May 31, 2018

dueling mammals

I desire this plushie.  Yes.
The worst has happened:  The shit-house rats and the aardvarks have met each other.  This happened in a dream last night, which happens to be the first night that I took a newly-prescribed lithium tablet, but I doubt that has anything to do with it because the dose is so low it's practically non-existent.

And I can't even remember the dream.  I just remember waking up with some sort of profound revelation about some celebrity's life that probably resembles the revelations that one experiences while doing acid or smoking a joint.  I wouldn't know.  I've never tried non-prescription drugs.  I didn't have the right friends in high school or college.

I know the rats and aardvarks met because they immediately hated each other.  The aardvarks are accustomed to having run of the dreams and are content to leave them weird enough but not tinged with that sense of "OMG I figured out a hitherto unknown truth about the Universe" ... the shit-house rats, on the other hand, have no respect for me whatsoever, and --

-- You know what?  I don't even know why I started this post.  I have no idea where I wanted to go with that train of thought, with Lunesta and lithium fighting.  Never mind.  Let us never speak of this again.

I can tell you that the football-kicking pain has dulled a little, enough to notice and enough to appreciate.  Not gone, but like I've had some brain-Advil.  The edge is off.

Coffee is off, too, but it doesn't count as a cancellation because the person is legitimately cat-yarking sick with bronchitis and their life sucks right now and I actually find myself angry at their immune system, but mostly sincerely hoping they feel better soon, because I know how much bronchitis sucks because of how I used to inhale stomach acid in my sleep before the gastric bypass and wake up coughing it up, and then I'd get bronchitis starting the next day, complete with a fever and metallic-tasting acid-soaked cough-loogies.

I just had to add "yarking" to the dictionary in Blogger.  I don't understand how it can have about four million blogs hosted on it and not know "shat" and "yarking".  Even if it's a personal dictionary, it should definitely know those two words by now.

p.s. If there are any therapists reading this, please remember to click on "June" tomorrow instead of checking in for two weeks and thinking that I'm dead because I haven't written anything.

May 30, 2018

i need to know how to break up with my mother

In a continuation of so many other things in my life seeming to slip away, the job thing is a bust.  Politics washed it all down the drain.  So much for looking forward to a change and a raise and a promotion.  It was yanked away.

Last year, it was our best friends in the whole world.  This year, the Universe has taken our precious dog and my some-words-other-than-precious mother, and yesterday it took my dignity because I picked up barbecue from our local restaurant and the furniture consignment store next door had put some nifty things out on display on the sidewalk, and I was walking and looking at a shabby chic bench we don't need and it had just rained a lot and I walked right into a huge hole in the parking lot that was full of water and it went "kersploosh" and five people saw me and I had to keep walking, and my sandals made a "click - squish - click - squish" sound all the way to my car.  But fuck them, because I had barbecue.  And onion rings for the kid.  And Wet Shoe, which is almost as bad as Wet Sock.

The lithium wasn't phoned in at the pharmacy.  My psy-doc forgot about me.

I'll also bet $0.62 that Thursday coffee with my preoccupation object will get canceled again this week.  That is how much loose change I have in my car right now.  It's mostly pennies.  I'd be sorry about the pennies, but you don't have to worry about it because I'll win anyway and then you'll owe me $0.62 and I'll have enough for a coffee refill at Sheetz after that.  I'll send you my Paypal account info.

I know I'm wallowing in self-pity at this point, because P.J. and the kid and Therapist Gumby have been there like god-damned solid rocks for me, and I for them, but I'm also in a lot of pain, so I'm trying to climb out of the self-pity by making plans about how to deal with the stupid shit like coffee dates and mothers and not being properly medicated.

I tell P.J. I feel like Charlie Brown wanting to kick the football.  She points out that no one behind any of the yanked-away things is of malicious intent the way Lucy was.

Fine.  She has a point.  But then I counter with Psychology 101 and the power of random reinforcement.  What if Charlie Brown had been allowed to kick the football every now and then, just often enough to make him always believe it would happen this time?  And does it really matter whether Lucy was mean and doing it on purpose?  What if Lucy really meant to let him kick it every single time, but something always happened?  A bird shat on her shoulder, or she fainted, or her armpit itched?  Things completely out of her control.  I'm sure Charlie Brown would have been understanding, always understanding.  But he still landed flat on his ass each time, didn't he?

I'm belaboring Peanuts.  I'll stop.

I just had to add the word "shat" to the dictionary in Blogger.

The meds will sort themselves out.  We'll get there.

Grief is grief.  Chester is not coming back.  We'll grieve.  We'll say he's at peace; we'll say he's not suffering; we'll remind ourselves that he had a good, long life; we'll cry whenever we see the places in the house he isn't.  For a really long time.  We'll get there.

Which brings us to mothers.  How do you break up with your mother?

We lost any chance of a meaningful relationship when I was twelve, even though that chance would have been slim and Slim was packing his rucksack.  Reading my diary wouldn't have been the biggest of deals if we weren't on rocky ground to begin with, and there was a lot of stuff in there about my Teacher and the innermost contents of my psyche, as opposed to which boy I might have had a crush on (I didn't) and hearts and kisses and inspirational quotes.

(Is that what other girls have in their diaries?  I have no idea.  I wouldn't go and read them.  I have a modicum of respect.  My son has one from a few years ago and I've never even been tempted.  For real.)

She read it and took from me what I would have never in a gazillion trillion epochs and eons given her willingly.  That sounds like something stupid I should have gotten over, but it wasn't stupid, or small.  It broke something that was already cracked and there isn't enough duct tape in the world.

I have spent my entire adult life communicating with her using a frequency just this side of sufficient to ward off guilt and trigger a Thing.  But we already had a Thing, for the five years follow my meeting P.J. and coming out in 2007, and my mother started it, and I have to tell you ... it was peaceful, not having to talk to her.  The niggle of socially-conditioned guilt was always there, but you know what?  That shit was totally manageable.  Then she got back in touch with "I think it's been long enough" and I fell for it.

Yes, she gave me life, and yes, she changed my diapers, and yes, she dropped me off at the skating rink and picked me up from school sometimes.

Maybe I'm not appreciating that "gave me life" part because I'm hanging on to even wanting to be alive by a thread, and some of that might be because of everything that didn't happen after being born.  Or maybe it's because I happen to know she got knocked up so my dad would marry her, because her modus operandi was always to have kids to make relationships stick.

I suck at being glue.  I'm like those generic glue sticks that result in bits of construction paper peeling off kids' projects and coming to rest in the middle of the school hallway.

I don't think she's aware that we're by-products.  I don't think she's aware that most things have always been about her.

I don't think she's aware that you can love somebody and still not be able to have a relationship with them.  What's that word the self-help books use?  Oh, yeah.  Toxic.

There are healthy relationships based on one person continuing to talk to someone only because they owe that person something.  These people are called tenant and landlord, respectively.

I want to ghost her.  I'd officially break up with her, but that would require writing something and then having a pit in my stomach because I'd be dreading her reply, and given my aversion to confrontation, I'm totally cool with being a selfish coward about this and going with ghosting.  Just disappear.  You don't call.  You don't write.  Return to sender.  Address unknown.

See all that stuff up there?  It won't take away the guilt, the eensie back-of-the-mind awareness that I'm out of compliance with societal expectations and possibly something with a moral basis and that it's my fault for being dramatic and over-reactive.  I know people whose mothers are far more toxic and they continue to put up with their shit.  That shouldn't have a bearing on my own choice, because that's their choice, but it makes me question the ghosting anyway.

