The mind of the writer

It’s recently come to my attention that perhaps I’m being grossly misunderstood by readers of this blog and, in some cases, people who call themselves my friends. It seems that some people have mistaken the topics I chose to write about as rants that reflect deep psychological obsessions or anger issues. In talking to a good friend on this topic, I’ve learned that perhaps the common joe does not quite understand how a writer’s mind works and I’m slightly disturbed. So I’m going to take a paragraphs here to describe to you all just how a writer’s mind works in the hopes that we can reach an understanding here. I know some of you probably already innately understand what I’m about to describe–some of you are writers as well so you see the world in the exaggeratedly slow tempo of a writer. Just bear with me a moment or two if my words preach to a choir whose song you know by heart.

My friend, a non-writer, described it best. Say you are widow, like me, and you walk into a restaurant with your current significant other and, for just a second, a memory flashes in your head of the last time you were in here. You were with your late spouse and it was one of those Friday nights you went out in the infancy of your marriage. You didn’t do anything overly spectacular that night, but you just remember the smell of him or his hand clutching yours. Maybe you felt a sense of contentedness at that moment because you always felt content when you were with him. It’s just a fragment of memory, something you never think about on a daily basis, but seeing the decor of the restaurant triggers the deja vu moment and suddenly you remember this one little memory in the pool of memories of just regular moments you had with this person. Having not seen your late spouse for almost seven years, you can’t help but hang onto a scattered thought of him because it’s like finding that old Valentines Day card or some CD he made for you when you’re going through boxes after a move. You didn’t know it was there, you’d completely forgotten it, but when you find it, you’re touched and it’s like living the moment again. For just a few seconds.

Well, most people, those who aren’t prone to analyzing their every thought and writing about it, would live this memory and go on with the evening. I, and other writers, note this moment and tag it for further thought later. We go on with the evening, too. It’s not like my mood is now soured by the memory of my husband while I’m enjoying what could be an equally wonderful evening with my current boyfriend. Maybe several years ago, I would have hung onto that moment with both hands and let it disrupt my thoughts to the point of tearing apart every “not-Mike” thing about the person I was there with. I might have indeed let it sour my mood. But I’m not like that anymore. I’m living in the moment and recording new memories of life each day.

You can’t escape what you were, though. And that’s all I’m saying when I try to describe the experiences of my life to you. With my widowhood experiences, it’s vastly important that I relate to an audience because I want people–others who have gone through a situation similar to mine–to know that they are not alone. This is not something I had the luxury of knowing when I was going through my grief. I felt more alone in those days, for six years, than I perhaps have ever felt in my entire life. Because I was hurting and people didn’t know how to talk to me about it, my phone didn’t ring. I could have asked for help, but I didn’t want to burden people either. So the blame goes both ways on my loneliness. People didn’t reach out, and maybe when they did I rejected their extended hand.

The only thing that got me through was a young widows list group on yahoo groups. Though I had no one to talk to directly, I heard the voices of many people my age (sometimes) and older (most of the time) who were going through what I was going through. These people kept me sane. They made me realize I wasn’t alone. Though, I must admit, words written on a computer screen can’t make you feel as a part of a community as actual human touch can. Still, it was that little bit that kept me going. That’s what I’m trying to give to other people.

In addition to speaking to an audience of young widows and widowers, or those going through griefs of other losses, it’s been my mission to try to describe my point of view to others who have not gone through this sort of loss. Because I felt a desperate lack of understanding people out there to help me, and because I heard a lot of really bad advice from well-meaning individuals, I am on a mission to educate–proselytize–about grieving. Grief is a topic our society loves to shove under a rug. I’m trying desperately to bring grief into the open because the problem with ourselves is our dysfunctional inability to talk to each other about these things. When you hide something you’re feeling–when you’re forced to hide what you’re feeling for the sake of public politeness–they fester and become much worse than they need be. Thus, our society’s unhealthy reaction to death.

But more to the point of this entry, I want to explain that a writer’s mind, if you will, works such that everything he/she records becomes fodder for later dissertation. We can’t help it. Those who enjoy writing are people-watchers. We sit in cafes or restaurants by ourselves and we watch people interact. Sometimes these people become stories in a fiction. We can’t help but dissect little sound-bites of our own lives, concentrating fully on a single thought, and turning it into the focal point of an inner dialog with ourselves. Every moment of a writer’s life is significant.

We look for patterns, symbols, significant discoveries in the moment that make them interesting to discuss in writing. If I write about walking into that restaurant, I might realize that it was raining the day I came there with my husband. Perhaps it’s raining on this day too. I see this pattern and I think something completely different than what you’d first suspect. Perhaps I begin my paper with the memory of walking into that restaurant with my husband. But maybe through the course of relating my memory, I realize that the person I’m there with now has said or done something that reminds me of an aspect of being in love. Maybe it’s not the same love I had before; maybe in the process of self-analysis, I realize that walking into that restaurant was a serendipitous moment because now I was there with someone else, making new memories. I’m fascinated by the contrast. It becomes a great piece on finding a good friendship with someone else that holds promise.

Or maybe I go somewhere completely different with the thought. Perhaps it turns inward about missing my husband. It just depends on the mood the memory invokes. When this happens, and then I blog about it, the guy I was with in the present at that restaurant may feel jilted because instead of focusing on the beautiful moment I had with him, I’m writing about missing my husband again. And then he, as well as my readers, think that I’m still in love and won’t let go of my husband.

The fact is, I just chose, that day, because it tickled my fancy to do so, to talk about my husband. My idea came from a two-second moment I experienced when walking into a restaurant. It was a passing thought, not something I obsessed about the entire evening I was out with the new person; it’s just something I thought about and noted that I needed to write about it later. Why? Because the process of writing is healing. It helps me let go of the pain. It allows me to analyze what I’m feeling, why I was feeling it, and in the process, maybe other people out there can find some solace because they too had a two-second thought while walking into a restaurant they frequented with their late spouse–or grandmother, or favorite uncle, or father–and they felt discouraged by the thought (perhaps because society has told them that “moving on” means “erase forever and never bring up again”).

I write about things that come on my mind at any given moment when I’ve decided to sit down a write. That’s just what I do. I may choose to expound upon the many reasons I find Giant bicycles superior to Treks, or dry wine superior to sweet wine. I may express my disgust with the consumerism that changed Jacobs Field, a more true-to-Cleveland name, to Progressive Field. I might exhibit undying school pride for my alma mater, Hiram College, by proclaiming it the best school in Northeast Ohio (which it is, dammit!). Whatever I choose to blog about on that particular day does not mean that my mind is obsessed with the topic twenty-four hours a day/ seven days week! I’m just writing!!

