Friday, January 29, 2010

don't make me yell at you.

I'm in therapy. I know, I know. You? you're asking. Yup. Me. In fact, I've been in therapy for, oh, areallylongtime. See, when you grow up in a house where your mother is a schizophrenic, you're pretty screwed up by the time you're in your late teens and early twenties. I'm now in my early thirties. There's a whole bunch of screwed up there. When I got to college, I told myself that I'd go to see a therapist since it was free (one of the perks of being part of an academic community) because I was feeling totally depressed and hopeless and all of the things that so many of us humans feel, but for me it felt a milliontimesworse because I had a certifiable crazy woman as my mother. Compound interest, if you will.

And so...therapy.

Most of my therapy sessions revolved around the utter sadness, frustration, and anger I felt towards my mother and her illness. However, after 20 years of Certifiable Crazy, including (but not limited to) year-long stints in state hospitals, week-long stays in psych wards, delusions, the inability to leave the house, and a suicide attempt, my mother is better now than she's ever been. Miraculously. Yes, a trifecta of healing: God, the right meds, and a near-death experience.

My anger has turned to compassion, and my sadness to joy, because for the first time in my life, I have a mother. So what do I talk about now in my therapy sessions? Finding my voice. Yes. The little voice inside of me that's been pushed so deep down for so long has finally started squeaking a bit more loudly. I want a voice. My voice. I want to learn how to find it completely and to use it. Without fear. Do you know how hard that is? It's reallly, really hard. It's hard to have a voice, to be taken seriously, especially when you're a woman-a model-an actress-a glorified secretary.

I am such a people-pleaser. Oh, yes, a self-proclaimed doormat, but instead of the word "WELCOME" written across my head, I have the words, "YES, PLEASE TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOU CAN BECAUSE I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO BACKBONE AND AM SUCH A 'FRAIDY CAT TO SPEAK UP...OH, AND ALSO I REALLY WANT YOU TO LIKE ME."

Well, no more. The Reign of Terror has officially begun. Oh, yes. Watch out people. This voice? She's on her way to coming in loud and clear.

I am going to give my opinion.
I am going to tell you what I think.
I am going to express my beliefs.
I am going to say "no" and not feel bad about it.
I am going to disagree if I do, in fact, disagree.
I am going to speak up for what I need.
I am going to speak up for what is right.

Oh, yes. This voice is on. its. way. up.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Thursday, January 28, 2010

having my cake and eating it, too.

Aw, snap. If my hair was made out of licorice, I'd never leave the house. I'd just sit around and eat my hair all day, looking awesome and bein' tasty.

I realize that came out totally wrong, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, imagine the money I'd save on groceries and haircuts. Seriously.

Alas, I do not have hair made out of licorice, nor is my name Ireland. But let me say, she is One Lucky Girl. If only my birthday cake looked like Lil' Wayne.

Happy Birthday to me anyway.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

me? worry?

I worked with a woman who once told me that the reason she shaved her legs every single day was so that if she was ever in a car accident, and the paramedic who was trying to save her life had to rip her pant legs to free her from the wreckage, that she'd be relieved to know that her legs weren't all stubbly and gross.

She wanted to be prepared. Ah, yes. A girl after my own heart.

My Pappap always told my dad, who eventually told me, that you should never have less than a quareter of a tank of gas in your car during the winter months. You know, in case you get stranded somewhere and have to leave the car running to stay warm.

He was a POW for almost three years, a veteran of WWII and, yes, always prepared.

Whenever I leave the house, I have to make sure that:
1. the oven is turned off
2. my space heater in the living room is unplugged
3. the cord to my hair straightening iron is hanging on the hook next to the bathroom sink so as to signify that said straightener is, in fact, not turned on

The inside of my purse contains a make-up bag (thank you, Clinique!), in which I always carry the following essentials:
1. hand cream
2. hand sanitizer
3. Pepto-Bismol
4. Pamprin
5. Excedrin Migraine tablets
6. deoderant
7. purse-size body spray (Pink Grapefruit, in case you were curious)
8. lip gloss
9. tampons and pantyliners
10. a small mirror
11. my tiny Swiss Army Knife
12. a thin pocket mirror


I set my clothes out each night so that I'm ready to go in the morning. So that I don't have to think or worry about being ready when I've hardly even remembered turning off my alarm because I'm so groggy.

I really like to be prepared. I like control, order, and reliability. I don't like to get caught in a situation where I don't have what I need to make me comfortable. And I'm happy to say that I've used, at least once or twice already this month, every. single. thing. in my Preparedness Purse Pouch.

