June 20, 2018


Dear Therapist Gumby,

In your extended absence, I went for a walk.  I hooked my dog to a leash and went up my street and back down my street.  It wasn't to ward off suicidal ideation.  It was to get in the last of my daily steps so my Garmin would stop beeping at me.  But now I know what it is like to take a walk down my street.

I didn't feel prying eyes from house windows like I expected to feel.  I hadn't noticed before the spot where the power lines leave the air and go underground, near the top of the street.  And I had never realized how loud it is in the summer, the patch of street with woods on either side, with falling twigs and seeds and small, scurrying animals and all of the summer insects.

I had to walk in my sandals because my sneakers are up at the Lodge.  I need new ones.  P.J. bought me those for my birthday two years ago, for walking with good support, but I've ruined them with grass stains and the weed whacker.  I didn't take good care of them and I wish that I had.

I didn't feel any endorphins or connection to nature.  But I want you to know that in your absence, I went for a walk.


June 19, 2018

the holy-shit diet (tm)

I've lost almost five pounds during my two-week implementation of the Holy-Shit Diet, the one you go on when you've got a doctor's appointment coming up and you know you're going to get weighed, and she's the one who is monitoring your long-term post-surgical weight maintenance.  I gained eight pounds since the last visit six months ago.  Sometime back in late April or early May - it's vague - I decided I had time to slough the spare six pounds and decided that yes, I should do that.  It completely failed to happen.  I gained two more instead.  I panicked last week and hit the keto lifestyle, paired with this StepBet gig, and it's paid off.  

So I'll go in Friday and she'll be all "way to go, you maintained perfectly" and I'll smile and say "yep" and that will be all that happens.  

I keep telling people that I'll go celebrate with a high-calorie, high-carb, decadent breakfast - like a country ham biscuit slathered in butter from Biscuitville - but now I'm not so sure I will.  I'm on a roll here.  And I'm tolerating those low-carb bagels that are sorcery contained within rice fiber.  They're good if you can rip the outer bits with your incisors.  My bread knife has difficulty slicing through them.  They're not ... natural.

I could write a book about the Holy-Shit Diet.  It could be the new fad.  The title is bound to piss off Christians.  

And if when you come off the diet, and you don't live in North Carolina, and you don't know about Biscuitville, your life is a little less rich for that.  It's like Tudor's Biscuit World in West Virginia.  When you dedicate a small restaurant chain to mastering Southern biscuit-making, the result melts in your mouth, every single time.

I'm tormenting myself.  Staaahhhhp.  I'm supposed to be focusing on low-carb "alternative" foods, because there are only so many eggs a person can eat.

Did you know you can make this stuff called bullet-proof coffee that uses a tablespoon of butter instead of creamer?  Don't laugh - it's undisputedly delectable and who doesn't want an excuse for drinking butter?  Yeah, okay, there's a lot more to it than butter, and I can't afford to keep grass-fed ghee and high-octane brain oil and shit like that around, but the principle is solid.  I like my Harris Teeter creamer, but it still has a bit of corn syrup in it.  High-fructose corn syrup is the bane of the American diet.

I've been using almond milk as my creamer.  The very idea of this once made me gag, but I did it out of desperation one day and found that it isn't bad at all.  Now I like it.  I also like a quart of heavy cream in my coffee, but that isn't Holy-Shit Diet conducive.  Stick with me here.  It will be in the book.

The paleo-friendly ProGranola you can get on Amazon ... it sounds good, but don't.  It's just odd.  You end up with a tiny bowl of Odd with some almond milk splashed on it, and you have to eat the Odd for breakfast.

Oh, except now they're making caffeinated coffee-flavored ProGranola.  Hmm.  I take it back.  I need to go online and get some of that right now.  P.J. and I ... no, wait.  Caffeine is a diuretic and I'm on lithium now and caffeinated granola on top of coffee is the last thing I need.  I'm using old thinking.  Well, fuck.  I don't take it back.  And it would still just be a caffeinated version of Odd.

A key component of the Holy-Shit Diet is staying busy.  Eating from boredom is one of my weaknesses.  The past two weeks have kept me busy enough to forget snacks, so that my caloric intake hasn't suffered.  Find something to do.  Anything.  Clean out your closet.  Replace light fixtures.  Wash your trash can.  Wash your light fixtures.

I'm going to make muesli, as soon as I can get my ass to a store that has seed bins and sells pumpkin seeds out of season and flax seeds and hemp hearts.  (What the hell are hemp hearts?)  It has coconut in it, so it has to be good.  P.J. says this is bird seed, and I remind her that I am a bird.

I'm going to feel dishonest in front of my doctor and knowing myself, I'll probably blab the whole Holy-Shit Diet thing.  P.J. points out that doing that will defeat the purpose of the entire endeavor, so why the fuck am I even doing it?  I say that's not the point at all, except it is the point, so I say, "Yes, dear," and change the subject.

P.J. is the sensible one in this enterprise.

I also know myself well enough to predict I probably won't stay on low-carb for long.  Carbs have a way of creeping in, like heroin.  Okay, heroin doesn't creep in, but you have to make a concerted effort to obtain it, and that's no different from the grocery store and the bagels they keep making half-price.  Hey, that can be a byline for my book, and a running theme for the Holy-Shit Diet:  "Go from Heroin to Heroine!"

But that's sexist.  And embarrassingly hokey.

Forget it.  I'm not an author.

June 18, 2018

the unthinkable things a person will do to belong

I'm doing the Bariatric Foodie StepBet this time.  It's her second one, and she convinced the company to re-work its algorithm so that the goals aren't astronomically high and unreachable.  My biggest weakness will be remembering to wear my Garmin Vivo.  I am only allowed to forget it one day each week.  The step goals will be no problem this time, even in the heat.  I just walked around the parking lot of my office building and sweating did not set in.  I passed a lot of planters filled with large, smooth stones and found myself wondering how to steal some, just one at a time, to use at home.  This was not a very nice thing for me to think, but if the medical community is going to advocate exercise, they're encouraging idle minds that might get up to didoes.