If I seriously wrote about the things I’m truly thinking about most of the time, none of you would read this blog. I’m just like everyone else in that sense–things come in, things go out. The boss comes around and gives me work. I concentrate on that. I’m not upset or angry or obsessed about my husband’s death. I’ve gotten as “over it” as one can get. Yes, it still haunts my dreams. Yes, I still find myself barraged by a memory of two that I didn’t expect. Yes, sometimes I still miss him. But we miss everyone we’ve loved and lost, from grandparent to spouse to pets. We miss our childhood innocence, a stuffed animal we had as a tot, the neighboorhood we used to live in. I miss people I don’t see on a daily basis, like my friends in Colorado. Oh, hell, I miss Colorado (okay, that one may be an obsession!).

You can’t tell me you don’t either. I won’t listen if you try to deny it. We’re human, we think about things, I just choose to write about them. End of story.

I guess it just bothers me when people suggest that I’m an angry person because I’m really not. I’m at the most level, most content period of my life since Mike’s death. Yeah, I could use a better job situation. But that’s a demon I’ve battled since I graduated from college. I still haven’t found that job that fits quite the way I want a job to fit. So sometimes I rant about that too. The good news is that I’m working on that situation, exploring new avenues.

I’m having fun. I’m living life. I’m finally on track with myself. The last year has been extraordinary because I very consciously chose to let go of my anger and I did it. I don’t think people really understand how much I’ve changed, except those who are extremely close to me and been through my ups and downs over the last six years. I’m happier. I’m stronger. Gone are the days of jealousy and sadness and fits of rage over what I saw as the profound unjust nature of life. I understand that things don’t always work out the way you planned them, that tragedy occurs randomly to even those who don’t appear to “deserve it.” I’ve made my peace with life, God, and the untouchable forces of chance. I’ve learned that I can overcome. I’ve learned that I have to just take each day as it comes and deal with it the best I can. I’ve learned that I can deal with my pain and not dwell.

So, to those of you who think I have anger issues, I’m just writing to let you know that I am fine. How are you?

I’m already scheduling for the summer, sorry

I can’t keep my hands from opening a web browser and checking out the Ohio Bicycling Event Calendar. As you can see, the “Upcoming Rides” list (right) keeps growing every couple of days, as I discover more rides that intrigue me. I’m only officially registered for TOSRV and the MS 150; I’m registering for the Marietta River Rendezvous this weekend (Michael has already sent his registration!). We are planning on doing this ride on the tandem. It sounds scenic and pretty… hopefully it will be done snowing in June. (You think I’m joking??)

I found the Annie Oakley ride this morning and I’m convinced I need to do this ride. I feel a kinship to Annie Oakley because one of my uncles invoked her name when I was using my dad’s bb riffle to shoot beer cans and balloons at the end of Grandma H’s 80th birthday party a few years ago. Gosh, that was fun! I kept asking my dad for a bb rifle for Christmas, but I still haven’t gotten one. I suppose because my father suspects how dangerous it would be to give me weaponry.

But, darn, I was a good marksman… And it was so fun… The satisfaction of pulling the trigger and watching that bb make delightful contact with the item I intended to hit. After that event, I thought that I should maybe take another look at the NRA. Maybe they aren’t so crazy afterall. (Ted Nugent? Well, he is a nut.)

Anyway, I’m obviously already filling my summer schedule up with all new exciting rides. I’ve never done the ride my own club puts on–the Absolutely Beautiful Country Ride (aka ABC ride)–and, as far as I can tell, I’m clear on that day (unlike last year where I had a wedding to attend the night before).

Michael and I decided to revisit the Vandalia Freedom Tour because it was so much fun last year, and besides, July 4th falls on a Friday this year, so it’s a great excuse to spend the weekend exploring the Dayton area where Michael informs me there’s a little bicycling museum.

I intend to hit the Mad Anthony River Rally this year, a ride organized by the Toledo Area Bicyclists (TAB). I plan to do the 100-mile route.

Not yet listed, but in my thoughts, is the Out Spokin’ Wheelmen’s Northeast Ohio Century (NEOC) in September. I’ve heard good things about this ride and it seems kind of low key. I may do it in lieu of Hancock Horizontal Hundred. Not that I didn’t like HHH; on the contrary, I had a great time! But one must diversify one’s coverage of the possible bike tours Ohio has to offer. And, besides, every ride requires equal opportunity to be graced by the Mars Girl’s presence.

Ha, ha, I’m becoming quite full of myself, I know. Forgive me, I’m in a slap-stick mood today.

So this weekend, I’ll be visiting a local winery and chilling. I might attempt to ride my bike tomorrow morning because, though it is promising to be no more than 43 degrees during the day, time’s a’wasting and I feel this need to get out there. The sun’s supposed to be out.

Ugh, but it’s such torture cycling in the bitter chill of early spring. I figure I should get out there. TOSRV is notorious for lousy weather. I think I’m a “fair weather cyclist,” only suffering through crappy weather when I become trapped in it. In retrospect, when you survive snow, sleet, rain, and bitter chill for a ride, you feel like a real bad-ass. Hard core.

A little birdie who was in Denver this past week informed me that it was in the 70s while he was there. What am I doing in this God-foresaken state??

The healing power of music

Eve 6’s song Here’s to the Night invokes powerful emotions that flutter in the deepest chambers of my heart whenever I hear it. On the surface, it’s basically a song about a guy who has or wants to sleep with a girl, but he knows he will have to leave in the morning–a fact, the song stresses, that is, for some reason, inevitable. We aren’t really told why this guy has to leave. Is it because he’s afraid of connecting mind, body, and soul with another human being? Or he has a job that pulls him away? Or he simply knows he cannot love this girl for reasons only a history of knowing them would reveal? Or is he really just a jerk with a glimmer of feeling about his brazen behavior?

We’re not quite told the answers to these questions, we’re only left with an understanding that something extraordinary will spark between two people, but the out-of-control and inevitable events of life separate the couple in this song. It’s definitely not a self-indulgent hymn of “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.” From the perspective of the person who is singing this song, the separation is very tearful and completely unwanted.

For reasons I can’t explain fully, I am convinced that Mike used this song to comfort me post mortem. The reason I struggle to explain it–even though I’m almost 100% sure this really happened (when I turn off my skeptical mind) the way I’m about to describe–is because I don’t know how I know that this song was connected to Mike. I just have a strong feeling that is, and I had that feeling both times that I heard the song when I needed Mike’s comfort the most.

