September 29, 2018

i thought there would be more secret service agents

(Note:  This post contains some serious shit.  And by serious shit, I mean a great deal of fecal material with no sense of humor whatsoever.  There are personal details here that writers are never meant to share, from the other side of the bathroom door.  I will gross you out like nobody's business.  Feel free to skip today's post.  Especially if you're eating.)

I don't usually dream about actual memories.  My dreams are normally patched and hammered together from lots of different bits, but last night I dreamed about the summer eight or nine years ago when I had a giardia infection.

As far as causes of diarrhea go, giardia is more fun than most because in addition to five straight weeks of intestinal cramping and agony resistant to Imodium and all anticholinergics, it gives the gift of poo with an ungodly stench so vile that your nostrils pinch together of their own accord and you have difficulty breathing because you remember that science class in seventh grade when your teacher told you that your sense of smell works because tiny little bits of whatever you're smelling are actually floating through the air.

And that fun science fact is the reason I was retching on the morning I had to harvest a stool sample for my doctor.  They had given me the plastic container and bag and label and plastic Dairy Queen spoon-looking thing, but I had to be the one to figure out how to actually collect the sample.  It was a special kind of humiliation that a person can experience in complete privacy.  There was also a super-interesting moment when I was distracted from the horrid odor while using the spoon to scoop up part of my giardia-poo and a tiny string of mucus that was in it formed and then disappeared and it looked like a pinworm disappearing into a kitten's rectum and I threw up and spent the rest of the day convinced that I had worms and that was what was wrong with me and the doctors had totally missed it.

I lay for a while on my bed, going into the light of the lamp because that was the only way to leave my body.  P.J. patiently talked me down and had me go through the details and applied logic and medical expertise until I understood it was just mucus I saw and not a worm.  (Can I take this moment to shout out what an amazing wife I have?)  I didn't mind the gag-inducing smell in the bathroom nearly as much after that.

They tried all kinds of treatment and I was tested for Celiac and I even had a colonoscopy, but in the end the giardia had to run its course and then I got better.

At two o'clock this morning, I woke from the dream and immediately knew a) why I had had it, b) why I had woken up, and c) that days that begin at two in the morning with smells like that are not going to be good days.  It was the same smell.  The giardia smell.  It permeated the bedroom.  Molly was up and walking around, and after turning on the lamp and taking in the scene, I understood the suffocating, cough-inducing farts she was giving off last night.

There was a puddle of diarrhea on one rug.

And tiny diarrhea paw prints across the wood floor to the blanket she'd been sleeping on, which also had little puddles of diarrhea.

It was like a diarrhea crime scene.  I looked at this cute little recently spayed puppy with her Cone of Shame, in her sedative stupor, and thought that surely she could not have created it.  The only explanation that fit was that Donald Trump had come into my bedroom half an hour earlier and started talking and shaking his head vigorously at the same time.  There was that much shit on the floor.  I didn't hear him because I wear ear plugs.  He's known for wee-hours shit-spewing and I was pretty sure I'd forgotten to lock the back door.  It totally made sense, to a person with three hours of sleep and Lunesta in her system.

But then I thought about that and how there isn't much room in the bedroom and all of the sunglasses-at-night-wearing Secret Service agents wouldn't have been able to fit.  So Molly's post-anesthesia, antibiotic-besieged intestinal tract had produced all of this.  I congratulated myself on having shut the bedroom door before turning in, and gave myself major points for resisting the temptation to let her sleep up on the bed.  I hauled the rug and blanket down to the washing machine.  I wiped and sprayed and cleaned the footprints away.  I took a wet wipe and cleaned Molly's backside.  I sprayed air freshener and lit apple-scented candles.  Then I set her crate back up and stuffed it with a waterproof bed and put her in it, because fuck that shit.

(Side note:  P.J. took Rose up to The Lodge this weekend so we wouldn't have to crate Molly.  So that's funny, too.)

We slept until dawn, in spite of the brightly candle-lit room.  I woke to her whining, sat straight up, and in one smooth motion had her on a leash in the back yard with my pajamas still crooked, just in case.  She walked around for a while, still drugged, sometimes stopping to stare at grass, but nothing productive happened.  We went back inside.

I made a cup of coffee while she promptly went around a corner and deposited diarrhea on another rug and a sheet.

My whole life today will revolve around Molly and diarrhea.  I've given her Imodium (because the Internet said I could) and later I'll cook her some chicken and rice mixed with cottage cheese (because the Internet said I should).  I'm allowing her to lie against my left leg and rest as I type, even though the farts are still escaping and they're kind of traumatizing at this point.  Laundry is constantly running downstairs.

I suppose I have to thank her for aiming solely at things that can be put in a washing machine.  "Thank you for having diarrhea in only specific locations."  I just don't think it would make a good greeting card.  "Thank you for not letting Donald Trump and a bunch of Secret Service agents into the bedroom last night."  Hell, that card might be at the drug store right now.

September 27, 2018

anal glaucoma

Dr. Brown was a somber, serious, horse-faced man with prominent balding and a longish gray beard.  He wore a dead-sensible suit each day and spoke only when necessary, with slow and deliberate and carefully chosen words.  Beneath all of this bland professional presentation, he showed his dry sense of humor one day when calling in sick.  You could hear his straight-kept face through the phone as he reported that he would not be in due to an attack of anal glaucoma.

Our secretary paused, but had to ask.  "I'm sorry you're not feeling well, Dr. Brown.  Er, what is anal glaucoma, exactly?"

Dr. Brown said, "I just can't see my ass coming in to work today."

This has been a line for posterity, a line for the ages.  

I have a severe case of anal glaucoma this morning and I'm wrestling with it.  I know I'll lose either way because this is me, but I'm wrestling anyway.

In this corner of the ring, we have my work ethic, which looks like one of those female body builders who have totally wrecked their bodies through over-development, robust to an off-putting excess.  You could ping rocks off my work ethic's washboard stomach.  And there's its sidekicks, including Guilt, What The Hell Would I Do All Day?, I Have To Leave The House Anyway, and I Need To Set A Good Example For The Kid.  They're all damned good wrestlers.

In the other corner of the ring, the contender, Anal Glaucoma.  Molly's getting spayed this morning, and Anal Glaucoma has some good team mates, including I Should Stay Here And Get Things Ready For Her, partnered with his twin brother, I Should Take Tomorrow Off, Too, Because I Can Look After Her.  Their manager, I Got A Flu Shot Yesterday And Have The Perfect Excuse Because I Can Say I'm Sick, really works with them.

And the truth is that I do feel wonky, and the muscle relaxant makes it hard to work because I'm murky, and I didn't enjoy being there yesterday because I'm not fully back on track with the lithium, and some of the wonk really does come from the flu shot.  But it's not wonky enough to excuse me from work.  I can work.  I can push through, and I know this because I've done it before.  I'm not contagious.  There is no reason for me not to work.  I do not have a good reason to lie around the house reading and dozing and leaving my co-workers in the lurch to cover for me.

The odds are fair to middling I'll overcome the A.G. and go in.  Sometimes I just start driving so it will appear to The Kid that I'm going, with the intent of waiting for his bus to leave so I can drive back home, setting the example through completely dishonest means, but more often, when I do this, I end up just driving to work out of habit, and then find myself in the parking lot without really meaning to, so I work.  I did this once when I really was sick.  They made me turn around and go back home.  I was half-delirious.

I can't see my ass going in to work today.  But we make our own future, don't we?

September 26, 2018

standing in the high school hallway in your underwear

Usually when I have that dream, I also can't find the right classroom, so I'm actually walking around instead of standing there, popping my head into classrooms to ask if I belong there, but I'm in my underwear so no one takes me seriously, and then I realize that and I'm mortified.  A convenient hole never, ever opens in the ground and swallows me.  I resent that.  My brain could at least give me a hole.

