Author Archives: Irene

Do You See Her Much?

Do You See Her Much?

I don’t see her as I had hoped.

She said she’d come back to tell me about it if she could.

Though I do imagine I feel her

in the slightest wisp of wind,

the smallest stirring of air

in filtered sunlight.

 

(Trying something new….42-word challenge based on a question. Click the link below to vote!)

 Vote for your favorites here!

 

On Being Brave – Man Up and Grow A Pair – #8 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

On Being Brave – Man Up and Grow A Pair – #8 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

 

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

~ Anaïs Nin

I’m not a big fan of feeling uncomfortable. This will probably surprise some of you who know me and have witnessed the glee I take in making other people uncomfortable. So, see, I can totally dole it out but I want to shoot myself in the head when I’m in an awkward situation. Which I do entirely to myself much more frequently than I like.  I am usually the victim of my own ridiculousness.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about discomfort and how cowardly it can make you. And, being a coward means you potentially miss out on a lot of amazing things in life because you hide yourself away out of protection. Or a sense of propriety. Or a misunderstanding that anyone else gives a shit.

A whole lot of the time we put much more weight on our personal risk than others do.

I made a conscious decision to try and do one brave thing a day. I want to get more comfortable with the risk that naturally goes with courage.

I am not talking about physical bravery. I am perfectly happy to be a coward with physical pain and will continue to embrace avoiding injuries.

I’m talking about emotional bravery, which can have a much longer recovery period and leave some pretty nasty scars. But also can lead to living an honest life without regrets. And that just sounds really good to me because if there is one thing that I want to avoid more than feeling uncomfortable it’s feeling regret. There is always the risk that I’ll end up with a big stinking plateful of both but it’s a risk I’ve decided I’m willing to take.

Every day we have a choice. We can live a small life, protecting ourselves and, thereby, creating distance between ourselves and others. Or, we can choose to live a bigger and riskier life that will ensure we make those connections outside of ourselves.

It’s scary to open yourself to another person. No doubt about that and you won’t get much of an argument from any other breathing, upright human.

But if you take a minute to think outside of your own experience and to set aside any expectations about what you want the outcome to be, being honest with others about your feelings, your concerns, your passions, your grief is ultimately what we are here for.

And being open to supporting someone else’s courage is a very big gift. One that can, literally, change lives.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement
that something else is more important than fear.”

~ Ambrose Redmoon

 

My Movie Briefs – Take #2

My Movie Briefs – Take #2

Yes, I am so late to the table on this second round of Tiny Movie Reviews (check out the first round here) that I should be too ashamed to even post this. I should feel shame that I have been working at a “real job” instead of going to movies. Or, I’ve been raising “real children” instead of writing about fake ones.

Whatever! I’ve never been very good at shame so…..

The Wolf of Wall Street – I’m trying to come up with a word to fully describe the complete depravity I witnessed in this movie. And, I’m only trying to describe Jonah Hill’s teeth. Don’t get me started on the dwarf-throwing or “anal candling” (a term I have just now coined….I think).

August Osage County – Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it. You are all Thespians who emote loudly. We are duly impressed.

Inside Llewyn Davis – I think this is just a super long commercial for Zoloft, right? Common side effects of Inside Llewyn Davis may include headache, nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth and increased sweating. Sexual side effects, such as problems with orgasm and ejaculatory delay often do not diminish.

What? Now you’re going to mess with my orgasm?

What? Now you’re going to mess with my orgasm?

Saving Mr. Banks – Sorry Mr. Disney, but even if he is a desperate drunk spitting up blood, I would still totally do Colin Farrell. And, actually, Emma Thompson too. She’s divine.

Her – It’s like when my grandpa goes all apoplectic because his computer box gadget won’t spit the thing out with the mouse do-hicky.  God damned technology!! It’ll be the death of us!!

Dag-blasted son-of-a-bitch! Why I oughtta…

Dag-blasted son-of-a-bitch! Why I oughta…

Weird computer on human sex action that is a sweeping commentary on the loneliness and isolation of the human condition. We get it. Oh, and Joaquin Phoenix – Creeps. Me. Out. Bad. And so do his high-waisted pants.

