Wednesday, December 31, 2008
It's been...well, a terrible year frankly. Not all of it has been a heart breaking, grueling monstrosity of a growth period that feels more like the bad kind of growth, like a tumor, and less like the good kind like a kid's shoe size or a bank account. So I'm trying to reflect on the good moments with the bad, and even how the bad stuff had good outcomes in the end. This is all very vague, I know, but trust me it ain't been pretty. To Chris and the kids' credit, they've been pretty good about it all. I imagine that I haven't been fun to live with lately, and this new person who's emerging isn't exactly what everybody is used to.
I'm still doing well with the book. The kids being home for the holidays has seriously cut into writing time, but I know I'll get back into a good routine soon. And the kids and I have had fun this Christmas. I'm still looking for a full time job. Tulane is suppose to get back to me either way in the next couple of weeks, according to the other editor. He said things move slow over there. Yeesh.
And yes, I'm still in Al-anon. Monday night I went to a meeting in the city and I think I like it better than the Metairie meetings. There are more hippies, and truthfully I feel more at home with them. They're bohemians at heart, and they've still got jobs and they're trying to be functional. I'm still going to go to the Metairie meeting, though. My sponsor and a couple of other awesome people go to that one. I'm still working with the steps. I'm stuck on two. I've been stuck on step two for a couple of months. It seems I'm struggling with the "higher power restoring me to sanity" thing. Could it be that I'm not sure that anything could restore me to sanity? This is possible. But I'm beginning to suspect that the problem is I'm angry with God. That and step one keeps slapping me in the face. All of the things I haven't wanted to look at for years and years and years are taking turns revealing themselves to me, and I have no idea how many of them are still waiting behind the door. Jesus. Christ.
So why is it that meetings, any kind of group meeting, is always in the same kind of room with the same kind of smell? When I was a girl scout we met in a multi-purpose church room with old, mismatched furniture, and a musty smell. It's the same with Al-anon, particularly the place I went to on Monday. The chairs are stained and torn in places. There's a jigsaw puzzle of an autumn forest that's been glued and framed on the wall. There are slogans like "It works if you work it" and "Al-anon spoken here" that look like they were pinned up in 1974. There is a plastic vase of dusty, fake flowers on a green coffee table. And somehow the room is comforting. Maybe it's all the people who smile at you and tell you they're glad you're there, and they don't even know you. Or maybe it's the things they say. I was telling one woman, a much older recovered addict-of-everything with long, oily black hair, a long nose, a football jersey, and a brown leather fanny pack (Did you know they came in leather? Yes, the fanny pack just got classy) that during the day, Monday, I was severely depressed, and she offered me a ziploc bag of dark chocolate M&M's and said, "Oh honey...my Al-anon lows are way worse than my AA lows."
"They are?" I asked.
"Shit!" she said. "When I hit bottom in AA, the worst that happens is I drink til I pass out, or I OD and end up in the emergency room. My Al-anon bottom is when my family's fighting, I tell off my girlfriend, I feel guilty about everything, and I just feel stuff. It sucks."
I agreed and took a handful of M&M's. Leather Fanny Pack seriously put things into perspective. It's when I talk to people like that I remember to be patient with myself, and that during this period where I'm learning how to stick up for myself and set boudaries (rotten, fucking, stinking, no good period of dumb ass time) it's not going to feel good. But eventually, as they say, it will. Just keep the M&M's comin'.
So perhaps 2009 will be better. Or perhaps in 2009 I'll be better. More patient, more self-accepting, less "I must mother the world and several dogs and cats." Peace with God would be nice.
Happy New Year, guys. I'll post the new link tomorrow. Rock 2009, my children!! WOO HOO!!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Coming Out of Wal-Mart
by Mark DeFoe
The child, puny, paling toward albino,
hands fused on the handlebars of a new bike.
The man, a cut-out of the boy, gnome-like,
grizzled, knotted like a strange root,
guides him out, hand on the boy's shoulder.
They speak, but in language softer than hearing.
The boy steers the bike as if he steered
a soap bubble, a blown glass swan, a cloud.
On the walk they go still. Muzak covers them.
Sun crushes. The man is a tiny horse,
gentle at a fence. The boy's eyes are huge
as a fawn's.
He grips hard the orange and pink,
and purple and green striped handlebars,
smiling the fixed sweet smile of the sainted.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Anyway, the interview went well. It was weird, though. There were three other applicants, and all four of us were scheduled to show up at the same time. So we all met in this library, sitting at a table facing each other and struggling to make polite small talk when, really, I believe that all any of us wanted to do was stare each other down and say, "They's only room round these here parts fer one of us (spit)!" This is actually how editors talk.
We were interviewed by five doctors who called us into their offices one by one. They seemed like nice guys. Some of them asked tough questions like "where do you see yourself in five years," and "what do you think is your greatest weakness and your greateast strength?" I think I answered the questions well, though. If I don't get the job it was atleast a good interview experience. I got along with them all pretty well and I totally hit it off with the other editor, the guy who's so overwhelmed with work that the doctors decided he needed another editor to help. We joked around the whole time, so I hope he has a say in the hiring. Out of my three competitors, I'm only worried about one of them. He's a little younger, good looking, experienced, and has no children. I think I'm a little more experienced than he is, from what he was saying. But, you know. I worry. The other two I'm not too worried about. One of them showed up 45 minutes late and the other was very mousy and quite dull. The editor and I were talking about what we liked to read and, in an effort to include her in the conversation, I asked her what she enjoyed reading.
She adjusted her glasses and said, "Oh, I don't have time to read."
The editor and I were taken aback. She doesn't have time...to read? Editors...they, like, read. Sigh. With my luck she'll get the job.
There was one doctor who was really funny. In fact, he asked me if I had a sense of humor. I asked him if that was important for this job and he replied, matter of fact, "Yes." Then a few minutes later he asked if I play sports because I "looked athletic." I never know how to take that observation. On the one hand it could be a compliment that means, "You look strong and in shape, yet feminine" and it could be "you look like a pit bull." I'm going to assume he meant the former. I told him I play softball, and I don't know why I said that because I haven't played in a long while. But he seemed interested in that and asked me a couple of questions about it, and then there was this silence. He began jotting something down and I felt pressured to say something so, without thinking this through, I said, "I had a sports injury once. I took a line drive in the head when I was pitching and got a concussion. It was cool, I was proud." He looked at me and then he scribbled something in his notebook and said, "Brain damage."
So besides that everything was smooth. I gave them some samples of my writing. They want someone to start by January so I'm hoping I hear something soon. If I don't get it I'll keep trying, but I hope I do.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Here are random thoughts I've had lately:
I wonder if either Emma or Claire will grow up to be one of those girls who gets breast implants and then walks around asking everyone to feel them. If they think their father and I are buying them breasts they're crazy. I didn't eat well for nine months of gestation, nurse them, and take them to the doctor regularly just so they can shove silicon up their chests, they need to work with the boob DNA they got.
Last week's snow has taught us some things. First, snow is wet. Second, snow is cold. Third, cotton gloves and tennis shoes provide no protection from the cold, wet snow, and I can only enjoy a snowball fight for so long before my hands and feet go numb.
Tattoos are great, but honestly, there's a limit. Man who went through tattoos and surgeries to become a tiger, I'm looking at you! http://freaksblog.com/stalking-cat/
Sometimes, do you ever, like, just stand there in the middle of a room and look down at how far your feet are from your head and think, "Jesus, I'm tall. It's almost like my legs don't stop at the toes, they just keep on going." Yeah, I have those thoughts sometimes too.
Sometimes I can't enjoy good writing because it makes me jealous. There, I said it, it's out.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Secondly, I went to a good al-anon meeting last night. Afterwards, my sponsor and I went to get a bite to eat and we went over some questions about the second step. She asked me if I pray differently now than I did before, and I had to think about it. At first I didn't think so, but then I realized that something was very different in the way I pray now than before. I say thank you more often. I say it all the time, and I think it has a lot to do with the serene way I've been feeling (for the most part) lately.
I have to get back to book edits. The kids are in school and the day goes by too fast, man. I will blog again later about nothing in particular, but I just wanted to share the joy.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Everybody was (eyes filling with tears, bottom lip quivering with overly dramatic joy) so nice! I was nervous about seeing a couple of girls in particular because I know they thought I was a dweeb but when they saw me they both looked genuinely happy and said, "Genevieve!" and I exclaimed, in equal delight, "You!" I, uh, suffered a brain glitch and couldn't rememeber one of their names, BUT! that was ok because it turns out that barely any of us could remember each other's names. In a pinch you could just call someone Laura or Jennifer because out of the 200 girls in my graduating class, 198 of them were named Laura or Jennifer. We got together at Midcity Rock & Bowl, and some of us attempted to bowl but we all kept talking so much that I don't think any of us finished a game. There were people in my class who became phD's and marines who fly planes AND are moms at the same time. I can't even drink coffee and type at the same time right now.
