Friday, December 31, 2010

Disruptive Joy

Earlier this month, the good folks over at Blogher suggested we make vision boards filled with "the images that are reminiscent of your list of things that fill you with joy and grace, or things that you want for yourself in the coming year, or images that typify the kinds of creative activities that you'd like to try, or just words or passages that you find especially stirring."

This is a little touchy-feely for me, but I figure since not doing this sort of stuff for the last 42 years hasn't helped much, I might as well give it a shot for 2011. Not a list of resolutions so much as general idea of what I'd like 2011 to include for me. The only thing that's not here is this: I'd like 2011 to be the year where I stop worrying- about what other people think, whether they like me, if my kids will become serial killers or I'll end up living in a cardboard box. That sort of stuff. I'd like to put my anxiety in a box and bury it in the yard. But not my yard- someone else's yard. A long, long way away from here.

The thing I like best about this is the idea of Disruptive Joy. I don't know if I read that idea or if I made it up, but it's simple: use laughter, joy and fun to give the metaphorical finger to the crankypants people in my life. It might just make them madder- and that's sort of fun- but it's one way to not let myself get sucked into their black pit of despair and doom.

So yeah. Disruptive Joy. Your first Badass idea for 2011.

You're welcome.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Raise Your Glass

So it's been a hell of a year. Without sharing the details (which I will share, eventually. Trust me. They're just not quite funny yet.), suffice to say that it's been...a hell of a year. Have no fear, though, my journey to Badass isn't over. Detoured? Maybe. Canceled? No way in hell.

But it's almost New Year's and I'm not going to navel gaze or ponder or meditate on the lessons learned/ lessons yet to learn. I am going to take a moment to acknowledge that, while it may not be pretty, I'm still here- and that little part of me that I used to be ashamed of because it didn't quite fit, didn't get me dates, embarrassed my family and made my sorority sisters look at me in horror- that little part is leading the way.

So let's raise a glass to it, shall we?

Damn Straight.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Living the Dream

The pie's in the oven (that and the cranberries are my sole contribution to this year's meal), the kids are hooked into screens and The Man of the House is headed to Sears to buy his big Man Machine (snowblower). I'm still in my jammies, enjoying my second cup of coffee and I'm pondering the journey thus far.

When I was a kid, living in a series of apartments and rental houses, I used to imagine my life the way I wanted it to be when I "grew up." When it didn't involve red carpets and long walks on the beach, it looked like this:

A little house in a nice-but-not-fancy neighborhood with neighbors we knew and liked. A tall, handsome husband who could Fix Things and who thought I was wonderful. A blond girl who looked like me and a little boy who was just a little too smart for his own good. And a dog who'd chase a ball in the yard for hours without ever running away and needing to be hauled home by the collar.

This morning, I'm looking around and thinking...yeah. Things may not be perfect. We're dealing with some major health/ work/ financial decisions and there are nights I lay awake wondering how we'll get through the next week or month or 24 hours, but mostly...yeah. This gig is pretty Badass.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I do more before 10 am than you do all day.

Here's my morning so far:

5:45- wake up from a nightmare about a friend telling me she quit going to our church because I said something mean about her kid
6:00- give up trying to go back to sleep and get up
6:10- step in dog poo
6:20- realize I forgot to take the monkey bread out of the fridge last night.
6:50- put monkey bread in the oven, hoping it will still work
7:00- realize that my kid's parent conference is at 7:45. Peer anxiously at Monkey Bread
7:10- scramble to get kids out of bed and rushed through morning routine
7:30- kids announce that today is "dress like your hero day" at school. Tell them that's fine, but they're on their own costumes-wise and we're out the door in 10 minutes
7:32- reminder call from radiology- Harry has an x-ray at 8:10
7:40- Monkey bread isn't done. Curse. DH and I yell at each other and the monkey bread goes back in the oven (now turned off) with a prayer that it will somehow finish.
7:50- Kid's teacher arrives for the conference. Proceeds to tell us he's the cleverest child she's ever taught in 30 years (yeah!) and that he's going to be a juvenile delinquent if we don't teach him some self discipline and organizational skills (boo!)
8:15- Can't find kid to get him to the clinic for the X-ray
8:20- Locate kid in the library, frantically call X-ray. They promise to squeeze us in.
8:20- Call from pediatrics- why didn't we come to our appointment? We had an appointment? I had no idea. Reschedule appointment
8:30- Call from husband's doctors reminded me that he has an appointment today. Remember that I need to be sure to go with him.
8:35- Waiting in waiting room at x-ray.
8:45- Still waiting
9:00- Still waiting
9:10- X-ray! All appears well, to my untrained eye. The mass is gone! Mostly! Hooray!
9:15- PTA chair calls asking about the monkey bread. I improvise a cover story.
9:20- Scramble home. Monkey bread is done enough. Dump it on the tray, slap some foil over the top, and scramble back to the car.
9:30- Kid and I struggle into the school with the monkey bread, his trombone, his backpack and music folder. I nearly dump the monkey bread in the parking lot. Twice.
9:35- Monkey bread accomplished! Kid's at school! The x-ray is complete! I prepare to stop for celebratory coffee! Alas, I arrive at the drive up window and realize I've left my wallet somewhere. The Barista takes pity and gives me the coffee anyway.

