Laser Tag, You’re It!

1 Brandi & me Periodically, the company I work for hosts a gathering, invites all its call center agents (CCAs) to change out of their pajamas, and leave the cozy confines of their homes to have fun and food. Obviously, I like free food, especially the crazy selection of delicious desserts we had at the end, but what I most looked forward to was crossing laser tag off my bucket list. I’d initially made a beeline to the upstairs of this family playground extravaganza to check it out. There was a long line, but I didn’t see another CCA in line; so I returned downstairs, thinking I should at least fulfill the whole “meet-and-greet” aspect and socialize first.

That plan worked out well since I met another CCA who also wanted to play laser tag. After eating a couple of pieces of pizza and talking, we entered the laser tag line. While waiting in that slow-moving line, I learned that her educational background was in archeology, she’d participated in several digs around the world, and she was also studying for that grueling insurance agent exam like I was.

During our conversation, one little kid, around the age of 8, kept dashing past us for some unknown reason. I said under my breath to my fellow CCA, “I’m going to enjoy shooting that little kid.” Never, outside of the context of laser tag or a water gun fight, would that ever be an acceptable thing to utter.

2 questionable graphics Once we were close to the entrance, we could see a screen that displayed the do’s and don’ts of laser tagging. Yet there was one image I couldn’t quite figure out what the rule was. A woman with breasts that were far too big for her frame or necessary for the point of conveying some rule stood in front of a kneeling man.
3 questionable graphicsI tried to capture a good shot of this larger-than-life breasts phenomenon, but this was the best I could do. I still don’t know which rule was being depicted. Perhaps, “don’t poke anyone in the eye with your lethally-enhanced nipples”?

There was only one other adult in the arena with us and a bunch of kids. Not too much strategy needed, given who we were up against, especially since my only real competitor was on my team. Yet, I tagged the little kid who’d stepped on my foot in line several times, along with all the other kids. That’s all that really counts in such a mindless game.

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Spinster Redefined

“Spinster” used to be defined as a childless, older woman beyond the age of marriage. Times have changed. The “old maid” has been put to rest after a long run of shaming and guilting women into a desperate marriage to avoid being her. My definition for “spinster”: an educated, childfree woman of any age who supports herself financially and has not prioritized getting married. With new definitions come new rules.

When asked why she’s never married, the confirmed bachelorette doesn’t bow her head in shame and mumble about how she’s never met the right man. Instead, she proudly rounds her shoulders and says, “Just lucky, I guess.”

A girl’s best friends are no longer diamonds. She only wanted those because she had very few viable financial means to support herself besides marriage, inheritance and jewelry. Nowadays, a girl’s best friend is generating her own income since money can buy happiness when she has her priorities right.

The contemporary spinster knows that her hair is her crown and glory and she prefers her crown to turn silver, celebrating all her collective years of glory.

If she suffered a disfiguring accident, then she’d have reconstructive surgery, but aging is no accident. It’s a blessing. The practical spinster wants single men to know sight-on-seen that as an older woman, she isn’t going to tolerate the same bullshit as in her 20s. Gotta grow up some time.

The modern spinster’s fashion is ANYTHING she wears. After surviving decades of misogynistic fads, she knows confidence and happiness are true timeless styles, which go with any accessory.

To set the record straight: older single women don’t chase after younger men. We just can’t run fast enough when they chase after us.

And here’s a piece of silver spinster advice: If your buff boyfriend goes to carnival wearing hardly anything except a severed stuffed animal horsehead on his dick, you can’t be jealous when other women take pictures with him.

Lastly, there’s always a silver lining if you’re not too angry to see it.

 

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Creating a Clean Spot

After two months of unemployment and slowly drained savings, I checked an online jobs listing morning, noon and night. I’d checked more often than that some days until I found a halfway decent job to apply to every day for a week. Part-time, full-time, telecommute, entry level, writing, editing, teaching, tutoring.

Welcome to the gig economy.

The next week, I had four interviews. I was nearly dizzy, keeping up with who wanted what. And still I applied to more jobs just in case. After getting two part-time jobs, both telecommuting, I threw myself into two intense trainings. One I had to drive 40 minutes out of my way and cram procedures into my brain, the other I had to watch online videos and refresh my basics on English, reading, math and science.

Then I had to do some real heavy lifting—as in rearranging my bedroom furniture. None of that feng shui shit. My desk had to be closer to the Internet outlet, which meant moving my bed. The surprising amount of dust I vacuumed from under the bed was actually less than the dust I wiped down from the surface of the desk. That was the easy part. Organizing the desk was the real battle.

