Thursday, September 22, 2016

Obituary Clippings in Birthday Cards

Every year was the same. A check for $7.50 together with black and white photos of dead people I didn’t know. And as I cracked open the glitter-coated card they would flutter away, helicoptering off in an attempt to escape the glad tidings of “Happy Birthday Granddaughter” emblazoned across the cover of their celebratory sarcophagus.

We moved the 178 miles, from Missouri to Kansas, shortly after I turned five, but far before FaceTime or fax machines.  So even though it was only one state over, it was worlds away. And when that first envelope arrived, I was absolutely elated.

Like most Kindergarteners, “departed” and “deceased” were not on my list of sight words as my sixth birthday rolled around. So when I first found them, I had no idea what they were. Or who they were, these peaceful, pleasant-faced people on the backsides of coupons and classifieds. Each carefully clipped and inscribed with ballpoint annotations penned in their margins.

The following year, “obituary” flowed phonetically from my first-grade lips, to my parents’ utter shock as I beamed with pride at my new ability to sound out the unusually long word found in the fold of my festive fiberboard regards. I remember that small scrap of newsprint being suddenly whisked away as the card was propped open with the others atop our console TV to commemorate the occasion.

But by my eighth year, my reading skills and vocabulary had increased. Now I got the full picture of the portraits before me. A confusing and ominous overture included with my well wishes. And my father had reached his limit.

I remember it was late, because long distance calls were only conducted after a certain hour. I took the phone and thanked my grandparents for their thoughtfulness then handed it to my dad, who took it in a heated state as I headed halfway to my room. I watched around the kitchen corner as the phone cord coiled and extended, coiled and extended, coiled and extended in a hypnotic rhythm with every pacing step he took. And although, the clippings came from a place of trying to keep him connected to where he came from, he wanted my grandmother to know that my birthday card was neither the time nor place. Nor was my "time nor place" not in my bed as I was quickly discovered and escorted to my room.

And the next day, my mother sat me down with stationary and a pair of scissors. Those old enough to read, were now old enough to write…and select additional material to enclose. You see, something had transpired over the course of the unheard portion of the phone conversation that led my parents to not only see my grandparents intentions of keeping us connected to where we came from, but to see our need to attempt to connect my grandparents to where we currently were. Way before wireless, it seems for my grandparents, enclosing a little clipping about what we were up to around town, where we went or even what we had for school lunch, printed out in black and white, somehow made it more real. A third person point of view reporting on the new land that we lived in...and were most likely never moving back from.

And the obituary clippings in my birthday cards? They stopped, but not the $7.50. That amount will always remain a mystery. But the sentiment behind it will not. 

Follow me on twitter and Instagram! @TheLauraBecker

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wasted Wishes

There they were, all of the unused birthday candles mixed among the coffee grounds and eggshells with the rest of the refuse. And as I looked down on those wasted wishes with waxed-over wicks in the bottom of my waste basket, although I had long stopped believing in birthday magic made real with the extinguishing of tiny little torches, it just felt wrong. But I flipped down the lid and pressed on with my packing. The movers were coming in the morning.

There were just so many of them! I had obviously been saving up for my husband’s 171st birthday. A collection of half-used cartons of mismatched colors all shoved to the back of the cupboard along with leftover sprinkles and recycled twist-ties and plastic straws and paper straws and paper-wrapped plastic straws. The leftovers of birthdays past, now with no hope of making it to birthdays future.

Not that they really had much hope in the first place. My over buying of birthday candles has never been because I couldn’t remember that I had them. I knew that I did. It was that I just couldn’t ever remember how many I already had. So I’d wind up getting however many I needed for that year and shoving the rest in the back of the cabinet with all of the other leftovers, because there would always be another birthday.

And so they’d continue to accumulate in the small cabinet above the sink that was rarely opened and never inventoried…until now. When I was face to face with my warped sense of thrift. A Midwestern virtue that was nearing vice. So I quickly chose to declutter.

But it felt so weird. As if I was doing something wrong. Disposing of hope, right there in my kitchen.

So I took a bunch out and lit them. Then blew them out. And I learned something…

Don’t light and blow out a bunch of candles all at once in a small apartment. It sets off the smoke detector. 

