Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blogger Camp!

If there existed an award for Worst Blogger Ever, I would get it. One might think that over the years I would get better at things like SEO optimization and reader engagement and monetization. Instead, I dropped my ads, continue to reply to comments sporadically (at best), and I just recently learned that SEO is not a spinoff band of REO Speedwagon. Which is kind of a relief, because they really suck. 

So, when I get invited to a blogger workshop, I jump at the opportunity. Although I did warn them that if they started talking about boring stuff I was going to zone them out and play Candy Crush. Plus, the workshop was at the YMCA Camp Hanes, which is one of my favorite places, and they were going to offer us a summer camp discount, and give us one for our readers, AND they were going to feed us. Really, all they needed to say was 'free food' and I'd be there. 

I picked up my friend Kristen from Four Hens and a Rooster and Ten to Twenty Parenting in the Big Lots parking lot (true) and drove up Camp on a cool and drizzly morning. Kristen is, among other things, a blogger and social media expert (true) and was going to lead the workshop.  My job was to help out if anyone got stuck on a level of Candy Crush. Let's just say Kristen did all the work that day. 

We were joined by some local bloggers who actually know what they're doing, including Triad Moms on Main, Southern as Biscuits, My Winston-Salem, City Girl on Hicks Farm, You Can't Make This Stuff Up, and AttaGirl Says, as well as The Amazing Jen from Camp Hanes. She is The Amazing Jen because when you say things like - Hey Jen! Can we shoot some stuff after this? She says, "Sure!". Also because she is incredibly well read and geeks out when she gets retweeted by an author. She is my kind of nerd. 

Everyone talked about blogging and I learned several things I will most likely not put into practice. I also said the word 'anus' and made an inappropriate butt sex joke (two separate incidents), so I feel like my contribution was worthwhile and noted. 

Then we got to walk around Camp Hanes and talk about how fantastic it is. If you know me, chances are you know how passionate I am about Camp. My oldest is going into her eighth summer at Camp Hanes, my middle is getting ready for her first. I do not know that I have ever experienced a place, or a group of people, so joyfully committed to helping kids become their best selves through camp. It honestly sounds kind of silly, but I don't know how else to put it. Every summer, I listen to kids talk about how camp makes them mentally, physically, and spiritually stronger. It is transformative, in the very best way. 

Camp Hanes does some really special things for kids - from a camp geared toward kids on the autism spectrum to kids with diabetes, to children of military servicemen  and women. They offer programming year round - corporate team building and reunions, adventure parties for teens and outdoor education for school groups, YMCA day camp and residential camp. This weekend, they even offer a Winter Camp - which, I'm assuming, features lots and lots of s'mores. 

It's moderately priced and they offer discounts for early registration ($100 off before December 31), Y members ($50 off), sibling discounts, and financial aid is available. Additionally, SFC readers get $50 off using the code SUMMERCAMPBLOG. 

OK, you may be saying, sounds like a great place, BUT I LIVE IN RUSSIA! Or, I DONT HAVE KIDS! Or, I'M A HORSE! (That reads blogs, okay, whatever.) But you still want to help out a child who needs that financial aid. There is a button at the top of this page, and also on the Camp Hanes website, about the Send a Kid to Camp program. And right now, a generous private benefactor is matching all new donations, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000. So, if you give $1, it will be matched for a total of $2, and you've helped a kid enjoy an awesome 10 minutes at camp. Way to go. 

( Really, give more than a dollar. $5 would be cool. $25 would be awesome. $100 and I will kiss you on the mouth, unless you're that horse.)

It was a great day. I learned that I love Camp Hanes, I am an even worse blogger than I thought, and everyone thinks the word 'anus' is funny. I'd call that a 'WIN'. 

Monday, November 18, 2013


November roared in like a beast, blowing a bitter wind and stripping leaves from limbs, filling gutters and forcing us into the car in the mornings. We sit there at the bus stop, a line of chugging vehicles with foggy windows and, when the bus comes into view, we spill children out onto sidewalks. They shuffle-run in new coats, filling the air with their white breath, hurrying into line and on board.

Then fall decides it's not quite done here, and the neighborhood is left with a half dozen houses with premature Christmas decorations, and me with dead mums and a yard full of leaves. 

That first week brought with it a lion's share of community grief, and I dance on the periphery of it. I know a guy, who knows a guy, and that guy died. I co-opt that grief and wear a maudlin cloak in solidarity. I wrap it around me out of ennui, and because there is a perverse pleasure in being sad when you're not actually sad. It makes you do things like cry over Joni Mitchell records and fantasize about how horrible people will feel when you die. I picture my grown children, wailing over my casket, wide eyed grandchildren sobbing over their Grandmère (I am assuming that one of the kids will marry someone French, it makes for a more romantic funeral).

I imagine this as I stand in my postage sized backyard, fighting a ridiculous battle with an endless pile of leaves studded with dog turds. I look at Shutup Roxy, hunched over in the corner, looking at me as she drops yet another steamer. She looks at me with cataract-white eyes and I feel I'm embarrassing her. I look away. "Why do you have to shit so much, bro?" I ask her. 

My husband has started calling the three year old, 'Bro', and I have adopted it. I have adopted it and expanded it, bastardized it brah, brahmin, brotato, broseph, brocephus. It is beyond annoying, and I can't stop. "Have a nice day!", says the woman loading my groceries. She is my mother's age, neat and trim, delightfully cheerful. "You too, bro!", I reply, and I can tell by the look on her face that this is likely the first time in her life she's been called 'bro'.

The dog does not mind being called bro. Two weeks ago, we felt certain that she was not long for this world. An injury to her already shaky hind end meant we had to have 'the talk'. She looked up at us from her bed, the heating pad tucked under her hips. "If she's not better by Monday, it may be time," my husband said. Shutup Roxy cocked an eyebrow my way. The next morning she was up, still wobbly, but considerably better. She made her way outside to the pile of dog shit leaves and did her business. Screw you, brah, she said.

The leaves are still there, waiting. My third degree grief is faded, already replaced by plans for turkey and pies and Christmas gifts yet to buy. Thanks, I give thanks, that I can shrug it off and worry myself with yard work and grocery budgets. I hold a pen that hesitates above a sympathy card for an acquaintance, unsure of what to say and how to say it. I write what comes to mind first and then reconsider - I reconsider it all. 

"So sorry for your loss, bro."

Thursday, November 7, 2013


The problem was, he couldn't seem to get it clean. Randall had hosed it off right away, of course; dried it with stacks of old towels and oiled all the pieces and parts. He cleaned it until his fingers tingled from the cold and the wash water froze on the hem of his pants. 

But here he stood, watching a single rivulet of blood trickle down the handle of the machine. Randall checked his hands and face for cuts and found nothing more than three days worth of beard and a dried piece of egg from that morning's breakfast, stuck to the corner of his mouth. 

He reached out and touched the cold metal of the handle, then held still and waited to catch the blood. It hit his finger hot and thick and he cried out in surprise. He balanced the droplet on his fingertip and brought it close to his face. He watched it hang there, suspended, and fought the urge to touch it to his tongue. He hurriedly wiped the finger on his pants, and went inside the house. 

That was the second day. 

