The Story of My Life

It’s a good thing I’m not a people-pleaser, because I feel like I am constantly letting someone down with all my coming and going. I leave Raleigh, and people are sad. I go back to Raleigh, and people in Asheville threaten to lock me in a closet because they don’t want to lose me. I tell my students I won’t be back next semester, and they look at me with such disappointment that I honestly wonder if I’ll ever see them again. What’s the point of continuing a relationship (even a teacher-student one) that’s just going to end in two weeks?

It’s really sweet, and it’s flattering for sure, but it upsets me at the same time to know that my actions are upsetting to others. It’s like I can’t go anywhere without leaving a mark.

True story: I worked at Caswell in the summers of 1999 and 2000. In 2001, I went down for a weekend visit, and when I walked into the staff lounge, a guy I’d never seen before pointed at me all excitedly and said, “You’re Beth Parent! I want a massage later.” Because apparently word of my healing hands had gotten around the staff house.

That’s a silly example, but the dude knew my face, my first AND last name, and my hidden talent before I ever knew he existed, which means there was extensive discussion of me with accompanying photos before I arrived. This happens a lot, and that feels so weird to me because I’m just living my life, you know? I’m not doing anything spectacular except having a crap ton of fun, and yet somehow I am special to a lot of people.

I know it’s starting to sound like I’m complaining about how fabulous and popular I am, but that’s not it. It’s really quite humbling to think that I have this gift I’ve never really noticed or thought about before, and it’s just a part of who I am, but what do I do with it?

What does this ability to impact people require of me? There’s a great and weighty responsibility that comes with it, and I haven’t figured out yet how to carry it.

If I were a character in a story, after such a realization, I’d be at a point of decision. Where do I go from here? Given the experiences I’ve had and the things I’ve learned and become, how do I proceed? Everything up to this point has just been background and character development. And here is where the story actually begins, but what’s it about, what do I want, and why does any of it matter?

I want my life to count for something. I want to love people well and help those who need it, but I also want to really relish life and facilitate the fun and enjoyment of others. I look at some people’s lives, and I think, “My life is pointless. He’s digging wells by hand so villages in Africa can have water, and I’m writing a book called My Husband Ride Me.” But you know what? I love that I’m writing a book called My Husband Ride Me. I laugh out loud as I’m working on it, and I hope that one day dozens of other people will get to enjoy it the same way.

I don’t want to give up those quirky little things that make me the person everybody wants to have around. I just want to figure out how to use them better.

I want to live a life of such freedom and adventure that when my great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughters read about it, they think, “So that’s where I get it,” and feel free to be exactly who they are because they know they’re not abnormal for being adventuresome.

I want to live a life that awakens people’s imaginations as to what their lives can be, and I want to encourage them to follow those dreams even when doing so is hard.

I never want to believe or say that it’s too late for me to do something I’m really excited about. It is never too late to live the rock-n-roll life, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. Have y’all seen Young at Heart yet? Because you really must. I own it. Come on over, and we’ll watch it together just so I can prove my point.

I want to make people laugh. I want to make other people wonder what’s so funny. I get down on myself sometimes because I think I’m not doing anything meaningful. I mean, clean water is clearly more important than jokes, but here’s the thing: Laughter is bonding, and people need connection with each other. Laughter is healing, and there is a lot of pain in the world. Laughter might not be a part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but it should be. I don’t know if happy people live longer, but they sure do enjoy it more.

I don’t know what the plot of my story is yet, but I hope it involves a husband I can goof off with, travel with, raise children with, and grow with for the rest of my life, demonstrating radical love to everyone around us. I hope it involves at least a short stint in Spain (because I freaking love that country for no apparent reason). I hope it involves all the friends I currently love and all those I haven’t met yet. I hope it involves a lot of writing and a lot of foreigners, a home with an open-door policy and awesome flea market chic decor, delicious food and wine, full passports, surprises, and tons of music and dancing.

If it’s a story I’m writing with my life, it’ll be on Broadway one of these days. Mark my words.

These are the first of my thoughts on life that will hopefully win me a trip to Portland to attend Donald Miller’s conference. These thoughts are too vague, though, so for the rest of the week I’ll be writing more specific stories. Then we’ll pick the best one, and I’ll enter it in the contest.

What Would You Do (oo-ooo) With a Time Machine?