The album Horrorscope, on which Here’s to the Night appears, was released in 2000. It had only moderate air play in 2001; or, rather, it had moderate air play on the radio stations I’d been listening to. In fact, the first time I ever heard this song was during one of the moments in question, in November of 2001, when I was driving around Akron, trying to find the best place to view the spectacular Leonid meteor shower.

If you can recall (or perhaps you weren’t paying attention), the Leonids in 2001 were absolutely, breathtakingly, spectacular. I do not exaggerate; you could see these meteors in the full light of the city. As night descended on Northeast Ohio, I was watching meteors blaze before me from the back porch of my condo in Stow. It took me by surprise as they lit the night like fireworks with a frequency of about every fifteen minutes.

Seeking darkness and better viewing, I first took to the parking lot of the Presbyterian church across the street. I lay down on the cold cement with my eyes on the sky and watched meteors blaze by between the treetops overhead. Then, still not content, I got in my car, thinking I would drive to the Pine Hollow overlook in the Cuyahoga Valley. I realized, perhaps too late, that the park closes at dusk and the gates would be closed. I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to park on the road and enter the park anyway. It always seems that when I try to do this sort of thing, I am the one to get caught. But I just wanted to see the meteors!

So I was driving around in the Cuyahoga Valley, my eyes not on the road but on the sky outside my windshield. And I contemplated the complete oxymoron of the year:

Here we were, an America with a wound still bleeding from the events of 9/11/01. We were scared; we were shell-shocked; we were still trying to recover. I, too, was still trying to cauterize the wounds of my own personal brush with mortality, the events of 4/14/01–the day my husband’s soul slipped away as I watched, stupid and helpless. And yet, in the face of all this ugliness–all of life’s unrelenting sadness–something beautiful revealed itself. The Universe–or God–outshone all of the horror we humans could ever imagine and revealed something beautiful.

I could see everything clearly–the stark contrast between the depression that pervaded my heart and the astonishing glory of a universe–a power of nature–that just punched right through all the gloom. It was almost as if God were whispering in my ear that despite all the harshness of the moment, despite the shuddering of a frightened world, everything was going to be okay because life and beauty and the universe just keeps going on. It always did and it always would. There’s beauty and comfort to me in continuation, cycles. The fact that I could still see the beauty through the grief-stricken blinders over my eyes gave me hope. Promise.

And then, at the crux of my revelation, I mused, I wish Mike were here to see this. What would he think of all this–9/11 and the meteors? Would he see the beauty in the contrast as I did? Would he find comfort in it too?

And then the song came on. It was like an answer to my question and I don’t know why. Was it the nostalgic, regretful tune that accompanied these lyrics? Maybe the only words I heard were the refrain, the part that always speaks to me loudly like an anthem representing my life with Mike, screamed softly in the depths of my heart:

Here’s to the nights we felt alive
Here’s to the tears you knew you’d cry
Here’s to goodbye
Tomorrow’s gonna come too soon

He was there. I just knew it. It stirred life in me, even if only briefly, on that chilly mid-autumn night. I’ve hung onto this image and the feelings I experienced for the last six years. Even in my darkest moments when I felt numb with anger, agony, and self-pity, the hope of that night lingered–still lingers–in the back of my mind. It is what I think of when people ask me if I ever thought I was visited by Mike… If I let myself, I can believe it on faith alone, even when my mind tries to unravel the mystery with logic and fact.

The second time I heard the song was even more poignant than the first. I was turning onto Route 8 with my car packed, headed to my new apartment in Mayfield Heights. I had decided to sell the condo Mike and I shared in Stow because living there was literally making me crazy. It was like being trapped in a sealed tomb–I was haunted on a daily basis by the ghosts of my past, of our past together. I couldn’t do anything in that house without remembering something I’d done with or said to Mike in that particular room. Happy memories of a content twenty months of marriage filled that entire house and pressed hard on my shoulders. It was constant heartache. I was drinking a lot, smoking a lot, sleeping late, walking around like a zombie at night. I knew I had to leave for my well-being.

Of course, my parents advised me vigorously to purchase a new house. But I wasn’t ready for that step and I knew I wasn’t ready for that step. I needed to get out of that house and quickly, but I needed to go somewhere temporary for awhile–collect myself and gather my thoughts and figure out who I was again. These things take time and they take the perspective of distance. I needed to heal first. I decided to get rid of a lot of my stuff and move into an apartment. My parents kept reminding me about how I was wasting my money by renting, carelessly throwing it out on something I wasn’t invested in. My parents are the logical sort, you see. They just didn’t understand. I knew what I had to do and I did it.

However, none of the decisions I ever make in life come without a vigorous round of second-guessing myself. The entire time I was attempting to shove a life that once filled a three bedroom condominium into a two bedroom apartment, I was asking myself over and over again if I was doing the right thing. Maybe my parents were right and I should purchase another house.

I was still doubting my decision as I left the condo for the last time. As I turned onto Route 8, heading away from Stow and my life with my husband, I asked myself shakily, Are you sure this is the right thing to do?

And there it was–the same song again. Immediately, I knew it was him assuring me that I’d made the right decision. I suddenly felt absolved. The great weight of my fears–wrong decisions, the future ahead, the loneliness of longing–just dropped off my back. I was okay. I was going to be okay. Better yet, I just knew that my decisions–every one I’d made since he died–were okay by Mike. I felt forgiven, confessed and reconciled. The song was a kiss on my cheek.

I know that most people can explain away these events to coincidence, assess that I was deliberately looking for signs so I found them. But how would I know for certainty a song was my husband speaking to me? What put this notion in my head? And why did it conveniently happen at two moments when I really needed the comfort it provided? Well, I guess an atheist can explain away anything. I’m sure my mom would tell me I was just assigning mysticism to a completely logical experience. She basically told me as much about my premonition the day he died. My mind isn’t so closed, though. For me, it’s just enough to want to believe in it. Is that really so bad?

Music sometimes has a way of becoming absorbed by your soul, skipping all the vessels of interpretation in between. It doesn’t matter so much what the real meaning behind Here’s to the Night–or any other song–really is if it touches your soul this way. Music is an experience of art that makes me burn with emotions I can’t even put into the words woven in the lyrics. When this happens, I usually get goosebumps. When I see goosebumps, I know the song really has me.

A lot of music touches me much deeper these days than ever before. I think my experience with grief has heightened my appreciation for the pleasures of the other senses–touch, taste, smell. Everything is so vibrant now. I guess this is because I know now that the moment is temporary and I must enjoy each experience as it unfolds. It’s cliche, I know. But it’s truest cliche ever uttered.

