Fearless

 

Recently, a stranger paid me one of my favorite compliments to date:

He told me I was fearless.

I was at the Buffalo Bill museum in town covering an art discussion for work. I had my notebook and photographer (my boyfriend, Raym) in hand. The older gentleman had ambled over to talk to Raym before the presentation. He’d then reached over to shake my hand and tell me he greatly enjoyed my columns for the newspaper.

I write a column on adventure, called This Wild Life, in which I generally do wild and crazy things that scare me. Not every time is it crazy, but I have written about going over my handlebars while mountain biking, flying in an aerobatic plane and taking a dip in the frigid waters of the Shoshone River on New Year’s Day.

At first, this person shaking my hand with no proper introduction (he hadn’t asked my name) and professing to like my writing thrilled me. I get compliments from time to time, mostly from women, though it means a great deal to me all the same.

But this was different. People who have paid me compliments in the past generally know me or I’ve interacted with them on some occasion. I had never seen this man. Somehow that already seemed greater, as he had no stake in reading what I wrote.

And then he made that fearless comment.

At first I was stupefied. Does this man know what he’s talking about? I am the most scared person that ever was.

Truly. Everything scares me.

I feel a weird lump on my head and become alarmed; I WebMD cancer. My boyfriend is late in getting home and I fear he’s gotten in a wreck. I write a story that deeply moves me and the New Yorker doesn’t call and I am afraid I’ll never make it.

And that’s just everyday nonsense. That isn’t even my “wild and crazy” adventures. I had a coworker recently joke about how much I profess a fear of dying in my columns. I don’t think I am a dark person per se…

Please reference my favorite movie here:

Harry: When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.
Sally: That doesn’t mean you’re deep or anything. I mean, yes, basically I’m a happy person…
Harry: So am I.
Sally: …and I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with that.
Harry: Of course not. You’re too busy being happy. Do you ever think about death?
Sally: Yes.
Harry: Sure you do. A fleeting thought that drifts in and out of the transom of your mind. I spend hours, I spend days…
Sally: – and you think this makes you a better person?
Harry: Look, when the shit comes down, I’m gonna be prepared and you’re not, that’s all I’m saying.
Sally: And in the meantime, you’re gonna ruin your whole life waiting for it.

While I feel a little like Sally in my happiness inclinations, I can relate to Harry’s need to prepare for the end. I suspect it’s moreso my dramatic flair rather than any real darkness, yet it is something I worry about incessantly.

It mostly stems from this deep seated fear about my life being cut short before I have accomplished it all. I almost have to believe in reincarnation because I know I can’t get it all in in this life alone and that’s with me really trying.

So the fact remains. Nearly every time I do any adventure I inevitably plan for my death just in case. I try to make peace with God, kiss my boyfriend, or not kiss him, because I am a believer in the jinx, and usually tell my mom what I am about to do. Like a chairlift evacuation on a ski hill.

A black cat crossed my path the day before I did this and I had to try really hard not to read into it. The amount of scenarios that ran through my mind on that mere adventure were nothing short of a doomsday prepper.

I was fine. It all went so smoothly as to be laughable.

Then later that night I ran into the stranger surmising that I must be a fearless person.

While I loved that a word like that could be used for me, one that so bespeaks of bravery, my mind couldn’t help but think this man had gotten the wrong impression. I am a huge scaredy baby.

But then later that night I asked myself the question I always ask myself when doing most things that scare me straight down to my underwear.

Why do it? Or better yet: Why constantly put myself in situations where I am afraid?

The answer, I realized is twofold.

If I do something that terrifies me and I don’t die (which has been every time to date), I call on that experience for the next time. I remind myself what it’s like to be truly terrified and how I conquered it.

It makes me feel stronger and somehow braver when I know myself to be the polar opposite of brave.

This works for adventures, all kinds. But it also works for when the everyday fears kick in. When I am not rappelling off mountainsides or sliding myself off a chairlift midair trusting someone has me down below, well it’s all a little more bearable.

I feel like I am living my life to the fullest. Or at least 3/4 of the way full as I sometimes am still miffed I have yet to run with the bulls in Pamplona or master croissants in Paris.

But I feel as though, slowly but surely I am getting there. One fear-filled day at a time.

Then when I do run with bulls, or learn to mush sled dogs, or birth a child, or ever get to have an all important book editor look at my work, I can remind myself:

Girl, you’re fuckin fearless.

