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Blogger meet-up in the D

detroit

Most of my readers are not from Detroit.

They’re from Russia. They’re robots. They leave me long, detailed comments about things like Viagra and practices that are illegal in this country. Their comments often don’t correspond with what I’ve posted, but that’s OK. They love me.

But a few readers are real people and they live in nice places with beaches or mountains or other panoramic views. They’ve not once mentioned erectile dysfunction to me in a comment. These real people living by these nice views also have blogger get-togethers on occasion, which I’ve always envied. I wondered: Could we have one here in the D?

I’m not sure how to arrange a Spam party. Do you actually serve slices of SPAM? And, is sharing drinks with robots considered infidelity?

Thanks to Twitter, which is a nice little bird and not a robot, I don’t have to worry any more. I’ve connected with some real people here in Detroit. One thing led to another and now we have our first official blogger meet-up in July.

Ours will be a small affair. Just a handful of us willing to meet on a weeknight, have a drink or two and chat.

Knowing me, I’ll want to ask a lot of questions. I’ll want to take pictures.And I’ll want to write about it. Chances are, they will do the same. 

I’m sure the robots will have something to say about it, too.

The whole truth

lucky

I am lucky. I am a survivor.

I was dismissed from jury duty this week.

That is not why I am lucky. That is not what I survived.

I was dismissed because I could not be fair and impartial regarding the case before me and the other potential jurors.

Soon after the clerk herded us sheep into the dark-paneled court room and guided us to our pen,  I felt myself relax for the first time that day. Waiting is stressful. At least now I knew my fate. Or so I thought.

As the judge, prosecutor and defense droned on about rules of law, the great American judicial system and so forth, I’ll admit my mind started to drift. Then the words: armed robbery shot cross the room like a bullet.

The words jabbed me in the ribs and I let out an embarrassing little gasp that drew the attention of those seated next to me.

It was the beginning of a string of actions that would cast the spotlight on me. Things like being asked to sit here. Then being asked to get up and sit over there. Then being asked the same question three different ways. Then being asked to leave the room and sit in another room until every last juror or potential juror was safely in their cars and headed home. Any lawyers out there who care to explain this to me?

I don’t know, telling the court you don’t think you can be objective — which is the truth and I swore to be truthful — maybe gives them pause?

Nineteen years after I was robbed at work, I still have anxiety about it. I don’t like it that I do.  But I do and I have to accept that about myself. Things like court rooms don’t help.

I survived the incident. But it took me a long while to learn there was a lesson in it: When something bad happens, you have to acknowledge that bad thing and then let it go. This is not what I did. I was the queen of suppression and denial.

So when I found myself on the business end of a gun during my stint as a bank employee, I reacted not only to the threat at hand but to another incident four years earlier, which was a deep, dark secret brushed under the rug and never worked through. Most decidedly, the felon on parole wielding a .380 pistol pushed my buttons.

Everything spun out of control after that. I ended up in therapy. I quit my job. I messed up my last year of college. I damaged beyond repair the relationship I was in at the time. What may have been a minor blip on someone else’s timeline was a big bomb going off on mine. 

So, the lesson in all this is when something bad happens: cry, scream, yell, get help, press charges, tell a friend, go jogging. Do what you need to do to release the poison and begin the healing. Pretending away a trauma does not work. Don’t worry about what others will think. Ditch the false bravado.

I’m lucky I survived both incidents with nothing more than some protracted stress issues. I’m lucky I learned from them. 

That’s the truth.

Hot wait. Hot seat. Out.

jurybox

I just completed my third round of jury duty. Three times called. Three times dismissed. This time, however, I made it all the way to voir dire and sat in the jury box for the better part of an hour before the judge hit the eject button.

Mixed feelings tore at my insides. Part of me wanted to take part in this case, to hear the evidence, listen to the witnesses and deliberate with other jurors. Another darker, sadder part knew I would not be selected because the case at hand struck too close to home. I could not be a fair and impartial juror. The prosecution and defense batted me about like a toy mouse for a while and then tossed me to the curb.

