You say goodbye, I say hello.

•April 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment

We’re moving!

Or, I am.

After a prolonged absence for a whole mess of reasons, and with a thousand pardons and pleas for forgiveness, Abrasive Enough is closing its doors for a nice little round of reincarnation to become…

Abrasive Zen!

I hope you’ll come along with me (those of you who might still be paying attention), and that the new attempt turns out even shinier and more fun than this has been.

See you on the blogging flipside,

Sara

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Writer’s Commentary: The Beast Within

•February 6, 2012 • 1 Comment

When you write on a regular basis, it’s only natural to dissect every little thing. Five seconds of human interaction could spawn a novel if you’re lucky enough, or a short story, or a poem. It doesn’t matter, just as long as you manage to get something out there, right?

So when you’re assessing the use of that frighteningly attractive guy sitting across from you on the train as a character (Super Spy? Thief Extraordinaire? Secret Lover of Someone or Something or WhatevergoodGodhe’snicelookingisn’the.), there’s nothing wrong with that. Even if you might feel a tad bit freakish doing it. You are not a stalker that should be feared. You are an artist. So there.

But I can’t help thinking that something that’s supposed to be a good thing can also be a hindrance. Possibly in a pretty big, fairly unhealthy way.

I’ve mentioned that I tend to see things like stories, and it makes it easier to figure out most times where things are going to go. I’m not right every time, and when I’m wrong, it can be pretty spectacularly so. But this ‘insight’ (at least, that’s the term it’s been deemed with, whatever), I’ve realized, can be turned far too easily on yourself.

Which is where the trouble begins.

It can start pretty easily at first. You’re having a godawful day, and the record player in your head’s skipping on one thought, over and over again; “Oh God, just kill me now.”. (If this is not a thought you’ve ever held, apply your own sentiment here.) Enjoy it while it lasts, you have about thirty seconds before Writer’s Commentary takes over.

That voice that plays in your head, disconnected and always observing the whole thing with either amusement or disdain, will work its way in. But this is not your conscience speaking. This is The Writer Within. And it wants to edit.

“So. We live in a soap opera now, huh?”

You stop. Color rises into your face at your own melodramatics, and the internal argument begins. “No. I’m just tired. It’s been a long day, I need a nap–“

“There isn’t a reader in Christendom that’d follow this. I’m just saying.”

“But this isn’t a story!”

“I’m just. Saying. Can’t we tweak this a bit? Turn down the emo child angst a few notches, maybe scowl a little less… Come on, seriously. It’s getting boring.”

You have every right in the world to feel as crappy as you do. Sadistic boss, unruly coworkers, take your pick. But suddenly, you feel like something of an idiot. And now you’re reigning yourself in, curbing all those impulses to sulk or whine. For the better? Probably. But take a moment like that, and apply it to any other time in your life where it’d be far from appropriate; dates (maybe with that guy from the train? You know you want to.), times when you’re depressed (clinically or otherwise), family gathering (though that’s something everyone does), and so on.

As a writer, my understanding is you’re supposed to be able to go inside your own head. Which is absolutely fine. There are stories everywhere, whether it’s the aforementioned five seconds of human interaction, or That Horribly Embarrassing Time We Won’t Talk About. You know the one. Don’t pretend you don’t.

But if you have a hard time stepping outside your head (run with that image if you must), and interactions that you’re supposed to be a part of become just another story, then it leads to a kind of detachment that you might want to look at a little closer.

Who knows. There might be a story in it.

Oh, ineptitude.

•January 24, 2012 • 2 Comments

Amazing how everything falls apart for a bit after a move.

While the re-rhythming is still working itself out, and the rebuilding segment of our story’s still under way, the impromptu and unintended hiatus is over. We can slap a big red FAIL sticker on my forehead, and move forward in hopes of doing better.

I can’t tell you how, but this month’s managed to pick up the skillful and impressive ability of being both very long, and very quick. With my move, my family’s move (Equally amazing the level of crap you can accumulate after thirteen years living in one spot, isn’t it?), and weeks’s worth of medical angst out of the way, I can get the ball rolling again.

