July 31, 2018


From a parking deck
to our front porch.
One day I looked up and he was pushin' eighty,
An' brown tobacco stains all down his chin;
Well, to me he's one of the heroes of this country,
So why's he all dressed up like them old men?

  -- Guy Clark, "Desperadoes Waiting For a Train"

It's a wonder we ever open our hearts.  Especially those of us with a network of defense mechanisms that rivals military bureaucracy in its complexity.  But we do, sometimes, when love comes knocking.

I wasn't expecting some things.

I'd forgotten the unrelenting exhaustion that comes with having a baby in the house, and the mantle a parent assumes when a toddler graduates cruising and becomes a fully mobile machine hell-bent on putting every single thing it can reach into its mouth for sampling and analysis.  Even after puppy-proofing, having Molly is reminding me of that thing where you know where your young child is at all times, a radar, an awareness that is always present and scanning, even when you're involved in another task.  It's like leaving Bluetooth on and then wondering why your phone battery drained so quickly.  P.J. and I are both sleeping but utterly spent.

I wasn't expecting the swell of emotion this morning at work.  I miss my dogs.  Molly wasn't squirreled-out this morning; instead, she sat patiently with one ear up and her head tilted and watched while I brushed my hair and teeth and dressed for work, issuing the occasional small whimper for attention.  She wanted to be beside me.  Rose accepted affection as though she would take the crumbs left over, almost resignation.  I know I'm doing twelve different kinds of projecting and anthropomorphizing right now, but I miss my dogs terribly and want to be home with them, to give and receive love.

And then there's the part that completely blindsided me.  This morning, even though late for work, I spent that moment with Rose, lavishing affection, and saw in her face an expression that I've only ever seen on Chester's face.  Her eyes said, I'm an older dog now.  They said, I'm mortal.  Rose is eight and I know the odds are we have years left to enjoy her company, and it has been a thing of mirth, watching her and Molly play together these past two days.  But this morning, her eyes said, I'm the older dog now.

My own eyes are leaking now, just from typing that.

It might come from watching her manifest alpha behaviors that Chester used to exhibit, and an intersection with grief.  Rose is still my sweet girl, and I must look past my heightened awareness of the white hairs increasing steadily in her fur and on her muzzle, past having her doe-like grace and slower pace thrown into relief by Molly's puppy energy, past how much sand has already poured through the neck of her hourglass, and past the memory of her at Molly's age, sitting in her pen looking up at us with a pensive, curious puppy face.  Past all of these things, I must see Rose as Rose, my simpleton baby girl who needs me now more than ever.

I have two children, but I have only reared one.  It is foreign to me how a parent's heart handles siblings.

July 29, 2018

truth in advertising

Someone has cast a spell upon our house, and I alone resist it.  Both dogs are snoring on the floor at my feet, and P.J., who took the lion's share of last night's puppy-wrangling, has dozed off beside me on the sofa.  All is quiet except for the hum of the air conditioning and my typing, which is amplified.

This is making me giggle to myself.  They're all konked out.  My coffee was better.

As I said, we got Molly yesterday from a rescue smack in the middle of South Carolina.  I've often wondered how a cartographer would set about determining where the "middle" of an irregularly shaped state is, but method aside, I know we were there.  This involved a different highway than the one we drove a week ago to visit family.  This one was devoid of those body-count marquees (depriving us of the satiation of our morbid curiosity about the current total - oh, wait, they have a web site) and paved a bit better, but it was littered with memorial intersections and interchanges.  Signs like "The Mary Jane Doe Memorial Intersection" and "John H. 'Jesse' Fluffmeister Interchange".  We were wondering why these folks only got an intersection and not a whole stretch of highway like notable folks are given in other states.  It seems stingy.

Our road trip game yesterday involved car colors.  We got behind a Ford Escape that was an unfortunate shade of ungodly shit-gold, and decided that we needed to know what Ford calls that color.  This led to some Googling, then our own imaginary car line with realistic color naming, for the consumer weary of considering clothing and car colors that are marketing meaninglessness:

Ford’s Colors
Our Colors (Obviously Superior)
Canyon Ridge Metallic
Screaming Inflammatory Disease Red
Ingot Silver
You Came In Second
Lightning Blue
Cerulean Fever Dream
Mosquito Dusk
Oxford White
Endangered Polar Bear
Shadow Black
The Cowl of Death
White Gold
Beige Lady
Cinnamon Glaze
Dried Blood
Deep Impact Blue
Heterosexual Cub Scout Leader
Electric Spice
Your Baby Shat
Karat Gold
Your Baby Ate Mustard, Then Shat

See?  You would totally know what color of car you were getting, if you shopped with us.

through the streets broad and narrow

Patience is a virtue.

Which is a damned shame, because neither P.J. nor I partakes of it in a quantity measurable by behavioral scientists.  But we've heard good things about it.

Oh god, the stereo wires.  I didn't even think about those.  And my charger.  Unplugged that.  Get away from the pillow with bead fringe!  Need to put that away.

See, what happened is, we saw another picture and P.J. was smitten and it grew on me, too, and next thing we knew, we had put in an adoption application with three references and an extensive history and vet contact information and retinal scan results, and it was approved within an hour even though the vet office was closed and none of the references was contacted, because it looked legit.  It looked legit because I know how to type on PDF forms instead of tediously printing them and writing them out and scanning them.  I guess it looked like we had our shit together.

We found ourselves in a car yesterday, with Rose in the back with our Lodge luggage, driving once again into the heart of South Carolina and along streets broad and narrow to retrieve a "shy, cautious" German shepherd mix four-month-old black-and-tan puppy from a Shepherd Rescue organization.  This "shy" pup immediately jumped all over P.J. with kisses and love and excitement, then hopped into our van.  "We ready to go?" she asked.  "Come on!"  Shy, m'arse.  She was bloody well waiting for us.

We stopped at the first rest area along I-77 to walk both dogs.  Then they waited together in the back while P.J. and I took turns going inside for our own piddle breaks.  Molly and Rose waited side by side in the back while I sat with them.  Rose leaned over and licked Molly's face with a kiss, then settled back into her keen watch for P.J.

The rescue had taken her from a high-kill shelter and had named her after a flower, which is all very well, but ludicrous, given her personality.  Anyway, after Molly the First, we were singing "Molly Malone" in the kitchen, then read an article after which "MrsMollyMalone" was a commenter; following this, in the checkout line at PetSmart, one of the three examples hanging up of the engravable tags was "Molly", right next to "Fido" and "Coco".  P.J. and I looked at each other and said, "Right, then.  Okay, Universe, have it your way.  Overbearing much?"  P.J. has never actually named any of her dogs; it's always done for her, and this was no exception.

Yeah, Molly.  Molly has ears with superpowers.  She can put one or both of them up at will and they look like diminutive radar dishes.  Her brow wrinkles when she's concerned or interested.  Total German shepherd face.  We can't figure out the other breed in her because she's mildly elongated with shorter than normal legs.  No, not a Corgi or a Dachshund, but something interesting, no doubt.  We'll see the vet on Friday.  We'll have to ask their opinion on matters.  It isn't so pronounced as to be a sign of dwarfism.  And in two months she'll need to be spayed.

We stopped at the PetSmart in Rock Hill coming and going, first for a leash (and the final sign from the Universe about her name) and then for all the things.  So many chew toys.  And we're glad of it now, because she's gone through nearly all of them within twelve hours.

Welcome home, Molly, you sweet, kissy little compact bundle of destruction and curiosity.

Rose can't settle down.  She keeps walking around, surveying the damage.  Sometimes she stops and looks at us.  "Why are you doing this to me?  What did I do?" she seems to ask.  But then again, they began playing together fifteen minutes after we introduced Molly to the house and, thus, Rose's domain.

Rose puts her into submission over and over again when they play, and at first we thought Molly might be freaked out because she's half Rose's size, but then we saw her instigate it and all tails are wagging, so we're letting them work it out for themselves.

