Tuesday, November 11, 2014

On Suicide

I think about suicide constantly. It used to be my out—if life got too...much, I'd check out. Feeling nothing must be better than feeling bad all the time—my rejoinder.

My life hasn't been very hard, not like the kids in Oakland hard. I grew up in a middle-class suburban neighborhood, when it was still safe to walk to elementary school. Never wanted for food, always had a bed, felt safe in the home of my parents. And, however abstracted, I got that they loved me.

What's been so damn hard, always in my way, is...me. Born 2, or 200 yrs too early, I don't seem to fit here. I've been on the outside looking in at this world for as long as I can remember. First hit me when I was around 5 yrs old. My mom would often laud accolades of my father in the store or the car on the way home from school—what a good artist he was, or how “smart,” and “passionate.” But at home, I saw him put his fist through the wood cabinet on inch from her face in a heated argument over politics. I'd seen him make her cower multiple times, listened to him demean her time and again with statements proclaiming her ignorance, or jumping down her throat when she dared disagree with him. The cognitive dissonance between what she said and what I saw put a glass wall between us, instilled mistrust. Perhaps I was delusional, or she was, but either way it took away my ground.

My mother came to the house I was renting when I was 31, and told me she wanted to divorce my dad. Though she never followed through, I know she was unhappy with him. After our divorce discussion, she never again professed her admiration of him, though they were together for another 10+ years before her death. She spewed hateful word about her husband of 49 years on her deathbed practically every time I was with her. What I observed at 5, and forward, gave me the real picture of my parents' relationship, regardless of what my mother said. The first glass brick in the wall of my emerging psyche. I've plugged into the difference between what people say and what they do since, much to my chagrin.

No, it's not my parents' fault I've spent a lifetime on the outside looking in. They tried to instill in me religion, be a part of the grand delusions the rest of the world apparently slavishly subscribes. But I've never been able to believe in a vengeful, rather ugly solipsist telling me what is right and wrong, acceptable and not, whom I'm supposed to believe in without question, or even speculation. Never been any good at blind faith. Suicide is not a sin. But it is all too often a selfish, morally ambiguous choice.

It's true I think about suicide virtually daily. I hear about Robin Williams, or Aaron Swartz, or Sylvia Plath and cycle on what they felt like right before killing themselves. Black, I imagine. And I live there. All too often. But both Williams and Plath had kids. And Aaron Swatz had thousand of followers who believed in and supported his fight for net-neutrality, me among them. And this is where the morally of killing themselves gets sticky. At least to me.

I brought life into physicality to experience living. And the experience of living—is feeling. The full range—happy, sad, mad, glad...whatever. No matter how hard things feel, no matter how black, if I take my own life I will invalidate the very reason I gave life. To feel. Dead, I will be robbing my children my love, the most intense, fantastic, and cherished of all feelings. And as much as I want to check out sometimes, I can't validate the moral choice of committing suicide, with, or even without kids, since most people have family and friends who love them.

Feelings are dynamic. They change with time. Black morphs to gray, then violet, then sky blue some sunny days. I wish I could go back in time to the moment of choice for the a fore-mentioned suicides, and the 40,000 annually across the U.S. alone, and remind each of the sunny days that will surely come again, especially when embracing and share love.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Out of Body? Or Out of My Mind?

I'm participating in one of the creepiest, weirdest, most...surreal experiences I've ever had.

Greg Tremblay is a voice actor currently producing the audiobook for my novel Reverb. We met through ACX, Amazon's audiobook portal which hooks up authors with actors/producers for creating audiobooks to sell exclusively through Amazon and their channel partners. I didn't consider Reverb being an audiobook until several reader inquired if I had one available. I'd never heard an audiobook before. Every time I try to listen to one, in a friend or relative's car, my mind drifts, generally first to the scenery, then it begins a-wanderin. It does with TV too. Can't help it. Not much holds my attention the way my imagination does.

I'm currently reviewing the chapters of Reverb Greg has recorded to date. A practiced professional, he's 'playing' all characters true to their voice and nature. It's bizarre at best giving voice to the people I'd only heard in my head, but he's particularly nailed James, the protagonist in the novel, with his cultivated British accent, the rich tenor of his voice. And it's creeping me out. I get anxious, breathless, listening. The story, in parts “brutally raw,” is hard enough to read, yet alone hear, and the intensity of Greg's deliver so palpable it feels real.