But who needs embarrassing dreams, when there's reality?  I had my slip fall down around my ankles while at the post office counter years ago, and a line of people behind me saw it happen, and I had to step out of it and pick it up off the floor with as much dignity as I could muster, pay for my stamps, and walk out with my head held high.  And that's nothing compared to what happened with the moving truck.

I had the hubris to drive a twenty-seven-foot moving truck back when P.J. and I bought our house together and I sold my little dive.  I freak out driving a minivan, so this decision baffles me now, but I wasn't in the financial league to hire movers.  I drove it home without colliding with anything.  I'm proud of that.  I tried pulling into my driveway and ended up snagging the neighbor's street-parked car under the rear left tire and wrecking the shit out of it, slowly crunching it into an accordion as I gave the van gas and tried in vain to pull forward.  I lived across the street from an elementary school and it was dismissal time, so there were two lines of cars full of parents watching this happen.  If it happened today, there would be videos of it all over Facebook and Twitter and YouTube (which the Kruger Brothers have termed YouTwitFace).

I had to do a thirty-point adjustment to disengage from the mangled car and finish pulling into the driveway, after which I sat frozen in the cab for forty-five minutes, until I felt sure that the very last possible witness to the debacle had long since departed.  Then I freaked out.

I can't even drive down that street now.

Fast-forward to yesterday.  I sat in Therapist Gumby's office broken, ashamed that I had allowed the suicidal thoughts to return after having achieved victory over them, listening to his words of hope and re-framing and trying, trying so hard, to embrace what he said, to work through difficulty understanding the words in complete sentences, to concentrate on what he was saying.  All I could see was the combination of drugs in my house I could take, make that thought fight with needing to teach The Kid to drive, needing to stick around.  Sharing the war within.

The Monk called in the augmented lithium as promised.  I picked it up, as promised.  I asked P.J. to hide meds, as promised.  I made grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.  I let The Kid drive us to his dad's house.  I came home and did laundry.

P.J. surrounded me with her love, many hugs, softly brushing my cheek and looking into my eyes with understanding.  She is my rock.

At bed time, I got out my weekly night pill container and dumped Tuesday night into my hand, and went to replace the 300 mg lithium with the new 450 mg tablet.

Except the 300 mg wasn't there to remove from my hand.

And I started thinking.

I stood thinking for a good while.

And suddenly, I was standing in the high school hallway in my underwear.

I refilled the lithium last Friday.  I hadn't had enough to finish out the pill container for the week.  And I had forgotten to go back Friday and add what was missing.

I can swallow eleven pills at once.  I never pay attention to what's there.  That's why I make a pill box.

I had not had any lithium since last Friday.  I forgot to put it in.  I had inadvertently quit cold-turkey.

The sudden numbness during beautiful music on Saturday night.  The abrupt onset of suicidal ideation, wistful longing to execute a plan, on Sunday morning.  The reluctantly reaching out to my support system, telling those who needed to know, even though they were the very people who would try to thwart me.  All of it.  I brought it all on myself.

A simple mistake.  One I know I will not make again.  And in a few days, I will feel better.  That is a thought I can hear loud and clear.

The hard part, though, was e-mailing The Monk and explaining that this was my bad.  I think I would have preferred walking into his office in my underwear, trailing a slip around my left ankle, missing my mood chart and totally unprepared for class.

September 25, 2018


I have a twisted way of enjoying campaign season because my cell phone constantly rings and shows a number from some area code a thousand miles or more away, or sometimes a suspicious local mobile number, and I should probably feel bad because one of the callers might be someone from the Save the Diabetic Puppies Foundation thanking me for a donation, but that doesn't keep me from answering every single time by sliding the phone symbol thingie up, waiting two seconds for the call to connect, slowly and emphatically saying, "FUCK OFF AND DIE IN A FIRE," and sliding it back down to hang up.

Huh.  Maybe that's why I still haven't sold that computer on Craigslist.  I have a nice gaming computer I'm selling, if anyone is interested.  But don't call me about it.

I haven't seen the lawn guy lately, either.

I should also feel bad because it's just someone volunteering or doing their job on the other end, but I don't care because they're invading my life.

Invading is things coming in that you don't want there.  Like those phone calls.  Like suicidal thoughts.

Sometimes, things come in that you didn't expect, but that you do want there.  Like your therapist's hands unexpectedly cupping your own hands cupped around a tissue, symbolically holding you and bracing you up when you can't hold yourself together, far more than the longest, warmest hug could ever hope to do.  Like caring that cuts through your wall of pain like a machete through butter.  Not soft, pink caring.  Caring that looks like a shiny, black metal weapon out of one of my son's video games.  Caring that cannot and will not be denied, or ignored, or cast aside.

I had to look him in the eye, and one of the lies went away.


I was all set to write a post about how music is medicine.  We heard the Kruger Brothers twice this past weekend, at a huge festival with a commensurately massive sound system on the stage.  We were in the third row and the bass was so close it was muddy-sounding, but strong.  I was about to write about how Joel Landsberg's bass sets the beat in all of the parts of my heart that aren't the physical organ, because of how the bass travels through the concrete and up through my feet, my plastic chair, and seems to settle right in my chest with an arresting rhythm.

I even went so far as to pull out some paper and a pen from my backpack and scratch out the notes for this post, most of which I didn't use because they sounded perfect in the moment but ridiculous an hour later, and also because P.J. had commandeered my phone for its camera (her phone camera is crap) and I couldn't pull up Blogger.  P.J. asked me what I was doing, and I said a blog post was writing itself and I couldn't keep up.

But that was then.  Half an hour later, heart still bass-beating, banjo still mesmerizing, I suddenly went numb.  The music stopped reaching me and became a collection of sounds that my ears were hearing, which is not music at all.  I tried to act normal because P.J. was having a wonderful time and I didn't want her to worry.  I'm not sure how successful I was.  Sometimes she caught me staring at the back of the chair of the person in front of me, instead of watching the magic happening on the stage.  Just ... a bunch of sounds.

It's not numbness now, three days later; it's pain, and the sudden return of suicidal ideation, an overused villain in a movie franchise sequel.  It's as though a switch was flipped, I wrote to The Monk earlier, and I don't understand why the lithium made the villain go away and it somehow found its way back after it was banished/blown to bits/stripped of its power.

The Monk just wrote me back.  He's calling in an increase in the lithium, temporarily, to get me through this.

Is that like giving the hero of the movie franchise a new weapon or power?

These thoughts aren't like the usual ones.  They're worse.  They pretend to be rational.  They have a life of their own and I can put them inside a bubble, but I can't make the bubble float away.  I have to sit here and look at it.  I can make a list around it of all of the reasons I need to be reaching out for help (I am) and reciting to myself why I can't consider the thoughts (my wonderful family and all that love brings).  It's a good list and it's growing every minute.

There is no reason for the thoughts to be in my brain.  There was no reason for my heart to stop hearing the beat, taking the medicine of music.  There are no reasons to die and many, many reasons to live.  There is every reason to write this post.

September 23, 2018

teddy bear surgery was absolutely necessary

... wherein I prove that I cannot, under any circumstances, resist fucking with things.  Not just electronics, but all things.  If it doesn't explode, spew aerosol poison, or play Captain and Tennille songs at me, I meddle.  Also, P.J. told me I shouldn't do this, so I did it.  I grabbed the teddy bear and my sewing box and a flashlight and performed forensic analysis.

(See previous post or this will sound really weird .... er.  Weirder.  But you'll also agree that it was absolutely necessary.)

