I got my nails done today and they look fabulous! Really! I love looking like a girly girl!
I was looking totally fantastic with my makeup on point and my silver shoes glinting in the overhead lights. I was pleasantly surprised the nail salon was rather quiet. Only one other client was there as I walked in, which is not the norm but then again…it was 11am on a Wednesday.
Shared the usual “hello’s” and “how are you’s”. You know the general chit-chat you have with people you do not know but trust them to manhandle your appendages and make them look good.
I was waiting for my turn with Penny, the owner. She always takes extra care of me. Or at least I think she does. Penny is sweet and sassy and funny. She always makes a trip to her salon a worthwhile experience.
Today was no different. But today was more enlightening than normal.
The conversation with her went from funny to serious in a moment. AND NOT BY ME!
She asked if I spent time with my family for Thanksgiving and I explained that other than my sister-in-law and niece and nephew and their families…I really don’t have family I choose to spend time with.
She looked at me so sadly and just held my hand. It was such a sweet and generous moment of compassion that was so unexpected, I honestly teared up. I smiled and said it was okay, I just spent the weekend with my dog and we hung out in our jammies. (Insert polite laughter here!)
Then…she started to ask why I didn’t spend time with my family.
“Was it because they are alcoholics?”
Hand to god, people! She asked this with a very quiet and curious tone.
It stunned me! She usually does not go that deep in our interactions. But she must have had something to share and, well, she caught me off guard.
I shyly responded, with a knot in my throat, “Actually, I was raised in an alcoholic home and still deal with the issues from it all.” Blinking tears away, not for the last time this visit, by the way.
She patted my hand and began to explain how she is dealing with her youngest brother who refused to come to their brother’s house for Thanksgiving, because he was told there would be no alcohol. Her youngest brother is very deeply entrenched in being a drunk it seems. I admit a tear slipped down because, fuck, if that didn’t hit closer to home than I thought it could.
“I am so sorry. I know how difficult that is,” I whispered because, honest to fuck, how do you respond to someone admitting to the very thing you have gone through in life; seeing someone you love slowly lose themselves to booze or drugs. Knowing that struggle. Knowing the loss and pain and defeat when you try to help them.
Miss Penny is such a sweet woman, I had to hug her! Broke my heart to think she was hurting because of this.
But…I was not done finding out a little bit more about my favorite nail lady.
She said she did not have a drink till she came to America. It was not something that was part of her life back then. And since I love hearing people tell their stories I asked when she came to the U.S.
1979-she was just barely 21. She and her family left Laos during the mid 70’s under threat of death and hindered by the Communist party as they tried to escape. That portion of Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) was under siege due to the Vietnam War. In fact, she and her father were working for the Americans at that time-for the freaking CIA no less. Their neighbors did not trust them because of this but the US companies paid better. But everyone around their little community assumed they were spies because, well, it was that kind of dystopian country at the time. Everyone was a “narc” and everyone was the enemy.
Then things got worse, as if a war torn country in the middle a fight to be controlled wasn’t bad enough. Their little village was about to be over taken by the Communist army.
She waved her hand in the air at that point of her story. It was as if she needed to clear the memories from her internal vision.
She got quiet, and me being me, I had to ask.
“How did you leave?”
She looked up with those sharp, sassy, brown eyes, smiling.
“We walked out.”
Her father decided that they had to go. They had to leave their home and find refuge.
But here is the thing…
It wasn’t a matter of packing a suitcase, kissing the goat goodbye and waving as you strolled down the road claiming you will send a post card when you get where ever you land.
It was with only the clothes on your back, money sewn into your shirt, and for her, her 9 month old son at her breast. You only moved at night so the patrols, both the Communist, Russian, American and Cambodian patrols, had a harder time seeing you. You often had to pay for protection and guides to get you from one point to another. You had to be so silent that if you or even your child made any noise that would be loud enough to bring a patrol running at you…you would be killed on the spot.
