snow globe

So, last night - Wednesday night - utterly fucking sucked. Sucked, sucked, sucked.

I'll get into the good (awful) stuff into minute, but first, let me paint you a picture of what anxiety disorder looks like for me. (Oh, did I never mention I have generalized anxiety disorder? Well, I do. I've never been clinically diagnosed with it, but I'm of the mind that it's one of those things that you just know you have, when you do. It's not like you can mistake anxiety for, say, a toothache. Or anemia. It's pretty obvious when you're panicky and worried to a debilitating degree.)

There's some paperwork that needs to be done for my lawyer, regarding my dad's estate. I've known it needs to be done, but I've been avoiding doing it, because absolutely everything associated with the estate gives me massive anxiety. Like, terrifying anxiety.

I have no idea why. It's just fucking paperwork, for the most part. But it does. Freaks me out like you wouldn't believe. It took me months to get things filed away and in order, to the point that they are now, because whenever I thought about doing any of it, I would have a complete melt down.

Anyway, the latest thing that needs to be done - well, it doesn't matter what it is. It's paperwork. And about a day after my attorney said Hey, you gotta do this, my printer went all wonky. Started printing things all blurry and wavy.

And I was all, of course. And I laughed bitterly to myself, as I am wont to do. And then I printed up a page of some blurry text and took it to my boy Percy to get his expert opinion. And mind you, Percy doesn't sell printers, just ink, so it isn't as if he has some vested interest in me getting a new printer, because god knows, my last one sucked up ink like it was going out of style.

Percy told me I needed a new printer, that the problem mine was exhibiting was basically the ink jet death rattle. He recommended a brand and model that he likes, and that he knew was on sale at Office Max. And I was grateful for his advice, his help, and of course, his humor (because you know I went in there raging, and you know he diffused the situation by being his ridiculous self).

Fast forward to me swinging by Office Max to get the new printer. And by "swinging by" I mean calling ahead to make sure they had one in stock, having some snotty-sounding associate inform me that I'd "better hurry up" because she could only hold it for half an hour, jumping on the train to Union Station, changing trains to get to Little Tokyo, running in to the store frantically because by this time, half an hour had gone by, then schlepping the damn thing home again. And it wasn't huge, but it wasn't light, or easy to carry. My arms were like jelly by the time I got back.

Then I pretty much let the printer sit in my cabinet for two weeks, because I was terrified of it.

Why the fuck would I be terrified of a printer, you ask?

That's an excellent question.

I was terrified of the printer because, in my warped and worried little mind, I had formed a link between it and the unpleasant paperwork I needed to do. The poor thing, which had never done wrong in its short printer life, was guilty by association.

Also, I had convinced myself that once I got around to setting it up, I wouldn't be able to configure it correctly, because I am lousy at those sorts of things. So me being the defeatist that I am, I had already doomed myself to failure.

Are you shocked, yet, that I'm not a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, with this sort of can-do attitude? Just wait.

Anyway, I closed the door on my scary printer, and more or less tried to ignore its existence, only getting spooked by it when I needed to open the cabinet to get an envelope or a rubber band or something. And when I did, you know that printer gave me some dirty looks, suffocating as it was in its shrink wrap and tape. Bitch, let me out. I can't breath in here. And I'm bored. Why don't you write something interesting for me to print up? Why don't you write something, period?

Well, tonight I decided I was ready to face my fear and deal with the damn thing. Only, anxiety isn't something I can just snuff out at will, like a candle. It's more like a snow globe. When my thoughts turn to the panic-inducing trigger - whatever it is - all of a sudden it's like a snow globe being violently shaken, where all those little snowflakes are bits of worry and fear. And I have to wait, calmly, trying not to shake it again, while they slowly fall and settle back to stillness. Then I can very carefully tiptoe in and try to do what I need to do.

So, the printer and I squared off for a couple of hours. This is what that looked like: I'd do something, anything, to try to procrastinate dealing with it. I cleaned. I did some laundry. I wrote some emails. All the while completely preoccupied with the knowledge of what I really needed to be doing instead. Meanwhile, the printer just sat there, wordlessly waiting, indifferent to my tumultuous state of mind.

(Incidentally, if you don't suffer from anxiety, now would be a good time to turn to your nearest loved one and say, I'm so glad I don't suffer from anxiety. I'm reading this blog, and man, this chick has problems.)

Let's fast forward, because holy god has this anecdote gotten long and boring. And this is where you get to be momentarily impressed because, get this shit: I actually unpacked and configured the printer correctly. Like a real grown up. It was amazing. I installed the paper, the cartridges, ran the ink test, and most incredibly, configured the wireless network. I entered in the correct network name and password and it synched up exactly like it was supposed to.

I probably should have stopped there and had a glass of wine to celebrate. But I got cocky and decided I could install the software on my laptop, too.

And that's when my little choo-choo train, which had heretofore been hauling ass down the Ellie Expressway, ran into a tunnel packed with TNT. Boom.

The details are boring - suffice to say, I couldn't get it to work, despite my troubleshooting. Something about drivers and incompatible operating systems.

And that's when I lost it. I just fucking lost it. I felt so useless, so dumb and incompetent, so defeated and frustrated. I dropped to the floor, held my dog, and cried.

For context, maybe, or at least background: I haven't been having the greatest couple of weeks, emotionally. Getting sick derailed my productivity and schedule, which in turn knocked my state of mind down a notch or three. And I've been struggling to get it back up.

What it is, and I know this is 100% pure whining, is that I just get so tired, sometimes, of doing everything on my own. It can be so discouraging when half my day gets sucked up by errands and chores the time of which spent accomplishing could be halved by a partner. I don't miss having a husband. But I miss having someone to share the responsibility of all the time-consuming, exhausting things required of Adult Life. Even just the physical exertion of doing all the shopping, all the housework, all the errands (read: walking, walking, and more walking), all the Chaucer's hard for me sometimes, it really is.

Ugh. So whiny, I know. But there it is.