It marked  the end of a long day sitting on a plastic chair in a poorly ventilated waiting room, punctuated by multiple calls to line up in long hallways, march up and down staircases, and sit on hard wooden benches before returning to the hot room. But long days on plastic chairs in poorly ventilated rooms give me no choice but to people watch and jot down observations. Here are a few:

* The night before, I had to call the courthouse, type in my juror identification number, and wait for instructions. After the initial wheres and whens, came a list of dos and don’ts. Some of the don’ts: do not come to court in swimwear, exercise wear, hooded jackets or hats. I wondered for a moment why this was necessary to explain.

* Because of that list, I labored over what to wear.  I put on dress pants, high heels, a sleeveless but conservative top and loosely draped a scarf around my neck. I worried that I was too casual. Ha! I cannot tell you how many folks showed up in shorts, tank tops, flip-flop sandals, work boots and hooded sweatshirts. There was even one heavily tattooed guy in one of those weight-lifter shirts that revealed most of the chest and huge tufts of body hair.  I have no more wonder about the dress-code instructions.

* In spite of the various warnings on paperwork mailed to the home, on the recorded message, and posted clearly at the entrances advising against having cell phones with camera devices, people still tried to sneak them in and then feigned ignorance when confronted with it. “I didn’t even know it had a camera!”

* I am amazed at how elaborately some people packed their bags for the day of waiting. The snacks. The stacks of magazines. One woman had several plastic bags full of crafting materials and set up a mini-assembly line on her tabletop. Most of the folks I chatted with seemed hyped about getting seated on a jury.

*I watched more TV on this day than I have in the last quarter, including my first-ever  Oprah episode. According to Oprah, my summer wardrobe sucks.

Well, she should see the rest of the folks in this room.

Art in the woods

pines

Sometimes a girl just needs a day to herself.

A day without yard work or house work or bill paying or  snot wiping or litter box scooping.

Some girls go to the spa.

Some go to the mall.

Some go to a movie with a friend.

What does this girl do? She hops in the car and drives to the opposite end of the state to traipse around in the bug-infested woods for an afternoon.

Not just any woods, though. This is a special forest I’ve visited for four summers.

windowtrio

Nestled in these woods, standing along the sandy shores of a shallow inland lake, is an arts camp. Along this shore and through its maze of forest trials are rustic cabins named after musical composers, writers and artists. Between these cabins and through the thick stands of pines and maples are open-air studios,  classrooms and theaters, and an arts colony. The whole area just oozes creativity.

If gas prices weren’t almost $3 a gallon, I’d drive out here just to visit. This time, I had a reason to spend $500 on gas in one day: Girl from the West is participating in a camp alumni concert series. Today is the first show; the second will be in July at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

 After depositing Girl to her designated rehearsal hall, I grab my camera and sunglasses and hit the trails. Through the birdsong in the canopy above and the crunch of gravel under my sandals, I hear the sweet notes of pianos being played, of voices hitting high notes and harmonizing. As I navigate the pathways, this music seeps between the branches and boughs, rises up from the ferns, floats on the breeze,  making the forest seem almost magical. 

signs

Awash in all this natural beauty and talent, I feel a pang of envy for my Girl, who had the privilege of three summers at this camp and a tour of Western Europe last summer.

I wish to find my own arts colony, my own creative escape. I say good-bye to this hideaway and head home, thinking this visit will be my last.

It seems that at the end of every summer, Girl from the West tosses her blue camp uniform in disgust, declaring it “the last time I wear this — I swear.”

But somehow, when the next summer comes around, we find ourselves picking up the polo shirt and skirt and heading back to this little gem in the woods near the shores of Lake Michigan.

We have our reasons.

Revisiting the past

jumper

This was my wardrobe for six years

Like many of you, I found a childhood friend on Facebook.

We were best pals in grade school, where we both wore our itchy wool plaid uniforms, stiff white blouses and knee socks. The two of us, along with a few others, formed a “Batman” TV show fan club. This involved tying our jacket sleeves just-so around our necks to double as super-hero capes. We made some type of “utility belt” out of paper and tape and staples. We often fought about who got to play Batgirl.

batmobilecom

I have other hazy memories of those days:

  • Pedaling my bike home as fast as I could to beat the buzzing, flickering street lights that awakened at dusk.
  • Marveling at how her big, happy family navigated a house the same size as our family-of-four home.
  • Wishing I could take her freckles, which she didn’t like. I thought freckles gave a face character and depth.
  • Planning out our whole lives and how we’d play a role in each other’s futures. 

Then my family moved after 6th grade.