On the third day, Randall stood at the back door, peering over his coffee cup at the machine on the edge of the woods. It looked exactly like it had looked for the past twenty years; heavy and cold and so faded that it blended into the oranges and yellows of the trees themselves. Off to the left was the dog run, minus dog, food bowl turned upside down. The squirrels and chipmunks and birds had eaten what had been spilled. Randall couldn't remember if the dog had been there eating when it happened and turned it over, or if he had knocked it over running to her. He did remember holding her in his arms, trying to stop the hole in her throat from gushing blood, and seeing a crow perched on the bowl, pecking at the food, it's black beaded eyes staring at him. The fuck you looking at?, it asked him. In his periphery had been the man, standing at the edge of the woods, looking stupid and drunk. 

That night, Randall heard the machine crank up. He flew from the bed, tripping over shoes and dirty clothes, running into the dark in his underwear, panic caught in his throat and trying to escape. Gah gah gahhh, it said. His feet carried him through the yard toward the trees while his brain yelled stop stop stop no sound no sound! His feet finally got the message and Randall stopped halfway through the long yard. The night was still and the machine sat dark and quiet, a great black hulk, sleeping. He stood there watching it until his toes went numb in the wet grass.

On the fourth day, Randall walked around the machine again and again. He looked under it and over it and in it. He saw no mysterious drops of blood, no stains, no sign of use. He crouched down low and put his ear to the ground and closed his eyes and asked the earth for answers. When he opened them, he saw it. A small square of red plaid cloth, caught on a blade inside the machine. It fluttered there, waving at him. How did you miss me?, it said. He saw it as a larger piece, with brown buttons and smelling of smoke and whiskey, hanging on the man in the woods. 

Randall took the square of cloth between two fingers, careful not to touch the machine. It was impossible that it was there, no fabric or man made material had gone in. Nothing that wasn't nature made had ever gone in, he was sure of that. He glanced at the circle of charred earth behind the dog lot. No, he was sure of that. He held the cloth to his face and smelled cigarettes. 

He set it on fire on the fifth day. He nearly set everything else on fire as well, and battled errant sparks with fire extinguishers and the great green garden hose while the machine sat blazing in the middle of it all. Within an hour, Randall had stripped to his underwear and boots and danced around the hot metal, his skin red and blisters boiling around his mouth. He kept it burning until nightfall, when the last of the embers faded but the machine still glowed. He slept in it's shadow, the garden hose wrapped around his body like a talisman. 

He was not surprised to find the pack of matches on the sixth day. They sat on top of the machine, red cover open, waving at him when he opened his eyes. RE-ELECT EARL REDWINE, it implored him, ABLE AND EXPERIENCED, it assured him. Maybe he ought to go in and call Earl right now, he thought. Call him and tell him about his dog and the man and machines that bleed and regenerate plaid shirts. Got any experience with that, Earl? 

He sat there all that day, staring at the machine. He ate pinto beans out of the can for his breakfast, and gin out of the bottle for his supper. He kept the square of cloth tied around his index finger, and rubbed it absently over his blistered lips. It was cold, but the machine had become organic; growing out of the earth, it swelled and pulsed and kept him warm. 

On the seventh day, Randall stumbled down the long driveway to the road, a piece of plywood under his arm and a scattering of nails held between his teeth. He hit his thumb twice with the hammer, cursing the first time and crying the second. When he was done, he stood back and looked at the crooked sign and smiled. That'll do it, he thought, and read the sign out loud - "Woodchipper for sale - CHEAP".

Monday, October 21, 2013


It was amazing that she'd seen the leaf at all, her eyes weren't as sharp as they once were. But it was there, hung high in the bare branches, just hanging on, twisting. It was bright red, and stood out against the gray sky like a bloodstain. 

Jeremy was late, but he was always late. She'd eaten half her sandwich sitting there waiting, and now the other half rested atop the brown bag on the bench beside her. The cold of the slats was seeping through her long skirt, between the fibers of her panty hose, piercing her thin skin and digging right into her bones. She didn't exactly mind it. She watched the leaf quiver in the air. It made her think of Jeremy, not even Jeremy yet, squirming inside her belly. The first time she'd felt it, she'd cried out and clutched her stomach. She never got used to the feeling, even when he was so large that she could discern top from bottom as he heaved and rolled inside her.

Across the greenway from where she sat, a small boy threw a ball back and forth to his mother. They both squealed with delight any time the boy caught it, and let out a chorus of "ohhh!", any time he missed. Jeremy had a ball like that when he was four, bright red rubber that he bounced around the house incessantly. He'd hit her in the backside with it once by accident, and they'd both laughed. He did it again, and they laughed again. After the fifth time, she'd begun to get annoyed and asked him to stop. Jeremy, alright now, stop. Jeremy, stop. That's enough. I'm not playing anymore. 

Still, he continued to hit her with the ball, laughing, unaware. She broke then, grabbing the ball and throwing it hard against the wall and, when he laughed again, grabbing him. She hit him until the only sound he made was tight gasps; until he lay on the floor with his arms over his head and his knees curled in to his body. He lay there long after she'd stopped the beating, so long that she thought he'd fallen asleep. Her hot rage subsided and her head full of guilt and shame, she'd started to put a blanket over him. When her shadow fell across him, he screamed and pushed himself along the floor, away from her. 

She thought to herself, for the millionth of many millions of times, this is not the place for me.

She glanced at her watch, and picked up the sandwich. She took birdlike bites that tasted like sand. Is this why old people never eat? she thought. Will everything taste like this forever now, and fill my body up until I am nothing but skin and sand, and then one day I'll dry up and blow away? She looked up and squinted her eyes at the leaf, hanging still, alive for the moment.

Despite everything that she had been, and had not been, Jeremy grew up just fine. He married a just fine woman and had a just fine job and just fine children. They paid her rent in a just fine assisted living facility and he met her here every Tuesday and glanced at his watch every five minutes while he watched her eat her sand sandwiches. One Sunday a month, Jeremy brought her to his house and she sat on a chair covered in plastic and smiled and nodded while her daughter in law talked about nothing and her grandchildren ignored her in favor of handheld devices. How are you doing, Mom? the daughter in law would ask and she would always answer, Just fine.

They took her out of one box and put her in another, moving her around to give the illusion that she mattered still. But she was just furniture. Except on Tuesdays, sand sandwiches notwithstanding. On Tuesdays, when she could get a chill from the park bench and imagine that it was her throwing the ball to the boy, and believe that Jeremy would be here on time. She closed her eyes to wait. 

Above her the red leaf shuddered, and fell.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Charlene, Part Three

Charlene awoke to a pounding behind her eyelids. She tasted blood on her lip, white Zinfandel on her teeth, and smelled something animal from under her arms. She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes until she saw stars, and still the pounding did not cease. Charlene! she heard a voice call and opened her eyes when she realized the voice was coming from the same place as the pounding. Not from inside her head, but from the front door. 

She was sitting on the kitchen floor, propped up against the cabinet, her bare legs splayed out in front of her. She was still wearing just a bra and the Spanx, now rolled halfway down her belly. Fuck, she tried to say aloud, but her mouth was dry and her tongue swollen, and the word fell out flat. Fuhhh. On the floor next to her was the now empty bottle of wine, and a full ashtray. Charlene hadn't smoked in five years. 