And sometimes I just don't fucking feel like being a strong, independent, competent person who takes care of herself completely on her own. Sometimes I just want to curl up in ball on the bed while someone strokes my hair and just babies me. Honestly, I don't even want someone to do my shit for me. I like the feeling of developing that, I don't know, grit, as I'm forced to do it all, on my own, all the time. But Christ, sometimes it would be so nice to have someone just sort of care for me a little bit, you know?

So tonight when I broke down, all of that came bubbling up from my stomach to my throat, and then to and through my eyes, in a hot, helpless rush.

And I found myself saying Why? over and over and over. Why, why, why? And Chaucer just looked at me with his eyes as big as saucers, worried and scared and not knowing how to help. He pawed me and he licked my face, and I swear I felt him shift his weight to move a little bit closer to me.

Why, why, why? At first I didn't even know what I was asking. Why what? I thought. So I started asking my ceiling more specific questions. Why is this so hard? Why is this happening? Why can't I do this?

And then came this one: Why am I alone?

And it was as if I'd snapped the last piece into the ugliest, most wretched puzzle ever designed. I said it again: Why am I alone? 

That was it. That was the question that had torn its way up from my belly the minute I got an error window on my computer. Why am I alone?

Why am I alone, if I am so great?

Why am I alone, if I'm as smart and loving and funny and talented and worthy as I believe I am?

And, wouldn't you know it, the other half of my brain had an answer at the ready: Maybe you're really not those things, after all.


And that's where I'm stopping for now, because this post is monster-sized as it is, and I'm exhausted by the writing of it, and by the experience of going through all those emotions again, in describing them.


It's a bad day, not a bad life.
It's a bad day, not a bad life.
It's a bad day, not a bad life.

And with that, I'm going to wash my face, kiss my sweet pup on his smart bump, and go to sleep so I can take another crack at dominating the bogeyman in my credenza my Brother MFC-J425W tomorrow.

Is Franzia ok?

Holy shit. Large image is large. Sorry.

This conversation actually went on for a while, and was increasingly informative, but Cam is launching his own blog soon (FINALLY!!), wherein he's going to be doing some awesome feminist critiques of tween-targeted he called dibs on posting screenshots of the whole exchange.

I'll put up a link as soon as he goes live, in case anyone wants to check it out. :)


He came to her in a dream. Actually, she couldn't say later whether or not she'd really been dreaming. All she knew was that one minute she was asleep, and the next, a pair of thickly padded headphones was being slipped over her ears. And as that didn't happen much in her waking hours, she had to conclude his was a nocturnal mission, and he, a nocturnal vision.

"Dillon," she grumbled, groggy and grumpy. "What the fuck." She lifted her head and squinted towards the kitchen, trying to make out the green-glowing numbers of the stove's digital clock. Three thirty-seven.

"Shhh," he said, wearing the same absurd grin he always did. It was the one that said he knew precisely how absurd it all was - the celebrity and the money and the idolatry - but also that he loved every last bit of it. He was kneeling next to her bed, his face inches from hers. He looked like he'd been awake for hours days his entire life. He looked like he never slept.

He looked like he never needed to.

"Listen," he said. And with the flick of a fingertip on his mp3 player, waves of sound ripped into her brain. 

But she was just too tired. And what made him think he could sneak into her head like this, anytime he wanted, anyway? She yanked the headphones down and glared at him. He was such a little monkey. That stupid hat, with the shock of unkempt blond peeking out from under the bill. And...was he wearing some kind of furry suit?? She shook her head, hoping to clear it. Half-hoping he'd disappear.

She knew though: once he was in, he tended to stay for a while.

"I already decided I'm not going. Bonnaroo is more than enough. I can't justify it. Fuck, I can't even justify Bonnaroo, but I've already got my ticket, so..."

"Shhhh!" he insisted, with mock anger. He reached forward and opened the headphones back up, raising his eyebrows questioningly. May I?

She sighed and collapsed back onto her pillow. There was no use fighting him. There never had been. She nodded, and he practically squealed with childish glee as he outfitted her head once again. Seconds later, music. 

She closed her eyes. She opened them. He was watching her face. She had to laugh. He knew. 

She let him play what he wanted her to hear, every beat familiar to them both. Every rise, every drop, every last surge and swell. Energy and promise and joy and irony and playfulness and movement and light. When it was over, she spoke.

"You know, my friends think you're ridiculous. Half the time, I think you're ridiculous. And I'm definitely more than a little bit ridiculous for loving you so much." She paused and cocked her head. "Do you even know how old I am?" 

"I don't give a fuck," he said. "Or, you know..." He trailed off and pointed impishly at his hat. His face grew as serious as she'd ever seen it, which wasn't very, at all. "I wrote it for you, you know."

She rolled her eyes. "Don't start that again."

"No, really," he said quietly, and, letting his hand hover above her outstretched body, gestured down the length of it. "For all of this. Your arms and legs and shoulders and muscles and blood and brain. You needed it, and I gave it to you. Come to me, come see me, and I'll give you more, too. You don't even know."

"You don't even know," he repeated.

She looked at him quizzically for several seconds, trying to determine whether he had a single drop of sincerity in his peroxide-bleached head. Then she realized she didn't give a fuck or shit, either. Because whether or not it was true was besides the point. His mind was an IV drip of pure ecstasy that he was inviting her to plug into, again. She could have said no, but she didn't want to. She just plain did not want to.

"Ok, ok," she said, happily defeated. "I'll get a ticket. Just don't say 'yolo'." 

He leapt to his feet in victory, and was at her door a split second later. As he cracked it open, light from the hallway poured in and she saw he really was wearing a furry suit. Some kind of cat. Of course. It dawned on her that his visit was probably one of several thousand he'd be making that night, seducing good little boys and girls everywhere with his promises, his talent.

He looked back at her and saluted. "See you in April." And before letting the door swing shut behind him he added, "Oh, and I will play it this time. You've been more than patient. Now go back to sleep."

As if.

As. If.


half an enchilada

So, just for the record, I am well aware that there are about four different post series that I've completely dropped the ball on. Seriously lame, I know.

For one thing, I never finished this story, about the guy I had started dating. I think I felt a little uncomfortable talking about it because, among other things, I didn't know where it was going.

Well, it's over now, and in the interest of not being the sort of blogger who perpetually leaves people hanging, I will give an epilogue so that it may rest in peace.

