Grown Ups

The saying goes, “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it,” and it applies to more than just material possessions.

How is this concerned with the way that we are treated by society? We ask everyday to be treated as an adult, so when our parents, the community, our teachers, and our siblings decide to grant us our request, we must not be disappointed when we receive it in its entirety.

When I say that we ask for adulthood, I am referring to our lifelong struggle to be given privileges of independence.

As toddlers, the notion of getting to use the “big girl” and “big boy” cups, you know, the ones without lids, was an enticing concept. We learned that we had to clean up the messes that we spilled. We longed to be able to sit at the adult table at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and felt mighty when we no longer had to use a car seat.

Elementary school was filled with pleas to stay up “just a little longer”, and when we were allowed to stay awake until dad got home, we were sleepy victors.

In middle school our need to be older intensified, and we found ourselves wanting the responsibility of having a cellphone, but not the consequences of going over data, a monthly bill, or a bad decision that could never be retracted. We wanted makeup. We did not want to pay for makeup. The desire to go to the mall with some friends without Mom waiting at the food court was rampant, and we were finally entrusted with the independence to make good decisions monetarily and socially.

Then we got to high school, and we wanted that license. We were given this token of adulthood under the assumption that we would drive our siblings to practice, pay for gas, and make decisions that valued the lives of others and ourselves on the road. We wanted facial hair, like real men. We wanted to go on dates and to have a later curfew, but we didn’t want to face the report card that reflected nights with no room for homework.

We now, after almost two decades of asking to be older, are being regarded as adults. We cannot have partial adulthood. Mom and Dad cannot choose to skip work, abandon their duty as mother and father, or spend their money carelessly because they dislike certain aspects of what characterize the meaning of being grown up. We may not fall in love with everything inherent in adulthood, but we cannot have the cars, the privileges, or the respect without the responsibilities as well.

Adulthood is where we have arrived. When we responsibly accept it in its entirety and embrace the independence that it offers, that is when we have truly become “grown up.”

#KeepingitClassy

“Here! Take a photo of me slowly biting into a strawberry while sitting barefoot on a swing after I paint this glitter onto my lips so that I can post it to Instagram with some Lana del Rey lyrics!”

I respect the artistic intent, however this type of mindset among young social media users that we must manufacture a beautiful, dramatic, and sexually appealing moment all for the sake of a photograph and an acceptable amount of likes, is one that I feel does not accurately represent and respect our existence as human beings. This behavior simply fails to acknowledge who we actually are in our everyday lives.

Why are there hundreds of thousands of pictures hash-tagged “#provocative” for no other purpose than the simple viewing pleasure of the entire world? These people, whether clothed in bikinis, lingerie, a revealing outfit, or even just posed suggestively, are consistently undermining their value and worth as individuals by presenting themselves as eye candy rather than people with aspirations and intellectual capacity who deserve to be respected. And it is all in the name of something called “likes”. We are sacrificing our individuality and unique qualities for popular approval.

My question is, will pushing your chest out three inches to get ten extra likes make you feel more complete than the pride of knowing that you have preserved your respect for yourself? There is not a required pose for selfies, no one way to make a selfie “successful” after it is uploaded, but rather an infinite number of possibilities available to share yourself, in all of your beauty and dignity, with the world that does not involve objectification.

In addition to the self-depreciation that arises from the sexualized photographs, we are also undermining our existence by pretending to have special moments for the sole purpose of taking a picture. The opposite is what originally took place. People used to take pictures because something special, interesting, or admirable happened. Now people make moments because they want to take pictures. The occasional artful picture is always fun to see, but then I think about how our children, when we come to that point in our lives, would think of us if they only had these fake moments preserved forever electronically to understand how we once were and where we came from. The answer? They would see someone else entirely.

While speaking on this subject of the discrepancies between our internet and real life personalities, columnist Mark Byrne, while referring to himself, states “I can tell you who Instagram Mark is. Instagram Mark is a man who lives on espresso and aged Manchego and spends more time with his feet dangling into pools than he does working. (Does he even have a job?) He’s never eaten fast food, and his apartment is always crowded with friends. Truth be told, Instagram Mark is kind of an overcompensating jerk.” Hardly reality, and hardly what you want to be remembered as.

When all is said and done, we are each the sole determinant of how we come across to others. Regardless of if we choose to portray ourselves with another identity, as promiscuous, down to earth, fake, real, sexualized, or beautiful, we must realize that this is how people will begin to view us and be prepared to be treated as such. Likes do not determine our self-worth, but rather our devotion to remaining genuine and respectful to ourselves. Share what you’re proud of, but with an approach in the name of self-respect and class, because what is classier than #you?

You See: Where I’m From

You may befriend the scarlet fox

whose steps fall silent on a freshly white meadow

But I shake hands with a balmy palm

Whose milk tastes sweet and cool inside that burlap shell

You are born with a strong beat

in both hand and heart

And mine too beats with zeal

but my fingers and lips play a softer melody, soothe like a violin bow

You confront life with volume

like your father, and his mother, and her grandmother

I cross my legs and take in what has now gone from a sticky bowl to a flaky pan

as a proper woman would, and I do, but only when I feel like it

You think and think and think some more,

after all, that’s what the greats were made of

And I do too

but with far less question marks

You come from a world between the cactus and frosty mountain

where the snow pants save or suffocate

But I, I am only from ice

and my, what boldness it taught me

You are from, “it is your choice”

from an internal war won with the might of heart and a little bit of Strattera

I have never known such things before I met you

I suppose he gave them to you too

Before you were free from inside of me

we met and married you with glee

Because I am you, and you are we

            you see, that is what my mother said to me.

 

For those of you who aren’t me (obviously everyone), I’m not sure if you’ll get this. The poem is where I’m from, so a lot of it has subtle nuances that only myself or people very close to me will understand, I suppose. But it was still a great joy to write. If you happen to care enough to want to know what the italics and little things mean, I also suppose I can tell you that, because I really would absolutely love for people to read it and go, “Wow! I get that!” So here goes.

            I figure that just as much as I from physical and mental experiences, I am also equally and literally “from” my mother, so the second half of each stanza is actually describing her, in all her loveliness, while the first half is me.  I placed the pronouns for my mother and father in a normal font, while the ones for me are italicized, partly to help whoever is reading, but honestly it’s just as much for me to get my bearings as well. When, at the very end, I say, “that’s what my mother said to me it’s my little way of saying that every time I have said “you” like it is someone else, it’s actually her talking to me, and then comparing how we are different from one another. Really, the whole poem is my mother speaking to me, explaining what I’ve done myself, what she’s done, and how both my own idiosyncrasies as well as hers have combined to make the me that I am.

            I promise I haven’t married my mother, I promise. That “we” and “you” aren’t italicized because they’re my parents and my dad, who I am also from and share a great many similarities with (such as ADHD,,,hence the Strattera).

            Mom hates the cold. I love it, and the beach too. I’m a drummer, she plays the violin. I never shut up, she is usually the calm, composed one with a few random bursts here and there. But it’s all in me. Her, me, my dad…all there. I’m made of complexity, like we all are, so I feel like making this poem simple and to the point would undermine the true wonder of how diverse and complex the process of becoming who we all are really is.

            If you want to, go back and try it again, and I hope you understand. It would make me so happy to know that, because it’s a tribute to mom and my dad, but also their parents and grandparents and everyone else who comes from somewhere.

So here’s to you, for being you.

The Happy List

I felt that on this fine glittery afternoon, in celebration of my newly granted freedom from studies, I should commemorate my own, as well as many others’, first day of true summer with a list of some of the things that make me happiest in this world. Now, below you will not find an eloquently composed piece of literature or content of any real cerebral value, but that is not the point. It is simply a happy list. Today is a day for celebration, appreciation, and hope for a wonderful season of fun that has just now arrived, so with that said, enjoy the favorite list and happy summer to each of you!