The pounding was coming into focus now, and there was her name again, Charlene!, still coming from a million miles away. She started to get up from the floor and the backs of her legs stuck to the vinyl tile. Bits of spun sugar covered the floor and, Charlene saw as she looked around, nearly everything else. From the table to the cabinets to the ceiling fan, the kitchen was draped with fine, golden sugar spiderwebs. And there, in the middle of the kitchen table, was the cream puff tree. It was smashed together and dripped with custard and sugar. In some places, it appeared to be held together with Hubba Bubba. The entire thing leaned precariously to the east. 


She started to say what happened?, but that's the moment she looked at the windowsill and saw that the little white pill was no longer there. 


"Charlene!", it was Darrell's voice calling from behind the front door, she realized now. She hurried to the door, calling "I'm coming! Did you forget your keys?"

She forgot her state of semi-undress and threw opened the door. "Damn, baby," said Darrell, "you are ready!" He reached for her and she jumped back. 

"What in the hell, Darrell!"

"You called me, sweetie. You called me and said you wanted to make another baby and I'm here! I'm ready, and so are you in your special panties!" The man smelled like coffee and deer piss.

"Darrell, I am fifty damned years old and I am not making another baby with you and I am trying to get to Bunco and I do not have time for this shit and oh GOD is that blood on your coveralls?" Charlene felt her stomach rise. 

"Bunco? Charlene, did you get The Call?" And it was the look on his face that got her moving again. This wasn't about cream puff trees or prescription medicines or Spanx, this was about Bunco, by God. This was about finally fitting in with the Ladies' Society and being able to look at Kathy Mahoney as an equal. Granted, a younger, better looking equal, but an equal nonetheless. 

"Darrell, you have to help me. I have to be there in-", she glanced at the clock, "holy hell, fifteen minutes! Get in here and help me with this cream puff tree!" 

Darrell followed Charlene through the doorway into the kitchen. "What! What happened in here, Charlene?" Darrell looked around the kitchen, his neck straining against his coveralls, a red band rising over his collar and up his cheeks. 

"What is all over the floor? In the fan? Is that Hubba Bubba?" 

"Now honey, I can get this all cleaned up later. Right now, I just need you to bear down and help me!"

Charlene turned just in time to see Darrell turn the most alarming shade of purple before he fell to the floor. 

"Darrell? Darrell!" Charlene ran to her husband's side and watched the color drain from his face. Hot tears filled her eyes and her hand gently touched his hair. "Oh, Darrell."

Charlene glanced at the clock. 

There comes a time in everyone's life where they reach a crossroads. Where they have to decide whether to take the path that will lead them to ruin, or prosperity. In Charlene's world, prosperity was spelled B-u-n-c-o

"Damnit, Darrell," she sighed. 

Charlene grabbed her husband under his arms and started dragging him through the kitchen into the living room. Her bare feet sticking with each step, the smell the deer stand coming off in him in waves, every ounce of her body throbbing. Getting him into the living room was not as difficult as getting him into his recliner. She had to get on her hands and knees to give him one final heave and heard, and felt, her Spanx give a great rip up her backside. 

When he was finally sitting upright, he almost looked like he was sleeping. If only his hand was down his pants and he was snoring, she might believe he was. The thought of it made her tear up again, and she turned quickly to leave. She stopped suddenly, reached over his still body, and turned on the television. "I'll be back," she said. "Don't go anywhere."

Charlene walked into the kitchen and glanced at the clocked once again. She should be at Bunco by now. She'd be late, and she wouldn't have the Hubba Bubba cream puff tree, but she could still make it. A little concealer, a little perfume, and she'd be alright. 

Then the doorbell rang. 

Oh, you have got to be kidding me, she thought. It was no doubt the UPS guy or someone selling stupid cookies, but they were persistent. Charlene ignored the bell and it fell silent. She stood for a moment and listened and then she heard it - a soft, soft tapping at the glass door to the patio. She turned to see Kathy Mahoney and three other members of the St. Loquacious Ignatious Ladies' Society staring at her. Their hair and clothes were perfect, and their modestly lipsticked mouths formed a trio of perfect o's. Together, they seemed to be saying, ooo.

"Charlene, hon?", said Kathy Mahoney, "Did I not mention you were hosting?" 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Charlene, Part Two

Charlene was no Martha Stewart. But if there was anyone at St. Loquacious Ignatious that could pull together a cream puff tree, it was her. She baked the puffs and filled them, Band-Aid flapping over her right eye the entire time. She impressed herself, rising to the occasion with such a terrific handicap. Who else could bake and fill cream puffs with part of their face missing? Certainly not even Ms. Martha Stewart. 

Charlene was feeling good - so good that she decided to have a glass of wine (just one, temperance is next to Godliness, so sayeth the Ladies Social Society as they sip their White Zinfandel) and come back to the cream puff tree later. She poured a glass, put Michael Bolton (that sexy beast!) on the CD player, and walked to her bedroom. Now might be a good time to try on that dress. 

She finished her wine and started digging through her unmentionables drawer. Past the utility underwear, barely glancing at the 'special occasion' panties Darrell bought her for their 20th anniversary (Do I have them on backwards? She had asked him.). Back to the right hand corner where her Spanx lived, rolled up around a lavender sachet. Charlene embraced her shape. She was nearly fifty and had come to the conclusion a decade ago that what she had was a gift from God and she should love it and treat it well. Good treatment, she believed, included the occasional pecan pie or Oreo. She didn't think a single woman in the Ladies Social wore double digits, though. She had seen Kathy Mahony's eyes wander to her midsection as they talked. 

She didn't like it, but if a visible panty line was the difference between getting in to the Ladies Social or spending eternity teaching four year old Sunday School, she'd suffer the Spanx. 

They seemed impossibly small. She remembered the day she first brought them home and pulled them from the package. She looked at what appeared to be a pair of tights for a dwarf (little person, she mentally corrected herself), then at the size on the package. Maybe they use European sizing, she thought. 

"Naw, that's just as big as they are. They stretch." Judy had told her over the phone. Charlene had never seen Judy with a single visible panty line, so she obviously knew what she was talking about. 

That first time, it had taken her nearly twenty minutes to put them on. Now, she expertly rolled one leg of the supportive undergarment up and slipped it on. She rolled the second leg up, careful not to put her foot through the crotch-hole. 

"There is a crotch-hole in there, Judy!" Charlene had yelled over the phone. "What in the fresh hell do you need a big hole in the crotch of your drawers for?"  Charlene was worried that Darrell might think the hole was there for his convenience. Only Darrell could think of Spanx as an invitation.

Any fifty year old woman who drinks more than a single glass of White Zinfandel at church bingo can tell you exactly what that crotch-hole is for.

Michael Bolton was singing on the CD in the living room, and Charlene sang along, when a man loves a woman, as she rolled the Spanx up it's critical point, right across her c-section scar. Proper positioning was crucial at this moment, and required a kind of clean and jerk maneuver, or her midsection ended up looking like a can of biscuits that had blown out on one side. 

The phone rang. 

"Darrell!" Charlene said aloud and ran into the kitchen, Spanx halfway up. When she rounded the corner and passed the kitchen table, her bare foot hit a patch of spilled wax. Charlene's increased speed and decreased coordination sent her hurtling toward the floor. The Spanx held her legs together and she fell like a drunken mermaid that had suddenly been thrust upon dry land, flopping onto her knees and then face first, into the kitchen table.