I realized this morning that I’ve been neglecting my questions lately. I’m trying to find a balance between answering those and just telling you fun stories about what’s happening. For the most part, there aren’t a lot of fun stories about what’s happening because my days are spent sitting on my couch, writing articles, and then driving half an hour to teach. And sometimes after I drive the 30 minutes to teach, there are no students. So…yeah. The questions are really more interesting than my life. All of that is about to change, but I’m not ready to make a formal announcement just yet, so hang in there, internet, and let’s talk about time travel.

Presuming you had a time machine what’s the stupidest and most dangerous thing you would probably do with it, despite having answered this question and having labeled it as both stupid and dangerous?

Well, I think time travel in general is definitely dangerous and probably stupid. I mean, Marty McFly’s hand disappeared when his mom was slow dancing/struggling with Biff, and his dad was too wussy to step in. But that’s what you risk when you meddle in your parents’ high school lives. My parents didn’t go to high school together, so I wouldn’t have to worry about that, but if we’ve learned anything from Back to the Future, it’s that you don’t screw around with the space-time continuum. Doing so is both stupid and dangerous, and you could lose a hand in the middle of your guitar solo.

However, there are a few things I’d like to see happening:

  • my parents’ wedding – There is no video footage available that I know of. I assume it’s because video cameras were only for TV/film studios in the early 70s.
  • me as a baby – There are not a lot of pictures of me as a baby that I know of, and I don’t really remember anything before I started school, and even then, it’s all pretty hazy until about 5th grade. I’m sure my mom could tell us what I was like, but it would be way cuter to see tiny me in action. Unless I was a jerk. Was I a jerk?
  • my ancestors coming to the U.S. – My sister is making a massive family tree for our reunion this year, and I’m sure she’d love an eye-witness account of this. Plus, y’all know how much I love to travel, but to be ON THE BOAT with them, knowing what the country is going to become generations down the line, and seeing what it was like back then…man, that would be awesome.
  • Beethoven playing his own stuff

All of those things, I just want to witness. I don’t necessarily have to be a participant in history for those. But here are some things I would want to do:

  • meet Jane Austen
  • hang out with the Beatles before they were famous, and teach them all the Monkees’ songs before the Monkees even form a band (just to be a mischievous punk, not because I have anything against the Monkees)
  • follow Jesus, like literally, in person, walking in the dirt (and the rocks, and the…)
  • convince Amy Grant that “Baby, Baby” is a bad idea
  • convince John Mayer not to record half of his songs
  • stop Shutter Island from being filmed, and convince Leo to do a movie that requires more shirtlessness
  • convince myself to go vegetarian in college
  • introduce myself to Mediterranean food much sooner (hummus, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, etc.)
  • smuggle slaves to free states
  • smuggle Jews to safety during WWII
  • invent leg warmers before anyone else
  • invent velcro

Like I said, I think time travel in general would be pretty stupid and dangerous, so I don’t know which of these things is the worst. I’ll let y’all be the judge as to exactly which thing is the stupidest/most dangerous and/or which is the likeliest to cause me to lose appendages. What would YOU do with a time machine?

Everybody Loves Winning

Even if what you win is a random object from a complete stranger’s bedroom or a made-up award, it always feels good to have won something, to feel validated in some way, to feel recognized as a human being. So the other day when my friend Andrea gave me this Beautiful Blog Award, well that just made my day. Thanks, Andrea!! Right back at you!

So apparently there are rules to being a Beautiful Blog Award recipient. I’m trying to follow them. Here we go.

1. Thank the person who nominated me for this award and post a link to her blog. Yes!! I’ve already done that. Here. I’ll do it again. Lil-Kid-Things.