At least, one time that stranger told me so.

 

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God Gave Me Her

“For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.”
Luke 2:10

This is one of my favorite Christmas phrases and while I love this time of year for the oozing thankfulness, goodwill toward men and my love, Jesus, the good tidings of great joy I am speaking of here, is when God gave me her.

But let’s start at the beginning.

The year was 2004 and I was entering college, the brisk tundra that is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I came to NMU pretty unsure of myself, yet at the same time pretty sure I needed to be the person I’d been too scared to be before: my true self.

While a part of me thought my natural coolness (I distinctly lack natural coolness, so I was doomed from the start) would just effervesce to the surface with minimal effort, turns out I was still just as uncool as I was in high school. But the difference was I had begun to accept the fact.

Fate has a way of intervening in these things and did so on Halloween night. Don’t misunderstand, fate could care less about my social stature, but it did have a hand in making sure I found my person, who would in fact always help honor the best in me.

I went to a church Halloween party in a local gym, where I did walk-abouts in my 70’s disco costume: an adult dance leotard with flared legs that I’d found thrifting. I put on a black afro of Diana Ross proportions and popped a handful of candy or Cool Ranch Doritos in my mouth every opportunity I got. I was back in my dorm and in my pajamas by 9 p.m. I purchased a package of brownies on the way home, because, obviously.

I popped in a VHS of, It’s a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and began to do my laundry. That is when I heard a ruckus in the dorm hall. I peeked out to see a group of girls—the cool girls—bedecked in their costumes, a tinker-bell, sexy cat, the like. While my night was winding down, theirs was only just beginning. They spotted me and yelled hellos.

The sexy cat was Ashley—sure I knew her. She lived in my hall, we were supposed to start a dorm newsletter which we had Pulitzer Prize winning hopes for and then never wrote a single article and most importantly she was funny—her infamous costume for years would be some sexified variation of a sweet woodland animal.

I gleaned that they were about to walk in the frigid Marquette air to a Halloween party. Being painfully maternal, I insisted on being their driver. They politely asked if I wanted to come along, but I had already had my fun and was comfortable being the designated driver.

I am not sure what did it. Why this group of terribly cool girls—they listened to The Smiths, had insatiable wit and knew everything wonderful about pop culture—would later want to be my friend because, in my mind I had already indicated what I was about. Staying in as a freshman to watch, It’s a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown on Halloween should have by all rights said it all.

It did say it all. These were my people, for they adored my maternal ways, my propensity to do deeply nerdy things, and after all was said and done I was just being myself.

They loved me anyway. Best of all Ashley loved me anyway.

It is appropriate that our love started on a holiday, sure not Christmas, but with that one holiday, we’ve celebrated everything together: Christmases, babies being born—all hers, because I am wild and free and can barely keep track of my coffee mug collection—marriage—again her—boys, boys and boys.

The most important thing I can say about my best is that while every celebration has mattered with her by my side championing me, she’s been there through the antithesis to celebration, which let’s be honest, happens a lot more in life.

Like all the times we didn’t celebrate boys. One would break her heart and I would see red, storm outside in my pajamas in ten inches of snow, vowing to slit the ol’ bastard’s tires, while Ash howled from a window for me to stop. One would break my heart and she’d get on a plane just to hold my hair and force feed me dinner because I refused to find solace in food—the only time I don’t enjoy eating.

We would diet together, power walking and eating gobs of low-fat string cheese and Luigi’s Italian Ice for dessert, but then when we gained 10-35 pounds back, we’d say ah fuck it, buy frozen pizzas and cuddle each other in bed watching rom coms.

Every time I have packed up my car and moved cross-country, felt uncertain, misunderstood or scared, the times when life is the farthest thing from a glossy celebration, but is instead the underbelly, the bowels, the deep bog of cow shit, she reminds me that she has my back.

To illustrate:
One night in our junior year of college while of course snuggling in my bed, we heard something ominous downstairs. We looked at each other and after a brief exchange decided to investigate.

I grabbed a heavy clay angel with a chipped wing that I always had on my nightstand. Ashley grabbed an enormous can of hair spray and down the stairs we crept, ready to bash in an intruder’s head with a clay angel while doubly ruining his eyesight with Big Sexy Hairspray.

Turns out it was nothing and we went back to snuggling.