That potential nightmare - the one where Rose hated her at first and we had to pen her with a lid on it and it took days for grudging acceptance and Molly was in danger - did not come true, a major boon for us.  But there's another that has materialized, transformed from abstract to concrete:

Molly is wicked fucking smart and we are, not to put too fine a point on it, doomed.

And runs as fast as greased lightning.

She has already figured out the dog door, except for the actual going through it part because it's made of three hard plastic pieces and she doesn't want to get smacked in the face.  This is a reasonable concern if you're a puppy.  She figured out it's the means of ingress and egress after being shown once.  She sits on command now.  She knows "no" and "down" and listens.  She's located Rose's toy basket and helped herself to all of the contents, including the beef bone, which she keeps "burying" in bits of blanket or towel.  She knows her kennel and pen are her "safe places" when Rose chases her, and after one piddle accident, she's got things more or less figured out in the piddle and poo department.

We need our lawn guy to mow, stat.  I'll text him today.  My ankles weren't happy last night, out in the dark.  There might have been Venus fly traps and strange tentacles out there that my phone's flashlight app didn't detect.

I finished my StepBet yesterday after following her around for a few hours in the evening.  I can take today off and I get my forty dollars back, plus about twelve more dollars for winning and sticking with it.  That should cover, like, one antler toy that we bought yesterday.  Hey, it's something.  And my time is freed up to revert to the days of having a newly-walking toddler and to puppy-proof the entire house from Miss Chew All The Things here.

When she was in her pen and P.J. left the living room for a moment, she cried in a way that we agreed would be totally banned by the Geneva Convention as a prohibitively cruel form of torture.  It would break strong men.

I'm breaking out in welts here and there.  This is probably from the mosquitoes that chose me while I waited outside for her to piddle and not a sign of being allergic to Molly.  Because that would suck, so it isn't happening.  Mind over matter.

She has now "dug up" that beef bone and is chewing on it ... er, rather effectively.  Peace in our time.

July 27, 2018

the crucible of advent

I said this back in 2012, waiting to hear that Obama secured the presidency from Romney:

"Hope is an interesting thing ... once you strip away the irrational desire for outside forces of any type to intervene and accept your own inability to influence an outcome, you're left with raw want, suspended in time and waiting for information that will quench it. Yet such a simple thing can clench your heart and commandeer your mind. This night has been a long time coming ...."

That is how I feel right now, because it's 6:58 a.m. and I've never live-blogged before (okay, this doesn't count, but it's as close as I've come), but my hands are shaking because I can't call to find out about would-be-Molly until 10:30, when the shelter opens, and I have to find something to do with this energy because the situation has rendered me manic as shit.

I snapped awake while ago and thought, "Molly!"

My coffee is cinnamon bun flavored this morning.  I'm having oatmeal for breakfast.  Is that the sort of thing people live-blog?  Inane details?  The oatmeal is delicious.  I eat it raw with cold milk, except it's Quaker Instant so it's mostly cooked already and doesn't count as a really stupid thing to do.

8:31 a.m.:  I've finished doing tasks in my dragon game, which has an event going right now that requires attention to timing.  I'm all set until this afternoon.  So now ... what to do?  I'm drowsy in spite of the coffee (sonofabitch, I didn't sleep so well ... I wonder why).  Going to try to go back to bed for a little while.

10:04 a.m.:  I slept.  Wonders never cease.  Holy shit, only twenty-six more minutes until I can call.  I'm going to shower.  That will help the time pass.

10:21 a.m.:  I'm sitting on the sofa with my laptop and my phone.  Tick, tick, tick.  If they say she's still there and needs a forever home (I keep thinking fur-ever home but that's the kind of thing people would put on saccharine Facebook graphics and I am better than that - begone, foul thought) - anyway, if they say she's still there, I'm trying to decide how to prevent myself from going and grabbing P.J. and telling her to clock out and inform her boss she just came down with twenty-four-hour gonorrhea or something, and push her into the car to go to the mountains right nao.

Maybe it would be wiser to ask for a hold.  I've heard of holds.  Then we could go to the fair tomorrow with a hold and meet her and we'd be right there at the pet store to buy puppy pads and puppy food (I wonder what she eats?) and about four hundred dollars worth of unneeded merchandise.  And a collar.  And we could get one of those engraved tags they sell at the register.  Two of them.  Rose and Molly.  Rosey-boo and Molly-dog.

Fucking hell, I'm mental right now.  I need more coffee.  This is vital.

10:28 a.m.:  It's time to call.  What if somebody already adopted her?  What if they say she's gone?  Will I start crying on the phone?  Fuck.  Fuck fuck fuck.

It's time.  I have to call them now.

Shit, where did I put the phone number?

10:32 a.m.:   She actually had to put me on hold and go to the back to check.  I'm breathing.  I'm breathing.  What was that yoga shit they were saying?  Namaste?  Not "ohm" ... that's Buddhism.  I'll just keep breathing.

10:34 a.m.:  I'm still on hold.  That means that she had to go see if somebody took her out for a walk or maybe to the vet for a shot, find somebody else who knows why she isn't in her pen.  That's what it means.  Yeah.

10:39 a.m.:  Okay.  I couldn't type for a moment.  She, um, gone.  Already adopted.  I think I bit a hole through my bottom lip while I listened to her say "they get gone pretty fast" and then talk for way too many seconds about three other six-month-old terrier mixes that they just brought in that aren't shepherd mixes and look nothing like each other.  Somehow I got through the rest of the conversation in a civil manner.

I want to delete this whole post and the entire previous post because it's embarrassing.  You would think I'd learn not to get attached to shit.  To animals, and people.  Ohm, my ass.  I won't learn.  I know myself.

This isn't 2012.  It's 2016.  When P.J. had to tell me Trump was our president.  We sat up the rest of the night and cried.  I have to go up the stairs again now and tell her about Molly, just like last night with the Westie.  Did I say bamboo sticks under my fingernails?  More like The Rack.  She felt it, too.

But first, I have to get a hand towel from the kitchen and wipe the tears off this keyboard.  Water isn't good for a laptop.

July 26, 2018

where in this infernal garage did the dog crate end up?

It's not shopping, it's a pilgrimage.
A friend and I met at Ikea this morning and spent a few hours walking through the store together and enjoying the hell out of catching up.

I managed to escape for under a hundred dollars.  Frugality Achievement unlocked.  Well, if you don't count the bag of meatballs and the cheddar leek tarts and the three packs of cream sauce mix, but you don't count those because obviously all of that is groceries, so it comes out of some completely different allocation of funds.

My friend unlocked the Minimalist Achievement for buying two tea mugs and a bath towel.  This is an alternative philosophy regarding Ikea, one that is foreign to me.  She was very helpful throughout my journey, continuously pointing out that wanting/liking something is not the same as needing it.  Even if you fall in love with how cute or tiny or perfectly shaped or colored it is, you don't need it and you probably shouldn't buy it.  And I was all, "But what if there are sunflowers?  I need this vase because there might be sunflowers."

We ate lunch in the cafeteria upstairs, and I am very proud of my pouch because I assaulted it with a plate of meatballs and a few bites of mashed potato and it took it like a champ.

While we were eating and talking, my phone dinged, and at this point I've caved in to the social conditioning that makes one think it's okay to reach for a phone and check a text message while sitting with an actual, live human who was just in the middle of saying something.  But she hangs around teenagers.  She understands.

I read my text.  It was from P.J.  I texted her back.  I waited a second.  I read her response.  I politely put my phone away and turned to my friend.

"It would appear that P.J. has found a dog she wants to adopt."

"Ah, yes, I'd forgotten.  Are you ready for another dog yet?"

