Patrick and I recently ventured up to New York to reunite with my family for my cousin’s wedding. It was great seeing everyone, and we figured, though limited on time, we’d make a quick visit to Niagara Falls because we’re rarely in New York, and even then we don’t venture outside New York City.
The wedding was in Rochester and then we were having a family gathering in Grand Island, and it was in between these events that we thought we’d be able to squeeze in a tourist attraction that typically takes an entire day. Whatever.
No matter how old I get, I can never seem to get a good grasp on estimating how long things take and planning accordingly. Time is like a mythical creature that I can’t see or touch or welcome into my inner circle. I used to hear my alarm go off and negotiate things I’d give up if only I could sleep in longer. I will only brush my teeth for one minute, yeah, that’ll save time! And then I’d snooze for 30 minutes. As if I’ve ever brushed my teeth for 31 minutes. No person in the history of dentistry, not even the most orally hygienic brushers exceed four minutes. And here I was, planning to skip rinsing the shampoo out of my hair so I could sleep in until 8:50 and somehow still start work at 9. So of course I’m thinking Hey! We have two hours until the cookout. We have plenty of time to drive an hour and a half, drop our stuff off at our B&B, change our outfits, visit a national monument and be back in time for the cookout. We had two hours of driving to do in two hours, yet I thought, “We have time to visit Niagara Falls.” No. Because, no. Even I can’t believe me sometimes.
What we expected to encounter was an unparalleled view so majestic that we would weep at the mere sight of it. Nature at its finest. Instead, what we saw when we first arrived were crowded parking lots, food trucks and tacky souvenir shops stretching for miles in every direction.
We hopped in the first of the 29 lines we would go on to stand in that day, lines that were seemingly endless and comprised of the entire continent of Asia. Patrick offered to hold our spot while I, on the brink of peeing my pants, leapt (not literally, because I would have leaked urine all over myself) at the opportunity to duck into the bathroom for a quick bladder-emptying. Which, if I may delve (maybe a bit too personally) into what’s been happening with my bladder, I seem to have traded mine out with that of a 70-year-old woman. I have to pee every 12 minutes like clockwork, and when I’m not actively sitting atop a toilet, I have to maintain a constant state of lower body clenching so as not to release the droplets of urine that seem to be straddling the doorway out of my body.
Trotting back toward Patrick, I saw him, along with a crowd of people, being directed from one line into another. “We would have been through already,” he told me. “The line moved so fast, I was in front of all these people but had to let them go because you were in the bathroom.”
The line didn’t really move anymore, we mostly just stood around while the clouds darkened and started to pour on us. Wind howled and turned rain droplets into violent pelts. Patrick, meanwhile, towered over everyone, so he was exposed to the elements wearing nothing but a long-sleeved button-up shirt, a pair of jeans and his wife’s flip-flops.
We waited for a long time while someone spoke about us being in a group, though we weren’t part of any tour we knew of, and when we were nearing the front of the line, they announced too many tickets had been sold and they’d reached max capacity inside, so we’d have to wait five minutes for them to start selling tickets again. And yet again I’m confronted with how detrimental a dysfunctional bladder can be.
“Do you want to just look at it?” Patrick asked, implying we’d skip riding Maid of the Mist, the boat that hauls gaggles of poncho-clad Asians, and occasionally a few others, into the eye of the falls. He was pointing toward an overlook point, adorned with safety rails, that jutted out toward the falls. He didn’t have to mention that we could do this 1) for free or 2) immediately. Most of Patrick’s good ideas don’t need the details explained. I understood all of this.
“No, let’s get on the boat!” Because maybe on Planet Whitney, if you throw your poncho on really fast, you get back some of the time you wasted standing in line and make it to your family cookout on time. Ticket sales resumed, but because we weren’t technically part of the group we’d been clumped with, we had to stand aside and wait for all of them to pass first, further delaying our sightseeing. Further perpetuating my bitter resentment for my overactive bladder.