But here’s the point. For all the times I have called her and cried, about, well nothing, she has had my back. When I have cried about colossal non-nothings, she’s been armed and ready to take on my battles, hairspray in hand. Except not really with hairspray, but you get the metaphor.

I wish I had time to tell you every story about her, but it would fill a novel and not a 1,000 word blog; she gave me a limit because she’s sort of bossy like that. I went over it anyway, because I am a real renegade.

At any rate. In my large list of thankfuls this holiday season, Ash makes the top of the list. For not deigning to touch on my un-coolness and befriending me one Halloween anyway, for having my back always, for the cuddles, the gut-wrenching laughter and the years of celebrations and un-celebrations alike.

Cheers, to you my dear. Always.

XO

-Cassandcastle

Christmas with Cassandcastle

 

christmas-with-cassandcastle-mrs-mommy-mack

Guest Blog by Mrs. Mommy Mack

Back before we were adults. Before she stood next to me on my wedding day. Before babies, live-in boyfriends and big girl jobs, there was us. We were our family. We lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the small college town of Marquette. The one holiday that Marquette outshines any other with its blizzards, arctic temps and icy Lake Superior views is Christmas.

Funny thing is, the only person’s birthday Cassandra likes to celebrate more than her own is Jesus’s birthday. I learned this 12 years ago when we met on campus. We were both journalism majors with no clue of the future. We knew we wanted to write. I knew I needed to be her friend. I loved her excitement, her laugh and the way she told a story.

Something you might have realized about Cassandra, she doesn’t give a flying shit what other people think about her. She was absolutely the only college student I knew who brought Christmas decorations to college. Not just lights to string around your dingy dorm. I’m talking ornaments, dishes, candles, the works. Every time after Halloween you entered her rattling Ford Taurus you could hear the faint jingle of Christmas music and her rosy cheeks beamed with excitement over her annual Christmas party. While other college students were at a kegger in someone’s smoke-filled basement, Cassandra was digging through her scrapbooking box for just the right stationary to send invites on.

No, we weren’t on campus for December 25th. In fact, in college you’re out for the holidays for an entire month. That never stopped Cassandra. As soon as December rolled around, she invited all our friends far and wide. She spent every last penny (probably more than her last penny, let’s be honest) on food, gifts and Christmas cheer. We invited our annual crushes and lost our minds in anticipation. We’d hang mistletoe in hopes for a rehearsed smooch. We’d be ready. She: planning every course, dessert and Secret Santa. Me: buying too much alcohol and eating most of the food before guests arrived.

The thing is, we were all very lucky to have her. She was the glue that held our hodge podge of a college family together. She was the mom of our group. Some of the guys even referred to her as Mama Cass. Even though she constantly despised the name and wanted to be revered as a hip, young college student. She was always our caregiver. For Pete’s sake, while I was honing my Chef Boyardee skills, she was crusting chicken breasts and three course meals for all our starving mouths. She was the one that kept us all together. While I forced shots down her throat, she made me homemade cookies from scratch and held my hair back when I inevitably puked up Christmas dinner. We all missed our homes in states all over the Midwest. Cassandra was home. She comforted our hearts.

For four years, we celebrated the holidays together. Her taking care of all of us. Me making her drink too much. It always seemed to end in the same fashion, too. We would all fling off our bras, flop on the couch, dig into the baked goods we were too abashed to eat in front of our crushes and discuss the utter disappointment in our choice of men. We’d eat way too much. More than likely cry a little as we pined for our soulmates. Then, we’d end up snuggled together in her tiny bed, sleeping under her twinkling icicle lights completely content in our friendship and newfound sisterhood.

But, it didn’t matter. At the time, it seemed like were cursed in a hamster wheel of hideous love interests, we were really blessed with each other. If you haven’t had the pleasure of spending a holiday season with Cassandra, I encourage you to bask in the glow of her Christmas cheer. We are now thousands of miles apart and she has an actual soulmate to snuggle her under the blinding glow of her Christmas tree. But, one thing will never change. She will be my sister for the rest of my Christmases.

Every December, I think about our years together during the holidays. I also thank God in the month of his birth for blessing the world with someone as unique as Cassandra. She will always be my favorite Christmas present.

ash

About Mrs. Mommy Mack

Where did she come from? Where did she go? Mrs. Mommy Mack is an impulsive writer for the past decade or so. She started out professionally and couldn’t handle the ghastly amount of money she was paid, so now she does it for free! As a self-proclaimed Expert of Nothing, Mrs. Mommy Mack uses her blog as cathartic word vomit she hopes will make you smile. There’s really no theme. She just so happens to be a mom who’s been on a diet since puberty and curses much too much.

