Monday, August 30, 2010

All these roads are connected.

Forget writing in the narrative. It's not my most comfortable place to be, anyway. No matter what I write, it feels forced and fake and cliché and overdone. So let's just forget it for now. Let's talk about true things as true things today.

Here's how I take my coffee: I go with whatever the flavor of the day is (today it's Cinnamon Hazelnut) and I add a tiny bit of honey and then I sprinkle cinnamon like woah all over the top. This is how I take my coffee at the coffee shop two blocks from my house. Admittedly, the coffee shop three blocks away from my house just has a better roast, but it's three blocks away and no one is ever there.

Do you think I go to a coffee shop on my day off to be surrounded by myself? I most certainly do not. Also, my house is beginning to smell a little and I'm just not in a place right now where I feel like cleaning it—so it's time to migrate. I come here so that I can see people and pretend that bearded gentleman in the corner is not married. I will also pretend that he is interesting and intelligent, maybe threeish years older than myself and will not judge me for my guilty-pleasure pop music. He rents, does not own his home and is pretty sure that he doesn't want kids. We're making plans to take the train to Lawrence for a Saturday in October. I'm going to take him to all of my favorite places there. He's excited for me to show him stuff that I know about. We're going to go to the art gallery above that bookstore and he'll turn to me and whisper, “Libby, will you--”
“Yes?” I'll say, hopefully.
“Will you go downstairs and browse the geography section with me?”
“Yes! God, yes!”
“And then, later, we'll go to to Free State and have a beer.”
“I love you, Beard Guy.”

And... in walks his wife and child to join him. The cheating, bearded bastard. It could have been so great—there really is no place more magnificent than Lawrence, Kansas in October. It's so much easier to fall in love with people when you're making them up in your head. I might go anyway—a sort of Happy Birthday to myself and it'll really help me recover from the heartbreak that I just encountered. How could he lead me on like that? Some people. Gah.

I like the people here. A computer is a kind of invisibility cloak anyway, people don't notice you and they assume you're not paying attention to them because you've got access to YouTube.

So right now I'm looking at this older fellow. As I've said before, I am a horrible judge of age—especially when they're getting up there in years—but I'm going to guess that this guy hasn't been retired for too terribly long on account of the Hawaiian shirt and Panama hat. This guy has no idea where he's staycationing. His wife is wearing a shirt covered in leaves as well, but it's more of a line-drawing print and considerably less obtrusive. It seems like when kids move away and jobs come to an end, people either come together or separate. But the ones who turn together, turn into best friends again. And I like that.

I see that a lot at my job. Retirees are always needing glasses and they always come in together and for the most part you can tell that they either tolerate their partner or they really like them. And I like it when they like each other. They take themselves a lot less seriously—their priorities are in order. Donald Miller wrote a small post this morning about how we should stop taking social cues from our peers and, instead, surround yourself with people who are ten and twenty years older than you. It makes sense to me. “Because the sooner you can relate to their priorities, the sooner you’ll be ready for the next stage of life. I’m in my late thirties but I’m more interested in hanging out with people who are retired. What’s it teaching me? It’s teaching me what matters later in life is friendships, family and love.” I can get down with that, Don. But—let's be real, I'm not going to make too much of an effort to actually do that. I'll observe from across the crowded watering holes.

A group of people have formed, seemingly by accident and they've all gathered at the same table. Talking about what books they love—debating the relevancy of the e-book. I want to enter into this conversation but I'm happy to hear why they choose what they choose. One lady said that she feels like she's really accomplished something when she can see the pages stack up (Me, too!). One man said that when he goes on vacation, he doesn't want to cart around a huge library to the beach (I politely disagree—how will anyone ever know how cool you are if they can't see all of the titles you've got with you?). One woman likes to cheat and read the last paragraph when she feels like the story is starting to wane a little bit. Another woman is vehemently opposed to such an action. I have to agree—big time.

Earlier this summer when I was reading those John Green books, I'd get so excited about what was going to happen next, that I would actually have to cover the bits that I'd not yet gotten to in an effort to keep myself from looking ahead—even a few paragraphs ahead. Like after Alaska freaked out and left in the middle of the night and then the principle came and knocked on everyone's doors in the morning and you knew why but you didn't want him to say it. God, I want to go home and read that part right now. That John Green really knows how to move a story along. What I wouldn't give to sit in his head for a day—or have him write a book about how he writes a book. That would be ideal. I would purchase it's paper version and write all over the pages, underlining, highlighting and writing large exclamation marks next to the parts that I dub fucking brilliant. I do that. That's what the exclamation mark means in the margins. Want to hear an example of my most recent exclamation mark? This will also serve as an advertisement for Anne Lamott.