"I think so.  Last weekend we visited her brother and family, and their three dogs, who have been afraid of us or growled at us every time we've visited for the last nine years, were suddenly affectionate and all over us, wanting belly rubs and sleeping in our bed.  It's like we're a giant receptor site right now and they sensed it.  Lots of dog time, good stuff.  So maybe, yeah."

"Well, it sounds like P.J. has a lead."

"Yeah.  She does.  She's fallen in love with it, or at least the picture of it.  She wants to apply to adopt it.  A Westie.  In fucking Fort Collins, Colorado."

Scotties and Westies for rescue are hard to come by, so I understand why the net was cast so wide.

Ohhh, P.J. had it bad, too.  Smitten.  Gone.  I called on the way home from Ikea and heard it in her voice.  And when I heard that in her voice, I was prepared to board a plane and go out West and rent a car and buy a crate and drive this dog all the way back across the country to North Carolina.

I totally would have done that.  I called them before applying, though, to make sure they would be okay with the whole way-the-fuck-far-away thing, and they informed me that dog has already been adopted.

I had to climb the staircase and go into P.J.'s office and convey this news.  I would have preferred bamboo sticks under my fingernails.

I whipped up some passable manicotti for dinner and we ate together while each perusing online listings by animal rescue groups in our area, all of which are what one might describe as being "closer than Colorado".  Among other things, we learned that there's going to be an adoption fair at a pet store not too far from the Lodge this weekend.  Those fairs are bad news.  They install tractor beams beforehand.

We looked through the list of dogs that will be there Saturday.

I'll just cut to the chase.  Her name is going to be Molly even though she doesn't have a name yet and we've never spent time with her and we don't even know if the listing is current and she isn't ours and it's only Thursday night.  She's a German shepherd/terrier-of-some-sort mix, six months old and so likely to get along well with Rose in spite of being female.  (Rose gets along with all dogs.  When we found her and fostered her, she was the dog they could put into a kennel with any of the "difficult" dogs at the adoption fair.  She's too dumb to be Alpha.)


This person will almost certainly hang up on me.  But if I can tone it down, maybe ....

Maybe.  May be.

*Note to self:  Go pick up crystal ball damaged by wooden baseball bat from repair shop.

stuffie invasion

I've asked my son to go through his hanging net of stuffed animals and ... thin out the herd, as it were.  He estimates at least half of them will have residual sentimental value sufficient to make him fight to retain them.  I have no problem with this.  It still results in the shifting of a metric ton of stuffies to Goodwill.

The net is one of my greater feats of engineering.  It is so remarkably overloaded that the shifting of a single stuffie will bring about the collapse of the entire structure and all of them will tumble to the floor below.  Each one is load-bearing, except for the two on the left end.  I would wring my hands when he acquired a new one, because I was the one who had to pull in the dining chair and stand on it and carefully - carefully - add the stuffie to the collection, without making the empire fall.

Sometimes, I was successful.  Sometimes.

The larger items need consideration, too.  His closets are full of stuffies that would never have fit in an overhead net.  Many are also going to tug heart-strings and make the cut, but some things, like the Angry Birds pillow, are a joke and should have been tossed long ago.

There is an enormous Lightning McQueen pillow in one closet that needs a good home.  This was his Christmas gift at age three.  He visited it regularly at the Disney Store when his father and I used to frequent the mall.  He pined for it.  Somehow, we smuggled it to New York with us, visiting friends for the holidays, and on Christmas morning we placed it beside him instead of under the tree, for the very simple reason that it was half-again as long as he was.  He awoke and saw it and exclaimed, "I am happy for this!  Santa went to the mall and bought it for me!"  He climbed on top of it and hugged it and slept for two more hours.

The green Gund frog and the wind-up music box lamb are mine.  They belonged to my first son, but the kid had a brief love affair with the frog as a toddler.  The lamb is a conundrum.  It plays "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know" when you wind it up, another PTSD trigger, one I often forget.  I can't get rid of it.  I can scarcely bear to look at it.  It's Emily Dickinson's sweeping up the heart and putting love away.  Just that.  It has become a thing that one puts away.  I will have to find it another home, on another shelf.  It will no longer have similar surroundings in his closet.

As for my own stuffie collection, it continues to grow.  Let the kid accuse me of hypocrisy.  I ain't bothered.

Group hug!

July 25, 2018

yelling at the top of my lungs at inanimate objects

I'm not allowed to get mad at people.

This doesn't stop me from feeling anger when someone does something or is something deserving of anger.  I'm just not allowed to feel it toward them.  For some reason found within the constellation of issues I contain, I turn it inward, on myself.  Getting angry at someone therefore means getting angry at me, which hurts like hell, so I usually don't even bother to react.

This does not apply to inanimate objects.  They're safer and they get the brunt of my feelings.  I yell a lot at things that are not people.  It's to the point where it has become a comical shtick in our house.  I go on a tirade because my napkin fell on the floor for the third time in a row at dinner, and P.J. and the kid laugh and say, "That was one of your good ones," when I'm finished.  The words come out very fast and sometimes they can even distinguish them.  It's become a habit.  I get positive reinforcement for the humor.

There's a problem, though.

Today, I had another whack at the light fixtures.  An hour and a half later, I was covered in itchy popcorn ceiling dust and tiny bits of fiberglass insulation and not a little humiliation.  The fixtures I purchased are difficult to mount, and I would get one screw fixed into the little hole and line it up and slide it, only to have the other one pop out and make a little "clink" sound and relocate somewhere up in the electrical box or, more often, onto the floor, causing me to climb down the ladder for the thirty-fourth time to retrieve a small object that cannot be seen on a wood floor.

I got them mounted.  I went downstairs and flipped the breaker and came back upstairs.

Of the four light bulbs involved, one worked.  My wiring wasn't twisted correctly.

I stood with my fists clenched beneath the light that remained unlit and that, incidentally, was the more difficult of the two and had elicited the most cursing, and I yelled at it.  "GOD-DAMNED COCK-SUCKING FUCKING BASTARD PIECE OF SHIT!"  The "shit" was loudest, at a scream.  It was emphatic.  I wanted this light to know I did not think highly of it in any way.  I directed my rage at it, the rage I actually should have been feeling toward myself for sucking at light fixture installation and not hiring an electrician like everyone else does.  I stood and stared for a solid minute, thinking wistfully of baseball bats.  Wooden ones.  I don't know why.  Metal would have done the job.  But I wanted wood.  A solid wood baseball bat in my hands that I could use to bash the hell out of the glass fixture cover.  Then I got the hand vacuum and cleaned up all of the debris on the floor, because I was over it and there would be no further work today.

Unfortunately, this sort of thing, even though I've properly vented at the object, primes me for an episode of self-injury, if something gets piled on top of it at some point within the next several hours.  And as luck would have it, I was washing my hands a few minutes later when P.J. yelled down the stairs by way of pointing out the problem with my habit of yelling.

"Um ... dear?"

"Yeah?  What?"

"Um ... if you get a second ... whenever you have a minute ... um ... could you maybe come up here and comfort your dog?"

"What?  Why?"

"She's kind of hiding under my desk and shaking."

"Why, because of the vacuum cleaner?"

"No, I think it's because you yelled at the light."


This has been happening a lot lately.  I yell and Rose thinks it's her fault and then I have to immediately comfort her and tell her good girl and Rose is a good girl, yes she is and it's okay.  I feel three inches tall when I do this, and I do it almost daily.  Rose was hit just like I was.  It lives within her skin, just like it lives within mine.

I was focused on my own little compartmentalized world of bullshit and it didn't occur to me that yelling like that would affect her.  It did.

I should have felt it then.  Right at that moment.  The swell of anger, the rising tide.  The transition from abused to abuser to avoid the decimating pain of conviction and condemnation.  I should have ended up on my bed, slapping myself until I saw stars, hitting my head until I was foggy, punishing myself for hurting an innocent creature, for doing such a vile thing, on top of being incompetent and failing at an important task.  I should have been punished.  Severely punished.

