I have returned from five days in Nerdvana, otherwise known as Dragon*Con. And while I didn't get to cosplay everything I planned to and walked about a thousand miles more in heels than I wanted as we weren't staying in a host hotel, we made so many good memories that I am already dreaming of next year. Agent Peggy CarterThough I wondered if I wasn't accidentally cosplaying another red-hatted boss lady, it seems I wasn't the only one suffering from a case of mistaken identity if my conversations with other Agent Carter cosplayers are any indication. Despite making the worst convention shoe choice of my life, I loved being Peggy Carter on Friday and Saturday morning of the con. I had the stellar opportunity to march with a crew of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and Marvel characters during the parade (around 16:12), and another lovely Peggy with victory rolls to roll over for.  There were many high-fives for little ones who recognized me, and I got a hug. As I am generally sensory-deprived when I am away from my cuddly family, it was much appreciated.

I am already plotting for next year, of course. I want to dismantle the jacket so it's more tailored, completely remake the sleeves, and either make or purchase a shirt that's closer to screen-accurate. Because I am a perfectionist, not a purist. Both are equally obnoxious, I fear.

Ms. FrizzleThere's something to be said for a costume that inspires glee and nostalgia. Ms. Frizzle was more fun even than I had hoped. On Sunday night after the masquerade - one of the very few pieces of programming we managed to attend, being too far from the con this year - I met a Captain Planet and nearly melted from joy, tooling around the Marriot with my bestie dressed as the best ever Phyrne Fischer. Normally we skip the bar scene because of the impassibility of that area, but never again. We saw some incredible cosplays and tipsy nerds are the nicest.

It seems I must settle down to the work of being a regular, writerly human now that the mad sewing that precedes con is over, and it should be a lot easier: I threw a bunch of money at artists in the comic and pop art gallery for new prints for my working space.

I Don't Have a Sister, But if I Did

My Best FriendI'm running out of sentiments, or maybe you're too good for them. But I'll never run out of stories. We were too weird for the other weirdos, trading stickers, amateur music writing, even more amateur film making, taking long walks to libraries and the corner store to buy copies of Tiger Beat and Bop that we would crudely cannibalize for Hanson posters. We got each other on a deep and immediate level that didn't require asking Zandar for affirmation - we did anyway - and were quickly soaring to new heights on the unicorn of our choice. I feel relatively certain that we moved a time capsule from 1999 when we moved you into your new house just last week.

My favorite teenage memories involve sitting opposite each other on your waterbed, sloshing and wobbling but still managing to balance a pen and a spiral bound notebook. We wrote stories almost exclusively about each other. We were witches. We were fairies. We were vampires and time travelers and space pioneers. The boys we liked certainly found themselves fictionalized, but they were inconstant, unreal, a fantasy. The true heart of what I spent years of my early writing working out was how to follow my imagination in the company of a kindred spirit, both on and off the page.

LYLACHere is a thing that I remember: going with you to your high school freshman orientation, insisting on speaking in what I am sure was an insulting British cockney the entire time. I remember the look on the face of a boy who'd read one of your stories, you know the one, when he realized that it was me who was your best friend in the story, your best friend in real life. The glee when we raced away from him in the hallway, how light our steps felt and how certain we were about everything. If I didn't take your hand then I am taking it now, holding tight and forging ahead throughout all of the years of our big and little revelries.

When I think about my girls growing up and what I really want for them, I want them to be the oddball, the ugly duck, the girl with the temper and the hair and the too-pink shoes. Because if you don't stand up and stand out, if you make it too easy for the world to get and forget you, how will you ever find the person who remakes the world with you?

Happy Birthday, Kelsi. I love you, ever and forever.

Computer Monitors are not Crystal Balls

I was thinking that the good ol' days of my fortune telling was my infantile exploration of the internet at fourteen and fifteen years old: the widgets - did we even call them widgets then? - on personal Angelfire pages that would provide Tarot readings or random sentiments for luck; Ask Jeeves' maternal aunt Madame Jekaterina beseeched in a chat box regarding whether this boy or that one was worthier of my ardent affections or if foregoing AP Biology would really cripple my chances at a scholarship; the notion that the disorderly primeval ooze out of which true randomness slunk could somehow offer me direction and heart, that these things gave me what conversation and real world experience could not. Some other energy that could be heralded or blamed for when things went terribly awry. Or just plain terrible. But it didn't start then. I've liked looking for signs my whole life, though not in any of the usual places. It wasn't only that I enjoyed imagining patterns where there weren't any, or reading into things that probably weren't meant to be read in the first place, it was a comfort that of all the meaningless possibilities, this one was mine. That there were answers I could not find in a book, even if it meant I had to fathom them into existence. When K and I dared to ask Zandar or I rolled a pair of mismatched dice or looked up a dream interpretation in my secondhand almanac, what I think I always wanted was confirmation for the things I already knew anyway. Worst case scenario, the things I hoped were true or real or immediate.

