Monday, November 15, 2010

Sick advantages

Today I am sick and home from work, and I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "You lucky duck! You get to stay home while the rest of us slave over the things we usually slave over on a Monday!" And this is true. But do I consider myself lucky that I'm at home and you're not? Not really. I would rather be at work, and have the ability to smell and breathe through my nose than be home drinking microwaved honey because the lining of my throat is gone.

But enough about the linings of my internal organs. Today I have the opportunity to finish the short story that I started over the summer. For those of you who like to keep track, the summer officially ended two months ago. And I'm still not finished with the first draft of this thing. This is the one I started about Michael and Betsy, but it's evolved tremendously since then. Now, I'm not saying that the actual writing has evolved tremendously. I'm saying that the story itself has ended up in a totally different place than I expected it to. The writing itself is about the same. To give you an example, whenever I find myself stuck I tend to write things like this:
"So," Betsy says, twirling a lock of her hair on her finger. "What should we do now?"
"I don't know," says Michael. "Gen's stuck. Until she gets her shit together we're just gonna sit here at this booth in this diner."
Betsy stops twirling her hair and looks around. "When did we get to a diner?"
"Hell if I know," Michael shrugs. "She forgot to mention that's where we are, and that we're sitting across from each other, and that we've got that disheveled look like we've been up all night."
Betsy rolls her eyes. "She's so bad with setting."
"I know. You would think after writing for 25 years, ten professionally, she would have learned a thing or two about that."
"Seriously, how many fucking writing workshops does she have to go to before she figures it out?"
"I don't know, but until she gets it together I'm ordering more bacon." He holds up his mug. "Garcon! Coffee!"
Betsy looks at me, the writer. "Genevieve, that line is from 'Pulp Fiction.' What are you going to do have us hold up the diner in a few seconds? Who are you, Quentin Tarantino?"
I feel embarrassed at having been corrected by one of my own characters and I change Michael's line.
"Garcon!" he hollers, holding up his plate. "Bacon!"

So anyway, I get to do a lot of that today, which I wouldn't be able to do at work. At work I would just be answering the phone and frightening people on the other line with my croaky, demonic voice.
"Safety and Security," I'd growl, then cough. "This is (hack, wheeze!) Gene-(wheeze)."
"Is this some sort of sick joke?" they'd ask.
"Sick, yes," I'd reply and cough up a lung. "Joke? Only in that God has a sense of humor."
So let's thank heaven I'm not in that position today. And now, to write. Somehow I have to get Betsy and Michael out of that diner. I don't like Betsy's attitude and Michael's had more than enough bacon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Let's not get specific

After a few months of not blogging I could either give you specifics about the craziness that has kept me away from my blog or I could just write as if no time has gone by...Yes. Yes, let's do that. Let us just say that after many emails from distraught fans threatening to shave their heads and other desperate measures, I've decided to take up the blog again for the good of the people.

I will start by marveling at the fact that it is 2010 and I have just learned how to laminate something. How long has the lamination process been around? Since some time around the invention of penicillin? When you consider that technology becomes obsolete within weeks of hitting the shelves and is changing at a constant rate, I am about 500 years behind the times. My cell phone just rings. That's right. It flips open, which apparently no one's does anymore, and it rings. It does not access the internet, answer my email, Tweet, pay my bills or impersonate me on Facebook. It just rings. And I swear, the shameful look on my children's faces every time I flip my phone open would just bring you to tears. In their eyes, it's like I'm flipping off the world. It's as if I'm saying, "No, I have not upgraded my phone because I don't love my children and I want their peers to think that we are less poor than people who live under a bridge because even those guys can update Twitter from Facebook."

But here's the bigger problem - I don't care. And I'm not sure how many people really do. Eventually I will upgrade my phone because I care about what people think, and that's really it. Personally, I could care less if my phone even knew how to do the one thing it does half the time.

Oh! It also sends and receives text messages. There. My phone has the essential survival equivalent of a house with plumbing and electricity. Can humans live without plumbing and electricity? Well, yes. Technically. But to go without it when I don't need to is the same as deciding not to socialize with the rest of the world anymore. I would be "that lady" down the street who uses candles, an outhouse, and a well. But dude, that wouldn't even be the crazy part. My phone would flip open! Children would ride their bikes past my house and text their friends, "Ridin past ole Flippy again," and they would text him back, "PEDAL FASTER!" or something in a text abbreviated language that I'm not hip to.

And because I worry to nail-biting capacity about what teenagers, their friends, and family think I will eventually upgrade my phone. And then I will be one of those people who stares at her new phone as it rings and has no idea how to answer it because it is also Tweeting, looking up movie times, doing my taxes, and making ice all at the same time. I'll hand it to one of my more technology savvy friends and say, "Um, can you answer this for me?"
They'll say, "You push that button."
And I'll tell them, "No, that's the soda dispenser."
"Oh, right. Then you slide your finger across the screen like this..." She demonstrates by sweeping her index finger across the screen and a Swiss army knife/fork and spoon pops out the side.
She strokes her chin. "What does this button do?"
She pushes it and accidently hacks into the Pentagon. The ringing stops.
"Well," she says looking at me. "If it's really important they'll call back, right?"
"I guess," I say.
It makes a dinging sound.
"Oh!" my friend pipes up. "Popcorn's done!"

Let us hope now that I've learned how to laminate things for the office, that lamination technology doesn't suddenly take off and reach a level that I can't wrap my English major mind around. The day my boss tells me to fax something, and send out work-related email using the our new, souped-up (with blue tooth!) laminator I'm going to run screaming from the office.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Moving through it

Yesterday morning I cleaned my room a little, but I didn't do it the way I wanted to. I went in with a garbage can, opened the closets, and threw away one scrap of paper at a time, when what I really wanted to do was go in with a bottle of lighter fluid and a match.

I don't want to stay in this. I want to move through it. It's just going slowly. There's over a decade of love letters, gifts of apology, and worn out clothes in those closets. The kind of clothes I look at and think, "I remember the date we were on when I wore those pants." They're the husband and wife closets. They were my mother and father's closets. There are still things in there left over from my mom and dad, along with all of the thoughts and feelings on paper from my marriage. It's two closets for four people. Chris moved out a year ago. My parents sold me the house seven years ago, and they don't live there anymore. Purging those closets hurts. But on the other hand, I AM the knuckle head who's kept everything.

It's hard to do this without drinking, smoking, or using someone else as a sexy distraction. But I don't want to stay in this grief. I want to move through it. It's been long enough.

I listen to "Willie" by Cat Power. The lyrics have nothing to do with my life or the way I feel. But the sound of it sings my soul.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Long, drawn out yawn, then scream

I can only blog briefly. I'm at work. Had to write something. anything. Claire's acting workshop is over. Yesterday was the final performance. Went wonderfully. She kicked ass, and wants to get back on the stage already. Her mother is exhausted. Lots of stress this week. Soooooooooooo much to write about, and not all stuff is bad.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rock Lobster

Things have been going ok lately. Claire and Emma had their combined birthday party on Saturday, and despite predictions that we would be slammed with rain, there was only a light 15 minute drizzle. Since most of my small guests were on an inflatable water slide, it pretty much went unnoticed.

Claire started her acting workshop this week. She is in a heaven that is specifically designed for Claire. She LOVES it. It's in a building that looks like an old church that's right next to the Norco refinery. It's so right next to it, it looks completely out of place. There's this enormous, stinky, pipe-lined refinery pumping white smog into the air, and off to its left is a two-story Spanish-style building that looks like it's been there for eighty years, with a sign in front of it that says "River Parishes Performing Arts and Cultural Center."

I think Claire has really found something here. When she tried softball, she got all suited up, got out there, took one look at the field and refused to play. I mean that her feet were locked into the earth. I know because I tried to pull her. When she attempted guitar she made it eight lessons in before she finally admitted that she loved music but not enough to form calluses on her fingertips. But when I picked her up the other day from her first acting lesson? She was alive. Something had connected for her and it was all she talked about on the ride home.

Still, I thought, give it a few days and she might lose enthusiasm. But it's only grown, and she was beside herself with 11 year-old glee when she walked out of the workshop yesterday with her eyes locked on a script. She was smiling as she read it.

"Hey, what's that?" I asked, catching her attention.
"It's my lines for a skit. FOUR skits! I'm in four of them!"
"A real actress can do five! Get back in there and demand more lines or no supper!"

I didn't really say that. But the rest of it's true.

What are Emma and Christopher doing? As far as activities go, Christopher hasn't started soccer yet, and Emma enjoys drawing and being anti-organized-group-of-anything which I totally support because it means I don't have to drive her anywhere. Plus, I secretly admire her anti-comformity. They are also getting really cool taste in music. They've discovered The B52's and every time we get in the car, the first song they want to listen to is "Rock Lobster." This makes up for Katy Perry and Kesha, and gives me hope that my children will not develop the musical taste of a stick of sugarless gum. I know, some of you are thinking, "Hey, sugarless gum is pretty good." No. It's not. And now you might be thinking, "You know, Gen, you can really be a snob." Yes. I am. When it comes to music, Top 40 pop generally makes me want to crawl out of my skin.

So what am I up to? I'm working, writing, not drinking, not smoking, not overeating, hanging out with my kids, catching up with my friends when I can, calling a lot of AA and Al-anon people, and later on tonight I plan to watch "The Runaways." I know it doesn't sound exciting, but NOT exciting is just what I'm going for nowadays. There's very little drama, and a lot of clarity. For instance, because of my growing spirituality and sobriety I am quite clear on the fact that Kesha's song "Tik Tok" was written by a five year old Satanist in a mental institution.

I know, I know. Am I saying that "Rock Lobster" DOESN'T sound like it was written by crazy people?

We were at a party
His ear lobe fell in the deep
Someone reached in and grabbed it
It was a rock lobster

I'm not saying that doesn't sound nuts. What I'm saying is, I could hang with those people in that wing of the psycho ward. We all choose our crazies. I'm much more comfortable with the dudes who can come up with "his earlobe fell in the deep" than with the crazies who write lyrics like this:
I'm talkin about everybody gettin crunk crunk
Boys tryin' to touch my junk junk
Gonna smack him if he gettin too drunk drunk

And no, I don't allow that song when it comes on the radio. "Your Love is My Drug" is ok, my kids know that one, and even with that one I find myself reaching for the seek button and thinking, "Am I being too overprotective? What's the line here? She's singing about an unhealthy obsession with someone, but atleast she's leaving her junk out of it."

