Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump never helped me toilet paper a house.
For the past two months, I have been straddling the past and present, just barely keeping my balance.
For better or worse, human memory has no over-write function. There’s no software update. New files don’t replace old ones. All the memories co-exist. We are able to consider multiple moments, all at once, in a way that feels the same as current events.
So I can mourn the passing of a legendary family friend while hearing his laugh. I can attend the funeral of my Dad’s childhood pal, while still expecting to see him two weeks later when we walk into Bob Evans for breakfast.
I can attend four different birthday parties for people in their 80s and still be at the kids’ table.
I can watch a young woman get married and recall the day she was born. (I will do that today.)
And tomorrow? Tomorrow, I will attend my nephew Alex’ party—to celebrate that he has graduated from high school.
And, bam!, my balance fails. And I am tumbling back and back and back.
Right here and now:
- I can feel the tiny weight of him in the crook of my arm, that night I drove to Maryland to say hello.
- We are on the dock in Stoneboro, dangling his feet into Sandy Lake.
- He is snuggled on my lap watching A Bug’s Life after a tough evening of building blanket tents.
- There is nothing funnier in the whole world than him and his sister feeding me cold, mushy French fries.
- We are Trick or Treating.
- He is making pun after pun after pun, having learned that there is a Simpsons character called “a-pooh.”
- I am learning to play Super Mario and he is so much better at it than I am.
- I am hugging him goodnight and he is, suddenly, quite tall.
- I am wrapping his graduation gift and thinking about him going off to college.
I tumble back again.
He is sitting on the floor and has tucked himself in behind the kitchen table . . . because the whale is about to swallow Pinocchio in the living room.
I can see urgency in that sweet little face. I see him waving me in.
And the whale has swallowed me whole. I am out of my depth, blinking back the sea.
Sometimes, in the resurfacing of a memory, you find treasure.
As I scrunched and scooched into that hiding spot beside him, I was there because I didn’t want him to be afraid. I was being an Aunt. I was being a grown-up. When he turned to me—I see it so clearly—he looked happy, relieved, conspiratorial. He did not look like a boy who was in need of protection. He looked like he was relieved to see that I was hiding also. He was glad that I had understood his warning.
We are sitting there, and he is telling me, in whispers, about the whale. He is telling me this is a good spot. He is telling me it will be okay in a little while.
And, of course, it is going to be okay. He’s going to be fine at college.
And just as soon as I’m able, I’m going crawl out from behind the table and tie a bow on the present.
Came across this Facebook post today and thought it worth sharing. (Well said, Melissa. Thank you.)
I sometimes fear the world overall is losing its capacity for common sense, critical thought, and empathy. I hope that is not the case. I hope it is just the nature of social media: that we are exposed to so many millions of people, there are bound to be some really awful ones in the mix. I fear for children growing up in the midst of it, where such behavior could be seen as an example of what is proper, what is okay as a member of society, what is funny. It worries me. But perhaps that is age creeping up on me, for it is, after all, the elders’ job to worry about those coming next — not because we’re better than they are but because we love them so fiercely.
I do not claim perfection, in life or on Facebook. So please know I do not share this to preach at anybody but rather as an important reminder for us all. The human brain is capable of a multitude of thoughts: simultaneous, swarming, soaring, nasty, beautiful, ugly, diverse thoughts. Being a decent human being doesn’t mean you never have a bad thought; it means you have learned what not to share.
Peace & Love.
A month or so ago, I completed a new book, Dare To Be Happy (more on that below). Just before I sent off the final file, I thought it would be fun to include a note sending people to see more at my very own, Big Girl (not just for free blogging) website. And I added a reference to an at-the-time non-existent, domain-name-only website while thinking, It will take a couple of days to create the website. It will be fun.
Other than this blog (which was very simple to set up) I have never created a website on my own, without the aid of people like designers, developers, or IT experts.
Now, this is not me bragging about being brave or smart or talented. This is me trying to explain my absence from blogging. This is me trying to explain a lapse—no, no, not a lapse. This is me trying to explain a full-on, tequila shots, Evil Knievel blindfolded, toddler on the stairs, Cannonball! leap into insanity.
I have not worked so intensely since my 20s or learned so much since grade school. For the past month or so, I’ve been working 72-day weeks, 159 hours a day. Old dog stumbling through new tricks. Dashing down blind allies in search of a pinata. Long walks on short piers. Bit by bit by bit building a website.
It was a labor of love. (As in, that big big love when you fall first-site, head-over-heels with that guy who is so wonderful at first and then starts to mess with your head and treat you like complete crap until you say you’re leaving and then he’s so dang sweet about begging you to stay that, like a fool, you stay and you’re so happy because you think it was a breakthrough moment and things seem great and you realize that you were right about thinking he’s a good guy underneath all the jackassery, and then 5 minutes later you’re miserable again and all your friends tell you he’s not worthy but you keep hoping and you spend a lot of time crying or banging your head off the wall but you survive on the little moments until you finally, finally, say, “This is bullshit!” and walk away.)
Yeah. It was a labor of love. But the process was fun at times. Well, maybe fun isn’t the word. It was cool. (No.) It’s all pretty amazing really. (Nope.) It was satisfying. (Uh, not really.) It was an educational experience. (Zzzzzzzzzz.)
Well, anyway, it’s done. I have the beginning of website that I like. And it functions all right as far as I know.
It is bethaschmidt.com. (I may merge this blog with that site sometime in the future, but, right now, I don’t have a clue how to do that, and I’m taking a little break from the joys of learning.)
Take a peek if you’d like.
The main reason for launching it was as a companion to the new book. So I should probably share some info on that, too:
Dare To Be Happy (Inspiration for Girls Growing Up. And Women Who Don’t Want To.) is now on sale via amazon.
