Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Central Florida Scottish Highland Games

I had wanted to go to the Scottish Highland Games for years. It was an especially nice treat after an emotional week. My sister Jenny joined me and we spent the day outdoors in perfect weather enjoying all the sights and events the day had to offer. 

Taking in the wonderful view and lively music. 

This fearlessly enthusiastic little boy was overjoyed to meet the horses.

Jenny and the Steampunk Scotsman.

We met a man named Dennis while we were in line for fish and chips. He actually plays Santa during the holidays. We jokingly asked him why we never got the pony that we had asked for years ago. He laughed and said “everyone always leaves cookies out but I prefer lasagna!”

Children enjoying rolling down the hill. 

These children were captivated by this little scottish terrier pulled by a remote controlled toy car.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Eight Days of January

Monday, January 1st
I got home from a wonderful DRIP New Years Eve show around 5am and slept through most of the day. I met my sister Liz for a nice dinner while she was in town for the day.

Tuesday, January 2nd 
I showed up for a company meeting and found out that DRIP will close its doors on International Drive at the end of the month. I was completely caught off guard. Our sales and audience attendance had been great. The New Years Eve show we had just done was packed as usual. But our CEO had wanted to regroup and focus on new projects with DRIP. I have always had faith in her vision and trust in her judgement. I believe that this is the best way to move us forward but I’ve been with her the longest. I remember her getting the venue on International Drive - an enormous feat in it’s own right. We worked for a year getting the show ready, painting the walls black, ripping up the awful carpet and wallpaper, building the bar from scraps. I look at old photos of the building and almost get jet lag realizing how far we’ve come. I can be a sentimental fool but she’s never been so in love with her own creation that she would hold her self back from deconstructing the whole thing if she felt she could make it better. And that’s her genius - she can always make it better. At the end of the meeting we were all astonished and still taking it all in. I reached out to hug her and pulled her close. “Whatever you come up with next - I’m in!”

Wednesday, January 3rd
I was messaged via Facebook about the 20 year reunion for my middle school class of 1998. Suddenly I was seeing names and faces I hadn’t thought of in years. Some were married, some had children. The lives of my former classmates was fleshing out at lightning speed. My past was coming full circle.

I was also contacted by Nicole, a girl I had known in middle school who had picked on me quite a bit. She had written me an apology for the way she had treated me all those years ago. I was completely floored. I already had a flood of emotions I was dealing with at DRIP and I wasn’t ready for this. We were so young and I never felt victimized by her - but I remember feeling confused. I had always thought I had done or said something to upset her and was never sure how to go about addressing it. Her heartfelt letter opened up a conversation I never thought I would have. We’ve both come a long way since middle school. Seeing pictures of her with her wife, crusading for equal rights filled me with admiration. She is lovely inside and out and I am overjoyed to count her among my friends. 

My touching conversation with Nicole also made me reflect on all the times in 2016 and 2017 I had been horribly mistreated by ex boyfriends, potential dates, co-workers, managers, customers, and members of my own family. The only apology I had ever been offered was from Nicole, who reached out for things done twenty years ago when we were children. That made her words all the more profound and sincere. She came out of the blue to remind me that there are people in this world who choose to shine with integrity and class and for that she has earned my endearing respect. 

Thursday, January 4th
The stray cat I had been feeding for a few months was limping and had a large open wound on his shoulder. The temperature had been dropping into the 30’s and I was becoming concerned his health would worsen. My friend loaned me trap and tried to lure him in with some food. He seemed hesitant so I went back inside. A few moments later I heard the trap spring shut and rushed outside. I was disappointed to see that another stray had rushed into the trap, and the injured cat I’d been hoping to save had been scared away. As I went to release the panicking cat from the trap he bit my hand and disappeared into the neighborhood. 

Friday, January 5th
Although I had taken great care to wash my hands repeatedly and treat the bite with peroxide the night before, it seemed to get more sore and swollen as the day progressed. I spent my lunch break at a clinic getting a tetanus shot and antibiotics. I couldn’t wait to go home but I ended up staying at work two hours past closing because of a network outage.