James has been inside my head since I was a kid. Made him up when I felt afraid. Started when I was little, pretending to be a guy because men were supposed to be stronger than women, and when I felt scared I sought strength. I found it in James. As I grew he took on a life of his own, with a complex family history. He was brilliant, what I always wished to be, and insular, like most men seemed to me. Felt compelled to write about him to shed him from me completely. In giving him ground, perhaps I too could find some, learn to handle fear on my own.

For quite some time after finishing the novel, our separation was complete. Fear still takes me by the throat and is choking, often, but now I deal with it instead of cloaking James. He's merely a character in a novel, after all. But not anymore. Greg's voice has taken James outside of my head. He's been actualized, made real. And having James out there somewhere now, playing out the rest of his life story as I write this blog, is on the extreme end of surreal.

The most exquisitely bizarre bit—I can't wait for the next chapter Greg delivers to hear James again, be with him, in the same room, the same space, camera pov, a fly on the wall—listening/watching. “Addicting read,” several reviewers have called Reverb. I get that now, and other reviews like, “frantically turning the pages to see what happens next.” I can't wait to hear the rest of his story, like I didn't write it. Someone else who knows James did.

I'm unclear if these feelings, this surreal experience is typical for other writers whose work is actualized in voice or video. For authors currently involved in the process, or those who've previously brought their work from the page to the airwaves, please use the comment box to share your experience.

Friday, July 25, 2014

StartUp @ 45+

I responded to an ad for a Traffic Manager position at an ad agency in San Francisco a few years ago. Downtown, in one of those glass monoliths. Eighteenth floor. Made me nauseous being up there. I couldn't help consider the notion of an earthquake as I sat in the lobby waiting for my interview to begin, staring out the floor to ceiling windows at the city far below me.

An older gentleman, at least 20 years my senior, sat in the lobby with me. Probably in his mid-50s, receding hairline with only a tuft left on top of his head, but the sides were still full and more salt than pepper. His bushy, though well-groomed mustache was equally gray. He wore a wedding ring, black slacks and a white shirt under his gray suit jacket which did not conceal his slightly protruding belly.

We'd probably been sitting there three minutes but to me it felt like twenty. I could have sworn the building was swaying. So sure I was having a vertigo reaction, at one point I asked the older guy next to me for a reality check.

“Excuse me. Hi.” I gave him my friendliest smile and tried not to come off like a lunatic. “Do you feel the building...moving?”

“Oh, yeah,” he replied. “These buildings are designed to sway in the wind. In earthquakes.” He gives me a shy smile, like he was sorry he brought them up. “They have upwards of a five foot arch depending on height, and design, of course. Doesn't sit well with some people. My son hates it. You one of the motion sensitive types?”

“You bet,” is all I could manage to avoid barfing.

He smiled. “Not me so much. I'm not the sensitive type. You here for the Traffic position?”

I nodded. “You?”

“Yup.” Then the pudgy older guy went on a diatribe describing his education and work history, as if I was the one interviewing him. A few minutes into his years at yet another firm in a compact list of famous ad agencies, a young, and I mean young, maybe 20 year old assistant/model called the guy in for his interview.

From my vantage point I watched them go into the all-glass conference room in the center of the open office maze. I saw him sit at the end of the long table only after the woman interviewing him sat. She was strikingly similar to the assistant/model, same tight build, silky auburn hair and milky skin of an early 20-something. She sat straight in her chair, but he seemed to wilt in his as the interview progressed, which seemed odd because his experience was substantial and in the exact areas required for the job. I'd been on the Creative and Art Direction side and knew nothing about running Traffic in a large agency setting. I'd applied for the position hoping for an entree into their creative department. Less than ten minutes later the hot interviewer was escorting the pudgy guy to the glass door. He gave me a basset hound nod as he passed to leave.

I was called in next, and felt twitchy with the fishbowl affect of their all glass conference room the entire time we were talking. I kept losing eye contact with the young Director of Digital Traffic, focusing instead on every passerby looking in at us, and even most that weren't. She went through my resume with perky interest, then asked to review my portfolio as if to back up my claims. I showed her several projects from my book which she perused carefully while questioning my involvement in the campaigns. I gave her detailed descriptions of a few of my recent freelance consulting gigs, hoping she'd get the hint and refer me to one of the impossible to reach CDs on staff.

“Are you aware you're dressed the epitome of chic?” she asked me, which seemed very personal but it was an interview, after all, so I went with it.

Sort of. I had no idea how to respond so I kinda laughed her off with a shrug.