Rush – Thor can really be a douch sometimes.

American Hustle – I’ve been sitting here for the past three decades waiting for the resurgence of the Jerry Curl. David O. Russell, you complete me.

Philomena – Nuns are mean.

So there you are. A wrap up of the higher-profile movies of the awards season. Now it’s time to settle into the mindless drivel of entertainment that happens this time of year when there are no more awards to be won or careers to be made.

After slavery, AIDs and outer space, I could use a few car chases!

 

Do I Have To Be Tortured To Be A Writer?

Do I Have To Be Tortured To Be A Writer?

I’ve actually mulled this question over for a long time. I always figured that I wasn’t nearly damaged enough to ever be a true writer of note. Oh, I can pull out the occasional well-written sentence but I’ve never felt that I had enough pain and suffering etched on my very soul to be as tragic as it seems I need to be.

How can I create amazing art with staying power if I don’t have deep dark depression, bipolar disorder, an addiction to opiates or a raging alcohol problem (no comments please).

As I’ve tried to dedicate more of my limited resources to writing I’ve realized that you don’t have to be tortured to start writing because you’ll be good and tortured by the time you finish.

To write honestly and uniquely, stuff starts to come up whether you like it or not. And, as well-balanced and adjusted as you may think you are going into it, you’ll find breaks, chips and fractures you had no idea were there. You’ll unearth stuff that is ugly, weak, embarrassing and utterly unlovable. And all that is a veritable buffet of fuel for your stories and your characters.

I’ve learned that writers are some of the bravest people on the planet. I am still struggling to find my courage on many levels as a writer and I stand in awe of those who have laid it all bare in the name of storytelling.

And storytelling is integral to a healthy society. It’s easy to dismiss movies or books as entertainment only. And, entertainment is definitely part of it. But when I watch a good movie or read a good book, it slowly changes how I see the world and expands my often too focused view of life.

I think I was born with an innate love of good writing. The right combination of words in just the right order can bring me to tears. So it seems predetermined in the stars that I would need to at least give it a shot.

And,  speaking of shots, pour me one of whiskey and load up my Underwood because I’m going to the dark place.

Don’t Overthink, Just Say It – #7 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Don’t Overthink, Just Say It – #7 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

 

“Too often, the opportunity knocks, but by the time you push back the chain,
push back the bolt, unhook the two locks and shut off the burglar alarm, it’s too late.”

~Rita Coolidge

 

 

Today I’m going to tell a story to illustrate a concept that is very simple but remarkably difficult for many of us to act on. It’s not a particularly funny story, I will warn you. But, it’s a story that I think of so often that it is clearly one I should share.

The first house my husband and I bought was in West Seattle. The house itself was a 1920’s Tudor with a cracked foundation and smelly basement that would have been perfect as a serial killer’s lair. We both worked at home as consultants at the time and the floors sloped so much that if I pushed away from my desk I’d roll to the other side of the room.

But, we loved that house. And, we loved the neighborhood even more. We could walk to dinner or the funky old theater for a movie. We could hear the fog horns of the ferry boats at night. We had a spectacular view of the Olympics if we got on our roof. But, the very best part was our neighbors.

On one side of us lived an older gentleman who lived alone. He had a pool in his backyard (a rarity in the rainy NW) that was never used and fairly green. On the rare occasion that we saw him, he seemed gruff and annoyed. But, we decided to have him over for dinner one night to be neighborly and found that he was a nice, quirky gentleman who simply had lost his wife several years earlier and didn’t quite know what to do with himself. He was sort of our little version of Boo Radley.

Then, behind us, sharing an alley, was Ginny and George, the sweetest elderly couple you could ever meet. Ginny sported the tightest perm I think allowable by OSHA standards and would call me several mornings a week to arrange an “alley date”.

“Irene, honey,” she would whisper, “Meet me by the trash bins in the alley in 5 minutes.”