Popsicles, real music, rainbow things, watching a person crank their neck to drink out of the refrigerator’s water dispenser, the ocean, monkey bars, the sharp crayon, animals that don’t bite, waisty skirts, pinky promises, clouds that look like stuff, sailing, wind, garagesailing, snow, the cute shirt you thought was 25.95 but it’s actually three bucks when you walk up to the register, playing instruments that aren’t there, playing real instruments, when the blinker in the car in front of you is in tempo with your music, lit up trees, neon, ice cream, funny people, the grass you can walk in and know nothing will bite you, exploding fake cheese cans, when you finally get where you’re going, storms, wind chimes, family, soul sisters, great books that make you forget what day it is, fans, when you find something you thought you lost, finding out they like you too, remembering the funny thing your friend said 3 and a half weeks ago and laughing out loud in the middle of an exam, your treasure box, trying on a thousand dresses, ordering diet water, stealing your dads last bite of cake, realizing you won, knocking the candy out of the piñata, typing the period at the end of your 30 page thesis paper, water so hot it feels cold, hotel room smell, French silk pie, old fashion candy stores, sand in between your toes, sunsets, metal detectors, finding treasures, hermit crabs, pillow fights, auctions, contests, that spinny thing on the playground that everyone loves but no one knows what it’s called, loopy roller coasters, unlimited refills, singing, running at the flock of birds, realizing that the frog you just caught peed on your hand, your leg tickling because you were sitting funny, when your tummy stops hurting, cheese, pop out stickers, finger families, considerate hair, remembering when you realized that it was your grandma screaming your name across the Walmart, putting on that dress and everyone stares and you KNOW you  look amazing, prune hands that have been in the water too long, ice cream, Duvall street, unfathomably talented people, singing  into your hairbrush, snowflakes on your  tongue, trying to eat the blow-dryer air, glow in the dark things (especially fish) , waking up and freaking out that it’s Monday when it’s Saturday, pajamas, happy tears, remembering how your brother shut up and you could actually hear yourself think,when your teacher chucks her pick axe at you, when you drive by the hummer that ran out of gas on the side of the road, sparkly things, waves, band, when you can’t quite figure out what color their eyes are, the backspace button, right before you fall asleep, funny bumper stickers, when justice is served, milk, flipbooks, when your expecting to taste water and you take a sip only to freak out because it was lemonade, happy people, unicycles, watching your dad fall out of the canoe, slushies, being the leader, the little happy dance people do, the personal bubble, summer nights, nutella, real friends, shopping, making fun of cheesy movies, loosing all of your willpower and yanking open the oven to eat the half baked brownies with a spoon, the dream where you fly, closets you could probably play basketball in, finger-painting, sleeping, pickles, smencils, the flea market, thinking you’re going to die by meteor and then realizing it’s just a floating lantern, taking pictures, enchantment, chicken toys, the rainbow channel on TVs, trying on 30 inch heels, parasailing, having a plan, taking pictures of pictures, remembering what you forgot, when the car next to you is playing the same song, randomly  seeing your friend at the grocery store, racing each other with the midget shopping carts at Randall’s, when you’re taller then your momma, landing in a plane, sleepover camp, babies, watching mustard blow up in peoples faces, selling stuff you made, waving strangers and watching their reaction, getting  splinters in your nose because your face was pressed up against a wooden door, friends, getting a whistle, watching their face when they open the present, making it happen, saving a life, knowing that you have in fact jumped off a bridge and therefore can say that if somebody told you to jump off a bridge you would do it, writing on your hand so you remember, accidentally sleeping on your written on hand so u have squiggles on your face in the morning, Jello, naming the blister on your thumb,  when the stereo always crackles right before you get a text message, POURING rain, being unexplainably happy, frappes, people who get it, the person you can be with and never have an awkward moment, sushi, what’s for dinner?, colored eye liner, seeing someone who looks exactly like you, making playhouses out of cardboard boxes, peanut butter and pickle sandwiches,  drum line, perhaps means yes, kitties,  really old nail polish on your toes, sweet potatoes, breathtaking wind, smoothies.