And now I'm just babbling and I need to get ready for work. Work is a whole other blog post. It's been crazy in there since the beginning of hurricane season, because that's mainly what my department does - makes the game plan for 14 different hospitals spread across the city in the event of a hurricane and/or mass evacuation.

I must now evacuate my bedroom in search of breakfast and more coffee. And if I can't get the song "Tik Tok" out of my head, which is now stuck there, I might be joining my people in the psycho ward sooner than planned.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Morning Share

Good morning, my lovelies!

I was kicking around on IMDB, avoiding work, when I came across this movie title "I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With." So of course, I had to click on it. It seems like an extremely depressing movie about a lonley compulsive overeater, but looks like it could possibly end well. Because sometimes those movies end that way. But then, I think it was an Indie film and sometimes those end even more depressing than they started out. There are no rules! The guy could fall even deeper into his addiction and the movie could end with him stuffing his pockets full of cheese and then jumping off of a bridge, and then no one would notice that he's dead because no one noticed him before anyway. I don't know, I haven't seen this movie or even heard of it before, I'm just speculating about the end of Indie films in general.

Though if I had to guess, "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With" is a comedy. I'm basing that theory both on the title and the tagline which was this, "Sometimes love is just a big bowl of wrong."

And that was it, that was my share. Sometimes love is just a big bowl of wrong. I love it! Bon appetit!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wild Tomboys

No one else can mow my lawn but me. I might not do the best job, and I might let the grass grow too high before I finally get to it, and I know that I sound like a total dude when I say it, but dammit, no one else is touching my lawn. (wouldn't it be funny if that was the end of my post? But no, I've got more to say.)

I don't exactly know why that is, but it might have something to do with me getting in touch with my inner tomboy. Some people need to get in touch with their inner child. I'm working on getting in touch with the wild little girl inside of me, the one who demanded a Pixie cut in the 2nd grade so she could look like Peter Pan, the one who wanted to play whatever the boys were playing at recess because she thought that jacks, scratch-n-sniff stickers, and My Little Ponies were boring. Though, ok, I did like My Little Ponies. I couldn't resist their mystique and the darling little combs they came with.

But anyway, not only do I love mowing the lawn, I love my lawn mower. I don't know anything about how the engine works, or how to fix it if it breaks, but I love pulling the rip cord that jump starts the machine, and that it takes two or three pulls to get it started. Every time I pull the cord and the engine stirs, like someone groaning when you try to wake them up, my own motor begins to awaken. My heart beats faster and I feel stronger, more powerful. Because every time I pull the cord and the engine doesn't start, I root my feet into the ground, summon all of my upper body strength, and cry, "Machine! I command you to start!" Then I jerk back, the engine roars and I laugh, mad with power. Then the neighbors stop inviting me to their dinner parties for a while. But I don't care because then, once the engine starts, I get to mow the lawn.

The joy goes beyond a love for the smell of freshly mowed grass. I love reshaping the terrain. Running over a patch of long-haired-hippie-like grass and making it a respectable, clean-shaven citizen that can run out there get a job. I even love pushing the machine in rows back and forth across the yard. I do not know why. I would explain it if I could, the thing about pushing the machine. The only thing I can figure is that it takes a certain amount of strength, not a Herculean amount, but some, and I've always prided myself on being strong. I was ashamed of that before because I was afraid that being physically strong made me unfeminine. And now I just don't give a fuck. It makes me who I am - a person who loves wearing the grass and dirt that shoots on my legs, the sweat that drips in my eyes, and the smell of gasoline on my hands when I refill the tank. And then I love taking a shower and smelling like myself again - only a clean self who has accomplished something, something domesticated, responsible, and filled with a motor's hum.

This gives me and the kids a smooth yard to slip n' slide on, which my tomboy also loves. Getting out there in shorts and a T-shirt and belly-racing the kids across the three-lane slide.

My character Pam is a tomboy too. No, she is not me. But she's got a bit of me mixed in there because I'm her momma and my imprint is unavoidable. She's a landscaper and she's good at it. She loves to be outside and when she's inside sometimes she'll stare out of the window with only a vague awareness that she wants to climb out of it.

I was working on a scene with she and her friend Jess, where she's helping Jess address invitations to her ex-inlaw's anniversary party. Pam is a single mom who never married her daughter's father, and Jess has two kids and is in the middle of a divorce. Jess is involved in her ex-inlaw's 40th anniversary party because she and her ex-husband's sister have been talking about throwing it for the last four years. The invitations are ruby red because, after 15 minutes of internet research, the ex-sister-in-law discovered that ruby red is the official 40 year color, symbolizing that their passion is still alive and strong after all those years.

Jess couldn't imagine her ex-in-laws, Carol and Doug, having the amount of passion as suggested by the color of the anniversary invitation. It had a sultry red border with a white background and loopy-script, red lettering. Way too fancy, Jess thought, for a barbecue. "After 40 years they're still hot!" it boasted. Jess thought of Doug in his kahki shorts and gray T-shirt with the big trout on it. His red face and two chins. Carol with her wide hips, that she complained were extra wide from having twins as if she'd delivered them at the same exact time. She had short, curly hair and sparkly silver eye shadow. They were hot for slot machines, Jess thought, but said nothing to her ex-sister-in-law who was glowing with her parent's success at marriage.

"How do people stay together for 40 years?" Jess asked Pam, as they were stuffing invitations into envelopes at Jess's kitchen table.
Pam looked at her as if she'd just asked her the square root of 786,321,094.
"God, I don't know," she said. "I've never been with anybody longer than six months."
Jess set down the invitation she was stuffing. "You've never told me that."
"It's true."
"But Alex's dad-"
"Mason and I weren't together. We just fucked."
"For three years."
"That's like a two week relationship." She thought for a moment. "And relationship is too strong of a word for it."
"So why did you keep sleeping with him?"
Pam shrugged. "I don't know." But she did know and she decided to say it, but she couldn't look at Jess when she did. "He always held me. He was good about that. They don't all do that, but with Mason it was a guarantee. I knew if I stayed with him he'd hold me all night."
"Yeah?" Jess said.
"Yeah." Pam glared at her. "If you tell anybody I'll ram those tacky invitations up your ass."
Jess threw up her hands. "Who would I tell? When would it it even come up?"
"These things sometimes do," said Pam.
Jess laughed. "I'm not gonna tell anybody, loony bird."
Pam knew that. That's why she'd told her.
Both of them looked at that fiery invitation like the color of it could engulf them. They felt like such failures. Jess because her marriage had only made it ten years, and Pam because her six month relationship had been an affair. Not even with someone available.

Don't worry, things don't end sad. I but before they end happily I'm going to make them feel like total shit. Writing is my power trip, like mowing the lawn. This is where my mad laughter rolls in. Mwahahahahahahahahaha!...Awe, dammit,now the neighbors are avoiding me again.

Monday, July 12, 2010

One or some or every or all

My problem with the word whatever isn't with the word itself. Whatever means (and I LOVE this definition) "one or some or every or all without specification." It's the way people use it that makes me want to smack them with one or some or every or all of my limbs.

It's because it's so cocky. Here's an example:
me: "Claire, would you put away the dishes? I can't pay you your allowance on Friday if you don't do what you're supposed to."
Claire [walking towards the sink]: Fine! Whatever!
me: Off with her head!

Do you see how "whatever" was completely unnecessary? She was going to do the dishes, she agreed with what I said, but she was NOT using the word the way it's meant to be used! She did not have a genuine "whatever you want mother, I want one or some or every or all of what you want" attitude! She was sarcastic about it! SARCASTIC! Who does she get THAT from???....oh.

Or "whatever" is used as bait. See if you can relate to the following dialogue:
Genevieve: Grandma, what do you want to do for Mother's Day?
Grandma: (sighs) Oh. Whatever.
Genevieve: What's the matter?

Now, would I had been prompted to ask that if the "whatever" had been a truly carefree statement? Probably not, but then I think I can count on one hand the number of times that it truly has been. My friend Thomas is one of the only people I know who I don't second guess when he says it because if there is some hesitation or problem he says what it is without baiting the other person into trying to find out what's wrong. Which is usually a disastrous quest.

person 1: Do you want to see a movie tonight?
person 2 (shrugs, looking glum): Whatever.
person 1: Um, ok. We don't have to if you don't want to.
person 2 (more emphatic and hostile): I said WHATEVER. I don't care what we do.
person 1: Yeah, but you seem to have an opinion that you're just not telling me. Are you ok?
person 2 evades the question, looks off into the sunset. A tear falls.
person 1: Are you still upset about the fight we had yesterday?
person 2: God! If you don't know - whatever!

Notice how Person 1 clearly does not know? And would like to know? But the constant repetition of the word "whatever" does not help? And see how Person 2 DOES seem to care quite a bit? I would like for those of you in the audience to please write this down, "I will never manipulate another person by misusing what is a fine word in and of itself for the purpose of evil."

Now, the word "whatev" is a different story. Whatev makes fun of whatever with no ill will. Let us explore this theory by tweaking the dialogue between Persons 1 & 2.

person 1: Do you want to see a movie tonight?
person 2: Eh. Whatev.
person 1: Hee hee hee! That still doesn't answer my question, but you are quite obviously playing with me and not being passive aggressive or confusing. I love you.
person 2: I love you too.

SEE? See how different that turned out? See how that could easily end in fantastic sex, which is the ultimate goal of one person asking another person out to see a movie in the first place?...And now my friends who read this will never agree to see a movie with me ever again.

"Whatever" arouses suspicion in the same way that the term "no offense but..." immediately puts me on my guard to be offended.

