“In queso emergency …”

Random-Cheese-Slice

It has come to my attention that my last blog post may have seemed a teentz sad. That was not my intent and although this blog exists mainly for me to exercise my literary muscles, I do strive to keep people somewhat entertained, and I do appreciate feedback. Usually when I write in verse, it is with the mindset of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, not Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. There’s enough of that in the world already. So, for this post, I bring you…. Love.

For those of you that don’t know, I love Love. I am all about the Meet-Cute, that romantic bada-bing, bada-boom that preludes the Big Bang. I love watching it in movies, reading it in books, and witnessing it in real life. In fact, I currently have three romance novels in the works so a few of my imagined Meet-Cutes are actual works-in-progress. (Stay tuned on those.) My mind concocts Meet-Cute scenarios every day, devised from random snippets of conversation overheard or situations observed at the grocery store, the gas station, the premium cat food section at Petco. Even, as this one did, during my dog walks.

 

I see many odd things on those walks. From the spent condoms, empty packs of cigarettes and wayward boomerangs, to half-filled bottles of pop (or… worse), crusts of bread, and slices of cheese, these items spark arbitrary and sometimes slapstick narratives which then project themselves onto my brain’s virtual keyboard. Such is the way my mind works, and to pass time during monotonous dog duty, I concoct. I form. I fabricate. The following is one of these fantastic extrapolations, fashioned after a chance encounter with a slice of American cheese in its native habitat (and by that, I mean America). Travel with me and my mind’s eye to the frozen food aisle in a local grocery store.

 

“Excuse me, are you talking to the cheese?”

His deep baritone reverberates both next to my ear and down into my shoes. His bright blue eyes, which blink like strobes, bely the benign question he poses of me. It’s a testament to his shock that a seemingly-sane woman would converse with wedges of rinded Brie. His cart swerves around mine, stopping in front of the Neufchatel. I hold my ground. Nobody puts Brie in a corner.

“Um, yeah. So?” I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear while I proceed to ignore the semi-softs and instead square off to face the slices and shreds. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice his blue irises diminish while his pupils fixate on me, one brow lifted like an inchworm, twitching as though any second, he expects me to launch a Babybel at his forehead. I also notice he’s kind of cute in a decidedly nerdy manner, his auburn hair tousled and bed-headed, like he can’t be bothered. He sports a lopsided grin with a side of coffee breath.

I stealthily rotate my head on my neck axis, Exorcist-style, and level him with a stare both Linda Blair and Blair Witch would be proud of. I also gracefully afford him a more elaborate response. “I was asking it if it was moved and if so, who moved it.”

The eye beneath the inchworm squints. “Did it Hem and Haw, or did you get a straight answer?”

One sidelong leer later, I wonder, briefly, why I divulged the depths of my crazy to a total stranger. I mean, who admits they actually ask who moved their cheese? Apparent to me however, is the fact that he has read the same self-help book I did twenty years prior, as evidenced by his use of the two main character names. My inadvertent smirk is mirrored on his face.

“No. It’s rather elusive cheese.”

I toss a pack of shredded Sargento into my cart and shift away from him. Down the aisle I sashay, swinging past the free-range eggs born of chickens that certainly deserve more than $4 to push those suckers out. One dozen selected, I strike out in search of celebratory bacon, My stomach grumbles impatiently, ravenous for one of my signature omelets. That omelet will be most incomplete without cheese and I require American for my impending egg concoction. I double-back. What was I thinking slinging cheddar into my cart without regard for American? I know, technically American isn’t real cheese, but I shush myself and scurry back to rescue a pack of slices.

The inquisitive Señor Queso smiles at me when I arrive back at Cheese Central, confident that he’s lured me back with his baby blues. I don’t give him the satisfaction and instead grab a cube of 24 individually wrapped Velveetas, thinking That’s not real cheese either! Standing at his side, I pause to sniff. The man doesn’t have coffee breath per se, but rather smells like a delicious slow-roast himself, his whole body, one whiff shy of caramel macchiato. Before I start to drool and ask him where the whipped topping is, I turn back down-aisle toward the bacon.  As I twirl in front of the thick-cut, smoked pork perfection, I pluck out a pack and fling it backwards into my gaping grocery basket, which, I decide, is the perfect time to size up, from afar, the man who smells like the inside of a doughnut shop. He did, after all, smile at me. How bad could he be?

My breath catches in my throat. He is no longer afar at all. My eyes stumble upon Mr. Coffee’s cart, now perched beside mine in front of the cured meat. His turn to pretend to ignore me, feigning confusion about his option: links or patties? I see right through his staged quandary.

