The Hawk

Today, I was cruising along on my way to get my post-work Starbies (a venti iced cocoa cloud macchiato, if you wondered) when a flutter of feathers caught my eye. I directed my gaze just in time to watch a majestic hawk swoop down from atop a telephone pole and snatch a poor, furry creature – either a chipmunk or a squirrel, not sure which – up off the ground, and then fly away to enjoy the spoils.

So, basically… I witnessed a murder.

But, after I processed the trauma of seeing my second brutal rodent death (the first was a squirrel vs. van incident), I got to thinking. I felt bad for the rodent, of course – it didn’t deserve a grisly death, even though that’s the way of the world. It was just trying to scurry through some tall grass and find some seeds or nuts for lunch. But I think I also felt a kinship with it.

In certain elements of my life, I am more rodent than hawk. More discreet, meek, and aiming to squeak by unnoticed. The kind of creature that gets swooped on, scooped up, and made a meal of. Who fearfully watches the skies for any sign of talons, and hides from the shadow of wings overhead.

But, as I grow and learn, I am trying to be more like the hawk. I don’t want to be someone who snatches up and preys on the innocents, however. No… but someone who is keen-eyed, goal-oriented, and sharp. Who sees what they want and goes for it, even if it takes great patience to accomplish. Who strives for results and is not afraid to reach for them, even in the face of potential failure. To be feared, instead of fearful.

There is value in the way of the rodent – learning to be quiet, and to listen. To be watchful and mindful of others. But similarly, there is value in the way of the hawk – learning to be patient, but driven. To be strong-willed and willing to strike to achieve results. So maybe, the best way is to be a bit of both. Not quite feared, but not too fearful.

Or, you know…. just be a bear and hibernate for months at a time, or something.

 

 

Cyclical

Working in retail, you start to notice things about fashion… and the number one thing is that fashion is cyclical. Something deemed “unfashionable” one year can come back into style the next. Like, gel sandals are back in for reasons totally beyond my comprehension.

What’s in right now? From the stock I’ve seen come in, high-waisted jeans. Tie-front tops. Mismatching patterns. Crop tops. Bold colors. Animal print. Tie-dye. Paper bag waists. Ringer tees. Anything deemed “vintage.” Mom jeans. Tapered jeans.

Customers often complain to me because we stopped carrying a specific style of jean some years ago, but now, it’s coming back into fashion. Because it’s still available online, people buy them that way, but if they don’t fit, they bring them back to the store. Due to returns, I have enough pairs of them to create an entire fixture, yet we technically don’t carry them in store.

The biggest one I have noticed is the brand Champion, which primarily sells athletic apparel. The place I work has sold Champion for longer than I’ve worked there. Personally, I’ve always viewed it as a solid brand. Not as flashy as Nike, not as prestigious as Under Armour. The older generation would often stray toward it because of the cinch-bottom pants, lower cost, and reliability. The younger generation would turn their nose up at it because it was “uncool.” I buy their workout shirts because they fit nice.

Now, watching folks trickling in over the past few weeks for back to school shopping, I’ve seen more teenage boys try on and buy Champion apparel than ever before. I can’t get rid of the billions of Nike graphic tees that have been sent, but I can’t keep Champion on the shelves. And what they can’t find in the store, they find and buy online. It’s remarkable to me, how quickly the brand went from “lame” to the hottest brand in the eyes of teens and trend setters. I’ve even seen celebrities wearing Champion hoodies!

It’s wild to me, how quickly things change, and opinion shifts. Brands fall out of favor while others surge in popularity. Makes me want to stick to plain tee shirts and jeans – can’t go wrong that way.

And even if your clothes aren’t “fashionable” any more, but you don’t want to part with them… just hang on for a couple of years, and the cycle may swing back around.

Skim

When people judge me for my taste in clothes, I can brush it off. When I am judged for my weeaboo past, I don’t let it bug me. When I am judged for my choices in film, books, or television, I ignore it. But finally, I have been judged for something that really got under my skin.