You know what? That's a pretty badass morning, if I do say so myself.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Seize the Fish

Sometimes, the universe (or God or fate or whatever) has a way of deciding things for us. When I really think about it, easily 75% of my life has happened by accident. I met my husband because I decided, on a whim, to blow off my American History exam and go out dancing during finals week. I became a teacher because my Intro to Speech class was filled with kids that scared the piss out of me so I transferred to another class. One taught by a teacher who changed my life. My daughter, whom I adore, came a year early.

I may like to pretend I'm driving this thing, but in reality I'm just holding onto the steering wheel praying I don't crash.

This became uber-clear to me earlier today when I realized that I'm losing my job.


I've been in denial for weeks (okay, months) but now...well let's just say that there's nothing quite like a fish in the face to wake you up to reality. Metaphorically speaking, I mean.

I watched something on TV once about this place somewhere out west (Seattle maybe?) where there's this big fish market. The guys throw the fish all over the place, catching them and wrapping them up to sell. Apparently it's really something to see. I think there's a book about it too. That's the kind of job where there's never any question about your performance. You catch the fish or the fish hits you. Immediate feedback. If the fish hits you too many times, well, then I guess you're looking for a job.

I thought I'd been catching those fish quite nicely and passing them along with speed and accuracy. Apparently my fish are irrelevant though. They aren't so much necessary in the larger scheme of things. So now I have to figure out what to do next. The Badass thing to do is pretty much NOT to cry. Right? crying. Check. Also no breaking things. Got it. I suppose a Plan B would be a good idea. But otherwise? Eh.

So Carpe Diem, I guess. I'll seize this day- or this fish- and I'll do something with it. But I think I'll do it later. Right now, I think I want to go to bed. Can retreat be Badass? I certainly hope so- 'cause I've got nothing to fight this fight with right now.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Grin and Bear It

I went camping with my family this weekend. We drove way up north and set up our tent and did the whole Griswold Family Car Camping thing in one of the state campgrounds (read: Right next to the highway and surrounded by drunk people). We've done this trip before so we totally knew what we were getting into and we'd adjusted our expectations appropriately. The thing we didn't plan for?


Okay- bear. Singular. Two of the three nights, we were awakened by horns honking and cursing and banging and people shouting "Git out of there! Git Bear! Git!"


Now, in past years I would have been nervous about this. You know- me, my babies (and my husband- I guess I should mention him too)- all within earshot of 250- 300 pounds of black bear. But I was just...annoyed. The way you'd be annoyed if you looked out and saw a raccoon in your campsite. Much more "oh hell" than, "Oh SHIT!!!"

That's what we call Backwoods Badass, I guess.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

These Boots are Made for...Not What You Think.

I bought some boots last year. Some knee boots. I haven't had knee boots since the 70's when Jamie Sommers made them de rigueur for the fashionable Bionic Woman wanna-be.

But boots are badass. And these boots were WICKED badass. They made me feel...amazing. Powerful. Sexy. Plus they were warm- no small bonus for a New Hampshire winter. Warm AND sexy. What're the odds?

So I wore the boots a lot and I got a lot of compliments of the "Oh look at your cute boots! Where did you get them?" variety, but the real power of the boots didn't become apparent until I boarded a Delta flight bound for New Jersey.

It was one of those out-and-back trips that everyone hates. A "fly down, have a meeting, and fly back all in one day because we're too cheap to spring for a room" trip. I needed the meeting to go well and so I called upon The Boots. I paired them with an appropriately conservative skirt, a little sweater set. I even broke out my pseudo-pearls.

On the flight home, feet aching and exhausted, I reached down to unzip my boots. That was the moment when I realized their hidden super power. My boots are the footwear equivalent of Spanish Fly.

The man next to me- who was old enough to be my father, by the way- was fixated on them. And not just on them- on me unzipping them. I swear to god, the look on his face told a story of arousal that was so plain and so intense...this random guy on the airplane was turned on by my boots. And my taking them off.

I started to write him off as a run-of-the-mill perv when I realized that the two guys on the other side of the aisle were equally focused. Apparently the fact that I was exhausted and disheveled and not at my sexy best meant nothing- the boots were all that mattered.

Who knew how much guys like boots? Today, *I* know how much guys like boots. And don't think for one single moment that I won't use the Power of the Boots to bend the world to my badass whims once fall rolls around again.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Human Will

Today I got a lesson from my little boy in the power of sheer human will. He's recently been diagnosed with a condition called Developmental Coordination Disorder. On the surface, he just looks clumsy and sort of odd. He runs with a weird gait, he can't catch a ball or throw a ball and he holds his body in a way that just, somehow. He responds oddly to some noises but others- loud ones- seem calming. I remember holding him as a baby and thinking that there was something not quite right but I just couldn't put my finger on it. First I thought Autism (my most powerful fear while I was pregnant). Then Aspergers. Then his preschool teacher threw out the idea of something called Sensory Integration Disorder, but that wasn't quite it.

Then he discovered numbers and we discovered that he was gifted- really gifted, which is not so much a gift as a new set of challenges balanced by a freaky smartness where numbers are concerned. We thought maybe this was part of that. It wasn't. Finally we discovered DCD and it felt like my 8 year old suspicions had finally been validated- but the victory was awful, hollow. This thing wasn't in my overactive imagination. I wasn't just being paranoid. This thing was real and it was holding him back.

