Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ink me, baby

Plan for 2008: a new tattoo and a book. The former being a little easier to accomplish than the latter.

My roots are in writing. In second grade, my teacher assigned us each to write a short story. When we were through, the teacher's aides printed the stories on thick white paper and bound the pages with a piece of cardboard covered in contact paper. We were authors. And I was in love.

Most of the kids in my class wrote and "published" the one assigned story. I did something like 15. I wrote about the birth of my baby brother, class field trips and mice that liked to eat peanut butter and jelly. I wrote whatever came to mind. When I wasn't talking, I was writing. I had a lot to say. I continued writing throughout elementary school, but no longer had the teacher's aides to publish me.

My writing style changed with the books I was reading. When other kids my age were reading the 50-page books from the Goosebumps series, I was reading R.L. Stine's older books about whirlpools of death and haunted beach houses. So I wrote my first horror story. I quickly figured out that I was not the next Stephen King.

Around fifth or sixth grade, I began reading Lurlene McDaniel, who wrote books about dying teenagers. Apparently even the perkiest eleven year old has a morbid streak. I recall writing a story about a pretty cheerleader who was diagnosed with leukemia. I also began another about neighbors who were in a car accident on Christmas eve.

When I entered junior high, and my soap opera phase, I wrote myself into scenes on All My Children. Then I acted them out in my bedroom. I thought I was going to win an Emmy.

I always liked naming my characters best. They had to have the perfect name. Some of my characters would go for days without a name. Which was difficult when you're writing everything by hand. I gave the heroes/heroines names I liked. By extension, my villains got less than exciting names like Jim. Not that there's anything wrong with Jim. I named the girl with leukemia Kimberlyn. The kids in the accident were Blake and Brandon. I thought Blake and Brandon sounded sophisticated. It was obvious (at least to me) that they lived in nice houses in the suburbs in with loving parents.

Lately I've been reading memoirs. I don't think I'm prepared to write a memoir. I probably need many more years of therapy before I could do that. But it is easiest to write what I know. And I know me. I could write about my wild summer in college when I was completely in love with a married guy. Or about my tumultuous relationship with my former roommate. My therapist loves that one...

Or maybe inspiration comes in 2008. The year of ink.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

the fascinating man I didn't know

I am very thankful for the time that I have with my father. I know he could have been lost to me, in a war, along with his hearing. However, outside of his military experience, I never considered him to be much beyond an ordinary, hard-working guy.

I was very wrong.

My father accompanied me back to Brooklyn this evening after a brief stay in my home state for the Christmas holiday. As we were boarding the train to head to Rockefeller Center to see the tree, I asked him, when he retires in April, how many years of service will he have served?

I had previously believed that my dad spent his entire adult life in two of the four major branches of the US military, on and off full time active duty.


When he retires in April, he will have served a total of just shy of twenty five years, after taking a twelve year hiatus between his Army and Air Force service.

I was surprised. I knew nothing of this mysterious twelve year period. My dad, had, like, a civilian, plain-clothed life?

He did. For example, after a short fling while working in Kansas, there's a small chance that I could have a brother or sister who would be about 35 now.

Yep. I hope she exists and I hope she's a girl. I always wanted a sister.

Also, a few years later, after returning home only to pile on some debt and partying (my dad?), he moved to Egypt for two years. Up and moved to Egypt. I recall the pictures of pyramids framed on the walls of my early childhood home. I also remember asking to take in some of the photos for show and tell. My dad had been to Egypt and saw the pyramids. But I understood these photos to have come from his travels with the service.

Wrong again.

He was also a bit of a cad. In the span of retelling these missing twelve years to me tonight, he mentioned at least four fairly serious girlfriends. Including one from Australia. I could have been Australian! Throw another steak on the barbie!

At one point, three large diamonds also entered the story. I think I may have persuaded him to give me one to pay for my wedding.

It was both refreshing and strange to hear that my dad is super awesome and had a whole exciting life before I was born. He had visited six continents and lived, at least for a few months, on four. He was in love with an Australian girl; partly so, he admitted, because he loved her accent. By the time he was my age, 26, he'd really lived. Even the people I've known my whole life surprise me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Daddy's (Big) Girl

For those who don't know, my father will be retiring in early 2008 from the Air Force, after over 30 years of service. As a sort of thank you to him for his service, I wrote a short essay for a larger Father's Day 2008 piece that will be running in one of his favorite magazines. Since I don't know if it will make the cut for the magazine, I thought I would publish it here. Today is my dad's 56th birthday.