ADDED LATER: I don’t mean to sound like one of those people who find signs in everything that happens to them as proof of life after death or God. I understand that we, as humans, attempt to find symbols in everything as a result of our over-active big brains. I don’t want people to think I’m a cheesy, superstitious cream-puff. Lord knows, I used to roll my eyes when my grandma H told the story about how she felt her father’s “presence” in her house once after he died. I realize what I experienced could be easily explained away; maybe it was coincidence after all. Still, what I’m trying to say is, if it gives me something to hang onto and believe in, then perhaps it’s okay anyway. It’s up to you, as the reader, to deem me (silently, to yourself) a sane person or a wacko.

My birthday: a hung-over adventure with sexual inuendo

Warning: This post is not rated. Parental guidance is advised.

At this point in my life, you’d think I’d know better than to match drinks with my father, the expert beer drinker. But, of course, I didn’t listen to myself, yet again, and on Good Friday, I took my dad out for dinner because I feel I owed him one (and a dozen more) for the work he’s been doing on my house (which is to say, he’s been doing everything and I’m so lucky to have a father in semi-retirement who actually wants to help a single gal like me out in this way).

So we went to Ray’s Place in Kent, which is one of our favorite local brew pubs because they have a pretty big menu with some good food (I won’t even bring up those wonderful jerk fries that contain rosemary in them…). They’ve also got another great benefit: a better than average (for Ohio, that is) selection of beers on tap. I decided to have Blackout Stout by Great Lakes Brewery (one of Cleveland’s very few micro brews), which I’d sampled a few months ago at a Hiram alumni event at the brewery and I found, to my great surprise, that I actually liked a stout. To add to the surprise, my dad ordered Guinness, which he swore years ago that he absolutely hated. I’ve determined that beer drinking is like wine drinking in that you start off with the easiest to handle kind (in my case, this was MGD in college), and then your tastes become refined and you just like better and different flavors.

My dad, still a practicing Lutheran, was not eating meat on Fridays during Lent, so to be kind to him and not flaunt my heathen, non-fasting ways, I ordered a tuna fish sandwich, of which I only ate half. Mistake number one–not enough food. But I’ve been feeling a little overweight these days and I was drinking beer, so I was trying to be good with my calorie intake (which I totally blew later in the weekend anyway). We also had fried mushrooms, which again, not the wisest choice for trying to be “good.”

Well, one tall beer turned into two. And then I paid the bill. But we were still sitting there talking and the waiter came by again and asked if we wanted another beer. So Dad orders a small, and then I order a small because I don’t want to be sitting there drinking nothing while my dad is drinking. I guess I should have asked for a water or something. A part of me, though, wants to show my dad that I’m a big girl, that I can drink as much as him and not even show that I’m already feeling a wee-bit tipsy. Or that my mind is failing to form full sentences and that my tongue is starting to feel a little bloated so that my words don’t come out as clear as I want them to because the last person in the world I want to be able to accuse me of being drunk is my dad.

My dad claims that we had two small beers. I only remember one. I’m not sure who is right because I don’t even remember leaving the bar very well. Somehow my dad got my car keys and he drove us home. Which is good because I really wasn’t in the right frame of mind for driving. I found some evidence in my car that I may have smoked a cigarette on the way home, but I’m not sure (I keep an emergency pack of cigarettes in my car because they usually can wake me up if I’m feeling too tired to drive home. I know, it’s bad, I’m really going to stop for good; that pack has been in my car a month). The next morning, I discovered that there was only one cigarette left in my pack and I could swear there were at least three the last time I opened it. There were also some ashes on passenger-side dashboard and the window was open. I don’t remember my dad leaving. Or even going to bed. I woke up laying on my bed, fully clothed. It was surreal.

Of course, I puked all morning, which totally sucked. And it was really surprising because I normally don’t get sick over beer in any quantity unless I’ve mixed it with hard liquor or wine. Usually, I just suffer a headache and have a horrible taste in my mouth all morning. As I once again found myself paying tribute to the Porcelain Goddess, I berated myself repeatedly for being so stupid. Thankfully, I can say that it’s been a very long time since I drunk myself into that kind of ridiculous stupor; it’s been even longer since I woke up on the morning of my birthday completely s-faced. (The year I turned 21 is coming to mind…)

I know. I’m 33. I should know better. Feel free to berate me for my stupidity. I deserve it. Come on… I’m waiting. Land it on me. Give me your worse.

Well, after I was finally able to keep fluids and food down, I invited Michael over and we watched TV until it was time to go to my party at Buca di Beppo in Strongsville. Originally, I had planned to go on a hike with Michael during the day, but I just didn’t have the energy to leave the couch after my morning of spewing ginger ale and water. Can’t say that I was feeling completely myself–never do after I recover from a hang-over–but I sure was hungry enough to appreciate the delicious food and, yes, even a few glasses of wine. (They say, the “hair of the dog,” after all.)

Of course, the team of Buddha and Penitz went out of their way to try to embarrass me. However, nothing will ever top the year they bought me the big black (African-American?) dildo and made me think that the restaurant had given it to me by playing it straight as the waitress brought that gift over. I think I must have turned several shades of purple–and, believe you me, I’m such an extrovert, I rarely get embarrassed. For an entire year, I continued to think that the restaurant–which was a pretty wacky place so it could have been believable or I’m incredibly naive–had given me that thing. The boys confessed to it last year with much giggling. I was aghast. What made them, especially Buddha who then had only known me for about a year, think that that was a gift they could get away with giving me? How the heck did they know that I would only become embarrassed and not run out of the restaurant crying, as my sister-in-law looked like she wanted to do?

I swear, it’s really a blessing–for their sake–that I’m the good-natured person I am…

Anyway, last year, their gift was cute, but not so embarrassing to me. This was the year of the famous Kirk Rock Penis picture. An episode of the original Star Trek called “What are Little Girls Made Of?” contains this image of Captain Kirk bearing a stalactite that all too closely resembles the male genitalia. They happened to notice this on St. Patrick’s Day after I’d left the party… and, as often happens when one has indulged in much alcohol, they came up with the brilliant idea of photo-shopping a picture of me into that frame (see below). They gave me a framed 8×10 and had wallet sizes for all of my friends and family. Sweet, but really, not that embarrassing.

Concept: Penitz and Buddha
Photoshop Art: Craig N. (in one of his non- offensive and creative ventures)

I admit to this being funny and creative. It was great, especially the picture they found of me from that very St. Patrick’s Day party in which, yeah, I was a few sheets to the wind. (But no Porcelain goddesses were worshipped that evening, I was just happy.)