We suddenly found ourselves in The System.

After a year of in-school services (and a startling realization that we had been expected to arrange private clinical support even though no one ever mentioned it to us), we hooked up with a lovely woman I'll call Miss M. She's our new PT/OT and she's amazing and funny and kind and energetic.

We're so lucky to have her. And today, watching her work with little boy, I wanted to cry.

She knew just what to say and do to make his disabilities oh-so-obvious. He can't hop on one foot really. He can't do jumping jacks. He can't process what he hears half the time. He gets nervous and jumpy and that makes it worse.

Watching him struggle and sweat and work with her to do things that other kids find simple- like run and jump and hop and climb- made me want to cry and scream and rail against whatever deity it is that decided my sweet boy shouldn't be like other kids. That this would be his thing to manage.

It's not fair.

He doesn't have any illusions, I don't think, about the ways that he falls short in comparison to his peers. He knows that he's a freaking math genius and that he reads better than most kids his age and I guess, for him, those things balance out the ways he struggles. For me, though, the daughter of a coach raised to see boys as the sum of their athletic ability, it doesn't quite balance out. He wants to play baseball. I want him to be able to play baseball. And soccer and basketball and whatever else he wants to play.

Like I said- it's not fair.

But fair or not fair doesn't seem to matter so much to him. With Miss M's help, he saw all of it as a game. He knows some of why we go to her gym once a week- and why we'll go there for at least another year, probably more than once a week when we can manage it. He knows he has to get strong if he wants to keep up with his friends when they play games. He doesn't fully comprehend how far behind he is or how far and hard the road to "caught up" is going to be, but he has eyes and he's smart- he sees the difference.

So today he giggled and sweated and strained and pushed and he tried again and again and again for the longest hour of my mommy life since transition.

Then he asked if we could go back tomorrow. Right now, he's doing the exercises he learned today, in spite of the fact that he's exhausted. My little boy is a force of nature and he's going to beat this thing by pure force of human will if that's what it takes.

And that's really badass.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Letting Go

Sometimes the bravest, hardest, most badass thing you can do is let people you love fall on their assess. Watching people you care about struggle through hard stuff- even if it's hard stuff that they brought on themselves or hard stuff that you know they have to go through as part of becoming who they need to be- is gut wrenching. I know that my kids need to go through the misery that is goodbye and the hard work of figuring out how to navigate the world as themselves (as opposed to the people others may expect them to be). I know that my parents have to make their own journey into this next "retired" phase of their lives (which is not at all what any of us expected it to be). Rescuing or solving or fixing things for any of these most loved folks in my life would be robbing them of the opportunity to become who they are becoming- no matter how much better it would make me feel.

I just hope I'm badass enough to keep my mouth shut and my heart open.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Forever Young

There aren't a lot of days when I wish I was 17 again. Or 27, even. But today? Today I wish I were 21 and still in college with every possibility stretching out in front of me. I am yearning for the days when I was absolutely certain of things. When the beer was free and cold and a flip of my hair could get me all sorts of things. I am longing for a twin bed and a clear to-do list, created by someone else, with deadlines and expectations and page limitations.

I want clarity about what I'm supposed to do and who I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to (allowed to) expect from other people.

I need a syllabus for life. And a really, really good party.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wondering where I am?

Without going into the gory details, let me share this single piece of evidence re: the level of insanity in my life right now:

My children ate Captain Crunch for dinner last night.

'Nuf said? 'Nuf said.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Going Public

If you're reading this, chances are good that you're a friend of mine. By and large, with just a couple of exceptions, my readers are people that I have known- some for over a quarter of a century, some for less- personally. You're my peeps. I've shared excerpts and proposals and the like with various and sundry publishing-types, but this blog has remained largely in internal thing. But in the last few days, I've made the decision to go public. Technically anyone could find me through google or through one of the handful of links from other sites, but I didn't actually tell me people who *weren't* my friends about this project.

That's no longer the case. Today I gave the name of the blog to someone who doesn't have to love it by virtue of being my friend. My hands were shaking and I thought I'd throw up, but I did it. See, I can't do the stuff the project calls for- fighting and shooting and the like- because I'm not strong enough. In order to get strong, I need someone else's help. So I asked and then I outed the project to her (though in that moment I couldn't for the life of me remember the address).

It scares the hell out of me- having my Badass self out for the world to see- but it's the thing I'd do if I weren't afraid.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Yeah, I've been quiet lately. Partially because I've been engaged in the most soul-sucking writing project ever- a federal grant proposal that turned out to be a whopping 250 pages by the time it was done- and partially because the Mother of All Ear Infections had me unconscious for a week. If I'm honest, I also have to admit that I also just lacked inspiration.

But now I'm back. Or at least some version of me is back. The soul-sucked, half-deaf, wiped out version is back because of something someone said to me yesterday. Actually, she didn't say it to me, per se, but she said it in a room I was in and therefore, by virtue of the fact that the universe revolves around me, it was said to me. The context escapes me ('cause like I said- half deaf so not able to hear half of what is said to me), but the part I caught was this:

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

There are two things I love about this. The first is the assumption that of course I'm afraid. That we're all afraid. I like the shared insecurity there, the "of course you're scared. We're all scared. If you're not scared your either stupid, crazy or not paying attention." It releases me from the sense that I have to pretend to be certain of anything at all. It equalizes us in this shared insanity that is life in the 21st century.