Once You’ve Had the Best

 

There’s nothing better once you’ve had the best.”
-George Jones

I’ve always loved old country songs. Ranging from Randy Travis (whom I can’t fathom being in the genre of old) to George Jones and Merle Haggard.

My boyfriend knows this too, as he thought it was important that I own a vintage Randy Travis Fan Club pin, which for the record just about undid me. And the other day kidded about hiring musicians to serenade me.

“I’m going to get you Travis Tritt and Miley Cyrus,” he said with chest-swelling pomp.

“You know those two aren’t a combo, right? It’s Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus.”

I say all this, really as an aside—though it’s an important aside, so remember it—because that song lyric has always given me dreamy pause. Sure I’ve thought each past boyfriend ought to be the best, because he did this or that: took me up in a plane, sent me flowers for no reason, did the big grand gestures.

And while the big grand gestures never hurt a girl, those other men were missing a key component. They didn’t truly know me. They couldn’t have because I was only allowing myself to be a cultivated version of myself to please them.

I tried to be the kind of girl who went to country clubs and showed up to affairs 30 minutes early.

I’m not that kind of girl.

I tried to be the kind of girl who would keep my mouth shut and be less of a flaming hippy, the kind who wants to chain herself to trees to save the rainforest and join protesters for Native American rights.

Yeah… not that kind of girl either.

I even tried to be the kind of girl who was less interested in sugar.

And sadly, I will never be that kind of girl.

So, naturally, as God would see fit, none of those relationships worked out. I was of course surprised and dismayed and threw seven dozen tantrums.

Then I met him. So the story usually goes.

And this is how our story goes:

One night late after work, when I was lazy and tired, I suggested takeout: cheeseburgers and sweet potato fries. We walked in the door, only for me to immediately rip off my bra and start changing into my comfies, my usual, M.O. I was elated over not having to cook and to have a cheeseburger sans ketchup with extra pickles in my mouth in 2.5 seconds.

My sir started getting handsy and pulling me in for a kiss. Fine, a kiss, but when he started pulling me toward the bed, I halted, absolutely appalled.

“No way. There are cheeseburgers and sweet potato fries in there,” I pointed to the kitchen.

He laughed and kept trying to pull me back.

“No, I am not kidding. I want the cheeseburger much more than you right now. There is no getting in my way of that.”

I walked away to the kitchen. He laughed again and followed, while I unabashedly sunk my teeth into my cheeseburger in happy glee. And he knows. Because he knows me. The real me.

He knows I eat faster than he does, I could generally outeat him and certainly love food inexplicably more than he does.

He also knows the me who does weird faces and imitations at him in line in Starbucks while he stands stock still seemingly perusing the menu. I persist, rubbing my nose against his face and doing loony jigs around his body. He looks sideways at me and raises his eyebrows and I giggle. He later points out that he loves when I am exuberant like that.

“You mean when I’m a weirdsmobile?”

“No, you just seem really happy.”

“I am happy being a weirdsmobile.”

Also I am happy with him. But being a weirdsmobile? Yeah that’s an enormous part of my personality too. I have never really hid that with men, however, I have never had one who dishes it right back.

Like today while shopping he asked if he could buy a WWE comforter set. I pretended to be horrified but secretly thought it was hysterical and wonderful. Not that I like WWE, but I could be on board liking it ironically.

I led him by the hand back to the WWE sheets where he hemmed and hawed.

“Nah, I mean these are all the new guys. Maybe if the bedspread had Steve Austin.”

Then we looked at wrestling belts in the toy aisle and I suggested that he buy one as consolation, but only if he did WWE moves with it on.

“Maybe we should build a wrestling ring,” he mused.

I think to myself as I often do when I am with him, one of two thoughts:

He truly is the best.

And/Or

He is the best human I know. 

I literally find myself wanting to ask strangers, “can I tell you about the best human I know?” and it’s him.

I don’t do it, of course, but I oftentimes think it.

Which brings me back to the beginning, almost.