What are your favorite things? 🙂

Wonderful!

It’s always a fun day over in my corner (but it just becomes especially wonderful on the days that people show me that they appreciate what I write, like today!). Many thanks to theseeker for sharing not only these awards (Shine On Award and Because You’re Fantabulous Award)with me, but also her marvelous words. If you want to know a secret, I  just figured out how to make words turn blue so they can act as links and I am incredibly proud that I can more easily share awards with others now (I know, my technological competence is astounding right?), so for all of you who take time out of your day to read my words, thank you so much. You are my inspiration! Please take these awards if you like, because you sure deserve them!

As the awards say, Shine On, because you are all Fantabulous! (Get it?) 🙂

1. Irene

2. Petrel41

3. adinparadise

4. maryamchahine

5. Seyi Sandra

6. ourlifeinaction

7. vandevebram

8. stuffitellmysister

9. Jess

10. angel313

The Memory Guard

 

            There are certain memories held tightly by each of us that induce such a strong nostalgic happiness and magic that we feel if they were ever allowed to fall through our fingers, so too would a beautiful piece of ourselves vanish from our lives. These memories are formed from actual experiences, ones that could not have come to exist in the beginning if we were not blessed with a free country in which we may prosper and savor life. One such memory of my own, which replays each time with as much sweetness as when I first experienced it, took place in a frosty winter in Pennsylvania.

My parents were taking me, my brother, and my sister to get ice cream. As we made our way down the mountainside, we rolled down the windows and the wind readily swept my hair in all directions with a 30 degree gale. I sat in the front seat, body cocooned in the warmth of a down feather blanket, head out of the window, and face to face with the frigid current. My eyes raced through the blackness of the night, up the towering pines that surrounded me, and jumped to the glowing moon. I was ready to take on the world as I was lost in the complete awe-inspiring majesty of night’s serenity and the icy chaos that enveloped me. My own, and everyone in this country’s ability to re-live our most cherished experiences is extended to us only as long as we also have the ability to live them for the first time. It is this privilege that we have, the privilege to experience a beautiful and free country of which we may later reminisce, that is guarded and protected by the men and women of the Armed Forces. For this service, we honor and remind those lost in the strides for freedom that they are not forgotten or taken for granted, but appreciated and respected on Memorial Day.

            For many of those who enter the Armed Forces, their personal enjoyment and making of cheerful memories is selflessly forfeited so that they may preserve the joy of the many. They willingly lay down their lives for the cause of providing us with privileges that the people of so many countries find unfathomable. Their commitments often wreak havoc in their lives during their absence, and with those blessed with the occasion of a safe homecoming whom we honor each Veterans Day, upon their return as well. Marriages are strained, childhoods are missed, homesickness runs rampant, injury is likely, and depression is common.

 Does not this exceptional level of loyalty and sacrifice on our behalf deserve exceptional recognition? In a world where we take far too much for granted, Memorial Day is one where we must pour out our sincerest thanks and respect as a token of our appreciation for what they have given up. As Veterans Day reminds the recently returned soldier struggling with PTSD that his pain and altruism were not and are not in vain, and proves to those who proudly adorn their silver hair with their military cap that we as a nation still understand the importance of what they fought so valiantly for, Memorial Day reminds the American people of something equally as important. It reminds us of those who fought so that little girls could wrap their tiny bodies in a warm blanket, and so we can have the occasional leisurely ice cream trip, and so we can all experience the exhilaration of knowing that the country we live in is a free one.

The men and women of the military, past and present, have given and continue to give us the liberty to take on the world, as I felt that I could on that November night, through their allegiance and sacrifice. They allow us to partake in the magnificent experiences held by a free nation, those which we may later re-live as sweet memories. They are our Memory Guard, and for that, we honor them this Memorial Day.

The Pirate Queen

 

                 She turned to my mother, “I’ve never had one morsel of red meat my entire life.” Almost in a giggle she added, “look where that got me.”