He weighs each hand, then tosses the patties aside. He proceeds to fondle a bundle of regular pork links in one hand, low-sodium in the other. Stymied about his choices, his fingers linger over the zip top tab of each package. I tap my foot and cross my arms as I contemplate his pursuit, convinced he’s mocking me and yet unable to look away. For a calculated moment, he inches closer to me. “Difficult decision…”

The grumble of my stomach reminds me, my as-yet-unmade omelet awaits, a mere fantasy that needs to come to fruition, and soon, lest I collapse from low blood sugar.

“So many links, so little time,” I tell him, snatching the maple-flavored, fully salted links from his hand. I grace him with a wink while I toss them in my basket.  I leave, discontinuing this Breakfast of Champions, a flirtation that surely exists in my head only.

As if to confirm my suspicions, he doesn’t follow me as I wheel my grocery selections toward the front of the store, and I chalk it up to a mere hit-and-run, a cute guy merely making conversation on a Sunday morning shopping spree. I sigh and spread out the links, the cheese and the eggs onto the belt and watch as they near the register. The cashier plucks out a small square piece of paper that’s been rolled up and wedged inside the egg carton, and, upon realizing it’s not a coupon, hands it back to me. I unfurl it to to see a phone number and the words…

 

 

Oh, come on, you already know what it says, don’t you? 

 

Springing Forward

Spring Forward and Flipping Off My Laptop

Tis today, Spring equinox 

I’ma set up all my building blocks 

And architect a different mindset 

Pen mightier than “Walking housepet

When is Spring supposed to start? I’m sick of all the waiting – oh,

Winter coat or windbreaker? I’m tired of debating though

And so I choose the lighter coat and pin my hopes on best-in-show

But as I skip down my deck stairs, I quip “Shirley, you jest. Mo snow??”

 

The sun is out, high in the sky as I skip into action

Out to my car, as I do shiv, my zest falters a fraction

By the time I’m walking dogs, Jack Frost – he’s nipping fiercely

Zipper up and hood in place, the stabbing wind does pierce me

 

My jacket is inadequate, my ears are frozen stiff

Icicles or frozen digits I cannot tell the diff

To hang up my Petsitter Hat, I fantasize all day

My body wracked with pain and sore, I struggle through dismay

 

My mind, it ceaselessly boggles 

Oh, how to don my Writer Goggles?

How shall I earn a dime? 

How shall I spend the time? 

Carve out a living with my words 

But still pay bills and tend the herds 

Of pets currently in my charge 

And household finances at-large?

 

Daily, I duly commit, to sucking up and pets to sit

So I can make my checkbook fat though truthfully, it’s not just that

I do enjoy Fidos and Spots, and playing with red laser dots

Scooping litter not so much, nor picking up dog poop and such

 

As one day melts into another, and I talk nonstop with Mother

Babbling on bout this-and-that, still not decked out in ‘Writer Hat’

 

Could you do me solidly

And share this with a friend or three?

I’d be most thankful, that’s for certain

And one day when I lift the curtain

To announce to you my new profession, I’ll admit to a confession

I’m only Springing Forward now cuz Falling Back scares me somehow

Though I’m terrified quite rightly, I work my ass off every nightly

 

Composing blogs and romance novels, in hopes that soon I will not grovel

For readership and validation since hopefully y’all like my station

And so I close out on this post and leave you with a song, a toast

To writing, though lyrics in my head defy my sleep -date with my bed

Flat-Record-Player-Icon-PSD
Tighten the Verses by Get Set Go

 

The Secret of My Stuckcess

A squirrel in the hand is worth …

A) Two in the bush (That’s what she said!)

B) Two in the nuts (see above)

C) A dropkick to the boot (You’re a sick fuck)

D) Get off my lawn!

The correct answer is F) A new beginning. Don’t bother pointing out that there was no E. Everyone who knows me knows I have an affinity for the F.

Anyway, a secret, a squirrel, and some nuts are all part of my story. If you’ll kindly follow me into the Wayback machine, Mr. Peabody, I will explain. Please keep your hands inside the ride at all times.

Like many kids, I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I loved animals, so maybe a veterinarian? Or perhaps a private investigator, a sleuth like Nancy Drew or Columbo, or a Cruise Director like Love Boat’s Julie, yippity skippity and on perpetual vacation. Deep down, however, my specific role on this planet eluded me. The death of friend at age seven left me confused, and although I seemed like a normal kid on the outside, I was a lonely one, a girl who watched the other kids from my bedroom window and wondered why I never quite fit in. I even felt quite disconnected within my own family.