“The black leather jacket with that maroon lace dress. Stunning. Really. Good choice. So, do you want the job, or what?”

And I would have said, 'No, not really. I'm hoping for a lead to your creative department,' but then she told me the salary.

“$90,000 to start. And if you come on board there's a $5,000 signing bonus.”

I was working my ass off for around $60,000 annually, getting the clients, hiring the teams per project, doing everything from the creative to the production and traffic to accounting and billing as a consultant. Close to a hundred grand seemed easy money working for someone else, performing a single job function. I told her I needed 24 hrs to think about it and I'd get back to her tomorrow.

“Well, I hope you join us,” she said as she walked me out. “I think you'd be a great asset to the team, and our agency.”

In my car on the drive across the Bay Bridge her words echoed in my head. Why exactly would I be a great asset to the production team? Unlike me, the older candidate I met in the lobby had the experience and education the agencies ad asked for, and he surely needed the job more than I did, with a wife and at least one kid. I told the young director I'd only trafficed my own projects, that I'd been on the creative side my entire career, but she didn't hear that. She was too busy checking out at my outfit. She was basing my fit into the agency on my looks, and my age.

Before you roll your eyes and tune out of 'another article on ageism,' for all of you over 50 out there, or if younger you're at least aware that you too will age, don't bother looking to get hired from a 20-something 'Director' who hasn't amassed the years of experience you now possess. Young and naive, your knowledge threatens her authority. You don't need to waste your valuable time in the playpen, also known as most startups today. Become your own CEO. Start your own gig with the skill sets you've cultivated all these years. Have an idea? Create your own company, even if it's consulting, or teaching on what you used to do full time. No ideas? Find someone who does and partner.

Simple? Nope. Hard. Very. But harder than getting a job from the pubescent workforce now dominating the job market? Probably not. And a hell of a lot more... invigorating than answering to some just out of college clueless 'Director,' young enough to be your kid.

Haven't got a clue how to start a startup? Find out from YouTube, MeetUp, and a ton of classes from Cal Berkeley to Stanford, online and/or on campus. Or follow the directions, in order, below:

1. Productize your idea—Take it from your head to the whiteboard:
a. Define products/services features & benefit that fulfill the need/s of projected target market/s;
b. Identify and analyze competition; redefine product/service in response to competition;
c. Establish immediate and long term growth goals.
d. Determine projected income models on release and over time.

2. Brand company—Create a face and voice for your startup:
a. Develop a strong corporate identity to brand startup [and/or new product], as dynamic on a Twitter feed as on ads, packaging, website/s, or the side of a building; And tagline that embodies company/product message and 'voice.'
b. Produce PR and marketing tools to corporate identity standards: websites, social media and PR campaigns, corporate and direct communications, mobile marketing and more directly targeting startups and/or product's market/s.

3. Launch marketing campaign/s—from website/s and online presence with social media strategies, to full advertising campaigns with consistent branding across all media.

Marketing isn't rocket science.

Marketing is SELLING.

Selling what? (It's always the same.):

Marketing is selling FEATURES & BENEFITS.

Selling features & benefits to who?

MARKETING is SELLING FEATURES & BENEFTIS to fulfill the NEEDS* of TARGET MARKET/S.

That's it. An MBA is just complications on this very simple truth, trust me.

Easy? No. And you can't do it alone. You need a team, but there are tons of qualified 40-50+ out there looking for work. Put ads on Craigslist, go to MeetUps of entrepreneurs and seedling startups and make or find yourself a team.

Need and idea on what to start up? Answer the following:
● What do you love doing?
● What are you good at? What do you do well?
● What have you found in the process of what you love doing that you need? (i.e. what tool [software, hardward, product or service] will make the process of what you love doing easier, more efficient, more fun...etc.)

Love to cook? Sell baked goods online. Lots of competition in that space. You bet. But no one cooks (fill in this blank) like you, and you can get your delectable anywhere in the US in 24 hrs for any party size, at a really good price (to start).

You an exercise junkie? A serious athlete? Give online exercise classes, diet tips; offer a [dating-type] service for partnering with other serious athletes in their area and in their sport/s.

Find differentiators that separate your product/service from everyone else, optimally one that you can defend for a bit, i.e. not easily copied.

Think! Learn. Then make it happen. Act!

Just follow the steps and do them again and again, because all business, startup or not, is done in iterations—in response to customer's desires, changing times, competition...etc. With today's technology, from free e-commerce storefront platforms to social networking's global reach, there's no reason NOT to try and launch a company doing what you enjoy. Like most everything, with startups (or any business at any stage) you've only failed when you quit iterating your product/service and/or marketing to find and fulfill the needs of your target market/s.