Now I Google the truth. Over and over again until I've got enough right answers to shut up the part of my brain that wants shutting up, that's forever fourteen and in need of daily affirmations. Usually accompanied by the appropriate Yahoo horoscope and a Lisa Frank sticker.


It would be an inaccurate picture to offer only an excerpt of the following list, written somewhere in the range of fourteen or fifteen years old and found by me in a vain attempt to purge the many relics of my adolescence that fill moving boxes in our basement. This one's a keeper. Misspellings and a lifetime of friendship intact.

K and I are alike because:

We both love Ramen Noodles We both love Dr. Pepper We both hate tomatoes We both hate mayonaisse We both hate potato salad We both hate egg salad We both hate chicken salad We both hate deviled eggs We both hate peas We both love Long John Silver's We both love Captain D's We both love cheese sticks We both love doodling We both love Hanson (duh) Our telepathic moments saying something at the same time The word snifty (nifty) sensitive hyper moments shy sacastic sarcastic We like purple love to tye-dye love sparkles We are both pretty We both think we're ugly We both love music We both love art We both love shoes snifty hairwraps snifty power bracelets snifty rings We both have long toes bad concentration no boyfriends love nature & peace We love to smile enjoy chocolate We love monkeys & bananas (but not to eat) We both love drama We both love singing Winter of Fire (our favorite book) We both are abnormal We both love camaras We both love each other's pets We both love our own pets We both love Beavis & Butthead We both love Daria We both love Grease We both obsess over Hanson (duh) We waste money on magazines with Hanson We both love mail We both love paper games We are incurable klutzes We spill things daily We both call people evil (if they are)

Unwives Tales

This morning a cardinal alighted on one of our patio chairs, his feathered tail bobbing like a lure. As a girl I would've held my breath, beginning a silent recitation of the alphabet. I'd read in an enormous tome of American folklore - one of many acquisitions from school book sales, where I'd find the book with the best amount of pages for my (mother's) buck - that when you saw a red bird land, the letter on your lips at the moment he flew away again was the first letter of the last name of the man you were going to marry. I would never have admitted to cheating, but the haste with which I spoke my As, Bs, and Cs or the languid lines of L and M and N and O and P had everything to do with the unlucky classmate I fancied and nothing with the familiar melody of the alphabet.

My romantic superstitions were not restricted to girlhood. In high school I bent the tabs off of Dr. Pepper cans while repeating the same, and kept a chain of letters on a cord around my neck, spelling the name of my beloved. Why pearls when you can have aluminum? K and I also revisited the book, our Avonlea sensibilities satisfied by the sweetest temptation of them all: swallow a thimble full of salt before bed, and dream of the man you will marry bringing you a glass of water.

I imagined, so ardently did I love at sixteen, that he would bring me whole lengths of rivers in his arms.

And so we did just that, of course, not the stupidest thing we'd ever done but certainly the thing with the farthest reaching consequences. Though I did not learn to cook for years, it was many years even after that I would consent to season anything with salt. We didn't see anything, and none of these boys grew up to be the man I married.

No matter how much growing up I do, there are still so very many ways to be foolish about love.

Laa Laa Nostalgia

"What is this?" My husband and I are hauling Christmas decorations, at long last, into the storage room in the basement. The whole basement may as well be considered storage for as tidy as I keep it, but in this particular space he could be referring to absolutely anything.

"What is what?"

He thrusts forward a Teletubbie, his look incredulous.

"That's Laa Laa," I answer, holding my arms out, into which the yellow critter is deposited. M continues to eye me suspiciously, necessitating further explanation. Namely, that she was a Christmas gift from my mother. When I was in high school.