"No offense, Gen, but I don't want to come over," has a totally different effect than "No, I don't want to come over." A person simply saying that he doesn't want to come over is one thing. Maybe he's tired. Maybe he doesn't feel like driving. But "no offense" sends red flags because I don't trust it. Why would he feel like he has to say no offense? Does he think my house smells like cabbage? And maybe he doesn't, maybe he really does mean, "I hope I don't offend you in my decline of your offer, but I have had a long day and if I have to get in the car one more time I might snap and shoot everybody." Which is understandable. But still, the "no offense" triggers doubt.

And then some people use it to excuse themselves from whatever horrible thing they are about to say.
"No offense, Gen, but I don't want to come over to your house because frankly I don't want to smell like cabbage."

This dude thinks that by starting out that sentence with "no offense" he excuses himself from being offensive. It is, in his mind, a verbal contract. "I will begin this sentence with the words 'no offense' and so whatever words come after it do NOT make me an asshole." Oh, but they still do. Sorry.

Then there are times when people use it in the strangest ways.
"No offense, but can you pass the butter?"
Now I am confused. I will hesitate before I pass the butter because I must pick that question apart to find the offense in it. Surely there must be some or the person who said it would not have had to begin the sentence that way.

Clearly, children, "no offense but" causes mass hysteria. Let us eradicate cockiness by doing away with both "whatever" and "no offense but."

Having said all of this, it is highly entertaining to watch a no offense person paired with a whatever person.
"Hey, no offense, but the reason you don't have any friends is because you're a total bitch."

And this is why reality tv is so popular.

Ok so, no offense, but I have to get ready for work. SEEE! See how bitchy that was? The girl knows what she's talking about! Atleast one or some or every or all of the time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

More coffee is in order

It's morning. I'm thirsty. Thirsty for more coffee. Morning will end soon and I will be one of those people who drink it past the AM hours. And I don't care. Because without it I will be staggering through the halls of the hospital, hand to my aching head, moaning like an un-caffeinated zombie.

I came across an interesting poem by Erica Jong today. This is it:

You are there.
You have always been
Even when you thought
you were climbing
you had already arrived.
Even when you were
breathing hard,
you were at rest.
Even then it was clear
you were there.
Not in our nature
to know what
is journey and what is
Even if we knew
we would not admit.
Even if we lived
we would think
we were just
To live is to be
Certainty comes
at the end.

So according to this poem, I already have coffee...[peeks hopefully into empty mug] Damn it! Poetry has never steered me wrong before! Wait, wait, maybe I'm reading it wrong...maybe it means that the materials to build a mug of coffee are already at my feet. I just have to get up and put it all together...Damn it! No interpretation suits my needs! The whole point of motivational writing is to suit my needs!!!!!!!!!!!

I have to get back to work. This also does not suit my needs. However, a paycheck most indubitably suits my needs. All this talk of suits. I don't like suits. I'm much more of a jeans and T-shirt girl. But to say that something does not jeans-and-T-shirt my needs makes no sense.

More coffee is in order. Then I will blog about how I feel about the word "whatever." Its use is rampant and someone's got to say something, goddammit.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Kicking Activities

Ok, so yesterday WAS my only post for the day. I meant to blog more. Really and truly I did. Real life got in the way. It always does that and it's really annoying and she and I are going to have to sit down and have a long talk. It would go like this:

me: Hello, Life. Thank you for coming in to see me on such short notice.
Life (taking a seat across from my big, important desk): Sure. Can we make this quick? I gotta be somewhere.
me: Yes, that's what I wanted to bring up. You're too busy.
Life (getting up and beginning to rearrange the furniture): Uh huh.
me: And it's very stressful and distracting.
Life (repainting the walls a color I don't like): Ok.
me: And I would like it very much if you would stop for a while. You know, maybe take a break?
Life (ripping up the carpet): HA!
me: It's just that...hey, are you listening?
Life: Of course. Go on.
me: Well...see, you're doing it right now.
Life (bringing in dogs off the street who begin to eat my desk): Doing what?
me: Everything! Stop it!
Life (gazing at me, turning her head slightly and then reaching for my hair): You would look fabulous in gray.
me: AHHH!

On second thought maybe I'll cancel that meeting. Anyway, time's is busy. It's about to get busier since I signed Christopher up for soccer and Claire for drama. This means driving to places after work. Oy.

I gave Christopher the choice between football and soccer because they go on at the same time and, though Life thinks that I'm two people, she's wrong, and I can't be both places at once. So I asked him which he preferred, sure that he would say football, and was surprised when he said soccer.

"Really?" I asked. "Not football?"
"No," he said.
"How come? I thought you wanted to play football."
"No," he said, and thought a moment. "I don't wanna be tackled."
"That makes sense," I said.
"And I want to kick things."
"...That makes sense too."

I mean, hell, I'd like to kick things most of the time.

As for Claire, I think it will be fantastic to give her drama a proper outlet. When she begins to fly off the handle at home I will simply pick her up, toss her into the van, deliver her to the stage, and say, "Here. Go nuts. Run free like a dog in the park."

So what is Emma involved in? I need to call back the place where she was taking yoga. She wants to get back into that. What she really wants to do is join a shopping club, but I have told her that there is no such thing. If I could, I would go inside of her brain and erase all memory of what a mall is, and then hide their existence so she never learns.

What am I involved in? Apparently soccer, drama, and shopping. And driving. Lots and lots of driving.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The People Will Give Strength Unto Their Poet

This is not my only post for the day but I just had to share this from The Writer's Almanac:

One of Czeslaw Milosz's poems was inscribed onto a monument in Gdánsk, Poland, for shipworkers who were killed by the government in a protest. At the base of the monument was a line from Psalm 29, translated by Milosz: "The Lord will give strength unto his people." When he went back to Poland the following year, members of the trade union put up a banner that said: "The People Will Give Strength Unto Their Poet."

Rock the fuck on!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hey, I could blog!

It's almost 4:30 in the morning. I've begun a new writing schedule that involves getting up this early because I don't like myself. No, not really. It's because I've decided to approach this writing thing like a real part-time job. Wait, I might have mentioned that. Yeah, yeah, I did! In my last post! Oh dear God, I need coffee and have not brewed it yet. Anyway, my schedule is two hours a day every day before the kids wake up, and five hours on the weekends that I don't have the kids. I like. I'm a momma first, and I'm still getting the writing done, which was only happening sporadically before.

So when the alarm went off this morning the first thing I thought was, "Need to get up. Need to to get my rough draft notebook." Ok, that's a lie. The first thing I thought was, "Did I see Cameron Diaz in my kitchen last night or was that a dream? Must have been a dream because I can't imagine why she'd need to borrow my cheese grater when she could easily buy one of her own. But maybe she's a cheapskate." It went on like that. But eventually I started thinking about writing and while I was lying there convincing myself to get up I realized, "Hey! I could blog! Blogging is writing! It counts! AND I HAVE INTERNET AT HOME!!!!" This last bit is something that I will probably rejoice over for a while, so my suggestion is that every time you read it take a deep breath and know that my excitement over things like Internet, central air/heat, and movie stars in my kitchen will subside over time.

I haven't written anything too personal in a while, have I? It's mostly just been about condiment sprees and whatnot. I like whatnot. That IS something personal about me. It's just that when I think of personal updates for some reason I automatically think of a romantic update and unless you count the mosquito that sucked the blood out of my ankle, which is the most action I've gotten in a while, then there are no romantic updates.

The kids are good, and things at home are going ok. Grief over the divorce is eeking out in weird ways. Last week when I was at work Chris called to say that he had my child support. It wasn't a bad conversation. He said he had money for me and the kids and I said, "Ok, great thanks," I hung up the phone and then burst into tears. At my desk. Luckily there were no customers in the office. I went over to my coworker Lisa to talk to her about it. She's been divorced before.
"I don't understand, why am I so upset?" I said. "It was a good conversation. It was fine."
"Sometimes that's worse."
I stopped crying and gave her the kind of confused look that you can imagine giving someone who has just told you that good is worse than bad. This conflicts with what we learned in kindergarten. Good is good. Bad is bad. Bad is when you eat finger paints because the colors are pretty and then you throw them up. Good is when your ex husband calls and says that he has your child support. Right?
"When the conversations are civil, or even when they're nice, they remind you of the things you like about him," she explained.
"This is just going to take time. You're gonna be ok, it's just hard to get through, especially the first year. Why don't you go take a walk?"

I went out of the back of the hospital around the hazardous waste dump, which I actually kind of like. It's where those red containers go, the ones that the nurses pitch the needles into after they give you a shot. The hazardous waste dump is where all of the containers go to have their contents incinerated. I just think it's neat to know where they go, and comforting to know that they're not floating in the Gulf of Mexico.

The good thing about crying at a hospital is that it's not considered unusual. Most of the people who go there are emotional. Either they're upset about a dying relative or their own diagnosis, they're worried about a loved one in surgery, or they're happy because someone just had a baby. Let's just say that in the last few months, I've gone outside to cry a couple of times and no one's looked at me funny. It's not like crying at the mall. This is a place of high emotion and grief. I walked outside and let myself cry, not thinking any thoughts in particular. It was just a purge.

This isn't something I do often at work. Most of the time I'm just silly. I think I might have annoyed Audra the other day, in fact. A nurse came in and explained how he had lost his I.D., and then ordered a new one but then found his old one and I directed him towards Audra because she processes the badges. I walked in with him and both of us began to tell his story at the same time. Audra held up her hand and said, "Ok, wait. Start from the beginning."
"In the beginning," I said, "God created light. And it was good."
Audra closed her eyes. "Thank you, Gen."
"Or was it Earth?" I asked, suddenly doubtful. "I don't know, I don't read the Bible. How did all that go?"
"Thank you, Gen, I can take it from here," she reiterated and left me in the wake of my theological confusion.

That's what I'm like most of the time at work. I'm not usually crying out by the hazardous waste dump. Besides, sometimes that place smells horrible. It's not only where used needles go to die, but pieces and parts too. Lungs, spleens, fingers, and random bodily tissues. Sometimes when I walk past that place the stink will stay in my nose for an hour.

Jess, the character I'm writing about, is a medical librarian. She loves literature, but she also loves the pulmonary artery on display in a jar in the library window. It's a warning to everyone about what can go wrong. What went wrong in her marriage is not visible. She can't remove it and study it in a jar. She can only get rid of the things that remind her of it, which is partly way she's having the garage sale.

Her driveway is aligned with power tools she can't identify, a folding table with glass vases she never used, mismatched dishes, and the rice steamer that she got at her wedding shower, which she used twice in ten years. She arranged these things and others on either side of her driveway, and when she walks down the middle of it, it reminds her of walking down the aisle on her wedding day.

I'm going to try hard as hell to change the story just enough so that no one reads this thing and says, "Oh my God, she's writing about Chris and the kids!" I don't mind writing about myself and my own grief. I just don't want to libel them. So Jess's kids, her ex husband, and her in-laws are different. They're fun to write about, actually. But the grief is the same, and some of the circumstances. I did have a garage sale to get rid of stuff that neither Chris nor I wanted anymore and I was tired of looking at it. And the kids' hard questions are in the story, but then they are questions that children of divorce generally ask.

I'm going to go work on that now. It was lovely to blog at home!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jess & Pam

I, me, Genevieve, that chick who answers the phones, have been sticking to my writing schedule. I know, I know, it's crazy. And I feel fucking awesome. I LOVE it. What I am writing has no structure, has no plot at this point, it's just stuff about Michael, Betsy, Betsy's sister Jess, and Jess's friend Pam. I love these people. Michael and Betsy you've met. Jess and Pam are two single moms who live next door to each other. To get an idea of what they are like, here is a sampling of them talking to their neighbor Lindsey.

Lindsey, a middle aged woman in tight workout clothes, tennis shoes, makeup and jewelry, has stopped by to talked to Jess at her garage sale, but not to buy anything which is what Jess really needs her to do because her electricity bill is overdue and if she doesn't pay it in four days it will be shut off. And her ex-husband is late on childsupport. So she's really hoping that Lindsey will buy something that was his, like the table saw or the free weights or the juicer. But instead Lindsey is asking her about Greg, her ex, and how he's holding up, which is the last thing she wants to talk about.

Lindsey shakes her head when Jess tells her that Greg has had his own apartment for five months now. "I am just so sorry you two split up. You were so happy when you moved onto the block."
Jess nodds, definitely not wanting to talk about happiness. She picks up the juicer off of the folding table hoping that Lindsey will notice it and will suddenly need to buy it. But instead she makes it worse by saying, "How are the kids?"
"Lindsey! Jess!" says Pam, walking across the yard with a glass of orange juice in her hands. She's wearing jean shorts and a blue tank top with her hair pulled back. Pam and her daughter Alex are always dressed like they're ready to climb trees. She sips and says, "What's goin' on with my bitches?"
Jess smiles. Pam always makes her do that.
Lindsey sneers. "Hello, Pam."
"How are things in Troop 11?" she asks Lindsey.
"All right."
"You through fattening up the neighborhood?"
"I think she means cookie sales," Jess explains.
"That's right, the cookies," says Pam.
Lindsey beams. "We did great! Farrah was the top seller again."
"You should be proud, ," Pam tells her. "Cookies are a tough racket. No room for pussies."
Lindsey's mouth drops open and she walks off.
Jess turns to Pam. "What the hell was that?"
Pam shrugs. "Chattin' up the neighbors."
"Why'd you have to talk to her like that?"
"Come on, Jess. Cookie sales? Her mom's troop leader, of course she's got to prove herself. You think she sold all those cookies because she wanted to? She was FORCED."
"Well, could you chat up the cookie moms after they buy something? I need to make atleast $112.23."
"That's specific."
"Electricity bill."
"Shit. When's it due?"
"Ask for an-"
"I've already asked for an extension. That's the last day before they cut it off."
Pam stares at the ground. Then she looks up and says, "I've got some stuff I've been meaning to sell."
"Pam, I asked you if you wanted to go in on it with me yesterday and you said no," says Jess, aggravated.
"That was when profits we're going to me. Now they're going to you," she says, heading to her garage to fish for things.
Jess doesn't say anything. She wants to tell her that she doesn't need the help, but she can't.

That, as always, is a shitty rough draft. Don't know where it's going. It's somehow loosely connected to Betsy and Michael. It's also in past tense, by the way. Don't know why I was compelled to right it in present tense here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Harper Lee - woman of mystery

I have one hope about Harper Lee and it's that she's been writing her ass off for the last 50 years. She hasn't published anything, but that doesn't mean she hasn't been writing and, maybe, stashing it all under her bed. Fifty years is a long time so maybe she's had to buy a few beds just to cram novels underneath them, or maybe she just has one really enormous bed or maybe she sleeps on top of a storage unit. That would be more convenient if she really stopped to think about it.

And let's say that she will not stipulate in her will that she wants all of it burned in the event of her death. Let's think happy thoughts like that. Because that means that when she dies there will be an entire body of work just waiting to be published. Twenty five new books, maybe? 38? I don't know, however many fits into that storage unit that she sleeps on top of.

I'm not waiting for Harper Lee to die or anything, I'm just saying that when she does, as sad and horrible as that will be, maybe there will be more of her stuff to read. Because I do so love her writing.

I say all of this because on Sunday I went with my friend Thomas to see the play version of To Kill a Mocking Bird. I couldn't imagine it as a play until I saw it. There are so many different settings in the book and then there's a narration which I love even more than the dialogue. The prose in that book is gorgeous. But it works on stage. The narrator was there - Scout as an old woman. She sat on a rocker in one corner of the stage telling the story. She also played the knothole of the tree where Scout and Jem find the presents that Boo Radley leaves for them. Scout would pretend to go up to the tree to take something out of the knothole and she was really going up to the old woman who was handing her the trinkets. I thought that was neat, the old Scout passing things on to the younger version of herself.

And I think what I really love about theater is how much of the setting is in the actor's imagination. When Atticus had to shoot the mad dog down the street, none of us had to see the dog to know he was down there. We didn't even have to see the street. The actors were just pretending the dog was coming down the street, and they pretended so well I forgot that, really, they were flipping out and pointing at a wall.

So I would like to read more by Harper Lee. And I can't because it's all underneath her bed. Why would someone who writes so beautifully keep it all to herself? Seems selfish. But then maybe she's like Boo Radley, just afraid to come out, and maybe I should respect that. Maybe I would be more inclined to if she left me some prose in a knothole. Just a paragraph, perhaps.

Egad, what if she did and I discovered that her style has completely changed? What if she genre-hopped into scifi? I'll get an excerpt from To Drill a Mockingborg. Or mystery! Who Killed a Mockingbird? Or worse. Bird erotica. To Thrill a Mockingbird. You can't make a play out of that! Well, you could but I imagine that it would be restricted to brothels and aviaries.

Jesus. Maybe Harper Lee should have all this stuff buried with her. Who knows how her style has evolved in the last 50 years. Still. It would be nice to know.

You don't have to win another Pulitzer, Harper! We still think you're awesome! And we are torn between wanting to respect your privacy and wanting to raid your storage unit for possible short stories! Or maybe, dare I say it, a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. A western called Scout's Last Stand. Where...she's 45 years old and she finally admits that she should start wearing something besides overalls. Hmm, there's no Western angle to that. Uh ok, also, there's a cow in it. This is gold, Harper! Quick! Write it before I am compelled to!

Monday, June 21, 2010

4:55 pm

I've got five minutes left of work and nothing left to do but stare at the clock. It would be so much more classic and dramatic if a whistle blew but then that might disturb the patients in other parts of the hospital.

4:56 pm
Yesterday I drank so much coffee I think that it has now replaced the water in my blood and so now my veins are filled with coffee and whatever else blood is made of.

4:57 pm
What the hell IS blood made of? One of my smart friends is going to answer that, aren't they? One of them who is incredibly intelligent but also a smart ass will say, "It's made of red."

4:58 pm
Does it really take me a full minute to type a sentence? Wow, I thought I was faster than that. Do you guys remember the band Faster Pussycat? Man, they sucked. I don't even remember any of their songs, they sucked that bad.

4:59 pm
Maybe I should have another cup of coffee before I leave. I hear it's good for my circulation. The coffee-to-red content in my blood is off. Need to balance out.

5:00 pm
Time to hit the road.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Condiment Crime Spree

Last night I did not watch the president's speech about the oil spill, even though loved ones and I are directly affected by it. I heard snippets of it while I was flipping through the radio in the car this morning, but I really wanted to listen to music and not the news. But when my bud Jennifer sent me an article about a 74 year old woman who was arrested for pouring mayonnaise into a book drop, I couldn't put it down.

Super villian Joy L. Cassidy of Boise, Idaho was arrested moments after she dumped a jar of mayo into an Ada County Library bookdrop. According to the Associated Press, police said that she is suspected in "10 other condiment-related crimes" that have occured since May 2009. Librarians have also found reading materials covered in heinous toppings such as syrup and ketchup. Despite this, "Cassidy was released from jail and faces a misdemeanor charge of malicious injury to property."

She OUT? She's loose?! There's a maniac out there with a refrigerator full of ammo! Do the cops think that just because she spent a night in jail she's reformed? She probably spent the whole time cooking up a scheme with Grey Poupon! Who knows when she will strike again! I don't trust her as far as I can throw a cup of molasses.

Quick! Lock up your borrowed books and periodicals! Return them directly to the librarian behind the desk and avoid any suspicious characters as on the way in, especially if they're holding a jar of relish! And don't be fooled if there's a hot dog in her other hand! It could be a prop! That relish could have malicious intent!

See why this is more fun than news about the largest oil spill of all time? Which is messed up in so many ways and on so many levels that it makes me sick to hear too much about it so I have to force myself to stay informed? I'm not saying it's a good thing to ignore big news completely, it's just that every so often when your head gets full of Republicans and Democrats slinging horseradish at each other, and environmentalists are telling you that the world will soon become an uninhabitable place unless you stop using fossil fuels and you know it's true but still haven't changed your lifestyle because no one else has changed their lifestyle yet and the few Americans who have are considered freakazoids, and fishermen are out of livelihoods, and hoods are out of oysters to eat, and oysters have no place to live anymore, and it feels like no matter who you vote for they never turn out to be Superman or even the Green Lantern, and just when you begin to lose your Peter Pan-like innocence and belief in hope, goodness, and a sense of humor, you can turn to articles like this:

"Soccer Officially Announces It Is Gay",17603/

ps- If you want to read the mayo article here 'tis:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Beastly Misspellings

This will be short, but it didn't fit in with my other entry today and I wanted to share.