For starters, that has to mean less dropping of said ball. There’s nothing more cringeworthy to the token perfectionist than lack of follow through. And when you’re capable of employing both mindsets (The Nutty Perfectionist and The Flakey Biscuit), often in the same breath, it can wreak havoc with your confidence. You’re kicking yourself while trying desperately to flee from your own foot, and the responsibility it demands you take.

Philosophers I read in the feminism class said it had something to do with women’s unconscious and ingrained certainty that no matter what, she’s going to fail. Naturally, men, this one would be on you too. Just in case you were wondering if you’d dodged this bullet.

I don’t necessarily agree with that; there’re too many women out there accomplishing way too much for it to hold, and there’s more achievements stacking up every day. There’s a lot of reasons for someone to take that step back, let something slip, and all those other phrases that indicate this particular kind of screw up.

But to me, it seems to fall into two categories; laziness, or anxiety. Sometimes the two can mix, and in my case I can say with the utmost certainty that they often do. But as I’ve said, I also have a certain propensity for teetering on the fringes until I slide right off, so I lean towards the latter slot way too often. Or, as I tend to call it when I’m kicking my own ass, being a pansy.

This leads to my looking like an unreliable (A title you may be throwing in my direction right now, even!) shadowy loner, and that’s not really the type of person people flock to, professionally or socially.

In this case, it’s not worth being as intense as all that. But it all stacks up in the end. So it’s time to put on my big girl pants, and get down to it. I woke up early this morning and got a little writing out of the way, did some baking (which is not helping keep the weight off), and have now breathed a little life back into this thing.

My ass is bruised, my foot is sore and about ready to snap off, but hopefully it makes some kind of difference. Naturally, it’ll be slow going to that point where I can even begin to tell.

It makes sense, though. When you’re a long time addict, I don’t think  de-flaking is supposed to be easy.

In need of a Re-Rhythming.

•January 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

New Year’s Eve rolled around a few days ago, and I spent it over N’s house, ringing in the new year on their blessedly comfortable sent by God himself to make life better couch. (If you couldn’t tell already, I love that thing.) But before that, we went to Mom 3.0’s house for sundaes and a screening of The Help. Good movie. Not one I’d watch twice in a week’s time, but democracy slaughtered any chance of Bridesmaids. So there we have it.

I’ll stop pouting any day now, I promise.

ANYWAY (/end Klosterman moment), we had to make a pitstop to get all the sundae construction materials before we could head over, as well as a few other groceries for the house.

Somewhere in the middle, I got the feeling of dancing one step behind everyone else. This is the second night in a row that I’ve been through it in this form (we picked up missing ingredients for dinner the night before), but not the first time I’ve noticed it overall. There’s a rhythm to how Mom 2.0 and N do things that, though I’ve known them for under half my life, I can’t quite touch.

It’s not just the mother/daughter dynamic, either. They’re around each other a lot, and it’s just them living at the house. N’s sister lives with her fiance, and has no intention of coming home come hell or high water. (In fact, it’s her room I’m getting. And we’ve known each other since grade school. Awkard, but if she doesn’t have a problem with it…) So it’s not a shorthand. It’s a very literal rhythm.

And though they’re always inclusive (they’re taking me in, for Christ’s sake), there’s a precedence set for things. Take shopping for example:

  • Certain brands (i.e., Ruffles potato chips) will always be bought for the majority. The majority is Mom 2.0 and N.
  • All things chocolate chip cookie are to be worshipped, in whatever form they manifest.
  • Stressing your point on why certain strange foods are a good idea for more than thirty seconds will leave you subject to long uncomfortable silences, and make you feel nutty.
  • Deviation from the norm is for suckers.

It’s that whole ‘Italian-Portugese-Irish Professional Face Stuffers’ thing vs. the ‘Scottish-Irish Give Me Potatoes or Give Me Death’ sensibility. And while they’re doing their shopping, N bobs and weaves around the store as I’d with pre programmed destinations, foraging for The Good Stuff and bringing it back to the shopping cart. Mom 2.0 grabs what she needs, and spends most of her time keeping track of it all.

