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Cast of Characters
Let's meet and greet
If I’m going to do this (and by this I mean newsletter), I’m going to do it right.
Not sure exactly what right means, but it feels right and good and proper, here at the beginning of this wordy adventure, to make some introductions.
Let’s start with the four-legger, because dogs like to go first. This is Vila. Pronounced “vee-lah”. (It should have been spelled Veela, too, but I lost that argument in a rochambeau incident with the Hubs back on dog adoption day 7 years ago.)
Vila, as you can likely tell from that adorable smush face, is a giant marshmallow. She’s sweet and sensitive and if she were human she’d wear hemp wristbands and be a singer/songwriter whose songs make everyone sad at the farmer’s market. Vila feels all the feels, including your feels. If you feel too many feels, she will have to go hyperventilate in the back yard for a bit until someone goes out and tells her everything is going to be ok.
She often gets mistaken for a Pit Bull (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but she is in actuality a Boxer/Boston Terrier hybrid. Yes! You can see it now, can’t you? Vila loves long walks, sunbathing, and no less than 12 naps per day. (At 8-ish years old, she’s enjoying middle-aged-lady status. Naps are crucial.)
Now for the fine feathered friend, FeeBea. Also known as Adventure Birb…
Feebs is a Green-Cheeked Conure, which is a type of small parrot native to South America. She’s been part of our family for 2.5 years and makes us laugh every day. She also poops on us. A lot. FeeBea goes everywhere my daughter goes, especially in these days of lockdowns and distance learning. She rides on shoulders and inside shirts and if she doesn’t get out of the house for a hike or a car ride at least once per day, she complains quite loudly about the lack of adventuring.
Adventure Birb is also ride-or-die for this girl, her girl, my 10-year-old daughter, Filha.
Of course, that’s not her real name. Because *gestures around* internet. Also I’m not going to show her face in this place, but trust me, it’s a really good face. She’s a really good kid. She’s funny and weird and has more emotional intelligence than most full-grown adults. She excels at climbing trees and drawing dragons, and she can belch like a trucker. (Assuming that truckers can pull up burps from their toes that blow your hair back.)
Sometimes you hear people say their child is the best thing they’ve ever done. And although there have been some dark hours of the soul along this last decade of parenting, I’m going to say it, too. Deciding to have Filha was the best decision Hubs and I ever made. She is glorious. Having her has made me a better person.
Parenthood isn’t for everyone, and for a long, long time I wasn’t sure it was for me. I didn’t really like other kids even when I was one, didn’t babysit when I was a teenager, didn’t coo at newborns, didn’t get the appeal. Hubs and I got hitched when I was 27, and we were married for 10 years before Filha arrived. We spent at least 3 years before her conception creating pro and con lists, trying to decide whether we were cut out for parenthood or not.
I remember one conversation in which he said, “But our lives are so good right now, and having a kid would change all of that. Maybe our lives would still be good, but they wouldn’t be like they are now.”
To which I blithely replied, “Well, we won’t be one of those couples who stops doing all the fun stuff when we spawn. We’ll just make the baby fit into our lives and we won’t change a thing!”
*pause for all the parents to take a breath and stop crylaughing*
Yeah. That’s not how it works AT ALL. Having a baby changes everything.
Sometimes I try to imagine what our lives would be like now if we hadn’t taken the procreation fork in the road. I’m sure we’d be great. That version of us is out there, somewhere, living an excellent life.
But in this reality, we are living an excellent life as well. This version of us is perfect. Not perfectly perfect, of course. But perfect in the sense that we are good. We are enough.
Speaking of good and procreating and marriage and all that, this is the Hubs:
I’m not going to hide his face because he can handle the internet attention. And, I mean, just look at that face! (Also, cool walrus hat.) I met Marido (that’s his code name, because this isn’t his newsletter and he didn’t ask anyone to write about him) in Chicago when I was 23 years old. He asked me out three different times. I said no each time. It was the height of my goth incarnation and I was really turned on by guys who wore black leather and vampire fangs, and, well, he was more into wearing orange platform Swears and being a kind and decent person.
Two years later, our paths crossed again. By this time, I had experienced enough vampireboys to appreciate someone who was kind and decent. So we started dating. And then we fell in love. And then he dumped my ass, right after Christmas.
But it’s ok, because we got back together three months later and exchanged wedding vows not long after that. We’ve been married now for 20 years (gasp!) and although we’ve had our share of hard times, we still like each other. We still make each other laugh. Now, more than ever, actually, I’m excited to see what the next leg of our journey has in store.
So I guess that brings us to me. I don’t have a code name because this is my newsletter. I’m LaDonna. Sometimes I look like this:
But that was pre-COVID, at a photoshoot, back when I wore cool dangly earrings and bright red lipstick and took the time to flat-iron my bangs into submission.