The kids have a new babysitter and I went over the rules with them as I always do when a sitter comes. No other kids over, do what she says, brush your teeth, be on your best behavior, etc. So Emma made a list of expectations for herself while in the sitter's care. Though I don't remember all of them word-for-word, I remember the last one precisely:

1 - Brush my teeth
2 - Keep my room clean
3- Be on my beast behavior

The question is, since this is Emma, was that REALLY a misspelling? We'll never know. But if she's is ever in a rock band I'm going to insist she call it "Beast Behavior."

Also, in other kid fun, I made Christopher eat all of his corn last night and he tilted his head back and cried miserably, "OOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH! I WISH CORN NEVER EXISTED!"

Dig the drama.


Today I am wearing scrubs in the office. Just in case I need to do emergency surgery on the fax machine. One must always prepare for the unexpected!

But seriously, I am wearing scrubs because I have become a clumsy bastard. Scratch that. I have become MORE of a clumsy bastard. Two weeks ago I was sipping a cup of coffee at my desk when I accidently spilled some on myself. I don't mean that I sneezed and lost control of the cup. I don't mean that someone bumped into me. I mean that I went to take a sip and spilled it down the front of my shirt instead of into my mouth. Like a baby trying to stuff a spoonful of applesauce into her mouth.

"No big deal," my boss said, when I showed him the front of my shirt. "I got extras."

He leant me an oversized button down shirt that's meant for security guards. It wasn't the most flattering apparel, but then neither is a light brown stain in the shape of South America across my chest.

The office had a good time with that. For the next couple of days, any time I drank anything I would hear, "Careful now! Sloooowly." But it died down after a few days of successfully getting food and drinks into my mouth without incident.

Until this morning. I was driving to work with a red plastic cup full of au lait. (environmentalists take note: this will be a strong argument for me not to use disposable cups) It was in the drink holder next to my left-over red plastic cup from yesterday. Sigh. Yes, my car is just a big garbage can for used coffee cups. As I got closer to work I decided that I would take the time to toss the cups when I passed a garbage can on my way to the office. So I lifted my fresh cup and set it inside my old one, the logic being that when I finished the coffee I could toss both cups out at once. I wondered if there might be a little coffee left from yesterday, but then I thought (and I am not making this up), "No. I wouldn't leave any left. I always drink it ALL." So I didn't even check.

So the next time I took a sip I was surprised when yesterday's coffee splashed onto my shirt. All of it. All down my light blue blouse. Five minutes away from work.

Then I remembered a quote from a book I was reading last night. It's the one that the judge gave Chris and I each a copy of at our divorce trial, called Mom's House, Dad's House: Making Two Homes for Your Child. This book is...not fun. It's informative and helpful, and at times comforting but only in a way that I would imagine it would be comforting to talk to someone who was bleeding from both knees if I, too, were bleeding from both knees, because we could commiserate and say things like, "Is this normal? Do you feel this way too?" and the other bloody kneed person would say, "Yes! I'm going through that too!" Much nicer is when one is comforted with words like, "Everything is going to be better from now on. You're going to be ok." And not, "You MIGHT be ok if you are able to make it through this chaotic period without becoming bitter, getting stuck in your breakup, fighting in front of the kids, putting the kids in the middle, getting involved with someone else too soon, getting involved with someone never, getting drunk every night, starting a sleeping pill addiction, and or going bankrupt. Just jump those hoops. You'll be fine in eight years."

Anyway, the quote is about this stage (there are seven, according to the book) that I'm apparently going through called Stage 5 "Off the wall- Troubled but separated." During this phase, and also phase four, which is the intial breakup, "Sometimes day-to-day functioning seems impossible or continues at only marginal levels This dysfunctional reaction is common but dangerous as people are especially accident-prone in both this and the next stage. (p.31)"

So. What this means is that I won't be filling my cup with any piping hot coffee for a while. Just iced for me, thank you. But it won't help with clothing stains. Or flack from my coworkers, who were actually, nicer than expected about it. Melissa went down to the laundry room and found me some clean scrubs. Then she dug out a bottle of Tide and told me to soak the blouse so it didn't stain. Then she told me to get help with my drinking problem. Which was funny.

But not as funny as when my boss came in and found my wet blouse hanging up on the back of his office door. He had taken vacation yesterday and we all thought that he was going to be gone today too, so I figured it would be ok to dry my shirt back there. When I walked into his office, he was standing there transfixed by the blouse before him, brief case in hand.

"Um, Boss, I can explain..." I said.
"I don't I think I've worn this before," he said, in a daze, like he was really trying to remember if he'd worn it or not.
"It's mine."
He looked at me. "Well, that makes more sense."
He went to his desk to put down his things. Although he didn't ask why it was it in his office, why it was wet, or why I was wearing scrubs, I felt the need to go on.
"I kinda spilled coffee on myself. A lot of it."
"Goodness gracious, girl!" he said, in full Alabama accent that usually comes out when he begins sentences with, "goodness gracious."
"I know."
"You're gonna have to start bringing spare clothes or wear a rain jacket or something."
"Sorry. I can go get a new shirt at lunch."
He waved his hand at me. "Naw, don't worry about it. It's Friday."

So at my office if you spill coffee on your shirt on a Friday you get to wear scrubs. I'm learning the rules as I go along.

The next stage according to the book is Stage 6: Learns to wear bibs to Starbucks. I will be reading that chapter closely.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Back in the schwing of things

I have returned! Well, really, I retuned Sunday night, but this is the first opportunity I've had to write. At all. Kinda been slacking with the writing and sending things off to be published on a regular basis plan.

"Really, Gen?" I say to myself. (aren't you glad to be privvy to my inner monologue?) "Really? Do you REALLY want to be a writer? Because if you do you might need to write on a regular basis sometime."
"Well, goddammit!" I yell back at myself, shocked at my own audacity. "I'm a busy woman! There are children to feed and clothe! Dishes to do! Bills to pay! Pets to walk! And - and - so forth!"
"And whining to do about how you're not further along in your writing career than you'd like to be. Don't forget that," I add, because sometimes I can be a sarcastic pain in the ass.
I raise a finger to argue with a staggering point, and fail to come up with one.
"Fine," I say. "I'll write."
"On a regular basis!" I fuss.
I sigh. "Yes, on a fucking regular basis."
"No matter what's going on!"
"...Well, how the hell am I going to make that work?"
"The same way you make all those other things work. Find a way, dude. You whine and worry atleast 15 minutes a day, why don't you substitute it with writing?"
"But then I don't get to worry and whine."
I give myself an exasperrated look.
"Alright. I'll do it. Are you happy now, mother fucker?"
I smile. "Yes."

Wow, I swear at myself a lot.

But in other news, the kids are back home as of yesterday! Yay! And I'm getting internet back in the house today! Yaaaaaaay! Which also means that my next blog entry won't be rushed because I won't be writing from work! Yay for everyone, including my coworkers!

That's it. I promise a more entertaining, adventurous post next time, where in I am not mostly talking to myself. Oh! By the way, the trip was great. Jennifer fed me homemade sopapilla cheesecake and hanging out with her and Tom rocked.

But just so you don't feel that you've walked away from this post with nothing to gain, here is useful trivia: By raising your legs slowly and lying on your back, you can't sink in quicksand. One should carry a stout pole while travelling in quicksand country...when placed under one's back, it helps one to float out of the quicksand.

And here is useless trivia: Francis Bacon died in his attempt to find a better way to serve food. He caught a case of pneumonia while attempting to stuff a chicken with snow.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


This weekend I am going to Tenessee to visit the Jenn. Who is this, you ask? What do you mean, who is this? Don't you know me and my life story? How can you claim to know me so well and not be familiar with the main characters on the stage that is my life? Do we really know each other AT ALL??

Sorry. Didn't mean to get all crazy girlfriend on you. We still buds? Will you still accept my text messages and coffee invitations? Awwww, you're like the best blog-reader in the world!

Aaaaaaaanyway, this weekend I'm going to visit THE most bitchin' Jennifer in the whole wide world - Jennifer. We've been buds since the tenth grade when I sat in front of her in English class, and both of us for the most part just exchanged shy smiles in the way that unpopular kids communicate without talking. Eventually we did start talking and we haven't stopped since. Jenn is actually the basis for the character Ana Pritchard in my book. Together Jenn and I wrote short stories, drew comics and wrote blood and guts stories to go with them, established The Bullshit Bandits, suffered from a Beatles obsession, ate too much cookie dough, ogled boys that we were too shy to talk to, ogled John Cusack who I think liked us and couldn't decide between the two of us so he had to let us go. You know, normal teenage stuff.

As an added bonus I am meeting someone that you blog commentators know as Tom. Tom the word verification master. The cool thing about this is that, though the Toms and I have known each other for a couple of years, we've never met. He's meeting up with Jennifer & I and the three of us are going to hang out. What will happen when three naturally shy people get together? Shy, creative people who all enjoy John Cusack, cookies, and The Beatles? That's easy. All hell breaks loose! The citizens of Jenn's hometown won't know what hit 'em!

Seriously though, during this time when I'm learning that my friendships with truly good people are (que the sensitive, New Age music) one of the greatest treasures in my life, it is absolutely stellar to have one of my oldest and bestest friends meet one of my newest and bestest friends. Whom I have never met (I can only say that for the next two days, so I'm trying to cash in on that shit). I may (sniff!) cry when we all get together! And then Tom and Jenn will feel uncomfortable, look at each other and one will say, "Sensitive, isn't she?" The other will say, "I KNOW," and while they commiserate I will eat the rest of the cookies.

In other related traveling news, yesterday I took a field trip to the pulmonary department on my lunch break. My boss, also a former smoker, once told me that there are blackened lungs in a display case there. He said any time I get a craving it might not be a bad idea to take a walk up to the 9th floor and check it out. So I did.