They're good stones.  But there are probably cameras.

I could walk on my own any time, and I've gone on several rants disavowing this kind of group thing, but in the end, what got me was the sense of participation and belonging.  I'll never meet or talk to these people, but ... I'm tied into something.  As irritating as I find the idea, that is a powerful motivating factor for me to do a Thing.  I'm not the self-sufficient island I like to think I am.  I need to plug in, to belong.  I'm a sucker for it.  On some level, I crave it.

Apparently, I'll even exercise for it.  But when Therapist Gumby says, "It's about damned time," I am going to scowl at him and cross my arms.  I have a reputation to uphold, after all.

June 17, 2018

my english professor wrote me a check for christmas

Dr. Sylvia Little kicked didactic keister.  Her class had perfect attendance and sometimes she just sat on her stool at the front of the room and read to us from our assigned novels.  Her glow, the look in her eyes when she was reading, taught us more than any lecture about idioms and protagonists and salient features could have imparted.  A lot of it was local literature ... Sharyn McCrumb, Lee Smith, Clyde Edgerton, Fannie Flagg.

We did a fair amount of responsive writing to movies like Places in the Heart and The Color Purple.  We would hole up in A/V carrels in the library with a checked-out VHS tape and pair of well-loved headphones.  

Our writing was her other passion.  She made us want to give it to her, and it was her bread and meat, watching her students progress and occasionally experience a light bulb moment.

She's a dignified Southern lady.  She's in her eighties and is still teaching.

I only had the privilege of studying under her for one semester, and at the end of that semester, she summoned me to her office for tea and a chat.  No, there really was a tea tray, a proper one, parked neatly in front of towering stacks of books in front of shelves of books, peppered with folders and photos of a daughter.  We talked for two hours.  I was delighted but baffled.  How did she give this kind of lengthy, individual attention to each of her students?  

She was at the time one of my minor heroes and objects of fascination, so I drank it all in like sweet tea.  During the conversation, I shared a concern, which was that I had recently started having writing ideas in my car while driving the two-hour rural trip home each weekend.  I couldn't pull over and write them down because I was working three part-time jobs and sometimes barely made it to work on time back in my hometown.  I certainly couldn't scratch them out on a napkin while driving.  A lot of unpredictable freight trucks used those back roads.  I mumbled that it was a shame, because I usually couldn't get the ideas back later.  You go into a trance while driving roads that long and boring, and the ideas came while I was in that state of mind.  I couldn't recover them while making junior bacon cheeseburgers a few hours later.

She listened.  Closely.  It was that kind of conversation.  And as we talked, her motions as casual as reaching for a tissue or jotting down a quick note, she opened a desk drawer and produced a checkbook, and begin writing out a check.  I put it down to eccentricity, and as she continued what could only have been paying a bill she just remembered, she told me that she was friends with Pat Conroy and several other notable writers.  Her voice carried the heavy implication that I had connections through her.  That was just weird, hearing her say that, because I was seventeen years old and I'd only ever written some papers in her class, so I nodded politely and considered the depths of that eccentricity.

She tore the check out neatly, then turned and fixed her gaze on me in a way that transformed that second into a Moment.  "This is not a gift, because I am not allowed to give gifts to students.  Do you understand?"  I nodded.  Captivated.  "This is an investment.  A personal one.  I am asking you to use this to buy a small tape recorder for your car.  It should pay for some batteries, too.  This way, you can record those ideas when they come.  Never stop writing, Lille.  I ask only one thing in return:  Promise me you'll dedicate the first book to me."

My mother taught me to reflexively reject gifts.  Well, more sort of damaged me into it, an indirect lesson that nevertheless has always permeated how I handle receiving them.  There was nothing in my personal history that had prepared me for accepting an investment.  But in that Moment, all I felt was bewilderment at her thinking I merited this, and awe, and I reached out and accepted the check.  It wasn't a gift, so I didn't say, "Thank you."  It was an investment.  I looked her in the eye and said, "I promise."

She hugged me.  I smelled like her perfume for the rest of the day.

I bought the microcassette recorder over Christmas break, and some miniature blank tapes for it, and some batteries.  Everything I needed.  And I don't think I used it to capture a single idea.  Ever.  Even with it faithfully sitting on the seat in the car beside me.  At that point I had just become obsessed with Handel's Messiah and the small recorder sat next to the full-size cassette player borrowed from my grandmother, which used up those batteries playing my "Messiah Highlights with Vivaldi - Gloria" bargain bin cassette tape.  I was singing.  I wasn't in a trance any more.  The creativity had stopped flowing.  I didn't have a Dr. Little in front of me each day to keep those gates open.

And that's what that little blurb up there on the right is about.  I've written her to tell her about this blog, but I don't know if she's received the messages because I haven't heard from her.  I want her to know that even though this is the closest I will ever come to writing a book, even though I'm twenty years late, to the extent I have been able, I have kept that promise.  I'm trying to give a good return on her investment.

Press the tiny "FWD" button ....

Last night, we were digging through a box that P.J. asked me to stick in the back of my son's closet eleven years ago, because we were moving in and he was only four and wouldn't protest and we had run out of space elsewhere.  It was an "I'll get to that stuff at some point" box with unknown contents.  A decade went by and I always had to shove the box out of the way when putting sheets and board games and toys on that shelf in his closet.

Then yesterday, we were moved by the Holy Spirit of Eschewing Clutter and decided to do a clean-out, mainly of the basement and our walk-in closet, which had become more of a squeeze-in closet.  It was almost bedtime when I remembered that box and thought, "I should go get that.  We can add some stuff to the Goodwill pile."  So I knocked on the door and interrupted our son's gaming, and he admitted me so I could retrieve the box.  I brought it downstairs and set it in the kitchen.