Sometimes people turn out to be not all that funny or articulate, but they can still be great friends or narrators if they possess a certain clarity of vision—especially if they have survived or are in the process of surviving a great deal. This is inherently interesting material, since this is the task before all of us: sometimes we have to have one hand on this rock here, one hand on that one, and each big toe seeking out firm if temporary footing, and while we're scaling that rock face, there's no time for bubbles, champagne, and a witty aside. You don't mind that people in this situation are not being charming. You are glad to see them doing something you will need to do down the line, and with dignity. The challenge and the dignity make it interesting enough.

Besides, deciding what is interesting is about as subjective as things get. People hand me books and articles to read that they promise are fascinating, and I wake up holding the book, with a jerk—like when you wake up from a little nap at the movies, thinking that you are falling out of an airplane. --On developing characters

I've been trying to figure out how to end this for a few hours, now. And that just leads to another paragraph and another one and then this one so maybe I should just stop abruptly. I wonder if any of these writing books will teach me how to end a piece. Not that this is the most literarily (which is not a word) cohesive thing I've ever written. Yeah, let's go with the abrupt end.

I went through a phase for a few weeks, a couple of years ago, in which I called people “babe.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26, 2010 In which Libby Discusses Boys

Author's note: I'm thinking about just re-naming my blog Libby Discusses Boys.

As time dragged on and to-do lists were diminishing, she set about the task she hated the most. Her excuses for avoiding it were growing weak and you can only stare off into the distance for so long so she bit the proverbial bullet. Sooner or later it would have to get done and sooner is better. These are the things that she actively thinking, anyway—the encouragements she dolled out like candy to herself. Calling a list of people and reciting, for the most part, the same script is in no way difficult but it can be uncomfortable at times.

A few days prior she was describing it to a friend, “No matter how much you enjoy your work, there's always that one task that is terrible like eggshells in your breakfast.” When she worked at the deli, she hated pickles—the cursed, damn things. Transferring pickle spears from a big bucket into a series of smaller buckets doesn't sound like a tedious task but to accomplish this task, she'd have to go into the refrigerator, stand on her head and try to pull the lid off of the five-gallon bucket all while keeping her skin intact. Cut your fingers. Consider quitting your job. Consider the rent and then go in for it again. This time you will finally pry the lid off only to find that this bucket is an empty bucket. You give up, for now, and move on to something much less irritating—something like the slicing and dividing up of a dozen pounds of pastrami. This is, perhaps, a loosely translated version of how it was explained during her training.

This present task is her pickle bucket. Though probably not as extreme. She would rather call strangers for an hour than wrestle that bucket into submission one more time—even if it promised to give up easy. It's simple enough, call a list of people and remind them all of the same thing. No one ever sounds annoyed or irritated when she calls but she feels like, if she was on the receiving end of that phone call, she would be bugged. Not to mention, she's always afraid that she won't know how to pronounce someone's name, she'll forget her script, the person for whom she is calling has died. So far, none of these things have come to pass but they will and it might be today.

Today's call list was just like any other, though much longer—not insurmountable.

“Good afternoon, I'm calling for Mr. Soandso.”


“Hello, Mr. Soandso, my name is Libby and I'm calling from a place to tell you a thing.”

“Oh, thanks for telling me that thing!”

“You're welcome. Have a great day—stop in and see us soon.”

“Oh, I will.”

He seemed nice. One down, a dozen to go.

As she prepared to dial the next number, a man approached. He was about her age, it's hard to tell. She's a horrible judge of things like age, height, distance, temperature, temperament. All she knew was that while there was an absence of a wedding ring (which is nearly impossible to come by in this town), there was the presence of neatly groomed facial hair and those are two pluses. She also felt embarrassed to have noticed the left hand. She almost never notices it and it shamed her. She stood up and walked toward him—not because she was attracted to him, but because she was suddenly, actively pursuing her customer service skills.

“Can I help you?”


“Hello. What can I do for you?” She clapped on “do” like she does when the old folks come in. Why did I clap just now? Who claps?

“Did you just call me?”

“Perhaps, what's your name?”

“I'm Soandso,” extends hand. Handshake?

“Oh, yes. I did. I was just calling to tell you [the script, verbatim that I'd shared with him less than two minutes prior]. But you know that.”

