fifty reasons to live

April 30, 2014

one. because they said you couldn't. 
two. because they said you wouldn't.
three. because they said you shouldn't.
four. because you wake up in the morning. there must be a reason for that, even if it's something so small as to smile at a stranger. because maybe that small smile is the lone bright spot in someone's incredibly dark day. and your smile... it's amazing. remember?
five. cupcakes.
six. because you have friends. you do.
seven. there's music. everywhere. and it's beautiful.
eight. and flowers. the bluebonnets. the roses. and ranunculus. daisies in the sun. magnolias in the trees.
nine. daddy.
ten. mama.

eleven. films. the ones that make you laugh. the ones that make you cry. the ones that make you want to tell a story. the ones that manage to do all three things at once. like steel magnolias. you would've missed that, had you given in all those years ago. you would've missed its perfection.
twelve. aggie football.
thirteen. poetry.
fourteen. at the end of the day, you get to crawl into your supremely comfortable bed dressed in its star wars sheets and sleep knowing that you made it one more day. that you hung in there. that even if you hadn't accomplished anything else in your day, you did that. and that was enough.
fifteen. pappadeaux's.
sixteen. literature. think of all the characters you've yet to meet.
seventeen. it's glorious outside. one last lovely glimpse of the spring...
eighteen. minn. she would want you to. can't you hear her in your head? jenny griffin...
nineteen. shazam.
twenty. bambam. those two... they need you.

twenty-one. you quit smoking. there's a reason for that.
two. your teachers... your professors... they saw good in you when you couldn't see it in yourself. they saw you.
three. disneyland. or world. either one will do. well, no. world. universal studios. harry potter. a person needs to see that place.
four. utah.
five. colorado.
six. england. london, specifically, but... really, the whole country's kind of magnificent.
seven. germany.
eight. ireland. you've not been there. and you know... there's that branch of the tree. on your father's mother's side.
nine. austria. you've not been there, either. and you know... there's that branch of the tree. on your mother's mother's side.
thirty. greece. you've not been there, either. and EVERYONE needs to see that.

thirty-one. coca-cola. yeah. i said it. a soft drink. a damned fine soft drink.
two. speaking of teachers... there's those ones who never taught you, but they know you (mostly because of your father, sure, but also because when you see them, it shows in your face how much you love them)... they ask about you. you. not your brothers, but you. even though you never had the privilege of learning from them. they ask about you because they love you.
three. you haven't gotten whitten her chocolate-covered coffee beans yet. or kaitlyn's yankee candle. or brenda's gift card... or whomever else out there in need of some kindness and generosity. you haven't shown everyone the love. and they could use some.
four. phineas still has about fifty thousand miles him. oh, the places you could go...
five. shakira hasn't won the voice yet. not that she's gonna win it this year... but it could happen... someday.
six. chicken spaghetti.
seven. calvin and hobbes.
eight. blueberry muffins.
nine. settlers of catan.
forty. scrabble.

forty-one. bookstores.
two. movie theaters.
three. house of blues.
four. macaroni and cheese.
five. halibut. with the piccata sauce--the crab meat and the lemons and the capers.
six. laughter.
seven. you've stories to tell. you do.
eight. because if you die, then they win. don't let that happen.
nine. because your brother can't.
fifty. because you promised someone you would. you promised.

these are my reasons. but you out there... if you're struggling, feel free to borrow them.

songs that start with the letter y: a not-so-random sample

April 28, 2014

one. yard of muscle. middlefinger's three martini lunch.
two. yawny at the apocalypse. andrew bird's armchair apocrypha.
three. yellow. coldplay's parachutes.
four. yellow ledbetter. pearl jam's rearview mirror.
five. yesterday. staind's fourteen shades of gray.
six. you and me. lifehouse's self-titled album.
seven. you are loved (don't give up). josh groban's awake.
eight. you are the best thing. ray lamontagne's gossip in the grain.
nine. you cause as much sorrow. sinead o'connor's i do not want what i haven't got.
ten. you could be mine. guns n' roses' use your illusion ii.
eleven. you don't have to be afraid. kaki king's until we felt red.
twelve. you don't know me. michael buble's it's time.
thirteen. you found me. the fray's self-titled album.
fourteen. you give me something. james morrison's undiscovered.
fifteen. you look so fine. garbage's version two.
sixteen. you picked me. a fine frenzy's one cell in the sea.
seventeen. you really got me. van halen's self-titled album.
eighteen. you told a lie. camera obscura's my maudlin career.
nineteen. you're not one of them. john ottman's superman returns soundtrack.
twenty. you're still here. faith hill's cry.
twenty-one. young folks. peter bjorn and john's writer's block.
twenty-two. your hands are cold. jean-yves thibaudet's pride and prejudice soundtrack.
twenty-three. your time has come. audioslave's out of exile.
twenty-four. your winter. sister hazel's fortress.
twenty-five. the youth. mgmt's oracular spectacular.

u is for utah

April 24, 2014

the view of huntsville, utah from halfway up the mountain.

t minutes ten weeks to departure. because yes, yes i'm counting. it's getting hot here.

t is for try, try, try...

