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Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Site!

Please follow my journey on my new blog site at:
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As always, thank you for reading,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


“How old are you, 19?” my retired Navy vet landlord asks from below the balcony that’s barely big enough for two lawn chairs and an ash tray. 
I followed my boyfriend out of boredom more than wanting fresh air (because it’s not fresh – it’s smoky and gross) and because I love the face he makes when he gets annoyed that I’m following him around the house.  In my defense, I only follow him when I’m mid conversation – even if I’m the only one really holding the conversation and he’s paying more attention to his damn smart phone than my ramblings. 
“I wish,” I shout down to Dean who is sporting a flannel shirt.  He always wears flannel, which always makes me think of the men in the small Midwest town I still call home.  I hardly ever see men in flannel in San Diego; besides it being completely out of style it’s never really cold enough for it.  I suppose the thread barren flannel with specks of paint and tiny tears is cool enough on this unseasonably cool San Diego day.
“She’s thirty,” Brent adds, “time to turn her in for a younger model.” 
I smile and even though I’ve heard his joke a million times it always makes me smile.  “I remember turning 19,” I say more to myself than Brent.  “That was a fun year.  I was a freshman in college and had everything to look forward to in life.”  I sigh perhaps a bit overly dramatic.
“Really, you’d be 19 again?” Brent asks with a look of disbelief to clash with my nostalgic daydreaming. 
“In a heartbeat.  Being 30 already sucks.”  I hadn’t looked forward to having my big day on a Monday, but tried to stay positive during my killer workout and on my way to work.  After about an hour I got an email about a meeting in 30 minutes where we were told to go home because we lost funding (I’m a DoD contractor) and log it on our time sheets as vacation time (so much for going home or anywhere far for the holidays – sorry Mom).  Trying to stay positive and enjoy the day with Brent who is currently out of work as well, I left not telling anyone it was my birthday. 
            After Brent finishes his cigarette he goes back in and Dean goes back to whatever it was he was doing in the garage below.  I am left on the smoky porch to reflect on being 30. 
            It’s not like me to not want to celebrate a birthday.  I feel like its god’s little holiday to you, a day when the whole world should revolve around you.  I have a little birthday tradition that I have done since I was probably 16.  I always take my journal and write an entry reflecting on everything that happened in the last year.  It’s like an end of the year Time magazine about only me.  I had the whole day to do this before going over to my old apartment to have dinner with Jill, Rachael and Jackson (Rach’s dog who really does deserve to be mentioned because he sang to me – well close enough), but I didn’t.  The thought of reflecting on the past year and trying to look forward to the future while not knowing about what was going on with work was just unbearable.  My year started in DC.  I was assisting in a wall-to-wall inventory for the reserve unit I was in and had dinner with two very dear friends, one of which helped me survive the Marines.  I can’t think of anything truly remarkable that happened in the 365 + days after that.  I moved in with Brent, I suppose that’s something.  I started my new career as a civilian – which clearly is going great! (Please note the sarcasm if you are one of my coworkers), I spent a week in the Colorado Rockies with people I had never met before we left the Red Lion hotel on an Outward Bound bus for a week in the wilderness, but will now forever be a part of my life in ways they probably will never even know.  What else?  I finished the Insanity work out program, followed by Asylum, followed by Insanity/Asylum hybrid, followed by death and I’m still recovering from that last phase.  I was in a wedding in NYC and it always seems notable when I make it to the city.  I retaught myself to sew – well sorta – I make awesome sock monkeys and super hero capes.  When I think about it 29 will go down as a rather bland year.  Nothing truly life altering happened – good or bad.  I didn’t graduate from anything or make some big promotion.  Is this life now?  Just humdrum, ordinary daily life with everyone I know popping out babies?  I can almost mark the years by things I miss nowadays rather than things I experience myself – my little sister’s senior state fair marching band competition, my nephews first words, a wedding here, a recital there.  As I get older I feel the distance from my family a little more each year.  I suppose the excitement of travel and school and this and that kept me preoccupied before and now my life has settled into a rather dull, but comfortable existence.  I always get homesick this time of year when I can’t make it home for the annual Tecumseh Lodge Labor Day Powwow followed by the harvest and chilly Indiana fall days.    We actually have retarded weather in that our summer doesn’t really start until mid-August.  Oh don’t worry, this strange longing for harvest moons and Indian summers will pass in January when the Midwest is snowed in for days at a time and it’s still warm enough to go to the beach in the afternoon.  I always get a phone call from my mother on my birthday going over the events of my birth and how much she misses me on this particular day of the year.  I think I’m a little extra homesick on my birthday every year.
            I remember my very dear friend, Deb, turning 30 a few years ago.  We have been friends for about 8 years now so it seemed like quite the milestone in both of our lives.  I called her to wish her a happy birthday and she said, “It’s weird, I’m ending a decade.  I’m ending my twenties …” then went on to highlight all the things that had happened in the past ten years.  We talked about our crazy adventures and she summed it up sounding more like Carrie’s narration at the end of a Sex in the City episode than our normal ramblings.  A decade.  No longer twenty something.  Old.  Responsible.  Boring.  That’s how I feel tonight and you know how I know I’m no longer twenty something – it doesn’t bother me a bit to be what I used to think would be life endingly boring.  The past few days I’ve thought about the friends I’ve made in the past ten years, the celebrations, sorrows, the things I missed and the things I missed them for.  Thirty, AKA: old enough to know better and no longer young enough to do it anyways.  After worrying about jobs and finances the past few days I’m glad I took the time to sit here and think about all the places I’ve gone, people I’ve loved, things I miss and of course everything I have to look forward to in the next decade.  Well, here’s to being 30 and knowing that if it’s off to this much of a rocky start things can only get better, right? 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Epic and Wanderlust Baby Brother

“Libby, I have the most epic trip ever planned,” my little brother’s voice is excited in a way that I recognize from the person I used to be … once upon a time … when I believed in epic. It’s excited in that way of believing in the impossible that only kids and retards can believe because they haven’t been pushed over the edge by life yet. I can’t even remember the last time I believed in the possible, including figuring out how to copy and paste a document into MS Word without it reformatting itself to look like text from an extra terrestrial race trying to communicate with me, and my baby brother believes in epic? How dare he be so irresponsible and illogical to even think about going on a trip in times like these without a job lined up after the end of summer? Where are our parents? Are they trying a new parenting style of NOT showing my younger two siblings financial responsibility? Why isn’t my Dad there to gently nudge my brother into the military like he did when he threatened to kick me out of the house and told me I was worthless after I graduated college? Is this the new hip way to parent? (It would explain why America has such a huge credit card problem). How completely unfair that Kyle is allowed to dream when I was forced to be practical!