These days, I look more like this:
That is my polite “I’m surviving just fine even though I barely slept last night and I haven’t combed my hair in days and I no longer remember what lipstick feels like and yes I need reading glasses because I am over 40 and also my teeth look weird” smile. Somehow, in the Instagram era, it’s become my default smile. I know what my real smile feels like on my face, but I don’t know what it looks like because every time I turn the camera on myself, this close-lipped version shows up.
According to my bosom friend Ess (old-timey Anne of Green Gables reference there), who lives in the UK and sees me only on Facetime of late, my real smile and real laugh showcase an endearing nose crinkle. I take her word for it because she only lies to me when I need it.
Other biographical tidbits: I’m an INFJ, an Enneagram 4, an introvert, a misanthrope, a feminist, and a pessimist. I’m a bad liar, a mediocre cook, and a pretty good listener. I travel well. I sleep lightly. I’m writing a book that is part memoir, part poetry and is tentatively titled: “A Treachery of Questions: One Woman’s Religious Experience.” I write a to-do list pretty much every day. I prefer flour tortillas to corn.
Here are some things that are true about me that I did not choose: I’m white. I’m cis. I’m straight. I was born on the east coast of the U.S. but grew up on a farm in the Midwest. I attended an Independent Fundamental Bible-Believing Baptist School for 13 years. I’m tall-ish. I’m curvy-ish. I’m right-handed. I have a nice nose, excellent eyebrows, and enviable cheekbones. My mother has dementia. My ankles swell on long-haul flights. I have a scaffolding of titanium around my left wrist and my left knee. I blush easily. My daughter and I have a neck freckle in exactly the same place.
Here are some things that I changed/chose for myself: I left the church in my late 20s and religion altogether in my early 30s. I still have a faith, but I no longer answer to the god I was raised to worship. I like to keep my fingernails short. I’ve been getting tattoos since I was 22 and now have quite a collection. I am a writer, by trade and by calling. I live in San Francisco. I know how to drive stick shifts, motorcycles, and horses. I believe in acupuncture and vaccines. I swear a lot. I read, on average, 50 books a year. I have never spanked my daughter. I used to love Johnny and Keanu but only my crush on Keanu has survived. I travel as much as I can, to places I’ve never been before. I am willing to be wrong about (almost) everything. I love getting my tarot cards read. I often pull my punches. I don’t like coffee, beer, or Taylor Swift.
Here are some things that I am actively trying to change about myself: I’m getting more comfortable being uncomfortable. I’m tracking what I eat. I’m learning Portuguese (the European version). I’m feeling my anger but not acting on it until I figure out what lies beneath it. I’m trying not to judge old boyfriends too harshly (or gleefully) based on their Facebook profiles. I’m reading books written by people who are not like me. I’m asking myself what I really want to do about the things that don’t work anymore. I’m drinking more water. I’m reimagining and deconstructing old things and manifesting new ones. I’m opening my eyes and jumping off cliffs.
Here are some things that I love: black iced tea / the feeling right after I finish writing something good / lemon curd / friend hugs / the sound of typing / Golden Gate Park / YA scifi & fantasy books / horses / the frito smell that wafts off dog paws when they’re sleeping / fuzzy blankets / stompy boots / raspberries / falling asleep when it’s raining / cobblestone streets / rhubarb crisp / beach glass / organizing pretty much anything / goats / Star Wars / doing laundry / holding my daughter’s hand / frog songs / the moment a new tattoo is finished / freshly waxed eyebrows / sweet pickles / the book more than the movie/ Moira Rose / photo booths / eating lunch alone / long walks through green places / looking at real estate / shopping for reading glasses / greeting a friend or loved one at the airport (remember that?) / caesar salad / listening to my Dad play guitar / my sister’s gif game in text messages / Lawry’s seasoned salt / sunglasses
Here are some things that I loathe: repeating myself / raw onions / tech bros / procrastination / professional cheerleaders / Victoria’s Secret / uniforms / calling customer service / Christian rock / performance reviews / horror movies / folding laundry / making small talk / anything having to do with the Kardashians / acronyms/ trading stocks / football / listening to music on a radio station / the moment a new tattoo begins / poetry voice / being called “Mrs.” / riding in an Uber or Lyft / pearl necklaces / gym memberships / dentist appointments / that ride at county fairs where the thing spins real fast and then the floor drops out / corporate holiday parties / khakis / people who call my daughter “pretty princess” / crafts / putting on a wet swimsuit / eating crab / menu planning / not knowing what’s going to happen next
Whew. Clearly I like to introduce myself quite thoroughly.
I’m sure I’ll write about some/most of these topics over the next weeks and months as we newsletter together. I’ll definitely tell you more about my book, and my Baptist schooling, and my deconstruction, and my mother’s dementia, and my impending expatriation, because those all weigh heavily.
But there is so much that is light and lovely about my life—most of all, my people. So I’m happy you got to meet them.
And even if you DO adore raw onions, Taylor Swift, and spinny rides with floors that drop out, I’m glad you’re here.
Thank you for reading.
Copyright © 2020 LaDonna Witmer