Objective:  Confirm presence or absence of small, black, round object inside cranial cavity of teddy bear.

Procedure:  Used scissors to make incision along approximately one-third of the circumference of the nose.  Prepared needle and thread for eventual closure; set aside.  Utilized flashlight and right index finger to examine contents of cranial space, disturbing pieces of foam and paper stuffing during examination.

More Procedure:  Refused to acknowledge that it mattered that black object could not be found.  Poked at internal structure of left eye and found glue disintegrated and three [remaining] pieces of eye easy to remove and inspect.  Closely examined orange glass outer eye component and found no opening through which matter could escape.  Inspected inner metal brace and glue peg with identical results.  Decided physical impossibility did not constitute proof because anything can happen when glue is loose.  Grudgingly pursued science.

Science Part of Procedure:  Poked at right "good" eye as control and could not separate inner and outer pieces, glued together, even by prying with scissors and exhibiting significant determination.

"Oh Shit Now I've Messed Up My Childhood Teddy Bear" Post-Forensic Procedure:  With difficulty, re-assembled inner components of left eye.  Took bear to kitchen and obtained superglue from utility drawer.  Applied glue and clamped components for appropriate drying posture.  Sutures to follow.

Analysis Results:  Okay, the glue was loose, y'all, so obviously there's a piece that got out somehow because of that, even though I can't find it, but that doesn't mean it didn't slide down into one of the feet somewhere, because I had that teddy bear in active use for at least three more years after that fateful day, and it wouldn't have stayed in the head because that stuffing in there is beyond insubstantial and the neck is open inside to the torso.  I resisted the urge to do a full body incision to look.  I am going to glue and sew this little guy, who never had a name except Teddy Bear, back together, and then he'll be intact again and I will move forward with science on my side, choosing to believe that I did not hallucinate that memory.  I really never believed I did, but now I know I didn't.  Probably.

September 22, 2018

i was reared by the yard sale table

Dr. Seuss says, "Sometimes,
you land on your ass.  Deal
with it, Little Yellow Guy."
You know how sometimes you're eating chicken stew or maybe some Carolina-style pulled pork, and you unexpectedly find a bit of bone, and sometimes you nearly break a tooth on it but sometimes you feel it on your tongue and just take it out of your mouth and put it into a napkin and move on with your life?  None of that has anything to do with why I'm writing this, except that I found another bit of bone to write.

We're going to a local bluegrass festival tonight and tomorrow night, and I've surfaced just enough to maybe enjoy it and let the music reach me.  I wore my ankle-length, flowery prairie-girl dress with a cardigan to work today, curls in my hair and sandals, and today it was "me", so I came home and told P.J. that I'm wearing it to the street festival.

I got The Eyebrow, plus the comment, "You'd have to wear a big, floppy hat.  That's the only way to pull off that look."

I said, "What look?  It isn't a look.  It's a dress.  I'm not required to dyke out."

She said, "It's a look."

I said, "What things live in your head, woman?"

She said, "Fashion things, that's what things."

I said, "Oh, so this is like Fashion Plates, and you're going to change out the pair of twee pants for a skirt, and the dead-sensible secretary blouse for that frilly Strawberry Shortcake-looking top, and the virtuous, innocent head for the one with the slightly suggestive expression, and then you're going to put a piece of paper on top and pull that plastic thing down over it and color it with your crayons to make a picture?"

She said, "What things live in my head?  What the fuck are you even on about?"

I said, "Fashion Plates.  That game.  From the 1970s.  You don't remember Fashion Plates?"

The Eyebrow again.  "Um, no?"  I said, "It was a game and ... oh, right.  It probably came from that same yard sale table as the book, now that I think about it.  Figures."

The yard sale tables that peppered my run-down neighborhood.

I had a Lite-Brite that I got as a Christmas present one year, and some of those miniature Campbell's soup cans and cereal boxes that I guess other kids used in walk-in doll houses (I just got a kick because it was the only way I got name-brand items and they made me feel upper-class), but the bulk of my early childhood toys came from yard sales.  The Fashion Plates game likely got thrown in for free when my parents bought the owl paintings.

I have questions because the Fashion Plates box advertised that anyone six years old or older (I was four) could make "even millions" of combinations.  I don't remember my advanced math class content and I'm a little bit ashamed of that, but I count three plates each of heads, busty chests, upper bodies, and lower bodies, plus a slot for a pack of eight colored pencils.  If at least two colors needed to be used on each one, omitting any flesh-colored pencil, then the permutation would probably equal a fairly large number, but I'm not sure if it approaches a million.  Is there a doctor in the house who could perform this calculation for me?  Comment, please.

I swear to you, that
pupil rolled into its head.
My first teddy bear came from a yard sale and was given to me when I was a year old.  It was so sweet, that pre-loved, pre-dilapidated rust-colored teddy bear, and also I have a strong memory of my first hallucination at age three, when the black pupil of one of the teddy bear's glass eyeballs detached and seemed to me to magically slide out of its eye and into the back of its skull.  It's still a little movie in my mind.  I saw the whole thing and was told for years afterward that that was impossible and that I shouldn't make things up like that.  Now I question my parents' tenuous grasp of the concept of cheap-ass glue and teddy bear glass eyeball manufacturing.  Nevertheless, in the midst of the validation void, I had a bear that was blind in one eye, which made me love it all the more.

Wait.  Hold up.  I'm a grown-ass woman now.  I could make an incision in its neck and check to see if that pupil is in its head somewhere, and then sew him back up afterward.  I can prove it happened and I didn't hallucinate and put that in your pipe and smoke it, disbelieving parental units who wanted me to believe my mental illness started before I had moved past sippy cups.

But what if it isn't in there?



My favorite book at age four came from a yard sale table.  It's Dr. Seuss' least popular book ever, I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew.  It's unpopular because it contains a moral, which is that life sucks and you can never escape that fact and all of the terrible things that are out of your control, so you might as well just get on with it and cope somehow.  Also, if you're meek, you're totally screwed.  It was good fodder to serve as a foundation for my life.  I read it and read it until it was even shabbier than it was when it was pressed into my hands for the first time.  I bought it for The Kid at some point, from a proper book store, and it never got shabby.  It never got so much as corner wear.  I'm not even sure he read far enough to encounter the Perilous Poozers of Pompelmoose Pass.

I didn't know about hand-me-downs, and god damn it, I loved that book and that teddy bear and that game.  I played and read and cuddled my prizes while my parents hung the owl paintings downstairs, because we were poor and they got to decorate and for them, that was a prize, too.

September 19, 2018


I feel awful for what I wrote last night.  It's too graphic.  It's too ... truth.  But that's the very reason I can't delete it.

I saw the doctor this morning about my chronic and increasingly severe neck symptoms.  The nurse did a mandatory pre-screening for depression ... "in the past two weeks, have you felt ... thought ...." ... the one where I'm usually able to answer "no" or "very little" to the questions.  Today, my answers, always honest, stunned me.  "Constantly ... somewhat ... frequently ... all the time ... every day."  I didn't realize I was that bad off right now.  I cried after the nurse left.  I cried through three Kleenex.

The neck and shoulder exam left me hurting, but the good news is that it is far more likely a muscular thing than a cervical spine thing.  She could feel the muscles spasm under her touch.  It still needs serious treatment and attention, but it can be fixed.  Muscle relaxants and physical therapy and exercises are in my future, and I welcome them.  Anything that can help me get out of pain and sleep better will help address ... everything else.

Last night left no marks.  And I am too full of self-importance.