I worry a lot. About stuff. Everything. All the things. I get so worried that the world will fall apart if 1.) I sweat and don't have back-up deoderant, ii.) there's broccoli in my teeth that nobody told me about, or c) somebody shakes my hand seconds after sneezing into it. I need to be prepared for these things, because they can, and do, happen. Thus, my constant companions include travel-size deoderant, a thin pocket mirror, and a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer.

Does anyone else feel and act this way, or am I out on a limb here? Is there something you do every day to feel prepared, in contorl, or less worried?

Go ahead. You can tell us. We're all friends here.

I'd like to think that others are also equally concerned with being prepared and letting go of some of the worry that accompanies not being prepared. You know, in case only minutes before The Great Rapture we're swarmed by mosquitos. Then we'll wish we had face masks, fly swatters, and lizards on hand to take care of that.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Friday, January 22, 2010

happy hour with the big g.

It's times like these when I really wish I could just text message God and be like, "Dude, wanna grab a beer? It's been a hell of a week!" And He'd text back immediately, "4 sure! C U in 10!" And then we'd meet up at the local bar down the street from my apartment, only He'd be there early, of course, because He's like that. A seat would be saved for me, and He'd would have already ordered me my favorite drink, because, well, He's like that. And before I even let out my first sigh of decompression, He'd be all, "I know, right?! It has been a rough week."

This whole Haiti thing has me wanting to just sit down with The Big G and be like, "Luuuuucy, you have some 'splaining to do!" Because really, I just. don't. get. it. I didn't get it during 9/11, I didn't get it during Hurricane Katrina, and I don't get it now. I don't get it. I believe in God, with all my heart and soul, and I love Him. Completely. In fact, I'd go so far as to say He's the greatest love of my life, my best friend. But right now, I'm pretty pissed at Him. Because I just cannot wrap my head around the pain and suffering and destruction. I cannot wrap my head around why He's letting this happen.

I want to sit down with Him over a drink, have a real chat, get serious. I'd be all, "Remember that time you shook the earth and let thousands of people die?" And He'd be all, "I do remember. Sorry 'bout that. But you gotta trust me. It's all part of My Plan." And I'd be all, "Your plan? Was your plan designed by someone who claimed to be an event coordinator but was actually a professional video game player who didn't know how the real world really functioned?" And He'd be all, "Now, now, my child. Simmer down. Where's your trust in me? Where's your faith?" And I'd be all, "Hold on, I gotta pee. I'll be right back."

And He would hold on. Because He's like that.

And after I got back from peeing, He'd be like, "I missed you. Even though you were separated from me for just a few minutes, I missed you. I always want you near me." And I'd be like, "Really?" And I'd feel really guilty. Because I'd separated myself from Him. But I'd also feel so loved, because He missed me. Me! Can you believe it?! So, I'd be like, "I'm sorry. I missed you, too. And I do trust you, but I just don't understand." And He'd be like, "As long as you trust me, and keep me near you always, you'll eventually feel peace. But you gotta let me do my thing, okay? I make the rules, remember?" And I'd grumble and roll my eyes and be all, "Yeeees, Daaaaad."

And we'd continue to talk over drinks, there in the local bar, with The People. And He'd say hello to everyone, but He'd never make me feel like He wasn't fully present, like He wasn't completely focused on me. And our talk would be down-to-earth, real, no frills. And He'd smile the whole time, because that's what He wants. That's what He loves. And I'd cry (because I always friggin' do), and He'd take the cocktail napkin from underneath his drink and wipe my tears. And then He'd be like, "Let's do this again tomorrow. Let's just keep talking, and I promise you, you'll feel peace."

And He'd pick up the tab.

I think I'm gonna text Him tomorrow.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

getting there.

Someone from Racine, Wisconsin visited my blog today. I know this because I check my Feedjit feed obsessively. Where are people who land on my blog coming from? I need to know. It somehow validates my existence. I think that if people outside of Pittsburgh end up here, then I must be saying things that people want to know about. Granted, sometimes my Feedjit feed tells me that someone Googled words like "jaysus," "homeboy," and "fancy cars," and somehow they ended up on my blog. Yes, I do refer to Jesus as Jaysus, I did once indicate that St. Francis was my homeboy, and I wrote a post last year about how irritated I get by drivers of fancy cars. So, Google, you've done you're job. And for that, I thank you. Because it's gotten me some more readers, even if by accident. (That last sentence sounded totally selfish and ego-centric, but you know what I mean. I hope.)