“Yeah, I just thought that the girl on the phone sounded really cute and I wanted to come over here and see if she was. I was just over there when you called.”

“Oh. [nervous, unspellable, incomprehensible, Liz Lemon sounds] Oh. Okay.” She could feel the heat rushing up her neck, over her cheeks and through her ears. Oh, God. Blushing. I'm blushing. What is this? The day of doing stuff you almost never, ever do?

He smiled really, really wide. Obviously he was proud of his ability to garner a physical reaction. “Well, see you later.” And he left.

“Thanks.” She squeaked. Smooth. So fucking smooth.

Later, on her break, she sat over-analyzing the conversation because how else should she be expected to fill her free time? It was a brief, flattering encounter. What should she have said or done? Mostly, though, she just thought of things that would probably be bad for business. Wait! She sat up straight and gripped her Diet Coke. He didn't say I was cute.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August 25, 2010

I didn't write anything yesterday, but there's a good reason for that. I forgot.

My friend, Sarah and I went to town because she needed to cash in a coupon and I went because it can't hurt to get out of town every now and again. We went to a cute little restaurant for healthy and delicious salads and grilled chicken on sandwiches. We drank waters and said, “no thank you” to desert and as soon as we stepped outside and walked to the car she said, “it's freezing outside. It's August. This is weird.” And I agreed. And then I said, “Don't judge me. I want an onion ring.” And she agreed. So we drove to Sonic.

And that's when I saw for the first time what it looks like when a fellow gets a blow job in a car. At Sonic.

It made. My. Week.

Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23, 2010

She needed to write something. So, she did. She began the way that Earnest Hemingway told her to, “begin with one true fact.” So she did. She wrote “she needed to write something.” And it all took off from there.

She sat in the middle of the couch, her laptop balancing on her leg and warming her bare skin as she bobbed her head to Citizen Cope: “I will never forget your healing hands, my love...

She thought about how much pressure people apply to the other people in their lives. We think someone else will heal us. Someone that we haven't met yet will come to us and look on us with fresh and accurate eyes and they'll love all the things we hate about ourselves and by the time the credits role, we will have survived a terrible emotional crisis, someone will make an unashamed, out-of-character public scene and then we all become beautiful, colorful people. We will walk hand-in-hand and be whole and adopt a puppy together.

It makes her so frustrated when she thinks about it too much so she made a deal with herself that by the time this song ends, she'll have changed topics. The other side of that coin is that it makes her feel satiated to consider the fact that she doesn't need that healing and that's why she doesn't go looking for it. People don't understand it. They can't comprehend the way that she wants to heal herself instead of finding someone else to do it. Sometimes, less often than not, it is lonely. But, really, that only happens when she watches really old episodes of The Office and maybe overindulges in John Mayer.

New song: “Listen, when all of this around us will fall, I'll tell you what we're gonna do. You will shelter me, my love, and I will shelter you.

Okay, that's more like it.

She is always thinking about these things even though she understands so very little. She doesn't know what it is, but she does know what it's not. That's something, at least.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Monologue Dialogue

August 22, 2010

I told myself, “you need to work on your dialogue. You don't talk enough to know how to write it.”

“What do you know? I talk.”

“Yeah, but you're alone the majority of the time.”

“I encounter the public, on average, for eight hours a day.”

“Would you stop arguing? You talk to them about contact lenses. And, quite honestly, you barely know what you're even talking about there.”

“Shut up.”

I bought this curling iron at the thrift store the other day and decided that now was the best possible time to try it out. So I stood there in the bathroom with a good half-hour head project ahead of me. Apply product, stick your head between your knees and give it a good shake. Stand up. Gather your bearings and then section by section make your way around. Love on those strands.

“Remember when Mandi said that we, as single girls, must curl our hair and keep our mascara fresh lest we run into the man that God has been preparing for us?”

Pause. Spray. Fluff.

“I feel silly for having ever bought into that--even if it was a thousand years ago.”

“If God is preparing for me a man who prefers a woman with curly hair, God doesn't know what the hell he's doing.”

“If God is preparing for me a man—I'll eat my own arm.”

I laughed. I thought I saw your face today but I just turned my head away... something something. And I couldn't help but fall in love again.

“I think a lot of girls feel bad for not having boyfriends and so they tell themselves and each other that it's because God has this big, mysterious, magnificent surprise party that he's planning. They say that so they don't have to actually take responsibility for themselves.”

