My Record Cake Collection

Dear Cancer

Dear Cancer,

Six years ago, I was in a relationship the worst human being on earth. We’ll call him Clint. I am firmly convinced the only reason he doesn’t have a website dedicated to warning the world of his psychopathy is because people are afraid to mention his name after they finally excise him from their life…like Voldemort. He was emotionally abusive and left a shell of me in ruins. He was, by far, one of the worst things to ever happen to me in life.

There are two people that I credit with pulling me from the rubble. One of them is Diana. In the years since I met her, through Clint ironically, she has become a sister to me. She was the one glaring silver lining that I got out of my time with him and for that I am eternally grateful.

I love her so much I escorted all three of her girls (3yrs, 4yrs and 6yrs at the time) to DisneyWorld on my own so she could have a morning to chill out after being trapped with them for a week. That is hardcore devotion.

Today Diana was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am 1,000 miles away and can’t get to one of the people I would kill for without asking any questions. I want to hug her. I want to hug the girls. I want to be able to tell her that everything is going to be ok. I want to reassure her. I want to reassure myself.

I’m trying not to worry. She’s young. I’m sure they caught it early and breast cancer treatment has great success. These are the things I’m trying to focus on. I’m trying not to cry. I’m trying to push the fear from my mind. I’m trying…

So you see, Cancer, you can’t have this one. We’ve never formally met, but I can assure you I am every bit as stubborn as she is and I will help her fight you every step of the way.

Sincerely,

Lesley

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Jumping

The only way you’re ever going to know if you’re any good at something is to do it and do it with everything you have.

I don’t want to devote the same time and energy to writing that I would to making a Mosaic tile table top, a weekend here and there until it’s ready to show off to the world. I’m never going to become a remarkable tile artist, but I know I’m a fantastic writer when something inspires me.

My computer has been down for a week and I’ve been half crazy being kept away from these people I’ve been writing the last few months. However, I have managed to flush out another idea in the meantime, but this isn’t going to be a DIY side project this time. This time, I’m jumping.

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The Talk

I don’t ever plan on having children and I was 10 years old when I made the announcement to my mother. Obviously, she believed I would change my mind, but my choice was only reinforced when she had my youngest brother as I was nearing my 15th birthday. I saw what babies were really like when they weren’t trying to be cute and lure you into the never-ending and thankless job of raising them. No thanks.

(For the record, I would have been a horrible mom. Two of my three brothers ended up drunk on my watch at the age of 15 during wedding receptions for other siblings. Also, I am completely lacking any ability to sugarcoat answers to life altering questions from children.)

That being said, the closest thing to raising a child that I will ever experience is that very baby, who is now about to graduate high school. The downside to this is that he won’t be saddled with “mom guilt” when I’m old and he’ll probably pick out a crappy nursing home for me. However, bonuses include not having to pay for his college education and still being around for hilarious milestones like the dreaded sex talk.

Everybody remembers the horror of the birds and the bees discussion with their parents for one of two reasons. You were either horrified because your parent was a little late to the game and you already understood the process (yet they insisted on a lengthy discussion, complete with drawings that resembled the head of a cow), or, like my baby brother, you were traumatized because the information came completely out of left field, all because you had the misfortune of asking a seemingly innocent question.

Bo and I have always been close. To this day, when visiting my mother, I will regularly fall asleep in his bed while we watch Saturday Night Live and I don’t even care if it annoys him. How else are we supposed to share every single ridiculous thing we’ve ever seen on the YouTube with each other.

One night, at the tender age of eight, Bo approached me as I sat surfing the internet.

“Yeh-yeh,” he said, snagging my attention away from the computer. “I need to ask you something.”

Most eight year olds will fire questions at you until you’re ready to commit yourself to an asylum, but the seriousness of Bo’s face let me know I was in for a treat and I was all ears.

“Shoot,” I said.

“What’s a ‘codom’?” (Pronounced like Odom)

“A what,” I asked. I was pretty sure it wasn’t even a real word and had no idea where he’d picked it up.

“You know, a codom.” I’ve always loved it when people just repeat their question and stare, as if some fresh knowledge will be dropped on you by the sheer magnitude of their desire for you to know what they’re talking about.

“No, I don’t know. Where did you hear it?”

“At Mary-Kate’s house. There are commercials for them on MTV.”

MTV. Suddenly, it all made sense. MTV didn’t care if eight year olds were watching Trojan commercials at four in the afternoon. They were too busy marketing to 16 year olds and trying to keep teen pregnancy down (until they realized they could cash in on that, too).

“Oh, you mean a condom.”

“Yeah, what’s a condom,” he asked.

I could have easily explained what a condom was, but given that he was blissfully unaware of sex and childbirth, it seemed that my explanation might go a little farther than my mom would have deemed necessary.

“Hang on, let me go get your mother,” I replied to him.

After wandering through the house I found our mother, peacefully watching TV.

“Mom, your eight year old son just asked me what a condom is. I don’t really think you want me to answer him.”

“What? Where did he hear that?” Her evening had just been shattered, as I’m pretty sure she wasn’t planning on having this conversation for a few more years.

“MTV. You can thank them later, but now you get to give the sex talk.” I may or may not have jumped slightly in the air and clapped my hands in excitement.

Bo sat waiting for us, all too aware that something horrible was looming on the horizon.

“Ok, kiddo. This is something Mom needs to explain to you.”

The look of fear found its way to his face and he looked at me pleadingly, before demanding that I remain in attendance for whatever was about to happen.

Mom effortlessly explained that condoms are something people use when they don’t want to have babies. The tricky part is explaining how they work to an eight year old. She resorted to the tried and true “when a man and woman love each other and want to have babies” bit. He really seemed to take it in stride, until she mentioned that sometimes people didn’t want to have anymore babies and they used various methods of birth control when they have the S-E-X. This was the moment that lives on in my memory as one of the most hilarious of his childhood.

Bo’s face fell and he looked positively horrified. “You mean they have to do it more than ONCE?”

For whatever reason, my mother’s explanation had given him the impression that you only HAD to have sex once and you could have all the babies you wanted. Sex was ugly price you had to pay for the joy of raising children, which in reality is completely backward.

A couple of years later I was driving him home from school one afternoon and, again, he let me know he needed to ask me something of importance. This time, however, we were alone in the car and I had no choice but to answer him. How much worse could it be than having to explain sex?

“What’s a whore,” he asked. I could tell he knew it was bad, but he wasn’t sure where on the Richter scale of foul language it fell.

“First, where did you hear it?”

“On the playground.” This is what expensive private schools get you, biblical curse words.

I reminded myself that this conversation might have a lasting impact on him and tried to choose my words carefully.

“A whore is a prostitute, somebody that has sex in exchange for money,” I explained. I wanted to give him the Mirriam-Webster definition. He’d be able to look things up on Urban-Dictionary on his own in a few years.

“You mean, like in Africa,” he asked.

“Or on Dickerson Road,” I replied.

“Doesn’t it kill them?” He was horrified that somebody would take part in a seemingly tortuous activity that could also end your life.

Now, I don’t like to laugh at kids when they ask questions or go through their awkward phases, because that stuff sticks with them for years and I don’t’ ever want to be on the other end of a lawsuit wherein somebody is suing me for all the money they’ve spent on therapy. However, this time I couldn’t help myself. Not that I was laughing at him, but I was laughing because I couldn’t imagine how my mother’s in-depth discussion left him with the impression that sex equals death.

“Bo, what exactly is it about your understanding of sex that makes you think it kills people?”

“Like, they get diseases.” At least this made sense. And it meant he had a better understanding than that which I had given him credit for.

“Right. And there are a lot of women in Africa who have AIDS and other diseases, but a lot of those women aren’t prostitutes. That’s a different scenario.” I left it at that, not wanting to get into the magnitude of crimes against women in Africa.

“OK,” he answered.

“OK, but just to make sure, you understand that sex doesn’t kill people, diseases do, right?”

He nodded his head and I was elated. I didn’t really have to go over the exam questions from my mother’s earlier discussion. Also, I was fairly confident he wound’t be the kid in middle school everybody laughed at because he had announced to everybody that sex kills you. We could leave that experience to one of his Church of Christ counterparts.

Hopefully, that was to be my only foray into the world of awkward questions for parents. I think I’d rather be the one who explains hangover recovery, tailgating and why you should never, ever watch Jersey Shore.

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The Story of Record Cake

Once upon a time I had a really, really good friend that we’ll call Marvin. In retrospect, I thought more of my friendship with Marvin that he did.

I have lots of friends, so the friend part isn’t really the story.

Anyway, Marvin was a guy and I happen to be a girl. Marvin also happened to have a girlfriend. We’ll call her Betty. I met Betty on a few occasions, but Marvin insisted that Betty didn’t like me and she thought there was something going on with us. There wasn’t.

I find that it makes it incredibly awkward to hang out with your guy friends’ girlfriends when you know they don’t like you hanging out with their boyfriends AND suspect you have ulterior motives. I didn’t.

Let me interject that I’m the kind of person that brings in chicken biscuits from out of town because your favorite biscuit place closed down their local locations. Or maybe I’ll bring you coffee mug emblazoned with your favorite team and filled with M&Ms in their colors just because I had a layover there. I’ve even been known to ship Kroger brand tea to a friend who has moved to a land without Kroger because she’s convinced it’s better than anything else in her market (even though I suspect it’s just one of the few tangible ties she has to her childhood). I’m not saying this to brag, because it’s really a selfish act. It makes me happy to make my friends happy.

Because of said desire to do random things for people, it’s not really surprising that when Marvin and Betty broke up right before his birthday, I showed up at midnight to usher in said birthday with a cake, decorated to look like a vinyl record. A nod to his treasured collection. His cake was, of course, subsequently posted on Facebook, where Betty saw it. Betty wasn’t amused.

Betty, like me, enjoyed tweeting. One day, as I cyberstalked Betty to see if there were any good breakup posts, I noticed that the conversation between she and her friends seemed to be discussing me, my dinner and anything else I had offered up to the black hole that is the internet. They were convinced I had been sleeping with Marvin and blamed me, in part, for their break up. I even had my own hashtag, #recordcake.

I bumped into Betty a lot over the next few months. Apparently, we had a lot in common. After one incident wherein she stormed out of a bar and a few near misses with her friends drunkenly calling me out (which she apologized for), one night I decided to try and talk to her. Slowly, the way you might approach a wild bear if you were so inclined, I walked up to her in a crowded, dark bar.

I explained to Betty that nothing had been going on with me and Marvin and told her I hoped we could at least be civil, since her new regular hangout out appeared to be my “Cheers”. Betty agreed and we became Facebook friends.

We exchanged the occasional friendly post and she offered to cook me dinner and bring me books and trashy magazines after I had surgery. Soon we were making plans for concerts and celebrating birthdays. When my car was demolished by a tree in a storm, she was there to pick me up that night so I could watch a playoff hockey game and drink a much needed beer.

I think everybody on both sides is a little impressed at how close we’ve become. Everybody but Marvin, that is. As it turns out, Marvin was exacerbating any actual tension between the two of us and was probably the only one that thought we shouldn’t be friends. Our regular bartender might actually agree on that point just because we are a lot of t-r-o-u-b-l-e when we want to be.

Last night, I found out that Betty had reprimanded a guy in a bar last week when I wasn’t there and he’d said I’d be pretty if I lost weight. She knows I’m pretty amazing just the way I am. Betty is a pretty awesome friend like that.

Marvin, on the other hand, is now married, which I’m happy for. He also quit talking to me last January when he decided to get serious with the new lady, who I genuinely enjoyed hanging out with for a time.

I could look back on this and be mad that somebody was a crappy friend, or just sad that he and I aren’t friends anymore, but things happen for a reason. I got a cool friend out of the deal and I’ll never be sad that I made an effort to let him know that he was important to me at the time.

The point of this story, if there is one, is just that you shouldn’t hold stupid grudges against, and otherwise judge, cool people just because somebody else says you should; and you shouldn’t let people, even your friends, get away with hurting you, either. That, and I think it’s pretty cool that I had my own skanky girl, home wrecker hashtag.

The point of this blog is just to share the stories. I have a lot of them. They’re all my record cakes.

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If We Only Knew Then

I found this older post written by someone  whose writing I love. It made sense then and makes even more sense this week as I close a chapter of my life.

I wish that when I was younger I could have met my current self. We would have sat down at a coffee shop so that I could explain life to young me in terms that only we would understand. It would have saved me a lot of hardship.

You can listen to all the sage wisdom you want, but things only make sense when you can explain them to yourself in your own words. For instance, I’ve been told for three years that Breaking Bad is the best show on television, but only after I watched it was I able to tell myself exactly why everyone was right. Other truths I know now that I can explain them: that I’m not missing any crucial information and that poker really isn’t all that fun; that heartbreaks do fade but they take about a year longer than you expect and by the time they do you really don’t care about it enough to notice; and above all else, life is simpler than you think.

I used to think that life was an intricate series of levers and pulleys, buttons and switches, Mexican standoffs and hostage negotiations. As I get older I realize that life is more Netherlands minimalist than Jackson Pollock. The problems don’t get fewer, and in fact they grow in number, but the way I index them in the database is different. More problems get filed under fewer category headers.

Things are getting simpler, and it’s making life better. Here’s the cheat sheet:

People want to be liked. We all crave attention and affection and we all reject shame. When we get embarrassed we send a thug version of ourselves to the forefront to do our fighting for us. We’re at the top of the food chain just under fear. We don’t want to be in a relationship to hear the words “I love you,” we want to be in a relationship to say the words “I love you.” We want to feel needed, and exceptional and we hate feeling insignificant. We want to ace a hearing test. We are binary creatures; if we’re the plaintiff, we want to win every dollar. If we’re the defendant, we want guard every penny. We want to make more money than last year. We don’t want to get cancer or die in our cars and we want the same for our loved ones. We go out on weekends to try and have sex while trying not to get punched in the face. We drink so we can be ourselves and not mind it so much. We’re desperate to be understood. We want to know someone else has felt it, too. We hate being judged unfairly. We want to make the person we heard wasn’t all that into us change their minds and admit they had us wrong. We want sunny skies with a chance of killer tornadoes, just to keep music sounding good. We take hours upon hours to admit to self consciousness. We don’t know exactly how to pleasure each other. We just want love. In any and every form.

(via jhnmyr)

Knock him for whatever you want, but the man understands my human experience.

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I Have No Fucking Idea What I’m Doing

“I Have No Fucking Idea What I’m Doing’ is easily my favorite blog post ever written. Jenny Lawson is amazing and you should be reading everything of hers if you aren’t already.

My favorite quote from the blog (which could have been stolen from my journal):

“It’s been eating at me for the last week, but I think I’ve finally figured it out.   My five-year-plan is to never be the kind of person who’s stable enough to have a five-year-plan.  It’s technically the same plan I had five years ago, and guess what?  I’m totally on track.”

Read the post: I Have No Fucking Idea What I’m Doing

Read the blog: The Bloggess

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It’s Not Always Noodle Salad

One of my favorite quotes from a movie comes from As Good As It Gets. I’ve always loved Jack Nicholson’s character, Melvin Udall, and his ability to break things down to an uncomfortably basic level. At one point in the movie Melvin, Simon and Carol are on a road trip to Baltimore as Simon is explaining his estrangement from his parents to his travel companions. Carol states that everybody has horrible stories to get over.

Since first seeing this movie on Valentine’s Day in 1998, I have heard Melvin’s reply when I hear people focusing on all the negative that has happened in their life.

It’s not true. Some people have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that’s their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you’re that pissed that so many others had it so good.

My life has certainly not always been good times and noodle salad, but the past couple of years I’ve been making a concentrated effort to have more noodle salad to make up for the times like I’m having now (not horrific, but not great). I try not to dwell on the negative and I don’t broadcast every bad thing that happens in my life. Everybody is going to go through hardships, some more so than others, but you can’t live in it and it’s definitely not doing anybody any good to focus on everybody who seems to have it better.

There will be adversity. You will be faced with uncertainty, hard decisions and heartbreak. You will be held accountable for your mistakes, people will hurt you and, believe it or not, whether you mean to or not, you will probably hurt other people. In the midst of all of this, try to remind yourself that there are good times and noodle salad to be had, even if you have to make them yourself.

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Be Kind, Rewind: Thanks for 2009

I don’t blog as much as some of you, or myself, would like, but given the retrospective nature this week I wanted to say something about the year before it passes me by completely. This isn’t one of my sarcastic, haha moments. It’s more like a giant, mushy, personally written Hallmark Card.

First let me say that I don’t really like the idea of a New Year’s “resolution”. If you want to go on a diet, go on a diet. If you want to quit cursing, quit cursing. The magical effect that the stroke of midnight has doesn’t effect your willpower. However, as fantastic as 2009 was, there are things I can do to make 2010 (and my life in general) even better for myself. For that reason I like the idea of setting goals for myself in the upcoming year. Nothing has to be obtained overnight and if I slip up a few times, I haven’t failed a resolution. We’re all works in progress.

  • Worry less about my text messages, emails, Facebook and cell phone in general when I am in the company of living, breathing people. Nothing tells somebody they’re lower on the totem pole faster than being ignored for an electronic device. Plus (even though I’m guilty of it), I just think it’s rude.
  • This includes “me” time that I’ve set aside to do things that I enjoy. I don’t have to spend every second of my day beholden to the mobile phone gods.
  • Endeavor to manage my time more wisely. It’s not as much fun to have fun when you’re constantly worried about everything you aren’t getting done.
  • Take up for myself more often.
  • Be a little more careful with my heart and a little more giving with my affection.
  • Take more silly pictures and take myself less seriously. It’s ok to be silly and get really excited about completely stupid things in front of friends. They should love me for my neurosis, not in spite of them.
  • Spend more time with friends playing games, laughing and talking and less time struggling to hear them in noisy bars.
  • Relax.
  • Hang out with my family more.

“Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that” – Michael Leunig

This year has been nothing, if not full of the unexpected. So many seemingly innocuous moments led to such bigger events that I can’t even begin to recount them all in my head. I guess I could call it the year of the Butterfly Effect. I already know the year has brought more happy than hurt, more laughter than tears and I hope in time I will see that it brought more beginnings than endings.

I’ve been able to make a lot of really fantastic memories this year and even though the endings to some of the stories aren’t what I had hoped, the stories themselves brought me some of my happiest moments from the year and without some of the sad, I wouldn’t have had some of the really, really, ridiculously happy. In time I’ll see where even the darkest moments were leading. I’ve been blessed to spend time and reconnect with old friends whom I love more than they will ever realize. Most of these people don’t realize the impact they made on me more than a decade ago, but I hope in another ten years I’ll be able to explain it to them more articulately. I’ve made new friends out of old friends and in some cases, even made their friends my own. Whether you know it or not, every once of you has had a part in making this an amazingly great year for me. To quote Mr. Sinatra, “It’s been a very good year for city girls who lived up the stair with the perfumed hair.” Here’s to hoping it doesn’t all come undone when I’m thirty-one.

I love you all.
Happy New Year!

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