My mind goes blank

There are moments when I try to write. I mean, I really try to write, but nothing comes to me. Some call it writers’ block, some call it lack of inspiration, creativity, whatever it may be it takes control of me sometimes. 2011 was a rough year for me. I didn’t write…basically at all, save for a few blog posts. I was gripped with this terrible depression. I had quit a job that I loved and spent the rest of the year in and out of good but mostly bad jobs, one of which I got fired from.

I remember crying when I got fired, not immediately of course. At first, it was disbelief. I was planning on quitting anyway, but there was an air of disbelief that they had beaten me to the punch. After that, it was anger. It was hate. It was resentment. Then finally, it was sadness. I felt the crushing reality that I had set up for myself. I realized my mistakes, as constant as they were, were ruining my life and I was at the bottom of a financial ditch that I had no choice but to claw my way out of it.

The depression is what left my mind empty. I had no thoughts. Some people are inspired by depression but for me its this constant voice in the back of my head saying “you’re not good enough. Look at your life, the proof is there” I would write out sentences and drop the story before I even finished the first paragraph. It was hard for me to dig myself out of that ditch. It took a while and it took a lot of mental anguish.

I’m still not in the best place, but I’m working–day in and day out. In my family nobody else wants to hear about your depression or your “mental” issues because at the end of the day I’ve always been told to “stop it with the pity party” I could understand that sentiment if you’re someone clearly seeking attention, but not me. I have a serious problem and no one to talk to, well except for this blog.

C’est la vie. Let’s all hope for the best

– Maureen


Two Years

It’s been two years to the date that my Grandmother passed away and I’m not really sure how I feel about it. I miss her…without a doubt, I miss her every day. It just feels like time sped up. Two years passed by like two days. So many things have happened in my life in these past two years that she didn’t get to witness. I graduated college, for one. About a month before she died, or even before she knew she was going to die, she mentioned about wanting to see me graduate. I remembered that while I sat at her bedside and held her hand.

I remember one day. I skipped all of my classes and went to the hospital to see her. She had just come out of surgery, she wasn’t very responsive and the all of the outlooks were pretty negative. I was there before the rest of my family came by that day. It was the most alone I had ever felt with her. The nurse was in and out of the room most of the time. Checking her levels and making sure she was okay. I sat there and held her hand which was constrained to the bed. My Grandmother had known that this was it. She didn’t want to be put on a breathing machine. She didn’t want to be resuscitated, so while she was still cognitive and awake she tried to pull out her own breathing tube and disconnect all of her IVS. My Grandmother was a nurse for the whole of her life. I knew she had seen this sort of scenario played out before and I knew that if she was going to leave, she wasn’t going to prolong it.

I sat there and cried. I still to this day wonder if she heard me. I told her how sorry I was about how busy I had been. How I neglected the family for school and work. She had told me for years that I needed to slow down and stop to look around every once and a while, but I always blew off her advice. Then I found myself there, holding her hand, watching her in her last days, and I knew what she had meant.

She died about a week later and only about 45 minutes after I had left the hospice. My dad sent me a single text that said “Grandmom has gone home.” And she’s been there for the past two years. I think about what’s next a lot. I wonder what is beyond this life. Is there a god? Is there something greater waiting for us? And is this life only a portal to the next? But I think these questions invoke a real fear–what if there’s nothing?

Religion is a funny topic. I want to say we rely on it in order to make facing our own mortality that much easier. It’s easy to stare at death and not be afraid when you know what’s beyond that bright light at the end of the tunnel. I haven’t quite figured it out and I’m well aware that I may never figure anything out. But something is telling me there’s got to more. This life is too petty to be the only thing we get.

I miss you Grandmom, every minute, every second, and every moment of each and everyday.

In case you’re wondering–this was the last song I heard her sing. Lucky me, I was able to record it, but I can’t listen to it.

The Ugly Tree

When I was younger my brother had crowned me with the nickname “Inappropriate Maureen.” I was your typical cute little girl but had the propensity to shout out and ask questions that would deafen the dinner table like an awkward nuclear bomb. Shutting up a family of ten was no small accomplishment either. Inevitably after the silenced waned, someone would speak up and talk about their day. Maybe my dad would ask my brother “How did football practice go?” or my sister would talk about her science projects. But I was still stuck on the fact that no one made any mention about what I had just said. I used to stand up at the dinner table interrupting their feeble diversion conversations and reroute them back to mine. “WHY DOES NO ONE WANT TO TALK TO ME?” I’d say, sitting there, the true to life Ramona Quimby. Again the silence would pound down the conversation doorway and take our good natured dinner captive and my mom would give me a look that meant nothing other than, not now Maureen. Not now.