We made it up stairs, through turnstiles, around corners. We snaked back and forth, shivering in the rain. Sly tourists tried to sneak past us, to cut, and a few successfully pulled it off, which only made us more miserable: deep in the coldest part of hell. “How much longer from here?” Patrick asked one of the employees, a young man, probably late teens, who commented on Patrick’s resemblance to Adam Levine. “Not long.” We were herded like livestock into the elevator that took us to the lower level and opened up to several hundred miles of slow-moving lines. Not long, I could hear his echo in my head. Like, Hey guy, how long did the Jews wander in the desert? Not long. How long did it take for women to get the right to vote? Not long. How long has the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict been going on? Not long.
We’d bought our tickets, it didn’t matter that we were an hour late for the cookout already and weren’t even glimpsing the end of the line. A few more slow twists and turns, the minutes ticking by, and Patrick finally says, “This will take at least another hour.” We’d paid for our tickets with money and time. We’d subjected ourselves to the cold and the wind and the rain. And now, after all that, we were going to step out of line and go home. “I don’t want you to be upset,” he said. “I’m upset I’m not with my family.” We hopped the gate and trotted toward the exit, the pads of our feet slippery in our sandals.
“Look,” he said, pointing to a rocky staircase that led straight up to the water. “Want to go up there?” Unfortunately, we’d left the line before getting ponchoed.
“Let’s just take these,” he said, pointing to a giant recycling can filled above the brim with ponchos. And the whole time I was wearing it and the knot tied beneath the hood kept brushing against my mouth, all I could think about was whose mouth it was brushing against before it was yanked off and discarded. So unsanitary.
The climb up the stairs was treacherous, the wind pounded the water that came crashing down on us in heavy waves. I held the railing to keep from taking a steep, painful fall. Our eyes were no match for the pouring water, allowing us to catch split seconds of glances before closing again. We made it to the top, the drops hung in the air like fog. The water dumped on us – over the edge and onto our bodies. We left, dripping wet, and trotted the half mile back to the car. We stripped out of our wet clothes, which clung – seemingly for life – to our bodies. We’d brought towels and spare outfits, and we blasted the heat on our way to my aunt’s house. I wiped off my makeup – which more closely resembled the markings of a woodland creature than the workings of a cosmetics line.
By the time we’d arrived, everyone had already eaten, but they still had food out for us.
It’d cost us hours of our life, $10 for parking, $17 each for the unused Maid of the Mist tickets and a mascara stain on my white hoodie that will never come out.
“So?” they asked. “How was Niagara Falls?”
“Chandelier” – Sia
Once again Sia has blown me away with another beautifully sung song that is dripping with emotion. Her knack for flying under Hollywood’s radar has kept her personal life out of the spotlight (except what’s she has willingly provided to magazines during interviews). But her low-key, private lifestyle has allowed us to focus on her raw talent, her mighty voice that shoots up and out from her toes. When I heard “I’m in here,” I decided she’s the most underrated singer/songwriter in the business. And with this song, she might have outdone herself.
I posted the video as well, because if you haven’t seen it, this is an incredible performance by an 11-year-old contemporary dance prodigy.
“All about that bass” – Meghan Trainor
I heard this song for the first time while getting my hair cut on Sunday. Not sure whether this has been already floating around and made it’s way to everyone but me, but I don’t listen to the radio unless I’ve gone over my monthly allotted data or I’m riding in my sister’s van. Sometimes I feel way ahead of the curve when it comes to music, and other times I hear a song for the first time and everyone around me is all, “Wait, you’ve never heard this?” What is this, high school? I live under a rock, GOT A PROBLEM?
Meghan Trainor’s “All about that bass” is the kind of song that makes me want to round up all my friends and shoot a music video of us dancing. It’s got a sound that makes you involuntarily dance and lip sing. And it even makes you pout your mouth because that’s the only logical way you’d get that sound to come out.
“Come with me now” – Kongos
Is everyone (anyone?) into this song as much as I am? It’s everything Nickelback set out to be but never was. Because Nickelback is fucking terrible, you guys.
“Home is not places” – Apache Relay
Was recently turned onto this band by one handsome gent. So far I’ve liked every song I’ve heard. Plus? Best album cover ever.
“Old Money” – Lana Del Rey
More like Lana Del Cray…zy. I mean, seriously. But even though she seems out of her friggin mind, I super love her music. Haven’t had a chance to listen to her new album, Ultraviolence, in full, but I heard this track and loved it. (Also, if you haven’t heard her super creepy cover of “Once Upon a Dream” you should check it out. Stat.
Enjoy these and other tracks on this week’s mixtape.
I’ve recently expanded my fitness regimen to include swimming, which is something I rarely do because despite living in close proximity to 30,000 lakes, 11,000 miles of rivers/streams/waterways, an ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, I am afraid of what’s lurking. WHAT’S LURKING? That sounds like it could mean a hundred different things. Perfect slogan for a new security system ad campaign, or possibly the latest tween slang, like, “Hey, man, what’s lurkin’?” But what I’m afraid of is lepto, amoebas and alligators – oh, my!
My sister, whose irrational fears know no bounds, just shared with me that a piranha was recently caught by a fisherman in a lake in the contiguous United States. So because I’m a glutton for terrifying knowledge, I went searching for news articles about this deadly catch and found that not only was that true in recent news, but also I learned of a new fish, a cousin of the piranha, which has been found in numerous fresh-water bodies throughout the U.S. has been EATING OFF PEOPLE’S TESTICLES.
YOU HEARD ME.
My swimming has been in the safety and clear, uninfested waters of the YMCA lap pool. My instructor is my husband because this girl’s on a budget and can’t pay an actual swim coach for lessons. Let me start over. My instructor is my husband because he is a fantastic swimmer and one of those people who seems to be good at everything. What the hell is with those people, anyway?
The first 10 minutes of each swim lesson is spent getting into the pool.
After that, I spend about an hour flopping around trying to do as my husband says, however I can’t lift my elbow and keep my hand low because they’re connected, and I’m not some kind of fucking swim magician. Though somehow, we’ve managed to make it work and the pieces of the freestyle stroke are coming together but with one exception.
“You’re still lifting your head out of the water to breathe.”
Must have left my gills in my other purse.
“You’re still lifting your head.”
Because I am a human fucking being.
Then it turns into this, “Here. Let me show you.” Because that’s ALWAYS where these things go, when you’re in the presence of someone whose skills far surpass your own, and the last thing you want to do is make a comparison they insist on going, “Watch me.” Yeah, I’m watching. Show off. Then there’s a follow-up. “Did you see how I did it?” Translate: “Did you see how I did it right?” “Yes, looked great.” You smug bastard.
“You barely want to get your mouth out of the water. You’re going to suck a little bit of water in, and that’s good.”
No, that’s drowning.
“You just spit it back out when you exhale.”
Oh, is that what you do? You just suck water into your lungs – the very definition of drowning – and then simply expel it all whilst keeping your hands low and elbows high? Cake.
I will admit that several years ago I’d have been much more combative during a lesson from my husband, but I’ve learned to take instruction well. Maybe I’ve grown humble in my old age (see: where the fuck did 29 go?), maybe I’ve learned other people possess wisdom that I don’t. What I do possess is a new bathing suit, an unflattering one-piece that cuts each of my butt cheeks in half.
Here’s the progress. Criticize away.
Look at me, Mom, I’m swimming!
There’s a piece of my soul that recognizes itself in my sister. It’s happy and playful, and goes untapped but for when I’m around her. I don’t think this is unusual, as it’s human nature to reach inside yourself and reflect back the things you see and feel. There are friendships I hold closer, feelings I reserve only for my husband. With my sister, the connection I share is deep-rooted, long-term and a bridge to my childhood, even.
“My jaw is sore now. I was chewing four pieces of gum.”
“I wanted to blow bubbles.”
I just returned to Florida after 12 weeks of traveling up north, most of which was spent visiting family. The beginning of this summer trip marked the first anniversary of my dad’s death. And much of the time since he died I’ve spent wallowing in sadness. The heavy kind. Irreparable, unrelenting sadness. There is a dad-sized hole in my heart, and though he was a small man, the wound is big. And like any wound, the instinct is to apply pressure, to quell the bleeding, control the damage. No one ever gets stabbed in the gut instinctively spreads her arms open as a reactionary response. No, the instinct is to push as hard as you can, to stifle the pain hoping that if you hold it in your own two hands and squeeze with all your strength, it might just burst apart.
