April 21, 2019

letter to sarah

Glitter is carcinogenic.
Dear Sarah,

How hokey is this?  I thought you'd appreciate it.

I guess I feel that I need to apologize specifically to you because of all the writing insights, encouragement, and opportunities to get more creative with profanity that you've sent my way these past months.  Well, maybe not apologize, but somewhere between apologize and explain.

See, what happened is, a co-worker I know only well enough to have friended on Facebook, because we had seventeen mutual friends and it kept suggesting her in the upper right corner of the screen and I had to make it go away, commented on one of my posts there with a simple, "You should write books."

This is the seventh or eighth time I've been told this, but this one stood out because, apart from "my computer is borked," the co-worker has said one exactly one thing to me and it was that.  "You should write books."

I related the Facebook comment to P.J., who smiled quietly to herself and said nothing.

"But I'm starting to wonder if I can write books.  The fiction just isn't coming," I continued.

P.J. said, "Did she say, 'You should write fiction books'?"

"No."

"Well, all right, then."

And in that moment, I decided that I'm not required to work on this project, and that I can write a different way, and a weight that I hadn't realized was there lifted off of me and floated away.

It's somewhere up there in the stratosphere now.  I imagine the jet stream is playing merry hell with it.

It feels like taking off some really awful shapewear that I bought a size too small.  I can breathe now.  My voice was being squeezed into something altogether more shapely and conforming than it is in reality.  My voice has curves and fat rolls and wears an elastic waistband.

I am going to write Something, but not this current Thing.  Not right now.  Not first, not this year and maybe not this decade.

The Thing wasn't in vain, either.  I got two vignettes and a pretty good short story out of it all.  I'm going to finish Neil Gaiman's Masterclass without prejudice or an eye toward making something work that ... well, isn't working.  I'm going to make room for Something Else.

Your advice still rings true, because you told me about your own writing process, so I know what I started will wait for me.  But for now, I'm going to breathe.

Thank you for being a sage sounding board and don't go away because I will need that and you're amazingly awesome and so is your writing (I don't always comment) and so are your sketches.  And your cats.  They're awesome, too.  Even if one of them is a dog trapped in a cat's body.  I don't judge.

[I just agonized for five whole minutes over what to put as a closing word or phrase, because "Love, Lille" is presumptuous and "Hugs, Lille" is trite and "Your friend, Lille" is unflavored-oatmeal bland ... "Stay awesome, Lille" sounds like signing a yearbook ... so I'll go with something like "Peace and death to purple gel pens, Lille" ... that's assuming you don't like purple gel pens, and if you do, I apologize for that statement, too, but I've always felt they force a person's hand to go put little hearts for dots over all the instances of the letter 'i' ... yeah, maybe that one doesn't work either ... see? this is why I don't write letters ... fuck it, come up with your own closing, because the Internet is weird and gives us things and I'm glad it gave me a writing buddy,]

Lille

April 20, 2019

how to fry catfish

P.J.:  "That's a different kettle of fish."

(long pause)

Me:  "How can you have a different kettle of fish?  Different from what?"

P.J.:  "Hmm.  I guess you'd have to have at least two kettles of fish."

Me:  "Who has two kettles of fish?  Why would anyone have even one kettle of fish?  What kind of fish would even fit in a kettle?"

P.J.:  "Catfish."

Me:  "You can't fit catfish in a kettle.  They're big."

P.J.:  "Yes, you can."

Me:  "No, you can't."

P.J.:  "Yes, you can."

Me:  "No, you can't!  Okay, you could chop one up, but why would you do that?"

P.J.:  "To fry it."

Me:  "You can't fry things in a kettle."

P.J.:  "Wait, what kind of kettle are you thinking of?  Like, a kettle you boil water in?"

Me:  "Yeah?  That's what a kettle is.  It's sure as hell not for frying anything.  Weirdo."

P.J.:  "There are frying kettles.  Big ones.  Like for kettle-cooked chips.  Great, big kettles.  Like in this picture."

(shows picture)

(long pause)

Me:  "Oh.  .......... Shut up.  And my kettle would be different."

April 15, 2019

massage therapy

When The Kid was seven or eight, we got a Wii for the family, complete with a Wii Fit board and the sports games to use with it.  He used the Wii for Mario Everything and I used it for learning three yoga poses and finishing four whole minutes of kickboxing, after which I was told by a sadistic animated cash register on wheels that I was obese.  From this, I learned that cash registers do not give a shit about your self-esteem.

I also tried the meditation game a few times.  This involved sitting on the Wii Fit board in a yoga pose and staring at the flame of a single candle on the screen before me, while trying to be completely still for three full minutes.  If I had more than two slight movements or twitches during the three minutes, a stern-looking hachidan Mii would suddenly pop up and yell at me angrily in a language I couldn't understand, and the candle would be snuffed.  This did wonders for my startle reflex.

I didn't exactly bond with the game, but that candle flame came back to me today as I lay face-down on the massage table, trying to get comfortable before the therapist came in to start the session. 

I go for a massage once a year - sometimes skipping a year - for my birthday.  It's almost unbearably decadent.  Normally, my mind goes all muzzy and trance-like pretty quickly, and I'm able to fully relax.

Today was new:  I had to relax my body and make my jerky, whizzy hypomanic brain shut the fuck up for an hour.  (Spoiler alert:  I totally failed at this.)

The therapist focused on my croggled right shoulder and spent the rest of the time on Swedish massage.  This is a transcript of my brain during the part of the massage.

