November 17, 2018

seriously, starbucks, we need to talk

Dear Starbucks,

Photo courtesy of
Bullshit courtesy of Starbucks.
I am writing regarding your line of flavored Keurig-compatible coffee pods - specifically those labeled "mocha" - and asking that you remove these from shelves across the world on the grounds of what should be the company's bare-faced embarrassment.

"Toffee nut" is tasty.  I admit to the prospect of a cup of "toasted graham" being the thing that convinces me to roll out of bed some mornings.  And any corporation providing a line of double-caffeine pods is due respect and recognition.

I must present your "mocha" pods as a striking anomaly set against an otherwise solid performance. 

We purchased these for our teenage son, who had only recently encountered that unquestionably delicious product widely known and enjoyed as a Starbucks glass-bottled mocha frappucino.  We thought that perhaps a cost savings could be achieved in empowering him to make his own reasonable facsimile of the beverage at home.  For a goodly number of reasons, this plan did not bear fruit.  The remaining eleven pods were abandoned.

These "mocha" pods take me back to childhood.  They evoke a memory of me as a young girl, standing by my mother in the grocery store.  I remember begging for a bottle of chocolate syrup with which to make chocolate milk, and my mother's hand reaching up past the Hershey's Genuine Chocolate [-Flavored] Syrup and instead seizing upon the bottle of Val-U-Time Rich Chocolatey Syrup, because that was how things were in our house.  I made a glass of chocolate milk using the syrup that very afternoon, the bottle's label sporting a yellow starburst proclaiming "Now with 200% MORE FLAVOR!", and even my unrefined child's palate noted the alarming fakeness of what could have only been corn syrup with brown dye and some chemicals that vaguely suggested a flavor of chocolate.  Triple the concentration of the dubious formula, in fact, if one was to believe the label.  I used the whole bottle over the ensuing weeks, to avoid the accusation of being wasteful, but the taste lingers in memory.

I did not expect to revisit it when I made my first cup of Starbucks "mocha".

Thus has the box sat on the top of our refrigerator for these past four months, the occasional pod removed and used as a component of a sacrificial guilt offering or delicate en pointe relationship navigation after one indulgently imbibed the last of the Brazilian the previous evening.

There are five pods left.  They are considered small sentences, to be suffered through and sipped while simultaneously depriving one's self of a true cup of coffee at a given time.  No amount of doctoring with other flavored syrups and creamers, or even rich, heavy cream, mitigates the experience.  We do not throw things away in our home.  The sentences will be served.

I write not for myself, but on behalf of those who may haplessly purchase these "mocha" pods in the future.  Please discontinue this line and spare these future customers an encounter with coffee bearing a misnomer that borders on false advertising, at best, and a two-week run of bad mornings that turn into bad moods taken out on family and colleagues, at worst, after these consumers begin their days with a mug brimming with hot, steaming childhood disappointment in lieu of all that a cup of coffee is supposed to bring.

Pull this from the shelves and try again, Starbucks.  I have faith in you and the vast resources at your disposal.  This time, do it right.  May I suggest Valrhona?


(p.s. Dear Google, Please do not attempt to replace the sacred name "Valrhona" with the word "hormonal".  While the two may intersect during certain phases of the moon, you do not know this.  Your Blogger dictionary is woefully inadequate.  You, too, have resources.  Get to work.  Thank you.)

November 15, 2018

the black leather belt

Coiled like a snake.
I want so badly to believe that it only got under my skin because I was tired and worn down yesterday.  I was the zombie who drank a record five cups of coffee during the day.  I was the person who had to answer all the difficult questions at work, covering for others.  I was the woman who longed to spend her lunch hour napping in her car, until she stopped short just before pushing open the back door that goes the parking lot, remembering what happened the last time she lay down in the back seat, the ghost of the suicide attempt, and so went back to her desk and tried to stay awake.

I was the mom who had to attend the first of three dance performances and ducked backstage to apply fake mascara facial hair to my son so he could be Chris Pratt in their Guardians of the Galaxy dance.  I was the mom who sat with his friend and politely looked at dreadful memes on his phone every three seconds and pretended to be interested in them when all she wanted to do was rest her eyes, just for a moment, just for a moment.

I want to think I was exhausted and unprepared, that somehow it would have been a non-event otherwise.  But I don't think I can believe that, because I know it isn't true.  I recognize trauma when it's triggered.

"It was really good," I said afterward.  "Yeah, you nailed it, except for that one awkward part that I'm not going to rub in your face ... oh, wait, yes I am," his friend said, grinning.  "I missed that part where our arms go over our heads in Narnia, our timing was really off," The Kid said, but overall he seemed pleased, or maybe relieved that the first of three nights was over and he could go home.

We drove to Sheetz to pick up a late meal.  The boys engaged in their usual world-of-their-own bonhomie in the back seat.  "Those jeans are really loose now," The Kid told me.  "Can you wear those suspenders under your t-shirt for that one?" I asked.  "Don't I have a belt"?  he replied.

His friend, who is gangly, the epitome of one hundred pounds when soaking wet, started to take off his own belt as a joke and said, "Here, you can use mine."

And I heard the slithering sound of the belt coming out of the belt loops of his jeans, the clink of the buckle, the sound of leather against itself.  Suddenly, ragged breathing, my brain drowning.

"Please put the belt back on.  Please," I said in a robotic voice.  He noted the edge in my words and said, "Yes, ma'am," and put it back on.  We F-bomb all the time.  "Ma'am" was absurd.  But he heard it in my voice.

I don't know how I got through Sheetz, through ordering and paying and waiting forever for the food.  I stared at the coffee machines in a daze, focused solely on keeping my shit together.  The belt ... the folding in half of the belt, pushing it together to puff up in the middle, then pulling it apart abruptly and the snap sound that would make a small child hit the ceiling from fear and what-was-next?

I was shaking and breathing hard and counting on the protective factor of my son's presence and my maternal drive to prove stronger than the reaction that commandeered the rest of me.  It was tenuous, but it was enough and I clung to it as I stared blindly at the word "Sumatra" on the coffee urn.