And so I did this. I went inward, I pushed people away, became a stranger to my friends and created distance in my marriage. All I could do was wrap myself up tightly with both arms and try to hold myself together, hold pressure to the wound. To stop the pain from seeping out between my fingers. Sadness, I’ve learned, is a thick, coating ooze. And a person looking for sympathy is like a black hole, a wad of dark matter with an irresistible pull. And so on top of the sadness, I’ve been plagued with the guilt of having pulled down all the people around me, used them as buoys as I’ve tried to stay afloat in the coursing waves of emotional instability.
I allowed myself to become absorbed by new hobbies and characters in books and the lives of people on television. Because it was easier than living my own life, of figuring out how to carry on in a world where my dad no longer existed. It was easier than spending every minute of every day feeling the burden that is crippling grief. Of being so submerged in tragedy that you’re pushed to the brink of human capability. There were small periods of time during the past year when I was able to delight in things that delighted me, but those joyous moments were fleeting.
Spending so much time with my family this summer forced me to confront a lot of the things I’ve been avoiding simply by way of distance. But looking at them every day I was able to clearly see what we have and, sadly, what’s missing. There were nights I spent awake or having nightmares or tossing and turning, days spent bogged down by panic or fears I didn’t know I had. But each day there was something to be happy about: a new inside joke, a birthday party, a memory that, even in that moment I knew I’d hold onto forever. And experiencing polar emotions – happiness during sadness, laughter while depressed – was in itself a dose of intensive therapy.
There is victory in letting yourself move beyond loss, but that doesn’t come easy. I experience difficulty in enjoying day-to-day things because why should I enjoy this if he can’t enjoy it too? There’s an abundant list of cliché things people would say about this, like how I have survivor’s guilt or how he’d want me to be happy. But none of that helps. You lose someone significant in your life, and in comes the steady stream of bullshit people all-too-willingly shovel at you. Like a funeral is really just a game of bingo where you get to check off spaces every time someone tells you “He’s in a better place,” or “God needed another angel.” None of this brought me any comfort or any sense of peace – not then, not now – because at my nephews’ first birthday I know that, given the choice, my dad would have been there.
“Hey Dad,” the conversation would have gone. “Sounds like a pretty sweet gig, but it would mean missing Jude and Milo’s first birthday, as well as all their other birthdays and milestones, and the milestones of all your other grand kids and kids and friends and family. But, I mean, God does need another angel.”
On my last day in Indiana, Ashley and I were out shopping and running errands. And though we were hurrying to get through our laundry list of things to do that day, she took the time to distribute Target coupons that she cut out but wouldn’t use. She could have given the envelope to a cashier to use at his discretion, or she could have handed it off to a busy mom in hopes she’d have some of those discountable items on her shopping list. Instead, Ashley placed each coupon onto the shelf next to its corresponding item. I watched her walk through the aisles and distribute these little gifts and thought about the people who might find them. Maybe an expectant couple on a budget who can now splurge on their first-choice car seat.
Ashley will never know how extensive or profound an effect her good deed will have on others and on me. She’ll never know whose lives were made even a little brighter by her kindness. And she didn’t realize that standing there in Target I would snap out of what seemed like a year-long hibernation. One kind gesture that brought me back to myself by one person who doesn’t have to owe the world anything. She experienced the same loss I did, but with more poise and less anxiety. It’s like she’s already figured out the secrets of the world, knows what will take the rest of us years to piece together. But the feeling I got that day from watching her has lingered, a contagious kindness that has reignited my spirit.
I spent a year after my dad’s death learning how to check out of my own life, but I spent the past three months learning how to check back in. The dark cloud that seemed to be hanging over my life hasn’t parted to make way for clear skies, life just doesn’t happen that way. But I’ve learned to unwrap my arms from their grip around my body and spread them wide to accept the raining down of circumstance. Sad and lonely and disappointing and unfair and brilliant and hilarious circumstance. I’m checking into the present, watching my sister blow bubbles in the car, paying attention to what’s happening now and enjoying my life enough to chronicle it (on this website) again.
There will always be sadness in the world. There will always be pain that is, at its worst, paralyzing. Even yesterday we heard of Robin Williams’s death. He was, coincidentally, the same age as my dad when he died. Death will always seem untimely and unfair and tragic, but what has brought me peace is very simple: there is goodness in this world.
Hold onto the goodness.