            The anti-social, impulsive child that I was, I laughed, a little too loudly, along with the rest of the adults in the parking lot that sat adjacent to the schoolyard and church where the rest of the little ones created a cacophony of gleeful screams. “That’s mine-s!” and “Tag! You’re it-s!” all harshly brewed together to produce the discordant song of a Sunday afternoon.

            I made a mental note to ask mommy why that was so funny later.

            To me, Mary Cerami was beautiful, in some aged and peculiar way, funny more often than not, and tall. So tall…well at least from my five year old perspective. She looked like a queen with an eye patch. What I didn’t and couldn’t understand for many years was that her lovely face was kissed with those wrinkles not by the gentle lips of time, but by something that surpassed description with even a word such as vile, or monstrous, or deranged. The word cursed with the task of describing this sadistic disease that was slowly annihilating this woman from within herself hid somewhere in the depths of a cave of language, where no tongue had yet had the satisfaction of reaching and pronouncing its acidic syllables. It crouched in an infinite chamber that had no lights, impossible to find. No pen that had yearned to discover its hiding place had yet succeeded. All had slouched in defeat, using a word that would not torture the ears when heard or blister the eyes when read. Malicious or morbid would suffice, but still it could be felt, lurking there, just out of reach.

            Perhaps she was well acquainted with this word. They may have had quite an intimate relationship. If they did, if it did haunt her relentlessly, she made no indication of it visibly. She did not plague her permanent stadium of cheering fans with her obvious discomforts and undoubtedly horrifying thoughts. She marched forward with love and God in her heart with her husband’s hand in hers, and the support of hundreds held tightly in the other. She smiled, she made jokes, she laughed at these jokes, and she prayed to the Lord who had blessed with the life that she had been given.

            That Sunday afternoon changed my life. While everyone was busy talking about “adult-y” things as I saw it (the reason I had promised myself that I would never be an grownup, as they were painfully boring), my little fingers slowly weaved their way through the ugly skirts, khaki, and pantyhose that so often choke the pews, and gave the slightest tug on Mary’s skirt. She felt the pressure and immediately looked down. Being quite the opposite of shy once I got myself going, I peered right into her face and demanded to know why she wore an eye patch.

            “Well you see…It’s because I’m really a PIRATE!” She burst out and proceeded to tickle me until I was a pile of furious resignation on the floor.

            “NO! Why are you REALLY wearing the eye patch??” I persisted, emphasizing the “really” as if I was the smartest human being on Earth for interpreting the fact she wasn’t telling the truth.

            She smiled and ignored my parents’ horrified expressions and went on to explain in that adult voice that I love to be addressed in. There was nothing that I hated more than to be spoken to as if I were an infant. Googaa talk…after all, I was five years old. It was at this time that I first realized that I really enjoyed this woman, and that we should be friends. I also instantaneously became aware of the fact that she was very sick and that the eye patch helped her headaches to be ones of less severity. A get well card was clearly the solution to this cold that she had.

            With my plethora of friends (sarcasm), I managed to fit her in frequently for play dates. We had grand old times together with plenty of adventures, toe painting, and of course, we always sat together at the church service every Sunday. It had rocketed from my least favorite to the absolute best part of my week, all because of my first friend. I taught her how to hold hands and skip, because, understandably, Iwas the only one in the world who knew how to do it, but I would let my secret slide just this once. I had forgotten she was sick. After all, if you were sick, you were stuck in bed all the time, and your mom would come and give you lots of soup and Popsicles.

            As I spent more time with her, I learned countless things about how to treat people, when to talk, and when to keep my mouth shut. She talked to me about God, and how miraculous he is, and how to appreciate things, because when the grass that you always complained was itchy is gone, you always remember how thrilling it was to get the blades stuck in between your toes, and how soft it was. You didn’t remember that it hurt when you stepped on a pricker.

            With these fantastic new and improved “social skills” that I came to possess, I became engaged with kids my age and made some friends. In the midst of all of these novelty distractions, I became less and less aware of the fact that Mary could not come and play as often as she used to.