And worse, there is knowing that nothing whatsoever, not even a battering ram to the head, will make her see that it's in any way due to anything about her.  Which is funny, since everything is about her, except personal responsibility.  For the rest of her days, she'll hold the opinion that I'm a terrible, wayward daughter and she's been victimized, and also that I'm a prodigal daughter who will repent and return and ask Jesus to forgive me for my sins, chief among which will be viciously carving out personal liberty from her, when I realize how very much I need her and how wrong I've been.  She will, in short, be wounded and disapprove of me.

Why does that bother me?

Oh.  Right.  I've spent the last forty-one years as an approval junkie.  It tends to become a habit.

It's not me.  It's you.

Therapist Gumby gives me permission to ghost her, and also points out that because nothing is black-and-white, always gray, it can be the right thing to do for myself and the bit that makes it gray, the lingering whisper of guilt and disapproval, will just have to be there, and I'll still be better off saddled with that instead of everything I do now to avoid it.  I think it's like physical pain.  It's never as bad as you're afraid it's going to be, once you're in the middle of it.  Like a flu shot.

Is that how I break up with my mother?  I just drive myself to the clinic anyway and know it's going to hurt, and come away ten minutes later realizing that the shot wasn't that bad and I just did something really good for myself?

May 28, 2018

even creepier than a reanimated corpse

There is little else muddier than a foxhole, and in addition to being completely unable to escape the messy mud of life and death all around you, there would be worms and bugs and probably some slithering translucent things that are never seen above-ground.

I think I'd rather be in a foxhole than to ever have to meet this again:

P.J. was going through years and years of unsorted camera roll, looking for pictures of Chester but also experiencing the slow, sinking realization that she is facing a twelve-hour project of getting her photos cleaned up.  We are speaking of a decade of not-infrequent picture-snapping with her phones.

And the expression about no atheists in foxholes bore out last night, because in spite of my atheism, when P.J. pulled this picture up and showed it to me, I reflexively slapped the tablet out of her hand and it went flying across the living room and I screamed, "THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!" at it and made a cross symbol with my arms.

Rose dug this ... thing ... up in our back yard and brought it inside seven or eight years ago, when she was an older puppy, and P.J. had to capture its unspeakable horror the way people whip out their phones during natural disasters or police brutality.  Me?  I had no memory of the apparition because even with my photographic recall, my hippocampus had extradited it straight back to the twisted hell from which it spewed forth.

What was it doing in our back yard?  What other evil lurks there?  I have chores to do today, like washing the grill because it caught on fire the other day, and cleaning the deck because the gaps between the planks are clogged with dirt and it's growing little plants now, and generally doing things with a spray hose that are really messy, and all of that is in the back yard, and I am now terrified.  Are there more of these things out there?  Do they watch me?

We need to sell this house.

p.s. Hey, mountain friend, I'm looking at you.  How do you think this compares with Creepy Olivia?  I'm really not sure who would win.

May 27, 2018

a god-damned shame

If you've ever wondered how my mother and I relate to each other on a daily basis, given the history I've shared in prior posts, the answer is that we don't.  Daily isn't in it, nor is phone contact.  I do try to toss her a fish once every few weeks, sometimes in response to a passive-aggressive "gee, haven't heard from you in a while" e-mail.

Conversation usually revolves around whatever we can each find that is superficial and occupies common ground ... leaf-raking, her varying degrees of success gardening in her back yard, the weather, and dog stuff.

And therein lies the rub.  Dog stuff.  My mother has loved and lost dogs, rescued greyhounds, and has adopted a high-needs dog and had to give her up because of the need to travel.  She has the warmest of hearts -- for dogs.  I told her we were losing Chester and she sent sincere condolences.

And because P.J. and I just waded through Hell and back home again, I thought that perhaps I would share a little bit more of myself with her, just on a lark, in recognition that this is one of the few areas of life in which we understand each other.  I did this by copying my previous blog post ("mud") into an e-mail to her -- being careful, of course, to strip out the bit about the Jewish zombie Jesus corpse jumping out from behind bushes, because even I can be respectful to those I know are to some degree religious, and more so to a parent.  My mother has been attending a church of some sort for a few years now and has mentioned this, so I sent the expurgated version in deference, while still allowing her to hear the story, which I think is good and needs to be told.

The more fool I.  This is what I got back from her later this evening:

"I'm so very sorry about Chester.  Truly.  I know he will be missed.

Lille, I love you very much.  And as I began reading the blog that you sent, I was amazed at the eloquence of your words and the depth of your feelings about the lady who has touched your lives so deeply.  I was so proud of you and thought to myself, "She should write a book or something"........

until I got to the last paragraph and was 'slapped in the face' by your taking God's name in vain.   As your mother, I am heart-broken.  As a woman who has humbly been forgiven by Him for all the years of sin and mistakes in my life, I am terribly offended.  I have let it go in the past, but I cannot this time.  This is not easy for me to write, but I feel compelled to write it.   Mom"

Stunned and slack-jawed I sat, for several minutes, because I was unable to move or speak or even think much.  I had been nothing short of sucker-punched.  When the fuck did she jump off the deep end?  And if my language at each of our yearly Christmas meals at Cracker Barrel has been so deplorable, why the hell didn't she say something then?  I took her failure to react to casual cursing as permission.  It's that dance you do, adult children and their parents.

She has been through enough in her life to know what matters and what doesn't.  I don't feel loss because there has never been much there to lose, but it bothers me, bothers me a lot, that she's gone and grabbed a paper cup of the Kool-Aid and sat down on the lawn beside my fundamentalist sister.  I thought there was a little space she had carved out for me, room for me and my weirdness and otherness, because I am her daughter, but it would appear there's a pew occupying that little space now.

For that matter, I'm gay.  Why the fuck is she even still speaking to us?  She probably prays for our redemption.  This I find ... pitiable.  But she's welcome to do it, if it helps her.

My response to my mother:

"I shall be more careful in the future to remove any such offensive language from my writing before sending it to you.  I apologize.  I will say that it would have been helpful to know, in that past, that it offended you, instead of you letting it go without saying anything.  I don't well abide false senses of security.  I'm glad you finally said something.  Thank you."

If it would have made any sense at all, I would have added, "Sincerely, Management" at the end.  And notice that I didn't say I'd stop god-damning every god-damned thing I god-damned see and write about, merely that I'd strip out the god-damned offensive content before sending it to her god-damned e-mail inbox.

It would be a god-damned shame if this drove another wedge between us and led to another five years of god-damned silence.  Such a shame.  How would I hear about her god-damned squash garden and the god-damned Weather Channel's forecast and how many god-damned pecans her tree is giving this year?

P.J.'s response to the whole thing:  "Turn up the 'fucks' to eleven."

Update:  I spent some time last night angry about my mother's fuckwittery and the callousness of her timing and the probable loss that will ensue, and I've been through it before and it is so very, very wearying, and I have cried some.  But all the while, I cannot get this out of my head:

Updated update:  The message back from my mother:  "Thank you."  Lengthy.  Concise.  Telling.  So here's another one:

May 26, 2018


The weather followed us for the entire trip to the crematorium.  While we wove in and out of weeping together, telling Chester stories, laughing, yelling at a fellow traveler for a dangerous move in traffic, weeping alone, and changing the subject altogether, the patches of dark and restless sky released torrential downpour, drizzle, steady rain, rain so heavy that traffic slowed, and the occasional brief, incongruous patch of blue-tinged shine.  The weather followed our hearts.

On the way back home, we wondered aloud during a patch of drizzle ... how do morticians do it?  Not dealing with dead people in general; corpses do not bother either of us in the least.  There is nothing creepy about a dead body.  Unless you're talking about one that rises from the dead after a couple of days and goes around showing off the holes and did you see the size of that spear? look what that guy did to me and "appears" to people, probably jumping out from behind bushes.  That's creepy.

But, no.  It's dealing with the heart-cords that baffles us.