Saturday, January 6th
I was so physically and emotionally burned out I slept through most of the day. Sluggish on antibiotics I willed myself to get through the DRIP show. I was not scheduled for the clean up crew that night because we were supposed to be celebration our CEO’s birthday. I had been looking forward to it all week but left early to go back to bed. 

Sunday, January 7th
I had to deal with the Orange County Animal Services. When I got treated at the clinic for the cat bite it got recorded as a potential rabies incident. Although I showed none of the signs or symptoms or rabies, or even suspected any of the neighborhood cats of having rabies, they still had to follow their protocol and leave a trap out for ten days in an attempt to catch that cat that bit me. The woman they sent to leave the trap was very nice and she was hopeful that I might be able to catch the injured stray I had been aiming for. I was completely disheartened. The cat that bit me was so terrified by the trap I hadn’t seen him in days. I had seen the injured stray but he was anxious of the trap since he had seen it go off and he was keeping his distance. I was worried I was about to get ten days of trapped raccoons. 

I took a nap and woke up to terrible news. Jim, the artist I had gone out with once a few months ago, had passed away suddenly. Beyond the week in the summer we met and parted ways I had only spoken to him one other time. It was during Hurricane Irma. He was one of the people I felt compelled to check on. I sent him a text and asked if he was in a safe place. He responded “Hey thanks for caring, spent night w momma at her house ,all good just no power, you?”. I always thought that was such a remarkably pleasant response given that we hadn’t talked in months. I was glad he was ok but we never spoke again after that. 

Our brief meeting seemed to highlight the best and worst 2017 had to offer. Although our upbringings were vastly different we shared many of the same views, interests, experiences, and personality traits. I had never felt the joy of being seen, found, and appreciated by another artist only to be objectified and rejected only a few days later. In his pushing me away I was spared much of the grief of his passing but not the shock. My Facebook feed burst into sorrow from people who’ve know him far better and longer than I did. Their touching memories fill my eyes with tears. Regardless of his personal shortcomings he was immensely talented and far too young. 

Monday, January 8th 
I wake up feeling hung over. I drag myself out of bed and try to start my morning routine. I notice my cats keep staring at the doorway. I look out the window and in the dark of the early morning I can see the trap door is closed but I can’t see what is caught inside. “Oh shit” I mumble to myself. Surely this is the beginning of the raccoon parade. I open the door and see the injured stray I’ve been trying to save staring up at me from inside the cage. Still in shock I race to get dressed so I can take him to my vet’s office before I have to be at work. He never made a fuss in the car, just sat calmly the entire ride. 

Once at work I had to wait anxiously for the vet’s follow up call. I could feel the week long emotional tidal wave crashing all around me. So much happiness, so much sorrow. Too much change and uncertainty. Nothing to hold on to. I wasn’t sure how to feel. 

Finally, the vet’s office called. The cat was about two years old. His leg was mostly healed already and because he’d been outside in the cold he didn’t even have fleas. He had also miraculously tested negative for feline aids and feline leukemia so I could take him home. He was fixed and I got to pick him up at the end of my shift. I named him Jax. 

The car ride home was just as calm as the initial ride to the vet. I brought him inside and unleashed the general chaos that comes when introducing a new animal to long established pets. Then I sat down as started writing. Normally I write after I have had time to let the emotions settle but this was different. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I wanted to cry for days but the tears wouldn’t flow. I had to write in order to settle the emotions. 

I sat on the couch with my iPad in my lap and stared at Jax in the other room hiding under my bed. Jax’s left arm was healing and my left hand was recovering from the cat bite. He was about two years old and I’d come off a rough two years. Seven hundred thirty days running wild fending for himself and limping, but now his life was changed so drastically and he was struggling to keep up. I could understand that. I spent two years flighting hard. Now I had so much change in eight days I wasn’t sure how to cope either. 