September 18, 2018

critical hit

I can't stretch this
metaphor to account
for pilot lights. Sorry.
The point of impact when I hit myself is similar to lighting a gas fireplace.  The hard, plastic-metal click sound of the ignition button, over and over again, heel of hand on zygomatic orbit, trying to make a fire but only making a spark, a brief burst of light in a half-circle of pinpoints around my eye.  Burst after burst.  Then the whoosh of the fire, the red flame, the red skin, the flood of relief, the job done.  The fire lit again.

I have spent the past week unbelievably out of balance, especially yesterday and today.  I think I'm missing some sleep, but I'm not sure what the blame for the rest of it, other than just being wrapped in part of the miasma of bi-polar disorder.

The irritability is intense.  Not the stomping-around, eye-rolling, heavy-sighing kind.  There have been whole hours when I've been amazed I didn't rocket straight out of my chair and through the ceiling, launched by the sheer force of my inability to tolerate sitting in it.  Some moments, my hands have been shaking.  The voices of people speaking nearby have borne down on my chest and made breathing difficult.  I can't make them stop talking, and sometimes they have talked to me, and I have had to talk back to them.  It's bordered on unbearable.

The depression is still around, which I think defines this as a mixed state.

I want to sit and stare at nothing, but I set about doing what I usually do to cope with depression, laundry or dishes or some other chore that doesn't require much thought but does provide a sense of usefulness.  Today, I want to drop the dishes and hear them shatter.  I throw the clothes into the dryer with as much force as I can and then rage that I'm too weak to use them to dent the metal, rage at my own flacid, pathetic inefficacy.

I do the grocery shopping.  I even remember the twenty-dollars-off coupon.  Walking back to my car, I stop my cart to wait for an SUV to back out of its space, and while I wait I remember the time I let The Kid stay in the car when he was ten and came back to find he and his ADHD had tangled his neck in the rear seat belt and I ran back into the store for scissors and ran back out and cut him free.  I didn't start shaking until I got home and told P.J. and everything was real again.  Today, I remember this and put the groceries into the back of the RAV4 and put away the cart, then get into the driver's seat and sit on my hands until the urge to strike my face passes.  Then I drive home.

P.J. and I discuss the weekend.  We have tickets to a bluegrass festival that we've been looking forward to for a long time, since before Chester died and before we adopted Molly, since before our lives changed a lot.  We figure out what to do.  P.J. says she hopes I feel better before the weekend.  She is saying that she hopes I can enjoy it, that we can enjoy it together, that the best that can be, will be.  I hear her saying that my mental illness will ruin the experience for her and that she wishes I wasn't like this.

I sit in a dark bathroom with my knees drawn to my chin and think.  I think about many things, not death, but dark things, and haircuts and upcoming staff meetings and foundation make-up and my doctor's appointment tomorrow morning, where I will sit under fluorescent lights that show bruises easily and talk about the weight I've gained.  I hold out for fifteen minutes before I succumb to the pressure to hit.

With every strike, I try to hit past my face and hit the disease in my brain instead, because it will never, never, never, never get better.

September 17, 2018


These signs are all over
front yards in my town.
The word "tithe" has been stuck in my head this morning.  It simply means "tenth" but we recognize its religious meaning more readily, the practice of signing over one-tenth of one's income or possessions to a religious establishment. 

The Mennonite description of the principle underlying tithing holds that "whether through community of goods or other forms of financial sharing, mutual aid continues the practice of ... giving special care to widows, orphans, aliens, and others in economic need."

My description of the principle has always been "the way churches self-perpetuate meaninglessly and wield power over sheep-people who can scarcely afford to give up that tenth and still make ends meet, while you preach sermons about why it means gross and not net income."

And that's nothing compared to the things I have to say when people are interviewed after a tornado or hurricane or earthquake, with the camera angled to show their home still standing in the background, thanking God for sparing them and answering their prayers.  To all those around them whose homes are now so many matchsticks piled up, our thoughts and prayers are with you, to the same God who didn't spare you.  Were you praying hard enough?  God is Good.  I can see my house from here.  Thank you, Jesus.

That's what we were in my town:  We were "spared" from Florence this weekend.  The forecasts never came to fruition, the rainfall was light, and the winds were mere breezes.  Somehow, the spin of the thing put us in a gap in the fingers of destructive storm and as she moved, we were spared.  I drove to work this morning over stretches of road that had actual dry patches.  Our schools were delayed by a couple of hours.

Unless your God is the capricious, sadistic bastard star of Judeo-Christian theology, then you know there is no such thing as being spared.  Omnipotence and beneficence cannot co-exist, no, not in a world where houses lie under water and dogs die of snake bites and people die of their own humanity.  Things happen.  Storms happen.

Throw "lucky" into the mix.  We were lucky.  Others have been horribly unlucky.  They didn't deserve their luck.  Neither did we.

Now the neon-orange imbecile who called Florence "tremendously big and tremendously wet," words that better belong in a low-budget porn, will do so much less than is desperately needed by way of governmental response for the unlucky among us, and the churches will move in and declare their role as the bringers of God's mercy and feel good about doing it, feel "spared".

Tithing is not the purview of churches.  A temple should not sustain itself when there are those in great need crying outside its gates.  Show me a church that will empty its growing capital building fund for a planned Family Life Center, to be built on the property next door, into the coffers of aid for the widows, the orphans, the devastated.  Show me a single one.

We can all share, send aid, recognize and fill need.  We can tithe because we were lucky.

I urge my fellow non-Christians, non-Jews, non-Muslims to give, to Red Cross, to animal rescue efforts, to any organization without significant overhead that does its work in the name of community, charity, love, and we're-all-in-this-together-ness.  The coastal areas of North and South Carolina are devastated almost as badly as Houston was last year. 

September 15, 2018

how to pass a breezy saturday

Official Symbol of Apathy®
I've been going back and reading some of my older posts, sifting through two hundred and eighteen of them (how in the ever-loving fuck have I written that much?), and it occurs to me that my bones have been written, even the tiny ones.  My childhood, my mental health, my love and hate, my worldview, are all recorded, and the past few months have brought instead chronicles of daily living, things I notice and can tie in with other things.  The shift was so subtle that I didn't notice it.

Now I can write about the Now as well as the Then, when the ideas trickle down to me.  Today, it's breezy and drizzly outside, as Florence hasn't truly reached us yet, but it still has the feel of a day when you stay home and get things done. 

(The thing about hurricanes on the east coast of the U.S. is where the wind comes from ... storms generally move from west to east, winds come from the southwest or northwest, and tree branches fortify themselves, grow a certain thickness on one side, just enough to account for this ... then the wind comes hammering from the east and Nature prunes the healthy branches along with the unhealthy ones, much like She does people ....)

I told Therapist Gumby this week that I'm living on top of a stratum of low-grade despair about my housekeeping and all of the things, so many uncountable things, that need to be done.  I don't just ignore my share of the regular chores that most people undertake.  There is painting and scrubbing and building and drilling and installing to be done.  There's the toilet tank in the guest bathroom that squeals at what must objectively be the most annoying high pitch in existence whenever anyone runs water anywhere else in the house now.  It just needs the innards of the tank replaced.  I have the kit.  I've even opened it.  Then I walked off.  That was two months ago.  Every time someone flushes another toilet, that one has to be flushed, too, to make the squealing stop.

His suggestion for eradicating the despair was to start with very small things.  We discussed this.  I vowed to go home and move a canister of Lysol wipes into our bathroom and to Windex our bathroom mirrors.

I moved the wipes the next day, but only because P.J. happened to be holding them.  I still haven't done the Windex.  Or anything else.

I'm listening to the wind in the trees and making a mental list of little things to do today.  They have to be little.  Only little things.

I will clear the dust around the bathroom vent, because it, too, has begun to make an interesting noise.

