Monday, July 18, 2011


Anyone who follows me knows that my life is the farthest thing from quiet or peaceful. This weekend's trip to Kansas City was no exception.

Ann, Brandi and I left KC about 1 o'clock today after a great lunch with some friends and got about as far as Bethany, MO when I decided to pull off and check my tires. I was getting a LOT of vibration and road noise and suspected a tire was low on air. I was right. The back ones were WAY low on air. I'm honestly not sure how I didn't notice it before, but I digress. I filled both back up to where they needed to be and checked the front. With everything registering the way it should, we got back on the road. Unfortunately, things weren't "the way they should" be. I noticed a wiggle in my tires that wasn't there before. The vibrations & noise were gone, but they'd been replaced with wobbling. We decided then to take highways home instead of interstate, that way we'd be closer to a town if we needed to stop and fill up with more air. As we drove a bit, the wobbles evened out once we got to a little higher speeds and we were fine.

Until we got about an hour away and the road noise and vibrations started back up again.

We managed to get as far as the south side of Des Moines and had a blow-out. I have to say, I was pretty impressed with my driving skills. I safely guided the car to the far right shoulder (we were between off/on ramps on a bridge when it blew) and when my hands stopped shaking, the three of us made that tire our bitch. Within seven minutes (from annoying, turn-crank jack up to turn-crank jack down), the donut was put on and the junk tire was thrown in the trunk. (I texted Hubs and told him my pit crew was faster than his pit crew).

We weaved our way through town and I dropped the girls off at Ann's and inched my way home, the whole time not driving over 35 miles an hour. Have you ever driven thirty five miles DOING thirty five mph??! I'm convinced it was my penance for all the times I didn't get busted for speeding in my life.

When I got home, I pulled the tire out and looked at it more closely. We'd known it was going bad and had plans to go this week and get it replaced before I head to Columbus on Saturday, but had we known it was THIS bad, I'd have never left town. So when I examined the tire at home, I was flabbergasted to find exposed radials that had been that way for a while (there was rust under some spots) and several spots where the rubber had come off completely. I don't know how long it has been like this, but I guess this heat wave added to the 400 mile round trip and a car loaded down with people and luggage was just too much for that old tire to take.

I'm just glad a) I wasn't alone, b) my girls are as knowledgeable about cars as I am, c) that we made it as far as we did and d) that I was able to control the car once it blew. If ANY of that was different, this day could've ended much differently. Angels were watching over us today and I am so grateful to God for it.

And yes, as soon as Hubs gets home, the tire is being replaced. Until then? I'm content in not going anywhere.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stiff Competition

I've lived in Iowa my entire life. Several corners of it, of course, but I've been here for over 37 years. Every year (with the exception of a few), I've gone to the Iowa State Fair. I was raised on it.

For those who aren't in Iowa, it may not seem like our state fair is a big deal. It's just a fair, right? Rogers and Hammerstein didn't seem to think so. Their award-winning musical, "State Fair" was based on our little state fair. And to me, it's never been just a little deal either. There are things to do, people to see, concerts to attend (My first concert with New Kids on the Block was there in 1989), foods to eat, rides to ride, competitions to enter.

Or not.

I don't talk much about my mother (I'm not really sure why, actually), but for those who didn't know her, she was very talented when it cames to crafts. She crocheted, constructed quilts and did counted-cross stitch and embroidery. She painted ceramics and when the mood struck her, she sewed clothes, too. She never saw herself as being especially gifted, but her work really was amazing. I still own and display some of her work in my house today.

I remember as a kid, the family and her friends would encourage her to enter some of her creations in the state fair competitions every year. "JoAnn, your stuff is so pretty! I know you'd win! You should enter." She'd always dismiss them with a flippant, "It's not good enough. They're very picky. I'd have to start doing all of my stuff differently because you have to..." and she'd go off on a well-rehearsed speech about how the back of her work that nobody sees would have to be hidden and always end the speech with, "I don't have that kind of time."

She was right. She didn't.