So, yes--someone from Racine, Wisconsin landed on my blog. Why am I focusing on this, you ask? Because in a past life (okay, fine--seven and a half years ago) I was connected to Racine, Wisconsin. And not in a good way. I was connected to that small town in a way that forever changed my life. Long story short? Sure. I'll tell you.

After I graduated college in 2002, I was offered a modeling contract with Ford Models in Chicago. I took the contract. (When Ford says they want you, you go to them.) I moved from Pittsburgh to Kenosha, Wisconsin, a small town one hour north of the Windy City and 10 minutes south of Racine, Wisconsin. Why? Because my aunt and uncle lived there and offered to take me in until I could get on my feet in Chicago.

For the next two years, I:
1. never found a day job in Chicago
2. couldn't move into the city and ended up living with my aunt and uncle in Kenosha
3. went to countless castings and auditions and never landed one single acting or modeling job
4. fell in love with a guy (who's name was, I kid you not, Guy) and had my heart utterly ripped from my chest by him
5. eventually moved into my very first apartment ever in the middle of cornfields
6. worked two retail jobs just to pay the rent
7. worked temp jobs which included scooping candy into bags at the Jelly Belly factory nearby
8. contemplated ending my life (I say this in complete and utter seriousness)
9. continued to try to get acting and modeling work
10. gave up after two horrible, horrible years and moved back to Pittsburgh to start grad school

And I did all this while shopping my way through the grief at the mall in Racine, Wisconsin.

And you know what? I get a little PTSD when I see Wisconsin license plates, hear a Midwest accent, or walk into a BCBG. Seeing Racine pop up on my Feedjit made my stomach drop a little bit, because it brought back, like a raging flood, all of those horrible, depressing, tumultuous memories of my time in the Midwest. My heart broke in more ways than one during that experience.


I got through it. It was hell. Oh, my God. It was my own personal war, a battle I fought each day, hoping to survive, to not be beaten down so much that my poor body and soul would just quit. And I wanted to die. I really did. I couldn't believe what an absolute disaster of an experience it was. Two years! To this day, I still refer to those two years as the worst of my life. They truly were.

But look at where I am now! Oh, sweet Jaysus! I have a job I adore, I have a home that's all mine in a city that absolutely owns my heart, and I have a wonderful boyfriend. I have amazing friends, I have a master's degree in English, and I've had more acting and modeling work back here in Pittsburgh than ever before.

Sometimes, you just have to trust that God's got his hand All Over This Shit. Literally. He's wiping it clean, getting rid of the smell, removing the stains. He's making it better. Just for me. For you.

It took over seven years, but I got there. I got to the good place.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

i.l.s. (irritable laura syndrome).

I'm grumpy. That's right. I said it. I'm grumpy, and I'm irritable, and I'm Just Plain Fussy. I don't know what the deal is, but I do know that I don't like it. At. All.

I've noticed it over the past couple of weeks: losing my patience with people, rolling my eyeballs and mumbling rather-not-so-nice things under my breath, getting irate at other drivers (Hello, Mr. Toyota from West Virginia this morning. I'm looking at you.). Stuff that usually never bothers me is making me simply nuts. And it's not PMS because, well, I'm currently at the MS portion of that acronym. (Sorry to any dudes reading this.)

I feel like I just want to lay on my bed and flail my arms and legs about while simultaneously yelling the word chipmunk at the top of my lungs. (Try it. Seriously. It's a great stress reliever.) And I want to eat cookies. All the time. Just chomp those bitches to you-know-where.


I'm irritated with my co-workers. One in particular who I shall henceforth refer to as The Warlock, even though she's not a dude. That's how bad it is. I stumbled onto a website that says "their [warlocks] focus is on delivering excruciating pain and drawing out the suffering of their victims." Yup. That pretty much sums up my co-worker. She, The Warlock, huffs and puffs around, slams doors, orders people around like she's The Ruler of the Universe, never says please or thank you, gets utterly exasperated over the tiniest things, and expects everyone to read her mind and meet her every wish, the nanosecond she has it. And when something doesn't go her way Just Exactly, she will flip her shit on you because, well, you just happen to be standing there. Such was my fate this past Friday. I literally thought her beady eyes were going to pop out of their sockets and roll all over the office floor. (But then she would've just barked at me to clean them up.)