I will actually Windex the mirrors because I said I would.  (They're not even that dirty, she said sulkily.  And I'm not doing Fly Lady, even though my sink is gross.)

I will attach Rose's rabies and license tags to her new Blueberry Dog collar, the royal blue one with tiny roses on it.

I will empty the dog food into the bin so we don't keep tripping over the bag.

I will descale the Keurig and change the water filter because P.J. and I both keep hitting the "not right now" option and I think we've been doing that for ... let's just say more than a couple of weeks.

I will get the roll of non-skid stuff out of the car and bring it up and put some under the rug P.J. just bought to replace the one that Molly chewed up that was a piece of shit anyway.  The dogs have been floor-surfing on the new one when they play.

And then I will relax without guilt.  Well, not much guilt.  It's always whispering.


September 14, 2018

strange notes in the night

Our weekly-menu marker board is an extension of our penchant for leaving sticky notes around for each other.

Molly brought in another turd after the Corn Incident, but has since stopped because we re-instituted the bromelain in addition to MSG.  (Google just tried to replace "bromelain" with "lamebrain".)

Then, after appearing to be perfectly house-trained for two weeks, she had two more piddle accidents, two nights in a row.

The despair over her presence in our home has been enhanced by a new hobby of capturing and bringing inside for her snacking pleasure large insects, including a four-foot-long cicada that I don't even know how she got through the dog door and, yesterday, an innocent katydid.

I love katydids.  They're the exception to my All Bug-Like Life Forms Must Die policy.  But she had caught it and had it between her paws, lying under the dining table, so it was fair game and I had to leave her to it.

Later in the evening, we found the katydid.  It had merely been played with, mauled a bit, but not consumed.  Somewhere in there was some relief, but it was hard to spot.  I disposed of the croggled katydid.

Maybe she's part cat, too.  Embark missed that scrap of DNA.

So our marker board conversation has gone something like this:

Me:  (erased)  "TURD-FREE DAYS:  III"

P.J.:  (erased  TURD) " ____________-FREE DAYS" .... (note above)  "insert puppy transgression here"

Me:  (in the blank) "SNEEZE"

P.J.:  (arrow to SNEEZE) "not a transgression"

Me:  (arrow to "not a transgression") "All right, then.  EATING-KATYDIDS-FREE DAYS"

P.J.:  (crossed out EATING)  "mauling"

Whole philosophical discussions are often had this way.

The winds are picking up a bit here.  The hurricane talk is more frenzied.  I think this is part of being in a society.  It's not my favorite part.

September 12, 2018

the suicidal toad

Yesterday was The Kid's first day driving.  I made him drive us home from his dad's house along a stretch of reliably uneventful interstate last night, in the dark.  I'm mean.

He drove up our long, steep-hill driveway and parked at the top, because I am the only person (says me) allowed to pull the RAV4 into the far garage bay.  I kicked him out of the driver's seat and was about to maneuver into the garage when he pointed at something and motioned for me to stop.

A largish toad had just hopped into the garage.

A toad that was sitting neatly on the tire tracks of where I pull in, a toad that would have imminently been listed as today's special on the Roadkill Cafe menu.  I parked and got out and used a broom to try to swat the it out of the garage and away into the summer night.

The toad fled its corner and jumped over a loaded mouse trap, very nearly tripping it.  It landed behind a large spray canister of potent pest control poison, the kind we're really not supposed to own as mere mortal consumers.  While it rested there to consider its next move, a large tire iron chose that moment to fall and clatter onto the concrete floor and came within an inch of toad-bashing.

I'm surprised it didn't hop onto a rake and get smacked in the face by the suddenly vertical handle.

The toad has gone off into the wide world, where it will, if it isn't first hit by a car, eaten by a dog, or struck by lightning in two days' time, encounter a frog-strangler tropical storm.

Is a suicidal toad in a hurricane the same thing as a frog in a blender?

The winds have already begun here, far inland in the Piedmont of North Carolina, and the source of the wind is the breath of Southern women.  Hurricane Florence, and all her predecessors, must be discussed in full detail.  It is a ritual as time-honored as funeral food and shaking out rugs on the front porch, one that I'm willing to bet is practiced in every place on the planet, by all peoples, anywhere storms go.

My co-workers have been sitting in a circle and discussing the storms here in the last fifty years, what the forecasts are saying about Florence, whose niece is evacuating and what the dog has to say about it.  They've been at it for an hour.  They're worse than an installation of old men playing checkers in the back of a general store.  In due course, the conversation will turn to the effects of barometric pressure drops on various aching joints.

I keep excusing myself to go to the restroom.  PMS and external agitation aren't best friends.

We at Chez Sparven are prepared.  We have a few gallons of gas for our tiny Honda 2000 generator, powerful enough to keep the essentials going (the Keurig, the cable modem, a few energy-efficient laptops, and The Kid's phone charger).  We have non-refrigerated food (yes, I caved in and got the Pumpkin Spice Cheerios, just shut up).  We have drinking water put away for ourselves and for the dogs.  It's possible none of this is needed, but I think we're reacting just right, not ignoring things but not buying out an entire grocery store and building a bunker filled with potable water and canned bacon.

Not that there's anything wrong with canned bacon.  Or any bacon.

It's funny how animals know.  Before we had reliable weather forecasting, people paid attention to the behavior of wild creatures and of their own domesticated animals, and reacted accordingly.  There's a storm a'comin'.

Now I feel guilty because maybe the suicidal toad was simply seeking shelter and wasn't suicidal at all.  It was just completely unaware that living in our garage would make it a Severely Endangered Toad.

such hateful things

"I don't know why
Good people do
Such hateful things,
But they damn sure do."
-Kate Campbell

I think I'll stick to texting my daddy.

I made the mistake of calling him last night, motivated by the need to bitch and vent ad nauseum about my motor vehicle department encounters (turned away three times, inability to find proper documents, rudeness, and general despair about the culture there, to name a few issues, though today The Kid finally got his learner's permit).  I knew I'd at least have a like mind in my daddy.

It didn't take long for the conversation to turn to Serena Williams' recent outburst of anger, under his steam roller style of steering the subject, and my daddy felt free to throw out the N-word again.

The conversation didn't last much longer.

I wish I understood why he is such a different person, in person.

I wish I understood why his voice must only be heard in my head, read off of a cell phone screen, if I am to hear his real voice at all.

I wish that word wasn't part of his real voice.

September 9, 2018

you made me feel young again

I've emerged from the depression and I'm looking at my mood with a raised eyebrow and The Look because I suspect it's swung right past level and up into mild hypomania.

This is the only possible explanation for my behavior in Target last night.

Or maybe it isn't.  Maybe it was the Halloween decoration in that lady's cart.

At first, we thought it was someone's croupy baby or maybe a Nazg├╗l loose in the shampoo aisle.  We were looking at protein cookies and shakes.  It kept happening.  The noise.

It wasn't just annoying to the point of distraction.  It started at the top of the spinal column and traveled down it in a way that made you want to leave your body at the next exit.  I stared at the end cap display of hearing aid batteries and envied someone.

It kept happening.  Over and over again.  Cheap electronic shrill screech-cackle.

"Ah, it's a Halloween thing they must have set up somewhere," said P.J.  I just looked at her, shaking, incapacitated.  "Well, then," she said, "they've got it switched on and somebody can damn well switch it off," and we left the aisle we were on and started walking, listening for the piercing noise so we could hone in on its location and do Things to its source.

It didn't take long.  A few aisles over I actually yelped and jumped when we heard it, because the source was only a few yards away, in a lady's cart, being held and repeatedly activated by her peacefully amused three-year-old.  Neither she nor the kid seemed bothered by the ghastly sound.  That must be why it never occurred to the lady that she was tormenting every customer in the store.

