Info

Posts by Tiffani

Tiffani “99% Sure She’s Addicted to Facebook” Michele

It’s hard for me to speak ill of facebook, considering how obsessed I am with it. Say what you will…love or hate it…you can’t deny it’s been the biggest leap forward for stay at home moms since dishwashers, washer/dryers, and wine in juice boxes were invented. Now, when I’m neck deep in laundry and quarantined with a sick kid, I can still interact with friends (without talking on my phone…an activity that brings kids running from miles around to interrupt and start begging for random things). Because let’s face it. My social life kind of stopped when I popped my kids out. Especially when they were under 3. Breastfeeding is a short leash, as is a kid who is co sleeping, as is all the housework involved in maintaining a crew of stinky, rambunctious, enthusiastic, curious, demanding kids. Kids who act like little drunk people without actually being drunk. I’m the the designated driver in charge of driving this clown car…staying sober(ish), cleaning up urine and vomit, trying to push clear fluids and healthy food, keeping them from harming themselves or others (my sister’s 2 year old totally slapped another 2 year old girl the other day, for getting too close to his assorted “Cars” trucks), and trying to figure out what they’re saying from slurred words. All that on a normal day. After doing all that, I lack the energy and motivation to do anything else.

This is not what annoys me, though. So let me try to get back on track. The combination of moving a lot and having kids the last 15 years is the perfect storm of not having super close friends around. A lot of my friends are either in other states or in their own homes trying to counterbalance anarchy on the homefront. This isn’t even what annoys me, though, ever since Facebook came along. Now I have 24/7 access to friends and family near and far. I have a variety of ‘mom’s night out’ equivalent get togethers in the fancy facebook groups options. I can see who else is struggling to come up with a good dinner based on leftovers, who is stuck waiting with their sick kid in the doctors office, who is celebrating a quick nap and quicker shower while the kids are self entertained and happy.

And this, ironically, is what annoys me. People on Facebook. Especially people who fall for this:

Everything about this is pointedly annoying and makes me feel like Facebook is made up of an army of bitter divorced females. Actually, I am a bitter divorced female and I’m still not dead enough inside to form a page called “Being Alone Is Better Than Being Hurt In Love”. What the fuck?! If a picture like this pops up in my feed because someone I know has actually liked it, it’s grounds for friend removal. Unfortunately, two of the people who liked this one are actually family members, so sometimes I’m stuck with it. This is one of the worst facebook offenses. Sad pictures of animals or kids in all manner of terrible conditions, with the crappy tagline, “like if you want to see them healed! Don’t like if you are a heartless bitch and a terrible human being!” It’s like those terrible forwarded emails (forward this within 5 seconds if you want to live a happy life! Ignore if you want to be poor and sad!) except worse because there are just so many of these in circulation.

I know some people complain about “The Bore”…people who post about anything and everything under the sun–usually mundane shit like “I’m going grocery shopping for milk”. I actually don’t mind this. I feel solidarity with those kinds of updates. Listen, life isn’t all raves and panty raids and drunken shenanigans. When someone posts about their boring life, I feel good about the days when I’m doing more upkeep (groceries, laundry, cleaning) than anything else exciting. I realize that even my boringest days are a carnival compared to other people’s.

“The Sopranos”: family members that you just can’t get rid of and unfriend or else the rest of the family will be all over your ass. This is what the custom filter feature is for. Yes, you can be friends. No, they don’t have to see anything you update. It’s not natural for extended family to be so closely up in each others business. It’s the equivalent of letting your mom read your journal every day in high school. No good can come of it. Boundaries!

“The Whiner”: You get the feeling everywhere these people go, they carry a black cloud of doom and sorrow with them. According to their updates, nothing goes right, nothing works out, and living in the world is a chore. One day I read this on a friends update: “Want to see a movie. No one to go with. Alone, again. :(” What annoys me the most about this isn’t that they’re “the glass is so empty there’s no more liquid in it for to even be half empty” people, but that it makes me laugh so hard. At them. And I try to be a nice person, so when this happens I feel like a real asshole.

“The Eraser”: They post something. They erase it. Half a day to a week later, what you knew was there is suddenly gone. It’s like they are erasing their tracks so no one can follow them. If people can’t commit to a facebook update and stick with it, I don’t trust them. That’s shifty and self censoring. I don’t care how drunken and compromising or boring and pointless your updates were, you have to own that shit. If you can’t face and accept the reality of your own facebook updates, what else are you hiding?

“The Vaguebooker”: These people have obvious issues, but you’re never sure about what. Specific enough that you understand they’re pissed off/done wrong/annoyed/exasperated/disappointed, but vague enough that you don’t know the who/what/when/where/why. Listen. If you’re going to take the time to update, make it count. Tag people in your post. Call douchey people out by name. Give me something to work with, otherwise your whole facebook page reads like the lyrics of a generic and terribly written song in the country western genre. Plus, it makes me paranoid. I assume everyone is thinking and talking about me constantly and this just feeds into my paranoia.

“The Bizarro You”: They’re exactly like you in everything they post and like…if you were exactly opposite of who you are. They’re the Christian Right to your Liberal Left (or vice versa). Everything they post is an offensive smack against human decency and common sense. It’s so off track of everything you believe in and how you think the world works, you wonder how it is you even know them. In fact, the only reason you remain friends with them is because you can’t quite take them seriously…maybe they’re writing “ironically” or will eventually put a “just kidding!” post up.

“The Oversharer”: one word. TMI.

“The ‘Ville Requesters”: I want to call up everyone who game requests me with these crazy games and offer to give them something to do that actually benefits society. Like, doing my laundry and cleaning my bathrooms.