I should probably slow down and give a little exposition. Kyle’s my kid brother who just graduated with a Masters degree in Math. What do you do with a Masters in Applied Mathematics? Probably the same thing you do with a Masters in Fine Arts for creative writing – work for the man. Kyle is #4 of 5 kids. He is a fellow middle child although he was the baby for five years until Becca decided to pop up out of nowhere and steal his limelight. Three years after Becca graced us with her presence our oldest sister had her first born. Our families closeness, both in age and proximity, has merged the boundaries of nephew and brother so I suppose Kyle can call himself the greatly esteemed title of “Middle Child” as well, if he must. However, I would like to add that my mother had me with the expectation of having at least one more child, so I truly am in the middle, not a faux middle that had five years of being the center of everyone’s attention because he was supposed to be the last. You might think that my older brother, #2, could be considered a middle, but he was the first male heir so don’t even think about comparing the two. Brent is also the oldest boy child and just don’t get me started on the ego this entails upon them. Disclaimer: I’m sure all of these opinions on birth order will change if I ever have kids and I’m not saying our mother or any other mother favored one child over the other. If you have children or are thinking about having children consider this walking a mile in a middle child’s shoe, because our place in the family is something we are born into, a slave to our place in the world that we are taught from day one. I’m not trying to attack anyone’s parenting just ranting about the ways of the world. Nobody else in the family will ever know what it meant to just be the middle – not the first born, first male, last male or last born. Plain and simple, middle of the road me. Not helping matters, my mother always told me that I was acting like a middle child, which really was my only entitlement in the family so I had no other choice but to run with it – and I am a marathon runner after all, so I definitely ran with it. I’ll give Kyle a little slack because his fall from center stage was probably a steep one after being the baby for so long and I don’t think my mom ever really stopped babying him (he is kind of special needs in that he is missing the file cabinet labeled “common sense.” I think it just got thrown out to make room for quantum physics or how to play bizarre African musical instruments). I love my siblings and would be completely lost in this world if it weren’t for them. Each one has pushed me to be better, taught me to be tolerant, tested my patience and made me who I am today, but the pain and torture I endured growing up is something they will never understand (mostly because they were the ones administering it). I love Kyle in a very special way. As a middle child I try to reign in my quiet competitive and jealous nature, but as a big sister I want to warn him of all my mistakes. I don’t want to watch him join the Marines thinking he’ll prove something to the world only to realize that all he’s done is show the world how stubborn a human being can be (Kyle would never survive the Marines – Air Force maybe, but they’d eat him alive in day one of OCS). I want to protect him, but at the same time I know the best teacher in life is experience. He seems so naïve in the ways of the world, so sheltered from reality by choice as much as anything and I worry when he says things like “I have the most epic trip ever planned,” because I know he hasn’t thought it through other than drawing out a map of where to go. He graduated last spring and is in that weird phase that I’m not so sure we ever really evolve from – at least I know I haven’t. I love and worry about him in that way only an older sibling who has been knocked down and kicked around by the world more than once can worry. How he’s held onto his naivety this long I’ll never understand, but I think it probably has something to do with that missing file I mentioned.    

“Ok, where are you going?” I ask, curious and pissed off at the world because I hit a pothole yesterday and am therefore carless and out $800 to get it back. I’m standing outside our office building in the late afternoon sun, waiting for my boyfriend to take me to the repair shop where I can take my little piggy bank labeled “AWESOMEST VACATION EVER FUND,” hammer it open and cry as I shove the pennies and bills over to the mechanics. I know they are just trying to make a living, but do they understand that they have just taken approximately 79.4% of my will to make it through the rest of the week away? It’s only Tuesday. I really want to call the mechanics mean names, but the fact that they have managed to fix my car in one day prevents me from doing anything but being grateful for having my bug back. 

“It’s going to start in Argentina …” Kyle begins to tell me his agenda.

I must interject once more to state that my awesomest vacation ever fund was to go towards a trip to either Argentina or Chile. I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned this to Kyle per se, but it has been my next big vacation destination for the last two years. Two years I’ve been waiting to have both time and money to go and now he’s going to steal my thunder once again like one of my siblings always manages to do. I’ve been obsessed with going to Argentina ever since reading “The Motorcycle Diaries” while riding in a riverboat along the Amazon River two years ago. Seriously, why doesn’t the kid just rip out my beating heart and throw it down the garbage disposal?      

“In the southernmost tip of Patagonia and I’m going to travel north to Alaska and then cross the Bering Strait by boat and go to Russia.” I don’t have the heart to tell him he’s on crack quite yet so I let him continue. “Then I’m going to work my way down through Russia, Japan down towards Australia and New Zealand then back over to Nepal and see K2 and all that. . .” 

The casualness of his mentioning Nepal, my fantasy vacation that I don’t plan on executing until I’m about to die because the thought of going there someday is what keeps me moving forward in life. His blasé attitude towards this part of the journey just pisses me off. What is there not enough world for him to explore? Does he have to keep picking the places that I want to go? He can’t go to Thailand or do the whirlwind European tour like all the other cliché college grads do when trying to find themselves? Why Argentina, why Nepal, why not decide you’re going to be a writer while you’re at it. I mean if you’re going to steal someone’s identity go all the way. I manage to focus on my breathing and keep myself calm even though Kyle has just taken the remaining 20.6% of will I had left to make it the remaining three days until the weekend. Now how am I going to get myself up tomorrow morning? I consider drowning myself in the San Diego River that runs behind our office, but decide to just wait on Brent who always manages to cheer me up somehow. Maybe I can find .000001% of will left somewhere deep within and drag my sorry ass out of bed in the morning still. 