I haven't grown up any more than I had then, and am overcome with as much desire to squeeze her cute alien brains to bits as I was at sixteen. There's a photograph of me and one of K's cousins on her water bed, Laa Laa between us, each of us with eyes half-lidded not from the dope other girls our age might have been smoking but from the delirium that follows too many cans of Dr. Pepper consumed and the liberating atmosphere of teenage girls in the company of other teenage girls. I'm wearing a scratch-and-sniff Chinese take-out t-shirt from Gadzooks and my hair is a riot of ringlets. I am young and thin and imagine myself someday to be rock star, for all I spent just as much time on that water bed sitting across from K and writing as we did curled on the floor, playing the same songs over and over again on our guitars. Hers was big and blue and beautiful and the name, I feel like, started with a B. Mine is neglected now in our spare room for all I can still play, if poorly, "House of the Rising Sun" or "Wish You Were Here" when asked.

There's a shelf downstairs, too, wide and deep enough for two rows of the journals I kept between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. I don't like to open them, but I made sure to store them high enough that should the basement flood, they'll be the last of things to go.

I brought Laa Laa upstairs and added her to the small collection of toys we keep in the living room for the increasing number of friends and cousins with children. Her laughter was meant for the young.

Fuck Yeah Karma

Stars aligned to prevent me from sewing with K today, several constellations full. I'd loaned my machine to a friend, so I arrived at her house a few minutes earlier than I'd planned to be and rang the doorbell. Twice. No one answered, and neither occupant answered their cell phone, either, so I returned to my car, parked perilously on what always feels like a mountainside instead of a driveway. Playing Bejeweled on my phone entertained me only long enough to imagine my emergency break giving out and my car sliding back into the guard rail and my death, so I called their cell phones again. As it turned out, they'd both been home all along, and had heard neither phones nor doorbell. I choose to believe them when they say they were showering... and not something else.

Machine recovered, I jump on the expressway and proceed to zone out and miss my exit. The following exit boasts a Dunkin' Donuts, and my weakness for an iced latte lite with blueberry, sans splenda, being generally overpowering, I hop off and decide to grab a coffee before turning around.

Only to run into my most excellent grandmother-in-law in the line at the register, who after determining I am not headed to her house, asks in a way that allows only for an affirmative if I'll be sitting down and having coffee with her. So I do, and she's such an absolute gem that I don't mind my morning delayed more even than it already has been. It's only when I leave and hear a dreadful sound that could signify the crumpling of many, many rubber dolls on the road or a very, very flat tire that I must pull over again to discover the latter.  I admitted then and I've got to admit now that I'm one of those people who probably shouldn't be allowed the privilege of things like tires, given I don't know how to change one - frankly, I'd rather take the subway or a hoverboard, but I'm making the best of the Midwest.

Danny the Ameristop rock star changed my tire and I learned more from him than I would ever have had the patience to observe if it had been my husband. Danny reminded me of my brother, all hoodies and tees and patience with strangers. He explained when putting the tire on that I ought to tighten in the pattern of a star to keep the spare from wobbling. I followed his hands blackened from the tire or the tools or both, looking for something else in the pattern. I took the back roads home on my spare, spools of thread and bobbins from my upset sewing machine rolling on the floor beneath the passenger seat. I was wondering and wobbling despite my sturdy wheels,  figuring for all the bad this morning it was good. And fucking strange.

Girlhood: Redux

Save the Words reminds me of a time when K - my dearest girlhood friend, formally introduced over coconut snowballs and drawings of tigers  when we were thirteen - and I tried to revive 'groovy' in our quest to be, somehow, even more socially unapproachable than we already were. I borrowed the complete Woodstock recordings from the library, read The Feminine Mystique, and we lectured our acquaintances on how to properly draw a peace sign. We wrote stories. Our alter-egos were not only British but also teenagers in 1969, which seemed to our sheltered understanding the height of times to Be Young. My parents smoked more weed than we ever did, which is to say, a lot and none, respectively, but K and I walked the walk in thrifted bell bottoms, embroidered peasant blouses, and tinted sunglasses, and talked the talk as much as any awkward fifteen year old can. The closest we came to substance abuse was Dr. Pepper, but we both learned to play the guitar, and for one of her school projects we recorded a video of Mercutio's monologue as two enlightenment seeking hippies in an opium den.

Free love was out of the question. I couldn't talk to boys, and I took every disease-ridden slide in abstinence education more than seriously. Herpes was real and it was forever, unlike any expression of love between adolescents. When I finally did get around to kissing someone, I didn't feel Just Like a Woman. I felt like a kid, and he felt like he was giving me an oral exam (literally).

I don't wish to be helctic. Suffice to say my gipseian tendencies today better prepare me for a commune than my teenage dreams of hand-holding, vegan cookies, and rock 'n roll. Provided it has wi-fi and stand mixers, of course.