I dropped off the friend and drove us home, and it was only in P.J.'s waiting arms that I finally began shaking for real, and I could cry and let go.  Then I took meds and dropped off to sleep and woke this morning with the belt-snap-what-next? still weighing on me, taking all my thought.

I can wear a belt, though it's rare that I do.  I can stare at the long-stripes belt displays in stores.  But I cannot bear a belt in the hand of another, taking it off, holding it, snapping it menacingly, what-comes-next?  A black belt, an inch and a half wide, rough leather on the inside, matte on the outside, what-comes-next?

Today I am three years old and there was nowhere at Sheetz to run and hide.

P.J. is frustrated because she doesn't know who it is she needs to go kill, and never will.

November 13, 2018

cramps like thundering hooves

Welcome to Target Downs, home of the world-famous Menstrual Cup!  It's a beautiful day, folks, and the sun has dried out the track, so after two days of delay because of the rain, everyone's here and beyond eager to see if they've bet on a winner.

And we see the jockeys lining up at the shopping carts, ready to race ... they've been ready for days and this is finally it ... everyone has high expectations this month - AAAAAAAAND THEY'RE OFF!

It looks like the leader right from the start is Crimson Tide, pulling alongside this season's display of new, cozy sweaters, to the right - but no, he's back into the fray in the center now! 

Wait, wait ... now Aunt Flo has veered left to take the curve, and she's grabbed a pair of fetching flannel pajama pants ... the jockey has grabbed them and is pushing her onward ... and now the sleek neck of Gushing Delight is out just ahead and he appears to be heading unexpectedly for the sale on the coffee aisle, folks ... he loses his lead as he stops to make a decision ... same for the creamer, and we can safely say that Gushing is out of it, and sorry to all of you who were betting he was a sure winner ....

... returning to the horses, we see Red Roof Inn round the bend to the toilet paper aisle, falling back quickly because of the overwhelming number of choices, which puts Shark Week clearly ahead and pulling forward ... we might have a winner folks, as the finish line isn't too far away, only a lap to go ...

But wait!  Shark Week veers right and takes it wide, completely ceding what was an incredible lead as he picks up protein cookies ... Crimson Tide is back in it but having difficulty pulling up ... and there's The Cotton Pony, with incredibly low odds, taking the lead! 

She's focused - wait, she's focused on the crotch swab and discreet diaper aisle and now she seems content to pull back ... Crimson Tide still not able to pull into the lead ahead of Raging Rag, who seems -- wait!  Raging Rag slows as they round left again and pass the makeup brush aisle!  Crimson Tide may be able to pull this one off, folks! 

And they're approaching the cash registers ... Strawberry Moon not favored but clearly with a chance ... folks betting on Strawberry Moon are white-knuckled ... the cash registers are near ... but Crimson Tide puts on a burst of speed and has a neck on her ....

... and it's over, folks!  Crimson Tide overcame incredible odds after what should have been a fatal mistake in the first lap and has won the Menstrual Cup!  We have a winner!  I repeat:  Crimson Tide wins the Menstrual Cup!

November 11, 2018

if i shook a veteran's hand today

"Welcome home."
... I would want that veteran to know that the hand was at the end of an arm appended to a bleeding-heart, raving blue liberal desperate to represent that we, too, appreciate the hell out of our veterans and our military.  Being against a bloated military budget and the industrial-military complex, being against unnecessary war and dubious justification of our military presence in some foreign locations, can co-exist alongside outrage at how the V.A medical centers are underfunded and a deep appreciation for the sacrifices these men and women have made, the things they've endured, with gratitude sometimes so intense that it moves us to tears.

I have a salient memory from when I was twenty-one and visiting my childhood church.  Saving Private Ryan had just come out.  I remember a clump of the older men in the church, deacons who were WWII veterans, standing in the back of the sanctuary after church one Sunday, discussing the movie.  Two of them were telling the others, "Don't watch it," shaking their heads vigorously.  The movie was too full of triggers.  These men with wrinkles standing in suits and ties, about to head out to B&J's Restaurant with their wives and a few friends for fried chicken and greens and cornbread, living a simple life in a small town, carried inside them the horrors of war they brought back home.

Bill Phillips had one leg.  He had lost the other in the war.  Every week he wore a gray striped suit with the empty pant leg folded in half and pinned up.  He always smiled and he gave out Carefree chewing gum sticks, torn in half, to children.

"I mean it, Bill, don't watch it, don't rent the tape.  They did too good a job, like it's real."

Thank you from the liberal girl.  You didn't notice her listening in on your conversation, but she heard you, and she thought about it, and she understood.

November 10, 2018

zero shades of gray

In my ceaseless, muttering internal pursuit of discovering a core, some part of me that gives me a self instead of capriciously fluctuating with chemical manipulation, I've made it as far as noticing that sitting in the chair next to the empty one I'm trying to fill is the idea of honesty.  Honesty sits next to reality.

Am I honest?

It's something of a joke with those closest to me.  I'm not referring to the fact that I don't lie because I suck at it; it's deeper than that.  I go beyond wearing my thoughts and feelings on my sleeve; I hand them out on a tray.  Therapist Gumby and I have laughed together ruefully at what we call my tendency toward "excessive disclosure".  Somewhere along my developmental line, the road forked and instead of heading right and learning to withhold most things, lest they invoke disapproval, to be a closed book, I steered left and became someone who shows nearly everything, holding it out for examination.  This technique sometimes backfires, but most often it allows me the sense that others see me and aren't displaying any signs of wanting to annihilate me because of what they see.

There's probably a psych term for this, buried somewhere inside a tome on attachment disorders and object relations.  I just don't know what it is.