“Like—you don't have a boyfriend because you're needy, not because of God.”

“You don't have a boyfriend because you're a little slutty.”

“You don't have a boyfriend because you're not a little slutty.” That was a good one.

“If they don't take responsibility for not having a boyfriend, then when a boy shows up, they just take him and don't even consider whether or not they like him. Just assume that's the one that God must have picked because he was the first one to show up.”

“Here's how I see it,” I said, drawing a diagram in soap on the mirror. “This square represents all of the men I know. This line indicates that of all of these men, there are about 70% that I even want to be friends with. Are you following me so far?”

“So far.”

“This line indicates that—and mind you I'm just making these numbers up off the top of my head—of all of those men that I would like to be friends with, there are probably about 12% that I would ever consider having sex with.”

“Woah. Woah. Woah. Who's talking about sex?”

“I am.”

“Fair enough.”

“May I? Anyway, of those 12% of the 70%, there's probably about 4% that I would care to have sex with and then still be friends with.”

“...I don't follow.”

“It's a small box. A tiny population from which to choose.”

“Oh—and consider that of the few, few people contained in that box, you have to be in their box, too.”

“And the population diminishes even more.”

“Give yourself some credit.”

“I am—trust me, I am. I know I'd end up in someone's box.”

“So what's your point?”

“My point is that I'm curling my hair but I'm not doing it for some guy I've never met that I hope wants to marry me someday.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Head between the legs, shake it out again. Spray it again. Damn, it turned out nice.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


August 21, 2010

The three of us sat lined up at the dining room table. The fish taco dishes had been cleared and I was explaining to my four-years and three-hundred-and-sixty-three-day-old (give or take depending on Leap Years) niece the concept of Phase 10. It would be impossible, too difficult to manage if it hadn't been for the pack of little kid Phase 10 cards that I found an hour prior. Genesis, to my right, neatly fanned her discard pile into beautiful shapes. Amos, on the left, busied himself with stacking and flipping cards that were not in use. The rule is that the first person to finish their phase yells “Yo, Gabba Gabba!” in order to truly be considered the winner. This embarrasses Genesis and she forfeits the first game to self consciousness. I swear to you, I never let her win but she never let me win, either. That girl's good at Phase 10.

Once she started getting pretty full of herself, though, she'd slap down her last card and start her chant in a low rumble that erupted into a display of her standing on her chair, squealing with her hands in the air. Amos, quietly organizing in his own way until this point, screams, “gababababa!!” as well and tries to stand up in his high chair. A brush with gravity, earlier in the day, however, reminded him that perhaps it would be fine to experiment with seated enthusiasm.

After twenty minutes of this, we put on our pajamas and the world changed. Their mom and dad's high bed was a life raft and the carpet was hot lava. We laid on the rubber raft, exhausted, fanning ourselves on account of the lava's heat and made out shapes in the clouds. Amos said he saw a shoe. Genesis saw fireworks. We all laid there, huddled, keeping one another safe from the dangerous edges when all of a sudden Genesis saw that the sun was going down. Up until now, we'd been staring directly at the sun but the moon was coming out. We couldn't very well make-believe nighttime while staring up at the clouds and the sun. Her imagination found its usual footing. She pulled on her lava-proof boots “like real firemen wear” and showed us who's boss. She made a heroic and dramatic dive into the lava, forcefully and with conviction, slapped the light switch and made a mad dash back to the safety of her life raft, little brother and Aunt. We welcomed her with cheers and applause and as we laid there, staring into the stars and feeling very grateful for one another, Amos reached to stroke his sister's feet and said, “Owie.”

“Oh. It's okay, Bubby,” Genesis said, patting his hand, “I was wearing my lava-proof boots.”