“It’s already been done,” I tell him with some sick pleasure that I am ashamed to admit, but would be lying if I left out of this narrative. I enjoyed each word as they leaked from my mouth like frothy poison one by one crushing his dream. I know Kyle, I’ve known him since before he was born when I would whisper all the things we would do together into mom’s belly as she watched reruns of Cheers on hot summer nights. I know Kyle has a need to be the first to do something, probably from being the fourth to do everything else in life. “Some Iraq vet either from here or England came home and had PTSD so he started in South America, traveled by foot up to Alaska, crossed the Berring Strait on foot.” After the words come out of my mouth the sick pleasure immediately turns into guilt and shame. I’m a horrible and miserable person who apparently can’t stand for others to be happy – even my own family. Thank god Brent pulls up in his Jeep or the temptation to drown myself in the river might become too overwhelming to ignore.   

“Wait, you can’t do that. You can’t cross it on foot,” Kyle interrupts, excited to find the flaw and therefore being potentially the first to make this journey again because my story is clearly a fake. 

“Well, if you let me finish I would tell you that he swam where he couldn’t cross over the ice.” 

“What are you serious?” his voice still doubts the legitimacy of my story, but he’s starting to realize he won’t be the first nor will he be the most extreme. He was going to cross via boat.

“He made it to Russia, but then he was deported.” I hope this detail will make him realize that he hasn’t thought through the logistics of travel visas yet. Kyle has traveled significantly as a student, but if he’s serious he needs to consider the million little details someone else has always taken care of for him, like visas. As an American I think we’ve gotten so used to open borders that we forget that other countries either want to keep us out or charge us good money to let us in and with good reason.

“Where was he deported to?” he asks (I told you he was missing a file). I can hear the skepticism in his voice still.

“The moon, obviously.” There’s a pause and I can tell I’ve confused him further with my sarcasm. “His home country, dork. Last I heard he’s still trying to get a visa to go to Russia and then he’s going to continue from where he left off travelling around the entire globe on foot.”

“What? Seriously.” 

Again, I feel guilty that I didn’t let him indulge in his fantasy a little longer, but someone has to tell the kid the tooth fairy aint real and apparently our parents have given up on this case.

“Kyle, I’m not saying you can’t go, but you need to study those who have done it before so you can learn how they did it, what mistakes they made and all that. Besides how the hell are you going to pay for this?”

I can almost feel him perk up on the other end of the phone as I try to get my purse, computer and bag of empty food and water containers (I eat a lot throughout the day) into the Jeep. I lean over and give Brent a kiss as Kyle starts up again like someone pulled a cord coming out the back of his neck…and he’s off.

“Well, I’m going to have a camera crew and when it gets on YouTube people are going to start following it and eventually people will just start inviting me into their homes and helping me along the way.” 

I’m trying to remember a time when I ever thought I could just fly to a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, didn’t have a return flight home (which a lot of countries require in order to give you a travel visa or let you in), and actually believed that people would just welcome me into their home and pay my way to the next country on my itinerary. Right, I’ve never thought like that. I have been invited into people’s homes while traveling and I will forever be grateful for the kindness of strangers, but I have never went into a situation that I wasn’t able to get myself out of expecting kindness.

“Kyle that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard,” I tell him free from any dream crushing guilt or jealousy because I know this trip is about as likely to happen as me jumping in the disgusting San Diego River (even to kill myself I wouldn’t get in that nasty water for risk of coming out radioactive with seven heads). “How are you going to pay for a camera crew or a flight to get down there?” The list of practical questions I could ask goes on forever, but I stop because I can barely hear over the engine of the Jeep and the radio and someone has walked in and stole his attention. 

“No, it could work. If it went viral it could totally work, but hey Libby are you going to be around later?” 

I know this line. Kyle is notorious for “calling later” and never calling. Kyle is actually the hardest person on the planet to get a hold of including villages around the world without electricity or cell phones. You can call, text, write, but good luck getting a response because he’s lost his phone, the charger, broke his computer or had his hands ripped off by a llama at a petting zoo and hasn’t learned to write by using his feet yet. Have I mentioned how much I love my little brother yet? I think the depth of one’s love can be measured by amount of frustration that person causes. Simply put, if you didn’t love them it these things wouldn’t frustrate you or maybe you’d just lose interest in the person causing the stress, either way Kyle is impossible to reach and I’ve learned to just accept that part of our relationship.  

“Ok, that’s fine, I have to pick up my car, but I’ll just be making dinner and hanging out after that.” 

We say quick goodbyes and Brent drops me off to get my car. I watch the woman clean out my savings account with one quick swipe of plastic and life seems so drastically unfair. It was a fucking pot hole for the love of god! I manage to hold on to my dignity as I walk out the door happy that I had the money in the bank for a change and didn’t have to charge it to my credit card. I get in my car and, unlike the first time I tried to drive it off the lot at the dealership not knowing how to drive manual, I triumphantly pull out of the shop’s lot. I would like to write that I rolled my windows down and let the air blow through my hair as I tasted the freedom of mobility again, but the shop is less than a block from my apartment and the electronic passenger side window is running out of umph and any day now it’s going to go down and not go back up.

This pay check I should be able to buy some super glue and put the pieces of my little bank back together and set aside some money for my own trip again. I’ve got paperwork to send into the city to possibly get some of the money back from the damage incurred by their negligence on our roads. It’ll take time, but maybe it’ll be a little unexpected bonus down the road. Maybe I’ll never see that money again, what can you do? It seems like in the last six months every time I have a little money saved up something demands the funds – from car repairs (I had to replace the fuel filter this spring and some other major work), moving expenses, stupid California vehicle registration that was over $400. Some days I just can’t win for loosing. Usually those are the days I get a phone call from Kyle declaring an epic trip or idea for a business start up or how he’s going to colonize Mars or do whatever it is Kyle gets worked up to go do with all the greatest intentions. While part of me is bitter and jealous that I’ve lost the ability to believe these impossible things another part of me wants him to succeed and I swear I’d give him every cent if I had it. Unfortunately, we are the middles of five. Nothing has ever been handed to us on a silver platter. We are not hotel heiresses or the offspring of Hollywood stars. We have to work and sometimes work takes everything and leaves nothing for adventure or creativity.   