When I bumbled into my teens, I still had no clue as to why I was alive. I faked what I could at school, tried and failed to fit in to any one clique, and left for college feeling as lost as ever. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. With some professional insight in the early 90s, doctors discovered what I already knew: I was clinically depressed. I was promptly medicated. One of the first people on Prozac, I followed up with a host of other selective seratonins, all with varying degrees of success. Later, my diagnosis was fine-tuned to manic-depressive, or bipolar. Bipolar II, to be exact. Different meds. Same cluelessness. I felt like one frothy little whitecap flailing on a tidal wave of uncertainty, forever crashing into and subsequently adrift on a sea of half-assed career attempts, dumb-ass relationships, and sad-ass apartments. Along the way, I collected a beautiful dog, several ungrateful cats, and a vague disinterest in life. I was a scrambled mess, heavy on the cheese. After a man I loved tossed me aside like moldy cheddar, I grew even more depressed. Not only did I have none of my shit together, I didn’t even know what shit I wanted. Career? Marriage? Kids? … Bueller?

What the hell does this have to do with secret squirrel nuts? 

Patience, Peabody. Fifty years is a lot to sum up in a few paragraphs…

When I moved back into the same sad-ass apartment where I had previously lived (it seemed like the go-to complex for wayward singles, only less Melrose Place, more  Roseanne), I started feeding squirrels. Used to stuff my pockets with peanuts so that when I walked to my car, they would recognize me and scamper up, eager for their treat. During one particularly frenzied feeding, I noticed that squirrels didn’t have any of the identity crises that plagued me. Watching them, I took note of their innate senses of confidence, determination, and purpose. Squirrels are Type A. Call them pesky, call them cute, call them irritating-as-shit rodents, what you can’t call them is lazy. They bustled about relentlessly in their pursuit of the nuts I tossed at them, and when they found them, they gathered, transported and stored them. In short, the squirrels had an agenda. A purpose. A passion. They had their shit together. They had their nuts.

And I was jealous. The only thing we had in common? They foraged for nuts. I was nuts.

That’s not the point I was trying to make but bear with me a little longer.

My depression, anxiety, and a plethora of self-esteem issues trudged with me into my thirties, along with the bevy of pharmaceutical crapshoots. While most of my friends married, started families, and settled into meaningful careers, I still had zero notion of what to do with my life. I finally succumbed to both societal and internal pressure, fake-forged a career path at a major corporation and snagged a decent husband. I thought that would be where my story would get more interesting, or at least more stable. But all it got was… stale. I was stuck in a job I didn’t want, a marriage I wasn’t happy in, and a life that didn’t fit.

I remember typing “Why am I so unhappy?” into a search engine and scouring the internet for the answers. I started a petsitting business and took some travel classes after quitting my corporate job. But despite a supportive husband and a thriving business, I still Was. Not. Happy. Not even close. The tidal wave of my twenties returned with a vengeance, drowning me with a riptide of This Is Not My Life-isms. If I thought few people understood why I left a great job to pick up dog crap and scoop litter, even fewer comprehended why I left my cushy marriage simply because I “wasn’t happy.” I was, in a word, Stuck.

Which leads me to The Secret, The Squirrel and The Nuts.

The secret was something I’ve only recently figured out. In my life, I lacked what the squirrels did not: an agenda. A purpose, a passion. Nuts. (Hold the snarcasm!)

For over fifteen years now, my lifestyle has afforded me an opportunity to both spend all day in jeans and take pictures, which is something I do enjoy. But while some of my friends grapple with their first midlife crisis, I head resolutely into my second. I’m finally becoming unstuck, my Squirrel Theory alive and kicking. In the past two-and-change years, I’ve weaned myself off all pharmaceuticals, written a complete-although-under-constant-revision book, started several more, and have taken up photography with a vengeance, especially after one of my eagle photo shoots went slightly viral on Facebook.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. (Lao Tzu said so.) Similarly, I believe the happiness of a thousand squirrels lies with a single nut. And finally, at long last, this “sqirl” has found her nut. Actually, I found two. (I’ve heard they’re better in pairs.) Writing and Photography. This blog will feature mostly-true anecdotes (embellished for the hell of it, cuz it’s my blogpost and I’ll lie if I want to) but also random musings that flit through my brain, emulating anyone from Stuart Smalley to Dr. Wayne Dyer. Off-the-beaten-path photographs will also be featured, and to keep things unpredictable, will be accompanied by random writing sprints that marry a photo with a haphazard fictional narrative.

So there it is. The explanation of the Secrets, the Squirrels and the Nuts.

And so, on my quest to define just what the hell I’m doing on this planet, I have undefined it first. I am not going to get a real job and be miserable again. I am not going to sit around and live the next half, third or quarter of my life unhappy. I have found my nuts, and goddammit, I’m going to crack those fuckers in half and chew. Squirrels, you’ve been warned.

Secret of My Stuckcess: A SQIRL in the hand

** I’ve decided to add a music portion to my blog posts. My friend Michael from the band Get Set Go has graciously allowed me to link to his Bandcamp.com page and so for this first post, I offer you this song. Get Set Go: The Secret of My Success