There was this woman I once knew whose fiance was a firefighter and died in the September 11th attacks before they could marry. She never wanted another love, because she said she’d already had the best one and wasn’t interested. At the time I thought it was a sweet sentiment, but she had been young when it happened and had time for perhaps another love. As long as I had known her, her best love had been her only love.

But now I see, there’s nothing better once you’ve had the best.

And that is how I feel about him.

He isn’t the could be best, or should be best, he is simply the best.

Besides, I think it’s pretty obvious if a guy gives you a Randy Travis Fan Club pin, you’re his for life. At least, that’s what works on this girl.

xo

-Cassandcastle

Croissants and Siberia

It wasn’t enough that they’re paying me to fly upside down in planes, bounce along in a big rig down rows of sugar beet plants and fly over my handlebars while mountain biking. Okay that’s actually more than enough and all I could’ve dreamed of in landing my first big girl journalism gig.

But see, somehow I still want more. While I am at work writing about coffee shop owners crooning after hours in nun habits or covering a court case about a spurned lover and his descent into madness, I can’t help but think about baking pan au chocolat and croissants this weekend and becoming the next Julia Child.

Or I find myself casually looking up rates to attend the Iditarod and as an aside learning to become a sled dog musher. Do I have enough time in life to learn to mush sled-dogs, get adequately good at it and enter The Last Great Race? Maybe I only have time to cover it as a journalist? I suddenly wonder about taking time off, spending upwards of 15G’s and fulfilling a lifetime dream while dressed in furs worthy of a Russian czar.

And speaking of Russia, why haven’t I ridden the Trans-Siberian Railway yet? Why, why, why, why, why? I mean, all fanciful, croissant loving girls-about-town surely fantasize about steaming ahead through wintery Siberia in a historic train-car. That can’t just be me right?

I won’t wax poetic on how I have wanted wild and outlandish things my whole life, how as a child I gave serious thought to the logistics of digging my own swimming hole in our backyard, until I broke ground, saw a worm and ran. Or mused about whether I could actually jump a train, from the tracks nearby. The way I saw it I probably would’ve befriended a wolf while singing hobo hymns with a snappy if not disheveled gentleman who’d teach me railroad wisdom and share his canned beans.

Honestly if I had a nickel for every time I dreamt about croissants and the Trans-Siberian, I could’ve paid for both tickets to France and Russia easy peasy. If I expanded that notion and had a nickel for every time I’ve thought about fancy bakery and riding the rails in general, well I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation with you, because I’d be too busy tending to my grape vineyard/snooty sandwich empire in Italy and flitting to Switzerland at a moment’s notice with my husband the mustache twirler and cigar smoker.

Ah, but to dream. It is sincerely my favorite pastime. I dabble with my wild fancies so much so, that I oftentimes have sleeping dreams of places I’ve never been, doing things that only Peter Pan can do—ahem don’t you fly in your dreams—and sometimes I even howl out and thrash like a wild thing, because some otherworldly figure is trying to swoop me out of my boat and take me to his underground lair. My boyfriend becomes nearly jarred right out of his drawers when I do that and shakes me awake informing me that I was having a nightmare.

I shrug and say, “not really, though it was alarming and he almost got me.” And then I casually try and go back to bed while he looks at me suspiciously, while eyeballing my neck for suspicious marks that indicate some sort of possession.

All fanciful dreaming aside, those of you who have followed my journey as Adventuredame, know how seriously I take adventurous living, but I am in my 30’s now and it was time to become a grown-up professional. Naturally Cassandcastle the Dreamer was an obvious choice to encompass my new decade of life. As if I ever do become too old to be a dreamer well then someone or something has taken over my mind and I am not to be trusted.

This was really all to say, I am still here just more sophisticated and thirty-like. Except 30-year-old me still wants to stuff her face full of Parisian-esque sweets—although Parisians would surely turn down their noses at face-stuffing, so I promise to be more dignified when I go there—and run away on the rails.

So I guess I am not more professional, dignified or sophisticated. But I still want you all to be in the loop when I run away with my mustachioed love—for the record my love really does have a fabulous mustache that he refuses to twirl, but lets me twirl when I have a hankering—and start a bread and chocolate shop while contemplating buying a team of sled dogs.

xo

-Cassandcastle

An Eager Beaver

I have never been good at playing it cool. I am the quintessential wear my heart on my sleeve kinda gal. Some of my sisters (I have 6 of them) tease me about this and how if, say I like a guy, I don’t really dally about being coy and waiting to see what will develop. If I ever do seem coy and cool or mention that I don’t much feel like shaving my legs, then trust me, I do not have a crush on you. If I did have a crush on you, I would certainly be a red-faced, stammering fool as well as pretending my legs are about to be featured on a Venus Razor commercial.