In college I had a professor who taught a poem that was about lobsters. Or maybe the poem wasn’t about the lobsters but he just taught it using a lobster metaphor. I don’t remember but it was something along the lines of when you pull a lobster out of boiling water the others will pull it back down in the pot. This was a metaphor for minorities and I want to say it was written by an Asian American poet, but it’s been so many years I could be remembering the professor who was an Asian American writer. I suppose the poem could span human nature in general, not just minorities. That’s the goal in writing – to create a universal experience so why limit it to minorities? I think it’s a natural instinct to pull someone down when they are following through with something we lacked the audacity to follow through with. People become mean and bitter in life and want to take that anger out on someone trying to break the chains that hold us all down – not just blacks, women, Hispanics, etc. Then again, something I didn’t see in college but wonder now is maybe the lobster is trying to protect its mate from an unknown future. I want Kyle to succeed in life and we are taught from day one that success means a degree, 9-5 job, house, white picket fence, etc. etc. Am I pulling Kyle back into the pot so he can follow the path of least resistance? Am I bringing him down in order to justify my own failure? Or am I simply trying to protect him from failing and of course possibly succeeding where I have failed? I don’t know because it’s Kyle. He’s played student for long enough and it’s time to grow up now, but at the same time if he can figure out how to escape the cook, maybe he will knock over the pot and free us all. I want him to succeed, I do. I also want to save him from my own fate. Chaining my creative energies to a boring desk job all day long to pay the bills and lifestyle I’ve enslaved myself to. 

Run Kyle. Run for your life. Go to Argentina. Get out. Go now. Don’t turn back. Save yourself. We’ll miss you, but bid you well. Don’t get used to making money. Don’t acquire a taste for things. These things will close the lid tight, let the steam build up and suffocate you before you even have a chance to boil. Who cares how you’ll pay your loans back … change your name … fake your death, just get out now while you can little brother. It’s too late for me, but go before the economy collapses and chaos forces us into a police state. Go now before life settles you and it’s too hard to plan these escapes around schedules and rents and weddings and births and deaths. Just go without me and maybe one day when I’m winning for a change, I’ll come join you. 

Of course Kyle never called me back that night. I haven’t heard from him since then except for a Facebook comment on my post about how I feel claustrophobic in San Diego because I can’t go west or south and really who wants to travel north towards LA? 

"I think the problem you are struggling with is not dissatisfaction with San Diego, I think you are struggling with Wanderlust. I can tell because you immediately thought of the Alchemist, and because I have the same affliction."

Oh Kyle, please don't lose your wonder or wanderlust and don't ever stop believing in the possibility of epic adventures no matter what happens. Don't let them tame you. And little brother, if you break free and can't risk coming back to the kitchen to knock the pot over and save the rest of us. . . Well, we'll make it through knowing you did it. Love you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On Compromises and Moving Again

Where to start ... it's been awhile.  I moved recently.  It made sense to move in with my boyfriend of over two years now, since I spent most of my time at his place anyways.  Now, I'm not so sure.  I'm a morning person - I get up at least two hours before needing to go somewhere and I write and I work out and I do all the things I'll never get to later in the day because people are up and in my business demanding this or that from me.  The mornings are the only time when I'm focused on something solely for me - not my boss, friend, neighbor, whoever, whatever else consumes my time, just me.  The last seven months I have set my alarm for 0515 and done Insanity (a workout only for the insane).  It's become such a part of my routine that I look forward to the 45-60 min of intense drills that leave me on the floor wanting to puke.  It makes me feel elite, not everyone can or wants to put themselves through this type of personally driven hell, but my sisters and I do it daily.  Very few mornings do I wake up not wanting to work out and those mornings usually end up being the most gruelling workouts after I make it through the warm up.

It's week one of being officially moved in to the new place.  I try hard to make less noise than a god damn church mouse, but I'm not a god damn church mouse I'm a klutz who likes to listen to talk radio in the morning and bang cups and throw brushes.  I tiptoe around the apartment taking 15-20 minutes longer so Brent can sleep in 'til whenever (he's unemployed at the moment - looking for anything in electronics and we're willing to move if you know of any opportunities).  I dry my hair in the bathroom with no mirrors or even a place to plug it in (the cord barely extends from the nearest outlet on the other side of the door), I put make up on in the dark and try to float in and out of the bedroom (in case you don't know me - I don't float I clomp).  I didn't think this would be as much of a problem, but when we talked about moving in he had a job and was up in the mornings as well.  Of course, life changes plans.

Yesterday, while working out, I was on my pull up bar - the type that is placed in the door frame with no screws or attachments and the weight of pulling down holds the bar in place.  For over a year, I've not had a problem with this bar, but in the move I forgot this little metal clip that didn't seem to matter in the engineering (says the writer who clearly knows her engineering principles because she read the DoD engineering basic principle guidebook).  I can do a few pull ups on my own, not a lot but a few.  During this particular work out I have to do over a hundred (I told you insane), so I use a chair to prop up my feet.  To make it harder I place the chair in front of me so my feet are straight out, not below me.  This technique gives me leverage, but doesn't allow me to lift myself up using my lower body.  I did one, two, three and the bar started to give.  I looked up to see it coming off the door frame.  There was no time to react and before I knew it I was on the ground looking up with the bar in my hands thankful it didn't crash down and break my nose as well as my back.  Sometimes I think there has to be a god and he has a sick sense of humor.  I jumped up and changed work out videos.  I still had time to squeeze in some Tae Bo (I've been a fan of Billy since I was 15 years old).  If I couldn't do upper body out of fear of the stupid pull up bar, I could still do core work since I am going to a water park on Friday and want my abs in tip top shape.  It starts with body twists.  Squat down so your knees are at a 90 degree angle and twists your torso from one side to the other so your upper body is adjacent to your lower body.  Now, do this for about seven minutes.  Twist, twist, twist, PULL!  And the collateral damage of my accident on the pull up bar surfaces.  My entire neck and upper body stiffens like a tree bracing for an earthquake.  "Fuck!" I whispered so not to wake anyone.  "Mother fucking fucker fuck," I whisper with an intensity to match the pain but as silent as this little church mouse I'm about to find and curb stomp.  I don't care what my mother tried to teach me - the act of yelling expletives does indeed relieve pain (I'm sure if I looked long enough I could find a grad school thesis explaining how the act of yelling releases endorphins somewhere, but without evidence I can tell you it does).  Armed with Tiger Balm and a chiropractors number I get ready for work.