In a city, someone running a crematorium or preparing a corpse for viewing and subsequent interment would be relatively divorced from the grief-stricken faces and the backstory and all that we do about death so that we can do something, something.  It would be a job, bodies and visages and using photos as a reference (Can You Draw Tippy the Turtle?) and knowing you were providing a kindly service to the people who loved what those bodies said and did when hearts still pumped and blood still flowed.

But what about the rural areas, the small places where one person would be the mortician and funeral director and maybe minister and possibly the one who hired a couple of his strapping cousins to dig the grave?  What about the ones who nearly always knew the person or his mother or his sister's husband?  What about the ones who played with that corpse when they were kids, when young eyes were open and taking in the world and the bodies ran barefoot in the rain, laughing until it made them out of breath?  How do they reconcile the life force and the return of each of us to the earth that in great complexity brought us forth?

I ask Therapist Gumby sometimes how he can sit for hours and listen to others' pain and keep from taking it home with him at the end of the day, how he can take all that on without hardening his heart.  He says he has spent years building nigh-impermeable boundaries, ones that allow him to keep standing so that it is safe for others to fall in his presence and then pick themselves back up.  He says he takes good care of himself, and that yes, it took a very long time to learn to do it well.

He says that life is messy.

Maybe the rural mortician doesn't have to harden his heart.  Maybe when he puts someone's remains in a box or an urn, they stay there, and he has learned to take good care of himself, even though death, too, is messy.

Today we learned that the lady who cremated Chester cries for every single pet in her charge.  Every time.  She still goes home and comes back the next day and does it again.  Every single one.  She said she's unable to wall it off or make it just a job.

They keep trying to find good help but people leave after a week or two because their hearts simply cannot bear what is involved.  The ones who believe they are strong leave sooner.  The ones who allow themselves to feel last a little longer.  And in between having staff to help, she works with the chambers and bags of ashes and bereaved owners herself.

And she has dogs of her own.

If you live in the same city, you've probably seen her in Target and had no idea you were in the presence of a god-damned superhero because she doesn't wear a cape.  But while you scanned your Tide Pods and AA batteries and those new skinny jeans in the self-checkout line, you were standing beside someone who sees through all of our plastic and pavement and is grounded in the earth that makes us and takes us back.  She is a mortician and she faces the truth six days a week and if it shone on the outside, her courage would make you avert your eyes.  She is not afraid of the weather, or the earth.  She is not afraid of the messy mud.

May 25, 2018


Chester is gone from us.

2003 - 2018
Auch das Schöne muß sterben 
Auch ein Klaglied zu sein im Mund der Geliebten, ist herrlich;
Denn das Gemeine geht klanglos zum Orkus hinab 

(Even the beautiful must perish,
But a lament on the lips of loved ones is glorious,
For the common goes down to Orcus unsung.)  --Brahms, Nanie

May 24, 2018

playing god

"Please ask the doctor if he can make a house call tomorrow after your office closes, to ... help us ... with Chester."

"I'll ask him and get back with you.  He'll come."

He would suffer.  Die of thirst.  We will not let him.


*long cradle, singing softly*

"Okay.  You can turn off the ECMO machine.  It's time."

A nod of dignity.  Shuts down the machine.  My infant son opens his eyes and looks at me, then closes them and dies in my arms.

He would have lost both legs and four fingers and lived with a colostomy and a permanent trach.


Sometimes there is a merciful god, and that god is us.

May 23, 2018


It was yesterday that made me finally cave in and cry Uncle.  The kind of day when you vacillate between being more or less okay, then having active suicidal ideation where you try to figure out whether the pills would absorb more readily in your stomach or your intestines, then laughing your ass off at a funny story and talking animatedly for a while.

I think I've reached a point where shit-house rats would look positively sane and stable when in my presence, maybe wearing tweed jackets and impassive expressions and smoking psychiatrists' pipes.

I'm going to start taking lithium.

I am scared of it because I fluctuate massively between being well-hydrated and getting dizzy when I stand up because I'm a quart low.  I will have to get my act together and always have a water bottle in my hand.  Otherwise, my kidneys are going to get pissed off and I could end up in the hospital, which will do wonders for my dependability at work and my ability to act as my kid's taxi cab.

That may sound trite, but those things are important.  When I'm at my lowest of lows, what keeps me going is utility.  Not self-worth or love or encouragement, but knowing that my paycheck is needed and I'm the only one in the house who has the time or ability to do some key things.  In that pit, I cannot feel P.J.'s words about needing me, words that usually produce a wave of strong sentiment.  I cannot palpate maternity and all it entails.  I can only feel the tangible tug of objective usefulness.  It's a thread.  It could stand to be thicker, but at least it's there.

But the lithium would keep me out of those lowest of lows.  So what's important to me will require massive amounts of water.  And salt.  Measuring sodium intake is apparently a Thing.  I can do everything in my power to stay hydrated and mean it.

Did you know that if you go really toxic with your lithium level, they have to pump your stomach?  How would they pump a pouch?  Is that only in case of overdose?  I have questions.

I am also piqued by inevitable weight gain.  I worked so hard to get to this place, the place where I like my clothes and feel right in my own skin, something that seems to be unaffected by the mood swings.  It took thirty-nine years to like my physical appearance and to feel a lightness when I tread.  My body is by no means perfect, but it's good enough.  And to lose it, lose most of my newly-won clothing and take up once more the existential guilt that always accompanied my obesity ... no, not piqued.  Heartbroken.

I can fight it, of course.  Most people don't win, but maybe I will.  There are probably other people out there who hate self-care but do it anyway.

It would seem the Lamictal experiment has backfired.  What's funny is that I just saw something crawling down the side of my coffee creamer bottle, out of the corner of my eye, but when I looked, it wasn't there.  That's been happening for a couple of weeks now.  Fuck that shit.  I swear I did things that I didn't actually do and forget to do things I need to do, and this is beginning to affect me as a wife and mother, and that's really bad ... but seeing crawling things that aren't there is over the line.  No.

The lithium can be administered sublingually, so absorption will not be an issue.  There is, at least, that.

Maybe soon, I'll be able to identify with the shit-house rats, and come down to their level of insanity.  It's good to belong.

May 22, 2018


I am not a Pastafarian, though I fully support the right of the woman in Massachusetts to wear a colander on her head for her driver's license photo, citing religious reasons.  I enjoy that kind of protest.  My son's school won't allow any Satanic-themed clothing per its dress code, but anyone can walk around wearing "Jesus is Lord!" or a Fellowship of Christian Athletes t-shirt.  I have a problem with that, a big one, but I lack the financial resources to raise sand about it, as well as the heart to drag my self-effacing kid into the egregious limelight that accompanies engaging in a much-needed challenge to our Christianity-saturated culture.

It makes me shake my head when Christians in America claim they are persecuted.

Religion is not a laughing matter to me, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or not.  It causes too much damage in the world.  That did not stop me, back in the day, from sporting a Jesus-fish magnet on my car that reads "'N' Chips".  It is now a refrigerator magnet, and sometimes it makes me smile, but only briefly.

My mind is on colanders right now because my mind is in a colander right now.  One with large holes and handles that get too hot from the steam.  One that is designed for sorting, say, rotini or manicotti instead of spaghetti.

In a comedic display of paradox, I can remember, at this moment, four things that I forgot in the past twenty-four hours.  Never mind carrying a bowl around for no reason.  I promised someone I'd finish up an essential project yesterday afternoon, and remembered it when I pulled into my parking space at work this morning.  Shit.  I played Schickele's P.D.Q. Bach sportscasting of Beethoven's Fifth for my kid, who exercised good manners and waited until the end to remind me I'd played it for him two years ago.  That hurt, the whole "I'm getting older and my kid is completely out of touch with the things that were part of my life and I can't share them with him" thing, so while we were waiting in the office building for his counseling session, I stared out of the window and saw a tree that was probably five or six years old, in the center of the lawn in front of the building.  I knew that tree.  We had one in the back yard of the house when I was a kid.  The bark always peeled off.  It was smooth.  I remember the shape of the leaves.  And I stared at it and stared at it and could not remember the name of it.  Even a search online of native trees here with those descriptors yielded nothing.  I still can't remember what kind of tree that is, and this brought me to tears because not only could I not share music with my kid, I couldn't even tell him about the fucking tree in my back yard, which I'm sure would have been incredibly interesting to him.

All of that rendered minimal the fact that I forgot to mail a letter for four days in a row.  I finally mailed it yesterday.

What bills am I forgetting to pay?  Did I set things up with the lawn guy?  I need to update the vet on Chester.  I need to write someone back about the solar panels we're selling on Craigslist.  I think.  Or maybe I decided they're a scammer.  I can't remember.

I can't remember.

I am angry that I can't remember.  I am angry that people keep saying it will pass or that I'm still functioning just fine or that I'm now like everyone else and no one can even tell the difference.  I know they love me and mean well but it just heaps coals on my head and I don't like things on my head because they are touching my hair.

It's the price I'm paying to have the Lamictal make my brain stop whispering bad things to me.  I know this.  And if I were completely feeling better like I thought I was, I would grudgingly consider that worth the price.  I thought I had leveled out, but I haven't.  I've swung again just as wildly as ever.  The meds are obviously in my system after two and a half weeks and working, because I'm sitting here in this colander and I feel like my brain is draining out through the holes, into the sink and down the drain.

Just go ahead and say it:  I have to give it time.  And I will.  What else can I do?  I chose this.

May 21, 2018

i can't word

This post is going to be disjointed, cobbled-together snippets.

The Lamictal is working now ... it's taken full effect, and I can tell, as I mentioned, by the fact that I cannot word.  I can't find names and I forget words I know.  Earlier this morning, I forgot someone's last name less than three seconds after they told me.  I do strange things like walk around holding a bowl I picked up earlier while setting about normal tasks, tidying the kitchen, putting away utensils.  Holding a bowl.  For no reason.

The effect on what must be my language centers is also giving rise to what feels like apathy regarding writing, posting here.  I have nothing to say now.  "My gut tells me it's temporary and is part of the adjustment period, and it will pass," P.J. said.  She said she had absolutely nothing whatsoever to base this on, but that woman's gut feelings are almost always spot-on.  It's kind of eerie.

This isn't emotionally-based silence.  I've leveled out nicely, but I've also been holding on to anger and annoyance.  I've had dizzy spells that weren't related to hydration.  It's an adjustment period.  Always an adjustment period.  I adjust to the things that anger me, decide I don't care about them any more, let them drift away.  Hobbies.  People.  Worldviews.  None of this is good, and it might be based in defense mechanisms.  I hope P.J. is right and they all come back to me, washed back up like flotsam that once was precious cargo.

Here are the things I care about right now:

I think I need to start using "free and clear" detergent because I keep getting a rash on my arm and I think it's coming from my dress sleeves.  I wear fall clothing in the summer because my office is always cold in the mornings.

We helped the kid finish his Julius Caesar Clue game last night.  P.J. added multiple globs of paint to Calpurnia, who proved to not only need nudity masked but was then nipping prominently because she's made of cold metal.  We rendered her bodice as modest as possible, given that this will be presented to a classroom full of ninth graders.  It's going to be touch and go here.  I learned that adhesive spray comes off of vinyl easily, but not hands, and that if you're gluing two bits of card stock back-to-back, you have exactly one chance to get it right because they are forever married and bonded after that point.  That spray shit is good.

I Googled myself this morning and opted my information out of everything that doesn't cost a lot of money to obtain.

We continue to struggle to get Chester to eat.  The chicken tenders are still mildly acceptable, but eggs are off, as are ham, pulled pork, chicken and rice, hot dogs, lunch meat, cheese, and Blueberry Pancake Captain Crunch.  Rose is getting fat off of our attempts.  However, last night we had rib-eye steaks, and we made an extra and cut it up for him, and steak is now his New Favorite Thing.  He even licked P.J.'s fingers afterward.  So now the fastidious little son of a bitch has selected rib-eyes, though we're making another pot of beef stew tonight in the hopes that he'll broaden the category to Beef In General.  We tried that Buddig beef in the little pouch a few days ago, but I doubt that counts as meat from a cow.  He prefers fewer parts per million of rat.  "I'll have the rib-eye, rare, without so much rat in it."

I don't give a shabby leather pouch of desiccated guano about the Royal Wedding.

The kid's dance performances last week have left me with a few earworms, such that I had to go out and find one of them on Spotify and add them to a playlist I named "Mix Tape", which currently has three songs in it.  Worst mix tape ever.  But I'm rocking out to "No Roots" by Alice Merton because the bass is phenomenal.  It almost makes up for three eternities of "Good Morning Baltimore" from Hairspray.  That one was textbook ear rape.  We've ordered the DVD of the performance and I will not tire until I have found software that will allow us to neatly snip that bit out of existence.

I now own a curling iron, a clothes iron, and a heating pad that all heat up in less than a minute.  This pleases me.

That's it.  These are the things on my mind, other than worrying that the muse seems to have gone on extended vacation.  I don't for a moment imagine anyone would be terribly bothered if I stopped writing, but I mind.  I do not like what it would portend.  I've said before that the meds shut down the parts of my brain that want to kill me, and that there is collateral damage that cannot be avoided.  That the meds are now encroaching on whatever parts compel me to write is nothing short of horrifying.

Leave them alone.  That's my china shop.  Please be temporary.  Please take your bull and leave.  You break it, you buy it, motherfucker.

May 18, 2018

the riot act

Fifty-nine minutes later ...
Southern humidity leads to the use of the expression, "I walked out of my house this morning and felt like I was covered by a wet blanket."

Someone said it this morning, and in my sleep-deprived, quasi-disoriented state, tinged with the benefit of premenstrual irritability, I asked, "Have you ever actually been under a wet blanket?  Has anyone?"

"Well ... no.  Not really.  But I can imagine what it would be like."

I persisted.  "No, seriously, why do we have that expression when, like, nobody has ever been under a wet blanket?"

The other one that kills me is, "He lies like a dog."  Dogs are the very best people and honest to a fault.  Humans lie to stay out of trouble, but dishonesty is impossible in a dog.  Even Chester, the kleptomaniac with mad skills at thievery, admits his wrongdoing by walking out of the back dog door (his normal punishment) with resignation, whether caught in the act or the next time one of us sees him.  Rose did the same thing just the other day, after pilfering a paper towel that she left lying on the carpet because after taking it, she didn't know what to do with it.  She saw me pick it up and immediately hung her head and slunk away.

Now the same person just threatened to "read someone the Riot Act," and I was given to wonder about the origins of that expression, which no one knows but everyone employs.  Wikipedia explained the unrest in Britain in the early 1700s and had a picture of a document containing the text of the Riot Act.  It had to be read to groups of twelve or more people who, standing around together, might not be discussing farming or who slept with whose maiden daughter out in the barn the night before, but instead, a plan for inciting a riot in an hour or two.  They couldn't be arrested unless someone had read the Act to them, and then they had an hour to finish their conversation about why the crops were inexplicably robust that year or whether said gratified man was to be a father soon, and return peacefully to their homes.  The whole thing generally worked well.

I saved the text to my desktop.  Next time someone merits it, I am going to literally read them the Riot Act, during which they'll scratch their head because there's an awful lot of "tumults" and "assemblies" and "God save the King" in it, and when I'm finished, they'll ask what the fuck that was all about, and I'll tell them, after which, in the spirit of the thing, if not the letter, I can rain down mighty wrath with full justification.

So now, I'll just wait for the phone to ring ....

Update:  My absolute fudd of an ex-husband pointed out at the dance performance last night that many people have been under a wet blanket, when camping or in the military.  Spoilsport.

May 17, 2018

daily victories

"I am older now, I know the rise and gradual fall of a daily victory." 
-Dar Williams

I went to the kid's dance performance at the high school last night.  I have to go again tonight, and yet again tomorrow night.  I had to take something for anxiety as I sat squeezed into an auditorium seat, surrounded on all sides by people and their indistinguishable murmurings.  The printed program listed thirty dances in all and the idea of sitting in that spot for the duration filled me with dread.  But numbers two, ten, eleven, and fifteen were good, and I marked them down.  During the second half, a dance about the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake made tears stream down my face.  It did not seem to affect the c-u-next-Tuesday sitting beside me who, in the pitch-black darkness that we the audience sat in, insisted on using her cell phone at a hundred percent brightness to view the title of the next dance at roughly two-minute intervals.  I had to shield my eyes, rather obviously, but she did not notice or did not care, or both.

During intermission:

Him:  (pic)  This is what the second dance has done to my knee.  Hope it goes well.

Me:  Swollen??  Ack!

Him:  No, but bruised.  I only go on it in one part tho.  And then I get to sit there for three eight-counts in pain.

Me:  Owwwwwwwwwwwwwww.  Ice packs await you.

Him:  OK

Me:  The Bollywood thing was FUCKING AMAZING HOLY SHIT.

Him:  Ik

Me:  I'm glad you're toughing it out.  The lady next to me keeps looking at her phone while it's dark out here on full brightness.  I'm going to be blind soon.

Him:  WTF?  Asshole.

I loved seeing fat girls and skinny girls and black girls and white girls and new girls and experienced girls, plus three guys, one of whom was my kid, up there dancing their hearts out with not an ounce of self-consciousness.

The kid is fourteen and growing and usually lumbers about the house, so watching him dance was pure cognitive dissonance.  He had to compensate for the bruised knee but didn't whine about it.  It was like a trophy to him, a badge of honor.  It made him a dancer.

He's signed up for two dance courses next year, as a sophomore, and intends to dance his senior year so his picture can be up on the slide show that they played for us afterward as a tribute to the soon-to-be-graduates who danced.  He says he's going to practice a lot this summer to keep in shape.  I'm wondering how that's going to compete with Rainbow Six Siege and Dark Souls III.

"How was it?  How did we do?" he asked me in the car, as we sat and waited for the New York traffic to clear out of the parking lot.  My approach to car lines of that magnitude is to say "fuck it" and sit and wait for the rest of them to get out of each others' way.  "It was surprisingly good," I said, and then thought better of it and appended some honesty because this is me and he wouldn't believe me if I left it there.  "Frankly, I was dreading it, but there were some really good parts.  Two dances made me cry and four more were enjoyable.  The songs about hearts being full of ten thousand dreams and how some guy found his home in the arms of some long-loved girl were nauseating, but it passed."

"So you liked it.  Cool," he said.

We went through the same McDonald's drive-thru with the same creepy-ass haunted predator toy display and got him a Big Mac, and a fish sandwich for P.J., and chicken tenders for me.  We drove home and found P.J. trying to get Chester to eat some freshly-cooked ground beef, which didn't appeal to him.  That was disconcerting as hell, since we've been able to get him to eat the equivalent of one meal each day, through cooking beef stew and scrambled eggs and chicken and rice and anything else we can dig through and find in the cold cuts drawer.

On an impulse, I sat down with my chicken tenders and pulled pieces off and fed them to him, and that dog is all up into him some McDonald's, apparently, because he ate the chicken with gusto.  So we've exhausted home cooking and have moved on to fast food.  This is devolving rapidly, but last night, he needed my dinner more than I did.  It made me smile.

All I ask is for a daily victory.

May 15, 2018

last night's episode

My co-workers are talking right now about a television series that they both watch each week, excitedly exchanging "did you see the part where ..." and "oh my god, I can't believe he ..." and speculations about how the plot will advance.  There are in-depth, psychoanalytical discussions about various characters.  It's like General Hospital being discussed over lunch salads.

Television is another opiate that just doesn't draw me.  Why?

I admit I might be in the wrong here.  What would be so bad about spending several hours a day leaving chores undone and drowning myself instead in the intake of what amounts to virtual reality?  To be lost in it and taken out of my own ever-present head?  And what is the difference between a fictional character from a television program and a fictional character from a book?  Both can come to life, be analyzed, be admired or feared or loathed.

I used to watch, twenty, eighteen, seventeen years ago.  I watched Seinfeld and The X-Files and The Simpsons.  And then I just lost interest altogether.  It wasn't a conscious or principled choice to stop watching television.  Even sports.  I used to be able to get into a football or basketball game and shout and cheer and be completely immersed in it.  Now I don't see what the fuss is all about.  It's annoying background noise.

I think we turned off our Cable TV about ten years ago.  I'm pretty sure.  I haven't noticed, to be honest.  We have a television and it lives in the basement and it stays turned off.  For that matter, when we bought our Lodge, it came with three large televisions, already wall-mounted, and only one is used (for the PlayStation/man cave arrangement, which reminds me that we bought a soundproofing curtain and I need to bring a hack saw so we can trim the metal thingie used to hang it up because we didn't measure correctly).  The other two already have trinkets and candles and flower arrangements in front of them.

I'm not alone.

I don't have anything against people watching television, then or now.  It's just that caring about television is foreign to me, and I can't identify with the people who always want to bring up, "Hey, remember that commercial where ... ?"  I look at them blankly and said, "No."  They say, ".... oh.  Um, okay.  Never mind."  Or better yet, "You really need to see it, it's got a gay couple in it."  That means I would fully identify with a character and the story would somehow alter my life forever, because I'm gay and they're gay.  No.  What it really means is that when people look at me, they think about television show characters instead of seeing me, the person in front of them.


I miss most movies now, too.  I've a friend who has made at least a dozen recommendations of you-must-watch-this-by-week's-end movies that I would totally love and that would make me howl with laughter, and I half-heartedly tell him I'll try, but we both know I'm not going to watch them.  I believe him.  I really do.  But my life isn't movie-shaped.  There isn't a window of two hours when I could sit down and watch, and if there was, watching television or a movie is the very last thing that would occur to me.  My brain scans the area instead for "what needs to be done?" and finds something.  That is how I keep going.  I stay useful.

I say again, I could be wrong for not accepting the drugs.  Sometimes I suffer and maybe I wouldn't have to suffer as much.  It still isn't any sort of staunchly held principle.  I just wonder .... why?

May 14, 2018

totally unfair

You know what really isn't fair at all?  When you make up a thing, like an amazingly good word that should be in common usage or a really fabulous product that you're going to go invent because you just came up with it yourself and it will revolutionize the world, and then you go look it up and find out that somebody else had that idea before you, even though you didn't steal it and you really did come up with it all by yourself.

(add your own caption -
as long as it's really mean)
I hate Virginia Foxx.  My hatred of her has its own synaesthesia colors (purple and brown).  I hate her with the fury of exploding stars.  And while all creatures must eventually die, I do not want her merely to quit this mortal world in her due hour.  When her time comes, I want her to have a massive, instantly fatal heart attack while standing beside a large water fountain inside an important congressional building, maybe near some elevators so there would be a lot of people nearby, and I want her to fall over dead into the water fountain in such a way that she stays upside-down and her skirt and slip fall up over her head, exposing the frayed elastic waistband of her Silvert's white cotton panties and her dreadfully veined legs.  Simply put, I want humiliation on a scale that would make it completely impossible for any journalist anywhere to write something respectful in her memory that could be taken seriously.

Something that would result in the video of "the Fountain Thing" being the first result in Google when searching for her name, a la Santorum.

Fuck you, #teamfoxx.

Anyway, I was expressing all of this earlier, and came up with "she'd put the bitch in obituary," and we laughed, and then I looked it up and it's already been said about five umptillion times.

I made up "snackrifice" and "sarcaustic" and "croggled", too, but some other asshole apparently got there first.

Update:  What is fair is to give due credit to an old friend for positing that Virginia Foxx is in fact the love child of Emperor Palpatine a/k/a Darth Sidious and Miss Prissy from the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons.  To wit:

May 13, 2018

a day's consideration of mothers

I wouldn't go so far as to say I despise Mothers' Day.  I just dread it.  I make a "yuck" expression when someone mentions it.  When I'm Queen, I will wipe it off the calendar and dust off my hands.

Every year, I'm compelled to use e-mail (never, ever a card) to send a "Happy Mothers' Day" message to my mother.  Sometimes I sit for five minutes, ten minutes, trying to think of something lighthearted that sounds sincere and covers up my insensate half of our relationship that underlies the words I type.

Because what else do you say to a person you're required to relate to for the duration, to give to and meet the needs of without getting anything back?  What do you say when the words come from a desire to ward off guilt and social castigation, when what you don't mean follows the path of least resistance?

Therapist Gumby frequently asks me to inventory what allows me to give my kid things as a parent that I never got from my own parents, what enables me to take a vastly different approach.  I say I cobbled it together from watching hundreds of people, listening to their anecdotes, paying attention to the norms of my generation's parenting.  I read avidly during my pregnancies about breastfeeding and cloth diapering (to which I said "pfffft, fuck this" after three days) and skin-on-skin attachment.  I had access to information that my mother did not.  I used that information.

P.J. once described me to someone as "fiercely maternal."

My mother fretted when my kid was born and I chose to breastfeed and did so for thirteen months.  She said she was worried he wouldn't get enough to eat, and when he was born at nine pounds and weighed seventeen pounds at seven weeks old, she turned about and fretted because he was getting too much.  I ignored her.  What I heard was a woman who was vicariously suffocating, feeling chained by the demands of a child on her.  I was a different kind of mother before he was even born.

(When my first son was born, she asked me to get rid of our cats because she believed the urban legend about them stealing babies' breath.  You can understand why I looked around for other options.)

There's more to this day than my own discordant dance with my mother.  It's to the point where complete strangers, always women, say "Happy Mothers' Day" to other women, as lightly as if it were "happy holidays" or "enjoy spring break."  All of the arrow-piercings in the hearts of those who, like me, have had children to die, or miscarriages, or heartbreaking abortions, or infertility, all of the little pricks of social rejection experienced by women who have simply chosen not to have children, are unregarded.  The grief of those who just lost their own mothers.  Older women in grocery stores will see young women with burgeoning bellies and smile and say, "Happy Mothers' Day!  Is this your first?"  They never know what might lie beneath glib, sometimes rehearsed replies to such questions.

Maybe losing my first son molded me.  Maybe he is the reason I pored through books and articles and sought advice from people in my life whose parenting intrigued me.  Maybe he was the impetus for my cobbling together my own mothering of my second son, the countless rocking-chair hours with him on my shoulder, teaching him to read at three, reasoning with him instead of spanking, letting the cursing fly free so we can completely be ourselves at home.  To be fair, he started that bit:

See that?  The little fucker flipped
me off while still in utero!

May 12, 2018


Until one week ago, I had never knowingly heard a percolator.  So the Universe decided to throw a bit of synchronicity my way.  It does that when it's bored.

I had a vague notion that a percolator was a kitchen thing that had something to do with heating liquid, probably water, and that bubbled or something.

I had dinner with my best friend last Saturday and she dragged me over to a counter in her kitchen and showed me her new prize possession after dinner:  A stainless steel percolator.  She explained that there was always one going in her grandmother's house, and she found the sound incredibly comforting because she associated it with the quiet peace of that house and their slow, deliberately paced activities.  Sometimes, it was the only sound heard.

So she poured in water and fit a stem just-so inside it and poured some coffee grounds into a holder at the top, and closed the lid and turned it on.  Almost immediately, the sounds came, and they did sound familiar.  A restaurant my own Grandma took me to in childhood?  Someone's house when I was too young to be aware of the ambient sounds?  This is how they made coffee?  I started drinking coffee a few years ago, just as pots gave way to the ubiquity of Keurig machines.  And my own Grandma's apartment was littered with empty tins of International Coffee instant mixes that she must have thought would be useful some day.

So that's a percolator.  Huh.

Three days later, I voted.  I drove to my polling place because I hold a fundamental opinion that Americans have been sacrificed for and fought for and bled for solely so that they can continue to enjoy democracy, and that they therefore need to get their asses to their designated locations and vote.  I expected a queue, but there wasn't one, so I walked in through the old door on the side of the church that is badly in need of paint, with the brass handle that always sticks.  The large room held four women, each at a table, with stacks of forms sitting in front of them.  There were no other voters.  It was ... spooky.

"Looks like I came at just the right time," I joked.  "No," said the first woman, as she checked my address and asked for my signature.  "We've not exactly been ... overwhelmed today."  I looked at the top of my ballot and saw "053" there.  I was the fifty-third voter, and it was already evening-after-work, so that includes the whole day.  Fifty-three people.

"Seriously.  Only fifty-two other people have been here today to vote.  You've got to be kidding me."

"We're glad you're here."

The room suddenly grew tense.  We shared an anger that would have taken so many words to express that we said no words at all.  And that's when I heard the percolator quietly bubbling and hissing in the tiny church kitchen at the back of the room.  "Is that a percolator?" I asked.  "Yes, hon, it sure is.  We need some coffee to stay awake," said an elderly black woman closest to the kitchen.  I said, "I just heard my first percolator a few days ago.  I've lived forty-one years and had never heard one before, and now I've heard two."  "Mmmmmh," the woman said.  She was smiling at me gently.

"Mmmmmh."  Where have you been, sugar?  It's a percolator.  Coffee and comfort belong together, she was saying.

I voted.  And if I had spent a day in a room voluntarily exercising hours of futility, like these women had, I'd want the comforting sound of a percolator, too.

May 11, 2018

the sighingest dog

Chester isn't going to be with us much longer.  Possibly a day, or two days, or weeks, or months.  Possibly some hours.  Possibly much longer.

He's refusing food now, and more to the point, his pain meds.  Maybe injections will sort it out.  Maybe he's telling us.  We'll know when we know.

I refuse to write a eulogy.  I don't do "was".  I will write "is" today, because right now, Chester still likes ear noogies.  Today, this moment, this hour, he is.

According to the charts that debunk the "seven years" myth, Chester is 93, not 106.  That's still impressively venerable.  His muzzle is gray but it makes him look even more dignified.

Chester is the sighingest dog in the world.  He lies down and sighs audibly and meaningfully.  You can almost detect the ennui in his sighs and the sound of his elbows thunking on the floor.  He sighs in paragraphs.

Chester is a kleptomaniac of the innately talented variety.  He counter-cruises and finds interesting things to steal, for the purposes of either eating them or hoarding them.  The most memorable one was the wad of $45 cash.  Money is money.  We found the $20 bills a few days later and bleached the ever-loving Christ out of them.  Cleanest money you've ever handled.  The fiver wasn't worth it.

Chester is extremely fuzzy.  He looks like a diminutive lion, with a great mane of amber-gold fur around his neck and chest and these little silky, wavy wisps behind his ears and face.  His mother was an Aussie and we're pretty sure, given his disposition and size, that his daddy was a Golden.  He has a thick undercoat and a truly majestic tail.  Sometimes, when he's cruising to find something to steal, you can see just his tail go by, held high.  It looks like the world's fluffiest feather duster, but even more awesome.  When we have him shaved at the beginning of each summer, he loses half his body weight and looks like a very confused sheep that is wondering what the fuck happened.

Chester is too smart for his own good.  Well, actually, too smart for our own good.  It serves him quite well.  Now that he's elderly, if someone comes up our driveway and it becomes the duty of the dogs to go bark at them and announce our territory, Chester will feint and run outside for just a second with Rose, and then immediately come back inside and go to the front door channel of Dog TV and watch Rose do all the work.  It's efficient and gets the job done.

Chester loves to beg at the table.  He knows the precise sound of a spoon or fork being set down in an empty bowl - not a bowl with one bite left in it, but truly empty - and the tell-tale "clink" on the side.  That's his moment.  He's a sucker for cleaning bowls.  He longs for them with a terrible desire.  We've engaged at times in enabling behavior.  We've only ourselves to blame.  But on the nights when we refuse to let him lick the bowls, he sits down and fixes one of us with a piercing gaze and unwavering focus, and flips his ears over puppy-style to strengthen his case, and then begins a series of whines and noises.  They start off high-pitched and pitiful, and if that doesn't work, they gradually drop in pitch until he's grumbling.  This ends up sounding like werewolf howls, and we once recorded him doing it.  I make him make the werewolf noises until he's done a good run of them; only then will I get up from the dinner table and go fetch the dogs' dinner.  This is a family ritual.

Chester is a big, fuzzy ball of love.  He comes and puts his head in P.J.'s lap with the insistence of a cat.  You will stop whatever important thing you are doing and pet me, right now.  No, really.  He raises a paw and puts it on her lap.  Right now, damn it.  Give me all the lurves.  Okay, now the other ear.

I said at least six pictures, didn't I?  Here are some great pics of Chester over the years.  I don't think he'll mind my putting them up.  I'll ask him this afternoon.  He hates having his picture taken, and knows when a phone camera is being aimed at him without possibly being able to know.  He senses it and gets up and leaves.  Probably his crabby old age.  He didn't mind, back in the day.  I mean, check this one out:

This is a one-year-old Chester who got snow
on his nose.  He totally posed for this one.

This is Chester preventing my brother-in-law
from leaving after he came to visit.  Nope, he said.
You're staying here.  You give good ear noogies.

I called this pic "Tao de Chester" when I took it.
He looks wise, or smug.  Maybe both. 
About four years old in this one.

These days, Chester (ignore Rose, who
is too dumb to figure things out on
her own and takes her cues from him)
sleeps with his head hanging off
of his bed.  We don't know why.

See?  I told you.  Head off the bed.  What is with that?

One day not too long ago, when Chester
and Rose were waiting for P.J. to come
home from work.  They always watch for
her car on Dog TV.  See the majestic tail?

Chester is patient and stoic and mild and laid-back.  He has been putting up with bone-on-bone hip pain for what must be quite a long time, and has never once complained or whimpered, until finally he did because it got to be too much.  We want a time machine and a crystal ball and the ability to know just when the pain got bad and the chance to begin taking it away then, not after months or years of silent, tolerated agony.  We want the ability to go back and fix it.

We also want an afterlife.  Not just "always will have been".  For a couple that doesn't believe in an afterlife, there is still the very human temptation to wish there was one, at these times.  If there was any sort of heaven, I have encountered in my life only a few people who would deserve to find themselves there.  Just a small handful.

And I'd hope they were damned well "dog people" because the place would be absolutely teeming, brimming, filled to overflowing with dogs.

May 10, 2018

julius caesar clue

The kid has a world history project due soon.  He has to make a board game using something historical, which opens up a lot of possibilities, since there's a lot of history.  He settled on Julius Caesar Clue as his game.  It's due soon and he's advanced to the "writing down some ideas" stage, but at least he's also thinking about what materials he'll need.  This brought us last night to the issue of Roman figurines and how the fuck to find some.

Naturally, I turned to eBay.  It has everything.  Everything.

While these looked promising, I stumbled across this set, and sent him the link for approval:

They were advertised as having "minor paint chipping".

Me:  "Sent u email re Roman figurines, minus the woman with the worn-off tit."

Him:  "Could I get the woman one for Calpurnia or Cleopatra?"

Me:  "Ummmmmm ... can we paint something over her exposed nipple?  It's a set."

Him:  "Yes.  My characters are Octavian, Cassius, Brutus, Cleopatra, Calpurnia, and Mark Antony."

Me:  "The one with dark hair and red cape in the back could be made female.  Ish."

So now we have to figure out how to femme out a centurion and also prevent the kid from being expelled from school by bringing a depiction of a cancer-hollowed breast exposed by a wardrobe malfunction.  These are really tiny, so I don't know how I'm going to manage a wig for the cross-dresser.  I've got to find some little scraps of cloth somewhere, too.

I don't "craft" at all.  I once e-mailed my best friend:  "Could you please come over here and do this diorama box for me?  Perhaps you could wrap it magically in some pretty cloth and secure that with a glue gun or some other craft-oriented apparatus.   I don't know.  Because all I've got right now is a fucking shoe box with dust on it, some Scotch tape, and an inside-out Trader Joe's bag that ripped down the middle, and I'm pretty much at a stopping place.  Kthx."

Crafts are activities designed for people who don't throw things after two instances of minor frustration.  The gods forbid paint is involved.  P.J. doesn't really let me near paint now.

The exposed Princess Leia-like leg is a nice touch, too.  She's very obviously not an Amazon.  Fine, the rear left soldier will have to be Cleopatra.  And the guy with the brown nose?  Brutus.

This might be the first Clue game that is actually interesting.

May 9, 2018


It's got bells on.
It's not just that the first decent geek humor I was exposed to came from the likes of Monty Python and Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse and Fawlty Towers.  It's not just that P.J.'s mother was English and her speech is delightfully peppered with phrases and wit that were bestowed.

It's that I have, I think, a propensity, and aptitude, for Britishisms.  They stick in my vocabulary more readily than other modes of speech, and I incorporate them into my conversing and writing without intending to do so, often without realizing I'm doing it. 

It's entirely possible I was born on the wrong side of the pond.

I remember the first time I used the phrase "playing Silly Buggers with us."  P.J. looked at me and said, "My mother always said that.  You are the only person I've ever heard say that besides her."  I got it from Life, The Universe, and Everything.  I liked the way it sounded.  It fit what we were bandying about at the moment.  I haven't the slightest idea why it came out of my mouth.

I can go full Southern if I need to.  It's my native tongue, but it isn't my default setting now.  Britishisms (some of which I get wrong, like "steady on") fit the things I have to say, the way I think. 

I ask people what they're on about, and they just look at me.

I tell them I'm about to take the piss by playing a practical joke on someone, and they just look at me.

I tell them to pull the other one when I don't believe what they're saying, and yes, they just look at me.

Hunh?  You need to speak English, they say.

I am.  I don't mean to, but I am.

May 8, 2018

ray stevens

I've left something out of my music discussions, something I don't talk about any more:  When I was a pre-teen, before folk music swept me away into deeper interest, I had a major thing for Ray Stevens' music.

I don't talk about it now because he went off the conservative deep end some time ago.  I fear what people would think.  I was already chastised by one friend a few years ago for liking one of his songs, even though my fondness is based in nostalgia and not current taste or regard for him as an artist.  I would not go hear him in concert now.  I would not support him financially or otherwise.

One of my childhood dreams was to meet him someday.

I recently downloaded exactly one album that contained a song I wanted to hear again, and played the song for P.J. in the car.  She didn't think it was funny.  The shame and humiliation I felt was penetrating, greater than what would have been commensurate with the situation.  There was a dissonance, an incongruity, between me-then and me-now, and it was profoundly embarrassing in that moment.

Back in the day, that music brought me a bit of light in the darkness.  I laughed.

I collected cassette tapes, enough to fill a shoe box I stole from my sister, beginning with the cassette that belonged to my parents (I Have Returned).  I understood the humor.  I understood the social commentary, and at the time, being reared Republican (so I was told) and Baptist (undisputed), it aligned perfectly with my worldview.  I knew others who loved his music, too.  It fit.

Now when I listen to the music, the female backup singers grate on my nerves and the whistles and sirens and comedic sound effects make me uncomfortable.  It's all over the top.  They aren't funny any more.  Something was lost along the way.  But there was a golden era, between the young Ray Stevens and his liberal social and political critiques, and the older Ray Stevens with social and political discourse coming from an almost polar opposite place.  An era when he focused on what was funny in life, made up characters and mocked Southern culture and the plight of the average Joe.  That was the music that I embraced, though I'm now aware some of it was hurtful to those outside my white, straight, Protestant Southern culture.  I stopped listening in my mid-teens and haven't been exposed to the newer, more inflammatory material he produced.  The Ray Stevens I knew was, in my child's eyes, innocuous.

I still know every word to every song.

May 7, 2018

defcon two

It's difficult to write when you're seethingly angry, but can't quite put your finger on why.  I feel like a bear wandering around roaring at jar candles and a loaf of bread and the floor, and then I feel even angrier because they won't fight back.

Lille's trying to process some very serious stuff ... rejection and abandonment, neither of which is real, except they're very real to her, and helplessness in the face of being misunderstood.

She is equipped to deal with none of these things.  She's a child.  Therapist Gumby says the adult, rational me should explain these things to her and help her use my accumulated wisdom and cobbled-together loving parent to process them.

I tell him I have no idea how to even begin going about doing such a thing.  Adams said you can't fire missiles at right angles to reality.  That's what it would feel like I was trying to do.

Ye gods, but it would feel good to fire those missiles.

May 5, 2018

open letter to jenny lawson the bloggess

First of all, it's 5:03 a.m., which is probably why this is happening.  I should not be awake and the outer fringes of Lunesta are clinging to my brain and the aardvarks haven't quite retired for the evening.  They're sitting around smoking little aardvark ciggies after a hard night's work entertaining me in dreams, and about to pack it up and head wherever home is.  They're talking total shit about me in their smoky lounge.  I'm usually soundly asleep and miss this part.  Caught you, little fuckers.  Get a real job.

I have questions for you.  Questions about things like how you deal with receiving between 53 and 687 accolades in the comments about every word you say, how funny and wonderful a writer you are, how relatable, and whether it all starts blending together and sounding impossible and insincere or whether knowing all that love out there is real and it buoys you, instead of just making you laugh.  Does it make a difference when you're in the darkest places or wanting to draw blood from your scalp?  Can you even hear any of the love or the funny or the empathy at that point?  I can never hear those things, only the punishment voice.  I want to know if you have learned to hear them, if they see you through, and how you learned.

You have amazing boundaries and I'm jealous as all hell of that.

I recently realized that I end up mentioning you, your book, and things you have said in my own just-born-last-year blog rather a lot.  So much resonates.  "Jenny says depression lies."  I haven't even gone through and read the last eight years of content on The Bloggess, and I've ordered one of your books and have the other sitting around for the times when I allow myself to crack it open and savor exactly one chapter.  So this isn't creepy because I haven't spent hours and hours poring through every scrap of information about you and completing a portfolio and I'm not on my way to Texas to stand outside of your house and worship you.  Just telling you this because it's important to know these things.

I didn't model my "Random Shit" category after your "Random Crap", I swear it.  It was my very first category.  Who doesn't need a catch-all for weirdness?

But back to the blood:  This is the way in which you have most helped me, because I self-injure, and when that happens I have a fleeting thought wherein I consider doing it your way, hidden by hair, but I opt instead for relieving that horrible pressure, the one that builds up that you can't explain to somebody else who doesn't do it, by smacking myself repeatedly or clawing my arm to bloody shreds with my fingernails.  It's never really shreds; it just looks like a bunch of fingernail marks that make a pattern, like a kind of sick art.  I usually do the latter in the middle of July and have to go around for two weeks afterward wearing long sleeves and cardigan sweaters when it's 100 degrees and people ask me why and I say I'm cold and they ask my why I'm sweating and I say I'm not and they stop arguing because I'm too weird to converse with at that point.

It works out, but I am sweating and making sure they can't see my left arm.  It's still better than hitting because I gave myself a black eye once and you can't hide that unless you start wearing a niqab one day and everyone in my life knows I'm an atheist so they'd ask if it was an early Halloween costume, which is totally disrespectful to the concept of hijab.  Even I have standards.

No, really, back to the blood:  You helped me, and still help me, because I feel slightly less like a freak who is the only person in the world who has felt this and done this, and the incongruity between those rare moments and the comparatively normal, functional rest of my life doesn't seem as strange, because you experience that, too.  Even knowing there is one other person out there casts it in such a different light.  I can keep going, even with broken parts.  I'm a fucking Toyota.  It helps my wife, too, knowing there are others who care for us.  She isn't isolated.

The aardvarks would like for me to stop talking about blood now and are mashing out their ciggie stubs and wishing I'd empty the ash trays once in a while.  I am so tired of apathetic aardvarks who can't keep their own god-damned lounge tidy.  Is there a union I can report this to?  Hey, do you have a taxidermied aardvark?  I imagine they're kind of large but that wouldn't stop you and the Victorian costume could be really elaborate because of the size.  Just cover all four ankles.

Jenny, thank you for putting yourself out there raw and exquisitely expressive.  You might have started years ago by saying, "If this helps one person ..." because that is how I started my blog, which is more whining about therapy and really is my therapy and the more I read back through it the more boring it sounds, but if it helps one ... just one ... and you've helped many thousands know they're not alone.  I don't know about their lives, but I know about mine, and I'm grateful.  Mission accomplished, amigo.

Not-the-weird-kind-of love,

May 4, 2018


Before the onset of wet dreams and awakening hormones, before cliques formed and baseball cards were traded, there was among the kids of my generation the fantasy of winning the equivalent of the lottery:  The famed five-minute shopping spree, wherein a lucky kid got to fill as many carts as possible, as fast as possible, at Toys’R’Us.

Spotify is the first real online service I’ve signed up for, and I feel like one of those kids in the throes of materialistic ecstasy and abandon. 

The forgotten songs scratched out from memory and love rekindled.  Flavors of childhood, early adulthood.  If ever you loved it, they have it.

That doesn't begin to cover the benefits.  For instance, if your skin crawls at the strident crowing of a particular Verdi soprano, you can choose another album of the same work and roll the dice.

I got back the pieces I could play on the piano in my adolescence.  Mozart's Fantasie in D Minor, the runs up and down the piano that I learned, the crescendos and textures.  I had not heard it in twenty-five years, and chills and wisps of lavender and motor memory awoke against the leather cover on my steering wheel. 

I dove in and went swimming in Doc Watson's decades of music.  His voice is singularly calming.  Its timbre marries his humility in spite of the course of his life, the blindness and bereavement and crowds of fans and mastery of the guitar in his hands.  It's a voice sometimes witty and merry, sometimes earnest, and always grounded in the world, as it is.  It is everything I am not.  It is medicine.

I can listen to songs from The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, indulging my secret Disney holdovers, and P.J. doesn't need to know about what happens in my car, does she?

It says much about me that the first thing I did was create playlists and include all of the things that are already available on my USB drive in the car.  The main point of the service is the introduction of other things its algorithm suggests you would enjoy, but I have little use for that.  I know the danger.  I might accidentally branch out.

But for me, it's aisles in the toy store and the chance to take anything and everything off the shelves that I want, to my heart's content.