WordPress.com Now Supports Embed of Getty Images; I Blow Up Your Eyeballs

I love putting pictures in my posts. Because pictures are pretty. And sometimes you can find a picture of a red panda cracking up at your jokes.

So imagine my delight when the WordPress.com News blog made this little announcement:

Earlier today, Getty Images announced a new embed feature that will allow people to access and share photos from its extensive library of images for non-commercial purposes. We have been working with Getty Images over the past few weeks and are excited to bring this feature to WordPress.com!

I was like this:

And this:

There are so many images at my fingertips! The whole attribution thing is SOOO much easier! Plus, you never know when you’ll need a picture of a robot, getting ready to have a great time with a beach ball.

Not all of the images are available to embed in this super fancy way (getting a little greedy if we want that, no?), so every now and again you’ll have to deal with the disappointment of not being able to embed a picture of a cat raising it’s arms like it’s saying Hallelujah in a Pentecostal church…but pfft, you’ll get over it. Because there’s kitty with a tiny hat on:

And a kitty whose super power is being cute:

And, if you’re feeling a little crazy, this kitty:

There’s also a lot of non-kitty images (but seriously, there are so many kitties).

In fact, the other day Getty Images announced the Lean In collection, “a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them.” I commented on Facebook that I wanted to start a business, just so I could use all those badass images of women being awesome and showing normal signs of aging, and girls doing stuff other than wearing dresses. Like so:

Now I don’t need to start a hair-combing karate machinery business. I can just use the images in a meandering blog post. Total win.

So be on the look out for more awesome images here. I promise to slightly scale down my use of cat images (a little). If you’re a blogger you should definitely go check out the full Getty Images catalog. That’s a whole lot of fun right there. A whole lot of it.

Happy Friday, friendsies.

Good Morning, Snuggles

I have about eight—drat, no, seven—minutes to pound this out. Seven minutes to cobble some words together and jam them onto this screen here, and hope they make some kind of sense. Tick tock. No pressure.

It’s been a while. Things in my life are basically freaking bananas all the time. I had another kid last year, (hence the pregnancy post) and I’ll be damned if that doesn’t just suck all time and energy right out of your life. I mean, sucking like a vacuum in a cartoon where all the forest animals and leaves and pine needles and newspapers and old people get sucked into it. Like that.

When this new lil’ babe was born, beneath the torrential avalanche of need, I extended myself a little rope, tied to the boat of sanity. That rope was this: you can’t do much more than this, Melanie. You just can’t. You’ve got two people that need you all the freaking time, the idea of “me time” is laughable, and parenting is about as easy as threading a needle with an invisible worm. So to make it I had to let go of my dream to-do list, and pare it down to something simpler. It turned out about like this:

• Get out of bed

• Survive 10 hours until Stephen comes home

• Do not slap strangers as a result of exhaustion and anxiety

• Hug the girls really and truly at least once a day

• Don’t stress-eat all the food in San Diego

It’s a pretty limited list, but I know it’s within my capabilities, though just barely.

(Crap, I’m out of time, you all.)

So, good morning, Snuggles. I’m still here and alive and I still want to write and I want to hug your blessed little faces with my thought pukes. Even if it’s only seven minutes at a time.

The Loser’s Guide to Screenwriting

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Become Impregnated by The Idea

The Idea comes to you like a mythical creature. It creeps through your window at 2 AM. It rushes straight into your bosom, carried by a warm, southeasterly wind. When it comes to you, it’s fully formed, for it has been made by the hands of tiny green gods from another realm; they know more about storytelling than we ever will.

Yes, they’ve crafted The Idea, the green gods have, and now they’ve sent it to you. It’s so good it’s sexy. And you’re sexy too, now that you have The Idea. You cuddle it, coddle it, coo at it in your mind. You’d kiss it straight on the mouth if you could. Heck, you’d kiss yourself on the mouth.

Obsession. Development.

You write a few things down—not too many, just the broad strokes, really—afraid that delving straight into details will scare The Idea away. And it really is a fantastic idea. So good you can’t believe no one has come up with it before. How is it that a story like this has never been told? Not in this way. Not with this twist. You can’t believe your luck. You speak of The Idea to no one as you flesh it out in your mind, and even in your mind you speak in hushed tones.

The Idea is to be revered. Respected. Protected. You caress its head like it’s the prettiest kitty of all time.

Share Just a Little

Aflame with the exhilaration of having an actual writing project in the coffer, you find yourself unable to resist sharing a little with your writer friends—juuuuust a little.

But lo, when you open your mouth some kind of sentence fragment sputters out, and falls directly in your coffee. You have made a mockery of The Idea. You must stop speaking immediately.

Immediately.

Backtrack Paired with—What’s That? Oh, Yes—Panic

Back in your apartment, you pull out your notes, searching for The Idea. It must be here somewhere; intact, gorgeous, purring.

You read through one page. Then the next. And the third. The last? Wait…wasn’t there more than this? What about the opening images that gave you chills? Or the B story that brought just the right blend of levity and intrigue? This is not The Idea! This is something else, something lesser, something—God help you—pedestrian.

Excavate. Hyperventilate. Repeat.

Okay, just calm down. The golden Idea crafted by the tiny green gods could not have disappeared this quickly. (Unless you angered the tiny green gods. What did you do!?) You just need to think a moment. Just think. THINK.

So you need more than a moment. That’s okay. What’s that 99% perspiration thing? That’s fine. You can do that. Stop worrying. Go to the shelf. Pull out a few screenwriting books as reference, and you’ll have the bones all nice and laid out before you in no time. Sexy bones. The bones of The Idea. It will be fine.

Reinvent All Wheels

Whatever crap they’re selling in screenwriting books isn’t going to help you now. What were you thinking? What, were you hoping to write formulaic drivel that will make a bunch of money for some studio fat cats out there but will leave you dry and listless in your soul? Starved to the core of your creative being? (Wait, what was that about money? Creative famine might be fine with money…)

No! No formulas will work for you. No “structure” or “journey” or “beat sheet” will do The Idea justice. Instead, you must cull the collective knowledge and craft your own system. A system, a structure, a theory worthy of The Idea. The Idea needs a warm, fresh, bohemian yet ruthlessly genius home in which to appear once again. Yes. Yessssss. This will work. Just give it time. Tease out the structure with your hybrid, game-changing ideas and all will be well. The Idea will be well. And you will kiss it on the mouth.

Beer

And a little whiskey.

Vomit

In the alley. Defeated, you deposit both your stomach contents and your hopes for The Idea neatly between a dumpster and a family of rats. Even the rats pity you. A baby rat averts her eyes. You don’t disagree with her choice.