This year, this same duo decided to get me a book entitled The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women. All I can say is two things:

1. I must have done a lot of crazy things in my younger years (that I don’t remember or have blacked out) to earn me the robust sexual reputation with which these guys have anointed me.

2. How embarrassing it must be for a guy to purchase the items they buy just to punk me on my birtday. I wish I could be a fly on the wall by the check-out counter. A guy purchasing a magnum-sized black dildo probably raises many eyebrows and prompts assumptions… A guy purchasing a book on anal sex for women… Well, if I were the cashier, I’d think, “Scum bucket male pig.”

I’m no prude, and I may be a liberal, but I have my limits as to how far that philosophy extends in my personal life, that’s for sure! And… ew!

Anyway, I can take most jokes like any one else. After getting a package from a waitress that turned out to contain a magnum-sized black dildo, nothing else can have the edge on embarrassment for me. The good news is that a rare few things can cause the blood to rush to my face like that… Other than, of course, a person in the sixty-something crowd pointing out my tattoo (which actually happened when I met Michael’s dad during a ride into Wooster last summer). I probably find that embarrassing because I know that most people in that age group disdain tattoos and make improper assumptions about my lifestyle just because I have one… (Damn, Mom was right about something!)

Overall, I had a pretty good 33rd birthday, though a little more subdued than in the past. Yeah, my friends have somewhat of a perverted and twisted sense of humor, but for the most part I like them anyway… And, it seems, I just can’t get drunk following a morning of being hung-over like I used to!

Meet my kids…

Some people have… actual kids… I have my four-legged, furred children. Hey, they’ll never lie to me and I won’t have to wait up for them all night while they’re out on dates or partying! And I’ll never have to worry about them taking drugs or having premarital sex. And I’ll never have to explain the birds and the bees to them (Cleo already knows–she was a mom before I adopted her.) Plus, I can leave them for up to four days with food while I go on a long weekend somewhere. They can take care of themselves. And, most importantly, they are always glad to see me when I come home. Pets make better kids than kids! In my opinion, anyway.

“I’m going to hold her and love her and squeeze her FOREVER.” Poor kitty! But she’s my baby, the docile one who lets me sleep with my arm over her all night like a teddy bear. This is my Nicki (aka Nikita Jolita). And, yes, that is Dr. McCoy in the background. He’s my boyfriend. Yup. (Okay, in my dreams, but still…)

This is Miss Cleo (aka Boogey, Boogita). You might have seen her infomercial, advertising her great prophetic skills in predicting your love life and confirming that, yes, your boyfriend is cheating on you. My Miss Cleo has the same proportions as the famous psychic-on-infomercial Miss Cleo. So that’s why it’s really impressive that she was able to squeeze herself through the hole in this cat tent because it’s smaller than her body. I wish I could have seen her doing this. I imagine the tent scooting along the wood floor as she pushes herself into that little hole. I realized at the moment I caught her in this tent that my house was probably a little too cold… So I pumped up the heat…

Gloomy Tuesday

I seriously have Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka, appropriately, S.A.D.). Here again, the last couple days have not done much to inspire my creativity or my desire to do much of anything. The weather outside is frightful. Nothing inside is delightful. I’m crawling in my skin and going nuts.

I just bought a Total Gym and set it up in my office for now until my basement is done (where I will have a nice work out area plus a “cool” bar location for hanging out with friends). It’s kind of nice to workout in my home office because my i-Pod tunes (for which I no longer have an i-Pod) are on my computer. Set that baby on “Party Shuffle” and I’ve got a great mix of tunes for stretching muscles to. So, last night, I spent about an hour or more seeing what exercises I could do on the Total Gym. I kept doing abdominal exercises, hoping desperately to flatten my extruding belly (a belly which, over the last couple of years, has gotten bigger than ever). I obviously didn’t do enough, though, because I’m not sore this morning. So tonight after a meeting, I’m going to try to do as many abdominal crunches as I can.

I tried to use my trainer after my hour with the Total Gym while watching Gossip Girl. It didn’t work out so great. For some reason, it felt harder to pump the pedals so I’m unsure that I remounted the bike correctly on the trainer. I only did about 20 minutes on the trainer before giving up. It was about 8:30pm anyway and I hadn’t eaten yet. It occurs to me that it may be dangerous to have my workout available to me at home. I may overdo it trying so hard to lose all this winter fat.

I’d walk outside or run, but the gloom in the clouds just doesn’t inspire me to want to. The gloom prevades everything, so even the change of scenery doesn’t fill your veins with excitement. When it’s snowing, at least you have the sparkle of the falling flakes to look at. There’s nothing poetic or especially pretty about the dull grayness that surrounds everything in northeast Ohio…

Last year, as I’ve stated 100 times on this blog before, my first day outside on my bike was March 21st. It does not look like I’m going to get there this year, as we’re due for more snow this weekend. I’ll be lucky if I can start before April. Michael has a leg up on me–he’s managed to squeeze in two fifteen mile rides over the last week. It’s just been too cold; I can’t bring myself to do it. Despite the fact that I bought a new long sleeve jersey… If I’m going to ride in the cold, it has to be sunny.

On my way home from work, I saw a guy pumping down Stow Road on his road bike. He was covered in all the cold-weather bike gear and going pretty fast. I thought, “Man, he’s hardcore!” I tried to see if it was anyone I knew from the ABC, as a few of my bike buddies live in Stow, but I couldn’t identify the person. He was speedily gone before I could get a good look at him.

I’m wondering if I’m ever going to get in the suggested 400 miles before TOSRV.

February and March are certainly the suckiest months in northeast Ohio. April and May are–excuse the crudity of this term–cock-teases. I’ll take June through October gladly. November sucks. December can be nice, but mostly just because you are distracted by Christmas. I’d love to live somewhere else (dare I say, COLORADO?) between November and June.

Ohio is the dysfunctional family you can’t stop visiting; you know it’s bad for you to be here, but you just can’t find the balls to leave. Or maybe it’s just northeast Ohio, by the lake that thrills us in the summer but causes the winter gloom. I dunno. This place drives me crazy… But all my friends and family are here. So there you go…

Hmm. There’s a school in Colorado that also offers a counseling program…

Okay, okay, I’ll stop bitching about Ohio. I’ll stop whining about my long, lingering, star-crossed love affair with Colorado… I’m here. I’m living with it. On days like this, it’s so hard to find something positive to say about Ohio, though… Especially since after moving back here, I gained 20 poounds…

Creative thoughts on the way to work

My childhood ended the day my husband died. The Cloak of Invincibility slid off my shoulders never to be worn again. I found myself standing naked and vulnerable in the first ice storm of my young life.