I tried to explain this incident to a few of my coworkers and boss yesterday and they laughed, which was the reaction I was going for as I told it in my most dramatic/comedic tone.  I went to the chiropractor and will go back in a day or two because it still hurts this morning, but is getting significantly better.

When I woke up this morning an unfamiliar dread creeped into my body.  I sat up and stretched my neck from left to right - still sore.  I'm full of nervous energy from not working out yesterday and after a day of absolutely no focus on anything because this energy and pain I'm tempted to try.  Do I work out and risk hurting myself more but give myself the confidence to wear a bikini on Friday or do I go back to sleep which is probably the best for my body?  Well, too late for sleep since I'm up now.  I decide to take advantage of this time and energy and write.  I get up, make some tea, and tiptoe into the bedroom.  I turn on the computer on and dim the monitor light, plug in headphones and start typing away.

"Are you fucking kidding me?"  Brent rolls over and lets out an exaggerated sigh.  "Can't you use your fucking laptop."

"It's broke."  I whisper, feeling bad, but not bad enough to stop.  My laptop is broken and his doesn't have any of my documents on it and typing on a laptop while sitting in a lazy boy is not comfortable or condusive to focus and creativity.

Another long sigh and he puts on a pair of boxers and wonders out into the living room.  I sit and think about it for a minute.  I guess I could read and try to finish the book about a plague that wipes out 99% of humanity and is written about the survivors (appropriately called "Survivors" by Terry Nation).  I decide to give in and let him rest and shuffle out of the room to tell him.  I assume he's smoking, but find him asleep on the couch. 
I guess this is the moment when a good girlfriend would go wake up her honey and tell him she's going to rearrange her life to fit his unemployed life.  A good girlfriend would probably cook him breakfast before she left for work too.  A good girlfriend wouldn't be as loud as a fucking elephant in the morning, but I'm just not that person.  I will never be quiet and sometimes a selfish act is justified.  I turned the computer monitor down, I typed as quietly as I could.  I've offered him my Brookstone sleep mask I use on long flights and told him to buy earplugs, but he seems to think I'll stop running into the weights at the foot of the bed or the dresser, the desk or the closet door less once I'm settled.  I guess he thinks I'll devlop super powers that allow me to see in the dark and generate heat from the palms of my hands allowing me to dry my hair without a noise machine.  More than that I think he believes he'll get used to it, maybe he will but until then I can't comprormise by going to work looking like a homeless person who bathed in the San Diego River behind the office.  There is just no room for compromise on my part.  I will get up in the mornings to write and work out and go to work and he is going to try to sleep, bitching and grumbling every morning when I wake him up.

I know this will work itself out eventually.  I don't need a lecture on how love is patient and kind and relationships require compromise and all that crap.  Right now I just need to bitch because I'm awake and I have nervous energy that I can't go sweat out.  My attempt to write anything positive or work on the essay I want to submit to a local anthology with a deadline at the end of the month is a moot point.  In the "Artist's Way," one of the first exercises she teaches is to write three pages of negative in the morning.  Dedicate three whole pages of a journal or MS word or wherever you write to just plain old bitching.  I think this is the best writing exercise ever and I need to add it to my daily regiment again.  The purpose of the exercise is to write out all your self doubt, anger, frustration so you get it out of the way on those three pages and can silence the vampires that keep you from your creative works.  I guess this morning it is three public pages because I feel like I need to produce something and I don't have time to do three pages and then blog afterwards.

Earlier this week, I woke Brent up while trying to apply what little make up I wear, powder and mascara if I even remember it, without poking my eyeball out and when he woke up he told me my shirt looked like a maternity shirt.  When I got mad he called me a bitch.  Well, who isn't a bitch in the morning when getting ready in the above mentioned atmosphere and being told you look pregnant while trying to cater to his royal pain in the ass?!

I do love him and it makes sense to live here so when I get home we'll talk.  I'll apologize with a velvet dagger, "I'm sorry but mornings are my time to do the things that I want to do without the rest of the world demanding my time, patience and attention.  I'm trying to be quiet but I'm not going to change my routine..."  I'll explain how after nine hours of doing technical, logistical paperwork and sitting through meetings all day I come home to cook dinner (he does the dishes if I cook and I hate dishes more than I hate cooking) and it's already 8 pm.  At that point I'm exhausted and just can't turn on the creative faucet and let it flow from me like the Amazon River.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that for you non-artists folks.  My faucet is on in the morning and if I don't plug the sink it all goes down the drain completely waisted.  Could I train myself to work the other way?  Probably if a gun was held to my head, but a gun isn't held to my head.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to start getting up at 0445 instead of 0530 to write for 45 minutes before working out once I'm settled in more, but I'd like to eventually.  My body has always been in tune with the natural cycle of the sun/moon.  When it's dark I sleep, when the sun rises I wake.  It's strange in this world of artificial lighting, cities that never sleep, and demanding careers/life, but I am an old timer and my body really is in tune with this natural life cylce. 

In a relationship there will always be compromise and someone will always feel like they are giving more than the other (maybe both parties feel this way), but some things just can't give.  Maybe the answer will be to get a two bedroom once he's working again.  It would be a new and nice concept to have a physical room to write.  Maybe I'm dreaming too big for this economy, but it is that dream that is going to get me through this transition period.  We'll work it out down the road with ear plugs, making room in the living room for my computer or something else, but I'm not going to compromise my writing any longer.  Growing up, I compromised my creative ambitions to study math and science in order to get a good score on the SATS to get into a good college.  In college, I took creative writing 101 with Barbara Bean on a whim.  She gave me permission to study it, to be a writer.  "You're really good at writing," she told me after workshopping one of my pieces, "why don't you major in it?"  I didn't even know you could major in creative writing at that point, but so say we all - it was decided.  I declared a major at the end of my freshman year.  For three years everyone told me to pick something more useful, but Professor Bean believed in me and with that one little compliment I was able to tell them to fuck off and let me be.  People always seem to know how you should live your life and no idea how they should live thier own.  I suppose I do the same to my siblings, I think it's only natural.  After college, I had to compromise my writing to pay the bills.  Literally starving in NYC and sleeping on floors and couches, I gave up my dream of being a starving artists to join the Marine Corps (huge leap, I know - maybe this is proof that worm holes exist in the universe).  In the Marine Corps, I gave up writing for mission accomplishment, but continued it "as a hobby," I would say to my commanding officers. 

