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Rita Arens
My name is Rita Arens. I like to write. A lot. Many pages.
Recent Activity
Beloved called me this afternoon to say the wood floor guy called, like, a few months early to say our wood is in, and could he bring it over tomorrow? Except that meant I needed to clear out six floor-to-ceiling bookshelves between dinner and the work left over from today. With MY BABBEE'S childhood memorabilia, along with my master's thesis, gifts from family members, copies of three books (one out of print) and photo albums dating back to college. Oh, and in the space I used for eight lovely years when I worked for BlogHer from my house, where I greeted my daughter each day when she got off the big yellow bus from kindergarten through sixth or seventh grade. This won't take long. The biggest thing I noticed, though, in scooping out books I loved from writers I used to email daily to my daughter's early elementary accomplishments, is how far away I've grown from the daily documenting of my own life. In leaving BlogHer, I left blogging, and tweeting, and really ... all of it. In some ways, it's okay, because the little angel does not want me documenting her life anymore. It's her life, after all, not mine. My dad always says your right to swing your arm ceases when it connects with someone's face, and writing about my teen feels like that. Like telling you the story of my current parenting situation would be stepping out of the bounds of my experience and treading on hers. I'm not interested in doing that. There are, however, some things I've forgotten to write down. I always thought teenagers would hate me. She doesn't. Unbelievable. Watching your child drive is both terrifying and awesome. I owned a horse as a kid. My daughter seems more confident than I ever... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2019 at Surrender, Dorothy
The light is here longer now. My girl is finishing her freshman year of high school. She just got a learner's permit. She's a better horseback rider than I am and wields a mean powerpoint. And oh, my God, how is it possible she's going to be a high school sophomore in a few weeks? I started this blog on my maternity leave. I started it because I didn't know how to process what I was feeling about being a mother. That totally hasn't changed in fifteen years. I still don't know how to process what I feel as a mother, except now that I'm here, I want to say this to the me there, the one who started this blog at this time of year in 2004. It turns out okay, Rita. I want to say that to the me who cried in the shower every morning at 23, not sure if I would find my way. I want to say that to the me who paced for miles up and down gravel roads at 17, the me who worried about grades at 12. The me who was afraid my mom would die young. The me who was afraid of tornadoes and fires as a kid. It's not over yet, but so far, Rita, it's been okay. Your life turned out okay. You got married, and you still are. You gave birth to an amazing girl who only got more amazing with every year. You live in the Midwest, and you like it. Your friends are amazing people who have your back through everything, even cancer. You did write those books you said you would write. Your body held up. You can still carry your own groceries and think your own thoughts. When I was in my twenties, I... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2019 at Surrender, Dorothy
Tonight I saw some commentary on DadSummit about a device that simulated breastfeeding. I had some feelings. My friend Doug French encouraged me to write. So here goes. I have one child. She's fourteen. She's healthy and happy. I only breastfed her for seven weeks, because that was the minimum my OB-GYN gave me for her health. I hated breastfeeding. Imagine, my men, what it would feel like to have a part of your body that you had always associated as a secondary sex charactaristic suddenly turned into your baby's only method of survival. Someone suddenly told you that unless you gave up what you had always associated as part of your sexuality, your baby might die. Welcome to being a woman. I wasn't onboard. I didn't like the feeling of satisfaction breastfeeding gave me. I considered that part of my sexuality. I spent 45 minutes on each side trying to get three ounces of milk. My baby cried and fed constantly. I never slept. Every three hours, it started over again. I moved to formula. La Leche League hated me. That was 13 years ago. You guys, she's fine. This child has missed one day of school for illness in ninth grade, and that was due to a stomach virus. Thank God she had all her vaccinations, because don't get me started. And so I had a reaction tonight to a simulated breastfeeding scenario for men. I saw their comments as dismissive and resistive. I thought, you know, it must be really nice to be given a hard pass by society to feed a child with your bodily bluids. Cry me a river, men. Seriously. I'm 45. I've had one pregnancy, one childbirth. I have suffered endometriosis, where part of my uterine blood escaped into other parts of my... Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2019 at Surrender, Dorothy
I never really processed the radiation tattoos. Six little dots. Freckles, they called them. I was happy they weren't my first ink. I had two real tattoos before those six dots. I assume there are plenty of straight-laced ladies who were horrified to get their first ink in this way. My breast cancer still doesn't feel real. I see people with pink ribbons and I don't resonate with them. Mine was so early, so unexpected, so ... in some ways, harmless, compared to what other people face. My broken ankle feels more real than cancer did. Isn't that odd? Broken bones are so innocuous. But .... the tattoos remain. When I go to put on a bra. When I go to think about a swimsuit. What is that mark? Oh, yeah. I had cancer. Really? You? Yeah, actually, just a few years ago. 2017. It's 2019. That was like, yesterday. It would be easier to forget all that happened. If there weren't tattoos. They aren't freckles. They never were. Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2019 at Surrender, Dorothy
I never really processed the radiation tattoos. Six little dots. Freckles, they called them. I was happy they weren't my first ink. I had two real tattoos before those six dots. I assume there are plenty of straight-laced ladies who were horrified to get their first ink in this way. My breast cancer still doesn't feel real. I see people with pink ribbons and I don't resonate with them. Mine was so early, so unexpected, so ... in some ways, harmless, compared to what other people face. My broken ankle feels more real than cancer did. Isn't that odd? Broken bones are so innocuous. But .... the tattoos remain. When I go to put on a bra. When I go to think about a swimsuit. What is that mark? Oh, yeah. I had cancer. Really? You? Yeah, actually, just a few years ago. 2017. It's 2019. That was like, yesterday. It would be easier to forget all that happened. If there weren't tattoos. They aren't freckles. They never were. Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2019 at Surrender, Dorothy
I've used this boot twice before. Seriously, this is ridiculous. In the past, however, it's been my fault. Stress fractures from running longer and harder than a nonathlete with flat feet should. This time, a very tall, very large horse accidentally stepped on my foot and broke a toe. The doc with the X-ray warned me if I didn't wear the boot, I'd end up with arthritis and also not be able to run without pain. He also told me that if I were eighteen, I'd probably heal within a week. Thanks, motherfucker. So this week, I wore this giant sofa on my foot to my corporate job with a normal black leather boot on the other foot. I clomped around the office for four days before giving myself a giant overcompensation injury, supination. In other words, I woke up on Friday morning barely able to put any weight on my left foot. I broke a toe on my right foot. So, yeah. I iced my left foot and realized my Mac was down to 60% and I'd left the power cord at work. I headed in with a sneaker on my left foot and a sofa on my right foot and kissed any hope of looking cool at work goodbye for at least six months. There's something about looking physically weak at work that is especially threatening to me. Clomping is not my jam. So now it's been a week. The doctor initially told me I'd be in a boot for three weeks. I think I'm going to get an X-ray next Saturday, just to see. Maybe I'm closer to eighteen than he thinks. So many people have been curious this week as to what I could've possibly done to end up in a boot. That's kind of crazy... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2019 at Surrender, Dorothy
Tonight the little angel introduced me to Ari's Seven Rings. Cultural appropriation aside, I need to react on a whole 'nother level. That's not really setting cultural appropriation aside ... I just have another subject to also introduce, and others have handled the appropriation better than I would. Dude. What is wrong with us? When are we going to realize that buying stuff doesn't solve anything? Sorry, Ari. I just can't listen to this and take it at face value -- you've never been one to brag on your dollars before, and I just don't want to hear it now. Wearing a ring, but ain't goin' to be no "Mrs." Bought matching rings for six of my bitches. I'd rather spoil my friends with all of my riches, think retail therapy is my new addiction. I'm picturing Ari and her girl gang with their new matching diamond rings, probably enormous diamond rings, and realizing once again that even though I personally look around at other people's diamonds and think they are awesome, diamonds are actully not fungible. We only care about them because a long time ago, a diamond miner decided we should celebrate marriage that way. Diamonds aren't rare. Think about it. Diamonds are like assholes, and everybody's got one. I'm not proud of the fact I look at other women's diamonds knowing that those diamonds have absolutely zero zilch zippo to do with the men's or women's who presented the diamonds love for their partner. Your love is not actually reflected in carats, regardless of what the industry would like us to think. I'm going to be forty-five in a few weeks, and I keep waiting for maturity. Why do I care about diamonds and square footage and thread count? Why do I think having nice things is... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2019 at Surrender, Dorothy
Over the past year or so, I've been having what I'll call a stress dream over finding an apartment because I suddenly realize I have to go back to college. I graduated from the University of Iowa over twenty years ago. In all the time I lived there, through two dorm rooms, one sorority house and three apartments with approximately fifteen roommates, I don't recall losing any sleep over where I was going to live. I didn't go to graduate school in Iowa City. I went to graduate school in Kansas City, as an adult living with my now husband. I have no idea why I've constructed this storyline in my head. I realized last night that I have a created a whole town in dreamland that doesn't exist in reality, and I've revisited it several times now. There's the two-story duplex with the leaky sunporch and hilly back garden planted with flowers I don't know how to grow. Its windows and doors don't lock, and I'm constantly closing the shades. It has a pool I have no idea how to chlorinate. It's on a street that doesn't exist and that I've researched several times over the past year in my dreams, trying to find my way back to my bedroom there, the one with the four-poster bed I've never owned. The union where I buy groceries in my dreams is located just south of a four-story library I never saw in real life but where I study constantly in my dreams, sure I'm about to fail. There is a cupola at the top that plays calliope music at all times. Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens. In this town, I keep driving past a row of restaurants in Omaha that doesn't exist. I really like the Mexican one... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
Today I had a worlds-colliding moment when a new co-worker commented on an old practice of mine, which is to say, blogging. He called it "Facebook," which is totally fair - that's one of the places my blog bleeds out to. And he complimented me on my writing. In my head, I was all: Thanks, sir; all the rest is mute. William Shakespeare Because even now, when I went to put that quote in there, I had to pop the hood up on Typepad, creaky old bitch that she is, and look at the HTML, because the WYSIWYG editor doesn't even work anymore. I'm like the old couple in The Princess Bride who give you a cure for being only partially dead but then tell you to not go in swimming for at least an hour. "Well, hidee ho! Let's take a look at that href tag!" But can I just say, wow, that felt amazing! Thank you, dude, for reading old words of mine from months ago and realizing I was a person before I came to the cube next door. I don't pay my corporate job any disservice, but it was still fun that for an amazing decade people paid me for my voice. A few weeks ago, one of the little angel's friends did THE OBVIOUS GAME for a book talk. I was driving them to whatever and heard her talking about how she chose the wig lady scene to highlight and I had this moment where I realized my daughter's best friends took my writing seriously enough to talk about it at school. Guys, I can't tell you. I just can't tell you. I have always been one to write fan letters to my favorite authors. I've never had a letter back, but I do believe... Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
This week, I've spent time thinking about how much my life has changed in the past decade. In 2008, I was fresh off the publication of my first book and in the heyday of blogging as a service, BaaS, if you will humor my acronyms. Oh my, how life has changed. In the time that has passed since my departure from BlogHer/SheKnows Media, I've ceased to have a professional reason to be on social media. And, to some extent, my appetite for it has decreased. I finished another novel, which will come out from InkSpell Publishing in August 2019. It will be a labor of love, in that I care more about the themes of the book and in good sentences more than in the book's commercial success. That is a departure from my first two books. In those, I truly hoped for commercial success. Now, I understand a writer's chanches of making the front table at B&N are akin to a singer's chances of winning The Voice and then having a hit single a year later - so many people I talk to think somehow this art is different from that art, and ... it's not. But that's okay. There are too many people who think making art is only relevant if that art makes a living income. I know a lot of extremely talented artists and writers. Very few are able to survive solely on their art. Most depend also on income from speaking, teaching or brand representation. We no longer live in a society where artists have landed gentry sponsors. So, why, if it is so hard to make a living at art, do we still make art? Because it's important. Rise up from your couches, oh, Americans. Break free from your must-see TV and your Facebook... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
Sign up in the left nav to get my now quarterly newsletter. 'Cuz there's news in there, seriously. Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
It must be very difficult to be the child of a blogger. It was a grand experiment, this parenting blogging thing, and we navigated it by making a lot of mistakes, trying to figure out as we went along how much of ourselves to share and where the line was between us and our babies. In SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK, I wrote a lot about the struggles of parenting. I didn't write enough about the joy. Now the parent of an amazing fourteen-year-old girl, I've waited too long to revisit what it feels like to be a mother. I've often told my daughter that she can't possibly love me more than I love her. I still believe that to be true. The love I feel for her goes beyond human love to being love. It is both intellectual and instinctual in that I wouldn't have to actually think about throwing myself in front of a bus for her. I wouldn't be able to make the choice not to. I love her too much. But it's intellectual, too, because I love her not only because she's my child, but for her intelligence, her humor, and her resilience. She's bravely survived both my husband and I losing jobs and all the financial uncertainty and sacrifice that came of that. She bore my cancer without complaint and wrote a heartbreaking poem about the experience that showed me not only her writing talent but the depth of her maturity at such a young age. She has understood the world better as a very young child than many adults do, and that understanding gives her empathy for others -- and for me -- that I don't deserve and shouldn't be able to expect from a teenager who's still growing up and going through so... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
In 2009, I left my corporate job for a job in the blogosphere. At the time, it was my dream job. We had a good run. In that time, I watched many of my contemporaries make a living from their words and then fall from the industry as the way media works changed. Now, my TIME magazine is 100 pages shorter per issue and the headlines are more dominated by the royal wedding than they are a school shooting or Hawaii being ruined by a volcano. I remember the day Osama bin Laden died. I found out on a Sunday night, around midnight. We needed to cover it. So it goes. Media has died. I half-heartedly spoon sand over it and click on the next cat video. In 2017, I re-entered corporate America. Two weeks ago, I landed back in the building I've always felt most comfortable in. The art hanging on the walls is familiar. My heels make the right noise walking across the tiles of the floor. Even the sound of the noise-canceling swoosh makes coming back seem normal and good. And the view from the 16th floor of an all-glass building made sunglasses inside seem not ridiculous. I'm back at the company where I first took heat for blogging, back when blogging was a thing. My co-workers at my last job, the first re-entry, would sigh and roll their eyes whenever I referenced the eight years I spent in media. "Oh," they'd say. "Are you talking about THAT again?" That. When blogging was a thing. Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
I met Janelle Hanchett in person backstage at BlogHer's Voices of the Year show, where she was preparing to read "We Don't Start Out With Needles in Our Arms." She was also wearing a baby at the time. We spent about five minutes debating whether or not said baby should be worn onto the stage (I was a fan of the idea in theory but, having worn a baby myself in the past, not a fan of the reality of having a baby anywhere near a microphone in a room of 3,000 people). Janelle's story is a shocker, both for its rock-bottom and for its normal. I volunteered to be on the launch team for her memoir, I'M JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE, because after putting out a book about mental illness myself, I get how scary that is. Not only are you sort of laying yourself bare as a writer, you're exposing to the Instagram world what mental illness really feels like. Janelle's story is one of addiction and recovery, but I recognized in her writing a lot of the same rage I've felt at times in my life and the same mental pain that is so severe it feels physical. What I've always admired about Janelle's writing: Her beautiful sentences. While I feel confident she could turn the mundane details of life into art, she's got some pretty compelling material to work with, and the result is truly important writing. A few of my favorite quotes: I signed my daughter out, chatted with the receptionist, held my girl's hand to the car to make sure she was safe, and all these actions felt like tiny miracles. I gave the death glare to the woman when I saw her in the parking lot, because I was sober, not Jesus.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
In 2010, I wrote a post about anorexia and Dr. Phil. Shortly after that, I wrote a response on BlogHer which seems to have been lost in the abyss. Shortly before I was laid off from SheKnows Media (which acquired BlogHer and is now being acquired by Penske Media, I transferred some of my posts to Medium on a lark. One of them was 5 Things You Should Know About Your Girlfriend With an Eating Disorder. I've said it before: It's amazing, but I have received between 3-5 emails a week since I originally wrote the article sometime between 2010 and 2016 (yes, I admit, I don't have the will to research my posts on BlogHer -- it's painful). Originally I tried to write back individually to people, and at one point I had a six-month ongoing conversation with a mom, but after a while it became too overwhelming to keep up with all of the stories. And, after all, I wrote a book about this whole thing. So I started sending back this reply to the people who write me: I get so many emails like this I put everything I know about eating disorders and recovery in a novel called THE OBVIOUS GAME. You could read it together and use it as a conversation starter. Either way it should help you understand. Good luck - there is a lot about romantic relationships and how they are affected in the book. RJBA One time prior to today someone had an adverse reaction to this response, saying I was trying to sell them a book. I pointed out that THEY wrote ME, and that was the end of it. So imagine my surprise when today, I got this: "send me an email and I will answer your questions" "Fuck you... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
I caught a few minutes of The Voice tonight. I haven't watched it since Christina Grimmie was killed. That was a bit of a perspective-setter about fame. In this episode, Kelly Clarkson was having a moment. I assume from context clues that Alicia Keys has been nabbing all the hot young things to the extent it started to give Kelly a complex. She didn't even want to turn around for a fabulous voice because she said, "There's no way I will win," or something to that effect. Oh, Kelly, I feel you. This is not a love song. Here's the thing: Any time you try something new, put yourself out there, no matter how high you've risen in your field or in your art, isn't there always an Alicia Keys? Isn't there always someone who intimidates you because they are amazing in their own skin, in their own art, and that confidence somehow feels threatening, as though there were a finite amount of wins in the universe? Because there are not: A finite amount of wins. Kelly Clarkson is a thousand million times more successful than I am, a thousand million times richer, more talented. In that moment, though, I wanted to grab her ears and look into her eyes and tell her to levelset, my friend, because you are all that and more and you need to have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up. You. Are. All. That. I know, right? Getting through a career is hard. It is so hard. You get knocked down, laid off, hired again, budget cut, high expectations, no expectations, no team, huge team, quarterly dividends, what did you say, again? And then you start again. Over and over and over. A fifty-year career is no longer a fifty-year career,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
It appears to be true that we shrink as we age. In height, I mean. And maybe our hands. I always thought when I was a child and observed my friends' mothers (not mine, so much, because mine didn't wear a lot of makeup), that I hoped I would never become one of those people who looked completely different without makeup. I fear I have become that woman, mostly because when I don't wear makeup, suddenly my features seem ... small. And I wonder ... is it just our outlook that is outsized when we're in our twenties? Does the realization that broken bones and cancer and organ shutdowns are real things cramp our ability to stand up straight? Was I really different in my twenties, was I actually taller? Did pregnancy really make my foot bones spread so much I lost height? What's happened to my pelvic floor? Holy shit, am I actually shrinking? I know my own parents are an inch or so shorter than they were when they were my age. My maternal grandmother had osteoporosis and a bit of a hump that literally robbed her of many inches. And as I grow older and face job insecurities again, it occurs to me that I'm no longer the precocious young one in the room as I spent so much of my internet-bubble youth being. I've noticed the older women get, the bigger their diamonds. I always in the past attributed it to means, but now I wonder if the diamonds just look bigger on hands that shrink with age. I look at other women's hands, because I'm at the age where I'm kind of past the diamond fuck-it point. It happens. I'm there. At this point, I look at a lot of things and wonder ... why?... Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
My birthday is next week. The little angel's is in a few months. She's not little anymore -- she'll be 14. So will this blog. Everything I start to write I just select and delete. I'm not really sure what I want to say. It's a new year ... 2018. This year (next week), I will turn 44. My daughter in April will turn 14. My marriage in June will turn 17. God, the passage of time is relentless, isn't it? We've started talking about when Lily ... I always had this grand plan of doing a great outing of her identity when she turned thirteen, but I'm almost a year too late ... the little angel's name is Lily Jane Arens ... will soon be driving and have an even greater level of independence ... of even when she will graduate and leave the house ... not because we want that to happen or because we're looking forward to it, but because it is actually going to happen, and if we don't prepare for it, it will catch us by surprise. I thought I would do this great outing, but it turns out that the world moved on while I wasn't looking, and she doesn't need my help at all. I got her Twitter and her URL reserved when she was born, and now it's possible that tech is outdated for her generation. Ha! My daughter doesn't need me to shepherd her into the digital world. I thought she would, but she doesn't. Funny, considering my career trajectory. Nothing can prepare us for what comes next. I'm all over but I haven't been here in a while and I think I might in fact be the only person who still reads this blog. If that's the case, ha, Rita,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
Dear friends, family, and college buddies I haven't laid eyes on in twenty years: Boy, was 2017 amazing! Hilda joined the Peace Corps after realizing she couldn't afford community college. She's currently digging latrines in Sierra Leone, which she says is beautiful as long as you don't look at the human feces or feral dogs. We have high hopes she'll wear herself out after a year and come back to join the nursing program at a nonprofit institution of higher learning. We recently learned there are tax cuts! This is great! We're looking forward to using our return to buy a new SUV that should be able to navigate the crumbling roadways we use to commute two hours each way to a soul-killing office job that will soon be replaced by robots. In other news, Nancy made it through a round of breast cancer thanks to us learning that you can get an interest-free payment plan if you call the 800 number and tell them you have no money. You, too, could pay $35.18 a month for the next twenty years to each of ten different healthcare providers. #blessed Little Jerod has been pursuing four different sports at the age of nine. The doctors say his concussions should heal up well and he's excited to play competitive league soccer year-round as long as his games continue to start before 11 pm on school nights. He may even see ten minutes of playing time in 2018. Woot! Nancy and Alexander are looking forward to celebrating 23 years of marriage in December, when they realized they'll be making the same household income that they did in 1998 despite a 43% increase in healthcare costs. Nancy is excited her antidepressants will soon be covered under the maintenance medicine list on her high-deductible health... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
"Maybe, when you're in it, you just get through it, and it seems so much scarier to everyone else," she said. "Maybe," I replied. My friend Ann put it best: When someone tells you that you have cancer, it's like you're plunged into the deep end of the pool. Nobody can see you, nobody can help you. There's water in your eyes and your ears and your nose, and there's nothing in your world but the water; you can't see or think about anything but the water. And then ... you hit the surface. Everyone around you is floating on a raft. They hand you a beer. The sun is shining, and the world is beautiful. And you think ... did that seriously just happen, that part where I almost drowned? This time last year I was unemployed, desperately hunting for my next thing. I realized I'd have to make a career pivot and reinvent myself away from the dying star that is paid journalism. All but abondoning social media after a decade of living with both ankles constantly submerged in that rushing river. Wondering who I am if none of what I worked so hard to achieve in the past means anything to the hiring managers I met with in the yawning maw of job sites into which for six months I poured four different versions of my resume? And why do I have more Twitter followers now when I never go over there? What does any of that mean? I don't know half of those people and there are more people following me on Twitter than there were in my hometown in 1992. And I know damn well none of those Twitter people listen to anything I say. It's all just Black Mirror until you start believing in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
"I'm scared to go back there," I said, gripping the reins more tightly in my hand. The day before the horse beneath me had too much juice. He kept trotting when I said to walk. I forgot my tight circles. And then came the cyclist out from behind on my left, and suddenly Rowyn's back legs were in the air and I was falling to the right and in my mind's eye I saw a bone breaking on the pavement below and Rowyn and Jazz taking off for the barn with my girl clinging to Jazz's back. I think I was actually more scared for her than me, and it should've been the other way around. In this scenario, I needed more help. I got off my horse and called his owner. My hands were shaking so hard I could barely operate the phone. He answered immediately. He was in the Plaza getting ready to do carriage rides. He wouldn't be back to the barn for five hours. "What do I do?" I said. "Get your act together and ride him back to the barn," he said. "You can't walk him back. Rita, you have to ride." Sometimes in your life you would like the easier method back to the barn. This was not a time I was going to get it. My girl said everything was fine, but my mothering instincts and my anxiety disorder kept projecting images of a broken back or fractured skull as we walked back, turning tight circles every 100 yards or so. I have never had a longer walk back to the barn in my life. I kept reciting a little ditty, more for me than for him: We're still friends but I'm in charge. Rita and Rowyn go back to the barn. If... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
One of the weird things about letting my girl read THE OBVIOUS GAME is that she's had more of a window than is probably good and right into my teenage years. So when I came home today from my twenty-fifth high school reunion and told her about how when my classmate driving the pick-up pulling the haybale-stacked float for the big Homecoming parade circled the town square three times and then just ... drove ... it reminded her of the sled scene in my book. Stupid, and dangerous, and totally, unfathomably fun. And when I told her about coronation and how the president of my senior class made a lovely speech and told the bored seniors how they really could do anything jumping off from the platform of our small town, she asked if it was the same coronation I wrote about in my book. And it was. It's in a new building, but nothing's changed. The names of the kids are the same last names I grew up with. The smiling parents are now my age, but they're the same. The teenagers may have new concepts in what makes facial hair fashionable for boys or formal wear appropriate for girls, but they have the same impatience for the dance I remember. I'm just on the other side now. But the ride. Sitting on a haybale on a flatbed on a float with people I've known since kindergarten or more and driving down the highway at least 45 miles an hour to a neighboring town, a neighboring bar, where the extra tables are made of plywood and the video games still take quarters ... that was like stepping into the past. Not having my husband and daughter along heightened the surreal quality because I, for once, had nowhere to be... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
I realized recently that I graduated high school the same year a coworker was born. Let's sit with that. But then I reminded myself this brilliance was recorded when I was in first grade: So it's okay, to be old. Because every generation contributes something awesome. Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
I had The Conversation with the little angel tonight. Why are we here? I grew up steeped in Lutheranism, with a hint of high school existentialism. I have raised my daughter differently than I was raised. I homeschooled religion. Partly because of the crises of organized religion. Partly because of my own disillusionment with the laws of God versus the laws of Men. Oh, parenting is hard. I want to give her the tools to make sense of the world in a world that denies climate change and the effects of quarterly returns on our ability to be humane. I want to give her something to cling to that represents what happens when our hearts cease to beat. The reality is that we will all die, someday. We don't know when or how, only that we will. The young: They can't understand that. I didn't understand that. I said to a co-worker this week that I'd borrowed a mission statement from someone whom I've forgotten: Live a life you don't need a vacation from. I've tried to do that. We cut out eating out so we could ride horses. We shifted things around so we could have adventures. We drive shitty old-model cars and live in a bank foreclosure house so we can live a life we don't need a vacation from. I believe that. This year's cancer scare taught me that it can all be over tomorrow. You could have the rug pulled out from under you at any minute. Are you ready? Do you spend your time on what matters? I don't, not entirely. I need to make more time for my art, my writing. I was good at it before I had a commute. I need to get better at it now. What do you need? Let's... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
They say scent in the strongest tie to memory. What I will remember from this time is the scent of me. I weathered radiation treatment during a hot Missouri summer. They told me I couldn't use normal deoderant because it contains aluminum, which is akin to putting aluminum foil in the microwave when undergoing radiation treatment. This is what I smelled like: Burnt flesh Lavendar Linseed oil Aloe Musk Neosporin Aquaphor Eucerin Dead skin Sweaty polyester Wicking athletic bras Wet cotton I finished my last radiation treatment last Friday. Since then, I've shed a layer of burnt skin, brown, almost black. Underneath is the fuschia of regeneration. Skin is pretty amazing stuff. It itches. My God, it itches. I've tried not to scratch, but even the reapplication of Aquaphor after each shower has ruined at least ten tshirts and countless bras, and now with the skin so raw and new I'm not sure what I will wear to work tomorrow, when I'm sure they expect me to return anew and healed now that the treatment is over. Except it's not really over yet. The radiation is still working inside me, and will continue to work for a few weeks, shining the flashlight over the dark room to make sure no cancer lurks in the corners before we shut the door for now. Until the next mammogram. And the next mammogram will reveal a completely new me, the me that is: after. I will never smell aloe again and not think of this time. But I am relieved. It is over. For the first time since April 2017, I can look at life through eyes unclouded by breast cancer. And that's a good thing. ONWARD. Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy