February 18, 2019

a thing i suck at

It's going to be
okay, olive oil ... it's
going to be okay.
... is reading other people's blogs.  It's due to a combination of apathy and procrastination and "wait, what kind of sale is Old Navy having today?" all mixed together.  There is painstaking effort to ensure that I comment on a post when I visit a blog, so that there will be evidence that I did a thing.

But lately, I've been reading more, and realizing that there is some good writing out there, and while many of their posts are mundane like mine, there are gems to discover, too, the best of which lie in humor.

Tonight, I discovered RomComDojo.  The following conversation ensued:

Me:  *runs upstairs to P.J.'s office*  "OMG, there's a blog you need to read.  I know most of them aren't worth it, but this one really is.  Seriously.  She's hilarious.

P.J.:  *Skeptical Face*

Me:  "'Naked Rush Limbaugh covered in olive oil.'  There, that should make you curious, at least.  I'll send you the link."

P.J.:  *throws up in mouth*  "Why don't you just say 'shoe box full of roaches' and be done with it?"

Me:  *seven-second pause of frozen horror, then yelling at top of lungs*  "NOW YOU MADE ME HAVE TO CHOOSE!"

February 16, 2019

what i found in my laundry sink

This is not our sink.
Ours is that cheap-ass $20
sink from Home Depot.
The Kid:  "Did you hear a big 'bang' sound while ago from upstairs?  I didn't know if I woke you up."

Me:  "Yeah, I took my ear buds out and looked around and was like, 'What the fuck?' but I didn't investigate because I figured it was you.  No, you didn't wake me.  Molly did.  She put her butt in my face."

The Kid:  "I hit my hand on my desk, really hard.  It kind of hurts."

Me:  "Any particular reason you chose to do that?"

The Kid:  "No, no, I was playing this VR game and the fighting was really intense because I was getting mobbed, and I was swinging a baseball bat down to take this zombie's head off but I lost track of my boundaries and was too close to the desk.  It's a cool game, though.  The zombies are pretty damned realistic."

Me:  "Want to know what game I played this morning?"

The Kid:  "You got back into Portal?  What?"

Me:  "I played the game where you realize the rigged-up pipe system in the laundry room has started dripping water into that bucket again after two years of dry-bucket and you didn't know that last night, so you come downstairs and see the laundry room is flooded, so you put all the clothes in the dryer so you can put the towels that you use to mop up some of the water into the washing machine and you go get more towels and dry the floor and put those in too, but before you can wash them you have to get the water out of the bucket, so you get a bowl and dip it in about four hundred times and dump the water into the laundry sink beside the dryer, until the bucket is empty enough for you to simultaneously move the washing machine forward and catch the bucket so it doesn't fall, and then you dump that water into the laundry sink and put the bucket back empty so you can wash the towels and fill the bucket up again with leaky pipe water, and then you flip the switch so the little pump motor can turn on and drain the water from the laundry sink, except it doesn't drain because the pump isn't moving the water and that's probably because you didn't use it for six years straight, and you poke things down the drain to see if it's clogged and then you run it again and again but it doesn't do anything, so now you have to go get the wet-dry vac from the garage so you can suck the water out of the laundry sink and dump it outside, except that the wet-dry vac is under the bottom shelf and the car's in the way, so you have to go get your keys and back the car out so you can get to it, and it takes forever but you find the attachments and you drag it inside and plug it in and suck the water out of the sink, except that you don't because the wet-dry vac isn't working right either, so you say fuck it and drop the hose on the ground and walk upstairs and shut the door so it doesn't exist any more.  I think I like your game better.  It has zombies in it."

The Kid:  "Umm."


Later this morning, I found myself having a conversation in my head while folding clothes and eyeing the full-again bucket behind the washer.  It was an imaginary conversation with P.J. that we were having because in the scenario, her brother and sister-in-law are coming to visit, and we haven't had company in forever, so I would be in a frenzy to clean the house, including the laundry room.  Imaginary P.J. says, "They won't care, dear, you don't have to clean the fucking laundry room, they won't see it anyway," and imaginary-me says, "But what if they want to do some laundry while they're here?  I want them to walk in and see it nice and clean and sparkling because they're guests!"  P.J. shakes her head because she knows there's nothing she can do about it and I'm going to be on my hands and knees scrubbing that floor soon.  Then I say, "You know what all this sounds like?  It sounds like a conversation Norma and Mackey would have, out of a Fannie Flagg novel, where Norma goes crazy and covers every detail when company is coming and yammers at Mackey, who sits at the dining table and is resigned and just says, 'Yes, dear,' to most of it, because nothing he says would matter anyway.  I'm Norma.  I could write that conversation."

Whoa.

I could write that conversation.  Or, I could write a conversation between the two characters, already nicely developed.  And I find that I've already done so, in my head.  And that I do that all the time.  Book characters, movie characters.

I found a debunked personal myth in my laundry sink.  I can become a character and write it.

Shit.

February 15, 2019

dick pickle

(Text exchange ... does this count as helicopter parenting?)

The Kid:  "OMG best name for news reporter project"

Me:  "What project?"

The Kid:  "Speech and debate class / Eric and I teaming up / 15 min newscast, has to have lots of parts"

Me:  "So what name?"

The Kid:  "Richard Smalls"

Me:  "Smallwood.  Dare you."

The Kid:  "The thing is, we get points off for 'not appropriate' behavior"

Me:  "Then why do a joke name?"

The Kid:  "Because."

Me:  "Maybe Richard Gherkin"

The Kid:  "Richard Hardy"

Me:  "Nooooo Gherkin"

The Kid:  "Rick Hardy"

Me:  "Gherkin."

