Balloon Face Maneuvers

 

I was working on a recent freelance project and it involved digging around under my bed and finding an old photo. As I shuffled through boxes, I found a stack of Polaroids that I took when I was 11 years old. And that’s where I found this jewel. It was also timely and eerie, as I had just unknowingly reenacted almost exactly the same scenario some 26 years later.

That’s my youngest sister, Rachel, sitting in my mom’s lap like a pleasant baby Buddha. My middle sister, Rebecca,  is cropped out of the frame because apparently I was holding a grudge against her that day and she was dead to me. Probably because she wrote her name over and over on the first ten pages of my favorite Romona Quimby book.

Who am I kidding. That grudge still holds.

I remember being distinctly disappointed that my mother would not let me take her picture. I thought she was being a super bad sport and not being very supportive of my photography goals.

But there she is. My mom. She probably hadn’t bathed. Or been out of the house. She’d probably gotten a dozen glasses of water, and cleaned a dozen diapers, and wanted desperately to run screaming down the street. And when I came around with my Polaroid camera, she did what any of us would do. She grabbed the nearest object, held it in front of her non-washed-non-toothbrushed-non-makeup face so that her state of drudge wasn’t captured for immortal posterity.

As I examined this photo, my heart twisted in a feeling of complete comradeship because I, like her, had not brushed my teeth or washed my hair that day. I’d drug out a handful of gigantic dust bunnies when I disturbed the photo bins under the bed, and those things were the size of small kittens as they threw shade on my housekeeping skills. There was nothing to cook for dinner, and I hadn’t gotten out of yoga pants for a full week. Not only that, but Jane’s deflating birthday balloons were floating around the house and tripping me, that is, when Jane wasn’t using them to try and rub static in my hair.

Jane has also developed a penchant for photography, which entails her stealing my phone and taking random selfies of her dolls, herself, herself with her dolls, and me at my absolute worst “underneath the chin” angles.

I remember a movie where Bette Middler screamed “NEVER FROM THE LEFT” at photographers and somehow, now, monitoring the angles with which I am photographed seems much less diva and much more wise.

All that to say, Jane was snapping away, and my only defense was a nearby birthday balloon. So like mother, like daughter, I shielded myself as best I knew how.

 

But as Jane kept snapping and laughing and yelling “but your face isn’t too bad today” I realized that I don’t really care that much. And my own mom really didn’t care that much. It’s no secret that the reality of most of our faces bears no similarities to the make-up-filtered ones we put on Instagram.  But some days all we can do is silent protest with a balloon and then wait until we’re alone so we can shove some chocolate in our faces without being asked by someone who’s voice sounds like just a chipmunk on helium, “CAN I HAVE SOME TOO?”

 

I wanted to call and apologize to my mom all over again. Everyone jokes about their crazy mothers. I think that’s fairly universal, but truthfully, there is no way to become a parent and retain full sanity. It leaks out of your ears like dribbles of rational thought fleeing a demilitarized zone. And you’re just this person who used to go out for drinks and wear nice clothes but now you just wipe noses, or butts, or hands, and find yourself embroiled in an argument about whether broccoli is really just tiny fairy trees that bad men chop down.

I wouldn’t trade being a mother for anything on the face of this earth. But there’s no way I’m getting out of this with full sanity.

Then, as I continued my search, I found this jewel. We were in Eureka Springs, perched on a park bench and trying to eat a snack. My dad and mom were wearing matching shirts (theoretically so we could find them in a crowd), and their faces say two different things.

Mom: “I’m only here in body form, but I’ll smile anyway.”

Dad: “Can I please just eat one last meal without that Polaroid in my face while sweat rolls down my back and can I just die now thanks.”

Oh parents. I am so sorry. I am so sorry that we aged you and exhausted you and stressed you, and still, somehow, you managed not to kill us. Despite the baby-pack-sweaty-vacations and the balloon-face afternoons, we’re all still here and functioning and alive.

It gives me hope, as I type this and have a very sweaty strange bun on top of my head (growing out short hair is the pits), and I’m not sure whether I’ve shaved my legs in at least a week But I feel like I’ll make it. As I type this and wish for a magical house elf to prepare dinner, and ponder garnering the energy to finish out the 11th chapter on a writing project that never seems to end, and then sit down at the coffee table to muster the proper enthusiasm for homework and maybe, if I’m still conscious, a fairy-art project, I know that everyone in this apartment is going to get out of this week alive. And that’s called success.

Even if it requires less-than flattering photos and balloon-face maneuvers.

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I’m Here! I’m Here!


The spring has gotten away from me. Today I was literally kicking my way through thickly pink carpeted sidewalks (pink petals on the ground make me go a little bit Maria-Sound-of-Music in the brain), and realized I haven’t posted on here in forever.

I’ve been busy writing articles over at First Security Bank’s website, Only In Arkansas.
I’m excited every time I finish one, but this one ya’ll. This one is the closest one to my heart. So if you have time head over and check it out. And for now I’m going to be skipping through the spring-overflowing sidewalks of Queens.

Life, Here, Now.

It’s been a whirlwind of cold weather, rain, antibiotics, and coughing. At one point I was traversing Penn Station (because that place is nuts on the best of days, and traversing is the kindest word I can think of). I rounded a corner and came face to face with a homeless man who felt deeply that he needed to belch directly into my face, and I responded by coughing loudly, and he jumped back and yelled, “Cheeseburgers!” That exchange pretty much sums up last week.

But this morning I took a walk. My medication is working, and I can breathe, and the weather is finally hinting at spring. The birds were chirping and the car honking was minimal and I found a magic tree with roots covered in shells.

That’s the thing about living in this city. The good days feel extra good, unlike good days anywhere else. You could be strolling with a bag full of groceries, say hi to someone you know, grab a coffee, and see the Chrysler Building on the skyline and think, “Wow, I actually live here.” But then there are the other days, the feverish sick days with dirty subways, freezing rainy weather, and belching-in-the-face-run-ins and you think, “I’m not gonna make it.”

Life in this city is a life of extremes.

So on these days, the days of beautiful weather and magical trees, I soak it up. I store it up in my brain for the days that aren’t so magic. The days where a bus flies by and sprays me with a tsunami of dirty street water (truth, happened, but the guy in front of me got it worse). I soak up all the park adventures with Jane so I can survive the days when a tiny old man spits a giant snot-ball on my new boots (truth, happened, I cried). Because that’s the thing I never realized until I moved here. This city is all the things. It’s beautiful and inspiring, it’s dirty and intimidating, it’s magic and exhausting.

But then again, that’s life in a nutshell. It’s magic trees and “cheeseburgers” and springtime and antibiotics. It’s the thrill of racing with the bulls and the simultaneous terror of a leg cramp.

I’m thankful to be part of all of it. This city. This life.

Minus the snot-balls.

 

Social Media Moss

You know that saying ” a rolling stone gathers no moss?” Well, where it concerns this blog, and my social media hustle, my social media landscape is covered with green stuff. I’ve got so much moss that Martha Stewart could gather it for 1000 terrariums containing adorable snails and red toadstools.

I’ve slowed down. Way down. I went through a lot of personal stuff and went to ground. I had no book coming out, so I quit the hustle. I’ve been blogging and into social media for over 10 years and while I was once full of life, sprinty, running inside the pack, waving a flag, springing lightly in my athletic shoes… I got old. I got slow. I got tired. I got rude comments and weird twitter followers and the rose-gold finish on social media wore down to an icky gray color.

But now I’ve had a nice long break. I’m still not sprint-with-the-pack ready. I don’t care for algorithms and I have no idea how many people even read this blog anymore. But there’s a difference between being laid back and letting the whole operation fall into total disrepair. So, with that said, I’m trying to straighten things out to at least an old lady presentable state. I don’t mind not sprinting with the pack, but I would like a pair of serviceable shoes and a water bottle for a stroll by the lake.

I started an author page on Facebook. I wiped the cobwebs off Twitter. I started a public Instagram account. All of these can be found on my side bar as well.

On a fantastic side note, my best friend sent me a pair of Golden Girl leggings for my birthday. I can confidently say I will survive until spring now. It was always my dream to be part of the Golden Girls, and now I get to wear them. It’s the next best thing. Because let’s face it, I’ve been Old Lady Liz for a long time.

And now Old Lady Liz is dipping her toe back into the social media waters.

And since I just referred to myself in the third person, I’m taking that as a clear sign I need to break and go get some lunch.

Yes to bacon, hold the moss.

Spicy 5th Avenue Chandelier Day

Jane woke up the other morning out of sorts. She was teary eyed and asking to stay home. I realize that a lot of mothers would say “suck it up” and send the kid anyway because in all likelihood, they’re getting played. But Jane has always been the eternal dose of morning sunshine in our house. She usually springs out of bed, dresses herself (which is a creative endeavor that I don’t usually interfere with unless it involves more than three patterns), and gives out hugs.

Clearly, she needed a mental health day.

We took our time with breakfast, and watched cartoons, and then we took the train to 5th Avenue. I needed to return some ill-thought-out Anthropologie sale purchases. We saw Jenna Bush, and while I’ve been in New York long enough to be calm about famous people, I still couldn’t help myself and snapped a picture. I like Jenna.

 

Afterward we wandered into Free People, and when Jane spotted the chandeliers she paused, and stated loudly, “WOW. Look at those spicy chandeliers. I bet they cost a lot of cheese.”

Then she proceeded to pull a dress off the rack and exclaim, “NOW THAT IS WHAT I CALL FASHION.”

Again, a phrase never before passed from my lips.

From there we moved on to the windows at Saks. While examining an Alexander McQueen dress I asked her, “Isn’t that beautiful?” And she shook her head and said, “I think they overdid it.”

Clearly, Jane is barreling toward the age of 15 far more quickly than I ever imagined.

On our way back to the subway we passed an all-men choir practicing outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“Why are there no girls?” she asked, arms crossed.

“Sometimes choirs have all girls, and sometimes they’re all boys, and sometimes they’re both,” I explained.

“They need girls,” she responded.

I decided to change the subject to something less gender-inflamed, and pointed to St. Patrick’s and said, “Someday you’ll read books by a man named Fitzgerald. He got married here.”

She gazed up at the church, frowned, and said, “Well, I’m not getting married here. I’m going to have a dog.”

Then we visited American Girl, bought a doll outfit that cost more than my returned Anthropologie shirts, went home and Jane created her own choir where everyone was welcome, complete with dogs and stage lights.

It seems like she has some solid life plans.

Spicy chandeliers.

Lots of cheese.

Singing.

Dogs.

 

P.S. I’m dipping my toe back into social media maintenance and have a public Facebook page now. It’s a good place to contact me for now, or keep up with the other places I’m writing these days. Come say hi here. 

 

Winter Lessons

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As ready as I am for spring (and ladies I am READY), I’ve seen a lot of beautiful things this winter. It’s been a swing back and forth, seeing all the glorious beauty of the country and city covered in snow, while also climbing the apartment walls and wishing for warm breezes. Jane’s general mood lately has been very “cash me outside” which I can only attribute to cabin fever, because surely 5 is too early for 13.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

This winter has been full of hard lessons, which I’ve noticed usually turn into teaching lessons, which then turn into grace lessons, which eventually become peace. More than anything else I’ve discovered that I want to LEARN. When I used to look at my life in total, I had a laundry list of wants and desires. Wow has that list ever grown small. Because while I still have goals and wishes, the forefront of my life’s intention is to learn. To not be stagnant in my mind, to not be high handed in my relationships, to not be so staunch that I have no room to flex or bend in life’s strong winds.

The truth is we never ever have it all figured out. Not about ourselves. Not about anyone else. To believe that is self delusion.  And MAN is there some serious beauty in that. This winter has taught me that my life isn’t a puzzle to be finished and snapped into place where perfection and the full picture is made clear. It’s always muddled, and there’s new enlightening things waiting just around the corner. I’m a living, breathing, changing, evolving spirit. And so is everyone else.

This winter taught me peace in the middle of uncertainty.

This winter taught me that uncertainty and learning can become peace.

Even when my kindergartner looks me dead in the eye and spills tiny pieces of boiled egg all over my clean floor while I’m simultaneously telling her not to do that thing.

Just kidding, I had zero peace in that moment.

All that philosophical stuff means this: it’s been a hard winter, it’s been a good winter, I’ve learned a lot, I am grateful, and now spring is coming. And that means I can put my kid outside to eat her boiled eggs and spread all the pieces she wants for the birds.

And I’ll watch and smile and ponder why she loves boiled eggs so much, and be so glad deep in my soul I won’t be scrubbing boiled yolk off my floor.

I’m ready for spring’s lessons now.

 

The Post Where I Talk about White Christian Radicalized Racists and Lose a Lot of Readers But That’s Okay Because This is Getting Ridiculous, Ya’ll.

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Facebook.

Wow, huh?

Over the past several days I’ve watched friends post incredibly racist things about Muslims and scratched my head. Because I know if I say, “Um, excuse me guys. My husband was once a 2 year old little Muslim refugee” they would respond “Oh, well we don’t mean him, Fayez is great, it’s just those others…”

And that just doesn’t wash. Because that’s like someone saying, “You just can’t trust women, they all look the same and any one of them could be a real bitch, oh, but not you, Liz. You’re okay.”

No thank you.

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And then I saw a Christian friend post this. And something inside my head snapped. Like, literally I heard a snap like a rubber band popping or a twig breaking.

I’m watching a lot of white people become just as racist and close minded and in some cases, radicalized, as the Muslims they fear (*sidenote… they’ve likely never even spoken with a Muslim before). From the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, S.C., and the 2012 attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, to the attack just this week on the mosque in Quebec City…it’s clear that something is going awry with the white folks.

And then I’m watching Christians who have heart attacks over whether the government is going to make them bake a cake for gay people make a million excuses for why those Syrian children don’t need to be here, or need to be screened for more than the already allotted two year vetting process (if my husband had had to wait for two years for safe place to live he might not be here today).

If this is the spirit of Christ I’ll eat my shoe.

I don’t know why this surprises me. This is a facet of life that African Americans have known about and experienced since, well, forever. As that old quote goes, “Racism isn’t an opinion, it’s an offense.” But I suppose I’m like most people, and sadly didn’t understand until this hit home on my own doorstep.

“But Liz, don’t you worry about your safety? Don’t you worry about 9-11 happening again?”

Of course. I live in New York City. I also worry about the skulking man at the end of the subway car being a serial rapist and following me home. I worry about an extremist white guy barging into my local movie theater with a ton of guns that he bought with very little effort or red tape. I worry about all the super-bugs that antibiotics can’t cure.

The bottom line is, yes, terrible crap can happen. And terrible crap will happen eventually. That is life. That is the cost of admission for living and breathing on this planet.

But it’s the constant worry, and belligerent anger, and racism, and radicalism that results from fear that I categorically reject.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Timothy 1:7

Fear is not the spirit of God. Fear never produces a sound mind (or judgement). And apparently, fear makes angry white Christians post insanely racist memes on Facebook. Like. A lot. I will no longer make excuses for these people and say things like “they’re just stuck in their ways” or “they mean well” or “they have a good heart deep down.”

When people tell you who they are, you should believe them.

I reject the brand of Christian benevolence that only applies to American white folks.

My Jesus was a Middle Eastern man who came to flip the tables of the religious and have dinner with the tax collectors.

I am thankful that the UK and Canada provided a safe refuge and home to my husband and his family. I’m thankful that I married into their family so that I could experience a group of people who follow Islam and show love to those around them, and who accept me and my faith and my daughter without reservations.

I categorically reject the racism I see right now.

I categorically reject the fear that is floating so thickly in our ether.

I will put one foot in front of the other and call it out, and love my family, and smile at people who look differently than me. I will pray that God intervenes not only on the world stage, but also in the white-fueled anger polluting our churches and communities.

I’ve never been good at straddling fences. I see no reason to start now.

Because this is ridiculous, ya’ll.