First of all, I think it's interesting that they've put a department of people who have a hard time breathing on the 9th floor. It's like they're purposely trying to wind these people. If the elevator should break and patients are forced to take the stairs, the ER will have to send stretchers to the third floor to pick up people who have passed out trying to reach the 9th floor. Sickos.

Anyhoo, It took me a while to find the display. They don't have it out there right in front of the patients or anything. Though part of me wonders if they should, in a "this is what could happen" kind of way. Of course, that department is for people who have already developed problems so it would really be more of a "this is what has happened" or an "I told you so" kind of thing, which isn't very helpful. Walking through that wing of the hospital was almost as good as looking at a diseased lung. I heard the inhale and exhale of machines breathing for people, and once I looked into a room and saw a young man getting out of bed with the struggle of someone who was 40 years older than he was. And there I was walking along, breathing unassisted, having jumped out of bed that morning in the pink of health.

I had to ask a nurse where the lungs were. Took me a while to build up to that too. I felt funny pulling someone aside and saying, "So where are the lungs?" But in the end, that's just what I did.

"Hey, uh," I said, suave as ever. "I work in Safety and Security and my boss said you guys have smoker's lungs on display?"
She smiled. "Yeah?"
"Um, can I see 'em?"
"Are you a smoker?"
"I was. I quit. I want to stay quit."
"Well, come on."

They were in an office passed the break room, a place I never would have barged into on my own. There were four of them.
"Are those real?" I asked. "Or are they replicas?"
"They're real," she told me.
"They're not soaking in anything."
She explained something to me, something about why they didn't need to be in formaldehyde. But I wasn't listening. I was looking at them, those parts that were once part of someone, that looked like giant, moldy cauliflowers behind the glass.

I walked out of there, not wanting to ever smoke, or frankly eat, ever again. I know that this is something that I'll forget in the throws of a craving. That's when I make phone calls and wait for that moment to pass. But it helps to remember for the most part.

I think I'll enjoy this weekend's field trip much more. Everyone's lungs will be in their proper rib cages! No respirators! Only company that rocks!

Word verification: bigbagofawesome - (of Turkish origin) What happens when three, non-smoking shy persons get together for the purpose of introductions and silliness.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Here is some random stuff

I know this isn't like my usual posts because I ordinarily like to blog something with a storyline to it. This will not. Here is some random stuff, for no particular reason.

May Swenson said that poetry is "based in a craving to get through the curtains of things as they appear, to things as they are, and then into the larger, wilder space of things as they are becoming. This ambition involves a paradox: an instinctive belief in the senses as exquisite tools for this investigation and, at the same time, a suspicion about their crudeness."

When I talked to Emma on the phone this morning she said, "Momma, I'm going to be a scientist and a writer and a traveler when I grow up. And when I'm rich and famous I'm going to give my money to poor people, manatees, and panda bears. Poor people are kind of like endangered animals aren't they?" I told her they were in that they could use help too. And also, everyone - pandas, manatees, the poor - are happier and brighter when Emma is in their lives.

There is a book called The Shakespeare Riots: Revenge, Drama, and Death in 19th Century America. It's a true story about a riot that started over two actors' different interpretations of Hamlet. Twenty people died as a result of this disagreement.

Here is an edgy poem:
The Murder Suspect, Moments Before He is Confronted by Police
by David Starkey

He sits in the driver's seat of a borrowed
Corolla, Red Sox cap tilted low over
his anguished face. Across the street, two cops
huddle together, whispering, gesturing
once in his direction—yet he can't find
the will to turn the key and pull away.
In the passenger seat, a Styrofoam
container of half-eaten beef chow mein,
cold rice stuck to the tines of a plastic fork.
The backseat is piled high with clothes.
In the glovebox, a loaded .38
snubby and half a box of cartridges.
He cracks the window to better hear the swish
of willow branches in the November wind.
There's a gingery taste on his mustache,
and he wipes it with his sleeve as a blast
of heavy metal erupts from a pickup
rumbling down the street. His fingertips
tingle—probably with cold, possibly
from something else. There's a needling twinge
above his heart, a flash of memory:
purple blouse, a braid of golden hair, a splash
of crimson on gray tile. The cops begin
to saunter over. Then, as he reaches
down, fumbling for his pistol, they run
toward him, guns drawn, shouting out his name.

Here is a fact: Yesterday I went grocery shopping for myself and picked out things I like to eat. I usually pick out things with the kids in mind and compromise. What can I feed them that all of us can stomach and that will be good for us at the same time? Before Chris moved out, he was also a factor in my shopping. After years of shopping for other people, I'd forgotten what I like. Turns out it's mostly fruit.

Here is something beautiful:
Since Feeling is First
by ee cummings

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
- the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other; then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Here is another fact: I really miss my kids. They come back from their dad's next Wednesday.

Here is something else: "lady i swear by all flowers" is my favorite line.

And finally, here is something I've been listening to a lot. It's a Fleetwood Mac song that comforted me as a kid because of the way it sounds. I love the visuals in the video.

Monday, May 31, 2010

My Name is Smitty

I crawled into work this morning from a late night of dancing. I don't think I've ever said that before in my life. But nevertheless, I went to Cajun Dance Night at Tipitina's and danced with a half dozen old guys, all who have more energy than most of the young men I know. This is probably because most of my guy friends are fathers of young children and it takes more energy to chase and potty train a two year old than it does to dance for three hours straight.

I went with a few friends, only one of which had been there before. That's Sarah. Sarah's been inviting me to go for a while and I've been hesitant. When Sarah dances she feels alive, graceful, and beautiful. When I dance I feel as graceful as a gorilla riding a bike. But I would like for that to change. There have been times in the past and I've really been able to cut loose and have a great time. If my friend Danielle is reading this, she is probably thinking of some blackmail footage she has of me dancing at her wedding reception. That night I was drrrrrrrrunk. And they played "Highway to Hell!" At a wedding! Who WOULDN'T dance to that? Anyway, when I look back I think that every time I've been comfortable enough to dance, there's been gin & tonic involved. Or vodka. Or Maker's Mark on the rocks.

I'm not drinking now, though. So how was I supposed to get up and dance last night if I wasn't able to drink my embarrassment away? Easy. The guys there won't let you stand still. If you stand there against the wall, they'll come up, grab your hand and pull you on the dance floor.

"I don't know how to dance," I told the old guy who took my hand. He had no hair, a long gray mustache, knee high socks and sparkling eyes.
"That don't matter, sugar," he said. "I'll show you."
Turns out that a lot of the dancers there love beginners because they get to teach. And I suspect that the old dudes jump at the opportunity to lead women around the dance floor, twirl them around, and show them how to waltz.

Sarah took to the floor like a pro, but me, Jan, and Lisa had to be pulled out there. After a dance we'd compare notes.

Jan fanned herself after a dancer kissed her hand. "That was fun, but I'm too dizzy. He twirled me constantly!"
"Mine kept giving me pointers but I couldn't hear him," I said.
"My mom's neighbor dragged me out there," Lisa said, looking grossed out. "I grew up with that guy, I babysat his kids! He's Mr. Frank, but he said to call him Frank on the dance floor! I danced with Mr. Frank! Blech!"

I only had one weird experience with this guy who did not like to talk or smile. He had solid white hair and Harry Potter glasses. The only time he spoke was to order me not to look at his feet.
"Don't look at my feet," he barked.
"Sorry," I said, eyes darting up, looking over his shoulder.
"It'll mess us up," he explained.
"Gotcha," I said.
Two minutes later..."Don't look at my feet!"
My eyes popped up again. "Yes, sir."
"Look over my shoulder!"
"Got it. I'm looking over your shoulder, not at your feet."

There were all sorts of people there, not just crazy old dudes. Couples - young, middle aged and elderly but still spry enough to two-step. There were single men and women cruising for dance partners, moms and dads dragging pouty faced teenagers, kids who looked about ten, tourists who were just there to watch and take pictures. On either side of the dance floor there was a man and a woman playing a washboard on their chests. They seemed to be part of the band, but were in the crowd instead of on stage. Sometimes they took a break and grabbed a dance partner.

Then there was a lady that my friend Jan and I met, the one who was on a date with a guy she met on Originally I started talking to her because she was a few inches taller than me, and I meet women who I have to look up to maybe once a year.

"Shit," I said, tilting my head to make eye contact with this Greek statue of a woman in a white dress. "You're taller than me."
She smiled and shook her head in a way that I was familiar with. It's that, "Yes, I know. I'm tall. Thank you for pointing it out," kind of response.
"That doesn't happen often," I told her. "What are you, about 6'2"?"
"Yeah, around there."
"Well, all right!" I said, and we toasted to her height, my water to her whiskey cocktail.

My friend Jan asked her where she was from because her accent was different. She was from Florida and she was just in for the weekend to meet a guy she'd hooked up with on
She looked over at him across the room. He was talking to two other women. Then she looked back at me and Jan.
"I don't think it's going well," she said. "That's his sister and her friend, and I just kinda feel...I don't know. Out of place. I mean, what am I supposed to do go over there with him? Follow him around?"
"Doesn't seem cool, him not making sure you're not over here by yourself when you don't know anybody," I told her.
"Well, he's a nice guy. We went out last night and had a great time, but today it's weird. I don't know what I'm doing," she sipped her drink and looked at him anxiously.
So she, Jan, and I talked it out and we voted that she go over there with her date, and make the best of it. If it was an awkward night all around, then it would be just that, and she could go home to Florida and not have to dread bumping into him at the grocery store.

"God, I hate dating," I thought watching her walk over to him.
I do. I hate it and I'm not even dating yet. I even hate watching other people do it. Folk dancing with the strangers is good for me right now.

You know, Taller-than-me-lady should have danced with Smitty. He would have cheered her up. Smitty was my favorite dance partner, and though I have a hard time remembering names his stuck with me because he said it a few times.