One thing I discovered was, for the rest of my life, I never needed to buy another box of staples. I uncovered so many boxes of staples, I embraced the idea of creating art with them. I will certainly never need that many to actually staple anything. I cannot even remember the last time I’ve stapled anything.

Setting up that desk to function as a desk rather than a convenient flat surface to pile shit on top of and breed dust bunnies, created a clean spot, or should I say, an uncluttered zone. Suddenly, I wanted to be free of all the clutter, starting with the dead spots in my bedroom. And I was serious. After moving and vacuuming under my bed, it remained clutter free to facilitate weekly vacuuming and prevent the growing of dust bunnies.

I employed large trash bags to recycle stuff I thought I needed to save at the time, but over time, had grown obsolete. Then, I used my second favorite piece of office equipment besides my laptop, the paper shredder. It’s not enough to close long past chapters of my life, but to turn them into paper pasta and toss into a recycling bag enhances the sense of closure. Even the sound of shredding my past brought a smile to my face. Let the heavens ring with disrupting sounds of cleansing!

The top of my dresser was next. What had taken years to clutter up, took mere minutes to repurpose into a clean surface where I neatly stacked the reading material that I’ll eventually work into my active stack of reading material on my nightstand.

Next, my attention turned to two file boxes, one plastic and the other fireproof. Before I could even open the plastic one, I had to first go through the foot-high stack of loose papers on top of it. Things that I’d convinced myself I’d one day file, found their eventual demise in my shredder. Life had passed them by while they languished, waiting to be filed. Another week would past until I mustered up the energy on a Sunday afternoon to go through both file boxes.

I set my laptop on my bed, continued playing the Netflix movie I’d began, pulled up a chair and cleaned up my files. The ol’ school way. Starting with the fireproof box, I shredded things that no longer pertained to my life. The running theme was most of those papers no longer reflected my life and didn’t have to be kept.

Tackling the contents of the plastic file box, I found yet another box of staples! And a real treasure, a red Sharpie. And it still worked, unlike the bottle of white out. Two tall kitchen bags of recycling later, my files were purged. I’m not sure if the energy now flows better in m bedroom, but my mind’s no longer preoccupied with the existence of that clutter.

 

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Invitations

He’s the kind of guy you never kiss in public. Not because you’re ashamed to be seen with him, but if you close your eyes while kissing him, and you surely will, just look at those luscious lips, you’ll open your eyes and discover you’re naked. In public. Wondering how you got there.

He’s a skilled lover. Like the best tango dancers. They don’t lead women to dance. They invite women to take a step to the rhythm, either the beats, the spaces between the beats or the words.

It all starts with an inviting kiss, but not on her lips, not just yet. He’ll make like he’s greeting her as usual with a ceremonial kiss to the cheek, but at the last quick second, dip his head to kiss just below and perhaps slightly behind her ear. Or even lower on her neck. And he waits, lips at the ready, calm inviting smile. If she accepts the invitation, he’ll kiss her again.

He’ll invite her skin to his caresses. He’ll invite her to remove her clothes. He’ll invite her nipples into his mouth. He’ll invite her to receive him. And invitation after invitation after invitation. Then he’ll say, “You’re welcome.”

Providing, if she accepts the first invitation, which of course she won’t. Call it self-castigation or abnegation or one of those words that don’t quite convey that she’s not really trying to punish herself or deny herself pleasure, but is it too much to ask to do things behind closed doors?

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The Making of Dorothy Shoes

1 stacked shoesFor my latest costume endeavor, I set out to make Dorothy shoes after quickly discovering that most prefabricated glittery shoes were either gold or silver. I hit up a couple of thrift stores first. For some silly reason, I thought I needed to start off with a red pair of shoes, but in reality, they could have been any color since I’d planned to completely cover them in glitter.2 water stained shoeThanks to the six metal pins in my left ankle that foot is slightly bigger than the other; so I had to humanely stretch the left shoe with something other than my foot.  Of all the methods I’d read about, I liked the “plastic bag of water, placed in the shoe, then in the freezer” method the best. Not only does water expand, but it also molds itself into the proper shape. Apparently, my downfall was once I’d taken it out of the freezer, I’d let the water melt too much, staining the shoe. Not really a problem in the long run since glitter would cover it.
3 taped shoesPainter’s tape covered the bottom and heels of the shoes since those parts didn’t need to be glued and glittered.4 bling supplies I’d set everything out on the balcony before I began. Unlike every other video I’d watched, I sprayed on adhesive rather than painting on a thick glue. The plastic bowl captured most of the fallen glitter and the spoon helped re-sprinkle the shoes. 5 stuffed shoesAlmost too late, I remembered to stuff the shoes with newspaper. Although not a perfect solution, stuffed shoes helped minimize the amount of loose glitter entering the shoe.6 glittered shoes By the time I finished glueing, glittering and shellacking those shoes, my flip-flops were glued onto my feet! Another good reason NOT to use spray adhesive. At least the glitter stuck to the shoes with glossy acrylic finish to hold it in place.7 extra blingA bag of these little gems were on sale. I never understood what drives a sale at a crafts store, but I’m not complaining about saving money. I hot glued them on for some additional flair.
8 finished shoesThey looked so beautiful, I feared they’d hurt my feet. That’s the women’s fashion industry at play. Anything that’s sexy for women has to hurt or cause discomfort. Yet, the only challenge to wearing those Dorothy shoes was tracking loose glitter everywhere.
9 Dorothy shoe Once I had them on, I was free to follow the yellow brick road!