April 22, 2014

so this evening, while working on the character bios for reese and seth, i was polling the servers and bar staff for suggestions (because the way it works for me is that i'll grill people for things like biggest regret or college majors and the like, and when someone says something that makes sense, i run with it. it's like i recognize it. like i knew it before it was said, but couldn't say it... or something). and i can get pretty loud. and i won't care that i'm loud, really, because to be honest, i have two decibels: meek and boisterous. and i was happy. so i was boisterous. and oblivious to how that happiness might have made other patrons unhappy. no. not oblivious. i didn't care. and i should've.

the booth behind me was crowded with a number of overweight, poorly-dressed african american women of varying ages.

i'd been polling the servers about their biggest fears. one of them had mentioned the camel spider. i was unfamiliar with such a critter. so i googled it. and one of the pictures i saw was quite disgusting. and i could not help but shriek when i saw it.

i was in the middle of turning my laptop so that the server could see what i'd found when i heard one of the women at my back exclaim, what is wrong with that girl?

now, i've never been any good at standing up for myself. ever. but for some reason, i found the courage to turn my attention to these ladies. i glared at them and said, really. and then i turned back around.

and i could hear them muttering amongst themselves. i let it go for a minute or two. but i really wasn't in the mood for it. so i turned back around and said, maybe yall should wait until you've left the restaurant to talk about me behind my back.

and one of them said, no, we'll do it right here.

i waited a moment. was going to ignore them. but i'm not good at that. so i got up, shoved past them and went outside to sit on the one of the benches. i was gonna wait until they'd left to go back inside. and then i thought, that's cowardly, and i'd rather have a drink. so i went back inside. and they were still there.

one of the bartenders told me after the women left that one of them had taken out her pepper spray and pointed it in my direction.

all because sometimes boisterous tips over into obnoxious. because, on a rare occasion, i'd raised my voice.

of course, these women went straight to one of the managers before they'd left to complain about their experience.

there are times when i'm at pappadeaux's that i feel a majority of the staff there tolerates me. but on this occasion, the manager came to me after addressing those women's concerns to make sure i was alright. she said that she thought i was pretty cool. or something. and she'd seemed proud of me for standing up. the bartenders did what they knew to do, too, to cheer me up.

i was pretty quiet after that.

some people think i'm this really nice chick, that i give so generously. the only i reason i work so hard to be giving is because i keep thinking if i give enough, i'll be better for it in the end. and at first, when i thought that, i wondered just how giving i needed to be. and then it occurred to me that those people at that restaurant, the staff there, they had my back. maybe not in the moment, because i'm sure there're limits to what they can do (though the manager said that if i'd come to her the moment the incident began she would've handled it), but after... they kept me from crumpling. and that's a pretty good return.

so tomorrow... i will try to be better. to be more deserving of their compassion for me.

q is for questions from a couple of friends

April 21, 2014

one. standard order when out to dinner: chicken flautas, chicken fried steak, mezzaluna pasta, cheeseburger, turkey sandwich, philly cheesesteak salad... i gravitate toward the most fattening item on the menu.

two. how do you like your steak? i don't, really, unless it's chicken fried. or pepper steak with bell peppers. but if it's regular steak, medium well with ketchup.

three. how do you want to spend your next birthday? that's gonna be forty-two. i'd really rather not think too much about that, except to say i forgot to ask off for that day this year and won't make that mistake again. i'd just want a good day. nothing extravagant or exemplary. just contentment. peaceful. easy. 

four. least favorite household chore: laundry. there's piles of it. always and forever. PILES.

five. movie you could watch over and over again: star trek. the one from five years ago. i've watched it at least fifty times, and i never get sick of it.

courtesy of kate at another clean slate

six. if you could go on vacation anywhere (you haven't already been) where would you want to go and with whom (can be fictional character); money is no object? ireland. a few years ago, i went to europe with my cousins. we had this tour guide named kate. i'd want to go with her. she was very good at her job.