This paragraph slipped into my head this morning as I was driving into work. I was thinking about some of the writing projects I’m dying to get to, but haven’t had the time, and wishing I could spend a whole day devoted to my favorite art. This little piece comes from what would be volume two of the comic book series I once dreamed of writing–a fictional story about a young widow named Morgan. It was one of the many incarnations of the story I was going to write about being a widow. I’ve had trouble finding a medium for this story. It’s been a comic book series, a nonfictional memoir, and even, once, a fiction novel. None of these have progressed beyond the first “chapter.”

The comic book actually had the most promise. My friend Eddy Newell is actually a professional comic book artist who does absolutely amazing art. I commissioned him to do the art for the first volume of my comic book series. To this date, it remains undone. But not to Eddy’s fault; after all, he has real paying commissions to do which pay his bills and mine was charity work. As far as I know, he’s still working on it as a side project, and he promises to finish it eventually, someday.

Even though there is no longer big promise in my comic book series actually ever becoming more than something I wrote once that never left the ground fully, I still think occasionally about what I would have done in that second volume of what I originally conceived as an initial four volume arc. This morning was one of those moments as I struggled to come up with a way to start the second part of the story. It’s always been easy to write the first chapter or volume of any of my works because both describe the horrific events of the morning my husband died (and despite the differences between fiction and nonfiction, you’d find them awfully similar in detail).

The second chapter of a work of this type is always the hardest. Where do you go from there? Do I take the reader into the past so that you can get to know the personality of this person who has died about whom the main character is so crushingly devastated? Do I continue where I left off in the hospital room with our character screaming at her husband and God and the ultimate injustice of the universe? Do I introduce the cast of characters cleverly, hint at the eventual devious and darker natures of the in-laws? How do I describe all of the experiences and emotions spinning in the tornado labeled “widowhood” in my brain? It’s been the biggest challenge of my writing talent to parse all that raw emotion and pain into delicately, cleverly delivered words. Even almost seven years later, these events shoot wordless feelings into my blood stream. And as time passes, the details of some of the events slip from my mind (which also makes a good case for writing this as fiction).

Comic book, or I guess I should say graphic novel, writing is a challenge. It’s like writing a movie script because you use imagery more than words to visually express something you want to convey to the reader. The words you do chose have to be carefully crafted. Novels are more forgiving because each and every word is not as important as the whole; in this medium, your words are creating the visual images for the reader. I like the very careful, deliberate nature of writing a graphic novel script because the impact to the reader’s emotions can be much more powerful. Just think of how you are affected as a viewer of a movie or theatre production when a potent line of dialog is delivered as a scene unfolds or a poignant visual image is shown. It can define so much of how you feel about the piece.

Shakespeare was incredibly good at this. His dialog punches and punches and punches at your heart until you are left to feel for characters that even in this day and age you can understand. One of my favorite plays of all time is Hamlet. This story is about the son of a king who is angry about the death of his father and seeks revenge on his uncle, whom he believes murdered his father to take the throne and marry his mother. In 2008, it’s a little hard to believe in and empathize with the lives of despots, especially when you live in a country that was never ruled by royalty once it gained independence (though, you can debate that with the dynasties of wealthy families who become our political leaders of the late). Still, Shakespeare’s dialog always draws you in. You can feel the pain of Hamlet’s betrayal because somewhere in your life you know what it feels like to suffer the pain of losing someone you love, of feeling the need for revenge even when there’s only God to whom to scream your vengeance.

I’m always pulled in by the very first scene of Hamlet. If done correctly by a talented director, it should be eerie and unclear. Outside the walls of the Hamlet castle, a sentry stands guard in the spooky moment of the midnight hour. The dialog itself is not spectacular, but it establishes a chilling atmosphere wrought with confusion.

BERNARDO Who’s there?
FRANCISCO Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself.
BERNARDO Long live the king!

Usually directors will make the stage appear foggy, setting an ethereal tone because as the scene unfolds, Hamlet will witness the ghost of his father who will reveal that he has been murdered (although, the major point of literary criticism always tries to argue whether we’re actually viewing reality or the world seen through an insane Hamlet’s eyes).

Shakespeare uses dialog twice in this first scene to describe that the darkness is so pervasive that the guards hear the arrival of new characters before actually seeing them. The first question is always, “Who is there?” or “Unfold yourself!” Not very good responses for sentries supposedly keeping guard over the castle gates. They seem to be without the strength of their training on this particular night, which gives you, as the viewer of this play, the same sense of creepiness that the characters are feeling.

Sweeney Todd opens in this same fashion–you are just suddenly plopped without explanation into this very dreary world in the aftermath of disaster that is only referred to by dialog, but with which you become very connected because your mind understands the very basic emotions of pain, longing, and suffering that yearns for redemption in some form. Great writers–and great directors, like comic book artists–can effectively surround you in the trappings of a world so foreign than your own by using imagery and carefully sculpted words.

I’m in love with words and I always have been. Hence why, I imagine, I’ve always loved to write and I earned a degree in English. Words inspire me, make me feel for situations so foreign from my own, give me a connection with the past or other people or even myself. The urge to write is a fire within me that I can’t even snuff out when I try my best to negatively reinforce myself with such comments as, “You suck. You’ll never publish anything so don’t even bother trying.”

The truth of the matter is, I don’t think I really care if I ever got published (I mean, hey, it would be nice to get a wider audience with which to connect and to be paid for something I enjoy doing). I write because I have to and I can’t stop. It’s uncontrollable; it’s how I deal with emotions, figure out the complexity of what I’m feeling. I parse my experiences through writing. I use writing to memorialize or praise, to state my opinion or vent. My fiction characters use me to tell their stories.

I need to write. The writer is who I am; I cease to be me when I give up on writing. Even when what I’m writing is not good, I need to write. Creatively, that is (I think if I never wrote another technical piece again, I wouldn’t miss it).

What does one do with that knowledge? It is my God-given talent, if you can believe in God-given talents. It’s just not something I ever consciously thought about doing. I just always wrote. In the piles of folders and binders that comprise my life’s writing, there are pieces as early as second grade and not all of it was school work. As soon as I could use a pen, I was writing. My imagination was always vast and I was ever-ready to describe on paper the experiences of my mind’s eye. It’s just something I do. Even when I’m criticized by the average Joe for writing “too long.” I can’t help it.

