B&E Queen

I learned how to break into front doors in college.  I’m very irresponsible with keys.  My mom will tell you.  She told every one of my college roommates before she even introduced herself.  “Hi, you must be (insert name of psychotic college roommate of choice).  Stacey is very irresponsible with keys.  Oh, I’m her mom.  Nice to meet you.”

So the skill came in handy when I needed to break back into my dorm room after a shower, say, or when I’d left my bag of pot books inside.  I’d like to make it clear right now that I’ve never, ever used this skill for nefarious or otherwise illicit reasons.  It’s only ever been used to break into my own residence – or the residence of someone who explicitly asked me to do it for them in a pinch – in an attempt to retrieve my (their) own things, or just to sit the eff down because I’m eight months pregnant and it’s god damned cold outside.

It’s never taken me more than ten minutes before.  So to the following useless tools of B&E I’d like to say “blow me:”

  • Stems of plastic flower arrangement
  • Wires inside stems of plastic flower arrangement
  • Various thicknesses of cardboard
  • Zip tie
  • Wreath hanger
  • Shingle that blew off my roof
  • Piece of extra thick sandpaper
  • Errant chunk of siding
  • Kid who sent my husband a box of Hot Wheels with postage fucking due, necessitating my leaving the house to go settle up with the mail carrier in the first place.  You, sir, are the biggest tool of all!

Also, to the lid of the pint of strawberries in the garbage beside my door:  Bless your clear little plastic heart.  You may be the bane of the environmental movement, but you will forever be special to me.  =)


I am finally, finally done with the painting project in the nursery.  Did I mention finally?  Because I’m finally done.  I always have these grand ideas and then about halfway through bringing them to fruition I realize that I have commitment issues.  And then I wind up with half a project painted on my wall and zero motivation to finish.  In order to complete this one, I realized, I needed to work on it in the mornings and evenings.  My husband’s man cave, where he spends his mornings before work and his evenings before bed, is in the back part of the nursery.  The poor bastard got no alone time because I could only work on it when he was there to keep me company.  Otherwise I just got mega bored.

But I did finally finish and the project taught me a few things about life.  They are:

1)  Perfection is a myth.  It is also irrelevant.

There are flaws all over the place in that project.  Where it says “You is kind?”  Yeah, I had to literally reprime and repaint the swirls and stars yellow and start them over from scratch.  The wall is still shiny where I made the mistake, from the non-uniform extra coat.  But only I know it.  And if I don’t point it out to everyone who walks in the room, it’s going to stay that way.  Where it says “You is smart?”  Little tiny pencil marks everywhere that had to be covered up with yet another coat of yellow wall paint.  And guess what?  Even the camera couldn’t tell.  You can see, where it says “You is important,” that I messed up some of the lettering.  Also, “You is smart” is a lot thinner than the rest of the lettering.  Also, I wound up putting the swirls in the exact same position on “You is kind” as I did on “You is important.”  And when I sit in the chair on the other side of the room and drink my morning coffee and deny my husband his alone time I don’t even care because, taken together, the whole thing looks so cool.  The fact is that no one could have painted that project any better than I did.  The point is not that it’s perfect.  The point is that I invested my time in it.  It taught me how to slow down and relax rather than rush for the finish line.  And every time I look at it I can be proud of it, instead of just admiring it.  And that’s why I love it.

2)  It’s easier if you’re enjoying it.  So if you’re not, take a break and come back later.

Did it feel good to have my changing table pulled into the middle of the room and a mess of random paintbrushes, paints, paper stencils and pencils scattered about the room?  No.  It irritated the piss out of me.  But I learned with the first rushed brush stroke that this was not a project I was going to be able to finish quickly.  It was going to take layers and layers of patient strokes.  It was going to take a couple of weeks, given the amount of time I can reasonably stand in one spot before my feet just explode.  And every time I got angry at the project I started to dislike everything about it.  I began to think about just giving up and painting yellow over everything and just saying to hell with the entire thing.  So I’d drop my brush and growl at the ceiling and then look back at the penciled on design and I loved it.  I loved the design. The thought of a plain yellow wall in its place, particularly a plain yellow wall underneath which was such a cool design, made me sad.  So I’d drop everything, clean out my brushes, cap my paints and give it up.  Sometimes for the entire day.  That’s why it took me two weeks to finish.  But when I finished it this morning I had no hard feelings toward it.  What’s more, it became easier to stay in the lines with the lettering and the filling in of the stars.  The less I stressed out about it the more enjoyable it became.  And sometimes the only way to stop stressing about it was just to walk away from it altogether.

3)  Everything looks better from a few steps away.

Now, I did edit the full photo that I’m sharing on here, but only because I was trying to get the colors to come more true, and also because I liked the softened, vignette look.  But it’s true.  You can see the flaws in the lettering and line work in each of the close up photos.  In the faraway one, the lettering matches the book cover flawlessly and the whole thing looks, in my opinion, pretty damn cool.  Sometimes, in order to see things better we just need to be a little farther away from them.

4)  Even the most heinous mistake can be fixed if you take the time to fix it.

I was originally using paint pens to color the initial stencil design.  Yeah.  Bad idea.  The colors were jacked and watery.  There was no way I’d be able to trace the scrollwork, even with the finest tip of the pen.  While it would have been quicker and easier with a super fine tipped paint pen than with a flimsy craft brush and some cheap paint, it wound up looking one million times better when I accepted the idea of using the flimsy brush and investing the time, rather than investing money and buying the pens.  I got through the lettering on “You is kind,” one star, and one line of scrollwork before I realized that this was shaping up to be a royal disaster.  I put the cap on the paint pen and panicked.  I left the room, came back.  Nope.  Still looked like complete shit.  Oh, and I forgot to mention, the color I’d originally picked for the filigree and stars?  Black.  Yep.  A yellow wall scarred with all-wrong black paint pen marks.  Life seemed pretty hopeless in that moment.  And then I realized that we had leftover yellow paint and my stepfather is a contractor.  My basement is thus filled with a cornucopia of high-hide primers that are designed for just such occasions.  Also, hiding pen marks on a wall?  I’m about to have twins.  I’d better get good at that.  It cost me the entire first day of painting – you know:  The day you actually feel motivated to work on the project?  Yeah.  All that first day motivation had been trampled.  But I discovered that it’d been replaced with a much slower burning motivation to finish well rather than the motivation to finish fast.

5)  It’s actually pretty cool, if you accept its flaws.

Back to the beginning.  If you’re looking at a project – or your life – through a high powered microscope of scrutiny, you need to stop.  Step away from it.  Just back up a few steps.  Four did the trick for me.  Four steps back and a blink of the eye and I realized that what had looked hopelessly slathered before was, actually, pretty damn amazing.  My impatient ass had managed to create exactly what my brain had dreamed up.  Even with the flaws, the colors outside the lines, the shaky scrollwork and the too-dark stars, I’d managed to make something that, when viewed fairly, as anyone aside from myself might view it, was so damn cool I couldn’t believe I’d created it!  Be fair when you’re judging your work.  Take your inner critic over your knee, give her a spanking (not like that, you naughty bastard), and send her to her room for a while.  She’s being a bitch.

An Ex-Pothead’s Letter to her Younger Self

I’m ripping off this writing prompt.

Dear Twenty-Year-Old Stacey,

Put down the pipe.  Step away from the buds.  You look…like an ass hat.  Some people are capable of smoking a little weed every now and then and still managing the requirements of life.  You are not.

In a few months you’re going to get busted for having a pipe in your car.  You’re going to spend thirty days in jail.  You’re going to fail out of school and have a gigantic loan to pay off.

You are not responsible for anything that’s going on at home.  You moved an hour and a half away so that you wouldn’t have to watch certain people crash and burn.  So stop worrying about them.  It should be the other way around.  Don’t go home every weekend.  Stay at school.  Read.  Study.  Do the work you’re capable of doing.  Don’t major in Psychology.  Take a few classes, if you want.  You like the theory classes.  But you don’t want to practice and you know it.  Start writing.  Keep writing.  You can’t write when you’re stoned and all those fabulous ideas you have when you are stoned?  Yeah.  They suck.

Know what else sucks?  Most of the people that you’re hanging around with.  They’re not bad people, in general, but they’re bad for you and the reason you feel like you don’t fit in with them is because you don’t.  Don’t be so afraid of being a loser.  The losers are actually pretty cool.  You should have learned this already.  I shouldn’t have to sound like an after school special.  You should have watched enough after school specials by now to know that all the cheese and corn that seeps from them is, in fact, essentially true.

You’re going to leave Edinboro with a lot more problems than you arrived with.  But you’re also going to leave with a really, really priceless friend.  So when she starts talking to you at the elevator on your floor and doesn’t shut up about the sorority she’s pledging until you both get to the Psych hall, let her talk.  Smile and nod.  Be polite.  She will convince you that not all women are incarnations of Satan.  She is going to be there for you when your boyfriend cheats on you.  She’s going to be there when your life starts to fall apart.  She’s going to be there when you get out of jail.

Eight years from now, when you get married, she’s going to be your maid of honor.  She’s going to have her son two months before you have your daughters.  And that brings us up to speed, but you can believe that she’s going to be there for every major life event for the rest of your life.  She’s going to be the one person that you don’t wind up on bad terms with.  Hopefully, there will be more of those people, but if there never are you can bet your ass there will be her.

Yeah.  Things do eventually look better.  Enjoy finishing your undergraduate degree.  But do it faster.  Don’t waste so much time.  You’re racking up bills that you and your husband are going to be paying off for what will feel like forever.  You’ll feel guilty over them.  You’ll wish you’d taken some time off between high school and college but, sad to say, if you hadn’t started smoking weed in high school you’d have blown through college on time if not early.

Then again, I can’t tell you where you’d be if things hadn’t happened the way they did.  You’d owe less money, that’s for sure.  But you may not have met your best friend.  You may not have married the first boy you ever dated after all those years wandering far from home.  You may not be having twins.  You certainly wouldn’t be the type of mom who can tell them from personal experience why they shouldn’t do the things you warn them not to do.  I know that right now you don’t think you want kids.  But if you’re really honest with yourself don’t you have to admit that you only think that because you’re afraid you’ll fail at motherhood the way you’re failing at everything else?

I have to say it again:  You’re failing because you’re hiding behind the pipe instead of trying to succeed.  As long as you’re that pothead that lives on the sixth floor you don’t have to be an industrious student.  You don’t have to be a competent adult.  You don’t have to be a whole person.  Quit being such a whiny little bitch.  Put down the pipe.  Fail for real, not just for lack of trying.

The Produce Section

Today, in the produce section, I was simultaneously praised for keeping my babies (although I never considered not keeping my babies) and verbally flogged for being different.  Yeah.  The produce section is hard fucking core.

I really want to share the story with you but first I need to set the stage.  My town.  My town is in Pennsylvania.  My town has a population of approximately 9,800.  We are above Pittsburgh, and the river that runs through my town meets another river in Pittsburgh to make the Ohio River.  My town is the seat of my county.  It is situated in the middle of a national forest.  My town is beautiful – starting just outside of town.  In town, however, there is an oil refinery, which is my next door neighbor.  My end of my town smells, depending on the temperature, weather, and day, like fish, rotten eggs, or the fires of Hell itself.  It’s really not that noticeable once you get used to it.  Just outside of my town is a dam.  The dam creates a lake.  Beneath the lake lies what used to be the Allegheny Reservation.  Six hundred members of the Seneca Tribe were forced to move from the land, onto which European Americans had forced them in the first place, by John F. Kennedy in 1961.  Also displaced by construction of the dam were two small villages and a hamlet.  These people were forced out of their homes so that the entire area could be flooded.  This happened six miles from my house.  The residents of my town are 98 percent white, according to the 2000 Census.  According to the same Census, the two largest age groups in my town are under 18 and 25 to 44.  Males tended to make a median income of 32,000 per year.  Women made a median income of 22,000.  The average family income was 41,000 per year.  That’s not a lot of money, folks, but it’s more than my family makes.  Also, keep in mind that nearly 11 percent of the population in 2000 was below the poverty line.