And on most things while being involved in this practice, I wind up deferring to N (for example, look to the rule involving cookies). When I’m at their house, I keep telling myself “This is not my house yet.”. But in five days, it will be.

Hence the need for a Re-Rhythming, and leading me to once again feel like a NatGeo special (why anyone would be interested enough to make this a reality does not enter into the thinking, thank you), and to wonder the next best route. N and Mom 2.0 can only help me along to a point, and I refuse to make their day that much more irritating by bickering over cookies in the middle of a supermarket.

I’ve even gone as far as trying to explain to N certain quirks I only have at home; holing up in my room for days on end, not socializing with the rest of the herd, etc. And while she was nodding at me, I tried to make her understand with a nonsensical response: “Yeah, I know you know, but you don’t know.” We’ve never lived together on a regular basis, and when we drive each other insane now, I won’t be able to take off to my house. Our proverbial ‘separate corners’ will be mere inches away, our rooms are right next to each other.

All the easier for me if I decide to go haul off and pop her in the head, but still.

The semi-foreign beast in a more or less new habitat, that’s me. Mom 2.0 has no issues about the situation (at least none that she’s showing), but maybe it’s easier as the Queen of the House. You put your foot down, all subjects are silenced.

Regardless, the beat must be found, and the dancing shoes must move accordingly. I want to carry as little shiny slices of dysfunction with me as possible when I get out of here.

Whether or not that’s to be, we’ll see.

A case of the Thyroid Induced Crazies.

•December 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Or, as they will be forever known in this blog, the TICs.

A few years ago, a little Asian woman (also known as my endrocinologist) turned out to be a ninja in disguise, and tried to kill me through a very touchy feely chokehold (also known as checking my throat for nodules). Her attempt on my life (check up) was diverted (she stopped, but only after squeezing harder for a minute or two) by the sudden finding of some sizable chunks of strangeness buried near my thyroid (nodules).

These sizable chunks had to be checked out, because apparently they could just be weird formations that just exist for the sake of existing (benign), or homicidal (cancerous). The odds were in my favor that these beings weren’t malevolent (given my gender and age), but there was also a possibility that they weren’t (a very, very tiny one).

So I was sent on a quest to determine the nature of these beings (biopsies), but no one could be sure. Even after they were sent to the fabled Mayo Clinic, land where mages of the highest caliber are supposed to be able to figure anything out. (Lies.)

Warning: There are no ninjas beyond this point.

That meant it was time to see a surgeon. G.T. had a great sense of humor, answered every possible question me or my parents could’ve had, and was all around excellent. Also, the top half of his face looked like John Barrowman, and the bottom half of his face looked like Robin Williams. How can you not love this guy on sight?

According to G.T., a surgery was the only route. Not just because surgeons have a deep love of using their scalpel, but if the half my thyroid that the big nodule was on had cancer, it could spread.

So I went under the knife, and a few weeks later G.T. called to let me know he’d found little bite sized pieces of papillary thyroid cancer. The other half soon had to follow just to be safe, and then the thyroid material left behind had to be burned out with a little radioactive pill.

After all that was said and done, I start taking a thyroid replacement. This little blue pill (Levothyroxine) has the ability to slowly drive me nutty when I go off it. Which was the subject of the last few days of feeling like I was slogging through six feet of mud, my head was spinning ’round and round and ’round again, and coherent thought either came out in snippets or not at all.

I get irrational, I get angry, I get overtired. For something that small to hold that much power (as the thyroid once did, which I never even knew about until the stupid thing went and got cancerous on me) is disturbing. Not to mention that if I go off it, and my calcium gets low enough, the muscle spasms that follow could hit my heart and kill me.

Walking short distances (The few blocks between my house and the drug store, for example.) leaves me out of breath and ready to drop. This frail looking state means everyone handles me with whatever gloves are softer than the kid kind, which leads to a spike in that uncontrollable anger problem. When I reach this stage, whatever it’s lacking in energy, it definitely makes up for in sniping snippyness. All in all, not a good time.