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A Tale of Two Lovers

He fell in love with a look

Not a woman

She brought to life

The fantasy he’d carried

Around in his head

Except she didn’t

Not in reality

 

He was in love with her

For a season

Until she broke

The illusion

Changed her look

Up until that point

He’d cheerfully disregarded

Anything in her behavior

Which didn’t match

His fantasy

But the visual matched

 

She had the audacity

To be dynamic

In tune with the environment

Not in the sense

Of being irrationally reactive

But analytically calculating

Like one who’s used to

Being on the right side of

Natural selection

 

Had she known

His love for her

Was so visually-based

She would have

Radically changed her looks

In the beginning

Spared them both

The slow metamorphosis

Of aligning themselves

To one another

All the while making sure

They’d both survive

The great what-shit-comes-next

 

Had he known how high

The quality of his life

Depended on her hidden strength

He wouldn’t have begun

The protracted conflict

To divide them

Actually, no

That’s not

What he tried to do

From his perspective

It was she who changed

Started all this confusion

 

People evolve

For different reasons

As much as he wanted her

To remain his fantasy

She was never

Just that

They’d met at one stage

In her metamorphosis

That appealed to him

Then she grew

Like she always did

 

And then they were heartbroken

He made the heroic effort

To save her from herself

She accused him of trying

To keep her in her place

Reaching into

His minute box

Of all things “woman”

Pulling out yet another

Misapplied label to define her

 

She made the heroic effort

To save him

Tried to stop him

From destroying them

He conservatively held on

To that which

No longer existed

She tried to bring

Him along her journey

He refused to move

 

At what point

Do you concede your investment

Of time, energy and fantasy

How much reality

Has to sink in

What is the sign

Do you wait for someone

To treat you worse than

You’d treat yourself

Whose stubbornness

Finally wins out

 

You wake up one morning

And remember you used

To be happy

Together

It is the greatest con

Of fairy tales

Living happily ever after

 

 

 

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Dog Saliva

When it comes to dating, I’m often accused of being too picky. Not true. At my age, I can just tell after one or two dates that a guy isn’t worth pursuing. I know I’m not going to radically change anyone even though every potential guy is a fixer upper. My usual deal breakers are men who are either too boring or too controlling. God help him if he’s both.

So, the latest Mr. Right was handsome enough, in shape enough, intelligent enough, charismatic enough, witty enough…OK enough already. What was the stopper with this guy?

Dog saliva.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a dog person too, but I agree with that one movie that says it’s OK to love your pet, just don’t LOVE your pet. Granted, I’ve only had pet peeves since my childhood dog died when I was a young adult. Even so, I never let Sandy lick me all over my face. I wasn’t even the borderline germaphobe I am today. I just can’t imagine having my face covered with dog saliva.

A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth, so they say. “They” being men because I’ve only heard guys reciting that myth. And yes, it is a myth. A dog’s mouth teems with bacteria just like a human’s mouth does, but humans have a different mix of bacteria, some of which cause cavities. So, some guys think because dogs don’t have the tooth-decay-causing bacteria, they can dismiss all the other bacterial strains found in dog saliva.

But I didn’t want to just give up on this guy, especially when there was an easy solution. Wet wipes! Whenever we get together, I’d just whip out a wet wipe, clean an area, by which I mean from one ear across his cheek, mouth, swipe down his neck, up the other cheek to the other ear in one clean sweep. And then I’d kiss him. I’m all about compromise. I know I’m not going to come between a Southern man and his dogs. And truth be told, I really liked his dogs. I just don’t need to ingest their dog saliva.