All my money is plastic. My banking is done online. Funds for bills I owe are automatically sucked from my bank account when they need to be. We’ve come a long way since the hours my mom spent sitting at the dining room table with a stack of receipts balancing her checkbook. I don’t know how money will magically appear in my bank account simply because I’ve snapped a photo of it on my phone. But I also don’t know how cassette tapes work, and so I’ve come to believe it’s better to not question some things. Like why so many people love Crossfit.
So despite not ever using cash, I’ve decided to put my pack rat skills to good use by collecting loose change and donating it to charity. The thing about loose change is, I’ve found, you can’t just show up at a bank with three gallon-sized Ziploc bags of loose change and expect them to wave a wand over it and have it appear in your account.
“We’re not taking that,” they told me. “You’ll have to roll that up,” they told me. “Turn around and walk away,” they said. “Ma’am, you’re belligerent,” they said. “We’re calling security,” they said.
I loaded up on paper rolls for quarters, nickels and pennies, however, they were out of the dime variety. Because apparently dime rolls are the most in-demand, most coveted paper roll of all the change. The more you know.
So months go by and all my non-dimes have long since been rolled, so I figure it’s time to pick up where I left off.
The first bank I tried was closed. Checking my watch, I realized that if I hadn’t spent so much time practicing my South African accent into the bathroom mirror, I’d not have missed the bank’s closing time by 14 minutes.
The second bank I tried was open an hour later, probably because the proprietor was also keen on spending the afternoon hours practicing his accents or maybe his Michelle Pfeiffer lips (which I actually did spend an entire afternoon doing once).
This was apparently the place where the Royal Baby was sleeping, if such an assumption could be made based solely on the level of security. I opened the door, and an only slightly annoying alarm sounded inside the bank to alert them I was entering, and then stopped almost immediately. I can’t say I blame them for being so adamant with their security measures, because I’ve heard I look like someone who would walk into a bank wearing a maxi dress, peacock earrings and flip flops and rob it in the face.
The doorway doubled as a metal detector. I was locked in what appeared to be an airless antichamber, likely with hidden faucets ready to shower me with battery acid should I make any hostile attempts to force my way through the doors that aren’t unlike the ones in Jurassic Park guarding the T-Rex paddock.
When the door closed behind me, I heard the lock latch, which made me question whether I’d stepped into a bank or an elaborate trap set up by a serial axe murderer who grew up poor, became a self-made man and now gets his kicks murdering innocent victims in a bank vault. I know it’s not necessary to think about his difficult upbringing and all the opportunities he was’t given, but I like to create three-dimensional characters.
After performing a series of tests, including but not limited to an eye exam, sobriety test, algebra pop-quiz, a lightning round of the-floor-is-lava and a robot dance-off, they determined I was not, in fact, an imminent threat. A light on the doorway in front of me changed from red to green to grant me access to the lobby of the bank. Yes, ALL OF THIS HAPPENED before I was granted access to the lobby. Because this bank is no fucking joke.
“How can we help you?” They asked, accusatory. They still perceived me as dangerous. Bunch of paranoid em effers, apparently.
“Hi,” I said, sweetly, my arms straight, hands clasped together at my side as I swayed back and forth like a recently potty-trained toddler still trying to recognize the urge to pee my pants.
“I need some rolls for dimes if you have them, please.” Masters. I was feeling scared and inferior. Whatever mind control techniques they were using were working. I was feeling lowly and inferior, and not just because I’m unemployed and without child at 28-and-a-half.
They stood behind glass, which I assumed was bullet-proof but I was afraid to ask. Because what you don’t ask when you’re inside a bank are any questions to confirm their suspicions that you’re a god damn criminal. She handed me a short stack of paper dime rolls and then asked whether I would need anything else. I snatched them up and turned to quickly exit the bank, sick of being scrutinized and judged by the pompous tellers behind their likely-bullet-proof glass.
“Anything else?” She asked.
“NO!” It came out louder and with much more force than I’d planned. “BYE!” I said, turning to run out of the bank. Though, my plans were foiled when I tripped awkwardly and slipped out of one of my shoes. I spun around, my phone flying out of my open purse and landing on the floor. I was reaching my foot out to find my shoe, but then aborted that mission to instead go for my phone. I took one step with my bare foot onto the bank floor and the realization hit of what was happening. I turned back toward my shoe, hopped one-footed back to my shoe and slid it on before turning and making the short walk to pick up my phone. I didn’t want to face them, so I said, “GOOD DAY!” and then made a break for the exit, however, I got to the door and realized it was locked. I stood there pushing for what seemed like an eternity, noting the measuring tape adhered to the door frame. No doubt there was a security camera at my back taking in my description and height.