After the party at Rock & Bowl five of us went out to another bar and just hung out and talked and drank. And drank. Chris drove home. But anyway, these four other chicks were girls I didn't talk to on a regular basis in high school, but I wanted to. They were funny and cool, and it turns out that they all (another gasp) liked me and thought I was nice. Apparently I was seen as sweet but painfully shy. That was a huge step up from my reputation in junior high which was more along the lines of a quiet tomboy shaped like a Wookie.
You know, the reason I set my book in a public school is because, even though The D.O.'s originated at Dominican, my worst school experiences were in the public schools in Luling. Dominican changed my life. I learned how to study there. Although I was shy, I eventually made friends there who I identified with and they were other smart, creative people. Befriending Jennifer led me to meet Fred, who led me to Christy and a whole group of people that I'm still friends with. There are times I wonder if I would have survived if I had gone to the Luling public high school instead of Dominican. The majority of the kids there were meaner, less educated, and in the late 80's there were fights and drug raids on a regular basis. I hear they've cleaned up the school now, but back then it was hell.
Anyway, I'm babbling and I have to get dressed and stuff for the day. And I've just got to call Jennifer and give her the dish!
Saturday, November 29, 2008
I went to six different schools from 1st grade through 12th, and I spent the majority of that time walking around by myself being taller than everybody. I was made fun of a lot by other kids, even other unpopular ones because I was lower on the nerd food chain, but what I didn't know then that I know now is that I kept myself in that place. The more they made fun of me, the quieter I became, the taller and more awkward I felt until eventually being quiet, awkward, and funny looking was how I defined myself. If my 33 year old self ran into a 14 year old version of myself I would call her a late bloomer. At 14 I called myself a loser. I didn't even make good grades like nerds were supposed to. I just daydreamed and stared out the window wanting to be somewhere else.
It wasn't like I never had friends, but they were few and they were more like people I talked to if I had to, like if I forgot a pencil and had to borrow one, or if I was forced to pair up with them in chemistry lab. That was before I discovered Kristen and Jennifer and we became The Bullshit Bandits. The Bullshit Bandits is another blog for another time, but let's just say that the three of us felt equally out of place in the world, and hated other girls we went to school with (it was an all-girls school - more cause for angst) who seemed so stupid and yet so sure of their place in the world. It was around senior year we began to write The Daily Dominican Obituaries, a ficticious, newspaper with fake, ridiculous obitiuaries about girls we didn't like. This was the inside joke among the three of us that I've based my young adult book on. I've changed a few things. The original D.O.'s were written from a nun's point of view and they were about students at an all-girl, Catholic school. In the book, The D.O.'s are written from the students' point of view at co-ed, public Martin Dylanson High School. But the premise is the same.
So. I'm going to show up at this reunion tonight. Since I've become much, much, much, much, MUCH more outgoing in the last fifteen years I'm not too nervous about walking into a group of people I don't know that well without Chris, Jennifer or Kristen. Jennifer lives in Tenessee, Kristen has fallen off the face of the Earth, and husbands aren't welcome until two and a half hours after the reunion begins. I'm also sure that these people have changed as much as I have, and that most likely real life has beaten down the snootier ones. What I'm unsure about is if I should tell these ladies that the novel that I'm working on, the one that I've gotten the most professional interest in, is based on stories I wrote 15 years ago in which some of them died. Because I thought they were bitches. How would that conversation go?
'93 classmate: You wrote what?
me: An obituary about how you choked to death on a fake fingernail.
'93 classmate: I died?
me: Yeah, but it was only because I thought you were a fake bitch back then. I think you're totally cool now. And I don't write that kind of stuff anymore Well, I mean I am writing a book about it now. But you're not in it. I kill off other kids. Who are based on you. They're in my head.
'93 classmate: [silent]
me: So what do you do now?
'93 classmate: I'm a therapist. Here's my card. Call any number other than that one for help.
On second thought, maybe I'll tell them that I'm writing a western. I'll let you know how it goes.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
No, I'm kidding. She's moving from prepubescent to slighty pubescent. It's a beautiful thing if you can get past that fact that "pubescent" has the word "pubes" in it. It made me sad and excited at the same time. She's going to be such a beautiful woman, despite the acne.
Ok, I have to get the rest of my kids ready for school. Christopher wants a granola bar and a hamburger for breakfast.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
You see, every fall Mimosa Park Elementary participates in a dessert sale and every Mimosa student is encouraged to run out there and sell an assortment of cookies, cheesecakes and brownies. After three years of Claire (and last year Emma) participating in the sale, we have decided to bow out this time. Why would we turn down sweets, and pretty darn good ones in fact? Let's set aside the fact that every single grown up I know (man and woman alike) is trying to lose weight, and every single kid I know already has so much candy left over from Halloween that the desserts are just more logs on the fire. The bad part about the sale is that if they do well they win odd prizes that break a day later like a jumbo pen that vibrates wildly at the push of a button, as if it's been jammed into an electrical socket. And the worst part of the sale is that if they do VERY well (and with the blood sugar problem in my family they usually do) is that they win The Flying Screaming Monkey. Dude, that's its actual name.
Claire won it in the first grade. I remember that afternoon as if it just happened, I mean as if instead of spending the last fifteen minutes writing about The Flying Screaming Monkey, I just actually experienced the afternoon of The Flying Screaming Monkey. But I digress...I knew that the monkey was a prize in the sales drive, but I just thought it was some obnoxious little thing that made "oo! oo! aa! aa!" noises. The afternoon that Claire brought it home, she got off the bus and ran to me across the lawn. She was crying, shaking, and mumbling something about the monkey in her school bag.
"What's the matter?" I asked, thinking I'd heard her wrong.
"Get it off! Get it off!" she hollered, afraid to move or touch the school bag herself.
And just in case you might think that I'm exagerrating her dramatic reaction, I refer you to any one of my readers who have known Claire since she was a baby. She IS drama.
I took off her school bag and again asked her what was wrong.
"The Flying Screaming Monkee's in there!" she yelled. "Don't open it!"
"Why? It's just a stuffed animal, right?"
I raised a hand to unzip the bag.
"NOOOOOOOO!!" she yelled, darting back. "No, Momma! It screams! It screams!"
"Claire, you're screaming. Is it louder than that?"
"Well, can I see it?"
"Do you want it out of your school bag?"
"Then I have to unzip it."
I rolled my eyes. "Well, what do you want me to do with it?"
"Throw it away!"
"Your WHOLE SCHOOL BAG?"
"Claire, you're being unreasonable."
I opened the front door and walked inside.
"Don't bring it in the house, Momma!" she hollered.
"NOOOOO! Momma, nooo!"
I left the school bag outside the door and brought Claire inside, even though at the time I was more inclined to bring in the Flying Screaming Monkey and leave the Screaming Claire on the lawn. Besides, I wanted to see and hear this thing that caused so much panic. I mean, how terrifying could it be? I tried to distract her so I could sneak outside take a peak, but my daughter even at six was mind numbindly stubborn. She stood in the front room, shivering and glancing out the window as if afraid that the thing would unzip the bag and fly screaming into the house.
She was still trying to convince me to throw the bag away when Chris came home from work. I explained the problem, and Chris put a hand to his chin.
"Have you seen it?" he asked.
"No. She's terrified."
"That's what the name implies."
"How does it fly?"
"I don't know."
He smiled devilishly and whispered, "Let's see it."
"Chris, she's scared."
"We'll take it in the back yard where she can't hear it."
"NO! NO! It screams!" Claire screamed.
Chris has never been a quiet whisperer.
"It'll be in the way back of the yard," Chris told her.
"Just stay inside. You won't hear it, I promise."
Now this is the part where our gender difference as parents kicks in. Whereas I relented in the face of Claire's horror, Chris grabbed the school bag, said, "Claire, you're being ridiculous," and went into the backyard. I followed, fussing at him along the way.
"I just want to see it."
"But Claire's scared."
"She's overreacting. You know you want to see it too."
Claire, of course, terrified but probably wanting to see it too, walked outside. For those of you who have never been to my house, my backyard is pretty big. It's a long way from the back of the house to the end of the yard, and we stood behind the wall of firewood so that Claire wouldn't have to see Chris unzip the bag.
When he pulled the monkee out of Claire's school bag, I immediately agreed with Chris. Claire had to be overreacting. It was a small brown monkee with a long skinny arms, like two wet spaghetti noodles hanging at its side. It wore a white scarf and had sweet, shiny brown eyes peeking out behind aviator goggles.
"How does it scream?" I asked, unable to imagine that the cute little thing could make any sound other than a baby's coo.
"How does it fly?" Chris asked. He fished inside the bag.
Claire was standing across the yard, sobbing.
"Claire, it's ok!" I reassured her. "It's cute."
"NO!" she exclaimed, hands over her ears.
"Ah ha!" Chris stood up with a sheet of paper in his hands. "Directions. It works like a sling shot. You pull the monkee back and let go."
"Is that when it screams?" I asked.
"According to this," he said, tapping on the directions.