I met a guy and we hit it off great. He told me right off the bat that he has kind of an issue (though I don't know if that's the word he used), that he really enjoys lighthearted, casual relationships, but when things start to get heavy or serious, he pulls away. I appreciated the honesty, and it didn't feel like it was a warning pointed AT me, so I more or less shrugged that off. Plus, it seemed very obvious that we had tons in common, so I think some part of me narcissistically felt like I'd be the exception to this rule. Also, the more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that I should be in something super casual right now, so that I can focus on other areas of my life that need work. And I gave him a small speech or two about how I really like my space and independence, too, so it's perfect you're like that, and so on. At one point we were talking about relationships, and when I said that I hadn't ever particularly enjoyed the title "wife", he said he doesn't even like being called or considered a boyfriend.

So there was that sort of dialogue going on.

We saw one another about half a dozen times or so, having a blast each time. But other than making plans to get together about once a week, we had next to no contact. And it was weird, because one minute I'd actually like that I felt very free to do my own thing, but still had someone to maybe be with in a way. And then the next, I'd be sitting around chewing my fingernails, wondering why he wasn't showing more interest, why he didn't want to talk more, and why he generally didn't seem to want to get to know me more.

Eventually, the second feeling started to outweigh the first. And when it started to be really uncomfortable for me, like hurt-feelings type uncomfortable, I pretty much threw up a stop sign. I was all, Look, this is clearly just a sex thing for you, and that's cool if that's your thing, you do you, but I'm on a fast track to Painsville here, and I need to get off this train.

And he was all, No, it's NOT just a sex thing, I like everything about you, I love hanging out with you, you're amazing, a really rare breed, we mesh unbelievably well, best sex ever, but I don't know where I'm at, what I want, etc. So I was all, Ok, I understand that, and I felt better, because who wouldn't after hearing that they're amazing and rare and the best sex partner ever, and so on?

So we saw one another again. And it was awesome, again.

But then again, we had basically no contact afterward, and again, I was scared to initiate it, lest I crowd him or something. And when it came time to make plans to get together again, he was just extremely blase and flaky about making time to see me. So then I really threw up my hands and was all, Ok, fuck this, no hard feelings, but I'd rather wait and spend my time with someone who is truly interested and will show it.  And we argued briefly, but ultimately agreed, to our disappointment, that we're on different pages. It came down to him saying "I can't give you what you want; I told you I was weird in relationships" and me saying "Ok, well, I believe 'being weird in relationships' is a choice you make, and can choose not to make". I didn't really have hard feelings, I was just bummed out. But we said goodbye amicably.

And that was that. And that was a couple of weeks ago. And so I thought it was over, and made an effort to reorient myself to being open to the Next Possible Thing.

Then he texted me out of the blue on Friday night while I was out, and also called me, too, which got me all excited and thinking, Oh, cool, he's thought it through and realizes I'm worth putting a little effort into, yay! And I spent the next two days being optimistic, but starting to wonder if that was maybe just drunk texting/drunk dialing. And when I hadn't heard from him by today, I reached out to ask, Um, so what was that Friday night? Do you want to see me again, or...?

And he was all, Of course I do!

But not to get serious.

And I was walking Chaucer when that text came, which hit me like a bowling ball in the belly, because basically it felt like I was being told, Hey, don't expect intimacy or progression or commitment from me, the guy you really like, ever.

But, dumbass that I am, I made Chaucer stop and wait while I sat down on a planter and answered back, Oh, totally! Nothing serious! I agree. Let's just have fun! or something along those lines, because I think somewhere in the back of my head, I thought I could somehow, some day, convince this person that I'm worth a whole, healthy relationship, and that I'm also cool enough and chill enough to just have sex with someone and not get attached.


After that I texted my friend Mason with a screenshot of the exchange and was all, I think there's something seriously wrong with me, and he was all, If you and I were in a band, we'd be called The Doormats, and it went from there, with him reminding me that I'm awesome and beautiful and I don't need to settle for half an enchilada.

So after getting built back up by my friend, I texted the guy and said basically, I know myself, and I know I'll just get hurt. I don't want to be in a relationship that's already been predetermined to be forever casual. So thanks but no thanks, and also maybe please delete my number so that you don't drunk text me and get my hopes up again.

And, again, we ended it amicably, but this time presumably for good, because I've been deleted as a contact and am no longer on Horny Dial.

And I know I did the right thing, the self-respecting thing, but I still feel sad and disappointed and a little bit angry at myself, because he really was clear and upfront about his limitations and limited interest, and I refused to see it, because I didn't want to.

Also, I think I need to do some thinking, because the fact that in some ways, I was enjoying having a lot of space/freedom, maybe suggests that I have some emotional unavailability of my own going on? I don't know.


t-shirt designer needed

Five Reasons That, As A Blogger, I'd Totes Want to Date Me

1. This blog is one big operating manual. Right off the bat, you've got the handbook. I'm upfront about my specifications. You can see my hardware (and my software, waka-waka) for yourself, as well as where you may need to troubleshoot down the line. And I don't try to hide my provenance.

2. You have the key to my diary. If we have a breakdown in communication and you're wondering where my head is at, bring up my blog. Chances are there's some weird little story about rocks or feathers or whatever that, if you use your Sooper Special Ellie Decoder Ring*, will let you know what's on my mind, and maybe even give you an opening to ask what's up. I recommend starting with, Darling, I read your brilliant, funny post today, and I'm sensing some subtext about how I've been a jerk lately, an assessment with which I wholly agree. Why I don't I bring you a chocolate croissant and we can talk about it?

3. You get to be a muse. Maybe I'm crazy, but I would be flattered if someone cared enough to write about me, even in vague terms. Hell, even in negative terms. It's like the Bright Eyes line:

If you stay too long inside my memory / I will trap you in a song tied to a melody / And I'll keep you there so you can't bother me. 

(Sorry, just give me a moment to ponder what it would be like to be Conor Oberst's muse............mmmmm...................almost done............................little bit more...........................ok.)

If you're kind to me, my pen will be kind to you. If not, well... Being the penis man in my life, you get to be the thing that inspires me to do the thing that makes me happiest: write. And I dunno, but I think that's pretty cool.