“OK, got it….who is this?”

“Oh, Irene. You are a hoot!” She would cackle.

When we finally met up at the agreed upon drop point, she’d regale me with gossip of the other neighbors, update me on her grandkids and alert me to the fact that her husband, George, would be getting his prostate exam later that day.

Our neighbors on the other side of us was a lovely young family – Patrick, Catherine, Declan, Meagan and a cat named Finnbar who terrorized our dog.

Catherine, the mother to Declan and Meagan, was a very sweet, smart and beautiful woman who had been battling colon cancer for quite some time. When we first moved into our house and got to know them, Catherine was in remission and was very healthy. We had numerous BBQs, put up a new fence together and lent each other tools and flour. All that neighborly stuff.

A year or so after we moved in, we seemed to see less and less of Catherine. We didn’t seem to see her husband Patrick as much either and the sound of kids playing in the back yard had diminished as well.

Patrick came to our door one afternoon to let us know that Catherine’s cancer had returned and, this time, it was not a good prognosis. They had tried another round of chemo that had been brutal and had decided enough was enough.

I started to see Catherine sitting on their front stoop in the sun, looking weak and thin but smiling and very happy. I would sit with her sometimes and visit. We both loved reading and I would bring her whatever book I had finished and liked.

We never really talked about her illness. We didn’t avoid it, it just never came up. Only every day topics. Nice and normal.

Soon Catherine no longer showed up on her front stoop. I went over to see her a couple of times, bringing the latest book, but she was bed ridden and in a sharp decline so I would leave it with her mother, who had come to help out.

Then one day Catherine showed up again on the stoop. This time she was in a wheelchair. She was extremely thin and pale, but she was still smiling. She waved me over and I sat with her for a moment.

“Thank you for the books. I wish you had come up to talk with me.”

“You weren’t feeling well and your Mother said it was best to let you sleep.”

She laughed. “Jesus, the last thing I want to do right now is sleep!”

“Well, next time I will force my way in then!”

“Please do!!!”

About then Patrick and the kids came home so I went on my way and let them have their time.

A couple of days later Patrick came to our door to let us know that Catherine had passed away. She was only 35 years old and left a husband, two small children, a cat named Finnbar and a neighbor who would never forget how lovely and kind she was.

I was so concerned about saying the wrong thing or insinuating myself into a terrible time for that family, that I never told her how much I liked her and how sad I was that we would not be able to become closer friends. Because I knew, if circumstances were different, we would have become very good friends.

But, we forget that we don’t have all the time in the world. And sometimes, those opportunities are gone before you even realize they are there.

I wanted her to know that, even though I only knew her for a short time, she made a very big impact on me. And, in the end, isn’t that what we all want? To have made a difference to someone.

Catherine did leave me something: the regret I’ve always felt at holding back what I should have said has ensured I never made that mistake again.

And that has been a tremendous gift.

“One doesn’t recognize the really important moments
in one’s life until it’s too late.”

~Agatha Christie

2013: An Awkward Death

2013: An Awkward Death

I am, admittedly, slow on the uptake for writing about 2013. After all, 2013 was so last month!

I’m going to blame it on my blinding anticipation of the new season of Downton Abbey. Damned Brits.

So, what can I say about 2013? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was a year of weirdness, it was a year of boredom, it was a time of unsightly rashes and a time of emotional outbursts.

Does it seem to anyone other than me that 2013 has had the longest death scene ever? Haven’t we been trying to wrap this year up since about June?

The long, awkward death rattle of 2013

turkish2

So, here are a few of the oddities, in a vast sea of weirdness, from the year that made me tilt my head and say “Whaaaa???”

Zygote Infamy

Imagine having a lifetime supply of fame before you even develop limbs. Then imagine eventually being born to some of these parents.

  • We have yet more Kardashian blood on our hands now with the arrival of North West, who will most likely be bi-polar before hitting kindergarten.
  • His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge selfishly took all the focus off of the final season of Breaking Bad by being born.
  • This created…something:

Wiz Khalifa, Amber Rose

  • But, to balance that, so did this:

Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard

  • Brad and Angelina did NOT have (or go get) any more children this year.