For the record, I am never cool.

I was once wearing my running shoes: Asics, in a hippy community and I was chastised for it.
I am usually sweaty. Even if it’s wintertime. Even right now, whilst writing. In air conditioning.
I have a rock collection.
When I dance, there is always one point where I am compelled to snap my fingers. My sister tried teaching me what to do with my hips during a sultry dance at my brother’s wedding and I fiercely shook my head no. I can’t even practice how to be cool.

My sisters are all unspeakably cool, though. They go to concerts of popular bands before they are popular, dress like they belong in an underground L.A. hipster movement, though they’d kill me for saying so, and they are who I look to, though I am the oldest, because they are my muses.

So it would stand to reason that if I can’t be cool, I certainly couldn’t play it cool. With men or otherwise. This is where my eagerness comes in. Men and otherwise. Especially of late.

I am real excitable, see? Sometimes if someone seems passionate about a topic that I too am passionate about, my words come out of my mouth, tumbling over one another, like kids just released for recess, fighting for the first to be on the swingset—wait are swingsets still cool?—and I bulldoze the person with my words and giddiness.

I later feel terrible, though it was merely my excitement, my eagerness to share in passions that leads me to sometimes talk over people. I did this with a guy I liked a couple of months back. He taught me how to fly fish and I packed us a picnic, though it was too windy outside, so we went and sat at his kitchen table and talked for hours. He was so easy to talk to and wanted to talk about things like bears, donuts, making homemade jam, and our grandparents.

So naturally my excitement levels were that of effervescent champagne bubbles, bursting, simply bursting. At one point, in a flow of words I couldn’t stop, I was trying to make a point about how I’ve heard childbirth is nothing like the movies—thanks always for the grim details, Ash.

I kept going though, trying to further my point, saying, kind of how my introduction to the real ins and outs of sex as a teen were from reading Harlequin Romances. You know, those ones where the woman on the cover is in a too small dress and the man has too-large muscles (there is such a thing, sorry Ryan). And those sex scenes lead you to believe that orgasms are always multiple and simultaneous. And then when I really did have sex many, many years later, I thought, wait what? WHAT!? This is an outrage!

This is when I realized I was sharing too much, getting too excited, and I stopped myself abruptly. Talking sex wasn’t something I had had on my agenda, even in a cheeky comparison manner. I wanted to keep going to explain that my initial disappointment in sex had gone away, but I didn’t want to dig myself deeper.

So I shut up, red-faced and mumbled “TMI,” while sipping my second cup of coffee.

He never called.

I figured it was one of two things. My overflow of words. Or my sex anecdote.

Either way, I shrugged it off. When I later relayed the story to my sisters, much to their constant amusement on my treacherous love life, I noted that if a man isn’t in love with my words or my wild and inventive ways of accidentally embarrassing myself, well then he probably isn’t my fella.

But the thing is, I cannot help it. I am easily and overly excitable. I am an eager beaver. I am an antsy-pants. All these are my nice turn-of-phrases on the reality, which is that I am mostly just good old impatient. And the only time I have noted that my massive impatience was a good thing, was when I lived in New York City and it seemed everyone there too was also an eager beaver.

How this plays out lately? Well. I am impatient, err, very eager to make some friends. I know this isn’t something that can be rushed. Especially because I value quality over quantity. It’s simply that I am a social gal. I like having word-athons with someone. I like when people like what I like: hiking, fly fishing, photography, books, Hemingway, bourbon, donuts, animals, humanitarianism, trees and mountains, orgasms, ya know, all the good shit.

And it’s tough, when all my people are, well, not here in Cody, Wyoming. Then I find myself offering up abundances of information with near perfect strangers, like my fly fishing coach. I told him the other day that I was down to five pairs of underwear and not my good pairs, because the thought of doing laundry at a laundromat would lead me to going commando—something I despise more than underwear that aren’t boy shorts—before I caved and actually washed some clothes.