Except that I didn't feel any of those things.

I felt slightly angry and more than slightly annoyed with myself.  I indulged in a bad attitude and yelled back that Rose would just have to wait because I had bits of fiberglass in my face and it was not a tenable situation.  I felt ashamed and didn't want P.J. to look at me.  I didn't want to face her.  Many strong emotions, some out of proportion, some indicative of my completely irrational ways of coping with fault and error.

But I didn't hit.

I didn't even have to sit on my hands to keep hitting from happening.

Therapist Gumby and I did the first round of EMDR addressing this yesterday.  I'm gobsmacked.

When these things happen, the kitchen tongs always deserve it, and so does the gas candle lighter, and so do these infernal light fixtures.  They deserve yelling and throwing and bashing with wooden baseball bats and hatred.  They deserve to be punished.

But Rose does not.

And neither do I.

i flunked my first vinyasa yoga class

Therapist Gumby tried months ago to get me to try yoga and I folded my arms and said NO.  Yoga is just an excuse for people with lean bodies in tight clothes who believe in namaste-crystals-divine-energy-positive shit to get together and perform pointless stretching on stupid little mats, and I cannot be in the same room with them.

He quietly told me that he does yoga every day.


I have a lot of prejudices.  It's disconcerting as hell when people I love and respect challenge them.

To wit:  My family was persuasive this weekend in a way that maneuvered right around my if-you-suggest-it-I-won't-do-it stubbornness defense mechanism, and they talked me into trying a yoga class.  It has apparently done a lot for them physically and they swore the one they attend isn't full of hokey positive bullshit.  It's more about breathing and flexibility.  Fine.  It was similar to my standing and volunteering for the homeowners' association board of directors (i.e., either insane or brainwashed) when I told them that by the time we'd returned next summer, I would have taken a yoga class.  This was my vow.

Except that I only waited two days, not a whole year.  I found a studio in my small town and they happened to have something last night and room for a new student.  The studio is upstairs in an historic building, airy with a wood floor.  A good space, one I'd love to convert into an apartment and live in.  I showed up in a loose shirt (mistake) and black leggings (perfect) and borrowed a mat, blanket, block, and strap.  I only used the mat.

I was one of three students.  The other two were experts.  One teaches a class of her own.

This was Vinyasa-style and thus amenable to people who have been doing this for a gazillion sessions and need extra bits of challenge thrown in, and also amenable to those of us who try a pose and fall over sideways like a cartoon character and make clunking noises on the wood floor.

I take back what I said about pointless stretching on stupid little mats.  That mat saved my ass, and my knees, and the heels of my hands.  And the hour of yoga pretty much whooped me, as Therapist Gumby had said it would.  Calories were burned.  Muscles were pushed to the breaking point.  I am incredibly sore this morning.

The stretchy bits felt good and I was glad for them.  I have to respect the physical aspects of yoga now.  It isn't easy.

I will not respect the rest of it, because the instructor said something at one point about squeezing toxins out of our blood and breathing to replace them with fresh oxygen.  Detox as a subject makes me get off any bus I happen to be on at the time and walk away.  It is rubbish.  This is what my liver is for, people.

And because this is my life and cannot be straightforward and normal, we got to the end bit where you relax progressively and lie in a state of meditation and whatever-ness, and it would have been great, except that the instructor chose that moment to permeate the air with the essence of lavender.  Lavender is a titanic PTSD trigger for me and on top of that, yesterday was my first son's birthday.  He would have been seventeen.  So she was telling us to let our backs melt into the floor, and I wasn't melting; I was arching my chest and sobbing instead, but trying to do it silently so I wouldn't fuck up the class for the two hard-core students in front of me.  The mat absorbed the sound of my shaking and I just had to let the waterworks roll down my face and into my hair.  I could no more have chosen to stop crying than I could have levitated and flown out the window, which was something she was suggesting envisioning.

This made the instructor tip-toe over to me with great concern, and she was holding the lavender oil and I kept shooing her away because it got a hundred times stronger when she was near me and I couldn't explain through crazy mime-like gestures why I was crying.  She gave up and left me alone and somehow I managed to hide my crying, and we finished up right as I finished wiping my face with my sleeve.  I put my mat and blanket and block and strap away slowly, allowing the others to pack up their equipment in their yoga bags without seeing my face.

I did stay after and explain what had happened.  The instructor thought I'd pulled a muscle.  In a way, I did.

I paid for two classes, so by Dog, I'm going to the second one, and if there is a different instructor, I will ask for a complete absence of lavender in the environment, and then prepare to have my ass kicked by performing pointless stretching on a stupid little mat while contemplating divine-energy positive shit.

My opinion hasn't changed, but there's my name, scrawled on the sign-in sheet.

July 24, 2018

lille's acting out

Loser Bagel.
It's raining today, all day.  There are flash flood warnings.

I've been actively sabotaging myself for the past few days, mainly in a dietary sense, but psychologically, too.  I bought Lender's bagels at the grocery store, which is as flagrant a violation of balance as I can commit.  My bagel this morning clearly called me a loser, but I toasted it and ate it anyway.  With strawberry cream cheese.

My stomach is roiling from the introduction of espresso.  I actually threw out a cup of coffee last night.  This was unprecedented because it didn't even have a gnat in it.  I think my body is craving water and protein shakes and a self-defined three-day reset.  It can have two days.  After that, I'm going to IKEA and there will be meatballs.  That's non-negotiable.

In short, I started hitting things that are bad for me and Lille wants them all and doesn't want me to stop eating them and get back into balance again.

I hit a downward turn mood-wise yesterday afternoon, after waking up from a nap.  I am programmed to feel horribly guilty, useless, and shameful when I wake up from a nap.  That would be my sister's voice.  I told P.J. last night, "Wouldn't it be great if I could wake from a nap and stretch and say, 'That was a good nap.  Now I will get up and do some other things,' without this feeling?"  It isn't even a voice, really, just a feeling.  You can aim at a voice, counter it with positive, contradictory things, lessen its power.  A feeling is just ... there.  Like poison.

This isn't a crash, more a gentle dip, a difference I attribute to the taut safety net of the lithium.  Part of this is definitely coming from my taking the week off work, and instead of installing new bathroom floors and accomplishing household projects and doing All The Things, I've been mostly sitting and playing games on my laptop, writing, and struggling to get my steps in.  The lack of productivity makes me feel existentially void.

I also think Lille's pushing back against what's coming today, our appointment with Therapist Gumby, wherein we're planning to get down to business and tackle my sister (in what I wish was a literal sense because that would feel really awesome, especially if she scratched up that pretty, delicate face on the pavement) and the way she smacked me around as a child, a lot, for no reason other than her power over me and her hatred of me.  Okay, those are two pretty good reasons, from her vantage point, but Therapist Gumby thinks it might have have something to do with why I do this to myself.  You know, internalizing the abuser and all that.

I wish I could tell him that's ridiculous and of course there's no connection, because this is going to be really uncomfortable and I'm dreading it and Lille's freaking out about it, but I can't tell him that because I think he might be right.  Sometimes I fucking hate it when he's right.

I've actually become afraid of him again, which is obviously projection, which is a sign of how powerful all of this is, and we're going to be holding lit torches and exploring breezy passageways lined with crate after crate of very old, dry fireworks.

At the very, very least, it will be interesting.

So far, we have projection and internalization.  How many psycho-buzzwords can I lay on today?

I haven't even showered yet.  I'm trying to make the appointment time take as long as possible to get here through the deft application of denial.

Hey, there's a third word!

July 23, 2018

do we start with werewolf sounds or creaking door hinges?

It's almost time to install a state-of-the-art high-powered outdoor stereo system and download an expansive collection of weird sound effects.  We should start shopping for equipment.

There's a smallish, elongated field behind our back yard that our real estate agent told us, back when we bought the house, would never be built on because the owner had tried and tried to get the County perk tests to come back positive, but the land just wouldn't perk and it was basically useless.  "Enjoy the view," she said.  We don't sit back there, even though we have a deck and some deck furniture engaged in the hobby of growing moss, but if we did sit on the deck sometimes, we would have a lot of trees and tall grass as our landscape.

Except that now there are four houses there.  One of them is so close to our yard that we're going to be able to count the nasal hairs of the owners without using binoculars.  Not that we would ever use binoculars on neighbors.  (Seriously.  We wouldn't.  That's beyond even our level of weird.)

We don't understand how there can suddenly be four septic drain fields that work.  Somebody paid somebody to lie.  That's going to be pleasant.

The construction began about six months ago.  They were clearing very old, tall trees.  P.J. works at home and the house kept shaking every time a tree went BOOM and hit the ground.  After a few weeks, there was a sort of Mayan-looking temple in the middle of the field comprised of stacked-up full-sized trees.  We still don't know how the hell they removed all of that without fire and ancient ritual.

Then the grading equipment arrived.  P.J. had to listen to loud industrial equipment operating and guys shouting to each other because working with loud industrial equipment had rendered them all legally deaf.  And to the land surveyors and project managers and general contractors and bank appraisers tromping right past our house and along the outside of our fence.

The stream of people going by tapered because then they built a road going straight to the houses.  No more walking.

Since then, the various stages of house-building have provided their own range of noises.  Sometimes it's hammering that sounds like someone knocking on the door of one of the rooms in our house.  Sometimes there are saws that remind us of dental work and generators that shake the house as badly as the falling trees did.  Once we heard an elephant in the next-door neighbor's yard.  We were sitting in the living room together and heard the sound and looked at each other.  "Is there a circus up at the park this weekend?" I asked.  "No," P.J. said, shaking her head solemnly.  We continued looking at each other.  "Should we sell the house, then?" I asked.  We still don't know what sounded like an elephant.

They've finished roofing and windows and siding is going on this week.

The worst part is yet to come.  There are going to be people back there.  There are anxiety disorders to consider here; this isn't us being not-in-my-back-yard yuppies.  We aren't going to be able to walk by the windows in our kitchen or dining room, or down our hallway, without feeling like people are watching us.  Even if they're not weird and holding binoculars, even if they turn out to be the best possible neighbors a person can have, the psychology of it is going to ruin us.  And because we had the fence built (so Rose couldn't get to the front yard and the postal service would begin delivering packages again, after what happened to that mailman and the truck), there's nowhere to plant trees that could serve to obscure the view naturally. 

There is a road and there are going to be car sounds all around us now.

This is why I think it's only fair that we retaliate.  If we work now, by cover of night and before anyone occupies the houses, we could install underground runs of stereo wire to strategically placed, camouflaged speakers at the perimeter of the property back there.  The wiring would run back to our house, and we could play all kinds of carefully selected sounds, sometimes at 3:00 in the morning.  Animals.  Knocking.  Scritches.  Doors slowly opening.  Vases hitting the floor.  A well-executed plan of auditory torment might buy us some peace, even if that peace exists only in the times between when each house is sold and when new buyers move in.  Word would eventually get around.

This is superior to the smell campaign I wanted to mount, because that would involve actual trespassing.  And it's the only way I've been able to find thus far to look forward to the arrival of neighbors instead of losing sleep dreading it.

July 22, 2018

why i didn't take the mint (things i learned on the road trip, part two)

I hate hate hate hate hate saying goodbyes at the end of a visit.  I feel like stretching out all of the luggage-lugging and packing things back up and checking around to make absolutely sure I didn't forget something, stalling as long as I possibly can, because at the end of all that, the goodbyes happen.  I don't want the hugs to end, but they do, and then there's nothing left to say, so into the van and carefully backing up and the ritual of the vigorous goodbye waves at the bottom of the driveway.  Then the road.  So very, very much road.

Do hugs last three seconds or many months?

On the return trip, we stopped and took pictures of some things that we passed on Friday and said, "Shit, we need to take a picture of that on our way back home."  The first one was this:

I always wonder if there's some sort of mailing list that preachers of Baptist churches subscribe to that sends them quippy little snippets for their marquees.  And if so, how did they all find out about them before the Internet?  Was there a newsletter?  Kate used to collect church marquees while traveling.  Her favorite was "BE YE FISHERS OF MEN - YOU CATCH 'EM, HE'LL CLEAN 'EM."

The next picture we took just because this was the Chick-Fil-A by the interstate and today is Sunday.

We did the right thing and boycotted those motherfuckers for years, which was totally unfair of the Universe because their food is incredible and nobody can make a chicken sandwich like that.  The food is so good that it makes a person suspect there's a deal with the devil, not some sort of wholesome poured-out Christian blessing, behind it.

I almost murdered a Chick-Fil-A employee once.  

I didn't actually, but it was a near thing.  P.J. and I were dining there and this particular franchise had come up with the idea of sending a perky teenage associate around with a basket of dinner mints, table to table, offering the mints to customers.  This might seem perfectly harmless, but I start twitching when I hear one of the cashiers say, "My pleasure!" every time someone says, "Thank you."  I make a point of never thanking anyone, just so they can't say it to me, but the phrase is said in response to almost everything, by every employee, to every customer, and it's like being trapped in an echo chamber where they're broadcasting cult indoctrination.

I don't say, "Thank you."  I remain mute until the transaction is complete, and then I say, "You have a great day!"  They reply, "Mm-- thanks, you too!"  In that moment, their facial expressions remind me of the kid being caught playing with the ball out of rhythm in A Wrinkle in Time.  This makes me happy.  After I leave, I believe with all my heart that the manager comes over because he heard the person say something other than "My pleasure!" and sends him or her to a room in the back to be re-assimilated.

So there she was, this perky teenage girl holding a basket of mints, standing at our table, and P.J. said, "Sure," and took one, and I looked at the basket, and looked at the girl, and she looked at me, and I looked at the basket again, and I knew that if I took a mint, I would have to say, "Thank you," and then she would say, "My pleasure!" and I would have to jump up and murder her.  Probably by choking, but breaking her neck would be the better choice because that way it would be too late for customers to come running and pry my hands from her throat.

So I just shook my head and said, "No."  I felt horribly rude, because this is the South and at the very least you must say, "No, thank you," but it was actually for the best that I exhibited bad manners because it very well might have saved her life.

That story has nothing to do with the road trip.  I just want kudos for not murdering someone.  It would have been manslaughter and not first-degree, if it had happened, which totally cleans it all up.

I felt strangely crappy today with an inexplicably prolonged headache (probably my liver punishing me for the wine), so I switched sides with P.J. after lunch and don't really remember much of the next two hours, because she loves me so much that she took a South Carolina for me.  I usually drive the whole way, both ways, everywhere we go, and today I remembered the reason, because she drove and I grabbed a buckwheat pillow and slept through the entirety of South Carolina, and then I woke up and sat up and pulled the lever to raise the seat back and promptly felt like projectile yarking.

I get car sick easily if I'm a passenger.  Looking down and reading two sentences of directions is enough to make me turn green and stay that way for hours.  "How the fuck do you get motion sickness while you're sleeping?" P.J. asked.  "I don't know.  I wasn't paying attention when it happened," I said.

We pulled off the interstate and gassed up the van.  We switched back and she let me drive.  I felt better almost immediately.

Jacques at the gas station.  Aardvark is our co-pilot.

We were less than an hour from home when we started catching up with the intense thunderstorm ahead of us.  Lightning bolts were shooting sideways from cloud to cloud in a way that removed all need for caffeine and left us feeling vulnerable and insignificant.  