Anyway, during my car ride this morning, I flipped between trying to figure out what to do about the second volume of whatever media I chose to use to write my story of widowhood (which I’ve always believed I should write when I had the perspective of being over the grief) and this other fictional story I’ve been working out in my head about the crucifixion of a Jesus-like character that takes place on another planet. I need to read more of the Gospels to get that story right, though, so that I can make almost-Jesus like quotes that the interplanetary Jesus would have said. I’ve been working it out in my head over the last several months, trying to figure out how I would do it, but I have this eye-witness character who will be like Mary Magdalene in the book (or maybe that was in the Gnostic Bible) where she is the first to encounter the resurrected Jesus but no one believes her. My character, being an off-worlder, will not be believed (not because she’s female) at first. But that’s about all I have on that… I’m still working out the details but I know exactly how I would start that story. I’m not going to reveal that here, though, for I don’t want anyone stealing my ideas. Though, I suppose mentioning the plot at all makes it a “free-for-all” for other writers out there. I guess that’s the price of being an author… but please don’t steal my ideas, dammit!

This flash of creativity has also inspired me to write a poem about my grandma’s death (which I still haven’t actually sat down to do). And then, yesterday, at my interview with the hospice, I learned of this opportunity to be a reporter for some of the patients by recording their stories in words. Yes, they have a department that goes out to some of the families who request it, spends some time with the dying person, and then writes the story of their life as they want it to be told. I thought that was the coolest thing and right up my alley. When you learn about the lives of people as they tell it, you can’t help but chose to write their story. My mom has been saying for weeks that I should write some of Grandma H’s stories, the ones she told us over and over again. I haven’t done it yet because I feel without Grandma here from whom to gather details, I just wouldn’t do it justice. Still, I don’t know, someday I just might.

I feel like I’m being pulled towards my writing again. I need a day to myself, a computer without Internet access, and some inspiration. If I let go of some of my writing fears, the words will flow again…

Excuses, excuses

I know you’re all biting your fingernails, anxiously awaiting the account of my trip to Colorado. I promise you that I started writing it, but due to time constraints of my crazy life right now, I have not yet had the chance to sit down long enough to work on it. (Unless you want me to write it at work, which, shame on you!) Between a Gutter Twins concert (starring Greg Dulli, former front man of The Afghan Whigs), a Society for Technical Communications meeting, an interview with the hospice, and planning my cousin’s impromptu last-minute Bachelorette/Shower/Going Away party, I’m losing my mind! Barring additional distractions from a boyfriend, you can understand if I don’t have an hour to sit down and write. I know, I could have written it on Saturday when I was trapped in my house all day due to the barrage of snow Mother Nature inflicted upon us, but I was still recovering (obviously) from the effects of my grandma’s funeral and all the existential ponderings it inspired. I did manage to finish this month’s book for my company’s book club (And Then We Came to The End by Joshua Ferris) and I wanted to blog about that too… To have the time to write all day about things I actually like to talk about and surely I would!

But, instead, I have to focus on writing exciting (oh, and I do mean exciting ever so sincerely) procedures for running a PET/CT medical scanning machine to be added into the manual for the newest and greatest incarnation of the equipment. Whoo-hoo! As I try to stay awake between each arousing step, I will ponder all the magnificant words and allusions I can use to describe powder snow and skiing ala Colorado style. Occasionally, my eyes will wander to the trail map of Breckenridge I have pinned up on my cube wall, reminding me of the slopes we didn’t get to on Peak 7 due to tired muscles at 3:30pm that could go no further. I will dream of my imminent return to this winter paradise and how I will attack those slopes and more on my next visit. My mind will drift to the possibilities of trying Keystone or A-Basin or Beaver Creek with my handsome bearded skiing companion. To keep myself on task, I will put out of my mind that the weather report this morning stated that Colorado is getting additional percipitation, which may indeed be more snow in the glorious mountains I love so much. I swear to you, I will not open my web browser to look at the trail maps for ski resorts in Utah–the unexplored ski paradise I’m so oft told about. No, my eyes will not peer at the raved about Alta, nor the famous Snowbird, nor the enigmatic Solitude. No, no, these are adventures for next season, my dear friends!

I must turn my work distractions towards Spring and the promise of cycling–to the Ohio Bicycling Events Calendar and the promises of new roads to bump my tires along… But, of course, I will focus ever-so-diligently on the procedure I’m writing and the blast of email messages from coworkers explaining these new procedures and exbounding on details I have yet to research. Buzz, buzz, buzz. It’s all just buzzing in my ears. For my thrills are found in sweat and stressed muscles, and the content feeling of well-being at the end of a long day as I sip wine by some fireplace in a ski chalet or guzzle beer at the local burger joint with my cycling buddies.

Ah! But to dream!

And you will have to wait until I have more time to write. I hope you don’t turn blue holding your breath as I try to clear my over-obligated schedule so that I can relate the nirvana of my skiing adventures and travels.

Thoughts on a winterish night

I’ve had a week of spiritual questioning. I’m always waiting for that “big sign,” the thing that affirms that there is life after death. I waited for it–begged for it–after Mike died. I find myself begging for it again. Of all the spiritually perfect people on the planet, I expected my grandma to show me a sign in the last couple days that there was life after death. She promised me a long time ago that she would do it. Maybe in the Alzheimer’s she forgot. It hasn’t happened yet. I’m always waiting for the “big sign.” In the end, I find myself still pretty much the same as I always was: the atheist wanting to believe in the Force to prove to me something big, change my life in a major way. It never happens. At the end of the day, I’m still the atheist waiting to be proven wrong.

Over the last few days, I’ve wondered about Grandma H. I’ve wondered if we lied to her. Well, not me, as I was not at her bedside when she died. Did we coax her to enter the Darkness, the empty void of nothingness that occurs after death? Did we promise her secretly that she’d cross the Great Divide, as she always believed so sincerely? Did she go willingly, even if she saw nothing beyond? Is there a point in your life, when all the pain and suffering is so much that you can hardly bear it, that your only reprieve is an endless sleep? Or did she really see something, that White Light? And did she go, willingly? Even if where she went was Nowhere? Ending. Done.

It occurs to me that I will never get that answer. I’ll never know if there is a God or Spiritual Entity or Great Force that guides our every action. It occurs to me that I have to live my life as though there isn’t. It occurs to me that despite my desire to defeat the darkness, there’s nothing I can do when the Darkness comes.

