Milestones

Happy Birthday
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What would we have done if we had only eight fingers instead of ten? Would we have lost eight and nine and gone straight from seven to ten? How would we have marked significant milestones that we now note in terms of fives and tens?

These are the questions that popped in my head with so many milestones happening in these current months. I know… How fascinating is it to be inside my head?

Today I turn 43, a nice prime number. Divisible only by itself and one. But less than a month from now is the 25th anniversary of my high school graduation — something that requires five hands to count.

About the same time is the 20th anniversary of me tucking my tail between my legs, dropping out of grad school, and lighting a few bridges from Rock Hill to Greenville as I moved back home.

Then last month, this blog observed its tenth anniversary. No, you didn’t miss the party; I’ve been late throwing one.

Ten years ago, for the second time, I got shuffled out of the writing department at my job because The Powers That Be wanted production instead of creativity. When the creative department was all but dissolved, I got moved back to producing newsletters, again.

When emailing back and forth with a former coworker who had moved to Asheville, I noticed a link in his email signature. I clicked on it and wound up on his own website. I didn’t know it was called a blog, although it was hosted on this site called Blogger. I could have my own website. For free! I could post my own writing? Sign me up!

I felt energized and showed my new site to The Husband and shared my triumph about how I would show them.

And then The Husband said, “You can’t write about work on here?”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, he is the big, fat safety pin to my floating, pink balloon.

“Wha-huh?” I asked.

“You start bitching about work on there and someone finds it and you’re fired.”

So with my bubble burst, I found other things to write about. I had a book of writing prompts, and that was a main source at the beginning. Eventually, I posted other stuff I’d written and talked about my struggles with writing my own fiction, but then this blog sort of turned into a chronicle of my life as well — when I had my gall bladder removed, when my grandmother passed, when I lost my job, when my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma, when our sweet dog, Domino passed, and when Dad lost his battle last summer. From the time I was a teenager, writing was an outlet for frustration and sadness. I suppose it should be no different now.

However, for my 43rd birthday, I have given myself a present. Last night, I posted a very early draft of a story on Wattpad. Yes, I’ve posted some of my own original work on this site before, but Wattpad has thousands of users who will see this story and be able to “like” it as well as comment on it. I have metaphorically split myself open for a public feast, and it’s pretty freakin’ scary.

Click here if you want to read it. It’s a young adult/teen fiction kind of thing, so if you have teenagers, they might like it as well. It’s got language (sorry, Mom). I’d give it a strong PG-13.

It’s a present and a commitment to myself that by the time my 44th birthday rolls around, I will have finished a rough draft of this book that I will edit and eventually put up for sale as an ebook. Because screw the whole traditional process of getting published. I’m tired of waiting.

And I’m sure as hell not getting any younger.

As My Ovaries Lay Dying

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Warning: As noted in the title, this is a discussion about Those Female Lady Parts. So, fellas, if you get squeamish hearing the following words — ovary, period, menstruation, menopause, among others — do yourself a favor and skip this post.

I’ve mentioned before how The Husband and I have had a fair amount of shit shoveled onto our plates over the summer, so the insomnia that started a couple of months ago didn’t surprise me, except it usually consisted of me waking up uncomfortable and sweaty. On the one hand, I’m a hot-natured person. If I say I’m cold, Satan is down in Hell wearing a parka. However, we’ve had an unusually cool-ish summer, and despite sleeping with the ceiling fan running, I still couldn’t cool off.

Then I noticed abnormally emotional bouts with PMS. Someone could raise an eyebrow to me and I’d erupt into tears with, “WHY DO YOU HATE ME?” Monthly cramps came on as strongly as they did during my teenage years, and other odd medical anomalies popped up that made me wonder what the frak was going on.

So I did a search of my symptoms. Yes, I know, it’s like opening Pandora’s Box. A small bump on your finger could be a zit or leprosy. (Don’t pop it! You could lose that finger!) What I kept seeing was the term “perimenopause” — defined by the Mayo Clinic as “the time period during which a woman’s body makes its natural transition toward permanent infertility.” Really, Mayo Clinic? That’s what you want millions of women to read when they can already have an emotional breakdown with the slap of a feather?

Please excuse me while knit myself an afghan to curl up with as I watch Matlock reruns.

I also take issue with the Mayo Clinic’s use of “natural transition” — because these symptoms do not feel natural. Is it really natural to wake up in the middle of the night sweating under a ceiling fan or to suddenly start sobbing because someone asked me to pass the salt?

But, Carla, it can’t be menopause; you’re only 41! Yep, and my mom told me that she started having the same symptoms around the same age. By the time she was 46, her Monthly Visitor had stopped making its regular appearances.

In coming to terms with this phase, (I refuse to call it “The Change.” It’s a change inside the body, not a metamorphosis into some alien-looking creature.) I propose that Hollywood reverse the way it depicts menstruation and menopause. When a girl gets her first period in a TV show or movie, the other women get excited and exclaim, “Oh, you’re a woman now!” Please… My mother did no such thing. If anything, she offered sympathy for the decades of monthly ups and downs ahead of me.