She was diagnosed with cancer in her late 40's and taken from us just a few short years later. Her blue ribbon was never meant to be.

I didn't realize just how much of my mother I had in me until it came time to hear the same encouragement from my friends and family about entering my photos into the state fair competition. "Mel, you're good. Like really good. DO IT!" I always came back with my mother's same old retort, "It's not good enough." For years, I've let my mother's fears cripple me. I bought into her bullshit.

In my own defense, if you could see the work that gets displayed each year -- the photographs that are chosen to be exhibited....DAMN! There are some phenomenal photographers in this piddly little state of ours. For years, I've enjoyed strolling through the Cultural Arts building at the fairgrounds. I like the doll houses and other fine arts, but I could (and have) spend hours wandering through the photography salon. I am in awe every year at what gets chosen and I wonder how in the hell someone can be that talented and gifted. Of course, there are a few photos that I've seen where I think to myself (never out loud, of course...that would be egotistical), I've shot that same picture and mine's better. What am I waiting for?

This year, I finally stopped waiting. I went through my photographs that I've taken over the last couple years and with the help of friends and family, I selected the four photos I would submit to this year's competition in various categories. The deadline approached and, as I do with everything in my life, I waited til the last minute to get things taken care of. I picked up my newly-matted photographs from the frame shop and went directly to the fairgrounds to have them submitted -- this is how I do things, see?

I thank God I had someone with me because had I been by myself, I'd have allowed myself to become fully enveloped in the panic attack that clawed at my throat that day and I would have left the building without submitting anything. But my husband wouldn't hear of it.

"Your pictures are beautiful," he said over and over.

In the full depths of my anxiety, all I could manage was a nod in response.

The room was filled with boxes upon boxes of photographs that had already been submitted that morning. We're talking thousands of photos. THOUSANDS! I felt so intimidated, I could hardly function. And those were just the ones that had been dropped off that morning. There had been God knows how many more mailed in in the weeks before. It also didn't include the ones that would come after me that afternoon or the next day. I couldn't even think about it. I blindly made my way through the line and was back out of the building in less than thirty minutes. (At which time, I gave into the emminent breakdown.)

I never understood my mom's fear when it came to competition for her crafts until that day. I'd always thought, "What's the big deal? Either you win or you don't. Big whoop!" But it's so much more than that. Her crafts were her life. From the time she got out of bed in the morning until the time she turned out the lights at night, if she was at home, she was crafting. She put her heart and soul into her work and took great pride in what she did. The judges for those competitions are at the tops of their craft, no pun intended. They're editors for craft magazines, past winners, people whose patterns and ideas have been published in books and magazines. Bluntly put, they're the shit! What her fear boiled down to was this: She knew in her head that she was good at what she did and unless she opened herself to judgment from others, she always would be. But the minute she opened herself up to a competition, she risked that self-worth. It was too much for her to handle.

It was too much for me to handle, too. That's why I withheld my photos for so long.

But just like I suspect my mother had nothing to worry about, neither did I.

I found out today that two of my photographs were chosen to be exhibited in the photography salon at this year's Iowa State Fair.

Two. Among thousands.

I won't know for a couple weeks yet if I've placed in the competition, but it doesn't matter. I won something bigger than a blue ribbon - I beat doubt, fear and ghosts from my past into submission.

That's good enough for me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

This thing we've got...

 When I became a New Kids on the Block fan in 1988, I had no idea the impact it would have on my life. I thought, at the time, it was just a band. I was one face in millions. I went to concerts, listened to their music, bought their memoribilia. I hung out with my friends at school who also liked them. That was my role. That was my responsibility. That's where it ended. And I loved every minute of it. (I personally got more out of it than they did, I think, but that's for another blog, another time.)

Fast forward to 2008 when they announced their reunion. Again, I went to a concert, listened to their music, bought some memoribilia. I reunited with friends I hadn't seen in almost two decades. I slipped easily back into my role. But that's not where it ended this time.

