They’re tearing down the mansion.

They’re tearing down the mansion at the corner of my street.

Just a couple of days ago, I noticed the doors were open and the windows were gone. There were trucks parked outside and people stirring around. I thought, oh boy! Somebody’s finally remodeling the old place.

Then this morning when I walked by, bam. Bulldozer. And it’s gone.

I wish I had a “before” shot to show you, since “mansion” probably isn’t the correct word…but it was a big ol’ Victorian-looking house, empty ever since I’ve lived here, so it always held this Haunted Mansion-ish mystique for me. On evening jogs, with no one else around, I’d move a little faster past this house to get to the corner of the block.

Those big, empty windows and that big, empty lawn. All the shadows, eerie silence, and the story that I’d never get to know.

When I first moved in, there were big pieces of particle board with ominous spray-painted No Trespassing messages, threatening in no uncertain terms that violators would be shot. (No, really.) Those didn’t last long, but the “stay away” vibe did. So I never got to take a closer look. I don’t think I even stepped off the sidewalk onto the lawn.

And now it’s gone.

All through my run, I mused on blog-able metaphors for this morning’s discovery.
Sometimes destruction has to make room for growth…
Nothing lasts forever…

I thought about the book I just started, The Antidote (which I ordered immediately after reading about it on It doesn’t release in the U.S. until November, so I bought it from Amazon UK. Such the literary hipster am I…). As the synopsis tells you, the book takes a different look at the “positive thinking” that pervades self-help, proposing instead a “negative path” to happiness… I’m only on page 42, but already I feel like he’s playin’ my song. Doesn’t it just make sense that allowing yourself to accept (not attach to, but also not ignore) the dark parts of life will make it easier for you to be content, and ironically even happy, when those dark parts show up? Because they will. Oh boy, do they ever.

Reading that book and watching the house get torn apart both brought to mind this snippet of a Rumi poem I found once. So I looked it up, and here’s the first stanza:

It’s the old rule that drunks have to argue
and get into fights.
The lover is just as bad. he falls into a hole.
But down in that hole he finds something shining,
worth more than any amount of money or power.

Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street.
I took it as a sign to start singing,
falling up into the bowl of sky.
The bowl breaks. Everywhere is falling everywhere.
Nothing else to do.

Here’s the new rule: break the wineglass,
and fall toward the glassblower’s breath.

Fall toward the glassblower’s breath. That still makes my brain go mmmm…years after I read it for the first time.

Nothing lasts forever…
Sometimes destruction has to make room for growth…

So I thought about all that. And other things. But mostly I just kept wishing I would have, just once, disobeyed those No Trespassing signs.

Declaration of Independence

(Some clichés are too good to resist…It’s a holiday. Let me indulge.)

We’ve started a new Blog Challenge (again), and this one seems more manageable. Each week, one of us will ask a new question. This week Whitney inquired:

What did you accomplish in the last year?

I actually want to focus on something I was not so great at, which I would like to improve in the coming year. (Which is year #29. Let’s not talk about it…)
Yes, I am being Michael Scott in a job interview:
What are your strengths? / Lemme tell you about my weaknesses… 

I did accomplish some pretty baller things last year (birthday-to-birthday):

Participated in a surprise group dance number at a friend’s wedding reception (life list goal accomplished).

Started learning accordion, which is as awesome as it sounds.

Got runner-up in a national writing contest. (A one-liner writing contest. We’re starting small… but I got a free book! And my name on a website!)

Fit into pants I wore in high school (sweet red plaid Abercrombie situation circa 2001. For sure).

Went to Memphis to see my best friend from college marry the boy I introduced her to. (A long time ago. They get all the credit for the nuptials.) Still, “happiest day” doesn’t begin to describe.

Also saw Graceland. TCB.

Started writing for a TV show. Jokes that I wrote have gotten laughs on TV! For real, you guys! (The Mystery Hour, Saturdays @ 11 on KOZL. Check it, local peeps!)

Had a great relationship, lost a great relationship.