2. Pass the award onto 7 other bloggers who I believe have a Beautiful Blog. Ok, I’m opening the envelope, and the BBA goes tooooooo…
Beautiful Frolic (aka Ma Vie and apparently now something in Norwegian) – This is Amaris. She rarely feels normal, except for when she’s reading Onward Hoe!, that is. She lives life with such reckless abandon that she sometimes doesn’t have time to shower, but really, who needs it when you’re having this much fun?
Pocket Smiles – Paige is one of the most thoughtful and hilarious women I know. I am super impressed with her ability to grow things in her yard, and she has one of the cutest kids on earth. Also, an intense love of cheese.
Thimbly Things – I don’t actually know Kristena, but I imagine her living in the cutest house ever. She has an uncanny knack for making beautiful things out of not-so-beautiful things, and if I ever meet her, we’re totally having a craft night.
Oh Beauty – Ann is a dear, sweet friend who lives entirely too far away (in London), but I hope she stays there because I love going to visit her!! I spent this past Thanksgiving with her and her husband, and they made me feel so welcome.
Soup Spoon – Ok. I don’t like oatmeal raisin cookies, but when L*Joy makes them, I will eat an entire batch. I love how she weaves life stories into her recipes…or maybe how she weaves such delicious food into her already beautiful life.
Under the Mercy – It’s DLF!!! If you don’t know who DLF is, read my FAQ page. This woman has been inviting me to Florida for basically an extended dinner party (like a weekend or week-long dinner party) FOREVER, and I cannot tell you how badly I’d like to take her up on it. The food would be amazing, yes, but just to sit and talk with her makes my heart happy. Or to pull out the sleeper sofa and watch six movies in one day, ordering delivery for every meal…not that we’ve ever done that.
SPareSTAR Photography – This is my amazingly talented sister’s photography blog. SHE REALLY OUGHT TO PUT MORE ON IT (ahem) because seriously, she’s awesome. But we’ll take what we can get, won’t we? Check her out.

3. Contact the other bloggers to let them know they were given the award. I’m on it.
4. Say 7 things about yourself. Seriously? Six years of blogging, and you want to know seven MORE things? Uhhhh.
  1. I don’t know the names of mixed drinks. If I go to a bar, I just ask the bartender to make me something girly. If they need more direction than that, I tell them I want something with fruit and vodka.
  2. I don’t often go to bars.
  3. I pretty much always wear two shirts. Usually one is a tank top, but still. I like to layer.
  4. I haven’t worn sunglasses in a long time. I know it would be better for my eyes if I did, but I can’t find any that don’t make me look like a total douche.
  5. I could never marry a man who wore glasses with transitions lenses.
  6. I never fart in front of other people. Ever.
  7. I think I would make an awesome tour guide.

Whew. Okie dokie. Congratulations, BBA recipients!! You deserve it! Now everybody get back to work.

Question of the Day

Today’s question comes from my formspring page. I’m not sure if someone actually asked me this, or if maybe formspring just felt bad for me because no one was asking me anything, so they threw one out there for me to answer. I don’t really care. It’s a good question.

What are your long-term plans in life?

I kind of thought we’d start out with things like, “What are your favorite pizza toppings?” or “How DO you get your hair to be so awesome?” but no, we’re going straight for the big guns. Mama, is that you again? Do you really think you’re going to get a satisfactory answer to this one? I’ll try.

I got out of the planning business a long time ago. I don’t know how many of you know this about me, but I started out in undergrad as a music major. I had plans, see? I was going to be a music therapist. But then that fell through, and I haven’t done much planning since. My college advisor asked me one time what my five-year plan was, and I think I just stared at her blankly for a minute before I either started laughing or broke down in tears. I just could not envision my life five years out. I still can’t. I haven’t even tried since then, and five years is really not that long, so as far as long-term plans go…well, you got me. I have no idea.

I do have things I want to do, but I don’t have a time line for them or anything like that. I’m working toward some goals, but I don’t know when I’ll achieve them, and I’m not trying to plan my life out too much because (a) there are so many things I can’t control, and (b) where’s the fun in that? I really like the spontaneity I’ve got going and the freedom I have to change things up at a moment’s notice. But for those of you who really want a more concrete answer to this question, the things I want to do are as follows:

  • get married
  • have kids (although I’m really interested in adoption, so I might get some kids rather than having them myself)
  • publish books (multiple)
  • continue to see new places in the world
  • build my savings account back up
  • pay off my student loans
  • eat delicious food
  • own a home
  • live off of writing and teaching (although I could still do the Census for fun)
  • enjoy whatever life throws at me because somehow, it all has the potential to be beautiful

Who’s next? Keep ’em coming!

Dolly Goes For a Ride

So I live with a toddler, which is sometimes annoying and messy, mostly when she’s sleepy and fighting it. But most of the time, she’s pretty cool. At the moment, she’s really into Band-Aids, so usually around or after dinnertime, she’ll go to the bathroom and get one to put on somebody’s invisible boo-boo. She takes it out of the wrapper and gets it all ready, and then she puts it on someone’s finger or arm or face – wherever the “boo-boo” is. Then she shows it to whoever else is around and says, “_______’s gonna feel all better,” drawing out, with compassionate emphasis, the “all better.” It’s very sweet.