“The Life Coach”: I love all the inspirational quotes on facebook. I do not love an entire feed of them, all shared and posted every 10 seconds. Stop cluttering up my news feed with Rumi, it makes it hard for me to get to the meat of facebook: gossip and drunken updates.

Facebookers that don’t annoy me:

The Drunkbooker

What about you? How do you feel about Facebook? Does anything in particular annoy you?

by Tiffani “Oh, look, a llama!” Michele

Because everyone knows I get paid for some of my photos, whenever I go away on vacation (like, to Peru!) people expect that I will return with National Geographic quality photographs of my trip. Here’s why that will never happen:

1) It takes a lot of work to capture the feeling of place! Usually done in the hours right before/after sunset and right before/after sunrise. These are known as the golden/blue hours of the day. Everything is awash in soft filtered yellow or amplified by a gorgeous blue after-sunset sky. But as a tourist, you know what I call these times? Happy hour and “sleeping off a hangover” hour. Drinking and photography rarely mix well, kids. Put down the camera and pick up the beer glass!

2) It takes work and time to scout the location to find the best angles to take the photos. Good lord, if I were trying to get good quality shots of Macchu Pichu I would probably get there and just watch the location change in the light for a few days in advance before deciding where to go and what time of day to get the perfect photos. But when I’m on vacation, the only things I’m scouting for are good gelato places and possible napping spots.

3) As a photographer it’s also important to have your camera at the ready and your eyes ready to spot anything worth noticing. But as an idle vacationer, it’s more important to have a nice cocktail at the ready and a good book to read.

Therefore, when National Geographic pays me to take pictures in exotic locations, I will come back with badass photos. Which would make it not vacation at all. So instead I’ll stick to my vacation modus operandi…eat well, drink often, and explore much!

I do take pictures while on vacation though. But it’s more about having an obsessive vision than it is about a sale-able image. And trust me, photographers are some of the most obsessive people around town. Some become obsessed with sun flare, others with reflections in windows, or old people on bikes. Sometimes you show up to a foreign place and become obsessed with things within the culture.

If you were to look at my pictures of Peru, you’d see a lot of pigeons, llamas, alpacas, dogs, and policemen. Not a lot of grand sweeping landscapes or even photos of the most memorable spots in the country. Nope.

Pigeons were everywhere in Lima, and for some reason I took pictures of them. Lots and lots of pictures. Like, more pictures of pigeons than anything else in the beautiful city. I can’t explain it, it just happened!

Llama, oh llama. (And alternately, alpaca, oh alpaca. Which looks like a llama with a bad hair day.) You are gawky, ill formed, and crazy looking. You are graceless and a little spastic. You have large expressive eyes and long long eyelashes. You have bewitched me with your direct gaze and your long ass giraffe neck on a furry mule shaped body. If I am ever feeling cranky, I just look at the pictures of you and all is right in the world.

I seem to recall an animated movie that came out in the 80’s, called “All Dogs Go To Heaven”. My younger brother and sisters watched it on VHS all the freaking time. I was a surly junior or senior by then, so I never watched it with them. I remember it was about a pack of dogs trying to survive in NYC (?? maybe?). Peru reminds me of this. There are so many free range dogs, it’s like the world is a kennel and we’re just renting space. I became obsessed with the dogs I saw. What were their stories? Who was in their pack? Were they happy? They looked pretty content. In fact, I like to think that my little shih tzu Frito Bandito (RIP little lady) magically transported there and is still prancing around with lots of other dog friends.

Finally, I have lots and lots of police photos. They were so…present…everywhere. Guns, riot shields, stern looks. It freaked me out. Everything was calm and cool, so I guess they were strictly preventative. I also found them highly photogenic.

What do you love to take pictures of? Like, obsessive love. As in, you can’t pass by a window reflection without stopping to take the shot?

by Tiffani “Endless Summer” Michele

Dear internet,

My kids went to Alaska with their Dad on their summer vacation. While they were gone, I went on mine: Peru for two weeks. I met some new people. I drank some new drinks. I saw lots of new things. I guess it was OK.

The End.

And by that, what I mean to say is:

Dear Internet,

I went to PERU for two fucking weeks!!!!!!! 14 days of magic!!!!!! 14 days of pure bliss. 14 days of immersion in a language I don’t speak and a culture I don’t understand. It was like a dream come true, only better, because in a dream come true it always ends up being too real. But this, it was like a dream come true if you were dreaming of a dream come true. 14 days of listening, watching, learning, (sometimes) crying, laughing, dancing, eating, hooping, drinking, picture taking, and just being.

I realized a lot about myself, which is always the best part of any good voyage.

I realized that my heart beats in time to the sound of a city buzzing with activity. In order: Arequipa, Lima, and Cusco.

I realized that normal activity to one person could be a completely foreign and interesting activity to someone else. I loved watching Peruvians go about their daily lives, and I formed a deep respect for their hard working, baby wearing, brightly clothed, smiling ways. I didn’t meet a Peruvian I didn’t like. Not to say they aren’t out there, but I had the good fortune to run with some pretty awesome people and watch the quiet rhythms of daily routines.

I learned that not everyone has the same uptight high levels of safety that I’ve been brought up with. For instance, refrigeration? Apparently not as necessary as I thought (as long as you don’t mind going without milk and ice).

“I’d like a pork sandwich please!” “OK, let me pull back this blanket and scoop some meat from the bone!”

Most badass schoolbus ever? This truck in the Andes. It’s safe. It has a rollbar!

I learned that while there may be no more new frontier for mankind on this earth in general, there is plenty of new territory for me to explore. And sometimes in doing the exploring, I’m left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, humility, and awesome.