The Kid:  "?"

Me:  "Dick Pickle."

The Kid:  "YES."

February 13, 2019

the strawberries of optimism

Snakes and snails and sugar and spice.  What are marriages made of?

Now that the socio-political frenzy has died down and locusts have not devoured America, now that people scratch their heads and realize that they haven't heard on Fox News of a single instance of a dog marrying a cat or a pro-polygamy protest, now that our children aren't growing up to be degenerates in disproportionate numbers ... can we set aside the angst and pull out a magnifying glass, and take a look, and admit that same-sex marriages are no different than "traditional" marriages?

Because they're plenty traditional.

I had a series of conversations with a co-worker several years ago, when P.J. and I got engaged and then married.  Joe's a nice man, gregarious, approachable, and mentally stuck in the amnestically pleasant aspects of circa 1953.

"So let me ask you this," he once began.  "How ... how do you two decide which one does the dishes?"

I never got angry during these conversations.  He wasn't asking out of malice; he really was earnestly trying to get his mind wrapped around a foreign concept and all that it entailed.

"Well, Joe, I guess it's whoever wanders through the kitchen and sees that they need to be done," I replied, and shrugged and smiled.

One day we were discussing our cars.  "Yeah," I said, "my wife prefers the van because it's way more comfortable than the RAV4."

Joe jumped on this new piece of information.  "Oh, so she's the wife?"

Poor Joe.

Joe, my dear, walk into any household containing a heterosexual couple in, say, their thirties, and you'll see men changing diapers and wearing baby carriers and women going to important meetings at work, carrying briefcases.  You'll see both of them doing dishes.

And you'll see the things that don't change, that will never change.  The things that make a traditional marriage traditional.

P.J. leaves ramekins with one-quarter of an ounce of some sauce or substance in the refrigerator, uncovered, for so long that the bottom either grows green fuzz or looks like the floor of Death Valley, cracked and dried.  My green fuzz grows on what P.J. has come to call the Strawberries of Optimism.  Every spring and summer, I buy strawberries at the grocery store in a fit of good intention, and they sit untouched for weeks in the refrigerator until they turn interesting colors.  I throw them away and start again by buying more strawberries the next week.  I do occasionally cut them up and eat them, but if anyone reading this is a betting man, your money should be on the fuzz.

One of us believes the expiration dates on bottles of salad dressing mean something.

P.J. wants light and fresh air in the house, and goes around opening windows and curtains and shades.  I grumble about energy efficiency and go around closing and shutting things.

I am froth-at-the-mouth vehement about punctuality.  P.J. is dig-in-heels resentful of time constraints.

I drive the speed limit and pass up chances to turn and live in fear of a speeding ticket.  P.J. appears to believe she's on a race track when she drives.

There are little Post-It notes to each other all over the house.

Sometimes I turn off the heater in the bathroom because I need to use the hair dryer and you can't use both in the same plug without tripping a breaker, and then I finish drying my hair and forget to turn the heater back on.  Our bathroom has a physics-defying supernatural heatsink installed somewhere under the floor and without a space heater hard at work, nine months out of the year, it gets icy cold in that room.  P.J. is incredibly kind when she reminds me that I forgot to flip the switch on the heater that morning and she was forced to sit on a toilet seat coated in frost.

Sometimes I launder our bath towels and bring her one while it's still warm, with a childlike desire to please her.

Each of us believes that she is the only person who ever ends up changing the god-damned toilet paper roll.

Each of us believes that she is the only person who empties out the drain trap in the sink and runs the garbage disposal.

Each of us thinks the other is the best of all possible people to have beside her on her journey.  Each of us looks at the other with love and her heart beats a little faster.  Each of us thinks Valentine's Day is a disgusting, commercialized bunch of river-water hog shit, without admitting that her thoughts toward the other are as sweet as lugduname and incapable of being reduced to words in a card.  The feelings would inflate a heart-shaped balloon without the need for helium.  The love is richer than the finest of chocolates.  The need for the other is desperate, for who could live without her?

The things that make a traditional marriage traditional.

February 12, 2019

in the presence of greatness

Game on.
Yesterday, the perky blonde forty-something in the other car won the planet, and the Universe, and everything.  She won Life.  If there's a Trophy instead of just a trophy, she was awarded it yesterday.

I once again found myself in that parking lot situation.  You know the one ... the one where you've left the store and loaded your bags into your car and put the cart away like a proper civilized person, and you've climbed into the front seat and then you notice --

-- that across from you is another woman who also just got into her car (does this happen between men?) and is settling in to aggressively check messages on her cell phone.  Her car is running but she has no intention of going anywhere.

It's the great stand-off.  Each of you wants the other to back out of her space first so that she can have the pull-through space, and so you each engage in passive-aggressive behaviors designed to wait it out.  The intensity of battle is grossly out of proportion to the pettiness of the prize.

I start my car and grab my phone.  I immediately escalate by employing the tactic of pulling a PowerCrunch bar out of my purse and very conspicuously opening it and taking a bite, holding it up a bit as I do so.

She glances up ever-so-slightly and then looks back down at her phone, engaging in a fresh frenzy of texting.  She mouths the words as she texts.  It would be, to the undiscerning eye, pretty convincing.

I eat my bar slowly and text on my own phone.  I don't have anything legitimate to text, so I text P.J.:

"In car at HT.  Woman across from me doing that Thing, not backing out first.  I am doing it, too.  I will win.  She's pretty good at this.  I have to keep texting words so she will see that I am texting so that is what I am doing.  This is pretty meta.  Also, they were out of the cream cheese you wanted.  Damn it she is good.  Holy shit six minutes and she is still doing it!"