I have been…. milk shamed.
You see, when I was a kid, I genuinely believed there was only one kind of milk. I thought milk was just milk – I didn’t understand why it tasted differently whenever I went to my best friend’s house. I thought the milk at her house tasted like it should have been served as dessert. I only later realized that it was because they drank whole milk, and the whole wide world of milk was brought to my attention. Now, we even have milk that doesn’t come from a cow at all!
But I grew up on skim milk. Drank it with every dinner, in my cereal, with cookies, and sometimes just a cup by itself as a refreshment. It is only recently that I became aware that skim milk is held in poor regard by many, and the negative reactions to it surprise me – especially because I genuinely enjoy skim milk, and still drink it, even now, when I am able to make my own dairy choices.

I’m so used to skim milk that I never felt like it was out of the ordinary. But while chatting with some coworkers last week, I mentioned that my milk of choice was skim, and my words were met with outrage and incredulity. Apparently, to some folks, skim milk is the equivalent of some sort of vile scum. I was ruthlessly attacked for drinking such “swill.” But I love it! My bones are fine, I’m not calcium deficient. To me, whole milk tastes far too rich for every day consumption – but I won’t ever milk shame someone over it, if that’s their milk of choice.

Skim milk is milk too, my friends. I will drink whatever milk I want, and should be able to do so in peace. As should everyone.

This Child

So, I know I do this a lot, but I just stumbled upon an old poetry assignment from high school… based upon the first Walt Whitman poem I ever read. I thought it was lost, but it was on an old flash-drive I recently dug up. Considering the huge effect that Walt Whitman’s poems have had on me since then, it feels like a gift to have rediscovered it.

My classmates and I were told to write our own poems based on Walt Whitman’s poem, “There was a child went forth everyday,” but to shape it around our own lives, and it had to end with Whitman’s own words, which I will italicize. I was 15/16 when I wrote it… might take a crack and writing a new one sometime, to reflect new experiences.

For Olde Poetry Monday, enjoy!

This Child

Doctors and white walls were a part of this child,
Needles in arms and IV’s in foreheads,
A bit of blood turned into life-saving power,
For one tiny, incubated figure,
Too frail to even utter a cry,
And as the years went on, the scar grew smaller,
Serving only to gently remind
Of painful days and cold linoleum.

Summerville was a part of this child,
The town where the sun never died,
Shoes weren’t needed, and southern drawls summoned,
From across the street,
This child’s head was filled,
With impossible dreams of otters,
And pretending that the backyard was some far-off land,
Though the boat she made out of cardboard
Never floated anywhere,
She was happy.

Books and rain-streaked windows were a part of this child,
This child, who sat in her closet for hours,
Wishing that she could find Narnia.
She thought that simply howling at the moon would make her a wolf,
And even though it was only a game,
She really thought was the World’s Greatest Pokemon Trainer.
And that she and her blonde-haired best friend,
Really could fly when they sat on the swingset,
And flung their shoes out over the mulch to see whose went the furthest.

Soccer fields were a part of this child,
A checkered ball hammered into the left corner,
And cleats smudged by mud and dew-kissed grass,
The freedom to run from white line to white line,
Avoiding elbows and knees, ignoring harsh words,
Enduring practice in sweltering heat,
Striving to become worthy of that pale green jersey,
And the number ‘3,’ emblazoned in white,
In the end, the cleats proved too big.
And she traded the jersey in for a pen and paper.

Terrified screams were a part of this child,
Being chased by the Licorice at Hershey Park,
Pursuing a hug that she did not want to relinquish,
To some creep in red and white, with a never-fading smile.
But screams turned into peals of laughter,
During remembered hours of hide-and-seek,
Out on the lake, fishing with Dad in the grey of the morning,
Setting the bass free that was meant to be breakfast.
And at sleepovers, when staying up until 11:00 was an incredible feat,
And we waited for the first girl to fall victim to sleep,
So her face could be decorated,
With the vibrant colors of a marker box.

Awkward silences were a part of this child,
A struggle to fit in, once moving vans carried a cherished friend away,
And the halls grew longer, the crowds heavier,
But friends were made at last, and kept,
The ‘See you soon’s’ written in the yearbooks became sincere,
And the taunts became distant echoes,
No longer heard in her ears.
Instead, laughter rang out in summer nights,
As fireworks crackled in the driveway,
Car rides down Friendship Avenue became adventures,
And text messages almost always exceeded 160 words.

Accidents were a part of this child,
Taking a horseshoe to the head,
Running headlong into a telephone pole,
That day, the race wasn’t much,
The competition poor,
But she ran her hardest, regardless of a sure-thing,
The steps were miscalculated,
But the baton left her palm,
Her feet left the red rubber,
The race won, but something else lost,
The only standing ovation she ever received,
Rang in her ears, even in the Emergency Room.

Boston was a part of this child,
Golden ducks at Boston Commons,
And free chocolate bars from the cute guy at Starbucks,
A house shared between 12 teens and 3 adults,
Attempting to share 3 bathrooms.
Something was found on the grey-paved streets,
Floating on the cold, salty Atlantic,
And in the embers of a towering campfire,
Perhaps it wasn’t what she intended to find there,
But it was real,
And those sharing the memories may be scattered,
But she can look at a simple cone of ice cream,
And remember,
That seven day journey to understanding.

Comic books were a part of this child,
All of her dreams packed into one word balloon,
Accentuated with sound effects in all the right places,
Inspired by vigilantes and men in masks.
Microsoft Word files exceeding 540 pages,
And a burning desire to see her name in print.
Will drive this child to pursue a new life,
If only this child can stave off procrastination,
To reach her distant dreams.

These became a part of that child who went forth every day,
And who now goes,
And will always go forth every day.

The Choices We Make

I have technically been an adult for 9 years, but in many ways, I feel like I’m not quite there. I sometimes forget that I am the master of my own destiny, the bearer of my own burdens, the navigator on my own stretch of road, and I determine the path, and how to handle the obstacles that arise. I can go out, buy a whole cake, and eat it all by myself if I feel like it, with no one but my conscience to stop me.

I’ve wanted a Nintendo Switch for a while now, and planned to buy one next month. Thanks to an employee special at work, I would be able to get one for a great price. And then, come November, I’d be playing Pokemon Shield, and making my way across the Galar region. And there would be a lot of Mario Kart, and maybe some Let’s Go Eevee! until then. Plus, I could play online with my two best friends – Mario Party is great fun when the three of us play together.

But I had my car inspection this week on my beloved Nissan, Vice. It has been a long while since I’ve needed anything done to it – I usually breeze through inspection with maybe a couple of tweaks, nothing major. So it was time, and $337 later, my wallet was a bit thinner than I would like it to be – and I’m looking at new tires in the near-ish future. Which won’t come cheap.

And so, I had a moment of clarity – that the choices we make can reflect where we are in our lives, and our values. I have bailed on plans because I don’t have the funds, but have also spent money on things that aren’t necessities. No matter how badly I want that Switch, it is going to have to wait until my Nissan has some new tires, even if I miss my initial chance to become the champion of the Galar League. So, I must be an adult for now… but eventually, play time will come around again.

 

Just a Moment…

This week, landscapers came to do some yard work at our house. So, being the occasionally nice human being that I am, I figured I would park my car in the street so they could pull into the driveway, which would hopefully make it easier for them to get their work done.