Interlude

Hello, Old Friend

Months later, you find a folder on your computer holding a vaguely named file. You open it out of curiosity. “Now that was a good Idea,” you think. “Just a little work and…”

Another ride around the carousel, please.

Hello One Thousand Subscribers! What the Deuce are You Doing Here?

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Photo by Joe Loong via Flickr

Yesterday I reached a pinnacle—a difficult and craggy height the likes of which could only be dreamt of when I first pressed “Publish” on WordPress.

Yes, it is true: I now have one thousand WordPress subscribers. (That’s you! Hooray!)

The first few hundred accumulated quietly. Like dust in a corner, or receipts in a wallet, or kittens in a house where the mama cat never gets fixed and is very friendly. It was calm, and nice, and only a little hairy. Then some big, partly exciting, partly terrifying jumps came with the two times I got on Freshly Pressed (Thanks FP editors!). And then?

Then, things got a little weird.

I started getting a bunch of subscribers every day. Like five. Or ten. And some of them, well…I kinda wonder what they’re doing here. (Not you, of course. You’re here on purpose, right?) Like all the people whose blogs are in a different language. My humor’s a little bumpy in English; I can only imagine what kind of a loon I sound like in translation. And then there are the fashion blogs (did you not see this, people? You will find no fashion here.). And, I dunno…just a bunch of randos. Perhaps I have charmed all one thousand of you with my wit and made-up words. It’s possible. Or perhaps there’s some sort of internet scam in which you charm me with your subscription, and then I end up being a drug mule for you or something. (Please know I’d make a terrible drug mule—breaking rules makes me very, very nervous. I use my signal every single time. Even when no cars are around. That type o’ gal is not cut out for the drug muling life.)

So, to quell my curiosity, while also seizing the opportunity to press a new button I found in my WordPress post editor, I thought I’d do a poll! It’ll be enlightening and entertaining for all involved. Plus…more buttons!

Here we go:

 

A million snuggles to all of you for making me feel like I’m not sending my words into the abyss. I’ll keep writing if you keep reading. Deal? Deal.

Treasures of the Internet

Treasure Chest

Photo By Timitrius @ flickr

Did you know that the Daily Post at WordPress.com has daily writing prompts? True story. I read them all, hoping they will ring a thousand bells in my head and then I’ll write a thousand brilliant blog posts, be offered a blushingly generous advance for my soon-to-be best seller, then get a private jet to take me to Switzerland where I’ll paraglide down to a quaint grassy spot in the Alps. Mostly I read the prompts, make some kind of groaning sound, and decide I don’t have the gumption to respond. Maybe next one? Or the next?

But today’s prompt was much easier, because I’m not asked to rattle something fascinating out of my brain, but rather point you to things that other people have rattled out of their brains. I can point like I champ. I’m pointing right now. At a chair. If someone walked into my apartment and asked, “Which chair did you accidentally push over and not bother to pick up?” I’d say, “That one,” and the asker would follow my expertly pointed finger to the office chair and not be confused in the slightest. Pro.

Ahem.

Anyway, here are a few gems from my jam-packed RSS feed, for your reading pleasure.

Bailey | Never Had One Lesson | Jerrod Crouch

Okay, this is suuuper sad. Sorry to hit you with that right off the bat, but some stuff on the internet is sad and you should probably get used to it. But this piece that Jerrod wrote about the loss of his wife’s dog is just beautiful and honest and it’s worth a read. Just be ready to cry a bunch.

I knelt down and kissed Bailey on the forehead and whispered in her ear, “Thank you for the best spot on the couch and I will love Court for the rest of my life”.  I know Bailey didn’t hear it, but I also know that she already knew it.

See? So sad. But worth it. Go give it a read.

Crucifixion and Liberation | Sarah Over the Moon | Sarah Moon

Okay, so I didn’t technically read this piece in the last week, but I don’t think the fine folks at the Daily Post are going to come taze me over it. (I hope not, Daily Post peeps, because that’s super weird. And probably really uncomfortable. I’m not going to offer you coffee if you taze me. Just so we’re clear.)

I came across Ms. Moon’s writing when she was featured on Freshly Pressed a while back, and I’ve been a loyal reader ever since. Her blog mostly focuses on her journey making sense of her Christian roots as she ages and her perspectives change, which is something I (and many, many people I know) can relate to.

This particular piece reflects on what the death of Jesus, Christianity’s savior, meant at the time and what it means now. It might be a little overwhelming if you have no familiarity with the theology of Christianity, but it also might be a take on America’s most outspoken religion that you haven’t heard before. Here’s a favorite quote of mine:

Jesus stood with the oppressed. He healed on the Sabbath. He advocated for the poor. He spoke out against the abuse of women.

And those in power killed him for it. They silenced his message (but it couldn’t quite stay dead, could it?).

Maybe this is the real message of the cross. That the God of all creation loved the oppressed enough to become one with them, even in death–the ultimate tool of oppressive forces.

Why the Mantis Shrimp is My New Favorite Animal | The Oatmeal

You may have seen this piece running around the internet like crazy, because that’s what it’s doing. And rightly so, because it is funny and informative, with colorful pictures. What else could you want? Hmm? You want more, you say? Well, it also happens to be inspired by one of my other favorite things that the internet—nay, modern civilization—has to offer: Radio Lab. They did an episode on colors, and the Oatmeal ran with it. Perfecto. So now you have TWO fabulous things to go check out in this ONE bullet point. Ab fab.

The rainbow we see stems from just THREE colors, so try to imagine a mantis’ rainbow created from SIXTEEN colors. Where we see a rainbow, the mantis shrimp sees a thermonuclear bomb of light and beauty.

So there you go! Three fabulous things to check out on the internet. Wasn’t that fun? Maybe I’ll do it more often. Then I won’t feel like such a slouch for reading stuff on the internet like it’s my job. Everyone wins.

Lemme know what you think of these great posts/writers. And if you’ve read something amazing lately, feel free to share.

p.s. Bonus link! After my post last week about how terrible pregnancy is, my friend Amy sent me this bit on Jezebel about pregnancy. It is hilarious and true and awful all at once. I’m not at all jealous that I didn’t write it (I’m totally jealous that I didn’t write it.).

Let’s Pretend I’m Really Cool

You should go buy this book.

Last night I got to go see Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) read some of her recent, New-York-Times-Best-Seller-Phenom-Amazing book, “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.” If you’ve never read her, stop reading this immediately and go read her instead. You can come back later when you have the proper amount of humor in your life.

Done? Good.

Anyway, so I was all excited to go to the reading, because she’s hilarious (as you now know), and charming, and I just thought it would be super fun to actually see her in person. I was going solo, so I brought my camera to record all the hub-bub, and write this post to fill you in. Because I care.

I was all ready to be cool, meet some folks, say something kind and witty and flash a winning smile at Jenny while she signed my book and then I’d be on my way, feeling awesome about my ability interact with other humans.

Lovely plan. Slightly deterred by the fact that the second I stepped out of my car all of my social skills seemed to have dropped out of my body on to the pavement, where they were run over by a white truck.

Uh oh.

Not to be shaken, I grabbed my camera and thought, “If I can get in a groove with shooting, I can hide behind the camera and no one will be the wiser.” So I immediately set about taking pictures of the Barnes and Noble store, and the poster hanging in the window. Well, that is to say, I did that after I got myself untangled from whatever sailor’s knot I had unwittingly tied around myself with my camera strap and my purse strap. That struggle lasted longer than you might imagine for an adult.

After fighting my way free of the things I put on my body myself, I popped inside, found the book, wandered around then—lo!—discovered that even though I was nearly an hour early, there were no more seats to be had. The woman is VERY popular. Because she’s kind of kick ass. The fine folks at the Barnes and Noble store were unaware of this, apparently. The 25 chairs they managed to grab from their cousin’s house (I assume) weren’t really going to cut it. So then I scurried over to buy my book (yay!) (oh, wait…dang! Full price hard back is pretty pricey. Oh well. Yay!), and to try to find a good perch.

I came across two lovely ladies that contributed to the HOPE 2012 Relay (hi Shelly and Erica!) and exchanged some awkward mumbling of some kind, but tried to make up for it with a hug. (Hugging makes up for awkwardness, right? Or perhaps it makes for more awkwardness. Shrug.)

And then I took pictures of metal chickens. There were LOTS of chickens. Because of this.

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And after the chickens, I thought I’d take a pic of everyone holding up their books. So I went up front, and said, “Hey, can everyone hold up their books so I can take a picture?” Which everyone seemed on board for, so I should have stopped there, but then I continued, “I mean, you don’t have to…I’m a stranger and you totally don’t have to do what I say,” and a couple of people lowered their books a little, and then I said, “but it’s awesome and you should and so…” and then finally just snapped the picture because I could tell I was losing them because I wouldn’t SHUT MY TALK HOLE.

Let’s back up to the chicken thing. During the Q&A, I managed to raise my hand and ask a somewhat coherent question, which was, “What is your favorite part about publishing a book, and having it sell so well, and now being on tour?” Her answer was basically that she loves the community that has been created around her work and her openness about mental illness (anxiety, depression, OCD, self-harm, etc.). Which brings me back to the chickens. People that read Jenny’s work are in love with her, and with each other. Which might sound strange and cult-y, but it’s not. One of the very first things I noticed is that there’s no judgement in the room. None. People laughed A LOT. They smiled. They took pictures with chickens. They were just open, accepting, and awesome. And that was all before Jenny even got there! It was a weird and magical feeling, and—yeah—I can see why that would be her favorite part. It’s really, really special.

So Jenny read a section of her book (like a boss, I might add), did the Q&A, and then it was time to line up for the signing. It was a LONG line. So, I had a long time to think about the perfect thing to say to make her feel appreciated without being slobbery with my emotions, and funny, but not too funny like I was trying to pander for laughs or anything. I considered telling her about/apologizing for sending her a facebook message in all caps (True story. It seemed like a funny thing to do at the time.), but quickly decided against it.

It’s possible that I was over thinking it, because by the time I got up there, I handed her my book, then just started taking pictures like a paparazzo on meth, then apologized for that, and she said it was okay and that she has photographer friends that do the same thing, and then I kinda didn’t respond because I maybe forgot she was talking to me and then I realized THAT so I said, “Heh. Heh,” which is more sounds than words, and then I said, “It was great meeting you, my name’s Melanie—but you know that because you signed my book—and I know who you are, so there’s that, and travel safely, and thanks for coming to,” and this is the worst part, “SUNNY SAN DIEGO.”(Ohmigod I don’t even say “sunny San Diego.” Like, ever. Because I’m not a 92-year-old man.)

She smiled and said thanks graciously.

And that’s the story of me being SUPER COOL.

(Bonus? When I got home, I ripped the title page trying to remove the post-it. Because I wasn’t done being awesome.)

Okay, tell me stories about you looking being übs cool. Blogging is a two-way street, after all. Get a-drivin’.

Hope 2012: Closing Ceremonies

Hope.

Such a small word.

And, you guys…I think hope is kind of destroying my life. Well, okay, not destroying, but definitely taking over. Because when I sent you all off to run with the hope baton, you ran. You ran like a beaver was trying to snack on your ankles. If you want to see how many people wrote or were asked to write in HOPE 2012, check this out. It’s crazytown.

And now, after starting this relay and watching that teeny, tiny word unfurl in a thousand different ways…I’m not quite sure what to say about it. I’m a little…umm…

Hmm.

Let’s start, as many of you did, with a definition.

We’ll use the legit, scholarly, not-from-a-lady-on-her-second-glass-of-wine source: Dictionary.com.

Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

That’s a start, but it’s certainly not the whole picture. There’s more.

Here are our collective chronicles of hope, written elegantly, poignantly, hilariously, irreverently, and devoutly by you crazy-amazing hordes of writers.

Hope is like a ticker tape of wishes.

I hope my hair grows out (and looks fabulous). I hope my kids end up happy. I hope when I die it turns out we’re all headed for the mothership. I hope that can wear a bikini again in public someday and not show up on People of Walmart. -Mediocrates at How Did I Get Here?

I could go on for days about the things I hope for daily.  It is a never-ending and ever-changing and all-encompassing (big and small) list of things. -Confessions of a (not-so-) Super Mom

I hope that my writing touches an audience. I hope that cooler heads prevail. I hope that wisdom is heard. I hope that institutions reform, minds expand, hearts grow, and good triumphs. I hope because in hope we can find strength for action. -Michael J. Altman

My hope is to one day be completely happy with myself, at peace with myself, and to prove that there is something I can contribute. My hope is to one day be a mother. My hope is live a life full of love and without regret. -Linz at From the House of Cole

I HOPE I have a good hair day today. I HOPE Trader Joe’s is not sold out of those vanilla bonbons.…I HOPE Zocalo takes reservations. I HOPE I find something cute at J Crew.… I HOPE that shrilly, shrieky sound doesn’t mean we need a brand new Kenmore. I HOPE Cassidy finds the job of her dreams. Sooner rather than later. -Jodie at Cottage Cheese and Crepe Paper

Our hopes are big, and wild—powerful and fiery. They are almost too big to contain in our hearts.

I see that my fears are merely the flip-side of my hopes; that one almost can’t exist without the other. My hopes are so desperate that the fear that they won’t be realized is burdensome and suffocating. -Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense

I hope, albeit cautiously. I worry. I despair. But, I am also an optimist. My work, even though  I catalog hate, is born of optimism and the fervent hope that scholarship can help make the world a better place. If we understand how hatred functions, how hope can be a pivot for darker emotions, then maybe we identify the nefarious when it looks harmless. -Kelly J. Baker

Oh the possibilities
lining up
in an endless way
flaunting me just a tad bit beyond reach.
…Yet, I still start every single day by thinking “today is the day“.
-Marie at My Cyber House Rules

I think hope is like the love-child of some sort of human-nature-orgy. Take trust, intuition, faith, positivity, reflection, and let them inter-twine and get all funky with each other –  you get hope. -Lou at Fridge Scrapings

Our hopes are our secret dreams; we whisper them in the dark, forging a pact with tomorrow.

I was bursting with hope – hope that with a little support, I could change many old beliefs and self-limitations and open myself up to joy and new adventures. -Mary at A Teachable Mom

My hope is to expose my anger and the parts of myself that I think are despicable (that part that drops F-bombs in front of toddlers, for example) so that I can shine a healing light on them and then connect with other people who are dealing with their anger. -Christie at Outlaw Mama

And this is my hope. That there will come a day that feels like stepping off the stage. That the postpartum anxiety will subside and a wave of calm will wash over me. That I will be able to play a little anything on my very own grand piano. -Laura at I’d Rather Sit on the Couch

My hope is twofold. One is that we can all be more understanding of our fellow humans… whether our differences are visible or not, whether they are in our body, mind, or mental health; our gender, sexual identity, skin colour, religion or nationality. The other… is that those of us with differences that restrict us in some way, can learn to accept ourselves and our limits for what they are, and live fulfilling lives within a smaller sphere than we would sometimes like. -Imp the Sane

Hope is a fragile thing. It’s like a dandelion seed, it might just float by at any time, and just as quickly be swept away. -Tom at Running Physio

What do I hope for? I hope for the courage to face my life, the courage to be in whatever state I find myself in until that state changes. I hope for the courage to respond authentically to whatever I need to respond to. -The Kale Chronicles

So instead of focusing on my fears, I choose hope.  Hope is what I hold so close to my heart, scared to loosen my grip on it, fearing that it will slip away and I’ll be, once again, left alone with my guilt.  So I cling to it, as tight as I can, afraid speak my hopes above a whisper for fear that they’ll escape from my heart. -Sierra at Everything is Coming Up Roses

Sometimes, we whisper our hopes…and they are eaten. By monsters. It’s a bummer.

My intellectual and imaginative life doesn’t allow for hope. Most horror films end badly.  If there is a hero that survives the night, she (it usually is a she) has seen, and done, inhuman things. And then she’s likely to die in the sequel as the body count climbs. -Scott at Monsters in America

Other times, hope is our anchor, keeping us tethered, and giving us reason to believe.

…here feels hopeful. Not in the manic, I’m-going-to-do-a-million-things-before-bedtime way, but in a more settled, calming, enduring way. I have hope that I will find the time to write, that my family and friends will support me, that I’ll find solutions for the scenes or posts that are giving me trouble and be inspired for the scenes that will be my darlings. -Sara at Moments of Exhilaration

[T]hinking of hope made me remember what initially made me passionate about the church/state relationship in the first place: I saw people who navigated it well, with grace, and candor, and integrity. That’s seriously hopeful stuff. -Matt at The Church/State Guy

The hospitality that I have found in my social networks have been invaluable in keeping me hopeful; hopeful about my future, hopeful about my chosen profession (even in the face of contrary evidence), and hopeful about the future of humanity. -Jermaine M. McDonald

But hope is the stuff of everyday life. It is, at its best, rather … ordinary. It is that which greets us with every sunrise and calms us as we lay our heads down at night. It is learned as our hopes are met everyday in little and mundane ways – like when the recipe turns out just right, the hug offered is greeted with open arms, and we make it through a day safe and having smiled. -James W. McCarty III

Hope doesn’t always mean a heroic act or a thread to hold to in life’s bleakest times. I think we also find it in the simplest moments, the simplest memories, and the realization that more awaits. -Kyla at Free to Be Joyful

I got to this moment because of hope.  I could give up, and a few times I tried, only to find in my  despondency an awareness that I do no service to myself, my family or life by giving up.  So, I get up, damn it.  Over and over again.  I move forward, I move backward.  I sway. -Lesley at Merlin’s Garden

I have spent the last two years of my life attempting to silence the inner voice of my youth. I love what my heart is saying to & about the woman that I am meant to be. It was in that moment of realization that it occurred to me ─ make that, I decided ─ I not only have the renewed hope of walking into my destiny triumphantly, I AM HOPE. -Antoinette at A Serendipitous Sojourn

But sometimes, [hope is] just being able to say, in the moment, that this is okay. That maybe, this is As Good As It Gets. And I have to be okay with that. -Molly Jo at Frankly, My Dear

Hope is why I am pushing my own boundaries. Hope is why I read and write. Hope is why I communicate. Hope is everything. At the core of my being, the root of every action, the impetus behind every thought is…Hope. -Your Life is a Banquet, Don’t Starve

As I grow older, though, [my ring's] message deepens.  It has become a small, tangible sign that people can change.  Three-foot-high soapboxes can be lowered.  Crusty old mindsets can soften.  Tired arguments can find common ground. -Melissa at Goodnight, Irene

If I allow myself to look deeper, to not be seduced by cheap tours, cheap drinks, and cheap Spanish classes, I think I will find this place I now call home, [Guatemala], to be a country of great hope.  Hope against all odds. Reconciliation and healing and redemption against all odds. -Aly at Memoirs of Algeisha

You’re a four-letter word but not the one that we both mutter when times are bad. Tossing disregard for normal and laughing at convention, all of me walks our lives in need of your hand. You never fail to provide it. -Lance at My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Hope is in the grand and in the abstract and in the eyes of a sick child, but more often it’s also simply what gets us through. -Jen O. at My Tornado Alley

Think of those who hurt you. Think of those who degrade you. Those who have ripped your heart from your chest, stomped on it, spit on it, and pretended like nothing ever happened. These people, each and every one of them, desire hope. Want hope. Seek hope. Need hope. -Adrian at Life Before the Bucket

Some of the treatments and medications I’ve been on made me numb, and it sucked.  So maybe that’s how I can tie the hope theme into this rambling piece of drivel.  I’d rather feel than not feel, even when feeling is overwhelming.  I don’t have a hope of being cured, but every day that I get out of bed is a hopeful one.  There are open windows, but I keep passing them, and that is hope. And sharing this madness with you is hope for us all. -The Klonopin Chronicles

And hope is a gift you can give in an instant.

She is quiet for a moment, and then asks “do you think I have a light in me?” I pause, and smile before I answer, “your light is so bright, I almost need sunglasses.” -Jenn at So This is Love

Before Miss Swears left, she pulled me aside when no one was around. She gave me a book with white and black models in it. She told me that I was beautiful, I was special, and that I was no different from the girls in my class. She told me that I was smart and that I could be anyone I wanted to be. -Kenya G. Johnson at Here’s The Thing

I am the 4th of 6, and have found hope and inspiration in every one of [my siblings]. Yes, I’ve told them, and shown them, but I am probably the “fluffiest” of us, so I don’t know for certain if they know the depth of my admiration. In short, my sibling have always given me HOPE. -Jackie at Blessed Be

Presents didn’t have to be big. Just enough to show the female clients that they are worthy of a gift. That they have hope for a healthy future. Or any future at all. As surprising as it may seem, some had never been given the gift of hope. -Jennifer at Another Jennifer

To Myself at Fifteen, I know you’re scared and broken. I have something I want to give you. -Lesley at The Spigot List

If you are in a relationship that is ultimately damaging your happiness and ruining the person you used to be, my hope is that you look to others to help you find your inner strength.  Surround yourself with love, and don’t lose sight of your self-worth.  And those of you watching a loved one suffer; I hope that you will be the un-judging stronghold that they will need to pull themselves out. -Erica at Yeah, I’m a Nerd

[Walt Whitman] understood that it did not take much– just a token– to revive men’s spirits or ease their souls.  He did not shy away from his chance to spread hope.  Hope, he realized, was not his alone. -Amy at ReadNCook

And then after awhile, he went out in the yard to pick flowers. For Jodie. He brought them in. Just the blossoms. He put them in bowl. We all said a prayer over them.   And then, he took them next door to what had been Jodie’s house. His grandmother lives there now which is really nice. He put the bowl on the table in front of the outdoor couch where he and Jodie used to sit. And then he came quietly home.

Not sad. Full of the hope he’d been given over the years. By Jodie. -Stephen at The Desperate Man

Sometimes hope is found in America, and in The Boss.

My Italian grandfather is 101-years old.  He migrated to the United States in 1913 with his his mother and siblings.  His family believed that America, to quote from Springsteen, was a “land of hope and dreams.”  And indeed, I probably would not be writing this short reflection on hope if he had not taken advantage of what this country had to offer him. -John Fea at The Way of Improvement Leads Home

The cross-cultural gathering captured the hope ingrained in our global community and manifested the best in America’s pluralist dream.  The dais on which the couple pledged their troth backed to open ocean off Palm Beach, but I saw a smiling Statue of Liberty dancing over the water. -Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, PhD at MyStories

Children are a magnet for hope: they pull out every last scrap of hope we have.

This adorable wee babe holds the hopes of her mother. Photo © Amy Reams and Reams Photo, used with permission as part of the Hope 2012 Blog Relay

Although I was afraid, Hope worked to remove my fear and became my optimism that my baby would be born healthy. -Kenja at Grand New Mom

My greatest hope for my two sons, aside from their general health and happiness, is that someday, they will uncover something to aspire to, to work toward, that brings them such joy. -Five Uninterrupted Minutes

Throughout her children’s lives, a mother hopes…
her baby will be born healthy
the baby will go to sleep
the baby will stop crying
the fever will go down…
-Karen at Mom in the Muddle

I HOPE you continue to sing at the top of your little lungs, not caring who hears you. -Kelly at Cobwebs, Cupcakes and Crayons

Whether they one day break the world record in the 200 meter freestyle or simply beat the odds by surviving, preemies embody hope. -Stream of the Conscious

“Yep, some people say that, and I laugh, little do they know, she saved me. And you want to know a secret?….I don’t mind doing all this for her, you know…the expensive birthday parties, the constant hospital trips, being a parent when I am already an old man….but her days are numbered.. I only hope that she knows how much I love her. And then you know…it will be okay for us both to leave this world” -Humble Writes Words

But….even if with all of that hoping, even if he STILL experiences all that I did, I am a living example, that he can still be okay.  And if “I” turned out okay, then there is hope for him after all. -Jenn at What I Really Meant to Say Was…

The boy gave me hope. Hope that the future generation may not be so bad. Hope that family will win out over vanity. Hope that empathy is still alive and well. Hope that my kids will have even a smidgeon of the qualities that this boy showed by simply helping his sibling. -Brent at SooperDad Blog of Awesomeness

My mom’s final chapter had been written, but my tiny man’s life had so many chapters remaining. -Deborah at The Monster in Your Closet

While mourning the loss of one son, and hoping for the health of another in the NICU, Edward J. Blum quotes hope from WEB Du Bois, who says, “It is never too late to mend. Nothing is so bad that good may not be put into it and make it better and save it from utter loss.”

People often use the word hope along with two other powerful words – faith and love. As I think about my current parenting struggles, I remind myself that I love Sophie beyond words. I have faith that both Sophie’s and my intentions are truly good, and we will get past this awkwardness. And I have hope that we will become an even stronger mother and daughter because of the struggles. -Leah at Leah’s Thoughts

When I first started thinking about what I would write, it almost felt like an absence of hope, but as I watch my son and I look at the things he is able to do. Things that against all odds, he is now able to do, and I think it really is a hope for hope… -Karen at Real Life and Other Hazards

I hope my sister, niece, daughter and nephews mother all have healthy babies, I hope those babies along with all babies realise they are a gift from God and are raised in loving and caring environment. -Joanne at Joanne Rambling

I began to feel a swelling in my breast, a spark that had been drowned in worry and overwhelming fears since this journey had begun, reignited. I might get to bring him home. I might just leave this tiny clausterphobic NICU. I was still uncertain but there was no denying that at last I felt what I thought had been lost. Hope. -Darlie at Written Ramblings

Ali’s academic achievement would be impressive in anyone. But when you realize that he could not even pick up a pencil, this is really stunning. The thing about Ali was that he was hilarious. He had a biting wit and sense of satire, which would crack me up when I saw him. It was only after his death that I realized that he was actively putting up political videos on YouTube under the alias ScaryBears. -Dr. Craig Canapari

Sometimes hope is the very last thing you find, right when you think the whole world will go dark.

One man carried his wife, who was shot three times, out of the theatre, because when she told him to go without her, he refused, saying, “No, we go together.”  Not surprising then when his 14-year-old son (14!) stopped to carry another wounded woman, a stranger to him, out of the theatre.…Literally, a countless number of people carried wounded victims, held their hands, stanched their wounds - almost all of them strangers to each other. -Jen at Bible Belt to Boulder

Most of what we hear about is the hate and the violence, but so many people have open generous hearts. With kindness and a little effort, we can change the world. -Kelly at Blogical Reasoning

But hope is reserved for those with soft hearts; it patches the holes and stitches the tears. It’s the gift we receive for surviving the heartache.  For letting ourselves be vulnerable enough to love.  To believe.

Hope gives us strength without hardening our hearts. -Erin at Welcome to Grace

You would think this mingling of tombstones and vague suicide talk would have me calling 911, but red flags barely get notice anymore. Those flags need to be shooting rocket fire to gather any real attention.

“So you now want your tombstone to say, “He didn’t jump?” I joked and he did something of a laugh. With a father like mine you look for levity wherever you can, even in suicide talk. “Yeah,” he says, the mood automatically lighter. “That works.” -Ice Scream Mama

Hope, it is the thin piece of twine that binds us all together. -Cozzis Corner

Even when we start to lose hope, sometimes, if we are fortunate, hope finds us. -Ilene at The Fierce Diva Guide to Life

A battle-tested hope is the strongest of hopes. I pray you know HOPE like I know HOPE. -Matt Linden at The Dawg Run

When Pandora opened up that horrible box and let all the ills that plague the world out, hope was left behind.  And hope, time and time again, has beat back the horrors and turned them into blessings. Hope is a powerful weapon and it is battling for me today as I pay bills with the last of what is in our account. -Penny Tralia

It seems sadness, atrocity, and crisis are constantly on the radar. I’m reminded of the words of Thomas Paine, who wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” -Honie Briggs

When I think of hope and how it relates to me, my strongest pull is go back to when I first had my nervous breakdown. -Little Bits and Pieces

Hope sang her song. On those coldest nights in those darkest places she sang. She sang LOUD and she sang STRONG and she NEVER. GAVE. UP!! When the storms were raging and I couldn’t hear her sing she wrapped her wings around me and waited. -Shell at The Journey is the Reward

I have hope for the future that I will be able to learn more about whom I am and what I am here to do and accomplish.  I have hope that I will overcome my ridiculous fears and my awful thoughts that come with depression. -This Mama is Crazy

I was so in love with alcohol, it was tantamount to a death sentence.…Hmm, giving up the thing you love most in the world? I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to do it. The only hope I had was that I wanted to want to. -Natalie at The Cat Lady Sings

This is what I love so much about blogging — it gives me the experience of building a community of people who say, “Me too.  I’ve been there.  I may not know how to get out of the place you’re in, but, at the very least, you’re not there alone.”  That is the best expression of hope that I know.  Not canceling out the darkness, but being a body beside me in it, groping for the light together. -Rhea at Thirty Threadbare Mercies

After lunch I headed over to my place of employment to switch cars with my then boyfriend. He knew I was going to be doing this. And that’s when I saw them. Sitting in a car talking. That easily and that quickly, the life I had known was over. -Bethany at Runner B

Did I ever think that I would spend that “golden year” on a couch, writhing in pain for the majority of the day? No. I thought I would be in NYC, living out my dreams, having fun with friends, flourishing. Last night, I finally allowed myself to be angry about that. But then hope stepped in. -Caralyn at Gluten Free Happy Tummies

This kid had to choose a path. Hope or despair. I have no idea what the disease is or the circumstances it has brought to him and his family. All I know is that a complete stranger with issues I haven’t ever had to deal with showed me in the simplest ways that you can always choose hope. -Jerrod at Never Had One Lesson

For me, it is that hope of desperate belief in something when you have nothing else, that pulled me through my post partum depression when I became a mother for the first time seventeen years ago. I needed that kind of hope to hold me up and promise me a tomorrow. -Alexandra at Good Day, Regular People

When I prayed as a little girl I begged God to take me in my sleep PLEASE! He never did. Now I know it’s because he is not finished with me here on earth. I don’t know what his plan is but I keep myself open to him and what to do next. Hope. Sweet hope. -Kim at Dazed and Creative

This week, I am forced to face a serious and terrifying hope.My husband had a mole removed a couple weeks ago. What was expected to be a routine and unnecessary procedure has turned into what could either be a very lucky catch or four fatherless children. The biopsy came back malignant Melanoma. -Molly at The Good Enough Girl

In one week, it will have been exactly 3 years since I lost my job, in the new stages of pregnancy, and in a state of confusion and fear that was completely new to me. Some days it feels like it’s been longer; some days it feels like just yesterday. -April at Red Dirt Mama

…And then hope is just the beginning.

So although hope is not a plan, it’s the spark.  It’s the fire in your belly.  In your soul.  It’s what motivates us, and ultimately, hopefully, what moves us forward. -Diary of a Mad Woman

Without information and planning, dedication and sometimes sheer muscle, hope is a merely a dream into which one surrenders their future to the vagaries of chance. -Ann at An Unrefined Vegan

Hope often feels like a dead end path, but we will not know what is waiting for us at the top unless we start walking. -Erin at Life, Ablaze

Instead, [running] gives me the ability to face life’s curve balls unflinchingly. It provides me with a calm and open mind, it helps me take a step back, re-evaluate my initial, emotion-fuelled gut reaction and say, wait a minute, there’s a better way of dealing with this situation. It replenishes my cup of hope and optimism and makes me a much nicer person-Jennifer at Two Itchy Feet

Again, the only way out of that dark, hopeless hole was to take action, be committed and dig deep to find that inner drive to emerge a better, stronger person. To this day, I credit running for a lot of that hope. -Stacy at Will Run for Glitter

Hope is the only first step in accomplishing those goals. The next step, the hard work, is what defines me (as a person, a runner, a friend, daughter, sister etc). -Ashley at Running Bun

Hope is the basic, yet deep foundation that supports my sky-scraping love for running. For LIFE. -Liz at Runnerstood

To me, hope means opportunity.  An opportunity to change, to grow, to better one’s station in life. -Ingrid at Ingrid Improved

Hope is believing in your abilities to achieve this difficult task and knowing that while life may not be exactly what you envisioned it to be, it’s still pretty great because it has made you the person you are. -Gabby at The Veggie Nook

Hope is acknowledging that you have the power to choose to see things/people/situations/your past/life differently. -Cara at Fork and Beans

As a hope without action is simply just that, nothing more than a thought, or a desire. By doing, we become. -Shira at In Pursuit of More

I guess what I’m saying is if times are rough in your life, go ahead and hope for a better day, but you better be working your ass off trying to make it happen. -Aja at Writing and Recovering

Taking back my happiness gives me great hope that my reality will become everything I hope for, regardless of those around me. I will combine hope/work/and reality to create the world I want. That’s what hope means to me. -Nichole at Michon Michon

Hope can save us from ourselves.

I can sit with the surprises and  discover I  am not condemned to stare down the narrow barrel of my own troubled heart. -Doug Harrison at The Outpatient Monk

I’ve come up with the thought that makes me most hopeful for my future. Here it is: It’s okay to fail. It’s A-O-K to suck. To be wrong. To have everyone in a 5 mile radius turn to you in one accord and say, “…boo.” It’s totally and completely fine. -Melanie Crutchfield

Most importantly, you are capable of forgiving yourself for your perceived flaws, and understanding that perception is relative. Your flaws, as well as your talents, make you who you are. -Shannon at Unless I Change My Mind

I have realised that there is nothing wrong with asking for help and admitting that you can’t cope. It doesn’t make you weak, any more than trying to heal yourself and saying that you are ok when you are not, makes you strong. -Normal for Norfolk

I want to pretend that at times I’m not my worst enemy. I want to believe that a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and reading the latest Cosmo Magazine is all any of us needs to perk us up and get us back on our A game. I am human, after all.I’m also not totally delusional. So, I’ve set my nose to the grindstone and started stockpiling again. Maybe one of these days it won’t be so hard. Hope springs eternal. -Jen at When Pigs Fly

I can choose to quit acting like hope is this foreign concept that applies to the whole world except me. -Abby at Abby Has Issues

But sometimes, hope is just the little stuff that keeps us from losing it.

I hope to go eight SECONDS on the computer without hearing “Mommy, mommy, mommymommymommymommymommy,” usually followed by a loud bang and crying. -Carinn at Welcome to The Motherhood

Hope is the happiness that your dog showers on you when you come back from anywhere whether you were gone 1 minute or 10 hours. The wiggly bum, the rapidly fanning tail, the toothy smile “I am so happy that you are back”! -Richa at Vegan Richa

I am absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt convinced that this is the solution to ALL of my hair styling problems. This curling iron CURLS ITSELF, PEOPLE!  And, for those of you who are stupid like me, you can even tell it which side of your head it’s on by pressing a handy-dandy button, so it will CURL THE CORRECT WAY! Hope?  Of course I have Hope!!!! -What I Meant 2 Say

A Final Word: Thanks

Seriously, truly, a million thank yous to all you crazy, crazy people. I know some of you groaned your way to the keyboard when the baton was sent in your direction—thank you for participating anyway (perhaps despite your better judgement). I know some of you struggled with hope—watching your words evaporate as you tried to collect them—thank you for pushing through it. I know some of you haven’t written in a while—thank you for making the time for this.

But mostly, thank you for making this amazing thing. When I recruited the first round of writers, I summed up my hopes for the project in this: I just want to do something beautiful that we can all be proud of. I think we did that. YOU did that. So, high fives, fist bumps, tummy rubs, or whatever makes you feel like a superhero. That. To you. A lot.

Love,

-M

What Happens When a LOT of People Read Your Blog

Spotlight

Photo By vic.bergmann @ Flickr

Okay, so…if you didn’t catch all the hubbub, last week I found myself and this little piece on Freshly Pressed. They say that it’s “the best of 382,958 bloggers [&] 1,052,405 new posts.” And a LOT of people subscribe to, and read Freshly Pressed.

It’s kinda like getting high fived in the face by two thousand strangers, with a hammer.

I mean, it’s good, right? Like, high fiving is a feel-good activity, but this—this is INTENSE. I mean—whoa.

There’s me…lookin’ all normal like it’s NBD.

So, when I came back to my trusty little computer after a morning at the zoo with the kid (who told me that the bonobo had a “crazy butt.” She’s two. She’s not wrong.) and discovered a billion WordPress notifications, I knew something was up. So I checked my Freshly Pressed feed, and there I was. Me. Lookin’ all normal like I belonged there. At which point, I was entering Crazytown. Population: me and, like, 2200 other people.

Of course I didn’t hyperventilate a little. Come now; I’m an adult. And of course I didn’t start criticizing myself, wishing I had updated this, and spruced up that, and thinking about how surely someone would get upset at my fledgling feminism and wag their finger at me, and how I’d have to apologize for…I dunno…something… *pant, pant, pant*

And this got me thinking about Brené Brown again, probably because I love her so much and want to hug her (which is inappropriate from strangers, ya’ll. Somebody help me.). It got me thinking about vulnerability, and how writing is inherently vulnerable and how I feel like I’m exposing myself in the desert, just waiting for the sun and wind and sand to shave my skin off. It’s mildly terrifying.

Being creative in any form is hard. I have seen more than one person a little off his rocker after years of the ups and downs of art. They say that you are your own worst critic and I, frankly, am a damn good critic. “Slice to the bone!” I say as I wield my red pen of judgement. “Let no sentence go unscathed!”

It reminds me of a scene in The Anniversary Party (has anyone seen it? I kinda liked it. Until it turned into a drug-fueled sex party, that is. Some good moments nonetheless). I love this:

Sophia Gold: Sally! His image of you is a possessive, fragile neurotic!
Sally Nash: But I *am* a possessive, fragile neurotic!
Sophia Gold: No you are not! You are Sally Nash!

But this is what Brené keeps telling me: vulnerability is GOOD. It’s what allows us to connect to one another. And connecting to one another is what makes us feel human; it’s what makes us feel alive. And—boy—that’s basically what I want. I want to feel human. I want to feel alive. I want to feel connected and less alone. And the more I reveal of myself and live that out truly, the more connected I become with people. Hot dang.

Writing here is fostering relationships with real life people that I’ve known for a long time—just because they get to hear the intimate details of my mind and heart in a way that might not come up in casual conversation. It’s also connecting me with new people—a new tribe of writers that make me feel like I belong somewhere. Like my friend Jerrod, whom I’ve never met in person, but was the first person who made me feel like I might actually be okay at blogging.

It’s good. It’s terrifying and nerve-wracking and it has the power to make me feel elated one day and dejected the next, but overall—it’s good. Thank you internet.

So on days when I get to see SO MANY people like and respond to my work—to my vulnerability—I have to just take in the good and be thankful for the experience of connection. I have to look myself straight in the eye and say, “You are Sally Nash!” (It’s okay that my name is Melanie. It works just the same).  I need to bottle up this feeling and hold on to it for when the dark cloud of self-doubt comes again (which is due in like, what? 10 minutes? 2 hours? Something like that.)

Life—sometimes that shit’s magical.

So, I want to thank all of you that have been reading, subscribing, like-ing, commenting, and engaging in general badassery. You all are THE. BEST. Go get yourselves some beers, you little rascals.

Love,

-M

Your Words Matter. Don’t Be a D*ck With Them.

Psst. Check out my featured post over at Studio30Plus, a writer’s collective for people over 30. Here’s a preview:

Photo By melinnis @ Flickr

Our Words Matter

When you write them down and send them to the glorious internet; or get them bound, published and shipped through Amazon; or get them typeset and printed and in the hands of a producer—those words weave together to create our thought world. Your words go out there and tell us who we are. They tell us what our values are. They paint what is stunning and gorgeous; what is dark and horrifying; what is magical, and what is macabre.

Go read the rest, okay? Cool.

Jean and Sofia: A Short Story About a Mostly Sane Woman and Her Duck

fries?

Photo By tifotter @ Flickr

One day, after a particularly stressful meeting at the office, a woman stopped at a fruit stand, and purchased a small duck out of a large, cardboard box. Why? She didn’t know. She just thought it was a good day for a duck. A companion duck. A life duck. Sometimes, a small duck seems like the solution to a bad day. Typically, it’s not.

The woman went home with her duck, and put on the kettle to make that kind of soup that you just pour boiling water into.

Her name was Sofia. The duck. Not the woman. The woman’s name was Jean. So Jean and Sofia fixed their eyes upon each other as the water in the kettle began to sound out a low rumble.

Jean was looking for answers. Looking for peace. She was searching Sofia’s black, beady eyes, hoping to reconnect with nature, and the land, and find some sort of mystical power that would make everything make sense. And as the anticipation in her heart grew, and the kettle water rumbled louder, a small, unobtrusive squeak found its way to Jean’s ears.

“Do you have a cigarette?”

Jean’s eyebrows dove inward in disapproval. Not only had she not reconnected with the spiritual guide she had hoped to find, but she was also, apparently, hallucinating.

Ahem. “Sorry. My voice is scratchy and quiet because you can’t just go talking your head off while you’re in that cardboard box because, in general, no one wants to buy a talking duck.” Sofia the duck, while small and fluffy, was very self-assured, and wasted no time making apologies. “How about that cigarette?”

Jean made an about-face to the decorative mirror on the wall. She checked her pupils. The kettle began with a low moan behind her, but rapidly belted out it’s alarm.

“Might want to get that kettle,” Sofia suggested.

“Sure. Yeah. Thanks,” Jean replied. It had already been a long day, and she decided not to fight against whatever malfunction her brain was experiencing. And hey, at least it was just a small, talking duck, and not an old, naked wizard. Things could be worse. “I don’t smoke, actually. Not for several years now.”

“That’s a shame,” sighed Sofia, “I get cranky without the nicotine. I know what you’re going to say, too, but I’ve tried the gum and somehow it’s not the same.”

“They say it’s a muscle memory thing, actually. Like your muscles enjoy the process of lifting the cigarette and taking a drag, and it’s actually just the process that is so satisfying,” Jean proposed, “Maybe you can just pretend to smoke.”

Sofia rolled her eyes. “One of us should be the smart one,” she quipped, “and it probably shouldn’t be the duck.”

“Just trying to help,” Jean replied. “Do you want some soup?”

“Is it vegan?”

“Of course. For the most distinguishing of waterfowl.”

So Jean and Sofia sat at the dining room table, enjoying their vegan soup made from dehydrated vegetables and grains of some kind. Jean, not knowing exactly which utensils ducks prefer when eating vegan soup, had provided Sofia with a small espresso cup from which to slurp. It worked just fine. Jean wondered what they would talk about, assuming that a 30-year-old accountant and a juvenile duck would have little in common.

“Wanna watch some tv?” Sofia offered. Yes. Television would do.

As they flipped through the channels watching a dance competition; a witty political commentary show; more than five variations of a whitening toothpaste commercial; and a very serious scene from a reality television show in which young teens were embroiled in a fierce debate over who should be the leader of their alliance, a kind of comfortability set in between Jean and Sofia. Sofia snuggled into the crack between Jean’s leg and the couch. She caught Jean’s eye and gave a little shrug as if to say, “I am a duck. We tend to snuggle in small places.” Jean let out a long, tired breath as she turned the channel in time to catch a mean pirouette from a girl with pink hair and strong, thick legs.

“I don’t know how you do it,” Sofia admitted softly.

“How who does what?”

“You. Everybody. People. I don’t know how you run, and fight, and work, and do so much on the damn computer, and…and all of it. It’s like you’re set on going crazy. Wait…is that the goal? Is everyone trying to go crazy?” Sofia puzzled, feeling like she might be on to something.

But by this time Jean had started to cry.

“Oh shit,” Sofia grumbled, “Oh shit. Umm…come on, there. There, there.” Sofia rhythmically patted her wing on Jean’s leg like she was keeping time for the world’s most apathetic marching band. Then she spouted, “Oh look! LOOook! That guy with the dreads is back! And look!—he’s so terrible! I can extend better than that and I don’t even have arms!” Sofia flapped her wings at the screen. “Look!”

Jean looked up, even though she didn’t want to. She wanted to grab the little duck and bury her face in its side, feeling the downy young feathers tickling her nose. Had Sofia not been a talking duck, that’s exactly what Jean would have been doing. And Sofia wouldn’t have the ability to protest. But instead, the duck was somehow prodding at Jean’s dark shadows, bringing out the things she’d rather not feel. Things she’d rather not acknowledge.

“It’s just that I don’t know what I’m doing and, at this point, I don’t think I ever will,” Jean sobbed.

Sofia let out a half-quack, half-laugh, “Is that all?!”

Jean frowned and wiped her nose, her sadness swiftly replaced by fierce annoyance.

“Sorry, sorry,” Sofia recovered. “It’s just that…none of you do. Every day that you all pull through is a true and shocking surprise to me and, frankly, all other wild life. Every day we think you’ll probably all kill each other and take us down with you, but you don’t. You’re all surprisingly adept at surviving yourselves.” Sofia shook her tail as she wedged herself back between Jean’s leg and the couch cushion. “You need to relax.”

Jean sighed. She did feel a little more peaceful. Sofia closed her eyes gingerly and smacked her beak a couple of times.

“And buy some cigarettes,” she added as she nodded off to sleep.

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