The door buzzed I nearly fell through. Ahead of me I saw a familiar box with an illuminated red light. This time, I knew. I was to stay in this chamber until the door behind me locked before exiting through the final door. While I waited, I turned to them, beaming with pride at how fast I caught onto their security measures. And to make the situation even more of a drain on my dignity, even more humiliating, I waved.
The light turned to green and I held my head up high as I walked through the final door and into the parking lot, more thankful than any person has ever been for online banking.
Turns out as long as it’s called “juice,” he’ll enthusiastically drink it.
(It’s beet juice.)
So relateable. Not sure whether that makes it hilarious or very, very sad.
Yesterday was a sad day in this country for fans of justice and Gleeks alike. Trayvon Martin’s killer walks free; Cory Monteith found dead in a hotel room. Yesterday also marked two months since my dad’s death. And in all of this, I keep pondering just how senseless death can be. Senseless and preventable.
I saw this Tweet, which I think perfectly sums up my sentiment about the Trayvon Martin shooting.
I am a resident of Florida, this happened in a town near mine. Trayvon Martin will never get married, never have children, go to college. All because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And some gun nut trying to be a hero shoots an unarmed 17-year-old kid who died scared.
Cory Monteith celebrated his 31st birthday last month. He’s been called the glue that holds together the hit show Glee by other cast members. His autopsy will be performed today, and people are speculating his cause of death was drug overdose. He went to rehab to take control of his substance abuse problem, and then ended up dying alone.
These people are different from one another in almost every way. But what they have in common is that their deaths could have been prevented. If George Zimmerman wouldn’t have had such easy access to a gun. If Cory Monteith had made better decisions.
I watched the robotic rise and fall of my dad’s chest when he was dying, and I started thinking about how his untimely death could have actually occurred seven years earlier. A massive heart attack nearly killed him, made his heart weak. Years of smoking and drinking excessively had put more stress on his body than it could handle. I’ve made peace with my dad’s death in the sense that I am not angry with him for the decisions he made in his life that caused him to die at 63. But still I can’t help thinking about how the decisions we make – whether it’s how we take care of ourselves, how we treat others, how we are quick to hate instead of accept and love people, how we turn to drugs or alcohol when we’re down or bored – affects us so monumentally. What happened to people dying of old age? Drugs, guns, poor lifestyle decisions, these are the choices we make every day that end lives, that bring sadness and the kind of grief that is paralyzing.
Death is inevitable. Senseless, untimely death is not.
My love and support go out to the families of both Trayvon Martin and Cory Monteith.
I’m not fine. I’m sad. I know grieving is normal. But people are uncomfortable with other people’s grief. So when people ask me how I am, I tell them I’m okay. But I’m not okay. I can experience a range of emotions from happy to sad, but what comes from losing a parent is a long period of figuring things out. Of asking questions and thinking about how things have changed. About longing for a time when your life was simpler.
The day before my dad died, his brother flew in from Alabama to meet us at the hospital, and when he greeted me, he asked how I was. I said, “Good.” And then we both looked at each other, eyes filled with tears, and I shook my head. We’ve been trained to respond that way so that other people don’t feel obligated to take on the weight of our burdens.
This is my favorite song lately. I’ve been listening to it on repeat because it makes more sense than my dad dying at 63. He would have been 64 this Sunday. I would have picked out a funny card and written a nice note and sent it. I would have called him and wished him a happy birthday, heard what he had planned to do that day; likely fish with his brother and enjoy a nice dinner with his girlfriend. Maybe go out on the boat or enjoy a motorcycle ride. But he’ll never do any of those things again, never open another card or present. And so I listen to this song because I can hear it in my soul. Because I’m someone who cries a lot, gets emotionally tied up in things. And because of this, I’m perceived as weak. People purposely keep things from me because they worry about making me upset. I was visiting with an aunt during my trip up north and she asked, nonchalantly, “You’ve got a really low pain tolerance, though, don’t you?” I’ve got 23 laser tattoo removal treatments under my belt that would disprove that. But it hurts my feelings that people make assumptions about me because I am a person who is wired in such a way that I show emotion. Sadness is an emotion, but it’s not a level of strength. And sensitive is not the same as weak.