Then we saw them:  Two segments of rainbow, one faded and one the most bold and vibrant either of us can recall seeing in our lifetimes.  You could actually make out the delineations between the green and blue and indigo.  The two rainbows were near each other, low in the sky, and set as mirror images, one blue-to-red and one red-to-purple.  It was dusk and stormy and the only patch of light in the sky seemed to be behind the rainbows; we were driving east into the storm clouds and the lighter sky was behind us.  

Of course, because we were moving so fast down the highway, neither of our phones' cameras would capture the rainbow segments.  If we had taken a picture, you'd have a square below with a kind of blurry bit of light and some trees in the background.  You'll just have to take our word for it:  There was some seriously cool weather shit going on.

We retrieved a very happy Rose from Angela's house and braved more lightning and made it home.  

That's when I realized I didn't have my steps in yet for the StepBet, and I took Saturday off as my rest day because instead of exercising all I did was tube down a river and shred my quads walking up a billion stairs back to the house, so after we got home and put everything away, I walked fifty-four laps around the main floor of my house to push the number up to my goal.  P.J. wouldn't let me go to the park and walk laps in the middle of the raging storm, even though I pointed out that it was the best possible time to do it because nobody else would be out there and there was zero potential for awkward social interactions with other walkers.  I don't understand her sometimes.  But I got my steps in.

Yeah ... hugs last longer than three seconds.  I can still feel them.  That is what I learned.

July 21, 2018

leeches only sometimes suck (things I learned on the road trip - part one)

We're at our end destination, my brother-in-law's cabin, and in the flurry of hugs and dinner and wine and the exchanging of hilarious stories on the deck last night, there wasn't time to chronicle the four-hour drive that takes five hours, the one we make every year but that always teaches us new things.

The house is quiet this morning, though I suspect my brother- and sister-in-law rose earlier and kept their morning ritual of sitting outside looking down at the dark river and sipping mugs of espresso while holding hands and silently watching the sun rise.  They do this every morning.  It's so adorable that I want to swoon.  They appear to have gone back to bed, though how they do this with espresso in their systems is kind of mind-boggling.

I learned some things yesterday.

1.  It turns out I am capable of driving twenty-five miles per hour over the speed limit, if put into the midst of a press of cars and in need of passing and getting over so I can drop out of the madding fray and let everyone just go on with their lives without me, with my blessing.  Driving this far over the speed limit usually induces a sense that invisible high-tech helicopters are flying overhead clocking my speed and that any second now, I will be targeted and pulled over in an embarrassing display of karmic correction and serving as an example to the others who were, ironically, going faster than I was.  I actually start crouching down a little in my seat.

P.J. calmly pointed out they don't have invisible helicopters and that middle-aged women driving minivans do not typically experience this, but it bore down on me anyway, a great fear.  (And it makes me angry that I wouldn't be targeted, because we all know who would be targeted, minivan or not.)  In a way, I'm proud of myself for gunning eight-five at one point.  And proud of the minivan.  I never thought one could do that.  Our minivan is named Morrison (Van Morrison, get it?) and he is a good boy.

2.  Gaffney, South Carolina, self-declared peach capital of the Universe, has let us all down.  If you never saw the Great Gaffney Peachoid Ass Tower in its decades of glory, you missed an American road trip icon.  It was a giant peach, but the color and shape and the realistic vertical dimple made anyone traveling southbound on I-85 see a giant ass, lifted high and proud by the side of the highway for all to gaze upon and wonder.  I suspect they sold a lot of peaches by virtue of the Ass Tower.

Yesterday we saw that they must have finally grown weary of being famous for having an Ass Tower instead of peaches, because they've sent some people up in a bucket or on really tall ladders with some paint, and now it carries the partial reddish hues of a true peach, and a much less pronounced ass-crack dimple, and the leaf to the south has been wrapped around to the front so that it just shows from the southbound point of view.  In short, it looks like a boring old peach, and where's the point in that?  "Oh, a peach, whatever," motorists say, and they don't pull off and buy peaches because hello, we're all Georgia-bound anyway and they got there first on the peach gig.

The Great Gaffney Peachoid Ass Tower

The Great Gaffney Peachoid Ass Tower is no more.  Damn it.

3.  At some point, Kate's Visions of Plenty CD must be played and we must sing along and tap our feet or knees, because eventually all roads lead to Birmingham, Alabama, and those violins are meant to be heard among road signs and billboards and pavement in need of repair.

4.  When I'm not mentally unbalanced while we're driving (which tends to be a fair portion of our car-time together, resulting in angst-laden conversations and periods of uncomfortable silence), when I'm decent company, I'm capable of seeing clearly that P.J. is an awesome companion on the road.  We were weird and laughing most of the way, and having good, serious conversation in-between the weirdness.  P.J. is the best.

5.  South Carolina is doing something as creepy as fuck.  Most of the overpasses have those digital marquees that transportation departments can use to announce things like an amber alert or an upcoming construction zone or all-football-traffic-use-left-fork-ahead.  South Carolina is using theirs - all of them - and they are everywhere - to announce how many motorist deaths have happened so far this year, with an admonition to slow down and drive safely.  They all read something like this:  "511 Motorist Deaths in South Carolina This Year - Please Drive Safely".

The first one made sense.  The fourth one made us realize this was a statewide Thing they're doing.  The tenth one we barely noticed.

The eleventh sign, we noticed.  It read:  "512 Motorist Deaths .... Please Drive Safely."  They're maintaining a live ticker that adds immediate body counts and that is skin-crawlingly creepy.  We were almost to Georgia at that point and wanted out of South Carolina even more than we usually do.

(Except for when we passed through Inman.  Just so you know, I waved in that general vicinity.)

6.  I'm straining but I simply cannot remember how we got onto the subject of leeches.  I think it was Stand By Me, or lakes, or some other random thing, but we started thinking about leeches, and once you do, it's kind of hard not to think about leeches any more.  It occurred to us that we don't know what they eat while they're baby leeches trying to turn into big grown-up leeches, and the idea of leech-covered fish didn't seem right to us, and then we wondered if they ever leave a larval stage or if they just are overgrown larvae, and then we wondered how Victorian-era hospitals even got all those leeches and whether it was somebody's job to be a leech-gatherer, and what that was like.

At this point, Google and LTE got involved, and it turns out there were women who were professional leech-finders who would wade out into ponds in rural England and find them.  And then the sentence "By 1863, English hospitals were using imported leeches" just about caused me to wreck, because that was probably the unknown beginning of the whole outsourcing thing and the introduction of peril to the global economy.  They had perfectly good leeches right there, but they put the leech-finders out of work by importing them.  What the fuck, England?

Also, there are leeches that don't suck.  Literally.  I mean, in general, all leeches suck.  You know what I mean.  Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to discuss the efficacy of vacuum cleaners?

7.  We were in rural Georgia at this point, and trying to determine the best exit to take to hit Highway 17, so we consulted Google's Navigator.  (I really do love Google, just so you know this.)  P.J. keyed in the information, and we waited a bit, and instead of hearing, "In seven miles, take Exit Whatever onto Whatever Road, then turn left," the pleasant women's voice said very sweetly, "I'm not sure how to help you," and nothing more.  That's when I almost wrecked again because I was laughing so hard that the tears were stinging my eyes and fogging up my glasses and I couldn't see and she's not allowed to say that because what if we really were stranded and hopelessly lost somewhere?  "I'm not sure how to help you."  If we were in the desert at that point, trying to figure out whether that cactus was the one we'd just passed, I'd throw my cell phone into the sand and just walk off and die of thirst, because fuck that.

8.  My brother-in-law just made us all a pot of espresso.  He brought it in cups that he obviously found by digging around in some child's doll house and stealing the tiny dishes set.  This was my first espresso.  I have decided that in spite of the fact it is traditionally served in ridiculous doll house cups on little doll house saucers, it is irrefutable proof of a beneficent god who loves us and wants to give us good things.

Now the clouds look blurry.

July 20, 2018

thank fuck breathing is an autonomic function

Every couple has a pretty good hit ratio on areas of compatibility.  Take P.J. and me.  We both hate centipedes, olives, and the entire Republican administration.  We love taking boxes to Goodwill and heavy cursing.  We both have memories that suffer as a result of various medications, mine for being bat-shit crazy and hers for back pain.

Me:  "How much dog food did you put in her bowl this time?  Because this is the second day she ate most of it but didn't finish the last little bit in her bowl.  Are you just putting too much in there?"

P.J.:  "I fed her yesterday.  Did she do it again today?"

Me:  "Yeah.  And you fed her both times."

P.J.:  "I did?  I don't think I fed her tonight."

Me:  "Yes, you did, I remember you doing it.  You fed her."

P.J.:  "Okay, I did.  Maybe she doesn't like that food.  Is it a new kind?"

Me:  "Oh, wait, I fed her tonight.  So I put too much.  Or she doesn't like it.  Yeah, you fed her yesterday.  I thought I did."

P.J.:  "It's a wonder we even remember to breathe, you know?"

I cannot stress enough here the relief that comes from knowing I'm not alone, or being judged by the one person whose opinion I value most, for having a memory like baby Swiss at this point.  I think she feels the same.  But we do remember to breathe, and pay the bills, and take out the garbage (usually), and make important phone calls (occasionally), and deal with unpleasant things in the garage (that happened this one time).  We muddle along all right.

The one glaring area of incompatibility, exempting all of the ones that come from our mental illnesses either clashing or perpetuating each other, is time management.  Most couples probably have this, the thing where one person is an approval junkie and really values punctuality and tries to push and prod and make sure everyone gets out of the door on time, while the other person is rebellious and resents being asked to get up early, or even at a particular hour that isn't early, and to be ready to leave or stay and do a thing at whatever o'clock.

I suspect this is the underlying cause of some divorces.  It isn't a small thing.

I'm the punctuality junkie in our own little corner of life here.  P.J. thinks deadlines and schedules can and should go fuck themselves with a cucumber.  She chooses a cucumber because I'm allergic to them.  It's passive-aggressive.  I give her major points for this.

Alas, it often falls to me to wake her on mornings like this, when we're about to hit the road on a five-hour drive to go visit family.  And here I experience trepidation.  Earlier, I steeled myself and walked in to initiate the first part, which is always the "five more minutes" bit.  Accomplished that.  Returned to my coffee, waited ten minutes, returned for the real deal.  I put my hand on her elbow until she woke.

Then I quickly backed away a bit, toward the dresser.  She just looked at me and there was this pregnant moment of uncertainty about whether it was going to be a Whimper Day or a Growl Day.  It was a Whimper Day.  I don't like those.  They make me want to stab myself in the eye with a corn cob holder for disturbing my dear one's peaceful oblivion to the world and bring her back to an awareness that there are spiders in the world and Trump will irreparably fuck up something international today* and the kitchen floor is dirty.

But we're up and about now, and I should be packing instead of blogging, but to hell with that because no matter what, I know I'll be ready on time.  And that I'll forget at least two things.  Making a list doesn't help.  I leave things off, and then forget where I put the list.

She's making coffee.  The Keurig is squeaking and sort of wheezing while brewing the coffee.  "Is the Keurig supposed to be making that noise?" I just called.  "Um, I doubt it," she said.  "Oh.  Okay."  Whatever.  That's for when we get back home.

Road trip!

I think I forgot to put gas in the van.  Or maybe she did.  Who cares?

*This, too, seems to be a sort of autonomic function for him, as natural as breathing.

July 19, 2018

miss baker's singing lessons

I'd just sung with Kate for the first time, a young twenty-something, and I was spread-eagled on the king-sized memory foam bed of Cloud Nine, taking up all the space and floating.  It was intermission, and I was drifting toward the bathroom, and the lady stopped me in the hallway.  "Where'd you learn how to sing like that?" she asked, her eyes wide and amazed.  I just stared at her and went blank, because how does a person answer such a question?  Then I mumbled something like I-don't-know-church-choir-thank-you-that's-very-sweet and then drifted faster.  My cloud had a manual transmission.

A few weeks ago, Kate said the part that Emmylou Harris sang in "Crazy in Alabama" was difficult, that even Emmylou had trouble with it because it's just plain hard.  I still didn't know what to say, except that practicing in the car five hundred and seventeen times pretending to be your hero's backup singer tended to give a person the needed foundation.

But I realized this morning that there really is an answer to that question.  How was I able to pick out and sustain a difficult harmony?

I learned it from Miss Virginia Baker.

Miss Baker was an elderly alto in a choral society that I belonged to in my early twenties, a small group in a small town.  At that age, everyone was elderly to me, and I sat beside Miss Baker in the alto section.  Come to think of it, she sat on the end, so I was the only person who had to sit beside Miss Baker.  She was remarkable because her vibrato was so wide that it made a perfect third.  It was clean and accurate, the stuff of tuners and the careful ear.  She harmonized with herself.

I'm sure the poor dear couldn't help it, and it didn't really work with the pieces we were singing (think Daniel Pinkham's "Gloria In Excelsis Deo"), but if you put her in church and handed her a Baptist hymnal turned to "Sweet Hour of Prayer" or "Silent Night" or "Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is Calling", she could sing by herself with no one else needed and cover all parts.

You couldn't sit next to Miss Baker and not learn to hear your part with your right ear while tidily blocking out the left.  Miss Baker taught me to pick out a difficult harmony.  She was a very good teacher.

July 18, 2018

i hate wordpress even more than i hate ohms

Great for the garden.
While folding laundry earlier, I found a pair of my son's underwear that was ... compromised.  It wasn't a skid mark so much as evidence of a forty-car pile-up.  But they were washed and dried and I threw them onto the "folded" pile because I don't have to wear them and I'd put good money on his not caring, or even noticing.

I was folding laundry because I had to walk away from my computer.  Laundry has a calming influence.  It's like having the power to put your world in order.  Except for fitted sheets, which bring out my violent tendencies, but there weren't any tonight, so things worked out.

I had to walk away from my computer because I spent hours trying to migrate this blog to WordPress.  This endeavor ended with the following conversation:  The nice agent asked me for my information and I told her things, and she asked how she could help me, and I said she could cancel everything I had done today and send me back in time. "Reason you're giving for cancellation?" she asked. "So WordPress won't make me have a nervous breakdown and I won't throw this laptop through the sliding glass door and out on the deck. Because it might rain later and then the laptop would get wet, and it's kind of new and I like it, except for when it goes to WordPress."

There was a pause from the agent. "Yeah, I tried to do a page on there once.  It's not the easiest site to use."

I got the refund, and so much more.  I got validation.

I'm a techie and I'm not stupid.  I can Google my way around things that aren't immediately apparent or intuitive and patch this and that together.  That's pretty much my life with Excel, and always has been.  But when the simplest click on something like "browse templates" or "upload images" produces large, glaring messages like "CANNOT MODIFY HEADER INFORMATION - CALL TO UNDEFINED FUNCTION WP-INIT.PHP" and "EXECUTION .HTACCESS EXCEEDED", I go from zero to fuck-it in six seconds flat.  Even That Guy On The Internet couldn't help me, and he knows everything.

It made me feel just like I feel when my daddy tries to explain electricity to me.  "It's easy," he says.  Then there are some words about voltage and amps and watts and ohms and flow and resistance and speed and current and amount and force and please shut up please please please because my brain is saying no and I can't understand this even when you're not talking and I read it somewhere and it's never going to happen and why are you still talking?  Sadly, I can't throw my daddy out onto the deck in the rain.  He's too heavy.

P.J. was proud of me because I persisted in trying to get WordPress to see reason.  I kept at it, even during dinner, when she played our happy dragon game and simultaneously watched me scowl and tap a button now and then and issue continuous hiss-threats under my breath like, "I swear to god, I will extract your testicles and boil them and bronze them and use them as decorations in my beautiful, beautiful garden."  That was just aimed at the domain host.  The actual WordPress interface got a lot more verbal attention.