Dennis Rodman’s Love Affair

Celebrity couples are just like us!

Dennis Rodman, Kim Jung Il

They show their love in public.

They laugh together!

They laugh together!

They have serious discussions about stuff!

They have serious discussions about stuff!

They clap!!

They clap!!

Same Sex Marriage

A tip o’ the hat to California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

These states legalized same-sex marriage, thereby ensuring they will all be better pressed, accessorized and smell of lavender.

And, a wag of the finger at the rest of you states. You can all continue to wallow in the stench of backward thinking and fear while living in your trailers that lack tasteful yet vibrant throw pillows. No pop of color for you!

Paula Deen

Paula Deen loses endorsements due to stupid racist remarks = $12.5 Million

The sustained consumption of salt, butter and bacon causes obesity and diabetes = $450 Billion

A Spike Lee/Jaime Oliver/Paula Deen Fight Club session = Priceless

Paula Deen

Spike Lee

Jamie Oliver

God’s Bouncer

Mario Jorge Bergoglio, (ex-bouncer, chemist and janitor) dares to be the bad boy James Dean of Vatican City with his crazy ideas of relieving poverty rather than focusing on old news like homosexuality, premarital sex and abortion. What are you, some kinda Christian?

This kid's the pope!

This kid’s the pope!

Don’t get me wrong – My membership card expired many years ago. I mean, I am a thinking human with ovaries who birthed two males of alter boy age, all of which are cause for concern in the Catholic Club.

This Guy

Shut your pie hole. Really.

Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson

So, in closing, I bid 2013 a tardy adieu and good riddance. Don’t let the door hit you in that freaky ass on the way out.

 

7 Things I Love About You: A Letter To My Beloved Coffice

7 Things I Love About You: A Letter To My Beloved Coffice

My Dearest Coffice,

With the end of the year nigh upon us, I wanted to take a moment to let you know, beloved coffice (Scenes From A Coffice), how much you have given me this year. You have been my rock and I want to take a moment to let you know of my deep feelings for you.

  1. You were there for me with open arms as I narrowly escaped the life of an unwashed shut-in and an awkward family intervention. You’ve provided me a safe haven in which to mix with other nutjobs with similar afflictions. You have been my savior.
  2. Living in a place as lovely as Santa Barbara, you have been an island of rough edges in an otherwise shiny, tanned and well-pressed city.
  3. You know what I totally love about you? I love the fact that I hesitate before sitting on any of your numerous well-worn couches and chairs for fear of contracting a new strain of antibiotic-immune super virus. Just like home.
  4. Your staff provides the perfect balance of irritation and cool. And, thank you, dreadlock girl, for not laughing at me when I asked if you had hemp milk. I could see that was a real effort and it did not go unnoticed.
  5. Your WiFi has been as steadfast and consistent as my love for you.
  6. You play the coolest music. This of course contributes to my wasting hours of time hitting Shazam over and over again instead of writing. But, I now have the freakin’ most awesome playlist on the planet. It’s like my mixed tape of love for you.
    (Yes, there was that one day when someone decided cross-over country music was the right choice.  I am not unreasonable though and have chalked that up to a lapse in judgment only. No relationship is perfect.)
  7. I hope I’m not overstepping any sense of propriety by saying that your tomato/avocado/lemon pepper toast is nothing short of sublime.

So, in closing, I thank you for always being there for me with a tepid smile, wobbly tables and your abundance of outlets. I am hopelessly devoted to you and I will thank you when I receive my Oscar for Best Screenplay, assuming I ever finish it because OMG I LOVE THIS SONG!!!

Forever yours,

Irene

My Movie Briefs – Take #1

My Movie Briefs – Take #1

That’s right, I hand wash my unmentionables.

It’s the holiday season again! Time to get out the big box of decorations, bake treats, dig out my clapboard and director’s chair and listen with a child-like sense of magic as the nominations start to roll in.

