A Labor Day Surprise

This afternoon I went to visit the family I bring Holy Communion to, as usual.

I was driving around when I realized I was late! It was 1: 42 when I realized, and about 1:45 when I arrived. Usually I go at 1:30.

My phone wasn’t in the car, so I just headed over. 

They were surprised to see me! They thought since it was Labor Day, I wouldn’t be coming, though last week I confirmed I’d be there at my usual time. 

But I don’t have any special plans today. They are honestly the highlight of my Labor Day. I’ve been disappointed in the past when they went on vacation or told me to come another time because they had an appointment. I missed seeing them. 

They were happy, and I felt happy in turn. They had an American flag and a POW MIA flag flying on the back porch. 

In my hustle, I didn’t have the missal with the readings. But they didn’t mind.

I explained to them that it helps me, too, every week. That I look forward to these visits with them. 

They’ve been shocked when I wanted to come despite inclement weather, as well. Last week there was a big storm– I called to tell them I was en route– she told me to wait till the storm quieted. I told her it didn’t bother me, but she didn’t want me to risk it. I didn’t have to wait long.

Sometimes I get busy and forget, or I have to re-schedule because I didn’t make it to Mass on Sunday to get the hosts. But I hate disappointing them, so I have become more disciplined in maintaining our routine and following through to avoid cancellations whenever possible. It means I go to bed earlier on Saturday nights, so that I won’t oversleep. 

God bless this family. 

I told them that they can count on me, and it felt good to affirm that. 

Once this summer when my car was in the shop, I walked there. This routine has become something on which I depend and look forward to each week. They don’t seem to realize how much I enjoy spending time with them, knowing that they are expecting me and happy to receive what I came to give them. It feels good to good to help someone. I get as much out of visiting them as they do in receiving Holy Communion. 

This is why volunteering helps your soul so much. 

And though I’ve never been very attached to the idea of Jesus, bring them Holy Communion helps me believe.

I’m more focused on God and Mary. I struggle with the the idea of Jesus, partially because he’s championed so much by Evangelical Christians. They are so relentless about it that I retreat from that idea. 

Would you constantly pressure someone to disown their family and come join yours? That’s what it feels like to me when someone keeps asking me to come to their church. I have a church. I have a parish. We all struggle to relate to our parents throughout our lives, but we don’t stop loving them. If we’re lucky, and I am in that regard, we talk things through and work it out. We accept our differences and focus on the history and the loving things they do. Your chosen faith is the same way– you may struggle to understand and accept it, but that doesn’t make it any less a part of you. 

But this family believes in Jesus– as Catholics we believe the Eucharist is real. They are not disappointed if I can’t make it because they think I’m just bringing them a wafer. All theology and philosophy aside about the “proof” of Jesus, this small routine with this family offers more validity than anything I could read in The Bible. 

I’m glad this family is part of my life, and they are bringing me deeper into our faith each week. 

“Not a Real Democrat” : A Civil Debate with my Republican Cousin

I hail from a rock solid family of ultra-conservative Republicans. In return, I’ve defined myself as the bleeding heart liberal!

Tonight at a small family gathering, I held my own against my ULTRA- conservative Republican cousin. I was surprised and happy when later on, my step-mother commended me for it! She was glad to see that feisty side of me, she said. That I should show it more often. 

That’s the side of me that wrote a newspaper column. I miss that side of me too– I need to reconnect more with her.

My Dad and I crack wise to each other but out of respect don’t get into details because we value our relationship and he is very set in his ways. I know I’m never going to change his mind, so I just accept his good qualities and rib him a bit. 

But my cousin is quite aggressive and really likes to dig in– he was on a mission to prove me wrong. He failed. 

He and my parents and I were sitting at four-top table, my cousin and I directly across from each other. And once we got going, my parents were looking at us, back and forth, like it was a tennis match. A battle of wits, it seemed. My aunt, his mother, stood in the kitchen, observing quietly. Which is rare for her– he inherited his aggression honestly on her side. Later on, my step-mother told me my aunt had expressions of delight when I said a few things to her son that even *she* would never dare say! It takes a lot to intimidate this woman. THAT is a real compliment. 

I didn’t have a bunch of stats to rattle off– I just used logic and my own personal experience. And several times, I silenced him. He would try and throw my own words back at me and present me with two options– neither which applied to my opinion. I called him on twisting my words, and refused both choices. He laughed. 

Which was hilarious to me. My cousin is 20 years older than I, a man who has dedicated his life to business and hard work. He is the ultimate believer in America being “the land of opportunities.” I tried to convey that this is a narrow and naive way to define our country, and that not everyone has the opportunities he assumes they do for a host of reasons.

“I hope you fall in love with a Democrat,” I said. “She’ll be Republican before she gets the ring,” he shot back. 

At some point, he tried to label me as “not a real Democrat.” Because I don’t smoke pot. And all Democrats are just pothead slackers, right?  He asked me to name ONE person who smokes pot regularly that “has a real job.” I told him I know several– who have enviable and solid careers. A lot of my friends are pot-smokers– some are even Republicans. Whoa. 

My family was mystified when I told them a majority of my friends smoke pot, and I don’t. How could I tolerate that?! I’ll tell you– because they accept my decision and don’t pressure me. The ones who did that are no longer in my life. 

I really respect and enjoy the company of my friends, and I don’t define them solely by their pot smoking. I also have plenty of friends who also eschew drugs and so for me, it balances out.

I explained to my family that as for my pot smoking friends, either they don’t smoke it around me, or I get up and move to another part of the room to not breathe it. I don’t let people smoke it in my car. Or if they go outside to smoke, I stay put. If I’m at a party and it’s being passed around, my friends know to just pass it and not offer. If I know there’s going to be so much smoke that it’s unavoidable, I just don’t go to those parties. I generally avoid environments where there will definitely be drugs. But I do draw a boundary. If someone breaks out hard drugs, I’m out of there. When I go out, I don’t go to after hours, when I know everyone will just be getting wasted. I enjoy myself and I go home sober. 

 But tonight I was proud to be standing up for my political beliefs, and for challenging the views of my cousin.

“You keep saying that word, change,” he said. 

And that’s why I’m a Democrat. Because I believe there are new and better ways to do things. Because I like fighting for the underdog. Because I embrace compassion. 

I do believe in change.

I believe people can change, if they want it bad enough. 

I believe in equal opportunity.

I believe in respecting others who may have radically different believes and lifestyles than I do.

I believe in accepting people for who they are, and meeting in the middle over what we have in common.

Yup, I’m a real Democrat. And I still love my Republican family, but they don’t dictate my beliefs.

My ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Friendship, an Answered Prayer, and a Good Scream

Yesterday afternoon, I watching ALS Ice Bucket challenges online and hoping someone would nominate me.

I even asked three friends if they would do it with me– if they would nominate me. None could help– they were working, or had already committed to doing it, or were doing a private donation to a local family they knew struggling with ALS. 

I was on Facebook, thinking that it really looked like fun. I felt like that kid on the playground who doesn’t get picked for Red Rover. You can’t play unless you’re invited!

And then hours later, my friend Tammie tagged me in her own video. YES! We had jumped into a kiddie pool full of ice water together before, so the symmetry was great. And it was striking, because usually I write down my prayers– but this wasn’t even a conscious prayer. Just a longing, a fleeting thought in my day. And I thought, “Wow, God IS listening!” 

But I didn’t want to do it alone, nor was I prepared. For one, I have really weak arms and don’t want to knock myself out like myriad participants have done! And two, I had no means to set up a video camera and post it without help. 

And three, I just wanted to share it with a friend. 

So I decided to post it in a status as an open invite, and just HOPE someone responded. And it took over an hour– a few people “liked” it. I almost wanted to delete it, feeling awkward. What if no one responded? I had offered to buy ice, bring my own container, and travel outside my city to comply with the 24-hour rule. 

Then my friend Char offered, and said she’d be free this afternoon if I could come to her place. I was so happy! THAT was a conscious prayer, and it was answered. I wrote that one down. 

We messaged back and forth about silly plans. We decided to wear rainbow colored ensembles, possibly wigs, and to make silliness the plan. I promised to wear something stupid. It made my day, just having something small like that to look forward to today before I started my shift. 

I stopped at a gas station and bought two big bags of ice on the way. I told people I was doing the challenge! I felt great. 

Her boyfriend filmed it for us, out on their front lawn. She dumped my orange cooler full on me, and I screamed, hopped around, and absolutely loved it. I had a toy sword that lights up and makes noise, and I brought it as a prop, to be the “ALS Avenger!” I had a quick, bumbling intro, nominated my friends, and it accepted the challenge. I wore a neon orange tank and bright purple long skirt. 

Char’s outfit was like candy rock n’ roll! A black tank with a pink skull and crossbones, black pants and a pink wig with braided pigtails. I stood on a chair behind her and dumped the ice, so I wouldn’t knock HER out! She wasn’t as thrilled as me, but took it like a champ!! Her boyfriend laughed and recorded it all. 

We took before and after pictures– the ice buckets– then us before, then us with the buckets over our heads, laughing. 

After we looked at the pictures and cracked up at our videos, and she tagged them on facebook and emailed them, too.

I have a helluva great friend in Char. We share a love of zany fashion and accessories and spontaneous fun, such as this.

It’s those last-minute small adventures that makes life great. And I got to have fun with a friend for a great cause, too. 

And now I can’t wait to see the friends who I nominated do the same!! 

Red rover, red rover, my friends better run over! 

The Genie of the Lamp: Goodbye, Robin Williams

I’m watching “Good Morning Vietnam,” for the first time.

What A DAY IT’S BEEN..

I just saw the scene where Robin’s character, Adrian Cronauer, read the “unofficial” news that his supervisor had ordered him to disregard. It was something actual, disturbing. He himself had been there– at a bombing– he could validate it first-hand. But his supervisor didn’t think the people of Vietnam needed to know– a bit too real. Better stick with what’s approved, safe.

Could there be a better parallel to how we, as Robin’s adoring audience, feel right now? Nothing’s confirmed, until the autopsy. But it’s a possible suicide. Robin Williams will never laugh again.

Just like Adrian’s broadcast– dead air. No new material. Just like Adrian, he got to go home.

Many people don’t believe in God, much less Heaven.

But doesn’t losing a man like this, one whose passion in life was giving JOY– doesn’t it make you WANT to believe that he’s somewhere better? I do.

Indeed, the man we have come to associate interchangeably with levity died with a heavy heart.

He suffered from depression. Also alcoholism and cocaine addiction. That makes him human.

I get so angry when people call the dead “selfish” or say they “no sympathy” for “addicts.”

He wasn’t an addict. I HATE that demoralizing, useless pejorative. You can’t reduce a life to someone’s momentary weakness. He was a man who struggled, like all of us. I hope this brings new awareness to just how much of a lifelong WAR it is– just to be human, especially in the spotlight. I hope less people dehumanize and judge those who struggle with substances now, because of Robin.

He was public in struggle. That takes tremendous humility and courage.

Many others have died in this fight. People made horrible character judgments about Philip Seymour Hoffman, a master actor, only in February. And this man won an Oscar. Yet all these ordinary people hiding behind the Internet feel entitled to comment on his life, on his “selfishness.” They did it with Whitney Houston, who is often the butt of a joke because of her turbulent love affair with singer Bobby Brown. She also struggled with addiction, but people find it so easy to discount her lifetime achievements and exploit her lowest moments– why, because she’s famous?

And some soulless people will make the same jokes about Robin Williams– but I guess that the number will be fewer. Why? Because he was a comedian. Because his personal life wasn’t tabloid fodder. Because we associate him with more levity– though a tremendous dramatic actor with versatility to even do horror films, most people associate Robin with stand-up and comedy.

This is Mrs. Doubtfire we’re mourning. This is the GEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNIE OF THE LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMP! He was the star of my favorite Disney film, “Aladdin.” He was Peter Pan, in “Hook.”

There’s something especially tragic about losing a comedian. I have some wonderful friends who are naturally gifted in this area. They possess an imagination and a gall that allows them to be provocative and get away with it– to make jokes that if anyone else tried it, I would probably punch them or hang up the phone. But these comedian friends of mine are also some of the most deeply feeling, empathic, sensitive people I know. They often makes jokes to take the conversation away from themselves– as a defense mechanism. They often want praise and acceptance desperately. They play the jester because it’s easier than admitting that they’re hurting, because people like someone who makes them forget about reality.

Comedians are really just people with very big emotions who want to feel important. To be taken seriously. To be “good” at something– making others happy, even if they aren’t themselves. They sacrifice their personal lives as material to bring some meaning to what haunts them.

We love Robin Williams because he DID NOT live a “safe” life. He lived in his imagination.

And I believe that now, he doesn’t have to perform anymore. He can rest.

He doesn’t have to grant any more wishes, although he did for all of us. He was magic.

The Genie is free now, although he is dearly beloved and missed.

Goodnight, dear Genie.

When Being Single is Your Default Setting

A lot of people call me independent and strong.

And I’ve become those things out of necessity– like all people in these categories.

But the tough part is when someone wants me to let them in. I’ve been single so long, my first instinct is always to slam the door. Then I feel relief in my solitude.

And that’s because in my past I have loved, and been loved, deeply. I have high expectations for a relationship now because I refuse to settle for less than I enjoyed in the past. Once someone treats you really well, you can’t accept less.

I’ve dated the past few years– but nothing has gotten serious and exclusive. There’s always a part of myself that I hold back.

I’m great at protecting myself. No one is better at being single than I am!

But truly I want what everyone wants– to let down the gate. To relax. To be cherished. To have someone I can rely on, check in with, and be accountable to as well, every day.

Being in a relationship means letting go– giving someone the power to hurt you, but trusting them not to do it. Or maybe it means accepting that the very nature of love entails disappointment, because everyone is human. But deep down, you know it would be more of a disappointment to forfeit knowing THIS person. You accept the risk.

I trust my ability to judge compatibility and character.

The magical thing about love is that it keeps drawing you deeper. The curiosity about each other doesn’t end. The more you learn, the harder you fall. They surprise you when you don’t expect it, and when you need it most but were afraid to admit it. The more they open up about insecurities and their past, the more you understand and respect them for the journey they’ve taken on. The more you feel absolutely giddy to be CHOSEN by them.

Most of all, being in a relationship means trusting YOURSELF. Trusting that you chose the right partner, that you are both available and willing to invest in a future together. And it means accepting that you have power to hurt someone else, should issues come up that aren’t able to be resolved and you break-up. It means respecting your partner’s choice to take that risk of being hurt by you, even if you’re afraid. It means accepting that you can’t control the outcome or how long it might last– but that you both want to sign up for the adventure together, nonetheless.

And I’d rather be single than with the wrong man.

I no longer believe in “timing.”

Love is a conscious, repeated choice you make together. It has nothing to do with timing, and everything to do with devotion and compromise. A person who truly loves you will accept your faults and recognize that your positive qualities more than balance them out. They will see the light in you and want to help you shine brighter. They give you a sense of security, because you know you can rely on their feelings for you, despite whatever imperfections they may carry.

Recently I briefly dated someone, but we were exclusive from the first time we talked. He messaged me via online dating and had listed himself as “strictly monogamous,” which was a huge attraction for me after dealing with other ambivalent men prior. It felt great to not have to worry about him pursuing others, so I could just get to know him without any pressure or insecurity.

But dating him taught me that commitment doesn’t equal intimacy. You can be exclusive with someone you respect, without any major conflicts: but that closeness is either there or it’s not. I need a good banter. I need someone who makes me feel like a woman, but also treats me with dignity.

There was nothing “wrong” with him, or me. It just wasn’t there.

I felt comfortable with him, sure. We held hands and both liked PDA, which was great. It felt really good to have a man so proud to be seen with me, who liked to take pictures together and who said cute little things. But the more we got to know each other, the less we had to talk about. Our phone conversations were getting more strained.

Emotional, verbal intimacy is the most important thing for me. Without that, nothing else matters or will stand the test of time. A person’s body, job and circumstances will change. But their imagination, they way they think, the way they see and GET you– those things never change.

I felt we had both genuinely tried our best.

And after almost a month, I realized that we didn’t have enough between us to sustain a relationship– especially with radically different schedules and living circa 50 miles apart. Some people would say I’m really jumping the gun to make a decision to move on so fast. But truly, it’s about mutual respect. I wasn’t going to lead him on, so I set us both free. I’ve never been one to date someone just because I’m lonely, or because they want to take me out and I want a free dinner. If I choose to commit, or want to commit to someone, it’s only because I’m attracted by HIM. It’s not because I want something from him, but because I want to give something to him: my time, my affection, my promise of fidelity. I’m attracted by energy– something about that man draws me in and makes me want to spend time with him and be in his life. Usually I find myself very attracted by his words and the way he expresses himself. When I really like a man, I want to write down what he says often– I find him infinitely “quotable.” Everything I learn about him fascinates me, even the mundane. I want to note small details in my journal about what I learn about him, and write about our dates. I save things he gives me. I write poems. I’m a total sap.

More than anything, I develop a deep admiration for him and feel he inspires me to be my best self and to continually grow.

And though I felt sad to end it, I knew it was the only choice. We had a very civil break-up. We talked about what we would miss, what we could have done better and what we enjoyed about each other. And we haven’t talked since– both of us are looking for a serious relationship and respect each other’s need to move on. I haven’t cried since or felt bad about it, and I feel ACTUAL closure for the first time. But it was interesting that I got to know more about him and how he felt about me in that break-up conversation than I had the entire time we dated. What is it about having the pressure of a relationship relieved that frees us to be more honest about our feelings?

But ultimately, I feel good about it. I got to know someone, and we ended it peacefully and without a power struggle. That was a milestone for me– there was no egos clashing. He respected my feelings and agreed that it wasn’t happening for us. We don’t feel the need to hang on and be friends. It was nice to not feel insecure about my decision– to be supported in it.

I realized that although I do want a relationship, I’m not in a rush about it.

And who knows what’s next? But I feel good about my journey.

I’m going somewhere good.

Greek Dancing with Nico: My Favorite Little Boy

I’m Catholic, German and Irish, but I’ve got the soul of a Greek Orthodox woman! I’m loud, I’m a big hugger, I have big hair, and I LOVE DANCING. I love eating meat. I love PEOPLE. Before I was sober, my shot of choice was Metaxa– I loved the reactions on people’s faces when they tried it the first time.

I stopped by the Greek Fest in Joliet tonight, to see my friend Catt- who was working.
I saw her son, Nico, who is two and will be turning three next month, running amuck and joined him. We were in a pavilion and she was working the bar. Her husband, Vic, was watching him.

Nico is the most friendly little child I’ve ever met. He’s got curly light brown hair and pale skin and bright blue eyes with killer lashes. He just exudes love. And that’s because he has two parents who are very close to their families, Greek and Italian. They have a strong marriage– they are best friends. They talk all day long. They are a team. Nico is always with his family, getting plenty of cuddles and attention and supervision.

And WOW, does Nico like to move around! I tried to take pictures but gave up because he moves so fast every picture I took is blurry. I decided to forget about pictures and just enjoy keeping up with him.

I tell you, playing with kids is the best exercise imaginable. I worked tonight and I was tired, I didn’t think I’d stay long. But once I saw Nico, all my energy returned. We were inseparable.

First, we just ran back and forth, racing and yelling with our arms up. Then, we tried Greek dancing. We danced together, and with a little girl and her mom. I picked him up, and we kind of slow danced– he held his right arm out and grabbed mine. I just followed him wherever he went, but made sure he was safe.

He’s so confident!!

But my favorite part was when we just went off together and hung out on the grass. Catt and Vic let us because they trust me. They know I would never let anything happen to him, and when he’s with me, he’s safe. We didn’t go far– I stayed where they could see us. He wanted to sit down. So I convinced him it’d be better to sit down in the grass– over by a tree. And he just followed my lead, and it was such a natural interaction.

I’m trying to write before I forget the best parts!

But we laid in the grass and looked at the sky. I raised one leg, he raised his. We made a game out of it. I put up both my legs, then he did. He left one up, I did the same thing. We were just imitating each other.

Then we sat up, and I picked him up and we looked at the tree. I showed him the leaves, and he reached out and touched them. And he knew that his shirt was blue, and I asked him what color mine was ? Green. He knew that he’s a guy, and I’m a girl. He knew about the sky.

I was just in awe.

And then we got up and I started just crawling forward. And I growled, and he growled. He followed next to me, and he kept up with me!

And he had this little yellow toy, a tiny little man. Maybe an astronaut? I’m not sure what he was, but I noticed he was gone. I think I had referred to the toy as his “guy,” earlier– he has a great, quick, memory.

“Where’s your guy?” I said. And it was dark, but we went through the grass, retracing our steps. “My guy!”

And it wasn’t long before we passed a few benches and there the toy was, sitting on a bench. Nico picked him up and took him with him in his tiny hand.

I was so happy he hadn’t lost his little toy.

I told him we had to go back because I was tired and had to leave.

“No!” he said. He looked sad.

My heart felt bigger than the moon!

I picked him up and took him back to his dad, Vic. Nico was saying goodbye to the girls– all the girls wanted a kiss from Nico. They were friends of Catt’s, people who know the family and who were also volunteering. He stood above them all, tall– he knew his power. He kissed them and they all said goodbye.

Catt was finished, and they walked with me as a family to the parking lot.

An older woman was driving a golf cart just ahead of us.

Nico is so smart– he ran and jumped on the back ledge. He wasn’t afraid. Catt was right behind him and laughed at his ingenuity. The woman was driving slow, of course.

Nico saw a shortcut to walking, and he took it!

Vic was looking around for a moment, “Where’s Nico?” We pointed and Vic turned and saw his son right there and was amused at his confidence.

The woman slowed down and stopped, and Nico climbed over to the seat. Catt encouraged him, waving and smiling. The woman driving was positively charmed.

Nico does that– he just enchants people with his energy, his happiness, his physical affection.

We reached my car and I said goodbye to them all with hugs. They asked Nico to give me a kiss, and I squatted down, offering my cheek. Not pressuring him.

But Nico went out of his WAY to kiss me on the lips! It just fit into my heart.

“That’s the most romantic thing that’s happened to me in months!” I said.

And it’s true.

That’s why children are so pure. They have no agenda. They just LOVE you. They accept you, they notice your feelings, they’re in tune with what’s around them. They express themselves with their whole bodies.

God bless that little boy. I don’t see him often, but when I do, he runs to me. As if I’m family! He remembers me. He singles me out, when so many people wanna play with him. He’s sad when I need to leave. He’s just so easy to be with– my little buddy.

Catt and I have always been sisters, since we met. She’s three years younger than me, but we are both silly and loud and have a crazed imagination. That’s what bonds us— making up silly things together– we call it “Vision.” It’s always fun when we get together, and she’s always easy to talk to. She never tells anything I tell her. She’s sentimental. We both have dark hair and eyes– more than any of my other friends, people have often asked if we’re sisters.

And we are! But I have to say, Nico is the best “Vision” she’s ever come up with.

And because of him, I’ll sleep wonderful tonight. Because I ran hard, laughed, WROTE  and now I’m absolutely exhausted!

Falling in Love (Again) with Books

It’s been months since I gave in.

My obsession has always been a harmless one– books.

I made a conscious choice to go out more, interact more with people– to not hole up so much with books. And I’ve done that, and it’s been healing and needed. To stop recording everything compulsively in my journal, to not write so many poems. To forget about fiction.

At a certain point, life is easier if you forget about dreams. I’ve got a steady job, I’m happily rooted in my hometown. I work for a great company, which I’m proud to represent. My boss tells me often I’m doing great, and I can bond easily with my clients and they thank me often for helping them find exactly what they need.

But in other aspects, my life has become so routine that it just hurts. That’s a by-product of becoming a Thirtysomething, I know it’s not a unique predicament. Most of my friends feel that way as well, especially if they’re married with children. Of course, they feel privileged to have the opportunities and stability they’ve achieved– but everyone needs a creative outlet.

Everyone needs to save a little piece of themselves, untouched by obligation or family.

I substituted books for movies. And I’ll always love them! But I can feel myself losing my intelligence– my brain is stagnating. My vocabulary is diminishing. I’ve got to keep myself growing, especially since right now taking classes is not an option and I don’t know if it ever will be again. Most likely, no. I was fortunate to get an undergrad but my schedule and finances have not allowed for me to pursue grad school.

But recently, I dated a man from Chicago, Jonathan. And one of the main things that drew us together was a shared love of literature. However, it turned out we didn’t actually have that much in common. He loved critical essays and philosophy, I dig fiction. He was very sincere, and a writer himself. But he was intellectual, not emotional. It’s rare that I feel insecure when talking about literature or reading in general– that’s always been my getaway. My undergrad is in journalism. But I could tell he was struggling to connect with me and I got tired of missing his references. When he came to my apartment, he noticed a collection of Flannery O’Connor short stories and his eyes glowed. Looking up at me, he said, “This might be the best collection of short stories, EVER!” But I just felt like a fraud, because my friend’s mother loaned it to me since she’s a Catholic author. I hadn’t gotten into it yet. I smiled awkwardly, and thought he tried not to show it, there was clear disappointment.

Everyone’s got books they haven’t read– but it sucks when that’s the one your date zeroes in on with such excitement. Not one other book I had elicited a comment??

On our first date, he drove to Joliet and I took him to a local bookstore– which he loved. And I thought it was sweet that he bought me not one, but TWO books: “Middlesex,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, because I hadn’t read it and he wanted to get something. It didn’t look like my kind of novel but it was such a surprising and promising gesture, I accepted. And then I had wanted to get Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” for myself– a novel I’d been wanting to read for quite awhile, and he surprised me at the check-out counter by getting it for me.

But I tried getting into “Middlesex,” and I just can’t. I may try it again, but it’s not grabbing me. I’m currently reading “The Fault in Our Stars,” WAY late– because I just wanted something simple and emotional. Something that’s not complicated or literary– just a love story, because I liked the movie. And although I’m ambivalent about Augustus Waters, the more I read the more I’m loving Hazel Grace. Reading a book is a lot like a relationship. Everyone has a different reaction to each novel and its characters– but as more is revealed, you fall deeper into the lives of these characters. And it’s their flaws that makes you grateful they exist.

Next, I have something totally different lined up– “Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M.,” by Catherine Millet. Because who doesn’t love smut once in a while?

Right now, I’m not a monogamous reader. I’m flirting with several books- and they’re never jealous of the others. Only happy I return.

Last night, I stayed up late reading a book for the first time in months, it seems!

What an indulgence. I loved it so much, I’m doing it again tonight.

John Green and I have a thing, for sure.

But I’ll certainly have a date with Virginia Woolf.

And something curious is happening. My brain is cracking awake.

I’m daring to imagine. I’m beginning to Write again.

I love my friends, and my family is amazing.

But books make me happy. I’m a nerd, but not a snob. They’re legal and cheap.

And the more I read, the more ideas I get to Write.