4. It would be impossible for me to cheat. At any given time, I'm usually bleating away on one or another social networks about where I am and what I'm doing. Instagram is just one big visual bread crumb trail of my adventures. I couldn't hide if I wanted to.

5. After it's over, you can watch the trainwreck continue from the safety of whatever form of ICU you're recovering in. I may also start throwing in a free "I Survived Ellie and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt" shirt. Although hoodies would be better for helping to hide those swollen-from-crying eyes...

postscript: For the love of god, please file this under silly lolz. Among other things not to take seriously: the last impression I want to give is that I think doods should be chasing me around asking what's wrong, because I'm one hundred percent about being direct and honest. Just playing here, because despite all my efforts towards all that great stuff I said in the last sentence, there's probably a grain of truth in #2, anyway. Also, I do not objectify/trivialize whatever guy I'm dating as the "penis in my life". That's just a phrase I stole recently from a girlfriend, and am still sort of loving. 

* To obtain your SSEDR, you'll need to provide a non-refundable deposit of one (1) heart and one (1) soul.


I just finished my slideshow for 2012 and oh my god, this one was a doozy. Took me a long time to winnow down the photos - I started with a few thousand for the year (though that's including a huge load of Hipstamatics). I originally had another song picked out, with a slower beat, but I could only get about 270 pics on it (this one has about 450). Then I was soundsdropping on Spotify a couple of weeks ago, and saw track I didn't recognize come up in a friend's queue: Days Gone By, by Wiretree. I gave it a listen and immediately loved it, but it wasn't until a few days ago that I realized how incredible the lyrics are, and how much I wanted to use it for my video this year.

It's a pretty fast beat, so the pictures really fly by...which is exactly what the year felt like to me. But I tried not to leave anything or anyone significant out.

Making these videos is so cathartic for me. It's a fun, nostalgia-inducing way to look back at how I spent my year, but it's also a way to process and let go of the past - for better or for worse. It's how I say goodbye to an earlier version of myself. It's also a great way for me to get motivated and excited about what still lies ahead. I'd never in a million years have anticipated I'd do some of the things I did last year. So what else don't I know about, that the world has in store for me?

Anyway, without further ado, I present some of the people, places, moments, and memories that constituted my 2012:


fin and fin

BFF Chris: [after he read this post] In that scenario, am I the cinnamon or the sugar?



Didn't win (came in third of nine finalists I think), but one of my IG pics was a finalist in an @igersLA contest! So not a big deal! So totally silly of me to be this excited! So entering the next contest, too!

Does anyone know a marine fluffologist? It appears Hannah might need some reconstructive surgery, maybe even a full finectomy. 

Meanwhile, Celia surrendered the last of her guts marshmallow filling a few days ago, documented in a short series I like to call "Sit Ups Are Boring, Mom. Let's Disembowel Christmas Presents":

Looks like someone is trying to speed up his acquisition of a certain mythical winged horse.


Something I remembered just now, taking the pic of Chaucer's toy:

When my dad was dying, my friend Mason was pretty much on call for me, talking me through logistics, advising, supporting (his dad had died of cancer not long before mine was diagnosed with it).

Anyway, the final days of hospice were brutal. Just...waiting. And the unavoidable melodrama of that waiting - it's so awful. When it finally happened, all I could think to say when I texted him was just one word: fin.

His reply was one word, too: triste. 

It was a strangely perfect and beautiful exchange, because it said everything so simply and completely, without the clumsy baggage of well-intentioned but useless words cluttering up the moment. There's no comfort to be had at that moment, and it was nice to let one another off the hook of trying to give or receive it.

- End.
- Sad. 

I was grateful for it. 

rocks and pebbles

My last post was a little heavy on the brightsiding. Sometimes I get carried away with focusing on positives that I don't recognize when I just sound boastful. I've since made some edits to it - took out a few lines that didn't really need to be in there, and put in a few that really should have. So if anyone happened to read it and found it off-putting, don't blame you, so did I.


I'm discouraged right now, because I was sick last week and I'm still feeling like hell, which I don't understand. Randomly, I feel ok during the days, but my fever comes back at night. I'd been on a really good track of getting things done, but the past week I've barely found the energy for the basic stuff. Ugh. Really hoping I feel well again soon.


What I'd say to someone to whom I can't really say anything else, because I already said everything I had to say: If you decide you want to move the boulder that's in the way, I'll happily clear away the rest of the rocks and pebbles. It was a good path.


Sometimes I think happiness in life is more about the ingredients than the recipe itself. Some people have more cinnamon. Some people have more sugar. Decide what will make you happy, and fill your cabinet with those things. But don't stress over the portions, because they'll wax and wane on their own anyway: you can't always have everything you need, stocked to full. Try to keep an eye out for when you're getting low on something, and make an effort to pick some of it up.

last year

It's important to look forward. But I believe there are times that it's important to look back, too.


Last year was my third living in Los Angeles, and my first second full year of doing so alone. Last year I grew used to doing things completely on my own, and without a car. I got better at being a city dweller. I found shops and services that meet most of my household needs, that I can reach on foot or by bike. And I befriended some of the people that work there, making otherwise mundane chores a little more fun, and a little more interesting.

Last year I finally started to feel like downtown is my neighborhood, and Los Angeles is my home.

Last year I got more familiar with public transportation. I learned the Metro system well enough to be comfortable getting intentionally lost for an afternoon. Last year I started mapping out bus routes to some of the places I'd previously felt cut off from. Last year I missed driving my own car very badly at times, but I discovered the joys and freedoms of Zip Cars.

Last year I traveled three times: twice to attend music festivals, and once to take care of my dad.

Last year my father died. Last year I put his ashes out to sea five minutes after doing the same with my mother's. Last year I inherited and administered an estate, for the second time in three years. I sold my father's home and all of his belongings. Last year I decided which things of his I wanted to keep and carry for the next fifty years, and added them to those of my mom.