God bless him, he didn’t kick me out of the store. And even seemed mildly pleased when I showed up for fly-tying later in the week. But yesterday when I was about to peruse potato salad options at the local grocery store, which happens to be near the fly shop, I found myself going in, out of sheer eagerness to just be near another human who wanted to talk to me. I told myself I was being an eager beaver. Not being cool at all, trying to harass my fly fishing guide into hanging out with me after hours, just for the sheer camaraderie that is having friends.

He wasn’t there, which I think is for the best. If I didn’t embarrass myself with the underwear story, I surely would have trying to reel him into a forced friendship.

But, see that’s just how I am. An eager beaver. An antsy pants. Someone who is very excitable and wants to share passions: words or big O’s—hard won though they may be—or both, when I do meet that fella.

And realistically, uncool or not, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

For the Love

I have never been a lover of the “news.” It has always seemed to me that anytime I spotted a newspaper headline it was rife with death and destruction. As a child if I happened to see a newspaper lying around, which they always were as my father loves the news, I would immediately bypass the front page and go straight for the human interest or travel and lifestyle pieces.
Now I work at a newspaper and while I do this because I went to school for journalism—ironic perhaps for someone who detests the news—my love of the written word and wanting to share stories of goodness in humans and perhaps travel was strong. And I have always thought we needed to have a different focus.

Now I am no Pollyanna and don’t expect the world to ignore car hijackings, terrorist attacks, bomb threats and gunned down policemen and African Americans. Those are newsworthy occurrences, despite the negative feelings they provoke. And for me at least, they illicit emotions so strong all I want is change. Powerful change.
However, as someone who tends to ignore the news, lately it has felt next to impossible to ignore. In part because I work for a newspaper, but also because every time I look to further educate myself on the goings on of the world, all that I seem to unearth is which horrible politician is being more dishonest or deceitful or derogatory or where the latest shooting has taken place.
I saw the news for the terrorist attack in France and all day I tried to ignore it. I didn’t want to know. I couldn’t know one more tiny morsel about the utter decimation of precious human life at the hands of pure evil. But I went ahead and read the story anyway.

And you know what? It’s too much. I shook while reading the story on CNN and I wanted to sob. I immediately began to pray and tried not to question God and why He couldn’t stop mothers and children and innocent victims from being ran down and gunned down at the hands of a madman who clearly lacked a soul. I prayed for guidance and all these lives being lost and the people who are affected (and affected is too weak a word for these senseless deaths) by these losses that keep stacking up.

I don’t understand it. I do not understand evil and I am glad that I don’t understand evil because I don’t ever want to understand the kind of detachment it would take to ride your bicycle to casually pick up a rental van with the intent to murderously maul people down in the midst of celebration.

But I will tell you that I am tired of ignorant terrorizing fools taking human life. These monsters won’t win.

All these atrocities taking place across our globe have admittedly left me feeling quite helpless. What is there to do? What can be done? How do we stop this? And all the questions beg answers that do not seem in the least bit forthcoming, because all that I see forthcoming is more death out of pure ignorance and hatred.
I can’t stand it and I can’t abide by it. I can’t even keep my mouth shut anymore. It has to stop.

The helplessness I feel over fighting such hatred seems nearly insurmountable and it feels like I might be swallowed whole under a sea of sadness. Lives are being lost. These lives matter. But I refuse to believe that because my efforts may seem small (and trivial) in light of such grotesque and repeated tragedies, that they couldn’t shed some light in a world that is seemingly growing darker by the second. I will start somewhere because this is unbearable to me. And it is unbearable to others. Even those who haven’t been struck personally by these tragedies.

I will start in my community with love. Because that is all I know how to do from my small corner of the world. And I want to give love in abundance, wherever and however I can, so that the people I meet may feel it and it may spread. Love is the only way I can think of to combat all this sickening hatred that is going around rampant and unchecked like a wildfire from the bowels of Hell.

I don’t expect that I could stop a terrorist with a hug and a Psalm; some hatred runs so deep as to be impenetrable. But I do think if–despite the helplessness most of us feel in regards to yet anther unspeakable tragedy–we can be decent and good and kind and loving to one another and see how that spreads, maybe, possibly that will make a smidgen of a difference.

Racists might still be racists, terrorists might still terrorize and ignorance may continue to prevail, but by the grace of God we need something to redirect us away from all this evil, if only just to unite as human beings for one another instead of against one another.

Maybe call me a Pollyanna after all. But I would rather be a Pollyanna than someone who is unmoved by the holiness of human life.