Forget about struggling to maintain your self-worth with every job rejection. Start something. Don't quitIterate. Getting absorbed in the process of creation provides us an intrinsic sense of value. And who knows, keep at it and you just may establish something great!

*'Needs' can be created desire.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Family

The day my father called to tell me my mom had cancer, I hung up the phone, turned to my husband and said, “Well, that's the end of my family.” I said it, but I didn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it, though I knew it was true my mom was the glue that bonded us to each other. I'd been an integral part of a family for 45 years. I was the baby, the last born of three, and my mom raised us all with the philosophy that friends come and go, but family is forever. And I believed her, in fact, adopted the ideal as real.

After I moved from my parents' home I came back for every holiday, talked to my mom several times a week, called and sent gifts for special occasions. It never struck me as odd that when I called home and my father answered he'd simply hand the phone to my mother. It nicked my feelings when I gave gifts to my sisters three kids for every birthday, holiday and achievement, and they never even said “Thanks,” but my mom assured me, “kids are like that these days.” Behavior I'd never accept from a friend became acceptable because my sister's kids were 'family.'

During the last bit of my mother's illness our family spent even more time together. We gathered at my parents' home, the one we were all born and raised in, sat at the kitchen table and talked in hushed voices, my mom slowly dying in the bedroom down the hall. I spent hours, cross-legged on her bed talking with her, but when she died we were unable to resolve the lifetime of discord between us.

There was, and still is no doubt my mom loved me, deeply, profoundly, passionately. She showed it, consistently calling me to stay connected. And even though our talks frequently devolved to arguing about how she felt I should be living, she never abandoned me, exited my life despite how harsh it was between us so much of the time. 'Friends come and go but family is forever.'

Ten years after my mom's death, I have no relationship with my father. He does not call, doesn't return my calls when I call him. He does not know his grandchildren anymore, has not seen them in seven years, doesn't call them, acknowledge their birthdays, has no clue how old they are, or how proud he should be of my great kids. It didn't resonate as strange that my mom always signed both their names with every card and gift she sent her 'grandbabies.' It was the woman's role, after all, to take care of such things in the world I grew up in.

My sister stopped talking to my family five years ago. Though my kids had established what we all felt was a loving relationship with their aunt since birth, about two years after my mom's passing my sister informed us in an email that it was too much of a bother to maintain any relationship with her niece and nephew. She, too, has not sent them a card or called them since. She refuses to talk to any of us since my DH sent her a three sentence email asking her to please send our daughter her birthday card on her birthday instead of three months later with the card she sent for our son's birthday. Oh, and he asked her to please spell her niece's name correctly on the cards. My sister felt this was too much to ask of her, and exited our lives, an action she never would have taken when our mom was alive.

For the first couple years after my mom died, I called and emailed my father regularly. If I got him on the phone, which was rare, I made sure to have my kids talk with him. Per my mother's teaching, I thought it important my children maintain a relationship with their grandfather. I called him. He never called me. A month or more before my kids birthdays I'd remind him in weekly voicemails and emails to make sure he'd acknowledge their special day's. When I forgot to remind him (for the fifth time) a few days before his granddaughter's 7th birthday, he sent nothing. And it's been that way since.

Ever look at your life and think, “this can't be mine”? I had a family once, for almost 50 years they were woven into my life's story. My kids had family beyond their parents. Their grandmother, even their aunt (until my mom died) graced them with that profound measure of security the actions of love provide. They believed in their grandfather's love as well, simply by association, since his actions were always rather lacking.

Both my kids claim it doesn't bother them their aunt and their grandfather have checked out of their lives. They graciously remind me that they have their father's mom, and his sister, their other aunt. But they live back east and we haven't spent near the amount of time as a family as we did with mine when my mom was alive and just a few hours from the Bay. I find it impossible to believe being abandoned by my family as they have been doesn't nick them internally a bit. My son, and now even my daughter will not give my sister the honored moniker 'Aunt.' The rare occasion she's mentioned, they refer to her only by her given name, on par with some transient friend they once knew.