Good thing we were moving, because we definitely needed a bigger place.

Follow me on twitter and Instagram! @TheLauraBecker

Monday, September 19, 2016

Jealousy Is Such An Ugly Feeling

Jealousy is such an ugly feeling.

And we all know her. Have even spent time with her. And I hate to admit, intimately on some occasions. And although there is something appealing about her in the heat of the moment, she looks even worse in the harsh light of day, after the fact.

Oh sure, you can try to dress her up. Maybe with something along the lines of a cool green shade of envy cinched in with a restrictive, breath-halting lack of gratitude, finished off with a matching set of knifepoint spite heels. And try to take her out on the town and pass her off as a grandiose, self-centered sense of entitlement. But she never gets any prettier.

Even if you give her a new name or a pedigree of long lineage her true status still shines through as an ill-tempered tyrant with deplorable decorum intent on souring the social situation. She’ll gladly attend as the uninvited guest innocently tagging along for the ride over, then refusing to stay in the car. Somehow, once in the vicinity, she always seems to slip in through the smallest of openings.

And once she’s in, she’s hard to avoid. She’ll shadow you, whispering justifications of every nasty little rumination you’re currently entertaining. And despite what you think, she’s fully visible to everyone. You can actively ignore her attempts to insert herself into the setting. Just like a parent pretending there isn’t a toddler tantrumming at her toes. But that mom can be the best actress in the world. It doesn’t make the kid disappear. And just like that, your artificial tone isn’t fooling anyone because Jealousy demands to be acknowledged.

So you’ll just stay home right? But with today’s technologies, you don’t even have to leave your doorstep to accomplish quality time with her. She’s perfectly pleased to bask in the blue glow of your social media stops, serving up full scoops of “but they don’t deserve it”s and “why not me?”s.

And the absolute worst is when it’s someone who supported you. Sent you notes of encouragement. And liked on everything you ever did. And told you they were proud of you. But now that it’s their turn, you let Jealousy convince you that they didn’t really mean any of it. In fact, they were likely just as envious as you are now, so you’re justified in not reciprocating, right?

“Of course,” Jealousy hisses.

Because Jealousy may not be on the right side, but she’s on your side…or so she says. She’ll tell you exactly what you want to hear, instead of what you need to. And so long as you feed her, she’ll stick around and never leave. Jealousy is not only willing to relish your resentments, but if you’ll indulge her, she can be counted on to commiserate and gloat over gossip. To rejoice over ruin and celebrate others' sorrows assuring you it all comes from a place of righteousness rather than rot, as she serves up your insides to be devoured by darkness. Because it feels good. Okay, maybe not good, but familiar.

However, Jealousy demands your loyalty in return. No selfless hopes are to hinder your codependency. And absolutely no empathizing or putting yourself into someone else’s shoes. Especially those for whom you may have covetous concerns.

She also expects your actions to only be fueled by your feelings. The ones you share and she fully supports. Any attempt to behave in a benevolent manner towards those she encourages you to spite, can cause her to flee. And if you are consistently kind to others, expecting absolutely nothing in return, she suddenly stops showing up all together.

But once she’s gone, where exactly does that leave you?

Sitting pretty. At last. Because Jealousy was such an ugly feeling.

Follow me on twitter and Instagram! @TheLauraBecker

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I Don't Have Kids and I'm Okay With That...and You Can Be Too

This is not a sad story. So don’t get any ideas. Especially “solutions.”
“Well, if it were me…”
But it’s not you.
“I’d be just devastated…”
Nevertheless, I’m okay with it.
And you can be too.

My vertical hold refused hold as the recovery room flipped across my field of vision and I fought my way through the haze of anesthesia. There was softness to his voice, but it was more than tenderness. A palpable weight, a crushing, pressing it down as he stroked my arm and whispered my name. I could hear it before the words even escaped my husband’s lips. There would be no children.

I don’t remember his quote, just its contents and the extreme care and compassion with which it was shared. No cancer. No more internal bleeding. No more growths. But no more womb either. And going in he had assured me, whatever came, for him, the two of us would always be enough. And he meant it. Because it was true. He’s just that kind of man.

My surgeon and I had gone through all of my wishes with each step of discovery before the first cut. If it was this, I wanted that. Or this, that. My husband had even kept a written copy close should any questions arise. So going in, I knew there was a chance this would be the final outcome. But now, it was all so very final. That potential life cut away and stitched shut, leaving a permanent scar…but not the anticipated pain. Hmmm.

And so, as the wound slashed across my belly bound itself together, my mind also began closing in…on itself. Why was I not more upset about this? Shouldn’t I be devastated? What was wrong with me? I always thought I wanted kids, but now, meh, not so much. Maybe there was something far more malignant within? Something dark on my soul that couldn’t be severed with a scalpel? That had to be it right? I mean what type of woman who absolutely loved children, suddenly didn’t want them for herself?

Me! That’s who! And I was pretty sure I was okay with that.

But some of those around me were deeply disappointed by my deficit of distress. As if I had somehow dissed their own decisions through my lack of remorse over my absence of offspring.  They seemed to see it as some personal judgment of them rather than oh, I don’t know, just being content with what I had.

“You’ll just adopt!” Not a suggestion. Not a call to consideration. A command. “There are lots of kids out there who need good homes.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize you were considering it yourself,” I’d slyly smile.
“Oh, of course not. We have kids of our own.” And always from someone who secretly saw adoption as less than, which it absolutely is not.

Or easy. As if I were just going to throw a kid in my cart along with the butter and bread I was already buying at Albertsons. You realize they don’t stock newborns in the bargain bin? Those things are expensive!

“Then just get an older kid.” Seriously? These are human beings we are discussing, not substitutions on a menu. No you can’t just swap your bread for a second salad! And no, I shouldn’t be expected to just trade my tubes for a teenager! Adoption is a calling to care for someone. Not ordering up a side dish to fill in for whatever you perceive to be missing from my plate. And by the way, I don’t see you offering to buy my “dinner,” so step off and savor your own supper.

Easier daydreamed than done. Because there it was, for some reason, a whole pocketful of people with their own insecurities suddenly drawn to the surface and flapping in my face. Demanding not only reassurance that I was recovering just fine, but that they were all okay too.

“But I thought you liked children?” I most certainly do, but what if I said I didn’t? How exactly does that affect you? Were you considering returning yours, based on my response? Because you know they don’t take those things back without a receipt.

“But you’ll tell me if you’re thinking about changing your mind?” Oh sure, just the way you tell me every time you’re ovulating and thinking about getting it on.

“Well, you just have no idea what it’s like to be a parent.” Exactly. Just like you have no idea what it’s like to never be one. You see, just because you weren’t a parent, but are one now, doesn’t mean that you know what it’s like to be me. Me without kids is not you before kids. It’s also not you longing to have kids. It’s not you carefree because you never had them. It’s not you in any way shape or form. It’s also, not your friend, or your cousin, or that woman you saw in that Lifetime movie. It’s me.

And I’m not broken. Or confused. Or pissed off. Or empty. Or less than. Or better than. Or judging you. Or seeking your approval. Or your counsel on any of it. I’m just me. The way that I am. And I’m okay with that.

And you can be okay with it too, if you want to be…or not. But if you aren’t, guess what? I’m okay with that too.

Follow me on twitter and Instagram! @TheLauraBecker

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Back In The High Life Again

Champagne is one of those simple, sensational, celebratory things that once it’s opened, demands to be shared, enjoyed and completely consumed because it doesn’t save…a lot like life.

We keep a bottle of good champagne chilled and ready in the fridge, because anything is possible. Oh, there have been times we couldn't really afford it. Times I wondered if we'd ever open it. And times I just wanted to pop the cork to drown my sorrows. But eventually, they’ve all been opened. And all for marvelous reasons.

This started, one night several years ago, in my little local grocery store. Life as of late, had been pretty crummy to say the least and on top of that, we had no money. We were living on a budget stitched together by borrowed time and barely treading water. And as I pushed my cart past all of the stuff we couldn’t have and dropped in all of the things I didn’t want but needed to get through the week, although I was grateful for what little I was able to put in, it began to feel like we were never going to get out of this. A sense of hopelessness suddenly slithered over me with a depressing pain of permanency. And then, Steve Winwood’s BACK IN THE HIGH LIFE AGAIN started playing over the PA system.

“And we'll drink and dance with one hand free
And have the world so easily
And oh we'll be a sight to see
Back in the high life again”

We will! Yes we will! You bet your ass we will!!! This was more than I could take and I needed something tangible. Something to help me see myself celebrating someday, today!

I frantically put a bunch of stuff back, knowing full well I would have to stretch through the rest of the month and got good champagne instead.  And it sat in the fridge, right where I could see it, every day, for what felt like forever.

But I've never had champagne taste so good.

So the current bottle sits there on my shelf as a chilled, effervescent symbol of hope knowing full well, there will come a day, when we will open it. I look forward to finding out why we'll open this one. Because anything is possible.

And if I don’t get to see that day, they’ll raise a glass at my funeral. To a life that was simple and sensational and overflowing with celebrated moments and shared and enjoyed and completely consumed because it wouldn’t save…just like champagne.

Follow me on twitter and Instagram! @TheLauraBecker

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What "Lies" Beneath

Lies have been the demise of many a relationship. However they are the firm foundation of one very near and dear to my derriere. And I’m not talking about those little white ones either. These are more full coverage and also come in beige, black, or cocoa…shapewear.

Spanx aren’t exactly lying, they’re just…well…smoothing things over and enhancing the truth. Okay. Okay. Fine. They’re a bald face lie. Smoke and mirrors, up my skirt, where I typically don’t allow smoke and mirrors, but recently invited the TSA.

You see, seeking to be comfortable for the long journey ahead, I chose to forgo a waistband and wear a simple cotton dress for my return trip. I also decided, at the last minute, to throw on a pair of offbrand, shall we say, flesh colored biker shorts below the flouncy folds of fabric. You see, although the dress was loose fitting, should I find myself unexpectedly exposed by a quick gust while entering or exiting the plane, I wanted to cover my assets. I also knew that I would be flying through Minneapolis, which is a very large airport and I wanted to be able to stretch my legs without rubbing them together.

However, after entering and exiting the super-sonic-see-through scanner, twice, there was something alarming about my attire. The floral cotton fiber of my dress kept flopping over on itself and it was suddenly necessary for security to lift the front of my frock. Thus exposing the fabrication under the fabric.

And as I stood there in that moment wondering why it felt far more revealing to share a sliver of spandex stretched across my thigh than a full-on peep at my purple panties, the truth hit me:
I’m showing far less, but revealing so much more! Panties are a naughty little secret. Shapewear is a despicable deceit.

Security was exposing my insecurities. And I suddenly understood the real reason Superman has his Fortress of Solitude and Peter Parker his privacy. It’s because even though they emerge the embodiment of truth, justice and the American way, they don’t want their stretchable subterfuge shown either!

That’s why we don’t see Bruce Wayne shaking his stuff, shimmying his booty into the Batsuit struggling to stretch the crotch higher than his knees. Or on his back on the floor of the Batcave sucking it in as he tugs it on up over his tush. Or a sliver of a Supersuit showing through the ass of some pants or up a kilt at a TSA security checkpoint. Because bulletproof or not, it’s still bumping up that booty and that’s really nobody’s business!

And although mine was not a supersuit, and I didn’t always wear it, my shapewear was part of a secret identity. What “lies” beneath and girds my literal loins along with mental ones. Secret support, that was suddenly no longer secret. And so, rather than asking to step aside, I just lifted the skirt a bit further, exposed the front of my thigh and got on with it. They had already been unveiled. There was no point in pretending that we hadn’t seen them. I refused to be shamed as if I had done something wrong by being a woman and wearing them.

These were my Lycra locked legs and if anybody didn’t like them, they could kiss my spandex smoothed backside!

And as I lowered my skirt and gathered my dignity along with my carryon, I suddenly felt lighter. So I had on a little help? Big deal! We can all use a little extra support from time to time, the only difference, now everybody knows it. Because the truth shall set you free. And you’ll be really free, just as soon as you make it home and peel off that under armor!

Follow me on twitter and Instagram! @TheLauraBecker