This song expresses those ideas. That it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay not to be okay.
Since my sister Kelsey moved back in with my mom, all of her belongings have also been living with my mom. More specifically, a giant heap in the garage taking up all the space but one CRV-sized hole enough for my mom to drive her car in. Enough time had passed that the decision was made to unload her hoard by way of renting a dumpster, filling it, and having it hauled away. The idea was, of course, suggested to us by our other sister, a.k.a. queen of the yearly purge.
So while our family is in talks about the logistics of this dumpster delivery process, which, in itself could be an entire blog post because the women in my family tend to over think things and discuss them far after there are things to discuss (see: how long it takes for us to pick something for dinner), we factored in number of weekends vs. weekdays, number of days my sister would have off of work, timed it to be after such-and-such party but before so-and-so arrives to visit. It was not unlike solving some complicated math problem. “If x is the size of the heap and y is the number of days it will take to manually move the heap piece by piece, and z is the god-awful smell and swarm of bugs that accompany this process, solve for how angry your HOA will be if, two days after they present you with a warning for not storing your garbage cans in your garage, you have a massive dumpster delivered to your driveway.
The dumpster was there for a week and a half, I think, filled with old furniture, old memories and the wicked stench of dirty diapers (which we were mindlessly chucking in there). After a few days of hiding our faces when we walked from our cars into the house, we just stopped caring what the neighbors thought. We went from avoiding eye contact with people walking down the road, to greeting them from the porch, barefoot and void of makeup. TLC actually made it into a documentary, which you can catch this fall. It’s called My Big-Ass White Trash Life.
I can’t tell you the exact dimensions of the thing, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was about 24 miles wide by 380 miles long. Yet somehow, despite the massive quantity this behemoth was capable of holding, turns out my sister didn’t follow the rules for properly loading a dumpster and completely ignored the part about not filling it past the fill line. The technique she used was less Tetris and more sixth grade P.E. discus. Which, honestly, would have been fine if she was dealing with just small things, but it turns out my mom had several (yes, SEVERAL) dryers she wasn’t using, a broken television that was could-easily-house-a-family-of-goats gigantic. “Why don’t you carry up my old furniture I’ve been storing in the basement,” she says. So what started as a quick-and-dirty “Get your shit out of my garage” turned into a exhaustive purge of everything at that address we could live without.
So the day before the dumpster is scheduled to be taken away, which is exactly where you want your old crap taken: away, my mom comes in and asks if I’d help get all of the things in the dumpster re-situated so that it was below the fill level. I hesitantly agreed – I’d been entirely hands-off this dumpster project from the beginning because 1) I don’t live there and 2) I don’t believe in throwing things away.
I was already in sweaty gym clothes, so I really didn’t have much of an excuse and felt bad saying no, so I ::gag:: climbed in. It wasn’t that bad if you could balance on the furniture and direct your eyes away from the stash of porn belonging to my sister’s ex-husband. When my sister climbed on her end, which I could only see using satellite imagery, she immediately gagged and nearly lost her lunch because of a dirty diaper gone sour. Dirty diapers don’t smell good in their prime, let alone a week after baking in the summer sun. It was REPUGNANT.
“KELSEY!” I screamed at her, not because I was angry, but because that’s the only way she could have heard me at such a great distance while I bounced up and down cheerfully on an ugly old floral couch my mom should have pitched years ago. (I know you loved that couch, Mom. I’m sorry). “If I’m going to be in here, you are too!”
It took a little finagling to get all the pieces re-arranged, like lifting a refrigerator and one of the zillion dryers. And every time Kelsey was in close proximity to that diaper, she would gag, and then lean over the edge and start heaving.
“IF YOU’RE GOING TO PUKE, DO IT IN HERE, THIS ISN’T A GOD-DAMN BOAT.”
It all worked out okay. Garage looks nicer. My sister’s found some peace in letting go of old pieces of her life. And most importantly, I don’t think the HOA will be playing any more games of chicken with my mom. Metaphorical middle finger for the win.