P.J. and I ducked into the candle aisle across the way, because confrontation isn't really our thing, but after the cackle happened a few more times and I grabbed her shirt and used her as a shield without realizing that I was holding her up like that, she decided that enough was enough and went to sort it all out.

The lady chose that moment to move on and, strangely, the noise stopped.  Prescience never ceases to amaze me.  P.J. came back and I was breathing heavily and vibrating.  We sniffed wonderful candles until the shaking stopped and the noise was forgotten.  Aromatherapy is real.

(It's a good thing we didn't end up in the next aisle over, where the cast iron skillets were located.  I don't want to go back to the psych ward.  It was not fun.)

In fact, I felt so much better that I became chipper, even gregarious.  Relief flooded my psyche.  I held agape love for everyone else in the store who wasn't that lady.

We came to our intended destination, the reason we were there in the first place, which was to buy a TV.  Our current one is fifteen years old and has had some slight trouble displaying the movies on our movie nights with The Kid, and the movies always involve someone bringing down a laptop and hooking up a cable and going behind the couch to pause it if someone needs a bathroom break.  Target was having a massive TV sale and we decided it was time.  The Kid is with his dad this weekend and it would be a surprise.  We were feeling fiscally irresponsible.  Why the hell not?

We were greeted by a twelve-year-old kid who actually wasn't but who seemed that way, except he was in a Target uniform, and we told him we were going to peruse the TVs along the wall and we'd be buying one.  "Just let me know when you're ready," he said.

We picked out the one we wanted and I went to find him, only to round a corner and see that he was occupied helping a tall, heavy-set guy with a couple of PlayStation games, unlocking the glass cabinet.  "Which two were you wanting?" "Uh, Destiny 2: Forsaken and God of War," the guy mumbled.

Unfortunately, The Kid, who spends most of his spare minutes with us rambling about whatever the game of the day is that he's playing, had recently told me all about Destiny 2, and it had been one of the rare times I had listened and asked questions in an attempt to appear to take an interest.  So the suddenly-social me, standing close enough, said to the tall, pasty gamer guy, "Have you played that version of Destiny 2 yet?  The four-on-four battle structure is awesome, with the crossover from the other team.  Major improvement."  I smiled.  I was being social!  Look at me, world!

They both turned and looked at me.  The tall guy had a blank expression - no, it wasn't blank, it clearly contained a measure of disdain - and said, "Um, yeah.  I have."  He turned his head back to the glass cabinet.

I stammered something like, "Cool," and went to find P.J. right then.  "Come over here, come on, back here, in the corner.  We have to stay here until that guy up there goes away."

"What guy?"

"The pale mouth-breathing basement-dweller at the counter."  I pointed.

"What the fuck happened?" she asked.

"I was ... I opened my mouth and tried to be conversant and just made a complete and utter ass of myself.  I'm a mom and I was trying to talk Gaming-ese.  What the fuck got into me?"

"Oh, dear."

I'm forty-one, that age where everyone older than you says you're not middle-aged yet and just-you-wait, and everyone younger than you thinks you're ... matronly.  And what I had just done was the equivalent of walking up to a football coach after a game and saying, "I think your team is great!  They got a lot of home runs."

Some time passed and we checked, and the coast was clear, so we walked over to the counter and told the twelve-year-old that we were ready.  Then I blurted out, "And sorry I was trying to act like I knew what I was talking about over there.  I think I weirded that guy out."

His face brightened and he said, "Are you kidding me?  That was great!  Seriously.  It was awesome."

I said, "Yeah, but moms aren't supposed to go over and try to talk gaming.  My son was just talking about all that stuff."

He said, "Sure you are.  And that guy was probably like, 'Oh, crap!  Female!'  He couldn't handle it."

It hadn't occurred to me that this short kid, who has probably taken shit all his life from taller, self-absorbed guys, might have enjoyed the moment.

We paid for the TV.  Sadly, there wasn't a tip jar on the counter.

One of the questions we asked in all of the interviews last week was, "Can you provide an example of a time when you received good customer service, and describe what that was like?"  If I were sitting on the other side of the table, I would say, "This one time, a wiry little twenty-year-old guy working in the electronics department of Target made me feel like I wasn't a middle-aged, socially inept dork who doesn't know her place in society."  It wouldn't have gotten me the job, but it would have been the truth.

September 8, 2018

the god of biscuits

Our boss brought in Biscuitville biscuits and sweet tea yesterday morning for our help desk.  It's been a tough week.  A grateful customer stopped by just after that, picked up a laptop that we had given a new lease on life, and deposited a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts beside the biscuits.  They were still warm.

And somewhere in my reptilian brain (which had the floor because the rest of my brain hadn't benefited yet from the ingestion of adequate coffee), some reasoning happened that went like this:

 "I'm not supposed to have any of these things.  I flat-out can't have the Krispy Kreme because I'll get really sick and it would be irresponsible of me to decide it's worth it to get sick and spend an hour weak and shaky and sweating on my cubicle floor because I have to get a lot done today and people are counting on me, and obviously the tea would do the same thing, but it isn't fair that everyone else gets to have something and I don't, so I'm going to eat a fucking biscuit, right now."

I picked country ham.  It's my favorite.

I unwrapped the greasy, buttery wax paper wrapper to reveal the biscuit, and thought about the Sunday mornings when Grandma would take me to Biscuitville.  The memory was a mixture of grape jelly packets and black plastic utensils, the lady wearing the hair net you could see through the "Made From Scratch" window, rolling the dough and cutting the biscuits for baking, and the menu that you could stare at for hours without ever really feeling you'd picked the best thing to order because you wanted it all at once.

But I'm not that little girl any more (okay, mostly), and after I ate one-third of the biscuit, I faced the fact that I am, and always will be, a post-gastric bypass patient, so I finished the ham out of the middle, picked up the wrapper, and threw the rest of the biscuit into my trash can, so that it, too, wouldn't make me sick later.

Me:  "It felt wrong, for some reason.  Really, really wrong.  You're not supposed to throw away biscuits."

P.J.:  "Doing that was an Abomination Before God."

Me:  "Which god?"

P.J.:  "I dunno.  The God of Biscuits?"

Me:  "You could be right, because it felt like I was offending something out there.  The wrongness didn't come from any sort of moral code based in society.  Well, shit."

I could totally see myself worshiping the God of Biscuits.

I've written much in these past months about atheism and my inability to believe in the Judeo-Christian God or any other figure in major religions.  I don't believe in gods and goddesses.  I don't believe in divine energies or supernatural forces.  I like Buddhism, but there's bullshit in it.

I could get into some sort of witchcraft for the aesthetics of the thing, incense and runes and rituals and the worship of nature and the satisfaction of participating in something socially subversive, but I'd know that all of that, too, is rooted in bullshit.

I can't even worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  The whole Pastafarian gig is hilarious, but I picture the FSM and His Noodly Appendage as what happens when you drain the spaghetti in the colander and it sits too long and because you forgot to put some olive oil on it immediately and stir it up, it's this sticky clump of useless starch that you can pick up in one piece.  You don't get roasted garlic marinara when you're a Pastafarian.  You don't even get melted butter and salt and a little Parmesan cheese.  I get the feeling He's just as bland as the major gods.

But a God of Biscuits?  I felt the touch yesterday.  A biscuit, especially when buttermilk and King Arthur flour and lard are used, can be paradise on Earth.  A proper Southern biscuit is evidence that base and simple things can be used to produce great good in the world, rise above their stations and come together in transcendence.  Even the English can get behind a God of Biscuits of their own definition, bringing life and meaning to Adams' otherwise long and dark teatime of the soul.