I give you Machu Picchu–the reason for my trip and the absolute highlight.

I realized that I could never ever actually capture the sense of place that I felt there in a picture, but it didn’t keep me from trying. I ate things I never thought I’d eat (alpaca) and had drinks that completed me (pisco sour). I fell to the depths of loneliness, as one does when one is traveling alone, and then popped back out the other side into the arms of the traveling community…in which you are truly alone only if you want to be.

I soaked in lots of affirmation and love, because one thing that latin american men are not shy of is expressing lots of strong feelings that I’m unaccustomed to hearing. Of course, I didn’t buy into it. Obviously not, seeing as I base my self worth on my own identity and not on what other people say about me *cough* I’m trying *cough* but the fervor and tone is hard to ignore. After watching me hoop around to music out of my headphones, an entire group of Brazilian men in the hostel I was staying at pledged their undying love. Which is ridiculous, you can’t love someone after watching them for 5 minutes. But they believed it. And they defended their love so vigorously I let go of my American skepticism and agreed that yes, they could carry on with all that undying and unrequited love business.

But my heart? It belonged to the llamas y alpacas. More than the fiery passion of latin american men, these creatures stirred in me an inner confidence. They are so completely themselves…awkwardness and silliness and all…I couldn’t stop watching them. They trip along rocks. Careen down paths. Wander willy nilly up and down. They chew funny. Make priceless expressions of awkwardness. Who among us is more silly and awkward than me? And who is more regretful of this than I am? No one but me. But watching these animals (that I’d never seen up close in person) owning their shit was really empowering. If I can love them for their strangeness, then perhaps someone can love me for mine. In fact, maybe that someone can be me. I’m thinking that if you love llama, you’d love me by extension.

I fell in love with Peru. I fell in love with new tastes, sounds, sensations. I fell in love with life.

And that’s what I did on my summer vacation.

How has your summer been? Did you travel anywhere? Do anything new? See anything with fresh eyes? Do tell!

by Tiffani “Living La Vida Bathing Suit” Michele

Dear, sweet, delusional, and incorrect Erika really threw down the gauntlet yesterday when she blogged “I Hate Summer“. Haterz gonna hate, I know, but she left me no choice but to retaliate with my own post, “I Love Summer” to show her the errors of her ways. Because really, I read her words in shock and awe, shaking my head and mouthing the words “nooooooo!” while raising my fists into the air like a supplicant for correct seasonal priorities. It’s nothing personal, I suppose, and nothing that can’t be fixed over a late night of beer drinking and shots of whiskey. But still. I was offended. Hating Summer?! What?! Who could possibly?! Can you even say those words together?!

I love Summer so much I want to get drunk off vodka infused watermelon, and fondle and caress it and maybe even grind up against it until we’re both tired and drunk and a little sunburned and pass out to the light of fireflies dancing around us. So here’s my own list of summery love:

1) So Much More Light! I don’t struggle to wake up early like I do in the dark hours of winter, because the sun is already shining in my window beckoning me to hop out of bed and get my party on. It shines all day long without any chance of snowstorms or weeks and weeks of gray days. It even stays light waaaaay into traditional night. There is finally enough time in the day to do everything…wake up early, get shit done by afternoon, take a little nap, wake up, and still have more than half a day’s light to play around with. Yes Please!

2) Break From Cooking! No one wants to use an oven or stove when it’s hot. That’s where grills and men come in handy. In the summer, you can hand off a plate of raw meat and it comes back to you in the form of a fresh dinner made by a man cooking on a grill. Cooking and baking goes down by at least half thanks to cold pasta salads, fruit dips, man grilling, pot luck neighbor picnics, and yogurt based foods. Being single has put a wrench into my plans, actually, but that’s what Craigslist is for. “Wanted: man who likes to grill. I will supply raw meat and veggies in exchange for a nicely grilled dinner every night. Knowledge of grilled desert recipes a plus. None of this is code for “I really mean I want to have freaky sex with a stranger”. Only those serious grillers need to contact me.”

3) Bathing Suits, Boats/Beach and Beers! If there’s any way to spend a day better than this, I don’t know what it is.

(body by hooping, y’all, and I’m not even kidding!)

4) Summer Sports Rock Hard! Fall and Winter have sports that are boring to watch, boring to play, involve lots of layers, and have a high degree of hurt involved. Touch football always ends up tackle. Hockey players wear too many layers to make it interesting for us women folk, if you know what I’m saying. Skiing also involves to many layers and way to many chances to run into trees and die of massive internal injuries. But summer is all about play! Swimming, volleyball, surfing, and skateboarding. Who doesn’t love the laid back nature of that?! All done in varying forms of dishabille. Rawr!

5) It’s Simply Magical. All my favorite memories come from the summertime. No school, no bedtime, spending time with friends, going on summer trips, eating popsicles all day long, summer loving with the star crossed boyfriend that I knew I’d never see again, lounging at the beach eating nachos and hot dogs, sun kissed hair, and fireflies. Ah, fireflies. My kids had never seen them before last week. But as we spent time with cousins in Georgia, they experienced the magic for the first time. It made my mama heart grow three sizes bigger.

Seriously. This is life, people. Magical, awesome, simple, pure. Brought to you by summer!

What are some of your favorite things about the best season ever (summer, of course)?!

by Tiff “Let The Music Play” Michele

Like any die hard music lover, I don’t just hear music. I feel it on a cellular level. I taste it. I breathe it. Sometimes I get so wrapped up and cocooned in it I swear I enter stasis and stop breathing until the song is over. Worse than leaving a whiskey and coke half drunk is exiting a car or room before an unexpectedly played favorite song is over.