The issue is, I forgot to do this the night before. So when I blearily awoke, around 7:40 AM, I remembered the plan and dragged myself out of bed to go and move my car. It would only take a moment, I thought. So, frizzy-haired, in my PJs, and with my feet shoved in my mom’s too-big clogs, I clambered into my Nissan and maneuvered down the driveway, then pulled into the street…

…only to realize it was also trash day. So the trash and recycling bins were set up on the curb. I would have to park a little further down to give the trash truck room, but that would mean parking adjacent to a neighbor’s car, and thus, making it even more difficult for the truck to get by. Plus, I was dangerously close to my other neighbor’s property line. Since she is a horrid person, I didn’t want to give any reason to set her off.

So, I figured, I’ll just swing around the block and park along the street on the other side of my driveway. Yet again, I thought, it would only take a moment…

… except I saw the familiar brown of a UPS truck lumbering down the street in my rearview as I swung around the corner. I looped the block, then, as I made my way down my street, I saw the UPS truck parked in front of our house. Right where I needed to park. And because one of my neighbors parks his big honkin’ red truck right on the rim of our property, I had to wait in the middle of the road for the UPS truck to move.

And I waited… for five minutes. Which, needless to say, is more than a moment. I would have gotten out and asked him to move outright, but because I looked like a troll, I didn’t feel like making my presence known. Eventually, he moved and went about his business, and I was able to park my car well out of the way of all passing trucks, both mail and trash, and leaving the driveway clear for the landscapers.

The whole process took about seven minutes. Which is hardly just a moment… so maybe, I would be better off expecting the unexpected from now on.

And the best part?

…The landscapers didn’t even park in the driveway.

Duality

There is a butterfly bush in my backyard. It’s not uncommon to spot little winged friends taking a sip of nectar, or catching a break from the hot sun.

The other day, I was looking out the window and spotted two butterflies in the air by the butterfly bush. Both were of decent size, but one had buttery yellow wings, and the other had velvet black. I watched as the two seemed to spar in the air with one another – or maybe it was some type of mating dance, I don’t know – over and over.

It was a bizarre, beautiful dance. They proceeded to flit all around the yard, clashing against one another – light and dark in symbiotic union, until they disappeared from my sight.

Their aerial dance got got me thinking about duality. Light and darkness. Happiness and sorrow. Hatred and love. And how, so often, one does not exist without the other – or we do not realize how vital one is until the other creeps in upon us. Can we ever appreciate our happiness if there was never any sadness in our lives? Can we ever bask in the light without first moving out of darkness?

However, on the other end, we can combat sadness by remembering the happy times that preceded it, and darkness can be less frightening when we know that light is out there. We can battle hatred with love when we know the highs and lows of both. Duality is not fearing one side and embracing the other. It is seeing, and appreciating, and enduring, and being able to accept whatever side we must face, and come out stronger on the other side.

Fling the Shoe

The mind of a child is an incredible thing.

When we were very young, my childhood best friend and I invented a game. We would swing on her swing set, go as high as we could, and fling our shoes off of our feet and send them flying across the yard, and see who could send theirs the farthest. We called this game, “Fling the Shoe.” Not the most creative name in the world, but it got the point across.

It’s such a simple thing, but it held a lot of meaning for us. We would muster all our strength and release the shoes at the peak of the swing, aiming for the brink of the neighbor’s yard. It all came down to the timing – if you waited too long, you’d accidentally send it flying straight up, or do it too soon and you wouldn’t get the proper angle. There was a certain art to it, and we could play for ages trying to achieve the perfect technique. I don’t know who won more often, but I don’t think we really cared who actually flung their shoe the furthest. We just had so much fun doing it.

We spent countless sunny afternoons playing this game, and lamenting bad weather because it meant we couldn’t. In the summer, her backyard was full of our laughter, and the air was full of sneakers. Every time I see a swing set I think of those days and how much fun we had together. We weren’t glued to the television (at least, not all the time) or engrossed with computers – which there is too much of these days, even though I am pro-technology. All we had were our imaginations, our creativity, and the simple bliss of childhood friendship.

“Fling the Shoe” was such a simple thing, but it’s a dear memory. Because it meant so much more than that, and still does.