There are problems here.  One is that I can't have a stable fantasy life.  I have next to zero mental tolerance for allowing something to exist in my mind that isn't real.  Any fantasy either crashes and burns within seconds because a voice interjects like a snobbish art or antiques expert and points out all of the reasons it's a fake, or it turns toward plans and, eventually, behaviors meant to render the fantasy reality.  Things that are not true are lies and lies deny reality.  Nothing is allowed to set up house in that gray twilight space between the light of real and the dark of not-real, between want and cannot-have.

In this, I am still a child, still Lille.  And this fundamental lack of grayness is the reason my preoccupation episodes wreak havoc.

Sometimes I post something on Facebook and then delete it within an hour.  This has been happening with increasing frequency.  Last night I whined about getting hit yesterday with a stomach bug.  Three people said get-well, so I decided it constituted attention-seeking and that no one needed to know I was sick (the audacity of asking, asking for sympathy!) and I took it down.  If no one likes a post or someone misunderstands me, or if I re-think what I've said and decide I don't want to be perceived that way, I delete it.  But it's usually the former; otherwise, I'd think this was an absurd sign of progress toward keeping some things inside, learning discretion, even if it's retroactive.

This question has been added to my growing burden:  If I harbor products of my mind instead of putting everything in a display case for others, if I retain things that are not seen and thus externally validated, am I honest?

November 8, 2018

lille vs. the sewing machine (but not really)

(You asked, so now you have to read the whole thing.  -Lille)

That thing I was saying about Supermom?  I suck at not doing it.

Because I'll be damned if The Kid isn't going to have some thought given to his costume for his dance performance next week, just because he's the only boy.  He's in two dances.

In one, he's Star Lord/Quill from Guardians of the Galaxy, and I've already hooked him up with that awesome dark red leather jacket (which cost a fortune, but GOTG III comes out soon and I can sell it before Halloween and get my money back) and some great black jeans.  We've even figured out how to give him facial stubble using mascara.  Learning the technique involved some dangerous flirting with Pinterest, from which I normally run screaming, because Crafts.

In the other dance, the theme is Narnia.  The girls will all wear beautiful, flowing, deep cornflower-blue dresses.  The teacher told The Kid to just wear a white shirt and black pants like he did last time they performed.

I was piqued by this.  I took umbrage at it.  I should have been all "thank fuck I don't have to make an effort for this bullshit," but instead, I felt like he'd been overlooked.

Enter the Quest for the Vest.  "What colors are the dresses?" I asked him early last week.  "Just turquoise," he replied.  "Like, teal-turquoise, or closer to blue-turquoise?"  "Closer to blue.  I think."  We then walked around the basement pointing at various blue objects until he decided one was spot-on.  It was turquoise.

(This was where it all went wrong, in retrospect.  I was asking for an accurate color description from a child who wears navy blue shorts with orange piping paired with a black t-shirt with red lettering.)

Bring on Supermom:  I whipped out a tape measure like a professional seamstress and measured his chest, then ordered a vest on eBay.  Bam!  I even rolled the tape measure back up and everything.

Two days later, he texted me a photo of one of the dresses.  It was not turquoise.  Not even close.

I tried to cancel the eBay order.  They shipped the vest an hour later.  Because of course they did.


I then spent a few days in complacency denial.  But yesterday, I received another text from The Kid:

"We have to have our costumes tomorrow for the dress rehearsal, not next week."

Blistering hordes of fuckwads.

There ensued a frenzied afternoon-long online search, punctuated by phone calls to various formal wear stores in our vicinity, which turned up a multitude of blue vests, all navy, and exactly fuck-all in the strange-shade-of-blue-shiny-vest category.

Fine, I'll fucking SEW him a vest, I decided, at that point half-crazed and in despair and fully divorced from any shred of perspective and proportionality.  I spent another hour speed-devouring web sites about How To Sew For Unbalanced People With No Aptitude Whatsoever Who Will Probably Die Of A Needle Injury.

I am.  I'm going to damn well go to the fabric store and buy some fabric and thread and buttons and a pattern and sew him a silky Narnia vest that matches the girls' dresses and I know where P.J. keeps that thing she calls the "sewing machine" and I kind of remember from Girl Scouts when I was eight years old what to do with that trick with the thread all through the top thingies and then the other thread in the bottom and the hangie thingie and them both coming up and being long enough and I think there are some round things, too.  And there's Google.  And booze.  And I'll probably be up until dawn doing this and the booze will help me not throw anything through the sliding glass doors.  Probably.  And the finished product might look like harem pants or maybe a handkerchief used in a magic trick when I'm finished, but it's going to god-damned well be a vest!

I picked The Kid up from school and headed to the fabric store.  En route, he chose to share that in his backpack, he had a basic microfiber men's tee that his teacher had handed him during class that was the same color as the dresses and he could wear it.  I very sweetly inquired as to why he had not shared this information with me when we discussed my picking him up and my grand plans to overcome Crafting that very evening.  "Um, I was really into doing my math.  Uh, sorry about that."

We went home.  He tried on the shirt.  It was a little too small.

But a black vest would make it perfect.

And you can buy black vests in this town all day long and twice on Sundays.

"We're going shopping.  Get your shit," I said.

We went to Men's Wearhouse and found an okay black vest that rode up a little but everyone knows they have the best stuff, so whatever.  I even kept a straight face when they rang us up and the total was over a hundred dollars, and handed the gentleman my credit card while dreaming wistfully of Goodwill.  We left the store.  We got into the car.  We closed the doors to the car.  Then I let out a lightning-fast scream-rant about the price of that vest and exactly what they could do with it.

"I didn't actually catch all that, but I assume it meant that there went my Christmas present," The Kid said when I had finished.

"It cost too much," I whimpered quietly, my head in my arms, folded on top of the steering wheel.

I drove The Kid to his dad's house while muttering, "I have to take it back, I have to take it back."  On the way, we formed a plan, which was that I would go on a shopping spree for a cheaper, better vest, then grow a pair of ovaries and return the one we'd just purchased.