My older brothers and sister tended to ignore me for this main reason, but I never meant any harm or purposeful awkwardness. I didn’t even know what awkward was yet. I had no idea that anything I said was ever inappropriate or confusing. It was that one time in life I’d honestly like to go back to. I never judged anything I did or said even one minute when I was younger. The worst things could jump out of my mouth at any minute and cause a horrendous scarring fiasco, but then a red ball would roll across the floor and I’d be following it down the hallway, completely forgetting anything that had just happened. That’s just the way I was.

One year around Christmas time my parents were fighting a lot, and it wasn’t just my mom pit against my dad. It was my mom against my dad against my older siblings for not doing their chores and against the stress of having a family of 10 during the holidays. I didn’t of course recognize that and went about my merry way chasing the cat around the house. I think this moment in time stands out for me the most because it flipped a switch in my brain that had been dimmed since the beginning of my time.

My mom was angry. It was just about a week before Christmas, the house was a mess, my brothers and sisters were in the other room watching tv and playing video games and in the living room stood a dinky bare tree. No ornaments, no lights. If it were any other time of the year, you would have just thought we liked the “nature” of it.

My mom and dad were financially stressed. Christmas was never their best time . I watched her put on her jacket and take her keys. She was yelling to my brothers, “That tree had better be decorated by the time I get back so help me god!” They only half listened. They were too intent on finishing level¬† 6 of Golden Eye. I stood in the kitchen and I watched her walk off, mumbling about her lazy kids in her path. It was the first moment I sat and thought about wanting to do something nice. About realizing that the things we do and say affect others. I knew in the back of my head that my brothers would never get up off that couch in time. That she’d be back and the tree would still be bare, I would be playing with the cat and somehow Christmas would be ruined.

So when the slam of the door, I took it upon myself to decorate the tree. I wanted my mom to come home and that old dinky tree turned into something that would take her breath away. I thought about all the things she would say when she got home. “Oh my god! I never thought it could look that great!” “Who did all this?” She would turn to my brothers sitting on the couch and know right away that they didn’t lift a finger. Left in the awe and befuddled by mystery of this rogue Christmas tree decorator, I would come out of the living room and unmask myself. “Oh Maureen! It’s beautiful!” She would say as she clasped her hands together.

I dropped a few of the Christmas balls on the floor. They were old and glass. I could hear the crashes as I made my way up the steps. There goes a blue one, and a green one, and a red one. I left a fine trail of broken momentos strewn along the hallway. By the time I had finally reached the tree I had only a half a box full of ornaments and maybe a string of lights. The rest were still in boxes down the basement, the other half of the box was on the floor.

Still, I thought, I could make this tree shine without all those ornaments. I could do anything! The tree was about six feet high and I was about four feet low. I was young and had no reached my towering height of 5’10 just yet. None the less, despite my height, I could still make this tree beautiful. I pulled a chair from the dining room and stood teetering at the top trying desperately to loop the lights around the top of the tree.

My brother John had come in once to see what I was doing, but I didn’t want anyone’s help. I wanted my mom to come home and see what I had done all by myself. He didn’t want to help anyway. He was only 2 years older than me and had better things on his mind than decorating a Christmas tree. “Make sure you get the top part.” He said as a last ditch effort to give advice. “Thanks.”

I pulled the ornaments out of the box and hooked each one branch by branch hitting all of the spots around the tree that I could reach. When all was said and done I lit up the tree, stood back and admired my handy work. It was beautiful. I looked at the lights that twinkled beneath the twigs and branches. I saw the bright gleam reflecting from ornament to ornament and patted myself on the back. There was no way that my mom could not love this. I would have been surprised if she could even leave the house after seeing it. “Its so beautiful, I just want to sit and stare at it all day.” I’d imagine in my head.

I saw the car lights pull up in the driveway and I scurried into the other room, hiding behind the connecting wall. I wanted to see her reaction to the beauty of my creation. Maybe I’ll grow up to be a designer, I thought. I could hear the keys jingle and door open and then the “poommfpp!” of a bag dropping to the ground. I saw my mother standing in the doorway staring at my masterpiece. I awaited as she took a breathe and yelled out “Oh my god, that is the ugliest tree I have ever seen! WHO decorated this??!!”

She yelled for my older brothers and sisters who were still seated, still playing games and hadn’t so much as budged the entire time she’d been gone. I peeked my head from behind the wall and looked at her. “I did” I said. “Oh, Maureen.” She started laughing and gave me a hug. “It’s beautiful.”