I wonder what it was like for my grandma to slip away as she did… It seems incredibly brave to let go when there’s no sure thing of what lies ahead. She had an unstoppable faith, though. She believed in God and life after death and all the stuff the Catholic church teaches you to believe. Of most people I know, Grandma H held it strongly and firmly and unshakably. She was also very liberal about her beliefs; in other words, she didn’t feel I was condemned to eternal damnation for not believing. She took me as I was, even if her beliefs told her that I was in the wrong. I love her for that.

I remember once telling her that when she died she had to prove me wrong so that I too could believe as she did. She told me she would. I guess, though, you can’t count on promises made by the unknowing living. No one knows the rules of that undiscovered country beyond this life; maybe she did not know it was not in her power to help me along in my faith once she was gone.

Days have passed. Mary Ann Winkowski–the real ghost whisperer–claims that when you dream of a person who has died, they have “passed” to the next life. I’ve purposely set about dreaming of my grandma the last several nights and nothing has happened. It’s been the same mish-mosh of weirdness I get all the time (ie, the aforementioned dream of riding my hybrid in Colorado smoking a cigarette). It’s hard to believe the things Winkowski claims… and it makes one wonder if she’s just overtly delusional, making stupid people like me who are desperate to believe victims of the our own imaginations, suckers hanging on desperately to something that could be proof.

In talking to my aunt and mom between my grandma’s mass and the funeral, I learned that they believed Grandma knew she was losing bits and pieces of her past history to a dull void of non-memory. It frightened me to wonder, to ponder, what it must have been like to be self-consciously aware of losing herself and having no means to stop it. She was slipping away before she was gone, her whole life being slowly eaten away like the little pac-man things in The Langoliers.

How does one have faith? I know that the Bible says somewhere (I’m always bad with details, maybe I have Alzheimers) that it is dangerous to put your God to the test. But why the heck not? Moses got his burning bush. Others have seen great signs they could not avoid that inexplicably told them that God was watching. Why can not a simple, indisputable sign be made for this one lonely, misguided, questioning girl who would find great comfort if, for once, she could believe in something?

I don’t know if I could have handled being at my grandma’s bedside and watching… waiting and wondering if my uttered goodbyes, as though she were going on a long sea voyage, were wishing my grandma away into a void of nothingness. Could I bare it knowing that I was helping to encourage her to extinguish the flame of her existence–the only place she really ever exists, in the here and now? Yes, in death, there is no longer any pain. But is there any pleasure? Maybe it’s all gone and we’re all the fools, clinging to a faith in Nothingness, in Darkness, in Eternal Endless Sleep.

Again, I find myself standing on the porch outside my house, whispering aloud to the Darkness of my backyard as my eyes trace the outline of snow on the tree limbs, Misha [my husband’s nickname] or Grandma, if you can hear me, please, please, please just do something now. Drop a tree limb. Make a crack of thunder. Have a little white deer run though my yard and stare me down before disappearing into the line of woods. Do something. Awaken God in me. Awaken me to Hope. Bring me Faith. You know I need it.

Silence prevails. The wind does not even howl. In the distance, I hear the lonely moan of cars from Fishcreek or Graham. No stars break the clouds. The night remains dark. I’m alone on my porch–a whining, sniveling fool, begging the Darkness to bring me peace. The Silence laughs at me, mocks my pleas. It is as it’s always been. On this winter night after a big blizzard in March, I’m left still without faith, a naked Atheist who prays for comfort, while the cold hands of time continue to move. I shiver, fearing my own imminent death.

I want to live to 100, I state. The silence continues. What will be will be.

Oh, Grandma, Oh Misha, I moan. Have we given you over to Darkness?

I want to believe my husband and my grandma are together at last, smiling at each other, Grandma saying, “I always liked you.” And Mike replying, “And I you.” And Grandpa H at last embraces Grandma. And Mike knows someday he’ll know my presence again.

Alas, it all seems so empty. I’m just a dumb dreamer wishing…

I don’t mean to put my God to the test… But I’ve been putting my spouse to the test for six years (almost seven–my God!). And now my Grandma H, the unopposed faithful one. Dammit, I have a right to put my loved ones to the test.

How do so many thousands of years pass by to those with Faith without a sign? Where are those angels–that Michael, that Gabriel–when you need them the most? How can so many believe words in a holy book and accept them as Truth and not question but believe? I don’t know how to do this. Pretty poetry on pages, lavish history in words, is what I see in that holy book. It lures me too, promising me the universe with a key, but giving me so little to physically grasp. I can’t find reality in those words. I try and try and try. It’s like trying to understand physics for an artist like me–it’s beyond my reach. I can look at the numbers over and over and over–the equations, the cosigns–but they mean nothing to me in the existence I observe.

Yes, God is the great Cosign. Both cause the same question mark to pop into my head. Cosign, tangents, pi. Is God in pi? An eternal number spiraling forever into the Darkness establishing the structure of the universe, this planet, our sun (everything seems so spherical and you can’t have spheres without pi). I can’t really grasp pi, either. How you can multiply and an endless fraction by a whole number and still get a whole number in the end? (Or maybe that was divide? I wasn’t a geometry virtuoso).

Just as I’m mathematically inept, I am also spiritually inept. The crisis of Faith. I’ll be looking under rocks for signs of God as long as I live and I’ll never find It. Or Him. Her.

All I’m asking for is one elaborate sign!

Happy Birthday, Mindy Nelson, Where ever you are…

March 8th, I remembered this morning, is the birthday of a former Hiram classmate, Mindy Nelson. It may be one-sided, but I have a knack for remembering the birthdays of people born in March. Mindy was one of those crazy friends you could get completely nuts with on a Saturday night like this where the weather has you trapped indoors or as a pedestrian. I think everyone’s had one of those friends in their lives.

Mindy has gone missing. No one seems to know where she is and some of us have desperately missed her fits of silliness over the last several years. We’ve tried googling her, but you know, “Mindy Nelson” or even her proper name of “Melinda Nelson,” is not exactly unique enough to yield the kind of revealing results that brings one conclusively to the person you’re looking for. And the number of results is mind-numbing, to say the least.

Anyway, thanks to Diane for going through her nostalgia boxes tonight and locating what she has dubbed as the “last known picture of Mindy Nelson” at her graduation. What year was that? 1999? 2000? (She was supposed to graduate with the class of 1997, but she took the “extended study plan” as it were, which only allowed her to become the legend of additional classes of Hiramites.)

If anyone has seen this woman, please let me know! Or share your stories about wild nights with Mindy. I can’t post all of mine, as some of them involve activities that may be deemed illegal and thus bar me from future election to office…