After taking the pill last night (it was a hold up with the prescription that caused the withdrawal this time around, not the first time it’s happened), I’m feeling a little more stable today. But there’s still that compelling urge to take a nap every five minutes, that sense that everyone seriously needs to go to hell, and the need to scream at stupid people for not really being all that stupid.

I have noticed that the only way to counteract the TICs is to get completely amped up on caffeine, but the downside is that when you crash, you crash hard. I also found out from a round with Google that too much of that could be potentially dangerous too.

Granted, it’s all in the name of being cancer free. But that’s hard to remember when you’re getting seriously tweaky, or going off Caffeine Falls for a bloody landing. It’s probably even harder to remember for the poor souls who have to deal with me during these multi-day instances when I’m not quite right. The only one who understands in my father, who had the misfortune of being born without one. Which they didn’t find out for years, making it amazing that he’s still alive today.

Which, if you knew him, would really sum up his whole life.

Given that it’s New Year’s Eve, I’m off to caffeine up and try to get through the rest of this day accordingly. Dr. Downer and Ms. Hyde have no place here, thank you kindly.

Happy New Year, folks. Ring it in as stylishly as you know how. Whatever that means, I promise, I won’t judge.

Being the Freaky Kid on the block.

•December 28, 2011 • 2 Comments

Freaky Kid: (noun) A child aged sixteen or younger prone to ‘strange’ tastes in music, reading, writing, or art. Often uses sarcasm as a means towards a black humor end. Dresses in dark colors. Not to be confused with ‘goth’ or ’emo’, but still thought to be ‘dark’. Considered to be just as evil and to be avoided as their gothic counterparts. Parents of Normal Children, beware.

I think all it takes is one thing. The problem is, I couldn’t tell you what that thing is. But I’m still of the mind that this singular event sets off an internal chain reaction that creates the Freaky Kid. Part of it’s genetics (I come from strange stock indeed, so I can attest to this), and part of it’s influence. But all that sets the stage. There has to be some force, whether it manifests itself as an item (book/movie/music/etc), or an event, that sparks something within and makes the Potential Freaky Kid join the flock.

The chain reaction kicks off like brush fire across the kid’s skull, melting down all ‘normal’ wiring and replacing it with something new. Usually in shades of black or dark blue depending, though some subspecies choose all colors, or only certain colors. Or only certain clothes.

After that, how breezy life is depends squarely on how the Freaky Kid chooses to handle it. If they’re faced with being socially ostracized, they might tell the world to go to hell and hole up inside their room permanently. Or they’ll tell the world to go to hell and face them head on. If accepted, who knows what the kid could accomplish. Or they’ll rise high and fall flat on their face. Or nothing’ll happen. Like all kids the Freaky Kid’s potential, as far as I can tell, measures out about like this: fifty percent dumb luck, twenty percent life experience, ten percent good parenting, ten percent parental foul ups, and ten percent pure unmitigated chance.

But I can say that from what I’ve seen, there’s usually a lot of that ostracized stuff going around. The kids that fall in that area are the Ally Sheedys (circa The Breakfast Club) of every school, not one kid, but a whole group. They’re usually off to the side in the playground or the lunchroom, keeping each other amused and sniping at all the popular types. I know this because I lived and breathed that group (whenever I was actually in school, not at home sick) all through school, and though most of us have grown apart, some of us outcasts are still good friends to this day.

Before that we were regarded with narrowed eyed stares and behind the hand whispers, face to face challenges from high horse wenches, and all sorts of crap. Sometimes I couldn’t help remarking on the cliche of it all. This often earned me even more crap. But I was a young writer with a sarcastic sense of humor, eternally in a sweatshirt that I’d wear until it fell apart (a habit I still have, but I’m trying to get out of), with eccentric sensibilities.

I could never figure out what the big deal was about all that, and that’s still true to this day. During the last years of my Freaky Kid stage, I heard neighborhood kids told stories about me. They thought I was a frequent cutter who listened to metal music all day. Years later still, I heard that my mother’d asked a writer friend of mine, as well as my Girl Scout leader of the time (Mom 3.0 now), if she needed to worry about me being a potential psychopath because of the scary stories I was writing at the time.