We continue to size each other up. I’m not sure if the wildness in him will allow him to lead a calm life. I’m not sure if the wildness in me will allow me to lead a calm life. But here we are. A lot can change in eight days. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Father and Son

A father teaching his son to fish off the dock at Lake Underhill Park. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Oleaginous (Part 4)

When I got my new car I thought my “Oleaginous” series was over but I found this lovely leak under another car in a Target parking lot. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sunlit Snail

Lovely little snail I spotted sliding across my garbage can in the early morning hours. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Stray

For the past few months I have been trying to befriend a stray cat. My neighborhood has tons of strays but the others would keep their distance. He would get closer. For weeks I would wonder why my doormat was always out of place. I realized it was him. He would sit on the doormat and try to play with my cat Kobi through the small crack between the door and the sidewalk. Since my cat had already made friends with him I decided to lure him with food. I’m still trying to win his complete trust but he remains rather skittish. In the meatime, the more comfortable he gets with me, the better pictures I can take of him. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017


Earlier this year while working at the bank I had a customer pursue me pretty aggressively. We were introduced by the other teller who knew him as a friendly regular. He was significantly older than me and in the course of our two minute conversation described himself as “lonely and looking for love”. That cringeworthy line brought to mind the word ‘desperate’ but I smiled politely and finished the transaction. I’ve been in customer service most of my life. I’m unfortunately very accustomed to hearing strange things. But I wasn’t ready for how bizarre this would become. 

A few weeks later he returned to the drive thru. It was near the end of the day and I was the only teller. He attempted to make small talk.

“Oh, I really hate this time of year! I get allergies so bad! What about you and your husband? Do you get allergies?” 

I have a horrible distaste for bait questions. This wasn’t about allergies - he was trying to find out if I was married. I wasn’t about to play this game. 

“I don’t have allergies” I replied.

“What about you husband?” He wasn’t giving up.

“I am not married” 

“Oh!” His eyes brightened. “We should date!” 

My face twisted into visible hesitation and before I could even say “no” he cut me off.

“I can see you are not interested, but let me give you my number anyway.”

He scribbled his number down on a scrap piece of paper and drove off in smug confidence.

There were a million things wrong with this situation. Most obvious being the fact that he acknowledged my lack of interest but wilfully decided to ignore it. I resent being cornered where I work. I am in a location that I can not leave and I am being paid to be friendly - it is literally my job to be polite. Bait questions may make you feel like you’ve got the upper hand, but to me they only make people come off as sly or uncourageous. He had only met me twice and talked to me for grand total of three minutes. All he knew about me was that I worked at the bank, my name was Melissa, I didn’t have allergies, and I wasn’t married. That was the full scope of his knowledge of me and he was completely willing to throw himself at my feet. He didn’t like me because I was smart, funny, or kind. He liked me because he thought I was pretty and knew I was single. That was it. He was just grasping at straws. 

I never called him. Weeks went by and I always let the other tellers deal with him. You’d think he would have gotten the hint but he wrote down his number again and gave it to the other teller to give to me. She chastised me for not returning his attention. She felt I shouldn’t be so picky since I was single. 

“Well, he has always been nice to me” she boasted.

I had to firmly remind her that the only reason he was respectful of her boundaries was because he already knew she was married and that just because I was single doesn’t mean that I have to entertain every jackass that likes my “pretty smile”.  

Since he clearly couldn’t take a hint I decided to bring the matter to my managers attention. At first she suggested that I tell him I’m in a relationship. 

“He already knows I’m single and I’m not going to make up an imaginary person so he can respect me. I’m ok with telling him to fuck off - I just don’t want to loose my job over it.” 

She told me to tell him that was against company policy to fraternize with customers outside of work. Next time I saw him that’s exactly what I told him. He was embarrassed and I was relieved thinking that it was finally over. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be that easy. 

I came home that evening to find a Facebook message from him insisting that he understood we couldn’t talk outside of work but that he hoped we could still me friends. I couldn’t believe how dense this guy was. I took screenshots of everything and blocked him.