The first place I stopped didn't have any vests.  But they did have dress shirts, and that's when my eyes lighted upon a black dress shirt and a pair of black suspenders, and it occurred to me that many male dancers wear all black and it's a very classy look, and also fuck vests, so I bought a black shirt and the suspenders and left the store floating on a shimmering cloud of unicorn-sparklies triumph.

The cloud was so wonderfully drifty and glittery that it carried me straight to Men's Wearhouse, where I returned the vest with my head held high.  It was almost not even noticeable that I was slinking away wishing I was running when I walked out of the store.

I called The Kid and told him about the wonderful new Thing that had happened.

"Do you think the teacher is going to be okay with that?  Let me text her."

Poof, went the cloud.  Sparklies were all over the floor board of the car.  It's going to take years to get that shit out of the folds of the seats.

I called P.J. for reinforcement and moral support.

"Isn't that going to make him disappear on the stage?  Black against black, no color at all?  Hmmm."

She was, of course, right.  That's when the high of being faced with doing the impossible and the ironic low of being relieved of that duty combined with feeling like I failed when I thought I had actually been the genius of the world, and I started crying.  P.J. was the unlucky, undeserving recipient of the unattractive noises involved in crying over the phone.

So if the teacher raises an eyebrow today, I suppose we have the option of buying a different black vest.  Maybe from Goodwill.  And it's a happy ending, really, because I think the black shirt will work, and also that sewing machine thingie remains lurking in the back of the upstairs closet, and nothing got broken or smashed, and no one got hurt in any way.  The world is safe from Lille trying to do Crafting.

UPDATE:  It's so gratifying to pull something like this together, especially when the stress of it nearly did you in ... we got The Kid dressed up all snazzy in black and he looked great, and we drove through the rain and heavy traffic but still got to the school right on time for rehearsal to let out because that's what time it ended instead of what time it started because The Kid got it all wrong.


Happily, they think the dance will be fine anyway.

November 7, 2018

do you want that toasted

The Kid has decided that he wants a job at the Subway a few blocks from our home.  He's using their online application process.

I've been rubbing my chin and trying to figure out his motive.  It might be money, but it also might be wanting to feel better about himself, as he sometimes lapses into self-pummeling bouts of low self-esteem for being lazy (merited) and forgetful (totally merited) and in danger of living in our basement forever (please get the laundry off the floor, okay?). 

The Kid's a good kid.  He knows his own mind.  And as his preschool teacher once told me, he's going to do what he's going to do.  Orders and commands and rules are taken as guidelines and advice. 

Come to think of it, that isn't exactly going to serve him well in the workplace.  But he does well at school, so there is evidence that he knows when to switch that off.  I've just never personally been the beneficiary of it.

I started working at Wendy's the day I turned fifteen years old.  I think they hired me because during my interview, I stated (with full sincerity) that I wanted to be a missionary some day.  This was considered tantamount to a strong work ethic and an infusion of wholesomeness into the staff.  In retrospect, this is downright infuriating, but at the time, it served.

That illusion lasted until I was asked to mop the floor, and I stood holding the mop and staring at my manager.  "What do I do?" I asked.  His face was blank for a moment, and then started turning red, because he thought I meant that I considered myself above such a menial task.  "You're too good to mop?" he sputtered.  Whoa.  "No, sir," I said, "I want to mop.  Really.  I've just never done it before.  Show me the ropes and I'll know.  Please?"

I redeemed myself and became a kick-ass crew member.  Within a year, I was running the drive-thru on Friday nights, working the cash register and window with my left hand, the drink machine and order pad with my right, and the foot pedal to talk and take orders.  I turned around and bagged.  I made the line fly by.  The other managers loved me, but the Mop-Manager forever after took delight in asking me to do things like scrape ketchup residue from around door seals and scrub out the tea urns until my elbows ached.  I managed not to smile when the others called him by his nickname, Golf Ball Head.

There was a lesson there, and it was this:  There are small-minded people in the world and sometimes you still have to do what they say.

I learned other lessons:

Food fights aren't worth it, primarily because coffee grounds go everywhere and it will take you until two in the morning to find them all.

People love when you remember them and have their order ready before they even say what they want.

People can change their minds and surprise you, just when you think you know them.

A chocolate Frosty is just four-percent chocolate milk poured into a magical machine.

You will gain weight if you pour and drink a glass of Frosty milk instead of pouring it into the machine.

If you put your forearm against the door of an industrial-grade potato-baking oven, you will later have a scar to show your kid and a story to tell.

Don't fuck with a three-legged wharf rat.

Don't judge others because they're working in a job that represents the height of their potential.  They might not be academic scholars living the American myth of unstoppable upward mobility, but they have grit in spades, and that is something the vast majority of us could use.

Sometimes, the tables just wobble.  Life is going to have wobbly tables.

If you play a joke and put sardines inside the hubcaps of your manager's 1986 Pontiac in July, don't get caught.

I wonder if The Kid will get a job.  I wonder if, if they say "no" the first time, he'll persevere and work to convince them, even if it takes months.  I wonder if, if they say "no" the first time and maybe the second time, he'll stop even trying for any job and consider himself condemned and worthless. 

I wonder how I'll keep from stepping in as Supermom, instead letting life deal with him and letting him deal with life.

November 4, 2018

there are two dead dogs and writing is bullshit

The whole reason I started reading Needful Things in the first place was because I was in a weird-bad mood last night and I needed a way to escape my head.  My eyes scanned the bookcase near where I sat in the living room and after perusing P.J.'s extensive Stephen King Section, I settled on that particular book because I'd heard over the years that it was, for King, a milder, fuck-with-your-head sort of story instead of actual horror.

And the weird-bad mood was based on the declaration that November is some sort of national novel-writing month, where you challenge yourself to write a certain number of words each day and have something approaching a finished product, or at least a damned good start, to show for it right when the last of the tired turkey leftovers are being consumed.