Not that I ever had thoughts of making this blood and gore a reality, and if someone’d asked me, I would’ve told them so. But thankfully the two asked told her that there was nothing to worry about. Better for me to get it out than to let it fester. Not that there was anything festering on that level to begin with. I was depressed, but I wasn’t homicidal.

Now, as I’ve said, I’m no longer that kid. But I could still easily check myself under the ‘Freaky Adult’ category. Freakyness, as you yourself might know, is a wide ranging label that many can put themselves under. I would hope it’d be for positive reasons, because us freaky types are more useful when we’re happy to be as we are.

Luckily I’ve never been a Damien Echolls, although from what I’ve seen back then he was more aggressively goth than just plain freaky. But I’ve seen and been though enough crap to know that being the Freaky Kid is not for the weak of heart. Once that little thing sparks a piece of your DNA and that brush fire begins, you’re freaky for life. Trying to pretend otherwise, locking up that part of yourself, leaves a lot missing. So if you want that full, rich life they keep talking about in all those self help books, you’re going to have to embrace it. While you’re at it, help those Freaky Kids embrace it too. They need it.

And, of course, look for new ways to be freaky for the rest of your days. You wouldn’t want it to wither and die, would you?

I thought so.

Santa Sara and the Christmas that almost wasn’t.

•December 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment

When we last left Our Hero (And I have no qualms about calling myself that, so there.),  she was about to go through Christmas dinner shopping. And as of Saturday morning (Mom 2.0’s birthday left no time for doing it the night before), that’s what she did.

I was up at eight o’ clock thanks to a rude and cruel awakening from Mom 2.0 in the form of a lamp being flicked on in a dimly lit room. The flash of brightness and woe cut me like a knife, and I’m not ashamed to say that I hid under my blanket from its evil.

“It’s eight o’ clock, good morning!” Some people.

Anyway, after N and I dragged ourselves out of bed (or couch, in my case), and then redeposited ourselves back on the couch like zombies for about an hour to stare blankly at the TV, we piled into the car and took off for the grocery store. What followed was a mad dash on my part back and forth across the store, my brain falling into a hyperdrive of Enterprise-esque quality (I continue to geek it up in here, don’t I?), sending Mom 2.0 and N off for items on the list whenever we regrouped.

I managed to make it out with everything on the list (For those who didn’t catch the previous episode; pizza, breadsticks, tomato and rosemary chicken on a spring mix salad), plus a few other things (Apple cider, egg nog, christmas cookies, and extra dressing). So there was a festive flair on the whole thing, even if a huge ham wasn’t involved and there weren’t my exceptional whipped Cheesy Bacony Potatoes.

After that, it was mad dash back to the house to spend the next five hours cooking two small pumpkin pies, and a return of my apple cinnamon cake. Apparently pie making is a lot more of a hellish process than all those who’ve lied terribly to me claim. Especially when your father has that allergy, meaning the pies in question must be gluten free.

By the way, gluten free flour was sent from hell to kill the spirits of all amateurs who dare think they can use it without repercussions. Mom 2.0 was kind enough to impart the how to on making that crust, and in the beginning it seemed like all was well. Right up until somehow far too brown dough had to be flattened out for the pie tin. Everything went downhill from there.

If it wasn’t the chunks sticking to the rolling pin in spite of flouring the crap out of it, it was the sticking to the mat we had also floured to the hilt on the table. Then it was the falling apart upon rising, the falling apart halfway to the tin just when we thought it was safe, and everything else you could possibly think of. Finally, the only answer was to piece and press every last inch into the pan, and after checking for holes we dumped the gooey glop that was the filling in and hoped for the best.

The cake was a repeat of the usual, except the apples were put through the food processor this time to create apple mush. And since I’d never played with a food processor before, that was worth a giggle or twelve. Not to mention instead of putting all pieces in at once, I just had to feed them in one, by one, by one…

It was fun.

Apple Cinnamon Cake, the frosted finished product.

One of the pies, all kinds of pretty. Save for the knife marks. Wah.