This paperback gift book (8×6, 56 pages, $10) is a collection of quotes, notes, warnings, and wisdom, some from famous people and some from me, including a few excerpts that came from Life Preservers posts.
Cheers, and thanks for reading.
Whether you believe the story of this day to be fact, fable, or fantasy, it is a day worth celebrating because Easter is about that rare and wonderful thing we see too little of in life (and religion): Pure Joy.
Easter is the one official day of the year designated to remind us that miracles can happen. It is about being brave in the face of the impossible. It is a tale about friendship, loyalty, and love. It is about being true to what matters to you.
Easter is the day to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. It is sunrise after the darkest night. It is the beautiful surprise of happiness after deepest sorrow. This is a day that reminds us all: No matter what — no matter how you struggle, no matter what you face, no matter how terrified you may be — you can always, always, always find hope in tomorrow.
And that’s a pretty good day. That’s a life preserver.
He is risen. It is spring. There is goodness in the world. Happy Easter.
Photo may not be used without permission. © Beth A. Schmidt. All rights reserved.
Rarer than a birthday wish, more enchanting than a New Year kiss, less varmint-y than the beginning of this month: Leap Day.
It’s an extra day. A rare day. An abnormal day. A not-quite-real day. It’s the un-cola of days. It’s the Brigadoon of days.
It’s a disorderly day. An odds-and-ends day. A day to acknowledge the imperfect way in which the world goes ’round.
And that’s worth celebrating.
I highly recommend taking the day off. But, if that’s not (are you absolutely certain it’s not?) possible, try to work some disorder and silliness into your day. Legend has it that how you spend Leap Day portends your frivolity levels for the next four years. Ignore it at your peril.
Mark this day with hijinks, shenanigans, treats, and a touch of chaos. Fly your freak flag. Wear the Sponge Bob tie. Put a slice of baloney in each of your shoes.
Car, bus, or train, commute in Groucho glasses.
Order the whipped cream. Get the giant-size mocha. Tell the barista your name is something it isn’t.
Host a paper airplane contest in Cubeville. Sneak out of a seminar to go bowling.
Go out for lunch. Go out for a long lunch. Try a crazy food. Drink champagne. Buy lottery tickets. Visit the toy store. If you must go to the gym, do cannonballs.
Goof off as much as possible and, when the workday is done, run for the door. One absolutely mustn’t work late on Leap Day. Spend these extraordinary hours with people you like.
Have something random and yummy for dinner, like peanut butter and jelly or French fries or a pint of ice cream. Recite poetry. Tell jokes. Talk with your mouth full.
Dance in the living room, watch a classic comedy, round up your neighbors for some Kick the Can.
Laugh a lot. Stay up too late. Enjoy every minute.
Because, when that clock strikes twelve, we’ll be back on course, behaving ourselves, masquerading as normal.
I used to say, If I win the lottery, I’ll buy a tropical island and live there in sunny bliss with a couple of gorgeous cabana boys. Today, the 22nd of January, 2016, with snow piling up outside, I announce to you this official change to my Lottery Winning Prospectus:
If I win the lottery, I will buy a bowling alley.
I just found out that Route 19 Bowling Center (the place where I currently bowl) will be gone in a few months. Done. Gone. Bulldozed. For a mall.
I like that bowling alley. I like bowling. I like bowling night.
Bowling is a family-friendly, date-friendly, friend-friendly, clutz-friendly, age-friendly outing. It’s an inexpensive bit of fun. It’s a stress-free escape. It’s a place where everybody gets a level playing field, and being average is perfectly all right.
I’m a single person who works from home. Bowling night is a life preserver. On bowling night, I get to leave the house. I get to knock down pins, knock back a couple of brewskis, hang with my friends, and laugh a full week’s worth. Bowling is the last vestige of Younger Days, when nights out were almost nightly. It is also the near end of a thread that weaves back even farther, to my earliest childhood . . . if an unsanctioned four-year-old wearing no shoes, standing at the foul line, and dropping a 12-pound ball onto a big toe can be considered bowling.
That cherished moment took place at the Mt. Royal Bowling Alley in Glenshaw, an alley within walking distance of where I grew up. It’s where I won my first bowling trophy.
I should note that (A) it was a mother-daughter tournament with the winning score based on a combined total; (B) my mom is a really good bowler; and (C) it’s where I won my only bowling trophy. But I broke 80 that day, my mom kicked butt, and we took first place. In the tangled jungle of my aging brain, that moment is a sun-drenched clearing. Unadulterated joy. Vainglorious triumph. In my mind, that bowling alley is perfectly preserved.
In real life, it’s a drug store.
Folks in the North Hills of Pittsburgh will also remember another once-great bowling alley: McKnight Lanes. That building is now a Bed, Bath, and Beyond. (I still stick out my tongue anytime I drive by.)
McKnight Lanes is where I bowled in my first league and enjoyed many happy, silly times as a kid, a teenager, and a young adult. I broke in my very own bowling ball there in the late ’70s. It is actually the same ball I used right up until a couple of months ago when it was, well, broken in completely. (See photo to fully appreciate bad pun.)
Mount Royal Lanes. McKnight Lanes. And now, Route 19 Bowling Center. The three main places I have bowled, gone, gone, and going soon.
I am bummed. I am sad. I am disappointed with the world.
I want to wail like a four-year-old with a bowling ball on her foot.
Yeah, I know. Time rolls on. Things change. And, while I kind of adore the tradition and kitsch of bowling, it’s not the everyman activity it used to be. I know not everybody loves bowling. But do we really need another mall?
No. We do not.
We need more bowling alleys. Bowling alleys with cabana boys.