I showed my manager the screen shots and she said she would talk to him. But as the weeks dragged on it was obvious that she didn’t care. She knew he came in towards the end of the day but she would always leave early. I was concerned because I knew how pushy he was and sometimes I was the only teller when he would come in. I could literally be in a situation where I was forced to interact with him. My manager kept brushing it off and insisted that “it wasn’t that big of a deal”.  

I was so uneasy. In the few short months I had been in my new job I had not received my complete training, been struggling to learn all my new responsibilities on my own, forced to deal with a consistently disrespectful teller and a manager who would only interact with you if you had done something she wanted to yell at you for. Now I also had to deal with this guy. 

During a meeting with my regional manager, one of the precious few people I worked with who I trusted, I broke down into tears. I told her about all the difficulties I had with my coworkers and how the situation had gone on for months without anyone taking me seriously. She was appalled, and worked with my manager to resolve the issue. He was finally told - in no uncertain terms - not to talk to me again. It brought some peace but my manager knew that in raising hell about it I had made her look bad. She found ways to be even colder towards me and the teller continued her tantrums and rants.

It was unnecessarily difficult and stress-inducing. Mercifully, that branch was closed and I got transferred to a new location. I adore all my new co-workers and admire how thoughtful and cooperative they all are. Being in a happier and more productive environment has been an enormous weight lifted off my soul. 

Recently a man came into my new location. He wasn’t a regular and I’d never seen him before. He walked up to the counter and asked for a money order - adding that he was in a rush and needed to be out quickly. I gathered his info and worked as fast as I could to finish the transaction. He got the money order and abruptly left. A few minutes later I happened to glance at my phone and noticed I received a Facebook message - from the very same guy I had just helped. 

He said he thought I had a pretty smile and offered to take me out for a drink. 

The message was pleasant enough but I couldn’t help but wonder why he hadn’t so much as bothered to be nice while he was standing in front of me. 

Although he hadn’t literally cornered me at work he had still gone through the trouble of seeking me out on the internet - without so much a saying more than two sentences to me.

As happy as I was in my new location this situation forced me to confront an old fear. This wasn’t an isolated incident. This was now the second time a man had sought me out via the internet without knowing me at all. I hate being approached like that. 

It isn’t bold, confident, or sincere. It’s sly, desperate, and grabby. 

I start pacing around at work. My heart beats faster. I want to scream. I feel trapped behind all the plexiglass. He only likes me because he thinks I’m pretty. He doesn’t know a damn thing about me. 

I know I’m curvy and I wear red lipstick. I like the way I look and I wouldn’t do anything to change it. But it bothers me when that’s all people see. 

I went on a date with a man earlier this year and we talked about what we wanted from a relationship. I said I wanted to be seen as a whole. All too often I am carved into pieces. I have nice lips, a large bust, full hips, etc. Even beyond the physical I am still seen only in fragments. Some people only know me from work, or dancing, but no one sees the bigger picture of me. 

Less than 10 minutes later he said I had nice tits and my heart sank. I knew I would never be more than just pieces to him. 

Even so I did have one ex who had been to both of my jobs, gone to swing dancing with me, meet most of my friends, and been to my website. Instead of taking all in and seeing the big picture of who I am and what I am capable of he spent enormous amounts of time and energy trying to make me bite-sized. 

He wanted me to quit one of my jobs even though he knew how much it meant to me. He didn’t like me going to Swing because there were too many other men to talk to. He didn’t like it when I hung out with my friends because it was time spent away from him. I tried to explain myself but he never understood. I could love someone and bring them into my life but the closer he got the more he tried to take away. My boldness and spirited nature - the things I thought he loved me for - turned out to be things he resented in me. 

Always carved into little pieces. 

In most of my life I am outgoing, friendly, and engaging. But when it comes to matters of the heart I can be remarkably cagey. 

And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone tell me that I should be grateful for all the attention.

No. I will not show any type of gratitude for merely being pawed at. 

I will save my gratitude for someone who takes the time to get to know me. All the parts of me. Someone with kindness and intelligence. Someone with genuine charisma and emotional stability. Someone with a happy heart. 

I am cagey because most people make me feel trapped. 

I imagine true love would feel like freedom.