After it was all over, I got to cart it all home and rest for an hour. Then it was time to shower the stinky away and head to my grandmother’s in Malden. We don’t get to see her too often these days, but on Christmas Eve we’re always the last ones there, and the last ones to leave. My aunt, Nana, and my cousin D are always there, and recently my cousin A has started showing up on a regular basis. Which turns R into a little crackhead that looks and acts like she’s been injecting the stuff into her eyeballs. I don’t know what it is, but they’re the perfect catalyst for each other’s insanity, without fail.

But hey, it’s really funny to watch.

My sister E and her girlfriend had arrived there before us. Girlfriend, by the way, is a fine upstanding individual, and I can give her all kinds of hell and it just rolls right off her back. (This last part is one of the primary reasons why I approve.) E dropped the bomb by showing us her hand within the first thirty seconds we were there by showing us her hand. Girlfriend had gotten her a promise ring. (Okay, that’s more of a cherry bomb, but since she’s the first to head in that direction, not to mention that they’ll be living there soon…) It was a cute little thing, and E was beaming. At least until I asked where my Save the Date card was. Then she got a little annoyed. Can’t imagine why…

I spent the night floating between the kitchen and the living room, catching up with family and anyone else who showed up. My uncle had put on enough pounds that he’s starting to resemble Tim Curry, which I found to be awesome. He’s the ‘witty’ one on that side of the family, so we spent the night being wise asses and exchanging barbs at will. I love that guy. D and I have known each other essentially since I was born, and though we don’t see each other nearly as much anymore, we tend to fall back into old brother/sister rhythms for the most part whenever we do get together.

A while later, we were off to home. Mom, Dad, and I had the unfortunate task of wrapping all left over gifts (Not many under the circumstances, but still.) and setting up the stockings (The originals had disappeared, so stockings were actually Santa hats this year.). Since we couldn’t get a tree, we pulled a small gold decorative one from storage that my aunt had given my mother. As far as I’m concerned, with a bit of garland wrapped around the bottom, it worked.

O Christmas Tree, O Really Tiny Christmas Tree...

The three of us were more than happy to pass out by the time it was all over, since Yuletide Zombieism is hardly attractive. So it almost turned out to be a grace that there wasn’t that much to wrap in the first place. Christmas magic at work once again!

We got eight hours before my sisters came around to unceremoniously wake us. (Another instance of “Sara! Time to wake up!”. Does the cruelty ever cease?) After I got up, I helped drag my parents out of bed, and presents were passed around and opened. I was more than happy to pass on this torch to E, since I was too tired to do much more than to sit next to my father and reach for things that were handed to me. It worked.

I won’t go over my haul, it’s not important. But everyone else loved what they got, which made me feel considerably better over not being able to do more. There’s all sorts of sugary life lesson things I could say about that, but I’ll leave that one out too. That’s for the Christmas specials. And maybe some Lifetime movies.

A few hours later, I got started on dinner. Or, given that we ate around two, the exotic beast known only as lupper. Balancing the pizzas, cheesey bread, and rosemary chicken for the salad turned out to be joy that’s a universal thread running through any holiday, I think. But I’m happy to say it went off without a hitch. Everyone loved the food, no one seemed disappointed the dinner wasn’t bigger or Paula Dean-yer. If they were, they were hiding it really well.

After dinner/dessert, there was Mom 3.0’s house for even more food, and even more presents. Originally I wasn’t slated to be at the dinner table, but as S (Mom 3.0’s charming daughter) pointed out “Sara, if you don’t think you’re family by now, then you’re just messed up.” and so it wasn’t a problem.

Of course, their dinner was huge, and a thousand times better than mine. I don’t hold it against them though. Really.

… Sniffle.

Overall, it was a Christmas, and it was a hell of a lot better than I was expecting. My family was happy, my other family was happy to see me, and I didn’t throw myself out the window halfway through cooking the meal.

Am I proud of me? You bet your sweet ass. And am I doing it again anytime soon? You can bet your sweet ass twice that it’s a big, shrieking “NO.”.

But it worked out, and I’m happy. Thus ends the Christmas saga.

How’d it work out for you?