The internet made us different fans than we were the first time around. The guys were more accessible to us and we to them. But more importantly, it made us more accessible to each other. For the first time, we were able to connect with other fans on a mass level internationally. How incredible! We developed friendships that were based on our mutual admiration for five Boston boys. Those friendships were nurtured, bloomed and virtually exploded into life-changing relationships for us.

We didn't know it at the time, of course, but we needed that. We needed to be reminded that it was okay to have girlfriends do things as individuals have our own interests outside our spouses, kids and rediscover ourselves! And if it would've stopped there, that would've been enough.

But in rediscovering ourselves, we learned that we could be nurturing and giving and loving beyond our own four walls. I've read stories about fans who have bought tickets for other fans they didn't even know simply because someone had something crappy happen in their lives and someone wanted them to feel better if only for a couple hours at a concert. I've heard about people who gave up their spot on the cruise because someone else's fell through. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for Susan G. Komen to help stop breast cancer through Team Betty's worldwide. Last month, a life was saved because someone donated a kidney to a fan.

A fucking KIDNEY!

Who else does this?

I know we've got our problems and our over-the-top fans who sometimes make us look bad, but down deep, this thing we've got? It's fucking beautiful and I'm proud to be part of it. So if you've ever sent a piece of merchandise to another fan who couldn't be there, bought someone a ticket to an event, let a stranger stay/ride with you to save on concert travel expenses, given someone pirated music (because let's face it, you can't buy some of that shit anywhere) because they'd never heard "the naughty version," donated money to Komen in honor of Betty, RT'd a Tweet you thought the guys needed to see, shared your concert photos with other fans, made a special ringtone for someone, passed along a "Hi" or a hug to one of the guys from someone less fortunate, called someone from a show so they could hear their favorite song or done anything big or small that has brightened the day of another fan...I raise my glass to you!

YOU are what this is about.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Impatience and other ramblings

I should be working on edits for the book, but here I sit blogging instead. I suppose I'm still writing, and that's a good thing, but it's hard not to beat myself up about not working harder on the book. Anyway, I digress.
Today, I turned 37.

I'm not quite sure where the time has gone. I see news articles about things that happened 30 years ago and my brain jumps to the 60's and then I realize, "Uhhh no. That was the 80's, honey." Seriously, where the hell did the time go?

My 20's were mostly a blur. I blame that on poor choices and alcohol (usually one spawned by the other). 

My thirties, however, *shaking my head*, I dunno where they've gone. I want to pull the plug on the clock and stop time. I'd be content with daylight savings time being in effect on birthdays, too - jumping back a year so maybe I don't feel so old?

I didn't get as depressed this year on my birthday, so that's progress, but I do feel much older this year than I have in years past. Not sure why that is. If I had to take a guess, I'd say it's because I feel stagnant. Hell, I don't feel it. I am stagnant. I'm not going anywhere...doing anything. Not worth while, anyway. I want to be in New York by now. I should have been in New York by now, but it didn't work out to my timing. Not that I'm not used to things working out in their own timing, but my own impatience is gnawing at me from the inside and I feel like I'm in a holding pattern.

I am getting things in order, though. Finances are slowly coming together and we're building savings little by little. I promised myself before I left that we would have a small cushion so if we needed it, it would be there. So I guess that's moving in the right direction. The job hunt around here is killing me slowly, though, I'm certain. The jobs that pay worth a damn are all corporate jobs where they expect you to put in years on the job. If I were staying here, that would be one thing, but I feel awkward applying for jobs like that when I know in a year from now, I may not still be here. That leaves me with the jobs that don't pay so well, which means longer time here in Iowa while I stock away as much as possible in savings. It's frustrating for this impatient spirit of mine.