She saw children killed in front of their parents as warning. She saw families left to fend for themselves when the guides said to run and those poor souls where not fast enough. She said she prayed so hard that her son would just stay quiet and had bound him to her breast to suckle so he would not make a sound.
And then…after getting through the jungle, they had to cross the water. She chuckled and said that the name of the river she crossed had changed hands and names so often it was jokingly referred to as “Just the River”.
“Just the River” she said, was as wide as the Mississippi and if you could not afford a canoe you had to swim it. Some people would let you hold a rope along their canoe but the moment you slowed them down or caused the canoe to tip-you were cut loose to fend for yourself. She said she and her family was lucky-they had a canoe. Well, if what she described could actually be blessed with a name like “canoe”. Reeds and ropes and a board in the middle.
But they got to the other side. Missing some people from the original group. Missing some of her own family members. They spent nearly 2 years in a refugee camp being drilled and grilled about what to do, who to talk to, interviewed and interrogated. Other countries would come to offer help and sanctuary, she said. She could have left earlier if she had wanted to go to France or even Canada. Some of her family chose Canada, in fact. But her heart was set on America.
We were the shining beacon of hope to her. A new place for her to raise her son. A place where he would have opportunities. A place where she could find peace after a lifetime of chaos.
She got to meet President Jimmy Carter once. Had no clue who he was but smiled and shook his hand like she had been told to do.
And then they finally got here. And what did she face?
Hate. Racism. Anger. People blamed her and the others for the Vietnam War and for all of those American lives lost.
What the hell? She was from a country that was not involved in the war. She was from a country that got caught in the cross fire.
“You all looked alike to those people, I suppose”, I said. She laughed. “Yeah, and you all looked alike to us!”
Yet here Miss Penny is, 39 years later. Several more children. Grandchildren. An annoying ex-husband. Oh-the husband who gave her her eldest? Well, he never made it home one day back in Laos. He had been caught by a patrol. They had barely been married a year.
She owns her own business, has helped others also open their own salons. She mentors young people to give them a chance at a better life. She loves her kids. Loves her work. Loves to gamble a little. And despite the rocky start she had in this country, she loves America.
Oh! Her first drink? It was champagne to celebrate landing in the U.S. She loved it and for the first few months she admits she went a little wild. She was free and in America and was taking advantage of all we had to offer a young woman in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I have a mental picture of this tiny woman with big hair and bigger shoulder pads.
Then after her story and as we both realized she had finished my nails, she laughed! She has the funniest cackle! Infectious really! That was the past.
This is her present!
She has made a wonderful life for herself. She is surrounded by what remains of her family. And even though her one brother is an alcoholic, she was not giving up hope that he would come back to the family again.
Miss Penny-ever the optimist!
I share this story as a reminder of two things:
FIrst-never be cruel or judgemental to someone. You have no idea what they have been going through. What they have survived. (And yes-I know! Seems weird that I am saying not to be judgey when I am doing that ALL. THE. TIME! But I judge people on the important things-like their choice of outfits and hair.)
Second-when you see a strong person or witness their strength in action, find out how they stayed strong. How they persevered. How they survived.
Personally-I always want to know what darkness did they conquer? What obstacles did they over come? Or, as in Miss Penny’s case, what rivers did they have to cross?
Mountains do not rise without the earth quaking and forcing them up from their foundations.
Strength is not something you are born with. It is something you have earned.
Be strong my lovelies.
…the good news-the fire was easily put out! The bad news-the toaster is, well, toast.
I had this awesome idea! And for those who know and love me, you know this is a daily occurrence. I have some fantasticlly awesome ideas!
Except they are usually only awesome in my head!
Side note, and this is germaine to the whole morning I just had, I do not own a microwave oven. Have not had one for nearly 4 years now, at last glance of the calendar. And honestly, I only have a few moments when I think I should invest in one. Like when I want popcorn, or like today when I wanted to heat up a blueberry muffin.