Last year a boy showed me a deep, selfless, and self-sacrificing love. He showed immense kindness and respect to a man he'd never met before, but by virtue of whose relationship to me, he was prepared to do anything for. Last year that boy propped me back up again and again and again, when I felt like I couldn't possibly stand. And on those times when I really couldn't, he stood for me.

Last year I ate magic mushrooms for the first time, and it was one of the funnest, happiest days of my life.

Last year I heard and saw music performed that rocked my soul and changed how I feel about music forever. Last year I danced and danced and danced and danced.  I danced in bars and clubs, in parking lots and fields, in the sun and in the rain, while I sweat and shivered, stone-cold sober and fantastically high. Last year I met my favorite band.

Last year I finally started to believe that I have complete control over my emotions. Last year I took terrifying steps towards emotional accountability and accepting that I alone am responsible for the things I feel.

Last year I wished for death more than once. And last year I had many, many moments of such heart-squeezing joy that I couldn't believe how lucky I was to be alive.

Last year I found a way to express, process, and find closure for painful feelings. Last year each appreciative comment I received from readers about my writing was like a string tied around my waist, tugging me forward on a path I sometimes can't make out below my own two feet.

Last year I spent a few months taking off my clothes for money. I rode a train and then my bicycle forty minutes for the privilege of doing so. Last year my nerve, patience, and resolution were tested beyond what they'd ever been, in a setting that made my heart ache for my soul. Last year I put myself in that position, and didn't try nearly hard enough to get out of it. Last year I was lazy, and I was scared.

Last year I hid behind my grief for far too long. Last year I used grief as a closet in which I could hide from difficult truths and frightening realities. I used it as a shield and I used it as a weapon.

Last year a woman who found my blog and read my writing reached out to me and said, "You're talented. Work with me."

Last year I dated three five four men, and had the best sex of my life, which is what I said the year before, and which is what I hope I'll be able to truthfully say again next year, too.

Last year I ran for miles, as far as I could, in every direction that the streets and freeways would allow me. Last year I stopped gaining and losing the few pounds I'd flirted with for two decades, and settled at one hundred and fifteen pounds. Last year I loved, appreciated, and enjoyed my body more than I ever have, in spite of being diagnosed with a thyroid disorder and finding out I'm not as tall as I thought I was.

Last year my circle of friends shifted. It shrank, then expanded. Last year I was surprised by the company I found myself keeping. Last year I worked to keep the torches of some friendships lit, while others I allowed to go out. Last year my friends saved my life. They saved my fucking life.

Last year I shed the last ugly bits of trauma from my previous winter, and learned to love myself again. I rediscovered my self-esteem, polished and protected it, and moved it out of the reach of anyone else. Last year the words and actions of lovers and friends - and lovers who became friends - helped with that immeasurably. Last year I started to understand what my values are, and how to honor them. I realized the importance of emotional boundaries, and started shoring them up tight. Last year I said "no" to some really, really, tempting offers that would have had me busting those boundaries.

Last year I fell in love with blogging again, and this year, my wish for myself, is to fan the flame of inspiration by keeping my eyes, ears, and heart open to everything around me.

Thank you all, familiar or anonymous, friendly or hostile, for watching me be me, for yet another year.

flower trade

for George

Once there was a girl who had some flowers to trade. There were all kinds of flowers in her bunch: some cultivated and common, some exotic and wild. Mixed in with the more attractive and desirable of these blooms was a handful of weeds, thick-stemmed and sticky.

She bound up the bundle with paper and string, but loosely, so that all the blossoms could be easily seen: the hot pink petals of the peonies, the milky white hoods of the calla lilies, the vibrant violet trumpets of the foxgloves. She tried to make sure nothing was hidden from view - not even the weeds, ugly and plain as they were.

The girl took her flowers to the town square, where she waited patiently, feeling the breeze dance with her hair. It wasn't long before she spied someone in the distance, walking towards her. He approached slowly, and straight on. When he got close, she realized he was smiling at her. She had no choice but to smile back. They looked at one another for a long moment before either spoke.

"Hello there," he said.

"Hello," she replied.

He nodded toward the flowers she cradled in her arms. "I see you're here to trade."

"Yes," the girl said, and held up her bouquet so that he could examine it. But the boy only grinned harder. The girl couldn't remember the last time anyone had seemed so happy to see her. His smile was like sunlight on her skin.

"Oh, I don't need to look," he said. "I already know I want them. Let's trade." And from behind his back, as if by magic, the boy drew a massive bundle of his own flowers, wrapped in newsprint and red satin ribbon. The girl laughed, charmed by the surprise, and stepped closer to see what he held.

"Do you like them?" he asked. But before she could answer, he continued: "I'm afraid they're only weeds."

The girl frowned and looked at him curiously. "Surely not," she murmured, and with the tip of her finger, pushed down an edge of the bundled-up newspaper. She saw a flash of brilliant color, and she knew he was wrong - very wrong.

"Oh yes," he insisted. "Every last one." But the girl wasn't listening to him. The vivid blues and reds and yellows of the bouquet he held had captivated her, and she was peering deeply in, drinking in the riotous colors and intoxicating scents. She looked back at him, puzzled.

"But...these aren't weeds. These are glorious! Some of them I've never even seen before! Like this one..." The girl pointed at a long, elegant stalk topped with a delicate, cup-shaped bud. The outside of the bloom was a shocking electric blue, but the inside was smoky and pale. The flower reminded her of a summer storm: lightning, thunder, and soft rain afterward. "What is it called?" she asked. "How do you grow it?"

The boy never took his eyes off her face. He was still smiling, but his tone was serious. "I told you," he said. "It's a weed. They all are." And the quiet way in which he said it made the girl realize: he truly believed this to be so. He moved away from her slightly, pulling his blossoms from her greedy gaze. "So? Shall we trade?"

The girl sighed. She didn't understand. She knew the boy's flowers were rare and beautiful, and that he could make a very good trade on them. She didn't want to trick him into giving them up for less than they were worth. But he didn't seem to realize what she was offering in return - or he didn't seem to care.

And she wanted his bouquet, badly. She wanted to pull out each of those startling blue stems and inhale its sweet perfume. She wondered what else was mixed up with them, that she hadn't even seen yet.