That’s right, it’s the start of award season and I, for one, need to change my pants because I AM SO DAMNED EXCITED.

Knowing how busy we all are preparing for that “other” holiday, I figured I’d do a mini-review of the movies that look to be award contenders during this, the holiest time of the year.

Sort of a Reader’s Digest version without the old people cartoons about prostate cancer and hearing loss.

So I present a niblet, a trace, a whisper, and a whiff of my opinion on some of the movies I’ve seen thus far, thereby reducing the essence of the gigantic human effort of creating an enduring piece of cinematic art to one or two snarky lines.

Here are my Movie Briefs. (Not to be confused with my actual lucky movie underwear I’m wearing right now.)

Nebraska – This is nothing short of a renaissance for pissy, stoic geriatric Midwesterners. It’s finally your time in the spotlight! And Will Forte, you adorable bastard, call me.

I’m freezing and it’s too damned loud in here.

Blue Is The Warmest Color – Finally, I can now go out in public to watch my foreign lesbian pornography under the guise of French art house noir! If real porn were one-tenth this good, well, I’d probably have to quit my job.

Dallas Buyers Club – Heroine-chic is so 90′s and so OVER. If you are not sporting retro HIV-chic then I simply cannot be seen with you.

12 Years A Slave – Terrific, fantastic, impactful movie that states what we all grudgingly know deep down inside – white people are just very bad.

Captain Phillips – Tom Hanks acts out exactly how I responded to the news I was having twins with his amazing portrayal of PTSD. Nailed it.

I don't accept this! Re-do the ultrasound now!

I don’t accept this! Re-do the ultrasound now!

Blue Jasmine – Mental illness has never been so exceptionally well dressed. I wanna get me some of that!

Gravity – Sandra Bullock is one badass chick, floating through space all perfectly toned yet “sciencey” at the same time. Only thing that would have made it better is if they threw Melissa McCarthy out there with her. Now that is a buddy movie I can get my arms around.

Enough Said – So adorable, heart-warming and moving that I am suddenly drawn to overweight, balding yet soulful middle-aged men. That’s right, I’m looking at you, Dennis Franz. Call me.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for round #2 when I’ll give you the 411 on depressed folk singers, dysfunctional families, techno-erotica, corporate greed and Walt Disney. Deck those halls!

Say What You Mean And Then Shut Up – #6 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Say What You Mean And Then Shut Up – #6 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

 

“The last thing I want to be remembered as is an annoying blabbermouth… You know, nothing grinds my gears worse than some chowderhead that doesn’t know when to keep his big trap shut… If you catch me running off with my mouth, just give me a poke on the chubbs…”

~ John Candy, PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES

 

 

I understand fully that I may be the last person to even attempt to address this issue. I can definitely go on and on and on and on and on. Boy, I can really blather. I can often be redundant by saying something numerous times by using different combinations of words.

See what I did there? I used a lot of words to illustrate a point that could have been illustrated with many less words.

I’m still doing it.

It’s an affliction I think many of us struggle with. It’s the verbal equivalent of the movie Speed. As if a busload of innocent commuters will die if you stop talking. Rest assured, my verbose friends, absolutely no one will die if you shut the hell up for a minute.

You don’t understand, if I do not continue to chatter in this monotone voice, we are all doomed to a fiery death. So, anyway, I ordered the salmon but with the sauce on the side because really, who needs all the cream, and she was all….

You don’t understand, if I do not continue to chatter in this monotone voice, we are all doomed to a fiery death. So, anyway, I ordered the salmon but with the sauce on the side because really, who needs all the cream, and she was all….

It’s infuriating not to be heard. I completely get that. I am a woman living with three males, two of which are probably legally deaf due to the lethal levels of pre-pubescent hormones packed into their eardrums. Unless I up the volume to an ear-splitting 11, no one hears me.

The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...

The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…

But, in normal polite society, a little dead air never killed anyone.

Conversation is a two-way street, not a monologue. That’s why they don’t call monologues conversations. Hope that clarifies things for you.