The frustrating thing about loving music this much is that I had no outlet for it. No physical expression to amplify it. I tried taking all kinds of dance classes…tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, etc. They went over as well as all my sports endeavors. Meaning…I got no skillz. No moves. No coordination. No flow. So the music would jump and trip its way into my soul and then circle there, getting more and more bouncy, and all I could do was a little hop up and down. Maybe a slight shift side to side accompanied by random jerky out of tempo movements with my hands. I knew it was a lame offering to the gods of music, but the more I tried to sway to the beat, the more self aware I became. Dancing didn’t take me outside of myself, it shined a spotlight on all the parts of me that I’d rather keep hidden.

I did have a few people try to help me out. My sister’s boyfriend at the time, when I was a shy 14 year old, took pity on my wallflower self and asked me to dance one night. So we did and I remember him saying, “Wow. I mean, it’s dancing, not standing. Move a little!” So I tried to move a little. “Are you moving? I can’t tell! Move it! Move your hips!” I blushed and retreated back to the shadows. Then, as a shy 22 year old I found myself in the middle of a fiesta high in the Venezuelan Andes. Local Andean farmers all wanted a turn to dance with the American girl. I didn’t speak spanish, and they didn’t speak english, but it became clear that they were all trying to give me tips on how to dance. When words failed, then they would physically try to make me dance better…putting their hands on my hips and then rocking them vigorously in the universal sign for “Move your hips, woman!”

In this photo you can clearly see my dance partner is thinking that his yak would make a better dance partner. And the woman beside me laughing. As well as the group of people in the back. I’m afraid I’ve become part of a legend in that tiny Andean town where few Americans visit. I’m pretty sure they say something like, “Those Americans. They do a lot. They have a lot. Much more than we do. But they can’t move like us. Isn’t that sad?! I would rather live in the middle of nowhere with only one pan to cook in than live in a place where I didn’t know how to dance!”

And then, one day, I drove Route 66 in a Jeep with my little shih tzu Frito Bandito (RIP!). My friend met me in Flagstaff with a present. A red and black striped hula hoop. She said it would be perfect for stretching and moving on pit stops. I did with it what you would expect. I hooped like a 6 year old.

And then, after talking more about it with her and googling people like Lisa Lottie, Anah Reichenbach, Baxter, and Nick Guzzardo I fell hard under the spell of hooping. By the time I watched Beth Lavinder dancing with her hoop, I was hooked. Obsessed!

I started dancing with my hoop. Which basically is just dancing with myself. The hoop turned out to be the best dance teacher I’ve ever had, simply because if you don’t move then it falls down. The only trick to hooping is to move with it. As long as you dance, the hoop stays up. And for the first time in my life, I had an outward expression for the inward feeling that music gives me. Not only that, but it replaced running and swimming as my favorite kind of exercise, and yoga as my favorite way to meditate.

It hasn’t been a year yet, but my hoop and I have been on some excellent adventures already. I’m so obsessed with it, I take it everywhere I go…Costa Rica</a>, SXSW (where I ended up hooping on stage with Mumford and Sons, fuck yeah!), and to concerts of all kinds. Most recently to one of my favorite bands, The Henry Clay People.

I love to hoop for lots of reasons, least of all for entertainment for other people (because I’m still shy, and it creates a lot of attention!). But one time I overheard someone saying “look at her! She’s quite a dancer!” and I felt a small thrill. Who would have thought?! Awkward, uncoordinated me, confused for a dancer!

I’m no dancer, though.

I’m a hooper.

Pick up a hoop…not one from Target, those are crap. Buy a good one and join me!

There are few memories in my life that aren’t accompanied by a musical soundtrack. I figure I’ve been surrounded by music since I was born. My dad loved playing records in the morning…Elton John, Doobie Brothers, The Eagles, Foreigner, Journey, Kenny Loggins… My mom loved playing records for us all day long, first on a special fisher price plastic record player, and then on our very own special real player for big girls that played Disney songs on big girl records.

IMG_8426

The best christmas present in the history of christmas presents came when I was in elementary school: a radio that attached to my bike handlebars! Now I very literally listened to music every second of the day (except when I was in school, damn them!). There isn’t anything better than biking down the street, hands off the handlebars, listening to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. When I got back home I used a walkman prototype to play tapes, and then at night my older sister and I would turn the radio on low and take turns lip synching songs by Rick Springfield, J. Geils Band, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Perry, and the Go Go’s.

By the time High School rolled around my musical tastes shifted into bands that made my parents and church people uncomfortable. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses…all these tapes were bought and then smuggled into my room/backpack/tape player. My high school boyfriend expanded my repetoir with every mixed tape he gave me. My favorite one? This:

IMG_8931

Not only did I bring it with me on my student exchange trip to the south of France (a month away from him, but at least I had his music!), I held on to it for the next 20 years until uncovering it in a long forgotten box tucked away in my basement. I immediately put it in a tape player and turned 16 again for the next hour.

In a strange twist of improbable, when I got married I let go of music. My now ex and I had dissimilar musical tastes that never quite jived together. We never had “our song”. Never exchanged mixed tapes. Never sat up late into the night taking turns picking music to share and then making out to it. Never went to concerts. Never had impromptu dance parties in the kitchen. Never made special playlists for long roadtrips.

For as much as I lived and breathed music, I’m puzzled as to how easily I let it all go. I look back and call it my musical dark ages. I stopped listening to new bands. Stopped going to concerts. Stopped falling asleep to my favorite songs with earbuds in my ears at night. Stopped blaring anything other than kids songs in the car during the day. Stopped dancing around when cooking.