Then there's the invitation to imagine a world in which I exist without the fear. A place in my life where I do things because I want to, because they inspire me or speak to something in me or because they sound like fun. Where I say things because they're what I really think and feel, without wondering who isn't going to like it, how they might judge me, what the long-term political ramifications might be of every single statement I make. What would that be like? Would it be liberating or horrifying? Would it lead to some kind of cruel narcissism or would I discover some deep truth, some wisdom born of fearlessness? Is fearless the same as brave? Or is brave only the recognition of fear- the decision to move beyond it- and fearlessness a lack of ability to respect our internal "Danger Will Robinson!?"

So maybe it isn't about always acting on the fearless- of ignoring the danger. Maybe it's just about asking yourself the question. Maybe it's about recognizing the decisions that come from fear rather than some other authentic self, and choosing to go with the later rather than the former.

So I'll ask you, What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Room for the Holy Spirit

A couple of weeks ago, someone suggested that I befriend a cop so he/she could introduce me to a legal brand of Badass. I went on a fishing expedition (a la "Anyone know a cop?") in the normal channels- Facebook, etc- and came up empty.

Then I went to the New Member meeting at my church because my kids guilt-ed me into joining after 8 years of attendance. One other family was there- a retired cop, his wife and their daughter.

I'm not sure if it will turn into anything, but it sure seems like somebody's telling me to keep going, you know?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easy Rider

My 8 year old learned to ride his bike today, like ten zillion kids before him and another ten zillion to come. This particular right of passage, though, was hard fought and hard won. My boy has been risk averse his whole life- well, except for that one time when he was three and he stepped over a big brown snake in the backyard, but we won't go into that one because it gives me an irresistible urge to wash off the heeby-jeebies.

Actually, hang on a sec. I'm going to grab a quick shower.

Okay, I'm back.

So, my risk averse boy has been afraid of his bike since we took the training wheels off. Not just leery, but full-on afraid to the point that the mere mention of his two wheeler would send him into fits and tears and hyperventilation. I had almost given up ever having a family bike ride, had allowed myself to believe that this single thing was just too hard for my little boy. I believed that he wasn't strong enough to overcome it.

Then I saw him scooter. Apparently, his babysitter had a couple of razor scooters and the kids were taking turns on them after school and had been for quite some time. When it came to the scooter, my darling was a serious badass. He was fearless. He was a speed demon. He was an 8 year old X-Gamer.

I hatched a plan. If the babysitter was a brave place for him, if courage grew in the grass under her oak tree, then maybe the bike would be less terrifying and more possible there than it was here. I pondered, I puzzled, I weighed the pros (fully mobile kid who can do things his peers can do!) with the cons (broken arms! broken legs! getting smooshed by a car!). Surprisingly, the pros won.

I dropped the bike off at her house this morning. When I picked up my dearest boy at 4:15, he was riding like a pro. He was zooming up and down the street and he was sweaty as all get out and he was so. freaking. proud. He'd taken on his Schwinn-shaped demon and he'd won.

My kid is badass. Who knew?

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Sweet Smell of Rejection

Most people don't know this, but I write picture books. Yes, I realize it's odd that I don't draw picture books, but someone has to write the nearly 25 lines of text in your average kids book. I do that. It's much less stressful than trying to draw. Lest you confuse writing picture books with actually selling picture books or even- gasp- publishing a picture book, don't worry. You've never read anything I wrote, unless you've been perusing my hard drive lately.

Or unless you're a member of a certain writer's competition that I recently entered. You might have read my stuff then- right before you plopped it into the "No Way In Hell" pile. I know this because I received yet another in my long line of "thanks but not thanks" self-addressed, stamped envelopes. (And don't imagine for a moment that I don't see the dark poetry in ponying up my own stamp and envelope to be told yet again that my writing isn't quite what the committee is looking for.)

I suppose that I should be used to it right now. With only a couple of exceptions, nearly all of my non-professional writing has been rejected. From what I've heard though, there are like 10,000,000,000 writers submitting pieces for the 2 slots each publisher has available. Odds are better that I'll be struck by lightning or get killed by stampeding zebras or hell, even wear a bikini again in my lifetime. I may never publish anything.

But what if I do? Every time I summon my inner Pollyanna and muster up the energy to send off another manuscript (along with another self-addressed-stamped-envelope for the rejection letter), there's this sort of Schrödinger's cat moment where I haven't been accepted but I haven't been rejected. For a moment, I'm published by virtue of the fact that I haven't yet been rejected.