You are welcome.

The people I love to interact with are the ones who seem to get this. They are succinct, thoughtful and purposeful in what they say. Then, and here is the real kicker, they stop talking and listen.

Because they understand that what they intended to say doesn’t actually matter. The only thing that really matters is how it is received.  And, you cannot know how you are being received if you don’t stop to listen.

Otherwise, we’d all just walk around talking to ourselves. Which I know we all actually do. A lot.

In fact, isn’t that really what I’m doing right now?

Without being understood and truly heard, what’s the point of communicating? It lies squarely on your shoulders to make your message clear.

OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHUT UP AND END THIS POST ALREADY!!!

OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHUT UP AND END THIS POST ALREADY!!!

So, as the screaming baby has requested, I’ll sum up with this.

In order to be heard, you must listen.

 

“Let me close this conversation by saying that you are one unique individual.”
“Unique… what’s that, Latin for “asshole”?”

~ Steve Martin, John Candy – PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES 

Original artwork entitled “Small Man Big Mouth” by Sean.

The Corner Of State And Main

The Corner Of State And Main

I am a woman of habit. I find a lot of comfort in knowing what is coming next and have always had a strong aversion to surprise.

For instance, I drive the exact same route to and from work every day. I drive this route at the exact same time each day. I know which song will be on the radio at the exact time I pass a certain shop or hit a specific intersection.

Other than the possible deviation in the timing of the traffic lights, it is the same thing day in and day out. And I like it that way.

On one particular day, however, an additional deviation was introduced to my tidy and controlled commute.

It was an unusually gloomy day. Swollen, dark clouds hung low in the sky, making you instinctively duck like you were passing through a smaller than usual doorway. The Thanksgiving holiday and time with family loomed as ominously as those rain clouds.

I was stopped at the traffic light at the corner of State and Main. As I often did, I was thinking to myself that every town in the nation must have an intersection of State and Main. And, as always, I thought this while humming along to an old Beach Boys song because it was 7:47AM and that’s what was always played at 7:47AM.

Glancing to the left, I saw Mandarin Palace, the best Chinese restaurant in town. Mu Shu pork, six pancakes and extra hoisin sauce every Friday night.

But today there was a girl, no more than 16 years old, standing outside the ornate red and gold doors to the restaurant. She wore ill-fitting jeans, a couple of sweaters topped with a jean jacket and a knit cap. She looked unwashed and exhausted, like so many others I had seen on these streets.

But rather than smoking a cigarette and looking angry, like so many She was playing a well-worn violin.

I turned off the radio and rolled down my window. I strained to hear over the hustle and bustle of street noise as a mournful and beautiful melody wafted into the car. It may well have been the most moving sound I had ever heard.

I closed my eyes and let the ethereal music wash over me.

I was unpleasantly startled out of my reverie by an annoyed car horn and I saw the light had turned green. I quickly rolled up my window and continued my drive.

The following day, at the corner of State and Main, I once again saw the girl and listened to her beautiful playing until the light changed and I was forced back into my routine commute.

She was there each day for the next two weeks, always playing the violin but never playing the same song. Each piece more beautiful and perfect than the last. I never knew what I would hear each morning and I liked it that way.

Until the random Wednesday when I pulled up to the intersection of State and Main, rolled down my window and heard nothing but street noise. I looked up to see only the gold and red doors of the Mandarin Palace, but no violin player.

She never appeared again and I returned to my predictable mornings thinking of who she was and where her music had come from. After a while, I began to wonder if I was the only one who had heard it.

But, my tidy and controlled commute never held the same appeal to me again and from that day forward, every time I drove past that street corner, I thought of her.

 

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~~-~~~-~~~-~~-~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~

Dipping my toe, once more, into a little bit of fiction through the Yeah Write Weekly Writing Challenge.

This is my response to the Speakeasy prompt, which was to write a fictional piece in less than 750 words using “Every time I drove past that street corner, I thought of her” as the last line.

Please take a minute to click on the badge below to check out all the details!

Peace out,
Irene