Is it any wonder I felt so sad?

When I ended up separated, living on my own, letting the kids go to their dads for the weekends, I was a bit lost, lonely, and depressed. I had a forced 2 days to be on my own. At first I didn’t know what to do with myself. “What do you need to make you happy?” I asked myself over and over.

The silence was deafening.

To counteract the deafening silence, I decided that alcohol…previously undrunk until that 37’th year of my life…was what I needed to make me happy. Or at least it made it easier for me to pretend I was happy until I figured it out. So I spent my nights in West Hollywood at the local cafe with a cozy bar and lots of local characters that let me cry on their shoulders. Turns out an ex mormon woman getting drunk at a bar has lots in common with awesome once closeted gay men getting drunk at a bar. The only difference was they drank fancy wine and I drank fancy martinis and other fruity mixed drinks.

Finally in dawned on me. Maybe the silence was telling me something. I used to never hear silence. I was missing something. Music. Living in West Hollywood was the perfect cure. The Troubador, Whisky A Go-Go, The Music Box, The Viper Room, The Hollywood Bowl, The Greek Theatre…so many places with such amazing live music!

Emerging from my personal dark ages felt like a huge deep exhale. And when I inhaled, it was music. It was beautiful and restorative. It filled my heart with awesome. I promised myself to never stop the music again.

I think Annie and Aretha would be proud.

by Tiffani Michele

It wasn’t too long ago that I held clippers to my scalp and started shaving all my hair off. Admittedly, I had a pixie cut/fauxhawk so there wasn’t much to shave anyway. I assumed that because I was only getting rid of an inch of hair…2 inches tops…it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. It’s only hair, anyway.

Then I held the clippers in my hand.

The noise when I flipped it on and the vibration as I held it in my hand was enough to startle me back to a reality that I’d been avoiding. In truth, shaving my head was a Big Deal. I was not the kind of girl to do such a thing. I’m not the one to stand out, draw attention to myself, or be so bold and aggressive as to say “fuck you, beauty indoctrination! I don’t need hair to be awesome!” I’m the kind of girl to blend in. Fly under the radar. Wear clothes that are either brown, black, or navy blue. Have hair that is neither too long nor too short but always well groomed. Stifle my laugh since it tends to be waaaay louder than the normal ambient noise. Walk on my toes after it was pointed out that I stomped around like an elephant. Dress modestly, without drawing attention to my body parts. Deflect conversation to avoid talking about myself by asking questions about the other person. Basically, fly under the radar as much as possible. Assimilate. Look the part of a normal American girl-now-turned-woman.

As I underwent my metamorphosis, right about the time I left my church, my marriage, and my home for the last 5 years, I started switching things up a little bit. And I also started getting desperate to simplify my life in every way possible. I thought that as a haircut, the pixie was a nice compromise…while ridding me of inches of unruly frizz it was shorter than anyone else’s hair, so I was really stepping out there. But, it was still a style. It was something easily explained away. It could still look cute. I could still have a good hair day (actually, they were all good hair days with that cut!). It was still appropriate.

But it wasn’t enough. I could feel it in my bones. Every time I went back to Floyds Barbershop I would find a new way to go a little shorter. A little more off the sides. Can we kind of shave the back? What about a fauxhawk? By the time my friend Tara called to say she was shaving her dreads off and would I come photodocument it for her, I was ready for the clippers myself.

As I stood there shaking in my rainbow socks, I had a moment of “what the fucking hell?!”

Would this turn me into Britney Spears level crazy? Did it mean I was in the midst of a mental breakdown? Was this really necessary? And if so, why? For being so middle of the road my whole life, did I really need to veer into the extreme? What would my kids think? Would they all run out at 18 and get shaved heads, tattoos, and an alcohol problem because the time when they were 13, 11, and 7 their mom gave a big middle finger to societal norms?

I took a moment to breathe and think. Where was the root emotion that was driving me. Was it in anger? Desperation? Retaliation? Uncertainty? If so, then I wasn’t doing it. Another breath. A big smile. It was rooted in happiness, playfulness, adventure, and a little mischief. It was anchored not by a feeling of “fuck you!” but more like “I give no fucks about this anymore.”

I started shaving.

As I did, this weightless giddy feeling washed over me. It was only hair. It’s not like I was tattooing my face permanently. In two months time I’d have my pixie back again. And it was my own body, who…and I mean literally…WHO would care if I shaved my head. It’s not like I was running around the streets shaving everyone else’s head. This was me, it was what I wanted for myself.

I felt brave, badass, strong, empowered, determined, and fearless. I felt like a woman living authentically…beyond the narrow limits of a societal norm and into a more expansive radical self acceptance.

The backlash started immediately.

When you wave your freak flag and are bold enough to not even try to hide it, then society at large feels entitled to dialogue about it openly. The comments started as soon as I walked into a public space.

“If my daughter did that to her head, I would kick her ass” said one woman.
“My daughter wants to shave her head like that, but I told her it would be a mistake. She sells Mary Kay products, and needs to look pretty!”
“I would do that, but I want to look feminine.”
“Does this mean you’re a lesbo?”
“She must not have gotten enough attention at home” said a mother to her daughter.
“So..when are you growing your hair back?” said the guy I was dating. Who then stopped seeing me.

and on and on.

I was astounded. These people didn’t know me. They didn’t know if I had done it on a whim or done it because of a terminal sickness like cancer. But they still judged like it was their job.

The first lesson of the shaved head was a feeling of rising above a lot of bullshit and feeling strong and powerful in my own skin.

