Idiot Mittens (01/09/2014)

I am a beautiful mess. Always have been, always will be. Allow me to tell an illustrative anecdote. When I was a wee lass growing up in Missouri my elementary school would send home notes. Pretty standard stuff e.g. bake sale next Friday, lost mittens can be found in the nurse’s office, no gum chewing. But I always lost these notes, resulting in my mother having about an hour’s notice that she needed to bake three dozen cupcakes, or that I didn't have any mittens. My mother is a saint and tried to work with me on  being organized and having one’s shit together, then she gave up and instructed the teacher to pin notes to me that I was forbidden to take off until she’d seen them. And as to the losing of mittens…she purchased me what is often referred to as “idiot mitten holders.” Two clips with a small piece of elastic between them designed to secure the mittens to the sleeves of one’s coat. There I was a child with a high IQ and all the advantages in life being forced to walk around with notes pined on me, knowing my mother had deemed me too much of a moron to simply put my mittens in my coat pocket after I took them off. I don’t blame Mama. Money doesn’t grow on trees and by my conservative estimate I lost 8 pairs of mittens in one winter. But that is me in a nutshell. A goofy person with too much on her mind to be able to focus on the little and important things. While we were in the middle of Mitten-Gate 1982 I was trying to convince my father to get me a kingdom for Christmas.

Future Merry Spinster: Daddy I want a kingdom
Daddy: Well you’re already my princess
Future Merry Spinster: (Exasperated sigh) I don’t want to be a princess. I want to be in charge. I want to rule over everybody.
Daddy: Why Puddin?
Future Merry Spinster: Because they’re all doing it wrong! I will run my kingdom and then I’ll get more kingdoms until I’m in charge of everything and the world would be better.

You see…What I wanted was to take my modest kingdom and then grow it into a mighty empire as brutal and bloody as the Spanish and as varied as the British. And then I would rewrite the last 500 years of human history to look like what I wanted. A world in which being a little brown child was better than being a blonde blue-eyed moppet who looked like she fell off a Swiss Miss Cocoa box (eye-roll). And no one was a middle-child. Parents were required to keep going until there was an even number. The Muppet show was on five nights a week. And everyone sang and danced all the time. And sugar-sweetened cereal wasn't just for Saturdays. You could eat it three meals a day if you wanted to. Instead of the throne, serfs, and the army I asked for…I received a Strawberry Shortcake doll. I will not attempt to express the depth of my despair or disappointment.

A person with plans for world domination who craved to go down in history with Caesar, Napoleon, and Alexander the Great could not be bothered with mitten retention and notes about bake sales. And neither can the adult me. I will not be so wasted on the mundane trivialities of life. To begin with, I have recently lost the ability to put on shoes without injuring myself. My legs are no longer, and my feet are no bigger but all attempts to control their movements have resulted in stubbed big toes, broken pinkie toes, and falling down. In addition, I spend so much time plotting future adventures (albeit less ambitious than the ones of my childhood) that I am not completely certain I fed my dog yesterday. He seems okay. And he didn't say anything, but I don’t recall him eating.  Moreover, I have eaten Sun Chips and soda for breakfast for almost a week solid because I can’t seem to get out of bed ten minutes earlier so I may buy or prepare something more nutritious.

I have been menstruating for 23 years. I have an app on my phone that tracks my cycle and sends me a text the day before my period will start. And yet every month, I am not prepared. I find myself fashioning a tampon or a pad out of paper towels or toilet paper or the Sexiest Man Alive issue of People magazine. All of my linens look like they've been used to clean up a murder. Female friends 16-45 think “Do you have a tampon?” is the traditional greeting of my people.  The same thing has happened every 26 days for nearly a quarter century but I can’t seem to make the system work.

Last week I lost over an hour of my life because I just sat in a chair thinking about the late 80’s Christian Slater movie Gleaming the Cube. You know? The one in which he is a skateboarder who must solve the murder of his adopted Korean older brother. During that hour I was supposed to be at a wedding.

I am frequently  late for work because I sit down to pee and then discover I’ve been singing a little song and 15 minutes has gone by. My legs have fallen asleep and I must now drag myself across the floor like I’m Cary Elwes in the last 20 minutes of the movie SAW.