The upshot of all this is that the laundry got folded really well, and I even packed up a box of clothes that I sold on eBay today, and this blog has a new link address (see above) thanks to Google's simple "hey, pay us twelve bucks and we can fix this for you" mentality.  My next goal, Dog willing, is to convince Google to kill the redirect from the old Blogspot address, because the whole reason I set about this was to change the link so the old one would be dead and then I'd once again be in control of who has it.

So if you read me a lot (and I'm looking at you, two people in Canada I don't know, and two in California I don't know, and somebody I don't know in Kansas, and the person I don't know in Maryland, too, and who are you in Inman, South Carolina, plus my friends and family here in N.C. and in Ireland), make a note of it because one day your bookmark won't work.  Just go ahead and change it now - the dot-com will always work.

And thank you for reading about my son's skid marks, and my life, and my non-death, and everything that happens in-between.  You're the reason I have oxygen.

July 17, 2018

the hand over her mouth

This blog went dark for twenty-four hours last week.  One of my posts was the cause of great pain for several people, and I took the blog down in order to spare them further infliction.  The post was removed for the same reason.  I obliterated it into a trillion scattered electrons.  The blog also went dark because I was terrified that the entire thing was going to be requested and reviewed in depth by my employer, and I would be stripped of the anonymity that allows me to speak my truth.

During those twenty-four hours, I spent a lot of time sitting on my couch with my knees pulled tightly to my chest, staring at the wall, breathing.  Breathing was important because I had to remind myself to keep doing it.  Not being able to write was like having my oxygen removed.  It blew my mind how intertwined my identity has become with writing, writing here.  No, a piece written on paper to save for later was not able to act in lieu of breathing.  I have to write things out into the world.  Exhale.

Earlier today, Therapist Gumby said something that lodged like a splinter.  I still haven't told him and I probably need to do that.  An innocent, off-hand remark about needing to write about a particular thing, but the blog not necessarily being the right place for that.  You know, just writing it somewhere else, some other way.

My reaction wasn't strong at the time, but it's grown steadily over the course of the evening, and now Lille is filled with rage and tears because the sensation is identical to the one she experiences when someone tries to put their hand over her mouth to shut her up.  Just so you know, when someone actually does that to me, I push them away blindly and violently (even my kid) and gasp for air, as though returning from the brink of suffocation.  It takes a minute for me to catch my breath.

Censorship.  Like putting a fence around a playground.  To keep the bad things out, to keep what is inside safe.

I spent seven full months able to say whatever came to mind, to speak my truth, to be raw and unapologetic here.  No wonder it's become oxygen.  Now I find myself mentally reviewing the people who do and might read what I'm writing and considering how they might perceive it.  Should I take it out?  Should I change this?  Should I even write about that?  Maybe I shouldn't.  Someone might disapprove.

I might wound.  I might offend.  I might go too far.  Someone might think talking about hitting myself until I make beautiful bruises on my face is bad.  Someone might frown upon learning of my suicide attempt, my mental illness.  My own mother might faint at my plenteous foul language.  Dirty linens will be breeze-blown out on the line.

Lille is shaking and angry because something is broken now and never again can she come into this room, onto this page, and whisper without fear.  Even the people she trusts want to censor her, to put a fence around the place she plays.

To keep the things outside safe, to keep the bad things in.

July 15, 2018

new glasses

I went to get new glasses on Friday, the first new ones in four years, so long due.  This time I was assisted promptly and discovered two pairs of frames, one regular and one for sunglasses, that simply weren't there last time and that I love and adore and have always wanted all my life.

I picked them up today.  The gentleman fitted the arms and cleaned them for me, and I left happily wearing my new shades.

Twenty minutes later, I returned and explained that the left lens seemed weird, and the man took them and examined them closely using several different instruments, and then spat, "Stupid idiots."  They didn't align the polarization orientation aspect properly, whatever that means, so he kept them and I have to go back a third time on Tuesday to retrieve version two.

For all that annoyance, they fit like a dream, and it was good to walk out of the store and look around and see tree leaves that I hadn't realized looked muddled and merged when I wore my old glasses.  Now there were distinct lines of green separating them, each leaf individually blown in the gentle breeze even as they swayed together as clumps on branches.  I could see more about what was there.  I could see keenly.

My new regular glasses are perfect, too, so no surprise I held them up to my current pair and saw that they were identical in shape and size, just blue instead of purple.  No wonder I selected them.  We get set in our ways.

Our ways.

I want one more pair of new glasses, though I don't know how they would possibly come to exist.  I want glasses that help me see myself more clearly.  Not the back of my hand or my face in a mirror.  I want glasses that would let my gaze pierce defenses and constructs and perceive my hypocrisies and shortcomings, opportunities and hidden gemstones. 

I think we all turn inside and see blurry clumps of tree leaves, and we tell ourselves that yes, those are trees, and it is enough to know that.  They look like trees have always looked.

I have spent the past several days looking inward and straining, squinting, trying to make out the shapes of my own prejudices, my areas of complacency.  I want to believe that I am kind, empathetic, a good person; that I am not racist, not sexist, not swayed by the socio-economic status of another; that I do enough good in the world to justify what I consume and take from it. 

I can't tell.  I see blurry clumps of leaves.  We try to see inside, but straining to see is uncomfortable and difficult, and our eyes cross, so we stop.  Yes, those are trees, we say, and it is enough to know that.  They look like trees have always looked.

We get set in our ways.


I do not wish to say this.  It is not enough.  I want to see crisp leaves.  I want new glasses.

July 14, 2018

cocoa and pajamas

On the weekends, I wash my hair in the mornings and let it mostly air dry before styling it.  It gets frizzy and falls just-so and I end up with my better hair days this way.  There isn't time on work mornings to do it.  I manage as well as I can with the hair dryer.

This morning I watched the sunrise and then washed my hair in the shower.  Lathering the shampoo made me wince and I suddenly recalled last night.  Shit.  How bad is it?

I felt my face with gentle fingers.  Eyes bad.  Jawline a little sore.  Head very sore.  Ice.  I iced it last night.  Ice pack.  The water stings.

I still don't remember what set it off.  I only know that it had been building as a low, rumbling pressure for two days, since finding out I had hurt two people I care about and quite possibly made an enemy of one of them.  The pressure bore down upon the tiny girl in me who knew she had done something wrong and was in trouble now and was going to be punished through some unseen terror sufficient to bring annihilatory impulse back into the picture.  A growing wave unstemmed by logical, rational consideration of the circumstances.  I remember finally breaking down into tears, succumbing to the pressure, being overwhelmed by it, and finding myself sprawled on the bed clutching the sheets, gasping for air after crying and repeatedly slapping myself so hard that I saw bursts of light, hitting my head, trying to tear out great clumps of hair.

The punishment must be administered.  No little girl can run away from it.  And if the judge, the inflictor, isn't there, the girl has to do it herself.  The punishment must be administered.

Afterward, I came out of the bedroom in my too-big nightgown and slowly walked over to P.J. like a small child, let her take me into her always-forgiving arms.  I comforted Rose because she was beaten, too, and does not understand when this happens.  P.J. made me a mug of hot cocoa and pressed it into my hand.  My breathing was smooth and even again.  She led me to bed.

I dried off after my morning shower and inspected myself in the mirror under brighter lighting, and let out a low sigh of relief.  Just some dot-prickle bruising beside each eye, worse on the right, and the swelling invisible unless you really try to see the differences between left and right.  The marks will be gone by Monday morning.

I put some gel in my hair so after I mussed it up into a wet mop parted on the left, it would stay messy and fall around my face, hiding the speckle-bruised skin around my eyes.  I made a mug of coffee and stood in my pajamas and watched the sky lighten, not so afraid of what will come.  I have paid.