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Project

Dear Lovers and Friends--
I have an idea. Let me give you some background.
Why do I write in the first place? Quite honestly, it's really because I think that ordinary life is the most brilliant, underrated and over-ignored gift that everyone is entitled to but nobody wants. I think that everyday stuff--taking out the garbage, drinking coffee, and listening to your best friend go on and on about this one guy that I kinda like but, I don't know, maybe he doesn't like me--but maybe I don't like him--but maybe I do--omg he is sooo cute. If a life could have a thesis, and I challenge that every life does, mine would be that those things, the little things are actually the big things dressed in sweat pants.
There are big things in your life that wear church clothes and they are huge and impossible to forget: weddings, funerals, baby showers, coming-of-age road trips. Those things are massive and exciting and expensive and in no way definitive of one's character. How long has it been since she's done her dishes? Can he tell you about his favorite Greek Myth? These are the things that no one thinks about and they're delicious humanity. God, I love humanity. I think those things deserve all the attention that the grandiose events get. Everything is epic, if you ask me.
So, to the project. Not so much a project as a personal challenge. I'm going to write about something very ordinary (or not so ordinary--but true nonetheless) that happened in my life every day. But not like a regular, "this is what I think about..." blogy way. Like, more like a story. I'm going to make my life a story. Every day. I work best with goals. Small goals to begin with. There's a week and a half left in August--let's say I'll do it every day for the rest of August and hopefully after that I'll really want to keep going. And hopefully by then you'll start thinking of yourself as a character in your story, too.
I wrote one about the very nice yesterday I had but, frankly, I don't really want to post that one all up on the interwebs. Suffice it to say that they won't all be on the internet--but most will. Friends all know they can ask to see it--that does not guarantee a yes, however. But still ask.

Anyhow, all that to say that I'll see you tomorrow.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Whatever I Want

This is a lady's blog and sooner or later this issue would come up. Ugh. Bodies.
I should start by saying that bodies are, I think, one of the most fascinating things about the world. Muscles that stretch and contract to help us accomplish difficult tasks and minute things that we don't even notice. Blood that doesn't stop moving and is waiting to rush to where it's needed the most. Bones that, despite all the weird stuff I do, haven't given up, yet. Then there's nerves, brains, guts, sleep, fingernails. Skin! Gorgeous, beautiful skin. There's the way that once the body starts to wear out and all you have to do is shower or eat or nap and you'll be fine. The way that the smallest, lightest, tiniest touch can effect all of those things. I got a splinter in my heel yesterday and was rendered useless until it was removed. And, oh, the things you'll do to remove it.

But, and there's always a but. Or a butt (or in my case, not a whole lot of a butt). See where we're going? Body image, yikes. You should just leave, now, really.

But, anyway, there was a recent study done by Nutrisystems about this subject. A thousand and one people were surveyed and about half of all women said that they would rather give up sex for a summer than gain ten pounds. That doesn't shock me too much since it's kind of a stereotype (albeit an unrealistic one) that women aren't that interested in sex in the first place. But 25% of men said that they'd give up the sex. Now, that does surprise me (again, based on unrealistic stereotypes). And it bothers me. It's not like these people are going to lose a hypothetical ten pounds--they're just not gaining any. And maybe I'm just thinking optimistically, but if you spend a summer having sex I'll bet you for sure won't gain ten pounds. It's too hot to gain any weight anyway. We're all eating eating ice cream ev
eryday but not much else. Not to mention the sweating--oh the sweating. It's so hot. Sex can only help.

I know that ten pounds to one person can be a lot and to someone else it might not be as noticeable. I've lost thirty pounds in the past six months and I don't look any different that I can remember (I feel incredible--don't get me wrong). But, then again, six months ago was a lot of months ago. So it's taking a really long time--big deal, it's happening. But I digress. The point is that I can understand that ten pounds can be a lot of pounds (and it can take a long time to shed) but is it? I hope this comes out right--I can't think of another way to phrase it: but what's the point? It's like, look but don't touch. You can maintain your pristine weight and have a nice looking body and all for what? So people can look at it. People are different, I understand but with every ten pounds I lose, believe me, I would welcome a little ass grabbing.

I think the other point is that people would rather give something up for a determined amount of time than actually work for what they want. That might be the part that seems most frustrating. Especially since I know how nice it can be to work for it. It sounds really trite to say but anything worth having is worth working hard for. I truly believe that. I hope we're seeing the metaphor by now. Weight is an example. If it just falls right off, it will come back. If you expect to find the woman of your dreams by showing up and her throwing herself at you--I'm here to say that she's not going to stay (and if she does, she will be an insane person). If you fall right into the perfect job without a whole lot of effort--I hope you learn to develop some. I guess I just like the idea of taking an ownership in your life and you can do that. It's why I don't mind that it's taken six months to lose thirty pounds. Mostly because I think that the interior workings are more fascinating than the stuff that everyone else can see--all of that stuff I talked about in the beginning. It blows my mind. I didn't decide to start losong to look better. It's nice--I can't wait to see what happens but that's a side-note. I just wanted my stuff to work better. By the time next summer comes around I won't choose between sex and weight and it bugs me that anyone would. Why choose one thing over another when you could have everything you want?