And now here we are. That catches you up to Sunday. And it’s that final one that gets me thinking about next year. As does the current message on my kitchen door chalkboard:

In case my cursive is bothersome, or the image doesn’t show up, it’s this:

You yourself, as much as anyone in the universe,
deserve your love and affection. –Buddha

(And the subtitle scrawled above, by Buddha’s bitter and less-famous cousin: AND NOBODY ELSE WANTS IT ANYWAY. har har.)

This. THIS. If I can internalize and put into practice one thing this birthday year…I think this mantra could save me a world of trouble. Perfectionism, conflict, jealousy, procrastination, burn-out, blow-ups, etc…. So many problems in my life get worse when I forget to take care of myself first. (That’s true for everybody, I think. Women in particular.)

There’s rarely just one thing (or one person) to blame when a relationship stops working, but I know one thing for sure: It’s in my disposition to put all my happiness eggs in a significant other’s basket. And that works for a while, because he’s happy that I’m making him happy, and I’m happy to be making him happy. But then, after a while, I don’t have enough happiness eggs left for myself. And then he wonders why I’m too sad to make omelets. And so he leaves.

(Oversimplified egg analogy…but not terribly inaccurate. There’s also some sort of “chicken” comparison in there, but I won’t make it.)

So that’s my goal for year 29: Take better care of my eggs. (or something)

Meaning, love myself first. Buddha knew it. Oprah knows it. Momma’s going to learn it. Then, omelets for everybody!

What cats & heartbreak have taught me so far

This is a story about a girl and a cat. (and some other things…)

I wrote a post about Kitler last August (and holy shit is it more apropos than I remembered…seriously, go read it. It’s short). Kitler is the stray cat I started feeding last year, and he’s stayed in my life, off and on, since then. Every time I think he might be gone for good, there he is when I open the door. As if nothing has changed.

And I feed him, just the same.

In that post last year, I used his lack of trust and my unreciprocated affection as a metaphor for my love life. I give and give and give (cat food), and though he’s slowly warmed up to me, he still won’t let himself fully connect (by receiving kitty snuggles).

That sounds about right.


Tonight as I was leaving my house to walk to the park — the one safe place I could think of to clear my head — there he was on the porch. After another long absence and presumed tragic ending. He looked skinnier than usual but meowed like he was happy to see me. (Allow me to give the cat some emotions. I need him to have emotions right now.) But when I carried the scoop of food outside, he hissed at me. (This is not typical Kitler behavior anymore.) On closer inspection, I noticed he looked a little dirty, and he was walking with a little limp. Somebody hurt Kitler.

This was too much, universe. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

…Because I’m helpless. The little guy won’t let me touch him when he’s well, so there’s no way I can manage to take him to the vet. He’s not even technically my cat… so I just have to stand there and watch him be hurt.

…And also because that’s how it goes sometimes. People you love get hurt and there’s nothing you can do about it. (Sometimes the “people you love” is you.)

But I’m letting this moment with Kitler teach me an important lesson. I think he’s been hurt by a lot of people in his rough little kitty life. After a whole year he trusts me — but not much. Not enough to let me close.

I see how life can get that way. (For people. I do still relate to people, cat lady conspiracy theorists.)

You trust and you love, and then you get burned sometimes. (This might even happen three birthdays in a row, for example.) After that kind of hope and heartbreak, you might want to completely self-protect. Close off. Shun affection. Put up walls. Harden your heart and never believe there’s someone who could truly care for you again.


But I’m not going to let myself believe that. Whether or not I ever get my own Nora Ephron ending (speaking of sad news this week, you guys…), I know that I deserve to be cared for.

I may be the sort of cat who’s a little roughed up in places, who’s not quite as trusting as she used to be. And sometimes I hiss at life — even at the people I love. But I’m not ready to close myself off. Not yet.

I know I can still care for Kitler even though I can’t fix him. And I certainly don’t have to end up like him.

Besides, I don’t think they make you change your status from “and ready to mingle” to “and ready to die alone” until at least birthday #30. (And it’s longer than that, I’ve heard, in cat-years.)