She tasted the blood before she saw it. 

"Damn damnit," she said, and ran her tongue over her already swelling lip. "That's gonna leave a mark."

(To be continued)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Charlene, Part One

Charlene couldn't believe the words on the screen. 

She'd been a member at St. Loquacious Ignacious Intermediate Lutheran Church for nearly three years. She had baked countless chicken pies, knitted forty-seven (and two-thirds) prayer shawls, taught Sunday school to the four and five year olds (including the Martin twins, those little bastards, God forgive her), and served on the Stewardship committee for the past 18 months. Despite her relentless dedication to the St. Lo community, and a equally fervent (if not entirely honest) commitment to her faith, one thing remained just beyond her grasp. 

Until today. She read the words again - Hey Charlene, hon! Missy's cat had to have an emergency hysterectomy this morning and she had to cancel on us! Would you be interested in subbing for Bunco tonight? She thought this day would never come; the invitation into the sanctum sanctorum of female church life at St. Lo's. The Holy Grail of Intermediate Lutheran society! The email was sent by none other than the president of the St. Lo's Ladies Social Society, Kathy Mahoney. Charlene was so excited she almost missed the postscript: PS - Missy was in charge of dessert, so if you could make something yummy, that would be super! Thanks, hon!

Charlene knew that this was her chance to shine. She'd need the perfect outfit, a killer dessert, a brow wax and her most powerful pair of Spanx.  But first, she had to tell someone. Darrell, her husband of 32 years (and soon to be Second Vice-President of Mortgage Loans at the auxiliary branch of First Citizens Bank), was up in a tree somewhere, trying to shoot a deer. Nothing less than a medical emergency was getting him off the stand. "Judy!" Charlene scrambled for the phone and dialed her very best friend in the whole world. 

"Judy, it's happened!"

On the other end of the line, her friend gasped. "Bunco?"

"Yes, Bunco. Oh, Judy, I don't know what I'm going to wear and I was thinking about making my coconut cream pies but then I thought, well everyone's had that a million times, and then I remembered seeing Martha Stewart make this cream puff tree and I thought, now that would make a statement! And I need a brow wax because frankly it looks like a couple of caterpillars crawled up on my forehead and died and I don't have time to get to the salon and I was hoping you could come over with a hot pot of wax and take care of them and..."

"Damn, Charlene!" Judy broke in, "Draw breath! I'll be right there. Pick out a couple of outfits, pull out the recipe for the cream puffs, and try not to have a heart attack before I get there!"

Charlene dug through her closet, flipping past the yoga pants, mom jeans, and t-shirts, past the conservative twin sets and slacks she wore to church, and settled in the meager 'social wear' section. A pair of well worn denim capris, a couple of floral gauze tunics, a leopard print blouse. Shit, shit, shit. She knew she didn't have time to go shopping. Then she spied it - the red dress she'd worn to her brother's wedding three years ago.  No one at church had ever seen it, it was still in fashion, and only one (maybe two) sizes too small. Nothing her full body Spanx couldn't handle. 

She was reading the cream puff recipe when Judy rang the doorbell, wax pot in hand. "Dang, Charlene," she said, looking over her shoulder, "that recipe looks kind of complicated."

"Oh, it will be fine. All I have to do is make the cream puffs, then construct a tree out of them using royal icing, the envelop the whole thing in a halo of spun sugar!"

Judy widened her eyes, but said no more. "Alright, Charlene. Sit down there at the table and let's get those brows taken care of." She plugged the wax pot in and pulled out a wooden stick and two small strips of cloth. "This is that new wax they have down at the salon," Judy told her. "Guaranteed to go on and come off like silk." Charlene closed her eyes and leaned her head back as Judy applied the wax with the wooden stick, then smoothed on a strip of cloth. 

"Oh, Judy, I just can't believe it! Finally, after all my hard work and chicken pies and YOU BITCH!" Judy had pulled the strip, and a good bit of skin, from Charlene's face. "OH SWEET LORD AM I BLEEDING?" Charlene jumped up and knocked over the chair, tripped over the cord and sent the wax pot flying. She wiped her brow and stared at the blood on her hand. "Oh my God Judy, you ripped open MY FACE!"

"Shit, Charlene, I am really sorry. That wasn't supposed to happen-"

"Well I GUESS NOT, Judy. I cannot go to Bunco with my face ripped off!" Charlene imagine her future at St. Lo's going from membership in the inner circle to perpetual nursery duty and started to cry. 

"Charlene! Pull yourself together! Here, have a Xanax."  Judy pulled a small white pill out of a Ziplock baggie in her purse.

"I do not need your pills, Judy! I need the skin to be back on my face!" Charlene's brow was pinpricked with blood, and her face was nearly as red. 

"Okay, sweetie. I'll just out the Xanax here on the kitchen windowsill if you change your mind." Judy placed the pill on the sill, and let herself out. Charlene waited until she heard the click of the door, then counted to ten before she moved. She assessed the damage to her face in the bathroom mirror and decided that maybe, just maybe, she'd be presentable by that night. She covered the patch with a bandaid, straightened up from the sink, and steeled her nerves. 

She had cream puffs to make. 

(To be continued)

Monday, September 30, 2013

An Uncomfortable Post About My Lady Station

Blame it on my vagina.

If you want to, you can pretend that the past few months have been extraordinarily busy for me. If you're more comfortable with it, we can pretend that I've been hard at work on a novel, or that I spent the summer in an ashram developing my spiritual side. 

But the truth is, I've spent my time playing Candy Crush and drawing on canvas with Sharpies and planning tables manners class and pressure washing the patio over and over again; pretty much anything I could do to not write. Because writing would mean writing about the fact that I was completely losing my mind. 

(This is the part where my vagina comes in.)

My body has decided, at the ripe old age of forty-one, that it is time to shut this shit down. My ovaries are spitting out eggs at an alarming pace, my periods are now affectionately known as CSI: My Panties, and I sweat every time I eat. 

Actually, I sweat all the time. 

But I knew all that. You probably know all that. We laugh about hot flashes and bloat and vaginal dryness. It's sitcom fodder, with Grandma sticking her head in the freezer and Grandpa winking at the camera, because we all know that Grandma and her crazy men-o-pause are at it again! What I didn't know, what you might not know, what your husbands and partners almost certainly don't know (and God love the man who kept reading past the word 'vagina'), is that there is a decent chance that perimenopause will make you completely fucking insane. 

I have anxiety and OCD. I have been through multiple miscarriages and the death of a parent, as well as your run of the mill life crises. I have never, until now, experienced depression in such a profoundly painful way. In a lock myself in the bathroom so my children won't see me crying way. In a looking for a rock to crawl under because I am just so damned sad, and I don't know why way.

"I know! I seriously feel like driving off a cliff one day, and then the next day I'm totally fine."  My friend has just finished telling me she's become a bathroom cryer, too. "I guess it's just normal."

That can't be normal. Common, maybe - but it can't be normal. 

"My doctor suggested exercise, and frozen peas."

That remains the best advice I've gotten. I'm simultaneously dealing with my own insanity, and that of a hormonal near-teen daughter. There are days when I'm afraid we're going to engage in hand to hand combat in the front yard, followed by hugging and sobbing and professions of undying love. My husband is working a lot. 