The second lesson of the shaved head was a heartbreaking vulnerability. All my worst fears of the previous 30-something years of not measuring up, not looking good, not being found attractive, not being wanted, of standing out, of being judged, of hearing negative things about myself…that all came true.

It came true…and I remained unscathed. All those fears have nothing to do with me. Words have more to do with the person judging than the person being judged. And I learned something counterintuitive about happiness. Where before I thought that it was the ultimate in selfishness to make myself happy if it meant someone else became unhappy, I now think totally differently. I’m not responsible for someone else’s happiness, only my own.

And that one time? When I freaked everyone else out but made myself happy by shaving my head?

That was awesome!

Here’s a video of Tara’s journey from dreads to a shaved head that I made in addition to the photos I took over the course of 2 days.

Turns out that one time when she shaved her head? It was awesome for her, too!

Have you ever really stood out? On purpose? Or wished you could?

by: Tiffani Michele

Have you ever noticed how good kids are at deviating? They naturally deviate from everything…the plan, what’s expected, what you want, a schedule, and anything close to a societal norm. The younger they are, the crazier they act. I attribute this to the lack of conditioning. Really young kids just do shit without a thought in the world about if other people agree or not. Like it or not. If it’s safe or not. If it’s a good idea or not. In fact, all ideas are good to a kid. This is what makes it tough to be a mom to a kid in that phase of childhood…if all ideas are good to them (which they are) then you have to be ready and anticipating any kind of potentially dangerous deviation.

Once, when I was a kid, I opened the car door in our Vanagon while we were speeding down the highway. I remember wondering what it would be like. I cranked on the door handle, it swung open and yanked my arm/body with it. I was saved by the pull of my seatbelt and my father’s quick reaction time. He was a high strung kind of guy, prone to loud lectures (read: yelling) and red faces. This time, though, all he could do (once he pulled the car over and steadied his shaking hands) was look at me and stutter, “What? Whaaaaat? Why? WHY?????!” I didn’t know. I just wondered. This is the same thinking that led me to put my pinky finger in the mixer while I was mixing the cookies. It hurt like hell, fyi.

I personally think schools exist because tired mom’s everywhere started begging and pleading for some place they could send their wild kids so they (the moms) could finally get a little peace and quiet while they (their kids) were taught how to be as normal and not deviant as possible. School is the place for learning about good and bad ideas…for dealing with other people, and thinking through if something is safe or not, and being taught what’s acceptable normal behavior and what is unacceptable.

Except…I didn’t want that for my kids. So, I started homeschooling. It’s not like I didn’t try school. My 15 year old daughter went from K to 4th. My 12 year old son went to Kindergarten. We, collectively, were always getting into trouble for not towing the line. If we were having a slow morning, I would rather take our time and get to school late than push and hurry and rush and be mean to get everyone out the door. If homework at the end of the day was creating tears and drama, I’d rather them not do it…after all, they were in school all the damn day. Home time should be play time! When the 3rd grade teacher was concerned that my daughter still played with imaginary friends I was as appalled at her thinking this was deviant as she was that I wasn’t as appalled as she was. My then 6 year old son started getting stomacheaches from trying to be so good for the entire day, lest he get his paperclip moved from the green circle to the yellow circle, so I’d encourage him to live a little and that I didn’t even care if he acted up and got put on the red circle of shame. Then he came home with a band around his head and a star stapled on it. On every corner and in the middle of the star was a sticker. “What are these stickers for, Carter?” I asked. “I get a sticker every time I’m good. And then when I get 6 stickers I’m a superstar and I get to wear it on my head to show everyone how good I am!” And OMG I thought my head was going to explode. Aw hell naaaw! That construction paper star was the straw that broke the camels back. I didn’t want a good, obedient son that based his worth on an external source of affirmation. I reacted not unlike Jack Black’s character in School of Rock (best movie EVER) when he learned about the demerits and gold stars chart on the wall…”What kind of sick school IS this?!”

I pulled all my kids out of school. This was a Big Deal in the middle of the suburbs, and not all of my friends understood why I would do such a thing as ostracize my kids from such a big source of socialization.

When we were all officially out of school and homeschooling at home, the first deviant act we did was stay in our PJ’s all day. We’d wake up just in time to make ourselves some hot chocolate and sit drinking it in our footy pajamas while watching the schoolbus drive by. Sometimes one of us would snicker, “Suckers!”

From there it was a quick slide into absofucking anarchy at home, and I love it.

We wear mustaches and top hats all day and construct cloaks out of black velvet and silver fabric. We eat whatever we want whenever we want it. We learn whatever we want whenever we want to. There’s no official bedtime, so usually some pretty philosophically nerdily academic conversations happen at midnight. We cut, dye, and redye our hair as the mood fits. We paint our faces and bodies on a regular basis, regardless of where we have to go during the day. Lately, my 8 year old daughter is rocking a rainbow mohawk.

In short, we make up our own rules as we go. I’m more interested in watching my kids develop their own code of conduct instead of doing things because someone else has told them what is right or wrong for them. I mean, I do draw the line on some things. Like when my 8 year old wanted to tattoo a rainbow across her face. And if they are being assholes, I let them know it isn’t cool. We dialogue our choices and the short and long term effects of those decisions. We’re normal a lot of the time, too. It’s just, that’s not really the gold standard. I really celebrate expressive, self directed, self thinking, deviant kids who understand and embrace all of themselves. In our home, deviant isn’t a word any more than normal is. We’ve blended the two into a crazy mix of radical acceptance.