He placed his hand on the small of my back and stood up straight.
"My name is Smitty," he declared. "What's your name, honey?"
"Well, Miss Genevieve, I'm gonna show you how to waltz."
Smitty had white hair under his cowboy hat, a red bandanna around his neck, boots, blue jeans and a volunteer firefighter T-shirt on. I did my best at following his steps without looking at his feet. I let my arms go loose so that he could guide them in whatever spin or twist that the dance called for.
"We dance every Thursday at Rock n' Bowl, and every Sunday right here," he told me, while he twist me around. "My name is Smitty, and you can always dance with me."
What's funny is that Smitty hadn't asked me to dance with him. He'd told me he was. He waltzed passed me with another lady around his age, and as he spun around he pointed at me and said, "I'm coming for you next."
Ordinarily a statement like that would have me digging for my pepper spray. But this was Smitty, so I took it in stride.

At the end of the dance before he bowed he said, "I hope whatever man you fall in love with is a dancer and I hope you never stop dancing." Then he bowed and kissed my hand. "Come on back, I'll give you another lesson some time. My name is Smitty."

Am I at the point where I need validation from old men I don't know? Old men who dance like Gene Kelly, but can't remember what they said three minutes ago so they repeat themselves? Yes. I do. My name is Genevieve. And dance lessons from harmless old boys who like to flatter young women was just what I needed. I'm not ready for Just beginner dance steps.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Writing in a stream of consciousness

I'm at Z'otz, the dark coffee shop uptown. The girl behind the counter has her hair swept back in a blue bandana, she's wearing an undershirt that has a gray, worn look like maybe it's been washed too many times, or maybe not at all, she's got glasses, black pants and a wallet chain. She's playing punk music that has a harmonica intermingled with it. Somehow those two sounds work, like a funny couple that you wouldn't imagine being good together. There are condoms in a fishbowl on a side table by the front door, and there's a panda bear sitting on top of it. So to get a condom you must move the panda. You must want it that bad, the protection. Or you must really want a panda.

I don't know how to describe this building. I wish I could. I wish I could describe everything I see in a way that would make every detail fascinating and graceful, like the hand I saw resting on a open car window the other day. This truck passed me and I didn't see the passenger's face, just his hand resting on the window. The color of his skin and the cut of his forearm muscle made me think that he worked in the sun, and that hand had been working all day, and maybe had been waiting for hours to rest itself on the door of the truck and feel the breeze of the open window. Such a small beautiful thing a man's hand can be.

It's the next day. I had to leave the coffee shop last night because the wallet chain girl and a friend went outside to smoke and the urge to bum a cigarette was so great that I couldn't think about anything else, couldn't even write anymore. Fucking addiction. So anyway, I took myself out of the situation entirely and felt better when I took deep breaths before I went to sleep last night.

The kids are at Chris's house for two weeks. What am I like without them to take care of? I don't know. I think I'm going to write a lot and go to a lot of meetings. I know, I'm a bucket of rad. Actually, I plan to take super, uber care of myself and try to have a good time. Without smoking, drinking, or sex (this is to be followed by delirious laughter). There will, however, be lots of dirty Rock N' Roll, swearing around the house, and watching of rated R movies.

I started a story a while ago, and the characters are Michael and Betsy. I don't know where it's going, or if it'll be a short story or a book or what, but I like writing it. I just started writing about Michael sitting outside a coffee shop between two smokers. He's the character I've always had in my head, the one with dark hair and Hershey brown eyes, and who's name changes depending on how I feel - the one who's grown up with me and who I've had the hots for since I was seven. Michael's told himself that he wants to stand outside for the fresh air, but the truth is he really wants a cigarette and he's just quit.

So has his friend Betsy. She walks across the parking lot, lighting one up, not realizing he's there. She's a pretty thing with long, strawberry blond hair, wide hips and a sideways smirk. Michael sees her and shakes his head. Somewhere inside he knows that he's in love with her, but he's not thinking about that right now. Right now he only knows that he wants a cigarette.
"You suck," he tells her when she gets close enough.
She frowns, not knowing where the insult has come from, but then she sees him, and rolls her eyes. She takes a drag. "I had a stressful morning."
"It's always a stressful morning before coffee." He sets his latte on the ground and holds out his hand for a cigarette. "If you're cheating, so am I."

There's more to this. That morning Betsy helped her sister who's a single mom, who just had a garage sale hoping that she could make enough cash to cover her electricity bill that's overdue. And her exhusband showed up and began taking things saying that Betsy's sister couldn't sell them. I don't know who this story is about yet. Is it about all of them? Is it from Betsy's point of view or her sister's? Or is it from Michael's point of view? Right now it's all over the place. Something will emerge from it, I think, some sense of order. This is all very rough.

Betsy pulls a cigarette out of the pack and holds it out for Michael. She watches him take it and thinks about what a small beautiful thing a man's hand can be.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

L'endroit sur or The Safe Place

Today I tried to spice things up in the office by sending my manager emails in different languages. She needed me to scan two or three things and send them to her, and each time I time I would write "For you" in Italian, French, or Dutch or something like that. "Per voi," and "Voor u" and "Para usted." After para usted Lisa came up to my desk and said, "What are you calling me?"
"Nothing," I said.
"What are those things you're calling me in your emails?"
"That's 'for you' in different languages."
Awareness clicked. She smiled. "Ooooh." Then she looked confused. "Why?"
"Because it's more fun than sending emails that say 'scan 1' and 'scan 2,' don't you think? And I think the office could use some cultural diversity."
"You're weird."
"I could insult you in other languages if you want me to. I've been getting all of this off the internet anyway. Shall I write, 'For you, camel breath?'"
She walked off. I did some super speedy quick googling of English to French.
"It's 'pour vous, souffle de chameau!'" I hollered.
"How do you say 'you're weird?'" she called back.
I typed away again. "Vous etes etange."
"I was being sarcastic, Genevieve."
Type, type, type. "J'étais sarcastique, Genevieve!"

I love this place. Today, I was able to bring Claire to work. She had a follow-up visit to the doctor because she sprained her wrist last week, so she just spent the day with me. Everyone is so awesome to kids here at the hospital, probably because they're happy to see one that's healthy or one who's not bleeding from the everywhere. Claire spent most of the day reading the 4th Harry Potter book and texting one of her friends who had a half day of school. The big boss and my manager have brought her softdrinks and set her up with a movie to watch. Then the Vice President of our whole department came in, the really REALLY big boss who is not only big in his standing here at the hospital but also stands over seven feet tall, brought her a new pack of cards and a couple of unopened, girly Christmas ornaments that he had lying around in his office for some reason.

Have I mentioned before how strange it is that I tried for months to get a job, just praying that where ever I found something it would be a safe place for me and the kids, and I ended up in the Safety and Security department? Well, in case I didn't mention it before, it is weird. Het is bizar.

And they let me be weird! I once asked the big boss what I was like during my interview.
"Did you know I was quirky?" I asked him. "Could you tell?"
"Oh absolutely!" he said. "That's why I picked ya."

That's funny, I remember trying to act as normal as possible during that interview. Maybe my quirkiness just seeps out. No wonder it took me so long to find a job then. But finally I found a place that takes to my kind! All those other places that rejected me didn't know what fun they were missing with all the confusing emails and the bring-your-daughter-to-work-on-a-day-that's-not-bring-your-daughter-to-work-day! Che cosa imbroglia!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Brain Transplant

Since I work in the hospital, do you think they'd give me a brain transplant if I asked them real nice? Maybe if I went to fetch them all coffee? The people here are big on coffee, you know, like there's the blood bank and then the coffee pot in the cafeteria, and both can be hooked up by IV.

I'm thinking a brain transplant might be good so that I never say anything stupid or embarrassing ever again. This THIS is a foolproof idea. There must be a brain out there that they can tweak, polish up, make nice, clean and, shiny and stick it in my head. Conversations will be a breeze! And awkward ones will never happen! Over thinking will never be a problem! Inappropriate jokes will be appropriately placed in the overhead compartment in an upright position!

Sure, you're thinking that life would be boring, but you'd be WRONG! I'd have the first ever brain transplant! I'd be on the cover of on-line newspapers! There will be tweets about me! Google will have one of their "o"s in the shape of my brain on a day that is a tribute to me. There will be nothing boring about this gig, trust me. Now just to find the right brain. Abby Someone. Abby...Normal (my heart goes out to the ones who just got the "Young Frankenstein" reference).

"Geeeeen," you're saying. "Have you embarrassed yourself recently?"
My eyes dart back and forth, and I start biting my fingernails. "No."
"Everybody does that."
I take my fingers out of my mouth and raise them to make a striking point, "That's because no one's had the brain transplant yet!"
"I thought you were working on your self-esteem problem. Remember your blog from the other day when you said stuff like 'I love my heart,' 'I love my hands,' 'I love my pancreas?"
"Yeah. So?"
"Don't you love your brain? Even with its imperfections?"
"Not so much that I wouldn't be willing to trade it in."
"I'd be upgrading. Like with an iphone."
"You're not an iphone!"
"Not YET!"

I'm infuriating to argue with, aren't I? But not once my transplant is complete! Just wait! It'll be beautiful! It'll be...oh crap. There's a $30 copay. I'm going to have to stick with the outdated model.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Sit and Sew

Yeah, I know I stole that title from the poem by the lovely Alice Dunbar-Nelson, "I Sit and Sew." Hers was about how helpless she felt as a woman watching the men she cared about go off to fight World War One while she sat and, as the poem implies, crocheted something. Mine will be about what I'm doing while awaiting Agent Sarah's review of my book.

I'm writing. Yay! And the day before yesterday I sent off a short story to The Genevieve Cancienne Journal of Rejected Art & Letters. It's all fiction and essays as written and rejected by Genevieve Cancienne, and I think my material fits. I'll probably still get a rejection, and the letter will read something along the lines of this:

Dear Writer,

We thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, your work doesn't fit our needs. Genevieve Cancienne's needs are coffee and a night out, like maybe dinner and a movie, and she doesn't need an essay about how your kids won't eat the pancakes you cook. Try again when you've got something with an actual plot, like the forbidden love story of a zombie and a firefly.

