adversity first.
So I would like to tip my hat to all my fellow college grads facing the same sort of anguish I am, doing something or nothing in the field of their dreams and say, It's going to happen!
Just keep swinging my friends, one of these days you're bound to hit that ball right outta the park.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A few of my favorite things... (here in Green Bay)

I am a lover of all things, cute, quaint, local, thrifty, old-fashioned, vintage, inexpensive, tasty, chocolately, cozy, nautical... well you get the idea. Since moving to a new locale, I have had the welcome thrill of discovering all sorts of new haunts to make my senses quake with excitement. And I would like all of you to know about them! So here is my list of favorite things about my new hometown.

Kavarna- a darling lil vegetarian coffeeshop with the most exquisite chocolate chip cookies I've probably ever come into contact with, (and believe you me, chocolate chip cookies and I have had a number of run-ins)
The River St. Pier- a hole in the wall restaurant located near my house in Howard, with fishing nets draped from the ceiling and sailboat decor covering nearly every surface. Even better than the decor, this amazing sandwich I had with sunflower seeds in it! Try it! Scrumptious!
The old fashioned signs- reference my picture to get an idea of all the wonderful old-timey flashing signs that there just aren't enough of outside of Las Vegas. Tis a shame because they are classic!
A Place in Time- an antique store that literally makes you feel like you've slipped down the rabbit hole into something magical and decadent where you kinda wanna sing some Sinatra and start snapping your fingers as you take in all the glory of the good old days. Or maybe that's just me...
Fish Creek- oh doesn't the name just say it all? It's this perfect town with shops filled with fudge and beach gear, touristy t-shirts and homemade jewelry. The fact that it's a harbor town located on the majestic Lake Michigan is also a huge bonus.
The Pancake House- YUM! And as I told Emily this weekend, if you can't say yum with a growl of intensity, then it's just just not that yummy. This restaurant has pancakes twice the size of my head and oodles of other amazing tasties for prices that you just don't normally find in the city. This girl just became a regular.
Goodwill/Salvation Army- As everyone who knows me can attest to, I am mad for thrifting. While I have visited scores of Goodwills and SA's, I have to say I have had some sickening good luck with the stores here. I actually got just plain furious when I went in today, with no money (HUGE MISTAKE) and what did I find? A brand-new Gucci tote, for 30.00. Naturally since I could not afford it, Em bought it, because Lord knows Gucci cannot be passed up. However, the second I saw it in her fingertips, I nearly reached marked hysteria that it would not belong to me. However, if a Gucci should go to anyone besides me, it should be my best friend, so I was grateful for the bargain on behalf of Em. That and the fact that I got a pretty sweet sympathy coat out of the deal. Such a darling my best friend is.

I am sure there will be oodles more for me to discover here, but for now, those are simply a few of my favorite things. And if you would like to break out in a number from the Sound of Music at this point, feel free. I, along with Julie Andrews would applaud you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A good man is hard to find

Who hasn't uttered this phrase about a gadzillion times in their life thus fur? And if you haven't had the sheer relish of bemoaning this particular phrase, then you've most certainly heard it from your friends, grandmother, aunts... you get the drift. Why is this lil diddy so popular to say? Because it's TRUE! Take it from me, I am a veritable jerk-magnet, I know the good men exist, I just can't seem to pinpoint where they're all herding, and then dive-bomb their hideout. Let's be honest, I am not one for stealth.
Now before I get ahead of myself and give the impression that I am looking for a man, let me clarify and say that I most certainly am not. My ex-boyfriend (gosh that is SO weird for my to say still) did a real number on me and I don't quite think I have recovered from the shock of what a real relationship feels like, accompanied with real heartbreak, and all those other emotions that I'd rather not carry on about at this venture in time.
I don't want to give any credit to Valentine's Day for sparking this issue of what it means to find a good man, because I for one think Valentine's Day is kind of a huge crock of shit. And no, it's not my bitterness talking, either. My bitterness did do the talking for the better part of my life, yes, but for the first time I can honestly say, I think giving tacky red balloons and even crappier chocolate, mass produced in even tackier heart-shaped boxes as a symbol of your love and affection once a year is bologna! Show a girl you love her on January 7th with flowers, or May 31 with a love letter by the coffeemaker. Don't wait until February 14th to dash into Wal-Mart with all the other last-minute men trying to pick out something red and pink that boldly states Be Mine!
All right, enough of that.... way off topic. This isn't about Valentine's Day. This is about good men, because quite frankly, I don't even want to talk about bad men. We as women spend waaaaay too much time talking about, obsessing about, and giving two shits about the bad men. This is a complete ode to the good men of this world, who yes, are hard to find, but well worth the wait.
My grandpa Rajala for instance comes to mind. Saying this man was a good man, doesn't do him anywhere near justice. But one particular story comes to mind that I would like to share. My grandma recently told me that some years ago she woke up in the night from a bad dream in which she was having some other man's baby. When my grandpa asked her what was wrong, she told him about the dream and how it unnerved her. My grandpa proceeded to tell her she needn't worry for if that ever happened he would stand by her. Now my grandma was shocked! It was merely an uncomfortable dream, but here was her husband telling her that if something like that ever happened (not that it would) he wouldn't leave her, he loved her too much. That blew me away, not his love, because anyone who saw the way he looked at her would know his love in an instant, but the fact that he would so openly overlook something most of us would run to the nearest divorce lawyer for.
Another great man is my dad. When thinking of great men, most girls instantly think, or should think of their dad. My dad is great because while he may not be a romantic love poems and sweep you off your feet kinda guy, he knows how to make his children feel loved. That is an important priority of his. The joy I felt growing up when my dad would sit and watch Saturday morning cartoons with us and crack up at elmer fudd's antics, had us kids in stitches. He has this ability to make us feel special with just his smile and calm demeanor. The way he whips up these altogether bizarre foods like spam on tortillas(spamwraps) and swells with pride when we all actually eat them is just a mark of his talent at fatherhood. In fact, while playing a game over the holidays my sisters and I all had to pick a phrase that described my dad and when all of us turned over our cards to share what we'd picked, it was unanimous: a good father. Having an amazing father is something precious that not all people are blessed enough to have, but something I am grateful for everyday.
My brother Jordan is also someone who actually surprises me sometimes with his insight and heart that would melt most sensible ladies into a puddle of romantic goo. This is surprising only because he was such a little deviant growing up, whom I wholeheartedly plotted his demise. He called me the other day and talked to me about trying to be a blessing in other people's lives, so that I would know more blessings than I could count. How many 22 year old men do this? I hope more than just my brother.
And I am certain there are more great men out there, in fact I do know of loads more, my uncles, my grandpa Sturos, some of my girl friends boyfriends and husbands, you know who you are. Thank you for being good men. For treating your wives, your children, your girlfriend's friends the way they deserve to be treated, for showing the rest of us, that it isn't just a myth that good men exist and that they're not all taken or gay.
I have been thinking all of this lately because I have been starting to feel yet again that maybe something is wrong with me. That I don't have what it takes to really find someone who loves me the way I deserve to be loved. But then I reckon why am I fretting over this? I've spent most of my life chasing men who don't really give two figs about my happiness. Isn't it about time I sit back and wait for one of these elusive good guys to seek me out and go, hey, you're pretty freaking spectacular, I thought a good girl was hard to find. And I'll say, no, no silly. That was just a myth, I've been here all along.