And wouldn’t you know it, just as soon as I started carrying a pack of wet wipes in my purse, I haven’t gone out with him again. (It feels like the same phenomenon of when I carry an umbrella and it doesn’t rain.) I think he concluded I wasn’t attracted to him at the end of our second date when I gave him a hug instead of a kiss, but I didn’t have any wet wipes at the time.

Now you have to understand, not only did he bring his dogs along, but I witnessed one of them enthusiastically licking the back of his bald head as he drove while telling me how, when he’s lying on the sofa, she’ll lick his entire face until she’s exhausted. He was so delighted by that story while I secretly thought, “Don’t you want a female of your own species to do that?” Then I thought, “Eww, the other times when I kissed you, your face had probably been covered with dried dog saliva.”

Look on the bright side, one of my girlfriends told me. He probably has a really good immune system. According to probiotic theory, everyone needs a good mix of bacteria in order to be healthy, especially for digestive needs. I feel I already get an eclectic mix of bacteria. After all, I go to bikram yoga four times a week where an orgiastic petri dish of bacteria helps keep my exposure to healthy bacteria in check. So, I honestly don’t think I’d get much probiotic benefit from an exposure to dog saliva.

The good things are, thanks to my hormones, I’ll keep dating and kissing men and thanks to my immune system, I’ll have defense against most bacteria. And now in addition to asking a guy about what he does for a living, whether he has kids and so on, I’m adding a question about pets just so there will be no kisses involving dog saliva.

 

 

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Kill Them with Kindness

When they yell and trample all over your feelings while explaining how sensitive they are, kill them with kindness.

When they invite you then uninvite you, kill them with kindness.

When they repeatedly ask you why you can’t be more like somebody else, kill them with kindness.

When they know they owe you money, but act like they don’t know you, kill them with kindness.

When they are so angry and can’t admit they’re wrong, kill them with kindness.

When they treat you like you’re stupid, kill them with kindness.

When they say your gender makes you less valuable, kill them with kindness.

When they treat you the way they want to be treated rather than the way you want to be treated, kill them with kindness.

Kill them with kindness with as much grace and forgiveness as you can because what you’re actually killing is the vengefulness, anger, and pettiness within yourself that will slowly turn you into one of them.

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And Then…

So the reason I’ve never done illegal drugs is I’d spent about 13 years on prescription phenobarbital since I’d had three mild seizures by the time I was 4. That was back in the 70s, when all patients were over-medicated. My parents emphasized to me how I could die if I mixed other drugs with my meds.

And then, I made a plan to celebrate my 100th birthday, buying a one-way ticket to Amsterdam or somewhere exotic-sounding to smoke opium in a small, outdoor café on a sunny day and sip green tea.

For now, I’ll just stick to alcohol. But I don’t use it as a drug to help me sleep or to ease my stress. I use daily moderate to strenuous exercise for that. Plus, there are serious consequences associated with alcohol if consumed excessively. My drunk uncles taught me that one.

Christmas Day 1992 was the first time I’d ever been drunk. I was fresh out of college and a Peace Corps Volunteer and homesick and that changed my world…and my hair…and my need to voraciously write everything down.

And then, I discovered food could be used as a drug. Shoveling it down for the temporary feeling of fullness euphoria, which had nothing to do with actual hunger.

And then I returned to the States, bigger than I’d ever been at 158 lbs—yes, I still remember that number—which wasn’t all that big, but for people who had known me before, I looked “stout” as one cousin gently informed me.

And then someone asked me if I was pregnant.

And then, I learned that people had the preconceived notion of life in an African country being one famine and war after another. Why, they marveled at how I could gain weight in “Africa” the first place.

And then, I learned how to swim. Enrolled in a couple of classes at the Y, started swimming four miles a week and stopped engorging myself. I noticed how leisurely one of my sisters, who I lived with at the time, chewed and savored her food.

And then, after having three jobs in six months, I applied for another job. This time to teach ESL in Seoul, South Korea. Another country, another adventure, another learning curve.

I’d read about the xenophobia of Korean culture, but had to laugh out loud when two white guys told my Black roommate and I about how racist Koreans were. My roommate and I bonded in that ironic moment. Imagine, two white guys telling two Black women from the South about racism. I’m sure they meant well. Bless their hearts.

And then in the process of adjusting to yet another new culture, I recreated myself once again. I went from avid swimmer to dedicated hapkido student and beginning rock climber. Even fell madly in love with a Cuban American, who of course was a Gemini, and apparently a drug dealer. Didn’t see that last bit coming.