A national novel-writing thing, I have decided, exists for the sole purpose of making me feel completely inadequate in every way, a failure, a poser, delinquent, and .... well, less.  I feel less.  I don't have ideas like other people.  No one even understood that the poem I posted a few days ago was about a bi-polar swing and what it might be like for someone who's seasonal-affective.  It's shitty.  I dwelled on writing and explored all its facets for a while, and then moved on to consider my therapist and how I'm completely wasting his time because not only will I never be a real writer, I'll never make any discernible progress with the self-injury or the deeper trauma and bi-polar disorder doesn't go away and I'm helpless against it.  Then I thought that maybe those thoughts are me pushing him away because I'm terrified he's going to retire soon and if I go first, it won't hurt.

Yeah, right.

So I pulled the book off the shelf, removed the dust jacket, and plunged in.  P.J. and I sat reading with the fireplace crackling, and in the first pages, I pointed out some things I noticed about King's writing.  She used this to counter my argument about my own writing potential, because now I'm reading and seeing the craft instead of the content.  Her faith in me is endlessly infuriating, but I also don't think I could live without it.

At some point in there, I slept, but late this morning, somewhere around page two-hundred, I slammed the book back onto the shelf, where it can stay, as far as I'm concerned, until it rots and turns to peat.  It's set in Trigger City, Maine, and while I held up marvelously while being asked to cope with a ten-year-old dying in a wreck because the gas tank of the car exploded, while also coping with a toddler dying in an apartment fire while his mother was at work, someone went and stuck a corkscrew through the chest of a dog that was asking for a belly rub and pinned it to the floor in a pool of dark blood, and I told coping it could go fuck itself with a cactus dipped in lime juice and rolled in flaky sea salt.

I sat on the couch and pulled my knees to my chest and sobbed for more than a few minutes, took ragged breaths, and tried to pull my shit together because I had to shower because this afternoon was the first Messiah rehearsal.  I managed to shower while sobbing, and dry my hair while sobbing, and get dressed while collecting superfluous snot in various paper products.  Eventually I calmed down.  P.J. came in and could tell I wasn't exactly having a nice, level day, so I told her what had happened.

Five minutes later, we both checked our e-mail and read the one from our brother who said that one of the dogs, our fur-nephew Chino, died a few days ago after two months of illness.

It's impossible to describe where I went, other than "deep inside", because the two things merged in my brain and all I could see was a man's hairy arm sticking a corkscrew into Chino and screwing him to the living room floor of some crazy woman's house in Maine.  I tried to envision a vet's office instead, an I.V., kind hands petting him, anything, but there was only the corkscrew.  Not actual horror, my ass.

It took a couple of pills and a few hours of singing at rehearsal and driving around to get my head straightened out.  There will be my photographic memory "gift" to deal with, but that is for later.

Right now, I'm really fucking sad about Chino's death and also more than slightly angry that we knew nothing about this, because when Chester was sick, we kept them apprised.  Maybe they wished we hadn't; maybe it made them sad and they didn't want to know.  Maybe they thought they were being kind to us.  We'll never see the little guy again.  That makes it hard to swallow the sips of coffee I'm taking right now.  Molly looks a lot like Chino.  In fact, we adopted her a week after visiting them and spending time with Chino and falling completely in love with him.  We didn't realize we were getting a dog that could be his twin, but we did all the same.  And part of this feels like losing Chester all over again.

I've decided that in terms of writing, I owe no one anything and I don't have to write a book and I'm not that kind of writer, if I'm even a writer at all, and writing can wait until coping-with-corkscrew-dogs is finished and use that same cactus without even rinsing it off first.

I've also decided that in terms of reading, I'm going to stick with young-adult fiction, and to hell with the adult world.  If you need me, you can find me in the juvenile fiction section of the public library over in town, getting re-acquainted with Ramona Quimby and the fascinatingly deep, non-archetypal characters in Fablehaven.

November 2, 2018


Walking today
I was impaled by
tree after tree
lining their street;
pierced by green-now-gold,
hunched, leaning,
regarding loss,
small brown piles
in the gutters,
portents of winter's
descent into
with only
bare-naked branches
to believe in the
implausible ghost story
called Spring.

November 1, 2018

rascacielos y abanicos

For some reason, probably because My Brain, I still remember from middle school how to say "ceiling fan" and "skyscraper" in Spanish.

I have had an incredible second chance dropped square into my lap at work:  We hired a new guy and he's native to Ecuador.  I asked him to help me learn Spanish (which I have known just enough to get myself into serious trouble), and he said, "Are you sure?" and I was all cavalier and said, "Yeah!" and ever since, he won't speak to me in English unless absolutely necessary.  It's immersion or bust.

He's very patient and issues gentle corrections, never too much at once.

I am fucking loving this.

I took the requisite high school and college classes, levels one and two, and that's as far as I've ever gotten.  There's been no point purchasing software or engaging in anything autodidactic because I've had no one in my life to converse with to keep it going.

I'm pretty sure I have a gift for language, but it's never been put to use.  Words and phrases are being dredged up from the depths of my mind.  Sometimes I can think in Spanish, just a little bit.

Yesterday I got something right and I actually jumped up and down like a kid.  That hurt my shoulder, so I stopped, but the point is, I was giddy.  I hadn't realized how hungry I've been to flesh this out and finish the process of learning a language, at least well enough to gain passable fluency.

I just purchased three shabby textbooks off eBay.  This is the manner in which I learn best.  I need material presented in an organized fashion, not designed to make one quickly become conversant.  I'll have both aspects covered.

I know this bumps against all manner of cultural and political opinions.  I really don't give a brown monkey's shiny left testicle.  I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

October 31, 2018

to be fair

... for all my bitching about how dysfunctional my family at large proves to be, mother and sisters and a crazy aunt and general posterity, my immediate family situation is nothing short of phenomenal.  Life and good people gave me a gift on that front.

I'll start here:  P.J. and I didn't mean to fall in love.  We met and it ... just happened.  It happened hard.  I remember driving home after that first get-together, a breakfast that turned into a lunch, feeling dizzy and knowing that my life was about to break and get messy and turn upside-down.  It was punch-drunk meets foreboding, chaperoned by ecstasy.