There are a few big names in town, and those names are attached to people with lots of money.  There are many, many dirty names in town.  Those names are attached to people with lots of arrests, drug problems or legacies of poverty.  If your name is famous in my town, either for money or lack thereof, it will influence how you are treated on a daily basis.  Everyone doesn’t know everyone in my town, but if everyone knows your name they’re going to assume they know you.  And if they know the rumors associated with you they’re going to assume they know the truth.

No one knows my name.  I like it that way.  Some people know some of my relatives’ names.  I try to keep anyone from finding out that we’re related.

The overall atmosphere of my town is one of thinly veiled xenophobia and conservatism.  People in my town are mainly white, mainly republican, mainly racist and mainly fans of silly things like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.  I speak not from blind judgment, but from experience.  I once brought a boyfriend home from college to celebrate a family event.  He was black.  I’m white.  As we walked into the hotel where we were staying, he received three separate threats – one of hanging, one of shooting and one of drowning.

So, stage set.  Let me give you a bit of character background.

I have tattoos.  They are visible.  My left lower arm, from the elbow down, is covered in tattoos.  My right arm has two on the back of my wrist.  My chest is covered.  None of my tattoos are suggestive, insulting, judgmental or otherwise untoward.  On my chest, above my heart, I wear a banner that says “Thanatos.”  On the other side of my collarbone I wear a banner that says “Eros.”  The rest of my artwork consists mainly of forties style birds, stars, nautical themes and some black shading.  I have my upper lip pierced with a small, clear diamond stud.  I wear black glasses.  My nails are clean.  My hair is clean.  I’m wearing a tee shirt, black 3/4 length sleeved sweater, and a pair of olive green canvas pants.  I smile at others.  I say “excuse me” and “thank you.”  I’m carrying a green reusable shopping bag.  I’m looking for a pint of strawberries that’s not turning black.

I’m approached by a woman with white curly hair.  I look over, say “hello.”  She gives me the once over and snorts.  She reaches in front of me and takes a pint of strawberries and starts to leave.  She turns around.

“How far along are you,” she asks, eyeballing my Sneetch belly.  I place my hand there.  She sees I’m not wearing a wedding ring.  Doesn’t realize that it’s only because my fingers are so swollen.  I tell her that I’m eight months.  “Well,” she says, rolling her cart to the other side of the produce rack and picking up a package of raisins, “at least you’re keeping it.”

“Them,” I say.  “I’m keeping them.”

“Twins?”  She touches her chest.  I hope she doesn’t have some sort of cardiac episode.  I really don’t need everyone looking at me as though I gave her some sort of bad mojo.  I nod.  “Lord have mercy,” she says.  My brows knit together.  It’s not intentional.  It’s just a natural reaction when I don’t understand the direction a conversation has taken.  “Hopefully you have a good family that can help you,” she says, shaking her head.

“I have lots of help,” I say.  I’m stunned.

She puts down a package of dried cranberries and looks right at me.  “You’re not going to be able to work,” she says.

“My husband works.”  Why am I telling her this?  Why do I feel the need to justify myself?  Why is my internal censor so incredibly functional?  There are so many things roiling in my head just clamoring to get out of my mouth that none of them can seem to find their footing.

“Oh you’re married,” she says, looking again at my naked ring finger.  I nod.  My brain screams at me, go look at peaches! Cereal!  You need milk!  Milk is at the other end of the store, for fuck’s sake!  Abort!  Abort!  Run!  I stand there.  My cheeks are hot.  “At least there’s that.”

And then she’s gone.  Just turns away and heads for the mushrooms, still shaking her head.  I finish my shopping and leave, suddenly aware again of the sideways glances and whispered remarks that I’d grown so accustomed to that I’d failed to notice for quite some time.  I notice, too, that the kid in front of me buying Mountain Dew and a bag of candy with his food stamp card isn’t of any interest to anyone.  I notice that the girl in bright pink pajama pants with a greasy ponytail, sores on her face, black teeth – a sign that she’s a skin picker when she’s smoking meth – draws no attention whatsoever.  I’m sad that I’ve become so used to being so blatantly judged that I stopped noticing it.  I’m sad, too, that it’s okay in this town to let oneself go, forfeiting any attempt at personal hygiene, but that having tattoos and a lip ring makes one a sideshow.

I’m sad that such a beautiful part of the country is plagued by such an ugly little town.