            Her disease was closing in on this amazing woman I had come to know and love. It was running wild inside of her, crashing and bruising and tearing her to pieces, like a bull trampling through a once delicately furnished living room. The cushions were slashed. They bled stuffing out into the fireplace which immediately ignited and roared upward in licking motions to the ceiling, the curtains their medium. Vases were shattered, and the shards could be found imbedded into the tattered walls which were once adorned with smiling family portraits. The idea of a flawless paint job once residing in the room now seemed like a preposterous idea. The sleeping family rested peacefully in a world of dream one floor up as the flames ascended the stairs.

            One of the last nights I saw her, we spent most of our time in the wonderfully decorated living room of hers, as she could not do much else. I was aware that she was sick, but, as most five year olds are, still ignorant to the severity of her situation. I turned to her and asked one of those questions that you regret for the rest of your life.

            “When are you going to die?” I inquired, completely heedless of the fact that my question probably burned like fire in her ears.

            “The doctors said that I have a hopeful two years,” was her answer. It was delivered through smiling lips.

            I disregarded the answer as alarming and gave a nonchalant, “OK,” not understanding that to everyone over the age of eight, two years are gone before you can remember what you had for lunch.

            We had a wonderful time the remainder of the evening, although I’m sure my question haunted her conscience long after I departed that night. I did not leave, of course, without a very large hug…

            The following morning, I awoke to a crinkle in my ears and squealed with delight at the sight of a present on my pillow. It was the candy bead set that I had so fervently spoken of with Mary on a number of occasions. It was accompanied with a small card that told me how much I meant to her and that she was so glad we were friends. She told me to be brave and that she loved me. It was Sunday, so, for obvious reasons I was ecstatic about thanking her for my wonderful present.

            I ran to Sunday school, as if the sooner I arrived, the sooner I would get to leave. When the “a” of “Amen” was made audible in the prayer, I was only a figment of the classroom’s imagination. Perhaps they had placed one too many prayer mats on the floor that day.

            I plopped down outside the chapel door as their last notes of song were ending, and anticipated Mary’s exit with an almost unhealthy excitement.

            She never came.

            I waited every Sunday, but she never came. Mom wouldn’t be fair. She would pick me up and make me go out to the car. Once, she had to drag me. The thought never came to my mind to ask where she was, until I was lying in bed with my mother one night. Night time and stars always made me think of death and Heaven, and its permanence would either terrify me so much that I was rendered unable to speak, or lull me to sleep with the thoughts of angels and their singing.

            I turned to my momma, half buried in a cocoon I had built in an attempt to hide myself from what I was now beginning to realize.

            “Mommy, is Mrs. Cerami…?” My eyes flitted to the stars.

            “Yes hon, I’m so sorry,” was all she said, and I crawled right up into her arms and cried for my friend. I cried for the sweetest, bravest, best friend I could ever have wished for.

            I believe that people who are real heroes do not call themselves the latter. My ears hear the word hero, and my mind hears Mary…Mary…Mary, over and over again. I will never forget that smile she wore until the end, and my, she wore it well. Fighting through horrendous headaches and nightmarish treatments, she never spoke of her pain; she only went faithfully on to be the most incredible example that a human being could be. Bravery may be an understatement. The correct word may not exist in any language, or it may hide in a chasm similar to in which the disease’s word lies; in a cave somewhere out of reach. I will continue to search for it, but for now I will call her a hero. I most certainly am not a hero, but if I ever am to become one, I will be able to tell, as I know exactly what one looks like. Every time I face a challenge, I think of her and accomplish it, because I know that she had a much larger task set before her than any one of my miniscule problems. Do I still find myself acting like a spoiled brat at times? Of course, but when I notice it, it sure disappears in a hurry. I don’t let others around me get away with it either, because there are so many terrific things in life to pour your energy into, none of which include griping. I used to cry for everything. After she touched my life, there is only one thing to this day that makes me cry. I am strong. I can handle anything that comes my way, and knowing this, I put myself out into the world for more opportunities to present themselves, and I take each head-on with a vibrancy of step.

            I am not afraid. The night does not scare me anymore.