My husband at the time was - and is - a good man.  I had figured out early in our marriage that I wasn't exactly straight, and we made it almost ten good years anyway.  When I knew, he knew.  Real friendship goes a long way.  We likely would have continued this arrangement, had I not had my head turned by wide-eyed realization of what I was meant to have and feel and be, the intensity and depth that accompany entering into a relationship aligned with one's orientation.  So many people think it's about sex.  They simply cannot understand, lacking personal experience, that it's far more about heart and mind.  When I hugged P.J. for the first time, I felt the wind of the Universe blow through me.  It startled me.

The divorce was inevitable, and here is the clencher:  My ex-husband willingly let me go, so that I would experience that happiness and he would find his own.  I know the stories of women who leave to be with a same-sex partner, the vindictive husbands, the court battles for custody of children, the lives utterly ripped apart by truth.

The Kid was three years old.  We knew we had to carefully hold his hand through this to avoid collateral damage.  We read, we asked, we listened.  When my ex moved into an apartment and left me our tiny, tidy first house, we made a pact:  The Kid would see both of us almost every day.  We went to court with the separation agreement that explicitly stated custody would be joint and defined no further than that, something the courts abhor because it usually ends in a royal mess.  We insisted that it be honored.  And we kept the pact, and to this day, we still do, though it's radically different now with a teenager and The Kid's preferences dominate.  These days, the door simply remains open, transportation is provided.

P.J. and I exchanged rings and became committed partners, married in all eyes but those of the law.

My ex met someone months later.  Once they'd been dating for a bit and we realized it was getting serious, she and I met for hot cocoa and four hours of conversation at a Panera.  She's groovy.  I started from that moment to intentionally say positive things to The Kid about her.  One of the worst aspects of separation and divorce is putting a child through having to choose loyalties.  I wanted him to know he was allowed to like her, bond with her, and not feel he had to hide it.  My ex did the same when talking about P.J.  The Kid got a step-sister out of the deal when they married a year later, which was awesome because the kids each got to learn that neither was the center of all things.  They had to share, resolve conflict, deal with a sibling.

I met my ex's mother-in-law.  We hit it off beautifully, which might be because I fixed her computer.  I wasn't exactly a threat; that might have helped, too.

(Actually, I've fixed all of their computers at some point.  But that's like breathing for me.)

My ex's mother and I still talk occasionally on Facebook.  She asks after P.J. and sends her love.

The two family homes are seven minutes apart.  The Kid has seen both his father and me almost every day.  We drive him over and back in the evenings.  I could not begin to count the miles and gas involved, but they're nothing because we have done things right by him.  When there are school events, we're all there, all of us, together.  The Kid's step-sister spent a lot of time, when she was younger, wondering if I was her aunt.  "It's complicated," we told her.

The boundaries are good, in no way blurred or bleeding over.  My ex is like my brother now.  I still give him a difficult time whenever possible; we joke around; we parent like a motherfucker when it's needed.  The Kid can't put one over on any of the four of us because we communicate so well.

I know how lucky I am.  I know how lucky The Kid is.  I know how lucky we all are.  I don't lose sight of that.

October 29, 2018

stare right at me, jim lauderdale

I'm walking off the exit ramp after riding the roller coaster, turning around and looking up and thinking, "Seriously, I was on that thing?"

Now I can catch up, turn around and look up and down and back, a little breathless from riding the loops of suicidal thoughts and hypomania, but able to take in everything I missed in the meantime.  The bluegrass festival.  Molly making it safely through healing from surgery.  Good meetings at work, good talks with friends, and things hanging fire and all that I've neglected while plunged and tossed.

Last night, P.J. queued up Jim Lauderdale on Spotify in the living room, so I could listen while playing on my laptop.  She remembered that at the bluegrass festival in September, I'd been enamored of him ... that's not quite the phrase, really; something about his brown-eyed gaze is piercing, when he looks right at you.  There's a hit-you-dead-on honesty in his face, and at this concert, he was hamming up the facial expressions something fierce.

The man wears outlandish clothing ... that particular night it was a shiny purple jumpsuit that Elvis would have envied.  I don't know much about him, his eccentricities, his lifetime of work, but apparently he's been at this for decades and his repertoire, based mostly on Americana, also includes country music.

I forgive him for that.  I'll even endure it.  Last night, P.J. found for me the song he played last month at the jam session following the main festival events (we scored tickets) ... "In The Pines" ... pure-strain old-time music that's basically the opposite of everything I listen to, but his voice cuts through and grabs me.  He draws out the notes ....

"In the piiiiiines, in the piiiiiines,
Where the suuuuun never shiiiiines,
And we shiverrrrrrr when the collllllld wind blooooowwws."

When he was singing or talking on stage and he appeared to look at me, sitting in the smaller audience, and held his gaze, I felt like he could see right into me, like he knew things.

I've talked before about how resistant I am to admitting new books, music, ideas in to my heart and mind, that a thing has to find a chink in my protective armor to reach me.  He found it.  I know I'm about to plunge into his music and grant him short-list status.  It was one hell of a stare.

P.S.  I just looked at his tour schedule and he's going to be on a cruise ship at the end of January out of Tampa ... I need to ask P.J. what possible reason we might have not to bugger off and be on that ship with him for days ... well, yeah, and some other people, too, but whatever.  Can someone please come look after our dogs?

October 28, 2018

the color of peace

When I was in my late twenties and P.J. and I had just fallen in love and the world got rearranged, I painted the living room of my small house as a first step toward getting it ready to go on the market.  Dark, blood-red walls were transformed with light brown paint that I was delighted to see turned out to be the exact shade of a cup of hot chocolate, made from a mix.  Not too yellow, not too red.  I didn't keep the paint chip and I could kick myself for that, because I may never be able to repeat those results.

That shade of soft, light brown, swirling hot chocolate, is what color the peace has been, yesterday and today, as the hypomania has subsided and I've drifted down as slowly as a light autumn leaf on the gentlest of winds.  I can trust myself again to have normal relationship with others and make decisions. 

And if I think back, it's always been this color when it has come, the peace of calming down.  My peace is Swiss-Miss, soft, milky brown.

Through the synaesthesia, I've had a good deal of music and even once a smell take on a color, but rarely an emotion.  The color of my peace on this morning, however, is unmistakable.

A mug doesn't stay warm in the winter of bi-polar disorder, so I am sipping and savoring while holding this cup of peace in comforted, becalmed, thankful woolen mitten hands.

October 24, 2018

the church of the f-bomb

temple (tem-pel) / noun / a building devoted to the worship, or regarded as the dwelling place, of a god or gods or other objects of religious reverence

He stopped me in the hall at work.  A furtive glance in each direction to ensure we were alone.  And then:  "What the fuck did you do that to me for?"

I slammed against the wall on my side, clutching my ribs, laughing hysterically.

"Naw, man, I'm serious!  Do you know she fuckin' talked for, like, an hour and forty-five god-damned minutes?  I thought I was going to die right there in my chair.  Good.  God.  Don't you ever do that to me again!"

I'd referred this unsuspecting co-worker to another co-worker who can be, at times, verbose and a bit thorough in her didactic ministrations.  She knew how to use the software he needed.  She was the expert.  I hooked them up, and I won't say I didn't smile quietly to myself as I heard them settling into a conversation destined for duration.  I'm not sure he'll ever forgive me.  I hope he doesn't.

The F-bomb is the key to a kingdom.

Those of us who habitually employ it like to say it's good stress relief.  Some of us shuffle our feet and say you really shouldn't, but sometimes you just have to, you know?  Not many of us admit that we just fucking like to say it.  Far fewer of us consider it an outright virtue.

I go a step beyond that, because I believe there is so much more here.  I think about church, what a person gets out of attending.  Not the religious reinforcement, but the acceptance, the belonging to a tribe, the pure hindbrain drug of I-belong.  They agree upon values and beliefs and behaviors, they feel a bond and a safety when they congregate.  They wear the cross as a symbol of their tribe.

I posit that cursing like a sailor on a three-day bender provides the same belonging, especially in the closed society of a workplace, an office building.  You find each other.  A gentle probe here, an approving smirk there, a slip and an apology and then gauging the reaction ... you find each other, and you congregate in small groups safely, and you let it fly.  You agree upon values, a worldview, and behaviors in doing so.  That's never explicitly stated, yet through employing gratuitous profanity, you agree on what matters and what truly does not.  It draws some of the best people I have known in my life.  Teachers and social workers and food bank volunteers and devoted parents and doctors and nurses and even ministers.  It draws some of the best co-workers I have, the hard-working, the conscientious, the ethical, the ones who care and care hard about what really counts.

I meet with the best of them and we partake of the sacrament of being ourselves.  Fuck the rest of it, man.  Fuck it all, here in the temple, the Church of the F-Bomb.

I told him one day that I could out-curse him without breaking a sweat.  He said there might have to be a contest.  I gave him an angelic smile.

October 23, 2018

full swing

Snippets of poems writing themselves without my input. 


Racing thoughts, so fast I can't hear them, more of a hum, a lawn mower close to an open window of the house, a swarm of bees with indistinguishable buzzes. 

Static.  Electrons whizzing. 

Months of quiet withdrawal at work replaced with a return to effusive snark and droll wit.

Preoccupations with people popping up like highly toxic mushrooms, then wilting quickly, melting away.  Three in one morning.  Never has it been Cair Paravel, more than one person occupying that throne.  Immediate disillusionment, new object, displacement.


This sounds like rambling, but if you've followed my other bi-polar and therapy-related posts, you'll understand the torment this represents.  Torment is not too strong a word.

Last night P.J. held me as I whispered through gritted teeth, "I fucking hate this disease.  With all that is in me, I hate it."  I cried.

October 22, 2018

the walk

Brush-stroke, eyelash clouds;
Wind I can hear in tree tops
But I never feel.

grape drink

(chilling in the living room with P.J., in the middle of a yet another re-read of HP & The Deathly Hallows while P.J. reads something entirely more erudite and age-appropriate)

The Kid:  "I'm thirsty.  Can I have one of your packets of drink mix, from the cabinet?  So it's better than water?"

Me:  "Sure."

P.J.:  "Go ahead."

Me:  "Make some grape drank.  Drink the Kool-Aid."

The Kid:  " ... What's the best way to put in the powder, before the water or after the water?"

Me:  "Before the water."

P.J.:  "After the water."

Me:  "Before the water, because when the water dispenser shoots the water in, it auto-stirs it for you."

P.J.  "After the water, because when you stir it up it gets distributed more evenly and there aren't clumps."

Me:  "P.J.'s wrong."

P.J.:  "Lille's wrong."

The Kid:  "By the way, we had this discussion at school already."

P.J. and Me:  "Then why the fuck did you ask?"

October 19, 2018

nectar slushie

.... because if ambrosia is the food of the gods, it is surely frozen.

The first weekend of delicious near-freezing air is upon us here.  Everything in me cries out for shivering and goosebumps and fuzzy socks and hurrying to get back under the covers after braving the bathroom and soft, thick throw blankets shared with one of the dogs on the couch.

I want to open all of the windows and drink in crispness.

I want to be surrounded by chilling winds that make me retreat and create a cocoon of warmth, burn candles, light the fire, bundle up, feel small and protected against the bitterness ... then shed it all and stand out on the porch and close my eyes and lift my arms and surrender to invigoration.

October 18, 2018

pirate in the kitchen

I have to keep writing through the floating Tramadol-somnolent haze that has gripped me for days, in spite of my current ontological crisis.  I got a thoughtful discussion and a loving bollocking yesterday, respectively, about all that, but it remains for me to work through on my own.  Something along the lines of "sense of self is merely a byproduct of consciousness and what you're after is purpose but purpose is a choice and not backed up by anything objective, so really, it's freedom".  Which is in turn the byproduct of having a brilliant wife and a brilliant friend, both of whom I must tolerate as incendiary gifts at times.

So I'll answer the question of what on earth a pirate was doing in our kitchen, lo these many years ago.

Am terrifying pirate!

It was a rather diminutive pirate, to be fair, with plastic accessories and a hat that was a dead give-away in terms of the pirate being lacking in serious business.  While I have exactly zero expertise in general pirate couture, I believe that pirates most likely do not conduct their business, serious or not, in their underwear and a Hanes t-shirt.

Nevertheless, there was a pirate in our kitchen.

The Kid was four years old and immersed in the universe of Pirates of the Caribbean, a product of his Happy Meal- and Disney Store-fueled generation.  He was a kid who would go balls to the wall with his character and franchise obsessions.  He began reading at three and took in information that we were not prepared to help him incorporate into his worldview.  His mind was, to put it lightly, an interesting place.  It always has been.

I digress.  P.J. and I had tucked him in several hours earlier and indulged in the reasonable expectation that he slumbered peacefully and that we, in turn, had peaceful time to ourselves; and as we were a couple, we did what any couple would do on a Saturday night.  [Insert implied graphic description of gay lovemaking here so as to spare the faint of heart, who really have no business reading this blog in the first place and I did warn you, but you didn't read the stuff in the side column, so whatever.  That's totally on you.]

After [whatever you want to believe happened] happened, I was thirsty, and emerged from our bedroom and entered the kitchen, wearing only a black camisole.  Only.  A black camisole.  And there, in front of the refrigerator, blocking the water dispenser, I was met with the above apparition, gritting its teeth in a fiercely pirate-esque manner.

God fucking knows how long he had been standing there, waiting.

I'm pretty sure I yelped and ran back into the bedroom and slammed the door.  This had the desired effect for two of the three people involved.  The Kid was gratified because my reaction affirmed that his character's attributes instilled fear in the hearts of all who beheld him - to wit, me and, possibly, one of the dogs.  I was gratified because I got to hide quickly and avoid scarring my child for life, because, frankly, my body has never been fit for display and he was only four but the possibility existed that he possessed my photographic memory.

P.J., however, only saw me enter the kitchen momentarily, heard me yelp, and saw me run back into the bedroom and slam the door.  There was a space of time in which the cause of this rapid series of events was left solely to her imagination, and it could have involved my having just seen anything ranging from a sizeable cockroach to Ronald McDonald with a live chicken and a butcher knife.

"Um, dear?  There's a pirate in the kitchen."

This did not help.

I leave the rest to you.

October 17, 2018

the only constant

Today I am having an existential crisis.  I'm on a pain pill again, so it's a soft, floating, Snuggle-fabric-softener-bear kind of existential crisis.  But deep, out of the very depths.

The first thing that strikes me is how much pills define who I am.  I take pills for acid and sometimes for pain and most often for keeping my brain from killing me, for stopping compulsive hand-scratching and OCD touch reactivity, for calming me so that I don't hit myself and so I can sleep.

Accidentally going cold-turkey off the lithium a few weeks ago was a black-pit nightmare.  The suicidal thoughts returned as though fresh from a long vacation and ready to do their job.  Then I took a lithium capsule and they left again.  Right now, I'm reducing my dose back to 300 mg, and vague echoes of the thoughts called out yesterday, along with titanic irritability.  Today, both are gone.

Whatever the pills leave open for definition, hormones fill in.  There are days in my cycle marked for heightened bristling, expected intolerance of myself and others, weeping, malaise, even a runny nose.  All due to chemicals whooshing around in my bloodstream.

The crisis is, when I take all of that and look at it, I come away asking, Who am I?  Not my name and Social Security number, not my lineage, but my self.

My self.  If I can be tossed about so easily by chemical forces, internal and external, what is left?

I used to have basic pieces of self-definition.  P.J. and Therapist Gumby and most others I encounter believe in a person's essence, a self that underlies all of these influences.  I am not so sure of that.  I do not have faith.

I am kind, but now I do not know if I am kind without a pill, because sometimes if I do not take a pill, I am not kind.

I have an amazing memory, but I do not always have an amazing memory because a pill can mask it.  Years of Lamictal have left gaping holes in my memory.  "Hey, do you remember that time when ... ?"  No.  No, I do not.  I don't even vaguely remember that that thing might have happened.  There isn't a hole where it used to be.  There is no "Oh my god, I totally forgot about that!"  It's just missing.  Erased.  My memory, not amazing.  My memory, Swiss cheese.

I am funny, but there are nights P.J. tells a joke and I look at her and have to ask, "Was that funny?" because I really cannot tell.  If the pills are not working, other chemicals in my brain take away my sense of humor, even my ability to perceive it.  I blink, and try to understand it intellectually instead.  Do the pills give me a sense of humor, then?  I am not always funny.

I am a writer, but sometimes I cannot put words together.  Sometimes I have no voice.  I am not always a writer.

I am honest, but when I became bi-polar post-surgery, and before I was diagnosed, I lied.  I lied a lot, about something very big, and I hurt my loved ones unbearably deeply.  I scream inside when I think about this.  I am honest when my chemicals let me be.  I am not always honest.

Sometimes, I lose empathy.  Sometimes, I do not put others before myself.  I have been called brave.  Sometimes, I hide in the dark bathroom and wrap my arms around my knees and rock back and forth.

I am non-violent.  Sometimes I beat myself to bruises and it feels good and I relish it.  Sometimes I am a sick, bullying motherfucker who enjoys violently beating a weakling.

What is left?  What is intrinsic, what is not malleable and ephemeral?  Is there a core to Lille?  I am not spiritual and I do not believe in souls or energy channels or anything supernatural.  I am just a brain and a bloodstream.  I am pills and some chemicals and a disease that have a name and a Social Security number.

I am sore afraid, afraid that there is no Me.