I don't remember the exact mechanics of the Flying Screaming Monkee. I don't remember if Chris pulled the monkee's body back while holding the arms with the other and letting go or what. I just remember the scream. Chris stretched the monkee and that fucking thing screamed as if Chris had reached inside it and unraveled its intestines. It screamed, Chris, Claire and I screamed, Chris let go and the monkee's arms popped off of its body. The monkee's head and torso flew screeching across the yard on its first and final flight. Chris dropped the long, fuzzy arms dangling from his hand and Claire ran into the house, beside herself with terror.
No amount of cookies were worth the trauma of that afternoon. In the years that followed we made sure that Claire sold just enough desserts to win the vibrating pen and not The Flying Screaming Monkee. This year, our friends and families fattened from previous sales, Claire and Emma did not participate at all. No to say that there hasn't been any screaming in the house. But no dismembered monkees.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Yeah, I'm still a little hyper. But aaaaaaanyway, I need some advice. I turned in the last two chapters of my book to my critique group. This is a group of ten people, who are pretty good writers and they've given me good, constructive advice so far. We got together Monday night, and they all think that, with the exception of tidying up some unresloved character development, my ending is fine. I think Christy and Jennifer agreed with that as well, but they're also my buds so there might be a slight bias. Ever so slight. I don't think either of them would write the words "huh?!" or "cliche" on my manuscript, however, my critique group HAS written those things. They have no hesistation to level with me.
The main thing they disagree with he agent about is her idea that my two main characters would NOT get expelled from school when their hit list is found. Wait, did I explain that right? The agent doesn't think the girls would be expelled, but me and the rest of my critique group do. I've looked into this. Not only would the principal not want to risk keeping them there, but kids have been expelled for even slight threats lately.
I think what I'm going to do is this...I'm going to give closure to my poor, forgotten characters with their unresolved issues (because this is fiction, where there are answers to problems, resolutions over cocoa, and evil people to blame), and then I'm going to have the girls expelled. Because that's what would happen, especially when the school's lawyer tells them that it would be a liability to keep Judy and Ana (my heroes) around. The lawyer was my writing instructor's idea. With all this legal stuff somehow I forgot to include lawyers. I've thought of a much more powerful last scene, and I'm going to throw that in too. Then I'm going to send it to the agent and ask her what she thinks. If she says, "I love it!" I will pass out from happiness and exhaustion. If she says, "It's great, but we can't have the girls expelled" then I'll probably say, "Ok, I'll change it." Because, in truth, the crux of the novel is not whether or not they get kicked out. It's not even that their hit list is found, and what happens to them as a result. It's that all these kids start at the beginning of the book with wrong ideas of themselves and each other, and at the end they have a clearer view of things.
As long as that doesn't change then I won't have sold out or anything. Not that I might be up for selling out by the time all this shit is about to go to press. If at the last minute an editor says, "How about instead of two high school girls we replace them with two chihuahuas who talk when people aren't around?" then I might say, "Would you like that in Spanish or English?"
So does my plan sound good? Maybe? Gut feeling sound accurate here? Or is there a mostly, "we haven't read your book, please stop asking us" sentiment? O (sniff!) k. All right! All right! I'll stop being melodramatic! We buds? Good. Back to the damned edits (as they will henceforth be known).
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I honestly don't know what to make about any of this. Truthfully, I'm not scared of either one of them. They both seem to have their pluses and minuses, and as someone who comes from a state where there are politicians who have burned crosses on people's lawns I have to say that I'm not easily intimidated.
What stumps me whenever I try to have a concrete opinion on an issue is that I gather as much information as I can to make a fully informed, correct decision. Let's see...what issue can I bring up that won't make my readers huffy? I don't think there is one. Ok, let's say the war. No, too crazy. Let's say abortion. Is there a soul in the embryo/zygote thing at the moment of conception? I don't know. I think so, but I don't really know. NOBODY knows. Nobody will EVER know. People can passionately believe one way or the other and they can debate about it, sure, but are either of them right? ...Oh you think so huh? Prove it. Oh, you can't! Because you're not a fucking zygote and neither am I. An abortion doctor is never going to hear a cry from a pregnant woman's belly, "Wait! I'm full of soul!" So this leaves me rather perplexed. I'd rather not kill anything, soul or no. Maybe it doesn't have a soul, hell, maybe my children don't have souls. I don't want to kill them though. BUT abortion is tied in with all these other women's rights issues that I am definitely for. Plus it's usually tied in with sex education, and safe sex stuff and these are also things that I'm definitely for.
So...I don't fucking know. I kept thinking the older I got the more sure I'd be about these types of things, but every year I'm less sure than before. I like America, and I like democracy and all that, but sometimes I wonder when we'll fall and how close we are to that. Because every world power, since the recording of history, has fallen. Even Rome. Everything has a life cycle - people, land, government, I mean everything. I guess that's why this big change that everyone keeps talking about, this big change that will come to pass when Bush is out of office, doesn't scare me. Maybe it should. Maybe this is the time the country will fall, but then maybe that time isn't for another couple hundred of years. I think things in the near future will be interesting anyway.
Ok. Those are my thoughts for the night. Feel free to disagree with, correct, or root for my ramblings in the comment section. Should I really have chosen abortion? Well, yes. It's one of the things I agonize over - don't want to repress women but don't want to kill potential women (or men)! Ahhhhhh! Anyway, opinions are welcomed and appreciated to add to my already overactive brain.
It struck a chord with those people. They told me it was a great topic and one lady who's been in the program for 15 years said that she's never heard it as a discussion topic before. My sponsor said, "This was a really good discussion, Genevieve, thank you for bringing up something that I really didn't want to talk about." That was actually a compliment. In the program they talk a lot about loving detatchment, meaning you can love your addict without enabling them and without allowing them to take over or make your life a nightmare. This, as you can imagine, is a tricky business. It takes a sense of balance that we as insitnctive caretakers don't have unless we go out of our way to learn it. Plus, it can make you lonely. Crazy as I know this sounds, I miss the chaos. I'm used to living in it. It's not completely gone, I mean, Chris is nuts in a way that I think only engineers can be nuts, but the craziness has lessened a tremendous amount since the beginning of the year.
At this time last year I couldn't get the thought of mutilating myself out of my head. Things had gotten that bad. Whenever I feel guilty and worthless my brain takes a turn for the bloody and it's always against myself. I didn't really want to kill myself and I didn't give into the thought of cutting myself, but I became obsessed by the thought of it. At around this time last year I was laying down in my therapist's office because I couldn't sit up or move much. It was like wet cement was slowly hardening in my veins and it became harder and harder to move, as if lifting my head would break rock in my body.
She said, "Do you have any plans to kill yourself?"
"No," I said. "I don't want to die. I just don't know how to make it through the day."
"Do you want to hurt yourself?"
"Why do you want to do that?"
I told her that I thought I was a terrible person and a worse mother. I understand the reasons why I thought that, but looking back I wish I could go into that office and give myself a hug. I was always hard on myself, but this was ridiculously extreme. The night before that counseling session Chris had taken me to the emergency room. He'd called my therapist because I told him about all my selfdestructive thoughts and he was scared. She told him to take me to the emergency room because they both thought I was really suicidal. I remember being in the examination room at East Jefferson hospital before the doctor came in. I was lying on the bed when I turned my face to the wall and saw that someone had scrawled in pencil (and I swear to God that I am not making this up), "Kill me 100x." It's when I read that that I realized I didn't want to die. But, as I told my counselor the next day, I didn't know how to live. There was so much selfhatred in that sentence "kill me 100 times." I didn't want to hate myself any more. But to move from that would be to reinvent myself. I'd been so guilty, so weak, such a pushover, and so fucking enabling of every addict in my life, that I knew I was going to have to reinvent myself. I needed to clean the slate in my head, unlearn all of my destructive behavior and learn how, in fact, to make it through the day. Oh and the reason I didn't end up in the psyche ward is because it was too crowded, bu the doctor and the nurse were really sweet people. I don't remember a thing they said, but that they were coming from a sympathetic place.
I'm writing all of this because looking back at the mess I was then, I'm proud of myself for how far I've come. I am learning how to lovingly detatch, even though I'm lonely now and then because of it. I look in the mirror now. I couldn't do that a year ago, not without frowning. Once I even spit at myself. I don't want to hurt myself anymore. There have been times lately, when I feel guilty about something, that I'll have have a flash thought about punching myself in the arm or the head. But it fades because I've learned so many other ways to deal with my guilt.
I'm hoping that all of this helps someone else. Even someone who was disturbed enough to punch herself in the head can turn around. I've still got a long way to go, but I'm not my worst bully anymore. (insert the happy emoticon of your choice)
Sunday, November 2, 2008
And since there's only another half hour before the show begins I shall give some quick updates. We had a good Halloween. I was afraid we wouldn't because it was just me and the kids. I've never taken them trick or treating without a possey of friends and relatives, or without Chris. But it was great! A neighbor down the street, the parents of Emma's best bud Eryc (Eric with a 'y'), were taking some of the neighborhood kids for a hay ride. Never one to pass up hitchhiking if there's a four-wheeler and a trailor involved, we jumped into the back and toured Luling in style. Eryc's dad Jeremy drove the kids from house to house, and when he stopped mine would hop out of the trailer and run towards the candy. Once Christopher ran across a neighbor's lawn chanting "Candy, candy, candy, candy!"
"Christopher!" I hollered. "Say 'trick or treat!'"
And he obeyed most passionately, but the poor boy slurs his r's so what he threw back his head and cried, "TWICK OR TWEAT!"
He was a firefighter. I asked him if he was sure he wanted to wear that costume because he's been a firefighter for three years in a row, but he was most insistent about it. Emma was a princess with heels, a tiara and all that, and Claire was an army girl. That was something she wanted to be last year, but she wound up as a witch. This year, though, she looked pretty kick ass in a different way (cause witches are pretty kick ass you know). Black boots, camoflauge T-shirt and pants, hair back in a high pony tail and black smudges under her eyes. What did I dress up as? A mom in jeans and a T-shirt of a skull with head phones on. Anyway, it was fun watching them go from house to house. I talked to my neighbors ocassionally but mostly I sat back and watched them collect the loot. If I hadn't lost my camera in Disney World I would be able to show you guys. So you're just going to have to imagine it. For those of you who have never seen me before I look EXACTLY like Audrey Hepburn.
I will also share a little recovery info. I'm on the second step. After I meet with my sponsor this week I'll be onto the third. Also I moderated my first meeting, meaning I got up and talked in front of everybody.
AH! The Simpsons. To be continued...
Thursday, October 30, 2008
A facelift is a good comparison actually. I will be performing surgery on The Daily Dylanson Obituaries (that's, um, the name of the book. You probably guessed that). I have to add some things, remove others, tuck here, nip there, and then cringe when I think of the show "Nip and Tuck." But the agent at Joy Harris told me that this is where the real work begins, where the good stuff comes out. No pressure. Sometimes I worry that I'm not the right writer for this book, and maybe I should have taken up that other agent's idea of paying an editor to rewrite it for me.
So here's what I've been telling myself when I have selfdoubts. The beginning and middle work, and it's not that the end is bad, it just needs to include resolution for things that I bring up along the way. If I was a bad writer I wouldn't have gotten this far. So if I'm capable of writing a catchy beginning, then I have it in me to bring the whole thing to a close. To get this far I've had to practice a long, LONG time and, as they say, write, then rewrite, and rewrite. And then after that you rewrite. Then I remind myself of other writers' struggles. Sue Grafton wrote seven books before 'A' is For Alibi all of which (she claims) are under her bed. They were practice. Stephen King threw away Carrie when he was in the middle of writing it. It was his wife who took it out of the trash and told him to finish it.
Then I remind myself of my characters. I love my characters, even the dislikable ones. I want to give them the closure that you don't always get in real life. And I like writing about them so the rewrites should be fun. I just need to keep my critic at bay.
I had a post-it note on the wall above my computer that I should probably put back up. I took it down because Chris and I painted. It's simple but when I was feeling lowly and untalented I'd read it. It said, "Keep trying and don't give up." I used to have another note above my computer that said, "Talent is long patience." I got that from Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul, and I think that's a good one too, but "Keep trying and don't give up," is simple and to the point.
So, my children, I will leave you with a quote from Ezra Pound. If you're wondering where I find these poems and quotes, I find them on The Writer's Almanac. Amost useful and elegant website. Ezra said, "Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one's hand." Do I like the phrase "man intensely alive" or the comparison of a book to "a ball of light" better? I don't know.
Onto the rewrites.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
But that's not what I wanted to talk about. This morning I want to share a couple of gems that I found. The average American doesn't get enough poetry in their life (did I just possibly make a political statement by specifying "American" instead of "person?" Possibly. Poetry doesn't enter politics enough.)
Here something I found this morning by Pat Schneider called "The Patience of Ordinary Things."
It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
How soles of feet know
Where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?
I believe "the lovely repetition of stairs" is my favorite line. This is what I dig about poetry. Lines like delicious bites. You chew them slow, twenty times atleast, the jaw moving as lazily as a cow's. This is different from the gorging of a good book.
Here is another one. It's a little weird, but bear with me. This is my favorite one out of the two. It's "The Dental Hygientist" by Tom C. Huntly:
She said "open up,"
so I showed her my teeth,
a chipped-white fence
that keeps my tongue penned in.
She rinsed my mouth.
She suctioned my cheek.
She said "How do you like this town?"
so I said "Mmpllff"
though I meant "More every day,"
and she said "Gorgeous weather!"
so I said "Mmpllff"
though I meant "In my mouth?"
and she didn't say anything,
so I said "Mmpllff" and "Mmpllff"
though I'm not sure what I meant,
and she took me to mean
"Would you like to go out tonight?"
and "to an expensive restaurant?"
When I arrived with a bouquet of roses,
she stuffed them in my mouth.
She told me all about her feelings:
how she feels about fillings,
how she feels about failures.
She said "open up." She said "It's like pulling teeth
trying to get men to talk about their feelings."
So I said "Mmpllff"
though I meant "You smell prettier than the flowers in my mouth,"
and I said "Mmpllff"
she thought I meant "I'm afraid of dying alone."
She said I was a good conversationalist
and showed me her perfect teeth.
I felt an ache in my jaw.
I felt drool crawling down my chin
Did you know that poetry could contain the words "drool" and "Mmpllff" and still be kick ass? That's because a poem is a snapshot. It shows you a picture and that picture could be of anything. But if it's a good one you can pause beside it, take in every grainy detail. If it's rhythmic you can sing to it. If it says what you can't put into words you can use it as a tool to get someone to understand where you're coming from, or as a mirror to see exactly how it is you feel. Handy little thing, a poem. You can fit a dozen of them in your pocket, unless one of them is an epic poem, novel length, in which case you can carry it around because a book can fit in your hands. And when you come across someone who you think could use a line, someone thin and starving and maybe not knowing how they feel, you can open the book and feed them a morsel. And then you can walk on feeling cool, if not a little eccentric, for being the dude who walks around holding a poem, an epic in your hands.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Let's say you're at the kitchen table eating something that's not even in a cat's nature to crave. Like Fruit Loops, or (in my case) cinammon raisin oatmeal. You get up to chase your son because he's running through the hallway with his underwear on his head instead of brushing his teeth like you told him to do. The Ninja kitten will wait. Perhaps she was the one who influenced your son to do this in the first place. She needed to distract you and she's noticed that 1) you will drop anything you are doing if you notice that one of the children is deliberately disobeying you, and 2) your son doesn't like to wear pants. So odds are she found the underwear on the floor and paraded around with it on her head to give your boy the idea. He was like a moth to flame. And now you've jumped up from your breakfast and Ninja is hidden in a corner, rubbing her paws together with a Cheshire cat grin, only more malevolent and slightly hungry.
You disappear around the corner. She alights the table. She sniffs the bowl and thinks, "One bite and this human will throw out the entire bowl. Mmmmmmwahahahaha!" She nibbles. She rubs her face on the sides of the bowl so that oats will stick to her whiskers. She is so involved with the oatmeal debauchery that she doesn't notice that you have walked back into the room, and you're standing there with your arms folded, tapping your foot. She gives you a look that challenges you. This look says, "Yeah. I'm eating your oatmeal, ya bastard." You go to sweep her off the table, but her reflexes are lightening fast and she leaps onto the floor, her maniacal laughter filling the hallway as she runs.
You stare at your ruined oatmeal. You take it as a sign from God that you're wasting your time dieting, and you eat a half a bag of double stuffed Oreo cookies. You seem to recall a Bible verse you learned as a child that implied that creme filling was next to Godliness. Amen.
And now I'm hungry.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Allegreas-the dance of joy. The singer said that her parents were flamenco performers. Her mother was a dancer and her father played guitar. Singing for her was like learning to walk, it was part of her growth as a groovy human being. The performance is improvised. The dancer's hands, that little woman on the flat wooden board, are graceful while her strong feet strike the floor. Her shoes are the precussion. The guitarist follows the pace of her feet, whether they sink to the floor slow and steady or click at a blinding speed. (click at a blinding speed? do I really get paid to write?) She kicks, her skirt flares, and she takes it in at the knee, using the skirt to tease and to give her hands a prop while they do a kind of dance of their own. These feet, hands, legs and hips all know their individual moves, and they compliment each other, whereas I think if I tried the same style I would tangle up in a knot.
That's all I could fit on the front and back of that receipt. It's a scroll of barely legible, tiny pen scratch, and as a rough rough draft it's not very good, but it reminded me of how I've been wanting to write about it.
Part of what I love about the music and the dancing of this art form is that it is so intense. At times fatally so. There was a famous flamenco dancer, Carmen Amaya, who died of kidney failure in the 1960's because the stomping of her dancing had pulverized her kidneys. This chick danced herself to death. THAT is rock n' roll. She didn't OD on heroin or sleeping pills, she didn't down a bottle of whiskey and choke on her own vomit, or get shot by her pimp, no - she danced so hard that she rocked her insides to pieces. She OD'd on dancing and guitar. Fuckin' right.
The timer has gone off. I must now be off to learn how to rock with the Spaniards, not to the death you understand. Perhaps to some respectable toe blisters.
The good news is that yesterday we got a kitten. My sister April rescued this little 6-8 week old, solid black kittie from...I don't remember where. Some place where the orphaned kittens are gorgeous. But then the guy she and Clint rent from said that he didn't want a kitten in the house, so she asked if we'd take it. The condition was that we had to keep her name - Delilah.
April has a history of giving animals formal names. She once had a hamster named Diane. I've mostly given my pets names from books or movies, like my cat Dribble (after the pet turtle in Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing). I originally wanted to name Lily "Piglet" after the Winnie the Pooh character because of her size and because she made worried grunting noises. If I had my way I would name this kitten "Poe" after Edgar Allen Poe because of its blackness and because it's close to Halloween. I would name her "Raven" after "The Raven," but that name makes me think of "That's So Raven" on The Disney Channel, and not the haunting poem. I don't know, maybe I'll still throw that one on the table. Are there any other suggestions? Even if we still keep her name as Delilah formally, I'll still call her something else. I call Lily "Lillith," "Lillian," "Lilifoot," "Snorts," "Poochini," "Doggins," "Pupperooni," and "Pupkins." And when the kids are at school "waggedy bastard." As a term of endearment. So far I've called the kitten "Nibbles." Please put an end to the endless cuteness rolling forth from my brain!
Chris and I had our hesitations about the cat. We just got leather couches, which make excellant scratching posts, and now that the kids are potty trained and the dog is housebroken we really don't want to deal with any more waste. But April said that kitten immediately took to the litterbox, and so far there haven't been any accidents in the house. So fingers crossed.
More to add later.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to stop writing here. My posts will just be a little less payphone and a little more vigilante. Also, I don't want y'all to think I'm crazy or anything. Well ok, I'm a little crazy. But I'm not mean crazy and that counts for something, right?
I will say one thing, though. Yesterday I was driving and I pulled over to write something down. I'd been thinking about how I've always had the irrational fear that people who love me will suddenly change their minds and leave. My trust issues are so bad that if I let them get out of hand, or if I'm feeling particularly worthless and unlovable, I'll pull away from them before they have a chance to reject me. One person on this list is Chris. I'll shut down and suddenly I won't be in the same room with him, even though he's standing next to me. He has the same tendency, which complicates things to say the least.
Anyway, this, I think, is the main thing I want to change about myself. The fear is so deeply rooted that I don't know if I'll ever completely get rid of it, but I atleast want to learn how to control my reaction to it. I think that will come with confidence. What I wrote down after I pulled over was something that came to me when I thought of all the people that I love who I've pulled away from suddenly, or who I've shut myself down from. These are people who (some of them) I've left just as we were getting really close. The thing I wanted to tell them was this:
I'm sorry. I'm trying to be different, and I'm getting better but it's happening so slowly. If you try to hold me in your hands I'll drip through your fingers, not like water but like honey, dropping slowly and sluggishly, not wanting to fall, not knowing how to to get back up.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Claire wants to sue the ice cream man. Every afternoon he rides around our neighborhood, teasing the kids with that canned, jewelry-box-music version of "How Much is That Dog in the Window," and PASSES UP our street. Claire, Emma and Christopher stand in our driveway waving and hollering, and the dude still passes us up. The other day Claire had taken just about all she could stand.
"He can see us too," Claire fumed. "He passes us up on purpose! I'll sue!"
"You'll sue?" I said, giggling.
She frowned at me. She wasn't kidding.
"I'm not kidding," she said.
Pity the ice cream man who crosses my daughter. She has a good argument. One could suggest that she stand on another street to catch him, but he never comes around at the same time, and once she hears the music she's only got a minute or so to scramble around the house for money and dash outside.
That was the exciting thing about the icecream man. By the time I heard the music there was only thirty seconds or so to successfully beg my parents for money and run out the door. It was like a race. But of all the times I missed him, I never thought about filing suit. Of course, I never experienced the snub that my children endure every afternoon. My old ice cream man would atleast turn down my street. Honestly, in this economy can he afford NOT to hit every street?
Anyway, I'll let you know how Cancienne vs. Mr. Freezie turns out. Speaking of letting you know things, I never gave you a report on my night out last Friday. I had a great time. Fred is the bassist for a band called The Fuzzy Dice. They cover 50's/60's rock n' roll/rockabilly, like Elvis, Buddy Holly and stuff like that. When liquored up enough I can get up and dance. Last Friday, before I mustered the courage to do that (or before I was tipsy enough) a scary lady took my hands and pulled me off my chair onto the dance floor. She wore a green dress and had long, bleached blonde hair and tanned, leathery skin. She danced with her back to the band, all the better to (Christy and I supposed) shake her ass in their faces. Her dancing prompted one audience member to say, "All she's missing is a pole."
Dancing with her was awkward because my style of dancing is...well, different. It's not meant to turn anyone on, it's meant to try not to turn anyone off as much as possible. I've always felt too big to dance, unless I was in a mosh pit. Moshing is just slamming into someone else. Dancing has grace. Or atleast it's supposed to. When I first start dancing I feel stiff and I'm never sure what to do with my arms. I felt this way with the pole dancer until my third gin and tonic. I was still selfconscious, but mildly so. Christy began dancing with us after a while too. Unfortunately, so did the guy with the missing teeth.
This guy didn't talk much. He just danced with me, Christy and Pole Dancer, with this huge, toothless grin on his face. It was like being cornered by a dentures advertisement. But it wasn't just that he was missing teeth. Everyone, including me, will eventually reach an age when we'll have more gums than bite. This guy had that dirty old man feel about him, and he wasn't even that old. It was in the way he danced. His face was confident, but his body didn't seem to understand what he was trying to do with it. His arms and legs jerked around as if each appendenge was tring to escape. His hips swung from side to side in a tragic Elvis impression during "Heartbreak Hotel."
What added to the classiness of the whole experience was when Pole Dancer leaned in towards me and Christy and yelled (refering to the band), "Aren't they cute as shit?"
"Uh, yeah," me and Christy said.
"I'm a grandmother," she added for no reason.
"Oh," I said.
"I've got three grandkids."
"I've got three kids," I told her.
"And I've got four of my own kids," she said.
"And one on the way."
Me and Christy couldn't figure out if she meant that she was pregnant or if one of her kids was expecting. Since she was smoking, drinking, and hitting on the drummer we hoped it was the latter.
So yeah, it was fun. The band played great and I got to hear Fred sing "Hang on Sloopy." Christy and I had fun dancing and joking around. Christy, am I forgetting any details (that aren't about me)? Do I embellish a tad, or do I hit the evening on the nose? It's always interesting to blog about something when someone who was there is reading it!
Friday, October 3, 2008
So! I have been invited to hear my friend Fred's band play, and I have said hell yes! I have showered. I have dressed nicely but not too nice. You know. I don't look like ass on a stick. I have arranged for the children to stay at my aunt's house, and I am going out! Me and Christy! I am having one drink and with my tolerance I will probably fall on the floor! Woohoo!
Aw shit I'm still depressed. But I'm going to try to forget all of that, and give my brain a break.
"I want my Mom," I sobbed last night on the way home from the Al-anon meeting.
I was driving, crying, 33 years old and saying "I want my mom" over and over again. But I couldn't call my mom, and I couldn't ask her for help. For one thing, she hates talking on the phone so I usually just call with practical questions like "How long can ground meat stay good in the refrigerator?" Ground meat is something we can talk about without getting under the surface of things. I'm not asking her a favor or making her feel angry or guilty about anything.
My mom wasn't always like that though. Atleast, my baby's brain doesn't remember her that way. She used to come into my room at night when she heard me crying, stroke my hair and tell me to think about soothing things like Christmas, going on a picnic, or being with my cousins. She'd sing me "Silent Night." For the longest time I didn't know that was a Christmas carol. I thought it was a lullaby that Mom sang off key. She didn't show much anger then. This is the mother I want when I say, "I want my mom," that woman who existed thirty years ago, who was angry, insecure, and whose parents had (for the most part) neglected her. And when her dad acknowledged her he usually made her feel ugly and stupid. She just wasn't letting all of that out then. As I got older the angry, bitter part of her emerged as a screaming, wall hitting volcano of a woman who I didn't recognize as the same person who sang me to sleep. Even the tone of her voice changed. At times it was, I swear, demonic. My therapist once told me that we handle our emotional life with the tools we are given as children. People who were given no tools must build their lives with their bare hands. If that's true then my mother and father's hands must feel like old leather gloves.
My dad doesn't rage like my mom, and I must say on her behalf that this past year that she's been sober she's been much more patient and a lot less angry. Or she seems to be. My dad just blocks out everything. Since we have the same sense of humor, this works out great. We don't talk about anything heavy unless I bring it up (which I have a nasty habit of doing) and we joke a lot. I've always identified more with my dad's side of the family too. They muse over small things.
"See that branch?" my Dad asked me, pointing to the long, thin finger of a crepe myrtle tree. "I can look at that branch for a long time, and just marvel over the shape of it. I can't really explain why. It's the small beauty of it. Nobody really gets stuff like that except us."