My pal and I exchanged a few letters, called each other once in a while, then our fading friendship became lost in the fast-moving currents of life.

Earlier this year, as I was sifting through big boxes containing the relics of my life  I found a packet of letters held together with a rubber band. They were from my old pal. I wondered what had become of her. 

A quick search on Facebook and a mutual “friending” put us back in touch. A while afterward we agreed to meet.

As I drove to a little coffee house, I flashed back to last fall when I volunteered at a local campaign office. Turns out one of the organizers was a classmate of mine in high school. Had he not pointed it out to me, I never would have recognized him. I never would have known what happened to that well-muscled jock I rode the bus with freshman and sophomore years.  While I casually flirted with him on those bumpy rides to and from school, I knew he was out of my league. Last fall, I saw the future of a teen girl’s fantasy. Often, it features a cranky, balding fat man.

Meeting up with the past is always a tricky business. Exciting. Scary. As my friend waited for me to arrive, I’m sure she probably tossed around in her head some highlights of our friendship: How I was like a monkey on crack. A skinny, wide-eyed monkey on crack who logged a lot of time in the principal’s office.

Facebook does allow some idea of how a person looks today, where she works, and how she votes or what books she reads. So a meet-up shouldn’t be a total shock. But virtual connections are not the same as sit-down chats over steaming mugs of coffee. 

I stepped into the coffee house a few minutes early, hoping to at least place myself in a flattering way, armed with a cup of something caffeinated. It turns out she was even earlier. She’d already ordered her coffee and was engrossed in a book when I spotted her in the far corner. She was the same freckle-faced girl now living inside a grown woman’s body. Same smile. Same laugh. Same good humor and good nature. Whatever life had tossed her way, she’d caught it, dealt with it and kept on going.

We didn’t have too much trouble starting a conversation or keeping it going. We found that we shared similar views on a number of issues. Sure, our lives took very different paths, but not in ways so divergent that we couldn’t find common ground.

 I wondered if we would have remained close friends if my family had not moved.

I wondered how different I would be today.

I wondered if she still liked Batman.

Right now …

clover

Free flowers from the lawn

…I’m easily manipulated by small gestures like bouquets of clover tucked into bud vases.

… I am living in the longest days of the year. Yet somehow I find myself with very few hours to get things like blog posts written and dinner cooked. 

… I have a work project that needs some attention, a 3-year-old who needs more attention, and a kitten who needs maximum security prison.

black-brown

He's not black in bright light; he's chocolate brown

… my flower beds are half-weeded and half-prepped and not planted for the season. I’m rethinking my garden strategy: I need to eliminate the need for annual flowers, rework beds to allow for 100 percent perennial plants. Out of the blue, a great friend (and talented gardener) shows up with a trunk full of  freshly split perennials and helps to rebuild and redesign an island garden that has gotten out of control.

purple

Purple bud on something

… our vegetable garden is showing signs of many good meals ahead and fresh salads every night.

garden

Right now I am focusing on these things and not all that other stuff.

I'm not a wedding photographer

wedding

As you can see, I wasn’t hired to document this marriage ceremony. But I was invited to witness it and celebrate along with family and friends. Attending a family wedding made me think about how we experience such rites over the course of our lifetime.

The wheels started turning in my mind when Girl from the East informed me at the reception that she was going to dance with a “true princess.” Translation: The bride. When the time came for this to happen, Girl reconsidered and decided to stay on the sidelines. She did, however, agree to have a photo taken with the “princess all in white.”

Many a young girl dreams of her wedding day. Often it’s the stuff of fairy tales: a fancy gown and flowing veil, flowers, sparkly things, maybe a horse and carriage ride to the white chapel, where a handsome prince awaits. There’s probably a bunch of other stuff that I don’t know about because I wasn’t one of those girls.

But I see the look in Girl from the East’s eyes. It’s the same look Girl from the West had when all her friends were making their First Communion. She thought it most unfair that we weren’t throwing her a party at which she’d wear a white gown, veil and gloves. Never mind the sacraments behind it all.

But honey, I’d say, we’re not Catholic.

So? It’s not fair. Can’t we just be Catholic?

This is the young girl’s view: a day of finery and fantasy, where she is the center of attention.  At 7, it’s sweet. At 25, it’s called Bridezilla.

As you near an age proper for marriage, a wedding takes on a new feeling.