Now, I understand that the key to compromise is balance.  I, Lisbeth Mae Prifogle, will give in, but to a point drawn either in the sand or with pixie stix wrappers down the center of a dorm room.  I have to go to work to pay the bills - yes.  I have to be quiet in the morning becuase I don't live alone - yes.  I have to give up writing either as a hobby or in a vain attempt to be a "real" writer, whatever the hell that means - no.  Plain and simply, no.  The world can take, I can give but I won't give up writing ever again.  Sigh, but now I have to go be a logistician ......

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Wow, it’s been such a long time since I’ve written anything let alone an entry on here.  No journaling, no faux attempts of working on my “manuscript,” no blogging, not even the start of something that I’ll never finish, but begin with full intentions of posting, submitting, doing something amazing with.  I can’t say that I’ve had writers block – that would insinuate that at some point I tried to write, but couldn’t.  I haven’t even tried, unless you count work.  Wow, the mere fact that I just wrote that sentence implies that I actually tried to justify work writing as creative writing.  That’s really just sad. 

Recently, someone asked me why a Marine with a MFA in writing was doing logistics for the DoD.  I replied, “paying the bills.”  Really that’s what I’m doing.  It’s not the work that bothers me and it’s certainly not the people I work for that’s bothering me.  It’s one of the best DoD contract companies to work for and for the first time in my working life I can say I like, respect and enjoy working for my supervisor and coworkers (and no I’m not just writing this because someone from work might read this.  I really do mean it – great company and great people).   What is it?  What the hell is bothering me?  Well, on the list of a thousand reasons a writer writes there is a bullet point with “to figure things out” written next to it.  So, hopefully I can figure it out and if not hopefully someone out there who is wiser than me can fill me in on the secrets of life. 

What the fuck am I doing?  I asked myself this after finishing undergrad as I moved to New York, New York.  I think I've asked myself the same question 14,418,534,600,000 (the national debt at the time I wrote this).  When I moved to NYC I didn't really have any plans  except living the poor poet’s existence that I had sung along to with Rent so many times.  I would get there and live the romanticized life of a writer with a family of poor, creative friends living off their art instead of money, food or water.  I was enrolled in a graduate summer course at NYU for book/magazine publishing because I was sure that was the best way to launch my writing career.  After sitting through seminars and talking to book editors and freelance magazine writers I realized I don’t read magazines and I never finish any of the books I start reading so really what could I contribute to this field?  I spent the first month so homesick I was physically ill at night and after class willed myself to sleep 10+ hours.  Sleep has always been my way of coping with transitions.  The first month I lived in Aberdeen, Scotland I was homesick and lost and slept as soon as I got home after class just to pass the time for the first month as well.  No matter how many times I sleep away the strangeness of a transition period, I never seem to realize that in the blink of an eye the adventure will be ending with sleepless nights that I hope will never end.  Some people just never learn.

I stayed in New York after the class was over.  I applied to clothing stores and lit agencies, but my heart wasn’t in it.  I knew it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing with my life.  Every time I went in for an interview I had that sinking feeling in the bottom of your gut like when you know you’re walking down the wrong street of a foreign city, but you keep going so you don’t have to admit you’re lost.  As soon as I'd leave the interview I'd exhale and like when you finally admit to yourself you're lost, I'd get that feeling like you swallowed the dog piece from the Monopoly set.  I couldn't find a job, but I don't think I'd hire me either.  So, I did what any self pitying college graduate would do.  I moved back home and decided I was going to be a Marine. 

I remember the exact moment when I knew this was my fate.  I met with the officer recruiter and had all the information I  needed to make my decision.  Before driving back home I stopped by the coffee shop, MT Cup, on Ball State’s campus.  I wrote in my Lord of the Rings themed journal, “I’m going to be a fucking Marine if it kills me.”  I so badly wanted this to be what I was meant to do in the world that I trained nonstop for six months straight.  I was so physically fit that after the first work out at Officer Candidate School (OCS) I was disappointed that it was so easy.  Every morning I ran three miles as fast as I could down empty, gravel roads, only to have to turn around and run back at a more moderate pace.  I decided I wasn’t going to OCS until I got a perfect Physical Fitness Test (PFT) which required a 70 second flex arm hang, 100 crunches in 2 minutes and 3 miles under 21 minutes (for women, 18 for men).  The first time I ran three miles under 21 was on Thanksgiving.  It was rainy and cold and I did it.  After that it was a matter of doing it for an official time, which I did - more than once.  For the few months before I left Indianapolis that didn’t even cover my expenses, but gave me time to run 6 miles and then lift weights at the recruiter’s office.  Every day – rain, shine, snow, sleet, wind, hail – every fucking day I trained.  I can look myself in the eye and say that I have never worked so hard for anything in my entire life.  Now I wonder why?  I could have worked half as hard and still made it through OCS, of course I didn't know that.  I built the Marine Corps up on a pedestal so high that I'll admit now, I was disappointed.  I was so sure that this is what my purpose in life that when I finally realized it wasn't I don't think I ever really recovered.  I naively believed that I would make a good Marine officer, that I could make decisions that could cost men and women their lives, that I would at some point stop second guessing every decision I made down to what to eat for breakfast, that the women were treated as equals.  There are some things you just can’t prepare for in life.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to share with you how hard being a woman and a Marine officer was, but it was so hard in ways that I never expected.  Eventually the system wore me down.  I still wonder if I made the right decision to get out, but I suppose if I stayed in I’d be debating whether or not I had made the right decision to stay in that long. 