Holy sweet baby Jesus in a tu-tu! I love a warm blueberry muffin that lets out the steam as you slice it open, the butter melting, easing into each pore of the moist creamy texture, the scent of the blueberries as they open from the heat, crumbling tidbits that fall as you take a bite into the warm goodness that is a warm blueberry muffin.
Wait. Where was I?
Oh yes! No microwave to warm a muffin.
And my awesome idea!
Theoretically it was a brilliant freaking idea, alright?!
I decided that if I put the muffin on the top of the toaster and set the toaster to high, I can still get a warm muffin!
It was warm alright! Black and burnt because the paper wrapper caught fire. I had turned away for maybe a minute! (or five-I may have gotten distracted!) Then I heard this little “POP” and turned around to see a small ball of flame on the toaster. I can still smell the burnt blueberry throughout the house. Not as pleasant as you would hope it to be.
But truth be told…it was freaking cool!
Besides, I needed a new toaster anyway. This one was only toasting one side of the bread so not a huge loss. Just a freaking great way to get rid of this old thing. Never thought I was a pyromaniac but I have often set things on fire.
TOTALLY BY ACCIDENT!
I have burnt several pots and pans over the years because I have a horrible habit of putting things on the stove to cook and then walking away. One time, I forgot to put water in my pretty pink tea kettle when I set it on the stove to boil. That was last winter actually-threw that sucker outside in the snow. Melted its way to the ground-nothing but steam rising. Heheheh! That was cool!
The afore mentioned microwave accidentally caught on fire. I had put some chicken in it to defrost and POOF! The chicken blew up, the glass turntable cracked and there were flames coming from the back of the thing. SO crazy!
Funny as fuck but crazy!
Maybe my next awesome idea should be to hire a babysitter to take care of me.
Oh! And buy fire extinguisher.
I’m just the pieces of the man I used to be
Too many bitter tears are raining down on me
I’m far away from home
And I’ve been facing this alone
For much too long
Oh, I feel like no-one ever told the truth to me
About growing up and what a struggle it would be
In my tangled state of mind
I’ve been looking back to find
Where I went wrong-Too Much Love Can Kill You
I grew up in a house of very self absorbed and self destructive people. They did not have the time or the patience for someone like me. The shy and quiet chubby girl who was more comfortable with the dog and her dolls then with the loud boisterous clan I was surrounded by. I would play “make believe” to escape my reality. All children did I am sure.
I would sing made up songs and write little stories and draw pretty pictures just to find someplace better to be. I would imagine myself a princess in fields of flowers. I would draw pictures of beautiful sun-drenched days and laughing people having picnics. Blue skies filled with birds. Stories of adventures with my best friend Lady, my collie. And I would be the heroine and would save myself from the evil wizard or the mean dragon; both of whom were really just grumpy because they were lonely. I would always befriend them because I knew what lonely was.
And I always saved myself because I found early on in my life that no one else was going to save me.
But as those pages of my childhood grew old and faded, so did I. You see, we children are supposed to grow out of that habit of “pretend” once we become the staunch and solid adults we are destined to be. We are supposed to face our reality as it is presented to each of us and basically…suck it up and deal.
I still play make believe. It is the writer in me I suppose. I still have conversations in my head with people I have created to fill the empty spaces in my life. Voices that echo of the things I wish had been said to me all those years ago. The words that would have, somehow, made being raised in that house on 6th avenue more tolerable. The words I held my metaphorical breath to hear. From my parents, words of encouragement and pride. Respect and acceptance from my siblings. A positive turn of phrase to let me know that this life I was born into would turn out okay.
That was not the case for me.
I created my own sense of well being. My own strength. My own support. My own respect.
I had to become my own cheerleader.
Sometimes over the years the pom-poms wilted, and the self respect would take a nose dive.
But I will say I am proud of the fact that, despite those moments of fear and self doubt, I have grown up to be a rather decent person. I try to be kind, not just to other people, but to myself as well.
Remember to do that. Be kind to yourself.
I am finding though that I have been rather retrospective of late. It is due to a writing project I am working on.
A project about that house on 6th avenue. About those people, those days gone by that still haunt me. The words and actions that shaped me. The reactions I have had to being shaped. (I am not Play Dough for fuck sake!)
I have had to face obstacles from my past in order to create a future for myself. To become the person I want to be. I strive each day to be a better person than I was before. It’s a lifelong process I feel. Basically I try to be better than I was yesterday.
I have shed many tears over the memories of my past. Bitter tears that have cleansed. Salty tears that have healed. I will never be able to have the relationship I had wished for with either of my parents. I doubt they would ever be able to see me as anything other than what I was in their minds eye: shy little Pamela Plump. And the few remaining siblings I have are not high on my list of people I care to interact with. I do my duty to call one sister periodically. I do it because it is the right thing to do. (And because I’m in her will!)
I have worked hard to surround myself with strong, positive people who support and encourage me. I hope that I am doing the same for them.
Why am I sharing any of this?
Because we all have struggles. We all have memories that haunt. Pasts that we wish we could erase. Situations that we are struggling to get through.
I suppose I want each of you, my lovelies, to know that regardless of the taint from the bad in your life, you are all still brilliant stars. No matter what each of you are going through, you have control of how you react and deal with it.
This is something I have to often be reminded of!
I cannot always control the situations around me, but I can control how I react to them. I can control how deeply I let them affect me. It is not easy, but it is necessary for my own mental health. My own emotional well-being.
Too many times I have let the voices of the past echo into my future.
I work daily on trying to mute their volume.
Please take care my lovelies! Be kind to others. But mostly…
Be kind to YOURSELF!
Can someone explain to me how in the hairy honkin’ heck people travel with only one suitcase?
I am heading on a 10 day trip and it was “suggested” I pack light! Anyone who knows me knows there ain’t nothin’ light about this Diva!
Apparently no one in my circle of friend’s does costume changes throughout the day like I do. How dull!
There is the “Spend the Morning Wandering around the House” outfit.
My “I Am Showered and Dressed for the Day” outfit.
The “This Is Adequate Attire for the Public” outfit.
Then my “Lounge Wear Is Life” outfit.
And depending on if I leave the house again there is my “I Shall Not Be Seen in the Same Clothes Twice in One Day” outfit.
Each complete with makeup, hair, jewelry and shoes.
Allegedly this is not normal!
Allegedly I am not a movie star.
Allegedly the average human being does NOT plan their day around wardrobe changes and refreshed makeup stops.
Allegedly I am a weirdo. Well dressed, yes. But a weirdo none the less.
Well excuse me for wanting to look magnificent at all times!
So here I am. Instead of one suitcase for clothes, one for shoes and boots, one for makeup and hair preparedness; I am travelling light. One suitcase for clothes and shoes, and one small bag for makeup, hair dryer and general items for my Maintenance of Fabulousness. I only brought 3 pairs of shoes. And as for makeup? Sigh…instead of my seven or so shades of lipstick I have two. And I packed only one eye shadow palette. One! O-N-E!!! (I feel faint…)
Holy Sephora people! I am going to be BARE ASS NAKED!!
I don’t get how you people do this?! It takes a hell of a lot to make me…well…ME! There are a lot of layers to making Pammy the Fabulous Diva she is. I cannot count on just my amazing personality!
Good god people! I only brought one purse with me!
I could lose my Diva membership!
Wish me luck my lovelies! I will be repeating outfits on this trip. Something I never do. It feels unnatural.
Deep breath! I can do this. Other people do this. I don’t know how but they seem to survive with two shirts, a pair of pants and just using Chapstick as lipstick. Seems weird but hey! Who am I to judge?
(Who am I? I’m Pamela! I am always judging!)
For whatever this may be worth to any of you…know that it is never too late to be who you want to be.
Time is only a limit if you allow it to be. So…start becoming who you chose to become whenever you want! But the choice is yours.
We all have options in life.
We either change who we are, our circumstances, our goals, our everything.
Or we stay stagnant and keep living the life we live. Honestly-there are no rules to this life. We kind of make them up for ourselves as we go. Oh! Yes! There are the standard rules such as be kind, be compassionate, do no harm but take no shit, no white after Labor Day. But the rest?
It is all in our own hands.
We can either make the best or the worst of what we are given.
Personally-I hope each one of you make the best damn YOU there is to make!
I hope each of you see things that still make you gasp in joy. Hear things that bring you to tears. I hope things in life will startle you. Encourage you. Surprise you. Enlighten you.
I hope you can have honest and diverse conversations with people that bring you together-not divide you. I hope that you each feel something that amazes you, something that maybe you had not truly felt before.
Live the life you WANT to live. Be proud of this life, this adventure you are on.
And if you find that you are not happy on your path, please know that you have so many people who love you and will help you find a new, better, different path. All you have to do is ask for the help they offer.
Sometimes you have to start life over. A reboot, if you will. I have done it. It is not easy but I am glad I did it. I was scared to death but I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Be courageous my lovelies! It is never too late, or too early, to be whoever you want to be!
She nibbled her thumb nail. She knew she should stop herself. Twas an old habit that seemed to creep back into play when she was worried.
At the moment she was a mix of all of these things and more. Each thought and emotion a whirling dervish wrecking havoc within the confines of her chest.
She wanted to write. She wanted to free herself of these chains that bound her. She wanted to seize her own life back from other peoples hands. She wanted to live outloud the dreams she had held onto since childhood. her own secret truth.
She wanted. She wanted. She wanted.
Reaching for her pen she finds something worrisome.
Her ink well was dry. No words would find their home on sheets of white that lay surrounding her. A paper fence.
A voice called to her. A resonance so soft it sounded like a whispering breeze.
“The ink is within your heart.”
Looking about her she noticed the shimmer of a Being kneeling next to her. Love and compassion and strength radiated from this beautiful creature. With each breath she took, glittering waves of energy filled her chest, filled her mind, filled her ever waning spirit.
“Within your heart you have the ink you need to create who you wish to become,” the gleaming presence insisted. Not with anger or shame. But firm with determination that she see the truth for herself.
Slowly the Being took her pen, placing it within her hand and guiding it to her chest. Before her eyes, as she dipped the pen nib to her breast, the vial filled with deep red ink.
She was afraid! This cannot be good! This cannot be right!
“But I will die! If I use all of me I will die.”
“Oh child, if you do not use all of you, you never truly lived.”
Holding her breath, her trembling hand held the pen as words released themselves in whirls and flourishes upon the stark bright white fence of paper. Flowing and ebbing as she dipped within herself over and over to continue the sinuous flow of creation. Each thought poured from her pen like holy oil, the ink of her soul anointing paper and hands and body and mind.
With each press of pen to chest to be refilled, she realized that never did she run low on the ink of her heart. Never did the worry arise that this brazen endeavor would end her.
For all of this WAS her!
Each line and scratch and mark and smudge and perfectly imperfect stain was more truly her than any mirror could have shown.
For her true beauty and potency was only able to be realized when she let go of the fear she held onto. For how could she hold onto her life if her hands were full of worry.
This would always be her gift. To be able to dip within herself to find the strength, the nerve, the “ink” to be who she needed to be.
She wanted. She wanted. She wanted.
Encouraged and loved and guided and with her own strength as the catalyst…
it seems today
it’s a bad one
it’s a sad one
it’s getting me
it seems today
I am fighting
I am writing the pain
or am I
will I ever be able to end it
to find the words
to find the hurt
to find my self
it seems today
I am losing
am I choosing
it seems today
I can’t hold on
can’t see beyond
the tears streaming
my voice screaming
making me deaf to
why am I
it seems today
I’m on the wrong end
of happy ever
it seems today
I’m tired to my soul
my tattoos are hurting
from this mental coaster
it seems today
I am comically and tragically pissed off about things.
In my defense...I was left unsupervised.
In my defense...I was left unsupervised.
Bizarre thoughts from author Jenny Lawson - Like Mother Teresa, only better.
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