I want to punch The Warlock. Like, really. A lot. And that is so not like me. I am not a violent or aggressive or abrasive person. Heck, I rarely even get angry. (Ask the Ross-a-tron. He'll tell you. "Yeah, when she's mad, she stops what she's doing and says, 'Seriously?' And that's it. That's what happens when Laura gets mad.") But I'm seeing red these days. Mostly because of The Warlock, but also because of just other people in general.

People be gettin' on my nerves, yo. Pretty soon, I'm gonna be wantin' to punch kittens and baby hedgehogs. And that's just not cool.

Or maybe it's just gas.

with love from Pittsburgh,

(photo {which perfectly resembles my state of mind} from here)

Monday, January 18, 2010

the most beautiful dream.

If this man were alive today, I'd totally ask him to be my boyfriend. (Ross-a-tron, you understand.)

Dr. King, thank you for every.gorgeous.thing. you've done for this country and for its people. We love you and we miss you.

with love from Pittsburgh,

(photo from here)

Friday, January 15, 2010

survivor's guilt.

I think it's safe to say I'm not alone in this feeling. I'm sitting here, in my cozy and warm apartment (that's registering a delightful 70 degrees), nibbling on crackers (that I chose from a wide selection of goodies in my pantry), sipping fresh water (that's cold, no less), and typing on a computer that is the size of a spiral-bound notebook (which I can easily take from room to room). I wore new shoes today to work, and new jeans, and I bought a $7 lunch from a conveniently-located sandwich shop just a short walk from my office. I ate said lunch at the comfort of my desk located in the building where I have a cushy job that pays me a living wage and doesn't require me to sacrifice my integrity or wear a hairnet.

And people in Haiti are dying. By the minute. From lack of food, from lack of water, from injuries, from contamination. From not being found.

And I'm here, in the U.S., with my two university degrees, my fashionable clothes, my stocked refrigerator, my heated home, and my warm bed.

And I feel completely and absolutely guilty. Like I shouldn't have made dinner for myself tonight. Like I shouldn't have bought those new shoes. Like I should put away my diplomas from my fancy university. Like I should do more with less, give more without reservation, not have what I have been given and earned.

Because it just isn't fair.

I could get into a big philosophical, cultural, political, and economic blah-dee-blah about it all, try to sort out why I'm living in the most developed and wealthy nation on the planet, while others--our sisters and brothers in Haiti, for example--are not. Why was I chosen to live the life I've been given? Why did God give me this existence?

I've wrestled with this question long before the disaster that struck this week in Haiti, but now this question is truly haunting me. I felt awful driving to work in my heated car today, scolded myself for catching a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror and noticing oh! how lovely my skin looks today thanks to my new moisturizer!, didn't want to eat my $7 lunch because I felt like I didn't deserve it and couldn't give thanks to God for it enough.

I pray. Oh, how I pray! And I'm really trying not to dwell on the whys and the hows of my life right now. I'm trusting that God put me here because there is work He wants me to do in this place, with the resources I've been given, work that only I can do because of the gifts He's given me. Just like there is a kind of work that only you can do because of the gifts you've been given.

But right now it's hard, because my heart hurts. The guilt is there. I'll just pray to keep pushing past it. To do the work God has put me here to do.

with love from Pittsburgh,
(photo from here)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

this girl? i love her.

Alright, blogosphere. I need your help. Well, actually, someone I love very much needs your help.

See this girl in the photo above? That beauty is Amanda. I love her. She's my best friend. My hetero-life-partner. My Amanda. (Or Amond' as we like to call her.) And she's very, very ill. And doctors don't know why. She's been in and out of the hospital since late summer. She's been to the ER more times than anyone should ever have to be. And it's just. so. unfair.

Amanda and I met in graduate school five years ago. I was a scared, overwhelmed, and utterly lost soul starting out in a rigorous graduate English program. She was a seasoned veteran, entering her first year of the Ph.D. program, brilliant and absolutely made for the world of academe. It was friendship at first sight.

Fast forward through five years of killer coursework, late night paper-writing-sessions, and comprehensive exams (not to mention asshole boyfriends, sick parents, deaths of beloved professors, serious illnesses {including, but not limited to, cancer}, and all manner of other things in life that make it, well, life), and my sweet Amanda is finally ready to pump out a killer dissertation on All Things Victorian (aka, the 19th-century world of literature). And to do so, she picked up her life here in Pittsburgh and drove cross-country to her homeland of Fresno, California. The plan? To write. A room of one's own, if you will. (I'm looking at you, Virginia Woolf.) To focus on the brilliance that is Amanda. To put aside the distractions of part-time teaching appointments, etc., and to just write. And then, after a good eight or nine months of work, she'd return to Pittsburgh to teach again in the Fall of 2010 and, ultimately, spend another six months or so finishing up what shall henceforth be known as The Ol' Diss'.