Ten years had transformed it into a box mostly full of junk.  A coaxial cable thingie and a couple of elderly VOIP boxes, old phones, various wires and objects that have long been surpassed technologically.  "Toss the lot," we both said, and I was about to tip it into the garbage can, since we needed the empty box itself, when something caught my eye and I fished it out of the bottom.

It was the recorder.  I thought I had lost it over the course of all the moves during my twenties.  But I also knew that I'd never been able to bring myself to discard it, and last night, I held it in both hands, and thought about this blog, and tears welled up.  I regarded it with a mixture of knowing how silly it would be to hang on to an object I will never use and a desire to consider it a holy relic and enshrine it.

Being scratched up and beat all to hell only makes it
more meaningful, because I've kept it and kept it.

I asked P.J., "Am I a writer?  I've only touched a few people with my words.  Is there a threshold?  How do you know when you're actually a writer?"  She said in a soft voice, "Only you can answer that, but I think you know the answer, love."

Thank you, Sylvia, for the preserved memory of seeing an office stacked with loved books, for the tears I know you shed when Conroy died, and for investing in the likes of a floundering seventeen-year-old girl whose mind and future you keenly pierced.  Thank you for watering the seeds.

I'm keeping the recorder.  And my promise.  I wish I'd kept that canceled check.  And I think that, maybe, I'm a promise-keeper.

June 16, 2018

congratulations, sir, you got a new high score in Candy Crush or something

And the reason we all know this is because you have been playing it at your phone's highest volume for over an hour.  In a crowded lobby.  Oblivious to the glares.

I live in the Toyota dealership customer courtesy lobby.  It's my third home, because the Lodge is my home-away-from-home, but if you can't find me at home or Lodging, come by Toyota's service area.

We can share a cup of coffee.  Or five cups.  They have one of those industrial-grade Keurig machines with a water line and the thingie that flips the last person's pod backward into a void so you can put your new one in, along with a decent selection of pods and enough Splenda to suit me.  There is always one imaginary person (one of my cucumber friends) watching me put Splenda into my paper coffee cup and thinking, "God damn, what the hell?  How many packets can you possibly use at one time?  Seriously, even more?  Just you wait until they discover what the terrible health effects of it are.  You know aspartame basically turns to formaldehyde in your bloodstream, right?  Splenda's bound to fuck you up down the road.  They make it with chlorine, you know."  To which I glibly respond, "Do you eat table salt, you idiot?"

The lobby is divided into two sections by an inadequate jut of wall.  One area, the larger one, has two large-screen TVs mounted on the wall.  I was sitting right under one of them this morning until an employee walked up with two remote controls the size of military walkie-talkies and turned on some blaring morning news talk show discussing Trump this and Trump that.  It wouldn't have mattered what was on, though.  I was intentionally conspicuous as I got out of my club chair and packed up my laptop, unplugged the power cord, picked up my coffee cup, and aggressively relocated to the other side of the lobby, where there is complete visual obstruction of the screens and some measure of auditory relief.

Once, they had the Dora the Explorer channel on.  I kept waiting for my ears to bleed.

I settled in, taking the far corner, behind a display of what worn brake rotors look like and why you should replace them with the shiny new ones at the top.  Roughly ten minutes of peace.  I spent time doctoring photos and posting things for sale on Craigslist and eBay.  (If anyone needs Boy Scout shorts, size 10 men's dress shoes to go with a tuxedo, a cello, or a gaming desktop, hit me up.)

Then it started.  Blip-blip-blip-click-click.  Obnoxious upbeat female voice.  "Amazing!"  Clink-clink-click-slide-WHOOSH-tinkletinkletinkle.  "Way to go!"  Blip-blip-blip .... I stared at the man who was immersed in his phone.  So did everyone else.  Clink-clink-clink-clink-slide-slide-WHOOOOOOOOSH-tinkle.  "High score!"  Click-click-click ....

Why hasn't his phone battery died?  Die.  Diiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeee ....

In the South, we say, "He ain't know how to act."

Once, my son attended his fifth-grade school dance (yes, fifth grade) and while all of the boys had gone off to play soccer outside, the girls squealed when "Let It Go" came on.  They danced with abandon and the gym was full of spinning, arm-flinging Elsas.  I fished around in my computer bag and son-of-a-bitch, I found an ear plug.  There was no reason whatsoever for an ear plug to be in the bottom of a computer bag.  This is another of those things that contributes to tinges of agnosticism.  I had to break it in half but it worked well enough to keep my soul from melting like a green glowing blob in a 1982 Dr. Who episode.

(I might be gay, but I would go back in time and have Tom Baker's babies.)

I just fished around in that very same computer bag, and there is fuck-all in the ear plug department.

I used to filter things out with ease.  I earned my entire college degree in the local laundromat, because I studied best when surrounded by chaos.  Those days are over.

I'm just here for an oil change.  Is it ready yet?  Is it ready yet?  Is it ready yet?

June 15, 2018

dear harry, i don't hold it against you

Harry's ubiquitously-advertised mail-order razors finally convinced me to try them, by means of a small flyer placed in our not-small-at-all box of coffee ordered from Keurig this month.  Three bucks (shipping cost only) to try one razor with kit.  Okay.  I'll bite.  My current razor is about as effective as a cheap spoon.

The foaming gel that came with the kit was poisonous to me because it contains cucumber extract.  I know of five other people on the planet who are allergic to cucumber like I am, and they all happen to be my imaginary friends.  The gel is probably amazing.

The razor, though ... okay, #Harrys, @Harrys, here's my official review.


I love the way it feels in my hand.  Just the right weight, solid, easy to grip, ergonomic.  You were right about all that.  I even love the shade of blue, but I have to say I'm impressed by this:

You put out a Pride razor!  Good for you.  Major points.

This razor gives an incredibly good shave.  I think it will last three days instead of two.  This is good because local temperatures this weekend and next week are supposed to be in sidewalk-egg-frying territory.

It gives such a good shave because it is sharp.  Very sharp.