I need to cook dinner.  I need to win this.  I am torn.

Then my lucky break comes.  She turns off her car and climbs out of it, purse on shoulder, and begins walking toward the store.  Ah, that was it all along.  She was getting a grocery list together, perhaps, soliciting input from a family member.  It all makes sense now.

In the warm glow of victory, I text one last message to P.J.:  "She broke!  I win.  Be home soon.  xox"  Then I put my car into reverse gear.

And as I have scarcely lifted my foot from the brake pedal to begin oozing out of the parking lot, looking over my right shoulder, then left, then right, I see her return to her car.  I pause.  She climbs in and starts the car.  She looks at me.  She waits.

Instead of moving into the territory of a word that I don't know but it means ten-thousand times stronger than "utterly ridiculous" by pulling back into the space, I back out and drive away.  I know when I've been defeated.

I had been in the presence of greatness.  A master of the craft of pull-through camping.  An artist, I dare say.  She didn't just win. She Won.

I called P.J. via the car's Bluetooth.  "You aren't going to believe this .... "

Also: This.  I love reading the headline and then the ensuing article that spends its entire length explaining why the headline isn't true.

February 6, 2019

sharp scissors

P.J. understands why I insist on using our small town's Great Clips for my hair cuts, but she doesn't like it one bit.  My intractable frugality lands me there time and time again, clutching a coupon, with my hair already washed at home and damp and ready to cut.  I've seen the prices at "real" salons and they make me recoil.  My hair is not worth that much money.

P.J. watches this play out.  Sometimes I come home happy with my cut.  Sometimes, I mutter about it being too short but point out that "hey, at least it'll grow" and make the best of it.  Occasionally I gripe because I have to take my own scissors and snip a piece or two that got missed.

This time, though, was the worst.  For three days she's listened to me say in a small, far-away voice, "I wish I had a time machine.  I wish I hadn't gone there Saturday and gotten it cut.  I just wish I could take it back."  I don't want social encounters right now.  I want to put a bag over my head.  I want to hide in my cubicle, or at home, or in the car.  I don't want to be seen.

Great Clips wasn't terribly busy.

"How you been?  Girl, I don't think I've cut your hair for a while now.  You was about to go out of the country last time," she said, spraying my hair down with a mister.

"Seriously?  That was Ireland, two years ago in April!  That long?"

"Two years?  Naw, it don't seem like it's been that long, but maybe it has.  Tell me what we're doin' today.  You hair done got long!"

"Yeah, it's different, that's for sure.  I don't want it chopped short any more.  Um, okay, much longer in the front because I leave those pieces hanging down around my face.  Just a little trim on the bangs to get them out of my eyes.  Back level with the bottom of my ears, so stack up the neck a little and then grade it down to the long pieces in front.  And thinning out the top so it doesn't lie so heavy, some layering.  Will that work?"

She picked up her scissors and went to work on me.

"I'm glad you tell me so much.  Some people don't say nothing, and then they don't like it.  You got to know what you wanting.  So how your boy?  Where he at school?  Tilt your head down for me."

"Same as yours.  We love that school.  What's he doing now?"

"He at State, living in an apartment and working a job and all that.  It's a lot, but he doin' it.  We proud of him, that's for sure.  All right, look up."

"State's a good school, not easy from what I hear.  Good for him!"

And throughout the mandatory salon-interaction chit-chat, my stylist basically did the opposite of everything I asked.  My hair is now shorter in front instead of longer.  The right is slightly higher than the left because she judged by my ears, which I always point out are not level because they didn't give a shit about plagiocephaly in the 1970s.  My bangs look like the newest ride at an amusement park and I can't even them up myself because they're already far too short.

I don't know why I had it cut Saturday.  I liked it before.  It was just long enough to gather into a messy pony tail at night.  Getting it cut was something I did just because it's a thing you do, like eating the second helping.  I didn't even want it.

Most forms of regret aren't this pure, uncomplicated.

I had a rat tail when I was seven.  It was an unsightly rebellion against several years of hair cuts and age-inappropriate perms visited upon me by a neighbor who was a retired hairdresser and, more to the point, cheap.  She always assaulted my hair in our kitchen.  I went through school with short, choppy hair, pronounced bangs, and general mess, punctuated by the occasional curly choppy general mess complete with miasma di perm.  When the rat tail fad caught on in 1984, I somehow managed to talk my mother into letting me grow one.  It was majestic, at least eight inches long, when I accepted the bribe of two dollars to let her snip it off.

That was two months' wages.  I would sell out again in a heart beat.

I never could figure out the art of Hair.  I feel like until recently, it was messed up perpetually for thirty-five years.  Once, at age nineteen, I got a perm at a Fantastic Sam's and the lady somehow genetically modified a clump of follicles on the right side of my head and that patch of hair has had a different texture, frizzy and frail, ever since.  I can't carry a dyke look properly; at the other end of the spectrum, when it reached far down my back and I did my own French braiding, I hated the roundness of my face.

I finally - finally - got it right a couple of years ago.  I grew into it.

And now it's croggled.  Now, growing is all I can do.

Maybe my hair is worth more.

February 1, 2019

sentences ii

It bothers me that I haven't written in five days, but I know why I haven't; in addition to the Universe being a general standard-issue asshole, I've missed my meds on two separate mornings.  One instance resulted in thinking I had the flu; the other resulted in today, the confluence of irritations and the moment when I couldn't stand the plastic TV bracket on the wall rattling any more, every time the heat came on in the office, and had to climb on a chair and ram a stress squeezie ball up behind the network monitoring system to silence the rattle.  This was successful.  Human lives were saved.