So, why am I writing this? One of my writing mentors would ask me this and tell me to figure it out and then revise the piece and just say it.  Most of the time she's right, but this is just a blog and I'm just exploring my thoughts.  Truth is why do we do anything?  Why post confessions that I don’t find my job fulfilling on a public forum where any of my coworkers can get on and read?  I don’t know.  Maybe I want to get a lecture from my older brother.  Today, as I was leaving the office, my boss asked why I have been leaving earlier the last couple days and if it was because I was coming in earlier?  I said I was just exhausted.  Truth is I have slowly left a little earlier each day and the last two days I have lost my keys, forgot my purse, or had some sort of mini-crisis in the morning making me 5 minutes later than usual.  Am I subconsciously trying to get myself fired?  Would that be the end of the world?  Well, considering my boyfriend just put in his 3 week notice and in the headlines today a SWAT team busted some man’s door down looking for his ex-wife because she was delinquent in paying her student loans … yes it might be the end of the world.  Then again I’m just “paying the bills.” 

Is there more to life?  I have slowly watched more and more of the amazing writers I went to school with announce a variety of publications and I’m so happy and proud of them.  But, I can’t help but be a little jealous too.  Not that their work is being published, but that they are doing what we all said we would do – write.  I want to buy every magazine they are in, every book they put out, be supportive but instead I’ve blocked some of them on my Facebook newsfeed.  I hate Facebook.  Why the hell would anyone think it’s a good idea to create a forum where you can openly stalk ex’s and high school classmates with the sole intention of hopefully reassuring yourself that you are happier with your life than they are with theirs. Clearly you’re not if you need that type of validation, but we all do it.  I find myself wanting to block my writer friends because it is simply too depressing to be reminded that I am failing to do what it is that I always wanted to do, but it’s not their fault – it’s mine.  I take sole responsibility for my misery and I’m beginning to hate myself.

I don’t sleep my depression away anymore, probably because I’ve lived here for five years so it’s not a scary, new place where I’m isolated because I have no friends.  Nope, I have friends, know what’s going on where and when.  It's self inflicted isolation.  Instead of going to sleep immediately after getting home to avoid facing life, I read the news.  I listen to talk radio 24/7.  I engross myself with the sensationalism of current affairs to distance myself from my own life.  I watch zombie movies.  I read post-apocalyptic graphic novels.  I live in a world that I’m waiting to end.  I wait for the next plague, the New World Order, the sun to die, nuclear war, anything so my dissatisfaction with life won’t matter anymore.  Nobody will notice that I have given up on the hopeless dream of becoming a writer if there’s an economic collapse and no food at the grocery stores.  If the world ends then literature won’t matter and neither will the potential memoirs of a random girl who was pretty, wore a uniform and spent time overseas.  All the mistakes I made as a leader will be overshadowed by the bigger failures of bigger leaders.  I pray that the world will end so my life will have the most basic purpose of all – survive.

If Bernadette were to read this she’d ask me again - what are you trying to say?  I think I figured it out through writing.  This is a confession.  A confession that I’m a writer who doesn’t have writers block, just excuses – I’m tired, it was a long day at work and I don’t have the energy, I have to work out in the morning, I don’t have anything to say, I never wanted to be a writer anyways.  Confessions of dissatisfaction at work, but hopes I don’t lose my job if I post this because work will always work, but I believe in the company and enjoy working with my coworkers.  I need to post this.  I need to admit to fellow Antiochians and my mentors that I have failed post-graduation and I need their encouragement.  I need to change my life or my attitude and if I write this confession out for anyone to read I’m more likely to hold myself accountable for my actions or lack thereof.  I'm writing this in hopes to remind myself that every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thinking of you friend.

The first time I went to a Vedanta temple with my friend Laura I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had to been to various church services, but before that day I had never even heard of Vedanta. We navigated through the surface streets of LA, neither sure where the hell we were going. Without GPS and smart phones we would have never made it to the small side street that wound up to a little patch of heaven in the middle of the busy metropolis. We parked and got out of the car, amazed by how quiet it was. You couldn’t hear the busy freeways, the honking car or sirens. We walked up to the temple on the path where her grandparents and parents had once walked and into the modest building. The ceremony had already begun and we took our place in one of the back rows. There were four other people in the pews, which were actual chairs, and those practicing the ceremony in the front of the room. I didn’t understand what they were chanting or what the ceremony meant, but I never understood Catholic Mass either. I sat and enjoyed the tranquility and watched those around me in a calm, peace with their heads bowed and their eyes closed. I decided to follow suit. I can meditate; I thought and tried to quiet my mind. Of course when you try to do a simple task it makes it nearly impossible. At first my head itched, then something outside caught my attention, a bird? A flash of light? Who knows? Then the compulsive thought, “am I doing this right? What am I supposed to be concentrating on? What are they saying?” Sometimes at the beginning of an acupuncture treatment the same thought runs on repeat through my mind. I try to remind myself that there is no right or wrong way to meditate or relax, but I can’t when I’m supposed to, maybe my mind is broken and I simply can’t be at peace on command. I’m at peace when I run or work out, during a long, familiar drive and when I’m writing, but not when I’m sitting still.

Walking back to my car that day Laura said, “I hate meditating like that. I always feel like I’m doing it wrong.” I laughed and told her I felt the exact same way.

I feel the same about grieving as I do meditating. I can’t seem to do it when it’s appropriate and I always feel like I’m doing it wrong. I must have been sick the day they taught us appropriate grieving techniques in elementary school. I haven’t lost a grandparent, parent, sibling or close friend. I see bad or horrible things on the news and I feel distant from the emotions I am supposed to be feeling. I let myself believe that nobody I love can ever die because that’s just cruel and unfair and life is already hard enough so god wouldn’t even dare taking someone away from me. I realize this is unrealistic and even childish, but if you could have held onto the belief that Santa is real for just a little bit longer, or that your babies could believe just one more year, wouldn’t you? I let myself indulge in this fantasy, because like Santa and the Easter Bunny, once I know I’ll never be able to go back.