I'm not sure how to go about repenting for the discarded two-thirds of a biscuit.  It's possible my frozen protein waffle this morning offended Him.  What if He scoffed?  I need to look into this.

September 6, 2018

god damn you, people magazine

I spent a fair amount of time, back in 2008, calling John McCain a blithering fucking idiot what couldn't find his way out of a distended colon using a flashlight and a mission statement, on the sole basis that he delved too deep and summoned the Balrog dug Sarah Palin out of Alaska and set her loose like the Tasmanian devil free from its wooden crate, except ten jillion times more destructive.

And to tell the truth, I'm still somewhat miffed about that.  We'll be paying the price for several more decades.

Yet there I was, next in line at the register this evening, with two balloons in my hand for a co-worker tomorrow, one of those office celebration things, and I saw John McCain's face on the magazine stand, and unexpected tears welled up and I let them spill because some of his philosophies - and some of his doings in life - might have been utter shite, same as the rest of us, but he was still a good man, with integrity, and you always knew what you were getting.  Even if that thing was Palin.

I dreaded moving up in line and paying for the balloons, because the cashier saw me weeping at the People Magazine cover and probably expected me to start talking politics, and I might be right about that because I got some seriously peppy customer service and was quickly out the door, still sniffling a bit.

Remember our old friends?  Someone once showed one of them a picture of Dubyah, and he screamed in a perfect Smeagol voice, "Ahhhh!  Takes it away!  It burns us!  It freezes!"

I'm thinking of the Dallas memorial service and Dubyah dancing to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and Michelle Obama finally just giving in and locking arms with him and swaying.

It used to be okay to hate a president's guts, skeleton, and skin, because it was safe to do.  I'm not referring to free speech.  It went beyond that.  Somewhere in there, they were still a president enough to take it, somehow.  You didn't have to like it, or them, but there was some basic functional capacity involved, and they got the job done.  The same applies for similar leaders.  And later, like in Dallas, there could be redemption; they could write books; they could open their eyes and learn, like Dubyah has; they could inspire others and move on to great things.

We didn't know how good we had it.

So now, I don't take a word back from ten years ago, because I meant them, Mr. McCain.  And tonight, I wept for you and for all of us, because you were one of the few remaining Best Of Us, and I mean that, too.

wherein the spiders continue the hunt

Exhibit 1: Lying in Wait,
but I HAVE A RAV4,
It isn't just that when I opened the door to let the dogs out for their first morning pee, an orb weaver lowered itself and stopped right in front of my nose, apparently mistaking me for Wilbur wanting to have an existential conversation.

It's that when I left for work and began the descent down my driveway, my lights hit the other orb weaver's square-mile web just before I plowed into it, and I then learned that it is possible to drive through a spider web with the front of your car, while you're perfectly safe inside the cab, and still experience no less than ten minutes of The Crawlies.

I think The Oatmeal said it perfectly.  Take it, Matt.

(Don't forget to click on "Bonus Panel" under the comic.)

September 5, 2018

this one stumped me

Therapist Gumby:  "What do you do for fun?"

I sat in my puddle of anhedonia and looked at him, and I didn't know how to answer.  So I named things that give me meaning, things that touch me, things I do out of habit, things I wish I could do but can't.

What do I do for fun?

I played online games - Seeker's Notes, Dragon Mania Legends, and hardcore Minecraft (1.8.9 only, because it jumped the shark after that).  But I don't do that now, to speak of.  Just a little.  I've done something to my neck that has gone beyond soreness and now involves tingling and radiculopathy down my right arm, and using my mouse at work is all I can give.  I used to type a lot.  I don't any more.  And I don't game much.  I don't Minecraft.  I don't use an iPad.  That fun is over.  Which is shitty, because the games provided much-needed distraction and a way to fill the hours so that I didn't think nearly as much about how the house needs to be deep-cleaned.

I sing Messiah every year, and that's coming up in November, but the other eleven months are bereft of musical performance because I refuse to join the symphony again.  The rehearsal requirements are something I can't manage.

We used to have friends, and we would spend Friday nights sitting around talking and laughing together.  That was fun.  It was fun for eight years.  But we don't have friends here any more.

Going back even further ... I once belonged to a Bunco group.  I once played volleyball in a local rec league.  I once played bridge with clubs in town - and even out-of-town tournaments, where we won trophies - with my ex-husband.  I couldn't even define a Stayman play now for you, except it occurs somewhere on the "2" level.  I think.  When there was a YWCA, I swam for fitness and for the sensation of floating in warm water.

But in recent years, there were useful things that kept me busy, and that felt like fun, because it kept me out of depression most of the time.  Fun has been defined as what I do to keep afloat.  The Lodge brings peace, tainted by the nagging restlessness of enforced relaxation.  Going to hear live music (Carolina in the Fall in a couple of weeks, already have our VIP tickets because we love the Kruger Brothers) makes me feel alive and soulful, but I don't know if that's "fun" ... it is enjoyment because it awakens things in me for a little while.  It's more of an intense experience than it is fun.

I remember once, at a Doc Watson performance in Sugar Grove, North Carolina, watching people get up and dance in the Appalachian old-time dancing fashion, and being overcome by jealousy because I wished I could participate, the coordination and steps and abandon I saw in their dancing.  But I was not the lady with the long brown hair and calico dress and beaded hippie purse.  She could dance.  I could not, and cannot.  I think I might have cried.

I have forgotten how to play duplicate bridge, and I am a bit older now and too stiff and out of shape for volleyball or any sport.  (I have always sucked at softball.)  I don't know anyone who plays Bunco, and we don't socialize.  I watch Marvel Comics movies with my son and enjoy these, but they are few and far between.

I read Terry Pratchett novels to pass the time.  I enjoy them.  Is this fun?  I don't know.

There is one shining exception, and it is this:  I love laughing with P.J.  Our senses of humor are weird and aligned and we laugh together.  Her laugh is undiluted, unstrained mirth.  It should be collected in a tiny glass bottle with a dropper, taken one potent drop at a time.  We laugh a lot, when we can, when the black dog is not sitting on one or both of our chests.  And it's possible, if not probable, that our laughter together can alone fill my need for fun.

I would like to think this is so.

September 4, 2018

days of being

... the days when my mind is jerky, blurred, when it fidgets within my skull ....

... the days when writing is out of reach because nothing can take my mind's hand and lead it down a path ....

... the days when thinking is impossible and gray and the steering wheel is slippery ....

... the days when anhedonia breaks joy and enjoyment and I cannot muster the will to begin to piece the shards together again, when I wonder idly what I will do with the time I have to spend, jingling heavy in my pocket, now that enjoyment is dead and utility should rush in to take its place ....

... the days of being, whether willingly or resigned or at all redeemable.

The lithium is supposed to make this go away.  I know it cannot, that nothing can make it go away forever, but it's supposed to anyway.  I know my job is to coast, my job is being.

September 2, 2018

don't make me get my screwdriver

(WARNING:  If you're not a techie, this will probably be boring, but I'd prefer that it's you reading it, because if you are a techie, I'll be mortified that you're reading it because you'll know I'm really just a bone-headed idiot who doesn't belong in your ranks.  Anyone who has never waved a screwdriver at his or her laptop in a menacing fashion, however, may continue reading.)

It wasn't noticeable when I was seven and they had trouble prying my friend's Speak 'n' Spell out of my hands.  Nor could it be detected when I hogged the Apple IIe at school and at the public library on a regular basis.  It only became apparent when I got a Tandy 1000 for my sixteenth birthday, complete with a dot matrix printer, so I could do work on our school newspaper at home in WordPerfect 5.1.  One day the printer jammed in a way that didn't involve the guide-hole edges of the paper, and after several perfunctory attempts to un-jam it, I got curious and experienced the first manifestation of a "what the hell have I got to lose" mentality concerning technology-oriented objects.  I found my daddy's screwdriver in the back of a drawer and took the printer apart.  Completely apart.  There were plastic gear wheels and long metal things and bits of casing strewn about my bedroom floor.  I found what I decided was the problem, bent something, and put it all back together.

The bitch of it is, the printer worked fine after that.

The next year, at college, I put my first modem into a computer.  The Tandy received a 2400 baud rate modem, bought for seven bucks from a classmate.  I dialed up a local BBS and played online trivia.  I hold a teensie crumb of pride that my online presence slightly pre-dates the take-off of non-ARPA consumer-friendly Internet access.

The printer was still working then, too.

I was in my very late twenties before what was plainly set before me in those early days finally clubbed me over the head to get my attention.  I sort of accidentally melted a plastic report cover around the drum of a brand new Toshiba copier at work (still under warranty) in an attempt to make a transparency, and rather than call in the warranty repair person and admit to my boss the stupidity of what I had done, I checked the clock and saw that I had an hour, and grabbed yet another screwdriver from the back of a drawer and took the entire copier apart, all the way down to the part where I could peel the cover off neatly without exposing the drum to light.  I put it all back together and - shit - I had one screw left (which I would later learn is standard operating procedure for an amateur technician).  But after flagrantly voiding the warranty, I tested the copier and it worked fine, and showed no sign of having been violated in such fashion.  The screw must have been unimportant.  I hid it in my desk drawer and I did not try to make more transparencies.  My boss walked back in a few moments later, sipping a cup McDonald's tea, and all was well because nothing had happened.  Do you hear me?  Nothing.

As far as I know, the copier is still running, too.

My thirst to dismantle things quickly spread from that day forward to laptops, our big-screen TV, computer mice, and just about anything else that pissed me off in the moment.  I started rehabbing broken things, buying two of the same model with differing problems and Frankensteining them together (yes, that's a verb) to make one working machine, which I would then sell.  I spent years teaching myself to do this and, on the whole, I'm certain I lost money, no matter how entrepreneurial I tried to be about it all.

I don't so much have a penchant or knack for tech repair as I do an insatiable need to rise above my low frustration threshold and fuck with things and have something to show for it.  It's a combination of a love of healing and my own response to the voice of the Universe saying, "You really shouldn't mess with that, you could break something."  We all know that if anyone says I shouldn't or can't do a thing, that thing is precisely what I set about doing.

Hence, I've replaced iPhone screens (including the parts I ruined in the process of disassembly) and rebuilt a Nintendo 3DS (which only worked for a day).  I've baked motherboards in the oven to re-flow solder (which worked rather well, actually).  I take mice apart to try to make them click more quietly.  This usually fails, but I still do it.  I suck at most of what I do.  I'm forever snapping off bezel clips and crimping delicate ribbon cables and forgetting to put screws back in.  I'm an expert in disposing of backlights in an environmentally harmful fashion.

A couple of months ago, my Toshiba laptop pissed me off for the last time.  Here is a picture of it lying in state later that afternoon:

I sold most of the parts on eBay to people across the world.  It's like scattering ashes, but completely different.

Earlier this week, though, I got close to the point of hitting myself, though I think the trigger was the need to issue a sensible reprimand against abject stupidity rather than any form of mental pathology.  P.J. has limped along for a few years with an Asus T100 tablet that she uses as a secondary machine for our dragon game.  The charging port got croggled and she bought another one, but this time with Windows 8 on it and some behavioral problems, as well the absence of a working keyboard.

I decided to upgrade it to Windows 10.

There ensued a comedy of errors wherein I got a USB to mini-USB adapter, made the installation media, and then realized that I couldn't reach a boot menu because of not having a keyboard (yeah, I know, it didn't occur to me to hook one up by USB at that point in time), so in my infinite tech wisdom, I changed the boot settings to Safe Mode in Windows, then restarted.  And when it booted, it didn't load the touch screen drivers, so I had absolutely no way to communicate with the computer, save for turning it on and off.  I figured I had bricked it.  That's when I almost had one of my little Episodes.

I did eventually figure out the keyboard hookup and the tablet is okay now, but I walked around for a full day considering the probability that I've gone into the wrong field after all, in spite of thinking that I'd found my way at last, and that I might consider other job opportunities because even though I have my A+ cert, I know deep down that I'm a fraud.

It took remembering the dot matrix printer to bring me back to my senses.  Of course I'm in the right field.

I don't belong among "real" repair techs, but I can't stop doing it because it's what I do.  My name is Lille, and I take things apart and put them back together.

September 1, 2018

so help me, if one more person makes the labor day joke

The Kid was born at 6:03 a.m. on Labor Day, fifteen years ago.  He was three weeks early; six hours earlier and he would have ended up a preemie in the hospital NICU for observation, which would have sent me into paroxysms of hair-rending grief and hysterics, since it was the same hospital where I gave birth to my first son and two minutes after he was born, we realized his cardiovascular plumbing was internally croggled and he was more or less doomed.

But no, The Kid was born right at nine pounds - and, I might add, naturally and without the benefit of the epidural they administered an hour beforehand that slipped out as soon as the anesthesiologist left.  He was born in one push because I felt him crown and I think I actually said, "Oh, hell no, catch," in my altered state of agony (wherein I had been chewing on the bed rail), and I gave birth.

("Huh huh," so many people have said, "get it?  You were in labor and it was on Labor Day!"  It isn't good for my homicidal inclinations when this coincidence is pointed out.  No.  Not good at all.)

Today, fifteen years later, the now-rather-elongated bowling ball sat across from me at a Jersey's Mike's downing a full-size club sub, chips, a drink, and a cookie, while I nibbled a kid-sized turkey sandwich and sipped water.  He was wearing pajama pants and didn't give a shit, because he had declared it a laid-back birthday.  And it was laid-back.  We were hanging out.  Just that.

Then we ducked into the pet supply store one slot over in the strip mall.  Molly has been trying to sleep on top of my feet and this is having what one might call a negative effect on the amount of sleep I've been getting and, thus, on every other aspect of my life, so P.J. and I thought of trying a small, soft bed placed at the foot of the bed, in the middle, so she can be trained to sleep there instead. 

This is what we saw when we walked in, on a refrigerator-style cooler beside the bearded dragon display:

It was at this point that I reverted to my teens and we both started finding everything funny.  Everything.  Even the dog beds.  But somehow we got through it and after grabbing an appropriate brown, fuzzy bed, we headed up the toy aisle on the way to the register and then stopped dead in our tracks, frozen and wide-eyed, because next to the squeaky toys were the Kongs. 

Kong is now making binkies as well as their traditional cone-shaped chew toys, the binkies being designed for teething puppies.  There's ... a problem ... with this concept, though, which I will let you work out for yourself, but I will follow what you say out loud with this:  Why in the name of seventeen saints did they, beside the pink and blue and black ones, make one flesh-colored?

The picture depicting the insertion of a treat makes it even more interesting. 

And, I might ask, how did The Kid know to point out that the humor was increased because there's a pinkish ring of inflammation at what would be the base?  This points to an in-depth knowledge of butt plugs and I do not wish to contemplate how he has already come by it.

It has, obviously, been a busy fifteen years.

And obviously, we had to own this, so we bought it.

Hanging out, laughing at everything in the pet store, wondering what we could do with a frozen, individually-wrapped rat.  Just hanging out.  I will likely remember his fifteenth birthday more clearly than he will. 

Tonight will be movie night, with Infinity War and Good Will Hunting back-to-back, continued pajama-wearing, hot cocoa.  Hanging out.