I am a mess. In more than 30 years I have barely progressed beyond idiot mitten holders. Now I’m an adult and I just buy more mittens/gloves. And I have a smartphone that tells me when things are and who my friends are. And why I need three dozen cupcakes or that I must check to make sure my IUD is in place. I didn't improve. The world just evolved to coddle me more. So possibly I didn't need my own kingdom. I just needed to believe that fate would provide me with what I want and need. 

Too Much Talky (01/24/2014)

I would like to present an unabridged transcript of a conversation I had with a woman regarding my childlessness. I present it without comment because I'm sure you can extrapolate.

Woman: Why don't you have any children?
Spinster: I do.
Woman: Oh my god! Everyone said you didn't. How many do you have?
Spinster: Four. Two sets of fraternal twins. Cathy and Chris are 15 and Cory and Carrie are 6.
Woman: That fabulous. Are you married?
Spinster: I was. He died six months ago. I've been living with my parents. My father never approved of my marriage so he doesn't want anything to do with the children so they spend all their time in another wing of the house. But they have a wonderful attic playroom to enjoy. And their grandmother makes sure they have everything they need. I haven't been spending as much time with them as I should because I recently met a man and I've been trying to get back on my father's good side. Last time I visited them they all looked a little pale and I think Chris and Cathy maybe are becoming a little too close if you know what I mean.
Woman: Wait. What? Umm...Isn't that the plot of Flowers in the Attic?
Spinster: I doubt that. I've never heard of this Attic, flowers, flowers of an attic? What is it?
Woman: It's a movie and a book.
Spinster: If it resembles my life my life so much I should read it.
Woman: You've never read it?
Spinster: Nope.
Woman: Really?!?!?!? Because you're describing it. Like exactly. The names are even the same.
Spinster: No.
Woman: Okay.

(Ten minutes later)

Woman: Missy says you've never been married. She said you're just fucking with me.
Spinster: Of course I am. But I figured if you could be a nosy bitch, I could be a liar. Why would you ask me such a person question?!?!?!? It's none of your fucking business. The only reason anyone asks that is so they can be judgemental or superior or talk about their own kids.
Woman: I guess
Spinsters: And besides that. What if it was a sensitive subject? What if I'd had a half dozen miscarriages. Or I was infertile and cried myself to sleep at night? Or I'm currently pregnant but I don't want to talk about it? Mind your own business!
Woman: God! You don't have to bite my head off.
Spinster: Ask me about kids again and I'll reach into your chest and play keep away with your still beating heart.(long awkward pause) Hey you want to go get donuts?
Woman: (sheepishly) Yeah. I want to go get donuts.

The Dog Loves Valentine's Day (02/14/2104)

As many of you know I, the dog, from time to time ask the Merry Spinster to let me post to her blog. I don’t have the time for my own blog. I lost a tennis ball under the sofa last week and I must continue trying to make myself flat so I can get under there. I envy cats and their rubbery joints.

 Today is Valentine’s Day. My favorite day of the year. There will be pizza and snuggle time on the couch. And sometimes we watch The Way We Were and the Notebook. The Spinster doesn’t know why these are the only two movies I watch intently. Maybe like a lot of people I like Ryan Gosling. And The Way We Were is awesome. The spinster cries at the end and I lick her tears. Then we do a goofy made up ballet to the theme song. Oh Babs! Although the best part of Valentine’s Day is obviously the pizza. My lady doesn’t really eat dairy anymore so she can only order pizza from a few places and they’re all very expensive. It is treat to have pizza at our house.

Along with it being Valentine’s Day, it is also our anniversary. The Spinster had just gotten dumped and she was bummed out, and I had broken legs and was a terrible mess because my previous family was abusive. And we just hit it off. I wasn’t leery of her. I mean who could be? Anyone stupid enough to take on a dog who’d been kicked out of as many families as I had…well she’d have to have a decent heart. It’s been eleven pretty good years.