This razor is sharp.  Very sharp.  Way sharper than any other newly-out-of-the-package razor I've encountered.  I was being careful, but it only took a slight errant movement of my wrist and I ended up slicing open a long wound across my left leg, just below and behind my knee.  The blood was copious.  I finally got the bleeding to stop and I'm thankful to 3M for making its NexCare, the only liquid bandage that does not burn at all.  Seriously, get yourself some of this stuff.  Nothing else on store shelves compares.

Also, the razor head popped off three times without my pushing that little release button.  Maybe it was just trying to save me from further blood loss.  For a moment, it looked like Psycho in there.

Conclusion:  I respect this razor, and I respect the company, but it isn't for everyone.  If you're a man shaving your face and you're experienced and well-seasoned, I recommend it.  If you're just learning, stay the hell away.  If you're a woman who doesn't have stick-figure legs, forget it.  This is an Advanced Razor.

June 14, 2018

my brain is coming back omg omg omg

There is no possible way that a dose of 150 mg of lithium could be doing this.  No way.  It's just a trace amount.

But ....

My mood has already stabilized rather a lot.  It's settled at a baseline of a little more on the depression side of things than I'd like for it to be, so the dose needs to journey upward, but my mood isn't a ping-pong ball in a tile bathroom any more.

That isn't the biggest thing, though.  My brain is returning.  The fog that has clouded my memory abilities since beginning Lamictal appears to be significantly mitigated by the lithium.  I don't know what else could be causing this resurgence, other than sun spots or magic.  I do not believe in magic.  I do believe in sun spots, but they're not the likely culprit.  Probably.

My memory is the closest I will ever come to having a superpower.  I can remember things again.  Phone numbers and names are sticking.  Dates are back.  I don't have to ask my son to help me find words.

"What are they called again?  You know.  Those guys.  Stupid hats, Pabst Blue Ribbon."


"Yes, that's it!  Hipsters."

All my life, I have depended heavily on having a solid, reliable memory.  I know that earlier I was on about learning to write things down, and I still do, and I still plug everything imaginable into Google Calendar and will continue to do so.  But I just remembered someone's phone extension and I couldn't do that a month ago, and it woke me up and I realized the fog is thin now and I can see almost all the way into the distance.

That doesn't mean everything is perfect.  I'm experiencing a major disinclination when it comes to answering e-mails and socializing in general.  I'm way less talkative at work and they're missing their class clown.  I don't care.  Ideation has abated and I can remember things.

If this ends up being a wonder drug for me, I'm going to be very pissed off, because I'm going to have to apologize to my ex-monk and admit out loud that I was completely, glaringly wrong on every front.  I don't think he'll do smug-face, though.  I think he'll celebrate with me.

I have hope again.

June 13, 2018

the stupid pointless death of pourable quiche

After this week's quest to obtain a perfectly normal carton of Pour-a-Quiche or Redi-Quiche proved fruitless - and we are speaking of my visiting four different stores, including Target, and stomping out of each one dejectedly so that it would make a manager ask me if there was something he or she could help me with and then I would say, "No, no, no one can help me," and leave without explaining anything - P.J. sent an inquiry to one of the companies:

"Dear Pour-a-Quiche:

Could you please advise if Pour A Quiche has been permanently discontinued?  Hope not... it's an excellent product, delicious and convenient. Thank you. P.J."

Their prompt reply:

"Yes, we have discontinued Pour A Quiche.  We will forward a suggestion to our Marketing Team that you would like us to bring that product back!
Misti, Consumer Affairs"

My commentary on this development:

"Dear Misti,

When will the tantalizing amateur shoot of you with the entire Marketing Team be available?  Or will that, too, be unavailable?  Also, do you draw the dot over the 'i' at the end of your name as a heart?  Is it in pink?  Thank you.

Sincerely, Concerned Customer"

I'm a little angry here.

P.J. likes quiche because we use pourable quiche because - and this is the clencher - pourable quiche from a carton doesn't taste like eggs.  P.J. loathes eggs but will eat this quiche.  It's damned tasty and turns out perfectly fluffy and uniform, and also the amount of work involves taking a frozen pie crust out of the freezer and pouring this into it, then shoving the lot into the oven for an hour.  The worst part is having to remember to thaw it.  That's all.  It's the queen of easy meals.

Do not tell me to prep the mixture the night before or I will come to your house in the night and tie all of your shoe laces together and spit on one of your family's toothbrushes.  I won't tell you which one.

I think --

Wait, another thing:  Do not send me recipes about this quiche that you make that you totally swear doesn't taste like eggs because your kids will eat it and your husband said so and you posted it on Facebook and all of your friends loved it and liked your post using a heart instead of a thumbs-up.  I promise you it tastes like eggs.  Lots of eggs.  They just said that because they like you or love you or want to keep you appeased.  No offense.


This just follows the pattern of something disappearing from the store shelves simply because we like it.  I hear this is a universal phenomenon, which doesn't make sense because the store is obviously still full of things.  The peanut butter Captain Crunch left several years ago, but before that, there was this Blueberry Toast Crunch that was like Cinnamon Toast Crunch except they laced the flavor powder with blueberry cocaine and we would burn through a box of that shit in a day and a half.  That lasted about three months; then they stopped manufacturing it altogether, which was not the fault of the person at the Harris Teeter headquarters in Indian Trail, North Carolina who received my enthusiastic phone call.

And then there is the matter of the caffeinated Swiss Miss hot cocoa mix.  Honestly, ConAgra ... what the fuck?  Did you even see the second-hand market on eBay for that stuff after you yanked it from shelves?  And then how much Amazon was charging for a dozen boxes in bulk?  This should tell your marketing department something.  Get them to look into it after they finish with Misti.

June 12, 2018

let's bond by talking about cleaning toilets

My mother wrote again.  She did this before, after I came out and just before she cut me off for five years; there was a season of chatty e-mails peppered with requests to keep writing, keep in touch, write back, please.  She knows when the wire has been stretched too thin.  She knows when I hold the power and she's opened a gulf.

What do I even do with this?


"Hi.  Hope things are going well for you both and that you're dealing with the loss of Chester as best you can.  It's never easy.

"Your sister has asked me to keep her dog the last week in June while they are at the beach on vacation.  I'm looking forward to it, as she is a very sweet golden retriever/chow mix.  And she has been to obedience classes, which is very nice.  Only problem is that I have to give her back when they return home (Rats!!).

"I'm so glad to see the rain go away for a while and these past few days have been so beautiful and just make me want to stay outdoors as much as I can.  Mowed and trimmed today and picked up sticks and pinecones from the yard......then got right back to painting.  It keeps me very busy.  I have to try and fit everything else that needs doing wherever I can.  Sometimes, when what I've painted needs to dry for 20 minutes or so, then I go for a quick walk, or clean the toilets, or whatever...........

Please write.

My first thought about this e-mail was:  Pine cones is two words, not one.  And stop shouting in all-caps.

As an aside, the birthday card she mailed me this year made me literally shake with anger.  The shaking was short-lived but I cried for hours.  It put me in a very bad place.  It was saccharine and full of things that have nothing whatsoever to do with her and me.  The only thing worse than thinking she didn't even look at it twice before throwing it onto the counter at the register and paying for it is thinking that she did look at it and consider it to be appropriate.  I'd prefer the quick whatever-this-one-will-do scenario, the one where no thought was involved.  That one's comfortable.  That one's customary.

P.J. came into the room while I was crying and saw me holding the card out with one corner between the tips of two fingers.  The phrase that comes to mind is from Adams:  " ... like a fish that had three weeks earlier winged its way to the Land Where Fish Are Eternally Blessed."  I wanted to burn it.  It so happens that last night (before the e-mail arrived) I was filing away papers and bills and such, and this card and my daddy's birthday card were together in the pile.  I decided to keep them both for the sake of contrast.  My daddy might be stubborn, infuriating, incorrigible, bone-headed, and impenetrable, but I can call him up any old god-damned time and be myself.  And he really does write the best cards.  His cards act as a window into his real mind.

Seriously ... toilets?

Who the hell actually wants to be outdoors in the summer?  The spiders can just find you faster that way.


Update:  I sat on this e-mail for a number of days because I really didn't know what to do and I did not want anyone's advice, even P.J.'s, even that of friends, so that I could have mental space to consider all angles.  And in the end, I did decide to write her back instead of ghosting her.  I took the third path:

Please forgive the delay in my writing.  I've had a lot to process.

We're doing okay re Chester - it gets easier every day.  I'm glad you'll be getting some dog time soon.

I've started lithium so it is going to take me a while to get used to it.

She responded:

I understand.  Please don't hesitate to write when you're feeling better.

No, lady, I don't think you understand.  You missed the first line entirely, and your response sounds like it was drafted by an attorney.  (The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork ... "Don't let me detain you.")

I opted to play the mental illness card, and decided that my contact with her will become less and less frequent, a sort of slow-motion, time-release capsule approach.  She won't like it, but hey, I'm mentally unbalanced, so she can and will blame it on that.  She holds the nigh-universal opinion that lithium is big-guns crazy medicine and now thinks my condition is way more serious than she realized.  And it's deteriorating.  Oh, terribly, yes.  Another god-damned shame.

Even if I get better and the lithium works wonders ... well, she doesn't need to know that, either, does she?  I'll just let her know that my toilets are shiny and clean.

June 11, 2018

how to paint your dog

I call this "Lazy Dog".  She
can't even be bothered to
reach eight inches for the toy.
Rose is black Lab mix, and is completely black except for a milk mustache.  She prefers lying in a dark room on a dark rug to sleep, and she gets stepped on and kicked a lot, and I think all of us are wishing this could get worked out so that her ribs and our toes aren't always so sore.

We decided one way to accomplish this would be to make her glow-in-the-dark.  So we Googled "how to paint your dog".  (Notice we didn't even bother looking at collars, because who the fuck wants to do something sensible like that?  Not us.)

Google insisted on returning page after page of tutorials about how to use a photograph of your dog to paint a realistic portrait on canvas, and services that will turn said photo into a painting, but nothing about how to paint your dog.  The dog.  Not a picture of your dog.  Your dog.

Googling "put paint on your dog" was a bit more productive, but yielded endless pages discussing why you should never paint your dog because paint is toxic and horrible and bad and will probably give your dog fur cancer.  But there are paints out there that toddlers can paint on their faces, and if you think the toddlers don't lick it off, you do not spend time around children.  They make non-toxic stuff, even glow-in-the-dark paint.  So now we were getting somewhere.

Then we went off on a tangent and started looking at photos of these black dogs and horses where their people had applied incredibly artistic glow-in-the-dark skeleton patterns.  This was interesting to us.  Even though it would mean massive face-plasters of spider webs, we secretly want to take her for a walk in the dark, maybe around the mountain roads at the Lodge, painted like this.  Which is funny, because we are not attention-seekers, but the inclination to do weird things often overrides that.

We couldn't paint a skeleton, though.  With Rose's greasy fur, our attempts at painting her would more likely produce some vague smears.  Plus overachievers like those horse-painting people make us not even want to try.

All of this led to a nightmare last night wherein Walter, one of my Lunesta aardvarks, talked me into painting my toenails with glow-in-the-dark polish, except that made the nails fall off because it was toxic and there was blood everywhere, and Walter was entirely too calm about it, and I don't think I trust him any more.  Aardvarks are assholes.

June 9, 2018


This is what wind is for.
I walked through the front door of the Lodge in the usual fashion, panting, red-faced, dizzy, and covered in tiny flecks of grass and debris and probably dead bugs.  "Done.  It," I managed to slur.  I peeled off denim overalls and sticky bits of clothing and left a trail on my way to the shower.

I showered in the usual fashion, with the water as icy-cold as I could make it.  Well water never disappoints.  The weed trimmer had vibrated in my hands for almost an hour, so my hair felt rough and wiry instead of smooth inside the shampoo lather.  There was no blood.  That was good.  The guard had fallen off pretty early in the job and then I couldn't find the nut to put it back on, so I trimmed our property with only eye protection [read: the sunglasses that always try to slide down my nose and off my face onto the ground].  I trimmed the toe of my left shoe twice and got hit in the face with debris three times.  Only one left a mark.  No, no blood.  Need to remember to bring nut.

Common sense isn't really my thing.

P.J. usually does the trimming after I mow, but today she's sick and I mowed last week and I needed some exercise after hours of enforced relaxation, so I suited up.  Okay, maybe it was more like this:  I looked around for anything else I could possibly do, but after hours of surfing the Internet, checking in vain for online work, staring out the window, reading, playing on my tablet, playing with the dog, and sitting and staring at the wall, I didn't have a leg to stand on, so I suited up.

Weed-whacking isn't really my thing.

P.J. told me recently, "Weed-whacking isn't exactly a walk in a sunny meadow.  Well ... I mean, it is, but you have a weed-whacker."  This was after I complained of sore muscles two days after trimming.  It might be my new favorite thing she's ever said.

No spiders bothered me today.  They're planning something.  Probably a surprise party.  Or a coup.

The guard surprised me, but the support strap didn't.  The strap refuses to stay attached to the trimmer (for me, never P.J.), but that's fair because I refuse to learn how to rely on it, and end up holding the full weight of the machine with my arms the whole time.  You get better control that way.  Otherwise, I feel like I'm swinging a troll club.

Then there is the matter of snakes.  A neighbor up here has mentioned several times that we should watch out for snakes when mowing and trimming.  Today, it occurred to this city girl:  How?  How the fuck does a person watch out for snakes?  I know the basics from a Weekly Reader in fifth grade ... make a lot of noise, keep your eyes peeled, and immediately run like greased shit if you hear rattling from a distinguishable direction.  I live in appropriate fear of the space under our little plastic shed.  But short of that, what do you actually do?

I sent him an e-mail a few minutes ago.  "Wait a minute, Jeff -- HOW DO YOU WATCH OUT FOR SNAKES?  I have questions.  Lille"

Once I'm in the middle of trimming, though, it's honestly pretty satisfying.  My mind drifts and I can see objective progress, something I don't get a lot working in tech support.  I'm weak and sweaty and exhausted, but each time, I can look back and see the path where I've reclaimed from Nature's slow, patient encroachment what I carved out from Her and took as my own.  The carving out is never truly done.  We encroach on each other.

June 7, 2018

the why-the-hell-not truck

I prefer fall and winter and early spring, because it's still dark out when I drive to work.  During the summer, it's bright and perky at six o'clock, which is obscene.  So far, I haven't found a way to do anything about it.  But today, I was glad for the light, because it let me capture this:

My best guess is that it's the Nicaraguan flag, and there's either a bullet hole or the aftermath of a tiny meteorite with one hell of a trajectory in the middle of this guy's windshield.

Well ... why the hell not?  Life fucked with him and he stuck a flag in it and kept the truck moving down the road.  I love this.

June 6, 2018

this will be on the test

It's not duck season, or rabbit season.  It's testing season.

My son woke up just as I was leaving for work this morning.  I knew this because of the heavy thunder-thud footfalls upstairs and the three buffalo in the bathroom and water running for exactly four seconds, which is how long he chooses to brush his teeth.

I whispered up the staircase, "Have a great day!"

Him:  "What, you're not going to wish me good luck on my final exam?"

Me:  "World History, right?  You don't need luck.  Which you said doesn't exist anyway."

Him:  "Yeah, but you could say 'good luck'."

Me:  "Fine.  Good luck.  But you've got this."

Him:  "I have every point in history memorized."

Me:  "So you're God."

Him:  "Seriously, name any point."

Me:  "Okay.  April 7, 1841.  France."

Him:  " ........ "

Me:  "Really, any point?  Deity status revoked.  Thank you for playing."

Him:  "Well, I don't know that specific date, but I'd say that was when France was beginning to industrialize.  And if you'd said 1741, I'd say it was the beginning of pre-Revolution unrest among the people."

Me:  "1641?  Shit, that's the clock.  Got to go.  Good luck and own it and break a leg and all that other mom-shit I'm supposed to say."

Him:  "Louis XIII."

They test the living Christ out of kids now.  It's already ten miles past absurd and it gets worse every year.  Third-graders taking their first "real" tests and throwing up in the hallway from stress, because sometimes it means the difference between being retained or moving on to fourth grade.  Parents being recruited as warm bodies because of the sheer en force numbers required for proctoring.  People posted at the school doors so the buzzer won't sound if someone needs to come in, because that sound would butcher some entire classroom's concentration rubric, defined per federal requirements, and would result in the need to re-test.  Guards around the fire alarm pulls.  God forbid someone sneeze or snap a pencil lead.  You can slice the tension with a knife, as long as it's a very sharp, expensive Japanese knife.

And this is just the end of the school year.  They take benchmark tests at the beginning of the year, then tests every nine weeks to measure progress, then extra tests if grant funds are involved, and then these end-of-year nightmares cap it all off.

The tests are also administered online now, in middle and high school.  This means that there is a 97.2% chance that the network in any given school building will go down at its opportune time, or that the program will not accept passwords or codes, or their servers will crash across the country.  Murphy reigns and will not see his Law broken.

Teachers hate testing the way doctors hate insurance.  They would, if permitted, just chuck it all out the window into the bushes and instead practice their art.  But the government doesn't trust art.  Art can't be measured.  That's why it's art.  You can't prove art has an effect and you can't control the effect it might have.

My teachers were handed chalk and dry-erase markers and left alone.  But that's history.

June 5, 2018

spiders need to read a self-help book of some sort

I agree fully with Allie Brosh regarding spiders.  My approach to spiders is identical to hers:

Ironically, spiders seem to adore me, so that I'm unwillingly a party to a fucked-up relationship of unrequited love and attraction.  You can't take out a 50-B restraining order against the entire class Arachnida.  I checked with the courts.  I'm even friends with one of the judges, who would totally swing it for me.  But you can't.

Consider people who think that if you find a spider in your home, you should gently scoop it up and set it outside so it can get on with being a spider.  I have four gillion problems with this.  First of all, it can now procreate because that person just became a spider pimp.  Also, they touched it.  This violates the basic human visceral fear of all things that want to kill you in your sleep because it brings them joy.

Except for the brown recluse that tried to kill me in my sleep when I was eight years old by biting me right on the neck, spiders gleefully infest my life.  Somewhere along the line, they decided that they would appear to me at every opportunity, like angels to Joan of Arc.

If I am walking behind someone who is taller than I am, I can still walk through a string of spinneret spider shit that was not there three-quarters of a second earlier, when the person in front of me passed through that point in the space-time continuum.  It ends up in my face, not theirs.  This is physically impossible.  That fact alone might be why I hold on to a small bit of agnosticism.  Clearly there is a great deal about the space-time continuum that we do not understand.  The closest we come to understanding is Schrodinger's spider web and my front yard is the box.

I also see spiders that others think aren't there.  I see so many spiders that they're all, "Um, yeah, okay, sure."  I'll point.  "See that spider right there?"  And P.J. will squint and say, "Right where?"  And I'll point even harder and I'll say, "Riiiiiiiiight there, see it?"  And P.J. will say, "Yes, dear," which is the English way of saying, "You're clearly smoking crack and I wish I could have some because it's obviously some high-quality shit but I'm just going to say okay for now to shut you up because it's easiest this way."  But I swear on a stack of god-damned Jack Chick tracts that it's there.  It's always there.

I have a hiking stick my son bought in West Jefferson when he was six because he fancied he would become an avid hiker immediately, based solely on being outfitted with this stick, and then he forgot about it later that day and it became mine.  It has a leather wrist-thong on top and it's solid, and whenever I have to mow, I first take it and go through a routine of swinging it around the crape myrtles in my front yard (except we're down to three crape myrtles instead of six because the school bus that crashed in our front yard last winter took out half of them, which was awfully kind of it because I hated those trees with a passion), and the magnolia tree, because all of them are infested with spiders and webs.  I swing it through every space between branches.  I ought to film myself doing it some day so I'll know how ridiculous this looks to the neighbors.  No one has called the police or tried to get me readmitted to the psych ward for looking like Inspector Gadget pretending to do martial arts with imaginary nunchaku, so there is that.

Once I have ensured that my kung fu moves are complete and there cannot possibly be any spider webs present in my walking path, I commence mowing.

On average, I walk through four webs.  Sometimes five, and sometimes only three.  They love me.  They want to be with me.

Last weekend, one had the little spider balls to lower itself from a tree branch right in front of my face.  I'm pretty sure it was a child of Ungoliant.  Maybe the balls weren't so little, come to think of it.  I swung at it with a stick and probably hurt its feelings because it just wanted to have a pleasant conversation with me, or get my autograph, or it was stalking me.  These spiders need to read a stack of self-help books about healthy relationships and when she's just not that into you.

A lot of wolf spiders end up in our basement.  As David Sedaris says, if you live in North Carolina and you have a basement, you will have spiders.  Fortunately, P.J. and I take a "scorched earth" approach to applying insecticide to the exterior of our home each spring.  We rain down death.  Then we call in guys with large sprayers full of more death to cover the inside.  This means all wolf spiders appear to me as upside-down gray things with curled, drawn-in legs, just inside the basement door.  I approve.  Of course, this makes us absolutely terrible liberals.

I think the spiders need to start seeing other people.  Or other people need to start seeing them.

We're hiring a lawn guy.

June 4, 2018


On days like this, I have to remind myself that I'm one of the lucky ones:  I don't get the GI symptoms that go with dumping.

And I'm lucky that I'm a dumper, post Roux-en-Y.  About half of us aren't and then willpower has to continue to play a starring role.  I don't eat sugar.  I don't have a choice.

Today, I'm not feeling lucky.  I'm feeling baffled.  No, I'm not, not really.  I'm actually pissed off, because what I wish I was baffled by, I'm not.  I've started dumping off of carb-heavy meals instead of just sugar.  I want that to not be true, and to be all, "Why in the world did this happen?  I didn't even do anything!"  But I know.  I know.

An Arby's slider.  The nasty buffalo chicken one.  Mostly bread, with a measly bit of protein in there.  And a Choc-Zero square for dessert.  This was not a giant slice of raspberry-compote cheesecake, nor was it a salad-tossing bowl of peanut butter Captain Crunch.  If I'm going to get sick off of a meal three hours after eating it, I want it to be due to something amazingly sinful and decadent, something that would make me deserve it, and not a god-damned stale fast food bun that I've had twelve times before without incident.

It's the unpredictable bit that gets to me.  I don't have a working list of "stay away from this shit" because nothing behaves the same way twice.

But again, I'm lucky.  I only have the hypoglycemia, or "late dumping", as they call it.  I carry glucose tablets with me now and I've learned to recognize the onset of the dumping within about ten seconds, which is a good thing, as I have about thirty seconds between that point in time and the point when I'm sweating like forty whores in a metal mailbox, weak, and gibberish-spittle incoherent. A co-worker handed me a peppermint in the middle of this episode and I couldn't figure out how to unwrap it, and when I did, I couldn't make my hands do it.  I go that weak and stupid.  Usually I can come out of it in five or ten minutes, but today, it took twenty.


So now it isn't just the scale that's displeased.  My body is turning on me, too.  To be fair, I drank alcohol the night after Chester died, and I know good and well that it inhibits glycogenesis and the Cori cycle for a couple of weeks - I'm apparently sensitive to that - and that I'm not supposed to drink, even the scant slosh of honey bourbon I added to my coffee.  *thinkie face*  Maybe that's why I was mowing the lawn Saturday and suddenly thought it would be so cool and wonderful if I just lay down in the grass and went to sleep.

So I do deserve it, with or without the Captain Crunch.  I hate my liver.  I don't want to be friends with it.  It sucks.

June 2, 2018

worship the sun god

Keeping pace with so many other mornings at the Lodge, I am up before the sun to take my meds at their regulated time, and I am compelled to sit with a book or my laptop and bide my time until I can watch the sunrise through the east-facing window on the left.  I sit drowsing, slipping into a few seconds of dream state here and there, sipping coffee that doesn't stand a chance, for I will return to bed to finish my sleeping after colors blend into pure white light and the sun's rays shine into the room.

I rise while it is still dark out.  Rose needs water, needs to go outside.  I appear without fail each morning, meet needs, prove faithful, and then send her back into the bedroom to finish her sleep, knowing that I rose.  I close the door quietly behind her, silent as light, and continue my small advent.

P.J. and the kid and I had a discussion in the van on the way up last night about the worship of the sun as a god.  It made far more sense than the conceptualized tendency toward monotheism pointed at an invisible and contrived entity.  Tenerife in Africa; Gnowee in pre-colonized Australia; Surya for the Buddhists; Gaulish in Ireland; Yuyi in China; Amun Ra in Egypt; Helios; Sol; Ravi; Inti; Utu; Atarapa; Koyash.  It reached every corner of the earth, every continent and island and people.  It made sense.

The sun rose every morning and traveled across the sky, then departed and left darkness in its wake.  It brought life and food; it scorched in its wrath and brought frost when it hid its face.  It gave safety from the predators of the night; it allowed the daily tasks of living to sustain.  And it was ever faithful, ever part of their lives.

Would it be any wonder that acts of worship would coincide often enough with desired outcomes to foster deep belief and certainty?  Random reinforcement appears again; it only served to strengthen belief.  Science had not come along to remove the mystery and connect it to the lesser lights of the heavens.  You could see the sun, feel it, touch its heat, and be blinded by its majesty if you dared to gaze upon it.

We're approaching the summer solstice and today the sun appeared too far to the northeast for me to see the red-orange fiery ball peek above the mountain ridge.  It was hidden by a poplar tree, by leaves nourished green and moist by warmth and light.

I can return to slumber now.  The earth spins and the sun rose.  Understanding why it happens does not diminish our absolute dependence on Sol to rise each morning.

June 1, 2018

my poor smelly heating pad

Crap, I have to write something today or there won't be a "June" link.

Last night, I learned that you should never lend your adolescent kid your new, extra-large, super-soft plush heating pad that heats up in thirty seconds and has more features than your dishwasher, when he's needing to use it as a hot compress to treat a boil in his armpit.

Even after making him shower before using it, it ended up funky-smelling, and then I realized that the cover is not removable like I assumed, and there are some Ikea-like symbols on it depicting what I think is spraying it with a water bottle while unplugged (yes, they had to say that part, but my kid chews things because of his ADHD and once I caught him chewing on a phone charger that was plugged into the wall, so I get it), and then there's a diagram of a man doing something that we can't quite make out, so I'm afraid of the heating pad now, and I'm just going to give it to the kid and pretend it's an act of goodwill and generosity and then go buy a new one at CVS.  They're not cheap, but the new one will not smell like testosterone-soaked armpit.  And it wouldn't be a big deal, except that when I'm not using the heating pad for cramps, I'm using it for a croggled neck, and that puts it close to my nose, so no.

My neck is croggled because I'm addicted to one of those seek-for-hidden-objects-in-the-picture games on my iPad.  I'm at level 164, which is probably why I'm getting "iPad neck" and I suspect I've actually damaged a cervical disc because it shoots tingling down into my arm sometimes.  There is a simple solution, which is to stop playing that game, but you'll notice I haven't stopped playing it because until yesterday, I had a heating pad to fix things.

This is a problem.

(Also, I apologize to Torani and DaVinci, because I was flat-ass wrong about the concept of toasted marshmallow sugar-free syrup for coffee, after burning through a box of Starbucks Toasted Graham pods.  Sweet Jesus in a tricked-out taxi cab, that stuff is good.  It's almost as good as Green Mountain's Wild Blueberry coffee.  Almost.)

Okay, so now this has snowballed and there are three people here at work, plus a phone-in, all Googling to find out what you call a man's beard exactly twenty-four hours after he's shaved, when he decides to go day-old.  I started looking because Sunbeam's web site (where the heating pads are) has these pics:

Note that he has to be buff with the as-yet-unnamed unkempt facial hair, slight graying, and fitted white tee.  I do question where the heating pad is plugged in and whether standing in the middle of the living room is a corporation's idea of a terrific place to treat shoulder pain.

Meanwhile, she's more sensible:

Except that she's in the same god-damned living room, and she might be in terrible back pain, but she's got a glass of wine and just finished doing her nails.  I think she's faking it.  Nobody puts on mascara and that 1980s pink-purple eye shadow just to lie down and use a heating pad.

I love how they're both showing their wedding bands.  This heating pad has family values.  It is to be used only in an established, hetero-normative, upper middle class home.

This just in:  I involved our entire network and server team, and we have now, as a tech department, come up with "designer stubble" and "next-day shadow" and "overslept" and "my husband's is a Chia-Pet."

I think I prefer just dealing with legs.

May 31, 2018

dueling mammals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And "god-damned".  I hadn't said it yet today, so now I have.

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

May 30, 2018

i need to know how to break up with my mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm belaboring Peanuts.  I'll stop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does that bother me?

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

It's not me.  It's you.

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

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

May 28, 2018

even creepier than a reanimated corpse

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need to sell this house.

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