I am trying to exercise more, and read more, and write more. Like a Phoenix rising from the flames (totally a hot flash metaphor), I am making my way back. You can read a little something of mine over at Triad Moms on Main on October 1 - something not about vaginas or depression! And more here, soon. 

And if I disappear again, check the bathroom.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Loose Change

(If you haven't heard of it, NPR's All Things Considered hosts an occasional contest called Three-Minute Fiction. The premise is simple, write a story that can be read in three minutes - about 600 words. They provide the prompt, give you a week to write, then dribble out finalists until they announce the winner. The winner gets a prize, generally the book(s) of the guest author/judge, and publication in The Paris Review. Which is huge. HUGE. For this round, the prompt was to write a story in which a character finds an object that they have no intention of returning. This is my entry, which neither won nor placed, but was fun to write nonetheless. If you'd like to see the winner and finalists, check outThree-Minute Fiction on NPR, and be sure to read my personal favorite, Picked Clean.)


She ran fast; her bare feet chewed up by the dirt road, hair stuck to her sweaty face, right hand jammed deep into her pocket. She knew he was right behind her, but she didn’t dare turn around. She just kept running. 

In her pocket she felt the coin pressed deep into her palm. She imagined that when she finally pried it loose, George Washington’s face would be burned into her flesh.  Maybe forever. She’d seen his sharp profile staring at her from under the porch and wiggled her arm through a crevice in the wood, all the way up to her shoulder before she managed to pinch it between two fingers. She’d pulled it out and licked it clean and had admired Mr. Washington for only a moment when the boy had yelled,

“Hey! That’s mine!”

And she’d started running. 

Turning the corner tightly now, almost running into the building. It was kind of hard, running with one arm pumping and the other stuffed into the pocket of your dress. Don't turn around, she thought, and then, falling victim to the jinx, glanced behind her.

He was right there. Right there, so close she didn’t know how she hadn’t felt his breath on her neck. So close that he could reach out and push her lightly, just enough to make her fall. She felt tiny pebbles dig into her knees and the palm of her hand. She rolled over in the dirt onto her back and he jumped on her, sitting square on her stomach. 

She kept her hand in her pocket, elbow locked, George safe in her closed fist. 

“That’s mine,” he growled, pulling at her arm. 

“Is NOT!” she yelled between clenched teeth, “Finders keepers, and ain’t no way you dropped that dumb quarter under the porch! If you’d lost a quarter, the whole town would’ve heard you crying about it!”
He grew still and leaned down, his face blotting out the sky. 

“Don’t you do it!” she squealed.

He stuck out his tongue. Fat and pink and wet, he let it dangle there, spit sliding down the sides. “Beware the Tongue of Dooooooooooooom!” he slobbered, and moved closer to her face.She screamed and jerked her knee up hard, slamming his delicacies into his pelvis and making his whole face go white. 

Oof,” was all he could manage to say before he rolled off of her and into the dirt.

She didn’t wait to see if he was okay. She was up and running again, fists closed tight, arms windmilling, feet scraped all to hell, but the end in sight. The drugstore stood tall and gleaming at the crossroads. Through the glass doors she could see people smiling and laughing, clean and cool and safe. No one in there had been chased in.

“Give it to me!” she heard him yelling, recovered and in pursuit. But he was too late. 

She pushed open the doors and made a hard right. Her hand had cramped up around the quarter and, for a minute, she was afraid it wouldn’t open. But it did, and she held the coin between trembling fingers. She could see him through the window, storming towards the door. She carefully placed the quarter in the slot and turned the handle once, twice, and back again. 


She closed her eyes and made a quick wish.  


Her favorite. His favorite, too.

He threw open the door and she gave him a long look before popping the gumball into her mouth. She smiled, and began to chew.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013


"Good lord, Marlis! Your feet stink."

I thought I smelled something funky when she first got in the car. Something like wet dog, or corn chips. I should have know it was her feet. 

"They do not, these shoes are breathable!" She folds her legs into my Duster and closes the door with considerable effort, a creak, and a slam. She hoists one leg up onto the dashboard and points at her foot, slipping around inside a pair of Carolina Blue Jellies. Jellies. Christ himself would have had stinky feet, had he walked around in a pair of Jellies. 

"Breathe-uh-ble," she repeats. Her skirt slides up to a knobby knee. Her legs are thin, young, tan, and dirty. She's not shaved in maybe ever, and there's something that looks like oatmeal stuck to her ankle. 

"Did you have oatmeal for breakfast, Marlis?" I ask, and she picks the food off her ankle. 

"Eggs," she says and looked for a moment like she might pop the morsel in her mouth. Instead, she throws it in the floorboard. She pushes her sunglasses up on her nose and leaned the seat back. "Let's go," she says.

I turn the car around, narrowly missing dogs and hogs, and head down the long dirt drive. In the rearview mirror, I watch her trailer grow smaller, swallowed up by a cloud of dust. 

"I don't know why they had to have the service in Beaumont," she purses her lips and sucks her teeth disapprovingly. "Fancy."

"Well, Elma was fancy." I say, though if pressed I might have wondered if it had more to do with Elma's daughters than her. "GODDAMN!"

The smell punches me square in the nose and I nearly run off the road. "GodDAMN, Marlis! Put your shoes back on!" She's taken off the Jellies and thrown her stankass feet up on the dashboard. 

"It is a long RIDE, Conrad, and my feet are hot." Her feet are crisscrossed with indentations from the shoes, red and angry. They sit up on the dash like a weird, podiatric ornament. She lets her knees fall apart, and fans herself with the bottom of her skirt. The resulting breeze sends the smell of her feet all the way through the car. 

"Oh, God. You got to stop that," I moan. "It's like a convection oven in here." 

"Roll down the window if it's bothering you that bad!" She snipes, fanning faster. 

"You know I got the air conditioner going, Marlis! If I opened a window, it would let all the cold air out!"

"Apparently, your air conditioner don't work worth a shit, Conrad, because if it did my feet wouldn't be all swoll up and on fire!" With that, she reaches down onto the floorboard, picks up those godawful Jellies, and sets them up on the dash. 

"You want me to open a window?" I ask.

"I wish you damned would."

I crank the window down furiously, turning the handle so violently that I nearly hurt myself. Then I grab her shoes and throw them out. The wind catches them for a minute, then they're bouncing along the side of the highway, plastic tumbleweeds.

"Conrad!" She bolts up in her seat, mouth open, eyes wide. Then we start to laugh. We laugh so hard that we forgot to turn around and get the shoes. We laughed until we cried, and then she kept right on crying even after I stopped. We pull into town, down the side street behind the church and into the parking lot. 

"Damn, Marlis, I hate you have to go to the funeral without any shoes on."

She looked at me and sighed, "Not like it's the first time."

Monday, May 20, 2013


"Daddy won't wake up."

That is all my brother said, and I said, "I'll be right there," and hung up the phone before he told me anything else. 

We had been waiting for him to die all week, watching as he slept more and ate less. He could barely hold his eyes open the day before, as he looked at my daughter and said the last words I'd ever hear him say. 

"She's such a pretty girl."

The phone had woken me, but the sun was up. I broke a nail on the closet door as I was getting dressed, and chewed it smoothe on the drive over. Twenty forever minutes while is he dead is he dead rolled through my head on a continuous loop. 

He was not. 