I am a dog with many passions. In addition to the tennis ball business, I am trying to establish defined territorial lines with Eli who is a very disrespectful cat that lives next door. And I am lobbying for better treats. Every Tuesday  my ears get cleaned. And afterward I get a treat. Lately the Merry Spinster has been giving me these wholly unacceptable crunchy veggie treats that clean my teeth and are supposed to have something to help my joints not ache. I know she is trying to help. But they are a far cry from a Beggin Strip in the Cheez and Bacon flavor. Just because I’m old, that doesn’t mean I don’t like the finer things in life.

My new arthritis medication works, so I have been able to go back to jumping around like my paws are on fire. I get up and down from the couch like a dog half my age. This aggravates the Spinster and she snaps, “Up or down asshole! You’re going to spill my popcorn.” One, I don’t appreciate that kind of language. And Two, how is the thought of delicious popcorn easily accessible on the floor a bad thing? I can always use more food. I’m a little thin lately. The spinster said she’ll start cooking for me again. She just hates chopping up liver and cooking it with rice and vegetables. Once she tried to just give me the liver to eat raw. I am a domesticated dog, born of domesticated dogs. I didn’t have the first flipping clue what to do with raw meat. I just bit into it and carried it around the house. And then went outside with my blood stained face and frightened a small child who ran away after I placed the liver at her feet. She was crying pretty hard but I think she said, “VAMPIRE DOG!!!!!!” So my lady will just have to cook if she wants to put some meat on me.

On this Valentine’s Day I hope to you have a special friend who feeds you, and dances with you, and lets you be fussy and frustrating. And if you’re a fellow dog I hope you’re eating Beggin Strips. And maybe you’ll come over for a playdate and bring me some.

Waiting for Pizza,
Oliver the Dog

Damn You Rocky IV Soundtrack! (02/17/2014)

I love to run. I am not a fast runner. And I don’t run particularly far or well. But I love to run. For the first mile I feel like a gazelle prancing across the Serengeti. With the occasional brief walk break, mind you. But after that when my body opens the following dialog I need motivation:

Body: He D! Hey! I don’t want to be a bitch or anything but you do know you’re fat. And you have arthritis and it’s raining? Like you know that? Right?
The Merry Spinster: Yeah. Got it. I just love to run. Don’t care.
Body: Okay. Fine. But just to be clear I will not participate much longer. Prepare for your legs to turn to lead. Your lungs to become smaller. And sweating more profuse than a hooker in church.
The Merry Spinster: Whatever! I’m just going to drown you out with an epic playlist

I run while listening to audio books, NPR, or sometimes just the kooky thoughts that run through my mind. But I love running to music. And my favorite music to run to is the soundtrack to Rocky IV. A fat girl with bad joints has something in common with Rocky Balboa. No one thinks she can do it. But she still needs to prove she can do it. If you’ve never seen Rocky IV, and if you haven’t I am concerned about your quality of life. I mean the movie ended the cold war…The plot is pretty simple. Rocky Balboa is the heavyweight champion of the world on the verge of retirement. A Russian superman named Ivan Drago comes to America to try his hand at our fighters. Apollo Creed Rocky’s one time rival and current best-friend decides to fight the Russian because he misses feeling like a champ and being admired. He wants to be a warrior again. In a brutal 1.5 round fight Apollo Creed is accidentally killed. And Rocky decides to fight Drago not out of revenge but to deal with his own feelings of helplessness and grief. And when Rocky’s wife Adrian learns of it and tells him he can’t win he says he doesn't need to.

Rocky: No maybe I can’t win. Maybe the only thing I can do is just take everything he’s got. But to beat me he’s going to have to kill me, and to kill me he’s gotta have the guts to stand in front of me, and to do that he’s gotta be willing to die himself. I don’t know if he’s ready to do that. I don’t know.”

I know that hunger. I am never going to be a professional runner. Heck,  the only chance I have to be an elite amateur  is to keep running until I’m in my 80’s and be one of the fastest people in my age group. But the only way life is going to beat me is to meet me in the ring. Toe to toe. If I show up, I win because I wasn't scared. I gave it my all. Eating cupcakes and saying “I can’t” and making excuses is Ivan Drago. A wall of an obstacle I can only beat by standing there and hitting back.

