Posted by: Sarah | April 19, 2010

So Much: The Cottage Cheese Effect

Have you ever found yourself completely dumbstruck despite a superabundance of things you could say? Your mind flips through the recent past like a pack of cards while your mouth hangs open exuding monotone, “Uh, uh, uh” sounds.

In these moments, I believe the symbiosis of mind and body curdle, turning the brain into cottage cheese. It’s a phenomenon that often occurs to me when an old friend calls to catch up. While I’m super excited to hear his/her voice and reconnect, I also feel a kind of agitation. “Good Lord,” I think. “So much has happened! Where the heck do I even begin?”

The exercise of explaining the missed days, weeks, months or years—reliving them in conversation—seems an insurmountable deed. I panic, mentally editing my life events to a synopsis akin to the quick blurbs on the back the book jacket. I drain off the metaphorical whey leaving only the solid masses of information, presenting my friends with a condensed, slightly acidic account of the past however long. I hate that I do this. I would love to let them sip from my unpasteurized, emotionally fresh cup. However, I know their attention span is not that indulgent, and truthfully, it would be incredibly narcissistic to think my life goings-on are that important to anyone besides myself.

So I conjure up an exercise one favorite creative writing professor’s used to assign us (an exercise I continue to use with my own writing students): Give a 1-2 sentence capsule of the story. It’s not as easy as it sounds, I assure you, but it is vital to an author’s clarity. It forces you to pluck the seed from the fruit—the part that transcends the hedonism of creation and consumption and continues to flourish long after the book is closed, the story ended.

This is what I will attempt to do today. Sitting down to write this post, the literary “uh, uh, uh’s” set in. The curdling began. So much. That’s the coagulant drizzled over my mind. So much. So much. So much.

And like I would do with my dearest of friends, I will attempt to give you a quick recap that keeps you here with me and not clicking off to read the newest update on Sandra Bullock and Jesse James.

So here’s my flash nonfiction story entitled A Wedding, Three Homecomings and A Birthday Bonanza.

Chapter 1: A Wedding

First was a wedding. I flew to Houston, Texas, for a cousin’s wedding. Of course, as any Hispanic knows, if it is your cousin, second cousin, third cousin twice removed, or daughter of your brother-in-law’s niece’s son, it matters not. The WHOLE family comes to town. What can I say, Hispanics love to celebrate. We’ll take any excuse to put on high heels, a twirly skirt, bright lipstick and a salsa song. So it goes without saying that I laughed too much, ate too much, danced too much, stayed up too late, and gave out about a thousand besitos before the wedding day was over. It was fabulous to see my extended family from Puerto Rico. It always is.

Chapter 2: Three Homecomings

From Houston, my parents came home with me to El Paso. We spent a glorious week together! I got to live in a fictitious world in which I was sixteen again and an only child. Note: This scenario has never existed as I have two, dear baby brothers. I suppose it’s like the cliché that girls with curly hair want straight hair (which we do!) and girls with straight hair want curly. Growing up, I always thought only children had a pretty sweet gig. Nobody to argue with over which TV show to watch; nobody to have to babysit on a Friday night; nobody pulling your hair or racing you for shotgun; nobody hogging all the covers or popcorn or attention. Hmm… actually, that sounds kind of boring! Okay, only children (one of my best friends is an only child so I’ve heard that side too) have their own set of complaints. I guess what I mean is, as an adult, it’s nice to have solo time with my parents. Because I cannot imagine growing up without my sidekick brothers to laugh and scheme and have adventures with. Nonetheless, it was amazing to wake up to my Dad’s running shoes pounding down the stairs and my mom in cotton pjs snuggled up with Gatsby. It felt… like home.

The day after my parents flew back to Virginia, my husband came home from his short-term Army medical training in Utah. So it was a treat, indeed, to have my better half back at my side for the Easter weekend. Nothing nicer than waking up and making Saturday morning eggs, bacon and biscuits for the one you love. There’s something magical about late breakfasts that should really be classified as lunches. A dreamy, sandman-dust-in-the-eyes feeling that the world operates on your time not its own. You sleep in, wake up slowly, open the blinds to a sun already turned from lemon to honey, and say, “Anybody want breakfast?” Despite it already being near Noon. It’s fabulous! And all those who lift a brow and frown at us, “lazy morning bums,” well, they can go suck a boiled egg. I contend they’re simply jealous they can’t enjoy a day of complete leisure themselves.

Three days (in the Easter theme) after my husband returned to Utah, I flew to Fort Hood, Texas, to welcome my younger brother home from a year in Iraq.


I pause here and string together ellipses because again, my brain has momentarily scrambled. So much. So much. So much. I could do a whole post on my brother’s return: the relief from 12 months anxiety; the way my retired-Colonel dad snuck us past military security to the tarmac where my brother landed; the 1st Cav’s triumphant homecoming parade; the sight of 200 troops, war-weary and sleepless, flanked by men on horseback, walking in tight formation across the field to their loved ones; how bright the night seemed despite it being 10 p.m.; how beautiful yet changed my brother’s face appeared; how my arms trembled under his strong hug; my mom’s joy; my dad’s tears; and my revolving thought: Thank God, he’s home, he’s home, he’s home.

Chapter 3: A Birthday Bonanza

(Since I dedicated an entire post to this topic earlier this week, I’ll be brief.)

I turned 30. I’ll just put it out there now so I don’t have to play word games hinting around my age. Truth is, age doesn’t bother me a bit. Growing up, birthdays were always magical, blossoming, happy occasions. One of the best days of the year! Of course, I have to thank my parents for setting a tradition of making them so special. Because of this, I’ve never understood why some people have an annual case of the Eeyores. Equally perplexing are individuals who feel it is their God-given duty to make fun of others on their birthday and try to evoke depression—“all in good jest,” so they claim. Those folks bewilder me. And, yes, I had a couple of them this birthday. People who gave a little jab alongside the smile and happy birthday greeting. But I played along because that’s what you do when it truly doesn’t bother. Sorry, Charlie, you ain’t gonna rain on my parade. I’ve tried to rationalize why certain folks feel the need to bring disparagement on the anniversary of a day a new life began. The only thing that makes logical sense is that their lives must be pretty sad.

Life is entirely too good, too precious, too full of possibilities and awaiting blessings for me to bemoan that I’ve lived another year and get to live a new decade! Why in God’s name would I feel downtrodden about that? My roaring twenties are complete and I did my fair share of F. Scott-&-Zelda living. I’m looking forward to my thirties. Life is a pilgrimage to the mountaintop and the air feels crisper, more robust, the higher up you go.

That’s my story. We’re up to speed now, friends. And, yes, I failed my writing professor’s exercise. These were not 1-2 sentence capsules, but I don’t think that was ever the point. The seed is what matters, and if you’ve ever eaten a juicy orange or watermelon slice, you know there is often more than one.

Yours truly, Sarah



  1. Thank you for the excellent news!

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