Nevertheless, I came home from work and declared it a day on which everyone needed to get the fuck out of my way, because I would be eating whatever the fuck I wanted and doing whatever the fuck I wanted, and devil take the hindmost.

I didn't notice the pills still in the container until later.  And if anyone were to suggest to me right now that perhaps I ought to re-think my morning routine and do something to prevent this sort of thing from happening, they'd be surprised to find their BMI rather markedly higher than before, on account of being roughly a foot shorter, on account of missing a head and continuing their existence from the neck down.

I've figured out what I'm going to do, anyway.  Only one of my morning meds "matters"; the rest are a vitamin and an omeprazole tablet and the 0.25 mg Klonopin that I can take or leave at this point.  I'm moving the important pill to my night pill box, because while I sometimes flake up my pre-coffee routine, I have a one hundred percent perfect track record of wanting a good night's rest and doing whatever is needed to get one.  Those meds are never, ever forgotten.

It is in that spirit - the spirit of whatever-ness - that I cash in on the semi-annual sentences I've saved up for you so far since the last batch ... they are few, but mighty, these sentences that we (The Kid, P.J. and I) have found ourselves saying out loud.  Enjoy them, and I will see you on the other side of raveled-sleeve-knitting sleep.

******************

"See?  I must be allergic to Charlie Sheen's face, because my nose just started running."

"I just don't think I would fuck Wolverine.  I mean, what if there was an accident?"

"Well ... hey, maybe you could be an Amazon, like if he sliced off your right tit.  Except that I have a bad shoulder, so I couldn't do archery.  Never mind."

"There were not egg beaters in the Garden of Eden."

"I'm really good at animal noises.  I could sing Old MacDonald like a motherfucker."

"You're seriously telling me that taking somebody's deer head off their wall and strapping it onto a mail cart and running around stabbing people with it would be a sane thing to do?"

"Look, if I was the corpse of someone with tapeworm cancer, I'd totally have resting bitch face, too."


*Dear Google:  Really?  You wanted to replace 'omeprazole' with 'flameproof'?  Do you even know what you just did, there?  Nice one.  You get points.  (cough)  You really ought to strike up a conversation with a basic medical dictionary, you know.  Or just go visit Walgreens for an hour.  You'll be fine.  Stay out of the flip-flops section.

January 27, 2019

the desert

Here we are again
talking about the weather
the safe rain
the squash plants
the baking heat
the lawn mower
the snow
the bread and milk

I will not pour down
drops of myself
for you
I will not burn with
passion-heat
I will not say words
that fall in a white hush
to bring you peace

The desert does not
concern itself when
the weather
never changes

January 25, 2019

girl scout cookies

No Samoas for me, thanks.  I'm good.

It's duck season rabbit season duck season rabbit season Girl Scout cookie season.  I'm sure you've seen the blast of marketing this year ... not just tables out in front of stores, but actual bumper stickers saying "STOP:  I HAVE GIRL SCOUT COOKIES" and the like.  Even news stories.  It seems to be an intense campaign.


I was a Brownie and Girl Scout.  It was a small town; it's what you did as a kid.  I was smart and chubby and an overachiever, doing things like cleaning books at the public library as a volunteer for a badge, and all that meant I fit in there about as well as I did at school.  I sat alone.

But boy, when it came to selling cookies, I was a model recipient of indoctrination and hit every house in a five-block radius, even houses across the road that my mother had forbidden me to cross on my bike.  I got neither permission nor forgiveness for that one, but I had to deliver the cookies anyway.

When I was eight, I sold enough cookies to yield a large, unwieldy stack of cardboard boxes full of cookie boxes sitting on our kitchen floor, piled against the Formica-covered island counter.  It took up a quarter of the room.  We fetched them on a Saturday morning, stacked them up, and I ate breakfast and hit the streets on my bike, a large box strung over each handle bar, eager to deliver them.

The boxes were pretty heavy and I didn't fully grasp the finer points of mechanical physics at that age.  And I don't remember anything after seeing the box on the right swing into the spokes of my front tire; the next memory is of sitting in the kitchen at home with an ice pack wrapped in a frayed kitchen towel on my head.  We know from a neighbor's account that I went flying off the flipped bike, sailed through the air, and landed head-first against the concrete curb.

I looked blearily at the stack of boxes in our kitchen and thought it was odd that they were there.  "Mama, why are there so many boxes right there?" I asked.  I got a dirty look and an eye roll.  "Stop playing around," she said.  Then she saw the fear in my eyes.  "I really don't know," I said.  She said, "Oh, shit," and grabbed the telephone off the wall and dialed Grandma, who was a nurse and headed over immediately.

The afternoon that followed was one that probably involved the adults laughing their asses off behind my back, if only because they were also nervous.  I went around in a loop.  A friend came over to visit and we sat at the kitchen table, coloring and drawing together.  I walked into the living room.  "Mama, can I have a cookie?"  She said, "Just one."  We had bought one box, some Samoas, and they sat glittering on the top shelf of the hutch.

I took a cookie and ate it.

God damn, Samoas are good.

Then I turned around.  "Oh, hey, Jessica, when did you get here?"  We colored some more.  I went into the living room.  I looked around.  Then I remembered that my mother said I could have a cookie.  I went into the kitchen.

I took a cookie and ate it.

I turned around.  "Oh, hey, Jessica, when did you get here?"  I sat back down and picked up a crayon.

I walked into the living room.  My mother said, "Lille, you've already had a cookie."

"Okay," I said.  I remembered that she said I could have a cookie.  I walked into the kitchen, over to the hutch.

I took a cookie and ate it.

"Oh, hey, Jessica, when did you get here?"

I ate the whole fucking box of Samoas.

It has occurred to me, as an adult, to wonder why they didn't just take the box and hide it.  This is why I think they were in the next room laughing, and then putting on straight faces when I came in.  To be fair, I had it coming.  That shit is hilarious.

The next day was iffy ... I was allowed to go deliver one box of cookies, by foot, to the preacher four houses down.  I rested.  And the next day, my mother wrote a note for my teacher and sent me off to school.

Whenever I look at those memes in the vein of #fuckthatguyinparticular, I think about that Monday morning on the playground at school, wandering and mildly woozy, and the moment when, despite a school recess history thoroughly devoid of injuries or incidents (except when bullies happened), a kid swinging on the high bar kicked me in the back of the head, in the precise spot where I'd hit the curb.

When the teacher put a sheet of math problems in front of me and I stared at them for a while with half-focused awe, she sprinted down to the school office and called my mother.

And that is why I don't like Samoas any more.  I like those peanut butter sandwich cookies.  I think they call them Do-Si-Dos now.  I can't eat them now anyway, because of the bypass, but it's Girl Scout cookie season, and you have to have your answer to the question prepared, like your favorite sports team:  "What's your favorite flavor?"

If you don't answer immediately, you're practically un-American.

January 24, 2019

loss

Yesterday, I made a complete ass of myself, and today I will have to call the pharmacy and apologize.

I stood at the counter and argued with my pharmacist about my last lithium refill.  There had been a sticker on the bottle saying that they still owed me eight tablets.  Spoiler alert:  This post is about memory loss.  It should come as no surprise, then, that I forgot about picking up the rest of the lithium until yesterday.  I had filed a mental "go get your lithium" note somewhere in my brain, and finally noticed it.

The pharmacist, however, said that I had picked up the extra lithium a couple of weeks ago, when I stopped by to get some Flonase.  I swore that there had been no bottle of lithium in the bag.  She shrugged.  I shrugged.  I disengaged and told her I'd check at home and let her know today, but that I truly did not think I had been given the medication.  She held a paper in her hand that said otherwise.

I went home and filled my pill containers.  I shook the lithium out of its bottle.  I had enough to finish the month, plus one.  So obviously, I had been given the extras, taken them home, pulled them out of the little white bag, and poured them into my main bottle.  I had done this thing.

I have absolutely no recollection of doing it.

Nothing.  Not even a vague shadow.

This has been happening more and more frequently.  The Kid asked me if I remembered when I got three free pizzas from Pizza Hut a few years ago because the store closed early and I wanted breadsticks-god-damn-it and I knocked on the window in an unusual fit of assertiveness because breadsticks.  He described it in great detail.  It sounds like a great story!  I can't imagine myself doing that.  And I sure as hell don't remember it.

He even told me what toppings were on the pizzas.

He isn't fucking with me.

I don't know if it's because of the Klonopin, which I've cut in half precisely because a friend has had success recovering from benzo-induced memory loss by going off Xanax (the process is going surprisingly well), or because of the Lamictal, or because of all of the times over the past few years I've hit myself in the right side of the head or slapped myself until my brain rattled and I got woozy and red-faced.  Something, though, has gone in and neatly snipped out what feels like gobs of memories.  They're not hiding, or fuzzy.  It's never a matter of "oh my God, I haven't thought about that in forever!"

They're just ... gone.

It's not just that I'm getting older.

I told Therapist Gumby about it.  He can't help me recover the memories, but he suggested using EMDR to help with the way that each time I learn about a missing memory, it hits me in the gut, repetitive trauma.  It hurts that much.  I replied that it sounds like a good idea, but I couldn't recall any of the memories that we could use for the technique.  That would have been a great pun, if it had been intended.

And it doesn't just hurt; it makes my heart pound with fear sometimes.  I've always had a partially photographic memory that I could depend on, rock-solid.  I've had the synaesthesia.  I've had most people who know me tell me at some point that my memory is freaky-awesome.  It was that good.

I have fallen so far.  Fallen "from a great and gruesome height," in the words of Dar Williams.

Now most people who know me tell me that I shouldn't worry because I'm just like everybody else and on the same level, forgetful, having to write things down.  Those words are gut punches, too.  I had a gift.

I lost my gift.

January 21, 2019

we heard the news

"Mama said, 'Kids, I'll be right back'
And left us in the K-Mart parking lot;
On the radio, we heard the news:
In Memphis, Dr. King had just been shot;
So late that night, I sat alone,
Feet propped up on the big dashboard,
And I cried myself to sleep again
Like every time before."
-- Kate Campbell, "Galaxie 500"

I defy you ....

... to walk through the halls of the Lorraine Motel, now the National Civil Rights Museum, to look at every exhibit ....

... to stand inside the bus where Rosa Parks once sat, near the front, while the simulated driver yells at her to go to the back ....

... to keep walking through countless exhibits documenting the history of racism in America, granular, undeniable, filled with faces you have never seen, names you have never heard and will not recall afterward ....

... to climb the stairs and walk through the preserved motel room with its awful 1960s decor, out onto the balcony ....

... I defy you to stand there and not be shaken.

I am white.  I do not know what it is to be black in this country.  I do know that blatant acts of racism-driven hatred make the news now, things that would be commonplace and simply not mentioned fifty, one hundred years ago.  I know this is progress.

I also know that like the thousands of photos and stories in the museum, the names and faces of common people, there are thousands of acts every day that do not make the news.

I picked The Kid up from school earlier this week.  As I walked down the sidewalk toward the school doors, I passed a car where two old men, both black, stood propped against the passenger side, arms crossed, talking, shooting the breeze.  I look everyone in the eye and nod when I walk past them, and I did the same on this day.  "Hey, how you doin'?" they said.  "Hey, doin' good," I said back, and smiled.  Except that this time, it didn't feel like a pleasantry.  It struck me that there was a time in their lives when that exchange would have been forbidden.  They have lived to see some change.

Keep fighting.

January 20, 2019

windy morning

The wind here on top of the mountain ridge is blowing so fiercely that even the bare-fingered trees are swaying like palms under its power, stately upright folk in the grip of a gospel hymn in church.  The cabin cracks and creaks in imperfect resistance.  I hide inside, tiny in flannel pajamas, watching the trees from my window.

My parents were unable to do anything to protect me from all that assailed me when I was a child.  I was blown and toppled repeatedly.  Now, lost in introspection, I find that being cocooned in shelter from storms and howling winds still feels like strong arms crossed in front of me, holding me close, safe from danger.  Against the mighty gusts we are all small and vulnerable.

January 18, 2019

waiting for the call

In the treading-water space, I find that I'm waiting for the phone to ring.  A friend whose voice I've never heard will call.

I check my phone too often to justify, just in case I missed a ding or chime while I was turned away from it.  I pass by a mirror and look at myself and wonder why someone would call me, knowing what I am.  I make myself turn away from the mirror.

It is a strange thing to me, the now-common concept, when you encounter a person online and know their mind before knowing anything else about them.  Many would say this is better.

But then there is what it means to hear a voice, or to look into someone's eyes.  I don't believe in souls, but eyes are windows into something as-yet-unknown.  We're able, maybe somewhere in our hind brains, to look into a person's eyes and detect subtleties that reveal love and malice and things in-between.  

Voices are more delicate instruments, a hundred tiny aspects in a single spoken phrase.  When I hear the friend's voice, I will know its timbre.  And in the knowing, colors will be cast, clay shaped and smoothed, shadowed things lit and shown plainly.  Everything departs the imagination and takes form.  There is delight in not yet knowing what color my friend's voice is.

But I am still waiting for the call, and giddy.*


*PLEASE NOTE:  This post written following administration of DEA-listed controlled sleep medication, in direct violation of no-blogging-after-you-take-your-Lunesta-dear-oh-all-right-fine protocol.  It is not meant to be stalk-y, only to capture a moment and be fascinated with it in a way that only someone heavily drugged can do.  Thank you.

January 17, 2019

square clouds

I told Therapist Gumby earlier this week that I can feel the swing down into depression coming.  There are little portents.  Not many, but the one I've noticed this week is how I keep drifting onto memories of times when I did something stupid or wrong and was humiliated.  Like the time Kate came to play in my city and I was the host, and almost nobody showed up in spite of my canvassing the city with posters and submitting radio announcements to our NPR station and e-mailing the shit out of everybody.  And because that wasn't bad enough, I was cleaning up the main room afterward and Kate witnessed me rush and trip over the edge of a rug and stumble and drop the table I was trying to carry.

Just little things like that.  My brain likes to remind me.  You did that.  That happened.  That's you.

Sometimes I escape into Minecraft.  I started playing it when my son was much younger and it was suited for his age.  Now he's pimping in Grand Theft Auto V and leading open-server sieges in a virtual world.  I'm still looking for sand biome villages so I can trade coal and wheat and iron ingots.

If you're not familiar with the look and feel of Minecraft (many are turned off by the intentional pixelation), it has a day and night cycle as part of the play.  As the rectangular sun moves across the sky and grows large and orange and begins to set in the west, the square and rectangular patchy clouds drift in the same direction, and the sky begins to darken.  You can watch it wash over the sky in sheets, a line moving across the sky, a tiny shade darker, then another shade darker, until at last little square stars begin to appear everywhere.  The blue becomes black a little at a time.

That's what these humiliation-memories are like.  They come in waves, just before the night voices.

January 15, 2019

this north carolina woman took sudafed and you won't believe what happened next

"So yesterday, I had this really amazing accomplishment that demonstrated personal progress, except that I didn't do that at all."

Therapist Gumby's face did not change expression as he listened.  He knows better than to change his expression because it just encourages me.

I continued.  "But I really wish it had.  See, what happened is, I got angry.  At P.J.  Because [thing that happened].  Really mad, the kind that usually means I'm checking my face the next morning for bruises.  The kind I always turn on myself because it's not safe to feel at the other person."

He asked, "Why didn't you self-injure?  What was different this time?"

I said, "I went to Target at lunch time and got some Sudafed.  The short-acting kind because, yeah, you read my blog post.  Don't want that to happen again.  Jesus.  I bought it and took some when I got back to work.  That's when I found out about [thing that happened] and got upset about it.  I sent some angry texts and felt that horrible pressure build up, and then texted that I needed to spend some time calming down so I could think rationally --"

"-- always a good idea --"

"-- and set the phone down.  I tried square breathing and I tried not thinking about it and I tried empathy and I tried framing things so I could view the actual harm done realistically, and of course, it wasn't a big deal, but when you're angry, it's a huge deal.  And then suddenly, I felt kind of peaceful and light and like I'd reached the other side of the anger.  It was resolution.  Somehow I had worked it out and I felt positive again, and I grabbed my phone because I knew P.J. was probably miserable and I wanted to make her feel better."

"So what is it that you did that you think worked so well?" he asked.

"Nothing I did worked," I said.

"But you felt better," he pointed out.

"Yeah, I did.  You want to know why?  I realized later that it's because I took the Sudafed when I did.  It kicked in.  I didn't deal with my anger at all, at all.  I should have been hiding in the women's bathroom on the third floor, pummeling myself in the face.  I should have had claw marks running down my arm and a Kleenex to mop up blood.  It was totally the Sudafed.  It makes me high now."

He shrugged.  "Well ... better living through chemistry?"

"I wanted so badly to believe that I'd gotten better at letting myself be angry.  Fucking Sudafed, Gumby.  I didn't do anything at all."

January 14, 2019

non-drowsy formula

I know that my anti-depressants from pre-gastric bypass later poisoned me and made me suicidal, but I didn't expect the same one-eighty from Sudafed.

Come to think of it, I've taken the pee-water version of Sudafed for colds for the past two years, as punishment for accidentally buying a jumbo box of the phenylephrine stuff, which was summarily rejected by my family.  It helps me a little, almost enough to merit the effort of taking the pills in the first place, and I've slogged my way through the whole box.

I came home from work early on Friday, all sore throat and sinus pressure and the kind of fog that makes everything you squint and peer at in front of you look like an inviting, quilt-covered, fluffy-pillowed bed.  I tried to nap, but Molly kept wanting to snuggle and merge with me on a molecular level, so it was fitful at best and I gave up.  I dug around in the cabinet and found a box of 12-hour Sudafed tablets.  I took one, knowing the pseudoephedrine, the "good" stuff that requires a driver's license and fingerprints and FBI surveillance for signs of a meth lab in your garage, tends to put me to sleep, no matter how many times they slap "non-drowsy formula" on the box.

P.J. came to me at 4:30 a.m. to say good-night.  She went to bed.  I turned the next page of Welcome to the World, Baby Girl and kept reading.  I was tapping my foot and humming.

I was not drowsy.

Today, I stopped by Target and picked up the four-to-six-hour version, because I really need it, because all my top teeth hurt and my head has been pounding and the pressure has led me to recall that episode of The X-Files where the government tests sonic waves and the test makes some people's brains explode out of their ears after they bang their heads against their car windows because they ran out of road trying to drive west.

I took some of the Sudafed at noon.  Now it's three o'clock and I feel at one with the Universe and everything is beautiful.

I think I just discovered speed.

Peace, man.

January 10, 2019

big dumb stupid metal princess

On our first Valentine's Day, P.J. got me a cute little machine that made hot cocoa by heating and stirring around the cocoa and sugar and water you put inside it, and then made it frothy on the top.  That is what the machine did.  It had one job, which it did incredibly well.

Twelve years later, we know each other so much better.

I feel sorry for her.  She never saw the gargantuan practical streak coming.

And today, she set up the new cappuccino machine.  Apparently, as I watched, I had a face like a cat's ass as she demonstrated its myriad functional possibilities, all ending in "o" or "e".


Me:  "So what happens if you want to use grounds instead of whole beans?"

P.J.:  "Well, see this little hatch?  It's a bypass.  You can use this little scoop to put in grounds instead."

Me:  "What scoop?"

P.J.:  "This scoop."

Me:  "The one you need a microscope to find?"

P.J.:  "...."

Me:  And where do they end up?"

P.J.:  (pulls out fancy-ass metal drawer)  "They're in here."

Me:  "And what are those metal pointy things right there?"

P.J.:  "Sensors.  They tell you when it's full and you have to empty the grounds."

Me:  "It doesn't even empty them by itself?"

P.J.:  " .... "

Me:  "What does that thing with the little thing on it do?"

P.J.:  "Oh, this is really cool, watch.  You can lift it way up if you want a tall drink, or you can lower it if you have a small cup for espresso.  That way, it doesn't sploosh out."

Me:  "Or you can lower it if you want it to blow bubbles while it's making your coffee."

P.J.:  "No.  You use the steam frother to make bubbles."

Me:  "You can't use the dispenser to make bubbles?"

P.J.:  "No."

Me:  "Why not?"

P.J.:  "It can't."

Me:  "I think you're holding it to really low expectations and that's not good for it."

P.J.:  "What?"

Me:  "I'm just saying that you're enabling sub-par behavior.  At this rate, it's never going to learn to clean itself or empty its own grounds into the trash can.  It's acting like it gets to tell you what it can use to blow bubbles.  You've got to raise the bar.  It's for its own good."

P.J.:  "Fine, I'll give it tough love."

Me:  "I'm just going to give it tough.  Tough-tough."

January 9, 2019

the c word

No, not "cunt".  Nothing offends me about "cunt".

I'm referring to "creativity".  (*ptooey ptooey ptooey*)

I indulged frequently in the holidays' ample comestibles and the time has come to pay.  No, not pay.  Restore balance.  Return to myself.  Experience a sense of control.

(Please don't let me become a Louise Hay-person.  If I do, kill me at once.  It's for the best.)

To re-frame thinking, a person has to try.  And it requires the C-word.

Last night, the frozen moment we all experience:  My hand had grabbed the protein bar, one of the really good ones, out of the habit of eating to eat.  My right hand was poised to begin peeling back the wrapper.  And then, I chose to stop.

I stood still, caught in that tense space between animal act and rationality.  Seconds passed.  I felt the wave of resentment that comes when dieting meets denial, when want meets "no".  I wanted to move forward, but my brain arm-wrestled with itself.

Thoughts passed through ....

... me telling The Kid ... "solve the problem.  Tell me three things you can do about it."

... from my recent readings about Buddhism ... meditate ... experience the moment; palpate it; feel it.

... from my current re-read of The Hogfather ... Susan holding her arms out, spreading her fingers, swinging them down to stop Time.  A ritual.  A motion.  A symbol.

I put the bar back in the cabinet this time.  I had somehow harnessed creativity.  Today, I'm spending mental energy reinforcing these things.

Don't you dare tell a living soul.

January 7, 2019

every head bowed, every eye closed

I finished Unbroken.  For a non-fiction biography, I found it a captivating read and devoured it in the same fashion as I would fantasy or YA fiction.  That surprised me.

But like a movie with a predictable, incredibly tidy plot twist, I didn't like the way it ended.

It had Billy Graham in it.

Zamperini got "saved" under the auspices of the evangelist, and forgave his captors and found peace.  That part is awesome.  Whatever works.  He deserved that peace a thousand times over after what he endured.

It was the account of Graham's tent revival in Los Angeles that chafed.

I already knew from video tapes I watched while growing up in my Southern Baptist church that he paced back and forth.  I knew the path of his sermon that seldom varied over decades.  I knew the cadence of his voice.

In the book, he then said a phrase that I heard repeated often by preachers and youth ministers and other adults, part of our unwritten liturgy:

"Every head bowed, every eye closed, no one looking ...."

I felt a gentle but tangible skin-crawl.

The phrase was used to induce a sense of ceremony, formality, a social tension made more effective after hypnotic preaching, and often mistaken for the attribution of significance to the words spoken next.  It was a manipulation of a state of the human mind and of emotions, an ersatz intimacy and connection with the speaker.  It was most frequently used on youth.  They weren't yet hardened to and familiar with the experience.

Then they were asked to examine their hearts and decide whether they had truly let Jesus in, repented of their sins and asked for forgiveness and grace.  Still hypnotized and surrounded by peer pressure, many left their pews and walked down to the front of the assembly in response.

Preachers called this a "harvest for the Lord".

I don't think it's fair to use a scythe.

January 5, 2019

omg this sounds so yummy

Four full days and nothing has come to me to write.  I've been reading instead ... Unbroken at my son's insistence ... he's been at me to read this since they read it in English class two years ago, his eighth-grade year.  I've been surviving in a raft in the middle of the Pacific, with only rain water and irrational hope in my possession.  Even now, all is quiet.

Below is a post I began earlier as a draft.  I will finish it, and then finally take down our Christmas decorations.  They've lingered not so much out of observing the Twelve Days as an artifact of both bustle and apathy.


Washing Your Dog (Double-Batch Recipe)

Prep Time:  2m
Cook Time:  6m
Clean-Up Time:  1h 30m

Ingredients:
Dog
Stack of worn-out towels that are now kept in a pile in the hall closet
The pet shampoo behind the towels in the closet
Clothing
Triple-antibiotic ointment
Bandages


Preparation:  Change clothes.  Grab junk towels from hall closet and pet shampoo from bathroom cabinet.  Place in bathroom where washing will occur.  Sneak and close pet door to prevent victim from escaping outdoors.  Call victim in a sweet, sing-song voice to attract her.  Gently remove collars and coax into bathroom with a treat.

Recipe:  Open shower door, ignoring victim's wariness.  Remove hand-held shower head and turn water on, adjusting to correct warmth.  Secure victim and drag against resistance toward shower.  Pick up victim, step into shower together.  Close door.  Hold door closed tightly as victim makes futile attempts to escape.

With free hand, use shower head to thoroughly wet victim until fur is fully saturated.  Still using free hand, attempt to pump shampoo in bottle onto victim's back.  Curse.  Hold bottle between your knees and unscrew the lid of the bottle while continuing to hold shower door closed.  Pour shampoo liberally onto victim, ignoring mauling of your lower extremities during continued attempts to escape.  Rub shampoo vigorously into victim's fur, paying careful attention to mud-crusted legs, while speaking in soothing tones.

Still using the shower head, engage in seemingly eternal task of rinsing victim with one hand.  Continue rinsing until there is no sign of shampoo.  Continue rinsing.  Continue rinsing more.

Turn off water.  Set shower head on floor of shower.  Employ Olympic-grade skill level to open door and simultaneous grab the largest of the junk towels.  Use three-quarters of a second at your disposal to throw the towel over the victim before she begins shaking water.  Fail.  Follow victim around bathroom, drying with towel when accessible.

Note:  You may notice a shampoo ring around mid-section in spite of thorough rinsing.  This is a sign that the victim was not rinsed long enough.

Clean-Up:  Use remaining junk towel(s) to wipe down water-sprayed walls, cabinet surfaces, and fixtures around bathroom.  Use additional towel(s) if necessary.  Spray walls of shower to remove fur.  Dispose of fur clump sitting on floor drain.  Use clean towel to dry legs.  Apply ointment to any actively bleeding wounds, using bandages if needed.  Mop floor with all soiled towels.  Carry towels to basement and begin load of laundry.  Find victim.  Remove heavily dampened duvet cover from bed and hurry to add to laundry load before agitation cycle begins.  Notice additional wounds on hands and apply supplemental ointment.*  Use paper towels to wipe off any walls throughout house that have received water spray from victim's vigorous shaking.

Allow victim to dry completely before releasing her outdoors.

Observe mud-covered victim returning to house through dog door.  Dry towels while preventing victim's muddy contact with any surface.  Repeat steps above to make this recipe a double batch.

*Make note to purchase additional ointment.


There's nothing quite like the smell of freshly-washed wet dog filling the house!  So tempting!