A lot of little girls say that their father is their hero. I was no exception. But my father wasn’t my hero because he bought me a pony (he didn’t), or because he helped me with my math homework (that, he did) – my dad has served in the military for thirty plus years, served in three major US conflicts and has been deployed on countless missions to serve neighbors in need. And he does this every day because he’s passionate about his work and about helping people – certainly not for the paycheck, which helped to pay my way through college.

I’ve only really come to appreciate my father’s heroism as I became an adult myself. His hard work and patriotism only solidified for me after I saw people of my own age (and several years younger), being deployed with him to Iraq. I knew my dad would look out for these boys in the desert, just as he always looked out for me. Over the course of several months these boys would become just as much his family as I am. He became their hero as well.

Now, as my father enters is much awaited and much-deserved retirement, I can only say this -- Thank you, Dad. You’re remarkable, and you are a true hero.

December 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

the day beneath a birthday

I got through that whole birthday thing with minimal breakdowns. And, at the end of the day, I realized there were a few things that were causing me to enjoy the day of me significantly less than I typically do.

1. After a certain age, it becomes impossible to get truly amped about celebrating your birthday. At 6, your birthday is the biggest day of the year. At 26, I just wanted it over; I wanted to be in my pajamas and in my nice, warm bed. I think the last big birthday one can really be excited about is 21. Because then all of the alcohol you were consuming in college anyway becomes legal. Twenty-one for me was a particular let down because I had just been released from the hospital and was not permitted to indulge in these now-legal beverages. So I had a sip of White Zinfandel at the Olive Garden with some friends. I should say, though, that even had I not beem hospitalized, I still probably wouldn't have gone wild on my 21st, drinking until I blacked out. I probably still would have had dinner at the Olive Garden.

2. Earlier in the year, I had set a few goals for myself to have achieved by my birthday. And since I had only accomplished one, that was more than a little frustrating. In fact, in some cases, I am farther away from my goals now than when I originally set them. And that, well, really blows.

3. I was letting others dictate how successful of a birthday this one was for me. Even though I was preparing myself for disappointment after my oops-no-one-showed-up-for-my-birthday fiasco of 2006, I still couldn't help but think this year was going to be different. So when none of my outside of work friends were able to make it this year either (but a big thanks to Michelle for a coffee date early in the evening!), and my fancypants dinner plans fell through, I was pretty convinced that a larger celebration was a waste. And it sort of was, but after I thought about it, that was really only because I made plans to do things that I don't really like. Like go to bars and get wasted (which, the latter, I didn't do anyway).

So now I'm 26. Which could be 90 in my eyes. Its not old, but it feels like its time to start getting myself in order. This grown-up life that I like to talk so much about needs to get underway. I need to feel like I keep changing, keep progressing. I already made an appointment for therapy.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I've got the blues, the birthday blues

So tomorrow is my birthday, but I'm in quite the foul mood. No, not because I'm afraid of turning another year older. I don't really care about that. If anything, I think saying I'm 26 may add a little bit of weight to me -- it says, "hey, I'm pretty much an adult. I know what I'm doing!" Even if its only true sometimes. I may look 18, but I've voted in two presidential elections already.

Perhaps I'm in a bad mood because I haven't re-registered to vote in New York and therefore can probably not vote in the primary and give Joe Biden my vote of support.

Anyway, no, that's not it. It's that last year I had a miserable birthday. I planned a party/dinner that only one person attended. And he walked to the bar/restaurant with me. This year I planned a party with my glorious officemate who shares my birthday. So far, two people that I invited are coming. One, being the one and only person who attended last year. So praise be to Philip!

People from our office will come and that will be good. Some of them might even converse with me. Still, I feel like something is lacking this year. Twenty-six feels lonely. It feels like I'm on the cusp of moving forward, but my surroundings are all, "yeah, right."

I've written before about how I've really felt a shift this year. Lately, though, that shift feels shakey. Like at any moment I could slip back into 23 year old me (I do wish I could slip back into her jeans, though) and my progress will have vanished. All of the things I have come to understand and appreciate will be confusing again tomorrow when I wake. And then I will have nothing to show for the painful year that was 25 for me. That puts me in a bit of a unfriendly, volatile, pretty damn grumpy mood.