All she could do was take what he was offering, which was far more precious than he realized. All she could do was to be grateful, and enjoy what he gave her for as long as it lasted.

But she hoped that the next time he was ready to trade, he recognized the value of what he had to share.


I talked to (well, texted) my friend Cameron (who's living in Texas) briefly tonight, and I was reminded of a funny thing that happened with him once, that I never wrote down.

So I'm writing it down.

First, as context, you have to know that the gayby discussion came up for us about, oh, two weeks into our friendship, because we were just that close that fast (also, that crazy). As in, "Ellie, you should have my gayby!" and "Cam, you're totally right! That sounds like a great idea!" I'm really only slightly exaggerating because this was at the time that my marriage was unraveling and he was seriously unhappy with his job. It seemed as good an idea as any as to how to proceed with our lives. Fuck it. We're practically a romantic comedy already, anyway. Let's go whole hog. 

So, yeah, we briefly had pacifier-shaped stars in our eyes.

Anyway, one day about a year after that, he and I went to IKEA to get, among other things, a new crib mattress for Chaucer to sleep on. He helped me compare mattress thickness and sheets and whatnot, and I decided the "California king" version would be best - nice and long for Chauc's legs to stretch out on.

Then on the way out, we found ourselves smack in the middle in one of the massive IKEA elevators, looking at one another from opposite sides of a shopping cart with a huge crib mattress sticking out of it. We were both holding it so it wouldn't wobble out (it was one of the oversized, longer ones), and as our eyes met, it dawned on us simultaneously that we were surrounded by strangers eyeing us with completely understandable curiosity.

The realization of what it must have looked - and sounded - like to everyone else in the elevator hit us at the same time and we busted up pretty badly, creating what was probably a slightly worrisome scene for some of the more conservative riders. I really hope they're not doing what I think they're doing, and if they are, I hope they take it more seriously than they are right now. I think one of us even tried to mess with them, saying something about baby names, but we were laughing too hard to play it straight.

Anyway, it was sort of a fantastic moment, in a friendship that has been rather stuffed with them.

Housewars I

HOUSEWARS: Slightly Hostile Conversations Between Things In My Home

Episode I: In Which Nurses Mac and Ruby Are Brought Up Short By Dr. Tito

"Jesus. Ellie is hot mess. She just sneezed on my space bar."

"You think that's gross? She's slobbering all over my spout. I wonder if her friends know she drinks from the container. No wonder she's single."

"Shut up, Ruby. At least you didn't lose your job to a sweatshirt sleeve."

"Someone needs to help her relax. You know she has trouble sleeping when she's sick, and there's nothing catching her eye on Netflix."

"I'd take a bath with her, but I'm feeling really burned out. And I don't like the way she trims my wick. She always takes too much off."

"Don't look at us. We've been hanging out with her for, like, hours every night. It's someone else's turn." 

"Let me know when you amateurs are ready to get serious."

I know nothing.

There's something I want to say about my last post. Something isn't sitting right with me, regarding what I wrote about dating.

I just have this feeling that if any of my ex's, or even some of the men I've dated were to read it, their eyes might roll out of their heads.

To be clear: I don't have everything figured out. I don't want to give the impression that I think I do, or that I think myself a Perfectly Noble Beast who makes all the right choices for all the right reasons. What I said about the way I'm trying to choose partners is true, but it's probably not the whole story. I am trying to be more selective about what I do with my time in general, but it isn't as if I'm sitting there, looking at a line up of men, declaring them worthy or unworthy based on my 'life is short' metric.

It's more complicated than that. There are some reasons I do the things I do - start or end relationships - that are wholly selfish, or unreasonable, or random, or contradictory, or...whatever, that have nothing to do with the loss I've experienced.

I'm only human, and my ego and fears jerk me around the same way they do everyone else.

I've met and gotten to know some amazing guys in the past few years. Truly remarkable, impressive people. And they are 100% worth partnering up with, to the right woman. And I'm no better or worse than them as a person or partner.

I just had this squicky feeling that my last post made me sound like an asshole, so that's all I wanted to say.

Happy Thursday.

the far side of grief

I know I wrote a lot last year about my parents' deaths. I know it probably got tiresome to read. I know it was depressing.

But I think I'm done grieving. I can think of it now - the cold, hard fact of their absence - without losing my breath. Or my voice, if I'm in conversation. I'm now in the It is what it is phase. Not numbness so much as dryness. The tears have dried up, and in their place is a crisp matter-of-factness. Yes. They're gone. I'm on my own. 

It is what it is. 

I'm on the far side of grief. And, maybe as a hard-won bonus, something else is taking its place, in bits and pieces: wisdom. 

It's impossible to throw out a word like "wisdom" in relation to yourself without sounding like a smug ass, I totally get that. And god knows, the older I get, the more I realize how little I know. But there are things I know now that I didn't know then, and that I wouldn't know, if not for. Surprising things. 

1. Grief has made me a better dog owner. Chaucer is one of the best things ever to happen to me. I adore that dog to the moon and back a dozen times. But he can be exhausting. Not just his physical needs, but his emotional ones. Mastiffs are incredibly sensitive, and Chauc is no exception. Look at him the wrong way and he'll be an anxious, unsettled wreck. He's a lot of work to care for on my own, and there were times in the past that I felt overwhelmed by the responsibilities and duties of being his sole master and provider. It's the little, time-consuming things that can get frustrating with him, like having to wipe down his paws after each walk, having to mop up the floor around his water dish several times a day, having to repaint patches of wall every week - even having to drag his bed across the apartment at bedtime, since otherwise he'll sleep on the hard floor to be next to me. 

Sometime in the past few months, though, I suddenly became infinitely more patient with him. The small annoyances ceased to be annoying, because I realize how precious little time I have with him. And I know exactly what I'm in for when he dies. I know the precise shape, form, and depth of pain I'll be facing, because I've faced it down twice now. And I am in no hurry to be in that place again. I will happily, gladly, please and thank you very much, sponge dirt and drool off my floor, my furniture, my walls, and him several times a day, for as many years as I'm granted. And I'll do it with a genuine smile on my face, because he's all the family I've got. 

Gratitude and good humor have replaced the exasperation I sometimes had with him. There are still moments when my patience wears thin, no question. But in general, the perspective I gained from losing loved ones has tapped an even deeper wellspring of love and appreciation than I thought I had for him before.

2. Grief has made me a more selective dater. It's simple: life is short. Life is precious. Life, to me, is about relationships, experiences, and creation - that's where my happiness comes from. I don't want to waste my time being unhappy. I just plain don't have enough of it, as far as I'm concerned. So I've worked really, really hard at getting to know myself and my needs better - so that I can better predict my happiness. I don't know how else to say it: it's just incredibly important to me that I don't throw any more time away on relationships that don't fulfill me, or that don't move me closer to the person I want to be.

ETA: plz to read this clarification, thx. 

3. Grief has made me a happier person. How's that for a paradox? It comes down to gratitude. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Gratitude for the connections I make with others, big and small. Gratitude for the things I'm still here on earth experiencing, while others are gone. Sunshine. Rain. Friday nights. Monday mornings. Sex. Breakups. A drive with a handsome boy in a fast car. A plodding bus ride surrounded by strangers. Leisure time or hard work, pain or pleasure. It's all a fucking privilege to experience. And while that's something I could have said a year ago and thought I'd meant it, it would have been lip service at the time. Now I really, really get it. What drives it home for me is the total apathy of the universe, towards all of us. My mom died. Bam. Gone. Some people cared, of course, but the universe at large didn't give a shit. My dad died. Bam. Gone. Some people cared, but again, the world in general did not. This life is ours for such a tiny, tiny slice of time, and how little an impact we make on the universe is almost laughable - almost belittling to us. It doles out experiences to us with complete indifference - it doesn't care that it's dumping rain on our French Polynesian vacation, or that someone's brain is not manufacturing the sort of chemicals that would make him want to spend the weekend with us.

It doesn't care, period.

So if you can't find a way to feel joy in more than just the obviously joyful things, you're fucked. Because there just isn't that much obvious joy in this life, and the universe has the power to knock you down, again and again and again - if you let it. You have absolutely got to cultivate joy. Treat it like a plant, like a living thing you feed and water. Carry it around with you. Learn how to transplant it to places it normally wouldn't survive. Cherish it, and it will grow so strong that you find yourself smiling and optimistic, in spite of x, where x = whatever challenge you face at that moment. Joy is my shield when the world batters me. I practice feeling it every single day. I train myself to soak up even the smallest drops of it. It's freezing out, and I'm so cold and tired, and I have another fifteen minutes' walk back home - but it's still early enough that there's sun on the opposite side of the street. If I cross and walk over there, I'll be warm. Ahhh, yes, that's awesome. And wow, the air is really crisp and fresh tonight. Smog? What smog? This air is amazing. Oh, hey. My favorite song came on shuffle. It's a sign. I'm totally gonna speed walk now. 

And that was a pretty lame example of what I'm talking about, but you get the general idea. 

4. Grief has taught me not to hang my happiness on things that can change. I touched on this a few posts back, though I didn't really go into detail. But since this is one of my New Year's resolutions, and I planned on writing a post about those, I'll save this for that.

lucky tooth

Today was root canal day. Well, it was supposed to be, anyway. But it turns out I didn't need one after all.

My dentist numbed me up, and I plugged into my music, sailing away to lands mysterious and exotic in my mind (ok maybe not that exotic; I was fantasizing about Bonnaroo this summer). I was actually doing really well, fairly relaxed and pretty checked out of the demolition going on in my mouth.

Then all of a sudden, my dentist puts down his instrument of torture and asks me if I have a dollar. "Whaa?" I say, my jaw propped open wider than it's been since, well, let's not go there. He unstuffs whatever it was he'd stuffed in my cheek, I swallow and say, "I'm going to owe you a lot more than a dollar when you're through with me."

"No no," he says, laughing. "After you leave here, you need to go buy a lottery ticket. You don't need a root canal."

I blink. I don't understand.

"Looking at your x-rays, it appears you do. But when I got in there, I went really slowly, downsizing my tool as I got through the decay. And it hasn't actually hit the nerve, which explains why it hasn't been bothering you. The chances of that are tiny, and most dentists would have just plowed in. But you don't need it. It's close, and you might some day, but not today. So, go get lottery ticket, because that is a lucky tooth and today is your lucky day."

The best part is I saved some $600 or so. Suh-weet. Though I still have to get an impacted wisdom tooth out in February, ughhh. But today? Today is lucky. So if anyone wants to come rub my Blarney stones, let me know. I'm single, so they're available for that sort of thing.


There's a ski lodge, but the mountains it's set amongst aren't steep or Alpine. They're wide, gently rolling hills, not suited for skiing at all. And there isn't snow, anyway. It's spring, and the grass is a tender, tentative yellow-green. Cold, sunny, nothing else around. Except the roller coaster.

That's the only way to get there - a roller coaster ride. But it isn't violent dips and loops. The track curves up the mountain with an almost imperceptible slope. What's most remarkable about the ride is how powerful it is. The track is pristine and modern, with two huge steel coils that guide the passenger cart. The whole thing vibrates with a deep electronic surety as it moves (which it does quickly, but not frighteningly so). I feel thrilled to be on it, but safe. I know there is no danger.

There are others with me. Some familiar faces, some strange. A boy I know, maybe once loved... I don't remember who. That's the first part of the dream to slip from my grasp upon waking.

I feel comfortable, and excited about the ride.

We sit side by side, several people across, in the cart. The humming of machinery underneath and around us makes my heart race. And as we take off, the whoosh of air on my face feels like the start of great story.

At the top, we disembark and enter the lodge. We poke around in small groups, or alone. Everything is white and clean and spare. Bordering on sterile. It's pretty up here, but I'm not sure I want to stay. I'm just glad to be experiencing it. Glad to be part of the adventure.

Glad to not have missed out on the ride.

today's thoughts on dating

1. It's brutal. It really is.

2. All I can do is have faith that I'm making the right decisions. It seems like I'm having trouble getting anything off the ground lately, despite putting myself out there, meeting people, giving things a shot. But I'm not sure if it's a good sign or a bad one - that inability to get something meaningful going.

Here's what I want to believe: in the past, I entered into relationships very quickly, because I wasn't self-aware enough to know I wasn't making a good choice in a partner. I went from boyfriend to boyfriend to boyfriend to husband to boyfriend, etc., for, literally, decades, with almost no time in between. Now it seems like a handful of dates is enough for me to know, No, this isn't right. I have to believe that being more selective about my partners doesn't mean that I'm being unrealistic or unreasonable. I have to believe it means I'm more in tune with my needs, my values, my standards, and my expectations for myself - and therefore, quicker to see the holes in the boat. I have to believe that all this time that I'm spending being single, working on myself, is only going to pay off bigger dividends. Because the more in touch I am with myself, the more self-love I have and the better my ability to make myself happy, the more I'll have to give the right person.

But fuuuuuuck. The self-doubt can be a killer, when you tell someone, No, sorry, you're not for me. Because connecting with people feels really, really good. You want it to work.

3. I'm so grateful to have close friends that I can turn to for advice, perspective, support - and vice versa. Right now a friend is going through what will probably be a breakup, and it's a real heartbreaker for him. I feel for him tremendously, as I always do, because he's an amazing person who deserves someone equally amazing. The things I said to him are the things I have trouble internalizing myself sometimes:

Him: Fuck. ...Heartbroken.

Me: I know. There is nothing worse than being into someone who's not into you. Nothing worse on earth, ugh. But think about how good it will feel when you're with someone again who can't get enough of you. That's maybe a few months away, tops. You meet girls all the time. 

Some people are trapped in relationships where neither party has feelings anymore. They're married, maybe with kids, maybe loathe to break up their families but unable to feel happy in them anymore. That's a life sentence of unfulfillment. It's a relative luxury that we can keep trying people on to see if they fit. Because that's all dating is. Seeing if they fit. She didn't fit. It's always painful, but there's nothing more common or universal than that pain. 

Try to practice not hanging all your happiness on things that can change, like relationships. Cultivate taking joy in the whole process: meeting, infatuation, falling - even what you learn when it ends. And congratulate yourself on respecting yourself enough to move on when it's obviously over.

Work on feeling complete and whole without a girl. Love yourself enough so that a relationship is a bonus not a necessity. Focus on creating, learning, growing - whatever brings you joy that's not reliant on another.


It's so much easier to dish that kind of advice than to take it, though, innit?

pink and proud

I text this picture to Chaucer's dogfather, C.

C: Why is your dog's penis sticking out?

Me: Why are you zooming in on my dog's penis?

C: It was noticeable.

Me: Chaucer has been raised to be sex-positive and embrace his manhood. ...He doesn't feel shame about his hot pink puppy weenis.

C: Hahaha. ...Pink and proud.

Me: Like most of the men in my life. 

of baskets and balls

"Bet you can't make a basket," the boy said, and smiled challengingly. He held in his arms a wooden crate the size of a barrel sliced in half. It was big enough to hold a bushel of apples, or a litter of puppies. It was completely empty, and the way he angled it toward her seemed like an invitation to fill it.

The girl glanced at it and scoffed, because she knew only a clumsy fool would miss the shot. "Are you kidding?" she teased. "I could do that in my sleep." She lobbed the ball softly and without thinking, and it landed with a satisfying clud. They both peered in at the ball, which settled quickly and easily in the deep vessel. Immediately, she picked up another ball, and this time using her left hand, flung it in just as handily.

He raised his eyebrows. "I'm impressed," he admitted, looking pleasantly surprised.

"That's nothing," she said. "Watch this." The girl turned her body completely away from the boy and the crate, and, closing her eyes, lightly tossed a ball over her shoulder. She waited until she heard the tell-tale thud before spinning back around, grinning in anticipation of her success. When she did, she saw that the boy had moved a few steps away from her while she wasn't looking. Still, the ball had gone in. Undeniably, it had gone in.

"Ok," he said to her, nodding begrudgingly. "But I bet you can't do it like that again."

She held up her open palms in acceptance of the challenge. Let's find out, her gesture said.

It was then that she realized he was no longer holding a large crate, but a medium-sized woven basket. It looked familiar to her, but she didn't know why. She wasn't sure if this counted as cheating on the part of the boy, but she didn't want to be a whiner or a spoilsport, so she wordlessly turned away, and got into position. This throw would be the trickiest yet. But she had faith in herself. She knew she had a good arm. And she had been collecting the best, surest softballs she could find, for years. She couldn't have been better prepared.

The girl took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, steadied her shoulders, and visualized the empty basket. It took a lot more concentration to throw at a target she couldn't see. A lot more work and focus and even - anxiety. She knew she was overthinking, but she didn't see a way around it. The situation seemed to require it.

Finally, she silenced her mind and let her body take over. The ball slipped from her fingers in the way it always did, neither too soon nor too late: only when it was ready to go. But this time, instead of a single clunk, there was a rattle, then a thonk-thonk-roll. She'd missed. Or rather, the ball had gone in momentarily before bouncing back out again. She'd scored - and then lost - all in a split second.

She turned back around and looked at the boy, whom, she noted, had stepped several paces from the spot he'd been in before. He didn't seem surprised by her failure, but neither did he seem disappointed. He wasn't gloating and he wasn't satisfied. He was just...expressionless.

It was at that moment that it dawned on the girl why the basket he held seemed so familiar. She cocked her head, unsure and unwilling to ask what she knew she had to. "Did you..." she faltered. "Is that from...the carnival?"

"The carnival?" he echoed, frowning slightly.

"The basket," she said, pointing at it, noticing that it seemed even smaller than before. "Is it yours, or is it from the midway?" He looked down at what he held in his hands, as if seeing it for the first time. The girl walked to him so she could examine it, too. As she reached him, she gave a start. The basket he held was indeed smaller. In fact, it was so tiny, it probably wouldn't have held even her smallest, most worn down ball. Or it might have, had they jammed it in with force - but then she might never have gotten it back out again. Or worse: they might have broken the basket in their effort.

"Never mind," she said, and gathered up the balls she hadn't yet thrown. "I should probably keep these for now, anyway."

And with that, the girl went home to practice some more.