This brings back to the soundtrack. I was listening to it on my run and lost track of how long and far I’d been running. I remember feeling like it was time to quit and then the song Burning Heart said, “In the warrior’s code there’s no surrender/ Though his body says stop/His spirit cries NEVER” So I got pumped and went a bit farther. And now the next day my legs still feel like taffy. That soundtrack is very motivating e.g. Hearts on Fire, Eye of the Tiger, No Easy Way Out, etc.

Gosh! I love the movie and the soundtrack. One of my goals is to run the Rocky 50k in Philadelphia someday. But after learning the training sequences in Rocky IV were shot in Jackson Hole, WY now I want to recreate his running in the snow and then training in a barn. You know…Once my taffy legs feel better, which in a perfect world would be tonight.

Loving you with my Warrior’s Heart,
The Merry Spinster

Why I Instagrammed My Butt (06/18/2014)

I pride myself on being a lot of things, but decorative isn't one of them. If you like looking at me you have a very specific fetish or aesthetic sensibility. And if you think I'm pretty, you should tell my mom, not me.  It is all good genes. I have put absolutely no effort into it. No make-up, minimal grooming, and my style of dress can best be described as "comfortable."

So why would a woman who just doesn't give a fuck not only take a picture of her butt, but put it on Instagram? Because I was inspired by singer-songwriter Megan Tonjes and her small grassroots movement designed to get Instagram to have an appeals process for photos removed because they're "offensive." She posted a photo of her ample but quite delicious ass and the picture was taken down, while photos of model thin woman inundate us all. They apologized and her picture went back up. And other butts were posted in solidarity trending as #bootyrevolution.

Lately I have shared Megan Tonjes body love. I am fat, wrinkling, and getting saggy. I have mysterious blotches. And a few months ago I developed a strange physical condition in which my butt whistled instead of farting. I of course googled "butt whistling" and couldn't find any medical articles where it was a symptom. I lost a few nights of sleep worrying that I was patient zero in the potentially fatal disease Martin's Rectal Cacophony.  So in other word's I ain't cute. As India.arie would say, "I'm not the average girl from your video/And I ain't built like a supermodel/But I learned to love myself unconditionally/Because I am a queen." I am black. I am over 35. I am overweight. I am the three ugliest things a woman can be. And I don't give a fuck.

I love my face like a homemade pie. (If you're not familiar with that expression it means that my face is more sweet and filled with love than pretty.) My mouth turns down at the corners if I don't smile. People are always trying to cheer me up, whether I need it or not. I get a lot of presents and hugs.

I love my hands because they're the same hands as my mother. And I can paint my nails or apply lotion and be back in her kitchen baking cookies and playing silly games and singing songs with the wrong lyrics.

I am covered in the most delicious chocolate brown skin you ever saw. If I thought there was caramel instead of muscle and bone under this skin I would wrap myself in gold foil and call myself Candy.

This is my body and I plan to use it to hike the Appalachian Trail and lay topless on beaches. I might use it to make babies. I'd like to run marathons, but also eat cookies in my pajamas. I want it to play the banjo with real proficiency and wake up easier in the morning. My hands will someday make an edible crepe and my booty will dance so much I'll have to ice it down. I plan to watch my body shrivel and shrink in some directions and grow rounder in others. Because it is mine. It is where I store the brain that is writing a biography of Shirley Chisholm and the heart that gets broken too often and too easily.  God gave it to me so I could grow and learn and love. ITS MINE! And if you don't like it...Quit looking at it.

So I posted my non-traditionally attractive ass clothed in Captain America panties on Instagram. Because it's my booty. And it has a right to exist. I don't need to look different to be seen.

Feeling Alright.
The Merry Spinster

Book review...A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred by George Will (06/29/2014)

Let's just get this out of the way...I loved this book. I read it twice. Back to back. The author? Him? I kind of hate. He is on my fantasy dinner party guest list just so at some point during the meal I can declare, "George, you ignorant jackass, pass me the merlot."  That's providing he is talking about something other than baseball. He is third on my list of people I would like to talk with baseball with, the first being my father and the second Buck O'Neil.  Sadly, the first two are dead. But I still have a chance with George and his sassy bowties.

I learned a bit of baseball trivia and more than a little Chicago history from this book. But what made its way into my dinner party conversation is that the Cubs are loveable losers because we let them be. No one really expects anything from them. Fans do not demand excellence from them.

Mr. Wrigley was a marketing genius who liked baseball, and enjoyed winning, but the game was secondary. He sold the Cubs to fans not so much as a team designed to win championships, but as an enjoyable hobby. "Come out and see the game. Get a little sun. Eat a hotdog. Drink a beer. And if the team should win all the better. But even if they don't you had a lot of fun." 

The Cubs haven't won a championship in 106 years. And it is looking like starting next year it will be 107 years. The Cubs have their curses and legends. And George Will covers many of them. The Curse of the Goat being a personal favorite. But what he does especially well is explain how he and millions of other people worldwide are Cubs fans. The stadium. There is nothing quite like Wrigley Field. They were the last to put in lights for night games, because it is best seen during the day. It is beautiful. They still have an old-fashioned scoreboard that some unfortunate, while also honored and trusted man gets to manually change.

After reading this book I feel I can argue that Cubs fans are the most faithful fans. The Yankees have had slumps but they have also had hot streaks during which pennants were won and championship trophies have been hoisted. Red Sox fans had their hearts broken repeatedly. (Buckner. cough. curse of the Bambino. cough) Though it must not be ignored that you have to be on the precipice of success to know failure. Cubs fans rarely get that feeling.

I have read all of George Will's books on baseball. And I liked his contributions to Ken Burn's epic PBS documentary BASEBALL. How I wish he would never write or talk about anything else...

No Disney Princess Am I (06/30/2014)

Some gal pals and I are considering running the Disney Princess Half-Marathon in February. I like to run and I've never been to Disney World...A little history for you. When I was growing up I dreamt of going to Disneyland or Disney World but my parents never took me. So I became determined to win a trip to one of them. I entered essay contests, sold crystal unicorns from a catalog, entered a beauty contest, a spelling bee, a science fair, and one time hatched a plan to hitchhike and use my allowance to get me through the gate. But I never won a trip and I never ran away from home. And as fate and cosmic misfortune continued to strike, I have never been.

I will not pretend to not be aware of the fact that I'm an adult with a job, therefore I can buy plane tickets and tickets to the parks and go whenever I darn well please. But once I get an idea stuck in my head, it is virtually impossible for me to shake it loose. And in my mind trips to Disney must be earned.

Which brings me back to the half-marathon. Arguably if I train for seven months and then run 13.1 miles I have earned the trip. Problem solved. Dream no longer deferred.

The hiccup...I feel like to continue earning this trip means I must fully participate. And to really participate a woman should dress the part of a Disney Princess. But I'm not really the Disney Princess-type. Their goals are almost exclusively marriage. I want to get married, but it is not what I put much energy into it.

Cinderella...I think she was a simp who should've ran away from her Step -family and gotten a job for pay. If you're going to scrub floors, do it for money.

Snow White...Ugh! Tell someone what is going on. If you tell the rest of the kingdom that the Evil Queen is trying to kill you, they will help you.

Ariel...You're SIXTEEN! Don't make permanent life decisions at sixteen. You may want legs and to live where the people are now. But maybe you won't later.  And why are you marrying someone you've never had a conversation with. Yeah...He's cute. But damn...date a little first. Let him hear some of your opinions.  See if you have something in common.

I could go on...And I often do. Disney Princess + Me= Over-thinking and criticism (albeit while I'm singing some songs and wishing birds and mice would dress me in the morning).

My buddy Reveille suggested I try being Mulan in her warrior Ping personal. And my best-friend Audrey suggested Princess Leia. Than god, she's a Disney Princess now. I have some time to noodle on it. And there is always the very controversial option of giving myself a break.

All suggestions would be appreciated, and considered.

No kind of princess,
The Merry Spinster

I Will NOT be Footloosed (07/05/2014)

Old men like to say, "Golf and sex are the only two things you don't have to be good at to enjoy." I would like to add dancing to that list. I am a horrible dancer, but I love it. I am a gleeful, exuberant, passionate dancer...who is a cause of shame for anyone who ever tried to teach me to dance well. Trying to teach me to dance is as impossible as teaching a house cat not to look smug.
Because I am such a lousy dancer, devoid of rhythm and coordination, conventional wisdom would lean towards me never dancing in public. As you know I zig when most the world zags. I dance all the time. Everywhere. And I am publicly shamed for same. But I argue that if the good Lord didn't want me to dance while waiting for the train he wouldn't have created Prince and  Beyonce and portable music devices. And if the produce section of the grocery store wasn't da club I would have a different best friend and my hips wouldn't crave rolls and shimmy.
So when some wanker honked and laughed at me a few minutes ago I gave him the finger and then angrily danced in his direction.  He sped away in fear. Which proves I owe the choreographers of West Side Story an apology. It is possible to fight /dance. You can intimidate someone. I must now try to engage my boss in a dance battle.
5,6,5,6,7,8 DANCE,
The Merry Spinster

Arrogant Judgement Kills Snails (07/12/2014)

Today, like most days began with me wearing some random combination of pajamas and daywear, following my dog around the backyard with a scoop and a plastic bag. It is a price I pay for love, and I try not to resent it. He pooped. And I scooped. Only I accidentally scooped a snail into the bag. I swear, I didn't see him until I was tying the bag closed. But... I didn't scoop him out. I just tossed him away with the poop. Me. An animal lover!!!! A vegetarian. I decided for this snail that he'd rather die quickly in a bag of dog feces than go on living in shame and confusion. Who the fuck am I to make that decision for him? I don't know his life. I don't know his journey. I don't know what kind of dreams snails have, but he may have had some? And because of my homo sapien arrogance he is now dead. 

I'm trying to let this go, but it bugs me. I constantly complain about the arrogant judgement that comes my way all day, everyday. But at least no one has ever killed me by tossing me in a bag of dog crap...yet.

I have a serious problem with anthropomorphizing my less biologically complicated fellow Earth dwellers. So this is how I imagine Dwayne's (no one and nothing should die nameless) last day on Earth:

Dwayne: (contented singing to himself) I'm a snail. And it's dewy out. I like the dew. la la lala la dew is really great. Gonna eat some stuff. do bop doo bop 

(minute or two later)

Dwayne: I like this grass. This is nice. You know. I sure am glad I'm a snail. I never hurry and miss the sweet things in life. I'm just sliding along. Yeah man. Doesn't get any better than this. (Notices me and Oliver) Aww man...Human and canine. They don't see me. I'm not worried. Plus. Shit. I couldn't run away if I wanted to. But I am going to try to move a little farther away from that turd. Bleech! Mammals are so gross. 

(Dwayne after a moment of confusion finds himself in a plastic grocery bag with two short logs of dog crap)

Dwayne: This can't be good. Oh fuck! How do I get out of this?!?!?!?! I'M UPSIDE DOWN!!!!!  And something is on my tentacles. OH NO!!!!! It is dog SHIT! HELP ME!  SOMEBODY! ANYBODY! HELP!!!!!!  Oh wait. The human lady sees me. She's gonna help a brother out. She looks like the type to bring hummus to a BBQ. She would never let an animal die just because he was a mere terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk. She gives a fuck. She escorts spiders out of the house instead of smushing them. She is going to scoop me out and put me back in the grass. And I'll be dinning out on this story for months.

(The Merry Spinster does see Dwayne. But she doesn't know how to help him. Should she dump the bag out and let him slink away? Should she go inside and grab a latex glove? She notices he isn't really moving. Admittedly, snails don't move all that much anyway. It is why the word snail is so often used as a pejorative. But he looks dead. Maybe he was dead when he got scoooped up. She closes the bag and throws it away.)

Dwayne: She closed the bag. I am lost. The end will come for me shortly. Did I love enough? Was I loved? Did I allow myself to feel joy and sorrow in equal measure? I hope so...

Like I have previously stated, I'm a bit nuts.

Sorry Dwayne, The Merry Spinster

Kill Your Dreams: Or How I Learned It's Okay I'm Not Special (08/01/2014)

The other day I was looking at pictures on Ew.com of ComicCon. And I saw that an acquaintance, Charles Halford is starring in an NBC show debuting this fall. He has talent, ambition, and has been willing to scrap and struggle  and things are going pretty good for him. I am certain most people would've told him to give up. He’s freakishly tall and doesn't necessarily have leading man looks. Plus acting is one of those career paths were people have to let you do it. I mean you can do it for free in your living room in front of your family but I’m not sure I call those people actors. I call them desperate for attention and love, and that is another blog. So there is no small measure of luck involved in Charlie’s success. But how did he know not to give up? How do you know you’re a late bloomer and not a loser who needs to learn when the dead lie down? After some navel gazing and self-reflection this post will give you my humorous take on how I decided. But this is going to get a little grim…

My brother and sometimes talk about when it is time to give up or postpone a dream.  He has wanted to be a filmmaker since he was a teenager. He is now 40. And he works on films. He has made films. But he has been working on his magnum opus for five years and the project starts and stalls and breaks his heart. Where does that faith that it will eventually become as great as he knows it can be come from?  How does he know he’s more delayed misunderstood genius than deluded madman? Ninety percent of the time we’re pretty sure it’s the former not the latter. But where do people like him get that reservoir of determination?

A friend of mine has a Masters in Biology but hasn't ever been able to find a job in the field. I studied English literature and I work in investments. I have friend who has a PhD in Art History who drives a bus. I have another friend with a degree in Latin that drives a cab. My dear friend Tim has a degree in History and works as a kindergarten teacher in South Korea, and before that was an advocate for the disabled. What I’m getting at is…Very few people are the person they thought they’d be. And some careers aren't meant to be. How do you decide to keep plugging away?

I wanted to be a writer the way some little girls wanted to be ballerinas or some little boys wanted to be NFL quarterbacks. All three of these careers, as many a skinny girl with bad feet and limited job skills, TimTebow, and myself learned requires someone willing to pay you to do it. Someone saying “Of all the people who want to do this you’re the one I want to pay. Welcome to the American Ballet Theater/ Tim, You’re starting for the Broncos Sunday/New York Times best-seller list here we come.” But nearly all of us end up  teaching dance at a small school in Solon, IA. Or in the case of Tim Tebow being a commentator describing the accomplishments of guys who can do something he's just not quite good enough at. Or if you’re the Merry Spinster, you do a little ghostwriting here and there, and a  little SEO writing to help me afford the luxuries. I gave up on my dream of being a novelist a year ago. I am still writing my biography of Shirley Chisholm, but that is only because I am contractually obligated to finish it despite being told it will never be published. But after agent after agent told me that although my books were good, they’re weren't commercially viable, I decided I was done. The juice stopped being worth the squeeze. And I don’t feel like the literary world or the reading public is really missing out on much. I was amusing, clever, and interesting. But I wasn't ever going to write anything life changing, or so good high school students would be forced to read it. But sometimes I wonder…Was it not meant to be…Or did I give up because I’m happier just being a cog in a machine? Maybe I just wasn't tough enough to keep getting kicked in the teeth. So as promised a more lighthearted take on how to know it’s time to give up and do something else:

·         Would it be easier if you had super powers?
·         Does your dream require you to be exceptionally good-looking, have a rare but impossible to quantify talent, and luck? But you have never consistently demonstrated at least TWO of these things.
·         Does your dream involve a dying industry like conventional media or blacksmithery?
·         Are the people living your dream noticeably smarter or taller than you?
·         Do you care about money? (Dreaming doesn't come with dental or food?)
·         Are you sub-par musician attempting to play anything other than punk?
·         Are you a young actress with integrity and a healthy sense of self?
·         If a magical but very twisted genie promised you your heart’s desire but you would have to give Hitler a blow job…in front of your grandma…would you say “no?”
·         Does every single person in your life think you should give up, including the people who lie to you when you get a bad haircut or sing karaoke?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is “Yes” then I suggest you join me and billions of other people in quiet and unremarkable mediocrity. It’s not too bad. The people who raised you did it. The people eating donuts and having sex every Wednesday at 9pm are us. Yes. You heard me correctly. Give up your dreams. We have donuts and carefully scheduled intercourse. But if you are tough and determined, I leave you with this thought, “Dreams come true, not free.” Don’t judge me. That is dialogue from Dawson’s Creek. Dialogue a person who is not me was paid to write.

Just another brick in the wall,
The Merry Spinster

Hikers Are Batshit Crazy (08/15/2014)

If you want to live in Utah you have to fulfill one of three requirements:
1)      Be Mormon
2)      Think skiing or snowboarding  i.e. sliding down a mountain at high-speeds on one or more pieces of fiberglass is awesome versus a ridiculous thing to do
3)      Hike

I decided to take up hiking. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I like being outside. I like walking. Hiking is just walking uphill outside. How could I go wrong? Well…Mostly by not understanding the language of hikers. Every time someone  describes something as a quick easy hike I end up on something akin to the Bataan Death March. I start out all dewy and excited with my water bottle and my comfy hiking shoes. A few hours later I am drenched in sweat and dust, gasping for oxygen and water, walking on two blistering stumps. 

My most frequent hiking partner Carlene blames me for not researching the hikes well enough. But I do. I will visit at least three websites and books before we head out. And they will all rate the hike as “easy” and fun and essentially state that small children and the elderly can do cartwheels most of the way. So I have to assume that a “moderate” hike involves a Sherpa, oxygen tanks, an ice ax, and the threat of gun violence. And a “difficult” hike has never been survived by anyone in Utah because it is very hard to find a hike rated as such. Lesson learned. Expectations adjusted.

My most recent adventure in hiking was the Fifth Water Trail to the hot springs. It is listed as a 5 mile hike, but my body claims it was 50 miles. And there is supposed to only be 580 ft of elevation change, yet I spent a most of the trail climbing one incline or another. I had a great time but I also lost a bit of my soul on that trail each time someone not sweating or breathing heavily passed me and Carlene, or tried to encourage us to keep going by saying we were “almost there.” Each cheerful and athletic person we met on the trail became the face of God laughing at me for my hubris. I will concede that Carlene and I are both plump and I’m only now getting into a shape that could be described as anything other than “bad.” But Mother*cker!  I refused to give up and turn around. All I could think about was the words of my buddy and hiking guru Tim “It’s not a race. Take your time. Take breaks. Enjoy the view. The journey is the point.” So we kept going. And when we got there it was totally worth it.

Fifth Water is a natural hot spring with lower and upper pools. And should you decide to go be prepared to see some skin. It is a popular place for skinny dippers. When we arrived I was initially grateful that everyone was dressed until I noticed some of the people already soaking were “nekkid.” (The difference between “naked” and “nekkid?” Naked = Not wearing clothes. Nekkid= Not wearing clothes and maybe up to something.) But to each their own. I stripped off my jeans and my shirt and found a spot to soak where the water was hot enough to feel good, but not so boiling hot as to make me review the burn unit provisions of my health insurance. Carlene declined to come in the water and just soaked her feet in the cool water from the waterfall that feeds into the hot springs. In a moment that can only occur between Carlene and myself I looked up to see her 20 feet away gnawing on a loaf of bread and looking forlornly at me and the other soakers. When I asked her later “What up with that?" she simply stated, “I needed carbs.” I can’t see the flaw in her logic. Bread has carbs. And if you carry something miles up a mountain you deserve to eat it with enthusiasm and an uncomplicated joy.

I will admit the hike back wasn’t nearly as tough. But I did it a bit slower because the downhill is harder on your legs. Carlene walked at a pretty good clip, but she also said her legs were sore the next day, and mine felt fine. It began to rain when we were about a mile from the car and it cooled us off deliciously.

It was an amazing hike. I loved it. It was beautiful and inspiring. But take it from this chubby middle-aged woman…IT ISN’T EASY! YOU WILL GET SWEATY! YOU WILL GET TIRED! If you don’t, then I don’t know what we have in common. Are you sporty? Are you an Olympian? Why do I like you so much?

Enjoy the View,

The Merry Spinster