 

Remember This

When I was in my 11th grade AP U.S. History class, my teacher told us there was one date we needed to remember. May 17th, 1954 – Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. The landmark decision that declared racially segregated schools as unconstitutional, and sparked several crucial events in the civil rights movement. It’s also an event that has become prevalent again, considering the volatile state of our country.

Over the course of the school year, he reiterated this date – and we would often have to repeat it back to him, to ensure sure we knew it verbatim. There were other dates that he impressed the importance of upon us, but that one was the big one.

In fact, one time, he was speaking to one of our principals while three of us were sitting in his room studying during a free period, and he merely turned to us, got our attention and pointed at us, like a maestro giving a cue.

One of us instantly said, “May 17th, 1954 – Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas.”

Not to be outdone, I said, “June 6th, 1944. The Normandy landings, otherwise known as D-Day.”

And the last of us said, “September 17th, 1787 – the signing of the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Our teacher then looked at our startled principal and gave her a look, as if to say, “See? What did I tell you?” He had us trained, and trained well. When that date showed up not once, but twice on the AP U.S. History exam that year, I gleefully answered those questions with confidence.

And I haven’t forgotten it, all these years later. I didn’t quite realize the gravity of that date, and that landmark decision, back when I learned it – even though he so adamantly told us to remember it. It was some distant thing that happened ages ago. It was little more than history. Since then, I have come to understand the importance. When it comes up in movies, I can better place the context. When I read it in books, I gain a better understanding. When I see what happens in the world to this day, and the injustice that people face, that date blares in my mind like a siren.

So I consider it a blessing that I listened when my teacher said, “remember this,” because now that I am older – and maybe, just maybe, a bit wiser than a 16 year old girl from rural PA – I am able to better grasp the relevance of May 17th, 1954. I have forgotten tons and tons of things I learned in both high school and in college – it’s all too easy for tidbits of info to slip between the cracks of memory.

But that date is one thing I will not forget.

Sentimental

Sentimentality – it’s both a blessing, and a curse, when you attach memories to objects. It becomes so difficult to let them go. Or, in some cases, far too easy.

I had something mentally and emotionally taxing happen to me in the January of my last year of college. When it happened, I was wearing (tastefully) ripped jeans and a red-and-grey striped hooded tunic sweater. In the aftermath, I got rid of them both – even though both were relatively new and would have lasted a long while. The sweater was actually a big favorite of mine and I loved wearing it. However, I could no longer wear them because whenever I looked at them afterward, they reminded me of that event, and how bad my last semester of college was because of it. So, they went into the donation pile.

After my grandmother passed away, I had trouble letting go of gifts she gave to me over the years, even if clothes no longer fit, or items were no longer of use. It would make me feel guilty to even consider it. My grandmother was one of the best people in my life and had a profound influence on me. Of course, I know that the true treasure is my memories of her – of the good times we shared, and the things she gave me that were intangible. I have held onto a few key items; a stuffed corgi, and a music box that I had once given her as a gift. But I have gradually let some of the other things go, and even though I have a sentimental attachment to all of those things, I know I am not betraying her by doing so.

Books are a big one for me. Since getting an e-reader several years ago, I have thinned out my physical book collection. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to let a title go. I’ll remember reading it for the first time and hesitate to put it in the donation pile, but little by little, I have done so. It helps to realize that by letting them go, I am sharing those beloved titles with new readers, and that first-time reading experience with others. Sure, my shelves get a little emptier, but it does make my heart lighter in the end.

I form attachments to things that others might consider trivial. Movie ticket stubs and movie posters. Toys, collectible and otherwise. Snowglobes. Old video games that no longer play. Gradually, I will let these things go too, but I don’t think there’s any harm in holding on a bit longer than others.

Ultimately, I think the positives of sentimentality outweigh the negatives by a significant margin, but it is vital to remember that items do not always equate in importance to memories. Memories remain in your heart, good and bad. Certain items may bolster that, and getting rid of them doesn’t destroy those memories.