Picture that candle flame.  Remember that time you tried to learn to meditate from that woman at church?  She said you could shut out thoughts and try to empty your mind, and you would catch yourself thinking, and you could just tell yourself, "Thinking," and then push it away and go empty again.  I have to stare at the candle flame and not think about anything else.

Am I relaxed?  Yes.  Good.

Candle flame.  

I remember that Wii.  Why did it stop working?  Did I ever clean it with that disc cleaning stuff in the basket?

Thinking.  Candle flame.

Is she supposed to grind muscles against somebody's shoulder blade like that?  Stop, she knows what she's doing.

Thinking.  Candle flame.  Breathing.

My nose is stuffy.  How do people keep from drooling and dripping snot when they're in this thing?  Did I ever do that before?  What if I did and I didn't realize it?  I'll bet they have people who clean the carpets and always have to pay attention to "the drool spot" under where people put their face in this padded thing.

Thinking.  Cand--

Oh, that is so funny!  Last night we were laughing at Molly because she had her head draped over my leg and then she added her paw, but she fell asleep and the paw started to slip off my leg.  Then she put it back but dug her claws in to keep it from slipping.  I just did the exact same thing because my arm was sliding off the bed and I put it back and hooked my thumb on the sheet without realizing I was do--

Thinking.  Candle.

Is she going over an hour?  It's supposed to be an hour.  Should I offer to pay more if she does?  What if she just wants to make extra sure I get good work on my shoulder but it's going to take a lot of time to do the rest of it?  There's no way she's going to make it.

Candle, god damn it.  Candle.

She's pushing on my shoulders in an alternating pattern and she's doing it to the music and doesn't even realize it.  See?  It's perfectly in time.  Left, right, l-- Wait.  No.  Now she's deviating.  That is just like fucking windshield wipers not matching the radio!  Gahhhh!

Thinking.  Yeah, I'm thinking.  I can't shut up.  Candle.  Candlecandlecandle.

It has definitely been at least an hour and fifteen minutes now.  She hasn't even gotten to my feet.  She'll have to let some stuff go.  I won't complain.  I'm one of those people who doesn't complain.

Did I bring the tip money?  Phweww.  I put it in my keys.  It's over there.

Candle?

I hope she doesn't spray lavender everywhere like they did when I tried that yoga class.  I put on the sheet that I'm allergic to lavender.  What if she didn't look at the sheet?

Am I anxious?  Is that why I thought that?  Thinking.  Why can't I shut up?  Where is that candle?

She finished and left so I could get dressed.  I opened my eyes.

11:55?  Oh.  I was worried for nothing.  

I stretched and everything was fine, until I looked in the mirror and saw my hair, massed in a hopeless configuration.  Then I realized that I was about to be put through that awkward part where they ask if you liked it and you say yes and then they try to talk you into signing up for regular massages and you have to say no but do it politely and then extract yourself and leave.

I'm home now, so I did escape, and my shoulder hurts, but only because I asked her to beat the shit out of it on a therapeutic level.  I'm also supposed to be "flushing my body with water to rid it of toxins that were released".  You know what?  Coffee's a liquid, too.

April 14, 2019

the really bad thing

Once, I did a Really Bad Thing.

I can't say out loud what it was.  It was that bad.  Some might disagree, but I think it was worse than attempting suicide, and it was worse than some things I haven't done, like setting fire to someone's shed and watching the ember sparks spread the flames to their house, or fleeing the scene of a wreck, or driving my family into bankruptcy and destitution.  Ruining lives that are not my own.

There are things I cannot even contemplate someone doing, like intentionally running over a dog.  It wasn't as bad as that.  But it was a Really Bad Thing.

When I think about the Really Bad Thing, which isn't often, a door bangs shut in my mind.  The Really Bad Thing lives in a closet of trauma behind the door.  When I open the door to look, I find a skeleton and dead flies at the bottom.  I am not afraid of skeletons, but I slam the door and run anyway, because I remember when it was alive and had flesh.

The Really Bad Thing was not the kind of bad thing one does as a child.  Children pit primitive human nature against the fear of punishment.  The equation is simple and the bad things are simple.  I stole chewing gum inside a store when I was four and tried to hide from Grandma under a clothes rack while I chewed, because I knew on some level that I was doing something wrong.  I climbed a tree with a neighbor friend and the stolen soft porn magazine from her brother's room, and we spent the afternoon looking at forbidden things, just because they were forbidden.  Later, there were the nights when I would sneak out and put shaving cream in ceramic bears' mouths.

This time, I was not a child.  The Really Bad Thing was chosen in the fullness of adulthood, knowingly, guiltily, and intentionally, by me.  I hurt people I love on purpose.  I put them in danger of disaster.

Afterward, excuses were made for why I did the Really Bad Thing.  I did not make them.  The people that made them brought armfuls of excuses and wheelbarrows full of Good Things to fill the other side of the scales, to make it heavier than the Really Bad Thing and tip the scales in my favor.  I have been urged to forgive myself, as I have been forgiven.  I have agreed to do this, but only because it will help the people I hurt, and I know that it will take the rest of my life.

April 12, 2019

shoes

The fifty-something woman with short, fake-auburn hair stood outside of the drug store, bent over with fatigue and leaning against the newspaper machine, tapping out a message on her phone, using the same two fingers that held her cigarette between them.  I passed her on the sidewalk.  She noticed my copper toenail polish and I noticed her shoes.  They were a kind of shoe that told me she stands a lot during her work shifts.  But I didn't mark the early wrinkles in her coppery skin from tanning beds, and she didn't note the way I look down when I walk by people, a thing that makes me unqualified to wear copper toenail polish, a thing that makes me pay attention to shoes.

April 10, 2019

kids these days

I waited too long to take him to the doctor ... I didn't believe him when he said his throat was so raw that he didn't want to swallow sips of water ... he always plays up his symptoms, so much drama, and I'm the one who gets the texts from school, always, the one who has to be Bad Cop and tell him to stay, see it through, fight it out, make it through the day.  And sometimes it's depression, not a runny nose.  See it through.  Make it through.

Will he make it through?

I signed up for this.

Sort of.

My generation does a shit job of rearing children.  Our kids don't know how to solve the simplest of problems.  They aren't chomping at the bit to get their driver's licenses at sixteen, move out at eighteen and never look back.  They don't care about independence.  The shame of living at home until age thirty has been eroded by our economy and our parenting.

We've protected them unwisely and too well.  The milk cartons turned into curfews.  The curfews turned into omnipresence.  The omnipresence turned into safety standards and rubber mulch, knee pads and hand sanitizer, play dates and books that can tell you if your child is developing as quickly and as well as other children.

I remember when I was seventeen and my car broke down.  It never occurred to me to call my parents.

Is it because cell phones are in our hands now?  Have the means forged the expectation that we be in contact, reachable, always?

I don't think so.  Instead of flipping through the grotty Yellow Pages of the phone book dangling from the pay phone by a steel cord, I would have searched the Internet for a towing company nearby.  I would not have considered calling my mother or father.  What good could they do?  I was out in the middle of rural North Carolina, just northeast of nowhere.  Why bother them?  It was my problem.

I signed up for this.  All this driving to school, sitting and waiting during rehearsals, making his life my own life.  This is what we do now.

My mother picked me up after the softball games.  She didn't ask me who won.

If his dad and I had dropped The Kid off at soccer practice instead of bringing camping chairs, it would have triggered a call to Protective Services.  He was only ten.

I walked the mile to school when I was ten, because I wanted to.  I had to cross a busy street.

We know we're doing it all wrong.  We know we're not serving their best interest.  But the boulder rolls and we're carried along with it, unable to slow it down, let alone stop it, let alone push it back up the hill.

Have I involved him in enough activities?  His dad and I wanted him to have a free childhood, not scheduled, not overbooked, not focused on molding an attractive college application from the time he hit preschool ... now it's time to apply for college, and he's a gaming addict, and he knows it, and he wishes he could quit, but he can't.  His entire social life is on the Internet.  That's not true.  He was in the play.  He went to the party because he had made friends.  It was the first time he wasn't avoidant of a social situation.  And he got sick there.  They catered dinner and everyone handled the serving utensils.  He got strep throat.

The Kid is home sick today.  The doctor looked at his throat yesterday and winced.

I shouldn't have waited so long to take him to the doctor.  He suffered longer because of me.  

I am a product of my generation.  We don't let our kids suffer.  We don't let them learn to suffer.  We take the suffering on ourselves because we love them.  We love them so much, we hug them so hard, that we squeeze the very life right out of them.

April 8, 2019

wherein infanticide is contemplated

Against the odds, my family functions reasonably well, given our collective memory issues.  Between the meds prescribed to P.J. and me and The Kid's ADHD and adolescence naissant, we are making our way through the world with Swiss cheese for brains.

Thus it is in a state of unequivocal hypocrisy that I consider murdering my child.


Fun fact:  One of The Kid's chores is helping me carry up groceries on Sunday afternoons.

I grabbed my purse and coffee this morning, ready to set out for the drive to work, and found when I stepped into the garage that yesterday, after grabbing the grocery bags, he left the garage door open (which happens sometimes) and also left the back door of the RAV4 wide open (which has never happened before).  

I think I'm supposed to be happy that no one crept into our house last night and killed us and/or stole all our shit, but all I could think of in the moment was that it's spring and the weekend weather was clement and all manner of flying and creeping things have been awake and about and vigorously asserting new life.

I wanted to drive the van instead and let the car sit untouched until next winter, when I would push it out of the garage, fling the doors wide and let icy breezes purify it.

I had to force myself to climb in and hit the road, convinced there were at least fifty-eight spiders in the car with me, together with two or three creatures of as-yet-unidentified genus and species, and probably also a mouse.  I endured seventeen miles of creeping, tickling sensations affecting both ankles, my right shin, and my neck.  The ankles were the worst bit.

It's going to rain today, too.  The creatures are going to form a new ecosystem in my car because the rain will keep them from wanting to exit the vehicle.  My only hope is that there is a mouse and that it will eat all fifty-eight spiders and anything else it can find.  And that it will be stuffed after the feast and will be sitting somewhere under a seat, belly swollen with delicacies, with its front paws resting on its abdomen, and will have no inclination to get up and run across my feet while I'm driving.  

State Farm would have a difficult time understanding the macabre aftermath of a mouse running across my feet.

I want to kill him for leaving the door open, yet I can't bring myself to do so much as text The Kid and berate him.  I'm surprised at myself; normally I don't bat an eye at lighting him up over some transgression based in forgetfulness.  He's easily pushed into feeling down on himself about his memory these days.  He also has a natural talent for pointing out instances of my hypocrisy, complete with imaginary charts and graphs.  Both of these things play into my hesitation, but more to the point, there's nothing he can do to go back in time and fix it.  There's no benefit to saying a word about it until the next time he's helping with groceries.

Of course, I'll probably forget.

April 3, 2019

of course you realize this means war

Signs have begun to appear in my workplace.  They are, in the truest sense, positively wretched.  Index card-sized refrigerator magnets, cards taped to the bathroom mirror, small posters hung outside cubicles ... someone has mounted a campaign with its inception some time last week, and I feel rising up in me the clarion call to fight back.

I'm trying to decide what it says about me, this desire to sneak around and rip the offensive signs to shreds and aggressively dispose of them.

"SHINE YOUR LIGHT IN THE WORLD!"

"BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD!"

"THERE IS NO ONE JUST LIKE YOU!"

"SPREAD HAPPINESS AND JOY!"


Seriously - these are real and they're appearing all over the place.  Some of them have flowers.

I'm offended by insincere (I hope) bullshit like that, preferring despair.com posters instead ... yet I walk to the back of a parking lot and retrieve a wayward cart because I don't think the store employee should have to put up with some lazy asshole's disrespect for life.  I pick up garbage I didn't put there.  I smile at people.

Then when I see a plaque that says "HAVE A BLESSED DAY!" I want to destroy it and replace it with "HAVE A DAY".

Who is putting this stuff up?  I need to catch the culprit in the act so I can find his or her lunch in the community refrigerator and put squeezie-bottle garlic mayonnaise all over it.  Barring that, I need to buy some 1980's vintage Mr. Yuk Is Green stickers and go a-decorating.

Because I'm going to be the change I want to see in the world.


p.s. This reminds me so much of Becky's sister's teddy bear angel.  Don't follow the link if you're generally offended by photos of testicles.

April 2, 2019

the skeletal remains of betsy devos

I do not have
one of these.
An imaginary conversation took place in my head while driving in to work this morning.

The setting was a starkly furnished room, with only a stainless steel table, two chairs on one side, occupied by Hugo Weaving-looking sunglasses-wearing federal agents of a very secret department, and one chair on the other side, where I sat, making my case.

"Yes, I did say that I wish Betsy DeVos would get dipped live into a vat of hydrochloric acid* and that I could watch them remove her grotesquely cratered, dripping skeletal remains in their rubber harness after the acid had done its job.  I don't think that constitutes making a threat, though.  It would be a threat if I had the means.  You know full well that I don't.  I don't have a vat of hydrochloric acid, and so what if I researched and learned that sulfuric acid wouldn't do the job?  I don't have a vat of that, either.  It's like saying that I would nuke Donald Trump right where he stood.  I'd love that, but I don't have a nuke handy.  Do you?  I don't, either.  That's not a threat, it's wishful thinking.  A dream.  And I'm allowed to dream.  You're violating my First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights at this time and I demand to be released and the issue dropped, in full."


Such are the thoughts of the unfettered mind, regarding the world and driving to work in the dark, early on a Tuesday morning.


*Dear Google:  You've really never heard about hydrochloric acid?  Why did you underline it?  I refuse to believe no one has ever, ever blogged about hydrochloric acid before.

March 29, 2019

caught ungressing

I know the right word is "regress" but I prefer the term "anti-progress", as both noun and verb.  Or maybe "un-progress".  Shorten it to "ungress".  I am mastering the art of ungressing.

I'm supposed to be doing self-care and solving problems and finding third paths, all of those things that represent making progress in one's life, getting a little closer to the elusive goal of having one's shit more or less together.  And invariably, the harder I try, the more I ungress.

Case in point:

I was suffering from Every Little Thing Bothers Me During Lunch at work, and P.J. found me a miracle.  It's White Noise & Co., which you should visit and sample, and then you should send the guy some money because he has put a stunning amount of work into this project and recouped next to zilch for his efforts.  I was skeptical, but see that little link on the right that says "Speech Blocker"?  Click it and put in your ear buds and turn your computer's volume up to, say, medium.  I use sixty.

Get some people five feet away from you to have a conversation.  Then tell them no, really, you need to have a conversation so you can test this out and prove it doesn't work.  Then look over with a supremely annoyed I'm-waiting look and realize that for the past minute, they've been having a shouting match about which of the Olsen twins had the more rebellious adolescence.  Goggle because not only could you not understand what they were saying, you couldn't even tell there were voices at all.

Now, at work, I wear my ear buds during lunch with the speech blocker playing and no one who asks me questions or comments on how good my lunch smells or reads news stories aloud can penetrate my psychological solitude.

Except that it hasn't solved my problem, because it works so well that now I'm extremely self-conscious when I'm chewing my food.  The sounds are magnified.  Think water dripping in a cave.  I keep taking a bite of lunch and then pulling out my ear buds in paranoia.

What chewing sounds like with the ear buds out:  "(chew, chew, chew, swallow)"

What chewing sounds like with the ear buds in:  "(SLURP-a-SMACKY-SMACK GURGLE SQUEAK SQUISH)"

So now I can't use the white noise while I'm actually eating and I still have to listen to the things I was trying to escape in the first place, and I become even more irritated.


Other case in point:

I need to be more assertive and draw boundaries.  It's a long-standing issue.  And today, in the bathroom, I took a chance and did What Would Gumby Do? and drew one.  Someone I know followed me into the bathroom and started talking to me about their computer problem - after we'd both entered a stall.

I spoke up.  I really did!  Progress for Lille.  I said, "I'm really sorry, but [nervous laugh] it makes me uncomfortable to talk about work stuff in the bathroom.  Can we meet out in the hallway in a minute?"  There was a not-at-all-brief-enough pause, and then, "Sure."

And then came the ungress, because then we both did the things we needed to do, and found ourselves at the sinks, washing our hands, refusing to look at each other or speak or even breathe loudly, and the silence was more awkward than that time your uncle brought his swear-happy parrot to your grandmother's funeral.

We went out the same door and then do you know what happened?  She walked away.  I had deeply offended her and she didn't want to discuss anything.  Now I have to avoid her for the rest of my life, which means I have to wear a black trench coat anytime I want to visit the ladies'.  Then someone else will see the trench coat and decide I must be either a perv or a liberal spy, because Fox News said so, and rumors will go around, and I'll never be able to leave my cubicle and I'll have to dig a hole outside behind the dumpsters and relieve myself there instead.

But that means having a private bathroom, which is progress.

Did I accidentally do the right thing?

March 27, 2019

what remains

What remains of me is an altered self.  Subtly altered.

Two years ago today, I tried to die and failed.  I was salvaged.  If I was a table, they would call me distressed, vintage, shabby chic.  If I was a car, they would have said I just had a small dent, just a few scratches.  They would have marveled at how a car could have come away from a major crash so close to unscathed.


I'm not unscathed.

Some things are less bearable.  I can't detect a survival instinct, something that would make me want to struggle to get oxygen if I were underwater, something that would make my life flash before my eyes in a dire moment.  It might be there, but I can't sense it any longer.  In its place is a low-grade hum, a quiet knowledge that there is unfinished business that will stay unfinished.

Depression takes me straight to the bottom now, and ideation comes walking in freely, like it owns the place, even when lithium is on duty as the bouncer.  I am tethered to life but fighting ideation is exhausting.  It leaves dents and scratches.

I have a number line in my head that is shaped like a paperclip, and I used to be able to see down the length of it to eighty and ninety, the probable age I will reach, if my life is statistically average.  There's fog there now.  I don't see a future any longer, but I know that fog clears when you reach it and I may only be able to see a short distance ahead, for years and years, at any given time.

Some things are more bearable.  

I have lost some kindness.  This morning, I realized that we left our deck light on overnight.  It's faulty because I'm the one who installed it and I am not an electrician, and it alternates between ten seconds on, ten seconds off.  It's quite bright.  It occurred to me, as I made my coffee and packed my lunch at 5:30 a.m., that it must annoy the fuck out of the neighbors who built their house practically in our back yard.  And this thought pleased me.  I wondered vaguely how much it would add to the electric bill if we left it on every night, on purpose.  An LED bulb would take care of that.  A cool-colored one, the kind that mimics xenon headlights.

The Kid doesn't remember what today is, that it's an anniversary.  The wound I administered didn't fester, and it healed as well as that kind of wound possibly could.  My guilt is somewhat mitigated.

I've become far more introverted and far less interested in the world.  It takes too much energy to live and there isn't any left over.  Self-centered doesn't even begin.

My brain uses itself against me; my memory, my objects of great love, my anger, my sensory recall, and even my writing are at times turned into weapons.

I'm a salvage vehicle with a sullied title.  I'm scratch-and-dent furniture.

And I am loved.  Loved.  Loved anyway.  Distressed and loved.

It's incomprehensible that others now see me as priceless.  But these days, people make top-dollar furniture out of salvaged wood, the remnants of tobacco barns and century-old decaying structures.  They call it reclaimed.  Their expert hands give life to what remains.

March 25, 2019

moobs and pillows

We have a habit of pretending to consider our dining options while driving to The Lodge, but we invariably end up in the drive-thru at the Wendy's on our exit.  The fries would get cold otherwise, you see, even though we don't order fries.  This is the same Wendy's where The Kid swore he wasn't killing prostitutes in GTA5 and where he loudly asked who the fuck puts mayonnaise on their hot dogs, always when the window was open.


The Wendy's employees who overheard him gave us a Look at the time, but so what?  We've never seen them again and likely never will.

There's a problem, though.

It seems there is a dedicated, hard-working, committed teenage girl working the drive-thru now.  She's helped us the last three times we've ordered.  I like her.  Her smile is genuine, and when I say, "Thank you," she doesn't say, "My pleasure!"

I was that girl.  I worked at Wendy's for four years, beginning the day I turned fifteen.  And the drive-thru became my preferred shift, with the satisfaction that came from kinetic mastery of writing, making a soda, using a foot pedal and talking through the speaker, all at once.  My smile was the real thing, too.  I loved dealing with the people who pulled up.

Mostly.

There was the time the gross guy with the hairy chest and moobs in a white wife-beater pulled up in a convertible and wouldn't let go of the $10 bill when I tried to take it.  I simply shut the window and walked off and told my manager, Dale, a burly mustache-having guy from Michigan.  He walked over and opened the sliding window and asked if there was a problem.  There was, of course, no problem.

That's the most memorable one.  I know I saw other things, but I can't recall them.

The teenage girl who has helped us at Wendy's, though, is going to remember this past Friday night.

We got some very awesome pillow cases as a Christmas gift last year, two that say FUCK FUCK FUCKITY FUCK FUCK FUCK, or something to that effect, and one that says, I'M NOT ALWAYS A BITCH - JUST KIDDING - GO FUCK YOURSELF.

We love them.

And because while riding in our van, Molly becomes a thirty-five-pound lap dog with very pointy claws who wants to bond with P.J. on a molecular level and watch the world from the front passenger seat, P.J. grabbed one of the pillows as we were leaving to use as protection for her poor upper thighs.  Molly lay on that instead.

Words-side up, of course.

I don't have Photoshop and even if I did, I would suck at using it, so this is an approximation of what was seen in our van from the vantage point of the Wendy's drive-thru:




March 24, 2019

now i love you

And David Wyatt loves Terry Pratchett something fierce, given the level of detail, right down to the Curry Gardens bag and Albert's fried slice and the little sprig of flowers in a vase that Susan picked for Death as a little girl.

Also, this thing was a right bitch.  But twinged and made me miss Chester, because all 1,000 pieces are there.  He always ate, on average, four pieces.

"NO, YOU CAN'T RIDE A CAT. WHO EVER HEARD
OF THE DEATH OF RATS RIDING A CAT?
THE DEATH OF RATS WOULD RIDE SOME KIND OF DOG."

March 22, 2019

wherein all wholesome herb-y people receive an apology

Yes, it looks like spinach.
But only a tiny apology.  Much of what is pushed out there by natural, alternative, and/or homeopathic remedy advocates is so much runny puddle water.  And that goes one hundred percent against all of my beliefs and assertions that we're nothing more than big, walking balls of chemicals that can be thus be chemically manipulated.  Did I say I'm above self-contradiction?  I don't remember ever saying that.

Maybe it's the way they get so cult-y about it all.  It's popped up in CBD oil marketing, for instance ... I've had two different people corner me and evangelize CBD oil and I felt like I was being asked to sign up for a multi-level marketing scheme.  I know CBD is actually proving to be legit, and I'm even willing to try it once you don't have to take out a second mortgage to get it, but as soon as someone starts touting something as being "superior to scientists' Western medicine", I get off the bus and turn around and give the bus driver the bird.  Go play your tambourines and drink your Kool-Aid somewhere else, freaky converts.  Like Chapel Hill.  You'd like it there.*

So it was with a jaunty spirit of hoop-jumping that I tried L-theanine a few months ago, which yielded the single side effect of Amazon getting some money from me; and subsequently Sensoril, which is derived from ashawaganda**, an Indian ginseng-y herb thingie.  The Monk gave me printouts for both of these and asked me to try them, and because the little stack of papers was sufficiently thick, I had to take it seriously or else return and say, "I still feel bad and I didn't take any of your suggestions but here I am complaining anyway, like somebody who tries a recipe but changes all of the ingredients and then bitches about it not turning out very good."  At least this way, I could hold my head high next month and announce that his suggestions were rubbish and he needs to go back to Monk School, or wherever it was that he learned psychiatry.

Remember the person who was about to become one of those silhouettes on the wall that they have at shooting ranges, with lots of shuriken sticking out at various angles?  I started the Sensoril on Saturday, and a few days later, when I encountered the person, everything annoying was dialed back to an acceptable level of tolerability.  Maybe even a little bit better than that.  It's like I can know the person is doing something unforgivably, fingernails-on-chalkboard nerve-wracking, but only on an intellectual level, without feeling cortisol release into my bloodstream, without that metallic taste that comes from all the stress hormones.

It is, for me, truly an I Don't Give A Shit Pill.  I'd call it "ID-GAS" but that sounds like "anti-gas" and if I were overheard talking about it to someone, that would be embarrassing.

Seriously, how miraculous is it that I've discovered an I Don't Give A Shit pill?  It's like a goose-excreted solid gold egg landed on my foot.

And it's an herb.  It's a god-damned over-the-counter, Amazon-delivered*** ginseng extract.

Do I have to carry a tambourine now?  I've got one.  It came in the Melissa & Doug set that The Kid got when he was two years old from some benighted, well-meaning neighbor who thought he needed cymbals.  It's kind of small and somehow has survived thirteen years without having a hole punched through it by my fist.


*I like Chapel Hill, too.

**Dear Google:  "Washstand" for "ashawaganda" wasn't too bad.  I'll give you credit for that one.  You're making progress!  Gold star sticker.

***I am aware Amazon does not actually have a counter.

March 20, 2019

a time to whimper

Why?  Why won't you
come to my house?
The number is probably higher, but I've counted four distinct involuntary, quite audible whimpers that I've let slip this week.  They've come out on their own, in that space where a person isn't supposed to say anything at all.

I just went through our local Chick-Fil-A drive-thru, on a mission to obtain a gift card for a co-worker, and I accidentally let loose with a "thank you" instead of something crafted for the sole purpose of preventing them from saying, "My pleasure!" 

"Thank you," I said, and narrowly managed to not slap my hand over my mouth.  "My pleasure!" she sang.

I whimpered.

She looked at me with an odd expression that incorporated the unaltered toothy smile with curiosity.  She might have wondered if I was whimpering because of her or because I suddenly got appendicitis.

Five minutes later, on my way back to work, I whimpered in a socially acceptable way (alone in the car) when I was passed by a Thomas' English Muffin truck.  A whole truck of them.  Bastard.

I whimpered this past Saturday, on my way to pick The Kid up from play rehearsal.  The Sound of Music is coming along nicely getting there.  En route to the school, I whimpered in pain.  My depression this weekend was cruel and clawing and incredibly intense, almost as intense as my gratitude for its slow, steady lifting.  It hurt that much.  I whimpered, and cowered from its massiveness.  I am afraid of feeling like that again.  It reduced me to raw fear.

I whimpered again an hour later, in the school auditorium, while I was hanging out and pretending to be okay and listening to the VonTrapp children singing what I will euphemistically refer to as "harmony".  At the end of "Climb Every Mountain", The Kid later told me, he turned to a friend backstage and simply said, "My mom is going to kill them."  My ear for music is not my friend.  I whimpered several times during that chord set of sounds, tense in my chair, gripping the arms without realizing I was white-knuckled and breathing heavily.

I suppose that with the equinox has come Whimper Week for me.  My brain is under assault from multiple directions and it's speaking out without my input, in league with my larynx.  It's going to embarrass the shit out of me soon.  I can feel it.  Maybe I can cough right afterward and pretend like it was all part of the same moment, and say I just choked on my own saliva, which would be marginally less awkward.

Happy spring equinox/Whimper Week, y'all.

March 19, 2019

good evening, john anderton

Go to Hell, Alexa.
The break room on the first floor of my building has two Pepsi machines in it, one dispensing cans and the other, bottles.  Across the bottom of one of the machines, it reads, "Thank You For Choosing Pepsi".  Because we have a choice, I always think when I walk past it, and mentally snort, which is a trick I've learned.

I have a business administration degree, which P.J. always conflates with marketing, even though I only had two marketing classes and I stuck my fingers in my ears and sang "la la la" during both of them.  I did read the books, though, and came away disgusted.

That was in 2001, back when baby formula companies would send me canisters of free DHA-enhanced powder every two years, just in case I was a typical American middle-class mother driving a Hyundai wagon.  Now our society doesn't give a rat's about slogans and postal mail distribution lists and retail clustering.  It has the Internet.

I got an e-mail this morning advertising Gorilla ladders.  I bought a ladder about a year ago and I think they assume I must need another one.  Am I weird for keeping a ladder for longer than a year?  Do ladders go out of style?  Are they disposable?  Why, in short, would Gorilla advertise more ladders to a ladder customer?

The issue of how they got my e-mail address is cast aside.  Information collecting algorithms are the brain child of a shrewd, evil genius.  Remember that scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise, playing a normal person, walks into a mall?  It's like that now, but without the blatancy.

We also have cookies and tracking.  Marketing is, after all, the Dark Side.

Advertising algorithms, unlike info-combers, are the brain child of a demented marketing executive hooked on meth.  My favorite is the perpetual ad for "local men in my area".  Something out there is doing a shit job of casing my demographic profile.  Also, the men in the picture never change, meaning that it wants me to believe that these men, who apparently have not been able to get a date for at least seven years, are irresistibly desirable.

Amazon toys with me on Facebook.  I'll never understand where the assertion that I need an electric unicycle originated.  Breastfeeding-friendly dress ads are another mystery.  The rest of the items that appear in Amazon's suggested purchases and "daily deals" (which never are) can be pinpointed to some statement I've made in a status update, a comment, or even elsewhere, in a Google search or an e-mail to my wife.  I complained in an e-mail about seeing a mouse in our home, and that evening, nestled among the Trevor Noah clips and deliciously rude memes posted by my favorite people, Amazon presented me with tons of products aimed at cats.

Target is no better.  I love them both, but if Amazon and Target were in a relationship with me, it would be Single White Female without the red hair and boiler room scene.

They're listening.  Always listening.

Ask this techie girl why she won't have any "smart" technology (e.g. Alexa) in her house.  Not even electrical outlets controlled by a phone.  Oh, hell no.

March 17, 2019

lopper

I will FUCK YOU UP
with little jaws of death.
About four years ago, P.J. and I were at Home Depot, shopping for grill-y things, when my eyes lighted upon a battery-powered lopper.  The name reminded me of floppy-eared rabbits, but that didn't matter, because at the time I had had no idea such a thing existed and I desired it with a terrible desire.

P.J. and I don't fit the stereotype of dykes who buy each other power tools as birthday gifts; we're all rose-gold earrings and hygge and send-her-off-for-a-massage.  But there was a light in my eyes as I unboxed the lopper and embraced its destructive powers.

I charged the battery and then four years went by and I never once used it.  This is the Tao of power tools.

Until yesterday.  There is a dead tree that I've spent two years trying to compel back to life, and it has stubbornly refused to return from the dead.  I decided recently that I needed to end this one-sided relationship.  It wasn't healthy.

And then there are the three crape myrtle trees down by the street, hanging untidily over the patch of our property that isn't mud and needs to be mowed in warmer weather.  There used to be six, but in December of 2017, a school bus tire caught the silt-mud in the adjacent field with a wayward tire, the driver coping with pea-soup fog, and the bus slid fast and crashed into our yard, taking three of the crape myrtles with it and narrowly missing the venerable magnolia that would have induced casualties instead of one bruised forehead and a sensational story to tell at the middle school.

I was grateful for the free tree removal.  I told the town council that if they'd come get the stumps out, fix the mud ruts and sew some grass seed, no harm, no foul.  We're not litigious and we loathed those trees and what some might have considered "property damage and emotional distress" was to us a pleasing favor.

The branches of the remaining three droop with heavy blossoms or a second season of buds throughout the summer, harboring a thousand small spiders that love to build their thin-stranded webs between the irregular gaps.  When I need to mow and we can't reach the lawn guy, I use my electric mower, but I first have to perform my ninja-style removal dance of imaginary spider webs using a walking stick, and this crazed ritual is only for my psychological benefit because it never, ever gets rid of all the webs.  Mowing equals face-webs.

For the past five weeks, I've intended to go take down those branches, and the insultingly deceased tree, with the lopper.  Spring is here and the spiders will arrive soon.  Trees are blooming.  Temperatures are warming.  Every passing day has carried the risk of losing the spider reprieve of winter.

And for the past five weeks, the haze of deepening depression has prevented me from caring enough to rear up and do it.

Yesterday, as I opened the back door to tell the dogs to stop barking because it was seven in the morning - get your stupid asses inside the house - oi! I'm talking to you - okay now I'm rattling the biccie jar - here you come, I noticed a single spinneret across the door frame, placed there by some overachiever spider as a warning.

An hour later, I put on gardening gloves and popped the freshly charged battery (which was hell to locate in our tempest of a garage) into the lopper, and hefted its solid weight.  I'd just dealt with a flooded laundry room (again) and that had thrown gasoline on my smoldering pain and anger and, in short, I was ready to fuck up some shit.

The trunk of the demised tree was warm butter to the lopper.

The thrill of power gave me the strength to haul the tree to our growing pile of storm-felled branches.  I turned and looked downhill at the crape myrtles, and walked Clint Eastwood-style to the base of the first one.  I cut off every branch I could reach, not the least bit mindful of aesthetic considerations.  Die, die, die.  And you:  Die.  Fuck you:  Die.

Propelled by momentum, I went after the magnolia, which might have been a mistake because now it looks ridiculous and I never mow under it anyway because I like the English ivy entwined around its base.  It's going to take me eight trips to haul those branches up the hill, but I couldn't help myself.  It was like having a long arm with a chainsaw for a hand.   Who could resist?  The neighbors are lucky I didn't keep going and murder all of their saplings.

********

Jesus, this post is boring.  I can't believe you made it this far.  Who wants to read that much detail about someone trimming tree branches?  It must be Sunday and you're killing time.  I'll help you by telling you that my bottle of Sensoril arrived from Amazon yesterday and I've just taken my second capsule.  It's a derivative from some Indian ginseng leaf that The Monk recommended I take as a supplement to the lithium.  I'm not experiencing any ideation this morning, so that may mean that this thing carries a wicked placebo effect, but I'll take a placebo effect in the place of deep darkness.  I'll take an herb.  I'll take anything.

March 15, 2019

dabbling in hay

I feel like I'm skirting the edge of something dangerous here.  Like trying acid once, or thrill-roller-blading around the edge of an active volcano, just for shits.  This could go bad, and quickly.

I trust my therapist.  That alone should be enough to shake the earth.  I trust him so much that I'm willing to try positive thinking to combat something that is plaguing my life.

Somebody I spend a significant amount of time with is working my last nerve.  No, it isn't P.J.  She couldn't work my nerves like this if she tried.  (Okay, that isn't true, but the effort made would be staggering and would probably need to involve bagpipes and yellow mustard and really bad soprano soloists.)

I suspect that most of this development has to do with my own movement on the spectrum toward significant introversion, which has resulted in that cycle where I pull away and the other person makes aggressive attempts to keep me from pulling away, unwelcome overtures, which makes me pull away even more and become cold and unfriendly and coals-heaped-on-head silent.  It's become so awful that all of the tiny things that I used to be able to filter out now twang on my brain strings.  Stupid, trivial things. 

I swear to Dog, if positive thinking moves me one mere inch toward falling into the Louise Hay volcano ... I don't know how to finish that threat.  Maybe I shouldn't threaten at all.  Maybe I should beg for an intervention.  Watch for the signs.  I'll start painting outdoors and wearing gauzy yellow and orange and surrounding myself with Himalayan salt lamps so their ion fields will conduct energy.

Wait.  Shit.  I already have a salt lamp and also a salt lamp night light, which I fucking love, but only because they look cool, okay?  Glad we clarified that.

Where were we?  Right.  Positive thinking, specifically in the form of gratitude.  Gumby thinks that if I combat a negative thought with an intentionally positive one, no matter how hokey, it might help me stop circling the drain and make things at least bearable.  Bearable is good.  Moving back toward having some sort of filter in place would be ten thousand times better.  I'll take anything.  That's why I'm willing to do this, to find things I can be grateful for and state them out loud mentally.

(I wonder what would happen if I just said them out loud.  That would be most interesting.)


Here is an example of a positive thought I made myself think today:

Thing That Happened:  Notification went off for person on cell phone.  It is loud.  It is the same stupid ringtone that sounds like a piano and lasts a billion years and person refuses to turn down volume and it feels like water torture.

Thing I Thought:  I am thankful that it is not a Mynah bird ringtone, or, worse, an owl.


I'm not going to excel at this, am I?

I also realized today that I am terrified that the person will brace me about this, all hurt and wanting to clear the gravy-thick air, and I don't have an answer prepared, a glib, well-rehearsed deflection guaranteed to avert conflict.  Right now, I'm poised to sit with my mouth open, unable to answer for fear of unloading a litany of grievances like a Tyvek duffel bag full of shuriken.  I can't find the words.  Any writing prowess deserts me in the face of incurable honesty and the fear of confrontation.  Confrontation is almost as terrifying as suddenly being unable to wield my best weapon, my only weapon, my writing, my words.

My only hope is in combating negativity.  It might help.  I am grateful for that.

March 13, 2019

earth

Sometimes, depression doesn't want to talk about itself. 

Sometimes, it wants to get lost in a book, even a mediocre book, or busy itself working in the yard, with sticks and earth and simple things, the grey-brown soil the same muddy shade as the chest-weight.

March 9, 2019

my puzzler is sore

To whom it may concern

(and you know who you are):

I hate you

I hate you

I

hate

you

so

much

and I will keep hating you

until

I finish this

1,000-piece puzzle that

you

gave

me

and then

I will love you again.