I have to believe that I"m badass enough to spit in the face of further rejection, to submit again an welcome the sight of yet another SASE in my mailbox.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How Much Glitter Does One City Need or Why Vegas Sucks

I've been in Vegas. That's not a blanket statement, it's an update on my life. I've been in Vegas. Lest you imagine that I chose to go to sin city, let me assure you that I traveled to Vegas for a meeting. That's not the point, though, so I'll skip over that part. The point is that Vegas sucks ass. I should have known when I stepped off the plane and into 1977 (seriously- the airport was a portal to a whole different era) and the woman next to me sighed to her husband, "Oh honey. It's like heaven." Uh, no. Or, if yes, you seriously need to rethink your vision of the afterlife. But I was upbeat. Nauseous but upbeat. Surely this was a city where I could find adventure. I could bring the badass here, right? Then I saw it- a life size cardboard woman holding a machine gun. Now that had potential. Maybe I could finally satisfy my small-arms curiosity. I scrawled the number on my ticket envelope and tucked it away.

We stayed in a hotel on the strip that started out okay ("Look! There's a big fish tank! How bad can this place be if they have a fish tank!?") and then immediately spiraled into the toilet when I tried to cross the casino floor and realized that even the carpet had glitter in it and that it was true- the whole place was designed to confuse and distract me from my goal of getting the hell off the casino floor. There was glitter everywhere. There were pole dancers everywhere. There were scooters everywhere. When I saw the glitter covered scooter parked next to the pole dance, well, the cognitive dissonance of that was almost more than my little brain could bear.

Rather than go into detail, let me just run down the high point.

1. I couldn't get a cup of coffee without crossing the casino floor.
2. I couldn't get anything to eat without crossing the casino floor.
3. I couldn't get into my room without crossing the casino floor.
4. I couldn't get out of my room without crossing the casino floor.

Get the point?

But I still had some hope. I figured that there must be something I could do here that would up my badass cred. I braved the casino floor and found a place to have a beer and as I watched the people around me, it hit me. Vegas is mostly a city filled with posers. Women wearing shoes they can't walk in, sporting fake boobs under dresses obviously purchased for just that occasion. Men trying to look like high rollers, gambling money they can't afford to lose. Groups of men and women trying to cut lose and shake off the mundane reality of their real lives in a single weekend.

And don't even get me started on the brides. You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a bride. I'm not even sure they all had grooms- or other brides- with them. I really think some of them were going stag.

My badass choice was to reject Vegas. I didn't gamble anything. I didn't overindulge (well, there was that one Brazilian Bar-B-Que place, but that doesn't count because I didn't choose it). I wore my jeans the whole time. I broke up with Vegas before it even had a chance to ask me for a second date.

Oh- and the gun place? Turned out to be a tourist trap. The guy at the bell stand refused to let me get into a taxi when I told him where I wanted to go. No loss. I'm pretty sure that's an itch I'd rather scratch without paying for it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Eyes Wide Shut

Once upon a time, way back at the beginning of this project, I googled "How to be a Badass." I found a lot of links- most not safe for civilized company- and the images were, um, had a dominatrix bent to them. One of them had this interesting idea, though: one quality of the badass is the ability to do something without looking. I think the writer was imagining something like throwing a knife or shooting someone's toe off, but it got me thinking about what I can I do without looking. After much thought, I realized that, without looking, I can:

1. Return the shopping cart to the cart corral from across the parking lot.
2. Tell that my children are doing something they're not supposed to.
3. Sense when dinner is "done" (i.e., burning)
4. Smell trouble brewing at work.
5. Know when it's bedtime.
6. Communicate my level of stabby-ness.
7. Tell a joke.
8. Open a beer.
9. Change a diaper.
10 Type.

None of these are really that badass, except the shopping cart thing. I think that sort of freaks people out.

So what about you? What can you do without looking?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Being Brave

I try to go to the gym several times a week. I have time after I drop the kids at school and before I have to be at work and my gym isn't that far out of the way, so I just don't have much of an excuse not to go. (Not for lack of trying to come up with one- trust me.) So I go and I try to use the time to let my mind wander a bit. This morning as I was huffing and puffing on the elliptical, I realized that I had a great view of the women coming in. So I started my own version of that "guess the secret" game I play to entertain myself on airplanes. Instead of secrets, though, I tried to imagine the brave thing that each woman had done in the hours, days or weeks leading up to her walk through that door.

In some cases it was easy- the older mom with the newborn was a single-mom-by-choice who'd taken on parenthood alone. The very heavy woman in the purple sweatsuit was taking her life back by making that first step towards a healthy body. The young woman with the scar on her knee was a former athlete coming back from surgery. Others were harder, though. They looked like me- average, middle-class, middle-aged women doing their best to stay in the same sized jeans they'd worn for years. What brave things had we done, I wondered?

I get on airplanes and drive thousands of miles every year, believing that I will return safely to my family. A friend made a terrifying call to get test results that, while ultimately benign, could have proved disastrous. A colleague insisted that her child get help, in spite of his insistence that nothing was wrong. A neighbor stood in her town meeting and said "No. Not here," to those who would challenge the right of others to marry.

From the mom who turns and walks away, leaving a crying child in daycare and trusting that they'll both be okay to the woman who holds the people she loves to the high standards of their best selves, our brave moments small and large need to be acknowledged- even if only by us. They call us to draw on some hidden resource, buried in some small corner of ourselves, and to do that thing we thought we could not do. We may not have invisible jets or snazzy, bullet-deflecting golden bracelets, but we are superheroes.

So tell me, how were you brave today?