I definitely didn’t feel like a woman when it showed up for the first time — about a month before my twelfth birthday, during my last bathroom trip before going out to wait on the school bus. I still remember standing in the bathroom and shedding the first of many, many, MANY hormonal tears to come. Unable to compose myself in time, I missed my ride, and my mom had to take me to school.

And why does Hollywood love to show a middle-aged woman thinking she’s pregnant only to discover that her missed period is a result of menopause? All that’s missing is the WOMP womp of a horn section. Yes, yes, we can no longer have children. We are as barren as the dessert. We are now permanently infertile. Our biological clocks are deader than Kenny from South Park, you bastards…

There’s also the version of crazy hormonal lady a la Fried Green Tomatoes‘ Evelyn and her alter ego, Towanda. Movies and TV love to portray menopausal women as out of their heads due to their hormones being out of whack, so we end up thinking we need a Ned Stark Internet Meme to warn people.

Menopause

Eh, that’s too tame…

Bat-shit crazy lady

That’s more like it…

What movies and TV need to show are girls experiencing a bummer attitude about having to put up with the ups and downs that come with a monthly cycle. The times they’re caught off guard with their period starting and no feminine hygiene product in sight. The times they’re going to freak out over being late and worry that they’re pregnant. The cramps… Oh, those damn cramps…

However, women finding out they’re perimenopausal need to whoop that shit up. They are almost done with this monthly burden, and it is time to let the champagne flow. Yeah, yeah, they’re biological clocks are sputtering their last breaths, but that doesn’t mean they’ve got one foot in the grave. They’re not any less of a woman just because they don’t have to buy tampons.

I, for one, look forward to sending my Monthly Visitor on a permanent vacation. I will help her pack and drive that bitch to the airport myself.  I’ve eased the bat-shit crazy symptoms by making sure I keep up with regular exercise, and the other women in my family never experienced over-the-top issues with this change. My mom said her “hot flashes” were more like periodic night sweats, so I’m hoping for an average transition.

But y’all pray for The Husband. Just in case Ned Stark is right.

Four Decades

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I turned 40 almost a year ago. That’s right; I’m almost 41 — less than two weeks away as a matter of fact. It still feels weird to say and see in type — not because I necessarily feel old. Although I sometimes do… like when I heard one of my coworkers say she graduated from high school in 2005, I had to sit down and let that sink in. Then I used a cane to get back to my desk.

I started THIS BLOG in 2005 — in April as a matter of fact, so happy eighth anniversary to Sappy Chick.

I suppose I still hold on to the belief that many people do when they hit their 40s — that they should have accomplished more. Sometimes I feel regret that I haven’t worked harder on my writing and pushed to get more fiction published, but I know that there are writers who never published their first novel until they were in their 60s.

Harry: And the kitchen floor? Sally: Not once. It's this very cold, hard Mexican ceramic tile.

Harry: And the kitchen floor?
Sally: Not once. It’s this very cold, hard Mexican ceramic tile.

When I was a teenager, I thought my adult years would seem more glamorous. I was 17 when I saw When Harry Met Sally, and I thought Meg Ryan’s character was so sophisticated — even if she was also quirky and  OCD. I wanted to be that woman: living in New York, writing for the New Yorker, strolling around those iconic NYC neighborhoods, having the guy I was friends with but also harbored deeper feelings for confess that he couldn’t live without me — on New Year’s Eve at midnight, no less. (Faking an orgasm in the middle of a crowded deli was an act I was never brave enough to do, though.)

That movie, as well as most others, don’t show the less glamorous side of being an adult — the humdrum of grocery shopping, watching your bank account dwindle down after paying the bills for the week, the job interviews you go on and never hear from again. All those scenes end up on the cutting room floor — or a montage.

Eventually, I realized that I’m not the NYC type. I like my mild winters with little snow, and when we traveled to Chicago in 2004, I realized after four days that I missed looking out the window and seeing a back yard. Nora Ephron, however, remained a writing hero of mine.

I’ve entertained the idea of grad school for the past couple of years. I think my interest peaked when I started working in a post-secondary setting. I told my mom some of my goals of trying to attend a low-residency MFA program for creative writing — what was involved, what the program was like, why I wanted to go, among other stuff — and she said, “Don’t you wish you had done something like this ten years ago?”

Much love to my mother — who I know did not necessarily mean her question to sound as if she thought I was too old to go back to school — but ouch!

Sure some snot-nosed teenager is always going to be around scoring some multi-million book deal off some from something they posted on the internet (Jealous? Me? Heavens, no…), but I believe that my life experiences are helping me (and will continue to help me) write deeper stories. I think there’s something to the ability to look back upon what’s been gained and lost, loved and hurt, accomplished and failed that adds much more relatability. (Yes, I know that’s not a real word.) The advice of writing what you know doesn’t always apply to the main plot.

It’s not such a stretch to think that I’ve got lots of writing years ahead of me. Nora Ephron had the bulk of her movie making years in her late 30s and beyond — including an Oscar nomination for When Harry Met Sally, and writing the classic Sleepless in Seattle. So at 41 (almost), I definitely wouldn’t mind having what she had.