It's also frustrating because not everyone around me understands my creative mind. They don't understand that even if that corporate job was offered to me that I'd be bored to death the minute I'm trained. Wanderlust and the corporate mindset don't mesh well. And for those without creative minds, that struggle with boredom is seen as failure. It's not seen as the monotony I see it as. It's failure. With a capital F. I despise punching a timeclock. Despise following all the rules. Despise dress codes and commutes and hour-long lunches and being productive from 8am til 5pm. That's not me. It never will be. Right now -- at 2 in the morning? This is my productive time. This is when I'm creative and when I come alive. My mind works more between midnight and 3am than it does the rest of the day all bunched into one. But that, too, isn't the "norm" for those around me, so they don't get it and I'm cast again as a misfit. I know I'm not alone, but damn, sometimes it feels like it. It isn't like I don't want to be normal. I'd love it if I could find pride in being an administrative assistant or some insurance exec, but that. isn't. me. I don't consider myself better than that. I just consider myself different and it takes all kinds, right?

Until I'm where I'm supposed to be, I'll have to keep putzing along and pretending that I fit into the mold everybody wants me to be. I just hope they don't expect too much out of me. "Failure" is just around the corner, I'm sure.

I told my bestie tonight (regarding a different subject) "The timing just isn't right. It'll work out when it's meant to." I guess I probably should swallow some of that reality myself. Right now, I'm not meant to be in New York. I don't know why, but I'm still needed here for whatever reason. I'm sure it'll show itself before long and I can see it for myself. Until then, I just have to keep breathing and trusting (and "failing").

Easy enough, right?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Spanx 1 - Melly 0

I wasn't going to buy anything special for my nephew's wedding tomorrow. Just wear a pair of dress capri's and a pretty blouse. I'm the photographer as well as the aunt, after all. No sense getting all guzzied up when I'd just be working most of the time, right?

Vanity is a convincing bitch.

I decided tonight at 7pm that I needed a new outfit. (Did I mention the wedding is tomorrow afternoon?) So Midget and I hauled ass to the mall. I had a birthday card from Torrid for $10 off, so we stopped there first. Aside from one dress that I loved (but was also twice the price), I didn't find squat. We left disgruntled. We went downstairs to NY&Co. It's one of my favorite stores and until I packed 20lbs back on, had TONS of clothes that fit me. I was hopeful.

Sure enough, they had a lot of great summer dresses on clearance. Found a beautiful dress in blue. Went a couple stores down and found some beautiful silver shoes. BAM! Done!

Well, almost.

With the black dress I bought from there last year, I didn't need Spanx to cover up the cellulite in my ass, so I didn't bother. With this lighter color, I knew I was gonna have to break down and invest in some.

Went to the next store and found a full body garment (well, it goes from top to mid-thigh, at least). At the suggestion of a friend in a previous conversation, I grabbed one size smaller than what I needed and headed to the dressing room.

Oh, did I forget to tell you the temperature today was 93° with 110° heat index? The mall was possibly hotter.

Three things:
  1. I'm not the size I thought I was, because the first pair of Spanx barely made it past my ankles. Midget had to run and get the next biggest size.
  2. Putting on Spanx when you're sweaty, in a hurry and bloated is not a good combination.
  3. Don't take your skinny teenaged daughter (the one with her curves in all the right places) with you to try on Spanx. She will sit outside the dressing room calling out loudly "Mom? Are you okay in there? Do I need to call someone?" *blank stare* (No, Twiggy. You don't need to fucking CALL anybody. Shut the hell up.)
I don't think it's any coincidence that Playtex makes undergarments AND rubber dish gloves -- hello? They're the same damn product, just different holes for your hands and different packaging! What sadistic bastard created these things?! I consider myself pretty dexterous. However, I'm certain I got both a hernia and strained my wrists getting this contraption onto my body. As it is, I'm going to have to have help tomorrow getting back into that thing. The only person who can help me get dressed? My husband. I didn't really wanna ever get laid again, anyway, did I? Seriously, after seeing me squeeze my size 20 ass into a size 2 girdle, that's like seeing the Wizard behind the curtain. You can't unsee that shit.


But, alas, I have found the undergarment I sought. And I will wear it tomorrow with a beautiful new dress and the gorgeous new shoes. And all will be right with the world. In the meantime, I'm going to go cry into my vodka.