By "us" he meant the Rheams family. We can look at things and really take them in, like a small branch, or a morning sky full of stars, and what's great about this is that for a few minutes I can stop focusing on myself and embrace something extradordinarily beautiful. It works like a comforting thought or a lullaby.
The gift of this is that those little things are everywhere. When I'm talking about the things in Al-anon that make me shake and cry, I can look at those things because that's a gift my family gave me. It's a tool. My parents were broken children raised by broken children, and my mother still managed to give me that tool.
I thought about that last night after I cried a while. It's what Mom gave me that helped me fall asleep. It's what lingered in the morning when I laid down on the pavement and gazed at the sky like it was something my dad had made with his bare hands just for me.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Last night I met my sponsor before the Al-Anon meeting. We went to Cafe! Cafe!, ate 3 bean soup and talked about dysfunctionality. Fun. The meeting began at 8:00 and it was 8:15 by the time we finished eating and talking.
"Should we still go?" I asked her.
"Well, yeah," Meryl said, as if the idea of skipping had never occured to her.
"But we're 15 minutes late."
"It's alright. People walk in late all the time."
"But I can't stay for the whole thing. Maybe 20 minutes. I don't have my babysitter for that long."
"Eh," she said. "I can't stay the whole time either. If they hate us, they hate us. But they won't, and we need it."
"I'm scared," I told her.
She stopped walking. We were halfway across the parking lot, getting later for the meeting every second.
"Why?" she asked.
"This meeting pushes all my buttons. It's painful."
She laughed but not in a sadistic way. "It'll get better. Let's go."
I got in the car and drove as eratically as I did the night of the first Tuesday meeting, the time that I almost crashed into the building. I had to slow down and take deep breaths to get myself there without slamming into anything.
The other night I had a nightmare. Do any of you guys remember the movie "Total Recall?" with Arnold Schwartzenager (sp?)? Remember at the end when he and his girlfriend are sucked out of a building onto Mars, where the atmosphere is deadly to humans and Arnold Swartzenayger (sp?)? They writhe and their eyes begin to pop out and crazy shit like that? That happened to me in the nightmare. I dreamt I was watching the movie and then suddenly I was on Mars, writhing while my eyes popped out, and my skin melted.
When I woke up I thought about Al-Anon. It's too much truth all at once. I get in there and all the air is sucked out of the room.
"Hi, I'm...Genevieve ! (GASP!)"
"Hi, Genevieve," they all say.
"Can't (gasp!)breathe! Help!" I hiccup and wheeze, clutching my throat. "Don't want...to...know...secrets about!...myself!...parents not there (cough! sputter!) husband!...workaholic!...need (choke) love!...kids sad!...all!...out of control...need chocolate...cigarette! (eyes pop out) That's!...All!"
"Thank you for sharing," they all say.
I stayed at the meeting for 20 minutes. As I tried to sneak out of the room, with everybody watching me and probably thinking, "You got here fifteen minutes late, and now you're leaving before the meeting ends? Why did you come here? And please get your eyeballs off the floor," I reminded myself about what Meryl said, about how the meetings will get better. I have been to one or two meetings in which I did not sit there shaking. It's not just thinking about what I'm going to say that makes me nervous, it's hearing what everybody else has to say. It's as if they read my blog and are attempting to copy my actions and emotions. We're all so alike, and I sit there looking at them and how miserable they are and I'm thinking, "Oh my God I'm YOU. And before I started coming to these meetings, these meetings that hold me under a light so bright that I feel like my skin will catch fire, I was insane. I was trying to make everybody happy and trying to be what everybody else wanted, and I was failing, and it drove me close to suicide. And now I'm a crying, shaking mess and I'm actually doing BETTER than before. Goddamn, I've got a long way to go."
The timer went off long ago. The phone has rang a couple of times, and both phone calls were from people I love so I stopped writing. Meryl gave me a mile long list of questions pertaining to the first step, and I will work on those later today.
I'm not even done with the first step and there are eleven more to go. I'm trying to do what they say, to take things one day at a time. But it's not the same as the feeling I get during a road trip where I'm excited about the destination, but I'm just as equally enthralled by the journey. I love driving and walking through places I've never been. This journey (atleast at this point) is not like that. This is slowly tearing off a bandaid. I've kept a dirty bandaid on all my problems so I don't have to see them. I wish I could just rip it off. But I've been trying to rip it off and all that does is give me nightmares that I'm dying of exposure. I have to adjust to this a little at a time. Holy hell.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Allow me to explain. Shelly the hermit crab and Lily the dog both evacuated with us for Gustav. Then when we came back, my friend Thomas dogsat, and we decided to take Shelly with us to Disney World. It probably would have been ok with him if I'd asked him to crabsit as well, but I wasn't thinking clearly at the time and Thomas is a busy man with pets of his own (I just reread this sentence. Is it me, or is "crabsit" a revolvting term? I think most words with "crab" in them are damned by STD association) Anyway, Lily thrived, but I thought we'd lost Shelly with all the travel. She stopped eating...Ok, I lost her food. She had a good supply, though, and I was hoping to find it or buy more before her dish ran out, but by the time I went to refill it I noticed that her shell hadn't moved lately. I tapped on it a few times, which ordinarily makes her poke out of her shell and wave an angry claw at me, but I got no reaction. I've spent the last few days trying to figure out how to tell the kids that she was dead. I know it's just a hermit crab, but...we've all been through so much together this summer. We lost the Sprinkles the tadpole to what we believe was a lettuce related incident. Sniff. No seriously, the kids miss their dad so they're extra sensitive to everything and (as you all know between all of the al-anon/yoga/soul business) so am I.
But she's alive!!! I walked into the front room and saw her climbing the walls of her cage (lord, that sounds evil) so I ran to check her food and water supply, refilled them, and grinned as she waved an angry claw at me.
It was a hard but good day. I went to yoga, prayed a LOT, called my sponsor, took lots of deep breaths, felt better, bought the kids fastfood, came home and found the hermit crab alive. Good day.
Oh! Mel, what is the link to your blog again? I haven't caught up in ages.
Friday, September 19, 2008
But first! There's laundry to be done! It's ok, this isn't going to be one of those days when I resent laundry because I haven't written yet.
Much love and less lanudry to you all! Kisses! Clouds! Puppy dogs! Hugs! Happy, girlie exclamation points, and "i"s dotted with hearts!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I'm a bit rusty getting back to this whole blog thing. I was in Forth Worth for a week and then Disney World, and I've been editing the book when I've had any spare writing time. This also accounts for my absences on fyspace and macebook (you like that? I just made that shit up...Yes, did I mention VERY rusty?) So there's a lot to talk about here, and I just have to pick a subject. Hmm, maybe I'll do a brief overview and then tell you guys about my writing class that started on Monday.
Fort Worth: Spent a week catching up with Uncle Chris and Amy at their bitchin' place. Found out that house was fine, but had no electricity.
Day trip home: Drove from Fort Worth to powerless home in one day. Spent the evening cleaning out rotten refrigerator, slept in the humidity, and left the next morning for Disney World.
7 days in Disney World: God, I love that place. You would think I wouldn't given all my hippie tendencies, but the rides are fun, the food is good, and the people there are paid to be nice. Yeah I know, it's an evil conglomerate something or other but I've always been drawn to evil.
So now that I'm home real life has begun again. The kids are back in school, I've started back at yoga and Al-anon, and Chris has gone out of town again. The new element in my life is James Nolan's advanced writing class. I took his writing workshop last spring, and am now in the class where we take our red marked manuscripts to the next level - more rewriting! I'm one of ten people in class, and there are only two other writers I know from the spring. One of the new people turned out to be someone that I know from Al-anon. She's middle aged, taller than me, French, and cool as hell. I wish I could tell you her real name because it rocks ass, but in honor of anonymity she will be known as Daisy Duck.
One of the main differences between this class and the last one is that it's not held at Loyola University. We'll each take a turn hosting the writing group at our houses. Or their houses, I should say. James stipulated that you have to live in New Orleans itself, and I am a lowly Lulingite. Preferably you have to live somewhere that James can get to by streetcar because he doesn't drive. You have no idea how much I envy that.
Actually, if envy is indeed a sin then I could go to hell for how much I want this guy's life. He lives in a nifty apartment in the French Quarter, he sustains himself by teaching writing workshops and publishing essays, short stories and books, and though he doesn't drive he travels worldwide. I don't mean to say I would give up my family to opt for that lifestyle now, but had I stayed single I could see myself living that life. And probably being miserable most of the time because I would want a companion and babies. Alas.
Annnnyway, for our first class on Monday James told me and the two other newbies that we were required to bring a bottle of wine as a rite of initiation. So I found it ironic that when I saw Daisy get out of her car in front of James's apartment, I had a bottle of Pinot Noir in my backpack. Every other time I've seen her we've talked about how alchohol has complicated our lives, and here I was carrying the bastard into a writing class. We hugged and talked about how coincidental it was that we were both writers, and poured each other glasses of wine once we got to James's apartment.
Her writing is beautiful. I was glad about that because it's awkward when I like someone personally but not their writing. Once again I'm the youngest person in class, which always feels kind of cool but kind of disappointing. I'm going to concentrate on my personal essays because I'd really like to develop them.
And one last exciting bit of news is that I am sending my manuscript to The Joy Harris Agency today. I wrote in an e-mail to some of my friends, "these are the blessed people who liked the first 50 pages" and Fred wrote back "I think what you meant to say was these are the blessed people, the literate few, men and women of impeccable taste and subtle wit who, in their long wisdom and excellent judgement, recognized the seeds of genius in my pimum opus." Bitchin'.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
Being at my uncle's house I ocassionally forget why I came here in the first place. His house is...well...it's fucking fantastic. This is the first time I've been here since he moved to Fort Worth three years ago. He's a doctor and I swear if I didn't think I'd blow my brains out I'd get my ass to medical school just so I can buy a house like this some day and fill it with cool stuff. Since my two cousins are grown and moved out, he and my aunt Amy have this huge house to themselves. There are many rooms. My aunt and uncle's room, two guest rooms with their own bathrooms and three other rooms that are just rooms. With their own bathrooms. I swear, there has got to be like 15 full bathrooms in this place. Yesterday I discovered another one that I hadn't noticed before, just off in the corner somewhere, and I didn't need to go but I used it anyway. Because it was there! Seriously, you can go to the bathroom in almost any room in this house. THAT is class.
Besides the spaciousness, and sprawling toilettries, the dude has a sauna! Yesterday I sat in there for about thirty minutes listening to New Agey-type guitar with the sounds of the ocean in the background. Also (and this is the second to best part) Uncle Chris has a library with bookshelves that reach the ceiling. Oh yes, just like Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Gadget. Plus, he's got a dog who can catch a frisbee in her mouth. But the best part is the music room upstairs. Uncle Chris, like most of the Rheams family, plays guitar and keeps all of his instruments in a room that is like a music shrine. There are various amps, accoustic and electric guitars, bass guitars, drums and recording equipment. The room smells like pipe tobacco, and there are pictures of old blues players and framed posters of Jazz Fest. It reminds me of my dad.
This is the first evacuation I've gone through without my sisters or my parents and it's strange. My parents are in Alabama, Stephanie is in northern Mississippi, and April is in Florida. Not even Daivd and James (my stellar cousins) are here. But it's been great seeing my uncle and (step?) aunt. Last night we talked in his music shrine until midnight while he puffed on his pipe.
I can't tell you how thankful I am that my family had a place and the ability to go. While I was in the sauna, listening to waves crash against the New Age shore, I felt a little guilty. The majority of New Olreanians are not waiting out the storm in huge houses with saunas.
I began writing something yesterday that I plan to post soon. It's a copy of journal entries I wrote a couple of weeks after Katrina hit. It's taking a while to transcribe them. In the mean time, here is a conversation I had with Emma this morning. Oh! But before that, Chris and the kids are all right too. The kids are homkesick, well we all are, but they're having a good time and they're happy to see their daddy again.
Before I share the following conversation, I'll give you some background details. Emma sometimes invents characters and for the last couple of weeks she has been talking like...how can I describe it? An old southern woman who is not very bright. This morning she said this:
"Mama, it's time fa me ta live on mah own."
"Yeah?" I said. "You gonna move out?"
"You gonna get a job?"
"What are you gonna do?"
"Ah'm gonna watch tv. I gotta go watch tv, tha's mah job."
Then five minutes later she walked in and said, "Mama, the kids are running from me. I don' know why. They're just ruinning and running and running until they get hurt from their lives."
I don't know what that means but it sounds serious. And now I must check for the latest on the weather. Shall report later.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Now the unpleasantness. We're evacuating because Hurricane Gustav looks like it's headed in our direction. Me and the kids are packing up our stuff and the dog, and heading out early tomorrow morning to pick up Chris where he's working in Dallas and all drive to my Uncle Chris's house in Fort Worth. I know all of these Chris's must be confusing. My godfather is Uncle Chris, the husband is Chris, and my son is Christopher. And people are already shortening it to Chris. Anyway, we'll be staying there until the storm blows over. I think the latest is that it's making landfall on Tuesday morning. We would leave later but traffic is going to be hell. No, worse than hell. Hell meets Hades meets Wal-Mart on a blue special day. And with me, three kids and the dog we might all lose our minds between here and Texas.
I'm a little worried about the house. We live in Luling, which is part of the Greater New Orleans area just outside of the city. Our levees aren't any better than the ones that broke and flooded 80% of the city for Katrina. Katrina, by the way, was three years ago today. Freaksville. My daughters still remember all the chaos that followed the storm and they're scared. They're afraid if we evacuate we might not come back because so many people didn't return from that storm.
When I was a kid evacuating was fun. There would be a hurricane scare, which none of us would take seriously because every time it looked like it was coming our way it would always end up hitting Florida or Mississippi. School would be cancelled, and me, my parents and sisters would pack up and head to Uncle Chris's place where we would then have a great time with our cousins before we drove back home. It was a vacation. Maybe that's why taking my family to my uncle's house feels so safe.
My kids are not growing up thinking that hurricanes are fun. Their first memory of a hurricane is one that drowned people, split families, and destroyed neighborhoods. The adults in their lives still talk about the effects of that storm every day. I mean, seriously, over the last three years I don't think a day goes by that I don't hear someone mention Katrina in some respect. They'll say "After the storm we..." or "Before the storm we never..." or "We're STILL not in our house yet..." It's usually called "the storm" and everybody knows what storm you're talking about.
So I'm scared and angry Fucking AGAIN! Like I haven't spent the last few months writing about how scared and angry I am about other things! Ok, now I'm just bitching. We're going to a safe place, and we've come back to a disaster before and survived so we can do it again. Now that I think about it I'm thankful that we have a place to go and the means to get there. A lot of other people aren't so lucky. My apologies to Florida and Mississippi if I sounded off hand about past hurricanes turning from New Orleans and making a beeline for you. I don't want it to hit anybody.
I'll write more once we're settled. Everybody stay safe! Watch many Mel Brooks movies to keep up good humor! I intend to.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
By the way, I must say that I love the term "cone of uncertainty." At a time when all the passion and the danger has been stomped out of words "cone of uncertainty" remains unchanged and effective at describing what it's talking about. On a weather forecast screen the cone of uncertainty covers the area where weather dudes predict that the eye of the storm might pass. The coolest thing about this term is that if the dudes are wrong that's ok because the "cone of uncertainty" is by nature uncertain. So if an irrate news-watching person gets hit with a storm and complains, "Hey! I wasn't in the cone of uncertainty and I was completely unprepared," the weather dude can retort, "I never said that the cone of uncertainty was certain. I promised you nothing!" The only term cooler than "cone of uncertainty" is "cone of death." Oh hell yes. I think when someone came up with that term they were with a few neighbors and said, "How can we make the cone of uncertainty sound more ballsy?" and someone else said, "cone of death." I don't know this for sure, but I think that's what happened. My theory lies within a cone of uncertainty.
Anyway, I ended up calling my sponsor (known for anonymous purposes as Meryl Streep) last night all panicked. Not only was the storm approaching, but I was afraid that I had hurt a friend without meaning to and I was beating myself up about it.
"Gen," she said. "You're being too hard on yourself again. This is a painful, confusing time, and you're taking care of three little kids by yourself."
"I want you to do a couple of things. I want you to make a gratitude list of all the things you're thankful for, and I want you to throw eggs at your back fence. Do you have a back fence?"
"Are you serious? You've done that?"
"Yeah, girl! It helps even if I'm just mad at myself. It smells like hell the next morning, but you know, so what?"
Meryl Streep is insane and I love it.
Then this morning I called my friends Ray and Christina (a sweet couple) because I didn't think I could do all of this on my own. It's crazy you know, just when I think I'm comfortable with myself I find myself in a cone of selfdoubt. Yesterday I even fixed the weed eater by myself and edged the lawn, and I've never used it before! I'm actually NOT a moron! I've been getting up, making breakfast, making sure that the kids are fed, teeth are brushed, rooms straightened, getting them off to school, helping them with their homework, writing, making sure that Christopher doesn't just play video games all day while his sisters are gone, running errands, getting exercise, seeing a therapist plus going to Al-anon meetings to unravel the mess in my head, having light three minute conversations with Chris during which we talk about nothing relevant, and so on and so forth. I've been trying hard to keep everything together and not lose it. And this morning I cracked.
Christina said that I was doing too much to throw harsh crticism on top of myself. She said I was doing good, and she and Ray said that they knew I could do it, and that the only person who doesn't see my strength is me, which is why it's important to keep focusing on myself. I'm beginning to despise the term "the cone of focusing on myself."...What? It's not a real term? Well, it should be. And Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA's) should be called Children of the Boozers (Cobzer's for short).