He was not dead, but he would not wake up. His chest rattled and his feet were cold and we would spend all day watching that coldness creep over his body. We would spend all day greeting friends and family and talking to nurses and swabbing his lips to keep them moist. We would talk and take the flicker of an eyelid as acknowledgement. I read the Reader's Digest aloud and made bad jokes and pressed my body against his in a vain attempt to get him warm. To keep him alive. 

That night, my mother drifted off to sleep next to him, and I fell asleep in his chair in the living room. I woke not much later not to a sound, but to an absence of sound. My brother, standing in the living room, his head cocked toward the bedroom door. We walked in together, silently, and knew he was gone. I sat on the bed and my mother woke up and said his name and I screamed, Don't turn on the light!, but only in my head. 

And then they turned on the light and made it real; made him inescapably, unavoidably, gone. 


It cannot possibly be a decade since I tried to warm my father's dying body, since I watched my mother fall in on herself. She folded in and in over and over until she was hardly there at all. It cannot possibly be a decade since I last held his hand or kissed his face or heard his voice. 

This week, a friend lost her father after an illness that robbed him of strength and dignity. The kind of illness that makes faithful people say things like 'at least he is no longer in pain', and, 'his suffering is over'. The kind of illness that brings a heavy, unwelcome respite to caregivers. She asked the same question that I asked, that everyone asks - when? When does it get easier? When do I get to feel normal? Like I felt before all of this?

I sigh and smile and avoid the question, because the answer is never. 

Eventually, the fog lifts. Sometime after that, pictures bring smiles and not tears. Later, you can laugh and not feel guilty. One day, you can sit and write about the day your father died and not be turned inside out with grief, hollow with loss.

I wish I could hold her hands and take her into the future, to the time when the clarity of details begins to blur. When you can't remember exactly what you wore and what they said. When you can look back and think, oh, it wasn't so bad, even when something inside reminds you that it was. Time turns snapshots into watercolors, making pain go soft. I wish I could speed up time and have her here with me, when memories are sweet and faith is strong and there is no doubt that we will laugh again. 


Saturday, April 27, 2013


There is a man sitting next to me, telling a story. It is not a good story, but he is telling it with great enthusiasm, waving his hands and raising his voice. He is speaking to another man and we, this other man and I, are listening carefully, waiting for the climax of the story. Of course, they don't know I'm listening; me, with my nose buried in a book whose pages I haven't turned. Me, trying desperately to read the story on the page - the good story - but instead, distracted by this loud man and his spectacularly shitty story. 

He is wearing brown suede shoes and pegged jeans and a button down, striped shirt, buttoned to the top. His hair is mousy and the part is crooked and it is still wet from the shower. He is young, younger than me, and dresses from the decade before he was born. 

He stands abruptly and walks away - they started without him and he scrambles to catch up. What was he talking about? What was the point? Was he simply talking to fill a perceived empty space? I must know and don't care, and I'm disappointed in him for leaving me. 

A woman sits down next to me, in the row of folding chairs against the wall. I cross my legs away from her and lean away. My bag is in the chair to my right, creating a safe zone of personal space. I am too conscious of other peoples smells, their body heat and proximity to me makes me strain to hold my arms close to my body. I am uncomfortable, but moving would be incredibly rude. So I sit, the lesft side of my body tight and tense, taking shallow breaths through my nose. 

I will be here all day. 

There are stragglers in the hallway. Some of them talk, too loud and too fast, in that superficial way you talk to people you don't really know, or don't really like. Those people you run into at the grocery store and are forced to make small talk while you desperately try to remember their name. These are the people who always seem to know so much about me, making mention of my children and life events, while I stare blankly and search the dark crevices of my memory for a name. Who are you? I want to scream, but I smile and nod and ask vague questions and look for a conversational exit. 

I crack my knuckles and the woman flinches. It's a horrible habit and one I've had since I was a child. I do it so often I'm hardly aware of it. Sometimes, I'll do it out of nervousness in a quiet room and the pops erupt like rifle shots, pinging off walls and making old women gasp. I mumble sorry and wonder what I'm apologizing for. 

My knee is cramping and my rear end is falling asleep. My shoulders are up around my ears and the shear effort of leaning my body imperceptibly away is making my jaw clench. I uncross my legs and lean forward and reestablish the personal space barrier. Twelve minutes. I feel like thirty minutes is the minimum I have to sit here before I can move without seeming rude. And then, I can't simply move to another seat. I'll need to go walking around this giant, unfamiliar space, pretending to find great interest in things like bronze plaques designating memorial meeting rooms. 

I wonder if Richard Blythe lay on his deathbed, his mind resting easily knowing he would be immortalized by a bronze plaque outside a meeting room. There is a continental breakfast laid out on the table below it, and businessmen and women  who are torn between the joy of missing a day of work and the pain of sitting through a seminar on increasing profit margins read it while waiting for the person in front of them to dig a disc of cream cheese out of a paper cup with a plastic spoon. 

Richard Blythe - immortalized, recognized, forgotten by the time they get to the muffins.

Eighteen minutes. 

She moves. I am released from my prison and yet highly offended. She has broken the spell and I find myself suddenly hungry for muffins.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Flashback '70s Style

I'm working on something - and by working, I mean looking at a lot of old photos and talking and thinking and not actually writing, but the writing is just all that thinking put on paper. And sometimes that takes awhile.

In the meantime, I am loving the horrid decor choices of my parents during the 1970s.

Exhibit A, 1974:

Where to begin.

Firstly, I look adorable. Cute dress, cute hair, awesome watch. The kid behind me with the nice tan and unfortunate hair? No idea who that is. Raggedy Ann? Bitchin. I also got a matching Raggedy Andy that year, so I can only assume he is lounging on that amazing green shag carpet.

It's hard to pick what my favorite thing in this room is. The Fisher-Price castle to the right? The killer sound system perched atop the pillars in the background? The hanging tassel of what was no doubt one of my mom's fabulous macrame creations? Or maybe it's the preponderance of dried flowers? Look behind me on the right and you'll see those awful, tall, foofy things that shed like a dog and made your nose itch. I have no idea what they're called, but if you were alive during the decade of disco, you know what I'm talking about.

I would kill to know the titles on the stack of 8-tracks on the floor. I wore out my mom's copy of Elton John's Madman Across the Water. I remember...HOLY SHIT. There it is. My favorite thing about this photo - a life sized, golden plaster statue of a cobra. A golden cobra says you mean business. A golden cobra says, "Hey, I may have a shitty stereo, but did you notice my golden cobra?". 

Fast forward to 1979.
The times, they are a'changin'. We've moved to North Carolina, and my folks are missing their cowboy home, so they went Western. 70s Style.

In this photo we have me, dressed in a fashion forward stripey shirt, embroidered khakis and brown shitkickers. Seating next to me is my brother Shane, rocking the corduroy overalls and his own pair of boots. As a todder, Shane had curly hair. Which is weird, because no one in my family has curly hair, which leads me to believe that my mom was perming his hair. It is a trick to make thin hair look fuller, one she would duplicate on my poor father in the early '80s.

In 1979, my parents loved Waylon, Willie, weed, and the color brown. Not necessarily in that order.

The pile on the carpet is shorter, but the color is still delightfully pukey. The books on the mantle are a series of Time-Life books on the Old West. I spent hours looking at the miners, chiefs, cowboys and gunfighters. I was sure that one day I'd be flipping through them and see a picture of my dad.