Give ’em something to really cheer for

I’m starting this blog again for myself. I’m not going to link it to anyone in particular. I’m not going to post it on facebook, twitter, or any other sort of social network out there. This blog is for me. This blog is for my sanity. This blog is for me to write out the mundane things that I notice and go through each and every day of the week. No one will read this blog for entertainment purposes because let’s be honest, it won’t always be entertaining. But its doing something for me and maybe someday it’ll lead to greater things. Maybe I’ll look back on the posts and think “This is where I got better.”

That’s all this is. A place for memories, stories and things I don’t want to forget, but also a place to practice and hone the craft I’ve been trying to hone my entire life.

– M

The God Complex

Three or four years ago I wrote a short story called “What he saw” for a creative writing class. The story was essentially about two drug addicts. One a med school drop out with the intent to still save lives and the other an epileptic, self medicated with a cocktail of different drugs, but his biggest itch was heroin. Jon, the anti-hero of the story, spent his time deciphering what was real and what wasn’t in terms of the after-life. In the end, Jon gets so wrapped up in his obsession with the almighty that he neglects his own abilities to save his friend Cole when he appears to be spiraling into an overdose. There’s a lot of twists and turns in the story, but the fact is that it was the first real piece that I sat down and thought about. It wasn’t something I tossed together on a whim one cold night.

It got me thinking recently, especially with this current stint of unemployment that I’m undergoing, but what about our own God Complexes? Everyone has them, but what happens to the average person when the bubble bursts? When everything good and well in the world suddenly turns and heads south. No more baseball games, no more late nights with good friends, no more family, no more peace of mind. What happens when all of that is suddenly gone?

The God Complex is a dangerous thing.

Pt. One: The Start of Something Different; My Foray into the Restaurant Industry

I want to preface this entry with this: When I was growing up, me, just little old Maureen Costello, the 6th of 8 kids, never imagined what I’d be like at age 23. I never imagined how high school would end or what one dreary day in the middle of October, six months after college was finally over, would be like. Or for that fact of the matter, any of those odd ages that run past you, the ones you’re never thinking about when you’re staring through a fog tinged school bus window. For the whole of my life, I’ve always imagined something a little more glamorous, and maybe there is that part of me, that tiny little bald headed girl, that is still insisting that she will grow up to be a Queen, not a princess because why not go for the big to-do, or that A-list movie star basking in the glow of the cameras that hum and click all around her. There is that small part of me that thinks I deserve a little bit better, but that part of me realized that after 5 years and a college degree, I was still standing behind the same bar, in the same restaurant, with the same customers, and for once it didn’t feel right.

I was a few months shy of turning 18 when I first started working at the Porterhouse as a bus girl. At the time, a newly minted senior in high school, I was most likely the only one in my class working two different jobs. One taking orders and making pizzas at Genaurdi’s and two, my newest occupation, clearing tables and keeping my head down. I was painfully shy, and avoided working in a restaurant for as long as I could. My older sister, who was bartending at the time, got me the job. She insisted that it would be “better pay” than what I was making behind the counters of pizza shop, and that they needed a new busser. So I obliged, because at the time I looked up to my sister Marianne, I still do, but back then I idolized her. I have two older sisters, and one younger. Growing up, I was the black sheep, not only of the family but of all the black sheep, I was the one the farmer should have just put down. I grew up with a lot of anxiety disorders. I worried, I dreaded, I counted numbers, tapped my fingers, bit my nails, and more notably, pulled my hair. I pulled so much, my mom shaved my head when I was 12, and the word around the street was that I had cancer, because that would be a more normal explanation. I didn’t correct people when they said it either, just sort of nodded once, turned and walked away. I got used to that motion.

My oldest sister Angela was a bit of perfectionist. She was smart, motivated, did well in school and was if anything the apple of my parents’ eyes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, its just that I was the opposite. Marianne, my second oldest sister, was different. She was artsy, understanding, she was cool. She was never the best student in school, and she’ll admit that, but then again none of us were. Marianne would leave to meet up with friends, wearing all the dazzling makeup and primped perfect hair, and as I watched her leave through the windows and jump in the backseat of her friend’s car, I wished that someday I could be just a little bit like that.

By the time I was 18 and starting at the Porterhouse I had my hair back. People began to forget about the little cancer girl and my life was taking on a more normal path, though deep down, I was still that shy girl, afraid that someone would find out my embarrassing secrets. That I would walk in and there would be my mom standing front of a stool with a brush in hand saying, “Come’on Maureen. It’s time to check your hair” while the rest of the restaurant, school, and my siblings would stand around and observe like some sort of medical symposium. But this isn’t a story about me feeling self conscious, its about the first time I stepped in to a restaurant and how I came to find myself there 5 years later.

There was a banquet in the upstairs dining room on my first training day. I walked in wearing my black pants and a worn out work shirt with the Porterhouse emblem stitched into the center that my sister had lent me. Brittany, the boss’ daughter and fellow busser, was training me for the day and as I walked up to meet her, arm already outstretched in order to give a sweaty nervous handshake, our brief encounter was interrupted by the heads of the party that reserved the dining room. “We’ve got hats!” I looked over and smiled at these two women, Jane and Diane, who would later become two of the most influential people I’ve met through the Porterhouse. They were holding a quarterly business meeting for their employees, and handing out hats with cash tucked in the sides to the waiters and waitresses, and now the bus staff. I think a part of me was more excited for the free hat. I put the hat on and tucked all my ¬†self consciousness away into the tight seams of that bright white hat. I followed Brittany downstairs into the kitchen, which was a lot brighter than both the upstairs and downstairs dining rooms. The kitchen, no matter what time of the day, always had this strange glow about it, and that day the first time I ever entered the back of the house, it was like walking into a spot light.

I kept my head down and followed her past the front of the line, trying to not look like the shy intimated teen I was. “Hey, I know you.” I looked up and there he was, finally a familiar face, besides my sister of course. Matt Deitch, food runner extraordinare. “You were in my math class last year.” I looked up and smiled, “Yeah I remember, you sat on the other side of the room.” He looked back at me and let out a quite laugh, “You don’t say much, do you?” Trying to find out where Brittany went, I looked around the room a couples times until I spotted her matching white hat. I looked back at Deitch and just shrugged my shoulders, “Guess not.”

After that, my first working day I came in as scheduled at 4 o’clock. I was nervous as usual, trying to remember the ins and outs of bussing that I had learned through my training days. Would I remember how to set a table? Do I know where all the plates are? How many forks go on the table and where do they go? All of these things I was instantaneously thinking to myself as I pulled my bright blue cavalier into the gravel lot. I walked in, still wearing the black pants, and worn out t-shirt, hoping to get a brand new one of my own, when I noticed my first dirty table. I clocked in and remembered my steps. I wandered over to the table and started to pick up the plates and silverware that were spread across the tan linen. And just like that I heard chaos looming from the other end of the bar. The bartender at the time Julie, at the end of a hectic shift and at the end of her own string, handed in her papers, and quit. I looked up for a second, but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. I didn’t really understand the situation, or why she seemed so angry. I kept my head down and continued to clear my little table in the corner. A minute later she was headed in my direction. She tossed a five on the small table and said thanks. I looked over at her standing there with her bags and jacket in hand, teary eyed and frustrated. I said, “but I didn’t do–“, and she just turned left and said “Keep it.” Five years later, and now I can see the irony in that situation.

Up next: Pt. 2, The end as we know it; My last day and going out with a bang.

Learning to Speak Chicago-nese

I have a love-hate relationship with spring break. I love it for the shear fact that I can be completely irresponsible for one week but hate it because its this short glimmering mirage in the eye of the thundering, catastrophic storm that is the spring semester. A quick, peaceful thing of beauty that is ultimately gone before you know it and you spend the rest of the months to come bunkered down in some makeshift shack holding on for dear life, or at least that’s how I see it. I like to think everyone’s spring break is essentially one giant south island booze-fest, and trust me, I am in no way against that. I just chose an alternative route, and that road lead to Chicago of all places. Yeah that’s right, “My kind of town.” I guess ol’ blue eyes was right when he sang about all that razz-ma-tazz. Sounds like a martini to me. Anyway, I chose to document all of this. I perfected my mid-western accent, and I with my dinky canon slipped amongst them like a transparent…..thing. I guess I can now officially check Chicago off my “To Creep List”.

Enough of this, on to the photos:

Philadelphia International Airport/ Chicago

Day one began on a rough start. Our originally booked 12:15 flight to Chicago was cancelled, and due to the negligence of a very disgruntled airline employee, we didn’t end up getting on a flight until about 5 hours later. So least to say, our first day was spent wandering center city, which wasn’t all the bad because I learned one thing. If you fake a southern accent, a confused look, and carry around luggage with you, people will do things for you. I plan on working further in this field of social discovery