Tell me, do you think that you and/or your kids may not be necessarily…ahem…normal? Is this OK with you? Do you try to pretend otherwise, or have you radically accepeted it?

by Tiffani “addicted to overusing ellipses” Michele

For this entire month, readers of this blog will be treated to a carnival of strange behavior from us O+U women in our natural habitat. Step right up and marvel at our combined freak show…be amazed as you read about housewives with habits that have never before been filmed in the wild! Tickets are free…all you have to do is pull up a chair, grab your favorite mixed drink (preferably one with whisky in it), and suspend both your disbelief and judgements!

There was some back and forth between all of us about what our theme “Deviate” really meant this month. Was it ‘deviate’ or ‘deviant’? The former implies a little hop, skip and jump off the path of normal…nothing too weird. The latter implies something so scandalous we’d have to give the blog an R rating and censor all our pictures with photoshopped black electrical tape. But according to the dictionary, to deviate is to “depart from an established course or usual or acceptable standards” while to be a deviant is to be “a person whose behavior deviates markedly from the accepted norm”. Not that big of a difference. If you deviate, you are a deviant.

This certainly held true with my upbringing. I grew up in a fundamental religion. To deviate from their norm is to be a deviant. The only thing is, when you put together a bunch of “thou shalt not” items on the same list, it leads to a weird kind of perspective. For me, there wasn’t a big difference between someone who drinks coffee and someone who uses crack cocaine. Thou shalt not do either! Paying for a coca cola and paying for a prostitute were on the same “DO NOT” list, making them kinda equal in my young mind. Wearing a tank top with short shorts was showing the same kind of immodesty as a stripper on the pole. (one time..in church…while wearing my Steve Madden shoes…a woman said I looked like “one of those pole dancers”) Drinking alcohol and having sex. What’s the difference? Thou shalt not do either! Although technically the sex ban *is* lifted upon getting married. So I had that going for me.

I followed the accepted norm because it was just that…accepted and the norm. I didn’t know any better. There were chinks in my armor, though. I dated a guy in high school mostly because I loved to make out with him after he’d been drinking peach wine coolers and smoking cigarettes…such an intoxicating blend of fruit and forbidden. Sometimes I would watch R rated movies while drinking Coke. Double whammy! Wearing tank tops and bikini’s was rare, but sometimes if I was on vacation and knew I wouldn’t know anyone I’d break them out and put them on. I felt sufficiently terrible about all these deviations, of course…they were things to be ashamed about! My early love of alcohol, movies with the word “fuck” in them, caffeinated drinks, looking cute and sassy with shoulders and legs on display…they were going to deviate me onto Satan’s path, dammit. So I fought against them. Poorly. Until one day…I lost the fight. Spectacularly. Feelings of craziness ensued. Tank tops and short skirts?! Someone must be in the nut house!

I didn’t just hop, skip, and jump off the acceptable norm in my religious upbringing. I catapulted off of it with a martini in one hand, cigarette in the other, and a big “fuck you!!!!!” coming out of my mouth. I relished the freedom, I embraced every wrong decision, I rejoiced at each new experience. At 36, I was reborn into my life. I was a babe in the woods, like Liesl in the Sound of Music begging for her first taste of champagne. Except I was partial to whiskey and it didn’t stop there. I wanted everything that I’d been saying no to for so long, and to my credit I managed to get it.

The cost was a high one, though. One does not label oneself a deviant (which I did) without feeling a judgement associated with it. And one does not simply deviate without a judgement from other people being associated with it. One does not tra la la off the normal acceptable path without leaving some people that are still on it in the dust. “I’m disappointed in you”, “you’ve let me down”, “you’re so selfish now”, “is it a midlife crisis?”…those are heavy burdens to carry. As is the weight of your own judgements who arrive with the conjoined twins of guilt and shame.

I remember one particularly enjoyable visit to Las Vegas with some close girlfriends. There was lots of drinking. Laughing. Late nights. Dancing. Fun. Clubs and pools. Disco ball dresses and, according to the one woman from church so long ago, pole dancer shoes. In short, the whole weekend was full of things that deviated from my usual acceptable standards growing up. As we sat together on our last day, eating brunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, I ordered a coke. I looked around at my friends and all their cokes so easily ordered and started feeling panicky. Mostly because I will never order or drink a coke without thinking of all the lessons in church about how drinking coke is against orders from God himself. And that’s just about coke, you can only imagine what the shenanigans of a weekend in Vegas with friends was now starting to create in my angsty spirit. I watched all the women around me, laughing and not giving a flying fuck about the eternal state of their everlasting souls. They hadn’t deviated off their normal path…they’d been doing this shit since college. They weren’t deviants. They had no judgement from friends and family for drinking or wearing short dresses. Some of them were actually unblocked Facebook friends with their parents! Around that table, I was the only one with guilt and shame sitting right on my lap.

I started sobbing at the table, right over my mac and cheese. It was too much. I felt robbed of the kind of wild abandon people have when they live life without trying to fit into someone else’s idea of what their established course should be. I felt a huge degree of despair about how hard it was going to be feeling like a deviant for the rest of my life now that I was no longer on my acceptable path. It really was just too too much.

My friends gathered around me. Got me a coffee that they dumped some whiskey and Bailey’s into. I took a long bath with a banana, which is the most bath friendly food in the hangover comfort food group. I recentered.

In the end, it’s my friends that will get me through. The ones who have been on what I used to call “the deviant path” all along. Ironically, they have been the ones to show me the most compassion, non judgement, concern, care, and support. These O+U ladies are particularly phenomenal in their ability to love, laugh, and wave their freak flags. And because they celebrate their own freak…their own ways they’ve deviated…they also celebrate that in other people. They celebrate it in me. They encourage me to sing the song of myself. And dammit, now I’m crying and need to go find some more spiked coffee, a banana, and another bath.

But before I go, I just want to badly paraphrase more Walt Whitman.

I contain multitudes.

So do you.

Sing your song, and I’ll sing mine.

Celebrate yourself, and I’ll celebrate me.

This entire month of May, we’ll celebrate together. Even if your song deviates from someone else’s idea of what it should be. After all, someone’s idea of normal is another person’s crazy. Vice versa. So instead of labeling and judging, we’ll share this month. And hopefully, like Whitman, be satisfied as we “see, dance, laugh, sing”.

It happened in the middle of my rental home kitchen last year. The moment I became a photographer. I mean, I’d taken photos for the last 5 years, nonstop, every day. I’d taken classes and been on photowalks to learn the ropes. I’d watched every tutorial on youtube under the search “how to shoot in manual mode”. I’d even licensed some photos to Getty Images and was making some pocket change every month. Photography wasn’t just something I did, it became how I saw the world..real truth. Not the fake shit everyone pretends or wishes was real. You can’t hide anything in a photo. The look in the eye, the mess on the floor, the people who are there, the unkempt hair, the place where you stand…it’s all there. A blur of shifting moments, light, connection, pattern, emotion, and truth.

I think that is what hooked me on photography. But taking pictures and calling yourself a photographer are two different things, and I hesitated to make that leap on account of being self conscious about not being classically schooly trained in the fine art of photography. So it remained something that I thought of as a somewhat obsessive hobby. I took pictures not to sell pictures, but to get to the truth of the matter. I took pictures to share with other people what I saw…because usually it was something subtle that they’d missed. I took pictures because if I put my camera away for even 10 minutes, my fingers would get antsy and my mind would get obnoxious with the thought, “There’s your shot. Take the shot! That’s the shot right there! FOR GODSAKES PICK UP YOUR CAMERA AND GET THE SHOT!”

And then, there I was, standing in the middle of the kitchen with my kids throwing eggs at me. It was for a photo idea that I’d been kicking around in my head ever since reading the quote “you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs!” At that point in my life I had an imploded marriage, changing friendships, discarded religion, and traumatized kids; and the imagery of broken eggs wouldn’t leave my mental space. The only way to make it go away was to capture it for real…that’s just how my mind works. In my year of letting go and breaking down, I turned my camera on myself. I was having to find my own truth, and the only real way I knew how to do that was to photograph it.

So I gave my two daughters a dozen eggs each and told them to throw ’em at me and at the kitchen cabinets while I took pictures using my remote setting. My son was in the other room skyping with a friend. “What’s going on over there? It sounds crazy!” his friend asked. My son responded with, “oh, nothing. They’re just throwing eggs around the kitchen.” After a pause, his friend asked, “Why?! That doesn’t make any sense!” And my son said 6 words that changed everything.

“Because my mom is a photographer.”

I’d never ever call myself that. But when he said it, everything clicked into place. I’m not a photographer because I only use film instead of digital (I don’t). Or because I am a technical genius with my DSLR (I’m not). Or because I have clients calling me every day (nope!). Or because I charge a bijillion dollars for an hour of my time (ha! not!).

I am a photographer because the only other option is to be a crazy lady. A crazy lady obsessed with trashing her kitchen.

“Hey kids, throw eggs at the cupboards for me! Why? Because I’m a photographer! It’s what I do!” sounds so much better than “We gonna throw eggs all up in this house! Why? Because the voices in my head told me to!”

“Hey, oldest daughter, I’m going to need your help pouring gravy on me once I get myself into this oven. Why? Because I’m a photographer! It’s what I do!” is much less of an express ticket for her to go right to a therapist than “honey, will you put some extra gravy on my back, I’m stuck in the oven. Why? Cuz I’m a crazy mo fo, fo sho!”

When my youngest daughter walks in and I’ve emptied the contents of the freezer onto the ground so I can fit inside, and then she observes, “Mom, I don’t think freezers are for people…” it’s more comforting to say “Photographers look at things in a different way. It’s what we do!” than it is to say, “I know honey, but mama’s having a little mental breakdown over the state of her frozen emotions that are now thawing out so why don’t you eat some of this nicely chilled out pizza and when mama is done and all dried off and dressed, I’ll join you for lunch!”

My goal is to find a locally owned record store or coffee shop somewhere that will put up a few of the better photos from my series I will call “self portraits: divorce edition!” for a day or two until the locals are sufficiently freaked out and the images are taken down. Just long enough for me to take my kids and say, “See! A gallery show! This is what I was working so hard for! Doesn’t it make perfect sense?!” Then the next time I crawl into a metal bin and they tell me that normal people don’t do stuff like that, I’ll remind them of my gallery show and say “I’m not normal. I’m a photographer!”

It’s sad that in our society you can’t just be spectacularly unique and own that shit, instead you have to justify it by getting a respectable income for it and/or the accolades of lots of other people. Usually I rage against such restrictive societal norms. But, my kids are involved in this, and so I’ll do what it takes to play by the rules if it means they won’t have to come up with a sensible explanation to their friends about why the kitchen is covered in spaghetti sauce other than “because my mom is a photographer.” Therapy bills averted all the way around! At least in the short term!

Since my son claimed the title for me, I’ve found that the experiences followed. When I saw myself as a photographer, other people did too. I have freelanced my way all around a bunch of different countries, being paid to use my camera to capture my vision.

I am photographer! Hear me roar/scream/throw food around/wrap myself in bubble wrap!

Do you have anything in your life that you find cathartic and enjoyable? Do you work at it and make it a part of what you “do”?