This is around the same time my mom started painting statuary. Cowboy and Indian busts and figures came into our house an alabaster plaster and were painted and stained and fired and placed on every available flat surface, or hung on walls next to mirrors framed with horse collars.

When she wasn't painting, she kept macrame-ing. Sitting on the floor with the end looped around her big toe, smoking cigarettes and watching Gunsmoke. Our house smelled like Marlboros and jute for the better part of a decade. One her finest pieces can be seen in this photo, holding some truly lovely dried flowers.

Brown flowers.

And next to that, the brass spittoon that never held anything and the HOLY SHIT PLASTER RAM THAT GOES WITH NOTHING.

I don't know what inspired my mother to buy that monstrosity. I mean, I understand macrame. I understand shag carpet and plaster statues and I even understand the golden cobra (because cobras, by the very fact that they are motherfucking cobras) are badass.

But giant plaster rams are just weird. Even for the 1970s.

(Hey, while I'm working on this thing I'm working on, why don't you go to my review of Epic Mom and enter to win a copy. I'll pick a winner by this Friday!)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Epic Things

 You may have noticed I've been scarce recently.

But instead of doing important things, like writing books or reading books or making dinner for my family on a regular basis, my mind has been sucked dry of productivity and creativity because of silly piece of mail.

From Ogden, Utah.

The (resourceful, respectable and always delightful. and fair.) IRS sent out an Examination Form for our 2010 taxes.

Some folks might call that an 'audit'. Some folks might call it bad names, but I wouldn't. Because I have faith in the kindness and generosity of the Internal Revenue Service.

We're a few days away from the deadline and almost finished and I have learned two things about the year 2010:

We had our third child.
We were not good record keepers.

One might have something to do with the other.

During this month, I have had little mental respite except for those magical fifteen minutes where, if the weather is good and Henry is asleep, I spent my time in the car rider line at school, in a terrifically wonderful way.

I read Epic Mom: Failing Every Day a Little Bit More Than You, by my friends Julie Harrison (MOV of ) and Marianne Walsh (

Yes, it's funny. Yes, if you have kids you'll completely get it. Even if you don't have kids, these stories are about your family - they're your moms or your sisters or you. But where a lot of the mom-humor around slips into dumb husband and poop jokes, Epic Mom never insults you. Julie Harrison's tongue is usually firmly in cheek, and then every now and again she says something that is so amazing that it makes you sit up straight in your chair. Julie is crazy prolific. She posts regularly, usually every day. She has published books. Plural. She is everything I wish I could be, but lack the drive and commitment. And style.

Marianne Walsh is like a pair of yoga pants. Her stories are comfortable and warm and I feel like I'm at my own kitchen table, only with less screaming and vomit. I can see Marianne and I curled up on a couch in a couple of Slankets, eating popcorn and watching Alf.

I've also spent the past week marathon-watching the first season of Glee. I'd never seen it, and I'm on like Episode 17. I don't really watch TV, so that is a whole shit ton of TV for me. I think Glee is a different post, though. 

The book is pretty fantastic. The stories are blog post-ish in length. They're sweet and funny and smart and perfect to read in the car rider line. Julie and Marianne were kind enough to send me a copy to review, and not only do I recommend it, I recommend it as a gift for friends, family, coworkers, random strangers on the internet.

So, now I am going to blow your mind - I want to give YOU a copy. That's right, I am going to purchase one copy of Epic Mom and give it away to one lucky commenter on this post. I am a horrible blogger, and I don't pay enough attention to you folks who come here. I lost a follower this week, and I was going to come here and whine about it and give a big F-U to the person who unfollowed me, and then I saw it was my mom.

Buy the book.
Comment, and maybe win the book.
Keep good tax records.
Be nice to your mom.


Thursday, March 21, 2013


He hated Amarath. 

Rumor was, his mother pulled off the side of the road, squat down and bore him while the car was still kicking up late August dust. Then pulled away before the dust had fully settled, leaving him red and squalling in a ditch. 

Facts were, he was found pink and naked and newborn by a passerby, then raised collectively by Amarath. The town passed him around it's citizenry out of obligation, but not with care. He stayed in one house until he'd outlived his usefulness, or become too expensive, or too mouthy. He walked out of his last host home on the day of his eighteenth birthday and stood in the the road, both middle fingers extended high in the air. 

"Fuck you, Amarath!", he yelled to the town. He stood there for a moment, half expecting women to wail and men to curse him, or bolts of lightening to come down from God Himself and strike him dead. Instead, he was met with the persistent silence that proved what he had known since the day of his birth - no one cares. 

Apathy and poverty proved stronger than resentment, and he took a room at the boarding house in the middle of town. He paid fifteen dollars a week for a shared bathroom, breakfast, and a metal framed bed in an eight by ten room. His fellow boarders were primarily transient; they stayed only long enough to earn the money to leave. Folks didn't come through Amarath and think, 'Now this is someplace I'd like to settle down.' It happens sometimes, if a man's car breaks down and he never gets around to getting it fixed, or a woman falls in love with the sheriff (he is a foxy fellow), or a baby is dumped in a ditch by the side of the road.

There are some holes too deep to dig yourself out of. 

He wasn't sure what brought the woman to Amarath. He stood in the hall and banged on the door to the bathroom and when the door swung open, instead of Bob Jenkins - who stunk up the bathroom with his cabbage shits and general lack of hygeine - it was the woman. Her hair was wet and stuck to her face, and she smelled like soap and steam and sex. He sucked the air in through his mouth, trying to swallow it, to swallow her, gulping her down as she pushed past him. 

"Do you believe in God?", she asked one night, much later. They lay on his bed, blowing smoke in the air and trying not to look at each other.

He hadn't given it much thought. He spent the summer of his tenth year living with Jonas Nabb's family, and they were devout Church of Christ. They went to church every Sunday morning and Sunday night, and Wednesday nights, too. Sometimes, Jonas would skip Wednesday nights and spend two hours in the barn instead. He'd come out red and sweating and rubbing his crotch, then he'd tithe extra on Sunday. 

"Nah," he said, "I don't suppose I do."

"But what about when you die?", she raised herself up on her elbow and looked him in the face. "Don't you believe in Heaven?"

He blew out a stream of smoke and stared at the ceiling.

"What about Hell?", she sounded nervous now.

"Yes," he said, "Yes, Hell is real and I know its name."

She started to laugh, but choked it back. She traced a finger along his chest and down his belly. "Well, what's its name?", she teased. 

In his head, he was on top of her with his hands around her throat, her face purple. He squeezed and squeezed until her eyes bulged and her tongue swelled between her teeth, until her legs stopped kicking and her nails stopped scratching. 

In the bed, he exhaled slowly and turned his gaze to her and said, softly, "Amarath".

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

There Is Something Wrong With My Eyes

There is something wrong with my eyes. Everything seems blurry, like I've forgotten to rub the sleep out of them, or I've left my contacts in too long, or I'm battling ragweed. Except I did rub it out, and I don't wear contacts (at least, not anymore), and I don't have allergies. 

Allergies. I used to cluck my tongue at my husband when he'd start rubbing his nose in April and sneezing in May and walking around with watery eyes until October. Good God, I'd say, can't you take a pill or something? 

I keep my pills in one of those plastic cases, on my nightstand. It has letters for the days of the week across the lids, one row for morning, one for evening. The mornings are so full that the lids no longer close. I laughed when my doctor first suggested it. Those are for old people! I said. I think I can keep a few pills straight! I said. The alarm goes off at 9 a.m., and again at 6 p.m. It's one of those high pitched, intermittent buzzes, but in my head it screams, Take your damned pills! Take your damned pills! My daughter always comes in after the alarm goes off to make sure I've taken the pills, and taken the right ones. Like I can't figure it out. 

You mess up one time and all of a sudden, people think you're a fool. 

I spent years bent over the desks of children, making sense of the numbers they'd scrawled on the papers in front of them. Picture it in your head! I'd say, but most of them couldn't see it the way I did. Most of them didn't see the numbers stretch out on a coil, wrapping around each other, spinning and dancing in space. Math was like music for me, I could positively hear equations being solved! I tried to teach those children, and my own, but too often got nothing but blank stares in return. 

My children still look at me like that, sometimes. Sometimes I will catch them staring with furrowed brows and sad smiles.  What was that, Mom? My son said to me this morning, wearing that face. I'd said nothing, and told him so. He squeezed my hand and kissed my forehead and left the room. 

What the hell was that all about? 

When I first started taking all those pills, I drove myself to and from the doctor. Then one Sunday after church, they all cornered me in the living room and accused me of keeping information from them. I hadn't not told them anything, as far as I could remember. But they didn't let me go alone after that. Then there was the business with the car. I've always been an excellent driver, anyone would tell you that. But the girls were worried, and I guess didn't want me busted by the fuzz for driving while hopped up on pills. I've never been arrested, and it sounds like something everyone should do once, but I kind of understood. Plus, that was right around the time I was getting tired, and who doesn't want to be chaffeured around like Miss Daisy, or Beyonce? 

Now they have a nurse come to me, which is just fine. She comes in and calls me Mrs., and rubs my feet with lotion, and refills my box of pills. It's quite fancy, actually. One time, my husband paid for a woman to come and give me a massage at our house. She brought a fold up table and warm blankets and even a CD of what sounded like whales, or Taylor Swift. I don't remember exactly. I was a little nervous at first, because she did it in the living room, and the oversized photo of my children when they were just little ones was staring at me from the mantle. They hadn't seen me naked since they were about that age, and here I was having some strange woman rub me down in the middle of the house. It's not like we were having sex or anything, but still. It was kind of weird. 

About two minutes into the massage, I totally forgot about the picture, and the fact that I was naked in my living room at noon on a Tuesday, not having sex. I melted under her hands, under the warm blanket, the sound of Taylor/whale songs in my ears. When she was done, I pointed to a check on the table, stumbled the seventeen steps to my bedroom, and slept for the next twelve hours. 

The home nurse isn't quite that good, but she rubs my feet and hums, which is nice.

I haven't told her about my eyes, either. 

I gave up contacts long ago, when they started scratching my eyeballs like sandpaper. You have very dry eyes, the doctor said. A thirty dollar copay for Mr. Smart Guy to tell me what I knew before I left the house. So I started wearing the glasses again; wore them until they started hurting behind my ears and I had to wear them perched on the tip of my nose, arms pointing straight up. You look like a bird, my husband said. I showed him a bird, the one located between my index and ring fingers.

I wore them to watch my favorite television programs and read my books, even when I started forgetting what was happening on the shows, and reading the same page two or three times. I wore them until there was nothing left to see, then I sat them on my nightstand next to the pill box. 

When I noticed somethng was wrong with my eyes, I put them back on. Nothing changed, so I took them back off. I got nose to nose with myself in a hand mirror and looked for a long time at my eyeballs. 

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but I am telling you - I looked for an awfully long time, and all I saw were the tired eyes of an old woman. 

And I am tired. I am tired of doctors and sad smiles and foot rubs and I am tired of that damned pill box. So I won't tell them that there is something wrong with my eyes, because I am too tired to do anything about it. 

I think I'll just close them for awhile, instead.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Most Random Post Ever.

A friend of mine posted this movie on Facebook with a 'remember this?' and, usually, I don't, but this time I did. 
Pot roast was my culinary Waterloo. Was, until I found this recipe - 

The idea of cold oatmeal, or overnight oats, repels me. Like, I find it morally repugnant. 

I decided to give it a try, and turns out, I love it. Chia seeds are crack. I disgust myself.

I am reading Epic Mom, a book by my friends MOV and Marianne. I'm reading it sitting in the car line, and it makes sitting in the cold car while Henry throws shit at the back of my head much more bearable. I'm going to review it, which will be the first time I have ever reviewed anything.No one has ever asked, which kind of pisses me off, now that I think of it! So, thanks MOV and Marianne!

I am going to be more honest than I want to be here: Julia drives me nuts. She is just so intense and winter is hard on her, and me. She needs to get out and run around and she isn't getting that. Katie's play is in the last week of rehearsals, and we have school projects due and she's nervous, and Henry pees on everything, and poor Julie is just floundering. She really needs more of my attention and patience, and I need to remember that she is just a little kid. She is the easiest of the three and I get so exasperated, and I feel awful. I will change that. 

Also, March owns my ass.

I don't think there is a day on the calendar when something isn't going on. I am behind on doctor's appointments and pictures and oh, everything. I finally made an appointment for the piano to be tuned since we bought it (three years ago), and the grandfather clock to be serviced (every 5 years, we've had it 12 and never done it). 

I bought some clothes because, again with the painful honesty, I was embarrassed. I gained some weight over the winter and nothing fit.  I was wearing a lot of sweatpants and sweatshirts. Ratty looking shit from Target (clearance, $3.99), not lululemon.

The weather is going to be nice next week, eliminating my last excuse for not running all winter, and most fall. I don't think I've run even once since November. I am scared to death of that first go, but my life is so much better when I'm running, even a little.

I am not writing, I am tired. I told a friend that I was sitting at the literary equivilant of the Woolworth counter. Later, I realized I meant Schwab's where Lana Turner was discovered, not the site of a civil rights protest in Greensboro, NC. I am not comparing my writing to the fight for racial justice. My bad. 

I always feel like there is so much to do.

Shutup Roxy needs a bath. The last time I cut her nails, she got away before I could get one paw, and now I can't remember which one I missed. She turns thirteen this month, and she is such a jerky dog, but she's mine and I love her. My mom got a puppy, because she is crazy. It makes me want one a little, too. Like I feel when learning a friend is pregnant - for just a minute I want one too, and then I remember what huge pains in the ass puppies and babies are. They just suck the life out of you, in a good way. I will be content with my kids who poop in a toilet and my old, fat dog who pees outside. 

Our pillow top mattress was shit, just horrible. I was sleeping in a hole. Mattresses are ridiculously expensive, so Sean cut the pillow top off and we bought a foam topper for $159 at Costco. Next to the $14 air popper, it may be the best money we've ever spent. Take that, mattress people!

I am restless. I want to get out and dig in the dirt and stop wearing coats and pull out the flip flops. I want to wash everything and throw things away and do something new. I feel a deep need to spiff shit up. I'm thinking about something new for SFC, and I'm going to ask my friend JRose what she thinks. 

Out with the old, in with the new. It seems to be a thing, this March.