Keep writing!
The Editors

Oo. That's not a bad plot idea. The zombie would look longingly at the bright firefly and groan, "You're so alive!" and as he reaches for her his rotting arm will fall off. The firefly will see this and say, "OMG! That's gross" and fly away, and the zombie will cry, "Rhoda! Come back to me!" And the firfly will say, "No way, Gerald!" This thing is practically writing itself!

Anyway, I sent a short story to The Oxford American. I know. You've never heard of it. No one hears about the names of these magazines except other writers and they long to print in them so that other writers will read it and go, "Damn. I wish I was published," and not to impress actual readers who just read for the joy of it. Ok, well that's why I long to print in them.

The good news is, though, that I'm sending stuff off again. It's good momentum, and it gives me something to do rather than sit and sew and check my email every day waiting to hear back from Agent Sarah.

So what are some other publications that I'll be trying to impress with my unrequited undead love stories? (hee hee, unrequit-dead) Well, I checked out this site called Duotrope's Digest that lists hundreds of publication and these are the titles that appeal to me, that I must look into: "Hobo Pancakes," "Dark Comedy Review," "Laughter Loaf," "Girls With Insurance," "Asinine Poetry," and "Bust Down The Door And Eat All The Chickens." Those I must check out because their titles intrigue me more than say, "The Oregon Review." And then I'll find out which places might actually be interested in my stuff.

There are a few titles I'm curious about, but don't think that my work has a place there. For instance, I don't write murder mysteries and "Short Fast Deadly" sounds like short crime stories to me. Also, I don't write porn or erotica so "Sleep. Snort. Fuck." is out. But "The Rejected Quarterly?" Yeah, I need to check that out.

And now, as a tribute to the lady Alice Dunbar-Nelson, her poem:

I Sit and Sew
by Alice Dunbar-Nelson
I sit and sew—a useless task it seems,
My hands grown tired, my head weighed down with dreams—
The panoply of war, the martial tred of men,
Grim-faced, stern-eyed, gazing beyond the ken
Of lesser souls, whose eyes have not seen Death,
Nor learned to hold their lives but as a breath—
But—I must sit and sew.
I sit and sew—my heart aches with desire—
That pageant terrible, that fiercely pouring fire
On wasted fields, and writhing grotesque things
Once men. My soul in pity flings
Appealing cries, yearning only to go
There in that holocaust of hell, those fields of woe—
But—I must sit and sew.
The little useless seam, the idle patch;
Why dream I here beneath my homely thatch,
When there they lie in sodden mud and rain,
Pitifully calling me, the quick ones and the slain?
You need me, Christ! It is no roseate dream
That beckons me—this pretty futile seam,
It stifles me—God, must I sit and sew?

Monday, May 17, 2010


Ok, so I tried it. After reading about Jeanne Calment the French chick who lived for 122 years I took her advice and covered myself in olive oil. This wasn’t my first choice. At first I considered moving to France. Maybe it was being French that did it, kept her alive until she was a thousand years old, but I googled it and learned that French people generally live to be the same age as everyone else, dying of the usual things. Then I googled the expense of airfare to France and compared it to the price of a bottle of olive oil, and decided to go the cheaper route.

So how was it? Oily. Even more so than I thought it would be because I started off by accidently pouring too much. Even though I’ve been cooking for years somehow I forgot that pouring oil, be it vegetable, olive or other, is a delicate business. You tip the bottle ever so slightly or it gushes out coating everything in its wake – the measuring spoon, the floor, you, the dog. Poor dog. Victim of my frequent kitchen oil spill disasters.

Anyway, I tipped the bottle over my forearm like it was a tube of sunscreen, like I could squirt a little bit on and spread it around my skin. But sunscreen is slightly more pasty than olive oil, and in my defense I do have a lot more experience rubbing on sunscreen than marinating myself in an ingredient that I have mostly used for sautéing spinach.

It went everywhere. Wrist to elbow was coated in the stuff. So, in keeping with the sunscreen mentality, I tried to spread it around a bit. You know when you accidentally squirt too much sunscreen on your leg or something and you use the excess to cover the rest of you? Dude, I am six feet long. And there wasn’t enough of me to use up everything I had spilled on my forearm. Not even my whole arm, JUST HALF OF IT. I stood in my bathroom, looking like a toddler who’d gotten into her mother’s pantry, arms held out to the side because I was so oily and icky and I said, “Jesus Christ, what was this chick like an oiled up wrestler or something? She did this EVERY DAY until she was 122? Fuck it, I’m having an embolism at 75 like a decent human being.”

It took the rest of the day before I finally stopped feeling like a slimy reptile. I guess it finally all soaked in, or rubbed off on my clothes. And, me being me, I began to feel depressed.

I haven’t been taking very good care of myself in the last few weeks. Until Friday night, I hadn’t gotten to any Al-Anon meetings, taken my medication, continued my step work, or anything like that. I go to Al-Anon because I’m the adult child of two alcoholics, so while it’s technically ok for me to drink while I’m in the program because technically I’m not the one with the addiction problem, I’ve noticed that in these last few weeks I’ve been drinking more than usual. And being the child of two alcoholics, it’s not really a good idea for me to drink at all. According to research of an institution that I have forgotten the name of, when you are the child of one alcoholic the likelihood of you suffering from the same addiction is 60%. What could that percentage be when both of my parents are alcoholics? Hmm. My math is rusty. I was a Liberal Arts major. AHH! I was a Liberal Arts major! My chances have gone up 123%!!! So for many reasons, it’s not a good idea for me to drink.

When I stopped to think about it the other day I noticed a pattern. Before I started Al-Anon, I numbed myself from reality with denial and self-torture. When I got into the program I numbed myself with cigarettes and food. I was finally facing truth and reality, but still dealing with problems by causing other ones. When I stopped smoking I started overeating. When I recently stopped overeating (and finally stopped having the occasional post-quitting cigarette) I started buying wine at the store. Just one glass a night.

“Just one glass a night,” was what my mom told my aunt, one night when she was over. I was seven years old and my parents had just separated. Mom was single with three little kids, working and going to school full time. “If I have one glass a night I’m ok.”

That’s how it started. My parents were separated for two years before they got back together, and getting back together didn't cure the other problem that had started. And now as a single mother with three kids, working full-time, I totally understand how it became a problem.

I want to numb myself and forget. I don’t want to lay down in bed and remember how a man’s arms once held me to sleep. While we didn’t have a healthy relationship, that was one of the sweet memories. I don’t want to tuck my kids in at night and have them ask me complicated questions that I can’t answer, or worry about what I’m going to do if I get into my car tomorrow morning and it doesn’t start when I can’t afford to buy a new one. I don’t want to tell the kids to take showers and brush their teeth and then have them argue that it’s not the way they do it at their dad’s house. I don’t want to be awake at all past 6:00 in the evening because that’s when the hard questions start, that’s when the memories come, that’s when all my insecurities sink in, and when I finally get in bed, if I’m awake enough, that’s when I start crying. I don’t even think anything when I cry, it just happens like a natural purging. Like a spill from an overflow.

I think it is natural for me and the kids to be this way in the evening because we’re grieving. All four of us. And when I look at myself with compassion, it’s natural for me to not want to deal with it. This is fucking painful. It’s not the kind of crying I used to do when I was feeling stuck, afraid, helpless, and hopeless, with no sense of who I was anymore. It’s the crying that results from growing pains. And when I numb it with booze or whatever the hell I’m using to put myself to sleep with, I’m not growing. I’m not moving out of this place, I’m just keeping myself there by starting another problem. I’ve watched my parents suffer from this disease all my life. This is not a problem that I want. My children will not wake up to empty bottles of booze in the kitchen, pools of vodka spilled on the counter from clumsy pouring.

My last drink was May 13th.

So how have I been dealing with the questions and the growing pains? I’ve been talking to my sponsor (who is an Adult Child of An Alcoholic AND a recovered alcoholic) every day, and taking very good, gentle care of myself. Physically and mentally. I’ve picked up my step work and started taking my medication again. I started exercising and eating healthy, AND making sure that I do eat. When I overeat, I feel guilty, starve myself, and then get so hungry I binge again. Sound sane? No, I don’t think so either. Also, today I’m going to a different kind of 12 step meeting to see how I feel about it.

Ironically, hours after I’d resolved to try out an AA meeting, one of my friends called and said, “Me and a few other of the girls are heading Madigan’s for 9:30! You need to come!” Madigan’s, for those of you who don’t know, is a bar.

I didn’t go to the bar. Instead last night I took a bath and looked at my legs and my stomach that I was once ok with punching, burning, and cutting. “I love my legs,” I said. Then I rested my hands on my stomach like there was a baby inside and said, “I love my stomach.” Then I listed all the parts of me that I loved, parts that me that I have been hating, poisoning, polluting, cutting, burning, and scratching without caring about what it did to me in the end or how ashamed it made me feel. “I love my hands,” I said, “I love my lungs, I love my heart, I love my brain, I love my throat, I love my nose, I love my teeth…” I was like Whitman, singing a song of myself.

And then I took the cap from my shaving cream, dipping it in the tub and poured a stream of it over my hands, just because it felt good. Have you ever stood in the shower letting the water run over you just because it felt good? That’s what I was doing, only I focused on this one small part of me with a capful of water instead of the gush of a showerhead. One thin river of water streaming down my index finger, over my knuckle and cooling my wrist. I was pouring water on myself like a kind lover, one that knew that I didn’t need sex. Just affection, drop by drop.

After I got out of the tub I went back into the kitchen and got the bottle of extra virgin olive oil out of the pantry. I poured a drop of it into the center of my hand and rubbed it into my shoulder. I repeated it, massaging the oil into my skin drop by drop and when I was done I didn’t feel sticky, just soft. What I needed wasn’t a thick coating, like I was a plucked chicken ready for the oven. Jeanne Calment must have known this, that to keep her body and mind healthy she needed moderation, a gentle pampering every day. Not a bucketful of oil. Just a thin layer, as I discovered.

Then I got into the car and went about my day feeling like a lady. Because I had treated myself that way. And then I popped in a Beach Boys CD and danced in my seat to "Surfin' USA." Surely Jeanne Calment did this too, to prevent taking herself too seriously. Though by the time The Beach Boys were hip she was probably dancing to "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena."