Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Travel Heavy

I never recounted just how amazing the twenty-eight hour trip over here was. 
Five flights. Four layovers ranging from three to eight hours. We were running on adrenaline for a while but that faded by our third layover, when Aidin looked at me with bloodshot eyes and said, "If we get on another plane I think I'll cry."
We did. He did. 

But we made it and like most awful experiences, time has already started to soften those hard edges in my memory.  I've almost forgotten that one time Aidin basically lost his shit in the Phoenix airport and started trying to tunnel beneath the terminal chairs while mumbling something about getting out of there. Or how we so carefully collected our bags at each layover only to arrive in Indiana one bag short. Or that time in Seattle when I got a new phone and lost all the passwords I had for everything in my life.


Anyway, that part's over, we're here and settled and it's cold and we're new to that so it's all very exciting and fun. Coats! Scarves!  Layers! It's a whole new world of apparel!

Right now the boys and I are rocking more of a "post-fever sheen" look, as we're recovering from some sort of midwestern plague the struck our house last weekend.  It's always interesting when you're sick to watch everyone you know transform into Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
"When you travel, the change in climate triggers an autoimmune response..."
"Your nervous system is not used to the allergens here..."
"You've been so stressed lately..."
"North Korea..."

Yes, it was definitely all of that.

*Also, as a follow-up to my last post, I fixed my water heater. With a butter knife.
*Drops mic.

Friday, December 12, 2014

How to Drown

I got caught in a rip current once. I was swimming off the coast of Florida and suddenly I looked towards the shore and realized I had drifted dangerously far out. I immediately panicked, but in true form I didn't cry out or attempt to signal anyone on the beach. Even as I was pulled further away I remained quiet, putting real effort into NOT drawing attention to myself. I swallowed copious amounts of salt water, cursing and spitting and furiously willing my limbs to keep working despite their exhaustion.  Miraculously, I made it back to the shore, albeit a good two miles from where I had started out. This is not to say that I’m such a badass that I can conquer the ocean with my bare hands, but should just give you a reference as to the lengths I would go to avoid asking anyone for help, or appearing to be out of control. 

Fast forward eight years to the present day and it's three in the morning and I'm sitting in my bed in the house I recently rented. I just had my first good cry since the boys and I made it back to America from Japan almost two weeks ago. All I wanted to do was take a nice, hot bath, but apparently my old water heater only knows how to maintain hot temperatures for like three seconds, so I stepped into a frigid bath and promptly sat and sobbed for a while.  It happens.  So now I'm lying here wide awake, overthinking like a champ and ready to get it out of my brain space. 

The past two years living in Japan I felt like more of an intangible presence than a real person. This awful wonderful social media culture allowed me to connect with you from across the world, but only on a very superficial scale. What starts off as real, raw emotion is shared through so many filters and edits that by the time it reaches another human it’s high fructose corn syrup, carefully packaged and safe for consumption.  I was able to interact, but on my own meticulously controlled terms.    

That meant that every heartbreaking experience or dark thought was made lighter, prettier, and easier to swallow.  Refined.  I learned how to be honest without divulging details. I learned how to project a certain image of myself without putting in the work to fit that ideal. I learned how to drown gracefully, even as I quietly choked and struggled.  I found that as my persona was fed, my real self starved.  As a result, when I'm separated from this calculated image I've created, I'm not entirely sure how to behave.  Although I perpetuated the disconnect as a form of self preservation, I've found that when a lot of people know of you but no one really knows you, life can start to feel very lonely. 

I didn’t expect moving to be a quick fix, but I guess I also wasn’t prepared to feel so overwhelmed and insecure.  I've questioned myself and my decisions in ways I never have before, which has been a new and terrible sensation. After tonight's polar plunge I let the anxiety build to a fever pitch.  I thought about all the mistakes I've made the past year, all the times I disappointed myself or fucked things up. I thought about every awful what-if and every worst-case scenario. I imagined all the ways I could fail. Then I remembered that time in Florida when I got caught up in a rip current and I fussed and fumbled and still managed to get myself out. I'm not where I want to be yet. I'm not who I want to be yet, but I know what I want and I'm going to get there eventually.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Rob Spears Molly Scale

As some of you already know, the boys and I are headed back to the states soon. This has brought about a lot of excitement, but also a lot of anxiety and stress.  On an emotional scale of one to Rob Ford I feel like I'm somewhere between this girl and Brittany Spears circa 2007. (So, like, a nine?)  International moves are already complicated, but an international move handled by the military is basically a corn maze designed by Gary Busey.

You will never get out.

It's not all bad, though.  We're taking advantage of whatever time we have left here, aware that we will probably never see Okinawa again once we leave. Aware that we will never get this back, what we have here. The time together without a lot of outside influences or interruptions. I complain that it's an isolating environment, but it's also a sheltering one, and that will be a hard thing to lose.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

For Posterity || Hammer Time

Growing up in a large family with lots of girls, the kids were usually split into two factions, based on age.  My two cousins and I made up, “the little girls” while my older sisters and cousins made up, “the big girls.” Now, I’m not one to hold on to bitterness, but the big girls got to do whatever the hell they wanted to and we were never allowed to come. Where are the big girls? At the mall. At the movies.  At the pool.  Getting perms. Probably having the time of their damn lives.  Where were the little girls? In the basement, acting out scenes from Annie and generally not being allowed to do anything.

On one visit to my aunt’s house, while the big girls were probably in Vegas with Jonathan Taylor Thomas, my younger cousins and I sat around listening to music and deciding which Newsie we would most like to make out with.

Me: Spot Conlon. Because slingshot, bad attitude. 
Rachel: Jack Kelly. Because Santa Fe, Christian Bale.
Bethie: Crutchy. Because Bethie has an unhealthy attraction to men with limps.

Perfect as they are, you can only discuss the cast of Newsies for so long and by mid-afternoon we had moved on to choreographing a dance. It was in this innocent act of boredom that we discovered that we possessed an undeniable gift.  Allow me to recount the events that transpired:

"Holy shit, you guys. Are we really good dancers or is the magic I'm seeing some sort of optical illusion?"
"I'm not sure. Let me see your running man again."
"It's glorious. What do you think of this hula hoop miming?"
"Beautiful. We are amazing at dance."
"People are going to be like, 'Oh, where did you train?' and we're going to be like, 'Nowhere this is pure, raw talent.'"
"I feel like this is was we were put on earth to do." 
"I completely agree. How can we profit from this?"
"We could go door to door.  Strangers will definitely want to see this. Maybe $1 per dance?"
"That's a freaking bargain."
"What is our name? Like, the name of our dance troupe?"
"Hammer Girls. Because of our mutual love for MC Hammer but also because we hit the dance floor so damn hard."

 So using the timeless accompaniment of MC Hammer, my cousins and I went door to door through the neighborhood, peddling our wares.  The Hammer Girls and our completely improvised dance routines were not well received and our initial rate of one dollar per dance soon dropped to fifty cents and I believe by the time our mothers found us we were basically in it for the love of the craft.

Nowadays kids have fancy iPads and big screen TVs, but when I was a child we used our imagination, played outside and sometimes danced for money from strangers. 
Those were the days.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


In my last letter I wrote to Cole about honesty and such.  He loved it and responded almost immediately. Because I told him if he didn't he'd be grounded. 
But this one's for Aidin. 

When you were born your tiny lungs weren't fully developed and your body couldn't breathe without help. They plucked you right out of my stomach and into an ambulance, which took you to a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit. It was crazy scary for me, because I couldn't hold you or see you before they took you away. One minute I have this baby doing flips inside of me and the next I'm stitched up in a recovery room, hollowed out and alone. For the next few weeks I drove two hours a day to see you, then scrubbed my hands for three minutes and went into a large, dark room, silent save for the hushed chorus of monitors beeping steadily. I walked past rows of sleeping babies, some smaller than my hand, making my way to the very back. To you. I still couldn't pick you up but I could whisper to you and stroke your face and let your tiny fingers clasp mine. Eventually, as you got stronger I was allowed to hold you, but never for very long. The nurses didn't want you to get too accustomed to being held because then you would cry when I left. 

When I was finally able to bring you home I quickly found that you were not a typical baby.  After all those weeks in the hospital, you didn't like being held. You rarely cried, didn't require rocking and I don't remember more than a handful of times when you willingly fell asleep in my arms. Initially it was hard for me to accept, but as time went on I came to see how special it made you. You were the sweetest, most content baby but you were also like, a strong, independent woman.    Even as a small child you had a quiet confidence and composure that showed a maturity well beyond your years and it made it very easy to love you. 

Perpetually curious, you see beyond what many kids your age see. A rock isn't just a rock. It's crystals and minerals and atoms and compressed matter and isn't everything sort of a miracle?? 
That curiosity is becoming a rarity. It's so easy to Google something or watch it on a screen that there has been a shift away from experiencing things to just looking them up. It's a mental trick wherein you feel like you're learning or interacting when you're actually only being entertained. Don't fall for it. Technology is a wonderful supplement to life but not a substitute for it. You can read about fireworks and watch videos online, but nothing beats sitting outside and watching the lights and colors explode overhead. Stay curious. Keep trying to learn everything about everything.

  I will probably never change the world.  I'm sort of selfish and lazy and I really hate recycling. (The rinsing, the label peeling, the sorting ....  I'll just stick to burying my cans in the neighbor's yard.)  But you really could, Aidin. You really could do ANYTHING you wanted to. The world is so full of problems and puzzles, just imagine how amazing it would feel to solve some of them. (See above re. the horror of recycling. Something must be done.)  

I love you so much. You're the coolest. You're probably smarter than me and I'm okay with that. Never stop wondering, because when people become bored they become boring. 


Sunday, October 19, 2014


There is an abandoned hotel high up on a cliff near the temple the boys and I frequent and every time I drove past it I would wonder how the hell I could get there. There didn't seem to be any roads leading to it, but finally yesterday, after almost two hours of driving around and some serious reconnaissance work on Cole's part, we figured it out. 

The last time we explored an abandoned hotel it was a high-rise and heights upset me, so this one was much better. Instead of one large building there were several smaller structures built in more of a traditional Japanese fashion.  Also, unlike the last hotel, this one was full of spiders. Not in every building, but the more overgrown the structure, the more spiders it contained. 
I just gagged six times typing that.  

Anyway, the story behind this particular hotel is that in the 1970's a wealthy businessman built it despite warnings from the locals that it was too close to several sacred burial sites. After a series of mysterious occurrences and unexplained accidents during construction, the site was abandoned and the owner went crazy and is still in a psychiatric hospital today. 
Is it haunted? I don't think so. Although it had the eerily hallow atmosphere that many long-abandoned structures seem to possess, I didn't get a sense that angry spirits wandered its halls. Plus, it's been like 50 years. It's not like they were murdered there, they just didn't want some big hotel junking up their burial site. I'm sure they're over it. They're spirits. They can go anywhere. They can possess people.  They can get sexy with ladies on pottery wheels. Without some traumatic event binding them to this place, I just don't think they're hanging around. I am a ghost expert please respect my authority on the matter.

Cole wasn't scared. He just didn't want to stop walking. Or talking. Or making noise. And he absolutely forbade us all from going down like four different hallways. Legitimately put his foot down.
 "Fine, mom, if you want to get murdered then go right ahead. MOM!! DO NOT GO IN THAT ROOM! I WILL LEAVE YOU!!"  

  Haunted or not, it was pretty amazing and it doesn't get much better than hearing your kids say, "This is the best day ever."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


When I was in high school I dated an older, more popular boy for about a month. Let's call him Joe. Initially I was a confounded by his interest in me, but that soon gave way to the giddy delight of being desired.  The gratification of simply being acknowledged can be a powerful force.  However it soon became evident that I would have to work for his adoration and compete for his attention. I changed the way I dressed and talked and I started listening to The Grateful Dead because that's what he listened to.  I...wore hemp.  I also had to do things to make myself attractive to other guys, because I sensed that he liked having something that other people wanted. 

Here's the kicker. I didn't like him. At all. But in some weird, high school way I felt like I needed to in order to stay relevant.  Like if I lost his affection I would go back to being insignifigant. So for a month I gave myself over to this effort of constant vying to keep his eye focused on me. It was exhausting. 

 I don't really remember what ended it. Maybe I got tired of caring so much about things I didn't actually care about or maybe I just couldn't listen to Truckin' one more gaddamn time.  Whatever it was, I do recall the immense sense of relief I felt when it was over. Like I'd been wearing a dress that was two sizes too small and I finally got to take it off. I went back to being me and though I'd like to say he was devastated without me, when I saw him a few months later he referred to me as "Mindy."

I thought of Joe and I can't help but draw parallels between that doomed pairing and the relationship so many of us have with social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter; they're all Joe, and Joe has created a perpetual cycle of pining for that illusive more. More likes, more friends, more compliments, more shares, more connections. And don't get lazy. The recognition and adoration don't come free. Yes, we have to work and compete for it, but isn't is worth it when your phone lights up?  Yet even as we get more online, we feel less satisfied with our real lives.  Go to a bar sometime. Look around at people on first dates and watch as one or both parties periodically check their phones, making sure there's not something better waiting for them in that little black rectangle. How do people make real connections anymore when it is so easy to dismiss one for another?  

I'm not saying Joe's a bad guy. I'm just suggesting that maybe we've all invested a little too much in someone who won't even remember our name.