Monday, February 22, 2010


I'm not sure who exactly introduced me to the aphorism that "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar," but I'd like to wax on the topic a bit. (I could make a beeswax joke there but I'll refrain from doing so.) Putting aside for the moment the question of why in God's name anyone would want to catch flies as opposed to swatting, killing or repelling them, I'd like to question the moral of this little story- that being nice is the best way to get your point across in a persuasive way.

Now, as I've stated before, being nice is not counter to being Badass and being Badass doesn't necessarily mean being nasty. I was recently involved in a conversation about some work stuff and it got, well, heated. It got really heated. It involved me and my work and my space and I got more than heated- I got pissed. I made my first "hell no" flat refusal of my professional career. I didn't want to discuss, I didn't want to explore other options, I didn't want to help solve the problem because I didn't create the problem. I was just. not. interested. And I was really vehement about it.

My colleagues in the meeting sat, slack-jawed and perplexed, listening to rant and behave in a very not-me manner and they looked, well, bumfuzzled. Finally, one man (the room contained 4 men and me) said in a sort of amused voice, "I'm sort of surprised at your energy around this." Another chimed in with a similar sentiment and a third added his reasoning for why I should welcome this difficult, inconvenient thing being proposed.

At that moment, I realized that they had expected to me to be all "honey" in this situation. I'm usually considered collaborative (which I've come to recognize as sometimes-code for "easy to convince" and "willing to give in"). I go the extra mile to support my colleagues, I don't mind doing a little more work if it's going to help someone else out. I usually am honey. I was raised to be sweet and accommodating and- above all- nice. My sudden shift to vinegar- largely the result of being tired of being kicked in the ass over and over again- shocked them. They didn't know what to do with me and their instinctive response- amusement and a hint of "Isn't this cute? Look how worked up she's getting!"- got them a snarl and a "You like it so much? You do it, then. 'Cause there's no fucking way I'm going to."

I noticed that this group of folks seemed more wary of me later. It was as though they'd discovered their cute puppy had a hint of pit bull in its pedigree. At a later meeting on the same topic, I noticed my colleagues watching me in their peripheral vision as though I were an undetonated grenade in the middle of the room. (I didn't explode, in case you were wondering, which I think was equally frightening.)

The moral of my little story, then, is that honey is nice, but it's sticky and its use for may adhere labels to its user (like "easy to roll over" and "always willing to take one for the team"). Vinegar on the other hand, tends to clean that sticky mess right off, leaving a sparkling new view in its wake.

Badass is about the freedom to be either honey or vinegar- or both- depending on the circumstances.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Dirty Little Secret

I used to be one of those moms who couldn't say no. I wanted to say no to about 3/4 of the stuff I was asked to do, but I somewhere, deep down, I really believe that my "no" would be heard as either "I don't care about you/ your kids/ my kids/ the planet/ our community/ etc." or that people would just stop liking me if I didn't chaperone the trip/ bake the cookies/ come in for the class play/ host the party.

I've made progress on this. Trust me.

But I still have one weakness. When one particular PTA mom calls, I have a devil of a time saying no because I like her. (As a friend- get your mind out of the gutter.) She's a nice person and she's taken on a giant task and I want to help her out.

So when the she asked me to bake 40 chocolate cookies for a thing at the school on Friday, I agreed. 40 cookies are no big deal. Then I got another e-mail asking if I could do 2 batches and I waffled but then...I agreed. Sure. I had time. This was a full 10 days before the event. No worries. I baked them on Tuesday and had them all ready to go with a few extras to spare. (Not being one to waste food, of course, I even went to the trouble to eat the extras. Waste not want not, you know.)

Then this morning I get an e-mail. Oops! Each batch is supposed to have 50, not 40, so everyone will be sure to get 2. Sorry! But please have your cookies at the school Friday by 11- and thanks!

Well. Hell.

So I did something I've never done. I went to Hannaford's and I bought the pre-cut, pre-made cookie dough. I baked those 20 cookies in less time than it took me to gather the ingredients for the first 100 and then I hid them on the bottom of the tray that I'm not going to label. If I'm lucky, no one will ever know that those 20 obviously pre-made, pre-cut cookies came from my house.

I'm torn between guilt and a giddy sense of "I got away with it..."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hillbilly Horoscope

So I'm not a big horoscope person. I don't put a lot of stock in predicting the future except as joke fodder ("You will meet an annoying woman today. Give her coffee and she will go away." Bonus points for anyone who recognizes that reference.) and I don't actively seek my horoscope out every day (thought it's hard to miss it since my local paper puts the most important features- Dear Abby and the comics- on the same pages as the horoscopes). I do, however, Tweet. And one of my twitter feeds is something (someone?) called OzarkGypsyArt, which I ended up following after she (they? he?) started following me. (It's a weird Twitter thing and this Missouri girl just couldn't resist the name.) And OzarkGypsyArt is an astrologer, I'm coming to realize, among his (her? its?) other interests. I couldn't resist this morning (I have a bad cold and my resistance is down, okay?)- I clicked the link. Here's what (s)he had to say:

It may seem as if you haven't been like your old self in years with dreamy Neptune in your sign for the last decade. Now it's time to look back and think about all the changes you've been through, especially the ones that elude logical understanding. You are in a gradual transition phase, and your realizations today could be instrumental in making the choices that will redefine your life in years to come. Be patient; this kind of transformation takes time.