And then again, I had this biased idea of drug dealers being urban kids who’d dropped out of school and were hanging out on street corners in poor neighborhoods. Not some charismatic, college-educated, ESL tutor who even corrected my grammar, loved to salsa, enjoyed theatre and recited poetry.

And then, the relationship declined from there. I was not exactly sure how stiff the penalty was for possession of illegal drugs in South Korea, but let’s face it, with my hairstyle, people already expected me to do illegal drugs.

And then, I remembered some of Mom’s advice, even half way around the world: you don’t have to be with man even though you love him.

Of course, she’d never said that directly to me, just in general, as a conclusion to a story about someone else’s doomed love life, but I was paying attention. If nothing else, Mom’s a riveting storyteller.

And then, I moved to Denver, CO to officially become a teacher after three years of not being licensed. The Mile-High City with its thin air had me sleeping about ten hours a night just to stockpile enough oxygen for the next day.

And then, I stopped training martial arts and picked up swimming again and added hiking since fourteeners surrounded me. I also took bellydancing and West African dance classes.

And then I started taking guitar lessons for some crazy reason I can’t remember why. All I remember is how tone death I was, never hearing that my guitar was out of tune, but the best moment for me was the first two weeks when I could feel my brain being rewired since my non-dominant left hand was being trained to do something technical. Up until that point, the only technical thing my left hand could do was type.

And then we all prepared ourselves for the technological wrath of the millennium bug. I even spent the night at a friend’s house just so I wouldn’t be by myself at midnight, January 1st, 2000. The only glitch we discovered was the battery-operated clock had stopped working.

And then the real calamity came later that same year when Al Gore lost the presidential election even though he had more votes. Chalk that up to political math. I scrambled to get an overseas teaching job.

And then I moved to Egypt, where I felt my personality shrink although I never veiled. The only country, so far, where I’ve ever been groped. Promised myself to never live in another country where the local men couldn’t freely fornicate with their own women since that made me too much of a target. Yet, I enjoyed teaching math, traveling around to see the pyramids and temples, and my usual joy, eating the local food.

And then I moved to Mexico, which was the perfect cure! Compared to the attention I’d received in Egypt, I actually felt normal, walking around Monterrey since Mexican men openly frolicked with Mexican women. Ah, what a relief! The person I became, outside of being a math and science teacher, was a drummer and a capoeirista—not that I excelled at either one of those things, but the stress relief was fantastic!

And then I moved to Honduras. That was truly a country where my mother-infused paranoia worked for me as a survival skill. I upped the ante on my paranoia: tinting the windows of my car, fast walking from my car to buildings and vice versa, rinsing produce in bleach water.

Let me explain that last one. Back in late 2003 in the US, bags of prewashed spinach were implicated in an E. coli outbreak. A few days later, bags of prewashed spinach inundated Honduran grocery stores.

And then Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States in 2008, effectively ending my 8-year self-imposed exile.

And then I moved to the center of the creative universe in 2009 and have been living happily ever after in Austin, TX.

 

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Night Hike @ Lady Bird Lake

1 Stevie Ray Vaughn statueWe met at the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue along Lady Bird Lake to take a night hike around 8:30. This was late enough for the heat to subside, but there was still sunlight. 2 batsAs we walked eastward along the trail, I heard the sound of a crowd of people, smelled a familiar stench then came upon the famous South Congress bridge where somewhere upwards of 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats were heading out for their nightly feeding.3 bats Of course my camera phone wasn’t fast enough to capture the bats. We dwelled at this spot for about 15 minutes before continuing on.4 nightlineHere was another beautiful sight: Austin at night behind Lady Bird Lake. A view so gorgeous even my camera phone captured a lot of it.
5 star & planet app Once again, showing the limitations of aforementioned camera phone, I snapped a picture of a guy pointing his phone to the heavens to identify stars and planets, thanks to an app.

6 Joe's Crab ShackFrom this view, Joe’s Crab Shack actually looks inviting–not some place that’ll give you five different fried things on a plate with no vegetables!

We concluded our hike around 10:30. Three of us went to Whataburger, which turned out to be Whatabadidea! The service was exceptionally slow for a FAST food joint and the average customer at that time of night was 20-something and inebriated. I swore digesting that poor-quality food made me feverish around 3 AM.  Some older yogi friends assured me it was a hot flash.  (Yeah, a hot flash triggered by barely edible poison! But at my age, hot flashes are on the not-so-distant horizon.)

Nonetheless, that little excursion satisfied both my needs for a hike for a while and for fast food for the rest of my life!

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