But no. Her body has other plans. And we don't. know. why.

Amanda almost died her junior year of high school. Valley Fever consumer her body and left her to spend her third year of high school in a hospital bed, tubes coming from her stomach, fear permanently residing in her mind and heart. Can you imagine?

And now this. Whatever this is. She's undergoing tests, she's spending hours in the hospital now, again. And she's in a lot of pain. And she certainly can't sit down, in a room of her own, and write.

It just. isn't. fair.

And so, my lovely and devoted blogosphere, I ask for your prayers. For my Amanda. While I'm sure you all have hearts heavy with things in your own life that are burdening you, I ask that you please say a prayer for my girl. Or maybe you could leave a comment here for her, to let her know you're thinking of her? Do you have a similar story? Maybe you could just give her some encouragement? I know that the loving thoughts and words of the blogosphere can literally change--and save--people's lives. And right now, my sweet Amanda--my best friend--needs your help.

with loving thanks from Pittsburgh,

Thursday, January 07, 2010

reason #3,204.

I love my mom for so many reasons. Here's one of them:

Upon leaving my parents' house on Christmas night to return home to my apartment, I thanked my parents again for their sweet gifts, especially the $50 gift card to Giant Eagle (a local grocery store chain). Accompanying said gift card was a note, in which my mother wrote that I could "use this gift card to buy another gift card for another store" (because Giant Eagle sells hundreds of other retailers' gift cards) "and get something I really want".

Her response to my expression of appreciation for said gift card?

"Don't spend it on vegetables, okay, Honey?"

And she was serious.

I love my mom.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Friday, January 01, 2010

a love letter. ish.

Dear 2010:

I realize this is our first date and all, but if I may be so bold as to say good heavens! You look lovely! All shiny and fresh with your new-ness and sparkle-y-ness! You really spiffed yourself up for me, didn’t you? Wait, is that Aqua di Gio I smell? Aw, shucks! You shouldn’t have!

I appreciate you coming to pick me up and all, seeing as though you have Many Other People I’m sure you’re going to want to date. But I still feel special, you showing up here for me today.

Before we embark on this date (which we both know will inevitably turn into—gasp!—a relationship), I just want to lay some ground rules. I’m sure you’re aware that I’ve been in relationships with many of your friends (i.e. 2006: a little too intellectual; 2007: a little too physically aggressive; 2009: the relationship from hell), but I promise you that I will be fully committed to our relationship…well, at least for 12 months. Anyway, I think many of those previous relationships didn’t work out so well because I didn’t lay any ground rules. Silly me.

So, yes. The Ground Rules for us:

1. I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t suck. In general. Just be nice to me. I realize that we’ll have some moments of bickering, but if you could just go easy on me for the most part, I’d be Seriously Appreciative.

2. In February, if you could, you know, not give me the gift of the Big C upon completion of my mammogram, I’ll love you forever. And maybe even show you my boobs, despite it being early in our relationship.

3. Don’t hog the jobs. I know you’re, like, a hot shot, being new and shiny and all, and that those facts ultimately make you Very Attractive to employers, but if you could share the goods (particularly with some people very close to me), I might let you see my boobs a second time. C’mon. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

4. I don’t want to have to pay for everything. I’m not made of money, you know. I’m not asking you to be my Sugar Daddy (because, well, that would just be weird), but I am asking you to contribute your fair share. That means: I work hard, you reward me. It’s a rather simple equation. And you seem smart enough.

5. Don’t be afraid to show me some affection. (See #1, 2, & 4.)

6. I realize that you’re probably going to be in relationships with A Lot of other people. Fine. I’ve accepted this up front. But at least be nice to them, too.

7. If you’re going to dig up my past relationships and the pains associated with them, please be gentle. If you want to know more about them, be patient. And help me be courageous when dealing with them. It’s only fair.

8. Please listen to and acknowledge my needs. I know you might not be able to meet, but if you could at least validate them, then I think we’ll have a pretty solid foundation.

9. Sometimes I might cry about us. Feel free to take it personally.

10. We’re probably only going to last about 12 months, so don’t even think for a second that you’re going to get to third base.

with love from Pittsburgh,