She also talks CONSTANTLY, and I don’t know if that’s just what toddlers do or if some do it and others don’t. If you’ve had toddlers, maybe you can tell me because some day, I’d like to have kids, and I need to know what I need to prepare for here. Is there any way you can train them to process things internally?

On an only VERY loosely-related note, a funny thing happened yesterday. As you know, Carla and Joe moved into their house right before I got here, and they’ve been unpacking everything ever since, so the boxes have been piling up in the basement. Well, they called to have the boxes picked up, and the guys were supposed to come this afternoon while Carla was at work, so I was going to stay here and wait for them.

They came, got the boxes, and left, and then about ten minutes later, the bell rang again, and this time it was the police. And here, let me explain something about the fortress in which I live. There’s like a ten-foot-tall iron gate surrounding the whole joint, and it opens two different ways. There’s a big part that slides open with a remote control, and there’s a smaller, just standard doorway-sized gate that swings open with a key. Or you can buzz it open from inside the house. So when people come over to the house unannounced, they have to buzz from outside the gate, and you can pick up a phone inside and talk to them. When the police arrived, I went out to the gate to talk to them because they were only speaking Italian, and the only two words I could understand over the phone were “ma’am” and “street.” Not that I’d be able to understand Italian better outside the house, but you know, with body language and all, face-to-face is just easier.

So I went out, and there’s the police with a dolly left by the box-moving guys out on the street. And I wanted to explain whose it was, but they didn’t speak English, so I just said, “I don’t speak Italian,” and then I indicated that the dolly was not mine, and they put it in their car and took off.

I guess if I’d been thinking, I could have brought it back inside the gate in the hopes that the movers would come back for it, but now that I’m thinking about it more, that might have invited questions from the police that I wouldn’t have been able to answer, so I think I did the right thing.


A few minutes after that, I went to pick up Savka (the toddler–there’s the link to the beginning of the post) from school, and as we were walking home, the movers pulled up on the side of the road to ask me about their dolly. They spoke a little English, so I explained that the “Polizia” had come and taken it away, but there are at least three different kinds of law enforcement officials that I’ve noticed, and I have no idea what the difference is between them all. There’s the Polizia and the Carabinieri and something else that I think is kind of like the highway patrol, so it didn’t really come into play, but the movers wanted to know if the Polizia had come or the Carabinieri, and I had no idea. And they were all, “What color was the car?” Clueless. “Was it blue or white?” No idea.

It reminded me of a scene from some movie that I can’t really remember. All I know is that there’s a bunch of kids waiting for their college acceptance letters, and they’re on the phone with their parents when the letters arrive, and they’re all freaking out asking them if the envelopes are big or small, fat or skinny. If you know what that movie is, do let me know.

Anyhoe, the Carabinieri station was about a block away from where we were, so the two guys who’d gotten out of the truck started walking up that way, and I suppose the driver was going to make a U-turn and go meet them there. I took Savka home and hung up laundry to dry. Then we drew chalk pictures of stick figures in a “park” and watched Barney.

How soon is too soon?

First of all, I can’t wait to see the jump in page views with a title like that. And more importantly, how soon is too soon to start counting down the days until I leave for Italy as opposed to the weeks? Because I’m going to be IN ITALY exactly five weeks from now, which means I leave exactly five weeks from yesterday, which, by my calculations, is 35 and 34 days respectively. Is that too many days? Can I go ahead and make one of those paper chain-a-majigs and start tearing one off each day? Is there a more grown-up way to go about this? Or at least a more eco-friendly way? Ooo! I wonder if there’s some sort of countdown widget I could install here that would do it for me. I’m SURE that there has to be. Even if I have to get one that counts down until my (nonexistant) baby is born, that’ll be fine. Y’all can just imagine that the growing fetus is the Mediterranean coast growing larger and larger as I get closer to living on it.

And then you can all vomit to make up for the morning sickness that I didn’t experience with my non-pregnancy. And THEN, I’ll go to Italy and get all fat on pasta and cannolis, which is exactly the opposite of what’s supposed to happen AFTER you give birth, but since I’m doing the exact opposite of giving birth, that makes sense.

Wait, what would the exact opposite of giving birth be? I was just thinking it would be not giving birth, but I suppose it could mean murder. I’m not doing that, for the record. You hear that, American police, Italian police, FBI, INTERPOL, SPECTRE? I’m NOT murdering anyone. But I may kill myself slowly with wine and lots and LOTS of carbs.

IN 35 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!