It can feel like an adrenaline rush: We’re adults now. People we know are getting married.

It can feel like a knife in the gut: You’ve broken up with “the one” and can’t stand to witness such happiness.

It can feel like a migraine: best gal pal No. 10 asks you to stand up in yet another figure-assassinating gown fashioned from Korean War era draperies. Oh, and you don’t mind throwing the “bachelorette party of the century” do you?

If you are paired up and marriage is on the horizon, weddings can feel like field research as you pay close attention and take furtive notes and tuck business cards in your purse for florists, pastry chefs and caterers.

Mixed between the parade of friends’ and cousins’ nuptials are the bittersweet and the bizarre ceremonies:

Bearing witness to the second marriage of two wonderful folks who lost their spouses unexpectedly, or the union of two friends who finally found each other in mid-life.

Enduring yet another exchange between serial marryers or an obvious train-wreck involving citizenship.
Theme weddings involving water sports or vulcan ears.

At some point, the chicken dance, the garter and bouquet toss, the D.J. playlist that hasn’t changed in 20 years (“Celebration” “SuperFreak” “Love Shack”), the cake cutting and other endless rituals can start to feel played out.  No longer do you see all this through the wide eyes of a young girl.

At this most recent wedding, it felt wonderful to be past all the wishing and wondering, the planning and hosting, the obligation or avoidance, and just enjoy a good party. I ate. I drank. I danced barefoot with my Girl from the East. I took bad photographs just for the fun of it.

As long as none of those barefoot pictures end up on Facebook, I’m good.

 

Sunny, with a chance of crabby

muddy

by gothick_matt

We’ve had so much rain and gloom lately — and hello? the heat is still kicking on and it’s June —  that I wonder how I can be so irritable on a day that offers sunshine.

Yet, there it is. It begins as a day with much to do; all is laid out in a tidy plan. Then, like thunderheads overwhelm the horizon, so appears my grand-scale crabbiness. It begins this way:

The gas company has been on my back for  a while now to move our meter from the basement to the outside of our house. Fine. We play some phone tag and finally agree on a time and date. I block off two hours Wednesday afternoon. 

Except the gas company contractors don’t show up at 1 p.m. Wednesday, as per the agreement, and made with the idea that Girl from the East and I would be fed, showered, dressed and happily in the back yard, away from the pounding and drilling and stomping about of heavy-booted workers.

Instead, the door bell chimes at 8:50 a.m. while I am still in my NSFW nightie, Girl from the East is in her Hello Kitty undies and tank top, and I have not yet moved all the boxes out of the way for the men to work.

So I abandon the waffle iron bubbling with batter, run to the coat closet to slip on a jacket, grab Girl from the East and drag her to her room to put on some pants and then run to answer the door.

Except Girl from the East doesn’t appreciate this sudden panic and refuses to get dressed. Now the guys are knocking forcefully on the door. I smell overcooked batter. I leave Girl in her room, pants-less and wailing and open the door to four young burly guys in hard hats bearing boxes of big tools.

The burly worker guys apologize for being four hours early. I don’t want to stand still long enough for them to realize I’m basically only wearing a coat, so I let them in and shoo them down the steps. I attempt to salvage our breakfast  (kind of ruined due to cookus interruptus) and partake in it while simultaneously ignoring hard-hatted, steel-toe-booted, tool-belt-wearing guys tromping from door to basement. Repeatedly.

burned

by yewenyl

I try not to pay too much attention to the muddy footprints trailing on the carpet and hardwoods.The ongoing wailing of Girl in the bedroom nearly covers the sound of drilling through concrete and brick, the pounding of sledgehammers.

We get a brief reprieve. Girl summons enough courage to creep down the hallway during a quiet moment. Then the guys burst into the house again. One of their cell phones bleats a country-music song that bounces off the walls like a stick of dynamite exploding in a canyon, sending Girl into a fresh round of tears and wails.

When it’s all over, in less than two hours, I need to rewash the hardwoods and stain-spray the carpets, and my energy for the day is depleted. At 11 a.m.

Voice of reason: But MomZombie, you knew they were coming, why did you clean all your floors the night before?

MomZombie: All I had in mind is that our in-laws are visiting this weekend.

Voice of reason: They’ve done their work; they’re gone. Turn your day around.

MomZombie: I smell gas.