I no longer have the foundation of my family I thought I once did. I see now that 'family is forever' was my mother's wish, not reality. Her desire to retain the family connection she lacked in her own home growing up was so raw, and our love for her so powerful that while she was alive we all honored her need. This year, for the first time in my life I didn't sent my dad a Father's Day card, nor called him to acknowledge the day. I'm just so tired of pretending his abhorrent behavior is acceptable. Thing is, I can't stop wondering what I did so wrong that my father and sister would abandon my family as they've done. Both fervent Republicans and religious zealots, they clearly feel we have nothing to say to each other anymore. Maybe we never did, and I just didn't notice, languishing under the security blanket of perceived love, the spillover of actualized love my mother extended so freely.

Ten years later I still mourn the loss of my mom, virtually daily. I'm also grieving the loss of my family. But unlike losing a loved one to death where the sting of loss lessens with time—every birthday, occasion and achievement that passes without my remaining families acknowledgment fuels my internal rage, and taints these events with a deep and abiding sadness. And I'm truly lost what to do about that. As long as they're alive, I don't know how to let them go.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Great Divide

I'm a guy's girl, meaning I've spent most of my life hanging out with men instead of women. Like the freight train comin at ya, I prefer men's straightforward nature, their directness, their unwavering, solution-oriented trajectory. Men are simpler than women. Not less intelligent, just not round-about, underneath, from behind.
Women, by contrast, are the poison in your food. Eons of subjugation have forced us to become puppet-masters to get what we want. Not a judgment call, simply a fact that until very recently might was right, and men assumed they controlled the household with superior strength—at first to kill the mastodon and be the provider of food, and in the modern world, until recently, be the supplier of money. Back as late as the 1990s, women were still, and believe it or not still are, the primary homemakers, caring for the kids, shopping for and preparing the meals...etc.
Notice I said, “men assumed they controlled the household.” Well, you know what happens when you ass (of) u (and) me...; }
Seriously though, probably pretty early on, like cavemen times, women figured out how to get men to do what we want using our wiles—wits. Genetic transfer of memory over thousands of generations of women passing on how to be manipulative eventually became woven into the DNA and imprinted on our XX chromosomes.
Regardless of why women became...complex, the fact that we are scares me about us. Women don't only manipulate men. Quite often our children, sometimes even our friends. I'd much rather face a freight train because if I'm paying attention I can get off the tracks before getting slammed. This also plays to why I'm a guy's girl, why most of my friends have been men.
I knew I wanted kids for as long as I can remember. Two boys, I'd told any possible stakeholders, because boys are easier to raise. I now have two kids—a boy, 15, and a 12 year old girl, both of whom I'm madly in love with. Beyond proud, I'm humbled to know them. True to their 'nature,' my son is very direct with his feelings, practically the instant he feels something. He rarely lies, probably because he sucks at it, his facial expressions to the pause in his delivery clear indicators he's not telling the truth or copping to. He's a consummate whiner, but he respects the family rules and parental restrictions. My son is trustable, for which I'm eternally grateful. My daughter, on the other hand, listens carefully, expresses just the right amount of contrition and understanding with every lecture, then does whatever she wants, whenever she wants if she can get away with it.
Went to kiss her goodnight a few nights ago and she was underneath her blanket watching Manga comics videos on her cellphone. She'd been viewing nightly since we took away her Kindle two weeks ago for watching videos on it instead of reading. Reading is all she's allowed to do on the tablet, per our agreement when she got it for her birthday. (It's not too much to expect a 12½ year old to honor such an agreement when she gets plenty of electronics time on the weekends.)
While my son barely notices his reflection, my daughter spends hours in front of the mirror, preening. For eons a huge part of a woman's value was/is defined by our physicality, so it's natural, part of our nature now that our looks are important to us, or at the very least, more important to us than most men. My son likes violent movies. My daughter does not. She is deeply affected when families split up, or a parent or child dies in films and even books. Maternal instincts—reproducing and then caring for our offspring is genetically encoded in our DNA. In fact, her reaction is not uncommon. Violent movies and video games are targeted at men because they are by far the predominant audience to watch or log onto them.
Times truly are changing, though. Want a mastodon? Buy one on Amazon. Most educated women who pursue a career path can pay their own way through life now, even if we still typically make less then men. Most of us don't need a man's support to survive, or even thrive. Technology, from the Pill to the pc has made it possible for women to control our own destinies, and function equally along side men in most of today's business environments.
Sociological shifts in behavior are glacial, and true sexual equality is probably still a few generations in coming. Perhaps our great grandchildren will share equal incomes, and split the household tasks of rearing the children to doing the dishes equitably as well. From the dawn of man to present day the divide in humanity is not our race, religious orientation, education or income level. Our greatest division has been between men and women. I'm humbled to bear witness to a quantum shift in our evolution, that, first time in our history, technology is providing us the ability to become an egalitarian race, and close that great divide.

