In the Dark

So earlier I had a moment that thousands of people have but rarely talk about; due to shame, embarrassment, etc. But here you go.

I came home from work and the electricity was off in my apartment. I knew I had fallen behind on payments and was planning on making one on my next pay check, two days away. I walked through the apartment laugh crying as I would forget the power was off and try to turn on a light or charge my phone that was on 3%. I wondered how I was going to get it paid and how I was going to explain to my teenager why the lights were off and how I was going to set an alarm clock for work in the morning and on and on….I sat in the dark ashamed. I sat in the dark defeated.

I eventually pulled myself together and walked out of the complex to my car so I could drive to the local Tim Hortons to buy the cheapest thing possible and charge my phone. On my way out I saw people standing outside talking by their cars. I said hello to one of my neighbors and they replied, “Can you believe the power is out??” I stopped in my tracks and blinked. “What’s going on?”, I asked. “The power, it’s been off since 11am. Estimated time for it to come back on is 8pm”, my neighbor replied. I dropped my head, shook it and continued to my car trying to hide my relief.

The whole complex. The whole complex was without power. And here I was, crying in my apartment, trying to figure out how my life had come to this. Questioning my worth. Wondering why I kept failing at life.

But I hadn’t failed this time. Unfortunately, failure is always close. But I do what I can to keep it at arms length. I work hard everyday in the hopes that arm length will grow. To 10 feet or 100 miles or to a point so far I can’t see or feel it anymore. And I am not alone.

There are people walking among you. People with kids in your kids school. People who work at your work. People who are your family or friends. People that are affected differently than you when the power goes out. People that act like everything is okay, when it’s not. And they are struggling. Silently. In the dark.

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Work

How do you find a job you actually enjoy? Do they really exist?

I have a friend who is an artist. She has a deep love and passion for painting. Crate and Barrel purchases her paintings to sell in their stores. She makes a comfortable living painting pictures. Her love has now turned into a job. There are deadlines and color guidelines and paperwork. Her love for painting has faded. It isn’t a passion anymore. It’s just a job.

So, again, how do you find a job doing something you actually enjoy to do? Everyone tells you, you can achieve anything as long as you put your mind to it. But what if you don’t know what it is you want to achieve?

Maybe I’ll teach, no psychologist, that’s it! Oohh but being a flight attendant sounds like fun or a writer! An artist! I’ll never have to “work” again!

But you do. It’s all work. And it all becomes an annoyance. A life draining entity. So how do you decide what degree to get or trade to learn or passion to invest in when ultimately it will end up feeling the same as every other job? Seriously. How? Anybody?

Not Another Zombie Story: Part 2

Taylor

Miles away from the dingy house, out of the city, where the yards get larger and the houses more lavish, we find Taylor. Taylor is your typical 17 year old girl. Captain of the volleyball team, an amazing gymnast, and lead soprano in choir. Where Taylor differs from other kids her age is she has a secret. A secret life. A secret identity. A secret addiction.

Like most teenagers it started with a little pot. She was 13 when she first smoked a joint. It was after school in the woods behind the football field. Her friend Alyssa had started dating a high school boy and begged Taylor to come with her to the woods where the older, popular kids hang out. How could she say no? Standing awkwardly in the group of high schoolers Taylor did her best to fit in. When a joint magically appeared in front of her she grabbed it without hesitation, taking a long painful drag, immediately convulsing into a fit of coughs. The older kids laughed and cheered her on. That’s all it took. She was one of them now. The next four years were a blur of parties full of alcohol, pot, acid, mushrooms, whipits, cocaine, meth, you name it.

Taylor miraculously maintained her teenage life. She took drugs to help her study. She took drugs to help her compete. She took drugs to help her sleep. She took drugs for everything. No one knew. She was still beautiful. She was still vibrant. But she was slowly dying on the inside. And the drugs she took were no longer working. She needed something new. Something better.

Taylor had just finished her junior year and was getting ready for the end of the year party hosted by her bff Alyssa of course. She finished her makeup, did a bump, and headed out. The party was your typical teenage rager. Music blaring. Kegs, fifths, blunts, lines. Barely dressed girls kissing other barely dressed girls. Bros playing beer pong. Couples making out in the corners.

Taylor made her way through the crowd and found Alyssa.

“Yeeesss Queen! You look amazing!” Alyssa screamed as she reached out to hug Taylor. “Where the fuck you been? Tonight is going to be lit. Josh is bringing over some good shit.”

Taylor’s heart skipped a beat. She had been in love with Josh since freshman year. The idea of partying with him all night made her stomach flip.

“My Aunt is in town so I had to do dinner at the club with the fam. It was so fucking boring. Let me hit that.” Taylor said pulling a blunt out of Alyssa’s mouth. “What’s Josh bringing? I’m sick of this weak ass kid shit.”

“I don’t know.” Alyssa said, hitting the blunt. “He said his brother got it from a friend who got it from this guy. Anyway it’s supposed to be crazy. Like nothing we’ve ever tried before.”

Taylor looked around. Her classmates were spread throughout the house. Drinking, smoking, laughing. This was going to be a great summer. The summer before senior year. The summer before her adult life began.

Taylor and Alyssa walked in the kitchen to make a cocktail. And there was Josh. Tall, lean, beautiful. He was holding something in his hand and excitedly talking to JT, the captain of the lacrosse team. Taylor pretended not to notice him. Alyssa wasn’t as coy.

“Josh! About fucking time! You got it?”

“Yep.” Josh said with a grin. He held his hand out to show a small glass vial with some green murky liquid inside. “Hey Taylor.” He said sheepishly.

“That’s it??” Alyssa said before Taylor could answer. “Dude I gave you $200 and that’s all you came back with?? What the fuck?”

“Trust me.” Josh said, keeping his eyes on Taylor. “This stuff is legit. It will make you feel like you are flying.”

“Well what are we waiting for. Pour it in my drink.” Alyssa said.

“It doesn’t work that way.” Josh said. He pulled the top of the tiny vial and showed the girls a small glass dropper attached. “One drop. That’s all you need.”

“For fucks sake Josh, we’ve done acid before. I can’t believe this is what you got with my money.” Alyssa grumbled.

“It’s not acid!” Josh said. “It’s..it’s..it’s just different, okay? Trust me.”

“It better be the best shit ever.” Alyssa said. “Let’s get this party started.” She opened her mouth and tilted her head back. Taylor followed suit. Josh put the dropper back in the vial, pulled it out, and put a drop in Alyssa’s, Taylor’s, and his mouth.

Taylor instantly felt like she was floating. Her body was as light as a feather. The wall of the kitchen melted into a swirl of colors. The fridge splashed to the floor like an ocean wave. Taylor saw figures floating past her. They resembled her classmates but were distorted and misshapen like clocks in a Dali painting Taylor saw in a museum once. They floated past her one at a time exploding into red ribbons as they passed. The sounds she heard were like muffled police sirens. Long high pitch tones fading into the swirling walls. She thought she could make out Alyssa in the mix of shapes and colors but the distorted figure instantly collided with another figure. More red ribbons fluttered to the ground and muffled sirens sang. Then everything went black.

Not Another Zombie Story: Part 1

Joel

It didn’t start like everyone imagined. It didn’t start like it had been written millions of times before. There wasn’t a virus. There wasn’t a mutated gene. There wasn’t a rapture. It started as an experiment. No, not a mad scientist experiment. An experiment from the desperate, the uneducated, the addicted. People had been reinventing the wheel for centuries figuring out new ways to get high. Thanks to over medication of opiods in the past 20 years the inventions got more clever. Or more earth shattering.

It all started in the dingiest of cities. Where hopelessness was as thick as cigarette smoke and crime was as common as the sunrise. It started with a man. Not a brilliant man. A man who actually never even graduated high school. A man that held our fate in his hands.

Joel was born addicted to cocaine. The son of a rock star father he had never met. And a mother who peaked in the 80’s and spent the rest of her life chasing that feeling. Joel knew the cravings before he could even walk. Those cravings never went away. He was a mediocre student at best. That is, when he actually made it to school. Most of the time his mother was too hung over or high to take him. So Joel, like many others and soon all of mankind, was doomed. He could have fallen into that 5% and through hard work and determination became something wonderful. Something different. Instead he did what was easy. What he knew.

Joel tried his first drug at age 10. He found a roach in the chipped amber ashtray on the coffee table and snatched it before his mother, snoring on the couch, could notice. Joel decided to see why it was so great. Why his mother prefered it to him. Why his mom and her friends seemed to have more fun after smoking it. What Joel didn’t know is that the roach was not just marijuana. It was laced with something. Something that smelled kind of like burning plastic and gave him the strength of 10 men. That was the high that started Joel’s search. And that was the high that changed our world as we knew it.

Now here is Joel, 22. Alone, strung out, desperate. He has spent his life so far in and out of jails and treatment centers. He is on a first name basis with the police officers in town and even some out of town. He has gotten high in every way imaginable. Meth, crack, herion, prescription drugs, you name it. He has even drank bottle after bottle of vanilla extract to get a buzz. He lives alone in a one room cinderblock single floor house. On the right wall is a mini fridge, a sink, and a toilet. The left wall has a couch oozing stuffing from its cushions and a metal tv tray holding a lamp. In the middle of the room is a table with one chair. Beer cans, cigarettes, and garbage litter the floor. The walls are bare minus an outdated calendar with a picture of a classic car on it.

Joel sits at the table surrounded by empty beer cans, empty prescription bottles, and overflowing ashtrays. He is leaning over a green plastic bowl staring intently into it. There is a knock at the door. “J! What are you doin man?” It’s Patti. To people on the street Patti and Joel might be considered a couple. They were together more often than not. Smoking outside of bars, drinking from brown paper bags. Spending hours in Joel’s house. They both had the same mission and sometimes that was easier with a partner but romance was not part of the deal. Joel didn’t even know Patti’s last name. He just knew she was good at getting drugs.

“Go away!”

“Fuck you, J. I know you got some shit in there.”

Joel ignored her. Yes, he did. But what? Inside the bowl was a green, murky liquid. A concoction of prescription drugs, alcohol, and household cleaners. Using a dropper, Joel takes some of the liquid and places a drop on his tongue.

Instant euphoria. Joel is flying high among the clouds. Below he sees the city. The cars look like bugs, the lights like prisms. Colors swirl all around and happiness is upon him. Trees blend and grow like waves on the ocean. Buildings melt into rivers. People move in slow motion like liquid. Then things start to change. The colors fade and turn dark. The people turn in slow fluidity, their eyes menacing. Joel feels scared. He sees a face. Is that Patti? She is a blur of shapes and colors. Is she screaming? Joel hears no sound. Patti’s mouth opens farther, her head stretching like the painting by Munch. It continues to stretch until it bursts into bright red ribbons that float silently to the dark ground below. Joel’s heart is beating fast. He looks down at his chest and can see his shirt move like his heart is going to pop out at any minute. He grabs his heart. Then everything goes black.

Cool Mom

Since my daughter started high school I noticed a shift in the parent to parent dynamic. A seperation. A purposeful move to exclude. Under breath conversations and side glances. I couldn’t pinpoint why at first. Did I say something wrong? Were my bake sale cookies not up to par? Am I driving the wrong type of SUV? It wasn’t until my teen broke up with her boyfriend that a venomous mother showed me the light. I was the “cool mom”. I was the mom “more worried about being friends with my child than being a mother”. I was side stepping parent responsibility in order to be liked and considered “one of the gang”. Let me just say, that’s total bullshit. 

First off, I don’t drink or party with my kid. Don’t get me wrong, I drink. I party. But the LAST thing I want is my kid to be around while I’m doing it. I party with my friends to forget for a few hours that I am even a parent. So why would I want my kid there??? 

Secondly, the reason my kid likes me (most days) is because I treat her like a human being. I respect her. I respect her feelings. I respect her thoughts. I consider her point of view. And the biggest of them all, I DON’T JUDGE. She is so close to being a legal adult it’s terrifying. Do I want that adult to not trust their own judgement? Do I want her to not feel confident to enter the real world without my help? Do I want her to feel her thoughts, feelings are not valid?

Third, instead of living in denial, I remember that I was once a teenager and what it felt like. I remember the insecurity. I remember the nervousness. I remember the desires my hormonal body was showing me for the first time. So no, I’m not going to lose my shit when my kid says she’s thinking about having sex for the first time with her boyfriend. I am not going to ground her for life and deprive her from something that is normal and natural. I am going to explain, in great detail, what it means to lose your virginity and what could happen after. What a horrible mother I am.

Lastly, I am going to let my kid live her life. You want to shave your head? Go ahead. You want to ditch me at dinner to go hang out with friends? Have fun. You want to go go to Detroit for a rock concert? Wear your seatbelt. In this fast paced game of life the small shit doesn’t matter. You learn from every experience. Why would I want to keep her from learning?

I determine my parental success with the following; Is she kind? Very. Does she work hard? Yes. Is she respectful? You bet your ass she is. Does she get straight A’s? Not always but who cares? Will she make mistakes? Of course, does anyone not?

Moral of the story is, before you judge the “cool mom” and throw her into the “bad mom” category, look at your own parenting. Life is short and our kids leave us before we know it. Don’t spend your time with them focused on insane schedules, perfect grades, lifelong abstinence, and militant discipline. Enjoy them. Respect them. Love them. Be cool.

It Won’t Be Long 

My daughter turns 16 today. I am sad. I am not sad that she is not a little girl anymore. I love the person she is right now just as much, if not more, as that little girl. I am sad because I know it won’t be long.

It won’t be long before she graduates from high school. It won’t be long before she leaves for college. It won’t be long before she graduates from college. It won’t be long before she has a career. It won’t be long before she meets someone special. It won’t be long before she gets married. It won’t be long before she has kids. It won’t be long before her kids grow up. It won’t be long before her kids are gone. It won’t be long before I am gone.

As sad as the thought of the above makes me I pray that it happens. I pray I am there to see it. I pray I am along for every step. I pray she accomplishes everything she attempts. I pray that she is happy the whole way through. I will pray every day for it all.

Happy birthday my love. You have brought me 16 of the best years of my life. You are truly the most amazing person I have ever met. Enjoy this year because it will be unlike any other year you have ever experienced. Be present. Be adventurous. Be kind. Your next birthday is a year away and that may feel like a lifetime but trust me when I say, it won’t be long.

I Got 99 Problems But The PTA Ain’t One.

Growing up in the 80’s meant I was front and center for the rise of hip hop. I had an older brother that fed me rap albums re-recorded on scribbled on cassette tapes. I would listen to them over and over on my brown Playskool tape player, careful not to play it too loud for my mother to hear. By age 8, I was well versed in Grand Master Flash, NWA, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, and the Beastie Boys. I loved it. It spoke to me, as much as it can speak to an 8 year old. It had a message. A message about struggle, discrimination,  what life was like to be  young and black in America. It helped me understand a world I would never know.

By the time Snoop and Biggie and Pac came along, in my teens, I was fully emersed. I listened to other music as well. Pop, punk, rock, alternative, R&B but hip hop always held strong in my heart. At a glance I looked like a punk. Piercings, tattoos, colored hair, combat boots but I could go toe to toe with any rhymers in the neighborhood. I cried when Eazy-E died. I continuously watched the coverage of Biggie and Pac’s murders. I felt my childhood fading away.

Fast foward 20 years. I am a middle aged, white mother. Spending my time bouncing between work and driving my kid to her next sporting event. Cruising around my Satelite radio one day I find the hip hop channels. Bliss! I rap along with every song much to the astonishment of my teenager. 

Hip hop has never left me. And now we have all these new sounds. Fetty Wap, Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, D.R.A.M. It is a hip hop revolution once again. It is hard for the old school to embrace the new school, I get it. But if we cannot embrace these young artists aren’t we just as bad as our parents back in the day? The people trying to get rap permanently banned? Music evolves. That is what is beautiful about it. Todays rappers have a message. They have a voice that needs to be heard. The have a story. And I hear them.

 Hip Hop will always be in my heart and I do not have to play into any stereotypical image of what a middle aged white mother should be. I am proud that my daughter is starting to understand the artistry and message behind hip hop. I educate her on artists and songs. On what is trying to be conveyed. I taught her what Broccli meant, not the other way around. And I am proud. 

So if you hear bass thumpin at the high school or the ballet class or the stop light, don’t assume it’s a thug with no musical taste. It’s me. A mother with a degree, a job, and a kid on the honor roll. I may look like Melissa McCarthy on the outside but on the inside I am Ice Cube. Ya’ll better recognize.

IPA Is The Pumpkin Spice Latte Of The Beer World.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been known to enjoy an IPA from time to time but the beer world has become obsessed with this hoppy bitch. Everywhere you look beer companies, both craft and domestic, are releasing multiple versions of IPA’s. There are IPA’s for cheese parings, IPA’s for the “real hops lovers” one sip and your face concaves into itself, IPA’s for the adventurest that wants to drink beer but also needs to be able to kayak in heavy rapids and scale a mountain. When did beer get so pretencious? What’s next an IPA that accentuates your beard called, My Beerd Is Awesome? (©®TM) 

Being from Michigan, I understand the appeal of joining the craft brew game. Breweries are popping up in abandoned factories in small towns all over my state and they are succeeding. What brew is usually the first on tap? An IPA. Sure it might be because that is what they were intending to make but am I the only one who feels it might be because they added to much hops and dried out their batch and instead of dumping it said, “Let’s just call it an IPA.”? Yes, I am saying it. Our over-saturation of extremely hoppy beers is most likely due to a large amount of mistakes made by amatuer brewers. 

But we drink it, don’t we? Not because we like it. Not because it tastes good. Not because it’s finely aged. We drink it because we have to, to prove our refinement and knowledge of beer. It’s a status symbol. When the waiter goes around the table getting drink orders, “I’ll have a Miller Lite. Heineken for me. What type of IPA’s do you have?” Whoa. This guy is not only cool he is smart and sophisticated. I want to be just like him.
And so it goes, the people at the table want to be like the IPA guy so when they are with a different group of friends they become the IPA guy, and so on, and so on. Now you have a world of IPA lovers who can’t really pinpoint why they love IPA’s. They just do. So the market responds with more IPA’s, IPA tshirts, IPA candy, IPA stickers, IPA coffe cups that say, I Wish This Was IPA. 

And so, the market responds. Just like it has to the Pumpkin Spice uprising that has us all groaning. Really? Pumpkin Spice Tampons? IPA’s are not far behind. And why, really? Because it’s good or because someone cool said it was good? If I meet you at a brewery or brewfest, and we start discussing beer, I am going to ask you what your favorite type of beer is. If you say IPA I will proceed with caution. You may either have a reason (it would have to be damn good) or, quite simply, you are a poser.
P.S. If you want to impress me brewers try making a caramelly nut brown or perhaps a deliciously light heifeweizen. Think outside of the hop box!