seven. what does your ideal writing retreat look like? a couple of years ago, i discovered a writing retreat put on by the sun magazine. i kind of want to go to that. 

eight. what writing rituals do you have? i cop a squat at pappadeaux's bar, near the to-go stand. i play on the computer for a bit, chat with the staff. and then i plug in, open up itunes and word and get to work. if i stall, i'll unplug for a bit, chat with the staff some more, surf the net... rinse... repeat. this is pretty much how i spend every day. one of these days, i'll get paid to do it... assuming i can ever convince anyone in the industry that what i do is of value.
nine. scariest thing you've ever done: for my twenty-fifth birthday, my parents bought me a carribbean cruise. it left out of new orleans, made a pitstop in tampa bay and then headed for grand cayman. while in tampa bay and because i was, at the time, addicted to mountain dew and the ship did not supply its patrons with that particular beverage, i disembarked and went on a quest to find a gas station so i could buy a twelve pack. only it was sunday in tampa. early. and there weren't a lot of gas stations nearby, and none were open. so i walked. and walked. and being the gullible gal i am, i allowed a poorly-dressed, stinky, too-smiley, scrawny, bad-toothed african american male to escort me to what he'd said was a nearby gas station. but after walking for about ten blocks (because yes, it usually takes me a while to get a clue) into an increasingly ghetto neighborhood, i finally realized that perhaps this good samaritan wasn't so good, and i managed to excuse myself. i headed back to the boat, to the convenience store a block or so away from the ship and waited for it to open so i could get my fix. that night, i'd dreamt some dudes had injected heroin into my veins. 

ten. what do you spend way too much money on but just can't help it? movies. i watch a LOT of movies.

courtesy of tina at life is good.

songs that start with the letter o: a not-so-random sample

April 16, 2014

one. o valencia. the decemberists' the crane wife.
two. objection (tango). shakira's laundry service.
three. ocean and a rock. lisa hannigan's sea sew.
four. oh father. madonna's like a prayer.
five. an olive grove facing the sea. snow patrol's up to now.
six. on fire. switchfoot's the beautiful letdown.
seven. one and only. mary black's shine.
eight. one day main titles. rachel portman's one day (original motion picture soundtrack).
nine. one headlight. the wallflower's bringing down the horse.
ten. one line. p.j. harvey's stories from the city, stories from the sea.
eleven. one sweet love. sara bareilles' little voice.
twelve. one tree hill. u2's the joshua tree.
thirteen. only one. lifehouse's no name face.
fourteen. operation mindcrime. queensryche's operation mindcrime.
fifteen. operation spirit (the tyranny of tradition). live's mental jewelry.
sixteen. opticon. orgy's vapor transmission.
seventeen. ordinary world. duran duran's the wedding album.
eighteen. the other side. what made milwaukee famous' what doesn't kill us.
nineteen. outerspace. cold's thirteen ways to bleed on stage.
twenty. the outlaw torn. metallica's load.
twenty-one. outside. staind's break the cycle.
twenty-two. over and over. rachael yamagata's elephants... teeth sinking into heart.
twenty-three. over my head (cable car). the fray's how to save a life.
twenty-four. overboard. ingrid michaelson's girls and boys. 
twenty-five. ozone. fuel's sunburn.

l is for lifesavers

April 13, 2014

no. not the candy.

i'm talking about the kind that saves me from crazy. the kindness. the givers. the giving.

friday sucked. it was ugly. a couple of times a year, all the anxiety i feel, all the insecurity and inadequacy and irresponsibility and ugliness, everything hideous inside me swells. that scene in clash of the titans (not the one from a few years ago... not the one with sam worthington, liam neeson and ralph fiennes--what a waste of money that was--but the one from a few decades ago... the one with laurence olivier, maggie smith, burgess meredith... and, yes, harry hamlin). sure the special effects SUCKED. but the story was good. heck, the heart of that story's pretty awesome, i think. it's got some fantastic components. anyway. at the end, andromeda's chained to the cliff and the kraken's rising up out of the water.... and the whole world's certain that she's gonna get gobbled up. until perseus swoops in to save the day, thanks to the wings of pegasus and the head of medusa.

friday, all that ugliness was the kraken. and i was chained to the cliff. (i was lying on the kitchen floor, concentrating on not bashing my head against the ceramic tiles.)

you know what saved me?

my friend meredith. just her smiling face is so often enough to do the trick. i don't see her very often, because she's a very busy girl, but that day, oh, lord, i thanked the heavens she was there. her faith in me is a wondrous thing. her laughter is beautiful. and that i can make her laugh, even when i'm feeling despicable... that's a miracle, too.

my father. i know i'm not the daughter he hoped to have. there're many, many, many things i can't give him. i'm not the coddly type. and he is. very much so. he always wants to hug. to run a hand over my hair or my back. and i almost always balk at that. i don't always like to be touched. that night i looked at him and said, sometimes i wish i could just crawl up into your lap, like i did when i was little. and he just said, you still can. i can't. i really can't. but it mattered to me that i let him know i thought of it, wished for it. that he's proud of me, anyway... that matters, too.

my friends at pappadeaux's, especially the ones who've signed up for swapportunity. one of the servers passed to me two gifts to hand out. and so that night, after i defeated the kraken (however temporary that victory may be... because, unlike perseus, i don't have medusa's head to wield as a weapon), i made myself get up, get out... get over to deaux's and deliver the goods. and it made my heart happy to brighten those girls' days.

there's a song we sang in college... you gave me smiles, so you are my friend. friday? i was capable of inspiring laughter. and i made people smile. despite the darkness. despite the threat. but more... these people made me laugh. they made me smile. they saved me.

and the reason i write this now is because i want you to know, you out there... no matter how small a thing may seem to you, even if it's something so simple as a smile... whatever kindness you can share is all anyone needs to get through an ugly day. that smile? that kindness... that's just as strong a salvation as perseus riding on the winged back of pegasus. it's enough. you're enough. i wanted you to know that.

j is for jenny

April 10, 2014

i was jenny when i was little. i didn't mind it, but there was a point i preferred jenn...

we moved to conroe when i was ten. for two years prior, i'd not had many friends. in louisiana, there was charlotte. in new mexico, there was monica and kiersten. but mostly, i played by myself. with my barbies and little people. or colored. or went on walks or bike rides.

when we moved here, i befriended the girl across the street, stephanie, who introduced me to traci and erica. stephanie and i played together almost every day that summer. we had a pool in my backyard. she'd come over to swim. or i'd go over to her house and play. before school started, a girl who lived down the street, jennifer, had a pool party. she'd invited me. i was so excited. i'd thought i was making friends.

i didn't stay long at the party because there were boys there. the boys made fun of me. the girls joined in. i walked home. and when school started, stephanie, traci and erica stopped being friendly because they'd realized it wasn't cool to be friends with me.

but there was also jenny, whom i met when mom signed me up for a nearby neighborhood's swim team. together, we rode our bicycles all over the neighborhood. we swam all the time. we stayed over at each others' houses. when i was at her house, she was jenny one, and i was jenny two. when we were at mine, i was one, and she was two.

jenny had straight blonde hair and wore glasses. one day, in junior high, she came to school with permed hair and contacts, which made her prettier, which made the cool kids take notice.

jenny and i always sat at lunch together. then one day, she wasn't at our table. she wasn't there the next day. or the day after that. the other girl who sat with us (i think her name was ginny)... we looked for jenny and found her sitting at one of the long tables with all the cool kids. so we sat with her because we wanted to be with our friend. we sat there the next day. and the next. the number of kids sitting at that table dwindled day by day. the cool kids migrated to another table. the three of us went back to our round table by the window. and after that, jenny and i--we weren't quite as good of friends.

we lived outside the city, between conroe and the woodlands. the district had three high schools: conroe, mccullough and oak ridge. conroe served north montgomery county; mccullough and oak ridge served the south. conroe and mccullough were both five-a schools; oak ridge was a four-a, but its enrollment was close to the five-a mark. my father, the superintendent, devised a plan to boost that enrollment: students in certain areas, like where we lived, could choose one of the five-a schools or oak ridge.

its building was smaller. newer. i'd been to conroe’s campus before. it was big and dark. massive and crowded. my older brother went there. everybody loved him. his peers. his teachers. and his kid sister was an ugly, quiet, clumsy runt. i imagined walking the halls with my peers. i didn't want to be around those people; they didn't want to be around me. i knew i wouldn't make it if i went there. i wouldn't last. it wasn't a hard choice.

i went to oak ridge. jenny went to conroe. after that i only saw her at swim meets. i tried to talk to her once. she barely said a word.

my older brother called me jenny. my younger brother does every now and then. my aunts, uncles and cousins do. outside my family, there’s not many people whom i'll let call me that. i don't feel like a jenny. it's bright and happy. i am neither of those things. not really. not anymore. my friend minn always called me jenny. i thought of her today. every time she saw me, she'd greet me with jenny griffin. like it was a beautiful thing. like i was.