I remember the day our friend Florian passed. She was my mother’s dear friend and I don’t think my mom thought it would upset me when she told me. I was living in New York and going to a summer graduate program at NYU. I think I had run out of money by then, or maybe it was the last week of my 30 day metrocard before I had to start walking to and from class – from Union Square to the Brooklyn Bridge. I remember I was alone when Mom called, and probably running late. My mother called and there was something in her tone that gave it away before she said the words aloud. There was the initial shock that I didn’t snap out of until one of my roommates asked if I was okay. “No,” was all I could get out before I ran out of the conference room where we had classes. I walked down to Battery City Park. I cried as crowds of people walked by, not a single one looking or asking if I was okay. I remember it was a cold June day and it was starting to rain. I was glad that this kept people out of the park. It was a weekday and people were scarcely scattered about the park I stood and stared at the Statue of Liberty, then wrote in my journal for a bit. There was a Mexican man and his son taking pictures and the father interrupted my journaling to ask if I could take a picture of both of them. He then explained how they had travelled all the way from Mexico City just to see the Statue of Liberty. I thought this was a strange pilgrimage since they weren’t American, but then I remembered all the castles and landmarks I visited in Scotland when I lived there. My eyes were probably red and my cheeks stained with tears, but this man just rambled on and on about their journey to get there. I listened, because that’s what I do when strangers want to tell me their story (and they always seem to seek me out for this task). I smiled, glad that they had made it and it meant so much to them to see Lady Liberty even though I just wanted to sit on a bench and pour my heart out in the blank pages of my journal. I was glad when they left without asking me to dinner or trying to hit on me, the man simply wanted to share their moment of joy and triumph with someone and I just happened to be the someone who was around. He wanted someone to know what that moment meant to him and I was able to hide my moment of sorrow behind his excitement.

I think about this day from time to time when something reminds me of Florian. I feel selfish for not thinking of my mother, when it was her close friend who passed. She talks about her often and I know she misses her. I feel ashamed that I didn’t try to contact her husband and children with condolences. I can remember being upset that I wasn’t living at home and couldn’t drive out to Oklahoma with my family to go to the funeral. This was the first of many events I have been too far away to attend. I wonder if someday I’ll regret living so far away. It will be seven years this summer and I still wonder if I grieved properly. Maybe I should have checked on my mother that afternoon.

Today, I opened up my email to the subject line, “Funeral.” My parents have been active members of the Tecumseh Lodge since I can remember. We have danced at the Tecumseh Labor Day Powwow every year for the last 20+ years. I get emails about member’s failing health, births, deaths, graduations and every other triumph and trial of life that they want to share with the lodge. I haven’t lived at home for ten years, and don’t always get home for the Labor Day powwow let alone for the lodge socials and other dances. I don’t usually recognize the names in the emails and delete them without reading the details, but this morning the name for the funeral notice was Jim Deer. I’m trying to remember if I saw Jim when I was home this past September for the 50th anniversary of the Labor Day powwow. Did I talk to him? Did he eat with our family over the weekend? Was he even there? As we always say, “if I knew that would be the last time …”

I didn’t know Jim any better than I knew Florian, but they both influenced my life more than they will ever know. I was extremely shy growing up, but at every dance Jim came over to our camp and asked me how I was doing and what I was learning in school. Jim lost his son after he left for the military. During off hours he was playing football with some of the guys and broke his neck. Growing up, I can remember wondering why Jim always looked a little sadder than everyone else. He lost his wife and adopted son far earlier than is fair in life, as well. Jim was a veteran and I remember watching him dance around the arena with the other veterans during the memorial songs. During Officer Candidate School (OCS), when I didn’t think I could push myself one more step, I thought of Jim and the other Veterans that I had watched through the years and kept going for them. During the Veteran’s song they danced through the arena with a humble pride, grace and unexplainable sorrow that I never quite understood until I went to war. My dad sang with Jim on the drum and I know he’ll be singing his favorite songs in heaven today and Jim will finally be at peace with his wife and sons.

I think today I will take my journal to the Vedanta temple here in San Diego. Instead of trying to sit still and meditating, wondering if I’m doing it wrong, I will take my journal and meditate my way and think of those I’ve lost and those I’m fortunate enough to still have here. Like we always do, I’ll swear I’ll try to call those I don’t see or talk to daily a little more often, even though I know I probably won’t.

Today, I miss my friends, but instead of wishing I had spent more time with them while they were here or wondering when was the last time we spoke, I will be grateful that they were part of my life at all. I’ll remind myself that grieving is like meditating, there is no right or wrong way to do it. I’ll listen for the songs from heaven, because I know Jim and Florian will be singing joyfully for us to hear and know they are doing alright.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I wanted to post an update and thank everyone for their warm thoughts and comments.  I decided to drop back to the Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR) and hopefully I won't be pulled back to deploy.  If I do get called back I'll go and lead Marines to the best of my ability because it is my duty.  I feel like I made the right choice.  I didn't do anything to get out of the deployment, they simply gave me a choice and I hope it all works out.  There is still a chance that I will have to go, but that was the best I could do to keep it my choice.  Now I sit and wait.

I've spent a lot of time in the last two days thinking.  Thinking about my time in Iraq.  Thinking about active duty.  Thinking about why I joined the Marine Corps to begin with and why I went back to the reserves when I missed it.  I thought about how bad some of the leadership in my prior command was and I thought about how great a few individual leaders in that command were.  I sat in my office watching at the Marines and Sailors coming in and out of the office cheerfully working.  I finally concluded that they deserved better.  They deserve someone who's heart is in the fight.  Not someone who got out for a lot of different reasons and went back to see if she made the right decision.  Over the last six months, I got my answer.  I put the uniform back on, this time with Captain bars.  I had a better attitude, had a lot of fun and became a better Marine and leader.  However, the truth remains the same -  the Marine Corps will never change.  The faces of the young, gung ho Marines evolve, but the Marine Corps doesn't.  I can go back in six months or a year.  I have two years on the IRR.  There is a strong chance that I will have to deploy during that time or I can start drilling with the reserves again.  As a Gunny keeps reminding me, I serve at the pleasure of the President so I am never really free.  I kind of like that fact.  I'm part of something for the rest of my life no matter what.  A commitment I can't break, divorce or run from.  I like to think that when I'm 90 and aliens invade earth I'll be pulled back to kick alien ass or that someday I'll really get to be a space Marine (although I can't figure out why Marines are always featured in sci-fi movies when there really isn't much water for amphibious tactics in space).  I go back to my other job today with a heavy heart.  "I did the best I could with what I had," I tell myself.  "It was the right decision for you, today."  Still, I wonder if I did the right thing.