I love you, honey. Thanks for riding the crest of this wave of change, and truly becoming my partner through life.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Viewing 4 Kids

Hello my beautiful kids,
Below you'll find a list of links for your viewing pleasure! 
**BEGINNING MONDAY, JUNE 16th**
1. EVERYDAY pick either 1 (one) video, half hour or longer, or, a combination of short clips within the same subject that equal half hour or more.
2. View video/s.
3. WRITE a paragraph to a page summary about the video you viewed. (Spelling and grammar errors: Every word spelled wrong you will list in a separate document, and the end of the week you'll be tested on the misspelled words. A score of 100% is mandatory. The test will be retaken until all words are spelled correctly. Grammatical errors must be corrected, regardless of how much of the summary needs to be rewritten.)

A. MONDAY MORNING start a file titled: SUMMER VIDEOS on your desktop.
B. Put the summaries you write in Open Office for each video viewed in SUMMER VIDEOS file.

*EACH VIDEO SUMMARY MUST HAVE*:
1. NAME OF VIDEO in title or subtitle.
2. DATE VIEWED.
3. Why you chose to view this particular video (or several videos within a single subject)?
4. Did you like it? Why? or Why Not?
(This 1-4 list must be above the summary paragraph for each video viewed.)

VIDEO LIST (ONLY CLICK ON VIDEO LINKS as there are a huge amount of ads on these sites. NEVER PRESS ANY DOWNLOAD BUTTONS. EVER! All videos should be viewed through your browser window, i.e. the internet. Do NOT download them to your computer!):



http://www.nature.com/nature/videoarchive/





SHORT CLIPS--Select several videos in any one section to total at least half hour worth of viewing: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/videos.html

CLICK ON ONLY THE IMAGES THAT ARE CIRCLED IN RED (8 per page in 2 rows of 4):

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Folly of Perception

I’ve been on the outside looking in since I was a little kid. Failing to assimilate, I worked at cultivating unique and different. After achieving this coveted perception, I no longer wish to possess it.

Unique often translates into strange. And as the mother of a 10 and an 8 year old, I do not want to be perceived as strange or different. I want to blend like homogenized milk and give my kids the platform to fit in, be a part of. What I don’t want is for either of my children to be, “that kid with the weird mom,” though I fear I may already be there.

My kids still hold my hand, and not just in parking lots or crossing the street. They both still love to snuggle. I am their first choice to talk to, confide in, way beyond even their dad, which makes me feel valued, respected and deeply humbled all at the same time. I realize this level of intimacy probably won’t [and perhaps shouldn't] last as they grow and find their own path, but I don’t want my kids to ever be ashamed of me. I want to be proud of them. I want them to be proud of me.

I try to fit in. I go to the soccer games and the ballet classes and I wait around with the other parents and try to blend. But I don’t. And I get that they notice I don’t. I look different. I’m one of the oldest among them, by a good margin. My kids came late, after six pregnancy loses. I dress for comfort so most everything I have is rather loose. I don’t wear make-up. My hair is long and fine and all over the place. It refuses to stay pulled back in the scrunchy. I never quite look ‘put together.’

But looks aren’t the only thing that separates me.

Through the years I’ve come to realize that I don’t think like most people, and the glass wall between me and most of humanity is not just me being paranoid. There is a casualness the parents seem to have with one another as they discuss their kids, or some celebrity or popular new show. I stand there and nod my head when it seems appropriate, but I don’t watch much TV, and really don’t care that Kyle is playing basketball now which conflicts with his sister’s dance schedule.

I’ve tried engaging more personally, ask about jobs, interests outside of family, broached news and current events, but taking a position and endeavoring to discuss it has mostly been met with nods and polite blank stares (like I so often wear). Everyone is careful with their words—politically correct and upbeat. I’m neither, and over the years I've learned shutting up avoids discord. The conversations usually segue back to their kids and related activities around family, school, church, and I invariably check out of the exchange and focus on the event at hand and cheering on my children.

The game or recital ends but everyone stays and continues talking. I’m on the outside again, feels like I’m lurking while I linger to give my kids time to play. I stand there watching them all integrate, proud of my children for choosing to, and of myself for giving them the opportunity when I’d rather just leave. I watch the parents gaily chat and wish I fit in like that. The folly of unique and different is it’s really quite lonely.