Anyway, Christina gave me the same assigment that my sponsor did, only she added that she wanted me to list things I'm thankful for about myself. So here are some things that I thought I would share.
non-me things that I'm grateful for: my healthy, beautiful kids, my dog, swimming underwater especially when the sunshine makes that crystal honeycomb pattern on the floor of the pool, humor, the smell of sweetolive trees, the tropical depression that is not a hurricane, chocolate chip cookies, coffee, the people who brew me coffee at Starbucks, yoga, peace with friends, five people have told me that they love me in the last 24 hours (unprompted!), my al-anon sponsor, and (corny as it sounds) prayer.
me things that I'm grateful for: my physical strength, my intelligence, my maternal side, my kick ass taste in music, my handwriting, my writer's voice, my desire to be a good, healthy, honest person, and my hope that I will become braver, more confident, and know what I want in my life.
I am now going to try to nap and watch some tv. I haven't watched tv in weeks and my brain needs to shut down for a little while.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Apparently they love lettuce. The instructions are to boil lettuce for 10-15 minutes, then freeze it, and break off a little and feed the critter every few days. Ten minute lettuce. My new dish. The greenery is on the boil as we speak.
Emma has named the tadpole Sprinkles. She doesn't know why. She has also determined that Sprinlkes is a girl. She has no evidence to back this up, but (if I recall freshman biology correctly) all embryos are inherently female so odds are good that sprinkles is indeed a chick. Now if I can just get Emma to change her name to something that doesn't conjure up visions of urine.
But you know what this means, don't you? Capturing and raising a baby tadpole is a sign that summer isn't over yet. Wooooooooooooooohooooooooo!
Friday, August 22, 2008
-There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.
-Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.
Do you think that close friends of Ray Bradbury called him "Ray Brad" for fun? I would have. Or maybe Rad Brad. Oo! Or Radburries. The possibilities are endless with this man.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
If someone had told me a year ago that I was going to write that sentence I think I would have hung myself with the powercord to my laptop. There was once a time when I was so smug about staying out of the whole internet profile mess, like I was too cool to blog. Now I've got a myspace and a facebook profile AND a blog? And a minivan? And 2.5 kids, a husband, a house in the suburbs, a cat and a dog? Do I even dare call myself a punk anymore? Where is the girl who once painted her nails black and pink and climbed a powerline with her seedy friends and to jump into Lake Pontchatrain? Who is the woman who sips her coffee in her pajamas and blogs in her clean kitchen?
The thing I didn't like about these internet profile thingys was that they just seemed like a means to cyberflirt and waste time. In other words, I was a snob. Most of the people I know use it as a way to keep up with people they love who live far away, or to check out things that make them laugh when they're sitting in their clean kitchen wondering how they turned into such a domesticated bohemian. But the reason I like facebook better is mostly because you get to throw sheep at and fight crime with people. You can become a vampire or a werewolf, and plant a garden. There's pretending involved, the fun kind of pretending not the 56-year-old-man-pretending-to-be-a-20-year-old-woman-for-internet-sex-purposes kind of pretending. Myspace, for me, is boring in comparison.
The only thing missing is my handwriting. With all my struggles with selfhatred and whatnot, one thing about myself that I've always liked is my handwriting. It's not because it's super neat or whatever. It's the earthly form of my writer's voice. I used to make sure I had paper and pen with me where ever I went so just in case I began to feel down I could write something and feel better. My handwriting is an old friend. I've got pictures up for my facebook and myspace profiles, but if I were to post a picture of who I really am I would take a snapshot of a sentence I'd written.
Sometimes I underline or scribble down sentences I find in books. If you take a whole book and critique it there are so many elements to be weighed to decide if you liked it, or how literary and effective the plot is. But if you just take one sentence like a single bite and roll it around your tongue for a while you can truly taste it. Yesterday I was cleaning out my car and I found a Toys-R-Us book of coupons under my seat. I had used the back of it as a grocery list, and underneath the words "toothpaste" and "buttermilk" was a sentence that I'd scribbled while I was driving. I'd been listening to David Sedaris's latest book on CD and I liked one of his sentences so much that I'd turned off the stereo so I could write it down before I forgot it. Try to forget that I just told you that sometimes I write while I'm driving for a minute so you can dig this sentence with me. It was, "Her voice was heavy and coarse like footsteps on gravel." If I did book reviews I think I would narrow my critiques down to sentences completely taken out of context. Who cares what the full picture is when one part of it feels like silk against your face?
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Magnificent. Today, my lovelies, I will acheive literary greatness. I will begin to send out all of my manuscripts under the name "J.K. Rowling." Kiss rejection slips goodbye!
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Claire: At school they want our snacks to be healthy, and I'm all like, (tsk) why?
Me: I'm not signing anything until you get dressed and brush your teeth.
Emma: Feed my bear while I'm gone, and remember that she has to wear her dinner dress, and remember she's allergic to crackers.
Me: Dog, I'm going to put you on Ritalin.
Claire: Yay! You'll be right next door to my school! But don't come to visit me because it'll be embarassing.
That last one was said right after I told Claire that I'd be in the building next to hers for Christopher's kindergarten screening. He starts in two weeks and he's not happy about it. The girls are nervous about this year too. Claire goes to a new school for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders and rides a different bus without Emma. Emma rides a different bus too. At her elementary school they give the buses animal names to make the trip to class a cuter experience, and last year she rode the Turtle bus. This year she rides the Wolf bus. Her eyes went wide at this news.
"I'm riding the wolf bus?" she asked.
"Yeah, cool huh?" I said.
"No. I don't want to ride a wolf."
I wondered why Emma, the kid who likes to tell scary stories, would be afraid. Then I remembered two things. First, Emma only likes scary stories if she's telling them. She doesn't like hearing or seeing scary things that are out of her control. Second, the bus is named after a the fairytale eater of small children and pigs. When the bus pulled up and opened its doors she stared at the entrance like it was the jaws of death itself.
I kissed the top of her head and said, "Have a good day sweetie." This was her cue for getting onto the bus and she knew it. She turned to me with a look that said, "Are you out of your fucking mind?"
"Can you take me to school?" she asked.
"No, sweetie, you need to get on the bus now. It's all right."
I don't think she believed me but she listened. I admit that my heart sank when she gave me that sweet, pleading look and asked me to take her to school, but really the kid needs to ride the bus. If I start taking her to school then Christopher and Claire will wonder why I don't escort them, and I can NOT chauffer three kids to three different schools, especially when two of them start at the same time. I'm already disorganized as it is.
It's nuts that they're all officially in school, not pre-school or anything. There are no diapers to change, no shots to take them in for, no food to cut up into bite-sized pieces. And I don't know how they think their summer went but I think they had a good time. We caught lizards and frogs and studied them, we swam a lot, we took the dog for long walks, and we all learned really important life things.
I say we because I had to learn a couple of things too. First there was the Chirpy lesson. I don't think I've given an update on that. Chris and I hand-fed Chirpy for almost two weeks and then I heard about a bird sanctuary on the Northshore that took in orphaned baby birds. The kids wanted to keep him, not give him to strangers, and in truth so did I. Chris and I had become attached to the cute little critter. One day while Chris was feeding him he said, "I wish we didn't have to give him away. He's so darn cute." But as my Aunt Anne (a nature guru) explained to me, birds aren't meant to be kept as pets. She said if we kept him he would survive but he wouldn't thrive.
"I thought that birds could become domesticated," I said. "Like parrots."
"No, no, no. They escape the first chance they get. There's a reason why people have to clip their wings," she said.
It was hard, but we brought Chirpy to the sanctuary. Then a couple of weeks later we found another baby bird. This one was a morning dove in our front yard, chirping its head off.
"The parents are around here somewhere," my neighbor told me. "It's been a few hours, and they're completely ignoring him. Poor little guy."
I called the vet and she said that it would be best to take him and feed him too. He hopped up to me, Emma and Claire with his beak wide open, screaming to be fed.
While I fed him the cat food that Chirpy had survived on for a week, the kids made their case about why we should keep this one.
"He likes you, Mommy," Emma observed.
"And we'll help you take care of him," Claire said.
"Mommy, don't take him to the wild," Christopher begged. "Pleeeeeaaase."
Oh...dear...God. There are few things that are more painful than having to explain to your kids why they can't keep something that they love. Emma had already named him "Bubbles." It had a name and we were feeding it, so certainly I wasn't going to insist that we let it go, right?
The one lesson that keeps getting shoved down my throat lately is learning to let go of people I love who thrive better without me. Or without my meddling at the very least. But I'm 32 and I've developed skills to help me accept that painful fact and my kids are, well, kids. Now matter how many times I tried to explain to them that if we really loved Chirpy and Bubbles we needed to do what was best for them, they kept coming back to the belief that releasing them was the cruelest thing we could do.
"You're just going to have to trust me, Emma," I told her as she cried on the way back from the sanctuary.
Just like I wanted her to trust me when she stepped onto the wolf bus. Hopefully I won't let the kids down with all this promise of trust and faith in my resolve. Eek. The funny thing is that as I develop better self esteem, my kid's esteem in my judgement will go down. It's already starting to happen.
"Mom, I'm like nine," Claire said when I asked her what she wanted for breakfast. "I can make it."
Does anybody know of a sanctuary for teenagers? I might have to look into that in a couple of years.