Huh. That's all I'm saying about that. Just...huh.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I have a very good driving record. Very, very good. I got a 97 on the driver's exam (I didn't know where the defroster was in the damn borrowed car, or it would have been a perfect score). I can parallel park in downtown city traffic. I can drive a stick and, as I've mentioned before, hills don't scare me. I'm good in ice, snow and rain. I know what to do in the event of a skid (turn into the skid, in case you were wondering) and I constantly keep my eyes open for "ditch" options, in case someone else makes a bonehead move (like passing in a no passing lane or swerving into oncoming traffic) and I have to make an unconventional choice of route- like into the woods, down the embankment or into the other lane. I have never had an accident that was even ostensibly my fault.

Until the last year. In the past 6 months I've had one fender bender (which was really no one's fault- we both backed up at the same time out of slanted parking spots) and one "foot slipped off the brake and onto the gas and the car lurched forward and bumped a parked car in the parking lot." That last one? Today. This morning, actually.

Fender benders happen, though. That's why we have that cute little rhyming name for them. They are no big deal- so why am I writing about these two very minor incidents here? Simple. It isn't the little dings and dents that get me. It's my total inability to manage the situation. I am totally cool in 99% of disaster situations. Blood doesn't bother me. Storms, tornadoes, broken appliances- no big. But these two little bumps have left me frozen, crying and calling my husband so he can tell me what to do.

Quite frankly, it's embarrassing. Why this particular situation turns me into a 16 year old girl (and not even the 16 year old girl I was- I turn into some foreign creature whom I've never met) is totally beyond me. And the thing is, it's such a visceral thing that I don't even have time to divert it. The tears are welling and my chin is wobbling and the cell phone is in my hand within milliseconds. The first time, I could chalk it up to inexperience- I'd never had a real accident before, with damage and another driver scowling and trying to get me to say it was my fault. I needed guidance and my darling husband knows his way around an accident scene (though that's another story for another day). Today, though? Today I had no excuse. Sitting quietly in my living room now, thinking back on it, I knew what to do. I needed to leave a note and let the other driver know that I'd bumped her. There wasn't really even any damage, just a teeny scratch and some green paint (which confuses me 'cause my car isn't green, but I digress). So why the tears and the drama and the sense of impending doom? Why do I fall apart in that specific situation? I have no. freaking. idea.

It's so not badass. Badass would know that she knows how to handle the situation. Badass would curse, pound the steering wheel, and write the damn note. Badass wouldn't need to call on The Man of the House to fix it. Apparently, Badass took the morning off.


Friday, February 12, 2010

My Cranky Valentine

Valentine's Day is a complicated holiday for me in my journey to badass. On the one hand, it's a day devoted to having the ones we love remind us of their love for us, which is great. On the other hand, it's all frou-frou and frilly and there's a certain degree of "or else" in the air that I find sort of ooky. The high-stakes nature of the holiday has caused more headaches, heartaches and wallet-aches than just about any other. My own lovely spouse has busted his ass over the years to meet my wildly changing expectations for the day and that whole making people you love jump through hoops thing? Not at all of the good.

Other years, I've adopted a To-Hell-With-The-Whole-Thing attitude which was still unsatisfying. There's something about denying my need to be acknowledged as wildly sexy and inherently deserving of adoration (while doing the same for the Rockstar with whom I'm connected) that just feels...false, I guess. So that particular stance is off the table.

Rejecting both the full-scale buy-in and the broad-based rejection of the day leaves me with...what? Some wishy-washy, going-through-the-motions observation of the event? Candles and pizza? Tivo and sweatpants?

Maybe the secret is to stop trying so hard to be one or the other. Maybe it's okay to skip the cards and flowers and candles and just do what feels right, whether that be an evening of bill-paying and floor scrubbing or a snuggle on the sofa. Maybe Valentine's Day (a day which is historically about a 3rd Century prisoner with a bit of a romantic streak) is less about the trappings and more about the sentiment.

So here's my erstwhile Valentine to my Rock Star spouse:

You rock, my dear. Keep up the good work.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The FU Playlist

Since several people have noticed that I have an FU playlist (both referenced here and readily visible on my iPod), it seems only fitting that I share not only the list, but also the liner notes (anyone remember liner notes?) to go along with it. Without further ado, my Fuck You playlist- the soundtrack to my life.

1. Babba O'Riley- The Who

Besides the fact that the opening riff makes my grocery-store trip sound way more exciting and glamorous than it really is, there's something about the opening lyric ("Out here in the field") that makes my life feel like one giant, dangerous mission.

2. Bleed It Out- Linkin Park
Besides the fact that this lyric: "Truth is you can stop and stare, Bled myself out and no one cares, Dug the trench out, lay down there, With a shovel up out of reach somewhere" speaks to the futility and WTF-ness of so much of my life these days,the beat to this song makes me run faster.

3. Gone Daddy Gone- Gnarls Barkley

That thing up there? About running faster? This one does it too.

4. I Don't Like Mondays- The Boomtown Rats

'Cause really- is there anyone who does like Mondays?

5. I Hate You (My Friend)- John Oszajca
"I'd rather go to hell
Than shake your hand or wish you well
In case you couldn't tell"
This one makes smiling at people I don't like (while shopping for things I don't want to buy)so much more palatable.

6. Remember the Name- The Rising Tide
This song is simply Badass. It makes me swagger and strut and smile secretively. I like it a whole lot.

This isn't the whole thing, but it at least hits the high points. What songs would you add to your own Fuck You/ Shut Your Hole/ Badass playlist?

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I think that one of the things that drew me to the whole BA thing is the element of control. When I ponder the characteristics of Badassity across time and space, there are certain characteristics that run true. There are the outward signs that I've mentioned before and which I've tried (in vain) to learn for myself- fighting, shooting, flying an airplane, driving a motorcycle, etc. I've certainly spent a great deal of time on the inner qualities as well- so much time, in fact, that I couldn't possibly list them as concisely as I did for the skills I just listed. But still, all of that stuff- the inner and the outer- have to do with being able to control a situation rather than having it control me. Sometimes I think that 15 of the first 40 years of my life were someone else's. The well meaning "other" in the form of parent, sibling, teacher, advisor, friend, lover and spouse has always determined my path. No matter the situation, my choices (after the onset of the hellish reality that is "adolescence," followed closely by the fresh nightmare of "adulthood.") in any given moment were driven by a desire to please, to not disappoint, to fill in the gaps that I imagined the "other" saw in me. (Let's me clear, though. Sometimes those gaps weren't imagined by me- they were stated outright by the people I trusted most. To be clear again- that sucks ass, but it's another post for another day.) Over time, I lost the ability to be in control of anything including my own thoughts, feelings and desires. I was the cliche- the boat without a rudder, a leaf in a stream, a ship without a sail- and it was not nearly so peaceful as all those water images may lead you to believe. I don't want to spend the next 40 years waiting for the next situation to spank me- I want to make choices, for better or worse, and live with them. I need to be in control- as much as anyone can be- of what I do and think and say and the only way I can do that is by trusting my judgments and by believing that I actually do know what the hell I'm doing. I'm fairly certain that I'll discover over time that there's some larger metaphysical thing at play here- something about any control at all being an illusion- but as I've already said, that's another post for another day.

So with that...

Control doesn't have to mean stick-in-the-mud, you know. Control also means being in charge of my right to get my boogie on at 8:38 in the am.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

One Bad Mother

Last night I took the kids to the library. We don't do that much in the winter and almost never during the week, but I had some time to kill and I thought, "What the heck? Let's live large." We head up to the youth section, which has its own floor and is sort of hermetically sealed from the rest of the library. In the past, I loved that about the library because it meant the occasional baby- shriek wasn't going to disturb some poor schmo working on his dissertation. Plus it has comfy sofas and chairs just perfect for lounging and reading to munchkins. Last night, though, I discovered the downside of the comfy couches and the glass doors. The youth section of the library has become the hangout-of-choice for the early adolescent set.


That means that, while trying to find the last remaining copy of Cowboy Kate and Cocoa and Percy & the Olympians, I was also trying to keep the kids out of F-bomb range. At one point the librarian came over to tell them to watch their language and they just laughed at her, which triggered some long-dormant teacher instinct in me and I sort of lost it. Not like "Get off my lawn" lost it, but more "scary short lady talking to you like she knows you telling you to have some self respect and find some place to hang out where little kids don't have to hear you talk like you don't know better- which I know you do- and don't mess with me cause you don't freakin' scare me" lost it.

When I finished and one kid tried to laugh at me, I spun on him like the kick-ass teacher I used to be and dared him (with my expression) to push me. He (and three of his co- hoodlums) left.

I had to go sit down because my hands were shaking so badly.

Badass speaks her piece and dares you tell her to shut up.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Losing My Badass

I've been quiet. Really quiet, actually, which I found a little disturbing. The early days of this project were energizing and inspiring- I saw opportunities everywhere. My badass, all new and shiny, was easy to find. It was ubiquitous. Like all new stuff, though, it started to loose its luster pretty quickly. I worried that I just wasn't badass, that it just wasn't in me. Then I decided that I was just bored with the whole thing. Then I decided that I just didn't have anything say. Then that I was tired.

Now I've decided that this is a bit bigger than I thought it was. It's not just about learning the trappings of the badass (which, by the way, is proving tricky. Will no one teach a girl how to shoot a handgun anymore without expecting sex?), it's about uncovering a piece of who I am. I think I was a badass kid. I started adolescence as a badass. Then somewhere along the line I buried it. Buried it so deep that I thought it was something I had to become rather than something I had to uncover.

I didn't anticipate that, once uncovered, my badass would then endeavor to bury itself like a frightened stingray- only deeper. My badass ran far and fast and did a swan dive into the LaBrea Tarpits to protect itself- protect me- from what the world would think. My badass is shy, apparently. This is, of course, completely the antithesis of badass. Badass doesn't' give a rat's ass what the world thinks and wants to be the center of attention, right?

So my new job (along with trying to find someone in the world who will teach me to shoot!) is to coax my badass out of it's hiding place and build a transparent wall of approval (mine, not yours) around it so high and thick that it will stay out and play.

Apparently, this badass thing is more complicated than I thought it would be.